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Europe’s Far Right Capitalises on Brexit and Trump Victories.

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Image result for Proteste gegen Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit)

Against Far-Right Meeting: Koblenz Stays Multihued!

The pro-Brexit UK left claimed that a vote to leave would strengthen the ‘anti-austerity’, left-wing and labour movement, forces across in Europe.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now Donald Trump, who gives credit to the victory of Leave to his own triumph, heralds America First! – a slogan straight out of the back catalogue of his own, and the European extreme right’s favourite tunes.

The European far-right is also trying to capitalise on Brexit, and the success of Trump’s reactionary populism.

The Irish Times reports,

Koblenz will be the meeting place of European far-right leaders this Saturday. Hosting the event is Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) co-leader Frauke Petry and her new husband, party MEP Marcus Pretzell. Guests include French presidential hopeful and Front National (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, Dutchman Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) is leading polls ahead of March elections, and Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Northern League.

Hours after Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, European far-right leaders see a mutual benefit in presenting themselves in public as a united front opposed to the EU’s current form, to its open borders, to its currency and to its approach to the refugee crisis.

The Tribune de Genève carries the same story:

Au lendemain de l’investiture de Donald Trump, la présidente du Front national en France, Marine Le Pen, retrouve samedi en Allemagne des dirigeants de partis de droite extrême et populistes européens, pour tenter d’afficher un front uni avant plusieurs scrutins cruciaux.

The day after Donald Trump’s investiture, the President of the Front National in France, Marine le Pen, is meeting this Saturday with the leaders of the European extreme right and populist parties, to attempt to assemble a united front before several crucial election contests.

The far from left friendly or even liberal Bild report that this meeting has caused outrage in Germany,

Wilders, Le Pen und AfD tagen in Koblenz Empörung über Gipfel der EU-Hasser

Gegen den geplanten Kongress formiert sich Protest

Wilders, Le Pe and Afd (Alternative for Germany) meetin in Koblenz. Outrage at the Summit of European Union Haters. Protests are being organised against this Congress.

Deutsche Welle provides the background,

Frauke Petry is careful about her reputation. She does not want to be seen as a right-wing extremist and nor does she want her party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), to be labeled as such. She has called the Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who held a controversial speech in which he criticized the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a “burden for the party.” For a while, Petry’s reservations have kept her from contacting Marine LePen from the France’s National Front, which is considered to be at least a notch more radical than the AfD.

Last summer, Frauke Petry secretly met Marine Le Pen. Now she is seeking public appearances with LePen, Wilders and Matteo Salvini from the Italian Lega Nord. Nonetheless, the AfD itself is not hosting the party gathering. Petry’s new husband, the head of North Rhine Westphalia’s AfD, arranged the meeting. He is a member of European Parliament for the AfD and as a lone MEP joined the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) parliamentary group, whose driving force is the National Front. Pretzell’s only party colleague in Strasbourg, Beatrix von Storch, is a member of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFD), which is mostly run by Britain’s UKIP and the Italian Five Star Movement.

There are people in the AfD who think Petry’s appearance at the gathering is wrong. “That is a pure ENF matter that has nothing to do with the AfD,” says Jörg Meuthen, who ironically makes up the party’s leadership duo with Petry. Even the Berlin AfD chairman Georg Pazderski says that the AfD should distance itself from the National Front, as its economic policies are too “socialist” for him. The FN does indeed advocate isolationism and anti-globalization, unlike the economically liberal AfD.

The protests today:

a broad counter-alliance with the slogan “Koblenz remains diverse” has formed and will demonstrate on Saturday. The head of the SPD and deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wants to join the march as do representatives of the Green Party, the left-wing party Die Linke and even the Social Democrat foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn. “We cannot leave the destiny of the continent in the hands of the nationalists,” Asselborn told the German Press Agency.

Yesterday around 100 people demonstrated against the far-right in Koblenz: Erste Demo gegen Rechtspopulisten in Koblenz

 Notice of the much larger  march today:

ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit) kommt nach Koblenz – Statement zu den Hintergründen und der Brisanz – Proteste am 20.01/21.012017 in Koblenz

Der ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit), die Fraktion ultranationalistischer und rechtsradikaler Parteien im Europäischen Parlament, besteht aus 39 Abgeordneten des „Front National“ (FN, größte rechtspopulistische Partei Frankreichs um Marine Le Pen), „Der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreich“ (FPÖ – Rechtsextreme … ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit) kommt nach Koblenz – Statement zu den Hintergründen und der Brisanz – Proteste am 20.01/21.012017 in Koblenz weiterlesen

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2017 at 11:23 am

André Gorz. Une Vie. Willy Gianinazzi. Review.

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André Gorz. Une Vie. Willy Gianinazzi. La Découverte. 2016.

Over the last few weeks Socialist Party contender for the Presidential ‘primaries’, Benoît Hamon, has raised the idea of a “revenu universal d’existence’ (Basic Income) paid to all. Hearing this many people would have remembered the name of André Gorz. The Vienna born but France based journalist, social theorist, and green socialist activist, whose influence extended far beyond the francophone world, promoted this idea from the 1990s onwards. That is, “a guarantee of sufficient income, independent of the duration of labour (which can only decrease), and perhaps independent of work itself”. (1)

Hamon’s left-wing rival Arnaud Montebourg dismissed the idea as a social “cataplasme” (sticking plaster). The right-wing Manuel Valls It is an unrealistic recipe for a something-for-nothing society. Editorialists pointed to the costs and the seeming acceptance that France was fated to remain a society of high unemployment (le Monde 17.1.17). But the proposal, whose paternity was not directly acknowledged, illustrates how Gorz exploration into the changing economy, the world of work, and non-work, ecology, and social philosophy, remains a fruitful source of reflection about the development of capitalism.

Willy Gianinanzzi, a researcher in far left and labour movement history, has written the first biography of André Gorz (1923 – 2007). Closely tied to his subject’s concerns the book displays deep affection for its subject and a perceptive guide to his writings and ideas.

André Gorz was Vienna born, as Gerhart Horst, of an authoritarian Jewish father – said to have declared that he “nothing against Hitler except his anti-Semitism” – and a non-Jewish mother. He left for Switzerland in 1939 to avoid conscription in the National Socialist led army. His German validated Baccalaureate passed he studied chemistry at an Engineering school in French speaking Lausanne. Gorz opted, permanently, for the French language – even to the point, Gianinanzzi points out – of refusing to speak German until the last decades of his life.

Existentialism.

Gorz developed an interest in Philosophy and writing, recounting his early experiences in fictional form in Le Traître (1958). Immediately after the War’s end, with a developing attraction to existentialism, in 1946 Gorz attended in Lausanne one of the many talks given by Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre. He became politically engaged in the pacifist and “minimalist” (world government) movement.

From this time on André Gorz, as he came to name himself, would pursue a career in journalism, closely bound to his political commitments. From the late 50 onwards Gorz wrote for a variety of magazine and journals that existed on the burgeoning French independent, ‘third worldist’ and new left. L’Express (opposed at the time to the Algerian war), France Observateur (forerunner of the Nouvel Observatuer), and was on the Editorial Board of Les Temps Modernes. From this point on Gorz mixed with, or at least met with, many of the central personalities in the 1960s radical left, from Marcuse to Cohn-Bendit as well as centre-left media figures like the editor of the Nouvel Obs’, Jean Daniel.

One of the most interesting sections of Une Vie (L’automation et la nouvelle classe ouvrière Chapter 7) is devoted to the early sixties debate over “neo-capitalism” and the “new working class”, terms associated with the sociologist Alain Touraine, and Serge Mallet. Gorz became a supporter of the idea that automation has transformed ‘Taylorism’ and ‘Fordism’. A new group of qualified workers, technicians, existed who were competent to take over running enterprises. With this social base, classical forms of trade unionism could be extended to demands for ‘autogestion” self-management. In this vein, a vision of realisable set of measures to create “economic sovereignty” as the foundation of democratic socialism, Gorz collaborated with the new left Parti Socialiste Unifié, and wrote Stratégie ouvrière et néocapitalism (1964) and Le Socialisme difficile (1967). Both of these books had an impact beyond the borders of the Hexagone.

Gorz became equally known in the English-speaking world, as translations appeared including sympathetic articles on Sartre. To Gorz the Critique de la Raison Dialectique made history intelligible and offered a picture of the “only true model of ‘voluntary co-operation’ …the fused group”. If this might be considered a paradigm of self-management Gorz was also engaged with the social barriers to such change set out Marx’s theory of ‘alienation. The view that capitalist “heteronomy” – the domination of technical reason external to people’s needs – remained an important part of Gorz’s writing throughout his life.

In the midst of the 68 events Gorz remained committed to “revolutionary transformation of the present society by means of a range of intermediary objectives. In 1972 he discovered ecology, and what Gianinazzi, calls “matérialisme naturaliste.” Gorz published in the French green journal, Le Sauvage and produced Écologie et liberté (1977). Scarcity, as Sartre indicated in his Critique was a natural limit to development. Concerns about the danger of upsetting natural conditions led Gorz to back the green campaign against nuclear power. Pursuing his support for self-management he, like Cornelius Castoriadis extended the principle to wider social autonomy. He became interested in the writings of Ivan Illich, not just on “de-schooling society” but on the ‘abolition of work’. Gianinazzi suggests that the reason for the failure for the two to meet and make common causes lay in an angry exchange in the left press (“la polémique oiseuse” Page 211). One doubts if the founder of Socialisme ou Barbarie would have accepted a debate on the foot of equality with a professional journalist, least of all one advocating “intermediary objectives”.

Farewell to the Working Class.

Gorz’s best-known book is Farewell to the Working Class (1981). A Facebook friend suggests that most people never get beyond the title of this interesting, if contentious, study. It did indeed attack the “cult” of the Worker. But its analysis of the evolution of work is perhaps best seen not in relation to Marx’s theory of the revolutionary potential of the proletariat but to the earlier hopes placed in the self-management capacities of the “new working class”. The end of the traditional socialist project of emancipating the working class, that is its positive capacity to challenge ‘heteronomy’, had, according to Gorz,  foundered in this class’s inability to master complex networked “post-industrial” production.

Next to the shirking privileged layer of skilled employees was a growing mass of unemployed and marginalised workers. “This non-class of ‘non-workers’ “has no transcendent mission, no unity beyond the experiences of those who compose it, no prophetic aura, no promise or capacity to reconcile the individual with the social, self and society. It is ‘the possible social subject of the struggle for work-sharing, generalized reduction of work time, gradual abolition of waged work’. In Critique of Economic Reason (1998) Gorz defined the autonomous sphere as the realm of non-commodity activities. (2)

Socialism became part of a wider movement against capitalist rationality. It was entwined with ecology as “Ecosocialism.” He joined with the “décroissance” movement to question the whole basis of economic growth. Yet his social concerns did not fade was. As  Gianinazzi illustrates Gorz dropped the hostility he showed to Basic Income in Farewell. In the 1980s he co-operated with Maurice Pagat, the ebullient and – some considered – eccentric founder of the Syndicat des chômeurs (union of the unemployed). He became part of the Basic Income European Network (BIEN). His last work concerned the impact of information technology, and his L’Immatérial. Conassiance, valeur et capital (2003). It was said to be close to the Italian ‘post-autonomist’ theorists Paulo Virno and Tony Negri’s reflections on the Grundrisse and the ‘general intellect.” (Pages 311 – 312).

Lettre à D.

Une Vie closes with a portrait of Gorz’s final days. The writer’s wife, Dorine, had suffered for many years from great pain. She would never recover her health. Writing in the sublime Lettre à D Gorz described their profound love (Love letter that sealed a death pact). They could not bear to live separated, still less would he wish to follow her hearse to the Crematorium. Faced with this suffering, they had decided to “depart” together.

In September 2007 the couple jointly left the world.

On the final pages  Gianinazzi asks us not to cover Gorz with adulation but to consider his works as materials to help create “une civilisation désirable de l’après capitalisme et l’après croissance” (post growth). That is the best testimony to the value of André Gorz that one could give.

André Gorz. Une Vie is highly recommended and will without doubt be translated swiftly.

*******

(1) The New Agenda. André Gorz. New Left Review. 1990.1/81.
(2) Misreading Gorz. Finn Bowring. New Left Review 1/27/ 1996.

Brexit “Demands”, People’s Assembly.

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People’s Assembly Debates Consequences of Brexit.

Before the Referendum the left advocates of a vote to leave had no words too harsh for the European Union (EU). Setting their intellectual framework Perry Anderson in 2009 asserted that it had established a “semi-catallaxy”, a “far from perfect Hayekian order”, that is a willed “spontaneous” free market far from popular control, with a “dense web of directives and often dubious prebends”. It was a “deputy empire” to the United States. The 2008 Banking crisis, austerity, tightened in the Euro-zone to mean a block on any attempts, as Greece saw, to offer alternative policies, it has become the institutional embodiment of ‘neo-liberalism’. The EU was remote not just from left politics, but from the peoples of Europe Put crudely, as Tariq Ali so often does, voting to Leave would mean giving a kick up the backside to all that. (1)

Counterfire, the principal force in the shrunken People’s Assembly, listed a version of this account. The central reasons to vote Leave were: it would strengthen the position of all those fighting austerity in Europe, especially the south; It would protect the next Labour government from challenges to reform under European law; The British, European and US ruling classes all want us to “stay”; The EU is turning into Fortress Europe; Brexit would mess up the Tories for a generation. (Five Reasons to Leave the EU. 2005)

The ‘predictions’ in this list have all been proved false.

Brexit has not strengthened any European force apart from the ‘Sovereigntist’ far right in countries such as France and Germany. The Front National now sees the assertion of national sovereignty, including protectionism, as a realistic strategy. For them it proves that the ‘nation’, the ‘people’ can assert itself against the EU.

Brexit has not ‘messed up’ the Tories who have discovered unity around their own version of Sovereigntism, bringing ‘control’ back to the ‘people’ ‘Hard Brexit’.

The American ruling class, at least the in the ungainly shape of Donald Trump, has enthusiastically welcomed Brexit.

Whether or not Parliament will be free from potential European threats to a Labour government’s plans remains to be seen: an “open” Britain will be submitted directly to the rules of the international market for the immediate future.

Fortress Europe, that is the policy of controlling settlement but allowing millions to gain refugee to the Continent, continues. Brexit has now introduced the issue of further barriers, this time against migrant labour entering Britain.

Counterfire.

Counterfire, whose Lindsey German is also a leader of the Stop the War Coalition, as well as the People’s Assembly, has made the issue of Islamophobia central to their politics. In their view the central aspect of racism in Europe today is hostility to Muslims. Their role, like that of their original group, the Socialist Workers Party, has been not only to defend – to cite Anderson again – the religious “protective shell of uprooted and vulnerable communities”. They have also seen in radical Islamism the potential seeds of ‘anti-imperialist’ revolt, in which the “struggle” would remove the outward garb of faith. (2)

There is little doubt that as Perry Anderson noted in the book cited above, Christopher Caldwell’s prediction that there would be deep conflicts over the existence of large Islamic communities in Europe would come about has been borne out. (Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. 2009) That this immigration was, “less manageable and less soluble than any that had come before it.” But was this the central aspect of what Perry Anderson called a “process of disintegration”, the result of mass immigration for economic reasons that just “happened” without popular consent? And what should the left’s response be? (3)

The progressive way is to respect diversity but to promote secularism. Counterfire and the SWP have refused to support liberal secular currents within Muslim Communities. Like the Orientalists they abhor they consider the ‘timeless’ nature of Islamic culture is a source of revolt, or reaction. For this fraction of the left, the brave individuals from a Muslim background, and the hundreds of thousands who support those who challenge the ‘conservative’ (a polite way of saying reactionary) leadership of the ‘community’ and the Salafist outriders are simply aping Western liberalism.

Yet, when the same forces are involved in the much wider alliances that include democratic groups fighting the ‘anti-imperialist’ regime of Bashir Assad, the same ‘eternal’ logic pushes a substantial number of the Stop the War Coalition’s supporters, not to say the Morning Star, to lump the lot onto the side of reaction.

Double standards barely covers this.

From Fortress Europe to British Castle.

Yet is European racism focused on prejudice against ‘Muslims’? Leaving aside the growth in anti-Semitism, Brexit has hardened hostility, hatred, towards European migrant workers. This massive fact can be heard every day in workplaces, the street, and the pub – in every social venue. This, only one aspect of the Carnival of Reaction that followed the Brexit vote, now dominates and divides debate on the left.

The suggestion that there should be a “two-tier” migration policy, access for the qualified and better off, no entry for the unskilled, is gaining ground. UNITE has proposed that workers can only be recruited amongst the already unionised or covered by collective agreements.  That “posted workers” under all forms of ‘detached’ arrangements, that is people employed under the terms and conditions that exist in their home countries, should be banned.

Of these suggestions only the latter measures up to the standard of equality. But if people are to be taken on under the same conditions, why does this not apply to recruitment?  Are only the unionised allowed employment in the UK? Perhaps, some might suggest, the unrealistic nature of the UNITE proposal is intentional Assuming that its officers are all too aware of how Agencies take on staff (not to say, reduce them to zero-hour contracts at the employers’ beck and call), one might suspect that this is a call to satisfy those with less noble concerns about the presence of migrants.

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With these, and many other considerations in mind, this is the People’s Assembly’s latest event.

7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.

Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party

Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers

Lindsey German – People’s Assembly 

Malia Bouattia – NUS President

Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE

Alex Gordon – Former President RMT.

This the blurb.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.”

 

It is unlikely that those who voted to Remain are in a mood to hear lessons from those who cast their ballots for Leave. That was the act that created the conditions in which these problems were created.  From the deep-rooted hegemony of Tory Sovereigntism, to xenophobia, tricking into the left, there’s a lot more to challenge than  the  “un-elected” (?) Teresa May. “Demanding” may be fine, but having an effect requires a lot more than the politics of demonstrations and mass meetings. And what on earth is this “people” and its “interests”? Perhaps they have passed from the peoples of Europe, to The People..….

Theresa May signals UK on path to ‘ruinous’ hard Brexit  Another Europe is Possible.

Migrants not to blame for UK problems. Support the Alliance for Free Movement.

 

 

 

(1) Pages 541, 543. The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.

(2) Pages 533 537. Anderson Op cit.

(3) Page 93 Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. Can Europe be the Same with different People in it? Christopher Caldwell. Allen Lane. 2009. Page 534. Anderson op cit.

 

Galloway Questions BBC ‘Zinoviev Letter’ Programme: ‘Trump: The Kremlin Candidate?”

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Galloway with Photos of Close Friends.

Standing up for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is a  hard task these days.

But – hold the Front Page! –  without fear or favour George Galloway has leapt to their defence.

 

As his employer Russia Today notes.

The credibility of a BBC documentary about US President-elect Donald Trump called ‘Trump: The Kremlin Candidate?’ has been questioned by ex-MP George Galloway.

The former Labour and Respect politician likened the broadcast, and the whole furore over Russia’s alleged influence on the US election and Trump, to an “Austin Powers film.

Speaking to RT, Galloway also questioned why the BBC would commission such a prominent show when there was no concrete evidence to back up any of the assertions.

The Panorama documentary was broadcast on Monday and saw journalist John Sweeney travel to Russia, Ukraine, and the US to investigate whether Moscow’s cyber-warriors influenced the US election and whether it’s true the Federal Security Service (Russian FSB) is blackmailing Trump with compromising material.

The latter claim comes from a much-hyped dossier compiled by ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele.

In the broadcast, Sweeney also speculates that the only thing worse than Trump getting along well with Putin is if they don’t.

As Shakespeare once put it, it was ‘much ado about nothing.’ The thesis of the problem was that it is really dangerous if Trump and Putin get along well and it’s really dangerous if they fall out,” Galloway said.

It shows just how surreal this whole affair has become. Not so much a James Bond film as an Austin Powers film. Frankly, much of the ruling elite in the US and in Britain, across the road from me, across the river, at MI6, they really are making themselves look ridiculous.

In this search for truth Galloway has also taken to re-tweeting  Jan 14

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm

French Communists and Mélenchon Tear Each Other Apart

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French Communists Called to Submit to the Insoumises.

This year will not only see a Presidential election in France.

Following the results in May there will be elections on the 11 and 18 June for the French legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies

Not only is the French Left divided between the Parti Socaliste and the rest (including Greens), but the radical left is itself split.

Last February Jean-Luc Mélenchon decided, with the backing of his political club, the Parti de Gauche, that he would stand for president. Nobody else was consulted.

He launched La France Insoumise last year. This organisation calls itself a “citizens’ movement”. It is not a party. Anybody can join, membership is free. At the grassroots, the “groupes d’appui” (in form similar to Podemos’ ‘circles’ but with no policy making power) can operate, that is to build support,  as they see fit. Its programme was voted on through the Internet with 77,038 people taking part.  What is not up for voting is the leadership and candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Being a member is to identify with the “démarche de Jean-Luc Mélenchon.”

He stands at present at around 14% in the polls. If he may get more support in the ballot box than the enfeebled Socialists, he has little chance of getting to the Second Round of the Presidential election.

This is the general framework for the programme of La France Insoumise.

They stand for a

Sixth Republic; re-distribution of wealth; environmental planning; withdrawal from European treaties; peace and independence; human progress; and “on the borders of humanity” (ocean, space and digital).

Ten leading measures were agreed on in the on-line consultation and a following convention,

Quelque 11 362 votants, signataires de la plateforme jlm2017, ont sélectionné dix propositions pour en faire les principaux axes de leur campagne. « Refuser les traités de libre-échange, Tafta, Ceta et Tisa » est arrivé en tête (48 %), suivi de l’« abrogation de la loi El Khomri » (43,5 %), de la « règle verte » (38,5 %), de la « refondation » de l’Europe et son « plan B » (38 %), de la transition énergétique et la sortie du nucléaire (36 %), de la révocation des élus (35,5 %), du référendum constituant (35 %),de la « protection des biens communs » comme l’air,l’eau, l’alimentation, le vivant, la santé, l’énergie, la monnaie (33,5 %), de la « séparation des banques d’affaires et de détail » et d’un « pôle public bancaire » (31,5 %), et du Smic à 1 300 euros net et la hausse des salaires des fonctionnaires (28 %).

Opposition to free-trade treaties, annulment of the recent labour law reforms (loi El Khomri), a green ‘rule’ (ecological guidelines) , “refounding Europe” (changing the basis of existing Treaties), opposition to Nuclear power and its phased withdrawal, laws to allow MPs to be recalled, legislation to allow popular referendums,  protection of common property, from air, water, life (a reference to ownership of genetic material) food, health, energy, to the currency (??? – give up on that one), break up of direct ties between banks and business, creation of a publicly owned leading bank, a rise of the minimum wage to 1,300 Euros, and a rise in public sector wages.

La France insoumise détaille son projet et son calendrier

This Rally, called by its supporters a ‘movement’, has effectively ended the previous united front of parties to the left of the Socialists.

Mélenchon is now pursing a ruthless strategy for the legislative elections.

As Libération reports today the Communists are not taking his behaviour without hitting back:  Législatives : le Parti communiste se rebiffe face aux injonctions de Mélenchon.

Parfois alliés, parfois opposés, les deux partis de gauche se déchirent sur les investitures des législatives pour lesquelles la France insoumise entend dicter ses conditions.

Sometimes allies, sometimes opponents, the two parties of the left are tearing each other apart over the legislative elections la France insoumise wishes to impose its will.

La France Insoumise has decided to present candidates in every constituency  without bothering to seek agreement with  left parties.

To summarise: France insoumise has decided to stand a candidate in each constituency. This means it is prepared to present candidates against the communists. The latter have voted (by a small majority it’s true) to support Mélenchon in the presidential election. No matter. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has asked the Communist candidates – and all those who wish to ally themselves with him – to sign his “charter”. And to give money to his rally. ANd to follow his group’s wishes on where they may or may not stand.

Without going further into the details there are violent rows about particular constituencies, where Mélenchon is prepared to let the right win if the Communists do not agree to his diktat.

Mélenchon is in fact to the right of the French Communist Party on many issues, notably his approval of Russian intervention in Syria (Comment M. Mélenchon nie le peuple de Syrie et ses droits. le Monde)

He is noted for his intemperate comments (Décidément, Mélenchon est incorrigible! 26 November 2016).

The Candidate of La France Insoumise models himself on the ‘populist’ aspect of Podemos. But he has gone further in the populist direction by making nationalist appeals against the European Union in general, and Germany in particular not to mention talk about “les anglo-saxons”.

One can understand why the French Communists are wary of him.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm

After Corbyn’s Peterborough Speech: Unity Possible on Brexit Around our Pro-Brexit Programme: Communist Party of Britain.

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CPB Seers’ Predictions.

Left Unity Possible on Brexit Around our pro-Brexit Programme: Communist Party of Britain.

Today the news is full of Donald Trump’s welcome for Brexit and a promise for rapid trade deal with the UK. This comes as Teresa May is reported to be in favour of a Hard Brexit. In response to the latter Labour MP Caroline Flint has given priority support for a two-tier immigration system for EU citizens, giving free access to better off, qualified workers over the unqualified.

Where does the left stand on the current state of Brexit negotiations?

A few days ago Jeremy Corbyn spoke on the issues around Brexit at Peterborough. He said, “Whether you voted to Leave or to Remain, you voted for a better future for Britain. One thing is clear, the Tories cannot deliver that. So today I want to set how Labour will deliver that vision of a better Britain.”

People’s Brexit.

Over the weekend Communist Party of Britain General Secretary Robert Griffith welcomed Corbyn’s speech (Unity for a People’s Brexit from the EU). He welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s declaration. To Griffith, “It offered a united way forward for the labour movement on the divisive question of Britain’s exit from the European Union.”

The Communist leader noted that, “It’s hardly a secret that the left and labour movement have been divided on the issue of EU membership”. Corbyn however bolted down one continued source of division: he opposed a second referendum. This, Griffith claimed, answered “powerful forces” who wish, “to keep us enmeshed in membership of the European Single Market with its rules requiring the “free movement” of capital, goods, services and people across the EU. That free movement of capital.”

In his address Corbyn took up four issues: “First, people want to leave the EU in order to “bring control of our democracy and economy closer to home.” Second, they want the promise kept of extra investment in the NHS from money saved by cancelling Britain’s contribution to the EU budget. Third, people have had enough of an economic system and an Establishment that work only for the few and not the many.
Finally, they want their concerns about immigration to be addressed.”

Above all the Labour leader, was, it is implied, recognised that, “detailed polling analysis shows that democratic sovereignty was the single biggest reason why people voted Leave last June — and that a slight majority of people who regard themselves as anti-capitalist (30 per cent of the electorate) also voted Leave.”

It is hard to see exactly how a ‘transfer’ of EU budget contribution to funding the NHS can take place, unless Griffith imagines there is some magical system ring-fencing for government funds for this or that objective.

The key issues are sovereignty and immigration.

The Peterborough Speech.

Corbyn announced, “People voted for Brexit on the promise that Britain outside the European Union could be a better place for all its citizens. Whatever their colour or creed. A chance to regain control over our economy, our democracy and people’s lives.” This assertion, unsupported by evidence, would imply that people voted for Brexit because they want to manage industry and commerce themselves. That leaving the EU was perceived as a means to “regain” (how exactly was it lost?) control over democracy and their everyday existence is also highly ambiguous. No socialist would consider that quitting the EU means leaving capitalism, the world market. Exactly how will this challenge the role of the City? The protection of its privileged position is at the very centre of negotiations – with not a word from Labour to challenge it.

The idea that ‘democracy’ is extended by abandoning pooled sovereignty for national sovereignty is unsupported by any specific examples other than a vague commitment to taking “back real control and putting power and resources right into the heart of local communities to target investment where it’s needed.” This is a declaration made by every government for the last twenty years.

On the issue of “colour or creed”, Corbyn avoided the left’s concerns that calls to restrict EU migration are fuelled by xenophobia. His wobbling over free movement of labour aside the only specific statement the Labour leader made was that, “Labour will demand that the Brexit negotiations give us the power to intervene decisively to prevent workers, from here or abroad, being used and exploited to undermine pay and conditions at work.” Nevertheless proposals to deal with this, for example by insisting that recruitment agencies are compelled to take on only the unionised, have been shown to be impossible to enforce.

Labour Movement.

For a party that prides itself on its roots in the labour movement the CPB General Secretary failed to talk about the key issues the Trade Union Congress has raised. These include not just plans to protect jobs, reform fiscal and monetary policy, and promote industrial planning, investment in infrastructure but “protections for working people’s employment rights, pay and pensions.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC).

Instead of looking at Brexit as an opportunity to reaffirm national sovereignty we should be considering its implications for the labour movement.

It is possible that post-Brexit the former, enfeebled by the loss of transcontinental framework, may be reconfigured. But the latter, that it rights at work, will be irredeemably harmed by Brexit. The more so in that May is reported to wish to sever even the tie to the (non-EU) European Court of Justice. More direct threats include not only the loss of working hours directive and a hist of other legislation, but the end of cross-continental Works Councils, which play a key role in strengthening the hands of trade unions in negotiations.

It is clear that any deal with Trump – a TIPP writ large? – will reinforce the right-wing ‘neo-liberal’ agenda that the CPB claims to oppose Unable to leave the world market the claim, by those forces on the left that Brexit would offer a better way forward than membership of the capitalist EU, will turn out to be hollow.

Finally, there remains “concerns about immigration”.

Griffiths sheds tears that “Too many EU supporters on the left and in the centre have spent the past six months smearing Leave voters as gullible, undereducated, narrow-minded racists. Some critics have become so unhinged as to accuse the Communist Party of being in bed with nationalists, racists and neonazis, although we conducted an anti-racist, internationalist campaign against the EU, wholly independently of all sections of the political right.”

That’s as may be, though the more common change was the CPB’s sovereigntism led to nationalism it is hard to see exactly what is anti-racist about calling for immigration controls. Or how a two-tier migration system is anything other than a class based attempt to regulate entry into the UK and pander to hostility towards foreigners.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm

SWP Goes Populist at Annual Conference.

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Masses Flock to New SWP Populist Line.

It seems as remote as the fall of Uruk (1750 BCE) but time was when the SWP Annual Conference was of some interest to the rest of the left.

The publication of their ‘secret’ internal bulletins was the occasion for much glee and for outrage at this attack on their inner party ‘democracy’ on the part of SWP members.

Today all we have is this.

SWP annual conference

The themes of anti-racism and the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) campaign ran through the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) annual conference last weekend.

We shall resist the temptation to remark that the acronym SUTR (suture?) is unlikely to catch on.

Oh yes we will.

This is the new mass line, as announced by cde Weyman Bennett.

He added that racism can be beaten. “The way the ruling class is using racism comes out of its own weakness,” he argued.

He said the crisis of neoliberalism meant people’s living standards had been attacked—and our rulers have to find others to blame.

Weyman said, “We have SUTR but not as a mass organisation.

“It has to be on the same scale as the Anti Nazi League in the 1970s.”

Protests against Donald Trump on 20 January, a trade union conference on 4 February and mass demonstrations on 18 March can help build it.

What ‘racism’ is, how is related to the non-‘racial’ but very xenophobic wave  against ‘foreigners’ that led to Brexit and swoll huge after it, is not defined.

But we learn, “Several Muslim comrades said fighting Islamophobia gave confidence to Muslims.”

Pray, exactly what “fight” is that?

As another cde stated,

Gary from north London spoke about debates in the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the idea that people benefit from white privilege.

Student Antony added, “Identity politics come from a progressive place, but it can be very isolationist. We need to build a movement that can pull away from that.”

Perhaps one might, just possibly, apply this to ‘Muslim’ fights against – undefined –  ‘Islamophobia’.

One might examine the issue of Islamism and the genocides carried out by Daesh.

But apparently not,

“Through LGBT+ Against Islamophobia, which we helped launch a few years ago, we put out a statement.

“It argued that Muslims or Islam were not responsible for homophobia or transphobia and we had a good reception at the vigil in Soho.”

Elites.

This is the centrepiece of the SWP’s strategy,

Amy Leather, joint national secretary of the SWP, introduced a session on building the party. She said, “What we do matters.

“The deep bitterness that exists at the elites can go to the right or the left. We have to intervene to pull that mood to the left.”

We await a Marxist clarification of the term ‘elite’.

Marxist and elite paradigms are normally considered competing theories on social and political change.

‘Elite’ is one of the most pernicious words in ‘populist’ language. It obscures real power, real property, real exploitation, through an attack on the ‘top’ people.

The charge is that ‘cosmopolitan’ , rootless, metropolitan ‘elites’ are ‘out of touch’ with plain folks.

The  ‘real’ workers, ‘real’ people are mislead by the internationalist elites.

How this ‘mood’ can be drawn to the left is left undefined, but one way that’s being explored in Europe and Britain, is to support sovereigntism: bringing power under ‘national’ control. This was the view of many of the ‘left’ supporters of voting to leave the EU.

The SWP backed Brexit.

The same Brexit, which, see above, is at the centre of the knot of resentments, and hate that lies at the centre of the very racism that the SWP now puts at the centre of its politics.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

We have to maximise the interactions we have with people and take Socialist Worker wherever you go.

There is perhaps a contradiction between the first part of the sentence (interactions) and the second (taking SW everywhere)….

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2017 at 11:44 am

Cornelius Castoriadis and the Politics of Autonomy.

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Note: this is long, but because the developing interest in Castoriadis concerns more than small academic circles I am posting it regardless. 

Cornelius Castoriadis and the Politics of Autonomy.

History does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth’, it ‘wages no battles’. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.”

Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx. The Holy Family. 1844. (1)

 

A critical look at the politics of Cornelius Castoriadis, around, and beyond these recent publications:

Castoriadis. Une Vie. François Dosse. La Découverte. 2014. Looking for the Proletariat Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing. Stephen Hastings-King. Brill 2014 Castoriadis. L’Imaginaire, Le Rationnel, et le Réel. Arnaud Tomès. Demapolis. 2015. Cornelius Castoriadis ou l’autonomie radicale. Segre Latouche. Le Passager Clandestin. 2014 Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort: L’expérience démocratique. Editor. Nicolas Poirier. Le Bord de l’eau. 2015. A Socialisme ou Barbarie Anthology. Autonomy, Critique, Revolution in the Age of Bureaucratic Capitalism.  Beta Version. Anonymous. 2016.  Autonomie ou barbarie. Edited Manuel Cervera-Marzal and Éric Fabri.  Le Passager Clandestin. 2015.

Cornelius Castoriadis (1922 – 1997) was a landmark figure on the French political and intellectual left. A philosopher, a political theorist, a professional economist at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), Castoriadis was a psychoanalyst (initially linked with the Lacanian school) to boot. He was also one of the founders, with Claude Lefort (1924 – 2010), of the group and publication, Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB, 1949 – 1965, the group dissolved in 1967) whose legacy continues to be debated on the left. As Dosse’s biography, Stephen-Hasting King’s study of SouB, the essays published by Poirier, and by Cervera-Marzal and Éric Fabri, Latouche’s pamphlet, and the philosophical study by Arnaud Tomes demonstrate, Castoriadis remains a preoccupation for radical left thinkers.

To his admirers Castoriadis was the major radical left thinker of the 20th century. After his death Alex Honneth, of the Frankfurt Institut für Sozialforschung, and a student of Jürgen Habermas, compared his stature to that of Herbert Marcuse and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He was, Honneth considered, a significant figure within the tradition of ‘Western Marxism’ that “tired to save the practical-political intuitions of Marx’s work through a resolute abandonment of its dogmatic kernel.” Edgar Morin, co-founder of the ‘heterodox’ left wing journal, Arguments (1956 – 1962), and for decades a respected figure on the French centre-left, wrote a vibrant tribute in le Monde in 1997. For Morin, Castoriadis’ path-breaking contribution to the left stemmed from his belief that “the continuation of Marx requires the destruction of Marxism, which had become, through its triumph, a reactionary ideology”. As Castoriadis put in 1962, to remain revolutionary one had to ditch Marxism. After the collapse of ‘Eastern’ state Marxism and Marxism, both geographically and theoretically ‘Marxism’ Western or otherwise, has further fragmented, geographically, theoretically, academically and politically. Where does it now stand? (2)

Castoriadis remarked in 1992 that, “the wholesale collapse of Marxism has been obvious to me for more than thirty years.” There was nothing worth salvaging in it. “We reject the Marxian insistence on “grounding” it in the “laws of history,” or attributing it to the workers’ movement if only, simply, because this movement is no more than one of the many interest groups that are fighting within rich capitalist societies”. Today 90% of the people could be expected to support the “project of autonomy”. Leftism can pass by not only Marxism, but also the concentration of this special constituency as a historical lever within democratic socialist movements. (3)

On the left Castoriadis is unimaginable without Socialisme ou Barbarie, although it was far from the mouthpiece of one individual. SouB offered an analysis of changes in the post-war Western capitalist society, the structures of ‘bureaucratic capitalism’ in the Eastern bloc. It tried to develop, with limited means, an emancipatory practice within the working class. Jacques Julliard in his influential history of the French lefts has described SouB as “remarkable”(Les Gauches Françaises. 2012) Amongst its achievements it offered a pioneering analysis of “Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration” and, breaking from its Trotskyist origins, “put into question the leading role of the Party in the revolutionary process”. It was, he goes onto declare, one of the “inspirations” of May 68. (4)

Other assessments have been no less unwilling to describe SouB as a significant current within key developments of the second half of the 20th century.  Boltanski and Eve Chiappelo’s The New Spirit of Capitalism (1999) placed Castoriadis and the review within the challenge to authority that arose in the late ‘60’s. They identified it as part of the ‘artistic critique’ of capitalist alienation, the market society’s deformation of people’s wills and creative abilities, in SouB’s view reflected in the division between those who give commands and those who carry them out. Demands for “autonomy, spontaneity, authenticity self-fulfillment, creativity, life” took precedence over older attacks on capitalist exploitation and demands for state measures to remedy their effects. In Mai 68, l’héritage impossible (2002) Jean Pierre Le Goff describes the enduring insights offered by Castoriadis and his comrade Claude Lefort, from SouB to their later work. Their critique of Marxism and totalitarianism and the affirmation of the democratic potential of new forms of political struggle had a completely different statue to that of the “simplistic” anti-Marxist  ‘nouvelle philosophie’ of the late 1970s   (5)

First Biography.

Nearly two decades after the Greek-French philosopher passed away Castoriadis: Une Vie (2014) (CUV), is his first biography. Une Vie opens with Castoriadis’ birth in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1922. His family were amongst the Greeks forced out of Atatürk’s Turkey and obliged to re-establish their lives in Athens. In 1937 Castoriadis joined the Youth Wing of the Greek Communists, and the party itself, the KKE, in 1941. He was swiftly a dissident, and part of a Trotskyist grouping around one of its competing leaders, Agis Stinas (1900 – 1997). After studies at the University of Athens – where he displayed an interest in Max Weber as well as being attracted to Marxism – he obtained a grant to study in Paris. In December 1945 Castoriadis left for France.

Castoriadis would later say that the experience of the authoritarian side of Greek official communism, combined with reading of dissident Marxist works by authors such as Victor Serge, left him prepared to defy any orthodoxy. Thus armoured he had no intention of dropping out of left activism. After finishing his academic studies he was employed as an economist for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Out of a very dissident current within French Trotskyist politics, led, with Claude Lefort, he formed SouB in 1949. Leftist political activity was abandoned in the 1960s, with the final dissolution of the group in 1967. He continued his engagement through prolific writing. Castoriadis had joined the École freudienne de Paris in 1964. Opposing the psychoanalytic views of its founder Jacques Lacan in 1969 Castoriadis left and participated in a different body, the Quatrième groupe. Retiring from OECD in 1970, he became a psychoanalytical analyst in 1973. During that decade, marked by the publication of L’institution imaginaire de la société (1975) and the collection and reprinting of SouB texts, his writings reached a wider audience, including academic circles. Castoriadis began to lecture and teach, eventually becoming part of the École de Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

François Dosse is a historian of ideas. He has written a study of the hermeneutic philosopher Paul Ricœur, who at Nanterre University was both supportive and at the receiving end of May 68 protests. Ricœur was a thinker with whom Castoriadis, he notes, enjoyed a relationship of “mutual esteem”. Dosse made a mark with the study of two other difficult thinkers in Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. Biographie Croisée (2007), theorists whom Castoriadis did not hold in equally high regard. The professional philosopher and the radical psychiatrist’s joint writings, most notably L’Anti-Œdipe (1972) are celebrated for the theory of ‘desiring machines’, and critique of psychiatric approaches to schizophrenia. In their philosophical-political works such as Mille Plateaux  (1980) they advocated the “creation of concepts” a  “box of tools” (boîte à utiles). One of their most famous was the rhizome, a metaphor for the way ideas giving off stalks and shoots.

The pair had very distinct lives. Guattari’s was studded by engagements which brought him into contact with the ‘alternative’ French and European left, while Deleuze stayed largely within the Academy. The chapters covering their intellectual odyssey are held together by themes rather than time-lines, the creations of their “agencement” (their collaboration). One critic suggested that the Biographie Croisée resembled a “Polar”, a whodunit that ends up with the investigator uncovering Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptual apparatus. (6)

With this background Dosse is well-equipped to tackle another difficult subject in which the development of theory looms large, politics stand centre-stage, and psychoanalytical theories play a significant part. Castoriadis Une Vie is not a detective story nor is it arranged by concepts and arguments. The biography has a largely linear framework, within which the intellectual content often develops its own momentum. There is nothing resembling the Deleuze-Guattari tandem: Castoriadis’ important political and intellectual relationship with Claude Lefort was not a fusion of minds. To Dosse there was both “dialogue and confrontation” between the group’s top figures. Their work, political and theoretical, in the early 1950s ran a close parallel course, with Castoriadis the acknowledged chief in the Review, There was a split (1958) in SouB, renewed co-operation in the late 60s to the mid-1970s, followed by further falling outs. By the 1980s their political and theoretical approaches had diverged considerably. Yet it is, when we consider the nature and limits of democratic politics in the project of autonomy, hard to come to terms with the one thinker without the other.

Labyrinth.

To cover the different aspects of Castoriadis’ life, in which this was only one, but significant element, is not an easy task. Dosse uses the metaphor of a “labyrinth” (taken from the title of some of his collected writings, Les Carrefours du labyrinthe 1978 – 1999) to describe the intricate passages of his thought. Nevertheless, for the author, if Castoriadis never created a ‘system’ his ideas are “roborative” (tonic) and still form part of a “coherent bloc” resting on the theme of autonomy.

This suggests that we should follow his guiding thread through the different routes that his writings developed. Dosse also manages to convey a sense of the day-to-day detail of an intellectual’s existence – a hard feat – without losing attention of the important issues at stake. In view of his interest in relations of authority, one would have wished for more information about the Economist’s career as a high official in charge of scores of subordinates in the OECD. By contrast, there is a welcome wealth of detail on Castoriadis’ life in SouB and on the left. Castoriadis’ role as a theoretician and a potential political leader, as a dominant force within SouB, was, electric. Dosse cites member and contributor Sébastian de Diesbach, who said that this “extraordinary “ (hors du commun) individual was “Plato, Socrates, power did not interest him” (7)

Une Vie also notes Castoriadis’ polemical excesses during disputes, inside, or outside SouB. André Gorz talked of a drive to stand out as the only really critical thinker in the French left-wing intellectual village. A ‘force of Nature’, the biography ends with warmer tributes from the ranks of those affected by Castoriadis’ efforts to rouse his contemporaries and assume the full depth of the political dimension of human existence.  (8)

Castoriadis Une Vie is more than a life history. François Dosse considers that Castoriadis’ writings were milestones on the way to emancipatory politics. Beginning with an implacable critique of official Communism Castoriadis first sketched an alternative, socialist self-management, a realm of possibility from the creative roots of a society at present warped by bureaucratic capitalism. Often neglected in academic circles, a “marginal” an “outsider”, Castoriadis, for Dosse, is an enduring source of inspiration, both theoretical and political. From a critique of  “heteronomy” – the rule of alienated institutions – the groundwork for much broader liberating social arrangements emerged. As an often-employed explanation begins, autonomy, that is, ‘auto’, self, ‘nomos’, law, is the pursuit of a world where we make our own rules and order our own lives. Dosse considers that with this goal Castoriadis’ historical and psychoanalytical gaze helped open up the social imagination to the possibilities of a more convivial life beyond a  “foreclosed” future dominated by profit. From SouB onwards, there was a consistent democratic drive, outlining the contours of “radicalised” self-determination through the “socialisation” of all decision-making.

Not everybody was, or is, convinced of this picture. Claude Lefort came to doubt the possibility of such a sweeping re-ordering of society. In the 1970s he posited the way it conceived the lifting of restraints on autonomy. With the introduction of self-management “the idea of being together, producing together, deciding and obeying together, communicating fully, satisfying the same needs, both here and there and everywhere simultaneously, became possible as soon as the alienation which ties the dominated to the dominator is removed; it is as if only some evil and complicit servitude had for centuries or millennia concealed from people the quite simple truth that they were the authors of their own institutions and, what is more, of their choice of society. If this is believed, there is no need to confront the problems posed on the frontiers of the history that we are living through.”

Jürgen Habermas trenchantly stated that Castoriadis entrusted “the rational content of socialism (that is, a form of life that is supposed to make autonomy and self-realisation in solidarity possible) to a demiurge creative of meaning, which brushes aside the difference between meaning and validity, and no longer relies on the profane and no longer relies on the profane verification of its creations.” He was unable to “provide us with a figure for the mediation between individual and society”. For Alex Callinicos this “voluntarist social theory” ended in what he considered, “wilfully obscure” writings, that began with L’insitution imaginaire de la société (1975). This book was “merely one example of a general trend in contemporary social theory, which was to detach Marx’s philosophical anthropology from historical materialism and transform it into a general theory of action positing a transhistorical human capacity to overturn social structures.” Perry Anderson dismissed Castoriadis’ political and theoretical ambitions as a “pious cult of creativity.”(9)

Approaches to Castoriadis’ Ideas.

Castoriadis’ relationship with the organisation and publication, Socialisme ou Barbarie should be the starting point of grasping his politics. SouB was a wider project that extended beyond his own imprint. No discussion of the philosophy and politics of autonomy can ignore the group, whose participants and activity extended beyond him in was engaged in efforts to intervene in the working class. Stephen Hasting King’s invaluable Looking for the Proletariat draws attention to SouB’s political projects and to other figures than Castoriadis. In Lefort’s writing and the activity of Daniel Mothé, the plan developed of recording “worker experience”. Lefort found his bearings in the work of his teacher, the existentialist-phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. But the project of revolutionaries as “phenomenological observers” and the activity of a militant and his allies in the famous Billancourt car plant next to Paris was more than an attempt to register life in the factory.

SouB, King argues, went beyond, outsider’s plunges into working class life, represented by say Simone Weil’s 1930s plunge into the world of work (published posthumously in 1951 as La Condition Ouvrière). It was inspired by the first-hand account of class struggle in the car-industry The American Worker (1947:  Paul Romano and Ria Stone – Phil Singer and Grace Lee Boggs – of the Johnson-Forest tendency, associated with C.L.R.James), which SouB translated and published. Mothé, who was to publish his own Journal recording his life at work (Journal d’un Ouvrier. 1959), was to develop reflections on the changing role of activists and how they might politicise everyday worker experience. Mothé came not only to outline how being such a “militant”, contesting both employers and unions, was a metier. He observed that their concerns were increasingly detached from non-factory political issues. One of the few members of SouB to consider the pre-Communist-led CGT ‘syndicalist’ trade unionism, he noted the erosion of their demands for control over the workplaces.

These and other SouB interventions were linked to practical political-class demands centred on activism, and not the product of industrial relations studies, ethnography or cultural studies. Tribune Ouvrière, a worker-activist paper was one result of their approach; intended to be a feedback loop co-ordinating and developing autonomous struggles. The basis lay in new types of informal organisation of “elementary groups” of workers, the co-operation needed to sustain production in the post-war phase of automation, and the unintended reaction against Fordist plans and Taylorist norms. King makes the point that for Lefort and the group, ‘autonomy’, initially referred to “strike actions that workers carried out beyond the control of, and in opposition to, the bureaucratic trade unions and political parties” It developed into “direct-democratic forms of self-organisation” Whether their strategic conclusions went far beyond opposition to all forms of authority, from bosses to unions, remains an open issue. Nevertheless many consider this not only a creative response to the post-war changes in work (in contrast to the traditional bread-and-butter demands of union activists) but perhaps one of the first efforts to develop a left-wing industrial politics that was not reduced to efforts to capture trade unions from the ‘reformist’ leadership and mobilise workers behind (their) party-led vanguards. (10)

In this view, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism was that it both needed workers’ creativity and yet sought to regiment it to order. Workers would always react to this, from the most modest refusal to obey or to doge round rules, to outright rebellion. Taylorism and other forms of managerial rationalisation, the post-war processes – the hey-day of  “Fordism” – could never be imposed without day-to-day efforts by workers to maintain and improve their conditions as they saw fit. At some point these conflicts would condense into more global confrontations that would take a political edge. Francis-King draws these into their objectives, “A defining characteristic of this new form of political action was the reappropriation of direct-democratic worker councils. Workers’ councils formed within a sequence that moved from wildcat to an unlimited general strike. For Socialisme ou Barbarie, this sequence was a plausible trajectory for moving from worker control over production to that of society as a whole. The demands formulated by the councils linked the actions back to conflicts that unfolded in everyday life at the point of production.” This self-management became defined as the “content of socialism”, based on workers’ councils (‘soviets’) and not on planning and nationalisation, in one of Castoriadis’ best-known articles of the 1950s.  (11)

And the Broader Independent French Left…

In accounts of SouB there is a tendency, which for all his merits King tends to reflect, to ignore other left independent currents that developed during the same period. Nevertheless the activist left of the period ended by forming a material embodiment of the New Left way beyond the review’s ambit. Bolstered by not just Suez, Hungary but in the developing struggle for Algerian national liberation, and the crises that culminated in a potential military take over in 1958, ended the Fourth Republic and brought de Gaulle back to power with the Fifth Republic, finally succeeded in creating an organised expression of their ideas, and a place where they hoped to be effective as a political force, the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU). This was the party that left a lasting trace in French politics, its anti-colonialism, support for autogestion, early championing of green issues and feminism, making it a magnet for a thick forest of leftist, radical reformist, democratic socialist ideas and individuals.

SouB was hostile to the founding tendencies of the PSU. It loathed the centre-left politician Pierre Mendès France who became associated with the party on the basis of its fight in defence of Algerian independence. It was, from its own creation in the 1940s, hostile to Yugoslavia, a model with some attractions to PSU members, SouB saw ‘Titoism’ as a variant of bureaucratic capitalism, despite its adoption of self-management in the 1950s. SouB’s dislike went beyond particular political stands, to the criticism that its founding currents stood candidates in Parliamentary and other contests. The fusion of a group of anti-parliamentarian ‘Bordgists’ with the organisation in the early 1950s, which may help explain how this attitude developed. If SouB was alone, that is, stood aside from this central part – intellectual and activist – of the developing new lefts, this was its own choice.

In the recent and valuable history of the PSU Quand la Gauche se réinventait (2016) Bernard Ravenel outlines the role of their key strategist Gilles Martinet, in promoting self-management in the context of a national – democratic and participative  – “counter-plan”. Ideas, which influenced the PSU about autogestion, developed in relation to the theory of the “nouvelle class ouvrière” the new working class, devoted to research, and the preparation and organisation of production. This layer, to Serge Mallet, and other theorists such as André Gorz who placed its productive role within the terms of Marx’s concept of alienation, had a degree of “professional autonomy” (comparable to pre-mass production skilled workers). It could be the social base for wider autogestion. Castoriadis and SouB were resolutely hostile to the industrial sociology underpinning this approach, and its emphasis on the leading role of technicians and qualified workers. They pointed, as we have already cited, to another potential in informal but essential ‘elementary groups’ of workers at all levels of production. Castoriadis considered this a potential challenge to management’s existence. It is not surprising, collecting these views together, with their harsh stand against electoral interventions on the left, that SouB would not participate in the career of this central actor in the 1960s and 1970s French New Left.  (12)

If SouB offered a series of important reflections on the evolution of bureaucratic capitalism, workers’ struggles, and self-management, its politics were sterile. They would appear to belong to the category of leftist groups known for permanent opposition. The range of their targets, within the left itself, was immense. To cite a typical statement by Castoriadis, “For a century the proletariat of all countries has been setting up organisations to help them in their struggle, and all these organisations, whether trade unions or political parties, ultimately have degenerated and become integrated into the system of exploitation. In this respect it matters little whether they have become purely and simply instruments of the State and of capitalist society (like the reformist organisations), or whether (like the Stalinist organisations) they aim to bring about a transformation of this society, concentrating economic and political power in the hands of a bureaucratic stratum while leaving unaltered the exploitation of the workers. The main point is that such organisations have become the strongest opponents of their original aim: the emancipation of the proletariat.” As “cogs in the machine” of exploitation and capitalist command they had to be constantly fought. Whether all at the same time, or only in the shape of their individual representatives, this is a hefty task. (13)

Castoriadis: from SouB onwards.

Internal clashes, and eventual scissions, began soon after SouB began publication, in 1951-2, reached one climax with Lefort’s departure in the late 1950s and resumed, in the wake of Castoriadis’ 1961 announcement that he has surpassed Marxism. In all these disputes one theme was to the fore: how can we organise to create this new society ? Was it a matter of linking together workers’ protests into one big surge that would challenge bureauratic capitalism, or was a party or a more closely knit form of organisation required ? Amongst the many issues that preoccupied Catrodis himself was the nuts and bolts of running an egalitarian society that could emergence from a succesful revolution in Le Contenu du socialisme (1979, from 1950s SouB originals). This was an effort he was to abandon to the decisions of the autonomous associated individuals in L’insitution imaginaire de la société (1975).

The approach to the ‘reforms’ offered by these associations also has the attractive characteristic of never being provably wrong. Nobody was able to offer the prospect of self-management. Nobody has found as way of abolishing the distinction between directors and executants. Nobody has solved the problem of bureaucracy. Nobody has abolished ‘heteronomy ’ and instituted personal and social autonomy.

Castoriadis himself moved on. Modern capitalism, he began to claim in the early 1960s had thwarted any attempt to constitute an independent class working movement. The emancipation of the proletariat was not on the cards.  He was to announce, in lines that Dose, but not all of his admirers, take account of, that the whole world was becoming ‘totalitarian’. In Modern Capitalism and Revolution (1961) he reached his apogee. “Thus modern societies, whether “democratic” or “dictatorial,” are in fact totalitarian, for in order to maintain their domination, the exploiters have to invade all fields of human activity and try to bring them to submission. It makes no difference that totalitarianism today no longer takes the extreme forms it once took under Hitler or Stalin or that it no longer utilizes terror as its sole and special means. Terror is only one of the means by which power can break down the resilience of all opposition, and it is neither universally applicable nor necessarily the most profitable way of achieving its ends. “Peaceful” manipulation of the masses and the gradual assimilation of any organised opposition can be more effective.” (14)

Modern Capitalism and Revolution was the beginning of more pessimistic balance-sheet of the labour movement, which ended with Castoriadis placing ‘Marxism’ as a whole in the camp opposed to autonomy and self-management. This critique, originally published in SouB as Marxisme et théorie révolutionnaire (1064) formed the first section of the book eventually published as the L’institution imaginaire de la société (1975). Castoriadis’ criticism of determinism, technological and ontological, which is far from original, can be discussed. That is the claim that Marxism makes the development of technology the motor of history, “attributes to it an autonomous evolution and a closed and definite meaning. “attempts to submit all of history to categories that have a sense only for capitalist society in developed countries, whilst the application of these categories to previous forms of social life poses more problems than it solves” “is based on the hidden postulate of a human nature considered essentially unalterable, whose predominant motivation would be an economic motivation. (15)

It is far harder to discuses the remainder of the book. Instead of a workers’ movement channeling the distinction between those giving orders and those carrying them out, we have a vast, transhistorical perspective. This ‘projet de autonomie’ is embedded within economic and historical explorations, interlarded with set theory, psychoanalysis, Castoriadis’ opinions on linguistics, and explored in the depths of social and individual being. The work was the foundation statement of Castoriadis’ mature theory. It offered a theory  of social and subjective ontology – further puncutated by neologisms, and displays of his knowledge of clasical Greek, which no doubt would impress graduates of the École Normale Superière but leave most people cold, as Callinicos and many others, have found. Unless one considers that the Greek language of the ancient world  has a special quality of truth-showing, they are less than helpful. The study claimed to unearth the self-creation of society, from the  psyche  to the ‘ social imaginary’. It laid the ground for a strategy of complete social transformation, without any extra-social ‘guarantee’ or final truth, or indeed, mundane detail.

To get to grips with the full range of problems this book raises is not easy. In his study of Castoriadis’ philosophy, Castoriadis, l’Imaginaire, le Rationnel et le Réel, Arnaud Tomès displays the full repertoire of this “obscure” terminology. For Castoriadis the clay of society is moulded by the “social imaginary”, the constitutive element of human societies. This arises from the original ‘chaos’ of Being. Social representations paper over its Abyss, Chaos. To use Castoriadis’ own words, the  ‘magma’ of human existence, “a non-ensemblist diversity”, becomes replaced by ‘imaginary’. The imaginary is not the ‘false’ representation of the world, but the human capacity to create meaning, to picture, to conceive,  “to the extent that the imaginary ultimately stems from the original faculty of positing or presenting oneself with things and relations that do not exist, in the form of representation (things and relations that are not or have never been given in perception), we shall speak of a final or radical imaginary as the common root of the actual imaginary and of the symbolic. This is, finally, the elementary and irreducible capacity of evoking images.” The core of Castoriadis’ critique of ‘heteronomous’ societies, forms of social imaginary in which human projections depend on rules formed around an external object, god, nature, and the market.  In these the processes he called “ensidique” (ensembliste-identitaire), the combinations that make up social institutions, stand over people, outside their control (I have omitted many, many, other neologisms covering the process and the psychological and linguistic aspects of the picture). Autonomy, as a social relation, is both a drive to combat this alienation of human powers and the will to establish self-given norms that will replace these forms….(16)

Castoriadis categorised the shape of these rules, the basis of external norms, in historical terms. They began with the eternity glimpsed in the name of a god, an “outside” force ruling society, the first stirrings of the ‘autonomous’ society in ancient Athens where law-making was brought unto human agency, and ending with present-day ‘technocratic’ capitalist rationality where it escapes us. In his latter writings he filled out this approach, which some might compare to efforts to trace communist aspiration throughout the whole of human history. Castoriadis asserted, the word is perhaps not strong enough, that autonomy – self-made norms – began, imperfectly but gloriously, in ancient Athens, was eclipsed by Macedonian hegemony, was renewed in medieval city states, and has since popped up in workers’ struggles, enjoyed some display in May 68 before suffering another eclipse.

Tomès manages the difficult task of making Castoriadis’ ontology of the Real, his concept of Rationality, and the social role of the imaginary more obscure. Castoriadis, l’Imaginaire, le Rationnel et le Réel repeats, with due reverence, the ontological ground of Castoriadis’ view that limitless, causally free, social creation, politics included, can be the activity of liberated people, working through the “l’imaginaire instituant”, pursuing their “own aims”.

Democracy and Autonomy.

To some the portrait of a democracy as part of a deeper anthological and social project is attractive. But Tomès cannot disguise a whole series of historical difficulties that even a browser would have noticed. To cite just one: the idea that slave-owning and colonising Athens saw the first ‘germes’ (shoots) of autonomy, opens up a vast field of empirical historical enquiry. The special place of democratic creation in Periclean Athens, however bolstered by the authority of Moses Finley’s books and the encouragement of the Hellenist Pierre Vidal-Naquet, above all, lacks comparative depth. To convince readers that this was the first genuine move to self-rule needs a wide range of evidence about ‘primitive’ societies and the non-Greek and Roman ancient world. In their absence Castoriadis’ generalisations about societies and cultures include claims that Imperial China and India had power politics, without an ‘agora’ and therefore no real mechanisms in the “political” sphere to ponder and create their own norms. Only the Greeks began to break free from “external” (heteronomous) projections of authority, tradition, and reliance on the orders of Deities. But this – uniqueness – thesis would involve contesting, for example, John Keane’s contention that in epochs long preceding and long following Athens, there were many examples of popular government, “self-government of equals”, from the Middle East, the Phoenician Empire to the Indian Subcontinent, with written constitutions and other ‘Greek’ features (The Life and Death of Democracy. 2009).  Few, unsurprisingly, have cared to explore in depth these aspects of Castoriadis’ vision of the birth of democracy and the contrasting ‘heteronomous’ traditional world, through this demanding angle. (17)

Castoriadis would have one last attempt at linking with contemporary events. In 1968 he would claim (in a book co-authored with Morin and Lefort) he announced, “The urgent task of the hour is the constitution of a new revolutionary movement out of these recent struggles, based upon their total experience. The formation of such a movement can only be accomplished through the regrouping of young students, workers, and others who have united in these struggles, on ideological and organizational bases that they themselves will have to define.”  But Castoriadis showed no sign of helping to build such a movement. (18)

Castoriadis Today

Yet Castoriadis’ ideas continue to have an impact. Serge Latouche’s pamphlet Cornelius Castoriadis ou l’autonomie radicale (2014) is only one of many attempts to place the abstract theme of autonomy within more immediate political and social terms. Latouche is a leading theorist of ‘décroissance’, de-growth, an ecological current that seeks to end endless accumulation and create a balanced relation between Humanity and Nature. The present text raises some of the themes raised in a debate that Latouche participated in with Castoriadis organised by the group MAUSS  (Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales) back in 1994. This touched on problems at the heart of Castoriadis’ portrait of the Progress of Autonomy raised above. The ‘universalism’ of the Greco-Western movement towards self-rule, Latouche suggested, co-exists with the instrumentalisation of Nature, which in turn permits the instrumentalisation (that is, use of them as tools) of human beings.

In this short text he brings to the present Castoriadis “concrete utopia’ of direct democracy. He links this to “décroissance” and using some of the Franco-Greek theorist’s criticisms of the idea of neutral   technology-driven expansion. A sustainable world will be based on the principle of a society’s “self-creation” (‘auto-institution’). Latouche rejects the idea that there is a class revolutionary subject. There is no privileged Marxist or Hegelian “subject of History”. Echoing Castoriadis’ view cited above, he claims that it is the – vast – majority, not just the proletariat, which will lead and participate in this historic transformation. No longer chained to obedience to technical specialists and Capital we will find a proper relationship with Nature in a society of “frugal abundance”. His answer to the democratic problems just cited is simple: autonomy will, through radical and local democracy let everybody decide…..

It is not hard to see that efforts to bring society under self-rule, to have a new beginning with such sweeping ambitions – to replace the workings of technical-rationality in bureaucratic capitalist forms of society – with self-created laws, ‘autonomy’, not to mention a reconciliation with Nature, run up against difficulties. For the moment we signal one: procedural forms of democracy. How can people create their own rules, that is decide on, and vote on, everything to do with ‘society’, whose causal springs exist across the globe. What exactly did Castoriadis mean when he talked of the “auto-limitation” of the processes of autonomy? Does this imply that in a future society, that those who wish to resist the project in the name of transcendent truths will have no effective voice? Does this imply bringing every psyche to self-rule, implies that the fear of freedom will vanish? That opponents of autonomy will not exist?

Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort: l’expérience démocratique (2015) (CCCL) is a collection of papers presented at a 2013 Paris-Ouest Nanterre-La Défense University Conference of the same title. Many of them tackle such issues. The democratic revolution of modernity, sovereignty, of power, of totalitarian societies, and the two thinkers different approaches are covered in sharp and well-presented essays. They range from studies of the thinkers’ place in French intellectual life, their critique of totalitarianism and the legacy of the “anti-totalitarianism of the left’. Perhaps the most valuable are contrasts between Castoriadis’ optimistic, all-embracing, theory of autonomy and Lefort’s focus in the specifics of politics and the pitfalls of democracy. There are explorations of Lefort’s defence of political competition, indeterminacy, the incompleteness of the ‘social’. The idea that sovereign power should be a “lieu-vide”(absent place) that rivals can occupy stands out. He also recognised the importance of, “the historical mutation in which power is assigned limits and right is fully recognized as existing outside power”. In this there are dividing lines, which became clearer over the years, with Castoriadis. The last thing one can find in Lefort’s writing, from the Le Travail de l’œuvre Machiavel (1972) to his reflections on the La Terreur Révolutionnaire, in Essais sur le Politique (1986) – a warning about the Jacobins’ use of violence on the social body to make it whole – is a defence of an easy passage to autonomy and a society without divisions.

In La Question de la Politique dans la pensée de Claude Lefort, Hugues Poltier describes as Lefort’s late 1970s recourse to the  ‘Machiavellian’ belief that all human societies are divided into the Great and the People (Grand/peuple). The shapes of inevitable conflict within the domain that makes up ‘le’ politique, that is the overarching moment of governing the ‘social’, could lead to the rejection of the goal of a classless society. From early hostility to bureaucratisation he appeared to suggest that power ends in the constitution of a dominant layer, which is in turn the object for new clashes. Lefort, he notes, not only abandoned any reference to Marxism as a critique of political economy but also recoiled from the radical wing of the labour movement. In this respect he was publicly hostile to the 1996 mass trade union movement against reforms to the French health service, preferring supporters of the rationality of the Juppé plan from within the moderate ‘deuxième gauche”, CFDT and centre-left intellectuals. The discussion of Lefort’s developing political theory, reminds us of the contrasts between his cautious, or hostile, stand on ‘revolution’- the darkest interpretation of his reservations about social “transparency” in a self-governed world – and his own complex democratic alternative.

The editor of Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort, Nicolas Poirier has written on Castoriadis’ ‘political ontology’, giving centre place to the contention that he offered a revolutionary democratic project open to the creative chaos. In an essay he contends that the two thinkers, in their different and often conflicting ways, were propelled by a parallel inspiration, to make sense of the experience of democracy, above all, of its connection to efforts to transform society. It was in this domain that emancipation could be found – without any foundation but a “desire for liberty”. The exercise of that freedom, was, nevertheless, for Lefort, for the People, implicated in contesting the Law – indispensably knotted into democratic forms  – while Castoriadis focused on the project of popular Law making. To put it more clearly, Lefort put the right to protest and disagree with legislation at the heart of democracy; Castoriadis believed in the prime importance of the autonomous creation of laws and left disagreement to be worked out in the process of decision-making.

A contribution by Manuel Cerveza-Marzal offers an angle on the revolutionary democratic impulse in Castoriadis’ later writings. Castoriadis did not retract his political radicalism. In 1990 he put the 19the century French liberal thinker Alex de Tocqueville right on a few points of American history and dismissed his often cited warning about the conformist dangers of democracy, Castoriadis argued that far from potential tyranny democratic autonomy means that, “no one can reasonably want autonomy for himself without wanting it for all.”. Pursuing the original critique of representative democracy, the “trap” of the “separation of powers” Castoriadis attacked all existing political parties in accents that could have been taken from the pages of SouB. (What democracy?) These reflections stand against Lefort’s worries about the totalitarian potential of direct democracy and revolutionary movements, that – Stalinism always in mind – culminated in the effort to impose the People-as-One. Castoriadis did not share this emphasis on the necessary role of organised opposition, in the ‘indeterminate’ body politic. He retained undiluted faith in radical, total, change, whose only mediators would be self-appointed.

Are there political thinkers preoccupied with the common themes that once drew Castoriadis and Lefort close? In his contribution Cerveza-Marzal brings out “convergences” and differences between Castoriadis and the present-day writings of Miguel Abensour. An attentive reader, he has stated, of SouB in his youth Abensour continues to write on “insurgent” (perhaps what Lefort called ‘sauvage’) democracy beyond the State. There is both a common preoccupation between the thinkers with how emancipatory movements are thwarted and turned from their aims. There is a shared wish to think of democracy in a wider fashion than liberal institutions and constitutions, and in terms of undoing the ‘state form.’ Abensour, nevertheless, has not rejected Marxism en bloc. He has continued to draw ideas from Marx as a source of philosophical, democratic and libertarian, inspiration. In reflections on the “invention” of democracy, such as Le Démocratie Contre l’Etat (2004) Abensour, in equal contrast to Lefort, has opposed to the logic of the totalitarian State not the quest for spaces of partisanship and conflict, but the right to experiment with new democratic forms. In reflections on constitutional liberalism, neo-Machiavellian republicanism and human rights he continues to promote the possibility of non-institutional democracy, fuelled by a spirit of utopianism. Democracy, he writes, cannot be reduced to any fixed synthesis; it refuses order, goes beyond any state, the result of a permanent conflict between politics and the State’s efforts to impose Order. (19)

 Council Communism.

Contributions to Autonomie ou barbarie bring to the fore some of the problems at the origins of distinctive approach. The shapes of socialism and revolution were intimately linked to the types of self-organisation developed before the revolution SouB took this emphasis on self-organised activity from a left tradition, Councillism. In Le Conseillisme by Yoahan Dubigeon outlines how the councillists considered that workers’ awareness, directly lived, was to be the basis for socialism, rather than the ‘external theorising’ of the Party. There was a template, which however modified in contemporary conditions, would be able to put an end to the fundamental division between “dirigeants” and “executants” – those who give orders and those who carry them out.  We can see, from Stephen Hasting King’s study that projects, such as ‘worker experience’, and the publication of self-organised papers by workers, were intended to form the knowledge that was the basis of that challenge. By producing their own narratives they were part of an effort to avoid “substitutionalist” politics, the take over of struggles by self-appointed groups that claim to ‘lead’. Castoriadis, the author, observes, refused to believe that there was an inevitable tendency towards organisations being caught up in these mechanisms. Yet, Dubigeon observes, this continues to be attested. One of the largest anti-system self-managed protest movements of recent times, the Spanish Indignados, is now “institutionalised” in the form of a political party, Podemos.

The political trend known as Councillism, the left wing of 1920s communism, opposed to all forms of vanguard, and the state embodiment of workers’ power, was another source for SouB’s thinking. Lenin’s Left-wing Communism an Infantile Disorder (1920) is the most famous response to this current. The Bolshevik leader attacked the German, Dutch, and the Silvia Pankhurst left of the British Communist movement, for their rejection of participation in Parliamentary elections and ‘reactionary’ trade unions.

The left-wing communist stand is known, if it known at all, through the writings of figures such as Anton Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, and Amanedo Bordiga, the later a significant early leader in the Italian Communist Party. The left communists were not only theorists of a distinct ‘Western’ communist strategy based on a new beginning, apart from unions and all reformist parties, but aspired, as activists, to take part in new forms of workers’ power. Their version of the ‘council’ model was taken not directly from the Soviets which appeared at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and whose power Lenin claimed to incarnate, but from the period of revolutionary unrest in post great War Germany, councils there, in Hungary and Austria, and factory occupations in Italy. Manuel Cervera-Marzal offers an analysis of the degeneration of the Russian revolution He suggests that nobody has resolved the issue of how the impulse for autonomous power, which he identifies in the early years of the Soviets, became challenged/confiscated by a Party.

This is one of the hardest topics to resolve in SouB and Castoriadis’ legacy It is heightened by the fact that some of their members, such as Alberto Vega, who had fought for the POUM in the Spanish civil war, had participated in fights for workers’ councils and for whom they were part of a lived experience. Throughout the group’s existence they underlined the importance of these efforts as direct worker action. For SouB the Hungarian councils of 1956 were an electrifying moment: amidst the fall-out from Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, the proletariat itself challenged ‘Stalinism without Stalin’. The problems begin when we consider that these were not metaphysical Events, calling us back to faith, but the objects of wide historical and – on the left – theoretical research and debate.

One of the 20th century’s most important political philosophers, Hanna Arendt, talked of the public space opened up by workers’ council as the revolutionary tradition’s “lost treasure”. “Spontaneous movements, “spaces of freedom” they were “a new power structure which owed to existence to nothing but the organisational impulses of the people themselves.” They, she asserted, have regularly emerged since the French Revolution, and, after appearing again, were submerged in the political violence of the 20th century. As working bodies they have not been, she argued, successful in running factories or enterprises; primarily political they were led by those selected on that basis, not managerial or technical ability. Their deeper difficulties lay in the conflicts between councils and parties. The former were “organs of action” and  “order” (a new social rule), the latter of “representation”. (20)

Arendt could hardly be said to have resolved the question of how the conflict between the political Vita Activa and more than a brief foray into this “social” sphere could ever be resolved.  The Councillists had declared that the working class could not be represented. Claude Lefort’s early political writings could be said to be an extended reflection on and endorsement of this point. Castoriadis believed that the councils could be organised. To discover a way to extend the freedoms of the council to a wider political space, an instrument for not just (in Hannah Arendt’s wistful words), “breaking up the modern mass society” but to rebuild it, required some kind of leadership, direction and thought. They could avoid bureaucratisation. Groups such as SouB had a role in encouraging the leading forces to self-reflection and independent activity. Yet this would mean accepting the division of labour SouB protested against: the party form. It would also mean competing with other parties, some of which would want to destroy or take control, with the authority of vanguard knowledge, of the councils. It would mean accepting what Arendt, the theorist celebrated above all for her conceptualisation of totalitarianism, called the inevitable role of dissensus in democratic politics. This is a view made popular today in a different shape in the writings of Jacques Rancière and Chantal Mouffe’s picture of agonistic democracy. But how do they face with the difficulties signalled? The dilemma – to whether to include all, at the risk of irreconcilable differences, or to form islands of consensual organisation that exclude radical opposition, was not solved. This applies not only to parties like Podemos but, as the fate of contemporary efforts to build autonomous movement well outside the world of work and formal politics, from Occupy to Nuit Debout indicates.

Issues related to the role of political parties, or even the party form itself, crop up time and time again in SouB’s history. What exactly did SouB mean by “Orientation”? Was it a signpost, a directing message, or a signal from a coordinated – led? – political force? In other words, the journal’s motto raised the need for organisation, either from SouB or from those receiving their call. Discussion of this would be inevitable for any group that wishes to do more than celebrate the spontaneous resistance and self-activity of the working class. The project of a Workers Paper –  (after Lefort’s departure) took shape in with the monthly supplement Pouvoir Ouvrier seemed like proletarian tribune, aimed to assemble the masses through their own expression. This Iskra without Lenin and the Bolshevik wing of Russian Social Democracy, and a few hundred subscribers, had a limited impact

Deep theoretical divisions on these topics, from the threat of bureaucracy, to the need for any kind of political vanguard (however self-organised and ‘coaching’ rather than commanding) remained throughout SouB’s existence. Lefort and Castoriadis famously disagreed from the early 1950s onwards, clashed and finally split on the party issue, as did part of SouB’s membership when his leadership abandoned Marxism. A Socialisme ou Barbarie Anthology presents, in lucid translation, articles from a variety of SouB authors from the review on the Eastern Bureaucracies, the world of work, and interesting pieces by Jean-François Lyotard (of later ‘post-modern’ celebrity) on the Third World and the Algerian national liberation struggle

Every left-wing activist should read Lefort’s Organisation and Party, one of the most significant critiques of Trotskyism (with much wider implications) ever produced. Lefort observed that the “microbureaucracy” of these parties was “all the more remarkable in that it is not determined directly by material conditions of exploitation” As an “echo” of prevailing bureaucratic models it shows how hard it is to escape the dominant culture by the Leninist effort to “fabricate” an external leadership for the working class. The answer, that such groups rely above all on an intellectual division of labour, between leaders and led, which one might challenge, remains live to this day.  This judiciously selected collection presented “anonymously”, and introduced by the invaluable David Ames Curtis, is a welcome addition to their extensive English language versions of SouB and Castoriadis’ writings. The download is free…..

Contributors to Autonomie ou barbarie retrace both the history behind these ideas and the challenges they face in what Castoriadis later called the ‘privatisation’ of  society, not the selling off nationalised companies or public services  to large companies but a wider retreat from collective solutions to individual life.  Jean Vogel asks if Castoriadis really came to terms with the details of the structural changes in capitalism. Perhaps he suggests, Castoriadis took refuge in his own intransigent hopes for a final way out, while looking from on high at “triumphant barbarism”.

SouB’s support for the belief that workers’ councils could embody people’s control over their daily lives (a model that extends beyond the enterprise) and the basis of a self-organised society grew after the Hungarian revolt in 1956. To many left observers, outside Communist orthodoxy, this was a new episode during which proletarians took over enterprises and appeared to replace the Stalinist state with their political and social power. These events loomed over, and one would imagine, tended to obscure any of the divisions outlined above. This, it might be said, provides much of the flesh and bones of any account of the foundations of Castoriadis’ politics of autonomy, however much they broadened over the years and faced up to the – unpredicted – hostile environment of triumphant liberal economics, and the fall out on the entire left from the collapse of Official Communism.

Yet it is not hard to see that efforts to bring society under self-rule, to have a new beginning with such sweeping ambitions, to replace the workings of technical-rationality in bureaucratic capitalist forms of society with self-created laws, ‘autonomy’, not to mention a reconciliation with Nature, run up against serious obstacles. One would have wished to discover an extended commentary in this respect on Castoriadis’ assertion that the French Revolution was the first to clearly pose the idea of the “auto-institution explicite de la société” (D, Page 389). The bald claim aside, was not the Sovereignty of the Nation an appeal that excluded the anti-Nation? If we are to believe Benjamin Constant the effects of the Terror cannot be lightly dismissed. Are there no such potential reefs today?  How can people create their own rules, that is decide on, and vote on, everything to do with ‘society’, whose causal springs exist across the globe, without finding resistance? What exactly did Castoriadis mean when he talked of the “auto-limitation” of the processes of autonomy in a future society mean for individuals imply for dealing with those who wish to resist the project in the name of transcendent truths that lay down the framework and the detail of social order. How does he, to repeat, propose to confront those so opposed to autonomy that they are prepared to bring the world to the civil war which the Italian political philosopher, Giorgio Agamben considers the normal state of politics, “stasis”?

Situating Castoriadis Politically.

Given his ambitions, called by Dosse ‘Promethean’, any account of Castoriadis should perhaps reach out to his, and SouB’s place in the left’s wider intellectual, social and political history. How to do this is not immediately obvious. As a theorist he cannot be easily slotted into the “Existentialist” “Structuralist” or “post-Structuralist” ‘moments’ in French.20th century intellectual history. He was not confined by the philosophical problems of existence, of structures, or of deconstruction. The Greek ex-Trotskyist’s formative years, and writings, were not academic but political. Can Castoriadis, in view of his, and SouB’s hostility to Stalinism and denunciation of its bureaucratic capitalist ruling class, be located as part of the pre-history of the 1970s  “anti-totalitarian moment”?  In his influential account of this nexus of politics and intellectuals Michael Scott Christofferson gives him, and Claude Lefort, a prominent place. They became “des icôns vivantes de l’antitotalitarisme français” during this decade (Les intellectuels contre la gauche. L’idéologie antitotalitaire en France (1968-1981. Second – French – Edition. 2013). (21)

It is far from clear that one can simply embed Castoriadis and SouB in the message and acts that made up this particular ‘anti-totalitarian moment’, even if their images, as will be seen, continue to be paraded, largely by those on the Second Left and, almost as a talisman, by Marcel Gauchet. Nicolas Poirier in his Preface to the collection cited above argues that their critique of totalitarianism stemmed form that of capitalism, and cannot be confounded with any kind of liberal ‘anti-totalitarian’ old or new. As for their role as anti-totalitarian forerunners some heavy qualifications are required. The French Editors’ Preface to the Socialisme ou Barbarie Anthology points out, SouB was not just concerned with criticising the Eastern bloc, the ‘socialist’ bureaucracy’s collective exploitation, but with a wider critique of all forms of bureaucratic capitalism.  It was a group of revolutionaries, not intellectuals, whose primary focus was one capitalist society, France.

Nevertheless Castoriadis saw the PCF’s gaol through the template of post-war Eastern European take overs of the handles of the state and the elimination of rivals on the left and right. He continued this approach long past its sell-by date, After  the break up of Union of the Left  in 1977 he described the PCF as “a totalitarian Apparatus that can no longer appeal explicitly to a totalitarian ideology and is led to water down gradually the totalitarian mode of  operation of the organization it dominates even as it is forced to maintain its totalitarian goal of power, which is encoded in its very substance and in its genes, but which nevertheless appears for the indefinite future unrealizable in the society it inhabits. The Apparatus can no longer be totalitarian except shamefacedly.” There is little sign of an appreciation of the details of French left politics. Perhaps the most striking not that he did more than dismiss any signs of critical ‘Euro Communists’ within the PCF. It was that, as there was no effort to take any group within the Parti Socialiste (founded in 1971 but with tis main component going back to the SFIO) seriously as socialists, or as social democrats who might transform French society. This indifference mingled with disdain to the non-Communist ‘reformist’ left – the dominant political force in France, then as now –  can be traced, as we have already seen back to the founding years of SouB. (22)

At the beginning of the 1980s, when newly elected President Mitterrand’s first Cabinet included 4 Communist Ministers without any sightings of a French Gulag, Castoriadis raised the alarm at a renewed expansion of Russian totalitarianism. In Devant la guerre, (Vol 1. 1981) he claimed that the Soviet Union, now dominated by a ‘stratocracy’ (the Military fraction of the bureaucracy), had achieved superiority of arms over the West. It was an imminent danger. Territorial aggrandisement was part of its inner nature. In a climate of hostility and and fear towards Moscow  the book was widely praised in the mainstream media, from the right-wing Le Figaro, to Le Monde’s Editorialists. Lefort shared concern, although he was less impressed by Castoriadis’ new terminology or his grasp of empirical sources  Much of the left, by this point little inclined to admire the former SouB theorist,  loathed it on sight. Castoriadis found himself classed in France and elsewhere, with the West in what was called the Second Cold War, launched by President Regan. A planned second volume of Devant la guerre never appeared.

Yet, supportive commentators assert, the principles of Castoriadis’ “radical imaginary” were not an endorsement of the liberal West and a bulwark against all forms of  revolution. Hostility to the USSR was consistent with being on the left. His objectives remained focused on finding means to end alienation, “heteronomy”, the imposition of norms and laws. Castoriadis, in this view, remained true to the goal of abolishing the division between those who Rule and those who Obey. This was the central aim of “praxis”, the combination of reflection and action that could make autonomy possible. Above all Castoriadis still believed in ‘Revolution’. He continued to write, assessing the ‘low decade’ of the 1980s, neo-liberalism, ecology, the Fall of Communism, and his unique views on the ontology of historical creation, a change in inherited “ensemblist-identitary logic” from the depths of the imaginary, the ongoing process of autonomy, and the “germs” of democracy in ancient Greece.

A Spirit of Hope.

François Dosse introduced Une Vie by stating that the book is “born of a paradox. Castoriadis had been called a “Genius” whose thought still leaves readers in a state of star-struck stupefaction (sidération). But despite this, Castoriadis was, he states, at the end of his days, a” who has still to receive the acknowledgment he merits. Perhaps, he suggests, it was because of the “caractère prométhéen” of his project. That is, he had an underlying aim to “think all that is possible” in every “continent of knowledge”. Less grandly: he wrote about many different areas in social studies, psychology, history, even mathematics, and philosophy.

One might equally say that the ‘project of autonomy’ is Promethean. It claims to have found a lever to change the world in the depths of the psyche, to bring it to being across continents and countries, to transform the world from top to bottom. Perhaps it may one day come to fruition. Who knows? Faith in humanity’s boundless creativity still springs forth. The citation at the beginning of this article suggests that human potentials are great. History can be made. But what is clear is that Castoriadis did not end up at the advocate of politics that is negotiation between opposing interests, or democracy, in that these processes are but at the heart of the idea, but the affirmation of Historical Creation

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

(1) Page 116. The Holy Family. Marx, Engels. Progress Publishers. 1980. The first three words form the heading of Part 1 of Daniel Bensaïd’s Marx For Our Times. Verso. 2009. The reflections From the Sacred to the Profane. Marx’s critique of Historical Reason. On the “unresolved contradiction between the influence of a naturalistic model of science (‘the inexorability of a natural process’) and the dialectical logic of an open-ended history. (Page 58) may be said to over the framework for a reflection on Castoriadis

(2) Last of the Western Marxists. Axel Honneth. Radical Philosophy. No 90. July/August 1988.. An Encyclopaedic Spirit, Edgar Morin. Radical Philosophy, Ibid. Page 20. Marxisme et théorie révolutionnaire. Socialisme ou Barbarie. N 36. 1964, “nous sommes – ‘ arrivés au point où il fallait choisir entre rester marxistes et rester révolutionnaires ; entre la fidélité à une doctrine qui n’anime plus depuis longtemps ni une réflexion ni une action, et la fidélité au- projet d’une transformation radicale de la société, qui exige d’abord que l’on comprenne ce que l’on veut transformer, et que l’on identifie ce qui, dans la société, conteste vraiment cette. société et est en lutte contre sa forme présente.” This claim still rankles, see for example Bensaïd on this “binary choice”:  Bensaïd, Daniel. Politique de Castoriadis. Contretemps n°21.2008. Bensaïd begins by making the valid point that there is no such thing as a single Marxism. The Crisis of Marxism and the Crisis of Politics. (1992).

(3) In Postscript on Insignificancy. Cornelius Castoriadis. Translated anonymously as a public service.

(4) Page 682. Les Gauches Françaises. Jacques Julliard. Flammarion. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiappelo. Page 171.

(5) The New Spirit of Capitalism 2007 (1999 France). Translated Gregory Elliot. Mai 68, l’héritage impossible Jean Pierre Le Goff. La Découverte/Poche. 2002/2006. Indeed on only has to read Lefort’s morally serious and historically informed, not least on the left, Gulag Archipelago, Un homme en trop. (1976) to realise the difference with, for example, Bernard Henri-Lèvy.

(6) François Dosse et La marche des idées. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\François Dosse et La marche des idées.htm Deleuze, Guattari : peut-on faire l’histoire d’un agencement ? Hervé Regnuad. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\Hervé Regnauld @en Deleuze, Guattari  peut-on faire l’histoire d’un agencement.htm.  Page 604. Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. François Dosse. La Découverte/Poche. 2009.

(7) Pages 10 –11. François Dosse. Castoriadis Une Vie. La Découverte. 2014. An appreciation of Dosse’s biography. François. Castoriadis: l’avocat de la démocratie Web LinlDosse, François (Interview): ‘Maintenir une radicalité critique’ en redécouvrant Castoriadis. Joseph Confavreux. Mediapart. 22/9/2014. Page 11.Une Vie. The labyrinth metaphor in: Castoriadis, Avocat de la démocratie. François Dosse. The claims that his thought is a maze but also coherent are not necessarily contradictory; coherence is not the same as a completed system, otherwise many paragraphs would be one.

(8) Other judgements include: Castoriadis, more than any other theoretician in the group, writes Marie-France Raflin, was the “instrument through which he managed a kind of symbolic blow and which permitted him to exist as a theoretician, if not potential political leader.”  In Christophe Premat. Les scissions internes au groupe “Socialisme ou Barbarie”. Dissidences, Bord de l’eau, 2009, 6, pp.137-147. <halshs-00401201  Gorz: “son désir d’incarner à lui seul la pensée critique.” Page 139. Une Vie. Op cit. In the same paragraph, Dosse equally notes, the “posture guerrière de ‘intellectual soucieux de faire la demonstration de sa puissance et dénoncer la faiblesse de l’adversaire.” One does not have to have had much experience of small political groups to imagine that such a character was not easy to deal with inside Socialisme ou Barbarie. His strong personality was not always appreciated within SouB itself, as Henri Simon, elsewhere, has expressed. « Castoriadis était très autoritaire de par sa personnalité et dès que la contradiction avait tendance à le gêner, ça explosait » given in De la scission avec Socialisme ou Barbarie à la rupture avec I.C.O. 2014. K:\De la scission avec Socialisme ou Barbarie à la rupture avec I.C.O. – Fragments d’Histoire de la gauche radicale. Page 269. Also see: Marie-France Raflin, « Socialisme ou barbarie », du vrai communisme à la radicalité [archive]

(9) The Political Forms of Modern Society. Claude Lefort. Edited and Introduced by John B. Thompson. MIT Press. 1986. On Lefort’s views see also amongst many sources, Nicolas Préface. L’expérience démocratique contre la domination bureaucratique et totalitaire. In Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort: L’expérience démocratique. Le Bord de l’eau. 2015. Trotskyism. Alex Callinicos. 1980. Chapter: Cornelius Castoriadis and the triumph of the will. Pages 320-1, and 324. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Jürgen Habermas. Translated by Fredrick G. Lawrence. Polity Press. 1987. Page 28. The Origins of Postmodernity. Perry Anderson. Verso 1998.

(10) Page 105.  Looking for the Proletariat. Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing. Stephen Hastings-King. Brill 2014 Further see :   Lefort. Claude . L’expérience Prolétarienne. (Unsigned). Mémoires militantes dans la classe ouvrière: cinq militants ouvriers de Renault.   Pierre Bois, Gil Devillard, André Lancteau, Daniel Bénard et Daniel Mothé, cinq militants pour une conscience ouvrière socialiste chez Renault. Robert Paris.  C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Material\Mémoires militantes dans la classe ouvrière  cinq militants ouvriers de Renault – Matière et Révolution.htm. Look   The American Worker. Paul Romano and Ria Stone (1947). Part V. Management Organisation and Worker Organisation.

(11)Page 74 Stephen Hastings-King. Op cit. Socialisme ou Barbarie. No 17. 1955. Pierre Chaulieu (Castoriadis) Sur le contenu du socialisme. Pages 7 – 8 “Les conclusions qui résultent de cette brève analyse sont claires : le programme de la révolution socialiste ne peut être  autre que la gestion ouvrière. Gestion ouvrière du pouvoir. c’est à dire pouvoir des organismes autonomes des masses (Soviets ou Conseils) ; gestion ouvrière de l’économie, c’est-à-dire direction de la production par les producteurs, organisés aussi dans les organismes de type sovietique. L’objectif du prolétariat ne peut pas être la nationalisation et la planification sans plus, parce. que cela signifie remettre la domination de la société à une nouvelle couche de dominateurs et d’exploiteurs; il ne peut pas être réalisé en remettant le pouvoir à un parti, aussi révolutionnaire et aussi prolétarien ce. parti soit-il au départ, parce ce parti tendra fataiement à l’exercer pour son propre compte et servira de noyau à la cristallisation d’une nouvelle couche dominante.” Also see: Socialisme ou Barbarie: A French Revolutionary Group (1949-65) Marcel van der Linden. Left History. 5.1. 1997

(12) . On the PSU the invaluable Quand la Gauche se Réinventait. Bernard Ravenel. Le PSU, Histoire d’un Parti visionnaire. 1960 – 1989. La Découverte. 2016. Mallet, the canonical explanation is this: “En effet, plus se développe l’importance des secteurs de recherche, de creation et de surveillance, plus le travail humain se concentre dans la preparation et l’organisation de la production, plus s’accroît le sens de l’initiative et des responsabilites, en un mot, plus l’ouvrier moderne reconquiert, au niveau collectif, l’autonomie professionnelle qu’il avait perdue dans la phase de mécanisation du travail, plus les tendances des revendications gestionnaires se développent. Les conditions modernes de la production offrent aujourd’hui les possibilites objectives du développement de l’autogestion gen.ralis.e de la production ET de l’. Conomie par ceux qui en portent le poids.” Serge Mallet.- La nouvelle classe ouvrière et le socialisme. Revue Internationale du Socialisme, N.8, [1965] . Pages 161 to 184. The differences between SouB and the Mallet (and Gorz) approach are made very clear in André Gorz. Une Vie. Willy Gininazzi Page 100 – 105.  SouB hostility to Mallet goes back to the late 1950s, including this attack on “Objective” industrial sociology (including Alain Touraine: Canjures: Sociologie-fiction pour gauche-fiction (à propos de Serge Mallet) SouB 27: 1959 Followed by an attack on his writing on Mothé’s Journal d’un ouvrier. Comment Mallet juge Mothé SouB 28:. 1959. It ends with the, by now familiar, tone of absue against the “professor” Mallet. Autogestion et Hiérarchie. Cornelius Castoriadis.  Texte écrit en collaboration avec Daniel Mothé    CFDT Aujourd’hui, n°8, juillet-aout 1974

(13) Pages 266 – 7. Modern Capitalism and Revolution. Castoriadis, Cornelius. Political and Social Writings. Translated and Edited by David Ames Curtis. University of Minnesota Press. 1988 –1993. Volume 2, 1955-1960: From the Workers’ Struggle Against Bureaucracy to Revolution in the Age of Modern Capitalism.

(14) Page 201 Vol 2 Volume 2, 1955-1960: From the Workers’ Struggle Against Bureaucracy to Revolution in the Age of Modern Capitalism. Proletariat et organisation,” Originally Socialisme ou Barbarie. , 27 and 28. (April and July, 1 959) Page 74Pages 266 – 7. Modern Capitalism and Revolution.   Castoriadis, Cornelius. Political and Social Writings. Translated and Edited by David Ames Curtis. University of Minnesota Press. 1988 –1993. Volume 2, 1955-1960: From the Workers’ Struggle Against Bureaucracy to Revolution in the Age of Modern Capitalism.

(15) Page 29 Castoriadis, Cornelius. The Imaginary Institution of Society Translated by Kathleen Blarney. Polity Press. 1987.

(16) Page 127 The Imaginary Institution of Society Op cit.

(17) The Life and Death of Democracy. John Keane. Simon and Shuster. 2009.

(18)Page 129. Political and Social Writings. Volume 3, 1961-1979: Recommencing the Revolution: F r o m S o c i a l i s m to the Autonomous Society Edited David Curtis. 1993.

(19) What democracy ? (1990) In Figures of the Thinkable. Cornelius Castoriadis. ‘Anonymous’. 2005. Manuel Cervera-Marzal. Cornelius Castoriadis, Miguel Abensour, Quelles Convergences. In: Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort: L’expérience démocratique. Nicolas Poirier. Le Bord de l’eau. 2015. Pages 157 – 8. La Démocratie Contre l’Etat. Miguel Abensour. Le Félin. 2004 For Absenour’s intellectual debts, including to SouB see : Penser la politique autrement, avec Miguel Abensour. 14 février 2015   Davic Munnich. \Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\My Documents\Socialisme ou Barbarie\Penser la politique autrement, avec Miguel Abensour.htm  and Repenser la utopie. Fabien Delmotte.   C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\My Documents\Socialisme ou Barbarie\Miguel Abensour  repenser l’utopie – La Vie des idées.htm.

(20) Pages 255 to 281  On Revolution. Hannah Arendt. Penguin 1990 (1964). Hannah Arendt. For Love of the World. Second Edition, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Yale University Press. 2004.Young-Bruehl’s brilliant intellectual biography notes that Arendt’s views on these issues took account of the direct knowledge her husband, a former German Communist anti-Stalinist, had of the importance of workers’ councils. Castoriadis and Left are generally compared to Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism, which they discovered when French translations became available, in the 6os. See the chapter “Totalitarianism” Hanna Arendt. Politics, History and Citizenship. Phillip Hansen. 1993

(21) Page 392. Michael Scott Christofferson. Les intellectuels contre la gauche. ‘L’idéologie antitotalitaire en France (1968-1981). Agone – revised edition. Agone. 2014 English original. French intellectuals against the Left, The anti-totalitarian Moment of the 1970s. See also the bitter remarks about SouB and Castoriadis’ recognition in the review of Christofferson’s book, Parisian Impostures. Gregory Elliot. New Left Review. No 41 new Series. 2006.

(22) Pages 281 – 300. The Evolution of the French Communist Party. In Cornelius Castoriadis Political and Social Writings: Volume 3, 1961-1979

See above all:  Cornelius Castoriadis Agora International Website

The complete set of Socialisme ou Barbarie is available to download free here: Sommaires de la revue Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949-1967)

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2017 at 2:44 pm

French Socialist ‘Primary’ for Presidential Candidate: Debates Begin, Basic Income is One of the Stakes.

with 3 comments

 Gorz’s Ideas in Background to French Socialist Debate.

A total of seven candidates from France’s main left-wing parties will take part on Thursday in the first of four televised primary debates that could make or break the ruling Socialist Party.

The debates, which will be held over the course of the next two weeks, are seen as crucial for a successful turnout in the country’s left-wing presidential primaries on January 22 and 29.

As the first round of voting approaches, there is dwindling support among French voters for the Socialist Party, which has been left fractured by ideological differences and the outgoing President François Hollande’s unpopular leadership.

 FRANCE 24 spoke with Thomas Guénolé, a political scientist and lecturer at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris, who emphasized the Socialist Party’s divisions ahead of Thursday’s debate.

FRANCE 24: Why are the left-wing primary debates important for the Socialist Party?

Thomas Guénolé: The Socialist Party is historically the main left-wing party in France. But it is strongly divided between its own right-leaning and left-leaning members. François Hollande, the current president of the French Republic, comes from this party, and has governed with a right-leaning agenda. He has decided not to run for a second term, because he feels he cannot unify the left.

There are two things at stake for the Socialist Party. First, they need a high level of participation. Theconservative primary [in November] drew more than four million voters. If, for example, only one million turn out for the left-wing primaries, it will be considered a failure. The second thing at stake is that the Socialist Party is also split among former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is pro-free trade and deregulation, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who’s a proponent of alter-globalisation [a movement that opposes the negative effects of neoliberal globalisation].

FRANCE 24: Who are the Socialist Party candidates, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Guénolé: There are [four Socialist Party] candidates in the upcoming left-wing primaries. There’sManuel Valls, who was prime minister under Hollande until he recently resigned to run for the presidency. Over the last 10 years, Manuel Valls has been the most right-leaning of the Socialist Party. There are even some who have accused him of being right wing, period. He has backed economic austerity, strict immigration policy… But for this campaign, he is trying to run on a different platform. During his tenure as prime minister, he repeatedly used the 49.3 [a clause in the French constitution that allows governments to force through legislation without a vote], now he says that it’s too brutal. He also says that he now wants reconciliation, whereas he was quite confrontational as prime minister. He’s basically trying to remake his image, even though it’s contradictory.

Next there’s Vincent Peillon, who is an esteemed university professor. He’s well known among academic circles, where he’s considered an authority on the issue of secularism. He’s also a former minister of education. He’s unbeatable when it comes to three subjects: secularism, education and defending the rights of France’s Muslim minority. But beyond that, he doesn’t have much to say.

Then there’s Arnaud Montebourg, the former economy minister. He’s got one strong position, which is that he wants to do the exact opposite of Hollande and Valls when it comes to the economy. He basically wants to copy [former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt] and the New Deal. He’s really selling it hard. His main challenge will be to address other issues than the economy.

Last but not least, there’s Benoît Hamon, who is running as the most left-leaning Socialist Party candidate. He has proposed such audacious measures as introducing a universal basic income, and the 32-hour workweek. His main weakness is that he can be easily attacked on how he plans to finance these proposals.

Each candidate has their own weakness to overcome. Valls has a credibility problem, Peillon lacks breadth, Montebourg is strong on economy but doesn’t have a diverse enough platform, and Hamon has a feasibility problem.

It is worth noting how Basic Income has become a major subject for debate in France.

As le Point notes:  Le revenu universel (Basic Income) oppose les candidats à la primaire du PS

Basic Income has many supporters, from right-wing odd balls, to  left wing Greens. I associate it with André Gorz, for the very simple reason that the first time I heard about it was from people from the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) influenced by Gorz.

This is brought out in the recent beautiful written biography of Gorz, Willy Gianinazzi, André Gorz. Une vie, (La Découverte, 2016). Amongst many topics Gianinazzi describes how Gorz moved from support for autogestion (workers’ control) to wider ideas about changes in the world of work and the how to end “heteronomy” (the rule by technical and economic reason) over people’s lives.

As Peter Frase has written,

The French writer André Gorz was a longtime proponent of the basic income, and is also responsible for a well-known theorization of its utopian transformative potential. In one of his early works, Strategy for Labor, he attempted to do away with the tired Left debate over “reform or revolution” and replace it with a new distinction:

Is it possible from within—that is to say, without having previously destroyed capitalism—to impose anti-capitalist solutions which will not immediately be incorporated into and subordinated to the system? This is the old question of “reform or revolution.” This was (or is) a paramount question when the movement had (or has) the choice between a struggle for reforms and armed insurrection. Such is no longer the case in Western Europe; here there is no longer an alternative. The question here revolves around the possibility of “revolutionary reforms,” that is to say, of reforms which advance toward a radical transformation of society. Is this possible?

Gorz goes on to distinguish “reformist reforms,” which subordinate themselves to the need to preserve the functioning of the existing system, from the radical alternative:

A non-reformist reform is determined not in terms of what can be, but what should be. And finally, it bases the possibility of attaining its objective on the implementation of fundamental political and economic changes. These changes can be sudden, just as they can be gradual. But in any case they assume a modification of the relations of power; they assume that the workers will take over powers or assert a force (that is to say, a non-institutionalized force) strong enough to establish, maintain, and expand those tendencies within the system which serve to weaken capitalism and to shake its joints. They assume structural reforms.

Gorz is perhaps more famous for his Farewell to the Working Class (1980 – Galilée and Le Seuil, 1983, Adieux au Prolétariat). This argued that the traditional agency of left politics, the working class, was no longer capable of bearing the hopes that Marxists and other socialists had placed in them.

To put it simply, the idea, adopted by Serge Mallet and many in the PSU (see above) that there was a ‘new working class’ which, led by technicians and the skilled, would form the vanguard for workers’ control (autogestion) was out of date. The working class, had not just been dispersed but completely altered in new economic and social relations. Growing numbers of people never became ‘workers’ in stable traditional sense.

This meant a more serious crisis that has seen the decline in the weight of the traditional occupations, erosion of union membership, and capacity for militancy this involved. The Forward March of Labour was not halted by bare statistical change; it was a transformation in the nature of work itself which had sapped the foundation of this form of left politics.

As he wrote, “Just as the rise of capitalist production created the working class, so its crisis and decay are creating the ‘non-class of non-workers‘, encompassing ‘all those who have been expelled from production by the abolition of work. . . It includes all the supernumeraries of present-day social production, who are potentially or actually unemployed, whether permanently or temporarily, partially or completely.”

As Richard Hyman noted at the time (Socialist Register 1983), Gorz refined the goals of the left within this framework.

…he defines his objectives as ‘the liberation of time and the abolition of work’, insisting that within capitalism work is always an externally imposed obligation rather than self-determined activity.

Second, he relates the contrast between work and autonomous activity to that between exchange-value and use-value. Thus the progressive abolition of waged work implies the reciprocal liberation of productive activity from the domination of commodity relations.

Third, he argues that the abolition of work is already in process, as a result of mass unemployment. Current trends offer the alternatives of a society sharply divided between a mass of unemployed or those in casual and marginalised work, and an advantaged minority in relatively secure employment; or one in which socially necessary labour is spread thinly among all who are available to work, freeing the bulk of people’s time for self defined activities.

Fourth, Gorz stresses the inadequacy of the ‘right to work’ as a political slogan. Full-time employment for all is no longer possible, nor necessary or desirable. A guaranteed income for all, as commonly demanded by the Left, would merely represent ‘a wage system without work’: exploitation by capital would give way to dependence on the state, perpetuating the ‘impotence and subordination of individuals to centralised authority’ (p. 4). Instead, the aim should be ‘the right to autonomous production’: access to means of production (in the form defined by Illich as ‘tools for conviviality’)~ so that individuals and grassroots communities can produce directly for their own use. One consequence would be to break down the division between social production and domestic labour.

Hyman’s critical analysis still bears reading.

But in point of fact Gorz did come to advocate a form of basic income as can be seen not just from Gianinazzi’s book but in more detail here: Pour un revenu inconditionnel suffisant  (Transversals 2002). He also mooted the idea of “autogestion du temps”, free organisation of free time.

But there remain real problems:

  • How, for example, is the “non-class of non-workers” going to be mobilised for these objectives?
  • Is there really such a deep seated change that all hope for trade union led movements has evaporated?
  • Is, as Hyman indicated, there any sense of talking of a political constituency for change when the focus is on organising ‘
  • autonomous production’, and (as eh alter called it) free time, both outside capitalist relations?

Having said this it is startling to observe how this idea has now come to the fore in French Socialist Party debates.

It is a key dividing issue as the very recent  Le Point report indicates:

Primaire: le revenu universel oppose les candidats (Selection of Socialist candidates, Basic income divides the contenders):

Benoît Hamon voit dans le revenu universel une réponse à la “raréfaction probable du travail liée à la révolution numérique” mais aussi la possibilité de choisir son temps de travail pour “s’épanouir dans d’autres activités que l’emploi”.

He sees basic incomes as a response to the changes – the decrease – in available work linked to the revolution in information technology which also allows people to chose their working hours and to develop their interests beyond employment.

Apart from Benoît Hamon,  the idea is defended by Jean-Luc Bennahmias.

By contrast Arnaud Montebourg, Vincent Peillon and Manuel Valls  are opposed, both for budgetary reasons and on the fundamentals of the principle.  Arnaud Montebourg has affirmed his faith in the value of labour, and, for his closest supporters, Basic Income is a way of accepting mass unemployment. Manuel Valls has warned of a something for nothing society, and proposes a 800 Euro minimum income for the lowest earners.

See also: Benoît Hamon : le revenu universel, “un moyen d’éradiquer la pauvreté”

It goes without saying that the issue is a subject of debate across a much wider section of the French Left.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Momentum: Members Must Join Labour.

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Founder Jon Lansman convinces committee to sign up to new structure and rules in attempt to settle disputes.

Momentum, the grassroots pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group, has agreed a new constitution that will require its members to join the Labour party, in an attempt to resolve a bitter fight about its future.

After Corbyn emailed Momentum’s 20,000 members in December to ask them to respond to a survey about how it should be organised and run, its founder Jon Lansman drew up a new structure and rules, which he then persuaded members of its steering committee to sign up to.

In an email message to the committee, seen by the Guardian, Lansman said: “We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months.”

(NOTE HERE IS THE e-mail, An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:

The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
A paper on interim governance
A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.
The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:

Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.
If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
In solidarity

Jon Lansman
Chair
Momentum National Steering Group

Lansman claims to have drawn up the proposals “in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn”.

The group had been riven by factional disputes since Corbyn’s re-election in September, amid reports that it had been infiltrated by Trotskyists. Corbyn had urged its members to resolve their differences, telling the Guardian in December that he would like to see them join Labour.

Momentum issued a public statement on Tuesday night that said elections would now be held to a new ruling body and its existing governing structures dissolved. It will then seek to become an affiliate of the Labour party.

“Momentum is moving forwards as the outward-looking, campaigning movement that our members want it to be. Over the coming months, Momentum will continue to grow, building our movement to encourage more people to participate in politics and help Labour harness its new mass membership to win power and rebuild and transform Britain,” the statement said.

Under the new constitution, decision-making will be thrown open to votes by members. In the survey, 80% of members favoured decision-making by one member one vote, rather than a delegate structure.

Members will also have to join Labour – a new rule that could force out figures including Jill Mountford, of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, and former Militant member Nick Wrack, because they are excluded from the party. Fellow Momentum activist Jackie Walker is suspended over antisemitism claims, which she denies.

Mountford accused Lansman of staging a coup that she and other Momentum activists plan to fight. “This is a coup. We are not splitting and we are not going to be provoked by this,” she said. “We are going to call a conference for grassroots activists and we will to seek to reverse these changes. The constitution has been imposed, we are going to continue to fight for a democratic organisation.

“We still have local organisations to attend and I don’t think activists are going to accept this lying down. We will campaign to reverse this,” she said.

“I am in shock. Jon called tonight for an impromptu, unplanned steering committee meeting which was conducted online between 7.40pm and 8.30pm. The upshot is that Momentum’s steering committee, the national committee and the conference arrangements committee, have all been dissolved.”

Mountford and Wrack have been among those fighting against Lansman’s plans to throw open decision-making to one-member-one-vote by the membership. At a fractious meeting of the national committee last month, they narrowly won a battle to make February’s planned Momentum conference into what Mountford called “a national delegate based conference with decision-making powers” which would debate the details of a policy platform.

But to Lansman and his allies, that strayed too close to replicating the structures of a traditional political party. Momentum sources said the conference would now be “an exciting day of activist training, workshops and networking”.

According to Mountford, Lansman has not been in touch with her since the national committee meeting on 3 December. She said the steering committee had sent out plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday at Tessa headquarters in London, an event she believes prompted Lansman’s actions on Tuesday night.

The relationship between the steering committee, which has agreed the new constitution, and the national committee, where some of the most contentious debates have been held, is disputed.

Comments:

I have argued, as people know, that although it has done sterling work, Momentum risked become a sectarian playground.

This is one of the reasons I have not become a member, the other being that round here it is not needed.

I have sympathy with with those like Jill Mountford, who are true labour movement people,

I have none whatsoever with those who wish to turn Momentum away from Labour and make it a vehicle for their own projects, and in particular with at least one person (see above) who has indulged in factionalising from Militant, the SWP, Socialist Alliance, Respect (!), TUSC and – I could list a lot lot more.

More Details:

CONSTITUTION SUMMARY
1. SUMMARY OF CONSTITUTION
Membership:
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.

If you are currently paying Momentum membership fees but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

How key decisions are made:
Under this constitution decisions can be made either by the National Coordinating Group (NCG) which includes representatives of members, affiliates and Labour public office holders, or by ordinary members through a digital democracy process. This aims to achieve a broad and representative group to regularly meet and discuss the needs of the organisation while maintaining the membership as the ultimate decision makers on key issues. The NCG is also overseen by a Members’ Council consisting of 50 members randomly chosen by lot.

1) National Coordinating Group (NCG):
The National Coordinating Group will comprise:

12 members, four from each of three divisions (a) North and Scotland, (b) the Midlands, Wales and the West, (c) the South East. At least two of the members elected from each division should be women, and at least one should self-identify as BAME (black, Asian, ethnic minority).
4 Momentum members who are Labour public officer holders (of the UK, European or Scottish Parliaments, Welsh or London Assemblies, Elected Mayors or Police Commissioners, or Labour members of a British local authority).
6 members nominated by affiliated trade unions
4 members nominated by other affiliated organisations
If the 12 members who are elected do not include one person who self-identifies as disabled, one person who self-identifies as LGBT+ and two young persons under 30, then up to 4 more places will be elected to ensure these groups are represented.

All members can stand and vote in elections for positions on the NCG. Elections to the NCG will take place online or by other accessible means, with each member having a vote. Please find details of the election process and timetable here.

The constitution stipulates that the NCG should facilitate self-organisation for members of liberation groups within Momentum – LGBT+, disabled, women and black Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) – and campaign for increased representation for liberation groups within the Labour Party. The NCG must ensure that Momentum liberation networks have the support to organise campaigns and are able to advise and make recommendations to the NCG.

2) Members Council:
So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.

3) Digital Democracy Platform:
Momentum will provide a digital democracy platform to ensure that all members are empowered to initiate and vote on campaign priorities, constitutional amendments or overturning decisions by the NCG. All members will be able to vote online with each member having a vote. Any members who are unable to vote online can contact the National Office to vote via other accessible means.

2. WHY WAS THE CONSTITUTION ADOPTED?
The results of the survey sent to Momentum members show that there is a widespread consensus about the type of organisation members want – a grassroots, campaigning political movement that can help Labour win power on a transformative platform. 40.35% of members responded to the survey. Campaigning for Labour victories and helping members become more active in the Labour Party were the most popular options for Momentum’s priorities in 2017, chosen by 71.71% and 68.23% of respondents respectively.

80.60% of respondents said that key decisions should be taken by One Member One Vote, rather than by delegates at regional and national conferences and committees (12.50%). 79.29% of respondents said all members should have a say in electing their representatives, as opposed to national representatives being elected by delegates from local groups (16.16%).

Following this decisive response, the Steering Committee voted to introduce the constitution for Momentum to deliver the kind of action-focussed, campaigning, Labour-focussed organisation our members have said they want. The constitution puts decision making power in the hands of members with direct democracy and OMOV elections central to the organisation.

3. DEMOCRACY Q&A
How can the constitution be changed?
A member of the NCG can propose an amendment to the constitution or members bring a petition proposing an amendment to constitution with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.

The NCG will consider the proposed amendment. If the NCG unanimously agrees to the amendment it will be adopted. If the NCG passes the amendment, but not unanimously, it will go to a one member one vote (OMOV) online ballot and will pass with 50% of votes casts. If the NCG rejects the proposal, members can bring a petition signed by 10% of membership, which will trigger a vote among all members online or by other accessible means. An amendment will then be adopted with the support of at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership and at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.

How can members vote on campaign priorities?
A proposal on Momentum’s campaign priorities can be made by a member of the NCG, or by members’ bringing a petition with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.

The NCG considers the proposal. If the NCG approves the proposal, it will be adopted. If the NCG rejects the proposal, but a petition is brought with support of 10% of the membership, then the proposal will go to a vote among all members, via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. A campaign priority will then be adopted where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.

How can other key decisions be taken to a vote by members?
If a member wants to challenge a decision by the NCG in relation to guidance or directives issued to members, groups or networks, a petition can be brought signed by 10% of the membership. This will take the decision to a vote among all members via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. The decision will be overturned where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of members eligible to vote are in favour of doing so. Additional proposals to the NCG can be made by the Members’ Council.

Moreover, a majority of the NCG can vote for any decision to go to an OMOV ballot of all members.

How do I participate in the elections for National Coordinating Group (NCG)?
You can find details of the election process and timetable here. When the election takes place, statements by all candidates will be circulated and all members will have an online vote.

If any members are unable to vote online, please call 07508255697 before 17 February, to vote by other accessible means.

What does this mean for my local group or network?
It is hoped that your local group or network is able to continue as usual within the framework of Momentum’s constitution. The constitution is intended to bring clarity to Momentum’s purpose, goals and organisation, improve transparency and reduce internal bureaucracy. Therefore, there will be more time, energy and resources directed at supporting local organising, activity and campaigns.

What is happening to Momentum’s Conference?
Momentum’s Inaugural National Conference will take place on 18 February. This will be organised by the National Office and will be open to all members. To reflect the priorities of the membership, the Conference will focus on the theme ‘Momentum’s role in Labour’s General Election Strategy.’ It will be a day of activist training, political education workshops, networking, political discussion and debate. More details will be announced soon.

What is happening to Momentum’s Regional Networks, National Committee and Steering Committee?
Momentum’s constitution does not include Regional Networks, a National Committee or Steering Committee.

It is hoped that members will still wish to organise and coordinate activity, network and share best practice within regions and areas, which can be done informally online or at meetings and events, providing it is within the framework of the constitution and the code of ethics. However, the Regional Networks will no longer be formally convened as part of the governance structure of the organisation.

Momentum’s business will be carried out by the National Coordinating Group (NCG). All members will be able to stand for a position on the NCG and vote for their representatives.

So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.

4. MEMBERSHIP Q&A
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.

If you are a Momentum member but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

Who can be a member?
Membership is open to anyone who:

Is 14 or over
Is a member of the Labour Party and no other political party nor an organisation disallowed by National Coordination Group
Agrees to be bound by the rules of Momentum, including its code of ethics
What do I do if I am not a Labour member?
In order for Momentum to achieve its aims of helping Labour become a transformative and socialist party of government, Momentum is aiming to affiliate to the Labour Party. New members of Momentum must be members of Labour to join Momentum, and existing members of Momentum the opportunity to join the Party by 1 July. You can join Labour here.

What do I do if I was suspended from Labour or if I was rejected as a Supporter?
Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

If you have been suspended from the Labour Party you can appeal your suspension. To appeal, email labourmembership@labour.org.uk and appeals@labour.org.uk or call 0345 092 2299.

If you have previously applied to be an Affiliated or Registered Supporter of the Labour Party and your application was rejected, you cannot appeal. However, this does not preclude you from applying to become a full member of the Party now. We encourage all Momentum members to join Labour as a full member. You can join here.

If you have been expelled from the Labour Party or were prevented from joining, you may be deemed to have resigned from Momentum. While you can participate in campaigns and activities organised by a local group, network or Momentum nationally, you are not able to be a member, and therefore cannot hold a position within Momentum, vote in elections or hold other membership rights.

If you are not able to be a member of Momentum, please email membership@peoplesmomentum.com.

If you need to change the name of a key contact or position holder in your group, please fill in the group verification form with the new details.

How do I cancel my membership?
To cancel your membership, you can email membership@peoplesmomentum.com.

I agree with the constitution – what shall I do?
You don’t have to do anything; by continuing to pay your membership dues, you are consenting to the constitution.

I don’t agree to the constitution – what shall I do?
It is hoped that this constitution will satisfy members by ensuring that the overwhelming majority of time, energy and resources is used supporting members, local groups and networks to achieve Momentum’s aims. The constitution makes it possible for members to change its rules and make amendments, so it can be altered over time to reflect any changes in the wishes of the membership.

However, if you wish to opt-out, you can email membership@peoplesmomentum.com to cancel your membership.

5. OPERATIONS AND STAFFING
How does the constitution affect the day to day running of Momentum?
The staff and volunteer team at the National Office will continue to support local groups, facilitate the formation of new groups, handle enquiries, coordinate Momentum’s ongoing national campaigns, support members to get more active within the Party and campaign for Labour in elections.

There are currently a number of permanent and temporary staff. The staff team will organise elections to the National Coordinating Group (NCG) in the coming weeks. Once these positions have been elected and the NCG has been formed, the NCG will review Momentum’s staffing structure and establish an open application process for all permanent staffing roles.

Who should I contact if I have further questions?
If you have any further questions about the constitution or the implications for your local organising, please email beth.fosterogg@peoplesmomentum.com.

It is hoped that the constitution will enable members to draw a line under the confusion, internal squabbling and lack of transparency within the organisation. It will enable the majority of time, energy and resources to be used to develop local groups and members.

6. FLOWCHARTS
Campaign Priorities
Constitution Amendments

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Marine Le Pen, France’s would-be Trump.

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Another ‘Populist’ as rich as Croesus. 

Le Pen follows Trump’s lead with vow to bring car industry back to France.

France 24.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Tuesday she would seek to repatriate production of French motor vehicles and other industrial goods – just as President-elect Donald Trump hopes to do in the United States.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Tuesday she would seek to repatriate production of French motor vehicles and other industrial goods – just as President-elect Donald Trump hopes to do in the United States.

Marine Le Pen also wishes to enjoy good relations with Russia.

Marine Le Pen insists Russian annexation of Crimea is totally legitimate (Independent)

Vladimir Putin’s forces swept into the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in February 2014.

As the opinion polls stand it still looks possible that Marine Le Pen will fight the Second Round of the French Presidential elections.

But is is not sure if she will be up against the traditionalist and economically liberal right-wing candidate François Fillon.

For the April First round she currently stands at 23%. Fillon’s support has declined to 26%

But at 16 to  24% Emmanuel Macron the ‘centrist’ candidate is now snapping at Fillon’s heels. (Nouvel Obs)

Some might hope that she will be eliminated and the Second round will be a duel between Macron and Fillon.

All of which is (filling many pages in the French media) speculation on a grand scale…

Needless to say with the Socialist Party about the choose their candidate by primary elections at the end of this month, and the real possibility that Jean-Luc Mélenchon stuck around the 14-15%, will get more votes than them,  the French left looks unlikely to be serious contenders.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2017 at 5:17 pm

SOAS: Student demands for Decolonisation of Courses do not go Far Enough.

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Cuneiform  needed to Break Free from Colonial Legacy. 

SOAS University Defends Students Accused Of Being ‘Snowflakes’ Over White Philosopher Demands

 Their demands centre around this.

To make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or it’s diaspora.

“SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).

“If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.”

The proposals were put forward as part of a campaign at SOAS to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism” at the university.

Huff Post.

It has long struck the Tendence that such calls do not go far enough.

This statement was written in English, and more importantly, in the Latin alphabet, a legacy of Roman imperialism.

Where, one asks, is their recognition of the import of the Sumerians in addressing the Enlightenment’s  problématique?

Were they not present in the Middle East?

Where is the place of cuneiform, a writing system free from Western colonialism? 

Where is the recognition given to the important role of Metropolitan thought, notably astrology, in the curriculum?

We propose that SOAS immediately establish a Tablet School in sumerian cuneiform.

Who could be better to introduce the new syllabus than Middle East Expert Tariq Ali?

Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2017 at 11:43 am

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Colonialism, Culture

Tagged with ,

Charlie Hebdo Commemorations.

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We Shall Never Forget You Comrades!

Sobre commémoration à Paris des attentats contre « Charlie Hebdo »

This year there was a simple ceremony outside the former offices of Charlie.

Devant la plaque en mémoire au policier Ahmed Merabet, assassiné le 5 janvier 2015 sur le boulevard Richard-Lenoir à Paris.

 

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The Hyper-casher Victims:

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Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Nazzareno Tassone: Hero and Martyr.

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Nazzareno Tassone: Hero and Martyr. 

An Edmonton man killed fighting ISIS in Syria vowed to do his best before heading into his final battle, despite poor equipment, airstrike attacks and seeing friends die in explosions.

From here,

That’s according to social media messages shared by a friend the 24-year-old fighter regularly confided in while overseas.

Mike Webster last heard from Nazzareno Tassone on Nov. 12, 2016.

Tassone, who left Edmonton in June to join the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), told Webster at the time he was heading to Raqqa, Syria, in two days, according to messages in a conversation posted on Facebook.

“Will do my best,” he wrote to W

Will do my best,” he wrote to Webster, a former reservist who lives in Brantford, Ont. “Hopes are low.”

Nazzareno Tassone’s last message to Mike Webster before he was killed in an ISIS attack on Dec 21.

On Tuesday, a YPG statement hailed Tassone as a hero and martyr killed in action in Raqqa on Dec 21.

Fellow YPG soldiers have announced plans on Facebook to commemorate his memory and sacrifice in Ottawa on Monday morning, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Their post offers additional details surrounding the death of Tassone, also referred to by his Kurdish name, Agir Ararat, who was killed along with British volunteer Ryan Lock.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Human Rights, Syria

Tagged with ,

Behind the faction fight in the UK’s pro-Corbyn Momentum movement, as Exposed by the World Socialist Web Site.

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Trotskyism (US only)

Behind the faction fight in the UK’s pro-Corbyn Momentum movement

By Chris Marsden

The headlines prompted by the December 3 National Committee of Momentum were uniform in character. The pro-Jeremy Corbyn pressure group, which had generally been portrayed as a threat to Labour’s electoral prospects, made up of “wreckers” who want to purge the party’s “sensible” right wing, was rebranded as a precious political jewel to be protected from a “Trotskyist” takeover.

….

 

The entire presentation is a tissue of lies.

The conflict within Momentum is between a bureaucratic cabal at the core of Corbyn’s leadership team, many of whom are indeed Stalinists, and representatives of various pseudo-left groups who are bitterly opposed to Trotskyism and who have no intention of breaking with either Corbyn or the Labour Party.

..

The moves now being made within Momentum to close off all genuine debate and insist on absolute loyalty to Labour should spur those workers and youth who looked to it to provide a socialist alternative to carefully study the SEP statement.

This outlines the struggle within Momentum very well, it is well worth a read for that.

But then, having played the blame squarely on Lansman and Corbyn it draws the ridiculous conclusion that the opposition should not be, critically and without illusions, supported against them here because they are equally as bad (they are not) and everyone should leave the Labour party and join the SEP (they will not). On that logic it would be better if Lansman managed to snuff out democracy entirety in Momentum and defeat his opponents who want to establish democratic structures because then they would clearly see the SEP was right all along and fighting inside the Labour party was a waste of time and energy.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 3, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

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The ‘anti-Zionist’ Politics we Loathe. 

Introduction: one of the things which intensely annoyed many people during the ‘Momentum’ debacle was this accusation against a small left wing group, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. That  they hold,  “Subtle support for imperialist wars, uncritical support for Israel and fanatical support for the European Union are amongst their policies.” (Laura Catriona Murray  here).

If I think rightly the AWL has a sensitive attitude on the issue of the Middle East.

Some of their views chime with mine.

I am ‘anti-zionist’ in the sense that Hannah Arendt was: I am not a nationalist and far less somebody who would base  politics on religion.

I am, to put it in a word,  an internationalist.

I am Not an antiZionist who is obsessed with the issue.

I am somebody who grew up with the ‘Jewish community’ in North London. I would not even dream of defining the ‘Jewish community’ as ‘one’ voice or group, or define ‘their’ stand on Israel.

This is an important contribution to debate on the issue.

“Why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”

Workers’ Liberty member Daniel Randall spoke on a panel at Limmud, a Jewish cultural and educational conference, on a panel entitled “why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. The other speakers were Jon Lansman (Momentum), Anna Lawton (Labour Party member and Limmud 2017 chair), and Barnaby Raine (RS21). The session was chaired by Andrew Gilbert (London Jewish Forum and Labour Party member).

This is a slightly-edited version of Daniel’s speech at the session.


I’m Daniel Randall; I work on the underground in London, where I’m a rep for the RMT union. I’m also a member of the socialist group Workers’ Liberty; we’re a Trotskyist organisation, but a rather heterodox one. I should also say that I’m not currently a member of the Labour Party, having been expelled, twice, for my membership of Workers’ Liberty. So I’m speaking here somewhat as a Labour Party member “in exile”.

The title of this panel is “why Jews should join Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. I’m going to approach the issue slightly differently, because I’m not a communalist; I’m not a Zionist, or a Bundist, or nationalist or cultural autonomist of any other stripe. I don’t believe in a unitary “Jewish interest”, and I don’t believe there’s any essentialist, innate “Jewish characteristics” that ought to compel Jews to join Labour, or any other political party. Fundamentally, I think Jews should join the Labour Party if they support its foundational purpose: to represent in politics the interests of working class.

I should also say that I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party”. The Labour Party belongs to its members, not to its leader, and has always been a politically contested space and a site of struggle. You might not like the current political composition of the leadership, for whatever reason, but if you believe in labour representation, you should be in the Labour Party.

But to say nothing more than that would be a missed opportunity, I think, so I will use the not-very-much time I have to say a bit more on what a Corbyn-led Labour Party might imply for the relationship between Jews and the left.

I think the Corbyn surge represents an opportunity to recompose and renew the left. Hundreds of thousands of young people, many of them new to politics and without the training and baggage of years spent organised under prevailing far-left common sense, good and bad, have become politicised, and some have become mobilised and active.

If you’re a Jewish leftist or labour movement activist who has felt uncomfortable with, or alienated by, the common sense that has prevailed on the left around certain issues, and I agree that there has been much to feel uncomfortable about, then the febrile political atmosphere created by the Corbyn surge represents an opportunity to challenge and change that common sense. You should get involved in and be part of those discussions, but that means making a commitment to attempt to see this political moment through, on its own terms.

Much has been said about Jeremy Corbyn’s personal, individual attitude to Israel/Palestine and antisemitism. On substantive questions of policy he has a much better position, in my view, than the one which has predominated on much of the far-left: he is for a two-state settlement, rather than the destruction of Israel, and against blanket boycotts of Israel. That puts him one up on much of the far-left.

His weaknesses on these issues, his historic softness on Hamas, for example, reflect the reality of him as a product of the existing left – a left characterised by Stalinist politics, and a “my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend” approach to international issues. But the new left in the Labour Party is bigger than Jeremy Corbyn himself and, as I’ve said, represents an opportunity to challenge those politics.

I think it’s also important for me to say here that the view that the entire far-left is institutionally antisemitic is a calumny, and I think some of the antisemitism scandals in Labour have been blown out of proportion and manipulated for factional ends, by figures on the right of the party.

Nevertheless, left antisemitism is a real and distinct phenomenon which needs a specific analysis and response. We don’t have time to say much here, but briefly, I think we can understand antisemitism on the left as a form of implied political hostility to Jews, distinct from the racialised antipathy of far-right antisemitism. This has its roots in the efforts by Stalinism, from the 1950s onward, to cynically conflate “Zionism” with imperialism, racism, and even fascism, which established a common sense which came to dominate even on the anti-Stalinist left. Only an analysis that understands the historical roots of left antisemitism, and which sets as its aim the renewal of the left, on a politically healthier basis, can meaningfully confront it. The required response is fundamentally political, rather than moralistic or administrative or bureaucratic; to be part of recomposing and renewing a movement you must first be part of the movement.

The key is a culture of open debate, discussion, and education, conducted in an atmosphere of free speech, on all sides. We’re not there yet; far from it. But I believe we have an opportunity to build a left that is characterised by those things, and if you believe in them too then I urge you to help shape it.

I will finish by offering a different, perhaps more fundamental set of reasons why Jews should join the Labour Party.

We live in a grossly unequal world, characterised by exploitation and oppression. Just in this country, one of the richest in the world, over 500,000 people use food banks. In 2016, nearly 200 employers were found to be paying less than the minimum wage – a wage which it is now widely acknowledged it too low to live on anyway. Various forms of social oppression persist, and ecological degradation continues. It’s a bleak picture. And against this backdrop, the wealth of the richest continues to skyrocket. The richest 1,000 in Britain have increased their wealth by 112% since 2009.

All of that is grotesque and obscene. It should offend you, “as Jews”, and as human beings. It should make you want to change it. The only way we can change it is on the basis of a movement based fundamentally, structurally, on the relationship and conflict that animates it all: class. That is what the Labour Party and wider labour movement is for. And if you believe that it is the mission of the labour movement to change the world, and you find the labour movement before you inadequate or deficient in some way, then it is your responsibility not to abandon it, but to help transform it.

As I said at the beginning of this speech, I don’t believe in any innate Jewish characteristics that ought to compel us in a particular direction. But perhaps there is something in our historical experience that can help us gain an understanding of why our world is organised in that way, and how it might be different. In his essay “The Non-Jewish Jew”, Isaac Deutscher explores why Jews have seemed to be over-represented in the ranks of the thinkers and organisers of the left. Considering various figures including Marx, Trotsky, and Luxemburg, he writes:

“Have they anything in common with one another? Have they perhaps impressed mankind’s thought so greatly because of their special ‘Jewish genius’? I do not believe in the exclusive genius of any race. Yet I think that in some ways they were very Jewish indeed. They had in themselves something of the quintessence of Jewish life and of the Jewish intellect. They were a priori exceptional in that as Jews they dwelt on the borderlines of various civilisations, religions, and national cultures.

“They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs. Their minds matured where the most diverse cultural influences crossed and fertilised each other. They lived on the margins or in the nooks and crannies of their respective nations. They were each in society and yet not in it, of it and yet not of it. It was this that enabled them to rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations, and to strike out mentally into wide new horizons and far into the future.”

That is our history. We do the most honour to our heritage when we attempt to use that history and experience to go beyond our own experience, into perspectives for universal emancipation.

That is why you, as a Jew, should dedicate yourself to the struggle to change the world. That is why you should join the Labour Party.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 28, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Racist Anti-Semitism on the ‘Left’.

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I signal  this on the  We are Committed to Voting Labour site.

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It has not been removed.

 

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Posted by  Abul Monsur “I  am a Muslim and will never support a wrong doing of another Muslim or Muslim nation.  Religion teaches us to be fair and just to ALL.” says he. 

This follows Ian Leask 

Criticism of the Rothschilds is starting to be suggested as antisemitic. Presumably by those who don’t like that criticism, and by friends of Israel who like to cover up the horrendous atrocities being undertaken by the Israeli state by branding that criticism as antisemitic too.

Well frankly I don’t give a damn where the Rothschilds come from or what religion they follow, if any, and I’m not drawing any comparison between them and the state of Israel either. All I can see is that the state of Israel is a grotesque terrorist fascist Apartheid Country, and the Rothschilds are obscenely rich and do indeed own personally, if not 80% of the World’s wealth, then an amount grossly out of proportion to their worth to the planet. There’s nothing antisemitic about that. Fuck it. If only these people getting all up tight about screwing things round to be antisemitic when they’re not, would also spend as much energy directing criticism of anti Islamic hate too. But that seems to be mainstream. In a decent society you should not tolerate either, but accept criticism where it is due.I campaign against Racism in any shape or form but when someone or group deserve to be critised for there actions against the morals of sociaty as a whole then I will speak out no matter who that individual or group Is!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Momentum Opposition Turns on Jeremy Corbyn.

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Labour Party Marxists: Corbyn’s disastrous intervention in Momentum.

“what increasingly looks like an existential crisis in Momentum drives us to get in touch again. Jeremy Corbyn has taken a stand on this controversy – but unfortunately, on the wrong side.”

Jeremy Corbyn‘s letter to all Momentum members:

Dear friend,

Momentum grew out of our first campaign for a new kind of politics, to channel its drive and optimism into a movement that can help Labour win power and transform our society. That enthusiasm is already changing our movement and the country’s political debate on crucial issues like austerity.

As 2016 draws to a close, I wanted to share some thoughts about how that could be developed further and ask you to share yours.

‘The World Transformed’ at Labour Party Conference and new techniques to increase participation in Labour, such as the Grassroots Now phone-canvassing website, are exactly the participatory activities Momentum can organise to help secure a Labour government that will rebuild and transform Britain. Let’s do it together; Labour’s next big campaigning day is on 21 January. I hope you’ll join us for it.

This moment in our history is too important for us not to seize it. We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections.

Momentum needs to be an organisation fit for purpose – not copying the failed models of the past but bringing fresh ideas to campaigning and organising in communities, helping members be active in the Labour Party and helping secure a Labour government to rebuild and transform Britain.

That’s why the Momentum team has drawn up a survey to give every member a direct say in its future.

We are all part of this historic movement. Let’s seize this moment together.

Thank you for all that you have done in 2016. I wish you a Merry Christmas, a peaceful holiday period and a happy new year.

In solidarity,

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Party Marxists. Latest Bulletin.

In a December 20 email to every member of Momentum, Jeremy Corbyn warns that, “We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections.” There are two clear implications from Corbyn’s intervention. One, that he believes the controversy about accountability and internal democracy is just diversionary chatter. Second, that the Labour leader is on board with Jon Lansman’s plan to do without a democratic conference, elected delegates, self-activating local branches, regional committees, etc. Instead, the wonders of “participatory activities” like “phone-canvassing” are recommended, along with events such as the September 2016 (non-voting) ‘The World Transformed’.

Corbyn’s communiqué was followed by similar emails fronted by Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis to all 160,000 contacts on Momentum’s database. Momentum members and supporters are asked to complete a ‘survey’ which – in addition to commonplace queries about their current activities and Momentum’s future campaigning work – asks them to opt for either a delegate-based-conference or decisions to be made by atomised individuals via online plebiscites, misleadingly summarised as “One Member, One Vote” (Omov).

It would be a shock if this survey does not deliver the result ‘Team Momentum’ wants (ie, Omov – no democratic conference). They have phrased the questions. They will count and interpret the results. They decide when, where and how these results are disseminated and used. It’s a done deal, we anticipate.

The current issue of the Weekly Worker features Mike Macnair on the anti-democratic nature of referendums, including the membership ‘survey’ just sent out by Lansman & Co. Take a look – it’s useful stuff.

It is quite clear that this ‘survey’ scam is intended to trump the decisions of the December 3 meeting of the National Committee and the subsequent deliberations of its Conference Arrangements Committee. Proposals from the CAC (which has a 4-3 leftwing majority) on how conference should be organised were supposed to be sent out on December 16. But, six days later, ‘Team Momentum’ is still sitting on the info and refusing to disseminate it to the membership – you can read them on our website. (Remember, ‘Team Momentum’ can get away with this crass behaviour because Jon Lansman owns the Momentum database and can do with it whatever he feels – a scandalous arrangement in any leftwing organisation.)

Faced with this, the CAC has quite correctly decided to act unilaterally, has set up its own Facebook page and started to publish details of their proposals. The comrades are not taking Lansman’s undemocratic manoeuvring lying down. Excellent. But of course, they can reach far fewer members given the Lansman database monopoly.

We can pretty much write the script for Lansman for when his ‘survey’ results are in. He will try to cancel the democratic conference planned for February ‘in light of the overwhelming mandate in favour of Omov…’ All very predictable. Nevertheless, we urge Momentum members to complete the survey … but to denounce the whole fraud and don’t trust the results!

“Fraud” “scandalous”,  “scam”: the Momentum crisis is  not cooling down over this Merry Christmas….

For a more profound contribution to Momentum discussions see: Policy and purpose are missing from the OMOV debate  by Edd Mustill.

I agree that the current debate is happening back-to-front. We are discussing Momentum’s structures without having openly discussed and decided upon the purpose of the organisation. When Momentum was founded in late 2015, it should either have been launched with a specific, well-defined purpose in mind, or come to an agreement on its purpose very quickly, but neither of these things happened. Meanwhile, the large numbers of people who were drawn into Labour politics by the Corbyn campaign’s victory started doing what came naturally: they turned up to their local Labour meetings, and they started meeting together as like-minded activists.

This quickly led to a situation where people developed a very strong affinity with Momentum as a name, an organisation, or (*shudder*) a “brand,” without having necessarily reached any agreement about what it was all for. Being a “Momentum person” could mean all sorts of things, politically, to different people. Ironically, this is similar to the situation in the Labour Party, where everyone professes to holding “Labour values” despite this being an ill-defined phrase which can mean twenty different things to ten different people.

It is this strong sense of ownership over the organisation on the part of its rank-and-file supporters, coupled with a lack of a clear definition of the organisation’s purpose, which has made a seemingly arcane debate about committees so bitter and fractious at times. The structures debate is a cipher for all sorts of other political disagreements. We should have first established our purpose and adopted a structure best suited to that purpose.

The rest of the article is readable through above link.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 23, 2016 at 1:10 pm

As Labour Goes Populist, Handy On-Line Tips for Momentum from Podemos.

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El perro de Pablo Iglesias está harto de su dueño y de Podemos

How to Get On-Line Democracy Growling!

Jeremy Corbyn says,

We must not let internal debate distract from our work that has to be done to help Labour win elections… …Momentum needs to be an organisation fit for purpose – not copying the FAILED MODELS OF THE PAST but bringing fresh ideas to campaigning and organising in communities, helping members be active in the Labour Party and helping secure a Labour government to rebuild and transform Britain. That’s why the Momentum team has drawn up a survey to give EVERY MEMBER a DIRECT SAY in its future.”

All is not well in Podemos, as  their Number 2, Íñigo Errejón, ponders the future of the Populist Party.

El miedo a discrepar es un método de selección de la mediocridad El País 20.12.16.

The fear of disagreeing is a method of selecting mediocrity.

Amongst many amiable things Errejón, now the Leader Iglesias’ critic, announced his intention of defending Podemos’ original ideas, against the party becoming stuck in a posture of protest. He also ominously notes, ” Nosotros no somos militantes de un partido político, sino del cambio político. Y por tanto militaremos en el partido mientras siga siendo un instrumento útil.” We are not activists for a political party, but for political change. For that we will be active in the party while it remains a useful tool.”

But all is not lost.

To encourage participation in their internal on-line voting for a Congress in which disputes with the above are predicted to reach boiling point, Pablo Iglesias has just released this charming video.

El perro de Pablo Iglesias está harto de su dueño y de Podemos. (Pablo Iglesias’s doggy is tired of its Master and Podemos) El Pais .

Can you cheer him up?

If this good enough?

Now look below…..and be prepared to be moved……

Momentum take note!

Get your cats and pooches out and make for YouTube to get people completing the membership  survey!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Farage’s Slurs Hope not Hate and Jo Cox’s Widower: Tries to Foment Hate in Germany.

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Campaign group Hope not Hate is demanding a retraction and an apology from Nigel Farage after he called the organisation “extremist” live on air.

Reports the Huffington Post.

The former Ukip leader made the accusation during an interview with LBC on Tuesday morning.

Hope not Hate was formed in 2004 as a means of countering the rise of far-right groups such as the British National Party (BNP). It describes itself as an organisation seeking “to challenge and defeat the politics of hate and extremism within local communities”.

Hope not Hate said in a statement: “Nigel Farage’s allegations against HOPE not hate on LBC today are a political smear, which is why our lawyers have written to Mr Farage demanding that he retracts and publicly apologises for his remarks, or face further legal action.

“Hope not Hate is a well-respected, civil society organisation whose more than 200,000 supporters come from all political persuasions. They are united by a common desire to combat racism and to do so using lawful, peaceful means.

“That Nigel Farage made his remarks in the context of a discussion about Jo Cox, who was so brutally murdered earlier this year, makes them all the more poisonous and hateful.

“As is well known, Hope not Hate was one of three entities chosen by Jo’s widow, Brendan Cox, as the recipient of donations from the public who wished to show their solidarity with the family.”

Farage also sparked outrage this morning after hitting back at the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, telling the widower that he would “know more about extremists than me”.

The Ukip MEP’s comments come after he said the Berlin terror attack, which left 12 people dead and 48 injured, was “no surprise” as he criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “legacy”.

Brendan Cox replied to Farage, saying: “Blaming politicians for the actions of extremists? That’s a slippery slope Nigel.”

When asked about Cox’s comments during an interview on LBC this morning, Farage responded: “Yes well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox.

“He backs organisations like Hope not Hate who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful but actually pursue violent and very undemocratic means.

“And I’m sorry Mr Cox but it is time people start taking responsibility for what happened. Mrs Merkel has directly caused a whole number of social and terrorist problems in Germany, it’s about time we confronted that truth.”

Many people are outraged at the slur at the memory of Jo Cox.

She was a wonderful person and her memory is deeply cherished.

The sooner Farage goes and ponces full-time for Donald Trump in America the better.

Help us take Nigel Farage to court

This morning, on LBC radio, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage launched an outrageous attack on us, on Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, and by association on everyone who believes in HOPE not hate. Our lawyer has just sent Farage a letter demanding he retracts and publicly apologises or we will begin legal proceedings against him.

Help us take Nigel Farage to court. Please donate.

Hope Not Hate.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 20, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Protests for Aleppo in Britain.

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 Protesters march through London’s busiest high street demanding aid drops, ceasefire in east Aleppo.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of London on Saturday to voice their anger at the ‘inaction’ of the international community after reports of the humanitarian situation worsening in eastern Aleppo.

Activists from the Syria Solidarity Campaign and various other groups carried Syrian flags and banners that read “save Aleppo”, “Hand in hand with Aleppo” and “Enough with Assad” as a means of prompting international action for the people currently stranded inside the city.

More than two dozen police accompanied the rally as protesters marched through London’s Oxford street while thousands of shoppers were visiting the busy high street a week before the Christmas holidays, chanting “You are shopping, bombs are dropping”.

“The inaction and utter failure of the international community has been demonstrated by the massacres that have unfolded in east Aleppo,” said protester Zaki al-Kaf.

Al-Kaf spoke at the demonstration and told Middle East Eye that MPs had failed to fill the vacuum left by the late Jo Cox, who had campaigned tirelessly for the Syrian cause.

“Many MPs like Alison Mcgovern, who is now the chair of the parliamentary group on Syria, have done fantastic work but more needs to be done” said Zaki.

Evets took place across the country.

Huffington Post:

March For Aleppo: Thousands Join London Rally To ‘Save Aleppo’.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of London on Saturday to share their “extreme rage about the complete inaction of the international community” in face of the bloodshed taking place in Aleppo.

Activists carried Syrian flags and banners which read “save Aleppo”, “hand in hand with Aleppo” and “enough with Assad” as a means of prompting international action for the people currently stranded in the Syrian city.

The march was organised by the Syria Solidarity Campaign.

The event’s Facebook page reads: “Besieged Eastern #Aleppo is on the verge of falling to the Assad regime.

“Reports estimate about 98% of Eastern Aleppo is now under the control of the Assad regime and its allies.”

The event’s Facebook page urged supporters: “Join us to protest against the large-scale bombardments and targeting of civilians in Aleppo.

“There is a Holocaust ongoing and we urgently need the international community to take action to save lives.”

As the march headed through Picadilly Circus, demonstrators could be heard chanting “drop aid not bombs”.

Other signs along the march read “protect civilians” and “Aleppo’s the new Holocaust”.

 Rolling road blocks were in place across the capital to accommodate the protest.
The Aleppo evacuation was suspended on Friday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict. Thousands were evacuated before the process was suspended.

An agreement was reached on Saturday to allow “humanitarian cases” to leave two besieged government-held Shiite villages in northwestern Syria, a step that would allow the resumption of civilian and rebel evacuations from eastern Aleppo which were suspended a day earlier, the Associated Press reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation of some 4,000 people, including wounded, from the villages of Foua and Kfarya was expected to start Saturday.

It later reported that 29 buses were heading toward the two villages to start the evacuation process, adding that insurgents in the area rejected allowing 4,000 people to leave and saying they will only allow 400 people to be evacuated.

Exeter (HC)

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Nottingham (PR)

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In France, this image of Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim in the ruins of Aleppo, with a Je Suis Charlie placard, the Syrian rebels’ flag in the corner, has had, since it was distributed in the middle of the month, a big impact:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

The Latest Musings of Tariq Ali.

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Ali’s Latest Wistful Musings….

Dead Centre; The Year in Shock with Tariq Ali. 

Art Forum begins,

THE STUNNING RISE OF NATIONALISM, populism, and fundamentalism has roiled the world. It is tempting to imagine that we are witnessing just another rotation of political modernity’s cycle of progress and backlash. But we can situate the undoing of the demos in democracy’s longue durée while rejecting the false comfort of the idea that what’s happening is not new, that we’ve seen it all before. How did we get here? How did we create the conditions for Trump, for Brexit, for Mosul, for a daily sequence of devastating events, whether shootings or strikes? Is shock, that quintessentially modernist avant-garde strategy of instigating mass perceptual—and therefore political—change, somehow more prevalent than ever, albeit in radically transformed ways? Does shock, in fact, go hand in hand with apathy and desensitization?

Indeed, masses of perpetual  longue durées is a must for the quintessentially modernist avant-garde demos.

In this roiled (I have no idea of what this meansm but it suggests rolling all over the place) piece the Sage of Islington replies with his musings on this rotational cycle.

 Choice extracts:

Speaking of Brexit and Trump the veteran pundit, awake from a much needed twenty year doze, admits,

…what strikes me as unexpected is the speed with which this right-wing recrudescence has taken place. Suddenly, in every major European country, you have right-wing groups developing along anti-immigration lines, saying, “We’ve got too many foreigners in our country,” trying to unite voters around populist xenophobia.

On the wars and deaths that have led people fleeing from the conflicts in Iraq and Syriya he is clear where the blame lies.

Not with Assad at any rate….

we confront the fact that the US and its EU allies uprooted these populations in the first place. When you bomb Arab cities and Arab countries, reduce them to penury, destroy their social infrastructures, and effectively create a vacuum in which religious fundamentalists come to the fore, it is not surprising that millions of people want to run away.

Honesty compels him to admit,

We waged a left-wing campaign called Lexit, Left Exit from Europe, which was very small and had limited impact, but our position certainly did chime with the views of a number of people we talked to on the streets, etc., who said that the country was wrecked and that staying in the EU would prevent us from doing anything to fix it.

Brexit was far from the only recent instance in which far Left and Right have found unlikely common ground.

Apparently the real problem is what Ali (and nobody else) calls the “extreme centre”.

I wish I could say that I think the extreme center has been put on notice by the past year’s turmoil and by Trump’s election, that new prospects for the Left and for direct democracy have opened up in the wake of Corbyn’s and Sanders’s campaigns. Unfortunately, I can’t. In the 1960s and ’70s, there was a great deal of optimism. There were few victories, but the defeats weren’t of such a nature that we thought they were going to be permanent or semipermanent. We live in bad times, I feel—the worst through which I’ve ever lived. There was a ray of hope during the height of the Bolívarian experiment in South America, where Chávez’s incredibly moving idea to unite the continent against the empires was very heartening. His death and the dramatic drop in the price of oil have of course brought Venezuela to a dire state. While Ecuador and Bolivia are doing somewhat better, people feel that we are going to be defeated there. And then, with the economic changes that the United States wants in Cuba, one is wondering how long it will be before Cuba becomes a US brothel again. I hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, I won’t be surprised…

Nothing would surprise Ali…

But thankfully Good News and Merry Cheer is on the way,

Given the state of the world, I’ve been revived somewhat by working on a new book for the centenary of the Russian Revolution next year, The Dilemmas of Lenin. Lenin was a visionary inspired by utopian dreams, a man of practical action and ruthless realism. Rereading him and related works has been a real treat, so much so that my dedication is actually quite optimistic. “For those who will come after: The road to the future can only be unlocked by the past.”

Alan Partridge  could not have expressed these thoughts with such a deft touch.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Let Battle Commence!

The path to what’s coming starts from the beginning what went before.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Gérard Filoche, standing in French Socialist ‘Primary’ to be Presidential Candiate… with 8 Others…,

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From the Left, Gérard Filoche, Standing in French Socialist Primary.

9 candidates are bidding for Socialist primary (during the coming January) in France

RFI sums this up,

Le Monde gives pride of place to the eight men and one woman who are official candidates for the Socialist Party-organised primary election, to be held next month with a view to choosing a challenger in the 2017 presidential battle.

The eight men are all usual suspects – they include former prime minister Manuel Valls, Socialist rebel parliamentarian Benoît Hamon, ex-minister, ex-contender, ex-businessman Arnaud Montebourg, the crime novelist and philosopher Vincent Peillon, also an ex-minister. But at least there’s something fresh about Sylvia Pinel, now 39-years-old, who was still trying to pay off her student loans when she was first elected to the French National Assembly. She was housing minister in the Valls government and will campaign on the Radical Left ticket.

Le Monde: Primaire à gauche : qui sont les neuf candidats déclarés ?

 Amongst them is Gérard Filoche, 70, a former “inspecteur du travail”.

That is, a “labour inspector”, people who play an important role in making sure French employment legislation is respected.

Le Monde notes,

“Entré en politique à l’Union des étudiants communistes et au Parti communiste (PCF), dont il est exclu en 1966, il figure parmi les fondateurs de la Ligue communiste (ancêtre de la LCR). Il rejoint, en 1994, le PS, « sans renoncement » à ses idées révolutionnaires. Campant aujourd’hui à l’extrême gauche du parti ; il siège au bureau national du PS.

He entered political life in the Communist Students’ union, from which he was expelled in 1966. He was one of the founder of the Ligue communiste, the forerunner of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire. He joined the Parti Socialiste in 1994, “without abandoning” his revolutionary ideas. Today, positioned on the far left of the party, he is a member of the PS’s national executive.

En juin, il s’est déclaré candidat à la présidentielle sans abandonner son rêve d’une « candidature commune de toute la gauche », rassemblant socialistes, communistes et écologistes. Gérard Filoche, qui se veut « le candidat des petites retraites et des petits salaires », résume son programme en cinq nombres « 1800-32-60-20-5 » : smic à 1 800 euros brut par mois ; semaine de 32 heures ; retraite à 60 ans ; pas de rémunération supérieure à vingt fois le smic ; pas plus de 5 % de salariés en contrat à durée déterminée ou en intérim.

In June he announced that he would a Presidential candidate, without dropping his wish for a “common left candidate” which would bring together socialists, communists and greens. Gérard Filoche wants to be the “candidate for low income pensioners and low waged workers”, summed up his programme in 5 numbers, 1`800 – 32- 60 0 20 – 5. That is, the  minimum wage at 1,800 Euros a month, working week of 32 hours, retirement at 60, no pay greater than 20 times the minimum  wage, and not more than 5% of employees on fixed term of temporary contracts.

More on Wikipedia (French): Gérard Filoche.

Le Blog de Gérard Filoche.

Round Table in ‘‘l’Humanité” (today) with Gérard Filoche,  PS,  Alexis Corbière, spokesperson for Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Olivier Dartigolles, Communist Party.

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Stalin Christmas Cards from the Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist-Leninist.

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Xmas Cards

Xmas Cards

£3.50

Andrew Murray, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, one-time Communist Party of Britain big-wig, and now a Labour Party member, recently wrote, “Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue.”

We understand these cards as selling like red-hot cakes amongst certain in vogue circles.

It is said that this image is already in the printing for the next batch of cards:

 

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This is not being considered:

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Fascism, Stalinism

Tagged with

Left Solidarity with the Syrian People.

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Father Christmas, when you visit from the heavens, with your millions of toys, don’t forget my little stockings, filled with blood. (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)

Not everybody follows the Morning Star:

Solidarité avec la lutte du peuple syrien.

Face à la guerre sans fin du régime Assad et de ses alliés contre le peuple syrien, face à la volonté croissante des puissants de liquider les aspirations démocratiques de la révolution syrienne, il faut réaffirmer notre soutien à la lutte du peuple syrien pour la démocratie, la justice sociale et l’égalité, contre toutes les formes de confessionnalisme et de racisme. Pour cela, il faut en premier lieu arrêter la guerre, qui ne cesse de créer des souffrances terribles, empêche le retour des réfugiéEs et déplacéEs internes, et ne profite qu’aux forces contre-­révolutionnaires issues des deux bords.

Facing the endless war of the Assad regime and its allies against the Syrian people, faced with the growing will of the world’s powers to liquidate the democratic impulses of the Syrian Revolution, we have to reaffirm our support for the Syrian people for democracy, social justice and equality, against all forms of confessionalism and racism. For that to be achieved a first step is ending the war, to bring to a halt the terrible suffering, the barrier to the return of refugees and those internally displaced, and which only fuels counter-revolutionary forces from both sides.

Socialist Worker (USA)

The counterrevolution crushes Aleppo

The Syrian regime and its Russian ally are in the last barbaric stages of an onslaught against Aleppo. Ashley Smith analyzes the consequences of the rebel stronghold’s fall.

Internationally, the left must reckon with its failure to unanimously support the Syrian Revolution, and it needs to re-learn how to combine opposition to all forms of imperialism with solidarity with revolution from below.

 The Stop the War Coalition has declined to follow calls for solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, or, express specific opposition to the taking of Aleppo.

This is their response:

Aleppo Debate: MPs In Denial Once Again  WRITTEN BY LINDSEY GERMAN ON 14 DECEMBER 2016.

“Lindsey German: ‘Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones'”

We were right to oppose intervention then, and we are now. The people of Aleppo are suffering from a war which can have no winners. It has destroyed much of the country.

We should be calling for an end to the war, with a ceasefire and attempt at a political solution, an end to all outside intervention on whatever side, and for humanitarian aid to those who need it. We should also allow Syrian refugees into Britain, something these hypocritical MPs have no intention of doing.

It hardly needs adding that German talks of a “war” without naming who is waging it in Aleppo. 

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

This is a really good round up:

LEFTIST GROUPS ON THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR.

Also see:  Why I will no longer write for the Morning Star Rabbil Sikdar.

This is the humanitarian war crime of our time, a genocide that we watched live on television Facebook for years — and we did nothing. We have witnessed ethnic cleansing, repeated breaking of ceasefires and remorseless ruthlessness towards civilian population. The Syrian resistance against a fascist dictator desperately needed solidarity from the international community, and especially the left.

Some gave it; I’ve seen some fantastic leftist activists bravely holding everyone to account; Oz Katerji, Idrees Ahmad and James Bloodworth being some of them. The late Jo Cox was a strong supporter of the inspirational White Helmets.

But how did the Morning Star respond? They called the near fall of Aleppo a ‘liberation’. What was genocide was seen as liberation by this socialist newspaper. Rather than backing down, they doubled down instead. For the past year the Star have led a horribly pro-Assad line, painting the rebels as Jihadists, pouring suspicion over established facts regarding Assad’s war crimes. They continuously echoed propaganda emanating from Russia, unequivocally supporting the Moscow line. Even as Russia and Assad rained destruction, bombing civilians, destroying hospitals and every emergency shelter — the Star continuously chose to support them.

..

I loved writing for the Morning Star because there were some good things to it. It did give a voice to the disadvantaged and voiceless often. But not the Syrian ones. My three editors were two women and a black man, the first black sports editor in the UK and one of the main reasons I continued writing at the paper by the end (I had more or less switched to sports content). As a liberal left-wing working class British Muslim, the Star gave me a platform to describe the world as I saw it through my own eyes. To talk about the racism, inequality and other vital issues. But they have betrayed the children of Aleppo. The blood and tears of the people of Aleppo did not matter to them. I’m not going to be writing for the paper while they spout disgusting Kremlin propaganda.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Morning Star Hails Alepo ‘Liberation’.

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

Galloway has added his own unique claim that ISIS was in Aleppo…..

This is  the latest, a careful and sober report of what’s happening.

Asma Ajroudi. Al Jazeera.

As the Syrian government forces, backed by allies, inch closer to a decisive victory in the ravaged rebel stronghold of east Aleppo, t he impending fall of the city to regime forces would be the biggest setback for rebels since the conflict broke out in 2011.

It could also mark the start of a wider military shift that sets the course of the war in the Syrian regime’s favour.

In less than a month, Syrian troops, with unfettered Russian air support, were able to recapture 90 percent of the eastern part of Aleppo. On Monday, the Syrian army claimed that 98 percent of east Aleppo was in the hands of regime forces.

Reports also indicate a massive exodus of people to either remaining rebel-held districts or government-controlled areas in the western part of Aleppo. The Russian Defence Ministry claimed that 13,346 civilians had left rebel-held areas in the past 24 hours, and 728 rebels laid down their arms and surrendered.

The United Nations human rights office had warned on Friday that hundreds of men have “gone missing” after crossing into regime-controlled areas of Aleppo as Russian and Syrian air strikes continue to pound the city.

The Independent reports,

UN chief warns of ‘atrocities against large number of civilians’ in Aleppo.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has raised alarm over “reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children” in Aleppo, his spokesman said.

Syria’s army, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, are reportedly close to capturing all of east Aleppo which has been a rebel stronghold in the country’s civil war.

Residents in the besieged areas of the city have described the situation as “doomsday”, with many unable to flee the fighting.

Le Monde carries this as its lead-story:

Syrie : l’ONU alerte sur des exécutions sommaires commises dans Alep par des forces pro-Assad

Le commissariat de l’ONU aux droits de l’homme s’appuie sur plusieurs témoignages en provenance de la partie est d’Alep, qui subit une terrible offensive depuis quatre semaines.

 

It is extremely unwise to talk of ‘liberation’ in these conditions – to say the least.

The French left group Ensemble says, Solidarité avec le peuple syrien, avec son combat pour la paix, la justice et la liberté !

  • L’arrêt immédiat de tous les bombardements et la levée des sièges des villes. ( An immediate stop to bombing, and raising the siege of cities and towns).
  • Une mobilisation internationale pour apporter une aide humanitaire massive aux populations. (World-wide efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people).
  •  Le départ de Syrie de toutes les armées et milices étrangères.(All foreign armies and militias should leave Syria.)

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Momentum: Socialist Party Cadre says, “Stamp on the right-wing”.

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Image result for future boot stamping on a human face forever

Stamp on the Right-Wing, Says Socialist Party Cadre.

My hopes for Momentum have been dashed by the toxic debate at the top writes Alex Hacillo in the Observer.

In a well-presented account of Momentum, Alex Hacillo reminds us of the extremely positive role local groups have played since the movement’s creation, “Across a number of Momentum groups, this seems to be a common thread. The idea of Momentum – put by one activist in Stockport – is that of a “force multiplier” for local single-issue campaigns and Labour electoral drives.”

He nevertheless despairs at the recent controversies.

 the dispute is about which voting system Momentum uses – one-member-one-vote (Omov), as in the Labour leadership election, or elected delegates. Momentum’s national committee was divided, but voted by a small margin in favour of a delegate system last Saturday. Emails were leaked implying that members of hard-left groups had conspired in favour of the delegate model. The commentator Owen Jones waded in on the side of Omov, declaring that “these sectarians must be stopped”. On social media, activists traded accusations of “Stalinism” and “entryism”, as well as a bizarre, painfully ironic meme riffing on Plato’s cave that depicted supporters of the delegate model as “CIA” and “hitlers men” [sic].

The well-written article begins with Momentum Hastings – backing the RMT on the picket lines. He covers Stockport, “founded by two longstanding Labour activists, Navendu Mishra, a former council candidate, and Charlie Stewart. Stewart, for his part, has been a Labour party member for nearly 40 years and is a local councillor. As in Hastings, the idea was to channel the enthusiasm of new members into activism.”

The piece concludes here:

I visited Momentum Hackney in early November, shortly after the dispute first spilled into the national press. As Momentum groups go, Hackney’s is known as one of the more proactive and outward-facing, running workshops for potential councillors and educating members on the structure of the Labour party.

Their debate was on the key issue at present, “the Omov/delegate debate.”

most people around the circle remained silent. One man had come from a water charity, hoping to canvas Momentum’s support for a campaign he was running. He was paying for childcare, so his attendance was costing him roughly £10 an hour. Mid-debate, he raised his hand to ask, “What actually is Momentum?”

But…..

An older man, dressed in a football shirt and boot-cut jeans, raised his hand. Leaning forward in his chair, he announced that he was here from the Socialist party – the successor to Militant. The delegate model, he explained, was the only way a left-wing movement could organise and survive. As a rousing end to his argument, he called on Momentum to “literally stamp on the right wing”. It didn’t get much of a reception in a room full of people mostly concerned with saving their local pathology lab. Perhaps worried that his political position might seem a bit ambiguous, he had “TROTSKY” printed on the back of his shirt.

Some might say that with their position in favour of Brexit, with their views against the free movement of labour, the Socialist Party  are pretty right-wing themselves.

Or perhaps they are just confused, as this recent article indicates,

The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government. No wonder many of those people are suspicious of the motives of politicians who may seek to undermine or delay the enactment of the referendum result. This is not just restricted to the rabid right-wing press.

Fight for a socialist Brexit

No doubt the ‘right-wing press’, the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph, have gone out of their way to thwart Brexit….

But we leave it with the imagine of the SP, who apparently wish to be admitted to membership of Labour,  with their own discipline, party and paper,  “stamping on the right wing”.

The Socialist issue 913

Written by Andrew Coates

December 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Comrade Murray Leaves the Communist Party of Britain and Enters the Labour Party.

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Image result for andrew murray communist

Welcome Comrade Murray!

The chief of staff of Unite’s leader, Len McCluskey, has left the Communist party to become a Labour member.

Reports the Guardian. 

Andrew Murray, who last year said communism represented “a society worth working towards”, joined Labour’s ranks recently, a Unite spokesman said.

Murray, a former Morning Star journalist and longtime chair of Stop the War, said in a Guardian interview last year that his adherence to communism prevented him from joining Labour.

“All my children are in the Labour party,” he said. “One has been in the Labour party a long time; the other three are all there as a result of Jeremy’s surge. But no, I’m a member of the Communist party. That’s where I am. Communism still represents, in my view, a society worth working towards – albeit not by the methods of the 20th century, which failed.”

Last week Murray’s daughter, Laura, claimed that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other Troyskyist groups were seeking to take control of Momentum, the grassroots organisation that supports the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, from its founder, Jon Lansman.

“Jeremy Corbyn will inevitably make one compromise or concession that isn’t ideologically pure enough for them, and they will abandon him and Labour altogether to turn Momentum into a rival leftwing party,” she wrote.

In her blog she further claimed that a row over the form of an internal voting structure at a meeting of Momentum’s national committee had ended in bullying and intimidation. She accused AWL members of bullying those whom they suspected of being “rightwing” or “alt-Stalinist” members.

Richard Angell, director of Progress, the centre-left pressure group, said that with or without the AWL, Momentum – due to its intention to move Labour from the mainstream and deselect current MPs – remained a threat to Labour’s election hopes.

“The argument that is being propagated by Lansman – and his media supporters Owen Jones and Paul Mason – is that Momentum minus the AWL would be totally fine. This is not true,” he wrote on his blog.

Angell added of Murray Sr’s conversion: “It’s more than regretful that Labour’s ability to attract previously staunch communists has not been able to counterbalance the loss of support in Sleaford, Richmond and national opinion polls.”

This is one of comrade Murray’s recent contribution to left debate.

Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.

“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”

He continues on this site.

Far be it for me to suggest that Cde Murray has joined Labour to engage in the fray against the ‘Trotskyists’…..

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Far Right Alain Soral: Political Confusionism Spreads to UK as Socialist Fight’s Ian Donovan Defends him.

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Image result for liste antisioniste soral

Socialist Fight’s New Friends. 

A few days ago a dispute on a French (privately run) television ‘show’ run by the anti-semite Dieudonné ended in serious fisticuffs (details below).

Two notorious racists, the one the well-known Alain Soral (convicted for a host of offences involving incitement to race hatred, largely centred on incitement against Jews despite his efforts to disguise them as ‘anti-Zionism’), the other, an Internet neo-Nazi,   Daniel Conversano, came to blows.

Ian

@OldGroucho

Anti-racist/anti-zionist/anti-imperialist. For principled unity of Marxist left. 

socialistfight.com

White nationalist gets punched out on French show for whining he’s up to his ‘a***hole in Arabs’

A discussion on French internet show Niveau Zéro (Zero Level) about Arab immigrants turned violent on Tuesday when “left nationalist”(sic essayist Alain Soral attacked ethno-nationalist Daniel Conversano, punching and kicking him as cameras rolled.

Conversano — a notoriously anti-Islam, anti-immigrant far-right pundit — left the studio with bruises and a split lip after he said that everyone in France is sick of Arabs, which is why the far-right National Front party is polling at 30 percent.

 The debate was organized by anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, who struggled to keep his composure as the discussion between Soral and Conversano erupted into blows.

Soral is the founder of France’s nationalist Association for Equality and Reconciliation, but is also an instructor for the French national boxing society. He lost his cool when Conversano — who is known for his racist views and advocacy of war crimes against Muslims — said that reconciliation between longtime French citizens and Arab immigrants is impossible.

On one point : Soral is not a “left nationalist”.

He is a virulent anti-Semite, with a host of conspiracy theories. Soral may define himself as ‘National Republican’ but his reasons for refusing to be classed on the far-right indicate this. He says, “. L’extrême droite désigne selon lui « les néo-conservateurs, les impérialistes américano-sionistes et le pouvoir bancaire international », the extreme-right designates, to him, neo-conservatives, the imperialist American-Zionists and the international  power of the Bankers” (Here)

One see the attraction for Donovan and ‘Socialist’ Fight in that….

Soral has also stated that the existence of the ‘gas chambers’ are a matter for historians to discuss freely (“sur les chambres à gaz, sans nier a priori leur existence, il faut laisser les historiens en discuter et cette discussion devrait être libre !”

Soral was recently involved in a court case:

Procès d’un ex-mannequin contre Soral : 6 mois de prison ferme requis. (Les Inrocks 20.10.16.).

During the trial a black mannequin,  Binti Bangoura, accursed Soral of a sustained campaign of harassment. That is, endless text messages, threats and and racist insults. She had contacted him via Facebook, on the basis that he appeared a fighter against injustice. She asked him to spread an article about Guinea, la Guinée.  They swopped intimate photos. Soon he became pressing. Too pressing. Trying to back off Bangoura found that Soral began to send more and more unpleasant messages. These included, “Ton destin c’est d’être une pute à juifs”, (Your destiny it to a whore for the Jews) and  “Finalement, il ne te reste que les juifs et les pédés”(in the end you’re only got the Jews and the Poofs.”) .

The campaign against Bangoura became a “tsunami”  of insulting messages on the Internet, including on Soral’s web site, Egalité et réconciliation.

At the end of November he was found guilty and ordered to pay costs, a fine, and 800 Euros to the victim (Le Figaro).

This is another report:  Agression de Daniel Conversano : Dieudonné atteint le niveau zéro plus vite que prévu, grâce à Soral.

Conversano, who is  also a far-right bigot, was hospitalised by Soral and his bodyguard (violemment agressé par le gourou d’Égalité et Réconciliation aidé de ses gardes du corps, selon la page Facebook de la victime).

Which is what this says:

“Le polémiste antisémite Alain Soral a violemment agressé mercredi un nazillon connu sur les réseaux sociaux pour ses diatribes antisémites.” 

“Selon le site Inglorious Basterds, spécialisé dans la traque sur internet des antijuifs, Daniel Conversano est « un nazi de la pire espèce, très virulent à l’égard de la communauté juive. Un ultra-nationaliste français raciste et antisémite qui a longtemps travaillé pour Dieudonné «  (More here)

 

 

 

A

Written by Andrew Coates

December 10, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Lansman to Stay and Fight in Momentum.

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Socialist Fight

Landsman Acts, but what is the Line of the LCFI? 

Jon Lansman vows stay in Momentum

Jeremy Corbyn ally’s move follows claims that grassroots group has been taken over by Trotskyists and could split. Guardian.

His first comments on the group’s internal crisis come as the activist accused of leading an alleged Trotskyist takeover said Lansman himself had first raised the prospect of a split last month.

Jill Mountford, who is on the organisation’s steering committee, said that far from being pushed out, Lansman appeared to be reacting to changes to the democratic structures which meant that he could no longer control it.

Lansman in turn indicated that he had not yet given up on the organisation he set up and whose database he controls. “Of course I’m not walking away from Momentum, but I do take the disenfranchisement of most of our 21,000 members very seriously,” he said.

“I don’t want to control Momentum. I want a pluralist organisation that supports Jeremy Corbyn, democratises the Labour party and helps us win the next general election.”

Tensions over control of the organisation emerged on Monday when Momentum’s women’s officer, Laura Murray, wrote a blog claiming that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and others were seeking to wrest control from its founder.

Murray claimed that Mountford had been at the forefront of a takeover, had bullied younger members, reducing one to tears, and ultimately wanted to form a new political party with the organisation.

Mountford, who has been a member of the AWL for 33 years, denies bullying, taking over the organisation or wanting to form a new party.

She claims to have been shocked when Lansman raised the prospect of a split in the organisation at a meeting on 27 November. He did so after it became apparent that he may not get his way over the organisation’s structures, she said.

“The only person who has said there is going to be a split was Jon Lansman. He said: ‘Well I warn you now. If this goes through there will be a split in Momentum.’ That was news to all of us. I have time and respect for Jon but he has not behaved well. I think he has been trying to carve Momentum up so he can control it,” she said.

AWL Statement: Momentum: for unity! Simon Nelson.

After the Momentum national committee on Saturday 3 December voted that Momentum should have a decision-making delegate conference – just that was the big controversial decision! – figures on the fringes of Momentum, and some within it, have launched a social-media and mass-media outcry against Workers’ Liberty and Solidarity.

This outcry should be resisted with an insistence on unity, a focus on positive campaigning, and a refusal to let the mass media or the Labour machine’s notorious Compliance Unit split us.

Although we were only a small part of the 3 December meeting, the whole majority is being denounced as manipulated, controlled, or even bullied by the few Workers’ Liberty people, and the decision to have a democratic conference as a “Trotskyist takeover”.

Some people are signalling that they want to split Momentum on this issue. Our reply is clear:
The majority is much broader than us. It is not controlled by us.

We, and as far as we know all the majority, are totally for unity and against a split. Momentum should unite to fight the Tories and the Labour right wing.

We are not even “hard-liners” on the organisational issues. We, and the majority, do want democracy in Momentum: we believe democracy is necessary for stable unity. But we always have been, and are, open to dialogue and compromise about modalities, details, forms.

We have kept our tone comradely. We have repeatedly sought off-the-record discussions with those who led the minority on 3 December to explore adjustments, common ground, maximisation of consensus.

The ones who are reluctant to compromise, and who run their debates in tones of violent denunciation of those disagree with them, are elements in the minority, and, even more, their media outriders, who are not even active in Momentum.

The writer Paul Mason told the BBC Daily Politics on 8 December that, although he had “never been to a Momentum meeting”, he demanded a purge. “If Jill Mountford [a National Committee member of Momentum]… remains basically an expelled member of the Party and remains in Momentum, I will not remain in Momentum”.

Labour “auto-excluded” 618 members during the Labour leadership contest this summer, and 1038 members are still suspended, according to figures at the last Labour NEC. Thousands more left-wingers (no-one knows exactly) were expelled or suspended during the 2015 leadership contest. Many of those expelled are long-standing Labour Party members, whom no-one talked of expelling during the Blair, Brown, or Miliband years.

Until now the left has agreed that we do not trust the Compliance Unit’s decisions on who should or shouldn’t be allowed in the Labour Party. Momentum has voted to oppose the purge. Other left groups like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy have a long-standing policy of including unjustly expelled left-wingers.

The Compliance Unit wants to split the left. We should not allow them to do that.

Remember: the Compliance Unit could well expel Paul Mason – he is an ex-member of a Trotskyist group, and surely has said unkind things about Labour right-wingers on social media.

Owen Jones, another figure on the fringe of Momentum, another one who could well be expelled by the Compliance Unit if they choose, has used the Guardian to claim that the issue in Momentum is “a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians”.

Mason, Jones, and others should put aside their megaphones. They should come and discuss the best way to build unity and effective campaigning for Momentum.

Voting was quite closely divided on 3 December, but delegates agreed on a decision-making national conference, to be on 18 February, 25 February, or 4 March. Both local groups and individuals (via the online platform MxV) will be able to submit motions to the conference. The existing Steering Committee will remain in place until after the conference. The 3 December meeting elected a conference arrangements committee.

We were not in the majority on everything, but we are confident that the 3 December decisions will command a broad consensus in most of Momentum’s local groups.

As Michael Chessum, a Momentum Steering Committee member (and not one of us), has said: “[if the meeting was polarised] The Steering Committee has to accept the lion’s share of the responsibility …. By bypassing and undermining the national committee – a body to which it was technically subordinate – the Steering Committee substantially overreached its mandate and infuriated grassroots activists. As a result, attitudes hardened and the regional delegates, who make up a majority of the NC, almost all arrived mandated to vote for a purely delegate-based conference.”

More calm, more space for discussion and appreciation of the hard voluntary work of comrades in the national office and in local groups, fewer meeting-cancellations, fewer attempts to pre-empt decisions, would have helped improve the atmosphere on 3 December. Whether it would have stopped the recent Trotskyist-baiting, we don’t know.

In the media storm, our ideas on imperialism, on Israel-Palestine, on Europe have been misrepresented, and the great warehouse of Stalinist slurs against Trotskyists has been called into use.

Yes, we are Trotskyists. We say what we think, and we organise openly for our ideas. We believe Momentum is a tremendous opportunity for the left. We have played a constructive role in it since it started, in local groups, nationally, and in initiatives like Momentum NHS.

20,000 people have joined Momentum as members since it launched. There are 150 local groups.

Those groups must be allowed the means to develop a democracy – a continuously thinking, adjust, rethinking process of debate and decision-making which evolves a collective majority opinion – and that needs a conference, not just decision-making via online plebiscites run by the Momentum full-time staff.

At the 3 December meeting we supported a successful motion from Momentum Youth and Students for a campaign to make Labour stand firm on freedom of movement and to fight against the Tories’ post-Brexit plans. Momentum should be uniting to put such policies into action, not using the mass media to stir a storm against the 3 December majority.

Some in the 3 December minority oppose a decision-making conference because they think Momentum should not have policy beyond being generically left-wing and pro-Corbyn. There is a case, and we accept it, for moving quite slowly and gently on many policy issues in a new movement like Momentum. But without policies – on issues like freedom of movement, for example – Momentum cannot campaign coherently in local Labour Parties or on the streets (or, as we found this September, in the Labour Party conference).

Otherwise Momentum can only be a support organisation for the current Labour leadership, a database or phone bank for exercises like the leadership elections.

Let’s go forward to build Momentum, build the Labour Party, resist the Compliance Unit’s purges, fight the Tories, and argue for socialist policies. Those who disagree with the decisions at the National Committee should discuss within Momentum: on our side, they will find no closed doors, and a strong will for unity.

Jon Lansman has vowed to remain in a senior post at Momentum despite the series of rows over internal democracy..

More on Labour List.

And:  The nuclear option.  (Weekly Worker) While Jon Lansman considers ending it all, the left majority needs to press home its advantage, urges Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

it is excellent that the left, pro-democratic wing of Momentum has managed to win a few votes on the NC – clearly, it is all still to play for. But, as long as comrade Lansman is in charge of the organisation, it cannot be anything more than a fan club for Jeremy Corbyn. And not a very dynamic or effective one at that.

We note that the Socialist Party (ex-Militant)  have become professional whingers about their exclusion from this tussle,

Momentum left meeting excludes socialists.

Nor does it bode well for the future of Momentum that I was excluded from this meeting for being a Socialist Party member. I am a member of Momentum and have been trying to bring people together in my area in a Momentum group, yet I was told by Nick Wrack – himself undemocratically excluded from the Labour Party – that I cannot be a member of Momentum and a member of the Socialist Party. When I argued against this I was told it would be put to a vote of the meeting. It was voted down without me even being able to put my case.

Wot the popular masses want to know about is not the whines of a sect that would love to join in a faction fight but can’t.

It’s the position of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI) and its esteemed leading cadre, Gerry Downing.

This group, Socialist Fight, is, it is said, active in Momentum.

From its branch in Brent (where is is claimed it acts as an ally of the mighty ‘Brent Soviet’), its Brazilian allies, and its affiliated section on Pluto, the LCFI is a force to be reckoned with.

Yesterday cde Downing was wibbly-wobbling in his support for the AWL.

They have only issued the briefest of statements,

…would oppose the AWL on Israel and imperialism in general but support then in the battle to democratise Momentum against Lansman. And that will win to a large degree, far more than Lansman wanted at any rate.

Meanwhile the LCFI is fully engaged in the international struggle:

Liberate Aleppo, Defeat Imperialism in Raqqa, Mosul and the Ukraine!

Quite a list!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Save Momentum from Saboteurs – Owen Jones. Statement by Momentum (External Faction, Majority ‘A’ Tendency).

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Image result for Judean popular front

People’s Front (British Left Training Manuel). 

Momentum is a beacon of hope. It must be saved from the saboteurs. 

Before I begin this I note the following:

  • When Momentum was set up there were discussions by long-standing left-wing activists, members of the Labour Party and/or Trade Unions, engaged in anti-austerity campaigning and a variety of social movements. The potential for small organised left groups to join Momentum, bathing in the reflected glory of Jeremy Corbyn,  and use it for their own ends it was noted. One sectarian group, the Socialist Party even went so far as to try to set up its own front, called Trade Union Momentum, in order to recruit for their organisation (Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum. The Socialist. 9th of January 2016).
  • The principal problem appeared to be the presence of groups trying to recruit for their ‘party building’. That is, to split off (as they call it) the ‘centrists’ and ‘populist’ left from the dyed-in-the-wool ‘reformists’  and get them to join their own ranks, either overtly or in classic ‘entryist’ style, through various ‘fronts’ (one might envisage something like the ‘socialist platform’ in Momentum.
  • Leading figures in Momentum, notably Jon Lansman, were informed – repeatedly informed of these concerns. This is because the core of the original Momentum leadership are people we know and hardly unaware of this kind of thing. They were said to agree with us.
  • Having expressed these views, and stated my own belief, that the Labour party should be encouraged to develop as a modern inclusive  democratic socialist party, and not badgered from a half-in half-out group, I was encouraged by Momentum’s initial development. Notably its support for the Other Europe is Possible campaign, supporting a Remain Vote in the Referendum.
  • I and many others from the European democratic left side have not been encouraged by the launch of an “our Brexit” campaign linked with Momentum without the members being consulted.
  • I finally note that it the divisions in Momentum cannot be described as simply between “young idealistic” social movement types and older ‘Trotskyists’. The Trotskyists are battling ‘older’ people, and not all ‘Trotskyists’ are ‘old’, far from it.  The way the decision on ‘Our Brexit’ ( just cited) was reached raises concerns wider than any of these splits.

It is, these points in mind,  hardly out of the blue that the present crisis has happened.

Comrade Owen begins,

These are the things I want to write about, not the internal woes of the left. The left has had something of a reputation for turning infighting into an art form, immortalised by that People’s Front of Judea sketch in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But an emergent crisis in Britain’s left is so serious that, sadly, it cannot be ignored.

Momentum – the grassroots movement set up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory – is currently facing a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians. If they succeed, Momentum will be destroyed. The most prominent sectarian figures are embittered veterans of struggles from the 1970s and 80s, people who have only experienced defeat, and who won’t let an unexpected opportunity afforded by the seismic political developments of the last two years slip through their fingers. This is their last chance.

They jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits. They’re not interested in say, door-to-door campaigning, but rather in debating their obscure pet issues with long-winded interventions at meetings on a Thursday evening.

The only point that really strikes home is the lack of ‘door-to-door campaigning’.

But this is not a  fault unique to the ‘sectarians’.

One could argue that setting up a parallel organisation to normal Labour bodies is bound to divert energy away from this kind of grass-roots work.

Owen strays into perhaps excessive prose in the following,

Their opponents are younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented and pluralistic, lacking Machiavellian strategic ability – all of which the sectarians exploit. The sectarians smear their opponents as rightwingers, Stalinists, bureaucrats, as having ulterior and sinister motives (this article will be dismissed as the work of a rightwing establishment careerist in the service of a Guardian conspiracy to destroy the left). Everything goes wrong, they believe, not because of their own almost farcical strategic ineptitude, but because of the betrayal of others. Momentum offers hope to young people who have long been demoralised by politics. Those wrecking Momentum – if they succeed – could destroy that hope, and that is unforgivable.

It is wrong to call these forces “Trotskyist sectarians” as if there is a common unity amongst them.

This is not classic ‘entryism’: there are very diverse groups. Some of them work well with other people on particular objectives – such as promoting a social Europe, or, say defending secular democratic demands in Iran.  It is true, in a very general sense, that many of them refer to the Russian Revolution and Lenin (something I personally cannot empathise with). Others – I am thinking of former members of Left Unity –  have more in common with 1970s New Left radical groups than with the kind of moribund organisations at present hanging on as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Some of the opponents of the Momentum leadership have their own personal agenda, which appears to derive more from identity politics than the left, sectarian or not.

These are small groups, groupuscles if you will, or just alliances of affinity. There is no common unity – just cite the words Israel and Zionism, and, hey, see! –  except on organisational issues within Momentum.

It is therefore not just false but highly speculative  to claim that,

the sectarians are highly disciplined, highly organised, and highly experienced. The interests of their own sects are far more important than any movement. Only their sect, they believe, has the correct politics: everybody else’s are fatally flawed. They have no faith in the Labour party. Momentum, for them, is an embryonic political party. The prize is Momentum’s contact data, containing the details of tens of thousands of people. At an opportune time, they will walk away from Labour and found a new party, which will get 300 votes in a byelection. They will triumphantly hail these as 300 votes for socialism.

The ‘new party’ line, which is the decrepit Socialist Party’s objective, is too marginal even to bother with.

But…

Having said this I  must say that the following struck home:

Take the barrister Nick Wrack, one of the sectarian leaders. Last year he stood for the catchily named Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in Camberwell and Peckham, and secured 0.6% of the vote. There’s no life for the left in the Labour party, he told me in 2014.“Time for [a] new party that stands for socialism,” he lectured me before the general election. I was right to call for more working-class representation, he tells me, “but it won’t come from Labour,” he tells me, after Labour’s defeat.

Owen forgets: membership of the SWP, Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the Independent Socialist Network,  and a host of other groups……

And, “Nick worked as a journalist for the socialist newspaper Militant. He became its editor in 1994.”

But surely these are sectarian points?

And is this a fair summary of the other side?

The younger Momentum protagonists aligned to Lansman – who himself has gone on a political journey away from top-down structures – are known as “movementists”: those who dislike hierarchies and who are attracted by social movements.

There are problems, which Owen chose to ignore in his introduction to this book, about ‘movementist’ democracy. In  Podemos: In the Name of the People’ by Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón (foreword by Owen Jones) Jones celebrated this party’s success. But its own “democracy on-line” has worked to consolidate the party leadership. Critics, whom we have covered at length on this Blog, have asserted that Podemos is now organised on a “Pyramidal” “vertical” basis. It is said to have led to the withering away of the “circles” at the base of Podemos. It has, to put it simply, not been able to create structures  – to many critics –  that are markedly better than the old system. Podemos is now undergoing its own internal ‘factional battles, though one has to recognise that it’s on a healthy basis, that is, with real policy alternatives at stake.

I am not a member of Momentum, to the reasons I outlined at the start. Some elderly local people may be.

But it would seem that some kind of synthesis between these systems could be devised.

This would surely be preferable to this call for Armageddon:

 ….Jeremy Corbyn. An intervention by him would stop Momentum being taken over, allowing its rebirth as an open, campaign-focused movement. Without that, the sectarians will win. They must be stopped in their tracks. So much hope, so much optimism. We can’t let it end in rancour and betrayal.

Reports on Saturday 3d December  Momentum Meeting Round-UpClarion.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Momentum: An analysis of the latest Rows.

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Image result for MOmentum

New Kind of Politics? 

The Independent reports,

Trotskyists are trying to take over Momentum

Labour’s grassroots movement risks being taken over by a ‘disruptive, over-bearing and ultra’left’ faction, according to a new member of its national committee

Trotskyists are a ‘vocal, disruptive and over-bearing’ presence within Momentum, whose ‘sectarian attitude is destructive to our movement,’ according to a new member of its central committee.

Laura Murray, who also works as Special Advisor to Labour Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce, attended her first Momentum Committee, since being elected to the post of Women’s Representative, and has written a lengthy and scathing blogpost of the divisions within the movement that evolved from the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015.

Ms Murray said Momentum “would be engaging in collective self-denial if we were to downplay [Trotskyism’s] prevalence in Momentum. Dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyists are not the majority in Momentum. But they are a vocal, disruptive and over-bearing minority who have won themselves key position in the regional committees, National Committee and even the Steering Committee.”

Labour List led the way this morning with its account of the Momentum splits:

Fresh splits have emerged in Momentum in the aftermath of a crunch meeting to decide on reforms to internal democracy.

Laura Murray, women’s representative, has claimed that the tactics of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are contributing to a form of “hard-left warfare” in the Corbynite group.

She published a highly critical blog, following Saturday’s meeting of Momentum’s national committee, in which she alleged there was a “plot” to oust Jon Lansman, chairman and veteran Bennite organiser.

Murray said the two suggested groups in Momentum – those from a Labour Party background and those from movements such as Occupy and UK Uncut – had been joined by a Trotskyite faction.

“Some people take offence at this term being used — understandably, as it is Tom Watson and the Labour right’s insult of choice for us. But we would be engaging in collective self-denial if we were to downplay it’s prevalence in Momentum,” she wrote on Medium.

“Dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyists are not the majority in Momentum. But they are a vocal, disruptive and over-bearing minority who have won themselves key position in the regional committees, National Committee and even the Steering Committee. To be clear, I am not anti-Trotskyist per se, and I recognise the enormous contributions that some Trotskyist thinkers and groups have made to political discourse, but the sectarian attitude taken by Trotskyist groups within Momentum is destructive to our movement.”

Nobody from Momentum could be reached to comment immediately.

They also noted,

Controversial activists Jackie Walker has been elected to a key organising role at Momentum.

Walker, who was removed as vice-chair earlier this autumn after offending many with comments about anti-Semitism, has won a place on the conference arrangements committee at Momentum’s national committee meeting.

The meeting, on Saturday, came after repeated cancellations of the meeting by the steering committee, which meant that the national committee had not met in seven months.

Walker, who was suspended from the Labour party over comments made about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, was removed from her position as vice-chair of Momentum in the wake of her suspension from Labour.

Walker said she had not found a definition of anti-Semitism she could “work with”, and accused Holocaust Nemorial Day of not being sufficiently inclusive in an outburst at a Jewish Labour Movement event at Labour conference, which was filmed and subsequently leaked.

Numerous senior Momentum figures were said to be deeply unhappy with her remarks, and the head of the TSSA union Manuel Cortes described her views as “abhorrent”. Walker, who is Jewish, later apologised.

Laura Catriona Murray‘s controversial Blog began,

Waking up the morning after the Momentum National Committee, I had that feeling you have after a horrible break-up from someone you love. When you momentarily forget what happened, then you remember and the feeling of loss comes crushing down on you like a ton of bricks all over again.

She cites as a basis for her analysis:  Lewis Bassett of Lambeth Momentum has eloquently described the inevitable conflict between the two political strands which merged with Momentum’s inception — Labourism, those people steeped in the traditions and ideology of the British Labour movement, and Movementism, those activists which had previously spurned party-politics in favour of innovative and exciting campaigning organisations like Occupy, UK Uncut and Climate Camp.

Bassett  summarises his argument:

I cover three developments of Corbyn’s left-wing advance guard, the extra-parliamentary group that evolved out of Corbyn’s initial leadership campaign: first the transition from “social movement” activism to parliamentarianism; second, how the extra-parliamentary politics of post-movementist activists are being tapered by the Labour Party; and third, the way movementist tropes regarding democracy are being operationalised in order to sideline the decision-making structures in Momentum which benefit the traditional left. I end with a critique of the traditional left’s position in Momentum at present.

My experience suggests that “social movement” activists from the recent period of struggle (the alter-Globalisation era) have had a tendency to prefigure the world they want to see, such that at times they have announced the premature death of an existing one. These proclamations have often included the death of the nation state as well as the traditional left which, it turns out, have only been dormant.

In the first part of his analysis Bassett is not uncritical of “movementism”. He describes them in abstract terms – the shift to “state-centred” strategies and then offers an outline of how the Greek left, Syriza has operated in the face of the restless hostility of the EU Troika, which is a largely external and hard-fought over history. Discussing Podemos, he alludes to the centralisation of the party, from its initial  circle based democracy, to the present day centralised -E-democracy. Bassett does not discuss the possibility that the adoption of some of the recipes from Laclau and Mouffe’s analysis of ‘populism’. That is,  how to  articulate political protest through relations of “equivalence” into a machine that pits the People against the ‘Casta’ (the ‘elites’ as French and English language populists call it), and the importance Laclau gave to strong leadership figures to do this.

Bassett however does not discuss the organising principles that have come to the fore in many (post the new millennium) social movements, from Occupy onwards. Consensus-decision making, with its roots in 1970s US feminism and the Quakers, is considered by many activists to have been an obstacle to wider participation – how it could be applied to Momentum is a thought worth considering!  He also does not mention that the latest widely publicised social movement,  Nuit Debout in France  collapsed this summer without making any serious impact at all beyond a limited circle of activists. One of the reasons lay in these organising forms (although the Place de la République meetings allowed a modified form of majority voting).

Bassett continues in terms of a contrast between the two trends he cited above.

Or rather he does not discuss what exactly the ‘traditional’ left is.

One could argue that ‘social movement’ trend has the same 1960s and 1970s origins as the present Labour and an important section of the extra-Labour far-left. One only needs to look at post-May 68 in France to see both trends (themselves a galaxy of different approaches) converging, party, anti-party, movementist, a revival or mainstream political parties. The British left saw a similar, if much less profound, emergence of differing, but allied, currents.

Both were marked by political and social objectives wider than capturing the existing state structure (ideas about participation), recognition of the importance of issues of gender, sexuality, cultural and ethnic (‘race’)  oppression, and an expressed wish for more democratic political forms.

No doubt what might be called ‘traditional’ is an emphasis on the central importance of class inequality and class struggle, (the more radical ideas of self-management and workers’ control were also developed) but each strand is recognisable as part of what was once called the ‘New Left‘.

These priorities, this cultural shift,  extended to some nominally Leninist – or ‘Trotskyist’ groups – though clearly not to others who remain thoroughly – and mendaciously – anti-democratic.

An interchange between these different strands happened during the Rise of the Labour Left, from the late ‘seventies till the ‘eighties. The late ’80s Chesterfield Socialist Conferences, supported by Tony Benn,  were perhaps one of the best known examples of this approach, arguing for socialist and social movement initiatives “inside” and “outside” the State.

Therefore it is not without precedent or surprising that this happened,

…social movement’ actors and organizations became inflected by an emphasis on class as well as a renewed awareness of the material and ideological power of the nation state, which, in the theories that had been popular among the movementists, was thought about only in terms of its erosion (eg Hardt and Negri, 2001). This shift in political consciousness was the prerequisite for ‘social movement’ activists adopting state-centered strategies.

Having worked with Negri I am sure he would be flattered at this degree of influence, though I doubt if anybody moved from the “multitude” to the Labour Party through any deep reading of, say, Commonwealth (2009) to seeing the Labour Party as a vehicle for establishing the ‘common’.

The reason for the support for these activists is a lot simpler: Corbyn’s election to the head of the Labour Party….

The two trajectories discussed here – the movementist and the traditional left – converged on Momentum. Corbyn’s election demonstrated an organic demand for a movement that could outpace the Party in terms of organizing. Tens of independent meetings were held to discuss the victory and ask where next, while in many official Party Ward and Constituency meetings the election was brushed over with an embarrassed shudder by the caste of incumbents.

There are good reasons for this: if these activists intend to pursue their own strategy – protest – how are they going to govern?

A centre to Momentum began to crystalize around the right to possess and access the data gathered during the leadership campaign. The names and contact details of tens of thousands of supporters were made the possession of a board of trusties composed of several Corbyn-friendly MPs and the seasoned Labour Party activist Jon Lansman. With a name provided by popular left-wing commentator Owen Jones, Momentum was officially founded and all other independent pro-Corbyn initiatives and the mass of supporters accepted the branding.

Bassett outlines the internal situation:

At the newly-formed centre, Lansman and behind him a network of activists with deep roots to long embittered struggles within the Labour Party, represented one pole of attraction; on the other were the three members of staff and group of unpaid volunteers drawn from the leadership campaign, among them James Schneider whose own checkered political history diverges dramatically from that of the typically “tribalist” Labour Party activist. Schneider’s thoughts on the development of Momentum reveal his intellectual “fit” with the movementist trend, evidenced by a weariness of trade union practices (motions and delegates, for example), a preference for UK:Uncut style tactics and an expressed desire to make the Labour Party “more like a social movement” (Schneider, 2016). Unprepared and under siege (both within and outside of the Party) Momentum’s centre and Corbyn’s offices contributed next to nothing that would definitively shape the early development of the organisation. Likewise Lansman’s initial efforts to limit and control the spread of local groups was counterbalanced by the movementists in Momentum’s office who ensured a laissez-faire approach. The result was that the aims and structure of Momentum took shape without a shred of authoritative guidance, a power vacuum into which the traditional left gained ascendance.

He concluded,

Can the ‘social movement’ and the traditional left trajectories work together productively? It is possible that the traditional left has the ideological maturity to counter a post-movementist turn to short-termist Fabianism. On the other hand the movementists offer a useful skepticism regarding bureaucracy and a greater sense of post-colonial and contemporary feminist perspectives. Between the two tendencies is Momentum’s office, the core of which will be probably unwilling to hand over the keys to any national structure that fails to make Labour the movement’s primary vehicle.

Whether this is the real division in Momentum remains open to discussion.

Murray makes the reasonable critical  point of how Saturday’s Momentum meeting seemed to be developing which locates the most immediate problem.

This system of using inwardly-focussed and off-putting meetings to elect delegates to hierarchical structures and to discuss motions which are very rarely implemented has failed the left for at least the last century.

It is fairly obvious that the present clashes are leading away from either possibility: towards faction fights, people advancing their personal bug-bears (see ‘anti-Zionism’ above).

Murray’s own comments are hardly above the fray,

the AWL — a group with such extreme Trotskyist politics that they are almost a caricature of themselves — and their fellow travellers. Subtle support for imperialist wars, uncritical support for Israel and fanatical support for the European Union are amongst their policies.

It is perhaps not a good idea to make up the political views of your opponents when you complain about ‘factionalism’, as this farrago indicates…

Though many will sympathise with this more considered judgement:

those who feel very supportive of Jackie Walker, many of whom know her through the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) or anti-racism campaigning, and feel outraged that she was removed as Momentum’s Vice-Chair. I have sympathy for this group because I’ve campaigned for Palestine my entire adult life and know that censorship of free speech on Israel is a very real and dangerous thing. However, I — like many others — believe that Jackie Walker’s comments on Holocaust Memorial Day and security in Jewish schools were insensitive, unnecessary and entirely inappropriate to make at Labour Party conference, as Vice-Chair of Momentum. The rage felt by many when she was removed as Vice-Chair — which was a badly-handled and unpleasant affair — has rendered them unable to grasp the nuance of the situation and unable to appreciate that the action taken by Momentum’s Steering Committee was a reasonable compromise in the face of an escalating situation which Jackie Walker herself could have easily avoided.

And this,

Seven months in which those who rallied around Jackie Walker had their initial hurt and anger stoked by baseless allegations of racism and of a ‘Zionist conspiracy’ against absolutely everybody who didn’t agree with them. Seven months in which these various groups did their upmost to whip everyone else up into a frenzied atmosphere of hatred of Jon Lansman. Online and in local groups, Jon Lansman is demonised, vilified and dehumanised by people who have comparatively not committed an iota of time or energy to the cause of the left in their lives.

I can only say that the more I hear against Landsman the more I concur with Murray’s statement.

In fact the more I hear the more I like Landsman.

But I personally want the Labour Party to be a successful democratic socialist party, with a modern European radical left programme.

I do not want it to be just a “social movement”. I do not want it to be a play-ground for left factions.

I want it to change this country, as part of an internationalist left movement that transforms the world, starting with Europe.

On the evidence Momentum is not, at present, part of that future.

 As counter-evidence one can read Michael Chessum’s eminently sane report:  Thoughts on finding a positive way forward after the Momentum NC.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm

British Far Right Daily Mail Weeps at Austrian Defeat of…Far Right.

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Anger: Hundreds of furious Austrians marched through the streets of Vienna on Saturday to protest against far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer

 

Is Europe’s Brexit revolution over? Gloating left-wing supporters wave ‘Thank God’ signs after far-right candidate LOSES Austrian presidential election which was set to deliver body blow to the EU 

  • Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer has conceded as initial results declared
  • Polling ended at 4pm UK time and final result will be announced tomorrow
  • Hofer would have been Europe’s first far-right leader since World War II

The Independent reports,

Austria’s Norbert Hofer has conceded defeat after his hopes of becoming the European Union’s first far-right president were dashed.

The first official results showed left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen with what appeared to be an unbeatable lead over his rival.

When the results were released shortly after polls closed on Sunday, Mr Van der Bellen had 53.5 per cent, while Mr Hofer had 46.4 per cent.

In the election run up RT (Russia Today) broadcast many sympathetic reports on Hoffer,

Norbert Hofer, the Austrian presidential candidate for the Freedom Party who is often described as “far-right” by opponents, has dismissed the idea in an interview with RT, saying that he is “a normal man, who does not like extremes.”

“That’s not true,” Hofer told RT’s Egor Piskunov when asked about opponents accusing him of spreading nationalist ideas.

“Yes, I’m right side, but I’m not far-right. I’m middle right and if you compare things members of the government say here in Austria and things I say, I’m not more right than the government,” Hofer said.

RT payed special attention to this aspect of his policies:

Speaking of his plans in case he wins the election, Hofer noted that he would like Austria to cooperate with many countries, including Russia, as he makes a “strong economy” his number one priority.

In this regard, Hofer also touched upon the sanctions imposed against Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis and the situation after the Crimean referendum on joining Russia.

“I don’t think sanctions are now useful for keeping peace,” the presidential candidate said, adding that they don’t solve problems and it’s better to look for a diplomatic way out.

In its programmes on Hofer’s defeat RT underlined – like the Daily Mail – the role of ‘left-wingers’ who campaigned against the candidate of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ).

Election results (Der Standard): the Greens/Alexander Van der Bellen, had a strong urban vote.

Some more left-wing gloating:

Alexander Van der Bellen: Der Retter des Alpenlandes (Taz).

Triumph für den Alpen-Kretschmann (Neues Deutschland. Socialistische Tageszeitung).

En Autriche, l’écologiste Van der Bellen contient l’extrême droite (Libération).

Written by Andrew Coates

December 5, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Momentum: Latest Internal Disputes.

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….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….

Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity

Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting,  we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned  The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”

This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.

In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but  “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.

But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.

Left wins on democracy, but right keeps hold of Steering Committee – report of 3 December Momentum NC

Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate

Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.

The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.

..

The key votes:

•  The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.

This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.

……

….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.

Decisions taken

• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.

And,

No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.

So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.

There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently  sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.

We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference. 

Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.

But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Spectacular Rise in Polls for Belgium Far-left Parti du Travail de Belgique/Partij van de Arbeid van België.

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Image result for Parti du Travail de Belgique,

 

The public broadcaster in Belgium, the RTBF, led with this story this morning:

Le PTB, futur lider maximo? Le parti marxiste progresse dans les trois régions du pays, même si cela reste mesuré en Flandre (+1,4% pour +5,6% à Bruxelles et + 12,9% (!) en Wallonie). Tel est à nouveau le principal enseignement du baromètre Dedicated pour la RTBF et La Libre.

Autres vainqueurs: le Vlaams Belang et Groen! qui, en Flandre, font toujours jeu égal avec les partis traditionnels.

The PTB future lider maximo? The Marxist Party has risen in the opinion polls in three regions: up 1 % in Flanders, 5,6% in Brussels and plus 12,9% in Wallonie. This is the result from the latest poll by Deciudated, for the RTBF and La Libre.

The other winners are the far-right Vlaams Belang and the Greens, Groen!, who in Flanders are neck and neck with the traditional parties.

La Libre Belgique  says that  the Workers’ Party of Belgium (Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA; Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB) is scoring 18,4% of voters amongst voters in Wallonie.

The PTB/PVDA is a Marxist political party with its roots in ‘marxism-leninism’ (Maoism) about which there is much to say. It is one of the few parties that operates as a single Belgian party. Site (French): here (Flemish): here.

Wikipedia notes that the PVDA-PTB hosts the International Communist Seminar, which in recent years has become one of the main worldwide gatherings of communist parties.

 

La  Libre Belgique.

Also see: Le PTB convainc 18% des électeurs en Wallonie Le Soir.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

France: President François Hollande Selflessly Decides Not to Face Humiliation.

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hollande-sen-va550

Bye-Bye Hollande.

French President François Hollande said on Thursday he would not seek re-election next year, bowing to historically low approval ratings after a troubled term in power.

Reports France 24

The withdrawal means the 62-year-old Socialist leader is the first president of France‘s fifth republic, founded in 1958, to step aside after only one term.

“I have decided that I will not be a candidate,” a stony-faced Hollande said in a solemn televised statement from the Élysée Palace in Paris during which he defended his record.

He conceded that he was unable to unite his deeply divided Socialist Party behind his candidacy ahead of the presidential election in April and May next year.

“In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country,” he said.

Hollande’s approval ratings have hit rock bottom after a term in office marked by U-turns on major policies, terror attacks, high unemployment and embarrassing revelations about his private life.

He is the most unpopular president in French polling history, a fact he tacitly acknowledged in his speech on Thursday.

“I am aware today of the risk that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail, so I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election,” he said.

A new poll on Wednesday predicted he would win just seven percent of votes in the first round of next year’s election in April – strengthening Socialist critics who view him as a lame duck.

This decision leaves the forthcoming ‘Primary’ of the Parti Socialiste (PS) wide open.

This will take place on the 22nd and 29th of January 2017 (Primaire citoyenne de 2017).

There is speculation as to whether Manuel Valls, the present Prime Minister, described as a “social liberal” (in French terms, pro-market), marked by a dose of ‘Blue Labour’ conservative moral and authoritarianism, will stand. Others consider the Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille and a bearer of the European social democratic current, who has  been critical of Hollande, may present herself.

This morning on France-Inter on of the candidates from the left of the Socialist Party, Arnaud Montebourg gave his reactions.

Saluting Hollande’s decision he gave some no doubt well-meant advice to Valls: he cannot remain as Prime Minister while entering into the Party’s contest for a Presidential candidate.

Cela me paraît difficile que Manuel Valls puisse rester à Matignon (…) Je ne pense pas que cela laisse de la place à une campagne des primaires.

Faced with a parting shot by Hollande, warning of the dangers of “protectionism”, Montebourg offered an intresting – that is to say, contorted- defence of his project for ‘social protection’, which may, possibly, include economic…protectionism.

As in this:

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As Montenbourg was tailing, even overtaking Hollande, in the polls, it’s worth nothing that his programme principles also include suppoort for medium to small enterprises, anti-austerity, en end to “social dumping” , migrant workers under terms of conditions set in their countries rather than by France, activity by a ‘strong state’ such as  nationalisations (Banking sector), and … obligatory young people’s military or civic service for 6 months. (Quelles sont les propositions d’Arnaud Montebourg ?)

The other candidates, for the moment include (le Monde).

  • Marie-Noëlle Lienemann – Socialist senator left ‘frondeur’ (those who have criticised Hollande’s legislative projects and Presidency. Standing for ‘social justice, raising the minimum wage and a better deal for young people. Wishes to carry the message to the left as a whole, including the greens, and the left of the left.
  • Benoît Hamon – Former education Minister, critic of Hollande, stands for retaining the 35 hours week, and introducing a universal basic income. Nowhere in the polls.
  • Gérard Filoche  – former member of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire . Important figure in the campaign against the recent labour ‘reforms’.  Good bloke. Outsider. (1)
  • Manuel Valls still not officially declared candidate. Hard man of the Parti Socialiste right. Likes Tony Blair – enough said.

Others:  Les candidats des partis associés.

  • Jean-Luc Bennahmias (Front démocrate) Who?
  • François de Rugy (Écologistes !) Who?
  • Pierre Larrouturou (Nouvelle Donne). Who? Very odd group Nouvelle Donne….

The wider issue of who will be the left’s candidate in next year’s Presidential election is considered here: Après le retrait de Hollande, qui est candidat à gauche ?  Laure Equy et Sylvain Mouillard.

Hopefuls include: Emmanuel Macron (centre), Sylvia Pinel (of the small Parti radical de gauche), Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte Ouvrière) Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticaptialiste),  Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EE-LV).

There is also Jean-Luc Mélenchon under the banner of his rally,  La France Insoumise  whose politics  we have presented often enough here to make further comment unnecessary for the moment.

Mélenchon stands at  around 15 % in the polls which makes him a front-runner for winning the same score as the French Communist Georges Marchais in 1981.

Update.

(1) Filoche has just launched an appeal for the left to develop a common left socialist strategy amongst the Socialists, the 4 left candidates in the primary and for meetings with Jadot and Mélenchon (une stratégie commune de la gauche socialiste, un « pack des quatre » dès maintenant, ensuite nous rencontrerons Yannick Jadot et Jean luc Mélenchon).

Hollande obligé de renoncer – Unité de toute la gauche socialiste et non socialiste avec les écologistes pour battre Fillon-Le Pen.

The ‘People’s Question Time: Brexit.” Lindsey German: “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

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Brexit: Lindsey German says, “..a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

This is being organised the ‘People’s Assembly‘.

The People’s Question Time: Brexit – What Are Our Demands?
7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA. Register your place: https://pqtjan2017.eventbrite.co.uk/

Panel includes:
Emily Thornberry MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour Party
Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German – People’s Assembly
Malia Bouattia – NUS President
Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
(more tbc)

This is their puff: 


Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Brexit has been hugely divisive and has created a dynamic and unpredictable situation.

Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.

The idea that Brexit, whose purpose is to serve the bankers, the bosses and the corporations, and to attack migrant workers, can be effectively changed through demands that it is “negotiated in the interests of the People’ is a straightforward, to put it simply, lie.

Speaking for the People’s Assembly (who have never debated the issue in public still less asked supporters to vote on the issue) Lindsay German holds these views.

Next stop… the People’s Brexit (3rd of November 2016)

The missteps of the ruling class can create space for our side, notes Lindsey German

No doubt influenced by her groupuscules belief in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ German goes into say,

The job for all those on the left now should be not to overturn that decision but ensure that the ruling class’s division is turned in our favour. We need to fight for an outcome that ensures a solution to the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights, as well as total opposition to scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms. 

….

….a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines. This now has an urgency given the likelihood of a general election next year. It means putting forward these demands, mobilising around them, building trade union strength, doing everything to support Corbyn in these electoral battles, and trying to give a voice to the millions of working people, whichever way they voted, who are looking for an alternative.

If Brexit is the occasion for this “chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” then we are indeed in the actuality of great revolutionary events.

How Brexit will do anything but hinder the fight to resolve the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights,  is less than clear. As well as a being a major cause of the scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms it is becoming part of these crises.

Image result for retirement cottage honeysuckle

Well-established Rumour has it that this is German’s coming Retirement cottage. 

Looking forward to evenings eating toasted crumpets with honey, while Rees warms his slippers on the wood fire.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Teresa May Goes François Fillon and Plays the Christian Christmas Card.

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PM Defends Right to Speak of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. 

Much has been made, in the French media, about  François Fillon’s (successful) efforts to moblise the Catholic, and more broadly, conservative religious vote behind his Presidential bid.

Where Filly flows, May meanders behind.

CHRISTIANS must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear of repercussions, the Prime Minister has said.

Her comments come as a report from a think tank warns religious freedoms are being eroded after teachers, magistrates and other professionals have been disciplined and sacked for living according to their beliefs.

Reports the journal of record, the Sun.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who sits on the Ecclesiastical Committee, warned that Christians have become “fearful” about mentioning their faith in public in case they encounter a backlash.

She told Prime Minister’s Questions: “Comments this week by the Equalities Commissioner not to be worried about talking about Christmas at work were important because many Christians are now worried, even fearful, about mentioning their faith in public.

“So would the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the recent Lawyers Christian Fellowship report Speak Up, which confirms that in our country today the legal rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech to speak about one’s faith responsibly, respectfully and without fear, are as strong today as ever?”

The Prime Minister fearlessly replied,

Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, said religious tolerance is a fiercely guarded principle in Britain that must be respected.

She said: “You raise an important issue that matters to both you and me, and I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship was ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as you say respectfully and responsibly, about one’s religion.

“I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its findings.”

She added, we learn,

Of course we’re now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.

I’m sure that we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel quite able to speak freely about Christmas.”

Snipers comment (Left Foot Forward).

 

The report itself has to be read in this context. It offers Christians guidelines (which it makes clear are not legal advice) on how to talk about their religion so more people follow it or adopt its ideas.

As Speak Up‘s introduction says:

“As Christians, it’s our responsibility to share the good news …

We know what a difference the gospel has made to our lives, and we should be passionate about seeing as many people as possible know this transforming good news, as well. …

We should grab hold of this opportunity and tell our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues about the life-changing good news we have received.”

In the conclusion, Dr David Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, writes:

“The lost need the gospel, so we need to be intentional about sharing it. We hope that this resource will inform followers of Christ about the freedoms we have to do this, and encourage confident and fruitful evangelism in every area of public life.

The report has sections on ‘sharing the gospel at work’, ‘sharing the gospel in public’, and ‘sharing the gospel on social media’. It includes advice on where you can talk about people’s ‘sexual orientation’ and how far you can go.

The report doesn’t appear to call for any rule-bending, and does seem like a good faith (excuse the pun) attempt to inform people about their rights and the law. But it does so in order that they know how best to ‘share the gospel’ as part of a clear political agenda.

How political? Dispatches investigation in 2008, In the Name of God, found Andrea Williams, then LCF public policy director, called the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill the work of the devil, supported banning abortion, considered homosexuality sinful and was a young earth creationist. Williams no-longer works for the LCF.

But both groups are committed to seeing their views shape public policy, with the help of friendly MPs like Fiona Bruce. How nice for the Prime Minister to give them a boost under the banner of the non-existent ‘Christmas wars’!

With less than 59 per cent of Brits identifying as Christian (most of them Anglican), and at least a quarter ticking ‘no religion’ on the census form, this is a strange move for a PM who wants a society that ‘works for everyone’.

My Advent Card:

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Jack and Dinos Chapman: Fucking Hell.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Carnival of Reaction: Diane Abbott, “Sounding like Ukip is no way for Labour to win.”

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Diane Abbott: Labour Should Hold its Nerve Against Racists Who Say: “‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’”

What has happened to the “People’s Brexit“, or, as the leader of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey German, called, “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” ?

The Carnival of Reaction continues.

The latest news is that this individual had been elected to lead UKIP.

People in my family, where I live in Hackney, have been shouted at in the street and told: ‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’ Brexit has become a euphemism for anti-immigrant feeling. “I’ve got friends on the South Coast, which is not ‘left-behind Britain’, and yet people are shouting at them on the bus: ‘Why are you still here?’”

Says comrade Diane Abbott in the I’ today.

..the shadow Home Secretary, argued that the party should “hold its nerve” and appealed to its huge membership to confront “toxic” arguments over immigration. “It’s as if the Brexit vote has given people permission to say they things didn’t feel able to say before,” she said in an interview with i.

She continues,

Ms Abbott’s appointment by Jeremy Corbyn, and her decision to take personal control of immigration policy, has dismayed some Labour MPs who fear the party’s failure to take a tougher stance on the issue will make it vulnerable to Ukip. But she has no truck with that argument, insisting: “I don’t think there’s any way forward for the Labour Party electorally from sounding Ukip-lite. “If you are attracted by Ukip arguments, you are going to vote Ukip. And in areas where they are not so upset about migration they are going to be baffled about what we are actually doing.”

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington added: “What some of my colleagues don’t seem to bear in mind is there are
people out there who are genuinely frightened by the turn this debate has taken.” Ms Abbott blamed anti-migration feeling in many Labour-loyal areas which voted for Brexit on disaffection in post-industrial Britain and a “cry of loss for a world which isn’t coming back”. She accused New Labour of taking those areas for granted on the mistaken assumption that there was nowhere else for its natural supporters to go. Ms Abbott argued Labour’s 500,000-plus membership should take the initiative in campaigning on the continuing economic boost from migration.

It was a tough task “in the era of Farage and Le Pen and Trump” but was the right thing for the party to do, she said. “If you were a Corbynista you would feel very let down if we said anything else. “We’ve now got the biggest social democratic party in western Europe, and we have to respond to it almost conversation by conversation, but at the same time being seen to address the real concerns people have about the NHS, job security and so on “I understand how high feelings run, but I just think we have to beware of a downward spiral in the debate.”

The Independent reports,

Some Labour backbenchers are furious with Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, accusing her of trying to stamp on any debate about immigration which could see Labour trying to “outdo Ukip”.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Fillon, Le Pen: Right wing Plague or Right-wing Cholera.

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French Far-Right Hesitates between Marine le Pen and François Fillon.

France 24 reports,

By overwhelmingly backing former prime minister François Fillon, voters in the primary held by France’s centre-right on Sunday opted for an economically liberal, socially conservative candidate whose vision for France leaves little ambiguity.

Any hope rival primary candidate Alain Juppé had of springing a surprise in the Les Républicains party run-off vote failed to come to fruition, with Fillon taking some 66.5 percent of the vote. If Fillon’s strong performance in the first round of voting could be in part attributed to voters merely wanting to shut out Nicolas Sarkozy, his landslide victory over Juppé on Sunday left little room for doubt: Fillon’s firmly right-wing platform had won the firm backing of the conservative electorate.

The “fight between one project and another”, as the more moderate, centrist Juppé had called his showdown with Fillon, had been decided. Despite attacks by Juppé between the two rounds of voting that had depicted him as both “ultra conservative” and “ultra liberal” economically, Fillon had clearly prevailed.

The Guardian columnist    comments,

The Front National leader has reason to fear the Republican candidate, whose views overlap with some of her key ideas.

..

The Front National has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and “the Christian roots of France”, his emphasis on French national identity, “sovereignty” and “patriotism”, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as a pro-Putin foreign agenda against “American imperialism” all overlap with some of Le Pen’s key ideas.

This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Le Pen’s most socially conservative voters, particularly rightwing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain sceptical about the Front National.

“Fillon presents us with a strategy problem, he’s the most dangerous [candidate] for the Front National,” Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the Catholic and socially conservative Front National MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, told journalists this week.

..

Despite Fillon’s hardline rightwing stances, he is not a populist. “He’s closer to [the former British prime minister] David Cameron than [the Ukip leader] Nigel Farage,” said Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the French far right.

This leaves Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon’s jugular as she fights a campaign centred on “the people versus the elite”. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as a snobbish, political has-been. It argues thatFillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalised elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.

The battle will largely focus on economic policy. Fillon has promised a “radical shock” for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the “forgotten” French underclass and has an economic line that is essentially leftwing: she is anti-globalisation and favours protectionism and state intervention. Le Pen’s campaign director, David Rachline, has called Fillon’s programme “economically insane” for wanting to slash 500,000 public sector jobs.

Le Pen’s advisers believe Fillon will struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs. The Front National has slammed Fillon as a symbol of lawless, ultra-free market, globalised capitalism. Fillon, in return, says Le Pen’s economic project is simply “a cut and paste of the extreme left”.

Some on the French far-right are already moving towards backing Fillon (Le conservatisme affiché de François Fillon séduit à l’extrême droite).

Has the French left any chance?

The Socialists continue to hover between indecision and hesitancy.

This weekend the French Communist Party (PCF)  voted to back Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential bid (Finalement, les communistes soutiennent… Mélenchon. Libération). They supported his candidacy under the banner of la France insoumise  by a slim, at 53,6% for, majority. It is obvious that there was little chance of a the Communists being able to launch their own Presidential challenge. The Party announced its intention of launching their own campaign in support his proposals against austerity. They do not intend to give him ‘carte blanche’ (un blanc-seing).

This follows the decision of the other component of the (now effectively  defunct) Front de gauche, Ensemble, to back Mélenchon, Communiqué du Collectif National d’Ensemble des 19 et 20 novembre 2016)

 That Mélenchon  looks potentially capable of beating a Socialist candidate into fourth place no doubt counts in his favour – although no poll gives him a chance of getting to the run-off.

The reasons for the PCF’s reservations – shared no doubt by many in Ensemble, are not hard to find. Beginning with the personality of the Man of Destiny.

We nevertheless cite a major source of difference which, given the importance of the issue of immigration in the coming contest,  will no doubt grow in importance

 has noted (Guardian),

Despite a steady increase in Euroscepticism in France, the underlying principle of free movement of people across the EU remains broadly undisputed. Apart from in one telling area. There is growing evidence of opposition towards EU migrants and the notion of freedom in what has become known as “social dumping”. This relates to “posted workers”, employees sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. Those EU workers do not integrate in the labour market in which they work.

 Hence, “social dumping”, where foreign service providers undercut local service providers because their labour standards are lower (in terms of pay and social protection). Interestingly, the most staggering attack against posted workers has come not from the far right, as one would expect, but from the radical left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an MEP, a presidential candidate in 2012 and running again in 2017, has singled out posted workers in a speech at the European parliament last July. He declared that “posted workers took the bread out of French workers’ mouths”. Part of the French left was stunned by words that could have easily been uttered by Marine Le Pen.

Meanwhile Jean-Luc Mélenchon  has insulted yet another section of the left. He has attacked the journalist and Latin American specialist  Paulo Paranagua with a series of allegations about his political past in Argentina.  The journalist, the Presidential hopeful  raved, had been objectively Muse of the CIA – no doubt the reason he was captured and tortured for his association with armed resistance to  the 1970s military regimes of the time. Paranagua was only released from an Argentinian gaol and deported to France after an international campaign in his defence.

A protest at these slanders has been launched: “Nous n’acceptons pas de voir notre passé commun insulté par J.L. Mélenchon“. Signatures  include Alain Krivine..

Update, Post Primary Opinion Poll:

None of the left gets more than 13% in opinion polls, Fillon, 26% Marine Le Pen (24%) Emmanuel Macron – Centre (14%) et Jean-Luc Mélenchon (13%), t François Hollande9%, François Bayrou, Centre, à 6%. Ecologists Yannick Jadot and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 3% Far-left Nathalie Arthaud et Philippe Poutou 1% – poll today l’Express.

Crisis-Riven Momentum Shifts to National Populism: “This our Brexit”, “Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.”

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Momentum to Narrative Farage and Brexit Back Under Control. 

Momentum is undergoing a major crisis, amidst factional fighting and personal antagonisms.

This git so bad earlier this month that it appeared in the mainstream media  (How Momentum entered the crisis zone . Momentum was the engine of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Now a civil war is tearing it apart. New Statesman)

 Some of the exchanges are far worse than have been made public to a wider audience.

The latest has been an interminable dispute about its national structures.

It began with this, “MxV, an innovative digital democracy platform to enable Momentum members to shape the organisation’s purpose, ethics and structures.”

An on-line consultation resulted, we hear, in more suggestions for how the group should be run than a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of pin (see:  Democracy denied: Momentum’s online democracy platform.)

Or, the classic Left Unity conference debate on such issues.

Now Momentum is set to collapse into further in-fighting as the pro-Brexit – that is Lexit –  Populists take the initiative.

We observe that this ‘initiative’ has not been discussed with the Momentum membership at all. 

Corbyn’s Momentum group launches nationwide campaign to ‘Take Back Control’ of Brexit

‘Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.

Momentum has announced it is to host a series of nationwide events and debates to coincide with Government’s triggering of Article 50 in 2017.

Alongside The World Transformed the organisation – set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as Labour leader – will launch a series of political and cultural events in local communities across the country.

The events will run under the name ‘Take Back Control’ – the political slogan used by the Leave campaign during the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Emma Rees, one of Momentum’s national organisers, told The Independent: “After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”

Lotte Boumelha, a Take Back Control organiser, *added: “Theresa May claims ‘Brexit means Brexit’. But this empty phrase has been used to hide the fact that the government is in chaos. Many people, both leave and remain voters, have felt dis-empowered since the referendum and shut out of the debate.

“Take Back Control will be about reclaiming the narrative and opening up the negotiations. This is our Brexit. We should get to decide what it means and what it will look like. And while Theresa May has only a majority of 14 MPs – she will have to listen to us.”

In March, to coincide with the Government’s anticipated triggering of the exit process from the EU, The World Transformed will work with local Momentum groups, constituency Labour parties, and trade union branches to “bring together leave and remain voters, open up the Brexit negotiations and discuss how we can take back control from economic elites and establishment politicians.

How on earth these meetings are going to ‘take control’ of any negotiations, elites and politicians,  is as clear as mud. 

Anybody, anybody, who talks about “reclaiming the narrative” with Farage on the loose amid the Carnival or Reaction,  is a kenspeckle fool.

What are they going to do: story-tell it all to sleep?

The New Statesman comments,

While The World Transformed is “definitely” part of Momentum, according to Todd, its exact relationship remains under discussion, as does its relationship to the wider Labour party.

To repeat, nobody seems to know how the hare-brained initiative was decided on (certainly not by Momentum membership, or any accountable body, then by whom?), who controls it, and, as for its consequences…..

Anna Chen says,

Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum betrays the 70% of Labour voters who voted Remain

Fidel Castro passes: his anti-colonialist legacy

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Muere Fidel Castro, el último revolucionario

Muere Fidel Castro, el último revolucionario.

Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro, one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90.

We make no apologies for reproducing in full this not uncritical tribute, by Dr Manuel Barcia, and published by Al-Jazeera, which stands out as one of the most balanced.

Fidel Castro’s anti-colonialist legacy.

Soon after his capture in 1953, following an attack he led on the Moncada Army Barracks, a young Fidel Castro was put on trial.

While conducting his own defence, Castro accused then-President Fulgencio Batista’s regime of depriving Cuba of democratic rule and of establishing a dictatorship.

He finished his speech with a phrase that has become well-known in Cuba and abroad:”You can condemn me but it doesn’t matter: History will acquit me.”

Interesting enough, Castro’s subsequent actions placed him in one of those inconclusive historical wormholes where agreeing on anything about him, let alone an acquittal for his actions, is almost an impossibility.

To some, he was an irredeemable monster who submerged Cuba into a long, dark age of tyranny and human rights violations.

To others, he was a socialist superman who brought about social equality – at least partially for women and for Afro-Cubans – and who introduced free education and universal healthcare.

From an economic and political point of view, Castro’s rule was characterised by a catalogue of mistakes that over the years led to more than one “rectification of errors” campaign. Domestically, many of his policies seemed bound to failure from the start.

A heavy dependence on the Soviet Union as a result of an unremitting American embargo left the country exposed to the rough forces of the free market in the early 1990s, fostering an economic crisis known in Cuba as the “special period in time of peace” that arguably still continues.

Internationally, Castro’s involvement in world affairs, especially those concerning Latin America, was a thorn in the side of US policies.

His alliance with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which brought the USSR and US to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, was an early red flag that Castro was not about to back off when it came to confronting US imperialism.

Castro lent his support to Latin American armed groups fighting US-backed dictatorships countless times in the following decades, and in some cases supported movements taking on democratically elected governments, such as that of Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela in the 1960s.

Cuban secret agents wandered across the continent, training guerrilla commandos from Guatemala to Argentina.

One of the icons of the Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, even lost his life while trying to set up a guerrilla movement in Bolivia to topple the government of President Rene Barrientos.

Beyond the confines of Latin America, Castro’s influence grew steadily throughout the Cold War years.

In 1979, Cuba was elected to take over the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), an organisation formed in 1960 to offer a peaceful alternative to the belligerent East-West blocs that characterised the Cold War.

Castro’s presidency of the NAM came as recognition of Cuba’s role in the international arena and was widely accepted and praised by all NAM members.

However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only three months into Castro’s presidency of the NAM caused havoc among the member states, and in particular affected Castro’s leadership since he was forced to side with the USSR.

In doing so, he failed on two fronts. He failed to stick to the actual principle of non-alignment enshrined in the NAM name and constitution, and he did so by turning his back on one of the NAM member states while supporting a Cold War power.

Even though Castro’s stock took a massive tumble afterwards, he continued to influence international politics, and nowhere more so than in Africa.

Cuba in Africa

Castro’s (and Guevara’s) role in assisting the decolonisation process in Africa was second to none. From the early 1960s, Castro threw all his support behind the Algerian liberation struggle against France.

Cuban doctors and soldiers were some of the first to arrive in Algeria to offer a hand to the independence forces fighting to push French colonialism out of their country.

In the following years, that support increased in size and scope across the continent. Castro offered Cuban support to the liberation struggles in Mozambique, Namibia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Guinea-Bissau, and Angola, among many others.

In some cases, this support involved military interventions that did not always go according to plan.

For example, in the mid-1970s after Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the Derg regime, Castro was forced to change sides – as the Soviets, East Germans, Czechs, and Americans also did – during a realignment of forces in the region provoked by ongoing disputes between Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Cuban personnel were required to abandon their former ally Mohammed Siad Barre, the Somali president, who now sided with the Americans, and take sides with their new ally Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Cuban troops fought the Somali invasion of the Ogaden alongside Ethiopian forces, and by remaining in Ethiopia gave at least tacit support to Ethiopian campaigns against Eritrean armed groups fighting for independence.

This position almost certainly became a political dilemma for Castro, who until then had always supported anti-colonial movements of liberation across the world.

While Castro’s intervention in the Horn of Africa was characterised by dubious decisions and tainted by the purges that Mengistu’s regime would eventually carry out between 1977 and 1978, his involvement in the Angolan war is the outstanding episode in his career as a champion of decolonisation.

Not only did he demonstrate to the world that Cuba was far from being a pet project of the USSR – Cuba’s support for the socialist MPLA was done without the approval of the Kremlin and almost certainly against its wishes.

It also helped raise his profile, and that of Cuba, to new levels of recognition and influence throughout the developing world.

Securing Angola’s independence

Cuban backing for the MPLA helped Angola to secure independence from Portugal in 1975, and helped repel the joint attempts of the South African apartheid government and Zaire’s Mobutu regime to occupy Angola.

Growing up in Cuba at the time, I can certainly say that I don’t recall any other Castro enterprise that united Cubans behind the regime to such an extent – except perhaps Cuba’s resistance to the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.

Contrary to what has been argued for years, Cuba’s involvement in Angola was a response to previous US and South African interventionism and to the very tangible threat of a South African invasion.

After almost two decades of struggle, when Cuba’s troops left Angola, they had secured not only the independence of the country, but had also contributed significantly to the independence of Namibia and to the fall of the apartheid regime.

Little wonder, then, that Raul Castro, in place of his brother, was one of the few world dignitaries asked to speak at Nelson Mandela’s funeral a few months ago.

Ultimately, Castro’s legacy in Africa is more of a Cuban legacy. Everywhere I have visited in Africa, from Dakar to Addis Ababa, from Niamey to Luanda, I have been welcomed with open arms and big smiles as a Cuban.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, in response to a New York Times question about Cuba’s role in Africa, said: “I am not sure that there is a single Cuban in the African continent who has not been invited by some members of the continent. So long as this is the case, it is not easy to condemn their presence.”

I am far from certain that history will acquit Fidel Castro. More likely history will record his journey through the past six or seven decades as a controversial one.

Almost certainly, he will continue to be an irredeemable monster to some – and a socialist superman to others.

Dr Manuel Barcia is Professor of Latin American History at the University of Leeds.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Leading Ipswich Tory, Kev, Goes Marine le Pen.

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“Fuck the system!” Says Kevin Algar, former Ipswich Tory Council Candidate.

It is not often that we publish news on Ipswich Tory Party.

MP Ben Gummer spends his time these days in a happy daze:

This is Ipswich’s Moment!

It is an exciting time to be in our town, and a privilege for me to serve this glorious constituency as it grasps a better future with both hands.

But all is not well in the Ipswich Conservative Association..

Leading activist, former Tory council candidate, and Brexit supporter, Kevin Algar, the Terror of Saint Jude’s, is now backing Marine Le Pen for French President.

He comments on Facebook today, “She will win, the EU will collapse and the people of Europe shall be free.”

According to well-established rumour Kev, as his friends don’t call him, plans to hold a Suffolk victory party for the Front National.

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This was his last celebration, (via East Anglia’s Premier Political Blog)  ” Congratulations to US President elect Donald Trump.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Galloway gets ‘Glitter Bombed’.

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The Mirror reports,

George Galloway has been attacked with glitter by student protesters while speaking at a university.

The controversial politician was making a speech in Aberdeen when the group stormed the front of the room and a scuffle broke out.

 In exclusive video obtained by the Mirror the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant can be seen starting his speech before being covered in glitter during the attack.

A group of protesters holding placards hurled the substances over the politician before being removed from the room.

Mr Galloway said he had been left feeling “unwell” and that there was an “unknown substance” in his eyes and lungs.

He added that his wife had “leapt forward” to defend him during the attack.

Protesters had been planning to picket the speech after accusing the former Labour MP of “bigotry”.

Dozens of activists joined a Facebook event urging: “Bring your pals, bring your placards.”

Mr Galloway said that a group of five people led by an “anarchist” had attacked him but he continued speaking.

We defend the poor-old puffer’s right to rave and cannot endorse the attempt to stop him addressing this meeting.

But

Galloway on Free speech for Charlie Hebdo (Huffington Post),

These are not cartoons, these are not depictions of the Prophet, these are pornographic, obscene insults to the Prophet and by extension, 1.7billion human beings on this earth and there are limits.

There are limits. There are limits to free speech and free expression especially in France.”

Galloway described the newspaper’s purpose as “to further marginalize, further alienate and further endanger exactly those parts of the community who are already alienated, already endangered. It is a racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag.”

“Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo,” he declared.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Socialist Worker: Left Needs to Focus on “Energetic Rallies” and not “internal” Labour Battles as the Socialist Party Calls for Victory by Letting it Join.

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Always Ready with Good Advice.

It’s a hard task, but –  hell knows –  somebody has to keep up on what the non-Labour left is saying these days.

How else would we know what the vanguard is telling us?

Socialist Worker reports,

The Labour right has defeated the left in recent battles inside the Labour Party—ensuring it holds its grip on party structures.

Candidates backed by the right won all leading positions at a meeting of the party’s National Policy Forum last Saturday. Its policies shape Labour’s manifesto.

It followed right victories at regional conferences and annual general meetings of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).

The paper continues,

There is a danger that the defeats could encourage the Labour left to step up its attempts to win internal battles.

Labour left group Momentum has focused on winning more seats for CLP representatives on the party’s national executive committee (NEC). The NEC had been set to meet on Tuesday to debate changes to its rules and make-up.

Momentum had focused its efforts on an online campaign in the weeks running up to the meeting, calling on its members to demand more CLP seats.

FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack recently called on all Momentum supporters to back the campaign. He warned, “Time is running out to transform Labour”.

But late on Monday evening the proposed changes were removed from the NEC’s agenda—meaning the left was defeated before the meeting even began.

The recent victories for the right show that the left is at its weakest when fighting internal battles against Labour’s right wing bureaucracy.

Weeks of campaigning can swiftly be quashed by backroom manoeuvering. And Labour’s new mass membership clearly has little enthusiasm for getting bogged down in internal battles.

But the left is stronger when it looks outwards. Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election campaign was successful because it drew tens of thousands of people to energetic rallies that promised a fight for a radically different society.

The Socialist, paper of the, you’ve guessed it, Socialist Party, has another option,

To be successful, Corbyn and those around him need to boldly come out for a programme to transform Labour and to transform the lives of working and middle class people.

That means opening up the Labour Party to all anti-austerity forces, allowing them to affiliate on a democratic, federal basis. It means inviting back into Labour all those socialists who have been expelled or excluded from membership by the Blairite party machine. It also has to involve being clear and open about what alternative is necessary..

Big public speeches, letting the Socialist Party join Labour….It’s all boiled down to what comrades have always said about these two groups: 1) The SWP organises “rallies” – that’s what they do. 2) The SP ‘builds the SP” – that’s what they do. Their lines have the merit of putting in second place all the other stuff about class struggle, nationalisation, revolution, People’s Brexit etc.

John Wight Goes Russia Today: RT is “winning” the argument.

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Image result for fight club film poster

Post-Split Wight Planned Fight Club Musical. 

Þe borȝ brittened and brent to brondeȝ and askez..

..the burg broken and burnt to brands and ashes..

After Newshound Howie revealed the split in Socialist Unity noted Pugilist John Wight was said to be distraught.

Word reached us that he had been seen sleeping in a kailyard under a pile of old Soviet Weeklies.

Others claimed to have noticed him in ancient shuin accosting passers-by in Dundee with tales of how he “used to be John Wight’.

Taking inspiration from Oor Wullie and George Galloway’s project to make a Dusty Springfield musical  he was said to be planning a “comeback” with a scheme to turn Fight Club into song and bring it to the West End.

Now we know that his future is not so bleak.

Last night on RT Wight made an impassioned speech, defending the broadcaster against the Henry Jackson’s report, Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia.

Challenging the claim that, RT uses ““those on the left who can be relied upon to stand up for the West’s enemies whoever and wherever they may be, and those on the right who see Moscow as a defender of conservative values.” Wight declared that the channel is “winning” the argument.

Indeed.

Wight’s latest writing shows how:

Putin’s 2015 UN speech on ‘multipolar world’ coming to fruition John Wight Russia Today 20th of November.

Just over a year on from Putin’s address to the UN and ISIS is on the way to being defeated, Syria’s survival as a non-sectarian secular state is assured, and a new US president, pledging to reset relations with Moscow, has just been elected.

How the world has changed.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

Brexit: Poll provides evidence, says Counterfire, for how right Counterfire and the Brexit Left‘s strategy is.

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Kevin Ovenden – now with Counterfire – on the Actuality of the Brexit Revolution.

Brexit: new poll provides evidence for the Brexit left‘s strategy.

Writes Kevin Ovenden for Counterfire.

(Note some of the wording has been, in the interests of clarity, abbreviated)

  • Just 22 percent of people are in favour of ignoring the referendum outcome or holding a second one and blocking the Brexit process.
  • Brexit is the top issue both for those who voted Leave and for Remain.
  • While there is clearly an urgent need to develop campaigning and struggles against the government on a range of issues (the health service and housing stand out, alongside racism and xenophobia), strategically and politically for the left and labour movement the question of Brexit cannot be evaded. NOTE: Ovenden sees no link between these issues and the Brexit he backs. 
  • support for carrying through the referendum result is overwhelming.
  • That is terrain upon which the labour movement can provide a credible and radical alternative to the Tory Brexit.
  • When people are asked to choose between reducing immigration or doing what is best for the British economy (with the two counterposed) – 65 percent choose what’s best for the economy and 35 percent to reduce immigration. Among Leave voters, the figures are 44 percent and 56 percent.
    That shows the greater salience of the anti-immigration argument among Leave voters. But still 44 percent of them would choose to prioritise the economy over reducing immigration.

So people prefer the economy, and will let immigration remain in second place.

They are merely second preference racists.

Ovenden dialectically deduces from these figures the following (and I have omitted no intermediate stage).

In a choice between Britain controlling its own laws and British companies having access to other markets, the figures are 62 percent for controlling laws and 38 percent prioritising companies’ market access.

Taken together these support a strategy for the left on these questions which is 1) for an economy which is geared to people, not to companies, 2) on that basis (as well as others) challenging the anti-immigration arguments, and 3) firmly rooted in an expanded notion of popular democracy.

I will, ignore the idea of an “economy geared to people”, since in the realm of cliches and meaningless assertions this has few rivals.

Instead we might ask: what exactly that expanded notion of “popular democracy” (no doubt opposed to unpopular demcoracy)  is, we leave it to theorists to discover.

People believe there should be Brexit. They think it is the democratic thing to do. They have no confidence in the government’s handling of it. They are uncertain about the outcomes or what it should look like. When forced to choose, they will put economic well-being above anti-immigration propaganda and some notion of democracy and self-rule above the global fortunes of British companies.

Again ‘economic well-being’ is no doubt counterposed to economic ill-being.

As for the “democratic thing to do” and “self-rule”, does this mean, a decision-fired parliament, greater assertiveness fnational sovereignty, backing a populist party to carry out their wishes? Or – simply urging the Tories to get on with it. 

He seems to think, nevertheless, that because many people want Brexit, that the Tories are finding it hard to get through the legislative process – he does not even bother mentioning negotiations with the European Union – they will turn to something different, something that the left might favour, an  “expanded notion of popular democracy”.

Expanded into what? 

New forms of law-making, Web democracy, consensus decision-making, voting by hand-signals, demonstrations, occupations, or  perhaps…. soviets…..

Ovenden fails to elaborate.

On this he is sure.

In that context, there are good grounds for the left counterposing our Brexit to the Tories’.

Next stop… the People’s Brexit writes Lindsey German.

Cho, Cho!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Bye Bye Sarkozy, as Fillon Strikes a Vein.

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Pollsters Deny Not Having Foreseen Fillon’s Win. 

Sarkozy’s comeback in tatters as he’s knocked out of French presidential primary

Reports France 24.

Nicolas Sarkozy, whose dream of a triumphant return to the French presidency was destroyed at the first hurdle Sunday, failed to shake off a reputation as one of the country’s most divisive figures.

With tough talk on immigration, security and national identity, the 61-year-old tried to woo voters tempted by the far-right National Front with an unabashedly populist campaign.

But the man known universally in France as “Sarko” was humiliated in the rightwing’s first ever primary, finishing third behind the man who served as his prime minister, Francois Fillon, and another ex-premier, Alain Juppe.

 “I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country,” Sarkozy said in a dignified concession speech.

Sarkozy
tried to bury the “bling-bling” image of his 2007-12 presidency by casting himself as a defender of the “down-and-outs against the elites”.

Spare a minute, or an hour, for celebration as we pop open the Leffe.

The great man’s supporters took his defeat calmly. At his HQ they shouted,  “it’s the fault of the left” (recycling the claim that left-wingers joined in the primary to vote against their candidate)  and added, “you journalists are traitors to France”. (Libération. Au QG de Sarkozy: c’est la gauche qui est «coupable»).

Sarkozy is now, more than ever, embroiled in scandal as these cases remain to haunt him.

A host of legal troubles failed to deter Sarkozy’s bid to take care of what he considered unfinished business.

He became the first former head of state to be taken into custody for questioning when he was charged with corruption, influence peddling and violation of legal secrecy in July 2014.

In what is potentially the most damaging case, he is accused of conspiring with his lawyer to give a magistrate a lucrative job in exchange for inside information on a different corruption probe against him, in conversations on a secret phone registered under an assumed name.

Or, (Wikipedia),

5 July 2010, following its investigations on the Bettencourt affair, online newspaper Mediapart ran an article in which Claire Thibout, a former accountant of billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, accused Sarkozy and Eric Woerth of receiving illegal campaign donations in 2007, in cash.[148][149]

On 1 July 2014 Sarkozy was detained for questioning by police over claims he had promised a prestigious role in Monaco to a high-ranking judge, Gilbert Azibert, in exchange for information about the investigation into alleged illegal campaign funding. Mr Azibert, one of the most senior judges at the Court of Appeal, was called in for questioning on 30 June 2014.[150] It is believed to be the first time a former French president has been held in police custody, although his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty of embezzlement and breach of trust while he was mayor of Paris and given a suspended prison sentence in 2011.[151] After 15 hours in police custody, Sarkozy was put under official investigation for “active corruption”, “misuse of influence” and “obtained through a breach of professional secrecy” on 2 July 2014.[152] Mr Azibert and Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, are also now under official investigation. The two accusations carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison.[153] The developments are seen as a blow to Sarkozy’s attempts to challenge for the presidency in 2017.[154][155]

On 16 February 2016, Sarkozy was indicted on “illegal financing of political campaign” charges related to overspending in his 2012 presidential campaign and retained as witness in connection with the Bygmalion scandal.[156][157][158][159]

In April 2016, Arnaud Claude, former law partner of Sarkozy, has been named in the Panama Papers.

A large shelf of books exists on this subject.

But they look now like the concern of specialists. Or gloaters…..

Now what of the actual result?

These are the figures at the moment (final result later today) ; François Fillon 44,1%, Alain Juppé,  28,6% et Nicolas Sarkozy  20,6%.

Former PM – under Sarkozy’s Presidency, with whom he did not enjoy an always easy rapport  – (2007 – 2012) Fillon emerged as a front-runner only in the last few days. It was initially far from a landslide lead. (1)

Now he has swept his opponents aside.

French papers talk of his organised support amongst Catholic right-wingers (catholiques conservateurs, including the overtly anti=-gay, Sens commun, ): he is ‘pro-family’ and (….)opposed to the right of gay couples to adopt children and to have access to artificial procreation  (Loi Taubira) and is strongly in favour of opening new ‘private’, that is, Catholic and religious, schools. Fillion is tough on some aspects of immigration, without singling out (in contrast to Sarkozy) any particularly group. On Islam He stands for a big cut in the number of public employees and state spending, as well as measures to increase the working week (continuing his efforts as PM), and ‘free’ up labour laws.

As a conservative (values) and a liberal (economy) Fillon appeals to the widest possible constituency of the right. (le Monde) He is said to have appeared au dessus de la mêlée. Crudely he lacks the hysteria of Sarkozy’s campaign, which became known for the former President’s remarks against not only ‘elites’ but Muslims.

Fillon is also said to enjoy good relations with Russia’s President Putin….( François Fillon et son ami Poutine).

What of the former favourite?

Alain Juppé (71 years old), has a past.

In November/December 1995, as Prime Minister his plan for Welfare State reform caused the biggest social conflict since May 68 and, under duress, abandoned it. He became the most unpopular Prime Minister of the Fifth Republic. ” Juppé  has his own – conviction – for corruption, “n 2004, Alain Juppé was tried for the felony of abuse of public funds, when he was head of the RPR and the RPR illegally used personnel provided by the City of Paris for running its operations. He was convicted and sentenced to an 18-month suspended jail sentence, the deprivation of civic rights for five years, and the deprivation of the right to run for political office for 10 years. He appealed the decision, whereupon his disqualification from holding elected office was reduced to one year and the suspended sentence cut to 14 months.

That said, his slogan of  l’identité heureuse, (taken as a contrast to France’s answer to Melanie Phillip’s, Alain Finkielkraut’s rant, L’identité malheureuse, 2013 – it is truly dire.)  was a welcome stand in favour of tolerance towards religious and ethnic minorities. This morning Juppé’s supporters were claiming that there had been a sustained social media campaign against him alleging that he has close links with ‘Islamists.’

Juppé still  intends to go to the second round on the 27th of November.

Meanwhile the French left still looks as if it is going nowhere.

 

(1) L’ultime enquête réalisée par Ipsos pour Le Monde, vendredi 18 novembre et publiée sur notre site Web, au lendemain du dernier débat, donnait pour la première fois le député de Paris en tête (30 %) devant Alain Juppé et Nicolas Sarkozy, tous les deux à 29 %. On était encore loin du scénario du raz-de-marée de dimanche soir. le Monde.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Political Confusionism in London: The Brockley Festival of Ideas.

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A Festival of Ideas for Change -November 20th.

What a world! Inequality gone mad! Democracy, a hollow sham! Quantitative Easing pours money in the pockets of the rich – and debt, debt, debt for the rest!

Corporations write the laws, finance politicians, call out tunes for the daily trudge! Arms industries feed terror and war – and our so-called ‘politicians’ are their bagmen!

Sixty per cent of citizens need drugs, legal or illegal, to get through the day! And millions in the U.S. are considering voting for a medieval devil straight out of Hieronymus Bosch, named Donald Trump…

Here in Brockley, South-East London, we are holding a Festival of Ideas for Change. No party politics, no celebrity twaddle, just GOOD ideas which could transform our world! If you don’t think we need change, keep taking those pills! Otherwise: Brockley today, tomorrow the world!

It’s a free event, but places are limited. To make sure you have a place, book FREE ticket(s) here:

Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change Sunday 20 November 2016, 10am-5pm. The Mural Hall, Prendergast Hilly Fields College, SE4 1LE 10:00 Registration Tea and coffee available 10:30 Festival opens Welcome Morning Chair: Anthony Russell Clare Cowen, Brockley Society Session 1: PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRACY Sean Coughlan – Broadcaster The future of education Ivo Mosley – Author A constitution for a genuine democracy Swetam Gungah – Mathematical Physicist: Sensible about science Camilla Berens – South East London Community Energy: Creating local energy Michael O’Keefe – Positive Money Change Money, Change the World 11:30 Questions and discussion 12:00 Session 2: A FAIRER WORLD Natasha Wort – Uniting for Peace How to save the world – A Buddhist’s Guide Tassia Kobylinska – Filmmaker, Goldsmiths College Film as social action Lui Smyth – Anthropologist Unconditional basic income for all 12:30 Questions and discussion 13:00 Lunch break View stalls at back of hall 14:00 Afternoon Chair: Clare Cowen Session 3: AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY Gabriel Gbadamosi – Writer The creative community as a condition of multicultural society Andy Worthington – Journalist and activist Demonising ‘the other’: Tackling the rise of racism and xenophobia Rosario Guimba-Stewart Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network Refugees and their challenges Jacqueline Walker – Author From life to Action 15:00 Questions and discussion 15:30 Session 4: BUILDING A NEW ECONOMY Bruce Mauleverer QC – The International Law Association International law, to be read on his behalf by Bob Barrett Aeron Davis – Professor of Political Communication, Goldsmiths What has the financial system ever done for us? Helen Mercer – Lecturer in Economics The Private Finance Initiative: how to end the rip-off Oliver Lewis – Campaigner Bring back British Rail Anthony Russell – Cultural Historian An ethos for a social renaissance.

Ivo Mosley background, “Ivo Mosley is the grandson of fascist leader Oswald Mosley. His book, In the Name of the People,  is an analysis of the non-democratic nature of Western democracies and, as it says on his website, “the strange lack of freedom that Western peoples experience in bondage to debt”.

Ivo Mosley on the “Money Power” without the anti-semitism, ”  nowadays bankers are Anglo-Saxon, Chinese, African, Indian, Jewish, Christian, Islamic or whatever: assorted individuals who have no more consuming interest than to make lots of money.” (Ivo Mosley Antisemitism and Banking also see this: Guest Author on Positive Money).

bank robbery money system

Ivo Mosley is associated with this:  Positive Money at the Labour and Conservative party conferences (Video)

Their aims?

Positive Money is not:

  1. Positive Money does not act on the behalf of any particular lobby or interest group.
  2. Positive Money is not a political organisation.  We don’t campaign for either a bigger or a smaller role for government.  We campaign for changes to the money system which would benefit the economy as a whole, and which is therefore compatible with the aims of all political parties.
  3. Positive Money is not against privately owned banks.  Privately-owned banks have an important function in providing payment services, a secure place for our money, investment opportunities, and to make loans.
  4. Positive Money is not against bankers.  Most people who work in banks do not understand the money system and its effects, and are simply trying to provide a service for customers and earn a living.  Undoubtedly some bankers have abused their power, but this is not the root cause of our financial crisis; the root cause is our current money system.
  5. Positive Money is not against lending, or charging interest on loans where an investor is lending their money to somebody else.
  6. Positive Money does not believe that regulation alone can solve the problems with banking or the money system. Regulation has been shown to be ineffective, and easily reversed, but furthermore it does not alter the root causes of the problem.  What is needed is legislative change.
  7. Positive Money is not a campaign for general financial reform, alternative economics or complementary currencies. While there are many other reforms that also need to take place, Positive Money has a specific and narrow purpose – to change the national money system in order to create a fairer and more stable economy.
  8. Positive Money does not support the use of illegal or violent means to bring about change.  We campaign for the money system to be changed with minimal social and economic upheaval.

Anthony Russell:

Anthony Russell  is a cultural historian, writer and artist. He has travelled much of the world combining painting with tour lecturing – principally to American university students on bespoke tours and the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts.

He spent six years as a consultant for Luke Hughes advising on the furniture needs of prestigious buildings throughout Britain, including museums, palaces, schools and cathedrals.

Now based in London, he spends much of his time lecturing and undertaking research. At the British Museum, where he runs outreach events and hosts visiting lecturers, he has been described as “Hugh Grant meets the Dalai Lama.”

Committed to the ‘search for civilisation’ and as an advocate of nonviolence, he is the founder of the Chandos, on the committee for Uniting for Peace and a contributor to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma.

He is author of the book ‘Evolving the Spirit – From Democracy to Peace.’, commended by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Laureate, as meaning a great deal to her. He is also Chairman of the Brockley Festival of Ideas and a Founding Advocate of Civil-isation.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 20, 2016 at 12:05 pm

The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. A Review.

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Image result for The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna

 

The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. Sussex Academic Press.

“I recently read an interview featuring a cultural commentator of the left. Alongside the interview a photo appeared of this individual against a backdrop which featured an image of Joseph Stalin.” In the Preface to The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine, Tony McKenna observes in this, not uncommon, gesture, a “certain wry sympathy for Stalin’s political endeavours.” The Chair of no less than the Stop the War Coalition, Andrew Murray, has expressed such empathy on many occasions. For these people Stalin’s title of Generalissimo and Hero of the Soviet Union, awarded in June 1945, was due recognition for a leader prepared to “get his hands dirty” in defence of the USSR. This judgement, McKenna states, with appropriate severity, “does a great disservice to the millions Stalin had murdered” (Page xi).

This is a study that attempts to explain the “objective trajectory of Stalinism” in Marxist terms, and the course of a life that is full of “terrible darkness”. Its premise is that the original form of “the Soviet democracy remains the first form of democracy in human history which was not premised on some manner of class exploitation.”(Page 169) This “…fused the economic organs of society, the factories and the workplace with a political decision-making process where power flowed from the bottom-up. (Page vii) That it “abolished the capital-labour relation.” (Page 170) A bold effort, “drowned in blood”. And yet, “Most of all I wanted to challenge the assumption that Stalinist totalitarianism was the automatic and inevitable result of a revolution which mobilised the poorest in society”. (Page x)

McKenna considers, then, that “Stalinism represented the negation of the proletarian revolution”. Lenin stood for the emancipation of the working class “to be an act by the workers themselves” (Page 42) Nothing could be more clearly opposed to Stalin’s “overwhelming distrust – not only for the masses, but for the process of revolution itself” (Page 16) For those who recount the political conflicts of the early Soviet Union as a clash between a growing bureaucracy, and those, siding with Lenin who railed against administrative power and privilege, this is a decisive difference. Leninism was popular creative power; Stalinism was the rules and regulations, backed by repression, of the office.

Lenin.

This guiding contrast in The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is not without problems.  There is a different view, expressed by Rosa Luxemburg, that this was not, in practice, how Lenin’s ideology worked. To her Lenin had “a dangerous rigidity in argumentation, certain scholasticism in his political ideas, and a tendency to ignore the living embodiment of the masses, or even to coerce it into accepting preconceived tactical plans.”(1) There is the claim that, under Lenin’s aegis, there were “always various tendencies and groups within the Party, which was considered natural and normal.”(2) There is another picture of less than tolerant Bolshevik, as revealed in his years of exile of “ceaseless polemics with all those he considered philistines, pedants, whiners, sceptics, defeatists. (3) Or, more strongly that when with his hands on the levers of power these were not just arguments, “Lenin, as we have seen time and time again, could not assimilate opposition. It could only be overcome and destroyed. In place of complete creative freedom Lenin turned to a new discourse based on a completely opposite theme – iron proletarian discipline.”(4)

A recent biography of Stalin puts this more sharply, “assertions of a Bolshevik collective leadership predating Stalin’s ring hollow. Lenin’s secretariat took on an essentially limitless range of issues, setting a precedent, and no one did more than Lenin to establish a living example of one-man rule at the top. (When the other ‘collective leaders; disagreed with Lenin he threatened to expel them or, failing that, to quit the party and form a new one.” (5) One may contest this judgement. Others talk of ‘Stalin’s team’, a tightly bound group at the top- broadening some of McKenna’s focus on the General Secretary. In either case the legacy, however reshaped in new hands,  from Lenin’s rule cannot be ignored.  (6)

Iron Discipline.

McKenna’s book does not however shirk from describing the mechanisms used to enforce this “iron discipline” during, and after, the Civil War. This was, above all, the work of the secret police, the Cheka. He defends, “out of military necessity”,  “mass compulsion” “terror” was an absolute requirement in a context where a class or nation state is in the process of fighting for existence goes more or less without saying” (Page 29) But the “generalisation of terror to a social class carte blanche  – and specifically the petty bourgeoisie…. the peasantry” “the bureaucracy was beginning to weave their theoretical rationale for its terrorisation for the very group whose surplus produce was integral to its survival..(Ibid) It used “indiscriminate force” against peasant or proletarians who “bridled against the increasingly coercive power and needs of the bureaucracy itself.” (Ibid)

According to Alexander Solzhenitsyn the Gulag Archipelago could not have built without the early sanction of these measures of compulsion. “In the first months of the October Revolution Lenin was already demanding decisive draconian measures to tighten up discipline” In December 1917, he suggested for consideration, confiscation of all property.. confinement in prison, dispatch to the front and forced labour for all who disobey the existing law.” (6) During the period of War Communism, Trotsky advocated ever tighter punishments, and the militarisation of labour (Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky 1920) He  asserted that the dictatorship of the proletariat was able to make use of organized state power by the working class to crush its opponents and to pave the way for social transformation.

If every Cook could run the State, as envisaged in the State and Revolution, those who broke the rules risked more than admonishing in an acidic polemical article. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was the end of ‘formal’ democracy and its replacement by the ‘superior’ form of workplace rule. As experience rapidly showed, adversaries of ‘Soviet power’ from the right, the dissident left, and not all because of the violent opposition of the left Social Revolutionaries (Uprising 1918. Exclusion: Fifth Soviet Congress, 1918), the right and then the left Mensheviks and Anarchists, particularly those with suspect “class origins” (which began to be treated as a hereditary taint) were progressively excluded from the ‘democracy’ of the Soviets. The system was designed to be the opposite of ‘agonistic’ politics where open clashes between opposed views would be freely expressed.

Lenin’s Last Struggle.

Was Stalin’s hold on these reins of power inevitable? During Lenin’s later lifetime and following his death, disputes between bureaucrats – that is state employees – Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Stalin, to cite some well-known names, continued. But already the shrinking of political freedom had caught up with the Party itself, as factions had been banned, and all dissent was suspect. There seemed to be an inevitability about further moves towards enforced unity – “discipline” –  around One line One leader, on every single issue, economic, cultural, political, and ideological. Yet Moshe Lewin’s Lenin’s Last Struggle (1975) underlines the view that his Testament explicitly called for Stalin’s removal from office. Lewin claimed, “the use of constraint – let alone terror – is ostensibly excluded in establishing the foundations of a new society”. (8) This ‘tolerance’, at best putting up with people, was, as we seen, very limited. As McKenna narrates, not only was the Testament suppressed, and Stalin’s office confirmed, not to be, but also the range of forces allied with him, and the hesitations of his opponents, prevented even the document being discussed.

The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is a passionate intervention into debates on these issues. The description of the full “shadow of totalitarianism”, Stalin’s 1930s Great Terror, and a thorough, searing, look at the Gulag, is outstanding. McKenna’s concluding hopes for a direct ‘utopian’ democracy that takes collective control of a socialised economy takes inspiration from the best side of the Soviet ideal. This review has argued that we cannot ignore, with Claude Lefort, and many others, the other side, the ‘temporary’ limitations on democratic expression sketched above. They cannot be ignored. They turned out to be the permanent basis for a totalitarian regime, and whatever form of erratic command economy one cares to call it.  Perhaps truly universal – unblemished – inspiration cannot be found in the early years of the Russian Revolution. The all-too-ready use of force to resolve political issues played some part in the emergence of Stalinism. The means, exile, imprisonment, forced labour and killing, by which the “Pouvoir soviétique se déliverent des enemies”, (how Soviet power got rid of its enemies) are not foreign to the emergence of Stalin’s system of rule, warped by his own personality though it may have been. (9) We should also ensure that this blood-drenched tyranny is never repeated.

  1. Page 85. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg. Edited by George Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza. 2011.
  2. Page 385. Let History Judge. Roy Medvedev. Spokesman. 1971.
  3. Page 110. Lars T. Lih. Rekation Books. 2011.
  4. Page 212. Christopher Read. Routledge 2005.
  5. Page 419. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephan Kotin. Allen Lane. 2014.
  6. On Stalin’s team. Sheila Fitzpatrick. Princeton University Press. 2015.Pages 19 – 10. The Gulag Archipelago. Vol.2. Colins/Fontana. 1976.
  7. Page 134. Lenin’s Last Struggle. 1975.Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Gulag. Claude Lefort. New Edition. 2015 (1976)

Louis Project writes,

The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin.

Tony McKenna is a bona fide public intellectual who contributes to Marxist journals without having any connections to academia or to the disorganized left. This gives his writing a freshness both in terms of political insight and literary panache. I first encountered his work in a collection of articles titled “Art, Literature and Culture From a Marxist Perspective” that reflected a familiarity with culture high and low and an ability to put works such as “The Walking Dead” into a broader political and social context. Was the popular AMC zombie show a good preparation for “The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin”, his latest book forthcoming from Sussex press? I’d like to think so.

Although I think that McKenna would be capable of turning a Unix instruction manual into compelling prose, the dead tyrant has spurred him to reach a higher level—one that is in inverse proportion to the degraded subject matter. At 186 pages, his study is both an excellent introduction to Stalin and Stalinism as well as one that gives any veteran radical well-acquainted with Soviet history some food for thought on the quandaries facing the left today. Drawing upon fifty or so books, including a number that leftist veterans would likely not be familiar with such as leading Soviet military leader Gregory Zhukov’s memoir, McKenna synthesizes it all into a highly readable and often dramatic whole with his own unique voice. It is a model of historiography and one that might be read for no other reason except learning how to write well. (McKenna is an editor and an aspiring novelist.)

More via above link.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2016 at 1:59 pm