Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Momentum. Membership: Labour and Supporters, *not* Members of Other Political Parties.

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This from the latest mailing to Momentum supporters:

Yesterday, Momentum’s National Committee met for the first time. The 52 person, gender balanced Committee is made up of delegates from Wales, Scotland, all nine English regions, equalities or liberation groups, trade unions and existing Labour movement organisations.

The Committee debated and decided on six national campaign objectives for the next three months.

  1. Campaigning for Labour in May’s elections (English local and mayoral, Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament).
  2. Building for the People’s Assembly march for Health, Homes, Jobs, and Education on 16 April and developing with local groups specific campaigns and activities under these banners.
  3. Assisting Labour members to have their voice heard on Labour’s National Executive Committee.
  4. Helping mainstream, grassroots Labour members be represented at the next Party Conference in September.
  5. Supporting the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament demonstration against Trident renewal on 27 February.
  6. Mobilising for Westminster by-elections to repeat the success of the Oldham West and Royton by-election of last year.

 

The Committee decided that Momentum should become a membership organisation.

Members of other political parties will not be eligible for membership of Momentum.

Membership will be open to Labour members, affiliated supporters, and supporters of the aims and values of the Labour Party, who are not members of other political parties (except the Co-Operative Party, which has an electoral agreement with Labour). We’ll email you with more details very soon.

About Momentum.

As the successor to the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, Momentum is a Labour Party focused organization and its structure must reflect that. Momentum seeks to strengthen the Labour Party by increasing participation and engagement at local, regional and national levels. Furthermore, Momentum is committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government. It seeks to use its base in the Labour Party and Labour movement to reach out to the 99% of people who are not currently in any political party, spread Labour values and increase Labour Party membership.

WHAT DOES MOMENTUM WANT TO DO?

● Organise in every town, city and village to secure the election of a progressive left Labour Party at every level, and to create a mass movement for real transformative change

More details via link above.

Where does the key decision, “.Members of other political parties will not be eligible for membership of Momentum” leave this Socialist Party initiated organisation?

Trade Union Momentum

John McInally Public and Commercial Services Union Vice-President (personal capacity).

The idea for Trade Union Momentum sprang from the need to build a trade union based anti-austerity movement from outside as well as inside the Labour Party and autonomous from it, based on a clear no cuts, no privatisation anti-austerity programme, campaigning on concrete issues like cuts, the pay freeze, privatisation and the anti-union laws.

This would be by building in workplaces and communities around the country with affiliations from trade unions, trades councils and individual union members.

Providing a platform for socialists and anti-austerity activists, inclusive of the Socialist Party, the National Shop Stewards Network and others not members of the Labour Party, in a widely based alliance, could be an important, even critical factor in defending the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership and building the anti-austerity movement.

The Socialist 9th of January 2016.

The Socialist Party, along with the Socialist Workers Party, and others, were involved the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition whichs tood candidates in competition with Labour in the last election.

2015 general election

TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland,[5] as well as 619 council candidates in local elections.

The organisation announced in October 2014 that it had received a guarantee of funding from Socialist Alliance.  The funds would provide for one hundred deposits in parliamentary contests, as well as a Party Political Broadcast.

The party performed badly at the election, winning 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.

Wikipedia.

This their strategy for the 2016 local elections:

TUSC steering committee agrees 2016 council candidates selection timetable

The TUSC national steering committee met this week and agreed a timetable and procedures to approve candidates for the English local council elections taking place on Thursday May 5th. It also agreed a Guide for TUSC Candidates and Agents, available as a downloadable PDF at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/359.pdf

The steering committee recognises that the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader on an anti-austerity platform has changed the political situation compared to the first five years of TUSC’s existence and that this effects how our coalition will approach the May polls.

Although the big majority of Labour councillors did not support Jeremy for leader, TUSC’s local election platform, Build on Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Austerity Call – A Councillors’ Revolt Could Stop the Tory cuts! (see http://tusc.org.uk/policy.php) is clear that “TUSC will work with any Labour councillor who backs the call to refuse to implement the cuts”. There will not be TUSC candidates standing against councillors who vote against cuts in the council chamber.

Clearly ‘Trade Union Momentum’ is not the same as Momentum. 

This should be made clear.

TUSC intends sending out ultimatums to Labour candidates. No doubt on the strength of their 2015 0.1% General Election vote.

That is their right.

But this is not the kind of activity that a group which wishes to change, through democratic persuasion, through Labour structures, the party’s policies and culture, should tolerate.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

Raising Atlantis? Review: The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited, Sean Matgamna. Workers’ Liberty. 2015.

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Raising Atlantis?

Review: The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited Sean Matgamna. Workers’  Liberty. 2015.

“Les bruits lointains d’une atlantide disparue, de cette ville d’Ys engloutie que chacun porte en soi.”

The distant sounds of a vanished Atlantis, of that sunken city that everybody carries inside.

Ernest Renan. Souvenirs d’enfance et de Jeunesse. 1883.

Ten years after the 1989-91 fall of Soviet-bloc Communism, Perry Anderson wrote, launching the Second Series of New Left Review (NLR) that, there was “no longer any significant oppositions” “within the thought world of the West”. The governing and intellectually dominant neo-liberalism had no rival on the radical left. Amongst the aftershocks of the collapse of the USSR, “Virtually the entire horizon of reference” for his generation on the left, “the landmarks of reformist and revolutionary socialism”, Bebel, Bernstein, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Jaurès, Lukács, Lenin, Gramsci and Trotsky, have been “wiped away”. For students they had become “as remote as a list of Arian bishops.” (1)

The second volume of The Fate of the Russian Revolution is, like the first, aimed at re-establishing, in the face of Anderson’s verdict, the present day importance of one of those distant figures, Leon Trotsky In his Introduction to The Two Trotskyisms Sean Matgamna draws how own parallel with the heresiarch Arias and his followers. The reference is not, as one might expect, to the unequal contest between the founder of the Fourth International’s circle of supporters and Stalin’s Established Marxism-Leninist Church. It is to disputes within the Trotskyist movement, “The Heterodox were the Arians, and the Orthodox the Catholics of post-Trotsky Trotskyism.” The leader of the – ‘heterodox’ Trotskyist – Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) argues that this division, which originated in the 1940s, amongst those who “embodied the great truths of Marxism” the only “authentic Marxist-communist tradition” was of lasting significance. Revolutionary socialists, “must go back to re-examine the old debates and the flaws and lacunae in the political legacy which Trotsky left at his death – back to 1940.”(2)

Apart from Matgamna’s lengthy Introduction we are offered an extensive – over 600 pages long – selection of original articles from 1939 to the early 1950s, by Trotsky, his ‘orthodox’ champions, and those expressing opposing views on the errors and gaps in their political approach. The present work aims to present a demythologised account of the raucous debates of the Trotskyist movement inside the American Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP –henceforth the SWP referred to) during the 1940s – placing the heretics on an equal, if not superior, footing to the Orthodox. The texts are not always easy reading. Anybody unused to the disputes of hard-core Trotskyism will find the often wildly intemperate language unattractive – the suffix “ite” for opponents’ standpoint, “deviation”, and “petty bourgeois individualism”- gets freely aired. The articles range from the ‘Shachtman” opposition to Trotsky call for defence of the Soviet Union, to the scepticism of Felix Morrow, a leading American Trotskyist and author of an orthodox account of the Spanish Civil War, who became sceptical about the Fourth International’s prediction of post-war European revolutions. Morrow by contrast could see that it was more probable that,  “bourgeois” democracy would be restored, and advocated a left-wing democratic response. Morrow was the main subject of an important 1970s, Where Trotskyism Got Lost. (Peter Jenkins. 1977), which might also seem an appropriate sub-title for The Two Trotskyisms.

The first thought of the reader is to ask whether it is worth the time and effort to look into this literature. Are we delving into the “archives” of a lost Atlantis, as former Fourth Internationalist Tariq Ali, prefacing the philosopher and life-long Trotskyist activist Daniel Bensaïd’s An Impatient Life  (2015) has described records of the Trotskyist movement? Are they files of failure swept into the depths by the Triumph of Capital? A more urgent task might be to respond to the post-Communist “lucid recognition of defeat”- as NLR Editorialised a decade after Perry Anderson’s verdict. The “archipelago of a thousand Marxisms”, the research programmes of the academic left which the same Bensaïd saw flourishing in Marx for our Times (2002), and which has not ceased bearing fruit, might seem to offer more fertile soil on which Trotskyists too can plant their seeds. There is indeed debate on collective agencies, opposed to capitalism, in which this left could intervene. If it often, as indicated by the writings of those associated with groups like the British Socialist Workers Party and its Diaspora, or from those associated with Red Pepper, of uneven quality, dominated by “movementist” ideas based on the most recent wave of protests, that sparkle briefly and then are forgotten (remember anti-Globalisation, anti-capitalism, and Occupy?). But for Matgamna at least the original City of the Trotskyist movement has not been submerged in the deluge following the Fall of Official Communism. We should first of all, like a modern Montaigne, return to the library in its principal Tower. (3)

In this respect a useful contrast might be made with Lars T. Lih’s influential Lenin Rediscovered (2005). Lih argues that Lenin’s politics developed in the shadow of German Social Democracy, and its chief theorist, Karl Kautsky. A strategic emphasis on the importance of political liberty, as a condition for the development of the movement, was grounded on a “world historical epic about the coming of socialism”. The task of the left was to bring the “Good News” of socialism to the working class, merging intellectual resources and the labour movement. But for Trotskyists in the 1940s, after two decades of Stalinist rule in ‘socialist’ Russia, forced collectivisation, famine, the Great Terror and the Gulag, there was little tangible to evangelise about. The German Communists had lost to the National Socialists; the Spanish Civil War had ended with defeat for the Republic and the left. Nazi and Fascist tyrannies were now poised to turn Europe into a totalitarian Empire. The old colonial powers of France and Britain, they considered, looked only to protect their own interests, as were the Americans. There was, in short, an abundance of very Bad News. The Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin’s years of leadership during the founding of the USSR, and Trotsky’s battle against Stalin’s rule, remained, for them, touchstones, but their faith in the future of socialism had returned to belief in “things unseen”.  (4)

It could be argued that the left has yet to settle accounts with Stalinism. While High Stalinism, beyond the borders of North Korea, may have vanished, there it ample evidence that its outlook continues to leave its imprint on the left, not least in “anti-imperialist’ quarters. That if there is to be a democratic socialist strategy that could succeed in winning political power it can learn much from those who refused to compromise with totalitarianism. That at least some Trotskyists, the ‘heterodox’, have something to offer in outlining ways in which the left can be both opposed to capitalism and democrats, above all in the way in which they confronted a much stronger ‘socialist’ power that had dispensed with all pretensions to democracy. That in facing up to this “bad news”, the 1940s dissidents offered signposts for the future. That, at last, is the implication of Matgamna’s arguments. For that reasons alone Matgamna’s case should be taken extremely seriously.

The Rise of the Heterodox.

Our knowledge of the heterodox side in the early centuries of the Christian Church comes from fragments of their documents, and the commentaries of the victorious Catholics. Backed by Emperors the Orthodox considered the Arian congregations to be rebels against the supreme powers of Heaven and Earth. Although the analogy is perhaps strained those who criticised Trotsky and the leadership of the American Trotskyists, the Socialist Workers Party, in the 1930s and 1940s, are like Arian ecclesiastics, largely known through the literature of their adversaries.

Max Shachtman (1904 – 1972), a founder of that SWP, and a member of the Executives Committee of the Fourth International, has, to Matgamna, suffered the worst from the “handed down” and “apparatus historiography” of Orthodoxy. A Pride’s Progress, from criticisms of Trotskyism to support for American imperialism, was his, and the majority of his comrades’ their fate. This parable was part of the consoling “revolutionary mythology” that helped the Orthodox stand together against an assortment of enemies on the left and survive the ascendancy of Official Communism. For Matgamna declarations of doctrinal righteousness did not prevent them from chasing after the radical causes of the moment, including “alien political movements”, and, above all, becoming “critical supporters of varieties of Stalinism.” (5)

The Two Trotskyisms, with its companion volume, Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, presents a rich selection of articles and other material. Matgamma – one assumes, or hopes,  half-jokingly – referred in the first book to them as the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls” of this movement. Unlike the Essenes, the Heterodox manuscripts have not been buried for a couple of millennia. But The Two Trotskyisms presents together texts that have, up till now, only been available, but still in dispersed existence, to a limited readership. Following the first Volume’s publication of writings on, amongst other topics, the Stalinist Counter-Revolution and the Third Period ultra-radicalism that swept the world’s Communist parties, the present work assembles the efforts of small Trotskyist groups to grapple with the Second World War, and the expansion of the USSR into Eastern Europe in its aftermath. (6)

Sean Matgamna reminds readers, a few of whom may need this underlined, that Trotsky – by definition the lodestar of Trotskyism – was not infallible. Over the period leading up the War he presented a “large quiver of half-evolved and half-eroded “positions”, ambivalences, and contradictions. He is keen to make one point clear. The founder of the Fourth International did not lay down a hard and fast ‘line’ on the central issue of the controversies. “While defending the view that the totalitarian regime created over the foundation the October Revolution laid down, in nationalised property and planning may have been evolving as “transitional society” into a new social formation. He admitted, in effect, the theoretical possibility that the USSR was already established as a new exploitative class society, a semi-slave society.” We would also note that Trotsky’s frequent use of the term “totalitarian” – a word first used in Marxist circles by the dissident’s dissident Victor Serge – would raise hackles amongst those who have consigned it to Cold War political ‘science’.  (7)

That 1940s Trotskyism divided into two strands is a claim that rests on an account focused on North America. In the 1940s the SWP (US) was the largest Trotskyist group in the world, whose several thousand members had played a substantial part in the trade union movement. The publication by Shachtman of criticisms of dialectical materialism from a ‘pragmatist’ philosophical standpoint by James Burnham in the party’s theoretical journal, New International in 1938 was not universally welcomed.  Trotsky came down hard on the “anti-dialecticians”, harbingers of open ‘anti-Marxism’. Broader political differences emerged. What Trotsky and his immediate supporters called the “petty bourgeois” opposition began to engage in open factional warfare with the majority. This bitter quarrel was less over the value of the ABC of Materialist Dialectics than on the nature of the Soviet Union and the SWP’s policies towards Stalinism.

Specialists in this history would no doubt observe that by the late 1930s there as indeed a shift in parts of the American left from an interest in Marxism, including Trotskyism, towards democratic “anti-totalitarianism’ inside the American radical intelligentsia affecting figures such as Max Eastman and Edmund Wilson. Sidney Hook, a more substantial intellectual figure than Burnham, author of the still read, From Hegel to Marx (1st Edition, 1936), a student of the pragmatist philosopher and educationalist John Dewey, Chair of the Dewy Commission (1937) which condemned the Moscow Trials and their accusations against Trotsky, perhaps symbolises this change. By the end of the decade Hook had moved from the traditions inspired by Marx, including a period of “Trotskyesque” anti-Stalinism, towards a rejection of historical and dialectical materialism, and anti-communist (big and small ‘C’) support for the American Constitution and liberal democracy. (8)

Inside the SWP rifts hardened during the first years of the Second World War. The SWP minority recoiled from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939. Shachtman, Martin Abern and other dissenters began to question the policy of “Defence of the USSR”. The SWP majority accounted that on the basis of the economic foundations laid down by the October Revolution it was their duty to back the country. For the majority Stalin’s occupation of half of Poland, the invasion of Finland and other Soviet manoeuvres in Eastern Europe, found them “partisans” of the USSR side, to the point of calling for the people in occupied territory to back the Red Army.

From the Bad News of the Gulag there was soon even worse news about the conduct of the Soviet invasions and fresh slaughters. For the dissidents these actions proved that Russia had acted as “imperialist” power – acting with a brutality which no slogan could cover up for. The claim that at least something of a workers’ state remained in the country, however “degenerated”, rang hollow. Russia was not in a “transition”, however unstable, towards socialism. Unrestrained violence was embedded in “bureaucratic collectivist” society; its apparatus was marked by exploitation of the workers, tyranny and mass murder. It would be simpler to recognise that there was nothing worth defending about the ‘Soviet’ State. Amongst the Heterodox the contours of what became known as the ‘Third Camp” position, standing neither with the Soviets nor the Imperialists but for international socialism, began to see the light of day.

These opinions were met with unrelenting hostility by the SWP leadership around James P. Cannon. Trotsky’s interventions, in the early stages of the dispute – attacking the Heterodox in his own right – give it lasting importance. He did not condone the full scope of the actions of the “Kremlin oligarchy”, but considered that the “nationalisation of the means of production” called for defence of the USSR, coinciding with “preparation of the “world proletarian revolution”. For his biographer, Pierre Broué, every declaration that Trotsky made has to be seen in the light of his priority: building a Fourth International that would play a leading role in this upheaval. In Poland and Finland (1939) he began by proclaiming, as a would-be commander of his own revolutionary forces, that the Kremlin, with the “Red Army on the side of the workers in a civil war”, would be “forced to provoke a social revolutionary movement.” With more information to hand, and faced with Shachtman’s criticisms, he announced a few months later that the USSR was planning to ‘Sovietise’ the country, under bureaucratic command and police repression. This is the “revolution”, which. Matgamna does not fail to emphasise, that became the norm in post-45 Eastern Europe. (9)

The murder of the leader of the recently founded Fourth International in August 1940, during the early stages of the Second World War, indicates that these views had importance in more than the limited circles of the SWP, not least for the Kremlin’s chief critic. This extension of ‘side-taking’ to something close to support stands out. Matgamna observes that as the war developed the Orthodox party paper praise for the Soviet Armed Forces appeared as the war. This reached an apogee with SWP columns glorifying “Trotsky’s Red Army”. The ‘progressive’ Revolutionary foundations of the ‘workers’ state became, for a time, more important than its ‘degeneration’.

The minority was expelled from the SWP in the same year, 1940, as Trotsky’s assassination. They took 40% of the membership with them and a majority of the youth wing. SWP leader James P. Cannon’s account in The Struggle for a Proletarian Party, absorbed by generations of Trotskyists, and percolating through the wider left, presented the conflict, as a battle between a “shabby crew” of “adventurers, careerists, self-seekers, dilettantes quitters-under-fire” and serious proletarian revolutionaries. Outside of the material in The Two Trotskyisms we know, from the SWP’s own publications, that Cannon and his earnest allies dispensed with “formal” democracy in order to effect the exclusion. That is, bluntly, he ignored the party’s own statues in order to be rid of the minority. This could be considered evidence in support of a frequent charge against Trotskyists: that they are democrats to the tips of their toes, except when democracy is an obstacle to their factional manoeuvres.  (10)

The new Workers’ Party (WP) of the minority engaged, Matgamna observes, in serious trade union work. But years of this activity in Cold War 1950s America drained their politics of distinctive themes. Apart from a radical minority, whose best-known figure was Hal Draper, author of the landmark democratic Marxist Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution (3 Vols. 1977), most of the remaining members drifted from revolutionary Marxism towards the Democratic Party. Shachtman’s evolved towards the “liberal anti-Communism” of that Party – in 1961 he refused to condemn the Bay of Pigs Invasion and later supported the US over Vietnam. With Burnham’s rightwards turn, after swiftly exiting the WP, the later careers of the main supporters of the Shachtman current are presented as proof that the Heterodox can be dismissed. This tale has had a long life. Alex Callinicos has offered a version of the “inevitable fate of those who stray from orthodoxy” position. In his account of Trotskyism he stated, “in the absence of an articulated theory of the new mode of production, the concept of bureaucratic collectivism has acted primarily as a means whereby its adherents could adapt to the prevailing mood on the local Left.” (11)

Whether the failure to have a substantial – ‘correct’ – line on the USSR was a factor in the group’s evolution, or whether bureaucratic collectivism was the nearest label at hand for the Workers’ Party leadership to justify its – decade long- evolution towards the American political mainstream is hard to determine. For Matgamna the original arguments of this dissenting strand of Trotskyism did not stray into the ideology of the “petty bourgeoisie”, or owed their origins to fashion. It can be argued that the bare bones of the theory of ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ was part and parcel of a political response to the Soviet state, principally the actions just described in the early years of the War. This political legacy is important for the renewal of revolutionary Marxism. Indeed, In the 1940s, the Heterodox “elaborated a politics of consistent anti-Stalinism as well as consistent anti-capitalism.”  (12)

Armed Bureaucratic Collectivism.

The debates in this volume centre, as we have indicated, on the political actions – the armed foreign policy – of the USSR. But behind this is the issue of the nature of that regime. Some might consider that arguments about the character of the former Soviet Union – whether it was a workers’ state, a degenerated workers’ state, state capitalist, bureaucratic collectivist, a “new class society” – resembles discussion on the Trinity. If some Trotskyists have sunk into religious veneration for Trotsky a more common fault is scholasticism – “proof” of any view by appeal to the authority of quotations from the Old Man, Marx, Engels and Lenin.  But there is little doubt that when it comes to working out what was wrong with Stalinism, the economic and social framework of the former Soviet Bloc, the several decades of Trotskyist, orthodox and heterodox reflection and debate, play a substantial, essential, part in the effort to develop a socialist alternative today.

Differing stands on these issues, examining Trotsky’s and many other views, is explored more widely in Marcel van der Linden’s Western Marxism and the Soviet Union (2007). In this context the clash between the ‘Orthodox’ and the ‘Heterodox’ Trotskyists is only one of many, more or less intense, debates. Few would be as confident that one position is the only viable theory. Linden notes that Shachtman initially prepared to give some credit to Soviet nationalised property forms, and regarded bureaucratic collectivism as a temporary, unstable domination based on property relations. Shachtman, one would conclude did not a particularly coherent theory – what exactly distinguished forms from relations? As Charles Bettlelheim much later would put, it, property forms are the embodiment of social relations, extraction of the surplus is not distinct from the way rights over fixed and moveable goods are established. But Shachtman’s critical view of the USSR was, as the debates primarily political: the working class had no handle on the State, and in this respect had become a “reactionary obstacle” to socialism. Above all, as Martin Thomas of the AWL observes, it was the “movement of the USSR into imperialist expansion” already outlined above, which prompted his interest, use and development of the theory of bureaucratic collectivism. (13)

With the benefit of hindsight more general conceptualisations may have been a better way to approach the nature of Official Communism. The political character of high Stalinism, its dissolution of independent Law, the boundaries between power, civil society and the state, and the concentration of that force in the hands of an Egocrat meant the destruction of politics as an open clash of different interests and opinions. In this respect the ‘heterodox’ Trotskyists produced evidence of totalitarianism sprung to life – the actions of the USSR in the first years of the Second World War, that show a state prepared to override democracy and basic human rights, beyond and above the demands of armed conflict, in order to further its own interests. On the wider theory of bureaucratic collectivism our present judgements are mixed. Were these forms a “freak” of history, as Shachtman sometimes argued?  The persistent idea that these societies were, as Linden summarises, arranged in a sequence from capitalism to something new, whatever we label it, also seems to have outlived its use. But the USSR’s statist planning and mobilisation of ‘labour armies’, including forced labour in the Gulag, its “socialist primitive accumulation” may be considered, as Martin Thomas argues, not as a leap out of the capitalist world at all. It was “a compressed, intensified version of the use of direct extra-economic force’ in the ‘historic genesis of capitalist production’”. In other words, the mode of production was not really transformed by the Bolshevik Revolution at all. If this was an oddity, normality eventually reasserted itself. (14)

There is a vast space for more detailed accounts of the mechanisms of these social formations, from their initial creation, growth, expansion, and, decisively, the dissolution of an all-powerful repressive-ideological apparatus. The narrowing of politics into ‘monolithic’ unity simply could not be imposed on society without enormous human cost, and even then, lasted in its pure form until Stalin’s death. Rival interest groups, effectively differing political ‘factions’ within a still authoritarian and repressive regime, as the “pluralist” school of Soviet Studies, then re-merged. The economic transformations that have taken place in the former Eastern Bloc since 1989 may have caused massive social shake-ups. But they have been achieved remarkably swiftly and without mass resistance.

The study of the collapse of Official Communism, after full-blown Stalinism had long been tamed by bureaucrats, as the planned economy became ever more ramshackle and unable to deliver Red Plenty, continues. It raises much more profound issues than a clash between Marxist interpretations, let alone rivalry between ‘two Trotskyisms’. How can socialisation of the means of production take place in a different form? How can democratic control over the economy replace the market? Post-Communism also leaves open the issue, which is in the belly of the of Matgamna’s case for the Heterodox, of Stalinist imperialism. Whether, as the last echoes of Isaac Deutscher in New Left circles were wont to argue, the USSR was in the post-War period, a progressive international force through its support for national liberation movements, or that this too was pure Realpolitik, remains a live topic. There are those on the left who consider that Russian President Putin and a host of other non-Western powers represent today a kind of necessary ‘counter-balance’ to the US-led Imperium.  This might be considered, recalling Alex Callinicos’ words, to be an example of the use of a  theory, clutched to and adapted to the needs of local lefts desperate to discover some “resistance” to the American hegemon.

Two Trotskyisms?

 The Two Trotskyisms presents a view of the history of the Trotskyist movement. Any account on this topic, by the established rules of the genre, has to be controversial. Matgamma succeeds in demonstrating that there is a value in looking at the critical stand of the ‘Heterodox’ towards the SWP leadership, and the orthodoxy associated with Trotsky. Yet it is a mental wrench for the reviewer, politically brought up on British and other European left-debates, including Trotskyist ones, to enter the political and cultural world of the 1940s American SWP. This was Trotskyism with a capital T. This is a group that George Orwell described in 1945 as having “a fairly large number of adherents” with a “petty fuehrer of its own” with an “essentially negative inspiration.” Left political culture in Europe, while containing a few organisations of the same stripe, had and has much broader influences. From social democrats, Communist thinkers, democratic socialists, autonomists and anarchists, Western Marxists, non-Trotskyist Leninists, not to mention activists and writers directly involved in the trade unions. Some of these would challenge Matgamna’s claim to ownership of the Revolution. Others would find the assertion empty. But, to be brief, the US SWP even at its height is a party on the margins of our mental horizon. (15)

It is harder still to associate ‘orthodoxy’ with the main Fourth International, figures such as Ernest Mandel or Michel Rapitis, charged with apostasy by the same James P Cannon in the 1953-4 split in the Fourth International, accused of straying from Trotskyism for their support for Third-World movements of national liberation, not to mention the 1970s controversies on guerrilla warfare. To reverse the argument: to claim that the various ‘orthodox’ French Trotskyist parties led by Pierre Boussel (‘Lambert’) were pro-Stalinist ignores their intimate association with the American funded post-War break-away from the Communist led trade union federation, the CGT, Force Ouvrière, not to mention their actual writings – virulently hostile – on the Eastern Bloc. (16)

The history of Trotskyism indicates other directions. Bensaïd called the Trotskyists’ splintering into mutually antagonistic tendencies, in the aftermath of the Second World War the creation of that Eastern Bloc, and the victory of the Chinese Communists, the “scattering of the tribes”. At the Second Congress of the Fourth International in 1948 the Workers’ Party and Shachtman were still present. In a protest at the lack of clarity and democracy during the conference he united with one faction, represented by Cornelius Castoriadis. The Franco-Greek theorist’s subsequent history went beyond heterodoxy – designating the USSR as ‘bureaucratic capitalist’ – to rejection in the name workers’ self-management of all the main tenets of Trotskyism, except Revolution. (17)

Castoriadis’ small group (never more than a 100 members, though with some significant working class activists), Socialisme ou Barbarie, took a root-and-branch stand of opposition to all forms of Stalinism. They split from the FI came in the wake of the majority’s decision to side with Yugoslavia against Stalin. Their journal published some of the most revealing accounts of Stalinism, from East Germany to China as well as the USSR, available in the 1950s left press. But their political practice, based on unremitting hostility to Stalinism social democracy, Parliamentary politics, all existing trade unions, and even participation in the French system of workplace representation, left them isolated. That Castoriadis has enjoyed some posthumous fame as a philosopher of ‘autonomy’ – the democratic self-creation of social forms, may be some comfort to his admirers. But the failure of Socialisme ou Barbarie to make any real impact on French political life in the 1950s, and its own history of divisions, indicates one direction that principled hostility to Stalinism in this period could lead. (18)

French Trotskyism is significant in that during the German occupation the policy of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ was put into practice, in different ways by its already divided forces. Trotskyist histories of the period glorify efforts to convince German soldiers to unite with French working class and other internationalist actions. They tend to look with suspicion on any ‘nationalist’ support for the Resistance – that is when a small number of Trotskyists joined the armed fight against Pétain and the German occupation. (19)

Yves Craipeau – acknowledged by the AWL as an early ‘bureaucratic collectivist’ – recounts one important part of that history. When the Allied forces landed in Normandy his faction, probably the largest, published in its underground paper, La Vérité, a headline, “ils se valent” – they’re the same.  (June 1944) It went on to read, “En réalité, la libération de Roosevelt vaut tout autant que le socialisme de Hitler’. In reality the liberation of Roosevelt means as much as the socialism of Hitler. The divisions within the Greek Trotksyists were even more severe. One wing, already in conflict with the other, refused the ‘defence’ of the USSR and spent the War violently hostile to the other. The Stalinists physically liquidated  some of them, though reliable estimates give the total at 50 (both groups together) not the total, 300 – Matgamma asserts. (20)

In post-war the Fench Trotksyists briefly united in the Parti Communsite Internationaliste. The majority view, set out much later by Ernest Mandel was that they had has called the  electoral strength of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF)  and, one hopes, with some due modesty to the  legacy of the Communists’ role in the Resistance. Part of the ‘scattering of the tribes’ Craipeau left the Fourth International in the belief that there were forces on the left, outside the PCF and the Socialist SFIO, who could form an independent left party. The long story of efforts to create one, up to the radical ‘new left’ democratic socialist Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU), in which Craipeau played a significant part, indicate another direction that the ‘heterodox’ could take.  (21)

Going back to Sources.

For many on the left Trotskyism is a by-word for factionalism, of the single-transferable speech and sloganeering.  They have been criticised for trying control everything, for expressing open contempt for their opponents and adept at underhand organisational methods to win and hold onto organisational power. These accusations are not aimed at the 1940s SWP leadership or culled from accounts of present-day British Trotskyist groups, but were amongst those made in 1939 by Marceau  Pivert originally the leader of the Gauche révolutionnaire the left tendency of the French Socialists, the SFIO. He moved from the SFIO and became subsequently chief of the ‘centrist’ (that is ‘in-between ‘revolutionary; and ‘reformist’ politics) party, the Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan ( PSOP), Pivert experienced the methods of the French Trotksyists (after the famous ‘French turn’ of 1936 when they jo0ined the SFIO, and then tried to move into the PSOP). Pivert was eventually forced to remove these hectoring groupuscules.  (22)

But there are different voices. Pierre Broué, once an Orthodox activist in the French Lambertists who became respected historian of the movement, left this statement in his Memoirs. Reflecting on the Fall of the Soviet Bloc and the faults of the organisation which expelled him, he wrote in conclusion, “We must return to our sources, become again the ‘party of communists’ which only marks itself out from the mass of people with whom we live by our devotion, our continuous thinking, our openness to the world, our capacity to struggle, our will to clarify, to help the masses see things through their own eyes.”  (23) By its important indications of democratic and serious thought on some of the most serious issues of the 20th century the Two Trotskyisms has contributed to these generous aims.

 

References:

(1) Page 17. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. Second Series No 1. 2000.

(2) Page 98 The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited Sean Matgamna. Second Edition. Workers’ Liberty. 2015. (TTCS) Vol. 2 of The Fate of the Russian Revolution Workers’ Liberty. Page 133

(3) A Letter from Atlantis: Remembering Daniel Bensaïd. Tariq Ali. Introduction to An Impatient Life. Daniel Bensaïd. Verso.  Editorial. Shifting Sands. Susan Watkins. Page 23. New Left Review 61 Second Series 2010.

(4) Pages 42 –3. Lars L. Lih. Lenin Rediscovered. Brill 2005.

(5) Page 97-8. TTCS. 

(6) Sean Matgamna Introduction. Lost Texts of Critical Marxism. Vol. 1. The Fate of the Russian Revolution. Workers’ Liberty.

(7) Pages 5-6. TTCS. On Serge and Totalitarianism see: Victor Serge: totalitarisme et capitalisme d’État. Philippe Bourrine   Fundación Andreu Nin. 2001.

(8) Chapter Five. Young Sidney Hook. Marxist and Pragmatist. Christopher Phelps. Cornell University Press. 1997.

(9) Pages, 268 –9, and Page 280. Pierre Broué. Trotsky. Chapter LIX. La Ive at la guerre.  1998. Marxist Internet Archive.

(10) Part 1. The Struggle for a Proletarian Party. James P. Cannon. 1943. Marxist Internet Archive. “Perhaps it is not generally known in the International that in the 1940 struggle in the SWP, the Burnham-Shachtman minority was supported by the majority of the resident IEC of the Fourth International, at that time located in New York. … They claimed the formal right to spoke in the name of the Fourth International” “The Convention of the SWP (April, 1940) paid no attention to the formalistic arguments which were undoubtedly in their favour.” Letter from James P. Cannon to Leslie Goonewardne. February. 23. 1954. Towards a History of the Fourth International Part 3. Volume 4. Part 3. International Committee Documents. 1951 – 1954. Socialist Workers Party. 1974.

(11)  Chapter 4: 1. Heresies: Max Shachtman and the evil empire. Trotskyism. Alex Callinicos. Marxist Internet Archive.

(12) Page 3. TTCS. 

(13) Shachtman and his critics’ views are covered in: Chapter 3 From Stalin’s ‘Great Leap Forwards’ to the ‘Great Patriotic War’ (1929–41) Marcel van der Linden Western Marxism and the Soviet Union. Brill 2007. Three Traditions? Marxism and the USSR. Martin Thomas. Historical Materialism. Vol.14.3. 2006.

(14) For these political conceptualisations of totalitarianism see: Claude Lefort. Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. 1976 (2015). Belin. Claude Lefort, Essais sur le politique. Edition de Seuil. 1986. Martin Thomas. Ibid.

(15) Page 370. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. Political Writings. George Orwell. 2001.

(16) On the Lambertists see the hostile account, in great, if contentious, detail: Les Trotskistes. Christophe Nick. 2002.

(17) Strategies of Resistance and ‘Who are the Trotskyists?’ Daniel Bensaïd. Resistance Books. 2009. Max Shachtman. The Congress of the Fourth International. An Analysis of the Bankruptcy of “Orthodox Trotskyism (October 1948) Marxist Internet Archive. Chapter 6. From the Second World Congress to the 1953 Split. The Long March of the Trotskyists, Pierre Frank. 1969.  Marxist Internet Archive.

(18) Francois Dosse. Castoriadis Une Vie. La Découverte. 2014.

(19) Ian H. Birchall. With the Masses, Against the Stream. French Trotskyism in the Second World War Revolutionary History, Vol.1, No.4, Winter 1988-89. See also: Ernest Mahttps://www.marxists.org/archive/shachtma/1948/10/fi.htmndel. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred. Jan Willem Stuje. Verso. 2009. The Meaning of the Second World War. Ernest Mandel. Verso. 1986. The less than clear history of Continental Trotskyism during the Second World War is defended in the same writer’s interviews published as Revolutionary Marxism Today, ed. by Jon Rothschild. New Left Review. 1979

(20)  Yves Craipeau. Mémoires d’un dinosaure trotkyste. L’harmattan. 1999. This total of deaths and on the tangled history of Greek Trotskyism: Alexis Hen. Les trotskystes grecs pendant la seconde guerre Mondiale Cahiers balkaniques 38-39 (2011)

(21) Further material on Craipeau in English: The Third Camp in France. Workers’ Liberty 2#2. This, a small but important part of the majority view on Stalinism was given by Ernest Germain (Mandel) Stalinism – How to Understand it and How to Fight it. April 1947. Marxist Internet Archive. On the wider revolutionary expectations in France in this period amongst intellectuals – a significant constituency for French Trotskyists – see this useful study:  La Révolution rêvée. Pour une historie des intellectuels et des oeuvres révolutionnaires. 1944 – 1956. Michel Surya. 2004.

(22) Le P.S.O.P. et le trotskysme. Marceau Pivert Juin (Journal) June, 1939. One should note however that for modern Trotsksyist writers the problems that arose in this encounter (in the wake of the Front Populaire and its impasse) were everything and everybody’s fault but the Trotskyists. Unfortunately this has included Broué :  P. Broué, N. Dorey. Critiques de gauche et opposition révolutionnaire au front populaire (1936-1938). La crise sociale de 1938. (1966)

(23) “nous devons revenir à nos sources, être de nouveau ce “parti des communistes” qui ne se distingue de la masse où il vit que par son dévouement, sa réflexion permanente et son ouverture au monde, sa disponibilité à lutter, sa volonté d’éclairer et d’aider les masses à voir de leurs propres yeux.” Pierre Broué. Mémoires politiques. Fayard, 2005. Sections circulated in PDF form.

Circulated  as text  2014/5

Update:

Reviews of “The Two Trotskyisms”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Giles Fraser Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Attack French Secularism.

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Giles Fraser: Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Support Attacks of Secularism. 

One the most tasteless, not to say, repugnant, attempts to make political capital out of the plight of the refugees and migrants  in Calais, has been published

It comes not from the xenophobic right but from the Guardian’s favourite Cleric, . (Thanks: JD)

France’s official blindness to religion only masks religious hatred

why don’t the refugees want asylum in France? One reason is because many of them perceive Britain to have a stronger tradition of religious tolerance than France. And this often surprises the French, because they pride themselves on their much-discussed notion of laïcité – roughly, secularism plus – so sacred a notion that it’s enshrined in article one of the French constitution.

Now it is to expected that a paid employee of a State Church – at  St Mary’s Newington in south London – would defend his source of income. Although no doubt he puts this in the Guardian Register of Ideological Interests one does not notice any parallel effort on his part to draw attention to this privileged place in Britain’s uncodified constitution.

No doubt his mind is on higher things.

Last year Giles Fraser indulged in this rant.

The glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church is one of the great foundation myths of republican France. And coded within this mythology is the message that liberty, equality, fraternity can flourish only when religion is suppressed from the public sphere. It is worth remembering what this ideological space-clearing involved.

At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.

It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.

Guardian. 16.1.15.

This was but the prelude to Fraser displaying unforgiving spite against  our comrades in Charlie Hebdo, “the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself.”

The Tendance replied at the time.

We pointed out the Terror was presided over by Robespierre, who put a stop to “De-Christianisation” declared that “atheism is aristocratic” and tried to create a state cult of the ‘Supreme Being’. We suggested instead of relying on a Clerical Wikipedia he actually read some of the history of the period, which includes conflicts inside the Church – a minority  of which backed the Revolution – and the majority which supported the counter-revolution, which by definition, did not.  We even supplied a short reading list, for the vociferating Vicar to read.

In a  truly atheist spirit we stated that Fraser was speaking gobshite about our Charlie and had spat  on the graves of our beloved martyrs.

Now Gilles  is at it again.

He has yet to tackle that reading list, which would no doubt have disturbed the unfurrowed creases of his brow.

There are indeed no facts, only interpretations.

Secularism is repression.

Laïcité began as justification for eradicating the influence of the Catholic church – and involved the murder of thousands of priests during the revolution. It continues as a cover for discrimination against Muslims.

From the Terror to Discrimination there is but a small step.

It would be interesting to know how the principle of religious neutrality means …religious discrimination.

The one-time Putney Preacher – fond of evoking the Levellers’ Putney debates, perhaps less so on airing the intolerant and bigoted side of the Parliamentary and other Puritans,  makes a further link,

….laïcité is a way of ensuring the state’s systematic blindness when it comes to religion. It is an official pretence not to notice whether or where somebody prays. For its detractors, this supposed neutrality is nothing of the sort, but rather a cover for the eradication of religious visibility, indeed religious rights, from the public sphere. This week, both Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch condemned the French police’s human rights violations against Muslims.

Perhaps a better way of saying this would be that there is a contradiction between defence of universal human rights in secularism  and the practices of the French state. How can we judge this: by reference to the same universal human rights.

Britain, one assumes because it is not secular, has, apparently a much better human rights record than France.

Fraser unfortunately does not offer evidence of that.

Nor does offer any proof that faith is an issue, rather than, say, the strict regulations that govern French refugee status, and the fact that speaking and learning that language, rather than English, may appear daunting to many.

There is one further  problem with Fraser’s attempts to use other people’s misery for his own ends.

Religiously tolerant Britain – or rather its Government –  is more than reluctant to accept the Calais refugees and migrants

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm

The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.

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Ni patrie ni frontières !

This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.

Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.

From mondialisme.org, the journal: Ni patrie ni frontières. 

Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).

Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political  destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.

During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.

In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.

We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.

Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.

We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.

The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.

It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.

The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)  and their 2005  Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left,  various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac)  active in those days,  and some on the Trotskyist left.

The group was soon criticised  by people for whom who I have respect.  Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).

As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.

But it has been challenged on the left.

Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).

The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular”  French areas,

France: Countrywide Protests At the State of Emergency.

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Paris: Protesting Against the State of Emergency. l’Humanité. 1st of February.

Des manifestations ont eu lieu dans 70 villes de France, comme ici à Nantes.

There has been dearth of reports in the British media about the weekend protests – 70 across the country – against the ‘state of emergency’ in France.

Le Monde carried the story prominently: Des milliers de personnes manifestent contre l’état d’urgence.

Voir l'image sur Twitter

 “Hollande, frankly, you disappoint me” (play of words on  décevoir and déchoir – reference to new law “stripping” somebody of their nationality).

État d’urgence: pourquoi il est surtout urgent d’en sortir by Laurent Mouloud.

Manifestation contre la Déchéance de Nationalité et l’État d’Urgence

Parti de Gauche.

France 24 published this in English: Thousands rally in Paris over extending state of emergency.

But it’s the French Communist Daily, l’Humanité, which has published the most comprehensive report now available in English.

State of Emergency: The Real Emergency Is To End It. Humanité in English.

Translated by Henry Crapo, Isabelle Métral

More than 70 demonstrations were held last Saturday (30 January) organized by more than a hundred associations, to demand the end of the state of emergency , as being a (régime d’exception) that threatens our fundamental liberties, and has proved to be inefficient.

Protest against the state of emergency is bringing the people out into the steets. While the government has announced its determination to prolong the state of emergency for another three months, beyond 26 February, 111 associations and 19 unions will be all marching behind the banner of the collective Nous ne cèderons pas (We will not give up!) at the Place de la République, and all over the country, to demand its immediate repeal. In their view, nearly two months after the bloody attacks in Paris and St. Denis, it is high time to put an end to this régime d’exception that infringes upon our fundamental liberties. Not just for matters of principle, but also for very pragmatic reasons. “The authorities’ response, intended as martial, guarantees neither security nor repect for our liberties”, as emphasized by the associations in their joint declaration.

One single indictment

In truth, measured against its initial objective (“the fight against terrorism”), the state of emergency proves to be as dangerous as it is disappointing. The effectiveness of the exceptional provisions, having been in place since November, is today thoroughly under attack. From a statistical point of view, the figures alone may appear impressive. By January 21, the authorities have made 3189 administrative searches [1], have placed 392 persons under house arrest, and opened 549 judicial procedures. But the truth is that most of these procedures are common law cases: possession of illegal weapons, drug trafficking, or illegal presence in France. All in all, according to the figures of the Ministry of Justice itself, no more than four investigations have so far been opened for “criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise”, and only one person has been indicted… Since mid December, the daily figure for new house arrests has been close to zero. And the daily average for searches has been no more than ten for the month of January. “These figures prove the obvious inadequacy of the judicial framework of the state of emergency in the fight against terrorism,” the Judges’ Union concludes.

Many observers agree, and point out that the shock and consternation [2] induced by the state of emergency, which, in the early stage, was one of the Ministry of the Interior’s arguments, quickly faded and has now all but disappeared. “We are less frequently called upon”, a policeman anonymously confirmed. “Those house searches have enabled us mostly to collect local information, to confirm or invalidate certain leads, which may well be useful, but are now useless with regard to the direct prevention of terrorist attacks. The notion of an ’imminent peril’, specific to a state of emergency, can no longer be invoked.”

The fight against terrorism has been weakened

Eventually, the state of emergency might even make things worse. Thousands of civil servants waste their time conducting exceptional searches, only ten per cent of which end in the pursuit of a person, and even then only for minor criminal offences … “Obviously, they would be more efficiently employed in the detection and prevention of averred criminal projets,” the Judges’ Union insists. Some policemen point to another flaw: the furious staging of one search after another may be detrimental to security, by prematurely revealing the information secured by the anti-terrorist departments, thus encouraging potential suspects to even greater discretion. Unlike the former intelligence service (“Renseignements Généraux), the General Department for Home Security has made very little use of administrative searches. For fear, some of its agents say, of “killing off some of our most important investigations”… As another policeman says, it would seem that the state of emergency is no more than political gesturing. Contrary to the government’s repeated assurance, most of the measures (night searches, house arrests, bans on gatherings…) are already possible under common law, notably in connection with anti-terrorist activities, but naturally with the sanction of the judiciary.

The verdict of the Judges’ Union is categorical: “Far from contributing anything to the fight against terrorist activity, the state of emergency tends to weaken its efficiency.” The short – and worst – of it is that it infringes upon our civil liberties, all the while being ineffective in matters of security.

[1not subject to judicial authorization

[2“sideration”

Appeal against the State of Emergency.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Les Salafistes and the Horrors of the Islamic State.

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Ce documentaire montre de façon brute et sans voix off l’idéologie, le quotidien et la violence des djihadistes d’Aqmi. Certains lui reprochent son manque de décryptage de l’image.

Image from «Salafistes» Libération.

In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)

She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”

Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go.  (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)

Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.

In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).

Timbuktu not les Salafistes.

Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open,  produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.

Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.

The Empire of Fear.

Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)

The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.

Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.

The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)

Totalitarian Islamism.

The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.

The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.

Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)

The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.

To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2016 at 2:27 pm

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader (Vladimir Putin) of all time: More Confusionisme. John Wight, Socialist Unity.

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Most Popular Russian Leader of All Time……..

This Blog commented recently that “Political Confusionism” – (from our French comrades’ “Confusionnisme”) is a growing, if marginal, phenomenon on the left.

Larousse defines Confusionnisme as “Fait d’entretenir la confusion dans les esprits et d’empêcher l’analyse objective des faits.”,  That is, “To bring (and keep)  confusion in people’s minds and to prevent an objective analysis of facts.”

From the anti-imperialism of fools to the defence by the co-Chair of the British Young Greens of the reactionary  full-face veil on the spurious grounds that it is being attacked as part of the government’s Prevent strategy we can see how this works.

Emotions, hostility to the ‘West’ and “Empire”, “Islamophobia”  and “racism” are used to confuse people and prevent solidarity with our sisters and brothers fighting nationalist strongmen,  communalist bullies and Islamism.

It is an entirely appropriate extension of the word in English to call “confusionism”  the much more deliberate ideological strategy taken up by those promoting the defenders of Vladimir Putin.

In the comments on an excellent article on Shiraz Socialist about just how reactionary Putin is, and how he has garnered supporters ranging from the European far-right ( Front National, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in German) to some people on the ‘left’.

Whether they do so for venal reasons (the Front National has benefited from generous Russian loans) or out of conviction, that the Kremlin leader is a bulwark against decadence, or a much needed-counterweight to Western power, is irrelevant.

The facts – that is the record of Putin’s rule – are obscured and confused.

Prominent amongst British confusionists is a certain John Wight, contributor to the Socialist Unity site, run by Andy Newman, unsuccessful Labour candidate (2015) for Chippenham.

Wight, not surprisingly, pops up on Russia Today (RT).

On the 25th of January Wight wrote on RT’s site.

Alexander Litvinenko: Just another pawn in their game

The sight of retired British judge, Sir Robert Owen, shuffling from a dark ante room into an international press conference in London to pronounce that Vladimir Putin ‘probably approved’ the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was pure comedy gold.

It was also a travesty of justice, given the seriousness of the crime and the implications of yet another barrage of anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda it has unleashed across the Western media. Yet further proof that for Western ideologues Russia under Putin’s leadership can never be forgiven for refusing to stay on its knees after the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

But as comrade Dagmar  has pointed out (comments), Wight really excelled himself a couple of days later,

The demonization of the most popular Russian leader of all time.

Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.

Paradoxically, the main reason for Putin’s popularity in Russia is the same reason he’s so reviled in the US and Western Europe. It comes down to the simple but salient fact that when it comes to leadership and political nous Vladimir Putin is playing chess while his counterparts in London, Washington, and Paris are playing chequers.

….

The most populous country in Europe is not and never will be a Western colony or semi colony. For people who currently cannot conceive of any relationship with Russia other than as a deadly or defeated foe, the sooner they accept this reality the sooner will stability be restored in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions, at home and abroad, leading in the process to the normalization of crisis and chaos.

Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.

American Herald Tribune.

This on-line journal (not to be confused with the greatly respected International Herald Tribune) publishes plenty of other articles of a confusioniste tendency:

The Zionisation of Kurdistan: An inconvenient truth (Ahmad Moussa. Janaury 22nd). And by the same author(14th of December 2015) The self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ State’ and the ‘Jewish’ State: What’s the difference for the Palestinians? Both entities demonstrate similarities between them particularly in relation to Palestine; the only difference is the international community’s double standards when it comes to intervention.

A taste for US far-right militia-men is in evidence:The political assassination of LaVoy Finicum? January 28th.

But pride of (recent) place must go to this article:

LGBT Organization endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Becky Akers  22nd January.

Men pretending to be women support a Gorgon pretending to be human for president. Nor does the syzygy end there: group and Gorgon also share a set of initials.

“The nation’s largest LGBT rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign”—or HRC—“announced that it has endorsed Hillary [Rodham] Clinton”—another HRC—“for president,” the Washington Post trilled. For anyone blissfully ignorant of PC acronyms, “LGBT” translates as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.” What, no pedophiles or enthusiasts of bestiality? Seems a tad hypocritical that perverts who sue us for “discriminating” when we exclude them nonetheless exclude their fellow pervs.

At any rate, “HRC President Chad Griffin” felt he (yeah, I’m guessing here at Chad’s gender du jour) had to explain HRC’s choice of HRC: after all, the latter has wavered in her advocacy of debauchery as much as she has on everything else. Her vacillation is especially egregious when compared with Bernie “Socialist” Sanders’ devotion to deviants—but of course, Bernie can’t win, or so his unprincipled constituency at the HRC assumes.

Wight is no doubt at home amongst his confusioniste confrères

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Chair of Young Greens Against “Penalising” Full-Face Veil in Schools.

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https://dykewriter.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/disappeared-women.png?w=640

Photo by Yemeni photographer Boushra al-Moutawakel.

This has appeared in Left Foot Forward. 

Earlier this week, Ofsted head Michael Wilshaw confirmed that inspectors can downgrade schools if they feel that the wearing of the niqab – by either teachers or pupils – is impairing learning. Phrased like this, it seems a reasonable policy.

In reality, however, opening the door to penalising the wearing of Islamic dress in this way is deeply worrying.

For a start, it’s unclear exactly why the niqab might be an obstacle to learning. Muslims have been teaching, learning and otherwise communicating wearing the full-face veil for centuries in Islamic countries all around the world.

Writes Sophie van der Ham co-chair of the Young Greens on Left Foot Forward.

I shall not discuss her comments on Ofstead’s targets.

I shall leave aside the obvious point that the full-face veil is  clearly a barrier to anybody who relies on lip-reading, and is clearly a barrier to interacting to people on an important non-verbal basis – seeing people’s expressions.

And the fact that dress codes exist in all schools.

The full-face veil introduces the fact of religious practice into all school activities.

The author of the article puts approval of sanctions on the Niqab in the context of the Prevent Strategy and attempts by the British state to tackle Islamist extremism. She sees this as part of a “a trend in recent weeks and months that has seen the practise, expression or even discussion of Islam in schools as suspicious.”

Undoubtedly the government’s plans and actions do little to deal with what is a real problem. Few will have much confidence in a Cabinet or a Prime Minister’s anti-racist status when they have shown callous disregard for refugees.

But if indeed Van der Ham thinks that there is no problem with Islamism then she is welcome to visit Kobane and see the graves the martyrs who died protecting the Kurdish town from Daesh, and the unmarked remains of the tens of thousands of who have been slaughtered by the genocidal Islamists, enslaved, been raped and tortured. Fighting the religious cleansing of non-Muslims form the region, and the inter-Islamic murders, are frankly the number one issue in the world today.

Faced with this horrifying religious murder it is no doubt commendable that the Young Greens find time to worry about the fate of school pupils proclaiming their religious identity.

She could have there to see our Kurdish sisters and brothers when this happened: Kurds Celebrate Liberation of Kobane as Islamic State Calls for New Paris-Style Attacks. Liz Fields.

If Van de Ham thinks that this do not affect Britain –  however much the hundreds of UK volunteers for the death squads of Daesh are in the minority – then perhaps she should have watched The Jihadis Next Door, or looked at the list of those who have left the country to join the genociders.

There is another context.

It is impossible to ignore that it is an erosion of the separation of religion from the state and legal and educational system.

Time to end the special favours shown to faith schools: Allowing new free schools to select 100% of admissions on the grounds of religion would be a backward step that would further divide communities.

Jamie Martin Guardian 26th of January.

Faith schools accused of ‘religious racism’ for turning away pupils. Rabbi says closing the door to children over race would be ‘intolerable’ but religious segregation is permitted.

Richard Garner. Independent. 28.1.16.

Supporting the full-face veil in schools lets the way open for religious division and the exercise of religious power in the classroom, and, one should underline, will happen if the teacher herself is wearing this garment? What message does this give to ‘non-believers’?

There are many serious difficulties at stake.

This article explains some of  the wider issues about what some would call the “religious racism” of the Niqab.

Islamic veiling is a form of sexist patriarchal oppression, and supporters of equality have a responsibility to say so, argues Terri Murray

In Islamic cultures the predominant theological reasoning for veiling seems to be that the female body is such a powerful sexual object that nothing short of covering it can prevent men from molesting it. According to Islamic Hadith (or poor interpretations of it) the female body is so powerfully sexual that it is literally irresistible to the opposite sex. I refer those who argue that this is a misinterpretation of Islam to this statement by Australia’s influential senior Islamic cleric, Sheik Taj Aldin as-Hilali:

“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside. . . without cover, and the cats come to eat it. . . whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”

Some Westernised Muslim academics deny the primary theological significance of the burqa and instead claim that it is imbued with powerful symbolism by Western colonialism. Westerners, they argue, see the burqa as a symbol of the irrevocable “otherness” of Muslims. Accordingly the “hysterical” reactions to veiling are just a Western contrivance (a pretext for racist attitudes towards Muslims following 9/11). Yet the discourse vacillates between this claim and the contradictory claim that the veil has no special significance other than what the wearer intends it to mean, and so is no more than a form of personal expression – a symbol of Muslim women’s freedom to “be themselves”.

Sharia law is still enforced in approximately 35 nations, where some form of veiling is compulsory. An estimated 83 Sharia courts operate in England today. Many Muslim families living in Western Europe use legal forms of coercion to make girls and women conform to veiling. The murder of Shafilea Ahmed, by her own parents, is a case study in how Europeans respond to these situations of family violence with an embarrassed silence, rather than the kind of outrage that would be seen as appropriate were its victims not exclusively female. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (Ikwro) found last year that 39 out of 52 police forces across the UK had recorded at least 2,823 “honour” attacks over 2010. Some forces showed a jump of nearly 50 per cent in such cases from 2009. This is the backdrop against which Muslims in Europe claim that wearing the burqa is a “choice”.

The claim that covering yourself up in public is an empowering choice insults the intelligence and dignity of women everywhere, just as the theological claim that the burqa is a necessary defence against predatory male sexuality insults Muslim men insofar as it treats them as fundamentally incapable of responsibility for their sexual behaviour.

The reason Western feminists (male or female) object to seeing women in burqas is not that we can’t tolerate diversity, but that the burqa is a symbol of patriarchal Islam’s intolerance of dissent and desire to contain and repress female sexuality.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Galloway Faces Strong Left Challenge as Communist League Silberman Stands for London Mayor.

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Silberman Threatens Galloway’s ‘left’ Mayor Campaign. 

The newshounds of the IBT had a scoop a few days ago.

Viva! Jonathan Silberman – Communist London Mayor hopeful dreams of Cuban revolution in Britain

Jonathan Silberman was a teenager when he and his friends sketched out their plan for global revolution – half a century later the factory worker and veteran Communist is still waiting.

But unlike so many other teenage revolutionaries, Silberman, 64, has not lost his zeal in the years in between. He is currently running for London mayor under the banner of the Communist League. He is a few days away from his annual trip to the Havana Book Fair as IBTimes UK meets him in a north London pub.

Ace-reporter Orlando Crowroft continues,

Founded in 1988, the Communist League grew out of one of many schisms in the British socialist left, remaining close to the American Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP) which, in typical fashion, is a mortal enemy of the UK party of the same name. Silberman is rarely seen without a several copies of the party’s magazine, the Militant, under his arm and a selection of books from US-based radical publishing house, Pathfinder.

The influence of this group, the Socialist Workers Party (US) on the British Communist League (Wikipedia)  is clear -in fact it derives from a  faction inside the International Marxist Group which was essential a branch of the American organisation with, how can I put it tactfully, certain ‘special’ characteristics of their own. Okay – a slightly cultish obnoxious  groupuscule.

…neither that nor the bloody authoritarian nightmare that the Soviet Union had become after Stalin served to change Silberman’s mind about revolution. There was a still a shining light for him in the form of Cuba which, even now, he defends as a true a socialist revolution. A fluent Spanish speaker, Silberman still visits Cuba annually and speaks glowingly about the country’s health care system and Che Guevara, the late revolutionary and global icon.

In truth much to admire in Jonathan.

I recall him in the International Marxist Group as a sensible (in IMG terms that is) and dedicated bloke. Despite being in a rival faction (Tendency ‘B’ – led by Livingstone’s economics Guru, John Ross), he was one of the few able to have a rational conversation with his opponents – in this case me. The drift to the US SWP is something I know little of, for the good reason I was living in France when this happened. His views on Cuba aside (although given the ‘new thinking’ that began in the 1980s from his group’s New York HQ and Jack Barnes it’s hard to ever  put Cuba to one side) he has lived the life of somebody who followed the “turn to industry” in all seriousness – working in factories.

Silberman sees trends that bode well for working class consciousness in this country and, to be fair, as a worker at a factory in Hertfordshire he actually comes into contact with workers on a daily basis – unlike the massed ranks of the radical London left, content to cheer the revolution from posh North London cafes.

Silberman spends the bulk of his Saturdays knocking on doors in working class housing estates, and finds the respondents receptive.

“I’ll tell you something interesting, it doesn’t matter if someone is Labour, Tory or Ukip. It makes no difference to their interest in our politics. Supporting Ukip doesn’t signify some big right wing ideology. I don’t think that there is a massive anti-immigrant sentiment in the working class,” he said.

Silberman, who visited Calais last year and believes in open borders, said that when people do express anti-immigration views he is often able to convince them that far from being divided from workers from abroad, they should be joining with them to fight for better pay and conditions.

“Our proposal is to use the unions to organise a real campaign to recruit workers, foreign-born workers, through militant struggle and through defence of our rights. Why don’t we fight for massive rise in the minimum wage that would benefit all workers? Why don’t we fight for more housing?” he said.

In the article Silberman professes not to know how many members the Communist League has. Which is surprising since I saw them at a TUC Demonstration a couple of years ago – around 7 – around a stall in Hyde Park. Somebody a lot more familiar with the group than I am  pointed them out by name. He suggested that perhaps there were a couple absent that day, no doubt drawn by the rival attractions of a Derby and Joan dance.

Despite the loyalty towards Cuba the SWP (US) is not universally loved, admired, or even given the time of the day by much of the left, anywhere.

Here are some of many accounts of the disputes which have left the ‘party’ with reportedly under 100 members: What happened to the SWP (U.S.)?: Recent memoirs stir discussion by Dayne Goodwin

Silberman stood in last year’s General Election in Hackney North, and got 102 votes, which if repeated across the country means that the Communist League had potentially  66,300 ballot papers.

 His election leaflet (view here) contained this comment,

Working Farmers – Allies of the Working Class Dairy farmers facing rising costs and cuts in the  price they get for milk have taken to the streets. Such struggles by family farmers should win the support of the workers movement.

United in struggle, workers and working farmers are stronger. And through struggle a revolutionary alliance of workers and farmers can be forged.

London farmers and revolutionary workers will no doubt respond this time round.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Left Manifestos for Europe: Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, Yanis Varoufakis and Transforming the EU.

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The Observing Greece site has performed a service to the left by providing links to the following Manifestos on Europe.

New Manifestos  For Europe!

Our Manifesto for Europe” by Thomas Piketty and 14 others.
A Europe that works” by the ALDE party.
We are Europe” by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Ulrich Beck.
A Plan B in Europe” by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and others.
European Solidarity Manifesto” by european-solidarity.eu.

It also links to this, the most important of recent statements, Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 and their “Manifesto for Democratising Europe“.

Last October (2015) Yanis Varoufakis  announced plans to draw up this Manifesto.

One very simple, but radical, idea: to democratise Europe.” An interview with Yanis Varoufakis

He said,

So would Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party be welcome to join your movement?

YV: Absolutely. But you see it is important to make this point. This is not going to be a coalition of parties. It should be a coalition of citizens. They can belong to any party they want. This will not admit parties into it. It is not a party and it is not an alliance of parties. The idea is to create a grassroots movement across Europe of European citizens interested in democratising Europe. They can belong to any party. Of course they will be involved in other campaigns in their local communities, in their member states, in their nations. Maybe you will have people from different parties from the same country. I can easily imagine that, and actually I would like that. Because if the idea is not to replicate national politics, why can’t you have that? But personally, I count a lot on the Corbynites.

AS: Are you drawing up a manifesto?

YV: Yes. This is what we’re working on.

AS: Who’s writing it?

YV: I’m not going to give you names, and we will not sign it when we launch it. It will be a free floating text.

AS: Can you give us an estimated release date?

YV: It will be before Christmas.

AS: In the UK we are facing this referendum on whether we should leave or whether we should stay. openDemocracy has been discussing how this will be framed in the media and we think it may come down to something like this: “do we love business more than we hate immigrants, or do we hate immigrants more than we love business?”

YV: That’s an interesting way of putting it.

….

AS: Owen Jones is calling for what he calls Lexit – a left-wing exit from the EU. What would you say to someone like him who would support everything you say about Europe and democracy, but still wants to leave the EU?

YV: Well, I’m facing this kind of argument in my country with former comrades of mine in the government who left and formed the Popular Unity Party, who are saying exactly the same thing. We can’t have a genuine conversation with the Eurogroup, so exit is the only solution.

My argument is that there are no easy solutions. I wish that we could create an alternative universe in which it would be possible to have a degree of autonomy, autarky, that allows you to clean out the Augean stables. You can’t. The idea that we will go back to an agricultural pastoral life is absurd. Today, even combine harvesters are governed by electronics that our countries do not necessarily produce.

You cannot step back from the globalised market and especially from the Europeanised market. So if you exit without having any capacity to participate in the democratisation of that market, then you will always be subject to a market that is run by technocrats and you will have even less degrees of freedom than you have now.

I think it’s very important not to fall into the nationalist trap of thinking that you can recoil back into the nation-state cocoon. That doesn’t mean that we should go along with Brussels. I’m not in favour of staying within the EU and playing ball. I think I have proven this beyond any reasonable doubt. I believe in staying in to subvert the rules. Even to go into a campaign of civil disobedience within. That for me is the left wing strategy. Not “Lexit”.I’m not in favour of staying within the EU and playing ball. I think I have proven this beyond any reasonable doubt.

Owen Jones has taken this argument on board.

He now says, (Guardian 7th of January).

With Cameron in retreat, Labour can unite behind “in” while calling for a different EU. That means making it more democratic, more transparent and, above all, challenging how it is all too often hardwired to support unaccountable corporate interests rather than working people. There will be differences in emphasis in how this is achieved. For those on Labour’s left, there are two European initiatives that must surely be engaged with. One has been set up by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister. In February, he will launch the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), with the aim of democratising unaccountable EU institutions. Another is Plan B, set up by leftwingers such as Germany’s Oskar Lafontaine and France’s Jean Luc Mélenchon, which aims to coordinate European politicians, intellectuals, activists and NGOs with regular summits to chart a different way forward.

For too long, European movements aspiring to redistribute wealth and power have been fragmented, lacking in solidarity and coordination. Nobody believes that the EU – which has imposed calamitous economic policies throughout the eurozone – can be changed one country at a time. Syriza suffered a punishment beating for attempting to challenge EU austerity, largely because of the EU establishment’s fear that otherwise similar movements would follow its example. But Greece represents a tiny proportion of the EU economy, and was thus expendable. Before Christmas we saw the dramatic success of Podemos in Spain, which won a fifth of the vote after less than two years of existence and which is poised for further gains. A rightwing government has been deposed in Portugal, admittedly by a precarious leftwing coalition. There is a glimmer of hope for change in Europe.

You can get Varoufakis’s  latest views (in German) here:  Der Weltveränderer: Was Varoufakis wirklich will (24th January).

The Manifesto document is headed: To Democratise Europe or Abolish the EU.

Its central calls are,

  • To democratise the European Union.
  • To end the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquarding as merely technical decisions.
  • To subject the Brussels bureaucracy to the will of sovereign European peoples.
  • To re-politicise the rules that govern our single market.
  • To restore sovereignty to our Town Halls and Parliaments.

Standing together for a Europe of Reason, Liberty,  Tolerance and Imagination, made possible by comprehensive Transparency, real Solidarity and authentic Democracy, the manifesto calls for a social, democratic, decentralised, pluralist  and united Europe.

 notes that the clearest demands are these:

Within 6 months: full transparency in EU decision-making (live-streaming of all important meetings, publication of ECB minutes of important sessions, publication of all important documents such as the TTIP negotiations, etc.).

Within 12 months: address the economic crisis. DiEM 2025 will present detailed policy proposals in the four realms where the crisis is housed: public debt, banking, inadequate investment and rising poverty. The policy proposals will “Europeanize all four while returning power to national parliaments, to regional councils, to city halls and to communities.”

Within 2 years: formation of a Constitutional Assembly comprised of representatives elected on trans-national tickets. The Constitutional Assembly will be empowered to decide upon a future democratic constitution that will replace all existing European Treaties.

Thereafter: enactment of decisions of the Constitutional Assembly.

These proposals are, as they say, “courageous”.

Keleingut notes the lyrical prose of the Manifesto.

Indeed: I have edited the references to the text, to avoid burdening the reader with too many adjectives about what kind of Europe should be built.

But better the sentence, “We join in the magnificent tradition of fellow Europeans who have struggled for centuries against the wisdom that democracy is a luxury and the weak must suffer what they must.” than the mean-spirited phrase-mongering of the ‘Brexit’ crew, ‘left’ and right.

A key theme of the document is the need to avoid the violation of democratic decisions by the European Union – a very clear reference to the austerity imposed against the will of the Greek electorate.

Observing Greece adds this  comment,

I think there will be a significant correlation between Varoufakis followers and personal IQ. Young students with socially-romantic dreams will fall for him, no questions asked. I think there will also be a strong correlation between Varoufakis followers and lack of practical experience in the real world. And, of course, all dreamers of a leftist victory over cold-blooded neoliberals will be among Varoufakis’ passionate followers regardless of age, IQ or work experience.

I think the big question is whether Varoufakis will succeed in lighting a fire relatively soon. A fire among his followers, within the media, within the public discourse etc. If he does not succeed with that, his movement will wither away relatively quickly. As a new Finance Minister, Varoufakis succeeded in lighting a fire throughout Europe literally from one week to the next (until he blew a fuse). We will soon know if he manages to accomplish the same feat also as a former Finance Minister.

As a pro-European democratic socialist, a supporter of a “European Social Republic”, who will be voting to remain in the EU, I can only wish Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (Facebook) well.

As even the the hard-bitten Tendance supporters say, “On s’engage, et puis on voit”, You commit yourself, then you see….

More: Yanis Varoufakis. On Podemos, Greece, and DiEM – Interview in El Mundo. Varoufakis Blog. January the 24th.

Yanis Varoufakis: we need a new movement for democracy in Europe

Yanis Varoufakis speaks to Nick Buxton about why he is launching a pan-European movement for democracy, to save Europe before it’s too late. Red Pepper.

… instead of going from the nation-state level to the European level, we thought we should do it the other way around; that we should build a cross-border pan-European movement, hold a conversation in that space to identify common policies to tackle common problems, and once we have a consensus on common Europe-wide strategies, this consensus can find expression of that at the nation-state and regional and municipal levels. So we are reversing the process, starting at the European level to try to find consensus and then moving downwards. This will be our modus operandi.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Presidential at Paris ‘Plan B’ for Europe Anti-Austerity Rally.

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L’ère du peuple: The era of the People. 

At the sommet pour un Plan B en Europe in Paris over the Weekend in Paris Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who scored 11.05% of the vote in the first round of the French 2012 Presidential elections, is reported to be already gearing up for the 2016 contest.

Le Monde reports,

On Wednesday, on his blog, he explained that “the European Union remains harmful, hostile to democracy and social justice”. He developed these remarks in a small room of the Maison de la Chimie (7 th district of Paris), where he expounded the view that “in the context of the European fiscal treaty, no progressive policies are possible” and called for “break” within the framework of  the current treaties. In passing, he denounced the EU’s “rhetoric” of  “Europe that protects” noting the  “failures” of the EU in the refugee crisis.

The meeting brought together academics, researchers – largely from other European countries,  and a few not very well-known representatives of other left-wing parties such as Podemos, Izquierda Unida, the Greek Popular Unity group, The Danish Red-Green Party, Die Linke, including the respected figure of Oskar Lafontaine,

You can watch  and hear Mélenchon’s concluding speech here:

A notable absence was that of  Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek Finance Minister was, it was claimed, unable to attend because of diary problems.

Varoufakis is engaged in a much broader pan-European movement against austerity , a ‘Plan C’. This will be launched in Berlin in February: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Plan C.

Here is a full list of participants (in English)  and more details: Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe.

The people addressing the  session entitled, Win back our economic sovereignty included Morvan Burel who backs a return to ‘Popular sovereignty’ in place of the European Union.

Last April Burel  wrote this on the Front National’s demands: La reconquête de la souveraineté des peuples doit devenir le cœur battant de la gauche

…sortie immédiate de l’euro, rupture avec l’UE, rétablissement des frontières nationales, retour du protectionnisme, etc.

Il est capital pour la gauche radicale de ne pas refuser de s’emparer de ces revendications précisément parce que le Front national les a intégrées à son discours.

,,immediately leaving the Euro, breaking with the European Union, reestablishment of national borders, a return to protectionism. It is essential that the radical left does not refuse these demands simply because the Front National has woven them into its discourse. “

French speakers included members of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche and Cédric Durand, an economist and part of Ensemble, the ‘third’ component of the Front de Gauche.

The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français. PCF) did not participate in the rally.

On Saturday Le Monde published a report on negotiations for the French 2017 Presidential campaign between forces to the left of the Parti Socialiste (Mélenchon peaufine sa candidature pour 2017 – full article read in print edition). While noting that Mélenchon continued to score well in opinion polls (over 15% favourable opinions, January 2015), his populism, calls for a ‘democratic revolution’, hostility to the European Union that focuses on German power, and many of his  personal traits are not universally popular amongst his partners on the left.

Mélenchon, a fluent Spanish speaker, has close links with the Latin American left and with Spain’s Podemos. Like the latter he has sought inspiration in left populism. In these respects his discussions with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are of great interest  Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon (2012).

During the round table debate with the academic theorists of the “radical democratic imaginary” the  Parti de gauche’s use of national symbols, including the French Flag, and references to the French Revolution which dot his appeals to a new democratic Revolution featured prominently  (See also: L’ère du peuple. 2014).  How far this populism can go is not always clear. In 2015 his book,  Le Hareng de Bismarck, le poison allemand, which attacked German ‘arrogance’ was strongly criticised for nationalism (L’Allemagne n’est pas notre ennemie).

The Communists note that one ‘anti-system’ Populist candidate, Marine Le Pen, already exists. There is little space for another.

There is continued  talk of a break up of the Front de gauche alliance between the PCF and Mélenchon.

Le Parti de gauche veut Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme candidat puis élaborer un programme, le parti communiste veut faire naître un projet d’une réflexion collective avant toute désignation: leurs stratégies pour 2017 semblent à ce stade irréconciliables.

The Parti de gauche wants Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a (Presidential) candidate, and then they will work out a programme. The Communist Party want a project born out of a collective process of careful consideration before any candidate is chosen: their strategies ap[pear at this point irreconcilable.

Libération. 23rd of January.

 

You can read more of Mélenchon’s ideas here, on his blog modestly titled, L’ère du peuple: The era of the People. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Kate Hoey MP, from the International Marxist Group and Labour to ‘Grassroots out’: Tories, Farage, the DUP

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Kate Hoey MP: Joined IMG as had “better-looking young men” than other left groups.

Brexit Campaign ‘Grassroots Out’ Unites ‘Political Foes’ To Push For UK To Leave European Union

The Press Association reported that around 2,000 people are expected to attend the launch event in Northamptonshire that is being backed by Conservative Tom Pursglove (Corby and East Northamptonshire), Labour’s Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) and Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Reports the Huffington Post.

While attending the Ulster College of Physical Education, she joined the International Marxist Group, one of the few people with an Ulster Unionist background to do so in the 1960s.[1] After relocating to England, she graduated in economics from the City of London College, today known as London Metropolitan University. She was a senior lecturer at Kingsway College from 1976 to 1985, during which time she left the International Marxist Group (IMG).

Wikipedia.

This is what she now says of this experience, (2nd of January 2016. Guardian)

She also became vice-president of the National Union of Students, and was briefly was a member of the International Marxist Group, because it “probably had better-looking young men” than other radical-left groups.

As ex-IMG myself I can’t disagree with that.

But these are some of her present day opinions,

We also cannot accept the freedom of movement of labour at the expense of often much better qualified people from the Commonwealth. Why should my Afro-Caribbean constituents – most of whom who are third or fourth generation immigrants – find it so difficult to have their relatives visit.

These and many other loyal subjects of the Queen have a genuine affinity with the UK, unlike the thousands coming here from East Europe. The public know the immigration system is unfair, and the EU has made it so.

Daily Mail. 13th June 2015.

Hoey blames her party’s “extremely unpatriotic” outlook for its increasing alienation from its traditional working class supporters. “They feel very strongly about their country and we have been extremely unpatriotic as a party to our country. There’s just a feeling that we’re half-hearted about being British, we’re half-hearted about the monarchy, we’re half-hearted about the way we see our country in the world. I’m very proud of being British and I think the United Kingdom is a force for good in the world and we seem to feel all the time that we have to put ourselves down because somehow that might upset people”.

New Statesman. 17th of June 2015.

By way of a radical contrast, Tendance Coatesy backs the Labour in for Britain campaign to Vote to stay in the European Union.

We also support a number of broad pro-European left campaigns.

Including this: Another Europe is Possible.

Who we are

Another Europe Is Possible is a campaign for a radical ‘in’ vote in the EU referendum.

We have come together as activists and campaigners to build a Europe of democracy, human rights, and social justice. We don’t believe a British exit from the EU offers a path towards the social, citizen-led Europe we so urgently need. That’s why we are saying ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’.

Our campaign is still in development and we will publish a list of supporters when we formally launch in February 2016. Our organising group are also currently working towards a founding conference later this year – watch this space for more info.

From Another Europe’s site:

Leaving the EU will not free us from TTIP: The only way to respond to globalised threats to democracy is as part of the EU, argues Sam Fowles.

EU debate: We need to stay in Europe to change Europe. The idea that a social Europe could emerge by quitting the EU is a delusion. There are no quick fixes for neoliberalism, writes Luke Cooper in Red Pepper magazine

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 24, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Galloway ‘Not the Killing of Alexander Litvinenko’ – Mocks Russian’s Death on Twitter.

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The Blair Doc

Will Galloway now produce ‘Not the Killing of Alexander Litvinenko’?

George Galloway Dismisses Putin Links To Alexander Litvinenko Murder And Accuses BBC Of Holding ‘Show Trial’.

Reports the Huffington Post.

George Galloway has rejected a public inquiry’s conclusion that Vladimir Putin was “probably” involved in the murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko – claiming the process was “riddled with imperfection” and accusing the BBC’s Newsnight of conducting a “show trial”.

The former MP, who is standing to be London mayor for the Respect Party, defended the Russian President for “trying to restore a lot of the lost prestige” in the country and being “the most popular politician on the planet”.

The ex-Labour politician also likened Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry – which found Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun to have deliberately poisoned the 43-year-old in London in 2006 by putting the radioactive substance polonium-210 into his drink at a hotel – to the inquest into the death of Iraq weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, which has been blighted by cover-up theories.

As part of an attempt to pour scorn on the findings of the Public Inquiry Galloway has since tweeted this.

And re-tweeted this distasteful material.

Will Galloway  consider”crowd funding” a documentary which will expose the real reasons for these claims about Putin?

In the meantime we have this to look forward to:

Reserve your DVD at The Works, Remainder Store.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Socialist Action, Labour, and the Anti-imperialism of Fools.

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John Ross Weibo

Socialist Action ‘Guru’ John Ross.

In discussion about the Labour Party the name ‘Socialist Action’ often comes up.

We will not comment on the truth or otherwise of the details in this report,

Jeremy Corbyn acts as peacemaker between rival Labour factions after Neale Coleman quits

Labour insiders claim a pro-Livingstone group is battling for power with a camp led by John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor and Mr Corbyn’s closest political ally.

The  Livingstone faction, dubbed “the Kennites”,  includes Simon Fletcher, a former Ed Miliband aide who ran Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign and is now his chief of staff, the job he did for Mr Livingstone at City Hall. The “Kennites” are said to be less ideological and more pragmatic than the McDonnell group. They favour a conciliatory approach towards the Shadow Cabinet members and backbench MPs who have differences with Mr Corbyn.

The more hardline McDonnell camp includes Seumas Milne, a columnist on leave from The Guardian newspaper, who Mr Corbyn persuaded to become his director of communications after a shambolic start to his leadership. He is credited with injecting more discipline into the operation. But critics claim he is a divisive “control freak” who wants to be in charge of policy as well as communications and to supplant Mr Fletcher.

Mr Milne takes a less tolerant view of dissenting MPs than the “Kennites” and is said to have pressed Mr Corbyn to sack more Shadow Cabinet critics in this month’s messy reshuffle than he eventually did.  Shadow ministers angrily accused him of briefing journalists during a Shadow Cabinet meeting that Labour MPs would be whipped to vote against UK air strikes against Isis in Syria last December. When they saw the briefing on their smartphones, a rebellion forced Mr Corbyn to concede a free vote.

Team Corbyn have insisted there was “no row” between Mr Milne and Mr Coleman and dismissed as “complete rubbish” speculation that Mr Fletcher could walk out because of a rift with Mr Milne. One insider said: “Seumas is the conduit and gets all the flak. It’s not a clash, more growing into office pains. Everyone is learning as they go along, from Jeremy downwards. The stakes are high and everything gets magnified.”

The article continues,

Some Labour Kreminologists claim the current dispute can be traced back to a bitter split on the hard left in the 1980s when Mr Livingstone fell out with Mr McDonnell, his deputy as leader of the Greater London Council (GLC).  Mr McDonnell accused Mr Livingstone of selling out after he refused to defy the Thatcher Government by not balancing the GLC’s books. Mr McDonnell chairs the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which he founded in 2004 to reach out to left-wingers outside Labour. LRC figures attacked Mr Livingstone’s Socialist Action group as “plastic socialists”. The rival factions have even been compared to Russia’s hardline Bolsheviks and more moderate Mensheviks, who split in 1903.

This is something in this.

Simon Fletcher was indeed a member of Socialist Action. as were other key members of the GLC team – in the 1980s and later when Livingstone returned as London mayor (200 – 2008). Redmond O’Neil, Jude Woodward,  and John Ross (who was his “Economics Adviser”) are the best known of the ‘org’. But it is rather more than ‘Livingstone’s group’.

Socialist Action learnt its trade in the 1980s, backing the Labour Campaign group,

This unusually close agreement between a parliamentary faction and an extra-parliamentary organisation resembles the alliance between horse and rider.

The MPs assure us that Socialist Action is cured of its youthful radicalism, and will cheerfully prostrate itself by selling the MPs’ abysmally boring Campaign Group News.

John Sullivan  As Soon As This Pub Closes

It is said that this prostration developed wider during Livingstone’s time as London Mayor. But being errand girls and boys is part of a broader strategy.

Socialist Action, as John Sullivan’s handbook on how to organise on the British left,  is at no pains to note,  is a descendant of the International Marxist Group.

But those of us on the left who were in the International Marxist Group in the 1970s – and others who took part in the split in the 1980s which gave birth to Socialist Action – have more fundamental reasons to be hostile to the ‘elite groupuscule’.

The leader of the IMG John Ross (also known as Alan Jones – note to journalists) and  founding figure of Socialist Action took an anti-European stand during the 1975 referendum. Even those in our opposing tendency who also supported a No vote accused him of nationalism. Those of us who were pro-Europe (we advocated abstention at the time, which was a serious error) could frankly feel this  in our bones.

To be blunt us lot – called at the time Tendency A – hated his guts.

By extension, that means anybody associated with them, right to the present day. And it’s true to say that some of the people in the Labour Representation Committee  come from those opposed to the ‘Rossites’ from way way back. But many do not- age is the most obvious reason – and yet they hold equally forthright views about the organisation.

Why?

Well there are plenty of reasons and they are less and less to do with the past and a lot more to do with what Socialist Action stands for today.

These are a few:

A central part of their present ideology is the ‘anti-imperialism of fools‘.

This is their analysis of the “current phase of imperialism” (What is the current phase of imperialism? May 2014).

Michael Burke begins by observing that after the collapse of the USSR the US has tried to impose its power – from the Gulf War, to the attempted “hijacking” of the Arab Spring. But this was now at a  standstill. The US faces an impasse. Why?

…the economic rise of China has warranted a strategic ‘pivot’ towards Asia in an attempt to curb the rise of the only economy that could rival US supremacy in the foreseeable future. Given this absolute priority and the reduced circumstances of the US economy, it has been necessary to suspend new large-scale direct military interventions elsewhere.

This curb on US power has had immediate and beneficial consequences for humanity. Syria could not be bombed and neither could Iran. In these, Russian opposition to US plans was a key political obstacle, especially as the US wanted to deploy multilateral and multinational forces to do its bidding and needed the imprimatur of the UN Security Council. The US response to this blockage has been to increase pressure on Russia, most dramatically with its ouster of the elected Ukrainian government in a coup and its attempt to breach the country’s agreed neutrality by bringing it into NATO.

This curb on US power, however limited or temporary, should be welcomed by all socialists, by all democrats and simply by all those who desire peace. Instead, we have the strange spectacle that some on the left have raised the charge that Russia is imperialist, or that China is, or countries such as Brazil, or India or South Africa are ‘sub-imperialist’!

This is not a coincidence. In the US State Department’s frustration it has produced every type of calumny against Putin, including that he is an imperialist[i] and akin to Hitler. Self-styled socialists who simply echo these charges are not highly amenable to logical argument. But it is vital for socialists to understand the nature of imperialism and its current manifestation[ii].

Rather than echo the frustrations of the US State Department, socialists and communists welcome the current impotence of the US, for however long it lasts and however limited it is. In 1997 a triumphalist US imperialism set out its bold plan to brook no global or regional opposition and to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously[xii]. In 2013 the US and its allies were unable to begin bombing Syria.

Imperialism is the enemy of all humanity and its set-backs or defeats are a cause for celebration as they represent an advance for all humankind and the struggle for socialism.

So China and Putin have thwarted the US….. that is ‘anti-imperialism‘ for the modern day.

This is a recent screed by this genius of the world revolution, (Socialist Action John Ross. 29th of November)

How to really defeat ISIS

The effective measures that would really defeat ISIS are very simple – the fact Cameron doesn’t propose them shows he is lying about trying to destroy ISIS.

1. Turkey should be told it must close within 24 hours the main supply route across its border to ISIS at Jarablus and at other border crossings. If it does not a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Turkey, as with Iran and North Korea, and the UN Security Council will authorise coalition bombing for 5km inside the Syrian border with Turkey to cut supply routes to ISIS from Turkey.

2. Saudi Arabia should be told it must cease all transfers of money to ISIS. If proof is found of any further such transfers a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia as with Iran and North Korea.

If these measures are adopted they would, unlike Cameron’s bombing, lead to the crushing of ISIS. A resolution of the House of Commons should be adopted to embody this.

If Cameron refuses to adopt this policy it shows he is not in fact trying to defeat ISIS. Therefore no support can be given to his proposed bombing.

No supplies no funds, ISIS will just disappear off the face of the earth.

No more slavery, no more torture, no more genocide.

Why didn’t World Imperialism think of it before?

Cretins…..

It’s also worth noting that Ross still loves his country,

Britain is also one of the world’s great historical nations. I love my country deeply, and the enormous contributions it has made to world culture and science, and in which struggles such as the Suffragettes or to create our health service are a source of great pride. There are regrettably some things in my country’s history, as with every great state, which I am not proud of. Some of these I mentioned and were crimes done by Britain to China.

He loves China too,

Note for Jeremy Corbyn – How China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights

By John Ross. October the 20th. 

Sections of the British media present a supposed choice that Britain has to choose between either pursuing purely economic interests or criticising China over ‘human rights’. This posing of the issue is totally false – China should be supported precisely because of its contribution to human rights. China has done more to improve the overall situation not only of its own people but of humanity than any other country in the world – as the facts show.

Who doesn’t love Ross.

Well, us lot still loathe him and his mates.

But it’s more important to say this. A group that rejoices in Putin’s ‘anti-imperialist’ foreign policy – not to mention anybody who foils the  power of ‘imperialism’ and any set-back for the US (without specifying why this is in itself good) – is part of the “political confusionism” our French comrades talk about. A group that celebrates the Chinese regime, on the basis of some kind of ‘economist’ reductionist view of human rights,  has no place on the democratic socialist left. And why on earth does Ross feel the need to talk about his deep love for his “country”?

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

See also this virulently  hostile account of the groupuscule. The strange history of Socialist Action Martin Thomas.

Ligue des droits de l’homme demands France lifts state of emergency.

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« Avec l’état d’urgence, celle qui a perdu, c’est la démocratie »

Protest at French State of Emergency: between the Hammer of Terrorism and the Anvil of the State…. (December). 

La Ligue des droits de l’homme demande la fin de l’état d’urgence

Reports Le Monde. 20.1.16.

Adapted Extracts.

In the formal appeal to the French State Council, made ​​by the lawyer Patrice Spinosi, the Ligue suggests that in the event of a refusal to withdraw the full force of the state of emergency, it should at least suspend some of its measures, especially administrative searches and the prohibition of public meetings. In the short term  they could let run house arrests continue until 26 February but to ban the Ministry of Interior and the prefects from implementing  other measures.

“The persistence of a state of emergency more than two months after its declaration constitutes a serious and manifestly illegal attack on  fundamental freedoms”, they have written in the petition to the State Council. And evoke the right to respect for privacy and family, the freedom to go and come, freedom of work, etc. To justify such a request, the League of Human Rights, does mean “to challenge the centrality of the fight against terrorism”…..

The bulk of administrative and house arrest raids were ordered in the first two weeks following the attacks of 13 November. Jean-Jacques Urvoas, chairman of the Law Committee, has noted that “the main targets and goals had been treated” and that “the surprise effect has largely faded”.

Perhaps the most important part of the Ligue’s statement is that they fear  that continuing the state of emergency will  mean  authorising a permanent state of exception in the name of the fight against terrorism, and the definitive end of a state of law. (à autoriser le maintien perpétuel du régime exceptionnel au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme et ainsi renoncer définitivement à l’Etat de droit)

L’Humanité reported at the start of the year,

Five weeks of the state of emergency, 2,700 searches and… one indictment

Translated Sunday 3 January 2016, by Adrian Jordan

TALLY. In just over a month, the state of emergency has allowed the police to seize arms and drugs, but not to bring new terrorist networks to light. One sole indictment for terrorism has been issued.

Approved in a heavy vote in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks, the state of emergency, over and above the infringement of liberties which are inherent to it, has it been effective in the fight against terrorism? It is doubtful. Certainly, no new attacks have been perpetrated in the country since the deployment of police, the banning of rallies, the 2,700 searches held between 14 November and 16 December, or even the 360 cases of house-arrest sanctioned by the interior ministry. But no indictments seem to have resulted thanks to the big kerfuffle created in the fight for security.

To date, one sole indictment for criminal association in connection with terrorist activity has been issued against a 27-year-old Chechen national, who has been placed under house-arrest in Tours. During a search of his home, police found a video in which he made allegiance to Daesh [1]. During questioning, the man admitted putting the said video online but denied any will to commit terrorist action. In total, three antiterrorist investigations were spurred by these searches, including the one involving a Chechen who came to France with his family as an adolescent.

Even if they have not dismantled new Islamist networks, at least the police have not completely wasted their time. “431 weapons, including 41 military-grade weapons, were seized in three weeks, which represents a third of the year’s seizures”, advanced Bernard Cazeneuve on 15 December. 488 judicial procedures have been started, of which 167 for drug offences. “Seizing arms and drugs, is all well and good, but that has very little to do with the fight against terrorism”, underlined Maître Henri Leclerc, honorary president of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (League of Human Rights). Although it does not usually make statements, the national conference of prosecutors sounded the alarm on Friday, alluding to a judicial frenzy since the 13 November attacks. In addition, prosecutors have announced the intention to set aside certain activities such as crime prevention or participation in urban policy, to concentrate on activities “having an operational interest”. As yet there has been no response from the Chancellery.

[1Translator’s note: I have deliberately changed legitimating terms such as IS and jihadist to Daesh and Islamist as I feel it would be irresponsible journalism not to do so (even within the remit

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

On The Jihadis Next Door.

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The Jihadis Next Door was not pleasant, but nevertheless, was essential viewing last night.

It featured interviews with Abu Rumaysah, who’s believed to appear in an Isis execution video.

 The former bouncy castle salesman – whose real name is Siddhartha Dhar but is now more commonly known as Jihadi Sid since he fled the UK for Syria and issued a chilling threat against the UK – features in The Jihadis Next Door for Channel 4 .

“My name’s Abu Rumaysah,” he says in the first trailer for the documentary. “One day when Sharia comes, you’ll see this black flag flying everywhere,” he added as he poses next to a black flag.

Mirror.

The Independent reports,

The extraordinary footage of Abu Rumaysah, who fled the UK to join Isis in 2014 having previously been arrested six times, was shot by the film-maker Jamie Roberts for a Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, screened on Tuesday night.

Channel 4 has declined a Metropolitan Police request for a pre-broadcast viewing of the film, in which two other activists already known to the authorities, Mohammed Shamsuddin and Abu Haleema, laugh while watching an Isis murder video and speak of recruiting fellow British Muslims through “brain-washing”.

Abu Rumaysah, real-name Siddhartha Dhar, has not been officially confirmed as the masked figure in the video, released a couple of weeks ago, which shows the murder of five men accused by Isis of spying for the UK.

In the Guardian Sam Wollonstan was struck by the giggling and smirking of the pair,

Haleema and Shamsuddin were and what they believed. But no, they’re watching a brutal Isis video. People are being drowned in a cage. Others have explosive belts wrapped around their necks which are then detonated. “The guy’s foaming at the mouth, wow!” laughs Shamsuddin. “And I’m eating, hahahaha.”

There were some memorable scenes when Pakistani worshipers at a Mosque confronted, with great anger, this bunch protesting at celebrations of their country’s Independence day and when a Muslim man denounced them as ISIS recruiters in Oxford Street.

Amongst the reactions to the programme most have made the point, amply proved, that these are a very small fringe group.

But there are  over 700 people from the UK who have travelled to the Middle East to join the Daesh Einsatzgruppen.

The scale of the mass killings, the slavery, the oppression of people by the Disciplinary Machine of the Islamic State, the cleansing of religious minorities, means that people across the world are justifiably concerned at the activities of their supporters, wherever they may be, and however marginalised they are.

All of these bigoted supporters of mass murder spoke perfect English – so much for plans to make ‘language tests’ part of the  ‘anti-extremist’  Prevent strategy. Indeed the idea of subjecting people to this, apart from the obvious fact that the government has cut funding for English language teaching for adults, is more than patonising: it is setting up a criterion that’s designed to label and exclude a group of people.

For once we agree with the SWP.

Though we have to add this.

There was one word the Islamists in the documentary  used, ‘kufer‘ which though formally meaning ‘unbeliever’ has come to signify something in the same category as ‘nig-nog’ ‘yid’ or ‘wog’. That is, a racist term.

It is surprising that the word is not treated in the same way as plain racialist abuse.

The scenes of merry laughter at videos of torture and slaughter, a lot more than this case of hate-speech, means that The Jihadis Next Door raises some weighty issues.

The principal one is: how can the Daesh supporters be fought?

They are part of a wider, fractured Islamist movement, some of which is as violent as they are, others are ‘conservative’, and pursue their aims without overt coercion. All gravitate around the idea that the ‘law’ of ‘god’ has priority over human law – and therefore human rights and democracy.

It would be better if the left, while rightly criticising the government’s Prevent strategy, had something of its own to offer that defended human rights.

We would suggest that this should start with alliances not with “Muslim” groups with a ‘moderate’ agenda, but with those people who openly stand for freedom and secularism, such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

Internationally we could not do better than backing the Kurdish people in their life and death struggle against Daesh and the repression of the Turkish state.

Just as we should ally with the left and liberals in countries where Islamists pose a real threat to all, we should be working with their generous, courageous and open-minded counterparts here.

As indeed some of us already are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 20, 2016 at 12:13 pm

UK Apologises to Turkey for Kurdish Protest at Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Visit

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London protest against Turkish PM Davutoglu invited by David Cameron

UK apologizes to PM Davutoğlu over pro-PKK protests in London: Anadolu Agency

Reports the Turkish English language site The Daily News.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has reported that U.K. authorities apologized to visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for protests staged in London while he was holding an official meeting with his British counterpart, David Cameron, on Jan. 18.

Sajid Javid, the British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, visited Davutoğlu at the hotel where he was staying during his two-day visit to London to apologize about the protests, Anadolu Agency quoted anonymous prime ministerial sources as saying.

A group of supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had chanted slogans in favor of the group in front of Downing Street while Davutoğlu and Cameron were holding scheduled talks.

Anadolu Agency claimed that Javid said the protests were “unacceptable” and the U.K. would take “all necessary measures” to prevent such a situation from taking place again.

The Turkish authorities had earlier informed their British counterparts that not enough security measures were taken during the meeting.

Turkey, the European Union, and the United States officially consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, Anadolu Agency reported that Javid said Davutoğlu’s visit, together with a large retinue of businessmen, would contribute to a deepening of cooperation between the two countries on the subjects of innovation, research and trade.

Fracas (from Here)

The Kurdish Question has a different report.

Hundreds of Kurds gathered outside 10 Downing Street under heavy police presence today to protest at the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to London.

People began convening in front of the UK Prime Minister’s offices in the afternoon to protest the Turkish state’s recent atrocities against Kurdish civilians, which has left over 200 people dead, and whole neighbourhoods in ruins.

Protestors shouted, “Terrorist Turkish state,” “War criminal Davutoglu,” and “Shame on you Cameron.” Placards and banners at the demonstration read, “Murderer Davutoglu,” “Davutoglu=War Criminal ISIS Supporter,” and “Stop The Genocide.”

According to Turkish media Davutoglu met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss strengthening business ties between the two states and Turkey’s accession to the EU.

As Davutoglu’s convoy appeared at the gates of 10 Downing St many protestors broke the police cordon to vent their anger at the Turkish Prime Minister. Five demonstrators including our columnist Kurdish activist Mark Campbell were arrested in the ensuing fracas.

Demonstrators were very critical of the police’s approach from the beginning of the demonstration, as officers used heavy-handed tactics against protestors, physically abusing many people.

The five people, including two minors, who were arrested were taken to Charing Cross police station. One of the protestors has been released on bail while the others are still being held.

More pictures:at Demotix.

Update:  MARK CAMPBELL AND OTHER PROTESTORS RELEASED ON BAIL

demotix logo

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Ovenden – Morning Star – compares Charlie Hebdo to Mussolini and Oswald Mosley.

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Ovenden: Mussolini, Moseley, Charlie Hebdo – même combat.

In today’s Morning Star an individual, Kevin Ovenden, a prominent member of George Galloway’s Respect Party, has this article published,

Racism; The Achilles Heel of Middle Class Liberalism.

He begins,

WASN’T Charlie Hebdo once something to do with the left, loosely a product of a previous upsurge of social struggle many years ago?

Yes it was. So were Sir Oswald Mosley, Benito Mussolini, Georges Sorel…

Ovenden is perhaps too ignorant of socialist history to know that Georges Sorel’s said of Lenin, after the Russian Revolution, that he was “the greatest theoretician of socialism since Marx” (see Wikipedia. The citation is from a postscript to Reflections on Violence – 1908, ‘In Defence of Lenin‘ added 1919).

Unless he means that admiring Lenin meant was proof that Sorel was a racist.

I will not dignify somebody who supports George Galloway by citing his reflections on Charlie, our Charlie, on an ill-judged ‘une’ poking puerile and forgettable  fun at the pro-abortion manifeste des 343, in 1971.

Dubious as the front page may have been what that has to do with racism is nevertheless beyond me.

Ovenden then refers to the Riss cartoon in the Weekly.

Islamophobia is the Jewish question of our day. It is not simply one reactionary idea among many, which all principled socialists oppose.

It plays a particular corrupting role across politics and society as a whole.

One effect is revealed when some people’s reaction to a viciously racist and Islamophobic cartoon is quickly to start talking about freedom of speech, as if the “freedom” to pump out that stuff in Europe were at all under attack from the states and governing political forces.

I would note that the Jewish question of today is….the Jewish question of today.

It has not gone away.

If you want proof there were people immediately arguing on Facebook that publishing Riss showed that Israeli funding for Charlie and the attendance of Netanyahu at the Charlie memorial  were somehow related to the publication of the Riss cartoon.

We have blogged our own critical views on the cartoon and we will not repeat them, except to say, we defend our beloved Charlie from the depths of our being, we do not defend every drawing they ever publish.

Ovenden then continues,

Freedom is under threat in France. There is a state of emergency. Scores of Muslim places of worship are slated for closure by the state.

The courts have declared that boycotting Israeli goods is illegal. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been banned.

Roma have been rounded up and deported. Trade unionists who occupied their factory against job losses have had nine-month jail sentences handed down.

The already extensive repressive arms of the state are being further extended into the banlieues and cités.

Instead of systematic and serious attention given to this — and similar developments in other countries — liberal intellectual and political life in Europe tilts at windmills.

Pause.

Ovenden has skipped over the corpses of our martyred dead to make this comment,

To call to rally against a threat which is not there is, whatever the intentions of those ringing the tocsin, to divert us from those threats which really are there.

Alarm bell, false alert…..but……

Is there really no problem with violent Islamism in Europe?

Do the victims of the 13th of November count for nothing in the minds of Respect leaders?

Well totalitarian Islamism is a threat, to the sisters and brothers in Syria, of Iraq,  to the Kurds, to the cause of progressive humanity, to ordinary people who have been murdered, tortured and enslaved by the Islamists of Daesh.

But to return to this extraordinary article…

The idea that liberals and leftists have ignored the French clamp down in the état d’urgence will come as fucking news to our French comrades who have protested against it from day one, from countless independent left groups, radical leftists, to this appeal from the venerable liberal Ligue des droits de l’homme:  Sortir de l’état d’urgence (17th December).

This is what the comrades from Ensemble – the third largest group in the Front de gauche said on the 19th of November: Communiqué de Ensemble! Non à l’état d’urgence !.

This is what l’Humanité had to say at the end of November: Etat d’urgence. Le Front de gauche refuse l’exception permanente

This is an upcoming meeting against the repressive measures by the  comrades of the French Communist Party:

Agoras de l’Humanité – 30 janvier 2016 – « État d’urgence, déchéance de nationalité, citoyenneté menacée »

But like a SWP student leaflet Ovenden has managed to confuse matters by adding everything but the kitchen sink into his rant.

How the Goodyear sentences (the trade unionists he refers to), the decision on boycotting Jewish goods  are related to state of emergency would be interesting to see demonstrated.

What ever was Ovenden’s mind as he wanders further around the subject of racism in Europe, passing by Germany, his life in a working class port city in the North of England (Blackpool?), and the further faults of the high-faulting  petty bourgeoisie we will, hopefully, never know.

But why does he end by stating that he stands for class solidarity.

In the “Europe of extremes, I’m staking my lot — including my own personal sense of security, of hope against fear — on the proles.”

Like one horny handed George Galloway no doubt.

Or is this perhaps the “mordant satire and mockery” he loves amongst the proles.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Protests at Crimes Against the Kurds as Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoğlu Visits London.

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PM Davutoğlu flies off to London to promote Turkey’s huge investment potential.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu started his one-week “investment tour” on Sunday which will include visits to London, Davos and Berlin. The first visit will be to London, where Davutoğlu will meet with 350 leading investors, who collectively manage around $10 trillion. Davutoğlu will give the opening speech at the 16th Turkish Investment Conference organized by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a leading investment bank, and will address various business circles as well as invite international investors to Turkey, at various events organized by Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs and the Foreign Economic Affairs Board. He will inform the investors regarding Turkey’s legislative reforms as well as Turkey’s plans for accession to the European Union and will give out the message that Turkey is worthy of investment and has an economic atmosphere which minimizes risks. Davutoğlu will announce the Middle-Term Economic Program and will explain Turkey’s road map until 2018 to investors. Davutoğlu will also attend a lunch with CEOs and other executive managers of 18 of the most crucial global investment funds at Goldman Sach’s European Headquarters. During the round-table meeting scheduled for Chatham House in London, Davutoğlu will be providing insight and express his views regarding regional and international events and developments.

Daily Sabah.

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in London to meet UK PM David Cameron. The visit comes at a time when the Turkish state is killing innocent Kurdish civilians, imprisoning dozens of journalists, politicians, human rights activists and academics.

We condemn the Conservative government’s collusion with the Turkish state and its silence in the face of Kurdish massacre.

• We demand that the UK government criticise and pressure Turkey to stop its human rights abuses against Kurds.
• We demand that the UK government impose sanctions on Turkey.
• We ask that you write to your local MP about this issue and pressure them to bring it up in Parliament.
• We request that you boycott Turkish tourism and products.

Support us in our struggle for the recognition, right to self-determination and freedom of Kurds!

Support us in our struggle for a democratic, secular and gender-equal society!

Support us in our struggle for a peaceful and political solution to the Kurdish question!

Protest at 14.30 today Downing Street.

Facebook.

 

Kurdish Question

Support for academics who demanded that the Turkish state stop its atrocities against the Kurdish people with the declaration, ‘We will not be a party to this crime,” is growing.

RELATED: More Than 1000 Academics Call For Peace Talks To Resume Between Turkey And PKK

565 academics, as of date, across UK universities and higher education institutions have signed an open letter supporting Turkish and non-Turkish academics who released the initial declaration calling for the Turkish state to stop violence against Kurds and resume peace talks.

The open letter, undersigned by 565 academics, to the Turkish government is below:

Open Letter of support for academics being victimised in Turkey

As scholars associated with universities and higher education institutions in the UK and internationally, we are extremely disturbed by Turkey’s recent treatment of academics that have spoken out against atrocities being committed by the Turkish state against Kurds.

1,128 Turkish and Kurdish ‘Academics for Peace’ originally signed the statement “We will not be a party to this crime”, calling on the Turkish government to cease hostilities against its Kurdish population. Since the publication of this statement, these academics have been subject to a sustained campaign of abuse and violence from both the Turkish state and its supporters.

In recent speeches, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly denounced these academics. Subsequently, prosecutors have begun proceedings to charge all 1,128 of the original signatories with “propagandising for a terrorist organization” and “overtly insulting the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of Republic of Turkey and the judicial organs of the state”.

This has resulted in 22 academics having been taken into custody (at the time of writing).  If convicted of these charges they could face 1-5 years imprisonment. The legitimacy of arrests has already been questioned by prominent legal experts and described as “extra-legal” decisions. Signatories have also been publicly exposed in the press and social media by government supporters and nationalists, leading to fears of reprisals from fascists that have declared they will ‘spill the blood’ of the signatories. Many of the signatories also face disciplinary proceedings and possible sackings from their institutions.

These unjust acts are unfolding in a context of continuing state violence against Kurds- in December 2015 alone 100 Kurds were killed as a result of military operations conducted by the Turkish state. Since August 2015 there have been 52 open-ended and round-the-clock curfews imposed on over one million inhabitants in south east Turkey.  In such a context, the clamp down on academic freedom constitutes another moment in the deepening authoritarianism of the Turkish state. This includes not attacks on not only academics but also the continuing imprisonment and deaths of journalists, lawyers and activists.

We call on the Turkish government to withdraw its prosecutions, immediately release all those imprisoned and commit to the principles of academic freedom and free speech. We moreover reaffirm the Academics for Peace call on the Turkish government to cease their hostilities against Kurds.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Germans and refugees protest against sexism and racism after Cologne attacks

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Köln Demonstration Syrer gegen Sexismus

Germans and refugees protest against sexism and racism in wake of Cologne attacks

Germans, Syrians and others have protested in Cologne against the sexual assaults of New Year’s Eve. As the backlash against refugees grows, some people with migrant backgrounds feel they’re becoming public enemies.

Reports Deutsche Welle. 

Beneath a grey January sky, a handful of men gathered in front of the towering Cologne Cathedral carrying placards and waving German and Syrian flags. Then, as curious bystanders began to trickle over, the men unfurled a banner with a message scrawled in black and green.

“We’re refugees from Syria,” it read in German. “We’re against racism, sexism and war.”

It marked the beginning of the first of two demonstrations on Saturday meant to counter the increasingly negative image of refugees in the wake of the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

Since that night, in which more than 500 women reported being sexually harassed in front of the main train station by a mob of men, most of them from migrant backgrounds, male refugees from the Middle East feel they’re suddenly the enemy in a country that only a short while ago had celebrated their arrival.

Jabbar Abdullah, a 28-year-old Syrian who organized the first, smaller demonstration, said he wanted to convey to the public that there was a distinction between the men who committed those crimes and ordinary refugees.

Slavoj Žižek wrote some words of sense at the end of last year (In these Times. November).

Another taboo we must address concerns norms and rules. It is a fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights. Tolerance as a solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) obviously doesn’t work: fundamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humour, which we consider a part of our freedoms. Western liberals, likewise, find it impossible to bear many practices of Muslim culture.

These comments are easy to extend.

It is the case, as everybody knows, that vicious sexual harassment is a particular problem in many Muslim cultures, in the Middle East and North Africa.

In liberal and tolerant Tunisia the issue has become extremely important. In June last year this (amongst scores of articles) appeared: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS MAKING LIFE HELL FOR WOMEN IN TUNISIA By Hana Rekik.

One would have wished for  Žižek to show some awareness of this.

Unfortunately he  has reverted to form and this week has written appalling drivel on the topic in the New Statesman.

I will not dignify him by directly citing it.

Those who want to read it it’s here:  The Cologne attacks were an obscene version of carnival.

I would also like to state  that in relation to the controversy about the Charlie Hebdo cartoon that those who have used this drawing for their own ends, to spread hatred of French leftist secularists are also beneath contempt.

This Cologne demonstration is dignified and moving.

There have been many other reactions to the sexual assaults.

It pains me to say this but amongst them the Riss cartoon in Charlie Hebdo is not worth the paper it’s written on.

The hysterical anti-Charlie people who jumped like fleas on the drawing – some claiming that it shows proof that ‘Israel’ was reaping a reward for donating to the Weekly – are beneath contempt.

Some have tried to explain the meaning of the picture:

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The fact remains that Riss is neither funny -nor exactly cutting against the grain.

The Tendance backs Charlie Hebdo to the hilt – not every cartoon in it.

This gives some reasons why the Tendance does not defend Riss’s dessein, and yes, I do get the ‘culture’.

The drawing did not especially disturb me. Nor did it make me laugh. It only brought to mind the spirit of Hara-Kiri [CH’s anarchic 1960s forerunner], the spirit of its Choron-Cavanna-Reiser era, indiscriminately going after everything that moves — the cops AND the protestors, the generals AND the pacifists, the idiots, the government bureaucrats, the fascists, the academics. And so, why not, the migrants too, without giving all that much thought to whether we’re talking about the migrants themselves, or the migrants as les fachos depict them. Throw it all in, it’s all good for ink.

An Open Letter to Riss, Care of The Internet (by Daniel Schneidermann)

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2016 at 11:43 am

Ellen Meiksins Wood (1942 – 2016). A Tribute.

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Ellen Meiksins Wood, the wife of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, has died of cancer at the couple’s Ottawa home at the age of 73.

Reports 

She was a noted intellectual figure on the international left, whose studies of class, politics and political ideas influenced several generations of thinkers and activists.

Wood’s writings were thought-provoking and luminous.

She first came to a wide left audience with The Retreat from Class: A New ‘True’ Socialism (1986). This was a collection of her intervention in debates, conducted through the pages of New Left Review, and the Socialist Register,  that took place in the wake of Eric Hobsbawm’s famous polemic, The Forward March of Labour halted? (Marxism Today 1978 – expanded in book form with replies from supporters and critics in 1981).

Many left intellectuals not only backed Hobsbawm’s view that the material importance of class institutions in shaping politics was declining with the drop in numbers in the industrial working class, but extended this to question the relationship between class and politics itself.

Post-Marxists began to argue that a plurality of ‘democratic struggles’ and social movements would replace the central place of the labour movement in politics. Some contrasted  ‘civil society’ a more complex and open site of democratic assembly to the alleged ‘monolithic’ vision of politics embodied in the traditional labour movement. In a diffuse way this was associated with the once fashionable idea that “a “post-modern” society dissolved reality in ‘simulacra’. Others claimed it  meant the end of “grand narratives” – or more bluntly, that the ideas of socialism and the Left was splintering so quickly that only a fragmented series of ‘critical’ responses were possible against neo-liberal regimes of ‘governance’.

Wood argued for the importance of class in shaping not just political interests but the potential constituency of  radical socialist politics. Fights over power were at the centre of Marxism and these were part and parcel with disputes over exploitation and the appropriation of the social surplus. The ‘new social movements’, the women’s movement, the rising ecological movement, campaigns for racial and sexual equality, were interlaced with class conflicts. Democracy could not be abstracted from these relations. To appeal, as writers such as Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe did, to the formation of a new hegemonic strategy based on  relations of “equivalence” between various democratic demands ignored the basic facts about class and power. Like her comrade Ralph Miliband Wood saw socialism as an effort to bring together people around the central issues of exploitation and oppression in democratic organisations that could shape politics. This had historically been the result of conscious action, and this kind of collective work was needed more than even against a very real and growing grand narrative – the institutionalisation of neo-liberal economics and government assaults on working people, and the unemployed – in building a new regime of capitalist accumulation.

Political Marxism.

In academic as well as left-wing activist  circles Wood became known for her “political Marxist” approach to history. This focused on the issue of the transition from feudalism to capitalism and social property relations and the way this shaped the politics of early modern states.  The Pristine Culture of Capitalism 1992  was a summary of this approach. British merchants and agricultural  capitalists has actively determined the administrative Parliamentary forms, from Cromwell’s republic to the Glorious Revolution – the restoration of the Monarchy.

These writings were also directed against the views of Perry Anderson (Editor of New Left Review) and Tom Nairn (today best known for his Scottish nationalism). In the early days of the Second New Left they had asserted  that the so-called ‘archaic’ British state was a reflection of a an equally ‘pre-modern’ capitalism dominated not by these forces by an aristocratic surrogates for the bourgeoisie. Nairn and Anderson claimed that the ‘supine’ bourgeoisie – who abdicated political rule to the ‘aristocracy’. Their domination of UK politics  left deep traces right until the present. For this strand of New leftists the failure of the a resolute bourgeoisie to assume real power been mimicked by a “supine” working class. In later writings Anderson talked of the need for a new wave of democratic modernisation to bring the country into line with the ‘second’ bourgeois revolution of modernity.

Wood, by contrast, pointed out, had a developed capitalism, indeed it was the most ‘modern’ form of capitalism. Its state form was related to its early advance, and its allegedly old-fashioned trappings – from the Monarchy downwards – had not thwarted capitalist expansion but arisen in relation to needs of its own bourgeoisie. The labour movement had developed in struggle with these forces, not in deference to them.

In some respects this response is not unlike E.P.Thompson’s defence of the labour movement. But Wood went deeper into the mechanisms of markets and state formation. She illustrated the feeble empirical basis of the claims about UK archaism. Britain is hardly alone in having a Monarchy to begin with, and the notion that there is something specifically modern in any state-type evaporates when one looks at studies of the varieties of administrative and government forms. France, for example, remains profoundly marked by its own past ‘feudal’ administrative forms. The USA Constitution is a relic from the 18th century. On all the essential points present-day Britain was no more, no less, ‘modern’ than anywhere else in Europe or in any contemporary capitalist state. Indeed it was for long a template for bourgeois democracy. In particular Wood attacked the claims of Tom Nairn that in some fashion Ukania (his ‘funny’ word for the United Kingdom, modelled on the novelist ( 1880 – 1942) Robert Musil’s term for the Austro-Hungrian empire, Kakania – shit land) owed its economic difficulties to its constitution.  Economic problems  arose at root from the general contradictions of capitalist accumulation, in a specific form. The problems of British democracy were due to its capitalist character , not to the issues Nairn-Anderson dreamt up about its sonderweg.

Brenner thesis.

More widely Wood is known, in developing these writings, as an advocate of a version of the ‘Brenner thesis’ (after Robert Brenner’s article, Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe“1978). The creation of market relations in British agriculture were considered to be the foundation of modern capitalism. The essential condition was separation from non-market access to the means of subsistence, the means of self-reproduction. Wood argued that it was the capitalist transformation of agriculture, followed by the rise of merchant class expanding these forms through international trade, created the ground of Western capitalism.  It was also responsible for the distinctive state forms that emerged in Britain.

In the Agrarian Origins of Capitalism (1998) Wood summarised her views,

The distinctive political centralization of the English state had material foundations and corollaries. First, already in the 16th century, England had an impressive network of roads and water transport that unified the nation to a degree unusual for the period. London, becoming disproportionately large in relation to other English towns and to the total population of England (and eventually the largest city in Europe), was also becoming the hub of a developing national market.

The material foundation on which this emerging national economy rested was English agriculture, which was unique in several ways. The English ruling class was distinctive in two major and related respects: on the one hand, as part of an increasingly centralized state, in alliance with a centralizing monarchy, they did not possess to the same degree as their Continental counterparts the more or less autonomous “extra-economic” powers on which other ruling classes could rely to extract surplus labor from direct producers. On the other hand, land in England had for a long time been unusually concentrated, with big landlords holding an unusually large proportion of land. This concentrated landownership meant that English landlords were able to use their property in new and distinctive ways. What they lacked in “extra-economic” powers of surplus extraction they more than made up for by their increasing “economic” powers.

Wood’s political stand was firmly within the Marxist ambit. In 1999 she stated (The Politics of Capitalism) ,

…all oppositional struggles—both day-to-day struggles to improve the conditions of life and work, and struggles for real social change—should be informed by one basic perception: that class struggle can’t, either by its presence or by its absence, eliminate the contradictions in the capitalist system, even though it can ultimately eliminate the system itself. This means struggling for every possible gain within capitalism, without falling into the hopeless trap of believing that the left can do a better job of managing capitalism. Managing capitalism is not the job of socialists, but, more particularly, it’s not a job that can be done at all.

The broader  focus on the links between capitalism and state forms continued in her study Empire of Capital (2003). This analysed how the “empire of capital” (rather than the vague ‘globalisation’ or the rhizome of Hardt and Negri’s  ‘Empire’) shapes the  modern world through “accumulation, commodification, profit maximization, and competition.”

Wood’s later works, Citizens to Lords: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (2008) and Liberty & Property: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Renaissance to Enlightenment  were ambitious attempts to narrate and analyse Western political thought in the light of class categories.

Wood had a profound influence on countless people.

She was a democratic Marxist, a feminist, a perceptive writer and a force for good.

Homage to her memory.

Remembering Ellen Meiksins Wood.

Ellen Meiksins Wood — Her Importance to Me. by Ursula Huws (Monthly Review). 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Political Confusion in Europe, from the anti-imperialism of fools to racism.

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Berlin last Weekend: Socialist ‘martyrs’ Qaddafi next to Allende.

Our French comrades have a word for it, “confusionnisme” (see this site for more information).

That is the tendency of some to blur the distinction between left and right, mixing the worst of both.

The ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ is one axis, conspiracy theories another, and ‘sovereigntism’, anti-European Union calls for national ‘sovereignty’ another.

The former areas have been well covered on many blogs – or, for the fools just look at the above picture.

It’s the latter that comes up today.

Jacques Sapir, an eminent French economist (really, this is not a joke*), who in 2008 publicly backed the Front de Gauche (to the left of the Socialist Party) , has now passed so far to the extreme right – notably through his opposition to the EU, and the Euro, that his material has just appeared on the front page of one of the vilest racist publications in Europe, Eléments (Nouvelle Droite).

This is their latest issue:

*Since 1996, he has been the director of studies at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, and head of the Centre d’Étude des Modes d’Industrialisation (CEMI-EHESS.

More on how the Front National is courting him, “L’économiste Jacques Sapir, ex-soutien de Mélenchon, courtisé par le FN. ” 11.1.16.

L’économiste Jacques Sapir, ancien soutien de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, susciterait les convoitises du Front national, selon un indiscret publié ce lundi dans Le Parisien.

D’après le titre, il a participé au mois de novembre à un colloque sur l’euro organisé par les élus du groupe européen du parti d’extrême droite. La réunion était organisée par Bruno Lemaire, le secrétaire général du club Idées Nation, un cercle de réflexion créé par Louis Aliot et proche du Front national.”

The economist Jacques Sapir, a former backer of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is said to aroused the interest of the Front National according to a leaked note published this Monday in Le Parisien.

In this context he took part, in November, in a colloquium on the Euro held by the MEP’s of the Extreme Right Party. The meeting was organised by Bruno Lemaire, the Secretary of the Club  Idées Nation, a discussion group created by Louis Aliot, and close to the Front National.

Confusionnisme.info

Written by Andrew Coates

January 14, 2016 at 11:57 am

Galloway: Labour Ought to Beg Me to Return.

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Site of Galloway’s Christmas Dinner Fundraiser.

After his successful London Mayor campaign launch  George Galloway is looking to the political future.

George Galloway interview: Labour should be begging me to return.

Reports Politics Co.UK.

Newshound Robert McGregor trackled the retiring figure down.

Here are some of the highlights.

“Galloway commented earlier this year about the possibility of re-joining the Labour Party if Corbyn won. Has it been discussed?”

Jeremy has been my friend and comrade for over 30 years,” he replies. “In fact most videos of my speeches have him sitting next to me. I know the media keep asking him about this subject and I know why he has difficulties answering it – he has enough problems with remaining Blairites without opening a new front over me. Although some Blairites like John McTernan and Jim Murphy I’m sure would encourage Corbyn to go for it. On the other side, Ken Livingstone recently went on the record in support of my re-admission to the Labour party. But my position remains the same; the Labour party should rescind my unjust war-time expulsion, opposed at the time by Mr Foot, Mr Benn and of course Jeremy Corbyn”

In this context the Great Man talks of a possible opening to Scottish Labour.

The interviewer one  Robert McGregor comments, “It would be foolish for Scottish Labour not to at least consider a Galloway comeback.

Galloway concedes that he couldn’t return to Scottish Labour and fight London Labour for the mayoralty at the same time. “But time is short to do anything about that. My London campaign is moving up the gears….”

The campaign promises to be a tough one, with Galloway already scoring a significant 0,1% in opinion polls.

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Two Horse Race.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Saudis arrest imprisoned Blogger Raif Badawi’s sister for discussing Human Rights on the Internet.

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La soeur de Raif Badawi emprisonnée

Now we say: JeSuis #‎Samar_Badawi‬!

Riyadh arrests Raif Badawi’s sister for discussing human rights on the internet

Police detained Samar Badawi with her two year old daughter. After a four-hour interrogation they brought her to Dhaban prison. The woman is charged with managing the social media profile of activist and ex-husband Waleed Abulkhair, currently serving 15 years in prison. Activists: “overwhelming evidence” of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

Asia News.

The BBC reports.

The wife of jailed prominent Saudi human rights campaigner Waleed Abu al-Khair has been arrested, activists say.

Samar Badawi was detained for allegedly managing a Twitter account calling for the release of her husband.

Amnesty International called the arrest “the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s utter contempt” for human rights.

Abu al-Khair was jailed for 15 years for “undermining the regime” in 2014. He is the founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia group.

Mrs Badawi is also the sister of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who in 2014 was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, also reported the arrest in her tweet: “Urgent: #Samar_Badawi was arrested on the charge of directing @WaleedAbulkhair twitter account.”

Reports in fact emerged yesterday on the various #FreeRaif sites.

It would be appropriate for the new Labour Party leadership now to extend support for the campaign to free Raif to his sister, Mrs Badawi, and to promote human rights more widely against the Islamic dictatorship of Saudi Arabia.

Background: Early Day Motion 21.1.15.

That this House condemns the sentence of public flogging, a fine and a 10 year prison sentence imposed on Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia for freely expressing his views on the internet; is dismayed that he was given 50 lashes on 9 January 2015 in Jeddah; understands that despite postponement on medical grounds, Saudi authorities intend to carry out further flogging each week until he has received 1,000 lashes; strongly supports his right to freedom of expression; is appalled by the use of corporal punishment in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere; notes with concern Saudi Arabia’s practice of holding prisoners of conscience; calls on the UK Government to take stronger action to ensure that this barbaric punishment is stopped immediately; and further calls on it also to work with its international partners to encourage the Saudi authorities to overturn his conviction and ensure his release.

English Pen: Raif Badawi case discussed in British parliament  Posted 21 July 2015 by

Plight of Saudi blogger cited in Westminster Hall debate on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

The case of imprsioned blogger Raif Badawi was discussed in the British parliament today.  Stewart McDonald MP (SNP, Glasgow South) tabled the motion on Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

Opening the debate, Mr McDonald spoke out against the harsh sentence of 10 years imprisonment, 1000 lashes and a 1 million riyals fine, and praised Raif Badawi’s writings as representing “the values of freedom and progress that inspire so many people across the world.”

Other parliamentarians who spoke during the debate included Jeremy Corbyn MP(Labour, Islington North). Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour, Bristol East), Stuart McDonald MP (SNP, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) and Jim Shannon MP (DUP, Strangford).

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

TUSC Now Allies of Tower Hamlets Independent Group.

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Whatever else one thinks of this it is interesting that Naomi Byron, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party is involved.

This is the same party that says this, (The Socialist).

No retreat on resisting council cuts!

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters must fight back against the pressure from Labour’s right wing to collude in a new round of savage cuts to local council services and jobs, argues Socialist Party executive committee member Clive Heemskerk.

And this (The Socialist. 9th of January)

Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum *

If Momentum is to secure the party leadership of Jeremy and John it must step away from the failed strategy of policing the movement on behalf of the Tories and Blairites and create a genuinely open, democratic, inclusive and campaigning force that will not just secure the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership but support and urge them to reject the ‘pragmatists’ and build a movement based on uncompromising anti-austerity, socialist policies.

One assumes that the best way to build Momentum and support Corbyn is to back candidates who stood against…..the Labour Party – as in the Tower Hamlets Independent Group.

Not to mention defy Jeremy Corbyn’s call to councils to do the following:

Jeremy Corbyn has written to all Labour council leaders calling on them to resist calls to set illegal no cuts budgets.

In the letter, which is co-signed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Local Government Secretary Jon Trickett, Corbyn points out that failure to set balanced budgets could see “Tory minister deciding council spending priorities”, and warns that “their priorities would certainly not meet the needs of the communities that elected us”.

More on Labour List.

* “Providing a platform for socialists and anti-austerity activists, inclusive of the Socialist Party, the National Shop Stewards Network and others not members of the Labour Party, in a widely based alliance, could be an important, even critical factor in defending the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership and building the anti-austerity movement.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Turkey Bombing Targets Tourists.

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Police have sealed off the area

 

Turkey blast: Ten dead and 15 wounded after ‘suicide bomb attack on tourists’ in Istanbul – latest.

Reports the Telegraph.

Explosion reported at the major tourist attraction of Sultanahmet square

“Likely” that attack was caused by suicide bomber

State-run Turkish broadcaster TRT says it is “likely” that a suicide bomber was behind the blast in Istanbul’s central square.

And the Istanbul governor’s office has confimed reports that ten people have died and 15 were injured in today’s attack, which has been described as a suicide bombing targeted at tourists.

“Likely” that attack was caused by suicide bomber

State-run Turkish broadcaster TRT says it is “likely” that a suicide bomber was behind the blast in Istanbul’s central square.

And the Istanbul governor’s office has confimed reports that ten people have died and 15 were injured in today’s attack, which has been described as a suicide bombing targeted at tourists.

Au moins dix morts dans une explosion dans une zone touristique d’Istanbul. Libération.

Türkei: Explosion in Touristenviertel Istanbuls – zehn Tote

Bei einer Explosion im Istanbuler Touristenviertel Sultanahmet sind mindestens zehn Menschen ums Leben gekommen. Die türkische Regierung geht von einem Terrorakt aus, mehrere Deutsche wurden verletzt.

Der Spiegel. noting that Germans were amongst the wounded.

Turkey: Indefinite 24-hour curfew, over 200,000 in danger

By Amnesty International, 11 January 2016.

Twenty four-hour curfews have been declared since 11 December in the Sur district of the city of Diyarbakır, and since 14 December in the towns of Cizre and Silopi, in Şırnak province, south eastern Turkey. The curfews have been put in place as the police and army conduct operations against the armed Revolutionary Patriotic Youth Movement. More than 200,000 people live in the affected areas and some are unable to access food, medical care and face severe electricity and water shortages. More than 70 residents and at least seven soldiers and police officers have been reported killed.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2016 at 11:27 am

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Fascism, Kurds

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Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Yanis Varoufakis – Plan C, “alternative to austerity”.

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Meeting and Launch for ‘Plan C’ Feb 9th. 

On Common Dreams Lauren McCauley  Reports,

Hoping to show Europeans they have an alternative to the prevailing system of “authoritarianism” and austerity, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has announced a new cross-continent movement with a “simple, common agenda:” To democratize Europe.

The movement, known as the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (or DiEM 25), will be launched on February 9 at Berlin’s Volksbühne theater.

Varoufakis, who first revealed the plan late last month in an interview withL’Espresso, said that he is hopeful this “activist movement” will connect progressives across the continent and enable them to take back power from the ruling elite and what he described as the “shadowy world of bureaucrats, bankers, and unelected officialdom.”

Tagesspiegel announces  the movement’s foundation,

Yanis Varoufakis will in Berlin linke Bewegung gründen

Yanis Varoufakis sucht die große Bühne für sein Comeback. In der “Volksbühne” will er im Februar eine neue Bewegung gründen.

Original report Neues Deutschland. 

Plan C: Varoufakis startet neue Bewegung in Berlin

Aktivisten-Netzwerk soll am 9. Februar gegründet werden / »DiEM 25« will als »dritte Alternative« zwischen Renationalisierungsirrweg und »anti-demokratischen EU-Institutionen« wirken

More here EuroActiv.

Former Greek Minister for Finance Yanis Varoufakis is planning a comeback – in Germany. EurActiv Germany reports.

In February, he wants to launch a “third alternative” to renationalisation and the “anti-democratic European institutions”.

Varoufakis wants to launch his pan-European project as early as February. The initiative, under the name of “Democracy in Europe Movement 2025” (DiEM 25), wants to bring interests together in order to “democratise Europe and stop the creeping fragmentation”, according to Neues Deutschland.

Varoufakis intends to launch his new project on 9 February in Berlin, at the Volksbühne theatre, which over the years has seen the start of many movements, including many that worked for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The former finance minister has repeatedly said that he wants to start a new movement, not a political party. Instead, his proposed “third alternative” wants to highlight the wrong direction and decisions of nation states and the “anti-democratic European institutions”.

Varoufakis, who constantly fought against the austerity measures demanded by Greece’s creditors, resigned his office in the summer of 2015. Since then, he has been a regular participant in discussions that seek to find an alternative to the return to the nation state or the collapse of the eurozone. If the euro were to collapse and the crisis to continue ad nauseum, this would lead to “hopelessness, depression and anxiety” and contribute to a resurgence of renationalisation, ultra-nationalisation and xenophobia, he warned in a recent interview with the Spanish newspaper El Diario.

Details of meeting and tickets here:

DiEM 25 – Announcing the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025

Mit Yanis Varoufakis und weiteren Referenten. Moderation: Srećko Horvat

Erstmalige Vorstellung der Bewegung: DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE MOVEMENT 2025

Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Charlie Hebdo and Alternative Culture.

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Crumb

Oz No 40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early SWP Cadre Manuel.

LastScan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been debate about the relationship between Charlie  and English speakers.

Apart from the snide, bordering on racist comments that Charlie was ..er ‘racist’ there is the idea that we anglophones are incapable of understanding Charlie.

Well, the alternative left tradition I come from is well in the line of Charlie.

I have read their cartoonists from my adolescence onwards.

As one can see Oz magazine, not to mention Nasty Tales, published similar material in the past.

I am a French speaker but do not claim any special privilege on this point about satire though wish simply to say: Charlie is  greatly loved.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Birmingham Trojan Horse Inquiry: Headteacher Jahangir Akbar receives life ban for inflicting religious intolerance on pupils.

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Shame of devout Islamic Headmaster who tried to enforce his religion on state school.

Trojan horse headteacher receives lifetime ban for professional misconduct.

Reports the Guardian.

Jahangir Akbar, formerly of Oldknow academy in Birmingham, removed sex education from curriculum and banned celebration of Christmas and Diwali.

A headteacher who was accused of misconduct in the so-called Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham has been banned indefinitely from teaching after being found guilty of professional misconduct.

Jahangir Akbar, who was the acting headteacher of Oldknow academy in Small Heath, Birmingham, was found by a disciplinary hearing to have “failed to uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviours”. Investigators said he allowed an undue amount of religious influence on the education of pupils at his school.

The Birmingham Post reports however this,

The former headteacher of a Trojan Horse-linked school in Birmingham has been handed an “indefinite” teaching ban – but could be back in the classroom in five years time.

Jahangir Akbar , the former acting principal of Oldknow Academy in Small Heath, was last month found guilty of professional misconduct following a hearing by the government-run National College for Teaching & Leadership (NCTL).

Now the Department for Education has revealed the 38-year-old has become the first teacher in Britain to be sanctioned for allowing an “undue amount of religious influence” on pupils’ education.

One has little doubt that the kind of person in the NUT who backed this creature will come up with an explanation….

Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm

United Nations: Remove/suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN human rights council.

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United Nations: Remove/suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN human rights council.

Following the execution – by beheading – in one day of 47 prisoners by the Saudi regime, it is requested that they are removed from this council and dealt with in the strongest possible terms. One of those beheaded was done so for speaking out against the regime. Dissent should be a human right.

When others in the world are being bombed for their brutality, the Saudi’s are lavished by world leaders due to their power in the Middle East and their possession of the planet destroying oil beneath their feet.

They represent a dangerous extremist world view and appear to act with impunity when it comes to human rights and so need to be removed from the UN Human Rights Council and brought before it.

Through this act of international solidarity we may be able to bring into order, a rogue state profiting from the choking of the planet.

Thank you, the undersigned.

The Nation That Executed 47 People In 1 Day Sits On The U.N. Human Rights Council

Saudi Arabia enjoys the support of allies like the U.S. and U.K.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Human Rights, Islamism

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As the anniversary approaches: remembering the Martyrs of the Hyper Cacher and Charlie Hebdo.

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7 January 2015.

A date that we will recall and it is coming close.

Our left wing  comrades were murdered by the forces of genocidal  Islamist reaction.

Killed

  • Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby, first victim of the shooting
  • Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
  • Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
  • Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist.The only woman killed in the shooting.
  • Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
  • Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist
  • Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
  • Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
  • Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor
  • Michel Renaud, 69, a travel writing festival organiser visiting Cabu
  • Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
  • Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist

Some photos of our fallen comrades.

A wonderful feminist, full of joy.

Cabu: one of the Best People Ever to Walk the Planet.

Charb: Supporter of the Front de Gauche, he fought the Front National with every fibre of his being.

Philippe Honoré: greatly respected contributor to trade union and leftist publications

Bernard Verlhac (21 August 1957 – 7 January 2015), known by the pseudonym Tignous (Occitan for La teigne, which in slang means a gadfly).

Georges Wolinski: Communist and one of the funniest cartoonists ever.

It will have been noted that the genociders took the lives of two Muslims, and that, of the above photos, two of the people are of Jewish origin.

Then this:

The Porte de Vincennes siege occurred at a Hypercacher kosher superette in Porte de Vincennes (20th arrondissement of Paris) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting two days earlier, and concurrently with the Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.

Victims

Funeral in Jerusalem, Israel, of the four Jewish murder victims

  • Philippe Braham, 45, IT sales executive
  • Yohan Cohen, 22, college student
  • Yoav Hattab, 21, college student
  • François-Michel Saada, 64, retiree.

We shall not forget our martyred dead.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Absolute Unconditional Support and Love to our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers.

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Christmas celebration in Qamishli -Rojava – Kurdistan.

As the New Year approaches we remember the heroic fighters of Kurdistan.

We also remember that it was the Americans who came to help our beloved sisters and brothers in their hour of need.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 30, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, International

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Scène de pogrom à Ajaccio

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This racist pogrom follows the victory of Corsian nationalists in the French regional elections.

Solidarité Ouvrière

Communiqué de l’Initiative Communiste-Ouvrière :

Ce 25 décembre à Ajaccio plusieurs centaines de personnes sont parties en hurlant des slogans racistes (« Arabi Fora », « On est chez nous », « Il faut les tuer ») vers le quartier des Jardins de l’Empereur, terrorisant les habitants. Une salle de prière musulmane du quartier et un restaurant Kebab ont été saccagés, des portes d’immeubles, des boites aux lettres et des véhicules ont été cassés, des individus sont entrés dans les cages d’escaliers pour cogner, et c’est heureux que personne n’ait été blessé… bref, c’est une véritable scène de pogrom qui s’est déroulée ce 25 décembre en Corse.

L’Initiative Communiste-Ouvrière condamne fermement ces violences racistes. Plus que jamais, face aux violences racistes, il est urgent de nous rassembler et de nous mobiliser.

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm

The Letters the Weekly Worker Dare not publish.

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Letters the Weekly Worker Dare not publish.

StWC.

Defend Lindsey German and John Rees!

 
Dear WW,

The attacks in the Weekly Worker against the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) must cease. The bourgeois onslaught against the anti-imperialist Iranian Republic is nothing but a cover for attacks on the anti-Zionist credentials of Jeremy Corbyn. As I have stated at my ward meeting of Brighton Labour Party, Cds Rees and German were right to refuse to affiliate the so-called Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) to the StWC. Had this happened it would have meant a de facto alliance with the worst elements of bourgeois chauvinist Nick Cohenite Eustonism.

Tony Vertespierre. Brighton.

Momentum.

We pledge our undying allegiance to the Caliphate. Death to the Kufur!

John T. Mark Anthony Smith, Momentum.

Liquidation of the Remnants of the Bukharin-Trotsky Gang of Spies, Wreckers and Traitors to the County.

Dear WW,

The Trotskyite rabble, clutching their so-called Transitional Programme to their flaccid chests, are sabotaging the long and glorious road of the remarkable victories of the Baath Party in Syria.

Free from opportunism, irreconcilable towards the capitulators, and revolutionary in its attitude, Baathism is proceeding to a decisive triumph. Comrade Assad, the genius of the Syrian revolution, has nevertheless, perforce, received snivelling criticism by the so-called Trotsky human rights supporters, i.e. alien, wrecking and spying elements.

In a circular letter to all organisations dated December the 22nd 2015, on the subject of the registration, safekeeping and issuance of Party cards, the CPGB (Provisional Central Committee) it is stated that we must ensure the careful verification of the records of all Party members to ensure “Bolshevik order in our own Party home”.

As cde Mohammed Ali has said, “You looking at me, you spineless Trotskyite?”

John Wiight. Planet Venus.

Socialist Republicanism.

Dear WW,

The English republic of Southwark and Bermondsey, South Londoners Against the Corn Laws, must protest against the recent statements made by the Fourth International. James Connelly would have blessed himself with holy water to hear the carping views of Liam on the Thanksgiving Uprising. Did not Cromwell teach the Irish the lessons of socialist republicanism? The Fourth International and Left Unity should rename themselves socialist republicans forthwith.

Steve Freedman. Old Southwark.

Workers’ Militias.

Dear WW,

The Walmington-on-Sea Workers’ Militia is appalled to learn that the People’s Assembly blocked all discussion of the arming of the proletariat at its recent conference.

Our battalion has been in training since the PA called for action against a possible Tory Coup last summer. We remain on high alert in view of coming referendum on Europe.

My men are as keen as mustard: ready to go to fight Jerry.

Captain Mainwaring.

Walmington-on-Sea.

Dialectics.

Dear WW,

Plus and minus are dialectically related. Sometimes two plus two equals five.

O’Brien. Airstrip One.

Stinky poo.

Dear Weakly so-called Worker.

You are stinking poos and mingy moos.

Socialism in one Bedroom.

Hamster pee.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Podemos, the Labour Party, and Momentum.

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Is it also the Moment for Momentum?

The radical left party, Podemos, won 21,3% (69 seats) in Sunday’s Spanish General election, just behind the socialist PSOE, at 21,7% (90) With Rajoy’s conservative PP party at 28,7% (123) and the centrist Cuididanos (Citizens) at 14,9 % (40) negotiations for coalition are underway involving smaller regional and other parties (Wikipedia).

Both Podemos and Cuididanos were present in this contest for the first time. Their entry into the Cortes Generales is a political earthquake with Europe-wide implications. Podemos draws on the Indignados movement that began as protests against the political class “la casta”, their corruption, budget cuts and mass unemployment (at the time up to 21%). Cuidadonos’ name also echoes that period, the march dubbed Mareas Cuidadanas – citizens’ tide).

Owen Jones, has expressed the view that the Labour Party is represented in Parliament by a British counterpart of the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE, while supporters attracted to Jeremy Corbyn were more akin to the radical left party, Podemos. Jones, whose pre-election visit to lend support to Podemos’ campaign was reported on the state broadcasters, is one amongst many on the European left who admire its left populist anti-austerity politics. In this view the change in Labour’s leadership (allowed through emulation of the ‘primary’ party elections of the French Parti Socialiste and Italian Partido Democratia, open to all for a modest fee, rather than the structures of Podemos) had brought our politics closer to Spain’s. It suggested that a form of ‘new politics’ has emerged in the United Kingdom, inside the traditional left and now given expression in the open forums of Momentum.

Ciudadanos

Podemos leader Juliá Iglesias’ entry into Parliament is joined, nobody has failed to notice, by the ‘centre’ group, Ciudadanos. Jones seems to have found a centrist counterpart in Peter Hyman. The former speech-writer and strategist for Tony Blair argued in the Observer that Labour is becoming the “Ukip of the left”, a party of protest and not power, with the prospect of capturing at best 28% of the vote (Observer. 20.12.15). This means that the party “mainstream” will look elsewhere. Corbyn, head of a left wing party, “appealing to mix of metropolitan elites, students and some trade unionists”, a popular constituency in “tribal Labour loyalty”, relying on “big state solutions” will carry on. They will keep trying to win arguments but have no prospect of coming to power. One could note that the British electoral system, unlike Spain’s proportional one, remains an effective bloc to the kind of shake up Hispanic politics has undergone.

Hyman attacks Ed Miliband for opening the door to the left – although it was the modernisers who promoted the idea of One Member One Vote in a ‘primary’ election form. He states that with the “wrong” result, – Corbyn’s victory – there is a “gaping hole in the centre and centre-left of British politics.” It would not take much to extend this to say that against the Podemos road Hayman advocates a British Ciudadanos. This would be an alliance of the centre and the centre-left, “modern progressive values-driven party” with a “commitment to social mobility”. A new ‘project’ would aim for a “leaner, more agile empowering state” that backs “social entrepreneurs” to build “diverse and democratic communities”. This formula, Peter Hayman believes, his appetite no doubt wetted, would have a “fighting chance of winning an election”.

It would be mistake on the left to take the take the analogy with Podemos and the POSOE to heart. Spain has suffered several decades of corruption scandals, affecting the established left, as well as a prolonged ‘dirty war’ against the armed wing of the Basque independence movement, in which Socialist governments were deeply compromised. These scandals continued under the conservative PP, from the 2013 Bárcenas affair, a slush fund to pay party members, and others too numerous to list, including one involving the than leader of the Catalan nationalist leader Jordi Pujol, whose party is now demanding independence.

There has been nothing in Britain to parallel the mass movement of the Indignados, the cradle of Podemos. It is estimated that between 6 and 8 million people participated in these street activities. Those protests made the US Occupy Wall Street look trivial, not to mention the smaller British initiations of the American demonstrations and occupations. A much more successful UK initiative, the anti-austerity People’s Assembly, has mobilised hundreds of thousands and set up large groups all over the country. It was, and is, however closely linked the existing mechanisms of the labour movement. There was none of the loathing for all “politicians” that the Spanish masses expressed. France, where the Podemos breakthrough has been heralded by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the home of the (deceased) writer Stéphane Hessel, whose book Indignez-Vous! gave the Indignados their name – saw, and has seen, practically no movement at all apart from trade union protests.

Populism.

The comparison with Podemos also runs into obstacles when one considers it more broadly. Its strategic line is said to draw on the writings of Ernesto Laclau. Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1988) offered a critique of traditional Marxism and a freeing of political and social contradictions from rigid class categories. It was widely regarded on the British left as dense theoretical fog for a shift from class politics to the nebulous democratic alliances of ‘new times’. In subsequent writings, generally languishing in academic obscurity, Laclau developed an approach to the specificity of politics. His interest in a left strategy that focused on the discursive articulations of popular democratic struggles and fights for left hegemony broadened into approaches to the – still predominantly ‘discursive’ – mechanisms of politics. Interest in the figure of the ‘People’ against the elite, linked Laclau to some of his earliest writings on Populism, with special reference to Latin America.

In On Populist Reason (2005) Laclau retained an emphasis on the specificity of democratic movements outside and against formal political power. Laclau stated, “populism requires the dichromatic division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” Put simply populism means pitting the people against an array of forces solidified into a simple enemy – an observation which did not wait for Laclau to be discovered. Interviewed this year in New Left Review Iglesias acknowledged his theoretical attraction to almost Marxist ‘Gramscian’ earlier writings, but that the later work offers a “useful tool” for explaining the “autonomy of politics”. Or, again, to put it directly, it gives legitimacy to a way of constructing politics in terms of friend and foe (Carl Schmitt) using a galaxy of propaganda forms to give this shape. It is widely claimed that Podemos’ consciously utilises this instrument in their strategy: the People are mobilised against the ‘Casta’, the ruling caste. (1)

These ideas, whose abstraction and infinite extension, leftwards and rightwards, critics have not failed to note, should not hide the difficulties of creating a different type of politics. Paul Mason’s post-election claim that the pro-business SNP is part of the same ” radical, populist and nationalist left” only reinforces this impression. (Guardian 21.12.15.)

The more modest and attractive aspect of Podemos has apparently been its openness, its willingness to dissolve traditional political organisational forms into new ones, connected to social media and other ways of vertical communication. But when it comes to decision-making problems arise. US and British experience of cumbersome conformity and construction of new elites inside the ‘structurelessness’ of vertical communication and “consensus decision-making” emerged in the wake of the Occupy movement. Inside Podemos there are widely shared complaints about a very visible “vertical” and top-down leadership. This has not been without its faults, as few members participated in voting on the Podemos electoral programme or candidate selection. By contrast Íñigo Errejón, a defender of their strategy, has talked of leading from in front, and the key role of the charismatic Julias Iglesias, as welcome features of Podemos’ efforts to break the mould of traditional left-right politics, indeed to surpass this “old” division. It is a “fundamental element in building hegemony.” (2)

Labour: a ‘Synthesis’.

The Labour Party is, to say the least, not a ‘new’ party. It is a coalition, or better, a ‘bloc’ of disparate forces. Unlike a true coalition it has not always reached full agreement on a detailed programme of political action. There have always been substantial differences on major issues – the present leader is the best example of this extending to Parliamentary votes. But as a “bloc”, that is to say a common front for elections, it has brought together ‘sociological’ forces – the unions – the Party – the NEC, the Parliamentary Party, professional politicians, an army of local councillors, and small more ideological groups or networks, from Progress to the Labour Representation Committee. In more sociological terms this is often portrayed in terms of a marriage between the radical intelligentsia, middle class social reformers, hard-headed trade unionists, and, it has to be said, patriotic ‘national’ Labour of all classes. It is electoral activity that holds these all together. But the signs are, as Haynes indicates, that as more ideological forces enter the field, from Labour First to and Momentum, disagreements are becoming sharper. Divorce, some say, is the only answer.

This break up may be desirable for some on the left and the right. But Hyman is right to suggest that winning elections is not a trivial affair. For those who want to see a Labour government a split is a disaster. The electoral system is not going to change – with boundary changes it is going to become more difficult for the party to elect MPs. In these conditions the principal problem for an old, not a new party, is not to extend its debates outwards. It is to reach some kind of equilibrium within Labour that holds the apparatus together. In some of the more ideological European socialist parties the idea of a “synthesis” between the different parts of these organisations in the process of presenting an electoral platform is a way to resolve these differences. Jean Jaurès, the towering figure of the 20th century French left, advocated a strongly democratic form of socialism (republicanism), human rights, reforms, social ownership and Marxist principles of class struggle. In short, he combined “evolution” and a revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism. The notion of drawing ideas together rather than setting them up for stage battles has, for those who wish to see a Labour Prime Minster elected with a party in support, is surely preferable to a prolonged civil war. (3)

What relevance does Podemos have in this context? Their tertulias (open debating forums) may perhaps inform some of those involved in Momentum. But there the analogy breaks down. There is nothing resembling the common sense of deep social angst and purpose that animated the 15-M Movement. Momentum is recruited around support for the new Labour leadership. Already the operations of small socialist organisations, using the Corbyn’s supporters’ network to promote their own agenda of party building and throwing discredit on Labour MPs and councils, have weakened claims about “new politics”. It seems that one objective, of these bodies, to hector councillors to set illegal anti-cuts budgets, has already met with Jeremy Corbyn’s disapproval. It is doubtful if these people care. These groups believe in making a new left-wing party, of contestable democratic credentials, whether the bulk of Labour Party members and supporters want it or not. The activities of the People’s Assembly, directed at the real enemy, the Conservative government, with the clear backing of the trade unions, engaged in a fruitful and respectful dialogue with sections of the Labour Party, appear to have run out of steam.

If we pick our way through the debates inside and outside the Labour Party there are grounds to imagine that a new ‘synthesis’ or at least co-existence of different strands of thought could come about. The modern Labour Party can make space for social democratic proposals for reform, universal principles of rights and justice, with our modern understanding of racial, sexual and gender equality, and expanded renewed welfare provision, Green issues, and more radical ideas on democratic nationalisation, economic transformation, internationalism, and the promotion of working class interests. Hay

Ideas of greater social mobility, “social entrepreneurs” and “progressive” alliances will look pretty tired faced with proposals for genuine equality, liberty and social solidarity. A rich vein of radical literature, from Pierre Rosanvallon’s studies of equality, Thomas Picketty’s critique of rentier capital, to David Harvey’s undogmatic Marxist approach to capitalism – to cite only a handful of new resources for change – could help debate. Some of the able Labour leaders’ advisers can surely expand this list of ‘tool boxes’ for democratic socialist change. In this sense Labour could present a challenge not to a broadly defined ‘casta’ but to the right-wing business and oligarchies and their hangers profiteering from the privatising-state not to mention their political representatives who are our real opponents.

Activists and Policy.

New Labour was marked by separation between policy and activism, between those who decided and those who carried out the leadership’s decision. This drove people away in crowds. If Podemos teaches us something it is that their brand of leftist populism has clearly reached an audience. It also, unfortunately, indicates that there is more than one way to institutionalise an inability to influence policy.

If Labour wishes to reach outwards it needs more open policy-making. Meetings that count, and not simple get-togethers, or tertulias, stand a better long-term chance of mobilising those new to politics. Nothing can prevent those who wish to grandstand, or find a pretext for criticising the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, coming along. Democracy always means minorities that disagree. But when the stakes, the possibility of making a difference to how a party works and what it is aiming at, are there, the potential for agreement also exists. Drawing a new audience into Labour and not outside it, the feeling that the public is not separated from ‘them’ inside the party, is not easy. But one suspects that it is preferable to a ‘populism’ whose final destination remains unclear.

******
(1) Page 83 Ernesto Laclau. On Populist Reason. Verso. 2005. Pablo Iglesias. Understanding Podemos. Interview. New Left Review. No 93. 2015. Populisme, Itinéraire d’un mot voyager. Gérard Mauger. Le Monde Diplomatique. July 2015.

(2) Podemos and its Critics. Bécquer Seguín. Radical Philosophy 193. 2015.

(3) Jaurés et le Réformisme Révolutionnaire. Jean-Paul Scot. Seuil. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2015 at 3:09 pm

“Progressive Alliance” Mania: Green MP, Caroline Lucas Calls for Alliance with Labour, *and* the Liberal Democrats.

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For a Progressive Alliance of Greens, Labour and…..Liberal Democrats.

Peter Hyman, former key Blair speech writer and strategist, has called for a new alliance of the centre of British politics.

In the Observer on Sunday this appeared,

In a devastating critique of the party’s recent failures, from New Labour’s second term onwards, Blair’s former speechwriter and chief strategist Peter Hyman suggests its plight is now so desperate that it may even be necessary to form a new party with others, including the Lib Dems, to fill the “gaping hole in the centre and centre-left of British politics.

But Hyman is not alone is courting the Liberal Democrats.

Leading Greens are making eyes in that direction.

A progressive alliance of Labour, Lib Dems and Greens should be formed to take on the Tories in the 2020 General Election, Caroline Lucas has claimed.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, the Green MP called on anti-Conservative parties to band together to stop the “terrifying” prospect of a further decade of Tory rule.

Ms Lucas, who increased her Brighton Pavilion majority in May’s General Election, said one of the key principles those in the alliance should agree upon is to introduce proportional representation in order to end the “logjam” of the current “archaic voting system.”

The Green MP refused to say this year’s election was a missed opportunity for her party, and instead blamed the campaign of fear run by the Tories for the party’s failure to secure anymore MPs.

Not so long ago the Greens also admired the nationalist parties.
March 2015. Scottish Herald.

UK Greens back ‘progressive alliance’ with SNP at Westminster.

THE Green Party’s only MP has backed Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that a ‘progressive alliance’ could be formed between their parties at Westminster.

Caroline Lucas, who defeated Labour to win in the Brighton Pavilion constituency at 2010, told a conference of the Green Party for England and Wales that she wants to “forge a new grouping in Parliament” with the nationalists.

Like the SNP, the Greens have increased their membership substantially since the last General Election, with the party rivalling the Liberal Democrats in recent polls.

Ms Lucas said: “With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

This latter, a link-up with centrist pro-business Scottish nationalists, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens, found an admirer in the shape of Red Pepper’s apparently left-wing Editor.

Hilary Wainwright on the 7th of May wrote in Red Pepper.

These smaller parties – the SNP (Scottish National Party) Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalists) and the Greens are already talking about forming a ‘progressive anti-austerity alliance’ with left wing Labour MPs – there are still some but not many – and using their bargaining power to push Labour to the left.

This kind of alliance combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary sources of power, is my dream

The growing network of militant extra-parliamentary, direct action campaigns are also insisting that these MPs give support to their struggles and not confine themselves to the shenanigans of parliamentary politics. All three parties and many left Labour MP’s have a strong record of engagement in campaigning politics outside of parliament. The new contingent of SNP MPs who will arrive at Westminster are mainly the product of the radical movement for Scottish independence which had real roots in working class communities and was hitherto largely autonomous from the SNP. And the one Green MP, Caroline Lucas, gains her inspiration more from outside parliament than inside. Many of the leadership of the Welsh Nationalists spent time in prison as a result of direct action in support of the Welsh language.

New alliances for the Greens have shifted since then, or have they not?

Who knows?

Caroline Lucas and Hilary Wainwright may consider the idea of a tie-up between Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru is still on the cards.

But the competition for the attention of the Liberal Democrats is already there.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

The Stop the War Coalition: Is Trotskyism the New Conservatism?

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Socialist Unity carries a defence of the Stop the War Coalition against Phil’s The Anti-imperialism of FoolsIn Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.

I was going to begin with this, “Given the extent to which some on the left in the West continue to call for the toppling of Assad in Syria (a goal they share with Western governments), is Trotskyism the new neo-conservatism? ” by John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.

His message?

Like latter day John Browns such voices, wielding a copy of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in one hand and a one-way ticket to irrelevancy in the other, unleash verbal broadsides of calumny at any who dare question the intellectual and ideological idiocy they parade with the kind of gusto one associates with the infantile disorder of a type well known.

For such people ideological templates are all the rage, employed as a convenient opt-out of the obligation to come up with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation. Revolution is but a parlour game as they relive 1871, 1917 or 1968, the years bandied around like connoisseurs of champagne discussing a favorite vintage.

But I’ve had enough champagne in recent days..

I return to In Defence of the Stop the War Coalition.

Andy Newman begins

I was very disappointed to see a rather shoddy hatchet job against the Stop the War Coalition recently, not from the usual “decent” suspects, but from Phil Burton-Cartledge, on the usually pro-Corbyn and pro-left website, Left Futures.

Newman asserts that Phil’s criticism of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ – which are widely shared and have developed on this site – are invalid.

Phil summarised this aspect of Lenin’s politics , as they have been interpreted over the generations, to mean, “The role of revolutionaries everywhere was to turn inter-imperialist war into revolutionary civil war, to prevent soldiers from turning their bayonets outwards against other workers of other nationalities to the real enemy within – the owners of capital on whose behest the Great War was fought.”

Revolutionary defeatism was its name, overthrowing capitalism its game. And then, with mass parties of workers who’d traditionally been locked out of the political system, and were familiar with socialist and, in some cases, Marxist rhetoric, it actually made sense. Whether one disagrees with revolutionary socialist politics or not, it was a real possibility in several European countries as a wave of uprisings and revolts swept the continent as decayed and weakened empires collapsed.

Some of Andy Newman’s points carry weight,

The terminology of imperialism may sound oddly old fashioned, but Britain really did have a global Empire, built upon military conquest, plunder, rapine and murder. The powerhouse of the British economy was indeed built upon the crimes of Atlantic slavery, upon the transfer of vast amounts of capital to the UK from the colonies, and destroying indigenous economic capacity in order to create mass markets for British manufacturing.

This is not only of historical interest, because Britain’s current economic endowment as a capital rich, high skilled economy has arisen from that legacy. And the prestige and influence of the British state is still bound up with the post-colonial network of military, commercial and diplomatic alliances that arose with the rise of the USA as a global superpower. And yes, British foreign policy is still shaped by those interests, and habits; and there is still a mindset of entitlement, nowadays wrapped up in rather selective concerns about human rights, that has over recent years has led to some misplaced military interventions.

Newman mistakes the object of Phil’s critique.

It is not that ‘imperialism’ has not existed, nor that there is no form of imperial – in the sense both of capital exports, control of trade, cultural dominance, and the global reach of powers such as the US and the UK, and their military extensions – have evaporated. There is a rich and important debate on the forms of this, the “new imperialism” “empire” and the neo-liberal finance-led shaping of the process of “globalisation”.

The real issue here however is the politics of revolutionary defeatism.

Lenin and Revolutionary Defeatism.

The origins of this principle lie in Lenin – few can deny that. During the Great War  Lenin was thinking in terms of the growth of the revolutionary movement resulting from military defeat at the hands of the enemy government.

This, Hal Draper observed in The Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism (1953/4), was taken by Trotsky in 1939 to mean a general view that,

 Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.

Draper was a supporter of the ‘third camp’ position: “The Marxist alternative is to reject the whole victory-or-defeat dilemma with its “lesser evil” trap, in the consistent Third Camp fashion which characterized Trotsky and Luxemburg’s approach.”

That is, to support the interests of the workers, the people, the masses, as they exist in particular conditions come first, and then we look at the policies and  states. Left-wing international politics are not some kind of chess board where we play off pieces (states) against one another. Workers and oppressed people’s interests are independent of state power. Plainly in some circumstances of armed conflict these needs could coincide with their governments’, bourgeois or not.  When Hitler invaded independent countries it would be wrong to assert that the armed forces of one’s country should be beaten. In fact democratic socialists backed the Allies against the Axis well before the USSR entered the war on the rational grounds that they were a threat to all.

Some Trotskyists in the 1930s and 1940s  pushed the contrary argument. They stated that only special classes of movements for defence against invasion should be supported (defending the Soviet Union). This would mean, in the Second World War, that nobody could fight Hitler except completely ‘independently’ of all bourgeois taint. Whether they wished for the crushing of their own bourgeois state by another was avoided by claiming that they would organise resistance to both.

One faction of French Trotskyists illustrated the absurdity of a full ‘defeatist’ position, when in 1944, the  paper, La Verité, published this front page article, welcomed the liberation by putting the Allied invaders, the French Resistance, the Nazi occupiers and the Vichy regime on the same plane: those fighting the Nazis are the exact equivalent of the SS and Vichy.

So much for history.

Phil makes the point that today ‘anti-imperialism’ entails a very specific kind of defeat-wishing. That to will the end of imperial hegemony is to set upon the means of finding an agency to do this, free from the corrupt politics of the “labour aristocracy” of the West, “…if that is your position, it follows that anything shutting down the funnelling of wealth from the south to the north would weaken capital’s capacity to absorb the demands of metropolitan workers.” “Therefore, to be consistent, the role of the revolutionary in the imperialist West is to work for the defeat of one’s own state, and that can be done by promoting the cause of its enemy.”

Anti-Imperialist alliances.

The Anti-imperialism of Fools asserts that this explains StWC, SWP, Counterfire backing – covert or overt – for all kinds of ‘anti-imperialist’ forces, up to and including the Baathists in Iraq, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian theocracy and not doubt Assad today. It would explain why in the  “multi-polar” world they consider the “designs and manoeuvres of rival states and enemies are benign or, at least, less harmful.” In the UK the StWC reached out not just to Muslims in protests against wars involving Islamic countries, but to Islamists, political Islam as allies in the fight to defeat imperialism and, domestically “against the State. Or, as Phil notes, crudely, its leaders whether (then) the SWP or (now) Counterfire, regard Muslims as a privileged area of recruitment (not with much success one has to say).

This is a pretty stark – bare-bones – account.

StWC leaders represent a number of different strands of thought. For many the main objection to specific  foreign interventions – as in Syria now –  is that they are dangerous adventures that cost human lives without bringing justice, or human rights in their wake. There are those who indeed have a visceral objection to ‘imperialism’ because they do not consider that universal human rights can be enforced (to echo Robespierre) by the bayonets of a democracy. This are honourable positions – largely because they happen to be right.

Andy Newman’s strongest point, which underscores the previous argument,  is the following,

given the fact that the actual lived experience of the military campaigns has been disastrous, and indeed the disastrous outcomes have been made all the worse by the ideologues in Washington who have not respected state sovereignty, and indeed seen the actual destruction of states as a beneficial outcomes – in both Libya and Iraq, and now in Syria.

But… inside the StWC  here are also those who are clearly not in favour of stopping any military campaign if it involves Russian help to Assad to defeat Daesh.

Like John Wight, also of Socialist Unity.

There are also those, in the SWP and Counterfire, who think that an Arab revolution is still out there, waiting to be ignited if the ‘West’ is defeated in the Middle East; a starting point not so different from those who think that the Arab Spring can be continued by armed Western support for Syrian democrats.

Apart from that, the vaguest of vague wishes, there is little evidence that the StWC supports the victory of just any of  imperialism’s ‘enemies’, Daesh to the fore. Overwhelmed, Assad’s defenders (Wight excepted) argue that he has to be backed faute de miuex.

The reason why Phil’s article stung – and we hope to have made our own contribution to the pain – is that he singles out the loss of a ‘moral compass’ in the StWC’s calls to ‘stop the war’ when they clearly have not the slightest idea of how this might come about, above all in Syria.

The depravity of their reaction to Charlie and the Casher-Hebdo massacres  still lingers: arguing in terms of a, if not legitimate but at least ‘understandable’, ‘blowback’ may be more muted now,

But they have indeed recycled equally distasteful ‘whirlwind’ arguments – suggesting that if people should be afraid of more Paris massacres. Posing as messengers of Peace against the harbingers of war, they want us safe at Home.

The Syrian civil war has meant over 200,000 deaths and millions of refugees. The Assad Baathist state  stands accused of mass murder and systemic torture. Daesh has created a genocidal Islamic regime with ambitions to wider totalitarian power.

Other Islamists with totalitarian ambitions are rife. Many are backed by the Saudi-brokered “anti-terrorist” alliance.

Democrats, principally the Kurdish led forces, fighting with rare courage, are attacked by one of the pillars of the Western intervention, Turkey.

In Syria and Iraq hundreds of thousands of Christians and other religious groups, such as the Yazidis,  have been cleansed from their homelands by the forces of Islamist bigotry.

These are our sisters and brothers.

The StWC considers that “Our” responsibility starts and ends at “home”.

It does not even argue for defence and military support for the one alliance which stands out as a bulwark against all forms of reaction, the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) and their more recent allies.

The Real Problem.

The Stop the War Coalition involves groups, including leading figures, who have a contentious view of ‘imperialism’ and some are influenced by a sour unappealing version of ‘revolutionary defeatism’. At times their spokespeople come close to a “Little Englander” stand that the risks of foreign wars – costs to our pockets, our military deaths, potential domestic terrorism –  are too great. This is as unappealing as the moral puffery of those who would impose human rights at the end of a cluster bomb.

But this is not their principal problem.

This is that the StWC  have no way of conveying a political message of solidarity with those suffering in the Syrian civil war, to further the aspirations for democracy and human rights, other than UK Stop Bombing.

They, whether Trotskyist or not, are truly conservative: repeat that, and all is resolved…

Update: Stop the War Replies to Critics: People are rude about us because we are so Awesome.

They attack Stop the War because we’re an effective anti-war movement and we won’t stop.

Within the anti-war movement there will be different views about what are the solutions to peace in the Middle East — the key question for us is opposing further intervention there by British and other forces.

Some on the left seem incapable of understanding this. But then, some on the left have never really understood the importance of a mass anti-war movement aimed at our government..

One of the major successes of Stop the War has been its ability to unite different forces. We will continue to do so.

The support we have received in recent weeks is in total contrast to these witch hunts, with many people joining, donating and coming out on the streets for our demos.

Momentum: New Politics Foundering?

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Yes: But can Momentum Help?

Many on the left, including this Blog, welcomed the attempt to create new spaces of activism and debate on the left, outside of traditional political structures. But some people expressed the fear that Momentum, set up to expand Jeremy Corbyn’s political support, and to create a “new politics” would run quickly into the biggest reef of the British left-wing: the activities of small leftist organisations, parties and factions.

The wrecks littering these rocks are too numerous to count, but it was  obvious that the intention of the Socialist Workers Party |(SWP) and the Socialist Party to get involved in Momentum would not be universally greeted.

Apart from the fact that the SWP is soemthing of a bugbear on many parts of the left, the SP’s belief that it had a right, indeed a duty, to participate oin Momentum to inform its supporters of the correct views of the party, which stood, with the SWP and others, as part of TUSC in the General Election, against Labour. They won, 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote.

Both parties also backed the No2EU slate in the European Elections 2014 which totaled 31,757 votes or 0.2%. It declared it was an “internationalist platform. The UK state, free of the capitalist EU and in control of its own destiny, would means more solidarity with workers overseas.  Some of the forces involved in the later bloc are known to be ‘sceptical’ about the free movement of labour inside the European Union.

One can see the potential there for disputes about Labour’s position in the coming referendum on membership of the European Union.

When efforts to thwart the possibility of small left wing groups lecturing Labour party members on how they act, run councils (setting illegal ‘anti-cuts’ budgets), remove right wing Labour MPs (deselection) the Socialist Party replied by stating,

If they exclude real fighters against austerity with experience on the ground – particularly Socialist Party supporters and others – they will weaken the ability of Corbyn and his forces to defeat the right. They will not succeed in fully harnessing the huge pro-Corbyn anti-austerity mood outside, which is not yet a real organised movement.

Socialist

This letter appeared in the Weekly Worker seven days ago.

As part of the ongoing coverage of the divisions in the Labour Party over the issue of air strikes on Syria, Nancy Taaffe of the Socialist Party in England and Wales (formerly known as the Militant Tendency, covertly as the Revolutionary Socialist League) was interviewed on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme on December 3.

Comrade Taaffe hardly helped dispel the common image and depiction of the far left in this country as a bunch of swivel-eyed loons. Her facial expressions switched constantly between one of apparent ferocious hostility and a version of the rictus grinning we perhaps last saw from Gordon Brown. Although her head remained aimed at the camera, her eyes and attention seemed to be constantly distracted by something happening very high to her left, which added to the unsettling effect.

Comrade Taaffe identified herself a number of times as a member of the Socialist Party and that she had stood as a candidate in the general election on behalf of “Tusc” (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), without explanation of what that was or stood for, which must have confused and mystified the audience.

She ‘demanded’ that the Labour Party deselect the MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, and went on to ‘demand’ that Labour convene an immediate special conference to reintroduce mandatory reselection for MPs, and also that the Socialist Party be allowed to affiliate to the Labour Party in the same way as does the Cooperative Party.

The breathtaking hypocrisy, impertinence and arrogance of the ultra-left never fails to astonish me. SPEW was formed after its leading members were out-performed by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s and expelled from Labour as a ‘party within a party’. They then declared that Labour was henceforth dead as a bourgeois workers’ party with any potential for being transformed into a workers’ party (because they were no longer in it!), and took no part whatsoever in the recent Corbyn leadership campaign, on the basis of that being a complete waste of time, it being impossible to “resurrect a corpse”.

Having been proved completely and utterly wrong, you might have expected some humility and reflection, but, no, SPEW is apparently now placing demands on how the Labour Party should conduct its internal democracy, calling on individual CLPs to deselect their MPs, and for it be allowed to affiliate.

It all reminded me of the set-piece debate of the decade in the early 1980s between the self-styled ‘revolutionary left’ and the then Bennite Labour left, when people like Paul Foot and Tariq Ali were demanding the Labour Party transform itself into a socialist party, get rid of rightwing Labour MPs, adopt in effect Trotsky’s Transitional programme and then, after doing all that hard work, open it up to allow outside groups like the SWP and International Marxist Group to come in and join. As Audrey Wise MP, speaking for the Labour left at the time, said, “Big deal, big deal, big prizes … Not.”

Tony Benn during that debate denounced the “socialist groups” as not being genuine revolutionaries at all, but as “left-talking revolutionists” – ie, they talk the talk, shout and criticise from the sidelines, raise ‘demands’ which can never be met, but have very little connection or engagement with the very real and ‘actually existing’ labour movement and wider social forces which will be required to bring about genuine social change and revolutionary transformation.

I think socialists and revolutionaries who are outside the party should treat the Labour membership – especially its new membership – with considerable respect. It is fine to have political, strategic and tactical differences, but these need to be debated and worked through in a spirit of constructive engagement, and not through the placing of impossible ‘demands’.

This may allow some of the socialist groups to become part of the Labour Party, providing they show respect and adherence to its aims and values, as well as its constitution, and do not try and subvert its democracy, or its basis as the mass political party of the organised labour movement.

As Chris Knight suggested in the recent reprints of his two extremely interesting and thought-provoking articles (September 24 and October 8), the Labour Party can and should become the “parliament” of the labour and working class movement. It cannot itself become the ‘revolutionary vanguard’, and the socialist groups should not attempt to make it so.

We should also be aware the Labour Party needs to increase its support by millions of votes by the time of the next election, if it is to form a government, and these millions are likely to be people who are motivated by values of respect, tolerance and solidarity, rather than by hostility, aggression, dog-fighting and point-scoring between the sects and factions.

Andrew Northall

There have been many reports of “problems” in Momentum groups – difficulties which are not the invention of those hostile to Jeremy Corbyn.

This has just appeared.

Structurelessness: Organisation in organisation

The first meeting in Manchester of ‘Momentum’ may be the last. We hope not, and many there meant well, but activists who have lived in the Labour Party a long time as well as the hopeful newcomers were caught in a contradiction, between structure and an attempt to avoid it. A young career-track politician from London called ‘Sam’ quickly told us what we all knew – that Momentum was set up to organise in the Labour Party in support of the new Jeremy Corbyn leadership – and then the splits started to open up. Each division revolved around the very questions of democracy and ‘new politics’ that Corbyn’s election promised. And each bitter attack was made in the name of a new ‘openness’ in the Labour Party that recalled the old debates prompted by anarchist feminist activists nearly half a century ago over the nature of ‘structure’ and what Jo Freeman in a classic little pamphlet once called ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness’.

An apocryphal story is circulating now in the north of Britain about a young woman comrade who joined a Left Unity branch to find that many of the activists were there to promote their own little organisation. Escape from this wretched situation opened up with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, so she gave up on Left Unity and joined her local branch of the Labour Party to find that same little organisation spouting the same line, they had now moved in with a new front organisation. There were those who ridiculed ‘safe spaces’ in Left Unity, and put their theory into practice in almost every meeting, ensuring that only those with very thick skins – or those with bodyguards around them who were from their own organisation – returned after being subjected to what these very structured sectarians like to call the ‘cut and thrust of political argument’. These people can be friendly enough chatting before and after the meeting, but behave very differently when following orders from the leading group inside their own organisation when they think they should be implementing a ‘line’

No further comment is needed.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Can Left-wingers Criticise the Stop the War Coalition?

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Left-wing criticisms of Stop the War will not go away. 

The assault on Stop the War is really aimed at Jeremy Corbyn wrote Tariq Ali a few days ago in the Independent.

He stated, “In addition to the wars in the Middle East there is a nasty and unpleasant war being waged in England, targeting Jeremy Corbyn.”

Richard Burgon, Shadow Treasury Minister has remarked that,

…the attacks on Stop the War were “proxy attacks” on the Labour leader.

Responding to criticism the Labour leader said at a fundraising dinner for the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) last Friday, that the alliance was  “one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times”, and accused the coalition’s critics of trying to close down debate.”

“He wished the group the very best, saying it has been a movement “dedicated to peace”. The “anti-war movement has been a vital force at the heart of our democracy”, he said. “I think we’ve been right on what we’ve done.”

Corbyn added: “We are a peaceful, democratic force. We are a force for good. We are a force for opening out people’s minds and mobilising them to challenge those that would take us into another war.

“I’ve been proud to be the chair of the Stop the War coalition, proud to be associated with the Stop the War coalition.

“We are very strong, there are very many more of us than there are of those people that want to take us in the other direction.”Corbyn insisted on attending the Christmas fundraiser in Southwark, as Labour sources said he had promised to hand over the chairman’s role in person. (Guardian.)

The StWC itself has said

While most of our critics have supported all the wars of this century in the face of growing evidence that they have failed, the Stop the War Coalition has a proud record of campaigning against wars since the start of what was originally called ‘the war on terror,’” the group claimed in a statement on Wednesday.

StWC also attacked the vote on bombing Syria.

The politicians who voted for further war last week fail to acknowledge the dismal record of previous interventions,” StWC argued. “Many of them are the same people who were the cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.

In the wake of the vote to bomb targets in Syria, a number of MPs claimed to have been harassed or even sent death threats by opponents of the move.

StWC said these claims were due to “the fact that some of our supporters have had the temerity to lobby their parliamentary representatives.”

Wild claims of intimidation of MPs have been shown to have been falsified,” it added.

RT

John McDonnell has been cited as saying,

…one of the things we normally do is campaign against unjust wars.

“That is why we were involved in the foundation of Stop the War. Again, others have been critical of Stop the War and some of the positions they have taken, but that is honest political debate.

“As far as I am concerned, Stop the War have got it right in terms of Iraq and Afghanistan and in terms of the bombing of Syria. So of course we continue to support the organisation.

Guardian.

There is no argument that there are many, in the media, and amongst Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour opponents who have used the controversy about the Stop the War Coalition as a means to get at the Labour leader.

But what of “honest political debate”?

It has not escaped the attention of many left-wingers that the Stop the War Coalitions problems are deeper than the crass posts – now removed, apparently –  on its Web site. That the ‘whirlwind’ and Daesh as “Internationalist Brigades”  posts – amongst others – have been removed alters little about the overall politics of the group.

George Galloway, a prominent StWC supporter, has spoken at their recent rallies. Apart from his sympathies for Russian bombing in Syria, this is one of his recent statements during his campaign to be London Mayor,

Galloway also promised to support the police and security services in the fight against terrorism.

“The police will find a friend in me,” he added.

Every terrorist will be shot down dead, and if I can, I will pull the trigger myself.

“I say to the police officer in the room, when it comes to your wages, your resources and your strengthening, you can count on me.”

Waltham Forest Guardian.

The StWC protested, it might be recalled, at the terrible police shooting of suspected “terrorist” Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005.

Perhaps some may find it odd that they now promote somebody advocating a free hand to the police to shoot….terrorists.

In January this year after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper-Casher massacres Tari Ali gave a classic ‘whirlwind’ blow-back explanation of the killings,

That has been going on since 9/11. The West ref­uses to address the causes. Any attempt to explain why is usually denounced and so it bec­omes civilisational, or good versus evil, or free speech versus barbarism. The fact is that the West has reoccupied the Arab world with disasters in Syria, Iraq and Libya where things are much worse than under the previous aut­horitarian regimes. This is the prime cause of the radicalisation of young Muslims. The Left is in a bad way or seen as part of the problem, so they go to the mosque, search for hardline solutions and are eager to be used by jehadis.

What is the context in which the Paris killing should be seen?

As I described above but vis-a-vis France, these guys were a pure product of French society. Unemployed, long-haired, into drugs, alienated till they saw footage of US torture and killings in Iraq.

So you think western interventionist policies in the Arab and Muslim world are responsible for radicalisation of sections of Muslims in Europe and the United States?

In my opinion, one hundred per cent.

How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?

France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.

Outlook.

The ‘West’ was to blame for violent Islamism; Charlie Hebdo was “taunting” Moslems – we know what happened…

The more recent Paris slaughter has wider targets than the wrong kind of “secular” leftists at Charlie Hebdo and Jews, but one can see in Ali’s response (I have not referred to his later ‘wise guy’ comments giving the ‘inside dope’ on the weekly’s history and internal conflicts) that ‘reaping the whirlwind’ claims are not new in the StWC

Ali’s position on Syria appears to be that the “causes” of the civil war – Western intervention – are the prime target. StWC is opposed to “foreign interventions and especially where the British Government is involved.” The focus on Britain avoids the problem, which supporters of Syrian democrats emphasise, that Assad is backed by foreign intervention, and that StWC systematically excludes their voices from the debate.

In the Independent Ali evokes 19th century opposition to British colonial expeditions. “starting with William Morris’s observation in 1885 that the defeat of the British Army in the Sudan under General Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi (a religious leader par excellence), was a positive event insofar it weakened the British Empire.”

Is it the case that in “different times” – now – religious leaders weakening of the British or US ‘Empire’ can be welcomed?

Or, is Ali perhaps evoking the much more influential 19th century opponents of British colonial expeditions – the Little Englanders, such as John Bright (1811 – 1889)? Bright stood for many honourable causes, successfully joining opponents of UK support for the Southern side in the American civil war, and, less successfully, speaking against the Crimean War. As an anti-colonialist Bright tends to be forgotten for his equally ferocious campaign against Irish Home Rule. But the theme of British responsibility, the focus on the moral responsibility of the British government, and the need to fight “our” rulers, has left its mark on the modern ‘anti-imperialists’ of the StWC.

One does not have to agree with the claim that there are substantial numbers of Syrian democratic revolutionaries left in much of the country to see that this is clearly a problem.

Many feel that they have a responsibility to people across the world – it’s called internationalism.

In this context we note also Peter Tatchell’s criticisms of the StWC.

The dismissive response, whether one agrees with assertions about the strength of the Syrian democrats or not, has not been helpful.

Andrew Murray, Chair of the StWC, who is a considerably greater figure than any of the two already cited, has failed to explain why, as a member of the small Communist Party of Britain (CPB) – which backs Russian bombing in Syria to support Assad on the grounds that the Syrian state is sovereign – he is a leading figure in a movement that’s called “Stop the War”.

In an interview a few days ago with John Harris in the Guardian this exchange took place,

I suggest that the Assad regime has to go, and ask Murray if he agrees. But he doesn’t directly answer the question. We bat the point around for a few minutes, before we arrive at the reason why: as a staunch anti-imperialist, he says it’s not his place to call for the toppling of regimes overseas: a strange position for an avowed internationalist, perhaps, but there we are.

“Look, Assad has been bombing his own civilians, and he’s wreaked incredible suffering on the Syrian people,” he says. “I find nothing to applaud in the regime. Except this one aspect: it appears to have quite a lot of support from minority religions in Syria, and there is a fear that there could be mass killings of Christians or Shia Muslims – which is why a transition to democracy is what is needed.”

But why avoid saying Assad should go?

I’ve said [the regime] is awful. But you’re wanting me to take the place of the Syrian people. You’re wanting me to say, like the other colonialists down the years: ‘This regime should go.’”

Feeling a mild desperation, I bow to Godwin’s law, and mention Nazi Germany. In the 1930s and 40s, it would have been perfectly legitimate to insist that Hitler’s regime was so heinous that it ought to have been brought down, in a completely non-imperialist, moral context. So why can’t you say the same about Assad?

Eventually, Murray talks about a diplomatic push for a transition “that will end up with Assad going”. He goes on: “In my view, the important thing is that the Syrian people decide who their leaders are. I don’t believe it is the responsibility of people in Britain to choose the governments of foreign countries. If Assad wants to chance testing his popularity, that’s up to the Syrian people.”

John Rees and Lindsey German – the other key figures in the StWC – are leaders of Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party. Their principal difference with their former comrades was that they both wished to continue building a “united front” in the anti-war movement (that is work with other forces in the pressure group on a long-term basis), while the SWP wanted, as they always do, to switch over to whatever new campaign was their priority as the time (which few can remember).

Counterfire has a ‘revolutionary’ strategy,

At the point where revolutionaries took the step of initiating the Stop the War Coalition in 2001, we undertook an analysis something like this. We had already understood the nature of the new imperialism from theoretical work at the end of the Cold War, during the First Gulf War, and during the war in the Balkans. We understood the contradiction between expansive US military power and its relative economic decline. We judged, from preceding experience in the anti-globalisation movement, that there would be a mood to resist and that the left might not be divided in the way it had been in the Cold War.”

Rees claims, then, that the left determined the political direction of the StWC. “We” grasped the “subjective” element in politics and organised the “mood to resist”. The words ‘united front’ have all but evaporated. Instead we had another approach, which led (see below) to the formation of Respect. That is one based on access to “workers’ consciousness”. This method was not only applied to wage-labours. In 2003 he noted that amongst Muslims, “Some of these have been radicalised by the war, and by the effect on them of racism bolstered by the war and government policy. This has made them open to working with and being influenced by the left.” The alliances of the StWC and the left within it, was therefore not a matter of confronting people’s contradictory opinions, but to get a hold on “radicalised” forces – primarily Muslims.

Phil comments that the strategy has not worked well.

The Anti-imperialism of Fools.

The US is no longer the world’s unchallenged hegemon. Yet Stop the War has more or less carried on as if none of this has happened, as if the USA is the only active agent in the world and – implicitly – the designs and manoeuvres of rival states and enemies are benign or, at least, less harmful. This is why Putin never gets as much stick as Obama, why leading members of its steering committee have occasionally associated with sundry undesirables, why the Kurds get no support while IS are clumsily and favourably compared with the International Brigades. Why it appears that authoritarians and totalitarians get a free pass while democratic countries are criticised and mobilised against.

We need a new Stop the War coalition or, rather, we need one with new politics, one that recognises the inequitable and unjust character of international relations and global political economy, that sometimes war and peace is a messy business, and acknowledges that it’s not our place to soft soap regimes and terror outfits. Not that difficult you’d think, yet here we are.

Phil B. Left Futures.

In conclusion how better to illustrate this politics in action than this?

Condemn some bombing?

 Pat Murphy, NUT Executive (pc)

On 10 December the NUT National Executive debated a motion on Syria. It was based on something the SWP had sent out earlier in the week but was moved by Dave Harvey from Outer London.

The motion was pretty bland, reaffirming a previous decision to oppose UK air strikes on Syria, condemning the recent vote to bomb and calling for support for demos and protests against this including those called by the Stop The War Coalition. I wrote an amendment which added condemnation of all bombing, specifically naming Russian and Assad regime bombing. It also called on Stop The War to condemn this military intervention as well as UK attacks and it called on the UK government to demand that NATO member Turkey cease all attacks on the Kurds.

The debate was short but bizarre. The most common response was that people ‘didn’t disagree with a word in the amendment but it takes the focus off the UK bombing and that has to be our main thrust’.

The crassest argument by far came from the SWP. To criticise Stop The War at this time is to criticise Corbyn and that’s a no-no. So we had self-styled revolutionary socialists using their lifetimes of Marxist education to urge Labour Party members to be more loyal to their leader. Much like members of the SWP do for their leaders I guess.

12 Executive members voted for my amendment and 26 against. The main motion was then carried with one vote against (Ian Leaver of Leicester who seconded my amendment). There was probably a case for that stance. For him it was a gesture of his frustration with Stop The War’s recent publication of articles appearing to compare Daesh to the anti-fascist International Brigades and to blame the West for the Paris atrocity. There was certainly a case for abstention though it was not a particularly strident motion. My amendment took nothing out (rightly or wrongly) but added stuff in.

The vote for the amendment crossed the obvious political divides to some extent but the bulk of support for it came from LANAC supporters. The determination to defeat this condemnation of Russia and Assad and the minor criticism of Stop the War came from supporters of the Socialist Teachers Alliance and their bag-carriers in the SWP.

Both organisations are so saturated in low level, lesser-evil anti-imperialism that they have forgotten that such a thing as socialist internationalism ever existed. Now it’s just ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ (or at least a less bad enemy). It was very much like watching the last spasms of a dying species.

Workers Liberty.

France: After the Regional Elections, Will the Front de gauche break up?

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Mélenchon: With Spring, Flowers Bloom.

Left Front Rethinking.

Extracts. 

The Communist Party spokesman Olivier Dartigolles stated on Monday that the Front de gauche (Left Front) had “got it wrong” and would “review everything from top to bottom”. L’Humanité.

“The Left Front was created precisely to avoid what has happened right in front of our eyes in these regional elections, so it’s a failure, we have to review everything from top to bottom,” warned the leading Communist. He said that they could not “start again as if nothing had happened” and talked about “complete overhaul of the Front de gauche”. As for working with the former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he announce that his party had not closed the door on the chief of the Parti de gauche, saying that “there will need everyone”. He preferred nevertheless the idea of “bringing millions of people into battle.”

“Olivier Dartigolles continued, that following statements of Parti Socialist General Secretary Christophe Cambadélis that they would finally have a debate on fundamental policies. He hoped that there would be an opening of this discussion  “with those that the PS, and they are many, who do not want… (Note: that is existing government strategy)…) and everyone’s on their left. ” “I would also include the trade union left, associative and intellectual forces,” he added, but “certainly not” Emmanuel Macron. ” (Economics Minister).

There are long-standing tensions between Jean Luc Mélenchon and the other parties and groups in the Front de gauche – particularly over the PCF’s agreements with the Parti Socialiste in elections. More here: Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en voie de dislocation.

In the Regional election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon refused to give a recommendation on who to vote for in second round contests, that pitted the Front National against Sarkozy’s Les Républicains. (Régionales : Jean-Luc Mélenchon ne veut donner aucune consigne de vote pour les deuxièmes tours LR-FN).

Mélenchon has called for a “ véritable front populaire ”

In a lyrical Blog post after the Regional election results Mélenchon writes, “Que vienne l’heure du peuple !” – May the Time of the People Come!

He ends,

Mais je le dis avec espoir : à proportion du danger que vous avez vécu, vous savez que vous êtes appelés dorénavant à prendre votre part à l’autre bataille démocratique qui dorénavant s’avance avec l’élection présidentielle. Il faut qu’elle soit l’heure du peuple contre l’oligarchie, l’heure du rassemblement pour une république qui ne se contente pas de débiter comme un moulin sa devise mais qui fasse vivre réellement l’aspiration à l’égalité et à la fraternité autant qu’a la liberté. Je sais, mes chers compatriotes, que nous avançons dans l’hiver. Mais je sais aussi que toujours le printemps revient. Toujours. Et avec lui, les fleurs et la promesse de leurs fruits. »

But I say this with hope: after the dangers that you have lived through, you know that  as the presidential election gets nearer, you are called to take your part in a democratic battle. This contest must be the time of the people against the oligarchy, the time of joining together for a republic that does not reduce its motto to phrase-mongering,  but brings into reality the aspirations to equality, to fraternity as well as liberty. I know, my beloved countrymen and women, that we are in the middle of winter. But I also know that spring always returns. Always. And with it, flowers bloom with the promise of fruit.

Mélenchon scored 11.05% in the 2012 Presidential election (first round) as the candidate of the Front de gauche (FdG). He is the founder of the Parti de gauche, (PdG) a split from the French Socialist party.

The original FdG bloc included the Parti communiste français (PCF) the Parti de gauche (PG) of Jean-Luc MélenchonRépublique et socialisme, the Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique (FASE), Convergences et alternative, Le Parti communiste des ouvriers de France the Gauche anticapitaliste (GA), Les Alternatifs.

At present the PCF, the Parti de gauche, and Ensemble (which regrouped a number of the above organisations together), are the FdG’ s main components.

The Parti de Gauche has been accused of having as its principal preoccupation preparing Mélenchon’s bid for the Presidential contest of 2017.

In January 2014 the PdG totaled 9,000 members, but only 1,700 activists participated in the voting for their annual conference platforms this year. They have serious internal differences on the Euro, with a strong minority calling for France to leave the Eurozone and relations with other sections of the Front de Gauche over electoral agreements with the Parti Socialiste (the party the organisation originated in).

In the Regional elections that just took place the Parti de Gauche obtained 7 councillors.

The PCF has around 130,000 members, and around 29 regional councillors.

While the FdG has its serious problems, it is doubtful if the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste’s response to these results (from a party unable to stand in these elections) will receive any echo whatsoever,

These elections have shown that there is no political representation for the exploited. For the world of labour, the most urgent task is to build the mobilizations, return to the path of struggle: for lifting the state of emergency, which has had the practical effect of silencing the social movement around COP21, Air France, against the NDDL airport, for the defence of migrants, etc. More than that, the building of an anti-capitalist political alternative, a new emancipatory project, remains more relevant than ever.

NPA. Montreuil 13 December 2015

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm

France: Front National Leads Vote But Fails to Win Regional Power. A Left Analysis.

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Embedded image permalink

Final results graphic from second round

The BBC reports,

The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.

France 24.

Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.

The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).

The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.

The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.

Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.

Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.

In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.

After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.

Pause for breath – there is worse to come:

“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”

Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”

The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.

The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.

Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.

Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.

“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”

On the left there is not much relief.

Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.

The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.

L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.

We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).

Observations.

  • The Front National has failed to take over some of the levers of the established French political structure. This is a victory for their opponents. Regional councils, it has been observed, are a relativity cost-free platform for the display of  administrative stagecraft. Control of their budgets gives an opportunity to show off policies, reward patrons, and attract attention. Control of one of them would not have tested the FN’s national policies. It would have given the far-right party momentum. They do not have this.
  • The cost of the “sursaut républicain” is not to be underestimated. Despite reports that the FN is now attracting members from highly educated and .experienced French  administrative sectors (traditional sources of political cadres) the party continues to claim that it stands alone against the other parties, the political elite, the equivalent of the Spanish ‘casta’. With the Parti Socialiste calling its supporters to vote for Sarkozy’s  Les Républicains in the regions where they were alone capable of beating Marine Le Pen’s party, the claim will continue to appeal to their electorate.
  • The FN still headed the results. Indications that they performed well in the first round amongst young people (34% amongst the 18-24 year olds), the unemployed, workers (43%) , self-employed, farmers and agricultural workers (35%), white collar public sector workers (30%) and indeed all social categories. While the party is most supported amongst the young and the “popular classes” the results  suggest a party with a broader national appeal than any other French political force. (Elections régionales : qui a voté FN ?)
  • From a rate of 57% in the first round, to 50% in the second, abstention marked these elections. That workers, the out-of-work, and above all the young, are amongst the biggest groups of abstentionists, is thin against the above evidence of their far-right voting.  (le Front national, premier parti chez les jeunes… qui votent.Le Monde. 7.12.15.)
  • Claims that there is a “left wing’, ‘national’ socialist (protectionist and working class) strain in the far-right’s language in the formerly left North, and a more traditional hard right (xenophobic and morally reactionary)  line in the South East, have been eroded in this election. They were always doubtful – given the homogenising effects of modern politics. ( Les trois visages du vote FN Joël Gombin  Le Monde Diplomatique November 2015.) But both the protectionist, and above all the xenophobic  themes in the FN’s policies have had a nation wide impact.
  • The results have produced a crisis on the French right and left. On the right there are growing voices to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to run again for the Presidency. . The former is a serious political project, led by Sarkozy’s long-term more emollient and apparently more ‘moderate’ rival, Alain Juppé after what is widely seen as a personal set-back for Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Sarkozy face à un échec personnel).
  • On the left, there are those in the ruling Parti Socialiste who wish to create a new centre left party free from the historic baggage of the left, and indeed the word socialist. This skirts over the more difficult task of re-connecting with the popular electorate. A government headed by one of the few politicians in France to admire Tony Blair, Manuel Valls, that has failed to offer substantial reforms to improve the quality of life for wage-earners, reduce unemployment, and has been unable to relaunch economic growth, is not in a strong position to appeal to these lost voters.
  • The left, taking stock, did not suffer electoral annihilation, although it lost in important regions, including the Ile de France (surrounding Paris, perhaps the consequence of a big, 10.2% drop in the FN vote between rounds). With 5 regions for the left against 7 for the right it may seem as if their formal political strength has stood up. The Socialists, in agreement with the Greens (EELV), 6,81 %, and the Front de gauche,  nevertheless did not shine in the electoral scores (around 7%). Inside the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained that the complex regional alliances and lists that the bloc has entered into prevented getting a clear message across. It is very doubtful if this was a major factor in their results – although perhaps somewhere in France Mélenchon’s personal message of the Bolivarian Revolution, on the Venezuelan model has support. His own refusal to give any recommendation for the second round was not universally appreciated.  The Greens lost half their votes – they had 12,18% in 2010.  ( Elections régionales : la débâcle des écologistes).

There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)

President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.

His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.

The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.

The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.

The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.

In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.

Its policies centre on  ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.

These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.

Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.

The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.

Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst  some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.

Populism, as they say, is about being popular.

In this respect, with 27% of the vote,  the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.

The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche,  Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work  (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).

Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche,  have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”

Benedict Anderson Dies.

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Benedict Anderson dies in his sleep in Indonesia.

Benedict Anderson, a Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies, died Sunday in Indonesia. He was 79.

Anderson died in his sleep during a visit to the city of Malang, Indonesian media reported. His death was confirmed on the Facebook page of Thai historian Charnvit Kasetsiri, his close friend and colleague. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Anderson is best known for his 1983 book “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism,” whose controversial thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy.

“Many readers of ‘Imagined Communities’ did not know that his knowledge of Southeast Asian languages gave him insights into Indonesian, Thai, and Philippine political culture and history,” said Prof. Craig J. Reynolds of Australian National University.

Anderson’s influence was not limited to the sphere of theory, as he engaged with the contentious issues of the day with a rigorous analysis and dry wit that inspired his students.

“Throughout his life, he inspired successive generations of students to brush history against the grain by similarly marshaling every ounce of their intellectual creativity and courage to look at history and politics in totally new and greatly more profound ways,” said Steve Heder, a research associate at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies who studied under Anderson at Cornell.

Born to Anglo-Irish parents in 1936 in Kunming, China, Benedict Richard O’Gorman Anderson grew up in California and was educated at Cambridge and Cornell, where he studied Southeast Asian politics.

His early specialization in Indonesia turned out to be both a curse and a blessing. A curse because a near-forensic analysis of Indonesia’s bloody 1965 coup that he wrote with fellow scholar Ruth McVey led to him being banned from that country until 1999. The “Cornell Paper,” as it came to be known, questioned the conventional wisdom that the coup was the consequence of an abortive communist uprising, suggesting instead premeditation on the part of the army.

But while retaining an active interest in Indonesia, Anderson’s enforced absence from that country encouraged him to turn his energies elsewhere, with Thailand becoming another specialization by the mid-1970s. He learned enough Thai to co-author a 1985 collection and study of translated modern Thai short stories.

Anderson’s most influential work on Thailand was his 1977 essay “Withdrawal Symptoms,” which analyzed the social forces behind a 1976 counterrevolution in Thailand just three years after a student-led revolt toppled a military dictatorship.

“His scholarship and commitment to progressive political change meant that he was an icon for scholars in the region and for all those who have studied the region,” said Kevin Hewison, a professor of politics and international studies at Australia’s Murdoch University. “His analysis of Thailand’s 1970s political turmoil remains unsurpassed and is as important today as it was when published.”

Thailand is currently under military rule after another coup last year.

Anderson later turned his attention to the Philippines — learning Spanish so he could study colonial-era documents — which led to his last major book, 2005’s “Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination.”

ABC

For many on the left Anderson’s study Imagined Communities remains deeply influential.

T.J.Clark observed,

Great titles are especially dangerous. Imagined Communities is one of the greatest, and I shall be arguing that the cluster of concepts it sums up deserves still to be central to our thinking about the world. But it is understandable, and touching, that the first footnote to Benedict Anderson’s afterword to his new edition should read, in explanation of the trimming of the title in his text: ‘Aside from the advantages of brevity, IC restfully occludes a pair of words from which the vampires of banality have by now sucked almost all the blood.’

Part of the force of Imagined Communities as a title – as an idea – comes from the way the two words immediately set the reader wondering whether they are meant as oxymoronic, and if they are, with what degree of irony or regret. The words bring to mind the true strangeness, but also the centrality, of the human will to be connected with others ‘of one’s kind’ whom one will never meet, and never know. Connected with them in the present, by blood or language or difference from a common enemy (or combinations of all three); and connected through time by a shared belonging to something that seems to emerge from a steadier, thicker, more grounded past and be on its way to an indestructible, maybe redeeming future.

Anderson defined a nation as follows,

“I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined…. Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.”

For Anderson the ‘imaginary’ of nationalism is the result of a number of historical developments: the declining importance of elite classical languages such as Latin or Sanskrit, because of mass literacy in  spoken languages; the  erosion and movements of state legitimacy based on divine right and hereditary monarchy; and the emergence of printing press capitalism (“the convergence of capitalism and print technology… standardization of national calendars, clocks and language was embodied in books and the publication of daily newspapers”—all phenomena occurring with the start of the modern industrial capitalism.

A nation emerges within these emerging networks of power and communication.It becomes a community because,

regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

Anderson , some writers have suggested, underplayed the class dimensions of the social imaginary, the neglect of the way ruling classes have cultivated – deliberately or unconsciously – national imagery – and his lack of sustained analysis of the French Revolution (which had a strong ‘universal’ appeal) as a ‘model’ of nationalism.

His work is also perhaps only suggestive in tackling the importance of ‘trans-national’ imaginaries’ and communities, from democratic socialism, early Communism, liberal internationalism to the anti-‘national’ and genocidal dreaming and practice of Daesh.

To our mind Anderson stands out for this double-edged description of the importance of language in shaping our sense of social being,

“What the eye is to the lover — that particular, ordinary eye he or she is born with – language – whatever language history has made his or her mother-tongue — is to the patriot. Through that language, encountered at mother’s knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed.”

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Islamic State: Fascism, Totalitarianism and Evil.

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Islamic State, Fascism, Totalitarianism and Evil.

The decision of the British Parliament to back Prime Minister David Cameron and join an alliance of forces to fight the Islamic State (Daesh) in Syria has aroused great emotion. Hilary Benn and others have described these Islamists as fascists. They are therefore in the class of the wicked against whom we can all unite.

Others notably supporters of the Stop the War Coalition, assert versions of Terry Eagleton’s different view in On Evil (2010) While the “lethal fantasises” of Islamic fundamentalists (his term) may be “vicious” and “benighted” Jihadist acts of mass murder, like the destruction of the Twin Towers, arise from the “Arab world’s sense of anger and humiliation at the long history of its political abuse by the West.” Terrorism, the cultural thinker opined, has its “own momentum”. – to meet it with violence is to “breed more terror”. (1)

The traction of the ‘anger and humiliation” motor was much used in these quarters in the wake of the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Cacher last January. Rules for the correct and authorised use of satire were drawn up, excluding being rude about the humiliated. Little power in this ready-made explanation was left over for the Paris massacre last month. That was simply to be condemned. Much liberal reaction, while often shy of the fascist label, tends to agree that Daesh is uniquely evil. We “all” denounce this barbarity – including within this all, Muslim voices underlining their profound horror at ISIL.

So Daesh is both exceptional, and fascist. Or not, as those keen to proclaim, from an anti-imperialist and Marxist standpoint, that the West has committed worse crimes, not least in the Middle East, and the difference that this “state” “created” by Western intervention in Iraq shows from European fascism and Nazism. Daesh is not, they have discovered, on scholastic authority, a “battering ram” against the workers’ movement; it does not mobilise the “petty bourgeoisie” behind Monopoly Capital, to destroy bourgeois democracy. It is not a response to a crisis of capital accumulation and a strong labour movement challenge to capitalism. It is has little beyond fringe support in the imperialist nations. The priority is the fight against the imperialists, to work together for their defeat. There is no need for a united front in the “struggle against Islamist fascism”. (2)

Fascism and Islamism.

Comparisons with the 1930s, not to mention contemporary far-right populism in Europe, are self-evidently hard to make. The differences between Daesh and European fascism are perhaps better illuminated by Michael Mann in Fascists (2004) tired to draw out common features of these far-right movements and states. In doctrine, he observed, they are marked by: 1) Thus, nationalism, the “organic, integral unity of the nation”, rebirth, 2) Statism, “Fascists worshiped state power”. 3) Transcendence: they attacked both capital and labour, with the objective of the “supposed creation of a new man”. The nation and state comprised their centre of gravity: they hoped to subordinate capital to their goals. 4) Cleansing, “because opponents were seen as ‘enemies’, they were to be removed, and the nation cleansed of them.”5) Paramilitarism, a key value and organisation form, popular, vanguard of the nation. “Violence was the key to the ‘radicalisation’ of fascism.”(3)

Mann argued that Islamism has many common features with European fascism, “The new jihadis (popularly called ‘fundamentalists’) do seek to create a monocratic, authoritarian regime that will enforce a utopian Koranic ideal. This regime will create a new form of state and a new man (and woman), Its predominant organisation is the paramilitary taking various but always dominant forms – guerrilla international brigades in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, armed bands of terrorising enforcers under the Taliban and Iranian Islamists (rather like the SA or SS), and clandestine terrorist networks elsewhere, All this is decidedly fascist.”(4)

Nevertheless they are not nationalist and the state is not an end in itself: its role is to enforce the Sharia. Mann concluded, “Unlike fascism, they really are political religions. They offer a sacred, but not a secular ideology. They most resemble fascism in deploying the means of moral murder but the transcendence, the state, the nation, and the new man they seek are not this-worldly. We might call this sacred fascism; of course though perhaps it is better to recognise that they human capacity for ferocious violence, cleansing, and totalitarian gaols can have diverse sources and forms, to which we should give different labels – fascist communist, imperialist, religious, ethno-nationalist, and so on.”(4)

Mann did not anticipate the more recent argument that Daesh and other jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda, recruiting from dislocated social layers, in war-torn Syria and Iraq, have created a “religion de rupture” based on a cultural and generational break. The Islamic State, from this standpoint, is, the specialist in Islamism, Olivier Roy argues, “nihilist”. (Le djihadisme est une révolte nihilste. Le Monde 25.11.15) they are “more Muslim than the Muslims”. The ideology, their ‘imaginary’, of Daesh dwells on death and war, the extermination or enslavement of the non-Muslim Kufur, and the killing of Muslim heretics (in Takfir terms, all non-Sunnis, and all Sunnis who do not accept their doctrine). Their objective is less a utopian society, the recreation of an ancient Caliphate, than the Nothingness that Terry Eagleton identified with the Death Drive – a desire hinted in Nazi extermination. (5)

Genociders.

Richard Rechtman traces Daesh’s practice, from the creation of disciplinary machine that enforces the Sharia in all aspects of life, to genocide. He calls them simply, “génocidaires” (genociders), who mark a line between the “pure” and the “impure” – eliminating all who are unclean. (La Violence de l’organisation Etat islamique est génocidaire. Le Monde. 28.11.15) Daesh has “deterritorialised” its genocide. The Charlie Hebdo journalists, the Jewish customers of the Hyper-Cacher, the tens of thousands of martyrs in Iraq, Syria and Africa, are murdered for what they “are”.

Daesh, may have grown as a ‘state’ in the wake of the conditions of the Iraqi invasion and the Syrian civil war and the failure of the democratic aspirations on the Arab spring in that region and elsewhere. It may be marked by its genocidal ambitions. But it is clearly part of a much broader current of political Islam. Gilles Kepel has described the search for divine sovereignty in the aftermath of the First World War and the break up of the Ottoman Caliphate. He states that the central Islamist belief is that sovereignty belongs to Allah only. As developed in what are widely considered the founding writings of modern Islamism by the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb during the 1950s, ““The Muslim umma is a collectivity (Jama’a) of people whose entire lives – in their intellectual, social, existential, political, moral and practical aspects – are based on Islamic ethics (mihaj). Thus characterised, this umma ceases to exist if no part of the earth is governed according to the law of God any longer…”(6) The task of Islamists is to restore this society.

Four Horsemen.

Some commentators assert that Daesh is a new millennialist movement, evoking images of a final battle with the forces ranged against Islam. In this it is clearly not alone. Kepel noted a widely shared Islamist list of enemies, signs of the end times: the “ four horsemen of the apocalypse (who) were: ‘Jewry’, the ‘crusade’, ‘communism’ and ‘secularism’.” He continues, “’Jewry’ is the ultimate abomination. The word ‘Jew’ (yahud) is used in indifferently to apply to both Israeli citizens and other Jews. Israeli citizenship, in fact, is seen as merely an attribute of the Jew, defined ontologically on the basis of racial, historical and religious criteria.” As we have just seen, Daesh has found it easy to move from identifying these ‘attributes’ to calls for genocide. (7)

From the 1928 foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood by Hassan-Al-Banna, already stamped with hostility to democratic “division”, to Qubt’s ideas, and to the present-day forms of Salafism, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Islamism is no longer “one” politics or ideology. The Muslim Brotherhood is said to have developed an Islamist ‘constitutionalism’, which incorporates a degree of popular consultation underneath of the rule of religious experts. The Islamic State of Iran is totalitarian in some respects (no political freedom for parties that are not Islamic, interference in private lives, mass political killings) but has a degree of “pluralism” within its oligarchy.  Saudi Arabia is totalitarian but traditional, a ‘kingdom’. Boko Haram is genocidal in way that parallels movements of ethnic extermination. Somalian Islamists are war-lords – a pattern repeated on a smaller scale amongst the smaller Syrian movements. Al Qaeda has attempted to wage a global war to defend the “umma” from Western aggression, although its affiliate in Syria, Al-Nusra, appears fixed on creating something not dissimilar to Daesh, the reign of men working in the Shadow of god over the country. Daesh may be said to be “glocal” – global and local – fighting across the world, and restoring the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria (Genèse du dijhadisme. Nabil Mouline. Le Monde Diplomatique. December 2015).

These are only some indications that Daesh is not cut off from the mainstream of Islamism. Perhaps, if we wish to clarify the nature of these forms of actually existing Islamism, it would be better to use the broad expression “totalitarian” to describe them. We have seen how ‘fascism’ is not a useful term in itself – only to help highlight some common features and to make differences stand out. Specifically no form of Islamism is organised around what Claude Lefort called an “Egocrat” – a Fascist or Nazi ruler who lays down the interests of the Volk or Nation, or the Stalinist ‘Marxist-Leninist’ line. Lefort, abstractly and probably too generally, cited the breaking of a division between civil and political society, and mechanisms to make world ‘transparent’ to the Eye of the Egocrat’s rule. There is no protection against terror; ‘law’ is a constantly shifting game of paranoia and factional dispute. (8)

Islamism has led to new forms of totalitarianism. Worship of state power, and the organic unity of the community have different sources. They could be said to try to restore a pre-modern unity of unquestioned belief and society. But if their sights are set on ‘otherworldly’ goals, they have the presence of scripture, the Qur’an, to rule intermundane existence; they have a ‘law’, the Sharia, which binds the “umma” together without class or other division. This is, as Mann states, a political religion, reliant on modern mechanisms of power to achieve its aims. All wish to encourage virtue, and punish vice, not only by preaching but also by physical coercion. Not only the divine state but god is said to peer into the private lives and minds of their subjects. It can be considered, in its materialised shape, as a political religion wrapped in totalitarian mechanisms.

Contradictions.

The contradictions within the forms of Islamist totalitarianism are marked. How far can they restore the Golden Age of Islam? Maxime Rodinson signaled the problems any form of political Islam faces in trying to reconcile ‘justice’ with the recreation of the mercantile capitalism idealised in their portrait of the early years of the Prophet’s rule (Islam and Capitalism. 1973). This ideal looks even more absurd, amongst the oil, contraband and extortion revenues of the Islamic State.  And what of their ‘moral’ regulation. Islamists insist on the subordinate but cherished place of women, but only some wish to recreate the benign forms of slavery practiced in early Islam. They show degrees of intolerance towards non-believers, the ‘impure’, from accepting the rights of lesser faiths to exist, to Daesh’s programme of all out war. And who indeed has the right to make the rules of the state, from commerce to administration. Is this to be decided by their own reading or by the studies of learned scholars, skilled in deciphering ancient manuscripts?

Is Islamism related to a crisis of capitalist development, its ‘uneven’ growth and the failure of democratic or nationalist regimes to govern in countries with a majority Muslim population? If this is so, it is the case for all political movements in, to start with, the contemporary Middle East. Efforts to claim that it some kind of “diverted” form of class struggle tend to rely on the notion that an ideal ‘revolutionary’ movement is just waiiting there, ready to leap forward when the time is right.

But what is Islamism’s class basis? From the pious bourgeoisie that backs the various wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Turkish AKP, the ‘popular’ masses who see in them a rampart against the destructive effects of the modern world and globalisation, to those fearing rival Muslim – Shiite – bands in Iraq to the ‘dislocated’ individuals prepared to martyr others for their own glory – about the only clear thing we can say is that it is not the working class in the traditional or “globalised” sense of neo-liberalism.  If it is opposed to class struggle and its ‘anti-capitalism’ goes with capitalist economics – with Islamic ‘justice’ – these are not salient points in its politics.The key issue remains ‘divine’ sovereignty against secular authority, either democratic or authoritarian.

Islamism, as we have stated, is not ‘one’ movement. There are major and irreconcilable rivalries between those pursing a ‘Gramscian’ strategy of winning ideological hegemony on the road to power, and those who use terror. Above all, there are fights within material organisations, the Islamic State, the ‘micro-powers’ within communities – ‘radical’ Mosques, Islamist and Salafist associations, Islamic courts, official or unofficial, and the Einsatzgruppen prepared to kill across the planet. These are all part of the wider Islamist ‘mouvance’. To claim that there are sharp distinctions between the distinct elements is to ignore the areas of convergence, notably the practice of violently enforcing a code personal mores – which extends to these small-scale centres across the world, including Europe.

Islamist totalitarianism is a real political threat, not an ‘ontological’ evil, a rent in the world, the tragic side of history. Nor is the problem limited to  nihilistic warriors. These forms of totalitarianism have material weight. They are a major political challenge. They are deeply opposed to the notion of ‘human’ rights, the bedrock ideology of most sections of the left, from liberalism to the defenders of workers’ democracy.

Fight Against Islamism.

Those who make alliances with the ‘moderate’ wings of Islamism align with the enemies of socialism and liberal freedoms.  Those who state that they stand with the Islamists ‘against’ the State or ‘against’ imperialism’ are collaborating with our worst enemies. But there are not only attempts at compromise and accommodation, or leftist manipulation in the belief that the experience of the ‘struggle’ will win their new friends over to their side. A fight is developing, from the fighters of the Kurdish led groups in Syria, to the democrats, leftists and secularists combating Islamism on the ground across the world. Our objective is free societies, in which the democratic movement for socialism can organise, develop and win power. In this battle there is one force we cannot rely on: the Western powers, locked into an alliance with totalitarian Islamist Saudi Arabia and with the authoritarian Islamists of Turkey.

Human rights are universal: they are not subordinate to political calculation in the conflicts unfolding in the Middle East. The popular struggle against Islamism is only beginning.

*****
(1) Pages 157 – 159. On Evil. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2010.
(2) See: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany. Leon Trotsky. Pathfinder Press. 1972.
(3) Page 16. Fascists. Michael Mann. Cambridge University Press. 2004.
(4) Page 373. Mann Op cit.
(5) Page 374. Mann Op cit.
(6) Page 112. Eagleton Op cit.
(7) Page 43. The Roots of Radical Islam. Gilles Kepel. Saqi. 2005
(8) Page 113. Gilles Kepel Op cit.
(9) Essais sur le (yes it is ‘le’) politique. Claude Lefort. Seuil 1986. Un Homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin. 2015 (1976).

Socialist Worker: Assad and Russian Supporters Welcome in Stop the War Campaign.

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SWP: Assad and Putin Supporters Welcome.

Today Socialist Worker publishes an account of the complexities of the Syrian civil war.

Alex Callinicos notes,

The Syrian war is a complex, many-sided conflict, pitting against each other domestic forces that are increasingly defined in confessional and sectarian terms. These are backed by outside regional and global powers for their own interests. The secular democratic impulse of the original 2011 risings survives only weakly.

He then observes.

Moreover, various currents in the Western left have their sympathies with different sides in the war.

 In seeking ‘unity’ in the anti-war ‘movement’ (that is protests) he retreats into the 1st World War ‘revolutionary defeatist” bunker when it comes to his conclusion.

The moral of this is that the anti-war movement should stay out of all the different powers’ geopolitical schemes and the spurious arguments used to justify them.

Our task is to mobilise against the US-led military campaign in the Middle East and our own government’s participation. This broad stand can gain the support of Syrians opposed to the bombings.

This doesn’t mean that people who back Russia, or even Assad, have no place in the anti-war movement. Others on the British left have used their presence at anti-war rallies as a reason for not supporting the Stop the War Coalition.

This is a bad mistake. We should accept that we have different takes on the Syrian struggle, but still work together.

Socialist Worker stands strongly with the Syrian Revolution and its original promise. But we won’t forget that the main enemy is at home, and we’ll unite with all who want to mobilise against it.

How the inclusion in the anti-war movement of those opposed to what Callinicos describes as  the Syrian Revolution – that is backers of Assad – works out is beyond rational comprehension.

This reasoning could mean that anybody fighting for the defeat of the ‘main enemy’ – ‘at home’ – is welcome in the anti-war movement.

 Now in fact there is no real modern equivalent of this ‘defeatism’ since nobody is arguing the Patriotic case for defending the ‘Nation’ – the UK – against ‘its’ enemies.

There is, in other words, no parallel to the left patriotic ‘defencists’ of the Great War, or to those arguing (rightly) to defend their countries against Nazi occupation.

Trotsky, who is apparently an authority in these affairs, said in 1939,

“… Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.”

Hal Draper.The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism”

There is no domestic British ‘revolutionary movement’.

A more rational left position today would be to start not from an abstract “Syrian Revolution”.

It is with the wishes of the democratic left forces on the ground such as the ‘Kurdish nationalist’ (Callinicos’s  expression)  PKK and its Syrian allies, not to mention Syrian democratic movements. It would be to support the cause of human rights expressed by the suffering peoples of Syria and Iraq.

How the ruin of Cameron, however much one would wish it for domestic reasons, can be compared to the aims of those battling the genociders of  Daesh to see them and the other Islamist killers eliminated, is a trick of which groups like the SWP alone have the secret.

It is hard to see how any ‘unity’ could come about between those in the UK who wish for support for these groups in their just struggle, yet oppose British intervention in its present shape,  can be made on the basis  of a wish to see ‘our’ UK government’ beaten.

The SWP have a morally bankrupt stand.

To say the least.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

“Hard Edged Secularism” in UK to Blame for Support for Islamic State, Says Top Tory.

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Crabb: Standing up to Hard-Edged Secularists. 

The Guardian reports.

A Tory cabinet minister has said that Britain’s increasingly secular society risks “pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isis”.

Stephen Crabb, the Welsh secretary, used a speech to claim that a “hard-edged” secularism in Britain was partly to blame for “aiding and abetting” extremism, as mainstream religion is marginalised in public life.

Crabb is a committed Christian who voted against gay marriage and is one of at least two prominent members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship in the cabinet, alongside the education secretary, Nicky Morgan.

He made the intervention on Tuesday, the day after the commission on religion and belief in British public life proposed that schools should no longer face a legal requirement to provide daily acts of worship of a Christian character. It also suggested the teaching of religious belief should be overhauled to make it more relevant in a diverse and increasingly secular country.

Although extremism is not part of his usual brief, Crabb spoke about the issue as he gave the annual Wilberforce address for the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

Apparently religious liberty is menaced.

The minister, who has been tipped as a possible outside candidate for the next Tory leadership race, said he thought freedom of religion was now under threat, citing the case of the advertising company that refused a Church of England cinema commercial promoting the Lord’s Prayer.

In the speech, he claimed the current mood meant “faith gets squeezed further into the margins of public life and religion becomes delegitimised through suspicion, fear or ridicule”. This could have implications for the fight against Islamic extremism, Crabb suggested.

“The answer to the seduction of Isil [Isis] is not a greater dose of secularism that delegitimises their faith in the public space,” he said. “I believe the marginalisation of religion in our national life risks pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isil.”

On the Spectator Blog  comments,

He also admitted finding it easier not to talk about his own faith at all as a politician, and worrying that ‘I doubt whether we will ever see again a British Prime Minister who can talk openly about the times when they might pray to God’. He said:

‘So here we are in 2015, in an age when it is easier for a politician to admit to smoking weed or watching porn, than it is to admit that they might take prayer seriously in their daily life.’

She continues,

Crabb pointed to the open ridicule that politicians such as Tim Farron and Tony Blair invited for saying that they prayed. He also said the decision by major cinema chains to refuse to screen a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer was ‘an act of enormous ignorance and intolerance’.

Crabb’s call has already had a wide echo in progressive circles.

Reports indicate that Goldsmiths College plans to offer a new MA on the intersecting social identities and related systems of secularist oppression, domination or discrimination and marginalisation of faith communities, provisionally entitled Interfaithality.

It is said that Matt Carr, an expert on Jihadism and the Spanish International Brigades (StWC) will be one of the course tutors.

Momentum Shows Sense About Limiting Influence of Parties who Stand in Elections Against Labour.

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This Blog was amongst the first to signal the possible problems that the participation of organised left groups. who had stood against the Labour Party in the General Election, might pose for Momentum.

We wrote, on October the 15th,  Socialist Workers Party to “build Momentum” group for Jeremy Corbyn.

On the 17th of October, after the above story made it into the national media, we asked,  After SWP Involvement Makes News, Momentum Publishes Ethical Code – is this enough?

The BBC has just reported,

Momentum ‘to curb power of non-Labour groups’

Under new rules, Momentum supporters who are not Labour Party members will not be allowed to vote or take part in meetings about the Labour Party.

The move is designed to restrict the influence of organisations like the Communist Party, Left Unity, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

The new rules are due to be finalised shortly, BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said.

The rules will still allow members of the groups – generally to the left of the Labour Party – to attend Momentum meetings on non-Labour Party issues, such as campaigning on Syria.

A Momentum source said: “This is to stop the Socialist Party doing stupid things but we’re trying to be as open and pragmatic as possible.”

Momentum has strongly divided opinion within the Labour Party – shadow chancellor John McDonnell has spoken at a number of their meetings.

There is more on the Socialist Party, in the person of Nancy Taafe, below.

One of their main campaigns, which should be signaled, is to get support for Labour councillors to set ‘illegal’ budgets, and to denounce any council which does not defy the government’s financial rules, as traitors.

This is how they put it,

We demand no-cuts, needs budgets along the lines of the Liverpool councillors in the 1980s.

The Socialist.

Patrick Wintour writes in the Guardian today.

Momentum, the group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn inside the Labour party, is to draw up a code of conduct so that members of other parties will not be allowed to attend its decision-making meetings in future, Adam Klug, a national organiser for the group, has said.

A new code is to be sent to local Momentum groups in the next few days after its leadership recognised it was under threat of being discredited by the interference of hard-left groups such as the Socialist party and Socialist Workers party.

It would also mean members of other leftwing parties such as Left Unity and the Communist party would not be allowed to attend its decision-making meetings. Momentum has also decided that office holders in the group must all be Labour members.

This follows John Landsman’s comments here:

Lies, distortions and misconceptions about Momentum and the lobbying of MPs

There are many factors that appear to have contributed to distorted coverage, misrepresentation and downright lies including:

  • agents provocateurs on social media, hiding behind fake identities, who may be Tories or perhaps even Labour members engaged in ‘black ops’;
  • hostile or opportunistic members of other parties like Nancy Taafe of the Socialist Party who stood against Stella Creasy in May (winning 394 votes for TUSC, good for them but, at less than 1%, an utterly pathetic vote for anyone who lives in the real world) but goes on BBC Daily Politics to demand her deselection;
  • exaggerated claims by hard right Labour MPs determined to discredit Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn.

However, there undoubtedly are also some people, probably a small number, who think of themselves as being supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and against war in Syria who are guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards MPs – using inappropriate language or photos, abuse, intimidation and even bullying. Many will not be members of Momentum or the Labour Party, but some are which is why Momentum has issued the following statement.

Momentum is disappointed that Parliament voted for Syrian airstrikes. We do not believe that David Cameron made the case that bombs will defeat Daesh or improve the lives and security of Syrians, the UK or our allies, and we fear that they may have the opposite effect.

Nevertheless, we are pleased that the majority of Labour MPs and the shadow cabinet did oppose David Cameron’s proposal, reflecting the policy of the party conference and the wishes of its members, whilst also respecting the right of all MPs to vote as they have done.

Members of the Labour Party and the public have a right to be heard. Momentum is proud that we assisted over 30,000 people email their MP asking them not to vote for bombing. We believe these messages from the public helped convince some of the 153 Labour and 72 non-Labour MPs who voted against bombing to do so. It can never be a threat to express your views to your elected representative

Momentum strongly disapproves of anyone who engages in abusive behaviour towards MPs or anyone else, and threatening or bullying, whether they are outside the Labour Party (as most are) or inside it. We specifically asked our supporters to emulate Jeremy Corbyn, and to keep their messages about the issues and to refrain from any personal attacks.

Nor is Momentum a threat to MPs who voted for bombing. We have made clear that we will not campaign for or support the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so.

This is well put and confirms our impression that those running Momentum have good sense and judgement.

The Guardian further adds

Klug first set out the decision to restrict access to meetings on Sky’s Murnaghan on Sunday and commented further on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Monday.

Klug told Dermot Murnaghan: “Everybody who has a position within Momentum is a Labour party member.” He added: “The governance structure is still being established to be completely clear with all the terminology, but absolutely no members of other political parties are welcome at Momentum meetings. If you are not a member of a political party … your voice is welcomed and heard but the Socialist party, for example, are not welcome to be at Momentum meetings.”

He said the same applied to the Communist party of Great Britain. He said only a tiny minority of people were calling for deselections.

It has also insisted that it is opposed to calls for the deselection of MPs who voted to back the extension of airstrikes to Syria, but such calls have been made at successive local Momentum events, sometimes by Socialist party members.

A Momentum spokesman said: “We have had to take this decision pragmatically. Anyone will be able to attend Momentum public meetings, but at decision-taking meetings it is likely only non-party and Labour members will be able to attend and take decisions. It is ridiculous that the Socialist party are calling for Labour MPs to be deselected.”

In practice, the detail of the new code, and how it will be policed, remains to be hammered out. It also faces difficulties with groups such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, a Trotskyist group that has disbanded to recommence work inside the Labour party.

It is likely to lead to calls for Momentum to restrict its activities to party members.

A Momentum meeting last week in Lambeth, south London, was leafleted and addressed by members of other leftwing groups calling for the local MP – Streatham’s Chuka Umunna – to be deselected for supporting airstrikes in Syria. Momentum said the Socialist party had not been invited to the meeting.

It is to be imagined that the Socialist Party, not to mention the Socialist Workers Party, will reply in these terms,

The strategy from the Momentum leaders to counter this is to subordinate everything to the election of a Corbyn-led government in 2020. This in turn means the left supporting right-wing figures, like Sadiq Khan for London mayor, even though he considers the best way to get elected is to systematically attack Jeremy Corbyn and the left.

This attempt to mollify the right will not succeed but it can help to demoralise and thereby disintegrate the forces that have begun to rally behind Corbyn and McDonnell. This would represent the loss of another favourable opportunity to change the labour movement in the battle against capitalism and its political representatives, the Tories and other forces that base themselves on outmoded capitalism. The political and organisational direction of the pro-Corbyn forces must be urgently discussed at all levels of the workers’ movement.

This is pretty hard to take from parties which were denouncing the Labour Party as pro-capitalists only six months ago and in the case of the Socialist Party had even erected this into the doctrine that Labour was a “bourgeois” party (and not, in classical ‘Leninist’ terms) a “bourgeois-workers’ party.

Not indeed that many care about the distinctions made by a group and their alliance (TUSC)  which only got   0.1% of the popular vote in the General Election for 135 candidates.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Front National Win in First Round of French Regional Elections: an Analysis.

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Front National: National Preference.

France 24.

France’s far-right National Front (FN) party rode a wave of fear over immigration and terrorism to storm to a commanding position in the first round of voting in the country’s high-stakes regional elections on Sunday.

The anti-immigration party led by Marine Le Pen scored around 28 percent of the vote nationally and topped the list in at least six of 13 regions, according to final estimates from the interior ministry.

The FN came ahead of both former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), which earned 27 percent, and President François Hollande’s Socialists, with 23.5 percent, official estimates showed.

Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen broke the symbolic 40 percent mark in their respective regions, shattering previous records for the party as they tapped into voter anger over a stagnant economy and security fears.

The polls were held under tight security in the first national vote since Islamic State group terrorists killed 130 people in a wave of attacks across Paris on November 13.

Despite its commanding position, the FN now faces a tougher battle in a second round of voting next Sunday after the Socialists announced they were withdrawing candidates in three regions in a bid to block the far right from power.

Progression of Front National.

Le Monde states that the Front National (FN) totaled 6 million votes in the first round.

The real importance of this result gives Marine Le Pen’s party a chance to normalise and streamline its presence,

The Financial Times cites this,

James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University said: “These results are a shock but they shouldn’t be a surprise.

“What Marine Le Pen wants above all is a chance to show that her party can govern more than a medium-sized town. For that, a region with several million inhabitants offers a perfect testing-ground, giving her party time to deliver some results before the presidential and legislative elections of 2017.”

The Front National has talked of the “suicide collectif du PS” – the group suicide of the Socialist Party.

The far-right won in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, one of the birthplaces of the French labour movement, and the socialist and Communist left. Over the last few months there have been many reports on growth of the FN the area, including a whole series on the radio station France-Culture. As the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus states, “C’est une région à forte tradition ouvrière, victime de désindustrialisation, de délocalisations, de chômage de masse et de fermetures d’entreprises,” It’s a region with a strong working class tradition, the victim of de-industrialisation, the delocalisation of companies, mass unemployment and business closures.”

Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées was another region affected: the birthplace (Castres) of Jean Jaurès (1849 – 1914) the leader of twentieth century French socialism. It was where he received his first Parliamentary mandate, backed by the miners of Carmaux. Jaurès was assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the extreme right, precursors of the Front National.

There is little doubt that spreading anxiety about Islam played a part in the elections. But the FN’s breakthrough cannot be simply attributed to fear in the wake of the Paris murders and Marine Le Pen’s leadership’s (not to mention their activists) attempts to spread hatred against Muslims.

Its  strategy has been to campaign and stir up hatred against all foreigners, beginning with those running the European Union (EU). The message, given very clearly in the poster above, is that outsiders are out to get the French, take their jobs, their homes and undermine their living standards.

The party demands that France leaves the Euro, and that “priorité nationale”(or La préférence national) be given to French nationals in employment. Jobs will be given to those with French nationality in preference to anybody else (Les entreprises se verront inciter à prioriser l’emploi, à compétences égales, des personnes ayant la nationalité française). This also means – in terms very close to those proposed by the David Cameron’s government, that social benefits, from housing onwards, are taken away from migrant workers and immigrants. It demands an end to “massive immigration” and free movement in Europe. The FN denounces immigration as “une arme au service du grand capital” (a weapon of Big Business), an apparently ‘anti-capitalist’ position They propose to limit legal immigration 10,000 a year.  Being born in France will no longer mean automatically acquiring French nationality.

If the FN claim to support ” laïcité” and to support “assimilation” of different cultures into France this is on the basis of the «racines chrétiennes de la France», Christian roots of France (sometimes «judéo-chrétiennes») – at odds with the universalism of humanist values which have no such unique roots.

The Front National has also worked UKIP and British tabloid territory in spreading scare stories about benefits and housing for migrants and refugees. They even include the principle that demonstrations in favour of illegal migrants are forbidden. and that anti-French racism is  recognised as  an aggravating factor in criminal offences (1)

The measures the FN propose imply a disengagement from the EU and a return to full national sovereignty. In some respects the FN’s ideas have an echo across a wide spectrum of political currents, including a section of the left. The FN does not simply attack the EU and the effects of globalisation. They stand for ‘sovereignty’, restoring what they claim should be the full power of the ‘nation’. This, known in France as “souverainisme” (soveriegntism)  is  embraced equally vociferously  in the United Kingdom by those urging leaving the EU. Like the British Conservatives they are also hostile to the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the FN this is wider than a political demand.  It is tied to a wider programme of economic protectionism. These economics are more widely shared than in the UK. Emmanuel Todd  – known in the English-speaking world for his scorn against the Je Suis Charlie movement – is a long standing supporter of “intelligent protectionism”. He, like the FN,  is anti-Euro and goes so far to find inspiration in the German nationalist protectionist Frederich List.

Many of the FN’s national policies may be classed as pure demagogy. For their working class and “popular” electorate the FN  propose to raise the minimum wage, benefits, notably pensions,  (for French citizens), and put controls on the price of  gas, electricity, transport and petrol. (Le Front national, cette imposturele Monde. 4.12.15.)

The governing Parti Socialiste has been unable to offer much in the way of making life better for those out of work in regions like Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie – the national unemployment rate stands at a  stubborn 10,2%. In this northern area unemployment amongst the young is at  31,8 %.

These economic issues, rather than identity or religion, are also at the heart of the failure of the Parti socialiste to continue to win overwhelming support from those of a Muslim background. Le Monde (4.12.15.) reports that it is not opposition to gay marriage or to teaching gender equality in schools – issues on which a number of organised Islamic groups made common cause with the conservative Christian right – which has affected their voting behaviour. It is the inability of President Hollande, and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls to improve their living conditions which has struck home.

The complicated alliance of the Socialists’ left opponents in the left-wing Greens (EELV) and the Front de gauche make it hard to decipher their national score of 10 to 11 % (sometimes aligned together, sometimes not), although it is clear that the Green vote has almost halved (l’Humanité). To to predict where and if there will be agreements with the PS is equally hard.

On the far-left the results are negligible. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) was too weak to present its own lists and backed Lutte ouvrière who obtained  320 054 votes nationally  (1,5 %)

The Socialists meanwhile are discussing – and arguing about – possible agreements with other forces for the second round.

Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (LR) have just announced that they will refuse to enter into any alliances with the other parties.

The French political class – and all those dependent on the decisions and funding of the French Regions – will soon have to face up to the Front National with its hands on some levers of power.

Indications that initial flash points will concern exactly the allocation of the regional funds.

Left reaction:  Communiqué de Ensemble! Contre le Front national et la droite, il faut un sursaut à gauche !

Political scientists’ analysis: «Le FN réussit à incarner le vote utile contre la gauche»

Le vote Front national devient « un vote de plus en plus national » et « inter-classiste ». C’est ce qu’estiment cinq chercheurs de l’Observatoire des radicalités politiques (ORAP) de la fondation Jean Jaurès. Dans une analyse fine des résultats, ils mettent en évidence « l’hégémonie culturelle » de l’extrême droite, l’échec de la « stratégie Buisson » de la droite et l’aveuglement de la gauche.

Their voters are more and more national (and not locally based), and cross-class. They decsibre the “cultural hegemony” of the far-right and failure of the right (LR, Sarkozy) to capture their electorate by their own nationalist rhetoric and cultural conservatism (Buisson, one of his main advisers), and the blindness of the left.

You can read this (downloaded paper) for free:  Le « nouveau » Front national en question. Alexandre Dézé April 2015.

*****

(1)  Front National programme: Immigration Stopper l’immigration, renforcer l’identité française: “Les manifestations de clandestins ou de soutien aux clandestins seront interdites.

– Le racisme anti-Français comme motivation d’un crime ou d’un délit sera considéré comme une circonstance particulièrement aggravante et alourdira la peine encourue.”

Jihadist Movement has “spirit of internationalism” of International Brigades Says Stop the War Coalition Stalwart.

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Internationalist Solidarity Says Stop the War’s Matt Carr.

The Stop the War Coalition publishes this on Hilary Benn’s speech on their site:

Groundhog day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing. Matt Carr.

Much of the article is unexceptional, and barely reasoned, ranting against Bombing Syria by a cut-price Mark Steel.

Mat Carr also does a pratfall.

To evoke the international brigades in support of Cameron’s bombing campaign requires real audacity, bad faith, and an indifference to history or the political realities of the 21st century.   Benn does not even seem to realize that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit  of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.

This use of the blood of our martyred comrades of the Brigadas Internacionales to promote ‘understanding’ of Daesh is a hallmark of a certain ‘left’, from George Monbiot, other Guardian writers,  to Socialist Worker.

On his Blog Carr states under Interests that “I’m currently researching a book about General Sherman’s March to the Sea during the American Civil War and its influence on American military strategies and tactics.”

I remain unclear what groundhogs are and what they have to do with Syria and the internationalism of the genociders of Daesh.

But General Sherman freed slaves on his march to the sea.

The only walk to the ocean most people would like to witness on Carr’s part is one which ends with him lying ten fathoms deep.

If the Stop the War Coalition publishes this material can they wonder that there are calls to shun them? 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm

As Islamists Intimidate Comrade Maryam Namazie, Totalitarian anti-Left Bullies Receive Liberal Backing.

with 8 comments

The Independent reports,

Protesters from the Goldsmiths University’s Islamic Society (ISOC) are said to have “heckled and aggressively disrupted” a talk from ex-Muslim and feminist campaigner Maryam Namazie after a video, this week, surfaced on YouTube.

Organised by students’ union group the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), activist Namazie’s presentation focused on blasphemy and apostasy when several young men from the ISOC arrived and are said to have started disrupting the event.

In a video which has since been posted online of the entire talk, at around eleven minutes in, disruption began when a student in the front row began to laugh after Namazie said: “Islamism, as a political movement, is a global killing machine. Islamists will hack beloved Bangladeshi bloggers to death in Bangladesh whilst placing Bangladeshi bloggers, who are based in the UK, on an international death list.

Looking at the student, Namazie asked: “Is it really funny that people get hacked to death? I know it’s funny for you.”

When another student in the front row shortly began to interrupt, Namazie shouted “be quiet or get out” a total of 17 times to which he claimed: “You are intimidating me.” Namazie then replied: “Oh, you’re intimidated? Go to your safe space.”

The situation, however, worsened when, at around 34 minutes in, the activist displayed images of the Prophet Muhammad in a ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon. The student in the front who had laughed earlier left his seat and turned Namazie’s projector off before being forcibly removed from the room by security.

According to media reports, Namazie described: “After my talk began, ISOC ‘brothers’ started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.”

The ISOC took to their Facebook page after the event to “categorically condemn the vile harassment of our members (both male and female) by the ASH.”

More reporting here: London Student.

I can wholly understand comrade  Namazie’s emotional reaction to those sniggering at the horrific deaths of our friends in Bangladesh.

The National Secular Society gives some further details.

Ms Namazie said that “After my talk began, ISOC ‘brothers’ started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.”

The hecklers were asked repeatedly to be quiet and told by organisers that there would be an opportunity to ask questions or make comments at the end. The Muslim hecklers repeatedly interrupted the early part of the talk, shouting “safe space” and laughing.

When one female student tried to intervene the men shouted at her to “sit down”.

University security were called and when Namazie displayed a ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon on a slide, one of the Muslim protesters turned the projector off to prevent the depiction of Mohammed from being shown.

At one point some of the hecklers appeared to laugh at the murder of secular Bangladeshi bloggers. Namazie challenged them: “Is it really funny that people get hacked to death? … I know it’s funny for you.”

Reza Moradi, a lecturer present at the talk, said that one Muslim protester “looked right into my eyes and with his finger, shaping hand like a handgun, touched his forehead” in what Moradi described as a “death threat”.

After the event the Goldsmiths ISOC released a statement condemning the “vile harassment of our ISOC members (both male and female) by the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).”

They said that “Muslim students who attended the event were shocked and horrified by statements made by Namazie”.

So merely being at the University and opening her mouth meant that Namazie violated their “safe space”.

Apparently this kind of racist totalitarian raving against an Iranian secular left-wing woman has got the sympathy of some liberals.

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 Harry Matz Comments:

I know of half of the speakers at the event above. They’ve made statements advocating the execution of ex-Muslims and blasphemers, advised Muslims to boycott women who marry outside of Islam, said that non-Muslim women will be taken as slaves in the future (of course it is permissible to have sex with these women),  creepily remarked that six and seven year old girls are ‘pretty’ and ‘desired’, warned of the dangers when leaving Muslim children with non-Muslims, insisted that women should remain in the house and not venture outside unless it’s a necessity, advocated punishments for Muslims who do not pray, and said that homosexuals are worse than animals.

Here is some of the ‘charm’ of these totalitarians in action.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Good News From Oldham, Labour Win, Good News from London, Labour Lead and Galloway Disappears.

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Oldham by-election is a two-horse race… between Ukip and a Labour moderate

Sun columnist Rod Liddle visits Oldham, the rock-solid Labour seat, where voters are ditching Corbyn’s barmy army in favour of a Ukip dark horse.

The Sun. Wednesday December 2.12.15.

So you could say that whatever happens in Oldham tomorrow, it’s sorta lose/lose for poor old Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn hails ‘vote of confidence’ after Labour win Oldham byelection

Jim McMahon defeats Ukip challenge with increased share of vote in first poll test of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership.

The Guardian. Friday December. 6.12.15.

London.

Sadiq Khan gains six-point lead over London Mayor rival Zac Goldsmith

Note: No George Galloway Candidate for London Mayor.

No Galloway in the Poll at all.

Recent sightings of Galloway on Election trail (Huffington Post):

Hot on the Campaign Trail: Galloway Addressing Mass Rally. 

Tea and Coffee Xmas ‘Party’. 

Last Sighting: Galloway Canvassing. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2015 at 5:46 pm