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George Galloway’s latest Column on far-right Westmonster site on ‘People’s Brexit’.

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“The Patriotic Alliance is a grassroots movement built on the success of the EU referendum. By holding the political establishment to account and introducing fresh ideas to the national policy debate, the Alliance aims to capitalise on the huge promise delivered by Brexit. Join us to make Britain fairer, more democratic and more prosperous.”

Political revolution!

 

George Galloway’s by-election diary exclusively on Westmonster.

Brexit day was spent in the Gorton wards of the constituency where the great majority voted Leave in the referendum. It is said usually by journalists that Manchester Gorton constituency voted at least 60-40 Remain.

As a matter of fact no-one can know that because the votes weren’t counted on a constituency basis but like so much in this story if you tell a lie often enough.

….

In fact Brexit inevitably means a reinvigorated relationship with our Commonwealth, with people who stood by our side in our darkest days when otherwise we would have stood alone. People more likely to share our language add to our culture and with whom we share so much history.

I look forward to Brexit Britain resounding to newly re-engaged Canadian Australian New Zealand Indian sub-continental and Commonwealth African voices in the years to come.

I fought the 1975 Common Market referendum under the leadership of Mr Benn Mr Foot Mr Shore and Mrs Castle. The abandonment of the Commonwealth was one of their most powerful arguments. We lost then. But we’ve won now. Let’s build a Britain to be proud of, independent of the EU and firmly rooted in the world.

Westmonster

‘Anti-establishment’ site is being edited by Nigel Farage’s former press officer and will mix aggregation and some original content.

Westmonster says (March the 14th)

Leave.EU and Westmonster’s Arron Banks has clarified the situation with UKIP. In a statement just released he has said:

“UKIP has somehow managed to allow my membership to lapse this year despite having given considerably more than the annual membership fee over the past 12 months.

“On reapplying I was told my membership was suspended pending my appearance at a NEC meeting.

“Apparently, my comments about the party being run like a squash club committee and Mr Carswell have not gone down well.

“I now realise I was being unfair to squash clubs all over the UK and I apologise to them.

“We will now be concentrating on our new movement.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2017 at 10:50 am

Communist Party, Morning Star, “Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies.”

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Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies……

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said leaving the EU must not become “an excuse for diluting people’s already meagre rights at work,” but said the left should set its sights on the opportunities the negotiations present.

“Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies outside the EU to control capital, raise public funds for infrastructure investment, enforce equal rights for migrant workers and radically cut or abolish VAT.

“Such policies would remain unlawful if we stay in the single market.”

Trade Unionists Against the EU’s Doug Nicholls saluted “a great day for workers in Britain.

Forty years of being controlled by those we don’t elect will soon be over, and we can rebuild a full-employment economy.

Morning Star.

A Morning Star Editorial declares,

Now Is The Time For Unity

Arguing for Unity around the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain’s programme the Editorial states,

A convincing left-wing resurgence requires unity. The labour movement cannot afford to rerun the arguments of the referendum ad nauseam, but should be pursuing a set of economic demands — the new deal for workers agreed at last year’s TUC is a good place to start — and framing any approach to the exit negotiations around how we meet those demands.

They conclude,

A determined push from the left to secure a British exit deal that promotes working-class demands and an end to neoliberalism will find an echo across Europe and help shape a progressive future.

A red rose future indeed!

Meanwhile in the world we live in Another Europe is Possible announces,

Unprecedented alliance vows to fight for a “Progressive Deal” after Article 50

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today. 29th March 2017

  • As Article 50 is triggered, leading Labour and Green figures, along with trade unions, vow to oppose “a harmful, extreme form of Brexit”
  • New Progressive Deal launched, fighting for workers’ rights, free movement, environmental regulations and other protections.
  • Campaigners raise the alarm over the Great Repeal Bill – which will hand ministers unprecedented powers to change the law by decree

Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today.

The letter, which is signed by Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas, as well as UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, states: “With article 50 triggered, we are entering a dangerous moment for our democracy. The government is pursuing a harmful, extreme form of Brexit for which it has no democratic mandate. The British people must have the defining say over what kind of deal is reached. The result of the referendum was not a mandate to undermine our human rights or our rights at work, to scrap environmental protections or to attack migrants. We will not allow this government to pursue a race to the bottom in which we all lose.”

Writing in the Mirror this morning, Clive Lewis added: “There’s a difference between respecting the decision to leave the EU and giving Theresa May dangerous levels of power to decide the future of our country. Parliament let the British people down last month when they let the Prime Minister negotiate leaving the EU without any restriction or guidance.”

The unprecedented alliance of was drawn together by the campaign group Another Europe is Possible. It has launched a new Progressive Deal, which will fight to retain the six progressive elements of EU membership: free movement, workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights, science and research funding and education links. The Progressive Deal (here) will be a focal point in the coming months.

Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “The Tories are using the technicalities of the Brexit process to strip us of rights and freedoms. The antidote to that is clear, principled politics – and finding a message that can cut through. We need to challenge the consensus that immigration and free movement are the cause of falling living standards, and we need to champion workers’ rights, human rights and other protections. That is what the Progressive Deal is about – and if the left can unite around a clear vision, we can absolutely shift the outcome of these negotiations.”

 

French Socialist Party Right-wing Commits Suicide: former Socialist PM Manuel Valls Backs Macron.

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Renegade Socialist PM Valls Backs Macron.

Former Socialist PM Valls backs centrist Macron for French presidency. France 24.

French former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday he would vote for centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron rather than Socialist contender Benoît Hamon, who had trounced him in a left-wing primary earlier this year.

Valls, a Socialist himself, said the election was wide-open and he would to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second-placed in opinion polls, did not clinch power on May 7.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls told BFM TV.

Macron, who quit the Socialist government last year to run as an independent, has drawn support from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and is favoured by opinion polls to win the election.

Valls is only the latest in a string of prominent Socialists who have deserted Hamon, the party’s embattled candidate.

He had previously pledged to respect the outcome of the primary organised by France’s ruling party in January, in which he was surprisingly – and decisively – defeated by Hamon.

More in English: BBC, Guardian,

The latter point is taken up by Libération: Valls sans hésitation, (Valls,….Waltz…without Hesitating…)

Valls avait promis qu’il se soumettrait à la discipline élémentaire de la primaire (sans laquelle elle n’a aucun sens). Il fait exactement le contraire. Un double cas d’école. Ou un Manuel du reniement.

Valls had promised to respect the elementary discipline of the Primary (without which the contest would have been senseless). He’s done exactly the opposite. A double lesson. Or a Manual (Manuel..) of denial.

Comrade Laurent Joffrin lists some of the Socialists who have proceeded Valls in the Macron rush, and  cites a previous betrayal in French politics, Chirac’s switch of support from his own party to Giscard in 1974, an act which, following nomination as PM, allowed the future President to take control and stab, in turn,  Giscard in the back.

Macon, Joffrin notes, is unlikely to reward his renegades so handsomely.

In the meantime the Socialist Party, whose candidate, Hamon is not doing at all well in the opinion polls, risks “exploding” under centrifugal pressure. (il faudrait encore que le PS n’éclate pas sous les poussées centrifuges des uns et des autres).

More in the latter vein here (le Monde): Valls choisit Macron, quitte à faire imploser le Parti socialiste.

Libé continues, Valls vote Macron et coupe les ponts avec le PS.

Burning his bridges with the Socialists Valls claimed that his support for Macron lay in the dangers represented by  the Front National. Briefly. Then he launched into a tirade against the following targets: from the PS candidate Benoît Hamon and his allies, the “frondeurs socialistes”, not to mention President François Hollande and the moderate social democrat Martine Aubry who has backed left-winger Hamon.

Evoking the ‘risks’ for France represented by Marine Le Pen Valls declared that his renegacy was justified in terms of his intimate acquaintance with the superior national interest, which is above party,  “L’intérêt supérieur de la France va au-delà des règles d’un parti».

Those with a strong stomach can read the full article via the link above.

You can watch Valls make his declaration on BFMTV, “Valls soutient Macron“.

There are signs of a re-alignment on the left.

Some on the French left welcome this treason, freeing Hamon from the ball and chain of the authoritarian, right-wing and unpopular Valls.

Stop the War Coalition: only way Islamist Murder can be ended is by “campaign against both war and Islamophobia.”

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End Terrorist Attacks By Stopping Western Wars and Islamophobia says StWC.

War, Terrorism & Islamophobia: Breaking The Vicious Circle Stop the War Coalition, also reproduced on the site of the groupuscule, Counterfire, which occupies many of the StWC’s leading positions.

Lindsey German writes,

The threat of Islamic terrorism requires a serious analytical response which cannot ignore the background against which it exists.

Does this involve an analysis of what Islamic terrorism is, the nature of groups such as the Islamic State, their genocidal ideology and practice? Their relation to Salafism, the social and ideological conditions in which they have grown in?

No,

..every serious analysis of the increase in terrorism over the past 16 years has to confront one central fact: that the ill-conceived and misnamed war on terror has actually increased the level of terrorism in Europe, not reduced it.

And,

The terrible consequences of the Iraq war – and subsequent interventions in Libya and Syria – have indeed led to a growth in terrorism both across the Middle East and South Asia.

German does not go further.

She offers nothing about the history of Islamism, from the Iranian Revolution (1979) to the conflicts between Shia and Sunni that mark the greatest number of terrorist atrocities. Or the Algerian Civil War, (over 100,000 dead, 1991 – 2002), an example of religiously inspired violence and state repression which has profoundly shaped the Maghreb, and left support for murdering Jihadism to be mobilised in the present conflicts.

There is equally not a word on the decades long development of Islamism in all its various forms, from the Muslim Brotherhood, back to its roots in the writings and practice of figures such as Sayyid Qutb to cite but one name, that a “serious analysis” would have to grapple with in any effort to explain the intensity, the blood-stained killings that mark the present batch of jihadists.

This is no doubt a large area, a hard reading list even for the learned German, but she could begin here Islamism (Wikipedia). Or indeed with the books reviewed on this site yesterday, notably, The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood.

Such a study would show that the violence, the racism and the totalitarian ambitions of the jihadist wing of the Islamist movement cannot be reduced to an effect of Western Intervention.

The invasion of Iraq, and the failed state that the US tried to create, has increased the possibilities for Jihadists to spread, fueled the wars between Shiites and Sunnis, and led to the wholescale religious cleansing of non-Muslims from a large swathe of the Middle East.

But the springs for the terrorist violence in Europe, the mechanisms which organise it, which encourage it, the actual series of intentional acts of murder, lie in the material shape of the Jihadist groups, their ideology and the individuals who carry out the slaughter.

German continues,

It is worth remembering that those countries still reeling from the effects of these interventions face regular terrorist attacks against their own populations, with often dozens killed in single attacks on markets and other public places. These receive scant coverage in the British media and certainly not the emotional responses that mark an attack in London or Paris. But they alone should prove as false the idea that these attacks are about British values. They are political attacks designed to promote the ideas of IS or al Qaeda or other similar groups and their main targets are other Muslims.

This is all too true, which might lead the leaders of the StWC to support those in these countries, Muslim or not, above all the liberals and secularists, fighting the Islamists, and, above all, the Jihadists, linked with, or members of Daesh and Al Qaeda.

But no.

That is there.

Here is here.

And here is, apparently, where the problem comes from.

The first is that the foreign policy which has contributed to the rise of terrorism has to end. These wars are not history but are ongoing. Only this week there have been reports of a US bombing raid on a mosque near Aleppo in Syria which has killed many civilians, in addition to the bombing of Mosul in Iraq – as part of the campaign against IS – which has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, including 200 in a recent attack.

Such attacks are exactly what has helped feed terrorism in the past.

Sagely German notes that,

The second message is that the response to such attacks cannot be further racism against Muslims.

Those advocating “further racism” take note!

What we can be certain of is that these attacks will continue unless there are major political changes.

This climate of racism here in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, is only helping to create a vicious circle where Islamophobia leads to a growth in extremism and terrorism, which in turn leads to more Islamophobia. It is a circle which can only be broken by a concerted campaign against both war and Islamophobia.

This will surely defeat the genociders of the Islamic State.

That is, it would, if Islamism and the Islamic State had been created by ‘Islamophobia’ and racism.

Faced with the depth of the challenge that Jihadism presents this statement marks the inability of the Stop the War Coalition to rise above slogans.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm

The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Reflections on Islamism.

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The Way of the Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood. Allen Lane 2017. La Fracture. Gilles Kepel. Gallimard/France Culture. 2016. Pour les Musulmans. Edwy Plenel. 2015 (2014).

The problem must be posed anew, the hypotheses inverted, for in this domain ‘ideology’ is but another name for ignorance: the religious expression of a social phenomenon is not its disguise, but its unveiling. Gilles Kepel. (1)

From the 7th of January 2015 Islamist murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Vincennes Hyper Cacher to the massacre on the 14th of July in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, was for those living in France, Gilles Kepel, begins La Fracture, “une année terrible”. That the anniversary of the 2016 jihadist killings in Belgium was marked last week by the Westminster atrocity has brought the Islamic State, Daesh, back to European headlines. In Mosul and Syria ferocious battles, waged with few scruples, continue against their genocidal tyranny.

Some figures have reacted to the latest tragedy with what Nick Cohen calls the “lies of the right” – Nigel Farage’s tirade against “migration” in first place – “debase civilised society.” (Observer 26.03.17) In Pour Les Musulmans the journalist Edwy Plenel one of the first to signal the dangers of Le Pen and the Front National in the 1980s (L’Effet Le Pen 1984 Edwy Plenel and Alain Rollathas written a generous appeal, in the spirit of Émile Zola’s Pour les Juifs (1896). Against hatred, and the accumulated prejudices against Muslims that makes them a “global enemy” and target in French political life, Plenel offers the British reaction to the 2005 London carnage, “We Are Not Afraid”.

Perhaps now is also the moment to look anew at Jihadism, the most violent wing of Islamism. In his column Cohen reflects a wider dissatisfaction with those who try to explain these outrages as responses to western foreign policy (the ‘anti-imperialist’ left), or the ‘result’ of multiculturalism (the ‘alt-right’).

Kepel was an early critic of the view that political Islam was a “mask” for deeper social causes. Since 9/11 we have heard much of the “religious disguise” that Al-Qaeda and now Daesh presented, while the ‘real’ issue of Western intervention, or more generally ‘neo-liberal globalisation’.  While these abstractions count for little, there are without doubt hard social facts that help extreme forms of Islamism flourish. In France the social divisions that leave many of those of North African descent marginalised, time in prison, and the psychological fragility of individuals, are conditions working behind the acts of individual Jihadists. But “l’idéologie donne la conscience de l’action et en détermine la forme.” Ideology is material, and exists, in ISIS/ISIL, as an organised would-be state, with international offshoots. Daesh, Kepel states, aims to provoke a violent fracture in France, which their ideologues elaborate from Salafist materials, a conquest of Europe, ending in the mass conversion, the enslavement or extermination of the inhabitants. (2)

The Islamic State.
These may be outrageous beliefs, but Kepel does not misrepresent them. The Way of Strangers is a thorough account, first hand evidence, of Islamic State ideas. Those wearied by the media use of the “so-called” before Islamic State will find that, after consideration, Wood, uses the term they use themselves. He shifts the attention to what they are and not to what a ‘real’ ‘Islamic’ state might be. It cannot be grasped as “Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer. It has its own story, the will of god written on the battlefield.

“The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. “(3) Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.

“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.” (4)

In meetings, across the world, with those in sympathy with this goal Wood talks to figures, many of them converts, Musa Cerantonio, ‘Yahya’, Anjem Choudary, and some with decided distance from the Islamic state, such as Hamza Yusuf. The Way of Strangers melds these encounters, invariably over Halal food, with considerations on Islamic history, above all the legal school of Dhaharism, which rigorously bases its rulings on the Qur’an and the prophet, and no additional material or judgements. Parallels with the seventh century Kharijites, a vicious Muslim splinter group who practised mass excommunication, and denied all authority but their own, are dawn.

As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.

Religious Genocide.

Most people do not want, Wood writes, to be part of a religion seen as “fanatical and bloodthirsty.”Most religions have zealots that the mainstream would prefer to make disappear and the Muslim bind is not unique”. Yet, is the Islamic State Muslim? “Whether it is ‘legitimate; is a question other believers answer for themselves, overwhelmingly in the negative” That can be said of any minority, “the group led and supported by Muslims albeit Muslims with whom they vociferously disagree.” To say that it has “nothing to do with Islam” is to deny that they “cite Koran, hadiths, and carefully selected thinkers within the Islamic tradition.” In brief, the denial of the Muslim roots of Daesh is a way of avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, starting with the fact that the Qu’ran does contain verses that support slavery, sexual oppression, and is riddled with ideas that are hard to reconcile with democratic values. Word for word reading shows them, and reasoning by analogy, historical context, and other methods used to adjust Islam to today, on the model perhaps of Saint Augustine’s 5th century reading of the Bible in On Christian Doctrine  always runs up against the problem that the book is claimed, however bizarrely, to be the inerrant word of god. (5).

The Way of Strangers is not just an important and brave book. It is a way of confronting difficult issues about religious politics above all religious genocide based on a form of spiritual racism. The immediate response to defend universal human rights a point of unity between people. Yet Wood leaves us with multiple dilemmas. If the Islamic State is now facing defeat in its Caliphate, will it be able to retain and rebuild support in other violent conditions? What will happen to those who have joined its genocidal regime? Will they return home, or will they, like the butchers of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen be tried and imprisoned?

*********

(1) Page 234. Gilles Kepel. The Roots of Radical Islam Saqi 2005. Originally published as Le Prophète et Pharaon. La Découverte. 1984.
(2) Pages 47 and 256 – 8 La Fracture. Gilles Kepel.
(3) Page 73. The Way of Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood.
(4) Page 77. The Way of Strangers.
(5) Pages 217 – 8 .The Way of Strangers.

 

Left Wingers Join Unite For Europe March.

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No Trump no Brexit no racist EU exit!

Why join the March?

Another Europe is Possible introduced the reasons:

Why we’ll be on the Unite for Europe march

This Saturday, tens of thousands of people will march through London on the ‘Unite for Europe’ demonstration. We’ll be there despite our criticisms – and here’s why.

The triggering of Article 50 on March 29th will represent a defeat for democracy and a blow to the rights of ordinary people.

Theresa May has managed to get away with a smash and grab raid on the Brexit process; if the government gets its way, parliament and the people will have little or no say over what is negotiated on our behalf. Millions of European citizens have no guarantees about their right to remain in the UK. And our human rights, rights at work, free movement and environmental protections are under grave threat.

We are in this situation because the terms of the debate have been set entirely by the Tories, UKIP and the right wing press. The message is: Leave won, so now we can do whatever we want.

But the referendum result is not a mandate to attack migrants, destroy the environment or undermine workers’ rights. The government has no mandate for the extreme, regressive form of Brexit that it is pursuing.

So we have to mobilise – to shift the debate and prevent the Brexit nightmare from becoming a reality. The 16 million people who voted for Remain are not our only allies in that task – there are many who voted Leave who do not agree with what Theresa May is doing, and many more who didn’t vote at all.

Another Europe is Possible will be on the demonstration this Saturday – not to wave flags and not to defend the EU’s policy or democracy as it currently exists. We were and are very critical of these.

We will be there because we all have a right to be heard – and a duty to fight against the tide.

Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty argues:

Labour should fight Brexit all the way

Labour’s deference on Brexit also undermines the work of rebuilding Labour support.

The Labour right wing’s staged Shadow Cabinet resignations in June-July started the process which has given Theresa May a lead in the polls despite unpopular policies (continued benefit cuts, new schools cuts, grammar schools…) But the new line of deferring to a supposedly fixed Brexit majority has worsened it.

While the Lib-Dems – despite their so-recent record in government, despite the fact that one-third of their voters went for Brexit on 23 June, despite everything – have doubled their membership by making at least some show of fighting the Tories’ Brexit, Labour’s surge in membership has been paused or even slightly reversed.

We cannot beat the Tories by deferring to them. Labour should fight Brexit all the way!

The BBC reported,

Tens of thousands of people joined an anti-Brexit march to call for Britain to remain in the European Union.

The Unite for Europe march in London coincided with events to mark 60 years since the EU’s founding agreement, the Treaty of Rome, was signed.

A minute’s silence to remember the victims of the Westminster attack was held ahead of speeches at a rally in Parliament Square.

Comrade Bonnie Greer tweeted from the march.

Socialist Resistance have an excellent report,

Try and picture what a march of Brexit supporters would look like in central London, asks Andy Stowe. You immediately get images of portly men dressed in John Bull outfits, Farage gurning in front of the cameras, English and British flags, homemade placards with slogans about WW2 and not so subtle allusions to controlling borders. It would be a Glastonbury for racist English nationalism.

The Unite for Europe demonstration through central London on March 25th certainly had aspects that showed it wasn’t organised by socialists. The organisers’ homepage is decorated with two strips of European Union (EU) and British flags, the liberal way of showing that British people want o be part of the EU. Speakers at the closing rally included former Lib Dem leader and Tory glove puppet Nick Clegg, current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, someone offering the ex-pat perspective (ex-pat being the correct term for a British person who’s an economic migrant in another country) and Blarite Rottweiler Alistair Campbell.

Almost immediately after the Brexit referendum result was announced there was a large, young and angry demonstration against the result. Those people were largely absent on March 25th. Press estimates of the size range from 25-100 000 but they tended to be older and more affluent. The young Europeans who keep the service industries of London running didn’t turn up. Supporters of Socialist Resistance who were distributing postcards advertising this year’s Fourth International Youth Camp remarked that it sometimes took a few minutes to find someone young enough to hand one to.

However, the demonstration was unequivocally progressive. British flags were substantially outnumbered by that of the EU. The people carrying them were making a statement that they rejected reactionary British nationalism and wanted to identify themselves as citizens of Europe. The home made placards they carried spoke of freedom of movement and being able to work in any EU state. It was a partial rejection of national borders. Coming only three days after an attack by a reactionary terrorist who murdered three people and injured at least fifty, the march was, in an unassuming way, an assertion of the power of mass action by people who want to engage in politics.

Socialist Resistance rightly make a number of critical observations.

Most of the marchers gave the impression that they had no criticisms of the EU. I saw no condemnations of its shameful deal with Turkey to prevent the movement of migrants or the rejection of the will of the Greek people. This of course is not the view of Socialist Resistance and others on the radical left who opposed Brexit. We argued that it’s a supra-national authority which has imposed austerity on the European working class and has reduced most Greeks to utter penury. Our reason for opposing Brexit was that we knew it could only be achieved by a massive xenophobic chauvinist campaign dominated completely by the right. The London demonstration was a rejection of that tidal wave of xenophobia and racism.

Politically the big winners on the day were they Liberal Democrats and they can expect to regain some lost ground by their stance on Brexit. Their membership turned out in strength distributing stickers, carrying placards and setting the tone for the day. A handful of Labour Party banners could be seen but the party had made the mistake of not mobilising for the event and there was no evidence of any organised trade union presence.

Brexit has shifted British politics to the right in a way we haven’t seen since the election of the Thatcher government. The Tories are now pushing through UKIP’s programme and the Labour Party’s response has not appeared coherent to many of its supporters. The Lib Dems threw down a gauntlet to the radical left, the unions and the Labour Party that our side needs to be the one defending freedom of movement, resisting Tory inspired xenophobia and protecting migrants.

The Another Europe is possible conference in Manchester next weekend will be an Important place to discuss how best to meet that challenge.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 26, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Marine Le Pen “Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.”

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Marine Le Pen Meets Putin in Moscow.

Reuters.

President Vladimir Putin met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday and told her Russia had no intention of interfering in France’s presidential election.

Le Pen, who has said she admires the Russian leader, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Russian news agencies reported.

State TV showed Putin telling Le Pen Moscow reserved the right to meet any French politician it wanted.

Interfax : “PUTIN AT MEETING WITH MARINE LE PEN: RUSSIA HAS ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION TO INFLUENCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN FRANCE YET RESERVES RIGHT TO SPEAK WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF ANY POLITICAL FORCES.

France 24 reported earlier,

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was due in Moscow on Friday for meetings with lawmakers less than a month before a presidential election clouded by allegations of Russian interference.

The leader of the National Front, an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union party, is seeking to bolster her international credentials ahead of the two-round French election on April 23 and May 7.

Her visit comes on the heels of a trip this week to Chad, base of a French military operation that’s aimed at rooting out Islamic extremists from a swath of Africa.

The head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying Le Pen would hold meetings on the “international agenda such as the war on terrorism”.

There was no official word as to whether the French far-right leader would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she has described as “good for world peace”.

The BBC also adds this,

“I believe that barring parliamentarians from speaking to each other, working together is an infringement of democratic rights,” Interfax quoted her as saying in a meeting with Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.  She vowed to push for the so-called “blacklists” of targeted invidivudals to be abolished. Ms Le Pen also said that Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism, Interfax said.

Background: Radio France International. (24.3.17)

Marine Le Pen est appréciée à Moscou, car elle prône le démantèlement de l’Union européenne, la levée des sanctions à l’égard de la Russie et surtout la reconnaissance de l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie. Le Front national avait d’ailleurs envoyé un représentant en tant qu’observateur lors du référendum sur le rattachement de la Crimée à la Russie, qui avait attesté de la transparence du scrutin. L’attitude a convaincu le Kremlin d’être bienveillant à l’égard du mouvement d’extrême droite.

Marine le Pen is liked in Moscow, because she backs breaking up the European Union, lifting sanctions against Russia, and, above all, recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Front National had also sent a representative as an observer during the referendum in Crimea on joining Russia, which claimed that the vote was free and fair. This attitude convinced the Kremlin to take a friendly stand on the extreme right movement.

Et lorsque fin 2014, le parti a eu besoin d’argent, une banque russe, la FCRB, a accepté de lui prêter 9 millions d’euros, avant de se voir retirer sa licence quelques mois plus tard. Les relations sont toutefois restées au beau fixe entre le FN et Moscou, où Marine Le Pen est régulièrement accueillie par des instances aussi importantes que la présidence de l’Assemblée. A-t-elle été accueillie en plus haut lieu ? En tout cas, il n’en a pas été question officiellement.

When, at the end of 2014, the FN needed money, a Russian bank, the FCRB, agreed to lend it 9 million Euros, before having its licence withdrawn a few months later. Relations have nevertheless remained cordial between the FN and Moscow, where Marine Le Pen is regularly met figures as important at the President of Parliament. Has she been received by higher levels? If she has, it not been official.

As part of its detailed analysis of the FN programme Mediapart  (Le programme Le Pen 2017 au scanner de Mediapart) notes  that,

“Il y a de fait une vraie convergence politique et programmatique entre le Front national et Russie unie, le parti de Vladimir Poutine.

There is, in reality, a real political and programmatic converge between the Front National and Vladimir Putin’s Russia United party.”

The FN, in short, calls for a new strategic re-alignment, from one based on the United States, to one with the Russian Federation.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Solidarity with all the Victims and their Loved Ones.

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To all the Victims and their Loved Ones.

London is the greatest city in the world, and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said Londoners “will never be cowed by terrorism” following the attack in which five people died near the Houses of Parliament.

Some 40 people were injured when the attacker drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and crashed into railings outside the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. A Metropolitan Police officer was one of those killed, as was the attacker.

Parliament Square and the surrounding area has been cordoned off since the incident, which began at about 2.40pm.

In a video message, Mr Khan said: “London is the greatest city in the world, and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.

“We always have and we always will. Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.”

Independent.

Brussels, yesterday.

Belgium has marked the first anniversary of the Brussels airport and metro terror attacks which killed 32 people, including one man from Hartlepool.

Political leaders, victims and families all gathered in the Belgian capital for moments of silence, wreath laying and testimonies.

On March 22 last year, twin suicide bombers claimed the lives of 16 people at Brussels’ Zaventem airport, while a further 16 were the victims of an explosion at Maelbeek subway station.

More than 300 people overall were wounded in the attacks, for which so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility. During Tuesday’s memorial services, wreaths were laid outside of both attack sites, with the names of victims read out.

Airport and train staff, security, rescue personnel, as well as Belgium’s King Philippe were all in attendance for the solemn occasion.

During Tuesday’s memorial services, wreaths were laid outside of both attack sites, with the names of victims read out.

Airport and train staff, security, rescue personnel, as well as Belgium’s King Philippe were all in attendance for the solemn occasion.

Prime Minister of Belgium.

Shiraz writes,

There was a time when no Islamist terror outrage was complete without an article published within a day or two, from Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, Terry Eagleton or the undisputed master of the genre, Seamus Milne, putting it all down to “blowback”. Such articles usually also claimed that no-one else dared put forward the “blowback” explanation, and the author was really being terribly brave in doing so. No such articles have appeared for a few years (the last one I can recall was after the Charlie Hebdo attack), so here’s my idea of what such a piece would read like today: (see post...)

Bang on cue the SWP screams,

We do not know the motivation of this particular attack. But it is inescapable that the war, torture, plunder and invasions backed by the British parliament and the government’s allies have created the conditions in which such horrors are certain to take place.

The shattering of Iraq and Afghanistan, the oppression of the Palestinians and many other imperial projects cast long shadows.

Their mirror on the far-right are also trying to make political capital out of the tragedy.

Poland’s prime minister drew a link on Thursday between an attack in London targeting the British parliament and the European Union’s migrant policy, saying the assault vindicated Warsaw’s refusal to take in refugees.

Reuters.

And,

Nigel Farage has suggested support for multiculturalism is to blame for the Westminster attack.

The former Ukip leader claimed the political support for multiculturalism had created a “fifth column” of terror supporters in Western societies.

Mr Farage argued this was the fault of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, claiming his government ordered “search parties” to track down immigrants from around the world to bring to the UK.

Independent.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

George Galloway to Stand – for Pirate Party? – in Manchester Gorton By-Election.

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Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Irn Bru!

Having already posted today I would not normally immediately follow with another.

But this is news!

Shiver me timbers..

Maties everywhere Thar she blows!

George Galloway to stand for Parliament again in Manchester Gorton by-election.

George Galloway is to stand for Parliament at an upcoming by-election in Manchester, he has announced.

The veteran left-winger accused Labour of being a “divided, ineffective opposition” and said he would contest Manchester Gorton to replace the late Labour MP Gerald Kaufman.

All hands hoay! 

Galloway chose to announce his decision on the Westmonster site, set up by Aaron Banks, which publicises Marine Le Pen, the Hungarian government and argues for a Farrage Hard Brexit (Westmonster describes itself as: “Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment, anti-open borders, anti-corporatism.” Press Gazette).

The “All-Asian short-list” hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton one of the most deprived constituencies in Britain. The short-listing, which excluded many better candidates, is the latest in a long line of insults delivered by mainstream parties to local communities. I will run as an Independent candidate and will write a regular by-election diary for Westmonster. This is my initial election statement.

I have a long connection with the Manchester area – two of my children live here – and with the Gorton constituency in particular. The late Sir Gerald Kaufman was a friend of mine for over 30 years. Our friendship began before I was an MP, continued throughout my near 30 years with him in Parliament and afterwards. His appearance on my television show was his last big interview and will stand the test of time.

Sir Gerald was a big figure in the House of Commons and was known far beyond it from Hollywood to Palestine and Kashmir. When he spoke people listened.

Now he’s gone to Davy Jones’ Locker..

Batten down the hatches!

I have decided to seek election for Manchester Gorton in the forthcoming by-election precisely because of my admiration for its late MP and I hope to persuade voters of every background that I am the best person to try to fill his shoes.

I want to continue his work on international issues – which are particularly important in Gorton- especially the issues of Palestine and Kashmir but also the broader questions, the dangerous confrontation between the west and the Muslim world which threatens all of us.

I would like to be the big voice for Manchester Gorton it still needs. Manchester is great, world class. But Gorton can’t be left behind. Whether it’s jobs -proper jobs – wages public services the NHS and schools. The struggle for students has always been a parliamentary preoccupation of mine. I was a Labour MP when Tony Blair introduced tuition fees and I broke a 3 line whip to vote against them. I opposed Blair’s privatisation of the NHS too and warned on both that a future Tory government would only pile on the misery on top of New Labour’s foundation.

I opposed Tony Blair with all my heart and soul and paid for it with my expulsion from the party in 2003 – after 36 years membership.

Heave ho!

This week is the 14th anniversary of the Iraq War against which I was one of the leaders of the greatest mass movements ever seen in this country. I make this plain here – if I am re-elected to Parliament I will seek to put Mr. Blair on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and lying to the British Parliament and people.

I think you already know that when I’m fighting for something everybody knows about it.

Whether it’s my speeches in Parliament or on the streets,  my films, my TV shows, my radio shows, my work on social media where I have over a million followers, when I’m fighting for Gorton everyone will know about it. Everyone will have to listen.

I have been six times elected to Parliament and I don’t think even my worst enemy would deny my impact there.

Of course there will be other choices you might make. A thicket of councillors will put themselves forward. I am not a local councillor any more than Sir Gerald was. I am a parliamentarian as he was a parliamentarian. I will be heard if you elect me, on matters local national and international. On Brexit and Scottish nationalism, on war and peace on houses and Schools on work and unemployment on immigration on the commonwealth on roads and refuse. I will live here, I will work here, I will serve here.

..

I am like Sir Matt a Scot of Irish background. There are plenty of us around Manchester. My 40 year relationship with Pakistan and Bangladesh my 40 years with the Arabs mean I can speak the language. I can talk the talk but I also walk the walk.

Galloway will be able to say to Labour, in at least four languages, Walk the plank!

If I were to win here it would be the Mother of All by-election victories for “The hard working people of Gorton” who would never be forgotten again.

If I don’t, then the alternative will be a career politician, with NO change and no Development for Gorton. It will remain the same most deprived 10% of constituencies in our country.

We know that Labour is divided, an ineffective opposition still busy fighting each other, there is a danger that the people of Gorton will never be heard from at Westminster again. Don’t settle for ordinary. It’s been half a century since Gorton had an ordinary MP. You can make that change, Think big, Think George Galloway for Gorton.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Momentum, UNITE and Labour: an Activist Comments.

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A ‘New Kind of Politics’? 

Unite statement on Tom Watson MP’s claims on Momentum and Unite

20 March 2017

Responding to the claims made today (Monday 20 March) in the national media by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour party, Unite’s acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Tom Watson has made claims about Unite and its general secretary Len McCluskey which are entirely inaccurate.

“As Unite has made it clear it is exclusively for our executive council to determine which organisations we affiliate to. There are no plans for Unite to affiliate to Momentum. For the record, Len McCluskey has never met Jon Lansman to discuss this or any other matter.

“It is extraordinary that the deputy leader of the Labour party should  interfere in Unite’s democracy in this way, and it is very disappointing that he was allowed to make his unsupported claims without being challenged, and that the BBC ignored the Unite statement with which it had been provided well in advance.

“Mr Watson’s latest, and misguided, campaign is part of an unprecedented pattern of interference in the current Unite general secretary election by elected Labour politicians who should, frankly, be concentrating on their own responsibilities.

“Mr Watson is a Unite member with a right to a vote and a view. But he should remember that, first, he is deputy leader of the Labour party with the obligations that this senior post imposes, and second that Unite is not a subsidiary of any political organisation.”

Unite has complained to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the statement the union provided in good faith last night was only used in part and following representations from the union this morning. The union has also complained that Mr Watson was allowed to make his extraordinary claims about Unite and its general secretary without being subject to any demand for evidence.

This is in response to reports, such as this one, in the media. (Guardian).

Momentum’s Jon Lansman has hit back after fierce criticism by Labour MPs of his intention to affiliate trade union Unite to his grassroots group as a way to consolidate its power in the party.

The plans for Momentum to affiliate the UK’s biggest union and take full control of Labour’s structures by electing new representatives were described as “entryism” by the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, and were revealed after Lansman was secretly recorded speaking at a Momentum branch meeting in Richmond, south-west London.

In the recording, the chair of Momentum said the affiliation would require Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, to win his re-election battle against rival Gerard Coyne

….

A new constitution drawn up by Lansman last year made it clear that activists must be members of the Labour party in order to participate in Momentum, but in the recording, he suggested the restriction would not be enforced.

“It was important to require Labour party membership in the rules but it is down to enforcement. No one from the centre is going to tell you to kick people out,” he tells the meeting.

Watson tweeted Lansman on Sunday night, saying the recording was “very clear” in what it meant. “You’ve revealed your plan. If you succeed, you will destroy the Labour party as an electoral force. So you have to be stopped.”

Lansman replied: “We won’t allow non Lab members to hold office or vote (unlike Coop party or Fabians) but we won’t exclude them from activities/meetings. For 20 years the left was denied a voice. We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, & we need our mass membership to win again.”

Poor old Suzanne Moore, no doubt wishing she were back in happier days ‘punting’ in the river Orwell,  has wadded in, waving her pole in all directions.

A secret recording reveals that even Momentum has given up on Corbyn. Does anyone inside Labour have any idea how ludicrous this all looks?

The insanity of a leader unsupported by his MPs, falling desperately in the polls, inert over Brexit, has the party simply waiting to lose for the reckoning to begin.

The issues raised have now come to the ears of Ken Livingstone (Guardian)

Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans

Ex-London mayor says he finds it ‘bizarre’ MPs have issue over changes that would allow leftwing candidate to stand as leader

Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, has said the grassroots group Momentum should be free to push for changes to Labour party structures that would secure Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy as a leftwing Labour leader.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, had accused the radical left group of “entryism” after its chair, Jon Lansman, was secretly recorded at a local meeting describing plans to elect a raft of leftwing candidates to key positions and his hope to seal an affiliation from trade union Unite.

A day of public accusation and backroom briefing by Watson and Corbyn allies ended in a fiery private meeting of MPs and peers on Monday night in parliament, where MPs clashed with Corbyn over Momentum’s influence on the party.

The tension hinges on a clause that Corbyn allies hope to secure at the next Labour party conference, to reduce the threshold of MP nominations needed for the next Labour leadership elections from 15% of MPs to 5%, which would make it easier for a leftwing successor to Corbyn to make it on to the ballot paper sent to members.

Comment.

Ken Livingstone’s comments are well aimed: the rule change under fire is a reasonable one.

UNITE is right complain about Tom Watson’s comments.

It is both hard to believe that he is unaware of the way they would be used in the union’s internal elections, and that he does not know that UNITE’s Executive is the body to which such a decision – which the union itself says is not on the cards – has to be referred.

But the “aspirational” claims by Jon Lansman, that UNITE should affiliate to Momentum, remain contentious.

It can hardly escape anybody interested – perhaps a declining number – in Momentum that the organisation has serious internal disputes, which led to the holding of the recent  ‘Grassroots Momentum’ Conference.

It would be too simple to describe this as a clash between leftist ‘factions’ and those around Jon Lansman. One day somebody may provide a diagram of the disagreements, in 7 dimensions.

This, apparently, escapes the attention of an enthusiast, Comrade Ladin who writes of its success within Labour, “Momentum’s strategy of mobilising members within these structures is undoubtedly the winning one” (Guardian. 20.3.16.7)

Others may point to internal critics’ comments which blow away the idea that this is a head-on battle between the Labour Right (Watson at the head) and Momentum.

As Stephen Wood in The Clarion remarks of the presentation of Momentum as a

….broadly consensual organisation where we “focus on what we agree about.”

The fundamental flaw is that while he is right that most of what was passed at the Grassroots Momentum conference and in fact even argued by his opponents on the Momentum Steering Committee he may actually have agreed to, he was absolutely against and stopped action being taken. Half-hearted support for the Picturehouse Workers Strike, a statement about suspensions and expulsions which has still never materialised were all agreed at what he described as “deeply unpleasant” SC meetings.

It would be easy to continue in this vein, and discuss the internal divisions of Momentum.

One thing is certain (at the risk of sounding the voice of ‘reasonableness’, but this is very much the case)  that  this is not a matter of  virtue , the leadership, and faults, “trots and the hard-left”.

Problems are not confined to one ‘camp’ or the other.

It is also the case that UNITE members who are active in the Labour Party, including those with positions of responsibility, are far from agreed on the merits of Momentum, whether on its general strategy, or the details of its demands.

UNITE is a “political union” that sees the best way of pursuing the interests of its membership lie in the Labour Party, above all a Labour Party in office.

Now would seem not a good time to divert attention away to other power struggles.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Emmanuel Macron: in the “battlefield” against Populists in French Presidential Elections?

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After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.

For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.

A Bulwark against National Populism?

For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart,  Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.

It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.

These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri  labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.

A Tool Against Hamon.

The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.

The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.

It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)

Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.

For Europe.

France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.

(and, this precondition fulfilled…)

Much deeper integration within the eurozone.

Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….)  and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.

This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times”  The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.

Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.

It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.

All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!

The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”,  by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?

The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.

Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.

Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.

We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..

See also this,  French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s ‘anti-system’ angle is a sham 

Latest Opinion Polls.

Présidentielle: Le Pen et Macron au coude-à-coude, Fillon distancé 

Yasmin Rehman wins secularist of the year award.

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Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.

A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.

It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.

It is time that all the left stands with these women.

Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017 (National Secular Society).

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”

She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.

“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”

Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”

She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.

Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Pakistan Asks Facebook to Track Down ‘Blasphemers’.

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Image result for pakistan blasphemy protests

“Enemies of Humanity” Says Pakistan Interior Minister.

Radio Pakistan ‘reports’:

NISAR VOWS TO BLOCK  BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Interior Minister asks Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says those responsible for blasphemy will be dealt with an iron hand.

Talking to media after inaugurating citizen facilitation center in Islamabad on Thursday, he said the culprits of blasphemy are enemies of humanity.He said that we have asked Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

 The Interior Minister said that government is making all out efforts to block blasphemous material on social media. He said eleven people who commented on such posts are being interrogated.

He urged all Muslims countries to practice unity against sordid conspiracies against Islam as the matter of blasphemy hurts feelings of all Muslims.

He said the government will take strict action against blasphemous contents and will avail all the possible options.

The Minister said that cooperation from the US Administration is also being sought through US embassy in Pakistan in this regard.

He urged the international community to have immense consultations on the issue of blasphemy as it has become a critical matter for the world.

He said ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression will not be allowed

Al Jazeera reports,

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have contacted social media website Facebook for help in investigating the posting of “blasphemous content” on the platform by Pakistanis, according to a statement.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

At least 68 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.

“There have been positive developments in the matter of the Pakistani government’s contact with Facebook’s management regarding the blocking of blasphemous content,” an interior ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

Facebook would be sending a representative to visit Pakistan with regard to the matter, the statement said, and the government has appointed an official to liaise directly with the social networking website regarding the censoring of certain content.

In a statement quoted by the AP news agency, Facebook said it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind “the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

The move comes after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, ordered a ban on all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” on Tuesday.

“Ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression should not be allowed,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said on Thursday.

11 People under Threat.

Khan is spearheading the government’s efforts to have the material blocked.

Eleven people have been identified as having posted “blasphemous” comments or material on Facebook and will be acted against, the minister said. The identities of the 11 people in question were not immediately clear.

The authorities’ move comes after a senior judge at the Islamabad High Court called upon the government to block all blasphemous content online, “even at the cost of blocking entire social media”.

The petition at the High Court accuses five rights activists who were abducted in early January of running Facebook pages that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.

No evidence has been shared directly linking the five activists to the Facebook pages in question, but during their three-week disappearance the men were the subject of a vast social media campaign accusing them of blasphemy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.”

Amnesty: Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse.

Al Jazeera continues,

Pakistan’s telecommunications regulator currently blocks hundreds of websites, including those run by ethnic Baloch dissidents, as well as sites containing pornography or material deemed to be blasphemous.

It is empowered under a 2016 law to block any content “if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality”.

In January 2016, Pakistan ended a three-year ban on video-sharing website YouTube, also over blasphemous content, after the content provider agreed to launch a localised version that would streamline the process for content to be censored for viewers in Pakistan.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeeras Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Momentum Grassroots Conference: Why much of the Left Keeps its Distance.

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Grassroots Momentum,  “packed out” meeting says Monster Raving Greenstein Party.

Many people on the left have been wary of Grassroots Momentum and its Conference.

A clear indication of why comes in this report from the Monster Raving Greenstein Party,

A Fighting Start but It is Only the Beginning

Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.

As the said “Zionist” AWL have commented,

On the “anti-semitism witch-hunt”

An amendment was carried which was written down on a flipchart on the platform (illegibly to many) as “opposition to the antisemitism witch-hunt” and read out (inaudibly to some) as “opposition to the false antisemitism witch-hunt”.

This was done without debate, and with a fair scattering of abstentions, votes against, and people just not voting.

Why? Most people surely voted for the amendment because they oppose the Compliance Unit’s arbitrary ways, know that some charges of antisemitism have been invented or inflated arbitrarily, and anyway believe that prejudice is best dealt with primarily by discussion and education.

However, the term “antisemitism witch-hunt” is ambiguous and slippery. In some of the arguments elsewhere of those backing the amendment, it is taken to mean that any charge of antisemitism against anyone on the left must automatically be assumed to be witch-hunting invention motivated by hostility to the Palestinian people.

That is not true. There have been streaks of antisemitism in the left throughout our history – and, where Stalinism has been influential in the left, more than a streak – and the best sections of the left have sought to clean up that antisemitism and educate ourselves, rather than wave away all concerns as fabrications by the right wing.

We have called for an amnesty for all those summarily suspended or expelled by the Compliance Unit. We have opposed the suspension of Jackie Walker. Those stances can and must be combined with a proper recognition that the left must put our own house in order on antisemitism, and that someone being targeted factionally and arbitrarily by the right does not make everything they have said automatically ok.

There was another problem with the amendment. A number of people have been suspended on charges to do with antisemitism. Mostly they will get a hearing with at least some rules and safeguards. Some have had their suspensions lifted.

The far bigger section of the victims of the Compliance Unit are those excluded just for being left-wing, for allegedly sympathising with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal or Left Unity. Almost all of them have been denied a hearing, or an appeal, or even what would in any halfway fair system be considered definite charges.

That is the larger part of the Compliance Unit’s work. An amendment which just said “opposition to the witch-hunt”, reinforcing the already-included “opposition to unjust expulsions and suspensions”, would have been much better.

Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing – in their different ways, the most vocal advocates on the web of the view in which the core of politics is about the heroic resistance of “anti-Zionists” such as themselves to the supposedly all-powerful, all-pervading, ever-conspiring “Zionists”, and the most strident denouncers of leftists such as Rhea Wolfson (“Zionist ally of Jon Lansman”) – stood for election to the committee. We are glad to report that they both failed, with Downing coming bottom.

Greenstein and Downing stood for election…

The Monster Raving Greenstein Party got 49 votes,  and Downing got 11 coming last in the poll, but he still stood.

Greenstein.

Greenstein, as the above article states, has denounced Rhea Wolfson.

Denounce is perhaps too weak a word.

This is what he says of her support for Momentum’s Jon Lansman’s exclusion of Jackie Walker from her position..within Momentum, “a White woman who supports the racist Israeli state scapegoating a Black woman.” (Blog)

Comrade Rhea is not the only person individually targeted for Monster raving abuse.

There is a long, a very long list, but we will limit this post to a special case, in Momentum...

Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel“, (June 2016), “I could also ask Jon Lansman a few of those questions that Tony Benn once suggested, such as ‘who put you there’ ‘from where does your power derive’ and the clincher ‘how do we get rid of you’? There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.” (January 2017).

Here is how he attacked the Jewish Socialist Group: Bundists behaving like Stalinists – JSG Leaders Remove Critics of Lansman from Jews 4 Jeremy FB Group (February 2017).

Here is the most recent raving limits of Greenstein, a call to create a separate ‘democratic’ Momentum, “The fight for democracy is not a split. Lansman’s coup should be resisted by founding a democratic Momentum, urges Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker. 23.2.17)

Small wonder that he was suspended from Labour, the old charge of bringing discredit on the party  would alone be enough.

Downing.

Gerry Downing, be it noted, is famous for his writings, and those of his comrade, Ian Donovan, on the Web site Socialist Fight, on the ‘International Jewish Bourgeoisie”.

This is located Donovan writes, in Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism 6-9-2014.

Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes. For the United States, which is the most powerful state in human history, you can easily find informed Jewish sources that place the representation of Jews among billionaires, the most powerful elements of the capitalist elite, at between 40 and 48% – nearly half (for example see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/joe/aaron101007.php3). This is the only logically coherent explanation for the power of the so-called lobby. It must be faced fearlessly by Marxists, irrespective of any discomfort that may result from confronting the widespread prejudice (for that is what it is) that to mention, let alone try to analyse, such factual matters is in some way racist. To ignore them in this way is itself an act of betrayal of those on the receiving end of the crimes that result from this state of affairs, and in that sense a chauvinist position.

After a lengthy ‘analysis’ he concludes:

The Jews are not a nation, but they have a pan-national bourgeoisie that had national aspirations and wanted a territorial asset to give expression to that.

This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians.

Downing has been expelled from membership of the Labour Party.

Why?

Few would be bothered to read the above drivel but they will look at what the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes revealed.

“An unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is headlined: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. The piece speaks for itself:

“The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious… Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”

Downing appears to have an obsession with “Jewish” people”

Given this background it is not surprising that Downing was thrown out of the Labour Party,  and claims about “witch-hunting invention” are distasteful, to say the least.

Is Grassroots Momentum going to campaign to get him back?

Then there is this, which is equally serious, politically if not ethically.

Socialist Fight recently helped organise this pro-Assad  meeting on Syria:

Socialist Fight Public Meeting Vanessa Beeley Speaks

To continue on last Saturday’s  meeting.

Grassroots Conference 11 March 2017 Steering Committee Election Results

The candidate for this group, Labour Party Marxists, Stan Keable, got 13 votes.

The Latest Labour Party Marxists Bulletin describes the conflict within Grassroots Momentum.

Against Jon Lansman, but for what?

The outline three tendencies (how far they are organised factions is left open):

  • Some want a clean split from Momentum – the sooner, the better. There are, naturally, differences over with whom to split, to form what exactly and on what political basis.
  • Some want to continue to work in Momentum for now, while at the same time almost replicating the official body – with parallel structures and similar political limitations, but on a lower level: similar campaigns, similar leadership elections, etc.
  • Some – and LPM belongs to this third group – agree that we should continue to work within Momentum for the time being, but with a clear understanding of its limited shelf life, openly criticising its exceedingly pinched political outlook and subordination to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges.

But essentially it boils down, apparently, to two.

Tina Werkmann of Labour Party Marxists, the New Steering Committee, and, I am not spilling any beans, the group that produces the Weekly Worker,  gives an  overview.

Are political differences between the two groups?

Definitely. This is reflected in Grassroots Momentum as a whole: Those left on the old steering committee included Alliance for Workers’ Liberty supporters Michael Chessum and Jill Mountford (plus Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and Jackie Walker); the CAC is made up of Jackie Walker, Alec Price and Delia Mattis (Josie Runswick resigned early on and was replaced by Lee Griffiths). The CAC took control, chaired the whole day and managed to almost totally sideline the AWL.

Jackie Walker and her supporters hate the AWL with a passion, of course.

And I totally understand why. The ugly truth is that AWLers have actively participated in the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt against her. They supported Jon Lansman in sacking her as Momentum vice-chair in September 2016. In effect, this was a dry run for the next coup – the ‘big one’ on January 10 – when Lansman crushed any democracy in the organisation and simply imposed a new, crassly undemocratic constitution.

It was clear at the GM conference that the AWL has really made a lot of enemies in all of this – just to add to those of us who already opposed their pro-Zionist social-imperialism. There was a great deal of hostility against them on display – and it only increased during the day. I must confess, I almost felt a bit sorry for them. Almost

Because the few proposals on display were presented so out of context and in a truncated manner, AWL members tried to make various ‘points of order’ throughout the day. Some were more useful than others; some were presented more coherently than others. The AWL’s Rosie Woods, who had taken up a position near the stage, was greeted, after she’d been on her feet a few times, with a rather sectarian chorus of “Sit down, sit down” (led by Gerry Downing, of all people – he’s been on the receiving end of people’s displeasure a few times, so probably should know better). But to claim that they “disrupted” the conference, as some comrades have since done on Facebook, is seriously misleading and excuses the CAC’s role in the often disorganised and muddled way conference was planned and conducted.

Actually, it reminds me of the way Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Paul Mason have tried to blame ‘the Trots’ (ie, the left) for the failures of Momentum to take off. Not a healthy response …

I happen to be one of those who thinks that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have sane politics on a variety of issues, from Europe (they are pro-Another Europe is Possible), the Middle East (as for their ” pro-Zionist social-imperialism“, they are for a democratic ‘two states’ solution to the Israel/Palestine issue, and back democratic secular forces against both Islamists, genocidal or ‘moderate’,  and tyrannies like Assad’s), and on the need for radical democratic socialist politics in the UK.

Many of us hold these views, without a need to ‘join’ anything more than pressure groups within the Labour Party.

We want to see a Labour government and  are intensely  aware of the difficulties that presents at the moment.

To that end wish to co-operate with the full range of party members, to reach out to the electorate, while trying to promote ideas of democratic socialism.

The above reports on Momentum Grassroots confirm that we are right not to get directly involved in this particular war, which involves those of the stripe of Greenstein and Downing, however much on the margins.

Regardless that is, if “Our comrades elected to the leadership of this new network will try to work seriously, constructively, and in cooperation with others, to make that happen” this will, I suspect, be the attitude of many on the left.

Meanwhile this is taking place in a couple of days:

CONFERENCE 2017  Momentum’s Inaugural National conference – Building to Win – Saturday 25th March

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More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Front National: Back to Holocaust Denial.

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Image result for front national mort aux bougnoules

Unconvincing ‘anti-racist’ makeover of Front National.

As part of its modernisation the far-right Front National, at present topping polls for the first round of the French Presidential elections but slipping fast, claimed to have dropped any association with anti-Semitism, and all forms of race hate.

Today  a spanner was put in the well-oiled works of Marine Le Pen’s party.

Un conseiller régional du FN suspendu pour avoir tenu des propos négationnistes.

The documentary, filmed, like revelations in UK parties, undercover, showed Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, casting doubt of the number of deaths in the Shoah, and citing the negationist “Leuchter report” associated with Holocaust denier M. Faurisson. The councillor declared, “Il n’y a pas eu de morts de masse comme ça a été dit” there were not the mass deaths as has been said.

The film, to be broadcast tonight, is also revealing about the pervasive racism inside the FN  something that English language reports on this  have so far not explored Another councillor, Philippe Vardon, is shown complaining that all the people he shakes hands with are blacks (“Ça commence à être inquiétant : tous les mecs qui me serrent la main, ils sont noirs”). (le Monde)

The message is that not only is Holocuast denial far from extinct within the FN but that close links with the cultural racist “identitaires” movement is at the heart of the far-right party.

Guardian report: France’s Front National suspends party official over Holocaust denial.

France’s far-right Front National has suspended a party official for Holocaust denial after he suggested there was no mass killing in the Nazi concentration camps.

Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, was secretly filmed making the comments, which will be broadcast in a documentary. “I don’t think there were that many deaths … during the Shoah,” he is heard saying.

Jean-Marie Le Pen fined again for dismissing Holocaust as ‘detail’

Asked by the journalist filming him about Holocaust deniers, Loeuillet, said: “I don’t really know what to think. It’s complicated … there weren’t 6 million [deaths]. There weren’t mass deaths as we’ve been told.”

The film-makers, from TV Press Productions, had asked to follow the FN in the Alpes-Maritimes region earlier this year to understand why so many young voters support the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner for the first round of France’s presidential election at the end of April.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Dutch Elections: No Breakthrough in Sight for anti-EU Socialistische Partij.

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Radical left Socialist Party remains stuck at 13-16%

Dutch elections: Polls open amid fears of far-right surge led by Geert Wilders’s PVV party

The focus of Wilders obviously dominates the news but we should also ask,  how are other parties and the left faring in Holland?

Tom Louwerse Leiden University summarises the position for the Dutch Left.

The 2017 Netherlands election: Polls suggest mid-sized parties are now the new norm in Dutch politics

On the left of the political spectrum, the Labour Party (PvdA) is the big loser. Its electoral decline started right after the 2012 elections in which they gained 24.8% of the vote. Within a year that was reduced to under 10% in the polls and it has remained at this relatively low level of support ever since, currently polling around 8%.

The other parties on the left seem unable to profit from this loss. The Socialist Party (SP) is the only opposition party that has not gained support compared to the last election, with the party polling around 8%. The Green Party (GL) is recovering from its poor 2012 showing: from around 2% then to around 9% now. Still, this is only a 7 percentage point increase, while the Labour Party has lost 17%.

Some of these votes seem to be going to the Democrats (D66), a ‘social-liberal’ centre party (currently at 10%), according to an analysis by Ipsos. And parties like 50PLUS (which targets the elderly), CDA and PVV also win over smaller numbers of former PvdA voters. But a sizeable share of 2012 PvdA-voters are now saying they will not vote or do not know who to vote for. Whether they will really stay at home or will eventually decide to vote for the PvdA anyway, might impact the size of the PvdA’s losses.

There is no clear front-runner on the left of the political spectrum. If such a party will emerge in the next few weeks, it might attract some strategic voters who would like to see at least one strong left-wing party that has a good chance of being part of the next government.”

A few years ago there were predictions that the Dutch Socialist Party, Socialistische Partij, was set to become a major political force in Holland. But, despite its hope in 2012 that the SP would overtake the Labour Party in the 2012 elections, what happened was ” the sudden collapse in support for the party during the final weeks of the campaign(for an overview see: The Dutch Elections and the Socialist Party. Daniel Finn. New Left Review. 77. 2012).

Despite the same  Labour Party (PvDA) now entering a prolonged crisis, with some predicting its marginalisation, the SP has not grown.

As Wikipedia states, “As of 2016 the ruling VVD-PvdA coalition has meant that the PvdA lost a huge part of its base. In the polls, the party currently stands at around 12 seats, losing 26, which has been a stable position for the last three years.[16] Despite that, the SP has gained little to nothing, remaining stable at around 16 seats in the same polls.”

From the site of the Dutch Socialist Party.

In terms of membership the SP, with more than 43.000 members, is the third biggest party in the Netherlands. Only the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour Party (PvdA) are bigger, but the gap is narrowing!

Members of the SP come from all walks of life. Factory workers and students, nurses and maintenance engineers, accountants and civil servants, school students and pensioners all work together in our party. Every member is part of a local branch and can participate in decision-making at branch meetings. Each branch chooses its own executive, nominates candidates for elected office and sends delegates to the Congress. On this basis the SP’s national organs – the Party Executive, the Party Council and the Congress – are also democratically elected and controlled.

The SP is represented at all levels in Dutch politics and in the European Parliament. We have fifteen Members in the 150-seat ‘Tweede Kamer’ (corresponding to the House of Commons or House of Representatives), eight in the Eerste Kamer (the Senate), two in the European Parliament and about 500 representatives on city and local councils and in provincial assemblies. The SP forms part of the local governing coalitions of forty municipalities, some of which belong to the largest Dutch municipalities. As of 2011 the SP also participates in governing coalitions in two of the Netherlands’ twelve provinces.

Participation in national government is considered only a matter of time.

The SP’s elected representatives donate their allowances to the party, and are reimbursed only for certain out-of-pocket, receipted costs. The surplus helps to cover the party’s activities. Representatives working for the party full time receive a modest professional salary.

Roemer: close door on ‘Sultan’ Erdoğan’s propaganda circus

In the view of SP leader Emile Roemer, there should be no place in the Netherlands for the bizarre propaganda circus that Turkish president Recep Erdoğan is touring around Europe in the runup to a referendum which may give him almost unlimited power.

Roemer argues that Erdoğan has been handled with kid gloves for far too long. “We have long tried to persuade the government that the talks over EU accession for Turkey should be suspended,” he recalls. “The fact that Erdoğan has no interest in the rule of law isn’t something that has only just emerged. He’s previously packed all of his prisons with journalists and even locked up elected representatives of the people.

“The last few days have shown us that the Turkish government is incapable of making agreements which you can trust. It’s audacious nonsense to insult the entire Netherlands while at the same time stoking up conflicts and turning people against the country in which they live, then calling on the principle of freedom of expression. That’s not how it works. Turkey should not be interfering in our domestic affairs. The situation is confirming what the SP has been saying for years, that we must be fully committed to combatting Ankara’s attempts to influence Dutch citizens.”

23 Jan 2017

Large-scale unregulated labour migration puts pressure on wages

The opening of the borders to central and eastern European (CEE) workers just a decade ago has led to labour market dislocation in the countries from which people have been attracted and repression, exploitation and underpayment in the Netherlands. The SP wants to see rogue temping agencies banned and work permits introduced for workers from CEE countries.

by Tijmen Lucie

The opening of the borders to central and eastern European (CEE) migrant workers has, particularly in sectors such as construction, horticulture, road transport and the food industry, led to repression and exploitation. Rogue temping agencies have had a free hand in putting people, especially those from central and eastern Europe, to work at low wages, using a number of dubious legal constructions. In this way worker is set against worker, wages are forced down and working conditions deteriorate.

The SP’s 10-point plan to combat oppression, exploitation and underpayment.

We halt at point 1.

  1. The Netherlands must take back control over who can come here from CEE countries to work. Free movement of workers must be scrapped. Employers should be required once again to apply for a permit if they wish to employ workers from CEE.

This stand has some history:

Dutch advance socialist case against immigration Nov 24, 2008 Neil Clark

Whether the SP’s present impasse is due to problems with the low level of labour movement activity, the “comparative dearth of social mobilization in recent years” (which like in the UK, has been in a downward spiral for some time),  the – unconvincing –  strategy of “revolutionary reformism”, and the impermeability of Dutch politics and civil society to radical left ideas,  as Finn (above) indicates, or that they’ve been sidelined by Wilders’ brand of national populism,  are matters for debate.

During the British EU Referendum the far-right Express reported,

Harry van Bommel, MP for Holland’s Socialist Party, told Express.co.uk: “If Britain leaves, that will give other countries courage.

“So now debate is beginning in the Netherlands about having a referendum on EU membership.

“We cannot go on the way we are – financing Greece, trying to keep countries in the eurozone. The eurozone will break up eventually.”

GHarry van Bommel says Brexit will give Holland ‘courage’

He added: “Because we’re in the euro, Dutch people see budget cuts, unemployment going up, and they relay that to the EU.

“Everyone knows the Commissioners in Brussels make €25,000 (£19,500) a month, yet pensions go down and the pension age goes up.

“These facts make the EU very unpopular. People distrust Europe and some people even hate Europe – it’s in an existential crisis.”

Van Bommel campaigns against a trade deal with Ukraine

Earlier this year the Netherlands overwhelmingly rejected a controversial EU proposal to remove trade barriers with Ukraine.

More than 61 per cent voted against the idea, with Dutch leader Mark Rutte admitting ratification of the treaty “cannot go ahead”.

But Eurocrats have ignored the result and claimed the deal will be adopted “very soon”, sparking a furious outcry from Eurosceptics.

What is clear now is that the SP’s anti-European Union and anti-migrant labour policies have been taken up, let’s just say (see last sentence), elsewhere.

The stagnation of the Dutch Socialist Party International Socialism. Issue: 151  22nd June 2016.Max van Lingen

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm

France’s ex-PM Valls will neither endorse Macron nor his own party’s Hamon in Presidential Vote.

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Bad Loser Valls Won’t Back Hamon.

Speculation is growing in France that the most reactionary section of the  of the French ‘republican’ right, frustrated by the scandals engulfing their candidate, François Fillon, are preparing to vote Marine Le Pen in the second round of the Presidential elections. Those involved in movements such as “Sens commun“, involved in the anti-gay marriage La Manif pour tous, are said to be preparing to break the “cordon sanitaire” that separates the extreme right Front National from the rest of the right.

The FN’s appeal to rally ” « patriotes » against « mondialistes », globalisers, has been like British support of Brexit, a call that, Le Monde observes today, aims to beak with the old division between ‘right’ and ‘left’ (Jean-Baptiste de Montvalon).

The possible breakthrough in backing for the racist right is just one of the reasons why there is pressure on centrists and social liberals to back Emmanuel Macron.

His own call, aimed at going ‘beyond’ left and right, to unite, “ progressistes » to face « conservateurs » has begun to eat into the right-wing of the Parti Socialiste.

This comes despite the warning that any Socialist who officially supports Macron will be expelled from the Party.


France 24  now reports,

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls is not ready to endorse a candidate in the country’s presidential race, after denying reports he intended to back centrist Emmanuel Macron and ruling out support for his rival, Socialist Benoît Hamon.

French daily Le Parisien published an article on Monday citing sources close to Valls as saying he would throw his weight behind Macron in the first round of voting on April 23.

“Manuel Valls will soon call on voters to support his former rival Emmanuel Macron, and this, from as early as the first round of the election,” the newspaper wrote.

But a number of those close to Valls dismissed the report as inaccurate, including his former parliamentary substitute, Carlos Da Silva. “This is false,” Da Silva wrote in a Twitter post linking to Le Parisien’s article.

Valls later confirmed to the AFP that he had “denied this information” through his entourage.

The former prime minister also ruled out the possibility of endorsing Hamon in an interview published by French magazine Paris Match on Tuesday morning. Valls dropped out of the race for the presidency in January after losing to Hamon in the left-wing primaries.

“I cannot lend my support to Benoît Hamon,” he told Paris Match. “Hamon doesn’t inspire interest.”

Valls expressed concern, however, that lack of support for both Macron and Hamon could pave the way to victory for National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen.

“If the FN [scores] high on the night of the first round, things can really finish badly,” he said.

Recent opinion polls show Macron as the front-runner in the election and that he will go on to defeat Le Pen in the second round of voting on May 7, while Hamon will be eliminated in the first round.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Cambadélis‘ warning notwithstanding this is a weasly way in which former French PM Manuel Valls, the loser in the French Socialists’ ‘Primary’ has announced his own public non-voting intentions.

It is now said that the initial claim was  ‘false news’. If it is not clear how ‘false’ the claim that he would back Marcon (Vrai-faux soutien de Valls à Macron: “Le Parisien” dément avoir été victime d’un canular) one party clearly is not helped by his statement: his own.

Here is the assertion that the news was a joke..

Followed by this, which is clearly not false.

Scottish Referendum: More Nationalist Claptrap as SWP Demands Vote so “May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.”

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Another Bout of Nationalist Claptrap Looms.

The Scottish National Party’s Call for a new referendum is not just a diversion from the fight against the Tory Government, its austerity,  and its Brexit plans.

It is an  extension of the sovereigntist call to take back ‘control’ of ‘our’ country from the Brexit backers and their left hangers-on to Scottish politics.

Shiraz is right to observe that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s immediate response was wrong, Second Scottish referendum: why Corbyn was wrong.

…last weekend Jeremy Corbyn visited Glasgow and told the media: “If a referendum is held, then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”

“A spokesman for Corbyn” and “a source close to Corbyn” tried to minimise the damage.

According to the spokesman: “Jeremy reaffirmed our position today that if the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, it would be wrong for Westminster to block it. Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament”.

But Labour has not taken a position that Westminster should agree to a referendum if Holyrood votes for it. And Corbyn’s argument that the Labour Party should not “prevent people from holding referenda” does not fit in with Scottish Labour’.

Shiraz is also right to underline that the SNP has an infinite supply of  reasons for call for Scottish independence as the cornerstone of their politics. Their apparent ‘left-of-centre’ politics, that is policies to boost public services for their people, are not social democratic. They do not demand equality, an end to the exploitation of the market, social ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange (Clause Four) but the Scottish ownership of the political system.

Like sovereigntists everywhere the call for our ain folk to take power out of the hands of ‘Westminster’ may seem at odds with  apparent support for  membership of the European Union.

Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, to cite but three examples, are run by various coalitions of nationalists, including, in Slovakia’s case, a government agreement of  centre-right nationalists around , the ‘centre left’ PM Robert Fico.

In this context “the dissolution of a key imperialist state”  means a new set of mini-states as deeply implicated in the world political and economic system with nothing about the basic character of capitalism, market societies,  changed except a cultural gloss and a potential for nationalist political exploiters to ensconce themselves in privileged positions.

It is quite possible for a Europe of the Nations, a European Union that tilts to various kinds of nationalists, to emerge without doing anything more for the interests of the left than to divide it out between competing cultural and national interest group identities.

An indication of the poor economic logic behind this latest bid comes from the Financial Times (January 18th)

Scotland’s economic growth a third of UK level

Scotland’s economic growth was a third of the overall UK figure and unemployment is rising, according to figures published as the governing Scottish National party struggles to decide whether to demand another independence referendum.

The SNP made Scotland’s relative economic strength a central part of its case for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum, but growth has fallen behind, partly because of sharp falls in the oil price. New figures show Scottish onshore GDP in the third quarter of last year grew 0.2 per cent while equivalent UK growth was 0.6 per cent. Compared with the same period of 2015, Scottish GDP was up only 0.7 per cent, against the UK-wide figure of 2.2 per cent. Mark Diffley, of polling company Ipsos Mori Scotland, said that while voters often struggled to assign blame for economic problems between the governments in Edinburgh and London, the poor performance made leaving the UK a tougher sell.  “It’s probably more difficult to make an economic case for independence when things are looking so gloomy.”

Just saying that the SNP is pro-EU does not mean that the kind of national egotism the party has represented for decades will evaporated.

Meanwhile how will the pro-Scottish independence left react?

They are unlikely to care about economics….

A clue is in SWP leader Charlie Kimber’s article, printed last week, 7 Mar 2017.

We need to fight for new referendum on Scottish independence

There is no way back for Labour unless it breaks with its pro-Union stance.

It will take a mass movement, on the scale of the one in 2014 and beyond, to force the Tories to concede a referendum and then win it.

It won’t be won by saying it is to secure access to the bosses’ EU single market.

It has to be based on militant opposition to austerity and racism, and a fight for a society where people come before profit.

If that succeeds then just as David Cameron was brought down by the EU referendum, so May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.

More nationalist claptrap, more unionist claptrap…and, May will be gone…

The SWP no doubt wishes to repeat its success in backing Brexit.

Sorcerer’s Apprentices barely covers this lot…

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm

‘People’s Brexit’ Faced with Disaster.

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“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”

Enrico Tortolano and Ragesh Khakhria: Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Emergency Demonstration:

This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.  

We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.

The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.

People’s Assembly.

In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.

He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.

In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.

The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.

After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.

The result?

Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.

Perry Anderson. Passing the Baton. New Left Review. 103. 2017.

Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of  ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.

I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’)  factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.

Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”

Or indeed that,

The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.

Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.

It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.

Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the  vote to  Leave?

And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).

There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’,  agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.

One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.

The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.

But first they have to get there….

For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it.  The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”

Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..

Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on  upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.

For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.

As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.

Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”

This has not happened.

Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.

The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse,  and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.

Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a  Social Europe  are decidedly not.

Brexit Now.

For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:

No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.

Brexit is about to get real. Yet we are nowhere near ready for it

 From those who give advice to the left:

There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.

Neither Washington Nor Brussels. Daniel Finn.

It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.

But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds),  and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.

No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.

Just to give a flavour…

Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.

..

Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.

The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.

Left Unity.  Brexit, Democracy, and Oppression. Neil Faulkner

As Neil says,

“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”

‘Only French Spoken’ law in Ile de France Public Building Projects.

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Paris region orders labourers to only speak French on building sites

The Paris region has passed a new rule obliging labourers on public building sites to use French, copying action taken elsewhere in France to squeeze out foreign workers. Reports France 24.

The Ile de France region passed a “Small Business Act” on Thursday aimed at funnelling more local public contracts to small French businesses.

It includes a so-called Moliere clause which will oblige firms working on publicly-funded building projects, or in other areas such as transport or training, to use French as their working language.

“This clause is necessary and targets foreign companies who come with their teams, without any of them speaking French. These companies need to improve,” vice president of the region Jerome Chartier said afterwards.

The French government has long criticised EU rules that allow companies to bring in much cheaper foreign workers temporarily, often from eastern Europe, who undercut locals.

Discrimination concerns

EU rules on public procurement prevent states from discriminating against companies from another European country uniquely on the grounds of their nationality.

Opponents to the Moliere clause, named after the 17th century French playwright, point out that it will disadvantage newly arrived foreigners living in France who are able to integrate via the workplace and learn French.

It also risks being difficult to monitor and enforce.

Other French regions Normandy, Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes have also introduced rules requiring companies to use the French language on public building sites.

This law is already facing opposition:

La clause Molière imposant le français sur les chantiers publics, une disposition contestée (le Monde)

La région Ile-de-France et sa présidente, Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains, LR), ont adopté, dans un « small business act », le principe de la clause dite « Molière », une mesure qui vise notamment à imposer l’usage du français sur les chantiers publics.

Let us leave aside the obvious point that no English speaker uses the term “small business act” (the nearest I could find in the 2015 UK, ‘Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act’) though the term has currency in the European Union, this is clearly not aimed at speakers of the ‘langue de Shakespeare’ (another French expression which it would be hard to find used by anglophones).

The measure was introduced by members of François Fillon’s Les Républicains,

It bears an uncanny, and not co-incidental, similarity to the Front National’s key policy of “préférence nationale(sometimes called “priorité citoyenne). That is giving French citizens preference in jobs, education and a number of public benefits, such as social housing.

The present measure does not just affect building sites. As RTL points out, from public works, transport,training to council activities are affected if the rule is enforced.  (“des travaux publics, du transport, de la formation professionnelle, des activités de conseil, etc.”)

Like  Marine Le Pen’s wider idea,  it is clearly discriminatory. And,  as noted, hard to enforce, since it is difficult to see what level of French the “Molière Clause sets – the refined français châtié or (as they would say in my youth) in the manner of  “une vache espagnole? 

This ‘act’, by undermining  the basic principle of equality of rights, it is unlikely to pass through either France of the EU’s legal apparatus.

But coming a few weeks before the Presidential elections this unpleasant gesture is another sign of ‘populist’ barrel scraping from French politicians.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2017 at 12:55 pm

George Galloway to Write Children’s Books about an “Ethical Pirate” and “his family come pirating with him.”

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Galloway to Write about ‘Ethical Pirates”.

Our old mucker  George has been busy.

George Galloway, the former Labour and Respect MP, has announced that he has signed a publishing deal for a series of children’s books about an “ethical pirate” who travels the high seas around Indonesia with his family.

The report continues in the Guardian,

He told the Guardian: “In a few weeks or days I’ll have five children under the age of 10 and I have four young grandchildren also, ranging between three and 14. I’ve read to them a very large number of children’s books, and all of them have been fascinated by pirates. And judging by the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s not only children who are fascinated by them.

“The problem is that pirates are such poor role models, drinking rum and carousing with women, cutting people’s throats and making them walk the plank and so on. This is about an ethical pirate. A kind of Robin Hood of the high seas, who is a husband and father, and his family come pirating with him.”

The books, Galloway added, are set in the Spice islands, “now in Indonesia but once upon a time the richest place on the earth, and the site of much pirating”.

“The centre of the story is a very beautiful bay where my wife once worked called Ambon Bay, in what is now the Molucca islands. The book is set in a crossover period between Portuguese, British and Dutch colonial rule,” he said.

Galloway launched his own publishing company – Friction – in 2005, to publish “books that burn, books that cause controversy and get people talking”.

He is the author of I’m Not The Only One, the Fidel Castro Handbook and Mr Galloway Goes to Washington, but this is his first foray into children’s literature.

“I’ve already told my children and grandchildren these stories, they’re very excited, they like them very much. You don’t have to cut people’s throats to be a warrior.

“But writing for children is very difficult, it’s harder than writing for adults because you have to express what you want to say in language that will be understood by a 10-year-old. Luckily, I have lots of people I can practise on, to say, ‘Do you understand that phrase?’ and if they don’t they say, ‘What does that mean, daddy?’ You have to put yourself in a child’s shoes. It’s not child’s play writing for children.”

Suggested templates for these chef d’oeuvres, the first of which is said to be, ‘Red Molucca the Good Pirate’.

Image result for Teatime for Pirates!: A Ladybird Skullabones Island Picture Book

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Yet Galloway has not forgotten politics:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Culture

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Is the French Presidential Election Going Back to the 1930s?

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According to an opinion poll yesterday, one French person out of three supports the ideas of the Front National (Un Français sur trois en accord avec les idées du Front national). In survey after survey around 40% of workers who intend to vote back the FN. Amongst this “électorat populaire” 31% of those in council housing back the far-right, as do 30% of office employees. A majority of young people say they will vote for Marine le Pen (Here,there are many studies with roughly the same result).

With François Fillon clinging to his presidential ambitions, organising mass rallies of his remaining supporters, Le Monde has accused him of adopting a “populist” defence against all-comers, screaming about “political assassination” “lynching” and hinting at plots against him. He has talked of a “coup d’Etat des juges“.

Some are already drawing comparisons with the 1930s. The traditional political parties are discredited. As Laurent Joffrin writes in Libération, reviewing the book pictured above (“c’est le retour au terroir, aux traditions, à l’exaltation nationale qui l’emporte dans des opinions déboussolées.”) “with the loss of certainty,   it’s a return to the native soil, to tradition, to exalting the Nation…” that is carrying the day in public opinion.

It appears that there are parallels with the 1930s. Both are marked by nationalist propaganda, poverty and mass unemployment in the rich countries, doubts about values, intellectuals joining extreme parties, nostalgia for national grandeur, the simplistic slogans of populist agitators, and the phantom of a deathly spiral which is leading people to the abyss.

As Joffrin points out the comparison has its limits. France has experienced an unprecedented level of Jihadist violence. One only has to read Gilles Kepel’s La Fracture (2016) to see that  the brutal acts of Islamist terror   have reinforced  the far-right, from the Front National  to a host of linked “groupes identitaires.” But horrific as these atrocities are, from Charlie, the Hyper Cacher, Bataclan to Nice, passing by many other incidents, the degree of violence in Europe remains low. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.

Think about it.

Nevertheless some are so swept up in the mood that they are calling for a vote for Emmanuel Macron to block the route to Marine Le Pen, from the first round of the Presidential election onwards. 

While the right of the Parti Socialiste may need little encouragement to back Marcon against their own party’s candidate  Benoît Hamon (Bertrand Delanoë l’annonce de son ralliement à Emmanuel Macronthis call from a prominent figure on the radical left and President of the important territorial coordinating structure next to  Paris, Plaine Commune is more surprising:

Patrick Braouezec : « Je voterai pour Emmanuel Macron »

Braouezec bases his decision on the need to unite against the right and the extreme right. He nevertheless asks people to cast their ballots for the Parti Communiste Français and the Front de gauche – and notably not Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s la France Insoumise – in the 1th and 18th legislative elections.

The language used recalls the first paragraphs of this post. This alliance of  all “progressives” is the only rampart against Barbarism. “le seul rempart à la barbarie »(/ Braouezec choisit Macron)

Patrick Braouezec is a former Communist (PCF) and Mayor of the famous Communist district (a city in its own right), just next to Paris, Saint Denis, from 1991 to 2004. He was often in conflict with his party’s leadership. As one of the dissident “”refondateurs he backed the Green candidacy of José Bové against his own party’s   Marie-George Buffet  in 2007. From 2010  he has been a supporter of the Front de Gauche (FG) initially as a member of the network,  Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique.

Described in the past, by the unimpressed on his own side, as “incontrôlable” Braouezec is still well-regarded enough to maintain, as noted, an important elected position.

This is one possible result of the Pro-Macron moves:

Harris Interactive poll shows Macron one percentage point ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round.

Update: Socialist Party activists call for elected members of the party who back Macron to give up their membership.

Another issue is the predicted record abstention:

UK Far-Left Splits: SWP Leaves Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

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TUSC: Standing for the 99%

Socialist Worker reports this bombshell:

The Socialist Workers Party has decided to suspend its membership of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

TUSC has provided a structure for trade unionists, campaigners and socialists to stand in elections against pro-austerity politicians.

It’s not a decision we take lightly.

We have been part of TUSC for over seven years, stood dozens of candidates and recorded some of TUSC’s better results.

We have worked with the other components of TUSC—the RMT union, the Socialist Party and independents.

We think it is right to cooperate with others on the left wherever possible.

Labour won’t be the vehicle for socialist transformation any more than Syriza was in Greece—and we still want a socialist alternative to it.

But we cannot support the decision taken at TUSC’s recent conference to stand in May’s council elections in England and Wales.

These elections will be seen as a referendum on Corbyn. It won’t matter if the candidates are right wingers. Every loss will be blamed on the left.

Furthermore,

For TUSC to stand at this point welds together Labour supporters and is a barrier to united front work with Labour people.

Our small electoral united front would make it harder to achieve a larger united front with the Labour left.

At the Copeland and Stoke by-elections Labour’s candidates were from the right. However, Socialist Worker called for a vote for Labour. We don’t want Ukip or the Tories winning.

What’s at issue is how to fight cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks. And we know any victories for them would be used to unleash the dogs on Corbyn.

We have been proven right. If TUSC was winning substantial votes the argument might be different, but the results will be modest. There’s no shame in that. But it makes standing against a Corbyn-led Labour even harder to justify.

Our unwillingness to put forward candidates is not because Labour councils are doing a good job. They are ruthlessly imposing Tory cuts.

Many councils face a loss of 60 percent of their income between 2010 and 2020. Yet there have been no Labour-led national marches, no councillors’ revolt, no calls for defiance by councillors, unions and people who use the services.

Instead, at the last Labour conference, delegates and leadership united to declare it a disciplinary offence to pass “illegal” no cuts budgets.

What’s at issue is how to fight these cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks.

We believe the best way is to campaign in the streets and workplaces alongside Labour supporters.

None of us can predict future events. At some point, as part of the fight to move beyond social democracy, we believe it will be necessary to stand in elections again.

Were Corbyn to be removed and replaced by a right winger, the question of standing against Labour would return in sharper form.

We hope TUSC will continue to be part of the response.

But…..

In Scotland the situation is different. Labour is headed up by the anti-Corbyn Kezia Dugdale. The rise of the Scottish National Party has raised the question of alternatives to Labour.

We support Scottish TUSC candidates as part of what we hope will be a wider realignment on the left.

We wish the best to those who remain in TUSC and look forward to continuing to work with them.

The Socialist Party reported the TUSC  decision to stand at the beginning of February,

TUSC and the 2017 elections

The following motion was agreed by the conference, with five votes against:

“This conference re-affirms the support that TUSC has given to Jeremy Corbyn against Labour’s Blairite right-wing, from his initial leadership election victory in September 2015 and during his re-election campaign in 2016.

“We recognise that his leadership of the Labour Party has opened up the political situation compared to the first five years of TUSC’s existence and that his defeat by the Labour right-wing would be a serious blow for the working class movement.

“TUSC was set-up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow, to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates under a common anti-austerity and socialist banner, with an agreed minimum platform of core policies. Establishing an electoral coalition of this character, involving a mix of constituent organisations and individuals, as conceived as a step towards solving the vacuum of working class political representation that had existed since the triumph of ‘New Labour’.

“Clearly Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory, potentially a terminal defeat of New Labour, required TUSC to re-calibrate its electoral activity and conference supports the steps taken by the steering committee to do so. In the May 2016 local elections, for example, no TUSC candidates were even considered to be run without local TUSC groups seeking a dialogue with the sitting Labour councillor or prospective candidate on the critical issue of their preparedness to resist cuts to local council jobs and services.

“Conference calls on the steering committee to continue with this approach for the 2017 elections.

“We recognise that this will be more challenging in the 33 English county councils and unitary authorities with elections in May, only six of which have Labour-led administrations. That is not the case, however, in Wales – where right-wing Labour is the dominant force in local government – or Scotland, in a different political context and with councillors elected under a proportional representation system in multi-member wards. The preference vote system used in mayoral elections also makes it easier for TUSC candidacies to be supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message while making sure that the Tories do not make electoral headway.

“Notwithstanding the differences between the various contests taking place in May, conference calls on the steering committee to ensure that, for whichever elections candidate applications are received, TUSC’s electoral interventions are part of a serious campaign against cuts to local public services and will strengthen the battle against the right wing in the Labour Party and the unions”.

They remain upbeat,

Fighting cuts at the ballot box – first TUSC candidates for May’s elections announced

Last week’s meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee approved the first batch of candidates to contest the local elections taking place on Thursday May 4th.

The February 15th meeting was the first steering committee since the TUSC conference in January, which set the parameters for TUSC electoral challenges this year (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17332/05-02-2017/tusc-conference-debates-election-plans-and-anti-cuts-campaigning).

In line with these parameters, none of the TUSC candidates approved at the February 15th meeting are contesting seats in which the Labour candidate came out in support of Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour leadership contest.

On the contrary all of the Labour candidates, sitting councillors on the Labour-led Lancashire County Council, either publically supported Owen Smith’s summer coup or stayed studiously ‘neutral’ as the campaign to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn was under way.

In addition, all of the Labour candidates have just voted for another cuts budget for the county council. These included cuts of £3.3m from mental health services; £4.8m from Supporting People, with plans to end supported housing for people with mental health issues; ending free transport for adults to day centres; and the closure of three Adult Education Centres, five museums, and 20 county libraries (out of 74). These are not the actions of anti-austerity councillors!

The TUSC candidates include Dr Jackie Grunsell, standing in Burnley Central West against the council cabinet member for (cutting) Adult and Community Services; and Gavin Hartley, a former PCS public sector union branch officer, standing in Padiham & Burnley West against the cabinet member for Environment and Cultural Services (ie libraries and museums).

The other TUSC candidates agreed were Lucy Nuttall (standing in Preston East); Dave Beale (Preston Central North); and Tom Costello (Preston South East).

Background to TUSC (Wikipedia)

2015 general election

TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland,[8] as well as 619 council candidates in local elections.[9]

The organisation announced in October 2014 that it had received a guarantee of funding from Socialist Alliance.[37] The funds would provide for one hundred deposits in parliamentary contests, as well as a Party Political Broadcast.[38]

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.[39][40]

Local elections

2016 local elections

Following the 2016 elections, TUSC have no remaining official councillors, Kevin Bennett having lost his seat in Warrington;[41] Hull Red Labour and Walsall Democratic Labour also lost their remaining seats.

So TUSC soldiers on while the SWP have opted for a “united front” with the “Labour left”.

That is anybody not connected to what “Labour Councils” who are not, apparently, doing a “good job”.

Since every council faces cuts in budgets, perhaps even the most “ruthless” would prefer to attack the government doing the cutting rather than the councils under Theresa May’s pressure.

Is anybody in the Labour Party listening in the SWP’s  long battle to “move beyond social democracy”.

Not many if reports are to be believed.

Which is the reason most on the left think the groupuscule is concentrating on demonstrations, the SWP’s Protest to Survive.

Image result for swp placards pile

Except in Scotland where apparently things are ripe enough to continue with…..TUSC.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Left Socialist Revolutionaries Win Backing in Leftist Poll on 1917.

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1917PartiyaSoz-Rev.jpg

Socialist Revolutionary Party.

There is a popular  quiz, circulated at the moment on Facebook,  on “Who are you in 1917 Russia? Take our test, “Political Compass of the Revolution,” to find out who you would have been 100 years ago – an Anarchist, a Cadet, a Right SR, a Bolshevik or a member of the Black Hundreds.”

No doubt important international leaders of the proletariat, like Tariq Ali, Alex Callinicos, Lindsey Germain and John Rees, would have found that would have been key advisers of the Bolsheviks, commanders of the Red Army and People’s Commissars.

But many people, and not the least, have found that they would have been Left Socialist Revolutionaries.

This is odd, I’d have expected to turn out a Internationalist  Menshevik.

Or this:

But like many I got, Left SR…..

The SR’s, of all stripes, were in favour of continuing the war.

Apart from that many of their policies were not at all bad.

Notably,

At the 5th All-Russia Congress of Soviets of July 4, 1918 the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries had 352 delegates compared to 745 Bolsheviks out of 1132 total. The Left SRs raised disagreements on the suppression of rival parties, the death penalty, and mainly, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Then there was this:

The Left SR uprising or Left SR revolt was an uprising against the Bolsheviks by the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party in July 1918. The uprising started on 6 July 1918 and was claimed to be intended to restart the war with Germany. It was one of a number of left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks that took place during the Russian Civil War.

But are there more details on who the left SRs were?

LibCom has this interesting article: Literature and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Revolutionary organizations in Russia in 1917-1921.

At the peak of the political influence the number of organization members were approaching 200 thousands. The Left SRs supported the autonomy of the workers’ councils and the federal structure of the country. They criticized Bolshevik Party for the establishment of the dictatorship.

A very sad fact is that when people talk about the poets and the writers of Russia who accepted and supported Russian Revolution, they immediately associate them with Bolshevism. But supporting Russian revolution and supporting Bolshevism is two different things.

For example, the poet Yesenin was a member of the PLSR and sympathized with Makhno. Yevgeny Zamyatin is an author of the novel “We”, written in 1920. This book is one of the great anti-utopias of the 20th century, along with the works of George Orwell. Zamyatin was subjected to repression in the Soviet Union because of this book. In this novel anti-state rebels are fighting for the “fourth revolution”, which aims to liberate people from the power of the totalitarian state: an allusion to the concept of the “third revolution”, anti-totalitarian anti-Bolshevik Revolution of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists.

In 1919, Zamyatin, along with many well-known artists (Block, Remizov, Ivanov-Razumnik) was arrested during the Left SRs strikes in the factories of Petersburg. The Left SRs were not peaceful legal strikers: their struggle was not limited to economic demands, they fought for free elections to the councils and wanted the elimination of the violent political monopoly of the Bolsheviks. Strikes were carried out by radical methods: factory’s Left SRs militia used weapons. While all of these cultural figures were not related directly to the performances of the Petersburg workers, they had a direct link with the Left SRs.

Since 1916, an informal group of “Scythians” began to form around the famous writer Ivanov-Razumnik, which gravitated toward the left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries. It included Andrey Beliy, Alexander Blok, Klyuev, Lundberg, Forsh etc. In the years 1919-1924 in Russia the Free Philosophical Association, WOLFILA, was patronized by the Left SRs. It worked even with a wider circle of writers, artists, social thinkers. Some of them cooperated in the newspapers published by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, “The Banner of Labour” and the magazine “Our Way”.

Of course, we can not say that they were all standing on party positions, although, for example, Ivanov-Razumnik was a member of the Central Committee of PLSR. But all of them in one way or another sympathized with the revolutionary-socialism LSR based on the ideas of self-government and individual freedom. Aleksandr Blok’s poem “Scythians” is a great anthem of the Russian revolution, which is nothing else than a poetic statement of Left SRs program.

If the concept of “revolution” is ever to be cleaned from the USSR flavour, then, perhaps, the work of poets, writers, scientists, philosophers of the Scythians and WOLFILA would become closer and more understandable to many people.

P.S. Important role in the discovery of the influence of the Left SRs on Russian literature belongs to the modern historian Yaroslav Leontiev.

Alexander Blok. The Scythians

Millions are you – and hosts, yea hosts, are we,
And we shall fight if war you want, take heed.
Yes, we are Scythians – leafs of the Asian tree,
Our slanted eyes are bright aglow with greed.Ages for you, for us the briefest space,
We raised the shield up as your humble lieges
To shelter you, the European race
From the Mongolians’ savage raid and sieges.Ages, yea ages, did your forges’ thunder
Drown even avalanches’ roar.
Quakes rent Messina and Lisbon asunder –
To you this was a distant tale – no more.

Eastwards you cast your eyes for many hundred years,
Greedy for our precious stones and ore,
And longing for the time when with a leer
You’d yell an order and the guns would roar.

This time is now. Woe beats its wings
And every adds more humiliation
Until the day arrives which brings
An end to placid life in utter spoliation.

You, the old world, now rushing to perdition,
Yet strolling languidly to lethal brinks,
Yours is the ancient Oedipean mission
To seek to solve the riddles of a sphinx.

The sphinx is Russia, sad and yet elated,
Stained with dark blood, with grief prostrate,
For you with longing she has looked and waited,
Replete with ardent love and ardent hate.

Yet how will ever you perceive
That, as we love, as lovingly we yearn,
Our love is neither comfort nor relief
But like a fire will destroy and burn.

We love cold figures’ hot illumination,
The gift of supernatural vision,
We like the Gallic wit’s mordant sensation
And dark Teutonic indecision.

We know it all: in Paris hell’s dark street,
In Venice bright and sunlit colonnades,
The lemon blossoms’ scent so heavy, yet so sweet,
And in Cologne a shadowy arcade.

We love the flavour and the smell of meat,
The slaughterhouses’ pungent reek.
Why blame us then if in the heat
Of our embrace your bones begin to creak.

We saddle horses wild and shy,
As in the fields so playfully they swerve.
Though they be stubborn, yet we press their thigh
Until they willingly and meekly serve.

Join us! From horror and from strife
Turn to the peace of our embrace.
There is still time. Keep in its sheath your knife.
Comrades, we will be brothers to your race.

Say no – and we are none the worse.
We, too, can utter pledges that are vain.
But ages, ages will you bear the curse
Of our sons’ distant offspring racked with pain.

Our forests’ dark depths shall we open wide
To you, the men of Europe’s comely race,
And unmoved shall we stand aside,
An ugly grin on our Asian face.

Advance, advance to Ural’s crest,
We offer you a battleground so neat
Where your machines of steel in serried ranks abreast
With the Mongolian savage horde will meet.

But we shall keep aloof from strife,
No longer be your shield from hostile arrow,
We shall just watch the mortal strife
With our slanting eyes so cold and narrow.

Unmoved shall we remain when Hunnish forces
The corpses’ pockets rake for plunder,
Set town afire, to altars tie their horses,
Burn our white brothers’ bodies torn asunder.

To the old world goes out our last appeal:
To work and peace invite our warming fires.
Come to our hearth, join our festive meal.
Called by the strings of our Barbarian lyres.

30 January 1918

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France Insoumise: From Universalist Nation to “Interplanetary Missions”.

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Image result for tintin on a marche sur la lune

Wits Suggest Tintin, Captain Haddock and Milou Go Mélenchon.

L’avenir en Commun. Le programme de la France insoumise et son candidat, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  Seuil. December 2016.

A critical overview. 

This programme, for the 2017 French Presidential elections and for the legislative elections that follow them, addresses the state of France,  “note pays”; our country is call to action. Ecological issues, the land’s social disasters (unemployment, poverty and ethnic and religious divisions, ‘communautarismes’) are, writes Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Introduction, are three aspects of the same reality, “We are suffocating under the rule of Finance.” Finance governs the world. Its greed, and the free-market, are destroying human beings and the planet.

For the candidate of La France insoumise the priority is to give power to the people (“donner le pouvoir, tout le Pouvoir, au peuple’). Mélenchon calls for an assembly, made up of those who have never before been elected to Parliament, to write a new constitution that will replace the “monarchie présidentielle”.  With “ecological planning” a new model will be created. France will become a “universalist nation” (nation universaliste), conquering its “independence”, outside of NATO, acting to create a new alter-globalisation” alliance of the world’s peoples.  France will bring a special contribution to green maritime development, to space exploration, and information technology.

Down with the Oligarchy!

The programme begins by observing that citizens’ power is thwarted in the present French “oligarchy”, “collusion between politics and finance”, run by a “caste of the privileged”. It proposes a series of measures to stem corruption, to end the connivance between politicians and business, and the influence of lobbyists. The Universalist republic will defend an open approach to French nationality, oppose racism and all forms of discrimination, and abolish “state and social patriarchy”, including the abolition of prostitution (“abolir la prostitution”, this claim is made on Page 29).

The platform calls for new citizens’ initiatives, referenda, rights to recall of MPs, guarantees of media pluralism, he constitutional embodiment of the rights of people at work, protecting common property, “air, water, food, health, energy, the means of life, the currency (..) Lowering the voting age to 16, la France insoumise, an obligatory “ service citoyen” for the under 25s, paid at the minimum wage, for nine months.

Particular attention is paid to France’s overseas territories, whose equality will be established. They will become  “pilots” of the ecological planning and the “économie de mer” and development.

L’avenir en Commun promises to out an end to the economic  “pillaging” of the Nation (capital letter in original, Page 45). Not only are privatisations and ‘public-private’ partnerships targeted, but the effects of social dumping. In “défense de notre souveraineté industrielle”, “protectionnisme solidaire” is proposed. Trade agreements have to be revised and other measures taken to project social rights and employment, against multinationals and international finance. Production must be re-localised. To fight against unemployment there will be investment in green infrastructure projects…

Fiscal Revolution. 

The programme has drawn particular attention for its “révolution fiscale” and other ideas in the industrial/economic field (a more detailed account here) A rise in the minimum wage (16%) parallels a maximum salary for company bosses, on a ratio of 1 to 20 of the lowest wage, restrictions of redundancies, and a return to the contract protection pre-Loi Khomri are amongst measures proposed. There are plans to restore retirement at 60, a continued reduction of the working week and increased holidays, and a wish to ‘eliminate poverty’.

Critics focus on the cost, the slight of hand by which spending is transformed into a way cost-free boosting the economy (without major tax rises on the ordinary person or indeed much directly on most businesses). Others ask how the economy is going to be radically transformed by government legislation. There is no mention of independent working class or social movement initiatives outside of thee political framework of the new 6th Republic…..

Dead Europe.

Mélenchon prefaces the section on Europe by asserting that the “Europe of our dreams is dead”. The present European Union has become reduced to a single market in which people are submitted to the rule of the banks and finance. Our “indépendance d’action et la souveraineté de nos décisions” must not be subjected to the ideological obsessions of the Commission which have led to this anti-democratic impasse.

La France insoumise intends to renegotiate existing European Treaties. In Plan A it is proposed, amongst other measures, to end the independence of the Central European Bank, devaluation of the Euro, a halt to extending market mechanisms to public services (railways, energy and telecommunications), and a European conference to settle member states’ debts. If this fails, Plan B, a halt to French contributions to the EU budget, and for the Banque de France to take back monetary control and prepare the way for an alternative monetary system to the Euro.

What will happen if they try all of this, draw back to the Franc and there is a financial crisis of staggering proportions,  and fail is not explained.

French Independence.

Keen to assert the “indépendence” of France in the world, the platform, as cited, envisages leaving NATO, but also the IMF and the World Bank. Asylum will be offered to freedom fighters (“combattants de la liberté”) such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Page 89). In place of the existing military alliance, which drags European states behind the USA, France will be able to defend herself and act freely. In this sense a “coalition universelle”, under UN mandated, to eradicate Daesh in Syria, has a part to play in establishing peace in that land, with free elections and a negotiated end to the civil war. The programme wishes to continue to support the ‘two states’ solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict.

Needless to say the idea of France, a country a pillar of the international economic and military system, with a heavy colonial past, is an odd place to claim ‘independence’ for.

There are many other measures in L’avenir en commun, on international co-operation to resolve the underlying causes of the different migration crises, for durable development, employees’ rights, a re-affirmation of secularist principles  (laïcité), opening up education, and a ideas on health issues. The document includes a including a proposition to legalise within regulated structures, cannabis.

The People….

In contrast to traditional left wing programmes there are no proposals for large-scale nationalisations. Economic strategy, apart from its green and social inflection, is centred on affirming production in France. The ‘sovereignty’ of the People as translated into a Sixth Republic, with the “transition écologique, are at the core of L’avenir en commun, ideas which also stand out from past radical left platforms, which have affirmed the central importance of the labour movement, or the working class and oppressed.

In constructing the ‘figure of the People’, Mélenchon and his allies, appear to have much in common with the mid-19th century “internationalist republicans”. Their goal, of national independence and sovereignty, now stamped with green and social measures and mobilised to confront the rule of the “political caste” ‘finance’, EU Treaties, and the Commission (not capitalism as such), raises many questions. If La France insoumise ever swept the “oligarchy” from the Republic, how they could ever bridge the gap between their  ‘universal’ aspirations, those in France who oppose their plans for the People, and those of other Peoples.

Interplanetary Missions. 

In the final chapter, La France aux Frontières de l’Humanité a sketch of some of the features of a “nouvelle ère” of international co-operation is offered. It only increases the suspicion that this programme is marked by national messianism. Space-exploration, including a European-Russian Moon Base, support for a publicly owned Arianespace, and interplanetary missions, including to Mars, feature prominently. The development of France’s role as a “maritime power”, creating 300,000 jobs, in such areas a aquaculture and the French merchant navy, as well as the French role in robot and information technology, are some of the ideas for a people with a “special and passionate responsibility” (une responsabilité particulière et enthousiasmante!” (Page 119).

Tintin, Captain Haddock and Milou are raring to go….

The Posadist vote is guaranteed!

Mille sabords!

For France, for Mélenchon and Human Civilisation!

Image result for l'avenir en commun

English summary here.

Update: Polls (which are in a complete state of flux in France at the moment…..)>

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm

France, “Populism” and the Evaporation of Parties.

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Image result for fillon rassemblement

Weather Reports Indicate Hail and Rain….

In le Monde a couple of days ago Pierre Rosanvallon, (Les propos de Fillon « marquent un tournant populiste dans la campagne) observed that the right’s candidate François Fillon’s ranting against Judges marked a “populist turn” in the campaign.

This “grand rassemblement” today at Trocadéro is billed as in support of Fillon, while in the wake of accusation of fictional employment and other scandals  scores and scores of his elected supporters have dropped their backing for the beleaguered Presidential candidate dizaines et des dizaines d’élus lâcher François Fillon, voire démissionner de son équipe de campagne).

Some have compared this demonstration to those of the 1930s ‘leagues’ who moblised against Constitutional Democracy and the Front Populaire.

Rosanvallon outlines a number of developments that underlie the present crisis in French democracy.

Despite to rally backing Fillon is increasingly distanced in the polls by Emmanuel Macron  who looks like the main opponent to Marine Le Pen, in the first as well as the second round of the elections. Neither of these candidates has  real, democratic, political party behind them. The first has created a ‘movement’, En Marche, which is an ephemeral, if enthusiastic rally , based on Marcon’s presidential campaign. The second has the Front National, which while structured electorally, with many local councillors, and MEPs, though only one MP, has no democratic or debated policy-making process. It remains a ‘family business’, set up by Jean-Marie Le Pen as a “front” to assemble the far-right, whose objectives remain to moblise support on a platform decided by Marine Le Pen and her close advisers.

Rosanvallon also points to the ‘left populist’ campaign of Jean-Luc MélenchoPierre Rosanvallon,. His movement, la France insoumise set up after he decided on a bid to be president, is equally not a party, with competing tendencies, or policy-making outside of the guidelines set down by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his advisers to meet the demands of the Era of the People (as he calls it, L’Ère du peuple).

The historian, who has produced  studies on the gap between popular demands and the evolution of modern political systems (latest: Le Bon Gouvernement 2015), observed that all three candidatures, who dominate the present Presidential election, mark a significant turn in the country’s politics. Not only do not represent parties, but beyond appeals to the “People”, that is the French people, they neither appear to wish to represent a clear constituency, nor have of where this ‘interest’ is going to lead politics to.

This is naturally less of a problem for Macron and Le Pen than for the ‘left’ that supports Mélenchon. They have abandoned the idea that the working class represents the future of the left, they have weakened the broader ties of the left with the labour movement, and what remains?  The ‘construction of the People’ in a political alliance against the ‘Elite’ La Casta, led by the Man of Destiny (homme providentiel)…. Mélenchon.

 

 

France: François Fillon Stares into the Abyss.

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Image result for francois fillon plantu

Some People Remain Interested in Fillon’s Programme.

Police raid Fillon’s Paris home as candidate faces more defections

Police raided the Paris home of French conservative presidential candidate François Fillon on Thursday over an alleged fake job scandal, as a senior party colleague warned him that he risked dragging his party “into an abyss”. France 24.

Fillon revealed Wednesday he is set to be charged over allegations he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for fake parliamentary jobs, but has vowed to continue in his bid for power.

After searches at his parliamentary office last month, police raided his home in central Paris on Thursday as he visited winegrowers on the campaign trial in southern France.

He was accused by Dominique de Villepin, a fellow former prime minister from his Les Républicains[formerly UMP] party, of driving the right-wing party “into the abyss”.

“Going down this dead-end street is taking the state , our faith in democracy and its fellow travellers hostage,” he wrote in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Fillon has called the charges over the fake jobs scandal “entirely calculated to stop me being a candidate for the presidential election” and has ruled out stepping aside for another candidate.

Defectors from his team and other senior Les Républicains have called for ex-premier, 71, to step up have nevertheless underlined the divisions and fears within his camp.

The list of right of centre MPs calling for Francois Fillon to give up his Presidential bid is growing.

He does retain some fervent backing:

 

To keep up to date see Libération:  LE COMPTEUR DES LÂCHEURS DE FILLON.

Everywhere he goes Fillon faces protests,

Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

‘Straight Left” from Tankie Faction in the Communist Party of Great Britain to the Heart of the Labour Party.

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Image result for The Crisis in Our Communist Party - Cause, Effect and Cure"

Straight Left.

“The hatred and contempt with which each side treats the others—as also the bewilderment and distress of the silent majority of Party loyalists—seems now to exceed that in the Labour Party at the height of Bennism. In the Eurocommunist camp, as then on the Labour Left, it is typically expressed in generational terms—‘Why don’t you just die?’ was the shout of one of the new wave ‘pluralists’ when, at a recent aggregate, an old-timer attempted to speak.

Whereas in previous Communist crises, such as those of 1939–40 or 1956, the factory branches remained solid or even increased in strength, while it was the ‘intellectuals’ who were then wracked by doubt, this time it is the industrial comrades who have been ready to put their Party loyalties in question. In their majority they seem to have rallied to the Morning Star. Trade unionists—‘white, male, middle-aged’, as they were recently characterized by the Party’s Industrial Organizer, after a week at the TUC—are no longer honoured in the Party but viewed with social and even sexual disgust.

As in other political formations of the Left, political disagreement has been exacerbated by sociological discomforts which it seems increasingly difficult for a unitary organization to contain, and although the outcome is different in the Communist and the Labour Party, it does not seem fanciful to discern the same fissiparous forces at work: a simultaneous break-up of both class and corporate loyalties.”

Raphael Samuel. The Lost World of British Communism. Part 3. New Left Review I/165, September-October 1987.

This, apparently, is the atmosphere that reigned in the party, the CPGB, that some of Jeremy Corbyn’s key staff, from Seumas Milne to the new deputy director of strategy and communications,  Steve Howell, were involved with  in their – relative – youth.

The faction, “Straight Left” appears to be a common tie,

The leading ideological force in the Straight Left faction was Fergus Nicholson, who had previously worked as the CPGB’s student organiser. According to Michael Mosbacher in Standpoint magazine, the faction was “a hard-line anti-reformist pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party”. Unlike the leadership, they supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia  in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. They also thought the party should concentrate its work in Trade Unions , and not in social movements such as feminism and environmentalism.

Because the CPGB’s rules banned the formation of factional groups, SL operated in secret. Members of the faction contributed funds to the organisation through significant monthly donations, which helped fund the groups educational gatherings, often referred to as camping weekends. Its meetings were not publicly announced, and writers in their newspaper Straight Left and their theoretical magazine Communist wrote under pseudonyms like Nicholson, whose pen-name was “Harry Steel”. The Straight Left faction also produced anonymous bulletins to try to influence CPGB Congresses usually under the heading “Congress Truth”.

The faction produced a dissident internal pamphlet entitled “The Crisis in Our Communist Party – Cause, Effect and Cure”, which was distributed nationally but not under its name. This was authored (in all likelihood in conjunction with others), by veteran miner and communist Charlie Woods, who was expelled from the CPGB for putting his name to the publication.

The reason for the sudden interest?

After Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigns chief Simon Fletcher quit his role earlier this month, it was branded a victory for Seumas Milne. Fletcher was known to have clashed with Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications on a range of issues, including the EU. Now, in a sign things are moving further in Milne’s favour, Steve Howell has been appointed as deputy director of strategy and communications.

Happily, the pair are unlikely to clash over their political views anytime soon. They are old comrades who were both involved with Straight Left, the monthly journal in the Eighties that became associated with the ‘Stalinist’, pro-Soviet, anti-Eurocommunist faction that eventually split from the Communist Party of Great Britain. Described by Standpoint magazine as ‘a hard-line anti-reformist pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party’, the Straight Left movement was also where Milne met Andrew Murray, the first chair of the Stop the War campaign who previously called for solidarity with North Korea.

Introducing Corbyn’s new spinner: the Straight Left comrade who is Mandelson’s old communist chum. (Steerpike. Spectator).

This was also immediately noticed on the left, provoking it must be said some jealousy on the part of former members of rival factions within the defunct Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

Bob from Brockley  posted,

Fletcher’s replacement is Steve Howell, brought in from a PR firm in South Wales. Howell has not been politically active for a while, as far as I can see, but does have history: like Milne and Andrew Murray he was active in the Stalinist faction Straight Left. Howell, then based in Sheffield, led its Yorkshire group. Their faction was called “the artists” – most of its key figures were Oxbridge types, in contrast to the salt of the earth workerists who led the main rival tankie faction, the Communist Campaign Group.

At that point in the 1980s, hardcore Stalinists (known as “tankies” for their support for the tanks sent in by the Soviets to crush dissent in its various satellites) were fighting to keep the Communist Party of Great Britain loyal to the memory of Uncle Joe Stalin, who was seen as something of an embarrassment by its Eurocommunist leadership. Straight Left sought to re-orient the party towards operating in the Labour Party and trade union movement.

Some of the denunciations of its tactics by rival Stalinists from the time are amusing, but also a bit sinister now it finally has achieved getting some of its activists into key positions in the Labour Party.

This is from the ultra-tankie Leninist newspaper (forerunner of the Weekly Worker) in 1983:

And this is about Straight Left’s strategy of covertly using the Labour Party rather than Communist Party as the vehicle for promoting Stalinism, a strategy the Leninist denounced as “liquidationism”:

I have no idea if Howell has, like Murray, remained true to his Stalinist roots. (His schoolmate and old comrade in Hendon Young Communists, Peter Mandelson, clearly hasn’t.)

Now the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have offered their assessment.

Corbyn’s Leader’s Office is dominated by the former Guardian journalist Seumas Milne and by people close to Andrew Murray, chief of staff of the Unite union. Milne’s political formation was in the Stalinist sect “Straight Left”.

Another Straight Lefter was Andrew Murray… Milne, like Murray, is still a Stalinist. Writing for the Guardian, as he has done for many years, he puts his views in urbane double-negative form, but he is still a Stalinist… Operators used to snuggling into the established political and media machines, ideologically imbued with and trained over decades in ‘top-down’ politics, will not serve Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and us well in opening up and revitalising the Labour Party” (Solidarity 382, 28 October 2015).

“Stalinist ideas were drilled into swathes of labour movements and the left in decades when activists could see the USSR (or Cuba, China, Albania) as practical examples of the alternative to capitalism. Today we have a more demoralised Stalinists and Stalinoids: while sometimes loud in denunciation of Tory misdeeds, they generally see no further in positive policy than what were only stepping stones for Stalinism in its heyday: economic nationalism, bureaucratic state-directed economic development…

The Article 50 fiasco, and the Labour leaders’ waffle about a “People’s Brexit”, cannot but have been shaped by nationalist anti-EU prejudices in the Stalinist-influenced left. Stalinist bureaucratic manipulation fits with the Blairite heritage: “policy development” means not debate in the rank and file leading up to conference decisions, but formulas handed down by clever people in the Leader’s Office. The office’s response to the Copeland by-election has been to get another “Straight Left” old-timer, Steve Howell, seconded from the PR company he now owns….

Martin Thomas.  The dangers of Stalinism in Labour. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Of particular interest are the claims about the EU, “Fletcher was known to have clashed with Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications on a range of issues, including the EU.” and “the Labour leaders’ waffle about a “People’s Brexit”.

This article, published by those Simon Fletcher is said to be close to (aka Socialist Action), which argues against the fantasy that there is a “People’s Brexit”, may help explain his departure.

There is no ‘People’s Brexit’  By Tom O’Leary. Socialist Economic Bulletin. (Published by Ken Livingstone, Simon Fletcher’s former employer)

There is no socialist or even ‘people’s Brexit’. Everyone operating in the UK will still be subject to the laws of the market. The problem will be that the market will suddenly be much smaller and less productive than the EU Single Market the UK has been participating in for the last 25 years. If the Tories continue to get their way, there will also be a stripping away of the workers’ environmental and consumer rights that were instituted under the EU’s ‘Social Chapter’. These have long been a Tory target for abolition in the UK. Post-Brexit, the economy will be operating behind a series of tariff and non-tariff barriers as others protect their markets. All of these will make the economy less competitive and will increase costs.

Of course, the pound could depreciate sharply again to offset these disadvantages, but this would lower living standards and real incomes even further. If currency devaluations alone were the answer then Britain would be an earthly paradise. In 1940 there were 5 US Dollars to the pound. Now there are 1.25. Over the same period the relative size of the UK in the world economy has shrunk dramatically in real terms, to less than one-third its proportion of world GDP, 2.3% now versus 7.3% in 1940.

There is a widespread notion on the right that Brexit will lead to ‘taking back control’ of the economy. Unfortunately, this is also shared by important sections of the left. It is a delusion. The 1930s saw a whole series of countries taking back control, in what might be called an early anti-globalisation movement. Although the authors of these policies are now widely and rightly derided their arguments will actually be very familiar.

It was said that other countries were taking our jobs, they are dumping their output on us causing our industries to fail and that those industries need protecting and government support, or state aid. Once we have done that, then we would be able to trade freely with the whole world. Of course, the more virulent version also included vile invective against foreigners, immigrants, Jews, gay men and others. When the economic policies went spectacularly wrong, the racist invective became policy.

The reason these policies failed spectacularly should be clear. Behind the protective barriers, costs rise, potential markets are closed off (especially as they respond with barriers of their own), industry becomes less not more productive, profits decline and workers are laid off. The economic crisis that ensued was finally resolved only by general rearmament.

Economics aside Milne, it is said,  is equally no friend of the politics of the internationalist supporters of Another Europe is Possible.

And he has this in his file: Seumas Milne: Charlie Hebdo Had it Coming to them.

More detailed background:

WHAT WAS STRAIGHT LEFT? AN INTRODUCTION BY LAWRENCE PARKER

Straight Left’s origins lie in the left pro-Soviet oppositions that emerged in the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1960s. In this period, a definite ‘party within a party’ emerged, with figures such as Sid French, district secretary of Surrey CPGB, becoming key leaders. The general critique that emerged from this faction was a concern over the CPGB leadership distancing itself from the Soviet Union (such as around the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968) and other ‘socialist’ countries; a preference for a more ‘workerist’ identity (for example, the faction would have been happy with the CPGB’s paper remaining as the Daily Worker in 1966) and a concentration on workplaces/trade unions; and a sense that the party was squandering its resources in futile election contests and alienating the left of the Labour Party, with whom it was meant to be developing a close relationship on the British road to socialism (BRS), the CPGB programme. However, a significant part of the faction felt that the BRS was ‘reformist’ and ‘revisionist’ in all its guises from 1951, counter-posing a revolutionary path to the parliamentary road to socialism envisaged in the CPGB’s existing programme.

Read the rest of the article on A Hatful of History.

 

Karl Marx. Greatness and Illusion. Gareth Stedman Jones. A Democratic Socialist Review.

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Karl Marx. Greatness and Illusion. Gareth Stedman Jones. Allen Lane 2016.

In the Prologue to Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones announces, the “aim of this book is to put Marx back in his nineteenth century surroundings. (Page 5) For many reviewers, this recalled the last major account of Marx’s life, Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life (2013). Sperber begins by declaring Marx to be a “figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own age…” (1)

When Greatness and Illusion appeared last summer there was little agreement about the merits of Stedman Jones’ efforts, with those sympathetic to Marx finding a variety of flaws in its 750 pages. Their reactions are not unexpected. The biography, from the portrait of the young Karl “would-be poet, dramatist or philosopher” to its survey of the continents of 19th century ideas, its survey of the merits of Marx’s critique of political economy,  and lengthy historical chronicles, is never in too much of a hurry to point out Marx’s misapprehensions. Rather than dwell on what would turn out to be a lengthy list (for reviews see the link below), perhaps the most significant aspect of Stedman Jones’ study is the links he draws between Marx’s ideology and political practice, focusing on whether he was, or was not, out of kilter with his own time. (2)

Sperber had argued that throughout his life Marx remained wedded to a “replay” of the 1789 Revolutions in central and Eastern Europe, initially through “Jacobin” republican governments, which would result in a “social revolution (which) would lead from capitalism to communism and replace the rule of the bourgeoisie with that of the proletariat.”(3).

First International.

By contrast Stedman Jones argues that while strongly marked by the legacy of the French Revolution, refracted through Young Hegelian radicalism, and the search for “social emancipation” greater than political liberty, Marx’s greatest achievement lay in his contribution to a non-revolutionary body, the First International (1864, formal dissolution, 1876). The International Working Men’s Association marked the most significant stage in the radical and working class movement’s turn from the Jacobin tradition. It set demands for political freedom, ‘internationalist republicanism” on an intelligible socialist footing, “the political economy of labour”, and linked the left to the trade union movement.

In Marx’s Inaugural Address to the body, he conceptualised “the emancipation of working classes as a global project and articulate a transnational community of workers’ interests” From a lifetime of hostility most forms of radical politics other than his own he had now been able to master “a language with which politically aware working men at the time could identity” (Page 465) “It was in the formulation of this new social-democratic language that Karl made his greatest contribution to the International…”(Page 466) He did not just advocate that the working classes “conquer political power” and emancipate itself. His “assumption was that the process the process of a transition from the capitalist mode of production towards the society of associated producers had already begin.” (Page 467)

Those looking for an endorsement of Marx’s politics will not find much else to feed on. Stedman Jones’ devotes many pages to a much less glowing tributes to the classical texts of ‘political Marxism’, from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847-8), the Class Struggles in France: 1848 – 1850 (1850), The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) and The Civil War in France (1871). Crucial “moments”, the 1848 Revolutions, Louis Bonaparte’s Coup d’état in 1851, the 1871 Paris Commune, that is historical points in which Marx grappled with the problems of class, the state, revolution and socialism in historical flesh and bones, are extensively covered, with a running commentary on the failings of Marx’s analysis and his wishful thinking.

Class Struggle.

Karl’s notion of “class struggle” has been treated, he declares, as a “dramatisation of self-evident economic facts of industrialisation”. Yet, historians have come to grasp that “class is no longer…the expression of a simple social-economic reality, but as a form of language discursively produced to create identity.” (Page 306) Marx combined a “teleological account of the place of labour in the world”, derived from Young Hegelian thinking with, the French republican, socialist and even Legitimist terms of “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” used in opposition to the “bourgeois” Monarchy of Louis Philippe. Culminating in the 1848 Revolution and the creation of the Second French Republic the organised “proletarians”, Blanquist and other republican revolutionaries, were like the British Chartists driven by the flames of labour’s destiny and opposition to private property, to confront the contradiction of capitalism, and the political rule of the bourgeoisie.

Such a template led Marx, Stedman Jones asserts, to ignore the ideological and political context of the French uprising. Marx’s emphasis on class struggle missed the key element of the rule of the Monarchy. For Stedman Jones it was the shutting out of the masses from the system of political power under the ‘censitaire’ constitution, a franchise that covered a tiny minority of the population.

“It was not the activities or strategy of a fictive ‘bourgeoisie’ but the attempt around 1830 to construct a political system based upon the political exclusion of wage-earners that created the ‘struggle’ of the ‘working class and the ‘middle class”. “ (Page 311) It was “political exclusion” caused by the ‘censitaire’ (a high payment level for electoral rights), that was the key issue. Stedman Jones asserts that Marx’s “hostility to representation and the ‘political state’” left him in a “poor position to understand the political determinants of working class action.”(P 311)

How did Marx portray working class activity? In his writings on the 1848 Revolutions Marx asserted that the “working class”, in his republican and ‘communist’ associations, was a potential lever for “overturning the world” through actions outside the system. Louis Blanc and those with influence within the French working class had called for “association” linked hand in hand with “universal suffrage”. These dissolved in the face of more ambitious goals. The “proletariat rallies ever more around revolutionary socialism around communism”, for a “class dictatorship of the proletariat”. He criticised attempts to introduce change through a representative republican democratic state, “the peculiar character of social democracy”, “a means of softening the antagonisms between the two extremes of capital and wage labour and transforming it into harmony, of superseding them both (page 176) This nevertheless stands with his 1852 enthusiasm for the Chartist demand for universal suffrage, which would mean the political supremacy of the working class.” (4)

From these brief passages one can see that Marx, may have been hostile to the mechanisms of representation on offer in the Second Republic. But he spent a great deal of time trying to demonstrate how through their institutional weight they might not only divert the ‘revolution’ but also be a practical dead-end (the episode of the National Workshops amongst others). Marx was already considering as the remarks on Chartism indicate, that the “republic” with universal suffrage, could be a key element in the working class “battle for democracy”. Finally if Marx was dismissive of “social democracy”, in this context, it was patent that efforts of ‘party’ had failed to achieve more than fleeting legislative palliatives. As for the importance of the “religious democracy”, a political force which Stedman Jones is more than justified in rescuing from condescension, it is unclear if their belief in “la Cause Sainte” and “Dieu et humanité” helped the fight against “modern slavery”.

Stedman Jones has every right to try to ‘correct’ Marx.  Marx’s claim that Louis Napoleon’s 1851 coup d’état, was supported by  the “lumpen proletariat’  – a category which he shows is vacuous – and his description of the peasantry as ‘sack of potatoes’ unable to represent itself (in fact the one major rebellion against him was rural – Page 339) to give a wider social base the  1851 coup d’état, are important, though not exactly novel, contributions to how we understand the period. But we probably do not need the constant presence of  Stedman Jones as Eugène Sue’s Rudolph in Les Mystères de Paris, to save Marx from his theoretical shortcomings.

Languages of Class.

To some of his most hostile critics Stedman Jones stands convicted of deeper faults. His appears to operate with a watered-down version of the apparently “post-structuralist” slant in his Languages of Class. (1983). That is, critics allege, writing about class as “talk”. This would be unfair. A key essay in the book unravelled the distinctive ‘radical’ political approach to the State, “The self-identity of radicalism was not at of any specific group, but of the ‘people;’ or the ‘nation’ against the monopolisers of political representation and power and hence financial or economic power” “In radical terms, in 1832, the ‘people’ became the ‘working classes’.” This remains an important account of British radicals’ distinct concept of “class” and the “people” and the way in which writers and activists in and around the Chartist movement claimed to pinpoint political causes of ‘exploitation’ outside of the relations of production. It does not, nevertheless, demonstrate that “class” can be detached from economic conditions, beginning with the occupations of the Chartists. (5)

In Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones concentrates on the conflicts over “political exclusion”, with a much less coherent account of the ‘figure’ through which French radicals and the ‘working class’ perceived the Second Republic. The reason is simple: there is no easy comparison between the competing but relatively unified doctrines of an body like the Chartists and broader British radicalism or early socialism, and the multitude of disparate forces swept up into active life in France from 1848 to 1851. The Republic unleashed a multitude of different politics of the excluded, but Marx was not alone in underlining its class character.

As Alex de Tocqueville famously observed,

One thing was not ridiculous, but really ominous and terrible; and that was the appearance of Paris on my return. I found in the capital a hundred thousand armed workmen formed into regiments, out of work, dying of hunger, but with their minds crammed with vain theories and visionary hopes. I saw society cut into two: those who possessed nothing, united in a common greed; those who possessed something, united in a common terror. There were no bonds, no sympathy between these two great sections; everywhere the idea of an inevitable and immediate struggle seemed at hand. Already the bourgeois and the peuple (for the old nicknames had been resumed) had come to blows, with varying fortunes, at Rouen, Limoges, Paris; not a day passed but the owners of property were attacked or menaced in either their capital or income. (6)

Stedman Jones’ background as an editor and contributor to New Left Review is perhaps another context for the biography.  A taste for lectures on left-wing strategy marked its early years. This can still be heard in Editorial advice on the welcome “knocks” to the “neoliberal order” created by Brexit. One can detect echoes if not of the content but of this style in Greatness and Illusion. By citing Marx’s dislike of the representative state, readers will be excused for thinking that Stedman Jones is offering recommendations on how to improve on his “poor position”. This impression is reinforced in the account of the First International. Marx’s enthusiasm for the Paris Commune, which revived his “critique of Parliamentarism” The description of the self-governing radical democratic Constitutions established by popular rule in Paris (18th of March 1871 to the end of May 1871) was an account of “what might have become”. (Page 502) Marx should have verified his references.

Stedman Jones states that in The Civil War in France (1871) the famous picture of a smoothly running direct democracy gearing up to war was “an imaginary projection of the changes that might accompany a transition towards the rule of associated producers.”(Ibid) Yet Marx, it should be stated here, was so far wrapped in this imaginary portrait that, as Stedman Jones himself mentions he admired and promoted the English translation of  Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray’s Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (1876)  a book which includes a detailed account of the administrative failings of the Commune. (Page 548)

A particular charge is that, incautiously, Marx underestimated the hostility aroused, not just by the bloody repression of the Communards but also by their own (very limited) violence, amongst British supporters of the International. In short, he had broken with the rule that defined the Association’s alliance: he had begun to preach unfamiliar doctrines. The public scandal created by his words may have pleased Marx and his immediate circle, but began the process which ended in the break up of the International

In The Civil War In France Marx, Greatness and Illusion notes called for “an elected assembly, formed on the basis of democratic and representative principles”. Yet once the proletariat triumphed, “there would be a distribution of general functions assigned as a cooperative factory according to suitability” (Page 528) Stedman Jones’ qualifies this. He points to the need for spaces for differences of opinions and, with a dose of homely doctrine, refers to John Stuart Mill on the importance of individual liberty in a system of “equal ownership” and “combined labour”. As the objective of a proletarian socialist transformation of society, or more simply, democratic socialism, this is a far from a goal that can be consigned to the 19th century.

As others have observed, these thoughts are not developed. Stedman Jones completes his view that Marx spent the last fifteen years of his life trying to produce a theory of modern communism through the “intensive study of ancient, communal and pre-capitalist forms.” Those interested in the Franks, The Gauls, the Germanic Mark, Indo-European cultures, the Slavic Mir and the debate in early Russian Marxism on the place of the village community and its property in the transition to socialism, will find much to reflect on. (7)

*******

(1) Page xii. Karl Marx. A Nineteenth Century Life. Jonathan Sperber. Liveright Publishing. 2013.
(2) Christian Fuchs Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion. Marx and Philosophy Review (September 2016). This provides a very helpful overview of the reviews and Gareth Stedman’s biography. For one review that really dislikes the book see: Who is Gareth Stedman Jones and why is he saying such stupid things about Marx? Louis Proyect.
(3) Page 558 Sperber. Op cit.
(4) Page 123. The Class Struggles in France. Page 176. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Page 262. The Chartists. All in Surveys from Exile. Karl Marx Political Writings Volume 2. Penguin Books. 1973.
(5) Page 104. Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History 1832–1982.  Cambridge University Press. 1983.
(6) The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville (1896) (Alexis de Tocqueville) A private journal of the Revolution of 1848 published posthumously.
(7) Page 183. Introduction to The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels. Gareth Stedman Jones. Penguin. 2002.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Parisian Citizen Proposes Demolition of the Sacré-Cœur, ” Insult to the Memory of the Commune”.

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Image result for sacre coeur Montmartre caricature

Demolish the  Sacré-Cœur? 

French citizen proposes demolishing the “Sacré-Cœur”, a “Versailles verruca that insults the memory of the Paris Commune”. (une verrue versaillaise qui insulte la mémoire de la Commune de Paris). He his project consists of the complete demolition of the basilica during a great popular fête. Le projet consiste en la démolition totale de la basilique lors d’une grande fête populaire.»

Libération.

France Soir,

un habitant du quartier ne l’apprécie visiblement pas. Ce dernier a soumis, samedi 11, un projet au budget participatif de la Ville de Paris (qui propose aux citoyens de décider de l’investissement de 5% du budget municipal) pour la raser sans autre forme de procès. “Le Sacré-Cœur est une verrue versaillaise qui insulte la mémoire de la Commune de Paris. Le projet consiste en la démolition totale de la basilique lors d’une grande fête populaire“, peut-on lire à titre de justification.

In case people think this is off the wall the reason why the Basilica was built is well known (I lived in the same quartier des Grandes-Carrières …)

Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871[crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.

The inspiration for Sacré Cœur’s design originated on September 4, 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution, in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following that revolution, between devout Catholics and legitimist royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other. This schism in the French social order became particularly pronounced after the 1870 withdrawal of the French military garrison protecting the Vatican in Rome to the front of the Franco-Prussian War by Napoleon III, the secular uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-1871, and the subsequent 1871 defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.

Though today the Basilica is asserted to be dedicated in honour of the 58,000 who lost their lives during the war, the decree of the Assemblée nationale, 24 July 1873, responding to a request by the archbishop of Paris by voting its construction, specifies that it is to “expiate the crimes of the Commune“. Montmartre had been the site of the Commune’s first insurrection, and the Communards had executed Georges Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, who became a martyr for the resurgent Catholic Church. His successor Guibert, climbing the Butte Montmartre in October 1872, was reported to have had a vision, as clouds dispersed over the panorama: “It is here, it is here where the martyrs are,[7] it is here that the Sacred Heart must reign so that it can beckon all to come”.

In the moment of inertia following the resignation of the government of Adolphe Thiers, 24 May 1873, François Pie, bishop of Poitiers, expressed the national yearning for spiritual renewal— “the hour of the Church has come”—[9] that would be expressed through the “Government of Moral Order” of the Third Republic, which linked Catholic institutions with secular ones, in “a project of religious and national renewal, the main features of which were the restoration of monarchy and the defense of Rome within a cultural framework of official piety”, of which Sacré-Cœur is the chief lasting triumphalist monument.

The decree voting its construction as a “matter of public utility”, 24 July, followed close on Thiers’ resignation. The project was expressed by the Church as a National Vow (Vœu national) and financial support came from parishes throughout France. The dedicatory inscription records the Basilica as the accomplishment of a vow by Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury, ratified by Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert, Archbishop of Paris. The project took many years to complete.

Wikipedia

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm

‘Left’ Brexit collapses as Theresa May poised to announce end of free movement for new EU migrants next month.

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Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and others at a dinner table

Brexit Nothing to do with Trump as Brexit ‘left’. (Dinner with Donald – Saturday Night)

A few days ago Counterfire published this arrogant article,

Those who are trying to block Brexit, using anti-racist and pro-migrant arguments need to think again, argues Shabbir Lakha

In arguing to block Brexit, people are whitewashing what the EU as an institution actually is. We are now over 6 months on from the EU referendum and the debates on whether or not we should stay in the EU should long be over, but some have taken to fighting to stay in the EU at all costs and have even tried to make opposing Brexit a precondition to stopping Trump.

..

Let’s stop pretending the EU is some bastion of human rights and anti-racism, when in fact, it has a record of the opposite, and let’s unite around fighting racism, and for a People’s Brexit instead of a Tory one.

Well the Tory Brexit is the only one we’ve got.

And leaving the EU is certainly not helping the cause of anti-racism.

The superior sounding moralist Lakha thinks that EU “neo-liberalism” has ” both disenfranchised people and fuelled racism.”

What words will Counterfire find for this Brexit move?

Theresa May poised to announce end of free movement for new EU migrants next month.

Theresa May is next month poised to announce the end of free movement for new EU migrants on the same day that she formally triggers Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister is expected to say that EU citizens who travel to Britain after she triggers Article 50 will no longer have the automatic right to stay in the UK permanently.

They will instead be subject to migration curbs after Britain leaves the European Union, which could include a new visa regime and restricted access to benefits.

Mrs May is expected to say that EU migrants who arrived in the UK before the “cut-off date” will have their rights protected as long British citizens living elsewhere in Europe are granted the same assurance.

Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Eurosceptic conservative MP, said that that announcement will show that Mrs May is taking control of Britain’s borders while giving clarity to the 3.6million EU migrants already living in the UK.

He said: “Theresa understands that if you want to take control you have to command the high ground. She will be giving clarity by setting a clear deadline while the European Union looks increasingly muddled and mean-spirited“.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2017 at 1:20 pm

“Affaire Meklat” – Marcelin Deschamps, Racist, Homophobe, Anti-Semitic ‘Voice of the Banlieue.”

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Image result for affaire Mehdi Meklat

Mehdi Meklat “Voice of the Banlieue.”

Mehdi Meklat (more details here), who has written extensively  on Bondy Blog (set up to express “ la diversité ethnique and to be “la voix des quartiers”) who has contributed to France Inter and Arte, is the co-author of the books Burn Out and Minute, has been caught out.

 Meklat was promoted by French left outlets such as Les Inrockuptibles and has appeared on his cover with former Justice Minister  Christiane Taubira. The magazine presented him as the “voice of youth and the Estates, “a new generation from the banlieue.”

Following his latest promotion on the front cover of Les Inrockuptibles it has become public that he is the author of extreme racist, anti-semitic and homophobic – and just plain violent misogynistic gobshite  – on Twitter under the name of his ‘alter ego’, Deschamps (apparently a ‘funny’ play on the conceptual artist , has dominated the French media over the last week. (Affaire des tweets de Mehdi Meklat).

Le Monde devoted an Editorial to the affair (L’affaire Mehdi Meklat, révélatrice de deux sociétés qui ne se rencontrent pas. 22.2.017).

The daily noted the decline of open-minded humanist voices in the banlieue, and the growth of the ‘identitarian extreme-right, both indigenous, around the Front National,  and Islamist, in conditions of mass unemployment and social exclusion. In this instance Meklat revealed a  swelling tide of “la violence rhétorique”. It deplored the tolerance given in social media to far from “anodyne” verbal violence, which, experience showed,  can lead to more dangerous consequences.

More details: Le Monde,  Le chroniqueur Mehdi Meklat rattrapé par ses tweets haineux (21.02.17)

« Faites entrer Hitler pour tuer les juifs » (24 février 2012) ; « Je crache des glaires sur la sale gueule de Charb et tous ceux de Charlie Hebdo » (30 décembre 2012).

(Bring Hitler to kill the Jews. I gob phlegm in the dirty mug of Charb and all the Charlie Hebdo lot.)

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/0*v8Px6yFJQbVlphWg.

AS the re-tweet indicates he has a real problems with women, calling for sodomising them, amongst other vile comments.

The targets, as “Mr Hyde” Deschamps included: « les homos », « les juifs », « Charlie », « les transsexuels », « les Français », « les lesbiennes », « les femmes ».

Particularly women.

He, like many racists, homophobes and ‘left’ apologists for Islamism,  has a particular hatred of gay secularist Caroline Fourest, whom he has accused  of paedophilia.

Image result for Caroline FOurest Mehdi Meklat

Those who promoted this individual are having a hard time explaining this activity, which took place from 2011 to 2015, away.

 

 

Socialist Workers Party: Copeland Defeat after Corbyn dropped “opposition to Nuclear Power and Trident.”

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Image result for nuclear power no thanks

SWP: Corbyn Dropped Opposition to Nuclear Power.

It is often remarked that us Leftist Trainspotters have a keen interest in the more…well let’s just say unusual, exotic, plain barmy groups on the left.

This Blog is equally celebrated, if not in song, as least in the odd pint of Special Bitter, for its efforts to bring the wisdom of George Galloway to a wider audience.

The following statement from the Socialist Workers Party, which argues that  the underlying reason for Labour’s defeat in the Copeland by-election, lies in Jeremy Corbyn turning “ his back on his anti-nuclear principles“, marks the entry of the SWP into the proud ranks of the Posadists, ‘Loony Bins’ Greenstein, the WWSS, Gerry Downing and the Sparts (Continuity Faction).

After Stoke and Copeland by-elections, how can Labour move forward? Socialist Worker. by Nick Clark

Labour’s share of the vote has dropped steadily in both Stoke and Copeland for at least the past fifteen years—long before Corbyn was leader. The picture is the same in numbers of Labour seats across Britain.

There is a long-tern process of disillusionment with a Labour Party that has not acted in working class people’s interests.

Workers have suffered for years with attacks on wages, jobs and living standards—a process Labour wedded itself to.

Defending the NHS was supposed to save Labour in Copeland. The only feature of Labour candidate Gillian Troughton’s campaign was that she was against the Tory attempt to close Copeland’s maternity service.

It’s a big issue in Copeland, but it didn’t save Labour. Perhaps people just didn’t think that voting Labour would make a real difference.

Comrade Clarke then sagely notes:

Corbyn has not been able to turn round Labour’s decline. He has been undermined and weakened by constant attacks from right-wingers. This intensifies the sense that Labour is divided and ineffectual.

But sniping from the MPs is always going to be a problem for a left Labour leader. In an effort to overcome such pressures, Corbyn promised to break Labour from the mainstream political consensus in two leadership elections and a “populist relaunch” earlier this year.

Instead he has made crucial concessions to the right in a bid to keep them onside.

Corbyn dropped his opposition to nuclear power and Trident nuclear weapons.

He gave in to right wing arguments, particularly from the Unite and GMB union leaders, that being against nuclear power and Trident weapons would mean attacks on jobs. But Corbyn does not seem credible when he turns his back on his anti-nuclear principles. Labour lost anyway and missed the chance to win over at least some people.

….

Before the election this was observed,

Labour’s big problem is whether voters in Copeland believe Corbyn supports nuclear power. The party leader has insisted he was right behind Sellafield, the nuclear decommissioning site that is the constituency’s biggest employer, as well as Moorside, a multibillion-pound nuclear power plant which the government insists will be built next door despite huge financial problems engulfing the major backer, Toshiba. But there are doubts. (Guardian).

Even Lindsey German of the far from sound as a bell, Counterfire,  registers that,

The constituency was already a marginal, the Tories are well ahead in the polls, the issue of nuclear power is central and there were fears over jobs.

The SWP’s answer to Labour’s problems?

Big demonstrations against Trump and racism, and in defence of the NHS are a start.

Indeed.

 

*******

Background:  We don’t need nuclear power (Socialist Worker. 2013. – the most recent article SW devoted to this issue…?)

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Stoke and Copeland By-Elections, the Aftermath.

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Both constituencies have been let down by the political establishment – Corbyn on by-election results. Labour List.

This is the full statement published by Jeremy Corbyn in the aftermath of the results of the two by-elections.

Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.

In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.

To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.

The Stoke victory is important, (Independent)

Labour has secured an emphatic victory in Stoke-on-Trent Central after fending off Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, raising doubts over the right-wing party’s ability to capitalise on Brexit.

Labour’s Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to Ukip’s 5,233, said the result showed “hatred and bigotry” were not welcome in Stoke, a former industrial city which has been a safe Labour seat since 1950.

Mr Nuttall managed to increase Ukip’s share of the vote by just two per cent despite the city’s strong support for leaving the EU.

The Conservative candidate, Jack Brereton, was narrowly pushed into third place with 5,154 votes, while the Liberal Democrats finished in fourth place with 2,083 votes. Turnout was just 38 per cent.

“Over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that,” Mr Snell said in his victory speech.

“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.

“Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed.

“Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear.

“We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.”

But…. the “political establishment” and the “political consensus” around Theresa May show no signs of weakening after the Copeland result.

John McDonnell has insisted the Labour Party leadership is not in denial as he blamed disunity in the party for its humiliating defeat in the Copeland by-election.

The shadow chancellor said Labour would “learn lessons” from the result, but said it had not been a verdict on the party leader. “This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn,” McDonnell said.

“We are in a difficult period over these last 20 months because of these leadership challenges and the divisions that have been sown within our party.  The vast majority of our members want us now to unite and to campaign and hold the government to account, and that’s what we will do,” he told the BBC.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme, McDonnell was asked if he was in “denial” about the the position the party found itself in. “Not at all,” he said. “Quite the reverse.”

And he blamed Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for launching “attacks” on the party in the days leading up to the vote. “Please don’t do that,” he said.

Copeland has been held by the party since it was formed in 1983 but Tory Trudy Harrison snatched it by 2,147 votes in a historic victory. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade. Harrison polled 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour’s Gillian Troughton.

John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said Labour under Corbyn was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat”. He added: “We are in trouble as a party.”

Jamie Reed, the former Labour MP for Copeland whose decision to resign from parliament triggered the by-election also warned his former colleagues they were in trouble.

Labour backbencher David Winnick told the Press Association Corbyn should consider his position.

The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that,” he said.

“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”

Labour’s majority in the Copeland at the general election was just 2,564. But for an opposition to lose a seat to the party of power in a mid-term vote is extremely rare.

The last time it happened was the 1982 Merton, Mitcham and Morden by-election, although technically it was a Conservative gain from SDP as the sitting MP had defected from Labour to the SDP before the poll. Before that, the closest comparable case was Sunderland South in 1953.

Labour earlier held Stoke-on-Trent Central after seeing off a concerted challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.

But Corbyn admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. “Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty,” he said.

“But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland. In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.

“To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”

Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the Tory victory in Copeland was not just a rejection of Corbyn but a pro-active “endorsement of the Conservative Party”.

Comment:

Mandelson and Blair’s interventions have helped nobody but themselves, and the former Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, from somebody with the politics of liberal globalisation,  has only done harm to those left-wing pro-Europeans who wish for ‘Another Europe is Possible”.

What effect this may have had on these by-elections is pure conjecture.

Whether one likes it or not this article in the New Statesman, a cold shower of scepticism, is a necessary warning to those wishing to explain away the Copeland defeat: 5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat. Other than Labour, of course. (Media Mole).

Whatever one thinks of Corbyn, for or against, and all points in-between, there remain the overriding problem of how to “reconnect with voters.”

The result is considered by one of Europe’s leading dailies, Le Monde, to be related to Corbyn’s “attitude ambiguë” towards Brexit. “Cette confusion” they note, supporting Theresa May in voting for Brexit plans, but claiming to not give her a “chèque en blanc” has eroded  Labour supporters’ hopes (Royaume-Uni : défaite cuisante des travaillistes à une élection partielle.)

But would a call for Labour to be clearly opposed to Brexit and appeal to Remain voters work?

Given the divisions amongst those who may vote Labour but are not firm Labour supporters, this is unlikely to provide an answer.

But is this: a call for more internal uncertainty?

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..

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Image result for Trump Brexit

Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.

Don’t lump together Brexit and Trump.

Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.

There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.

It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.

And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.

Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.

There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.

Myths

Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.

But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.

Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.

It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.

It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.

There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.

But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.

It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.

Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.

It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit  was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”

It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.

It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe)  and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.

No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.

How Brexit  was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.

One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.

As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.

This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).

On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”

Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’[8]

Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.

In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.

Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.

Now, how exactly  is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others  that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?

 

British Liberals Go Macronmania.

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Image result for macron reunion a londres facebook

 

French Presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron visited Britain yesterday.

There was great interest in this trip.

Macron is said set to make it through to the final two-round contest against Le Pen since the Republican candidate Francois Fillon has been enveloped in the “Penelopegate” scandal.

Though few would be certain about the French polls at present, as this one (also yesterday) indicates: SONDAGE. Fillon repasse devant Macron, Mélenchon rattrape Hamon. Emmanuel Macron’s rating how gone down, to between (First Round) 17% – 18,5%, with Fillon at 20%.

The alt- and far-right Express headlines,

Macron blasted for ‘abusing’ British hospitality and ‘making enemies’ during London visit

FRENCH presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has “made many enemies in Britain” by “abusing” Theresa May’s hospitality to slam Brexit on the steps of Downing Street, the leader of a powerful Tory think tank has blasted.

A more sober account appears on the France 24 site,

It is unusual for a British prime minister to host a foreign candidate for elected office, although Downing Street noted that former prime minister Tony Blair had hosted Nicolas Sarkozy months before he became French president in 2007.

“Monsieur Macron was already in London, he asked for a meeting and we were able to accommodate,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

Asked if May would be prepared to meet Le Pen, he said: “There’s a long-standing policy that we don’t engage with the Front National.”

Conservative leader May promised a close post-Brexit relationship with France on security and defence as she met with French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in London on Friday.

The Guardian reported,

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate for the French presidency, has vowed his campaign will learn from the mistakes of David Cameron’s Brexit and Hillary Clinton’s failed election campaign by being boldly pro-liberal and pro-Europe.

Speaking after a meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street on Tuesday, Macron defended his decision to be unambiguous in his views as he fights a campaign against the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, saying: “In the current environment, if you are shy, you are dead.”

He added: “In the current environment, when extremes and anti-globalisation win elections, that is probably the best moment for France to decide to do the opposite.”

Le Monde described his Rally at Central Hall,

Largement composé de jeunes employés dans la finance ou d’entrepreneurs, le public du Central Hall, grandiose salle de congrès de style 1900 surmontée d’un orgue géant, a bu du petit-lait quand l’ancien ministre a fustigé le système fiscal français qui « empêche les gens de réussir trop bien ».

The former Minister addressed an audience, largely made up of young employees in finance or entrepreneurs, at (the Methodist) Central Hall, an enormous conference Chamber in 1900 style complete with a giant Organ. His denunciation of the French tax system,  an “obstacle to those who succeed too well”, was music to their ears.

« En France, on stigmatise l’échec et on n’aime pas le succès, a-t-il insisté, alors on va le chercher ailleurs. »

‘In France we vilify failure and we don’t like the successful”, he emphasised, “so people leave the country to try  their luck.”

Libération summarised the speech bluntly, “Macron caresse dans le sens du poil les Français de Londres” – he flattered and buttered up the London French.

They noted this, ” Il y a même des Britanniques, dont l’ancien ministre à l’Europe de Tony Blair, le travailliste Denis MacShane, venu «en observateur».

We do hope  Denis is keeping well.

Yesterday on British news programmes the visit was top news.

Newsnight followed reports with a discussion as to whether Macron and his political ‘party’ or rally, En Marche! represents a fight-back against ‘populism’ from the liberal centre.

Polly Toynbee’s admiration for Macron has been echoed by a number of pundits, although divisions between pro-EU centre-left and centre-right were quickly apparent in the studio that followed.

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As the le Monde report indicates, Macron stands all too clearly for the ‘winners’.

Not everybody is a winner.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 22, 2017 at 1:07 pm

One Day Without Us.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor

1 Day Without Us was a National Day of Action on 20th Feb 2017 to celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK, to coincide with UN World Day of Social Justice.

For 24 hours, we invited migrants from inside and outside the European Union, and everyone who supports them, to celebrate the contribution that migrants make.

We would like to thank everyone who took part across the UK and on social media, it was really an amazing day full of ideas, creativity and inspiration.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm

France: No Agreement between Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon as Communists Make Move Towards…Hamon.

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No Left Unity Between Mélenchon and Hamon.

French left remains divided as no agreement has been reached  between Mélenchon and Hamon for the French Presidential elections.

Or as Libération puts it,

Hamon-Mélenchon : «C’est mort»

While both sides have thrown the responsibility for a failure to reach any kind of accord on the other it is clear that Hamon, the Parti Socialist candidate, was never going to respond to  Mélenchon’s demand that he rejects everybody in his own party that the Leader of La France insoumise does not approve or agree with.

After a  narrow vote to back  Mélenchon last November (53,6%) over the last weeks there has been an intense debate inside the Parti Communiste Français (PCF). They have been clearly not pleased that  Mélenchon wishes them to abandon their own candidates for the Legislative elections (immediately after the Presidential contest) in favour of those chosen by the Leader of the La France Insoumise and his other demands, such as as finance for his Hologram studded electoral campaign.

Matters came to a head last week with this statement.

Un appel intitulé « PCF : sortons de l’immobilisme », qui a recueilli plus de 600 signatures en quarante-huit heures, plaide pour « une candidature commune pour la présidentielle . (le Monde)

This call for a common left candidate was clearly aimed at one target. As a supporter said, “a stratégie du tout ou rien de Jean-Luc Mélenchon » the strategy of all or nothing ” leads nowhere.

A rival appeal,  Les communistes qui soutiennent Mélenchon se mobilisent called for support to the ‘left populist’

Today’s Libé notes,

Et du côté du Parti communiste, pourtant soutien critique de Mélenchon dans cette présidentielle, les choses pourraient aussi bouger cette semaine. La direction du PCF promet ainsi d’«autres initiatives» pour œuvrer en faveur de l’union de la gauche.Ce lundi, à l’issue de sa réunion hebdomadaire, l’exécutif PCF prévoit de diffuser une déclaration visant les conditions d’une possible «majorité politique de gauche».«Jean-Luc Mélenchon a raison lorsqu’il fait un certain nombre d’observations et de propositions à Benoît Hamon, mais son discours général et son positionnement actuel l’éloignent des décisions et des objectifs politiques des communistes»

On the Communist side things could move this week, despite their critical support for Mélenchon in the Presidential election. The leadership of the PCF promise “other initiatives” to work in favour of a  union of the left. This Monday, at the end of their weekly meeting, the PCF Executive will launch a declaration that envisages the conditions for a potential “left political majority”. Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is right to make some points about Benoît Hamon and the positions he takes, but his wider statements and his political positions are distant from the present positions and aims of the Communists

In other words, they have made the first steps towards an agreement with Hamon.

If supporters of the Green Party voted last week for left unity it now looks more than possible that they will also align with Hamon (EELV. 90 % des militants favorables à une alliance Jadot-Hamon-Mélenchon).

Important article arguing that the French radical left should back Hamon: Benoît Hamon : un vote trompe-la-mort.

The journal, Contretemps, is part this ‘gauche de la gauche’.

After an extremely hard attack on Mélenchon’s version of “left wing populism” advanced by Laclau and Mouffe and the politics and personality of the Leader of la France insoumise, is described as a ” républicain conservateur et d’homme d’ordre.”

Thus: a list of things that have sorely rankled with the French left, such as Mélenchon’s “refus de condamner les violences policières en France, sa position sur les réfugiés et les travailleurs détachés, sa mitterrandolâtrie, son chauvinisme” refusal to condemn police violence in France, his position on refugees and posted (that is, migrant) workers, his idealisation of François Mitterrand, and his chauvinism.

And… his, “tropisme anti-étatsunien en matière internationale qui l’amène à traiter avec une certaine bienveillance le régime de Hafez el-Assad, ainsi que le rôle joué en Syrie par Vladimir Poutine, etc.” His anti-American tendencies, which has led him to look with a degree of warmth the Assad regime, and the role of Vladimir Putin in Syria.

On Hamon he says, “Si Hamon ne trahit pas ses engagements sociaux-démocrates de gauche il créera une dynamique positive, interne et externe, qui l’amènera à prendre le pouvoir dans le parti et à regrouper l’ensemble de la gauche.”

“If he does not betray his left social democratic commitments, he will create a positive momentum, both internally and externally (to the Socialists, note), which will help him take the party leadership, and to regroup the whole of the left.”

Marlière has spoken at the LRC AGM. He is at home in the French (he was part the Front de gauche after a background in the Parti Socialiste left) and British left. He teaches at King’s College London and has been published in the Guardian/Observer.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Marine Le Pen in Fake Job Scandal as Poll gives 44% of Working Class Voters behind her Presidential Bid.

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This story has been rumbling on for the last few weeks, but this is the first proper report in English, from the always-worth looking at France 24 site (the French language version often covers different stories and is also well worth reading).

Bearing in mind that Marine Le Pen heads French polls (and by far and away, is the strongest candidate amongst working class voters at 44% ) – though is unlikely to get from the first round in the Presidential elections to win in the second.

Répartition des intentions de vote au premier tour de la présidentielle selon la catégorie socioprofessionnelle (enquête Cevipof).

Le Monde.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday vehemently denied having ever admitted to anti-fraud investigators that she misused EU funds to pay her bodyguard, saying she is the target of outright lies.

“It’s a shameless lie, I have never admitted such a thing to investigators,” the National Front leader told French radio France Bleu Besançon.

The comments come after French investigative news site Mediapart and weekly Marianne on Thursday published extracts of a report by the European anti-fraud body (OLAF) which claimed that Le Pen had admitted to falsely employing at least one of her staff as an EU parliamentary assistant.

According to the extracts of the report, Le Pen had defended the move, claiming the parliament owed her and her party money from unpaid salaries and expenses.

But according to Le Pen, this conversation with investigators never took place.

“I never even saw the sight of them [the investigators],” she said.

The persistent scandal, which erupted when the report was handed to French judges last year, is a needle in the eye for the 48-year-old whose bid for the French presidency had been picking up steam after it was revealed last month that her main rival, conservative presidential nominee François Fillon, paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros by employing her as his assistant in the French parliament – a job the weekly Le Canard Enchainé claims she did not actually do.

Who said what?

European anti-fraud investigators say that Le Pen used European Parliament funds to pay her bodyguard, Thierry Légier, a total of €41,554 between October and December in 2011 by falsely claiming he was an EU parliamentary assistant. In the report, they claim that Le Pen acknowledged that she did not employ Légier in that capacity during those three months.

Le Pen is also accused of having signed off on a similar contract for her France-based assistant Catherine Griset, to whom a total of nearly €298,500 was paid out between December 2010 and February 2016.

In the report, investigators allege that “Le Pen had the European Parliament employ Madame Catherine Griset as a parliamentary assistant accredited in Brussels whereas she has been serving as her personal assistant at her party headquarters in France since December 2010”.

To qualify as an EU parliamentary assistant, the person needs to work in one of the parliament’s three offices – in either Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg – and is required to reside in the vicinity of his or her workplace.

Refuses to repay

The EU parliament has sought to recover the funds – which amount to almost €340,000 in all – claiming the two employees worked as Le Pen’s own staff rather than parliamentary assistants, but Le Pen has so far refused to repay them, denying any wrong-doing.

“In order to reimburse, I’d have had to have received the funds, but my name isn’t François Fillon,” Le Pen was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying earlier this month.

“Moreover, I formally contest this unilateral and illegal decision,” Le Pen told AFP.

Her failure to repay the EU parliament means Le Pen faces a pay cut of some €7,000 a month as punishment.

French investigators have also opened a preliminary inquiry for fraud following the claims made in the OLAF report.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Momentum’s Crisis: Serious Debate Breaks Out.

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Image result for chesterfield socialist conference

From Socialist Movement to…..Momentum?

“Momentum exists to build on the energy and enthusiasm from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign to increase participatory democracy, solidarity, and grassroots power and help Labour become the transformative governing party of the 21st century.”

A common assumption on the Labour Left, so deep rooted that it almost never said, is that the main failure of previous Parliamentary left groupings is that they needed organisation in the country. At the back of their minds I imagine are the “Brains Trusts” set up up in support of Bevan’s ideas in the 1950s, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the 70s and 80s, and the Socialist Movement.

If the first had problems in moblising and co-ordinating with the Parliamentary left around  Aneurin Bevan and his (dispersed) successors, the second was and is a grass-roots body focused on labour constitutional issues (MP re-selection), NEC elections,  the third came closest to the Social Movement model some saw in Momentum.

The Socialist Movement grew out of the Socialist Conferences held in Chesterfield, Sheffiled and Manchester, in the years following the defeat of liners’ strike. Initiators included the Socialist Society, an organisation of left intellectuals including Raymond Williams,  Richard Kuper, and Ralph Miliband, the Campaign Group, a left-wing group in the Labour Party, the Conference of Socialist Economists, and the network generated by the socialist feminist book Beyond the Fragments. The largest conferences were in 1987 and 1988.

The Socialist Movement was open to different left traditions, green as well as red, for exploratory, grassroots debate and research on socialist policy making.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

Is Momentum A Socialist Conference bis?

Unlike the Chesterfield events, still cresting the ebbing Bennite wave, its role was not clear from the start.

Is ‘participatory democracy’ channeled into supporting Corbyn the Labour Leader?

That would result in the kind of ‘left populism’ attempted by Jean Luc Mélenchon  in La France Insoumise and (in a different more democratic way) Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias, around a rather unlikely figure, who, to his credit has always refused the role of Chief around which everything else revolves.

Or does it mean trying to work in the policy areas that the Socialist Movement tried to think out? Given that Labour seems short of clear policies on a variety of issues – the Welfare state, a recent announcement of a group looking into Basic Income might be one sector where Momentum could contribute?

What structures does it have for this purpose?

Does it mean taking up issues of ‘grassroots power’, which many would take to imply changing the Labour Party’s present make-up with a “movement” that moblises on more than electoral issues?

Or is to be a kind of super Bevanite Brain’s Trust, that Bean never managed to hook up with, that can carry Corbyn’s message from the party into the country?

These are just some of the background issues behind the present crisis in Momentum.

The most recent Workers’ Liberty carries this exchange:  A debate about Momentum   (Solidarity. 15.2.17).

“This explanation by Jon Lansman of recent events in Momentum was circulated in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Since it contains nothing confidential, and is the only political explanation available from the Momentum leadership other than the article by Christine Shawcroft in Labour Briefing (Feb 2017), which we replied to last week, we reprint it here.”

Jon Lansman.

I wanted also to counter the lies and misinformation which are widely repeated by sectarian elements on the Left who wish to turn Momentum from a broad alliance it was intended to be, seeking to maintain the broad centre-left coalition that elected Jeremy Corbyn to support his administration, democratise the party along the lines long advocated by CLPD, and help Labour win elections into a hard-Left organisation reminiscent of the LRC designed to put pressure on Jeremy from the left.

There has been no “coup” within Momentum, though there had been an attempt over the last year by various Trotskyist and other sectarian organisations to use Momentum local groups, often at the cost of driving away non-aligned activists, as a basis for seizing control of regional networks and the former national committee of Momentum. It became very clear how wide the disparity had become between these bodies and the membership of Momentum from the survey conducted in conjunction with a pre-Christmas message from Jeremy Corbyn.

Lansman takes account of what observers have predicted for months, that a National Momentum Conference risked becoming a sectarian bear-pit,

  • We could battle for two months in the run up to a planned national delegate conference narrowly foisted on the national committee — with some delegates who disagreed being forced to vote in favour in spite of having been elected by STV in order to preserve the pluralism of regional representatives, which would inevitably have undermined efforts to maximise left representation at this year’s conference, support local Momentum activists in preparing for CLP AGMs, and mobilise for by-elections and a possible early general election.
  • We could avoid this internal battle, by calling immediate elections for a new national body based on a new constitution reflecting the wishes of members as revealed in the survey and circulated for agreement of members in the way we would have had to do at some point anyway.

Avoiding this predictable fight was the goal.

This is something critics have to grapple with.

Lansman  also notes,

I have personally been subjected to appalling abuse to which it is difficult to respond without simply perpetuating their attempt to personalise “blame” for the alleged wrongs of which they unfairly accuse me. I regret that Martin [Thomas] has chosen to act in this way. I have worked with him within CLPD since the early 1980s. I have done so because he and his colleagues from Socialist Organiser, as his organisation was originally known, showed a genuine commitment to CLPD they never showed to the LRC or any other left organisations in which they pursued the opportunistic self-interested methods we are used to from all Trotskyist sects.

I halt at this point because there is little doubt that Jon Lansman is absolutely right to complain about the abuse.

This is how one of his leading critics, Tony Greenstein, thought by some people to be a “genius” described his action in promoting an on-line survey of Momentum members,  all too recently ( Jon Lansman’s Xmas Punch Could Sucker Corbyn)

There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.

Greenstein some might say is a special case, whose vitriol is hurled  at present lie at another target:  Owen Jones – the Final Betrayal – Supporting Zionist Apartheid & the Jewish Labour Movement.  Supporting Israeli Apartheid and the Palestinians is not compatible.

But he is far from alone.

It would take a moment’s Googling to find more abuse.

Now Alan Thomas is, from the AWL, a respected activist and writer, but his reply on this point, is not convincing,

Jon Lansman identifies “sectarian elements” almost entirely with us (“Trotskyists”), but at the same time finds these “sectarians” so numerous among Momentum’s 21,000 members that the clash can be resolved only by abolishing Momentum democracy. At stake here is no “sectarianism” of ours, but the issue of what socialism is and how it can be won.

The liberation of the working class can be won only by a vivid movement where each participant is a lively contributor with her or his own ideas; which is full of bouncy debate; in which even the deepest prejudices and the most revered leaders are subject to question. In a new movement like Momentum, we have reasoned patiently and tactfully, rather than bloviating.

I leave to one side the claims about the AWL, often made by people with their own political – ‘sectarian’ agenda.

The fact is that if we can define sectarians at all – a hard task –  it is that they are loudmouths who are in a permanent storm of self-righteous attack.

Often they come out of the pages of William Hazlitt’s People with One Idea,

People of the character here spoken of, that is, who tease you to death with some one idea, generally differ in their favourite notion from the rest of the world; and indeed it is the love of distinction which is mostly at the bottom of this peculiarity.

Table Talk : Essays on Men and Manners (1821 -22)

Other times they are loyal simply to their faction, with no other loyalties.

Those familiar with the left could write a new essay, People with Too Many Correct Ideas…

One is always the Other Sectarian for a Sectarian…..

But I digress…

There are many other problems about Momentum, but whether they are numerous or not, they are still loud. Shouty. And, in Greenstein’s case – I single him out for his visibility but he is far from alone –  highly unpleasant.

Greenstein and another ‘anti-Zionist’. Gerry Downing, are very active in the Momentum Grassroots Moblising Conference. 

This is what the former says, “Lansman’s Momentum is destined for the knackers yard because without democracy you cannot have a movement.”

More simply many people do not want to become involved in a shouting match between different left groups, or, if it happens on more cordial terms, a struggle for influence.

Alan is nevertheless spot on to comment,

Yet Momentum would have contributed more, not less, if it had actively promoted a left Remain vote, free movement across borders, opposition to Trident renewal. It would be stronger now if its national office as well as its local groups had campaigned in support of workers’ disputes like at Picturehouse, and for the NHS. It would have done better if (as we urged) it had organised a presence at Labour conference 2016. It would be healthier if it had had a proper discussion on left antisemitism (in which Jon Lansman and we would have been broadly on the same side), rather than trying to quell the issue administratively. All those things are not “sectarian” caprices, but would have happened if Momentum had been allowed to develop “normally”, democratically.

This is something that Lansman ignores, many people on the democratic left, and this includes the AWL agree on these policies.

We certainly need a voice for them.

Alan may equally well be often right to say,

The new imposed constitution is out of line even with the (heavily manipulated) online survey over Christmas. That suggested decisions by online voting of all members. Under the new constitution, online votes can scarcely even stall office decisions in extreme cases. Real power rests with the office and with a seldom-meeting “coordinating group” in which only 12 out of 28 or 32 places are elected by Momentum members.

10 January was a coup. Imagine its analogue in general politics: Theresa May declares that, on the strength of a 50%-plus-one majority got in an hour’s emailing round the Cabinet, she is abolishing Cabinet, Parliament, and an imminent general election in favour of office rule plus a future “coordinating group” in which elected citizens’ representatives are a minority. Or, if that’s too much, imagine the analogue in any other left movement. Despite it all, Momentum’s local groups will continue to organise, and I don’t think the panic-stricken officials can stop them.

But the real issue is not an organisational form, and behind that whether this or that factional grouping, or alliance, is competing for power in the structures.

It is what aims and functions  does Momentum have beyond rallying support for Corbyn.

Nothing that’s happened so far has disproved the judgement of many left-wingers that clear goals, from ‘think tank’ policy-formulating (that is as a pressure group within Labour with specific ideas), and a hook between Labour and a variety of campaigns (such as Stop Trump!, or union disputes) already have vehicles in Constituency parties, Trades Councils and other bodies.

Many of us are all in favour of Momentum finding some way out of this dispute, a modus vivendi.

But…..

Momentum includes people like Nick Wrack who state (RETHINKING LABOUR: MORE OF THE SAME OR CHANGE OF COURSE?)

… it is important to recognise that there is a huge difference – a vast chasm – between what is called social democracy and socialism or communism. I use socialism and communism as synonyms for a system that is based on a complete transformation of society, breaking with the present capitalist system and the exploitation of labour to make profit. Socialism is a society based on democratic common ownership of the means of production – land, factories, transport, technology and science. It is a society based on production for social need rather than for private profit.

…..I am now of the opinion that all Marxists should, at the very least, join Momentum. We can play a key role in helping to defend Corbyn and defeating the right. Where possible, therefore, Marxists should also join Labour. This is best done as an organised group, rather than as individuals. The purpose of joining is two-fold: to strengthen the forces in defence of Corbyn and against the rightwing in Labour and the trade unions and to argue for a Marxist ideas in the mass movement around Corbyn. There is no knowing how long this battle may last or what the outcome will be. Those coming into Momentum and into the Labour Party will include thousands of people who simply want change. But many will have no clear idea of what that change should be or how it can be accomplished. Marxists have to engage with the debate. What change? How can it be achieved? What programme is necessary?

So what is he doing trying to join or influence a social democratic party?

Wrack’s position, which is shared by others,  is not so easy to dismiss as the notorious cranks who insult ‘reformists’ , ‘Zionists’ and the rest.

It is, crudely, that Momentum should be a kind of political mill pond for them to fish in to build their ‘Marxist’ line.

Never forgetting the “vast chasm” that separates them from social democracy, that is a very substantial chunk of the Labour Party membership and support.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2017 at 1:31 pm

The New Popular Delusions of Crowds: Fake News Hysteria Spreads.

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Image result for popular delusions and the madness of crowds

Must-Read Background to Mania For Fake News.

Everybody is aware of the Fake News uproar.

But the extent of the wave seems now to have reached something out of the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, (1841).

MacKay covered financial manias (South Sea Bubble, Tulip craze, John Law and  Mississippi Company), the Witch Persecution  and such topics as ” the influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard”, alchemy, prophecy, and mineral, and afterwards of animal, magnetism, and, halting the list here, how Quoz became the must-say London catchphrase,

When a disputant was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn, he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip and an impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as to believe him. Every alehouse resounded with Quoz; every street corner was noisy with it, and every wall for miles around was chalked with it.

No doubt Quoz is due for a revival, though I imagine that the later fashion for asking “Has your Mother Sold Her Mangle?” has had its day.

The Preface states, “THE OBJECT OF THE AUTHOR in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes.”

The first chapter starts, “IN READING THE HISTORY OF NATIONS, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. “

Today Magnetisers, alchemists, fortune tellers and prophets have their own Twitter Accounts and Web sites.

The Internet means no doubt that ‘nations’ of posters and viewers, not to mention re-posters and commentators, are much, much, bigger. When they “go mad” the scale is beyond counting. It has become both a Baudrillardian “hyper-reality” and a “hypo-reality”, the beyond and beneath of the factual.

These are just a few examples:

https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2016-05/18/13/enhanced/buzzfeed-prod-web01/enhanced-mid-29186-1463592423-3.jpg

This is more serious:

Image result for fake news examples

This is  more serious (Reuters 2 days ago)

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is a “fake news” target of Russian media and his campaign is facing thousands of cyber attacks, his party chief said on Monday.

Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! (Onwards!) party, said that Russian state-controlled media Russia Today and Sputnik had spread false reports with the aim of swinging public opinion against Macron.

An independent centrist, Macron has surged in campaigning for the French election and opinion polls make him favorite to win election in May.

Ferrand said that Macron, as a staunch pro-European, was a Russian target because he wanted a strong united Europe that had a major role to play in world affairs, including in the face of Moscow.

Sputnik earlier this month ran an interview with a conservative French lawmaker accusing Macron, a former investment banker, of being an agent of “the big American banking system”.

“Two big media outlets belonging to the Russian state Russia Today and Sputnik spread fake news on a daily basis, and then they are picked up, quoted and influence the democratic (process),” Ferrand said.

This is really a hell of a lot more serious:

The ‘news'(from the satirical site Le Gorafi) that Marine Le Pen proposed to build a wall around France, paid for by Algeria, was treated seriously in the Arab world.

“Marine Le Pen propose d’entourer la France d’un mur payé par l’Algérie” (France 24. 15.2.17.)

The story made the Front Pages:

https://i2.wp.com/scd.observers.france24.com/files/imagecache/1024x576/article_images/lepen-teaser.jpg

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2017 at 1:32 pm

More Splits Loom as Socialist Workers Party Tries to “defend” Brexit *and* Free Movement.

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Image result for UKIP migrants Brexit

SWP Says “racism whipped up by both sides in EU Vote.”

Latest Socialist Worker….

Racism was whipped up by both sides during the EU referendum. But the Leave vote was, as Labour’s Dianne Abbot argued, a “cry of rage against the Westminster elite”.

We have to fight to pull that anger at the establishment in a left wing and anti-racist direction.

To defend freedom of movement, we need unity no matter how people voted.

It’s the Tories and the bosses, not migrants, who slash wages, shut hospitals and schools and sack workers. To stop that assault on working class people we need to be united and resist all their attempts to divide us.

A danger is that defending migrants becomes tied to a defence of the EU’s neoliberal single market.

We have to argue for a socialist and anti-racist alternative—no to the single market, yes to free movement.

Socialist Worker. “United struggle can defend free movement.”

The SWP’s Alternative Fact Factory (London SE11 9BW) is working at full steam.

Busy out campaigning to Leave they perhaps missed the UKIP poster, which was only one of many xenophobic appeals which only one side produced.

Enrolling Dianne Abbott to their cause may not also be such a wizard prang.

Oddly Socialist Worker missed,  “Ms Abbott has consistently said that access to the single market and freedom of movement were “inextricably linked”.” (Express)

In case the Express is not good enough for you this is what she has tweeted,

There can be no unity with those who support the Brexit that Trump welcomes.

Dianne Abbot  also said this last year,

There is no trade-off between the Single Market and Freedom of Movement

Once Article 50 is triggered the eventual deal with Britain has to be ratified by all remaining members. They will in effect be negotiating with each other on the terms of Brexit, not with Britain. Eastern European governments in particular are adamant that there can be no concessions on Freedom of Movement.  They each have a veto.

Cameron failed because he ignored a key principle, that it is always important to understand the fundamental position of your negotiating partners. This has largely been ignored in the insular debate in Britain. Virtually all mainstream parties in Europe are committed to Freedom of Movement. This applies to left, right and centre on the political spectrum.

This is not because of ideology. It is because the European economy would grind to a halt with checks at every border crossing on every train and vehicle, and on the immigration status of the driver and her passengers. In the jargon, Freedom of Movement is one of the Four Pillars of the Single Market, enshrined in Treaty.  If one of the ‘pillars’ falls so does the whole edifice of the Single Market. Practically it is fundamental to the prosperity of the European countries, including Britain.

Given Germany’s pre-eminence in Europe, Chancellor Merkel will be the ultimate arbiter of what the EU agrees to offer in terms of Brexit. She recently told the German equivalent of the CBI that, “If we don’t insist that full access to the single market is tied to complete acceptance of the four basic freedoms, then a process will spread across Europe whereby everyone does and allowed what they want.”

We know that that this is not playing to gallery or an early negotiating stance because this has been the policy implemented in relation to countries such as Norway and Switzerland.  Norway is in the European Economic Area, which means it accepts all the rules, large and small of the Single Market in order to have access to it. Switzerland held its own referendum to restrict Freedom of Movement which was duly passed. But the EU has insisted that this is not implemented, and Switzerland has had to comply simply in order to get the limited but highly lucrative ‘passporting’ of its insurers.

Freedom of Movement is integral to the working of the Single Market. The Norwegian, Swiss and British governments have all tried and failed to separate Freedom of Movement from the Single Market. They all failed. The EU is not intransigent. It simply cannot offer what is demanded without destroying the Single Market. If Britain wants the Single Market, which is currently vital to our prosperity, it will have to drop the delusion that it can negotiate away Freedom of Movement.

A “movement that’s big enough and strong enough to give the Tories and their ilk a kicking.” does not need these false friends of free movement and migrants.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Reports that Labour Plans Regional Immigration controls as Sovereigntist Left Emerges in UK.

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Image result for sovereigntism

Sovereigntism: a  Dead End for the Left. 

Tom Watson: Labour plans ‘liberal’ immigration policy for London but tougher controls in other parts of UK HATTY COLLIER

The Independent reports,

Labour plans regional immigration system to tighten controls outside London

The system would likely require some kind of work or housing permit to be introduced.

Labour is planning a regionalised immigration policy that would allow higher immigration to London but tighter restrictions on moving to other parts of the country.

Deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday morning that Brexit presented the opportunity to fine-tune the UK’s border controls and that the plan was under discussion by the party.

Asked whether he thought immigration should be higher or lower across the UK, Mr Watson said: “I don’t think you can say that. I think you can actually say London requires more liberal immigration policies but there are other parts of the country where immigration may be putting pressure on public services like schools and hospitals.

“That’s why I think when we come out of the EU we can have an immigration policy that maybe addresses both those issues.

“These are nascent ideas, we’re not ready to make them robust in a manifesto yet but they’re certainly the debate that is going on in the Labour party right now and in wider circles.”

The approach could help resolve Labour’s dilemma of keeping both its metropolitan support and its support in former industrial areas happy on the issue.

The idea would likely require some kind of work or housing permit system to be introduced as the UK has no internal border controls to stop people settling where they want.

A policy tailor made for electoral gain?

We sincerely hope that this policy, – requiring perhaps a line to be drawn around ‘open city’ London for ‘foreigners’ who wish to work and live in the UK – is not going further than these news stories.

Indications are however that this could well be part of “a national popular politics”.

Like many countries, notably France, Britain is now seeing the development of a “sovereigntist” left that seeks to base politics on the Nation, or ‘national renewal”. In France it is said that this strategy is needed to answer the Front National’s appeal to, frankly, racist roots of national populism and “the” people, wrapped in moralistic politics.

In words that could come straight from this current, Jonathan Rutherford  wrote in yesterday’s Labour List (Labour can respond to Brexit by leading a popular politics that completes the shift away from Thatcherism)

The first is to define a British sovereignty and restore control of our borders and law making. The nation state, accountable to its population, and working through treaties, partnerships and alliances, remains the best means of managing globalisation in the interests of its own citizens. Britain needs constitutional and political reform of its union and its governance. The Brexit vote was an English vote and so the renovation of self-government in England should be a priority in a more federal UK. The free movement of labour must end and immigration brought under national democratic control. It is a case made by Tom Kibasi  and by Chuka Umunna.

It is hard to find a better definition of sovereigntism than these lines: the position that supreme power should be exercised by  nation state,  that ‘pooled sovereignty’ – that is the European Union – is a weakening of its force, that

The Labour ‘interest’ is apparently redefined,

‘ Labour must recast itself as a party of national renewal and reconstruct a broad national coalition around a sociologically changed labour interest. It is the only means by which it can take on populism, transcend its own cultural divisions, and regain its credibility as an opposition and a government in waiting. A national popular politics speaks for the labour interest within the culture of the nation. It means a Labour Party that represents the diversity of working people in the country defining their own interest and so their own shared common identity.

Since Rutherfod considers that Brexit is a “democratic  moment” those who opposed it are cast into the darkness of   the “minority, metropolitan interest”, not the “real” People.

“Those who voted to leave the EU are a moderate majority of mainstream England “who will respond to “national popular politics.”

The words about globalisation and so on should not fool us into thinking this is any way ‘anti-capitalist’. Who are the first targets of this critique? As can  be seen, a key part of this version of sovereigntism  is the assertion of control of the free movement of labour.

Inside London, freedom of movement, outside, restriction, passes, permits.

Not only would this be unworkable but frankly it is an insult to those who prime responsibility is to defend the cause of labour, the cause of all working people.

Internationalism is not the preserve of ” a tiny revanchist Marxism and the dried-up old bones of the hard left. The vacuum is filled by a small minority” with egalitarian identity politics.”

Once you give priority is given to ‘British’ control, “our” border and “our” law making you have to define who this “our” is.

How exactly this relates to ‘English’ power and the idea – floated and not yet sunk – of ‘federalism’  is left in the air.

A federal’ system would, perhaps, also weaken the Nation’s unifying power generating capacity….And what could be a purer example of ‘identity politics’ than tossing the word England into the political game?

Internationalism, that is not just defending universal rights, an injury to one is an injury to all, is the only practical way of standing up for the labour ‘interest’ when Capital weakens our living conditions, our wages and our ability…..to move freely.

We have common interests beyond the ‘national popular’.

But let that detail pass in the lyrical nationalism that is the hallmark of the sovereigntist left.

Amongst ” free nations and democracies.” Britain has a special place in Rutherford’s heart.

We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together. If we rise to the occasion in the years that are to come it may be found that once again we hold the key to opening a safe and happy future to humanity, and will gain for ourselves gratitude and fame.

Another is a belief in the special place of the nation, coincidentally the home country of those supporting this vision, in History.

The “special relationship” with the US is a sentimental one. In reality it is transactional and rarely reciprocal. So be it. Britain must use the genuine affection of the American people and find its points of leverage and use them profitably.

The third circle was once empire, then it became the commonwealth, and now Britain must reinvent this sphere of influence as a democratic moral leader, social connector, trader, ideas maker, and culture creator, in order to build relationships with other creative powers who know how to project themselves onto the world stage. It is in this sphere that Britain can play a role contributing to rethinking the global order.

Jonathan Rutherford ‘s national Messianism apart, this is populism, not any form of social democracy or democratic socialism.

On the one side are the ‘real’ people, moral, hard working, whose wishes Rutherford had a talent to divine.

On the other, the “dried up” hard left and identity politics, the “minority, metropolitan interest”.

There are more experienced populists out there who are likely to beat Rutherford at his own game, in the growing nationalist right of the Tory party to begin with.

A pluralist democratic left should not go down the same dead end.

 

 

 

Podemos Internal Dispute Ends with Iglesias’ Victory.

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Iglesias saluda ante la mirada de Errejón.

Pablo Iglesias ha ganado el duelo a Íñigo Errejón (El País)

Iglesias lo ha ganado todo: la secretaría general, la dirección y los cuatro documentos que se votaban: político, organizativo, ético y de igualdad. Como secretario general, ha sido refrendado por el 89% de los votos (128.700 sufragios) frente a los 15.700 del diputado autonómico andaluz Juan Moreno Yagüe (10,9%)

Iglesias has won everything…General secretary, the party leadership, and the vote on 4 party documents: on policies  organisation, ethics and equality. As General Secreary he has been elected with 89% of the vote (128,700) faced with the 15,700 of his opponents, the Andalusian regional deputy, Jaun Moreno  Yagüe who got 10,9%.

Background:

Leaders battle for soul of Spain’s Podemos at crucial congress France 24.

Pleading for “unity”, thousands of Podemos supporters gathered Saturday at a decisive two-day meeting in Madrid that could unseat the charismatic leader of one of Europe’s leading far-left parties.

Born in 2014 out of the Indignados anti-austerity protest movement that swept Spain during a severe economic crisis, the party has found itself riven by in-fighting after a meteoric rise to national-level politics.

But on Saturday, party leaders attempted to put these bitter divisions behind them as they took to the stage in a congress centre bathed in purple flags and banners, the colour of Podemos, in an electric atmosphere.

“We have committed many mistakes,” Pablo Iglesias, the party’s charismatic leader and co-founder, said while standing on stage behind huge block letters spelling out “Podemos”.

To wild applause, the 38-year-old added the weekend’s congress should be “an example of fraternity, unity and intelligence”.

Deutsche Welle reported,

The core internal party dispute is whether to stick to a hard-line leftist position, as advocated by Iglesias, or take a more moderate stance and move the party in the direction of the leftist political mainstream, a policy pushed by Errejon.

Iglesias wants to maintain Podemos’ anti-establishment roots and take to the streets again to challenge traditional parties.

Errejon seeks to find a middle ground with the Socialists (PSOE), the second-largest party, in order to influence policy from within the system and broaden Podemos’ appeal to moderate leftist voters.

A three-way coalition of Podemos, PSOE and the liberal Ciudadanos that could have challenged Mariano Rajoy’s ruling conservative People’s Party failed to materialize last year after two inconclusive elections.

A different perspective, which comes directly from a Tendency within Podemos, the Anticapitalistas (connected to the Fourth International),  sees three currents within Podemos.

Iglesias, Errejón, and the Road Not Taken. Josep María Antentas. (International Viewpoint 2017).

“The three factions within Podemos are represented by Pablo Iglesias, Íñigo Errejón, and the Anticapitalistas.”

These three currents all have radically different political projects. We can define Iglesias’s as pragmatic-instrumental populism mixed with impatient Eurocommunism, which differs in form from the original iteration by embracing the prospect of electoral victory. His combination of rebellious rhetoric with a moderate governmental horizon takes the Italian Communist Party’s Berlinguer era “historic compromise” with the Christian Democrats as its primary model — the policy of the historical compromise. Indeed, Iglesias uncritically embraces this legacy, failing to critically assess Syriza’s experience in this context.

We might summarize Iglesias’s proposal as belligerence in opposition, raison d’etat in government. In this sense, he maintains his orientation toward moderation but has realized that Podemos’s strength lies in its appearance as an anti-establishment force. As such, if the party were tamed, it would lose its social base, which Iglesias mainly anchors in the working and popular classes.

Iglesias’s proposal prioritizes electoral and institutional activity. In contrast to his position at Vistalegre, however, social struggle now at least plays a role in the strategy. His fiery discourse and praise for social struggle have created a better environment for radical and movement-oriented ideas within the party. Suddenly, those who had called for something other than the triad of “communication–campaigns–institutions” recognize that the general secretary had been partially converted. No doubt, this is a valuable change of atmosphere.

On the other hand, Íñigo Errejón’s political project is built on constructivist populism and aims to normalize Podemos. It calls for a peaceful transition in which the exhausted traditional parties are replaced with something new, exchanging elites, and very little else. Errejón wants to connect with the generational aspirations of young and middle-aged people, who are frustrated and broken by the crisis.

Errejón and his supporters’ call for “transversality” has swung between a serious discussion about building a new political majority and an excuse to smooth over all traces of radicalism. Behind this core idea lies a project mainly aimed at the middle classes, using post-class rhetoric to emphasize meritocracy and to call for a smooth transition toward a better future. It is focused at an amorphous political center that has become the imagined center of gravity for the people.

The rationale is to attract “the missing ones,” meaning to win over the voters who are not yet convinced that Podemos is trustworthy enough to run the Spanish state. As a result, it takes for granted that current Podemos voters will always remain loyal. However, they are likely to demobilize if the party forgets about them in its quest for respectability.

The Anticapitalistas.

Podemos has at least one other important current: the Anticapitalistas, which has sponsored the Podemos en Movimiento list at the upcoming congress. A key player since the beginning, Anticapitalistas’s strategy has always been to create a party built on the political potential that emerged up after 15-M, not only in terms of the electoral opportunity that had opened but also in terms of the new possibility for radical political and social change. The Anticapitalistas project attempts to synthesize radicalism’s ambition with building a majority.

Anticapitalistas has served as a movement party within Podemos. As such, it opposed the Vistalegre model that tried to transform 15-M’s legacy into electoral victory. It is organized around internal democracy and rank-and-file empowerment, focusing on external campaigns rather than internal quarrels. Its strategic perspective sees victory as a dialectical combination of self-organization, mobilization, elections, and institutional work — something deeper than just winning elections. To build this, Anticapitalistas has emphasized program discussions, which would allow the party to present serious alternative policies. Questions like debt and the banking system have centered these debates, trying to learn from Syriza’s fiasco — something Podemos’s leadership has always refused to do.

Working against the party’s main current since the beginning, this political wing has been central to Podemos’s trajectory, despite its small institutional power which has only weakened after Podemos’s expansion after the 2014 European election when Iglesias and Errejón were on the rise.

The Iglesias’ Triumph leaves a number of problems unresolved.

As Jamie Pastor notes (Etat espagnol. Podemos et le Congrès de Vistalegre II : se refonder sans se dénaturer from the Ensemble site, translated from Viento Sur, linked to the Anticapitalistas) the underlying ‘populist’ strategy of Podemos rests on “constructing a people” facing the ‘elites’ (the famous ‘casta’). Yet in reality they have moved in the direction of giving priority to  opposing the Right (the ruling  PP and Ciudadanos).

Their alliance with the left bloc,  Izquierda Unida, Unidos Podemos  known as Podemos–IU, for the 2016 General Election,  underpins a strategy that aims to assemble the Spanish left, that is focused on electoral majorities,  rather than, some critics allege,  the famous “transversality”.

This concept may be explained in this way,

Transversality can be understood as the act of building majorities. Not electoral majorities per se, but social majorities made up of identities based on common goals; building inclusive identities adapted to today’s society. An example is that of the identity of “working class”, which was a necessary identity when they were organizing to overcome their class conditions 50 years ago, but which is not appropriate to the modern world.

Juan Antonio Gil de los Santos Understanding Transversality: Spain’s Podemos

Podemos’ approach (strongly influenced by the political theorist, the academic  Ernesto Laclau) to ‘constructing the people’ has been over and above this stand, a constant As Pastor states it has become an interchangeable concept with the people (lower case), the nation, and the ‘citizens’ and has tended to give priority to the middle class as a point of reference. (“une idée du « peuple » a été maintenue de manière interchangeable avec « les gens », « la patrie » ou « les citoyens ». Une conception qui a eu comme tendance de privilégier la classe moyenne comme référence).

By treating the ‘working class’ as an identity, this approach draws on a simplified version of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985).  For those who follow this stand, left politics, in a ‘post-Marxist’ age, is about bringing together a variety of democratic struggles (arising from social contradictions), articulated in a hegemonic project. In more recent times this has come to mean that ‘constructing the People’ takes in a variety of groups antagonistic to the dominant power bloc (la casta…), in a common figure. This is a – hegemony building process of assembling them around a new content in the ’empty signifier’ of democracy, and taking ‘floating signifiers’, such as the People itself) into a movement. One can see that this way of doing politics easily avoids structural issues of class (not necessarily registered as ‘identities’), and lends itself to the worst aspects of Populism, that is, identifying one group (us) as the People, and the ‘others’ as the non or anti-People with no democratic legitimacy.

Or as Pastor argues, drawing on a contradictory set of constituencies and  list of demands to win support for a catch-all party. Some allege that the power of the grassroots, in the celebrated “Círculos” (local assemblies) has been weakened by a leadership which holds controls in a vertical structure presided over by leading ‘strategists’. 

In dealing with Spain’s diverse national groups, they have come up with a concept of “plurinationalité ” but, despite affirmations of the equality between national identities and groups, this “patriotisme plurinational” runs into obvious contradictions.

Above all, we are left, after the aspiration to govern has failed (agreement with the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE has proved impossible, and  undesirable) with the problem of unity around  Iglesias’ “charismatic leadership

Will a ‘populist’  party leader with this overwhelming  mandate be in a mood to tolerate pluralism within Podemos?

Written by Andrew Coates

February 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Back the Stop Trump Coalition.

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Stop Trump is a coalition of organisations and individuals that have come together to protest against Donald Trump’s planned state visit to the UK.

 

PLEDGE TO MARCH AGAINST TRUMP’S VISIT TO BRITAIN

Donald Trump’s presidency is turning out to be every bit as dangerous and divisive as we feared. The rhetoric of his campaign, and his early executive orders, have sparked a wave of fear and hatred. Those who are often already marginalised and discriminated against – particularly Muslims – have been particular targets for Trump.

Trump directly threatens steps towards tackling climate change, fighting discrimination, inequality, peace and disarmament. At the very moment when the world needs more solidarity, more cooperation, and a greater commitment to justice, he proposes to build walls and wants to turn us against each other.

We are dismayed and shocked by the attempt of the British government to normalise Trump’s agenda. People in Britain never voted for this. It is our duty as citizens to speak out. We oppose this state visit to the UK and commit ourselves to one of the biggest demonstrations in British history, to make very clear to our government, and to the world, this is not in our name.

Pledge Here.

We were launched on 2nd February 2017 in a letter to the Guardian. Our initial supporters include:

Owen Jones
Brian Eno
Lily Allen
Dan Howell @DanIsNotOnFire
Frankie Boyle
Akala
Paloma Faith
Caitlin Moran
Paul Mason
Shappi Khorsandi
John Pandit, Asian Dub Foundation soundsystem
Gary Younge
Meera Syal
Bianca Jagger, Council of Europe goodwill ambassador
Talha Ahmad, Muslim Council of Britain
Shanza Ali, Muslim Climate Action
Rizwan Hussain, Jawaab
Kalpana Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group
Anas Altikriti, The Cordoba Foundation
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
Nirmala Rajasingam, human rights activist
Amrit Wilson, writer
Amna Abdullatif, The Women’s Platform
Rajiv Menon QC, NMP
Aysha Al-Fekaiki, Iraqi Transnational Collective (London)
Saqib Deshmuk, Writer/campaigner
Fizza Qureshi, Migrants Rights Network
Baljit Banga, Director, London Black Women’s Project
Halima Gosai Hussain, Inclusive Mosque Initiative
Fiaz Ahmed, JUST Yorkshire
Andy Gregg, ROTA (Race on the Agenda)
Aamer Anwar, Human Rights Lawyer
Shabana Mahmood MP
Ed Miliband MP
Tulip Siddiq MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Rushanara Ali MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Mhairi Black MP
David Lammy MP
Leanne Wood, Leader, Plaid Cymru
Hywel Williams MP
Clive Lewis MP
Tim Farron MP
Melanie Onn MP
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary
Malia Bouattia, NUS president
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary
Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary
Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary
Dave Ward, CWU general secretary
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary
Ronnie Draper, BFAWU general secretary
Christine Blower, President, European Trade Union Committee for Education
Paul Mackney, Former UCU general secretary
Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Kate Hudson, CND
Luke Cooper, Another Europe is Possible
Sujata Aurora, Chair, Grunwick 40 (personal capacity)
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
Mohammed Ateek, Syria Solidarity Campaign
Andrew Burgin, Left Unity
Marina Prentoulis, Syriza (UK)
Sirio Canós Donnay, Podemos (London)
Nicolo Milanese, European Alternatives
Prof Mary Kaldor
Salma Yaqoob
Neal Lawson, Compass
Adina Claire, War on Want
Hamza Hamouchene, Algeria Solidarity Campaign
Michael Collins, Right to Remain
Adam Klug, Momentum
Emma Rees, Momentum
Zoe Gardner, Refugee rights campaigner
Michael Chessum, Campaigner and journalist
Andrea Pisauro, Sinistra Ecologia Libertà
Bruce Kent, Pax Christi
Olly Alexander
Salman Shaheen, Journalist
Gracie Mae Bradley, Against Borders for Children
Hugh Lanning, Alliance of free movement
Neil Faulkner, Archaeologist
Jerome Phelps, Detention Action
Daniel Voskoboynik, This Changes Everything UK
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service
Shaista Aziz, Journalist/Everyday Bigotry Project
David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialist Group
Potent Whisper, Poet
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
James Moulding, Newspeak House
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Liv Wynter, Artist
Liz Fekete, Director, Institute of Race Relations
Gurnik Bains, Founder, Global Future
Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, SOAS
Denise Dobson, Holler4/Songworks Choir
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights

 

This campaign, with a solid list of respected human rights, left-wing, trade union activists, for example, Clive Lewis MP, David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialist Group, Gilbert Achcar, Michael Chessum, Andrew Burgin, Mark Serwotka,Gary Younge, Bianca Jagger, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary), Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper, Luke Cooper, Another Europe is Possible, the wonderful Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mohammed Ateek, Syria Solidarity Campaign, and… Owen Jones,  deserves our support.

(Not to be confused with….er this: here…….)

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2017 at 12:45 pm

The Fake ‘Secularism’ of Marine Le Pen.

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Image result for front national gens de couleur bougnoules

The Front National Has Changed!

Last year Marine Le Pen announced that he would ban “all religious symbols” including kippas, headscarves, veils, burqas and burkinis from public spaces if she is elected president, explaining the move as a “sacrifice” to combat Islamic extremism.”

On Thursday evening Marine le Pen was interviewed on France 2.

A full critical account of her statements is given in le Monde,  Etrangers, décret anti-immigration… Les affirmations trompeuses de Marine Le Pen dans « L’Emission politique »

But this is of special interest.

She reiterated the above commitment, extending the 2010 French law, which prohibits the full-body veil, the Burqa in public to anybody with  such ‘ostentatious’religious symbols or dress.

As many commentators have noted enforcing such legislation would invite a veritable “hunt” for those wearing religious symbols, in the front line, Muslim women wearing a variety of head scarves, veils, not to mention one religious groups that has Kippas…..

But as Jonathan Bouchet-Petersen in today’s Libération observes, (La laïcité de Marine Le Pen s’arrête aux portes de l’école, on the central issue of French secularism, the education system, the école publique, obligatoire, gratuite et laïque, Marine Le Pen strongly backed confessional private schooling. 

That is,

l’enseignement libre hors contrat, qu’elle entend largement favoriser au détriment de l’école publique. Or de quoi s’agit-il ? En premier lieu de l’enseignement catholique tendance Manif pour tous, qui se porte déjà bien, mais aussi des écoles juives, plus ou moins orthodoxes, ou bien sûr des établissements musulmans, plus ou moins salafistes.

Private education without state contracts (and controls)  which she intends to favour to the detriment of public state education. What is this? In the first instance, Catholic schooling, in the (hard line) line of the anti-Gay Marriage movement Manif pour Tous, but equally Jewish schools, more or less orthodox, and, naturally, Muslim institutions, more or less Salafist.

Some ‘secularist’.

This also raised eyebrows today  (Washington Post),

PARIS — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has vowed to request all people with dual citizenship in France and other countries to choose only one nationality, except for Europeans and Russians.

She said this doesn’t mean foreigners would need to leave the country, explaining they can stay “as long as they respect French laws and values”.

Le Pen said she considers Russia to be part of the “Europe of nations.” In response to a specific question from a reporter on France 2 television Thursday night she said the measure would involve Israel, since it’s not a European country.

This is their Europe of Nations, give or take a degree of exaggeration:  France’s Nationalist Party Has a Plan to Break Up the Euro and Probably Start a New Financial Crisis  Jordan Weissmann (Slate),

Le Pen’s top economic adviser, Bernard Monot, outlined the plan to Bloomberg recently, and reportedly discussed it back in September with a governor from the Bank of France. The plot has three steps:

  1. Le Pen would call a meeting with the EU and ask it to replace the euro with brand-new national currencies. If it balked, France would go it alone.
  2. Le Pen would commandeer the French central bank, ending its independence.
  3. She would print “new French francs” to finance government spending.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the National Front is essentially threatening to suicide-bomb the whole EU monetary system.

At present  indications point to a Le Pen lead in the first round of the coming Presidential election, and a “Macron versus Le Pen” duel in the Second, with Macron the favourite, in the latest opinion polls, to win.

 

Les intentions de vote ne constituent pas une prévision du résultat du scrutin. Elles donnent une indication de l'état des rapports de force et des dynamiques au jour de la réalisation du sondage.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

On Brexit and the Left.

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Image result for trump and may Brexit cartoon

People’s Brexit…

The Guardian reports,

The government does not have “a blank cheque” to push through its vision of Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has said, despite the overwhelming Commons vote to pass the article 50 bill without a single amendment.

The Labour leader insisted there was little his party could have done about the bill, given its limited scope, but said he would continue to push for concessions and changes as the Brexit process continued.

“There was a referendum,” he told BBC1’s Breakfast programme. “There was a decision by the people of this country and we support the result of the referendum, and have to carry it out.

“It doesn’t mean we agree with the government on the economy for the future. It does mean we have to build good relations with everybody across Europe.

Then there is this,

Clive Lewis, the leftwing shadow business secretary, has resigned from the shadow cabinet to vote against article 50 at third reading. He was the fourth shadow cabinet minister to resign on this issue. His move will intensify speculation that he sees himself as a candidate in a future Labour leadership election, particularly because Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to order his MPs to back the bill has angered many of the party’s activists.

Brexit is a huge blow to progressive causes in the UK. Having been touted as a referendum on leaving the EU, the politics of UKIP and sections of the media turned it into a referendum on migration. The result was a resounding vote against migration and against further integration with Europe on a political, social and economic level.

Brexit has not just lead to “carnival of reaction” but is a defeat for the collectivist project of creating a social Europe, a transformed European Union.

Given that there was “little” that could have been “done about the Bill” many will sympathise with Clive Lewis: there is no reason to stand with the forces of the right and vote the Tories’ bill in.

Others will point to Donald Trump’s praise for Brexit, a “smart” move that could lead to the -welcome – “unravelling of the EU”..

Morning Star supporter Nick Wright asserts (Trump and Brexit) that,

Like Brexit, Trump’s victory represents the breakdown of the established order. Like Brexit it was a defeat for the main centres of capitalist power.

This is far from the truth.

Capitalist power is being configured, and the last thing these ‘victories’ indicate is a “defeat” for finance and business.

Trade Deals with the USA will be based on terms set down by Washington, opening up the UK to their products, their lower environmental standards, and public markets to their companies, already interested in the NHS.

The Tories, high from their success at the Parliamentary vote, will be free to weaken all EU social and environmental legislation.

If there was “little” that can be done in Parliament to stop the Brexit Bill, as Corbyn says,  there will be little effectively done to halt these measures.

This is just bravura and wishful thinking:

“Good relations” and other warm words will not stop the building of barriers with Continental Europe.

The “kick up the backside” welcomed by Tariq Ali, has turned into a kick start to the anti-EU populist far-right, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National, the Alternative für Deutschland,  to Geert Wilders’ Partij voor de Vrijheid.

In these conditions the last thing many will want to hear is the advice of  the Brexit left, the supporters of a “People’s Brexit” who have fueled the rightward turn.

Many will find that attempts to avoid the issues this raises, and channel popular hostility against Trump into a new ‘movement’ Stand up to Trump that everybody on the left can support, ring hollow.

We have our own reactionaries to deal with: the Brexit supporters.

There is no People’s Brexit, outside of their rhetoric.

There is one Brexit: the Carnival of Reaction.

The real issue is to build a truly internationalist left that breaks with the Brexiters of all stripes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 9, 2017 at 11:37 am

French Presidential Election: Jean Luc Mélenchon and ‘left populism’.

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Image result for melenchon et son hologram

Virtual Mélenchon.

Reuters reports (Sunday),

Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon embraced technology during the launch of his presidential campaign at a rally in Lyon on Sunday, with a 3D hologram of him making his speech appearing at the same time at another rally in Paris.

Mélenchon, wearing a Nehru-style jacket, tried to use the hologram technology give a modern look to his launch, which coincided with that of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon opened his meeting, transmitted by hologram to Paris, with a rousing speech. But it was hard to hide that the selection of the radical green socialist, Benoît Hamon as Socialist Party candidate, has created profound difficulties for the leader of La France insoumise.

After Hamon’s victory the French left is divided. While many welcomed the Socialists’ change in direction, for the majority of Ensemble, an alliance of radical left currents and part of the (nearly defunct Front de gauche), Mélenchon remains central to the left’s prospects in France.

On the Ensemble site Roger Martelli writes of the left’s Presidential candidates, (Gauche : et maintenant ?)

Mélenchon:

Depuis une quinzaine d’années, il est de tous les combats majeurs visant à redonner au peuple sa souveraineté et à la gauche son dynamisme. Son programme, dans la continuité de celui de 2012, reprend la logique « antilibérale » et démocratique qui s’est déployée après le choc de la présidentielle de 2002.

For over 15 years he has been there in all the principal battles which have aimed to return to the people their soveriegnty and to the left its dynamism. His programme, consistent with the (Presidential election) of 2012 (when Mélenchon stood, backed by the Front de gauch left bloc), takes up again the « anti-liberal » and democratic logic used since the shock of the 2002 Presidential elections.

Of Hamon:

Au fond, Benoît Hamon incarne la continuité d’un Parti socialiste qui a accompagné les reculs successifs d’un socialisme devenu hégémonique au début des années 1980. Jean-Luc Mélenchon ouvre la voie d’une rupture dont toute la gauche pourrait bénéficier.

At root Benoît Hamon embodies continuity with a Parti Socialiste which has, since it became hegemonic since the start of the 1980s, has been marked by a succession of backward steps. Jean-Luc Mélenchon opens up the prospect of a radical break, from which all the left could benefit.

Martelli’s reference to “popular sovereignty” raises perhaps one of the most serious problems about Mélenchon’s campaign. The leader of La France Insoumise is not only concerned with “une majorité populaire à gauche”. Or a ” dose” of populism into the left, to re-occupy the field of social division, with a campaign that can express a radical protest vote.

Another Adieu au Prolétariat.

Mélenchon’s ambitions extend far and wide as he asserts the need to replace the traditional strategies of the left.

In a series of writings he has talked about L’Ère du peuple in (the grandly titled)  “époque de l’Anthropocène.” (the ‘new epoch’ in human political geography). In this perspective the old ‘hierarchy’ of struggles, centred on the primacy of the proletariat as a political subject, has been surpassed.

In a short history which takes him from the people as a ” multitude ” (without cohesion), the people/working class, as a demand-making category, we have come to the age of « networks » (réseaux). And, in France, more specifically, as he puts it himself, “réseau de soutien à ma candidature et à son programme”. (Réseaux et mouvements. 7th of January 2017)

The network launched as La France Insoumise is  at the core of the electoral and social strategy. Mélenchon is engaged in an explicit effort to capture (in his terms, form), the People, in opposition to the Oligarchy, financial and globalising. It is not shaped only by economic issues, but the with the wider effects of capitalism in society: marginalisation, social division, the long series of cultural contradictions and demands of the diverse oppressed groups. Above all it aims to “net” the concept of the People, and refound the left as a movement capable of structuring it politically as a force for progressive transformation (details of the programme on their site). Membership of what might be called a permanent “rally” does not require payment, only backing.

Supporters put this project in the same political sphere as Podemos, as a movement that aims to expand the field of democratic mobilisation against the political caste (la casta), more commonly called, in French and in English, the elites.

For this venture, which draws on the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, populism is a political logic. The objective is to unify, to create a radical democratic People, not as (it is asserted) through the forms of exclusion and division, between “us”, on ethnicity or nationality and others.

Citizen-Movement and the Leader.

But, as Pierre Khalfa has observed, the “citizen-movement”, La France Insoumise, charged with this objective, organised in hundreds of “groupes d’appui” (support groups) is not democratic in the sense that political parties are – in principle.  (Le peuple et le mouvement, est-ce vraiment si simple?). There are no organised confrontations between different currents of opinion; disagreements only arise over applying the ‘line’ in local conditions. There is, in fact,the worst form of Occupy style ‘consensus politics”, ruling out by fait real dissensus,  wedded to the decisions of the Chief. It is “JLM who decides”. Or, as Laclau put it, the, “..the “symbolic unification of a group around an individuality” is inherent to the formation of a ‘people’ (Page 100. On Populist Reason 2005. ) (1)

Critics point to the lack of coherence in the definition of the would-be “people” a vast category with many internal conflicts between social groups. They also state that it is also highly unlikely that the ambition to remould populist resentment, expressed and solidly articulated in the Front National’s nationalist attacks on globalisation and a whole range of groups, from Muslims to migrant workers, has struck deep into French political reality. Detaching the  ‘floating signifier’ of the People and putting it to a new use is a hard task. It more probable, and Mélenchon’s comments on Europe, migrant labour and the importance of the French ‘nation’, that it will end up more influenced by nationalism than become an alternative to it. Over everything lingers Pierre Khalfa put it the figure of “l’homme providentiel”, the Man of Destiny(Le populisme de gauche, un oxymore dangereux).

In these conditions it is little wonder that many of the French  left are not just wary of Mélenchon, but actively hostile to his entire project.

It is equally not surprising that elsewhere would-be People’s Leaders, like George Galloway in Britain, have warmed to La France Insoumise.

****

(1)Le peuple et le « mouvement. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (2.11.16. Blog).

“Il n’y a pas de carte. Il ne peut y avoir des cotisations mais seulement des participations financières à l’action c’est-à-dire des dons ou des versements réguliers pendant la durée de celle-ci. Il n’y a pas d’autre discipline que celle de l’action, c’est-à-dire celle que chacun s’impose dans l’action individuelle ou collective.” In other words, la France Insoumise is devoted to the “action” of getting votes.

Trump, Populism, and the Left.

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Image result for trump and populism

Populists High on the Hog.

From the vantage point of the left, from liberals to socialists, Donald Trump is a ‘truth’, a reality, the “actuality of the populist revolution” that is hard to grapple with. The thousands who demonstrated against his Muslim/Visa Ban in London on Saturday, (40,000 to the organisers, 10,000 to everybody else), and the anti-Trump protests across the country, express heartfelt outrage at the US President’s xenophobic measures. It is to be hoped that they continue in the event of a Trump State visit to Britain. But beyond our backing for the worldwide campaigns against the new President the nature and destination of his politics needs serious reflection and debate.

In What is Populism? (2016) Jan-Werner Müller described modern populism as a “moralistic imagination of politics”. Müller’s description is tailor-made, not only for populist protest, the indignation at the ‘elites’, the neglect of “hard-working people” and respect for those who are “more ordinary” than others that marks UKIP and the galaxy of the Continental radical right.

But, What is Populism? argues, it is not just that for populists “only some of the people are really the people”. Trump has passed from the idea that his election represents the will of the ‘real’ American people, a claim to sovereignty that overrides any consideration of the plurality of the electing body, to efforts to bring the sovereignty of law to heel. In this case, the emerging political model, is an alternative to the ‘non-adversarial” consensus in ‘liberal’ democracies.

But Trump’s triumph is very far from a mobilisation against the “élitocratie” favoured by supporters of ‘left populist’ anticapitalism, through grassroots movements involving forces capable of giving voice and a progressive slant to demands for popular sovereignty.

It is an illiberal democracy.

Müller predicts that in power,

..with their basic commitment to the idea that only they represented the people”. Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (Page 102)

This looks a good description of Trump’s first weeks in office.

Nick Cohen has warned that the British Conservatives have not only failed to stand up the British Populists but forces may lead some of them to shift in the same direction (What has become of conservatism? Observer. 2911.17)

Populist Calls to Break up the EU.

After Brexit, Trump’s victory has reverberated in the democratic left as warning that, for some, that the left, from its ‘liberal’ US version to our socialist and social democratic culture, has lost touch with ‘ordinary people’. A rapid response has been to advocate some kind of ‘left populism’. For the moment the prospect of a left-wing populism in Britain looks reduced to making appeals to the ‘people’ against the Tory and financial elite. Or to put it simply, using the term as a way of looking for popular support on issues which play well with the electorate. A more developed tool-box approach, perhaps best mirrored in the efforts of the French Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to stand up for La France insoumise, ends up with precisely the problem of illiberal democracy sketched above.

This can be seen in the demand, formally announced today, by the French Front National, to prepare for what Marine le Pen has called ‘Frexit’. That is for a process which, if she wins power in the April-May Presidential elections, begins with renegotiating European Treaties, proceeds to France dropping the Euro, and ends with a referendum on leaving the European Union (Marine Le Pen promises Frexit referendum if she wins presidency).

Organising and supporting the anti-Trump demonstration were a number of individuals and organisations (Counterfire, SWP, Socialist Party) that backed Brexit. Trump is famous for his support for Brexit. It is alleged that Ted Malloch, who wishes the “break up of the EU” is waging a campaign to become Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union (Patrick Wintour. Guardian. 4.2.17).

Trump is said to be “cheering on” the populist forces in Europe. While not supporting UKIP the British ‘left’ supporters of Brexit cast their ballot in the same way to leave the EU. The results of the Referendum, it need hardly be said, are probably the best example of the failure of the left to ‘channel’ populism in its direction

Will these forces also welcome the “break up” of the EU? Would they back Frexit? An indication that they might well do comes from the strong support and attendance of Trade Unionists Against the EU at the ‘Internationalist’ Rally last year (May 28th Pour le Brexit) organised by the pro-Frexit Trotskyist sect, the Parti Ouvrier Indépendant Démocratique.(1)

If they take this stand, and these groups have to have views on every EU issue, regardless of ‘sovereignty;’ a part of the British left is in letting itself in for some major difficulties. In What is Populism? Müller asked, by placing the construction of the “people” against the “market people” – or the People against the European Union ‘neo-liberal superpower – will this “import the problems of a genuinely populist conception of politics? “ (Page 98)

The sovereigntist ideal of the Front National is quite clear about defining who the French ‘people’ are; it even intends to give them preference in jobs (préférence nationale).

What kind of ‘construction’ of the People around what Laclau has dubbed On Populist Reason (2005) as an “us” opposed to an (elite) “them” is that?

This indicates the kind of action Marine Le Pen takes against critics (the journalist asks her about employing her thuggish bodyguards as “Parliamentary Assistants” on the EU Payroll.

.

****

(1) “quitter l’Union Européenne” Wikipedia.  More details in the Tribune des Travailleurs on the ‘Constituent Assembly’which will carry out this process. Mouvement pour la rupture avec l’UE et la 5e République

 

Owen Jones, “not taking part in Trump Demo because of leading role of the SWP in it, a cult which covered up rape.”

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People who follow these things may have noticed an angry exchange between Lindsey German and comrade Owen Jones over the Trump protests.

As I have no wish to offered comrade Owen, who deleted the remarks, but did not protest at people mentioning it (despite opportunity to do so) I shall not paste it.

People who follow these things may have also noticed that yesterday there were two letters in the Guardian protesting against Trump’s planned visit to the UK.

We stand together against Donald Trump’s toxic agenda

One was headed by Owen’s name, it included  Ed Miliband, senior trade union figures and human rights campaigners, prominent Momentum figures and people from respected left groups, such as Left Unity.

The other, well, let’s just say that it also included respected figures from the union movement and human rights campaigner, and… Lindsey German and organisations in which her groupuscule play a considerable part, the Stop the War Coalition and the remains of the People’s Assembly. Another organisation’s supporters,  Stand up to Racism, best known for the SWP’s involvement, featured. And Islamist organisations, such as the Muslim Association of Britain. (1)

Momentum meanwhile has advertised the London Demo without mentioning the various fronts, groups claiming to represent the Muslim community, and others, behind the demonstration.

It simply says this: ” JOIN THE MARCH TO STOP TRUMP THIS SATURDAY

If you’re in London, join the march to Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban this Saturday, 4th February, from the US Embassy to Downing Street. The Momentum and Labour Assembly Against Austerity bloc will meet at 11am at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ. Check out the Facebook Event for more information.

Momentum is in the right direction.

Protesting against Trump  is very important, welcome, and needed.

But we don’t we don’t want to be caught up in the manipulative and dead-end politics of the likes of the SWP or Counterfire (both strong backers of the Brexit that Trump welcomes), the StWC (who oppose any interference in the sovereign politics of Syria) still less MAB and its cohorts.

Now this bombshell comes:

 

(1) “MAB first started working with the StWC in 2002 when they agreed to join together a demonstration they had planned to mark the anniversary of the Second Palestinian Intifada with a demonstration StWC had planned against the looming Iraq war at the opening of the Labour party. The march took place under the dual slogans ‘Don’t attack Iraq‘ and ‘Freedom for Palestine‘.[2] According to Altikriti, MAB ‘spoke to Stop the War and we said to them, we will join you; however we will not become part of your coalition, we will be a separate and independent entity but we will work together with you on a national basis as part of the anti-war movement’.[3] This reassured MAB that it would not ‘melt into that big coalition’ [4] that was known to be led by the Left. They would remain a distinct and autonomous bloc, able to shape the agenda. Altikriti and others in the MAB leadership were working to persuade members that collaboration with non-Muslim anti-war activists was halal (religiously permissible) and that it was within the remit of their organisation. Their argument was that, if gender-segregated spaces and halal food could be provided at meetings, demonstrations and other events, then Muslims could participate in the anti-war movements without being assimilated”

More on Wikipedia.