Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Chartist AGM: the Pro-European Left.

with 7 comments

“Chartist was a very different animal when I took over as Editor in Spring 1974 .  The banner headline on the tabloid talked of joining a ‘joint command of revolutionary organisations and preparing for dual power’.”

Editor’s Report. 2014.

An exceptional Chartist AGM took place on Saturday the 14th of June.

The meeting began with a session of the Financial Crisis and Worker Democracy.

Prem Sikka from Essex University  gave an overview of the part accountancy, to most people one of the most  boring subjects ever invented, had played in neo-liberalism. He illustrated his case by showing how the rules of accountancy underpinned the banking crises, and the ‘outsourcing’ of state functions. This did not mean that the state, viewed in terms of spending public money, had shrunk. It has been “restructured” – to give ever greater subsidies to the private firms who now carry out many of its functions. The present privatising regime had created widespread poverty, not only for the unemployed, but for those working under ‘flexible’ zero hours contracts.  Sikka set out a list of reforms that would bring the banking and financial sector under greater public control, increase transparency,  and end widespread fraud and short-term profiteering.

Janet Williamson, Senior Policy Officer of the TUC, made the case for looking again at the proposals for worker representation in companies, last brought up by the 1970s the Bullock Report. She argued that having a voice for workers in firms decisions was essential, not just for justice, but for better wealth production and long-term stability.

In the discussion that followed  the issues of socialising the banks, the disciplining of the reserve army of the workless by workfare, and whether ‘voice’ was sufficient for socialists who wish employees to have fuller control over their working lives. The ‘shrinking’ of the state was questioned when the transfer of its functions to private companies living off tax-raised funds  had real effects on accountability and workers’ conditions.

After lunch John Palmer (former European Editor – the Guardian) spoke of What now for the left after the European elections? Palmer began by talking about the rise of the xenophobic right, particularly in the UK (UKIP) and France (the Front National). They were joined by other hard and far-right parties in Greece (Golden Dawn) and Hungary. Social Democracy, above all in france, had done very badly. Their left competitors, the Front de Gauche, had stagnated. The British Labour Party had got solid results, but had lost the lead to UKIP.  Palmer, however, pointed to the good results for the left in Southern Europe, notably Greece (Syriza), Spain (Podemos and the Izquierda Unida). From the floor Italy was added, where the centre-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), did well and the further left alliance (L’Altra Europa con Tsiprasre-entered the European Parliament.

Palmer explained very clearly that it was up to the Left to promote a federalist agenda as the only way to unite Europe’s left into an effective force that could shape the European Union in a different, social, direction. We need to change the terms of debate.  He cited Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a milestone on this journey.It had brought back inequality onto the agenda, showing how rewards to capital has grown at the expense of wage. The left’s agenda needed to centre on the European Parliament. He finished by pointed out how far Britain was isolated in its opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker. By contrast to the British Labour Party, which shares this hostility with the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, the left should be building alliances to fight austerity across the continent.

Chartist has long stood for a pro-European left. Debate and questions raised the problematic stand of some (including Palmer) who back the break-up of Britain yet want a federalist Europe. It was also noted that Picketty’s book came at a time when France’s centre-left was rediscovering the important of fighting inequality. (see The society of equals: Pierre Rosanvallon 2004.  French Edition: La Société des égaux, Le Seuil, 2011). Whether Europe, and the EU,  had played a negative role in backing US-interference the Ukrainian crisis and interventions in the Middle East and Libya was discussed.

Reports indicated that Chartist has continued to attract a wide-range of democratic socialist contributors. The Editor Mike Davis, stated that the journal is supportive of the Labour Party and progressive forces within it, and the majority do not see the way forward in independent electoral left initiatives. But the publication  also attracts Greens, the Left Unity Party,  and independent socialists. The magazine backs the People’s Assembly and has played a significant role in the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

There were two resolutions. One called for support for the Yes campaign for Scottish Independence, and the other for Chartist backing for a London rally calling for Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom.

From the audience concern was expressed at moves to separate people on national grounds. It was also pointed out by another Chartist supporter that the mover of the resolution’s own party, Left Unity, did not endorse these views, that Chartist is not a directly campaigning group with a ‘line’ and that it was said that Alex Salmond was so vain that he drank his own bath water. We might guess who made the latter comments.

The resolution fell, supported only by its two movers.

The Chartist Magazine is now fully on-line.

The new site is up and running.You can access it here.

It is seriously worth reading.

There was a great get-together in the pub afterwards and an excellent meal in a Greek Taverna.


7 Responses

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  1. Piketty in capitalism causes inequality shocker!

    I mean, really, what a manifesto for reformists everywhere! What the reformists refuse to see is that under capitalism workfare makes sense, under capitalism lower taxes on the wealthiest makes absolute sense. Piketty’s reforms can only lead to a need for workfare and reduced taxes on the rich!

    While I support anti Austerity work as a defence of the working class, capitalism is the problem and social democratic reforms will only lead to a need for neo liberal solutions.

    In the final analysis all social democrats are neo liberals and this is the true irony of Piketty.

    “Whether Europe, and the EU, had played a negative role in backing US-interference the Ukrainian crisis and interventions in the Middle East and Libya was discussed.”

    That required discussion! Only among drone supporting leftists surely! Incidentally did the Chartists know what scum they had among their ranks? Drone supporting leftists are surely as welcome on the left as people who openly admire Hitler?

    While we mention Hitler, this makes a change from islamists taking over Europe! You would have made a very good Der Stürmer columnists.

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    June 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm

  2. For Beddy. The Little book of Calm


    Andrew Coates

    June 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

  3. The sectarian Left has moved on. No longer ‘social fascists’, social democrats are now neo-liberals.

    Igor Belanov

    June 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

  4. Igor: the sectarian comment really makes no sense. You fundamentally fail to understand the argument.

    Piketty is the ultimate example of this sort of reformist mindset, he totally fails to factor into his analysis the basis upon which capitalism is built, i.e. the domination of capital over labour.

    By just focusing on distribution he fails to see that his proposed solutions will create a set of problems for capitalism every bit as serious as those presented by inequality (and they won’t address inequality anyway!). His book, while it provides ammunition for anti capitalists, seems opportunistic to my mind.

    For christs sake we have been here before, Keynesianism resolved a set of problems which led to a series of other problems and was replaced by Friedman. This caused a new set of problems and guess what, the Keynesians are back claiming they have the solutions. And guess what happens next?

    By pointing this out I am not being sectarian.

    Just because I claim social democrats are in the final analysis neo Liberals, i am not claiming they are the enemy, just they are proposing the wrong course of action. It is an argument and arguments cannot be sectarian,

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    June 15, 2014 at 5:32 pm

  5. I fail to see how social democrats can be neo-liberals, just because the reforms they advocate will not transcend or abolish capitalism. Neo-liberalism is surely one ideology among many based within capitalism. It’s bad enough that ‘fascism’ has become an all-purpose word for groups or ideas that we don’t like.

    Igor Belanov

    June 15, 2014 at 7:02 pm

  6. Igor isn’t there something about not feeding trolls, or is that mogwais?

    Andrew Coates

    June 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm

  7. I’m sorry!

    Igor Belanov

    June 17, 2014 at 10:05 am

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