Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

National Organiser of Trades Unionists Against the EU Joins Far-right Westmonster site as former Leftists takes up National Populism.

with 11 comments


Former Leftists Wave the Brexit Flag.

As Galloway is joined by a prominent FBU Trade Unionist, Paul Embery (London Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and National organiser of Trade Unionists against the EU, a campaign backed by the Morning Star, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and, notably,  the Communist Party of Britain and Socialist Party) on the far-right Westmonster site, we ask: is a section of the one-time left drifting towards national populism?

Westmonster carries articles promoting the new “Patriotic Alliance” scare stories about migrants, and – favourable – reports on Trump and the chances of a Marine Le Pen victory in France.

On the same site Embrey argues that trade unions need to stop being, “an arm of a tin-eared liberal establishment” (TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH WORKING CLASS POST-BREXIT).

He argues forcefully against free Movement,

… on free movement, union leaders remain ambivalent at best, criminally silent at worst. This disastrous policy, which commodifies workers, atomises society and contributes to the undercutting of wages, has, more than anything else, contributed to the rupture between working-class communities and the political class.

Westmonster’s patriotic ‘socialists’ parallel many of the themes of the former ‘Marxists’ of Spiked-on-Line.

This section of the left has not just embraced the populist language of the “people” versus the  ‘elites’,  the ‘rulers’ of the European Union.

They have moved from ideas of “strong democracy”, which had something in common with the writings of Benjamin R. Barber, a critique of liberal “thin” democracy, based on rights, and advocacy of the ability of people to “govern themselves”.

In its place National Sovereignty has been rediscovered (see: Frank Furedi. Politics without sovereignty is not politics at all 2007).


In parallel to French ‘sovereigntists’ (supporters of ‘souverainisme’), both former leftists and long-standing republican nationalists,  they both defend “national institutions and culture”. Against the European Union they support, ” une Europe des nations“, the economic and political  independence of each country, against globalisation. Right wing soveriegntists explicitly opposes  mass immigration, ‘left’ sovereigntists also express concern about both the free movement of capital and of people.

By its nature sovereigntism is fixed on national political institutions.

In France this tends to mean an exaggerated ‘republicanism’. In the UK it is driven by an obsession with Parliamentary sovereignty.

Spiked-on-Line fits comfortably into the role of the best defenders of the Mother of Parliaments.

Following challenges to Brexit by what he chooses to call an “Elite Remainer”and the  Spiked’s Deputy Editor Tom Slater evoked everything save the Magna Carta to defend Westminster.

Parliamentary sovereignty is a precious thing. We fought a civil war and chopped off a king’s head to establish that it is only a parliament, with the consent of its electors, that can govern, that can determine the politics of a nation. It was the promise of parliamentary sovereignty, of real representation for all, that agitators from the Chartists through to the Suffragettes struggled and fought and went to the wall for.

“The Brexit case was driven by disdain for the demos, not love for parliament.” he thundered, we must now defend not just parliamentary sovereignty, but also the radical, democratic ideas that underpin it..”

One time leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Frank Furedi has extended the argument in directions all too well-known to those familiar with French politics. In  August last year, (HOW ‘OPEN BORDERS’ BECAME AN ILLIBERAL CRY)  he tackled immigration.

The use of immigration as a tool to weaken national sovereignty is wholly destructive, provoking cultural confusion and uncertainty. An enlightened argument for freedom of movement must also uphold national sovereignty, and recognise the status of the prevailing national culture. Disregarding the special status of national institutions and culture is an invitation to a permanent war of cultures — that is, to real division and tension.

On the same Spiked-on-Line site, the day of Brexit was greeted by excited born-again nationalists,


Leading British public intellectual Julie Burchill announced,

It’s very handy that Brexit was born as the Labour Party was dying – now all of us comrades who are repulsed by forelock-tugging, nepotism and hypocrisy have a home to go to. I can’t remember a time when I felt so excited about the future. I was pleased but not shocked to learn that John Lydon, my teenage hero, is a proud Brexiteer – I’ve always said that the REAL thing the Remnants can’t forgive us for is not the imaginary hate crimes or the alleged economic Armageddon our victory will bring, but the fact that we’ve revealed them as a bunch of scared-stiff, curtain-twitching, tut-tutting, doom-mongering stick-in-the-muds, clinging on to the boring old status quo like a kiddy with a comfort blanket, when all this time they thought they were progressives. Bring on the chaos!

Former International Marxist Group member and Labour MP,  Kate Hoey says…

Today is brilliant because triggering Article 50 simply reflects the most basic element of democracy: putting into effect the choice of the people. With the entire establishment arrayed against them, the British public decided that the UK was strong, wise and generous enough to survive outside the restrictions of the European Union.

In a few years’ time, when we are making our own laws and freely trading with the rest of the world – including with our European friends – I predict that it will be very hard to find people who admit to having doubted that we could succeed as a proud independent country.

Kate is MP for Vauxhall.

Other comments include, from a member of the revolutionary wing of the Daily Telegraph, “It’s now up to left and right to contest what kind of future they want for the UK after Brexit. The 2020 election will pose a choice between socialism and capitalism. ”

Harsimrat Kaur adds a dash of humour by declaring, “The main reason I voted to leave was so we can implement a fair immigration system. The idea that a person with an EU passport has easier access to Britain than someone with a non-EU passport is outrageous. Going forward, I want to see us restore that equality.”

Equality indeed…

Brian Denny,  of the Trades Unionists against the EU, a regular contributor to the Morning Star and who appears to be a member of the Communist Party of Britain (see their site here),  says, “We have nothing to lose but Eurocratic dictatorship.”

In a gesture which links Spiked-on- line with Westmonster, Paul Embery (see above) says…

What happened on 23 June was a genuine democratic revolt. The establishment was shaken to its core. Working-class England – which had hitherto always played second fiddle in the minds of politicians to Middle England – arose from its slumber. And how! An entire class of people which had been ignored and patronised hit back. The left must get on board. Democracy just happened. We should cheer and embrace the new mood. Suddenly politics means something again. Suddenly we can see that the political order isn’t inviolable. There is a New Jerusalem to be built. And we have taken the first step.

Paul is regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and national organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Many people on the left will no doubt wish to congratulate the FBU on having a leading figure write for Spiked-on-Line and Westmonster.

Or perhaps to explain to them a few things about internationalism, the working class having ‘no country’, the British state’s ‘capitalist’ faults, and perhaps,  something about who’s in charge of making Brexit, transferring EU legal documents and rulings into British law under their own terms: the hard right wing of the Tory Party, cheered on by the millionaire press (as the Morning Star might say..).


11 Responses

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    It took a while but I remember think I could

    see it coming.

    And use of idiot terms like ‘FAR RIGHT’ insults your

    readers’ intelligence.

    BILLY CORR (now resident in despotic Cambodia)


    Bill Corr

    March 31, 2017 at 1:34 pm

  2. Thanks for calling this out Andrew Coates … Franks tragic trajectory is particular ironic as the former author of ‘Under a National Flag’ – which recruited many of us to a coherent strategy for anti-racist anti-immigration controls politics leading to the launch of the campaigns that became Workers Against Racism and clarified many aspects of the wider role of nationalism in the support for racial oppression within the labour movement back in 1978 …

    Tim Martin

    March 31, 2017 at 3:16 pm

  3. Frank’s recent attack on ‘cosmopolitanism’ or as he puts it his ‘anti anti-nationalism’ spells it out further how far he’s travelled from a class perspective …

    Tim Martin

    March 31, 2017 at 3:19 pm

  4. Andrew, are you certain that Kate Hoey was actually in the IMG? Not my recollection.She turned up at a few of the parties but avoided talking politics in favour of football.That is of minor importance compared to the slide into neutrality about Trump and worse by Lexiteers which you are correct to chronicle.


    March 31, 2017 at 3:34 pm

  5. Tim, I was flagged about the latest evolution – on migration and open borders – of Furedi by a former member of the RCP, who I don’t think I am betraying a secret, is Paul Flewers.

    The framework I think is this transition from their version of ‘strong democracy’, very visible in their last gasp as a left group, the Red Front days, and the first articles in what became LM>

    Their sovereigntism, that is a lurid defence of Parliament, and its sovereignty against the EU in particular, is as I have indicated, an ideology that’s well known in its French variant.

    This is a list of parties in France that are sovereigntist.
    Action Française (monarchist, far-right reactionary)
    Arise the Republic (Gaullist and republican)
    Mouvement pour la France (conservative)
    Mouvement Républicain et Citoyen (left-wing)
    National Front (right-wing nationalist)
    Nouvelle Action Royaliste (monarchist)
    Rassemblement démocrate (centrist and monarchist)
    Rassemblement pour la France (Gaullist and republican)
    Popular Republican Union (2007) (Gaullist and republican)
    Pole of Communist Revival in France (Marxist)

    The list does not give individuals, intellectuals and politicians.

    That would be much longer, it includes the author of the virulent attack on Charlie Hebdo, Emmanuel Todd (much admired in New Left Review and Guardian circles),

    Todd wrote on Trump’s election,

    “The people now understand that free trade and immigration have thrown all workers around the world into global competition and that has resulted in inequality and stagnation. The voters simply chose the candidate who focused on those two issues so they acted in a very rational way.

    What is odd is that everyone seems surprised by the result. The real question is why did the elite, the mass media and university scholars fail to see the reality of society.

    During the campaign, there was a heated exchange in lies about the candidates as individuals. However, when it came to talk about the society, it was Trump who spoke the truth.”


    Most famous is the former Socialist Party mInister, and one-time admirer of Marx, Jean Pierre Chevènement, whose supporters have, like the Trades Unionists Against the EU, criss-crossed from left to various parts of the right, including the far-right.

    In the Spiked-on-line ideology on the national sovereignty issue is shared by former RCP member James Heartfield. It would not be hard to find other people with these ideas.

    Needless to say the idea that the social and ideological premises of British democracy can be questioned, the ‘capitalist’ nature of the state to start with, do not enter into this ‘debate’.

    Andrew Coates

    March 31, 2017 at 3:59 pm

  6. Andrew Coates

    March 31, 2017 at 4:03 pm

  7. Westmonster are getting very excited about a Le Pen victory seeing it as part of the anti-EU “revolution”. This article is signed off by “Westmonster” and, as it was tweeted by co-founder of the site, Michael Heaver, I’d guess he wrote it as he’s the editor.

    I’ve even seen pro-Le Pen tweets from Leave.EU. Expect more of the same from that quarter over the next month.

    “With even pro-EU government officials admitting that opposition to the European Union is spreading, Brexit looks like the beginning of a big change in Europe. If Marine Le Pen does win, the whole failed project is likely to come crashing down. The revolution continues…”


    John Rogan

    March 31, 2017 at 5:31 pm

  8. I’m still bemused as to how people like the CPB/Morning Star/SWP/Socialist Party/ Counterfire, can still maintain the position that there’s something progressive about Brexit. Self-delusion on a truly massive scale.

    Jim Denham

    March 31, 2017 at 10:44 pm

  9. Behind this there is something deeply wrong about the turn to National Sovereignty and national populism.

    It’s as if books like Ralph Miliband’s The State in Capitalist Society (1969), “In an epoch when so much is made of democracy, equality, social mobility, classlessness and the rest, it has remained a basic fact of life in advanced capitalist countries that the vast majority of men and women in these countries has been governed, represented, administered, judged, and commanded in war by people drawn from other, economically superior and relatively distant classes.” had never been written.

    Not to mention his later books such as Divided Societies: Class Struggle in Contemporary Capitalism (1989)
    Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994), or the more theoretically writings by Nicos Poulantzas. State, Power, Socialism, 1979.

    Poulantzas argued in terms which can apply to the sovereigntists of the ‘left’, “The dominance of [an ideology] is shown by the fact that the dominated classes live their conditions of political existence through the forms of dominant political discourse: this means that often they live even their revolt against domination of the system within the frame of reference of the dominant legitimacy.”

    ‘Democracy’, getting hold of the state by voting, and being able to legislate freely in Parliament, without the EU, for law, is the be end and all of their politics.

    And that’s without going into their “imagined communities” of the People and the “British working class”.

    The kind of ‘Mouvementism’ represented in groupuscules like Counterfire, who think that movements, that is protests, can dissolve the power structures and laws which the Tories will write into practice post-Brexit, through some kind of revolutionary upsurge, are equally feeble answers, if not quite so deluded about the potentials of Sovereignty.

    Andrew Coates

    April 1, 2017 at 11:10 am

  10. timanfire

    April 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm

  11. I read the article in the Observer yesterday.


    Andrew Coates

    April 3, 2017 at 12:30 pm

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