Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As Mad Max Dystopia looms ‘left’ Counterfire lines up with Kate Hoey to denounce efforts to thwart Brexit.

with 15 comments

Image result for kate hoey cartoon

Kate Hoey: Fighting  EU free market policies

The Counterfire groupuscule has issued a dire warning about the dangers of the European Union.

Chris Nineham is  “a founder member and National Officer of the Stop the War Coalition” and a specialist in the works of noted theorist of the “actuality of the revolution” and the reification of commodities,  Georg Lukács  (Capitalism and Class Consciousness: The Ideas of Georg Lukács).

Nineham has now extended his brief to write on the European Union.

The EU has derailed left governments at least three times – don’t let Corbyn be next.

I shall not discuss his views on the Greek crisis, but focus on two episodes I know a lot better.

Amongst other things Nineham rewrites history to claim that,

“The EU – then the European Economic Community (EEC) – played a less dramatic but still decisive part in the calamitous story of the Socialist Party government in France in 1981 – 1986. “

This is some real history,

The 1982-3 ‘moment’, a conjuncture that brought together political and economic strategic change with a cultural shift towards the market, remains marked in PS history. The Mauroy government, abandoned a strategy, reinforced with the entry of Communist Ministers in the cabinet, of nationalisations, proactive industrial policy, and increased consumption, came as the first Mitterrand governments failed to reduce unemployment or stimulate growth. Put simply, with the world in recession, going it alone was not working. Warnings of economic disaster starring the President and Prime Minister in the face during the summer of 1982 and the judgement that the franc risked going through the floor, strained the country’s membership of the European Monetary System (EMS) to breaking point. Retrenching at this point was more than a “pause” in reform. The government suddenly dropped all the idea of top-down ‘statist’ economic intervention. The initial wave of nationalisations (which remained in place for the time being, including important parts of the banking system) were not the ‘instrument’ of economic growth and social change. Industry had to be “restructured”, that is modernised at the cost of closures and layoffs; budgets had to restrained. The PS, soon free of a vestigial alliance with the Communists (PCF), came to grips with what they considered the impossibility of ‘Keynesianism in one country’. The “mutation” of modern capitalism was embraced.


That the austerity programme in 1983, and the zealous pursuit of ‘modernisation’ under the subsequent PM Laurent Fabius, has marked the governing French left ever since is not in doubt. But the alternative answer, argued by the Minister of Industry, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, for France to “go it alone” outside the EMS, may well have led, as his opponents claimed, to a collapse in the franc, and to France going cap in hand, for help to another international “neoliberal’ institution, the IMF, with an equally severe plan for budget cuts. A left-winger might well ask about the reaction of the labour movement. From Mitterrand’s victory in 1981 to the policy change, there was little popular activity, and the brief displays of CGT militancy that followed the exit of the Communists from government never rose beyond fragmented protest

The Centre Can Hold’: Perry Anderson, French Politics in the Era of Macron, A Critique. Part One.

Chris Nineham argues further that Britain’s entry into the EU under PM Harold Wilson in the 1970s  was also a plan by the capitalists to sabotage left wing economic policies,

The pro Europe campaign won the referendum by more than two to one and business rejoiced. Wilson seized the chance to sack Benn and Heffer, shifting the balance of power in the cabinet from left to right. As economists Mitchell and Fazi put it recently in their book Reclaiming the State, the referendum ‘all but killed the impetus for radical reform’.

Following this defeat for the left, sabotage and subversion started in earnest. Investors and currency speculators used growing levels of inflation as an excuse to pull out of the British economy. There was a massive run on the pound. Instead of responding by deepening government control over the economy and introducing currency controls the government ended up imposing wage restraint and going to the IMF for loans that were tied to cuts in public spending on hospitals schools and on government Investment in industry.

He solemnly concludes on the basis of this ‘evidence’,  – that a vote to Join the EU was the precondition for such “subversion” that,

This history should give pause for thought to those who see remaining in the single market or the customs union as in any sense left policies. Pro-business and anti-left groups in social democracy have always lined up with the EU because it promotes free market policies. Today is no exception. The list of 64 Labour MPs who rebelled and voted in December to try and keep Britain in the customs union is a list of those who are amongst the most hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive economic agenda. Once again the issue of the EU is the frontline of an attack on the left, this time against Corbyn and Corbynism.

Kate Hoey, one of the most celebrated former members of the International Marxist Group (IMG) in Parliament and famous for her sense of humour.

And political judgement.




Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm

15 Responses

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  1. Aren’t people like Bastani making arguments that sound just like a ‘People’s Brexit’ though? I think these goes wider than just Hoey.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    February 20, 2018 at 3:47 pm

  2. Naturally.

    I mention her and her mates because it emphasies just what a lot of the pro-Brexit tendency in the Labour Party is.

    Andrew Coates

    February 20, 2018 at 3:52 pm

  3. James Meadway (John McDonnell’s economic adviser) has also written Lexit articles when he was (or is he still?) a member of Counterfire. It’s highly unlikely he’s changed his views.


    John Rogan

    February 20, 2018 at 4:27 pm

  4. I have argued with him!

    Andrew Coates

    February 20, 2018 at 4:35 pm

  5. With whom. Meadway or McDonnell?

    Dave Roberts

    February 20, 2018 at 6:41 pm

  6. A wonderful Melanie Phillips column in yesterday’s Times, in which she bleats that pro-Brexit academics and artists are living in fear, and afraid to express themselves against the “‘progressive ‘orthodoxy’.”

    And its just as bad, says Melanie, is the treatment meted out to the many scientists who secretly support “intelligent design” and those who are sceptical of man-made global warming theory, forced to remain silent because “they feel terrorised or won’t get grant funding.”

    So there you have it: Brexit, intelligent design and global warming denial are all under sustained attack from “progressives”.

    I’m sorry that I can’t provide a link to Mel’s column, as its behind Murdoch’s paywall, but I do recommend getting hold of a copy if at all possible: it’s a true classic of its kind. And I’m sure all those “Lexiteers” will be just thrilled to be bracketed alongside intelligent design supporters and global warming deniers – maybe Spiked online could take up all three causes?

    Jim Denham

    February 21, 2018 at 10:10 am

  7. Andrew, a minor point, but why say that Kate H was in the IMG. Briefly she flirted around the periphery of the IMG but she did not join. Her present stance on Brexit and also its impact on the Good Friday Agreement. Is totally disgraceful. I do not believe the left should do a massive deselection of MPs…..but there are exceptions!


    February 21, 2018 at 11:41 am

  8. Indeed, Badger: just about the only persuasive argument for opposing the expulsion of Tony Greenstein is that Kate H remains a member.

    Jim Denham

    February 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm

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


    When posting on this before I expressed scepticism on the grounds that I was at Westminster FE College between 1974 and 1976.

    Westminster’s NUS has ties with nearby Kingsway (they are I believe now one FE), and as the External Affairs Officer for the college’s NUS I would have surely have known of another IMG member or even former member at Kingsway.

    So I would tend to agree with your point Badger, but it is there in Wiki and she’s talked about the IMG a few times. although I register this claim as having an authentic ring…

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


    Andrew Coates

    February 21, 2018 at 12:46 pm

  10. Andrew,
    I take your point that there is some smoke here. My doubts about there being a fire is based on a discussion I had with her around ’78 at a party involving some IMG people. I had met her previously at a NATFHE conference where she appeared to me. perhaps incorrectly, to be under the influence of the CP caucus. When I talked to her at that party she relentlessly refused to discuss politics in general and her role in NATFHE in particular. This was in total distinction to everybody else in the genteel “party”. I also add that I was a member of the IMG political committee at the time and was told that she was merely a distant contact. The distance between herself and any variant of socialism is now clear to all.


    February 22, 2018 at 11:10 am

  11. On the Counterfire strategy there is also this vain, self-regarding, fantasy, “Labour should stick with its People’s Brexit strategy argues John Rees”.

    Er, despite Rees’ self-important assertion nobody in the Labour Party ever agreed to a “people’s Brexit”

    He continues with his wish list:

    A new economic settlement that works for the many.

    No deregulatory bonfire – we must build on the human and workers’ rights we currently enjoy and on environmental, food and health, and safety standards.

    All existing EU legislation that protects the environment, consumers rights, and workers conditions should remain part of UK law. We demand better than the EU not worse than the EU.

    We reject any trade agreement which reproduces the EU requirement for comparative tendering for public services which favours privatisation by allowing corporations to ‘over-bid’ for contracts.

    Equality of employment, wages, conditions and trade union membership. It will be illegal for any employer to offer differential contracts to domestic and migrant labour. The continuation of free movement within a newly regulated British labour market which stops exploitation and has in place a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour.
    Ensure that EU funding to our regions and our infrastructure is replaced on at least a pound for pound basis.
    We reject a Fortress Britain as a replacement to Fortress Europe. Refugees are welcome here. An open country which welcomes people from across our globe – no retreat into narrow nationalism.
    The privatisation or subcontracting of any part of the NHS must be specifically excluded from any future trade deal.
    No TTIP on steroids – new trade deals opened to democratic scrutiny and which include food standards, human and workers’ rights and environmental protections.
    We reject a foreign policy based either on a special relationship with Donald Trump’s US, or on the establishment of a European army as recently agreed by the EU states. Our foreign policy should be based on peace, non-intervention, nuclear disarmament, and international solidarity.

    Nobody imagines that without the EU any of these items is possible.

    It is, above all, bizarre,for somebody who actively campaigned for Brexit and spread the myth that it would open the way to left advance, to ‘demand’ now that the world not be made “worse” by….. Brexit.

    What kind of forward looking “people’s” strategy is this?


    Andrew Coates

    February 22, 2018 at 5:59 pm

  12. I knew Kate Hoey personally during her brief period in the IMG (1971/1972)
    I wrote about it in The (Dublin) Cedar Lounge blog several years ago:


    NollaigO – May 1, 2008 Kate Hoey’s political history:
    The comments in the above posts on her upbringing are probably accurate. Of interest is the fact that her uncle was a NILP supporter and BBC political commentator, John Cole.
    Living in London in the early 1970s she became a vice-president of the NUS.[Jack Straw was NUS president at the time].
    Returning from an overseas conference, she found herself sitting next to Tariq Ali on the plane. Tariq persuaded her to join the IMG, which she did in summer 1971. In subsequent years she used to muddy this connection by claiming that she was only in the Spartacus League, a short lived youth wing of the IMG. She was never at ease with the Irish Republican Trotskyism of the IMG and was also very inimical to Gery Lawless, an IMG member and leading IMG spokesman on Irish politics at the time. She felt that having Lawless as a member discredited the IMG. Under the influence of Brian Trench [political influence of course!] she joined the IS in 1972 but her stay there was also limited. She joined Hackney Labour party and supported the Troops Out Movement for a period before doing a political somersault and becoming a supporter of the BICO front organisation, Campaign for Labour Representation in Northern Ireland. Nowadays,BICO’s successor, the IPR group are quiet hostile to her,dubbing her TallyHoey in a recent article! [i.e an early 2000s article – N.O.]

    I again met Kate Hoey in the 1980s when I was a teacher in a Camden Borough secondary school and she was running a Fresh Start outreach course for Kingsway College. She also ran a life skills course for Arsenal football apprentices. She worked there until 1989 when she was elected MP at the Vauxhall by-election. Hoey had previously unsuccessfully contested Dulwich at the 1983 and 1987 general elections, being defeated on the second occasion by only 180 votes. [ A mischevious rumour circulating claimed that in 1987, she had already given in her notice to the college and held her goodbye party!!]


    February 22, 2018 at 7:24 pm

  13. Kate Hoey interview from Dec 17 talking about her IMG period.

    “My hero in the early days was [civil rights activist] Michael Farrell because he was amazing. He was a brilliant speaker. Debates with Michael Farrell, Eamonn McCann, it was a very interesting time.”

    Ms Hoey joined the International Marxist Group, a Trotskyist group which backed a united Ireland and moved to London to study economics.

    “I was very against internment and I was in the Anti-Internment League here in London, and we were all arrested after they took the coffins into Downing Street.”


    John Rogan

    February 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

  14. Thanks for that nollaigoj.

    For the archives of the workers’ movement.

    Andrew Coates

    February 23, 2018 at 11:34 am

  15. Obviously there was a far closer relationship with the IMG in the early 70s than I knew. I stand corrected.


    February 23, 2018 at 11:43 am

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