Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Anarchism’ Category

Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Review.

with 2 comments

Image result for Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan.

Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Translated, Edited and Introduced by Francis King. Lawrence and Wishart.

Fedor (Theodore) Dan was a leading figure in Russian social democracy. A prominent Menshevik during the 1917 Revolutions, he had chosen their side after the 1903 split with the Bolsheviks in the RSDLP (Russian Social-Democratic Workers; Party). During the Great War, King notes, Dan was a “Siberian Zimmerwaldist”, that is he opposed the conflict while under administrative exile in Russia’s far East and during his compulsory mobilisation as a Doctor in Turkestan. King writes, that Dan was described by Nikolai Sukhanov as, “one of the most major figures in the Russian revolution, one of the most outstanding actors in both the Russian workers’ movement and the events of 1917.” (Page 9)

Known to many on the left as the author of The origins of Bolshevism (in English, 1964), this is the first translation into any language of Dan’s Two Years of Wandering. Francis King is the Editor of Socialist History. His introduction outlines Dan’s background and his role in the crises of 1917. Dan, in conditions of political freedom, was part of the leadership of the Petrograd Soviet. Still calling for a “general peace” he took the Menshevik line of ‘revolutionary defencism”, which committed the country to continue fighting until this could be reached and support for a coalition Provisional Government.

This policy, opposed by its left wing around Martov, played a key role in the ‘end’ of Dan’s career in Petrograd. Bolshevik victory in October was not the only indication of their political dead-end. In the All-Russia Constituent Assembly elections of 1917 they won just 3% of the vote.

Continuing to support, “the idea of popular sovereignty, universal suffrage, and the Constituent Assembly” and demanding an end to terror for economic liberalisation, the Mensheviks tried to work within the new soviet structures. But what had begun in the Spring and Summer of 1918 with the “arrests and harassment of non-Bolshevik activists”. In June 1918, they, and the Socialist revolutionaries, were removed from the Soviet CEC. Yet they continued political activity. They focused on the defence of “the rights of labour” and the “defence of trade unions, with as a backdrop plans to make unions agents of “labour discipline” and “compulsory labour service” or the “militarisation of labour” exalted by Trotsky in Terrorism and Communism (1920). With their position set out in What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919 they had had a wider echo, Marcel Liebman and others record, within the official bodies (1)

For Trotsky the Mensheviks had in 1917, “together with the bourgeoisie, declared civil war against the Soviets”. In the Winter of 1920-1 the Mensheviks were systematically suppressed. (2)

In Lenin’s Gaols.

Dan’s serious travails began in 1919, when he spent 3 months in the Butyrka prison. Mobilised, again, in his medical capacity, he was put in charge of the Surgical Subsection of the Department of Medical Supplies. This was impossible task, faced with general chaos, the “constant inference of organs of the Cheka”, the sabotage of those who hoped for a return to private ownership and the prevalence of bribery. After protests, in an atmosphere of increasing hostility to the Mensheviks, Dan was reposted in what he describes as “official exile” to Ekaterinburg (Yekaterinburg), where he continued his “work service”. Further “wanderings”, which took him back to Moscow, then to Minsk and the Front in assault on Warsaw and finally to Petrograd, his native city, where Dan was finally caught in the Bolshevik repression and sent to Peter-Paul Fortress.

Two Years of Wandering is shot through with insights into those years of upheaval, the gaoling and exile of “thousands of socialists and non-party workers who (had) been so bold as to doubt the divine infallibility of the Bolshevik authorities, with all their fantasies, scandals, petty tyranny and occasional 180-degree turns. “(Page 53) From the famous 1920 visit of the British delegation to a meeting addressed by Printers’ leaders and Mensheviks, which criticised the “terrorist dictatorship of the minority”, the last Congress of Soviets at which the opposition was reluctantly tolerated, to the crackdown after the Kronstadt (1921) which marked the beginning of systematic elimination of dissent, the Mensheviks were disorganised. (3) A party that “had adapted all its tactics to the struggle for an open existence despite the Bolshevik terror.” was unable to mount any effective challenge (Page 98).

Dan was in prison during the Kronstadt revolt, which, when the news of this, following a strike wave, reached them, convinced those arrested that they were about to be shot. There were indeed mass killings. A gaoler, ‘S’ regaled Dan with tales of massacring whites. He also had this anecdote, “some Jewish trader they had arrested on suspicion that the leather he was carrying in his cart had concealed weapons under it. There were no weapons, but before letting the trader go, he wanted to have his ‘little joke’ at the expense of the ‘bourgeois’ so he stood him against a wall and ordered that he be shot – but they fired blanks. They did this three times – just to they could bring a little happiness to their prisoner when they told him he was free to go – although he could easily have died of heart failure.”(Page 121)

Sent to Remand gaol, Dan observed waves of new arrivals. Protests and demonstration were followed “on each occasion, a few intellectuals and party workers, together with hundreds of grey, non-party workers, would pass through the prison. There were tramway workers, workers from the Skorokhod, Obukhov, Putilov and Rechkin factories – all of working class Petersburg.”(Page 138) Conditions deteriorated, but perhaps what was most striking is that “once entering a Soviet prison, nobody can know even approximately how long he will be in there and how the imprisonment will end.” (Page 142)

Dan met an American ‘K’, identified by King as Adolf S Carm, arrested at the Third Congress of the Communist International “According to him he had been arrested on the strength of a denunciation by another American delegate, Haywood, in revenge for a polemical pamphlet K, had published against him in America. K was obviously very frightened and repeatedly stressed his devotion to everything the Bolshevik government did, including the practices of the Cheka.”(Page 155) Carm was released a couple of months later….

Dan was then sent to Butyri, a Cheka ‘internal prison’, a place where the “smell of human blood” was in the air. “the most dreadful aspect of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances in which this mass slaughter of people is taking place, where it has become an everyday occurrence.” (Page 145)

Hunger Strike and Exile.

For Two Years of Wandering hunger strikes, and a campaign “waged in the workers’ parties and working-class press of Europe” rather than kindness towards people who “had been in the same organisation at the Bolsheviks” The first response of the Bolshevik leadership came to them in the shape of the news that the All-Russia Cheka Presidium had sentenced all Mensheviks to be exiled for one year, and members of the party Central Committee for two years. As negotiations proceeded, their strike ended with the alternatives of, for imprisoned Mensheviks, either administrative exile in remote areas, or departure from Russia (Pages 179- 80) He chose Germany and arrived in Berlin in the winter of 1922.

As Francis King writes in his introduction – a significant contribution to the history of Menshevism in its own right – “it is the immediacy of this book which makes it so valuable” (Page 36). Dan shows understanding towards a variety of people, including anarchists, and a grasp of the plight of even imprisoned ‘whites’, that demonstrates the highest “common decency”. But Two years of Wandering is more than a personal memoir; it illustrates the “creation of a “large body of political of political police, operating with few constraints” built to enforce the governing monopoly of one party, the Bolsheviks” (Page 37).

Nevertheless, the Menshevik project of creating a ‘bourgeois’ democratic regime without a bourgeoisie that backed it was far from a viable alternative to the Bolsheviks, lacking, as King observes, both the “will” to govern and the instruments to do so. Dan’s evolution towards a form of “reform communism” also missed the tide of history. Yet, apart from its striking honesty, the book, smoothly translated, is a powerful antidote, written from the losing side of history, to the view that the early years of Bolshevik rule were only a joyous carnival of the oppressed.

********

(1) Trotsky’s reply to the Menshevik was, “If it were true that compulsory labour is unproductive always and under every condition, as the Menshevik resolutions says, all our constructive work would be doomed to failure. For we can have no way to socialism except by the authoritative regulation of the economic forces and resources of the country, and the centralised distribution of labour-power in harmony with the general state plan. The labour state considers itself empowered to send every worker to the place where his work is necessary.” Page 153. Terrorism and Communism. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1971. Pages 249 – 251. Leninism Under Lenin. Marcel Liebman. Merlin. 1980.

(2) Page 15. Social Democracy and the Wars of Intervention. Russia 1918 – 1921. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1975.

(3) King reproduces the speech of the Socialist-Revolutionary leader Viktor Chernov to this meeting with the British Labour delegation in Appendix 1. Liebman called his invitation ”an act of provocation” Liebman. Op cit. Page 251.

See Socialist History Society Newsletter.

Also, What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919

Economic Measures

1. The peasants should retain, on a collective or individual basis as they may freely decide, the public and privately owned lands which they seized and parcelled out at the time of the Revolution. Other lands, not as yet distributed, should be leased on a long-term basis to needy peasants and peasant associations, except for those lands on which large-scale model husbandry is being, and can continue to be, carried out by the state or by leaseholders. The decrees abolishing the Committees of the Poor should be put into effect without exception.

Agricultural communes should not be established by force, either directly or indirectly. Government-held supplies, agricultural implements and seed should be equitably distributed not only among communes but to all peasants who need them on communes and soviet lands.

2. The present food supply system should be replaced by one on the following basis:
a. The state should purchase grain at agreed prices involving a large application of the barter principle; it should then be sold at low prices to the poorest dwellers in town and country, with the state making up the difference. The state should make purchases through its agents, co-operatives or private traders on a commission basis.

b.  The state should purchase, at a price equal to the cost of production, a certain proportion of the grain surpluses held by the better-off peasants in the more fertile provinces, the proportion being decided with the advice of freely elected representatives of the local peasantry.

c. Grain should be purchased by co-operatives and workers’ organisations, who should at the same time make over the stocks they have procured to government organs concerned with food supply. The state retains the right to requisition supplies from large landowners who are deliberately hoarding them for speculative purposes. Transport arrangements are under the primary control of the state, co-operatives and workers’ organisations. All anti-profiteer detachments should be disbanded. The transfer of foodstuff from a particular locality shall not be prohibited save in exceptional circumstances and by a decision of the central legislature.

The state shall assist, materially and by administrative measures, the transfer of workers and their families from places where food is scarcest and their resettlement in fertile areas.

3. The state should retain control of major industrial enterprises that are fundamental to economic life, such as mines, metallurgical plant, the chief branches of the metal-working industry, etc. However, in all places where this seems likely to improve or animate production or to extend its range, recourse may be had to organising such enterprises by a combination of state and private capital, by the compulsory formation of a trust under state control or, in exceptional cases, by means of a concession.

All other large industrial enterprises except where state control is desirable for fiscal or other reasons and would not be deleterious to production, should as a rule be gradually transferred into private hands, by leasing to a co-operative or a new entrepreneur, or to the former owner on  condition that he accepts the obligation to restore and organise production. The state shall regulate the distribution of fuel and raw materials to different branches of production, enterprises and areas.

4. Small-scale industry should in no case be nationalised.

5. The state shall regulate the distribution to different areas, in accordance with a fixed plan, of the chief articles of mass consumption such as textiles, farm implements, salt, lighting materials etc with the aid of co-operatives and private traders.

6. As regards trade in other articles of the firs necessity and also in luxuries, the state should refrain from imposing restrictions and should allow co-operatives and private enterprises to function freely except in cases where regulation or even monopoly is desirable on account of the extreme scarcity of the product, e.g. medical supplies.

7. The credit system should be so reorganised as to facilitate in every way the use in trade and industry of available funds accumulate by producers in town and country and to afford scope for private initiative in trade, industry and agriculture.

8. The repression of speculation and trading abuses should be left to the courts and governed by specific legal provisions. All arbitrary acts of requisition, confiscation and the detention of goods should be punished. The law should protect rights of ownership in the case of all industrial and commercial concerns that are released from nationalisation. In future, when expropriation is required by the public interest it should take place on the basis of a decision by the supreme legislative bodies and on conditions determined by them.

9. Workers’ unions, in addition to taking a direct part in the work of regulatory bodies, are also and primarily representatives of the interests of the proletariat vis-a-vis the sate and private entrepreneurs. In this latter capacity they should be wholly independent of any state bodies.

10. Wage rates in state enterprises should be raised and minimum rates fixed for private enterprises in accordance with the commercial price-level for necessary goods….

11. The decree on consumers’ communes should be revoked. Workers’ and general co-operatives should be preserved as autonomous organisations, without the imposition of appointees or other interference in their internal affairs. They should also have the right to carry on non-commercial activity such as publishing, education, etc.

Political Measures

The right of voting for members of soviets should be extended to all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.

2. The Central Executive Committee of Soviets should once more function as the supreme legislative and administrative body, its proceedings being open to public observation. NO law shall come into force without being discussed and approved by the CEC.

3. Freedom of the press, of assembly and of association should be restored, and any party representing the workers shall have the right and be allowed to use premises for meeting, paper supplies, printing workers. Etc. Any restriction of this right that may be necessitated by the war against counter-revolution shall be established and clearly defined by the legislature; it shall not infringe the basic liberty and shall be applied only by the courts and institutions under their direct control.

4. The Revolutionary Tribunals shall be reorganised in such a way that the judges are elected by all the workers. Together with their subordinate investigatory commissions they shall have sole responsibility for combating counter-revolution. All officials should be directly liable to prosecution before these Tribunals for illegal acts committed in the execution of their duties, at the suit of the injured party in each case. Terror shall be done away with as an instrument of government; the death penalty be abolished , and likewise all investigatory and punitive organs independent of the courts, such as the Extraordinary Commission (CHEKA).

5. Party institutions and cells should be deprived of state authority, and party members of all material privileges.

6. The bureaucratic apparatus should be simplified by the extension of local self-government.

7. A policy of understanding should be pursed vis-a-vis the nationalities which have for any reason broken away from Russia, in order to put a speedy end to the Civil War an restore the unity of the state on a basis of national self-determination. The Cossack districts – Don, Kuban, Tersa, The Urals, Astrakhan, Orenburg, etc – should be allowed the widest possible autonomy and there should be no interference in their internal affairs or system of land tenure. Siberia should have regional self-government, and the independence of Finland and Poland should be recognised.

Central Committee of the RSDLP, 12 July 1919
Sotsial-demokratiia i revolutionsiaa. Sbornik dokumentov (Odessa, 1920), pp 9-15.

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Alt-Left Blogs Face Left Critics: the Canary, Skwawkbox, Novera.

with 2 comments

Image result for alt left

 

Phil’s latest merits a wide audience.

The Alt-Left: A Critical Appreciation

Among the big winners of the general election are the wave of new blogs collectively dubbed the “alt-left”. You know who I’m talking about. The Canary, Skwawkbox, Novara, Evolve Politics and Another Angry Voice have been singled out by the mainstream as the authentic voices of the new socialism that has seized hold of the Labour Party and powered it to its highest number of votes for 20 years. Despite these blogs being around for some time (AAV since 2010, Skwawkbox 2012) they constitute part of the third age of blogging, which saw outsiders seemingly appear from nowhere to muscle in on online comment. In a short period of time, they have all carved out serious audiences, according to Buzzfeed’s in-depth feature (itself a product of the third wave). How, and why is it – Novara’s Aaron Bastani aside – they are all outsiders? Why didn’t established radical journalists, other socialist blogs, or the regular output of the far left become key artefacts of the Corbynist zeitgeist? It’s because of how this “outsiderness” relates to their content which, in turn, has found substantial audiences.

Novera, Phil comments,  operates in the more traditional field of political analysis. The present Page offers on article that suggests that present outage over Grenfell Tower and the issue of housing, has something in common with the Spanish mass movement, the Indignados,or Movimiento 15-M or which involved millions of people, in protests against the ruling parties’ corruption, incompetence and formed the groundwork for Podemos, although  how the “current wave of indignation will crystallise” in the UK is left open (Britain’s Indignant Moment? Grenfell, Neoliberalism and the New Common Sense).

One can, with regret or not, say that last week’s Day of Rage,  was not much of a sign of such a movement.

Novera also includes a piece by Richard Seymour that offers a sober and pretty decent analysis of the rise of Corbyn in conditions where such protests were absent, or marginal. After the Miliband defeat, “he had an analysis not only of the grimly familiar litany of austerity’s failures but also of Labour’s crisis. He understood it as a crisis of the roots, a failure to connect to the activists and movements without whom Labour was just a professional political elite obsessed with psephology and spin.” Leaving aside the contentious claim that it was “he” Corbyn rather than Team Corbyn, that propelled the successful campaign for the Labour leadership, Seymour points out rightly, that there emerged a “protest movement in itself, attracting enormous rallies of the angry and disaffected Labour base in that  that post-election, “

Unfortunately there is a lot of speculation – wishful thinking would be a better term – in Seymour’s conclusions,  “He (Corbyn) has found hidden reservoirs of support and strength for the Left, raw materials for social transformation. In doing so, he has also exposed the inherent fragility of the supposedly indomitable, terrifying Tory machine, accentuating its inherited crises and long term decline, and potentially hastening the end of its role as a viable party of government.” (Where We Go From Here.)

These examples perhaps pass the line between taking the time to grasp political reality and expressing hopes and wishes for the future, but optimism is often welcome even if the will may overreach itself. One might ask, were one from these quarter, the radical left, if a movement focused on elections, and creating a mass party with some social activism,  is really something new and path breaking in European social democracy? Labour’s programme that while offering a series of reforms and nationalisations, is some respects to the right of this year’s unfortunate French Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, 6,4%, which offered Basic Income, a Europe-wide minimum wage, and the legalisation of cannabis amongst its policies

The Canary, strikingly,   passes well beyond the reality principle, “In one sentence, Corbyn drops a truth bomb that should have the Tories running for the hills.

The phrase is, apparently, “Yes, the £10 an hour living wage, real living wage, is correct and also should apply to all workers, because I don’t think young people eat less than old people – that’s my experience anyway.

Other stories, again from the Canary, live up to the point that, “What they all share is a default (and correct) assumption that the system is rigged and the powers-that-be will conspire, collude, and collaborate to forever gerrymander privilege for themselves and their cronies. The stock-in-trade for the blogs are stories that reinforce this healthy scepticism.”

Witness, the headline, “We’ve been investigating the evidence about the Grenfell fire. And what we’ve found is numbing. 

It is hard to find anything in this article that is not common knowledge, broadcast in the MSM.

Another Angry Voice is  simply what its name gives, enraged:  “Taking back control” by handing control of HS2 to one of three foreign governments.

Evolve Politics is a front for a nationalist ideology, called ‘sovereigntism’ which considers that the British Parliament ‘taking back control’ from the EU, Brexit, is a step forward.

Leaving the single market will unleash the full potential of Corbynism, no wonder the Blairites want to stay in it.

In this version of National Parliamentary Socialism the EU is an obstacle to the left and those who want a ‘soft Brexit’ with the UK in the single market are out to stab Corbyn in the back.

Yet what of the fact that young people and most Labour members backed the EU, including the radical left who supported Another Europe is Possible?

This is is the answer: Brexit, when backed by anti-EU ‘progressives’ is really ‘internationalist’.

Those who claim that the majority of Labour’s new membership backed remaining in the EU so Corbyn had to follow suit fail to grasp the complex dynamics of the situation. If Corbyn had put forward a socialist leave position, it would have reconstituted the party membership on different lines, possibly winning back much of UKIP’s voter base to a progressive position. Many of the progressive remain voters as well, who see the EU in terms of their own feelings of internationalism, of solidarity with workers and young people in other countries, could also have been won to a socialist leave position.

Against the ‘Blairite’ supporters of the EU who “will use the single market as a tool to sabotage Corbyn’s programme”  action is needed.

 This means campaigning for mandatory reselection of the Blairite MPs and a Brexit in the interest of the working class

Now it is not generally a good idea for other bloggers educated in the school of hard-blows that was the UK Left Network – whose ‘style’ makes any of the above look tame –  to comment critically about those  trying to make original points, from the left, about politics. That is the function of Blogs and the wider democratisation of news and opinion that the Web encourages. But Third Age bloggers are no more above criticism than the MSM. We could explore other sites, such as We demand UK, Britain is the People, Little Britain First. PigGate 2, Jeremy Corbyn The People’s PM, Mock the Right, The Daily Politik, Red Labour, Walking the Breadline, The Ragged Trousered Philanderer, Nye Bevan News.

But the ones we have singled out, from Phil’s list have the clearest  ambition to be something that resembles the 1960s and 1970s underground press, to be alternative media. In present conditions they aim as high as to offer their own news.

It’s in this respect that Phil points us to some substantial points made by one Bob Pitt, well-known in this parish.

It is an exceptional, and as Phil says, “forensic” demolition of one site, Skwarkbox.

Skwawkbox — an embarrassment to the Left

The almost uniform hostility that Jeremy Corbyn has faced from the press and broadcast media since his election as Labour leader (only slightly mitigated by the party’s impressive showing in the general election) has given a boost to alternative news media whose declared aim is to defend Corbyn’s politics and nail the lies of the “MSM”. Novara Media, The Canary, Evolve Politics, Another Angry Voice and The Skwawkbox are notable examples.

The influence of these alt-left sites shouldn’t be underestimated. In the run-up to the general election BuzzFeed News reported that they were attracting “enormous audiences”. The Skwawkbox, a one-man operation apparently run by a Labour Party member from Liverpool, featured in a BBC News At Ten report, which stated that “many of his articles go viral, with some achieving hundreds of thousands of readers”.

Comrade Pitt registers this impact on the wider media,

On Saturday, Skawkbox also made the front page of the Daily Telegraph, where it was presented in a rather less favourable light. Taking its cue from the Guido Fawkes website, the Telegraph ran a report titled “Corbyn-backers spread ‘fake news’ about blaze toll”, which attacked Skwawkbox’s coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire. The story was then recycled by the Sunday Express which similarly accused Corbyn supporters of misreporting the tragedy.

Without recounting the full story we note.

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

When the tale fell apart this was the reaction,

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Nowhere, he complained, did he claim that the government had imposed a D-Notice on media coverage of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He insisted that he had merely raised the possibility that a D-Notice could have been issued. Did he not write “if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice”? Well, yes, he did — but that was immediately followed by the words “and every instinct is screaming that it is”! The author then proceeded on the basis of that assumption to outline his theories about the government’s motives for imposing a media gag.

The former Editor of What Next? and Islamophobia Watch,  covers a few more tall tales and concludes,

But I stopped following Skwawkbox last September after it published ludicrous claims based on dodgy maths about vast numbers of people being excluded from the Labour leadership election (“no fewer than 67,000 eligible voters have not received a vote — over 16% of the Labour electorate”), followed by the baseless accusation of a cover-up by party officials.

That, unfortunately, is how Skwawkbox operates — hyping up stories in order to generate clickbait headlines, with little or no concern for accuracy, often combining this with unsubstantiated claims that the authorities are involved in some sort of conspiracy. The evident purpose of this is to whip up hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn’s political opponents in order to bolster his leadership.

Skwawkbox’s approach is entirely counterproductive. Far from defending Corbyn against right-wing attacks, this irresponsible nonsense just provides ammunition for his enemies, allowing them to portray the Labour leader’s supporters as a bunch of liars and political fantasists. It also degrades the political culture of the left, by sidelining serious analysis and debate in favour of false polemics and crackpot conspiracy theories.

Skwawkbox has a featured post that includes a tweet from an admirer: “This blog is journalism as it should be. True, fair, accurate and in the public interest.” The reality, however, is that Skwawkbox functions as a sort of left-wing mirror image of the right-wing tabloid press, or of alt-right sites like Breitbart News. It employs the same unscrupulous, sensationalist journalistic methods, but for opposite political ends. Skwawkbox appears incapable of grasping that socialist aims cannot be achieved by such anti-socialist means.

Phil by contrast remarks of the alt-left Blogs,

The size of their audience is one reason why they cannot be dismissed with a flick of the polemical wrist. The other is their impact on the political process. Despite the conspiratorial thinking, they have proven effective in cohering armies of social media activists around the Corbyn project. During the election, they inspired and encouraged thousands of peoples to get active in campaigns independently of the herculean mobilisation efforts of Momentum. Those activists are not disappearing either. They’re turning up to constituency meetings in increasing numbers and are steadily making their presence felt. In short, the new blogs top the collective propaganda efforts of established left activism and are helping touch off a mass radicalisation, and that is not to be sniffed at.

This Blog tends to agree with cde Pitt’s critical stand

Conspiratorial thinking, of the kind painfully exhibited in Skwawkbox, and just plain sloppy playing around with facts, is not just to be sniffed at: it is to be opposed.

The Canary gave space to this Opinion in February this year:

Donald Trump is trying a move from Hitler’s playbook, and the media gifted it to him Ben Janaway

At the end is this sentence: We actively invite you to question what you read at The Canary, to follow the hyperlinks we reference, and to search for more information.

Hitler’s playbook is not available on-line.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 25, 2017 at 11:50 am

Left Socialist Revolutionaries Win Backing in Leftist Poll on 1917.

with 9 comments

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

 

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

with 2 comments

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.

 

 

Podemos Internal Dispute Ends with Iglesias’ Victory.

leave a comment »

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

Counterfire: People’s Brexit and the anti-Trump Movement: ‘Socialism or Barbarism’.

with one comment

Image result for socialism or barbarism

Socialism or Barbarism – on the Agenda says Counterfire. 

There are few better illustrations of the confusion of the Brexit left than Counterfire, the groupuscule which runs the remains of the People’s Assembly, and which has great influence in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

One minute it was exulting in the ‘actuality of the revolution’.

The next warbling about a People’s Brexit.

Here is their latest dire warning.

The right in power, resistance and transformation Jack Hazeldine. 24.1.2017.

As the political centre collapses and politics polarises – as it has begun to do here and in the US – such mass movements of resistance, combined with the popularisation of left wing and socialist ideas have huge potential to advance a transformational alternative to the false claims, failure and scapegoating of the populist right in power.

Indeed, they absolutely must in this situation. As Rosa Luxemburg famously described: it is socialism or barbarism.

Yet in fact Counterfire has lurched further to the protectionist side:

Only a People‘s Brexit will bring the change we need Ben Myers. 22.1.2017.

The People’s Question Time ‘Brexit: What are our demands?’ provided a good platform for this. Now we need to form a strong opposition to an ultra-capitalist Tory Brexit, by fighting for a People’s Brexit, where industry is protected, and workers‘ rights are expanded.

To further the interests of the working class communities that voted Leave last year, our objectives should be: to push the government into protecting trade union rights, protecting and enhancing our right to withdraw labour, and a renewed defence of freedom of movement.

Also, we must continue to challenge the racism and xenophobia of the political right and argue for a truly internationalist Brexit.

Internationalist, that is, which protects British industry, and leaves the EU labour and social legislation, and by its very nature restricts freedom of movement.

While the drawbridge of Castle Britain is being hauled up eyes turn to the USA, a topic Counterfire is a lot happier to talk about.

As the old order stumbles, our side must embrace the internationalism that underpins anti-Trumpism, asserts Kevin Ovenden 24.1.2017.

Building on the unity of Saturday from below, against whatever lash-up Trump and May come up with.

That is an approach that can help undermine Trump in the US and May in Britain. That is what we did with the rise of the movements which marked the start of this century, from Seattle, through Genoa to the global anti-war movement.

We didn’t do it by looking to one trading block of capitalism and alliance of states against another one.

How true.

With socialism or barbarism on the horizon the historical tasks facing Counterfire are truly enormous.

Perhaps they should team up with another lost soul, Alex Callinicos, who now bravely declares:

Accepting Brexit is indispensable to offering an alternative to neoliberalism.

Socialist Worker. 24th of January.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 24, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Momentum: Members Must Join Labour.

with 8 comments

Founder Jon Lansman convinces committee to sign up to new structure and rules in attempt to settle disputes.

Momentum, the grassroots pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group, has agreed a new constitution that will require its members to join the Labour party, in an attempt to resolve a bitter fight about its future.

After Corbyn emailed Momentum’s 20,000 members in December to ask them to respond to a survey about how it should be organised and run, its founder Jon Lansman drew up a new structure and rules, which he then persuaded members of its steering committee to sign up to.

In an email message to the committee, seen by the Guardian, Lansman said: “We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months.”

(NOTE HERE IS THE e-mail, An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:

The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
A paper on interim governance
A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.
The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:

Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.
If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
In solidarity

Jon Lansman
Chair
Momentum National Steering Group

Lansman claims to have drawn up the proposals “in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn”.

The group had been riven by factional disputes since Corbyn’s re-election in September, amid reports that it had been infiltrated by Trotskyists. Corbyn had urged its members to resolve their differences, telling the Guardian in December that he would like to see them join Labour.

Momentum issued a public statement on Tuesday night that said elections would now be held to a new ruling body and its existing governing structures dissolved. It will then seek to become an affiliate of the Labour party.

“Momentum is moving forwards as the outward-looking, campaigning movement that our members want it to be. Over the coming months, Momentum will continue to grow, building our movement to encourage more people to participate in politics and help Labour harness its new mass membership to win power and rebuild and transform Britain,” the statement said.

Under the new constitution, decision-making will be thrown open to votes by members. In the survey, 80% of members favoured decision-making by one member one vote, rather than a delegate structure.

Members will also have to join Labour – a new rule that could force out figures including Jill Mountford, of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, and former Militant member Nick Wrack, because they are excluded from the party. Fellow Momentum activist Jackie Walker is suspended over antisemitism claims, which she denies.

Mountford accused Lansman of staging a coup that she and other Momentum activists plan to fight. “This is a coup. We are not splitting and we are not going to be provoked by this,” she said. “We are going to call a conference for grassroots activists and we will to seek to reverse these changes. The constitution has been imposed, we are going to continue to fight for a democratic organisation.

“We still have local organisations to attend and I don’t think activists are going to accept this lying down. We will campaign to reverse this,” she said.

“I am in shock. Jon called tonight for an impromptu, unplanned steering committee meeting which was conducted online between 7.40pm and 8.30pm. The upshot is that Momentum’s steering committee, the national committee and the conference arrangements committee, have all been dissolved.”

Mountford and Wrack have been among those fighting against Lansman’s plans to throw open decision-making to one-member-one-vote by the membership. At a fractious meeting of the national committee last month, they narrowly won a battle to make February’s planned Momentum conference into what Mountford called “a national delegate based conference with decision-making powers” which would debate the details of a policy platform.

But to Lansman and his allies, that strayed too close to replicating the structures of a traditional political party. Momentum sources said the conference would now be “an exciting day of activist training, workshops and networking”.

According to Mountford, Lansman has not been in touch with her since the national committee meeting on 3 December. She said the steering committee had sent out plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday at Tessa headquarters in London, an event she believes prompted Lansman’s actions on Tuesday night.

The relationship between the steering committee, which has agreed the new constitution, and the national committee, where some of the most contentious debates have been held, is disputed.

Comments:

I have argued, as people know, that although it has done sterling work, Momentum risked become a sectarian playground.

This is one of the reasons I have not become a member, the other being that round here it is not needed.

I have sympathy with with those like Jill Mountford, who are true labour movement people,

I have none whatsoever with those who wish to turn Momentum away from Labour and make it a vehicle for their own projects, and in particular with at least one person (see above) who has indulged in factionalising from Militant, the SWP, Socialist Alliance, Respect (!), TUSC and – I could list a lot lot more.

More Details:

CONSTITUTION SUMMARY
1. SUMMARY OF CONSTITUTION
Membership:
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.

If you are currently paying Momentum membership fees but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

How key decisions are made:
Under this constitution decisions can be made either by the National Coordinating Group (NCG) which includes representatives of members, affiliates and Labour public office holders, or by ordinary members through a digital democracy process. This aims to achieve a broad and representative group to regularly meet and discuss the needs of the organisation while maintaining the membership as the ultimate decision makers on key issues. The NCG is also overseen by a Members’ Council consisting of 50 members randomly chosen by lot.

1) National Coordinating Group (NCG):
The National Coordinating Group will comprise:

12 members, four from each of three divisions (a) North and Scotland, (b) the Midlands, Wales and the West, (c) the South East. At least two of the members elected from each division should be women, and at least one should self-identify as BAME (black, Asian, ethnic minority).
4 Momentum members who are Labour public officer holders (of the UK, European or Scottish Parliaments, Welsh or London Assemblies, Elected Mayors or Police Commissioners, or Labour members of a British local authority).
6 members nominated by affiliated trade unions
4 members nominated by other affiliated organisations
If the 12 members who are elected do not include one person who self-identifies as disabled, one person who self-identifies as LGBT+ and two young persons under 30, then up to 4 more places will be elected to ensure these groups are represented.

All members can stand and vote in elections for positions on the NCG. Elections to the NCG will take place online or by other accessible means, with each member having a vote. Please find details of the election process and timetable here.

The constitution stipulates that the NCG should facilitate self-organisation for members of liberation groups within Momentum – LGBT+, disabled, women and black Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) – and campaign for increased representation for liberation groups within the Labour Party. The NCG must ensure that Momentum liberation networks have the support to organise campaigns and are able to advise and make recommendations to the NCG.

2) Members Council:
So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.

3) Digital Democracy Platform:
Momentum will provide a digital democracy platform to ensure that all members are empowered to initiate and vote on campaign priorities, constitutional amendments or overturning decisions by the NCG. All members will be able to vote online with each member having a vote. Any members who are unable to vote online can contact the National Office to vote via other accessible means.

2. WHY WAS THE CONSTITUTION ADOPTED?
The results of the survey sent to Momentum members show that there is a widespread consensus about the type of organisation members want – a grassroots, campaigning political movement that can help Labour win power on a transformative platform. 40.35% of members responded to the survey. Campaigning for Labour victories and helping members become more active in the Labour Party were the most popular options for Momentum’s priorities in 2017, chosen by 71.71% and 68.23% of respondents respectively.

80.60% of respondents said that key decisions should be taken by One Member One Vote, rather than by delegates at regional and national conferences and committees (12.50%). 79.29% of respondents said all members should have a say in electing their representatives, as opposed to national representatives being elected by delegates from local groups (16.16%).

Following this decisive response, the Steering Committee voted to introduce the constitution for Momentum to deliver the kind of action-focussed, campaigning, Labour-focussed organisation our members have said they want. The constitution puts decision making power in the hands of members with direct democracy and OMOV elections central to the organisation.

3. DEMOCRACY Q&A
How can the constitution be changed?
A member of the NCG can propose an amendment to the constitution or members bring a petition proposing an amendment to constitution with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.

The NCG will consider the proposed amendment. If the NCG unanimously agrees to the amendment it will be adopted. If the NCG passes the amendment, but not unanimously, it will go to a one member one vote (OMOV) online ballot and will pass with 50% of votes casts. If the NCG rejects the proposal, members can bring a petition signed by 10% of membership, which will trigger a vote among all members online or by other accessible means. An amendment will then be adopted with the support of at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership and at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.

How can members vote on campaign priorities?
A proposal on Momentum’s campaign priorities can be made by a member of the NCG, or by members’ bringing a petition with the support of 5% of members or 1,000 members.

The NCG considers the proposal. If the NCG approves the proposal, it will be adopted. If the NCG rejects the proposal, but a petition is brought with support of 10% of the membership, then the proposal will go to a vote among all members, via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. A campaign priority will then be adopted where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of those members eligible to vote.

How can other key decisions be taken to a vote by members?
If a member wants to challenge a decision by the NCG in relation to guidance or directives issued to members, groups or networks, a petition can be brought signed by 10% of the membership. This will take the decision to a vote among all members via one member one vote online or by other accessible means. The decision will be overturned where at least 50% of votes cast in an OMOV ballot of the membership where at least 30% of members eligible to vote are in favour of doing so. Additional proposals to the NCG can be made by the Members’ Council.

Moreover, a majority of the NCG can vote for any decision to go to an OMOV ballot of all members.

How do I participate in the elections for National Coordinating Group (NCG)?
You can find details of the election process and timetable here. When the election takes place, statements by all candidates will be circulated and all members will have an online vote.

If any members are unable to vote online, please call 07508255697 before 17 February, to vote by other accessible means.

What does this mean for my local group or network?
It is hoped that your local group or network is able to continue as usual within the framework of Momentum’s constitution. The constitution is intended to bring clarity to Momentum’s purpose, goals and organisation, improve transparency and reduce internal bureaucracy. Therefore, there will be more time, energy and resources directed at supporting local organising, activity and campaigns.

What is happening to Momentum’s Conference?
Momentum’s Inaugural National Conference will take place on 18 February. This will be organised by the National Office and will be open to all members. To reflect the priorities of the membership, the Conference will focus on the theme ‘Momentum’s role in Labour’s General Election Strategy.’ It will be a day of activist training, political education workshops, networking, political discussion and debate. More details will be announced soon.

What is happening to Momentum’s Regional Networks, National Committee and Steering Committee?
Momentum’s constitution does not include Regional Networks, a National Committee or Steering Committee.

It is hoped that members will still wish to organise and coordinate activity, network and share best practice within regions and areas, which can be done informally online or at meetings and events, providing it is within the framework of the constitution and the code of ethics. However, the Regional Networks will no longer be formally convened as part of the governance structure of the organisation.

Momentum’s business will be carried out by the National Coordinating Group (NCG). All members will be able to stand for a position on the NCG and vote for their representatives.

So that members can directly participate in developing the activities, resources and campaigns of Momentum, a Members’ Council will be chosen randomly by lot every 6 months. The goal is for the ideas, inspiration and innovation of Momentum’s activities to come from the grassroots, and be as responsive to members’ needs as possible. The first Members’ Council will be drawn soon after the NCG has been convened.

4. MEMBERSHIP Q&A
The constitution requires all new Momentum members to be Labour Party members. New members who join Momentum must be members of the Labour Party.

If you are a Momentum member but not a member of Labour, you have until 1 July to join the Party. Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

Who can be a member?
Membership is open to anyone who:

Is 14 or over
Is a member of the Labour Party and no other political party nor an organisation disallowed by National Coordination Group
Agrees to be bound by the rules of Momentum, including its code of ethics
What do I do if I am not a Labour member?
In order for Momentum to achieve its aims of helping Labour become a transformative and socialist party of government, Momentum is aiming to affiliate to the Labour Party. New members of Momentum must be members of Labour to join Momentum, and existing members of Momentum the opportunity to join the Party by 1 July. You can join Labour here.

What do I do if I was suspended from Labour or if I was rejected as a Supporter?
Momentum members who have been suspended from Labour, but not expelled, will remain members of Momentum.

If you have been suspended from the Labour Party you can appeal your suspension. To appeal, email labourmembership@labour.org.uk and appeals@labour.org.uk or call 0345 092 2299.

If you have previously applied to be an Affiliated or Registered Supporter of the Labour Party and your application was rejected, you cannot appeal. However, this does not preclude you from applying to become a full member of the Party now. We encourage all Momentum members to join Labour as a full member. You can join here.

If you have been expelled from the Labour Party or were prevented from joining, you may be deemed to have resigned from Momentum. While you can participate in campaigns and activities organised by a local group, network or Momentum nationally, you are not able to be a member, and therefore cannot hold a position within Momentum, vote in elections or hold other membership rights.

If you are not able to be a member of Momentum, please email membership@peoplesmomentum.com.

If you need to change the name of a key contact or position holder in your group, please fill in the group verification form with the new details.

How do I cancel my membership?
To cancel your membership, you can email membership@peoplesmomentum.com.

I agree with the constitution – what shall I do?
You don’t have to do anything; by continuing to pay your membership dues, you are consenting to the constitution.

I don’t agree to the constitution – what shall I do?
It is hoped that this constitution will satisfy members by ensuring that the overwhelming majority of time, energy and resources is used supporting members, local groups and networks to achieve Momentum’s aims. The constitution makes it possible for members to change its rules and make amendments, so it can be altered over time to reflect any changes in the wishes of the membership.

However, if you wish to opt-out, you can email membership@peoplesmomentum.com to cancel your membership.

5. OPERATIONS AND STAFFING
How does the constitution affect the day to day running of Momentum?
The staff and volunteer team at the National Office will continue to support local groups, facilitate the formation of new groups, handle enquiries, coordinate Momentum’s ongoing national campaigns, support members to get more active within the Party and campaign for Labour in elections.

There are currently a number of permanent and temporary staff. The staff team will organise elections to the National Coordinating Group (NCG) in the coming weeks. Once these positions have been elected and the NCG has been formed, the NCG will review Momentum’s staffing structure and establish an open application process for all permanent staffing roles.

Who should I contact if I have further questions?
If you have any further questions about the constitution or the implications for your local organising, please email beth.fosterogg@peoplesmomentum.com.

It is hoped that the constitution will enable members to draw a line under the confusion, internal squabbling and lack of transparency within the organisation. It will enable the majority of time, energy and resources to be used to develop local groups and members.

6. FLOWCHARTS
Campaign Priorities
Constitution Amendments

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm