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As Left Rallies to Back Another Europe, Verso promotes neoliberal attack on EU.

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photo of John Rowlery Gillingham

Thatcherite Gillingham is Top Author on Verso ‘internationalist’ reading list on EU.

Verso books, the publishing wing of New Left Review, has”put together an essential reading list of books that critically engage with the debate from a perspective of internationalism.”

Brexit and the European Union: Essential Reading.

At the top of the pile of books is this:

The EU: An Obituary — John Gillingham
In this pithy, rigorously argued book, leading historian John Gillingham examines a once great notion that soured long ago. From its postwar origins through the Single Market  and to the troubles of the present, Gillingham explains how Europe’s would-be government became a force for anti-democratic centralization and inept policy-making. The EU: An Obituary is an urgent call to the political Left, Right, and Center (sic) to set things right before it is too late.

The Guardian review of the book by Christopher Kissane is headed

The Thatcherite historian argues that the EU is defunct, a relic of the postwar decades. But would an unfettered Europe be a better place?

Kissane comments,

Euroscepticism creates some strange bedfellows. Many rightwing nationalists view the EU as a Trojan horse of unstoppable multiculturalism. Some on the left see its focus on the single market as institutionalised “neoliberalism” and austerity. And some “neoliberals” such as Gillingham see it as a relic of the postwar decades that binds free markets in red tape. Gillingham is not a typical author for the radical-left publishing house Verso – presumably at least one commissioning editor there has Eurosceptic leanings. From all sorts of angles, the EU seems to be the sick man of Europe.

This is Gillingham’s prognostic,

Only a fool would venture to predict how the official institutions of Europe will become unglued, unravel, fall apart, or simply evaporate into thin air. The list of possible scenarios is innumerable. A reasonable guess would be, however, that Brexit will trigger the process of decomposition and reconfiguration. If past events can serve as a guide to the British referendum planned for 23 June, the tide will shift in favour of the anti-EU cause.

Only a fool…..

Recent polls have swung decisively in favour of the Leave campaign. Behind this shift in sentiment is a reality of awesome significance: Cameron’s promise of a better deal for Britain has little meaning in respect to an EU in disarray, which is untrustworthy, falling behind economically, and unable or unwilling to deliver on its commitments. At the rock-bottom level, moreover, a sovereign national political system, like Britain’s, based on the supremacy of parliament, is incompatible with the existence of a supranational entity, whose leadership remains – in spite of everything – unwavering in its determination to create a European state.

“Gillingham is University of Missouri Board of Curators Professor at University of Missouri and was Professor of History there until 2007. He has authored books on European integration, heavy industry in the Third Reich and the economy of Belgium under Nazi occupation. Gillingham is listed in Marquess’s Who’s Who in America and has received numerous awards and recognitions.”

Now at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard .

Meanwhile back on the left, away from Verso and the (formerly)  ‘New Left’ Review.

John McDonnell issues rallying cry for a democratic Europe

John McDonnell has thrown his weight behind a left-wing remain campaign, saying a democratic Europe is “urgently and vitally” needed.

In a mix of left-wing political perspectives, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor joined former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Clive Lewis and journalist Owen Jones, among others, to make their case for remaining in, but overhauling the current European Union.

They were speaking at a rally called Vote In – Another Europe is Possible, at London’s Institute of Education on Saturday.

Mr McDonnell told the gathering that there is a movement across Europe to respond to the challenge of democratically transforming the EU, and also attacked the Tories for dragging the referendum debate “into the gutter”.

He said: “We have the opportunity to regroup the referendum debate away from Tory Brexit and into a debate on a democratic Europe.

“A Europe that is not just possible but is urgently and vitally needed – where we can say yes, we are proud of being British, but we are also proud of the European future we have created.”

He also lambasted the Tories and said the EU referendum debate on the right is “disfiguring political discourse” and causing people to become “tired of the ranting hysteria”.

“(Boris) Johnson’s comparisons of the EU to the Third Reich and (David) Cameron’s claims of impending World War Three, they just beggar belief,” he said.

“We cannot let the right drag this debate into the intellectual gutter.”

He said it is the job of those on the left, and the progressives, to now “step in and save the debate”.

The Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington also said the problems faced by the UK are transnational problems with transnational solutions.

“How can we turn a blind eye to the City of London effectively acting like a funnel to offshortax havens for the taxes of transnational corporations and super rich?” he said.

“Public funding is not just needed in this country but right the way across Europe,” he added.

“We know that if we clamp down here, the tax evaders will avoid us and will move elsewhere.

“That’s why European agreements are necessary and which form the basis for global agreements to track down and confront tax evasion and avoidance.

The Guardian adds,

The Another Europe is Possible tour started at the UCL Institute of Education in central London on Saturday. Momentum, the Labour-supporting network, also joined Corbyn in launching a platform called Your Referendum to boost grassroots campaigning for remain.

A vote by Momentum’s national committee, a poll of Momentum’s supporters and a YouGov poll of Corbyn-supporting Labour members have all overwhelmingly backed remain.

Momentum said Your Referendum was inspired by the US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaigning methods of providing tools for volunteer-led organising.

In a statement, the group said: “Your Referendum is Momentum’s effort to take the toxic Brexit debate out of Westminster and the TV studios and into our communities, with the hope of reaching leftwing and younger voters, who polls say are less likely to turn out although they tend to support remain.”

The national organiser for Momentum, James Schneider, said: “Through the Your Referendum platform and the activities of local Momentum groups, we hope to encourage more activism, engage more people actively in the EU debate, and mobilise the harder to reach young or leftwing voters, who are turned off by Stronger In’s defence of the status quo.”

Other rallies as part of the tour will involve trade unionists and the Labour MP Clive Lewis at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 29, 2016 at 11:18 am

Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins (New Left Review).

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Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins. Editorial. New Left Review. Second Series No 98. March/April 2016.

“Respectful of NATO, anti-austerity, pro-public investment and (more guardedly) ownership, sceptical of ‘free trade’: as a first approximation, we might them new, small, weak social democracies.”

The Editorial of New Left Review (NLR – accessible here), devoted to “left oppositions”, and “new lefts” offers a sketch of the common background of some very diverse political phenomena. With a mixture of gloom and wishful thinking Watkins outlines the legacy of the late 90’s “late-90s alter-globo movements” “wrong-footed by the harsher international climate of the war on terror”. But, she then turns to how  European anger at the handling of the economic crisis, the collapse of the centre-left, Third Way, parties, and a “blowback” against Western intervention, street protests, such as Spain’s Indignados have, she observes, been followed by the arrival of new forces on the electoral stage.

It is with little surprise that we learn that the NLR list of the contemporary ‘left oppositions’ includes  Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win in the Labour Party, the Spanish Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche (PdG).  The US is also  affected, as Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge inside the Democratic Party indicates. More surprising is the inclusion of Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, which Watkins admits, not everybody considers on the ‘left’. Events and elections, she continues,  have not only brought these forces to prominence, in the ballot box, Parliaments and amongst citizens, they have given rise to new “national political projects”.

A common trait, the Editorial  observes, of these political green shoots, is the rise of ‘charismatic’ leaders, from Pablo Iglesias, Corbyn, Mélenchon, to Grillo. Exactly what the ‘authority’ given by this ‘gift of grace’ is, and how these personalities carry it out, is not explored. Grillo is notoriously the entrepreneur of his own ‘post-modern’ far from immaterial party-business. Iglesias heads up, to his numerous critics, a vertical pyramid party-structure He indulges himself in ‘populist’ efforts to lead the people ‘beyond’ left and right.

Mélenchon: électron libre.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 11.10% in the 2012 first round of the French Presidential election. He  leads a ‘party’, the Parti de gauche (PdG) founded in 2009 with other former members of the Parti Socialiste. It remains stuck in the mould of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, a tendency (at its height well below 10,000 members) centred on a ‘chief’. Its inability to develop  has been caused less by the absence of popular protests, the electoral system or “laïciste horror of the headscarf” thwarting its appeal to the ‘banlieue’, than his abrasive personality, which has created a crop of internal divisions to boot.  Mélenchon, his many ill-wishers allege, has a vision of himself as a Man of Destiny, with populist and nationalist ambitions far beyond a “sovereign, alter-globalist, multi-polar defence force”.

Inside the Front de gauche (FdG), which allies the PdG with a number of left groups in an electoral bloc,  it is not only the Communists  of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF,138,000 members) but leftists from Ensemble (2,500),  who have found it impossible to work with this électron libre (1). Sensing little support the leader of the PdG  spurned the idea of presenting himself before the Front’s supporters and the wider left in ‘primaries’ to select a Presidential candidate. Mélenchon has effectively ditched the PdG for a supporters’ network. He is running for President in 2017 with an on-line based team, with some success in the opinion polls. Nevertheless this venture into political cyberspace has had considerably less of an echo in the Nuit Debout ‘mouvance’ (too heterogeneous to call a movement), which is showing signs of both intellectual renewal in a multiplicity of directions and splintering. The CGT led workers’ spearhead of the wider national campaign against the “El Khomri” labour laws and the wider weekly strikes and marches have largely passed Mélenchon by.

Labour’s leader is, by contrast, a Parliamentary chief with a tiny group of MP supporters, and a mass party with a democratic membership structure and large trade union input. If he won the leadership ballot by a landslide, in a campaign of public meetings which created a “dynamic of their own”, Momentum, Watkins solemnly informs us, is a “somewhat diluted version of the 1980s Labour left”, an “organised adversary” of the ‘Blairite faction, Progress. Few perhaps will recall a mass membership 1980s Labour Left, or of any comparable “parallel structure” to dilute from. Fewer still will remember the Labour Party since George Lansbury (Labour leader from 1932 – 35) headed by anybody who had anything  resembling Corbyn’s background in the 1980s/1990s London Labour Left.

Corbyn, like Sanders, is, we learn, “squarely within the social-democratic tradition” – which fortunately covers everything from Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Jean Jaurès, to Harold Wilson. In short, the Editorial dispenses with the customary term, democratic socialism, by which a majority of Corbyn supporters, and Mélenchon’s, would identify in opposition to the compromised ideas that contributed to the policies of the Blair and Brown governments. Are there signs that instead after the ‘retreat from social democracy’ there may be a renewal in a very different directions taking place. Watkins calls the combination of anti-austerity programmes, and scepticism about free trade – not mentioning the defence of social and workers’ rights, the fights for a publicly owned public administration and services – and a failure to confront head-on NATO (on what, Syria?) “weak”.

We might then ask: what exactly is the ‘non-social democratic left’? If Grillo, instead of new forms of democratic socialism, is part of the answer, then what kind politics is that?

Vaffanculo!

Readers will no doubt remain on tenterhooks waiting for the latest radical left model to emerge. In the interim the constraints, self-created or inherited, within which these lefts operate are ignored. Are the furiously hostile forces deployed against them, visible every moment in the British media to be ignored? Watkins casts cautious compromise to the winds. She smiles at Grillo’s no-nonsense Vaffanculo(s), scowls at the French Communists’ local electoral deals to retain control of their remaining municipal bastions (what is the threat of the Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy to her?), soundly admonishes Corbyn for his “embrace of the discredited Blair-Brown Labour right” and offers Iglesias advice on a tactical abstention, allowing a possible future PSOE-Ciudadanos government coalition “a chance to demonstrate that it cannot work”.

As we have indicated Watkins offers the skimpiest, and often misleading, outline of the party structures and personalities which support the new left “projects” she attempts to grapple with. Oppositions equally fails to investigate the underlying problem thrown up by the more radical movements that appear to remain her benchmark. That is, their inability to develop more than general declarations within the ‘anti’ globalisation protest, that would make them more than a protest against the subsequent Western interventions and security clamp-downs. If Podemos may be able to show that the PSOE cannot work, what indicates that their alternative can? While we are waiting, the proliferation of an identity politics and culture of the ‘populist’ or sovereigntist right, which this Sunday came within a hair’s breath of winning the Austrian presidency, indicates the need for ideas and strategies capable of understanding and confronting nationalism and xenophobia now. (2)

Shocks and Turncoats. 

It is on this issue that Oppositions is most wanting. The thought that calls a position on the EU referendum vote a “tactical” decision allows only a Leave or abstention as “left” options. The hope that a Leave vote would be a “salutary shock “ to the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” and a Conservative Party in “disarray” is gratuitous irresponsibility. The nationalist and xenophobic Carnival of Reaction of the debates on the EU is paraded every-day. A Brexit  win would bring not just Tory division but the politics of the most reactionary people in the country to power.

The Editorial is deeply insulting to the majority of the left, the democratic socialist left, who support staying in the EU not just out of self-protection against our most forthright and dangerous class and political enemies, but as an arena where common cause can be made with our comrades across the continent. That is, a place of hope and co-operation not of austerity and repression. To top it all, Oppositions attacks all of us through its words against the much-liked Owen Jones. The author of Chavs “turned his coat” for changing his mind, very publicly and very honestly explaining why,  and backing Remain with the campaign Another Europe is Possible. The Editorial’s language in this instance is, not to mince words, despicable.

(1) Mélenchon candidat à la présidentielle : il tourne le dos à l’histoire de la gauchePhilippe Marlière. February 2016

(2) These two weaknesses were signalled by the critic of their French expressions, Phlippe Raynaud in L’extrême gauche plurielle. Tempus. 2006. Whatever one’s views on his generally hostile analysis, these points are if anything more relevant today than a decade ago.

Austria: Far-Right Loses by Hair-Breadth and Cries Foul.

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https://i0.wp.com/images01.oe24.at/image1.2.jpg/bigStory/236.890.022

Austrian Media Angry at German Press portraying Hofer giving the ‘German Greeting’.

The Austrian daily Krone found this  ‘humour’ in poor taste. It could find no worse comparison to make than with the kind of coverage presented in the Mail on Sunday. which had presented Hofer as the country’s ‘next Fuhrer.”

These are some reports worth thinking about.

“Der Vormarsch der FPÖ, die 2018 die Machtübernahme in Wien anvisiert, zeigt, dass gerade eine Gewissheit zerbricht – dass Rechtspopulisten im Westen nicht die Mehrheit erobern können.

Zum ersten Mal wählte die Hälfte der Bürger einer westeuropäischen Republik eine Politik, die antimuslimisch, antieuropäisch und chauvinistisch ist. Und es war keine Protestwahl, bei der die Frustrierten den Mächtigen bloß mal den Stinkefinger zeigen wollten. Die Hälfte der Österreicher will eine andere Republik.

The progress of  the FPÖ shows, in view of the 2018 electoral contest in Vienna,  that a certainty has been smashed – that Right-wing populism in the West can never reach a majority.

For the first time half of the citizens of a Western European state, voted for an anti-Muslim, anti-European and chauvinist Party Manifesto.  It was not a protest vote, from frustrated people sticking two fingers up against the power elite. Half of Austrians want another Republic.

Taz.

These days, it is becoming clear just how large, and likely lasting, the estrangement has become between voters and those parties, like the ÖVP and SPÖ, that were once defined by the term Volkspartei. Their old mistakes have continued through the decades and new ones have joined them. Both the center right and the center left have underestimated the electorate’s anger that has built up as a result of their almost God-given claim to leadership in Austria.

Der Spiegel.

Right-Wing Hipsters’ Increasingly Powerful In Austria

The Central European country’s right-wing extremism is winning over youths with its charm.

Huffington Post.

Martin Sellner looks like an H&M model. But beneath the smile the 27-year-old philosophy student wears the sinister new face of Europe’s extreme right.

Sellner is the co-founder of the Austria’s Identitären Bewegung (Identitarian Movement), a collection of young, anti-immigrant Austrians who describe themselves as “right-wing hipsters.” The IB, as Sellner calls the organization for short, is rising in popularity in Austria. It considers itself among the most successful right-wing youth movements in Europe, and that is causing concern.

Analysis of the Vote:

.. the SORA institute, a pollster, had said that mail-in ballots were likely to favour van der Bellen because they are traditionally used by more educated voters. The institute’s election-day polling showed 81 percent of voters with a university degree had backed van der Bellen and 86 percent of workers voted for Hofer.

Huffington Post.

Le Monde on the same theme,

… l’élection a surtout dévoilé une polarisation inquiétante de ce pays de 8,6 millions d’habitants. M. Van der Bellen l’a emporté dans presque toutes les grandes villes, chez les femmes et chez les plus diplômés ; M. Hofer dans les campagnes, chez les hommes, surtout les moins diplômés. Il obtient 86 % des voix des ouvriers. Ses électeurs affirment avoir voté pour lui parce qu’il comprend les soucis de la population, et parce qu’il semblait sympathique.

The election showed, above all, a worrying polarisation in this country of 8,6 million. Van der Bellen won in nearly all the cities, amongst women and amongst those with the highest qualifications. Hofer, won in the countryside, amongst men, and particularly amongst the least qualified. He got 86% of the workers’ vote. Those who cast a ballot for him say that they backed him because he understands their concerns, and because he appears friendly and approachable.

On Sunday, before the final polls gave Van der Bellen a narrow victory, this was the reaction from Europe’s far-right,

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry welcomed the “terrific outcome,” and in a tweet suggested Austria’s vote could be “a foretaste of positive change in Europe.”

Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National called it a “magnificent result. Bravo to the Austrian people.” She told broadcaster France 2 it showed people were starting to realize the European Union was failing to foster economic growth and curb immigration.

“There is clearly a growing awareness among people in Europe that the EU is an anti-democratic structure that subjugates people,” Le Pen said.

Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders said the FPÖ’s performance was “fantastic.” Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League movement expressed his “great joy,” saying the FPÖ was “calling for controlled migration, more jobs and a different Europe – like us they want rules, order, jobs and tranquility.”

Deutsche Welle.

Now we have this;

146,9 Prozent Wahlbeteiligung in Waidhofen/Ybbs (Bild: APA/HELMUT FOHRINGER, wahl16.bmi.gv.at)

146,9 Prozent Wahlbeteiligung in Waidhofen/Ybbs

Guardian.

Austria’s far right cries foul after presidential election defeat.

Even before it emerged that the Freedom party (FPÖ) candidate, Norbert Hofer,had lost out on the presidency due to a strong performance in the postal vote by his rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, the party’s secretary, Herbert Kickl, had said that absentee votes had in the past shown up “inconsistencies”.

“Accomplices of the current political system could potentially use the opportunity to adjust the result in favour of the system’s representative, Alexander Van der Bellen,” Kickl said.

On his Facebook page, the party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, seized on irregularities in Linz and Waidhofen, where the final result announced a voter turnout of 146.9%. The interior ministry said the figure was the result of a data entry error.

Hofer, whose election would have confronted the European Union with a far-right president for the first time, said on Sunday night that there was “something a little bit strange in the way the postal vote is counted”.

The Freedom party, whose 49.7% in the final result represents a huge shift in Austria’s political landscape, will now set its sight on the next general election, which must be held before September 2018.

A poll by ATV institute published over the weekend shows the FPÖ leading on 34%, ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) on 26%, the centre-right People’s party on 18% and the Greens on 13%.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2016 at 11:25 am

SWP’s Marxism 2016. We Publish Some of the ‘List of Shame’.

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The List of Shame.

Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali

Speaks on The American Empire and its Discontents Fri, 4.15pm

Moazzam Begg

Moazzam Begg

CAGE Outreach Director joins our opening rally.

The full list is too long to reproduce but these are particularly worthy of note in view of the post that follows:

Judith Orr

Judith Orr

Author of “Marxism and Womens Liberation” on fighting sexism today.

Nahella Ashraf

Nahella Ashraf

Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia.

Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett

Leader of the Green Party debates  “Where next after the EU referendum?” with Joseph Choonara.

Maz Saleem

Maz Saleem

Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia

Full list: Marxism 2016.

This is obviously something the above chose to ignore:

Why I don’t buy Socialist Worker

Written by Andrew Coates

May 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

Momentum members vote to back Remain Campaign.

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Momentum members back Remain, Now on to Another Europe is Possible.

From S,

EU referendum poll of Momentum members:

3093 responses

Campaign to remain: 66.5%

Campaign to leave: 14.8%

Campaign for neither: 19.6%

This result confirms reports coming in from across the country.

Wherever there have been left debates on the Referendum and the audience’s opinion has been taken, there have been majorities between 3/5 and 4/5 votes in favour of Remain.

As comrade Mark Steel says today (Independent),

This is why we should be grateful to people like Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, because every time they say something about Europe, they make it clearer which way to vote in the referendum.

The Momentum decision shows how out of touch the would-be ‘tactical advisers’, ready with the ‘low down’ on international capitalism’  to the left of New Left Review (NLR) have become.

As in one Susan Watkins and Corbyn’s ‘best mate’ Tariq Ali.

Watkins has just written this piffle for the increasingly out of touch NLR, Left Oppostions. 

British exit from the eu is a tactical, not a strategic question; the left takes different stances on it, and some might want a campaign for contemptuous abstention or vote-spoiling. But at one level the politics of the Brexit referendum are clear: a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986.

A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly……

This senescent ‘leftist’  disorder is predicated on the belief that ‘after Brexit’ there  will be a golden age for those able to take advantage of this shock. No doubt they will include those whose working conditions are worsened, my union branch members who will lose their cross EU Worker Council, which enables them to bargain from a position of strength in their transeuropean company, those whose status as EU migrants is removed, and all who will have to face life under a Boris, Gove, Whittingdale and Iain Duncan Smith regime.

That is, life in a right-wing rat hole.

Meanwhile the left is now preparing its campaign:

The below  will be discussed at the Momentum National Committee in Manchester tomorrow.

EU REFERENDUM – FOR A LEFT “IN” VOTE

Britain leaving the EU would be a victory for the nationalist right and their campaign against migrants, almost certainly reshaping the British political and social landscape for the worse.

The EU promotes neoliberal policies in the interests of capitalism – but so does the UK. The British ruling class and government will press ahead with attacks in or out – and outside the EU, the barriers to their assault will be lower, while barriers between us and our brothers and sisters in other countries will be higher.

We support an “in” vote.

***

We oppose David Cameron’s reforms, which attack the rights of workers and migrants. We endorse Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a “Europe that puts people, not multinationals, at its heart”, through “public ownership […] democratisation, stronger workers’ rights, sustainable growth and jobs”, won through “alliances across Europe to end austerity”.

We call for:
• Cross­-European working­-class and social movement struggles against austerity and for levelling up wages, conditions, services and rights, funded by taxing the rich and public ownership of finance;
• Radical democratisation, including empowering the European Parliament;
•­ An end to “Fortress Europe” – freedom of movement and equal rights for all.

***

Using the slogans “Another Europe is possible”, “For a workers’ Europe” and “For a socialist Europe”, Momentum nationally will campaign for an “in” on this basis, making defence of migrants, anti­austerity and international solidarity central. This will include an urgent press release, a leaflet and a rally in London at least.

We will work with Labour, with “in” unions, and with the Another Europe is Possible network.

We call on the whole of Momentum to campaign on this basis.

Meanwhile on the fringes of the Labour Movement, Socialist Worker says,

The Left rallies in London against the EU.

by Alistair Farrow

Speakers from the international left put the case for a left exit from the European Union at a rally in London yesterday, Wednesday.

Some 150 people came to hear arguments rejecting the austerity of the Troika and the racism of the European Union (EU) and the bosses’ Brexit and Remain campaigns. The meeting was organised by the Lexit campaign.

Unkind people have suggested that following Socialist Worker’s normal reporting practice they  would have added that a Poll taken at the meeting indicated that 3,150 backed ‘Lexit’ and 1 abstained.

Anniversary of the ‘Cultural Revolution’: French Maoism, Olivier Rolin’s, Tigre en papier.

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China’s Cultural Revolution: 50th anniversary unmarked by state media reports the BBC.

This is perhaps the moment to reflect on the European admirers, and active supporters of the Cultural Revolution.

Wikipedia (English – the French version is considerably longer and more thorough) singles out one group. (1)

One of the best known was the Gauche prolétarienne (GP) which existed from 1968 to 1974. As Christophe Bourseiller has put it, “Of all the Maoist organizations after May 1968, the most important numerically as well as in cultural influence was without question the Gauche prolétarienne”.

The GP was formed in October 1968. After a split in the Union des jeunesses communists marxistes-léninistes (UJC(ml)), several members – including Olivier Rolin, Jean-Pierre Le Dantec, Jean-Claude Vernier, the brothers Tony and Benny Lévy, Jean Schiavo, Maurice Brover and Jean-Claude Zancarini – formed the new party. In 1969 the former student union leaders Alain Geismar and Serge July joined the group.

Several members of the group were involved with the founding of the French daily Libération which evolved into a centre left mainstream mass circulation daily newspaper.

One of these figures, Olivier Rolin, was not only in the leadership but directed the military wing (branche militaire) of the group,  la Nouvelle résistance populaire. The history of the NRP remains highly controversial.

After blowing hot for armed action, they blew cold and abandoned the path of force. A botched – or futile it depends on one’s viewpoint – kidnapping of Renault manager Robert Nogrette in response to the killing of  Pierre Overney in 1972 ended in his release.  They abandoned other plans for ‘military’ vengeance, which included a plan to murder a former Collaborator. Rolin is amongst those who lay claim to the belief that this was responsible for the absence in France of  left-wing terrorism – until the 1980s Action Directe that it is.

The Gauche Prolétarienne dissolved in 1973.

Rolin subsequently became a novelist. His works include the well-received,  Invention du Monde (1993), Port-Soudan (1994), described a “brilliantly crafted”, that is, a finely written but slight tale of an expatriate functionary and his return home with hard memories,  the picaresque  Un chasseur de lions (2008) which has been compared unfavourably to a Tintin album – meaning, I enjoyed it.

Tigre en papier (2oo2) is the most political of his books. It is a thinly veiled account of life in the GP written, as critics has described it, with the marks of a  thriller and lubricious descriptions of women. One of the said critics, F. Frommer  (À propos de Tigre en papier d’Olivier Rolin), observes that it is hard to classify – if not to follow. Is it a novel, a tale, fiction about one’s self, autobiography, souvenir, memoir (Roman/récit, autofiction/autobiographie, souvenir/mémoire. To say that the ‘Aristotelian unities’ are not followed would not count of a point against Tigre en Paper, if it were not, as indicated, presented at points in the form of an airport spine-chiller, decked out in the grandiose language, Rolin employs to describe the ideological loadstars of of dedicated ‘Maoist’ activists: « La théâtralité de la Révolution », « La haine de la beauté », « La sacralisation du malheur ». La Cause is the object of masochistic self-sacrifice. The pages are also studded, as Frommer remarks, with old brand names, old songs, old films, and, if you haven’t got the message, other period details,  which struck me, such as a explanation of  the importance of duplicators  for 1970s leftists.

I digress.

The principal value of the book is as an account of the GP, the ‘military wing’ chief, Martin (that is, Rolin…), his comrade, the ‘sublime’  Marie , and, above all, of its leader, Benny Lévy, known at the time as  Pierre Victor. In Tigre he is Gédéon, who is known from its abbreviation, DG,  as the Grand Dirigeant. This identity is at any rate the view of, amongst others, Philippe Lardinois, who uses the portrait as a hook in De Pierre Victor à Benny Levy, de Mao à Moïse ? (2008). He incarnated the ‘L’Organisation’ of the novel – though it remains to this day a mystery why. Or indeed exactly what happened in mind’s of the participants in  the escapades of the ‘military wing’ in the narrative to make them turn from playing at being revolutionaries to other games. Tigre en papier’s title suggest that they were made of flimsy substance. No doubt, but they certainly tried to look terrifying….

To call the Victor character a sour-faced arrogant shit would be perhaps enough, except that he managed to wreck the lives of (fictionalised but clearly real) characters as well. The GP, like all Maoist groupuscules, and some Trotskyist organisations, sent their members, particularly intellectuals (outside their Leading Cadres, naturally)  into factories to become ordinary workers, or, rather, to turn into militant leaders of the proletariat. These “établis” were expected to follow the commands of the Organisation. A tragic story of one such ruined life is probably the best passage in the book. It is the affecting story of a stunning (how could it be otherwise?) young woman, Cosette, svelte, almost an elfin (see previous observation on Rolin’s sexist language)  separated by Party decision from her partner, who is himself placed under the guidance of a ‘prolo’. Workers figures in the novel, if at all, as lugubrious figurants, if not, in the case of a police informer, a sexually unpleasant rough. No doubt anxious to indict the puritanism of the GP there is an episode in which Martin rebuffs a male cadre’s advances, and finds unable to talk about it.

Tigre en papier outlines one striking feature of the whole Gauche Prolétarienne experience: despite a brief reference to the anti-totalitarian Victor Serge, the total absence of any critical balance-sheet of the Cultural Revolution that inspired the movement.

This is how the leader of the GP  washed up after years of Talmudic studies,

Benny Lévy embraced Jewish Orthodoxy, and began to study in a yeshiva in Strasbourg. He finally immigrated to Israel in 1997, where he established the Institut d’études lévinassiennes in Jerusalem along with Bernard-Henri Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut, and learned with Rabbi Moshe Shapira. He died suddenly during the holiday of Sukkot in 2003.

 (1) See also: Les Maoïstes. Christophe Bourseiller, Review and Reflections. Andrew Coates.

The book has been translated and received this notice (New York Times 2007):

PAPER TIGER. By Olivier Rolin. Translated by William Cloonan. (University of Nebraska, cloth, $40; paper, $17.95.) Martin, an aging French radical from the 60s, wonders where it all went and why. One night in 2000, when this rushing stream of a book is set, he broods out loud while driving around (and around and around) Paris with Marie, the 24-year-old daughter of his best friend from “the Cause.” Marie’s father died in an unexplained fall from a church tower 20 years earlier, and the excuse for Martin’s regurgitation of the past is to introduce Marie to her lost parent. At the same time, he is trying to understand his own father, a “colonialist soldier” killed carrying out “France’s civilizing mission” in Indochina. Through these histories, Rolin philosophizes about Big Ideas like aging, lost idealism and the weight of past wars on future generations. It sounds like heavy going, and it is. Rolin’s use of the second-person and the recurring shifts back and forth in time can be disorienting; but there are also treats that make the car ride worth taking, some serious (like Rolin’s observations — often pessimistic — about the human condition) and others delightfully comic (like the young revolutionaries’ many botched missions). When the journey to the end of the night is over, the impression left behind (at once comforting and disturbing) is that history will make a paper tiger of every high hope and feared foe alike, no matter how seemingly imperishable.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2016 at 10:54 am

Rhea Wolfson Speaks of Racist Abuse: “Pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense.” Says Leading ‘anti-Zionist’.

with 13 comments

Rhea Wolfson is  a breath of fresh air.

Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.

Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.

Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.

Saul Freeman wrote,

Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.

If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.

He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.

Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?

Harry’s Place was not the only critic.

Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.

My first 24 hours as an NEC candidate made me want to give up – but I won’t.

On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.

My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.

A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.

Labour List.

After Harry’s Place it was the turn of Tony Greenstein, a leading ‘Anti-Zionist’ campaigner to give his judgement,

This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.

Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.

Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,

there are no safe spaces under capitalism. Asylum seekers don’t have safe spaces nor do the victims of Syria’s civil war or the families whose houses have been demolished by Israel.

What you mean is a pampered middle class kid shouldn’t have their oh so precious feelings hurt. So sad. NOT

Comments on site.

Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.

By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?

Left Futures reports.

GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive

GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:

There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.

Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.

We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?

GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”

Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *

Watch out Labour, the Trots are back with a vengeance. David Aaronovitch. 1998.

This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.

 WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.

The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.

..

Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.

….

As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.

I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.

That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.

At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.

****

*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.