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Socialist Worker Attacks “dull and uninspiring” Jeremy Corbyn over Europe Referendum.

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SWP Predicts End of Tories if Brexit Comes. 

In Socialist Worker today Charles Kimber lays into Jeremy Corbyn,

It’s probably hard to make a good speech when you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re communicating.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn made such a dull and uninspiring presentation launching Labour’s pro-European Union (EU) campaign last week.

The SWP National Secretary has his own unique theory as to why Corbyn calls for a Remain Vote:

It turned out the way to make Corbyn back the EU was to elect him Labour leader. He compromised to keep at least some of the right vaguely on side.

The reappointment of Pat McFadden as shadow minister for Europe was seen as the first victory for Labour’s right under Corbyn’s leadership. The announcement that the party would campaign to stay in the EU followed.

McFadden eventually resigned, but was replaced with another strongly pro-EU figure.

Kimber accuses Corbyn of being pivotal in moblising the ‘Remain’ vote.

If Corbyn backed Leave, it is highly likely that the vote would be to break from the EU. Polls suggest that Corbyn is far more trusted on the issue than Tories on either side.

His support would banish completely the myth that only the right wants to exit. He would particularly appeal to young people who presently see the EU as a left wing project.

In place of any argument about workers’ rights, social Europe, or internationalism, or whatever the SWP used to dredge up as ‘principled’ reasons to stand for Little Britain,  Kimber places this centre stage

Corbyn insists a Leave vote would boost the right. But with the political feeling in Britain at the moment it is more likely it would see Cameron’s resignation, turmoil in the Tory party, the loss of their parliamentary majority and an early election. This offers the hope of the end of the Tories before 2020, surely something to be grasped.

In other words, don’t vote just against Europe, but to get rid of the Tories….by replacing Cameron by a more right-wing anti-European Tory.

One can imagine the SWP National Committee…..

The comrades are respectfully silent.

Kimber is gazing into the dialectical  crystal ball.

The Leave side has won!

The Organiser sees movement, a hideous Tory party, a gnashing of teeth, resignations, fights,  disarray, messages of international support to Socialist Worker.

A new regime, perhaps of the hardest of hard rights.

Outrage, strikes, divisions: the regime falls.

Kimber continues his divination.  An election, which will….. – here the prophecy grows dark: only the shifting shapes of masses of workers and protesters can be seen.

There’s a glimmer….

2,000, perhaps 200,000 thousand copies of Socialist Worker sold!

Lowestoft recruits ten new members!

The comrades smile: the Seer of Socialism has Seen!

In French this is known as la politique du pire: the worse the better.

After the exalted visions the SWP cannot resist a sharp, but more mundane,  attack on Barack Obama.

Chief SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos finely analyses the speech of the Monarch of the global Empire,

Obama’s intervention stops anyone pretending any longer that they haven’t noticed where global capitalist interests are lining up. The Emperor himself has told them in words of one syllable that Brexit will harm his empire.

Meanwhile the Carnival of Reaction from the Leave camp continues:

‘We want our country back’ Farage rallies troops ahead of ‘Independence Day’ Brexit vote

NIGEL Farage has given his most rousing speech to date by declaring that a vote for Brexit will become Britain’s Independence Day.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm

European Referendum: A Carnival of Reaction.

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One-Man Carnival of Reaction.

Scenes from British Political Confusionism.

“How different too it is turning out from what some predicted would be a ‘carnival of reaction’ ahead of the Euro referendum.”

Counterfire. April 2016.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, claims that Barack Obama’s “part Kenyan ancestry” has resulted in anti-British sentiment. So intense is this dislike that the US President removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. This slight on the Manes of Albion was compounded by the President’s support for the European Union. The EU, it appears, makes 60% of our laws. Bludgeoning home the Brexiter message, Johnson complained that America would never dream of sharing its sovereignty over anything.” (Guardian. 23.4.16)

Sovereigntism, the belief that all went wrong when Parliament pooled its decision-making powers in areas related to the single market, is an ideology shared by Tories in the Leave campaign, and a large part (if anything in this alliance could be called ‘large’) of the ‘left’ quit camp, Lexit. For UKIP and the rest of the hard right, making the running in the referendum debate, hysteria about migration and about such as topics as Obama’s ungrateful memories of British rule in Africa, is mobilised to gain backing for this principle. Left efforts to “keep racism out of the Referendum”,  notably from those who underline the principle of sovereignty, have had no effect whatsoever.

The ‘left’ case is obscured by the suggestion, voiced by Counterfire,  the “Tories crisis is our opportunity”. That the removal of Cameron by a victorious vote in the poll will result in opportunities, apparently not just for Johnson and his allies, but also for the labour movement most of which, and not least the Leader of the Labour Party, supports the Stay side. It is to be suspected that the latest Boris outburst has left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths. So, if it has weakened the Leave camp, is the converse true: that a Stay win will mean a defeat for the left, including the vast majority which advocates it?

Complaints about EU ‘neo-liberalism’ remain rhetoric unless there is a basis for policy. The anti-EU left believes that increased control over national decision-making power will enable a fight against capitalist globalisation. How exactly the UK will detach itself from global capital flows, financial markets, on the basis of rule by Westminster, perhaps split with Holyrood, is hard to grasp.

If the Lexiters propose regulation to control markets and capital then surely a large area, let’s call it Europe, is a better place to begin with. If they propose socialisation then what could be more ‘social’ than a number of different societies getting together, from places, let’s call them the Continent and its adjacent Islands, to form an economic bloc sufficiently large to stand up to international markets and capital? If they wish to remain internationalists then what better place to begin to practice inter-country and cross national solidarity then with the people next door to this one? If they wish political co-operation, well we can co-operate in a common organisation, Since it would begin with Europe, the first part of its name is obvious, and, perhaps, as we are on the left, the next bit, a Union, comes naturally.

Imagine that the left is on the road to power in Britain. The prospect of a way out of neo-liberal capitalism, helped by the “rising wave of protest”, “growing struggles” (Counterfire) is on the horizon. Fantastic! Until the next Brexit outburst…..

Khan 20% lead, Galloway at 0% in London Mayor race.

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(YouGov)

George Galloway is currently polling at 0 per cent in the London mayoral race

Fans of George Galloway, look away now – that said, there’s not many of you.

The Respect candidate is currently polling at 0 per cent, according to the latest YouGov/Evening Standard poll of 1,000 Londoners on the Mayoral race.

Clearly this did not work:

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All out for one last effort!

In case this doesn’t work there is this:

Mayoral candidate George Galloway is already planning to take Sadiq Khan’s Tooting seat if the Labour candidate beats him to City Hall next month.  SW Londoner.

Mr Galloway has thrown his hat into the mayoral race and will be representing the Respect Party in May’s election but is eyeing up his post-Mayoral race career.

With swipes at Zac Goldsmith ‘I respect him but no one should vote for him’ and ‘boring robot’ Sadiq Khan aside, he agrees with the other candidates that the housing crisis is the biggest issue plaguing London.

He said: “We need hundreds of thousands of council houses. It is the only democratic form of renting because you can evict your landlord and elect a new one.

“That would drive rent down in the private sector. We have the highest rents and house prices in the entire world,” he added.

However when asked where he would build these homes, Mr Galloway admitted that London may have to sacrifice London’s open spaces in order to solve the crisis.

“We need to build on brownfield sites, NHS and TfL land. We won’t be able to solve it just by building on brownfield we need to build on select greenbelt lands.”

He felt that Boris Johnson’s efforts to create affordable housing was not good enough and determined that 50% of London’s new housing should be affordable.

Mr Galloway also argued that Sadiq Khan’s promise to be the most ‘pro-business mayor’ is the wrong tactic.

He said: “Big business doesn’t need a mayor, it is the people who work for businesses that do. I will be the most pro-worker, the most pro-tenant.”

In regards to transport, he acknowledged that his plans to give all students free travel are radical.

He said: “All students will travel for free because of the theft of the EMA and the crippling tuition fees – these people need a break.”

When asked how he would pay for this he noted that seats are empty on buses already so the government are already paying for it.

On London congestion and air quality he said: “All delivery trucks would be banned from London in the daylight hours so they would have to deliver during the night.

“If your vehicle is highly polluting you will have to pay very dearly indeed.”

Mr Galloway believes that the Mayor of London need to have both a strong personality and strong policies in order to succeed, which is where he feels the frontrunners are lacking.

He said: “Both of the main candidates are above all else boring.

“Both of the previous mayors have been big figures. They were nobody’s robot. Sadiq Khan in particular even speaks like a robot.

“Zac Goldsmith looks the part until he speaks. I know him well, I like him and admire him. He is a principled and honourable guy but he is a Tory so nobody should vote for him.”

Mr Galloway did announce that should Sadiq Khan win the election, he would look to take his seat as Tooting MP in the by-election.

He said: “I think a by-election in Tooting would be very swift.

“It is easier to win a by-election than a general election, as you don’t have a national tide of feeling to compete with.”

However he is not giving up the top job without a fight, expressing his long-held desire for the position.

He said: “I have always wanted it. When Ken Livingston first ran I remember thinking ‘I wish I could have done that’.

“I watched his victory as an independent over Labour and that got me. It is a great and big job in every sense of the word.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

Does Galloway Blaze Trail for ‘Left’ Shift to Align with Nationalist Right?

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Galloway Evokes Battle of Britain Spirit in London Mayor Bid.

 

This nationalistic posturing  reminds me of what’s been happening in France.

While there are admirable protests about the projet de loi Travail (El Khomri) and the interesting Nuit Debout movement anti-Europe nationalism.

They call it “souverainisme“, demands for  national sovereignty, migration, border controls, security, the constitution and cultural identity.

Most of those associated with this trend are clearly on the right, if not the extreme right.

But some on the French left have also been attracted by these themes.

This article from last year describes how some have passed over to the French nationalist right:

PARIS — When the newspaper Libération last month accused self-professed “left of the left” philosopher and best-selling author Michel Onfray of “doing the [far-right party] Front National’s bidding,” French intellectuals circled the wagons.

Onfray, who declined a request for comment for this article, went on to accuse France’s successive governments of “being contemptuous of the people” — what he calls, using the English term, “the ‘old school’ people”: French blue-collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, the pensioners. As for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he said: “I don’t resent her as much as I resent those who made her possible.”

The first is the fate of France’s poor and working class – the “proletariat” Onfray says has been abandoned by the right and the left alike. In that vision, the governing left’s policies favor the globalized elite and the well-to-do, while catering to the needs of minorities (“the margins,” says Onfray) — such as immigrants, homosexuals and women.

The second theme is the visceral hostility towards Europe and the euro, seen as constraining economic and social policy and a fatal blow to the infamous “exception française,” a large and costly welfare state that’s supposed to shield the French from the turmoils of the global economy.

The drama is being played daily in the court of public opinion. Think of it as “the people vs. the euro.”

Onfray is well known for this vein of rhetoric.

This is what he said of the attitude of those who backed – ostensibly pro-European Constitution referedum (2005) towards those who would vote No to this agreement (the Non won).

They despised the common folk:

Les gens qui vont voter Non à la constitution européenne sont des crétins, des abrutis, des imbéciles, des incultes. Petit pouvoir d’achat, petit cerveau, petite pensée, petits sentiments. Pas de diplômes, pas de livres chez eux, pas de culture, pas d’intelligence. Ils habitent en campagne, en province. Des paysans, des pécores, des péquenots, des ploucs.

The people will will vote to the European Constitution are cretins, morons, imbeciles, uncultivated. They are hard up, small-brained, narrow mined and inward looking. They have no qualifications, no books at home, no culture, no brains. They live in the country, in the provinces. They are peasants, rustics, bumpkins, yokels.

Clearly Onfray hopes to repeat the result of the referendum on the European Constitution.

He however faces a nebulous target.

But British nouveaux réactionnaires have a unique opportunity: the UK Referendum on the European Union.

takes up the Onfray challenge:

Railing against those “a Byzantine system of governance largely beyond the reach of Euro-plebs” the former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and writer for Living Marxism muses, for the anti-elitist Spectator magazine, on The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism

The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged. The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.

This comment from Briançon’s article sums up the empty nature of this stand,

““Europe here serves as proxy for globalization,” said a government adviser, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of “adding fuel to the fire.” “I call it the defeatist wing of French intellectual life: There’s no chance we’ll be able to make it, so let’s retract and retreat.”

Will others, hostile to ‘capitalist’ EU but more specifically to the free movement of labour, a substantial group  inside the so-called Lexit camp, follow their French counterparts and align, like Galloway, with the hard right?

Allied with UKIP for the European Referendum Galloway looks a trail-blazer.

Parti des Indigènes de la République: “Zionists to the Gulag!”

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Zionists to the Gulag: theexcellent  Houria Bouteldja (Richard Seymour).

The left-wing political scientist,  Thomas Guénolé,  recently (18th March) rowed with the spokesperson of the Parti des Indigènes de la République, Houria Bouteldja on the French television (France 2) programme, “Ce soir (ou jamais !)” sur France 2 (Atlantico).

He took out a photo of her posing with the slogan, Zionists to the Gulag (note, which adds, Peace, mais gulag quand même, but Gulag even so).

“si une femme noire se fait violer par un homme noire, il est légitime qu’elle ne porte pas plainte pour protéger la communauté noire”.

If a black women is raped by a black man, it’s right that she does not go to the police in order to protect the black community.”

On gays,  “comme chacun sait, la tarlouze n’est pas tout à fait un homme. l’arabe qui perd sa puissance virile n’est plus un homme”.

Everybody knows that a poof is not completely a man, the Arab who loses his potency is no longer a man”.

Her reply was to state that she couldn’t give a toss what  Guénolé thought, and that his fundamental accusation against her was that she was not white.

Now is the time to return to a critical examination of the ideas of this person and her group.

Une indigène au visage pâle – par Ivan Segré.

Houria Bouteldja :Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire

Houria Bouteldja, the “excellent  Houria Bouteldja” as Richard Seymour calls her (here), is the spokesperson for the Indigènes de la République. She is known to the American left from the reprinting of their statements by the International Socialist Organization,  and a star article, with Malik Tahar Chaouch, translated by somebody who should have known better  (The Unity Trap) in the oddly named Jacobin, which claims to be ‘reason in revolt”.

Her group, which opposes “race-mixing” and attacks the “philo-Semitism” of the French State, amongst many other criticisms of ‘Jews’ and  ‘Zionists’ has also received a respectful audience in Britain, including a ‘Blog’ and  billing at meetings of the Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission. Verso has published a book recently criticising French secularism by one of the Indigènes’ ‘white’ supporters, the former leftist and self-styled ‘feminist’ Christine Delphy..

Rumours that an English version of Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous  is in preparation at Verso, with an introduction by Ian Donovan have been strongly denied.

This is not a translation of Segré’s tonic review of Bouteldja but a discussion of some key points. The article begins with a summary of the authoress’ views which will perhaps explain that the prospect of a full account of the text – after all a honest attempt to make intelligible a picture of the world that bears comparison with such landmark thinkers as David Icke – would be hard to accomplish. But we salute comrade Sergé for having waded through this singular oeuvre. This is just to make known to an English speaking audience some of his main points

Sergè provides an outline of the Bouteldja contribution to historical materialism. White imperialism since the key date of 1492 is structured by racial inequality. With this legacy imprinted across every ‘white’ society, legislation for equality puts ‘whites’ (blancs) first and relegates the “indigenes” (indigenous, that is, native American, African Blacks, Arabs from the Maghreb from 1830, and the peoples of Asia). As part of this process white women’s rights have been obtained through both their owns struggle and through the existence of imperialism.

The fault lines lie deep. The French declaration of Human Rights (first version, 1789) was inspired by the African Declaration of Independence of 1776, created on the basis of the massacre of the indigenous population. Indelibly marked by its murdering, enslaving colonial origins the bourgeoisie invented the category of the white race to divide, and to prevent any alliance with its indigenous slaves. For those in the Third World today even those of immigrant descent, including herself, are ‘white’ from the fact of living in (imperialist) Europe.

Amongst the many discoveries Bouteldja makes during her exploration of the history of ‘white’ imperialism is Sartre. He is the incarnation of the French left, even the revolutionary left. As such, in the allegory for the history of that left, he was botha fighter against French colonialism and a supporter of the creation of the state of Israel. The author of Réflexions sur la Question Juive, was a ‘Zionist’. That affiliation cannot be tolerated: “Fusillez Sartre !” (shoot Sartre!). The thought could be developed…..Sartre is an emblem, a symbol of the gauche Française. Should they also be shot?

It can be seen that Boutelja has a keen interest in the ‘Jewish Question’. For her, anti-Zionism is the crucial issue: confrontation between the indigènes and the ‘whites’, a clash over the State of Israel, is the site of a historic battle between “us” (her side) and “you” – well, you. She reveals the Jewish task, “they have been chosen by the West” for three cardinal missions: to settle the crisis of moral legitimacy for the white world – the result of the Nazi genocide – to sub-contract republican (that is, French) racism, and to be the armed wing of Western imperialism in the Arab world. (“élus, par l’Occident », et cela « pour trois missions cardinales » : « résoudre la crise de légitimité morale du monde blanc, conséquence du génocide nazi, sous-traiter le racisme républicain et enfin être le bras armé de l’impérialisme occidental dans le monde arabe » (p. 51).

From the – reasonable – point that the Shoah was an extension of colonial barbarity into Europe itself, the zoological view of history as a struggle for mastery between ‘races’ that would resort to extermination – to the other two ‘missions’ is not a leap, but a change of topic. Bouteldja considers that the “Arab essence” and ‘Arab land” is colonised by the Jews – Israel- as a result of a conscious ‘white’ decision, “they have offered Israel to you.”

It is without surprise that we learn that Bouteldja rejects “white rationality”.

This is the leading Indigène’s alternative: Allah Akbar! “In Islam divine transcendence induces humility and a continuous awareness of transience. The wishes, the projects of the faithful are marked by cries of ‘in cha Allah’. We begin one day and we will end one day. Only the all-powerful is eternal. Nobody can rise up against Him. Only the proud believe that they can. From this pathology of pride are born the blasphemous theories of the superiority of Whites over non-Whites, of the superiority of men over women, of the superiority of the human race over animals and nature. One does not need to be a believer to interpret this philosophy and apply it to the mundane. (*)

Followers of the Qu’ran have never been known to practice slavery and religious or racical superiority….

The Charnel House has published an excellent translation of earlier critique of this group: Toward a materialist approach to the question of race: A response to the Indigènes de la République.

* … Allahou akbar ! Et il ajoute : Il n’y a de Dieu que Dieu. En islam, la transcendance divine ordonne l’humilité et la conscience permanente de l’éphémère. Les vœux, les projets de ses fidèles ne sont-ils pas tous ponctués par ‘in cha Allah’ ? Nous commençons un jour et nous finissons un jour. Seul le Tout-Puissant est éternel. Personne ne peut lui disputer le pouvoir. Seuls les vaniteux le croient. De ce complexe de la vanité, sont nées les théories blasphématoires de la supériorité des Blancs sur les non-Blancs, de la supériorité des hommes sur les femmes, de la supériorité des hommes sur les animaux et la nature. Nul besoin d’être croyant pour interpréter cette philosophie d’un point de vue profane » (p. 132).

Corbyn: Labour to Campaign for Yes Vote for a “real social Europe”.

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Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will campaign for a ‘real social Europe’

Labour will campaign for a “real social Europe” that has greater public ownership and stronger workers’ rights, Jeremy Corbyn will tell supporters.

The party wants the UK to remain part of the European Union because it brings jobs and investment as well as protections for employees, but it wants “progressive change” in the 28-member bloc, the opposition leader will say.

Reforms secured  by Prime Minister David Cameron that curb benefit payments for low-paid migrants “won’t put a penny in the pockets” of British workers or stop their wages being undercut, Labour members will be told.

Mr Corbyn, a long-standing critic of the EU, was earlier this week forced to defend his campaigning role after criticism from backbenchers that the vote could be “lost” unless the party made a more “passionate” case.

He will tell the Labour North conference in Newcastle : ” We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming referendum because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers.

“But we will also be campaigning with our allies for reform and progressive change in Europe: for more democracy, jobs and sustainable growth, public ownership and workers’ rights – in other words, a real social Europe.

“The North East is the only part of Britain that still has a trade surplus and over half your region’s exports go to Europe. The good jobs and quality apprenticeships here in the North East make the case for staying in Europe.

“Let us be clear too, taking benefits off low paid migrants won’t put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain or stop the undercutting of UK wages through the exploitation of migrant workers.

Shropshire Star.

Corbyn: Labour to campaign for ‘progressive change’ in EU. ITN.

Labour will campaign to keep the UK in the EU but wants “progressive change” in the union, the party’s leader will say.

Jeremy Corbyn will tell a party conference in Newcastle later today that he wants to see a “real social Europe” that has greater public ownership and stronger workers’ rights.

He has come under some criticism recently from backbenchers who warned the EU referendum vote could be lost unless the party made a more “passionate” case for remaining.

The opposition leader will say reforms secured by David Cameron which curb benefit payments for low-paid migrants “won’t put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain”.

We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming referendum because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers.

But we will also be campaigning with our allies for reform and progressive change in Europe: for more democracy, jobs and sustainable growth, public ownership and workers’ rights – in other words, a real social Europe.

– Extract of speech Jeremy Corbyn is expected to make later today

Ahead of next week’s budget, the Labour leader will insist the Conservative’s austerity measures are a “political choice not an economic necessity” and call the cuts “both brutal and unnecessary”.

“In 2010 they said that their ‘long-term economic’ plan would sort all this out, that the deficit would be eradicated by now.

“Their long-term plan has turned out far longer than they imagined, but subject to short-term revision when it fails again and again. It is a blueprint in deepest Tory blue to shrink the state, to shrink people’s security, stability and opportunity.”

Jeremy Corbyn will also dismiss Chancellor George Osborne’s so-called Northern Powerhouse policy as “southern hot air”, saying most of the investment for infrastructure projects in going to London and the south-east.

Why stay in the EU?

Free movement of people

Your right to work and study in other European countries would be at risk. There are 1.8 million British people living in Europe who currently benefit from these rights.

Workplace protections

Limits on weekly hours, guaranteed breaks at work and minimum amounts of annual holiday – these key rights are protected at a European level.

Human rights

Membership of the European Convention on Human Rights secures precious freedoms. Leaving the EU places our human rights at real risk because many of those who advocate British exit also want to abandon the European Convention.

 

Environmental safeguards.

 

Key safeguards protecting wildlife and tackling climate change have also been won at a European level. By establishing a level playing field they stop a ‘race to the bottom’ on environmental standards.

Protecting these things doesn’t mean settling for Europe as it is.

A different Europe is urgently needed – one that breaks with the free market economics that have caused so much damage to our societies. With 1 in 4 EU citizens at risk of poverty and social exclusion, we can’t afford to accept the same broken economic thinking.

Building ‘another Europe’ means working to strengthen social and progressive movements across the continent and pushing for democratic change – not walking away from the EU. It’s clear that an exit at the current time would boost right wing movements and parties like UKIP and hurt ordinary people in Britain. Join the campaign that says, ‘Stay in Europe, to change Europe’.

There is of course this ‘campaigner’ for Brexit to show us where that leads:

And Yet. Essays. Christopher Hitchens. Review: Internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.

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And Yet. Essays. Christopher Hitchens. Atlantic Books.

The Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) thug Adonis Nasr, was killed fighting alongside Assad and Hezbollah’s forces in Latakia this week. This would have passed unnoticed in the world at large, accustomed as we are reports of nameless deaths in Syria, if he had not been one of a group that savagely beat Christopher Hitchens in Beirut in 2009. With the Syrian barbarous civil war in mind we might do worse than begin And Yet with Hitchens’ concluding words, “Patriotic and tribal feelings belong to the squalling childhood of the human race, and become no more charming in the senescence…. internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.”

The charm of Hitchens, a foppish coxcomb in the judgement of the “power-drunk micro-megalomaniac called George Galloway” was to offer criticisms of all that exists, and to pour icy water on Revelations from non-existence. The book  offer rich examples of his sceptical internationalism and patriotism.

And Yet, uncollected essays, including a three-part report on his efforts to improve his bodily heath On the Limits of self-Improvement, is brim full of popinjay insolence. Hitchens ranges from broader clinical judgements, the (present) Turkish President’s “morbid disorders of the personality”, Hilary Clinton’s weakness for porkies, starting with claims to be named after Sir Edmund Hilary, to the chiaroscuro of V.S. Naipaul’s Salisbury Plain Manor, an “emotional master-slave concentration camp built for two”. Ian Fleming’s interest in bottoms – at first sight an endearing quality – rapidly evaporates when his sadistic snobbery is indicated. One supposes that the public school educated Hitchens had yet to encounter the stronger meat circulated in our North London state school youth: the wank-books that began with Richard Allen’s Skinhead.

Hitchens was capable of essays of great moral seriousness. Rosa Luxemburg’s internationalism was “so strong she despised anything to do with lesser or sectarian ‘identities’” was matched by a personality “constantly distracted from politics by her humanism and her love for nature and literature. The comparison between George Orwell’s ‘list” of crypto-communists with co-operation with the Thought Police is rightly dismissed, “nobody suffered or could have suffered from Orwell’s private opinion”.

Sometimes, even so, Hitchens is led astray. Turkey’s greatest modern writer Orban Pamuk’s Snow (2004) is criticised for its – taken without comparison to a whole shelf of his other publications – indulgence towards Islamists. It also receives bad notes for its “stilted dialogue” – a brave commentary on a translation from a language separated by a gulf from English. Pamuk’s lack of “courage” to address the Armenian issue (are all Turkish novelists obliged to reference this, constantly?) nevertheless finds its remedy. A later piece gives due recognition for his court appearance in 2005 – charged with evoking the genocide.

Internationalism.

A little internationalism, Jean Jaurès remarked, takes one away from the country, a lot brings us back to it. The American Revolution, Hitchens remarks, is the “only one that still resonates”. Hitchens is a fine guide to the personalities, battle-fields, and tortuous procedures of the US politics that lay claim to the inspiration of the Founding Fathers. But we are not always treated to high politics. We learn that many of the inhabitants of the states of the former Confederacy, commit “offences against chastity with either domestic animals (or the fact must be faced) with members of the immediate families”. Red-Staters are also often chunky, we are informed. It is even less than unlikely that the scandal of Ohio push-button direct-recording electronic voting machines resound very far. And when one is reminded of Hitchens’ new nationality in sentences studded, or perhaps embossed with the past particle ‘gotten’, putting in CAPITALS a change of state, or becoming, one pines for the unobtrusive Englishness of the sequence, “get, got, got.”

A “supporter of the armed struggle against the forces of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein” Hitchens has been accused of making reason the slave of the passions. This emotions were effectively marshalled against the forerunners of today’s Islamist genociders, authoritarian bullies of all stripes, and those ‘anti-imperialists’ who were complaisant about them, or complicit in their actions. But feelings, however morally intelligent, are shaky guides to internationalist policies. Few of his enemies would miss the chance to waggle their fingers at Hitchens’ urging of the invasion of Iraq which began the present Syrian conflicts in which X was entangled. The dire sequence that has followed these struggles – that is the US-led interventions and the present power plays – was there this week, in Latakia, Syria, for all to see.

Armed Missionaries.

The “failure to mesh human rights imperatives with geo-strategic and security ones” cannot be detached from Hitchens original parti pris. It was not the fight of the armed peoples against tyrants but the direct use of external force, of occupation, of regime-change from without, that remains at issue. No less a pacific figure than Robespierre once stated that nobody liked armed missionaries (Personne n’aime les missionnaires armés): you couldn’t export Liberty at bayonet point. Perhaps that lesson, from a Revolution that has inspired more universalism and internationalism than the American one, is worth remembering.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm