Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category
Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!
Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.
It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.
One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.
The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).
Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.
Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.
We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.
In a British left-wing version, advanced by, amongst others, Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”
This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:
The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.
Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.
The Democratic Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.
We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.
Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’
He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.
Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..
It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.
This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).
The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.
Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.
After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.
* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.
Reports the Independent.
Europe’s Left: No Retreat to Nationalist anti-European Politics.
Alexis Tsipras’s grip on power suffers a blow with 32 of his own MPs rebelling as the Greek parliament votes in favour of new austerity measure against a backdrop of violence on the streets of Athens reports the Telegraph.
There are many things to say about the developing Greek crisis but I am still struck by the information given in Le Monde on Tuesday about the “Explosive Propositions of Wolfgang Schäuble“.
The German Fiannce Minister, Schäuble, wanted Greece out of the Euro (no doubt to the satisfaction of the ‘left’ critics of Syriza’s leadership ), for a “provisional” period (not enough, would say the ‘left’, the True Finns and Golden Dawn). He also demanded a through-going “depolitisation” of the country;s administration, under close EU supervision (not something the ‘left’ would welcome one suspects).
The details behind this are a lot worse – as presented by Jack Rasmus,
It is a known fact that Schaubel and the ‘right wing’ of Euro bankers and ministers have wanted to eject Greece from the Euro since 2012. In that prior debt restructuring deal, private bankers and investors were ‘paid off’ and exited the Greek debt by means of loans made by the Troika, which were then imposed on Greece to pay. 2012 was a banker-investor bailout, not a Greece bailout. What was left was debt mostly owed by Greece to the Troika, more than $300 billion. Greece’s small economy of barely $180 billion GDP annually can never pay off that debt. Even if Greece grew at 4% GDP a year, an impossibility given that Europe and even Germany have been growing at barely 1% in recent years, and even if Greece dedicated all its surplus GDP to paying the debt, it would take close to a half century for Greece to pay off all its current debt.
Schaubel and the northern Europe bankers know this. In 2012, in the midst of a second Eurozone recession and financial instability, it was far more risky to the Euro banker system to cut Greece loose. Today they believe, however, that the Eurozone is stronger economically and more stable financially. They believe, given the European Central Bank’s $1.2 trillion QE slush fund, that contagion effects from a Greek exit can be limited. Supporters of this view argue that Greece’s economy is only 1.2% of the larger Eurozone’s.
What they don’t understand, apparently, is that size of GDP is irrelevant to contagion. They forget that the Lehman Brothers bank in 2008 in the US represented a miniscule percent of US GDP, and we know what happened. Quantitative references are meaningless when the crux of financial instability always has to do with unpredictable psychological preferences of investors, who have a strong proclivity to take their money and run after they have made a pile of it—which has been the case since 2009. Investors globally will likely run for cover like lemmings if they believe as a group that the global financial system has turned south financially—given the problems growing in China, with oil prices now falling again, with commodity prices in decline once more, with Japan’s QE a complete failure, and with the US economy clearly slowing and the US central bank moves closer to raising interest rates. Greece may contribute to that psychological ‘tipping point’ as events converge.
But there’s another, perhaps even more profitable reason for hardliners and Euro bankers wanting to push Greece out. And that’s the now apparent failure of Eurozone QE (quantitative easing) policies of the European Central Bank to generate Eurozone stock and asset price appreciation investors have been demanding.
Unlike in the US and UK 2009-2014 QE policies that more than doubled stock prices and investors’ capital gains, the ECB’s QE has not led to a stock boom. Like Japan recently, the Eurozone’s stock boom has quickly dissipated. The perception is that stock stimulus from the Eurozone’s QE, introduced six months ago, is perhaps being held back by the Greek negotiations. Euro bankers and investors increasingly believe that by cutting Greece loose (and limiting the contagion effects with QE and more statements of ‘whatever it takes’ by central banker, Mario Draghi) that Grexit might actually lead to a real surge in Euro stock markets. Thus, throwing Greece away might lead to investors making bigger financial profits. In other words, there’s big money to be made on the private side by pushing Greece out.
So, when we are talking about Syriza’s ‘betrayal’ bear this in mind.
Read it carefully.
Most will rightly, dismiss as stale air, calls for a “true” revolutionary party which will abolish these difficulties, and no doubt make the bankers and Schäuble disappear from the Earth’s surface.
But there are serious people inside Syriza, the Left Platform, who offered an alternative strategy to Tsparis and who have not accepted the present deal.
One of their leading spokespeople, Stahis Kouvelalkis has declared of the pro-EU Syriza leadership (this could apply more widely to others on the left – to Tendance Coatesy amongst many others) (Greece: The Struggle Continues Sebastian Budgen & Stathis Kouvelakis):
So for these people the choice is between two things: either being “European” and accepting the existing framework, which somehow objectively represents a step forward compared the old reality of nation-states, or being “anti-European” which is equated with a falling back into nationalism, a reactionary, regressive move.
This is a weak way in which the European Union is legitimated — it might not be ideal but it’s better than anything else on the table.
I think that in this case we can clearly see what the ideology at work here is. Although you don’t positively sign up to the project and you have serious doubts about the neoliberal orientation and top-down structure of European institutions, nevertheless you move within its coordinates and can’t imagine anything better outside of its framework.
This is the meaning of the kind of denunciations of Grexit as a kind of return to the 1930s or Grexit as a kind of apocalypse. This is the symptom of the leadership’s own entrapment in the ideology of left-Europeanism.
Kouvelakis cites the Greek Marxist political writer Nicos Poulantzas, who wrote and lived in France for most of his career, to back his anti-EU ideology.
He says that Poulantzas said the following.
Yes, Poulantzas talked about European integration in the first part of his book on social classes in contemporary capitalism, in which he analyzes the processes of internationalization of capital and he clearly considered the European Economic Community an example of an imperialist form of internationalization of European capital within the framework of what he considered the new postwar structural hegemony of the United States.
Poulantzas indeed made this analysis in Les Classes sociales dans le capitalisme aujourd’hui, (1974)
But in L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme (1978) Poulantzas offered an alternative to the domination of capital: a fusion of direct and representative democracy based ont eh workers’ movement and civil society. He famously stated that the state, is a ” « condensation matérielle d’un rapport de force entre les classes et fractions de classe » (a material condensation of relations between classes and fractions of classes).
The European Union is a judicial and economic framework which is, self-evidently, linked to these relations of changeable power.
It is not only a cabal of finance ministers, EU Commissioners, and neo-liberals who can do as they will – if there is a large enough power to stop them.
To change the EU, to fight neo-liberalism, requires a different relation of force: based on Europe-wide unity between the popular classes and lefts.
It means a political movement, across borders, with institutional weight.
The European Parliament, without any effective influence on EU decision-making, which is essentially inter-Ministerial and Commission based, is nevertheless a point where these bonds can, and are, made, through groups like the European Left Party – however weak they may be at present.
To leave the EU is to leave these potential ties of unity.
It is to give up the game at the first sign of difficulty – to follow those, misguided or simply opportunist ‘friends’ of Syriza who now turn on them when they have run into trouble.
It is to set the course for naked domination by the forces of international capital.
Or to put is more simply, no country, nor left, is in a position to break free of the IMF’s clutches, not to mention world financial markets.
Those on the Syriza left who proposed a Grexit, the centrepice of their economic plans, have yet to answer the point: would they have either offered a viable package, and how would they have warded off the financial locusts described by Rasmus?
They have yet to give a serious response.
A ‘New Britain’.
The Greek crisis has been a perceived as proof that the ‘pro-European’ left has failed, largely by those who were already convinced that this is so.
Briefly basking in Syriza’s reflected glory they have now returned to their own political projects.
In France, apart from the anti-Euro and ‘Sovereigntist’ Front National, a minority of the Parti de Gauche (45%) voted at their recent conference for this as part of a general “Eurosceptic” line (Libération). Their leader, Jean–Luc Mélenchon, has made frequent nationalist and anti-German remarks during the Greek crisis.
He said a few days ago,
For the third time in the History of Europe, the obstination of the German government is destroying Europe.
There is little doubt the same mood exists across Europe.
In Britain some see the Greek crisis as a sign to join in the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.
This, Owen Jones dreams, would ” focus on building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago.”
Unfortunately this option will appear on no Referendum Ballot paper, when, one assumes the believers in a New Britain will mark their slips in the same way as the ‘populists’ of the far-right, and hard-line anti-socialist economic liberals.
As Jim Denham rightly says, “The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neoliberal European Union, but forward, to a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.”
In the meantime here are some serious articles by people the Tendance respects (though disagrees with) on Syriza and the present crisis:
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin: Treating SYRIZA responsibly (Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal)
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, Athens
Update: A reminder from UNITE,
02 April 2015 By Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary
Two-thirds of manufacturing jobs in the UK are sustained by trade with the rest of the EU.
Between 2009 and 2011 the number of manufacturing jobs in the UK dependent on trade with the EU grew by 15 per cent.
But it is not just the economics that make membership crucial it is also the protection that workers have because of the EU.
Talk of employment directives may seem dry but protecting our members rights at work have come about because we belong to the EU, and because Unite and other trade unions have fought long and hard to achieve them.
Parental leave has been extended to at least four months for each parent no matter what type of employment contract a worker may be on.
Thousands of workers in part time jobs can no longer be treated less favourably than their counterparts who work full time.
Bosses don’t want anything that might interfere with their right to hire and fire at will so anything that provides protection for temporary agency workers from gross exploitation are hard fought. But we have been able to do it.
One of the major protections for workers is the transfers of undertakings directive a vital piece of legislation that guarantees workers’ rights and obligations in company takeovers and mergers – there was a time when companies could dismiss and automatically sack their entire workforces upon the transfer or sale of a business.
The working time directive protects workers from being forced to more than 48 hours on average and guarantees breaks during and between shits.
And lest we forget – guaranteed paid annual leave, of at least four weeks (28 days a year) – which now thanks to Unite has to be paid at average pay.
There have been massive improvements on equal pay; the right to be consulted on redundancies; to have information about your company and for workers in multinational companies the right to be heard and consulted at European level and improvements on health and safety.
Tory Eurosceptics and Ukip echo the right wing and defeated Tea Party in the United States offering Britain a prospectus of becoming an offshore financial centre – like Hong Kong. Left to them we will become Europe’s economic and political renegade.
If the Tories and Ukip get their way they will set us on this calamitous course to exit the EU. That’s why manufacturing workers need to vote Labour on 7 May.
“Misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous” – George Galloway as described in Naz Shah’s Maiden Speech.
Just out: “Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) (Maiden Speech House of Commons)
It is customary to say a few pleasant words about my predecessor—[Laughter.] I have many words, but sadly only a few pleasant ones.
My predecessor was, I am told, a great orator.
The sad truth is that the only words he ever directed towards me were misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous and, to quote him, “only ever had a fleeting relationship with the truth”.
However, it would be most unwise of me not to compliment him on his sensational acting abilities, not forgetting, as demonstrated in “Big Brother”, his taste for red leotards and black hats. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his actions, which united the people of Bradford West. Their patience—and, indeed, mine—certainly paid off when we handed him his P45 on 8 May.
The Spandex Cat has truly left the building.”
Ha, Ha Ha!
Good on you Naz!
Is ISIS massacre of 30 UK holidaymakers in Tunisia only the beginning?
Comments Paul Rogers on the Stop the War Coalition site.
“..the great majority of people in the UK are hardly aware that this is a major war – and that Britain is at the centre of it.”
While one intention was seriously to wreck the Tunisian tourist industry, leading to higher unemployment and more anger and resentment, providing a better environment for recruiting young people to the IS cause, it was probably part of a much wider intention to bring the conflict home to the coalition of countries now engaged in the air war.
This makes for uncomfortable connections, especially as most people in Britain simply do not recognise that the country is part of a large coalition that has been waging a major air offensive on IS forces in Iraq and Syria for almost a year.
One of the grim ironies of the Sousse attack is that the appalling loss of life might alert more people in the UK to the true extent of the war. Equally, IS will no doubt encourage further attacks on the countries at war with it; counterterrorism forces in countries as far afield as the US, Australia, Canada, France and Britain will accordingly be intensifying their work.
It is just possible that the Sousse massacre will turn out to be an isolated attack on British nationals, but it’s very unlikely. The reality is that the war with IS in Iraq and Syria is beginning to extend beyond those countries and the region – even beyond the established battlegrounds ofAfghanistan and Libya. What happened to the holidaymakers in Sousse may only be the beginning of a new phase.
If it is a “war” against Daesh we can be sure we know today where the UK government stands.
MPs should consider allowing Britain to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria, the defence secretary is to say.
The RAF has been carrying out strikes in Iraq since September but Michael Fallon will say Parliament should look at the case for missions in Syria too.
The UK does not need the backing of MPs to launch raids but Mr Fallon has said the Commons will have the final say.
He will suggest terrorist attacks, such as Friday’s tourist murders in Tunisia, may have been planned by IS in Syria.
Thirty of the 38 tourists killed on the beach in Sousse on 26 June have been confirmed as British. Student Seifeddine Rezgui, 23, said to have had links to IS, was shot dead by police after carrying out the attack.
Prime Minister David Cameron later said IS posed “an existential threat” to the West, and its members in Iraq and Syria were plotting “terrible attacks” on British soil.
The Mirror also notes,
Britain edged closer to bombing Islamic State extremists in Syria after the Defence Secretary said it was “illogical” to attack jihadists in Iraq but not over the border.
Michael Fallon said a new Commons vote would be needed before the RAF carried out air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria.
But he insisted there was no “legal bar” blocking Britain from attacking extremists in either country.
RAF Tornados and drones have been bombing the jihadists in Iraq since last September as part of a US-led alliance.
But Mr Fallon said: “ISIS is organised and directed and administered from Syria and there’s an illogicality about not being able to do it there.”
Where does the StWC stand?
Will it ‘defend’ the genociders of Daesh, and the European volunteers for its racist Einsatzgruppen from this bombing?
Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik. The UK and the West have not opposed support for the reactionary forces of Al Nusra and other Islamist murderers. Their allies, such as Saudi Arabia, actively back these reactionaries. They have not stood against the threat of Turkish ‘Neo-Ottoman’ policy. They had not stood against Shia sectarian killings in Iraq.
The possibility that they will encourage any kind of democratic outcome to the civil war, and a replacement for the Assad regime with a progressive alternative is non-existent.
But to make opposition to this bombing our chief objective is wrong.
We should be backing the democratic, largely Kurdish forces, of the People’s Protection UnitsYekîneyên Parastina Gel,, battling the genociders and their International volunteers on the ground.
There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.
34 People going!
Bijou Ale House.
The Galloway Campaign for London Mayor is underway and things are hotting up.
150 people crammed into a small room in Conway Hall to listen to the man who has vowed to take on Long John Silver, slay the Buccaneers and find the buried gold.
More Galloway Stuff:
Asghar Bukhari, Israel’s Covert War On Muslims: I would walk barefoot to defend my people — they can keep the shoe.
The Story that Will not be Lost!
In the interests of promoting free speech we publish the following harrowing document (only just available, thanks to CAF):
I am going to tell you my story, one where violence, intimidation, letters in the night and psychological torture techniques were used to silence me.
This heart-rending account of a man persecuted by Zionists to the point where even a man’s shoes are no longer safe is this year’s must-read.
Let me explain. Odd things had been happening in my home for some time. Things had been moved around, windows that my wife assiduously closed were open when we returned, the window seals on my car were pulled up, the gas on the cooker on, and on and on it went. Each time I put it down to forgetfulness, mistakes, or something none of us could explain, I just shrugged it off and got on with it.
Either way, I didn’t think much of it.
But on this night, something happened I knew was nothing to do with me being forgetful. It was all to do with a new pair of shoes.
Bravely Asghar Bukhari publicised this heinous Zionist crime.
But what happened?
Within hours Facebook had banned me and a global campaign against me started.
They also banned all videos being uploaded onto the MPACUK Facebook page. In effect stopping me communicating to the very audience that had heard my message. The timing seemed far more than chance to me. No sooner than the ban took effect, scores of Zionists started to troll my page attacking me.
The story was passed to the Media and a Zionist campaign started.
Worse was to come….
A day after my Jewish neighbours, both of whom are lawyers, stopped my wife and pointed out that they had found some slippers in their garden, they were placed, next to some feathers. They surmised a fox must have had something to do with it, they didn’t know much more as they had been on holiday.
The slippers, ripped and scuffed up, were the final nail in the coffin of any doubt that there was any plausible explanation at all for the strange and odd things that had happened over the last few months.
You see for those slippers to have been taken by an animal, that animal would have had to enter not just one door, but two, and then on the way out — lock both of them. There was no chance on earth an animal had taken my slippers or my shoes. I had been targeted for Zersetzung.
They will not win!
However, in trying to defeat me, the bungled attempt at trying to play with my mind had failed. They had made a story, where there was none. If they had left my post on Facebook, tens of thousands would never have never known about their actions — the invisible hand of Israel and its attempts to covertly destroy its opposition would have remained undocumented. But in their rush to silence me, they made a strategic misjudgement — they decided to go big with it — they panicked, and played a hand they did not have to play and that misjudgement reader — is why you are reading this right now.
One can only admire Bukhari’s pluck:
As for me — I would walk bare foot to defend my people — they can keep the shoe.
On twitter @AsgharBukhari