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Culture Wars, Black Lives Matter, and Labour’s Future.

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America Protests Minnesota

Culture Wars: Protesters have pulled down a statute of Christopher Columbus outside the Minnesota State Capitol.

“Parts of the left have spent the months since Keir Starmer was elected leader attacking him for “losing the working-class base” through his social liberalism. Now he’s faced with attacks from the same corner for failing to support the destruction of the Colston statue.”

Paul Mason. To defeat the far right, Labour must lead the anti-racist movement

In his analysis of the Black Lives movement Paul Mason makes the cutting point that  recently a certain left press, from the Morning Star downwards, was full of attacks on the “metropolitan liberal” Keir Starmer and the internationalist pro-EU left. The Bluff Workers of the Red Wall would not put up with this North London elitism.

Things have changed.

This week the Morning Star took it upon itself to comment Editorially,

Colston’s toppled statue links the anti-racist and anti-imperialist causes

KEIR STARMER’S description of the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol as “completely wrong,” like Priti Patel’s claim that it was “utterly disgraceful,” show their distance from what has become an international movement against racism.

They recommend creating  “building the broadest possible anti-racist alliance – one which connects racial oppression to capitalism. A movement that targets a system of which the whole working class are the victims and an imperialist global order based on exploitation and war.” – an alliance, one assumes, which keeps Keir Starmer at a distance.

Such a movement would develop a consistency the Labour leadership lacks, as it tries to square sympathy with anti-Trump protesters in the US with support for Washington’s aggression abroad.

While pondering on just what US “aggression” the Labour Leader supports we should not that other spokespeople for the Red Wall  have stood their ground.

Anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner Paul Embery (promoted by the Socialist Party as head of Trade Unionists Against the EU during the referendum), (1) says,

Now, in stark contrast,  his old anti-EU muckers in the Socialist Party are ready to advise Black Lives protesters,

Black Lives Matter protests sweep country: How can the movement win?

Sir Keir Starmer told LBC radio: “It shouldn’t have been done in that way, [it was] completely wrong to pull a statue down like that.” With this comment, and also in his approach to Covid, he has shown that he is not prepared to stand up for working-class people and defy the Tories – in bronze or in parliament.

The movement will have to build its own leadership through a testing of ideas and organisation as it develops.

And what would that involve?

To be on the side of this movement means drawing on the conclusion of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers: “You can’t have capitalism without racism”.

What does that mean for building the Black Lives Matter movement? It means building a mass united movement of working-class people with anti-racism at its heart; that fights for workplace safety and PPE for all who need it; for fighting trade unions; for free education; for democratic working class control of the police, and for a future for all young people. It means building a new mass party of workers and young people because we can’t trust the capitalist politicians with our lives and our future.

And it means fighting for the alternative to capitalism – socialism. Capitalism is outmoded. It can’t offer us a future. Join the Socialist Party to help us raise these ideas in the new movement.

The militantly pro-Brexit George Galloway’s new party has its own take.

Socialist Worker publishes this appeal, from the USA, by Michael Brown.

 we need to take these rebellions and uprisings to their most radical conclusions.

Already we have certain sections of the state—particularly the Democratic Party—that are offering concessions.

At this point, we need to be demanding and raising reforms but keep in mind that the system is rotten.

It needs to be uprooted, branch and root entirely. We’ve exhausted all other social means.

The power is in the streets. It’s not enough to write to your congressman or circulate a petition anymore.

And first and foremost the ruling class is scared because people are looting and burning, and defying curfews. That type of militant power in the streets is what we need.

The revolt runs deep—take it to its most radical conclusions

Others from the pro-Brexit camp remain reserved.

Pontificating Prelate Giles Fraser, once the darling of protesters against neo-liberal globalisation, now a Tory voter retweets,

Are there different approaches, ones that avoid the naked opportunism of sections of the left, and the reactionary response of the Blue Labour and Red-Brown Spiked?

As with all his writing Paul Mason’s important article should be read in full.

Key points include that the movement shows two striking aspects:

The first is an expression of power and solidarity by black Britons. Though the London demos have been multi-ethnic, when seen as black community events they are unparalleled in size. The university students, the taxi drivers, the cleaners, the church congregations, the football teams, the DJs and the civil servants of black London were drawn together in one place. These were not “activists” – they were families and friends mobilised together.

The second aspect of these events is they are a political project. They reflect the desire of multi-ethnic urban communities to decisively roll back the racism they see pervading their everyday experience: they have had enough, and a response has been coming for years.

He continues,

And that leads to the third characteristic of this moment. It is a major challenge to the Labour Party.

 

….

The black community, like everyone interested in politics, understands that there will not be a progressive government in this country unless Labour can take back its former northern heartlands. But the implicit question posed by the recent demonstrations was: “OK, but on what basis?”

Neither the Socialist Party’s call for a “mass united movement” around their own party, nor the SWP’s belief that “militant power in the streets” is on the political agenda, look likely, or are designed to help this objective. Nor are they likely  to win many converts.

But taking back voters is a hard subject. Labour has to be convincing, not just story-telling It is far from sure that we can will into being an alliance of the ‘Red Wall’ and socially liberal internationalists with a counter-movement and narrative, around the themes Mason suggests, the “family, fairness, hard work and decency” agenda.

If we are talking about a political project  deft national populism Tory, far right, and Red-Brown , one that can relate to Keir Starmer’s team in the Labour Party, but with a much broader appeal and some solid policy behind it.

I’d start looking at some of the ideas coming from new alliances of the greens, centre left socialists and social democrats, and*significant figures of the radical left, that are emerging in France around l’initiative commune, on radical changes to create an open modern and decent welfare system, raising working standards and pay, better, public services, tax reform, ecological transition (the ‘Green New Deal’, for more details see Au cœur de la crise, construisons l’avenir (2)

These efforts to bring people together for a positive future are encouraging, and should expand to include the issues Black Lives Matter raise.

Without this kind of compass plunging directly into the ‘culture’ wars looks a risky  task.

To begin with the sheer size and breadth of the moment we undergoing looks fraught with difficulties.

As Joseph Harker says in the Guardian today,

Black Lives Matter’ risks becoming an empty slogan. It’s not enough to defeat racism

If I hear one more white person say “Black Lives Matter” I think my head will explode. The slogan, powerful when first popularised by black people after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 in the US, has now become so ubiquitous as to have lost almost all meaning. A way for people to endlessly repeat “I hate racism” while doing nothing to actually stop it.

When even Boris Johnson can say “Black Lives Matter” – the same Boris Johnson who talks of African piccaninnies, of “bank robber” burqa wearers, who leads a party riven by Islamophobia but refuses a proper investigation into it, and who was part of a government that deported black British citizens, and continues the injustice of the hostile environment to this day – well, you know the slogan’s cultural appropriation is complete.

This brilliant article reminds one of this comment today:

Some further points can be made.

My own ancestors in Ireland, Glasgow and the East End did not get much of the Imperial “surplus wealth” or, I could cite Ireland as an obvious case, benefited from racism……

This Blog suggests that while the culture wars around the issues of racism are important we should not end with statues from the legacy of the slave trade,  British imperialism, or wider European colonisation.

It is not just a reckoning with the past, or present day American or European black lives that matter.

Certainly this is not helped by pulling stuff from television.

Given the state of the world this looks pretty small.

As internationalists we should be fighting the prejudice and disdain which has led many, including on the left, to ignore the millions of Syrian lives at threat from the Assad regime  and the millions of African  lives at risk in present day horrific civil conflict.

In the first instance we await the Morning Star’s support for the victims of the Baathist regime.

 

*******

(1) Paul Embery speaks at the TUSC meeting in Cardiff photo Ross Saunders   (Click to enlarge)

Ross Saunders and Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

The ‘Socialist Case Against the EU’ tour held a lively and fraternal meeting in Cardiff on 9 June.

The tour is organised by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which supports a Leave vote, and includes transport union RMT and the Socialist Party.

(2) “Des figures intellectuelles et politiques de la gauche et de l’écologie appellent à une « initiative commune »

14th of May Le Monde.

The list of names indicates the breadth of the appeal.

On peut y trouver les ténors de la gauche et des écologistes : les députés socialistes Olivier Faure et Valérie Rabault, les députés européens Raphaël Glucksmann et Aurore Lalucq, la présidente de région Occitanie, Carole Delga, et les maires Johanna Rolland (Nantes) et Nathalie Appéré (Rennes) ; les écologistes Yannick Jadot, Sandra Regol, Eric Piolle et Eva Sas ; les amis de Benoît Hamon, Guillaume Balas et Claire Monod ; les communistes Ian Brossat et Pierre Laurent.

Ils ont été rejoints par un large panel associatif et syndical et de nombreux intellectuels progressistes. On peut remarquer ainsi les signatures personnelles des anciennes ministres passées au monde des ONG Cécile Duflot (Oxfam) et Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (One), de l’ex-président d’Emmaüs Thierry Kuhn, de l’urgentiste Rony Brauman, des anciens syndicalistes Bernard Thibault, Bernadette Groison ou Annick Coupé, des altermondialistes Gus Massiah et Christophe Aguiton. Des intellectuels de renom ont aussi paraphé l’appel, tels Thomas Piketty, Julia Cagé, Pierre Charbonnier, Dominique Méda et Sandra Laugier.

Factionalism in the Time of Coronavirus Part 4: Momentum’s Internal Elections and Future.

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Momentum: what is it for, who can join, how does it work – and ...

What Now for New Politics? 

Since its launch in 2015, following Jeremy Corbyn’s election, Momentum has become an important force within the Labour Party, both for its ability to organise for elections, and for the ideas it has broadcast.

Momentum’s ability to get people out to campaign has won it respect. Many people have indicated that the organisation was built around a call to support Jeremy Corbyn – a focus on an individual that not everybody on the left was attracted to, or agreed with. Others have made claims that it can be close to a party within a party, an assertion repeated by rival groups (or ‘factions’) such as Progress and the old Labour right,  Labour First.

A strong point of Momentum was a wish to open Labour up to wider left culture and ideas. Associated with The World Transformed events were held where respected figures like Paul Mason and Hilary Wainwright were given a platform as well as the supporter of Labour Against the Witch-hunt and ‘anti-Zionist’ Ken Loach.

Left Populism.

It was said that Momentum drew inspiration from the Greek left party Syriza and other radical parties that appeared in the wake of the 2008 Banking crisis to oppose austerity. The 2018 World Transformed event attracted attention for starring the leader of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the political theorist Chantal Mouffe. Their speeches, and the association made between Corbyn, Spain’s Unidos Podemos, and the USA’s Bernie Sanders, encouraged the belief that Labour’s new direction was towards ‘Left Populism’.In this some saw parallels between Momentum and the Podemos social media aided ‘circles’ (Círculos). There was even talk of it being a ‘social movement’ in its own rights, as if it had independent activism that had struck deeper chords and popular support, than the Labour Party itself.

Critics observed the weakness of those left populist parties, like La France insoumise (LFI), who relied on the supposed attraction of a single ‘charismatic’ leader (as opposed to the more pluralist Podemos). They lacked internal democracy and appeared more as “rallies”, (“lieu de rassemblement” – LFI) with limited ‘electronic’ internal voting. Some made comparisons with Momentum’s own limited voting system. Supporters pointed to (in the UK) problems created by determined factionalists, and, above all, the need to remove those who supported extreme ‘anti-Zionism’.

It was not difficult to see that not everybody, including on the left, found Mélenchon or, for that matter, Jeremy Corbyn, a compelling leader, or would wish to defer to their authority.

All of these political forces have suffered setbacks, Syriza lost power in Jily 2019, La France insmoumise was down to 7,3% of the vote in the European elections, Podemos in November lost votes, and is now in coalition with the non-populist Spanish socialists, and has just had another split (with the ‘anticapitalistas’),  Labour in December suffered a heavy election defeat. Sanders has now withdrawn from the Democratic Party leadership contest.

Defenders of left populism are still around. Its cheer-leaders in the US Jacobin magazine assert the abstract validity of this strategy (March 2020)

Within societies marked by multiple divisions, inequalities, and polarizations, populism thus indicates a discursive practice that aims at creating links between the excluded and suffering in order to empower them in their struggles to redress this exclusion. These discourses are articulated around “the people” as the central political subject demanding incorporation into the political community — restoring dignity and equality and honoring the commitment to “popular sovereignty.”

Left-Populism Is Down but Not Out GIORGOS VENIZELOS YANNIS STAVRAKAKIS

Chantal Mouffe, by contrast, managed to write a full page in May’s  Le Monde Diplomatique defending left populism against criticisms form political theorist Pierre Rosanvallon, and its importance, in asserting this sovereignty,  as a strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic, without mentioning any of these political set backs (Ce que Pierre Rosanvallon ne comprend pas).

The terms of these debates have changed, first by the election of a new Labour leader, and secondly, by the above pandemic.

After Keir Starmer’s victory in the Labour leadership elections Momentum published this statement,

THE FUTURE OF OUR MOVEMENT: A STATEMENT FROM MOMENTUM’S NCG

Momentum congratulates Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on their election as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. We look forward to working with them to ensure the election of a Government that will carry out the kind of bold, transformational policies our country and planet so badly need.

We also want to thank Rebecca Long-Bailey for running a principled, left wing campaign full of big ideas, building on the programme she has worked on for the last four years. We were proud to support her.

……

We didn’t win – and that failure is ours collectively – but we have transformed politics for the better. While the Tories will always represent the big polluters and tax dodgers, austerity as a political project has been defeated. No major politician of any party talks about ‘belt tightening’ and ‘necessary cuts’ any longer. Investment and pride in our public services is the new mantra, if not the new reality. This is our victory. And we should be proud.

Many will have noticed that Momentum refused to give its members a chance to endorse Keir Starmer, holding a ‘vote’ on who to back in the contest that did not include his name.

What is the future role for Momentum? Who or what are they loyal to?

The present stand appears to be that they will hold the new leader, somebody they tried to block as hard as they could,  “to account”.

…Keir will face pressure from the media, big corporations and the right of the party to break his promises. We have to be there to hold him to account, make sure he sticks to his promises and advances the socialist cause in the party as well as in every workplace and community.

….

Jeremy’s leadership is over and we all continue to thank him from the bottom of our hearts. His legacy is our movement seizing the opportunities ahead. As Jeremy said, there is no such thing as Corbynism. Only socialism.

……

One might suggest that those who encouraged the belief that Corbyn was a special type of new leader, and were determined opponents of Starmer are not best placed to disavow the focus on personalities above socialist politics.

In this statement Momentum sets out broad ideas on” political education” backing trade unions, and  n direct action groups challenging the government on the climate emergency”, training socialist leaders, forming “renters’ unions and “with Coronavirus, we can organise mutual aid to protect those most vulnerable to the worst impacts of Tory rule.”

Many other people in the Labour Party will have thought of these ideas without help from Momentum.

Reflecting Momentum’s strongest point, the mobilisation of people to campaign in elections,  they promised to continue to do all they could “help Labour win elections at every level” .

It’s one election that has opened up a new phase: the election for the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG).

This announcement marked the opening of the contest:

It’s time for a new generation. Why I’m not standing in Momentum’s elections

Jon Lansman

Nominations for those wanting to stand for our NCG will open at midday on Thursday 28 May and end at midday on Thursday 11 June.

“A one-member-one-vote ballot will then be held from midday on Tuesday 16 June until midday on Tuesday 30 June.

We have two main factional blocs vying for votes.

Momentum Renewal.

Site: ”  A grassroots initiative to reform Momentum and unite the left.

These are described as the “continuity current”.

Forward Momentum.

The “refounders”.

 

Useful article from ‘Momentum internationalists’: What should (Forward) Momentum stand for?

More background: Forward Momentum: radical reformers or new establishment?

And, as the Newshounds of Labour List have found there is this:

 

The Anticapitalist Platform for Momentum

Aka, Red Flag (Plaform), (‘The Anticapitalist Platform is an initiative by supporters of Red Flag in Momentum.) Workers Power, the League for the 5th International.

On one issue, opposing Brexit, they look in the right direction,

Electoral triangulation and strategic dependence on unity with the right forced Corbyn into damaging concessions on free movement and Brexit, which disoriented the left, disillusioned voters, and strengthened his enemies.

A central focus of debate between the contenders is Momentum’s internal structures, which critics say leave little space for democracy.

Some of the rows between these tendencies and candidates have not been up to standards of respectful, polite and friendly debate that marks the Tendance Coatesy blog.

This is could be an occasion to vent these views, and looks like fun….or not

Activists demand online hustings for internal Momentum elections

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2020 at 11:34 am

Peter Taaffe Stands Down as Socialist Party General Secretary and Warns of Keir Starmer “right-wing ‘counterrevolution'”.

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Image result for peter taaffe 2020

Peter Taaffe. Socialist Party Political Secretary. 

Following a very successful Socialist Party national congress the newly elected Socialist Party executive committee has unanimously agreed that Peter Taaffe will become political secretary, while Hannah Sell will become general secretary.

Peter has been general secretary since the inception of the Socialist Party, and prior to that was editor of the Militant newspaper. He will remain on the executive committee.

The Socialist.

In his keynote speech to the Congress Taaffe issued this warning about the Labour Party leadership election,

If Starmer wins, this will represent a right-wing ‘counterrevolution’ in the party, regardless of the more ‘left’ face he has been forced to present in order to try and win the contest. With Starmer as leader it would be necessary to find another route to the building of a mass workers’ party in England and Wales.

Taaffe was GSec from 1997 until this year, 2020.

Some suggest that Taaffe has followed the lead of Harry Pollitt, who, after handing over the Communist Party of Great Britain job to John Gollan in 1956, had a new and more or less honorary job created for him, party Chairman.

The Socialist Party underwent a split last year.

In analysing this division and the history of his faction Taaffe found much to congratulate himself as he recounts in In defence of Trotskyism.

Introduction 12th of December 2019.

 ….we stubbornly but correctly defended the historic role and potential of the working class in the forthcoming battles that were likely to open up internationally.

We were very soon vindicated in action in the mass revolutionary upheavals that erupted, particularly in France in 1968 with the working class reaching out for power through a general strike and organised occupations of the factories.

Our general approach allowed us to subsequently face up to winning and mobilising the best working-class youth, and at the same time winning a significant layer of student youth in the universities who put themselves politically and historically on the standpoint of the working class.

One would have, perhaps, to be closely attuned to the higher secrets of the Marxist dialectic to appreciate the full text.

Yet these further extracts are of some interest to a wider, lay, audience,

Marxism historically has consistently first sought to unify the working class in action – and particularly women workers with their male counterparts – at the point of production in the factories, the workplaces, in the localities and in general society. Our opponents – the long-term sectarians, together with those on the right wing of the labour movement and their quasi-left political cousins – of course deny that is their aim. But in practice this is what invariably takes place.

In war – including the class war – the first casualty is truth! This bourgeois maxim is taken for granted amongst the ruling class. However, with the labour movement, and particularly those who claim to be Marxists or Trotskyists, it behoves those who seek to represent the working class to tell the truth both about the objective situation and to seek to answer criticisms honestly. However, Lenin stressed that in Russia he had never come across a really honest labour movement tendency outside of the ranks of the Bolsheviks, the genuine representatives of Marxism and the working class.

It is impossible to answer all the myriad lies used against us. This should be kept in mind when reading some of the slanderous documents, and the language and shameful behaviour of those who supported identity politics in the ideological struggle.

Slander and shameful behaviour are not the end of it:

The starting point of the sectarians and advocates of identity politics is firstly to hone in, to seek to emphasise and magnify any differences in consciousness between sections of the working class. A Marxist and Trotskyist approach does the opposite: it seeks to emphasise what unites working people in struggle. Of course, we recognise the special oppression of different groups and accordingly formulate specific demands. But we at the same time always seek to unify in action the struggles of working people through a common programme, instilling confidence in their ranks with a strategy for victory. We recognise the points of difference where they exist, which means supporting particular demands, but also we have the responsibility to seek to enhance the general struggles of the working class, to free them from opportunist and sectarian leaders and unify them on a fighting programme.

One hopes that the youth will learn the lessons of this magisterial volume!

The answer to how to undertake this colossal task can be found – particularly by the new generation – in reading and absorbing the lessons of this book and the method of Trotsky and Lenin to forge the political weapons that will create a new socialist world.

The Socialist Party monthly, Socialism Today, drew up a balance sheet also relating to the butter debate his February.

The New Party Gen Sec, Hannah Sell, a long-standing opponent of ‘identity politics’ (Unpacking the rucksack) writes,

Featured article from February 2020 Socialism Today (Monthly journal of the Socialist Party- CWI England & Wales.

Socialists debate identity politics

The relationship between fighting women’s oppression, identity politics, and the struggle for socialism is a feature of many debates in the workers’ movement internationally. Mistakes made on this question by the Irish Socialist Party were central to the division that took place in the Committee for a Workers’ International in 2019. In the wake of the Irish general election HANNAH SELL draws up a balance sheet.

In 2019 a major debate took place in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated. The debate resulted in a split in the CWI with some of its former supporters moving in a rightward opportunist direction.

One of the main triggers for the debate was the mistaken approach of the leadership of the Irish Socialist Party (then the CWI’s affiliate in Ireland) towards the fight against women’s oppression, and its relationship to the struggle for socialism. The debate on these issues has important lessons for the workers’ movement internationally, particularly in this period where identity, rather than class, is frequently put forward as the central divide in society by individuals and forces who claim to be on the left.

Issues relating to this will come up in different forms again and again in future struggles. Just as Lenin and the Bolshevik Party would have been unable to successfully lead the Russian working class to power in 1917 without a correct approach to the right of nations to self-determination, it will be essential to future struggles to change society that a correct approach is taken to all the many forms of special oppression.

The Socialist Party (the group publishing The Socialist, and previously known as Militant) has split after a special congress on 21 July. So has the CWI, the international network of groups of which the SP was the pivot.

SP delegates voted 173-35-0 to “refound” the Committee for a Workers’ International by calling an international conference in 2020. The congress also declared that people continuing to support the existing CWI would place themselves outside of Socialist Party membership, effectively expelling the minority in Britain who support the (apparent) majority internationally within the CWI (bit.ly/cwi-26).

The split concludes months of bitter and increasingly public fighting within the Socialist Party (public due to lack of computer skills by some, rather than to any spirit of open debate).

The faction led by longstanding SP leader Peter Taaffe accused their opponents of “capitulating to petit bourgeois identity politics”. The opposition contended that Taaffe’s standoffish approach to feminist or other broader political mobilisations takes away the opportunity to fight for working-class politics in these movements.

Now they are moblising against the “counter-revolution”, that is those in the Labour Party who back Keir Starmer.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 14, 2020 at 5:44 pm