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Ken Loach Wins Palm D’Or with I, Daniel Blake.

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Palme D’or Triumph for the Daniel Blakes of the Whole World. 

Some good news, at last.

Ken Loach has won the Palme d’or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake.

“Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old joiner in the North-East of England who falls ill and requires state assistance for disability from the Employment and Support Allowance. While he endeavours to overcome the red tape involved in getting this assistance, he meets single mother Katie who, in order to escape a homeless persons’ hostel, must take up residence in a flat 300 miles (480 km) away.”

France 24 reports,

The 79-year-old Briton attacked the “dangerous project of austerity” as he accepted the festival’s top prize from actor Mel Gibson and Mad Max creator George Miller, who headed this year’s jury. “The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe,” Loach said, adding: “We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible.”

And, he continued, “Necessary”.

Le Monde’s review noted that ‘welfare reform’ forms the heart of the film. That in the UK there is a veritable ‘crusade’ against the disabled, to root out those feigning illness (“la chasse aux tire-au-flanc a pris les allures d’une croisade) in a “néo-victorienne” Britain.

Moi, Daniel Blake n’est pas une satire d’un système absurde. Ken Loach n’est pas un humoriste, c’est un homme en colère, et le parcours de l’ouvrier privé de travail et de ressources est filmé avec une rage d’autant plus impatiente qu’elle est impuissante.

I, Daniel Blake, is not a satire about an absurd system. Ken Loach is not a humourist, he’s full of anger, and the progress a worker without a job, and without assets, is filmed with an indignation that is as exasperated  as it is impotent.

This Blog is not an uncritical admirer of Ken Loach. He is against austerity and for social rights, the cause of the left.  But his more specific politics, which include a lengthy membership of Respect and support for the cultural Boycott of Israel, as well as no known activity against Islamist genociders, or support for the Kurdish people in their fight for dear life against ISIS,  are not always the same as ours.

Nor are all of Loach’s films, for all of their skill and intensity, always as deep as they set out to be.

Of the most recent The Angels’ Share (2012) is amusing but slight tale of Scottish scamps. It is not free, for all its would-be irony, of whatever the Caledonian equivalent of Oirishness is,. The Spirit of ’45 (2013) may seem a strangely uncritical account of the post-war Labour government. Jimmy’s Hall  is a fine story set in the Irish Free state. But it is straining things for this emssage to pass, ” The behaviour of the state’s police is shown and explained to be occurring at a time when Stalin was in full control of the Soviet Union and it is obvious that the state and church are fearful of forces that threaten to destroy them. It is this tension between the ideals of Christianity and the fear of the church and its natural tendency to be reactionary that is the central issue that the film explores.”

It can still be argued that the trio have strong narrative coherence, and, in the case of Jimmy’s Hall, insights into the history of republicans, and the left, in the Irish Free State, and the characters swept up in the struggle for independence, the civil war,  and their fate in in the aftermath, as well as cinematique beauty.

Loach will, nevertheless, be remembered for Poor Cow, Kes, Land and Freedom, and smaller, less technically polished, but robust films such as Raining Stones, Riff Raff and the Navigators, which demonstrate that ‘social realism’ is not always worthy but unwatchable didacticism, and Bread and Roses, which shows politically engaged drama at its best.

That said by tackling head-on the effects of the ‘reform’ of the British Welfare state I, Daniel Blake, hits at a sensitive nerve, and, frankly, righteous indignation is an emotion that’s widely shared about this. Its tale of people pushed from pillar to post,  has been compared to Loach’s exposee of homelessness in the 1966 television play Cathy Come Home ,

The Minister in charge of the system of oppression bearing down on Daniel Blake, Iain Duncan Smith, is now a leading Brexit campaigner.

Appropriately Loach stands on the other side of the European Referendum debate,  the solution is ultimately voting to stay. “we need to “make alliances with other European left movements”.

The film is a worthy successor to last year’s winner, the riveting, Dheepan,directed by Jacques Audiard.

Sivadhasan is a Tamil Tiger soldier during the last days of the Sri Lankan Civil War. After the armed conflict resolves, his side loses and he is forced to move to a refugee camp. There he decides to move to France to take a fresh chance at life. However, in order to secure political asylum, he requires a convincing cover story. He is given the passport of a dead man, Dheepan, and pairs with people he barely knows posing as his family. Along with his supposed wife, Yalini and his supposed 9-year-old daughter, Illayaal, they get on a ship bound for Paris. Upon arrival, he lands a job as a resident caretaker and starts building a new life in a housing project in Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, a northeastern suburb of Paris, which turns out to be another conflict zone for him.

I saw Dheepan only a few weeks ago.

One hopes that Loach’s picture will not take so long to get to our screens.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 23, 2016 at 11:10 am

Socialist Worker: After Brexit, Our Turn!

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Brexit Will Need Revolutionaries to re-read the Classics.

Tory splits provide the opportunity of a lifetime.

Says Socialist Worker in what must be the most inane headline since….

Well most of us are sick to the buck teeth with strained analogies with that them there ‘itler’s time….

Meanwhile the paper is beside itself with joy:

“Tories in meltdown” ran a headline in the Sunday Times newspaper last week. The story said, “As party unity crumbles, Boris Johnson may be back to seize Cameron’s job”.

The Tories are tearing themselves apart over the European Union (EU) referendum, with bitter rows every day.

The blood-spilling will continue right up until the vote on 23 June—and beyond.

This is the moment to step up the exit campaign from the left. It should oppose racism, the EU bosses’ club, the pro-corporation trade deals and stand for internationalism and workers’ unity.

The Remain camp has mobilised the forces that spectacularly plunged the world into recession in 2008 to say leaving the EU would spell economic disaster.

Last week Tory chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury had begun contingency planning to shore up Britain’s financial system should the Leave vote.

Socialist Worker.

What excatly will this opportunity provide?

The SWP’s paper says,

We need independent politics against the bosses on both sides.

Socialist Worker supports the Leave campaign from the left.

We don’t share platforms with the Tories or Ukip and we argue against those who say that migrants are a problem.

Er, that it: Sell Socialist Worker and join the SWP….

Meanwhile in the drab colourless world we, unlike the SWP, live in:

Priti Patel reveals Leave campaign agenda to reduce workers’ rights, says TUC.

 

Commenting on a speech today at the Institute of Directors by pro-Brexit MP Priti Patel, in which she argued that leaving the EU would be an opportunity to cut EU social and employment protections, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Leave the EU and lose your rights at work – that’s the message that even Leave campaigners like Priti Patel are now giving.

“But which rights would go – your right to paid holidays, your right to parental leave, maybe protections for pregnant workers?

“The EU guarantees all these rights and more, and it’s why Brexit is such a big risk for working people.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

– In her speech today, Priti Patel said: “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3 billion boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.” The TUC does not accept her claim on jobs and the economic boost of reducing these EU-derived rules, but notes her overtly hostile agenda towards workers’ rights.

– The TUC commissioned an independent legal opinion from Michael Ford QC on the consequences of Brexit for UK employment law and workers’ rights. A full copy can be found atwww.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Brexit%20Legal%20Opinion.pdf

– Michael Ford QC’s legal opinion suggests that, based on past history and extant policy documents, the workers’ rights most vulnerable to repeal are:

  • Collective consultation, including the right for workers’ representatives to be consulted if major changes are planned that will change people’s jobs or result in redundancies (as have been used in recent major announcements in the steel industry).
  • Working time rules, including limits on working hours and rules on the amount of holiday pay a workers is entitled to.
  • EU-derived health and safety regulations.
  • Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE), i.e. the EU-derived protections to the terms and conditions of workers at an organisation or service that is transferred or outsourced to a new employer.
  • Protections for agency workers and other ‘atypical’ workers, such as part-time workers.
  • Current levels of compensation for discrimination of all kinds, including equal pay awards and age discrimination.

See paragraphs 3 and 107 of the opinion for an overview, and paragraphs 27 to 80 for full details.

As Michael Chessum says on the New Statesman site,

Lazy left-wing Brexit supporters are endangering the left’s future

The social and political forces driving Brexit are deeply reactionary, and only the most naïve, wishful thinking could imagine either that there is some undercurrent of “left-wing” ideas in the motives of most Leave voters, or that it is the left that would gain the most political space from Brexit.

But most of the political tendencies represented in the Lexit campaign – the SWP, and leftwing fragments either from or influenced by the old Communist Party – never expected or supported the rise of a left leadership in Labour. Deep down, they are in a state of strategic crisis as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. As a result, they are left repeating decades-old slogans – “the EU is a bosses’ club” – devoid of context or tactical thought; and they are running with the losing strategy of creating chaos on the Right’s terms in the desperate hope of gaining ground.

In the coming weeks, the British left will have a serious historical responsibility foisted upon it. It is vital that the left’s voice (which is overwhelmingly pro-Remain) does not become subsumed within David Cameron’s pitch – that we campaign on an unapologetically progressive platform, for freedom of movement, for social justice, and against the status quo in Europe. And those tempted by Leave should seriously question whether Lexit is a viable option at this referendum, or just a convenient cover for the very worst aspects of the British right.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 18, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Boost for ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain Campaign: Varoufakis, McDonnell, Lucas and Clive Lewis Join.

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Ex-Greek finance minister will help launch nationwide campaign alongside John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will join the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Green party MP Caroline Lucas for the start of a tour to persuade leftwingers to vote to stay in the EU.

The senior figures from the political left are teaming up as part of the Another Europe is Possible campaign, in which they will make a progressive case for the UK to stay in.

The tour will start with an event in London with Varoufakis, who was severely critical of the EU’s dealings with Greece’s debts when he was finance minister but has recently warned that Brexit could plunge Europe into a 1930s-style depression.

Other rallies will involve trade unionists, as well as the Labour MP Clive Lewis, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.

Lewis said: “This referendum will define relationship to the world for decades, and we will be joining together with progressives across Britain and Europe, not just to make the case that we are better off in Europe, but also to talk about the kind of society we need to build.

“Capital long ago fled national borders. In order to build a society which is fair for everyone, we need an international response to austerity and the financial crisis. That’s why we are campaigning on an unapologetically progressive platform – for social justice, the environment and freedom of movement.”.

This follows last week’s decision by the Fire Brigades Union,

Fire Brigades Union conference says, ‘Stay in Europe to change Europe’

National conference agrees to support campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But brilliant speech from General Secretary Matt Wrack rejects status quo Europe and calls for alternative

Delegates at FBU conference debated EU membership at length both in a fringe meeting on Wednesday and in a plenary debate today, but ultimately decided by some margin to remain and campaign for change with trade unionists across Europe.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, gave a fiery speech, critical of the current EU but strongly in favour of staying in to defend workers’ rights and change the union from within.

In particular, Wrack passionately defended the free movement of workers, saying that problems such as unemployment and housing crisis were caused by banks and the failure of markets, and not by migrants.

Kieron Merrett, trade union officer for Another Europe Is Possible , who spoke at a conference fringe meeting the evening before the vote, said:

“It’s terrific to see one of Britain’s best organised trade unions back the workers’ case for ‘In’ with an explicit ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’ line. It was an excellent debate that we were delighted to participate in. But the message must now go out, not only to every firefighter, but also every trade unionist in the UK. There is only one way to vote in this referendum to defend the vital interests of working people. That’s to vote to remain inside the European Union.”

Supporters of leaving the Union are also holding a rally this week.

Lexit: London left leave rally WEDNESDAY

All London meeting this Wednesday 18 May – 7pm:

The Internationalist Case against the EU – Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ.

Speakers: Philippe Cordat (CGT union confederation France), Brid Smith (TD (member of parliament for People Before Profit, Ireland), Quim Arrufat (international secretary of the left wing Catalan party CUP), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Argyri Erotokitou (Greek doctor and leading member of Antarsya, Alex Callinicos (Socialist Workers Party) and Rob Griffiths (Communist Party).

In the Morning Star today Alex Gordon Lexit convener on the Left Leave Campaign writes on the present conflicts about new labour laws in France.

French Trade Unions Fight EU Attacks on Workers’ Rights.

Startled by this link between the EU and the El Khomri Law?

It’s backed by the following extraordinary claim.

LAST week France’s Socialist government issued an emergency decree to weaken workers’ rights at the behest of the European Commission.

Last Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls imposed the hated “El Khomri” law — named after Minister of Labour Myriam El Khomri — using an emergency constitutional mechanism (Article 49.3) to prevent a debate or vote that his government would lose in the French parliament.

Gordon repeats this assertion,

President Hollande’s decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to comply with radical measures the European Commission demanded in November 2015 brutally exposes his own government’s weakness.

Article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic was designed to prevent repetition of the chronic instability that characterised France’s Fourth Republic (1946-58), which famously saw 22 governments come and go in a mere 12 years.

In other words, it’s French Sovereignty which is is being used to……obey Brussels.

Every single report indicates that the El Khomi law originates in the demands of the French employers’ organisation, the MEDEF (” le basculement idéologique dans lequel François Hollande et Manuel Valls, inspirés par le Medef. Liberation. Passim). The Communist Daily, L’Humanité noted the same in February, “le Medef est devenu extrêmement offensif pour remettre en cause le modèle social français, pour réclamer des baisses d’impôts et de cotisations sociales, pour exiger la remise en cause du droit du travail. S’appuyant sur son vaste réseau de médias et d’économistes, il prétend cogérer l’État en imposant la réduction de la protection sociale, le report de l’âge de la retraite, la baisse des dépenses publiques..).

This is the first I’ve heard of an involvement of the European Union in the El Khomri law.

But, you’ve guessed it, the news hounds of  RTRussia Today, have sniffed it out for the benefit of all, no doubt including the Morning Star,

Bruxelles, discret chef d’orchestre de la loi El Khomri.

Brussels, discrete Chief Conductor of the El Khomri law.

The author of the RT article, Pierre Lévy, is in charge of the journal Ruptures that claims to be, “progressiste et iconoclaste”. It is to say the least, a strange mixture of ‘communism’,  anti-globalisation rhetoric, and French nationalism. In other words it’s a ‘sovereigntist’ project, an assertion of French nation against the European Union. (1)

Instead of this claptrap, for a serious account of the long-standing employer pressure to get red of labour law ‘red tape’ see the Blog de Gérard Filoche

Or this article by Filoche, an expert in French labour law, from his experience as an Inspecteur du travail: Un nouveau bouquet de lois sur le travail en janvier 2014.

Meanwhile in the UK a ‘sovereigntist’ connection runs through Alex Gordon’s ‘Lexit’ rally.

Amongst the speakers we note Philippe Cordat  Cordat is “Secrétaire du Comité Régional de la Cgt Centre, that is a region of the French trade union federation, not the national CGT. He appears to have conflicts with the CGT union leadership –  as outlined in this Front Syndical de Classe.

Cordat has strong opinions on the ‘super-national’ forces at work in the European Union.

The« idée européenne » a été historiquement portée par deux forces : la social-démocratie et le Vatican.”

The European ideal has historically been carried by two forces, social democracy and the Vatican. (Here)

Cordat also has views on the activities of the Socialist Party, the NPA and other far-left groups, as well as Freemasons and religious networks not to mention bosses’ influence inside his union ,

A bien y regarder la déferlante anti-communiste qui marque le débat public dans le pays depuis plus de quarante ans a conduit de nombreux syndicalistes à faire une fixation sur « la mainmise de Moscou » sur la CGT sans ouvrir les yeux sur les pratiques du PS, de la LCR devenu NPA, des autres structures de l’extrême-gauche des réseaux maçonniques et religieux, du patronat qui s’activent dans et autour la plus importante organisation syndicale française.

The successive waves of anti-Communism that have marked public debate in this country over the last 40 years, we can see,  has led many trade unionists to be fixated by the ‘hand of Moscow’ in the CGT, without opening their eyes to the activities of the Socialist Party, the LCR which has become the NPA, and other far-left  structures, Freemasons and religious networks, as well as the bosses, operating in and around the most important trade union body in France.

Réflexions d’un syndicaliste de la CGT  Philippe Cordat. (2011)

These opinions form part of Cordat’s wider complaints against the the CGT’s own version of Another Europe is Possible (whose details are too similar to the UK campaign to need repeating).

He stated in 2012 (Front Syndical de Classe) that this strategy is completely wrong.

Elle ne remet en cause ni les fondements, ni même les principes pour lesquels l’UE agit en ce moment : effacement des souverainetés, remboursement des dettes au profit des marchés …

It does  not question the foundations and the principles which drive the present EU: the iblteration of soveriegnties, the payment of debts to the profit of the markets…..

This emphasis on the importance of national sovereignty is shared by the Communist Party of Britain as one can see here: Why the EU is a negation of parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. argues Robert Griffiths.

It is to be wondered if the ‘revolutionary’ speakers at the Lexit meeting, from Counterfire and the SWP, not to mention Antarsya, or even the ‘municipalists’ of the Catalan CUP, share this sovereigntist vision.

Or indeed if they have the slightest concern about this project:

Iain Duncan Smith says workers’ rights should be ‘flexible’ after Brexit in epic on air tantrum.

 

(1) Fondé par Pierre Lévy, ex-journaliste à L’Humanité, ex-militant du PCF et de la CGT Métallurgie1, BRN compte ainsi dans son équipeLaurent Dauré (UPR et Acrimed)2, Dominique Guillemin (UPR)3 et surtout Bruno Drweski, militant anti-impérialiste entretenant un réseau d’amitiés et d’alliances tant à gauche qu’à l’extrême droite4. Il est à noter que le directeur de la publication de BRN, Hervé Berbille, a participé ès qualité à une réunion de l’Action française à Bordeaux en 2005 visant à promouvoir le « non » au TCE, comme le relate le compte-rendu publié sur le site de l’organisation d’extrême droite5. Confussionnisme Info. “RUPTURES, NOUVEAU MENSUEL SOUVERAINISTE.”

Boris Johnson: British to be “Heroes of Europe” opposing Nazi Aim of “one authority” in Europe.

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Heroes of Europe Against Hitler’s European Union.

What is it about former London Mayors and Hitler?

A few weeks ago we had Ken Livingstone’s comments about Zionists and Hitler.

No sooner had the din died down after Ken’s kenspeckle kiddy krap, than we have Boris’s bumptious borborygmi.

Boris Johnson: The EU wants a superstate, just as Hitler did

In a dramatic interview with the Telegraph, he warns that while bureaucrats in Brussels are using “different methods” from the Nazi dictator, they share the aim of unifying Europe under one “authority”.

He claims Winston Churchill would be joining him on the Brexit bus; he warns that the EU shares the same flawed ambition to unite Europe that Hitler pursued, and he challenges the Prime Minister to a proper “democratic debate” about the referendum live on television.

Interview,

(Boris) sees parallels between the choices that confronted his beloved Churchill, and Britain, during the Second World War and the decision facing voters next month.

“This is a chance for the British people to be the heroes of Europe and to act as a voice of moderation and common sense, and to stop something getting in my view out of control,” he says.

Johnson claims to be a real European.

Apart from his mastery of all the living tongues and cultures, he is a native speaker of Ciceronian Latin, and is said to be the only person alive who has read enough of the Emperor Claudius’ lost volumes on the Etruscans to be fluent in their speech.

He may be interested to read how his rancid rhetoric  has gone down in the rest of Europe.

Brexit-Befürworter Boris Johnson vergleicht EU mit Hitler.

The DW article – one of a whole page of similar instant German reports –   is content to outline Johnson’s rant.

The French reaction is more forthright.

Brexit : Boris Johnson dresse un parallèle entre l’Union européenne et Hitler

Pour appuyer son argumentaire contre l’UE, l’ancien maire conservateur de Londres n’a pas hésité à effectuer un parallèle surprenant.

To back his arguments against the European Union, the former Conservative Mayor of London has not hesitated to draw a surprising parallel.

We will be more forthright still.

Johnson is known for his talk about  ‘piccaninnies’ and black people’s  ‘watermelon smiles‘.

Not to mention his description of President Obama and the “part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire…”

Johnson has not only joined the Carnival of Reaction amongst those leading the Brexit campaign: he is now leading it.

As Mack Wrack General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  says,

A Brexit vote at the EU referendum will benefit Boris Johnson and his pursuit of power, Mack Wrack warned, as his union threw its support behind the Remain campaign on 12 May. The 37,000-strong Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the latest in a growing list of trade unions joining the battle to stop the UK breaking away from Brussels.

“It’s not our referendum,” Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, told around 200 delegates to the union’s annual conference in Blackpool. “The referendum is taking place because of wrangling amongst the Tories. It’s a result of pressure from the right-wing of the Conservative Party and the threat from Ukip.”

He added: “The outcome of a Brexit vote is likely to lead to a change in prime minister, and we could end up replacing one Old Etonian for another.”

“[Johnson] is the man who forced through the worst cuts in the history of the fire service, anywhere in the country, ever… So far the referendum debate has largely been a feud between elites over the best way to exploit workers.”

The comments come after the Trades Union Congress, Unite, Unison, the GMB and other major unions backed a Remain vote at the 23 June ballot. The FBU recently voted to re-affiliate with Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s shock leadership election victory in September 2015.

EU referendum: Fire Brigades Union backs Remain campaign and blasts Boris Johnson

Meanwhile:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

Democratic Socialist and Labour Movement Arguments for a “Remain” Referendum Vote – Chartist Special.

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Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 17.24.44

 

 

 

 

 

Special Chartist Referendum Supplement (available here)

Read Chartist Magazine.

Editorial.

Remain and reform together.

An historic decision will be made on 23 June.

Labour has come out clearly for remain and reform of the European Union. Jeremy Corbyn has nailed Labour’s colours to the mast of internationalism, cooperation and worker’s rights in Europe. While the Tory Party tears itself apart, Labour is mounting an independent united campaign to secure an in vote.

The spectre of narrow nationalism, xenophobia and fascism is once again stalking Europe. Within the EU, ‘warts and all’ and working with socialists and greens across the 27 member countries is the best way to combat this menace to our rights and freedoms.

We know there are problems with the EU, largely the result of the domination of neoliberal free market privatisers and a harsh austerity agenda being pursued most viciously in Greece. But the Syriza government and left critics are determined to stay and take the fight for an alternative, democratic road to the heart of Europe. This must be the British road as well.

In this world where global capital can move across borders to divide and rule, working in stronger regional blocks to curb and regulate their tax dodging and exploitation is the only approach with a hope of success.

A Brexit could also set the clock of social progress back years. Have no doubts that the Tory opponents of the EU and UKIP stand for untrammelled capitalism and a much harsher, meaner, dirtier, inhumane and divided Britain. Cooperation with our European brothers and sisters on issues from climate change, cyber crime, terrorism, human rights and economic justice is the internationalist way.

Vote remain to continue the fight for a democratic Europe. Vote remain for a socially just Europe that will tackle corporate greed and put people before profits.

Articles:

In for social solidarity  Frances O’Grady, General  Secretary of the TUC, says the way to equality, jobs and workers’ rights lies through the EU.

Julie Ward MEP on standing up for a Social EU.

Nature needs the EU too. Anita Pollack, former MEP and author of  “New Labour in Europe: Leadership and Lost Opportunities” on the environmental case for the EU.

Owen Tudor, TUC Head of EU and International Relations, Total reversal of workers’ rights?  On Michael Ford QC s opinion about the risks of Brexit.

Don Flynn , Director, Migrant, Rights Network. False promise on migration.

Ann Pettifor, member of the Labour Party’s  Economic Advisory Committee and Director: Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME). Why I’m voting to ‘Remain’.

Mary Southcott, coordinator Friends of Cyprus  and a member of the Chartist EB. EU umbrella for peace.

Stronger in for jobs and rights. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP puts the case to vote to remain in the EU.

Essential reading!

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Labour Election Results, The Eustonites Wail and Gnash their Teeth.

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Zombie Labour Catastrophe.: Say Today’s Euston Manifesto Supporters.

Younger readers of this Blog, not to mention anybody not up on the last decade of so’s history of the British left may not know what a ‘Eustonite‘ is.

The term comes from the Euston Manifesto of 2006.

There people were particularly associated with the statement, Norman Geras, Marxist scholar; Damian Counsell; Alan Johnson, editor of Democratiya; and Shalom Lappin. Other members include Nick Cohen of The Observer, who co-authored with Geras the first report on the manifesto in the mainstream press; Marc Cooper of The Nation; Francis Wheen, a journalist; and historian Marko Attila Hoare. (see complete list).

This declaration included many statements which, at first sight, the democratic socialist left would agree with.

Such as,

We defend liberal and pluralist democracies against all who make light of the differences between them and totalitarian and other tyrannical regimes. But these democracies have their own deficits and shortcomings. The battle for the development of more democratic institutions and procedures, for further empowering those without influence, without a voice or with few political resources, is a permanent part of the agenda of the Left.

The values and goals which properly make up that agenda — the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression — are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.

 As can be seen these general principles were vague enough, or more charitably, broad enough,  to embrace just about the whole of the liberal and democratic socialist left,.

But a great deal of fire was aimed at the supposed opposite, the “non-democratic left”, and more broadly the organised forces of  those who opposed US-led military adventures in the Middle East.

This was stated clearly in the Manifesto’s introduction,

We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values.

How could this line be drawn?

This was a sticky point,

The manifesto takes no position on the invasion of Iraq. However some of its most prominent contributors, including Nick Cohen and the proprietors of the left-wing blog Harry’s Place, supported the invasion. Of the manifesto’s principal authors, two were broadly against the war and two broadly in support. Of eight people advertised as attending a Euston Manifesto Group meeting at the 2006 Labour Party Conference, six supported the Iraq War. One of these, Gisela Stuart MP, declared during the 2004 American presidential election that a victory by challenger John Kerry victory would prompt “victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies”.

In practice this meant making a distinction between those who actually did something to oppose the War and those, either who supported the invasion or whose reservations were too qualified for them to join with the morally “flexible” – read undemocratic, read ‘totalitarian’  – left.

On that left, comrade Paul Flewers stated at the time (Accommodating to the Status Quo. A Critique of the Euston Manifesto). (1)

There is plenty that is wrong with the far left. But these problems did not start with Respect’s dalliances with sundry dubious Islamic individuals and organisations. Over the decades sections of the far left have adapted to various anti-democratic and anti-working-class forces in an attempt to overcome isolation or to gain an ally against the ruling class. Left-wing groups have long engaged in all manner of squalid petty manoeuvres, and one need not dwell for long upon their internal regimes to recognise their manipulative and undemocratic nature. This is both demoralising, as it corrupts the fight for socialism, and self-defeating, as it has deterred many people from engaging with the left and demoralised many people who did get involved.

His conclusion is relevant today,

The Eustonites aim almost all their fire to their left, condemning what they see as the left’s dalliances with anti-democratic forces, and in so doing effectively lumping in everyone to their left in that basket. A lot of people on the left are in fact quite happy to oppose the ruling class without lining up with assorted mullahs, sundry nationalists and all sorts of other anti-working-class forces. There is plenty of scope for socialists to oppose imperialism without giving a carte blanche to Islamicism or other non-socialist outlooks, just as there was a space for genuine socialists 50 years ago to promote genuine freedom between the opposing millstones of imperialism and Stalinism.

There are real problems with the left’s traditions, not least in respect of the question of the relationship of socialism and democracy, and it is one of many issues that we must critically assess if we are to make any progress in proposing a positive alternative to capitalism. However, just like the Encounter socialists half a century ago, those behind the Euston Manifesto are not attempting to provide any meaningful alternative to capitalism. Quite the opposite: they are moving in an entirely different direction. Far from providing a positive course to challenge the status quo, the Euston Manifesto is outlining an approach for a broad ideological and institutional capitulation to it.

Those of us who hold to the strong ethical principles of socialism have little need to defend our record since that time: we have given active support for the democratic goals of the Arab Spring, backing for democratic and secular forces fighting Islamism, defence of Laïcité.

Sometimes we, the democratic socialists,  been on the same side as former or present Eustonites,  against those who have compromised with our Islamist enemies.

But we are socialists not liberals.

Democratic socialism is the base of the labour movement. It is not a set of ideas shared by the supporters of free-market liberalism, or Blair’s Third Way.

This offers no prospect of emancipation or the ambitious task of reforming and replacing the institutions of the British privatising state and promoting the basic goals of social equality and welfare.

It would be perhaps better to define the present shape of Euston thinking as social liberalism, not any form of socialism or social democracy. But in attempting to find  a balance between individual liberty and social justice, they offer absolutely no indication of what kind of social equity they support, what kind of egalitarian measures they would back, and why exactly the present Labour leadership has become such an important threat, even totalitarian menace, to those battling for freedom, here and internationally.

The attempt to draw a ‘line’ – of their own making – has reached a crescendo  over the last months with  today’s Eustonites’ obsessive fight against Jeremy Corbyn.

The Gerasites (doubtless claiming the legacy of the – despite disagreements one might have with his later views – fine Marxist thinker Norman Geras), look at last week’s election result.( Zombie Labour. Jake Wilde)

….the Labour Party as “the walking dead, aimlessly trundling on, a parody of political life” is as accurate as it is brutal. Like all good writing, it got me thinking. Firstly about the counterfactual: what if it had been a wipeout, a disaster, a game-changer? And secondly where does this zombie Labour Party stagger off to next.

The people keeping Corbyn in the leadership position are those who would view any attempt to move towards the electorate as a betrayal. They firmly believe that it is for the electorate to realise that the policies, the slogans and the general attitude and positioning they are being offered by Corbyn’s Labour Party are objectively correct. This is why there has been no attempt to gauge the views of the electorate during the run-up to 5 May. Indeed the only polling that has been undertaken is blowing the whole £300,000 budget on asking questions of non-voters.

..

But no heavy defeat occurred, simply the worst performance of any opposition party for three decades. Once the far left have control of something there is only one outcome – that thing dies. Whether it is a country or a city council, a newspaper or a political party, death is inevitable. It’s not always the put-it-in-a-box-and-bury-it-in-the-ground kind of dead though; sometimes it is Ian Dunt’s walking dead. So even before 5 May the Labour Party was already dead but, like so many zombies, it doesn’t know it yet.

…the results on 5 May mean that the Corbynistas were the ones who hung on and the Labour Party is now past the point of resurrection.

Harry’s Place thought so highly of this piece that they have reproduced it.

All we can say is: look at the picture above before you continue with these witless rants.

(1) See also Sparks, flashes and damp squibs. Andrew Coates reviews Nick Cohen’s What’s left? How liberals lost their way (Fourth Estate, 2007)

In fact many on the left have rejected those who wish to be aligned with islamism. Leftist websites and journals have ferociously criticised Respect’s communalist alliance with islamism, as well as mocking Galloway’s antics. Cohen cites Mike Marqusee’s widely circulated critique of the STWC, but ignores the fact that Mike continues to attack the American occupation. Many others have followed this dual track.

A central issue at the moment is to oppose potential American intervention in Iran, while supporting the opponents of the theocrats in Tehran. Another is the domestic cause of republican secularism – the best answer to religiously inspired political bigotry. None of which is helped by lumping ‘the left’ into a heap, or by standing aside, as does the Euston Manifesto (many of whose hands are less than clean with their implicit support for western militarism).

From the antisemitism controversy to a new language?

with 5 comments

Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular,  in recent days.

Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.

For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.

It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events  that really matter.

There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.

Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.

Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group  who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.

This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh

Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’

I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.

Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.

But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.

A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which)  has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)

What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.

That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.

The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.

It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.

Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.

(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)

We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.

We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.

We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.

From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.

It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.

Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.

Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.

Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.

But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.

This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.

To say the least.

Yet those who use the language of a “resistance”  have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.

Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 11:21 am