Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Irn Bru!
Having already posted today I would not normally immediately follow with another.
But this is news!
Shiver me timbers..
Maties everywhere Thar she blows!
George Galloway is to stand for Parliament at an upcoming by-election in Manchester, he has announced.
The veteran left-winger accused Labour of being a “divided, ineffective opposition” and said he would contest Manchester Gorton to replace the late Labour MP Gerald Kaufman.
All hands hoay!
Galloway chose to announce his decision on the Westmonster site, set up by Aaron Banks, which publicises Marine Le Pen, the Hungarian government and argues for a Farrage Hard Brexit (Westmonster describes itself as: “Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment, anti-open borders, anti-corporatism.” Press Gazette).
The “All-Asian short-list” hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton one of the most deprived constituencies in Britain. The short-listing, which excluded many better candidates, is the latest in a long line of insults delivered by mainstream parties to local communities. I will run as an Independent candidate and will write a regular by-election diary for Westmonster. This is my initial election statement.
I have a long connection with the Manchester area – two of my children live here – and with the Gorton constituency in particular. The late Sir Gerald Kaufman was a friend of mine for over 30 years. Our friendship began before I was an MP, continued throughout my near 30 years with him in Parliament and afterwards. His appearance on my television show was his last big interview and will stand the test of time.
Sir Gerald was a big figure in the House of Commons and was known far beyond it from Hollywood to Palestine and Kashmir. When he spoke people listened.
Now he’s gone to Davy Jones’ Locker..
Batten down the hatches!
I have decided to seek election for Manchester Gorton in the forthcoming by-election precisely because of my admiration for its late MP and I hope to persuade voters of every background that I am the best person to try to fill his shoes.
I want to continue his work on international issues – which are particularly important in Gorton- especially the issues of Palestine and Kashmir but also the broader questions, the dangerous confrontation between the west and the Muslim world which threatens all of us.
I would like to be the big voice for Manchester Gorton it still needs. Manchester is great, world class. But Gorton can’t be left behind. Whether it’s jobs -proper jobs – wages public services the NHS and schools. The struggle for students has always been a parliamentary preoccupation of mine. I was a Labour MP when Tony Blair introduced tuition fees and I broke a 3 line whip to vote against them. I opposed Blair’s privatisation of the NHS too and warned on both that a future Tory government would only pile on the misery on top of New Labour’s foundation.
I opposed Tony Blair with all my heart and soul and paid for it with my expulsion from the party in 2003 – after 36 years membership.
This week is the 14th anniversary of the Iraq War against which I was one of the leaders of the greatest mass movements ever seen in this country. I make this plain here – if I am re-elected to Parliament I will seek to put Mr. Blair on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and lying to the British Parliament and people.
I think you already know that when I’m fighting for something everybody knows about it.
Whether it’s my speeches in Parliament or on the streets, my films, my TV shows, my radio shows, my work on social media where I have over a million followers, when I’m fighting for Gorton everyone will know about it. Everyone will have to listen.
I have been six times elected to Parliament and I don’t think even my worst enemy would deny my impact there.
Of course there will be other choices you might make. A thicket of councillors will put themselves forward. I am not a local councillor any more than Sir Gerald was. I am a parliamentarian as he was a parliamentarian. I will be heard if you elect me, on matters local national and international. On Brexit and Scottish nationalism, on war and peace on houses and Schools on work and unemployment on immigration on the commonwealth on roads and refuse. I will live here, I will work here, I will serve here.
I am like Sir Matt a Scot of Irish background. There are plenty of us around Manchester. My 40 year relationship with Pakistan and Bangladesh my 40 years with the Arabs mean I can speak the language. I can talk the talk but I also walk the walk.
Galloway will be able to say to Labour, in at least four languages, Walk the plank!
If I were to win here it would be the Mother of All by-election victories for “The hard working people of Gorton” who would never be forgotten again.
If I don’t, then the alternative will be a career politician, with NO change and no Development for Gorton. It will remain the same most deprived 10% of constituencies in our country.
We know that Labour is divided, an ineffective opposition still busy fighting each other, there is a danger that the people of Gorton will never be heard from at Westminster again. Don’t settle for ordinary. It’s been half a century since Gorton had an ordinary MP. You can make that change, Think big, Think George Galloway for Gorton.
Grassroots Momentum, “packed out” meeting says Monster Raving Greenstein Party.
Many people on the left have been wary of Grassroots Momentum and its Conference.
A clear indication of why comes in this report from the Monster Raving Greenstein Party,
Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.
As the said “Zionist” AWL have commented,
An amendment was carried which was written down on a flipchart on the platform (illegibly to many) as “opposition to the antisemitism witch-hunt” and read out (inaudibly to some) as “opposition to the false antisemitism witch-hunt”.
This was done without debate, and with a fair scattering of abstentions, votes against, and people just not voting.
Why? Most people surely voted for the amendment because they oppose the Compliance Unit’s arbitrary ways, know that some charges of antisemitism have been invented or inflated arbitrarily, and anyway believe that prejudice is best dealt with primarily by discussion and education.
However, the term “antisemitism witch-hunt” is ambiguous and slippery. In some of the arguments elsewhere of those backing the amendment, it is taken to mean that any charge of antisemitism against anyone on the left must automatically be assumed to be witch-hunting invention motivated by hostility to the Palestinian people.
That is not true. There have been streaks of antisemitism in the left throughout our history – and, where Stalinism has been influential in the left, more than a streak – and the best sections of the left have sought to clean up that antisemitism and educate ourselves, rather than wave away all concerns as fabrications by the right wing.
We have called for an amnesty for all those summarily suspended or expelled by the Compliance Unit. We have opposed the suspension of Jackie Walker. Those stances can and must be combined with a proper recognition that the left must put our own house in order on antisemitism, and that someone being targeted factionally and arbitrarily by the right does not make everything they have said automatically ok.
There was another problem with the amendment. A number of people have been suspended on charges to do with antisemitism. Mostly they will get a hearing with at least some rules and safeguards. Some have had their suspensions lifted.
The far bigger section of the victims of the Compliance Unit are those excluded just for being left-wing, for allegedly sympathising with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal or Left Unity. Almost all of them have been denied a hearing, or an appeal, or even what would in any halfway fair system be considered definite charges.
That is the larger part of the Compliance Unit’s work. An amendment which just said “opposition to the witch-hunt”, reinforcing the already-included “opposition to unjust expulsions and suspensions”, would have been much better.
Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing – in their different ways, the most vocal advocates on the web of the view in which the core of politics is about the heroic resistance of “anti-Zionists” such as themselves to the supposedly all-powerful, all-pervading, ever-conspiring “Zionists”, and the most strident denouncers of leftists such as Rhea Wolfson (“Zionist ally of Jon Lansman”) – stood for election to the committee. We are glad to report that they both failed, with Downing coming bottom.
Greenstein and Downing stood for election…
The Monster Raving Greenstein Party got 49 votes, and Downing got 11 coming last in the poll, but he still stood.
Greenstein, as the above article states, has denounced Rhea Wolfson.
Denounce is perhaps too weak a word.
This is what he says of her support for Momentum’s Jon Lansman’s exclusion of Jackie Walker from her position..within Momentum, “a White woman who supports the racist Israeli state scapegoating a Black woman.” (Blog)
Comrade Rhea is not the only person individually targeted for Monster raving abuse.
There is a long, a very long list, but we will limit this post to a special case, in Momentum...
“Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel“, (June 2016), “I could also ask Jon Lansman a few of those questions that Tony Benn once suggested, such as ‘who put you there’ ‘from where does your power derive’ and the clincher ‘how do we get rid of you’? There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites. That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.” (January 2017).
Here is how he attacked the Jewish Socialist Group: Bundists behaving like Stalinists – JSG Leaders Remove Critics of Lansman from Jews 4 Jeremy FB Group (February 2017).
Here is the most recent raving limits of Greenstein, a call to create a separate ‘democratic’ Momentum, “The fight for democracy is not a split. Lansman’s coup should be resisted by founding a democratic Momentum, urges Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker. 23.2.17)
Small wonder that he was suspended from Labour, the old charge of bringing discredit on the party would alone be enough.
Gerry Downing, be it noted, is famous for his writings, and those of his comrade, Ian Donovan, on the Web site Socialist Fight, on the ‘International Jewish Bourgeoisie”.
This is located Donovan writes, in Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism 6-9-2014.
Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes. For the United States, which is the most powerful state in human history, you can easily find informed Jewish sources that place the representation of Jews among billionaires, the most powerful elements of the capitalist elite, at between 40 and 48% – nearly half (for example see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/joe/aaron101007.php3). This is the only logically coherent explanation for the power of the so-called lobby. It must be faced fearlessly by Marxists, irrespective of any discomfort that may result from confronting the widespread prejudice (for that is what it is) that to mention, let alone try to analyse, such factual matters is in some way racist. To ignore them in this way is itself an act of betrayal of those on the receiving end of the crimes that result from this state of affairs, and in that sense a chauvinist position.
After a lengthy ‘analysis’ he concludes:
The Jews are not a nation, but they have a pan-national bourgeoisie that had national aspirations and wanted a territorial asset to give expression to that.
This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians.
Downing has been expelled from membership of the Labour Party.
Few would be bothered to read the above drivel but they will look at what the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes revealed.
“An unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is headlined: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. The piece speaks for itself:
“The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious… Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”
Downing appears to have an obsession with “Jewish” people”
Given this background it is not surprising that Downing was thrown out of the Labour Party, and claims about “witch-hunting invention” are distasteful, to say the least.
Is Grassroots Momentum going to campaign to get him back?
Then there is this, which is equally serious, politically if not ethically.
Socialist Fight recently helped organise this pro-Assad meeting on Syria:
To continue on last Saturday’s meeting.
The candidate for this group, Labour Party Marxists, Stan Keable, got 13 votes.
The Latest Labour Party Marxists Bulletin describes the conflict within Grassroots Momentum.
Against Jon Lansman, but for what?
The outline three tendencies (how far they are organised factions is left open):
- Some want a clean split from Momentum – the sooner, the better. There are, naturally, differences over with whom to split, to form what exactly and on what political basis.
- Some want to continue to work in Momentum for now, while at the same time almost replicating the official body – with parallel structures and similar political limitations, but on a lower level: similar campaigns, similar leadership elections, etc.
- Some – and LPM belongs to this third group – agree that we should continue to work within Momentum for the time being, but with a clear understanding of its limited shelf life, openly criticising its exceedingly pinched political outlook and subordination to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges.
But essentially it boils down, apparently, to two.
Tina Werkmann of Labour Party Marxists, the New Steering Committee, and, I am not spilling any beans, the group that produces the Weekly Worker, gives an overview.
Are political differences between the two groups?
Definitely. This is reflected in Grassroots Momentum as a whole: Those left on the old steering committee included Alliance for Workers’ Liberty supporters Michael Chessum and Jill Mountford (plus Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and Jackie Walker); the CAC is made up of Jackie Walker, Alec Price and Delia Mattis (Josie Runswick resigned early on and was replaced by Lee Griffiths). The CAC took control, chaired the whole day and managed to almost totally sideline the AWL.
Jackie Walker and her supporters hate the AWL with a passion, of course.
And I totally understand why. The ugly truth is that AWLers have actively participated in the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt against her. They supported Jon Lansman in sacking her as Momentum vice-chair in September 2016. In effect, this was a dry run for the next coup – the ‘big one’ on January 10 – when Lansman crushed any democracy in the organisation and simply imposed a new, crassly undemocratic constitution.
It was clear at the GM conference that the AWL has really made a lot of enemies in all of this – just to add to those of us who already opposed their pro-Zionist social-imperialism. There was a great deal of hostility against them on display – and it only increased during the day. I must confess, I almost felt a bit sorry for them. Almost …
Because the few proposals on display were presented so out of context and in a truncated manner, AWL members tried to make various ‘points of order’ throughout the day. Some were more useful than others; some were presented more coherently than others. The AWL’s Rosie Woods, who had taken up a position near the stage, was greeted, after she’d been on her feet a few times, with a rather sectarian chorus of “Sit down, sit down” (led by Gerry Downing, of all people – he’s been on the receiving end of people’s displeasure a few times, so probably should know better). But to claim that they “disrupted” the conference, as some comrades have since done on Facebook, is seriously misleading and excuses the CAC’s role in the often disorganised and muddled way conference was planned and conducted.
Actually, it reminds me of the way Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Paul Mason have tried to blame ‘the Trots’ (ie, the left) for the failures of Momentum to take off. Not a healthy response …
I happen to be one of those who thinks that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have sane politics on a variety of issues, from Europe (they are pro-Another Europe is Possible), the Middle East (as for their ” pro-Zionist social-imperialism“, they are for a democratic ‘two states’ solution to the Israel/Palestine issue, and back democratic secular forces against both Islamists, genocidal or ‘moderate’, and tyrannies like Assad’s), and on the need for radical democratic socialist politics in the UK.
Many of us hold these views, without a need to ‘join’ anything more than pressure groups within the Labour Party.
We want to see a Labour government and are intensely aware of the difficulties that presents at the moment.
To that end wish to co-operate with the full range of party members, to reach out to the electorate, while trying to promote ideas of democratic socialism.
The above reports on Momentum Grassroots confirm that we are right not to get directly involved in this particular war, which involves those of the stripe of Greenstein and Downing, however much on the margins.
Regardless that is, if “Our comrades elected to the leadership of this new network will try to work seriously, constructively, and in cooperation with others, to make that happen” this will, I suspect, be the attitude of many on the left.
Meanwhile this is taking place in a couple of days:
More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).
“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”
This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.
The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.
We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.
The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.
In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.
He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.
In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.
The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.
After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.
Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.
Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.
I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’) factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.
Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”
Or indeed that,
The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.
Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.
It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.
Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the vote to Leave?
And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).
There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’, agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.
One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.
The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.
But first they have to get there….
For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it. The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”
Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..
Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.
For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.
As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.
Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”
This has not happened.
Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.
The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse, and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.
Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a Social Europe are decidedly not.
For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:
No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.
From those who give advice to the left:
There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.
It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.
But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds), and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.
No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.
Just to give a flavour…
Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.
Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.
The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.
As Neil says,
“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”
This is the full statement published by Jeremy Corbyn in the aftermath of the results of the two by-elections.
Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.
In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.
The Stoke victory is important, (Independent)
Labour has secured an emphatic victory in Stoke-on-Trent Central after fending off Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, raising doubts over the right-wing party’s ability to capitalise on Brexit.
Labour’s Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to Ukip’s 5,233, said the result showed “hatred and bigotry” were not welcome in Stoke, a former industrial city which has been a safe Labour seat since 1950.
Mr Nuttall managed to increase Ukip’s share of the vote by just two per cent despite the city’s strong support for leaving the EU.
The Conservative candidate, Jack Brereton, was narrowly pushed into third place with 5,154 votes, while the Liberal Democrats finished in fourth place with 2,083 votes. Turnout was just 38 per cent.
“Over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that,” Mr Snell said in his victory speech.
“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.
“Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed.
“Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear.
“We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.”
But…. the “political establishment” and the “political consensus” around Theresa May show no signs of weakening after the Copeland result.
John McDonnell has insisted the Labour Party leadership is not in denial as he blamed disunity in the party for its humiliating defeat in the Copeland by-election.
The shadow chancellor said Labour would “learn lessons” from the result, but said it had not been a verdict on the party leader. “This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn,” McDonnell said.
“We are in a difficult period over these last 20 months because of these leadership challenges and the divisions that have been sown within our party. The vast majority of our members want us now to unite and to campaign and hold the government to account, and that’s what we will do,” he told the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme, McDonnell was asked if he was in “denial” about the the position the party found itself in. “Not at all,” he said. “Quite the reverse.”
And he blamed Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for launching “attacks” on the party in the days leading up to the vote. “Please don’t do that,” he said.
Copeland has been held by the party since it was formed in 1983 but Tory Trudy Harrison snatched it by 2,147 votes in a historic victory. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade. Harrison polled 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour’s Gillian Troughton.
John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said Labour under Corbyn was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat”. He added: “We are in trouble as a party.”
Jamie Reed, the former Labour MP for Copeland whose decision to resign from parliament triggered the by-election also warned his former colleagues they were in trouble.
Labour backbencher David Winnick told the Press Association Corbyn should consider his position.
The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that,” he said.
“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”
Labour’s majority in the Copeland at the general election was just 2,564. But for an opposition to lose a seat to the party of power in a mid-term vote is extremely rare.
The last time it happened was the 1982 Merton, Mitcham and Morden by-election, although technically it was a Conservative gain from SDP as the sitting MP had defected from Labour to the SDP before the poll. Before that, the closest comparable case was Sunderland South in 1953.
Labour earlier held Stoke-on-Trent Central after seeing off a concerted challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.
But Corbyn admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. “Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty,” he said.
“But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland. In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
“To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”
Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the Tory victory in Copeland was not just a rejection of Corbyn but a pro-active “endorsement of the Conservative Party”.
Mandelson and Blair’s interventions have helped nobody but themselves, and the former Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, from somebody with the politics of liberal globalisation, has only done harm to those left-wing pro-Europeans who wish for ‘Another Europe is Possible”.
What effect this may have had on these by-elections is pure conjecture.
Whether one likes it or not this article in the New Statesman, a cold shower of scepticism, is a necessary warning to those wishing to explain away the Copeland defeat: 5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat. Other than Labour, of course. (Media Mole).
Whatever one thinks of Corbyn, for or against, and all points in-between, there remain the overriding problem of how to “reconnect with voters.”
The result is considered by one of Europe’s leading dailies, Le Monde, to be related to Corbyn’s “attitude ambiguë” towards Brexit. “Cette confusion” they note, supporting Theresa May in voting for Brexit plans, but claiming to not give her a “chèque en blanc” has eroded Labour supporters’ hopes (Royaume-Uni : défaite cuisante des travaillistes à une élection partielle.)
But would a call for Labour to be clearly opposed to Brexit and appeal to Remain voters work?
Given the divisions amongst those who may vote Labour but are not firm Labour supporters, this is unlikely to provide an answer.
But is this: a call for more internal uncertainty?
Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?
1 Day Without Us was a National Day of Action on 20th Feb 2017 to celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK, to coincide with UN World Day of Social Justice.
For 24 hours, we invited migrants from inside and outside the European Union, and everyone who supports them, to celebrate the contribution that migrants make.
We would like to thank everyone who took part across the UK and on social media, it was really an amazing day full of ideas, creativity and inspiration.
From Socialist Movement to…..Momentum?
“Momentum exists to build on the energy and enthusiasm from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign to increase participatory democracy, solidarity, and grassroots power and help Labour become the transformative governing party of the 21st century.”
A common assumption on the Labour Left, so deep rooted that it almost never said, is that the main failure of previous Parliamentary left groupings is that they needed organisation in the country. At the back of their minds I imagine are the “Brains Trusts” set up up in support of Bevan’s ideas in the 1950s, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the 70s and 80s, and the Socialist Movement.
If the first had problems in moblising and co-ordinating with the Parliamentary left around Aneurin Bevan and his (dispersed) successors, the second was and is a grass-roots body focused on labour constitutional issues (MP re-selection), NEC elections, the third came closest to the Social Movement model some saw in Momentum.
The Socialist Movement grew out of the Socialist Conferences held in Chesterfield, Sheffiled and Manchester, in the years following the defeat of liners’ strike. Initiators included the Socialist Society, an organisation of left intellectuals including Raymond Williams, Richard Kuper, and Ralph Miliband, the Campaign Group, a left-wing group in the Labour Party, the Conference of Socialist Economists, and the network generated by the socialist feminist book Beyond the Fragments. The largest conferences were in 1987 and 1988.
The Socialist Movement was open to different left traditions, green as well as red, for exploratory, grassroots debate and research on socialist policy making.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
Is Momentum A Socialist Conference bis?
Unlike the Chesterfield events, still cresting the ebbing Bennite wave, its role was not clear from the start.
Is ‘participatory democracy’ channeled into supporting Corbyn the Labour Leader?
That would result in the kind of ‘left populism’ attempted by Jean Luc Mélenchon in La France Insoumise and (in a different more democratic way) Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias, around a rather unlikely figure, who, to his credit has always refused the role of Chief around which everything else revolves.
Or does it mean trying to work in the policy areas that the Socialist Movement tried to think out? Given that Labour seems short of clear policies on a variety of issues – the Welfare state, a recent announcement of a group looking into Basic Income might be one sector where Momentum could contribute?
What structures does it have for this purpose?
Does it mean taking up issues of ‘grassroots power’, which many would take to imply changing the Labour Party’s present make-up with a “movement” that moblises on more than electoral issues?
Or is to be a kind of super Bevanite Brain’s Trust, that Bean never managed to hook up with, that can carry Corbyn’s message from the party into the country?
These are just some of the background issues behind the present crisis in Momentum.
The most recent Workers’ Liberty carries this exchange: A debate about Momentum (Solidarity. 15.2.17).
“This explanation by Jon Lansman of recent events in Momentum was circulated in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Since it contains nothing confidential, and is the only political explanation available from the Momentum leadership other than the article by Christine Shawcroft in Labour Briefing (Feb 2017), which we replied to last week, we reprint it here.”
I wanted also to counter the lies and misinformation which are widely repeated by sectarian elements on the Left who wish to turn Momentum from a broad alliance it was intended to be, seeking to maintain the broad centre-left coalition that elected Jeremy Corbyn to support his administration, democratise the party along the lines long advocated by CLPD, and help Labour win elections into a hard-Left organisation reminiscent of the LRC designed to put pressure on Jeremy from the left.
There has been no “coup” within Momentum, though there had been an attempt over the last year by various Trotskyist and other sectarian organisations to use Momentum local groups, often at the cost of driving away non-aligned activists, as a basis for seizing control of regional networks and the former national committee of Momentum. It became very clear how wide the disparity had become between these bodies and the membership of Momentum from the survey conducted in conjunction with a pre-Christmas message from Jeremy Corbyn.
Lansman takes account of what observers have predicted for months, that a National Momentum Conference risked becoming a sectarian bear-pit,
- We could battle for two months in the run up to a planned national delegate conference narrowly foisted on the national committee — with some delegates who disagreed being forced to vote in favour in spite of having been elected by STV in order to preserve the pluralism of regional representatives, which would inevitably have undermined efforts to maximise left representation at this year’s conference, support local Momentum activists in preparing for CLP AGMs, and mobilise for by-elections and a possible early general election.
- We could avoid this internal battle, by calling immediate elections for a new national body based on a new constitution reflecting the wishes of members as revealed in the survey and circulated for agreement of members in the way we would have had to do at some point anyway.
Avoiding this predictable fight was the goal.
This is something critics have to grapple with.
Lansman also notes,
I have personally been subjected to appalling abuse to which it is difficult to respond without simply perpetuating their attempt to personalise “blame” for the alleged wrongs of which they unfairly accuse me. I regret that Martin [Thomas] has chosen to act in this way. I have worked with him within CLPD since the early 1980s. I have done so because he and his colleagues from Socialist Organiser, as his organisation was originally known, showed a genuine commitment to CLPD they never showed to the LRC or any other left organisations in which they pursued the opportunistic self-interested methods we are used to from all Trotskyist sects.
I halt at this point because there is little doubt that Jon Lansman is absolutely right to complain about the abuse.
This is how one of his leading critics, Tony Greenstein, thought by some people to be a “genius” described his action in promoting an on-line survey of Momentum members, all too recently ( Jon Lansman’s Xmas Punch Could Sucker Corbyn)
There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites. That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.
Greenstein some might say is a special case, whose vitriol is hurled at present lie at another target: Owen Jones – the Final Betrayal – Supporting Zionist Apartheid & the Jewish Labour Movement. Supporting Israeli Apartheid and the Palestinians is not compatible.
But he is far from alone.
It would take a moment’s Googling to find more abuse.
Now Alan Thomas is, from the AWL, a respected activist and writer, but his reply on this point, is not convincing,
Jon Lansman identifies “sectarian elements” almost entirely with us (“Trotskyists”), but at the same time finds these “sectarians” so numerous among Momentum’s 21,000 members that the clash can be resolved only by abolishing Momentum democracy. At stake here is no “sectarianism” of ours, but the issue of what socialism is and how it can be won.
The liberation of the working class can be won only by a vivid movement where each participant is a lively contributor with her or his own ideas; which is full of bouncy debate; in which even the deepest prejudices and the most revered leaders are subject to question. In a new movement like Momentum, we have reasoned patiently and tactfully, rather than bloviating.
I leave to one side the claims about the AWL, often made by people with their own political – ‘sectarian’ agenda.
The fact is that if we can define sectarians at all – a hard task – it is that they are loudmouths who are in a permanent storm of self-righteous attack.
Often they come out of the pages of William Hazlitt’s People with One Idea,
People of the character here spoken of, that is, who tease you to death with some one idea, generally differ in their favourite notion from the rest of the world; and indeed it is the love of distinction which is mostly at the bottom of this peculiarity.
Table Talk : Essays on Men and Manners (1821 -22)
Other times they are loyal simply to their faction, with no other loyalties.
Those familiar with the left could write a new essay, People with Too Many Correct Ideas…
One is always the Other Sectarian for a Sectarian…..
But I digress…
There are many other problems about Momentum, but whether they are numerous or not, they are still loud. Shouty. And, in Greenstein’s case – I single him out for his visibility but he is far from alone – highly unpleasant.
Greenstein and another ‘anti-Zionist’. Gerry Downing, are very active in the Momentum Grassroots Moblising Conference.
This is what the former says, “Lansman’s Momentum is destined for the knackers yard because without democracy you cannot have a movement.”
More simply many people do not want to become involved in a shouting match between different left groups, or, if it happens on more cordial terms, a struggle for influence.
Alan is nevertheless spot on to comment,
Yet Momentum would have contributed more, not less, if it had actively promoted a left Remain vote, free movement across borders, opposition to Trident renewal. It would be stronger now if its national office as well as its local groups had campaigned in support of workers’ disputes like at Picturehouse, and for the NHS. It would have done better if (as we urged) it had organised a presence at Labour conference 2016. It would be healthier if it had had a proper discussion on left antisemitism (in which Jon Lansman and we would have been broadly on the same side), rather than trying to quell the issue administratively. All those things are not “sectarian” caprices, but would have happened if Momentum had been allowed to develop “normally”, democratically.
This is something that Lansman ignores, many people on the democratic left, and this includes the AWL agree on these policies.
We certainly need a voice for them.
Alan may equally well be often right to say,
The new imposed constitution is out of line even with the (heavily manipulated) online survey over Christmas. That suggested decisions by online voting of all members. Under the new constitution, online votes can scarcely even stall office decisions in extreme cases. Real power rests with the office and with a seldom-meeting “coordinating group” in which only 12 out of 28 or 32 places are elected by Momentum members.
10 January was a coup. Imagine its analogue in general politics: Theresa May declares that, on the strength of a 50%-plus-one majority got in an hour’s emailing round the Cabinet, she is abolishing Cabinet, Parliament, and an imminent general election in favour of office rule plus a future “coordinating group” in which elected citizens’ representatives are a minority. Or, if that’s too much, imagine the analogue in any other left movement. Despite it all, Momentum’s local groups will continue to organise, and I don’t think the panic-stricken officials can stop them.
But the real issue is not an organisational form, and behind that whether this or that factional grouping, or alliance, is competing for power in the structures.
It is what aims and functions does Momentum have beyond rallying support for Corbyn.
Nothing that’s happened so far has disproved the judgement of many left-wingers that clear goals, from ‘think tank’ policy-formulating (that is as a pressure group within Labour with specific ideas), and a hook between Labour and a variety of campaigns (such as Stop Trump!, or union disputes) already have vehicles in Constituency parties, Trades Councils and other bodies.
Many of us are all in favour of Momentum finding some way out of this dispute, a modus vivendi.
Momentum includes people like Nick Wrack who state (RETHINKING LABOUR: MORE OF THE SAME OR CHANGE OF COURSE?)
… it is important to recognise that there is a huge difference – a vast chasm – between what is called social democracy and socialism or communism. I use socialism and communism as synonyms for a system that is based on a complete transformation of society, breaking with the present capitalist system and the exploitation of labour to make profit. Socialism is a society based on democratic common ownership of the means of production – land, factories, transport, technology and science. It is a society based on production for social need rather than for private profit.
…..I am now of the opinion that all Marxists should, at the very least, join Momentum. We can play a key role in helping to defend Corbyn and defeating the right. Where possible, therefore, Marxists should also join Labour. This is best done as an organised group, rather than as individuals. The purpose of joining is two-fold: to strengthen the forces in defence of Corbyn and against the rightwing in Labour and the trade unions and to argue for a Marxist ideas in the mass movement around Corbyn. There is no knowing how long this battle may last or what the outcome will be. Those coming into Momentum and into the Labour Party will include thousands of people who simply want change. But many will have no clear idea of what that change should be or how it can be accomplished. Marxists have to engage with the debate. What change? How can it be achieved? What programme is necessary?
So what is he doing trying to join or influence a social democratic party?
Wrack’s position, which is shared by others, is not so easy to dismiss as the notorious cranks who insult ‘reformists’ , ‘Zionists’ and the rest.
It is, crudely, that Momentum should be a kind of political mill pond for them to fish in to build their ‘Marxist’ line.
Never forgetting the “vast chasm” that separates them from social democracy, that is a very substantial chunk of the Labour Party membership and support.