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Factionalism in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 6: Workers Revolutionary Party Predicted UK Police State (1980, from onwards)

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WRP predicted Tory Coup back in the 1980s! (@M.Ezra Archives).

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There has been much talk of ‘Nostradamus’ Dominic Cummings and his ability to predict the future of pandemics.

But the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) has a better, and proven, track record of clairvoyance.

In the early 1980s the industrial dispute in Britain’s coal fields saw the WRP work out the implications of the threat a military dictatorship posed for the working class and labour movement,

The beginning of the miners’ strike coincided with the Thatcher government’s banning of unions at GCHQ. This, and the massive police operation directed at picketing miners, was taken by the WRP as evidence that ‘the traditional system of capitalist rule through parliamentary democracy is a thing of the past. In its place is Bonapartism – a regime of crisis relying on the armed national police force, directly confronting the organised working class on the streets’.16

The WRP insisted that the miners’ strike could not be won outside the struggle for power, and that if the miners were defeated Thatcher would impose a police-military dictatorship. ‘If we don’t take the power we will have fascism’, Healy declared in February 1985, on the eve of the strike’s collapse. ‘Make no mistake, if we don’t do it, there will be fascism.

The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy. Bob Pitt. Chapter 10.

This menace has not gone away.

In 2014 the WRP again saw a UK Police State in the making:

May Launches Tory Police State (1st October 2014)

TORY Home Secretary May’s plans to ban democratic rights, that she proposed to the Tory party conference yesterday, was condemned as ‘worthy of a caliphate’ by civil rights group.
2019 saw renewed concerns,

Anti-Brexit coup under way – ‘Country before Party’ means bringing in military police state!

This foresight has now shown its value.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has proved, WRP stalwarts assert, the worth of their farsighted analysis.
There is a clear answer:

The unions must immediately organise a general strike to bring them down and go forward to a workers government that will nationalise the banks and major industries under workers management and bring in a socialist planned economy.

Socialist revolution is the only way forward today.

Dominic Cummings: How long will he cling on as PM’s Senior Adviser?

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Scuttling Away.

 

The Previous Story….

There is a clear message at work.

And this was well:

 

Comrade Mason points out the implications for the media.

 

Not to mention this…

The Telegraph sums up the latest state of play:

Dominic Cummings is a hypocrite whose position is “untenable”, the Government’s opponents have said, after it emerged that Boris Johnson’s top adviser breached lockdown rules.

Mr Cummings was investigated by police after he drove from London to Durham with his wife and son to stay with his elderly parents after developing symptoms of coronavirus.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “If accurate, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules. The Government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel.

“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.”

 

It’s worth remembering some of the political interventions Cummings made over Brexit.

This was late last year.

On the referendum #34: BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES

November 2019.

Summary: Tell your family and friends face-to-face: if Boris doesn’t get a majority, then Corbyn and Sturgeon will control the government, their official policy is to give the vote to millions of foreign citizens to cheat their second referendum, we’ll all get screwed on taxes, Parliament will drag the whole country into crisis, and immigration will return to being a central issue in politics instead of being marginalised by Brexit…

Dominic Cummings’s Blog

This was his programme of work after the Tories’ victory.

January 2020

‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…

A few examples of papers that you will be considering:

Complex Contagions : A Decade in Review, 2017. This looks at a large number of studies on ‘what goes viral and why?’. A lot of studies in this field are dodgy (bad maths, don’t replicate etc), an important question is which ones are worth examining.

Extract from this paper:

“2.1. Applications to Health
For the past few decades, the study of public health has concerned not
only biological contagions, but also social contagions concerning
health behaviors: e.g. medication, vaccines, exercise, and the ideologies related to each (Christakis and Fowler 2012). It has been found
that simple contagions do not adequately capture the network dynamics that govern the diffusion of health behaviours (Centola and Macy
2007; Centola et al. 2007; Centola 2010, 2011). Social health behaviours often require reinforcement from peers, and they are strongly influenced by cultural practices and group norms.

Dominic Cummings: If Leave had lost Brexit vote, I’d have queried result as invalid.

December 2019.

Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings would have challenged the EU referendum result as “invalid” had Vote Leave lost the Brexit campaign.

According to documents seen by the Observer, the prime minister’s chief aide told the UK’s data watchdog that he would have contested the result because UK elections are “wide open to abuse.”

In an email sent in 2017 to the information commissioner’s office, Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign and architect of Johnson’s stunning election victory, said: “If we had lost by a small margin I would have sought to challenge the result as invalid.”

The UK voted to leave the EU by the slim majority of 52% to 48% in the 2016 referendum, with many Brexiters subsequently attacking the losers as “Remoaners” who refused to respect democracy. On Friday, Cummings openly criticised “educated Remainer campaigner types” for failing to understand the country and “driving everyone mad”.

And there was notably this,

In March 2020, it was reported in The Sunday Times that during a private engagement the previous month, Cummings had claimed that the government’s strategy towards the coronavirus was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. The spokesman for 10 Downing Street decried the article as “a highly defamatory fabrication” which “includes a series of apparent quotes from meetings which are invented”.[49] On 30 March, Cummings displayed symptoms of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic and is reported to be self isolating. This was three days after Johnson was tested positive for the virus.[50] On 27 April, it emerged that Cummings sat in on meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the cabinet on coronavirus response.[51] Cummings urged a faster lockdown and encouraged the scientists to support the closure of pubs and restaurants.

Wikipedia.

On the latter,

Johnson’s Top Aide Pushed Scientists to Back U.K. Lockdown. (Bloomberg).

April the 28th.

Boris Johnson’s most powerful political aide pressed the U.K.’s independent scientific advisers to recommend lockdown measures in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to people familiar with the matter.

…….

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the meetings are private, the people said Cummings asked why a lockdown was not being imposed sooner, swayed the discussion toward faster action, and made clear he thought pubs and restaurants should be closed within two days.

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

May 23, 2020 at 9:04 am

Rebecca Long Bailey Would Let Luciana Berger *and* Alistair Campbell back into the Labour Party: RLB Supporters in Melt-Down.

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Chris Williamson says RLB is Bending over backwards to facilitate right-wing saboteurs, while simultaneously doubling down against anti-racist socialists, who’ve been smeared by those selfsame saboteurs, suggests Labour isn’t a home for socialists nor a vehicle to deliver a modest socialist programme.”

The Jewish Chronicle reports,

Rebecca Long Bailey says she would let Luciana Berger back into Labour, despite standing for Lib Dems

Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long Bailey has said that she would let Luciana Berger back into the party if she becomes leader, despite the former MP standing for the Liberal Democrats.

She told the Evening Standard: “The circumstances for what happened to Luciana were very different from an MP who was just angry with the leadership. She had a terrible time.”

Party rules exclude those who have stood in an election for a rival party or against a Labour candidate from returning as members.

Ms Berger stood for the Liberal Democrats in December’s general election in Finchley and Golders Green, after defecting from Labour in February last year due to “a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation”.

Ms Long Bailey added the treatment of Jewish female MPs, including Ms Berger, Dame Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth was “terrible” because “it should never have happened within our party. We should have done more”.

She admitted one of her “big regrets” was not reaching out to them. “I didn’t speak to Louise or Luciana or Ruth directly. I wish I had,” she said.

The candidate, who is widely regarded as the continuity Corbyn choice, also said she would like to see Alastair Campbell – Tony Blair’s former spin doctor who was expelled from the party for voting Liberal Democrat – return to the party as well, citing his “expertise”.

In the original interview in the Evening Standard Long-Bailey also would not say, despite earlier claims to welcome Jeremy Corbyn as a Shadow Minister that,

While she won’t be drawn on whether Corbyn and McDonnell would make it into her shadow cabinet, she says: “I’m friends with both of them. I’ll be in touch with them for many years to come.” She is also clear that she will not personally criticise them for Labour’s election defeat in December, and blames Brexit and how the party communicated its policies.

There’s something about hair-gel, or whatever and this:

One issue Long-Bailey felt had not helped Labour was the Party’s support for WASPI women’s demands,

She also criticised the timing of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) funding policy. WASPI is a voluntary UK-based organisation that campaigns against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised. It calls for the millions of women affected by the change to receive compensation. “We had spent five years building up that economic credibility, costing everything to within an inch of its life. And adding that as an extra policy after the grey book went out was an ideal opportunity for the Conservatives to attack us.”

Her views on Labour Election Policies, including the Party membership’s decision to back the possibility of a Second Referendum, were, well you can make them out if you can,

On Labour’s Brexit policy shambles, she “wouldn’t pin the blame on any particular individual” but says there was “definitely a tendency to not really understand what was happening in many of our communities and understanding the strength of feeling”.

On the transsexual debate Long-Bailey stands for niceness.

Asked about those who use TERF as an insult.

I don’t like it. The whole terf business within the party hasn’t been very nice at all. It’s led to many people within the party feeling very alienated, both those who are fighting for the rights and the respect of trans people and those fighting for the protection of women and the safety of women. We need to change that culture within the party.”

This is the key section cited in the Jewish Chronicle,

She would welcome back Luciana Berger even though she stood for a rival party at the last election. “The circumstances for what happened to Luciana were very different from an MP who was just angry with the leadership. She had a terrible time.” And she would also like to see Alastair Campbell return. “He’s got a lot of expertise and capability that I wish had been there to help us prior to December.” She jokes that he could maybe head up the rebuttal unit she wants to set up to attack anti-Labour media smears.

The Progressive Patriot has warm feelings for the Monarchy,

She also says she wouldn’t get rid of the monarchy when the Queen dies. “We’ve got more important things to worry about. Anyway, I met Charles inadvertently when I was eight or nine when I gave flowers to Princess Diana. She was lovely. She didn’t speak to me for very long, but she said, ‘Now that we’ve met we will be friends forever.’”

Many of Long-Bailey’s supporters are said to be unhappy with this interview:

Followed by,

Here is one very unhappy Cde:

More to follow….

Update, Latest Polls:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2020 at 1:17 pm

The Blair Government Reconsidered. Jon Davis, John Rentoul. Review: Blairism Rehabilitated?

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The Blair Government Reconsidered. Heroes or Villains? Jon Davis, John Rentoul  Oxford 2019.

“Will New Labour in retrospect be judged to have failed for the same reasons that Very Old Labour failed in 1929 – 31, namely a refusal to break with current economic orthodoxy?”

Eric Hobsbawm. Marxism Today. November/December 1998. (‘The Death of Neoliberalism’).

In a special one-off, titled Wrong, the Editor of Marxism Today, whose End had been announced in 1991, wrote, “New Labour did not usher in a new era but more properly belongs to the previous one.” Martin Jacques was followed by other heavyweights. Stuart Hall stated that, “Labour has been quietly seduced by the neo-liberal view that, as far as possible, the economy must be treated as a machine; obeying economic ‘laws’ without human intervention”. In words that resonate today about those now asserting the need to attract pro-Brexit voters, and the “Somewhere” people he asserted that Blair’s “key constituency in the run up to the election was ‘Middle England’ – a profoundly traditionalist and backward looking cultural investment.”

In reply Geoff Mulgan defended the “open” debate about the Third Way, synthesising centre-left traditions, and Labour commitment to practical radical reform. Citing Walter Benjamin, the Demos director complained about intellectual “peaceful negativity” – endless carping from the outside. History had moved on, and Blair’s “permanent revisionism” was the future.

Accusations of resurrecting New Labour, of “Blairism” have been anything but part of a serene critique in Labour’s present day leadership contest. Voices outside Labour, relayed within, predict a defeat for the left in the wake of a Keir Starmer Armageddon. Party democracy, in the view of the Socialist Party and the SWP and some claiming to be on the Labour left, has been thwarted; the ‘Blairites’ have not been purged. A historic defeat looms. The time has come again to mobilise outside the Party….

New Labour in Power.

In these conditions is there space for an in-depth account of New Labour in power? Discussion of what ‘Blairism’ actually was, and what remains of it could hardly avoid this. Davis and Rentoul, who teach on “the Blair Years” at King’s College, begin The Blair Government stating, that Tony Blair was “the political colossus in Britain for thirteen years after he became leader of the Labour Party in 1994. He was prime minister for ten years, second only in length of service to Margaret Thatcher (11 and a half).” Yet, as they note in the conclusion, “Much of the difference between Blair and Thatcher is explained by how much they are regarded by supporters of their own party, Where Blair is reviled by many Labour voters, Thatcher is revered by Conservatives.” (Page 300) By contrast, “The purpose of this book is to assess criticisms of him and his government in a dispassionate way…”(Page 2)

The first thing that strikes the considered reader is that The Blair Government is, far too much for the politically committed reader, focused on “government works” and “how Blair run his administration”. The charge that the Prime Minister accepted the ‘Thatcher consensus’ that privatised nationalised industries, utilities and transport, introduced anti-trade union laws, and the modelling of public services after private business practice. There is little on the role of the Labour Party itself. There is nothing on the international difficulties and evolution of social democracy, which some began to compare with New Labour at tis zenith The book focuses on the “conduct of government”, issues such as Prime Ministerial versus Cabinet government, “sofa government”, the Civil Service faced with an increased role of Special Advisers (‘Spads’), that occupy this account of the nuts and bolts of Blair’s time in office. (1)

The relationship between Blair and Gordon Brown is of interest to any biographer. The independence of the Bank of England and its relationship with the Treasury gets in-depth treatment, as does Brown’s partnership with Ed Balls. . The critics’ charge of economic orthodoxy rang and rings true. In this field, PPS, Public private Partnerships, rightly attacked for critics on cost grounds and as a “hallway house to privatisation” is considered in terms of “mobilising private funds for public purposes”. (Page 224). Brown’s project, Davis and Rentoul note, was in line “redistributive market liberalism. A significant role of government is to remedy market failure in areas such as healthcare, not to intervene in the foundations of the economy (Page 227).

 

The Third Way.

The Blair Government does not discuss the Third Way, the social-ism, adapted to the “new capitalism” that Tony Blair, or at least his supporters, spun during his years up to government and in power. There was the emphasis on “community” sometimes drawn from communitarian political philosophy, more often from homely speeches about balancing rights and obligations, “mutual responsibility”. One responsibility dominated. People needed to be equipped with skills to compete on the global market; there should be “equality of opportunity” for the aspirational to succeed. The welfare-to-work New Deal, outsourced to private providers, fell short of offering quality training and opportunities to the majority of its clients. If the minimum wage and tax credits helped the low-paid, this – undeniably important help – went with the idea of improving individuals’ market capacity within an “open economy”. (2)

The difficulty was not only that this strategy was bound to skirt around forces pushing rising inequality, a world wide trend left-wing writers link to finance driven ‘neo-liberal’ globalisation. Public services had been kept going, even expanded in some areas, although its higher reaches became subject to stiff fees. When the “dynamism of the economy” faltered, and “boom and bust” reappeared in the 2008-banking crisis, the period of Gordon Brown’s Premiership that followed this study’s focus, these measures teetered on the brink. Eric Hobsbawm’s warning proved right as orthodoxy, with the aid of a bit of bank saving, prevailed, austerity began. The bulk of policy initiatives, or tinkering, proved not to be structural, lasting, reforms. Whatever trace of equality they had sustained vanished quickly with the return of the Conservatives to power. Schemes for sanction-ruled and pared down welfare amidst the expansion of precarious employment have erased their memory. Brexit has set in train a new form of free-market rule, national neoliberalism, backed by Boris Johnson’s national populism. 

Davis and Rentoul are more forthcoming on the Iraq War. Regardless of the merits of the decision to play a full part in the invasion of Iraq, Blair acted out of “deep conviction”. He gave public support to President Bush. The issue of ‘humanitarian intervention’, one that preoccupied many people on the left at the time, is ignored. What counted is that it could be seen as poor policy, “on planning for the aftermath, he failed to consider how badly it could turn and…If a fraction of the intelligence effort devoted to weapons of mass destruction had been devoted to war-gaming the results of toppling Saddam, a better decision might have been reached.” (Page 280) Or it might not…..

The Blair Government Reconsidered  is a fluent, accessible study. That said, if there’s anything that all the candidates for the Labour leadership have noted is this, the Blair years claim that “What matters is what works”. New Labour’s package of policies, though not without electoral victories that should make us pause, did not, as a whole, work.

 

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(1) The Retreat of Social Democracy. John Callaghan. Manchester University Press.  2001

(2) Alex Callinicos. Against the Third Way. Polity 2001.

Britain to Drop European Human Rights Laws, a Victory for Brexit Sovereignty?

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End to the “poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights”? Andrew Murray.

This the news today:

Britain is preparing to reject EU demands to guarantee that the country will continue to be bound by European human rights laws once the UK becomes fully independent, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

British negotiators will refuse to accept proposed clauses in a post-Brexit trade agreement that would require Britain remain signed up to the European Convention of Human Rights, leaving the door open to break away from the treaty as soon as next year, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Andrew Murray, until recently a key Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser  expressed these views in The Rise and Fall of the British Left (2019).

The “imperialist left” of the 2006 Euston Manifesto, which championed the right of humanitarian intervention, claimed to base the argument on human rights.  Such rights trump the “rights of nations” and justify Western, external, use of force to impose claims of human rights.

He attacked the standpoint that “articulated the preference for individual rights over the collective, which has come to preponderate on much of the Western left, a flowering of the more poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights.”(Page 97) 

The thrust of anti-human rights ideology can be seen on the national populist Spiked site run by the ex-Revolutionary Communist Party network.

Human rights: a reactionary cause. Luke Gittos.

The movement for human rights was born of a fear of democracy.

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, many Remainers were keen to emphasise that leaving the European Union (EU) did not mean leaving the remit of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As they saw it, retaining the human-rights regime was a means to retain some vestige of what they perceived to be the progressive European project. It was as though they felt, in the aftermath of Brexit, that all was not lost as long as they could hold on to human-rights laws. Hence, human-rights proponents were keen to highlight the fact that the Human Rights Act was passed into English law by the UK parliament and did not represent a law ‘imposed by Brussels’ – a retort they find useful when the human-rights regime is called ‘undemocratic’.

The conclusion is simple, “The existence of a human-rights framework owes everything to postwar elites’ attempt to exert economic and political control over the heads of European peoples.”

This is a complete fabrication.

The human rights demands of social movements, theorised by writers such as Claude Lefort and Étienne Balibar, are written off as they are part the culture of narcissistic complaint. Leftort , in Essais sur le politique : XIXe et XXe siècles, 1986, argue that the political dynamics attached to the affirmation of human rights could not be dismissed as part of the “formal” democracy, but reached into the development of the social basis of democracy. IT is possible to see the limits of legal rights, as the early 19th century writings of Marx on the issue indicated, but also to consider that the fight for rights is, as Justine Lacroix and Jean-Yves Pranchère put it, “a source of disorder and egalitarian reordering” (Was Karl Marx truly against human rights? 2012.)

In a similar vein Balibar has written of the “operation of inventing rights, or of continually setting their history back into motion..” Masses, Classes and Ideas,1994. During the last decade Balibar has written of the convergence of citizenry and humanity, both in human rights documents and in the political imaginary (La proposition de l’égaliberté. 2010)

More radically the cultural critic of political theorist Jacques  Rancière’s account sees human rights emerge through political action and speech. They are products of excluded voices that  seek to enact equality as speaking subjects and demonstrate inequality within the social order: ‘the Rights of Man are the rights of those who have not the rights that they have and have the rights that they have not’ (Who Is the Subject of the Rights of Man? 2004).

Many argue that, to illustrate the point, that the trade union movement, which came from “outside” the political system,  is the biggest movement for human rights in history.

From the radical internationalists to figures like Keir Starmer human rights have become an important part of the politics of the left.

But what are these fights without legal recourse?

Agreements like the European Convention on Human Rights exist to  give at least some reality to these the demands of the powerless.

Bexiteers assert that only national, sovereign, states, can guarantee rights – an argument that goes back to Edmund Burke, and taken, as a counsel of despair, by Hannah Arendt in the wake of the Second World War and the Shoah.

These positions, taken up and simplified by sovereigntist ideologues many Brexiters, of right and left, have wished to detach themselves from any such international obligations. based on humanity, not nation states.

It is no accident that Boris Johnson and his adviser Cummings attack the European Convention, and assert national sovereignty over human rights. National neoliberalism, national populism, and national rights….

Those who argued in favour of such unlimited national sovereign rights, and wished that Labour had a made a deal collaborating with the Tories in Brexit, can now see where their stand can lead.

What a People’s Brexit they have helped bring into being…

 

 

 

 

Pro-Brexit Left accuses “dumb centrist” anti-Brexit Keir Starmer of Responsibility for Labour Defeat.

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Dolchstoßlegende: Labour stabbed in the back by its anti-Brexit membership.

A couple of weeks ago the Morning Star published this assertion,

…in my view Starmer doesn’t seem electable at all — with his anti-Brexit views I don’t think he has a hope in hell of winning back our heartlands.

It was Starmer who was at the heart of our Brexit volte-face between 2017 and 2019, the biggest reason we lost 2.5 million votes. He has done nothing to own this calamity of the highest order and doesn’t seem to be able to accept his huge role in it. If he can’t see the problem how on earth can he try to put it right?

The answer is not Sir Keir Starmer

The author, Rick Evans, is apparently a Labour Party activist linked the ‘Red Labour’.

These are his politics:

But the claim that Labour lost the election because of Starmer is not an isolated one.

The pro-Brexit Counterfire makes the same charge,

Labour lost Leave constituencies because it became a Remain party, with Starmer and others mounting pressure on the party leadership to support a second referendum, and stating that they would campaign for Remain regardless of what was in any prospective Labour deal.

Starmer argued that this was the path to victory for Labour. In reality, it was a disastrous approach that alienated traditional Labour voters and drove them to the Tories. It’s difficult to defend Starmer’s leadership credentials when he was behind such a great miscalculation.

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

It looks as if the former supporters of George Galloway’s Respect Party are preparing for possible defeat and a return to their political isolation.

This is their more recent description of Starmer’s politics:

Starmer sides with Trump against Assange: expect more of the same if he’s leader

….unquestioning loyalty to the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic. But they can also expect Sir Keir to be a dumb centrist who will be out manoeuvred by the Tories…

Apart from Counterfire mocking the mute,  this is the kind of catch-all rhetoric we can expect from their side in weeks to come.

At is core is a new  Dolchstoßlegende, that Starmer stabbed Labour in the back by supporting the massive protests against Brexit.

It has equally expressed in an intellectual version.

New Left Review Editor and Brexiteer, Susan Watkins imagines, with the blessing of hindsight, that Labour could have let Brexit pass under Boris Johnson,

Placing the Labour leadership candidate within the “Remainer elite” who “betrayed” the working class she suggests that a better way would have been to follow the wiles of Harold Wilson and allow Labour MP’s to back the Tories and ignore the decisions of their Party Conferences.

The Parliamentary Party, acting alone (without reference to democratically agreed policy on the ‘tests’ on an acceptable Brexit deal, and favouring the option a Second Referendum), could, by

…giving Labour mps a free vote on Brexit legislation in 2019, ‘according to their conscience’, as Harold Wilson had done on the divisive 1975 referendum on the uk’s entry into the Common Market. With the ‘northern group’ voting for the bill and two dozen Labour abstentions, Johnson would have been denied the chance to make electoral hay out of the obstruction of Brexit, and the prospect of combating a much weaker Tory administration would have lain ahead at the next election. A Labour government could then have fought for an open immigration policy, or its own recalibration of the eu’s ‘four freedoms’.

Britian’s Decade  of Crisis Editorial Susan Watkins.

Lexit Left’s Responsibility for Defeat.

In reality the Lexit left share in the responsibility for Labour’s defeat: they sided with the hard right in voting for Leave, and encouraged the illusion that there was a “People’s Brexit’ waiting to emerge from the break with the EU. That is, they encouraged the very pro-Brexit feeling that Remainers like Starmer are alleged to have ignored, and let the red to blue switch-overs with a ready-made justification for their vote.

Not only did an alternative socialist Brexit not happen, it could not happen.

The Brexit project was part of the very hard-right, national neoliberalism, aligned with the “‘outward-orientation’ ” of sections of capital, “in the era of bubblenomics”, which was, and is “above all Atlanticist. ”

With this as the backdrop, Watkin’s strategy had been ruled out by the domestic political landscape as condensed in the House of Commons.

The idea that Labour could have left pro-Brexit MP’s vote, en masse, for the Leave legislation, was dead in the early years of the 2017 May government.

The option that The NLR Editor and friends have dreamt up was, it’s becoming clear, was already not on the cards.

Mike Phipps, in a review of this book,  May at 10, by Anthony Seldon,  indicates why.

These are the relevant sections of the article:

Some Party activists have suggested that Labour should have voted for Brexit to get it out of the way so that the 2019 general election could have been about issues less divisive for Labour voters and members.

There are several problems with this analysis. First, to have called for a vote for May’s particular form of Brexit would have collaborated in creating the bonfire of workplace rights and environmental safeguards that would follow leaving the EU. Secondly, it would have split the party down the middle, with most members and MPs opposed to Brexit. Thirdly, with some Labour MPs already breaking the whip, any attempt to impose a hard Brexit on the parliamentary party would have provoked not just more defiance but possibly a challenge to the leadership, Fourthly, it was only in April 2019 that the May government indicated a preparedness to negotiate with Labour – but there was no real willingness to move towards Labour‘s proposal for a permanent customs union.

Worse, the government was by now falling to pieces. Seldon suggests that Labour’s front bench was in intransigent pre-election mode, but the reality was that the talks ground to a halt when May’s own departure was being briefed to the media, with no commitment that any agreement reached would be honoured by her successor.

Mike continues,

Should Labour have adopted a different position to the compromise it made with itself over Brexit?

Leavers say it should never have floated the idea of a second referendum, which indicated contempt for the 2016 verdict of the voters. Remainers say Labour should have come out for a People’s Vote earlier, pointing to the slump in the Labour vote in the 2019 EU parliamentary elections and the rise in support for Remain parties such as the Lib Dems and the Greens.

The debate will rumble on in relation to the 2019 general election, but two things should be borne in mind.

Firstly, Labour’s position on Brexit was not seen by voters as the principal reason for rejecting the party in 2019.

Secondly, whatever position Labour might have adopted, it would probably not have changed the course of events prior to the election, which were not controlled by the party’s leadership.

This are the standout points,

The assumption that if Labour had somehow got Brexit out of the way, it could have fought the general election on different terrain overlooks the obvious point that, with Brexit done, there may not have been an election in 2019 at all, or 2020 or 2021. Johnson gambled in 2019, but he would have preferred to call a general election when the polls could give the Tories a clearer lead.

True, it would not have been the ‘Brexit election’, but the mobilisation of nationalist sentiment and the weaponisation of the Labour leader’s patriotism are themes that the Tories have used repeatedly in the past and are still exploiting now post-election. We shouldn’t be surprised: the rise of authoritarian nationalist conservatism is a global phenomenon challenging social democratic parties across the world.

He concludes,

With hindsight, we can see we were a long way from that and much more political and practical preparation was necessary after 2017 to make it possible. Furthermore, the absence of industrial struggle or a more generalised upsurge against government policy over the last nine years should have told us that there was something fundamental missing in the combination of ingredients that might bring a socialist government to power. Instead, we suffered a colossal defeat – and one from which we have to learn lessons.

While the Lexiteers may have helped soften up opinion for the Tories their influence was far from decisive. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that, while it did have some effect (above all in letting convinced Labour turncoats with a ready excuse for their ballot), that, “Labour’s position on Brexit was not seen by voters as the principal reason for rejecting the party in 2019” Leadership is the most cited reason for not backing the Party.

Mike is also right to underline that Labour politicians of any side  were, a minority in parliament, able to determine the way the issue played out as the election agenda was set, “whatever position Labour might have adopted, it would probably not have changed the course of events prior to the election, which were not controlled by the party’s leadership.”

Brexit has not gone away, at least in Labour debate.

Starmer comes under fire from Long-Bailey and Nandy over Brexit

Guardian.

Labour leadership hustings saw frontrunner criticised for party’s ‘tone-deaf’ approach

Long-Bailey implicitly condemned Starmer’s Commons-based tactics against Theresa May’s minority government, saying: “Unfortunately, we focused a lot on what was happening within Westminster, and didn’t convey what we were trying to do to our community. And that led to a lack of trust.

“It took so many other things down with it. So in the election, when we should have been talking about jobs, aspiration, industry, what the future will look like, we were talking about Brexit and trying to justify our position, which was confusing.”

Speaking later in the event, Nandy said Labour’s problem with Brexit was that it “took all the wrong lessons from what the public were trying to tell us”.

She said: “Brexit was a real problem for us, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And the reason it was a problem was because our response was so utterly tone-deaf.”

The “public” were not one group. Labour, as a party of over 500,000 members is part of the public, so are those who filled the streets protesting against Brexit, mass currents of opinion and street activity, the latter the”movementists” of Counterfire ignore, or denigrate.

This drew a measured response,

…Starmer vehemently rejected this analysis, saying that “fairly or unfairly, rightly or wrongly”, Corbyn’s leadership was the number one issue on the doorstep, as well as what he called “manifesto overload”.

Starmer said: “Whether what was in the manifesto was right or wrong, there was too much. There was a tipping point, and it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad, because people didn’t believe we could deliver it.”

“And every team was talking about what was coming up on the doorstep, the big issues. And there was complete uniformity across the country; it was number one, the leadership. Fairly or unfairly, rightly or wrongly, anybody who was in that campaign knows that was the number one thing that came up. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying let’s be honest about it.

The second thing was Brexit, of course. But that came up differently. If you were campaigning in the Midlands, it came up in a particular way. If you were campaigning in Scotland, it came up in a completely different way. But it did come up, I accept that.

The third thing that came up – this is not me, this is the teams reporting to me – was the manifesto overload. Now, whether what was in the manifesto was right or wrong, there was too much. There was a tipping point, and it did not matter whether it was good or bad, because people did not believe we could deliver it. And once you got past that point, there was no coming back.

And I’m really sad to say, but in all honesty antisemitism came up … It came up as a values issue and as a competency issue.”

Exactly. 

 

A Critique of Susan Watkins – New Left Review – on “After Brexit”.

with 6 comments

Image result for susan watkins new left review britain's decade of crises

Let Brexit Be Done!

 

“Holloa, my republican friend, d—n it, that’s a nasty lick you’ve got, and from one of people too; that makes it harder to bear, eh? Never mind, he’s worse off than you are.” It was, 1814, the time of the French Restauration. London had been celebrating a visit by His Sacred Majesty, the Bourbon King Louis the 18th. Zachariah Coleman a Dissenter and Radical, had not doffed his cap as the French King appeared. Hit by a burley Drayman’s fist, saved by the intervention of the above Major, the hero of The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887. Mark Rutherford, W.H. White) could stand for the left after the blow of December’s General Election. We are still reeling as the People have cheered, or at least, voted, Boris Johnson into office.

In Britain’s Decade of Crisis, Susan Watkins talks of this present-day “restoration”. “The Tories are back in office with their largest majority since the 1980s, thanks to the long-ignored northern working class”. Like the Bourbons, the PM’s “ traditional ruling-class persona” gave the trappings of “decisiveness, vitality, enjoyment”. Rolling these phrases the Editor of New Left Review sees no cause to revise her judgement on the Leave victory in the 2016 Referendum. “Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret this knocks against it, against which the whole global order establishment – Obama, Merkel, Modi, Junker, to Xi – has inveigled.” (1)

In another return to the old order New Left Review clutches at Tom Nairn’s portrait of British capitalist development. The “rising bourgeoisie was absorbed into the existing aristocratic state and civil structures”. “The world dominance of the City of London served to divert investment away from the northern industrial regions: higher returns were to be found overseas.” To cut a long, and contentious, story short, the country ended up with this: “While London remained the financial capital of Europe, ‘outward-orientation’ in the era of bubblenomics was above all Atlanticist.”

In other words, leaving the EU was not a knock to the neoliberal global order, or to “southern-based financialised capitalism”. Those gaining from “bubblenomics”, some of the funders of the Leave movement, show that much. The multinational state, Nairn’s bugbear, which he calls by the laborious name of Ukania, may be under strain. Watkins cites the ‘Scottish Rebellion’. She does not mention the sage’s speculation that “the breakup of Britain will be accompanied by the dissolution of its heartland or Southern nationalism into a larger European entity”. (2)

UKIP’s ‘National Independence” movement.

A belated English national independence struggle, led by UKIP, and with wider roots in the Northern Rust Belt, fuelled the demand for Leave. “England without London”, the alliance of the “disaggregated” working and middle classes who backed Leave, the ignored “will of the working class” given voice in Tory support is the result. But like the former mining and industrial districts of Northern France that have turned to Marine Le Pen, this is an alliance of the less-well off with their betters, the traditional reactionary wing of the right. French and British legitimists may add colour to the bloc; former mining families, self-pitying pathos. Racism, xenophobic, the germs of popular base for national populism, could be cited. They are not. One equally suspects that Simon Kuper is onto something when he talks of the “middle class anti-elitist” as the vanguard of Leave support, not the working class and poor ‘left behind’. (3)

Britain’s Decade of Crisis skirts over the movements against austerity that grew after the 2008 Banking crisis and state cuts. The People’s Assembly, run at the top by the small left group, Counterfire, funded by trade unions, such as UNITE, it galvanised and brought together grassroots protests. Prefiguring the election of Jeremy Corbyn, anti-austerity campaigns brought together left activists, local councillors, trade unionists and a big slice of community groups. Many involved joined the Labour Party – actively encouraged by the unions, and the transitional stage of supporters’ membership – under the new leadership. Some saw this as the basis for Labour insurgency, a challenge to “capitalist realism” in civil society. Yet, paradoxically or not, the anti-austerity movement began to fade the moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected and Momentum was floated as the new ‘social movement’. There is little doubt that placards and demos can only go so far when confronted with Council budgets and the Fortress of the DWP. (4)

Labour, Corbyn and the Media.

Watkins jumps to the challenge “from the Labour Left under Jeremy Corbyn: an appeal to redistribute wealth and recast foreign policy, distancing the UK from NATO’s wars.” We learn little about how Labour’s team prepared to turn these policies into a digestible form and the criticisms they faced, up to, and during the election about the unintelligibility and volume, of their plans Indeed the difficulties that the ‘Corbyn project’ faced are externalised.

We hear a lot about how the Parliamentary Party tried to frustrate Corbyn, and a great deal, a very great deal about the media’s hostility to Labour. The “Labour leader came under an unprecedented three-way assault—from the establishment intelligentsia, from his own parliamentary party and from opponents of his anti-war foreign policy.”

Nobody pointed out, that blaming foreign wars, with barely audible qualification, for the Manchester bomb attack – mass murder – was factually and politically doubtful. Nobody questioned Labour’s failure to give more than tepid support for Syrians killed by Baathist, Russian and Iranian forces, or do anything to back the Kurds, to back democrats against Assad, was reflected the ethically bankrupt ‘anti-imperialism’ of key Corbyn advisers. Nobody mentioned it in New Left Review!

Instead the issue of anti-semitism loomed over all others. She concludes“… given the scale and toxicity of the establishment onslaught, besides which the concoction of the Zinoviev Letter in 1924 appears the work of amateurs, the first duty is to salute the moral integrity of Corbyn and his courageous Jewish allies.” This no-holds, no concessions, defence offers little to resolve an over-commented issue. It is hard to credit that Corbyn supporters who reacted with as much vitriol as their critics helped resolve the issue, or that the way some treated the Labour Party as  a place to play out their absolute anti-Zionism, was not the best way to deal with a predictable attack from this quarter, helped. 

“The media’s anti semitism campaign represented a damaging assault on Corbyn’s Labour from above.” Far from the only one, but Watkins is eager to go for the next issue. “Brexit hurt the party from below—dividing it from an important section of its historic voter base.” Again, without surveying the influence of those called the Corridor Cabal, who backed Brexit even more enthusiastically than Watkins, or the turn outs on some of the biggest mass demonstrations ever seen in Britain, for remaining in the EU, she concludes, “ Instead of proposing an alternative solution to the crisis, as in 2017, Labour was the main force blocking the implementation of the popular vote, in a defence of the status quo—aligned with the Supreme Court, the House of Lords, the ‘Remainer elite’.”

Let Brexit be Done!

Any attempt to stop Brexit was not only doomed, it frustrated an alternative. “Corbyn could have avoided this position by giving Labour mps a free vote on Brexit legislation in 2019, ‘according to their conscience’, as Harold Wilson had done on the divisive 1975 referendum on the UK’s entry into the Common Market. With the ‘northern group’ voting for the bill and two dozen Labour abstentions, Johnson would have been denied the chance to make electoral hay out of the obstruction of Brexit, and the prospect of combating a much weaker Tory administration would have lain ahead at the next election.”

In other words, Labour should have let Brexit pass. The Northern patriots would have been appeased, Johnson, his key policy given the green light, his own remain opponents tossed aside, and pro-EU protesters rattled, would be in a mess. Or “much weaker”.

With the blessing of hindsight  Zachariah Coleman should have tipped his hat to the Bourbon King.

Having cheered him on his way, the Dissenter would only have to wait till 1830 to see the elite gone, and a fine musical, Les Misérables, written to celebrate it.

What now for Labour and the Left. Momentum, according to some reports, has frazzled out. Long-Bailey looks unlikely to hold the Corbyn candle. The pro-Corbyn left is fragmenting.  “The new left keeps open the prospect of taking the fight to the terrain of the future with bold solutions for inequality, climate change and the international order, as the Corbyn leadership tried to do” states Susan Watkins towards the conclusion of the New Left Review Editorial. This looks like a rerun of the alter-globalisation folk politics of the past, without any prospect of power.

What constituencies should the new left and Labour address? Reworking the themes of the Somewhere and Nowhere people, the Metropolitan and the Periphery, the political and electoral cartography stands as this: For Paul Mason, the progressive alliance of the future lies squarely with the ‘internationals’, the young metropolitan professionals of the Remain camp. For Wolfgang Streeck, the national level offers the only effective basis for democratic accountability, for calling the ravening forces of capital to order.” Paul Mason, internationalist, opponent of right-wing populism and “national neoliberalism”. Wolfgang Streeck, star writer for New Left Review, member of the alliance between left sovereigntists and Brexit Party supporters, the Full Brexit, the man who thinks national borders are the “last line of defence”…. The Editor leaves little doubt about where her support goes….(5)

*****

  1. Susan Watkins. Casting off? Editorial. NLR No 100. 2016.
  2. Page 391. The Enchanted Glass. Britain and its Monarchy. Tom Nairn. Radius 1988.
  3. Simon Kuper. The revenge of the middle-class anti-elitist. Financial Times. Feb 13th. 2010. Most British Leave voters lived in the south of England, and 59 per cent were middle class (social classes A, B or C1), writes Danny Dorling, geographer at Oxford University.
  4. Exiting the Vampire Castle. Mark Fisher. 2013. “One of the things that broke me out of this depressive stupor was going to the People’s Assembly in Ipswich, near where I live. The People’s Assembly had been greeted with the usual sneers and snarks. This was, we were told, a useless stunt, in which media leftists, including Jones, were aggrandising themselves in yet another display of top-down celebrity culture. What actually happened at the Assembly in Ipswich was very different to this caricature. The first half of the evening – culminating in a rousing speech by Owen Jones – was certainly led by the top-table speakers. But the second half of the meeting saw working class activists from all over Suffolk talking to each other, supporting one another, sharing experiences and strategies. Far from being another example of hierarchical leftism, the People’s Assembly was an example of how the vertical can be combined with the horizontal: media power and charisma could draw people who hadn’t previously been to a political meeting into the room, where they could talk and strategise with seasoned activists. The atmosphere was anti-racist and anti-sexist, but refreshingly free of the paralysing feeling of guilt and suspicion which hangs over left-wing twitter like an acrid, stifling fog.
  5. From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’: The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck. Jerome Roos. 2019 HISTORICAL MATERIALISM 27(2): 248-288

As an example of how the pro-Corbyn left is splintering this could not be better:

 

Here