Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category
After the Summer of Love the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power.
Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things Paul Mason.
Labour can become the counter-power.
My first experience of the labour movement was going to the Leigh Miners’ Gala, in the 1960s, aged about six or seven. I remember, amid the tight throng of people, one striking image: a boxing ring, in which a local slugger was taking on all comers.
The flesh of the fighters was red and bruised. One man had blood on his face, another a stupid smile: the challengers were mainly drunk. They slammed their gloves into each other’s ribs with such force I can hear it now.
And then my father’s hand slid up to my forehead and covered my eyes. “Don’t look,” he said.
That’s what the working class gained by forming a movement of its own. Something that could co-exist with the brutality of everyday life and at the same time shield us from it. Something that allowed you to live inside the system and at the same time nurture the ideal of something different.
Years later I discovered there was a word to describe this: “counter-power”. A set of ideas, traditions and actions that lets you both survive within capitalism and fight against it.
After 2008, the counter-power was reborn. No longer centred on the old working class, it was simply “us” — the crapped-upon masses. The barista, the courier, the lawyer, the shipping clerk. Those were the people I met occupying Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. Anarchists in black balaclavas yes — but also pissed-off guy with gym membership and a Besiktas season ticket.
The 2011–13 uprisings — Tahrir, Occupy, the Spanish indignados, Taksim, Brasil — were mass phenomena that, even when suppressed and defeated, left a residue: ideas, patterns of organisation, networks, as Manuel Castells put it, of “outrage and hope”.
Finally came the Brexit referendum: the ultimate act of miscalculation, in which Project Fear 2.0 misfired and the UK kickstarted the breakup of globalisation.
You can take the state, said Gramsci: but capital has line after line of trenches and fortifications beyond it.
Corbyn’s victory in 2015, Brexit in 2016 and the near victory of the Scottish yes campaign in 2014 all held out the possibility of a effortless exit from a dying and unpopular neo-liberal structure.
A kind of “free revolution”, handed to you by a hapless elite, where all you had to do was tick a box.
But revolutions are never effortless. The revolution that’s put Podemos on 20% in Spain, and Syriza into power in Greece, involved masses of people on the streets, resisting the elite’s attacks, and creating a new kind of power in communities and on the streets and in universities and schools.
This is the modern counter-power, and Corbyn’s election was only ever a reflection of it.
Detailed comment would be superfluous on such momentous thoughts.
We can only suggest that people read the full version.
Brief Notes for further reflection on Cde Mason’s theses.
- The break-up of globalisation begun by Brexit. Really?
- Near victory of pro-business nationalists in Scotland as a near triumph for opponents of neo-liberalism….sure….
- Podemos, who recently failed to get anywhere near power (despite predictions that they would win) in recent election as example of ‘counter-power’. (Spain’s Conservative PP wins rerun election, Podemos upset by surprisingly low results: 2016 election results PP 33.02%; PSOE 22.68%; UNIDOS PODEMOS 21.11%; Abstentions 30.16% #ELPAIS26J #26J #Spain)
- The latest version of the Indignados, Nuit Debout, in France, already disintegrating in abstraction and futility.
- Ah yes Syriza, Greece. Well.
I never liked Boxing me.
Or the film Fight Club.
Reports the Huffington Post.
Thousands of pro-EU supporters have marched to Parliament where they are chanting anti-Brexit slogans after gathering in London’s Trafalgar Square where a scheduled rally was earlier cancelled.
Pictures emerged on social media soon after 6pm showing crowds of people holding pro-EU banners aloft at Trafalgar Square despite steady showers. Hours later they were seen chanting pro-EU slogans at Westminster.
More than 50,000 people had been expected to attend the London Stays rally which aimed to show the world that “London stands with Europe”.
Channel Four last night stated that the people on the rally were predominantly young.
Yet, indications are: no copies of the Socialist sold, and recruitment to the SWP, and Counterfire: zero.
Equally reports from the pro-Corbyn rally the previous evening state that these groups had failed to lead the masses.
To remedy this Coatesy has the following top-tips: getting down with the kidz for revolutionary recruiters.
- Young people are like fruit flies. They can’t remember all that stuff about what a group did as long ago as last week. Campaigning for Brexit? Phooey! Undermining the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn: that’s all, like, history. The important thing is now you are the best supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
- Lessons: young folk love lessons. Tell them about the Wigan Labour Club voters and their concerns about ‘immigration’ . That will go down a treat with the class conscious people who demonstrated yesterday. Sort out the wheat from the chaff.
- Young ‘uns adore limpets. Many have a limpet vivarium in the their bathrooms. Stick to them. They will surely appreciate this.
Tariq Ali: Better off tilting at Windmills than engaging in Politics.
Recently former Marxist Tariq Ali made a return to British politics.
He starred at the 13th of June Camden “rally of shame” calling for Brexit, or as they tried to call it, Lexit (left Exit, geddit?).
Ali stood on the same platform as Caroline Tacchella, a representative of the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique, a French Trotskyist group, whose historical record even a genial codger like Tariq must remember with loathing.
The group from which this micro-party originates (the ‘Lambertists’) are famous for opposing the French students in 1968.
In a celebrated confrontation hundreds of this sect’s Service d’ordre paraded in military style, demanding that the petty bourgeois intellectuals not build barricades in the Sorbonne but wait for the working class and its vanguard (not unrelated to the said Lambertists, known at the time as the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, OCI) to lead the movement.
Ali, one might possibly know, is one-time student leader, and the author of self-congratulatory writings on 68, (1968 and After: Inside the Revolution, 1978, Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties ,1987 and others too numerous for even their author to have read) one would expect him to know that particularly history and shun any association with the Lambertists.
Update (from JM)
The British arm of this sect, publishes Workers’ Tribune, whose latest issue you can download here.
Many of those leftist youths, the anciens combattants, or vétérans as we, a decade or more younger, used to call them in Paris, not without a hint of affectionate mockery, have kept the course.
Others have fallen by the wayside.
None in a more spectacular fashion than Ali in his present convulsions.
From spitting on the grave of our comrades at Charlie Hebdo, to backing Brexit, and now...this:
How the Galloway ‘left’ Campaign to Leave kicked off.
Our old friend George Galloway had been quiet during the last stages of the European Referendum.
After a sparkling start, which saw the dapper gent appear with Nigel Farage in a united front, we heard little of the Respect leader.
The one-time star of Parliament, and international statesman, had been reduced to retweeting others, such as Steve Hedley, the ally of French Trotskyist micro-party, Daniel Gluckstein’s Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique and their ‘internationalist’ rally in support of Brexit in Paris.
Now we know why:
The Independent reports,
The former MP withdrew his allegations against Aisha Ali-Khan and agreed to pay damages along with legal costs.
Ms Ali-Khan brought libel proceedings in London’s High Court after the Respect Party leader published a statement on his website in October 2012.
One notes nevertheless that Galloway has now returned to play an active role in the ‘Lexit’ campaign.
His presence on the Lexit side will no doubt inspire many to follow their ideals.
Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins. Editorial. New Left Review. Second Series No 98. March/April 2016.
“Respectful of NATO, anti-austerity, pro-public investment and (more guardedly) ownership, sceptical of ‘free trade’: as a first approximation, we might them new, small, weak social democracies.”
The Editorial of New Left Review (NLR – accessible here), devoted to “left oppositions”, and “new lefts” offers a sketch of the common background of some very diverse political phenomena. With a mixture of gloom and wishful thinking Watkins outlines the legacy of the late 90’s “late-90s alter-globo movements” “wrong-footed by the harsher international climate of the war on terror”. But, she then turns to how European anger at the handling of the economic crisis, the collapse of the centre-left, Third Way, parties, and a “blowback” against Western intervention, street protests, such as Spain’s Indignados have, she observes, been followed by the arrival of new forces on the electoral stage.
It is with little surprise that we learn that the NLR list of the contemporary ‘left oppositions’ includes Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win in the Labour Party, the Spanish Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche (PdG). The US is also affected, as Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge inside the Democratic Party indicates. More surprising is the inclusion of Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, which Watkins admits, not everybody considers on the ‘left’. Events and elections, she continues, have not only brought these forces to prominence, in the ballot box, Parliaments and amongst citizens, they have given rise to new “national political projects”.
A common trait, the Editorial observes, of these political green shoots, is the rise of ‘charismatic’ leaders, from Pablo Iglesias, Corbyn, Mélenchon, to Grillo. Exactly what the ‘authority’ given by this ‘gift of grace’ is, and how these personalities carry it out, is not explored. Grillo is notoriously the entrepreneur of his own ‘post-modern’ far from immaterial party-business. Iglesias heads up, to his numerous critics, a vertical pyramid party-structure He indulges himself in ‘populist’ efforts to lead the people ‘beyond’ left and right.
Mélenchon: électron libre.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 11.10% in the 2012 first round of the French Presidential election. He leads a ‘party’, the Parti de gauche (PdG) founded in 2009 with other former members of the Parti Socialiste. It remains stuck in the mould of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, a tendency (at its height well below 10,000 members) centred on a ‘chief’. Its inability to develop has been caused less by the absence of popular protests, the electoral system or “laïciste horror of the headscarf” thwarting its appeal to the ‘banlieue’, than his abrasive personality, which has created a crop of internal divisions to boot. Mélenchon, his many ill-wishers allege, has a vision of himself as a Man of Destiny, with populist and nationalist ambitions far beyond a “sovereign, alter-globalist, multi-polar defence force”.
Inside the Front de gauche (FdG), which allies the PdG with a number of left groups in an electoral bloc, it is not only the Communists of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF,138,000 members) but leftists from Ensemble (2,500), who have found it impossible to work with this électron libre (1). Sensing little support the leader of the PdG spurned the idea of presenting himself before the Front’s supporters and the wider left in ‘primaries’ to select a Presidential candidate. Mélenchon has effectively ditched the PdG for a supporters’ network. He is running for President in 2017 with an on-line based team, with some success in the opinion polls. Nevertheless this venture into political cyberspace has had considerably less of an echo in the Nuit Debout ‘mouvance’ (too heterogeneous to call a movement), which is showing signs of both intellectual renewal in a multiplicity of directions and splintering. The CGT led workers’ spearhead of the wider national campaign against the “El Khomri” labour laws and the wider weekly strikes and marches have largely passed Mélenchon by.
Labour’s leader is, by contrast, a Parliamentary chief with a tiny group of MP supporters, and a mass party with a democratic membership structure and large trade union input. If he won the leadership ballot by a landslide, in a campaign of public meetings which created a “dynamic of their own”, Momentum, Watkins solemnly informs us, is a “somewhat diluted version of the 1980s Labour left”, an “organised adversary” of the ‘Blairite faction, Progress. Few perhaps will recall a mass membership 1980s Labour Left, or of any comparable “parallel structure” to dilute from. Fewer still will remember the Labour Party since George Lansbury (Labour leader from 1932 – 35) headed by anybody who had anything resembling Corbyn’s background in the 1980s/1990s London Labour Left.
Corbyn, like Sanders, is, we learn, “squarely within the social-democratic tradition” – which fortunately covers everything from Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Jean Jaurès, to Harold Wilson. In short, the Editorial dispenses with the customary term, democratic socialism, by which a majority of Corbyn supporters, and Mélenchon’s, would identify in opposition to the compromised ideas that contributed to the policies of the Blair and Brown governments. Are there signs that instead after the ‘retreat from social democracy’ there may be a renewal in a very different directions taking place. Watkins calls the combination of anti-austerity programmes, and scepticism about free trade – not mentioning the defence of social and workers’ rights, the fights for a publicly owned public administration and services – and a failure to confront head-on NATO (on what, Syria?) “weak”.
We might then ask: what exactly is the ‘non-social democratic left’? If Grillo, instead of new forms of democratic socialism, is part of the answer, then what kind politics is that?
Readers will no doubt remain on tenterhooks waiting for the latest radical left model to emerge. In the interim the constraints, self-created or inherited, within which these lefts operate are ignored. Are the furiously hostile forces deployed against them, visible every moment in the British media to be ignored? Watkins casts cautious compromise to the winds. She smiles at Grillo’s no-nonsense Vaffanculo(s), scowls at the French Communists’ local electoral deals to retain control of their remaining municipal bastions (what is the threat of the Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy to her?), soundly admonishes Corbyn for his “embrace of the discredited Blair-Brown Labour right” and offers Iglesias advice on a tactical abstention, allowing a possible future PSOE-Ciudadanos government coalition “a chance to demonstrate that it cannot work”.
As we have indicated Watkins offers the skimpiest, and often misleading, outline of the party structures and personalities which support the new left “projects” she attempts to grapple with. Oppositions equally fails to investigate the underlying problem thrown up by the more radical movements that appear to remain her benchmark. That is, their inability to develop more than general declarations within the ‘anti’ globalisation protest, that would make them more than a protest against the subsequent Western interventions and security clamp-downs. If Podemos may be able to show that the PSOE cannot work, what indicates that their alternative can? While we are waiting, the proliferation of an identity politics and culture of the ‘populist’ or sovereigntist right, which this Sunday came within a hair’s breath of winning the Austrian presidency, indicates the need for ideas and strategies capable of understanding and confronting nationalism and xenophobia now. (2)
Shocks and Turncoats.
It is on this issue that Oppositions is most wanting. The thought that calls a position on the EU referendum vote a “tactical” decision allows only a Leave or abstention as “left” options. The hope that a Leave vote would be a “salutary shock “ to the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” and a Conservative Party in “disarray” is gratuitous irresponsibility. The nationalist and xenophobic Carnival of Reaction of the debates on the EU is paraded every-day. A Brexit win would bring not just Tory division but the politics of the most reactionary people in the country to power.
The Editorial is deeply insulting to the majority of the left, the democratic socialist left, who support staying in the EU not just out of self-protection against our most forthright and dangerous class and political enemies, but as an arena where common cause can be made with our comrades across the continent. That is, a place of hope and co-operation not of austerity and repression. To top it all, Oppositions attacks all of us through its words against the much-liked Owen Jones. The author of Chavs “turned his coat” for changing his mind, very publicly and very honestly explaining why, and backing Remain with the campaign Another Europe is Possible. The Editorial’s language in this instance is, not to mince words, despicable.
(1) Mélenchon candidat à la présidentielle : il tourne le dos à l’histoire de la gauche. Philippe Marlière. February 2016
(2) These two weaknesses were signalled by the critic of their French expressions, Phlippe Raynaud in L’extrême gauche plurielle. Tempus. 2006. Whatever one’s views on his generally hostile analysis, these points are if anything more relevant today than a decade ago.
The List of Shame.
Speaks on The American Empire and its Discontents Fri, 4.15pm
CAGE Outreach Director joins our opening rally.
The full list is too long to reproduce but these are particularly worthy of note in view of the post that follows:
Author of “Marxism and Womens Liberation” on fighting sexism today.
Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia.
Leader of the Green Party debates “Where next after the EU referendum?” with Joseph Choonara.
Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia
Full list: Marxism 2016.
This is obviously something the above chose to ignore:
Posted on 22/05/2016.
In 2010 a man called Martin Smith (“Comrade Delta”) was the National Secretary of the SWP, its day to day leader, the person who employs the other party workers. In July of that year, a 17 year old woman (“Comrade W”) complained that he had mistreated her. She didn’t use the word “rape”, but the people who met her and heard her knew what she was talking about.
From the start, Smith’s supporters (including Weyman Bennett,
(Weyman Bennet. Marxism 2016.
Analyses the state of the Nazis and the far right in Britain)
who worked with him on the SWP’s anti-fascist campaign) put pressure on the women who helped Comrade W, calling one of them a “traitor”, ostracising and dismissing them and forcing them out of the SWP.
The complaint was investigated by Charlie Kimber, who is now the editor of Socialist Worker. He met comrade W, told her that he believed her and that disciplinary action would be taken against Martin Smith. The extent of the punishment was as follows: Smith was demoted from his position as National Secretary but remained in the SWP’s full-time leadership on its Central Committee.
Smith’s demotion was eventually explained to the membership at the SWP’s 2011 conference, where it was introduced by Alex Callinicos who complained about outside forces reporting on internal difficulties within the SWP. He said there was a complaint, he didn’t explain its seriousness and he said that Smith himself had asked to be moved to a different role. The session ended with delegates clapping, stamping their feet in Smith’s defence and shouting, “The workers united will never be defeated.”
At the start of 2013, the SWP conference narrowly approved the disputes committee report; from then on large parts of the organisation operated a loyalty test: if you were willing to back Smith, you could remain in the party. if not, you were told to leave. The atmosphere, at its worst, was as hostile as could be. Members of Smith’s personal anti-fascist bodyguard, men in the late 40s, spat in the faces of a woman in her 20s who disagreed with them. Smith’s supporters threatened to beat up another young, male critic. People were silenced, jeered, told to their faces to leave.
The second complaint was eventually heard. It was in writing. It too, has never been published. In careful, painful detail, it described further improper sexual conduct by Smith. This time, and for the first time in the entire scandal, the SWP’s leadership decided that a degree of damage limitation was necessary. A fresh panel was convened and Martin Smith resigned rather than face investigation.
In the SWP, you will be told that Martin Smith was vindicated. He wasn’t. The last panel to investigate his complaint found that there was enough evidence of sexual harassment that if he was to ever seek to rejoin he would have to explain his conduct.
In the SWP, you will be told that the leadership’s critics were a few malcontents, people who were on the verge of leaving the organisation anyway. They weren’t. At least 700 people left, or around a quarter of the SWP’s subs-paying membership. Among those who left were people who had given twenty, thirty, even fifty years of their lives to that organisation.
In the SWP, you will be told that this incident belongs to history, that the SWP has learnt from its mistakes. It hasn’t, the party continues to have to discipline its prominent members for sexual harassment. The men who attempted to cover up a crime are all still in leadership positions.