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The Anti-Imperialism of Idiots.

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The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots

This morning I was struck, listening to Europe 1 to hear people in Syria, including Kurds, saying that they welcomed bombs on Assad’s military resources, though they doubted that the present air strikes would have any real effect.

Amongst other thoughts were the need to respond to this criticism in the Guardian,

Labour calls for the attack on Douma to be “fully investigated”. That sounds unarguable. But then what? Jeremy Corbyn issued the same call after the chemical attack that killed at least 74 at Khan Sheikhoun a year ago: demanding there be a “UN investigation and those responsible be held to account”. The UN duly investigated and in October concluded unambiguously that the Assad regime had used sarin gas. But Corbyn greeted that verdict with silence. So unless there’s a plan for action once guilt is established, demanding an investigation sounds a lot like an excuse to do nothing in the hope that soon we’ll all be talking about something else.

And then, the nature of the Syrian civil war and the anti-war movement comes up….

Not to mention the complexities of the far from admirable leadership of  East Ghoutta:

La Ghouta orientale, tombeau de la révolution syrienne  (Le Monde yesterday).

Les exactions des insurgés et le siège cruel imposé par le régime de Bachar Al-Assad ont provoqué la chute de cette ancienne oasis agricole, située aux portes de la capitale Damas.

The abuses by the insurgents and the Assad regimes cruel siege have brought down the old agricultural oasis located at the doors of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

This has to be read in full.  The Anti-Imperialism of Idiots.

A British Syrian whose been  involved in human rights and social justice struggles in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2000.

I was a founding member of Tahrir-ICN a network connecting anti-authoritarian struggles across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Co-author (with Robin Yassin-Kassab) of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (Jan 2016)

Contributor to Alford, Wilson (eds): Khiyana-Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution(April 2016)

These paragraphs are particularly important.

Once more the western ‘anti-war’ movement has awoken to mobilise around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime’s military capability (but didn’t) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, considered a ‘red line’. The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilisations of the western ‘anti-war’ left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 per cent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There’s no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan ‘Hands off Syria’ really means ‘Hands off Assad’ and support is often given for Russia’s military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

I no longer have an answer. I’ve consistently opposed all foreign military intervention in Syria, supported Syrian led process to rid their country of a tyrant and international processes grounded in efforts to protect civilians and human rights and ensure accountability for all actors responsible for war-crimes. A negotiated settlement is the only way to end this war – and still seems as distant as ever. Assad (and his backers) are determined to thwart any process, pursue a total military victory and crush any remaining democratic alternative. Hundreds of Syrians are being killed every week in the most barbaric ways imaginable. Extremist groups and ideologies are thriving in the chaos wrought by the state. Civilians continue to flee in their thousands as legal processes – such as Law No.10 – are implemented to ensure they will never return to their homes. The international system itself is collapsing under the weight of its own impotence. The words ‘Never Again’ ring hollow. There’s no major people’s movement which stands in solidarity with the victims. They are instead slandered, their suffering is mocked or denied, and their voices either absent from discussions or questioned by people far away, who know nothing of Syria, revolution or war, and who arrogantly believe they know what is best. It is this desperate situation which causes many Syrians to welcome the US, UK and France’s action and who now see foreign intervention as their only hope, despite the risks they know it entails.

One thing is for sure – I won’t lose any sleep over targeted strikes aimed at regime military bases and chemical weapons plants which may provide Syrians with a short respite from the daily killing. And I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.

Here is one outstanding idiot:

The far-right in Europe is against the air strikes:

From the French left (notably Jean-Luc Mélenchon) to parts of the right and the far-right (including Philpott’s split from Marine Le Pen’s party) there is opposition to the air-strikes.

Le chef de file de la France Insoumise, comme une partie de la droite et de l’extrême-droite a vivement critiqué samedi les frappes menées contre le régime syrien Libération.

The leader of the mainstream right party, les Républicains,  Laurent Wauquiez, has expressed doubts about the use and the objectives of the airstrikes (Syrie : Laurent Wauquiez ne comprend “ni l’utilité ni le sens des frappes punitives“)

Response?

Don’t bomb Syria – No support for Assad

Socialist Resistance.

they will not force Assad out of power. Indeed it is not clear that the imperialist powers want to see an end to this barbarous regime and certainly they are opposed to self-determination for the people of Syria.

The entire Labour Party must back Corbyn in his opposition to more bombing and war and we should make sure that party banners are highly visible at demonstrations opposing military intervention. We need to be demanding an end to the war and all foreign interventions, including those on behalf of Assad from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. We must continue to offer political and material support to the secular and democratic opponents of the dictatorship and Labour must call on European governments to offer sanctuary to Syrian refugees.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 10:44 am

Arron Banks, Hard Right Donator to Trade Unionists Against the EU, Embroiled in Cambridge Analytica Scandal.

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Sharing the stage: Brittany Kaiser, circled, sits alongside Arron Banks, the Leave.EU boss, at a press conference in 2015. She has now left Cambridge Analytica.

Brittany Kaiser, circled, sits alongside Arron Banks, the Leave.EU boss, at a press conference in 2015. She has now left Cambridge Analytica.

Arron Banks’ is one of the best-known Brexiteers.

His hard right wing Westmonster site (A full, clean Brexit, defeating radical Islam, ending the scourge of violent crime. These are our priorities. If they are yours as well, please support Westmonster and help us grow), is a conduit for the frequent articles by George Galloway.

As in,

Galloway: The project is subvert Brexit democracy is succeeding

Banks also donated to Trade Unionists Against the EU, a Brexit campaign backed by, amongst others, the Morning Star and the Socialist Party.

Now Arron Banks is in the news for some more skullduggery.

Cambridge Analytica bragged: We have vast data for Brexit vote

Evening Standard.

The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, referred in his book The Bad Boys Of Brexit to CA being “hired” in October 2015. But he told the committee this simply referred to an early meeting and an intention to work together if Leave.EU won lead status, entitling it to spend up to £7 million, get a free mailshot, TV broadcasts and £600,000 public funds, in the referendum campaign. He insisted the group “devised and implemented its own social media strategy … without any input from Cambridge Analytica”.

Confusingly, a CA staffer, Brittany Kaiser, appeared on the platform of a Leave.EU press conference in November 2015 alongside Mr Banks, seemingly to present their campaign plans. She has since left the data company.

But…..

The Guardian leads with this story today,

Cambridge Analytica misled MPs over work for Leave.EU, says ex-director

Exclusive: Brittany Kaiser contradicts CEO, who told MPs the data firm did not work with Brexit campaign group.

Cambridge Analytica conducted data research for one of the leading Brexit campaign groups and then misled the public and MPs over the work the company had undertaken, according to a former employee who has spoken to the Guardian.

In an exclusive interview, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s business development director until two weeks ago, said the work with Leave.EU involved analysis of data provided by Ukip.

Emails and other documents, seen by the Guardian, show the company was worried about whether it could speak openly about the “interesting findings” and the origins of the data that had been analysed. It decided against doing so.

Kaiser, 30, said the work took a number of weeks and involved “at least six or seven meetings” with senior officials from Leave.EU, which was co-founded by Arron Banks, a Ukip donor. She said the work took place as part of an effort to secure formal business with the campaign group.

Kaiser said she felt she had lied by supporting Cambridge Analytica’s company line that it had done “no paid or unpaid work” for Leave.EU. “In my opinion, I was lying,” she said. “In my opinion I felt like we should say, ‘this is exactly what we did’.”

Day of Strike Action in French Public Services Against Background of Unity Call for the Left.

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Image result for CGT jour pour la fonction publique 22 mars

Today is March the 22nd, the same day in March when, fifty years ago,  the revolt of May 68 began.

“when a a French student movement at the  University of Nanterre founded on 22 March 1968, started a prolonged occupation of the university’s administration building.”

After occupying the building, the school dean called the police, and a public scuffle ensued that garnered the movement media and intellectual attention.”

Today is March the 22nd when a day of strikes, from the Public Service to Trains, is taking place.

L’Humanité leads with the story,

Mobilisations. Les agents se battent pour sauver notre service public

A day of action in public services, joined by train drivers, is supported by all the unions,  CGT, FO, FSU, CFTC, CFE-CGC, Solidaires  and FA-FP. On the rail network a united front of the SNCF (CGT, UNSA, SUD-Rail, CFDT), backed by FO are moblising against the “reform” of the train service, which directly touches the conditions of workers, notably the locomotive drivers.

The Guardian reports,

Thousands of train drivers, teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers and other public sector staff have gone on strike across France and begun street protests against Emmanuel Macron’s latest reform drive.

France’s centrist president, who has been in power for nearly a year, has so far escaped large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an overhaul of labour laws in the autumn despite limited street marches.

But Thursday’s strike marks a new joint phase in trade union action – it is the first protest against Macron that has brought together civil servants and railway staff.

Rolling news from LibérationFonctionnaires, cheminots…, tous ensemble

This happens against the background of successful appeal for left unity behind the strike action and protests, issued by Olivier Besancenot of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA).

Déclaration unitaire : Défendons tous les services publics ! Solidarité avec les cheminots et les cheminotes !

Une réunion unitaire s’est tenue dans les locaux du NPA la semaine dernière. Elle a aboutit à un appel unitaire large, d’une grande partie des organisations politique du mouvement ouvrier, en soutien aux mobilisations à la SNCF et dans les services publics. Une conférence de presse se tiendra également jeudi.

Le Monde dedicated a long report on this welcome initiative.

A gauche, l’unité (presque) retrouvée.

12 parties and groups have backed the call, from Alternative Libertaire (AL) ; EELV ; Ensemble ; Gauche Démocratique et sociale (GDS) ;  Géneration.s, (led by former Socialist Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon) ; Groupe Parlementaire FI ; NPA ; Nouvelle Donne ; PCF ;  PCOF ; Parti de Gauche (PG)  to République et socialisme.

The Parti Socialiste, and its newly elected leader, Olivier Faure, were, in view of the record of their recent government, not asked to join.

It goes without saying that the leader of La France insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who considers his rally is the only force that counts on the left, is keeping his distance.

Strikes in France: A guide to navigating transport, childcare and more.

France 24.

Spring is officially here, and with it comes the start of strike season in France. With workers across the country set to walk out on Thursday, here is a brief rundown of which services will be affected and tips on how to survive the madness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, France is the country with the second-highest number of days not worked due to industrial action in Europe, bested only by Cyprus, according to the European Trade Union Institute.

Yet despite the regularity of strikes in France, navigating disrupted services can be stressful for even the most experienced of locals. To make life easier, here’s a guide to Thursday’s strikes, as well as a few tips on how to survive.

Who’s striking?

 A total of seven trade unions have called on public sector employees across the country to strike on Thursday, including school and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers and Paris metro (RATP) workers.

Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. A Review.

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Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Allen Lane 2017.

“I saw one cart, it was stacked with the bodies of children. They looked thin and long – faces like dead birdies, sharp little beaks. Some were still making cheeping noises: their little heads were like ripe ears of grain, bending the thin stalks of their necks…”

Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. (1)

The catastrophes of the 20th century leave deep traces. The famine in Ukraine, portrayed in Grossman’s uncompleted novel ((begun in 1955, and worked on until his death in 1964), rendered his witness to one of the greatest tragedies of history immortal. In the middle of the 1930s the anti-Stalinist leftist Boris Souvarine estimated that more than 5 million died across the USSR in the mass hunger that followed the collectivisation of agriculture of 1932 –3. (2)

Anne Applebaum totals 5 million who perished in the Holodomor (Hunger-extermination in Ukrainian) alone. This mass starvation was a “famine within the famine, a disaster specifically targeted at Ukraine and Ukrainians.”(Page 193) In this the author of Red Famine follows Robert Conquest who considered that the deaths were deliberately inflicted for ethnic reasons and constituted genocide (The Harvest of Sorrow. 1986). More recently Timothy Snyder has called it “premeditated mass murder” (Bloodlands. 2010).

In Iron Curtain (2012) Applebaum narrated the post 1945 strangulation of Eastern Europe’s politics and civil society in Stalin and his satellites’ embrace. But the ordered effort “to control every aspect of society” barely describes what Isaac Deutscher called the “pandemonium” of forced collectivisation at the beginning of the 1930s which precipitated these mass fatalities. (3)

Spurred by the prospect of national, notably urban, food shortages in the late 1920s, Stalin, Applebaum observes, ordered the programme to ensure “internal accumulation” for Soviet industry. The peasants were driven into Kolkhozes, collective farms, and the “liquidation of the Kulaks as a class” met resistance. By the end of March 1930 the secret police, the OGPU recorded 2,000 mass protests in Ukraine alone.

The response was coercion. Teams of ‘activists’ herded people up, lectured them, poked their noses into their meagre belongings, and confiscated at their whim. Armed Soviet agents surrounded rebellious villages with machine-gun and forced them to surrender. There were mass deportations.

The Marxist Deutscher compared the fate of the peasants to that of “mere factory hands”. In the USSR this meant life ruled by party appointed bosses, internal passports, and military discipline. They did not welcome their new lives. In the collective farms, badly supplied, and ramshackle, people worked as little as possible. Vast tracts of land were “left untilled”.

But rules began to grip. Recalcitrant districts were blacklisted. “With no grain, no livestock, no tools, no, money and no credit, with no ability to trade or even to leave their places of work, the inhabitants of blacklisted villages could not grow, prepare or purchase anything to eat at all.”(Page 200)

The Mass Famine.

The reduction of the independent peasantry to appendages of the state bureaucracy, and the deportation of the slightly better off kulaks, took place against the backdrop of famine.

From exhortations, backed by violence to join the Kolkhozes, the state focus shifted to procuring food. The quest for gain through forcible requisitions became a prime activist task. Bringing back memories of marauding armies in the Civil War, appeared “a man who brandished a gun, spouted slogans and demanded food”.

In a haunting description Applebaum outlines the peasants’ dilemmas. They were forced “give up their gain reserves and die of starvation, or they could keep some grain reserves hidden and risk arrest, execution or the confiscation of the rest of their food – after which they could also die of starvation.”(Page 195)

By the winter of 1932 –3 people in the countryside had exhausted their supplies and started to search for “everything edible”. Many were unable to find anything. There were harrowing incidents of cannibalism. The result was that, demographers estimate, 4,5 million people starved to death.

Stalin’s Policy Against Ukrainians.

Red Famine states that there was policy behind the disaster in Ukraine. Stalin was hostile to Ukrainian nationalism, from the 1917 Rada onwards, and Ukrainians, including their own Bolsheviks whom he believed favoured the national movement and culture. This had a basis in that millions of Ukrainian peasants had wanted “a socialist revolution, but not a Bolshevik revolution” and distrusted anything that came from Moscow. If those with such views in the villages could be sorted out by direct force, the intelligentsia presented another obstacle to be met with by the same methods. Beginning with Stalin’s consolidation of power all signs of national consciousness were repressed; above all, the educated Ukrainian speaking elite were targeted in successive purges.

Stalin, while adept at claiming a certain distance from those “dizzy with success” I applying his decrees never admitted any responsibility for the deaths in the early 30s Apologists such as visiting French Minister Édouard Herriot, concerned to make a treaty with the USSR, and the US reporter Walter Duranty aided his work. The Pulitzer Prize winner replied to evidence of famine from the young journalist, Gareth Jones, with the headline, “Russians Hungry, not Starving.” The facts reached only a limited audience. Not only was there no international movement of protest, but the Soviet Union neither appealed for helps from other countries, nor set up its own relief operations. To talk of the wretched conditions of the victims was a crime. 

Image result for russians hungry not starving

For Applebaum the evidence is clear. Stalin “helped created the conditions that led to the famine”. “Starvation was the result, rather, of the forcible removal of food from people’s homes; the roadblocks that prevented peasants forms eking work or food, the harsh rules of the blacklists imposed on farms and villages; the restrictions of barter and trade; and the vicious propaganda campaign designed to persuade Ukrainians to watch,unmoved, as their neighbours died of hunger.”(Page 354)

If Stalin did not seek to eliminate all Ukrainians, but the “the most active and engaged Ukrainians, in both the countryside and the cities” was this a crime of genocide? It is distressing to broach the issue. The reader, shaken by this book, can only express humility towards those determined to commemorate the Holodomor and a wish to stay clear, very clear from those who still attempt to rehabilitate Stalin’s rule in the USSR and slander the martyred Ukrainians.

*******

(1) Page 145. Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. Translated by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler with Anna Aslanyan. Harvill Secker. 2010. On Stalin’s role Grossman notes, “This fusion of party and State found its expression in the person of Stalin. In the mind and will of Stalin, the State expressed its own mind and will.” (Page 205) “It was Stalin – who was both a European Marxist and an Asian despot – who gave true expression to the nature of Soviet statehood. What was embodied in Lenin was a Russian national principle; what was embodied in Stalin was a statehood that was both Russian and Soviet.”(Page 205)

(2) Le paysan soviétique. Boris Souveraine. In Cauchemar en URSS Paris, Revue de Paris, 1937. 

(3) Pages 324-5. Stalin. Isaac Deutscher. Penguin. 1990 (1949).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2018 at 1:53 pm

The Delusions of a ‘People’s Brexit’ and Corbyn’s Custom Union speech.

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How long ago it all seems.

Counterfire originated in a split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010. They led the Coalition of Resistance (CoR) – the grand title ‘resistance’  US term ‘coalition’ referring to liberal pressure groups, obscuring an alliance of national trade unions, local trade union and anti-cuts activists against austerity. CoR became the more successful People’s Assembly, which, held successful national anti-austerity demonstrations, thousands of local meetings, and continued the campaign against austerity with more political presence and energy.

Leading figures of Counterfire, Lindsey German, John Rees and  their small circle, run the Stop the War Coaltion (StWC) in a long-term partnership with other figures, notably Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), who now plays a major role in the Labour Party.

Coutnerfire activists are extremely competent and widely appreciated organisers of national campaigns and demonstrations.

Nevertheless there are many problems with their politics.

One that is of pressing concern is that their leadership feels, while the People’s assembly is sidelined in Labour’s project of becoming a “social movement” in a position to act as “player” in the Labour Party.

As keen supporters of the Respect adventure Rees, German, and others published on their web-site, have a distinct take on international issues, which continue the ‘anti-imperialist’ politics of the original Stop the War Coalition, in conditions, above all Syria, where this has led them into irrelevance at best, and at worst, a refusal to take an internationalist human rights approach to the slaughter.

In UK politics Counterfire takes a variety of positions, but they are guided by a pro-Brexit strategy which they call a ‘People’s Brexit’.

To this end they have used their control of the slimmed down People’s Assembly to adopt a list of what might be generously called ‘impossibilist’ demands for Brexit.

That is a list of what the PA said in 2017 on Brexit, without any indication of the political means in Parliament or how these principles could be achieved.,

 “We say no to  ‘No to A Bankers Brexit’. We need to overhaul  the tax system to clampdown on tax avoidance, to increase corporation tax, the personal tax and  inheritance tax of the wealthy.

4. The Peoples’ Assembly calls for a new charter for workers rights and for the abolition of the  anti-union laws. We need an end to Zero Hours contracts, and we call for mandatory collective bargaining for large workplaces.

5. We demand a  Charter for migrant rights: No scapegoating of refugees, full retention of rights for European workers

6. No TTIP and all neo-liberal trade deals (NAFTA and CETA etc.)

Unlike some of their allies this is not based on a specific policy of restoring national Parliamentary sovereignty detached from the rest of the world.

The whole wish-list is part of strategy to “take control” – they leave the ‘how’ for the ‘movement’ to decide.

Counterfire’s reaction to Corbyn’s speech on Monday can be taken in the light of these remarks.

Martin HallWhat does Corbyn’s Brexit speech really mean?

Overall, the speech reiterated Labour’s overall aims and objectives in terms of the kind of government it wants to be, and very good points were made regarding the rights of EU nationals, the refugee crisis, internationalism, workers’ rights and the paramount importance of keeping the NHS safe and out of any future deals the EU might cut with other countries.

As a strategy Hall comments of Corbyn’s intentions,

He will hope it will be seen as the continuation of the manifesto position of a jobs-first or People’s Brexit, and that it provides a big enough tent for most Labour voters to get under.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto makes no mention of a People’s Brexit.

This is a term unknown to the general public. It is used by pro-Brexit ‘Lexit’ forces, and employed by Counterfire through the People’s Assembly to disguise their alignment with the right-wing pro-business nationalists who led the Brexit drive. The other group which used the expression is Trade Unionists Against the EU, TUAEU (What We Need Is A People’s Brexit)  TUEAU has yet to respond to the revelation that they received a generous donation from far-right Millionaire and arch-Brexiteer, Arron Banks.

What Labour said was.

We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit, and seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.

We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.”  (Negotiating Brexit. Manifesto). In this context, supporting the idea of the UK being part of a European Customs Union, that is an free trade zone based on the same import duties, entirely consistent. It is, in short, no innovation.

Hall however continues,

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

‘The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.’

The “rabid” Remain supporters are no doubt there to contrast to the non-rabid Leave supporters….

The ventriloquists of Counterfire then speak for the Leave vote.

All the evidence from June 2016 points to the prime drivers of the Leave vote as a desire to take back control, including a variety of differing positions on the question of immigration and borders, allied to an attendant anger at what neo-liberal, free trade economics had done to the UK’s industrial heartlands.

That is, a key drive behind the Leave vote was…to “control”…immigration and frontiers.

No other example is given.

Counterfire avoids the fact that few people, outside of their restricted circles, talked about “neo-libralism” by pointing to the effects of economic restructuring. That is a way of claiming anybody who dislikes the way the economy has gone for their ‘anti-capitalist’ side.

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.

In other words he said everything and nothing about whether the future of the peoples of the UK is better or worse inside or outside the EU.

It remains to be seen how achievable any of this is, though. It is also possibly a speech designed in the hope of winning an election rather than securing a future relationship with the EU. If and when this is rejected by the EU, what will be next? Staying in the Single Market from the point of view that the EU is reformable? Reform from a position of sitting on the edge of the tent? It is quite likely that the EU will state that it will not countenance any deal that gives full access to the Single Market that allows Britain not to be bound by all of the four freedoms. So what happens then? That will be the real test and it may be one that the Labour Party is required to address sooner rather than later.

True: at some point there will be a show-down between the Sovereigntist left that stands with the Right and left-wing internationalists  opposed to Brexit, full stop. 

For the moment the below, from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror,  is a fair assessment,

Jeremy Corbyn blasted May for being on the road to nowhere – now his own journey is finally getting somewhere

The penny is dropping that Parliament could honour the referendum decision and still be in a customs union or the single market

 

Labour, the Customs Union and a Marxist Case against Brexit.

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Image result for Communist Party Lexit

Lexit Mythomania.

It has been said that Trotskyism is noted for ‘mythomania’. (1)

Whether on not that is true for Trotskyists the word fits the myth-spinning Lexit’ – pro-Brexit – left to a T.

Recently the leader of Counterfire asserted,

Labour should stick with its People’s Brexit strategy argues John Rees”.

I can’t recall Labour ever campaigning for or deciding in favour of a ‘People’s Brexit’, although few would doubt that Labour is in favour of a “A new economic settlement that works for the many.”

And Rees’ wish list of “better than the EU not worse than the EU.” is an interesting suggestion coming from a faction that supported leaving the EU under a Tory government that was bound to make things worse.

As Catherine West MP has written in the Independent (30.1.18),

It has often been argued by advocates of “Lexit” that a hard Brexit will allow a future Labour government to end austerity. That by leaving the single market and customs union and shaking off the shackles of Brussels we will have more freedom to invest in the economy.

This is nonsense. The reality is that austerity in the UK has been a political choice, made by this Tory Government, and has nothing to do with the EU or single market rules. EU rules impose no restriction whatsoever on the level of public spending. Its strictures are about deficits, that is, how much, in normal times, governments finance their spending by borrowing instead by taxation. Crucial is that the rules allow governments the flexibility to deliberately spend in a Keynesian manner during a recession and to invest.

Let’s be clear: a hard Brexit, whereby we leave the single market and customs union, will cause an economic loss that will reduce tax receipts and therefore risk an extension or intensification of austerity.

All credible economic analyses of the long-term cost of Brexit have found broadly the same hierarchy of effects: the further Britain travels from the single market, the greater the economic loss. Indeed, the Government’s leaked analysis, published by Buzzfeed, of the impact of Brexit says that the UK would be worse off under all scenarios. Furthermore, most estimates of the cost of Brexit may well be conservative and do not include uncertainty, business confidence and flight of EU workers, which will have a negative effect on the UK’s productivity.

She concludes,

for as long as the Conservatives remain in power, leaving the single market risks the extension of austerity for years to come, on top of the last decade of public spending cuts.

This is the report the article is based on: Busting the Lexit Myths.

The choice is clear. We can sit back and wait for the consequences of a hard Brexit to become so severe that it topples this terrible Tory government. Or we can stand up for those who will be worst affected and fight for membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Future generations will not forgive us for inaction or for perceived complicity in a Brexit that damages our country and our economy. Those of us on the left who believe in building a more equal, more prosperous and sustainable country must not be duped into supporting a Tory agenda that would do the opposite.

This brochure comes highly recommended from the guardians of Parliamentary Sovereignty in the Communist Party of Britain, as the product of  “Forces set on subverting the Brexit vote (who) have targetted the labour movement.”

Perhaps Counterfire, who campaigned for Brexit, alongside Trade Unionists Against the European Union (recently embroiled in controversy over their funding from hard-right millionaire Arron Banks), could bear this in mind and take a look at the real political debate over the EU.

If it’s not too much trouble

The BBC reports today,

Labour and customs union: Evolution not revolution. 

The Labour position has been to argue that “a” customs union was “a viable option” and that the government should “keep all options open”.

What we are likely to see on Monday is wording that makes plain that “a” not “the” customs union would have distinct benefits and is the most logical way to solve the thorny issue of the Irish border.

It won’t just be a viable option but a viable end point. And the policy is likely to evolve in another way too.

Currently Labour recognises that when we are out of the EU, we are out of the single market.

So it is arguing that it wants to retain the same benefits as single market membership – such as tariff-free trade.

I’m told the same formulation could be applied to “a” customs union, that in the long term a future Labour government could sign up to one, if the UK got the exact same benefits as it gets from “the” customs union – frictionless trade and a say over the external tariff on imported goods.

As Labour has talked about the benefits of some form of customs union before, this would be an incremental not dramatic move forward.

However party insiders say that Jeremy Corbyn can’t guarantee that a future Labour government would definitely be in such a customs union because it would have to be negotiated with the EU.

But one insider said that people listening on Monday will have no doubt where Labour is headed: That a customs union is the preferred option.

Speaking on LBC radio, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry gave credence to this by saying: “We have to negotiate a new agreement. That, we think, is likely to be a customs union that will look pretty much like the current customs union.”

On the strategy to take the New Statesman carried this article a few days ago,

A Marxist case against Brexit: Trade union leader Manuel Cortes on what Labour should do.

The TSSA General Secretary  states,

Cortes has called for the UK to remain in the EU. “Any Brexit deal that introduces friction and borders will finish off the job that Thatcher started because our manufacturing industry will just dwindle away,” he warns. A “soft Brexit” (remaining in the single market and the customs union), meanwhile, would condemn the UK to “vassal statehood” by making it “a rule-taker, rather than a rule-maker”.

Will Labour listen to this pro-EU view, one which many on the left (outside fringe groups like Counterfire or the Sovereigntist Morning Star) share?

But Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to end free movement and Corbyn has refused to endorse a new referendum on Brexit (Cortes was said to be “furious” when the issue was not debated at last year’s party conference). “The Tories are having a conversation with themselves, I think we need to have a conversation with the country,” says Cortes. “Labour is ideally placed to start that conversation.”

Does he believe that Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, could yet change his mind? “My view is that Jeremy listens to people and he will continue to look at what the facts are,” Cortes says. “And as those facts change, and he continues to listen to people, I’m sure he could change his mind. I see no reason why he would be fixated on any position.”

The AWL certainly agrees,

The resignation of the Blairite Lord Adonis from his position as adviser to the Tory government has shown the issue of Brexit, and whether or not to try and stop it, is not over in the Labour Party.

A new survey has suggested that allegedly 78% of Labour members want Brexit to be stopped or at least want a second referendum.

Up until last year’s election the right-wing of Labour (notably Progress) had only half-heartedly taken up the issue of stopping Brexit. They avoided directly opposing Brexit because they feared the electoral power of nationalistic sentiment.
They couched their opposition to Brexit primarily as the need to retain membership of the EU single market, aware that there was considerable cross-party concern about the impact of withdrawal on business.

For the left in the Party, issues of migrant rights and the growth of political nationalism were the major concern. Last autumn the Labour Campaign For Free Movement collected hundreds of signatures on a statement calling for the Party to be unambiguous in its defence of migration.

For Workers’ Liberty, opposing Brexit required taking the issue of defending migrants into “Leave” sections of the working class. These were often poorer sections of the class: unorganised and politically demoralised by decades of austerity.

Our positive case should include developing real links with the rest of the radical workers’ movement in Europe and transforming the EU.

Moving toward government, a radical Labour Party can energise the European labour movement. We can stop Brexit, challenge austerity on a cross-European basis and stop the nationalist narrative trapping British workers.

We need a working-class campaign to stop Brexit.

 

(1) A term which is something of a leitmotif in Christophe NickLes Trotskistes, Fayard, 2002,

As Mad Max Dystopia looms ‘left’ Counterfire lines up with Kate Hoey to denounce efforts to thwart Brexit.

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Image result for kate hoey cartoon

Kate Hoey: Fighting  EU free market policies

The Counterfire groupuscule has issued a dire warning about the dangers of the European Union.

Chris Nineham is  “a founder member and National Officer of the Stop the War Coalition” and a specialist in the works of noted theorist of the “actuality of the revolution” and the reification of commodities,  Georg Lukács  (Capitalism and Class Consciousness: The Ideas of Georg Lukács).

Nineham has now extended his brief to write on the European Union.

The EU has derailed left governments at least three times – don’t let Corbyn be next.

I shall not discuss his views on the Greek crisis, but focus on two episodes I know a lot better.

Amongst other things Nineham rewrites history to claim that,

“The EU – then the European Economic Community (EEC) – played a less dramatic but still decisive part in the calamitous story of the Socialist Party government in France in 1981 – 1986. “

This is some real history,

The 1982-3 ‘moment’, a conjuncture that brought together political and economic strategic change with a cultural shift towards the market, remains marked in PS history. The Mauroy government, abandoned a strategy, reinforced with the entry of Communist Ministers in the cabinet, of nationalisations, proactive industrial policy, and increased consumption, came as the first Mitterrand governments failed to reduce unemployment or stimulate growth. Put simply, with the world in recession, going it alone was not working. Warnings of economic disaster starring the President and Prime Minister in the face during the summer of 1982 and the judgement that the franc risked going through the floor, strained the country’s membership of the European Monetary System (EMS) to breaking point. Retrenching at this point was more than a “pause” in reform. The government suddenly dropped all the idea of top-down ‘statist’ economic intervention. The initial wave of nationalisations (which remained in place for the time being, including important parts of the banking system) were not the ‘instrument’ of economic growth and social change. Industry had to be “restructured”, that is modernised at the cost of closures and layoffs; budgets had to restrained. The PS, soon free of a vestigial alliance with the Communists (PCF), came to grips with what they considered the impossibility of ‘Keynesianism in one country’. The “mutation” of modern capitalism was embraced.

..

That the austerity programme in 1983, and the zealous pursuit of ‘modernisation’ under the subsequent PM Laurent Fabius, has marked the governing French left ever since is not in doubt. But the alternative answer, argued by the Minister of Industry, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, for France to “go it alone” outside the EMS, may well have led, as his opponents claimed, to a collapse in the franc, and to France going cap in hand, for help to another international “neoliberal’ institution, the IMF, with an equally severe plan for budget cuts. A left-winger might well ask about the reaction of the labour movement. From Mitterrand’s victory in 1981 to the policy change, there was little popular activity, and the brief displays of CGT militancy that followed the exit of the Communists from government never rose beyond fragmented protest

The Centre Can Hold’: Perry Anderson, French Politics in the Era of Macron, A Critique. Part One.

Chris Nineham argues further that Britain’s entry into the EU under PM Harold Wilson in the 1970s  was also a plan by the capitalists to sabotage left wing economic policies,

The pro Europe campaign won the referendum by more than two to one and business rejoiced. Wilson seized the chance to sack Benn and Heffer, shifting the balance of power in the cabinet from left to right. As economists Mitchell and Fazi put it recently in their book Reclaiming the State, the referendum ‘all but killed the impetus for radical reform’.

Following this defeat for the left, sabotage and subversion started in earnest. Investors and currency speculators used growing levels of inflation as an excuse to pull out of the British economy. There was a massive run on the pound. Instead of responding by deepening government control over the economy and introducing currency controls the government ended up imposing wage restraint and going to the IMF for loans that were tied to cuts in public spending on hospitals schools and on government Investment in industry.

He solemnly concludes on the basis of this ‘evidence’,  – that a vote to Join the EU was the precondition for such “subversion” that,

This history should give pause for thought to those who see remaining in the single market or the customs union as in any sense left policies. Pro-business and anti-left groups in social democracy have always lined up with the EU because it promotes free market policies. Today is no exception. The list of 64 Labour MPs who rebelled and voted in December to try and keep Britain in the customs union is a list of those who are amongst the most hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive economic agenda. Once again the issue of the EU is the frontline of an attack on the left, this time against Corbyn and Corbynism.

Kate Hoey, one of the most celebrated former members of the International Marxist Group (IMG) in Parliament and famous for her sense of humour.

And political judgement.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm