Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category
Livingstone: “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.”
27 April 2016
Earlier today, JLM National Chair Jeremy Newmark made the following statement about events following the revelation that Naz Shah MP had posted antisemitic statements on Facebook some time before her election as an MP:
“Naz Shah is a politician who is clearly on a political journey, from a Respect firebrand in the choppy waters of local Bradford politics to the Labour Party. She courageously stood up to George Galloway’s bigotry at the General Election. However, her historic remarks and posting were repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Her contrition expressed over the past day seems to be genuine and sincere. This is part of that journey. We are optimistic that she will now take steps to deepen her understanding of Jewish identity. We do not ask or expect her to mute her criticism of the actions and policies of the Israeli government. We do ask and expect her to build upon her apology and contrition with a programme of education and action that includes standing up to anti-Semitism on the left and within the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”
Shortly after this statement was released it was announced that Shah had been suspended. Jeremy Newmark commented:
“The suspension of Naz Shah by the Labour Party is fair and consistent. I hope it will provide the context for a programme of education as we, at JLM, have set out.”
Jim comments on Shiraz Socialist.
It was right and also inevitable that Naz Shah was suspended from the Labour Party following the revelation of anti-Semitic Facebook posts suggesting that Israel should be “relocated to the US” and likening Zionism to al-Qaida (made, incidentally, before she was an MP).
In her defence it should be noted that (1) she made an immediate and unequivocal apology, with no attempt to claim that this was just “anti-Zionism” and (2) she has been brought up in a political culture in which saying offensive things about Jews, Israel and Zionism is considered acceptable and in which many people don’t even recognise that anti-Semitism is much of a problem: check out Ken Livingstone’s reaction, for instance.
(More on site…)
I note in passing that the Facebook post – which Shah did not create – was shared by many people, that it was one many virulent posts circulating during the Israeli military actions against Gaza.
I, like many, opposed these armed repressive actions, and said so.
If some people got caught up in their emotions and have since, as Shah has, thought through her politics on a democratic basis then all credit to them, and to her.
This response does not help (Politics Home).
Speaking to BBC Radio London, Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone accused the “Israel lobby” of a campaign to smear its critics as anti-Semites, after Labour MP Naz Shah was suspended for sharing a post calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States.
“She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic…
“It’s completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.
“And there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”
“As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this…
“Let’s look at someone who’s Jewish who actually said something very similar to what Naz has just said. Albert Einstein, when the first leader of Likud, the governing party now in Israel, came to America, he warned American politicians: don’t talk to this man because he’s too similar to the fascists we fought in the Second World War.
“Now, if Naz or myself said that today we would be denounced as anti-Semitic, but that was Albert Einstein.”
He hit back at Lord Levy’s criticism of the leadership’s response to the anti-Semitism storms in Labour.
“After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’.
“Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.”
There are many aspects to this controversy, which is no envenomed by Livingstone’s comments.
One is the claim that some people are deliberately making wild claims about antisemitism on the left which may, as Livingstone alleges, be connected to a broader attack on the socialist left.
This indeed happens and could be seen on Newsnight yesterday.
Lady Neuberger claimed the issue in Labour was “attached to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader”, and “an issue within the hard left”.
A measure of how wide Neuberger was prepared to extend her net was that she included ‘Militant’, that is the Socialist Party in the charge.
This is a good illustration of just twisted the debate has become.
The Socialist Party has been both an opponent of boycotting Israel and a supporter of the right of the Jewish people to their own state (Boycotts of Israel: Will they help the Palestinians?)
Israeli Jewish workers are also inevitably alarmed when some of the staunchest advocates of boycott action in Britain and elsewhere, such as the SWP, have a record of opposing the right of the Jewish people to their own state. Whereas in the case of South Africa, a majority of black workers there supported international sanctions against the ruling white elite, Israeli workers are not in agreement with sanctions against Israel.
A boycott under these conditions is a mistake, and a gift to the Israeli right.
The Palestinians and the Israeli Jews have a right to their own separate states. But achieving such states, with lasting, peaceful co-existence and decent living standards, will be unviable on a capitalist basis.
The only way that will be possible, will be on the basis of Israeli workers building the workers’ movement in Israel to challenge the power, profit and prestige of the Israeli capitalist class, and of Palestinian workers also building their own united movement.
I would say that the Socialist Party reflects what is in fact the mainstream left position of the issue, although one can be, to say the least, sceptical about the possibility of socialist states in the region.
If many of us are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government, if we are critical and the structures it is built on, we continue to hold to this two-state position. Equally we have every sympathy for the Palestinians, their plight, and efforts to create their own independent state and society.
Another is the fact that in some quarters of the left, notably those influenced by the ‘anti imperialism of fools’, there is a strain of hatred against ‘Zionism’ which shades into antisemitism.
Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler’s support for Zionism indicates that his claim about never hearing anti-Semitic remarks in the Labour Party disproves the widely-held view that he loves the sound of his own voice.
But everybody else heard him.
In response all I can say is that if that if anybody thinks for one fucking minute that the majority of the left, and the part of it the Tendance belongs to, will ever stop fighting antisemitism and will cease from defending the right of the Jewish people to determine their own future and state, and that they have any sympathy for would-be genociders, they are fucking joking.
from the Jewish Socialists’ Group
Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy beyond the Pale.
Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.
A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.
The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:
• The Conservative Party
• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.
We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
While some of the Jewish Socialists’ points about the origins of the present furore are borne out by the facts there remain problems about this statement.
Apart from underestimating the growth of overt antisemitism, not just from stray comments but from full-blown Ant-Semites of the type described by Sartre in Réflexions sur la question juive, this downplays the extent to which by denying the right of Israel to exist at all – and thus of the Jewish people where large numbers wish to – has a coherence within the framework of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Support for the view that Socialist Fight’s claims about a ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’ at the heart of world-wide Zionism, may seem a lunatic fringe affair.
But backing, sometimes unconditional, for the Islamist Hamas – which makes no secret about its hatred of the Jewish population in the Middle East – on ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds is much more widespread.
We note that within the Labour Party and the wider left there are strong critics of these positions, and that John McDonell has been sufficiently concerned to issue a declaration calling for there to be no place for antisemitism in the movement.
This careful and lucid examination of the media-famous incidents ignores the points raised in the previous two paragraphs: Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do.
Galloway Evokes Battle of Britain Spirit in London Mayor Bid.
This nationalistic posturing reminds me of what’s been happening in France.
While there are admirable protests about the projet de loi Travail (El Khomri) and the interesting Nuit Debout movement anti-Europe nationalism.
They call it “souverainisme“, demands for national sovereignty, migration, border controls, security, the constitution and cultural identity.
Most of those associated with this trend are clearly on the right, if not the extreme right.
But some on the French left have also been attracted by these themes.
This article from last year describes how some have passed over to the French nationalist right:
PARIS — When the newspaper Libération last month accused self-professed “left of the left” philosopher and best-selling author Michel Onfray of “doing the [far-right party] Front National’s bidding,” French intellectuals circled the wagons.
Onfray, who declined a request for comment for this article, went on to accuse France’s successive governments of “being contemptuous of the people” — what he calls, using the English term, “the ‘old school’ people”: French blue-collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, the pensioners. As for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he said: “I don’t resent her as much as I resent those who made her possible.”
The first is the fate of France’s poor and working class – the “proletariat” Onfray says has been abandoned by the right and the left alike. In that vision, the governing left’s policies favor the globalized elite and the well-to-do, while catering to the needs of minorities (“the margins,” says Onfray) — such as immigrants, homosexuals and women.
The second theme is the visceral hostility towards Europe and the euro, seen as constraining economic and social policy and a fatal blow to the infamous “exception française,” a large and costly welfare state that’s supposed to shield the French from the turmoils of the global economy.
The drama is being played daily in the court of public opinion. Think of it as “the people vs. the euro.”
Onfray is well known for this vein of rhetoric.
They despised the common folk:
Les gens qui vont voter Non à la constitution européenne sont des crétins, des abrutis, des imbéciles, des incultes. Petit pouvoir d’achat, petit cerveau, petite pensée, petits sentiments. Pas de diplômes, pas de livres chez eux, pas de culture, pas d’intelligence. Ils habitent en campagne, en province. Des paysans, des pécores, des péquenots, des ploucs.
The people will will vote to the European Constitution are cretins, morons, imbeciles, uncultivated. They are hard up, small-brained, narrow mined and inward looking. They have no qualifications, no books at home, no culture, no brains. They live in the country, in the provinces. They are peasants, rustics, bumpkins, yokels.
Clearly Onfray hopes to repeat the result of the referendum on the European Constitution.
He however faces a nebulous target.
But British nouveaux réactionnaires have a unique opportunity: the UK Referendum on the European Union.
Brendan O’Neill takes up the Onfray challenge:
Railing against those “a Byzantine system of governance largely beyond the reach of Euro-plebs” the former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and writer for Living Marxism muses, for the anti-elitist Spectator magazine, on The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism
The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged. The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.
This comment from Briançon’s article sums up the empty nature of this stand,
““Europe here serves as proxy for globalization,” said a government adviser, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of “adding fuel to the fire.” “I call it the defeatist wing of French intellectual life: There’s no chance we’ll be able to make it, so let’s retract and retreat.”
Will others, hostile to ‘capitalist’ EU but more specifically to the free movement of labour, a substantial group inside the so-called Lexit camp, follow their French counterparts and align, like Galloway, with the hard right?
Allied with UKIP for the European Referendum Galloway looks a trail-blazer.
Then raise the workers’ bomb on high,
Beneath its cloud we’ll gladly die,
For though it sends us all to hell,
It kills the ruling class as well.
The Workers’ Bomb.
(See: Posadist Paul Memes.)
Paul Mason is at the centre of new controversies, about his left politics, and about his support for nuclear weapons.
This is what he says about the former. (Paul Mason Blog).
As to Mr Osborne’s claim that I am “revolutionary Marxist” it is completely inaccurate. I am radical social democrat who favours the creation of a peer-to-peer sector (co-ops, open source etc) alongside the market and the state, as part of a long transition to a post-capitalist economy. There’s a comprehensive critique of Bolshevism in my latest book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.
Paul Mason was, we are informed, a member of the groupuscule, Workers Power, now better known amongst the masses for its ‘revolutionary’ Labour Party journal Red Flag.
Paul Mason’s book PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future (2015) uses many Marxist concepts (echoing Ernest Mandel on Kondratiev waves as in Long waves of capitalist development: the Marxist interpretation. 1980). This is the idea that capitalist development and crises, innovation and stagnation, are long-term cycles (we are on the downward one at present).
The core of PostCapitalism is a reflection, often interesting, on “immaterial”labour, and the development of postcapitalism, a form of social order and economics, within capitalism itself, fostered by the (apparent) central role of information in the economy, civil society, and the state. His key concept is “networks v hierarchies”. This is a belief that that there is an inherent desire for a “beyond” capitalism in the search for human autonomy, although since he does not appear to have read Castoriadis or the current inspire by his works he would not use this term. He asserts, however clear tendencies in the direction of the current of thought that began with the 1950s/early 60s review Socialisme ou Barbarie, and now has an influence on radical European ecologists”Eventually, work becomes voluntary, basic commodities and public services are free and economic management becomes primarily an issue of energy and resources, not capital and labour.” It is important to note that in this objective everybody (as the Castoriadists would say) has an ‘interest’ in the ‘project’ – farewell then to the central agency of the working class and labour movement. (1)
That Mason has drawn on rather more radical politics and ideology than ‘radical social democratic’ ideas in the distant past (2011/12) can be seen in the book that preceded PostCapitalism. His Why It’s Kicking off Everywhere, The New Global Revolutions, uses the ‘autonomist’ idea of the ‘multitude’ – rather than just everybody – amongst other terms, to express the growth of resistance to the existing state of affairs. The multitude is the many against the few, Empire, or, in ‘populist’ form, the ‘elite’.
“the political theory that influenced the events of 2009-11” was Autonomism. They “had theorised very clearly the idea of a struggle between the ‘general intellect’, the suppressed human being and capitalist legal norms.” One can see that this offers at least one vehicle to express opposition to economic policies, to inequality, to lack of power. The ability to share and form new agencies of opposition has been made stronger by a technological and social order that needs instant, unrestricted, communication.
To Mason there are signs of the “emancipated human being” emerging “spontaneously from within the breakdown of the old order”. The illumination of the multitude can be seen in the “act of taking a space and forming a community” – from Tahrir Square to Wall Street. This showed “the deployment of digital communications at work, in social life, and now in the forms of protest.” But in the tradition Mason refers to, there are more sceptical strands. Capital and the state can colonise such “smooth spaces” (democratic and equal areas) and make them “striated” (integrated into established exploitation and power) is less obvious (A Thousand Plateaus. Gilles Deleuze. Félix Guattari. 2003)
This is the theoretical background:
These theorists considered that globalisation and ‘Empire’ (its political-economic inter-tangling) were creating a new ‘nomadic’ (Félix Guattari) form of resistance: the “multitude”. (Multitude. Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri 2004) Negri, Hardt and others from the ‘autonomist’ tradition considered that in contemporary capitalism, the “general intellect” and ‘immaterial labour” (production and communication by the manipulation of symbols) were centre stage. Paulo Virno described post-Fordism as a “communism of capital”, “A communality of generalised intellect without material equality.” (A Grammar of the Multitude. 2004.)
For Hardt and Negri a general figure, made up of “all the diverse forms of social production”, emerges. This the multitude. It is “an open and expansive network in which all differences can be expressed freely and equally, a network that provides the means of encounter so that we can work and live in common.” It is a “living alternative” to the domination of Capital and Empire – the entangled economic, “biopolitical” and sovereign rule of Nations. This ‘network’ is the future paradigm for revolutionary change, its imprint flourishes everywhere, its future open.
Negri and Hardt observed examples of this operating, in the anti-globalisation campaigns of the 1990s, and early new century. Such resistance showed up most famously in the Mexican Zapatistas, and, travelling down to a region where revolts never died down, in the rest of Latin America. For John Holloway, building on several decades of similar work, there was a world-wide “Scream of refusal” of people refusing to accept Capital and the State (Crack Capitalism. 2010).
Negri also talked of how the proletariat was enlarged, giving it “productive functions that were once typical of the middle class” (Goodbye Mr Socialism. 2008). May 68 was only the “first revolt of the post-Fordist and cognitive proletariat” against global capitalism. Europe was not resigned to the rule of business. 1996 saw France explode in nation-wide union-led strikes and protests against neo-liberal public reforms that brought down Alain Juppé’s Cabinet (though not the President). Many at the time saw that as defining set back for neo-liberalism. Negri enlarged the field of class conflict to the “precariat”, the partially employed and often unemployed, and saw this as a social factor behind the 2006 “local insurgencies” in the French banlieues.
No doubt Mason has changed the distant time of 2012, when it must be underlined that these ideas circulated in a rich broth of concepts, emotions, and reports. For the present it is indeed hard to see how his more recent belief (in Postcapitalism) that the pro-business Scottish Nationalist party, dedicated to looking after its “ain folk” or claim that the populist leader centred (Pablo Iglesias) and hierarchically organised Podemos represents a ‘network’.
Mason’s views on the Bomb are now the centre of interest, not all of it of the most serious quality.
This is his call:
Vote for renewal of a Trident-capable force of four submarines, while retaining the right move from CASD to a CASD-capable submarine force, subject to parliamentary approval. At the same time, if the Scottish government votes to scrap Trident, Labour should advocate the removal of the base from Faslane to a base in England.
Labour cannot un-invent its unilateralist wing, and it must listen to those who took to the streets calling for it to scrap Trident. Having listened, it must offer them something more important: a Labour party ready to rule; a government ready to break the cycle of failed expeditionary wars; which can fight terrorism effectively and stabilise NATO’s relationship with Russia in Europe.
To do this Labour needs more than just a position on Trident. It needs a defence doctrine.
- a conventional force designed around Britain’s NATO mission in Europe, to deter potential Russian aggression and to facilitate the major powers of Western Europe taking charge of stabilising the region, rather than having to jump to the demands of immature democracies of Eastern Europe.
- an enhanced anti-terror capability pre-authorised to operate on British soil in the face of a Mumbai-style attack, and whose surveillance and intelligence operations come under increased democratic scrutiny.
Since neither Mason nor the Tendance are defence experts, or indeed have views of any depth on these topics, we leave it to others to comment.
Meanwhile we intend to have a good laugh.
(1) Recent books on this which are worth reading include: Manuel Cervera-Marzal, Eric Fabri (dir.), Autonomie ou Barbarie. La démocratie radicale de Cornelius Castoriadis et ses défis contemporains, éditions du Passager clandestin, 2015. Cornelius Castoriadis et Claude Lefort : L’expérience démocratique 2015. François Dosse, Castoriadis, une vie, La Découverte, 2014. Cornelius Castoriadis ou l’autonomie radicale Broché – 23 avril 2014
Labour will campaign to keep the UK in the EU but wants “progressive change” in the union, the party’s leader will say.
Jeremy Corbyn will tell a party conference in Newcastle later today that he wants to see a “real social Europe” that has greater public ownership and stronger workers’ rights.
He has come under some criticism recently from backbenchers who warned the EU referendum vote could be lost unless the party made a more “passionate” case for remaining.
The opposition leader will say reforms secured by David Cameron which curb benefit payments for low-paid migrants “won’t put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain”.
Ahead of next week’s budget, the Labour leader will insist the Conservative’s austerity measures are a “political choice not an economic necessity” and call the cuts “both brutal and unnecessary”.
“In 2010 they said that their ‘long-term economic’ plan would sort all this out, that the deficit would be eradicated by now.
“Their long-term plan has turned out far longer than they imagined, but subject to short-term revision when it fails again and again. It is a blueprint in deepest Tory blue to shrink the state, to shrink people’s security, stability and opportunity.”
Jeremy Corbyn will also dismiss Chancellor George Osborne’s so-called Northern Powerhouse policy as “southern hot air”, saying most of the investment for infrastructure projects in going to London and the south-east.
Why stay in the EU?
Free movement of people
Your right to work and study in other European countries would be at risk. There are 1.8 million British people living in Europe who currently benefit from these rights.
Limits on weekly hours, guaranteed breaks at work and minimum amounts of annual holiday – these key rights are protected at a European level.
Membership of the European Convention on Human Rights secures precious freedoms. Leaving the EU places our human rights at real risk because many of those who advocate British exit also want to abandon the European Convention.
Key safeguards protecting wildlife and tackling climate change have also been won at a European level. By establishing a level playing field they stop a ‘race to the bottom’ on environmental standards.
Protecting these things doesn’t mean settling for Europe as it is.
A different Europe is urgently needed – one that breaks with the free market economics that have caused so much damage to our societies. With 1 in 4 EU citizens at risk of poverty and social exclusion, we can’t afford to accept the same broken economic thinking.
Building ‘another Europe’ means working to strengthen social and progressive movements across the continent and pushing for democratic change – not walking away from the EU. It’s clear that an exit at the current time would boost right wing movements and parties like UKIP and hurt ordinary people in Britain. Join the campaign that says, ‘Stay in Europe, to change Europe’.
There is of course this ‘campaigner’ for Brexit to show us where that leads:
Comrade Toby Abse and myself has a long discussion about Tony Negri and this book recently.
We went through issues about his political background such as Negri’s unwillingness to accept political responsibility for the violent side of Potere Operaio and Autonomia Operaia.
The resemblance between these two organisations’ refusal (and possible Bordigist influence) and the French Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB) group’s refusal to participate in any form of election (including voting in French works committees, comités d’enterprises) also came up. I mentioned that SouB had integrated a significant slice of the French ‘Bordgist’ (ultra-left anti-parliamentarian anti-Stalinist communists) movement, the Fraction Française de la Gauche Communiste Internationale. In Toby’s review another group, the Johnson–Forest Tendency appears to have influenced Negri – as indeed it did SouB.
We turned to the thorny issue of actual real violence.
It is worth citing this section from Toby’s earlier What Next Article, The Professor in the Balaclava: Toni Negri and Autonomist Politics. (2002)
The two concrete instances he gives of Negri inciting others to commit criminal acts on his behalf have a definite ring of truth; they are precisely the sorts of crime one can imagine amoral academics engaging in. Firstly, when Negri lived in Milan, he used to send the young autonomi he regularly received in his house out to the nearest bookshop to steal all the books that interested him. Secondly, and rather more seriously, he asserted his power in Padua University by getting his “reactionary” colleagues kneecapped, and then used to theorise in his usual jargon-ridden style that “the levels of the use of force of counter-power have been exemplified by the punishment of teachers who are particularly zealous in anti-proletarian initiatives: Galante, Santo, etc”.30
Somebody who behaved like this was not fit to hold a university post in Italy or any other country. Anybody who thinks that having your colleagues kneecapped by hit squads in balaclavas can be placed on a par with, for instance, Robin Blackburn offering verbal support to some students who tore down gates at the LSE in 1969, has lost contact with the real world. Autonomia may not have been a fully-fledged terrorist organisation like the BR or Primea Linea, but it was renowned for its systematic thuggery and intimidation. Professor Negri was far too busy writing to have ordered all the actions carried out by these half-educated young thugs whom he regarded as superior to the organised working class, but he dictated the general line.
Then there is this:
Negri led a double life, at least until his arrest in April 1979, but even in recent years there is a rather unnerving compartmentalisation or dissociation that marks his life and work, and perhaps helps to explain how a man who felt no compunction about leaving his long-time comrades and loyal disciples to face lengthy prison sentences in Italy whilst he lived it up in Paris can now have the sheer effrontery to present himself as a revolutionary theoretician for the new century and babble about “the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist”, as he puts it in the final words of Empire.
Now it’s worth noting, and we discussed this, that I personally was involved with a year-long (circa 1985) study group in Paris of about 7 people in which Negri was an important member. This circle, Dissensus, debated the new forms of market ideology that were gripping Europe and turning social democracy rightwards in the 1980s. was a spin-off from a larger club formed by Negri’s close friend, Félix Guattari , under the name of Papageno, itself part of the body with the title of a joint Gauttari-Negri book, Les Nouveaux espaces de liberté.
In my experience Negri was open-minded, wore his status lightly, was interested in serious discussion of left theory and practice in the wake of the rise of neo-liberalism and the failures of post-68 lefts. In post-meeting cheap meals and drinks in the Quartier Latin he would chat with others as equals. The only thing that stood out was his absolute undying hatred of the Italian magistratura (the magistrates), which was not exactly surprising.
Having read a number of Negri’s books, beginning with the one cited above, and continuing with (in French) Marx au-delà de Marx, to Empire, and the debate on this joint work with Michael Hardt), and beyond (see Wikipedia for more), right up to the writings and discussion in the on-line journal Multitudes, I dissent from Toby’s considered judgement that they are, with a few exceptions in his earlier autonomist attempts to reach out with some kind of practice to working class movements, utterly worthless tripe.
The Tendance does, nevertheless, adhere to Negrism, nor, in particular to spiritual babble, which in our discussion I considered to result from Negri’s debt to Christian phrase-mongering, about the ‘lightness’ of being a communist.
As I hope everybody else is, I am disgusted by academics’ efforts (which would include other academics, notably Alain Badiou) to refuse to own up to the violent consequences of their rhetoric.
Toni Negri, ‘Storia di un comunista’, Milan, 2015, pp 608, €18, reviewed by Toby Abse.
Toni Negri’s 608-page autobiography is a predictably strange, and in places virtually unreadable, document.1 The 82-year-old author is rumoured to be in declining health and is certainly obsessed by death (particularly pp9-15). He seems to have been assisted in unspecified respects by a named editor – Girolamo De Michele, a 54-year-old philosopher and novelist, who, as far as I am aware, has no particular connection with Negri’s autonomist circles.
This summarises the editing faults of the present work.
Given the vast number of both academic authors and political activists referred to in the course of this somewhat prolix text, it is a great pity that it has no index at all – not even the usual Italian Indice dei nomi (index of names). One would hope that, if an English-language edition ever appears, there might be some attempt to remedy this, in line with the editorial apparatus that seems to have been attached to the English-language versions of his earlier autobiographical works referred to below.
Whilst the overall structure of the work is conventional, leading from Negri’s birth in 1933 to his famous arrest on April 7 1979, with only very occasional and very brief references to the rest of his life, such as his friendly chats in prison with “the comrades of the Red Brigades” (pp476-77), the chronological flow is frequently interrupted by very lengthy summaries of the many books and articles that he wrote at various points in his first 45 years, including his tesi di laurea (final-year undergraduate dissertation).
I am not familiar with Italian publishing but I can say that this kind of sloppy editing is far from unknown in French books of a similar genre.
This is particularly important,
Negri himself first entered politics not as a socialist or a communist, which would have been the logical outcome of his family background as he chooses to present it, but in the Gioventu Italiana di Azione Cattolica and various Catholic youth and student organisations linked to the Christian Democracy (DC). Whilst the trauma of his brother’s death might have explained a totally apolitical turn towards detached scholarship, it does not account for Negri’s actual path of deep involvement with the DC – the overwhelmingly dominant political force in the Veneto during the 1950s – whose student affiliates, in which Negri played such a prominent role would generally have been stepping stones to a parliamentary career in the DC.
Negri now claims to have joined the Partito Socialista Italiano (PSI) in October 1956 (p128),5 although he does not claim to have been very active in the PSI until 1959, when he was elected to Padua’s municipal council, showing none of his later total abhorrence for any involvement in electoral politics. Negri claims that he lost his religious faith some time before abandoning Catholic student politics. He then sought, and succeeded in gaining a permanent university post at a very early age – as he puts it, “The Paduan chair is prestigious and Toni has conquered it early: he is the youngest Italian professor and he is good – friends and enemies recognise it” (p275). He consciously cultivated friendly relations with powerful academics and displayed no leftist inclinations whatsoever, so it seems reasonable to characterise the young Negri as an extremely ambitious opportunist and careerist rather than a ‘communist’ in any sense of that word.
Whilst Negri rapidly moved left after 1960, becoming involved with far-left journals – first Renato Panzieri’s Quaderni Rossi(Red Notebooks) and then Mario Tronti’s Class Operaia(Working Class) – even by his own accounts he seems always to have lived a strange double life right up to his arrest in 1979. He completely dominated the Institute of Political Science at Padua University, whose staff he filled with his own cronies in the manner of the classic Italian academic barone, whilst leading increasingly extreme political groups, which after 1969 were ever more deeply involved in illegal activities.
The contradictions of this double life have given rise to deep suspicion in some quarters – most notably on the part of the British journalist, Philip Willan, who suggests some link with both the Italian and American intelligence services.6 Willan infers that Negri’s intense hostility towards the PCI would have served the interests of the CIA during the 1970s. Negri’s book has very little to say about any American links – with the obvious exception of small groups that had emerged out of CLR James’s ‘Johnson-Forrest tendency’, whose ideological influence on early operaismo (workerism) has long been known.
Whilst one could put a sinister construction on Negri’s presence in autumn 1960 at an Italian conference organised by the Rockefeller Foundation, immediately after his return from a journey to the Soviet Union with some members of the PCI and PSI leftwingers, it seems much more likely this was pure academic careerism.
Whether there were links or not is unlikely ever to be clarified, and like so many murky features of Italian political life remains an intriguing though fruitless speculation.
This is of wider more directly political interest,
However, whatever praise has to be accorded to Negri’s tireless activity in the 1960s, his political role in the 1970s as the main leader of, first, Potere Operaio (1969-73) and then Autonomia Operaia (1973-79) were completely destructive in terms of the far left, let alone the general interests of the working class as a whole. Neither group would ever engage in electoral work of any kind, whether at the municipal or parliamentary level, and they increasingly moved away from mass action, as it might be generally envisaged in terms of strikes, workplace occupations or peaceful demonstrations, towards the advocacy of some form of armed or insurrectionary action without anything approaching majority support in the working class. Potere Operaio resembled the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD) or the more putschist elements of the early Communist Party of Germany (KPD) involved in episodes like the March Action of 1921, whilst Autonomia was much closer to Bakunin, with its cult of rather pointless, almost random violence and idolisation of the lumpenproletariat.
Given the way Negri, in the mid-1970s abandoned the somewhat obsessively factory-based politics of operaismo for nebulous rhetoric about the ‘social factory’ and the operaio sociale (a phrase that is best not translated as ‘social worker’, as some rather farcical Anglophone accounts have done in the past), the poisonous venom with which he still writes about the groups that rejected hard-line operaismo in favour of a more community-based approach and became Lotta Continua in 1969 is astonishing.8 Discussing Lotta Continua or its predecessors, first he writes of “a populist tendency of Catholic and socialist origin” (p357) and then he polemicises even more viciously: “I had undervalued the presence in the coalition around Sofri at Turin of a profoundly anti-Marxist animus that was descended from a still deeper anti-communist tension of Catholic or socialist origin” (p357). Given his own dubious Christian Democratic political past, the sheer chutzpah of this attack on Lotta Continua beggars belief.
This religious legacy may rankle with some Negri’s supporters.But as somebody all too familiar with Catholic references – not just from the French left (which has its social catholic wing) but from direct acquaintance with Italian leftists from the very background just mentioned, it is a clear as day in Negri’s own writings.
Perhaps it is why he attacks Lotta Continua with some vigour. His own debt to this way of thought, studing his writings with its imagery, is hard to ignore. And not just through the references to Saint Francis. Me, I liked Roberto Rossellini’s Francesco, giullare di Dio, though find it rather fey. Fey is the right word for a lot of Negri’s slogans, which tend to disguise and distract from an otherwise serious analysis.
A critical balance-sheet of the Autonomist movement and those years – and there are many, and of these politics and theories, and there are many – has tended to be submerged in an uncritical celebration which began with the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement, and no doubt continues in those quarters now in need of inspiration as their own ‘moment’ fades into historical obscurity.
Negri’s enduring narcissism and total lack of any self-awareness is best exemplified in his grandiose explanation of his own leadership role in Potere Operaio:
Why did I agree not only to construct Potere Operaio, but to be its secretary? I believe through a sort of ‘ethic of service’, through a strange lack of arrogance – very far distant from the presumed arrogance that they will attribute to me later on. I was 36, the others at most 25 … I had studied so much, the others who were much younger much less … I had studied a lot, always in an interdisciplinary manner, doing theory in the American manner – a little philosophy, much history, a fair amount of Marxism and political economy, a lot of political science, enough law. Moreover, I had behind me a university institute that could sustain a good part of the theoretical work that Potere Operaio required (p375).
One cannot imagine even the SWP’s ‘Red Professor’, Alex Callinicos – not a modest man by many accounts – making quite such hyperbolic claims.
Then again there is this,
When he indulges yet again in his now habitual rant against his colleague at Padua, professor Angelo Ventura, for having assisted the prosecutor and the Digos (special branch) to build a case against him in 1979 (p589), he refuses to acknowledge the kneecapping inflicted upon Ventura by the Paduan autonomi – presumably his students wearing the balaclavas he found so entrancing10 – in 1979. It would be hard to dodge any responsibility for it, given the way he ruled the roost in the university – doubtless what was really meant by “the objective is always singular and transparent”.
The article – which has to be read in full – in the Weekly Worker, written by an activist and intellectual who knows the subject inside out, comes highly recommended
See again here.
Further Note: a failure to acknowledge responsibility for the thuggery of your own thuggish student followers are also a feature of Alain Badiou’s career, ”
Revisionists!Pre-Fascists! During the 1970s these words did not just hang in the air in the Vincennes campus where both Badiou and Deleuze taught. Tendance Coatesy has already recorded the history of the oh-so-sage Professor’s Maoist troops during that period. Their efforts to imitate the Shanghai Commune included their assaults on another ‘revisionist’, Maria Antonitta Macciocchi. In this instance a colleague ran the intimidation from the same department of philosophy.
At the beginning the hostile M-L claque’s presence ensured that the lectures ended early. Later they would try to disrupt Deleuze’s lectures by claiming that a student union meeting to back a workers’ struggle was being held; other times the more erudite mentioned the bogey-name of Nietzsche (Deleuze’s 1963 study on whom no doubt proving by its title alone proof of serious pre-fascism). The admirers of the Little Red Book also assailed others, Jean-François Lyotard, and François Châtelet.
The stunts of the little band of Badiou’s Marxist-Leninists petered out as the decade proceeded. That has its own history, one which awaits Badiou to tell with anything resembling the truth.
Negri, in contrast to Badiou, has never been a supporter of the Khmer Rouge and an uncritical admirer of the Great Cultural Revolution as one of the Communist Invariants.
Nobby Grimsby Knows the EU took all the Fish!
Love democracy? Then leave the EU
Why optimists, radicals and progressives should vote out of the EU.
If you are optimistic about the future, vote Leave. If you prefer the adventure of uncertainty over the dull predictability of expert-delivered diktats, vote Leave.
Brendan O’Neill Editor. Spiked (thanks Jelly – one of the elite few who read this crackpot cult of former Revolutionary Communists)
This is indeed the case, as this unpredictable pundit says (Huffington Post)
David Icke, arguably the world’s best-known conspiracy theorist, has come out in favour of leaving the European Union, labelling the bloc a “dictatorship”.
In series of tweets and posts on his website, the broadcaster hit out at the “dark suits running your life” and that real reform is “completely absent” in David Cameron’s deal.
Note (TC): Icke argues that human civilization was created by a network of secret societies run by an ancient race of interbreeding bloodlines from the Middle and Near East, originally extraterrestrial. Icke calls them the “Babylonian Brotherhood.” The Brotherhood is mostly male. Their children are raised from an early age to understand the mission; those who fail to understand it are pushed aside. They rule the Brussels Bureaucracy.
The SWP also believes in science fiction (Socialist Worker):
…if Cameron loses, it will cause a political crisis that he won’t be able to survive.
The EU is also facing a crisis—Britain leaving could begin to break it up. That can strengthen workers fighting the Tories here and those in Greece fighting austerity.
If Cameron loses…if there is a new Tory leader he is not going to be from any quarter other than the hard nationalist right.
Let us leave aside the fact the vast majority of the Greek left (with the exception of the Stalinist Greek Communist Party, Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, KKK and the SWP micro groupuscle, Antarsya,) stand for transforming the EU in a progressive direction.
If the EU breaks up….if the whole structure falls apart, the beneficiaries will also be the hard nationalist right, from the anti-EU Front National in France onwards.
From John Rogan.
This heartfelt letter has been circulating on the left.
In the interests of free-speech and pluralism we reproduce it without editing.
A couple of weeks ago our study group, The Left Against Europe, was working flat out for our campaign to vote No in the coming European referendum.
We have rescued unjustly neglected masterpieces from the workers’ movement: Henry Hyndman on The German Menace, and the need for a powerful Navy to defend “political liberty as against German regimentation”, Blatchford’s Britain for the British, Belford Bax on Prussian Militarism as well as his path-breaking exposé of the “shibboleth” and Fraud of Feminism, Charles Péguy on the internationalist “infection jaurésiste“, Engels on ‘non-historic nations’, and Karl Radek’s Leo Schlageter: The Wanderer into the Void.
With our researches into the archives we were prepared for anything to defend the interests of the British working class against the cosmopolitan capitalism of Brussels.
But now comrade George Galloway has aligned with Nigel Farage .
Everything is in turmoil.
We stood shoulder to shoulder with George as he built a powerful liberation movement, Respect. It united the left, Muslims, anti-imperialists, and anti-Zionists.
It was the best of times.
We saw comrade George cold-shouldered in Bradford in the General Election.
It seemed it was the worst of times.
Now George is under attack.
George Galloway has announced that Respect will join the Grassroots Out campaign to leave the European Union.
The Respect leader appeared as a ‘special guest’ alongside speakers from a number of political parties on Friday at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster to put forward the ‘Lexit’ case for voting in favour of leaving in the June 23rd Referendum.
Evoking the memory of Tony Benn, Galloway pressed home the need for Britain to regain its democratic power.”
Is Respect alone?
Will we come to George’s side in this hour of need for our nation?
Stand up for the British working class and the Commonwealth against the Brussels Bullies!