Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category
Weekly Worker Congress, 2015 (Photo Courtesy, Sunday Times)
“As we hit the rough midpoint of the Labour leadership contest, it is safe to say that the right – both within Labour, and meddling from without – is in total, blind panic.”
As the Labour leadership contest gets ugly, William Kane begins to worry about the sanity of the bourgeois press (Weekly Worker).
At the most delusional end, we find – unsurprisingly – The Mail on Sunday, whose foam-flecked red-baiting focuses on a truly astonishing claim from the MP, John Cryer: “I am reliably informed that members of the Militant Tendency are using Tusc [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] to pay £3 to vote for Corbyn.”2
Where are we to begin? Perhaps by suggesting Cryer looks up the word ‘reliable’ in a nearby dictionary, and considers whether it can really be applied to any source who claims that:
- The Labour Party is being infiltrated by an organisation that no longer exists, and whose direct descendant, the Socialist Party in England and Wales, refuses to touch Labour – Corbyn’s campaign included – with a barge pole.
- This infiltration is being conducted through the same organisation’s electoral front, set up as a competitor to Labour.
- This peculiar course of action is being taken in spite of there being no need for it, since anyone can sign up for £3 if they so choose.
TUSC stood against Labour in the General Election.
It was made up of the Socialist Party, the SWP, and smaller forces, such as the Independent Socialist Network.
How long union support, officially from the RMT, will continue is unclear after the election of a new General Secretary.
The Socialist Party – committed to the building of a new workers’ party – is well-known for the view that Labour is a “bourgeois party” which cannot be reformed.
TUSC was prepared to stand against Labour in marginal seats.
On this basis it aroused opposition on the left:
In February 2015, senior figures from Unite the Union condemned the Socialist Party and by implication TUSC, for standing candidates against Labour in marginal constituencies for the 2015 general election. The open letter addressed to the Socialist Party, which does not mention TUSC, accuses the Socialist Party of having a “derisory” electoral record.[ In response, the Socialist Party claimed that a Labour government “would be at best austerity-lite and a continuation of the crisis that faces working-class people.”
The Socialist Party may have wavered on this point (after the wave of support for Corbyn).
[Note: what the SWP thinks varies from week to week according to the rhythm of its own fads and recruitment drives, so we shall pass over this for the moment.]
The Independent reports,
We at the Tendance doubt this news, which would mean ditching a stand taken for well over two decades.
This is the TUSC general election result: “the party performed badly at the election, winning a mere 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.”
Cde Kane continues on the story that cheered us all up:
Hard left plot to infiltrate Labour race. Sunday Times 26th July.
HARRIET HARMAN has been urged to suspend the Labour leadership race after evidence emerged that hard left infiltration is fuelling a huge surge in party membership.
More than 140,000 new activists are projected to have joined by the deadline for registration to vote, a rise of more than two thirds since the election, with many signing up to back the hard left candidate Jeremy Corbyn.
The Communist party of Great Britain has called on supporters to join and back Corbyn as part of its revolutionary “strategy” while Green party activists have also been discussing how to vote for him.
…we expect better things from The Sunday Times. After all, Rupert Murdoch’s papers are not indifferent to the internal goings-on of the Labour Party, but highly interventionist. We might consider them a sort of evil twin: both our organisation and their corporation think about Labour strategically, albeit from diametrically opposed political viewpoints.
How amused we were, then, to make the front page! A story about “hard-left infiltrators” voting for Corbyn seized upon our humble organisation as a significant agent in all this stuff. They quoted us – more faithfully than many comrades on the left, we might add – on transforming the Labour Party, on fighting for a left victory in the leadership election, urging people to register and vote for Corbyn.3
There was, naturally, some hair-raising revolutionary rhetoric, and a little photomontage of Provisional Central Committee chair Jack Conrad and the last issue of the paper (clearly in view, ironically enough, is the front page promo: “As Jeremy Corbyn surges ahead, right plots anti-democratic coup”). There you have it – it’s the Weekly Worker wot won it.
Seriously now – we find ourselves, above all, concerned with the precipitate decline in journalistic standards. When a mail-out writer for Labour List declared on July 27 that we “could organise an infiltration of a nine-year-old’s birthday party and I doubt anyone would notice”, he was being a touch unfair; but we do not claim to be a large organisation, and frankly even if everyone who had read this paper since Corbyn’s nomination had signed up (almost certainly not true, given our international reach), it would still not amount to a significant minority of the numbers who have done so.
It must be said that on Sunday when these stories in the Mail and Sunday Times broke, social media, that is, Facebook and Twitter, were buzzing with the happy voices of leftists chortling over their croissants and Co-op 99 tea.
Our instructions from the CPGB Central Committee (Provisional) were not slow in coming: well grubbed old mole!
More, please, please, more peals of laughter….
Cde Kane rightly observes,
we are not a large organisation, and target our propaganda more or less exclusively at other “hard leftists”, who in turn seldom take our advice.
Many on the left do read the Weekly Worker.
Some of (including the Tendance) have written for it.
It is well worth a read.
Now…must ask Cde Kane on next line (with approval from the SPA. GS?).
Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!
Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.
It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.
One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.
The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).
Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.
Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.
We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.
In a British left-wing version, advanced by, amongst others, Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”
This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:
The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.
Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.
The Democratic Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.
We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.
Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’
He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.
Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..
It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.
This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).
The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.
Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.
After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.
* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.
There have been reports that the Parti des Indigènes de la République – much admired in the English speaking world by a fraction of the left, such as the US journal ironically titled Jacobin and Richard Seymour (often for their hatred of Charlie Hebdo) has been in the news recently.
In the May Issue of Le Monde Diplomatique Serge Halmi cited this statement by their spokesperson, Mme Houria Bouteldja.
« La perspective décoloniale, explique-t-elle, c’est d’abord de nous aimer nous-mêmes, de nous accepter, de nous marier avec une musulmane ou un musulman, un Noir ou une Noire. Je sais que cela semble une régression, mais je vous assure que non, c’est un pas de géant. »
The de(anti)colonial standpoint, she explained, is above all to love each other, to love our own, to marry with a Muslim man or woman, a black person with a black person. I realise this may seem a step backwards, but I can assure you it’s a giant step forward.
These are some of their tweets (hat-Tip K)
The Tweets read: the integration of whites into the marginalised is as impossible as the integration of the ‘indigenous’ into the republic.
For us races do not represent a theoretical concept, but a relation of struggle.
A white person converted to Islam can de-convert: but an Arab, even perfectly atheist, remains a Muslim.
For us there is a relation of force between the races, the aim of our organisation is to bring this relation in out favour .
When a White asks, How do you see the link between races and classes, one should not reply.
The struggle against domination, goes through the abandoning of privileges in favour of the privileges of others.
For more information see above.
The article largely refers to this: Racisme (s) et philosémitisme d’Etat ou comment politiser l’antiracisme en France ?
One Good Piece of News at least.
The visit of Lewis the Eighteenth, April 1814.
“There was a great crowd in the street when he came out of the hotel, and immense applause; the mob crying out, ‘God bless your Majesty!” as if they owed him all they had, and even their lives.”
((Zechariah Coleman, a radical and dissenter) “who did not hooray, and did not even lift his hat when the Sacred Majesty appeared on the hotel steps” is challenged by a drayman for not saluting the Bourbon King.
A full fight ensures.
Zechariah is rescued by Major Cartwright, “Holloa, my republican friend, d—n it, that’s a nasty lick you’ve, and from one of the people too; that makes it harder to bear.”
The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane. Mark Rutherford. 1887.
But, Lord, remember me an’ mine
Wi’ mercies temporal and divine,
That I for grace an’ gear may shine,
Excell’d by nane,
And a’ the glory shall be Thine,
Holy Willie’s Prayer. 1785. Robert Burns.
“Election 2015: Ed Miliband resignation imminent as Conservatives win stunning majority”
Today is not a good day.
Not a good day at all.
The People have dealt us a nasty lick.
The vote for common decency – the Labour Party – did not succeed in squaring up to the Right.
Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to step down later after his party’s disappointing general election showing, the BBC has learned.
Labour suffered heavy losses at the hands of the SNP, with the Tories forecast to achieve a majority.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said Mr Miliband was expected to address party staff, with two senior sources saying he would quit.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls was among the party’s big-name casualties.
It also lost its election campaign chief Douglas Alexander and its leader in Scotland Jim Murphy.
In England the electorate of Eatanswill has returned, like a dog to its vomit, to David Cameron.
In Scotland, the alliance of Holy Willie and Oor Wullie has dealt a blow to more than the Labour Party – it’s hit socialism itself.
Those who imagine that the SNP’s politics of looking after their “ain folk” has managed to strike a blow against the British Imperial state, heralding a new politics of the ‘anti-austerity’ left, in association with Rupert Murdoch, will soon find that reading Tom Nairn is no substitute for the realities of the egoistic and narrow goals of the nationalists.
Farage looks on course to fail to win a seat for UKIP.
If we can draw some further (meager) comfort from the results this is it: George Galloway blames ‘racists and Zionists’ for defeat to Naz Shah in Bradford West.
There must be a lot of racists and Zionists in Bradford West as this was the vote, “The Respect party MP, lost his Bradford West seat with 8,557 votes to Shah’s 19,977.”
So much for the strategy of aligning with Islamism.
There was no breakthrough for the left of the Labour Party.
The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was, and remains, irrelevant.
Its votes were derisory.
In Ipswich we have this, much more depressing, news, “Election 2015: Ben Gummer increases his majority as he fights off David Ellesmere to hold Ipswich seat.”
Yesterday about 5 pm, as I was passing down Upper Brook Street, there was a street person on a stretcher surrounded by paramedics and Ipswich ‘Rangers’. Walking round the corner, in Dog’s Head Street, one of another group, obviously buzzing on a mixture of illegal and legal highs, asked me for dosh. Back in the Street, entering Sainsbury’s a woman tried to reassure her tiny daughter, “You see things like this in London all the time”.
We’ll see a lot more of that with Cameron’s victory.
I am in the mood to make sure that we fight this every inch of the way.
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Adventures in Modern Russia. Peter Pomerantsev. Faber and Faber 2005.
The richest man in Britain is Odessa born Len Blavatnik. He made billions from Russian oil after the collapse of the Soviet Union, owns Warner Music and lives in a £41m mansion in Kensington. Many other billionaires, whose fortune originates in post-Communist capitalism, appeared in last weekend’s Sunday Times Rich List.
Russia, Nothing is True begins, is the homeland of the “new jet set”, the “the richest, the most powerful, the most dangerous.” In Moscow, Peter Pomerantsev continues, “performance” is what counts. Life is one “glittering masquerade”.
Moscow even has a high performing English language television station, available on free-view in the UK. Russia Today, now known as RT, was set up by Presidential decree and a generous budget. George Galloway MP has his own show, Sputnik. Other figures on the outer circles of the British left, including the Stop the War Coalition, and supporters of convicted electoral fraudster, the former Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, appear regularly on RT (though the man himself is oddly absent). They are treated with the respect they perhaps consider that they unfairly lack in mainstream political life.
Pomerantsev, British born and educated, with fluent Russian from his émigré parents, plunged deeply into the whirlwind world of post-Soviet energy-capitalism. Nothing is True tells of his time working in television, “factual entertainment”.
As a producer Pomerantsev was employed for the station TNT, sponsored by the planet’s largest gas company. His first commission was How to Marry a Millionaire A Gold Digger’s Guide. He meets ‘former’ gangsters, like Vitaly Djomochka, who’d won fame through a mini-series about the life of criminals, The Spets, featuring real guns and bullets. He encounters a one-time Irish academic economist, Benedict, who’d run the gamut of Russian double-dealing and corruption before washing up at RT – only to be tossed aside when he will not co-operate with secret service. The Irishman, approaching retirement, retreated to Kaliningrad, the home of his wife. This Russian enclave in the Baltic has a waterfront that’s a replica of “seventeenth-century gingerbread German town”. These building are “hollow to the touch, painted Perspex, and plaster imitating stone, timber and iron.”
Raw tragedy comes to Pomerantsev when investigating the apparent suicide in New York of former supermodel, Ruslana Korshunova. She is linked to a “personal development” cult, Rose of the World. Its techniques come from a training programme used by Lifespring – the subject of numerous lawsuits in the United States. The television producer becomes interested in other post-Soviet cults. There was Kashpirovsky, who miraculously charged water via television with “healing energy”. There are the Night Wolves, ultra-nationalist bikers presently re-enacting the progress of the Red Army into Eastern Europe. There are lots, and lots, of other ultra-nationalists, New Age sects, like Vissarion’s New New Testament, and Orthodox traditionalists proclaiming anew Moscow as the Third Rome. Overt racists, Stalin worshipers dot the scenery.
Nothing is True is an in-depth trip into the landscape sketched in the BBC 3 series, Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia. It could be read as fantasy reportage – part Narnia, part Mordor. But if this sounds a refined, and frankly, brilliant, essay on Kitsch – a word springing to mind during the portraits of the festivals of the Russian wealthy – Nothing is True is never less than serious. The Kremlin ‘demiurge’, Vladislav Surkov, “the political technologist of all of Rus”, may be Sauron. But he also Aslan. “The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as has been the case with twentieth century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting them and rendering them absurd.” (Page 79) Pomerantsev worked as a generously paid consultant for a liberal media house, SNOB, which stands as a case study in the official tolerance and promotion of such “oppositions”.
Surkov, we are not in the least surprised to learn, is a fan of post-modern theories of simulacra. Pomerantsev does not name the texts in detail, but you can instantly feel the presence of Jean Baudrillard at work – or should we say, his lingering hyper-réalité. From the façades of Kaliningrad to the wars between Moscow business-gangster clans, the Oligarchs, to the battles in Ukraine, there are so many kinds of ‘surface’, that even the master-players get lost. They speak « several languages at the same time ». This is not just double-think, a split between what you say in the public and the private derision you cover it with, but, contrary to Pomerantsev’s own judgement, but a boundless enthusiasm for playing.
Is this just a Russian phenomenon ? Former Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First Party look in many respects to have come out of Surkov’s tool-kit. A little anti-austerity for the left, a little religious enthusiasm for the ‘community’, the brazen funding of ‘players’, the ‘management’ of elections, the cajoling, the bullying…..
People, and not just ideologies, get mangled in this game. The ‘anti-hegemonic’ message of RT seduces European nationalists with anti-EU messages, religious reactionaries by the Kremlin’s fight against homosexuality, the far-left by tales of fighting US imperialism, the grinning ninnies of the Keisler Report try win business converts by criticising Western financial malpractice.
But the baron-bureaucrats of Moscow are not principally interested in taunting the West from the inside. They are part of a wealth accumulating machine that will crush anybody who gets in their way: rival oligarchs and masters of democratic and ultra-nationalist simulation in the Ukraine, the Russian masses, that is, anybody who does business with them.
“The worst thing is, that in all this interactive ferment, there is not the even the shadow of a new political space, or a new public spirit.” (“Le plus grave est qu’il n’y a pas dans tout ce bouillonnment interactif, l’ombre d’un nouvel espace politique ou d’un nouvel esprit public.” Jean Baudrillard. La Gauche Divine. 1985.)