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Boris Brexit Bid, as Ipswich Tories hear call for fight back against “totalitarian fascists” behind EU.

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Boris Johnson today sets out a grand vision of Britain’s “glorious” post-Brexit future as a low-tax, low regulation economy paying nothing to the EU for access to the single market.

In a 4,000-word article for the Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary restates the key demand of the Leave campaign – that £350m a week currently sent to Brussels should be redirected to fund the NHS.

He says that Britain should not continue to make payments to the EU after Brexit and that ongoing membership of the European single market and customs union would make a “complete mockery” of the referendum.

While talk nationally is of Boris making a bid for the Tory leadership on a hard Brexit stand, Rees Mogg craze shows no sign of abating amongst the Tory grass roots youth, in Suffolk, well known Conservative intellectual and poet Kevin Algar has got over his months’ long grizzling at the defeat of Ben Gummer.

With this stirring appeal against the EU and for militant struggle to defend Brexit, Kev is mounting a fight for hegemony within the Ipswich Conservative Association.

So the  former PM of Luxembourg and Little Napolean, Juncker has said that Britain will regret Brexit. Early last century a little Austrian bloke said something similar. But there is absolutely no way that we are going to regret Brexit. Because in his speech he talked about bringing about the death throes of European democracy by giving more power to people like him, eroding national sovereignty and having an EU army to  crush decent amongst the plebeians of Europe. It doesn’t matter to Juncker that the people of Europe are against it. He seriously doesn’t care. To him the federalist project must continue. The people can end up in poverty, become destitute while he and his cohorts get rich because he doesn’t care. Because of the fascists in Brussels Brexit talks have been delayed again. They want to pretend it isn’t happening and continue their evil project regardless because they are ideologically driven, foaming at the mouth lunatics. Juncker is so loathed in is own country of Luxembourg that he dare not go there. Recently he was visited by another former PM who is loathed in his own country, Tony Blair. The meeting was obviously about how they could both keep the gravy train rolling.  Guy Verhofstadt‏ has launched an attack on Theresa May. What makes him think that as a member of of a quango he can attack a PM of a soon to be independent, sovereign state is anybodies guess. Make no mistake. Scratch away at the left wing, liberal veneer and it is revealed that we are dealing with totalitarian fascists. They will stop at nothing to  achieve their aims and will continue to inflict misery on the people  of Europe.

A Riverside View. 

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2017 at 11:37 am

Dennis Skinner Votes with Tories for Repeal Bill (EU).

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 As we vote on the it was a pleasure to see Dennis Skinner joining us in the Aye lobby.

The Telegraph reports,

Dennis Skinner rebels against Jeremy Corbyn as he votes with Tories for Repeal Bill

Dennis Skinner MP, who has previously flicked the V-sign at Labour rebels and claimed to never have contemplated doing “cross-party stuff”  shocked many as he voted against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for the Repeal Bill on Monday night.

He has also said in the past he refuses to be friends or work with Tories — so his vote may surprise those who count on him as a Jeremy Corbyn supporter.

Mr Skinner, who is usually on the side of Jeremy Corbyn, voted for the Tory bill along with Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, and Graham Stringer.

14 Labour MPs, including Caroline Flint, abstained on the bill.

Corbyn supporters have said that MPs who voted against the whip should “find new jobs”.

Dennis Skinner is the MP for Bolsover – which voted for Brexit by a large margin. 70.8 per cent voted Leave, while 29.2 per cent voted to Remain.

He also was a staunch supporter of Brexit during the referendum, saying it was because he wanted to escape the capitalism of the EU and protect the future of the NHS.

 

The Telegraph notes that Labour supporters have called for those who backed the Tory bill to be deselected, and asks if this applies to Skinner.

This is how one Tory reacted:

The best the Telegraph could find to explain Skinner’s vote was an (unsourced) article in the Morning Star, from which this quote is taken.

Mr Skinner said at the time: “In the old days they could argue you might get a socialist government in Germany, but there’s not been one for donkeys’ years. At one time there was Italy, the Benelux countries, France and Germany, Portugal, Spain and us. Now there’s just one in France and it’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth.”

Here is the original, Morning Star, Friday 10th of June 2017.

Speaking to the Morning Star yesterday, he confirmed he was backing a break with Brussels because he did not believe progressive reform of the EU could be achieved.

He said: “My opposition from the very beginning has been on the lines that fighting capitalism state-by-state is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’re fighting it on the basis of eight states, 10 states and now 28.

“In the old days they could argue you might get a socialist government in Germany, but there’s not been one for donkeys’ years.

“At one time there was Italy, the Benelux countries, France and Germany, Portugal, Spain and us.

“Now there’s just one in France and it’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth.”

Even some on the pro-Brexit left argued against the Tory Repeal Bill.

Counterfire published this: A very British coup: May’s power grab Josh Holmes September the 11th.

If Theresa May carries off her coup, the Government will be given a majority on committees, even though it doesn’t have a majority in the House. This may sound merely technical and a little arcane, but it has the most serious consequences for democracy. It means that the Tories will win every single vote between now and the next election – which may well be in five years’ time.

May says she needs these powers because, without them, it will be hard for her to pass the Brexit legislation. She is right: it will be hard, and the legislation probably won’t end up looking like what she wants. It will be subject to proper scrutiny, and Labour, the SNP and every other party in Parliamentwill have a real say in shaping its final form. Britain’s post-Brexit future will not be written by the Tory party alone.

Skinner has many good points, and many weaknesses, which are well known in the labour movement.

I shall not go and see this soon to be released film for a start:

Dennis Skinner film director on Nature of the Beast

A film director has been given rare access to follow Dennis Skinner for two years to make a documentary.

Daniel Draper, who has made Nature of the Beast, told Daily Politics presenter Jo Coburn it was “fair criticism” for some who claimed he was guilty of hero-worshipping the Bolsover MP.

Image result for dennis skinner the nature of the beast

Update:

This is the  Skinner’s ‘explanation’ for voting with the Tories, “With all the treaties, Maastricht and the others, I don’t decide who’s in the lobby – some rag tag and bobtail of Tories plus a few unionists.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2017 at 12:09 pm

When the Tory Students and British State Backed the Islamist Mujahidin – Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam. Mark Curtis.

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Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s.

With Activate making a splash (We warned CCHQ that something like ‘Activate’ would happen) people may recall these campaigns the Tory yoof backed in the 1980s.

In addition to supporting no-holds-barred privatisation, controversial positions embraced included the support for American intervention in GrenadaRENAMO, the UNITA rebels in Angola, and the Contras in Nicaragua.[14] “Hang Nelson Mandela” slogans[17] were apparently worn by some leading members.

In the case of their support for the Mujahdin in Afghanistan there is a lot of background to fill in.

Training in Terrorism: Britain’s Afghan Jihad

This is an edited extract from Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam

Mark Curtis

The war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s was to mark the next phase in the development of global Islamic radicalism, building on the Islamic resurgence during the previous decade. Following the Soviet invasion of December 1979, tens of thousands of volunteers from around the Muslim world flocked to join their Afghan brethren and fight the communists. During the course of the war, they went on to form organised jihadi militant groups that would eventually target their home countries, and the West, in terrorist operations. These mujahideen, and the indigenous Afghan resistance groups to which they were attached, were bolstered by billions of dollars in aid and military training provided mainly by Saudi Arabia, the US and Pakistan, but also by Britain.

Britain already had a long history of supporting and working alongside Islamist forces by the time the Soviets crossed the Afghan border, but the collusion with the mujahideen in Afghanistan was of a different order to these earlier episodes, part of Whitehall’s most extensive covert operation since the Second World War. The problem with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put it after six months in office, was that ‘if its hold on Afghanistan is consolidated, the Soviet Union will, in effect, have vastly extended its borders with Iran, will have acquired a border more than 1,000 miles long with Pakistan, and will have advanced to within 300 miles of the Straits of Hormuz, which control the Persian Gulf.’

In public, the prime minister and other British leaders denied British military involvement in Afghanistan and claimed to be seeking purely diplomatic solutions to the conflict. In reality, British covert aid to the Afghan resistance began to flow even before the Soviet invasion, while Whitehall authorised MI6 to conduct operations in the first year of the Soviet occupation, coordinated by MI6 officers in Islamabad in liaison with the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. British and US covert training programmes were critical, since many of the indigenous Afghan forces, and the vast majority of the jihadi volunteers arriving in Afghanistan, had no military training. It was a policy that was to have profound consequences.

Review .Originally published in 2011, that is, before the Arab Spring Turned to Winter and Daesh took off on its genocidal path.

 

Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam Mark Curtis. 2010. Serpent’s Tail.

Hat-tip to Paul Flewers who suggested I read this book.

“Egypt’s future is uncertain after the death or fall of Mubarak and, whether there is a revolution or not, the Brotherhood could play a role in government or in the transition….Britain is the largest foreign investor in the country, amounting to around $20 billion. British elites want to be in a better position than after the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979 in 1979, and cultivating the Islamists is likely regarded as critical.”

“Britain likely sees the Brotherhood – as it did from the 1950s to the 1970s – as counter to the secular, nationalist forces opposition in Egypt and the region….” (Pages 308 – 9. Secret Affairs. Mark Curtis. 2010.)

Secret Affairs is a pioneering and unsettling study. It unravels how British officials have worked with apparently ‘anti-imperialist’ Islamists that they have found “useful at specific moments.” It sheds light on one of the less publicly acknowledged sides of British global policy – its “collusions” with Islamist groups and parties. Mark Curtis writes, “With some of these radical Islamic forces, Britain has been in a permanent, strategic alliance to secure fundamental long-term policy goals; with others, it has been a temporary marriage of convenience to achieve specific short-term outcomes.” (Page xi) Two geo-political aims have guided this policy, to keep control over energy sources in the Middle East and maintain the City’s place in a stable international financial system. More than out of sheer delight in the undercover world British intelligence agencies have pursued these rational, foreign policy, objectives.

For many it will be a mental wrench to consider that the British State could be complicit with Islamism. Islamists, in all their heterogeneous forms, are, according to a refrain that tends to drown out all others, a real or exaggerated threat. To the right they are from a civilisation out to clash with the West; to most of the left, a riposte to its imperial, Crusader, ambitions. After digesting Secret Affairs the claim that the West has declared a no-holds barred ‘war’ on Islam, sounds hollow.

On occasion even the most extreme Salafist inspired Islamists have been in the loop of the secret services, though more public state policy has been to nurture “moderate” Muslims, a moderation that exists sometimes only in comparison with the most violent Jihadists. If one turns the study’s conclusions upside down, one can also see some interesting aspects of Islamist politics: why, and how, they expect to use their contacts, half-hostile, half-respectful, with countries like Britain. Mark Curtis equally offers important signposts to the future direction Whitehall policy will take towards a key Islamist actor in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood.

State Islamist Sponsors.

The thread tying together Secret Affairs is an account of its relations with “the two most significant sponsors of radical Islam” – Pakistan, which promoted “the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the terrorist cause in Kashmir and its surge in central Asia” and Saudi Arabia, “the largest financier of the Islamist cause worldwide. “(Page 223 – 4)

Mark Curtis is a master of weighing up what governments have considered to be the national interest beyond alliances with these states. He enters the murky intelligence world without his vision becoming darkened by the complexity of the dealings involved. The author argues that Britain has “long connived with Islamist forces and their Pakistani state sponsors.” (Page 293) He cites Martin Bright, “it is depressing that so few of the left have been prepared to engage with the issue of the Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam except to minimise its significance.” (Page 307) He comments, that this is not so much appeasement, as an effort to “achieve key British foreign policy goals” (Ibid).

In 2011 the arguments of Secret Affairs are extremely important.  The euphoria surrounding the popular uprisings against the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, and the demonstrations unrolling from Algeria and Tunisia to Libya, Jordan, Yemen, and the Gulf States with its waves reaching Tehran, has spread across the world. It is more than welcome. Liberals and the left have greeted the democratic aspirations and secular demands of the protesters.

Some ‘anti-imperialists’ consider the unrest to be the much-waited-for blowback to a Western ‘crusade’ against Islam that carries social opposition in its train. Its client dictators, Mubarak and Ben Ali, gone, they hope for a more radical moves, revolutions with wider ambitions, social and international. They may even be, it is often whispered, occasionally said out loud, radical forces, potential allies in a push for deeper change. Comforting stories, about veiled women involved in the struggle, have circulated, sometimes designed to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion, other times to indicate its ‘progressive’ role.

Islamist groups, swathes of which have, on Curtis’s evidence, had ambiguous contacts in the past with Western states, are now held to be potential allies of the left. In the Iranian revolution, and its aftermath, such a common front has functioned to political Islam’s advantage and has not benefited any popular interest. If some Islamist groups have been prepared to work with Britain in the past, one wonders what kind of present-day agreements rival leftist suitors will reach, and what will be the result.

Divide et Impera.

Mark Curtis (interview here) takes us back to Britain’s colonial empire and its mid-twentieth century dissolution. The Raj was, he alleges (on the balance of evidence), kept in control by a strategy of divide and rule, between different groups in the sub-Continent. In the 19th century “promoting communal divisions” was deliberate policy. (Page 5)

Religious identity, a kind of ‘multiculturalist’ separate development, as promoted. From its 19th century origins in the Aligraph movement, the British looked favourably on the party that drove the demand for partition and the formation of Pakistan, the Muslim League. The ‘Muslim card’ was used against the Indian National Congress. After Indian independence the Pakistani glacis was a “strategic asset” for the Anglo-Americans. “Narenda Sarila notes that ‘ the successful use of religion by the British to fulfil political and strategic objectives in India was replicated by the Americans in building up the Islamic jihadis in Afghanistan’. (Page 34)

Geopolitics and high strategy are a specialist area, subject to infinite shifts, changing alliances, and differing judgements. But Secret Affairs unearths some coherent policies towards Islamism. In the post-Great War Middle East Britain the manager of ‘protectorates’ such as Palestine and Iraq, pursued such a complicated strategic course that there will never be a consensus about its course. Faced with the creation of the State of Israel at the end of the Second World War, “there remains disagreement as to whose ‘side’ Britain was really on ..”(Page 41) One theme however did emerge. As Curtis notes, it was during this period that British officials began to regard Islamists, of various stripes, as “bulwarks” against communism. (Page 43)

This has been a long-standing reason to collaborate with Islamism. Readers will stop at particular details of this history. Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of a galaxy of anti-communist causes (including those of the international far-right, and outright anti-Semitism), in tandem with its promotion of the “global Islamic mission” has been given free reign from the Cold War onwards. Curtis describes Indonesia’s Western endorsed massacre of up to a million ‘communists’ in 1966. “Islamist groups, trained and equipped by the Indonesian army, played a critical role in the slaughter.” (Page 97)

Britain Sends Communists to their Death.

One specific example sticks in my mind. In 1982 the Khomeini regime was brutally repressing the left, and executing thousands of them. The British obtained a list of members of the Tudeh (Iranian Communist Party) members from a Soviet defector, Vladimir Kuzichkin. MI6 and the CIA jointly decided to pass on this list to Tehran. Dozens of alleged agents were executed and more than a thousand arrested, while the party was banned. There were show trials of a 100 members (where some were sentenced to death). The British operated “in pursuit of specific common interests – the repression of the left – even though Iran was by now considered a strategic threat and overall anti-Western force.”(Page 130)

Back in the ‘sixties Islamism was also opposed to a far greater perceived threat, Arab nationalism. This is a tangled tale, with the British sometimes trying to use the Muslim Brotherhood against pan-Arabism, yet often being repulsed by the organisation’s ingrained hostility to the ‘Crusaders’. The pro-Western Egyptian President, Sadat, went with the grain in using Islamists to smash his country’s Marxist and nationalist student groups. Islamic parties and groups attracted the “urban poor”, and, more significantly, “the devout bourgeoisie, a class hitherto excluded from political power.” (Page 108)

Encouraging Islamisation turned out to be double-edged sword. Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel further pushed them towards maximalism; he ended up assassinated by al-Jihad in 1981.

The alliance between the Western powers and Islamism formed during the Afghan jihad against the rule of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was infinitely more solid and direct. Britain appears to have helped the Afghan opponents of the left before the Soviets sent in troops in 1979. When tanks rolled in Margaret Thatcher gave full backing to those fighting the “godless communist system.” US allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt (sending Islamists radicalised under Sadat) and Pakistan undertook the practical organisation of the war against the PDPA and their Soviet backers. This shored up the Saudis, already funding Islamist causes around the world, and Pakistan, then promoting an Islamisation programme and boosting its domestic far right (notably the Jamaat-i-Islami), under General Zia.

Muscular Liberals for Islamism.

Many of the ‘muscular liberals’ who now frenetically oppose Islamism, were as enthusiastic as Thatcher for the Afghan jihad. French nouveaux philosophes (such as the ubiquitous Bernard-Henri Lévy) saw it as the high-point of the fight for freedom against Moscow. There were also ‘leftists’ who saw the Mujaheddin as combatants against ‘Russian imperialism’.

They failed to foresee the fruits of their surrogates’ victory. As is well-known the fall-out from this war, which created a pool of violent Islamist activists ready for global combat, led to the Taliban regime, and, ultimately, provided a base for al-Qaeda, neither bolstered liberalism nor the left.

Amongst the Mujaheddin supporters, whether Tory, liberal or leftist, few seem to have taken seriously the ideologues who would eventually emerge to announce, that, “This [Clash of civilisations] is a very clear matter, proven in the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet, and any true believer who claims to be faithful shouldn’t doubt these truths, no matter what anybody says about them.” That “we are in a strong and brutal battle, between us and the Jews, with Israel being the spearhead, and its backers among the Zionists and Crusaders.” (Messages to the World. The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Edited by Bruce Lawrence. 2005).

Londonistan.

Many recent theatres of war, Bosnia, Albania, and Algeria, are covered in Secret Affairs. Again the traces of Western co-operation with various Islamists, and the half-wary, but intimate, relations between them are described. But perhaps the most memorable chapters are concerned with those at a distance from the battle-fields, in ‘Londonistan’. “London in the 1990s was one of the world’s major centres for radical Islamic groups organising terrorism abroad.” (Page 256)

Hw could this happen? It is claimed that a “covenant of security” was reached: that as long as the Islamists did not commit acts of terrorism in the UK, they would find this country a “safe haven”. Readers of the French press will be well aware of the anger felt in that country at the UK’s sheltering of brutal Islamic activists in the Algerian GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé). – responsible for attentats in Europe and sadistic murder in Algeria.

Other lands, where it could legitimately be shown that these refugees faced considerable danger, were also vociferous in complaining about the UK authorities’ tolerance. At times this lenience reached extraordinary levels. In 1994 Osama Bin Laden had a London office, even visiting that year. His Advice and Reformation Committee were permitted to continue (despite its transparent violent intentions) until Al-Qaeda’s East African bombings in 1988. (Page 182) There was little outrage in Britain at the murder of 224 people, mainly Africans, in these attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The policy did not end there. In the late 1990s Abu Hamza, a Special Branch contact was allowed to organise military training in England for his Supporters of the Sharia organisation. (Page 267)

Why would the British authorities have allowed Londonistan to develop? Curtis considers the view that it enabled the intelligence services to monitor and infiltrate Islamist groups. It may have been a way of cultivating relations “with possible future leaders”, help give the British a certain “influence” or “leverage” “over the internal politics” of Arab and other states. More crudely, “another major advantage of hosting radical Islamist groups in London, linked very closely to fundamental and current British foreign policy aims – the promotion of international divide and rule.”(Page 265)

The Raj and the Middle East were templates of a kind. But in present conditions encouraging divisions between states, and the Balkanisation of existing states (literally in the case of the former Yugoslavia), may be also factors. Some people in the “intelligence community” many have, even if not by formal policy, have therefore continued the policy of diviser pour mieux régner.

The public side of the British state, and the ordinary population, not to mention the left, only seem to have become concerned about Islamism in the wake of 9/11 and London’s own carnage on 7/7. The assault on the Twin Towers, that led, after the ousting of the Taliban to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was followed in 2005 by the London massacre. Suddenly heavy-handed anti-terrorism legislation was passed. the Labour government began to differentiate between ‘good’ moderate Islamists and ‘bad’ ones.

On the left some claimed that Britain was indeed at “war with Islam.” Sections of the left expressed at least “understanding” of why people would want to murder Londoners as a “legitimate target”. This is a sordid evasion of reality. Curtis remarks that, “The bombings were, to a large extent, a product of British foreign policy, not mainly since they were perpetuated by opponents of the war in Iraq, but because they derived from a terrorism infrastructure established by a Pakistani state long backed by Whitehall and involving Pakistani terrorist groups which had benefited from past British covert action.”(Page 285) Britain, he observes, prepared the ground. It “has helped marginalise secular nationalist and democratic forces within the country..”(Page 294) In the political void the Islamists have grown. Its goals, and its targets, have no anti-imperial core: they are directed towards creating a purified Islamic state and against all who will not fit into this vision. The present vicious reaction in Pakistan in favour of killing ‘blasphemers’ illustrates the priorities of this movement.

Britain and Islamism’s Future: Slouching Back to Egypt.

Secret Affairs is an eye-opener. It is primary an investigation, that rarely gets an airing, into British Realpolitik towards Islamism. It dredges up its deep roots in Britannia’s imperial past. It is also thoroughly modern. Not only are the UK’s declining international strategic interests at stake, but far-from shrinking financial ones, including Saudi financial investment and the City’s part in so-called Islamic banking and ‘Islamic finance’.

There is much further light shed on the complexities of British and American alliances, and hostilities, with Islamist forces in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Relations with regional competitors, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, and US patronage of regional insurgency against Tehran, are given due weight. From geopolitical analysis Curtis moves to political judgement. Here we find an underling continuity, not rupture between British Cabinets’ approach to Islamism. That is, its willingness to negotiate as well as threaten, to use, to co-opt the most acceptable elements, as well as imprison the recalcitrant.

Curtis has his finger on the faults in this approach. He  points to the foolhardy agreements made with Islamists who operated on British soil, and the failure to grasp how the intelligence and diplomatic services’ strategies overseas can literally ‘blow back’ towards home. Internationally, collusion with radical forces has contributed to “the rise of radical Islam and the undermining of secular, nationalist, more liberal forces…”(Page 346) If one would wish for a wider explanation of the crisis of anti-colonial nationalism, and the decline of the left in countries with Muslim majorities, Curtis’s observations should play a major part in building up a fuller left picture of the place of Islamism.

Secret Affairs has been listened to in some expected quarters. Even some who generally subscribe to the Crusader view of the West’s role in the Orient, such as John Pilger and the SWP’s Socialist Review, have reacted positively to its analysis. But how far have they thought it through ? An obvious conclusion is that Islamism has gained more from its dealings with the British state than Whitehall has.

Operating with much weaker forces, the small factions of the pro-Islamic left, if they ever reach agreements with them, will see their interests overshadowed. Strong parties, notably those in the ‘International’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, who intend to use the state as a moral actor to enforce Islamisation on people’s private lives, may find some minor advantage in encouraging a radical veneer. Justice, as for political religions of all faiths, is a slogan that only lightly covers a commitment to free-markets. The Brotherhood apparent liberal and democratic Constitutionalism has made them politically acceptable, their liberal economic policies, potential partners. *If they have some support from the urban poor, it is their base in the pious bourgeoisie that counts. They play little role in the social unrest sweeping the working class (here).

It much more likely that they will return, strengthened by the crises sweeping the Middle East, to the High Table of global politics, to negotiate, this time openly, with the British and Americans.

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* See their attempts to whitewash their racist and totalitarian past here.

See: Margaret Thatcher praised jihadists in Afghanistan

Written by Andrew Coates

September 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

Suffolk Libraries Under Threat.

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Concern Grows as Suffolk County Council Tories Try to Stop Libraries Connecting with the Public.

More than 50 jobs could go at Suffolk libraries due to budget cuts

EADT. Paul Geater.

More than 50 jobs at Suffolk libraries are under threat as the service is being forced into a major restructure following two years of serious budget cuts.

Bosses have written to 52 staff telling them that their posts are under threat. Many work only a few hours a week and the job losses amount to 15 full-time equivalent posts.

Formal consultation starts on the job losses at the start of next week and the service restructure is due to be in place by April next year – none of the county’s 44 library branches are expected to close and opening hours should not be affected.

The restructure comes after the library service budget was cut by £230,000 by Suffolk County Council in April – and that followed a £300,000 cut last year.

The service has recently been awarded a £700,000 grant by the Arts Council, but that is for a specific project and cannot be used to subsidise basic services.

Suffolk Libraries Chief Executive Alison Wheeler said this would be the first major reorganisation of the service since 1990: “Then the work of the libraries service was very different to what it is today, but we understand this will be a very difficult time for those going through the redundancy process,” she said.

Over the next two weeks there are a series of meetings for library staff across the county to hear more about the plans and those directly involved in the redundancy process will have a 45-day consultation process.

Ms Wheeler added: “We do of course recognise that this is very stressful for people affected, and we are doing what we can to ensure that they are well informed, and have plenty of opportunity to give their views.

“What we all care about is ensuring that Suffolk’s libraries have a sustainable future.”

The library service was set up as an industrial and provident society in 2012 to run Suffolk’s libraries on behalf of the county council – it relies largely on finance from the county but its buildings in towns and villages have become community hubs as well as places to borrow books.

All the branches have remained open and Ms Wheeler said this remained a key aim of the service as it prepares to restructure itself for the future. Ms Wheeler herself is planning to take early retirement from the service early in the new year once a successor has been appointed.

Campaigners opposed the creation of an Industrial and Provident society on the grounds that it would both remove direct democratic accountability for Suffolk Libraries and would not, in the long run, shelter the libraries from the hostile treatment towards all public services by the Conservative ruling group on the County Council.

Suffolk has been spared the wholesale closure of libraries that has wreaked havoc on the services in many parts of the country.

The dedicated staff are to be congratulated on their efforts to open the service to wider communities and to keep the libraries as welcoming public spaces.

But the drip drip of cuts has began to eat into the provision of books, and has led to the almost complete removal of periodicals, from Private Eye to the Times Literary Supplement, from the central library.

Coincidentally or not Suffolk Libraries was a subject of informal discussion very recently (last night) amongst Labour activists, including representatives of the Labour group on the County Council.

Volumes of important texts have been sold off for not more than a few pence.

The number of qualified – and therefore better paid –  librarians working in the service is approaching zero.

Efforts to raise money include this:

Suffolk Libraries launches new supporters’ scheme

People can sign up at three different price levels: £20 for Silver membership, £50 for Gold, or £150 for Platinum. For more information and to apply, visit the Suffolk Libraries Extra page, call 01473 351249 or visit any library. You can also email extra@suffolklibraries.co.uk if you have any questions about the scheme.

All money raised will go into a dedicated Development Fund which will be used to support and improve the services we provide.

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries, said: “Suffolk Libraries is determined to provide the best service we can to the people of Suffolk and to make a positive difference to the lives of as many people that live here, even if we face continuing financial pressures. We want to do our bit and raise additional income which will be used to improve the services we provide to communities across Suffolk.

“All our other customers will continue to get the same free services and benefits, we just want to provide something extra for those who feel able to give us some extra support.”

This is a matter of deep concern.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 26, 2017 at 11:24 am

The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. David Goodhart. Review.

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Review: The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. David Goodhart. Hurst & Company. 2017.

A golden opportunity for commentators like the Brexit vote does not often come. For some on the left, the EU ‘neoliberal elites’ were given a welcome shock. Dismissing the role that organised fear of migrant workers played during the vote the ‘People’s Assembly’ sagely observes that racism played a part “in both sides” of the referendum campaign. In New Left Review, which has begun to dabble in British politics, Tom Hazeldine, declares that while the “rhetoric of Leave was anti-immigrant; the anger that powered it to victory came from decline.” (North and South. NLR 105. 2017) An unlikely mouthpiece, the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, is recruited to express the view that it was a “vote against London”, “them down there”.

In words which could not doubt be taken from the Morning Star, Trade Unionists Against the EU, Spiked on Line, or the Socialist, and other anti “Brussels” outlets, we learn from Hazeldine that the “golden triangle of Whitehall, Westminster, St James” and the media “megaphones of the Remain Establishment”, were not strong enough to silence the voice of the authentic ‘rustbelt’ Northern proletariat, albeit – sotto voce – allied with “affluent Tory pensioners in the Tory shires.”

David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere shares many of the themes of these illustrious organs. It is billed as an essay on the faults of “metropolitan elites” and reflections on the reaction to them, the “populist revolt”, “a “socio cultural and identity phenomenon”. But the meat is in the emotions, above all the recoil from the EU. Preferring Charles Leadbeater to the Lexiters, he cites the fellow commentator, suggesting that the Brexit majority was also support “for pride, belonging, community, identity, and a sense of ‘home’ – it was rejection of the market…”(Page 53)

No doubt this is how some people think, though how many embrace the full list of opinions stuck together is hard to gauge. Goodhart makes a telling point against those who consider that a nationalist-led break up of “Ukania” (one-time New Leftist, Tom Nairn’s unfunny name for the United Kingdom, a joke so hoary I will confine it to a footnote) might escape this outpouring of glutinous sentiment, “Brexit was a movement to reclaim control/sovereignty from a supranational EU and the SNP is a movement to reclaim control/sovereignty from a multinational United Kingdom (though happy to cede sovereignty to and even more remote Brussels).”(Page 53) (1)

Somewheres and Anywheres.

The framework of The Road to Somewhere is set down by Goodhart’s distinction between “Anywheres” and “Somewheres”. The former, London urban based, university educated,  have “ a worldview for more or less successful individuals who also care about society”. They value autonomy and mobility and little interest in  “group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)”. Set in contrast to such enthusiasts for “restless change” are those who are “more socially conservative and communitarian by instinct” who are not ease with contemporary cultural and economic transformations – ‘globalisation’ “mass immigration, an achievement society in which they struggle to achieve, the reduced status of non-graduate employment and more fluid gender roles.” For some this is a pronounced geographical identity that Hazeldine claims. For others they have something in common with the constituency called in France, the ” périurbain”, at the edges of cities, and the countryside, poorly served by public services and often, ‘disconnected’ rather than rooted, linked populist voting, and the Front National. Then there is the ‘left behind‘ feeling of many UKIP supporters, amply documented (Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin. 2014) This suggests a much more fragmented set of reasons and potential electoral reservoirs for ‘revolts’ against the ‘system’, often  less identity affirmation than resentment against others.

Put simply, this capitalised distinction enables Goodhart to draw lines between the core constituencies for Remain, and those who backed Leave. That is between those who are willing to “dilute the claims of national citizenship” in a “borderless Europe and the language of universal rights”, “and those who pushed by “Anywhere overreach” are both unwilling to “relinquish most national control over economic life” and wish for, “greater respect for national citizen protections”.

While Goodhart claims that the referendum debate largely pushed these concerns away from public debate, which was between two versions of ‘Anywheres’, a claim he does not pursue in detail, the Somewheres largely plumped for Leave. He, as an “apostate Anywhere” who claims to have supported Remain, can still find the better sides of the Somewheres. Some may be xenophobic and authoritarian, but there may also be support for – oddly not unlike his own favoured policies, “localism” in a globalised world, the importance of community and duties. There is need for dialogue with a “decent populism” that respects others and strives for social solidarity. Progressives, above all Labour,  wedded to metropolitan Anywhere elite ideas, needs to go out to the left-behind Somewheres; hooking up again with issues of economic justice to form national social contracts. 

Too Diverse.

Without any surprise the author of  Too diverse? (2004) which warned of that mass immigration erodes “feelings of mutual obligation, reducing willingness to pay tax and even encourag(es)  a retreat from the public domain.”does not try, as leftists do, to duck this issue. The founder of Prospect sees the Referendum result as the occasion to underline “concern about ethnic diversity”, and, EU sanctioned, “mass immigration”, which is “in-your-face-globalisation”. This is central area for a new social contract. The time has come, Goodhart asserts, to recognise the fears of “decent populists”, “to return to lower levels of immigration, place more emphasis on stability, and also renew the national social contract, especially in post-school education and employment.”(Page 233) He goes somewhat further in suggesting a diluted form of Marine Le Pen’s ‘national preference’, “In the future, temporary citizens should have more limited social and political rights – corresponding to their own transactional relationship with the country – and should leave after a few years.”(Page 126)

These ideas are straightforward proposals for re-creating the old German Gastarbeiter system. “Temporary citizens” will not only have fewer rights abut  will also be easy to use to undermine the very pay and conditions that ‘left’ critics of EU migration already complain about.

The Sovereigntist Impasse. 

The Road to Somewhere is riddled with unresolved difficulties. How limited with these grudging rights be? And how does Goodhart propose that this will deal with the ethnic segregation and ‘parallel lives’ of existing, often third or fourth generations from previous migrations? It is wrong to dismiss the idea that to at least set out common ground in “ethnically heterogeneous societies” might lie in the appeal to universal rights that have the great merit of transcending religious and national difference?

The new social contracts are another exercise in rhetoric. Does Goodhart seriously believe that national ‘sovereign’ control over the economy is going to be created by Parliamentary fiat? That the “will of the people”, the General Will, is going to come alive, take flesh, and reside in Westminster? That, in short, that the Labour Party should embrace the ‘sovereigntism’ of the nationalist left in some European countries? In other words is “listening” and giving space to the Somewheres just a pretty cheap means to justify supporting such a  turn? 

A more grounded, left, not ‘liberal’  approach would not take as given the idea that globalisation is a political decision of elites. It is equally, if not more fundamentally,  a financial and economic process that would take global measures, beginning from the decisions of the pooled sovereignty of bodies like the European Union, to transform? That it up to the organisations of civil society, starting with the trade unions, to agitate and to bring social justice in the workplace, challenge wage and condition undercutting, and to work for a Labour government that makes these goals part of law, and, as would be the case were we part of the EU, building blocks of a social Europe, Another Europe….

One wonders how the game of reading the runes of Brexit will end. There are those now stating that Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France is the result of a (voting) majority in favour of the market and neoliberalism. Others, keen to read so much oppositional potential into the British Referendum result seem suddenly to have discovered the merits of explaining election victories by Establishment hoodwinking Goodhart, no doubt, has his explanation-kit ready to hand: Anywheres won…..

*****

(1) “Nairn uses the term ‘Ukania’ to suggest the irrational and Ruritanian nature of the British constitutional monarchy. His original source for the term is the nickname “Kakania” that Robert Musil uses for the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in The Man Without Qualities. ” The term Kakania was coined by Musil using the stem Kak – shit, cack. How we laughed! 

Chartist AGM: Labour, Preparing for Power.

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https://i1.wp.com/www.chartist.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-ChartistMhead-e1446334232250.jpg

A political earthquake in Britain has shocked the Tories. Labour made a huge advance in the June General Election while Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is now unassailable. What will happen next? Theresa May is a wounded Tory leader or ‘a dead woman walking’. The coalition of chaos is unlikely to last long. Another General Election can’t be far off. A hard Brexit and austerity look set to be ditched as part of the Tories survival strategy. So what are the likely scenarios? What must Labour do? What are the tasks for the Left?

Chartist, a journal of the democratic socialist left, held its AGM yesterday in the University of Westminster.

Around 30 people attended, including a significant group of younger activists from Tower Hamlets Momentum.

Buoyed up by the encouraging General Election results, a series of important, open-minded, discussions took place around the aftermath of Brexit. In everybody’s mind was the possibility of a future Labour government.

In the morning John Palmer, former European Editor of the Guardian and a veteran of the radical democratic left, outlined the problems that Brexit brings. From a pro-European stand – John evoked the goal of a social, socialist united Europe – argued that the ‘cliff edge’ strategy of the Theresa May government has reached an impasse. The voice of British capital, muted during the referendum, has begun to be heard, now loudly warning of the consequences of leaving the EU for the economy. How far Labour’s position on Brexit, recognising the result of the Leave vote, and letting the process of leaving proceed relatively unhindered, will be sustainable remains open, above all in view of the support of the majority of Labour members for Remain and the overwhelming pro-European views of young people.

Ann Pettifor, Prime Economics and an Adviser to John McDonnell, focused on Labour’s economic policies. She argued, drawing on her recent book,(The Production of Money. How to Break the Power of Bankers. 2017) that a Corbyn government should boost the economy.  Concerned that Labour appears reluctant to commit to a programme of increased public spending Pettifor explained money creation. Her views, summarised here, Could a Labour government safely borrow to invest and spend? are a programme for radical re-tilting of a left-government.

Speakers from the audience raised issues about the Labour Manifesto’s strengths, and weaknesses, were raised. Its cautious approach, marked in the refusal to challenge the benefits freeze, was, perhaps, it was said, the result of the short-time in which the document was prepared. But for the future much more detailed and thorough-going proposals are needed. Pettifor’s bold approach was, some argued, in need of elaboration and justification.

It is equally the case the role of right-wing, former Blair and Brown supporting MPs who are hostile to any left-wing policies, has played a damaging role in Labour’s attempts to strike out in a new direction, despite the growing popular support for Corbyn and his ideas, often, Pettifor remarked, in advance of the Party.

“On the Brexit issue the problem of Sovereignty remains a live one. The view was expressed that the ‘sovereigntist’ left, whilst only attracting a minority amongst Labour Party members, still retains influence. The reaction of expressed by one of the editors of the ‘flagship of the Western Intellectual left’, New Left Review, that Brexit was a welcome “Big kick up the backside” for the EU, or more overtly nationalist positions, have to be challenged.

Pettifor made the bold claim that it was the loss of democratic power in an earlier phase of globalisation which had led to the rise of the 1930s Fascism and Nazism. The post-War process of globalisation encouraged the rise of extreme-right populism today.

A couple of dissenting voices from the anti-EU quarter aside, Chartist supporters remained committed to the internationalist European project.

But how this can be carried forward remains an open question.

One theme emerged during the discussion, the need for Labour to engage in open policy debate and formation. It was a common thread throughout the day.

In the afternoon, Don Flynn, from a background in the Migrant Rights Network, raised a number of further issues about populism and argued that there may well be radical variants that the left can engage with. Don also expressed caution about Labour’s prospects, “we can still mess things up” he observed.

Julie Ward, Labour Co-Op for North West England made an impassioned speech in favour of the European Union, illustrated by her experience in being able to to promote progressive campaigns through through the Brussels and Strasbourg Parliament. Ward questioned the legitimacy of the Referendum, which had earlier been criticised  as an inappropriate means, in a representative democracy,  to deal with the issue of British membership. The MEP hoped that Brexit may not yet come to pass.

Puru Miah, from the Momentum national committee, described the work of the group’s activists. One feature stuck out, Momentum is in the process of developing a system of canvassing which does more than “register” the opinions of those on the doorstep, but tries to engage with the views of the public.

In the final session Mike Davis reiterated the issue of policy making. Many Chartist supporters are closely engaged in this process, on issues such as Housing, Welfare, local government and migrant rights. While not rejecting the existing system of Policy Commissions it was felt that more transparent ways, based on wider democratic participation,  of making decisions about what becomes part of the Labour Manifesto are a key to a radical reforming Labour government’s success.

One concern was aired: that not all of the Labour Leader’s advisers came from the democratic socialist tradition and were not always open to ideas from quarters outside their circle.

The day’s debates were ably chaired,  and this is not an exaggeration, the content was exceptional.

It is to be hoped that as a vehicle for a variety of democratic socialist, green, and feminist voices, Chartist will play a part not just in campaigning for a Labour victory but in shaping the party’s policies in a left direction.

The following recent article, by a comrade with great experience in the area, Duncan Bowie, comes highly recommended:

Grenfell fire – an indictment of government

Saudi Arabia chief foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the UK: time for the Left to respond.

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Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia in April

Theresa May with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud in April

Saudi Arabia is the chief foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the UK, a report has warned.

The conservative Henry Jackson Society said there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations preaching violence and foreign state funding.

In a new report entitled “Foreign Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK”, the thinktank calls for a public inquiry into extremism bankrolled by other countries.

It suggests several Gulf states and Iran are responsible for much of the foreign funding of extremism in the UK, but that Saudi Arabia in particular had spent millions on exporting its conservative branch of Wahhabi Islam to Muslim communities in the West since the 1960s.

The thinktank, run by controversial journalist and political commentator Douglas Murray, said this typically took the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions which host radical preachers and distribute extremist literature.

The report calls for a public inquiry in Saudi Arabia’s connections with UK based extremism.

The UK’s Saudi Arabian embassy told the BBC the allegations were “categorically false”.

The Henry Jackson Society is not a friend of the left. But this report cannot be dismissed. The left needs to come up with a response to Islamism. Opposing anti-Muslim racism does not mean protecting the ideology of Islamism and the actions of violent Islamists.These are opponents of human rights, the enemy of all democrats, feminists, progressives and the left. We have to oppose all forms of Islamism, but above all the jihadists.

The Guardian reports,

Tom Wilson, a fellow at the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at the society – and author of the report, said: “While countries from across the Gulf and Iran have been guilty of advancing extremism, Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly at the top of the list.

“Research indicates that some Saudi individuals and foundations have been heavily involved in exporting an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology. So it is ironic, to say the least, that Saudi Arabia is singling out Qatar for links to extremism when it has patently failed to get its own house in order.”

The report argues that although Saudi leaders have acknowledged the need to rein in some of the funding of extremism, including by setting up a counter extremism centre this year, the level of funding of Wahhabism has been on the increase.

It claims in 2007 Saudi Arabia was estimated to be spending at least $2bn (£1.5bn) annually on promoting Wahhabism worldwide. By 2015 that figure was believed to have doubled.

The impact of this increased spending may well have been felt in Britain: in 2007, estimates put the number of mosques in Britain adhering to Salafism and Wahhabism at 68. Seven years later, the number of British mosques identified with Wahhabism had risen to 110.

It argues that Saudi Islamic charitable groups have tended to fund Wahhabist ideology. Some of Britain’s most prominent extremist preachers — such as Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza, Abdullah al Faisal and Shiekh Omar Bakri — have all sat within what can be described as a broadly Wahhabi/Salafi ideology, the report says. In 2014, it was estimated that Britain’s Salafi Mosques had a collective capacity for a 44,994-strong membership.

The report by no means exclusively blames Saudi – pointing out that the Qatari-funded Al-Muntada Trust has been connected with a number of mosques where radicalisation has taken place. Specifically, in the case of a group of young British men from Cardiff, it has been suggested that “attendance at the al-Muntada-linked Al-Manar Mosque was significant in their radicalisation and decision to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State”.

In its own outline the Report says,

  • The foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain primarily comes from governments and government linked foundations based in the Gulf, as well as Iran.
  • Foremost among these has been Saudi Arabia, which since the 1960s has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West.
  • In the UK, this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions, which have apparently, in turn, played host to Islamist extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature. Influence has also been exerted through the training of British Muslim religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of Saudi textbooks in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools.
  • A number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are apparently linked to Islamist extremism sponsored from overseas, either by having studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or by having been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself.
  • There have been numerous cases of British individuals who have joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria whose radicalisation is thought to link back to foreign funded institutions and preachers.

This comes after this (the Blaze)

Intelligence officers have said they have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists living in the United Kingdom, according to a report by the Times of London on Saturday.

Of the 23,000 radical jihadists identified in the United Kingdom, the intelligence sources said about 3,000 are believed to pose a “threat” and are currently being investigated or actively monitored. “The 20,000 others have featured in previous inquiries and are categorised as posing a ‘residual risk,’” reported the Times.

The BBC  stated earlier this year,

Approximately 850 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, say the British authorities.

This BBC News database is the most comprehensive public record of its kind, telling the story of over 100 people from the UK who have been convicted of offences relating to the conflict and over 150 others who have either died or are still in the region.

Many of these people, the modern-day equivalent of those who joined the Nazi Einsatzgruppen have committed war crimes.

The jihadists of Daesh above all have murdered Syrian, Kurds and Iraqis,  enslaved and committed genocide against our Yazidi sisters and brothers (Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL).

They need to be brought to justice.

Defence of universal human rights begins with the fight against the ideas and the people who give the jihadists succor and support.