Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Conservative Party’ Category

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

with one comment

Image result for the road to somewhere

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.

with 4 comments

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.

with 4 comments

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.

 

Day of Rage, UK Right-Wing Press Goes Hysteria.

with 14 comments

Day of Rage campaign poster

This is happening today.

Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessaryshared their event.

17 June at 15:32 · 

#JusticeForGrenfell #Justice4Grenfell

We returned to the site today, speaking with people who live locally, people who came from all sides of London & outside. All races and ethnicities, all faiths and none, migrants and citizens, ALL of us coming together to grieve, to connect, and to fight so this never happens again. ALL of us are London, we are ALL Britain.

This government has presided over thousands of deaths from 7 years of austerity and anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant racism and bigotry. THEY NEED TO GO. NOW.

* MARCH * STRIKE * WALK OUT *
21/06/17 Queens speech – march on Parliament. We march from Shepherds Bush to Westminster.

We have came out and shown in the last elections what society we want: progressive, equal, just, hopeful. And we will fight for it by any means necessary. May’s coalition of millionaires & bigots must go, if we are to win a progressive hopeful future for all.

On Wednesday 21st
Bring your rage, bring your anger, bring your hurt, we will be loud and bold, speaking the only language the rich and powerful understand: a mass integrated movement in the streets.

#DayOfRagehttps://www.facebook.com/events/1490621807662608/?ti=icl

#BringDownTheGovernment

The Daily Mail boils with its own rage,

If Jeremy Corbyn truly believed in democracy, he’d roundly condemn today’s ‘Day of Rage’, organised by the storm troops of the hard Left to bring London to a halt and help overthrow the Government.

Leave aside the sickening way his Marxist supporters have exploited the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire to promote their hate-filled agenda – ‘hijacking our grief’, in the words of local residents and churches.

The very thought of a revolutionary mob seeking to overturn an election result should horrify anyone who cherishes our constitution and rule of law.

Yet from the Labour leader, deafening silence. Worse, he has pandered to protesters’ thirst for class war by echoing their demands to seize the empty homes of the rich.

As for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, yes, he has said half-heartedly that he ‘repudiates’ the Day of Rage. Yet as the Mail reveals, he has given his backing in the past to the protest’s organisers from the chillingly-named Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary.
Meanwhile, this man who would be chancellor has egged on union militants to topple Theresa May in a ‘Red October’, with mass protests and a summer of strikes that could do untold harm to the economy.

During the election, Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell presented themselves as misunderstood idealists. How quickly the mask has slipped. And what a warning to anyone tempted to give them power.

The Evening Standard adds,

Stand Up To Racism has organised a demo for 6pm called: “Protest the Queen’s speech – no to May/DUP racism & bigotry!”

London Socialist Party is hosting a Facebook event called “May Must Go! Protest the Queen’s Speech” which is scheduled for 4pm.

One assumes they are both going to protest against the Queen’s Speech, unless they are organising the event from Washington DC.

Grenfell Tower fire: Local residents do not want their ‘grief hijacked’ by ‘Day of Rage’ protest

This report is more significant, from Get West London.

“They’re angry, they’re grieving but they are working to bring about positive change”

Some of the residents who have been affected by the fatal Grenfell Tower fire , have talked about having their ‘grief hijacked’ following the announcement of the ‘Day of Rage’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament.

According to the Clement James Centre, a local educational charity which has provided temporary shelter for residents, those affected by the fire do not support the planned protest.

Posting on Twitter, the Clement James Centre said: “There has been a ‘Day of Rage’ announced for Wednesday, trying to bring London to a standstill.

“We cannot emphasise enough how against this many of the affected residents we’ve spoken to are and they do not want their grief hijacked for any violent or destructive means.

They’re angry, they’re grieving but they are working to bring about positive change and action through conversations with the right people.

“They want their voices about this to be heard just as loudly.

“If the streets are closed, we cannot effectively continue our aid operation in the area, and if any violence ensues, the issue takes a whole new direction.”

The charity also spoke of a #peaceforlatimer trend, where the local community are trying white ribbons around their wrists to ensure their message is heard.

Others have condemned the “Day of Rage” protest, Facebook user, Joanne Green posted on the event, saying: “Rioting will not work. It will destroy the last 2 years of hard work that we have done to get this close to a real Revolution as is possible.”

To which the event organisers replied: “Where exactly are you seeing that we are calling for a ‘riot’?

“We don’t let the fears of those who oppress us determine how we fight”

Activists will also take note of the following, which I agree wholeheartedly with:

Another post on the event, by London Black Revs, who describe themselves on Facebook as a “self-determined working class URBAN and strictly working class revolutionary organisation”, says: “Were residents consulted on this?

“They are really against having a demonstration without being told, asked or leading it, especially for other political agendas, which may or may not be important.

“There is a lot of anger locally that things are being done in Grenfell’s name and they’ve not had the time to even bury their family members.”

But,

The organisers replied by saying: “We have been in the community for several days now, speaking to hundreds of people, many who have friends and loved ones missing or dead.

“We’ve had tonnes of support, people taking flyers, saying they are coming, wanting to speak out about their experiences.”

*****

This Wikipedia account of the Movement for Justice is said to be broadly correct – according to our sources.

One should add that their site, Movement for Justice, does not seem to have been updated since 2013, and people indicate that they may have less than a dozen supporters.

Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary

“The Movement for Justice was set up in 1995 by people around the Kingsway College Student Union in the London Borough of Camden to tackle racism in institutional and established forms. The group confronted organised fascism as well as death in custody and wider racism to black people as well as travellers, refugees and asylum seekers. It is also the sister group to the American organization The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which has been accused of being a cult by former members. Movement for Justice is headed up by members of the Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL), a Trotskyist group.”

The origins of this group are obscure even by Trotskist standards<

“The Workers Internationalist League was a Trotskyist group in Britain founded in the summer of 1983 by the Internationalist Faction of the Workers Socialist League. It was the British affiliate of the Trotskyist International Liaison Committee until that body was renamed the International Trotskyist Committee.

Although a small group, it immediately moved to producing a paper which was called Workers’ International News in mimicry of the magazine of the war-time Workers International League. For a small group of no more than 35 members this was a major undertaking.

The main concern of the new group was to clarify its ideas and where to concentrate their work. Therefore the question of how to orient to the Labour Party was a major area of debate. On the one hand, comrades around Mike Jones, close to the views of the Workers’ Party (Argentina) (PO), were for working in the Labour Party Young Socialists and were hostile to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International forces then in the Labour Party. This was an important question for the group as the Italian section of the TILC moved to join the USFI group in that country. On the other extreme of the group, Chris Erswell was supportive of the Italian TILC group’s orientation.

Meanwhile the senior leader of the WIL, Pete Flack, found himself isolated when the rest of the National Committee opposed the Italian tactic of fusion with the USFI. The WIL was being pulled in different directions by other Trotskyist tendencies, with the TILC, PO and the Workers Power group all representing different poles of attraction. This became obvious at the first national conference of the group, held in December 1983.

The conference solved none of the problems of the group and in January 1984 eleven supporters of the TILC left the WIL to establish the Workers International Review Group. The TILC refused to make them their official British section, instead choosing TILC sympathisers still in the WIL. They formed a Tendency for Political Clarification which was itself clarified when 3 of its 5 members left to join Workers Power. The remaining two members of the tendency then formed a Liaison Committee with the Workers International Review Group which led to the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist League in November 1984,[2] which was the British section of the International Trotskyist Committee (formed that summer from the TILC) until its split in 1991. The rump WIL would seem to have expired in the meantime.

The WSL was originally a faction inside the Workers’ Revolutionary Party.

French Legislative Elections: A Victory for Social Liberalism against Populism?

with 14 comments

Seats in the Assemblée Nationale.

Nuances de candidats Nombre de sièges
Extrême gauche 0
Parti communiste français 10
La France insoumise 17
Parti socialiste 29
Parti radical de gauche 3
Divers gauche 12
Ecologiste 1
Divers 3
Régionaliste 5
La République en marche 308
Modem 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 18
Les Républicains 113
Divers droite 6
Debout la France 1
Front National 8
Extrême droite 1

 

Percentages of the vote and abstention (57,36%)

Nuances de candidats Voix % inscrits % exprimés Nombre de sièges
Parti communiste français 217 833 0,46 1,20 10
La France insoumise 883 786 1,87 4,86 17
Parti socialiste 1 032 985 2,18 5,68 29
Parti radical de gauche 64 860 0,14 0,36 3
Divers gauche 263 619 0,56 1,45 11
Ecologiste 23 197 0,05 0,13 1
Divers 100 574 0,21 0,55 3
Régionaliste 137 453 0,29 0,76 5
La République en marche 7 826 432 16,55 43,06 306
Modem 1 100 790 2,33 6,06 42
Union des Démocrates et Indépendants 551 760 1,17 3,04 17
Les Républicains 4 040 016 8,54 22,23 113
Divers droite 306 240 0,65 1,68 6
Debout la France 17 344 0,04 0,10 1
Front National 1 590 858 3,36 8,75 8
Extrême droite 19 030 0,04 0,10
Nombre % inscrits % votants
Inscrits 47 292 967
Abstentions 27 125 535 57,36
Votants 20 167 432 42,64
Blancs 1 397 496 2,95 6,93
Nuls 593 159 1,25 2,94
Exprimés 19 176 177 38,43 90,13
Ministère de l'Interieur

interieur.gouv.fr  MINISTÈRE DE L’INTÉRIEUR Second Round.

This morning on the French radio the expected news of the triumph Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche was immediately followed by an announcement that  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would tolerate no pot-shots at his government from his own quarter. The fresh-faced majority would not see its own deputies becoming “frondeurs” – critics that the right-wing of the Parti Socialiste  now blame for their own crushing defeat, from the Presidential elections to the legislatives.

To one admirer of the new President,  Will Hutton, “Macronism is the emergence of a fresh grounded economic and political philosophy – a landmark moment.” (Macron has led a brilliant coup – could the British now do the same? Observer). In the grip of enthusiasm he continues, “An ancien regime of tired and corrupt conservative and socialist politicians, indissolubly linked to the immobilisme that has plagued France, has been swept away.”

As in Macron Minister Richard Ferrand (accusation of dodgy property deals) Justice Minister and leader of Macron’s allied party, the Modems, François Bayrou (alleged misuse of European funding)…..

Hutton’s 1995, The State We’re In, proposed a ” radical social democratic ” programme for Tony Blair’s Labour Party, with a strong dose of constitutional reform – apparently the key condition for  transforming the UK’s dominance by financial interests – as the answer to British economic difficulties. It drew support from a constituency that emerged at the end-tail of the ‘New Times’ politics of the disintegrating Democratic Left, the largest Eurocommunist tendency of the former  Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), some within the Trade Union Congress, and the liberal left. He has since sifted  through a variety of ever more diluted versions of these themes, ending up with a plea for “fairness” in Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society (2010), and others whose contents I defy anybody to remember anything about.

In the latest of the columnist’s band-wagon efforts his embrace of the glimmer of a new ‘progressive’ movement – it seems that Macron is keen on “social investment” is on very wobbly ground indeed.

Hutton rushes overboard to back the very measure which will raise the hackles of the French trade union majority – apart from the ‘negotiating reformists of the CFDT – ‘reform of the labour market’. This “loosening” of the Code du travail met with mass protests and strikes in 2016.

Will Macron’s priority for legislation in this area, apparently based on a (vaguely sketched) ‘Nordic Model’ though perhaps the ability to sack at will does not figure there, run into a similar storm?

The subject is not mentioned.

A Defeat for Populism?

Macron has been described as populist, in the sense that his idea of ‘progressive’ is ‘beyond left and right’ and is, well, popular. But there is little else to tie him to the debate about populism. He does not support the incarnation of the People in France, or pit the Nation’s sovereignty against Europe and Globalisation. He is not anti-pluralist, En Marche! does not promote  an exclusive form of identity, aim at actual or potential ‘occupancy’ of the state, the suppression of civil society and pluralism, or use any form of demagogy.

Macron’s policies on the European Union (pro, with the promotion of reform) and globalisation (pro- but moderated)  are anti-populist.

So how do we begin to come to grips with his politics?

Since the Referendum Campaign and the victory of Brexit, and Trump’s election, many commentators have talked up the ‘populist wave’.  David Goodhart (The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. 2017) talked of “values tribes”. The somewhere people – those rooted in a specific place or community –  were contrasted with the anywhere people, urban, socially liberal and university educated.

Macron’s party, with its strong support (up to 90% in Paris) in cities and amongst those with degrees, open minded on social issues, liberal on equal rights and  equality of opportunity is  anywhere placed and given a location. These French anywheres  have been beaten off the somewheres, the ‘periurban. the inhabitants of France’s ‘rust belt’ who voted for the Front National.

The constituency of En Marche!, one suspects, is less ‘socially liberal’ on policies  that cost money and taxes, real equality, or is social in the sense of engaging with the social struggles waged by trade unions.

The ‘freedom’ of the market come first.

But this is only the beginning of efforts to come to terms with Macron, and his party-movement.

The Basis For French Political Realignment. 

Thibault Muzergues (Le réalignement politique n’est pas vraiment idéologique, il est d’abord sociologique) fleshed out the sociology behind the changing French political scene.  First of all Muzergues  talks of “millennials“, white I find this claim goes against the observable pattern) , educated, frustrated at not finding a job, and one could add, at the cost of higher education, above all at the continued fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, austerity. They tend to back the radical left, Corbyn in the UK, Podemos in Spain, and La France Insoumise in the Hexagogne.

Then there is a “white minority”, the left behind, the inhabitants of the ‘rust belts’ in Europe (and the USA). They are the ‘losers’ of globalisation. They tend to back the Front National, supported Brexit, and, obviously, Trump.

Next is the  the “creative class”, the winners of globalization, cosmopolitan Bobos (bohemian bourgeois), from high-flyers to right-wing smug Hipsters (I add this latter bit off my own back) who are Macron’s constituency.

Finally, Muzergues sketches as those attached to their ‘somewheres’, “terroir’ et tradition’, They are the polar opposite of the Bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who like Macron. The “boubours” (bourgeois-bourrin, which comrade Google translates, as “philistine nag” and I would say something approaching Essex Man) are as much a part of this cohort as the French equivalent of Home Counties pious Tories. Unlike their British counterparts  included in their conservative values are the existing system of social protection (in France, and no doubt the UK – the Welfare state, notably for the elderly). These lean towards the classical right, Les Républicains onwards.

The game of identifying the constituencies in the new French political landscape will no doubt continue, with the addition of exploration of the largest body in this second round: the abstentionists, who included 4,2% who voted, blank or spoiled ballot papers.

For one person at least, Mélenchon  not voting was a form of “civic strike” “forme de grève civique) , a protest whsope negry can be deployed in futrue against Macron (France Culture)

But if Muzergues tends to work backwards, from the choices on the ballot, voting patterns, to constituencies, it is a better framework than the somewhere/anywhere couple. It  has the merit of outlining one group which appears distinct from the sterile distinction between populist salt of the earth anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation somewheres and the urbane creatives. The constituency of the millennials is an interesting one and has can be seen to have parallels elsewhere, in the United Kingdom and the basis of much support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to start with. A lot more needs to be added on the Front National, which I will postpone until the slew of  post-election books arrives.

End of Left and Right?

There has  clearly a game-changing series of changes in this election. Some argue that these new voting blocs are overshadowed by a profound transformations in French political topography.   This year’s elections have undermined the traditional blocs of left and right, as organised and  institutionalised parties, bodies with histories dating to the early years of the 20th century – Socialists, to the foundation of the  Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO, in 1905 – with origins still further back to the tumult and aftermath of the French Revolution.

An emerging political system which centres on personalities and their ‘movements‘ , as it is emerging in France, sidelining decades of a (complex) left-right party system, is without direct counterparts elsewhere. Even Italy, after the break up of the Communist Party, continues to cling to a  stem of organised parties, and the 5 Star movement looks well  past its peak.  (Pierre Rosanvallon : « L’élection de Macron redéfinit le clivage droite-gauche ». 17.6.17)

That the Parti Socialiste has managed to get 29 seats with a pitiful 5,68% of the vote, masks its own split between those who consider that they are “Macron compatible” and those hostile to him. One of them  Myriam El Khomri, in whose name the previous labour ‘reform’ was carried out, lost to the traditional right in the second round on Sunday. The Socialist Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, was also eliminated in the first round. As a sign of their divisions, Hamon then called for a vote for La France insoumise  in the constituency where his  PS rival, Manuel Valls, was standing.

Re-founding the Left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  La France insoumise (LFI) now has a parliamentary group. Apart from those primarily devoted to his own person it includes, François Ruffin, the author of the film Merci patron!, credited with inspiring the Nuit Debout movement, and Clémentine Autain, the independent minded spokesperson for the left alliance Ensemble (Législatives 2017 : La France insoumise de Mélenchon aura un groupe à l’Assemblée nationale.

How far they will fit in with the Left Populist leader’s plans to lead the People against the Oligarchy, and whether agreements can be reached with the 10 Communist deputies, pleased not to have erased from the electoral map, as once seemed possible (Législatives : le PCF retrouve quelques sièges historiquesremains to be seen.

Their priority will obviously be to defeat Macron’s plans to liberalise the labour market by weakening employees’ rights.

In the longer term many have called for a profound re-thinking of the basis on which the left has stood, and the future of all forms of socialism. (1)

Their debates will be of great interest to the whole European and international left.

As the ‘incarnation of the programme’ Mélenchon may not have to face people who might disagree with him inside his rally, La France Insoumise that Pablo Iglesias has found in  Podemos, or opponents of the statue of Íñigo Errejón.  But it may well be that he’ll find that he meets his equals in the new National Assembly, people who are more interested in this re-foundation of the left than in an individual’s plans for the French People.

*********

(1) The Parti Socialiste General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis in his resignation speech called for thoroughgoing change “La gauche doit tout changer, la forme comme le fond, ses idées comme ses organisations. La gauche doit ouvrir un nouveau cycle. Il s’agit de repenser les racines du progressisme, car ses deux piliers – l’État providence et l’extension continue des libertés – sont remis en cause. Il s’agit donc de repenser l’action publique, en mêlant principe d’efficacité et demande citoyenne. C’est le socle indispensable d’une nouvelle offre politique à gauche pour contrer à la fois le néolibéralisme et le nationalisme.”

More Information: France 24.

Record abstention

While Macron’s triumph paves the way for the sweeping reforms he has promised, it also comes with a number of important caveats, starting with the massive level of abstention that made it possible. For the first time in history, turnout in a legislative election has slumped to below 50%, in both rounds. On Sunday, a mere 43% of voters bothered to cast their ballots. This means the 42% of votes won by LREM candidates account for less than 20% of registered voters.

The record level of abstention underscored the widespread election fatigue accumulated over more than 12 months of non-stop campaigning, successive primaries, and a two-round presidential election. It also highlighted the imbalance inherent to France’s electoral system, in which legislative polls tend to be seen as a sideshow to the all-important presidential bout. With his hyper-personalisation of politics, Macron has dramatically increased this discrepancy.

Above all, the measly turnout reflected voters’ widespread disgust with the mainstream parties of right and left that have dominated French politics for decades. A few weeks ago, the conservative Les Républicains were still hoping to win a majority of seats. As results trickled in on Sunday, they were projected to win just 126, their lowest-ever tally. Reflecting on the debacle, their campaign leader François Baroin had little to offer, besides wishing Macron “good luck”.

Socialist wipe-out

As for the former ruling Socialists, they slumped to an all-time low of 29 seats. Last week saw the first-round exits of party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadélis and presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. More heavyweights fell on Sunday, including former education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who was seen as one of the party’s rising stars. As the scale of the defeat became obvious, Cambadélis announced his resignation, adding that “Macron’s triumph is uncontestable”.

Among the survivors from left and right, several have already pledged to support the “presidential majority”. They include former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, who saved his seat in the Essonne, south of Paris, by a mere 139 votes – and only because LREM chose not to field a candidate against him. His far-left opponent has challenged the result alleging voter fraud, and a recount is on the cards.

Indicative of the extraordinary realignment of French politics was a flashpoint contest in northern Paris, in which centrist Socialist candidate Myriam El Khomri enjoyed Macron’s support, while her conservative challenger Pierre-Yves Bournazel was backed by Macron’s prime minister. Victory went to the latter, marking a huge upset in a constituency that was once solidly left-wing.

Le Pen enters parliament

While LREM capitalised on the anti-establishment sentiment, other parties that had been hoping to ride the same wave fell way short of their objectives. It was notably the case of the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in last month’s presidential contest, which failed to translate its strong showing in presidential polls into a large parliamentary contingent.

The Grenfell Tragedy and Class War.

with 14 comments

https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/1267C/production/_96488357_tower_sequence.png

“Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.”

The Evening Standard has just reported,

Grenfell Tower estate residents: Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.

Distraught residents of the estate where at least 17 people were killed in a horrific tower block blaze have told how they believe safety concerns were ignored because officials “don’t care” about working class people.

Residents living in tower blocks close to Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West estate said they were now “scared” for their own safety, and that managers and the council had not acted on concerns raised in meetings.

It comes after it emerged a resident of the tower block had written a chilling blog post after a renovation in 2016, saying only a “catastrophe” would lead to changes being made.

…..

Scrawled alongside tributes to victims on a wall outside Latymer Community Centre were messages calling for “justice for Grenfell.”

Another referenced “poor people politics”.

Cye Elliot, 75, a visa adviser who lives close to the estate, said: “It’s just total neglect.

“It’s arrogance, disrespecting people. Because they were working class they can get away with it.

He added: “You see the block where all these people were killed and then you see the people coming along with the kids going to private schools. It’s poignant.”

 

The Grenfell Tragedy is Class War

Writes Phil, A Very Public Sociologist.

The victims of yesterday’s fire at the Grenfell tower in north Kensington are casualties of the class war. There is no other frame, no other explanation that can convincingly thread together the answers to questions about how this unnecessary and entirely avoidable tragedy happened, and why it was allowed to happen.

Shiraz Socialist posts,

Grenfell Action Group: “All our warnings fell on deaf ears”

It is becoming apparent that the residents of Grenfell Tower had made repeated representations to the (Tory) Council and the so-called Tenant Management Committee, about their fears over the safety of the building. But these were poor working class people, isolated within a prosperous borough. They were ignored, as the Grenfell Action Group’s blog demonstrates.

The Guardian carries this story,

Grenfell Tower fire is corporate manslaughter, says Labour MP

David Lammy, whose friend is missing after the blaze, calls for arrests, as confirmed death toll rises to 17.

….

Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, whose friend Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower and were missing, gave a voice to the growing anger in the community.

“This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. And there should be arrests made; frankly, it is an outrage,” he said.

“Many of us across the country have been caught up in an election knocking on housing estate doors, travelling up to the top floors of tower blocks and we know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable.”

….

The newly elected Labour MP for the area, Emma Dent Coad, said there was growing fear among residents made homeless by the fire that they would be rehoused outside of the borough, in cheaper housing in places far from London, such as Hastings or Peterborough, where the council has tried to rehouse tenants previously.

“I can’t help thinking that poor quality materials and construction standards may have played a part in this hideous and unforgivable event,” she said.

The Mirror says

Grenfell Tower fire shows that the poor and working class are once again left behind to live in danger

The face of Grenfell is like the face of so many tower blocks across Britain – residents rely on the state to keep them safe and I fear they have been failed

….

There are real questions about the viability of these buildings.

New high rises being built across the capital are largely luxury apartments and pent-houses, and of course they are equipped with sprinkler systems, fire-proof walls and fire escapes.

Yet again we have one rule for the rich and the poor are being left behind and left in danger.

There is also this claim (Vox Political): Outsourcing firm Capita runs ‘catastrophic’ dispatch system that delays firefighters.

The Tories outsourced the fire and rescue service dispatching system to outsourcing profit-maker Capita in 2012. As a result, it doesn’t work.

After the horrific scenes we witnessed there is great sadness and great anger across the country. There is little doubt that nobody is going to stop talking about the class issues involved; the simple reason is that it the contrast with the Tower bloc’s neighbours is so stark, as anybody who has visited the borough can see, feel and touch. The image of the burning building is imprinted in millions of minds. A kind of whirling machine of faults that surrounds the origins and response to the tragedy, and the response to it, incarnated in the gruesome figure of Theresa May, the Council and its outsourced companies.

More than anything, it’s that the residents will not keep  their rage to themselves.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Ipswich Tory Candidate, Benedict Gummer, Goes Poet: After “Marxist Hell”, “Beauty matters, because people do”.

with 3 comments

Image may contain: text

Tory Propaganda: “Punative” (sic) Hell that Ben Gummer is Determined to Reject.

Posted under the rubric ‘News’ Benedict Gummer, Ipswich Tory Candidate, writes,

Beauty matters, because people do.

Ben is a bit of an expert on the former Eastern bloc.

He once spent a short holiday there with his dad the Right Hon John Gummer, after the collapse of Communist, oh, and over two decades back.

On this basis he declares:

It was a Marxist hell...

Ben’s anfractuous account of this short trip is the occasion for a cantillation on the Orwell Bridge, Ipswich and ends with an eucatastrophe.

He states, “Why do I bring this now?”

” I was struck recently by one of John Norman’s many excellent pieces for the Ipswich Star, in which he described the creation of Alton Water and the complicated way in which water is moved about Ipswich to ensure that when we turn a tap, something fresh and potable comes out.

We learn,

One detail I did not know: that through the middle of the Orwell Bridge is a large pipe, that carries water from Alton to the Felixstowe peninsula.  It was a good reminder of the hidden services that are all over the place, without which modernity would be finished.

From the Marxist hell to the heaven – “simple and beautiful”  – that is the Orwell Bridge but a logical step in the mind of a man of poetic depth.

Benny concludes,

“If you value beauty in our built environment, you value people too. “

Yet, “If you accept poor design and an ugly environment, you also implicitly condemn the people who must live and work in those places to a life less happy and contented than they would otherwise enjoy.”

“…as our town rises from its own long period of neglect, it will show its resurgence by its recovery of beauty and charm.”

Modestly his web site contains a picture where you can click showing how his efforts, street by street,  are bringing pulchritude and delightfulness to Ipswich

Ben’s Biggest Achievements for Ipswich so far

Click here to find out what Ben is achieving in your local area.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 31, 2017 at 3:49 pm