Archive for the ‘Conservatives’ Category
Crisis-Riven Momentum Shifts to National Populism: “This our Brexit”, “Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.”
Momentum to Narrative Farage and Brexit Back Under Control.
Momentum is undergoing a major crisis, amidst factional fighting and personal antagonisms.
This git so bad earlier this month that it appeared in the mainstream media (How Momentum entered the crisis zone . Momentum was the engine of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Now a civil war is tearing it apart. New Statesman)
Some of the exchanges are far worse than have been made public to a wider audience.
The latest has been an interminable dispute about its national structures.
It began with this, “MxV, an innovative digital democracy platform to enable Momentum members to shape the organisation’s purpose, ethics and structures.”
An on-line consultation resulted, we hear, in more suggestions for how the group should be run than a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of pin (see: Democracy denied: Momentum’s online democracy platform.)
Or, the classic Left Unity conference debate on such issues.
Now Momentum is set to collapse into further in-fighting as the pro-Brexit – that is Lexit – Populists take the initiative.
We observe that this ‘initiative’ has not been discussed with the Momentum membership at all.
‘Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.
Momentum has announced it is to host a series of nationwide events and debates to coincide with Government’s triggering of Article 50 in 2017.
Alongside The World Transformed the organisation – set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as Labour leader – will launch a series of political and cultural events in local communities across the country.
The events will run under the name ‘Take Back Control’ – the political slogan used by the Leave campaign during the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
Emma Rees, one of Momentum’s national organisers, told The Independent: “After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”
Lotte Boumelha, a Take Back Control organiser, *added: “Theresa May claims ‘Brexit means Brexit’. But this empty phrase has been used to hide the fact that the government is in chaos. Many people, both leave and remain voters, have felt dis-empowered since the referendum and shut out of the debate.
“Take Back Control will be about reclaiming the narrative and opening up the negotiations. This is our Brexit. We should get to decide what it means and what it will look like. And while Theresa May has only a majority of 14 MPs – she will have to listen to us.”
In March, to coincide with the Government’s anticipated triggering of the exit process from the EU, The World Transformed will work with local Momentum groups, constituency Labour parties, and trade union branches to “bring together leave and remain voters, open up the Brexit negotiations and discuss how we can take back control from economic elites and establishment politicians.
How on earth these meetings are going to ‘take control’ of any negotiations, elites and politicians, is as clear as mud.
Anybody, anybody, who talks about “reclaiming the narrative” with Farage on the loose amid the Carnival or Reaction, is a kenspeckle fool.
What are they going to do: story-tell it all to sleep?
The New Statesman comments,
While The World Transformed is “definitely” part of Momentum, according to Todd, its exact relationship remains under discussion, as does its relationship to the wider Labour party.
To repeat, nobody seems to know how the hare-brained initiative was decided on (certainly not by Momentum membership, or any accountable body, then by whom?), who controls it, and, as for its consequences…..
Anna Chen says,
The British left is famous for its brilliant strategists.
First we had ‘Lexiters’ relishing the thought that a Leave vote would divide the Tories.
A crisis for the Tories most definitely is equivalent to an opportunity for the left. It is possible to claim otherwise only by detaching the left from the basic wisdom of the working class movement upon which the left has claimed to base itself. That’s fine for the Greens and those leftists whose conclusion from the defeat of the working class movement in the 1980s was precisely to pursue a déclassé progressivism.
Cameron’s tactical purpose in calling the EU referendum was to undermine UKIP and to unite the Tory party on its hard Thatcherite course of class confrontation at home. He has succeeded only in dividing the Tory party from top to bottom….
Counterfire. Kevin Ovenden.
Now we have Teresa May uniting the Conservative party.
Second we have, from the right of Labour, Angela Eagle claiming that she is running a campaign against Jeremy Corbyn because she can “unite the party”.
Europe: a Bloc démocratique against the Bloc oligarchique and the Bloc of Sovereigntists? Review: Ce cauchemar qui n’en finit pas. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval.
Ce cauchemar qui n’en finit pas. Comment le néolibéralisme défait la démocratie. (This nightmare without end. How neo-liberalism is dismantling democracy) Pierre Dardot et Christian Laval, La Découverte, 2016.
Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval are important writers on the French radical left. Laval is a specialist on Jeremy Bentham, utilitarianism, the economic, political and ideological grounds of neoliberalism, and, more recently, has written on Marx. Dardot and Laval run the “groupe d’études et de recherches « Question Marx » ” and most of his publications have been joint ventures with Laval.
Both researchers and authors have a significant place within the ‘altermondialiste’ movement – the ‘other’ globalisation campaigns. Their joint La Nouvelle Raison du monde. Essai sur la société néolibérale, (2009) investigated classical political economy (Adam Smith, Ricardo), utilitarianism and the ‘courant ordolibéral’, or ‘social market’ opposed by Hayek and Von Mises. It is the totality of these doctrines, as social and economic practices, which is now known as “neo-liberalism” that they centre upon. The book is translated into English as The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval. It considers this economic liberalism a ” permanent governmental critique of sovereign power – through the market.
The alternative they offer centres on the idea of a society founded on the “common”, a notion elaborated by many parts of the alter-globalisation currents, chiefly concerned with its opposite, privatisation. The book Commun –Essai sur la révolution du XXIème siècle ( 2014) is an important synthesis of these ideas and their own take on ‘anti-utilitarian’ economics. (Le “commun” : un principe au cœur des mouvements sociaux 2014).
Their approach is significantly influenced by the ideas of the later Michel Foucault on “rationalité gouvernemental”, and ‘bio-power’, how the liberal limitation of the ‘state’ is also a form of intervention, to impose a “social discipline” dictated by this form of the market.
Critics have signaled scepticism about the picture of ‘neoliberalism’ and its institutional ground, particularly as it has developed in concrete forms, such as within the European Union in combination with the framework of the post-war ‘social market’ economy, or ‘ Rhineland model.’ The use of Foucault to conceptualise a new “way of life” that reigns in neoliberal polities has also met serious reserves. It is hard to see exactly how Foucault’s concept of governmentality and biopower meshes exactly with the economy, right down to accountancy and finance. Still less clear is the evidence that it has created a ‘new kind of person’. Similarly Foucault’s residual ‘resistance’ to ‘micro-powers’ for all its descriptive force, is compatible with a realisable left project of taking power…..
Others have asked how exactly the principle of the ‘common’ can be translated into a political project. As this critic noted, citing Boltanski and Chiapello in Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme. (1999, English translation, 2007), past creative ideas, critical of capitalism, can be absorbed within the market society. (1).
That said this vision applied to direction of European construction is an influential one and chimes with a widespread perception that it is the ever-rightwards and pro-free-market. Neo-liberalism is, they have since asserted, apparently, less plural and more monolithic. Despite their earlier belief that rule is now dispersed and horizontal, it has become oligarchical and tending towards the centralised or at least coherent.
The issue of how to render the counter aspiration for the ‘common’ against this trend into anything resembling political and social reality is at the heart of their latest work, Ce cauchemar qui n’en finit pas.
The lucid study merits reading in its entirety. It returns to the global character of neo-liberalism marked by a hallucinating degree of inequality. The steady dismantling of democracy is, they argue, its trademark.
Two central areas in the present, well-written and exceptionally clear book, are relevant for the debate on the left about British European Referendum.
The first is that Dardot and Laval begin with an account of the further spread of neo-liberalism, from the (Foucauldian) ‘disciplining’ of the masses, right down to the ‘imaginary’ entrepreneurial liberation of Uber, share the pessimistic account of the European Union, portrayed with crusty bitterness by one-time pro-European and one-time New Leftists like Perry Anderson. In this picture the EU is dominated, shaped and founded within the terms set by an oligarchy – a veritable political and class ” bloc oligarchique” – which cannot be reformed. It is a form of polity in which the ‘ gouvernementale’ – governing or capable of governing – European social democracy has become “social liberalism”, with concerns for fashionable rights and equality of opportunity, , or straightforward market liberalism.
Dardot and Lavel spend some trying to justify this conceptualisation and vocabulary. Most obviously – which they do not consider – the term Bloc, compact mass, partisans of the same strategy – is singularly unconvincing. It covers, in their opinion, political rulers, finance, ‘top management’, the media and ideological apparatus (Not their phrase but essentially identical to Althusser’s usage), media and education, universities included, all the ‘few’ who rule. Applied to the United Kingdom, where the bourgeoisie and ‘oligarchy’ contains important fractions, and the right-wing (Conservatives and UKIP), political expressions, of neoliberal agencies virulently opposed to the EU’s present policies and long-term governmental strategies, this image of unity is plainly nonsense. The images of corruption inside the bloc also looks more like wallpaper paste rather than cement.
Is Democracy Ending?
Ce cauchemar qui n’en finit pas alleges that we are at the threshold of a “sortie de la démocratie” – any form of popular control is being eliminated from the governance of the economy, and, behind that, the institutional framework of the EU. The treatment of Greece and the Syriza government is proof of this development. In their vein the two claim, that is, assert, that Yanis Varoufakis and DiEM‘s project of democratising the existing structures is a no-runner. A more telling point, is that Syriza had no effective political allies that could counter the ‘triumvirate’s demand.
The second is that an alternative has to be built, across countries and across movements, a “ bloc démocratique”. Dardot and Laval have serious reserves about Podemos, noting that the causes of the radical Spanish left’s progress are very specific to the country – something one can see with the limited impact of its homologue in France, Nuit Debout. But the prospect of an alternative trans-continental ‘bloc’, rather than national forces, leads back to the arena in which DiEM has been created.
It is clear that no such movement can be built on the basis of the ‘Lexit’ campaign. This is to retreat to an imaginary British national sovereignty which leaves the labour movement and left at the mercy of those intent on constructing a Hayekian ‘order’. Those going that route, like nostalgic for Little Britain strategies of the 1970s UK left, are marginalised in the face of the relentless campaigns against migration and xenophobic attacks against ‘Europe’.
The book concludes with a bold, some might say, irrelevant, ‘non-negotiable’ demand for the rotation of all public offices. Nevertheless, the optimist strand in Ce cauchemar qui n’en finit pas points in another direction: to outward movements and alliances within a trans-national democratic bloc, in the first instance in Europe itself. This would involve left parties, unions, campaigns, and a galaxy of progressive social movement groups. Whether we can create these links – Another Europe is Possible is a hopeful sign – is up to us. We back this approach to voting Remain, critical support – in debate and activity with comrades like Dardot and Laval.
(1) Le Commun, ce qu’il n’est pas, et ce qu’il peut être. A propos de l’ouvrage « Commun : essai sur la révolution au XXIè siècle » de Pierre Dardot et Christian Laval. Mathieu Cocq also signals potential problems in the authors’ history and concept of “neclosure” of the common and attemnpts tpo create a new ‘common’.
Rhea Wolfson Speaks of Racist Abuse: “Pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense.” Says Leading ‘anti-Zionist’.
Rhea Wolfson is a breath of fresh air.
Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.
Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.
Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.
Saul Freeman wrote,
Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.
If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.
He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.
Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?
Harry’s Place was not the only critic.
Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.
On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.
My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.
A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.
This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.
Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.
Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,
Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.
By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?
Left Futures reports.
GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive
GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.
Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:
There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.
Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.
We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?
GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”
Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *
This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.
I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.
That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.
At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.
*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.
SWP Predicts End of Tories if Brexit Comes.
It’s probably hard to make a good speech when you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re communicating.
That’s why Jeremy Corbyn made such a dull and uninspiring presentation launching Labour’s pro-European Union (EU) campaign last week.
The SWP National Secretary has his own unique theory as to why Corbyn calls for a Remain Vote:
It turned out the way to make Corbyn back the EU was to elect him Labour leader. He compromised to keep at least some of the right vaguely on side.
The reappointment of Pat McFadden as shadow minister for Europe was seen as the first victory for Labour’s right under Corbyn’s leadership. The announcement that the party would campaign to stay in the EU followed.
McFadden eventually resigned, but was replaced with another strongly pro-EU figure.
Kimber accuses Corbyn of being pivotal in moblising the ‘Remain’ vote.
If Corbyn backed Leave, it is highly likely that the vote would be to break from the EU. Polls suggest that Corbyn is far more trusted on the issue than Tories on either side.
His support would banish completely the myth that only the right wants to exit. He would particularly appeal to young people who presently see the EU as a left wing project.
In place of any argument about workers’ rights, social Europe, or internationalism, or whatever the SWP used to dredge up as ‘principled’ reasons to stand for Little Britain, Kimber places this centre stage
Corbyn insists a Leave vote would boost the right. But with the political feeling in Britain at the moment it is more likely it would see Cameron’s resignation, turmoil in the Tory party, the loss of their parliamentary majority and an early election. This offers the hope of the end of the Tories before 2020, surely something to be grasped.
In other words, don’t vote just against Europe, but to get rid of the Tories….by replacing Cameron by a more right-wing anti-European Tory.
One can imagine the SWP National Committee…..
The comrades are respectfully silent.
Kimber is gazing into the dialectical crystal ball.
The Leave side has won!
The Organiser sees movement, a hideous Tory party, a gnashing of teeth, resignations, fights, disarray, messages of international support to Socialist Worker.
A new regime, perhaps of the hardest of hard rights.
Outrage, strikes, divisions: the regime falls.
Kimber continues his divination. An election, which will….. – here the prophecy grows dark: only the shifting shapes of masses of workers and protesters can be seen.
There’s a glimmer….
2,000, perhaps 200,000 thousand copies of Socialist Worker sold!
Lowestoft recruits ten new members!
The comrades smile: the Seer of Socialism has Seen!
In French this is known as la politique du pire: the worse the better.
After the exalted visions the SWP cannot resist a sharp, but more mundane, attack on Barack Obama.
Chief SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos finely analyses the speech of the Monarch of the global Empire,
Obama’s intervention stops anyone pretending any longer that they haven’t noticed where global capitalist interests are lining up. The Emperor himself has told them in words of one syllable that Brexit will harm his empire.
Meanwhile the Carnival of Reaction from the Leave camp continues:
NIGEL Farage has given his most rousing speech to date by declaring that a vote for Brexit will become Britain’s Independence Day.
Labour Movement Rallies for Europe.
The country’s three biggest unions – Unison, Unite and GMB – have announced they will campaign for remain reported the Mirror yesterday.
Unison today became the latest major union to announce it would campaign for the UK to stay in the European Union.
The public sector union joins Unite and GMB, which between them represent more than 3million workers, in deciding to back remain in June’s referendum.
General Secretary Dave Prentis said a consultation with Unison members showed overwhelming backing for the union to campaign to stay.
Top of their concerns were fears that Brexit would see the loss of employment rights such as parental leave, paid holidays and protection for part time workers, the consultation found.
Almost four in five (78%) Unison branches wanted the union to take a stance in the EU referendum, and of these 95% wanted their union to campaign for the UK to stay in Europe.
The BBC is now running this story:.
Jeremy Corbyn is setting out the “socialist case” for remaining in the EU in his first major intervention in the referendum campaign.
The Labour leader said the party “overwhelmingly” backs EU membership despite its “shortcomings”.
And he argued that Britain must remain in, to fight for reform.
He cited protection of workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer safeguards as reasons to vote to Remain on 23 June.
In a speech in central London, Mr Corbyn said: “Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and I remain critical of its shortcomings; from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.
“So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.”
The Guardian leads with,
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has responded to calls for him to step up the fight for Britain to remain in the European Union with a speech stressing the need for international cooperation to boost workers’ rights, tackle climate change and crack down on corruption.
Speaking to an audience of Labour-supporting students and trade unionists in London, Corbyn repeatedly pointed to the shortcomings of the EU in its present form – but said he wanted to forge alliances with leftwing parties across Europe to reform it.
“You can’t build a better world unless you engage with the world,” he said, urging young people to “make sure you register to vote, and vote to keep the UK in Europe in June”, and warning that a Conservative government would take the opportunity of Brexit to slash protection for workers, in a “bonfire of rights”.
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“We want to strengthen the protection of every worker, all over Europe, not just in Britain,” he said, promising that a Labour government would co-operate with socialist allies to halt the “race to the bottom”.
Corbyn said the EU had helped to underpin “investment, jobs and protections for workers, consumers and the environment”, and working together with European allies offered “the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century”.
He compared the decision to his own choice to remain within the Labour party, even when he had profound disagreements with its leaders. “I’ve had a few differences with the direction the Labour party has taken over the last few years, some people may have noticed. But I have been sure that I was right to remain a member of the Labour party.”
He added, smiling: “Some might say I’ve managed to do something more recently about changing the direction of Labour, and I’m enjoying that as well.”
For arguments against the increasingly isolated Brexit ‘left, see: Shiraz Socialist.
Re-run of 1970s Battle by Tariq Ali and ‘IMG Sealed Knot’ Society.
The real left meanwhile…