Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category
Respect Party Deregistered with the Electoral Commission: “Members now permitted to join Labour’ says New Statesman.
Galloway with Friend on Russia Today.
The Respect Party was a political party in the United Kingdom, founded in 2004. Its name was a contrived acronym standing for: Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade unionism. The Respect Party was established in London in January 2004; it grew out of the Stop the War Coalition, opposing the Iraq War.
George Eaton is the “Political Editor, New Statesman email@example.com.”
Apart from touting himself as another potential feather in Corbyn’s cap, Galloway’s move appears to be designed – as Eaton suggests – to let his little helpers quietly join Labour.
We will note with interest the next moves of some of them, Galloway bag-man Kevin Ovenden.
Labour’s Forerunners The Secession of the People.
In early, half-legendary, Roman history at around 495 BCE the conflict between the Patrician Senate and the Plebeians reached such a point that the common people seceded. After time three miles away on Mons Sacer, they sat, the story goes, on Collis Esquilinus and Collis Aventinus, within the City walls. There they remained, it is proverbially (in a simplified version of the story) in splendid isolation, until their demands for debt relief were met.
The tale came to symbolise how political minorities can defiantly proclaim their independence. We might say that the Labour Party is in danger not only of tearing itself apart, but of ending up, however large its membership may swell , separate from the rest of the country. Opinion polls indicate that it remains very far from commanding the votes needed for an electoral majority. It risks far greater isolation than the Roman plebs.
In La social-démocratie européenne dans l’impasse, Le Monde yesterday covered the crises affecting the European left. Of those politicians heading potential governing parties, it noted that Jeremy Corbyn, Robert Fico (Slovakia), and Pedro Sanchez (head of the Spanish socialists, the PSOE) confronted the same dilemma: how to win power and to keep their parties going.
The article cites the startling case of the Slovakians: Fico formed a ‘red-brown’ coalition with nationalist-far-right parties between 2006 and 2010. Again allied with the extreme-right his populism extends to virulent anti-migrant rhetoric. At the bottom of the page is another striking case. France’s ruling Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) has declined to between 60,000 and 80,000 members (some put the figure still lower). The PS, and other left candidates, less or more radical, look unlikely to make it to the second round of next year’s Presidential election.
Spain’s PSOE – still, at 22,06 % of the vote, the largest electoral force on the Spanish left – looks about to accept another right-wing government; the ‘populist’ Podemos’s vote declined in the June elections, creating its own internal difficulties. The German SPD is withering on the vine, its leader, Sigmar Gabriel, barely registering internationally. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Rizni, nominally on the centre-left, faces a challenge in a referendum about reforming the country’s’ Senate. Only in Portugal, with a coalition led by Socialist Antonio Costa and supported by the Communists and the radical Bloco de Esquerda remains clearly on the left.
Are the fortunes of the rest of the European left important for the British Labour Party? With no participation in the Euro, and now Brexit it would appear that .the country is free from the prospect of a Continental federation ruled by free-market bureaucrats. The ‘democratic deficit’ ended, the House of Commons can return to making its own laws. What happens elsewhere, happens elsewhere.
The ideology that animated the pro-Brexit left is sovereigntism. This is the idea that popular sovereignty is the goal of the “people” against the elites, Brussels, globalisation, finance capital. The ‘general will’ can be expressed in extra-Parliamentary forms, from the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the more recent Nuit Debout protests in France. The view is growing that the Labour Party can, as a ‘social movement’ take on a similar role: a direct link between the will of the grass roots and politics. With the end of ties to the EU what is to stop this force, a battering ram, from conquering power and exercising the sovereignty of the people? Or, as the British left tends to dub it, will the ‘the working class’ be able to “take power”?
Yanis Varoufakis observes, by contrast, that the sovereignty that British political forces want to preserve, of ”their cherished House of Commons”, “is put under pressure by its most powerful social groups: trader, manufacturers, and of course the City of London, for whom Brexit is fraught with dangers”. The “tug of war between sovereignty and financialised capital” has not evaporated after Brexit. (Page 123. And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Yanis Varoufakis 2016) Popular sovereignty, a General Will whose supporters regularly (as in the radical protest movements cited above) contrast with the compromises, not to say corruption, of Parliamentary democracy, is an intangible force faced with the class realities of power. The social movement talked about in recent months, whether largely apparent only in public meetings, or with deeper roots, is unlikely to stand much of a chance faced with these structural constraints.
The Conservative government is negotiating trading and other agreements, including new versions of TIPP. Continued access to the single market will come at a price. The TUC’s has little power behind its efforts to secure “jobs and right at work.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC June 2016) The results will not vanish if a Labour government comes to power. Prime Minister Teresa May is on record as hostile to trade unions and the rights embodied in EU law. International trade agreements will doubtless favour the rights of what Varoufakis calls “financialised capital”.
How can this be changed? Labour governments have been charged with merely exercising power, rather than conquering it, that is, winning a serious battle in the state and society as a whole and not just in the ballot box. Governing may involve making many important choices, but the intense life of Cabinets tends to downplay the wider social basis of change that socialists wish to introduce.
Many people are impressed by illustrations from very recent history. The Blair-Brown years could be seen as winning elections, with a careful strategy to assemble different constituencies (middle class, aspirational working class, left labour voters with ‘nowhere else to go’). Until the banking-financial crisis of 2007 -8 this was a period of expanded social spending. But these Labour governments operated within institutions of the privatising state created by Margaret Thatcher. Following John Major they extended this to privatising public services, including, for example, back-to-work schemes for several million of the unemployed. As the well-paid private appointments of many former New Labour Ministers and their supporters indicate, the state was not just unconquered; the privatisers conquered New Labour.
With this perspective in view, the acceleration of Conservative free-market ‘reforms’ to the economy, the development of the private company hold on the state, we should not be inward looking. We should embrace both democratic socialist calls for public ownership, and the social democratic impulse for equality. In place of rhetoric about ‘sovereignty’ the powerful Labour tradition of practical reforms should be our concern. A revival of the Fabian tradition of public service and detailed social policy, melded with Marxist scepticism about the class nature of the state and the critique of capitalism, might – I am being, to say the least, optimistic – bring us together. Matched with concern for universal human rights, this could be part of what one of the greatest leaders of European socialism Jean Jaurès (1859 – 1914) called the “synthesis” between left-wing traditions.
In early Rome the Avernis episode ended, it is said, in compromise. The Plebeians won on the issue of debt and, eventually, some political representation. But they did not overturn Patrician rule. Whatever the causes, which we can discuss for days, the last thing Labour needs is infighting, standing alone, laughed at by the Governing Right, cheered on by sectarian forces who wish to split the Party, and standing alone, on a modern political Collis Avernis. If this continues we look unlikely to get even the measure of satisfaction our commoner forerunners obtained. We are not separate from the crisis of European social democracy described in Le Monde: we are part of it.
After the Summer of Love the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power.
Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things Paul Mason.
Labour can become the counter-power.
My first experience of the labour movement was going to the Leigh Miners’ Gala, in the 1960s, aged about six or seven. I remember, amid the tight throng of people, one striking image: a boxing ring, in which a local slugger was taking on all comers.
The flesh of the fighters was red and bruised. One man had blood on his face, another a stupid smile: the challengers were mainly drunk. They slammed their gloves into each other’s ribs with such force I can hear it now.
And then my father’s hand slid up to my forehead and covered my eyes. “Don’t look,” he said.
That’s what the working class gained by forming a movement of its own. Something that could co-exist with the brutality of everyday life and at the same time shield us from it. Something that allowed you to live inside the system and at the same time nurture the ideal of something different.
Years later I discovered there was a word to describe this: “counter-power”. A set of ideas, traditions and actions that lets you both survive within capitalism and fight against it.
After 2008, the counter-power was reborn. No longer centred on the old working class, it was simply “us” — the crapped-upon masses. The barista, the courier, the lawyer, the shipping clerk. Those were the people I met occupying Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. Anarchists in black balaclavas yes — but also pissed-off guy with gym membership and a Besiktas season ticket.
The 2011–13 uprisings — Tahrir, Occupy, the Spanish indignados, Taksim, Brasil — were mass phenomena that, even when suppressed and defeated, left a residue: ideas, patterns of organisation, networks, as Manuel Castells put it, of “outrage and hope”.
Finally came the Brexit referendum: the ultimate act of miscalculation, in which Project Fear 2.0 misfired and the UK kickstarted the breakup of globalisation.
You can take the state, said Gramsci: but capital has line after line of trenches and fortifications beyond it.
Corbyn’s victory in 2015, Brexit in 2016 and the near victory of the Scottish yes campaign in 2014 all held out the possibility of a effortless exit from a dying and unpopular neo-liberal structure.
A kind of “free revolution”, handed to you by a hapless elite, where all you had to do was tick a box.
But revolutions are never effortless. The revolution that’s put Podemos on 20% in Spain, and Syriza into power in Greece, involved masses of people on the streets, resisting the elite’s attacks, and creating a new kind of power in communities and on the streets and in universities and schools.
This is the modern counter-power, and Corbyn’s election was only ever a reflection of it.
Detailed comment would be superfluous on such momentous thoughts.
We can only suggest that people read the full version.
Brief Notes for further reflection on Cde Mason’s theses.
- The break-up of globalisation begun by Brexit. Really?
- Near victory of pro-business nationalists in Scotland as a near triumph for opponents of neo-liberalism….sure….
- Podemos, who recently failed to get anywhere near power (despite predictions that they would win) in recent election as example of ‘counter-power’. (Spain’s Conservative PP wins rerun election, Podemos upset by surprisingly low results: 2016 election results PP 33.02%; PSOE 22.68%; UNIDOS PODEMOS 21.11%; Abstentions 30.16% #ELPAIS26J #26J #Spain)
- The latest version of the Indignados, Nuit Debout, in France, already disintegrating in abstraction and futility.
- Ah yes Syriza, Greece. Well.
I never liked Boxing me.
Or the film Fight Club.
Racism against Eastern European migrants is just vile – we should be thankful for what they do, says Ipswich MP Ben Gummer
If you go to Handford Road in the early hours, when most British people are still asleep, you will see minibuses filling with Eastern European migrants, going off to work gutting chickens in a job that the Job Centres fail to get British people to do.
Hold that thought when you consider the vile eruptions of racism since Nigel Farage’s ‘Independence Day’ two weeks ago. Employees at a depot in Thetford chanting “you’re going home” to Eastern European colleagues; a Polish centre in Hammersmith sprayed with ‘Go Home’ in the middle of the night; a notice – charmingly written in Polish – encouraging Poles to ‘go home’, picked up by a little 11-year-old Polish boy; notes left on cars telling ‘Polish vermin’ to leave the country; a European man berated on a Manchester tram by some thug who told him to “**** off home”.
What has happened to our country? Whatever side of the debate you were on, no-one can deny that we are now a nation terribly divided, with intolerance unleashed.
Some have said to me that it’s a limited problem, an issue that has “always been there” – as if there is something inevitable about this treatment of foreigners, and that in the release the hatred will go away. They could not be more wrong. It is right that people should be ashamed to express racist sentiments, even if it is what they believe in their hearts.
That is why politicians should be so very careful in how they use words: by using language carelessly, by stoking fear of migrants, they can seem to permit something that is rightly impermissible.
Do not imagine that this is a sentiment reserved for bovine thugs: it exists behind many polite doors and neat gardens in our own town. Time and again I heard “I’m not a racist but…”, beginning a sentence that revealed a fear of foreigners and a wish to see them gone.
Most carefully, people express concerns about school class sizes and GP waiting lists. These concerns might be legitimate but they are rightly levelled at us politicians, not at the migrants on whom these problems in public services are so often blamed.
After all, the average EU migrant is more likely to be in work, paying taxes, than us Brits, helping to build – both in money and in labour – the classrooms all of our children need. And those GP queues? They are more the result of British people getting older – not young fit Lithuanian men, who rarely need a doctor.
I know Ben Gummer.
His office is about ten minutes from my gaff.
We have had conversations about Noam Chomsky.
I am a political opponent of Ben, he said, when out campaigning for Remain on his Tory stall (which obviously I had not part in) that this must be the first time in his life that he and me had been on the same side.
We fight the class struggle democratically.
Ben knows as well as I do that this racism has got beyond a joke.
Us lot in Ipswich are pretty close.
His words are very carefully weighed.
They merit utmost attention: Mit brennender Sorge.
Reports the Huffington Post.
Thousands of pro-EU supporters have marched to Parliament where they are chanting anti-Brexit slogans after gathering in London’s Trafalgar Square where a scheduled rally was earlier cancelled.
Pictures emerged on social media soon after 6pm showing crowds of people holding pro-EU banners aloft at Trafalgar Square despite steady showers. Hours later they were seen chanting pro-EU slogans at Westminster.
More than 50,000 people had been expected to attend the London Stays rally which aimed to show the world that “London stands with Europe”.
Channel Four last night stated that the people on the rally were predominantly young.
Yet, indications are: no copies of the Socialist sold, and recruitment to the SWP, and Counterfire: zero.
Equally reports from the pro-Corbyn rally the previous evening state that these groups had failed to lead the masses.
To remedy this Coatesy has the following top-tips: getting down with the kidz for revolutionary recruiters.
- Young people are like fruit flies. They can’t remember all that stuff about what a group did as long ago as last week. Campaigning for Brexit? Phooey! Undermining the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn: that’s all, like, history. The important thing is now you are the best supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
- Lessons: young folk love lessons. Tell them about the Wigan Labour Club voters and their concerns about ‘immigration’ . That will go down a treat with the class conscious people who demonstrated yesterday. Sort out the wheat from the chaff.
- Young ‘uns adore limpets. Many have a limpet vivarium in the their bathrooms. Stick to them. They will surely appreciate this.
Anti-Eu Scabs Toast Victory.
The Scab left has not been slow to react to the Referendum result.
“The referendum result may well go down in history as the pitchfork moment“, declared the Financial Times (FT), wailing the anger and despair of Britain’s elite at the decision by the majority of voters in Britain to leave the European Union.
In fact, the revolt took place despite the complete failure of the majority of leaders of the trade union movement and, unfortunately, also Jeremy Corbyn to put an independent working class position in the referendum by leading a socialist, internationalist campaign for exit completely independent from and in opposition to the ‘Little Englanders’ of UKIP and Co.
But while the capitalist class are in chaos, it is urgent that the working class finds its own political voice. The referendum result shows the enormous potential for a mass fight back against austerity in Britain. The task is to create a mass political party capable of leading such a fight back, politically armed with socialist policies.
So says the apparently ‘socialist’ the Socialist.
Campaigning against ‘cheeep migrant labour is not enough for this group.
If there is one thing that has come to the fore in recent weeks it is the alliance of the Socialist Party, Lexit, leaders of the RMT, and the Morning Star, with the ‘European’ (French) groupuscle, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID).
This is how the group heralded the referendum result.
This body, if one can call a living corpse, though it has a former French PM, Lional Jospin and a present Parti Socialiste General Secretary as it s former members, has a long history.
Beginning with their historic founder, Pierre Lambert (Pierre Boussel).
Accused of having given the names of other Resistance figures to the Germans, Lambert’s much more established legacy is his collaboration with the American secret service during the creation of the anti-Communist Force ouvrière. In 68 his group, the OCI physicality attacked ‘petty bourgeois’ students. Their violence and hatred is notorious on the French left.
I have personally seen them in action.
Switch to now: Gérard Schivardi, part of the faction which organised the infamous Paris meting for Brexit.
He predicts “l’inévitable guerre des religions”, the inevitable war of religions and accuses Marine Le Pen of having nicked his ideas, “piquer toutes mes idées de 2007.“
What allies, what politics.
Tossed by the Waves Of Hate, but Ipswich Internationalists Vote Remain.
Internationalism, Ipswich and the EU referendum: Vote Remain!
All men are Brethren. Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. Heroic citizens – the thunder-notes of your victory have sounded across the Channel, awakening the sympathies and hopes of every lover of liberty….Accept our fraternal salutations and our earnest wishes that the French Republic may triumph over its enemies and become a model for the imitation of the world. Vive La République! (1)
“A Republic for France: the Charter for England.” Rally Ipswich Corn Hill. 1848.
Ipswich is an ancient town. Sited on the estuary of the river Orwell, whose upper reaches are called the Gipping, Ipswich is Gipperswich. The remains of a Roman villa have been found in the suburbs. The settlement itself is Saxon, the street plan of the centre remains the same as laid down in the 7th century: Carr Street-Tavern Street-Cornhill-Westgate street. Kilns producing pottery, “Ipswich ware” were established.
Ipswich ware owes its origins to the Rhineland and Frisia. Dorstadt on the Lek Rhine is known to have controlled the trade routes from the Rhine and the Baltic in the eighth and ninth centuries, and Ipswich is on the shortest route from Rhine mouth. (2)
Ipswich is an old town. Walking around the centre you pass medieval churches, half-timbered buildings, like the famous Ancient House, and the pub, the Spread Eagle, and, at the head of a beautiful park, the sixteenth century Christchurch mansion, which stands on the site of the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity, founded c.1177. Just next to the entrance is St Margaret’s plain, named after a Dutch word reflecting the centuries long presence of traders from Holland. Reminders of its port and trading history ere everywhere. Near to the quayside is the old Jewish cemetery, which commentates the presence of a group of merchants who established a synagogue (no longer there) in Rope Walk.
Ipswich is working class town. The docks, for centuries the basis of the local economy, and the engineering works, may have shrunk as employers, but the majority of the people work in manual, service and ordinary clerical jobs. There is a large migrant population, Portuguese speakers, Eastern Europeans, over a thousand Kurds, and countless others, as well as longer established minority communities, principally Bangladeshi and Caribbean. Many people are mixed ethnicity. Passing by Rope Walk to the centre in the morning you can hear a dozen languages being spoken and see Polish, Chinese, Kurdish, Turkish barbers, an Indian-Bengali restaurant, a Lebanese-Moroccan restaurant…..
Ipswich is a town with a long-standing left and a labour movement. The anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson, a supporter of the early French revolution, and in my view one of the best people to have ever lived, made it his home. He is commentated in a street name. Rallies and activism against slavery attracted thousands. During the Chartist movement hey-day John Cook’s Radical Infidel Repository in Upper Orwell Street sold the Northern Star. Later in the century trade unions founded the local labour party. A newsagent’s by Grimwade Street sold Socialist publications, such as the Social Democratic Federation’s Justice. There was strong suffragette movement….
Today we have a Tory MP (following Labour ones) but Labour controls the Borough council and the Trades Council is left wing. There were large protests against the County Council’s austerity and privatisation programme.
Ipswich is a generous and warm town. During the terrible Ipswich serial killings in 2006 two young anarchist women organised a Reclaim the Night demonstration. It was attend by the left, councillors and members of every political party, the public, and the Salvation Army. Refusing stigmatisation Ipswich people and the local media declared that the victims were “Somebody’s daughter”. This love and compassion stuck deep into our hearts.
Ipswich is an internationalist town. When the refugee crisis first erupted a hastily organised rally by the Giles Statue took place. Around a hundred heard speeches from people expressing solidarity. The work of local refugee supporters continues.
The words of 1848 rally, “we are all brethren”, still echo. Ipswich is, by trade, commerce and industry, by politics, and by people, an internationalist town. Faced with the hate of those attacking migrants, foreigners, and ‘Brussels’, there is one response: unity not division. To vote for the European Union is to listen to that call, to build our ties together, to fight for a better world. Another Europe is Possible!
(1) Page 80. Chartism in Essex and Suffolk. A.F.J.Brown 1982.
(2) Page 99. The Suffolk Landscape. Norman Scarfe. Hodder & Stoughton. 1972.