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The French Far Right and Génération Identitaire.

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Image result for l'extreme droit en france organigramme

“The Identitarian movement is a pan-European socio-political movement that started in France in 2002 as a far-right youth movement deriving from the French Nouvelle Droite Génération Identitaire. Initially the youth wing of the anti-immigrant, far-right Bloc Identitaire, it has taken on its own identity and is largely classified as a separate entity altogether with the intent of spreading across Europe. The Identitarian movement advocates rights for members of specific European ethnocultural groups.” Wikipedia.

Last Night Channel Four News Broadcast a report, which covers a small French grouping within the ‘identitarian movement”, Génération Identitaire. Thisas can be seen, are only part of a wider far-right. view it here (I was signaled this by Facebook friends, I missed the programme):

France’s far-right youth movement emerging from the shadows

JONATHAN RUGMAN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Marine Le Pen’s far right Front National party is reckoned to be the most popular amongst young people, with as many as 40% of 18 to 24 year olds backing her. Now a far-right youth movement is emerging from the shadows. It is called Generation Identitaire and it’s proposing controversial solutions to France’s social problems.

They also interviewed  Renaud Camus whose views on the “grand remplacement“, that is the replacement of the European Population by non-Europeans, has its roots in conspiracy theories that claim this is an organised process by “élites politiques, intellectuelles et médiatiques”.

There was no reference to the mountains of  criticisms that have been made of Camus’ ‘thesis’: from Hervé Le Bras onwards (see: here).

Génération Identitaire  claims to be the barricade raised by young people to struggle for their identity, the vanguard of youth.

The wider Bloc Identitaire has around 2,000 members, and 600 activists.  Génération Identitaire has a lot less, in the low hundreds.

The use of the term “identity”,  is both a reflection of the confusion of ‘identity politics”(if every group has to go back to its roots, why not the ‘French’?), and the long-standing opportunism of the French Far-right, which trawls through every possible popular theme in order to appeal to a potential audience, and never forgets to add an intellectual gloss to its propaganda.

Thus we have “nationalisme révolutionnaire“, groups which refer to, amongst others, Blanqui, Proudon, Sorel, Gregor and Otto Strasser, nad have admired, at various time, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Iranian strong man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We also have, probably the biggest confusionist site of them all, Égalité et Réconciliation, which claims to stand for the Left on Work and the Right on Values is opposed to globalisation, and pitches much of its appeal to ‘an ‘anti-Zionist’ constituency. It is closely linked to the anti-Semite, Dieudonné.

This is their coming meeting:

The Front National’s appeal to the Sovereignty of the Nation is also intended to extend across classes and politics, and has succeeded in drawing in some (formerly  ‘left-wing’)  sovereigntists who agree that France must stand against the EU, Globalisation and Cosmopolitanism.

The report talked of young people’s support for the far-right.

This is a problem, though it is channeled into voting for the Front National rather than the groupuscles like GI.

Poll, 9.03.2017, people between 18 and 34 (Slate)

In examining these figures Jean-Laurent Cassely suggests that while young people generally have more liberal values than their elders, for the minority who do not hold them, the FN is appealing. That while there are fewer and fewer conservative voters those that are have moved further to the right, and that those too young to have memories of Marine Le Pen’s openly extreme father, Jean-Marie, are more inclined to cast their ballots for the FN.

Others look to the correlation between youth unemployment and support for the far-right.

The poll does show however that the total of young people backing left candidates, collected together, stands at …40%!

With 24% supporting the ‘centre’ Macron.

Channel Four mentioned protests against  Génération Identitaire‘s  Lille operation, but did not cover their ampleur, nor just how widely this was reported.

The far right group planned to open a bar to act as its headquarters in the northern city of Lille on 24 September 2016. Located just 200 metres from the Grand Palais, it will contain a boxing gym, a cinema a level advice centre, and a library. Aurélien Verhassel, the group’s local leader, said it would open only to ‘Europeans of French spirit, heirs to the Helleno-Christian civilisation’. Locals launched a petition to block the bar, called La Citadelle, citing concern that it ‘will propagate hate and cause incidents that are beyond control’.[15]

The petition had gathered more than 60,000 signatures by the 24th, but the Citadelle’s inauguration went ahead as planned with 30 members of the group present. Around 500 protesters, many of them supporters of the far-Left, marched behind banners with slogans such as ‘No fascists in our districts’ in an attempt to stop the bar’s official opening on the evening of the 24th.

In November 2016, demonstrations against the bar were still taking place. On the 19th, protesters had gathered between 600 and 1,200 people in the streets and 70,000 signatures against the bar on their online petition.

Wikipedia.

More simply: A Lille, des centaines de personnes réclament la fermeture du bar d’extrême-droite La Citadelle. Le Monde.

The Channel Four reporter’s reference to “tous les mosques” instead of toutes le Mosques, suggests an imperfect acquaintance with French.

There are, as the organigramme of the French far-right (above) indicates, many many groups, and this is just one, a marginal one.

The Boradcaster did not contrast the couple of thousand strong identitaire demonstration they showed with the over 100,000 moblised in Paris this Sunday by La France insoumise or the over 20,000 who attended the rally for Socialist Presidential candidate  Benoît Hamon.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 22, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Momentum, UNITE and Labour: an Activist Comments.

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Image result for momentum labour

A ‘New Kind of Politics’? 

Unite statement on Tom Watson MP’s claims on Momentum and Unite

20 March 2017

Responding to the claims made today (Monday 20 March) in the national media by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour party, Unite’s acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Tom Watson has made claims about Unite and its general secretary Len McCluskey which are entirely inaccurate.

“As Unite has made it clear it is exclusively for our executive council to determine which organisations we affiliate to. There are no plans for Unite to affiliate to Momentum. For the record, Len McCluskey has never met Jon Lansman to discuss this or any other matter.

“It is extraordinary that the deputy leader of the Labour party should  interfere in Unite’s democracy in this way, and it is very disappointing that he was allowed to make his unsupported claims without being challenged, and that the BBC ignored the Unite statement with which it had been provided well in advance.

“Mr Watson’s latest, and misguided, campaign is part of an unprecedented pattern of interference in the current Unite general secretary election by elected Labour politicians who should, frankly, be concentrating on their own responsibilities.

“Mr Watson is a Unite member with a right to a vote and a view. But he should remember that, first, he is deputy leader of the Labour party with the obligations that this senior post imposes, and second that Unite is not a subsidiary of any political organisation.”

Unite has complained to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the statement the union provided in good faith last night was only used in part and following representations from the union this morning. The union has also complained that Mr Watson was allowed to make his extraordinary claims about Unite and its general secretary without being subject to any demand for evidence.

This is in response to reports, such as this one, in the media. (Guardian).

Momentum’s Jon Lansman has hit back after fierce criticism by Labour MPs of his intention to affiliate trade union Unite to his grassroots group as a way to consolidate its power in the party.

The plans for Momentum to affiliate the UK’s biggest union and take full control of Labour’s structures by electing new representatives were described as “entryism” by the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, and were revealed after Lansman was secretly recorded speaking at a Momentum branch meeting in Richmond, south-west London.

In the recording, the chair of Momentum said the affiliation would require Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, to win his re-election battle against rival Gerard Coyne

….

A new constitution drawn up by Lansman last year made it clear that activists must be members of the Labour party in order to participate in Momentum, but in the recording, he suggested the restriction would not be enforced.

“It was important to require Labour party membership in the rules but it is down to enforcement. No one from the centre is going to tell you to kick people out,” he tells the meeting.

Watson tweeted Lansman on Sunday night, saying the recording was “very clear” in what it meant. “You’ve revealed your plan. If you succeed, you will destroy the Labour party as an electoral force. So you have to be stopped.”

Lansman replied: “We won’t allow non Lab members to hold office or vote (unlike Coop party or Fabians) but we won’t exclude them from activities/meetings. For 20 years the left was denied a voice. We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, & we need our mass membership to win again.”

Poor old Suzanne Moore, no doubt wishing she were back in happier days ‘punting’ in the river Orwell,  has wadded in, waving her pole in all directions.

A secret recording reveals that even Momentum has given up on Corbyn. Does anyone inside Labour have any idea how ludicrous this all looks?

The insanity of a leader unsupported by his MPs, falling desperately in the polls, inert over Brexit, has the party simply waiting to lose for the reckoning to begin.

The issues raised have now come to the ears of Ken Livingstone (Guardian)

Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans

Ex-London mayor says he finds it ‘bizarre’ MPs have issue over changes that would allow leftwing candidate to stand as leader

Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, has said the grassroots group Momentum should be free to push for changes to Labour party structures that would secure Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy as a leftwing Labour leader.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, had accused the radical left group of “entryism” after its chair, Jon Lansman, was secretly recorded at a local meeting describing plans to elect a raft of leftwing candidates to key positions and his hope to seal an affiliation from trade union Unite.

A day of public accusation and backroom briefing by Watson and Corbyn allies ended in a fiery private meeting of MPs and peers on Monday night in parliament, where MPs clashed with Corbyn over Momentum’s influence on the party.

The tension hinges on a clause that Corbyn allies hope to secure at the next Labour party conference, to reduce the threshold of MP nominations needed for the next Labour leadership elections from 15% of MPs to 5%, which would make it easier for a leftwing successor to Corbyn to make it on to the ballot paper sent to members.

Comment.

Ken Livingstone’s comments are well aimed: the rule change under fire is a reasonable one.

UNITE is right complain about Tom Watson’s comments.

It is both hard to believe that he is unaware of the way they would be used in the union’s internal elections, and that he does not know that UNITE’s Executive is the body to which such a decision – which the union itself says is not on the cards – has to be referred.

But the “aspirational” claims by Jon Lansman, that UNITE should affiliate to Momentum, remain contentious.

It can hardly escape anybody interested – perhaps a declining number – in Momentum that the organisation has serious internal disputes, which led to the holding of the recent  ‘Grassroots Momentum’ Conference.

It would be too simple to describe this as a clash between leftist ‘factions’ and those around Jon Lansman. One day somebody may provide a diagram of the disagreements, in 7 dimensions.

This, apparently, escapes the attention of an enthusiast, Comrade Ladin who writes of its success within Labour, “Momentum’s strategy of mobilising members within these structures is undoubtedly the winning one” (Guardian. 20.3.16.7)

Others may point to internal critics’ comments which blow away the idea that this is a head-on battle between the Labour Right (Watson at the head) and Momentum.

As Stephen Wood in The Clarion remarks of the presentation of Momentum as a

….broadly consensual organisation where we “focus on what we agree about.”

The fundamental flaw is that while he is right that most of what was passed at the Grassroots Momentum conference and in fact even argued by his opponents on the Momentum Steering Committee he may actually have agreed to, he was absolutely against and stopped action being taken. Half-hearted support for the Picturehouse Workers Strike, a statement about suspensions and expulsions which has still never materialised were all agreed at what he described as “deeply unpleasant” SC meetings.

It would be easy to continue in this vein, and discuss the internal divisions of Momentum.

One thing is certain (at the risk of sounding the voice of ‘reasonableness’, but this is very much the case)  that  this is not a matter of  virtue , the leadership, and faults, “trots and the hard-left”.

Problems are not confined to one ‘camp’ or the other.

It is also the case that UNITE members who are active in the Labour Party, including those with positions of responsibility, are far from agreed on the merits of Momentum, whether on its general strategy, or the details of its demands.

UNITE is a “political union” that sees the best way of pursuing the interests of its membership lie in the Labour Party, above all a Labour Party in office.

Now would seem not a good time to divert attention away to other power struggles.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Emmanuel Macron: in the “battlefield” against Populists in French Presidential Elections?

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Image result for emmanuel macron affiche en marche

After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.

For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.

A Bulwark against National Populism?

For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart,  Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.

It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.

These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri  labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.

A Tool Against Hamon.

The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.

The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.

It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)

Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.

For Europe.

France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.

(and, this precondition fulfilled…)

Much deeper integration within the eurozone.

Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….)  and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.

This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times”  The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.

Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.

It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.

All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!

The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”,  by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?

The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.

Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.

Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.

We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..

See also this,  French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s ‘anti-system’ angle is a sham 

Latest Opinion Polls.

Présidentielle: Le Pen et Macron au coude-à-coude, Fillon distancé 

French Presidential Hopeful Jean-Luc Mélenchon Leads “Citizens’ Uprising” in Paris.

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Image result for pour la VIe République. melenchon photos

TricoloresMarseillaise, l’Internationale, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon gathered tens of thousands of supporters in Paris at a rally Saturday calling for deep reforms in the French constitution. France 24.

Melenchon, who wants to shorten France’s 35-hour workweek, leave NATO, block free-trade deals and stop using nuclear energy, has pledged to summon a constituent assembly if he wins the election.

The 65-year-old former Socialist who previously served as minister for vocational training often depicts himself as the candidate of the people. He promises to get rid of what he calls the “presidential monarchy” and give more power to parliament.

The gathering Saturday between two iconic squares in the French capital – the Place de La Bastille and Place de la Republique – took place on the anniversary of the Paris Commune, an alliance between the middle and working classes who broke into revolt on the 18th of March 1871 in the wake of the collapse of Napoleon III’s Second Empire.

Melenchon was greeted to chants of “President! President!” as he joined the cortege. He later claimed on his Twitter account that 130,000 people had attended.

Melenchon, who is supported by the Communist party, has so far struggled to make his campaign take off. Opinion polls suggest he has no chance of making it to the second round of France’s presidential ballot on May 7.

Melenchon and his Socialist rival Benoit Hamon are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, but well behind far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative hopeful Francois Fillon.

Emmanuel Macron et Marine Le Pen au coude-à-coude.

Both Melenchon and Hamon have criticized Socialist President Francois Hollande’s austerity politics but have failed to join forces in the presidential race.

The first round of the French presidential vote will be held on April 23, with the two top vote-getters there going into a presidential runoff ballot on May 7.

With becoming modesty Mélenchon called the rally a “Citizens’ Uprising” and declared, “Voici notre maxime : quel que soit le problème, la solution est le peuple.” Here’s our motto: whatever the Problem, the People are the Solution.

Image result for Power to the People wolfie smith

Organisers claimed over 130,000 attended.

Mélenchon : «Ceci est une manifestation politique, une insurrection citoyenne»

The figures given by Mélenchon’s organisation are not universally accepted.

Le camp Mélenchon se moque des chiffres de la manifestation de Fillon mais… Huffington Post.

Difficile d’affirmer que la place de la République comptait quatre personnes au m2.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Yasmin Rehman wins secularist of the year award.

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Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.

A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.

It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.

It is time that all the left stands with these women.

Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017 (National Secular Society).

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”

She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.

“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”

Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”

She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.

Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Momentum Grassroots Conference: Why much of the Left Keeps its Distance.

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Grassroots Momentum,  “packed out” meeting says Monster Raving Greenstein Party.

Many people on the left have been wary of Grassroots Momentum and its Conference.

A clear indication of why comes in this report from the Monster Raving Greenstein Party,

A Fighting Start but It is Only the Beginning

Despite opposition from the Zionist Trotskyists (!) of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the original statement to the conference opposing ‘unjust’ expulsions was amended to make it clear that fake allegations of anti-Semitism should be resisted.

As the said “Zionist” AWL have commented,

On the “anti-semitism witch-hunt”

An amendment was carried which was written down on a flipchart on the platform (illegibly to many) as “opposition to the antisemitism witch-hunt” and read out (inaudibly to some) as “opposition to the false antisemitism witch-hunt”.

This was done without debate, and with a fair scattering of abstentions, votes against, and people just not voting.

Why? Most people surely voted for the amendment because they oppose the Compliance Unit’s arbitrary ways, know that some charges of antisemitism have been invented or inflated arbitrarily, and anyway believe that prejudice is best dealt with primarily by discussion and education.

However, the term “antisemitism witch-hunt” is ambiguous and slippery. In some of the arguments elsewhere of those backing the amendment, it is taken to mean that any charge of antisemitism against anyone on the left must automatically be assumed to be witch-hunting invention motivated by hostility to the Palestinian people.

That is not true. There have been streaks of antisemitism in the left throughout our history – and, where Stalinism has been influential in the left, more than a streak – and the best sections of the left have sought to clean up that antisemitism and educate ourselves, rather than wave away all concerns as fabrications by the right wing.

We have called for an amnesty for all those summarily suspended or expelled by the Compliance Unit. We have opposed the suspension of Jackie Walker. Those stances can and must be combined with a proper recognition that the left must put our own house in order on antisemitism, and that someone being targeted factionally and arbitrarily by the right does not make everything they have said automatically ok.

There was another problem with the amendment. A number of people have been suspended on charges to do with antisemitism. Mostly they will get a hearing with at least some rules and safeguards. Some have had their suspensions lifted.

The far bigger section of the victims of the Compliance Unit are those excluded just for being left-wing, for allegedly sympathising with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal or Left Unity. Almost all of them have been denied a hearing, or an appeal, or even what would in any halfway fair system be considered definite charges.

That is the larger part of the Compliance Unit’s work. An amendment which just said “opposition to the witch-hunt”, reinforcing the already-included “opposition to unjust expulsions and suspensions”, would have been much better.

Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing – in their different ways, the most vocal advocates on the web of the view in which the core of politics is about the heroic resistance of “anti-Zionists” such as themselves to the supposedly all-powerful, all-pervading, ever-conspiring “Zionists”, and the most strident denouncers of leftists such as Rhea Wolfson (“Zionist ally of Jon Lansman”) – stood for election to the committee. We are glad to report that they both failed, with Downing coming bottom.

Greenstein and Downing stood for election…

The Monster Raving Greenstein Party got 49 votes,  and Downing got 11 coming last in the poll, but he still stood.

Greenstein.

Greenstein, as the above article states, has denounced Rhea Wolfson.

Denounce is perhaps too weak a word.

This is what he says of her support for Momentum’s Jon Lansman’s exclusion of Jackie Walker from her position..within Momentum, “a White woman who supports the racist Israeli state scapegoating a Black woman.” (Blog)

Comrade Rhea is not the only person individually targeted for Monster raving abuse.

There is a long, a very long list, but we will limit this post to a special case, in Momentum...

Lansman has embarked on rehabilitating Zionism and the State of Israel“, (June 2016), “I could also ask Jon Lansman a few of those questions that Tony Benn once suggested, such as ‘who put you there’ ‘from where does your power derive’ and the clincher ‘how do we get rid of you’? There is a reason that dictators have always loved plebiscites.  That is because they get to choose the questions and to frame them in such a way that they get the ‘right’ answer. Most people won’t remember Hitler’s plebiscites on the Rhine and the Saarland but they haven’t had a very good reputation ever since.” (January 2017).

Here is how he attacked the Jewish Socialist Group: Bundists behaving like Stalinists – JSG Leaders Remove Critics of Lansman from Jews 4 Jeremy FB Group (February 2017).

Here is the most recent raving limits of Greenstein, a call to create a separate ‘democratic’ Momentum, “The fight for democracy is not a split. Lansman’s coup should be resisted by founding a democratic Momentum, urges Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker. 23.2.17)

Small wonder that he was suspended from Labour, the old charge of bringing discredit on the party  would alone be enough.

Downing.

Gerry Downing, be it noted, is famous for his writings, and those of his comrade, Ian Donovan, on the Web site Socialist Fight, on the ‘International Jewish Bourgeoisie”.

This is located Donovan writes, in Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism 6-9-2014.

Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes. For the United States, which is the most powerful state in human history, you can easily find informed Jewish sources that place the representation of Jews among billionaires, the most powerful elements of the capitalist elite, at between 40 and 48% – nearly half (for example see http://www.jewishworldreview.com/joe/aaron101007.php3). This is the only logically coherent explanation for the power of the so-called lobby. It must be faced fearlessly by Marxists, irrespective of any discomfort that may result from confronting the widespread prejudice (for that is what it is) that to mention, let alone try to analyse, such factual matters is in some way racist. To ignore them in this way is itself an act of betrayal of those on the receiving end of the crimes that result from this state of affairs, and in that sense a chauvinist position.

After a lengthy ‘analysis’ he concludes:

The Jews are not a nation, but they have a pan-national bourgeoisie that had national aspirations and wanted a territorial asset to give expression to that.

This pan-imperialist Zionist bloc within the bourgeoisie plays an active role in the oppression of the Palestinians.

Downing has been expelled from membership of the Labour Party.

Why?

Few would be bothered to read the above drivel but they will look at what the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes revealed.

“An unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is headlined: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. The piece speaks for itself:

“The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious… Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”

Downing appears to have an obsession with “Jewish” people”

Given this background it is not surprising that Downing was thrown out of the Labour Party,  and claims about “witch-hunting invention” are distasteful, to say the least.

Is Grassroots Momentum going to campaign to get him back?

Then there is this, which is equally serious, politically if not ethically.

Socialist Fight recently helped organise this pro-Assad  meeting on Syria:

Socialist Fight Public Meeting Vanessa Beeley Speaks

To continue on last Saturday’s  meeting.

Grassroots Conference 11 March 2017 Steering Committee Election Results

The candidate for this group, Labour Party Marxists, Stan Keable, got 13 votes.

The Latest Labour Party Marxists Bulletin describes the conflict within Grassroots Momentum.

Against Jon Lansman, but for what?

The outline three tendencies (how far they are organised factions is left open):

  • Some want a clean split from Momentum – the sooner, the better. There are, naturally, differences over with whom to split, to form what exactly and on what political basis.
  • Some want to continue to work in Momentum for now, while at the same time almost replicating the official body – with parallel structures and similar political limitations, but on a lower level: similar campaigns, similar leadership elections, etc.
  • Some – and LPM belongs to this third group – agree that we should continue to work within Momentum for the time being, but with a clear understanding of its limited shelf life, openly criticising its exceedingly pinched political outlook and subordination to the politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges.

But essentially it boils down, apparently, to two.

Tina Werkmann of Labour Party Marxists, the New Steering Committee, and, I am not spilling any beans, the group that produces the Weekly Worker,  gives an  overview.

Are political differences between the two groups?

Definitely. This is reflected in Grassroots Momentum as a whole: Those left on the old steering committee included Alliance for Workers’ Liberty supporters Michael Chessum and Jill Mountford (plus Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and Jackie Walker); the CAC is made up of Jackie Walker, Alec Price and Delia Mattis (Josie Runswick resigned early on and was replaced by Lee Griffiths). The CAC took control, chaired the whole day and managed to almost totally sideline the AWL.

Jackie Walker and her supporters hate the AWL with a passion, of course.

And I totally understand why. The ugly truth is that AWLers have actively participated in the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt against her. They supported Jon Lansman in sacking her as Momentum vice-chair in September 2016. In effect, this was a dry run for the next coup – the ‘big one’ on January 10 – when Lansman crushed any democracy in the organisation and simply imposed a new, crassly undemocratic constitution.

It was clear at the GM conference that the AWL has really made a lot of enemies in all of this – just to add to those of us who already opposed their pro-Zionist social-imperialism. There was a great deal of hostility against them on display – and it only increased during the day. I must confess, I almost felt a bit sorry for them. Almost

Because the few proposals on display were presented so out of context and in a truncated manner, AWL members tried to make various ‘points of order’ throughout the day. Some were more useful than others; some were presented more coherently than others. The AWL’s Rosie Woods, who had taken up a position near the stage, was greeted, after she’d been on her feet a few times, with a rather sectarian chorus of “Sit down, sit down” (led by Gerry Downing, of all people – he’s been on the receiving end of people’s displeasure a few times, so probably should know better). But to claim that they “disrupted” the conference, as some comrades have since done on Facebook, is seriously misleading and excuses the CAC’s role in the often disorganised and muddled way conference was planned and conducted.

Actually, it reminds me of the way Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and Paul Mason have tried to blame ‘the Trots’ (ie, the left) for the failures of Momentum to take off. Not a healthy response …

I happen to be one of those who thinks that the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have sane politics on a variety of issues, from Europe (they are pro-Another Europe is Possible), the Middle East (as for their ” pro-Zionist social-imperialism“, they are for a democratic ‘two states’ solution to the Israel/Palestine issue, and back democratic secular forces against both Islamists, genocidal or ‘moderate’,  and tyrannies like Assad’s), and on the need for radical democratic socialist politics in the UK.

Many of us hold these views, without a need to ‘join’ anything more than pressure groups within the Labour Party.

We want to see a Labour government and  are intensely  aware of the difficulties that presents at the moment.

To that end wish to co-operate with the full range of party members, to reach out to the electorate, while trying to promote ideas of democratic socialism.

The above reports on Momentum Grassroots confirm that we are right not to get directly involved in this particular war, which involves those of the stripe of Greenstein and Downing, however much on the margins.

Regardless that is, if “Our comrades elected to the leadership of this new network will try to work seriously, constructively, and in cooperation with others, to make that happen” this will, I suspect, be the attitude of many on the left.

Meanwhile this is taking place in a couple of days:

CONFERENCE 2017  Momentum’s Inaugural National conference – Building to Win – Saturday 25th March

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More information: Momentum conferences are like buses. Andy Stowe. (Socialist Resistance).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Front National: Back to Holocaust Denial.

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Image result for front national mort aux bougnoules

Unconvincing ‘anti-racist’ makeover of Front National.

As part of its modernisation the far-right Front National, at present topping polls for the first round of the French Presidential elections but slipping fast, claimed to have dropped any association with anti-Semitism, and all forms of race hate.

Today  a spanner was put in the well-oiled works of Marine Le Pen’s party.

Un conseiller régional du FN suspendu pour avoir tenu des propos négationnistes.

The documentary, filmed, like revelations in UK parties, undercover, showed Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, casting doubt of the number of deaths in the Shoah, and citing the negationist “Leuchter report” associated with Holocaust denier M. Faurisson. The councillor declared, “Il n’y a pas eu de morts de masse comme ça a été dit” there were not the mass deaths as has been said.

The film, to be broadcast tonight, is also revealing about the pervasive racism inside the FN  something that English language reports on this  have so far not explored Another councillor, Philippe Vardon, is shown complaining that all the people he shakes hands with are blacks (“Ça commence à être inquiétant : tous les mecs qui me serrent la main, ils sont noirs”). (le Monde)

The message is that not only is Holocuast denial far from extinct within the FN but that close links with the cultural racist “identitaires” movement is at the heart of the far-right party.

Guardian report: France’s Front National suspends party official over Holocaust denial.

France’s far-right Front National has suspended a party official for Holocaust denial after he suggested there was no mass killing in the Nazi concentration camps.

Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in Nice, was secretly filmed making the comments, which will be broadcast in a documentary. “I don’t think there were that many deaths … during the Shoah,” he is heard saying.

Jean-Marie Le Pen fined again for dismissing Holocaust as ‘detail’

Asked by the journalist filming him about Holocaust deniers, Loeuillet, said: “I don’t really know what to think. It’s complicated … there weren’t 6 million [deaths]. There weren’t mass deaths as we’ve been told.”

The film-makers, from TV Press Productions, had asked to follow the FN in the Alpes-Maritimes region earlier this year to understand why so many young voters support the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner for the first round of France’s presidential election at the end of April.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2017 at 6:35 pm