Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans
Archive for the ‘European Left’ Category
Stop the War Coalition: only way Islamist Murder can be ended is by “campaign against both war and Islamophobia.”
End Terrorist Attacks By Stopping Western Wars and Islamophobia says StWC.
War, Terrorism & Islamophobia: Breaking The Vicious Circle Stop the War Coalition, also reproduced on the site of the groupuscule, Counterfire, which occupies many of the StWC’s leading positions.
Lindsey German writes,
The threat of Islamic terrorism requires a serious analytical response which cannot ignore the background against which it exists.
Does this involve an analysis of what Islamic terrorism is, the nature of groups such as the Islamic State, their genocidal ideology and practice? Their relation to Salafism, the social and ideological conditions in which they have grown in?
..every serious analysis of the increase in terrorism over the past 16 years has to confront one central fact: that the ill-conceived and misnamed war on terror has actually increased the level of terrorism in Europe, not reduced it.
The terrible consequences of the Iraq war – and subsequent interventions in Libya and Syria – have indeed led to a growth in terrorism both across the Middle East and South Asia.
German does not go further.
She offers nothing about the history of Islamism, from the Iranian Revolution (1979) to the conflicts between Shia and Sunni that mark the greatest number of terrorist atrocities. Or the Algerian Civil War, (over 100,000 dead, 1991 – 2002), an example of religiously inspired violence and state repression which has profoundly shaped the Maghreb, and left support for murdering Jihadism to be mobilised in the present conflicts.
There is equally not a word on the decades long development of Islamism in all its various forms, from the Muslim Brotherhood, back to its roots in the writings and practice of figures such as Sayyid Qutb to cite but one name, that a “serious analysis” would have to grapple with in any effort to explain the intensity, the blood-stained killings that mark the present batch of jihadists.
This is no doubt a large area, a hard reading list even for the learned German, but she could begin here Islamism (Wikipedia). Or indeed with the books reviewed on this site yesterday, notably, The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood.
Such a study would show that the violence, the racism and the totalitarian ambitions of the jihadist wing of the Islamist movement cannot be reduced to an effect of Western Intervention.
The invasion of Iraq, and the failed state that the US tried to create, has increased the possibilities for Jihadists to spread, fueled the wars between Shiites and Sunnis, and led to the wholescale religious cleansing of non-Muslims from a large swathe of the Middle East.
But the springs for the terrorist violence in Europe, the mechanisms which organise it, which encourage it, the actual series of intentional acts of murder, lie in the material shape of the Jihadist groups, their ideology and the individuals who carry out the slaughter.
It is worth remembering that those countries still reeling from the effects of these interventions face regular terrorist attacks against their own populations, with often dozens killed in single attacks on markets and other public places. These receive scant coverage in the British media and certainly not the emotional responses that mark an attack in London or Paris. But they alone should prove as false the idea that these attacks are about British values. They are political attacks designed to promote the ideas of IS or al Qaeda or other similar groups and their main targets are other Muslims.
This is all too true, which might lead the leaders of the StWC to support those in these countries, Muslim or not, above all the liberals and secularists, fighting the Islamists, and, above all, the Jihadists, linked with, or members of Daesh and Al Qaeda.
That is there.
Here is here.
And here is, apparently, where the problem comes from.
The first is that the foreign policy which has contributed to the rise of terrorism has to end. These wars are not history but are ongoing. Only this week there have been reports of a US bombing raid on a mosque near Aleppo in Syria which has killed many civilians, in addition to the bombing of Mosul in Iraq – as part of the campaign against IS – which has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, including 200 in a recent attack.
Such attacks are exactly what has helped feed terrorism in the past.
Sagely German notes that,
The second message is that the response to such attacks cannot be further racism against Muslims.
Those advocating “further racism” take note!
What we can be certain of is that these attacks will continue unless there are major political changes.
This climate of racism here in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, is only helping to create a vicious circle where Islamophobia leads to a growth in extremism and terrorism, which in turn leads to more Islamophobia. It is a circle which can only be broken by a concerted campaign against both war and Islamophobia.
This will surely defeat the genociders of the Islamic State.
That is, it would, if Islamism and the Islamic State had been created by ‘Islamophobia’ and racism.
Faced with the depth of the challenge that Jihadism presents this statement marks the inability of the Stop the War Coalition to rise above slogans.
The problem must be posed anew, the hypotheses inverted, for in this domain ‘ideology’ is but another name for ignorance: the religious expression of a social phenomenon is not its disguise, but its unveiling. Gilles Kepel. (1)
From the 7th of January 2015 Islamist murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Vincennes Hyper Cacher to the massacre on the 14th of July in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, was for those living in France, Gilles Kepel, begins La Fracture, “une année terrible”. That the anniversary of the 2016 jihadist killings in Belgium was marked last week by the Westminster atrocity has brought the Islamic State, Daesh, back to European headlines. In Mosul and Syria ferocious battles, waged with few scruples, continue against their genocidal tyranny.
Some figures have reacted to the latest tragedy with what Nick Cohen calls the “lies of the right” – Nigel Farage’s tirade against “migration” in first place – “debase civilised society.” (Observer 26.03.17) In Pour Les Musulmans the journalist Edwy Plenel one of the first to signal the dangers of Le Pen and the Front National in the 1980s (L’Effet Le Pen 1984 has written a generous appeal, in the spirit of Émile Zola’s Pour les Juifs (1896). Against hatred, and the accumulated prejudices against Muslims that makes them a “global enemy” and target in French political life, Plenel offers the British reaction to the 2005 London carnage, “We Are Not Afraid”.
Perhaps now is also the moment to look anew at Jihadism, the most violent wing of Islamism. In his column Cohen reflects a wider dissatisfaction with those who try to explain these outrages as responses to western foreign policy (the ‘anti-imperialist’ left), or the ‘result’ of multiculturalism (the ‘alt-right’).
Kepel was an early critic of the view that political Islam was a “mask” for deeper social causes. Since 9/11 we have heard much of the “religious disguise” that Al-Qaeda and now Daesh presented, while the ‘real’ issue of Western intervention, or more generally ‘neo-liberal globalisation’. While these abstractions count for little, there are without doubt hard social facts that help extreme forms of Islamism flourish. In France the social divisions that leave many of those of North African descent marginalised, time in prison, and the psychological fragility of individuals, are conditions working behind the acts of individual Jihadists. But “l’idéologie donne la conscience de l’action et en détermine la forme.” Ideology is material, and exists, in ISIS/ISIL, as an organised would-be state, with international offshoots. Daesh, Kepel states, aims to provoke a violent fracture in France, which their ideologues elaborate from Salafist materials, a conquest of Europe, ending in the mass conversion, the enslavement or extermination of the inhabitants. (2)
The Islamic State.
These may be outrageous beliefs, but Kepel does not misrepresent them. The Way of Strangers is a thorough account, first hand evidence, of Islamic State ideas. Those wearied by the media use of the “so-called” before Islamic State will find that, after consideration, Wood, uses the term they use themselves. He shifts the attention to what they are and not to what a ‘real’ ‘Islamic’ state might be. It cannot be grasped as “Jacobinism with an Islamic veneer. It has its own story, the will of god written on the battlefield.
“The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. “(3) Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.
“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.” (4)
In meetings, across the world, with those in sympathy with this goal Wood talks to figures, many of them converts, Musa Cerantonio, ‘Yahya’, Anjem Choudary, and some with decided distance from the Islamic state, such as Hamza Yusuf. The Way of Strangers melds these encounters, invariably over Halal food, with considerations on Islamic history, above all the legal school of Dhaharism, which rigorously bases its rulings on the Qur’an and the prophet, and no additional material or judgements. Parallels with the seventh century Kharijites, a vicious Muslim splinter group who practised mass excommunication, and denied all authority but their own, are dawn.
As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.
Most people do not want, Wood writes, to be part of a religion seen as “fanatical and bloodthirsty.”Most religions have zealots that the mainstream would prefer to make disappear and the Muslim bind is not unique”. Yet, is the Islamic State Muslim? “Whether it is ‘legitimate; is a question other believers answer for themselves, overwhelmingly in the negative” That can be said of any minority, “the group led and supported by Muslims albeit Muslims with whom they vociferously disagree.” To say that it has “nothing to do with Islam” is to deny that they “cite Koran, hadiths, and carefully selected thinkers within the Islamic tradition.” In brief, the denial of the Muslim roots of Daesh is a way of avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, starting with the fact that the Qu’ran does contain verses that support slavery, sexual oppression, and is riddled with ideas that are hard to reconcile with democratic values. Word for word reading shows them, and reasoning by analogy, historical context, and other methods used to adjust Islam to today, on the model perhaps of Saint Augustine’s 5th century reading of the Bible in On Christian Doctrine always runs up against the problem that the book is claimed, however bizarrely, to be the inerrant word of god. (5).
The Way of Strangers is not just an important and brave book. It is a way of confronting difficult issues about religious politics above all religious genocide based on a form of spiritual racism. The immediate response to defend universal human rights a point of unity between people. Yet Wood leaves us with multiple dilemmas. If the Islamic State is now facing defeat in its Caliphate, will it be able to retain and rebuild support in other violent conditions? What will happen to those who have joined its genocidal regime? Will they return home, or will they, like the butchers of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen be tried and imprisoned?
(1) Page 234. Gilles Kepel. The Roots of Radical Islam Saqi 2005. Originally published as Le Prophète et Pharaon. La Découverte. 1984.
(2) Pages 47 and 256 – 8 La Fracture. Gilles Kepel.
(3) Page 73. The Way of Strangers. Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme Wood.
(4) Page 77. The Way of Strangers.
(5) Pages 217 – 8 .The Way of Strangers.
No Trump no Brexit no racist EU exit!
Why join the March?
Another Europe is Possible introduced the reasons:
This Saturday, tens of thousands of people will march through London on the ‘Unite for Europe’ demonstration. We’ll be there despite our criticisms – and here’s why.
The triggering of Article 50 on March 29th will represent a defeat for democracy and a blow to the rights of ordinary people.
Theresa May has managed to get away with a smash and grab raid on the Brexit process; if the government gets its way, parliament and the people will have little or no say over what is negotiated on our behalf. Millions of European citizens have no guarantees about their right to remain in the UK. And our human rights, rights at work, free movement and environmental protections are under grave threat.
We are in this situation because the terms of the debate have been set entirely by the Tories, UKIP and the right wing press. The message is: Leave won, so now we can do whatever we want.
But the referendum result is not a mandate to attack migrants, destroy the environment or undermine workers’ rights. The government has no mandate for the extreme, regressive form of Brexit that it is pursuing.
So we have to mobilise – to shift the debate and prevent the Brexit nightmare from becoming a reality. The 16 million people who voted for Remain are not our only allies in that task – there are many who voted Leave who do not agree with what Theresa May is doing, and many more who didn’t vote at all.
Another Europe is Possible will be on the demonstration this Saturday – not to wave flags and not to defend the EU’s policy or democracy as it currently exists. We were and are very critical of these.
We will be there because we all have a right to be heard – and a duty to fight against the tide.
Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty argues:
Labour’s deference on Brexit also undermines the work of rebuilding Labour support.
The Labour right wing’s staged Shadow Cabinet resignations in June-July started the process which has given Theresa May a lead in the polls despite unpopular policies (continued benefit cuts, new schools cuts, grammar schools…) But the new line of deferring to a supposedly fixed Brexit majority has worsened it.
While the Lib-Dems – despite their so-recent record in government, despite the fact that one-third of their voters went for Brexit on 23 June, despite everything – have doubled their membership by making at least some show of fighting the Tories’ Brexit, Labour’s surge in membership has been paused or even slightly reversed.
We cannot beat the Tories by deferring to them. Labour should fight Brexit all the way!
The BBC reported,
Tens of thousands of people joined an anti-Brexit march to call for Britain to remain in the European Union.
The Unite for Europe march in London coincided with events to mark 60 years since the EU’s founding agreement, the Treaty of Rome, was signed.
A minute’s silence to remember the victims of the Westminster attack was held ahead of speeches at a rally in Parliament Square.
Comrade Bonnie Greer tweeted from the march.
Socialist Resistance have an excellent report,
Try and picture what a march of Brexit supporters would look like in central London, asks Andy Stowe. You immediately get images of portly men dressed in John Bull outfits, Farage gurning in front of the cameras, English and British flags, homemade placards with slogans about WW2 and not so subtle allusions to controlling borders. It would be a Glastonbury for racist English nationalism.
The Unite for Europe demonstration through central London on March 25th certainly had aspects that showed it wasn’t organised by socialists. The organisers’ homepage is decorated with two strips of European Union (EU) and British flags, the liberal way of showing that British people want o be part of the EU. Speakers at the closing rally included former Lib Dem leader and Tory glove puppet Nick Clegg, current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, someone offering the ex-pat perspective (ex-pat being the correct term for a British person who’s an economic migrant in another country) and Blarite Rottweiler Alistair Campbell.
Almost immediately after the Brexit referendum result was announced there was a large, young and angry demonstration against the result. Those people were largely absent on March 25th. Press estimates of the size range from 25-100 000 but they tended to be older and more affluent. The young Europeans who keep the service industries of London running didn’t turn up. Supporters of Socialist Resistance who were distributing postcards advertising this year’s Fourth International Youth Camp remarked that it sometimes took a few minutes to find someone young enough to hand one to.
However, the demonstration was unequivocally progressive. British flags were substantially outnumbered by that of the EU. The people carrying them were making a statement that they rejected reactionary British nationalism and wanted to identify themselves as citizens of Europe. The home made placards they carried spoke of freedom of movement and being able to work in any EU state. It was a partial rejection of national borders. Coming only three days after an attack by a reactionary terrorist who murdered three people and injured at least fifty, the march was, in an unassuming way, an assertion of the power of mass action by people who want to engage in politics.
Socialist Resistance rightly make a number of critical observations.
Most of the marchers gave the impression that they had no criticisms of the EU. I saw no condemnations of its shameful deal with Turkey to prevent the movement of migrants or the rejection of the will of the Greek people. This of course is not the view of Socialist Resistance and others on the radical left who opposed Brexit. We argued that it’s a supra-national authority which has imposed austerity on the European working class and has reduced most Greeks to utter penury. Our reason for opposing Brexit was that we knew it could only be achieved by a massive xenophobic chauvinist campaign dominated completely by the right. The London demonstration was a rejection of that tidal wave of xenophobia and racism.
Politically the big winners on the day were they Liberal Democrats and they can expect to regain some lost ground by their stance on Brexit. Their membership turned out in strength distributing stickers, carrying placards and setting the tone for the day. A handful of Labour Party banners could be seen but the party had made the mistake of not mobilising for the event and there was no evidence of any organised trade union presence.
Brexit has shifted British politics to the right in a way we haven’t seen since the election of the Thatcher government. The Tories are now pushing through UKIP’s programme and the Labour Party’s response has not appeared coherent to many of its supporters. The Lib Dems threw down a gauntlet to the radical left, the unions and the Labour Party that our side needs to be the one defending freedom of movement, resisting Tory inspired xenophobia and protecting migrants.
“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. This, as 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):
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”.
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’.
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.
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 mosquees” instead of toutes le Mosqusées 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.
A ‘New Kind of Politics’?
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.
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)
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.
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. 18.104.22.168)
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.
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.
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…..
Latest Opinion Polls.
Tricolores , Marseillaise, 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.
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.
Organisers claimed over 130,000 attended.
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.