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Left Out. Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire. A Review from the Left.

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Left Out by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire

 

Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire  Bodley Head. 2020.

Yesterday three Labour MPs, Beth Winter, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake quit  junior roles on Keir Starmer’s front bench after they broke the whip to vote against the Overseas Operation Bill condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. A total of 18 Labour MPs voted against the legislation. Over the weekend at a fringe meeting on Labour Connected by Stop the War the former Labour leader warned against a new cold war between an aggressive Trump and China. There was no mention of the attack on Hong Kong Democrats or the oppression of the Uyghurs. It would seem that the Labour left has returned to political terrain it knows well: opposition to real and potential abuses of human rights by the UK military on mission overseas, and ambiguous posturing about global politics that ignores human rights abuses by countries that are targeted by the US.

Readers of Inside Left expect the “inside story” of Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. They get it, although that has not stopped some complaining about the “sniggering gossip-column vibe.” (Mike Phipps) Politics is about people, and others will relish information about life inside Team Corbyn, from LOTO (the Leader’s Office) “on the warpath” against Margaret Hodge after she called the Labour leader an “anti-Semite and a racist”, to McDonnell (rightly, as often the case, in this reviewer’s opinion) “gripped by an almost biblical anger at the decision to proceed with action against Hodge”. (Page 117)

The rise, and “crumbling” of Executive Director of the Leader’s Office,  Murphy’s “empire” and the end of the ‘cult of Karie’, might also seize readers’ attention, if only they could keep a hold on the shifting cast of players. Seumas Milne, the ‘Great Milne’, wafting in and out, is caught with an expression adopted at length by his comrade Andrew Murray, dismissing the issue of Brexit as “culture wars”, ignoring, as a pro-Brexit euro-sceptic, that Labour’s 2017 surge had been fuelled by anti-Brexit supporters. (Page 70)

Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, who fell from grace in the eyes of most people for his role in whipping up moral panic about the fantasist accusations of Carl Beech a secret ring of paedophiles,  does not shine, He emerges as  a singularly ineffective, but damaging, leader of factionalist opposition, powered by self-righteous  hysteria,  to Corbyn and the left.

Corbyn, Anti-Semitism and Love.

The book revolves around Jeremy Corbyn. “Power was not something he pursued” (Page 359). “Corbyn had never wanted to be leader of the Labour Party But, in the wake of 2017, he had come to like the idea of being prime minister His was a mission waged on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who have invests their hopes in him in the vain belief that politics might change” Yet “Corbyn had failed himself” (Page 357)

On anti-Semitism “the failure was his.” “In the face of accusations of racism he too often emphasised with himself.” (Page 358). Those who thought of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel in terms of 1970s struggles for national liberation were given leeway, letting in their wake people with distinctly prejudiced views on ‘Zionism’ expresses, at length, their opinions. Left Out does not, as in its wider picture, cover the factional forces at work, from Jewish Voice for Labour to Labour Against the Witch-hunt.

It seemed to some of us that they were perusing the objective of making Labour an explicit supporter of the struggle against Israeli statehood in any form. It quickly looked as if they were prepared to indulge a degree of rhetoric against ‘Zionism’ that could often  blindside many Jewish people and the wider public.  Pogrund and Maguire state that accusations of anti-Semitism “struck at the very core of his sense of self.” (Page 321). Those of us who know some of the people involved in these bitter disputes are more than a little surprised that this came as a revelation to the campaigner for Palestinian rights, as if he had studiously ignored some of the more extreme voices, shouting loudly  in his close neighbourhood for many years.

Amongst many incidents in other areas, the clash involving Corbyn’s new private secretary Iram Chamberlin, whose Westminster Security clearance had been challenged in dubious conditions is striking.  Corbyn’s response to demands for an explanation about her presence at a MI5 Briefing, where she asked about their work on far-right extremism and Islamophobia, was “one of boyish innocence, likened by one witness to the young Jesus at the Temple” . (Page 154) Chamberlin was summarily pushed out, but Murphy’s long-term position had been undermined.

The Redeemer is, it is said, a popular figure in many circles. Keith Kahn-Harris (The problem of love in Corbyn’s Labour Party: Reflections on Left Out) in a widely read review, suggests, that “love was always the problem”. People poured out their emotions on Corbyn, and those with the greatest affection and awareness of his best qualities were not likely to be persuaded by those who devoted their time to hatred of the Labour Leader.

Brexit.

But  political problems, above all the Brexit problem, was not going to be solved by love. “The Project’s weakness, and its internal divisions, be they the distrust of Murphy’s combative stile, the deep resentment that festered among junior staff in LOTO, or John McDonnell’s freelance excursions on Brexit, all flowed directly from Corbyn’s own” Page 359). Or as Steve Bush’s review (Why Corbynism Failed)  puts it, the Leader “manages to combine indecision, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to deliver bad news in one fantastic package”

The “centrifugal forces” of Brexit, the daily dramas in the House of Commons,  were piled onto those concerned about their own potential loses to anti-Brexit parties, like the Liberal Democrats or Greens  and those who were chiefly concerned about the popularity for withdrawal from what they perceived to be their core constituency, the Red Wall. But underneath were divisions within the Project over what was right to further any transformative socialist governing agenda.  One one side were left-wing internationalists opposed to the Hard Right Brexit Project, who saw in the European political space a place to build alliances with other lefts for a root and branch change to the mechanisms of the EU,  On the other side were those who welcomed the opportunity to break free from the EU the better to take the British Road to Socialism.

Left Out offers a detailed account of what happened in the 2018 Labour Conference at which Keir Starmer emerged as a leading figure in the anti-Brexit, pro-Referendum camp. The backdrop the People’s Vote campaign  as well as the presence of the ‘Corbynite’ pro-European left, Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) is covered, and the bitterness Corbynista ultras from Momentum and Team Corbyn showed towards them. It indicates the strong support for Second Referendum motions from Labour constituencies, resolutions which were drawn up by the radical left Another Europe is Possible as well as the People’s Vote campaign (this writer was a participant).

What the book does not illustrate is the way in which hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets from 2018 to October 2019 on the issue. What it does not suggest is the obvious point that for people in Team Corbyn, used to having the streets filled with protests from their side, on issues such as the War against Iraq, and anti-Austerity were shaken by a movement that only the (numerically small) left of AEIP took part in. The supporters of Lexit, a ‘left’ Brexit, did not respond with their own demonstrations for a ‘People’s Brexit’.

This division, with a part of the radical left, whose positon on Europe can be traced back to the 1980s Socialist Society, Internationalist Marxist  groups and a wider section of  democratic socialists, on a different side to others behind the Project, has not gone away. McDonnell knew that he had to pick a side. He chose well. And if there is one message that rings throughout Left Out it is that the Shadow Chancellor, as well as other figures such as Andrew Fisher, tried to build the Project on serious ground – I would cite, for example, the hard work on issues that matter such a tax reform and an end to fiscal crookery – trying not to get bogged down in the chaos of the Team by reaching outwards.

Corbynist Futures.

Corbynism, the Project, and its electoral failure needs an account with a  wider framework than offered by Left Out, an “outside Corbyn’s Labour“. Yet the book offers important signposts about  the reasons for defeat in the misfunctioning Team Corbyn.

Those who had encouraged the illusion that Brexit was a progressive step, or just a merited kicking for the ‘neo-liberal’ EU can now see somebody who had promised to “Get Brexit Done’ in charge. Others will be happy to rediscover Corbyn the campaigner on international issues back. As the introductory paragraph to this review indicates, indeed it is, weighed down with ambiguity.

 

Andrew Coates.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm

French Media Unites to Defend Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Expression Against New Death Threats.

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France Charlie Hebdo Trial: 14 suspected accomplices go on trial in Paris

France 24. 22nd of September.

Five years after the attacks against a Jewish supermarket and the #CharlieHebdo newspaper that left a total of 17 dead, the #trial of 14 suspected accomplices of the perpetrators of the massacres takes place Tuesday in #Paris.

Testimony has already been given.

It is deeply distressing.

The widow of a victim of the anti-Semitic killings at the Hyper Cacher supermarket was amongst those who gave an account of their traumatic experiences.

A survivor, Zarie Sibony, a cashier at the Kosher shop pleaded and offered the butcher money. She was told by one of the killers, Amedy Coulibaly, that “Vous êtes les deux choses que je déteste le plus au monde : vous êtes juifs et français’.” You are the two things I loathe most in the world, Jewish and French.”

La veuve d’une victime de l’Hyper Cacher : “Je leur ai dit qu’un méchant monsieur avait tué leur papa”

 

Every Jew is aware today that they can be the victim of terrorists.

You can follow the trial:

EN DIRECT – Procès des attentats de 2015 : les rescapés de l’Hyper Cacher racontent l’horreur de la prise d’otages

As if these heart-wrenching accounts were not enough the Islamists, State and non-State,  and their allies continue to menace Charlie.

 

More than 100 French media organisations have signed and published an open letter defending freedom of speech against threats from “terrorists and states”. reports the Guardian.

 

 

The tribune was released after a member of staff at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo – targeted by Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people in January 2015 – was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats.

The open letter, titled “Together, we are defending freedom”, was initiated by the paper’s director, Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau.

“It has never happened before that the media, which often defend divergent points of view and whose manifesto is not the usual form of expression, have decided together to address audiences and fellow citizens in such a solemn manner. If we do so, it is because we felt it was crucial to alert you to one of the most fundamental values of our democracy: your freedom of expression,” it read.

“Today, in 2020, some of you are threatened with death on social networks when you expose singular opinions. Media outlets are openly targeted by international terrorist organisations. States put pressure on French journalists ‘guilty’ of publishing critical articles.

“The violence of words has gradually turned into physical violence. Over the past five years, women and men in our country have been murdered by fanatics because of their origins or their opinions. Journalists and cartoonists have been executed to stop them writing and drawing freely forever.

“It is the entire legal edifice that has been built over more than two centuries to protect your freedom of expression that is under attack, as never before in the last 75 years.”

The letter was signed by national, regional and local newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations.

It concludes: “The laws of our country provide each of you with a framework that allows you to speak, write and draw as in few other places in the world. It is up to you to take it.

“Yes, you have the right to express your opinions and criticise those of others, whether political, philosophical or religious, as long as it is within the limits set by law. Let us recall here, in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, which has paid for this freedom with the blood of those who worked there, that in France, the crime of blasphemy does not exist.

“Some of us are believers and may naturally be shocked by blasphemy. Nevertheless, they unreservedly associate themselves with this initiative. Because, in defending the freedom to blaspheme, it is not blasphemy that we are defending, but freedom.”

Background in English:

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 23, 2020 at 4:30 pm

New Cold War? The Return of Stop the War, Jeremy Corbyn and ‘anti-imperialism’.

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Jeremy Corbyn, “the levels of anti-Chinese racism in our society are quite horrendous” .

In Left Out (Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire. 2020) it is said that “foreign policy is the real locomotive force” of Jeremy Corbyn’s leftism and that of his Director of Strategy and Communications, Seumas Milne.    (Page 77) Activists on the left would hardly have needed this book to tell them: the former Labour Leader was both prominent in the protests against the Invasion of Iraq, in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and, less visibly to the wider public, has been active within Liberation, the successor (renamed in 1970) to the Movement for Colonial Freedom. (MCF).

For Pogrund and Maguire his worldview is that “the US was both a global hegemon and a force for ill in the world. They believed its imperialism ought to be resisted, and that resistance to its imperialism could almost always be justified.” (ibid).

This is unfair to Corbyn (though not to Milne). Jeremy Corbyn has always emphasised human rights. Yet one would hope that he gave them first place, not get locked into the views put forward by (amongst others) his former top aide that submerge them with issues about ‘imperialism’.

The Movement for Colonial Freedom was born out of resistance to the British Empire. At present its legacy can be traced in the reckoning with this past, given a stimulus recently by the American-centred Black Lives Matter. But, as Priyamvada Gopal has argued in her important  Insurgent Empire. Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent  (2019) these radicals were shaped by a form of “engagement with non-European peoples.” (Page 453.) She traces the history right back to the French Revolution, the Chartists, Caribbean revolts, the long-history of the drive for independence in the Sub-Continent,  and the post-Russian Revolution anti-colonial movements, seen in on the left with the transnational League Against Imperialism (1927) and the emergence of Pan-Africanism.

The “insurgents who inspired them” changed the way anti-colonialists, anti-imperialists, thought. In place of liberal paternalism, and the view that the colonised learnt their demands from the example of ‘British’ liberty and the rule of law, the British, and other European lefts began to work with equals and became changed as a result.

Outside of academic and circles  ‘contrapuntal histories’ of Empire, however brilliant,  or battles over the symbols of the ‘culture wars’ over Empire, is of less importance than the kind of solidarity shown in the past by campaigns such as the Movement for Colonial Freedom. Many of us have taken the view that we have to listen to what today’s ‘insurgents’ from Syria, Belarus to Hong Kong have to say. Many of us, looking at the “post-colonial” world have found that demands for human rights, defined by people suffering abuses or demanding their own freedoms, take priority over global conflicts between the ‘hegemon’ and the rest.

Jeremy Corbyn is, as indicated, a supporter of the Stop the War Coalition. The meeting he addressed is titled, “The US, China, and the threat of War.”

Here is what a writer for Counterfire, a left group which has great influence in the StWC says of one player in this conflict.

China: a socialist force for good or an imperial superpower in the making? An historical evaluation – long read

Dragan Plavšić

China is an emerging imperialist power that is seeking to assert itself in a world dominated by the established imperialist power of the US, still the most powerful economic, political and military force in the world today. The escalating tensions between the US and China make the dangers of another Cold War palpable, with the Trump administration in particular determined to shift the traditional focus of US and Western foreign policy from Russia to China.

In this impending conflict, the left in the UK, the closest ally of the US, has a crucial role to play. First and foremost, it must be guided by the principle laid out in the First World War by the German socialist, Karl Liebknecht, that our main enemy is at home, not least given the eminently pragmatic fact that this is the enemy within reaching distance of our protests.[18]

But in following this principle, for all the reasons argued here, it would be a mistake to see China as somehow on our side, even if only on the misleading basis that our enemy’s enemy is our friend. This temptation should certainly be resisted, not least because we ought not to forget the corresponding principle of international solidarity with genuine struggles against oppression in other countries. We need to give expression to both principles as and when the need arises.

He gives an example,

The crisis in Hong Kong is a case in point. The left should certainly support the movement for the defence of democratic rights there, but in ways that encourage its political independence from the US and the West. In particular, this means opposing those who would raise the demand for Hong Kong’s independence, as this is a demand whose logic would drag the movement into increasingly submissive dependence on Washington and London.

Plavšić concludes

It therefore follows that our ally in China is not the CCP-run state but the working class.

This is a start, at least.

But the obsession with the potential for protests and movements to play into the hands of the ‘US and the West’ is not a good sign. It serves as a very convenient pretext for ignoring any message somebody, or in this case, a groupuscule, does not like. It enables them to protest “at home” while ignoring an ‘abroad’ that modern communication and migration, personal contact, and even holidays, makes pretty close to hand.

Human rights are universal. The national, religious and cultural oppression of Uighurs is an issue regardless of what the ‘West’ says and the class inflection it takes. We have to learn, like our forebears, that we cannot stand by and let their voices be unheard.

 

Unheard they were at the Stop the War Coalition’s Labour Fringe event.

This is an account (from the video) of what was said:

The meeting was introduced by Shelley Asquith. She introduced Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn began with the Coronavirus crisis, the refugee crisis, an environmental crisis, seen in the fires in the US and Brazil, and the effects of global warming on the polar regions. He then spoke on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and British complicity through supplies of arms to Saudi Arabia, Palestine, the dangers in the Middle East, . He wished to apologise for the War on Iraq, driven by “xenophobia” “excessive nationalism” and lies. It had unleashed terrorism. He wanted to see Peace in the Middle East (no mention of Syria).  The Stop the War Coalition needs to be here to oppose War. It can help halt the arms industry that has fuelled conflicts by moving in the direction of a “green sustainable future”.

Lindsey German focused on rising US-China tensions, and warned about being  “taken in by this kind of rivalry”. She stated while there are “criticisms that can be made” (no mention of what these might be) these should not be an excuse for War. Salam Yaqoob, claiming to be on the ‘left’  talked of Julien Assange, and algorithms, and compassion (Nothing about Uighurs),  joining the ‘keyboard war’ to promote solidarity and mental well-being.

At the end of the meeting, Corbyn talked “the levels of anti-Chinese racism in our society are quite horrendous” linked to Covid-19 (Corbyn), and a the encouraging international solidarity towards the United States the Black Lives movement, (nothing about Uighurs). Issues now  pumping up arms in the Middle East, stocking conflict with Iran, human rights (nothing about Uighurs). Builds up anti-China rhetoric, direct conflict, or wars by proxy with China. Our policy should be guided by environmental sustainability and human rights (nothing about China).

As Asquith said, the “anti-imperialist” movement has some way to go…

Full Video: Facebook.

I am blocked from following the Stop the War Coalition twitter feed to find out more reactions,   but there is this report;

Morning Star.

WE MUSTN’T bend to the propaganda campaigns of the warmongers,” Labour MP Diane Abbott told a Stop the War fringe meeting during Labour Connected at the weekend.

…….

Ms Abbott pointed out that while in the US, as in Britain, there “is no money for proper personal protective equipment” Mr Trump had hiked the military budget by 18 per cent to $738 billion (£571bn).

She condemned his aggressive foreign policy, including the imposition of tariffs on other countries.

“Trump even slapped tariffs on Britain once — so much for the special relationship,” she said.

“But Boris Johnson owes so much to Trump that when Trump says jump, Johnson says ‘how high?’” — pointing to Britain’s craven agreement to cease working with China’s Huawei corporation under US pressure.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the world faced three huge crises: coronavirus, a refugee crisis that has displaced 70 million people and climate change.

“Yet where is the biggest humanitarian crisis? In Yemen because of the Saudi war.

“What is our contribution? To provide more and more arms. We are complicit in the killing of wholly innocent children,” he charged.

Mr Corbyn said he was proud to have formally apologised when Labour leader for the party’s role in starting the Iraq war.

 

Nothing about the universal human rights of those in China, the focus of the New Cold War.

Nothing about Syria.

Nothing about Venezuela.

Those who now hold mantle of League Against Imperialism ignore the very universality of rights that they claim to defend.

See: Shiraz. 

China and Myanmar face Uighurs and Rohingya that are fighting back after years of oppression