Archive for the ‘European Left’ Category
Save Momentum from Saboteurs – Owen Jones. Statement by Momentum (External Faction, Majority ‘A’ Tendency).
People’s Front (British Left Training Manuel).
Before I begin this I note the following:
- When Momentum was set up there were discussions by long-standing left-wing activists, members of the Labour Party and/or Trade Unions, engaged in anti-austerity campaigning and a variety of social movements. The potential for small organised left groups to join Momentum, bathing in the reflected glory of Jeremy Corbyn, and use it for their own ends it was noted. One sectarian group, the Socialist Party even went so far as to try to set up its own front, called Trade Union Momentum, in order to recruit for their organisation (Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum. The Socialist. 9th of January 2016).
- The principal problem appeared to be the presence of groups trying to recruit for their ‘party building’. That is, to split off (as they call it) the ‘centrists’ and ‘populist’ left from the dyed-in-the-wool ‘reformists’ and get them to join their own ranks, either overtly or in classic ‘entryist’ style, through various ‘fronts’ (one might envisage something like the ‘socialist platform’ in Momentum.
- Leading figures in Momentum, notably Jon Lansman, were informed – repeatedly informed of these concerns. This is because the core of the original Momentum leadership are people we know and hardly unaware of this kind of thing. They were said to agree with us.
- Having expressed these views, and stated my own belief, that the Labour party should be encouraged to develop as a modern inclusive democratic socialist party, and not badgered from a half-in half-out group, I was encouraged by Momentum’s initial development. Notably its support for the Other Europe is Possible campaign, supporting a Remain Vote in the Referendum.
- I and many others from the European democratic left side have not been encouraged by the launch of an “our Brexit” campaign linked with Momentum without the members being consulted.
- I finally note that it the divisions in Momentum cannot be described as simply between “young idealistic” social movement types and older ‘Trotskyists’. The Trotskyists are battling ‘older’ people, and not all ‘Trotskyists’ are ‘old’, far from it. The way the decision on ‘Our Brexit’ ( just cited) was reached raises concerns wider than any of these splits.
It is, these points in mind, hardly out of the blue that the present crisis has happened.
Comrade Owen begins,
These are the things I want to write about, not the internal woes of the left. The left has had something of a reputation for turning infighting into an art form, immortalised by that People’s Front of Judea sketch in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But an emergent crisis in Britain’s left is so serious that, sadly, it cannot be ignored.
Momentum – the grassroots movement set up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory – is currently facing a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians. If they succeed, Momentum will be destroyed. The most prominent sectarian figures are embittered veterans of struggles from the 1970s and 80s, people who have only experienced defeat, and who won’t let an unexpected opportunity afforded by the seismic political developments of the last two years slip through their fingers. This is their last chance.
They jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits. They’re not interested in say, door-to-door campaigning, but rather in debating their obscure pet issues with long-winded interventions at meetings on a Thursday evening.
The only point that really strikes home is the lack of ‘door-to-door campaigning’.
But this is not a fault unique to the ‘sectarians’.
One could argue that setting up a parallel organisation to normal Labour bodies is bound to divert energy away from this kind of grass-roots work.
Owen strays into perhaps excessive prose in the following,
Their opponents are younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented and pluralistic, lacking Machiavellian strategic ability – all of which the sectarians exploit. The sectarians smear their opponents as rightwingers, Stalinists, bureaucrats, as having ulterior and sinister motives (this article will be dismissed as the work of a rightwing establishment careerist in the service of a Guardian conspiracy to destroy the left). Everything goes wrong, they believe, not because of their own almost farcical strategic ineptitude, but because of the betrayal of others. Momentum offers hope to young people who have long been demoralised by politics. Those wrecking Momentum – if they succeed – could destroy that hope, and that is unforgivable.
It is wrong to call these forces “Trotskyist sectarians” as if there is a common unity amongst them.
This is not classic ‘entryism’: there are very diverse groups. Some of them work well with other people on particular objectives – such as promoting a social Europe, or, say defending secular democratic demands in Iran. It is true, in a very general sense, that many of them refer to the Russian Revolution and Lenin (something I personally cannot empathise with). Others – I am thinking of former members of Left Unity – have more in common with 1970s New Left radical groups than with the kind of moribund organisations at present hanging on as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Some of the opponents of the Momentum leadership have their own personal agenda, which appears to derive more from identity politics than the left, sectarian or not.
These are small groups, groupuscles if you will, or just alliances of affinity. There is no common unity – just cite the words Israel and Zionism, and, hey, see! – except on organisational issues within Momentum.
It is therefore not just false but highly speculative to claim that,
the sectarians are highly disciplined, highly organised, and highly experienced. The interests of their own sects are far more important than any movement. Only their sect, they believe, has the correct politics: everybody else’s are fatally flawed. They have no faith in the Labour party. Momentum, for them, is an embryonic political party. The prize is Momentum’s contact data, containing the details of tens of thousands of people. At an opportune time, they will walk away from Labour and found a new party, which will get 300 votes in a byelection. They will triumphantly hail these as 300 votes for socialism.
The ‘new party’ line, which is the decrepit Socialist Party’s objective, is too marginal even to bother with.
Having said this I must say that the following struck home:
Take the barrister Nick Wrack, one of the sectarian leaders. Last year he stood for the catchily named Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in Camberwell and Peckham, and secured 0.6% of the vote. There’s no life for the left in the Labour party, he told me in 2014.“Time for [a] new party that stands for socialism,” he lectured me before the general election. I was right to call for more working-class representation, he tells me, “but it won’t come from Labour,” he tells me, after Labour’s defeat.
Owen forgets: membership of the SWP, Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the Independent Socialist Network, and a host of other groups……
And, “Nick worked as a journalist for the socialist newspaper Militant. He became its editor in 1994.”
But surely these are sectarian points?
And is this a fair summary of the other side?
The younger Momentum protagonists aligned to Lansman – who himself has gone on a political journey away from top-down structures – are known as “movementists”: those who dislike hierarchies and who are attracted by social movements.
There are problems, which Owen chose to ignore in his introduction to this book, about ‘movementist’ democracy. In Podemos: In the Name of the People’ by Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón (foreword by Owen Jones) Jones celebrated this party’s success. But its own “democracy on-line” has worked to consolidate the party leadership. Critics, whom we have covered at length on this Blog, have asserted that Podemos is now organised on a “Pyramidal” “vertical” basis. It is said to have led to the withering away of the “circles” at the base of Podemos. It has, to put it simply, not been able to create structures – to many critics – that are markedly better than the old system. Podemos is now undergoing its own internal ‘factional battles, though one has to recognise that it’s on a healthy basis, that is, with real policy alternatives at stake.
I am not a member of Momentum, to the reasons I outlined at the start. Some elderly local people may be.
But it would seem that some kind of synthesis between these systems could be devised.
This would surely be preferable to this call for Armageddon:
….Jeremy Corbyn. An intervention by him would stop Momentum being taken over, allowing its rebirth as an open, campaign-focused movement. Without that, the sectarians will win. They must be stopped in their tracks. So much hope, so much optimism. We can’t let it end in rancour and betrayal.
Reports on Saturday 3d December Momentum Meeting Round-Up – Clarion.
….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….
Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity
Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting, we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”
This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.
In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.
But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.
Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate
Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.
The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.
The key votes:
• The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.
This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.
….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.
• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.
No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.
This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.
So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.
There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.
We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference.
Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.
But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,
Spectacular Rise in Polls for Belgium Far-left Parti du Travail de Belgique/Partij van de Arbeid van België.
The public broadcaster in Belgium, the RTBF, led with this story this morning:
Le PTB, futur lider maximo? Le parti marxiste progresse dans les trois régions du pays, même si cela reste mesuré en Flandre (+1,4% pour +5,6% à Bruxelles et + 12,9% (!) en Wallonie). Tel est à nouveau le principal enseignement du baromètre Dedicated pour la RTBF et La Libre.
Autres vainqueurs: le Vlaams Belang et Groen! qui, en Flandre, font toujours jeu égal avec les partis traditionnels.
The PTB future lider maximo? The Marxist Party has risen in the opinion polls in three regions: up 1 % in Flanders, 5,6% in Brussels and plus 12,9% in Wallonie. This is the result from the latest poll by Deciudated, for the RTBF and La Libre.
The other winners are the far-right Vlaams Belang and the Greens, Groen!, who in Flanders are neck and neck with the traditional parties.
La Libre Belgique says that the Workers’ Party of Belgium (Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA; Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB) is scoring 18,4% of voters amongst voters in Wallonie.
The PTB/PVDA is a Marxist political party with its roots in ‘marxism-leninism’ (Maoism) about which there is much to say. It is one of the few parties that operates as a single Belgian party. Site (French): here (Flemish): here.
Also see: Le PTB convainc 18% des électeurs en Wallonie Le Soir.
Diane Abbott: Labour Should Hold its Nerve Against Racists Who Say: “‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’”
What has happened to the “People’s Brexit“, or, as the leader of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey German, called, “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” ?
The Carnival of Reaction continues.
The latest news is that this individual had been elected to lead UKIP.
People in my family, where I live in Hackney, have been shouted at in the street and told: ‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’ Brexit has become a euphemism for anti-immigrant feeling. “I’ve got friends on the South Coast, which is not ‘left-behind Britain’, and yet people are shouting at them on the bus: ‘Why are you still here?’”
Says comrade Diane Abbott in the I’ today.
..the shadow Home Secretary, argued that the party should “hold its nerve” and appealed to its huge membership to confront “toxic” arguments over immigration. “It’s as if the Brexit vote has given people permission to say they things didn’t feel able to say before,” she said in an interview with i.
Ms Abbott’s appointment by Jeremy Corbyn, and her decision to take personal control of immigration policy, has dismayed some Labour MPs who fear the party’s failure to take a tougher stance on the issue will make it vulnerable to Ukip. But she has no truck with that argument, insisting: “I don’t think there’s any way forward for the Labour Party electorally from sounding Ukip-lite. “If you are attracted by Ukip arguments, you are going to vote Ukip. And in areas where they are not so upset about migration they are going to be baffled about what we are actually doing.”
The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington added: “What some of my colleagues don’t seem to bear in mind is there are
people out there who are genuinely frightened by the turn this debate has taken.” Ms Abbott blamed anti-migration feeling in many Labour-loyal areas which voted for Brexit on disaffection in post-industrial Britain and a “cry of loss for a world which isn’t coming back”. She accused New Labour of taking those areas for granted on the mistaken assumption that there was nowhere else for its natural supporters to go. Ms Abbott argued Labour’s 500,000-plus membership should take the initiative in campaigning on the continuing economic boost from migration.
It was a tough task “in the era of Farage and Le Pen and Trump” but was the right thing for the party to do, she said. “If you were a Corbynista you would feel very let down if we said anything else. “We’ve now got the biggest social democratic party in western Europe, and we have to respond to it almost conversation by conversation, but at the same time being seen to address the real concerns people have about the NHS, job security and so on “I understand how high feelings run, but I just think we have to beware of a downward spiral in the debate.”
The Independent reports,
Some Labour backbenchers are furious with Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, accusing her of trying to stamp on any debate about immigration which could see Labour trying to “outdo Ukip”.
French Far-Right Hesitates between Marine le Pen and François Fillon.
France 24 reports,
By overwhelmingly backing former prime minister François Fillon, voters in the primary held by France’s centre-right on Sunday opted for an economically liberal, socially conservative candidate whose vision for France leaves little ambiguity.
Any hope rival primary candidate Alain Juppé had of springing a surprise in the Les Républicains party run-off vote failed to come to fruition, with Fillon taking some 66.5 percent of the vote. If Fillon’s strong performance in the first round of voting could be in part attributed to voters merely wanting to shut out Nicolas Sarkozy, his landslide victory over Juppé on Sunday left little room for doubt: Fillon’s firmly right-wing platform had won the firm backing of the conservative electorate.
The “fight between one project and another”, as the more moderate, centrist Juppé had called his showdown with Fillon, had been decided. Despite attacks by Juppé between the two rounds of voting that had depicted him as both “ultra conservative” and “ultra liberal” economically, Fillon had clearly prevailed.
The Guardian columnist Angelique Chrisafis comments,
The Front National leader has reason to fear the Republican candidate, whose views overlap with some of her key ideas.
The Front National has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and “the Christian roots of France”, his emphasis on French national identity, “sovereignty” and “patriotism”, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as a pro-Putin foreign agenda against “American imperialism” all overlap with some of Le Pen’s key ideas.
This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Le Pen’s most socially conservative voters, particularly rightwing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain sceptical about the Front National.
“Fillon presents us with a strategy problem, he’s the most dangerous [candidate] for the Front National,” Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the Catholic and socially conservative Front National MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, told journalists this week.
Despite Fillon’s hardline rightwing stances, he is not a populist. “He’s closer to [the former British prime minister] David Cameron than [the Ukip leader] Nigel Farage,” said Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the French far right.
This leaves Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon’s jugular as she fights a campaign centred on “the people versus the elite”. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as a snobbish, political has-been. It argues thatFillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalised elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.
The battle will largely focus on economic policy. Fillon has promised a “radical shock” for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the “forgotten” French underclass and has an economic line that is essentially leftwing: she is anti-globalisation and favours protectionism and state intervention. Le Pen’s campaign director, David Rachline, has called Fillon’s programme “economically insane” for wanting to slash 500,000 public sector jobs.
Le Pen’s advisers believe Fillon will struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs. The Front National has slammed Fillon as a symbol of lawless, ultra-free market, globalised capitalism. Fillon, in return, says Le Pen’s economic project is simply “a cut and paste of the extreme left”.
Some on the French far-right are already moving towards backing Fillon (Le conservatisme affiché de François Fillon séduit à l’extrême droite).
Has the French left any chance?
The Socialists continue to hover between indecision and hesitancy.
This weekend the French Communist Party (PCF) voted to back Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential bid (Finalement, les communistes soutiennent… Mélenchon. Libération). They supported his candidacy under the banner of la France insoumise by a slim, at 53,6% for, majority. It is obvious that there was little chance of a the Communists being able to launch their own Presidential challenge. The Party announced its intention of launching their own campaign in support his proposals against austerity. They do not intend to give him ‘carte blanche’ (un blanc-seing).
This follows the decision of the other component of the (now effectively defunct) Front de gauche, Ensemble, to back Mélenchon, Communiqué du Collectif National d’Ensemble des 19 et 20 novembre 2016)
That Mélenchon looks potentially capable of beating a Socialist candidate into fourth place no doubt counts in his favour – although no poll gives him a chance of getting to the run-off.
The reasons for the PCF’s reservations – shared no doubt by many in Ensemble, are not hard to find. Beginning with the personality of the Man of Destiny.
We nevertheless cite a major source of difference which, given the importance of the issue of immigration in the coming contest, will no doubt grow in importance
Philippe Marlière has noted (Guardian),
Despite a steady increase in Euroscepticism in France, the underlying principle of free movement of people across the EU remains broadly undisputed. Apart from in one telling area. There is growing evidence of opposition towards EU migrants and the notion of freedom in what has become known as “social dumping”. This relates to “posted workers”, employees sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. Those EU workers do not integrate in the labour market in which they work.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an MEP, a presidential candidate in 2012 and running again in 2017, has singled out posted workers in a speech at the European parliament last July. He declared that “posted workers took the bread out of French workers’ mouths”. Part of the French left was stunned by words that could have easily been uttered by Marine Le Pen.
Meanwhile Jean-Luc Mélenchon has insulted yet another section of the left. He has attacked the journalist and Latin American specialist Paulo Paranagua with a series of allegations about his political past in Argentina. The journalist, the Presidential hopeful raved, had been objectively Muse of the CIA – no doubt the reason he was captured and tortured for his association with armed resistance to the 1970s military regimes of the time. Paranagua was only released from an Argentinian gaol and deported to France after an international campaign in his defence.
A protest at these slanders has been launched: “Nous n’acceptons pas de voir notre passé commun insulté par J.L. Mélenchon“. Signatures include Alain Krivine..
Update, Post Primary Opinion Poll:
None of the left gets more than 13% in opinion polls, Fillon, 26% Marine Le Pen (24%) Emmanuel Macron – Centre (14%) et Jean-Luc Mélenchon (13%), t François Hollande9%, François Bayrou, Centre, à 6%. Ecologists Yannick Jadot and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 3% Far-left Nathalie Arthaud et Philippe Poutou 1% – poll today l’Express.