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Left Bloc at the People’s Vote March: On lâche rien!

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At the Left Bloc Behind the Banner ‘Stop Tory Brexit’ (Photos from Mike H).

After short speeches in Old Park Lane, by a number of people, including Michael Chessum, Hilary Wainwright and Mary Kaldor, hundreds joined the Left Bloc at the People’s Vote March.

It was felt that a serious left presence was needed to show that the ‘another Europe is possible’ can be a political force within anti-Brexit protests, the Labour Party and the labour movement.

The intervention was well received, apart from unfavourable reactions from a few Liberal Democrats.

At the post-Demo discussion and Party in Lambeth, people thanked the organisers’ for their hard work, which had  paid, off.

The strategy is now to build the campaign for a People’s Vote in the Labour Party and the trade unions.

There was serious discussion on the grounded, mass, and worked out alternative to the ‘Lexit’ sovereigntist left which needs to be built.

It was an exceptional day.

The warmth and enthusiasm of the left bloc reminded this writer of one of his favourite film moments – Blue is the Warmest Colour, (Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2).

On lâche rien!

 

People’s Vote march: ‘More than 700,000 protesters’ call for second referendum on Brexit in ‘largest demonstration since Iraq War’

After the March there was a Post-demo Party in Lambeth.

 

 

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Thanks for to the gallery of photos by Mike Hirst.

And (nicked from LM):

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2018 at 10:46 am

Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore, Socialist Worker…..On the Eve, more Reasons to Back the Stop Tory Brexit Bloc. Tomorrow.

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“Lining up behind big business calls for a second referendum to stay in the racist, neoliberal EU.”Socialist Worker

I won’t be marching for a people’s vote. There has already been one 

Ipswich’s most famous daughter, and former Punter on the Orwell Estuary, writes that “some of her best friends” will be joining the march.

I won’t be joining them. Not because I don’t care about their feelings or voices, but because of the strange denial of what this is all about.

She adds,

So half the country are racist, old, small-minded, poor people who were seduced by a combination of Aaron Banks and the delusions of empire? Spare me please.

Picture of where Moore used to go ‘punting’:

Image result for river orwell at low tide

Spiked: I love rebellion, and that’s why I love Brexit’

Julie Burchill on her new play, the working classes, sex and Brexit.

People Like Us – a new play about sex and Brexit. ”

 I was happy with my semi-retired life, doing volunteer work and having long lunches by the sea with my mates.

….

People Like Us is billed as a play about sex and Brexit. What’s the connection?”

I think that the ruling class – even when they’ve been progressives and actually very helpful, like Marie Stopes, and the Fabians – have always had a parasexual fear of the working class. It’s probably to do with the sort of sex they imagine us having – animalistic rather than caring or whatever – and this is a dark backbeat to Brexit, that we’re seeking to wallow in our own filth, be it racial, sexual or otherwise. It’s not us who’s having erotic spasms – it’s the prissy Remainers, looking under their blameless beds for big bad Brexiteers to treat ’em rough.

It is hard to beat that…..

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From our spaz side.

Only Labour can save Britain from this disastrous Brexit

As a trades unionist, negotiating for workers’ rights is my lifeblood. But never have I seen a negotiating hand played worse. May has led her cabinet into a hole and their inability to tell it straight to the British people means they can’t stop digging. British people crave straight-talking, and they crave a politics in which politicians treat them as grown-ups. Truth-tellers are respected. It’s the liars who can’t be stomached.

So with an extended transition deal set to turn Britain from EU nation state to yoked province, it falls to the people to rescue the country from Tory idiocy. But Labour, too, must rise to what is now becoming a national liberation struggle. The Brexit that was promised to leavers is not remotely possible. The backlash against May as this truth sinks in will finish her. For those of us committed to a Labour government, this is now Jeremy Corbyn’s moment. He can be prime minister-in-waiting if he leads the new battle of ideas for a different kind of Brexit.

Vassal state is not an option Labour can tolerate. Absolutely no one voted to be a colony. It is as ridiculous a political choice as it is unnecessary. The Tories are the party of the binary – we had a yes or no referendum and then a deal or no-deal Brexit. This is no way to do democratic politics. Labour’s position of keeping all options on the table subverts the Tories’ immature binaries – and enables a variety of democratic choices to prevail, including a popular vote on the outcome of negotiations and even a remain option should facts compel us to it.

What is now being offered makes staying berthed inside the EU look like a safe harbour. And Corbyn’s wait-and-see approach has ushered him to the threshold of government. The Tory shambles in which we go from EU nation state with full rights to irrelevant outpost should now be fully opposed. Retaining full EU voting membership until we have negotiated the future trading relationship with our European partners must become a Labour manifesto commitment. This won’t be easy as the EU itself has made leaving a red line for the start of negotiations about the future trading relationship. But the ace up Labour’s sleeve is the fact that we have not ruled out a popular vote once negotiations have been concluded. In the absence of a general election before 29 March, Labour must use parliamentary procedures to counter the government’s policy. To maintain the continued liberation of Britain now falls to Labour. We are ready.

 Manuel Cortes is general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

Emmanuel Macron is an “anti-Trump”, pro-European and a “liberal internationalist” who unites the centre-left and the centre-right against the extremes. He is a “neo-progressive”, argues Sophie Pedder, whose ideas are “structured around the idea of individual progress for all.” Elected President in 2017, in a run off with the far-right Marine Le Pen, at 39 years old, Macron presented a “a message of hope.” His strategy was “both a means of remaking party politics and a response to the populist threat”. Their campaign laid claim to break the existing party duopoly, and sweep away the existing “political caste”, itself perhaps a “populist” message.

The Head of State’s party, La République en marche (LRM), commands 60% of the seats in France’s National Assembly. It is, like many new ‘parties’ of this millennium, including their rivals La France insoumise (LFI), is less a democratic organisation run by the members than a top-down run movement or ‘rally’. Macron, despite the Benalla affair, and the recent Cabinet resignations of ecology Minister Bernard Hulot and Minister of the Interior Gèrard Collomb, is the master of French politics. He has been, so far, able to carry out his programme. Protests, last year,  against liberalising reform of labour legislation, and the railway service (SNCF), as well as of higher education, failed to have any impact.

Sophie Pedder is Paris bureau chief for the liberal (economically and politically), British weekly the Economist. Largely favourable to the President, the book is unlikely to win a favourable audience amongst those who dismiss Macron as, at best, a “social liberal”. This does not stop Revolution française from being a deft and informed account of Emmanuel Macron’s life and politics.

Modernisation.

Macron, writes Pedder, is a long-standing advocate of “modernisation”. France, from this standpoint, is burdened with regulations that stifle economic initiative. As a Minister of the Economy under Parti Socialiste President Hollande, his 2015 plans (Loi Macron) to loosen the rules on shop opening hours, and rigid legislation governing the ‘liberal professions’ (notaries, pharmacists) were partly thwarted. His Socialist colleagues were to blame, including the influential Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a moderate social democrat described as the “standard bearer of the Socialist left”.

This experience, Pedder states, led Macron to conclude that the existing party system kept France stuck in the past. A modernising regroupment needed, “to put together two-thirds of the Socialist Party, all of the centrists, and part of the centre-right. That would give us a pro-European market-friendly majority in favour of modernising the social model.” British readers will not fail to observe a parallel electoral logic with domestic ‘centrist’ projects, however tiny the audience for making the UK social system more ‘liberal’ is.

The achievement of that goal was partly due to good fortune. The “normal” Hollande discredited himself, both by his incontinent deprecation of colleagues revealed in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (2006), and his causal deception of his partner Valerie Trierweiler. As his Presidential bid took off in 2017 his chief opponent on the right, François Fillon, became mired in allegations of financial misconduct. The Socialists chose the left-Green Benoît Hamon, without many allies beyond his own forces. With their political rivals in disarray Macron’s support snowballed. Socialists, centrists and the right, duly defected in his direction. The movement En marche  soon picked up a large number of the professional politicians targeted above, and inspired a, largely middle class, army of volunteers to campaign for him door to door.

Centre Left Reconciled to the Market Economy.

Revolution française equally offers a readable account of Macron’s ideas. Unlike the Macron, un president philosophe (Brice Couturier. 2017) Peddar does not offer a weighty list of influences, from Hegel to Schumpeter. Instead she singles out the influence of Macron’s teacher, Paul Ricœur, his Protestant humanism, and “confidence in mankind” with a dose of Saint-Simon’s advocacy of technocratic progress. Above all, “His roots are on the progressive centre left that reconciled itself to the market economy.” At the same time, noting some of Macron’s verbal tics, she observes that, “his theoretical abstractions and grandiosity came across as pompous. His sentences were convoluted, meandering and went on for ever.” One could expand further on his grating anglicisms.

Will Macron, the “networking machine”, be able to change France? Has ‘liberal globalism’ found a champion who will step into the breach that has opened up after the failure of ‘third way’? Peddar signals the entrenched difficulties of a divided France, mass unemployment, those cast aside in the banlieue and “la France périperifeque”. Can Macron’s grand romantic mission turn this around?

The ‘nation’ is less important than the people who live in France. There are not many grounds for hope in the recent indications that the richest section of French society is the undoubted winner of the President’s tax reforms. (Les ultrariches, grands gagnants de la fiscalité Macron. Le Monde. 13.10.18). Weakening labour legislation to the point where wage negotiations can take place plant by plant, does not look so progressive from the position of workers in enterprises cut off from national union support. Local tax changes seem designed to weaken municipal finance, not strengthen decentralised initiative. While Macron has tried to stand up to Trump his efforts have few visible effects.

Defeat of the French left.

The French left has yet to recover from the catastrophic defeat of the governing socialists. Hamon was fated, in the words of former PS General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis to get the minimal score of left-greens, 6,36 %  (Chronique d’une débâcle 2017). Hamon now has his own party Génération.s. The PS has since seen more defections, this time to Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise. If LFI won a respectable vote of in the Presidential elections (fourth position and 19.58% for Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  in the first round) , and has, with its allies, 17 deputies, it is far, very far, from securing an alternative majority to Macron. It is unlikely this week’s pantomime response to police investigations into their funding will expand their audience and ‘federate’ the “People”. The left is now so splintered that up to 6 different lists will appear in next year’s European elections. It would appear, if one might say so from a distance, that a long-term war of position to regroup the left into some form of united front would be a better way of building an alternative to Macron that a head on war of manoeuvre. And, unlike LFI,  it is quite possible to be a ‘pro-European’ radical leftist.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Mélenchon on Police Inquiry into La France insoumise’s funding: “La République, c’est moi!”

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 Mélenchon’s sound and Fury: what does it signify?

Investigations have been opened into allegations of violence and threats against Police agents after incidents during the search of the headquarters of La France insoumise on Tuesday (October 16th).

The case, which arose from allegations of fictitious jobs in the European Parliament (that is, diverting EU funds into the movement’s hands to pay party employees in France) and the other examining funding of Mélenchon’s French presidential campaign last year. ,  and the finance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential campaign of 2017, has created an unholy row.

France 24 reports,

Anti-corruption investigators on Tuesday raided the home and party headquarters of French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who broadcast the raids live from his mobile phone.

The raids, part of a long-running investigation into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees, took place at the offices of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in central Paris and Mélenchon‘s private residence.

Shouting “Resistance!”, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the party’s headquarters to protest against the police action.

Police blocked Mélenchon from entering the premises as the far-left firebrand threatened to break down the door if he was not allowed in.

“Who gave you these orders?” he demanded a police officer blocking the entrance. “I am a parliamentarian!”

Amid the scuffle Mélenchon yelled, “I am the Republic.”

This was the “hallucinatory” scene that ensued,

La France insoumise issued a series of furious statements, stating that the inquiry originated in malicious complaints from the far-right, and the was motivated by President Macron’s wish to discredit his most serious rival (at – at most – around 25% of public support).

They have issued this video of the events claiming that there was a  “will” to intimidate behind the actions.

Coup de force policier, judiciaire et politique

LFI asserts that the French president himself received funding (donations) that infringed laws regulating party finance.

Whatever the truth of these claims (and little can be ruled out in this murky world) Mélenchon’s barking response won the affection of the wits of the Internet.

Here is LFI’s own version of events:

Here is one of the countless parodies:

“You pour water on the tea-bag, you do not put the tea-bag in the water. Never!”

You can see more here, Pose ton  Mélenchon.

Oddly not everybody sees the funny side of this.  Nor have the media and political figures dismissed the unseemly display of anger as “just one of Mélenchon’s little tantrums”.

Showing that after this outburst he has not lost the ability to rub people up the wrong way Merluche yesterday mocked a journalist’s Provençal accent, in a fashion some might suggest was racist….

Mélenchon se moque de l’accent d’une journaliste avec un ton méprisant

The harshest criticism is not the he made a fool of himself but that the leader of the rally, La France insoumise failed to respect the authority of the Law of the Republic ignoring the dictum that, “nul n’est cense ignorer la loi”, (nobody should ignore the law).  Or in plain language, no-one is above the law.

Le Monde’s Editorial today there is talk of his “deadly rage”.

The tone is, to say the least, severe.

Voilà un député, qui plus est président de groupe, qui conteste violemment, entrave et veut discréditer une procédure judiciaire, certes spectaculaire et déplaisante pour les intéressés, mais, quoi qu’il en dise, parfaitement conforme aux règles de la procédure.

Here is a member of Parliament, who is also the president of a Parliamentary group, who violently contests, obstructs a judicial procedure, and who wishes to discredit it,. This is certainly spectacular and unpleasant for those concerned, but, whatever he says, the procedures followed in this case are perfectly in accordance with the rules.

A widely shared view is that the leader of LFI has shown himself incapable of self-control, that he loses his nerve in the face of adversary, and is thus unsuited to hold any position of power.

Rumours that he will be appearing in a London pantomime with Ken Livingstone have not been confirmed.

This will no doubt interest those on the British left who brought the leader of LFI to speak at a meeting outside the recent Labour Cofnerence.

Perhaps a world tour, with Jacobin, is on the cards.

In short, his behaviour has obscured the real issues arising from this judicial operation, summarised here;

The row over Mélenchon has become sufficiently loud to reach even the homegrown English language press.

Allegations relate to staff payments and 2017 presidential campaign accounts

French police have questioned leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in connection with two funding probes after raids on his home and party headquarters this week.

The firebrand leader of the France Unbowed party, who has led opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms, was summoned to the headquarters of the anti-corruption bureau in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

Police are investigating allegations that he used EU funds for European parliament assistants to pay staff for work carried out in France. They are also looking into allegations of irregularities in his 2017 presidential campaign accounts.

The 67-year-old MP, who won 20% of the vote in the first round of last year’s presidential election, has denied any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.

He reacted furiously to the raids on his home and party headquarters on Tuesday, shouting at police officers, shoving a prosecutor and attempting to force open the door of his party’s offices during the search.

The former Socialist minister has been strongly criticised over his outburst, with members of Macron’s government and centre-right Republicans accusing him of seeking to intimidate public servants and acting as if he were above the law.

Mélenchon, who is famous for his tirades (Note, should have read, “famous for his tirades, full stop”) against globalisation, the EU and elites, admitted later that things “got heated” but said he had “no regrets”.

The Paris prosecutor’s office is investigating him and other party officials for “threats and acts of intimidation against judicial authorities” and “violence against people carrying out public duties”.

Mélenchon’s party has filed a counter-complaint alleging police violence.

Alan Simpson, latest Labour left-winger to join calls from the Left Against Brexit.

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Alan Simpson is a well known and respected figure on the Labour left, and a Labour MP from 1992 to  2010.

He is is currently the Shadow Chancellor’s Adviser on Sustainable Economics.

Meanwhile, living the dream of a People’s Brexit, Counterfire’s Lindsy German opines,

The crisis for Theresa May and the Tories continues to deepen, their only lifeline would be a second referendum.

Most people will dismiss the claim that a Second Referendum, whatever the problems it poses, would help May’s tottering position.

This is rhetoric.

You can turn the Tory crisis into anything you want, PM

Bojo, Rees Mogg as future Chancellor…..

But it is very hard to see how a Second Referendum, which would be ferociously opposed by her right-wing Brexit mad MPs and a substantial layer of her members, would save her from….them.

German does raise a series of core issues which should be answered.

There will be a number of left wingers on it regardless, promoting the myth that ‘another Europe is possible’. It certainly is, but not if you pin your hopes on the EU. The position of ‘stay in and change the EU’ is simply utopian, since there is no democratic mechanism for doing so, and relies on a wilful refusal to look reality in the face. The growth of the far right in Europe is being fuelled by EU policies, and the resultant victories for far right politicians are blithely accepted in most cases. Flexibility at work, low wages, shameful treatment of migrants, all are deliberate policies from the EU. So it’s not the time to be sowing illusions in it, or giving failed politicians a leg up.

The British state has been shaped into a neoliberal institution – right down to the contracting out of the means to solve some of the mess created by Universal Credit to charities.

The government debt is owned by….bond holders, not the people. One might suggest that this indicates that it has something to do with capitalism.

Flexibility at work conditions has been a goal of successive UK governments; one of the constraints on it have been EU regulations (such as the Working Time Directive).

Did the EU stop Chancellor Merkel – while German’s grotesque Stop the War Coalition stood aside – welcoming Syrian refugees and other asylum seekers,  more than 1.4 million, almost half of the total applications across the bloc  in the last decade?

What are the prospects for democratic control over the economy outside the EU?

You cannot wish away the world economy, ‘globalisation’ and inter-Europe production flows.

People’s Brexiteers, so far as I am aware, do not propose to leave the World Trade Organisation(WTO).

This will be a key body regulating the famous “deals” with other countries in a post-EU UK.

The WTO is ‘neo-liberal’, though the polices of neo-liberal free trade at present caught up in the fall out from the sovereigntist attempts by pro-Brexit Trump to put ‘American First’.

Perhaps Counterfire would support launching a UK First campaign in retaliation.

These are just some responses.

For a more systematic reply to the Brexit Bolsheviks see;

Alena Ivanova and Michael Chessum (THE LEFT AGAINST BREXIT AN INTERNATIONALIST CASE FOR EUROPE. ANOTHER EUROPE IS POSSIBLE)

The British left is at a crossroads unlike any other in its history. Just as the Corbyn moment gives us hope, the Brexit moment presents us with an unprecedented crisis. Domestically, we face an entrenched regime of deregulation combined with an emboldened far right whose anti-immigration narrative has soaked into the mainstream.

The choices we face are not unique to us. From the emerging splits in Germany’s Die Linke to the ‘sovereigntist’ approach of some on the French left, the temptation to give in to the politics of nationalism and border-building is stronger than ever.

Our strategy for battling Brexit and the rising far right starts from an understanding that only the left can win against the encroaching darkness. Only a transformative, socialist vision can compete with the politics of hate and the reality of social crisis. And the agents of change will be workers and ordinary people – in all their diversity – not the morally bankrupt establishment. But what comes next is not just a question of understanding or analysis – it is a question of doing. Intervening into the mechanics of Brexit and trying to stop the train crash seems like an arduous task, but it is essential. The price of defeat would be the biggest expansion of immigration controls in Britain’s recent history, a decimation of  46 THE LEFT AGAINST BREXIT our rights, a deregulatory trading agenda that will make TTIP look progressive, and a major economic crisis.

Here is a further response:

STOP TORY BREXIT – MARCH WITH US ON OCTOBER 20TH

It’s time for the left and the labour movement to mobilise – and take the reigns back from the political establishment.

On October 20th, hundreds of thousands will march to demand that the people are given the final say. We cannot allow the anti-Brexit movement to be dominated by the political establishment.

The time has come for the left to march, with a clear message of hope and solidarity. We will bring a sea of red flags, green flags, placards, flares and banners. Bring your trade union branch, your local Labour Party, your local Green Party, your Momentum group, your activist network.

There is only one kind of Brexit on offer – Tory Brexit. It is an attempt to further deregulate the economy, attack migrants, and undermine the rights and prosperity of working class people. When the Tories talk about “getting rid of the red tape”, he means our environmental standards, maternity pay and human rights.

But the fight to stop Brexit is not a fight for the status quo. We want to build a better society, with a radical social and economic programme, and we want to take on the right wing establishment in Brussels just as much the one in Westminster. We need to end fortress Europe, not build fortress Britain.

Join us on October 20th. Meet from 11am outside the Hard Rock Cafe on Old Park Lane/Piccadilly, W1K 1QZ.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 17, 2018 at 1:13 pm

The local election breakthrough of the radical left Belgian Workers’ Party.

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Sunday’s local election results in Belgian saw a breakthrough in the French speaking areas by the Green Party (up by 4,42%) and in Antwerp ( 18,4 %  for De Groen),and a big rise in support for the radical left, le Parti du travail (PTB) Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDAThe latter scored  15, 8 % in Charleroi, in 16,5 % Liège 8,9 % à Anvers, 11,6 % in Bruxelles ville and 13,6 % in  Molenbeek. (le Monde).

In Brussels, the Ecolo/Groen party registered historical gains, coming first or second in several local councils, including Ixelles and Forest, where it displaced the ruling socialist party.

The leftist PTB was the other big winner, although they weren’t expected to enter ruling coalitions in any of the 19 “communes” of Brussels.

The main loser in the capital of Europe is the right-wing MR, the party of Prime Minister Charles Michel, which was challenged in its Uccle stronghold by a rising Green wave.

Elsewhere in Brussels, the socialists registered a symbolic victory in Molenbeek, where they beat MR incumbent Françoise Scheepmans, who came second despite winning praise for her handling of the Brussels terrorist attacks of 2016.

In Flanders, the separatist N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), which advocates the gradual dissolution of Belgium, solidified its leadership although the Green party made gains there as well.

The N-VA’s leadership was also challenged by the far-right Vlaams Belang, which won the commune of Ninove near Brussels, where the Forza Ninove list of Guy D’Haeseleer came in as a clear winner.

Traditional parties hammered in Belgian local election

A number of papers highlighted the election of the first Black mayor in Belgium, Pierre Kompany, the father of Vincent Kompany, the captain of Manchester City , in Ganshoren (De Standaard).

Flanders, apart from the success of the Greens in Antwerp, remains on the right with a return of the far-right Vlaams Belang.  There is already a scandal, this morning about the  Guy D’haeseleer, spreading a racist photo on Facebook, which has led the nationalist NV-A to rule out any deals with them in the far-right’s new stronghold (40% of the vote under the name, “Forza Ninove”) in the Ninove commune of Brabant cited above.  (Ninove: Bart De Wever exclut de gouverner avec le Vlaams Belang après diffusion d’une photo raciste.)

For the left the results for the Parti du Travail (PTB) – which claims around 10,000 members – are of interest across Europe.

Percée de la gauche authentique dans les villes du pays, à Bruxelles, en Wallonie et en Flandre

The PTB begins by noting that they have gone from  50 to 157 local councillors.

These are concentrated in French speaking districts but the PTB has some representatives in Flanders, and won  8,7 % in Antwerp  and got 4 seats on the City council and 19 seats on district councils.

Their President, Peter Mertens, declared that they will celebrate this advance, and called for The Struggle.

Nous nos élus et notre parti seront au service des luttes locales et nationales. Notre avancée doit se traduire par une avancée de la résistance social.

Our elected representatives and our party will put themselves on the side of local and national struggles. Our gains must lead to strengthening the fight-back in society.

The most important fact about the success of the PTB is it has happened in a country, Belgium,  in which the two sister social democratic parties  the Parti socialiste,  and the Socialistische Partij Anders, have never faced a serious challenge from the left. Even if weakened the PS won 32% of the vote in the previous elections in the south of the country.

PTB is often accused of ‘populism’ and might appear part of the wave of ‘left populist’,  parties like La France insoumise (LFI) that have become the focus of interest on the European left,

The PTB strongly denies this, above all the idea that classes are being dissolved into the ‘people’. Their objective is the make workers aware of their identity, and to organise people into struggles for their rights “Il s’agit donc de reconquérir, de faire un travail de conscientisation, de mobilisation, d’organisation de cette classe de travailleurs.”

It is through these struggles that they intend to fight not just the ruling capitalist neoliberal political class but also the far-right.

The PTB also rejects the principle (follow my gaze…) that they should be run by a charismatic leader, (“césarisme ou l’idée de l’homme providentiel”). Councillors live in the  areas they represent and are expected to only take an average salary for their work).

Their strategy is not to govern at any price, but to conquer real power, from the bottom upwards – which one translate as a homage to Léon Blum who distinguished the ‘exercise of power’ in government from the conquest of power.

(More on Le Vent se lève site:  LE PTB FAIT TREMBLER LA POLITIQUE BELGE – ENTRETIEN AVEC DAVID PESTIEAU. Maximilien Dardel.)

To account for the growth in electoral support for the PTB in formerly socialist voting areas one need look no further than this compendium of corruption and other scandals involving the PS over decades.

“Une répétition de scandales en 30 ans de pouvoir”: rappel en archives vidéo

More recently (2017) there was this: En Wallonie, le PS éclaboussé par un vaste scandale.

PS elected representatives were paid  500 euros… à la minute to attend meetings…..

Returning the the issue of ‘populism’, what are the PTB’s views on Europe?

The Left must not fall in one of these two traps. As a Marxist, and coming from an authentic leftist tradition, I think we have to try to radically change Europe from the inside. We should not dynamite the entire European idea, but, like an engineer working on a bridge, dynamite the bad columns.

Defending a position of withdrawal from the European Union in Belgium, at the heart of Europe, is not going to raise public awareness a lot, I think. The situation is obviously different in countries at the periphery of the continent, and I understand that for them the possibility of leaving the eurozone, can be a topic of debate.

Promise on the Belgian Left  An Interview with Peter Mertens. 

That comment stands out in a an interview in Jacobin in 2017, with one of the leading figures of the PTB.

One cannot however, like the interviewer, skirt around the issue of the party’s ‘Marxist-Leninist’ origins nor their defence during the 1980s of Stalin.

Ludo Martens (PTB President from 1979 to 1999) was the author of Un autre regard sur Stalin, Another View of Stalin.

This concludes:

At the end of the twentieth century, humanity has sort of returned to the start state, to the years 1900–1914, where the imperialist powers thought that they could run the world among themselves. In the years to come, as the criminal, barbaric and inhuman character of imperialism shows itself more and more clearly, new generations who never knew Stalin will pay homage to him.

They will follow the words of Mao Zedong who, on December 21, 1939, in the distant caves of that huge China, toasted Stalin’s sixtieth birthday:

`Congratulating Stalin means supporting him and his cause, supporting the victory of socialism, and the way forward for mankind which he points out, it means supporting a dear friend. For the great majority of mankind today are suffering, and mankind can free itself from suffering only by the road pointed out by Stalin and with his help.’
.
Mao Tse-Tung, `Stalin, Friend of the Chinese People’, Works, vol. 2, p. 335.

It is hard to forget that.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 16, 2018 at 11:36 am

Historic Gains for Greens and Radical Left Workers’ Party in Belgium Local Elections.

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Greens and Radical left on the Rise in Belgium. 

Greens and other smaller parties hammered traditional political heavyweights in local elections Sunday in Belgium, in what has been billed as a rehearsal for next year’s federal and European elections.

France 24.

In Brussels, the Green party Ecolo-Groen made a breakthrough in the local ballot, finishing first and second in a number of local councils.

Overall, the party led by Zakia Khattabi and Patrick Dupriez, finished first in four Brussels Region districts, including the EU district of Ixelles, and won up to 29 percent of the vote in other districts.

These results could lead the party to having a number of mayors in the Brussels region, where they currently only have one, in Watermael-Boitsfort.

The election’s other big winner in the Belgian capital was the leftwing Workers Party (PTB/PvdA), especially in the city’s former industrial districts.

The pro-sharia Islam Party lost its seat in Brussels’s Molenbeek district, winning less than 2 percent of the vote.

In Flanders, the Greens also made gains, although the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) — which advocates for the separation between French-speaking Wallonia and the Flemish Flanders — maintained its leadership there.

The ruling socialists remained dominant in French-speaking Wallonia but they were challenged by the rising PTB/PvdA in a number of local town halls.

Commentators say these elections are a mirror for the national, regional and European elections to be held in Belgium in May.

The French version of the France 24 article points out that in the Flemish areas  also points out that  extreme right anti-immigrant  Vlaams Belang has returned with a  strong showing.

Le Vlaams Belang, le parti anti-immigration qui concurrence la N-VA sur sa droite, a enregistré un retour en force dans plusieurs cités flamandes et a revendiqué la place de 3e force politique de la région, derrière les chrétiens-démocrates du CD&V.

Le Monde notes that the Workers’ party, le Parti du travail (PTB, gauche radicale) scored 15, 8 % à Charleroi, 16,5 % à Liège. Le parti marxiste réalise aussi 8,9 % à Anvers, 11,6 % à Bruxelles ville et 13,6 % à Molenbeek, où le PS lui propose une alliance, alors que la direction du parti condamnait jusqu’ici les positions jugées populistes de cette formation.

“En Belgique, forte progression des écologistes et de la gauche radicale aux municipales.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm