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As Left Rallies to Back Another Europe, Verso promotes neoliberal attack on EU.

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photo of John Rowlery Gillingham

Thatcherite Gillingham is Top Author on Verso ‘internationalist’ reading list on EU.

Verso books, the publishing wing of New Left Review, has”put together an essential reading list of books that critically engage with the debate from a perspective of internationalism.”

Brexit and the European Union: Essential Reading.

At the top of the pile of books is this:

The EU: An Obituary — John Gillingham
In this pithy, rigorously argued book, leading historian John Gillingham examines a once great notion that soured long ago. From its postwar origins through the Single Market  and to the troubles of the present, Gillingham explains how Europe’s would-be government became a force for anti-democratic centralization and inept policy-making. The EU: An Obituary is an urgent call to the political Left, Right, and Center (sic) to set things right before it is too late.

The Guardian review of the book by Christopher Kissane is headed

The Thatcherite historian argues that the EU is defunct, a relic of the postwar decades. But would an unfettered Europe be a better place?

Kissane comments,

Euroscepticism creates some strange bedfellows. Many rightwing nationalists view the EU as a Trojan horse of unstoppable multiculturalism. Some on the left see its focus on the single market as institutionalised “neoliberalism” and austerity. And some “neoliberals” such as Gillingham see it as a relic of the postwar decades that binds free markets in red tape. Gillingham is not a typical author for the radical-left publishing house Verso – presumably at least one commissioning editor there has Eurosceptic leanings. From all sorts of angles, the EU seems to be the sick man of Europe.

This is Gillingham’s prognostic,

Only a fool would venture to predict how the official institutions of Europe will become unglued, unravel, fall apart, or simply evaporate into thin air. The list of possible scenarios is innumerable. A reasonable guess would be, however, that Brexit will trigger the process of decomposition and reconfiguration. If past events can serve as a guide to the British referendum planned for 23 June, the tide will shift in favour of the anti-EU cause.

Only a fool…..

Recent polls have swung decisively in favour of the Leave campaign. Behind this shift in sentiment is a reality of awesome significance: Cameron’s promise of a better deal for Britain has little meaning in respect to an EU in disarray, which is untrustworthy, falling behind economically, and unable or unwilling to deliver on its commitments. At the rock-bottom level, moreover, a sovereign national political system, like Britain’s, based on the supremacy of parliament, is incompatible with the existence of a supranational entity, whose leadership remains – in spite of everything – unwavering in its determination to create a European state.

“Gillingham is University of Missouri Board of Curators Professor at University of Missouri and was Professor of History there until 2007. He has authored books on European integration, heavy industry in the Third Reich and the economy of Belgium under Nazi occupation. Gillingham is listed in Marquess’s Who’s Who in America and has received numerous awards and recognitions.”

Now at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard .

Meanwhile back on the left, away from Verso and the (formerly)  ‘New Left’ Review.

John McDonnell issues rallying cry for a democratic Europe

John McDonnell has thrown his weight behind a left-wing remain campaign, saying a democratic Europe is “urgently and vitally” needed.

In a mix of left-wing political perspectives, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor joined former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Clive Lewis and journalist Owen Jones, among others, to make their case for remaining in, but overhauling the current European Union.

They were speaking at a rally called Vote In – Another Europe is Possible, at London’s Institute of Education on Saturday.

Mr McDonnell told the gathering that there is a movement across Europe to respond to the challenge of democratically transforming the EU, and also attacked the Tories for dragging the referendum debate “into the gutter”.

He said: “We have the opportunity to regroup the referendum debate away from Tory Brexit and into a debate on a democratic Europe.

“A Europe that is not just possible but is urgently and vitally needed – where we can say yes, we are proud of being British, but we are also proud of the European future we have created.”

He also lambasted the Tories and said the EU referendum debate on the right is “disfiguring political discourse” and causing people to become “tired of the ranting hysteria”.

“(Boris) Johnson’s comparisons of the EU to the Third Reich and (David) Cameron’s claims of impending World War Three, they just beggar belief,” he said.

“We cannot let the right drag this debate into the intellectual gutter.”

He said it is the job of those on the left, and the progressives, to now “step in and save the debate”.

The Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington also said the problems faced by the UK are transnational problems with transnational solutions.

“How can we turn a blind eye to the City of London effectively acting like a funnel to offshortax havens for the taxes of transnational corporations and super rich?” he said.

“Public funding is not just needed in this country but right the way across Europe,” he added.

“We know that if we clamp down here, the tax evaders will avoid us and will move elsewhere.

“That’s why European agreements are necessary and which form the basis for global agreements to track down and confront tax evasion and avoidance.

The Guardian adds,

The Another Europe is Possible tour started at the UCL Institute of Education in central London on Saturday. Momentum, the Labour-supporting network, also joined Corbyn in launching a platform called Your Referendum to boost grassroots campaigning for remain.

A vote by Momentum’s national committee, a poll of Momentum’s supporters and a YouGov poll of Corbyn-supporting Labour members have all overwhelmingly backed remain.

Momentum said Your Referendum was inspired by the US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaigning methods of providing tools for volunteer-led organising.

In a statement, the group said: “Your Referendum is Momentum’s effort to take the toxic Brexit debate out of Westminster and the TV studios and into our communities, with the hope of reaching leftwing and younger voters, who polls say are less likely to turn out although they tend to support remain.”

The national organiser for Momentum, James Schneider, said: “Through the Your Referendum platform and the activities of local Momentum groups, we hope to encourage more activism, engage more people actively in the EU debate, and mobilise the harder to reach young or leftwing voters, who are turned off by Stronger In’s defence of the status quo.”

Other rallies as part of the tour will involve trade unionists and the Labour MP Clive Lewis at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 29, 2016 at 11:18 am

Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins (New Left Review).

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Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins. Editorial. New Left Review. Second Series No 98. March/April 2016.

“Respectful of NATO, anti-austerity, pro-public investment and (more guardedly) ownership, sceptical of ‘free trade’: as a first approximation, we might them new, small, weak social democracies.”

The Editorial of New Left Review (NLR – accessible here), devoted to “left oppositions”, and “new lefts” offers a sketch of the common background of some very diverse political phenomena. With a mixture of gloom and wishful thinking Watkins outlines the legacy of the late 90’s “late-90s alter-globo movements” “wrong-footed by the harsher international climate of the war on terror”. But, she then turns to how  European anger at the handling of the economic crisis, the collapse of the centre-left, Third Way, parties, and a “blowback” against Western intervention, street protests, such as Spain’s Indignados have, she observes, been followed by the arrival of new forces on the electoral stage.

It is with little surprise that we learn that the NLR list of the contemporary ‘left oppositions’ includes  Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win in the Labour Party, the Spanish Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche (PdG).  The US is also  affected, as Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge inside the Democratic Party indicates. More surprising is the inclusion of Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, which Watkins admits, not everybody considers on the ‘left’. Events and elections, she continues,  have not only brought these forces to prominence, in the ballot box, Parliaments and amongst citizens, they have given rise to new “national political projects”.

A common trait, the Editorial  observes, of these political green shoots, is the rise of ‘charismatic’ leaders, from Pablo Iglesias, Corbyn, Mélenchon, to Grillo. Exactly what the ‘authority’ given by this ‘gift of grace’ is, and how these personalities carry it out, is not explored. Grillo is notoriously the entrepreneur of his own ‘post-modern’ far from immaterial party-business. Iglesias heads up, to his numerous critics, a vertical pyramid party-structure He indulges himself in ‘populist’ efforts to lead the people ‘beyond’ left and right.

Mélenchon: électron libre.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 11.10% in the 2012 first round of the French Presidential election. He  leads a ‘party’, the Parti de gauche (PdG) founded in 2009 with other former members of the Parti Socialiste. It remains stuck in the mould of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, a tendency (at its height well below 10,000 members) centred on a ‘chief’. Its inability to develop  has been caused less by the absence of popular protests, the electoral system or “laïciste horror of the headscarf” thwarting its appeal to the ‘banlieue’, than his abrasive personality, which has created a crop of internal divisions to boot.  Mélenchon, his many ill-wishers allege, has a vision of himself as a Man of Destiny, with populist and nationalist ambitions far beyond a “sovereign, alter-globalist, multi-polar defence force”.

Inside the Front de gauche (FdG), which allies the PdG with a number of left groups in an electoral bloc,  it is not only the Communists  of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF,138,000 members) but leftists from Ensemble (2,500),  who have found it impossible to work with this électron libre (1). Sensing little support the leader of the PdG  spurned the idea of presenting himself before the Front’s supporters and the wider left in ‘primaries’ to select a Presidential candidate. Mélenchon has effectively ditched the PdG for a supporters’ network. He is running for President in 2017 with an on-line based team, with some success in the opinion polls. Nevertheless this venture into political cyberspace has had considerably less of an echo in the Nuit Debout ‘mouvance’ (too heterogeneous to call a movement), which is showing signs of both intellectual renewal in a multiplicity of directions and splintering. The CGT led workers’ spearhead of the wider national campaign against the “El Khomri” labour laws and the wider weekly strikes and marches have largely passed Mélenchon by.

Labour’s leader is, by contrast, a Parliamentary chief with a tiny group of MP supporters, and a mass party with a democratic membership structure and large trade union input. If he won the leadership ballot by a landslide, in a campaign of public meetings which created a “dynamic of their own”, Momentum, Watkins solemnly informs us, is a “somewhat diluted version of the 1980s Labour left”, an “organised adversary” of the ‘Blairite faction, Progress. Few perhaps will recall a mass membership 1980s Labour Left, or of any comparable “parallel structure” to dilute from. Fewer still will remember the Labour Party since George Lansbury (Labour leader from 1932 – 35) headed by anybody who had anything  resembling Corbyn’s background in the 1980s/1990s London Labour Left.

Corbyn, like Sanders, is, we learn, “squarely within the social-democratic tradition” – which fortunately covers everything from Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Jean Jaurès, to Harold Wilson. In short, the Editorial dispenses with the customary term, democratic socialism, by which a majority of Corbyn supporters, and Mélenchon’s, would identify in opposition to the compromised ideas that contributed to the policies of the Blair and Brown governments. Are there signs that instead after the ‘retreat from social democracy’ there may be a renewal in a very different directions taking place. Watkins calls the combination of anti-austerity programmes, and scepticism about free trade – not mentioning the defence of social and workers’ rights, the fights for a publicly owned public administration and services – and a failure to confront head-on NATO (on what, Syria?) “weak”.

We might then ask: what exactly is the ‘non-social democratic left’? If Grillo, instead of new forms of democratic socialism, is part of the answer, then what kind politics is that?

Vaffanculo!

Readers will no doubt remain on tenterhooks waiting for the latest radical left model to emerge. In the interim the constraints, self-created or inherited, within which these lefts operate are ignored. Are the furiously hostile forces deployed against them, visible every moment in the British media to be ignored? Watkins casts cautious compromise to the winds. She smiles at Grillo’s no-nonsense Vaffanculo(s), scowls at the French Communists’ local electoral deals to retain control of their remaining municipal bastions (what is the threat of the Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy to her?), soundly admonishes Corbyn for his “embrace of the discredited Blair-Brown Labour right” and offers Iglesias advice on a tactical abstention, allowing a possible future PSOE-Ciudadanos government coalition “a chance to demonstrate that it cannot work”.

As we have indicated Watkins offers the skimpiest, and often misleading, outline of the party structures and personalities which support the new left “projects” she attempts to grapple with. Oppositions equally fails to investigate the underlying problem thrown up by the more radical movements that appear to remain her benchmark. That is, their inability to develop more than general declarations within the ‘anti’ globalisation protest, that would make them more than a protest against the subsequent Western interventions and security clamp-downs. If Podemos may be able to show that the PSOE cannot work, what indicates that their alternative can? While we are waiting, the proliferation of an identity politics and culture of the ‘populist’ or sovereigntist right, which this Sunday came within a hair’s breath of winning the Austrian presidency, indicates the need for ideas and strategies capable of understanding and confronting nationalism and xenophobia now. (2)

Shocks and Turncoats. 

It is on this issue that Oppositions is most wanting. The thought that calls a position on the EU referendum vote a “tactical” decision allows only a Leave or abstention as “left” options. The hope that a Leave vote would be a “salutary shock “ to the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” and a Conservative Party in “disarray” is gratuitous irresponsibility. The nationalist and xenophobic Carnival of Reaction of the debates on the EU is paraded every-day. A Brexit  win would bring not just Tory division but the politics of the most reactionary people in the country to power.

The Editorial is deeply insulting to the majority of the left, the democratic socialist left, who support staying in the EU not just out of self-protection against our most forthright and dangerous class and political enemies, but as an arena where common cause can be made with our comrades across the continent. That is, a place of hope and co-operation not of austerity and repression. To top it all, Oppositions attacks all of us through its words against the much-liked Owen Jones. The author of Chavs “turned his coat” for changing his mind, very publicly and very honestly explaining why,  and backing Remain with the campaign Another Europe is Possible. The Editorial’s language in this instance is, not to mince words, despicable.

(1) Mélenchon candidat à la présidentielle : il tourne le dos à l’histoire de la gauchePhilippe Marlière. February 2016

(2) These two weaknesses were signalled by the critic of their French expressions, Phlippe Raynaud in L’extrême gauche plurielle. Tempus. 2006. Whatever one’s views on his generally hostile analysis, these points are if anything more relevant today than a decade ago.

Austria: Far-Right Loses by Hair-Breadth and Cries Foul.

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https://i0.wp.com/images01.oe24.at/image1.2.jpg/bigStory/236.890.022

Austrian Media Angry at German Press portraying Hofer giving the ‘German Greeting’.

The Austrian daily Krone found this  ‘humour’ in poor taste. It could find no worse comparison to make than with the kind of coverage presented in the Mail on Sunday. which had presented Hofer as the country’s ‘next Fuhrer.”

These are some reports worth thinking about.

“Der Vormarsch der FPÖ, die 2018 die Machtübernahme in Wien anvisiert, zeigt, dass gerade eine Gewissheit zerbricht – dass Rechtspopulisten im Westen nicht die Mehrheit erobern können.

Zum ersten Mal wählte die Hälfte der Bürger einer westeuropäischen Republik eine Politik, die antimuslimisch, antieuropäisch und chauvinistisch ist. Und es war keine Protestwahl, bei der die Frustrierten den Mächtigen bloß mal den Stinkefinger zeigen wollten. Die Hälfte der Österreicher will eine andere Republik.

The progress of  the FPÖ shows, in view of the 2018 electoral contest in Vienna,  that a certainty has been smashed – that Right-wing populism in the West can never reach a majority.

For the first time half of the citizens of a Western European state, voted for an anti-Muslim, anti-European and chauvinist Party Manifesto.  It was not a protest vote, from frustrated people sticking two fingers up against the power elite. Half of Austrians want another Republic.

Taz.

These days, it is becoming clear just how large, and likely lasting, the estrangement has become between voters and those parties, like the ÖVP and SPÖ, that were once defined by the term Volkspartei. Their old mistakes have continued through the decades and new ones have joined them. Both the center right and the center left have underestimated the electorate’s anger that has built up as a result of their almost God-given claim to leadership in Austria.

Der Spiegel.

Right-Wing Hipsters’ Increasingly Powerful In Austria

The Central European country’s right-wing extremism is winning over youths with its charm.

Huffington Post.

Martin Sellner looks like an H&M model. But beneath the smile the 27-year-old philosophy student wears the sinister new face of Europe’s extreme right.

Sellner is the co-founder of the Austria’s Identitären Bewegung (Identitarian Movement), a collection of young, anti-immigrant Austrians who describe themselves as “right-wing hipsters.” The IB, as Sellner calls the organization for short, is rising in popularity in Austria. It considers itself among the most successful right-wing youth movements in Europe, and that is causing concern.

Analysis of the Vote:

.. the SORA institute, a pollster, had said that mail-in ballots were likely to favour van der Bellen because they are traditionally used by more educated voters. The institute’s election-day polling showed 81 percent of voters with a university degree had backed van der Bellen and 86 percent of workers voted for Hofer.

Huffington Post.

Le Monde on the same theme,

… l’élection a surtout dévoilé une polarisation inquiétante de ce pays de 8,6 millions d’habitants. M. Van der Bellen l’a emporté dans presque toutes les grandes villes, chez les femmes et chez les plus diplômés ; M. Hofer dans les campagnes, chez les hommes, surtout les moins diplômés. Il obtient 86 % des voix des ouvriers. Ses électeurs affirment avoir voté pour lui parce qu’il comprend les soucis de la population, et parce qu’il semblait sympathique.

The election showed, above all, a worrying polarisation in this country of 8,6 million. Van der Bellen won in nearly all the cities, amongst women and amongst those with the highest qualifications. Hofer, won in the countryside, amongst men, and particularly amongst the least qualified. He got 86% of the workers’ vote. Those who cast a ballot for him say that they backed him because he understands their concerns, and because he appears friendly and approachable.

On Sunday, before the final polls gave Van der Bellen a narrow victory, this was the reaction from Europe’s far-right,

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry welcomed the “terrific outcome,” and in a tweet suggested Austria’s vote could be “a foretaste of positive change in Europe.”

Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National called it a “magnificent result. Bravo to the Austrian people.” She told broadcaster France 2 it showed people were starting to realize the European Union was failing to foster economic growth and curb immigration.

“There is clearly a growing awareness among people in Europe that the EU is an anti-democratic structure that subjugates people,” Le Pen said.

Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders said the FPÖ’s performance was “fantastic.” Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League movement expressed his “great joy,” saying the FPÖ was “calling for controlled migration, more jobs and a different Europe – like us they want rules, order, jobs and tranquility.”

Deutsche Welle.

Now we have this;

146,9 Prozent Wahlbeteiligung in Waidhofen/Ybbs (Bild: APA/HELMUT FOHRINGER, wahl16.bmi.gv.at)

146,9 Prozent Wahlbeteiligung in Waidhofen/Ybbs

Guardian.

Austria’s far right cries foul after presidential election defeat.

Even before it emerged that the Freedom party (FPÖ) candidate, Norbert Hofer,had lost out on the presidency due to a strong performance in the postal vote by his rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, the party’s secretary, Herbert Kickl, had said that absentee votes had in the past shown up “inconsistencies”.

“Accomplices of the current political system could potentially use the opportunity to adjust the result in favour of the system’s representative, Alexander Van der Bellen,” Kickl said.

On his Facebook page, the party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, seized on irregularities in Linz and Waidhofen, where the final result announced a voter turnout of 146.9%. The interior ministry said the figure was the result of a data entry error.

Hofer, whose election would have confronted the European Union with a far-right president for the first time, said on Sunday night that there was “something a little bit strange in the way the postal vote is counted”.

The Freedom party, whose 49.7% in the final result represents a huge shift in Austria’s political landscape, will now set its sight on the next general election, which must be held before September 2018.

A poll by ATV institute published over the weekend shows the FPÖ leading on 34%, ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) on 26%, the centre-right People’s party on 18% and the Greens on 13%.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2016 at 11:25 am

SWP’s Marxism 2016. We Publish Some of the ‘List of Shame’.

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The List of Shame.

Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali

Speaks on The American Empire and its Discontents Fri, 4.15pm

Moazzam Begg

Moazzam Begg

CAGE Outreach Director joins our opening rally.

The full list is too long to reproduce but these are particularly worthy of note in view of the post that follows:

Judith Orr

Judith Orr

Author of “Marxism and Womens Liberation” on fighting sexism today.

Nahella Ashraf

Nahella Ashraf

Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia.

Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett

Leader of the Green Party debates  “Where next after the EU referendum?” with Joseph Choonara.

Maz Saleem

Maz Saleem

Panel to discuss fighting sexism and Islamophobia

Full list: Marxism 2016.

This is obviously something the above chose to ignore:

Why I don’t buy Socialist Worker

Written by Andrew Coates

May 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

Socialist Worker: After Brexit, Our Turn!

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Brexit Will Need Revolutionaries to re-read the Classics.

Tory splits provide the opportunity of a lifetime.

Says Socialist Worker in what must be the most inane headline since….

Well most of us are sick to the buck teeth with strained analogies with that them there ‘itler’s time….

Meanwhile the paper is beside itself with joy:

“Tories in meltdown” ran a headline in the Sunday Times newspaper last week. The story said, “As party unity crumbles, Boris Johnson may be back to seize Cameron’s job”.

The Tories are tearing themselves apart over the European Union (EU) referendum, with bitter rows every day.

The blood-spilling will continue right up until the vote on 23 June—and beyond.

This is the moment to step up the exit campaign from the left. It should oppose racism, the EU bosses’ club, the pro-corporation trade deals and stand for internationalism and workers’ unity.

The Remain camp has mobilised the forces that spectacularly plunged the world into recession in 2008 to say leaving the EU would spell economic disaster.

Last week Tory chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury had begun contingency planning to shore up Britain’s financial system should the Leave vote.

Socialist Worker.

What excatly will this opportunity provide?

The SWP’s paper says,

We need independent politics against the bosses on both sides.

Socialist Worker supports the Leave campaign from the left.

We don’t share platforms with the Tories or Ukip and we argue against those who say that migrants are a problem.

Er, that it: Sell Socialist Worker and join the SWP….

Meanwhile in the drab colourless world we, unlike the SWP, live in:

Priti Patel reveals Leave campaign agenda to reduce workers’ rights, says TUC.

 

Commenting on a speech today at the Institute of Directors by pro-Brexit MP Priti Patel, in which she argued that leaving the EU would be an opportunity to cut EU social and employment protections, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Leave the EU and lose your rights at work – that’s the message that even Leave campaigners like Priti Patel are now giving.

“But which rights would go – your right to paid holidays, your right to parental leave, maybe protections for pregnant workers?

“The EU guarantees all these rights and more, and it’s why Brexit is such a big risk for working people.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

– In her speech today, Priti Patel said: “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3 billion boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.” The TUC does not accept her claim on jobs and the economic boost of reducing these EU-derived rules, but notes her overtly hostile agenda towards workers’ rights.

– The TUC commissioned an independent legal opinion from Michael Ford QC on the consequences of Brexit for UK employment law and workers’ rights. A full copy can be found atwww.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Brexit%20Legal%20Opinion.pdf

– Michael Ford QC’s legal opinion suggests that, based on past history and extant policy documents, the workers’ rights most vulnerable to repeal are:

  • Collective consultation, including the right for workers’ representatives to be consulted if major changes are planned that will change people’s jobs or result in redundancies (as have been used in recent major announcements in the steel industry).
  • Working time rules, including limits on working hours and rules on the amount of holiday pay a workers is entitled to.
  • EU-derived health and safety regulations.
  • Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE), i.e. the EU-derived protections to the terms and conditions of workers at an organisation or service that is transferred or outsourced to a new employer.
  • Protections for agency workers and other ‘atypical’ workers, such as part-time workers.
  • Current levels of compensation for discrimination of all kinds, including equal pay awards and age discrimination.

See paragraphs 3 and 107 of the opinion for an overview, and paragraphs 27 to 80 for full details.

As Michael Chessum says on the New Statesman site,

Lazy left-wing Brexit supporters are endangering the left’s future

The social and political forces driving Brexit are deeply reactionary, and only the most naïve, wishful thinking could imagine either that there is some undercurrent of “left-wing” ideas in the motives of most Leave voters, or that it is the left that would gain the most political space from Brexit.

But most of the political tendencies represented in the Lexit campaign – the SWP, and leftwing fragments either from or influenced by the old Communist Party – never expected or supported the rise of a left leadership in Labour. Deep down, they are in a state of strategic crisis as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. As a result, they are left repeating decades-old slogans – “the EU is a bosses’ club” – devoid of context or tactical thought; and they are running with the losing strategy of creating chaos on the Right’s terms in the desperate hope of gaining ground.

In the coming weeks, the British left will have a serious historical responsibility foisted upon it. It is vital that the left’s voice (which is overwhelmingly pro-Remain) does not become subsumed within David Cameron’s pitch – that we campaign on an unapologetically progressive platform, for freedom of movement, for social justice, and against the status quo in Europe. And those tempted by Leave should seriously question whether Lexit is a viable option at this referendum, or just a convenient cover for the very worst aspects of the British right.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 18, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Boris Johnson: British to be “Heroes of Europe” opposing Nazi Aim of “one authority” in Europe.

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Heroes of Europe Against Hitler’s European Union.

What is it about former London Mayors and Hitler?

A few weeks ago we had Ken Livingstone’s comments about Zionists and Hitler.

No sooner had the din died down after Ken’s kenspeckle kiddy krap, than we have Boris’s bumptious borborygmi.

Boris Johnson: The EU wants a superstate, just as Hitler did

In a dramatic interview with the Telegraph, he warns that while bureaucrats in Brussels are using “different methods” from the Nazi dictator, they share the aim of unifying Europe under one “authority”.

He claims Winston Churchill would be joining him on the Brexit bus; he warns that the EU shares the same flawed ambition to unite Europe that Hitler pursued, and he challenges the Prime Minister to a proper “democratic debate” about the referendum live on television.

Interview,

(Boris) sees parallels between the choices that confronted his beloved Churchill, and Britain, during the Second World War and the decision facing voters next month.

“This is a chance for the British people to be the heroes of Europe and to act as a voice of moderation and common sense, and to stop something getting in my view out of control,” he says.

Johnson claims to be a real European.

Apart from his mastery of all the living tongues and cultures, he is a native speaker of Ciceronian Latin, and is said to be the only person alive who has read enough of the Emperor Claudius’ lost volumes on the Etruscans to be fluent in their speech.

He may be interested to read how his rancid rhetoric  has gone down in the rest of Europe.

Brexit-Befürworter Boris Johnson vergleicht EU mit Hitler.

The DW article – one of a whole page of similar instant German reports –   is content to outline Johnson’s rant.

The French reaction is more forthright.

Brexit : Boris Johnson dresse un parallèle entre l’Union européenne et Hitler

Pour appuyer son argumentaire contre l’UE, l’ancien maire conservateur de Londres n’a pas hésité à effectuer un parallèle surprenant.

To back his arguments against the European Union, the former Conservative Mayor of London has not hesitated to draw a surprising parallel.

We will be more forthright still.

Johnson is known for his talk about  ‘piccaninnies’ and black people’s  ‘watermelon smiles‘.

Not to mention his description of President Obama and the “part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire…”

Johnson has not only joined the Carnival of Reaction amongst those leading the Brexit campaign: he is now leading it.

As Mack Wrack General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  says,

A Brexit vote at the EU referendum will benefit Boris Johnson and his pursuit of power, Mack Wrack warned, as his union threw its support behind the Remain campaign on 12 May. The 37,000-strong Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the latest in a growing list of trade unions joining the battle to stop the UK breaking away from Brussels.

“It’s not our referendum,” Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, told around 200 delegates to the union’s annual conference in Blackpool. “The referendum is taking place because of wrangling amongst the Tories. It’s a result of pressure from the right-wing of the Conservative Party and the threat from Ukip.”

He added: “The outcome of a Brexit vote is likely to lead to a change in prime minister, and we could end up replacing one Old Etonian for another.”

“[Johnson] is the man who forced through the worst cuts in the history of the fire service, anywhere in the country, ever… So far the referendum debate has largely been a feud between elites over the best way to exploit workers.”

The comments come after the Trades Union Congress, Unite, Unison, the GMB and other major unions backed a Remain vote at the 23 June ballot. The FBU recently voted to re-affiliate with Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s shock leadership election victory in September 2015.

EU referendum: Fire Brigades Union backs Remain campaign and blasts Boris Johnson

Meanwhile:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

Bernard-Henri Lévy Tries to Get Involved in Labour Party ‘Anti-Semitism’ Controversy.

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Interviewed on Channel Four News last night Bernard-Henri Lévy, French ‘public intellectual’ is the latest in a long list of  figures to have their say on the Labour Party ‘anti-Semitism’ controversy.

He solemnly declared, “something is rotten in the state of the Labour Party”.

The former New Philosopher expressed horror that there was backing for Hamas and Hezbollah – not something, he opined, we see much of in France.

Yes but….Er… (2014)

 

While awaiting further ex-Cathedra pronouncements, and the pie-throwing actions of  Noël Godin here are some things worth recalling about  Lévy relevant to the debate about anti-Semitism and the left. For those who wish an overview of the man and his works this, Wikipedia,  is a good place to start,  although the French version is much, much, better.

Casual attitude Towards Facts.

Lévy’s  the Testament de Dieu (1979) is a lengthy, one might without condescension call it a rambling, disjointed diatribe (I have read it believe me) , which argues for the centrality of the Law of Moses at the foundation of human rights.

It was amongst the first of his books to be riddled with errors.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet pointed out (the list is too long to reproduce) that Lévy put the birth of ‘original sin’ on the 7th Day of after the world was created.  That is on the day of rest (Monsieur Bernard-Henri Lévy place au « 7e jour » (p. 238) de la création le péché originel. Il faut croire qu’Adam et Ève ont profité du repos du Seigneur ; mais cette précision surprendra les lecteurs de la Genèse ).

More recently, Lévy was publicly embarrassed when his essay De la guerre en philosophie (2010) cited the writings of French “philosopher” Jean-Baptiste Botul.Botul’s writings are actually well-known spoofs, and Botul himself is the purely fictional creation of a living French journalist and philosopher, Frédéric Pagès.

Polemics as History. 

L’Idéologie française (1981) is a ‘reading’ of French political history that discovers the origins of  its specific form of Fascism in a wide, to say the least, sources. For the author these included most of the founders of French socialism, from Revolutionary Republicans, Marxists, Mutualists to anarchists,  the pre-Great War anti-Parliamentary left, blasted for the tiny group known as the le Cercle Proudhon, uniting radicla Monarchists and syndicalists, the 1930s neo-socialist, modernising social democrats,  the ‘personalist’ Christian review Esprit (better known today for its ‘anti-totalitarianism’), intellectuals, Bergson was an impulse to racism,  and, above all French Communism, as well as better known sources, notably those which were actually fascists, such as Action française, Charles Maurras and company. All of France, to the author, was riddled with anti-antisemitism.

In other words French fascism, and Pétain’s ‘national revolution’ were the product of just about everybody who wrote or was politically active in the inter-war years.

Informed readers will immediately recognise that the book draws on the, also controversial, histories of the origin of the French far-right national revolutionary current by Zeev Sternhell. Sternhell has read the original literature, although amongst many critiques cast doubt on his arguments and sources : Un fascisme imaginaire ).

It is far from clear that Lévy had more than glanced at the writings he cites. A leaf through the book last night revealed him citing Georges Sorel’s La révolution dreyfusienne (1908). He describes it as a virulent anti-Dreyfusarde tract, hinting at anti-Semitism.  In fact the short pamphlet was about the end of the conservative  ‘republican aristocracy’ whose unity was shattered by the Affair. This had led to the the political triumph of a ‘social’ republican wing that, Sorel believed, was the occasion for the working class to secure its own autonomous interests.

That aside Lévy may have skimmed one section. Sorel has some harsh words for literary figures (he included Zola in this list) who value more the effect of their literary positions (parti pris)  than the positions themselves. These stray lines, we may conjecture, might have seriously rankled Lévy.

The book was roundly criticised, when not laughed at. Amongst those writing hostile reviews  figured left-wing firebrands  Raymond Aron, Pierre Nora, Immanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and others too numerous to list.

This might be some time back, but we  expect this talent for anti-Semitic spotting will be put to use in his interventions about the Labour Party.

Backing for Islamists.

During the 1980s and 90s Bernard-Henri Lévy was more than a literary supporter of the Afghan Islamists’ fight against the  Communists and their Soviet backers. His most celebrated, by himself and no doubt others (including President Chirac) was his involvement with  ‘Commander’ Massoud’s faction of the Mujaheddin (the depth and reality of that acquaintance remains contested).

Massoud became an enemy of the Taliban, but was far from a liberal: his call to arms began against the Communist PDPA, well before the Soviet intervention. No doubt a case could be made that he was a “good Islamist’, but he was part of that mouvance, as the name of his original group,  Jamiat-i Islam, indicates. (see Quand les djihadistes étaient nos amis.  BHL en Afghanistan ou « Tintin au Congo » ?). He was, for those who backed the Mujahideen, above all anti-Soviet. It would be interesting, nevertheless,  to know if Lévy asked his friend about the group’s attitude towards Israel….

A comparison might be made with those ‘anti-imperialists’ who suddenly found a great deal of virtue in the Islamic  ‘resistance’ to the American occupation of Afghanistan.

Bernard-Henri Lévy and Human Rights

This question is often asked: Why Does Everyone Hate Bernard-Henri Lévy? ( )

Whole books have been dedicated to criticising the man, his works and his actions (Le B.A. BA du BHL, Enquête sur le plus grand intellectuel français, de la journaliste Jade LindgaardUne imposture française, ouvrage des journalistes Nicolas Beau et Olivier Toscer 2006. Un nouveau théologien de Daniel Bensaïd, 2008.)

Bernard-Henri Lévy is in short, often a figure of fun.  Many of those who enjoy French language polemical literature are keenly aware  of the pitfalls of taking his language too seriously. Sometimes the ‘public intellectual’s’ views are more widely shared – he is opposed to the nationalist enthusiasm for ‘sovereigntism’; he can – sometimes –  make stirring speeches against racialism. Sometimes they are not: the claim that religious dogma is the bedrock of human rights cannot be sustained.

People are entitled to be wary of somebody whose chief object is more often to impress than to convince. His occasional ability to rise above phrase-mongering does not translate well – a quick look at Sartre: The Philosopher of the 20th Century by BernardHenri Levy (Le siècle de Sartre, 2000) may put people off the French political and intellectual pamphleteering for life. The contorted syntax faithfully reproduces the original – which just about lumbers along in French. The florid  expressions could serve as a template for a factory of purple patches.

The contrast between his clumsy, hammering, style and the lucid writings of other modern French political essayists – I cite a few I’ve read recently, all from different political sides,  Alain Finkielkraut, Emmanuel Todd, Jean Birnbaum – is startling.

Bernard-Henri Lévy is  also politically – a rhetorician who aspires to the court of power.  Sarkozy indulged him; Hollande appears to keep him at a distance. To the wider public he is often out to make a case effectively, to convince us with a skilful show, and less positively, a person who trades in bombast.

That his words may, to evoke Sartre’s images, serve as a sword, as pistols, is, post-Libya, possibly true. That these are used in the service of justice is less than clear.

A principled politics of human rights does not involve backing for groups like the Mujahidin, or, more recently, unbridled enthusiasm for Western interventions everywhere, from Syria to Libya.  It means supporting people, not states and certainly not posing as a political player in armed efforts to impose rights.

It is our hope that we are not about to endure another bout of Lévy’s histrionics, at the expense of the British Labour Party.