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Factionalism in the Time of Coranavirus Part 11: Chris Williamson Gets Close to Galloway’s Workers Party.

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Getting Close up to Galloway and pro-Brexit ultras of the Workers Party – aka as the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

 

Chris Williamson was reported to be organising a ‘grass roots’ event, the ‘Festival of Resistance’ on the 20th of June but we learn from his site, “The Resistance” that,

In view of the ongoing Coronavirus calamity, we have decided to postpone the Festival of Resistance that was planned for the weekend of 20 June this year.

The festival has now been rescheduled for the weekend of 17/18 October in Derby, where we will aim to have an array of excellent speakers, workshops and films.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism asserts that speakers are already lined up,

The Resist Festival is due to feature controversial speakers including the rapper Lowkey, the outspoken academic Noam Chomsky, the activist Max Blumenthal and representatives from the ‘yellow vest’ protests in France.

This is one of his most recent public interventions,

Williamson has some new best friends:

This follows an earlier chum-fest with Galloway in May:

Chris Williamson’s views on the opinions of the Deputy Leader of Galloway’s Workers Party, Joti Brar, (Anti-imperialist, communist, media worker, truthseeker, mum. Workers of the world, unite; we have a world to win! @CPGBML @WorkersPartyGB )are not known.

Here are some of them, “Joti Brar is an active member of the Stalin Society, the website of which contains articles denying Soviet wrongdoing in the Katyn massacre, the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor), and the Moscow Trials which they blame on the Nazis, dismiss as propaganda, or describe as fair process, respectively.”

Williamson could not stand as the Labour candidate in his Derby North constituency in the 2019 General Election as a result of his active suspension. He resigned from the Labour Party and stood as an independent candidate. He won 635 votes, losing his deposit and coming bottom of the poll.

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Spiked, Shifting the “Overton Window to the Right” from Brexit to Racism.

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Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "Toby Young @toadmeister 3m You lost me when you said the Overton Window has "shifted to the Right" the few years. Where, exactly? Schools? Universities? The media? The civil service? Big tech? Financial services? Retail? The arts? I'm struggling to think of anywhere it hasn't shifted leftwards. Evan Smith @evanishistory. 11h Here is me in The Guardian on the history of the Revolutionary Communist Party, from its ultra-leftism the 1980s to the right libertarianism Spiked nowadays, the journal Living Marxism in the 1990s. twitter.com/guardianopini... Show this thread"

Spiked is also at the heart of a Red-Brown Alliance over Brexit.

 

Heartfield, born James Hughes (he modestly took the name of the great German anti-fascist photomontage artist John Heartfield), was one of many enraged by the colonial upstart’s critique of Spiked.

But the one-time cadre of the Revolutionary Communist Party  soon regained his composure:

Evan Smith’s  argument that Spiked had helped shift politics to the right, and its detailed, well informed, account of the cyber-cadres past in the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) has hit the spot.

Coming after Nick Cohen in the Observer we can take stock of the impact of this network.

How a fringe sect from the 1980s influenced No 10’s attitude to racism

Previously dismissed as a fringe group on the outer limits of political discourse, more recently Spiked has become an influential force in shifting the Overton window to the right in the UK.

To understand how it has come to occupy this space and its rhetorical style, particularly concerning issues of race and racism, it is worth looking at the long road from the RCP to Spiked, via the journal Living Marxism (later titled LM).

This is a brilliant account of the RCP (this Blog has a copy of the pre-RCP journal of the faction, then known as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency…). The evolution from Living Marxism to Spiked, and the Institute of Ideas, Smith points out, is a singular one,

the trajectory of its cohort from the far left to the hard right. While the story of former leftwingers becoming rightwingers is not new, the fact that the leadership of the RCP seemed to transition en masse makes it a compelling story.

This is pretty unique. French Maoism, famously, the  Gauche prolétarienne (GP), included individuals who moved rightwards, and ex-activists were at the origin of the anti-Communist and anti-Marxist group of “nouveaux philosophes”, although their leader, Benny Lévy  discovered the Torah and Orthodox Judaism. Their denunciations of the Gulag were however framed in liberal terms, including, in some cases, a defence of human rights. Nobody would say that they were more than a current of ideas, without any formal ties.

The ex-RCP by contrast is often seen as a much more self-conscious network, all railing against what their guru Frank Furdei calls the “countercultural establishment” and the “moral depletion of the West”.

Yet….

As people have pointed out, it is equally odd that,

  • There is, in this respect, no largely ex-RCP group, large, small or micro-splinter, which claims their ‘heritage’ or to continue the battle for Marxism. They had no split, like the original home, IS/SWP into the RCG (and all the others), nothing like the break up of the WRP, or the kind of fragmentation into micro-fragments  left groups normally undergo,
  • That’s right. Very few people who dropped out of the RCP went on to keep up any political involvement — but then this might be related to the fact that we mainly picked up people new to politics. There are some people, pals of mine, who are a ‘Continuity RCP’ in that they still support earlier RCP politics, but they don’t have a group.

With the influence of a prominent figure from the Spiked network on the government’s Commission on Racial Equality,  Munira Mirza It’s their impact on government policies on race and multiculturalism that has come to the fore.

Smith notes,

These preoccupations have proven to be well suited to a moment in which the right has reduced racism to a component of a “culture war” being waged by the “woke” left.Mirza’s previous comments on Spiked about institutional racism, diversity and multiculturalism reveal the mindset in which this new proposed commission on racial inequalities has been cast. They also reveal how the fixations of a contrarian, right-leaning, libertarian website, established by disillusioned leftists, has become part of the mainstream discourse in the UK.

But the impact (however we may measure it) of Spiked has extended not just to the Tory Cabinet, it has extended to what could be called a ‘Red-Brown Front’, that is an alliance of left and national populists, over Brexit.

Whether there is any kind of organised ex-RCP ‘entryism’ or not, nobody can doubt that Spiked has been able to work with a remarkable set of allies in building bridges between national populism and a section of the Lexit (pro-Brexit) left.

These include their own alliance with Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party right up to the ‘Full Brexit’.

The nominally left-wing Full Brexit (“FOR POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY, DEMOCRACY, AND ECONOMIC RENEWAL“) is a much broader initiative. It includes apart from Spiked/RCP James Heartfield and many, many, others, there are Blue Labour figures such as Maurice Glasman, his ally, the FBU, Trade Unionists Against the EU and anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner, Paul Embery (both Spiked contributor),  well-known intellectuals and activists from the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), such as Prof Mary Davis,  Nicholas B. Wright, New Left Review top writer,  Prof Wolfgang Streeck, self-identifying leftists like Prof Costas Lapavitsas…Labour and other national sovereigntists, and a host of odd-balls and ……..

Bob from Brockley outlines its creation,

One LM initiative in the post-Referendum period was “The Full Brexit”, an avowedly left-wing pressure group launched in the summer of 2018 to reframe the Brexit narrative as one about “democracy” rather than just bashing immigrants.

Bob outlines the Spiked network inside this Red-Brown Front.

Alongside a smattering of Blue Labour social conservatives and Lexit Marxists, a good half of its 20 founding signatories are RCP network members. Academic Chris Bickerton has been a Spiked contributor since 2005, when he was a PhD student at St John’s College, Oxford. Philip Cunliffe, Furedi’s colleague at the University of Kent, is another long term Spiked activist. Pauline Hadaway, another academic, is a veteran of the Living Marxism days. James Heartfield was a paid RCP organiser. Lee Jones seems to have been recruited at Oxford around the same time as Bickerton. Tara McCormack is an RCP veteran, as is Suke WoltonBruno Waterfield write for Living Marxism.

Other signatories aren’t part of the network but have been promoted by Spiked: Paul Embery and Thomas Fazi for example (Fazi is also connected to the 5 Star Movement and recently retweeted an antisemitic tweet from someone with “Nazbol” in his user name). Many are also involved in Briefings for Brexit, which has several RCP veterans on its advisory committee, and some are involved with Civitas.

This is a peculiar form of left-right crossover politics.

Cross-over is a mild statement.

What other political initiative would be publicised in the Morning Star and Spiked?

Video: The Full Brexit in conversation – the British left after Brexit.

Morning Star January 31st 2020.

Trade unionists and academics from the socialist left met in London, January 28, to discuss the political prospects after Brexit – and after the disastrous 2019 election result.

Spiked 14th of March 2019:

Why we’re campaigning for a Full Brexit

Meet the leftists making the case for Brexit’s transformative potential.

Today Spiked ploughs its anti-woke furrow,

Multiculturalism is fuelling division

Ferdie Rous.

We need a shared identity and sense of history to make politics work.

Yesterday on Spiked Heartfield chanted his old refrain,

Labour has finally admitted it lost the working class

spiked and others have been pointing this out for decades. But Labour activists would not listen.

But let’s not forget the active help of Spiked, and their left allies in the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, in swinging British politics to the right, and sowing the seeds for a Get Brexit Done victory by the Tories.

Why I’m standing for the Brexit Party  James Heartfield. (May 2019).

In the event Heartfield bottled out and did not stand in the January General Election..

His national comrade Claire Fox (ex-RCP, and a Spiked Stalwart) became a Brexit Party MEP in that month…

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2020 at 11:15 am

Zeev Sternhell (1935 – 2020): Historian of Fascism and Pioneer of ‘Red Brown’ Studies.

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La Droite Révolutionnaire - 1885-1914, Les Origines Françaises Du ...

General Boulanger and the original Red-Brown Front.

In Memory of a Great Voice, Zeev Sternhell, 10 April 1935 – 21 June 2020.

France 24,

Israeli historian and political scientist Zeev Sternhell, a peace activist and one of the leading thinkers of the country’s left, has died aged 85, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said Sunday.

Polish-born Sternhell, head of the university’s political science department, was an outspoken champion of Palestinian rights who strongly criticised Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hebrew University president Asher Cohen hailed Sternhell, a professor emeritus there who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for political science in 2008, as “among the most important researchers” to emerge from the institution.

“His innovative political science research, which was translated into many languages, brought a deep change in the academic perception of ideological movements, specifically radical movements,” Cohen said.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab-led Joint List in Israel’s parliament, wrote that “during his childhood in Poland, Sternhell experienced the terrible results of fascism, and throughout his life had the courage and strength to research and fight it.

“For decades he was a significant voice for Palestinian human rights and against the occupation in the territories.”

The article continues,

His academic work also delved into the “French roots of fascism” and stirred lively debate and controversy, according to former student Denis Charbit, now a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.

Sternhell was a “very demanding” professor, but also one “attentive” to his best students, Charbit told AFP.

In addition to academic writing and books, he regularly published opinion pieces in Israeli newspapers, most notably Haaretz, many of which were critical of settlers.

On one occasion Sternhell called the settlement movement a “cancer” in Israeli society, and in another instance said a settlement should be attacked with tanks

Sternhell continued his political combat,

After receiving the Israel Prize in 2008, he was wounded the same year by a bomb planted outside his house by a right-wing extremist.

Sternhell himself said the attack was testimony to the “fragility” of Israeli democracy.

In an interview with Haaretz later that year, he warned of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the condition of Israel “not respecting the national rights of others”.

In a 2014 interview with Haaretz, during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Sternhell warned that the Jewish state’s democracy was “facing collapse”.

“The Israeli democracy is eroding, and the signs (of emerging fascism) exist,” he said.Tamar Zandberg, of left-wing party Meretz, said Sternhell’s lasting legacy would be his work towards “a strong and not occupying Israeli democracy”.

Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel offered his condolences to the Sternhell family, noting that while he didn’t share many of Sternhell’s opinions, “prominent intellectuals like him, from right and left, are the foundation to our existence as the people of the book”.]

According to Haaretz, Sternhell died as a result of complications following surgery.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and several grandchildren

Zeev Sternhell was at the centre of not just of Israeli political debate, but amongst the left and anti-fascists, in Europe, above all in France. Awarded a Ph.D. in 1969 from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris,  for his thesis on The Social and Political Ideas of Maurice Barrès, a key figure in the culture and ideology of the nationalist right, he had a great influence had, far wider than academic circles and far beyond the hexagone.

I first came across his books during the mid-1980s in the Bibliothèque municipale  Place Jules Joffrin, 75018 Paris in  The study,  Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, 1983; transl. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, has an enduring impact. This was reached many people on the left, as has been testified on hearing of his passing.

Sternehell’s work has found new audiences with the rise of national populism, and the creation of ‘neither right nor left’ red-brown fronts across Europe, from the pro-Brexit alliances in the UK to the defection of many parts of the sovereigntist left in many countries to the nationalist ‘anti-metropolitan elite” right. His account of the literary and polemical figure of the nationalist Maurice Barrès and his appeal to La terre et les Morts (Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. 1972), the homeland heritage and the living memory of the dead, evokes ideas one can find amongst defenders of the ‘somewhere’ folk who criticise the ‘anywhere’ people.  

In La Droite Révolutionnaire, (First Edition, 1978) Sternhell proposed that late 19th century and pre-Great War France was the cradle of fascist ideology. France was, in Sternhell’s eyes, an ideal field for studying pre-fascism, and, full blown, “neither left nor right” fascist thought. His focus began on General Boulanger’s 1886 campaign, an anti-parliamentarian movement which, following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870 1871)  of  demanded ‘revenge’ against Germany, – the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France – and a clear out of the ‘cabals’ in the name of the People. His campaign was backed by Monarchists, Bonapartists, Maurice Barrès, some republicans and revolutionaries from the Blanquist tradition, and nationalists.

A part of the early French socialist movement  saw in the movement a protest against (as Sternhell put it) ” les grands seigneurs de la finance.” Some saw in Boulangism a patriotic reaction against Parliamentary and social elites,  that they could turn towards the left. Anti-Jewish sentiment, organised anti-semitism, appeared, leading to the creation of the Ligue antisémitique de France in 1889. Others from the socialist movement considered that the left should stand firm behind republican democracy and reject Boulanger: Le Bilan Boulanger. 1888 (M. Lissagaray)

In Ni droite ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (First Edition, 1983), Sternhell  turned to the 20th century.  In the years preceding the Second World War these movements drew together calls to “workers of all classes” against banking “hyper” capitalism, drew on the romance of the nation, and opposition to the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the elites of the Third Republic. This, he argued,  indicated that fascism originated and continued to operate as a synthesis of socialist ideas and nationalism.

The book surveyed anti-parliamentarian nationalism (the ‘ligues’), “planiste” sections of French social democracy (Marcel Déat), the Monarchist and anti-Semite Action française, the mass parties of the later 1930s, the Parti Social français (PSF), the Parti Populaire français (PPF) of the renegade Communist Jacques Doriot, and a mixed bag of admirers of National Socialism and Mussolini. 

Last year Sternhell edited and contributed to an important study of pre-war French far right movements, L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. 2019.

In 2006 Sternhell published a study of anti-Enlightenment thought, Les anti-Lumières: Une tradition du XVIIIᵉ siècle à la guerre froide. Edmund Burke and Thomas Caryle took their place alongside Herder and Charles Maurras as those defend the “moral capital” of tradition against what Frank Feurdi, from the Red-Brown sie Spiked calls “the counter-culture establishment”. (The birth of the culture wars.  This century-long conflict is born of the Western elites’ loss of cultural and moral authority. Spiked 19.6.20).

Sternhell, by contrast, defended neither cultural nor moral authority nor tradition.

His work was offers us landmark historical studies and a brilliant exercise of the “critical tradition” of the Enlightenment.

As he wrote, “Aucun ordre établi  n’est légitime du seul fait qu’il existe. La justice et le bonheur sont des objectifs valables et légitimes…l’homme est capable d’aller en avant, a condition qu’il fasse appeal a la raison.” (Les anti-Lumières: Page 796).

“No established order is legitimate by the mere fact that it exists. Justice and happiness  valid and legitimate objectives …humanity  is able to progress, on condition that we use our capacity to reason.

Let that be Sternhell’s epitaph.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2020 at 11:22 am