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The Labour Party, Trotskyism and Pabloism.

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They Lost….

“Trotskyism is being studied as never before” The Brent Soviet.

“But we want to speak frankly to you, comrade Trotsky, about the sectarian methods which we have observed around us and which have contributed to the setbacks and enfeebling of the vanguard. I refer to those methods which consist in violating and brutalising the revolutionary intelligence of those militants – numerous in France – who are accustomed to making up their own minds and who put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts. These are the methods which consist in interpreting with no indulgence whatever the inevitable fumblings in the search for revolutionary truth. Finally, these are the methods which attempt, by a colonisation directed from without, to dictate to the labour movement attitudes, tactics or responses which do not come from the depths of its collective intelligence. It is in large part because of this that the French section of the Fourth International has shown itself absolutely incapable not merely of reaching the masses but indeed even of forming tried and serious cadres.”

Marceau Pivert to Trotsky. 1939 (Where is the PSOP Going?  A correspondence between Marceau Pivert, Daniel Guerin and Leon Trotsky)

 

With Trotskyists about to take over the Labour Party there is interest in the ideology and politics of this current on the left.

One figure we have yet to hear mention is Michael Pablo one, of many but by far the best known, party names of a revolutionary usually called Michel Raptis. The most reviled Trotskyist of the post-war period, he has been accused of being the father of lies, liquidationism, and revisionism of all stripes and spots.  In fact his ideas and career are important to anybody concerned with Trotskyism: an illustration of its worst faults and some of its better features.

It will come as no surprise that Tendance Coatesy, as with many other leftists, owes a political and ideological debt to this outstanding individual. That his principal orthodox Trotskyist enemies were Gerry Healy, Pierre Lambert and James Cannon – all po-faced right-wing authoritarians – one cannot but help but like Pablo.

This should be borne in mind even if we accept that the fundamental premises with which he, and all Trotskyists, worked, that the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc, and China, not to mention countries like Cuba, had, by revolution or by bureaucratic imposition, become ‘non-capitalist’ social formations, part of a fundamentally new stage in history has been proved false. And that it’s hard to avoid acknowledging the erosion of the related belief, that ‘building revolutionary parties’ on the models laid down by Lenin and Trotsky was a realistic strategy to help create socialist societies in the capitalist world,  and overthrow the Stalinist bureaucratic ‘deformations’ in these non-capitalist countries.

Pabloism. 

The term Pabloism was first used during the splintering of Trotskyism in the 1950s. It referred to a set of positions advanced by Michael Rapitis during debates within the Fourth International, principality Pablo’s view that the “objective” growth of Stalinist-led ‘workers’ states’ ‘degenerated’ and deformed) meant that they had to have a strategy towards the mass Communist parties that could capture their base. He was accused of ‘liquidating’ the Trotskyist ‘programme’ as an independent point of reference outside of these parties.

Since many of his opponents had their own strategic alliances inside social democratic parties that disguised their true ‘programme’ (Gerry Healy’s pre-Socialist Labour League group in Labour ‘The Club‘, the original home of most UK ‘Trotksyist’ organisations and groupuscules) , not to mention  collaboration with right-wing anti-Communist elements backed by American funds (in France, in the union federation Force Ouvrière) this accusation looks  bad faith. More serious criticisms stem from the claim that Stalinist forms of Communism were a kind of ‘leap’ into a better form of society which Trotskyists should back (from the outside) and influence (from the inside).

The noise and fury (cited above) around such disagreements can only be understood by referring to earlier disputes which set the pattern for Trotskyist polemics that has endured to this day.

This process of raucous fractures and splits which can be traced back to the 1930s, notably in France. Despite the widespread impression that American Trotskyism, above all the US Socialist Workers’ party, was the lodestar of the movement, French Trotskyism was the centre of the Fourth International and many of the original parties – a country with (in the 1912 foundation, larger than the Socialist SFIO), and form 1936 ownwards a significant political player) a large Communist party to boot, and a deep-rooted socialist and communist tradition that sets it off from America. Before looking at what ‘Pabloism’ is we have to begin there.

One of the first Trotskyist groups in that country was the  la Ligue communiste founded in 1930. By the latter half of the decade there were already three main Trotskyist tendencies in the Hexagone (French Trotskyism) .

They were all organised around strong personalities: long embedded leadership is an enduring feature of Trotskyism (French Trotskyism)

Zeller’s Témoin du siècle (2000) outlines some of their disagreements. Perhaps it is most revealing on how the Trotskyists behaved after the ‘french turn’ which saw them joining the French Socialists, the SFIO.

Zeller describes their activists lecturing people on the First Congresses of the Third International and Trotsky’s line on the Chinese Revolution. Not surprisingly not everybody was impressed with these no doubt kindly meant lectures. They were kicked out of the party of Léon  Blum after, amongst other things,  a sustained campaign to build workers’ militias. For Trotsky the “La révolution française a commencé” with the wave of strikes that accompanied the election in 1936 of the Front Populaire you understand (Trotsky, Ou Va La France 1934 – 8, particularly the section on the ” milice ouvrière ” in  Socialisme et lutte armée.)

In his Mémoire d’un dinosaure trotskiste (1999) Yvan Craipeau describes the various positions Trotsky took on French politics,, from ‘entryism’ in the SFIO as the bolchevik-léniniste tendency, to efforts to influence Marceau Pivert’s “Gauche révolutionnaire” both while it remained in the Socialist party, and later (see above) when it was the independent Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan (PSOP). founded in 1938. Pivert memorably replied to Trotsky about their  efforts at hectoring instruction, that his party members “are accustomed to making up their own minds ” and that they “put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts” – not Trotsky’s international prognostics. 

Trotsky replied by, behind his back,  describing Pivert (as described by Zeller) as a false revolutionary in the mould of  a provincial school teacher.

The entire history is of  bitterness and great  complexity (one I am familiar with in case anybody wants a Trainspotter lesson…).  People wishing the investigate further should begin with these two books and look at this Wikipedia entries: Trotskisme en France. French Trotskyists.

But all this ill-will was a mere foreshadowing of the later splits in the Trotskyist movement.

Entryism.

To jump from those years: the key issues in the 1954 split included entryism (which Pablo advocated inside the mass Communist parties and well as social democracy) and this,

Pablo’s elevation of the “objective process” to “the sole determining factor” reducing the subjective factor (the consciousness and organization of the vanguard party) to irrelevance, the discussion of “several centuries” of “transition” (later characterized by Pablo’s opponents as “centuries of deformed workers states”) and the suggestion that revolutionary leadership might be provided by the Stalinist parties rather than the Fourth International—the whole analytic structure of Pabloist revisionism emerged. The Genesis of Pabloism.

Pablo indeed took seriously the prospect of a Third World war. In these conditions he  backed, and enforce, this entryist strategy known as ” entrism sui generis ” inside (where possible) Stalinist Communist parties, and just about everything  that moved on the social democratic left. This meant not just concealing  membership of the Trotskyist movement,  even to the point of point-bank denial of any link. Famously as the text above states he considered that it might take decades of such underground work for their efforts to bear fruit.

Apart from its inherent implausibility the prospect of ‘centuries’ of clandestine burrowing away seemed to  consign the Trotskyists to the fate of the Marranos, ‘converted’ Jews who ostensibly  submitted to Catholicism but practised their faith in secret.

The strategy had little impact in the Communist parties – in contrast to long-term and independently initiated entryism in the British Labour Party by Trotskyists (the secretive and bureaucratic ‘Militant’ group) who were distant from his Fourth International.

After winning support for these policies, and even a degree of power over the International, helped by the departure of Healey, Lambert and Canon (cited above) Rapitis by the end of the same decade  plunged into a new cause: anti-colonialism and the ‘Arab Revolution’. He lost control of the Fourth International to Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank. He retired from it in the mid-sixties.

Romance about epochs of hidden revolutionary labour aside, the  idea of working within the French Parti communiste français (PCF) was, even at the time,  in view of the party’s  top-down structure  and intolerant culture, ill-thought out and profoundly misjudged. It was equally parasitic on the success of the party being ‘entered’ (as indeed the experience of the Labour Party indicates).

Nevertheless French Trotskyism emerged more openly on the 60s political scene when a group of young Communist students, led by Alain Krivine, founded the independent Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire in 1966. (1) Pablo did however put heart and soul in supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria (a fight in which Krivine was also engaged) and was imprisoned for gun running to the independence fighters. He had a  brief period of influence in  the post-independence (5th of July 1962) Front de Libération Nationale, (FLN) notably on the leader Ben Bella (1916 – 2012) promoting the ideas of self-management. The Houari Boumédiènne,  1965 military coup put paid to that. (2)

The later politics of Pablo’s the  Tendance marxiste-révolutionnaire internationale (TMRI), and its French affiliate, the Alliance marxiste révolutionnaire (AMR) centred around the primacy of self-management.  They embraced the project of a ‘self-managed’ republic, took up themes such as feminism (in the mid-sixties), supported anti-colonial revolutions (without neglecting as their consequences unravelled, the necessary critique of ‘anti-imperialist’ national bourgeoisies), and defended democratic politics against Stalinism and orthodox Trotskyism. Pablo’s writings translated into English include a collection of his articles (Michel Raptis, Socialism, Democracy & Self-Management: Political Essays 1980 and his first-hand studies of workers’ control during the Allende government in Chile (Revolution and Counter Revolution in Chile by Michael Raptis. 1975) – another experience cut short by a bloody military coup.

New Left.

In the 1970s its members joined the Parti Socialiste Unifié, a French New Left party with over 30,000 members,  hundreds of councillors  during the late 60s and early 1970s and 4 MPs in 1967. Later the AMR was involved in other left alliances, all within the  traditions of workers’ self-management and New Left causes, participative democracy feminism, gay rights, green issues.  By the 1980s the TNR,  operated on a collegiate rather than a ‘Leader’ basis (and numbered outstanding figures such as Maurice Najman). It helped keep alive the ideas of workers’ control during the political triumph of neoliberalism. I was close to them in the 1980s (and attended one of their World Congress, the 8th) as a member of the Fédération pour une gauche alternative where we worked with the PSU in its final years.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CqjSS9FXEAAJxOm.jpg

Movements, that place ecological issues within the context of popular control, talk of new forms of democracy, owe something to those in the PSU and other New Left groups of the sixties and seventies across Europe. The TMRI was part of these currents, less and less concerned with building a revolutionary ‘party’ than with the interests of the movements themselves. (3) It could be said to have been a practical answer to the critique of Trotskyism offered by Claude Lefort of the group, Socialisme ou Barbarie in the 1950s.  Lefort once asked, why, without the kind of material basis of a Stalinist state or even a trade union administration, did all Trotskyist groups reproduce the bureaucratic forms of these apparatuses?One response is, yes, “liquidationism”, being part of the wider movement and not a self-styled ‘vanguard’.

Pabloism’s  legacy continues. It is one of many influences inside  the French ‘alternatifs’, left social- republicanism, and the (left-wing of) the  Front de Gauche (Ensemble) and more widely in the European and Latin American left.

Although a small number of  ‘Pabloites’ re-joined the ‘Mandelite’ Fourth International (already moving away from Trotskyist  ‘orthodoxy) in the 1990s most evolved away from ‘Trotskyism’ towards broader forms of democratic socialism and New Left radicalism. Some even became part of the French Greens (at the time known as Les Verts), while most, as indicated, merged into the broader left.

As the political landscape has radically changed since the fall of Official Communism and the entrenchment of neo-liberal economists and social policies in most of the world those associated with this current have  been involved in a variety of left parties and campaigns. Pablo’s anti-colonialism hardly meets the challenges we face today. But the democratic strand of workers’ self-management remains perhaps, a strand which retains its relevance in the emerging ideas and policies of the left, including within the Labour Party..

Unlike ‘entryism’ and dogmatic Trotskyism….

 

(1)One of the best accounts of this and Krivine’s background is in Hervé Hamon, Patrick Rotman, Génération, les années de rêve, Paris, Seuil, 1987. For 68 itself: Patrick Rotman et Hervé Hamon, Génération, T.2 Les années de poudre, Paris, Le Seuil, 1988,

(2)The best biographical introduction to Michel Raptis: on the Lubitz Trotskyanet –  here

(3) A  reliable sketch of the French affiliate of the TMRI, the AMR, is  available here: Bref aperçu de l’histoire du courant “pabliste” ses suites et sespériphéries en France 1965-1996.  A journal from this tradition is Utopie Critique.

From KS.

 

Death of Georges Séguy, Resistant, Leader of the CGT, and Communist.

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Georges Séguy: From  the Resistance, Manthausen Camp, to May 68.

Georges Séguy who led the CGT, the largest French trade union federation, close to the French Communist Party,  from 1967 to 1982, died on Saturday at the age of 89 years at the hospital Montargis (Loiret).

 He passed away early yesterday afternoon,” said Elyane Bressol, President the Institute of social history (IHS) of the CGT, which Georges Seguy was honorary president. He was hospitalised for several days to Montargis Hospital, in Loiret.

Hommage à Georges Séguy (CGT)

Communiqué de la CGT.

C’est avec beaucoup de tristesse et d’émotion que nous avons appris le samedi 13 août 2016, le décès de Georges Séguy, à 89 ans, ancien Secrétaire Général de la CGT de 1967 à 1982.

More dignified tributes in the pages of l’Humanité.

As an apprentice printer, a member of the young Communists,  and part of the resistance group Francs-tireurs et partisans français (FTPF) Séguy was arrested at the age of 17 by the Gestapo  and deported to  Mauthausen.

France 24 outlines Séguy’s trade union career. His health affected by the deportation he became an electrician and worked for the French national rail service, the SNCF. He was both active in the French Communist Party  (Parti communiste français, PCF) and the CGT (Confédération générale du travail).

Georges Séguy devient en 1961 secrétaire général de la fédération des cheminots, l’une des plus importantes avec celles de la métallurgie et de l’EGF (électricité et gaz). Entré en 1965 au bureau confédéral de la CGT, il succède en 1967 à Benoît Frachon au poste de secrétaire général. Il vient de fêter son quarantième anniversaire.

Georges Séguy became General Secretary of the train-drivers and rail-workers’ federation, one of the most important wings of the CGT union federation, along with the engineers (roughly in the sense used by the  Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union AEEU), and the Gaz and Electricity  producers. AFter becoming part of the national committee of the CGT in 1967 he took over from Benoît Frachon the post of General Secretary. He had only  just celebrated his 40th birthday.

Un an plus tard, ce sont les événements de mai 68, les barricades, neuf millions d’ouvriers en grève, la révolte étudiante, De Gaulle ébranlé. Lors des difficiles négociations de Grenelle, Georges Séguy, au nom de la CGT, affronte Georges Pompidou, Premier ministre.

One year later and the May 68 ‘events’ took place, barricades, 9 million workers on strike, the student revolt, leaving President De Gaulle completely shaken. During the difficult negotiations with the gvoernment that took place at Rue Grenelle, Georges Séguy confronted the Prime Minister Georges Pompidou.

Sous les présidences de Georges Pompidou et de Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, la CGT, alors au faîte de sa puissance, mènera sous sa houlette une lutte permanente contre la politique contractuelle lancée au début des années 1970 par Jacques Delors, alors conseiller social du Premier ministre Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

Under the Presidencies of Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the CGT, at the height of its power, waged a permanent war against labour reforms (part of the ‘nouvelle société’ project which drew Delors, from a left Christian democratic tradition into the right-wing government’s orbit) launched by Jacques Delors, at the time a top adviser on social affairs to the Prime Minister  Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

In 1968 Georges Séguy was central to the Grenelle Agreements which negotiated an end to official union backing for the strikes in return for substantial government concessions of workers pay and rights.

The Grenelle Agreements (French: Accords de Grenelle) or Grenelle Reports were negotiated 25 and 26 May, during the crisis of May 1968 in France by the representative of the Pompidou government, the trade unions, and the Organisation patronale. Among the negotiators were Jacques Chirac, then the young Secretary of State of Local Affairs, and Georges Séguy, representative of the Confédération générale du travail.

The Grenelle Agreements, concluded 27 May 1968—but not signed—led to a 35% increase in the minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel garanti) and 10% increase in average real wages.[1] It also provided for the establishment of the trade union section of business (Section syndicale d’entreprise), through the act of 27 December 1968.

Georges Séguy and the CGT’s role in May 68 remains a matter of great controversy on the French left, if not internationally. There are those who would dismiss the Grenelle accords, others would personally attack  Séguy.

There are serious critical points to be made, above all by French leftists and trade unionists.

By contrast, it is to be expected that a section of the British left, notably the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party in England and Wales, will savage comrade Séguy. Some will note the irony of those who have recently been cheer-leaders for the reactionary nationalist Brexit campaign  attacking a leader of a mass trade union who obtained  substantial concessions from the French government in 1968  for ‘reformism’.

In Séguy’s own account of the events of May 68 he states,  that, while freely admitting that his union and party had been overtaken by events, and that a  gulf between the students and the CGT had opened up (noting in passing that their anti-Stalinism was, for him, identical to anti-Marxism and anti-Communism) , the CGT and the unions had still achieved a major step forward in terms of social reform within the world of work.

Some obituaries have noted that Séguy tried to democratise the CGT during the late 1970s, and to return it to independent spirit of the Charte d’Amien (1906)  a struggle which led to his eventual resignation as General Secretary (1982).

Quel bilan faites-vous des avancées sociales issues des négociations de Grenelle?

Elles ont été supérieures à celles de 1936! Avec 8 ou 9 millions de grévistes, la pression sur le gouvernement et le patronat était telle que le pouvoir a dû faire des concessions importantes. Ainsi, nous réclamions un salaire minimum à 600 francs par mois, soit une augmentation de 37%: cette revendication, qui avait toujours été repoussée, a été résolue dans les dix premières minutes des négociations de Grenelle! En dehors des augmentations de salaire, nous avons principalement obtenu la liberté des activités syndicales dans les entreprises et la réduction du temps de travail, avec le retour de la semaine de travail de 40 heurs.

The social advances were greater than those of 1936. With 8 to 9 million strikes the pressure on the government and the employer was such that they had to make important concessions. The minimum wage of 600 francs a month, a rise of 37%, a demand which had always been turned down, was accepted within the first ten minutes of the negotiations! Apart from wage rises we gained the freedom to organise unions in all enterprises, and a reduction in working time, back to 40 hours a week.

These are other interesting observations.

Georges Séguy: “Sarkozy wants to kill off the spirit of rebellion”

Translated Sunday 13 May 2007, by Emma Paulay

The ex-General Secretary of the CGT retorts to the right-wing candidate’s speech about May 1968 (1).

As he watched Nicolas Sarkozy demonise May 1968 on television, Georges Séguy saw red. The ex general secretary of the CGT, the leading trade union, and leader of the workers strike at the time, knows what he’s talking about…

Huma: What was your spur-of-the-moment reaction?

Georges Séguy: It gave me a start. I understand that the events of May 1968 left the reactionaries and especially the employers, with painful memories. But it’s the first time I’ve heard a politician like Nicolas Sarkozy condemn a memorable moment in our national social history in such retrograde terms. The main historical importance of May 1968, is neither the police violence in the Latin quarter, nor the legitimate controversies of different philosophical currents of the time, it is the general strike of ten million workers who took over their companies.

Huma: Not everyone remembers the outcome. Can you remind us what it was?

Georges Séguy: The workers were infuriated by years of governmental and employers’ opposition to any social progress. The general strike had one aim: to overcome this blockage, to obtain the opening of negotiation procedures. A huge majority of factories which had been occupied by their workers, many for the first time, signed the commitment of 25th May 1968 at the Ministry of Employment, boulevard Grenelle. It didn’t take long. Within a few hours, many demands, which it would take too long to list, were taken into account. The most extraordinary of which was a 30% raise of the minimum wage. When you see all the commotion about the minimum wage at 1500 euros, gross or net, it is worth remembering that this raise in the minimum wage and low salaries in the provinces, in Brittany for example, boosted domestic consumption to such a point that economic growth was increased more than at any other time during the period known as the “Trente Glorieuses”.

Huma: But you are talking about the workers, and of their strikes, and it is precisely this aspect that Nicolas Sarkozy did not talk about. Is there some misunderstanding?

Georges Séguy: No. Sarkozy knew exactly what he was doing. He censored the workers strike in his speech because it contradicts his attack on May 1968. He cannot proclaim his love for the workers and at the same time revile them when they accomplish a leap forward in their conditions and in society. The worker he respects is the one who gets up early and works flat out for his boss, even if the same boss might sack him one day. It’s not the one who stays up late preparing action that will help others defend their interests and have better lives. His slogan “work more to earn more” is misleading. To earn more, you have to fight more. I challenge anyone to look back at history and prove the contrary.

Huma: What was the point of this diatribe?

Georges Séguy: This malevolent condemnation, comparing militants, trade unionists and dissatisfied workers to hooligans, aims to discredit a movement where the famous work value that Sarkozy brandishes won a spectacular victory over those whose only thought is of over exploiting it to their advantage. The scale of this movement remains and will remain, at a much higher level than a politician’s ambitions, one of the most significant examples of French workers’ attachment to the social model resulting from the National Council of the Résistance.

Huma: Nicolas Sarkozy has no qualms about referring to the Résistance himself, from Général de Gaulle to Jean Moulin, to Guy Môquet. What is your reaction to that, as a résistant who was deported at a very young age?

Georges Séguy: He certainly had the gall to quote such glorious names. But it’s precisely the great social conquests imposed by the Résistance that he wants to destroy: a social security system based on solidarity between generations, a right to retirement, freedom of action for trade unions, nationalisations, large public services etc. His programme is the opposite to that of the National Council of the Résistance. In subjecting the historical social progress of May 1968, to public obloquy, and at the same time drumming out his love for workers, Sarkozy shows that, if he is elected, the French social model will not outlive his all-consuming fervour for work.

Huma: It’s a well-know fact that workers and students in 1968 did not have exactly the same point of view. Maybe Sarkozy thinks that he can speculate on that difference. However, the slogan for the march on 13th May 1968 was “student-worker solidarity”. What finally reunited everyone was a sort of uprising against a social order to which people were subjected in different ways…

Georges Séguy: As I see it, in what the UMP leader is saying, his overall attitude towards May 1968 is of great importance. Apart from the leftist diversions of a few groups, May 1968 was also a wonderful young people’s revolt against the advocates of the doctrinaire approach and totalitarian-minded political powers which had a tendency to stiffen the democracy. This brought about a huge juvenile movement towards a society freed of old fashioned mentalities, of unfairness and of the shackles of all sorts of bans and taboos. We were spectators to a strong push for social, political, and cultural emancipation. For women, that meant rejection of inequality and discrimination, the new force of feminism was women’s rights. In short, May 1968 was a great social movement and an extraordinary request for morals, habits, and society to be modernised. I am a witness to the fact that the workers movement did not necessarily realise that at the time. By proclaiming his loathing for this call for emancipation, Nicolas Sarkozy shows us whose side he is on: on the side of the big bosses, of an out-of-date monarchial system.


Translator’s note:

(1) Nicolas Sarkozy, at the largest rally of his campaign (at the Bercy arena in Paris), declared: “In this election, it is a question of whether the heritage of May ’68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all.” May ‘68 “weakened the idea of citizenship by denigrating the law, the state and the nation … See how the belief in short-term profit and speculation, how the values of financial capitalism grew out of May ’68, because there are no more rules, no more norms, no morality, no more respect, no authority … ”

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm

The Labour Party: Holed up and Isolated on Collis Aventinus.

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Labour’s Forerunners The Secession of the People.

In early, half-legendary, Roman history at around 495 BCE the conflict between the Patrician Senate and the Plebeians reached such a point that the common people seceded. After time three miles away on Mons Sacer, they sat, the story goes, on Collis Esquilinus and Collis Aventinus, within the City walls. There they remained, it is proverbially (in a simplified version of the story) in splendid isolation, until their demands for debt relief were met.

The tale came to symbolise how political minorities can defiantly proclaim their independence. We might say that the Labour Party is in danger not only of tearing itself apart, but of ending up, however large its membership may swell , separate from the rest of the country. Opinion polls indicate that it remains very far from commanding the votes needed for an electoral majority. It risks far greater isolation than the Roman plebs.

In La social-démocratie européenne dans l’impasseLe Monde yesterday covered the crises affecting the European left. Of those politicians heading potential governing parties, it noted that Jeremy Corbyn, Robert Fico (Slovakia), and Pedro Sanchez (head of the Spanish socialists, the PSOE) confronted the same dilemma: how to win power and to keep their parties going.

The article cites the startling case of the Slovakians: Fico formed a ‘red-brown’ coalition with nationalist-far-right parties between 2006 and 2010. Again allied with the extreme-right his populism extends to virulent anti-migrant rhetoric. At the bottom of the page is another striking case. France’s ruling Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) has declined to between 60,000 and 80,000 members (some put the figure still lower). The PS, and other left candidates, less or more radical, look unlikely to make it to the second round of next year’s Presidential election.

Spain’s PSOE – still, at 22,06 % of the vote, the largest electoral force on the Spanish left – looks about to accept another right-wing government; the ‘populist’ Podemos’s vote declined in the June elections, creating its own internal difficulties. The German SPD is withering on the vine, its leader, Sigmar Gabriel, barely registering internationally. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Rizni, nominally on the centre-left, faces a challenge in a referendum about reforming the country’s’ Senate. Only in Portugal, with a coalition led by Socialist Antonio Costa and supported by the Communists and the radical Bloco de Esquerda remains clearly on the left.

Are the fortunes of the rest of the European left important for the British Labour Party? With no participation in the Euro, and now Brexit it would appear that .the country is free from the prospect of a Continental federation ruled by free-market bureaucrats. The ‘democratic deficit’ ended, the House of Commons can return to making its own laws. What happens elsewhere, happens elsewhere.

Sovereigntism.

The ideology that animated the pro-Brexit left is sovereigntism. This is the idea that popular sovereignty is the goal of the “people” against the elites, Brussels, globalisation, finance capital. The ‘general will’ can be expressed in extra-Parliamentary forms, from the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the more recent Nuit Debout protests in France. The view is growing that the Labour Party can, as a ‘social movement’ take on a similar role: a direct link between the will of the grass roots and politics. With the end of ties to the EU what is to stop this force, a battering ram, from conquering power and exercising the sovereignty of the people? Or, as the British left tends to dub it, will the ‘the working class’ be able to “take power”?

Yanis Varoufakis observes, by contrast, that the sovereignty that British political forces want to preserve, of ”their cherished House of Commons”, “is put under pressure by its most powerful social groups: trader, manufacturers, and of course the City of London, for whom Brexit is fraught with dangers”. The “tug of war between sovereignty and financialised capital” has not evaporated after Brexit. (Page 123. And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Yanis Varoufakis 2016) Popular sovereignty, a General Will whose supporters regularly (as in the radical protest movements cited above) contrast with the compromises, not to say corruption, of Parliamentary democracy, is an intangible force faced with the class realities of power. The social movement talked about in recent months, whether largely apparent only in public meetings, or with deeper roots, is unlikely to stand much of a chance faced with these structural constraints.

The Conservative government is negotiating trading and other agreements, including new versions of TIPP. Continued access to the single market will come at a price. The TUC’s has little power behind its efforts to secure “jobs and right at work.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC June 2016) The results will not vanish if a Labour government comes to power. Prime Minister Teresa May is on record as hostile to trade unions and the rights embodied in EU law. International trade agreements will doubtless favour the rights of what Varoufakis calls “financialised capital”.

Conquering Power.

How can this be changed? Labour governments have been charged with merely exercising power, rather than conquering it, that is, winning a serious battle in the state and society as a whole and not just in the ballot box. Governing may involve making many important choices, but the intense life of Cabinets tends to downplay the wider social basis of change that socialists wish to introduce.

Many people are impressed by illustrations from very recent history. The Blair-Brown years could be seen as winning elections, with a careful strategy to assemble different constituencies (middle class, aspirational working class, left labour voters with ‘nowhere else to go’). Until the banking-financial crisis of 2007 -8 this was a period of expanded social spending. But these Labour governments operated within institutions of the privatising state created by Margaret Thatcher. Following John Major they extended this to privatising public services, including, for example, back-to-work schemes for several million of the unemployed. As the well-paid private appointments of many former New Labour Ministers and their supporters indicate, the state was not just unconquered; the privatisers conquered New Labour.

With this perspective in view, the acceleration of Conservative free-market ‘reforms’ to the economy, the development of the private company hold on the state, we should not be inward looking. We should embrace both democratic socialist calls for public ownership, and the social democratic impulse for equality. In place of rhetoric about ‘sovereignty’ the powerful Labour tradition of practical reforms should be our concern. A revival of the Fabian tradition of public service and detailed social policy, melded with Marxist scepticism about the class nature of the state and the critique of capitalism, might – I am being, to say the least, optimistic – bring us together. Matched with concern for universal human rights, this could be part of what one of the greatest leaders of European socialism Jean Jaurès (1859 – 1914) called the “synthesis” between left-wing traditions.

In early Rome the Avernis episode ended, it is said, in compromise. The Plebeians won on the issue of debt and, eventually, some political representation. But they did not overturn Patrician rule. Whatever the causes, which we can discuss for days, the last thing Labour needs is infighting, standing alone, laughed at by the Governing Right, cheered on by sectarian forces who wish to split the Party, and standing alone, on a modern political Collis Avernis. If this continues we look unlikely to  get even the measure of satisfaction our commoner forerunners obtained. We are not separate from the crisis of European social democracy described in Le Monde: we are part of it.

George Galloway Goes Wilderness (Festival).

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Galloway: Dapper flâneur  at an alter-Heimat nonpareil.

Busyness is everywhere, in your morning, at your desk, in your home and even in your thoughts. We’re always doing and always planning: ‘more forwards’ as the saying goes. Come summer time, we feel a little time in the wilderness helps correct the balance of the busyness. Four days in a nature reserve to meet new people, meet new ideas and new experiences. If Wilderness had a saying, it would probably be ‘meet the world’: a world of creativity and culture, of festival and flora, of ideas and identity. Wilderness aims to slip off your shoes, settle you down and then showcase the best of who we are, where we belong and what we create. As our unofficial saying goes, come to the wilderness to meet the world.

Before Wilderness, festivals’ didn’t offer forests or feasts. No one knew of a festival where you woke early to swim, or stayed late to learn. The story of Wilderness is one of gently rolling back the steel fences and quietly asking people of all ages to live together for one weekend; a story of exploring the widest lens of cultural ambition and inviting the outdoors back into the heart of the artistic experience. It’s a story of nudging the festival experience both into the past and towards the future…

In 2011 Wilderness was born, with five thousand people celebrating the arts and outdoors in an ancient landscape. Brought to you by the creators of some of the UK’s finest and most celebrated events, its inception was one of bringing together reciprocal talents: passion to build transformative experiences with a deep love of artistry and artisans.

The following years have been a journey in the cultural wonders that can be transported to and translated in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Wilderness is founded on creative exploration. A celebration of the arts and delights, we create world for flâneurs, for the curious, we invite you to open your eyes, minds, hearts and enjoy the thrilling bricolage of artistry and culture collected in our beautiful Wilderness.

We strike a balance between relaxation and revelry, artistic refinement and simple pleasures. The sixth season awaits. We’ve opened up more acres to camp on, invited more artists to the stages than ever before and intend, dear reader, to quietly blow you away. Many festivals may now have spas, some may have feasts and one or two may even have a place for a dip: but none will have a private nature reserve in which to roam free, none will have spring-fed lakes that are balm for the soul, and none will have an ancient landscape in which to reinvent, reimagine and reignite the arts.

Your Wilderness Awaits….

It looks an intellectual and sensual  feast

Amidst the refined, yet pleasurable, the bejewelled and the bespoke, the kaleidoscope of bespeckled flora, and perhaps, fauna, this is the place to be for  flâneurs and indeed  flâneuses, bricoleurs and bricoleuses in a time hallowed ambiance – an alter-Heimat nonpareil.

Writes celebrated poet Enoch Soames author of ‘Negations’:

Life is web and therein nor warp nor woof is,

but web only.

It is for this I am Catholick in church and in thought,

yet do let swift Mood weave there what the shuttle of Mood wills.

Be there or be Square....

Explore peace and love with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Scilla Ellworthy and dating expert Susan Quilliam. Debate taboos, surveillance, and outsider politics with George Galloway, AC Grayling, and Larry Sanders – elder brother to the presidential hopeful.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Hubert Wulfranc (Communist) Mayor of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray: Stand Together against Barbarism.

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Memorial to Jacques Hamel. 

l’Humanité today reports.

The (Communist) Mayor of the working class town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray  (30,000 inhabitants) close to Rouen declared.

Soyons ensemble les derniers à pleurer, à être debout contre la barbarie, et dans le respect de tous » a plaidé, presque en larmes, Hubert Wulfranc.

‘Let us be together, the last to weep, standing upright,  respecting everybody, against Barbarity’ pleaded, nearly in tears, Hubert Wulfranc.

The French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français) has issued this declaration.

Horreur face au lâche et abominable assassinat du prêtre de Saint Etienne de Rouvray (Olivier Dartigolles).

L’horreur a de nouveau frappé avec le lâche et abominable assassinat de Jacques Hamel, le prêtre de l’église de Saint Etienne du Rouvray. Nous adressons nos pensées  à la famille, à la communauté catholique, à la population de Saint Etienne du Rouvray, à son maire, Hubert Wulfranc.

Face à cette nouvelle tragédie, notre pays est confronté à un immense défi : vaincre Daech, assurer une meilleure sécurité pour nos concitoyens dans un état de droit, faire grandir dans notre société, par l’intervention populaire et citoyenne, les valeurs de solidarité et de progrès pour tous.

Un grand débat national s’impose pour décider de l’orientation des politiques publiques à mettre en œuvre. Que les polémiques cessent immédiatement pour laisser place au discernement, à la connaissance, à la compréhension.

Que les petits jeux politiciens et les surenchères irresponsables s’arrêtent pour un débat démocratique allant au fond des questions afin de mieux agir.

Rendered into colloquial English this dignified statement reads:

Horror in the face of the cowardly and abject murder of the Priest of Saint Etienne de Rouvray.

We are yet again struck with horror after  the cowardly and vile murder of Jacques Hamel, the Priest of the Church of Saint Etienne du Rouvray. We address our thoughts to his family, to the Catholic community, to the inhabitants of Saint Etienne du Rouvray, and to their Mayor, Hubert Wulfranc.

This tragedy leaves our country faced with enormous challenges: the defeat of Daesh, how to secure the lives of our citizens within the rule of law, and how to encourage inside our society, by democratic and open means, the values of solidarity and progress for all.

A great national debate is called for, to decide upon the direction of public policy. Now is not the time for sharp controversies. They have to stop. Now is the time for consideration, for knowledge, for understanding.

Now is the time to end  political squabbling and irresponsible hyperbole. They must be replaced by a democratic political debate which seeks to get at the root of the issues.

See also in l’Humanité today Roland Gori on  “théofascismes”: Face à la terreur, le défi est de donner des raisons d’espérer, de penser à l’avenir»

“In 1923, three years after the Tours Congress which saw the separation of the communist majority (KIS) and the minority Socialist (SFIO), Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray became one of the first cities in France to elect a communist controlled council.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2016 at 11:01 am

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste accuses of ‘left’ Presidential candidate Mélenchon of using far-right rhetoric.

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Accused of being  nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre “la rhétorique de l’extrême droite”.

Reports the Huffington Post French edition.

Leading Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste figure, Olivier Besancenot, said this: one gaff too many?

The NPA has published a virulent – to say the very least – attack on ‘populist’ Mélenchon who standing as a candidate in next year’s French Presidential election and is the leader of a small group, the Parti de gauche (left party), essentially a political club around his own personality.

At present his campaign  « La France insoumise, le peuple souverain. » (internet JLM2017) has become ‘populist’ and aims to be mobilise the ‘people’ against the ‘elites’. (1) He has declared that unless the European Union changes France should follow the UK and leave (Brexit: «L’UE, on la change ou on la quitte», affirme Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

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He is neck and neck in the opinion polls with the Parti Socialiste François Hollande and present President – which is not saying much since at 15% each  not a single poll gives either any chance of winning.

Mélenchon : le dérapage de trop ?

More on this article here:  « Travailleurs détachés » : Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre « la rhétorique de l’extrême droite »  CLAVEL Geoffroy, RAGUET Alexandre.

The reason?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a speech in which he accused workers employed in France, but still formally under the  pay andconditions of their home countries (posted employees), of stealing the bread out of the mouths of local workers.

This is his expression: the  “travailleurs détachés” qui “vole(nt leur) pain” aux travailleurs locaux.”

Travailleurs détachés : les curieux propos de Mélenchon

Je crois que l’Europe qui a été construite, c’est une Europe de la violence sociale, comme nous le voyons dans chaque pays chaque fois qu’arrive un travailleur détaché, qui vole son pain aux travailleurs qui se trouvent sur place. »

I consider that the Europe that has been built is a Europe based on social violence, as we seen in every country when a posted worker comes and steals the bread out of the mouths of the workers who are already there.

As the article title suggests, the original reads just as oddly as the translation which I have rendered into colloquial English.

Many on the French left are now criticising the former leading figure of the Front de gauche, who launched on his own initiative a Presidential bid, addressing ‘The People’,   of being “nationaliste, chauvin, raciste, germanophobe et poutinophile” – nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

(1) Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon.

The polemic continues.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

As Soon as this Pub Closes: Sectarian Test for Tyros.

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Sectarian Test.

As journalists and others are now claiming to be experts in left-wing politics we set this short exam to test their knowledge.

In the 1953 break in the Trotskyist movement who was right?

  • Michael Raptis- Pablo.
  • Michael Raptis -Pablo.

Which side would you have backed in the mid-1970s IMG?

  • Tendency A
  • Tendency B.
  • The Faction.

In the WRP who had the nicest bum:

  • Gerry Healy.
  • Vanessa Redgrave.
  • Michael Ezra.

How many Fourth Internationals are there?

  • One, the FI.
  • The League for the 5th International is the only real Marxist international group.
  • Gerry Downing.

When did the AWL and the Weekly Worker last engage in unity negotiations?

  • 1887.
  • Nobody can remember.

The Posadists are famous for their belief that flying saucers come from a Communist Planet. What is their position on Dolphins?

  • Flipper is an excellent comrade.
  • Flipper is a class traitor.

Which Trotskyist group were former French PM, Lionel Jospin and present General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste Jean-Christophe Cambadélis one-time members of?

  • The Lambertists.
  • The Lambertists are mortal enemies of Trotskyism.

What was the Varga affair?

(Anybody who can answer this question automatically passes)

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2016 at 10:25 am