Podemos in Crisis.
Left Socialist Blog
Socialists must be internationalists even if their working classes are not; socialists must also understand the nationalism of the masses, but only in the way in which a doctor understands the weakness or the illness of his patient. Socialists should be aware of that nationalism, but, like nurses, they should wash their hands twenty times over whenever they approach an area of the Labour movement infected by it’.
Isaac Deutscher, On Internationals and Internationalism. Cited in The Left Against Europe. Tom Nairn. New Left Review. 1/75. 1971.
La terre nous donne une discipline, et nous sommes les prolongements des ancêtres
Nous sommes le produit d’une collectivité qui parle en nous. Que l’influence des ancêtres soit permanente, et les fils seront énergiques et droits, la nation une.
The soil gives us a discipline, and we are the extension over time of our ancestors….We are the product of a collective life which speaks in us. . May the influence of our ancestors be permanent, the sons of the soil vital and upstanding, the nation One.
La terre et les morts. Maurice Barrès. 1899. (1)
Casting Off, in the latest New Left Review begins by observing that the “surprise” of the Leave vote in the June Referendum went against the wishes the “ruling class” “much of the intelligentsia” and “much of its youth”. In a choice expression she compares lamentations about the result on Facebook to a “Wailing Wall”. Those beating their brows at the loss of the EU Jerusalem “in one account” were full of “nightmares of xenophobia”. “Britons having ‘voted to make foreigner-hunting legal, if not an actual duty.’”. Many people in Europe, she notes, that is, Germans and French, were unconcerned. Only a third of Germans and a quarter of the French were “unhappy about Brexit”.
Was this the result of the “ressentiment”, bottled up rancour stewing amongst “globalisation’s losers”? An ” insurrectionary protest against neoliberalism, globalism and cultural contemp” as Paul Mason put it (le Monde Diplomatique. July.) ? Or more simply was a revolt of the left-behind, spearheaded by the working class, the unemployed, the casualised, and the poor. In Brexit, Alex Callinicos has written that, “All the polls show that the poorer you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. This means that millions of working class voters have gone unrepresented by the mainstream of the labour movement”. He trumpets his own group, the SWP, which backed the Leave campaign on a ‘left’ basis (Left-Exit, lexit). “Lexit offered a political voice, albeit a small one, to working class people who wanted to reject the EU on a class basis.” (2)
For Watkins the result was not a rebellion against the distant mechanisms of finance capital and the world market. It has domestic origins, in British government policies laid down since the 2008 banking crisis, Gordon Brown’s turn to fiscal rigour, and the Liberal Conservative Coalition’s austerity programme. As a result scare mongering about the potential negative effects on the economy of Brexit had little impact on those already at the bottom of the pile. In “the Leave districts that have been depressed since the 1970s, with gdp per capita less than half inner-London levels, and now hardest hit by cutbacks in services and benefits, bleakness and desperation appear to have trumped economic fear.” She continues. “Anti-globalisation, then? Of a sort, if globalisation means not just deindustrialisation and low pay but disenfranchisement and politically targeted austerity.” In the south the ‘anti-Globo stand was different, “Their economic interests had been carefully nurtured by the Cameron-Osborne governments and their vote was more purely ideological: fear of change overcome by reassertion of ex-imperial national identity. Britain had never been conquered by Germany, so why was it ceding powers to Brussels?”
In this vein both Watkins and Callinicos play down the role of xenophobia and, more specifically, anti-migrant worker sentiment, in the referendum. Both note the mainstream Remain campaign’s supporters, beginning with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s “talking tough” on migration. For Callinicos, “at least as powerful a force is likely to be an alienation from the economic and political elite crystallising the experience of 40 years of neoliberalism and nearly 10 years of crisis expressed in stagnant or falling wages, unemployment, dwindling social housing and a shrinking welfare state. The EU as the incarnation of neoliberalism and contempt for democracy is a perfect symbol of all these discontents. London, site of a global financial hub, may have voted to Remain”
The pair concur on one point, “….the main reason given by the bulk of Leave voters—49 per cent—was the notion that ‘decisions about the uk should be taken in the uk’, a more ambiguous formulation that could include democratic, sovereign and nationalist perspectives. “ (Watkins), “Lord Ashcroft’s referendum-day poll found that nearly 49 percent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, compared to 33 percent who gave the main reason for leaving that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” (Callinicos).
There are three central problems with these claims.
Firstly, it is absurd to compare the Conservative Remain campaigners’ talk of ‘control’ of migration in the same breath as the blood-and-fire rhetoric of UKIP and their echo-chambers on the Leave side. To dismiss the issue by ranking its importance on the basis of an opinion poll is to assume that one motive trumped the other rather than coalescing with it.
As Kim Moody has argued, immigration was at the centre of the campaign. “A majority of all those who voted Leave ranked immigration and border control as their 1st or 2nd reason. Those in the top social rank were less likely to give this as their first reason than others, but all groups were the same for 2nd choice and all Leave voters put immigration high on their list. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic views were prevalent in all social groups. This is not meant to be a comforting conclusion.” (3) Furthermore, “One section of British corporate capital that threw its majority weight loudly behind Brexit was the daily press.” “The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Sun, all known for their anti-immigrant bias and with a combined daily circulation of just over 5 million, supported Brexit.”(Ibid)
It would not have taken long, a visit to the pub in less well-off areas, would suffice to hear people publicly repeating the right-wing tabloid’s anti-migrant propaganda melded with their own prejudiced anecdotes. Perhaps it would have taken longer to visit Ipswich market and see the UKIP placard carrying crew sitting on the benches ranting about Romanians. But such sights were not rare. Anywhere.
Few could doubt that cosmopolitan pro-European hipsters would shy from these displays. But what exactly drove the minority who followed Lexit to cast their ballots in the same way and how do their asses their achievement in bolstering the nationalist right? Callinicos asserts that “The emergence of the Lexit Campaign, advocating a left, internationalist opposition to the EU, was one of the successes of the referendum. Not because it swung a massive number of votes, but because it brought together a significant spectrum of forces on the radical left to campaign for a Leave vote on an anti-capitalist and anti-racist basis that (unlike some earlier left anti-EU campaigns) had no truck with migrant-bashing.” Really? Is the Socialist Party’s call for control (by trade unions?) of the entry of migrant labour, joined by the Morning Star-Communist Party of Britain, part of this “anti-racism”? Does the SWP really have that much in common with the CPB who push a barely revamped version of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy, completed – and why not? – with capital and import controls? Was it a ‘success’ to see New Left review, the SWP and all the others, cavort on a Camden stage in the company of a – suitably disguised – supporter of the French ‘Lambertist’ current, one-time Trotskyists who having sipped from that poisoned cup have become ultra-nationalists? (4)
Secondly, what were the “non-immigration” issues behind the Leave vote? Casting Off describes “the slow, still inchoate politicisation that had been taking place in the aftermath of the financial crisis”, and “the Exit vote would not have happened without the financial crisis and skewed, class-based recovery.” Callinicos talks more broadly of UKIP’s rise as part of “ordinary voters’ revulsion against the entire political and economic elite.” The “very unanimity of establishment opposition to Brexit is likely to have goaded many people into the Leave camp simply as an act of defiance.”
Absent is any account of the mass, country-wide, left and trade union austerity campaigns, co-ordinated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA) Had this no effect in channelling ressentiment against the ‘elite’ towards progressive solutions? Did its protests, marches, conferences, pickets and pressure on local councils, count for little?
It is true that their impact was decreasing in the run up to the Referendum. An April London March barely attracted 20,000 – despite the freedom that the end of Police estimates gave to the organisers to claim an attendance of 175,000 (in a half empty Trafalgar Square). Clearly this ‘incipient politicisation” has drained away in a different direction. A look at how the politics of protest are foundering might throw up the reflection that the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party indicates that political institutions can be the focus of change, rather than the street. The hard task of getting Labour local authorities to oppose austerity, not just because of the legacy of Blair’s accommodations, but as a result of an armour-plated legal budget controls over councils, has begun. The problems this turn to Labour creates for those, like Callinicos, and his former comrades in Counterfire, the majority of the active leadership of the PA, begin with the recognition that the Brexit vote as a “representation” of opinion, which more walking about in the roads, attempts to bathe in Corbyn’s reflected glory, and calls for general strikes, are unlikely to revolve.
Thirdly, the Brexit result was a boost to sovereigntism, the belief that politics has to focus on nations, and on the ‘people’s’ control over the national body politic. In this respect Chantal Mouffe’s declaration that the vote was a “salutary shock” is less significant than her immediately following words. The Belgian political philosopher stated, “That’s because I am one of those so-called ‘left-wing Europeanists who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe” Pleasure with the damage to the City and neo-liberal forces is one thing, but what harm did this create to ‘sovereigntism”? (5)
The evidence against rash claim lives in Downing Street. Yet, against Mouffe for many it has reinforced the illusion, that in some form sovereigntism can be the basis of left politics. To cite the most obvious source of how far this ideology has crept into leftist circles: the conclusion of Mouffe’s jointly-authored of Podemos (2016) Iñigo Errejón has called for the construction of a “..we the people “that demands sovereignty and a new social contract”. To build this we have “to think about the effective, mythical and cultural commonness of any identity construction”. Or, in an even more abstract vein, to follow Frédéric Lordon, politics based on “un commun passional” bound to “une certaine appartenance” (belonging) not to a hypostatised nationality but to “la nation politique” a political construction. (6) In other words, in contrast to Barrès, a newly minted sovereign feeling, without the clamour of ancestral voices, embodied in institutions. They would surely be able to take “decisions about the UK in the UK.” The evidence is that those appealing directly to the dead voices of our forbears, the racist populist right, have had more success in the sovereigntist venture.
Callinicos, with customary grace towards those who disagree with him, outlined the choices for the left at the start of the campaign, “between the neoliberal imperialist monstrosity that is the EU, strongly supported by the main echelons of British capital, and the xenophobic and racist Thatcherites that dominated the Leave campaigns.” In his conclusion he opines, no doubt to warn those not averted to the possibility, that British capitalism is “entering very stormy waters.” The defeat of an invigorated Tory party under Teresa May, at the helm of state, will doubtless be the coming work of a mass movement conjured from the depths.
Those who chose to vote for the “monstrosity” as “not worse” may well still feel unhappy at the result – for all the tempests in the global capitalist oceans. Many of our legal rights, consolidated in EU law, are now to put to the test of a sovereign Parliament for which we have ambiguous passionate feelings. The democratic refoundation of Europe, if pursued, and developed by forces such as DiEM25, will take place without our directly interested participation. We risk becoming further stuck in our backwater.
But for others there is this consolation. Our “sub-imperial” “far from prefect Hayekian order” has taken a blow. Watkins speaks of a victory for British (English) nationalism, in a “a semi-sovereign state” Yet the defeat is clear, for several – scattered – targets, “ For now, though, it is plain that Blairised Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianised EU. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” (7)
The prospect of the “actuality of revolution” by “critics of the neoliberal order”, a “world-historic turn”….still leaves them shaking in their boots….
For the rest of us, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, expressed our view (Morning Star 12th of September),
The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.
(1) On Barrès and his concept of the “people” and nation see the illuminating, Le peuple chez Maurice Barrès, une entité insaisissable entre unité et diversité. Brigitte Kurlic. SensPublic. 2007.
(2). See also: The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. Issue: 148.
(3) Was Brexit a Working-Class Revolt? Kim Moody. International Viewpoint. 14th of September 2016.
(4) Both the Morning Star’s CPB and SPEW advocate immigration controls and socialism in one country, notes Mike Macnair. Weekly Worker 15.9.2015. In report here: Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.
(5) A Salutary Shock. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. (From Mediapart 27th June 2016)
(6) Podemos. In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016. Imperium, Structures et affets des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.
(7) See: Prognoses. In: The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.
Having failed to turn grassroots support into seats at June’s general election, the anti-austerity party faces a struggle over its response to the country’s power vacuum.
Sam Jones (Observer. Today.)
The party’s poor performance led to weeks of introspection that have further revealed the ideological tensions at its core. Most visible has been the rivalry between Iglesias and Podemos’s policy chief and number two, Iñigo Errejón. If Errejón has pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the PSOE, with a view to sharing power after December’s election, then Iglesias has gone out of his way to antagonise the Socialists, once memorably reminding parliament of the anti-Eta death squads that operated under the government of former PSOE leader Felipe González.
Now the growing tensions are coming to a head in Madrid, where competing factions are vying for control of Podemos’s birthplace and its future. On one side is Tania Sánchez, a former IU MP (Note: that is not from Podemos, but from the Communist-Green left bloc, Izquierda Unida) , who, along with Madrid councillor Rita Maestre, hopes to make the local party a more “friendly, female and decentralised” outfit.
Opposite them are the Iglesias loyalists, such as the party’s general secretary in the capital, Luis Alegre, who has long had a troubled relationship with the Errejónista faction.
To complicate things further, Sánchez, who is standing to be the party’s new leader in Madrid, is a former girlfriend of Iglesias, while Maestre used to go out with Errejón. In an attempt to head off the inevitable innuendo, both women put out a statement: “We are not girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, we are human beings who make our own decisions. We don’t need a man to help us or lead us … We’re protagonists who defend a Podemos for everyone.”
The Madrid story broke on the 15th of September in El País.
El eurodiputado Miguel Urbán y 300 firmantes impulsan una alternativa a las de Mestre y Espinar.
En la disputa por el liderazgo de Podemos en la Comunidad de Madrid se perfilan al menos tres grandes opciones. El eurodiputado de la formación Miguel Urbán, que fue uno de los dirigentes determinantes en los inicios de Podemos, y 300 firmantes de la organización Anticapitalistas, activistas y militantes del partido quieren lanzar una candidatura para competir con las iniciativas promovidas por la portavoz del Ayuntamiento, Rita Maestre, y el del Senado, Ramón Espinar. Entre los impulsores de este proyecto, que llama a repensar Podemos, reconstruirlo desde las bases y reconectar con las calles se encuentran la abogada y diputada autonómica Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, el actor Alberto San Juan, los concejales de Ahora Madrid Pablo Carmona y Rommy Arce, Isabel Serra, que también es diputada regional y formó parte de la dirección autonómica ahora disuelta.
The essential is to know that the 300 signatories in the Madrid region, are led by the ‘anticapitalistas’, that is the group (linked with the Fourth International, and groups such as the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and Ensemble in France and which has long criticised Podemos for its “vertical” hierarchy. They are challenging the Madrid leadership on the basis that the party structure needs reforming in order to connect with the ‘street’ (las calles) in place of “marketing, de los políticos profesionales y de las estructuras orgánicas del partido.”
More details on the anticapitalista supporting site Viento Sur: Un Podemos para las y los que faltan. (The Podemos we need). Isabel Serra – Miguel Urbán
Long-standing criticisms such as this: Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party? Tendance Coatesy. (December 2014)
Reply from a supporter:
What do you think of the criticisms from the Left saying that even though Podemos has repositioned itself on the Left by hitching itself to Izquierda Unida, it remains too vertical and centralised?
I think these criticisms are unfair, particularly because they are often based on local experiences in Barcelona and Madrid, and you can’t just map the local terrain onto a national scale. Podemos has had to face four elections, and electoral campaigns don’t lend themselves to internal discussions. But they are very conscious that the “circles” must preserve their important role in the party’s functioning, and they are trying to reinvigorate them. That was notable during the recent campaign. And I am still struck by their extraordinary creativity. In presenting their programme in the form of an Ikea catalogue they not only achieved a media coup but managed to get the electorate who didn’t read party manifestos any more to pick them up again.
A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections. By Chantal Mouffe / 27 June 2016.
These are issues specific to Podemos though this is probably a very particular interpretation of their prospects, as is this (from left critics).
The latest is not the first internal dispute in the party.
Earlier this year Podemos’ leaders summarily removed their Number 3, Sergio Pascual.
Madrid had been the focus of disputes for some time – La crisis interna de Podemos en Madrid obliga a convocar un congreso regional. (El País. 14th of June)
Following the always readable El País we find a more widespread judgement on Spain’s political crisis: that the country’s politicians are unable to share power with other parties or to make compromises beyond their immediate short-term interests.
Or, to put it more simply, like the UK, the country has no tradition of coalitions (the issue in dispute: agreement with the PSOE by Podemos).
The merits of this are, naturally, for the Spanish left to judge.
Meanwhile there is also this: prosperous Catalonia wishes to break with Spain’s poorer regions. (11th of September)
Tens of thousands of Catalans gathered to demand their region speed up its drive to break away from Spain
See also: Podemos site (latest stories).
On the anticapitalista tendency: Les anticapitalistes au sein de Podemos (August 2016).
This is a review of Coll, Andreu; Brais Fernández & Joseba Fernández (ed.) (2016), Anticapitalistasen Podemos, Construyendo poder popular. Barcelona, Sylone, 153 pag.
Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Abraham Lincoln says Counterpunch.
Political confusionism is an ideological trend on the rise
As the word suggests (from the French leftists’ ‘confusionnisme‘: see this site) is means the confused politics of merging left and right, of adding conspiracy theories to wild assertions, the anti-imperialism of fools to ‘anti-capitalism’, that goes in search of red-brown alliances, acknowledged or not.
Its starts with Israel, ‘anti-Zionism’, travels to Putin’s Russia (often), visits Syria, looks at the IMF, TTIP, Globalisation, Occupy Wall Street (what was that?), NATO (a bit boring this stuff..), supports Lexit/Brexit, ‘sovereigntism’, and, hey presto, always gets back to Israel.
Counterpunch (a long time ago described as “left wing”) is the best known example of confusionism in the English-speaking world, though its echoes may be felt in, say the ramblings of British supporters of the idea that there’s a transnational Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. It is so easy to find confusionists at work on Twitter and Facebook that’s it barely worth bothering citing them,
US left-wingers (on the Marxism List and no doubt elsewhere) are up in arms about this article in this august journal of reference for international confusionism, patronised by such weighty figures as Tariq Ali and some people who should know better.
There seems to be series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W. Bush.
There follows some garbled ‘history’ about the unification of Germany, the Berlin to Bagdad railway, and the “convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Nelson W. Aldrich.” and the interesting information that ” differences between neocons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical.”
Thereafter lost, we only resurface at this point,
In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint.
A brave thing to say.
Plunged again into the deepest confusionism we get this,
They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months. (1)
Althusser would not doubt endorse the view that backing for Bernie was proof of his theory of ideological state apparatuses. The Sander’s campaign showed capitalist “know-how”, the ” high priests of the ruling ideology” mould subject positions and domination for the “the reproduction of the conditions of production” within the Democratic Primaries.
Thank you for the warning about the way the Shachtmanites have colonised the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).
We are now aware of how these misleader tout the ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence
Finally there is this,
We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws.
Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to NATO and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and white men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.” This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.
German dialectical thinking and, hop, we can see Putin’s challenge as a “progressive goal and challenge”.
It’s called the unity of opposites and the ‘aufheben’ of dialectical contradictions: the very rational kernel of the revolutionary programme of Counterpunch….
Inspired to back Putin and Assad, to the tune of Counterpunch new Battle Hymn of the Republic, Andrew, if I may call a fellow Andy, concludes,
The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.
Hats off Comrade Stewart.
It’s all kicking off, everywhere!
(1) We have been asked, what is Shachtmanism?
Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communistcountries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky‘s description of Stalinist Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state“.
Nuit Debout: A Spark that did not Light a Prairie Fire.
Nuit debout was a French movement that began on 31 March 2016, arising out of protests against proposed labour reforms known as the El Khomri law or Loi travail. The movement was organised around a broad aim of “overthrowing the El Khomri bill and the world it represents”. It was compared to the Occupy movement in the United States and to Spain’s anti-austerity 15-M or Indignados movement. Occupy, and its much smaller imitation in the UK, Like the former, and unlike the latter, it failed to make any lasting connection with wider political forces.
Nuit Debout was best known for its months long 2016 occupation of the Place de la République in Paris.
Organisers refused to set out a specific list of political demands in advance, although they did denounce the government’s proposed reforms as regressive, and they called for the construction of a new political project that would be “ambitious, progressive, and emancipatory”.
Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement. More Frédéric Lordon, Nuit Debout ‘Leader’: Diamond Geezer, or….Not?.
Lordon has also been criticised for his ‘soverigentist’ tendencies: that is a belief that French democracy must first be transformed, however grass-roots led – on a national scale. This means he is against the pooling of sovereignty in the European Union, attacking its ne-libeal and amrket inflection but offers no concept of how internationalist democracy may be built. (1)
A more radical critique is offered of this type of politics in the latest Red Pepper,
Occupations, assemblies and direct action – a critique of ‘body politics’ Joseph A Todd .
Todd argues that the demand for “presence” at such assemblies (Occupy Wall Street, London, the small camp at St Paul’s, the Place de la République), is questionable.
Inclusion in the polis was premised on physical presence – both in that decision making was conducted in general assemblies for extended periods of time, but also in that non-participation in the general assembly constituted a symbolic exclusion from the performative spectacle that became the symbol of the movement. And while the lack of demands was partly rooted in a distrust of existing institutions, we can also trace it back to body politics, the belief that bodies together is enough to create change, that bodies in space could prefigure the revolution.
Others have criticised the “consensus” ideal of these movements, which excludes serious debate, and represses minorities, while allowing for a fictitious agreement to be manipulated by an unacknowledged and unaccountable leadership – the “tyranny of structurelessness”. Or, more simply, the offputting rules that govern these assemblies, including strange signs to signify intervention in discussions, agreement, or disagreement. Nuit Debout did not enforce consensus – voting was by majority – but adopted many of these alienating procedures.
Nuit Debout existed for some months, brought important issues about the effects of markets, and the failings of democracy in French society and Europe to the fore, had some interesting debates about democratic structures and the remoteness of official French politics, and inspired some to continue to seek an alternative to liberal pro-market politics.
It never touched the core of the labour movement or the banlieue.
Now we learn that Lordon, still one of the leading voices in the movement, acknowledges it has failed to take hold.
The Bondy Blog interview is in a typical, highly abstract and philosophical vein, complete with references to Spinoza (one hears echoes of Toni Negri here, as the term multitude suggests already), and La Boétie.
It is heavy going, even for those used to Lordonese.
Fortunately Les Inrocks summarises the key points in which Lordon assesses the successes and the – very evident – petering out of the movement:
Tous les mouvements insurrectionnels commencent à très petite échelle. Le problème pour le pouvoir c’est quand ‘ça gagne’, quand la plaine entière vient à s’embraser. On ne va pas se raconter d’histoire, le feu n’a pas (ou pas encore) pris. Je crois cependant que beaucoup de gens qui étaient loin de l’événement l’ont regardé avec intérêt, et qu’il s’est peut être passé quelque chose dans les têtes dont nous ne pouvons pas encore mesurer tous les effets.”
All insurrectional movements begin small scale. The problem for those in power is when this “takes off”, when the social terrain is swept up in their heat. I am not going to hide the fact that in this case the spark has not (or has not yet) caught fire. I consider nevertheless that many people who were distant from the event watched it keenly, and what took place inside our heads has had effects which we have not really come to grips with yet.
Lordon talks of the “violence des “gardiens de l’ordre” which radicalised the participants in Nuit Debout. But he denied that there was any link between the movement and the ‘casseurs’ (hooligans) who led attacks on the Police and property to demonstrations in France earlier this year, and who provoked a strong counter-reaction.
The Inrocks also cites Nuit debout, l’instant d’après. Pour un bilan qui n’en soit pas un by .
This is a more intelligible and serious balance-sheet (bilan) of the movement.
Marzel celebrates Nuit Debout’s existence in an “oligarchic regime” and presence in the ” imaginaire politique alternatif”, its democratic experiments, and – apparently – resistance to “narcissism” as victories in themselves. It did not, however, help stop the new Labour law. And, “Nuit debout s’est rapidement élargie à une contestation de toute la politique du gouvernement et à un rejet global du capitalisme mondialisé.” – it quickly expanded to challenge all the government’s policies, and a complete rejection of globalised capitalism.”
Manzel does not hide that there problems with sexism, intoxication, internal disputes, inside Nuit Debout. Yet he considers that core message of of the protests was part of the “Miracle” of politics in the sense celebrated by Hannah Arendt. That is, we might comments, creative action and reflection by equal citizens that breaks governmental routine and helps create free public realm.
While some may hope that a new wave of protests may arise in France this autumn Nuit Debout has reached some kind of terminus.
(1) “Frédéric Lordon offers a radical critique of the construction of Europe. We can only agree when he interprets ‘the oddity of building Europe as a gigantic operation of the political elimination … of popular sovereignty itself’. The Enchanted World of Common Currency – On the Article by Frédéric Lordon).
After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?
Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.
If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.
The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.
It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’ but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.
Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.
Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.
Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.
But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.
Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…
Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..
Who are also…
Well, we could go on.
Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.
StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.
But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…
The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both au-dessus de la Mêlée and anti-imperialist.
But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.
But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
Most people have simply walked away from this crew.
Let the Festivities Commence!
It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.
In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,
We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.
But no, let us continue churlishly.
In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.
One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.
And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:
The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.
Another is that the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’ feels free to expound on a variety of issues with a less than direct link to war.
It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:
These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.
German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.
She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”
France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.
Without going into great detail about the issue we simply note.
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.”
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?
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.”
Meanwhile back on the left, away from Verso and the (formerly) ‘New Left’ Review.
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 offshore tax 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 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.
Like many people I love Brussels.
The city and the people have a gentle warmth that remains within you for a long time.
Not all of the vast conurbation, but enough of it to make today’s attacks leave deep wounds, and rouse profound feelings of solidarity to those affected.
It is with some distress that we saw this:
The Huffington Post reports:
Ukip defence spokesman Mike Hookem went further, saying that the attack were a “result of Schengen free movement and lax border controls”, adding: “I am appalled at the loss of life and injuries. our thoughts and prayer go out to the families of those killed and injured.
“This horrific act of terrorism shows that Schengen free movement and lax border control are a threat to our security.
“The head of [Europol] said in February that 5,000 jihadists are at large in EU having slipped in from Syria.
“There are 94 returned jihadists current living in Molenbeek, Brussels. This fact alone should alert people to the fact that open borders are putting the lives of European citizens at risk.”
Speaking on LBC, Ukip’s London mayoral candidate Peter Whittle also linked the attacks to the EU debate.
He said: “We have to take control of our borders, this has happened as a result of people going over borders and having free movement.
“At the moment the way things stand, Our membership of the EU means we actually have a problem with our security and that is appalling.”
Others, including Ukip spokesperson Michael Heaver, also joined in.
After a Labour In event this morning, in which Miliband urged his parties voters to back Remain in the June 23 Referendum, the former party leader said: “All of us have been deeply shocked by what we’ve seen unfolding in Brussels today. This is a place where my dad was born I think it’s an awful, awful and terrible situation.
“On a day like this I really don’t think it’s a day for either side in this referendum to try and use this terrible tragedy to make political capital.
“I think that honestly will be the response of right-thinking people right across the country, whatever position they take.”
Let us not forget the reaction of the Islamists:
As the death toll rose amid continuing rescue operations, Isis supporters were championing the attacks on Twitter.
“What a beautiful day today,” one man wrote, calling the victims “Belgium supporters” who did not count as civilians.
“F***. Belgium Belgium wanted to bomb the Islamic state Now enjoy what your hands have sown.
“A lot of duas [prayers] were answered today.”
The supporter claimed to have received a message from an Isis militant to the group’s supporters in Belgium reading: “We have come to you with slaughter.”
In Arabic, the hashtag #Brusselsonfire was being used by those praising the slaughter in a similar wording to the #Parisonfire trend seen when the French capital was hit.