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

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photo of John Rowlery Gillingham

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

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

Brexit and the European Union: Essential Reading.

At the top of the pile of books is this:

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

The Guardian review of the book by Christopher Kissane is headed

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

Kissane comments,

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

This is Gillingham’s prognostic,

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

Only a fool…..

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

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

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

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

John McDonnell issues rallying cry for a democratic Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 29, 2016 at 11:18 am

Brussels: We love you.

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https://i0.wp.com/md1.libe.com/photo/862044-capturetintin.jpg

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CeI8dnAW4AAerdY.jpg

Bruxelles pleure en dessins.

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.

 

Brussels Attack: Ed Miliband Hits Out At Brexiters Using Terror Attacks For ‘Political Capital’.

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.

Independent.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 22, 2016 at 5:50 pm

As Galloway and Farage Unite: Vote Yes for a Social Europe.

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George Galloway and Nigel Farage

George Galloway and Nigel Farage join forces at an anti-EU membership campaign event in London.

 

For a Social Europe: Against Brexit.

“Consider again the profile of this general left-wing stance. Its basic dilemma is that of a felt equidistance between the alternatives of simple left-wing nationalism and the Common Market—that sole and unpalatable way of transcending nationalism which the existing historical situation seems to present.”

Tom Nairn. The Left Against Europe. 1972. (1)

As David Cameron announces the “successful” conclusion of negotiations with the European Union (EU) the British left appears faced with an unpalatable choice. The coming Referendum debate will be largely held on either endorsing membership of the EU on these terms, or the Brexit alternative. That is, between plans to limit benefits to European migrants, the Government’s wider package for a ‘special for the UK and its free market policies within a European framework, or exit, national sovereignty, and more restrictions on migrants and freer market policies in a global economy.

The appearance of George Galloway at Nigel Farage’s rally last night indicates the way one section of the ‘left’ has decided to campaign. We wonder how many others will follow this ‘Enoch Powell” moment (Grassroots Out unites politicians – the ones we normally try to avoid.

Alex Callinicos argued last year “Socialists in Britain will have to take a stand on the entire project of European integration.” For some time voices on the British left hostile to that project have become louder. Perry Anderson, once an opaque supporter of Europeanism, even Trotsky’s backing for a capitalist United States of Europe, has more recently muttered warnings against the EU becoming a “deputy empire”, with an economic “semi-catallaxy” free-market internal order, distant from its populations. In sum, the European ‘social model’ is inexorably moving in the direction of “oligarchic rule” by the Council and Commission, contemptuous of democracy. Another New Leftist, Susan Watkins, has argued that the restrictive ‘fiscal pact’, German autocratic control of the EU’s financial instruments is at the core of the management of the Euro crisis, mass unemployment and austerity. The European Parliament is an “unaccountable co-decision assembly serving as a democratic façade.” (2)

For some on the left the Greek crisis reinforced the view that European integration is a process directed against the left. The European political blocs, principally the Christian-democratic/Conservative, Liberal and Social Democratic alliances the radical left plans of Syriza and forced on Greece another round of austerity. They put the decisions of these political actors, – including those more directly economic fractions in charge of financial decision-making – within the ingrained logic of a supranational drive for a neo-liberal Europe. It is true that if Greece wanted to remain within the Monetary Union it would have to accept policies that those in charge of the Euro would accept. But the balance of political forces arrayed with the EU’s institutions determined the terms to which Tsipras was forced to accept. (3)

In parts of Europe some of the left has discovered the merits of ‘sovereigntism’. A central plank is the idea that the power of economic decision-making should be held by national Parliaments. Popular on the British left during the 1970s, and written into the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) as a pillar of the Socialist Challenge, this did not stop short of advocating import controls – a form of protectionism now proposed by the French Front National. Working class power requires saving the independent Nation Stat. This means Exit.

Without ready appeal to the celebration of the Nation in the 1789 Révolution, few in Britain are as explicit as the programme of the Trotskyist Parti ouvrier indépendant, and its latest split,  the Parti Ouvrier Indépendant Démocratique, in evoking the nation’s rescue from the failures of the EU. But the thought is there. It is echoed in the quietly uttered view that there is a great deal of truth in UKIP’s complaints against Brussels. That the “free market of labour” is a device of the bosses; that good old collective bargaining is diverted if not hampered by Europe-wide EU regulated works’ councils. Galloway indicates just how far some of these people are prepared to go.

A ‘left’ attempt to capture the progressive side of the discontent Nigel Farage feeds on was behind the vanity election slate, No2EU/Yes2Democracy in the last European Elections. It sunk without trace.

Those who cite Greece to boost their support for Brexit, ranging from Tariq Ali (who advocated an “out” vote last year) to James Meadway, face one massive problem. The most radical critic of the Syriza capitulation, and, as the former Greek Finance Minister, not the least, Yanis Varoufakis, stands for a radical plan to tackle the lack of democracy in the EU by radically transforming its structures. We may admire, rather than be wholly convinced, by the detailed proposals of DiEM 25  We may voice great suspicion that one nationalist crew at least, the SNP, backed by erstwhile New Leftist Tom Nairn, has clambered onto the social Europe bandwagon out of its own selfish interests. (4)

Yet – this needs underlining a hundred times – the cause of Europe is now being rethought. Internationalist projects filled with generosity for the present and hope for the future, grounded on left values, are emerging.

The coming referendum will not be about a utopian vision of a social Europe. But it will be about whether we can lay hold of the mechanisms that would create the possibility of one coming about. That can only be through the European Union: allied with our comrades across the Continent in an effort to transform its basis and structures.

In debating Callinicos (above) comrade John Palmer made the following points:

• For socialists voting in the EU membership referendum the question then is simple—which vote would encourage and strengthen the racists and ultra-chauvinists most, a Yes or a No?

• There can be no doubt that if Britain leaves the EU many European regulations restricting working hours and other employment and social reforms will be scrapped. Again the question for socialists is clear—which referendum outcome will most threaten the interests of women’s equality and those of the organised labour movement—a Yes or a No?

• Which referendum outcome would represent the greatest setback to human rights in Britain—a Yes or a No to continued EU membership?

• Which referendum vote would best strengthen future working class unity, a No or a Yes? I think the answer to all the questions posed above is clear: Vote Yes. Then let the struggle for a different Europe redouble. (5)

Indeed: internationalists have no choice but to follow Palmer’s advice and vote Yes.

Imagine a Brexit and the celebrations of the winners: the non-stop media coverage, the endless Flag waving, the speeches, the anti-EU George Galloway having sexy-time with Nigel Farage on Russia Today, and the boot of Reaction smashing into our Faces for the foreseeable future. …

No don’t.

*****

(1) Tom Nairn. The Left Against Europe. New Left Review. Series l. No 75.
(2) The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. No 148. 2015. Chapter Ten. “Prognosis.” The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso. 2009. Susan Watkins. The Political State of the Union, New Left Review 2015. Series II/90. S ection of Watkins’ analysis of the Parliament is reproduced in the latest Le Monde Diplomatique. Le Parlement européen est-il vraiment la solution? February 2016.
(3) Les Leçons du plan d’ajustement imposé à la Grèce par l’Union Européenne.Phillipe Lamberts. Le Monde Diplomatique. October. 2015.

(4) Link: DiEM’s Manifesto.
(5) The EU referendum: The case for a socialist Yes vote. John Palmer. International Socialism. No 148. See also: Best fight on the EU terrain. Elliott Robinson. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Yanis Varoufakis: DiEM25 Launched In Berlin, “Europe will be democratised, or it will disintegrate.”

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Official site:  DiEM25

‘Erratic Marxist’ takes on ‘confederacy of myopic politicians’

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has launched a pan-European movement designed to “democratize” the EU within a decade. Naomi Conrad reports from Berlin. Deutsche Welle.

Tuesday’s event at Berlin’s imposing Volksbühne, famous for its long tradition of radical left-wing productions, had been long sold out. Yanis Varoufakis, a self-proclaimed “erratic Marxist” who promised to take on the European Union was the reason for the rush.

It was his “duty” to do so, he told a packed audience. Otherwise, the EU would “disintegrate”.

The economics professor rose to fame when he was appointed as finance minister by Greece’s left-wing Syriza party last year. He famously clashed with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, as he tried to defy German-backed European austerity policies.

Finally, with a third bailout on the table, which imposed further rather than less austerity measures, Varoufakis resigned his post and broke with Syriza.

But now the economist turned maverick politician is trying to reclaim the political arena with Berlin launch of his grassroots pan-European movement. Varoufakis calls the movement “a broad coalition of radical democrats,” which intends to “democratize” the European Union – and indeed revolutionize the 28-member bloc.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has launched a new pan-European umbrella group that aims to pull together leftwing parties, grassroots protest movements and “rebel regions” from across the continent.

….

He was joined on stage by leader of the left-wing party “Die Linke,” Katja Kipping, British MP Caroline Lucas and Irish MEP Nessa Childers, among others.

The movement is not without its critics: In an open letter published on his website, Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, called Varoufakis’ comments “disrespectful and populist.” He also slammed the manifesto for lacking transparency, pointing out that it was unclear who decided on the final version of the document.

But nevertheless, the number of those who signed up to the petition continued to grow on Tuesday evening. By late evening, more than 3,200 people had signed up.

The Guardian reports.

At the launch on Tuesday night, Varoufakis said that the new DiEM25 movement would “shake Europe – gently, compassionately, but firmly”. “Europe will be democratised, or it will disintegrate, and it will do so quite fast”, the self-described “erratic Marxist” said, warning of a return to a “postmodern version of the 1930s”.

The evening at Berlin’s Volksbühne theatre, also featured speeches from Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, British Green MP Caroline Lucas, representatives of Germany’s Blockupy movement, as well as musician Brian Eno, philosopher Slavoj Žižek and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “When parliaments become theatres, we have to turn theatres into parliaments”, said Miguel Urbán Crespo, an MEP for Spain’s Podemos party.

In an article published in the Guardian last week, Varoufakis said the DiEM25 group would lobby for more transparent processes in European decision-making, including live-streaming of council meetings and full disclosure of trade negotiation documents.

“Our medium-term goal is to convene a constitutional assembly where Europeans will deliberate on how to bring forth, by 2025, a full-fledged European democracy, featuring a sovereign parliament that respects national self-determination and shares power with national parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils”, said the economist academic, who resigned from government in July last year after a series of run-ins with other European finance ministers.

“One simple, radical idea is our motivating force: to democratise Europe in the knowledge that the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate at a terrible cost to all.”

In the run-up to its launch, DiEM25 drew some criticism from activists, some of them asking whether it represented an agenda already covered by other pro-transparency and anti-austerity party groups in the European parliament. Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, called Varoufakis “populist and disrespectful” in an open letter. In another open letter, a Blockupy activist criticised DiEM25 for charging €12 (£9.30) for its launch event.

DiEM25: Der Zerfall Europas muss gestoppt werden

Neue Bewegung beginnt Debatte über Demokratisierung der EU von unten / Warnung vor neuem Nationalismus.

Neues deutschland

This is important:  A Critique Of Yanis Varoufakis’ Democracy In Europe Movement (DiEM25)  on 9 February 2016.

Before reading this it is well to bear in mind that Fazi avoids the potentially dangerous trap of talking about “sovereignty”.

How many gallons of pen, Biro and printers’ ink have been spilt over the idea of that a sovereign ‘general will’  is the basis  of democracy will never be counted. As a philosophical construct it has never been pinned down. It took a liberal Benjamin Constant to point out in the 19th century that Rousseau’s concept had never been seen in the flesh for all its rampages in the mouths of politicians  (Principes de politique applicables à tous les gouvernements représentatifs1815). The sovereignty of Nations should have gone the way of Sovereigns. That it s a Monster, something we glimpse out of the corner of the eye in books, is all too rapidly seen when rears its head as a blood spitting beast in Wars. Its use is doing intolerable damage to debate about the European Union.

Democracy, the free capacity to make, through majorities, through voting,  collective decisions, is about majorities, and mundane institutions, not abstractions, nations and Sovereignty.

As a democratic Marxist this Blog tends to agree with Hal Draper,

Marx and Engels always saw the two sides of the complex of democratic institutions and rights which arose under bourgeois democracy. The two sides corresponded to the two classes which fought it out within this framework. One side was the utilization of democratic forms as a cheap and versatile means of keeping the exploited masses from shaking the system, of providing the illusion of participation in the state while the economic sway of the ruling class ensured the real centres of power. This was the side of the “democratic swindle”. The other side was the struggle to give the democratic forms a new social (class) content, above all by pushing them to the democratic extreme of popular control from below, which in turn entailed extending the application of democratic forms out of the merely political sphere into the organization of the whole society.

Here is Fazi:

…much as I share the movement’s spirit, I also consider its strategy and general goals – as presented in the manifesto and in various interviews by Varoufakis – to be rather problematic, for reasons that I will try to explain. The idea that the European Left should aim for a radical, progressive overhaul of Europe’s institutions – rather than their rejection – is not new, of course, and has actually been the consensus among European progressive/leftist movements all throughout the crisis – and still i.s, I would imagine, despite the recent rise of left-wing euro-scepticism.

Discussing the problems of ‘oligarchic capture’, which Fazia argues affects the European Parliament even more than the already compromised national ones, he observes that cultural and linguistic differences exacerbate the problems in Europe. He then states, ” any debate about the ‘parliamentarisation’ of the EU needs to take into account the crucial difference between the formal electoral-representative process and true popular control”. He notes the ” lobbying and to the revolving doors issue – not just between big businesses and regulatory agencies but also between big businesses and elected offices.”

“In general terms, they point to a wider crisis of electoral-representative democracy. It is widely agreed that in recent decades we have witnessed a ‘hollowing out’ of democracy and sovereignty at the national level. In the long-established democracies of Western Europe, electoral turnouts are in decline and membership is shrinking in all major parties. This is particularly evident in Europe, for obvious reasons. Colin Crouch coined the term ‘post-democracy’ to describe this new normal, defined as a society that continues to have and to use all the institutions of democracy, but in which they increasingly become a formal shell, and the energy and innovative drive pass away from the democratic arena and into small circles of a politico-economic elite. There are generally two ways of framing this phenomenon. One is that this is a somewhat inevitable – one may even say ‘natural’ – result of economic and political internationalisation, which has seriously eroded the ability of individual countries to decide their own destinies, and thus of national electoral-representative systems to formulate a general will that can bend the institutions of public power to sovereign ends. According to this narrative, the shift – in the European context – from a multiplicity of (increasingly powerless and non-sovereign) national democracies to a single (and truly sovereign) European supranational democracy is inevitable, whether we like it or not.

This really is a big issue. But internationalists have no way of avoiding the issue: is super, or supra-national democrcay possible?

But there is another way of framing of the shift towards post-democracy. And that is that this isn’t the inevitable consequence of ‘global dynamics’ but – as acknowledged even in the DiEM25 manifesto – the result of an explicit process of ‘depoliticisation’ aimed at removing macroeconomic policy from democratic control and putting crucial areas of administration – such as monetary and fiscal policy – outside of political contestation. In this sense, the EMU can be considered the most extreme form of depoliticisation ever attempted. According to this narrative, the depoliticisation of individual nation states – including through a self-imposed reduction of their ‘sovereignty’, understood as the expression of popular will  – can be understood as a way to roll back the democratic and social/economic gains that had previously been achieved by subordinate classes. If that is the case, are we sure that further ‘democratising’ the institutions of the EU/EMU is truly the best way forward?

I am not sure about “post democracy”, undemocratic would be a better term.

Moreover, even if we accept that the failure of national electoral-representative systems is a historically determined fact and that there is no alternative to democratising the EU – that is, if we accept DiEM25’s basic premise – I would question the effectiveness of the movement’s ‘pan-European’ strategy. DiEM purports to change Europe’s system of governance ‘from the outside’ – i.e., at an institutionally non-existent pan-European level – but effectively all the major decisions are still taken at the inter-governmental level. This means that, realistically speaking, any serious structural change – such as a true ‘democratisation’ of the system – requires national governments agreeing to such a change. If not, how else? And if so, isn’t a strategy that deems the national level to be politically irrelevant – as implied by Varoufakis – inevitably doomed to fail? Isn’t there a risk of creating a pan-European movement that is culturally relevant but politically marginal?

Or, to put it bluntly: what political forces can DiEM25 muster behind itself?

Before pointing to the need to read the full well-thought out article these are some crucial issues Fazia points to,

DiEM25’s manifesto offers little insight as to the position that European progressive movements should take with regard to the authoritarian, top-down ‘federal’ integration being proposed and pursued by the EU establishment (exemplified by Schäuble’s proposed ‘fiscal union’, for example). Would Varoufakis agree with the notion that any further integration should be considered desirable only if, when, and to the extent that it is accompanied by the enhancement of popular control at a local, national, and supranational level, and that the current processes of top-down integration should be opposed?

Finally, DiEM’s approach takes the survival of the EU/EMU for granted. But that remains to be seen. By concentrating on the reform of existing European institutions, isn’t there a risk for the Left of finding itself dangerously unprepared in the face of an unforeseen implosion of the monetary union? Especially if we take into account that there is little reason to believe that Germany and the other countries of the ‘ordoliberal bloc’ would yield to a reform of the EMU in a more Keynesian, progressive direction, even in the unlikely event that we could get a sufficient number of countries to back such a proposal. If such a situation should emerge, the most likely outcome would be a German exit from the monetary union (leading to a possible collapse of the entire currency system).

 Which leads back to the issue already signaled: the need for a left majority in Europe remains in the shadow of an embedded policy of monetary orthodoxy.

How to shatter that is, to say the least, a major problem.

One thing is certain: in the UK leaving the European Union with an even more entrenched orthodox economic framework intact with the hard-right even more in the ascendant,  will make challenging it much much harder.

Meanwhile this French commentator, CÉDRIC ENJALBERT, (Philosophie Magazine) sees the DiEM25 movement as an extension of Kant’s Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism and Project for Perpetual Peace:

L’ex-ministre des finances grec Yánis Varoufákis lance un nouveau mouvement européen. DIEM25 entend revitaliser l’espoir démocratique en Europe en fédérant les consciences politiques de la société civile sur le continent, dans l’esprit cosmopolitique du projet de paix perpétuelle hérité des Lumières.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 10, 2016 at 2:05 pm

The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.

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Ni patrie ni frontières !

This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.

Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.

From mondialisme.org, the journal: Ni patrie ni frontières. 

Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).

Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political  destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.

During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.

In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.

We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.

Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.

We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.

The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.

It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.

The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)  and their 2005  Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left,  various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac)  active in those days,  and some on the Trotskyist left.

The group was soon criticised  by people for whom who I have respect.  Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).

As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.

But it has been challenged on the left.

Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).

The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular”  French areas,

Socialist Action, Labour, and the Anti-imperialism of Fools.

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John Ross Weibo

Socialist Action ‘Guru’ John Ross.

In discussion about the Labour Party the name ‘Socialist Action’ often comes up.

We will not comment on the truth or otherwise of the details in this report,

Jeremy Corbyn acts as peacemaker between rival Labour factions after Neale Coleman quits

Labour insiders claim a pro-Livingstone group is battling for power with a camp led by John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor and Mr Corbyn’s closest political ally.

The  Livingstone faction, dubbed “the Kennites”,  includes Simon Fletcher, a former Ed Miliband aide who ran Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign and is now his chief of staff, the job he did for Mr Livingstone at City Hall. The “Kennites” are said to be less ideological and more pragmatic than the McDonnell group. They favour a conciliatory approach towards the Shadow Cabinet members and backbench MPs who have differences with Mr Corbyn.

The more hardline McDonnell camp includes Seumas Milne, a columnist on leave from The Guardian newspaper, who Mr Corbyn persuaded to become his director of communications after a shambolic start to his leadership. He is credited with injecting more discipline into the operation. But critics claim he is a divisive “control freak” who wants to be in charge of policy as well as communications and to supplant Mr Fletcher.

Mr Milne takes a less tolerant view of dissenting MPs than the “Kennites” and is said to have pressed Mr Corbyn to sack more Shadow Cabinet critics in this month’s messy reshuffle than he eventually did.  Shadow ministers angrily accused him of briefing journalists during a Shadow Cabinet meeting that Labour MPs would be whipped to vote against UK air strikes against Isis in Syria last December. When they saw the briefing on their smartphones, a rebellion forced Mr Corbyn to concede a free vote.

Team Corbyn have insisted there was “no row” between Mr Milne and Mr Coleman and dismissed as “complete rubbish” speculation that Mr Fletcher could walk out because of a rift with Mr Milne. One insider said: “Seumas is the conduit and gets all the flak. It’s not a clash, more growing into office pains. Everyone is learning as they go along, from Jeremy downwards. The stakes are high and everything gets magnified.”

The article continues,

Some Labour Kreminologists claim the current dispute can be traced back to a bitter split on the hard left in the 1980s when Mr Livingstone fell out with Mr McDonnell, his deputy as leader of the Greater London Council (GLC).  Mr McDonnell accused Mr Livingstone of selling out after he refused to defy the Thatcher Government by not balancing the GLC’s books. Mr McDonnell chairs the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which he founded in 2004 to reach out to left-wingers outside Labour. LRC figures attacked Mr Livingstone’s Socialist Action group as “plastic socialists”. The rival factions have even been compared to Russia’s hardline Bolsheviks and more moderate Mensheviks, who split in 1903.

This is something in this.

Simon Fletcher was indeed a member of Socialist Action. as were other key members of the GLC team – in the 1980s and later when Livingstone returned as London mayor (200 – 2008). Redmond O’Neil, Jude Woodward,  and John Ross (who was his “Economics Adviser”) are the best known of the ‘org’. But it is rather more than ‘Livingstone’s group’.

Socialist Action learnt its trade in the 1980s, backing the Labour Campaign group,

This unusually close agreement between a parliamentary faction and an extra-parliamentary organisation resembles the alliance between horse and rider.

The MPs assure us that Socialist Action is cured of its youthful radicalism, and will cheerfully prostrate itself by selling the MPs’ abysmally boring Campaign Group News.

John Sullivan  As Soon As This Pub Closes

It is said that this prostration developed wider during Livingstone’s time as London Mayor. But being errand girls and boys is part of a broader strategy.

Socialist Action, as John Sullivan’s handbook on how to organise on the British left,  is at no pains to note,  is a descendant of the International Marxist Group.

But those of us on the left who were in the International Marxist Group in the 1970s – and others who took part in the split in the 1980s which gave birth to Socialist Action – have more fundamental reasons to be hostile to the ‘elite groupuscule’.

The leader of the IMG John Ross (also known as Alan Jones – note to journalists) and  founding figure of Socialist Action took an anti-European stand during the 1975 referendum. Even those in our opposing tendency who also supported a No vote accused him of nationalism. Those of us who were pro-Europe (we advocated abstention at the time, which was a serious error) could frankly feel this  in our bones.

To be blunt us lot – called at the time Tendency A – hated his guts.

By extension, that means anybody associated with them, right to the present day. And it’s true to say that some of the people in the Labour Representation Committee  come from those opposed to the ‘Rossites’ from way way back. But many do not- age is the most obvious reason – and yet they hold equally forthright views about the organisation.

Why?

Well there are plenty of reasons and they are less and less to do with the past and a lot more to do with what Socialist Action stands for today.

These are a few:

A central part of their present ideology is the ‘anti-imperialism of fools‘.

This is their analysis of the “current phase of imperialism” (What is the current phase of imperialism? May 2014).

Michael Burke begins by observing that after the collapse of the USSR the US has tried to impose its power – from the Gulf War, to the attempted “hijacking” of the Arab Spring. But this was now at a  standstill. The US faces an impasse. Why?

…the economic rise of China has warranted a strategic ‘pivot’ towards Asia in an attempt to curb the rise of the only economy that could rival US supremacy in the foreseeable future. Given this absolute priority and the reduced circumstances of the US economy, it has been necessary to suspend new large-scale direct military interventions elsewhere.

This curb on US power has had immediate and beneficial consequences for humanity. Syria could not be bombed and neither could Iran. In these, Russian opposition to US plans was a key political obstacle, especially as the US wanted to deploy multilateral and multinational forces to do its bidding and needed the imprimatur of the UN Security Council. The US response to this blockage has been to increase pressure on Russia, most dramatically with its ouster of the elected Ukrainian government in a coup and its attempt to breach the country’s agreed neutrality by bringing it into NATO.

This curb on US power, however limited or temporary, should be welcomed by all socialists, by all democrats and simply by all those who desire peace. Instead, we have the strange spectacle that some on the left have raised the charge that Russia is imperialist, or that China is, or countries such as Brazil, or India or South Africa are ‘sub-imperialist’!

This is not a coincidence. In the US State Department’s frustration it has produced every type of calumny against Putin, including that he is an imperialist[i] and akin to Hitler. Self-styled socialists who simply echo these charges are not highly amenable to logical argument. But it is vital for socialists to understand the nature of imperialism and its current manifestation[ii].

Rather than echo the frustrations of the US State Department, socialists and communists welcome the current impotence of the US, for however long it lasts and however limited it is. In 1997 a triumphalist US imperialism set out its bold plan to brook no global or regional opposition and to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously[xii]. In 2013 the US and its allies were unable to begin bombing Syria.

Imperialism is the enemy of all humanity and its set-backs or defeats are a cause for celebration as they represent an advance for all humankind and the struggle for socialism.

So China and Putin have thwarted the US….. that is ‘anti-imperialism‘ for the modern day.

This is a recent screed by this genius of the world revolution, (Socialist Action John Ross. 29th of November)

How to really defeat ISIS

The effective measures that would really defeat ISIS are very simple – the fact Cameron doesn’t propose them shows he is lying about trying to destroy ISIS.

1. Turkey should be told it must close within 24 hours the main supply route across its border to ISIS at Jarablus and at other border crossings. If it does not a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Turkey, as with Iran and North Korea, and the UN Security Council will authorise coalition bombing for 5km inside the Syrian border with Turkey to cut supply routes to ISIS from Turkey.

2. Saudi Arabia should be told it must cease all transfers of money to ISIS. If proof is found of any further such transfers a UN Security Council Resolution will be adopted imposing financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia as with Iran and North Korea.

If these measures are adopted they would, unlike Cameron’s bombing, lead to the crushing of ISIS. A resolution of the House of Commons should be adopted to embody this.

If Cameron refuses to adopt this policy it shows he is not in fact trying to defeat ISIS. Therefore no support can be given to his proposed bombing.

No supplies no funds, ISIS will just disappear off the face of the earth.

No more slavery, no more torture, no more genocide.

Why didn’t World Imperialism think of it before?

Cretins…..

It’s also worth noting that Ross still loves his country,

Britain is also one of the world’s great historical nations. I love my country deeply, and the enormous contributions it has made to world culture and science, and in which struggles such as the Suffragettes or to create our health service are a source of great pride. There are regrettably some things in my country’s history, as with every great state, which I am not proud of. Some of these I mentioned and were crimes done by Britain to China.

He loves China too,

Note for Jeremy Corbyn – How China made the world’s largest contribution to human rights

By John Ross. October the 20th. 

Sections of the British media present a supposed choice that Britain has to choose between either pursuing purely economic interests or criticising China over ‘human rights’. This posing of the issue is totally false – China should be supported precisely because of its contribution to human rights. China has done more to improve the overall situation not only of its own people but of humanity than any other country in the world – as the facts show.

Who doesn’t love Ross.

Well, us lot still loathe him and his mates.

But it’s more important to say this. A group that rejoices in Putin’s ‘anti-imperialist’ foreign policy – not to mention anybody who foils the  power of ‘imperialism’ and any set-back for the US (without specifying why this is in itself good) – is part of the “political confusionism” our French comrades talk about. A group that celebrates the Chinese regime, on the basis of some kind of ‘economist’ reductionist view of human rights,  has no place on the democratic socialist left. And why on earth does Ross feel the need to talk about his deep love for his “country”?

**************

See also this virulently  hostile account of the groupuscule. The strange history of Socialist Action Martin Thomas.

Ellen Meiksins Wood (1942 – 2016). A Tribute.

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Ellen Meiksins Wood, the wife of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, has died of cancer at the couple’s Ottawa home at the age of 73.

Reports 

She was a noted intellectual figure on the international left, whose studies of class, politics and political ideas influenced several generations of thinkers and activists.

Wood’s writings were thought-provoking and luminous.

She first came to a wide left audience with The Retreat from Class: A New ‘True’ Socialism (1986). This was a collection of her intervention in debates, conducted through the pages of New Left Review, and the Socialist Register,  that took place in the wake of Eric Hobsbawm’s famous polemic, The Forward March of Labour halted? (Marxism Today 1978 – expanded in book form with replies from supporters and critics in 1981).

Many left intellectuals not only backed Hobsbawm’s view that the material importance of class institutions in shaping politics was declining with the drop in numbers in the industrial working class, but extended this to question the relationship between class and politics itself.

Post-Marxists began to argue that a plurality of ‘democratic struggles’ and social movements would replace the central place of the labour movement in politics. Some contrasted  ‘civil society’ a more complex and open site of democratic assembly to the alleged ‘monolithic’ vision of politics embodied in the traditional labour movement. In a diffuse way this was associated with the once fashionable idea that “a “post-modern” society dissolved reality in ‘simulacra’. Others claimed it  meant the end of “grand narratives” – or more bluntly, that the ideas of socialism and the Left was splintering so quickly that only a fragmented series of ‘critical’ responses were possible against neo-liberal regimes of ‘governance’.

Wood argued for the importance of class in shaping not just political interests but the potential constituency of  radical socialist politics. Fights over power were at the centre of Marxism and these were part and parcel with disputes over exploitation and the appropriation of the social surplus. The ‘new social movements’, the women’s movement, the rising ecological movement, campaigns for racial and sexual equality, were interlaced with class conflicts. Democracy could not be abstracted from these relations. To appeal, as writers such as Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe did, to the formation of a new hegemonic strategy based on  relations of “equivalence” between various democratic demands ignored the basic facts about class and power. Like her comrade Ralph Miliband Wood saw socialism as an effort to bring together people around the central issues of exploitation and oppression in democratic organisations that could shape politics. This had historically been the result of conscious action, and this kind of collective work was needed more than even against a very real and growing grand narrative – the institutionalisation of neo-liberal economics and government assaults on working people, and the unemployed – in building a new regime of capitalist accumulation.

Political Marxism.

In academic as well as left-wing activist  circles Wood became known for her “political Marxist” approach to history. This focused on the issue of the transition from feudalism to capitalism and social property relations and the way this shaped the politics of early modern states.  The Pristine Culture of Capitalism 1992  was a summary of this approach. British merchants and agricultural  capitalists has actively determined the administrative Parliamentary forms, from Cromwell’s republic to the Glorious Revolution – the restoration of the Monarchy.

These writings were also directed against the views of Perry Anderson (Editor of New Left Review) and Tom Nairn (today best known for his Scottish nationalism). In the early days of the Second New Left they had asserted  that the so-called ‘archaic’ British state was a reflection of a an equally ‘pre-modern’ capitalism dominated not by these forces by an aristocratic surrogates for the bourgeoisie. Nairn and Anderson claimed that the ‘supine’ bourgeoisie – who abdicated political rule to the ‘aristocracy’. Their domination of UK politics  left deep traces right until the present. For this strand of New leftists the failure of the a resolute bourgeoisie to assume real power been mimicked by a “supine” working class. In later writings Anderson talked of the need for a new wave of democratic modernisation to bring the country into line with the ‘second’ bourgeois revolution of modernity.

Wood, by contrast, pointed out, had a developed capitalism, indeed it was the most ‘modern’ form of capitalism. Its state form was related to its early advance, and its allegedly old-fashioned trappings – from the Monarchy downwards – had not thwarted capitalist expansion but arisen in relation to needs of its own bourgeoisie. The labour movement had developed in struggle with these forces, not in deference to them.

In some respects this response is not unlike E.P.Thompson’s defence of the labour movement. But Wood went deeper into the mechanisms of markets and state formation. She illustrated the feeble empirical basis of the claims about UK archaism. Britain is hardly alone in having a Monarchy to begin with, and the notion that there is something specifically modern in any state-type evaporates when one looks at studies of the varieties of administrative and government forms. France, for example, remains profoundly marked by its own past ‘feudal’ administrative forms. The USA Constitution is a relic from the 18th century. On all the essential points present-day Britain was no more, no less, ‘modern’ than anywhere else in Europe or in any contemporary capitalist state. Indeed it was for long a template for bourgeois democracy. In particular Wood attacked the claims of Tom Nairn that in some fashion Ukania (his ‘funny’ word for the United Kingdom, modelled on the novelist ( 1880 – 1942) Robert Musil’s term for the Austro-Hungrian empire, Kakania – shit land) owed its economic difficulties to its constitution.  Economic problems  arose at root from the general contradictions of capitalist accumulation, in a specific form. The problems of British democracy were due to its capitalist character , not to the issues Nairn-Anderson dreamt up about its sonderweg.

Brenner thesis.

More widely Wood is known, in developing these writings, as an advocate of a version of the ‘Brenner thesis’ (after Robert Brenner’s article, Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe“1978). The creation of market relations in British agriculture were considered to be the foundation of modern capitalism. The essential condition was separation from non-market access to the means of subsistence, the means of self-reproduction. Wood argued that it was the capitalist transformation of agriculture, followed by the rise of merchant class expanding these forms through international trade, created the ground of Western capitalism.  It was also responsible for the distinctive state forms that emerged in Britain.

In the Agrarian Origins of Capitalism (1998) Wood summarised her views,

The distinctive political centralization of the English state had material foundations and corollaries. First, already in the 16th century, England had an impressive network of roads and water transport that unified the nation to a degree unusual for the period. London, becoming disproportionately large in relation to other English towns and to the total population of England (and eventually the largest city in Europe), was also becoming the hub of a developing national market.

The material foundation on which this emerging national economy rested was English agriculture, which was unique in several ways. The English ruling class was distinctive in two major and related respects: on the one hand, as part of an increasingly centralized state, in alliance with a centralizing monarchy, they did not possess to the same degree as their Continental counterparts the more or less autonomous “extra-economic” powers on which other ruling classes could rely to extract surplus labor from direct producers. On the other hand, land in England had for a long time been unusually concentrated, with big landlords holding an unusually large proportion of land. This concentrated landownership meant that English landlords were able to use their property in new and distinctive ways. What they lacked in “extra-economic” powers of surplus extraction they more than made up for by their increasing “economic” powers.

Wood’s political stand was firmly within the Marxist ambit. In 1999 she stated (The Politics of Capitalism) ,

…all oppositional struggles—both day-to-day struggles to improve the conditions of life and work, and struggles for real social change—should be informed by one basic perception: that class struggle can’t, either by its presence or by its absence, eliminate the contradictions in the capitalist system, even though it can ultimately eliminate the system itself. This means struggling for every possible gain within capitalism, without falling into the hopeless trap of believing that the left can do a better job of managing capitalism. Managing capitalism is not the job of socialists, but, more particularly, it’s not a job that can be done at all.

The broader  focus on the links between capitalism and state forms continued in her study Empire of Capital (2003). This analysed how the “empire of capital” (rather than the vague ‘globalisation’ or the rhizome of Hardt and Negri’s  ‘Empire’) shapes the  modern world through “accumulation, commodification, profit maximization, and competition.”

Wood’s later works, Citizens to Lords: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (2008) and Liberty & Property: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Renaissance to Enlightenment  were ambitious attempts to narrate and analyse Western political thought in the light of class categories.

Wood had a profound influence on countless people.

She was a democratic Marxist, a feminist, a perceptive writer and a force for good.

Homage to her memory.

Remembering Ellen Meiksins Wood.

Ellen Meiksins Wood — Her Importance to Me. by Ursula Huws (Monthly Review). 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm