Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Globalisation’ Category

National Populist Farage’s “Real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit.”

with one comment

Image result for nigel farage

National Populist Egocrat. 

Sky reporter Lewis Goodall has been one of the most perceptive writers about Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party.

His article in the Observer today is a must-read.

Nigel Farage’s real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit

Ukip was deeply and recognisably British. The half-colonels; the angry golf-playing uncles; the rankling over “elf and safety” and political correctness. Its pound-sign logo was almost quaint: It was a Britain Orwell would have recognised. Ideologically, too, its Euroscepticism mined a deep vein in British politics, tracing back to our entry in 1973, if not before.

But,

Politics has moved on – and so has Farage.

Brexit now isn’t even his principal concern, its failure the mere embodiment of a wider malaise. Instead, the collapse of the Brexit process is proof of his new analysis: that British democracy does not work and does not even exist. Worse, that every organ of the state and political life, be it the parties, the media, the courts – parliamentary democracy itself – are malign and work against the interests of “the people”. Never before have we had a major political force that operates with that basic reflex.

Goodhall concludes,

For Brexit party success will surely change the alchemy of the Tory makeup. Indeed, it already has, setting the seal on the end of Theresa May’s premiership and ensuring the all-but-certain election of a no-dealer in her stead. Far from a Conservative turn to the kind of broad, centrist Christian democracy to which Theresa May once aspired, her party may follow the Republicans in becoming a hard-edged populist movement. In an age where “one-nation” seems impossible and where we are at least two, Farage and his success will force them to choose. Out of fear, they will choose him

 

Goodhall clearly has his finger on one essential aspect of National Populism.

With a belief that the “elite” is working against the “people” it splits the world into the camp of implacable  enemies and the real “folks” (as Farage, speaking American says).

This is anti-pluralism.

The Sky journalist notes,

Being at those rallies, it struck me how many of my friends would listen to what they heard on the stage and the sentiment of those in the crowd and feel complete loathing and fear, at the same time as those around me cheered with joy and expectation. We no longer just disagree with each other, we don’t even begin to understand how our fellow citizens think.

This chimes with the analysis offered by Jan-Werner Müller in What Is Populism? (2016).

He argued that “only some of the people are really the people” and at populism’s core is a rejection of pluralism. Populists will always claim that they and they alone represent the people and their true interests. 

Not only liberals should be concerned.

Democratic socialism is the expression of a plurality of interests, against different forms of oppression and exploitation, brought together in a common purpose for socialist objectives.

Its origins lie in institutions, like the labour movement, which were built by people themselves. In this century left wing and radical campaigns and trade unions are also the created  and runby the membership democratically. The political parties of the democratic socialist left, unlike Stalinist parties, and despite a tendency to their own “oligarchical” structures, are in principle based on member-wide democracy. A wide spectrum of views, social democratic, ‘revisionism’, types of democratic socialism, various forms of democratic Marxism, are part of this movement.

The democratic basis of politics lies on different versions of this belief, put forward his later writings by the Socialisme ou Barbarie  thinker, Claude Lefort,

For Lefort democracy is the system characterized by the institutionalization of conflict within society, the division of social body; it recognizes and even considers legitimate the existence of divergent interests, conflicting opinions, visions of the world that are opposed and even incompatible. Lefort’s vision makes the disappearance of the leader as a political body – the putting to death of the king, as Kantorowicz calls it – the founding moment of democracy because it makes the seat of power, hitherto occupied by an eternal substance transcending the mere physical existence of monarchs, into an “empty space” where groups with shared interests and opinions can succeed each other, but only for a time and at the will of elections. Power is no longer tied to any specific programme, goal, or proposal; it is nothing but a collection of instruments put temporarily at the disposal of those who win a majority. “In Lefort’s invented and inventive democracy,” writes Dominique Colas, “power comes from the people and belongs to no one.

Farage and the National Populists  wish to monopolise the political space and make this “power” belong to their “people”.

They, the embodiment of the ‘real’ people, that is those who voted for Brexit, the “somewhere” people, the genuine salt of the earth types with roots, in the land and memory of the country and the ancestors of the nation.

Above all the National Populists equally deny the ” uncertainty” of politics and wish to impose their, ‘real’ majority views on the state and the inhabitants of a country.

Many of the present day populist parties, using as David Runciman (How Democracy Ends. 2018)  and many others note, new communication technology, have formed ‘parties’ and movements as business start-ups, run by the leadership, and typically one ‘charismatic’ figure.

They claim to stand for the real People against the Oligarchy –  the elites – and “globalism”.

In some respects Farage resembles what Lefort called an “egocrat” in the totalitarian mould (Un Homme en trop. Essai sur l’archipel du goulag de Soljénitsyne. New Edition. 2015).

His wishes run through the party organs.

Clearly the age of Stalinist, Fascist and Nazi “total” terror is ended and it would be seriously wrong to compare the Brexit Party to these “conspiracies in broad daylight” with their Gulag, Camps and mass murder.

Müller predicted that “..with their basic commitment to the idea that only they represented the people”. Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (What Is Populism? Page 102)

The Brexit Party is, above all, a vehicle for the demand to end the complexity of politics and to impose the figure of its leader in the “empty space”, the seat of power than anybody and nobody can occupy in democratic institutions – the Sovereign. It wishes to make social life ‘transparent’ contest between itself and its targets, the EU and the non-people.

Nothing can be gained by ‘listening’ to the demands of the political forces of the Brexit Party.

The attempt by ‘left populists’ to speak to this audience in the hope that they can give a voice to some of the ‘democratic’ aspects of their demands in unable to grapple with the way that the thrust of National Populism is against democratic pluralism.

In many respects they are more of a danger than the ‘dark enlightenment‘  of the far right that seeks a new form of openly anti-democratic politics.

National Populists are, to cite Chantal Mouffe in her use of Carl Schmitt , “the enemy” (The Return of the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005). 

This has already been Farage’s impact in the UK this month.

Brexit Party’s rise forced dithering Tory MPs to ditch Theresa May.

One expects more when the European election results are announced this evening.

Advertisements

Corbyn Says Brexit Deal “Has to be Done”.

with 5 comments

Image result for love socialism hate brexit

Most people will not rush to pontificate on implications of the local election results least of all for Labour’s Brexit strategy.

John McDonnell is reported to have responded earlier today ,

“So far message from local elections: Brexit – sort it. Message received.”

Responding to suggestions that his comments signalled he was keen to strike a deal with the government in the coming days, with both main parties at risk of a drubbing in next month’s European elections, McDonnell said: “We need to get on with sorting this out, one way or the other.”

Guardian

This can be interpreted in many different ways, calling for a People’s Vote, a Soft Brexit, opposing Brexit in the new conditions that have emerged, and who knows what else – all in line with different angles on a Labour resolution passed in different days.

But just now Politics Home carries this report which, following the previous remarks, will cause a deep sigh of annoyance for the majority of Labour members who are opposed to actually existing Brexit .

Jeremy Corbyn says election results show Brexit deal with Tories ‘has to be done’

The Labour leader said voters had sent a clear message that Parliament must get on with approving the UK’s departure from the European Union.

His comments added to the confusion surrounding Labour’s position after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the issue had to be dealt with “whichever way”, suggesting the party could end up opposing Brexit altogether.

 

It is hard to see which audience Corbyn is talking to.

Perhaps it is the “real” people that the national populist left thinks are the only people that count, that is those who back Brexit.

Clearly he is not talking to his own party and the internationalist left.

Labour for a Socialist Europe carries this further report:

Responding to Tory Brexit minister James Cleverly on the BBC, Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said:

“You as a Brexit Minister should understand that we are in there [in the Labour-Tory talks on Brexit] trying to bail you guys out.”

(Watch the clip here.)

Whether or not this is how the entire leadership and negotiating team views the talks, it must certainly reflect a strong strand of opinion – and in any case it reflects the unfortunate political dynamic. Whatever the risks for the Tories, the risks for Labour if it agrees a deal are greater – as explained here. It would amount precisely to bailing the Tories out.

These talks, to the degree they are “successful”, mean Labour accepting most of the Tories’ Brexit agenda, including for instance its Immigration Bill. The political logic of this is shown by Rebecca Long-Bailey referring to discussions in these negotiations about workers’ rights as “fantastic” (!)

Concerningly, John McDonnell tweeted “message from local elections – ‘Brexit – sort it.’ Message received.” This ambiguous statement is being widely interpreted as leaning further towards making a deal.

The talks are effectively counterposed to Labour taking the fight to the Tories, as the local government election results show. Similarly they are now a risk to Labour’s campaign in the European elections, as Paul Mason explains here.

Labour members should protest about Gardiner’s comments and, more importantly, demand the party withdraws from the talks. Sign the statement calling for that here.

Comrade Owen Jones makes many points in his guarded and thoughtful analysis today, but perhaps this is the most relevant one.

There will be many siren voices arguing that there are simple answers for Labour. As long as Brexit dominates, there aren’t. The party’s left-populist message is sidelined, and it risks alienating the remain and leave voters it needs to win an election. Sometimes the honest answer is there are no easy solutions, and anyone arguing otherwise is kidding themselves.

Left populism, which Owen has admired in Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “rallying point”,  La France insoumise, is on the decline.

In last month’s Spanish election Podemos lost twenty-nine MPs and 7 percent of its votes.

La France insoumise stands at a possible  8 to 9 % (in highly unstable opinion polls) for the coming European elections – and has no prospect of governing France whatsoever.

Left populism, the idea that “the” people, including the working class and oppressed groups, can be moblised against the “elites” and the “oligarchy” has been overshadowed by national populism.

That form of populism, in the UK overwhelmingly focused against the EU, has so far only drawn fringe parts of the left into its orbit in red-brown alliances like Farage’s Brexit Party.

It puts nation, national sovereignty, above everything else, and opposes it to the ‘anti-nation’ the rootless cosmopolitans, the ‘liberals’, which to them includes the internationalist left, the ‘anywhere’ people.

But the danger that more mainstream forces will try for a simple answer which is to appeal to the ‘real people’ who are anti-Brexit and ignore Labour’s broader constituencies, and the ties that bind the labour movement to Europe.

It would be better if we “sidelined” populism, left or right, and talked about serious left-wing policies.

The left cannot build a winning political bloc without the people who are opposed to Brexit for the simple reason that many of their principles define what a ‘left’ is.

The economic and poltiical programme of a Labour government needs to be based on alliances with our other European lefts to begin with, inside the structures of the European Union.

The European elections are still going ahead and the present un-constructive ambiguity will not help Labour campaign.

 

 

Étienne Chouard, Alain Soral, The Far-right, Political Confusionism and the Gilets Jaunes.

with 2 comments

Image result for étienne chouard soral

Face au fascisme on ne pense plus; il ne faut plus penser – c’est tabou. L’antifascisme est une forme plus évoluée, plus subtile que l’antisémitisme, mais pas moins contre-révolutionnaire. Il crée une attitude de réflexe et de haine.”

Faced with Fascism, one stops thinking; one mustn’t think any more – it’s taboo. Antifascism is the more evolved form, subtler than anti-semitism, but no less counter-revolutionary. It creates a reflexive attitude of hatred.

Groupes radicaux pour l’abolition de l’argent et de l’État

From, Précieuses pépites. Étienne Chouard.

(citations of his cherished nuggets, 1031 pages long, from the Situationists, James Madison, Gandhi, Pastor Neimöller, Edmund Burke, George Orwell……)

Alain Soral has been condemned to a year in gaol for Holocaust denial. As the would-be sorcerer’s apprentice of a Red-Brown alliance, his balance-sheet has until recent years largely been a negative one. The most public initiative, the ‘anti-Zionist’ electoral list he helped organise with Dieudeonné, with the support of a few former leftists, and Tehran inclined Islamists, was a failure.

Égalité et Réconciliation¸ trumpeting the cause of workers and peoples, with right-wing national values, against globalist elites, appeared submerged in the malestrom of populism. As part of a “conspi” turn it could be said that Soral, who never fails to inject anti-semitism into the public domain, helped set out some markers, but little more. His site has had a small, if real, (according to reports) echo amongst the anti-gay marriage and anti-‘genre theory’ movement, which combined the traditional far-right, Catholic ‘ultras’ and some conservative Muslims. To escape from this impasse Soral has recently tried to engage – before his imprisonment has temporarily cut this short – with the Gilets Jaunes…with more success, if still limited.

It is the fashion in some quarters to look at the Gilets Jaunes through rose-tinted spectacles. After all, what could be more heartening than to discover, as perhaps prophesied by Jean-Claude Michéa, the work of those “en bas” in revolt against the neoliberal elite. The left which has, since, apparently the Dreyfus Affair, sought to integrate the left into a world ruled by finance is shaking. Woven in the by those who have been “solidaires depuis toujours”, acting through the heart of their “idenitité populaire la plus spécifique”, the French People have arisen…. (Notre Ennemi le capital. 2017)

No doubt there are worthy projects to wrestle inside the Gilets Jaunes movement, and fight for leftism and below within it. Reports, though not those broadcast by the professionals of tinting roses, the SWP, if their most recent General assembly (not universally recognised) indicate that they have decided to not offer any recommendation to vote for the coming European elections. A victory of sorts, though one finds it hard to imagine the good faith of any leftist sitting in a room with those who argued for supporting for a variety of hard-right lists – as happened..

Instead we have Étienne Chouard, a teacher, whose Mother worked for the – some might say – elitist Tel Quel literary and theoretical journal of Philippe Solars,  known for its 1960s structuralism, ultra-Maoist phase, and violent ‘anti-totalitarian’ turn in the 1970s. He says he is “a seeker of the original cause of social injustices”. The blogs he runs, such as Plan C, and his own personal site, advance the cause of “une Constitution Citoyenne, écrite par et pour les citoyens.”

Chouard is popular amongst the Gilets Jaunes – significant enough to be cited at length in the media, the latest appearance being in Saturday’s Le Monde (13.4.19). His audience on social networks is astronomical. He is probably the best known promoter of one of the Gilets Jaunes central demands, direct democracy through the idea of government by referendum. “référendum d’initiative populaire”. A one-time leftist, who dabbled in anarchism and the ultra-left, and who claims inspiration from  Cornelius Castoriadis he has expressed sympathy for Nigel Farage, yet voted Mélenchon in the last Presidential elections. The life-long grass-roots activist has now declared that he will back François Asselineau, a hard-right Frexit (French Brexit)  campaigner who runs the small UPR. It is also opposed to NATO. Le Monde notes he is far from alone amongst the Gilets Jaunes in backing this far-right party.. (12.4.19. Gilets jaunes » : François Asselineau et le « Frexit » font recette sur les ronds-points) that the UPR is known for promoting “conspiracy” ideas. (1)

Image result for étienne chouard soral

Chouard is the ideal type of “ confusionism”, melding together the far-right ideas with leftism. But this rhetoric does not stop at issues such as the European Union. As the reader of (one can believe this, see above) over 3,500 books on philosophy, politics and stuff, he has views on many areas. His freethinking has led him to express opinions doubting the official version of 9/11, and to express interest in the conspi site, Réseau Voltaire. Chouard has also had ties, notable ties, with Alain Soral over the years. His notorious description of Soral as a “resistant” did not go down well. He has stood back, preferring the calmer waters of the UPR, for his own red-brown alliance, from aligning himself with the sulphurous holocaust denier.

Despite the jolly film (judging from its trailer…) J’veux du soleil, by François Ruffin, there seems, as yet little indication of the français de souche amongst the Gilets Jaunes, reaching out to minorities, the “urban nomadic proletariat”.  But he doubtless found somebody prepared to listen to Michéa when it comes to official left and liberal anti-fascism.

(1) See also COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE : ÉTIENNE CHOUARD ANNONCE PUBLIQUEMENT QU’IL VOTERA POUR LA LISTE DE L’UPR AUX ÉLECTIONS EUROPÉENNES )

François Asselineau‘s ‘souverainiste‘ platform has two main targets, the European Union and the United States.[32] He insists that France should leave the Eurozone,[33] the European Union, and NATO.[32] According to Asselineau, the EU and NATO “as seen from Washington…are the political and military side of the same coin, that of the enthrallment of the European continent to their ‘buffer zone’ so as to surround and contain the Russian continental power”.[33] He says the process leading to European unification was launched solely upon orders from the American government.”

You can guess his views on Assange and Brexit….

Pro-Brexit Rallies, Political Confusionism, from Tory Right, National Populist Left, to Anti-Semites.

with 8 comments

Star of the Anti-Brexit Show (Thanks Martin)

Paul Embery, FBU and the Arron Banks Backed Trade Unionists Against the EU.

…this does not mean that communists line up with Nigel Farage’s march on London. Then again, we do not mock it either – by the time it arrives in the capital on the symbolically significant date of March 29 it could be around the same size as the PV event.”

Weekly Worker. March for a national government

Some more of the democratic  chaps around yesterday:

 

Spiked, Brendan O’Neill, ex-Revolutionary Communist Party:

Institute of Ideas, ex-Revolutionary Communist Party Clare Fox.

 

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

 

Such a contrast with this event:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm

John Rees (Counterfire/People’s Assembly/Stop the War Coalition) Compares anti-Brexit March to “mild (as yet)” “mass fascist or populist right wing” movement.

with 6 comments

Image may contain: 9 people, crowd and outdoor

Clive Lewis and Lloyd Russell-Moyle “Angry Middle Class moblised for its own purposes by sections of the elite”.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

 

John Rees is a leader of the groupuscule, Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party. He is a national officer for the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) and a key figure in the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Counterfire has worked with many groups and individuals, as part of what they pretentiously call “united fronts”, including George Galloway of the Respect Coalition and Andrew Murray, now an adviser to the Labour Leader on Brexit.

Recently they have engaged with the Full Brexit, an alliance of the Family Faith and Flag Blue Labour, the Communist Party of Britain, writers for Spiked, left “magic money” Sovereigntists, and bee-in-bonnet anti European Union loud-mouths. Two of the groups involved, Labour Leave, and Trade Unionists Against the EU, have received money from hard-right millionaire, Arron Banks.

Feyzi Ismail from Counterfire spoke at their hundred strong Rally in London this Monday.

Rees, and Lindsey German, have close links with Jeremy Corbyn, including a long history of joint work in the StWC.

Rees claims to be inspired by revolutionary Marxism.

A revolutionary organisation remains the indispensable tool for overcoming the unevenness in working-class consciousness, maximising the effectively of working-class struggler recalling the lessons of past victories and defeats, and educating and leading workers in struggle. Formed from the working class by working-class people to help generalise and organise the struggle of the whole class it is itself a dialectical organism. Without the struggle to build such an organisation, the danger remains that the dialectic of capitalist development will remain blind or destructive; but if the struggle to build such and organisation is successful, we have a change – more, not less power – to make the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.”

Page 302 The Algebra of Revolution. The Dialectics and the Classical Marxist Tradition. John Rees. Routledge 1998.

With these arms in hand Rees has seen fit to advise Labour on strategy.

In February this year he wrote,

Corbynistas! Up your game, or lose the game

….Jeremy Corbyn, who has historically held an anti-EU position only altered under pressure from the right wing in the first days of his leadership, and now aware that Labour would lose the next general election if Labour deserts the very large number of Leave voters, is embattled at the head of his party.

One way of improving Labour’s prospects would be to face down the remainers and second referendumers. All the placatory talk of Labour being a broad church which can accommodate diametrically opposed views is doing nothing to quell the determination on the part of the remain right-wingers to see the end of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

..

At a moment when the Parliamentary system is manifestly failing, when every dog in the street knows that the government is willing to sacrifice the interest of ordinary citizens on the altar of Tory party unity, why would any left-wing organisation simply play by the Parliamentary rules?

Mass activity can never be a ladder which activists climb and then kick away once leadership has been attained.

The Labour Party and the trade unions should have by now called a second demonstration to ram home to the political establishment the simple message that voters will not tolerate a government which flouts every day democratic norms to stay in power no matter how many votes it loses in the House of Commons.

Call the rallies now. Send left leaders of the movement out to address them. Call a mass national demonstration now. Call on every Labour movement organisation to build for it. Break the bounds of the Parliamentary deadlock and give ordinary people the chance to shift the political spectrum to the left, open up the path to a general election, and win a left Labour victory.

The People’s Assembly held such a march earlier this year on the 11th of January.

Barely noticed, a  few thousand strong, it ended in confusion and fisticuffs between far-right Yellow Jackets and the ‘real’ Yellow Jackets of the demonstration (Hundreds of protesters have joined a ‘yellow vest-inspired’ anti-austerity march through central London this afternoon. The demonstration is organised by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which is calling for a general election. Metro.)

Understandably Rees is pleased when the only mass activity in sight has been the campaign for the People’s Vote.

He could have followed Socialist Worker which today describes the call for a Second Referendum by last Saturday million strong march, an ” anti-democratic outrage”.

Rees goes further.

He begins with claims that the march was set up by the wealthy to further the aims of the “overwhelming majority of big capital”.

It is a “middle class movement” with a “vanishingly small” union presence (where it was before it began to vanish is not described).

It is a “variant” of a “mild (as yet)” mass fascist or populist right wing” groundswell.

In other words, confusionist words, the Counterfire leader claims that the gentle anti-Brexit protesters  are manipulated by big business, the “elite”, “grandees” the “high Establishment” into something, which the expert in Dialectical Algebra can see: the beginnings of a “mass fascist or populist movement”.

Rees lectures, in the stentorian tones of somebody who he has spent his entire life in universities, that one should have a “respectful and engaged tone” to some of the demonstrators.

Like calling them part of a proto-fascist movement….

Perhaps Labour MP Clive Lewis could answer the learned dialetician best.

This is a racist Brexit, not fit for the 21st century but for the 19th century. That’s what it represents – deregulation, low taxes, imperialism 2.0. Don’t quote me on that: quote the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

..

One of the other things you might know as well is this. There aren’t that many black MPs supporting Brexit. Do you know why? We’ve got a bit of a spider sense when it comes to shit like this. We can see that Brexit wasn’t going to end well for us, for black people, when it has targeted EU migrants. EU visitors here – welcome, welcome comrades. You are comrades, not a bargaining chip.

..

I’m not talking about “Remain and reform”. I’m talking about “Rebel and transform”, to turn Europe into a global entity that can tackle climate change and rebuild this world.

Speech at the Left Bloc Rally at the start of the 23 March People’s Vote anti-Brexit demonstration. The Clarion.

 

For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Review: “Neither Left nor Successful”.

with 5 comments

Image result for for a left populism

Left Populism, “Neither Left nor Successful”.

For a Left  Populism. Chantal Mouffe.  Verso. 2018

Review: Andrew Coates.

(From the Latest Chartist Magazine.)

Chantal Mouffe and her partner Ernesto Laclau published Hegemony and Socialist Strategy in 1985 She begins For a Left Populism on the “challenge represented by the ‘populist moment’ by referring to the “incapacity of left politics” during the 1980s to grapple with post-68 movements, from the women’s movement to ecology. Anything that could not be thought of in class terms had been rejected. They offered, she states, an alternative, which became associated with the monthly, Marxism Today, against this “class essentialism”. It focused on bringing these new social forces into a left project, the “radicalisation of democracy”. There were angry debates on the left about these claims, focused around the authors’ ‘post-Marxism’ and the importance of class in left politics.

The world has changed. Today Mouffe argues that neoliberalism, austerity, and “oligarchisation”, has brought down living standards and eroded popular sovereignty. The political system is hollowed out. It is “post-democracy”, a term she takes from Colin Crouch and Jacques Rancière (La Mésentente. 1997). A paradigm of ‘consensus’ around the value of the free-market marks Western societies. There is little more detail about what is ‘post’ democratic in the new millennium’s elections, political competition for government and the possibilities for public debate opened up by social media.

How this differs from the previous consensus around the Keynesian welfare state, known in Britain during the 1950s as ‘Butskellism’, is not explored. The thrust is that social democratic and Labour Parties, notably during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s premierships, accepted the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. As part of this ‘hegemonic’ package they put concern for the Taxpayer over generous public spending. New Labour agreed that privatisation of state functions and industries were “what works”. They aimed at competing on the global market. .

After the 2007 financial crisis people across Europe began to question the belief that these policies brought them any benefit. Those “left behind” by austerity in the wake of the baking crisis and globalised economies, demanded “democratic recognition”. Many Mouffe says, have turned to anti-establishment populist parties of the right, or have expressed their unhappiness through backing the Hard-Right project of Brexit in the UK European Referendum.

The message of For a Left Populism is, “To stop the rise of right-wing populist parties, it is necessary to design a properly political answer through a left populist movement that will federate all the democratic struggles against post-democracy.” She commends the Spanish Podemos, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI) and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, for “left populist strategies.” 

For a Left Populism draws on many, often very abstract, ideas that Mouffe has developed since the 1980s. This include her writings on Carl Schmitt, Claude Lefort, Jürgen Habermas (amongst many others) and  ‘agonistic democracy”. This is a concept which puts conflict and dissensus at the heart of democratic debate. Conflict, she argues, are the keynotes of pluralist democracy. This is an idea familiar from less elevated works. Bernard Crick’s In Defence of Politics (1964, and later editions) made a vibrant democratic socialist case for the importance of open disagreement and debate for the democratic left. Crick also wrote on how Machiavelli saw “liberty arising from conflicts.” (Introduction to The Discourses. Niccolò Machiavelli. 1970)

For a Left Populism talks about constructing a “collective will”. Left populism, she asserts, draws into its orbit by a “chain of equivalences” a variety of progressive demands, open citizenship. This is the ‘construction of the People”, a collective political agency, “ opposing the ‘people’ against the ‘oligarchy’. For this to work Mouffe follows the late Ernesto Laclau. There has to be “some form of crystallisation of common affects, and affective bonds with a charismatic leader… “ One can see the attraction for Jean-Luc Mélenchon who has made sure that there is no “so-called” democratic opposition in his Web-Platform based movement. It is a “lieu de Rassemblement” (rallying point) not a political party. (1)

Mouffe’s left populism also, centrally, draws on the “libidinal investment at work in national – or regional – forms of identification”…” National identities should be left to the right.  Instead of leaving the field to national populists there should be another outlet, “mobilising…. around a patriotic identification with the more egalitarian aspects of the national tradition.”

Much of this approach to nationalism is drawn out from the tangled thickets of Frédéric Lordon. The French theorist developed from some of  Spinoza’s ideas a picture of the importance of ‘affects’, which he illustrated as attachments of people to national identities, and, above all, nation states. La Société des affects (2013). Lordon, a supporter of Mélenchon has faced charges of nationalism himself. Chantal Mouffe’s French critics have not been slow to point out to the emotional ‘affects’ of voters motivated by anti-immigrant feeling. These are neither legitimate concerns nor are those who have them likely to drop their views to join a left-wing Collective Will. (2)

Since For a Left Populism was published Mélenchon’s Movement has stagnated and declined in polls, down below 10% of voting intentions for the coming European Elections. It has faced a series of internal crises, centring on the lack of democratic decision-making. Marine le Pen appears to have had more of an impact in the Gilets Jaunes uprising than the leader of La France insoumise. After poor regional election results in Andalusia and declining support Podemos, has suffered a serious split. Her interlocutor, Iñigo Errejón (Podemos, In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón. Chantal Mouffe. 2016) is now aligned with Más Madrid, a catch-all progressive alliance. Pablo Iglesias is said to project a long-term alliance with the Spanish socialists, the PSOE. The radical left “Anticapitalista” current is in outright opposition.

The problem with left populism is, as Éric Fassin has remarked, is that, “it’s neither left nor a winning strategy.”  Perhaps we should follow his advice and concentrate on creating broad and effective democratic socialist parties and not on ‘federating’ the “people”. (Populisme: le grand ressentiment. 2017) (3)

 

*****

  1. À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\My Documents\À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon.htm
  2. Populisme de gauche, du nouveau ? Pierre Khalfa
  3. See also: Left-wing populism.A legacy of defeat: Interview with Éric Fassin Radical Philosophy. 2018. For an overview of Mouffe and Fassin see Jacobin, Can There Be a Left Populism?Jacob Hamburger. There is much to say on the intellectual structure of the ‘affects’ argument, and the abstract account by Mouffe construction of the ‘people’ in a counter-hegemonic direction through relations of equivalence which he does not. Hamburger however makes the valdi points that ‘left populism’ is hard to pin down as one thing (the gulf between Sanders and Corbyn alone is immense, and Podemos and La France insoumise) but fails to deal with anything like the different party structures. One can also see that the “degree of porosity between left and right” is politically fraught with dangers, as, even if minority, Gilets Jaunes red-brown cross-overs indicate. One would also prefer an account which focuses on sovereigntism, national independence as a rampart against neoliberalism, something Jacobin writers have themselves embroidered into a ‘left populism’.

 

As the attraction of ‘left populism’, which is still influential in publications such as New Left Review, and the American Jacobin, and other pro-Brexit groups, wanes,  this important article also in the latest Chartist, continues the argument:

THE DANGER OF LEFT NATIONALISM IN THE UK AND EUROPE

Extract:

A recent book on Corbynism by Frederick Harry Pitts and Matt Bolton argues that its key components lie in “seeing the world as constituted essentially of nations” and “posing the nation against global and international capital”. But, the authors point out, the search for sovereignty is destined to fail, not least because “we live in a world structured by capital, a social relation which exists as a world market, from which single states cannot abdicate, no matter how hard they try”. Not only is this emerging aspect of Corbynism pitting itself against the tide of history, but it also produces political rhetoric that shares territory with the nativist Brexiteer right wing. In casting the ‘national community’ as the primary community for whom the left speaks, and in describing not only global flows of capital but also of people as threat to this primary community, the left has clearly contributed to racist othering of migrant workers. Which is why some of Corbyn’s speeches on Europe have drawn praise from the likes of Nigel Farage.

Corbynism’s emerging left nationalism is treading the same path as parts of the French and German left. As far back as 2016 Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke challenged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to accept more than one million refugees, calling for limits on entry. In an environment where the far right is stoking fears about ‘violent’ immigrants with fake news and conspiracy theories, Wagenknecht has called for the deportation of any refugees who ‘abuse’ German hospitality: a call in complete contravention of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, and one that drew praise from the far right Alternative für Deutschland.

Continue Reading.

 

The Pro-Brexit Labour Gatekeepers, From Milne to McCluskey.

with 7 comments

There is anger in the labour movement that a small group of pro-Brexit people are making party policy on Europe.

The Observer reported on Sunday that,

A senior union source said McCluskey seemed to be trying to bypass Labour party and TUC policy, which was to insist on a customs union and close involvement in the single market. “History will damn the treacherous moves to sideline the rest of the trade union movement and frustrate Labour party conference policy,” said the union official.

“He and his allies in the leader’s office haven’t made it a secret that they want Brexit to happen, but to do a secret deal behind the movement’s backs to get it done is shocking even for them.”

 Ana Oppenheim, an organiser for the leftwing anti-Brexit movement Another Europe is Possible, who is also active inside the pro-Corbyn grassroots movement Momentum, suggested any Labour MPs who refused to do all in their power to block May’s Brexit should be deselected.

“This is an existential moment for the left,” she said. “The Tory Brexit deal will mean a huge expansion of border controls and will open us up to unprecedented economic deregulation. If Labour MPs cannot unite to block it, they shouldn’t be Labour MPs. Members have mechanisms to choose MPs who actually represent the Labour movement, and we would encourage them to use these.”

Then there was this: in Private Eye yesterday:

There are claims that Corbyn has difficulty dealing with anybody with disagrees with him.

The highly articulate and focused Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, would normally be expected to have been at the meeting with the Prime Minister.

But apart from the differences PE outlines he is reported to back free movement, something the Lexit (pro-Brexit) left are dead against.

Having the unelected Milne in such a strategic position at the Downing Street and inside the Party means – the anti-Brexit internationalist left alleges – that attempts from inside the labour movement to reach a deal are reaching a critical point.

Shiraz posts today,

McCluskey’s Brexit manoeuvres

Four union leaders, including Len McCluskey of Unite, had one-on-one talks with the PM in Downing Street last month.

McCluskey is seeking commitments from May that would give some Labour MPs an excuse to back the government in the next “meaningful vote” on Brexit. That could allow Brexit to proceed without Jeremy Corbyn being held responsible by Labour’s anti-Brexit rank and file.  “The unions are at war given Unite’s attempt at a side deal,” an unnamed “senor union figure” told the FT, adding “and people are suspicious that it’s being nodded through by the leader’s office.”

Milne already has a programme for UK self-sufficiency:
Image result for the 4 M's Seumas Milne Maoist manifesto winchester

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2019 at 3:08 pm