Archive for the ‘Globalisation’ Category
Marine Le Pen “Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism.”
Marine Le Pen Meets Putin in Moscow.
President Vladimir Putin met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday and told her Russia had no intention of interfering in France’s presidential election.
Le Pen, who has said she admires the Russian leader, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Russian news agencies reported.
State TV showed Putin telling Le Pen Moscow reserved the right to meet any French politician it wanted.
Interfax : “PUTIN AT MEETING WITH MARINE LE PEN: RUSSIA HAS ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION TO INFLUENCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN FRANCE YET RESERVES RIGHT TO SPEAK WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF ANY POLITICAL FORCES.
France 24 reported earlier,
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was due in Moscow on Friday for meetings with lawmakers less than a month before a presidential election clouded by allegations of Russian interference.
The leader of the National Front, an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union party, is seeking to bolster her international credentials ahead of the two-round French election on April 23 and May 7.
Her visit comes on the heels of a trip this week to Chad, base of a French military operation that’s aimed at rooting out Islamic extremists from a swath of Africa.
The head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying Le Pen would hold meetings on the “international agenda such as the war on terrorism”.
There was no official word as to whether the French far-right leader would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she has described as “good for world peace”.
The BBC also adds this,
“I believe that barring parliamentarians from speaking to each other, working together is an infringement of democratic rights,” Interfax quoted her as saying in a meeting with Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. She vowed to push for the so-called “blacklists” of targeted invidivudals to be abolished. Ms Le Pen also said that Russia and France should work together to save the world from globalism and Islamic fundamentalism, Interfax said.
Background: Radio France International. (24.3.17)
“Marine Le Pen est appréciée à Moscou, car elle prône le démantèlement de l’Union européenne, la levée des sanctions à l’égard de la Russie et surtout la reconnaissance de l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie. Le Front national avait d’ailleurs envoyé un représentant en tant qu’observateur lors du référendum sur le rattachement de la Crimée à la Russie, qui avait attesté de la transparence du scrutin. L’attitude a convaincu le Kremlin d’être bienveillant à l’égard du mouvement d’extrême droite.“
Marine le Pen is liked in Moscow, because she backs breaking up the European Union, lifting sanctions against Russia, and, above all, recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Front National had also sent a representative as an observer during the referendum in Crimea on joining Russia, which claimed that the vote was free and fair. This attitude convinced the Kremlin to take a friendly stand on the extreme right movement.
Et lorsque fin 2014, le parti a eu besoin d’argent, une banque russe, la FCRB, a accepté de lui prêter 9 millions d’euros, avant de se voir retirer sa licence quelques mois plus tard. Les relations sont toutefois restées au beau fixe entre le FN et Moscou, où Marine Le Pen est régulièrement accueillie par des instances aussi importantes que la présidence de l’Assemblée. A-t-elle été accueillie en plus haut lieu ? En tout cas, il n’en a pas été question officiellement.
When, at the end of 2014, the FN needed money, a Russian bank, the FCRB, agreed to lend it 9 million Euros, before having its licence withdrawn a few months later. Relations have nevertheless remained cordial between the FN and Moscow, where Marine Le Pen is regularly met figures as important at the President of Parliament. Has she been received by higher levels? If she has, it not been official.
As part of its detailed analysis of the FN programme Mediapart (Le programme Le Pen 2017 au scanner de Mediapart) notes that,
“Il y a de fait une vraie convergence politique et programmatique entre le Front national et Russie unie, le parti de Vladimir Poutine.
There is, in reality, a real political and programmatic converge between the Front National and Vladimir Putin’s Russia United party.”
The FN, in short, calls for a new strategic re-alignment, from one based on the United States, to one with the Russian Federation.
After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.
For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.
A Bulwark against National Populism?
For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart, Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.
It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.
These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.
A Tool Against Hamon.
The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.
The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.
It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)
Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.
France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.
(and, this precondition fulfilled…)
Much deeper integration within the eurozone.
Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….) and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.
This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times” The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.
Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.
It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.
All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!
The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”, by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?
The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.
Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.
Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.
We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..
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Karl Marx. Greatness and Illusion. Gareth Stedman Jones. Allen Lane 2016.
In the Prologue to Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones announces, the “aim of this book is to put Marx back in his nineteenth century surroundings. (Page 5) For many reviewers, this recalled the last major account of Marx’s life, Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life (2013). Sperber begins by declaring Marx to be a “figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own age…” (1)
When Greatness and Illusion appeared last summer there was little agreement about the merits of Stedman Jones’ efforts, with those sympathetic to Marx finding a variety of flaws in its 750 pages. Their reactions are not unexpected. The biography, from the portrait of the young Karl “would-be poet, dramatist or philosopher” to its survey of the continents of 19th century ideas, its survey of the merits of Marx’s critique of political economy, and lengthy historical chronicles, is never in too much of a hurry to point out Marx’s misapprehensions. Rather than dwell on what would turn out to be a lengthy list (for reviews see the link below), perhaps the most significant aspect of Stedman Jones’ study is the links he draws between Marx’s ideology and political practice, focusing on whether he was, or was not, out of kilter with his own time. (2)
Sperber had argued that throughout his life Marx remained wedded to a “replay” of the 1789 Revolutions in central and Eastern Europe, initially through “Jacobin” republican governments, which would result in a “social revolution (which) would lead from capitalism to communism and replace the rule of the bourgeoisie with that of the proletariat.”(3).
By contrast Stedman Jones argues that while strongly marked by the legacy of the French Revolution, refracted through Young Hegelian radicalism, and the search for “social emancipation” greater than political liberty, Marx’s greatest achievement lay in his contribution to a non-revolutionary body, the First International (1864, formal dissolution, 1876). The International Working Men’s Association marked the most significant stage in the radical and working class movement’s turn from the Jacobin tradition. It set demands for political freedom, ‘internationalist republicanism” on an intelligible socialist footing, “the political economy of labour”, and linked the left to the trade union movement.
In Marx’s Inaugural Address to the body, he conceptualised “the emancipation of working classes as a global project and articulate a transnational community of workers’ interests” From a lifetime of hostility most forms of radical politics other than his own he had now been able to master “a language with which politically aware working men at the time could identity” (Page 465) “It was in the formulation of this new social-democratic language that Karl made his greatest contribution to the International…”(Page 466) He did not just advocate that the working classes “conquer political power” and emancipate itself. His “assumption was that the process the process of a transition from the capitalist mode of production towards the society of associated producers had already begin.” (Page 467)
Those looking for an endorsement of Marx’s politics will not find much else to feed on. Stedman Jones’ devotes many pages to a much less glowing tributes to the classical texts of ‘political Marxism’, from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847-8), the Class Struggles in France: 1848 – 1850 (1850), The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) and The Civil War in France (1871). Crucial “moments”, the 1848 Revolutions, Louis Bonaparte’s Coup d’état in 1851, the 1871 Paris Commune, that is historical points in which Marx grappled with the problems of class, the state, revolution and socialism in historical flesh and bones, are extensively covered, with a running commentary on the failings of Marx’s analysis and his wishful thinking.
Karl’s notion of “class struggle” has been treated, he declares, as a “dramatisation of self-evident economic facts of industrialisation”. Yet, historians have come to grasp that “class is no longer…the expression of a simple social-economic reality, but as a form of language discursively produced to create identity.” (Page 306) Marx combined a “teleological account of the place of labour in the world”, derived from Young Hegelian thinking with, the French republican, socialist and even Legitimist terms of “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” used in opposition to the “bourgeois” Monarchy of Louis Philippe. Culminating in the 1848 Revolution and the creation of the Second French Republic the organised “proletarians”, Blanquist and other republican revolutionaries, were like the British Chartists driven by the flames of labour’s destiny and opposition to private property, to confront the contradiction of capitalism, and the political rule of the bourgeoisie.
Such a template led Marx, Stedman Jones asserts, to ignore the ideological and political context of the French uprising. Marx’s emphasis on class struggle missed the key element of the rule of the Monarchy. For Stedman Jones it was the shutting out of the masses from the system of political power under the ‘censitaire’ constitution, a franchise that covered a tiny minority of the population.
“It was not the activities or strategy of a fictive ‘bourgeoisie’ but the attempt around 1830 to construct a political system based upon the political exclusion of wage-earners that created the ‘struggle’ of the ‘working class and the ‘middle class”. “ (Page 311) It was “political exclusion” caused by the ‘censitaire’ (a high payment level for electoral rights), that was the key issue. Stedman Jones asserts that Marx’s “hostility to representation and the ‘political state’” left him in a “poor position to understand the political determinants of working class action.”(P 311)
How did Marx portray working class activity? In his writings on the 1848 Revolutions Marx asserted that the “working class”, in his republican and ‘communist’ associations, was a potential lever for “overturning the world” through actions outside the system. Louis Blanc and those with influence within the French working class had called for “association” linked hand in hand with “universal suffrage”. These dissolved in the face of more ambitious goals. The “proletariat rallies ever more around revolutionary socialism around communism”, for a “class dictatorship of the proletariat”. He criticised attempts to introduce change through a representative republican democratic state, “the peculiar character of social democracy”, “a means of softening the antagonisms between the two extremes of capital and wage labour and transforming it into harmony, of superseding them both (page 176) This nevertheless stands with his 1852 enthusiasm for the Chartist demand for universal suffrage, which would mean the political supremacy of the working class.” (4)
From these brief passages one can see that Marx, may have been hostile to the mechanisms of representation on offer in the Second Republic. But he spent a great deal of time trying to demonstrate how through their institutional weight they might not only divert the ‘revolution’ but also be a practical dead-end (the episode of the National Workshops amongst others). Marx was already considering as the remarks on Chartism indicate, that the “republic” with universal suffrage, could be a key element in the working class “battle for democracy”. Finally if Marx was dismissive of “social democracy”, in this context, it was patent that efforts of ‘party’ had failed to achieve more than fleeting legislative palliatives. As for the importance of the “religious democracy”, a political force which Stedman Jones is more than justified in rescuing from condescension, it is unclear if their belief in “la Cause Sainte” and “Dieu et humanité” helped the fight against “modern slavery”.
Stedman Jones has every right to try to ‘correct’ Marx. Marx’s claim that Louis Napoleon’s 1851 coup d’état, was supported by the “lumpen proletariat’ – a category which he shows is vacuous – and his description of the peasantry as ‘sack of potatoes’ unable to represent itself (in fact the one major rebellion against him was rural – Page 339) to give a wider social base the 1851 coup d’état, are important, though not exactly novel, contributions to how we understand the period. But we probably do not need the constant presence of Stedman Jones as Eugène Sue’s Rudolph in Les Mystères de Paris, to save Marx from his theoretical shortcomings.
Languages of Class.
To some of his most hostile critics Stedman Jones stands convicted of deeper faults. His appears to operate with a watered-down version of the apparently “post-structuralist” slant in his Languages of Class. (1983). That is, critics allege, writing about class as “talk”. This would be unfair. A key essay in the book unravelled the distinctive ‘radical’ political approach to the State, “The self-identity of radicalism was not at of any specific group, but of the ‘people;’ or the ‘nation’ against the monopolisers of political representation and power and hence financial or economic power” “In radical terms, in 1832, the ‘people’ became the ‘working classes’.” This remains an important account of British radicals’ distinct concept of “class” and the “people” and the way in which writers and activists in and around the Chartist movement claimed to pinpoint political causes of ‘exploitation’ outside of the relations of production. It does not, nevertheless, demonstrate that “class” can be detached from economic conditions, beginning with the occupations of the Chartists. (5)
In Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones concentrates on the conflicts over “political exclusion”, with a much less coherent account of the ‘figure’ through which French radicals and the ‘working class’ perceived the Second Republic. The reason is simple: there is no easy comparison between the competing but relatively unified doctrines of an body like the Chartists and broader British radicalism or early socialism, and the multitude of disparate forces swept up into active life in France from 1848 to 1851. The Republic unleashed a multitude of different politics of the excluded, but Marx was not alone in underlining its class character.
As Alex de Tocqueville famously observed,
One thing was not ridiculous, but really ominous and terrible; and that was the appearance of Paris on my return. I found in the capital a hundred thousand armed workmen formed into regiments, out of work, dying of hunger, but with their minds crammed with vain theories and visionary hopes. I saw society cut into two: those who possessed nothing, united in a common greed; those who possessed something, united in a common terror. There were no bonds, no sympathy between these two great sections; everywhere the idea of an inevitable and immediate struggle seemed at hand. Already the bourgeois and the peuple (for the old nicknames had been resumed) had come to blows, with varying fortunes, at Rouen, Limoges, Paris; not a day passed but the owners of property were attacked or menaced in either their capital or income. (6)
Stedman Jones’ background as an editor and contributor to New Left Review is perhaps another context for the biography. A taste for lectures on left-wing strategy marked its early years. This can still be heard in Editorial advice on the welcome “knocks” to the “neoliberal order” created by Brexit. One can detect echoes if not of the content but of this style in Greatness and Illusion. By citing Marx’s dislike of the representative state, readers will be excused for thinking that Stedman Jones is offering recommendations on how to improve on his “poor position”. This impression is reinforced in the account of the First International. Marx’s enthusiasm for the Paris Commune, which revived his “critique of Parliamentarism” The description of the self-governing radical democratic Constitutions established by popular rule in Paris (18th of March 1871 to the end of May 1871) was an account of “what might have become”. (Page 502) Marx should have verified his references.
Stedman Jones states that in The Civil War in France (1871) the famous picture of a smoothly running direct democracy gearing up to war was “an imaginary projection of the changes that might accompany a transition towards the rule of associated producers.”(Ibid) Yet Marx, it should be stated here, was so far wrapped in this imaginary portrait that, as Stedman Jones himself mentions he admired and promoted the English translation of Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray’s Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (1876) a book which includes a detailed account of the administrative failings of the Commune. (Page 548)
A particular charge is that, incautiously, Marx underestimated the hostility aroused, not just by the bloody repression of the Communards but also by their own (very limited) violence, amongst British supporters of the International. In short, he had broken with the rule that defined the Association’s alliance: he had begun to preach unfamiliar doctrines. The public scandal created by his words may have pleased Marx and his immediate circle, but began the process which ended in the break up of the International
In The Civil War In France Marx, Greatness and Illusion notes called for “an elected assembly, formed on the basis of democratic and representative principles”. Yet once the proletariat triumphed, “there would be a distribution of general functions assigned as a cooperative factory according to suitability” (Page 528) Stedman Jones’ qualifies this. He points to the need for spaces for differences of opinions and, with a dose of homely doctrine, refers to John Stuart Mill on the importance of individual liberty in a system of “equal ownership” and “combined labour”. As the objective of a proletarian socialist transformation of society, or more simply, democratic socialism, this is a far from a goal that can be consigned to the 19th century.
As others have observed, these thoughts are not developed. Stedman Jones completes his view that Marx spent the last fifteen years of his life trying to produce a theory of modern communism through the “intensive study of ancient, communal and pre-capitalist forms.” Those interested in the Franks, The Gauls, the Germanic Mark, Indo-European cultures, the Slavic Mir and the debate in early Russian Marxism on the place of the village community and its property in the transition to socialism, will find much to reflect on. (7)
(1) Page xii. Karl Marx. A Nineteenth Century Life. Jonathan Sperber. Liveright Publishing. 2013.
(2) Christian Fuchs Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion. Marx and Philosophy Review (September 2016). This provides a very helpful overview of the reviews and Gareth Stedman’s biography. For one review that really dislikes the book see: Who is Gareth Stedman Jones and why is he saying such stupid things about Marx? Louis Proyect.
(3) Page 558 Sperber. Op cit.
(4) Page 123. The Class Struggles in France. Page 176. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Page 262. The Chartists. All in Surveys from Exile. Karl Marx Political Writings Volume 2. Penguin Books. 1973.
(5) Page 104. Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History 1832–1982. Cambridge University Press. 1983.
(6) The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville (1896) (Alexis de Tocqueville) A private journal of the Revolution of 1848 published posthumously.
(7) Page 183. Introduction to The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels. Gareth Stedman Jones. Penguin. 2002.
This is the full statement published by Jeremy Corbyn in the aftermath of the results of the two by-elections.
Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.
In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.
The Stoke victory is important, (Independent)
Labour has secured an emphatic victory in Stoke-on-Trent Central after fending off Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, raising doubts over the right-wing party’s ability to capitalise on Brexit.
Labour’s Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to Ukip’s 5,233, said the result showed “hatred and bigotry” were not welcome in Stoke, a former industrial city which has been a safe Labour seat since 1950.
Mr Nuttall managed to increase Ukip’s share of the vote by just two per cent despite the city’s strong support for leaving the EU.
The Conservative candidate, Jack Brereton, was narrowly pushed into third place with 5,154 votes, while the Liberal Democrats finished in fourth place with 2,083 votes. Turnout was just 38 per cent.
“Over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that,” Mr Snell said in his victory speech.
“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.
“Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed.
“Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear.
“We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.”
But…. the “political establishment” and the “political consensus” around Theresa May show no signs of weakening after the Copeland result.
John McDonnell has insisted the Labour Party leadership is not in denial as he blamed disunity in the party for its humiliating defeat in the Copeland by-election.
The shadow chancellor said Labour would “learn lessons” from the result, but said it had not been a verdict on the party leader. “This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn,” McDonnell said.
“We are in a difficult period over these last 20 months because of these leadership challenges and the divisions that have been sown within our party. The vast majority of our members want us now to unite and to campaign and hold the government to account, and that’s what we will do,” he told the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme, McDonnell was asked if he was in “denial” about the the position the party found itself in. “Not at all,” he said. “Quite the reverse.”
And he blamed Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for launching “attacks” on the party in the days leading up to the vote. “Please don’t do that,” he said.
Copeland has been held by the party since it was formed in 1983 but Tory Trudy Harrison snatched it by 2,147 votes in a historic victory. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade. Harrison polled 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour’s Gillian Troughton.
John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said Labour under Corbyn was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat”. He added: “We are in trouble as a party.”
Jamie Reed, the former Labour MP for Copeland whose decision to resign from parliament triggered the by-election also warned his former colleagues they were in trouble.
Labour backbencher David Winnick told the Press Association Corbyn should consider his position.
The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that,” he said.
“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”
Labour’s majority in the Copeland at the general election was just 2,564. But for an opposition to lose a seat to the party of power in a mid-term vote is extremely rare.
The last time it happened was the 1982 Merton, Mitcham and Morden by-election, although technically it was a Conservative gain from SDP as the sitting MP had defected from Labour to the SDP before the poll. Before that, the closest comparable case was Sunderland South in 1953.
Labour earlier held Stoke-on-Trent Central after seeing off a concerted challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.
But Corbyn admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. “Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty,” he said.
“But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland. In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
“To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”
Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the Tory victory in Copeland was not just a rejection of Corbyn but a pro-active “endorsement of the Conservative Party”.
Mandelson and Blair’s interventions have helped nobody but themselves, and the former Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, from somebody with the politics of liberal globalisation, has only done harm to those left-wing pro-Europeans who wish for ‘Another Europe is Possible”.
What effect this may have had on these by-elections is pure conjecture.
Whether one likes it or not this article in the New Statesman, a cold shower of scepticism, is a necessary warning to those wishing to explain away the Copeland defeat: 5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat. Other than Labour, of course. (Media Mole).
Whatever one thinks of Corbyn, for or against, and all points in-between, there remain the overriding problem of how to “reconnect with voters.”
The result is considered by one of Europe’s leading dailies, Le Monde, to be related to Corbyn’s “attitude ambiguë” towards Brexit. “Cette confusion” they note, supporting Theresa May in voting for Brexit plans, but claiming to not give her a “chèque en blanc” has eroded Labour supporters’ hopes (Royaume-Uni : défaite cuisante des travaillistes à une élection partielle.)
But would a call for Labour to be clearly opposed to Brexit and appeal to Remain voters work?
Given the divisions amongst those who may vote Labour but are not firm Labour supporters, this is unlikely to provide an answer.
But is this: a call for more internal uncertainty?
Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?
SWP Says “racism whipped up by both sides in EU Vote.”
Latest Socialist Worker….
Racism was whipped up by both sides during the EU referendum. But the Leave vote was, as Labour’s Dianne Abbot argued, a “cry of rage against the Westminster elite”.
We have to fight to pull that anger at the establishment in a left wing and anti-racist direction.
To defend freedom of movement, we need unity no matter how people voted.
It’s the Tories and the bosses, not migrants, who slash wages, shut hospitals and schools and sack workers. To stop that assault on working class people we need to be united and resist all their attempts to divide us.
A danger is that defending migrants becomes tied to a defence of the EU’s neoliberal single market.
We have to argue for a socialist and anti-racist alternative—no to the single market, yes to free movement.
Socialist Worker. “United struggle can defend free movement.”
The SWP’s Alternative Fact Factory (London SE11 9BW) is working at full steam.
Busy out campaigning to Leave they perhaps missed the UKIP poster, which was only one of many xenophobic appeals which only one side produced.
Enrolling Dianne Abbott to their cause may not also be such a wizard prang.
Oddly Socialist Worker missed, “Ms Abbott has consistently said that access to the single market and freedom of movement were “inextricably linked”.” (Express)
In case the Express is not good enough for you this is what she has tweeted,
There can be no unity with those who support the Brexit that Trump welcomes.
Dianne Abbot also said this last year,
Once Article 50 is triggered the eventual deal with Britain has to be ratified by all remaining members. They will in effect be negotiating with each other on the terms of Brexit, not with Britain. Eastern European governments in particular are adamant that there can be no concessions on Freedom of Movement. They each have a veto.
Cameron failed because he ignored a key principle, that it is always important to understand the fundamental position of your negotiating partners. This has largely been ignored in the insular debate in Britain. Virtually all mainstream parties in Europe are committed to Freedom of Movement. This applies to left, right and centre on the political spectrum.
This is not because of ideology. It is because the European economy would grind to a halt with checks at every border crossing on every train and vehicle, and on the immigration status of the driver and her passengers. In the jargon, Freedom of Movement is one of the Four Pillars of the Single Market, enshrined in Treaty. If one of the ‘pillars’ falls so does the whole edifice of the Single Market. Practically it is fundamental to the prosperity of the European countries, including Britain.
Given Germany’s pre-eminence in Europe, Chancellor Merkel will be the ultimate arbiter of what the EU agrees to offer in terms of Brexit. She recently told the German equivalent of the CBI that, “If we don’t insist that full access to the single market is tied to complete acceptance of the four basic freedoms, then a process will spread across Europe whereby everyone does and allowed what they want.”
We know that that this is not playing to gallery or an early negotiating stance because this has been the policy implemented in relation to countries such as Norway and Switzerland. Norway is in the European Economic Area, which means it accepts all the rules, large and small of the Single Market in order to have access to it. Switzerland held its own referendum to restrict Freedom of Movement which was duly passed. But the EU has insisted that this is not implemented, and Switzerland has had to comply simply in order to get the limited but highly lucrative ‘passporting’ of its insurers.
Freedom of Movement is integral to the working of the Single Market. The Norwegian, Swiss and British governments have all tried and failed to separate Freedom of Movement from the Single Market. They all failed. The EU is not intransigent. It simply cannot offer what is demanded without destroying the Single Market. If Britain wants the Single Market, which is currently vital to our prosperity, it will have to drop the delusion that it can negotiate away Freedom of Movement.
A “movement that’s big enough and strong enough to give the Tories and their ilk a kicking.” does not need these false friends of free movement and migrants.
Iglesias lo ha ganado todo: la secretaría general, la dirección y los cuatro documentos que se votaban: político, organizativo, ético y de igualdad. Como secretario general, ha sido refrendado por el 89% de los votos (128.700 sufragios) frente a los 15.700 del diputado autonómico andaluz Juan Moreno Yagüe (10,9%)
Iglesias has won everything…General secretary, the party leadership, and the vote on 4 party documents: on policies organisation, ethics and equality. As General Secreary he has been elected with 89% of the vote (128,700) faced with the 15,700 of his opponents, the Andalusian regional deputy, Jaun Moreno Yagüe who got 10,9%.
Pleading for “unity”, thousands of Podemos supporters gathered Saturday at a decisive two-day meeting in Madrid that could unseat the charismatic leader of one of Europe’s leading far-left parties.
Born in 2014 out of the Indignados anti-austerity protest movement that swept Spain during a severe economic crisis, the party has found itself riven by in-fighting after a meteoric rise to national-level politics.
But on Saturday, party leaders attempted to put these bitter divisions behind them as they took to the stage in a congress centre bathed in purple flags and banners, the colour of Podemos, in an electric atmosphere.
“We have committed many mistakes,” Pablo Iglesias, the party’s charismatic leader and co-founder, said while standing on stage behind huge block letters spelling out “Podemos”.
To wild applause, the 38-year-old added the weekend’s congress should be “an example of fraternity, unity and intelligence”.
Deutsche Welle reported,
The core internal party dispute is whether to stick to a hard-line leftist position, as advocated by Iglesias, or take a more moderate stance and move the party in the direction of the leftist political mainstream, a policy pushed by Errejon.
Iglesias wants to maintain Podemos’ anti-establishment roots and take to the streets again to challenge traditional parties.
Errejon seeks to find a middle ground with the Socialists (PSOE), the second-largest party, in order to influence policy from within the system and broaden Podemos’ appeal to moderate leftist voters.
A three-way coalition of Podemos, PSOE and the liberal Ciudadanos that could have challenged Mariano Rajoy’s ruling conservative People’s Party failed to materialize last year after two inconclusive elections.
A different perspective, which comes directly from a Tendency within Podemos, the Anticapitalistas (connected to the Fourth International), sees three currents within Podemos.
Iglesias, Errejón, and the Road Not Taken. Josep María Antentas. (International Viewpoint 2017).
“The three factions within Podemos are represented by Pablo Iglesias, Íñigo Errejón, and the Anticapitalistas.”
These three currents all have radically different political projects. We can define Iglesias’s as pragmatic-instrumental populism mixed with impatient Eurocommunism, which differs in form from the original iteration by embracing the prospect of electoral victory. His combination of rebellious rhetoric with a moderate governmental horizon takes the Italian Communist Party’s Berlinguer era “historic compromise” with the Christian Democrats as its primary model — the policy of the historical compromise. Indeed, Iglesias uncritically embraces this legacy, failing to critically assess Syriza’s experience in this context.
We might summarize Iglesias’s proposal as belligerence in opposition, raison d’etat in government. In this sense, he maintains his orientation toward moderation but has realized that Podemos’s strength lies in its appearance as an anti-establishment force. As such, if the party were tamed, it would lose its social base, which Iglesias mainly anchors in the working and popular classes.
Iglesias’s proposal prioritizes electoral and institutional activity. In contrast to his position at Vistalegre, however, social struggle now at least plays a role in the strategy. His fiery discourse and praise for social struggle have created a better environment for radical and movement-oriented ideas within the party. Suddenly, those who had called for something other than the triad of “communication–campaigns–institutions” recognize that the general secretary had been partially converted. No doubt, this is a valuable change of atmosphere.
On the other hand, Íñigo Errejón’s political project is built on constructivist populism and aims to normalize Podemos. It calls for a peaceful transition in which the exhausted traditional parties are replaced with something new, exchanging elites, and very little else. Errejón wants to connect with the generational aspirations of young and middle-aged people, who are frustrated and broken by the crisis.
Errejón and his supporters’ call for “transversality” has swung between a serious discussion about building a new political majority and an excuse to smooth over all traces of radicalism. Behind this core idea lies a project mainly aimed at the middle classes, using post-class rhetoric to emphasize meritocracy and to call for a smooth transition toward a better future. It is focused at an amorphous political center that has become the imagined center of gravity for the people.
The rationale is to attract “the missing ones,” meaning to win over the voters who are not yet convinced that Podemos is trustworthy enough to run the Spanish state. As a result, it takes for granted that current Podemos voters will always remain loyal. However, they are likely to demobilize if the party forgets about them in its quest for respectability.
Podemos has at least one other important current: the Anticapitalistas, which has sponsored the Podemos en Movimiento list at the upcoming congress. A key player since the beginning, Anticapitalistas’s strategy has always been to create a party built on the political potential that emerged up after 15-M, not only in terms of the electoral opportunity that had opened but also in terms of the new possibility for radical political and social change. The Anticapitalistas project attempts to synthesize radicalism’s ambition with building a majority.
Anticapitalistas has served as a movement party within Podemos. As such, it opposed the Vistalegre model that tried to transform 15-M’s legacy into electoral victory. It is organized around internal democracy and rank-and-file empowerment, focusing on external campaigns rather than internal quarrels. Its strategic perspective sees victory as a dialectical combination of self-organization, mobilization, elections, and institutional work — something deeper than just winning elections. To build this, Anticapitalistas has emphasized program discussions, which would allow the party to present serious alternative policies. Questions like debt and the banking system have centered these debates, trying to learn from Syriza’s fiasco — something Podemos’s leadership has always refused to do.
Working against the party’s main current since the beginning, this political wing has been central to Podemos’s trajectory, despite its small institutional power which has only weakened after Podemos’s expansion after the 2014 European election when Iglesias and Errejón were on the rise.
The Iglesias’ Triumph leaves a number of problems unresolved.
As Jamie Pastor notes (Etat espagnol. Podemos et le Congrès de Vistalegre II : se refonder sans se dénaturer from the Ensemble site, translated from Viento Sur, linked to the Anticapitalistas) the underlying ‘populist’ strategy of Podemos rests on “constructing a people” facing the ‘elites’ (the famous ‘casta’). Yet in reality they have moved in the direction of giving priority to opposing the Right (the ruling PP and Ciudadanos).
Their alliance with the left bloc, Izquierda Unida, Unidos Podemos known as Podemos–IU, for the 2016 General Election, underpins a strategy that aims to assemble the Spanish left, that is focused on electoral majorities, rather than, some critics allege, the famous “transversality”.
This concept may be explained in this way,
Transversality can be understood as the act of building majorities. Not electoral majorities per se, but social majorities made up of identities based on common goals; building inclusive identities adapted to today’s society. An example is that of the identity of “working class”, which was a necessary identity when they were organizing to overcome their class conditions 50 years ago, but which is not appropriate to the modern world.
Podemos’ approach (strongly influenced by the political theorist, the academic Ernesto Laclau) to ‘constructing the people’ has been over and above this stand, a constant As Pastor states it has become an interchangeable concept with the people (lower case), the nation, and the ‘citizens’ and has tended to give priority to the middle class as a point of reference. (“une idée du « peuple » a été maintenue de manière interchangeable avec « les gens », « la patrie » ou « les citoyens ». Une conception qui a eu comme tendance de privilégier la classe moyenne comme référence).
By treating the ‘working class’ as an identity, this approach draws on a simplified version of Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). For those who follow this stand, left politics, in a ‘post-Marxist’ age, is about bringing together a variety of democratic struggles (arising from social contradictions), articulated in a hegemonic project. In more recent times this has come to mean that ‘constructing the People’ takes in a variety of groups antagonistic to the dominant power bloc (la casta…), in a common figure. This is a – hegemony building process of assembling them around a new content in the ’empty signifier’ of democracy, and taking ‘floating signifiers’, such as the People itself) into a movement. One can see that this way of doing politics easily avoids structural issues of class (not necessarily registered as ‘identities’), and lends itself to the worst aspects of Populism, that is, identifying one group (us) as the People, and the ‘others’ as the non or anti-People with no democratic legitimacy.
Or as Pastor argues, drawing on a contradictory set of constituencies and list of demands to win support for a catch-all party. Some allege that the power of the grassroots, in the celebrated “Círculos” (local assemblies) has been weakened by a leadership which holds controls in a vertical structure presided over by leading ‘strategists’.
In dealing with Spain’s diverse national groups, they have come up with a concept of “plurinationalité ” but, despite affirmations of the equality between national identities and groups, this “patriotisme plurinational” runs into obvious contradictions.
Above all, we are left, after the aspiration to govern has failed (agreement with the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE has proved impossible, and undesirable) with the problem of unity around Iglesias’ “charismatic leadership“
Will a ‘populist’ party leader with this overwhelming mandate be in a mood to tolerate pluralism within Podemos?