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John Wight Goes Russia Today: RT is “winning” the argument.

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Post-Split Wight Planned Fight Club Musical. 

Þe borȝ brittened and brent to brondeȝ and askez..

..the burg broken and burnt to brands and ashes..

After Newshound Howie revealed the split in Socialist Unity noted Pugilist John Wight was said to be distraught.

Word reached us that he had been seen sleeping in a kailyard under a pile of old Soviet Weeklies.

Others claimed to have noticed him in ancient shuin accosting passers-by in Dundee with tales of how he “used to be John Wight’.

Taking inspiration from Oor Wullie and George Galloway’s project to make a Dusty Springfield musical  he was said to be planning a “comeback” with a scheme to turn Fight Club into song and bring it to the West End.

Now we know that his future is not so bleak.

Last night on RT Wight made an impassioned speech, defending the broadcaster against the Henry Jackson’s report, Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia.

Challenging the claim that, RT uses ““those on the left who can be relied upon to stand up for the West’s enemies whoever and wherever they may be, and those on the right who see Moscow as a defender of conservative values.” Wight declared that the channel is “winning” the argument.

Indeed.

Wight’s latest writing shows how:

Putin’s 2015 UN speech on ‘multipolar world’ coming to fruition John Wight Russia Today 20th of November.

Just over a year on from Putin’s address to the UN and ISIS is on the way to being defeated, Syria’s survival as a non-sectarian secular state is assured, and a new US president, pledging to reset relations with Moscow, has just been elected.

How the world has changed.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

Brexit: Poll provides evidence, says Counterfire, for how right Counterfire and the Brexit Left‘s strategy is.

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Kevin Ovenden – now with Counterfire – on the Actuality of the Brexit Revolution.

Brexit: new poll provides evidence for the Brexit left‘s strategy.

Writes Kevin Ovenden for Counterfire.

(Note some of the wording has been, in the interests of clarity, abbreviated)

  • Just 22 percent of people are in favour of ignoring the referendum outcome or holding a second one and blocking the Brexit process.
  • Brexit is the top issue both for those who voted Leave and for Remain.
  • While there is clearly an urgent need to develop campaigning and struggles against the government on a range of issues (the health service and housing stand out, alongside racism and xenophobia), strategically and politically for the left and labour movement the question of Brexit cannot be evaded. NOTE: Ovenden sees no link between these issues and the Brexit he backs. 
  • support for carrying through the referendum result is overwhelming.
  • That is terrain upon which the labour movement can provide a credible and radical alternative to the Tory Brexit.
  • When people are asked to choose between reducing immigration or doing what is best for the British economy (with the two counterposed) – 65 percent choose what’s best for the economy and 35 percent to reduce immigration. Among Leave voters, the figures are 44 percent and 56 percent.
    That shows the greater salience of the anti-immigration argument among Leave voters. But still 44 percent of them would choose to prioritise the economy over reducing immigration.

So people prefer the economy, and will let immigration remain in second place.

They are merely second preference racists.

Ovenden dialectically deduces from these figures the following (and I have omitted no intermediate stage).

In a choice between Britain controlling its own laws and British companies having access to other markets, the figures are 62 percent for controlling laws and 38 percent prioritising companies’ market access.

Taken together these support a strategy for the left on these questions which is 1) for an economy which is geared to people, not to companies, 2) on that basis (as well as others) challenging the anti-immigration arguments, and 3) firmly rooted in an expanded notion of popular democracy.

I will, ignore the idea of an “economy geared to people”, since in the realm of cliches and meaningless assertions this has few rivals.

Instead we might ask: what exactly that expanded notion of “popular democracy” (no doubt opposed to unpopular demcoracy)  is, we leave it to theorists to discover.

People believe there should be Brexit. They think it is the democratic thing to do. They have no confidence in the government’s handling of it. They are uncertain about the outcomes or what it should look like. When forced to choose, they will put economic well-being above anti-immigration propaganda and some notion of democracy and self-rule above the global fortunes of British companies.

Again ‘economic well-being’ is no doubt counterposed to economic ill-being.

As for the “democratic thing to do” and “self-rule”, does this mean, a decision-fired parliament, greater assertiveness fnational sovereignty, backing a populist party to carry out their wishes? Or – simply urging the Tories to get on with it. 

He seems to think, nevertheless, that because many people want Brexit, that the Tories are finding it hard to get through the legislative process – he does not even bother mentioning negotiations with the European Union – they will turn to something different, something that the left might favour, an  “expanded notion of popular democracy”.

Expanded into what? 

New forms of law-making, Web democracy, consensus decision-making, voting by hand-signals, demonstrations, occupations, or  perhaps…. soviets…..

Ovenden fails to elaborate.

On this he is sure.

In that context, there are good grounds for the left counterposing our Brexit to the Tories’.

Next stop… the People’s Brexit writes Lindsey German.

Cho, Cho!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Marine Le Pen ‘CAN win’ French presidency after Trumpquake, says British Far-Right ‘Daily Express’.

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Image result for marine le pen Trump caricature

2017 Nightmare: Presidents Le Pen, Trump and Putin (Financial Times).

The far-right British ‘newspaper’, the Daily Express, asserts,

Marine Le Pen ‘CAN win’ French presidency after Trumpquake

DONALD Trump’s election and Britain’s Brexit have paved the way for Marine Le Pen’s Front National to win the French election.

Immediately after Trump was declared the 45th president of the USA Le Pen said: “Nothing is immutable. What has happened this night is not the end of the world, it’s the end of a world.”

And Le Pen’s chief strategist, Florian Philippot, tweeted: “Their world is collapsing, ours is being built.”

Like Trump Ms Le Pen is a populist nationalist and a right wing political outsider. They have similar views on immigration.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Wednesday said Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election was “good news” for France reports France 24.

“I repeat, the election of Donald Trump is good news for our country,” said Le Pen, who will be the anti-immigration National Front’s candidate in France’s 2017 presidential election.

Le Pen, 48, was one of the first French politicians to react to Trump’s stunning victory.

“Congratulations to the new president of the United States Donald Trump and to the free American people!” she said.

Marine Le Pen outlined the real parallels between her Party’s programme and Trump’s. They are not, centrally, a ‘tough’ stand on immigration, but concern the assertion of national political and economic ‘sovereignty’ against ‘globalisation’.

In her brief remarks, Le Pen said a Trump White House would assure that the sweeping Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU would be rejected.

She added that “more generally, wild globalisation” would be tamed, and she predicted that international relations would improve, “notably with Russia”.

Le Pen said Trump would rein in “the warlike interventions that are the source of the huge migratory waves that we are enduring”.

If Trump keeps to his pledges, they will be “beneficial for France,” she said.

Libération notes in that Marine Le Pen’s  hopes to imitate Trump may not work out. (Marine Le Pen espère imiter Trump en 2017)

In moving from a  position of saying “anybody but Hillary Clinton” (Tout sauf Hillary Clinton) to her present enthusiasm the Front National has to confront one fact:  in polls before the US election 86% of French people preferred Clinton to Trump.

The Trump triumph has weighed heavily on the minds and speeches of other contenders for next year’s French Presidential election.

Today’s Le Monde reports that, « Ce qui est possible aux Etats-Unis est possible en France » – what is possible in the US is possible in France, said, Jacques Chirac’ former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. (Quand Trump pèse sur la présidentielle française)

President Hollande began by stating that this election has created a period of  great “uncertainty”.

Right-wing socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has judged that Trump’s victory shows the need for borders (le besoin de frontières) regulating immigration (réguler l’immigration) and the need, as well, to better distributed wealth and to protect the middle classes who are worried about their declining social position (Le besoin aussi de mieux distribuer les richesses, le besoin de protection pour les classes moyennes qui vivent ce sentiment de déclassement)  (Le Monde).

The National Secretary of the Socialist Party, and former Trotskyist Jean-Christophe Cambadélis,  states,

« Le national populisme plus ou moins xénophobe hante le monde occidental avec sa peur du déclassement, du remplacement et du métissage. Orban, Brexit, l’AfD en Allemagne, et maintenant Trump ! La gauche française est prévenue : elle continue ses enfantillages irresponsables et c’est Le Pen. »

National Populism, more less xenophobic, is haunting the Western world, with its fear of losing class and racial mixing. Orban, Brexit, the German Afd, and now Trump! The French left has been warned: if it continues its infantile disorder (Note: my translation, others put this as ‘irresponsible squabbling’), it will let Pen in.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign is particularly noted for  trying to climb on the Trump bandwagon.

Sarkozy, Trump, même combat contre la «pensée unique» (Libération).

Sarkozy’s campaigners claim to be against the liberal multicultural ‘elite’, the ‘correct’ way of thinking, for a firm control of immigration, heightened security against terrorist threats, and to be the spokesperson for the ‘silent majority’ (majorité silencieuse ). The link with Trump does however suffer from the fact that as long ago as ….March this year he dismissed the would-be Presient as without interest marked by  “populisme” and  “vulgarité”.

Sarkozy is, despite his ‘defence’ of the Nation and hostility to immigration, not opposed to Globalisation, or in favour of protectionism, or wishes France to have its own ‘Frexit’. and leave the EU.

He is also trailing in the polls behind the more centrist Alain Juppé to become the French right’s presidential candidate in 2017.

To return to the FN: Marine Le Pen is not given to making the same relentless torrent of outrageous sexist, racist remarks,  mixed up with sheer stupidity as Trump.

As France 24 also observes,

Le Pen is continuing her drive to sanitise the FN’s image.

Gone is the overt anti-Semitism and race-baiting of the past — her rhetoric on Muslims and migrants is softer yet still resonates in a country and on a continent reeling from an unprecedented terror threat and the Syrian crisis.

But she cannot escape her father’s embarrassing comments that the Nazi gas chambers are a “detail of history” and her party’s pledge to pull France out of the euro has drawn scorn from economists.

The FN has blamed the EU for much of France’s ills and pushed for a “Frexit” referendum on France’s EU membership.

Last year, the party topped the poll in regional elections with 28 percent.

Although Marine Le Pen has certainly won a lot of attention after the Trump result (TRUMP : L’ONDE DE CHOC PROFITE À MARINE LE PEN) opinion polls have yet to register a change in her rating, between  26 to 30 %.

The prospect of a defeat in the Second Round of the  Presidential election next May remains, for the moment, probable.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 10, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Sarah Palin, Trump Victory “inspired by Brexit” and “we don’t want this globalism.”

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“Hookin’ up” with Brexiteers against “Globalism”. 

Sarah Palin has responded to Donald Trump winning the White House by likening it to the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“Well, see, Great Britain and America, see how we’re hooking up now?” she told the Associated Press at a Trump rally as the results rolled in.

“We’re going rogue and saying, you know, the people are going to take back control of our governance.”

Ms Palin continued: “Really, we’re going to be able to say, no, we don’t want this globalism […]

“We can’t be telling other countries, other nations how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.

“So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders, just like you all have done, especially recently.”

Reports the Independent.

The Daily Mail is enthusiastic. They continue the story,

Sarah Palin says Donald Trump’s sensational win was inspired by Brexit and said: ‘Britain – we’re going rogue and the people are taking back control’. 

The billionaire tycoon Donald Trump is set to be the next president of the United States after voters gambled on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’.

It was a similar message to the one used by Brexiteers who successfully convinced voters that Britain’s future was brighter outside the European Union.

Ms Palin, a former beauty queen turned Republican politician, said this spirit had spread across the Atlantic and bolstered Trump’s campaign.

James Corden, now also a big star in the United States, tweeted he had ‘Brexit feelings’ as it became clear Trump would win.

..

Speaking at the Trump Rally in New York she said: ‘See Great Britain! America! See how we’re hookin’ up now?

‘We’re going rogue and the people are going to take back control.

‘We’re going to be able to say we don’t want this globalism, and we can’t be telling other countries how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.

‘So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders just like you all have done especially recently.’

It came as Nigel Farage booked himself onto the first plane to America from London this morning to meet his friend Donald Trump.

..

….he’s already thought of a role he could fulfill: President Trump’s ambassador to the EU.

Not to be outdone by Trump, Palin and Farage, the People’s Assembly is said to be preparing its own People’s Brexit march, according to RSL 21 (Is a People’s Brexit possible? Seb Cooke).

There are signs that The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will look to organise an event around the theme of a ‘People’s Brexit’.

As the People’s Assembly will be mobilising and using trade union and labour movement resources for a pro-Brexit rally – pro- in the direction they want, a “People’s anti-European Union events, RSL warns against joining any anti-UKIP activity when Farage leads a pro-Brexit, march against the High Court,

There is a temptation to have a broad, anti-racist demo and campaign with whoever is opposed to Farage. This by its very nature could include several figures from the pro-EU centre. To be so broad, this movement would at best be non-committal about the idea of Britain leaving the EU and at worst have several elements seeking to overturn the vote.

…while Farage’s march will be racist, it has been called over Brexit and that is an important distinction we should make.

The pro-Brexit ‘left’ now claims that their demand for open borders (outbidding the existing EU freedom of movement, in a universal call to tear down frontiers) will protect them from accusations that they have joined in with the likes of Trump, Palin, and Farage,

But as Mark Boothroyd notes  (Brexit ushers in a Carnival of Reaction),

The response to the Leave vote by pro-Leave leftists of increased attempts at migrant solidarity work are welcome, but they rarely confront the point that this activism is necessitated by the very victory of the Leave campaign, and these effects were warned about by pro-Remain activists. Failing to acknowledge what is driving the attacks that they  were warned were coming in the event of a Leave victory, is shortsighted and politically dishonest, and leaves unanswered the bigger questions as to what stance to take towards the ongoing Brexit negotiations and its effects on migrants.

One could say that there is equally a logic in Palin’s cries against ‘globalisation’ and a wing of the anti-globalisation left. Their demand for ‘no-borders’ cannot be taken seriously when the refuse to recognise the side they have chosen: the Brexit side, for National Sovereignty against ‘globalisaiton’.

The ex-SWP faction concludes that they think many left-wing Remain supporters will accept that they should work with the strategy of the ‘left’ Leave campaign

will be open to working on the basis of a left wing exit from the EU even if they remain pro-EU.

Cautiously they note that some will not.

They

can’t support a People’s Brexit platform because they simply don’t want any Brexit ever.

Oddly many on the left are going to say to the – ineffectual, declining and marginalised –  People’s Assembly leadership (another ex-SWP faction, Counterfire): we don’t want Brexit. 

I suppose in the supple tactical minds of anybody who’s been in the SWP the whirl of constantly changing campaigns is part of the political culture. One day for hysterical Stand up UNKIP campaigns. The next for a refusal to do anything but lie down as UKIP marches to British ‘independence’ and Trump.

These revolutionaries take their cue not from Marxism but from Vautrin, Jacques Collin,  Trompe-la-Mort, one of the central characters of Balzac’s Comédie humaine.

This one of his best known statements, (Le Père Goroit),

 Vautrin : « Il n’y a pas de principes, il n’y a que des évènements ; il n’y a pas de lois, il n’y a que des circonstances : l’homme supérieur épouse les évènements et les circonstances pour les conduire. »

There are no principles, there are only events; there are no laws, there are only circumstances: the superior man shapes his conduct to  fit events and conditions. 

 

Update: Globalisation is dead, and white supremacy has triumphed.  

You’re going to hear a lot of wailing from the left about our “disconnection” with the values of “ordinary working-class people”. It is bullshit – both as a fact and an explanation of what’s happened. In every state in America there are working-class people staffing beleaguered abortion clinics, organising unions among migrant cleaners and Walmart workers.

Those who tell you the left has to somehow “reconnect” with people whose minds are full of white supremacy and misogyny must finish the sentence. By what means? By throwing our black brothers and sisters under a bus? Eighty years ago the poets and miners of the International Brigades did not march into battle saying: “Mind you, the fascists have got a point.”

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Susan Watkins, Casting Off. Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos. Assessing Brexit from the Left.

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Socialists must be internationalists even if their working classes are not; socialists must also understand the nationalism of the masses, but only in the way in which a doctor understands the weakness or the illness of his patient. Socialists should be aware of that nationalism, but, like nurses, they should wash their hands twenty times over whenever they approach an area of the Labour movement infected by it’.

Isaac Deutscher, On Internationals and Internationalism. Cited in The Left Against Europe. Tom Nairn. New Left Review. 1/75. 1971.

La terre nous donne une discipline, et nous sommes les prolongements des ancêtres

Nous sommes le produit d’une collectivité qui parle en nous. Que l’influence des ancêtres soit permanente, et les fils seront énergiques et droits, la nation une.

The soil gives us a discipline, and we are the extension over time of our ancestors….We are the product of a collective life which speaks in us. . May the influence of our ancestors be permanent, the sons of the soil vital and upstanding, the nation One.

La terre et les morts. Maurice Barrès. 1899. (1)

Susan Watkins, Casting Off (New Left Review 100. July-August 2016). Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos.  International Socialism. Issue: 151. 2016.)

Casting Off, in the latest New Left Review begins by observing that the “surprise” of the Leave vote in the June Referendum went against the wishes the “ruling class” “much of the intelligentsia” and “much of its youth”. In a choice expression she compares lamentations about the result on Facebook to a “Wailing Wall”. Those beating their brows at the loss of the EU Jerusalem “in one account” were full of “nightmares of xenophobia”. “Britons having ‘voted to make foreigner-hunting legal, if not an actual duty.’”. Many people in Europe, she notes, that is, Germans and French, were unconcerned. Only a third of Germans and a quarter of the French were “unhappy about Brexit”.

Was this the result of the “ressentiment”, bottled up rancour stewing amongst “globalisation’s losers”? An ” insurrectionary protest against neoliberalism, globalism and cultural contemp” as Paul Mason put it (le Monde Diplomatique. July.) ?  Or more simply was a revolt of the left-behind, spearheaded by the working class, the unemployed, the casualised, and the poor. In Brexit, Alex Callinicos has written that, “All the polls show that the poorer you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. This means that millions of working class voters have gone unrepresented by the mainstream of the labour movement”. He trumpets his own group, the SWP, which backed the Leave campaign on a ‘left’ basis (Left-Exit, lexit). “Lexit offered a political voice, albeit a small one, to working class people who wanted to reject the EU on a class basis.” (2)

Anti-Globalisation?

For Watkins the result was not a rebellion against the distant mechanisms of finance capital and the world market. It has domestic origins, in British government policies laid down since the 2008 banking crisis, Gordon Brown’s turn to fiscal rigour, and the Liberal Conservative Coalition’s austerity programme. As a result scare mongering about the potential negative effects on the economy of Brexit had little impact on those already at the bottom of the pile. In “the Leave districts that have been depressed since the 1970s, with gdp per capita less than half inner-London levels, and now hardest hit by cutbacks in services and benefits, bleakness and desperation appear to have trumped economic fear.” She continues. “Anti-globalisation, then? Of a sort, if globalisation means not just deindustrialisation and low pay but disenfranchisement and politically targeted austerity.” In the south the ‘anti-Globo stand was different, “Their economic interests had been carefully nurtured by the Cameron-Osborne governments and their vote was more purely ideological: fear of change overcome by reassertion of ex-imperial national identity. Britain had never been conquered by Germany, so why was it ceding powers to Brussels?”

In this vein both Watkins and Callinicos play down the role of xenophobia and, more specifically, anti-migrant worker sentiment, in the referendum. Both note the mainstream Remain campaign’s supporters, beginning with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s “talking tough” on migration. For Callinicos, “at least as powerful a force is likely to be an alienation from the economic and political elite crystallising the experience of 40 years of neoliberalism and nearly 10 years of crisis expressed in stagnant or falling wages, unemployment, dwindling social housing and a shrinking welfare state. The EU as the incarnation of neoliberalism and contempt for democracy is a perfect symbol of all these discontents. London, site of a global financial hub, may have voted to Remain”

The pair concur on one point, “….the main reason given by the bulk of Leave voters—49 per cent—was the notion that ‘decisions about the uk should be taken in the uk’, a more ambiguous formulation that could include democratic, sovereign and nationalist perspectives. “ (Watkins), “Lord Ashcroft’s referendum-day poll found that nearly 49 percent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, compared to 33 percent who gave the main reason for leaving that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” (Callinicos).

There are three central problems with these claims.

Racism.

Firstly, it is absurd to compare the Conservative Remain campaigners’ talk of ‘control’ of migration in the same breath as the blood-and-fire rhetoric of UKIP and their echo-chambers on the Leave side. To dismiss the issue by ranking its importance on the basis of an opinion poll is to assume that one motive trumped the other rather than coalescing with it.

As Kim Moody has argued, immigration was at the centre of the campaign. “A majority of all those who voted Leave ranked immigration and border control as their 1st or 2nd reason. Those in the top social rank were less likely to give this as their first reason than others, but all groups were the same for 2nd choice and all Leave voters put immigration high on their list. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic views were prevalent in all social groups. This is not meant to be a comforting conclusion.” (3) Furthermore, “One section of British corporate capital that threw its majority weight loudly behind Brexit was the daily press.” “The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Sun, all known for their anti-immigrant bias and with a combined daily circulation of just over 5 million, supported Brexit.”(Ibid)

It would not have taken long, a visit to the pub in less well-off areas, would suffice to hear people publicly repeating the right-wing tabloid’s anti-migrant propaganda melded with their own prejudiced anecdotes. Perhaps it would have taken longer to visit Ipswich market and see the UKIP placard carrying crew sitting on the benches ranting about Romanians. But such sights were not rare. Anywhere.

Few could doubt that cosmopolitan pro-European hipsters would shy from these displays. But what exactly drove the minority who followed Lexit to cast their ballots in the same way and how do their asses their achievement in bolstering the nationalist right? Callinicos asserts that “The emergence of the Lexit Campaign, advocating a left, internationalist opposition to the EU, was one of the successes of the referendum. Not because it swung a massive number of votes, but because it brought together a significant spectrum of forces on the radical left to campaign for a Leave vote on an anti-capitalist and anti-racist basis that (unlike some earlier left anti-EU campaigns) had no truck with migrant-bashing.” Really? Is the Socialist Party’s call for control (by trade unions?) of the entry of migrant labour, joined by the Morning Star-Communist Party of Britain, part of this “anti-racism”? Does the SWP really have that much in common with the CPB who push a barely revamped version of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy, completed – and why not? – with capital and import controls? Was it a ‘success’ to see New Left review, the SWP and all the others, cavort on a Camden stage in the company of a – suitably disguised – supporter of the French ‘Lambertist’ current, one-time Trotskyists who having sipped from that poisoned cup have become ultra-nationalists? (4)

Austerity.

Secondly, what were the “non-immigration” issues behind the Leave vote? Casting Off describes “the slow, still inchoate politicisation that had been taking place in the aftermath of the financial crisis”, and “the Exit vote would not have happened without the financial crisis and skewed, class-based recovery.” Callinicos talks more broadly of UKIP’s rise as part of “ordinary voters’ revulsion against the entire political and economic elite.” The “very unanimity of establishment opposition to Brexit is likely to have goaded many people into the Leave camp simply as an act of defiance.”

Absent is any account of the mass, country-wide, left and trade union austerity campaigns, co-ordinated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA) Had this no effect in channelling ressentiment against the ‘elite’ towards progressive solutions? Did its protests, marches, conferences, pickets and pressure on local councils, count for little?

It is true that their impact was decreasing in the run up to the Referendum. An April London March barely attracted 20,000 – despite the freedom that the end of Police estimates gave to the organisers to claim an attendance of 175,000 (in a half empty Trafalgar Square). Clearly this ‘incipient politicisation” has drained away in a different direction. A look at how the politics of protest are foundering might throw up the reflection that the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party indicates that political institutions can be the focus of change, rather than the street. The hard task of getting Labour local authorities to oppose austerity, not just because of the legacy of Blair’s accommodations, but as a result of an armour-plated legal budget controls over councils, has begun. The problems this turn to Labour creates for those, like Callinicos, and his former comrades in Counterfire, the majority of the active leadership of the PA, begin with the recognition that the Brexit vote as a “representation” of opinion, which more walking about in the roads, attempts to bathe in Corbyn’s reflected glory, and calls for general strikes, are unlikely to revolve.

Sovereigntism.

Thirdly, the Brexit result was a boost to sovereigntism, the belief that politics has to focus on nations, and on the ‘people’s’ control over the national body politic. In this respect Chantal Mouffe’s declaration that the vote was a “salutary shock” is less significant than her immediately following words. The Belgian political philosopher stated, “That’s because I am one of those so-called ‘left-wing Europeanists who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe” Pleasure with the damage to the City and neo-liberal forces is one thing, but what harm did this create to ‘sovereigntism”? (5)

The evidence against rash claim lives in Downing Street. Yet, against Mouffe for many it has reinforced the illusion, that in some form sovereigntism can be the basis of left politics. To cite the most obvious source of how far this ideology has crept into leftist circles: the conclusion of Mouffe’s  jointly-authored of Podemos (2016) Iñigo Errejón has called for the construction of a “..we the people “that demands sovereignty and a new social contract”. To build this we have “to think about the effective, mythical and cultural commonness of any identity construction”. Or, in an even more abstract vein, to follow Frédéric Lordon, politics based on “un commun passional” bound to “une certaine appartenance” (belonging) not to a hypostatised nationality but to “la nation politique” a political construction. (6) In other words, in contrast to Barrès, a newly minted sovereign feeling, without the clamour of ancestral voices, embodied in institutions. They would surely be able to take “decisions about the UK in the UK.” The evidence is that those appealing directly to the dead voices of our forbears, the racist populist right, have had more success in the sovereigntist venture.

Callinicos, with customary grace towards those who disagree with him, outlined the choices for the left at the start of the campaign, “between the neoliberal imperialist monstrosity that is the EU, strongly supported by the main echelons of British capital, and the xenophobic and racist Thatcherites that dominated the Leave campaigns.” In his conclusion he opines, no doubt to warn those not averted to the possibility, that British capitalism is “entering very stormy waters.” The defeat of an invigorated Tory party under Teresa May, at the helm of state, will doubtless be the coming work of a mass movement conjured from the depths.

Democratic Refoundation?

Those who chose to vote for the “monstrosity” as “not worse” may well still feel unhappy at the result – for all the tempests in the global capitalist oceans. Many of our legal rights, consolidated in EU law, are now to put to the test of a sovereign Parliament for which we have ambiguous passionate feelings. The democratic refoundation of Europe, if pursued, and developed by forces such as DiEM25, will take place without our directly interested participation. We risk becoming further stuck in our backwater.

But for others there is this consolation. Our “sub-imperial” “far from prefect Hayekian order” has taken a blow. Watkins speaks of a victory for British (English) nationalism, in a “a semi-sovereign state” Yet the defeat is clear, for several – scattered – targets, “ For now, though, it is plain that Blairised Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianised EU. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” (7)

The prospect of the “actuality of revolution” by “critics of the neoliberal order”, a “world-historic turn”….still leaves them shaking in their boots….

For the rest of us, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  expressed our view (Morning Star 12th of September),

The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.

******

(1) On Barrès and his concept of the “people” and nation see the illuminating, Le peuple chez Maurice Barrès, une entité insaisissable entre unité et diversité. Brigitte Kurlic. SensPublic. 2007.

(2). See also: The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. Issue: 148. 

(3) Was Brexit a Working-Class Revolt? Kim Moody. International Viewpoint. 14th of September 2016.

(4) Both the Morning Star’s CPB and SPEW advocate immigration controls and socialism in one country, notes Mike Macnair. Weekly Worker 15.9.2015. In report here: Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.

(5) A Salutary Shock. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. (From Mediapart 27th June 2016)

(6) Podemos. In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016. Imperium, Structures et affets des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.

(7) See: Prognoses. In: The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.

Podemos in Crisis: Some Background.

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Having failed to turn grassroots support into seats at June’s general election, the anti-austerity party faces a struggle over its response to the country’s power vacuum.

Sam Jones (Observer. Today.)

The party’s poor performance led to weeks of introspection that have further revealed the ideological tensions at its core. Most visible has been the rivalry between Iglesias and Podemos’s policy chief and number two, Iñigo Errejón. If Errejón has pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the PSOE, with a view to sharing power after December’s election, then Iglesias has gone out of his way to antagonise the Socialists, once memorably reminding parliament of the anti-Eta death squads that operated under the government of former PSOE leader Felipe González.

Now the growing tensions are coming to a head in Madrid, where competing factions are vying for control of Podemos’s birthplace and its future. On one side is Tania Sánchez, a former IU MP (Note: that is not from Podemos, but from the Communist-Green left bloc, Izquierda Unida) , who, along with Madrid councillor Rita Maestre, hopes to make the local party a more “friendly, female and decentralised” outfit.

Opposite them are the Iglesias loyalists, such as the party’s general secretary in the capital, Luis Alegre, who has long had a troubled relationship with the Errejónista faction.

To complicate things further, Sánchez, who is standing to be the party’s new leader in Madrid, is a former girlfriend of Iglesias, while Maestre used to go out with Errejón. In an attempt to head off the inevitable innuendo, both women put out a statement: “We are not girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, we are human beings who make our own decisions. We don’t need a man to help us or lead us … We’re protagonists who defend a Podemos for everyone.”

The Madrid story broke on the 15th of September in El País.

Anticapitalistas y activistas se suman a la disputa para liderar Podemos Madrid

El eurodiputado Miguel Urbán y 300 firmantes impulsan una alternativa a las de Mestre y Espinar.

En la disputa por el liderazgo de Podemos en la Comunidad de Madrid se perfilan al menos tres grandes opciones. El eurodiputado de la formación Miguel Urbán, que fue uno de los dirigentes determinantes en los inicios de Podemos, y 300 firmantes de la organización Anticapitalistas, activistas y militantes del partido quieren lanzar una candidatura para competir con las iniciativas promovidas por la portavoz del Ayuntamiento, Rita Maestre, y el del Senado, Ramón Espinar. Entre los impulsores de este proyecto, que llama a repensar Podemos, reconstruirlo desde las bases y reconectar con las calles se encuentran la abogada y diputada autonómica Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, el actor Alberto San Juan, los concejales de Ahora Madrid Pablo Carmona y Rommy Arce, Isabel Serra, que también es diputada regional y formó parte de la dirección autonómica ahora disuelta.

The essential is to know that the 300 signatories in the Madrid region, are led by the ‘anticapitalistas’, that is the group (linked with the Fourth International, and groups such as the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA)  and Ensemble in France and which has long criticised Podemos for its “vertical” hierarchy. They are challenging the Madrid leadership on the basis that the party structure needs reforming in order to connect with the ‘street’ (las calles) in place of  “marketing, de los políticos profesionales y de las estructuras orgánicas del partido.”

More details on the anticapitalista supporting site Viento Sur: Un Podemos para las y los que faltan. (The Podemos we need). Isabel Serra – Miguel Urbán

Long-standing criticisms such as this: Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party? Tendance Coatesy. (December 2014)

Reply from a supporter:

What do you think of the criticisms from the Left saying that even though Podemos has repositioned itself on the Left by hitching itself to Izquierda Unida, it remains too vertical and centralised?

I think these criticisms are unfair, particularly because they are often based on local experiences in Barcelona and Madrid, and you can’t just map the local terrain onto a national scale. Podemos has had to face four elections, and electoral campaigns don’t lend themselves to internal discussions. But they are very conscious that the “circles” must preserve their important role in the party’s functioning, and they are trying to reinvigorate them. That was notable during the recent campaign. And I am still struck by their extraordinary creativity. In presenting their programme in the form of an Ikea catalogue they not only achieved a media coup but managed to get the electorate who didn’t read party manifestos any more to pick them up again.

A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections. By Chantal Mouffe / 27 June 2016.

These are issues specific to Podemos though this is probably a very particular interpretation of their prospects, as is this (from left critics).

The latest is not the first internal dispute in the party.

Earlier this year Podemos’ leaders summarily removed their Number 3, Sergio Pascual.

Madrid had been the focus of disputes for some time – La crisis interna de Podemos en Madrid obliga a convocar un congreso regional.  (El País. 14th of June)

Following the always readable El País we find a more widespread judgement on Spain’s political crisis: that the country’s politicians are unable to share power with other parties or to make compromises beyond their immediate short-term interests.

Or, to put it more simply, like the UK, the country has no tradition of coalitions (the issue in dispute: agreement with the PSOE by Podemos).

The merits of this are, naturally, for the Spanish left to judge.

Meanwhile there is also this:  prosperous  Catalonia wishes to break with Spain’s poorer regions. (11th of September)

Catalan separatists rally to push for break from Spain

Tens of thousands of Catalans gathered to demand their region speed up its drive to break away from Spain

 See also: Podemos site (latest stories).

On the anticapitalista tendency:  Les anticapitalistes au sein de Podemos (August 2016).

This is a review of Coll, Andreu; Brais Fernández & Joseba Fernández (ed.) (2016), Anticapitalistasen Podemos, Construyendo poder popular. Barcelona, Sylone, 153 pag.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Putin as Abraham Lincoln: Counterpunch Bid to Outdo European Political Confusionionism.

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Image result for vladimir putin riding a shark

Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Abraham Lincoln says Counterpunch. 

Political confusionism is an ideological trend on the rise

As the word suggests (from the French leftists’ ‘confusionnisme‘:  see this site) is means the confused politics of merging left and right, of adding conspiracy theories to wild assertions, the anti-imperialism of fools to ‘anti-capitalism’, that goes in search of red-brown alliances, acknowledged or not.

Its starts with Israel, ‘anti-Zionism’, travels to Putin’s Russia (often), visits Syria, looks at the IMF, TTIP, Globalisation, Occupy Wall Street (what was that?), NATO (a bit boring this stuff..),  supports Lexit/Brexit, ‘sovereigntism’, and, hey presto, always gets back to Israel.

Counterpunch (a long time ago described as “left wing”) is the best known example of confusionism in the English-speaking world, though its echoes may be felt in, say the ramblings of British supporters of the idea that there’s a transnational Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. It is so easy to find confusionists at work on Twitter and Facebook that’s it barely worth bothering citing them,

US left-wingers (on the Marxism List and no doubt elsewhere) are up in arms about this article in this august journal of reference for international confusionism, patronised by such weighty figures as Tariq Ali and some people who should know better.

There seems to be series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs  and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W. Bush.

There follows some garbled ‘history’ about the unification of Germany, the Berlin to Bagdad railway, and the “convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Nelson W. Aldrich.” and the interesting information that ” differences between neocons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical.”

Quite.

Thereafter lost, we only resurface at this point,

In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint.

A brave thing to say.

Plunged again into the deepest confusionism we get this,

They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months. (1)

Althusser would not doubt endorse the view that backing for Bernie was proof of his theory of ideological state apparatuses. The Sander’s campaign showed capitalist “know-how”, the ” high priests of the ruling ideology” mould subject positions and domination for the “the reproduction of the conditions of production” within the Democratic Primaries.

Thank you for the warning about the way the Shachtmanites have colonised the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties).

We are now aware of how these misleader tout the ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence

Finally there is this,

We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws.

Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to NATO and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and white men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.” This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.

German dialectical thinking and, hop, we can see Putin’s challenge as a “progressive goal and challenge”.

It’s called the unity of opposites and the ‘aufheben’ of dialectical contradictions: the very rational kernel of the revolutionary programme of Counterpunch….

Inspired to back Putin and Assad, to the tune of Counterpunch new Battle Hymn of the Republic, Andrew, if I may call a fellow Andy, concludes,

The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.

Hats off Comrade Stewart.

It’s all kicking off, everywhere!

Update:

(1) We have been asked, what is Shachtmanism?

Shachtmanism is the form of Marxism associated with Max Shachtman. It has two major components: a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the Soviet Union and a third camp approach to world politics. Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communistcountries are a new ruling class distinct from the workers and reject Trotsky‘s description of Stalinist Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state“.

Confusionnisme.info

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm