Podemos in Crisis.
Left Socialist Blog
Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.
Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance.
Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.
One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years.
Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.)
So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task.
There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.
But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate. That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs.
If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good.
Politics Home states,
A senior Labour source said: “Clive punched a wall when he came off the stage because Seumas altered his speech on the autocue.
“He was fuming as he sent a post-it note on stage as he was sat there ready to speak and didn’t know what the exact change was. Apparently Clive had agreed it with Jeremy but Seumas changed it.”
The Huffington Post reports,
Former Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry and Lewis both co-chair the Trident review, which had been expected to resume its work as part of the new International Policy Commission, once fresh members and officers are appointed.
Lewis and Thornberry both abstained from the Commons vote on Trident renewal this year. Corbyn voted against.
Thornberry today told the BBC that the defence review was continuing.
And HuffPost has been told that the reason Lewis was angry was because he was already nervous about his first major conference speech, having been an MP for just over a year and in the defence job for a few months.
He did not object to any of the substance of the changes to his speech, but only to the last-minute nature of them, one source claimed.
Despite the last-minute watering down of his speech, CND was still furious that Lewis had declared party policy was to keep Trident rather than review it.
CND’s Kate Hudson accused him of a “U-turn”: “Lewis has clearly signalled that the Labour leadership will not seek to change Labour policy and appears to have abandoned its defence review conducted extensively over the past year.
“The majority of Labour members oppose Trident replacement, so where is the democracy in that?”
Green party leader and MP Caroline Lucas added: “It’s deeply disappointing to see the Labour party failing to oppose Trident replacement.”
But moderates welcomed the shift, with Labour MP John Woodcock saying: “The Trident vote is now behind us, the manufacturing work is going ahead and the matter is settled.
GMB On Trident Renewal Vote July the 18th 2016.
GMB Calls On Politicians To ‘Stop Playing Fast And Loose’ And Get On With Trident Renewal Government needs to push ahead with approval of the Trident successor programme to give stability and security to workers and industry says GMB.
Australian Islamists and Television Channel Falsified Stunt to Attack French Secularism.
The Seven Network and the pugnacious Muslim Aussie family it flew to the French Riviera with the aim of provoking beachgoers into a “racist” reaction to the “Aussie cossie” burkini owe the traumatised people of Nice and France a swift apology.
The cynical stunt pulled by the Sunday Night program, where it spirited Sydney hijab-proselytising medical student Zeynab Alshelh and her activist parents off to a beach near Nice to “show solidarity” with (radically conservative) Muslims, featured the 23-year-old flaunting her burkini in an obvious attempt to bait Gallic sun lovers into religious and ethnically motivated hatred. Except according to the French people filmed against their will, the claimed “chasing off the beach” that made international headlines never occurred because Seven used hidden camera tactics, selective editing and deliberate distortion to reach its predetermined conclusions.
This unethical exercise in journalism deliberately painted France as “hostile to Muslims” even though the most hostile countries in the world for Muslim women are places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where being female entails forcible veiling and the threat of punishment with the lash, prison or worse for flouting bans on driving, playing sport, committing “adultery” or doing much at all without a male guardian.
The manipulation is the latest example of calculated French-bashing fuelled by collusion between the goals of political Islam and compliant media outlets seeking culture clash cliches.
The article concludes:
Next time Seven should finance Zeynab Alshelh trying her luck taking off her veil in Saudi Arabia or Iran, or perhaps the trainee doctor could use hidden camera techniques in Egypt on doctors practising illegal female genital mutilation on the vast majority of little girls.
But as she confesses to Inquirer: “I’m not going to put myself in that kind of danger — and anyway, they are not preaching secularism (like France) they are just doing whatever they want to do.”
This is the origin of the Australian’s exposé, Nice-Matin:
La chaîne de télévision australienne Channel 7 a diffusé ce samedi la vidéo d’une femme en burkini se faisant “chasser” d’une plage de Villeneuve-Loubet par des baigneurs. Selon un témoin, la scène est montée de toute pièce.
The Australian television Channel 7 broadcast a video of a woman in a ‘burkini’ chased from a beach in Villeneuve-Loubet by the bathers. According to a witness the incident was a set up.
“Witnesses who spoke to Nice-Matin accused Seven of using hidden cameras, scripted dialogue and deliberately disruptive behaviour to get a reaction.”
“We could see it was being dramatised, it was too much to be true and it stank of a set-up.
“They put themselves right in the middle of the jet-ski corridor of the private beach. Because they were in the way of others, the owner of the beach came out and asked them to move.”
Another witness claimed the man who asked the crew to leave was her uncle, but he was actually asking the crew to stop filming him and his family.
“He never asked these three people to leave the beach. He spoke to the camera because he was asking the cameraman to leave,” the witness said.
“There were children on the beach, including our own, and we didn’t want them to be filmed.”
This the Channel denies, “Channel Seven denies French Burkini segment was ‘a set-up’.”
But a few days ago L’Express also indicated that in order to illustrate the anti-Muslim feeling in France the only French political figure interviewed was…..Lionel Tivoli, President of the Front National of the Municipal Council of Antibes. They cite the Mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca (of the right-wing, Les Républicains) expressing regret that the young woman was not well received, but asking why they chose to come to a place still under the shock of the Bastille Day (14th July) massacre at close-by Nice.
In August the Burkini Ban was removed from Villeneuve-Loubet, following the decision of the Conseil d’Etat.
Socialists must be internationalists even if their working classes are not; socialists must also understand the nationalism of the masses, but only in the way in which a doctor understands the weakness or the illness of his patient. Socialists should be aware of that nationalism, but, like nurses, they should wash their hands twenty times over whenever they approach an area of the Labour movement infected by it’.
Isaac Deutscher, On Internationals and Internationalism. Cited in The Left Against Europe. Tom Nairn. New Left Review. 1/75. 1971.
La terre nous donne une discipline, et nous sommes les prolongements des ancêtres
Nous sommes le produit d’une collectivité qui parle en nous. Que l’influence des ancêtres soit permanente, et les fils seront énergiques et droits, la nation une.
The soil gives us a discipline, and we are the extension over time of our ancestors….We are the product of a collective life which speaks in us. . May the influence of our ancestors be permanent, the sons of the soil vital and upstanding, the nation One.
La terre et les morts. Maurice Barrès. 1899. (1)
Casting Off, in the latest New Left Review begins by observing that the “surprise” of the Leave vote in the June Referendum went against the wishes the “ruling class” “much of the intelligentsia” and “much of its youth”. In a choice expression she compares lamentations about the result on Facebook to a “Wailing Wall”. Those beating their brows at the loss of the EU Jerusalem “in one account” were full of “nightmares of xenophobia”. “Britons having ‘voted to make foreigner-hunting legal, if not an actual duty.’”. Many people in Europe, she notes, that is, Germans and French, were unconcerned. Only a third of Germans and a quarter of the French were “unhappy about Brexit”.
Was this the result of the “ressentiment”, bottled up rancour stewing amongst “globalisation’s losers”? An ” insurrectionary protest against neoliberalism, globalism and cultural contemp” as Paul Mason put it (le Monde Diplomatique. July.) ? Or more simply was a revolt of the left-behind, spearheaded by the working class, the unemployed, the casualised, and the poor. In Brexit, Alex Callinicos has written that, “All the polls show that the poorer you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. This means that millions of working class voters have gone unrepresented by the mainstream of the labour movement”. He trumpets his own group, the SWP, which backed the Leave campaign on a ‘left’ basis (Left-Exit, lexit). “Lexit offered a political voice, albeit a small one, to working class people who wanted to reject the EU on a class basis.” (2)
For Watkins the result was not a rebellion against the distant mechanisms of finance capital and the world market. It has domestic origins, in British government policies laid down since the 2008 banking crisis, Gordon Brown’s turn to fiscal rigour, and the Liberal Conservative Coalition’s austerity programme. As a result scare mongering about the potential negative effects on the economy of Brexit had little impact on those already at the bottom of the pile. In “the Leave districts that have been depressed since the 1970s, with gdp per capita less than half inner-London levels, and now hardest hit by cutbacks in services and benefits, bleakness and desperation appear to have trumped economic fear.” She continues. “Anti-globalisation, then? Of a sort, if globalisation means not just deindustrialisation and low pay but disenfranchisement and politically targeted austerity.” In the south the ‘anti-Globo stand was different, “Their economic interests had been carefully nurtured by the Cameron-Osborne governments and their vote was more purely ideological: fear of change overcome by reassertion of ex-imperial national identity. Britain had never been conquered by Germany, so why was it ceding powers to Brussels?”
In this vein both Watkins and Callinicos play down the role of xenophobia and, more specifically, anti-migrant worker sentiment, in the referendum. Both note the mainstream Remain campaign’s supporters, beginning with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s “talking tough” on migration. For Callinicos, “at least as powerful a force is likely to be an alienation from the economic and political elite crystallising the experience of 40 years of neoliberalism and nearly 10 years of crisis expressed in stagnant or falling wages, unemployment, dwindling social housing and a shrinking welfare state. The EU as the incarnation of neoliberalism and contempt for democracy is a perfect symbol of all these discontents. London, site of a global financial hub, may have voted to Remain”
The pair concur on one point, “….the main reason given by the bulk of Leave voters—49 per cent—was the notion that ‘decisions about the uk should be taken in the uk’, a more ambiguous formulation that could include democratic, sovereign and nationalist perspectives. “ (Watkins), “Lord Ashcroft’s referendum-day poll found that nearly 49 percent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, compared to 33 percent who gave the main reason for leaving that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” (Callinicos).
There are three central problems with these claims.
Firstly, it is absurd to compare the Conservative Remain campaigners’ talk of ‘control’ of migration in the same breath as the blood-and-fire rhetoric of UKIP and their echo-chambers on the Leave side. To dismiss the issue by ranking its importance on the basis of an opinion poll is to assume that one motive trumped the other rather than coalescing with it.
As Kim Moody has argued, immigration was at the centre of the campaign. “A majority of all those who voted Leave ranked immigration and border control as their 1st or 2nd reason. Those in the top social rank were less likely to give this as their first reason than others, but all groups were the same for 2nd choice and all Leave voters put immigration high on their list. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic views were prevalent in all social groups. This is not meant to be a comforting conclusion.” (3) Furthermore, “One section of British corporate capital that threw its majority weight loudly behind Brexit was the daily press.” “The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Sun, all known for their anti-immigrant bias and with a combined daily circulation of just over 5 million, supported Brexit.”(Ibid)
It would not have taken long, a visit to the pub in less well-off areas, would suffice to hear people publicly repeating the right-wing tabloid’s anti-migrant propaganda melded with their own prejudiced anecdotes. Perhaps it would have taken longer to visit Ipswich market and see the UKIP placard carrying crew sitting on the benches ranting about Romanians. But such sights were not rare. Anywhere.
Few could doubt that cosmopolitan pro-European hipsters would shy from these displays. But what exactly drove the minority who followed Lexit to cast their ballots in the same way and how do their asses their achievement in bolstering the nationalist right? Callinicos asserts that “The emergence of the Lexit Campaign, advocating a left, internationalist opposition to the EU, was one of the successes of the referendum. Not because it swung a massive number of votes, but because it brought together a significant spectrum of forces on the radical left to campaign for a Leave vote on an anti-capitalist and anti-racist basis that (unlike some earlier left anti-EU campaigns) had no truck with migrant-bashing.” Really? Is the Socialist Party’s call for control (by trade unions?) of the entry of migrant labour, joined by the Morning Star-Communist Party of Britain, part of this “anti-racism”? Does the SWP really have that much in common with the CPB who push a barely revamped version of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy, completed – and why not? – with capital and import controls? Was it a ‘success’ to see New Left review, the SWP and all the others, cavort on a Camden stage in the company of a – suitably disguised – supporter of the French ‘Lambertist’ current, one-time Trotskyists who having sipped from that poisoned cup have become ultra-nationalists? (4)
Secondly, what were the “non-immigration” issues behind the Leave vote? Casting Off describes “the slow, still inchoate politicisation that had been taking place in the aftermath of the financial crisis”, and “the Exit vote would not have happened without the financial crisis and skewed, class-based recovery.” Callinicos talks more broadly of UKIP’s rise as part of “ordinary voters’ revulsion against the entire political and economic elite.” The “very unanimity of establishment opposition to Brexit is likely to have goaded many people into the Leave camp simply as an act of defiance.”
Absent is any account of the mass, country-wide, left and trade union austerity campaigns, co-ordinated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA) Had this no effect in channelling ressentiment against the ‘elite’ towards progressive solutions? Did its protests, marches, conferences, pickets and pressure on local councils, count for little?
It is true that their impact was decreasing in the run up to the Referendum. An April London March barely attracted 20,000 – despite the freedom that the end of Police estimates gave to the organisers to claim an attendance of 175,000 (in a half empty Trafalgar Square). Clearly this ‘incipient politicisation” has drained away in a different direction. A look at how the politics of protest are foundering might throw up the reflection that the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party indicates that political institutions can be the focus of change, rather than the street. The hard task of getting Labour local authorities to oppose austerity, not just because of the legacy of Blair’s accommodations, but as a result of an armour-plated legal budget controls over councils, has begun. The problems this turn to Labour creates for those, like Callinicos, and his former comrades in Counterfire, the majority of the active leadership of the PA, begin with the recognition that the Brexit vote as a “representation” of opinion, which more walking about in the roads, attempts to bathe in Corbyn’s reflected glory, and calls for general strikes, are unlikely to revolve.
Thirdly, the Brexit result was a boost to sovereigntism, the belief that politics has to focus on nations, and on the ‘people’s’ control over the national body politic. In this respect Chantal Mouffe’s declaration that the vote was a “salutary shock” is less significant than her immediately following words. The Belgian political philosopher stated, “That’s because I am one of those so-called ‘left-wing Europeanists who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe” Pleasure with the damage to the City and neo-liberal forces is one thing, but what harm did this create to ‘sovereigntism”? (5)
The evidence against rash claim lives in Downing Street. Yet, against Mouffe for many it has reinforced the illusion, that in some form sovereigntism can be the basis of left politics. To cite the most obvious source of how far this ideology has crept into leftist circles: the conclusion of Mouffe’s jointly-authored of Podemos (2016) Iñigo Errejón has called for the construction of a “..we the people “that demands sovereignty and a new social contract”. To build this we have “to think about the effective, mythical and cultural commonness of any identity construction”. Or, in an even more abstract vein, to follow Frédéric Lordon, politics based on “un commun passional” bound to “une certaine appartenance” (belonging) not to a hypostatised nationality but to “la nation politique” a political construction. (6) In other words, in contrast to Barrès, a newly minted sovereign feeling, without the clamour of ancestral voices, embodied in institutions. They would surely be able to take “decisions about the UK in the UK.” The evidence is that those appealing directly to the dead voices of our forbears, the racist populist right, have had more success in the sovereigntist venture.
Callinicos, with customary grace towards those who disagree with him, outlined the choices for the left at the start of the campaign, “between the neoliberal imperialist monstrosity that is the EU, strongly supported by the main echelons of British capital, and the xenophobic and racist Thatcherites that dominated the Leave campaigns.” In his conclusion he opines, no doubt to warn those not averted to the possibility, that British capitalism is “entering very stormy waters.” The defeat of an invigorated Tory party under Teresa May, at the helm of state, will doubtless be the coming work of a mass movement conjured from the depths.
Those who chose to vote for the “monstrosity” as “not worse” may well still feel unhappy at the result – for all the tempests in the global capitalist oceans. Many of our legal rights, consolidated in EU law, are now to put to the test of a sovereign Parliament for which we have ambiguous passionate feelings. The democratic refoundation of Europe, if pursued, and developed by forces such as DiEM25, will take place without our directly interested participation. We risk becoming further stuck in our backwater.
But for others there is this consolation. Our “sub-imperial” “far from prefect Hayekian order” has taken a blow. Watkins speaks of a victory for British (English) nationalism, in a “a semi-sovereign state” Yet the defeat is clear, for several – scattered – targets, “ For now, though, it is plain that Blairised Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianised EU. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” (7)
The prospect of the “actuality of revolution” by “critics of the neoliberal order”, a “world-historic turn”….still leaves them shaking in their boots….
For the rest of us, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, expressed our view (Morning Star 12th of September),
The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.
(1) On Barrès and his concept of the “people” and nation see the illuminating, Le peuple chez Maurice Barrès, une entité insaisissable entre unité et diversité. Brigitte Kurlic. SensPublic. 2007.
(2). See also: The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. Issue: 148.
(3) Was Brexit a Working-Class Revolt? Kim Moody. International Viewpoint. 14th of September 2016.
(4) Both the Morning Star’s CPB and SPEW advocate immigration controls and socialism in one country, notes Mike Macnair. Weekly Worker 15.9.2015. In report here: Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.
(5) A Salutary Shock. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. (From Mediapart 27th June 2016)
(6) Podemos. In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016. Imperium, Structures et affets des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.
(7) See: Prognoses. In: The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.
Responses to: The Battle for The Labour Party: Channel 4 Dispatches
The programme said it had uncovered fresh evidence that Corbyn-backing grassroots group Momentum is being influenced by “hard left revolutionaries”.
It said one has advocated a “flood” of leftists into Labour while others back mandatory reselection of anti-Corbyn MPs.
Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum’s Steering Committee but has recently been expelled by Labour for links to hard-left group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), was filmed at a Party meeting holding a copy of an AWL newspaper bearing the headline: “Flood the Labour Party .”
Footage shows her saying: “In 30 odd years of being politically active, I don’t think I can remember a time, apart from the miner’s strike, a time as exciting as this.
“If you haven’t already joined the Labour party, then you should join. If you haven’t already joined Momentum then you must join. We have to fight to shape the way the Momentum develops and the way the Labour party develops”
A Momentum spokesperson said: “Momentum membership is open to members, affiliates and supporters of the Labour Party and not open to members of other parties, those hostile to Labour or those that do not share Momentum’s objectives. All members must declare that they “support the aims and values of the Labour Party and (are) not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”
In a statement to Dispatches, Jill Mountford said: “We are open, honest socialists looking to discuss big ideas on how to create a better, fairer world for everyone.”
Momentum founder Jon Lansman said Ms Mountford was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Momentum.
Zac Goldsmith says Dispatches’ ‘weak’ investigation of Momentum will only help Jeremy Corbyn.
Conservative MP calls media impartiality into question. Independent.
Apart from Momentum’s official statements we are confident that there are many others who will stand their corner. Already: Dispatches won’t stop Momentum inspiring young people – we’re here to stay. Phil’s post which makes very accurate points, Momentum is Nothing Like Militant “an organisation that is totally transparent, easy to get involved with, and mirrors the properties of the network would do. There’s a reason why dull, plodding authoritarian outfits like the Socialist Party (despite its mini-Militant rebrand) and the SWP rape cult have been left out in the cold. As it stands, Momentum is a good way of consolidating these new members and turning them to campaigning activity, both with the party and in other labour movement campaigns.”
But what of the issue of Trotskyism and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty?
Much indeed has been made of ‘Trotskyism’ in recent weeks.
The AWL is, it says, a Trotskyist group.
What does this mean?
To begin from their practice: the AWL has played a positive role, for some years now, in defending the cause of human rights: from its backing for the ‘two states’ position on Palestine and Israel, its refusal to follow the implicitly pro-Assad stand of some in the anti-war’ movement in Syria, its opposition to those who stand with Vladimir Putin on a range of issues, including Ukraine.
In short, in the tradition of ‘Third Camp‘ Trotskyism (neither imperialism nor Stalinism but socialism) the group has stood against the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ of those who automatically side with the opponents of the ‘West’, nationalist dictators, Islamists and authoritarian of all stripes. Their stand indicates that the debate about theory indicated in more detail above can have relevance to the world today.
This has not won them universal admiration, particularly from those determined to blame everything on ‘imperialism’ in general and the USA in particular.
The AWL has also campaigned, over a long period (going back to the 1975 Referendum), for a Workers’ Europe.
This was their call in 2015:
We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:
• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism
• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU
• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity.
Many people, trade union, political and campaign group activists, far beyond the AWL itself, supported this call.
Just before the Referendum in June they stated,
Theory: for anybody genuinely interested in what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty means by Trotskyism the place to start is there: The two Trotskyisms. Sean Matgamna followed by Reviews and comments on The Two Trotskyisms. These debated a range of points about ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ Trotskyism, and whether these had any meaning and relevance in left politics today.
The AWL published many of these contributions in its paper, Solidarity.
They included a long article (carried over 2 issues) critical of Trotskyism from a democratic Marxist stand, by somebody that modesty forbids us to name ( Raising Atlantis?)
It is clear that comrade Sacha is right to say, “We always argue for our ideas through open discussion and debate. People either reject what we say or are convinced by it, and that’s fine. Our members and supporters make no apologies for trying to influence policy. That is what democratic politics is about. On that last point, we are no different from members of Progress, the Fabian Society, Compass and other Labour Party groupings”.
Solidarity, is known in the movement for its serious articles on trade union issues, reliable reports on subjects such as Welfare and Women’s rights, and an approach to anti-racism that does not dismiss the problem of reactionary Islamism and the persistence of anti-Semitism.
To continue on Europe to illustrate the group’s activity: during the EU Referendum, the AWL, like Momentum, (EU referendum: Momentum movement campaigners drafted in to rally support for Remain vote) actively backed the themes of Another Europe is Possible, the left ‘Remain’ campaign.
On this key issue, which defines present British politics, the group showed its commitment to backing Labour Party policy, campaigning not in order to ‘recruit’ for its group but to further the interests of the movement as a whole.
After the vote to Leave comrade Martin Thomas wrote,
What is to be done now is to conserve and extend workers’ unity, between workers in Britain of all origins and between British and European workers; to defend migrant rights and the worker rights which have entered British law under pressure from the EU; to fight to redirect the social anger expressed in Brexit votes towards social solidarity, taxing the rich, and social ownership of the banks and industry; and to stand up for socialism. None of that can be done if the left falls for the fantasy that the Brexit vote already took things our way.
A broad swathe of democratic socialists would agree with this.
This Blog, a left European democratic socialist site, has no hesitation in defending the AWL against the accusations of undemocratic practice made by Dispatches and others.
Full text of Sacha’s video talk here: Dispatches attacks Workers’ Liberty.
Having failed to turn grassroots support into seats at June’s general election, the anti-austerity party faces a struggle over its response to the country’s power vacuum.
Sam Jones (Observer. Today.)
The party’s poor performance led to weeks of introspection that have further revealed the ideological tensions at its core. Most visible has been the rivalry between Iglesias and Podemos’s policy chief and number two, Iñigo Errejón. If Errejón has pushed for a more pragmatic approach to the PSOE, with a view to sharing power after December’s election, then Iglesias has gone out of his way to antagonise the Socialists, once memorably reminding parliament of the anti-Eta death squads that operated under the government of former PSOE leader Felipe González.
Now the growing tensions are coming to a head in Madrid, where competing factions are vying for control of Podemos’s birthplace and its future. On one side is Tania Sánchez, a former IU MP (Note: that is not from Podemos, but from the Communist-Green left bloc, Izquierda Unida) , who, along with Madrid councillor Rita Maestre, hopes to make the local party a more “friendly, female and decentralised” outfit.
Opposite them are the Iglesias loyalists, such as the party’s general secretary in the capital, Luis Alegre, who has long had a troubled relationship with the Errejónista faction.
To complicate things further, Sánchez, who is standing to be the party’s new leader in Madrid, is a former girlfriend of Iglesias, while Maestre used to go out with Errejón. In an attempt to head off the inevitable innuendo, both women put out a statement: “We are not girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, we are human beings who make our own decisions. We don’t need a man to help us or lead us … We’re protagonists who defend a Podemos for everyone.”
The Madrid story broke on the 15th of September in El País.
El eurodiputado Miguel Urbán y 300 firmantes impulsan una alternativa a las de Mestre y Espinar.
En la disputa por el liderazgo de Podemos en la Comunidad de Madrid se perfilan al menos tres grandes opciones. El eurodiputado de la formación Miguel Urbán, que fue uno de los dirigentes determinantes en los inicios de Podemos, y 300 firmantes de la organización Anticapitalistas, activistas y militantes del partido quieren lanzar una candidatura para competir con las iniciativas promovidas por la portavoz del Ayuntamiento, Rita Maestre, y el del Senado, Ramón Espinar. Entre los impulsores de este proyecto, que llama a repensar Podemos, reconstruirlo desde las bases y reconectar con las calles se encuentran la abogada y diputada autonómica Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, el actor Alberto San Juan, los concejales de Ahora Madrid Pablo Carmona y Rommy Arce, Isabel Serra, que también es diputada regional y formó parte de la dirección autonómica ahora disuelta.
The essential is to know that the 300 signatories in the Madrid region, are led by the ‘anticapitalistas’, that is the group (linked with the Fourth International, and groups such as the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and Ensemble in France and which has long criticised Podemos for its “vertical” hierarchy. They are challenging the Madrid leadership on the basis that the party structure needs reforming in order to connect with the ‘street’ (las calles) in place of “marketing, de los políticos profesionales y de las estructuras orgánicas del partido.”
More details on the anticapitalista supporting site Viento Sur: Un Podemos para las y los que faltan. (The Podemos we need). Isabel Serra – Miguel Urbán
Long-standing criticisms such as this: Podemos: A Monolithic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party? Tendance Coatesy. (December 2014)
Reply from a supporter:
What do you think of the criticisms from the Left saying that even though Podemos has repositioned itself on the Left by hitching itself to Izquierda Unida, it remains too vertical and centralised?
I think these criticisms are unfair, particularly because they are often based on local experiences in Barcelona and Madrid, and you can’t just map the local terrain onto a national scale. Podemos has had to face four elections, and electoral campaigns don’t lend themselves to internal discussions. But they are very conscious that the “circles” must preserve their important role in the party’s functioning, and they are trying to reinvigorate them. That was notable during the recent campaign. And I am still struck by their extraordinary creativity. In presenting their programme in the form of an Ikea catalogue they not only achieved a media coup but managed to get the electorate who didn’t read party manifestos any more to pick them up again.
A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections. By Chantal Mouffe / 27 June 2016.
These are issues specific to Podemos though this is probably a very particular interpretation of their prospects, as is this (from left critics).
The latest is not the first internal dispute in the party.
Earlier this year Podemos’ leaders summarily removed their Number 3, Sergio Pascual.
Madrid had been the focus of disputes for some time – La crisis interna de Podemos en Madrid obliga a convocar un congreso regional. (El País. 14th of June)
Following the always readable El País we find a more widespread judgement on Spain’s political crisis: that the country’s politicians are unable to share power with other parties or to make compromises beyond their immediate short-term interests.
Or, to put it more simply, like the UK, the country has no tradition of coalitions (the issue in dispute: agreement with the PSOE by Podemos).
The merits of this are, naturally, for the Spanish left to judge.
Meanwhile there is also this: prosperous Catalonia wishes to break with Spain’s poorer regions. (11th of September)
Tens of thousands of Catalans gathered to demand their region speed up its drive to break away from Spain
See also: Podemos site (latest stories).
On the anticapitalista tendency: Les anticapitalistes au sein de Podemos (August 2016).
This is a review of Coll, Andreu; Brais Fernández & Joseba Fernández (ed.) (2016), Anticapitalistasen Podemos, Construyendo poder popular. Barcelona, Sylone, 153 pag.
Posadists Call on Allies to Help Kick out Tories.
As support for revolutionary socialism grows in Britain, the Posadists in historic breakthrough, The League for the Fifth International (formerly known as Workers’ Power) emerging from decades of underground struggle to publish Red Flag (‘The Voice of Labour’s Revolutionary Change’), Bermondsey Republican Socialists proudly fighting for Annual Parliaments and the Abolition of the Corn Laws, and the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International well on the way to the “re-creation of a World Party of Socialist Revolution“, the class struggle is heating up.
Conditions for revolution, the strategists of this movement declare, are not only ripe, i.e. not rotten, but in a historical crisis within which a vanguard leadership can resolve the problem of insurrectionary guidance… Counterfire.
In a key statement (soon to filed on the Marxist Internet Archive) David Moyles wrote for Counterfire on the “actuality of the revolution”
there are those who think that however static and stable things may seem, capitalist society is fundamentally pretty chaotic.
The leaders of the British revolution have now issued this careful assessment of the conjuncture and the possibilities it offers for the left,
Mick Wattam begins by blaming opponents of Jeremy Corbyn for the failure to seize the opportunities offered at the “very moment when the Tories were in disarray over the Brexit vote”.
So divided Theresa May was elected without a contest…
That is, after, as Nick Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union noted – against the assessment of Brexiters like Counterfire,
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.
Brexit has resulted in a more right-wing government. It means an already difficult period ahead will be even harder for the trade union movement and the working-class communities we represent.
Still, Hope, Wattam writes, lies in the proles – undermining the “system”.
Although Corbynism threatens to destabilise the way the political system has worked for a long time, with its reliance on a muted opposition from Labour, we will need a much bigger and more inclusive struggle to bring about real change.
Put simply, Corbyn needs the unions…for what?
The new politics spearheaded by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are certainly worth fighting for, and call for a revolutionary change in how our society is run. But if it is limited to participating in wards and constituencies in order to win positions in the Labour machine, the energy will soon dissipate. There has to be a call for action in the trade union movement where the thousands of new people inspired by Corbyn can make a difference.
To repeat: for what?
Wattam continues, almost, rationally, that there may well be a few obstacles in the way,
If the Tories are able to stack up the victories through this new government which has not even won an election, then they and the people they represent will be jubilant. They will be invigorated by their reversal of the major achievements of our labour movement in the 20th century, which were won through the culmination of long and bitter struggles over many years.
Although the consequences of such Tory victories will inevitably lead to less opportunity and more misery for ordinary people, this may not necessarily lead to a growth of support for the left and Corbyn. It could easily lead to more support for the right within Labour under the guise of unity at all cost against Tory attacks.
He then draws out this alternative..
The only way of propelling forward the Corbyn revolution is to build the movement on the streets and support for the important strikes due to take place in the coming weeks and months. The defeat of the Tories cannot come too soon, and it can only come from our actions.
How “Our actions” “in the streets” and “strikes” (at an all time historic low) are the way forward is left hanging. In the air. Or the wind.
But who cares about boring elections!
Look at this…
The demonstration at the Tory Party conference on Sunday 2 October, called by the People’s Assembly, has to be a huge rally in support of the Junior Doctors, against the reintroduction of grammar schools, and a loud and united notice from all sections of our movement to Theresa May’s government that we are determined to kick them out of office.
How? What is this “crucial standoff” outside the Tory Conference? A situation in which one force or party neutralises or counterbalances the other and further action is prevented; a standstill: a standoff between demonstrators and the police? A tie or draw, as in a contest? That is however determined it may be, a deadlock.
If the People’s Assembly Rally (perhaps I have missed this, but it is not going to be that large at all) is unable to ‘defeat’ the Tories in Birmingham will it be the task of the “Corbyn Revolution”?
All the words about ‘fight’ and “kick them out” cannot disguise the emptiness of this sound and fury.
To cite the classics of the workers’ movement:
Alex Callinicos, of the rival Socialist Workers Party, perhaps signals the thinking behind the idea that the Conservative Party might be pushed out (Socialist Worker).
Speaking of divisions over Grammar Schools he writes,
the whole business confirms what a chaotic state the Tories are in, despite the impression of stability May created by taking over and putting the stamp of her authority on the government. But this authority will be tested very severely in the months and years ahead.
Authority…test…. chaos, chaotic states, complete disorder and confusion.
One solution: Revolution!