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Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”.

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Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”

“Socialism requires the use of collective power to increase individual rights and to extend individual freedom.”

“Public ownership in the form of state corporations, centrally owned, planned and administered, is essential for the public utilities.”

Pages 120 and 185. Choose Freedom. The Future for Democratic Socialism. Roy Hattersley. 1987.

Sunday’s Observer saw elder Labour statesman, Roy Hattersley, launch a call to arms (This is Labour’s greatest crisis. Time to fight back. 3.12.17). Momentum, the pressure group dedicated to winning elections for Labour and supporting the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, aims to move the party to the “far left of the political spectrum”. The “threat” to Labour from their “extremism”, “Corbyn’s revolutionary guard” is carrying out a “cull of councillors” and the “replacement of moderate MPs”. It must be “beaten”. The task is to “save British social democracy from extinction”.

Hattersley’s polemic has its moments. Many enjoyed the phrase struck, with successful comic effect, describing former Militant supporters, “the old gang” in Liverpool now apparently active again in the party, “All that is changed is that the Militant now travel to meetings with their bus passes.”

Less appreciated was his effort to explain other local developments. On the challenge to Haringey’s Labour leadership, the former Labour Deputy leader is seriously awry. Aggressive newcomers were also at work. ‘New recruits’ brandishing a call for “democracy” were to blame for new councillor selections. A reference to the disastrous implications of the council’s plans to redevelop council housing by removing some estates from “public ownership” and handing them over to a private dominated development (“the biggest transfer of local authority resources to a private entity in UK history, and would see Lendlease own a fifty per cent stake in a company which will profit from public assets for at least twenty years”)  in which the poor have no place is missed. Absent too was the long, very long, history of disputes over ‘modernising’ Labour in Haringey, which predate Momentum by….several decades. (1)

 

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Momentum.

Momentum can no doubt reply for itself and there are already many commentaries on Labour’s Greatest Crisis. It is hard to identify the pressure group with the ‘far left’. When Militant, now known as the Socialist Party, tried to move in en masse, attempting to create its own “Trade Union Momentum”, they were rebuffed. Another group of left-wingers, after several figures were removed from national office, put some effort in forming Grass Roots Momentum. It has foundered. No doubt individuals from various leftist factions are active in Momentum, a proportion of the membership put at lower single figures.

Some on Labour’s right appear to believe that Momentum’s interest in ‘extra-parliamentary’ activity is anti-democratic. The term is misleading. Public protest is no more opposed to electoral work (which is the core of the movement’s existence), than UNITE Community’s Day of Action against Universal Credit, or demonstrations on the NHS. Or indeed, at the labour movement’s foundation, strikes for better pay and conditions leading to negotiations for collective agreements. Complaints about UNITE’s efforts to influence Labour more directly seem even more paradoxical, if criticism is directed at anti-Westminster politics.

There are legitimate concerns about some aspects of the way the Momentum operates. Conferences attended by delegates selected by lot, a practice adopted in France by President Macron’s En Marche! party and used for a percentage of attendees at Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise, may quell factionalism. But despite reference to the ancient Athenian Constitution, this method of choosing representatives is not today widely accepted as a democratic method.

No doubt we will learn just how democratic the opposing slate of candidates for Labour’s NEC emerged. At present there are none.

On what other grounds does Hattersley accuse Labour of moving to the far-left? The party programme, its policies? Labour is committed to re-nationalising public utilities. One might disagree about the claim that “market distribution” can be fixed to respond to “demand” when, as he noted in Choose Freedom, that income is so unfairly distributed. The objective of developing a replacement for Universal Credit, still in its early stages, can surely be modelled in with traditional social democratic redistribution. In his 1987 book he cited John Rawls’ ‘difference principle”, that is judging reforms by their ability to make the poorest better off. This remains a workable gauge of real reform of welfare. Hattersley’s “struggle for democratic rights” equally remains an objective which unites otherwise divided strands of democratic socialism. The Corbyn and McDonnell leadership indeed puts it at the centre of their policies.

Sunday’s broadside is a shot from the bows at ..what? The vast majority of members are united around the need to elect a new Labour Government. Yet, behind this there are serious issues at stake within the party. They do no neatly fall into a division between “far left” and “moderates”, or even different appreciations of the Blair and Brown years.

New Dividing Lines?

At the risk of whittling down a whole forest of contentious issues some stick out.

  •  Europe. The Labour Party contains both a small right wing ‘patriotic’ anti-EU current, a left-wing ‘Lexit’ (left-exit) current, and a big majority, from the centre to large parts of the left, which wants the smallest possible break from Europe. Some do not want to leave the EU at all. The Lexit left is in disarray as their glee at seeing Britain leave the ‘Bosses Club’ has turned to ashes faced with the complexities of exit, and the prospect of being at the mercy of the WTO and stronger economies, from the EU itself to the USA.
  • Specific Policy. Labour’s stand on Brexit, is seeking the ‘best deal’ and letting the Tories tear themselves apart in Brexit negotiations, while balancing its statements with an electoral strategy that attracts anti-EU voters. This has left many unsure about what a possible Corbyn led government will do. On a key aspect, failing to debate the Freedom of Movement at Conference, an issue brought up by left wing activists, does not mean the issue has disappeared.
  • Internationalism. While the majority of the Labour party, including the activist left, are committed to defending universal human rights (leaving aside weighty philosophical agreements on the topic), there are differences on where to start. Some groups, in numbers only groupuscules about with wider influence within the Party, give priority to fighting ‘imperialism’, that is the USA. Those backing ‘anti-imperialist’ forces have watered down their public rhetoric. But as recent pronouncements by Andrew Murray, chief of Unit’s political strategy and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and of the indicate, there remain elements prepared on international issues who are prepared to align openly with forces hostile to democratic socialism.

As this sketch illustrates, disagreements within the Labour Party and broader left, have moved on from the stark divisions with which Roy Hattersley tries to frighten his readers. Far from being in a position to stifle these differences in a Labour Party that excludes “everyone with whom they disagree” Momentum is obliged to confront them. The progress made so far to elaborate a “synthesis” between different strands of thought in Labour in a policy platform that is resolutely democratic socialist gives one grounds for hope.  That they, Momentum, – and it is hard to call such a disparate group a ‘they’ – have a core objective it is an eminently Parliamentary one, electing the next PM. One hopes the former deputy leader will do his best to work for that. .

 

(1): On this see: “We Took the Last Option”: The Fight for Democracy in Haringey. New Socialist.

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As Labour Against the Withchunt Collapses in Infighting: “Third-Camp Stalinoids bring Witchhunt into ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’ (that’s enough Witchhunts ED)

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Witch Hunters themselves, say Socialist Fight.

Amongst the eternal classics of the workers’ movement, As Soon as this Pub Closes stands tall.

A dog-eared copy exists in the Coatesite archives.

It opens with this,

THE entrance to the conference hall is nearly deserted. The delegates have retired to adjacent hostelries to sink enough pints to allow them to sleep through the afternoon debate, so most literature sellers have taken a break.

Only two groups remain. One, the Spartacist League, are chanting ‘General Strike Now’, while another, the International Communist Party, try to drown them out with ‘Build the ICFI’ – International Committee of the Fourth International to the uninitiated. Do they hope to convert each other? Or myself, the only other listener? Surely not, but each feels that the first to leave would be chicken. I am glad my daughter is not in sight as she is probably warm and dry – on the other hand, she has my coat. Resisting the temptation to raise my own slogan – ‘Smash neo-Kantian revisionism!’ – I leave both groups to the sardonic screaming of the gulls. The rain drizzles from a lead-grey sky as I walk to the station. ‘So what’, you may say, ‘I never did care for Brighton.’ However, the two groups, and their rivals who have gone to lunch, form the core of organised British socialism. If a bureaucrat temporarily wakes from his slumber during the afternoon and feels any guilt about applauding the hypocritical rhetoric coming from the platform, he has certainly in his youth been a supporter of one of the socialist groups. This work is to be commended for providing the uninitiated with a guide through the labyrinth.

Yet the Tendance considers that even John Sullivan would find it hard going navigating this one.

Breaking news from our Ace reporters…

Hold the Front Page: anti-semites not to be expelled!

To our considerable relief and greatly to the credit of those attending the meeting, the proposal to exclude Socialist Fight from the Labour Against the Witchhunt campaign, made by the three members of the executive, was rejected. In fact, two votes were held effectively on the proposed exclusion, one was closely lost and one slightly different but in effect the same was tied, therefore also falling. Our own broader motion was lost 5 votes for, 8 against and 8 abstentions.

In the interests of getting LAW on an even keel, we are not going to go into more detail. But we do note that SF supporters were the only organised left tendency present arguing for a non-exclusionist united front campaign of the entire Labour Left against this witchhunt, with the only real condition for participation being a complete, principled opposition to all exclusions of the people on the left. Outside of that, there should be no exclusions of any left-wing current from the campaign.

We in Socialist Fight welcome this victory for working class norms of democracy and will do everything we can to build LAW as such a principled united front campaign, aimed precisely at broadening the space in the Labour Party for political and programmatic debate, including over contentious questions involving political Zionism and the Middle East.

Once the issue of our non-exclusion was resolved, there were some useful discussions on among other things organising a LAW public meeting in January in London, with another one planned for Birmingham on 30th Jan also. There were some important debates about the wider Labour Left and the witchhunt; the meeting voted to withdraw support from Ann Black as an NEC member nominated and supported by the left who has participated enthusiastically in the witchhunt, and to demand a wider repudiation of Ms Black by the left.

There was a powerful speech by Grassroots Black Left activist Mark Wadsworth, a Labour member and long-time anti-racist campaigner who was outrageously suspended by Labour for ‘anti-semitism’ for challenging the collaboration of right-wing MP Ruth Smeeth with the Tory media at the Labour press conference on the launch of the Chakrabarti Report into antisemitism on 30 June 2016. The comrade’s address drew considerable applause. A model motion for Labour Party bodies, coming from the Grassroots Black Left, containing a very powerful attack on the unlawful trawling of social media by the witch hunters, was approved by the meeting. We will reproduce it later when we have the text.

LAW resolved to meet monthly; we will hold the next meeting in early January. And the interim executive was expanded to include Steve Price of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Deborah Hobson of the Grassroots Black Left, making a broader-based five-strong executive.

Seek ‘Safe Space’ from real Anti-Imperialism/Anti-Zionism

It would seem absurd in the middle of a campaign against socialists in the Labour Party, for part of the left, itself under attack with suspensions and expulsions, to refuse to defend others and imply that some socialists really are worthy of expulsion. Such behaviour would surely be regarded as grotesque treachery by any class conscious worker.

Apparently three members of the Steering Committee of ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’, an organisation that has held one national meeting (on October 21st) have decided that Socialist Fight, one of only two organised Marxist trends at the initial meeting, are to be excluded. A statement to this effect was published in the Weekly Worker of 23 November..

Socialist Fight (SF) finds the weak point in the arguments used by this crew. Why exclude the AWL for their hostility to all forms of anti-semitism, including a left-wing version, when they’ve got rid of their groupuscule on the grounds that it is ‘anti-semitic’ (in reality, informed sources suggest that the reason is that SF is seen by even committed ‘anti-Zios’ as too wild, a tactical rather than principled decision).

So apparently the AWL are unwelcome, not for their actions, which our intrepid three cannot quarrel with in principle judging by the above, but for their ideas. Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and thus believing in ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’ which is apparently a ‘myth’.

But if ‘left-wing anti-semitism’ is a ‘myth’, how come Socialist Fight is being excluded on the basis of the same myth? For two of the three signatories of the above statement are fellow-travellers of the Weekly Worker/CPGB, supporting its allied group in the Labour Party, known as Labour Party Marxists, as is comrade Keable, or a years-long sympathiser and contributor, as is comrade Greenstein. It is not clear where comrade Walker stands with regard to this, but she appears to concur with them in any case, so the question is abstract.

Consistency is not the CPGB’s strong suit. Their anathema against our analysis of the role of Jewish bourgeois in the diaspora in bolstering Israel’s strength in the older imperialist countries goes back to 2014, when one of our now-leading members was driven out of the CPGB-initiated ‘Communist Platform’ in Left Unity, before the Corbyn movement emerged. That anathema stated that our comrade had to be driven out because..

We leave it to Cds to read the rest, though this stands out as an indication of how fast this lot are disintegrating,

This would be too ‘anti-imperialist’ for the CPGB, whose cowardice here is similar to their flinching over the witchhunt against Galloway over Iraq in 2003-04. We submitted our motion on 19 Nov. On 22 Nov we received the following communication from Stan Keable on behalf of the three-person rump steering group of LAW (Pete Firmin, the fourth member, had resigned due to difficulty in working with some of the others).

Pete is, unfortunately for Donovan, a real human being and a genuine democratic socialist…..

Not to mention this,he CPGB are sabotaging the potential of Labour against the Witchhunt to unite socialists in Labour against the witchhunt. They actually are trying to turn it into a confessional sect, in their own terms. We would actually have no objection to working even with the Alliance for Workers Liberty in a body like LAW, provided they were prepared to defend all victims of the Labour bureaucracy against the right. Of course, this is a big if. But ideological proscriptions, based on spurious smears, in a body whose purpose is to unite the left against a witchhunt, indeed amount to sectarian sabotage. Even more so when the ideological proscriptions are incoherent and self-contradictory, as demonstrated above.

Observers may feel that Donovan has a point.

How can Greenstein go on claiming that there is no such thing as left wing anti-semitism, or, in a weakened form, that the charges of anti-semitism against  people in the Labour Party are trumped up ‘Zionist’ fabrications and then go on to exclude poor old Gerry and Ian for anti-semitism?

There is more to this spicy soup – we leave it to others to relish the attack on Hal Draper – on grounds one can guess…..

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the author of this text, one Ian – International Jewish bourgeoisie – Donovan suggested that George Galloway lead the campaign.

  • The claim that left-wing anti-semitism is a ‘myth’ appears accepted by all sides of this barney and is the bone of contention.
  • The claim that there is a “witchhunt” against Socialist Fight.
  • None of them accept the findings of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, in particular ” Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.”
  • This puts them at odds with Labour Party policy.
  • The whole crew are barmy.

Evidence, M’Learned Friends,

Greenstein’s Blog,

A Sense of Humour Failure – The case of the JLM’s Ella Rose
Ella Rose is a free transfer from the Israeli Embassy to the Jewish Labour Movement where she is now Director.  She played a starring role in the Al Jazeera undercover programme, The Lobby. She came across as a petulant, foul-mouthed, potentially violent young woman.  She threatened physical violence against Jackie Walker because ‘she’s like 5’2” and tiny’ and ‘’if it came to it I would win that’s all I really care about’ which is a perceptive comment on Zionism and its ideals.  In the course of her musings Ms Rose stated ‘I’m a Zionist, shoot me.’  To which I responded that it was tempting.

 

As Official Visit to Go Ahead Trump Tells British PM to “Focus” – but not on his Use of Britain First Propaganda.

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Donald Trump has retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group.

The first tweet from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches.

This was followed by two more videos of people Ms Fransen claims to be Muslim.

Responding to Mr Trump’s posts, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

BBC.

This has deeply offended many people, starting with Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox. Her killer shouted Britain First before stabbing her.

Brendan Cox, the husband of slain British lawmaker Jo Cox, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump has “become a purveyor of hate” after retweeting three anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right account.

“This is like the President retweeting the Ku Klux Klan. This is not a mainstream organization and for the President of the United States, our greatest ally as a country, to be retweeting, to be providing a microphone to those voices,” Cox told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”

“I think no matter what your perception of the UK, I think has been shocked by that.” CNN.

This aspect of the news was not just taken up in the UK and the US. The French left-wing daily, Libération noted, “Jo Cox, a été tuée en pleine rue par Thomas Mair. Ce dernier avait crié «Britain First !» avant de lui tirer dessus puis de la poignarder. ( Donald Trump hérisse les Britanniques en relayant des vidéos d’un groupuscule fasciste).

This is not just a detail. Our friends in France have just baptised a road after our fallen comrade.

Murdered British MP Jo Cox joins Churchill in having French street named in her honour.

Instead of trying to explain his offence away Trump has now gone on the attack.

In rare clash between allies, US president tells May to focus on terrorism rather than on him – but sends tweet to wrong person

Donald Trump has publicly rebuked Theresa May over her criticism of anti-Muslim propaganda, opening an extraordinary diplomatic spat between the transatlantic allies.

“Theresa@theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” the US president tweeted on Wednesday evening. “We are doing just fine!”.

Trump’s message came in response to criticism from the British prime minister’s spokesman over the president’s retweeting of incendiary videos posted by the deputy leader of a British far-right group.

However, the “@theresamay” Twitter handle that Trump targeted does not belong to the British prime minister, but to a woman called Theresa Scrivener. Minutes later Trump deleted and reposted the tweet, this time with the correct handle: @Theresa_May.

It is

In this context this is bad news.

No 10 responded to Trump’s tweet by defending Theresa May’s record on tackling Islamist extremism. The prime minister’s official spokesman offered no further criticism of Trump, stressing instead the “close and special relationship” between the UK and US.

Asked for May’s response to Trump’s tweet, he said:

Firstly I should say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are law abiding people who abhor extremism. The PM has been clear where islamist extremism takes place it should be tackled head on and we are working hard to do that both at home and internationally including with our US partners.

For an example of that i would point you to the work the PM is doing with the US preseident and President Macron and others to get terrorist content removed from the internet as quickly as possible.

He also insisted Trump’s state visit would go ahead, saying: “The offer of a state visit has been extended and accepted and we will set out more details in due course.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values and Nazi Icon? The Guardian’s Editorial.

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Trump Backs Swift.

The Guardian view on Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values?

Swift’s songs echo Mr Trump’s obsession with petty score-settling in their repeated references to her celebrity feuds, or report in painstaking detail on her failed romantic relationships (often, there is crossover). The message is quintessentially Trumpian: everyone is out to get me – but I win anyway. Seeded with clues to the identities of her famous associates, her lyrics reel in and solidify a hardcore fanbase – usually young, female followers known as “Swifties” – who passionately defend her honour on social media by attacking her detractors.

Swift seems not simply a product of the age of Trump, but a musical envoy for the president’s values.

The danger is even greater according to this reliable News Site, Vice, which the Guardian’s Newshounds have consulted

Can’t Shake It Off: How Taylor Swift Became a Nazi Idol

Nazis and members of the “alt-right” consider Taylor Swift an Aryan pop queen who is “red pilling” America into a race war through her pop hits.

Hard-bitten reporters have dug the following out.

Taylor Swift – A Nazi Icon?

What do Taylor Swift and Nazis have in common? To most, not much. To Nazis, just about everything. When it comes to the Aryan beauties they admire most, modern neo-Nazis seem to take a liking to Taylor the best. According to white supremacist blogger Andre Anglin, Taylor Swift is a secret Nazi in disguise, just waiting for her chance to unveil her aspirations for a fascist regime.

“Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That’s the most important thing,” Anglin said. “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump’s son, and they will be crowned American royalty.”

Ranker.

This is not the first time in recent months when Swift’s name has entered the political world.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

Zimbabwe: Army takes over, says Mugabe is safe – Socialist Worker Warns of Neoliberal Western Take-over.

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Mugabe, “never fully accepted the neoliberal agenda” says Socialist Worker. 

The BBC reports.

The military has taken control in Zimbabwe but said President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, was safe.

After seizing state TV, an army spokesman announced it was targeting people close to Mr Mugabe.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma later said he had spoken to Mr Mugabewho had indicated that he “was confined to his home but said that he was fine”.

The move may be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, BBC correspondents say.

The dismissal of Mr Mnangagwa last week had left Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace as the president’s likely successor.

Heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of the capital Harare early on Wednesday.

A statement read out by a general on air denied it was a coup. There was no immediate word from the president himself.

Guardian,

The military in Zimbabwe says it has temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the president, Robert Mugabe, amid high tension and reports of explosions in Harare.

Soldiers have sealed access to parliament, government offices and courts in the capital, residents said. Access to the president’s official residence was also blocked by troops.

Moyo said the army was targeting “criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”.

The takeover comes amid a bitter battle over who will succeed 93-year-old Mugabe.

Socialist Worker  says,”Mugabe never fully accepted the neoliberal agenda.

Zimbabwean socialist Munya told Socialist Worker,

The faction around Mnangagwa and the military that could be ascending to power wants full-blooded free market reforms. They also want to open Zimbabwe up to Western imperialist powers—including former colonial rulers Britain.

Munya explained, “Mugabe never fully accepted the neoliberal agenda. The Mnangagwa faction includes the former finance minister who worked closely with the International Monetary Fund.”

It’s likely that large sections of the ruling class and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will rally around the new set up. Munya said, “The MDC elites are likely to be supportive of it because they also want more neoliberalism and a restoration of relations with the West.”

He added, “There’s a potential that the Mnangagwa, MDC elites and the military could be part of a national unity government. Ultimately they are also scared of the working class, because austerity could lead to revolts.”

The British government gloated about the potential downfall of Mugabe as news of the coup came in. Britain’s rulers have never been able to accept that the national liberation movement led by Mugabe gave British imperialism’s interests a kicking.

The International Socialist Organisation (ISO), the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in Zimbabwe, has condemned the military. “The leaders of the military had no problem with Mugabe’s dictatorial regime until it began to affect their interests,” it said.

“This is not about resorting democracy and human rights, it is about swapping one section of the dictatorial regime for another.

“It is a ‘palace coup’ in the real sense of the phrase”.

The working class will have to assert its own demands, not go along with different ruling factions. Munya said, “It’s unlikely that the working class will act independently because it has suffered defeats and the trade union bureaucracy is tied to the MDC elites.

 “Mugabe’ wife was so unpopular so there is likely to be some support for what’s going on at least initially.”

But he warned, “This exposes the depths of the crisis in the economy, neoliberalism and austerity that the elite supports and it could see revolts. This is only the beginning.”

 The SWP’s leading theoretician, Alex Callinicos was educated at St George’s College, Salisbury (now Harare).

Comment:

I suppose the Arab regimes described by Gilbert Acbar as “patrimonial dictatorships”  were not neo-liberal either…

Human Rights Watch,

The government of President Robert Mugabe continues to violate human rights without regard to protections in the country’s 2013 constitution. It has intensified repression against thousands of people who peacefully protest human rights violations and the deteriorating economic situation. Police use excessive force to crush dissent, and violate the basic rights of civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and government opponents. Widespread impunity for abuses by the police and state security agents remains. President Mugabe has undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) through verbal assaults on the two institutions.

2016 (World Report 2017)

During 2016, the government of President Robert Mugabe intensified repression against thousands of people who peacefully protested human rights violations and the deteriorating economic situation. It disregarded the rights provisions in the country’s 2013 constitution, and implemented no meaningful human rights reforms.

Police abuse increased, and there was excessive use of force to crush dissent. Human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, and government opponents, were harassed, threatened or faced arbitrary arrest by police. Widespread impunity continues for abuses by police and state security agents.

The president publicly attacked judges for “reckless” rulings that allowed public protests against his rule, further eroding judicial independence. He also undermined the independence of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), established as an independent commission under the constitution, when he verbally attacked the institution.

Attacks on Human Rights DefendersIn June 2016, police began a campaign of politically motivated abuses against activists engaged in countrywide protests against poverty, corruption, rights abuses, and lack of electoral reform. Police resorted to heavy-handed tactics, indiscriminately using water cannons, teargas, and batons to violently crush largely peaceful protests.At various times since June 2016, hundreds of protesters, including student activists, human rights activists, and opposition supporters were arrested, detained, and later released on bail without charge.For instance, on July 6, police assaulted and arbitrarily arrested, and charged with public violence, hundreds of protesters across the country, including 86 people in Bulawayo, 105 people in Harare, and 16 people in Victoria Falls. The government blocked internet access and WhatsApp text messaging for several hours to obstruct people protesting under the #Tajamuka/Sesijikile campaign led by Promise Mkwananzi and the #ThisFlag campaign led by Pastor Evan Mawarire. In August, Mawarire and his family fled to the United States after suspected state security agents threatened to kill them.On August 24 and 26, police arbitrarily arrested over 140 people in Harare on false public violence charges. According to their lawyers, most of those arrested, including security guards, vendors, college students taken from class, did not participate in the protests. Those arrested were later freed on bail after several days in detention.On September 24, police in Mutare arrested and detained 17 members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) on charges of allegedly gathering in contravention of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). After three nights in detention, the Magistrate’s Court freed 15 of the 17 ZINASU members and declared their arrest unlawful. At time of writing, two student leaders remain in custody.

Freedom of Expression and Media

Zimbabwe’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and media, but journalists are subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment, and intimidation when reporting on protests. Reports by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA, Zimbabwe) show that from January 2016, police assaulted, harassed, arrested, or detained at least 31 journalists reporting on protests. They include Garikai Chaunza, Edgar Gweshe, Chris Mahove, James Jemwa, and Khumbulani Zamchiya—whom police arrested in June while they reported on a protest in Harare, detaining them for six hours before releasing them without charge.

On July 6, police briefly detained journalists Elias Mambo, Tafadzwa Ufumeli, Richard Chidza, and Godwin Mangudya at Marimba Station, who were covering protests in Mufakose. Police ordered the journalists to delete from their cameras and mobile phones all pictures and video footage of the protests before releasing them without charge.

On August 3, police used batons to beat up journalists Lawrence Chimunhu, Haru Mutasa, Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, Christopher Mahove, Tendai Musiyazviriyo, Bridget Mananavire, and Imelda Mhetu who were covering a protest in Harare. On August 24, a member of the anti-riot police in Harare harassed and beat journalist Lucy Yasin with a baton as she covered a protest. On the same day the police arrested journalist Tendai Mandimika and detained him for three weeks on false public violence charges before releasing him on bail.

On August 25, the police briefly detained journalists Obey Manayiti and Robert Tapfumaneyi. The following day, police arrested photojournalist James Jemwa while covering protests in Harare. He spent a week in detention on public violence charges before being released on bail.

Somebody’s opinion people will listen to,

Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Labour’s Great Leap Forward.

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Labour’s Great Leap Forward.

The 2017 Labour Party Conference was a success. Above all a series of policy decisions, on ending PFI, re-establishing public ownership of key sectors, rail and utilities, represents the first serious challenge to the regulative stand that has dominated European social democracy since the 1980s. It strikes at the neoliberal principle that as far as possible the functions of the national and local state should be hived off to private enterprise. Decisions in favour of union rights replace the idea that the workplace is a place of creative energy with only accidental conflict that can be sorted out with a minimum of legislation. Government intervention in the economy has been re-established as a principle. Taxation will be rebalanced in favour of the less-well off. The Health Service will be regenerated, free of the burden of hived-off services.

Labour has taken the first steps towards refounding social democracy and democratic socialism within a common framework. That is to bring together the aspiration for Crossland’s more just form of distribution (The Future of Socialism. 1956) with the long-standing socialist commitment to public ownership and an end to the “automatism of the competitive capitalist economy” that Aneurin Bevan advocated (In Place of Fear. 1952) One can only hope that new policies for social security, afflicted by the disaster that is Universal Credit, at present a site under construction, will receive the same attention.

The New Synthesis and its Limits.

Labour has not resolved its divisions on Europe, making claims about a new consensus – after a vote on the issue, including Free Movement – was avoided. Ideas that the EU would forbid public ownership, even that the presence of migrant workers – whether used by employers or not – is a problem were floated by the leadership.

The claim that competition regulations automatically rule out all forms of public ownership is clearly false, as this article indicates, Nationalisation Is Not Against EU Law. The associated theory, that a sovereign Parliament under Labour control will be freer to make its own economic policies under Brexit, remains. The view that ‘market forces”, in the shape of holders of government bonds, pounds, banks and financial institutions, will weaken in a country outside the EU is not widely held. It is unlikely that the “deep state” of international capitalism is kinder, or more open to influence, than the pooled sovereignty of the European Union.

The other element in Labour’s ‘synthesis’ between different strands of left thinking, human rights, is represented in the stand taken against anti-Semitism. Its persistence on the fringes has to be confronted. Controversy will continue on international issues, with a small, but entrenched, section of the party convinced of the merits of backing any enemy of the West.

The regeneration of the party has been accompanied by the growth of Momentum, a significant influence of Labour delegates. This has brought to the fore newer ideas, which some trace to the ‘alter-globalisation’ movements of the 21st century’s first decade. Perhaps some Momentum activists are influenced by “intersectionality” (drawing together a variety of fights against oppression) and a leading figure from that time, invited to their Conference event, Naomi Klein and her commitment to the Leap Manifesto, a  call for “energy democracy”, “Caring for the Earth”and restoration, in Canada, to the “original caretakers of this land” (No is not enough. 2017). Others on the European left make a more general point. For Christophe Aguiton the network has helped Labour regenerate, capturing within its own structures the kind of social discontent about austerity and radical politics associated with Podemos in Spain. (La Gauche du 21e Siècle .2017)

Labour’s mind will now turn to electoral strategy. Some will be concerned with gaining support amongst those, often Northern and working class, who backed Brexit. Influenced by David Goodhart’s distinction between “anywheres” and “somewheres” Labour should now concentrate on winning over the rooted, provincial electorate, disaffected with both austerity and cultural change, the ‘left behinds’ who reject the “metropolitan elite”. (The Road to Somewhere. The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 2017). To some left-wingers this tallies with a version of identity politics, in which working class culture, embodying virtue, resists cosmopolitan liberalism – the EU. This electorate is “more real” than, say, the Canterbury students who helped get a Labour MP into Parliament in a Tory safe seat. That layers of the Somewheres have cast their ballots for UKIP may perhaps explain the Conference declarations against migrant workers.

Left blocs. 

Bruno Amable and Stefano Palombarini deal with dilemmas for the French left many of which echo these issues, L’illusion du Bloc bourgeois (2017). Written in the run up this year’s Presidential election the authors race the steady erosion of the social ‘bloc’ which tied together the electorate of the French left, public sector workers and the working class.

Amable and Palombarini trace how the interests of this bloc, in workers’ rights, social protection, raising living standards, all enveloped in policies of state intervention, were eroded by successive ‘Socialist’ (that is, Parti Socialiste) led governments since the mid-1980s. The 1983-4 ‘turn’ to market driven policies, under the Mitterrand Presidency, was marked by the ideology “modernisation” which projected onto the construction of Europe the domestic priority for liberalising the economy. It weakened their base, undoing the assent for the party.

This modernising turn shook up workplace relations, gave priority to ‘flexibility’, greater power to financial markets, and has had a direct impact on people’s lives, their career paths, their job security, and sapped their ability to negotiate better terms and conditions. Rather than cultural shock at the ‘new’ – reactions to greater social liberalisation, and to immigration – has eaten away at left support. In other words, it’s not that the ‘Somewheres’ (known in French as ‘la France périphérique). are reactionary, they cannot recognise themselves in a political party – or electoral alliance – which does not meet their goals. The fate of the PS, reduced to dust in this year’s elections, is the result of a long process in which their leadership has failed to listen to their voice, and objective needs. 

Modernisers.

That British ‘modernisers’ around Tony Blair appealed to ‘globalisation’ rather than the European Project illustrates that the EU is not the convenient target for all the faults of neoliberalism that some suggest. Blair’s own strategists, less worried about left-wing competitors than the French PS, and keenly aware of Labour’s monopoly of the left-voting working class, found their own worker figure. This was the “aspirational” worker discussed by Philip Gould, as well as by Roger Liddle and Peter Mandelson (The Unfinished Revolution. 1998, The Blair Revolution. 1996).Labour could only secure of a majority for its own ‘left bloc’ by reaching beyond its traditionally organised workers, public and private, to this electoral pool. Seemingly unconcerned with the less attractive effects of flexibilisation and marketisation, these figure were to be equipped with new skills to compete on the “global market”. The welfare state was resigned to be a ‘launch pad’ for employment, not a ‘safe home’ for the causalities of capitalism, or for those in need, the basic right for all for a decent life. That we now see people in absolute poverty living on our streets shows the way this has turned out. 

Yet the result appears the same. After the 2008 Banking Crash the appeal of unfettered markets waned; the ‘bloc’ behind Third Way modernisation cracked. There was not enough money, apparently, around to shore up the remaining public and organised union base, while the ‘aspirational’ workers looked to those who embraced austerity wholeheartedly. Not surprisingly, as Amable and Palombarini, argue for France, a real problem is that the section of the base which has been shaped by the opportunities which better social protection, the welfare state, social security, abstains.

In France there have been efforts to rebuild the ‘left bloc’ around the ‘Sovereigntist’ (reasserting French national state power over the EU) or ‘Left Populist’ line of federating the People against the Oligarchs. The nature and the future of this attempt, around the figure of Jan-Luc Mélenchon, is not our concern here, except to note that half-hearted populist efforts by Labour leaders to evoke populist themes, which draw on “resentment” at oligarchical – business and financial – power have not been met with success.

Labour’s Path.

Labour’s strategy sets out a different path. It is already a movement, with trade union, large constituency parties, and deep roots in civil society. It is not an appeal to an abstract ‘construction’ the people, or heavily dependent on a Web network. It is policies that are developed for, and by these constituencies that Labour needs to win. Two themes stand out: social ownership and equality. They are shaping into a framework that could take them up. That is to expresses both the social democratic goal of “society protecting itself” (Karl Polanyi), and the radical aspiration for democratic ownership, and that the workplace becomes a place where people have rights and are not the objects of flexible markets. Both point, it hardly needs saying, to far more radical changes to come.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Labour to Adopt New Rules to Fight Anti-Semitism.

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This Blog is amongst those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem.

It has become increasingly to the fore as what our French comrades call “political confusionism” has infected a part of the left. This ranges from those who adopt the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’, that is taking the attitude that Israel is the major threat in world politics, and that ‘anti-imperialists’ have to align with the opponents of ‘Zionism’ to outright anti-Jewish individuals.

A range of political belief, parties and groups, centred on the belief that the state of Israel is the legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations, without necessarily agreeing on the actions of that state, or its policies, is always referred to as “Zionism”, without qualification.

It is possible to be opposed to this from many standpoints.

We could start with the position of Hannah Arendt, who for all her distance from orthodox socialism,  has deeply influenced a whole part of the left, including the writer of this Blog.

Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbours without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view. The “revisionist” view that Israel must be a Jewish state and a homeland only for Jews did not come to dominate the discourse until the end of World War II, when the Holocaust was revealed in its full terror and destruction.

Arendt’s statement, ” to a principled liberal, truth and justice must always be higher values than patriotism.” applies a fortiori  to socialists.

We do not share her latter belief in the overwhelming  virtues of citizenship wedded to national sovereignty for the following reasons:

  •  internationalists who are against nationalism, or putting the interests of one ‘people’ first, rather than universal interests, would be opposed to  movements that give priority to a nation,  even if few would be so childish as to deny people’s self-defined right to form a state that is national.
  •  one can oppose the specific forms of nationalism that various Zionist groups and parties have taken – that is the founding moment of Israel as a territory, state and administration.  Arendt
  • Many more people may be against specific policies, such as the occupation of the West Bank the failure to reach agreements with the Palestinians to the legislation inside Israel that favours one section of the community over the other.

Put simply, we can criticise Israel from the standpoint of universal values.

Those who are dedicated to fighting for the national rights of the Palestinians and yet who oppose the existential right of Israel, that is its existence, seem in a poor position to criticise the nationalist premise of Israel.

For reasons many of us find hard to grasp Israel is considered as the embodiment of evil, far outclassing the threats posed by, say, Assad, the genocidal Islamists of ISIS, the ethnic cleansers of Burma, the murderous armed bands at work in Central Africa, and, so it goes.

Modern-day anti-semitism is often mixed in with self-descriptions as Anti-Zionism, as in the French based Parti anti-Sioniste, which finds evidence of Zionist activity even in Algeria: “It seems that Algeria is still under increased supervision and threat from US-ZIONISTS as shown by the recent seizure of spy equipment at Algeria’s airport in a flight from Qatar.” In 2012 these ‘anti-Zionists” stood Holocaust denier the ‘humoriste Dieudonné ” as a candidate in legislative elections.

That indicates clearly that while we agree wholly that anti-Zionism -is not in itself at all  anti-Semitic, many anti-Semites call themselves anti-Zionist.

With this in mind we look at the following:

The Labour Party has reached this decision:

Labour is to adopt tough new rules to tackle antisemitism following a heated debate at the party’s annual conference, but some activists have accused the party of policing “thought crime”.

The change comes after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, pledged that the party would investigate how it gave a platform at a conference fringe event to a speaker, Miko Peled, who said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened.

Senior Labour figures will hope that the passing of the rule change on Tuesday will send a signal that the party is prepared to get tough on anti-Jewish hate speech within its ranks.

The rule change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been backed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, will tighten explicitly the party’s stance towards members who are antisemitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Momentum, the grassroots leftwing group that has been Corbyn’s key support base, told delegates in its daily alert on Tuesday that they should vote in favour of the motion. The majority of the delegates at this year’s conference are aligned with Momentum; the group’s backing for the rule change means it is highly likely to pass.

Although the majority of Labour members are expected to back the amendment, there was heated debate after the change was proposed in the conference hall.

Delegate Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who chaired the controversial fringe event on Monday night, was one of those who spoke against the rule change.

Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the founders of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Labour, said she was concerned the change referenced the “holding of beliefs” as opposed to expressing them. “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

Hastings and Rye delegate Leah Levane also attacked the JLM’s change, saying the group did not speak for all Jews in the party.

Levane’s local party had proposed an alternative change, which described anti-Zionism as “legitimate political discourse” that should not be taken as evidence of hatred of Jews, but it said she would withdraw this because “the pressure is too great … We are not going to be risk being seen as the splitters”.

This row remains live:

The party was engulfed in an antisemitism row on the morning of the rule change debate, after remarks by Peled, an Israeli-American author, at an event on free speech and Israel. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

“It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.”

At the same meeting the Daily Mirror reports,

During the discussion, Michael Kalmanovitz, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said the claims were part of a right-wing effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the left.

He went on to call for two pro-Israeli groups to be expelled from the party.

He said: “The thing is, if you support Israel, you support apartheid. So what is the JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) and Labour Friends of Israel doing in our party? Kick them out.”

Loud cheers, applause and calls of “throw them out” erupted in the room of around a hundred activists in response.

The Guardian continues,

Watson said Labour’s conference organising committee would investigate how Peled had been given a seat on a panel at the event.

“I’m sure these allegations from the fringe, which is nothing to do with the Labour party, will be investigated,” he said. “It is disgusting to deny the Holocaust. These people are cranks, they have no role in the mainstream of politics and we certainly don’t want them in the Labour party.”

Watson said antisemitism “has always been there on the fringes … But it is a very small number of people in our society, if they get involved in the Labour party we want them out”.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, also condemned Peled’s remarks and gave his backing to the rule change. “I hope the conference votes for that motion because we should have absolute zero tolerance when it comes to the quite disgusting and pitiful antisemitism that sadly we’re sometimes seeing on social media these days,” he said.

A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and our national executive committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate antisemitism or Holocaust denial.”

Responding to the row in a series of tweets Peled said he did not deny the Holocaust, and suggested that Watson and Ashworth were confusing freedom of speech with antisemitism

“Oh boy! … free speech is now antisemitism too… @UKLabour should know better” he said in one tweet.

 He followed this with the following comment, referring to the ‘Holocaust’ of Global Warming,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm