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Pro-Brexit ‘left’: Paul Embery, Trade Unionists Against the EU, Backs Polish National Populist Law and Justice Party.

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Paul Embery, Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Embery is not only a FBU member, the leader of the above campaign, he is a” Member of the Labour Party since 1994, and active within the Blue Labour tendency.”

Why Poland’s Law and Justice Party appeals

BY PAUL EMBERY.

Commonly – though somewhat lazily – characterised as ‘Right-wing’, PiS, after coming to office in 2015, set about redressing economic inequality. It boosted the minimum wage, lowered the retirement age and increased the state pension. It also made heavy investment in a variety of social and welfare programmes, helping to free thousands from poverty. That Poland currently enjoys an economic growth rate superior to many of its European neighbours should command attention.

PiS also promotes the type of cultural traditionalism – with much emphasis on family values – that is in keeping with the country’s Catholic heritage and appeals to much of small-town and rural Poland. It is certainly far from perfect: its opponents have accused it of authoritarianism, and it is seen as hostile to the LGBT community.

But its wide support and retention of power should be seen as instructive.

Some of us have been arguing for a long time that a similar sweet spot exists in British politics, where an enthusiasm for economic radicalism fuses with a desire for cultural security. 

Millions of voters here would see themselves as falling into this category, but feel unrepresented by any of the mainstream parties. It was the anger and alienation of these millions that gave us the Brexit vote, and has been instrumental in the ongoing polarisation of our politics and breaking down of normal tribal loyalties.

These voters, often (though not exclusively) residing in the poorer parts of the UK – such as the post-industrial towns across the north and Midlands – would find great appeal in a party that was, on the one hand, committed to delivering an economy built around redistribution, intervention and investment, while, on the other, placing a high value on place, family and nation. The politics of economic fairness mixed with the politics of belonging.

The Polish Law and Justice Partym  Prawo i Sprawiedliwoś (PiS) is called right wing and far right.

This is one of the reasons:

Critics accused the PiS of fomenting homophobia during the election campaign, with party officials calling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Poland’s national identity.

“They are trying to impose a narrative that we are in a culture and civilisation war,” Scheuring-Wielgus said, adding the bill is aimed at intimidating and silencing educators and activists.

Al Jazeera.

This is another,

The re-election of the conservative-nationalist group, founded and led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has heightened fears among the journalists and academics that freedom of the press will be further restricted in the party’s pursuit of a proposed “new media order”. 

PiS announced in its 232-page election manifesto that it wanted to regulate the status of journalists, promising a “new media order”.

And another,

Poland’s democracy is not a priority for many of its voters

Derek Scally Irish Times.

A week ago, the “wrong kind of Pole” won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is the friend-foe language of Poland’s Law and Justice (Pis) party, winner of a second term in Sunday’s general election.

For her admirers, Olga Tokarczuk is a writer who brings dignity – and, now, international attention – to the lives of ordinary Poles. In PiS doctrine, Poland’s sixth Nobel literature laureate is a targowiczanin, a traitor, that the country would be better without. Why? Because in her writing and activism she questions the populist ruling party’s claim to be supreme arbiter of the Polish soul.

Because she, and other “traitors” like her, challenge the PiS campaign for absolute control of public institutions and debate. Because they warn against reshaping the Polish history as a patriotic pick and mix that ignores, obfuscates or contests everything that does not serve a Polish victim narrative – from Nazi collaboration to Polish anti-Jewish pogroms. (In the muddied waters of PiS Poland, a critic cannot be a patriot.)

Days before Tokarczuk was awarded the highest prize in the literary world, the PiS culture minister said he had never finished any of her books because they were too difficult. That was a mild criticism by PiS standards of the writer who, in the election campaign, warned of the social cost of a united church-state alliance against the LGBT community.

Embery’s right wing cultural politics and caring for our own folk economics has got the backing of the former Henry Jackson Society chief, Marko Attila Hoare.

Embery campaigned for Leave during the 2016 referendum.

His group, Trade Unionists Against the EU appeared on platforms organised by the Socialist Party front, TUSC.

In Ipswich a speaker ranted and raved about their internationalism. As evidence he bellowed about a Paris Meeting – which turned out to have been run by the dodgy French nationalist Trotskyists of the  Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID). They published this: International anti-EU rally report.

POID published a real account, emphasising the role of their own party in holding the rally and the speech of their chauvinist  General Secretary (at the time) Gérard Schivardi  ( 123 540 votes, 0,34 % in the 2007 French Presidential elections): Le grand meeting de la Porte Charenton du 26 septembre (La Tribune des travailleurs).

 

Embery spoke at this event in Cardiff:

Paul Embery speaks at the TUSC meeting in Cardiff photo Ross Saunders

“We built a united front of speakers from genuine workers’ organisations, willing to come together to fight the EU ‘Employers’ Union’. This included Owen Herbert, regional secretary of transport union RMT; London regional secretary of firefighters’ union FBU, Paul Embery, from Trade Unionists Against the EU; and Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party.” TUSC anti-EU tour touches down in Wales

Trade Unionists Against the EU received money from Arron Banks.

Donations were also made, between March and June 2016, to WAG TV Limited (who made an anti-EU film), Ukip (led at the time by Farage), Veterans for Britain… and Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU). Hang on a minute! Trade Unionists Against the EU! Isn’t that a supposedly “left wing” organisation, regularly promoted in the pages of the Morning Star? And it received funding from Arron Banks? Yes, dear reader, I have to tell you that it did: £54,000 according to the Electoral Commission.

Jim Denham

More on this: Lexit and Brexit collaboration-what did the Morning Star know? John Rogan

There was this (April 2019)

Union official told to ‘cease’ social media after ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ tweet

Paul Embery refused to apologise despite criticism over an ‘antisemitic’ comment about Brexit referring to ‘rootless cosmopolitans’

Embery’s antics meant he got into a spot of bother with this FBU.

He received the support of the Red-Brown National Populist site Spiked,

The scandal of Paul Embery’s sacking

He was dumped by the Fire Brigades Union for speaking at a pro-Brexit rally.

Now Embery is onto higher things….

The politics of national populism, a new leash of life for “solidarisme”,  in the sense of solidarity between people from the same society, the  ‘somewhere’ people, social Catholicism, nationalist economics, intolerant towards cultural diversity and critics of good order, is now on Blue Labour’s agenda.

Perhaps they will invite somebody from these traditions to speak at a future Full Brexit event er, possibly somebody like Marine Le Pen, who also combines a conservative social agenda, hostility to  globalisation (‘Globalism’), support for social protection, and a staunch defence of the Somewhere people.

ewhere people.His new best friend elaborates on the future strategy.

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UK Trade Unions Stand Against Turkish Invasion of Syria.

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Protests in the UK At Turkish Invasion.

Thirteen major trade unions urge UK government to condemn Turkey’s invasion of Syria – and act to avert ethnic cleansing and potential genocide

Trade unions representing millions of UK workers and their communities have demanded that prime minister Boris Johnson deploy the UK’s influence to prevent a humanitarian disaster as a result of the Turkish invasion of north and east Syria.

Thirteen trade unions and a leading law firm are warning that President Trump’s ‘appalling’ abandonment of the fragile region will see Turkey seek its own military and strategic advantage which will `undoubtedly lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kurds as well as a resurgence of ISIS’ in the region.

The move by the unions is a major display of solidarity with those forces fighting against repression in the region. The unions say that the UK must show its clear and utter condemnation of Turkey’s invasion, calling for a no fly zone and international force deployment.

Having recently returned from the region, Simon Dubbins, Unite’s director of international, said: “We have been part of a parliamentary and union delegation to this region. It is plain for all to see how extremely dangerous the situation is and the human misery that will unfold unless the international community comes together and stands as one against this appalling and unwarranted aggression.”

In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson the unions urge the UK government to condemn outright the Turkish aggression, reminding both the UK government and the international community of the debt owed to the Syrian Democratic Forces for their `sacrifice in stopping and defeating ISIS’.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing in relation to last Sunday’s appalling announcement by President Trump that he intends to immediately withdraw US troops from Syria. This is a green-light to a Turkish military invasion of North and East Syria, which, as we have already seen in Afrin, will undoubtedly lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kurds as well as a resurgence of ISIS.

The international community owes the Syrian Democratic Forces a debt for their sacrifice in stopping and defeating ISIS and building peace and stability in the region, they are our friends and allies.

We therefore call on the UK government to immediately condemn Turkey’s threats of invasion and to work with the international community to deploy an international force and enforce a no-fly zone to prevent the imminent catastrophe and protect civilian lives.

If the Turkish invasion is not stopped the SDF will be forced into a long and bitter war for survival against the second-largest NATO army. In the resulting chaos tens of thousands of ISIS fighters will escape their current internment and resume their barbaric acts of terror across the globe.

We demand that the UK government take action to prevent an invasion of North and East Syria by Turkey and protect the very people who have protected us.

Given the gravity of the situation we would appreciate an immediate response.

Yours sincerely,

Len McCluskey – General Secretary, Unite the Union

Tim Roache – General Secretary, GMB union

Dave Ward – General Secretary, Communications Workers Union

Mark Serwotka – General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

Mick Whelan – General Secretary, Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen

Manuel Cortes – General Secretary, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association

Mary Bousted – Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Kevin Courtney – Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Paddy Lillis – General Sectary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

Mick Cash – General Secretary, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

Mike Clancy – General Secretary, Prospect

Ronnie Draper – General Secretary, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Larry Flanagan – General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

Doug Nicholls – General Secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions

Stephen Cavalier – Chief Executive, Thompsons Solicitors

This makes me weep:

See Shiraz: Trump’s betrayal of Kurds puts Rojava at risk.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2019 at 10:41 am

Trump Betrays the Kurds: Solidarity with the Kurdish People!

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French Communist Daily Stood by the Kurds in their Hour of Need.

L’Humanité had a special correspondent on the ground during the jihadist genociders’ siege of Kobane.

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They comment today

MOYEN-ORIENT. WASHINGTON LIVRE LES KURDES DE SYRIE À ERDOGAN

This is another tragic demonstration of Donald Trump’s erratic diplomacy. A flip-flop with potentially explosive consequences. Yesterday, after a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the United States gave the green light to Ankara’s long-planned offensive in north-east Syria against Kurdish fighters. YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, including the YPG and their Arab allies).

This is the tragic news.

Sky.

Turkey ready to send troops into Syria after Trump abandons the Kurds

US President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw troops from the region so Turkey can start its own operations.

The Turkish Defence Ministry has said that all preparations are completed for a military incursion into northern Syria.

Framing the operation as humanitarian, the ministry said in a tweet: “The establishment of a Safe Zone/ Peace Corridor is essential for Syrians to have a safe life by contributing to the stability and peace of our region.”

“The Turkish Armed Forces will never tolerate the creation of a terror corridor at our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed.”

This has not gone down well in the USA.

Channel Four, which also has consistently given the Kurds a voice reports.

 

Here is Trump.

Here are some real comrades.

 

 

 

Here are the Ghouls of Socialist Worker  – some of the first of the ‘anti-imperialists’ to gloat,

The US, Russia and regional powers, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, intervened in a bid to grow their influence in the Middle East.

The US didn’t feel strong enough to send in ground troops after its defeat in the Iraq war. It bombed and used the Syrian Democratic Forces—which the YPG is part of—as a proxy army.

The US policy infuriated Erdogan because the YPG is closely linked to the PKK, the main Kurdish nationalist group in Turkey.

US imperialism has a long history of using the Kurds—then dropping them when it no longer suits its interests. It will always be a mistake for the Kurds to trust any of the imperial forces in the region.

Trump struck a bargain with Erdogan to withdraw US troops and support for the Kurds in exchange for Turkey suppressing what’s left of Isis.

Guy Verhofstadt of the European Union said the “US decision to abandon the Kurds will likely create greater regional instability”.

Liberal critics of Trump favour an alliance with long-time Western ally Saudi Arabia rather than the more erratic Erdogan.

The aim remains to project Western power, not to side with ordinary Kurds or Arabs’ fight for self-determination or democracy.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 8, 2019 at 10:55 am

New Left Review Tackles Brexit, from ‘anti-systemic’ parties to Corbyn.

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From Brexit Knocks to Corbyn.

Writing after the EU Referendum New Left Review editor Susan Watkins found time to pontificate on the “solipsistic and civilizational” reactions of those who regretted the victory of the Leave camp. She observed, with a cooled head, in tones echoing the French self-appointed speaker for La France périphérique,  Christophe Guilluy, ” the ressentiment of globalization’s losers.” ” Leave voters were markedly more pessimistic about their prospects and those of their children “

Watkins continued, “nearly 70 per cent thought Brexit couldn’t make things any worse.” And yet, she wistfully noted, ” the victory of British (read: English) nationalism has revealed the emptiness of its symbols: Rule Britannia, Mother of Parliaments, Royal Navy, Going It Alone, Dunkirk Spirit—all that has gone. “

Looking to the future, and echoing the words of her partner Tariq Ali, who used the vehicle of Venezuela state media, Telesur to explain that he was ‘Pleased’ Brexit Has Given EU ‘Big Kick’ up ‘Backside'” she concluded,

The Brexit vote doesn’t mean state break-up, yet. Still less the downfall of Brussels. For now, though, it is plain that Blairized Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianized 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. Which will ultimately prove more important, and what the side-effects of each will be, remains to be seen.

From the Intergalactic Senate Perry Anderson opined in 2017 that,

No other European country has been so dramatically polarised by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the southeast, and an impoverished, deindustrialised north and northeast where voters felt they had little to lose in voting for Leave (crucially, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro), whatever happened to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.

…suddenly granted, for once, a real choice in a national referendum, they returned in force to deliver their verdict on the desolations of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

The welcome knocks against the EU were the result of this:

Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in the rest of the EU. So the normal formula — fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration — failed to function, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.

Britain’s example should be followed,

For anti-systemic movements of the left in Europe, the lesson of recent years is clear. If they are not to go on being outpaced by movements of the right, they cannot afford to be less radical in attacking the system, and must be more coherent in their opposition to it. That means facing the probability the EU is now so path-dependent as a neoliberal construction that reform of it is no longer seriously conceivable. It would have to be undone before anything better could be built, either by breaking out of the current EU, or by reconstructing Europe on another foundation, committing Maastricht to the flames. Unless there is a further, deeper economic crisis, there is little likelihood of either.

Yet, as the title of the broad brush indicates, “Why the system will still win.”, so one can be confident that Anderson does not see the prospect of the ‘dual power’ of his 1970s flirtation with the left returning.

In the latest New Left Review a less abstract note is struck by the Deputy Editor of the journal,  Daniel Finn,

Brexit has thrown the whole political field into confusion, and Labour will struggle to achieve a majority in parliament after the next election, even if it emerges as the largest party. The conditions of its likely coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, could include the extinction of any distinctive Corbyn project.

Corbyn, Labour and the Brexit Crisis

Daniel Finn Labour in the Brexit Vice

Finn continues, “All factors seem to point towards ultimate defeat, except one: the fact that Corbynism has already survived against the odds to reach its current position.”

There is an account of the Labour Party’s post-Corbyn successes and difficulties.

Brexit, the Vice in which Labour is squeezed, is introduced:

“While rational fears of what Brexit could mean under Tory leadership fuelled the wider Remain constituency” writes Finn” it was Blairite holdovers like Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell who dominated the leadership of the People’s Vote (pv) campaign, skewing its political orientation.

In the sketch this also stands out, ” Expecting the Remain side to win comfortably, the Labour right thought it safe to use the referendum campaign as a factional weapon, telling sympathetic journalists that Corbyn’s line was really an argument to leave the eu altogether.”

Many would note this detail: New Left Review Editorial Board member Tariq Ali, “Jeremy Corbyn ‘would be campaigning for Brexit if he was not Labour leader’, says long-time ally Tariq Ali.” May 2016).

Finn finally settles down to the famous clasp in which Labour is clamped.

Having admitted its importance he admits that the Labour left has its own internal differences.

…. Corbyn allies like John McDonnell and Diane Abbott favoured a change of strategy as well, along with some of the younger left mps (Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Kate Osamor). Divisions over Brexit cut across the left/right cleavage in the plp: Labour front-benchers such as the party chair Ian Lavery were strongly opposed to a second referendum, and McCluskey argued against a sudden shift towards the hard-Remain camp, but a group of mps that included staunch opponents of Corbyn like Stephen Kinnock and Ruth Smeeth also composed an open letter, denouncing the ‘toxic’ idea of a second referendum as a gift to the nationalist right.

The NLR writer – accurately – summarises a real dilemma,

 In any case, securing a referendum is one thing, winning it is quite another. The Labour leadership is being urged by friend and foe alike to adopt a goal that is neither more desirable nor even more achievable than its previous stance, in the name of avoiding electoral meltdown.

This is differently phrased to his comments in  ‘Jacobin‘ a few months ago (which combines the following with the all too familiar ranting tone of the US’s ‘leading ‘ left voice, this time about Paul Mason’s, ” shop-soiled reactionary agenda .”)

One of the main advantages of a “soft Brexit” deal — whatever its precise details — would be avoiding the need for a second referendum. Most advocates of such a vote have been shockingly complacent about their chances of victory, brushing aside opinion polls that suggest a rerun of the first vote would be too close to call.

Even if Remain won, the campaign would be even more rancorous than the first, and only a landslide result could truly settle the issue.

We may now be drifting towards a second referendum in any case. But Corbyn and Labour were right to try and avoid that outcome.

There has often been a tendency to defend Labour’s position in terms of electoral pragmatism — the need to balance between Remain- and Leave-voting sections of its base. This is perfectly legitimate in its own right: a left-wing government, implementing Labour’s 2017 manifesto or going beyond it, would make far more of a difference to people’s lives than staying in the EU.

But there was a wider political logic behind the party’s stand. The accusations of “sitting on the fence” leveled at the Labour leadership are misguided at best, malicious at worst. The best elements in the party, including Corbyn, recognized it would be a disaster if Leave vs Remain became entrenched as the main dividing line in British politics.

Electing a Labour Government Matters More Than Brexit

The entrenchment is real and has not been wished away by Corbyn or anybody else.

What of his Jacobin claim that, “if the Labour leadership does now pivot towards the second-referendum camp, it should be seen in a realistic light, as a major setback for the Corbyn project…

Finn – rewriting lightly this judgement – concludes this section,

Corbyn’s latest move fell some way short of the unqualified pro-Remain commitment his opponents were seeking. In July 2019, he announced that Labour would campaign to stay in the eu if that was the only alternative to no deal or ‘a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs’; on the other hand, if Labour formed a government before the Brexit deadline and had time to negotiate its own package, it would put that agreement to a popular vote, with Remain as the alternative choice. The new line could be made to work—but whether Corbyn’s inner-party opponents will allow that to happen is a very different question.

‘Falling far short’ may satisfy New Left Review, but not many others, perhaps he means “falling far short” of a major setback…

“Could be made to work”, pure Andersonese, is as clear as mud.

All three of Finn’s possible scenarios for a Labour government,  headlong retreat by conservative resistance”, a “reformist party that actually carries out reforms”, and (the improbable), ” return to the ideas that animated left-wing forces in the 1960s and 70s when they recognized the limitations of social-democratic rule” depend on a response to the issue of Brexit.

But few can escape the observation that the days of feeling satisfied at the “knocks” delivered by the Brexit vote, or calling for “undoing” the EU have passed.

This is surely worth flagging up in the inconclusive concluding sentence,

If Corbyn succeeds in taking power after the next election, he will have made his way past many formidable obstacles, but his greatest challenges will still lie ahead.

From a different part of the left one can outline some of the deeper difficulties that Labour and the left face:

  • This is not a trivial “culture war”. The days when the category of  ‘anti-systemic’ parties had any use obscures the change. The Brexit vote has been followed by the development of national populist current in British politics. From the Johnson-led Tory Party to the Party PLC, of Nigel Farage (following the example of a number of European ‘parties’ from Macron’s  La République En Marche, Italy’s Movimento 5 Stelle, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Rally –   lieu de rassemblement – la France insoumise , a business run from the top), embody currents which call for national sovereignty, free-market economics, and antagonism to the “anti-nation”. The “empty symbols” of Rule Britannia, national “amour propre” not only moblised the Leave vote, they have become the foundations of this politics. A far-right fringe is now actively targeting the “collaborators” who wish to Remain.
  • WIthin the Corbyn camp the continuing influence of a pro-Brexit constituency.  But radical hostility to the “hayekised” EU, and calls to represent the “impoverished” deindustrialised  regions, the ‘left behind’, has not been the basis of a serious economic and social programme. They cannot recreate the labour movement of the 1970s. As the Accelerationist Manifesto pointed out in 2013  ” There can be no return to Fordism. The capitalist “golden era” was premised on the production paradigm of the orderly factory environment, where (male) workers received security and a basic standard of living in return for a lifetime of stultifying boredom and social repression. Such a system relied upon an international hierarchy of colonies, empires, and an underdeveloped periphery; a national hierarchy of racism and sexism; and a rigid family hierarchy of female subjugation. For all the nostalgia many may feel, this regime is both undesirable and practically impossible to return to.”
  • The lingering influence of  ‘sovereigntist’ politics on the British left, one of the principal poles of the pro-Brexit, Lexit, current, creates deeper difficulties. Many of their figures have followed that of its European counterparts.In the absence of a real prospect of “striking real blows at the roots of capitalist power, provoking a crisis within the state machine, and relying upon mass movement” (cited by Finn as the “least likely” of the results of a possible Labour government) they has turned inward. It cannot rely only on the “folk politics of localism” and memory of the “real” working class. Parts of this left has drifted towards a “red brown” cocktail of hostility towards “rootless cosmopolitans”. The leader of probably the biggest post-war left coalition, Respect, George Galloway, is now an open ally of Nigel Farage. Far from being at antipodes to National Populism the Sovereigntist left is in danger of becoming its twin.
  • A left based on transformative democracy has also emerged. As Another Europe is Possible says,”A British exit from the EU would have a seriously detrimental impact on the free movement of people; trade union and human rights; environmental protection; international cooperation; and a host of other vital issues. While, at the very least, the EU is in desperate need of a democratic overhaul, an exit at the current time would boost right wing movements and parties and hurt ordinary people in the UK. European politics has been dominated by neoliberal thinking for far too long – as recent events in Greece brutally demonstrate. But changing this means working to strengthen anti-austerity movements across all of Europe – not walking away. Another Europe is Possible is a campaign for a radical “in” vote. Our campaign will put the case for staying in the EU independently of Cameron and big business, opposing any part of a “renegotiation” that attacks workers’, migrants’ or human rights. We will combine campaigning for an in vote with arguing for an alternative economic model, maintaining European citizens’ rights to live and work across the EU, and for far-reaching democratic reforms of European institutions.
  • This position stands, and is a better guideline for left politics than delight at the EU being given a “kick up the backside” or celebration of ‘anti-systemetic’ parties without any positive emancipatory politics.

Finn is a specialist in Irish politics.

Perhaps he would care to develop – the present article does not –  the theme of how  EU demands for “no room for unilateral exit from the ‘backstop’ designed to prevent a hard border on Irish soil.” have become the centre of the Brexit wars…

Or this:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Communist Party of Britain Calls to Reject “Hysteria” about No-Deal Brexit which offers “new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries”.”

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Workers Unite Behind Communist Call for ‘no-deal’ Brexit, ” Labour government could then seek new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries.”

The Communist Party of Britain, who counted amongst their number until recently Andrew Murray, one of the Jeremy Corbyn’s key advisers on Brexit, and which runs the Morning Star, warns against a national unity government.

Their view on Corbyn’s offer of a Caretaker Government is not known but they favour a No Deal Brexi which is the reason widely given for this call.

The CPB’s Red-Brown allies in the Full Brexit (see below) are more forthright retweeting this which implies dropping the effort.

 

In other words the Full Brexit wants Brexit come what may.

 

 

Here is the CPB’s statement.

Left and Labour must resist ‘Very real threats’, say Communists

The labour movement and the left face three very real threats from the British ruling class, Mollie Brown declared at the Communist Party’s political committee on Wednesday (August 14).

Firstly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could present himself at a snap General Election as the ‘hero of Brexit’ who either delivered it on October 31 or failed in an heroic attempt and so needs a fresh mandate to succeed. Secondly, a so-called ‘government of national unity’ could be formed which closes down normal parliamentary processes in order to derail Brexit. Thirdly, if he remains Tory Prime Minister, Johnson will almost certainly try to use a ‘no-deal Brexit’ to be a closer economic, political and military alliance between Britain and a very right-wing US government led by the likes of President Trump,Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign policy advisor John Bolton.

The overriding strategic aim of the capitalist class and its politicians in all the main parties is to prevent the election of a left-led Labour government free from EU single market rules to pursue left and radical manifesto policies’, Ms Brown told the meeting. She urged Labour to fight for an immediate General Election with a pledge to respect the EU referendum result and take Britain out of the EU on October 31 or at the earliest possible time if it has not already happened.

Rejecting the ‘hysteria’ being whipped up by right-wing and pro-establishment politicians and media against a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, Ms Brown said a Labour government could then seek new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries. ‘Only a left-led Labour government would seek to enhance mutually beneficial relations which respect the rights of all workers, citizens and consumers and enable the British, Scottish and Welsh governments to use their new post-Brexit powers to build a productive, sustainable and equitable economy’, she concluded. Britain’s Communists welcomed the formation of the broad-based ‘LeFT’ alliance in favour of leaving the EU and fighting to transform Brexit into a people’s exit that will open the path to socialist policies.

This is their full position on a No-Deal Brexit (January)

Communist Party calls for Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms

BRITAIN should leave the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms to free a future Labour government from single market rule, the Communist Party declared at the weekend.

And, ‘Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose.

The Communist Party executive concluded that any revamped Withdrawal Agreement would continue to bind Britain to the ‘big business freedoms’ of the EU Single Market, which would obstruct any future British government’s efforts to promote infrastructure investment, manufacturing industry, economic planning, public ownership, regional development, public sector procurement and VAT reforms and a labour market that ensures full rights for all workers.

‘Locking Britain into the EU Customs Union would make any such agreement even worse’, Robert Griffiths explained, ‘because it would outlaw import regulation to protect strategic industries such as steel, while also impeding a mutually beneficial fair trade policy with developing countries’.

Socialist Resistance describe the real challenges ahead,

We are facing an unprecedented confrontation between government, Parliament, and people. Gordon Brown and Dominic Grieve have both described it as the biggest constitutional crisis since the English civil war of 1642 (no less), that will be launched next month in advance of the October 31 deadline.

Labour strengthens position

In response, Jeremy Corbyn has now written to the other opposition parties and remain Tories to say that Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government as soon as it is clear that it would win, and that in the event of this being successful Labour would seek form an interim administration with the aim of calling a general election. In that election, the letter says, ‘Labour will be committed to a public vote on the terms of leaving the EU including an option to remain’.

This throws down the gauntlet to the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and rebel Tories, at a time when remain MPs have been discussing a government of national unity led by the likes of Ken Clarke or Yvette Cooper. The letter’s clear commitment to a second referendum in the context of a general election is a major step forward in Labour policy and opens up clear battle lines with the Brexiteers and the hard right.

They note,

The new Left Campaign, launched recently by the Morning Star and supported by others on the left – such as Costas Lapavitsas, Kevin Ovenden, and Alex Gordon – is dedicated ensuring that Britain leaves the EU on October 31, and is completely uncritical of the no-deal Brexit being planned by Johnson and oblivious (apparently) to the racist, hard right, neoliberal nature of the exit they are supporting. They have been urging Jeremy Corbyn (fortunately unsuccessfully) to end any support for a second referendum and make a radical case for Britain staying in the European Union under the terms on offer.

They continue,

Since a successful no confidence vote would produce an election before October 31 that the Tories think they would lose, Johnson’s special advisor, Dominic Cummings has proposed a different and completely outrageous reading of the Act. He argues that since the date of such an election is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, Johnson should ignore a no-confidence vote, stay in office, and call a general election with a date that would ensure that it concluded after October 31 giving the Tories a better chance of winning by claiming that they had implemented the 2016 referendum vote.

Any attempt by Johnson to bypass Parliament and people will not be easy, or even achievable, however slick the Downing Street operation. A majority of both the population and MPs are against it, and opposition is growing as the implications become ever more clear. The Commons Speaker John Bercow has said, speaking in Edinburgh, that it is possible for MPs to block an exit on October 31, and he will strain every bone in his body to ensure that Parliament’s voice is heard.

Jeremy Corbyn rightly branded this, in a letter to the cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill on August 8, as “an unprecedented, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic abuse of power”. He went on to demand from Sedwill clarification of the rules surrounding ‘purdah’ which are designed to prevent an incumbent government from taking major policy decisions during an election campaign to the detriment of opposition parties.

He also asked Sedwill to confirm that in the event that Britain becomes required to leave the EU under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act during an election campaign, that the government would avoid this by seeking an extension to article 50 in order to allow an incoming government to take a decision of Brexit on the basis of the result. “Forcing through no deal Brexit against a decision of Parliament”, he said, “and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already under way, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic abuse of power by a Prime Minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of Conservative Party members.

 

No doubt in their push for a Hard, No Deal Brexit, the CPB would dismiss this as “hysteria”:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 16, 2019 at 11:24 am

Maoism. A Global History. Julia Lovell. A Socialist Review.

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Maoism. A Global History. Julia Lovell. Bodley Head. 2019.

Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are “poor and blank”. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for changes the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written; the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.

Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong.

“Introducing a Co-operative” (April 15, 1958).

One of the “most significant and complicated political forces of the modern world” for Julia Lovell, Maoism is “A potent mix of party-building discipline, anti-colonial rebellion and ‘continuous revolution”, grafted onto the secular religion of Soviet Marxism”. The legacy of Mao-Zedong “unlocks the contemporary history of China”. It is equally a “key influence on global insurgency, insubordination and intolerance across the last eighty years.” (Page 7) At the conclusion of this wide-ranging synthesis, covering the history of 20th century China, and the “significant afterlife” of Maoist inspired uprisings and groupuscules, “case studies in radicalisation” across the globe, the author asks of the Chairman’s homeland, “How will the PRC weather the contrast between the CCP’s Maoist heritage and the hybrid, globalised nature of contemporary China?” (Page 465)

What is Maoism? A Global History paints a portrait of Mao, of rural origin, who placed his faith in the peasantry and produced the 1927 Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan. Marx, Lovell asserts, had dismissed the mid-19th century French peasants as a “sack of potatoes”, a reference to their wretched conditions in isolated smallholdings. Marx believed that attachment to their post-Revolution property was one of the social bases for Louis Bonaparte’s Second Empire. Mao recognised a revolutionary social force in Chinese rural associations. It might be suggestive that this Emperor began his career by creating a “religion that represents and fights for the toiling farmers” put into practice through “a brief reign of terror in every rural area” (Page 34) (1)

Maoism a system of ideas and practices was, Lovell considers, born out of the brutal repression by the 1927 nationalists of their Communist allies. A hitherto loose organisation, inspired by the Russian Revolution, founded in 1921, it had entered a military based alliance with the Guomindang, on instructions from the Moscow run Third International. The violence unleashed by Chiang Kai-Shek was dramatised in André Malraux’s outstanding la Condition Humaine (1933). The French novelist underlined, like the present pages, the Soviet influence on making the disastrous alliance, and imposing the Leninist line that the peasantry would follow the urban workers (“le paysan suit toujours” dit Vologuine “Ou l‘ouvrier, ou le bourgeois. Mais il suit.”).

In the Countryside. 

In 1927 the nationalists and gangsters tried to exterminate the Communists, beginning by massacring communists and union members in their newly won Shanghai stronghold. The result was not only recriminations against Moscow, but the rise of “men like Mao from outside the first generation of elite intellectual leaders” who began “to assert the primacy of the military and of violence.” (Page 30) A strategy of the countryside following the city was replaced by a struggle in the rural areas. Regrouped the armed party began the Long March to escape the military campaign. Entrenched in remote districts the Chinese Communists (who became the CCP) expanded their territory until they led the national liberation struggle against the Japanese occupation.

In the early 1930s Mao had started his own purges, preceding Stalin’s Great Terror. “The most merciless torture” was ordered to “expose ‘Anti-Bolshevik conspirators”. Tens of thousands were murdered. The “radical sacrifice” (Terry Eagleton) by the Communists themselves was melded into extreme violence against others, including suspect Party members. This is an enduring pattern. A Global History resounds with memorable accounts of the brutality of Maoist uprising and the policies of the CPC, in war, at home and by their allies in North Korea and Kampuchea. They are not diminished by the American interventions in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and vicious efforts of states to exterminate Mao inspired insurgencies.

Many readers will be most affected by some of the opening chapters. Edgar Snow’s 1937 glowing portrait of the Communist North West in Red Star over China made an enduring impression across the world. Yan’an was no only a centre of heroic resistance; it “projected a reverence for culture”. In 1942 – 3 the less celebrated repression of the ‘Rectification Campaign’ indicated how Mao reacted to anybody bringing up the “dark side” of life in the base areas. Known as the Yan’an Literary Opposition (Gregor Benton)  they cast doubt on Communist pretensions to egalitarianism and popular participation. Amongst these dissident voices Lovell focuses on Wang Shiwei, who had studied in Moscow and was a talented translator and writer. In Wild Lily Shiwei launched heartfelt criticisms of Communist dogmatism, lack of human warmth and kindness. Above all he focused on the hierarchy and privileges that marked out life in the redoubt. The Communists allocated, by rank, three classes of clothing and five grades of food. Why was this not allocated “on the basis of need and reason”. Why should healthy “big shots” get more than the sick of lower rank? Subordinates “look upon them as a race apart”. (2)

Mao did not tolerate this. Wang was hauled up to a Show Trial. His fellow critics were humiliated into public self-criticism during “struggle sessions”. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were locked up in the caves. Charged and condemned Wang survived for a while, working in a matchbox factory. He was exhibited to journalists to say, “I am a Trotskyist. I attacked Mao. So I deserve to be executed.” Yet, “Mao is so magnanimous” and that he was “grateful for his mercy.” The Party leader’s forgiveness was short lived. The Communist dissident was hacked to death in 1947, it is said, on Mao’s orders. (3)

The Stalinist Terror Foundation.

This was founding moment in defining Maoism. These “Stalinist terror tactics” meant those under suspicion as “unreliable”, whether educated in the critical spirit of the “cosmopolitan Enlightenment” (Wang had translated Trotsky and Engels), or just grumblers, suffered imprisonment. Many were killed when it was convenient. From the Hundred Flowers Campaign in the 1950s, when criticism was invited, to the Cultural Revolution, when it was called for again, those who opened their hearts and spoke out found themselves subject to “thought reform” in vast gaols, and death.

There was another side to the Maoist template. Those who focus on the CCP’s achievements might draw some comfort in the description of the “co-operative movement” launched at the same time. Land reform and “social levelling” in their territory coincided with the Rectification campaign.

This two-pronged strategy, suppression of dissidents and material improvement, and suppression of exploiting classes, for the masses, was the “process through which Mao created a disciplined party and bureaucracy”. For Lovell it served as a template for ‘high Maoism’ – combining extreme violence against a variety of enemies with servitude to the ‘mass line’. Rebellion co-existed with the cult of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought.

A Global History draws on Frank Dikötter’s landmark studies to trace out the history of the People’s Republic. From the great enthusiasm that followed liberation, accompanied with repression to the mass famines of the Great Leap Forward, a break-neck industrialisation and collectivisation campaign, which in rural areas resembled the tragedy of the Holodomor, right up the Cultural Revolution, one can feel the CCP leadership’s disregard for human life. In the same year, 1958, Mao was prepared to add nuclear war to the human costs of his social gestures. “Maybe we can get the United States to drop an atom bomb on Fijian.” Mao spoke to his doctor, “Maybe ten or twenty million people will be killed.” (Page 133) Mao’s solipsism and egotism extended to his personal life. His ‘feminism’ did not prevent him from amassing  a female seralogio, imposing his personal quirks on others,  and boorish behaviour.  (4)

Cultural Revolutions.

1966 saw the launching of the Cultural Revolution, broadcast worldwide with hopes of global revolution. “Chinese propaganda portrayed Mao as the genius saviour of the world revolution: battling Western imperialists, treacherous Soviet revisionists and capitalist scabs in his own party.”(P 125) Mao had broken with Khrushchev over de-Stalinism and peaceful coexistence with the West. Apart from the formal allegiance of Albania to China’s line, the first small stirrings of a pro-Chinese current in the international Communist movement had begun before the Cultural Revolution. In Australia, and elsewhere, for example, in France, pro-Chinese activists took the label “Marxist-Leninist”. For these and similar groups across the world, Lovell notes, Chinese support was largely an affair of sending glossy magazines, small publication subsidies, and invitations to bathe in the glow of the Mao cult in China itself. (5)

In portraying the ‘Mao mood’ that took hold in small circles of the non-Chinese left Lovell does not distinguish between these early, ‘first wave’ dogmatic and Stalin nostalgic M-L groups from the much more heteroclite surge of ‘soft Maoist’ groupuscules who flourished in the wake of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This proliferation of different factions was possible because, amongst other reasons, there was no centralised Maoist ‘International’ on Comintern lines. 

“Maoist fever”, fashion caught hold in many countries. I was on display in 1967 in Mao-jacket mannequin photo shots in Lui and the pages of the avant-garde literary journal Tel Quel in France, a centre of the craze. May 68 brought this to the fore, with the Gauche Prolétarienne attempting to create a ‘Mao-spontex’ synthesis based on the spontaneity of the masses, in its wake. Bizarrely, as Simon Leys pointed out in his 1970s writings, the Cultural Revolution was pictured as “anti-authoritarian” and its leaders internationalists. In reality the factions battling it out in China constantly used authoritative police and ‘mass’ measures to repress dissent and – in the Party – its supporters were dyed in the wool xenophobes (Les habits neufs du président Mao: chronique de la ” Révolution culturelle . 1971. (5).

A Global History coasts over these movements, such as the German K groups, and the Italian Red Brigades. While alighting on the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Action Movement, she does not include much on the groups that have been called part of the New Communist Movement, of importance on the US left, which endured till the 1970s. Terrorist violence, associated with but independent of Maoism failed – Action Directe in 1980s France was perhaps the only case of a group with full-blown Maoist origins. Above all, “Dogmatic loyalty to the theory of the Cultural Revolution and to the twists and turns of Chinese domestic foreign policy” took their toll. Mao’s death in 1976 and the fall of the Gang broke whatever remained of the Cultural Revolution. From that wreckage Bob Avikin’s initiative, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement created in 1984, represents a low point. A more lasting influence can be seen in the ‘post-Maoist’ parties, the Belgium Parti du travail / Partij van de Arbeid van België, and the Dutch Socialist Party, Socialistische Partij, which have dropped the Marxist-Leninist heritage and have won Parliamentary and local representation in their countries.

Much of the Post-68 New Left, Trotskyist, anarchist and radical socialist, often strongly influenced by Simon Leys, either made fun of the hard-core Maoists or treated them with contempt. Our humour was misplaced, as Lovell describes, when in 2013 ‘Comrade Bala”, Aravindan Balakrishnan, was found to have kept female members of his cult, the Brixton based Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought was found to have kept women in sexual slavery kept in line by physical assault.

Maoism Across the World.

A Global History spends more time on the weightier political impact of Maoism, in Malaya, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Peru, India, African countries and Nepal. Lovell offers serious insights into the way Maoist intolerant tactics, that is violence, inflected deeply rooted fights for national liberation and social justice. It is hard not to keep in mind the example of Cambodia, “The go-it-alone nationalism of Mao’s revolution combined with the Khmer Rouge’s innate jingoism to produce the murderous self confidence of Pol Pot’s regime, a state unanswerable o any external authority.” (Page 257), Or the impact of China’s backing for the genocidal attack by the Pakistani army and Islamist collaborators against the Bangladeshi national liberation struggle in 1971.

In contrast to the largely for show support given to pro-Chinese groups, military and other aid in many of these cases was real. She offers reservations not just on the intoxicated cult of the Shining Path, which emerged fiercely critical of post-Mao China, but on the strategies carried out in the People’s War, the lead up to the genocidal crushing of Indonesian Communism, contemporary India, and the Nepalese Maoists, now in government. They too have practiced cultural revolutionary purges. Yet, Even passionate critics of the Maoists– of whom there are many in Kathmandu, across the political spectrum – concede that the Maoists accelerated, and placed centre stage, a more inclusive identity politics that sought to given political representation to the people of Nepal in all their diversity’ (Page 410)

Today the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) remains indebted to Mao Zedong and has called for a vote for the Brexit Party. Naxalite guerrillas in the Indian jungle pursue their insurgency, the President of China, Xi Jinping, is said to be reviving Mao’s ‘mass line’. Yet those who would say that Mao had written beautiful characters on the revolutionary history of the 20th century are few in number. In Maoism. A Global History Julia Lovell has accomplished a harder task: writing out in clear deeply thought-through pages one of the most important balance-sheets of Mao’s sombre legacy to have been published in the new millennium. Its measured criticisms of Maoist revolutionary cruelty make it essential reading for all democratic socialists and supporters of human rights.

In August 2018, a UN committee heard that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes.

The claims were made by rights groups, but China denies the allegations. At the same time, there’s growing evidence of oppressive surveillance against people living in Xinjiang.

BBC.

 

*******

  1. The idea that Karl Marx dismissed the peasantry rests on a partial reading of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1869) Marx wrote of the majority of smallholding peasants formed “by the simple addition of isomorphous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes.” But he also asserted that Bonapartism, as the representation of those who wish to “consolidate the condition of his social existence, the small holding. It does not represent the country people who want to overthrow the old order by their own energies, in alliance with the town.” Page 240. Surveys from Exile. Karl Marx. Editor David Fernbach. 1973.
  2. “From the amount of grain, sugar, cooking oil, meat and fruit to the quality of healthcare and access to information, one’s position in the party hierarchy determined everything. Even the quality of tobacco and writing paper varied according to rank.” Page 174. Mao’s Great Famine Frank Dikötter. Bloomsbury 2010. Link.
  3. Link. Lovell says, “Wang was denounced as a Trotskyist (he had translated Engels and Trotsky). His supporters were “investigated in a witch-hunt for spies and undercover agents, they were interrogated in front of large crowds shouting slogans, made to confess in endless indoctrination meetings and forced to denounces each other in a bid to save themselves. Some were locked in caves, others taken to mock executions. For month after month, life in Yan’an was nothing but a relentless succession of interrogations and rallies feeding fear, suspicion and betrayal. “(P 175) Some broke down, lost their minds or committed  suicide. “Mao demanded absolute loyalty from intellectuals, who had to reform themselves ideologically by constantly studying and discussing essays by him, Stalin and others.”(Ibid) The Rectification Campaign was ended in 1945 he apologised for maltreatment and blamed his underlings. Wang Shiwei was killed in 1947, reportedly chopped to pieces and thrown down a well. Translations are contained in the excellent, highly recommended, dossier on Lib Com: Yenan Literary Opposition.
  4. “The one-party state under Mao did not concentrate all its resources on the extermination of specific groups of people – with the exception, of course of counter-revolutionaries, saboteurs, spies and other ‘enemies of the people’, political categories vague enough potentially to include anybody and everybody. But Mao did throw the country in the great leap forward, extended the military structure of the party to all society. ‘Everyone a soldier’, Mao had proclaimed at the height of the campaign, brushing aside such bourgeois niceties as a salary, a day off each week or a prescribed limit on the amount of labour a worker should carry out. A giant people’s army in the command economy would respond to every beck and all of its generals. Every aspect of society was organised on military lines with canteens, boarding kindergartens, collective dormitories, shock troops and villages construed to be foot soldiers. –In a continuous revolution. “(P 298 – 299) Frank Dikötter op cit.

  5. See: Chapters one and Two.  Les maoïstes. La folle histoire des gardes rouges français. Christophe Bourseiller. 2nd Edition. Plon. 2008 This is particularly informative: PEKING REVIEW AND GLOBAL ANTI-IMPERIALIST NETWORKS IN THE 1960S Hatful of History.

  6. See also Chinese Shadows  Simon Leys, 1977. 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 13, 2019 at 12:23 pm

John Ross, from International Marxist Group and Ken Livingstone, to denouncing ‘arrogant’ democracy Hong Kong protesters.

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John Ross, from Student Revolutionary to “China has the best human rights record in the world.”

“When I say ‘China has the best human rights record in the world’, it’s not meant to make China feel good… it was an objective statement,” Ross told the Global Times. “If somebody doesn’t agree with that, let’s have a discussion on who has a better human rights record, and why. And you will find out during the discussion that [the idea that any country has a better human rights record than China]is not true,” he concluded.”

Global Times 2014

More recently,

“the CPC is a Marxist Party and China is a socialist and not a capitalist country. Those ‘China experts’ who doubted that, thinking they knew better than the CPC, have just been proved to be wrong.”

What is a great pity is that parts of the Western left followed, and were influenced by, Western ‘China experts’ into falsely believing that the CPC had abandoned Marxism and China had become a capitalist and not a socialist country.”

Xi stresses importance of The Communist Manifesto

“, the US House of Representatives would be well advised to pass a resolution congratulating China for its unequalled contribution to human well-being in lifting over 600 million people out of poverty, establishing an enquiry to find out why US-supported economic policies in the rest of the world have made no such contribution to human rights, and publicly apologizing for the hundreds of thousands of people it has killed in its wars – including the thousands of ordinary US soldiers.”

John Ross. British scholar defends China’s human rights

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2014-06-12 17:11:20

 

Now he is telling Hong Kong residents not to get so uppity.

And making conspiratorial claims against pro-democracy protesters.

Global Times suggested in 2014 that Ross could be included amongst the “expatriate American and British ‘academics’ who make a living telling China what it wants to hear about itself. Not specialists on China, or speakers of Chinese, or indeed scholars at all, they easily find cushy university posts from which they write blogs and columns about the superiority of the Chinese system.”

John Ross, a former director of London’s Economic and Business Policy to ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone and current Senior Fellow with the Chongyang Institute, also at the Renmin University, is one of a number of foreign academics on the receiving end of attacks by some netizens for his open criticism of liberal “public intellectuals” that, Ross says, do not really “understand” democracy. On June 12, Ross published an op-ed in China saying that the US is clearly wrong over China’s human rights record.

“The attempt to reduce human rights to a Western-style political structure, as though having a parliamentary system were the most important question facing human beings, is ridiculous,” Ross wrote. He argues that the idea that China has “raised” 630 million people out of poverty – more than the population of the United States – is more important than having access to Facebook.

Ross says his chosen headline was “China has the best human rights record in the world.” The op-ed has been published three times in China so far, both in English and Chinese; none have used his original title.

“When I say ‘China has the best human rights record in the world’, it’s not meant to make China feel good… it was an objective statement,” Ross told the Global Times. “If somebody doesn’t agree with that, let’s have a discussion on who has a better human rights record, and why. And you will find out during the discussion that [the idea that any country has a better human rights record than China]is not true,” he concluded.

Our Man in Beijing: Or Is He Theirs?

Background on Ross,

Ross joined the Trotskyist International Marxist Group (IMG) in the late 1960s. He worked with Bob Pennington to form the IMG Opposition Group. Ross was a central figure in the leadership of the IMG in the early 1980s when it became known as Socialist Action, but he gradually lost the support of much of its membership.

Ken and the rise of Socialist Action

(Andrew Hosken, Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone, Arcadia Books, 10 April 2008.

Chapter 18: 1985-1994. Ken and the rise of Socialist Action, 1985-1994)

In their early years, members of Socialist Action churned out him hundreds of agendas, documents and other discussion papers which I have been able to obtain. They tell the remarkable story of how the group absorbed itself into the Labour Left and became a major force within it; as well the efforts it made to disappear from view as an organisation. Socialist Action made a concerted attempt to cultivate Ken Livingstone back in 1985 in the wake of the failed rate capping campaign. John Ross, the leader of the group, interviewed Livingstone for its relatively new paper, also called Socialist Action. Livingstone had already heard about Ross as the author of a small book called Thatcher and Friends which predicted the terminal decline of the Tory Party.[4] ‘I recognised this was someone with formidable intellect,’ says Livingstone. ‘After the rate capping fiasco, when most of the rest of the hard left were boycotting me, he turned up and did an interview and we started talking about economics and I realised this was somebody who could give me the grasp on economic policy which I didn’t have, So when I became an MP I retained him to actually do that’.[5]

John Ross’s influence grew from that moment; he became Livingstone’s most important advisor from 1985 onwards. After Livingstone, he is the most influential personality in the mayor’s office. The rates farce stripped Livingstone of most of his Left contacts and friends. Ross supplied Livingstone not only with the support and network he needed to continue but also the education necessary to tackle the Labour leadership on the vital battleground of economic policy. For 20 years, Ken Livingstone has really been a double act; John Ross and Socialist Action have been the silent partners.

Ross worked as a lecturer at Enfield Polytechnic and once he fought the Newham North East parliamentary seat as the candidate for the International Marxist Group, the forerunner to Socialist Action.[6] By the time Ross met Livingstone, he had emerged triumphant from an internecine struggle within the International Marxist Group, or IMG, one of Britain’s main Trotskyist parties. During 1982, the IMG split over strategy: how to bring about that elusive revolution. That split led to the creation of Socialist Action.

The IMG was built fundamentally out of the student movement of the late 1960s and helped organise some of the biggest protests against the Vietnam War in London.[7] During the 1970s its revolutionary strategy was focused on industry and the unions, which made sense during this period of economic instability and intense industrial unrest. Members, often highly educated, were encouraged to get blue collar jobs to play a role in encouraging the workers to turn towards revolution, ‘The Turn’.

An internal IMG note in 1982 reiterated, ‘…it is vital that we are rooted among the industrial workers, going through joint experiences with them and drawing common lessons. Any other perspective will only alienate us from the forces who will be key in building a revolutionary party and expose us to class pressures’.[8] Jobs were often advertised internally: ‘London Transport are taking on bus drivers at Stamford Hill; contact Wood Green Job Centre’; or ‘Jobs available in small chemical factory in Hounslow; we have a comrade who is a convenor.'[9]

But the IMG had always been hopelessly confused about its approach to the Labour Party: to enter or not to enter. ‘We hopped into the Labour Party around 1975,’ wrote member John Marston, in his exasperated letter of resignation December 1982, ‘and then out again in 1977 for the joys of regroupment and Socialist Unity. Any pretence of a strategic perspective, vanished.'[10]

  • (← p. 258)

In late 1982, the IMG split over whether or not to join the Benn crusade within the Labour Party, or the ‘Bennite Current’. Apaper presented to the IMG’s conference in December 1982 stated: ‘It is clear that, at the leadership level, fundamental differnces are emerging as to the nature of the party we are trying to build and how to build it. A gulf is developing between those who, basing themselves on the positions of the 1981 conference, wish to build an independent combat party rooted in the industrial working class, and those who are moving towards the idea of an ideological tendency operating in the Labour Party as left critics of the Benn current.'[11]

John Ross was at the forefront of the internal struggle to ditch the industrial strategy and get all IMG members to join the Labour Party en masse and then seek to control the Left bloc within it. Supporting Ross was another key figure in Livingstone’s political career, Redmond O’Neill. At the December 1982 conference, Ross carried the day and over the next few months IMG members joined the Labour Party. A minority who disagreed with the policy of ‘deep eritryism’ split away and formed its own party, the International Group which became a political irrelevance. Despite becoming Labour members, the Ross majority still remained organised as a separate political organization. They decided to rebrand themselves as the Socialist League, and to establish a newspaper called Socialist Action. Like Militant, the group became known by the name of their paper rather than as the Socialist League.

‘The.next steps towards a revolutionary party comprise a fight for a class struggle within the Bennite current,’ said one discussion paper at the time. ‘For this a new newspaper is necessary – one that is seen as the voice of revolutionary socialists within the Labour Party and which can thereby give political expressions to the mass struggles of workers and youth who in the next period will seek overall political answers within the Labour Party. ‘… Socialist Action will fight for leadership within the Bennite Current.'[12]

The Socialist League/Socialist Action met for the first time as a central committee at the Intensive English School in Star Street near Marble Arch for the start of a two-day conference on Saturday, 22 January 1983. The official launch of Socialist Action took place the following morning[13] and it first appeared on 16 March. The group’s old paper, Socialist Challenge, ceased to exist.

Comment.

This is disgusting. Chinese people – and the Hong Kong pro-democracy  protesters –  are great. How the fuck can the leading figure of the IMG end up supporting that ruling class.

For the Fourth International, which Ross once supported, there is this,  very different position,

Sunday 11 August 2019, by Wilfred Chan

Hong Kong has justified its existence as an interface between Western neoliberal globalism and China’s statist authoritarian capitalism. China no longer needs the city to play that role; Hong Kongers desperately need an alternative.

A tiny border city of 7 million people cannot singlehandedly dismantle the hegemonies that ensnare it. But its struggle at this critical moment should be an urgent call for all leftists to help undo those structures—while rethinking the organization of societies beyond the capitalist model of nation-states. Then, perhaps, the people of Hong Kong would be able to join in building what Bernie Sanders has called the “international progressive front“—and, as he writes, “do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other.” From the death of this neoliberal city, an emancipatory new history could be born.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2019 at 11:05 am