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France: Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Reforms’ to Continue on Track?

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Image result for maree populaire

Protest Against Macron Calls for General Strike. May 2018.

Is France’s President Emmanuel Macron about to win his battle against the rail strikers?  

Last Friday after the French National Assembly the Senate passed legislation reforming the country’s railway system, the SNCF by 245 against 82. The principal change is that from an “établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial (EPIC) » to « société anonyme (SA) ». That is, it will become a limited company, which will remain under public ownership.

No new recruit will benefit from the existing ‘statut’, the terms and conditions, of existing employees. This open the way for the end of free travel for employees, lower pay, more worker ‘flexibility, and the abolition of the right to retire at 55 for train drivers. A principal argument behind these, and other changes, is that the public railway company must resolve its debt problem to be competitive.

There will be competition between the rail-service and other companies, extending the existing opening to freight. There are suggestions (Spinetta report) that some unprofitable branch lines may be done away with. Maintenance will also be open to private companies (l’Humanité. 15.6.18). From 2019 regional services will be affected and in 2020 the TGV will, leaving the position around Paris in the l’Ile-de-France to be clarified between 2023 and…..2039.

These changes follow European Union directives on public debt and competition. They have been issued with the agreement of the counties of the EU, dominated by supporters of the marketisation of public services, and not from some hidden Brussels cabal.

Strikes, strongly supported by those working for the SNCF, against the ‘reform’ began on the 3rd of April, co-ordinated by the ‘intersyndical’ of rail unions (CGT, UNSA, SUD, CFDT, and FO). As collective bargaining begins in the light of the new law stoppages continue, intended to weigh on the negotiations. Despite suggestions that the ‘reformist’ unions (such as the CFDT) might reach a conciliatory agreement on their own this has not yet happened. What looks likely happen as talks get underway is that strikes will become reduced to a means of pressure for the best possible outcome, within this framework.

Despite a parallel conflict in Air France and a student movement, including militant occupations, against the reform called ORE (“d’orientation et de réussite des étudiants”) which gives universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants , a ‘social movement’ against Macron’s moves has not taken off. The wider public appears not to have identified with the fight of the cheminots (rail workers) as they did in 1997. Jean Luc-Mélenchon has stated that while he is drunk with his own self-satisfaction,  59% of those polled have a ‘negative’ opinion of the President. But ‘marées populaires” ‘ (tidal waves of protesters) at demonstration of solidarity with the strikers by his rally-party, have failed to flood the streets.  La France insoumise, the radical left, and other parts of the fragmented green, Communist and socialist left, trade unionists and students, have not created an ‘ insurrection  citoyenne’. Many of the public, lukewarm at the defence of what much of the media has presented as “special interests”  do not identify with the strikers.

Macon now feels free to tackle the welfare state. He has complained about the “pognon de dingue” (daft amount of dosh)  spent on welfare, suggesting wholesale changes in the benefit system. Replacing the complex French pension system with a uniform regime is in his sights. At the same time today it’s confirmed by right wing Economy Minister, Bruno le Maire, that the les Aéroports de Paris, la Française des Jeux (National Lottery) and Engie (unsurprisingly an energy firm) will be privatised (France’s Le Maire set to unveil inflammatory privatisation bill.)

It is sometimes suggested that Macron poses as ‘above’ left and right to cover his neoliberal policies. But is the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation what it was at the turn of the new millenium? The nature of ‘liberal’ policies, when not only European countries like Italy, Poland and Hungary, displaying signs of the less attractive side of anti-liberalism, but the US is engaged in trade wars that strike up the pillars of what was assumed to be ‘globalisation ‘ is in a state of flux. It is all very well for Mélenchon to shout that the President is an “EXTRÊME-LIBÉRAL”. But that part of the French left, including sections of La France insoumise, like other currents in Europe, including Britain, consider that ‘socialist’ version of ‘sovereigntism ‘ that is national control of the economy, is the answer to the difficulties created by years of market reform and liberalisation only adds to the confusion.

The French President himself claims to be a « progressive » both of the « right, the centre, and the left ». (Macron, un président philosophe. Brice Couturier. 2017) Put in less exorbitant langue he is, in effect, claiming the mantle of the 5th Republic, designed by de Gaulle to make the Head of State appear « above » parties and social divisions. Taking this further Macron presents his fight against workers and social rights as a struggle against outdated ‘ corporatism ‘.

A more bogus sets of political assertions would be hard to find. Saint-Simonian top-down technocratic reforms are the opposite of changes inspired by grassroots democratic struggle. But until there is a left united enough to challenge Macron and the domination of the National Assembly by his La République En Marche!  they will be hard to put down.

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 ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ Gains Support: Rally, Thursday June 21.

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Union Moves Towards People’s Vote on Brexit.

In the Daily Mirror it’s been argued by Alison McGovern that,

It’s hard to argue that this disastrous Tory government is doing anything but make a mess of Brexit.

In the past fortnight calls for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal have been getting louder , and in the months to come, I suspect the argument for the public to have their say – in the absence of a general election anyway – will become irresistible.

This follows this decision.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes,

“Our conference last weekend mandated us to campaign against this Tory Brexit which is failing our country before it lands us in even deeper water. We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with. For us, a Labour government committed to a manifesto for the many is a far bigger prize than Tory Brexit. I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who agree with us that the Brexit squeeze on workers is already not worth the juice and want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit exit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in Parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.

TSSA

Labour List reports.

Today the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has announced it will hold a rally to launch its campaign for a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.

The move suggests a pro-EU stance on the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Left of the Labour Party is gaining traction.

Earlier this week, as reported by LabourList, TSSA became the first trade union affiliated to the Labour Party to formally back a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Delegates at the union’s conference in Leicester also voted in favour of giving 16- and 17-year-olds a vote in such a referendum.

The transport and travel industry union now plans to hold a ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally on Thursday 21st June at Congress House in London.

Lord Andrew Adonis, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Labour MPs Catherine West and Geraint Davies are expected to speak at the rally, which is set to be hosted by left-wing NEC member Andi Fox.

Commenting on the event, union chief Manuel Cortes said: “We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with… I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”.

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.The ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally takes place on Thursday June 21, at 7pm at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London.

In a scatter-gun  article, A People’s Brexit that unites the left is the only way to confront an increasingly bold neoliberal mafia, Lindsey German, of the group Counterfire which leads the once influential People’s Assembly, argues against this movement.

Amongst her charges against the EU are the following:

“President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, last week insulted Italians for not working hard enough, being corrupt and not being serious. ” “the hero of many liberals, Emmanuel Macron, uses his presidency to launch vicious attacks on workers and students and to attack their rights.”

Apparently because many European countries are led by people whose politics German dislikes this is proof enough that the EU is rotten.

She concludes,

It’s really time to stop trying to reverse Brexit and start organising to deliver the sort of policies which can break the neoliberal consensus and challenge the far right.

It is hard to see, given the clashes she sketches between “populists” (from the furthest right to their allies such as the Movimento 5 Stelle ) and “liberals”, and the concessions of the latter to the former, what exactly this “consensus” is.

It is even harder to say what remains today of neoliberalism’, with its keynote free trade, and , minimal government intervention in business,  when Donald Trump has just announced another front in his trade wars, imposing 25% tariffs on Chinese goods followed by Beijing’s retaliation.

In fact it can be said with some certainty that the antics of those promoting a ‘People’s Brexit’ were a factor in boosting the British hard right, their ballot box allies.

German cites the sovereigntist economist,  Costas Lapavitsas who in an article (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour vs. the Single Market) in the US publication Jacobin “demonstrates how the EU regulations would prevent the development of policies which would benefit us all.”

Martin Thomas has dealt a death blow to these arguments.

The economist Costas Lapavitsas, who has done important work on financialisation, has written a widely-cited article for the US magazine Jacobin (30 May) to argue that Labour should back Brexit after all.

ndeed, his article systematically cites the “hardest” sort of Brexit — where Britain has no arrangement with the European Union to reduce economic barriers other than that given by general World Trade Organisation rules — as preferable.

Up to now, very few pro-Brexiters, outside a few right-wing nationalist Tories, have described that “no deal” Brexit as anything other than an admittedly damaging “worst case”.

Lapavitsas was a member of Syriza, one of the left-wingers who quit after the Syriza-led government capitulated to the EU-ECB-IMF impositions to form the Popular Unity party. Popular Unity’s line of agitating for “sovereignty and independence… against the new colonialism”, rather than for explicit socialism or a Europe-wide working-class policy, has proved unproductive. Although PU started with 25 of Syriza’s 149 MPs, and other prominent Syriza figures, it lost all its MPs in the September 2015 election, now polls between 1% and 2%, and has not rallied a large part of Syriza’s former left-wing base.

….

But “hard Brexit” cannot be a left-wing policy. The struggle for socialism is an affair of workers vs capitalists, not of Britain vs a “Europe” identified solely with neoliberal Brussels officials. Consider four points.

First: EU rules would not block anything in Labour’s 2017 manifesto. Domestic capitalist power would try to block some measures, and might try to draw the European Commission in on it, but by far the main obstacles to those measures lie within Britain.

Second: The frontline measures which the socialist left wants to see added to that manifesto would not be blocked either.

Restoring union rights to solidarity action, to quick responses, to picketing, would not be against EU rules. In fact, France has wider, better union rights than Britain had before Thatcher.

Restoring NHS funding would be against no EU rule. Both France and Germany spend markedly more on health care, as a percentage of national income, than Britain.

Restoring local government autonomy and funding, and thereby reviving social care and libraries, would be against no EU rule. Ditto for restoring welfare benefits.

Large measures on those lines would face domestic capitalist resistance much more than any hindrance from EU rules.

Third: the Single Market rules have become neoliberal not because they are “European” and “foreign”, but because they represent a trend of capitalist development pioneered… in London.

“Europe” in Lapavitsas’s picture, is just the neoliberal officials in the European Commission and the ECB. Workers? Labour movements? The argument proceeds as if no such things exist anywhere in Europe except in Britain and Greece.

Labour should certainly be pushed to policies which really would contradict Single Market rules. If the British labour movement rouses itself that far, then it can and must rouse labour movements elsewhere in Europe to do similar.

The reaction elsewhere in Europe to socialist mobilisation in the labour movement in Britain (if Britain happened to go first) would not just be anger from neoliberal officials in Brussels. Workers and labour movements across Europe would be inspired and energised.

The outcome would depend on the conflict between capitalists and workers right across Europe, not on legal battles between the British government and the European Commission.

Fourth: right now we face the danger of a real “hard Brexit”, not Lapavitsas’s imaginary “socialism in one (British) country”, or rather “‘industrial policy’ in one country”.

That Tory, or modified-Tory, “hard Brexit” will set us back in many ways. We should fight it, not accommodate to it by way of telling ourselves tales about it mutating into “semi-socialism in one country”.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

Communist Party of Britain-Marxist Leninist (CPGB -ML) and Stop the War Coalition on the Trump/Kim Jong Un Meeting.

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Image result for CPGB-ML Harpal Brar discusses DPRK on BBC’s primetime The One Show
 

On BBC’s One Show. Really…

On Monday 11 June, CPGB-ML chairman Harpal Brar joined guests on the BBC’s primetime One Show to discuss the historic meeting between US President Trump and Marshall Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers Party of Korea, in Singapore this week.On this video, you can see both the package that was broadcast by BBC One and the rest of the comments made by Comrade Brar during the course of the hour-long recording session.As the only person in the room supporting the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),

Comrade Brar put a strong and persuasive case in favour of the Korean people, their government and their hopes for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. Contrary to years of hysterical hyperbole demonising the north, its socialist system and its leaders, journalists in the capitalist press are now having to concede that the DPRK’s decision to arm itself with a nuclear deterrent was a wise one, and that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong Un and the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) has been anything but ‘crazy’.For our part, we have always fully upheld the Korean people’s right to work for peace and reunification without outside interference. It is US imperialism that stands in the way of this strong desire of the masses of both the north and the south of Korea, not the DPRK government, which has long pursued a policy of striving towards reunification.

That is why one of the most popular slogans of the WPK and the DPRK masses for decades has been and remains:
Korea is One!

This is closest we’ll get in Britain to the DPRK’s response.

It is laughable but Harpel Brar is seen strutting around – unchallenged – on most London left demonstrations.

Some on the left are more concerned with what they claim are “regime change” plans for North Korea than about the reality of this tyranny.

Just before the summit (11th of June) the Morning Star was issuing warnings on this theme:

Nagging doubt hang over Trump’s talks with North Korean leader

But, until reality dictates otherwise, a nagging doubt remains that Washington — especially the plethora of neoconservative cold warriors surrounding the president — has something more sinister in mind.

The likes of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo find it difficult to talk in anything but ultimatums, demanding “the Libya model” as the basis for Pyongyang’s agreement to renounce its nuclear weapons programme.

After the summit this was their response:

Trump and Kim agree to work towards the denuclearisation of Korea

While the global response to the meeting has been largely positive, Iran warned North Korea against trusting the US after Mr Trump recently pulled out of the 2015 international nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran last month.

John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition takes the regime change angle equally seriously while dismissing depth of the concluding agreement,

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing.

What does the Trump-Kim summit mean? Not much, says John Rees.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

…..

What Trump has actually done is to tear up a functioning nuclear deal with Iran and replace it with a meaningless multilateralist statement of intent with North Korea.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

China too will be relieved that any likely further pressure to contain their ally has just sharply decreased.

The real lessons of the circus in Singapore are two-fold.

One, this is another episode in the decline of US power. The initiative was taken out of US hands when North and South Korea began another round of détente at the Olympic games and it has never regained it. Trump has merely managed to grandstand on a stage that he neither created nor on which does he control the action.

Two, the age of populist leaders is an age in which foreign policy goals are determined as much by domestic campaigning priorities as by traditional international relations strategy. US Presidents are supposed to at least make a show of pursuing goals agreed on by the entire foreign policy elite, otherwise known as the ‘national interest’. Trump isn’t interested in that, although he sometimes has that approach forced on him by the wider US power structure.

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If there is one thing more dangerous than a US President following the dictates of the foreign policy elite, as Bush did with the Project for the New American Century, it’s a President following his own mercurial interpretation of what viewers of Fox news think is a good idea. But that is where US economic decline wedded to overwhelming military power, plus the aftermath of defeat in Iraq, has brought us.

In other words Trump is still a danger.

There remain three principal points to make:

  • North Korea, the DPRK, is a totalitarian tyranny. Yet, “Trump seemed to play down the severity of human rights violations in North Korea. “It’s rough,” Trump allowed after being asked about North Korea’s human rights record. He then said: “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way. Not just there.” (Kim Tong-Hyung). We did not expect the CPGB (M-L) to mention this either, but Rees, acting as a chess strategist on the world stage, fails to tackle the issues which the New York Times has just summed up as “Atrocities Under Kim Jong-un: Indoctrination, Prison Gulags, Executions”. Perhaps these are more important than the “decline of US power.
  • On the DPRK some parts of the left have a serious analysis. Shiraz reposts a piece from the US Socialist Worker by David Whitehouse. It says, “During a period of famine in the 1990s, Kim’s father looked the other way while Northern citizens developed private markets for farm produce and other goods. If Kim Jong-un really shifts resources away from military investment, North Koreans can look forward to making even more money from their private efforts.Meanwhile, soon after coming to power in 2012, Kim embarked on structural economic reforms that provide freedom to managers at the enterprise level — freedom to hire and fire at will, set wages at variance with national guidelines, and cultivate their own suppliers and buyers without going through the national planning process.

    These reforms, which mirror the early measures of Chinese economic liberalization in the 1980s, have promoted the development of a new middle class, at least somewhat independent of the ruling party hierarchy. This group definitely has an interest in Kim following through with diplomatic engagement that can open the economy even further.

    North Korea’s working class is overwhelmingly poor. Anecdotal reports, including from asylum-seekers who make it into South Korea, suggest that workers harbor intense hatred toward the rich upper layers of the party hierarchy and toward residents of the city of Pyongyang, where wealth is concentrated.

    To some extent, Kim seems to be able to use the popular cult of the Kim family to deflect popular anger away from himself — and toward those just a few layers below him. Right now, says North Korea specialist Andrei Lankov, “Kim Jong-un is popular. Everyone supports him.”

    Kim wants to keep it that way. The burden of domestic expectations has helped drive him toward the Singapore summit, where he hopes that de-escalation of hostility with the U.S. will bring relief from sanctions — and open up export possibilities, access to international finance, and investment from countries such as China and South Korea.

  • If Rees suggests that ‘populism’ is now the engine of US foreign policy, does this mean that Trump tore  up the Nuclear deal with Iran to please Fox News watchers? What exactly does the term American imperialism mean if instead of “military industrial” interests we have crowd pleasing as the motor of decision-making? Does it mean that ‘anti-imperialism’ now signifies fighting the mob and its leader’s “sound and fury”?

It may well be that there will be less than a massive response in London to a Stop Trump protest against the US President who’s a”walking shadow, a poor player,that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.”

City of Ghosts: from Syria to Europe and the fight against the far-right.

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Image result for City of Ghosts

City of Ghosts was shown on BBC 4 last night.

This moving documentary about a group of Syrian activists, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.  (RBSS)

The hopes of an Arab Spring resounded in their home, the city of Raqqa in the north of Syria. Protests against the Assad regime were countered by violent repression. The arrival of ISIL, in April 2014, the country’s branch of  Islamic State, was followed by the rule of their version of Islamic ‘law’. There were public beheadings, firing squad executions, mock crucifixions and  Volkish placard shaming.

At great risk to themselves RBSS opposed the take-over in the only way they could. They reported and filmed undercover the regime of what became the de facto capital of Daesh.

The documentary showed images of clandestine protests against Daesh and the slaughters the jihadists committed. Perhaps the most disturbing moments were when the new rulers tried to bring the young into their fold. “Children are Isis’s firewood” they said, and we saw a band of joyful babes and youngsters following a bearded fighter chanting their hate. A near-infant was filmed being trained to stab and behead on a large teddy bear.

This backdrop confirmed the worst scenes in Peter Kosminsky’s The State.

Many RBSS activists left the city, though they kept a core group of courageous witness inside Raqqa.

They used social media and the Net to broadcast their message. ISIL devoted a great deal of time to trying to search their supporters out.

In May 2014, Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim was kidnapped by ISIL and murdered. In July 2015, ISIL released a video showing two men being strung up on trees and shot. Though ISIL claimed the two murdered men had worked with RBSS, one of the founders of RBSS denied they were members. Another friend of the group was similarly executed. Hamoud al-Mousa, the father of one of the group’s founders, was killed in ISIL custody. On October 30, 2015, RBSS activist Ibrahim Abdul Qadir (age 20) and his friend Fares Hamadi were found stabbed and beheaded in Urfa Turkey. It was the first acknowledged assassination outside of ISIL controlled territory. (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently)

The sight of Hamoud al-Mousa’s execution, followed by that of the same RBSS activist’s brother’s murder, being watched in a safehouse in Germany was harrowing.

City of Ghosts deserved the highest awards.

But above all the activists of RBSS, merit the greatest respect we can possible give to other human beings.

Avoiding fruitless debate about the essential nature of ‘Islam’ one of them says,

“It is not my Islam”.

Europe.

Towards the end of the documentary there were scenes in which the Syrians were  confronted by  the German far-right Pegida calling for the removal of refugees.

There was also  commentary on the actions of Daesh in Europe, including the Bataclan massacre.

This opens up the issue of how we should both support the fight of groups of democrats like RBSS and combat the racist far-right.

With the Tommy Robinson campaign in Britain this has become an issue of burning importance.

People have noted that the groups Stand up to Racism and Unite against Fascism are dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (“Both these groups are front organisations of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and receive their political direction from its leadership.”  Socialist Resistance)

In 2014, as Raqqa fell to the genociders Socialist Worker published this article by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute.

There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia

The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?

Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too?

..

In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army.

It must have been the fault of their Welsh Methodist upbringing.

But Howells’ drivel was modest fare compared to the truly millennial frenzy that was gathering pace.

In authentic End of Days tones, US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel said Isis represents “an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.

“They’re beyond just a terrorist group. This is beyond anything we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything.”

I much preferred the response of the spokesperson from south east London’s Lewisham Mosque.

The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.

He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”.

He rightly attacked the press’s demand, as “loaded with an Islamophobic assumption that Muslims by default condone such brutality”.

It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.

There was much in a similar vein, from the SWP and groups such as Counterfire, understanding the ‘radicalisation’ of those who volunteered to be part of Einsatzgruppen and concentrating their fire on the prospect of Western intervention in the civil war.

Unlike RBSS their criticisms of the Assad regime was fairly muted.

This ambiguity continued.

When Charlie Hebdo (12 deaths) and the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher (5 deaths)  attacks took place  in 2015, the same forces took it upon themselves to understand why this “blowback” against France in general and the ‘Islamophobic” satirical weekly took place. Charlie “had it coming to them”. Counterfire railed against ” a crude and absolutist fetish of free speech”.

These people are unable to confront violent Islamism.

With such a tainted history these groups have no moral authority whatsoever.

There are many many people on the lest who do not back groups which fail to take a resolute stand against the jihadist Islamism, and against Assad.

The fight against Robinson’s supporters, many (from the Clarion to Socialist Resistance) suggest, should come from the mass organisations of the labour movement and the Labour Party.

We cannot unite around  “defeating fascism” as Lindsey German puts it, until we have a clear view that the violent jihadists and the mouvance around them, with roots in Europe as well as the Middle East and the Maghreb,  are also enemies of the far right.

And we need to back the Syrian democrats, whose heroism is so powerfully illustrated in City of Ghosts.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2018 at 10:37 am

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people! (Fourth International).

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Image result for syria devastation

Syria’s Devastation Continues. 

For this blog the civil war in Syria overshadows every other single international tragedy.

Around  400,000  people have died (Casualties of the Syrian Civil War).

Figures in 2016 state that 13.5 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria

The news in the last weeks that millions of refugees will have their property in Syria seized is another blow.

Analysts say law leaves citizens who have opposed Assad regime facing permanent exile.

Repression continues by the Assad regime.

 

The refugees still streaming outwards, including to Europe, have not gone away.

That supporters of the Jihadist genociders have just been gaoled in the UK illustrates that the war is not in some remote ‘out there’.

The Fourth International has the decency to get its priorities right on this burning issue.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people is more necessary than ever!

The Fourth International reaffirms its solidarity with all the bombed, massacred, tortured, starving and displaced civilians in Syria; its solidarity with the democratic and progressive forces that continue to defend the aspirations of a heroic insurrection. Seven years after the beginning of the Syrian popular uprising, it has been gradually transformed into a deadly war with an international character, the situation in the country is catastrophic at all levels.

Probably more than half a million are dead and missing, over 80% of whom were killed by the regime’s armed forces and allies. More than 6 million people have fled across borders and 7.6 million are internally displaced, out of a population of 22.5 million in 2011. Over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The World Bank estimated in June 2017 that about one third of all buildings and nearly half of all school and hospital buildings in Syria had been damaged or destroyed.

Against the Assad regime and its allies, first component of the counter-revolution!

The Fourth International condemns once again the barbarity of the despotic regime of the Assad family and its allies, symbolised at the beginning of 2018 by their offensive on Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Military offensives and bombardments against civilians, including the use of chemical weapons, continue in various areas outside the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Since 2015, the latter, which was in desperate straits at the time, seems to have continued to strengthen itself and to increase the territory recovered by relying on its Russian and Iranian allies, as well as on Lebanese Hezbollah. Today, Damascus controls almost 60% of the territory and over 80% of the population.

It is in this context that state actors with very diverse and even contradictory political and economic agendas but which all bombed and participated to the destruction of Syria, are now raising the question of reconstruction, whose costs are currently estimated at more than 350 billion dollars. For Assad, his relatives and the businessmen linked to his regime, reconstruction is seen as a means of consolidating the powers already acquired and re-establishing their political, military, security and economic domination, also with the forced resettlement of populations. This process would also reinforce the neoliberal policies of a heavily indebted regime that does not have the capacity to finance reconstruction on its own.

At the same time, the countries allied to the Syrian regime, in particular Russia and Iran – after their direct participation in the worst crimes against the population – but also China, are in the front line to benefit economically and strategically from the reconstruction.

Jihadists and Islamic fundamentalist forces lose ground but retain the ability to harm

The jihadists of the Islamic State (EI or “Daesh”) have lost the vast majority of Syrian and Iraqi cities and urban centres they occupied. Only isolated border regions between Iraq and Syria currently remain under EI control, in addition to a few pockets on Syrian territory. Other Jihadist and Salafist organizations – sometimes opposing Assad regime while fighting democratic forces – have also lost ground.

However, the loss of vast territories by these organizations does not mean the end of their existence and their ability to strike by terrorist attacks.

The Fourth International reaffirms its opposition to these ultra-reactionary organizations, which constitute another side of the counter-revolution. We must never forget that their rise to power against the democratic forces of the insurgency is as much due to the manoeuvres of the Syrian regime seeking to justify its unlimited repression in the eyes of the world as to the intervention of financiers and advisers from other states in the region. We must stress the need to tackle the sources of their development: the authoritarian regimes in the region that repress all forms of democratic and social resistance, regional and international foreign interventions, neoliberal policies that impoverish the popular classes.

PYD attacked, Kurds threatened

In January 2018, the Turkish army, assisted by Islamic and reactionary militias of the Syrian armed opposition, launched a massive air and ground offensive against the north-western Syrian province of Afrin, with the majority Kurdish population controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG). This region is now occupied by forces of the Turkish army and Syrian militias in its pay, who are continuing human rights violations and forced displacement of the population.

The Turkish military operation against Afrin in Syria and the rejection by the Iraqi government of the result of the referendum on independence organised by the Barzani leadership. in Iraqi Kurdistan in October 2017, show once again that the international and regional powers are not prepared to see Kurdish national or autonomist aspirations come true. It is clear that Moscow and Washington’s support to YPG at different times, such as YPG’s support to the Russian military and air campaign alongside Assad’s regime launched in late September 2015 around Aleppo, did not prevent Ankara’s military aggression against Afrin. In his rush to dictatorship, Turkish President Erdogan wants to crush the Kurdish people like any democratic aspiration in his country.

The Fourth International reaffirms the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people, a right which can take various forms in the different countries of the region (such as independence, federalism or recognition of the Kurdish people as an entity with equal rights within a State). We welcome the heroic commitment of the forces that are leading this struggle against the obscurantist forces, even if we can express more or less strong criticism of their leadership, particularly in Iraq concerning the Barzani leadership, but also in Syria concerning the tactics of the PYD – while welcoming the emancipatory experiences it has attempted in Rojava. In any case, the widest solidarity with the Kurdish people is necessary against the fierce repression they suffer in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which is also reflected in the practices of European countries.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people in all its components!

All the counter-revolutionary forces, despite their rivalry, acted simultaneously to defeat the Syrian revolution.

- Whether they are those who support the Bashar al-Assad regime (Russia, Iran and their militias) and who are involved in serious war crimes;
- the American and European imperialists who made declarations of principle about democracy but refused to allow the democratic components of the uprising to defend themselves, and also bombed civilian populations in the name of the fight against terrorism;
- the Turkish regime which used the Syrian revolution to appear as the leader of the “peoples of Islam” and transformed itself into an occupier of part of northern Syria, and bombed cities to fight Kurdish organisations;
- or the Gulf States which financially support all ultra-reactionary movements and militias as long as they serve their objectives;
- and finally Israel which, by carrying out targeted bombardments in Syria in order to weaken Assad and prevent the military expansion of Iran and Hezbollah, in fact strengthens them politically.

In this context the Fourth International calls:

– for the cessation of all military offensives. This means that all means of pressure must be used to sanctuarise the last regions that have escaped the regime and where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians have taken refuge.

– to continue to denounce all foreign military interventions, that oppose aspirations for democratic change in Syria, whether in support of the regime (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah) or by proclaiming themselves “friends of the Syrian people” (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, United States, etc.). The Syrian popular classes struggling for freedom and dignity have no friendly state in their struggle… even if they may seek to take advantage of inter-imperialist rivalries to advance their own interests while maintaining political independence and autonomy.

– to reaffirm the opposition to the Assad regime, to refuse its relegitimisation internationally, not to forget the war crimes, the tens of thousands of political prisoners still tortured in the regime’s jails , the disappeared, the refugees, the internally displaced, etc. A blank cheque given today to Assad and his crimes would be a further abandonment of the Syrian people and their heroic revolt, and would inevitably increase the sense of impunity of all authoritarian states, allowing them in turn to crush their populations if they were to revolt. Similarly, all actors who have committed human rights violations against civilians must be punished for their crimes.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian popular classes is more necessary than ever!

Then there is this:

Syria’s President Assad ‘to visit North Korea’

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Trump, Virtual Reality (Baudrillard) and Brexit.

with 10 comments

Image result for jean baudrillard

A Prophet Whose Time Has Come.

Andy Warhol once said that in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.

The Tendance has a view that now everybody’s theory is true for 15 months.

The cultural critic Jean Baudrillard had the view that under the present stage of capitalism “the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation vanishes. “Simulacres et Simulation 1981).

Apart from Baullroard’s claim that “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place ” which asserted,

Saddam liquidates the communists, Moscow flirts even more with him; he gases the Kurds, it is not held against him; he eliminates the religious cadres, the whole of Islam makes peace with him … Even … the 100,000 dead will only have been the final decoy that Saddam will have sacrificed, the blood money paid in forfeit according to a calculated equivalence, in order to preserve his power. What is worse is that these dead still serve as an alibi for those who do not want to have been excited for nothing: at least these dead will prove this war was indeed a war and not a shameful and pointless hoax …

That is about all most of us can recall about his ideas (and I have a pile of his books from the 1980s).

This week has had ample proof of the Baudrillardian thesis  that simulacra have taken over from reality.

First we had large numbers of people, particularly in America, claim that far-right Tommy Robinson is some kind of martyr slung into the gaols of the British state by the regime.

It was not very amusing to see them put out pictures of the well-liked and respected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan with a hangman’s noose over ‘Tommy’.

Then we had the lighter spectacle of President Trump holding a top summit with Kim Kardashian, whose claim to fame is that she has a large bum,  on reforming the American penal system.

 

Now we have  ‘neoliberal’ Trump’s trade war with Europe and the rest of the world.

Europe, Canada and Mexico are planning retaliatory moves after President Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to the US.

The European Union issued a 10-page list of tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to food products.

It also plans to challenge the move at the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Trump claimed the tariffs would protect US steelmakers, which were vital to national security.

BBC

Or as this  cartoonist (Belgium) put it today (bringing the two events together)

Mr Brexit, as Trump styled himself, has let down his friends on the UK right who thought they were going to negotiate a special deal.

In return for letting Chlorinated chicken, Cornish pasties made in Houndstown Texas, and GM crops, into Britain they would be able freely  to export to America.

The left for a long time has claimed that US capitalism is the engine of neo-liberal globalisation, that it works to demolish barriers between national capitals, production and exchange.

Apparently not so!

This leaves the backers of a ‘People’s Brexit’ in a bit of a quandry.

Will they back a UK government that follows Trump’s lead and imposes tariffs to protect national industry?

FIghting the free flow of capital……

Which reminds me of the other event that did not take place in the last few days: Roseanne Barr went from claiming to be a socialist to Trump supporter. to backing Tommy Robinson…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall out from Anti-Semitism and Barnet, from Morning Star to Conspiracy Site Skwawkbox .

with 5 comments

Image result for Barnet anti=-semitism

Owen Jones Talks Sense.

Hat-tip Jim D.

Letter in today’s Morning Star:

Before the idea takes root among Star readers that the Barnet Labour group of councillors is a nest of “hard-core of the Labour right” determined to “attack the left and their own party” (M Star May 5-6), I can assure anyone that is willing to listen that that is far from being the case.

On the electoral impact of perceptions of anti-Semitism, as on other issues, denouncing the messenger does not change the truth of the message. Group leader Cllr Barry Rawlings and ex-councillor Adam Langleben just told it as it is – the great majority of of Labour-inclined Jewish voters in Barnet are horrified at the national party’s response to incidents of anti-Semitism in the party and far too many have withdrawn their support, while Jewish Tories are far more certain to turn out against us.

And not voting for Jeremy Corbyn as leader does not put any of us in the “hardcore of the Labour right” or make us some sort of traitors to the party. Apparently the Star’s contributor Kevin Ovendon has belonged to more than one party opposed to Labour, unlike Jeremy Corbyn who, like me, has fought the party’s cause under a variety of national leaders.

Belatedly, Jeremy has acknowledged that we have to do better on anti-Semitism and, yes, it has been weaponised against him.

Weaponising issues is mainstream activity in politics. It is time that all the left recognised, as Momentum has done on this issue, that your opponents raising an issue does not imply in itself that the issue is fabricated or exaggerated.
GEOF COOKE
Chief Whip, Barnet Labour group and Morning Star reader.

Cooke is restrained.

Kevin Ovendon is the former bag-man for Gorge Galloway’s Respect party. He stood by when there were calls to make the organisation, “Zionist free” – to cite one of the many anti-Semitic incidents that marked the organisation’s career (Respect Party:Wikipedia)

This is what Ovendon wrote in the Morning Star.

The furore about “Labour anti-semitism” doubtless had an impact. How could it not? It is not only that it has been weaponised by the Tories. It has been adopted for two years by a hardcore of the Labour right to attack the left and their own party.

And that includes by Labour councillors in Barnet — all but two of whom backed rivals to Corbyn in the leadership elections. Far from helping to deal with the issue, they’ve taken up the claims emanating from the Tories.

So the leader of the Labour group Barry Rawlings says it all should have been dealt with two years ago, but it was the Labour general secretary supported by the right over those two years who failed to do so or to implement the comprehensive recommendations of the Chakrabarti report dealing with the matter.

Unsurprisingly, that has not stopped anti-Corbyn elements of the Labour Party, in collaboration with the Tories, trying to use the result not to seek the implementation of that report but to reheat the political assault.

Ovendon appears to think that concern on the issue of anti-Semitism is “weaponised” – he later talks of  “sabotage”.

What words does he have for the Morning Star’s opposition to Labour policy on Europe, its backing for Brexit, and its support for the Arron Banks funded Trade Unionists Against the EU?

More fall out has appeared in the shape of Skwawkbox.

Labour Has Betrayed Jewish Voters – Corbyn Must Take Action Now

Tonight I will ask that Corbyn comes to Barnet and apologises to the Jewish community.

Adam Langleben

Former Labour councillor for West Hendon

Chalutzim’ means ‘pioneers’ in Hebrew. Many of the early founders of the Labour Movement were Chalutzim from the mainstream Jewish community. That is why what happened last Thursday in the local elections is so distressing. It was the first complete electoral collapse of Jewish voters for Labour.

……

But some wish to paint a different picture. The alt-left blog Skwawkbox, which has a record of spreading fake news, claims that because Labour increased its share of the vote in Barnet and in Gateshead, there is no problem.

In response, and to his credit, John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, messaged me and asked for a meeting to discuss this issue and the wider issue of Labour antisemitism and its impact on Barnet. I am seeing him tonight and what I will be telling him is that fake news, conspiracy theory websites such as Skwawkbox provide a dark place for antisemitism to fester and be nurtured. Antisemitism’s dark past started with conspiracy, ending in gas chambers. History has taught us this. He and others should come out and say clearly that such websites are not part of our Labour movement’s discourse and that they are detrimental to our success and to our anti-racist, evidence-based Enlightenment values.

I look forward to talking to John. I am going to tell him hard truths: that there was rarely a canvass session over the past month in Barnet where we did not lose votes over antisemitism. And I am going to ask that he, Jeremy and the Shadow Cabinet come to Barnet as soon as possible to apologise to our activists and the Jewish community. The issues raised by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council remain outstanding. The Party can no longer hide behind process.

Huff Post.

Previously  Langleben had said in the Huff Post.

As I am filming this, an alternative left-wing news website called Skwawkbox is going through all of the tweets attacking me, as a Jewish Labour Party member, now former councillor, that accuses me of being a Mossad agent, that accuses me of trying to undermine the leadership, accuses me of all sort of things and it is propagating this bollocks, propagating anti-Semitism.”

He added: “The Labour leadership can do something very simple and easy and say that these alternative fake news websites do not speak for them.

This pouting does not seem to have impressed the Labour Party.

I was a Jewish Labour councillor in Barnet – and I warned Jeremy Corbyn what was coming.

 ADAM LANGLEBEN.

On the doorstep I heard lifelong Labour voters say anti-Semitism was driving them from the party. When I told Labour HQ, I was ignored.

We were asked about Jackie Walker’s views on Jews and the slave trade. We were asked about Ken Loach’s Jew-splaining. We were asked about Ken Livingstone’s Holocaust revisionism.

….

Ken Livingstone’s repeated outrageous ramblings on Zionism, Hitler, the Holocaust and Jews – and the party’s lack of action – compounds the situation. The more I think of his words, the more I hear implication of what he says – which is that Jews were complicit in their own genocide. Nothing is more offensive than that. Surely that cannot be compatible with membership of the Labour Party?

Since we lost in Barnet, our Labour candidates have had lots of support from MPs, Momentum supporters, members and others who are desperate to fight anti-Semitism. However, there is a small but very vocal hard-left group within the party – certainly not the majority even within Momentum – within which this sickness festers, and it is to these people that Jeremy Corbyn needs to clearly state: this is not in my name.

 

Here.