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Labour Split: Brexit and Beyond.

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” possibility that they have nothing to offer but anti-Corbynism and vacuous centrism..” (Labour List)

 

Labour split: Jeremy Corbyn faces major crisis as deputy leader warns more MPs are ready to quit party

Jeremy Corbyn faces a historic Labour rupture after being warned that more MPs are ready to follow the seven who dramatically quit his party on Monday.

The leader publicly appealed for unity while his supporters launched savage attacks on the MPs, branding them “cowards”, “traitors” and “splitters” and demanding they give up their seats.

But as the crisis deepened, deputy leader Tom Watson said other MPs are also considering leaving Labour, a party he admitted he sometimes no longer recognises, amid visceral anger over antisemitism, Brexit and Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Independent

The first response to the 7 resignations and the creation of the Independent Group in Parliament should – this comes in the realm of the bleeding obvious – be temperate.

In this vein, “We at Open Labour view the split from the Labour Party as a step backwards for open politics within Labour, and for the communities our party represents. Many of those splitting away have served Labour for years, so we thank them for their work and wish them well, though we disagree with their decision.”

By contrast, the response  to the resignations shows some of the left at their worst.

Screams of ‘traitors’, as the Independent reports,  are likely to be welcomed by the new Parliamentary group.

They confirm their charge of intolerance and hatred.

The Napoleon of Counterfire, John Rees, writes,

Good that the splitters have gone, but this is a dangerous moment for the left, argues John Rees

What all this means is that the Labour left is faced with a choice: do you want a genuine left-wing workers’ party, or do you want to continue the losing battle to hold together a traditional Social Democratic party which contains right-wing, pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist, MPs?

No, NO!

This should be the moment when the entire Labour left, including the leadership around Jeremy Corbyn, decisively strikeout to recreate Labour as a genuine socialist party.

Perhaps Rees, experienced in creating a genuine workers’ parties, from the SWP to George Galloway’s Respect, should be appointed an adviser to Corbyn.

The next issue is to focus on the most important aspect: this break-away weakens efforts to stop the Tory Brexit.

Not only by grabbing attention for the split.

Concern at the influence of forces hostile to left-wing internationalism, that is, the pro-Brexit wing in Labour, can hardly have an effect outside the Party.

The damage caused by the looming threat of Brexit is already major:

Finally, is the controversy about anti-Semitism going to disappear?

The respected Mayor of London commented yesterday,

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he is deeply distressed by the Labour split, but admitted the party has been “shockingly poor” at dealing with anti-Semitism.

The Labour Party has been shockingly poor at addressing the issue of antisemitism over the last few years. We know that there are members of the Labour Party who have joined who have clearly anti-Semitic views, or have been in our party for some time and have clearly anti-Semitic views, the Labour Party hasn’t acted swiftly enough to kick them out.

– SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON

But he said he believed the Labour divide will make it more difficult for the party to be elected to govern.

History tells us that when the Labour Party splits, it leads to the Conservative Party winning the next election and the one after that and the one after that. What people I care about need is a Labour Government. One thing that’s going to make that more difficult is Labour splits.

– SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON

It beggars belief that the Chair of  Luciana Berger’s CLP was capable of this without being caught out.

The chair of the Liverpool Wavertree Labour Party – which is facing claims of antisemitic bullying by local members against MP Luciana Berger – made repeated appearances on a current affairs show broadcast by conspiracy theorist David Icke.

Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, who is a member of the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice For Labour group, has been a regular guest on the Richie Allen on David Icke.com show since 2015.

Chair of CLP accused of bullying Luciana Berger appeared on show broadcast by David Icke

At the moment most minds are going to be focused on the potential of the group in elections.

The Spectator states,

When asked in the survey who they would vote for if there was a general election tomorrow, 8 per cent of the respondents opted for ‘A new centrist party opposed to Brexit’ if one existed. If these results materialised in a general election, this would make the Independence Group the third largest party, behind the Conservatives on 39 per cent and Labour on 34 per cent. Revealingly, the majority of the new party’s vote share has come from Labour, causing the party to fall into second place, five points behind the Conservative Party.

The capacity of the group to keep in the headlines is underlined by speculation over new defections,

Will more MPs leave Labour and the Conservatives to join the Independent Group?

Stephen Bush

John McDonnell makes a  suggestion to deal with the difficulties Labour faces:

McDonnell: Labour needs “mammoth, massive listening exercise.

Statements: 

“IT IS THE LABOUR PARTY OR NOTHING” – OPEN LABOUR STATEMENT

We at Open Labour view the split from the Labour Party as a step backwards for open politics within Labour, and for the communities our party represents. Many of those splitting away have served Labour for years, so we thank them for their work and wish them well, though we disagree with their decision.

As as a principle of democracy, we believe that those MPs splitting from the party no longer represent the people who voted for them as Labour candidates on our 2017 manifesto. They should stand down and face by-elections.

We stand by Labour’s direction of travel on the economy and austerity, which alongside Brexit are the most important issues facing the country. Labour is the only party serious about fighting for a transformation of our broken economy, and all indications are that it will remain the only party offering such a platform.

We have sympathy with some of these MP’s concerns raised around party culture, particularly with regards to the long failure of Labour to tackle anti-Semitic abuse and a culture of bad faith or exclusionary rhetoric which grips some CLPs – these criticisms cannot be dismissed. But the cure offered does not remedy the problem. We firmly believe that leaving the party offers no way to improve Labour, to ease the suffering in our communities, or prevent even greater suffering as a result of Brexit.

Open Labour will continue to fight for a left which encourages pluralism and tolerates a range of traditions and groups in their right to exist and campaign. Without it, there can be no vibrancy in the party, splits become inevitable, and our democracy loses its purpose.

The path to making our ideas a reality is through Labour and its allies in the trade union movement.

We are sorry to see this happen and thank our leaving MPs for their service, but we look forward to campaigning for Labour candidates in the seats affected.

Labour for a People’s Vote: 

Today seven Labour MPs have resigned from the Labour Party and announced that they will form a new “independent grouping”.

We understand that these MPs have had concerns over the way that the party has handled Brexit, and over the way that antisemitism has been dealt with.

Antisemitism is a serious issue. We are committed to rooting it out of the party and hope all Jewish members will stay to help us do this. Racism of any kind has no place in our party or our country. Labour has always been against discrimination of any kind. Antisemitism must be no exception.

We understand too that Brexit is a national crisis, made by the Tories and designed only to create division and harm in our society. Labour is the only party able to stop the Tories achieving their ends – which is why we are so clear on the need for a public vote, and for Labour to campaign for our EU membership in that campaign. Anything else would let down the people of Britain who put their trust in us at the last election.

We believe however that this fight is best fought within the Labour Party. Only Labour can win a General Election and keep the Tories out of power. Only Labour can stop the Tories’ Brexit getting through Parliament, and win a parliamentary vote to get a new referendum on Brexit. And only Labour has the reach and authority to lead and win the remain campaign.

We believe that Labour has the answers to the problems Britain faces. Britain needs a radical Labour Government, able to sweep away years of Tory misrule and austerity, and restore fairness and justice to our country. This agenda is not served by splits or resignations.

Labour for a People’s Vote.

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Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry calls for “timely and effective” new elections in Venezuela and “targeted sanctions”.

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Left needs to say more than this, and Thornberry has said it.

This was posted today on John McDonnell – The People’s Chancellor.

Shadow foreign secretary will make clear rebuke to record of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.

Labour government would not indulge human rights abuses by Britain’s allies or by regimes that “call themselves ‘socialist’ but … betray every socialist ideal”, the shadow foreign secretary will say on Wednesday.

The reference by Emily Thornberry, when she sets out her proposed policy under a Labour government, is intended as a clear rebuke to the record of the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro.

JeremyCorbyn has so far opposed the decision made by a majority of European Union states, including the UK, to recognise the rival Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, but Thornberry is eager to ensure that Labour’s opposition to interference is not misconstrued as support for the Maduro regime. Guaidó’s party is a member of the Socialist International, with which Labour is affiliated.

The key themes of Thornberry’s speech at the Institute for Government setting out her vision of a Labour foreign policy will inevitably draw parallels with the ethical foreign policy set out by Robin Cook as the first foreign secretary of Tony Blair’s 1997 government.

This is an extremely welcome move.

Unlike many, who have suddenly become experts on Venezuela, this Blog has been reluctant to comment on the crisis in the country.

This numpty for example, thinks he knows it all:

It would seem that the only thing keeping Maduro supporters going in Britain is the fact that Trump and most of the EU (with exceptions like Italy’s far-right/populist government, “Italy has vetoed an EU statement on the Venezuela crisis amid political confusion in Rome“.)  is against him.

It  is as plain as a pikestaff that the Maduro regime is not just on the skids, but that 3 million people have fled  Venezuela, and that the corrupt Chavista government has remained in power through the use of force – including the torture of opponents.

There is a steady drip drip of stories such as this: how pro-regime millionaires have been salting their stolen cash away in foreign banks.

And this:

It is not necessary to go further to agree that Emily Thornberry has the right approach, from first principles, on how to deal with this issue.

Here is what she has just said, (Belfast Telegraph).

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called for timely elections but declined to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader as interim president.

…in a break with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Thornberry backed the use of targeted sanctions and “whatever means necessary” short of a military invasion to bring about change.

….

Ms Thornberry told an event at the Institute for Government in London on Wednesday: “What I am saying is that we begin with dialogue.

“That offer has been made, internally and externally we need to ensure that happens.”

She added: “That’s the best way to proceed rather than somebody saying ‘that’s it, we’ve had enough, we recognise X, we don’t recognise Y any more’.

“That’s not the way to treat another country, even a country in as desperate a situation as Venezuela.”

Ms Thornberry said she was a “great believer in sanctions” as a way of using foreign policy muscle “that doesn’t involve killing people”.

She said there should be “timely and effective” new elections in Venezuela but “there should be no invasion, there should be proper discussion and negotiation”.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Review: In Defence of Bolshevism. Max Shachtman.

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IDoB cover

“The force of things and the behaviour of men have contradicted all Lenin’s optimistic forecasts, his hopes in a superior democracy as much as his semi-libertarian ideas expressed in the State and Revolution and other writings of the same period, at the dawn of the revolution. Nothing in the individual theses of Trotsky has stood the test any better, in particular his wordy and abstract theory of the ‘permanent revolution’.”

Boris Souvarine, Stalin. A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, 1939.

The labour movement is striving “to renew and reconstruct itself in politics”, writes Sean Matgamma in his Introduction (The Labour Movement and Bolshevism) to In Defence of Bolshevism by Max Shachtman. (Purchase here.) How can this take place? The AWL’s best-known activist¬writer observes that many who identify with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have “no conception of socialism at all as the negation of capitalism.” Most Corbynistas are enthusiastic and open¬minded people. It would be a mistake to patronise them. But some, the observer of past left wing surges states, may be first of all looking for a career in politics, think tanks and NGOs. Predictably there is plenty of flotsam and jetsam floated in the “social media age”.

A half-thought out “anti¬imperialism” linked to “absolute anti¬Zionism” has become a minefield of “left anti¬semitism”. There are “posh Stalinists”, close to the party chief, who reheat a Boy’s Own view of the gallant Soviet Union fighting Fascism. Socialism in One Country reappears behind efforts to portray Brexit as a working class revolt against elites. And, let’s not forget, in cyberspace, there are over-educated Corbyn supporters. Some see capitalism’s replacement, through Nick Land’s “accelerationism”, pushing forward immanent tendencies, as re-worked by Aaron Bastani, into “fully-automated luxury communism”.

British Labour Movement.

The opening essay, “The British labour movement and Bolshevism” is a settling of accounts with those who have returned to politics after Corbyn’s win and who have been supporters of the British “toy¬town Bolsheviks”. The “Little Great Men” of the far-left have considered their groups the revolutionary Party. One stands out. The Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) was sold to the “Libyan government and secret service”. Their state sponsored hatred of “Zionism” lingers on, in some cases through those who had been directly associated with the WRP such as one¬time London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, Matgamna’s sketch of the history of let-wing opposition to the European Union is also highly relevant.

This became a defining feature of the 1970s Broad Left (alliances of Labour left and the Communist Party of Great Britain, CPGB). An early version of a People’s Brexit, the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) advocated “an amalgam of World¬War¬Two¬style state controlled ‘siege economy’ and Stalinist models of planning, but linked to bourgeois¬democratic liberalism”. (p.43) At present the Morning Star and its supporters, including advisers to Jeremy Corbyn, are fixated on the last point, asserting national sovereignty against “Brussels”.

This is not the centrepiece of In Defence of Bolshevism. To open a dialogue with Corbyn supporters and talk about socialism Matgamma offers the practice of the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the 1917 Revolution. They created a “democratic class dictatorship exercised by the elected workers’ councils…” In this they are due honour amongst the “glories of the working class’s past”. The writer that is chosen to shed light on the Bolshevik achievement is Max Shachtman. For Sean Matgamna, the American one¬time leading figure in Trotsky’s Fourth International was the founder of “heterodox” Trotskyism.

Shachtman broke from Trotsky over the defence of the USSR when Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland in 1939. Shachtman’s current supported the judgement that the USSR under Stalin had become a new form of class society that could not be uncritically supported. The AWL has convincingly argued that this turned out not to be anything “new” but a blood¬stained historical by¬way in capitalist development, not any “transition” to socialism.

Marxism.

Under the Banner of Marxism, the main polemic reprinted here, was, as Alan Johnson indicates (Solidarity 5.12.18), directed against an attempt by Ernest Erber to trace the origins of Stalinist totalitarianism in Lenin’s political theory and practice. Most people, including this reviewer, will have never heard of Erber, or his split from the Shachtman group, which was a small minority within a small minority of Trotskyists on the already marginal American left. What is the importance of the writings from this dispute?

This document, and the articles also included in the book from New International and Labor Action, offer an independent defence of Bolshevik practice in 1917 and the immediate aftermath. They are clearly of their time and place. This is not entirely a bad thing. Shachtman was concerned not just to teach “muddlehead “ Erber a thing or two, with echoes of the purple prose of Engels’ Anti¬Dühring and Lenin’s “polemical” style. The heterodox Trotskyist that he was at this point aimed to stand against “apostates” who moved from revolutionary socialism to an acceptance of the “American Way of Life” and who “identify Stalinism with Bolshevism”. His pages are concerned with the “bourgeois struggle against socialism.” In other words, he stood up for Marxism and communism at the onset of the Cold War.

A wide range of quotations from the writings of Marx and Lenin supports the defence of the Russian revolution. His authorities include the Communist Manifesto, and AntiDühring. Lenin’s State and Revolution is cited to defend the power of the Soviets against the Constituent Assembly. The Soviet type of state is the best “genuine democracy”. As for the Bolshevik dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, elections in nation-wide ballots are no great shakes. “Like the prettiest girl in all of France, universal suffrage cannot give more than it has.” (p.127)

Shachtman is a relentless user of the argument “by circumstances”. This blames any repressive anti-democratic action of the Bolsheviks when Lenin was at the levers of power on conditions beyond his, the Bolsheviks’, and the democratic soviets’ control. Lenin gambled. They were “summoned to hold the first revolutionary citadel against frenzied and maddened besiegers until the relief columns of the Western proletariat could be brought forward” (p.175).

Bolsheviks Eliminated Workers’ Democracy.

One may accept that the alternatives to the Bolsheviks in that fight were worse without having a present need to join the defence on the battlements. Russia, telescoping democratic and working class stages of the uprising together, did not just fail to trigger any successful socialist revolution in Europe. It did not just set the path for the rejection of democratic representative forms, as Johnson rightly point out. It did not only, from early expulsions and splits and moral annihilation, turn to the policy of physically eliminating opponents. The Bolshevik leadership eliminated workers’ democracy in the Soviets themselves.

Inside the workers’ movement the Bolsheviks assumed the right to lead the proletariat above the wishes of wage earners. In June 1918 the All¬Russia Soviet CEC decided that the Left and Right Socialist¬Revolutionaries, and the groups of the Mensheviks, should be deprived of their mandates in the Soviets. They resolved that, “all soviets of workers’, soldiers’ peasants’ and Cossack deputies remove representatives of these fractions from their midst”. In these conditions it is a bold claim that Soviets run in the early 1920s — under Lenin’s rule — exclusively by one party plus “non¬party Bolsheviks” were a model for workers’ democracy and socialist practice.

Whatever the misdeeds of their political opponents, how could any different opinion be expressed freely without opposition parties? How exactly can socialist forms of the economy be run without open democratic debate? The purge included those, Mensheviks, who had been comrades in the same Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP) as Lenin, a party marked by a remarkable “freedom and an openness that was known to no other working¬class organisation of the time and has certainly had no equal since the rise of Stalinism.” (p.202) Sean Matgamma states, “The Bolsheviks did not say the last word on socialism. If there is a last word, it has not been said yet. But they said much that socialists now need to heed, learn, remember and work to apply in our conditions.” (p.68)

Indeed. Some socialists, including Corbynistas, explain the crack down on opposition by the disastrous Maduro regime in Venezuela and the repression in Nicaragua on the grounds that these “citadels” have to be defended against imperialism. They might learn from the Bolsheviks that eliminating democratic institutions is nothing but a deviation from the road to socialism.

Solidarity.

30th of January 2019. 

‘Plutocrats’, ‘Elites’ “Oligarchy’, how Brexit backers from Left to Right poison political language.

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Image result for soros plutocrat cartoon

The Poisonous Language of ‘plutocracy’: Soros, Rothschild and ‘elites’. 

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

George Orwell Politics and the English Language.

The EU plutocracy’s hopes of being able to get a Labour administration to back a second referendum are not wholly misplaced.

John Ress. Counterfire September 2018.The Salzburg shakedown

The people are being betrayed by Britain’s elite in collusion with the European plutocracy.

Austin Mitchell, one time Labour MP. Brexit Central July 2018.

A large segment of opposition MPs and a small band of Tory EU loyalists thus began openly agitating for “the people” to have a “final say” on the Prime Minister’s deal, with the option of staying in the EU after all if they voted against it.

This campaign has been organised under the cross-party “People’s Vote” banner and bankrolled in part by billionaire plutocrat George Soros ..

Breitbart. November. 2018.

Plutocrat – not just a billionaire, but a plutocratic one!

Elites, not to mention oligarchy……a quick google shows how  the language of Brexiter politics has become infected with words which most people, about ten years ago, thought was exhausted.

The whole Brexit row is apparently about “elites” against “the people”.

No prezzies for guessing which side the hard-Brexit lot claim to be on.

Never mind that in English the people rarely takes the definite article.

Never mind that elite, no more than it does in its French original, is no more something you could speak about in ordinary speech.

Never mind that in politics these terms originated not from the left from that curious mixture of former leftists  and outright fascists, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, and Robert Michels.

To put it simply they thought elites inevitable , and in Pareto’s case, describable (sometimes known as the “the vital few and trivial many”).

The actions of the ‘elites’ described in the citations above are also very different from that of the New Leftist C.Wright Mill’s The Power elite (1956).

Not only did he try to outline (contentiously) a whole set of overlapping and often competing groups, but they had no conscious purpose. “Mills explains that the elite themselves may not be aware of their status as an elite, noting that “often they are uncertain about their roles” and “without conscious effort hey absorb the aspiration to be … The Ones Who Decide.” 

PLutocrats may well be the title of a book about the super-rich by Chrystia Freeland. (Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich. 2012).

But it hardly needs adding that “plutocrat” is a word clearly associated with the far-right infamously with the Nazis.

See the source image

It also goes back to the anti-Semitic side in the Dreyfus affair who talked of “notre ploutocratie républicaine.” (Le vocabulaire de l’antisémitisme en France pendant l’affaire Dreyfus)

Mill’s idea that the US ‘elite’ is a nevertheless a semi-hereditary caste is pretty dubious when we look at Trump today, who has little caste about him.

In short, it is today not a genuine sociological or political concept – pitting  Farage (anti-‘elite’) against the elites it all about sending a signal, not a real criticism of the way power if organised in society.

More to the point the way the language of ‘elites’ is used by national populists and Brexit Boslevikcs is all about conscious organised groups out to thwart the ‘will of the people’.

This is poisonous talk in itself: not about the clash of real interests or class, but putting evil on one side and virtue on the other.

Those who claim to be on the left do themselves no favours by indulging in this rhetoric.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Socialist Workers Party Journal: Trump and Brexit, “two cheeks of the same arse”.

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Image result for trump mr brexit

“Trump and Brexit are, if a measure of crudity might be permitted, two cheeks of the same arse.”

This is quite remarkable, the SWP is cracking up over Brexit.

In a hole and still digging: the left and Brexit

Issue: 161

Wayne Ashe

This has got attention,

For many (most?) people on that march Trump and Brexit are, if a measure of crudity might be permitted, two cheeks of the same arse—both signs of racist reaction with no progressive roots whatsoever.

This a really serious well written article.

A few extracts.

 

” the gate will also be open, of course, for very sinister forces, already building up Britain’s own Dolchstoss, the stab-in-the-back legend which so helped the Nazis rise to power. Millions of Brexit voters are going to be very disappointed by the difference between what they thought they would get and what they in fact got, and will be looking for someone to blame.

….

.

 It is important to understand that the class enemy is entirely clear about this—Farage told the BBC (in January 2017): “If I speak to Trump’s team, Trump’s close advisers, or even to the president-elect himself, none of them think Trump would have won if Brexit had not happened”.38 The fascists marching to demand that Tommy Robinson be freed from jail carried banners supporting Trump and Brexit. The links between Brexit fundamentalists and the Trump administration are becoming closer week by week. Rees-Mogg—who supported Trump before he was elected president—noted that the latter “appealed to voters left behind by the metropolitan elite and he exudes confidence about his own nation and a determination not to be a manager of decline, which also inspires the Brexiteers”.39

Yet the traditional left, so right about Trump (and the rising fascist movement) is currently forced to tell angry people who might be attracted to their political outlook that they are against Trump but pro-Brexit. Opposition to Brexit is growing, yet just what is the left saying to the 700,000 people who marched for a People’s Vote on 20 October 2018?

Imagine a worse case situation in the spring, a chaotic Brexit has led to queues on the M20, factory layoffs, food shortages and high inflation after a currency collapse. We will be forced to tell workers that all this is very dreadful and should be fought, but, ahem…we actually supported Brexit. It won’t wash.

The good news in all this—and yes, there is some—is that the very weakness of the extra-parliamentary left means that a rethink can be carried out without too much impact and upset. While there is time. If the desire is there.

Wayne Asher is a former member of the International Socialists.

In the meantime the Arse replies,

But beyond this we are fearful that in breaking the bipartisan pledge that the Brexit vote be respected, Labou

 ill lose for generations more the trust that the Blair government betrayed and which the Corbyn team has so painstakingly rebuilt. A betrayal of the Brexit vote will supercharge Ukip or worse.

The EU is an irreformable instrument for impoverishing the continental periphery and the working people of each country to the benefit of a predatory class whose wealth increases with every one of capitalism’s succeeding crises.

Communists want a People’s Brexit. Unconstrained by EU treaties, single market rules and directives, a left-led Labour government could develop a worker-led industrial strategy; aid industry, invest in training, youth and jobs, social welfare, housing, education and health services; and take the transport, energy and postal service profiteers back into public ownership.
Nick Wright
Head of communications, Communist party of Britain

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Taking a Stand on Venezuela and Nicaragua.

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Left Should Stand with our Sisters and Brothers.

Recently Pablo Iglesias the leader of Podemos said after denying any financial links with Venezuela of his former admiration for  the President Hugo Chávez that,

I don’t agree with some of the things I said in the past. The current political and economic situation of Venezuela right now is dire. To rectify in politics is a good thing. (Creo que rectificar en política está bien)

13th of December. Podemos chief grilled in Senate over Venezuela financing links

Reuters today reports, The Venezuelan regime is gearing up to the end game: Maduro says Venezuela’s civil militia grows to 1.6 million members.

“We will arm the Bolivarian militia to the teeth,” Maduro said, without detailing how many of the militia members were actually armed. “An invading imperialist force may enter a part of our fatherland, but the imperialists should know that they will not leave here alive.”

Maduro is cosying up to the Turkish far-right President:

The Turkey-Venezuela mutual admiration society

Latin American country is increasingly isolated, but Ankara’s not joining in. 

The FT reports on the background:

The economy is shrinking but the country has so far refused to produce economic data on gross domestic product or inflation despite repeated requests and potentially a major default on Venezuela’s sovereign debt. The country’s inability to pay bondholders could lead to it losing over the next few months of one its main assets — the international trading company Citgo.

What should be one of the richest countries in Latin America, given its extensive oil and mineral resources from gold to bauxite and diamonds, is now one of the poorest.

Basic supplies and food are scarce and, as well as an exodus of talent, there is a growing refugee crisis as people try to escape to neighbouring countries such as Colombia and Brazil.

According to a recent paper from Brookings, there are already more than 3m Venezuelans living outside the country, including a million in Colombia. The exodus includes the desperately poor but also skilled workers and technicians on whom the economy depends. Within that group are many of those who built the state oil company PDVSA but are fleeing the corruption and mismanagement that now dominates the company.

What is left of the economy only keeps going as a result of loans from Russia, in return for which Moscow is being allowed to establish a military base in the country and cash-for-oil deals with the Chinese.

Human Rights Watch states,

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and punish its critics. Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Security forces have arbitrarily detained and tortured protesters, and raids in low-income communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse. Other persistent concerns include poor prison conditions and impunity for human rights abuses.

Another regime is also in crisis, and using repression to crush dissent, Nicaragua.

Harassment and persecution of the voices denouncing repression in Nicaragua

There is a pressing need for the international community to recognize the right to defend rights and to provide a safe space for defenders to do their work.

On Wednesday December 12 the National Assembly of Nicaragua voted to cancel the legal registration of Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH). After the announcement Vilma Nuñez, 80 years old, the president of CENIDH and one of the most recognized human rights defenders in the region declared “We have done our work with conviction and we will continue doing it until Nicaragua is really free”.

Just a week earlier I met Doña Vilma, as she is known, in Washington DC when she came with a delegation of human rights organizations from Nicaragua to participate in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and present their testimony about the continuous repression in the country.

Her strength and commitment to the protection of civic freedoms in her country are remarkable. However, her voice had a sadness tint when talking on how the situation continues to deteriorate in Nicaragua.

During the hearing the activists from Nicaragua provided updated information to the Commission on how the human rights crisis in Nicaragua has evolved and the serious consequences for people in the country.

The organizations denounced how the State of Nicaragua continues to discourage and punish social protest and political dissent, despite the incessant calls to terminate the violence.

The threats to civic space in Nicaragua are not new. Civil society in the country has been facing growing restrictions as political power has increasingly concentrated in recent years and civic space has become completely repressed.

However, the situation has worsened since April 2018 when proposed regressive changes to the social security system sparked widespread, mass protests across the country. The government violently repressed the demonstrations. Since that more than 300 people have been killed and more than 600 remain in detention.

Abuses and violations to civic space in Nicaragua vary from violent repression of social protest, violence against journalists and censorship of the media, and arrest and criminalization of activists to the introduction of restrictions to civic space through the legislative framework.

Despite these developments, as clear as a pikestaff, many on the British left continue to support these regimes.

Protests at a recent conference in solidarity with Latin America were not welcome

Watch this and weep.

It is time for solidarity with those oppressed by the regimes of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

It is also time for some senior Labour figures  to follow Pablo Iglesias and say, “To rectify in politics is a good thing.”

The magazine Labour Briefing has just carried this article on its web site:

The civil unrest and police violence that swept across Nicaragua earlier this year leaving over 300 people dead have been followed by a wave of state repression against human rights organisations and media outlets. Most shocking among these are the police raids on CENIDH, the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, whose director is Vilma Núñez.

……

According to Amnesty International, most of the victims in the recent unrest were killed “at the hands of state agents.” Yet what happened is talked about in Nicaragua Solidarity circles abroad as if it were an internationally orchestrated coup against Ortega, thus justifying the brutality of the regime‘s response. The irony is that, as the Trump Administration ratchets up the rhetoric against Nicaragua, it is the self-serving actions of Ortega himself that leave the Nicaraguan Revolution less able to defend itself.

Some on the left understand this. Noam Chomsky has called for early elections. Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, and former Uruguayan President José Mujica have also been sharply critical of Ortega. None of these individuals are in the business of promoting US government interests. Rather, they understand that defending the gains of the Nicaraguan Revolution requires the orderly exit of the corrupt dynasty that has betrayed it. Others on the left should now speak up for the basic rights of Nicaraguans as a matter or urgency.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Macron, Faced with Gilets Jaunes, “état d’urgence social”; Mélenchon calls for “Citizens’ Insurrection.”

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Point 24. Immigration: stem migratory fluxes.

Macron raises minimum wage to appease Yellow Vest protesters

He said people on the minimum wage would see their salaries increase by €100 a month from 2019 without extra costs to employers. Pensioners earning less than €2,000 would see the recent increase in social security taxes scrapped. Other measures promised include the abolition of taxes on overtime pay in 2019 and asking profit-making companies to give workers tax-free year-end bonuses

However, he also said he would stick to his reform agenda and refused to reinstate a wealth tax.

“We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns,” Macron said.

Let us go into the details:

PAULINE BOCK New Statesman.

He promised an additional €100 for workers on minimum wage “without it costing a cent to employers” – because it’s not a new raise, just the re-evaluation of a specific allowance that was already planned. (Le Parisien has calculated that the levelled system will negatively impact around 30,000 of the most precarious households). He said that a tax on pensioners “earning less than €2,000” would be cancelled – without making clear that “€2,000” included all earnings, not solely their pension, and would therefore impact less people than his rhetoric implied. He announced an annual tax-free bonus for workers – “whose employers can afford it”, so at a boss’s discretion. Mere hours before Macron’s speech, the Senate also adopted a freeze of welfare payments for 2019. Macron is a bit like a sneaky character in a Disney film: if you don’t negotiate precise terms in the contract, chances are you’re losing out in the agreement as a whole.

Bock’s excellent article misses nevertheless, one thing from this, the overtime tax break.

Le Monde: 

Les heures supplémentaires seront « versées sans impôts ni charges dès 2019 » alors qu’elles devaient initialement être « désocialisées »(pas de cotisations) en septembre 2019. Cette mesure avait déjà été mise en place sous le quinquennat de Nicolas Sarkozy, avant d’être abrogée par François Hollande.

Les heures supplémentaires correspondent au temps travaillé au-delà de la durée légale des 35 heures, et sont rémunérées davantage. Cette majoration de salaire est généralement de 25 %, mais peut être réduite à 10 % par un accord d’entreprise.

Overtime will be “paid without taxes or charges from 2019” when they were initially to be “unsocialised” (no contributions) in September 2019. This measure had already been implemented under the five-year term of Nicolas Sarkozy,  and was  repealed by François Hollande.

Overtime is the time worked beyond the statutory 35-hour period, and is paid more. This salary increase is usually 25%, but can be reduced to 10% by a company agreement.

So, in effect, Macron has not just tried to appeal to the lowest paid, but to the ‘hard-working’ middle earners who can do overtime.

Bock comments that, “These “crumbs” are unlikely to convince the gilets jaunes to cancel their “Act V”, planned for 15 December.”

I would not underestimate the effect of the latter measure on their constituency, as those interviewed on RTL this morning illustrated.

Nevertheless the refusal to reinstate the wealth tax, the  l’impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) irks many (Piketty : « S’il veut sauver son quinquennat, Macron doit immédiatement rétablir l’ISF » )

There is also the lycéen movement which the left can support unreservedly, not only because of the scenes of police brutality and efforts to humiliate school pupils, but because their protests against education “reform” are right.

Mouvement des lycéens et Gilets jaunes : “On espère faire converger nos luttes”

Update:

Whether they will find an echo in the Gilets Jaunes remains to be seen.

In the meantime the self-appointed leader of the Citizens’ Revolution announced that the Gilets Jaunes protests must continue.

Français encore un effort si vous voulez être révolutionnaires!

The obvious thing to say about Macron’s actions is that he is trying to “reculer pour mieux sauter”.

This can mean either, make a tactical retreat in order to leap back when the time is ripe, or to put off the inevitable.

Unfortunately having had that thought I noticed that  somebody has already made that comment (Pour Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron “recule pour mieux sauter” ). The leader of the far-right notes that the President is putting off the need to face up to globalisation, free trade, AND …..”‘immigration de masse et ses conséquences sociales et culturelles.”

As in:

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Some enthusiasts for the Gilets Jaunes have got so carried away that they ignore the issues this raises.

Verso, apparently a left-wing publisher, has this translated interview (“Paris is not an actor, but a battlefield”) Eric Hazan interviewed about the Gilets Jaunes protests.

Hazan is already notorious for saying, of Jews (he does not bother with the word ‘Zionist’) on the ultra-left  insurrectionist’ site, Lundi Matin, recalling a Paris and a time when ” les juifs n’étaient pas du côté du manche. ” figuratively meaning “près du pouvoir “, that is, to translate. “when the Jews were not on the side of those wielding power.” (EN DESCENDANT LA RUE RAMPONEAU)

This is his latest, on why many intellectuals are reluctant to give unreserved support for the Gilets Jaunes.

A whole range of intellectuals see violence is evil. For those who do not stick to this position and may sometimes consider it legitimate, the fact that the far right is present in this violence puts them off quite a bit. But it doesn’t bother me.

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Amongst many reactions is this one:

Convalescence difficile pour Éric Hazan

Interrogé par Mediapart à propos des «Gilets jaunes», Éric Hazan a fait – notamment – la déclaration confuse et confusionniste ci-après.

On voudra bien considérer le fait que l’éditeur du Comité invisible a connu de graves soucis de santé l’été dernier, qu’il est encore très fatigué, et par suite ne tenir aucun compte de ce qu’il dit.

The following (thanks Paul) from a World to Win News Service  puts some thoughts together not far from those of this Blog, and shared by others, notably French leftists, both from the far left, and more mainstream.

However mad the political origins of the WWNS these points are far from off-beam.

France: “The house is on fire”

…the Yellow Vest movement cannot be evaluated as an isolated phenomenon. Le Pen’s fascist party has been a major force on France’s political scene for over a generation; not only did she make it to the run-offs for President 18 months ago, but her party is leading in the polls for the upcoming European Parliament elections. Le Pen has played a major role in shifting the whole political process to the right. As the mainstream of traditional French politics collapses, as it has in growing numbers of other Western countries, there is an increasing basis for major sections of the ruling class to support her bid for power. Macron is hoping that cancelling the fuel price hike will divide the Yellow Vests and cut off the most determined among them from those among the middle classes whose greatest concern is order, and undoubtedly to use an iron fist on hard-core elements who persist. But stepping up repression against a popular protest risks losing the support among those who look to him as a rampart against the fascists, even as this paves the way for the even more clearly authoritarian Le Pen.

The most important thing is not whether Le Pen is “behind” this movement organizationally. Consider the example of Italy’s Five Star movement. For years it declared itself apolitical and opposed to all parties in the name of “horizontal democracy” by means of social media and Internet referendums, but it ended up in a fascist coalition government alongside openly terroristic thugs who dominate despite the fact that Five Star won far more votes. Again and again mass movements that focus on fighting to turn back the clock and bring back the promises of the past social welfare state have been eaten alive by forces with very clearly defined reactionary political projects – in this case installing a fascist regime as part of defending and advancing France’s position among the bloodthirsty rival thieves of the imperialist world.

How to go beyond the inevitably temporary intersection of different interest groups and unite the people against their enemy, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class and its state? Not like Mélenchon, trying to unite different parts of the masses on the basis of nationalism and futile dreams of reviving the social-democratic welfare state. And not like the anarchists trying to prove that the character of the Yellow Vest movement can be changed and the movement led by proving to be the best street fighters against the police. The people can’t be united spontaneously. Revolutionaries can’t tail after anyone..

For those, by contrast. who wish to dream of the Gilets Jaunes as “une nouvelle construction démocratique” “une respiration démocratique ”  with their ” parlements locaux” and “l’expérience d’une communauté” the following E-pamphlet is recommended:

GILETS JAUNES. Des clés pour comprendre.

Cloud Cuckoo Land Publications is said to be preparing a translation.

 

Gilets jaunes L'actualité