Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘International’ Category

As McCluskey says “Calm Down”, Paul Mason Hits Back at “Privileged Union Bureaucracy” holding back Labour’s Brexit Strategy.

with 3 comments

As new Labour dispute over Brexit emerges Comrade Mason intervenes.

This was on the telly this morning:

Unite leader Len McCluskey has insisted “there is no panic” over Labour’s Brexit policy and the party should trust leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He told the BBC it should not rush to back remaining in the EU and should wait for the party’s consultation.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Sky he was “a little” frustrated over the delay in deciding whether to oppose Brexit at the next election.

There is no panic, there is no panic to do anything. Let Jeremy Corbyn consult,” he said.

“My message to Labour MPs and members is he’s done OK so far, let’s trust him to consult and see what emerges.”

BBC

Len McCluskey is against a No-Deal Brexit.

He is against “division” on this issue.

Can we have a Jobs and Rights for All Brexit?

What kind of “deal” he and his adviser Andrew Murray want, one which exists only in their own minds, runs up against the fact that it is going to be Boris Johnson they will face, not Saint Joseph of the Workers.

Perhaps the UNITE chief thinks that by repeating this wisdom in small pearls, and then repeating them again, if not once more, a few times again, he will impose his views on reality.

 

Yet…

Labour Brexit splits erupt as Len McCluskey urges MPs to stop pressuring Jeremy Corbyn over second referendum

Nicolas Mairs.

Labour splits over a second EU referendum have resurfaced after Len McCluskey urged senior frontbench figures to allow Jeremy Corbyn the time to firm up the party’s policy.

The Unite union leader said Shadow Cabinet ministers should not “panic” over the leader’s failure to commit to a public vote on leaving the bloc ahead of the 31 October deadline.

The intervention came shortly after John McDonnell said the party “need to move now”, and that he was frustrated the stance had not yet been ironed out.

The Shadow Chancellor refused to confirm reports that he had described Labour’s policy as a “slow moving car crash” but told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “What I’ve been trying to say is we need to move now and Jeremy said a month ago ‘yes were going to put this issue back to the people’, fully agree.”

He added that he was “a little bit” frustrated over the situation, following his claim that he expected “white smoke” to emerge from a crunch Shadow Cabinet meeting last week.

Mr McDonnell continued: “At the Shadow Cabinet two weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn said we were moving towards a decision on this, we’ve all agreed that we have to go back to the people.

“Of course we want a general election but we have to go back to the people on a deal or no-deal in almost certainly a referendum.”

There follows a classic bureaucratic attempt at a manoeuver.

Mr McCluskey later said that it was “legitimate” for key frontbench figures to push for a second vote but that the party had to wait for Mr Corbyn’s decision.

“We’ll wait to see what Jeremy Corbyn is doing and that’s why Jeremy Corbyn is such a strong leader,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“He’s not being bullied into a position by anybody. What he’s doing is he’s consulting with the trade unions, he’s consulting with members, he’s consulting with the National Executive Committee and then we’ll have a proper debate, there’s no panic.”

Just wait, and wait, we’ll sort it out….

But: 

In a sign that his opposition to a second referendum was softening however, the union boss said he backed it on the condition that Labour wins an election first and then negotiates its own deal to put to voters.

“The right thing to do is actually to go back to the people in a general election. The second public vote I’d like is if Labour win that election and are able to negotiate a deal to take us out of Europe, which I believe will satisfy both the 48% and the 52%, I’d like that to go back to a confirmatory vote of the public, so I’m in favour of two.

“The reality at the moment is that there’s a lot of debate taking place after the European elections, I appeal to people to calm down.

The dispute continued with Paul Mason making a much-remarked on Twitter intervention.

This Blog will be reviewing his latest book A Clear Bright Future when the copy comes.

From Mason’s use of Marx’s Grundrisse, earlier Negri influenced views of “immaterial labour”, the politics of the European left, right up to the picture of technology and “surveillance capitalism” (Shoshana Zuboff’, a writer better at information than prose) and ” value alignment “, there are points one can and will disagree with.

But this looks as if another real row is brewing.

One in which we stand with comrade Mason..

He continues,

 

More.

 

Looks like time for a new unpleasant attack on Mason from the Morning Star is already being written.

 

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Left Populism: La France Insoumise Faces Internal Challenge.

with one comment

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "la france insoumise Assemblée représentative de La France insoumise on the 23rd of June."

Mr 6,3% and his European List.

A few days ago I, as a loyal supporter of la France insoumise (along with half a million others who signed up to their free online registration of support) received a notification of their latest ‘conference’ the Assemblée représentative de La France insoumise on the 23rd of June.

The E-Mail invited me to put my name into a hat for the “tirage au sort” (selection by lot) to attend. 160 of us would be chosen by this method, and 80 “representatives” from the “different spaces” (its sounds as odd in French) of the “point de ralliement” of JeanLuc  Mélenchon.

There are no “factions”; indeed no different currents of opinion on an organised basis. There are no bothersome competitive elections, different political platforms or indeed anything more than an opportunity to talk as individuals  about the programme for the upcoming Municipal elections.

One is invited to contribute to the debate with comments on the “Texte programmatique national pour les élections municipales” – as in the good old days when the Parti communiste français invited members, and cells, to express their views on the Central Committee’s documents before the Congrès. Before that is, the CC’s line was adopted unanimously.

Cette assemblée sera composée de 160 insoumis·es tiré·es au sort et 80 représentant·es des différents espaces de La France insoumise. Une première phase du tirage au sort est prévue le mercredi 5 juinVous pouvez vérifier que vous êtes inscrit⋅e aux tirages au sort ici.

This kind of ‘democracy’ may remind some people of how Momentum operates, except that this is a group with MPs, MEP and a whole raft of councillors.

It has long irked many people and been cited as an example of how E-democracy  with a “charismatic” populist leader is no democracy at all.

The idea of a lightening struggle for power, that has no need for long-term structures, has been proved wrong by election results.

Today we learn that leading activists in lFI are speaking out and calling for democratic change inside the movement.

The Huffington Post this Thursday  reports that after last week’s discussion on “left wing populism” dissatisfaction with la France insoumise has moved now onto its internal structures and lack of viable democratic channels.

Si le débat stratégique entre “ligne populiste” et “union de la gauche” a focalisé l’attention la semaine dernière, c’est désormais la gouvernance même de La France insoumise et son manque de démocratie qui sont aujourd’hui pointés du doigt.

Amongst the many reasons why a large section of the Left in France, and elsewhere in Europe, is sceptical about ‘left populism’, is this kind of simulacrum of democracy cobbled together around a “Webocracy”.

The stimulus for this is that today Le Monde published an internal document of LFI in which members of the movement criticise these structures and their poor results (6,3%) in the European elections.

Une note interne à La France insoumise dénonce « un fonctionnement dangereux pour l’avenir du mouvement »

Dans un document que « Le Monde » s’est procuré, plusieurs dirigeants « insoumis » demandent plus de démocratie interne et critiquent sévèrement le mauvais score du parti aux élections européennes.

In a document that le Monde has obtained many leading figures of LFI have asked for more internal democracy and have heavily criticised the poor results of the party in the European elections.

This report gives some details:

Crise ouverte à La France insoumise

This is not the end of the troubles of LFI.

One of their best known intellectual, Thomas Guénolé,  has fallen out with the rally, and has been embroiled in a sexual harassment case brought by a young woman LFI activist.

Today we read this: Thomas Guénolé poursuit La France insoumise en justice

The political scientist is the author of some decent books (Petit guide du mensonge en politique, 2014) and some, in many critics’ view,  less than decent books  – (Islamopsychose 2017).

Guénolé had been active in LFI. He was a candidate on their European list this year, before falling out, drastically with them. He has called hMélenchon an « autocrat », la France Insoumise a « dictatorship », and denounced their “stalinist methods of stifling critics.  Guénolé has been accused of sexual harassment by LFI.

Today he announced that he will see them in court…

 

To cap it all  in le Monde yesterday (print edition) an appeal was published calling to break with the existing structures of the French left (follow my gaze, La France insoumise), in a “big Bang” to create co-operative structures.

It’s launched by Mélenchon’s  nemesis: Clémentine Autain.

Image result for clementine autain

 

Perhaps the Charismatic Leader will now take a back-seat:

Mr Brexit Comes to London to decide on future UK PM, backs Farage, and has already insulted Meghan Markle.

with 2 comments

Nigel Farage Donald Trump

 

Mr Brexit Comes to London.

Trump is coming to visit Britain to Back Brexit.

He has already insulted one of the most liked people in Britain.

Trump calls Duchess of Sussex ‘nasty’

Guardian.

During the state visit, the president, his wife Melania, and his four adult children are expected to meet Prince Harry as well as Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. Meghan is expected to stay home with Archie.

Trump referred to the American-born Duchess of Sussex as “nasty” over comments she made in 2016 threatening to move to Canada if Trump won the presidency.

“I didn’t know that she was nasty,” he said when informed of her criticism. The former Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in 2018 and gave birth to their first child, Archie, in May.

He has decided on who will be the next P.M.

In 2016 he said this.

Image result for mr brexit trump

 

Now there is this:

 

It may seem odd that some of pro-Brexit left are hostile to this radical critic of members of the Royal Family, who backs the “Fuck Business” Boris, and who is doing all he can to make Brexit happen.

But internationalists are clear: Piss off Trump!

 

Here

News From the Red-Brown Front: Bannon and Galloway Scheme Revolution as WRP Calls for General Strike for Brexit.

with 3 comments

 

Bannon and Galloway Scheme Revolution over some Tasty Grub in Kazakhstan. 

This is on the agenda….

Or so the WRP says,

Workers shake Labour to its foundations with their vote for Brexit!

The News Line says,

This means that a Brexit on October 31 or before, carried out by the working class taking general strike action to bring in a workers government, will be welcomed by workers all over Europe and lead to the revolutionary replacement of the EU by a Socialist United States of Europe.

Only the WRP and the Young Socialists are fighting for this policy and perspective. We urge all workers and youth to join today and to fight for the victory of the British and world socialist revolutions!

The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist ) founded by Reg Birch and whose best known former member is Alexei Sayle – not to be confused with Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who ‘best known’ member is Harpal Brar – is also chorting.

Long believed to have disappeared into red bases in Thetford Forest the one-time supporters of Enver Hoxha  finds in the Brexit Party an instrument of the working class.

Its organ declares,

The working class has used the Brexit party to tell the pro-EU ruling class to carry out our 2016 instruction to leave and we have given that ruling class a bloody nose.

Three years after we voted to leave, it was a staggering failure that we were made to participate in the EU’s elections. Even May herself admitted that taking part in these elections would amount to “failure”.

Fresh from their triumphal implementation of the red-brown mass line the former Revolutionary Communist Party, now Spiked, finds time for a whinge by some useless idiot, Isaac Doel.

Recently Nigel Farage was pictured drenched in milkshake after a pro-Remain protester launched the drink at him. This fuelled debate about the ethics of ‘milkshaking’ as a form of protest. Many jumped to the protester’s defence, claiming that throwing milkshake was an acceptable form of protest when dealing with ‘fascists’ like Farage.

High-profile Remainers frequently use the f-word to describe Nigel Farage. In a video recently posted on his Twitter account, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, said Farage ‘represents the creep of fascism across Europe’. ‘Fascist’ is a term used by those who oppose Farage’s politics to attempt to damage his reputation and delegitimise his Brexit movement.

Quite right!

Le Monde merely calls them “extreme right wing“: “le leader d’extrême droite, Nigel Farage”.

We prefer national populist.

The theme that the voters of the Brexit Party were expressing ‘working class anger’ is dear to many on the Lexit left.

In more measured tones LIndsey German comments, from Counterfire, that Labour’s poor showing was

..the result of trying to put a position which unites both sides of the referendum divide at a time when both sides are becoming more polarised. Jeremy Corbyn’s original position of a People’s Brexit had more chance of working. It was an approach that accepted the referendum result but committed Labour to a progressive Brexit.

In other words Labour should have adopted Counterfire’s views.

She suggests, not unreasonably,

The impasse at the top of politics can only be resolved elsewhere. That requires a focus on wider politics as well as trying to address the EU question. The major class divisions which cut across leave/remain, the issues facing people over their jobs, housing, education, are the ones on which people can find some unity. The left also needs to ask itself some questions: can the Corbyn project succeed in winning an election and making the first steps towards changing British government policies? How can Labour’s right be defeated? How can the left relate especially to working class people in the old industrial areas?

But this comes back to the “EU question”, and internationalists are not going to “unite” with the Brexit camp, ‘People’s’ or not.

Pompous Padre Giles Fraser says,

He found time yesterday to show some solidarity with the Red-Brown inner core:

Meanwhile more details emerge of the top Galloway Bannon summit.

Perhaps the WRP, the CPB (M-L) and the CPGB (M-L) should get an invite to the next jamboree.

 

 

After Brexit Failures National Populists in Continental Europe Pull Back from ‘Frexit’ and ‘Italexit’.

leave a comment »

Image result for frexit

Frexit no longer popular even on Far-right.

For some months there have been reports in the French press that the far-right Rassemblement national (RN) of Marine Le Pen has been distancing itself from Frexit, the demand that France leave the European Union.

Some small French far-right parties continue with this policy, notably the L’Union populaire républicaine of François Asselineau and the Front National  (which is the now the RN) break-away,  Les Patriotes of Florian Philippott. The demand is sometimes echoed by a fringe of the Gilets Jaunes. (1)

But after speculation the RN itself formally announced this in April:

Européennes : Marine Le Pen renonce officiellement au Frexit dans son projet (France-Inter)

 Pour la première fois, noir sur blanc, Marine Le Pen n’évoque plus la sortie de l’Union européenne et de la zone euro.

For the first time, in black and white, Marine Le Pen does not mention leaving the European Union and the Euro zone.

Followed more recently by this speech, denouncing the European Union ‘prison’ without calling to escape from it.

Frexit had been a key RN policy right up to the party’s Presidential campaign in 2017.

Despite this turn the far-right party still has plenty of nationalist ‘reforms’ in mind starting with the abolition of the European Commission in favour of straight-forward intergovernmental negotiations, and continuing up to plans to impose harsh controls over all forms of migration inside or from outside the EU.

But this change indicates two things.

Firstly the disaster that is Brexit has deterred others following.

The second, is that if elected Farage’s Brexit Party will not find such willing allies in the European Parliament, out to join with them to do what they can to destroy the European Union.

There are also growing indications that European national populists face an obvious difficulty. How can nationalists, whose whole raison d’être is to promote ‘their’ nation’ work with those with the same basis in other nations in an international project.

A further point arises.

Former leftist, New Left Review author and Spiked contributor Wolfgang Streeck has staked his hopes on the Fall of the European Empire and such “anti-imperialist” (his description) forces as the German AfD on the far-right. (2)

It might seem that those, some claiming to be on the left, rubbing their hands in glee at the destruction of the European “liberal empire” with the help of the national populists may have been celebrating too soon. (2)

Today France 24 reports,

 France’s Marine Le Pen, Italy’s Salvini forge far-right alliance to ‘overhaul EU from within’

 

In a change of strategy, nationalist party leaders Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini are now promising voters a far-right bloc to overhaul the EU from within. But experts say it will be difficult for nationalists across Europe to co-operate.

At present, the European far-right is split across three umbrella groups. In addition to its linchpins the National Rally and the League, the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) bloc has expanded to encompass the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), as well as an array of smaller Scandinavian and Eastern European far-right parties.

However, other nationalist outfits such as Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party and the Swedish Democrats sit in the European Conservatives and Reformists group, while the UK’s Brexit Party and Lithuania’s Order and Justice are part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group.

..

In light of this fragmentation, “Salvini is trying to unite the far right populist groups ahead of the European elections”, in a new grouping that would further expand ENF, noted Vasiliki Tsagkroni, a lecturer in political science specialising in European populism at the University of Leiden, in an interview with FRANCE 24.

An integral part of this plan is Salvini’s and Le Pen’s gambit to woo a big beast of the European far-right, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose Fidesz party was suspended from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) – currently largest group in the European Parliament – in March.

Amid the inextricable difficulties Brexit has created for the UK, Le Pen and Salvini have had to pivot towards proposing to upend the EU from within because they realised they had to ditch their previous vote-losing ‘Frexit’ and ‘Italexit’ agendas.

The National Rally 2019 European election manifesto contains no reference to leaving the euro or the EU – both key planks of Le Pen’s failed 2017 presidential campaign. “We didn’t have much choice: either we had to submit [to the EU] or we had to leave it. But now we have allies,” Le Pen glossed it. Likewise, Salvini’s League dropped its anti-euro stance in late 2018, with its economic spokesperson saying that leaving the single currency is “not possible”.

“Most of these far-right populist parties have understood that telling people they would leave the EU and the euro is scary,” explained Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the extreme right at the Fondation Jean Jaurès think tank in Paris, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “And the example of Brexit adds to this: the British know what they want to get out of, but they have no idea where they’re going.”

..

***********

(1) Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s stepson is stepping into politics, and wants France to leave the European Union.

Aurélien Enthoven, 17, son of singer Carla Bruni and philosopher/broadcaster Raphaël Enthoven, has been campaigning for the Republican Popular Union (UPR), a nationalist party that supports leaving the EU, the newspaper Le Parisien reported Wednesday.

Enthoven was seen at the party’s pro-Frexit rally on May 1, wearing a Brexit “Leave means leave” T-shirt, and, according to Le Parisien, he contributed £25 to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party.

Note:  Opinion Poll, ” L’UPR rassemble 1,5% d’intentions de vote.”

(2) “Note also that what since the refugee episode of 2015 has become the biggest opposition party, the AfD, while nationalist, is so only in the sense of isolationist and anti-imperialist – and is, strangely enough, for this reason, branded by German liberal imperialists as “anti-European”. With benevolent reading, leaving aside for a moment the party’s disgusting fits of historical revisionism, AfD nationalism amounts to unwillingness to pay for empire, with corresponding willingness to allow other countries to do their own thing; see the party’s strong belief in appeasement instead of confrontation in relation to Russia, a belief it shares with the left wing of the Linkspartei.”  Wolfgang Streeck – The European Union is a liberal empire, and it is about to fall.

This is not how people on the left normally analyse the  racist far-right Alternative für Deutschland (Afd).

Corbyn in Backstairs Dealing with Tories to Try for ‘Soft Brexit’.

with 5 comments

Yet Corbyn is widely reported to be doing everything he can to save Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will work with Conservative MPs to try to avert a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader met with senior Tories Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles on Wednesday to discuss their plan for a softer Brexit.

Speaking afterwards, he said he was “reaching out to all groups in parliament” and “looking at all the options” to prevent no deal.

It comes with talks between the UK and EU deadlocked and just days left for Theresa May to secure new compromises before MPs vote against on her deal next week.

Independent.

Sienna Rodgers writes on Labour List.

All options are on the table. Some commentators and members are surprised – or perhaps just disappointed – that this remains the case: they expected that the twice-defeated Labour Brexit deal would be shelved by the party once support for another EU referendum was declared. But the leadership has made it clear all along that it is still looking to push for an alternative that involves leaving the EU (although also willing to whip for a public vote). The main reasons are two-fold: it is opposed to the idea, on ideological and electoral grounds; and it knows that a second public vote proposal is unlikely to pass in the Commons. Jeremy Corbyn has written in The Mirror today that “getting Brexit right” is his focus.

As well as publicly campaigning for “Our Alternative”LabourList understands that the leader’s office has been quietly working with the Common Market 2.0 group to draft a new Brexit amendment. Made up of Labour’s Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock, plus Nick Boles, Oliver Letwin and Robert Halfon from the Tories, this cross-party initiative has been campaigning for a deal consisting of single market membership and a new customs arrangement. They say it meets Labour’s six tests and only requires changes to the political declaration in Theresa May’s deal.

Perhaps Corbyn really believes that through these attempts at  backroom deals he is doing his best to secure a deal on Brexit that meets Labour’s six tests.

But the very way this is being carried out is deeply distasteful, not in front of Labour’s membership, but with Toires, and not doubt Corbyn’s famous pro-Brexit ‘advisers’. Playing along with Labour’s Brexit supporters will raise the hackles of the wider membership as well

It is equally hard to believe, despite the pro-leadership spin,  that anything that’s the result of negotiations with the Tories will meet this “2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?” and 4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?

The Labour List report continues on the last issue:

People’s Vote campaigners aren’t happy, of course, and say such moves contradict the conference policy agreed in September. But others contend that the composite motion – which promised “full participation in the single market” – is actually more in line with the ‘Norway Plus’ group plan than anything else. And the leadership is keen to point out that avoiding ‘no deal’ is the priority, and if a fresh public vote proposal has no chance of securing a Commons majority, isn’t backing a softer Brexit the only way to do that? Nonetheless, Clive Lewis – who is still a shadow minister – has called the latest strategy a “grave error”. PV-ers are determined not to back any kind of Brexit now. But with around 30 on the Labour benches prepared to defy the whip to vote against PV, it will be interesting to see whether that changes. If the mood does shift after their preferred plan of another public vote is substantially defeated next week, Common Market 2.0 could be the future of Brexit.

Here is  Clive Lewis:

Here is  alternative to the ‘Soft’ Brexit Labour leader’s.

On 23 March, six days away from the scheduled exit day, hundreds of thousands of people will march to demand a final say on Brexit.

We are coming together as the left in all our diversity to organise a massive left bloc and rally for the march, to put forward a clear left message and to bring as many people as possible on to the streets.

We are campaigning to transform society, not for the status quo. We are against Brexit because it is a massive assault on working-class people, on the environment, on migrants and on the communities that the left aims to represent.

We will put forward the positive politics of internationalism: for the transformation of Europe and Britain, for free movement, for international cooperation to stop climate chaos, and for solidarity between people and across borders. We urge everyone on the left to join us on 23 March at 11am at Grosvenor Square in London.

Marsha de Cordova MP, Clive Lewis MP, Kate Osamor MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Preet Gill MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Rachael Maskell MP, Sandy Martin MP, Rosie Duffield MP, Chi Onwurah MP, Anna McMorrin MP, Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley Co-leaders of the Green party, Amelia Womack Deputy leader of the Green party, Manuel Cortes TSSA general secretary, Joseph Healy Principal speaker of Left Unity, Michael Chessum Another Europe is Possible, Nadia Whittome Labour for a Socialist Europe, Zoe Williams Journalist, Julie Ward MEP

Guardian. 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2019 at 2:05 pm

The Brexit Left and the Legacy of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy.

with 8 comments

Image result for State Intervention in Industry. A Workers’ Inquiry.

A High-Point of the AES years.

The Brexit Left and the Legacy of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy.

“…the AES represents a transitional strategy, capable of mobilising working class struggle around immediate issues within an overall and coherent framework of advance towards socialism.”

London CSE Group. 1979. (1)

After the Brexit Referendum result, in the middle of the “birth of a post-neoliberal order” in which right-wing forces are on the rise, we were informed that the left needs a “progressive vision of sovereignty”. For some, to adapt Walter Bagehot, the dignified part of this new socialist Constitution, lies in left-wing populism. To “excite and preserve the reverence” of left-wing thinkers, there is the prospect of a collective will arise from a federated People uniting resistance to neoliberal hegemony. This will be capable of standing up to the “post-democracy” of international oligarchs. For others, the efficient mechanisms of nation states, by which this “works and rules” there is popular sovereignty to create, “democratic control over the economy, full employment, social justice, redistribution from the rich to the poor, inclusivity and the socio-ecological transformation of production and society…” (2)

To combat right-wing national populism this left must be, it is said, itself national. Tying these two strands together, standing for the “little people” against “neo-liberal internationalism” and “cosmopolitan identitarianism”, Wolfgang Streeck chooses “the reality of national democracy imperfect as it may be, over the fantasy of a democratic global society.” A key element in such an approach is said to be a break with austerity, based on command of a sovereign currency. Some, standing out perhaps from Continental left-populists who are often  guarded about sovereignty, and reluctant to leave the EU,  claim that  Brexit offers the terrain on which to offer a “radical break with neoliberalism”. Chiming with the People’s Brexit cry this should be “a radically progressive and emancipatory Brexit narrative”. Modern Monetary Theory” (MNT), has, William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi consider, is the key to such a Labour Party strategy, its financial motor, if adopted within an efficient national framework. This, they hope, may offer the prospect of Karl Polanyi’s ‘organic rationality’ to counter the logic of markets. They are among an array of writers, some with long standing hostility to the European Union, predating any views about currency, that hector doubters about the radical democratic prospects of national sovereignty. (3)

Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts made some wide-ranging criticisms of this approach. They detect a coalescence of right wing and left pro-Brexit strategies based on will and the nation. Corbynism mirrors the obsession with ‘taking back control’ which underpinned the vote for Brexit, with the two movements even agreeing on the political agent needed to wrench back that elusive control – the nation-state. Both claim to be able to free society from the necessity of living through the economic forms of capitalism through the building of national barriers. Apparently different but strangely resonant, each shows the Janus-faced indeterminacy of populism in an era of democratic crisis.” (4)

Brexit.

This is where the issue of Brexit enters. Plans based on MMT require sovereign states and sovereign money. If there is one thing that the EU is, it is a limit to such schemes. Yet, is this theory about to take earthy form? A large group, including Labour policy makers, and many who have attended talks on the matter, may be unwilling to base an anti-austerity strategy on a theoretical picture of the Production of Money. An adviser to John MacDonnell has gone so far as to comment that, “MMT is just plain old bad economics, unfortunately, and a regression of left economic thinking. An economy with its own currency may never run out of money but that money can become entirely worthless (5)

Is Labour moving in the national populist direction outlined, either positively by left theorists Mitchell and Fazi or negatively, by Bolton and Pitts? There is little sign of rage against “the moral failings of the international financial elite,” when we get down to the details of plans for an overhaul of taxation to increase revenues within a more equitable system. Nor are pondered proposals for “new models of ownership” a sweeping attempt on behalf of society to assert “social self-protection”. Indeed if anything Labour has been too cautious to offer a worked out reform of the Universal Credit system. They have preferred to float improbable limited experiments for a Basic Income – at least a more equitable idea than MNT’s “job guarantee programme” which leaves many more questions open – rather than a wholesale reform of social security.

A larger group nevertheless considers that freedom from European treaties and institutions is essential for some programmatic pillars: re-nationalisation programme, taxation and control over the financial sector and some direction of the movement of capital. Others contest that Labour’s public ownership proposals, investment and anti-austerity plans, are challenged by membership of the EU. This is strongly contested by many, above all by writers for Another Europe is Possible’s publications. Many will now point to the turbulence of the process of “transition” to Brexit. The prospect of a Hard Exit to trade on WTO rules, demanded by the Communist Party of Britain amongst others, leaves the country open to international markets, transnational companies, and states, headed by Trump’s US. Is this an escape from capitalist domination? It would seem that the principle of ‘sovereignty’ does not translate easily from political theory and Constitutional law into the world of economics and global politics. (7)

The “transition to socialism” is an uninvited guest in modern left debate about populism, Brexit and Europe. Yet there was a moment, a long moment, in the 1970s, when there appeared to be feasible plans in Britain – paralleling French Socialist, Communist and other continental European left parties’ strategic policies – that claimed to lead in that direction. The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was at the centre of discussion, “The AES formed the philosophical core of Labour strategy, culminating the 1973 Programme” writes Simon Hannah, “which stands as crowning moment of Labourite anti-capitalist thought.” It “was a declaration of struggle against capitalism”. Labour governments of the 1970s, it is claimed, thwarted the left’s socialist thrust. Today it is said that Brussels would play the role of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, the Parliamentary and media Right, Business, cautious trade union leaders, the IMF, and markets, all combined to face down efforts to shift power away from capitalism to ordinary people. (8)

The Rise of the Alternative Economic Strategy.

The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) can be said to have originated in Labour policies developed after the 1970 election defeat, reflected in the 1974 election Manifesto. Elected in 1974 the Labour Party faced an economic crisis with a radical programme, including plans to nationalise 25 leading companies and the creation of the National Enterprise Board committed to “extending public ownership into profitable areas of manufacturing industry” and “industrial democracy”. The left, with Tony Benn as Minister of Industry, Eric Heffer as his Minister of State, and Michael Meacher as his Under-Secretary, and advisers, Francis Cripps, Stuart Holland Frances Morell as advisers, had a strong, though not decisive,  presence.

Harold Wilson ignored proposals to bring companies into public ownership. After Britain voted to continue to be part of the European Economic Community in 1975, which the left had opposed, they lost their toehold in the Cabinet. The age of ‘Bennery’, best remembered as support for workers’ co-operatives Triumph Motorcycles, KME and the Scottish Daily News, to replace failing companies, had ended. Industrial strategy elements, such as the National Enterprise Board (NEB) and “voluntary planning agreements” floated around in limbo until Labour lost power in 1979. Famously Labour, faced with pressure on public expenditure, presented as severely as possible by Treasury forecasts, and the failures of income policies, gave in to a variety of interests demanding austerity. The swingeing cuts in state spending culminated in agreement to terms for an IMF loan, in 1976, which is considered the start of a shift from Keynesian economics to Monetarism.

This turn helped the development of the AES as a distinct counter set of policies. “By 1976” John Callaghan summarises, “the AES envisaged a programme of reflation and redistribution of income defended by import controls, and an extended sector of public enterprise, planning agreements and industrial democracy designed to boost investment and productivity.” In this shape the AES became the programme, of variable geometry, of the Tribune Group of Labour MPs, many trade unionists, stressing variously the manufacturing or public service aspects, and a variety of left-wing ‘think tanks’ such as the Institute for Workers’ Control, the Conference of Socialist Economists and the Cambridge Political Economy Group. It enjoyed wide backing in Constituency Labour Parties, and influenced many of the incoming ‘New Labour left’ members, including Marxists, inside and outside the party. Despite (or because of) this, Prime Ministers, James Callaghan adds, it was “effectively ignored”, amongst efforts by Tony Benn and his allies, to give some tangible ideas life. (8)

Stuart Holland began from these premises “In both domestic and international policy the modern capitalist State is plunged increasingly in the dark by the simultaneous trend to monopoly domination and home and multi-nationalism abroad. Keynesian policies are increasingly eroded both by the increased market power and self financing of the big league at home, and by their capacity to thwart government taxation, monetary and exchange policies.” The economy was weakening. The alternative, “industrial regeneration” lay in forthright measures. John Callaghan summarises, “urgent action was needed to assume control of the strong points of meso-economic sector, including its financial institutions, so that the state could a adopt new planning instruments. “The alternative was a crack down on union power and workers’ rights by a government adapted to decline by attempts to increase profitability at wage-earners’ expense.” Holland’s version of the AES focused on new public enterprise as a countervailing force to multinationals and planning through formal agreements and industrial democracy. (9)

The AES resonated widely on the left. Over the following years the AES inspired a variety of radical visions. For the London CSE Group, on the eve of Thatcher’s victory, the radical aspects of the AES offered a means to “impose greater working class political control on each of the forms of capital” and (without defining clearly what this meant) a rise in “socialist consciousness”. In their view, “the policies proposed represent a challenge to the control by capital of the internationalism of its commodity, money and productive forms, and in particular to the role of British imperialism in the world economy.” Geoff Hodgson had already argued in 1977 that that, despite Holland’s “weak” position on the state, “the only effective strategy of advance”. Core proposals, on Planning Agreements and a real National Enterprise Board, “can encourage a powerful interaction between mass struggle and legislature advance”. Hodgson continued throughout the decade to see “the Alternative Economic Strategy is a means of mobilising the working class for socialist ends.” The AES allowed many ideas to flourish. Mike Prior and Dave Purdy followed a curious byway. They proposed to develop a “socialist” social contract, based on wage and price restraint, as part of the alternative strategy to expand trade union influence and “impose conscious social regulation” on capitalism. (10)

In 1980, in the pages of International Socialism, the SWP theoretical journal, Bob Rowthorn talked of “the implementation of this programme as the first stage in a revolutionary process characterised by intense conflict and struggle.” It was both democratic containing, a “number of measures for extending the influence of the working class and its allies, and for exerting social control over the direction of the economy” and national “based primarily on changes within Britain itself, and does not consider the wider question of how to overcome the present crisis in world capitalism.” For Rowthorn, this involved “withdrawal from the Common Market”. By 1981 with Thatcher in charge, Rowthorn believed, writing in the pages of Marxism Today,  “A real challenge to capitalist power, as envisaged in programmes like the AES, can only succeed if either (1) the Left has overwhelming support in civil society — in which case the old military apparatus will disintegrate if the bourgeoisie seeks to overthrow the legitimate government by force; or (2) the Left has a strong foothold in the armed forces — in which case the Right, and its foreign allies, may be frightened to sabotage the economy, for fear of provoking a conflict which they might lose. Others had already pointed to the absence of a committed “revolutionary party” able to fulfil the promise of the AES and ward off such threats. Holland, however, had other obstacles in mind and had warned against “go it alone” Labour policies, without the backing of left parties in France and Italy, a view he was to develop in the 1980s. (11)

For some, writing after the AES had disappeared from sight in the 1980s, the strategy was bound up with the fate of efforts by Labour’s ‘transformative’ left to change the party. It marked the high-tide to, in Tony Benn’s words, “to build a bridge which links democracy with socialism and merges the arguments for one with the arguments for the other.” Inside the party it paralleled, in this view, attempts to bring together grass-roots inner-party control with a wholesale transformation of the state and economy. Yet Labour governments in the 1970s neutralised its radical thrust before, in the eyes of the left, democratic change – that is, the socialist left’s advance – inside Labour was, in the 1980s, first thwarted, and then driven back. The inability of these efforts to make headway coincided with the Callaghan government’s turn to Monetarism, described retrospectively as a “key moment in globalisation”. The strikes and party infighting that followed fuelled, it is said, the rise of Margaret Thatcher before ‘authoritarian populism’ appeared on the horizon. In response to the fall of the Labour government in 1979 and “left wing capitalism” Stuart Holland wrote of the failure “to defend their nominal autonomy” and their “capacity to command support for an autonomous development.” (12)

The issue remains, what kind of socialism was offered by this autonomous path? Government legislated planning and nationalisation, are, tradition has it, is not a socialist panacea. Benn believed that “capital” should be made “accountable to the people it employs”. “Planning agreements were to make the power of the major companies subject to the assent of the people who worked within them, without putting workers on the board.” The Trades Councils who produced the report, State Intervention in Industry (1980) pointed to the key role of “workers themselves being actively involved in formulating the policies”. Did this actually happen? Their report indicated that in practice, “The NEB distanced the government even further from shop floor representatives.” (13)

By contrast, Andrew Glyn suggested, in line forms of co-operation already existed within capitalism, ready to be taken over and perfected by social ownership Aligned to Militant at the time and critical of many aspects of the AES he stated, “As Marx pointed out in Capital, the same people who extol the organisational excellence of capitalist factories and businesses and the sophistication of the planning techniques available to the individual capitalist enterprise, also deny the possibility that the same techniques can be applied to the co-ordination of production between the different giant enterprises which dominate the economy.” Glyn continued, “why could not a workers’ government in Britain apply the same systems to planning the British economy?” (14)

This insight, awakened from the dead Engels’ Socialism Scientific and Utopian (1880). Marx’s comrade, noting the increasing “socialised means of production” and “socialised producers” at odds with private ownership. For Glyn, in today’s conditions, one could unleash the potential of these forms by a smooth ‘technical’ transition, by a legal change of ownership, to socialist relations of production. The Militant economist accomplished the not inconsiderable feat of ignoring decades of left thinking on the way the capitalist labour process meant deskilling and domination by management’s “organisational excellence”, not to mention the wishes of groups represented in the Trades Council’s Report. (15)

Despite the interest of important sections of the trade union movement, often organised through inter-union bodies such as Trades Councils, there was no mass movement inspired by the trade union leadership (anxious to negotiate with the Labour government), and only a minority interest from the rank of file, for this aspect of the AES, or for the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy (1977). Many unions, and some on the left, saw collective bargaining as the horizon of their democratic input. Holland has since pointed out that he never channelled management’s right to manage. Workers’ rights were to remonstrate, debate, to get redress for grievances, but not to legislate over business plans or company accounting. This is an understandable pragmatic approach, but falls short of the hopes of radical AES supporters. Only in the calm of political marginalisation would prominent AES backer Geoff Hodgson write an account of how an economy might correspond to the Workers’ Inquiry’s aspirations. (The Democratic Economy. 1984)

The AES and Socialism.

How radical was the AES? Donald Sassoon wrote in his history of the European left, “to anyone willing to brush aside the fog of rhetoric …an industrial policy that is based on planning agreements and a stakeholding company is, in fact, a policy of coexistence and partnership with the private sector, aimed at improving the latter’s performance.” He observes that the AES was one of the “very few attempts by British socialism to develop an industrial strategy aimed at making capitalism more profitable.” A more balanced judgement would hold that the strategy was an effort to expand the scope of political action to change economic relations, within the boundaries of the possible. Yet, Sassoon also adds, this was not necessarily realistic: “economic independence” between countries could not be waved away. The plans were not thought through. One aspect of this stands out. What were the measures kept in reserve to prevent capital flight and financial movements that resisted attempts to “harness of the market power of big league firms”? Bob Rowthorn’s warnings about military intervention, and implicit call for a socialist armed forces strategy, aside, the example of the IMF loan, and the campaigns against ‘Bennery’ indicated that the scope for radical change within the institutions might have been narrow. (16)

It is not only historians who have poured cold water over the prospects of the AES. “It is simply not possible to make a mixed economy work in a socialist way.” wrote David Coates in 1981, “while the size of the private sector remains large and in the control of a class that is hostile to Labour radicalism, and at a time when the development of class forces has already produced serious problems of profit realisation and capital accumulation.” In other words, Britain was capitalist and had a capitalist state.

Coates developed this theme, pointing to the lack of instrument to transform this, , “…the Parliamentary Left prefer to meet the threat of the multinationals by using the power of one national state and its associated national trade unions, in spite of the vast evidence that the nation-state is less and less able to play that role effectively, and without considering that the Left’s purposes might be better served by attempting to build international linkages both within each multinational (between the workers at each plant) and between the different national trade-union centres and socialist and communist parties—linkages made possible and necessary by the interlocking nature of the capitalist economies, the similarity of the problems faced by the Western European working class, and the emergence of similar programmes to the AES in left-wing parties across the continent.” This leaves open the issue of what exactly the workers were to do to show solidarity. Yet it has the merit of pointing to the need for those who had elaborated these left programmes to work together. This has in fact happened, through the existence of the structures of the European Union, by legally empowered pan-Continental Works’ Councils, and the creation of political blocs inside the European Parliament. Open to criticism, far from solid or powerful, without a doubt, these moves are under threat by Brexit.(17)

Europe.

What of the Common Market, the European Economic Community, as the European Union was known at the time? Sassoon, and many others, observed “a staunch defence of the nation-state as the best instrument for the development of ‘socialist’ planning was part and parcel of the AES.” Looking back over the decade Stuart Hollande wrote on the “New Communist Economics” of the still substantial Communist Parties in France Spain and Italy, and noted moves, which extended to the French Parti Socialiste, towards programmes for “political and industrial democracy”, and planning embedded in the “democratisation of the economy”. Could their projects be coordinated with the UK Left? At the time European Parliamentary blocs were out of the range of sight. But alongside talk about the “transformation of capitalism” Holland did not fail to mention the need to “stem a national decline.” As Paul Auerbach underlines, behind the AES was the “implicit assertion of the possibility of economic renewal thorough unilateral national action”. (18)

Francis Cripps wrote in 1981, “The Alternative Strategy seeks to counterpose democratic national self-government against the anarchic pressures of a global market system.” “The mere fact that the Strategy is national in its scope is not sufficient to condemn it out of hand. Indeed, if successful, it would provide a progressive model for other countries with similar social and political institutions.” Leo Panitch and Colin Leys have claimed the “national policy autonomy” or national sovereignty..” “some degree of collective control over politics and society, and in particular over the flows of capital, trade and people” are pillars of left politics. (19)

There is much to say on what confronts the left today. It is clear that very few people would find much in common with the starting points for the AES. In Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliffe’s influential British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze (1972) the historical decline of British decline and its profitability crisis needed a left response. Based on “converting the fight for the rights and conditions of the workers” it should lead to a “revolutionary political strategy inside the labour movement.” (20)

Instead the minds of some of the radical left today are focused on how terrible the European Union is. This is more sophisticated ways than Tony Benn’s description of Britain as a “colony” that should be “liberated” from Brussels. From the Left’s Senate, pours forth the icy realism of one of its oldest members. Waving, as one likes to imagine, his long fingernails, from the arch-conservative Paleo-Marxist bloc Perry Anderson fulminates: the EU is, “an oligarchic structure ever more indifferent to expressions of the popular will, even to legal appearances.” Economically it is a de-regulating body, the plaything of globalisation, and a facilitator of privatisation and market competition.” This space approaches the neo-liberal ideal of an economy protected from politics – the popular will. The Euro-Zone is a means to enforce not just fiscal discipline, but in the case of countries burdened with debt, headed by Greece, sell-offs and, more widely, austerity. Stuart Holland wakes up and concurs, “an anti-democratic disaster” that stands in the way of my “entrepreneurial state” ! (21)

Blue Labour fellow travellers William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi. The Socialist Workers Party imagines another Europe, but Callinicos warns, this “will be achieved through breaking the autocratic, neoliberal structures of the EU, not by pursuing the Utopia that they can reformed.“ (22)

And yet, Europe itself cannot be said to be Nowhere. “What makes the EEC a constraining power at the moment is not any directive from the Commission but Britain’s de facto integration in and dependence on the European Economy.” Left populism, from a splintered Podemos to a La France insoumise, dropping to 8% or less, in the polls,  is in crisis. The  demand  sovereignty resonates only  on the national populist right.The internationalists’ call to reform the institutions goes on, the march, together with our comrades in the rest of Europe, continues, through the political institutions governing this economy and above through alliances of the left and unions.  There is only one Brexit, with dreams of restored Imperial sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty, a People’s Brexit, attached. That is the only possible Brexit, one that leaves us without any hook into directing the continent, floating, as a directionless buoy, in the oceans of the world neoliberal economy. (23)

*****

  1. Crisis, the Labour Movement and the Alternative Economic Strategy. London CSE Group. Capital and Class No 8. Summer. 1979.
  2. What Is Needed Is A Progressive Vision Of National Sovereignty. Thomas Fazi. Social Europe. 19th of May 2017. Page 4. The English Constitution. Walter Bagehot. Oxford University Press. World’s Classics. 1928. Chantal Mouffe. For a Left Populism. Verso. 2018. Reclaiming the State. A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi Pluto Press. 2017. The Return of the Repressed. Wolfgang Streeck. New Left Review. 104/2. 2017. 
  3. William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi Op cit. The authors claim to be on the radical left. Their use of Polanyi draws on Blue Labour’s Maurice Glasman see: The Great Deformation Maurice Glasman. New Left Review. No 205/1, 1994. 
  4. Page 54. Corbynism: a critical approach. Matt Bolton. Frederick Harry Pitts.Emerald Publishing 2018.
  5. Cited in, Pete Green Is Labours economic policy really neoliberal? Open Democracy. 14th August 2018. See the various plans for finance and macroeconomics in The Corbyn Project. Robin Blackburn. New Left Review, 2018. 111/2.
  6. THE LEFT AGAINST BREXIT – AN INTERNATIONALIST CASE FOR EUROPE. : Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose.Page 145.A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour left. Simon Hannah. Pluto. 2018.
  7. Pages 57 and 59. The Retreat of Social Democracy. John Callaghan. Manchester University Press. 2000. See also: Chapter 5. The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. Verso. 1997.
  8. Page 32. Strategy for Socialism. Stuart Holland. Spokesman. 1975. Page 59 John Callaghan op cit.

  9. Crisis, the Labour Movement and the Alternative Economic Strategy, London, CSE Group. Capital and Class No 8. 1979. Pages 156 – 157 Socialism and Parliamentary Democracy Geoff Hodgson. Spokesman 1977. Geoff Hodgson. Britain’s crisis and the road to international socialism: a reply to Jonathan Bearman. International Socialism, 2/7 1980. On a Socialist Social Contract see: Out of the Ghetto. Mike Prior and Dave Purdy. Spokesman. 1979.

  10. Bob Rowthorn. The Alternative Economic Strategy.International Socialism. Spring 1980. Bob Rowthorn The Politics of the Alternative Economic Strategy Marxism Today. January 1981.The Eclipse of Politics: the Alternative Economic Strategy as a Socialist Strategy. Donald Swartz. Capital and Class. No 13. 1981.

  11. See The Impasse of Social Democratic Politics. Leo Panitch. Socialist Register. 1985/86. Merlin. Page 244 Stuart Holland. Capital, Labour and the State. In: What Went Wrong, Explaining the Fall of the Labour Government, Edited by Ken Coates. Spokesman, 1979.

  12. Pages 90 to 91. Tony Benn. Interview with Eric Hobsbawm. In The Forward March of Labour Halted? Eric Hobsbawm. Verso. 1981. Page 9. Pages 96 and 157 – 8. State Intervention in Industry. A Workers’ Inquiry. Coventry, Liverpool. Newcastle N. Tyneside Trades Councils. 1980. Russell. 

  13. Andrew Glyn. Capitalist Crisis: Tribune’s ‘Alternative Strategy’or Socialist Plan. Militant Pamphlet, 1979. Stuart Holland said in 2017. “One of the main claims about my proposals in the 1970s was the allegation that I wanted civil servants to run industry. I didn’t and I don’t. They’re not qualified, not up to it. You need professional managers (my emphasis) in holding companies with a strategic remit from the government. I made that argument in shaping the case for the National Enterprise Board, submitting that the NEBshould have such a remit for six main roles, including regional development, gaining direct information on the cost and profit structures of big business, using this to counter transfer pricing by multinational companies, locating more R&D in the UK, as well as long-term innovating investment not influenced by the short termism of stock markets.” Martin O’NeillStuart Holland Hope amidst despair?Renewal. Col 25. 34.

  14. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific Friedrich Engels. Various Editions.

  15. Page 525. One Hundred Years of Socialism. Donald Sassoon. Fontana Press. 1996.

  16.  Labourism and the Transition to Socialism. David Coates. New Left Review. 1/129. 1981.

  17. The New Communist Economics. Stuart Holland. In Eurocommunism. Myth or Reality?Paolo Filo della Torre, Edward Mortimer, Jonathan Story, Penguin 1979. Paul Auerbach. The Left Intellectual Opposition in Britain 1945 – 2000: the Case of the Alternative Economic Strategy. Socialist History Society Conference. September 26-7 2003.

  18. Francis Cripps. The British Crisis—Can the Left Win? New Left Review 128/1 1981. Page 170. The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. Verso. 1997.

  19. Pages 215 – 6. Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliffe British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze . Penguin. 1972.

  20. Page 539. The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso. 2009.  Martin O’NeillStuart Holland Hope amidst despair? Renewal. Col 25. 34.

  21. Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit. Thomas Fazi and William Mitchell. Jacobin. 29.4. 2018. The Internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism No 148. 2015.

  22. Vol. 2. Page 284. Marx’s Capital and Capitalism Today. Antony Cutler, Barry Hindess, Paul Hirst and Athar Hussain. Routledge. 1978