Archive for the ‘Labour Movement’ Category
Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins. Editorial. New Left Review. Second Series No 98. March/April 2016.
“Respectful of NATO, anti-austerity, pro-public investment and (more guardedly) ownership, sceptical of ‘free trade’: as a first approximation, we might them new, small, weak social democracies.”
The Editorial of New Left Review (NLR – accessible here), devoted to “left oppositions”, and “new lefts” offers a sketch of the common background of some very diverse political phenomena. With a mixture of gloom and wishful thinking Watkins outlines the legacy of the late 90’s “late-90s alter-globo movements” “wrong-footed by the harsher international climate of the war on terror”. But, she then turns to how European anger at the handling of the economic crisis, the collapse of the centre-left, Third Way, parties, and a “blowback” against Western intervention, street protests, such as Spain’s Indignados have, she observes, been followed by the arrival of new forces on the electoral stage.
It is with little surprise that we learn that the NLR list of the contemporary ‘left oppositions’ includes Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win in the Labour Party, the Spanish Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche (PdG). The US is also affected, as Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge inside the Democratic Party indicates. More surprising is the inclusion of Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, which Watkins admits, not everybody considers on the ‘left’. Events and elections, she continues, have not only brought these forces to prominence, in the ballot box, Parliaments and amongst citizens, they have given rise to new “national political projects”.
A common trait, the Editorial observes, of these political green shoots, is the rise of ‘charismatic’ leaders, from Pablo Iglesias, Corbyn, Mélenchon, to Grillo. Exactly what the ‘authority’ given by this ‘gift of grace’ is, and how these personalities carry it out, is not explored. Grillo is notoriously the entrepreneur of his own ‘post-modern’ far from immaterial party-business. Iglesias heads up, to his numerous critics, a vertical pyramid party-structure He indulges himself in ‘populist’ efforts to lead the people ‘beyond’ left and right.
Mélenchon: électron libre.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 11.10% in the 2012 first round of the French Presidential election. He leads a ‘party’, the Parti de gauche (PdG) founded in 2009 with other former members of the Parti Socialiste. It remains stuck in the mould of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, a tendency (at its height well below 10,000 members) centred on a ‘chief’. Its inability to develop has been caused less by the absence of popular protests, the electoral system or “laïciste horror of the headscarf” thwarting its appeal to the ‘banlieue’, than his abrasive personality, which has created a crop of internal divisions to boot. Mélenchon, his many ill-wishers allege, has a vision of himself as a Man of Destiny, with populist and nationalist ambitions far beyond a “sovereign, alter-globalist, multi-polar defence force”.
Inside the Front de gauche (FdG), which allies the PdG with a number of left groups in an electoral bloc, it is not only the Communists of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF,138,000 members) but leftists from Ensemble (2,500), who have found it impossible to work with this électron libre (1). Sensing little support the leader of the PdG spurned the idea of presenting himself before the Front’s supporters and the wider left in ‘primaries’ to select a Presidential candidate. Mélenchon has effectively ditched the PdG for a supporters’ network. He is running for President in 2017 with an on-line based team, with some success in the opinion polls. Nevertheless this venture into political cyberspace has had considerably less of an echo in the Nuit Debout ‘mouvance’ (too heterogeneous to call a movement), which is showing signs of both intellectual renewal in a multiplicity of directions and splintering. The CGT led workers’ spearhead of the wider national campaign against the “El Khomri” labour laws and the wider weekly strikes and marches have largely passed Mélenchon by.
Labour’s leader is, by contrast, a Parliamentary chief with a tiny group of MP supporters, and a mass party with a democratic membership structure and large trade union input. If he won the leadership ballot by a landslide, in a campaign of public meetings which created a “dynamic of their own”, Momentum, Watkins solemnly informs us, is a “somewhat diluted version of the 1980s Labour left”, an “organised adversary” of the ‘Blairite faction, Progress. Few perhaps will recall a mass membership 1980s Labour Left, or of any comparable “parallel structure” to dilute from. Fewer still will remember the Labour Party since George Lansbury (Labour leader from 1932 – 35) headed by anybody who had anything resembling Corbyn’s background in the 1980s/1990s London Labour Left.
Corbyn, like Sanders, is, we learn, “squarely within the social-democratic tradition” – which fortunately covers everything from Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Jean Jaurès, to Harold Wilson. In short, the Editorial dispenses with the customary term, democratic socialism, by which a majority of Corbyn supporters, and Mélenchon’s, would identify in opposition to the compromised ideas that contributed to the policies of the Blair and Brown governments. Are there signs that instead after the ‘retreat from social democracy’ there may be a renewal in a very different directions taking place. Watkins calls the combination of anti-austerity programmes, and scepticism about free trade – not mentioning the defence of social and workers’ rights, the fights for a publicly owned public administration and services – and a failure to confront head-on NATO (on what, Syria?) “weak”.
We might then ask: what exactly is the ‘non-social democratic left’? If Grillo, instead of new forms of democratic socialism, is part of the answer, then what kind politics is that?
Readers will no doubt remain on tenterhooks waiting for the latest radical left model to emerge. In the interim the constraints, self-created or inherited, within which these lefts operate are ignored. Are the furiously hostile forces deployed against them, visible every moment in the British media to be ignored? Watkins casts cautious compromise to the winds. She smiles at Grillo’s no-nonsense Vaffanculo(s), scowls at the French Communists’ local electoral deals to retain control of their remaining municipal bastions (what is the threat of the Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy to her?), soundly admonishes Corbyn for his “embrace of the discredited Blair-Brown Labour right” and offers Iglesias advice on a tactical abstention, allowing a possible future PSOE-Ciudadanos government coalition “a chance to demonstrate that it cannot work”.
As we have indicated Watkins offers the skimpiest, and often misleading, outline of the party structures and personalities which support the new left “projects” she attempts to grapple with. Oppositions equally fails to investigate the underlying problem thrown up by the more radical movements that appear to remain her benchmark. That is, their inability to develop more than general declarations within the ‘anti’ globalisation protest, that would make them more than a protest against the subsequent Western interventions and security clamp-downs. If Podemos may be able to show that the PSOE cannot work, what indicates that their alternative can? While we are waiting, the proliferation of an identity politics and culture of the ‘populist’ or sovereigntist right, which this Sunday came within a hair’s breath of winning the Austrian presidency, indicates the need for ideas and strategies capable of understanding and confronting nationalism and xenophobia now. (2)
Shocks and Turncoats.
It is on this issue that Oppositions is most wanting. The thought that calls a position on the EU referendum vote a “tactical” decision allows only a Leave or abstention as “left” options. The hope that a Leave vote would be a “salutary shock “ to the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” and a Conservative Party in “disarray” is gratuitous irresponsibility. The nationalist and xenophobic Carnival of Reaction of the debates on the EU is paraded every-day. A Brexit win would bring not just Tory division but the politics of the most reactionary people in the country to power.
The Editorial is deeply insulting to the majority of the left, the democratic socialist left, who support staying in the EU not just out of self-protection against our most forthright and dangerous class and political enemies, but as an arena where common cause can be made with our comrades across the continent. That is, a place of hope and co-operation not of austerity and repression. To top it all, Oppositions attacks all of us through its words against the much-liked Owen Jones. The author of Chavs “turned his coat” for changing his mind, very publicly and very honestly explaining why, and backing Remain with the campaign Another Europe is Possible. The Editorial’s language in this instance is, not to mince words, despicable.
(1) Mélenchon candidat à la présidentielle : il tourne le dos à l’histoire de la gauche. Philippe Marlière. February 2016
(2) These two weaknesses were signalled by the critic of their French expressions, Phlippe Raynaud in L’extrême gauche plurielle. Tempus. 2006. Whatever one’s views on his generally hostile analysis, these points are if anything more relevant today than a decade ago.
Momentum members back Remain, Now on to Another Europe is Possible.
EU referendum poll of Momentum members:
Campaign to remain: 66.5%
Campaign to leave: 14.8%
Campaign for neither: 19.6%
This result confirms reports coming in from across the country.
Wherever there have been left debates on the Referendum and the audience’s opinion has been taken, there have been majorities between 3/5 and 4/5 votes in favour of Remain.
As comrade Mark Steel says today (Independent),
This is why we should be grateful to people like Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, because every time they say something about Europe, they make it clearer which way to vote in the referendum.
The Momentum decision shows how out of touch the would-be ‘tactical advisers’, ready with the ‘low down’ on international capitalism’ to the left of New Left Review (NLR) have become.
As in one Susan Watkins and Corbyn’s ‘best mate’ Tariq Ali.
Watkins has just written this piffle for the increasingly out of touch NLR, Left Oppostions.
British exit from the eu is a tactical, not a strategic question; the left takes different stances on it, and some might want a campaign for contemptuous abstention or vote-spoiling. But at one level the politics of the Brexit referendum are clear: a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986.
A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly……
This senescent ‘leftist’ disorder is predicated on the belief that ‘after Brexit’ there will be a golden age for those able to take advantage of this shock. No doubt they will include those whose working conditions are worsened, my union branch members who will lose their cross EU Worker Council, which enables them to bargain from a position of strength in their transeuropean company, those whose status as EU migrants is removed, and all who will have to face life under a Boris, Gove, Whittingdale and Iain Duncan Smith regime.
That is, life in a right-wing rat hole.
Meanwhile the left is now preparing its campaign:
The below will be discussed at the Momentum National Committee in Manchester tomorrow.
EU REFERENDUM – FOR A LEFT “IN” VOTE
Britain leaving the EU would be a victory for the nationalist right and their campaign against migrants, almost certainly reshaping the British political and social landscape for the worse.
The EU promotes neoliberal policies in the interests of capitalism – but so does the UK. The British ruling class and government will press ahead with attacks in or out – and outside the EU, the barriers to their assault will be lower, while barriers between us and our brothers and sisters in other countries will be higher.
We support an “in” vote.
We oppose David Cameron’s reforms, which attack the rights of workers and migrants. We endorse Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a “Europe that puts people, not multinationals, at its heart”, through “public ownership […] democratisation, stronger workers’ rights, sustainable growth and jobs”, won through “alliances across Europe to end austerity”.
We call for:
• Cross-European working-class and social movement struggles against austerity and for levelling up wages, conditions, services and rights, funded by taxing the rich and public ownership of finance;
• Radical democratisation, including empowering the European Parliament;
• An end to “Fortress Europe” – freedom of movement and equal rights for all.
Using the slogans “Another Europe is possible”, “For a workers’ Europe” and “For a socialist Europe”, Momentum nationally will campaign for an “in” on this basis, making defence of migrants, antiausterity and international solidarity central. This will include an urgent press release, a leaflet and a rally in London at least.
We will work with Labour, with “in” unions, and with the Another Europe is Possible network.
We call on the whole of Momentum to campaign on this basis.
Meanwhile on the fringes of the Labour Movement, Socialist Worker says,
by Alistair Farrow
Speakers from the international left put the case for a left exit from the European Union at a rally in London yesterday, Wednesday.
Some 150 people came to hear arguments rejecting the austerity of the Troika and the racism of the European Union (EU) and the bosses’ Brexit and Remain campaigns. The meeting was organised by the Lexit campaign.
Unkind people have suggested that following Socialist Worker’s normal reporting practice they would have added that a Poll taken at the meeting indicated that 3,150 backed ‘Lexit’ and 1 abstained.
French unions, students, and radical activists in groups such as Nuit Debout continue to campaign against the ‘Loi Khomri”.
The laws will undermine the ability of unions to reach collective agreements (although unions are weak and divided with only 8% members, over 98% of French companies operate within the framework of collective bargaining, compared with under 29%, 63.7% public sector, only 16.0% in the private sector, in the UK, (Here). The ‘reforms’ will encourage local negotiations, means to go over the head of unions, and other devices to weaken the collective system.
They will reduce hard won workers’ rights, getting rid of the ‘red tape’ that helps the system of Inspecteurs du Travil, enforce decent working conditions.
Contrary to the falsehood being broadcast by the UK ‘Lexit’ campaign the pressure for these changes comes from the French Employers’ organisation, the MEDEF, not Brussels or the European Commission.
As can be seen in this banner which links the government, from Hollande, Valls, and Macron, to the Bosses’ federation.
The action by the CGT is considerably more significant than the clashes between demonstrators and police which have been widely reported internationally.
Police fired tear gas in central Paris as an initially peaceful protest organised by unions and students was disrupted by a more radical fringe.
The labour reforms have sparked two months of protests on France’s streets, drawing 68,000 nationwide on Tuesday, authorities said, while organisers put the turnout at 220,000.
Withdraw, withdraw this law of the wealthy, it’s the law of the bosses,” was the message blasted from loudspeakers at the Paris march.
But Hollande said the battle against unemployment was not yet won and he placed the need to reform over his personal popularity, which remains at near-record lows a year ahead of a possible bid for re-election.
“I will not give way, because too many (previous) governments have backed down,” Hollande said in an hour-long interview with Europe 1 radio.
“I prefer that people have an image of a president who made reforms rather than a president who did nothing,” he said.
Police were quick to act as violence by masked youths broke out during the march in central Paris, kicking off another week of nationwide strikes and demonstrations against the package of reforms. Some 87 people were arrested.
Demonstrations were also reported in cities across the country from Marseille in the south to central Lyon and Lille in the north.
Lorry drivers blocked roads and ports in northern and western France, and there were clashes between protesters and police in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, where thousands more took to the streets.
“We have been ignored, so we will work even harder to make our voices heard,” said Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, at the Paris rally.
The government argues the changes contained in the draft law will make France’s notoriously rigid labour market more flexible, but opponents say it will erode job security and do little to bring down the unemployment rate, stuck at 10 percent and nearly 25 percent for young people.
The labour reform, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, is likely the last major piece of legislation for Hollande, the least popular leader in modern French history who faces a re-election next May.
Lions Led By Jackals. Stalinism in the International Brigades. Dale Street. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. 2016.
During Franco’s dictatorship “the defeated in Spain has no public right to historical memory..” observed Paul Preston in The Spanish Holocaust (2012). The movement to recover these memories, beginning in the new millennium, continues to expose this past. The defeated side in the Spanish civil war, and those who fell during and after the Caudillo’s victory in the 1939, are honoured across the world as fighters against fascism. As Preston states, Franco’s war against the “Jewish-Bolshevik-Masonic’ Republic brought the murder of hundreds of thousands in its wake.
Those who escaped prison, death or slave labour faced systematic persecution well into the 1950s. Many exiles passed by Bayonne to France, some joining the French army to fight the German invasion. Amongst the refugees were those who ended up in the invaders’ hands, portrayed in Spanish exile Jorge Semprum’s Le Grand Voyage (1963). Spanish republicans perished in the extermination camps. Around 60% of these died in Mauthausen.
Dale Street is concerned with one of the saddest aspects of the Spanish tragedy: the role of Stalin’s Comintern in the International Brigades. Lions led by Jackals underlines the political and organisational hold of this body that took the decision to form the Brigades in September 1935. André Marty, the leader of the ‘Back Sea Mutiny’, and Communist on his release from prison in 1923, Secretary of the Comintern in the 1030s, he became their effective ‘commander in chief’.
Marty emphasised on the ‘popular front; politics of the Spanish government – the democratic authority the International Brigade had been formed to offer military support against the Franco-army rebellion. Street states that many volunteers “found the idea of Popular Frontism incomprehensible. From their point of view, they were in Spain not just to ‘fight fascism’ but also to fight for socialism and working-class revolution.” The Stalinists, he writes, confused such people with this talk of a “bourgeois democratic revolution”. As he points out, had they – and no doubt those Spaniards who elected the Popular Front and fought for it – if they’d read Trotsky they would have known that this was “Menshevism” and “utter disregard for the ABC of Leninism.”
Socialists will be familiar with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938) and Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom. (1995). Orwell inspires his readers with his account of Spain’s “foretaste of socialism” where one “had breathed the air of equality.” Loach puts these moments on screen.
Orwell was to experience first hand the other side of Comintern influence: its war on ‘Franco’s Fifth Column” – the ‘Trotskyist traitors’. The POUM, (Partido Obrero de Unifición Marxista), a fusion between two small anti-Stalin groups, backed the Popular Front and their leader, Andreu Nin (who had indeed originally been close to Trotsky), entered the Catalan government. They believed that socialist objectives tallied with the front against fascism, war and revolution went together. Trotsky himself accused Nin of having rallied to the defence of property. He advocated that the small group should be opposed to all other Popular Front parties, and teach radical forces, notably within the powerful anarchists and syndicalists of the FAI and CNT, to form soviets.
Trotsky’s strategy barely belongs even to the realm of historical might-have-beens. Nin was drawn into practical politics, in a Spain where it is hard to see how a sharp ‘Bolshevik’ vanguard party could be made out of disparate republican, socialist, and anarchist movements, left alone supplanting a Communist Party funded by the only international power offering the Republic serious military aid. Along with that help went a propaganda campaign against the POUM, its banning, and the dissolution of its militia. After the 1937 Barcelona May Days of anarchist and POEM resistance it was tracked down and ‘liquidated’ On Russian orders, and with NKVD direct participation, their leaders were arrested. Nin was taken from his house and shot. Fabricated documents pointed to POUM co-operation with Franco’s Falange.
Lions led by Jackals, describes the way into which those in charge of the International Brigades were infected by this Moscow-driven hunt for ‘Trotskyists’, ‘wreckers’ and ‘saboteurs’. Their training material included the instruction that “As in all other counties, so too here in Spain, the Trotskyists are the conscious enemies of the freedom of the people”. To Marty Trotskyists formed just one part of “multiple networks”, “the Gestapo, OVRA (Italian secret police), the Polish police, the Caballero group, anarchist, socialist and above all the Deuxieme Bureau (French secret service.” Articles intended for Brigaders asserted “the POUM was working in favour of Fascism”. The Independent Labour Party, linked to the POUM through the International Revolutionary Marxist Centre (the non-Trotskyist anti-Stalinist left international grouping, founded in 1932, known as the London Bureau), and whose own volunteers took part in their militia, was singled out. Any dissent, which could include the most minor disagreements, was noted with suspicion.
Street breaks new ground by indicating the details of these politics, and, more strikingly, in the endless, petty and spiteful reports on all Brigaders by the Political Commissars. Real issues of national frictions, personal problems and tensions, are overshadowed by the documents known as “Characterisations”. Often exaggerated concerns about possible infiltration by enemy agents and discipline aside, “thumbnail assessments” range from people’s sexuality, drinking habits, and temperament. Categories, such as Cadre, Very Good, Fair, Bad and Very Bad, were used.
With this licence to the small-minded it is not surprising that along with allegation about somebody’s alleged Trotskyist” or “criticisms of the Soviet Union”, that the sexual activity of some women volunteers is noted.
Stalinism, Street conclude, had “absolute political and organisational control”. On the most prominent Comintern representative, André Marty, Lions Led by Jackals, states that his “paranoid incompetence and general buffoonery guaranteed his failure, even in his own terms, as commander-in-chief of the Intentional Brigades.”
The paranoiac and murderous cadres who exported the purges and efforts to duplicate the Moscow trials to Spain, should nevertheless not be allowed to diminish the courage and sacrifice of the Brigaders, including Communists.
As for Marty he was portrayed under that name in Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), as a suspicious thug with a “mania for shooting people”. These killings earned him the sobriquet of the Butcher of Albacete. 1943 found him the representative of the French Communists in the de Gaulle led Resistance based in Algiers. There was an ascension to become the ‘Number 3’ in the Parti Communiste Français (PCF). Following the Marty-Tillon ‘Affair’ in which included accusations that Marty was a Police agent, he was expelled from the Party in 1952.
Lions led by Jackals is available from here: Stalinism in the International Brigades
Brexit Will Need Revolutionaries to re-read the Classics.
Tory splits provide the opportunity of a lifetime.
Says Socialist Worker in what must be the most inane headline since….
Well most of us are sick to the buck teeth with strained analogies with that them there ‘itler’s time….
Meanwhile the paper is beside itself with joy:
“Tories in meltdown” ran a headline in the Sunday Times newspaper last week. The story said, “As party unity crumbles, Boris Johnson may be back to seize Cameron’s job”.
The Tories are tearing themselves apart over the European Union (EU) referendum, with bitter rows every day.
The blood-spilling will continue right up until the vote on 23 June—and beyond.
This is the moment to step up the exit campaign from the left. It should oppose racism, the EU bosses’ club, the pro-corporation trade deals and stand for internationalism and workers’ unity.
The Remain camp has mobilised the forces that spectacularly plunged the world into recession in 2008 to say leaving the EU would spell economic disaster.
Last week Tory chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury had begun contingency planning to shore up Britain’s financial system should the Leave vote.
What excatly will this opportunity provide?
The SWP’s paper says,
We need independent politics against the bosses on both sides.
Socialist Worker supports the Leave campaign from the left.
We don’t share platforms with the Tories or Ukip and we argue against those who say that migrants are a problem.
Er, that it: Sell Socialist Worker and join the SWP….
Meanwhile in the drab colourless world we, unlike the SWP, live in:
Commenting on a speech today at the Institute of Directors by pro-Brexit MP Priti Patel, in which she argued that leaving the EU would be an opportunity to cut EU social and employment protections, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Leave the EU and lose your rights at work – that’s the message that even Leave campaigners like Priti Patel are now giving.
“But which rights would go – your right to paid holidays, your right to parental leave, maybe protections for pregnant workers?
“The EU guarantees all these rights and more, and it’s why Brexit is such a big risk for working people.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
– In her speech today, Priti Patel said: “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3 billion boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.” The TUC does not accept her claim on jobs and the economic boost of reducing these EU-derived rules, but notes her overtly hostile agenda towards workers’ rights.
– The TUC commissioned an independent legal opinion from Michael Ford QC on the consequences of Brexit for UK employment law and workers’ rights. A full copy can be found atwww.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Brexit%20Legal%20Opinion.pdf
– Michael Ford QC’s legal opinion suggests that, based on past history and extant policy documents, the workers’ rights most vulnerable to repeal are:
- Collective consultation, including the right for workers’ representatives to be consulted if major changes are planned that will change people’s jobs or result in redundancies (as have been used in recent major announcements in the steel industry).
- Working time rules, including limits on working hours and rules on the amount of holiday pay a workers is entitled to.
- EU-derived health and safety regulations.
- Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE), i.e. the EU-derived protections to the terms and conditions of workers at an organisation or service that is transferred or outsourced to a new employer.
- Protections for agency workers and other ‘atypical’ workers, such as part-time workers.
- Current levels of compensation for discrimination of all kinds, including equal pay awards and age discrimination.
See paragraphs 3 and 107 of the opinion for an overview, and paragraphs 27 to 80 for full details.
As Michael Chessum says on the New Statesman site,
The social and political forces driving Brexit are deeply reactionary, and only the most naïve, wishful thinking could imagine either that there is some undercurrent of “left-wing” ideas in the motives of most Leave voters, or that it is the left that would gain the most political space from Brexit.
But most of the political tendencies represented in the Lexit campaign – the SWP, and leftwing fragments either from or influenced by the old Communist Party – never expected or supported the rise of a left leadership in Labour. Deep down, they are in a state of strategic crisis as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. As a result, they are left repeating decades-old slogans – “the EU is a bosses’ club” – devoid of context or tactical thought; and they are running with the losing strategy of creating chaos on the Right’s terms in the desperate hope of gaining ground.
In the coming weeks, the British left will have a serious historical responsibility foisted upon it. It is vital that the left’s voice (which is overwhelmingly pro-Remain) does not become subsumed within David Cameron’s pitch – that we campaign on an unapologetically progressive platform, for freedom of movement, for social justice, and against the status quo in Europe. And those tempted by Leave should seriously question whether Lexit is a viable option at this referendum, or just a convenient cover for the very worst aspects of the British right.
Boost for ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain Campaign: Varoufakis, McDonnell, Lucas and Clive Lewis Join.
Ex-Greek finance minister will help launch nationwide campaign alongside John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas
The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will join the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Green party MP Caroline Lucas for the start of a tour to persuade leftwingers to vote to stay in the EU.
The senior figures from the political left are teaming up as part of the Another Europe is Possible campaign, in which they will make a progressive case for the UK to stay in.
The tour will start with an event in London with Varoufakis, who was severely critical of the EU’s dealings with Greece’s debts when he was finance minister but has recently warned that Brexit could plunge Europe into a 1930s-style depression.
Other rallies will involve trade unionists, as well as the Labour MP Clive Lewis, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.
Lewis said: “This referendum will define relationship to the world for decades, and we will be joining together with progressives across Britain and Europe, not just to make the case that we are better off in Europe, but also to talk about the kind of society we need to build.
“Capital long ago fled national borders. In order to build a society which is fair for everyone, we need an international response to austerity and the financial crisis. That’s why we are campaigning on an unapologetically progressive platform – for social justice, the environment and freedom of movement.”.
This follows last week’s decision by the Fire Brigades Union,
National conference agrees to support campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But brilliant speech from General Secretary Matt Wrack rejects status quo Europe and calls for alternative
Delegates at FBU conference debated EU membership at length both in a fringe meeting on Wednesday and in a plenary debate today, but ultimately decided by some margin to remain and campaign for change with trade unionists across Europe.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, gave a fiery speech, critical of the current EU but strongly in favour of staying in to defend workers’ rights and change the union from within.
In particular, Wrack passionately defended the free movement of workers, saying that problems such as unemployment and housing crisis were caused by banks and the failure of markets, and not by migrants.
Kieron Merrett, trade union officer for Another Europe Is Possible , who spoke at a conference fringe meeting the evening before the vote, said:
“It’s terrific to see one of Britain’s best organised trade unions back the workers’ case for ‘In’ with an explicit ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’ line. It was an excellent debate that we were delighted to participate in. But the message must now go out, not only to every firefighter, but also every trade unionist in the UK. There is only one way to vote in this referendum to defend the vital interests of working people. That’s to vote to remain inside the European Union.”
Supporters of leaving the Union are also holding a rally this week.
Lexit: London left leave rally WEDNESDAY
All London meeting this Wednesday 18 May – 7pm:
The Internationalist Case against the EU – Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ.
Speakers: Philippe Cordat (CGT union confederation France), Brid Smith (TD (member of parliament for People Before Profit, Ireland), Quim Arrufat (international secretary of the left wing Catalan party CUP), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Argyri Erotokitou (Greek doctor and leading member of Antarsya, Alex Callinicos (Socialist Workers Party) and Rob Griffiths (Communist Party).
In the Morning Star today Alex Gordon Lexit convener on the Left Leave Campaign writes on the present conflicts about new labour laws in France.
French Trade Unions Fight EU Attacks on Workers’ Rights.
Startled by this link between the EU and the El Khomri Law?
It’s backed by the following extraordinary claim.
LAST week France’s Socialist government issued an emergency decree to weaken workers’ rights at the behest of the European Commission.
Last Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls imposed the hated “El Khomri” law — named after Minister of Labour Myriam El Khomri — using an emergency constitutional mechanism (Article 49.3) to prevent a debate or vote that his government would lose in the French parliament.
Gordon repeats this assertion,
President Hollande’s decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to comply with radical measures the European Commission demanded in November 2015 brutally exposes his own government’s weakness.
Article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic was designed to prevent repetition of the chronic instability that characterised France’s Fourth Republic (1946-58), which famously saw 22 governments come and go in a mere 12 years.
In other words, it’s French Sovereignty which is is being used to……obey Brussels.
Every single report indicates that the El Khomi law originates in the demands of the French employers’ organisation, the MEDEF (” le basculement idéologique dans lequel François Hollande et Manuel Valls, inspirés par le Medef. Liberation. Passim). The Communist Daily, L’Humanité noted the same in February, “le Medef est devenu extrêmement offensif pour remettre en cause le modèle social français, pour réclamer des baisses d’impôts et de cotisations sociales, pour exiger la remise en cause du droit du travail. S’appuyant sur son vaste réseau de médias et d’économistes, il prétend cogérer l’État en imposant la réduction de la protection sociale, le report de l’âge de la retraite, la baisse des dépenses publiques..).
This is the first I’ve heard of an involvement of the European Union in the El Khomri law.
But, you’ve guessed it, the news hounds of RT, Russia Today, have sniffed it out for the benefit of all, no doubt including the Morning Star,
Brussels, discrete Chief Conductor of the El Khomri law.
The author of the RT article, Pierre Lévy, is in charge of the journal Ruptures that claims to be, “progressiste et iconoclaste”. It is to say the least, a strange mixture of ‘communism’, anti-globalisation rhetoric, and French nationalism. In other words it’s a ‘sovereigntist’ project, an assertion of French nation against the European Union. (1)
Instead of this claptrap, for a serious account of the long-standing employer pressure to get red of labour law ‘red tape’ see the Blog de Gérard Filoche
Or this article by Filoche, an expert in French labour law, from his experience as an Inspecteur du travail: Un nouveau bouquet de lois sur le travail en janvier 2014.
Meanwhile in the UK a ‘sovereigntist’ connection runs through Alex Gordon’s ‘Lexit’ rally.
Amongst the speakers we note Philippe Cordat Cordat is “Secrétaire du Comité Régional de la Cgt Centre, that is a region of the French trade union federation, not the national CGT. He appears to have conflicts with the CGT union leadership – as outlined in this Front Syndical de Classe.
Cordat has strong opinions on the ‘super-national’ forces at work in the European Union.
The« idée européenne » a été historiquement portée par deux forces : la social-démocratie et le Vatican.”
The European ideal has historically been carried by two forces, social democracy and the Vatican. (Here)
Cordat also has views on the activities of the Socialist Party, the NPA and other far-left groups, as well as Freemasons and religious networks not to mention bosses’ influence inside his union ,
A bien y regarder la déferlante anti-communiste qui marque le débat public dans le pays depuis plus de quarante ans a conduit de nombreux syndicalistes à faire une fixation sur « la mainmise de Moscou » sur la CGT sans ouvrir les yeux sur les pratiques du PS, de la LCR devenu NPA, des autres structures de l’extrême-gauche des réseaux maçonniques et religieux, du patronat qui s’activent dans et autour la plus importante organisation syndicale française.
The successive waves of anti-Communism that have marked public debate in this country over the last 40 years, we can see, has led many trade unionists to be fixated by the ‘hand of Moscow’ in the CGT, without opening their eyes to the activities of the Socialist Party, the LCR which has become the NPA, and other far-left structures, Freemasons and religious networks, as well as the bosses, operating in and around the most important trade union body in France.
Réflexions d’un syndicaliste de la CGT Philippe Cordat. (2011)
These opinions form part of Cordat’s wider complaints against the the CGT’s own version of Another Europe is Possible (whose details are too similar to the UK campaign to need repeating).
He stated in 2012 (Front Syndical de Classe) that this strategy is completely wrong.
Elle ne remet en cause ni les fondements, ni même les principes pour lesquels l’UE agit en ce moment : effacement des souverainetés, remboursement des dettes au profit des marchés …
It does not question the foundations and the principles which drive the present EU: the iblteration of soveriegnties, the payment of debts to the profit of the markets…..
This emphasis on the importance of national sovereignty is shared by the Communist Party of Britain as one can see here: Why the EU is a negation of parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. argues Robert Griffiths.
It is to be wondered if the ‘revolutionary’ speakers at the Lexit meeting, from Counterfire and the SWP, not to mention Antarsya, or even the ‘municipalists’ of the Catalan CUP, share this sovereigntist vision.
Or indeed if they have the slightest concern about this project:
(1) Fondé par Pierre Lévy, ex-journaliste à L’Humanité, ex-militant du PCF et de la CGT Métallurgie1, BRN compte ainsi dans son équipeLaurent Dauré (UPR et Acrimed)2, Dominique Guillemin (UPR)3 et surtout Bruno Drweski, militant anti-impérialiste entretenant un réseau d’amitiés et d’alliances tant à gauche qu’à l’extrême droite4. Il est à noter que le directeur de la publication de BRN, Hervé Berbille, a participé ès qualité à une réunion de l’Action française à Bordeaux en 2005 visant à promouvoir le « non » au TCE, comme le relate le compte-rendu publié sur le site de l’organisation d’extrême droite5. Confussionnisme Info. “RUPTURES, NOUVEAU MENSUEL SOUVERAINISTE.”
Rhea Wolfson Speaks of Racist Abuse: “Pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense.” Says Leading ‘anti-Zionist’.
Rhea Wolfson is a breath of fresh air.
Like many activists I was very pleased to see a fresh face standing for the Centre left Grassroots Alliance slate for Labour’s NEC along with the other strong candidates, Ann Black, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Christine Shawcroft, and Pete Willsman.
Reflecting the diversity of the democratic socialist, labour spectrum reflected on this list, which includes those from all parts of this tradition, Rhea is an activist with her own views. She immediately attracted criticism, from the Progress Right-wing of the party, from the Eustonites, and, as can be seen from her own account, from others who have nothing to do with the labour movement or any form of left.
Harry’s Place – the ‘Eustonites’ – singled her out.
Saul Freeman wrote,
Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.
If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left.
He appeared to suggest that her opinions fitted in a box that included the Stop the War Coalition, amongst people who, “who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy”.
Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?
Harry’s Place was not the only critic.
Rhea has written her own account – which should be read.
On Tuesday afternoon, I announced that I was standing for election to represent Labour Party members on its National Executive Committee. My first 24 hours as a candidate were a crash course in why so many are reluctant to put themselves forward. In less than a day I have faced racist and sexist abuse through social media, directed to both my family and me, been smeared by Tory blogs, and had senior figures in my own party attack me unfairly.
My day got worse from here. The right wing blog Guido Fawkes then picked up the story. This led to more attention and more hatred on social media. And I presume it was thanks to this coverage that I won the attention of the far-right.
A neo-Nazi blog covered my candidacy. There, I am described as a ‘dirty Zionist Jewess’. The writer has publicised my twitter account and instructed its readers to send Nazi images to me. The comments on the page include photoshopped images of me in a gas chamber. More harrowing still, they have shared my sister’s Twitter handle and suggested that she be targeted too.
This is such pretentious, self serving, martyrdom promoting, precious nonsense. Those of us who have actually been active in the anti-fascist movement, you know actually facing up to fash and driving them off the streets, would find this pathetic. I’ve been targeted for close on a decade by Redwatch – Southern Coast, a neo-Nazi site dedicated to physically targeting anti-fascists for attacks in the street or home or both. People on it have been attacked but we don’t moan. I’ve been attacked but you just put it down to experience.
Those who wish can try to finish this particular line of thought on the original site.
Greenstein added, in response to the suggestion that Rhea should be entitled to a Safe Space that,
Tony Greenstein is currently believed to be appealing against his suspension from the Labour Party.
By contrast how is the labour movement reacting?
Left Futures reports.
GMB condemns antisemitic abuse of centre-left candidate for Labour executive
GMB Scotland today utterly condemned the vile antisemitic abuse suffered by their Glasgow Branch Secretary, Rhea Wolfson, who is standing for a position on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
A spate of deliberate attacks on social media by Nazi propagandists occurred following confirmation of Rhea’s candidacy and GMB Scotland have said they will bring these hate crimes to the attention of the police, while using every tool at their disposal to flush out the online racists.
Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:
There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind in our politics or society and Rhea has the total solidarity of her trade union in the face of this vile abuse.
Rhea is a hugely talented and principled activist; a popular and respected member of our union in Scotland and beyond with an established track record of campaigning for social justice and human rights.
We can’t let this hate go unchallenged. What sort of message would that send out to young people of all backgrounds who may want to get involved in making our communities and workplaces more fair, peaceful and prosperous?
GMB Scotland looks after our members and we call on all representatives from across civic society and politics to condemn these hate crimes.”
Like many others who were involved in forming and supporting the Grassroots Alliance when it was set up in 1998 I can say that all this brings back recollections of the response of those hostile to it at the time. *
This piece, which enjoyed cult status in some quarters (though not, for reasons which become immediately clear, amongst those individually singled out), brought us back down memory lane.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
The International Socialists (forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, and political home to Paul Foot) and sections of my own Communist Party were hostile to the IMG. “IMG, IMG, idle sons of the bourgeoisie”, was one little chant that we all enjoyed in those far-off days. Hour after hour we would sit up debating with IMG members the virtues and vices of Ernest Mandel’s critique of the Neither Washington Nor Moscow problematics.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
As always. Nice to see you again, comrades. But “centre-left”? Please.
I should point out that Liz had nothing to do with the IMG whatsoever.
That was before the Web, Twitter, Trolling, and when the likes of Saul and Greenstein could only grind their teeth in their basements amid the smell of damp socks.
At least Aaronovitch could do funnies.
*The Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centrist democratic group within the Party, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing and the Editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left. Wikipedia.