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100, 000 Demonstrate Against Austerity in Brussels.

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Our Belgian Comrades on the March. 

The United front of Belgian Trades Unions (Christian union ACV (green colour), the socialist union ABVV (red) and the liberal ACLVB (blue)   has announced that 100,000 marchers took part in a national demonstration against Austerity  in Brussels yesterday (the Police estimate 81,000) (reports from Le Soir and  En Belgique, une immense manifestation contre l’austérité. Le Monde.)

They were joined by two leaders of the francophone Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste), Elio Di Rupo  and Laurette A. J. Onkelinx  (of Kabyle origin).

Members of the civil platform ‘Hart Boven Hard’ also participated in the protest.

The principal slogan of the unions was “Que des miettes pour nous ” – only crumbs for us. It symbolised the inequalities in the country.

Other slogans took up, in a humorous vein, this theme, mocking the – admittedly odd looking, – Federal Prime Minister Charles Michel,

©Sylvain Piraux

Washing Powder Michel Guaranteed to shrink your spending power. 

©Dominique Duchesnes

Mr Potato: He Reduces us to Mash. 

The media spoke of the success of the event, which many expected to draw smaller crowds (Le défi de l’après-manif? Inclure la rue). There were some strikes in public bus services to accompany the protests.

There were a few violent clashes between protesters, some said to be anarchists, and the police.

Des manifestants antiaustérité jettent des pierres en direction de la police mercredi 7 octobre à Bruxelles.

Affrontements entre quelques manifestants et forces de l'ordre lors d'une marche contre les mesures d'austérité du gouvernement de Charles Michel.

Austerity for the trade unions means direct attacks on their membership.

Last year a series of “reforms”, ending indexing of salaries to the cost of living pushed back (meaning effectively wage cuts as they drop behind price rises) , pension age put back to 67 years, reform of early retirement plans and savings in public spending without any taxation of capital.


The march  demanded improved purchasing power, a tax shift that includes a fair share of the burden for the rich, and job schemes to get the vulnerable groups in society at work (English language report here).

Little has appeared in the British media on this important protest.




Written by Andrew Coates

October 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Grace Lee Boggs has passed away: remembering her links with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

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Grace Lee Boggs, Legendary Activist, Dies At 100.

Huffington Post.

Grace Lee Boggs, the child of Chinese immigrants who spent her life actively supporting causes ranging from civil rights and labor to the Black Power and feminist movements, has died. She was 100.

Boggs died Monday morning, a spokeswoman for the Detroit-based Boggs Center confirmed, saying she went “peacefully in her sleep at her home on Field Street in Detroit.”

“Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two of Boggs’ trustees, said in a statement.

President Barack Obama — who himself was a community organizer in Chicago in the ‘80s — said he and the first lady were “saddened” to hear of Boggs’ death.“Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others — from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives,” Obama said in a statement.

Howell, who has known Boggs for more than 40 years and co-founded the Boggs Center, said the centenarian activist spent the entirety of her life pushing people to ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.

Howell pointed to an anecdote Boggs wrote in her 1998 autobiography, Living for Change. “When she was born above her father’s restaurant and cried, the workers in the restaurant said, ‘You should put her on the hillside. She’s just a girl — and she cries too much,’” Howell told The Huffington Post. “[Grace] said she knew from the beginning that the world needed to change.”

Facing significant barriers in the academic world in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. As a result of their activism on tenants’ rights, she joined the far left Workers Party, known for its Third Camp position regarding the Soviet Union which it saw as bureaucratic collectivist. At this point, she began the trajectory that she would follow for the rest of her life: a focus on struggles in the African-American community.[10]

She met C.L.R. James during a speaking engagement in Chicago and moved to New York. She met many activists and cultural figures such as Richard Wright and Katharine Dunham. She also translated into English many of the essays in Karl Marx‘s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 for the first time. She soon joined the Johnson-Forest tendency led by James, Raya Dunayevskaya and Lee. They focused more centrally on marginalized groups such as women, people of color and youth as well as breaking with the notion of the vanguard party. While originally operating as a tendency of the Workers Party, they briefly rejoined the Socialist Workers Party before leaving the Trotskyist left entirely. The Johnson-Forest tendency also characterized the USSR as State Capitalist. She wrote for the Johnson-Forest tendency under the party pseudonym Ria Stone. She married African American auto worker and political activist James Boggs in 1953 with whom she politically collaborated for decades and moved to Detroit in the same year. Detroit would be the focus of her activism for the rest of her life.

When C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya split in the mid-1950s into Correspondence Publishing Committee led by James and News and Letters led by Dunayevskaya, Grace and James supported Correspondence Publishing Committee that James tried to advise while in exile in Britain. In 1962 the Boggses broke with James and continued Correspondence Publishing Committee along with Lyman Paine andFreddy Paine, while James’ supporters, such as Martin Glaberman, continued on as a new if short-lived organization, Facing Reality. The ideas that formed the basis for the 1962 split can be seen as reflected in James’ book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook. Grace unsuccessfully attempted to convince Malcolm X to run for the United States Senate in 1964. In these years, Boggs wrote a number of books, including Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century with her husband and focused on community activism in Detroit where she became a widely known activist.


It was as part of the Johnson-Forest tendency that Grace Lee Boggs developed links with the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB) best known for the figures of Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort. Their critical views on the Soviet Union, which the French theorists  called bureaucratic capitalism, and the Americans some form of state capitalism, were in reality not too far apart when it came to the political conclusions they reached.  Both drew a line at any form of support, or ‘defence’, of the USSR.  Both were opposed to Orthodox Communist parties, which SouB tended to consider as arms of the Kremlin.

Their joint concern with power relations inside enterprises, the division between those giving Orders and those carrying them out, and rebellions – often outside, and opposed to, established trade unions – against this, were common themes.  Ties continued through the Correspondence group after its split with Raya Dunayevskaya  – SouB did not have a high opinion of  her exaggerated Hegelian Marxism.

The review that SouB published, Socialisme ou Barbarie,  included the both parts of the American Worker in its issues 1- 8 (1949 – 1951) – That is from   GUILLAUME, Ph.: L’ouvrier américain par Paul Romano 1:78 ROMANO, Paul: L’ouvrier américain (I) (traduit de l’américain) 1:78-89 = The American Worker  STONE, R.: La reconstruction de la société (II) 8:50-72 = The American Worker. )

The American Worker” was originally published in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest tendency. It was divided into two parts. The first part “Life in the Factory”, was written by Paul Romano, a young worker in one of General Motors’ car plants. It describes the everyday lives of the workers, their (often contradictory) attitudes towards the work, the company, unions, politics, and each other. Part 2 “The Reconstruction of Society” was written by Grace Lee Boggs (pen name Ria Stone).

The text had a significant influence on SouB – described in detail in  Looking for the Proletariat Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing. (2014) Stephen Hastings King.

A theme was the direct recording of what workers experienced in their daily lives and in their confrontations with bureaucrats of all stripes, from bosses, managers, foremen, unions and political parties of the left.

As Floriana Ferro notes,

The fifth chapter of the book shows how the group, through the newspaper Tribune Ouvrière, tries to give a voice to the collective at the factory of Renault Billancourt, whose political context is clearly defined in the fourth chapter. Hastings-King points out similarities and differences with another worker newspaper, the Detroit-based Correspondence project. After that, the author writes about Tribune Ouvrière and the role that Socialisme ou Barbarie plays in the process of its production, printing, and distribution.

Castoriadis’ indefatigable English translator, David Ames Curtis has also observed that his phrase “reconstruction of society” was borrowed from Grace Lee Boggs. He continues,

Ria Stone (Grace Lee Boggs), “The Reconstruction of Society,” part two of Paul Romano and Ria Stone, The American Worker (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1972; originally published as a pamphlet in 1947 by the Johnson-Forest Tendency of C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya—which later became the Correspondence group—the first part of this book was translated for the first eight issues of Socialisme ou Barbarie). Grace Lee Boggs seems to have had a considerable influence on Castoriadis’s positive attitude toward the burgeoning “woman question” in the early Sixties; some her ideas can also be seen to be expressed in the key 1962 internal Socialisme ou Barbarie documents known as “For a New Orientation” (Political and Social Writings, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis, 3 vols. [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, 1993], vol. 3, pp. 9-26.)

Here are some more connections: Facing reality – CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs.

Facing reality - CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs

François Dosse‘s, Castoriadis, une vie ( 2014) also discusses Grace Lee Boggs’ relations with Socialisme ou Barbarie.

She stayed for 6 months in Paris in 1948 for the 2nd World Congress of the 4th International – as a representative of the Johnson-Forest tendency, .

During that period she met Castoriadis. He credited her with “lifting him out of his European provincialism” and playing a decisive role in his intellectual development. (Pages 111 – 112)

Thanks to Shiraz for signaling this loss.

Stop the War Coalition Confusion on the Labour Motion to Back UN authorised Bombing of Islamic State.

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Stop the War Coalition: No intervention against Daesh.

First the bald assertion.

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) notes that the Labour Party voted against British intervention in Syria, in present conditions.

Stop the War warmly welcomes the Labour conference vote in opposition to British military intervention in Syria.  It shares the view of conference delegates that this would only risk repeating the dreadful consequences of previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya.

We believe that every possible pressure must be put on Labour MPs to support the Party’s position if and when David Cameron decides to bring the issue to the Commons for a vote.  It is vital that the strong lead given by Jeremy Corbyn in favour of peace and in opposition to western interventionism, now endorsed by conference, be supported by all Labour MPs, whether or not there is a ‘free vote’ on the matter.

Just as Stop the War has criticised US bombing, and the possibility of British intervention, in Syria, so too we cannot support Russian military action.  It remains our view, supported by long history and experience, that external interference has no part to play in resolving the problems in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Only strong, sovereign and representative governments in Syria and Iraq can take the fight to Islamic State and provide a real alternative on the ground to its rule.  External powers should refrain from any direct or indirect military intervention and concentrate instead on assisting a negotiated end to the Syrian civil war, which would be a step in that direction.

Stop the War Coalition.

Next, this is what the motion says,

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ and is not aimed at securing regime change in Syria, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership,  ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

The motion is clearly opposed to British intervention, off its own back, in Syria.

But it equally gives forthright backing for bombing if given the go-ahead by the UN.

It therefore is the case that delegates did not vote against all intervention in Syria.

Finally, what does the StWC think of UN authorised bombing?

Here is their answer:

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed. Lindsey German

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya).

Here is German’s organisation, Counterfire, publishing the StWC’s plans on the strategy to follow:

A plan of action: stopping the bombing of Syria

The main task must be to extend the enthusiasm and energy generated by his campaigning over the past months into every local community, workplace and college.

The more people are actively engaged in the campaign to stop the drive to war in Syria, and in the anti-austerity movement, the more we will be defending Jeremy Corbyn under such relentless attack.

How can we do this?

For the anti-war movement, we need to get onto the streets in every area and onto campuses with leaflets, petitions, posters, badges, etc, drawing people into an ever-widening network of activists for peace.

We need to re-invigorate local anti-war groups and start new groups where none exist. While organising locally, the untimate focus will be on parliament and the need to break the consensus that always takes Britain into disastrous wars on the coat tails of the United States.

In 2013, mass pressure on MPs, coupled with the memory of Tony Blair’s catastrophic war on Iraq, delivered an unprecedented defeat for the government, as David Cameron tried to bounce parliament into supporting the bombing of Syria’s Assad regime.

Now Cameron hope that by switching the target to ISIS, he can reverse that defeat and take the UK into yet another pointless war that will serve no purpose, other than to create more death and chao, and drive more refugees to flee the war zone.

We need to implement immediately a comprehensive lobbying of MPs…


A plan of action: the anti-austerity movement

Stop the War has always contrasted the vast government expenditure on the military and weapons of mass destruction, and the draconian austerity cuts to public and welfare services. Billions are spent on the UK war machine at the same time that brutal cuts in benefits are driving some desperate victims to suicide.

The protests at the Conservative Party conference from 3 October will help shape the political landscape over the next months. Tens of thousands will be protesting there, not just on the opening day – 4 October – but for the whole week. The anti-war message needs to be heard loud and clear by the movement, by the media and by the politicians.

Time is tight — the flashpoints are imminent, and we need to act now.

Within a few days of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader over 120 new members joined Stop the War Coalition, an indication that the movements that underpinned his victory are recognised as central to defending him.

The stakes are high. With enough pressure from below, David Cameron’s government’s plan to bomb Syria can be defeated for a second time, which would be a long term humiliation for the warmongers.

We also need a big campaign and protest over the scandalous delay in publishing the Iraq war inquiry report, blocked it appears by those — like Tony Blair and Jack Straw — likely to be criticised by Chilcot. With Jeremy Corbyn declaring that Tony Blair should be held to account for alleged war crimes, there is a real prospect that Blair could be driven out of public life once and for all.

Next year parliament will vote on the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons system, at a projected cost of over £100billion. The Campaign for Nuclear disarmament is already mounting a concerted campaign to get MPs to vote against. A huge protest movement before parliament votes will intensify that pressure.

The moment a vote on bombing Syria is announced, Stop the War will call a protest, but the success, the scale, and the impact of that protest depends on what we all do in the next few weeks. Its up to us.

It would seem that the StWC has not the slightest strategy for confronting Deash.

It is unlikely that many will heed this call for ‘revolutionary defeatism’: concentrating their energies on the defeat of British imperialism.

In the process they intend to use the anti-austerity movement to moblise against core parts of Labour and UNITE policy on Syria.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2015 at 11:19 am

Stop the War Coalition Against *any* Bombing of Islamic State.

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Stop the War Coalition Says Do Nothing to Stop these Genociders. 

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed

Lindsey German 30 September 2015.

ONE OF the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote by parliament to take Britain into the Iraq war.

The Labour party conference has passed a resolution opposing the bombing of Syria unless a number of stringent conditions are met. These include unequivocal UN authorisation for such a bombing, attempts at diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and proper provision for refugees from Syria.

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya). The Labour resolution sets the bar for intervention very high, but that may change with Russia now bombing Syria.

Stop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately. And we would welcome less hypocrisy from those who have supported US and allied bombing over the last year.

It is unlikely that all of the conditions agreed by the Labour party conference will be met when David Cameron urges parliament to vote for bombing. However, it seems that a number of Labour MPs will vote with Cameron in defiance of party policy.

They will do so because they have learnt none of the lessons from previous interventions, including the bombing of Libya that is today a source of ISIS support and weaponry, as well as the starting point of many refugees.

They will maintain a willful ignorance about the fact that bombing of ISIS has been carried out for over a year, including covertly and illegally by British pilots and drones. They will ignore all the evidence that previous interventions have increased the threat of terrorism, not diminished it.

Some of them will also vote in favour of bombing, not out of any particular conviction but because they want to embarrass and defeat Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy’s position is unambiguous, repeated in his leader’s speech this week: he is not abandoning his lifelong commitment to opposing war and nuclear weapons. So some on the right of the party will join the Tories in voting for bombing in order to ensure the motion is carried.

The call by some, including left-winger John McDonnell, for Labour MPs to have a free vote on this matter, will only encourage more of them to vote with the Tories. For right wing Labour MPs to defy both conference policy and a party whip is harder than for them to vote according to their ‘conscience’.

War is not an issue of conscience, but a political question. There are a number of people who oppose wars in principle. But there is no principle involved in supporting wars regardless of circumstances or outcomes. To pretend that it is so is to impute much more lofty motives to a whole number of the MPs who routinely vote for war.

Instead they should respect the mandate that Jeremy has won, not least because of his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to apologise for it.

Perhaps MPs of all parties should also reflect that one of the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote to take us into Iraq.

The BBC reports:

Labour members have voted to oppose airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, without a mandate from the United Nations.

Activists in Brighton voted in favour of a motion tabled by the Unite union to make their support for strikes conditional on UN backing.

The vote is not binding on MPs but Jeremy Corbyn has said the party must heed the opinion of members.

It follows calls from a senior Labour figure for a free vote in Parliament.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told a meeting hosted by The Guardian at the Labour conference that Syria and the renewal of Trident were issues on which he did not expect consensus within the party and he believed a vote on military action in Syria should be made “on the basis of conscience”.

The UNITE Motion (Original version):

Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli and Russian presidents in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.  

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ and is not aimed at securing regime change in Syria, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership,  ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 regime-change war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.

Tendance Coatesy unequivocally supports the UNITE motion calling for UN authorised action in Syria, and the call from comrade John McDonnell  for a Parliamentary vote on the basis of conscience, given the range of opinions inside the Labour Party’s elected representatives and the gravity of the situation.

In the Labour leadership election Jeremy Corbyn did not win a mandate for his views, as Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, on their detailed  position on the Middle East.

This was not something put to a ballot of members, affiliates and supporters.

The Stop the War Coalition effectively calls for the peoples of the world to stand aside faced with the genociders of Daesh/ISIS.

This is the defining political issue of the tragedy in Syria and Iraq – entangled with many others . It cannot be walked away from.

These are the “circumstances” Lindsey German blithely  dismisses.

The motion calls for UN authorisation.

If that happens, which is not yet clear, the immediate “outcome” of increased attacks on the Islamist killers we can hope to see is that the PYG and our Kurdish sisters and brothers will be bolstered by weakening ISIS, and that the murderers will be forced back.

The UNITE motion is good sense and adds sound points about European help for refugees.

We would back the aim of encouraging, “international diplomatic efforts…. to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Whether this will happen is no doubt far from clear.

But we cannot  remain indifferent to the fate of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Podemos Suffers Set Back in Catalan Elections.

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We can’t, not yet….

This morning the Spanish radio was full of the fall-out, and the ‘fractures’, resulting from the results of the Catalan elections.

The Significance of the Catalan Elections Montserrat Domínguez.

  • The pro-independence front loses the referendum. The anti-independence forces account for 52 percent, compared to the secessionist bloc’s 47 percent. It’s inconceivable that with these results, once the the cava wine bubbles evaporate, any serious politician (in Catalonia) will propose a unilateral declaration of independence. That would be undemocratic. But it’s the first time that the option to secede takes such flight: more than 1.9 million votes is a cry that no serious politician (in Madrid) can ignore.
  • In the polls, Ciudadanos breaks the roof: it tripled the results of the previous elections and, with 25 seats, stole the spotlight. The Sorpasso (overtaking) of the People’s Party (PP) in Catalonia is a warning: will this happen again in the general elections in December? We will never know what result Albert Rivera would have achieved if he had been the candidate of the Generalitat, the Catalan government; but being the second force in Catalonia gives wings to his aspirations to get to the Moncloa Palace.
  • The PP is increasingly irrelevant in Catalonia: it lost 10 seats, including Badalona — where Xavier García Albiol was mayor — which went to Junts pel Sí. It’s a real slap in the face for the party and its campaign strategy. Today, there is a cold wind in Moncloa and Genoa street: Rajoy is proving to be incapable of facing the challenges in Catalonia.
  • After a spectacular gain (from 3 to 10 seats), CUP now has the key to governance in Catalonia. If it fulfills its promise of not voting for Artur Mas as president, Junts pel Sí will be forced to come to an agreement on another candidate… and internal battle is guaranteed.
  • Podemos loses momentum: ICV alone got more seats (13) than the new coalition. The 10 deputies Podemos got in the parliament is very far from what it had hoped for. Does it mean that its success in the past municipal elections — Barcelona, Madrid, Cadiz, Zaragoza — was the zenith of its political career? (NOTE: it went up to 11)
  • The socialists are still alive. Maintaining almost the same numbe
  • When 77 percent of Catalan citizens vote, the message is strong and clear. The pro-independence front, which brings together Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) and the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) party, earned a clear majority in the Catalan parliament, winning 72 seats. It now has the legitimacy and strength, said Artur Mas, to keep pursuing its dream of secession.
  • r of votes as in the last Catalan elections — after the internal bleeding and the appearance of new parties that contest their ideological territory — justifies Miquel Iceta’s sigh of relief, despite having lost four seats. And those half a million Catalan votes are worth their weight in gold in Pedro Sanchez’s race toward the Moncloa Palace.

Together for Yes (JxSí)[b][c] 1,620,973 39.54 Increase3.11 62 Increase4
Citizens-Party of the Citizenry (C’s) 734,910 17.93 Increase10.36 25 Increase16
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC-PSOE) 522,209 12.74 Decrease1.69 16 Decrease4
Catalonia Yes we Can (CSQEP)[d] 366,494 8.94 Decrease0.96 11 Decrease2
People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) 348,444 8.50 Decrease4.48 11 Decrease8
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 336,375 8.20 Increase4.72 10 Increase7
Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC)[c] 102,870 2.51 Decrease5.47 0 Decrease13
Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 29,785 0.73 Increase0.16 0 ±0
Zero Cuts-The Greens (Recortes Cero-Els Verds) 14,390 0.35 Increase0.28 0 ±0
Let’s Win Catalonia (Ganemos) 1,158 0.03 New 0 ±0
Pirates of Catalonia-To Decide Everything (Pirata.cat/XDT) 326 0.01 Decrease0.49 0 ±0

El País  commented,

Pablo Iglesias ha construido alrededor de Podemos una épica de partido ganador que ayer, tras lograr en las elecciones catalanas un resultado que sus propios dirigentes consideran decepcionante, sufrió el mayor revés desde su nacimiento.

Pablo Iglesias has built around Podemos an epic  in which they are the winning party. But yesterday, after the results of  the Catalan elections, which their own leaders considered disappointing , the party suffered the biggest setback since its birth.

We should observe that Podemos (link to their site here) did not go it alone this time. Inside Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CSQEP) they were allied with  Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (Red Greens), and Esquerra Unida i Alternativa, (the more directly linked to the left bloc, Izquirda Unida).

This in itself is a step forward for a group that appeared to wish to ‘go it alone’ to the extent of organising, its own demonstrations against austerity rather than create united fronts.

What are the consequences of this poor result – not to mention their eclipse by a right-of-centre populist party, Ciudadanos ? *

Iglesias has announced today (Iglesias ofrece un referéndum catalán en el que pediría el ‘no’)  that if Podemos wins the nation-wide general election he will offer a proper referendum to the Catalans, in which his party will campaign against the separatists and for a multinational and pluralist Spain.

Inside Podemos some have criticised the alliances that they made in Catalan with left-wing and Green forces, declaring that people did not understand the “alphabet soup” (CSQEP) that resulted on the ballot paper.

It will be interesting to follow further developments.


“..populism requires the division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” (Page 83. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau. 2005)

Enthusiasm for Podemos on the European Left, including Britain, was until recently widespread. It was accepted that the party had managed the difficult feat of giving a political voice to the indignados movement. That it has built a ‘populist’ constituency through language and demands that welded together the 99% against the 1%. That it used the (in Laclau’s words) ‘floating signifiers’ of the ‘people’ (crushing majority) against the Spanish ‘casta’ and had created a democratic organisation capable of challenging the rule of finance and the dominance of economic austerity. It is new, it uses the Net, it encourages direct communication not tired old bureaucratic structures, or divisions between the historical left and right.

This could be tied into the argument offered by Paul Mason in  Postcapitalism ( 2015). That, “By creating, millions of networked people, finally exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human beings.”

Mason also asserts that, “In Europe, repressing policing and a untied front of all parties in favour of austerity beat the indignados into a sullen silence. But the results showed that revolution in a highly complex, information-driven society would look very different from the revolutions of the twentieth century. Without a strong, organised working class to push social issues rapidly to the fore, the revolts often stall. But order is never fully restored.” (Page  xviii)

But in general enthusiasm for new groups like Podemos, with no visible links to the workers’ movement,  is widespread. There is a constant search for new political agencies to replace the ‘old’ left and labour movement. In Mason’s case, despite his own above warning,  this went so far as to make this extraordinary claim, “Scotland, “presented with the opportunity to break with a neoliberal state and start afresh, millions of young people said, ‘Yes’ “(Page xix)

There is little doubt that there is a great deal of political fluidity in Europe today. Movements to break up existing states, often from the wealthiest regions of a country (as in Catalonia or in Italy with the Lega Nord) tired of paying for poor and apparently lazy ‘southerners’ , appear part of this process. The strong showing of the Catalan sovereigntists was welcomed by forces from the Scottish National Party, promoting the interests of their ‘ain folk’ against ‘Westminster, the hard-right Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (Belgium), who dislike the former industrial French speaking and Socialist voting Walloon,  and some leftists – the latter apparently convinced that Barcelona tax-payers are right not to want to subsidise their feckless compatriots.

Podemos may, or may not, be capable of offering what Mason (in the most significant part of Postcapitalism) calls “revolutionary reformism”. Mason’s list of ideas, a third managerial revolution, switching  off the neoliberal privatisation machine, suppressing or socialising monopolies is attractive. But everything depends on a political vehicle to implement them in a recognisably effective form.

That is, the need a political forces capable of reaching and transforming existing political institutions. They have to connect ‘giving voice’ to protests, social interests (not least the labour movement)  and being capable of administering solutions. They need parties.

In the case of Podemos this, which Ernesto Laclau called the “moment of articulation” – that is the details of how political parties operate – is becoming unstuck.  No doubt the ripple effect of the defeat of Syriza’s anti-austerity programme counts for much in their present impasse. They may have woven ‘floating signifiers’ together, but what anchors them?

Podemos’ vaunted horizontal democracy (apparently giving shape to Mason’s ‘networks’) is paralleled by an internal structure, built as a pyramid around a leader. This is deeply problematic and pretty much casts its claims to novelty to the dustbin. Iglesias has as El País indicates, a self-defined “epic” in which he will valiantly take on the Spanish ‘casta’. Like a figure in the Game of Thrones (a box set of which he generously donated to the Spanish King Felipe VI)  he is surrounded by intrigue. He finds it hard to work collaboratively. Forced to accept alliances with other forces, like the Green Equo and the long-standing Izquirda Unida, he has the ill-grace to refuse to take any joint responsibility, in the political battles.

Now that it is clear that Podemos has not the remotest chance of forming a future government in the Cortes Generales it will be of interest to see how his authority is maintained.

* Ideologically, C’s describes itself as a progressive, secular, constitutionalist, European federalist and postnationalist party. In addition, Albert Rivera has said that C’s defends autonomismAccording to its declared identity signs, C’s advocates four basic lines of action:  Defence of individual rights. Defence of social rights as well as the welfare state. Uphold the State of Autonomies and Europe’s unity. Regeneration of democracy and of political life. Wikipedia.


Socialist Action, Shadowy Gurus of the new Labour Leadership – Exposed!

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Labour Briefing AGM circa 1981. Pic: Sunday Telegraph.

Rumbled by the Telegraph and Andrew Gilligan!

For much of Labour’s history, the idea that the party was covertly influenced by revolutionaries, Communists and terrorists was dismissed as a fiction propagated by Right-wing tabloids.

But now it is true.

Very worrying.

Mr Ross, now an economic adviser, was a prominent member of an international Marxist group. In an election speech in 1974, Mr Ross – quoted in a biography of former London mayor Ken Livingstone – said: “The ruling class must know that they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the workers. If we aren’t armed there will be a bloodbath.”

The Sunday Telegraph has also uncovered evidence of how other key figures around Mr Corbyn, including his chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, as well as Mr Ross are or were members of a tiny, secretive Trotskyite sect, Socialist Action, which seeks a communist revolution and believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a “tragedy for humanity”.

In secret documents (so secret they do not publish them NOTE) seen by this newspaper, Socialist Action calls itself the “revolutionary wing of the Labour Party” and describes how it performed a “clandestine form of entry” to infiltrate the party.

Among groups on the revolutionary Left, Socialist Action is unique in another way. It already has substantial experience of power.


Socialist Action started as an overt organisation fighting elections in its own right, initially known as the International Marxist Group (IMG). Mr Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was a prominent IMG member and fought an election for it in the 1970s.


Modesty prevents us from mentioning another prominent member of the IMG in the 1970s, behind a world-famous Blog.

A main focus of the group’s attention was the monthly news sheet London Labour Briefing, a key instrument of the takeover of the 1980s party in the capital by what became known as the “loony Left”.

Briefing, set up by a separate group of Trotskyites, was strongly influenced (?????)  by Socialist Action. Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn, too, were both closely linked to it.

Some might possibly note the word “separate” and quibble about the word Trotskyist,  but, hey, left’s continue the fun!

According to the authoritative Parliamentary Profiles by the late Andrew Roth, Mr Corbyn, a political activist and councillor, was the general secretary of its editorial board. His byline appears frequently from the first issue in 1980 and he usually chaired main fringe meetings of Briefing at events such as the Labour Party conference. According to the March 1983 issue, he ran Briefing’s mailing list.

Mr McDonnell, another bylined writer from the early 1980s, remains a key figure at Briefing, now affiliated with the ultra-Left party pressure group he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).

Briefing’s pages seethed with calls for “mass extra-parliamentary action” and it ran hit-lists of “traitor” Labour MPs and councillors to be purged. The group gave 30 pieces of silver – well, “silver milk [bottle] tops” – to former Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan.

A lifestyle section agonised about whether it was “bourgeois” to have children, while municipal tea dances put on by London councils were denounced as “heterosexist” as well as “primarily racist” (because they “reflect comfortable white society”).

Mostly though, Briefing, like Socialist Action, avowed what it called a “British revolution” – its motto was Trotsky’s “Take the Power”.

Yes, we are well and truly rumbled.

Labour Briefing is well-known for its close ties with Socialist Action (note snazzy SA site!).

They share the word “socialism” for a start!

Taking Power?

We should ask politely, if not at all…

But here’s the rub: I can even now recall the warmth with which much-missed Briefing Editorial members, such as Leonora Lloyd  and Mike Marquesse talked about their secret ‘guru’  John Ross.

Briefing, in a coded message to supporters, with due reverence, once published a photo of the Leader under the title, “A rare daylight picture of John Ross”.

Even today the influence of Socialist Action on the Briefing and the LRC is only equalled by the mighty forces of Socialist Fight and the Posadists, not to mention the Brent Soviet.

Andrew Gilligan: Bless!

Warwick University Student Union Bans Feminist, Marxist, Secularist Maryam Namazie.

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Comrade Maryam: Banned for being a Feminist, Secularist and Marxist. 

A prominent secularist and activist has been barred from speaking at a student union event due to fears her speech would “incite hatred” against Muslim students.

Reports the Independent.

Maryam Namazie had been booked by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (WASH) group to speak about secularism to Warwick University’s Student Union on 28 October.

However, the group was notified last month that Ms Namazie’s speech had been cancelled. The decision has led campaigners to raise concerns about student bodies across the UK thwarting freedom of speech on their campuses.

The union said that “after researching both [Ms Namazie] and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus”.

Articles written by Ms Namazie indicated she was “highly inflammatory” and “could incite hatred on campus”, according to the union.

Ms Namazie, who fled Iran with her family in 1980 after the revolution, said she was likely to have spoken about apostasy, blasphemy and nudity in the age of Isis. She told The Independent she was “angry” her talk had been blocked.

“They’re basically labelling me a racist and an extremist for speaking out against Islam and Islamism,” she said.

“If people like me who fled an Islamist regime can’t speak out about my opposition to the far-right Islamic movement, if I can’t criticise Islam… that leaves very [few] options for me as a dissenter because the only thing I have is my freedom of expression.

“If anyone is inciting hatred, it’s the Islamists who are threatening people like me just for deciding we want to be atheist, just because we don’t want to toe the line.”

Ms Namazie, who considers herself an anti-racist campaigner, added: “To try to censor me, does a double disservice to those people who are dissenting by denying people like me the only opportunity we have to speak.”

This really sticks in the craw:

Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union said: “The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus… rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.”

“A final decision on this issue will be reached by the most senior members of the Student Union in coming days,” he said.

Ms Namazie hoped her talk would be rescheduled.

Comrade Namazie is respected not just in secularist and human rights circles but widely on the international left.

As editor for the Worker-communist Review, Maryam Namazie is a Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. She advocates ideas inspired by Workerist Communism, especially those of the Iranian theorist Mansoor Hekmat.

She is strongly feminist.

Maryam Namazie is also the spokesperson of Fitnah- Movement for Women’s Liberation, a protest movement which is, according to their website, “demanding freedom, equality, and secularism and calling for an end to misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women.”

According to Namazie, the name of the movement comes from ahadith, or a saying from Islamic prophet Muhammad, which in her opinion portrays women as a source of harm and affliction. She explains that even though the term is generally perceived as negative, the fact that women who are called fitnah are those who “are disobedient, who transgress the norms, who refuse, who resist, who revolt, who won’t submit” makes it suited for a women’s liberation movement.She has explained that the creation of the movement was sparked by contemporary movements and revolutions around the world, especially those in the Middle East and North Africa, although she emphasizes Fitnah has global relevance.

It is not hard to see that an uppity Iranian feminist secularist and Marxist might indeed offend religious bigots.

In this light one can only describe the decision of Warwick University Student Union – my own former student union – as a deep deep stain.

Comrade Marayam’s own Blog: here.

More in the Guardian.

Petition: Allow Maryam Namazie to speak at The University of Warwick.

More from the comrades at Shiraz here.

Benjamin David (President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists) has published a response on the student union’s website.

Dear supporters

As President of WASH, I feel that it is important that I comment about the recent controversy regarding the decision taken by The University of Warwick’s Student Union to prohibit Maryam Namazie from speaking on campus. For those unfamiliar with Maryam, she is a secularist, a human-rights campaigner, and leader of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain – as well as being a friend of mine.

After submitting a guest-speaker application to the SU, I received the following response explaining their decision to bar Maryam:

…after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.

There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:

*must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law

*are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts

*must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony

*must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge

*are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees.

In addition to this, there are concerns that if we place conditions on her attendance (such as making it a member only event and having security in attendance, asking for a transcript of what she intends to say, recording the speech) she will refuse to abide by these terms as she did for Trinity College Dublin:


As a student of the University, I must confess that I cannot but help feel an element of embarrassment – as well as feeling that my society has been vitiated in light of the encroachment on the strong secular and free-speech principles that the society espouses. We have appealed the decision and we will submit a further post detailing the outcome in due course. The restriction of free-thought and non-violent free-speech is the most dangerous of all subversions, a subversion that is only amplified in light of the fact that Maryam has always campaigned against violence and discrimination and has done so passionately for many years – something that should have been taken on board when the SU’s assessment was made. Maryam often describes the true facts concerning her own experiences and those of people she works with in relation to radical forms of Islam – not all forms of Islam, just those pernicious, radical strands of the religion – things that most peaceful Muslims would also condemn. I must profess that if those facts are an incitement of hatred – which I most definitely believe they are not – then the solution is to change the way people are treated in certain faith communities, not to insist Maryam lie about her life through censorship. As Maryam stated in her blog:

“The Student Union seems to lack an understanding of the difference between criticising religion, an idea, or a far-Right political movement on the one hand and attacking and inciting hate against people on the other. Inciting hatred is what the Islamists do; I and my organisation challenge them and defend the rights of ex-Muslims, Muslims and others to dissent.”

And, what is more:

“The Student Union position is of course nothing new. It is the predominant post-modernist “Left” point of view that conflates Islam, Muslims and Islamists, homogenises the “Muslim community”, thinks believers are one and the same as the religious-Right and sides with the Islamist narrative against its many dissenters […]This type of politics denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women’s rights, freedoms and equality under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In this type of politics, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed are perpetrators of “hatred”, and any criticism is racist.”

The infringement of free-speech is becoming insidiously ubiquitous, and many universities, including The University of Warwick, are circumventing the freedom of speech in pursuit of inoffensive, sanitary narratives. As many of those at Warwick University know, few universities have sullied its free-speech as much as our university has. Spiked-Online’s ‘University Free-Speech Rankings‘ recently imputed the university with their infamous red-ranking, stating that:

“The University of Warwick and Warwick Students’ Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech. The university, which has received an Amber ranking, restricts material that is ‘likely to cause offence’. The students’ union, which has received a Red ranking, has instituted bans on the Sun and theDaily Star, launched a campaign to have ‘offensive’ wallpaper in a local bar removed and banned ‘prejudiced’ entertainers from performing in the union. Due to the severity of the students’ union’s actions, the institution’s overall ranking is Red” 

I believe that we at the University of Warwick need to come together, as secularists, as students, revering the intellectual suffusion of ideas and dialectics, to construct a truly formidable voice of opposition for the sake of those beloved principles that we promote. Lest we forget: “censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship” – George Bernard Shaw

Benjamin David

(President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists).

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2015 at 11:16 am