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Row in Northern Ireland Labour Party, Boyd Black: ‘Maoist’ BICO Resurfaces.

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BICO Once again.

There is, as yet, no comprehensive history of British and Irish ‘Marxism-Leninism’. Popularly known as Maoism, for the various groups’ alignment with Beijing during the 1960s, this political current had influence in much of the rest of Europe, and in the United States, where it was described as the New Communist Movement in the 1970s (1) French Maoism continues to draw attraction, with many colourful escapades to its name, and even a proto-armed wing, La Nouvelle Résistance Populaire (NRP), and the leader of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Benn Lévy, the hardest and the hard M-Ler, who became Sartre’s secretary and ended his days as student of the Torah in Jerusalem. (2) The former M-L Dutch Socialistische Partij, Socialist Party, with parliamentary representation, and its counterpart in Belgium, the, Parti du travail de Belgique /en Partij van de Arbeid van België, also attracts interest, not least in the latter’s days as enthusiasts for North Korean Juche.

But here possibly only Alexei Sayle’s learned tome stands out. Largely concerned with his activism in the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) he summarised their, and his orthodox Communist parents’ activism as, “my hobby and my family’s hobby was the elimination of private property via the violent expropriation of landowners, industrialists, railroad magnates and shipowners…”(3)

Maoism is however back in the news. A former member of  the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) are apparently involved in the controversies taking place in the Northern Irish Labour Party.

John Rogan writes,

There was an article in the Belfast Telegraph about the ruction in the Labour Party in NI by its ex-Secretary (Kathryn Johnson) which may be of interest.

The main person she seems to be angry with is Boyd Black. As a curious historical footnote for Leftist Trainspotters everywhere, Mr Black was at one point a member of the pro-Stalin, pro-Mao, pro-Kymer Rouge British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) and stood as a “Unionist” candidate in the 1986 Fulham by-election.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/kathryn-johnston-the-fight-for-the-soul-of-the-labour-party-in-northern-ireland-36016846.html

Black seems to have something of  a history of “controversy”.

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His background is acknowledged.

On another occasion, “Boyd Black, Blacks election agent confirmed that he had been a member of the British and Irish Communist Organisation at one time.” 

Whatever his present relations to the group, if there are any, are  we note that BICO’s publication in Britain at the present is Labour Affairs which takes a keen interest in the Labour Party.

This is how they describe their present form,

Who We Are

Monthly journal of the Ernest Bevin Society.  It is a small independent left-wing magazine based in Britain, but covering the wider world.  Previously Labour and Trade Union Review.

The Ernest Bevin Society began as the British portion of the British and Irish Communist Organisation, but then decided Leninism was no longer relevant.  In the 1970s it advocated Workers Control as general reformism as the best way forward in Britain.  It warned ahead of time that the methods being used to fight Thatcher were going to fail.  But retained a general confidence in socialism after the Soviet collapse.

We did also warn well ahead of it becoming obvious that Yeltsin was going to fail.  And said in 1989 that People’s China was not in fact about to collapse.

We condemned New Labour for having adjusted to Thatcherite fantasies rather than what actually existed.  And were flatly against the war on Iraq, fully expecting Saddam’s rather bad system to be replaced  by something much worse.

See out publisher’s website at Athol Books.

For historians we lack a complete organigramme of the groupuscule’s original relations to other supporters of Marxist Leninism. Indeed while Wikipedia mentions this it is difficult to see the nature of the link to either the “first wave” M-L split with orthodox Communism, based on the Sino-Soviet dispute, or the “second wave” , which arose from enthusiasm for the Cultural Revolution.

Wikipedia sets them out as this,

Brendan Clifford was an Irish emigrant from the Sliabh Luachra area of County Cork who had migrated to London and become involved in left-wing politics there.[1] Clifford and some of his followers had been in Michael McCreery’s Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity and later they joined the Irish Communist Group.[2][3]

This body consisted largely of Irish people who were living in London and were opposed to the Soviet-aligned communist organisations intended for Irish people. Following a 1965 split, the Maoist wing named itself the Irish Communist Organisation, which later became the British and Irish Communist Organisation. The broadly Trotskyist wing, led by Gerry Lawless, became the Irish Workers’ Group.[4]

The ICO undertook an investigation into the development of Maoism, and concluded that it was not a suitable model for an anti-revisionist group. The Chinese Communist Party had supported some aspects of Nikita Khrushchev‘s “revisionism“, and then been dishonest about its past positions.[5]

One founder-member, Dennis Dennehy, was Secretary of the Dublin Housing Action Committee, which organised a highly successful protest movement in the early 1960s.

In 1968, the ICO issued a press release which defended the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

BICO is known, above all, for the writings on the Irish Question of Brendan Clifford. According to the Bible in such matters, he was an “unemployed Jesuit trained, gravedigger” who spent time in Trinity College Library Dublin researching Irish republicanism. This is what he found in works on the founders of this tradition.

“Having blown off the dust he was flabbergasted to discover that these saintly heroes, who he had been told were the Irish equivalents of Garibaldi and Mazzini, were a shower of bigoted, racist, shitbags, who hated England because it had prevented Ireland from establishing its own empire with its own blacks to chain up and flog. The odd man out among this unsavoury crew was Wolfe Tone, a Protestant who view of the Vatican tallies closely with that Ian Paisley.” (John Sullivan. As Soon As This Pub Closes)

The ‘two nations’ theory which he developed from these studies made Clifford’s name. His collected articles, from the Irish Communist, published in 1971 under the name Aspects of Nationalism (1972) begin with a long discussion of Stalin’s Marxism and the National Question. On this basis he took a stand for “Protestant national rights”. .

There is no mention of Clifford or a forerunner to BICO in Bob Purdie’s authoritative history of the Civil Rights movement Politics in the Streets (1990). It can be safely said to be beyond marginal to People’s Democracy – the most important grass-roots radical organisation in the land since the 1920s.

All COBI is known for is the ‘two nations’ theory. The view retains a certain intuitive appeal, no doubt reinforced by later Irish ‘revisionist’ histories which look at the conservative sides of nationalism, and Catholic cultural and political domination of the Republic In less studious environments problems immediately arose. COBI therefore backed protests such as the Ulster Workers’ Council and all attempts by the Protestant side to resist Irish unity. The one problem, no doubt unforeseen, but perhaps familiar to anybody who ever met Unionists, not to say, Orangemen, is that a group so dominated by violent racist bigots would be hard to find, although American ‘white nationalists’ stand muster.

The remnants of BICO seemed to have pursued with the Historical Review. The British branch became the Ernest Bevin society. The have been fading into decent obscurity.  They are rare creatures. The present writer may be one of the few people alive to have met them…..

****

(1) Revolution in the Air. Max Elbaum. Verso. 2002.
(2) De Pierre Victory à Benny Lévy, de Mao à Moïse. Philippe Lardinois. Editions Luc Pire. 2008.
(3) Page 132. Stalin Ate My Homework. Alexei Sayle. Sceptre. 2010. Sayle accurately makes this description, “Woodcraft Folk…. they formed the paramilitary wing of the Co-operative movement.”(P 91) See also the less amusing, Thatcher Stole my Trousers. Alexei Sayle. Bloomsbury Circus. 2016.

Update, for a serious account of this dispute: Clarion.

LPNI WTF?

By Labour Party of Northern Ireland members

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland’s executive committee has recently undergone a catastrophic breakdown in communication, followed by a series of resignations which received a degree of local media attention and attention on the left. Sadly, the explanations given by those involved have been consistently misleading. Whilst the context is political, as might be expected, much of the upset is interpersonal and the motivations of those involved represent a complex combination of the two. As things stand, there is a toxic air about this local party’s dissent into in-fighting, but if we look carefully it might be possible to discern some lessons for the Labour left.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2017 at 12:41 pm

The Socialist Party (Militant) admits it has entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

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“A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. “

Labour figures in Northern Ireland quit, claiming secret group within the party.

Most of the key figures in the Labour Party in Northern Ireland tonight resigned from their leadership positions after alleging a secret internal attempt to subvert the party.

Six people – including the chair and vice chair – who have been campaigning vigorously for Labour’s ban on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland to be lifted have now walked away from their roles, claiming that a “small minority” of hard-left members had made their work impossible.

The split comes after several years of strong Labour growth in Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies where in a few years its membership has swollen from around 300 to more than 2,000, partly due to members who have joined in order to vote in the party’s leadership contests.

The report is followed by this,

Entryist suggestion

Although they did not use the word in their resignation statement, the members appear to be alleging an entryist attempt to take over the party in Northern Ireland.

Labour and other left-wing sources claim that recent or current members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and People Before Profit have recently joined Labour in Northern Ireland.

Those who have resigned are chair Anna McAleavy, vice-chair Damien Harris, vice chair membership Peter Dynes, secretary Kathryn Johnston, disability officer Keith Gray and women’s officer Mary Sheen.

In a statement, the six said that they would remain active members of the party.

They said: ‘We do not resign lightly. Instead, it is a heavy decision which has weighed on us for several months. It became evident from a very early stage that there are diverse and inimical political parties secretly organising within the LPNI contrary to Chapter 2 of Labour Party Rulebook 2017.

“Although these are a small minority among our committed and hardworking activists, members and supporters, they are a vocal and troublesome element. ‘This has presented us with irreconcilable difficulties.”

The Socialist Party has now admitted its members have entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

Labour Party Executive resignations – Socialist Party statement

A group of members of the Labour Party’s Northern Ireland Executive have suddenly resigned their positions, allegedly in response to left-wing groups organising within the party, with some of the former officers and some media outlets specifically referring to the Socialist Party in this context.

The Socialist Party supports Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies and the building of a broad, cross-community left in Northern Ireland. A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. Some did so solely to help defend Corbyn against the Blairite coup and have never attended a meeting. Others have got active locally in an open and honest way, aimed at helping Labour to develop as a vehicle for workers and young people to challenge austerity and sectarianism. However, Socialist Party members have not sought any senior positions within Labour. Some of those who have resigned from the Executive were not only aware of this but, for positive reasons, actively encouraged Socialist Party members to become involved in Labour at various points.

……

Some of those who have resigned from the Executive are also members of two parties – the Co-operative Party and Labour. This is perfectly permissible, as the Co-operative Party has affiliated status. We believe that socialist groups and anti-austerity campaigns should be afforded the same right to affiliate and work with others to rebuild Labour as a campaigning, left force. For those who are supporters of Corbyn’s policies, the focus should be on challenging the pro-capitalist right, including the Blairite-Tory entryists who continue to dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party and the apparatus and remain determined to undermine Corbyn’s leadership, no matter what the cost to the party.

The Socialist Party worked fraternally with Labour members – including some of those who have resigned from the Executive – in the successful Hands Off Our Libraries campaign last year, as well as in developing the five-point Re-Think agenda which was endorsed by the Labour Party locally and adopted by six labour movement candidates in this year’s Assembly election. We believe that the impact of Corbyn’s policies on political debate has created an important opportunity for the anti-sectarian left in Northern Ireland. We will continue with our constructive and positive approach in working with others in the struggle to build a working class alternative to the Green and Orange Tories on the hill.

Previous ‘fraternal’  links between the Socialist Party  and Labour Party include:

2017. Socialist Party Stunt : ‘Ana Key’ – ’11 Votes’ Ellen Kenyon Peers – is expelled from Labour Party.

In 2015 an attempt was made to launch this: (The Socialist, 25th of November. 2015) Trade Union Momentum launched to organise to defend Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn’s new best friends have not been idle since.

It was widely suggested that the SP may have been involved in the Northern Ireland equivalent of Momentum.

It is hard to imagine what kind of “fraternal” work was possible with a group that is fanatically pro-Brexit was possible in Northern Ireland during the EU Referendum.

This is the kind of stuff they are coming out with now: Venezuela shows battle that would be faced by Corbyn government. Decisive break with capitalism needed (The Socialist. August 2017)

History shows – including in the drama now being played out in Venezuela – that piecemeal reforms irritate the capitalists but at the same time do not satisfy the demands of the working class for real change. The British and other ruling classes throughout the world are attempting to use Venezuela as a scarecrow to frighten the working class away from socialism.

They can only be defeated through the adoption of clear, fighting, socialist policies in Venezuela and in Britain.

We can assist the masses of Venezuela, and ourselves, by explaining similar ideas in Britain and exerting pressure on the labour movement for the Corbyn revolution to be completed, both in the internal battle to defeat the Blairite right and programmatically with measures which can really lead to a democratic and socialist Britain.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Venezuela: For the Left is Defence of Maduro, Dialogue or Criticism, the Answer?

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Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun !

This was on Newsnight yesterday: Evan Davis speaks to Juan Andrés Mejía, founding member and National Director of one of the main Venezuelan opposition parties, Popular Will (Voluntad Popular, a “centrist social democratic party”).

This statement has caused controversy and there is little doubt that many critics of it do so in bad faith.

I will restrict comment to one point.

If Macron has indeed called for dialogue in Venezuela, his appeal has not been widely reported in the French media.

A search reveals that he suggested that he offered his services in the role of mediator.  France’s Macron pushes for mediation role in Venezuela  4th of August. The French language media is pretty near silent on this but you can find that, “La lettre écrite de la main d’Emmanuel Macron a été envoyée le 5 juillet à Nicolas Maduro” – a letter written by Emmanuel Macron was sent on the 5th of July to Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela : Macron a envoyé une lettre à Maduro pour tenter d’aider le pays à sortir de la crise).

I may well be proved wrong but Le Monde certainly has not found this story worthy of recent coverage and there was certainly no major “call today” as the Corbyn statement suggests: here.

We wait for a reply from Maduro to Macron.

But, silence, Mr 5,7% has spoken.*

George Galloway ridicules Venezuela dictatorship claims: ‘They’ve won more elections than anyone in history’.

George Galloway has rubbished the idea that Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, saying the country’s Socialist regime has won more elections than any other regime in history.

The country’s constitution is to be redrawn following a recent election, and there are fears that President Nicolas Maduro will gain a raft of new powers – fears exacerbated by the recent arrest of two leading opposition activists.

Galloway told a caller that he was firmly opposed to dictatorship, saying “some of them work for a little while, none of them work for long,” while quoting Winston Churchill’s line that “democracy is the worst political system apart from all the others.”

Turning to the specific allegations against the Venezuelan regime, Galloway said “the government of Maduro, and before him Chavez, has won more elections than anybody in all of human history.

“If they’re dictators they’re the most elected dictators in the history of the world.”

George Galloway: Venezuela critics are just Blairites having a kick at Jeremy Corbyn.

Galloway said: “I keep hearing half-witted, uneducated pontificators who know nothing about the country, lecturing us on how Venezuela has taken such a wrong turn.

“When I heard the interview about it on this station, in this very studio room with Ken Livingstone, I realised we had to take a stand.

“What’s really going on here is not an attack on Maduro, who these pontificators had not heard of before last week, couldn’t identify his mug on a mugshot on a TV screen. This is another assault on Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour MPs, many of them admirers of Tony Blair, many of them supporters of the Iraq War, many of whom abstained on a three-line whip to ask for an inquiry into the selling of deadly weapons to the putrid dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, are demanding that Corbyn denounce his erstwhile friends in Venezuela.

“It’s enough to make you sick.”

Galloway went on to suggest that, “if only Venezuela had hired one of Tony Blair’s PR machines in London town, they might be in a better place as far as the British mainstream media is concerned.

“If only Venezuela, when it adopted its new constitution in the last couple of days, had chosen the Saudi Arabian constitution, all the Western countries would have loved it and would have been queuing up to sell it weapons. Prince Charles might have done a sword dance with President Maduro.”

Turning to the cause of the current crisis, Galloway said it has been “fuelled by the United States, not in the last few weeks or months but since 1998.

“Nineteen years the United States government and its secret agents have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan political protest.

 Skwawkbox can only agree, screaming yesterday that,

Rightist Labour MPs busted exploiting Venezuela for a shot at Corbyn.

As anyone who follows the news even tangentially will be well aware, the latest ‘weapon of mass desperation‘ used to attack Labour’s hugely-popular leader is a country. To feeble and flailing right-wing media and MPs, the complex troubles of a whole nation have been reduced to little more than a hammer to try to land a blow on Jeremy Corbyn.

But the new Venezuela APPG does little more than expose the motivations and lack of character of MPs who have joined it. Labour MPs Graham Jones, Angela Smith and John Spellar joined the group – but their former deputy leader spotted something interesting and called them out on it on Twitter.

Now this may well be true but when will people answer serious left-wing criticisms of the Venezuelan regime?

On the Venezuelan crisis

With the global fall in oil prices, Venezuela’s fifteen-year experiment in “petrol populism” seems to be winding to a close. Either the regime will collapse in short order, or it will maintain itself through increasingly bloody and repressive measures, as Maduro’s claim to represent the interests of the people grows even more tenuous. George Ciccariello-Maher, a seasoned apologist of Chavismo in the United States, writes in an article for Jacobin that the “enemies” are the ones who are out there “in the streets, burning and looting.” Socialists, he contends, should be supporting the recent state crackdown on the protesters, which has already left 130 or so dead.

One should read comrade Ross Wolfe’s full article on the Charnel-House, but this conclusion is important,

Socialists gain nothing by continuing to defend this bloated and incompetent regime. Even an oil-rich state like Venezuela cannot build “socialism in one country,” as the old Stalinist motto goes. Better to admit now what should have been obvious all along: Bolivarianism was a Revolution In Name Only, or #RINO for short (that acronym is still available, right?).

As Vincent Présumy puts it on his Blog carried by the highly respected French left site, Mediapart, in answer to those on the left who defend Maduro,

Ni l’expropriation du capital par les travailleurs organisés, ni la destruction de l’appareil d’Etat existant, n’ont jamais été à l’ordre-du-jour au Venezuela sous la direction de Chavez.

Neither the expropriation of capital by the organised workers, nor the destruction of the existing state apparatus, were ever on the cards in Venezuela under the Leadership of Chávez.

Présumy states,

La meilleure chose qui pourrait arriver au Venezuela, au contraire, serait une mobilisation indépendante de la classe ouvrière, des pauvres et des paysans, contre Maduro.

The best thing that could happen in Venezuela is, by contrast, an independent mobilisation of the working class, the poor and the peasantry, against Maduro.

Drawing to a conclusion he comments,

Le problème principal, à gauche et dans le mouvement ouvrier, est l’absence de mobilisation en défense du peuple vénézuélien et donc contre Maduro. Se répète l’expérience accablante et tragique de l’Ukraine et surtout de la Syrie.

The main problem on the left and in the workers’ movement, is the absence of a mobilisation in defence of the Venezuelan people, and therefore against Maduro. This is a repetition of the horrifying experience we saw with the Ukraine and above all with Syria.

 

A propos du Venezuela  7th of August,

*********

* 2017.  Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

Support the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

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We are Labour members and supporters united in our commitment to defending and extending the free movement of people in the context of the debate around Brexit.

The UK is at a crossroads in its relationship to the rest of the world, and so is our party. Immigrants and free movement are being scapegoated by a political and economic elite that is subjecting ordinary people to cuts and austerity. During the greatest refugee crisis in recent years, the Tories have responded with brutality and detention centres.

Labour should respond with clarity, humanity and solidarity. We fought the last General Election arguing against such scapegoating, and celebrating the contributions of migrants to our society. That tone must now translate into policy.

Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services. These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe. On the contrary, migrant workers have been on the front line of fighting for better pay and working conditions. Labour is the party of all working people – regardless of where they were born.

A system of free movement is the best way to protect and advance the interests of all workers, by giving everyone the right to work legally, join a union and stand up to their boss without fear of deportation or destitution. Curtailing those rights, or limiting migrants’ access to public services and benefits, will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to hyper-exploit migrant labour, which in turn undermines the rights and conditions of all workers.

Free movement enhances everyone’s rights. There are more than a million UK citizens living in the EU, and millions more who may enjoy the right to do so. UK workers in the EU have access to benefits, healthcare and other public services. Tens of thousands of UK students study abroad each year under ERASMUS schemes. UK and European citizens have the automatic right to family reunion.

Labour must build a society for the many, not the few. We need well-paid, secure jobs for all, with guaranteed hours, collective bargaining and stronger, freer trade unions. We need a policy of massive investment in council housing, public services and infrastructure. And we need to tell the truth about who and what is to blame for the crisis: an unaccountable elite who have run the economy in their own narrow interests. Ending free movement would be counterproductive to achieving all of this.

List of signatories.

More information: Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

This important initiative  has been signaled by Shiraz Socialist. We hope it gets the widest possible support.

Labour MPs Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Geraint Davies have joined trade union leaders in backing a new Labour campaign for free movement. (New Statesman.)

Their participation in the campaign underlines the tension between the Labour party’s official line that free movement will end after Brexit, and the theory expounded by many leading Labour politicians that migration has forced down wages.

The MPs were joined by the MEP Lucy Anderson, Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes, National Executive Committee members Ann Black and Darren Williams, and the leaders of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.

Cortes said: “We are fully committed to challenging and fighting unscrupulous bosses who exploit EU migrants. We put the blame firmly on the perpetrators not the victims. We strongly believe that free movement enriches our society.”

A statement from The Labour Campaign for Free Movement said: “Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services.  These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe.”

BBC report:  New campaign urges Labour to back free movement

Guardian report: Labour MPs ask Corbyn to commit to free movement post-Brexit

The Sun says, “The move would be in defiance of the referendum result – as the British Social Attitudes Survey found the main reason people voted to leave was due to concerns over uncontrolled immigration from the EU.”

Comment: 

Will this call be supported by everybody on the left.

In 2016 (September, Socialism Today. No 201) the Socialist Party said this on free movement,

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.

It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

How many others wish to create a form of “closed shop” against free movement remains to be seen.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm

The Tragedy of Venezuela, Michael Roberts: How Should the Left Respond?

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The Morning Star reports,

LABOUR MP Graham Jones declares that he would have “gone further” than shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes’s criticism of Venezuela.

McInnes had urged “the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law.”

She demanded a response to concerns expressed by the “international community” about supposed authoritarianism and very real hardships affecting Venezuela’s people. This is presumably the US-led “international community” rather than regional states such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba that have declared solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Jones, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, advised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he must make a statement “at some point” and told frontbencher Chris Williamson that “he’s backing the wrong side.”

Several Labour MPs, including Corbyn, and many unions support the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, but Jones wants “everybody in the Labour Party (to) condemn the Venezuelan regime” for not looking after its citizens. His colleague Angela Smith asks Corbyn to condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s government as “a very serious threat to democracy in that country.”

If Williamson is on the “wrong side,” it follows that Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who all attacked Corbyn for his silence, while on holiday, over Venezuela, must be on the right side.

What would the Morning Star say about this?

Michael Roberts Blog

Blogging from a marxist economist

The tragedy of Venezuela

As the Maduro regime tries to impose its new Constituent Assembly as a rival or replacement of the existing Venezuelan Congress and arrests the leaders of the pro-capitalist opposition, the dire economic and social situation in the country continues to worsen.

According to the IMF, Venezuela’s GDP in 2017 is 35% below 2013 levels, or 40% in per capita terms. That is a significantly sharper contraction than during the 1929-1933 Great Depression in the US, when US GDP is estimated to have fallen 28%. It is slightly bigger than the decline in Russia (1990-1994), Cuba (1989-1993), and Albania (1989-1993), but smaller than that experienced by other former Soviet States at the time of transition, such as Georgia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine, or war-torn countries such as Liberia (1993), Libya (2011), Rwanda (1994), Iran (1981), and, most recently, South Sudan.

So, on this measure, according to Ricardo Haussman, former chief economist of Inter-American Development Bank, Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the US, Western Europe or the rest of Latin America.

Back in 2013, I warned that the achievements of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ under Chavez were seriously under threat.  Chavez had improved the conditions of the poorest with increased wages, social services and reduced inequality.  But these improvements were only possible within the confines of capitalist economy by using the revenues of oil exports at a time of very high global oil prices.  But oil prices started to mark time and have virtually halved in the last two years.

Oil exports fell by $2,200 per capita from 2012 to 2016, of which $1,500 was due to the decline in oil prices.  The Maduro government started to rack up huge foreign debts to try and sustain living standards.  Venezuela is now the world’s most indebted country. No country has a larger public external debt as a share of GDP or of exports, or faces higher debt service as a share of exports.

More,

The minimum wage – which in Venezuela is also the income of the median worker, owing to the large share of minimum-wage earners – declined by 75% (in constant prices) from May 2012 to May 2017.  Measured in the cheapest available calorie, the minimum wage declined from 52,854 calories per day to just 7,005 during the same period, a decline of 86.7% and insufficient to feed a family of five, assuming that all the income is spent to buy the cheapest calorie. With their minimum wage, Venezuelans could buy less than a fifth of the food that traditionally poorer Colombians could buy with theirs.

Income poverty increased from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by Venezuela’s three most prestigious universities. The same study found that 74% of Venezuelans involuntarily lost an average of 8.6 kilos (19 pounds) in weight. The Venezuelan Health Observatory reports a ten-fold increase in in-patient mortality and a 100-fold increase in the death of newborns in hospitals in 2016.

Importantly,

Before Chavez, most Venezuelans were desperately poor after a series of right-wing capitalist governments.  But now once again, under Maduro, this is the situation for the poor and the majority of the Venezuelan working class.  No wonder support for the Maduro government has subsided while the forces of reaction grow stronger.  While the majority struggle, many at the top of the Maduro government are as comfortable as the Venezuelan capitalists and their supporters who are trying to bring the government down.

The Maduro government is now relying increasingly not on the support of the working class but on the armed forces.  And the government looks after them well.  The military can buy in exclusive markets (for example, on military bases), have privileged access to loans and purchases of cars and departments, and have received substantial salary increases. They have also won lucrative contracts, exploiting exchange controls and subsidies, for example, selling cheap gasoline purchased in neighboring countries with huge profits.

As Rolando Asturita has pointed out in a series of posts.  the army has strong direct economic power, since the FANB directs and controls a whole series of companies: the bank BANFANB; AGROFANB, for agriculture; EMILTRA, transport; EMCOFANB, company communications systems of the FANB; TVFANB, an open digital TV channel; TECNOMAR, a mixed military technology projects company; FIMNP, an investment fund; CONSTRUFANB, constructor; CANCORFANB, Bolivarian Mixed Company; Water Tiuna, water bottling plant; And then there is CAMINPEG, the anonymous military, mining and oil and gas company.

Many of the Maduro government elite have used the economic crisis to their own personal benefit.  They have bought up government debt for rich returns, while at the same time ensuring that there is no default, all at the expense of falling living standards for the people who must pay this debt through taxes and foregone oil revenues.  Foreign exchange earmarked for the payment of foreign debt has been offset by the reduction of imports of food, medicines or essential industrial inputs.

Robert’s concludes,

What went wrong with the laudable aims of Chavismo? Could this tragedy been avoided? Well, yes, if the Chavista revolution had not stopped at less than halfway, leaving the economy still predominantly in the control of capital.  Instead, the Chavista and Maduro governments relied on high oil prices and huge oil reserves to reduce poverty, while failing to transform the economy through productive investment, state ownership and planning.  Between 1999 and 2012 the state had an income of $383bn from oil, due not only to the improvement in prices, but also to the increase in the royalties paid by the transnationals. However, this income was not used transform the productive sectors of the economy.  Yes, some was used to improve the living standards of the most impoverished masses. But there was no plan for investment and growth.  Venezuelan capital was allowed to get on with it – or not as the case may be.  Indeed, the share of industry in GDP fell from 18% of GDP in 1998 to 14% in 2012.

Now the right-wing ‘free marketeers’ tell us that this shows ‘socialism’ does not work and there is no escape from the rigors of the market.  But the history of the last ten years is not the failure of ‘socialism’ or planning, it is the failure to end the control of capital in a weak (an increasingly isolated) capitalist country with apparently only one asset, oil.  There was no investment in the people, their skills, no development of new industries and the raising of technology – that was left to the capitalist sector.  Contrast that with ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, albeit in the largest country and now economy in the world.

Just over a year ago, I argued in a post that, to save the aims of Chavismo, “it is probably too late, as the forces of reaction gain ground every day in the country.  It seems that we await only the decision of the army to change sides and oust the Chavistas.” 

 Left critics of Maduro:

Criticizing Venezuela from the Left. ANDRÉS FELIPE PARRA 30 May 2017  Open Democracy. 

Venezuela, increasingly, resembles today’s liberal democracies, where institutions are becoming formal appendages of the power of the markets and securitization. Español

Venezuela and the Left.

RAFAEL UZCÁTEGUI.  May the 3rd.

The human rights situation in Venezuela is getting worse. Fortunately, some on the Left are deciding to speak up. Español 

Just after the Sunday vote this declaration came out from a small Trotskyist group.

¡Contra el fraude constituyente redoblemos la movilización! ¡Fuera Maduro!  (Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores – Cuarta Internacional).

El gobierno hambreador, corrupto y represivo de Maduro, consumó el pasado domingo un gigantesco fraude en alianza con el CNE.

Au Venezuela, ce sont les travailleurs qui ont le droit de dire à Maduro : dégage !  30th of July.

Against Venezuela’s authoritarian turn . May 3, 2017

On May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro signed an executive order to form a Constituent National Assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. Predictably, Maduro’s right-wing opponents howled about a lack of respect for democratic rights and procedures, which they themselves routinely violated in seeking the overthrow of Chavismo.

But many on the left see the latest move by the ruling Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) to consolidate its power as a dangerous further lurch toward authoritarianism. Here, we reprint a March 29 statement by Marea Socialista , which joined the PSUV when it was founded in 2007 by the late President Huge Chávez, but left it in 2015 in protest of the course set for the party by Maduro. The statement by Marea Socialista’s National Operations Team was first published in Spanish at the Aporrea website and appears here in a version edited by Todd Chretien of the English translation published at the Portal de la Izquierda website.

How should the Labour Party respond?

Two Views:

Jeremy Corbyn will be on the right side of history – if he condemns Venezuela’s left-wing leaders. James Bloodworth. New Statesman

The country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

The demand that a politician “condemn” something is usually an exercise in political performance. It typically has no measurable impact beyond a minor point scoring exercise. But calls for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the government in Venezuela are different in one important respect.

On seemingly good terms with the government of Nicolás Maduro, Corbyn’s words may actually carry weight in Venezuela. This is a matter of some importance when the country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

…..

Demanding an apology from those who did not see the true nature of the Venezuelan government earlier on would be self-indulgent. It is also, for many, wildly hypocritical. Britain sells weapons to Saudi Arabia after all, another brutal dictatorship. Those getting on their high horse about Venezuela include admirers of Margaret Thatcher, whose relationship with Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet makes Corbyn’s relationship with the Venezuelan leadership look decidedly frosty.

Yet Corbyn, who engaged in a cordial conversation with President Maduro over the telephone in 2014 for the television show En Contacto con Maduro, arguably has it in his power to influence developments in Venezuela. However small his influence might be, he ought to be calling publicly for the release of the political prisoners López and Ledezma.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn like to say that their man has always come down on the “right side of history”. If this is to mean anything at all, then it should also mean speaking out against the abuses committed by one’s own side.

 A different approach is offered here:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Socialist Party Stunt : ‘Ana Key’ – ’11 Votes’ Ellen Kenyon Peers – is expelled from Labour Party.

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The Socialist Party, formerly the Militant, today condemned Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft for reporting a local student to the police – over an art project which proposes socialist policies.

The party – which has stood candidates against the Labour Party – continued in its  official paper,

Socialist Party member Ellen Kenyon Peers, the art student in question, has now been expelled from the Labour Party over the project.

Ana Key ‘represents’ the currently non-existent south London constituency of Deptford and Greenwich for the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Her website includes proposals for building new council homes, capping private rents and making roads safer for cyclists.

Anybody wishing to continue reading can learn that,

The Socialist Party’s forerunner, the Militant Tendency, had three MPs who were known for their active backing for local and national campaigning.

Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall only took the average wage of a skilled worker in their constituency, and donated the rest of their salaries to workers’ struggles. They also used their parliamentary positions as platforms to build these campaigns.

Although Ana Key is a personal art project, not solicited by the Socialist Party or TUSC, the attention it has drawn to socialist politics is welcome.

The Socialist.

It is clear that the Labour Member saw her creation as a member of a rival party, called the Socialist Party.

Ana Key:
First Socialist Party MP
Elected to Westminster

You voted for change on June 8th!

Huffington Post takes up the tale,

Student Ellen Kenyon Peers Who Posed As Fake Socialist MP ‘Ana Key’ Expelled From Labour Party

A university student who was reported to the police for posing as a fake socialist MP as part of an art project has been kicked out of the Labour Party.

Goldsmiths University student Ellen Kenyon Peers sparked uproar on Tuesday after it was revealed she had passed herself off as the newly elected MP for Deptford and Greenwich – a constituency which is set to be created in the next election.

The 24-year-old – who called herself Ana Key – was accused of running a fake Twitter account where she offered help to constituents, using House of Commons headed paper for correspondence and creating a website to list fake constituency surgeries.

Foxcroft told the Telegraph: “As an MP I deal with thousands of constituents with emergency cases, some of them about very serious issues on housing or immigration.

The Story continues,

In 2014, the student stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward election, winning 11 votes.”

Yet,

But in 2015 Peers went on to join the Labour Party, signing up after Jeremy Corbyn became leader. She now claims she has been expelled from the party.

She told the Evening Standard she has received a “standard legal letter” from Labour HQ cancelling her membership on the grounds she had written for the Socialist Party and stood for election on a “hard-Left ticket”.

Peers, who says she comes from a “traditional Labour-supporting family”, said: “My mum and dad were quite upset that I have been expelled from Labour.”

However, she claims that she has not been contacted by the police or Parliament over her stunt.

A Labour spokesperson confirmed that Peers is no longer a member of the party.

The student at the posh London University has yet to comment further.

But Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe,  tweeted: “The reason we have to #DefendAnaKey is because this imaginary character makes a better MP than the local one, Vicky Pollard or something…”

This  looks decidedly unfunny,

A previous art project of the Socialist Party drew national attention.

Socialist candidate who was left red-faced after getting NO VOTES at last week’s local elections is demanding a re-count – after saying he “definitely” voted for himself.

Paul Dennis, who stood for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Rainham North ward in the Medway Council elections in Kent, was left “baffled” at the count when the announcer revealed he had not got any votes at all.

The Socialist Party is best known on the left for its fanatical support for Brexit and for ending the free movement of labour,

Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU.

What ‘free movement’ exists in the EU is used to allow big business to exploit a cheap supply of labour in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of low pay, zero-hour contacts and poor employment conditions.

Any EU citizen with problems about the end of free movement would be well advised to steer clear of such an ‘MP’.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 2, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Gilad Atzmon Resurfaces, to Protests Against Antisemitism.

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https://i0.wp.com/bedfordandbowery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/053.jpg

New York Protest at Atzmon this May.

Gilad Atzmon is a ‘controversial’ figure.

Wikipedia notes, “The Community Security Trust report on antisemitic discourse in the UK published in November 2012, but reviewing the previous year, describes Atzmon as increasingly regarded among anti-Zionists as an unwelcome antisemite:

Atzmon’s analysis of Jewish history, identity and culture introduces an unusually explicit and quite new antisemitism into far left-wing politics. Leading Jewish anti-Zionist figures have denounced Atzmon as an antisemite. Most anti-Zionists have followed suit and now also condemn Atzmon, but some factional splits have occurred due to a minority of activists defending him

This just about the sums up the position of anti-racists in the UK:

Nick Lowles writes at Hope Not Hate.

GILAD ATZMON: Supporting Holocaust Deniers and spreading hatred of Jews

Our decision to ask Raise Your Banners to withdraw its invitation to Gilad Atzmon has caused a lot of controversy from his small, but very vocal, band of supporters. In all the years of writing this blog I don’t think I have received as many abusive and angry emails as I have over this issue, though it must be stressed that many of the emails are from the same two or three people.

I’m sticking to my position – namely that Gilad Atzmon flirts with Holocaust Denial, has supported Holocaust Deniers and is a racist antisemite. I will not be bullied or threatened into silence. HOPE not hate stands for decency, tolerance and equality. I will speak up against racism and antisemtism just as I will campaign against fascism and anti-Muslim prejudice.

Gilad Atzmon supports Holocaust deniers and claims that the established history of the Holocaust is misleading. He attacks Jewish identity in a way that would clearly be recognised as racist if it were about any other minority identity, and claims that because of how Jews behave, in the future people might think Hitler was right about Jews. He tells crude antisemitic jokes and mocks any concerns about antisemitism.

Much of the criticism against our position stems from those who believe that we are part of some Zionist plot which seeks to silence criticism of Israel. Nothing can be further from the truth. To me, this has nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine conflict but merely opposition to a man who makes racist and antisemtic comments.

While pretty much universally despised in Europe ‘controversial’ writer Gilad Atzmon still has fans amongst the US ‘left’.

As one would except his popularity has been high in the past with the  ‘Wise guys’ of  Counterpunch, who like ‘low down’ on ‘Zionism’.

On Gilad Atzmon’s “The Definitive Israeli Lexicon”  (May the 22nd 2015.

Infamous for his earlier book, “The Wandering Who?: A Study in Jewish Identity Politics” (2011), Gilad Atzmon has collaborated with Italian cartoonist and interior designer, Enzo Apicella to produce “The Definitive Israeli Lexicon, A to Zion”.

Since the publication of “The Wandering Who?” Atzmon has been vilified and dragged through the mud of slander by the Jewish/Israeli establishment, accused of anti-Semitism and being a self-hating Jew.

Please, run out and buy a copy of this book. It will knock a hole in all your prejudices.

Earlier this year (May) this took place in New York,

Clash Over Anti-Semitism as Controversial Speaker Gilad Atzmon Appears at Theatre 80.

They weren’t wearing black masks or hurling smoke bombs. But a small group of no more than 20 anti-fascists made it clear Sunday afternoon that they strongly opposed the appearance of British jazz saxophonist and author Gilad Atzmon at a panel discussion on politics after Brexit held late yesterday afternoon in Theatre 80 on St. Marks Place.

“Jew-Haters [get] out of the East Village,” blared a leaflet handed out by local journalist Bill Weinberg, a leftwing anarchist who writes a blog called New Jewish Resistance. His leaflet describes Atzmon, who was born in Israel and served as a medic in the Israel Defense Forces, as a “proud self-hating Jew” who allegedly traffics in anti-Semitism and has made a career out of “legitimizing hatred.”

..These people are a bunch of a racist assholes!” shouted one demonstrator, apparently referring to attendees who had paid $10 to hear Atzmon speak with three other panelists, including radical leftwing lawyer Stanley Cohen.

..

Cohen added that any attempt to repress speech is “an invitation to violence.” He said there’s a “growing repression” worldwide that now includes some people on the “insular Left” who are, he said, “attempting to dictate the dialog and to shut down the marketplace of ideas. That’s called fascism.”

The fiery lawyer also claimed without substantiation that there had been “discussions” before the demonstration to shut down the panel, possibly create violence and exact “economic punishment” on Theatre 80, allegations which Weinberg, one of the organizers of the protest, said was news to him.

For his part, Atzmon read passages from his book and railed against “the tyranny of political correctness,” sometimes drawing laughter from attendees–especially when he declared that Archie Bunker of the TV series from decades past was a beloved show that created a kind of cultural revolution eventually leading to the election of Donald Trump.

In an opinion piece Bill Weinberg explained why he had got to the point of  protesting against Atzmon,

While Atzmon and his defenders hide behind “anti-Zionism” (or “criticism of Jewish culture”), he has been roundly condemned by legitimate anti-Zionists. Please read the US Palestinian Community Network statement, “A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon.

Jewish anti-Zionists such as myself are committed to making common cause with the Palestinians and fighting anti-Semitism in the diaspora rather than rallying around a settler state. That’s why picketing Theatre 80 is my responsibility.

This is the above call,

Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon

Bearing these events in mind the following call was circulated yesterday,

Holocaust denier and neo nazi supporter Gilad Atzmon is still due to perform at 2 venues in London this Wednesday and Thursday. If you prefer your jazz without a side of fascism, contact the venues today and ask them to cancel the gigs. If you’re a local to either hackney or camberwell, why not stop by?

http://www.jazzlive.co.uk/contact.html
http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/contact-us/

For those who might say ‘what’s wrong with him playing a saxophone’ – 1)No platform for nazi supporting holocaust deniers. Ever. 2) Atzmon uses his gigs to promote his views. He advertises them side by side on the same website. His success as a musician gives him a platform that he would not otherwise have, a platform that he more recently seems to be using to network with prominent, dangerous nazis. He does not keep his musical and political careers separate, so why should we.

This is  Atzmon’s reply today (Tuesday the 1st of August)

Zion Declares War on British Jazz

Back in the day, my detractors at least attempted to encounter my arguments and debate me. They didn’t get too far. Since the publication of my new book Being in Time: a Post-Political Manifesto, they have changed their tactics: they insist on obliterating my international jazz career.

Earlier today, a book shop in Oxford that regularly hosts my concerts posted the attached letter (see below) to my Facebook page. The Oxford venue received the letter from the ultra-Zionist Campaign Against Antisemitsm (CAA). The CAA letter is blatantly and intentionally defamatory and duplicitous.

The CAA and other Zionist institutions have been busy subjecting every British jazz venue that features my music to intense harassment. It is no secret that Zionism has been destroying Palestine, its people and its culture for decades. However, eradicating British culture and British jazz in particular may be taking this carnage one step too far.

A number of the British promoters, venues and festivals who received a copy of this defamatory letter against me attempted to investigate the CAA’s accusations and have found the allegations to be baseless, delusional and duplicitous. By way of illustration, the band I am touring with at the moment is led by a NY Jewish musician and the bass player is an ex- Israeli: not exactly a ‘Neo-Nazi’ quartet.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm