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Taiwan and China. Left Responses. Controversy over Campism shown in France by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s response.

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Across Europe Chinese sabre-rattling against Taiwan has met with different responses on the left.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader (without a Parliamentary seat) of La France insoumise, and part of the left alliance, NUPES, created controversy in France with this statement.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon calls Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit an American ‘provocation’.

Le Monde (English edition) 5th of August.

Amid tensions between Taipei and Beijing, La France Insoumise (LFI) leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon called the US House Speaker’s trip to Taiwan a “provocation,” saying in a blog post published on Wednesday, August 3 that “there is only one China.”

Nancy Pelosi’s initiative, taken as part of an Asian tour, is seen by China as support for Taiwanese independence advocates and a reneging on the US pledge not to have official relations with the island.Read more Pulling the tiger’s tail: Nancy Pelosi’s dangerous Taiwan trip

In his post, Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote that “Taiwan is a fully-fledged component of China,” using a term used by the Beijing regime but rejected by the Taipei authorities.

….

Chinese Embassy thanks Mélenchon

“The Chinese will solve the problem among themselves. There is no other reasonable outcome possible,” said Mr. Mélenchon, accusing the United States of wanting to “open a new front.” This is not a new position for Mr. Mélenchon, who in 2021 rejected the idea of a “cold war with China” when discussing a proposal for a resolution in the Assemblée Nationale in favor of Taiwan being included in the work of international organizations.

In the evening, the Chinese embassy in France tweeted to thank Jean-Luc Melenchon “for his consistent support for the one-China policy.”

After immediate fall-out from this statement Melenchon buckled down,

Taiwan: Jean-Luc Mélenchon defends his position despite criticism

Le Monde (translation from French editions)

The leader of La France insoumise described Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a “provocation” and reiterated that “there [was] only one China”, triggering strong criticism, particularly in the within the left-wing Nupes alliance.

Within the left-wing alliance Nupes, the national secretary of Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV), Julien Bayou, had denounced Friday “a rather dated vision” and “a real cynicism in terms of geopolitics” on the part of Mr. Mélenchon, while the head of the Socialist Party (PS), Olivier Faure, judged that if “the advisability of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan [was] debatable, the will of the Taiwanese to live in a democracy is not not” .

There were also sharp criticisms from  Raphaël Glucksmann who accused the chief of La France insoumise of being guided purely and simply by « l’antiaméricanisme ».

This is untrue. Melenchon has a long history of ambiguous statements about the Chinese Communist Party social chauvinist imperialists, hostility to Tibet’s Dalí Lama, and even saying that France had much to learn from the Chinese ‘planned’ economic model, for its state directed development).

There has been some serious unpicking of Mélenchon’s statements, notably in Libération:

Mélenchon et Taiwan: «Dire que les Chinois règleront le problème entre eux est un contre-sens»

Interview with China specialist Antoine Bondaz.

I generously translate this as saying Mélenchon’s claim that the Chinese will settle this problems between themselves is a load of bollocks.

If the leader of the French Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, has also condemned the “provocation” of the Pelosi visit some of the radical left have taken a different position on Taiwan.

Campism (France): Mélenchon’s blindness on China rekindles tensions on the left.

Campisme (France) : L’aveuglement de Mélenchon sur la Chine ravive les tensions à gauche.

August 5, 2022,by BOUGON François , DEJEAN Mathieu Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.

….asking the question of the advisability of such a visit does not mean that one should line up behind the propaganda of the People’s Republic of China in the name of an anti-Americanism inherited from the struggles of the Cold War.

It is indeed to ignore the voice of the Taiwanese who, in their vast majority, reject the “Chinese model” of Xi – the omnipotence of the Party-State, repression at all costs and Han nationalism – , which runs counter to what Taiwanese society has become since the democratisation of the 1980s.

The radical left party Ensemble! (Not to be confused with Macron’s coalition, which stole its name), which has 4 MPs as an ally of La France insoumise in the French National Assembly, has issued this statement:

Défendre les droits du peuple taïwanais 8th of August.

Press Release.

The political and military tensions around Taiwan are the result of Beijing’s stated desire to reintegrate Taiwan, in the name of the “one China” principle, without any consideration for what the Taiwanese people want, attached as they are to their democratic freedoms.

Without even mentioning the ferocious repression of which the Uighur and Tibetan peoples are victims, we must recall the precedent of Hong Kong. The way in which its people have seen themselves brutally repressed and deprived of their democratic rights – in total disregard of the commitments made by the Chinese authorities (“one country, two systems”) – testifies to what the Chinese dictatorial regime is planning to do with regard to Taiwan.

If we can discuss the appropriateness of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, this subject can in no way eclipse the necessary solidarity with the Taiwanese people, respect for their right to self-determination and opposition to any aggression. aimed at prohibiting them from deciding their destiny independently.

On the British left the Stop the War Coalition published this piece by Jenny Clegg a backer of “Anglo Chinese understanding”, ” interested in a “multipolar world”, “China’s unique contributions to Marxism”, and a supporter of the No Cold War campaign.

PELOSI’S TRIP TO TAIWAN THREATENS WAR WITH CHINA

Taiwan is portrayed in the West as a semi-independent democracy threatened by China’s expansionist autocracy; China however sees the island, just one hundred miles from its shores, as kept separate by external backing, its political system permeated by US interests.

For China, it is a matter of sovereignty, reunification its core issue pursued consistently over 70-plus years so as to close the last chapter on its history of imperialist domination.

Taiwan was taken by Japan in 1895 following its defeat of China. At this time China was being divided into spheres of influence by the imperialist powers. However, after the 8 year anti-Japanese war of resistance (1937-1945) which cost some 15-20 million Chinese lives, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed, in recognition of Chinese contribution to the WW2 victory, that Taiwan would be returned to the mainland.

Even if a crisis is averted this time, the US has clearly begun serious planning for a conflict with China. Those hapless ignoramuses who pass as our political leaders are buffeted this way and that amidst the vagaries of US politics: the decoupling that should be taking place right now is between our policymakers and the US warmongers.

If anybody cared what the StWC said this might have created a media controversy.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2022 at 10:37 am

Nichelle Nichols, Lt Uhura in Star Trek, dies aged 89: Science Fiction and the Left.

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Nichelle Nicols, Lt Uhura has passed away. (Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt Uhura in original Star Trek, dies aged 89). There are many tributes today to the greatly loved actress. “She died of natural causes on Saturday night, her son Kyle Johnson said. In a statement posted on Facebook, Mr Johnson wrote: “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.””Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.” (BBC)

Few reports do not highlight that in the episode Plato’s Stepchildren (1968), Nicols shared one of the first lip-to-lip interracial kisses on television – with co-star William Shatner, Captain Kirk. This remains important. In Britain, to cite what is thought to be one of the first such embraces broadcast, there was a kiss between Lloyd Reckord and Andrée Melly in the ITV Armchair Theatre adaptation of Ted Willis’s play Hot Summer Night, shown on 1 February 1959. 

The Guardian comments that Star Trek had wider intentions, “Its multicultural, multiracial cast was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the far-off future, the 23rd century, human diversity would be fully accepted.”

In the US Star Trek has long been described ‘left liberal’. The creator of the series, Gene Rodenberry, stood for racial and sexual equality, and is perhaps best called liberal humanist. In Bread and Circuses of the Original Series the slaves who believe in universal brotherhood are revealed at the conclusion to worship the Son of God .

The left side of the franchise, as it has developed over the years, has grown. There is a vision of a future in which parts of the populated universe (such as the United Federation of Planets in times of peace) have conquered scarcity. This is Marx’s premise for a communist society “an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”. Money is not used in the Federation. Yet the Ferengi (prominent in Deep Space Nine), live by the “Rules of acquisition”,  where earning profit, Accumulate! defines their patriarchal lives. On the space station Deep Space Nine, where cash is used, one, Ferengi, Rom, sets up a bar trade union to strike against his own proprietor brother Quark – at one point shouting Workers of the World Unite! (Bar Association).

There is a loss of diversity in these distant days. In a moment of sadness Captain Jean-Luc Picard, born in La Barre France, in The Next Generation series, tries to defend the French language, which has become obscure in the 24th century. A greater challenge to the socialised pluralist future come from the Borg, cybernetic organisms. Their Hive Mind, the Collective, is bent on assimilating cultures, technologies and all transform other species into drones. In Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg Queen is more than the expression of the group. She is in command, a kind of non-ego totalitarian Leader.

Some people have the theory that Star Trek is created with extra-terrestrial help. By showing these dramas the aim is to get us used to life in the rest of the galaxy before Warp Drive is introduced.

Science fiction has a long association with politics. A founder of modern science fiction, “scientific romances” H.G. Wells was a socialist. Many people have grown up with his novels and ideas taking from them a sense of optimism about the potential of science and the future analogous to the Second International’s belief in the onward march of the labour movement, or the Fabian ‘inevitability of gradualness’. Now the beliefs that the left is “swimming with the tide” and the “concept of progress” do not often appear. Wells himself offered less than optimistic pictures of the years to come, from Eloi and Morlocks in The Time Machine (1895) to the class struggle that erupts in a world two hundred and three years hence ruled by the oligarchy of the White Council in The Sleeper Awakes (1910). The author also had a not necessarily progressive interest in inter-racial sex. In 1910 he visited a Washington DC black brothel in 1906 (The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World. Claire Tomalin. 2021).

Amongst contemporary left-wing science fiction writers Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) stands out. Her The Dispossessed (1974) is a memorable work, describing warring capitalist and state socialist societies on Urras, and an anarchist syndicalist utopia on the moon Anarres. China Tom Miéville, formerly active in the Socialist Workers Party  and a member of the Royal Society of Literature, is best known for his compelling Bas-Lag series. In these books the heroic underground newspaper the Runagate Rampant battling the vicious rulers of  New Crobuzon is believed to be modelled on Socialist Worker.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Conspiracy on Cato Street. Vic Gattrell. Review.

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Conspiracy on Cato Street. A Tale of Liberty and Revolution in Regency London. Vic Gattrell.

The Three Graves

by Charles Lamb

Close by the ever-burning brimstone beds
Where Bedloe, Oates and Judas, hide their heads,
I saw great Satan like a Sexton stand
With his intolerable spade in hand,
Digging three graves. Of coffin shape they were,
For those who, coffinless, must enter there
With unblest rites. The shrouds were of that cloth
Which Clotho weaveth in her blackest wrath:
The dismal tinct oppress’d the eye, that dwelt
Upon it long, like darkness to be felt.
The pillows to these baleful beds were toads,
Large, living, livid, melancholy loads,
Whose softness shock’d. Worms of all monstrous size
Crawl’d round; and one, upcoil’d, which never dies.
A doleful bell, inculcating despair,
Was always ringing in the heavy air.
And all about the detestable pit
Strange headless ghosts, and quarter’d forms, did flit,
Rivers of blood, from living traitors spilt,
By treachery stung from poverty to guilt.
I ask’d the fiend, for whom these rites were meant?
“These graves,” quoth he, “when life’s brief oil is spent,
When the dark night comes, and they’re sinking bedwards,
—I mean for Castles, Oliver, and Edwards.”

In 1820 group of ultra radicals in London began planning insurrection. They had talked of “massacring the House of Commons en masse but decided against it” – their neither had the ammunition nor did they wish to kill the innocent alongside the Ministers. By February, meeting in a “mean and ruinous” building in Cato Street, off the Edgeware Road, they had decided on a plan. Around twenty five impecunious men would descend on Lord Harrowby’s mansion in Grosvenor Square where Lord Liverpool’s privy councillors were said to be supping. Armed with pikes, pistols, swords and artisanal grenades they would “murder all they found” in the dining room, The heads of lords Castlereagh and Sidmouth would be removed, stuck on pike-heads, and carried around London. After attacks on Barracks, the Bank of England, Newgate Prison and the Tower of London they would assemble a provisional government in Mansion House.

The plot was undone, Bow Street constables followed, eventually, by Coldstream Guards raided the Cato Street redoubt. A shootout followed. Constable Smithers was felled by a sword thrust by Arthur Thistlewood. Most of the assembly was taken, with some conspirators escaping in the mêlée, to be hunted down in the following weeks. “All England rung with astonishment and horror at this dreadful instance of atrocious depravity..” exclaimed Lord Sidmouth, the instigator of the 1819 Six Acts, “curbing radical journals and meeting as well as the danger of armed insurrection” passed in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre.

Radicals of more measured stripe, dismissed the plans for massacre and a London uprising. such as the radical essayist Leigh Hunt (who had served time in Surrey County Gaol in 1813 to 1815 for seditious libel, describing Prince Regent George “a violator of his word and a disreputable libertine”) showed a degree of understanding. He called the conspirators, “paupers driven by desperation in unconstitutional times”. Yet the wars with France and Napoleon, Gattrell states, had left a large number of dissatisfied people, often in dire economic straits, familiar with the use of weapons, including a number of those caught in the Mews Ally. The fears of the ruling oligarchy, even if ‘loyal’ people seemed numerous, had some basis in the military potential of the poor, working, causally employed, or destitute.

Many more were, as the Charles Lamb poem (“written during the time, now happily forgotten, of the spy system”) illustrates, revolted by the state surveillance and manipulation that spawned Castles, Oliver, and Edwards. The agent provocateur George Edwards had come to the would-be insurrectionists’ meeting venue at Fox Court off Gray’s Inn Road to report on a planted advertisement in the Tory paper New Times announcing the Grosvenor Grand Cabinet Dinner. They went and got a copy. They took the bait. When it was read with “great hilarity”. One present, John Brunt, a badly off shoe-maker, exulted that the event brought together “all the ministers for us to murder them”. The spy-cop reported their violent plans, adding to an already thick dossier on their words and intentions. The Trial brought out other informers and turncoat witnesses.

The trial was short; the sentences were memorable. On 28 April most of the accused were sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered for high treason. The death sentences of Charles Cooper, Richard Bradburn, John Harrison, James Wilson and John Strange were commuted to transportation for life. Arthur Thistlewood, Richard Tidd, James Ings, William Davidson and John Brunt were hanged at Newgate Prison on the morning of 1 May 1820 “the rooms and windows overlooking the scaffold were rented by monied people for two or three guineas each”. William Davidson prayed, wept and admitted his culpable infamy. “Four of the Cato street men had enough spirit enough on the scaffold to show their contempt for the aristocracy that was set to kill them”. One of the condemned, Ings, shouted “let it be known that I die an enemy to all tyrants!”

The story of the Cato Street has been told before. It is not the case that it has been consigned by leftist or other historians to the “dustbin of history” – a story of marginal figures without legacy in the labour movement’s many wings. Some, at least, of us, principally on the left, know the story that links Tom Paine, the London Corresponding Society, Thomas Spence’s System, common ownership of land and a democratic equality, the Spa Fields (Islington) insurrection of 1816 , and the tragedy of Peterloo. That 1819 massacre hung heavy over the radicals. Some like Arthur Thistlewood who unhinged, marked by flawed character, rows with ‘Orator’ Hunt and others, was not a loner but involved in the radical movements of the time, many familiar to the readers just indicated. He was also unhinged, in 1817, after intemperate missives, challenging the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to a duel, “sword or pistol”. This gesture and his truculence resulted in a year in Horsham gaol.

Conspiracy on Cato Street is a path-breaking study, expanding from outlines into richly researched detail. It threads together the plot, the players, not forgetting their wives and offspring, the mixed race black background of two of their members, Wedderburn and Davidson – the afterlife of the informers – helped to prosper in the Cape and elsewhere – with the feel and the tumult of a burgeoning outcast London (not least in that so many of the addresses are familiar), a restricted and corrupted franchise, overshadowed by a Prison system and brutal state. Accustomed as we are to looking at the history of political ideas through texts it is as well to be reminded that speeches and opinions of the Cato Street group of “liberty-minded men” indicated, “less an ideology than a melange of myths, memories, loyalties, slogans and resentment”.

Thistlewood while once a member of the Spencerean Philanthropists made more references to Roman republicanism (the street name link was purely by chance) than either Spencer or the French Revolution. Perhaps the ideas circulating in Cato Street could be said to have something like the churn of a Twitter Feed. Like that, much was “driven by fantasy”.

“The Cato Street Trials and executions dealt revolutionist radicalism a death blow, though not radicalism itself. When first announced, the arrests had amplified the trauma of Peterloo and reverberated across the West Riding of Yorkshire and the Scottish border and midlands where a general strike ended in more hangings and deportations.” Gattrell concludes, “What was left was seething resentment”. The kind of simmering indignation, Ferdinand Mount suggests in his review of this book, may come about in the aftermath of the Boris Johnson regime determined to curb judicial independence, restrict protest and voting, which, he writes, has echoes of the “Castlereagh years” (LRB).

Written by Andrew Coates

July 23, 2022 at 5:11 pm