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Some Notes on the Progressive Alliance.

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The Future of Left Politics?

Writing in the US Left Populist Magazine Jacobin Dave Broder discusses the aftermath of the Chesham and Amersham by-election. 

The Last Thing Labour Needs Is a “Progressive Alliance”

…the Liberal Democrats’ victory could help fuel one narrative touted by some Labour-aligned commentators in recent months — a “progressive alliance” to outflank the Tories and even change the electoral system. 

Guardian columnist John Harris argues that the fragmentation of old electoral blocs makes this a necessity: after last night’s result, he predicted a future for English politics where Lib Dems and Greens are “parties of the suburbs/commuter towns/hipster enclaves,” “Labour the party of cities,” with the “Tories a coalition of shires & post-industrial towns.” 

Precisely the danger of the Progressive Alliance — with Labour forming an enduring or permanent pact with the Lib Dems — is this effect in unbalancing the party toward just one part of its potential electoral coalition, seeing “progressivism” rather than class politics as the unifying force able to mobilize the social majority. Already with the French Socialists and ex-Communists in Italy, we have seen once-mighty parties with sizeable working-class support turn into a mere rump in their failed bid to dissolve their electorate and replace it with the liberal middle classes.”

””””

It is far from clear that the French Parti Socialiste and its predecessor the SFIO has its main class base the working class, which saying it has a ‘sizeable’ worker support obscures. How far this is due to the PS’s 2008 declaration which dropped to all reference to class conflict and support for an “économie de marché régulée » et « un secteur privé dynamique » is open to question. The inability to govern as a united force, and a practice which some say made the party strive for power for its own sake, are some more popular explanations. This was already a theme back in 2007 in this key work: Les socialistes français et le pouvoir – L’ambition et le remords.  Alain Bergounioux Gérard Grunberg.

Then there is this:

It seems to be a great loss of support amongst voters, amongst constituencies where the socialists used to be very strong, notably the young and people working in the public sector, that’s been the case, at least for the past 20 years.

As for the more popular, more working-class support, the socialists have lost a lot of them, that’s why, one of the reasons why, it is becoming very difficult for socialists to win an election. At least, that’s been the case for the past five years, where they lost all elections, at every echelon: local, regional, national.

It’s because there is very, very little support now coming from the lower middle-class, salaried workers and that, of course, some have gone to the right, some have gone a little bit to Le Pen but essentially, and more recently, to Mélenchon, the radical left, but essentially, there’s a lot of abstention amongst working-class voters.

Philippe Marlière 2017.

Rather than provide a galvanizing project for society, this approach mirrors existing culture-war divides. Especially glaring, in this regard, is the way in which leftish pundits nearing retirement age today lecture us on young voters’ supposed obsession with cultural issues or “identity politics,” even though under 40s massively backed Corbyn because of policies on housing and jobs, ignored the siren song of ultra-Remain parties, and then disengaged from Labour under Starmer’s leadership.”

Broder concludes,

The Progressive Alliance supporters have a point that, in the abstract, proportional representation (PR) is fairer than first past the post. Yet the demand raises skepticism on much of the Labour left — and with good reason. At a time when the party’s connection to working-class voters is so precarious and its identity in crisis, PR seems likely to only hasten its unraveling. Worse, the proposed means of arriving at PR (an electoral pact with the Lib Dems, Greens, and others) splits Labour’s own electoral coalition in advance. Since Labour has around four times more members than the Lib Dems, it also seems difficult to imagine how it would be decided which seat “belongs” to each party; the Lib Dems are, after all, infamous for distorted bar charts claiming that only they can “beat the Tories” (for other seats, “keep out Labour”) in this or that seat.

We not need to go further into this article by one of the world’s leading specialists in Amadeo Bordiga  see fault in the project In fact the progressive alliance has more obvious problems that the threat of steering Labour away from any form of left politics. The danger of cutting Labour adrift from any form of left politics is much less than the fact that most people with actual political experience are deeply sceptical that such an alliance could possibly work, electorally or or a strategy for operating in government.

Why a progressive alliance is an electoral fantasy Ben Walker. New Statesman.

This idea, however, falls at the first hurdle. Its advocates assume that the voters who opt for Britain’s varying progressive forces are enthused enough about this broader, more nebulous cause to obediently line up behind another anti-Tory party. In practice, however, it doesn’t work that way.

The notion of the Conservatives being an unambiguously toxic force might ring true for some left-wing readers but for the majority of the voters, such a feeling is not there and has not been for a great many years.

For instance, according to Ipsos MORI, during a period last year in which progressive parties commanded 56 per cent of public support, just 46 per cent of Britons had an unfavourable view of the Conservative Party.

For example, in the election for the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, 45 per cent of Lib Dem votes went Conservative. In Humberside, the share that went Tory was also 45 per cent. In Nottinghamshire, where 81 per cent of Lib Dem votes backed either the Conservatives or Labour, 38 per cent plumped for the Tories. 

The net beneficiary in all these instances was Labour, but not by as much as the advocates of a progressive alliance might hope. Lib Dem voter loyalties are not shaped by anti-Tory sentiment but their own, more nuanced views. Simply put, far too many Lib Dems find Labour an unappetising option.

..

Finally, there is a genuine risk that people simply won’t turn out to vote if the candidate from their preferred party is removed from the ballot paper. The hope that the electorate would turn out in similar numbers to vote for, in effect, their second preference is predicated on the assumption that the logged-off electorate have the same priorities as the logged-on – and they don’t.

Walker puts the case well.

I would add that it is not just the memory of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition in 2010 that is the only reason for scepticism about a Progressive Alliance. The experience of working with the Greens, and above all, the Liberal Democrats in local government is very mixed. While the Leb-Dems have reached agreements over the years with Labour (running Suffolk County Council in the 1990s) they have also formed their own coalitions with the Tories (running Ipswich Borough Council). You can multiply these cases across the country. Many have us registered more recent deals between the Greens and anti-Labour councillors, from the London Assembly to Lancaster, including self identifying Eco-Socialists.

The same John Harris cited by Broder wrote in 2010,

Ipswich: Face to face with the realities of coalition

John Harris

What do you get when you cross a Tory with a Lib Dem? Cuts, cuts, cuts

Plenty of Labour people, however, have a more potent argument. They mention Birmingham, where the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Tories. The same, they point out, applies to Leeds. And Warrington, Camden, Southwark, and Newport, Gwent. And the county town I visit for tour stop number eight: Ipswich, where a partnership of Conservatives and Lib Dems (with 19 and seven councillors apiece) has been running the borough council for five years. To hear some people talk, all that stuff about a new progressive wind has been rather drowned out by swingeing cuts and doctrinaire free-marketry.

Apart from this record anybody who thinks that negotiating with the Greens and Liberals is an easy job should talk to political figures on the ground. There is, as the picture heading this post indicates a Norfolk Progressive Alliance.. It is not clear if it has any influence (over 400 likes). While it is said that in Woodbridge, a very middle class town near Ipswich, the Lib-Dems, the Greens and Labour have created an informal ‘progressive alliance’, It was agreed to let the Greens have a free run for one nearby constituency, Wickham Market, in the May County elections. The Liberals (Labour figures say) reneged on this arrangement under pressure from Ipswich Lib-Dems. They stood a candidate, split the non-Tory vote, and let the Conservatives in.

Wickham, East Suffolk

PartyCandidateVotes%±%
ConservativeAlexander John McDiarmid Nicoll165945.6-2.7
GreenRachel Anne Smith-Lyte162644.7+36.7
Liberal DemocratsSophie Helena Frances Williams3279.0-12.1
Majority330.9-26.3
Rejected ballots260.7+0.4
Turnout363841.2+2.2
Registered electors8827+497
Conservative holdSwing-19.7

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2021 at 12:17 pm

The Posadist Debate Continues: “humans were genetically engineered from homo erectus into homo sapiens as slave-workers for the aliens, referred to as ‘the Anunnaki’.

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The 12th Planet By Z Sitchin

Key Text, Argues the Campaign for Democratic Socialism.

Some may be interested in the results of Chesham and Amersham by election.

But the Weekly Worker leads debate amongst class struggle Marxists on the UFO Question.

Former Revolutionary Workers Party central committee member David John Douglass argues that, on the basis of Marxism and dialectics, what Juan Posadas said about extraterrestrials being necessarily communist because of their advanced technology is a reasonable proposition (Letters, June 10).

In fact, the Posadas argument, to say the least, was rather naive. The ‘UFO’ debate polarises into two camps: the open-minded versus closed-minded individuals – the latter represented by people like Paul Demarty, whose thinking seems to rarely go beyond mainstream academia. Since the latter often dominate, because they represent mainstream views, the arguments of Posadas were not subjected to any serious scrutiny by the wider left, who keep away from the issue because they fear the ridicule factor, deployed by people like Demarty to shut down any debate.

Sightings of UFOs happen all over the world and I am far from convinced that those behind the phenomenon are all benign. It goes back thousands of years into prehistory, which Demarty is probably unaware of, and was the source of all the main religions, like Christianity – with its ‘god making man in his own image’ narrative, and so on – that plague the human mind, while religious people continue to be unaware of who these ‘gods’ really were.

More open-minded researchers, who have gone beyond mainstream academia and delved into the prehistoric origins of homo sapiens in southern Africa, have a different story to tell. For instance, Zecharia Sitchin, who studied at the London School of Economics, wrote his best seller, The 12th planet, based on his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, which clearly reveals that humans were genetically engineered from homo erectus into homo sapiens as slave-workers for the aliens, referred to as ‘the Anunnaki’. The term ‘Anunnaki’ means, in modern English, ‘those who came from the heavens (ie, space) to earth’. Religionists, establishment academics and other mainstream thinkers have claimed that Sitchin has misinterpreted Sumerian text, but, the more they knock him, the more he is confirmed by modern science and astronomy.

For instance, on the basis of his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, Sitchin predicted back in 1976 that another planet in our solar system would be found beyond Pluto with a huge elliptical orbit. In 2016, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology found the gravitational fingerprint of another planet, 5,000 times the mass of Pluto, on the outer fringes of the solar system with an elliptical orbit. This is precisely what Sitchin predicted, but on this amazing development in astronomy the closed-minded and the anti-Sitchinites remain silent. The astronomers are calling this new planet a gas giant, but they wouldn’t know this by its gravitational evidence alone. The scientist and researcher, Michael Tellinger, confirms the general validity of Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Sumerian text in his book, Slave species of the gods – the secret history of the Anunnaki and their mission on earth.

I am not suggesting that Sitchin is infallible, but he is closer to the truth than his detractors and the closed-minded, and he has had too many hits to not take seriously. What we can be certain of is that the deep state knows more about the extraterrestrial, and inner-terrestrial, phenomena than they are letting on. All the evidence suggests, at least from an open minded perspective, that we are not alone in this solar system, the truth of which organizations like Nasa must be well apprised.

The point of all this is to warn against the naive Posadas view that those behind the UFO phenomena – whose existence have been confirmed by astronauts and pilots, both military and civilian, and others – are automatically benign. To draw such a view from Marxist dialectics is unwarranted. What we can draw from dialectics though is that, in Hegelian dialectics, regarding the relationship between essence and appearance, sooner or later, essence must appear – meaning in this case, that the secret activity of ‘UFOs’ related to this planet and its connection to humans will eventually be uncovered.

Tony Clark

Campaign for Democratic Socialism.

Some people may remark that the Campaign for Democratic Socialism has also time-travelled from High Gaitskiell’s days in the 1950s and the Labour Right in the 1960s.

Zecharia Sitchin (July 11, 1920 – October 9, 2010)[1] was an author of books proposing an explanation for human origins involving ancient astronauts. Sitchin attributed the creation of the ancient Sumerian culture to the Anunnaki, which he stated was a race of extraterrestrials from a planet beyond Neptune called Nibiru. He asserted that Sumerian mythology suggests that this hypothetical planet of Nibiru is in an elongated, 3,600-year-long elliptical orbit around the sun. Sitchin’s books have sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 25 languages.

In a 1979 review of The Twelfth Planet, Roger W. Wescott,[29] Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, noted Sitchin’s amateurishness with respect to the primacy of the Sumerian language:

Sitchin’s linguistics seems at least as amateurish as his anthropology, biology, and astronomy. On p. 370, for example, he maintains that “all the ancient languages … including early Chinese … stemmed from one primeval source — Sumerian”. Sumerian, of course, is the virtual archetype of what linguistic taxonomists call a language-isolate, meaning a language that does not fall into any of the well-known language-families or exhibit clear cognation with any known language. Even if Sitchin is referring to written rather than to spoken language, it is unlikely that his contention can be persuasively defended, since Sumerian ideograms were preceded by the Azilian and Tartarian signaries of Europe as well as by a variety of script-like notational systems between the Nile and Indus rivers.[30]

Written by Andrew Coates

June 18, 2021 at 11:11 am

Clarion Cycling Club Drops Socialism and Faces Resistance.

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Image

Clarion Cycling Club drops Socialism, and faces Resistance.

This story appeared a few days ago.

Now the Guardian has produced an Editorial.

The Guardian view on socialism and cycling: fellow travellers

Cycling’s radical traditions are part of Britain’s social history. Recalling her teenage years in the 1890s, the great suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst wrote beautifully about the band of carefree lefties with whom she rode out of Manchester each weekend. Criss-crossing rural Lancashire and Cheshire, her cycling club was one of many associated with the Clarion, a popular socialist weekly newspaper. The more earnest socialists of the time saw this crowd as ideological dilettantes, too keen on having a good time. And their trips do seem to have been rather fun.

The Editorial continues,

Though the Clarion paper has long gone, some of the cycling clubs still thrive. But after 126 years on the road, a dispiriting schism looms. As the Guardian reported this week, the National Clarion Cycling Club AGM has passed a motion to remove a “divisive” reference in its constitution to socialism. The amended version will instead express a commitment to “fairness, equality, inclusion and diversity”. The Saddleworth Clarion Club in Greater Manchester has threatened to start a breakaway organisation in protest.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with the new formulation. But it seems sad to lose the literal connection to such a rich past. The Clarion clubs represented a very different, non-doctrinaire and eclectic strand of the early British socialist movement. They were, as the young Pankhurst discovered, a happy haven for the “new woman” of the Victorian era, who got on her bike seeking greater independence, adventure and fun. They were also a Sunday release for the factory worker, relishing clean air away from the smoke and grime of the mill towns and sprawling cities. For many “Clarionettes”, socialism was simply another word for idealised fellowship.

The primary function of a constitution is to define the basic principles and laws of an organisation. But in unusual cases such as this, language is also a document of origins; a testimony to the perspectives, associations and hopes of previous generations. The National Clarion Cycling Club has said that local branches are free to write their own constitutions, retaining the reference to socialism. Hopefully some of them will do that, in honour of those cycling choirs that belted out “England, arise!” with such gusto.

Letters to the Guardian.

Clarion call from cyclists to carry on the fight for socialism on two wheels

Those who think socialism is irrelevant should leave the National Clarion Cycling Club and form their own club, says Jim Grozier. For Charles Jepson and his breakaway organisation, the link between cycling and socialism is unbroken

Those behind the recent “coup” in the National Clarion Cycling Club (Keir Hardie’s cycling club jettisons socialism, 14 June) have, like so many others nowadays, misunderstood the concept of inclusion, treating it like a mantra to be trotted out without actually thinking. Inclusion can only be invoked in order to remove irrelevant obstacles to joining an organisation.

For almost all organisations, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and many other attributes are irrelevant, so they should not be an obstacle. Not so when it comes to political leanings in the context of an overtly political cycling club. One might as well try to persuade the Spurs supporters’ club to admit a card-carrying Arsenal fan. Those who are so unaware of the current political situation as to think socialism “irrelevant” should do the decent thing, leave the Clarion and form their own club, to which they would then be free to invite whoever they wish.
Jim Grozier
Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club

Many years ago, I joined the National Clarion Cycling Club because it was a socialist organisation. I didn’t expect to talk about the theories of Marx and Engels while out on club runs, or have lengthy discussions on dialectical materialism at the weekly club night. What I did expect, and I was not disappointed, was a comradeship of cyclists who were interested in their fellow human beings and whose behaviour, based on the principles they held, would provide something far more meaningful than a mere love of cycling.

The Clarion Cycling Club and the wider Clarion movement helped to make history. In the days when the working classes were overworked and underpaid, Clarion men and women were in the forefront of those who expounded the theories for a new way of life and who helped to bring about the material benefits we enjoy today. They dared to dream of a new society, a socialist society.

I was secretary of the National Clarion Cycling Club for three years until 2006, when I helped to set up a new organisation, the National Clarion Cycling Club 1895, to protect the founders’ commitment to “combine the pleasures of cycling with the propaganda of socialism”. The Clarion ideal that socialism is the hope of the world has survived for more than 125 years and the link between cycling and socialism will, for some at least, remain unbroken.
Charles Jepson
Secretary, National Clarion CC 1895

Here is Robert Blatchford, the founder of the paper The Clarion: (1)

My English grandfather was, with his brothers, a member of the Clarion Cycling Club before the Great War. They would cycle out from the East End to what was then still rural Essex. He kept a love of cycling all his life. When he was too old to use a bike (and living in Haringey with my grandmother) he gave his cycle to me. I used it to explore places like Epping Forest (how I managed to get there, the roads were pretty full of traffic in North London even in the late sixties), I do not recall,

My grandfather was a life-long socialist, trade unionist and member of the Labour Party..

******
(1) Blatchford was not a good man, he had his little ways… (Spartacus Educational)

Robert Blatchford, the son of an actor, was born in Maidstone in 1851. Robert father died when he was two and at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed as a brushmaker. He disliked the work and ran away to join the army.

Blatchford reached the rank of sergeant major before leaving the service in 1878. After trying a variety of different jobs he became a freelance journalist. After working for several newspapers he became leader writer for the Sunday Chronicle in Manchester. It was his journalistic experience of working-class life that turned Blatchford into a socialist.

In 1890 Blatchford founded the Manchester Fabian Society. The following year, Blatchford and four fellow members launched a socialist newspaper, The Clarion. Blatchford, who was editor, announced that the newspaper would follow a “policy of humanity; a policy not of party, sect or creed; but of justice, of reason and mercy.” The first edition sold 40,000 and after a few months settled down to about 30,000 copies a week.

It was decided in 1893 to publish some of Blatchford’s articles about socialism as a book. Merrie England, was an immediate success, with the cheap edition selling over 2,000,000 copies. Influenced by the ideas of William Morris, Blatchford emphasized the importance of the arts and the values of the countryside. Considered to be an excellent example of socialist propaganda, the book was translated into several different languages.

Blatchford upset many of his socialist supporters by his nationalistic views on foreign policy. He supported the government during the Boer War and warned against what he saw was the German menace. Blatchford also changed his views on equal rights and strongly opposed the policies of the NUWSS and the WSPU.

After the First World War Blatchford moved to the right and became a passionate advocate of the British Empire. In the 1924 General Election he supported the Conservative Party and declared that Stanley Baldwin was Britain’s finest politician. Robert Blatchford died on 17th December 1943.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2021 at 12:20 pm