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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

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Image result for Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder.

Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

Emmanuel Macron is an “anti-Trump”, pro-European and a “liberal internationalist” who unites the centre-left and the centre-right against the extremes. He is a “neo-progressive”, argues Sophie Pedder, whose ideas are “structured around the idea of individual progress for all.” Elected President in 2017, in a run off with the far-right Marine Le Pen, at 39 years old, Macron presented a “a message of hope.” His strategy was “both a means of remaking party politics and a response to the populist threat”. Their campaign laid claim to break the existing party duopoly, and sweep away the existing “political caste”, itself perhaps a “populist” message.

The Head of State’s party, La République en marche (LRM), commands 60% of the seats in France’s National Assembly. It is, like many new ‘parties’ of this millennium, including their rivals La France insoumise (LFI), is less a democratic organisation run by the members than a top-down run movement or ‘rally’. Macron, despite the Benalla affair, and the recent Cabinet resignations of ecology Minister Bernard Hulot and Minister of the Interior Gèrard Collomb, is the master of French politics. He has been, so far, able to carry out his programme. Protests, last year,  against liberalising reform of labour legislation, and the railway service (SNCF), as well as of higher education, failed to have any impact.

Sophie Pedder is Paris bureau chief for the liberal (economically and politically), British weekly the Economist. Largely favourable to the President, the book is unlikely to win a favourable audience amongst those who dismiss Macron as, at best, a “social liberal”. This does not stop Revolution française from being a deft and informed account of Emmanuel Macron’s life and politics.

Modernisation.

Macron, writes Pedder, is a long-standing advocate of “modernisation”. France, from this standpoint, is burdened with regulations that stifle economic initiative. As a Minister of the Economy under Parti Socialiste President Hollande, his 2015 plans (Loi Macron) to loosen the rules on shop opening hours, and rigid legislation governing the ‘liberal professions’ (notaries, pharmacists) were partly thwarted. His Socialist colleagues were to blame, including the influential Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a moderate social democrat described as the “standard bearer of the Socialist left”.

This experience, Pedder states, led Macron to conclude that the existing party system kept France stuck in the past. A modernising regroupment needed, “to put together two-thirds of the Socialist Party, all of the centrists, and part of the centre-right. That would give us a pro-European market-friendly majority in favour of modernising the social model.” British readers will not fail to observe a parallel electoral logic with domestic ‘centrist’ projects, however tiny the audience for making the UK social system more ‘liberal’ is.

The achievement of that goal was partly due to good fortune. The “normal” Hollande discredited himself, both by his incontinent deprecation of colleagues revealed in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (2006), and his causal deception of his partner Valerie Trierweiler. As his Presidential bid took off in 2017 his chief opponent on the right, François Fillon, became mired in allegations of financial misconduct. The Socialists chose the left-Green Benoît Hamon, without many allies beyond his own forces. With their political rivals in disarray Macron’s support snowballed. Socialists, centrists and the right, duly defected in his direction. The movement En marche  soon picked up a large number of the professional politicians targeted above, and inspired a, largely middle class, army of volunteers to campaign for him door to door.

Centre Left Reconciled to the Market Economy.

Revolution française equally offers a readable account of Macron’s ideas. Unlike the Macron, un president philosophe (Brice Couturier. 2017) Peddar does not offer a weighty list of influences, from Hegel to Schumpeter. Instead she singles out the influence of Macron’s teacher, Paul Ricœur, his Protestant humanism, and “confidence in mankind” with a dose of Saint-Simon’s advocacy of technocratic progress. Above all, “His roots are on the progressive centre left that reconciled itself to the market economy.” At the same time, noting some of Macron’s verbal tics, she observes that, “his theoretical abstractions and grandiosity came across as pompous. His sentences were convoluted, meandering and went on for ever.” One could expand further on his grating anglicisms.

Will Macron, the “networking machine”, be able to change France? Has ‘liberal globalism’ found a champion who will step into the breach that has opened up after the failure of ‘third way’? Peddar signals the entrenched difficulties of a divided France, mass unemployment, those cast aside in the banlieue and “la France périperifeque”. Can Macron’s grand romantic mission turn this around?

The ‘nation’ is less important than the people who live in France. There are not many grounds for hope in the recent indications that the richest section of French society is the undoubted winner of the President’s tax reforms. (Les ultrariches, grands gagnants de la fiscalité Macron. Le Monde. 13.10.18). Weakening labour legislation to the point where wage negotiations can take place plant by plant, does not look so progressive from the position of workers in enterprises cut off from national union support. Local tax changes seem designed to weaken municipal finance, not strengthen decentralised initiative. While Macron has tried to stand up to Trump his efforts have few visible effects.

Defeat of the French left.

The French left has yet to recover from the catastrophic defeat of the governing socialists. Hamon was fated, in the words of former PS General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis to get the minimal score of left-greens, 6,36 %  (Chronique d’une débâcle 2017). Hamon now has his own party Génération.s. The PS has since seen more defections, this time to Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise. If LFI won a respectable vote of in the Presidential elections (fourth position and 19.58% for Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  in the first round) , and has, with its allies, 17 deputies, it is far, very far, from securing an alternative majority to Macron. It is unlikely this week’s pantomime response to police investigations into their funding will expand their audience and ‘federate’ the “People”. The left is now so splintered that up to 6 different lists will appear in next year’s European elections. It would appear, if one might say so from a distance, that a long-term war of position to regroup the left into some form of united front would be a better way of building an alternative to Macron that a head on war of manoeuvre. And, unlike LFI,  it is quite possible to be a ‘pro-European’ radical leftist.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Tariq Ali Joins the Labour Party.

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Tariq Ali: on Charlie Hebdo slaughter “when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.”

Those not familiar with the history of the British left may recall Lord Ali.

He was once a leading figure of the International Marxist Group. The only thing I can recall about it is his support, and I agree with him on this, for the legislation of cannabis, ( his application to join the Labour Party in Crouch End was refused, though one may relate the things,….. I am not sure).

Since those halcyon days he has been after many political peregrinations, a prominent supporter of the Liberal Democrats, and most, recently, a voter for the Green Party in his previous domain Highgate.

In his new new estate, Islington, tofu toff Ali had invented himself as Jeremy Corbyn’s oldest friend.

Here is another of his oldest mates.

 

Bless!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2018 at 11:50 am

As Nationalist Left Backs ‘Opportunities’ offered by Leave there is no such thing as a “People’s Brexit”

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Image result for alex callinicos

Morning Star Follows Callinicos: Accepting Brexit is indispensable to offering an alternative to neoliberalism.

Labour ‘Will Fight For A People’s Brexit’

Announces as an ‘alternative fact’ the pro-Brexit Morning Star.

Wednesday 25TH Lamiat Sabin in Britain

Corbyn vows post-Brexit Britain won’t benefit the corporate tax dodgers

LABOUR committed yesterday to ensure that people’s rights were protected in a post-Brexit Britain following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government needs the vote of Parliament before triggering Article 50.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour MPs would not frustrate kick-starting the two-year process to leave the EU, amid concerns expressed by members that doing so could lose Labour its safe seats and also a general election.

He added that the party wants to amend a final Bill so that PM Theresa May can be stopped from converting Britain into even more of a “bargain basement tax haven off the shores of Europe” in lowering corporation tax.

Corbyn makes no mention of a People’s Brexit.

He wants to limit the damage Brexit will cause.

The article continues, citing the hard right (and former IMG member) Kate Hoey, who appeared on platforms during the Referendum with Nigel Farage. 

Labour Leave campaign’s Kate Hoey warned the opposition risked losing seats in next month’s parliamentary by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central if it seeks to block Brexit.

She said: “It is time for Labour to support the government by voting for Article 50 and working together to ensure the United Kingdom enjoys the global opportunities Brexit provides.”

Labour Leave chairman John Mills said it was vital for Labour to support the referendum result if it wanted to win a general election.

He added: “If we continue to flap about on this issue instead of getting on with making a success of Brexit, the voters will not forgive us.”

Photo not in the Morning Star:

Image result for kate hoey nigel farage

Hoey with friend.

Sabin then outlines the continued opposition to Brexit from the Liberals, the SNP and the Greens.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas confirmed she would vote against triggering Article 50 to kick-start the two-year process by March 31, which she described as an “artificial” timeframe that was set out by Ms May.

The Supreme Court ruling now means that the Tory government will be “exposed to the antiseptic of parliamentary scrutiny” — according to civil liberties group Liberty director Martha Spurrier.

She added: “This is not a political decision — it is our democracy in action.

In today’s Editorial the Morning Star declares that,

A Labour amendment pointing out the role of tax havens used by big business and many Tory supporters to dodge tax, and highlighting the need for investment in jobs, infrastructure, NHS, essential public services and so on can spark a major debate.

But we need a Labour Party — indeed a labour movement — united in ensuring that this is at the centre of discussions.

No individualist playing to the gallery, no preening in a TV studio during yet another “Corbyn must do better” backstabbing interview and no following SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Kenneth Clarke et al as they flounce into a sterile oppositionist posture.

The decision to leave the EU has been taken.

The question of whether a post-Brexit Britain will benefit tax-dodgers and big business or working people’s needs — our NHS, education, social care, council housebuilding, extended public ownership — confronts us all starkly.

It is a sad state of affairs when all this section of the left can offer as examples of how to benefit “working people’s needs” are measures (which will not pass Parliament) to limit the UK’s tax haven role and a call for investment in public services.

This is not quite as feeble as Alex Callinicos writing in the latest Socialist Worker,

The rebellion over Article 50 will simply add to the confusion at a moment when the Tories are beginning to get their act together.

May had the confidence to threaten last week to walk away from the negotiations with the rest of the EU because she thinks she has a new ally in Washington.

She hopes Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for Brexit and disdain for the EU will give her “global Britain” a powerful alternative in a free-market “Anglosphere”. Never mind that it’s quite unclear how this vision fits with Trump’s declaration in his inaugural speech that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reports that Trump “is planning a new deal for Britain”, involving closer financial and defence cooperation and fewer trade barriers.

Then will come a “full monty” state visit to Britain in the summer. According to one crony, “Trump has taken to calling Mrs May ‘my Maggie’ in private.”

No doubt there’s a lot of wishful thinking on both sides, if not pure fantasy. Nevertheless, May hopes to seize on Trump’s advent to office in the hope it can give Brexit a coherence that the pro-leave right has so far failed to provide.

In these circumstances it is completely irresponsible for EU supporters within Labour to start a fight over Article 50.

This isn’t just because it will allow the Tories and Ukip to portray Labour as anti-democratic and seek to tear away those of its supporters who voted to leave. Accepting Brexit is indispensable to offering an alternative to neoliberalism.

In other words, accepting the supposed return to British ‘sovereignty’, on the pro-business basis that the Tories (and UKIP) intend it to be, is a condition for …fighting the free-market.

We leave it to Callinicos and his mates to find a way to tally their ‘Marxist’ explanation of what lies behind May’s vision of a global Britain” a powerful alternative in a free-market “Anglosphere”. “and  “Trump’s declaration in his inaugural speech that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength” with all their previous rhetoric about neoliberalism. Which is by its essence opposed to ‘protectionism’.

In the meantime the ‘People’s Brexit’ leaves EU economic, employment and social rights hanging in the air, ready to be plucked down one by one by the Tories.

This is a different view from Another Europe is Possible.

The Supreme Court has ruled by 8-3 that Parliament will need to vote on Article 50 activation. Following the verdict, which also saw the Scottish government disappointed in its attempts to win a constitutional right to be consulted by the UK government, Another Europe is Possible, have called on MPs to be willing, if needs be, to vote against Article 50. We believe they must be willing to use this power to extract maximum concessions to protect key areas: the right to free movement with EU states, the future of science and innovation, ecological sustainability, workers’ protections, education, and human rights.

A spokesperson for Another Europe is Possible said:

“This ruling gives MPs the ability to determine what Brexit means. Politicians – and specifically Labour – must live up to their historic duty to protect the progressive elements of EU membership. That means proposing amendments to remain in the EEA – or to retain workers’ rights, freedom of movement, environmental protections, human rights, and science and education funding. Theresa May has no mandate for the harsh, chaotic form of Brexit she is pursuing, and MPs must ultimately be willing to vote against Article 50 if reasonable amendments do not pass.”

Sam Fowles, a law researcher at the University of London, said:

“This judgement gives ordinary people the chance, through our MPs, to hold the government accountable for Brexit negotiations. It’s now up to us and our MPs to take that chance. If the government can’t deliver the Brexit they promised in the referendum then we, the people, must have the chance to reject their deal. It’s up to our MPs to use the vote on Article 50 to make sure we get that chance.

“The referendum result doesn’t give anyone the right to ignore the UK’s unwritten constitution. The government can’t just do what it wants, when it wants.

On the defeat of the Scottish government’s case in relation to the Sewell convention, Fowles added:

“Although the court held that it could not enforce the Sewell Convention the government must respect it nevertheless. The Sewell Convention obliges the government to consult the devolved Parliaments on matters that concern them. If this government truly respects the people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, then it will properly consult their elected Assembly’s on Article 50.”

Background: Another Europe is Possible declares,

It has now become crystal clear that the Brexit which Theresa May has planned would be a disaster for workers, farmers, businesses and public services like the NHS. The policies which the Prime Minister set out last week in her 12 point plan precisely conform to the vision which Another Europe is Possible warned would result from a Leave vote last year.

May has ripped up the numerous promises made by leading Leave campaign supporters – that Brexit would save the NHS, that we would not leave the single market, that Britons could continue to move and live wherever they want in Europe. This Government’s vision is rather of a deregulated, offshore financial haven, and a country closing its door to the world – with 3m EU citizens in the UK living in huge uncertainty. This represents a catastrophe for ordinary people.

In this context, we call on progressive parties to vote against Article 50, until we are offered an exit deal that meets the needs of the British people. The British electorate voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union. But this does not add up to a mandate for the type of jobs destroying hard Brexit that Theresa May wants. Numerous English and Welsh towns and cities backed Remain. So did Scotland and Northern Ireland. The hard Brexit the Tories are set on will not overcome these divisions. It will only further inflame them.

MPs only have one point of leverage over the terms of exit. And this comes when Article 50 is activated. Unless this leverage is used any democratic control over the terms of exit slips away. While Theresa May promised in her recent speech to bring the final deal back to Parliament, this amounts to setting a political trap. Parliament in that situation would be faced with a choice: either accept what will be – if Theresa May gets her way in Europe – a rotten deal, or crash out of the EU with no deal in place whatsoever. The government will put a revolver to the head of Parliament and force it to fall into line behind its disastrous deal.

We understand that the voice of those who voted Leave cannot be ignored. But it is clear that the Leave vote – which people made for many varied reasons – is now being used to justify the most regressive, far-reaching constitutional changes we have seen in generations. This does not represent the will of the majority. The Prime Minister’s refusal to involve the British people in her Exit strategy is a power grab. We demand a democratic constitutional process before any further power is taken from the people. Unless and until such a process is agreed, progressive politicians should refuse to cede further power to this government.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Momentum: Latest Internal Disputes.

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….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….

Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity

Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting,  we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned  The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”

This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.

In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but  “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.

But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.

Left wins on democracy, but right keeps hold of Steering Committee – report of 3 December Momentum NC

Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate

Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.

The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.

..

The key votes:

•  The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.

This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.

……

….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.

Decisions taken

• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.

And,

No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.

So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.

There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently  sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.

We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference. 

Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.

But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Slavoj Žižek: Trump Presidency could result in a “big awakening” and begin “new political processes.”

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Image result for Slavoj Žižek caricature

Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad Likes Trump.

In 1990, the well-known Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek was the Liberal Democracy of Slovinia candidate for the Presidency of Slovenia (an auxiliary body of the President of the Republic, abolished in 1992).  The party is a member of the LIberal International and Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe Party.

Slavoj Žižek is in the Presidential news again, this time it’s the US race.

He has courted predictable outrage with remarks appearing (‘dialectically’) to favour Trump.

Earlier this year the Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad, was in trouble for calling for the ““militarisation” of European responses to the refugee crisis in Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours (2016) This, it should always be recalled was  in the context of this ‘contradiction’, “my greatest problem with all this humanitarianism is that people are not aware of what is really happening in Europe – the massive anti-immigrant populist movement.”The following particularly aroused controversy.

The Slovenian savant  considered that there is a need to

Formulate a minimum set of rules that are obligatory for everyone, without feat that will appear ‘Eurocentric’ religious freedoms, the protection of individual freedom against group pressure, rights of woman, and so on; and second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the tolerance of different ways of life.

Such should be a “positive emancipatory leitkultur..”

Many might consider that those who attacked Žižek as a ‘racist’  were themselves trying to impose their own “leitkultur” which involves accepting absolute “difference” and a right to impose reactionary mores inside “their” community.

To make himself clear Žižek  went on to say,

With regard to the refugees, our prop­er aim should be to try and recon­struct glob­al soci­ety on such a basis that des­per­ate refugees will no longer be forced to wander around. Uto­pi­an as it may appear, this large-scale solu­tion is the only real­ist one, and the dis­play of altru­ist­ic vir­tues ulti­mately pre­vents the car­ry­ing out of this aim. The more we treat refugees as objects of human­it­ari­an help, and allow the situ­ation which com­pelled them to leave their coun­tries to pre­vail, the more they come to Europe, until ten­sions reach boil­ing point, not only in the refugees’ coun­tries of ori­gin but here as well. So, con­fron­ted with this double black­mail, we are back at the great Len­in­ist ques­tion: what is to be done?

One would have to be soothsayer to imagine the details of what world order the author has in mind here – but the intentions are surely good…..

But let that pass.

As often is the case with Žižek, people pick and choose what they want to hear.

I like this (though it’s old hat chez Coatesy),

…yet another Left­ist taboo that needs to be aban­doned is that of pro­hib­it­ing any cri­tique of Islam as a case of ‘Islamo­pho­bia’. This taboo is a true mir­ror-image of the anti-immig­rant pop­u­list demon­isa­tion of Islam, so we should get rid of the patho­lo­gic­al fear of many West­ern lib­er­al Left­ists that they might be guilty of Islamo­pho­bia.

Yet, I didn’t like this, on Donald Trump,

“Read Trump closely – it is difficult to do, I know – and if you extract his total racist and sexist stupidities, you will see that here and there, where he makes a complete proposal, they’re usually not so bad,” “He said he will not totally dismantle universal healthcare, raise the minimum wage, and so on.”

“Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”

Less noticed is that at the conclusion of Against the Double Blackmail Žižek called for a kind of left-wing leap in the dark, an act of profound ontological will, against the course of history.

As he put it, in strangulated sub-Walter Benjamin sentences,

In contrast to classical Marxism, in which ‘history is on our side’ (the proletariat fulfills a predestined task of universal emancipation), in today’s constellation, the big Other is against us; left to itself, the inner thrust of our historical development leads to catastrophe. To apocalypse. Here, the only thing that can prevent catastrophe is pure voluntarism, i.e. our free decision to act against historical necessity.

The  latest Žižek news is now of just such a jump into catastrophe…..

The ‘alt-right’ site Breitbart reports,

Slovenian-born philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek said a Hillary Clinton presidency is a greater danger to the nation than a President Donald Trump.

Žižek explained that while he is “horrified” by Trump, he believes a Trump presidency could result in a “big awakening” that could set into motion the formation of “new political processes.”

By contrast, Žižek said he sees Clinton as “the true danger”–pointing specifically to her insincerity, her ties to the Wall Street banks, and her dedication to the “absolute inertia” of our established political system.

Zižek explained that Trump has been able to “disturb” the entrenched political system and argued that a Trump win could set into motion “new political processes”:

“In every society, there is a whole network of unwritten rules, how politics works, and how you build consensus. And Trump disturbed this. If Trump wins, both major parties–Republicans and Democrats–would have to return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there. … It will be a kind of big awakening. New political processes will be set in motion, will be triggered.”

Žižek, who has been described as “the Elvis of cultural theory,” rejected the narrative that a Trump presidency would introduce fascism in America. “Look, America is still not a dictatorial state. He will not introduce fascism,” Žižek said.

While the rockstar Lacanian Marxist professor, who has been described as a “leftist rabble-rouser,” said he was concerned by Trump’s pledge to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, Žižek explained that, in his view, the threat of a conservative court pales in comparison to the danger posed by a Hillary Clinton presidency:

“Listen, Trump has openly said … he will nominate right-wingers [to the Supreme Court], so there are dangers [to a Trump presidency]. I’m just afraid that Hillary stands for this absolute inertia, the most dangerous one, because she’s a cold warrior, and so on, connected with banks pretending to be socially progressive.”

How far should we take any of this seriously?

In  Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique we noted (Weekly Worker No 855 Thursday March 03 2011)

Will Žižek go further in this mystical, millennialist direction? Critics have accused him of randomly lumping together ideas, of repetition, of contradiction and of opaque thoughts. It would be better to say that his ideas are often hidden behind great verbal radicalism and convoluted digressions, as shown by his current religious themes. Very few people who take the time to decipher his writings will find substantial tools to use for mundane politics. The pictures of class divisions (included/excluded), immaterial production (exploitation reduced to rent), privatisation of the ‘commons’, and the dictatorship of the proletariat – not to mention the residue of Badiou’s timeless metaphysics – are, we have argued, botched. Nobody is going to storm heaven – or the state – with copies of these writings in their haversack.

Nobody with this rag-bag of ideas is going to begin the revival of mass emancipatory politics. It is even less likely that Trump, if he is elected (which we sincerely hope not) will lead to a “new political processes.” of benefit to any form of left.

Whatsoever.

We suspect this has the ring of truth about it,

Slavoj Zizek is auditioning to be on a CNN roundtable.Alex Shephard

The last time we checked in on collection of bodily fluids Slavoj Zizek, he was saying on-brand things about the election. Specifically, he had a “provocative thesis” that Trump was a liberal centrist. (In a Trump-ian twist, Zizek also described Trump in a way that is loosely descriptive of himself—as “personally disgusting, bad racist jokes, vulgarities, and so on.”) With five days to go until the election, Zizek is back and he’s trying on a new stained black t-shirt—the stained black t-shirt of punditry.

 No sleepless nights worrying about the future of  Žižek, though a few at the possibility that Trump might win.

*******

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism: a Reply to Maajid Nawaz.

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The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism.

Maajid Nawaz writes, in the Daily Beast,

The desire to impose religion over society is otherwise known as theocracy. Being veterans of the struggle to push back against fundamentalist Christians, American liberals are well acquainted with the pitfalls of the neoconservative flirtation with the religious-right. How ironic, then, that in Europe it is those on the left—led by the Guardian—who flirt with religious theocrats. For in the UK, our theocrats are brown, from minority communities, and are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Stop: if Nawaz considers that the Guardian is representative of the ‘left’ then there is a problem here. The paper officially backed the Liberal Democrats an election ago, – his party – not even going far enough to the left to support Labour.

True there are plenty of columnists for the Guardian (and exceptions, does he ever read Polly Toynbee?) like Reverend Giles Fraser, who have a soft spot for Islamism and spend their time wittering away about “shared identities” and linking Islamist “radicalism” with a fight against injustice.. Some, like Seumas Milne (who has stronger  claims to be on the left),  think that the struggle for progressive principles runs so far ‘within’ Islamism that he could back the right-wing Ennahda  party in Tunisia for its apparent calls for ‘social justice’ against left-wing secularist parties.

The Guardian also opened its pages to writers who loathed Charlie Hebdo, and French secularism, at the time of the Islamist attack on the Weekly, and the murder of Jewish customers at Hyper- Casher.

Seumas Milne denounced Charlie for repeated pornographic humiliation.” of the Prophet. Fraser felt the pain of “a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community”.

While condemning the killings with a sentence or two,  they immediately went out of their way to understand the ‘anger’ of people at seeing rude cartoons about their religion.

These people, and they include would apparently set up a list of rules and regulation to govern what is satire and what is not. It should, we heard endlessly, only attack the ‘powerful’. That, according to Will Self, we should drop the “sexual fetish” of defending the right of people to express themselves freely.

It was no doubt no coincidence that Respect’s MP,  George Galloway was particularly keen on a set of regulations to keep in check people’s tendency to make fun of others.

For those who came up with their hare-brained idea we can only guess that at their public schools they  had read Juvenal’s line

…difficile est saturam non scribere. nam quis iniquaetam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se

It is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself.

Yup, injustice, that’s all satire should be about.

But one doubts if their ‘rules’ can fit Viz magazine’s idea of satire:

https://40.media.tumblr.com/d8b147fa7dbc341d3a74323a6295a52b/tumblr_ndpet99xRw1r7pphso1_500.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/i762.photobucket.com/albums/xx262/SteveStrummerGB/Viz.png

I jest.

On the left there were others who stood with those who would regulate free speech to suit the demands of ‘Muslims’, and some (like a former supporter of your party Nawaz, the Liberal Democrat voting, Tariq Ali, as well as more obvious sources, like the Socialist Workers Party) who essentially claimed that Charlie “had it coming”.

But there were plenty of left-wing people, and organisations who stood with the martyrs of Charlie.

Groups like the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the paper, the Weekly Worker, and, more importantly countless Facebook friends, democratic socialists, social democrats, liberals and believers in human rights – hundreds of thousands of left-wing and liberal people in this country wept at the murders of our beloved comrades at Charlie and the Jewish victims of the anti-Semite killers  and stood up against Islamist violence when it counted.

Your write,

There is a natural fear among Europe’s left, that challenging Islamist extremism can only aid Europe’s far-right. But the alternative to this fear must not be to instead empower theocratic fascism. There is a way to both challenge those who want to impose islam, and those who wish to ban Islam. It has not escaped me, nor other liberal Muslims, that while challenging Islamist extremism we must remain attentive to protecting our civil liberties. We are born of this struggle, after all.

Some of us are born of this struggle as it echoed in the United Kingdom. and across the world:

The Real Origins of Secularism.

Secularism, in the form of laïcité, was the product of the 19th, not the 18th century. As Georges Weill explained (Histoire de l’idée laïque en France au XXe siècle. 1929, new edition, 2004) it was during the 1840s that the idea that administration and government of the country should be free from any religious power, emerged. Edgar Quinet ( 1803 – 1875) was one of the first to advocate a “une séparation complète radicale” of religious institutions from the State (Page 147 – 149)

Quinet’s emphasis on the idea of secular education, “l’école laïque ” was to be at the centre of all the subsequent fights for laïcité. Jules Ferry, who created the basis for a republican education system liberated from the –Catholic Church –, was only able to begin to realise this ideal after the Second Empire, under clerical domination, had fallen. The Third Republic (founded 1875) was rocked by divisions on the issue. It was only in 1905 that France saw a real separation of Church and State (with numerous exceptions, notably concerning private Catholic education, which continued, with subsidies).

Weill indicates that far from being the result of a violent hostility to religion French secularism originates in four sources. The first came from ‘Galician’ Catholics who opposed the ultramontagne power of the Pope over their own affairs, and, as the century progressed from Catholics who became attached to republican ideals. The second was amongst liberal Protestants, who had obvious (and blood-stained) reasons to distrust the power of the official Church. A third were desists, who wanted religion, illuminated by science, to be free from the doctrinal control of Papal Curia.

Only in the fourth category, the “libres penseurs”, can we find those with some debt to Hébert. The early workers’ movement owed a debt to Christian belief, particularly to Lamenais’ Paroles d’un croyant (1834), which rooted Christianity in democracy and social causes (in many respects more advanced than British ‘Christian socialism’ and still worth reading). But as the century progressed anti-clericalism spread amongst the socialists as well as amongst those who would become the so-called ‘Radical Socialist’ party (the word ‘radical’ comes from the British ‘radicals’ like John Stuart Mill). Many of the popular classes simply abandoned religion. 

For myself this is one part of the socialist heritage: the ‘synthesis’ between democratic Marxism and universal human rights for which  one of our greatest martyrs, Jean Jaurès, was assassinated.

Note that many secularists are ‘believers’.

Secularism is freedom to believe….

At a time when our comrades are again being slaughtered in Bangladesh for the crime of criticising  Islam and Islamists in the shape of the genocidal Daesh movement are attacking minorities, enslaving, and as you say…..

Will you join with this movement?

Back the Kurdish fighters, and the brace voices for secularism and freedom in every country – in many cases people deeply rooted in the Left?

The choice is for everybody.

Populism, Popular-Democratic Fronts and Tim Farron.

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https://i0.wp.com/www.heraldscotland.com/resources/images/4009486.jpg

Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!

Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.

It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.

We have written on some of the theories and politics behind this group, Stuart Hall, Thatcherism, and Marxism Today (also published in North Star. June 2013).

One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral  the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.

The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual  popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).

Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian  and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.

Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.

We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.

In a British left-wing  version, advanced by, amongst others,  Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”

This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:

The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.

Wikipedia.

Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.

The Democratic  Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.

We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.

Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’

He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.

Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..

It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.

This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).

The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.

Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.

After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.

* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe.  2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.