Archive for the ‘Liberal Democrats’ Category
As Nationalist Left Backs ‘Opportunities’ offered by Leave there is no such thing as a “People’s Brexit”
Morning Star Follows Callinicos: Accepting Brexit is indispensable to offering an alternative to neoliberalism.
Announces as an ‘alternative fact’ the pro-Brexit Morning Star.
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:
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.
….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.
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.
• 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.
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,
Slavoj Žižek: Trump Presidency could result in a “big awakening” and begin “new political processes.”
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.
We suspect this has the ring of truth about it,
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.
See also: From Farce to Tragedy: Žižek Endorses Trump. Ian Steinman.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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’.
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.
Reports the Independent.
SWP With Plymouth Islamic Society.
A PROTEST against a speaker specialising in Islamism and counter-extremism has taken place at Plymouth University tonight.
Around 30 people gathered to show their anger at Sheikh Dr Usama Husan giving a lecture at the uni.
It comes after he failed to condemn an image from the online cartoon ‘Jesus and Mo’ showing Jesus and Mohammed saying ‘hey’ and ‘how ya doin’ to each other.
Dr Hasan is a senior researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam was speaking at the Jill Craigie cinema tonight on the topic of Islam and democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The University cites Dr Hasan as a trained imam and a scientist with a PhD, MA and MSc from the Universities of Cambridge and London, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Around 30 people from the university’s Plymouth Islamic Society protested at the event as he had not condemned the actions of Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz, a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn who retweeted the controversial image.
They gathered peacefully in the lobby area of the Roland Levinsky building ahead of Dr Hasan’s arrival. A few ‘boos’ were heard as he entered the lectured theatre. Plymouth Herald.
Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.
Bob Pitt then entered the fray after reports of the SWP participation in the Muslim protest became public knowledge,
It is true that the Plymouth University demonstration “came after” Usama Hasan failed to condemn Maajid Nawaz’s tweet of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. But it is misleading to suggest that this was the sole reason for the protest.
First of all, the objection is not simply to the one cartoon but to the entire “Jesus and Mo” series which, as the online petition against Nawaz points out, “contains many highly offensive images of Jesus and Muhammad including homo-erotic scenes of them in bed together, being at bars together drinking alcohol using foul language, and reading pornographic magazines”. The petition further objects to the swearing and abuse with which Nawaz responded to his critics.
As the Quilliam Foundation NOT welcome in Plymouth Facebook page makes clear, the objection to Usama Hasan’s appearance in Plymouth was also wider than a complaint about a single cartoon. The organisers of the demonstration opposed Quilliam for having promoted the far-right extremists “Tommy Robinson” and Kevin Carroll, and for having “provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel”.
Plymouth University ISoc also condemned a cartoon tweeted by Usama Hasan himself, which trivialised domestic violence. They were joined by Fawcett Plymouth, who wrote to Plymouth University calling for the cancellation of the event at which Hasan was to speak.
The organisers’ appeal for support for the demonstration concluded: “We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities.”
The Islamists explained that,
“Join us in protesting and leafleting against the Quilliam Foundation appearing at Plymouth University. The Quilliam Foundation have been invited to speak and we strongly object. The QF founder tweeted on 12th January offensive caricatures of the Prophets Mohammed and Isa (Jesus), peace be upon them.
They claim to be a moderate Muslim group but have welcomed right wing extremist Tommy Robinson and Steve Carroll from the racist English Defence League. QF is a think tank that has received over £1million from the government. In return they have provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel.
We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities. We urge you to turn up and help us protest and leaflet to let people know what QF really stand for which is fuelling Islamaphobia and harming community relationships, and that they are not welcome here in Plymouth. This event has been organised by both local Muslims and non Muslims.
They posted a video clip of an elderly Swuppie selling Socialist Worker – here.
We certainly do not endorse the activities of the Quilliam Foundation.
But the nub of the matter is that the protest was sparked off by the Jesus and Mo cartoons.
I would like to see the Jesus and Mo Cartoons but Suffolk Library blocks the site – in effect bowing to the Islamist demands for censorship.
This is what came up when I tried to go on the Jesus and Mo blog.
Access to the page:… has been prevented for the following reason:Blocked site: jesusandmo.netYou are seeing this error because what you attempted to access appears to contain, or is
labeled as containing, material that is contrary to the Library’s Acceptable Use Policy.