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Miguel Abensour. 1939 – 2017. Radical Left ‘Insurgent Democracy”.

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Miguel Abensour. 1939 – 2017.

The radical left-wing political philosopher Miguel Abensour passed away on April the 22nd. From a Jewish family, and a childhood spent hidden from the Vichy regime in the countryside, Abensour began to teach political science in 1962. The young teacher, who had early discovered the division between “friends” and “enemies”, remained haunted not only by the experience of Nazism, but also by Stalinism. (1)

The Algerian war of independence and de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic saw the young university teacher’s involvement in the anti-bureaucratic and anti-capitalist left. Abensour’s ideas were influenced by Castoriadis and the review Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949 – 1967) During the sixties he was as founder of Utopie, whose other best known figure was Jean Baudrillard. The title of the journal could stand for a life-long interest in utopian thought, from Thomas More, William Morris, Walter Benjamin the anthropologist Pierre Clastres who speculated on societies without states, to Ernst Bloch and the Frankfurt School. He admired Hannah Arendt, her critique of totalitarianism, the destruction of pluralism, and her writing on the “hidden treasure” of the direct democracy of the workers’ councils. Unlike those, who in the wake of François Furet’s Penser la Révolution française (1978) saw in all radical revolutions the germs of totalitarian tyranny, he continued to defend a Marxist inflected “insurgent democracy”.

Tributes to Abensour have described his contributions to other journals, such as the 1970s anti-totalitarian Textures (to which Castoriadis and Claude Lefort contributed), and his publishing work in the collection, Critique de la politique.

La Démocratie contre l’État

Abensour’s La Démocratie contre l’État (2004) remains his most significant contribution to the independent critical left. Subtitled Marx et le moment machiavélien it is a reflection on Marx and Machiavelli. The work is informed by J.C.A Pocok’s account of how the Florentine’s idea of political Virtue might impose on Fortune and the form of the republic and Fortune, with sociology of liberty (The Machiavellian Moment. 1975). In the discussion of Marx Claude Lefort’s reading of Machiavelli come to the fore. For Lefort the description of the class divisions in Italian city-states, perennial conflicts, a refusal to be commanded or to be oppressed, were the foundation of liberty (Le Travail de l’oeuvre Machiavel. 1972/1986).

But Lefort, Abensour observed, had not stayed there. The former Socialisme ou Barbarie member’s defence of “démocratie sauvage”, heterogeneous movements for human rights, fights for legal rights in the sense also advanced by E.P.Thompson. After the 1970s vogue for ‘anti-totalitarianism’ in France Lefort had moved further into considering that “democratic revolution” could be focused around the “lieu vide” of power, the acceptance that there is a way of institutionalising contestation, pluralism, in a political place that remains “empty. That is, unoccupied by individuals, forces or ideas that impose a single social order. In other words, democratic societies are grounded on the acceptance of division. By contrast Abensour defended Marx. Against the charge that he wished to end this ambiguity in a society of total transparency and harmony. Marx did not imagine a return to ancient republicanism, a world of public lives under constant surveillance and ‘unity’. Insurgent democracy fuelled by such as sense of class conflict, closer to the spirit of anarchy, the “withering away of the state”, not only refuses totalitarianism, but also the structures of the state. Abensour thus rediscovered the possibility of radically new “espaces d’invention, d’évasion” – disorder that Lefort had turned away from. (2)

At a time when National Sovereignty is brandished by those who wish to occupy the space of democratic power, when the ‘federated’ People replaces for Class, and some would wish to claim the ‘independence’ of the Nation against the ‘Elites’ and ‘Oligarchs’, Abensour’s insurgent democracy stands as a rebuke to the narrow goals of populism, right or left. Yet perhaps there is some virtue in keeping the reins of power out of the hands of a single General Will. Those on the British left, now offering to fight to the last French person against Le Pen and Macron, might also reflect on those, like Michael Abensour, who have had more fecund dreams of a utopian future without domination and Sovereignty. He deserves to be as widely read as possible.

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(1) Les guerres d’Abensour.

(2) Page 184. La Démocratie contre l’État le Felin. 2004

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 11:45 am

As Marine Le Pen Rises in Polls Criticism of Mélenchon’s Silence Grows.

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Nothing to say on how to fight Marine Le Pen at 41% ( +1).

France 24 reports,

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon forfeited the opportunity to play kingmaker on Sunday night by declining to back centrist (and onetime banker) Emmanuel Macron over anti-immigration europhobe Marine Le Pen in the run-off on May 7.

Heady with the 7 million votes he scored in Sunday’s first round – or disappointed that he fell only 618,609 short of beating Le Pen to a spot in the presidential run-off – Mélenchon took no clear stand on election night, leaving his voters to hash out their choice for May 7 online. Third-place finisher François Fillon, of the conservative Les Républicains party, and Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon both used their concession speeches on Sunday to immediately back Macron for the presidency.

However, Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France (France insoumise) movement launched a voter “consultation” he promised on its website on Tuesday evening. It gives the 450,000 supporters who signed up on the platform before 10pm on April 23 – when Mélenchon gave his speech, and two hours after polls closed – a chance to express their choices among three options: voting a blank ballot, voting Macron or abstaining. Pointedly, voting Le Pen is not provided as an option “because it is clear to us that the National Front is a danger for the workforce”, Mélenchon spokesman Alexis Corbière explained on Wednesday.

The straw poll will continue until next Tuesday at noon, after which the results will be announced. But Unsubmissive France said on Wednesday that Mélenchon himself would not make public how he will vote personally, even after the results of the survey are released.

A sensation who rose like a shot in polls in the month before the first round, Mélenchon managed the feat of relegating the Socialist candidate to an also-ran. A former Socialist himself who cut ties with the party in 2008 to establish his own movement farther to the left, Mélenchon scored more than three times more votes than Hamon, largely on the back of two charismatic TV debate performances on March 20 and April 4. In those clashes, the 65-year-old political veteran came off as lively, confident, witty and frank. The contrast between his showman flourishes then and his post-election-night silence now is jarring.

Calls to abstain

Mélenchon voters have taken to social media to air their misgivings about voting for Macron, a onetime banker and economy minister under Socialist President François Hollande who quit last year to mount his own independent presidential bid. Many, using the hashtag #sansmoile7mai (“May 7 without me”) have said they simply cannot vote for “le capitaliste” Macron, even against Le Pen; they would rather cast a blank ballot or abstain.

This position, whose ambiguities  we have already outlined is opposed to that of  whole trade union movement. All of the union federations have called for a  vote against Le Pen and the National Front on Sunday May 7. The CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires, the CFDT, FSU and even the Christian CFTC, which only once before, in 2002, have all called on their members to ‘stop the National Front’.

The left, the PCF, Ensemble (in a rather contorted fashion, no doubt to avoid offending the Great Man),  and the French Socialists  have also done so.

Not everybody in La France insoumise is happy with the silence of the Man of Destiny.

Mélenchon’s  stand has raised a storm of protest on the left which has been reflected inside the rally itself.

Monsieur Mélenchon, que diable allons-nous faire dans cette galère ? Libération.

Par Baudouin Woehl, étudiant dans un conservatoire à Paris

Un militant de la France insoumise s’indigne de la non-prise de position de Jean-Luc Mélenchon contre Marine Le Pen.

An activist of La France insoumise is angry at the failure of Jean-Luc Jean-Luc Mélenchon to take a stand against Marine Le Pen.

Dire non au FN, c’est se donner les moyens de poursuivre la lutte, c’est éviter de transformer ce «matin tout neuf qui commence à percer» dont vous parlez, en une nuit toute longue et incertaine.

To say No to the FN, is the way to get the means to continue the fight, that is, to avoid that the “new dawn which has begun to shine”, which you speak about, becomes a long night of uncertainty.

This is in a similar vein: Lettre à mes ami.e.s de gauche qui ne voteront pas contre Le Pen le 7 mai.

This demands that Mélenchon takes off the Red Triangle, sign of solidarity with victims of the Nazi, from his label.

Monsieur Mélenchon, ayez la décence de retirer ce triangle rouge de votre veste.Par Didier Daeninckx, écrivain.

On the British far left, amongst the professional dilettantes (the inevitable Tariq Ali) cheering on Mélenchon  is Kevin Ovenden,  who has been a leading figure in Respect and now appears close to the groupscule Counterfire, with influence in the Stop the War Coalition.

France: an historic moment for the left

He argues against the Vote Contre Le Pen campaign,

The Socialist Party and the Communist Party, in the false name of anti-fascist unity, are aiming to restore their own fortunes at the National Assembly elections, over the corpse of this radical breakthrough by the insurgent left last Sunday.

In endorsing Macron, they do three things. They give political support to someone who will launch an offensive against working people. They help Le Pen – for she wants this political constellation of her against all the old party machines. And they do Macron’s bidding in trying to rip away a part of the “insubordinate left” back to the centre, in return – if they are lucky – for some local pacts to deliver some parliamentary seats.

Instead, willing to share his successful strategy  in Respect Ovenden argues  to back an independent la France insoumise, do not vote against Le Pen in the polling booths, and to for those who supported Mélenchon to start  “providing them with the tools to maintain this insurgency.

For, “This is actually the moment of the fighting left. The agency for rupturing into a half century political settlement has been someone whose politics are actually closer to the patriotic social democratic left than they are to anti-capitalist revolutionaries.”

Ovenden  seems to be relishing the idea of street fighting if Le Pen approaches power, and no doubt afterwards.

He will no doubt offer his strategic skills to the French Left.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Four Way Race in French Presidential Election: Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck with François Fillon.

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Video Game, “Fiscal Kombat“: Mélenchon versus  Socialist Party Tax Evader Cahuzac.

France 24 reports, “Jean-Luc Mélenchon neck-to-neck, or even ahead, of conservative candidate François Fillon.”

The  Independent states,

The first round in the French presidential election could turn into a four-way contest, after a leftist candidate’s unexpected surge in the polls.

Jean-Luc Melenchon is now 0.5 per cent behind conservative Francois Fillon, who sits in third place.

Mr Melenchon gained one percentage point in the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll, putting him at 18 per cent, while Mr Fillon was stable at 18.5 per cent.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is seen as leading the first round of the presidential election at 24 per cent, while centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is at 23 per cent.

The Independent points to this,

Ms Le Pen has drawn protests from her election rivals bydenying the French state’s responsibility for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during the Second World War.

Her comments appeared at odds with years of efforts to make her once-pariah National Front (FN) more palatable to mainstream voters.

“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” Ms Le Pen said, referring to the Nazi-ordered roundup by French police in the Velodrome d’Hiver cycling stadium of 13,000 Jews, who were then deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1942.

“I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France,” she said in an interview with media groups Le Figaro, RTL and LCI.

Other polls give Mélenchon 18% and Fillon 17%.

The left socialist, and anti-‘Third Way’ candidate of the Parti Socialiste,  Benoît Hamon, is now below 10% in the opinion polls.

With an audience of 70,000 in Marseilles on Sunday Jean-Luc Mélenchon spoke of peace and in defence of “métissage” (cultural and ethnic mixing). He called a minute’s silence to respect those who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe (A Marseille, Mélenchon à bon port)

 

Meanwhile Macron’s latest backer is unlikely to bring him much joy:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Rise of a French Patriot.

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Will Submit Young People to Re-introduction of National Service.

As Jean-Luc Mélenchon rises in the French opinion polls  with the latest even putting the leader of La France insoumise 19%, neck and neck (Un sondage donne Jean-Luc Mélenchon et François Fillon à égalité dans les intentions de vote) with the scandal-riven right-wing candidate, he is attracting a lot of new support.

One is of particular interest.

The veteran extreme right group, Action française (that is, the group which continues to identify with the organisation), has called to vote for a Presidential candidate who will help Frexit, (on the model of Brexit) (1).

Action française appelle à voter, au premier tour, pour un des quatre candidats – Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen ou Mélenchon.

« Frexit ! » est le mot d’ordre qui doit présider au choix de tout patriote. C’est pourquoi, considérant que seuls les peuples libres peuvent décider du sens qu’ils donnent à leur histoire, l’Action française appelle à voter, au premier tour, pour un des quatre candidats – Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen ou Mélenchon – qui se prononcent pour une dénonciation des traités européens existants, tout en privilégiant ceux qui envisagent clairement la sortie de l’Union européenne et le retour au franc.

Frexit, that’s the guiding line which must guide the choice of every patriot. That’s why, considering that only free people can decide their own history, Action française calls for a vote, in the first round, for one of these four candidates, Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan, Le Pen or Mélenchon, who have denounced existing European treaties, giving priority amongst them to those who have clearly called for France to leave the Europe Union and for the return of the Franc.

L’Action Française appelle à voter pour un candidat du Frexit

Mélenchon is not responsible for this recommendation from the ultra-nationalist and racist far-right.

Indeed he has gone out of this way to deny that he is a nationalist.

« Mme Le Pen et moi sommes séparés par le fait qu’elle ne croit pas à la nation républicaine comme moi. Elle croit à la préférence nationale. Je ne suis pas un nationaliste, je suis un patriote, ça n’a rien à voir. Je propose le protectionnisme solidaire. Je négocie avec les autres pays, je ne m’enferme pas. Je ne crois pas à la nation ethnique. Un Français sur quatre a un grand-parent étranger.

Madame Le Pen and myself are separated by the fact that she does not believe in the Republican Nation as I do. She believes in ‘national preference’. I am not a nationalist, I am a patriot, something quite different. I propose protectionism based on solidarity. I will negotiate with other countries, and will not cut myself off from them. I don’t believe in an ethically based nations. One French person out of four has a foreign grandparent.

Le Monde.

Those who look at his proposal for a compulsory 9 month ‘citizens’ service for the under 25s, including  military training, will have little doubt that he is indeed a French ‘patriot’.

This is a key proposal of La France insoumise: a return to national service.

Créer un service citoyen obligatoire pour les femmes et pour les hommes, par conscription, avant 25 ans proche du lieu de vie, en limitant le casernement aux fonctions qui l’exigent réellement. D’une durée totale de 9 mois, comprenant une formation militaire initiale incluant un droit à l’objection de conscience, rémunéré au Smic, affecté à des tâches d’intérêt général

The creation of a compulsory  citizens service for the everybody under 25, by conscription, this will take place near to their homes, limiting quartering in barracks to functions which really require this. It will last 9 months, with an introductory military training – to which the right of consciousness objection is recognised, and will be paid at the minimum wage, and will consist of community work of public utility.

Other candidates also propose similar measures. Marine Le Pen offers a minimum 3 months military service, and Emmanuel Macron, a short period of national service, structured by the army and the gendarmarie.

The Socialist Candidate, Benoît Hamon, has called compulsory schemes ‘paternalist’, inefficient, and unwanted by the armed forces.

There is already a national and voluntary “service civique” for the under-25, in which up to 100, 000 people have participated.

In the eyes of people in many countries the idea of returning to a form of national service looks, frankly, bizarre, flag-waving, and.. nationalist.

Latest opinion polls summary (from Stephan).

Le Pen (Far-Right) 23% ↓
Macron (Centrist, Pro-EU) 23% ↓
Melenchon (Left-Wing, Souverainism) 19%↑
Fillon (Conservative) 19%↑
Hamon ( Parti Socialiste) 8.5%↓
Dupont-Aignan (Right-wing, Souverainism) 3.5% ↓
Poutou (Far-left) 1.5%↑
Arthaud (Far-left, Trotskyism) 1% =
Lassalle (Centrist) 1% =
Asselineau (Souverainism, Euroscepticism) 0.5% =
Cheminade (Souverainism, Conspiracy Theory) 0.5%↓

 (1) “The AF movement still exists as the monarchist and anti-European UnionCentre royaliste d’Action française” and publishes a magazine called Action française 2000. Its leader was Pierre Pujo (Maurice Pujo’s son), who died in Paris on 10 November 2007.[6] The student movement, called Action française étudiante, has approximately 15 local delegations (in places such as Paris, Normandy, Rennes, Bordeaux, and Forez) and a newspaper, Insurrection. Its President is Oliver Perceval.” Wikipedia.

More (French)

“En octobre 2011, le CRAF, ainsi que l’AFE, prennent une part importante dans des manifestations contre une pièce de théâtre jugée christianophobe250, Sul concetto di volto nel Figlio di Dio (« Sur le concept du visage du Fils de Dieu ») du dramaturge et metteur en scène italien Romeo Castellucci, puis participent à la « marche contre la christianophobie » qui suit251.

Le Printemps royal défile au Jour de colère le 26 janvier 2014.

L’AF entretien des relations de grande proximité avec le Printemps français. En 2013, dans le cadre de La Manif pour tous, le secrétaire général du mouvement, Olivier Perceval produit une tribune proclamant la création du Printemps français à la suite de laquelle le mouvement apparaît effectivement252. L’Action française revendique la formation de cadres de Printemps français, ce qui se vérifie sur le terrain ou les dirigeants régionaux de l’AF y sont souvent impliqués253. À la fin des mouvements de La Manif pour tous, le Printemps français sert de succursale de recrutement pour l’AFE en prenant le nom de Printemps royal254. Le Printemps royal tient en 2014 un cortège à la manifestation Jour de colère du 26 janvier.

Depuis le mouvement fait parler de lui à de nombreuses reprises, faits dénoncés par Edwy Plenel, le directeur de Mediapart : « L’Action française. Ce laboratoire idéologique de la réaction, hélas non dénué de talent, qui poursuit son travail de subversion255. » Jean-Yves Camus pour sa part constate dans La Provence « une nouvelle génération plus activiste et tapageuse »256.

L’AF fait l’objet de menaces de morts régulières : en 2013 une grenade explose dans les locaux parisiens, en septembre 2015 une grenade et des balles d’AK-47 sont scotchées sur la porte des locaux marseillais257,258.

Les différentes actions du mouvement, notamment son regain d’activité dans le sud-est, conduisent le député Jean-David Ciot à redemander sa dissolution le 4 décembre 2015259.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm

‘People’s Brexit’ Faced with Disaster.

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“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”

Enrico Tortolano and Ragesh Khakhria: Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Emergency Demonstration:

This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.  

We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.

The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.

People’s Assembly.

In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.

He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.

In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.

The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.

After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.

The result?

Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.

Perry Anderson. Passing the Baton. New Left Review. 103. 2017.

Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of  ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.

I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’)  factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.

Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”

Or indeed that,

The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.

Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.

It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.

Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the  vote to  Leave?

And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).

There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’,  agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.

One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.

The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.

But first they have to get there….

For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it.  The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”

Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..

Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on  upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.

For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.

As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.

Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”

This has not happened.

Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.

The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse,  and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.

Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a  Social Europe  are decidedly not.

Brexit Now.

For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:

No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.

Brexit is about to get real. Yet we are nowhere near ready for it

 From those who give advice to the left:

There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.

Neither Washington Nor Brussels. Daniel Finn.

It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.

But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds),  and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.

No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.

Just to give a flavour…

Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.

..

Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.

The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.

Left Unity.  Brexit, Democracy, and Oppression. Neil Faulkner

As Neil says,

“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”

UK Far-Left Splits: SWP Leaves Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

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TUSC: Standing for the 99%

Socialist Worker reports this bombshell:

The Socialist Workers Party has decided to suspend its membership of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

TUSC has provided a structure for trade unionists, campaigners and socialists to stand in elections against pro-austerity politicians.

It’s not a decision we take lightly.

We have been part of TUSC for over seven years, stood dozens of candidates and recorded some of TUSC’s better results.

We have worked with the other components of TUSC—the RMT union, the Socialist Party and independents.

We think it is right to cooperate with others on the left wherever possible.

Labour won’t be the vehicle for socialist transformation any more than Syriza was in Greece—and we still want a socialist alternative to it.

But we cannot support the decision taken at TUSC’s recent conference to stand in May’s council elections in England and Wales.

These elections will be seen as a referendum on Corbyn. It won’t matter if the candidates are right wingers. Every loss will be blamed on the left.

Furthermore,

For TUSC to stand at this point welds together Labour supporters and is a barrier to united front work with Labour people.

Our small electoral united front would make it harder to achieve a larger united front with the Labour left.

At the Copeland and Stoke by-elections Labour’s candidates were from the right. However, Socialist Worker called for a vote for Labour. We don’t want Ukip or the Tories winning.

What’s at issue is how to fight cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks. And we know any victories for them would be used to unleash the dogs on Corbyn.

We have been proven right. If TUSC was winning substantial votes the argument might be different, but the results will be modest. There’s no shame in that. But it makes standing against a Corbyn-led Labour even harder to justify.

Our unwillingness to put forward candidates is not because Labour councils are doing a good job. They are ruthlessly imposing Tory cuts.

Many councils face a loss of 60 percent of their income between 2010 and 2020. Yet there have been no Labour-led national marches, no councillors’ revolt, no calls for defiance by councillors, unions and people who use the services.

Instead, at the last Labour conference, delegates and leadership united to declare it a disciplinary offence to pass “illegal” no cuts budgets.

What’s at issue is how to fight these cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks.

We believe the best way is to campaign in the streets and workplaces alongside Labour supporters.

None of us can predict future events. At some point, as part of the fight to move beyond social democracy, we believe it will be necessary to stand in elections again.

Were Corbyn to be removed and replaced by a right winger, the question of standing against Labour would return in sharper form.

We hope TUSC will continue to be part of the response.

But…..

In Scotland the situation is different. Labour is headed up by the anti-Corbyn Kezia Dugdale. The rise of the Scottish National Party has raised the question of alternatives to Labour.

We support Scottish TUSC candidates as part of what we hope will be a wider realignment on the left.

We wish the best to those who remain in TUSC and look forward to continuing to work with them.

The Socialist Party reported the TUSC  decision to stand at the beginning of February,

TUSC and the 2017 elections

The following motion was agreed by the conference, with five votes against:

“This conference re-affirms the support that TUSC has given to Jeremy Corbyn against Labour’s Blairite right-wing, from his initial leadership election victory in September 2015 and during his re-election campaign in 2016.

“We recognise that his leadership of the Labour Party has opened up the political situation compared to the first five years of TUSC’s existence and that his defeat by the Labour right-wing would be a serious blow for the working class movement.

“TUSC was set-up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow, to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates under a common anti-austerity and socialist banner, with an agreed minimum platform of core policies. Establishing an electoral coalition of this character, involving a mix of constituent organisations and individuals, as conceived as a step towards solving the vacuum of working class political representation that had existed since the triumph of ‘New Labour’.

“Clearly Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory, potentially a terminal defeat of New Labour, required TUSC to re-calibrate its electoral activity and conference supports the steps taken by the steering committee to do so. In the May 2016 local elections, for example, no TUSC candidates were even considered to be run without local TUSC groups seeking a dialogue with the sitting Labour councillor or prospective candidate on the critical issue of their preparedness to resist cuts to local council jobs and services.

“Conference calls on the steering committee to continue with this approach for the 2017 elections.

“We recognise that this will be more challenging in the 33 English county councils and unitary authorities with elections in May, only six of which have Labour-led administrations. That is not the case, however, in Wales – where right-wing Labour is the dominant force in local government – or Scotland, in a different political context and with councillors elected under a proportional representation system in multi-member wards. The preference vote system used in mayoral elections also makes it easier for TUSC candidacies to be supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message while making sure that the Tories do not make electoral headway.

“Notwithstanding the differences between the various contests taking place in May, conference calls on the steering committee to ensure that, for whichever elections candidate applications are received, TUSC’s electoral interventions are part of a serious campaign against cuts to local public services and will strengthen the battle against the right wing in the Labour Party and the unions”.

They remain upbeat,

Fighting cuts at the ballot box – first TUSC candidates for May’s elections announced

Last week’s meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee approved the first batch of candidates to contest the local elections taking place on Thursday May 4th.

The February 15th meeting was the first steering committee since the TUSC conference in January, which set the parameters for TUSC electoral challenges this year (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17332/05-02-2017/tusc-conference-debates-election-plans-and-anti-cuts-campaigning).

In line with these parameters, none of the TUSC candidates approved at the February 15th meeting are contesting seats in which the Labour candidate came out in support of Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour leadership contest.

On the contrary all of the Labour candidates, sitting councillors on the Labour-led Lancashire County Council, either publically supported Owen Smith’s summer coup or stayed studiously ‘neutral’ as the campaign to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn was under way.

In addition, all of the Labour candidates have just voted for another cuts budget for the county council. These included cuts of £3.3m from mental health services; £4.8m from Supporting People, with plans to end supported housing for people with mental health issues; ending free transport for adults to day centres; and the closure of three Adult Education Centres, five museums, and 20 county libraries (out of 74). These are not the actions of anti-austerity councillors!

The TUSC candidates include Dr Jackie Grunsell, standing in Burnley Central West against the council cabinet member for (cutting) Adult and Community Services; and Gavin Hartley, a former PCS public sector union branch officer, standing in Padiham & Burnley West against the cabinet member for Environment and Cultural Services (ie libraries and museums).

The other TUSC candidates agreed were Lucy Nuttall (standing in Preston East); Dave Beale (Preston Central North); and Tom Costello (Preston South East).

Background to TUSC (Wikipedia)

2015 general election

TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland,[8] as well as 619 council candidates in local elections.[9]

The organisation announced in October 2014 that it had received a guarantee of funding from Socialist Alliance.[37] The funds would provide for one hundred deposits in parliamentary contests, as well as a Party Political Broadcast.[38]

The party performed badly at the election, winning 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.[39][40]

Local elections

2016 local elections

Following the 2016 elections, TUSC have no remaining official councillors, Kevin Bennett having lost his seat in Warrington;[41] Hull Red Labour and Walsall Democratic Labour also lost their remaining seats.

So TUSC soldiers on while the SWP have opted for a “united front” with the “Labour left”.

That is anybody not connected to what “Labour Councils” who are not, apparently, doing a “good job”.

Since every council faces cuts in budgets, perhaps even the most “ruthless” would prefer to attack the government doing the cutting rather than the councils under Theresa May’s pressure.

Is anybody in the Labour Party listening in the SWP’s  long battle to “move beyond social democracy”.

Not many if reports are to be believed.

Which is the reason most on the left think the groupuscule is concentrating on demonstrations, the SWP’s Protest to Survive.

Image result for swp placards pile

Except in Scotland where apparently things are ripe enough to continue with…..TUSC.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Left Socialist Revolutionaries Win Backing in Leftist Poll on 1917.

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1917PartiyaSoz-Rev.jpg

Socialist Revolutionary Party.

There is a popular  quiz, circulated at the moment on Facebook,  on “Who are you in 1917 Russia? Take our test, “Political Compass of the Revolution,” to find out who you would have been 100 years ago – an Anarchist, a Cadet, a Right SR, a Bolshevik or a member of the Black Hundreds.”

No doubt important international leaders of the proletariat, like Tariq Ali, Alex Callinicos, Lindsey Germain and John Rees, would have found that would have been key advisers of the Bolsheviks, commanders of the Red Army and People’s Commissars.

But many people, and not the least, have found that they would have been Left Socialist Revolutionaries.

This is odd, I’d have expected to turn out a Internationalist  Menshevik.

Or this:

But like many I got, Left SR…..

The SR’s, of all stripes, were in favour of continuing the war.

Apart from that many of their policies were not at all bad.

Notably,

At the 5th All-Russia Congress of Soviets of July 4, 1918 the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries had 352 delegates compared to 745 Bolsheviks out of 1132 total. The Left SRs raised disagreements on the suppression of rival parties, the death penalty, and mainly, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Then there was this:

The Left SR uprising or Left SR revolt was an uprising against the Bolsheviks by the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party in July 1918. The uprising started on 6 July 1918 and was claimed to be intended to restart the war with Germany. It was one of a number of left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks that took place during the Russian Civil War.

But are there more details on who the left SRs were?

LibCom has this interesting article: Literature and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Revolutionary organizations in Russia in 1917-1921.

At the peak of the political influence the number of organization members were approaching 200 thousands. The Left SRs supported the autonomy of the workers’ councils and the federal structure of the country. They criticized Bolshevik Party for the establishment of the dictatorship.

A very sad fact is that when people talk about the poets and the writers of Russia who accepted and supported Russian Revolution, they immediately associate them with Bolshevism. But supporting Russian revolution and supporting Bolshevism is two different things.

For example, the poet Yesenin was a member of the PLSR and sympathized with Makhno. Yevgeny Zamyatin is an author of the novel “We”, written in 1920. This book is one of the great anti-utopias of the 20th century, along with the works of George Orwell. Zamyatin was subjected to repression in the Soviet Union because of this book. In this novel anti-state rebels are fighting for the “fourth revolution”, which aims to liberate people from the power of the totalitarian state: an allusion to the concept of the “third revolution”, anti-totalitarian anti-Bolshevik Revolution of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists.

In 1919, Zamyatin, along with many well-known artists (Block, Remizov, Ivanov-Razumnik) was arrested during the Left SRs strikes in the factories of Petersburg. The Left SRs were not peaceful legal strikers: their struggle was not limited to economic demands, they fought for free elections to the councils and wanted the elimination of the violent political monopoly of the Bolsheviks. Strikes were carried out by radical methods: factory’s Left SRs militia used weapons. While all of these cultural figures were not related directly to the performances of the Petersburg workers, they had a direct link with the Left SRs.

Since 1916, an informal group of “Scythians” began to form around the famous writer Ivanov-Razumnik, which gravitated toward the left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries. It included Andrey Beliy, Alexander Blok, Klyuev, Lundberg, Forsh etc. In the years 1919-1924 in Russia the Free Philosophical Association, WOLFILA, was patronized by the Left SRs. It worked even with a wider circle of writers, artists, social thinkers. Some of them cooperated in the newspapers published by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, “The Banner of Labour” and the magazine “Our Way”.

Of course, we can not say that they were all standing on party positions, although, for example, Ivanov-Razumnik was a member of the Central Committee of PLSR. But all of them in one way or another sympathized with the revolutionary-socialism LSR based on the ideas of self-government and individual freedom. Aleksandr Blok’s poem “Scythians” is a great anthem of the Russian revolution, which is nothing else than a poetic statement of Left SRs program.

If the concept of “revolution” is ever to be cleaned from the USSR flavour, then, perhaps, the work of poets, writers, scientists, philosophers of the Scythians and WOLFILA would become closer and more understandable to many people.

P.S. Important role in the discovery of the influence of the Left SRs on Russian literature belongs to the modern historian Yaroslav Leontiev.

Alexander Blok. The Scythians

Millions are you – and hosts, yea hosts, are we,
And we shall fight if war you want, take heed.
Yes, we are Scythians – leafs of the Asian tree,
Our slanted eyes are bright aglow with greed.Ages for you, for us the briefest space,
We raised the shield up as your humble lieges
To shelter you, the European race
From the Mongolians’ savage raid and sieges.Ages, yea ages, did your forges’ thunder
Drown even avalanches’ roar.
Quakes rent Messina and Lisbon asunder –
To you this was a distant tale – no more.

Eastwards you cast your eyes for many hundred years,
Greedy for our precious stones and ore,
And longing for the time when with a leer
You’d yell an order and the guns would roar.

This time is now. Woe beats its wings
And every adds more humiliation
Until the day arrives which brings
An end to placid life in utter spoliation.

You, the old world, now rushing to perdition,
Yet strolling languidly to lethal brinks,
Yours is the ancient Oedipean mission
To seek to solve the riddles of a sphinx.

The sphinx is Russia, sad and yet elated,
Stained with dark blood, with grief prostrate,
For you with longing she has looked and waited,
Replete with ardent love and ardent hate.

Yet how will ever you perceive
That, as we love, as lovingly we yearn,
Our love is neither comfort nor relief
But like a fire will destroy and burn.

We love cold figures’ hot illumination,
The gift of supernatural vision,
We like the Gallic wit’s mordant sensation
And dark Teutonic indecision.

We know it all: in Paris hell’s dark street,
In Venice bright and sunlit colonnades,
The lemon blossoms’ scent so heavy, yet so sweet,
And in Cologne a shadowy arcade.

We love the flavour and the smell of meat,
The slaughterhouses’ pungent reek.
Why blame us then if in the heat
Of our embrace your bones begin to creak.

We saddle horses wild and shy,
As in the fields so playfully they swerve.
Though they be stubborn, yet we press their thigh
Until they willingly and meekly serve.

Join us! From horror and from strife
Turn to the peace of our embrace.
There is still time. Keep in its sheath your knife.
Comrades, we will be brothers to your race.

Say no – and we are none the worse.
We, too, can utter pledges that are vain.
But ages, ages will you bear the curse
Of our sons’ distant offspring racked with pain.

Our forests’ dark depths shall we open wide
To you, the men of Europe’s comely race,
And unmoved shall we stand aside,
An ugly grin on our Asian face.

Advance, advance to Ural’s crest,
We offer you a battleground so neat
Where your machines of steel in serried ranks abreast
With the Mongolian savage horde will meet.

But we shall keep aloof from strife,
No longer be your shield from hostile arrow,
We shall just watch the mortal strife
With our slanting eyes so cold and narrow.

Unmoved shall we remain when Hunnish forces
The corpses’ pockets rake for plunder,
Set town afire, to altars tie their horses,
Burn our white brothers’ bodies torn asunder.

To the old world goes out our last appeal:
To work and peace invite our warming fires.
Come to our hearth, join our festive meal.
Called by the strings of our Barbarian lyres.

30 January 1918