Russia-Israel military alliance in Syria is a breakthrough.
Left Socialist Blog
Portugal’s governing centre-right coalition has won the country’s general election, which was widely seen as a referendum on four years of austerity.
Socialist leader Antonio Costa admitted defeat and congratulated Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.
With almost all votes counted, the centre-right leads with just under 37%, with the Socialists on over 32%.
However, Mr Passos Coelho said his coalition appeared to have lost its absolute majority in parliament.
With 99 seats in the 230-seat parliament, the ruling coalition fell 17 seats short of the number it needed.
Mr Passos Coelho indicated that he was ready to talk to other parties in the next parliament to pursue the “necessary reforms” he wants to implement.
“Times haven’t been easy, and the times ahead will be challenging,” he said, promising to talk to the Socialists with the aim of maintaining a rigorous budget and a reduction in the public debt.
Parties to the left of the Socialists achieved their best-ever result, says the BBC’s Alison Roberts in Lisbon.
Left Bloc won 10% of the vote, securing 19 seats, while the Communists took 8% of the vote.
|Portugal Ahead (PSD / CDS–PP)[j]||1,979,132||36.83||11.0||124||99||25||43.81||11.1||1.19|
|Democratic Unity Coalition (Communists and Greens)||444,319||8.27||0.4||16||17||1||7.52||0.4||0.91|
|Workers’ Communist Party||59,812||1.11||0.1||0||0||0||0.00||0.0||0.0|
|FREE/Time to move Foward||38,958||0.72||N/A||N/A||0||N/A||0.00||N/A||0.0|
|National Renovator Party||27,104||0.50||0.2||0||0||0||0.00||0.0||0.0|
|Labour / Socialist Alternative ACT!||20,690||0.38||N/A||N/A||0||N/A||0.00||N/A||0.0|
|We, the Citizens!||18,695||0.35||N/A||N/A||0||N/A||0.00||N/A||0.0|
|Together for the People||14,196||0.26||N/A||N/A||0||N/A||0.00||N/A||0.0|
|United Party of Retirees and Pensioners||13,739||0.26||N/A||N/A||0||N/A||0.00||N/A||0.0|
|People’s / People’s Monarchist[m]||3,654||0.07||N/A||0||0||0||0.00||0.0||0.0|
|Christian Democratic and Citizenship||2,658||0.05||0.1||0||0||0||0.00||0.0||0.0|
The Bloco de Esquerda (Left bloc) made a breakthrough. It got 5,2% in the last election. Now it has 10.22%. It’s worth noting that some opinion polls had given them around 5%.
We are Europeans, but not Eurocentric: we want for Europe the same that we wish for the planet. We are Europeans, but not Eurocrats: we believe in democracy. We reject the standardization and lack of respect for the diversity that makes Europe. We are Left. Our opponents are not immigrants, minorities, poor, gays or unemployed, but those who promote austerity. We believe in solidarity, in facing the crisis together, in a Europe that restores hope.
“The Left Bloc (B.E.) was formed in March 1999 by the merger of the People’s Democratic Union (União Democrática Popular, UDP, communist), Revolutionary Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Revolucionário, PSR [ex-LCI], Trotskyist), and Politics XXI (Política XXI, PXXI, socialist). B.E. has had full party status since its founding, yet the constituent groups have maintained their existence as individual political associations, and retain some levels of autonomy, leading to a loose structure.” (Wikipedia)
I would correct Wikipedia on the details of this: the União Democrática Popular (UDP) are former marxist-leninists- that is, Maoists.
The Bloc had a very sharp internal debate last year:
After its ninth national convention, held in Lisbon on November 22-23, 2014, it really looked as if Portugal’s Left Bloc were in serious trouble—split right down the middle. And split not over insuperable differences of political perspective but over its leadership model and who, as national coordinator, should be its public face.
This was the first time in its 15-year existence that a Left Bloc convention had not produced a solid majority (usually around 80%). But this time Motion U (called “Unitary Motion under Construction—For a Citizen Revolt Against Austerity”, with outgoing co-coordinators Catarina Martins and João Semedo as lead signatories) was being challenged by Motion E. This motion was called “A Plural Bloc, Force for Turnaround” and was supported by the Bloc’s national parliamentary caucus leader Pedro Filipe Soares and founding member and MP Luis Fazenda.
Motion E put up Soares to replace Semedo and Martins as the Bloc’s national coordinator.
In the vote for the 80-seat National Board, the Bloc’s leadership body between conventions, Motions U and E both won 259 votes. As a result both obtained 34 seats, with the remaining positions being shared between two of the three other motions that had been submitted to the convention. These were Motion B (51 votes, 7 seats) and Motion R (32 votes and 4 seats).
In the vote on the motions themselves, Motion U won by a hair’s breadth from Motion E, by 266 votes to 258. Motions A (“A Left Response—For a Bloc that attends to the needs of people now!”), B (“Re-found the Bloc in the fight against austerity”) and R (“Reinvent the Bloc”) won 7, 34 and 30 votes respectively.
This overall result, due to some delegates switching from Motion B to Motion U for vote on the political line, raised the possibility that the incoming National Board, which elects the Left Bloc’s Political Committee and National Coordinator(s), would be deadlocked. The headlines read “Bloc ends convention without leaders” and “Left Bloc: leadership coming soon”.
Nonetheless, at the first meeting of the National Board, on November 30, a compromise was reached that won 90% backing and which no-one opposed: the 16-person Political Committee would reflect the proportions of support received at the convention (as required by a change to the statutes) and there would be a six-person Standing Committee (also with proportional representation) and a single national coordinator instead of the gender-balanced two-person coordination formula adopted at the previous National Convention (2012).
Portugal. Le Bloc de Gauche à la croisée des chemins gives more details on the stakes in the disputes.
As a result of these difficulties, which have continued this year, these elections were crucial for the Bloco’s future,
They finally adopted a detailed anti-austerity programme in July.
Despite the name they are not an alliance of separate parties but a party with different internal tendencies. There is individual membership. Unlike Podemos, to which they are often compared the Bloco has no single ‘charismatic’ leader, no internal structure biased towards the ruling group, and certainly has no ambition to be “beyond left and right”.
Their position on Europe is “la défense d’un européisme de gauche” – defending a left-wing Europeanism. That said, their main difference with the Socialist party is over the debt. The Bloco wants a renegotiation. If that fails they claim they are prepared to leave the Euro – a scenario whose probability has decreased it has to be said, after the failure of those in Syriza supporting such a perspective.
Another difference with, for example, the French Front de Gauche, is that the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português) is not part of the Bloco. They have their own alliance, the Coligação Democrática Unitária (Democratic Unity Coalition – see results above), with the Portuguese Green Party (Os Verdes) and the satellite left party, Intervenção Democrática. Their results improved by 0,4%.
Leaders of the Bloco note a continued sectarian – that is Stalinist – culture in the Communist Party. According to a leading Bloco member, Fernando Rosas, (Wikipedia – in English) the main problem with them is that try to control every political initiative they are associated with.
On their views see the important interview with Fernando Rosas : « La gauche radicale portugaise est l’une des plus fortes en Europe » Dirigeant national du Bloc de gauche, Fernando Rosas analyse la situation politique du Portugal et expose les positions de son parti sur les alliances électorales, la lutte contre l’austérité et la sortie de l’euro. (30th July).
The loss of the rightwing majority and the rise of the Left Bloc Monday 5 October 2015, by
The Portuguese right wing coalition has lost its absolute majority in parliament, but remains the main political force in Sunday’s election. The Left Bloc made a spectacular comeback with the best result ever, almost doubling its voters and more than doubling the number of elected MPs.
This result was built mostly on the performance of the new Left Bloc leadership after the November 2014 national convention of the party. The spokeswoman Catarina Martins had a widely-applauded victory in every face-to-face tv debate with the prime-minister, the vice-prime-minister and the SP leader and gathered the biggest popular support on street campaign in all Left Bloc’s history. The electoral result confirmed this warm reception on the streets in every corner of the country for the last two months. And the two parties that were formed by dissidents of the Bloc with widespread media coverage (Livre and Agir) were now doomed to political irrelevance, obtaining 0.72% and 0.38% respectively. The only small party to enter the Parliament is PAN, which has an animal rights agenda and it is ready to support any government.
‘Tacit Agreement’ on Syria in Sight?
The agreement reached in Moscow between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on a “mechanism to prevent misunderstandings between Israel and Syria” is to influence the power balance in the Middle East, Avigdor Eskin, the Israeli publicist told Pravda.Ru in an interview.
The Russian-Israeli joint military group will coordinate operations in Syria. This military cooperation is the first one since foundation of the Israeli state, Eskin noted. The military alliance will operate without the US as well as other Western countries. The parties have one opponent, that is the Islamic State, and misunderstandings can occur only on the Syria’s helping Hezbollah, which is declared a terror organization in Israel.
What about Bashar al-Assad, the expert says that the Israeli authorities realized that only his army can oppose the radical Islam, and he is the only intelligible negotiation leverage in Syria. Jihadists, which are currently in the Golan Heights (a disputed area between Israel and Syria) for instance, are backed by the US, and attack the Israeli territory.
Russia and the United States have reached a “tacit agreement” on ending Syria’s bloody crisis, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said.
Damascus (Agence France Press 24.9.15.)
“The current US administration wants to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. There is a tacit agreement between the US and Russia to reach this solution,” Bouthaina Shaaban said in an interview with state television late Wednesday.
“The US recognises now that Russia has profound knowledge of this region and a better assessment of the situation,” she said.
“The current international climate is heading towards detente and towards a solution for the crisis in Syria.”
Shaaban said there was a “change in the West’s positions” over Syria’s war, which has killed more than 240,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.
The main message of the former diplomat was the Russia was focused on the threat from violent Islamism, Daesh. The US had not been able to create an alternative to Assad and to the genocidal Islamists. In present conditions – not least the humanitarian crisis – it was important to get rid of the Islamic State before anything else.
Snyder noted that Putin had a long history of backing authoritarian regimes and had created problems in the Ukraine.
Which did not answer the point about the Middle East and defeating the Islamic State.
“Russia has provided and will provide adequate support to the legitimate government of Syria in the fight against extremists and terrorists of all kinds,” Ilya Rogachev, head of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for New Challenges and Threats, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
Moscow announced Thursday it plans to hold naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in September and October. On Wednesday, the Syrian military for the first time began using Russian drones, and the army has previously received at least five fighter jets along with tanks and artillery.
Now that Russia is militarily involved in Syria, there has been “a change in the West’s positions” over the Syrian war and the crisis “is heading towards detente and towards a solution,” according to Assad’s adviser.
As Stratfor writes, “Russia has rightfully judged that its direct intervention in Syria will force Washington to begin direct military-to-military talks with Moscow on the conflict.”
The White House announced Thursday that Obama and Putin will meet Monday afternoon in New York during a three-day session of the U.N. General Assembly, reported The New York Times. The two will discuss the conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine.
The wider consequences of this change are too great to be examined here.
The mention of Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran should make it obvious that the complexities of whatever is being negotiated are enormous.
But we can observe some effects on UK domestic politics, specifically on the left and foreign policy:
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how these two opposing groupings react to developments in the coming days.
Essential reading on where Jeremy Corbyn comes from.
“For students of entryism, Engels’s tactics were textbook stuff: a brutally successful medley of threats, divide and rule, denunciations and ideological bullying.”
Tristram Hunt on the political practice of Marx’s comrade amongst German workers in Paris the mid-1840s.
Page 141. The Frock Coated-Communist. Penguin 2010.
Andy Burnham To Reach Out To Jeremy Corbyn
“I want to capture that and involve Jeremy and his team in rebuilding our party from the bottom up,” he said, also promising to “take the best ideas of the other candidates, where there is common ground between us, and use them to shape my radical vision”.
He said it would be “unforgivable” if infighting after the new leader is elected prevented Labour standing up to the Tories.
Shadow Cabinet MPs form ‘the Resistance’ group in anticipation of Corbyn win.
A moderate Labour pressure group dubbed “the Resistance” is being formed by two top shadow cabinet members as Jeremy Corbyn pulls ahead in the leadership race, the Evening Standard can reveal.
Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt have written privately to Labour MPs calling on them to meet four days before the leadership result is announced. It is being seen by MPs as a rival to Mr Corbyn’s Left-wing platform and the start of guerrilla warfare for Labour’s soul.
The group, Labour for the Common Good, will meet on September 8 and include some peers, council leaders and trade unionists.
Tristram Hunt supports Liz Kendall.
This is just a reminder that Tristram Hunt MP, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent and Shadow Secretary of State for Education, will be in Ipswich this Monday 17th August to meet with local members and supporters.
The event will take place at 33 Silent Street, Ipswich, IP1 1TF at 12.15pm. Parking can be found at Cromwell Square or at the Buttermarket Shopping Centre.
We hope you can make it along!
Liz Kendall for Labour Leader
Labour for the Common Good...
Students of Labour politics will be reaching for their copies of Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Kinnock’s Labour by Richard Hefferman
One of the central themes in the book is the story of how the Labour Co-ordinating Committee (LCC) emerged. From the soft left of the party it evolved into a part of what would (after Kinnock’s exit) become Blairism.
Progress, one of the leading forces in the present ‘anybody but Corbyn’ campaign carried a couple of years ago an interesting article by Luke Akehurst on this topic,
…the LCC did play a role in rescuing Labour, they came late to the match having been playing on the other side in the first half. The heavy lifting had already been done by the Old Right around the MPs in Labour Solidarity, the union leaders and political officers in the St Ermins Group and the newsletter ‘Forward Labour’.
We can see an attempt to reforge this bloc of the former left (in the present instance perhaps some ‘Eustonites’?) and the hard Labour right, with Liz Kendall’s claim to promote a “new politics: blue Labour in dialogue with the revisionist tradition that started with the Gaitskellites in the 1950s.” (17th August Progress).
To make this a reality, Labour must win back economic credibility, the argument goes. In no uncertain terms, Kendall argues that Labour has to be known for being ‘careful with people’s money’.
‘If we’re deaf to these calls from the public for fiscal responsibility, we’ll be out of power for decades’ she warns. Turning the left’s critique on its head again, Kendall insists, ‘the politics I’m putting forward is actually the real anti-austerity politics’. When Labour puts its energies into ‘running sound public finances’ it ‘win[s] elections’, meaning Labour politicians ‘can actually stop some of the awful, vile things that the Tories are doing’. The current shadow care minister is able perhaps better than anyone currently at the top of Labour politics to identify the real divide between the Conservatives and Labour: George Osborne’s summer budget promotes ‘inherited wealth for the few’, she says, while Labour’s mission under her will be to ‘tackle the inherited poverty for too many people’. ‘This is the politics that will really be anti-austerity. It will allow us to win power and to have a totally different alternative from what the Tories are doing.’ Articulating this fundamental difference and putting flesh on the bones of a plan to achieve this is what will make clear how Labour differs from its array of competitors.
For those tempted to take these claims seriously Dave Osler’s New Labour PlC (2003) is essential reading.
‘Labour Party Plc’ tracks the party’s relationship with business from the early steps made by Neil Kinnock, to John Smith’s more overt flirting, to the love that dared speak its name under Tony Blair. David Osler looks in turn at funding of the Labour Party by rich individuals and big business, the scramble for lucrative government contracts once Labour was in office, and the way that business has been invited to help formulate government policy.
Osler suggests that one key turning point was Black Wednesday in 1992. On that day the pound was kicked out of the scheme that was the precursor to the euro and the Tories looked like they might never win another election. John Moores, director of Littlewoods football pools, described the motivation of big business in forming closer ties to the Labour Party during this period: ‘Since Labour is going to form the next government, it’s worth getting to know them.’ Another executive was more explicit in saying why he supported a New Labour initiative before the 1997 election: ‘Some of those involved are clearly dedicated Labour supporters. But most, like us, simply want to influence policy.’
This new receptiveness on the part of business was only part of the picture. Former leader John Smith signalled Labour’s desire to court business with a series of meetings with people from the City of London–dubbed the prawn cocktail offensive. Up for discussion were not just policies on the economy and companies, but also anything that might upset the wealthy.
Blair pledged to keep top-rate income tax at 40 percent in the 1997 election manifesto. Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, after his £1 million donation had been returned following a scandal over tobacco advertising, explained that his gift was a result of Labour’s pledge not to raise income tax. ‘As a substantial contributor to the Inland Revenue, I have clearly benefited from this decision,’ he wrote. After all the questions about the possible link between party donations and government policy, such an explicit connection did not merit many column inches.
Meanwhile the anti-Corbyn factionalists are in disarray.
Gordon Brown declared yesterday (BBC) that Labour should not be a party of permanent protest.
He also stated,
“I have to say that if our global alliances are going to be alliances with Hezbollah and Hamas and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there is absolutely no chance of building a world-wide alliance that can deal with poverty and inequality and climate change and financial instability, and we’ve got to face up to that fact.”
Mr Corbyn has previously described Hezbollah as “friends” and said that he wanted Hamas to be “part of the debate”.
The Telegraph states,
Lord Mandelson tried to persuade the three mainstream Labour leadership candidates to quit en masse to stop leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn and force the party to suspend the election.
It also emerged that Liz Kendall urged Yvette Cooper to stand down because Andy Burnham is the only candidate who can win – but Miss Cooper refused.
The Independent reports today: