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The Stop the War Coalition and Ukraine: Critical Notes.

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StWC Meeting Postponed “till further notice”…

One of the most celebrated Radical Liberals of the 19th century, John Bright (1811- 1889), described British foreign policy as “a gigantic system of (welfare) for the aristocracy” (1858). Called by Karl Marx in that year, “one of the most gifted orators that England has ever produced”, the free-trader of the Manchester School, was best known as an advocate of political reform, and would support the revived movement for Manhood Suffrage in 1865, including the Reform League, in which many British members of the International Workingmen’s Association placed their hopes .

Bright did not favour the Empire. In 1857 in Birmingham he said that whilst he would “take steps” “to preserve order within” the kingdom, “I shall repudiate and enounce the expenditure of every shilling, the engagement of every man, the employment of every ship which no object but intermeddling in the affairs of other countries, and endeavouring to extend the boundaries of an Empire which is already large enough to satisfy the greatest ambition…” (Selected Speeches of the Right Hon. John Bright M.P . J.M.Dent. 1907)

Nor did the “Orator “believe in taking part in what some would now call “proxy wars”.

As the Crimean Conflict loomed in 1853 Bright warned against “interference” on behalf of the Sultan of Turkey against Russia. He headed a “miserable, decrepit, morbibound Government which is now enthroned, but which cannot last long, in the city of Constantinople.” Not only will men be slaughtered for this tainted cause but the “large amount of taxes” paid, “will be but a feeble indication of what you would suffer”. War, he continued, brings the economic ruin seen between 1815 and 1822 when the “sufferings of the working classes were beyond description, and the difficulties and struggles of the middle classes were such as few persons have a just idea of” (Speeches. op cit).

Bright, from a Quaker background, advocated Peace. He appealed for “a time which shall last for ever – when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.

It is not the intention here to compare the historical figure and career of John Bright, a man elected as MP more than once, who resigned from Gladstone’s Cabinet after the Royal Navy bombarded Alexandra in 1881, calling that “a jobbers’ war” for capitalists, and who was liked and respected as an advanced thinker in his time (although his views on women’s equality and Irish independence do not stand muster today) with the people who run the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

Yet the arguments that band of ‘anti-war’ activists seem to have fallen back on when talking about Ukraine, a “war” between ‘proxies’, hinge on something similar to Bright’s 19th century rhetorical combination: would-be Realpolitik, appeals to the purse, and high sentiment. In February 2022 they warned of the danger of interference, “the British government has played a provocative role in the present crisis”, and a call for Russian withdrawal, a call that” this “dispute could and should be resolved peacefully” STOP THE WAR STATEMENT ON UKRAINE – 24/02/22 Now, the popular pocketbook has been added, as Counterfire’s Chris Nineham states on the StWC site this month, “TO AVERT A COST-OF-LIVING CATASTROPHE WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT UKRAINE.

That is the StWC public face. It would be interesting and important to discuss the Russian invasion in deeper terms. Their organised pillars, Counterfire and the Communist Party of Britain, could do so, and do so, at great length. The reason why these groups take the views they do lies in their picture of world politics, and above all, ‘imperialism’. Behind the outlined efforts at arguments to touch a mass audience,there is a whole continent of dense, contentious, debate on ‘Empire’ and the imperialist, or not, powers at work in a globalised world.

To begin with, the export of capital linked to colonisation and formal empires does not exist. This planet now cannot be considered as dominated by the forces Lenin described as the motor of rivalry and war, or talked of it as the monopoly stage of capitalism and the “division of the world among capitalist associations”. (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. 1916) Or as N.I. Bukharian did when he said in 1915 of  “state capitalist trusts” within the boundaries of world economy” fighting it out. ” Capitalism has attempted to overcome its own anarchy by pressing it into the iron ring of state organisation. But having eliminated competition within the state, it let loose all the devils of a world scuffle.” (Imperialism and World Economy).

Efforts to grapple with changing conditions in David Harvey’s New Imperialism (2003) are already dated. Is “accumulation by dispossession”, the colonisation by dispossession of public property by neo-liberal economics and the projection of US power through military means (such as the invasion of Iraq) the dominant trend when Washington has withdrawn from Afghanistan and has been powerless in Syria ?

Today vast “technofeudal” companies, whose libertarian ideological gloss barely conceals a new ‘age of surveillance’, influence the mode of accumulation, and the work paradigm. The neoliberal axiom, you can’t buck the market, had a hard time during Covid; few mention it during the present cost-of-living crisis.

If there is not a new scramble for colonies, does big power conflict explain Russia’s invasion? Or is it a kind of Eurasian thrust, Moscow ultra-patriotism? Or is it, as Lily Lynch says on New Left Review’s Blog Sidecar, asserts through the special knowledge the journal has access to, to be fitted back into the US-Hegemon pattern?

Europe is decisively lining up behind the United States and NATO; talk of ‘decoupling from China’ abounds. There is little ambiguity about what is happening. With the vast majority of the Global South loathe to impose sanctions on Russia, the current global competition is one of ‘the West’ against the rest. This serves the interests of the US and Silicon Valley quite well. ‘The core mission of our company’, Karp said at Davos in 2020, ‘always was to make the West, especially America, the strongest in the world, the strongest it’s ever been.’

Looking East

The claims of Lynch and her comrades (if they have even heard of them) or the wider-known Stop the War Coalition spokespeople have gone unheeded. There may be some reasons, for some people, and well set out by Sráid Marx, to be wary about the Ukrainian state and government.

But standing with Ukraine, that it the People and the People’s War, is the only stand for common decency, and internationalism.

However we consider it, the Stop the War Coalition, which was once an important voice in British politics, is on the sidelines.

And please, stop that stuff about linking the invasion to the cost-of-living. It makes you want to retch.

Ukraine war: reports of mass deportations recall Russia’s dark history of forcible relocations 8th of September.

“The sheer scale of the forced deportations is breathtaking, according to a statement from the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken:

Estimates from a variety of sources, including the Russian government, indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russia – often to isolated regions in the Far East.

He added that Moscow’s actions appear premeditated and draw immediate historical comparisons to Russian “filtration” operations in Chechnya and other areas. These filtration operations, he said, are “separating families, confiscating Ukrainian passports and issuing Russian passports in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine”.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 10, 2022 at 5:52 pm

Jean-Luc Mélenchon will not stand again for French Presidency and devotes himself to “intellectual work”.

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En retrait mais pas à la retraite Jean-Luc Mélenchon affirme ne plus vouloir être candidat à la présidentielle


The founder and uncontested leader of France’s largest left organisation, La France insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared recently that he has both stepped back and has not stepped back (“en retrait mais pas en retraite“, from his political role. Some, perhaps wishfully, might linger on the phrase, and take it, like the Libération headline, “En retrait mais pas à la retraite”, to refer to la retraite, retirement). The former MP for a Marseille constituency did not stand for re-election for this time and has no Parliamentary position. One thing seems now clearer: not wishing to stand for (4th, 2012, 2017, 2022) time for the French Presidency in 2027 the 71 years old veteran campaigner, ‘en forme’, says that he will now devote himself to intellectual work at the LFI Foundation, La Boétie.

I have formulated for the first time an overall theory which allows us bring together political ecology, the heritage of historical socialism, republicanism. It is called the theory of the era of the people and of the citizens’ revolution. My task is to finish this intellectual work.”

Mélenchon came third, with  21,95 %, in this year’s Presidential contest. But with 75 LFI MPs, the largest group in the NUPES left bloc, (151 Deputies) in France’s National Assembly, the French left, full of vibrant debate and activism is making its mark. The return of the left to substantial presence in the Assemblee Nationale (in 2017 they were reduced to 64 and the Greens, EEL had no MPs at all). The insoumises’ support for trade union action and street protests, if met with difficulties in getting the different union federations to back his plan for a march on the cost of living crisis, shows wider ambitions.

If nothing else this year’s score makes the projection of a 2027 election contest in Michel Houellebecq’s Anéantir (2022) look unlikely. The novelist imagines a fight between the far-right Rassemblement National candidate and a Macron redux, backed by the business right, and equally presented as the voice of the “quartiers populaires”, Benjamin Sarfati. The Greens are sidelined in third place while the traditional right and left reduced to below 5%, just above the Trotskyists and animal rights parties.

Not that Mélenchon would have entertained the possibility of being classed in that way, even if he acknowledges his debt in launching his elected political career to former Socialist President François Mitterrand. In the 2016 Interview book, La Choix de l’insoumission (with Mark Endeweld) he asserted that “La pensée révolutionnaire de notre temps – celle qui appelle à la révolution citoyenne, doit intégrer tous les aspects dans lesquels se déploie l’activité humaine, inclut l’aspect du travail, de l’invention et la technique.” Revolutionary theory, the citizen revolution, integrating all aspects of human activity, including work, invention and techniques.

The theoretician of the Ère du peuple (the epoch of the people), uniting the people against the oligarchy, the globalising elites, who has brought together the Marseillaise and the Internationale at his meetings, one-time admirer of the Venezuelan ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, and interlocutor of the theorists of ‘left populism’, Chantal Mouffe and the (late) Ernesto Laclau) (Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon. 2021) has a lot on his hands. While pondering his response to the voluntary and not-so-voluntary servitude of capitalism in the La Boétie institute, Mélenchon has some words on his succession inside the movement (some call it a Rally), La France insoumise, also known as L’Union Populaire, their broad strategic front for the last elections.

The head of LFI asks, what other leader can say they have ” participated in the creation of an organisation which has produced so many personalities as young, and as well trained”? They too need to gain the affection of the supporters of the movement. This is he way for a candidate to take over the handles of leadership of LFI and avoid in-fighting. And if there are signs of internal battles he will come down like a tonne of bricks, “«Le premier qui déclenche une guerre civile, il aura affaire à moi».

Full interview, and broadcast here:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon : «Je souhaite être remplacé»

I wish to be replaced..

Reporterre, specialises in Green issues. There is a lot more during the interview on Mélenchon’s views on ecological topics, from air travel, the energy crisis, climate change, to the drought and on the nature of collectivism. These are interesting in their own right.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2022 at 6:07 pm

Salvador Dalí proposed to enslave “all the coloured races” as part of a new world order.

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Short Answer: Yes.

Salvador Dalí wanted to enslave races he considered inferior and establish a sadistic world religion, according to a newly discovered letter, which was written as fascism was on the rise in Europe.

The ‘I’ (the highly recommended daily, which the Tendance always buys) continues.

The Spanish surrealist proposed the enslavement of “all the coloured races” as part of the new world order, which would be “anti-Christian and materialistic and based on the progress of science”.

“The domination or submission to slavery of all the coloured races” could be possible, Dali said, “if all the whites united fanatically”.

In the letter, which was written in 1935, Dalí also insisted on the need for human sacrifices but did not specify what these should be.

This is worse than even a lifelong hater of Dalí would expect.

The letter is published in El País  (unfortunately you need an on-line sub for this article: El día que Dalí inventó una religión racista). There is a short report in Pousta, Dalí quería fundar una religión racista.

Dalí wrote the letter to André Breton, the French writer and co-founder of the Surrealist art movement.

Surrealism was offered an outline by Breton in 1924. It is “pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express…the real process of thought. It is the dictation of thought, free from any control by the reason and of any aesthetic or moral preoccupation.” His two Manifestes du surréalisme (1924, 1930) contain a lot more, including reference to Swift, “surrealist in his nastiness”, Sade,”surrealist in his sadism”, Rimbaud “surrealist in the way he lived, and elsewhere”. The first Manifesto declares its commitment to “absolute non-conformism”.

The second, declared their commitment to Historical Materialism, and Social Revolution, but not to the principle of “proletarian art”. Breton saw no signs of a separate working class literature and art even under the existing “proletarian regime” of the USSR. It would be, he asserted, citing Trotsky writing in 1923, be after a long and painful transition period, up to those living in a full communist future to develop their own forms of artistic development.

Nadja (1928), “un récit autobiographique” is, for many, Breton’s best book although  L’Amour fou, “le mot ‘convulsive’…pour qualifier la beauté”, (1937) rivals it. Both are published with the written text and (black and white) surrealist paintings, photos and images. There is this, amongst many memorable passages, from Nadja, “l’émancipation humaine à tous égards, entendons nous bien, selon les moyens que chacun dispose, demeure la seule cause qui soit digne de servir.” Human emancipation, in every respect, let’s be clear, with the means that everybody had, remains the only cause that is worth serving.”

Many of the Surrealists had deep ties to the left. in 1931 they published a Manifesto against the official ‘Colonial Exhibition’ in Paris: « Ne visitez pas l’Exposition coloniale » : le manifeste du groupe des surréalistes en 1931. Not content with protesting against the official event they organised their own counter-exhibition, “Surrealists and Communists in Paris A counter-exhibition that changed Western understanding of colonial cultures.”

Surrealist anti-colonial credentials were impeccable, despite accusations that they were publicity-seeking agitators and opportunists; their various tracts such as Don’t Visit the Colonial Exhibition railed against deportation of the Vietnamese, exploitation of colonies to fill the vaults of the French Central Bank, and the complicity of administrators, politicians, churchmen and industry in the repugnant idea of a Greater France. The empire’s colonial subjects were the allies of the world proletariat; it was pointless to distinguish between good and bad colonialism. Another pamphlet First Account of the Colonial Exhibition was published after a fire that destroyed the Dutch East Indies pavilion; the arrogance of the West considered its art superior to the native artefacts destroyed in that fire. The ‘savage’ was the justification for colonialism’s civilising mission, whereas for the Surrealists the savage was the superior civilisation.

There are plenty of political issues to explore in the relations between the surrealists and the political left, and particularly the fraught, eventually hostile, links Breton in particular had with the French Communist Party (PCF). There was also the transition of his founding surrealist comrade Paul Eluard to writing Ode à Staline (1950) or Louis Aragon from writing the 1920s fragments assembled as Les Aventures de Jean-Foutre La Bite to Editorship of the post-war PCF controlled Les Lettres françaises. The writer of the original surrealist manifestos, by contrast, protested against the Moscow Trials, in the late 1930s worked with Trotsky, and in 1938 they launched the Fédération internationale de l’art révolutionnaire indépendant. FIARI. In the 1950 Breton moved closer to anarchism, the Fédération anarchiste and wrote for the journal Libertaire.

There were plenty of conflicts between Breton and other surrealists for a wider variety of reasons, and his efforts to exert control over the movement had got him early on known as the “”Pape du surréalisme.” But one thing could be aid to bring them together: antifascism.

André Breton, put Dalí on “trial” in 1934 for “the glorification of Hitlerian fascism” and he was suspended. He was permanently expelled from the movement in 1939. The French surrealist’s enduring loathing of the Spanish artist is celebrated by his anagrammatic sobriquet for the painter, Avida Dollars.

This letter continues,

He said there was a need for “new hierarchies and more brutal and stricter than ever before” to “annihilate” Christianity.

“I believe that we surrealists are finally turning into priests,” Dali added.

He appeared to be scornful of Christianity’s altruism, adding: “We don’t want happiness for all men, rather the happiness of some to the detriment of others”.

The letter, which was published in El País newspaper on Thursday, was recently discovered in the digitalised personal library of Sebastian Gasch, an art critic who died in Barcelona in 1982. It had been verified by another historian who specialises in the work of Dalí, William Jeffett.

The Spanish site Cuatro says, “Tras recibir esta carta, Bretón expulsó a Dalí de su grupo.” After receiving this letter Breton kicked Dali out of his (Surrealist)group. (Los planes secretos de Salvador Dalí, al descubierto: el artista quería fundar una religión racista

The artist’s fascination with Hitler and fascism are well known but until now there has never been such an explicit expression of its values written by Dalí.

In other comments, made at the time, Dali admitted that he found Hitler “exciting”. He also said he found Nazism “hyper original” because he thought it was an example of surrealist government, with the swastika as a surrealist symbol.

The letter was part of the reason that he was permanently expelled from the Surrealist art movement in 1939. He had also professed admiration for lynchings in the United States.

During the long dictatorship of General Franco between 1939 and 1975, Dalí chose to stay living in Spain while many artists like his contemporary Pablo Picasso went into exile.

Many Spaniards admire his work but find his attitude towards the Franco regime difficult to accept. In his native Catalonia, there are few monuments to Dalí in Barcelona.

Sources from the Fundación Gala Salvador Dali, which guards the image of the artist who died in 1989, told the i: “These letters relate to the first attempt to expel from the surrealist movement.”

As is well known there is a lot of material on Dali and fascism.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 2, 2022 at 5:36 pm