Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category

Behind the Shawcroft Row: The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

with 13 comments

Image result for labour momentum a social movement


The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

In one of his lesser-known works, L’Éternité par les astres (1872) the 19th century socialist insurrectionist Louis-Auguste Blanqui announced that there were millions of stars and worlds like our own. In each of them lived our personal doppelgänger. Those who have reflected on this discovery would deduce that our alter egos would each have minor differences, slightly different points of our view, that would end in distinct narratives about our existence.

Recent events in the Labour Party have brought similar differences about what has happened during a number of events, from goings-on at the National Policy Forum, to the National Executive Committee (NEC). The same meeting the same people, but very different takes on what took place.

The most recent, and, politically, the most important, is the latest NEC meeting. Christine Shawcroft’s dissatisfaction with a decision to submit allegations of anti-semitism to further disciplinary procedure has tumbled over into disagreement about the role of trade union representatives on Labour’s ruling body. She is reported to have expressed the view, amongst other things, that union delegates are unreliable allies of the left. Shawcroft suggested on social media that the Labour-union link should be re-examined. Those hostile to her intervention, and no doubt Momentum, in which the long-standing NEC member is a leading figure, have claimed that she called for a break with the organised working class. Since then everybody has united on keeping the union link (Labour unites behind trade union affiliation).

The row in the wake of these comments takes place against the backdrop of a contest for Labour’s General Secretary. This, a post, unlike, in other European parties (such as the French Parti Socialiste’s similar sounding position) has organisational and not directly political responsibility. The Secretary is appointed by the Party’s upper structure and is therefore, in principle, not an issue that involves the wider membership. But the different candidates, above all Jon Lansman, on the NEC but best known as a founder of Momentum, and Jennie Formby  from the union UNITE, have increasingly been seen in a political light. It is known that Lansman was not happy with a union ‘shoe in’ into the position. What is clear now is that UNITE’s leadership is unhappy with any questioning of their political weight in the party. These, and other issues about the candidacies, have been echoed amongst those Labour activists interested in the future direction of the party.

Momentum: Labour as social movement.

It should be clear that while there are no real differences about the primary need to campaign to get a Labour government elected, and to work out policies to achieve this, the dispute could be seen in the light of some important differences. For some Momentum is not just a pressure group to build support for Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is, grandly, a project designed for Labour to gain a “collective transformative” capacity. It may be seen, as Hilary Wainwright put it “having a creative capacity and transformative power” “distinct from (not opposed to) electoral politics”. As such as, “a party as a means of experimenting and prefiguring in the represent” “the relations we envisage in the future”. Less inclined to an extra-terrestrial discovery to rival Blanqui’s, Momentum is seen “grassroots politics” with activists, many of them youthful, pouring energy and enthusiasm into Labour’s campaigns. In this capacity – that is a means to help bolder the party’s capacity to root change in the wider society, – the group is highly welcome. (1)

Momentum’s own difficulties include an ‘on-line’ democracy that critics allege does not function, conferences and decision-making process which resemble the centralised aspect of the equally ‘social media’ and Web hub based La France insoumise (LFI) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In its defence it could be said that Momentum is not LFI, out to ‘federate the people’ by means of a virtual political party, but has become an auxiliary of one with the goal of helping Labour get elected. It has avoided becoming embroiled in the worst aspects of left in fighting and sectarian recruitment politics. Momentum, unless one reads Shawcroft’s NEC intervention in the most hostile possible way, has shown no inclination to indulge the – ultra-minority – strain of Judophobia that has become an issue in left politics.

These positive achievements do not prevent another set of concerns at the place of such a body in drawing up lists in local Labour Parties with the sole aim of getting approved candidates elected to internal positions and councillor selections. In some case, Haringey stands out, this is part of a justified and broader effort to change very wong council policies. But in others this polarising practice, right up to clashes over the most minor positions, many complain, overrides debate of policy issues.

Political Trade Unionism.

What has also come to light is that the trade unions have a distinct idea about their role in the Labour Party. The TUC and affiliated unions have always seen the party as a means to get legislation passed in their favour, most recently by some who give priority to restoring collective bargaining in negotiations. Apart from these classical demands some, above all UNITE, have their own ideas about “political unions”.

Andrew Murray, a key figure in Len McClusky’s circle, and a consultant to Jeremy Corbyn, argued in 2014, for rebuilding the left around the People’s Assembly. This national campaign against austerity, Murray noted, drew the unions, ant-cuts activists and left-wingers from Labour and a variety of small left parties, with the objective of creating “rooted movements for change” “re-establishing the basis for mass socialist politics”. Behind this, based on the working class movement, was a strategy to “reclaim Labour” for the left – a prospect Murray saw – in 2014 – that could be thwarted by the “Blairite undead”. (2)

Murray may have his own eccentric ideas about ‘anti-imperialism’, and the positive side of the Soviet past. But, Labour has been largely (not entirely) been wrenched from the Blair/Brown legacy. In this the importance of initiatives such as the People’s Assembly stands out. It was one of the factors that prepared the ground for Corbyn’s election. The alternative strategy, which his article thoroughly took to pieces, of various left electoral challenges, from Left Unity, to the (continuing) Trades Union and Socialist Alliance (TUSC) faded into oblivion.

The problem now is whether the trade union movement, dedicated to achieving goals through electoral power, can sustain a relation with those who see ‘Labour as a social movement’. This is not a just a matter of ‘control’, which unions do not have over Momentum. A central policy issue equally divides the left. Some still see the future in terms of a “People’s Brexit’. Some decades later, on another planet, Tony Benn’s call for “genuine national sovereignty” – is proposed by the Morning Star, and, in a souped up form, by the ‘revolutionary’ remnants of the People’s Assembly reduced to the mouthpiece of the groupuscule Counterfire (The why and what of a People’s Brexit). But it is unlikely that inside the party, in Momentum or anywhere else, apart from the far from dynamic minority of ‘patriotic Labour’ is attracted to this prospect. Many remain strongly opposed to Leave. A few respond to the demand for a new referendum. The compromise over the Customs Union is a stop-gap a more detailed set of policies on Europe remains to be settled.

The differences between Labour-as-a-social-movement and Political Trade Unionism are far from irresolvable. Those, like this writer, who rejoined Labour, are intensely conscious that for Labour to be elected compromises and a great deal of respect is due for those activists, councillors and MPs who have kept membership over the years. Their concerns focus on issues such as the funding for local government, housing, welfare reform and …Europe. It would be better if disputes took place over policy, in a collaborative fashion, and not over jostling for internal positions in the party.


(1) Radicalising the party-movement relationship: from Ralph Miliband to Jeremy Corbyn and beyond. Hilary Wainwright. Socialist Register. 2017. Merlin Press. Beyond the Boundary, Momentum’s role in the #GE2017 Campaign, Puru Miah. Chartist. 277. July/August 2017.

(2) Left Unity or Class Unity? Working class politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register 2014. Merlin Press.

(3) On this aspect of Tony Benn’s politics see: Chapter 6 A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour Left. Simon Hannah. Pluto Press. 2018


Leftist Trainspotting Fun from Labour Party Marxists, from “bewildered” LRC, “silent Corbyn”, to AWL Stasi “busybodies”.

with 2 comments

Image result for stan keable

Labour Party Marxist in the Thick of the Class Struggle.

The Irish Socialist Workers Party has dissolved itself into a “network”. “The change in name to Socialist Workers Network reflects a decision to focus on building People Before Profit, and within that to win and educate as many members as possible in revolutionary socialist politics.” (SW Ireland)

Now while the SWN is honest about what it is doing, and has good reasons to do so given that People Before Profit has some, limited, political presence, we cannot say the same for Labour Party Marxists.

This is from its mission statement,

  1. The central aim of Labour Party Marxists is to transform the Labour Party into an instrument for working class advance and international socialism. Towards that end we will join with others and seek the closest unity of the left inside and outside the party.

No doubt about that  which it trumpets – if that’s the right word for declarations that practically nobody ever reads.

But  there’s nothing about LPM’s inks with the Weekly Worker and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC).

The Weekly Worker is a paper which produces some interesting material, some indeed very useful articles, but whose owners, said CPGB-PCC, have taste for political stunts not to mention an alliance with cascadeur  in chief, Tony ‘Monster Raving’ Greenstein Party. 

Not much closest possible unity with the rest of the left from that quarter!

They have just issued a spate of articles on the site of Labour Party Marxists  which may perhaps indicate this….

Cde Stan Keable (today, 15th of February)  sums up last week’s Labour Representation Committee Meeting, 

Labour Representation Committee: Reduced to a think tank?

Around 120 Labour Representation Committee members gathered in London’s Conway Hall on February 10 for yet another angst-ridden ‘special’ general meeting (SGM), in which a bewildered leadership shared with its rank and file its own failure – like most of the left – to draw into membership or engage with the ‘radicalised’ mass intake of Corbyn supporters into the Labour Party.

Perhaps they ought to have debated this  other 15th of February recent article?

Clause 4: Why revive a stinking corpse?

Jack Conrad (Chamberlain) questions the worth of the ‘Labour4Clause4’ campaign being promoted by Socialist Appeal. Instead of fostering illusions in Fabian socialism, surely the task of Marxists is to win the Labour Party to Marxist socialism.

But the prize must go to this chef d’oeuvre by Carla Roberts, also on the 15th of February (a busy day for LPM indeed!)

Witch-hunts: When chickens come home…

Roberts begins by citing the case of  “Jeremy Newmark, until recently chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” now embroiled in a corruption case after his swindles came to light. A particular gripe is that the Jewish Chronicle reported the affair in depth, “The enthusiasm with which the pro-Zionist Jewish Chronicle has attacked Newmark is quite breathtaking”.

That over we get attacks on the real enemies.

Jeremy Corbyn, “Corbyn has silently stood by, allowing pretty much any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel to be branded as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

 Jon Lansman ” who literally owns Momentum”. Selecting candidates for the Momentum list for Labour’s NEC, “Jon Lansman did what he does best: went nuclear.”


Hope Not Hate, while not playing an active part in the witch-hunt, is a rightwing version of the Socialist Workers Party’s ‘Stand Up To Racism’.

At the conclusion there is the inevitable: The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, (AWL),

the AWL lacks the numbers and finance for that type of campaign. It represents more the type of busybody who would report their neighbour to the East German Stasi for watching West German TV.

Oddly some people in the Labour Party, including the left, are not fond of Labour Party Marxists or their antics.

But their drive to make the Labour Party into a Marxist Party, guided by their own interpretation of Lenin, proceeds apace.

Heartfelt Plea from International Journal of Žižek Studies.

leave a comment »

Stop, Stranger and Ponder the Real!

Against the “campaign to erase Žižek”, his ” growing exclusion from the public media”, and the “almost unheard of personal brutality” of the attacks on him, in the interests of proletarian democracy and the completion of the sentence’s signification with its last term we publish this heartfelt appeal.” More on the International Journal of  Žižek studies here:

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "journal zizek studies"

Discerning readers may note that Jacques-Alain Miller and his mates’ “ferocious campaign ”  denouncing Žižek’  as a “fraud”  have previous,

First panic attack

In 1981, Zizek spent a year in Paris, where he met some of the thinkers whose work he had been so avidly consuming. He would return often. In 1982, however, Lacan died and his mantle passed to his son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller – a man who would play an important role in Zizek’s career. A former student of Althusser’s, Miller had impressed Lacan with the coherence he brought to the master’s sprawling theoretical system. While many Lacanians accuse Miller of simplifying Lacan (perish the thought!), others believe that Lacan’s posthumous reputation would not have grown without Miller’s ordering influence. A shrewd political operator, Miller was eager to expand the Lacanian empire farther than its progenitor had ever imagined. Miller taught two classes in Paris: one that was open to anyone, and an exclusive, thirty-student seminar at the École de la Cause Freudienne in which he examined the works of Lacan page by page. After a brief interview, Zizek and Dolar were invited to attend this latter class. “Miller took enormous interest in us because we came from Yugoslavia,” Dolar remembers. “We had been publishing Lacan in Problemi and Analecta for years, and he was grateful for that. He thinks very strategically and didn’t have anyone else established in Eastern Europe. To him, we were the last stronghold of Western culture on the eastern front.”

But it all ended in tears,

As the head of the main Lacanian publishing house, Miller was in a position to turn Zizek’s doctoral dissertation into a book. So, when not presenting his fabricated dreams and fantasies, Zizek would transform his sessions into de facto academic seminars to impress Miller with his keen intellect. Although Zizek successfully defended his dissertation in front of Miller, he learned after the defense that Miller did not intend to publish his thesis in book form. The following night he had his first panic attack, which had all the symptoms of a heart attack. Eventually, he placed the manuscript with the publishing house of a rival Lacanian faction.

Jacques-Alain Miller on Slavoj Žižek:

“So you remember that Freud asked himself the famous question, “What do women want?” As a man, he asked himself this question; and perhaps as a woman too. We do not have the answer, in spite of thirty years of Lacan’s teaching. We tried. So it’s not a discriminating question. I have another question, which has been troubling me for years, which is —What do Americans want?—I have the answer! A partial answer. They want Slavoj Zizek! They want the Lacan of Slavoj Zizek. They like it better than the Lacan of the Freudian Field, for the time being perhaps. The question is, do they want very definite concepts? Or do they want some room to wrangle? Some negotiating space? And that is the case with the concepts of psychoanalysis.”

from Ordinary Psychosis lacanian ink 46


“Nowadays, you can do anything that you want—anal, oral, fisting—but you need to be wearing gloves, condoms, protection.”
― Slavoj Žižek.


“In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. […] It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. […] The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.”
― Slavoj ŽižekThe Plague of Fantasies

In its most recent edition, this fine journal has published these indispensable works:

Toilet Humour and Ecology on the First Page of Finnegans Wake: Žižek’s Call of Nature, Answered by Joyce

Daniel Bristow


This article draws out ecological aspects convergent on the first page of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) and explores them through Žižek’s theoretical perspectives on humanity today and its relation to the waste and chaos that underpins the state of nature that it is reliant on; that is in relation to the Lacanian category of the Real. It does so in an attempt to bring together Joyce and Žižek (who has tended to reject the writer in his work) so as to demonstrate the theoretical possibilities that can arise out of their synthesis. The essay’s methodology is tripartite, working through a theoretical part – utilising, as well as Žižek’s ecology, Lacanian psychoanalysis and the ecosophical thought of Félix Guattari – a textual part, drawing on Joyce scholarship pertinent to the first section of the Wake, and towards a practical part, which aims to condense the work of the essay and outline a route to a possible praxis, which takes into account the real of nature.


What WALL-E Can Teach Us About Global Capitalism in the Age of the Anal Father

Felicia Cosey


This article employs the animated feature film WALL-E to examine a contemporary incarnation of paternal authority, the anal father of enjoyment.  Slavoj Zizek coined the expression “anal father of enjoyment” to identify a metaphorical father who operates counter to Sigmund Freud’s oedipal (or primitive father).  Unlike the oedipal father, the anal father does not command the subject to sacrifice enjoyment as a price for entry into the social order.  Rather, the anal father directs the subject to enjoy excessively.  This article reasons that the anal father figuration is a result of global capitalism.  While a post-apocalyptic event, such as climate change, may destroy the planet, it does not end capitalism.  Yet, WALL-E suggests that with the demise of the anal father, capitalism can be replaced with an alternative economic system.

Alas, they have not published these indispensable oeuvres:

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

The leadership of ‘events’

Andrew Coates unravels Slavoj Žižek’s ‘communist hypothesis’

Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique. Andrew Coates.


Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Revolution against Reform. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Review.

with 3 comments

Image result for Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange

Revolution against Reform. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Armand Colin. 2017.

“17th of January 1911. Dinner with Guesde. The way we will make the Revolution. Dictatorship for 4 days. During these four days we will post an appeal to the peasants and the workers across France: a reduced working day and double pay. During these four days a movement will spread throughout France such that nothing will be able to abolish the new regime. During these four days the papers will be suppressed.

Marcel Cachin. (1)

Jules Guesde (1845 – 1922) was one of the founders of a current that became the first French Marxist Party, the Parti ouvrier, PO, (1879). If people on the left outside of France have heard of the leader of a body, which marked the entry of socialism into the country’s local government and Parliament and represented an ‘orthodox’ strain of thought in the Second International, they probably know three things about him.

The first is that Guesde was the ‘Marxist’ referred to when Marx said, “I am not a Marxist”.

The second is that he was accused of sectarianism to the point that he was nicknamed, a ‘Torquemada in Lorgnettes” (‘Torquemada à lorgnon’)

The third, and the most important, is that there was famous debate in 1900 between Guesde and the French socialist leader, Jean Jaurès, known as the “two Methods”. The public expression of a deep dispute, held in Lille 1900, before an audience of 8,000, centred on the entry of independent socialist Alexandre Millerand into the 1899 government of “ Défense républicaine” led by Waldeck-Rousseau.Jaurès defended Millerand’s act, in the name of the need to stand by republican liberty in the face of the reactionary groundswell around the Dreyfus Affair. Guesde denounced it as a betrayal of the class based socialism.

Jean-Numa Ducange’s biography of Guesde is a, successful, attempt to understand the socialist leader “in his time”. The author, a specialist in the history of French and German speaking lefts, goes deeply into the context of Guesde’s political career. Amongst its many virtues is its account of the much wider range of issues at stake in the clash between Jaurès and Guesde. Ducange covers the socialist leader’s life, from pro-Commune republican, member of the “collectivist” current that differentiated socialists from both legalist and radical republicans, intransigent Marxist, to his participation as Minister without portfolio in the 1914 government of Défense National in 1914, against “Prussian imperialism”, and opposition to the adherence of the Socialist Party (SFIO) to the Third International in 1920.

From the Commune to the Parti Ouvrier.

Jules Bazile, who took his mother’s name to become Guesde, entered politics as a supporter of the Paris Commune, authentic patriots fighting the Republican traitors whose repression of the insurgents carried out the work of the Prussian invaders. His support led to exile, contact with anarchism. A return to France, under police surveillance, was marked by the evolution of the most radical republicans towards the workers’ movement and the creation in 1877 of the journal L’Égalité – taking the most socialist of the words of the Revolutionary device. This left voice was important enough for the state to react. Shortly before the Parti Ouvrier’s creation, in 1878, his “subversive” writings earned him a stay in the prison of Saint-Péalgie.

Ducange covers his development from that date. Guesde was a journalist and an activist. But it was as a skilled and inspiring orator that Guesde made his mark – an outstanding trait which the British socialist, Belfort Bax would note, decades later. (3) L’anti-Jaurès? not only captures the socialist leader’s ability to hold different audiences spellbound, but that Guesde never produced anything paralleling the works of the German socialist movement, the SPD, his model of organisation. Instead he wrote popularising propaganda pamphlets, a Marxism of a simplicity that often annoyed Marxists of the rank of Frederick Engels (Page 52).

Guesde was a factionalist, convinced of “one” truth against other socialists, frequently accused of sectarianism, and opposed to a variety of other left-wing currents, from the ‘possibilists’ of Paul Brousse and Benoît Malon, the left-wing Allemanists, of Jean Allemane, to the independent socialists, best known through the figure of Jean Jaurès. That did not prevent the Guesdist Parti ouvrier français (POF as the PO became in 1893) from developing roots in the North of France, and his own election as a deputy for Roubaix-Wattrelos in 1893.

Which brings us to the debate with Jaurès over the role of elections, Parliament, and the Millerand controversy. Ducange begins with the events of 1889 when the socialist deputy accepted a post in a government of National Defence, led by Waldeck Rousseau, which also contained the notorious murderer of the Communards, General Gaston de Galliffet. Jaurès was in favour, as a move to protect the Republic against the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic right defended this decision.

The background, the Dreyfus Affair, was omnipresent. Guesde had eventually supported the Dreyfus cause, although only against “militarism”. His own organisation, Ducange observes, had published in its regional press articles of an anti-Semitic tone (“relents antisémites”) while not being systematically filled with hatred of the Jews. This was within a context in which the national party denounced this hatred. (Page 97) He adds that the notorious Jew baiter Édouard Drumond believed that Guesde was sympathetic to his cause, but that no agreement between them ever occurred. Other historians, notably Zeev Sternhell, have gone further and state that some sections of the POF were “overtly anti-Semitic” (3)

The Second International was opposed to Millerand’s decision although left  vague “certain conditions” (which later became even more open) in which being part of such coalitions might be possible. As it grew the controversy became connected to the wider dispute about “revisionism”, begun in Germany with the publication in Germany by Eduard Bernstein of attacks on the Marxist “breakdown” theory (the inevitable ruin of capitalism), dialectics, and the axiom that class struggle is the motor of socialist politics

In these terms, the support Jaurès (at the time temporarily outside Parliament) gave to working with a bourgeois-republican government was a harbinger of a strategy based on piecemeal reform. Whether Jaurès, or any French socialist, ever thought in terms of how capitalism might “adapt” rather than collapse is far from clear, since they largely avoided economics. But it might be argued that reformists, very possibly Jaurès but certainly Brousse, saw socialism in very diluted way. That is, less in terms of a new mode of production, forged out of forces growing within it – the proletariat – over its ruins, but as a kind of gradual increase in the strength of the workers’ movement reflected in government legislation. Rosa Luxemburg talked of his “confusion.” For her it was not a partial conquest of the bourgeois state by the socialists, but the conquest of the socialists by the bourgeois state. To extend her point one could see “legal-reformism at work amongst the defenders of Millerand. (4)

Ducange recounts the way in which this dispute became part of the general ‘revisionism’ debate. But the 1900 Lille stage was not inhabited by actors in the same drama. A great deal of opposition (reflected in the cries from the audience) to Millerand came from those who loathed Gallifet – for good reason as the memories of one the leaders of the non-Marxist radical left, Jean Allemane, who suffered greatly after the Commune, and was exiled to New Caledonia testify (Mémoires d’un communard: des barricades au bagne.1906).

For  Jaurès defending Millerand was a matter of being against Nationalism and Reaction (“contre le nationalisme, contre la réaction”).  Guesde defended the orthodox view, represented in the German SPD, that elections and Parliamentary work were part of a general preparation for socialism, which rested on class struggle. Support for republican democracy, not The Republic, was the means, not an end in itself. Another feature is that Guesde did not only pour scorn on collaboration with the bourgeoisie and the Republic. In defence of intransigent class independence he drew on an analogy with the revolutionary bourgeoisie on the eve of the French revolution. Should the grand bourgeoisie have defended the ancien régime, hoping to reform it but by bit, he asked? No. The socialists, class against class, should take the Bourgeois Bastille as their bourgeois forerunners took the feudal Bastille. (Les deux methods conférence / par Jean Jaurès et Jules Guesde, à l’Hippodrome lillois. 1900)

Guesde, like his British counterparts in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was sceptical about trade unionism, a largely defensive form of struggle.  Neither did his class struggle correspond to the creation of a kind of popular ‘will’ against capitalism, that Rosa Luxemburg detected in mass strikes. The time had to be ‘right’ for revolution, which was not imminent. The reference to a united bourgeoisie, which overthrew the French feudal system in 1789, as a model for socialist tactics, would find only a limited audience today.

 The SFIO.

Guesde himself came to compromise, at least in accepting unity with the new socialist party in 1905, inside a party, Parti socialiste, section française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO), This brought him together with Jaurès and the majority of other socialists, but in a ‘citizens’ party’ with no organic links with the trade unions.

How is that Guesde could be so hostile to reformism, and the republic, and yet turn into an ardent defender of France in 1914? One of the strengths of L’anti-Jaurès is that it helps explain this. Some germs of this could be seen in such turns as his backing for French colonialism in the 1900s – a project for a ‘socialist’ colony in Morocco. The socialist leader’s earlier criticism of interventions overseas began to seem on a par with the arguments of late 19th century British radicals against imperial wars, on the grounds of cost and damage to French domestic interests.

But there are deeper reasons to think that the reaction of 1914 was far from foreign to his deeper beliefs. Guesde’s early refusal (1884) to prefer the French Republic to other forms of bourgeois rule was not rooted in a rejection of the Nation. (Page 50) Guesde, announcing in 1893, that to be socialist “’c’est également être patriote” was, during his backing for the Commune, against the Prussians. During the conflict he became as hostile to peace moves – though defended the rights of those who opposed the war – as he had earlier been to reformist socialism. French socialism, like socialisms elsewhere, then as now, has never completely separated itself from the problem of nationalism.

Jules Guesde is an achievement. It is written with easy clarity. Apart from the life itself it offers final illuminating chapters on the way its subject has been considered since his death in 1922. After a period in which Guesdism was a dominant set of ideas in the (non-Communist) SFIO, up to  Léon Blum‘s leadership,  he has been  largely revilled. The biography  opens up afresh a period of socialist history which, with the debates on fundamental issues, has assumed, with the collapse of the French left, great importance today.

If one comes away with a general picture of Guesde that falls well short of admiration there is this: his last “proposition de loi”, in 1919, as a deputy in Parliament, was to launch a law to establish full civil, political and economic equality between men and women. (Page 166) French women had to wait until April 1945 to get the right to vote…


  1. Carnets, Marcel Cachin. Cites at Page 141. Jules Guesde. L’anti-Jaurès? Jean-Numa Ducange. Armand Colin. 2017. Whether or not Cahin, who as a leading figure in the 1920s French Communist Party (whose creation Guesde opposed had a special reason to remember this simplistic claim by Guesde this has strong echoes of earlier republican revolutionary belief in the rapid triumph of their cause. Compare: “l’armée, la magistrature, le christianisme, l’organisation politique, simples hais. L’ignorance, bastion formidable. Un jour pour la haie; pour le bastion, vingt ans. “The army, the legal system, Christianity, political structures, just hedges. Ignorance, a mighty bastion. One day for the hedge, twenty years for the bastion. Auguste Blanqui. Page 151. Auguste Blanqui. Textes Choisis. Les Classiques du peuple. 1971
  2. Page 132. Reminiscences and Reflections of a Mid and Late Victorian, Ernest Belfort Bax. 1918. Reprint: Augustus M. Kelly. 1967.
  3. Page 239. La Droite révolutionnaire. Zeev Sternhell Editions du Seuil. 1978. 
  4. Page 251. Jean Jaurès Gilles Candar, Vincent Duclert. Fayard. 2014. See also, Rosa Luxemburg on Socialist Tactics. Rosa Luxemburg. Translated by Rida Vaquas, Clarion Editor. And   Les Hommes Révoltés. Les origins intellectuelles du réformisme en France (1871 – 1917). Emmanuel Jousse.Fayard. 2017.


Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Red-Brown Alliances: Russia, Ukraine, Syria, And The Western Left.

with 6 comments

Related image

Heroes of a certain far-right. 


The growth of political “confusionism”, the mixture of “conspi” (conspiratorial), nationalist, far-right and apparently ‘left-wing’  has been one of the features of the last years. This is one of the factors that has made overt anti-semitism an issue today.

Paul has indeed just retweeted this.

Tendance Coatesy has been amongst the Blogs which have covered this issue but this latest article is a landmark in setting both the context and the details (thanks to Jim for signaling this).

An Investigation Into Red-Brown Alliances: Third Positionism, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, And The Western Left.



On Some Obscure Strains Of Fascism

I will first provide some historical context by exploring the history of some lesser known forms of fascism which, unlike the majority of Western fascists who supported the United States’ anti-Communism during the Cold War, instead actively supported and rallied around the Soviet Union.

The European New Right

Yockey would become the ideological predecessorof the Third Position and the European New Right, among whose prominent members are Jean-Francois Thiriart, Alain de Benoist and Aleksandr Dugin. A main feature of the European New Right is its criticism of American imperialism and of the “economism” of liberalism and its attempt to form alliances or infiltrate far-left opponents of Western imperialism and globalization.

Third Positionist Fascism

Among the movements close to the European New Right is Third Positionism, a strand of fascism which stands in opposition to both capitalism and communism and has its origins in “classical” fascism and in the Strasser brothers.

Red-Browns in Russia

Russian National Bolshevism.

The LaRouche Movement

The LaRouchite Cult And Its Ideology

While LaRouche and his movement are easily dismissed as being a ludicrous group of weird conspiracy theorists and cranks, researchers Chip BerletMatthew Lyons and Matthew Feldmansaythis outward image acts as a smokescreen for the real nature of this organization: a violent fascistic cult which is an inciter of hate against Jewish and British people as well as presently the prime worldwide distributor coded anti-Jewish literature based on the anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Rodina and the Russian Imperial Movement, another Russian far-right party, organized the founding conference of the World National-Conservative Movement (WNCM), which Alexander Reid Ross calls an attempt at creating a fascist internationale [archive] (Ross should know better than publishing this on the red-brown cesspool that CounterPunch is though). The chairman of the WNCM was Yuriy Lyubomirskiy, a member of Rodina.

While Ross suggests the WCNM grew out of the conference organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia in 2014 (which I explore below in the post), Anton Shekhovtsov seems to be more accurate by asserting the WNCM as an outgrowth of the IRCF which had also been organized by Rodina that same year.

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party

Which thus leads to, obviously, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), a fascist organisation founded in 1932 by Antun Saadeh, an admirer of Hitler who was well-acquainted in Nazism, and is described as a “Levantine clone of the Nazi party in almost every aspect”, being extremely anti-Semitic from its onset (which was about a decade before the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of the colonial Israeli state), adopting a reversed swastika as party symbol and singing the party’s anthem to the tune ofDeutschland über Alles, the national anthem by the Nazi regime. Saadeh would later however come to openly deny his organisation was fascist following an attempt by the SSNP to obtain assistance in the form of military training from Nazi Germany was rejected by the then German consul to Syria, though his party never ceased to be a fascist organization in practice, as evidenced by a reactionary diatribe on the Facebook page of its Iraqi branch in 2017 railing against “Cultural Marxism”, political correctness and feminism [archive]


The SSNP, Fascists And Syria

Before the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution, the SSNP and the Lebanese branch of the Baath Party appear to have contributed interviews to an edition of Geopolitica in 2007 to which Claudio Mutti, Tiberio Graziani and Webster Tarpley also contributed to [archive]. The unsurprising result was that since the people’s uprising started in Syria, Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah media consistently ran a number of conspiracy theorists more or less close to the fascist network including William Engdahl[archive], Webster Tarpley [archive] (who was in Syria in 2011 [archive]), Chossudovsky [archive], Thierry Meyssan [archive] and Kevin Barrett [archive] who immediately branded the uprising as a Western plot.

Thierry Meyssan

Thierry Meyssan started as a leftist in the 90s as a member of the French left-wing Parti Radical de Gauche, and founded the Voltaire Network as a source of investigations into the far-right and in support of secularism before moving into the milieu of conspiracy theories in the 2000s by publishing 9/11: The Big Lie and Pentagate, two conspiracist books alleging the 9/11 attacks had been done by the US military-industrial complex to find a pretext for a supposedly long-planned war on Afghanistan, and which were among the prime vehicles for 9/11 conspiracy theories worldwide.

The following years were marked by increasing anti-Semitism on the Voltaire Network, with former members testifying administrators were speaking of “Jewish lobbies” and branded Jewish members of the Network involved in Palestinian solidarity as “Zionists” due to the influence of red-brown militants advocating for querfronts against Western imperialism, and Meyssan seeking to obtain financing from various authoritarian states. In 2005, Meyssan admitted Claude Karnoouh, a Holocaust denier, to the administrative council of the Voltaire Network during a general assembly where an anti-Semitic movie by Dieudonné Mbala Mbala was played.

[Note: Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, more commonly known as simply Dieudonné, started as a left-wing anti-racist activist opposed to the French National Front in the 90s before moving to the far-right in the 2000s, associating with neo-fascist Alain Soral and allying to Jean-Marie le Pen (who became the godfather of Dieudonné’s daughter), platformingHolocaust denier Robert Faurisson and disparaging Holocaust memorial in 2008, and wishing atrocities committed during the Holocaust on a Jewish celebrity in 2013, following which his shows were banned.]

People really should read the article for the details.

These are some other elements:

Some Strange American Stalinist Parties

The Workers World Party (WWP)

The Workers World Party is a small Stalinist party formed out of a faction led by Sam Marcy which split in 1958 from the Socialist Workers Party, a US Trotskyist party, due to disagreements between Marcy’s faction’s support for the Chinese revolution and the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolution, which was at odds with the positions of the SWP.

Cynthia McKinney

The WWP has worked with Cynthia McKinney, a former US Congressperson for the Democratic Party with a history of 9/11 conspiracism and outright anti-Semitism. McKinney has been close to the vice-president of the LaRouche Movement’s Schiller Institute [archive] Amelia Boynton Robinson[archive] since 2005, and in 2009 she wrote an article blaming George Soros of plotting to install a “one-world government” [archive] (another form of far-right “New World Order” conspiracy theories) before later blaming the “Zionists” for her electoral failure after she ran for the 2008 US Presidential elections as candidate for the US Green Party (which was endorsed by the WWP [archive]).

We see a familiar figure pop up here:

The Strange Case Of Sputnik Radio

Brian Becker, the aforementioned co-founder and co-leader of the PSL and National Coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition happens to have a show, called Loud & Clear on Sputnik (whose French branch openly collaborates with far-right members in the orbit of the National Front and GRECE), which premiered in December 2015. Becker’s fellow PSL member Walter Smolarek is a producer for the show..

George Galloway, former MP of the British Labour Party and staunch supporter of Saddam Hussein…..

This is the conclusion,

In a report for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Martin A. Lee warns of the possibility of a resurgence of fascism under hidden forms, especially in the context where fascist critiques overlap with genuine left-wing radical critiques of globalization, and unfortunately the PSL and the WWP have knowingly worked to enable this.

As radical leftist anti-fascists, anti-racists, anti-colonialists, anti-Zionists and anti-capitalists struggling for liberation, we can fight against imperialism, against racism, against fascism at the same time, and we can oppose the American war machine and oppose colonialism without siding with reactionary and oppressive entities. We can support liberation in Palestine, Bahrain, India, Venezuela and everywhere else where people are struggling against oppression without allying to fascists or allowing them to try co-opting our movements. Unfortunately sections of the radical movement have failed or have been purposely misled by crypto-fascists.

Having started writing this post on the centenary of the Russian Revolution and published it today, exactly 99 years since the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht by counter-revolutionary forces within the so-called “Left”, even as protests are rocking Tunisia on the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the Arab Spring, I have only one thing to say: we badly need to do better, comrades.


There is doubtless a lot of detail to be added about the European left, from the backing for the sovereigntist side in the EU Referendum, the ‘left’ groups in the UK who backed Putin over Ukraine,   to the sympathies of some for the Assad regime.

On the Russian link see (a rather exaggerated account but with some truth): Don’t ignore the left! Connections between Europe’s radical left and Russia. PÉTER KREKÓ and LÓRÁNT GYŐRI. 

More specifically there is this episode:  Trotskyism’ in Wonderland: ‘Workers Power’ and Ukraine.

On Syria see one contribution in French,  Syrie – Légitimité de l’action de Poutine et d’Assad : une narration du conflit syrien à l’épreuve des faits .

There is equally this on the Nationalist Arab Brigades fighting for Assad, la Garde nationaliste arabe (GNA),  La garde panarabe de Bachar Al-Assad  Quatre brigades aux noms symboliques. Nicolas Dot-Pouillard. Le Monde Diplomatique January 2018. The author notes how the volunteers from across the Arab world are now in groups which miux arab nationalism, a degree of ‘socialism’, with Islamic identity. 

A valuable overview from a Francophone perspective  is available here from our friends at Mondialisme:  Extrême gauche/Extrême droite. Inventaire de la confusion (6) Convergences inattendues and the articles here: 36-37 : Extrême droite, extrême gauche : Inventaire de la confusion.

Not to mention here:   Liste non exhaustive des sites conspirationnistes et confusionnistes.

You can start with, Alan Soral and  the site  Égalité et Réconciliation. 

Read the post…..


Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017) a Tribute from Ipswich.

leave a comment »

Image result for mark fisher capitalist realism


Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017)

On Saturday, on the anniversary of her friend’s death, Nina Power circulated a beautiful tribute, In Memoriam. She wrote, “Since you have gone I find it hard to go back to your writing. I think it is because there is still so much life in your words, but so much ghostliness too. And it was just so good, it just is so good. You captured exhilaration in writing like nobody else.”

This is also a contribution to Mark’s memory, written since our paths crossed at an Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting in Ipswich (Exiting the Vampire Castle), and because this recent reader of Capitalist Realism. Is there no Alternative? (2008) is deeply impressed by the work he left behind. (1)

Mark Fisher was a radical cultural critic. This expression barely covers the career of talented man whose research in the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit writings on the K-Punk Blog were marked by keen radical political feeling.

Capitalist Realism.

Capitalist Realism was, and is, a landmark study. It hits you from the first page with its quality. The book hooks the reader by an account of the film The Children of Men (2006), less a “cinematic dystopia” than a permanent state of emergency. Fisher reflects that it reminds him of a phrase attributed to Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, “that is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.” This captured the meaning of “capitalist realism”, “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (Page 2)

The scenario of The Children of Men, which revolves around mass sterility, the end of public space and where nihilist religious eschatology is all that is left for the masses wandering in camps to cling to, is striking in itself. While the state had yet to be reduced to the military and police, Fisher extended the plot to capitalism, a world now where, “all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and relics.” (Page 4).

Jean Baudrillard wrote of the French Socialist governments of the 1980s, well before the collapse of Communism, of the “end of the dialectic” “the end of history” and above all the “power of simulation”. (La Gauche Divine. 1985). Fisher evokes other French theorists, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, whose Capitalisme et schizophrénie. L’anti-Œdipe (1972) to him saw capitalism as a “dark potentiality” and “unnameable thing” which has only begun to be deterritorialised through finance. One might suggest that something of this complex work, which is, amongst many things, a critique of psychoanalysis remains in Fisher’s concern with the link between the new forms of capitalism and mental illness, though the relation with Guattari’s own therapeutic practices remains to be discussed. (2)

Fisher captures these themes in the sense of “sense of exhaustion, of cultural and political sterility”, preferring capitalist realism to the term “post-modernism”, an expression, he justly noted, loaded with ambiguities, ranging from politics, economics  and cultural trends. Perhaps more significantly the idea that that there is “no alternative” focuses on the propositional nature of the expression. That is it can be contested, without succumbing to the belief of theorists of the Baudrillard school, that the world has been absorbed in the “hyper-real” in which nothing beyond trivia  happens any more.

Capitalist Realism indeed describes the effects of free market liberalism; an iron cage of its own imposed in the area he knew best, education. Managerialism, targets, a bureaucracy that “invades all areas of work” (P 51). The Big Other, the “bewildered frustration of the individual in the call centre labyrinth” is an “expression of the ultimate cause-that-is-not a subject capital. (Pages 65 and 70) If the latter seems a reflection of an Althusserian subjectless process commentators have been more struck by the expression of ‘hauntology” – the individual’s nostalgia for “lost futures”.

New Political Terrain.

This reader was more impressed by Fisher’s effort to think beyond these limits. The final chapter of Capitalist Realism ends with a defence public services, what is slightly tongue in cheek called a ‘Marxist supernanny”. Not that he was anything but critical of defensive politics. “It’s well past time for the left to case limiting its ambitions to the establishing of a big state. But being ‘at a distance from the state’ does not mean either abandoning the state or retreating into the private space of affects and diversity”. (page 77)

If capitalist realism survived the credit crisis of 2008, and the end of capitalism was not in sight, a “new political terrain” remains to be conquered. With its own authentic universality, a term he understands in Alain Badiou’s ‘ontological’ that is foundational, sense), This implies, “resurrecting the very concept of a general will, revising – and modernising – the idea of a public space that is not reducible to an aggregation of individuals and their interests.”(Page 77) He defended ‘worker autonomy’. How the General Will can subordinate the state, at a time when the People has emerged in some left circles as a substitute for the working class, remains to be seen. (3)

Mark Fisher’s Exiting the Vampire Castle begins with a description of his dispirited state, looking at the left, and squabbles on the Internet, which was  rendered acute by attacks on Owen Jones. It continues,

One of the things that broke me out of this depressive stupor was going to the People’s Assembly in Ipswich, near where I live. The People’s Assembly had been greeted with the usual sneers and snarks. This was, we were told, a useless stunt, in which media leftists, including Jones, were aggrandising themselves in yet another display of top-down celebrity culture. What actually happened at the Assembly in Ipswich was very different to this caricature. The first half of the evening – culminating in a rousing speech by Owen Jones – was certainly led by the top-table speakers. But the second half of the meeting saw working class activists from all over Suffolk talking to each other, supporting one another, sharing experiences and strategies. Far from being another example of hierarchical leftism, the People’s Assembly was an example of how the vertical can be combined with the horizontal: media power and charisma could draw people who hadn’t previously been to a political meeting into the room, where they could talk and strategise with seasoned activists. The atmosphere was anti-racist and anti-sexist, but refreshingly free of the paralysing feeling of guilt and suspicion which hangs over left-wing twitter like an acrid, stifling fog.

I was one of the organisers of that meeting and can say that this passage cheered me up immensely. There are people on the left who have “exited” the Vampire Castle of ‘identities’ (perhaps code for an academic cultural left) that Fisher described, although our own fortresses are no doubt just as daunting. It is of interest that many of the people at the Fore Street Co-op Education Centre were active in the Labour Party at the time, and many more are today, from the present Ipswich MP, councillors, to trade unionists.

We are trying to make real if not the General Will, at least Left politics, and have a good stab at the ‘capitalist realism’ comrade Mark Fisher so brilliantly described, and for which we will remember him.

See also:  Journey back into the vampires’ castle: Mark Fisher remembered, 1968-2017

Thanks to Roger for sending me a copy of Capitalist Realism.

(1) We may well have directly met. I recall a conversation in Ipswich with somebody about post-modernism and Derrida – not one may imagine a frequent topic in the town.

(2) See Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. Biographie croisée. François Dosse. La Découverte. 2009. This book contains a wealth of details about their lives and theories. Guattari was a supporter of a version of ‘anti-psychiatry. Some consider that Mille plateaux (1980)  is more useful for its description  of how states “capture” people and territories. 

(3) Ed Rooksby’s review of Capitalist Realism in Historical Materialism, Vol 20 No 1. 2012, asked how literally we could take these suggestive ideas.


Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Hold The Press: Labour Against the Witch-Hunt Faces Key “political fight for democracy”as Keabalism Tries to Shut down Debate.

with 2 comments

Image result for esperanto stan keable

Britain’s leading Esperantist Communist Accused of Manoeuvres against Socialist Fight. 

The international consortium of investigative journalists on the latest in the developing story that is Labour Against the Witch-Hunts. 

04/01/2018 by socialistfight

STOP PRESS: This evening at 22.45pm, first Ian Donovan and then Gerry Downing received the email from Stan Keable that had previously been sent to selected non-SF LAW supporters (see below), inviting them to a meeting at an un-named ‘nearby’ new venue this Saturday 6th Jan at 12pm. Democratic forces on the left should go to the Calthorpe Arms at 11.30am and be prepared for a political fight for democracy.

This was after the same comrade had been emailed by Tony Greenstein and told that the meeting was off, and SF would not be welcome at future LAW meetings.

Evidently the landlord of the Calthorpe Arms, good socialist that he is, feared making excessive profits from drink sales if significantly larger crowds, mobilised by articles in the Independent and the Times of Israel, descended on his pub on a Saturday afternoon.

More grounded, materialistic people might suspect that someone feared they would lose the vote a second time and ‘arranged’ this. They still could. And even if they don’t, this messing with venues and trying to exclude people who voted entirely legitimately on 2 Dec, would tarnish any votes taken.

This is fearful stupidity.

And thus LAW’s misleadership brings the whole thing to the level of farce. How on earth did they think they would get away with this on the left in the internet age?


The Plot Thickens

Tony Greenstein tells us the meeting is cancelled, Stan Keable tells a selected core (containing a Socialist Fight snout, unfortunately for him) that a nearby alternative venue has been found.

Read more, if you dare….


Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2018 at 1:47 pm