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Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. A Review.

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Red Famine, Anne Applebaum. Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Allen Lane 2017.

“I saw one cart, it was stacked with the bodies of children. They looked thin and long – faces like dead birdies, sharp little beaks. Some were still making cheeping noises: their little heads were like ripe ears of grain, bending the thin stalks of their necks…”

Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. (1)

The catastrophes of the 20th century leave deep traces. The famine in Ukraine, portrayed in Grossman’s uncompleted novel ((begun in 1955, and worked on until his death in 1964), rendered his witness to one of the greatest tragedies of history immortal. In the middle of the 1930s the anti-Stalinist leftist Boris Souvarine estimated that more than 5 million died across the USSR in the mass hunger that followed the collectivisation of agriculture of 1932 –3. (2)

Anne Applebaum totals 5 million who perished in the Holodomor (Hunger-extermination in Ukrainian) alone. This mass starvation was a “famine within the famine, a disaster specifically targeted at Ukraine and Ukrainians.”(Page 193) In this the author of Red Famine follows Robert Conquest who considered that the deaths were deliberately inflicted for ethnic reasons and constituted genocide (The Harvest of Sorrow. 1986). More recently Timothy Snyder has called it “premeditated mass murder” (Bloodlands. 2010).

In Iron Curtain (2012) Applebaum narrated the post 1945 strangulation of Eastern Europe’s politics and civil society in Stalin and his satellites’ embrace. But the ordered effort “to control every aspect of society” barely describes what Isaac Deutscher called the “pandemonium” of forced collectivisation at the beginning of the 1930s which precipitated these mass fatalities. (3)

Spurred by the prospect of national, notably urban, food shortages in the late 1920s, Stalin, Applebaum observes, ordered the programme to ensure “internal accumulation” for Soviet industry. The peasants were driven into Kolkhozes, collective farms, and the “liquidation of the Kulaks as a class” met resistance. By the end of March 1930 the secret police, the OGPU recorded 2,000 mass protests in Ukraine alone.

The response was coercion. Teams of ‘activists’ herded people up, lectured them, poked their noses into their meagre belongings, and confiscated at their whim. Armed Soviet agents surrounded rebellious villages with machine-gun and forced them to surrender. There were mass deportations.

The Marxist Deutscher compared the fate of the peasants to that of “mere factory hands”. In the USSR this meant life ruled by party appointed bosses, internal passports, and military discipline. They did not welcome their new lives. In the collective farms, badly supplied, and ramshackle, people worked as little as possible. Vast tracts of land were “left untilled”.

But rules began to grip. Recalcitrant districts were blacklisted. “With no grain, no livestock, no tools, no, money and no credit, with no ability to trade or even to leave their places of work, the inhabitants of blacklisted villages could not grow, prepare or purchase anything to eat at all.”(Page 200)

The Mass Famine.

The reduction of the independent peasantry to appendages of the state bureaucracy, and the deportation of the slightly better off kulaks, took place against the backdrop of famine.

From exhortations, backed by violence to join the Kolkhozes, the state focus shifted to procuring food. The quest for gain through forcible requisitions became a prime activist task. Bringing back memories of marauding armies in the Civil War, appeared “a man who brandished a gun, spouted slogans and demanded food”.

In a haunting description Applebaum outlines the peasants’ dilemmas. They were forced “give up their gain reserves and die of starvation, or they could keep some grain reserves hidden and risk arrest, execution or the confiscation of the rest of their food – after which they could also die of starvation.”(Page 195)

By the winter of 1932 –3 people in the countryside had exhausted their supplies and started to search for “everything edible”. Many were unable to find anything. There were harrowing incidents of cannibalism. The result was that, demographers estimate, 4,5 million people starved to death.

Stalin’s Policy Against Ukrainians.

Red Famine states that there was policy behind the disaster in Ukraine. Stalin was hostile to Ukrainian nationalism, from the 1917 Rada onwards, and Ukrainians, including their own Bolsheviks whom he believed favoured the national movement and culture. This had a basis in that millions of Ukrainian peasants had wanted “a socialist revolution, but not a Bolshevik revolution” and distrusted anything that came from Moscow. If those with such views in the villages could be sorted out by direct force, the intelligentsia presented another obstacle to be met with by the same methods. Beginning with Stalin’s consolidation of power all signs of national consciousness were repressed; above all, the educated Ukrainian speaking elite were targeted in successive purges.

Stalin, while adept at claiming a certain distance from those “dizzy with success” I applying his decrees never admitted any responsibility for the deaths in the early 30s Apologists such as visiting French Minister Édouard Herriot, concerned to make a treaty with the USSR, and the US reporter Walter Duranty aided his work. The Pulitzer Prize winner replied to evidence of famine from the young journalist, Gareth Jones, with the headline, “Russians Hungry, not Starving.” The facts reached only a limited audience. Not only was there no international movement of protest, but the Soviet Union neither appealed for helps from other countries, nor set up its own relief operations. To talk of the wretched conditions of the victims was a crime. 

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For Applebaum the evidence is clear. Stalin “helped created the conditions that led to the famine”. “Starvation was the result, rather, of the forcible removal of food from people’s homes; the roadblocks that prevented peasants forms eking work or food, the harsh rules of the blacklists imposed on farms and villages; the restrictions of barter and trade; and the vicious propaganda campaign designed to persuade Ukrainians to watch,unmoved, as their neighbours died of hunger.”(Page 354)

If Stalin did not seek to eliminate all Ukrainians, but the “the most active and engaged Ukrainians, in both the countryside and the cities” was this a crime of genocide? It is distressing to broach the issue. The reader, shaken by this book, can only express humility towards those determined to commemorate the Holodomor and a wish to stay clear, very clear from those who still attempt to rehabilitate Stalin’s rule in the USSR and slander the martyred Ukrainians.

*******

(1) Page 145. Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. Translated by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler with Anna Aslanyan. Harvill Secker. 2010. On Stalin’s role Grossman notes, “This fusion of party and State found its expression in the person of Stalin. In the mind and will of Stalin, the State expressed its own mind and will.” (Page 205) “It was Stalin – who was both a European Marxist and an Asian despot – who gave true expression to the nature of Soviet statehood. What was embodied in Lenin was a Russian national principle; what was embodied in Stalin was a statehood that was both Russian and Soviet.”(Page 205)

(2) Le paysan soviétique. Boris Souveraine. In Cauchemar en URSS Paris, Revue de Paris, 1937. 

(3) Pages 324-5. Stalin. Isaac Deutscher. Penguin. 1990 (1949).

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2018 at 1:53 pm

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

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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.

ARoamingVagabond

Extracts,

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.

Comment.

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

Catalonia: Revolution Postponed as Puigdemont backers say he will be President on the 31st of January……

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Puigdemont with Adviser in Brussels.

Los diputados de Junts per Catalunya en Bruselas: “El 31 de enero Puigdemont será el presidente”

MPs of Junts per Catalunya in Brussels, “On the 3st of January Puigdemont will be President. 

Once upon a time, a long time back, a few weeks before Christmas….. Catalonia was on the threshold of a revolution.

Socialist Appeal echoed many a sage  left-wing commentator in stating, “the Catalan revolution: the struggle for the Socialist Republic of Catalonia, to serve as the spark for the Iberian Socialist Revolution, and the prelude to the European Socialist Revolution.”

As recruiting posters for a new Durutti column began to appear in Hoxton Quinoa bars, the left press was awash with stories from the front line.

Grizzled journalists made their way across snow swept Pyrenean trails to send back reports from Catalunya.

The Socialist set the tone, ” Spain/Catalonia: “Like a massive football match, with a revolutionary atmosphere!” Supporters lined up to cheer.  Socialist Worker advised, “Workers’ mobilisation” was the key to success.  Counterfire began an appeal “To support in any way possible the emergence of a broad based solidarity movement in the UK.” In an exercise of considerable imagination Red Pepper published a piece stating, “Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism”. Some Anarchists, no doubt excited at the prospect of visiting Hemp Milk Cooperatives off the Ramblas, saw a resurrection of the CNT as this tiny union backed independence. (1)

Spain’s PM, Rajoy seemed to act out of his way to reinforce the hostility of Catalans.There were justified protests in Catalonia against the repression unleashed against the ‘referendum’ and gaoling of Catalan MPs.  There were some strikes, many backed by employers, public functionaries and business, that failed to take off in the factories and the majority of the working class. Theyw ere more effective in snarling up road traffic than anything else.

But internationally the event the only demonstrations of support for Catalan nationalism, led by a large section of the Catalan bourgeoisie, and its main party, JuntsxCat were organised by the Scottish Nationalist Party, and, in Brussels, a curious event which saw Trotskyists march with the extreme-right Vlams Belang.

In the event the regional elections on the 21st of December saw a marginal victory for the assembled Catalan nationalists and a crushing defeat for the pro-independence radical left.

CataloniaParliamentDiagram2017.svg
Parties and coalitions Popular vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Total +/−
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Cs) 1,109,732 25.35 +7.44 36 +11
Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat)1 948,233 21.66 n/a 34 +3
Republican Left–Catalonia Yes (ERC–CatSí)1 935,861 21.38 n/a 32 +6
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE) 606,659 13.86 +1.14 17 +1
Catalonia in Common–We Can (CatComú–Podem)2 326,360 7.46 –1.48 8 –3
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 195,246 4.46 –3.75 4 –6
People’s Party (PP) 185,670 4.24 –4.25 4 –7

The loudest voice braying for Catalan nationalism, Socialist Appeal, was exultant, “The victory of the pro-independence bloc is a blow to the Rajoy government and the Spanish regime as a whole.” They explained away the defeat of their own favoured force, the CUP, as follows,

The anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP had a bad result: 4.45 percent of the votes and only 4 seats. For comparison, it had 8.21 percent and 10 seats after the 2015 elections. It ran a very good and militant campaign, in which it insisted on the defence of the Catalan Republic and the mandate of the 1st October referendum, linking these to the question of winning and defending social rights, and talking openly about socialism and internationalism.

But these strengths in the CUP’s campaign were offset by a number of factors. Firstly, the memory of its past mistakes in supporting JxSí and its budget of cuts. Secondly, the fact that many of its votes in 2015 were on loan from ERC supporters who did not want to support JxSí and who have now gone back to ERC. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that during the crucial events of the Catalan October, the CUP was not seen clearly enough as offering an alternative leadership.

 On odd left group that backed austerity……

I think we can guess who, in the eyes of Socialist Appeal,  is ready to offer such a “leadership”.

About the only force to emerge from these events with any credibility is Catalunya en Comú–Podem (aligned to Podemos) who also lost support (less drastically, from 8.9% to 7,5%).

Some of those who had previously criticised Podemos for the way its ‘populism’, the identification of the ‘people’ against the ‘casta’ as the main political conflict, suddenly  found in the Catalan ‘people’ led by the nationalist bourgeoisie a new progressive vehicle.

Podemos, by contrast stood for a ‘multi-people ‘ or plurinational Spain and defended the Catalans’ democratic right for decide their future for themselves.

In terms of real politics the biggest historic left nationalist party, the Republican left (ERC), is back to its previous position of propping up the right-wing Puigdemont led bloc.

Which leads us back to the present dilemma:

Catalan separatists agreed on Wednesday to try to re-elect Puigdemont as regional leader, raising the scenario of the fugitive former leader governing by video link from Belgium. He faces arrest in Spain for sedition and rebellion.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear,” said Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly press conference. “They do not contemplate the possibility of a (parliamentary) presence that is not in person.”

“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” he added.

(1) I note however that some retained, to their honour, their senses: Against all states, old and new! Down with patriotism! Down with borders! Long live the international class struggle!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Purging Mania Sweeps Tory Factionalists and ‘left’ Sovereigntists foam as Parliamentary Sovereignty Asserted.

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Purging mania.

No-nonsense Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has called for Remoaner MPs last night who secured politicians a veto on Brexit to be deselected and barred from standing for the Tory Party again. Westmonstor. 

The one time Revolutionary Communists of Spiked on Line  set the pattern for fellow sovereigntists.

MPs’ ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit is a blow to popular sovereignty. Brendan O’Neill. 

The Remoaner joy over the meaningful vote captures brilliantly how ridiculous and elitist the pro-EU side has become. First, there’s their treatment of an incredibly tight vote in parliament as some kind of historic win for the institution of democracy. In their minds, 17.4million people voting to leave the EU – the largest number of Brits that has ever voted for anything – is a mistake, a cry of hatred, a crime, and definitely not ‘the will of the people’, but pro-meaningful-vote MPs beating anti-meaningful-vote MPs by a poxy four votes – 309 to 305 – is a ‘great day for democracy’. These people are hilarious

The great man pauses, the Remoaners,  the ridiculous poxy anti-meaningful elite aside, it is time for some reflections on what is going on behind the hilarity “in their minds”.

O’Neill has the knack for getting the low-down behind the vote,

Secondly, there’s the small matter that these people have not the remotest interest in defending parliamentary sovereignty. If they had, they would not be fighting tooth and nail in defence of an institution – the EU – which is almost entirely devoted to weakening parliamentary sovereignty.

At the risk of running out of stale metaphors O’Neill continues.

The EU and its apologists are only cheering parliamentary democracy now to the extent that it might be wielded to undermine popular democracy; because they think it can be used to slow or scupper that decision made by the largest group of people in British democratic history. This is the level of cynicism they have reached: they increasingly see parliament, not as a true tribune of the people, but as a possible counter to the people, the sensible, cool restraint on the masses’ dangerous anti-EU passions. They are setting up parliament against the public, which is a very sinister thing to do..

The ghosts of the English Civil War are rising,

 …..we defended an ideal that the English fought a civil war over and which millions of Brits marched and fought for against an EU elite and a British parliament that had become cavalier about this ideal; we offered parliament the backbone, the authority, that it had lost. We saved parliament, we saved representative democracy. And what thanks do we get? None. Less than none, in fact. We now have parliamentarians who spy in the ‘meaningful vote’ a chance to slow or wound the people’s historic defence of parliament, of them. They do not deserve us.

A cruel and thankless world indeed.

Poor ‘us’.

But History will surely absolve Spiked-on-Line’s offer of “backbone” that “saved Parliament”.

Bang on cue Labour Leave retweeted this:

Not forgetting the supporters of Nationalist Chaos Theory.

Note Paul Embry is Paul Embery is the Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and National Organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU. He has written for the far-right Westmonster site:  TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH WORKING CLASS POST-BREXIT

 

A different view:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”.

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Roy Hattersley, Momentum, and ‘Labour’s worst crisis”

“Socialism requires the use of collective power to increase individual rights and to extend individual freedom.”

“Public ownership in the form of state corporations, centrally owned, planned and administered, is essential for the public utilities.”

Pages 120 and 185. Choose Freedom. The Future for Democratic Socialism. Roy Hattersley. 1987.

Sunday’s Observer saw elder Labour statesman, Roy Hattersley, launch a call to arms (This is Labour’s greatest crisis. Time to fight back. 3.12.17). Momentum, the pressure group dedicated to winning elections for Labour and supporting the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, aims to move the party to the “far left of the political spectrum”. The “threat” to Labour from their “extremism”, “Corbyn’s revolutionary guard” is carrying out a “cull of councillors” and the “replacement of moderate MPs”. It must be “beaten”. The task is to “save British social democracy from extinction”.

Hattersley’s polemic has its moments. Many enjoyed the phrase struck, with successful comic effect, describing former Militant supporters, “the old gang” in Liverpool now apparently active again in the party, “All that is changed is that the Militant now travel to meetings with their bus passes.”

Less appreciated was his effort to explain other local developments. On the challenge to Haringey’s Labour leadership, the former Labour Deputy leader is seriously awry. Aggressive newcomers were also at work. ‘New recruits’ brandishing a call for “democracy” were to blame for new councillor selections. A reference to the disastrous implications of the council’s plans to redevelop council housing by removing some estates from “public ownership” and handing them over to a private dominated development (“the biggest transfer of local authority resources to a private entity in UK history, and would see Lendlease own a fifty per cent stake in a company which will profit from public assets for at least twenty years”)  in which the poor have no place is missed. Absent too was the long, very long, history of disputes over ‘modernising’ Labour in Haringey, which predate Momentum by….several decades. (1)

 

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Momentum.

Momentum can no doubt reply for itself and there are already many commentaries on Labour’s Greatest Crisis. It is hard to identify the pressure group with the ‘far left’. When Militant, now known as the Socialist Party, tried to move in en masse, attempting to create its own “Trade Union Momentum”, they were rebuffed. Another group of left-wingers, after several figures were removed from national office, put some effort in forming Grass Roots Momentum. It has foundered. No doubt individuals from various leftist factions are active in Momentum, a proportion of the membership put at lower single figures.

Some on Labour’s right appear to believe that Momentum’s interest in ‘extra-parliamentary’ activity is anti-democratic. The term is misleading. Public protest is no more opposed to electoral work (which is the core of the movement’s existence), than UNITE Community’s Day of Action against Universal Credit, or demonstrations on the NHS. Or indeed, at the labour movement’s foundation, strikes for better pay and conditions leading to negotiations for collective agreements. Complaints about UNITE’s efforts to influence Labour more directly seem even more paradoxical, if criticism is directed at anti-Westminster politics.

There are legitimate concerns about some aspects of the way the Momentum operates. Conferences attended by delegates selected by lot, a practice adopted in France by President Macron’s En Marche! party and used for a percentage of attendees at Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise, may quell factionalism. But despite reference to the ancient Athenian Constitution, this method of choosing representatives is not today widely accepted as a democratic method.

No doubt we will learn just how democratic the opposing slate of candidates for Labour’s NEC emerged. At present there are none.

On what other grounds does Hattersley accuse Labour of moving to the far-left? The party programme, its policies? Labour is committed to re-nationalising public utilities. One might disagree about the claim that “market distribution” can be fixed to respond to “demand” when, as he noted in Choose Freedom, that income is so unfairly distributed. The objective of developing a replacement for Universal Credit, still in its early stages, can surely be modelled in with traditional social democratic redistribution. In his 1987 book he cited John Rawls’ ‘difference principle”, that is judging reforms by their ability to make the poorest better off. This remains a workable gauge of real reform of welfare. Hattersley’s “struggle for democratic rights” equally remains an objective which unites otherwise divided strands of democratic socialism. The Corbyn and McDonnell leadership indeed puts it at the centre of their policies.

Sunday’s broadside is a shot from the bows at ..what? The vast majority of members are united around the need to elect a new Labour Government. Yet, behind this there are serious issues at stake within the party. They do no neatly fall into a division between “far left” and “moderates”, or even different appreciations of the Blair and Brown years.

New Dividing Lines?

At the risk of whittling down a whole forest of contentious issues some stick out.

  •  Europe. The Labour Party contains both a small right wing ‘patriotic’ anti-EU current, a left-wing ‘Lexit’ (left-exit) current, and a big majority, from the centre to large parts of the left, which wants the smallest possible break from Europe. Some do not want to leave the EU at all. The Lexit left is in disarray as their glee at seeing Britain leave the ‘Bosses Club’ has turned to ashes faced with the complexities of exit, and the prospect of being at the mercy of the WTO and stronger economies, from the EU itself to the USA.
  • Specific Policy. Labour’s stand on Brexit, is seeking the ‘best deal’ and letting the Tories tear themselves apart in Brexit negotiations, while balancing its statements with an electoral strategy that attracts anti-EU voters. This has left many unsure about what a possible Corbyn led government will do. On a key aspect, failing to debate the Freedom of Movement at Conference, an issue brought up by left wing activists, does not mean the issue has disappeared.
  • Internationalism. While the majority of the Labour party, including the activist left, are committed to defending universal human rights (leaving aside weighty philosophical agreements on the topic), there are differences on where to start. Some groups, in numbers only groupuscules about with wider influence within the Party, give priority to fighting ‘imperialism’, that is the USA. Those backing ‘anti-imperialist’ forces have watered down their public rhetoric. But as recent pronouncements by Andrew Murray, chief of Unit’s political strategy and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and of the indicate, there remain elements prepared on international issues who are prepared to align openly with forces hostile to democratic socialism.

As this sketch illustrates, disagreements within the Labour Party and broader left, have moved on from the stark divisions with which Roy Hattersley tries to frighten his readers. Far from being in a position to stifle these differences in a Labour Party that excludes “everyone with whom they disagree” Momentum is obliged to confront them. The progress made so far to elaborate a “synthesis” between different strands of thought in Labour in a policy platform that is resolutely democratic socialist gives one grounds for hope.  That they, Momentum, – and it is hard to call such a disparate group a ‘they’ – have a core objective it is an eminently Parliamentary one, electing the next PM. One hopes the former deputy leader will do his best to work for that. .

 

(1): On this see: “We Took the Last Option”: The Fight for Democracy in Haringey. New Socialist.

Catalan Nationalist Support Slumps as Puigdemont’s Call for UK Style Break from the EU Falls on Deaf Ears.

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The tragedy of Catalonia continues as Spain refuses bail for top Catalan politicians, as decision on Carles Puigdemont extradition delayed.

But the repressive acts of the Spanish PP government have not meant a surge in support for the Catalan parties backing independence.

Latest voting projections based on today’s opinion poll published in El pais suggest a big drop in pro-Catalan nationalists  in latest opinion poll,: ERC (Republican left), (down from 62 to 32),  party, Carles Puigdemont the Junts pel Sí (from 62 to 25-6) and the “radical left” odd balls of the CUP, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular,  sinking from 10 to 9.

The main story is the rise of pro-Spanish unity, centrist Ciudadanos (up from 25 to 31-2 to 11) and growth in PSOE (Catalan wing, PSC) backing (16 to 21. There has been a small decline in Podemos involved alliance, CeC-Podem (9, down from 11), backing.

Catalan nationalists look like losing an absolute majority in the coming, 21st of December Catalan Parliament ballot.

Ciudadanos será la fuerza más votada el 21-D según el CIS

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Didier Motchane, central figure of the 1970s French Socialist Left, passes.

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Didier Motchane – under the Symbol of the Rose he designed. 

In yesterday’s Guardian there was a long article The wilderness years: how Labour’s left survived to conquer. Describing how the left began the 1980s Andy Beckett writes, “Livingstone told me recently, “François Mitterrand was elected president of France on a socialist platform. We were all thinking: ‘The world’s about to change.’

Mitterrand was indeed elected in 1981  on a radical Socialist Programme, 110 propositions pour la France.

 

Didier Motchane, has just passed away. He was one of the  architects of the 1981 Projet Socialiste, which lay behind this list of proposals. It outlined a detailed strategy for self-management, autogestion, within a wider perspective of nationalising companies,  a line put forward in 1975 as “les quinze theses sur l’autogestion du parti socialiste“. So radical was this programme that it clearly set forward the Socialists’ structural economic and political reforms, including legal changes to defend human rights, and backing for workers’ power, within the perspective of a transition to socialism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projet socialiste - pour la France des années 80 - Couverture - Format classique

Mort de Didier Motchane, cofondateur du Ceres

Ce proche de Jean-Pierre Chevènement, figure emblématique de la gauche, est décédé dimanche 29 octobre, à l’âge de 86 ans.

Motchane was a key figure in the Centre d’études, de recherches et d’éducation socialiste, CERES, (1966 – 1986)  a left wing current which (as the Wikipedia entry notes) had few parallels in other social democratic parties with the exception, perhaps,  of the British labour Party.

As a ‘think-tank’ its influence was its height during the 1970s, and, as noted above, on the formulation of many aspects of Mitterrand’s 1981 electoral platform.

For some on the British left Motchane had been already noted in the 1970s for his debate with the Marxist political theorist Nicos Poulantzas and other left wing figures in the Mélusine discussion group, and his interest in Antonio Gramsci (Bob Jessop).

Motchane was radical enough to have considered  at one point in the early years of that decade that the la Ligue communiste, which became the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, should have joined CERES. (1)

He was also open to a wide variety of radical left ideas and broader philosophy from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas to the sociology of  Pierre Bourdieu, Didier. Le grand Motchane et mes années CERES.

His career began in the higher spheres of the French administration.

“Didier Motchane was the son of industrialist and mathematician Léon Motchane, was born in Paris on September 17, 1931. Bachelor of Arts, Graduate of History and Institute of Political Studies of Paris, a graduate of the top administration college, ENA  He became a senior official, assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A man of great culture and fine intelligence, he founded, at the end of 1965, the Ceres with Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Pierre Guidoni and Georges Sarre.”

CERES became a key player in the Parti Socialiste in the mid-1970s. Their intention was to bring socialism into social-democracy.

Inside the Parti Socialiste apart from his influence on the 1981 programme he created the famous red rose and fist logo which has become the international symbol of the socialist parties. (Didier Motchane est mort, l’inventeur du logo socialiste “le poing et la rose” avait 86 ans.)

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The left wing programme of Mitterrand was not fulfilled.  Motchane, with Chevènement, opposed Mitterrand’s turn to financial ‘rigour’ in 1983. Motchane accused the government of having left the French proletariat behind while expressing support for the Polish Solidarity movement (“pris congé du prolétariat en France au moment où ils ont découvert la classe ouvrière en Pologne )

He began a long journey, from radical democratic socialism, opposed during the latter half of that decade and into the 1990s to the ” social-libéralisme” of the current around Michel Rocard, to an increasingly nationalist republicanism.

Motchane’s evolution took place in close relation to his close comrade Jean-Pierre  Chevènement.

Chevènement was Minister of Research and Industry from 1981 to 1983, when he resigned, for the first of three times in his career. He disagreed with the change in economic policy made by President Mitterrand in order to stay in the European Monetary System. He has said that “a minister has to keep his mouth shut; if he wants to open it, he resigns” (Un ministre, ça ferme sa gueule ; si ça veut l’ouvrir, ça démissionne ). However, he returned to the cabinet as Minister of National Education from 1984 to 1986.

Appointed Minister of Defence in 1988, he served until 1991, when he resigned due to his opposition to the Gulf WarAfter this he opposed the Maastricht Treaty, an issue on which Mitterrand and the PS led the “yes” campaign. In 1993 he left the PS and founded a new political party: the Citizens’ Movement (Mouvement des citoyens or MDC).

These developments were mirrored in their publications.

From the left wing socialist journal En Jeu, they began a systematic critique of the Parti Socialiste’s (PS) politics which moved them increasingly  outside of the party’s orbit and, eventually beyond socialism itself.

Motchane left the PS in 1993, at the same time as Jean-Pierre Chevenement to participate with him in the creation in 2003 of the  Mouvement des citoyens (MDC) which became the Mouvement républicain et citoyen (MRC). Eurosceptic they became ‘sovereigntist’, putting national control of the economy, and the power of the French Nation, at the centre of their politics. This meant opposition to European integration, from the Maastricht treaty (1992) onwards.

Chevènement himself was not completely left out in the cold.

The MDC participated in the Gauche Plurielle (Plural left, Socialists, Communists, Greens, left radical party) which between 1997 and 2002, under Jacques Chirac’s Presidency nevertheless held  the post of Prime Minister and ran the Cabinet.  The MDV leader became  member of this government, led by Socialist Lionel Jospin, and was soon known as a hard-line Interior Minister (1997 – 2000). He left his post after expressing opposition to decentralising measures for Corsica.

Outside the PS his Euroscepticism and sovereigntist turn has developed into a position ‘beyond’ the left right division.  During the 2002 Presidential election  hevènement hoped for a candidate who would be neither of the Right or the Left (ni de droite, ni de gauche). In 2015 he spoke of the need for unity between ‘patriots’ of the right and left, (réunir tous les patriotes de droite comme de gauche).  Strongly secular (a defender of laïcité) he was nominated in 2016 by President Hollande as…President of the  Fondation pour l’islam de France.

Motchane was perhaps more subdued in his turn to sovereigntist politics.

During the 2012 presidential election, Didier Motchane lent his support to Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

But the Le Monde obituary notes that Motchane moved from socialism to a politics centred on the Nation – in French terms, The Republic.

Mediapart has published these tributes.

Régis Debray sent the following message that he asked me to read you:

Unable to be at your side, allow me to greet in a few words more than an old friend: one of those men of commitment who have never sacrificed their convictions to their careers, and who are not numerous…….We will try, dear Didier, not to forget you.

 *****

(1) Mais il m’a appris que, au début des années 1970, il avait souhaité que la Ligue communiste – le groupe d’extrême gauche pour lequel il avait le plus de considération intellectuelle – rejoigne le CERES.  

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm