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New Left Review, Oliver Eagleton attacks Owen Jones, “tough action on antisemitism is a proxy for antisocialism…”

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A New Generation of Struldbrugg Socialists.

As New Left Review (NLR)  enters its 61st year, while still publishing valuable articles, the political content has become dominated by Struldbrugg socialism. These long-living inhabitants of the  land of Luggnagg, Jonathan Swift discovered in Gulliver’s Travels, show not  not only all the “follies and infirmities” of other elderly people , but they are also extra-opinionated.

NLR founding figure, Perry Anderson, writes in his Parish journal, the London Review of Books this week, “The letters objecting to my account of the European Union, offer a range of criticisms, none without an intelligible rationale.”. (Vol 43. No5) The Struldbruggs are supporters of national sovereignty, or sovereigntists, but they tolerate imports, like a hefty shaft of rare and curious words, to remind us of our Bildungslücke.

The peevish, the morose, the covetous,, and the vanity of those those claim to challenge power from their laptops,  are hallmarks of those who wrote, as present Editor Susan Watkins did in 2016, welcoming the vote to leave the European Union,”  Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” Anderson indeed repeated this happy phrase in 2020,’critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks …” (Ukania Perpetua. NLR Second Series. 125).

Enter a new voice: Oliver Eagleton, whose work has appeared in Jacobin, The Article, Novara and openDemocracy, as well as Counterfire and Verso.

For the latter he wrote this hatchet job, which has disappeared from the archives:

 

Now there is this:

 

VICIOUS, HORRIBLE PEOPLE

A review of Owen JonesThis Land: The Story of a Movement

This is not really a review of Jones’ book, one written by somebody, Owen Jones, with serious experience and respect in the broad labour movement. It is a polemic against something Eagleton calls “McDonnellism”, against left internationalists who stood against Brexit, and  a  pretty good effort at aping his  Struldbrugg  elders.

The first thing that strikes the reader is that Eagleton follows the NLR line that Labour should not have opposed Brexit. He fails to mention that his journal actively backed the vote to Leave, with Editorial Board member Tariq Ali appearing on public platforms to cast the ballot on the same side as the European Reform Group, the Tory hard right, and Nigel Farage. As he himself wrote in 2020, “Labour will never be the Party of Remain. It’s time it stopped trying.”

Eagleton focuses on the movement for a second referendum, widely backed by the Labour grassroots, and the force behind million strong marches protesting against Brexit.

While autopsies of Corbynism invariably identify the Brexit polarization as a fatal turning-point, This Land is unique in detailing how Corbyn’s ambiguous position was partially responsible for creating that chasm in the first place. His protracted indecision generated a political vacuum that enabled the arch-centrist Remain movement to grow throughout 2018, winning over previously sceptical figures like Starmer and McDonnell.

……

McDonnell thus formed a second referendum pressure group inside the shadow cabinet, swaying the perennially indecisive Corbyn after purging the Leave faction from his office. Jones acknowledges the disastrous electoral fallout of this policy, but he concludes that ‘Labour had no real choice’. ‘Whatever decisions the party made’, he writes, ‘it would not have ended well’.

In this ‘review’ the idea that opposition to national neoliberalism, and to the hard right fantasy of the ‘anglosphere’ was behind this turn occurs not once.

Less interested in a political analysis of why Labour failed in 2019  – the obvious point being that Corbyn did not connect with the electorate, that there was gulf between the enthusiasm of the Corbynistas and the dislike of the majority of voters – Eagleton spares no words against Owen Jones, “a self-described ‘participant-observer’ in the Corbyn experiment”, marked by “instinctual conformism”, and takes a few side swipes at other highly regarded Labour people, including “Clive Lewis, the chest-thumpingly pro-nato Afghan war veteran..”

This paragraph, discovered in the thickets of ire. follows the main thrust of the book, “less a history of Corbynism than a prolonged apologia for McDonnellism.” One that refuses to challenge the idea that there was a crisis in the Party about antisemitism, and, Eagleton underlines, “. Alongside such incoherent formulations is a summary of Israeli history which ‘could have been written by Shimon Peres’, as one critic has remarked. ” Or that, “‘tough action on antisemitism’ is a proxy for antisocialism…”

Over it all there is the dark figure of John McDonnell….

Just as This Land’s timeline is manipulated to indict Milne… , “The same double-standard is evident in Jones’s disinclination to criticize his political mentor. In order to sustain the representation of Milne as obtuse Stalinist and McDonnell as master strategist, the latter’s political misjudgements must either be neglected or downplayed. Like Jones himself, McDonnell warned against Corbyn’s leadership bid; opposed the leader’s anti-imperialist agenda (including his widely popular response to the Manchester bombings); advocated ihra; cosied up to New Labour leftovers like Alastair Campbell; and pushed the party towards Remain out of an irrational fear of Change uk. A serious account of Corbynism would recognize the damaging effect of these climbdowns. “

For Eagleton, “Starmerism is the end-point of McDonnellism, the logical result of Jones’s prescriptions. ”

The Struldbruggs nod, and nod and nod.

Not any of them have a clue about getting the left into power in this country.

 

 

 

 

We hear on good authority that the person Oliver Eagleton attacks in this review  has also written a reply….

 

 

 

Exclusive: Tariq Ali on Progressive Military Coup in Myanmar.

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Tariq Ali has the Lowdown on Myanmar.

Exclusive.

Breaking News.

Tariq Ali sat in the attic of his Islington Town House. The veteran of many a revolution, he was honing his combat skills. Zionist Space Invaders flashed across the screen of a games console. He wove between the Jewish laser cannons and blasted a flying saucer to smithereens.

There was a sound from the Smartphone.

The urbane public intellectual and former guerrilla picked the device up,

“Take a chill pill old Red Mole, its all so bogus, like, I’ve gotten the real dope on Myanmar.”

The Californian intonation could not disguise the voice of an old comrade, who had raised himself  to the level of comprehending the historical movement of imperialism as a whole.

“Halloa Perry! What ho? “

Mr Anderson continued, now speaking his mother tongue.

“Burma’s Margaret Thatcher is gone gone gone! Por tanto, the  general mouvance, has, after una estación de tránsito, what is dominant’ will never be exhaustive of the phase in question, Ha-at-tu-si ma-ak-ke-es-ta nu-wa-ra-ta-pa DINGIRMEŠ-is sal-la-i ha-as-sa-an-na-i da-a-er.”

Tariq smiled as he recognised the familiar Hittite tag.

“Insider Source?”

“You bettcha!”

“Next issue of New Left Review or shall it be the London Review of Books?”

“Get the news out pronto!

This was the Myanmar Moment, PR, steps forwards, who would have guessed?

The Street Fighting Man recalled the days in the Quartier latin leading the crowd to occupy the Sorbonne.

He called an old comrade.

“Bonjour Edwy Plenel! ” Tariq continued in the language of Molière, “Je suis un Revolutionary, je habite  à the south of Islington.”

As the story was unfolded the top French insider journalist exclaimed,  “Bougre de crème d’emplâtre à la graisse de hérisson!

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Farewell to Perry Anderson: “Westminster is vastly superior to this lacquered synarchy.” (the EU).

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Perry Anderson and the French Left After Macron. | Tendance Coatesy

“It may grate that, for all its woeful shortcomings – think only, beyond … realm – Westminster is vastly superior to this lacquered synarchy” Perry Anderson Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology at the  University of California Los Angeles.

Briefings for Britain, a pro-Brexit site, is in love.

Perry Anderson’s evisceration of the European Union’s past and present in three long articles in the London Review of Books is remarkable in at least three ways.  First, for its lucidity and intellectual richness: my summary can in no way substitute for reading the whole, which I strongly recommend.  If many of its arguments are broadly familiar to critics of the EU, they have rarely been so cogently expressed, or with such controlled anger and command of detail.  Second, because it comes from a leading Left-wing intellectual—though this will be no surprise to Left-inclined Leavers or to those who have followed some of Anderson’s earlier writings.  Third, because it appears in a journal whose overwhelming majority of readers must be archetypal metropolitan Remainers: so all credit to the LRB’s editors.  I look forward with anticipation to a flurry of Letters to the Editor attempting to reply to Anderson’s indictment.  But so far, not one.

……

The final article, ‘The Breakaway’ (21 January), continues its examination of the political history of the EU focusing on Britain’s relationship with ‘the project’ from Macmillan to Johnson.  Few Brexiteers, I think, would disagree with his overall interpretation.  He discusses several prominent British commentators, both Remainers (noting the ‘weakness’ of their stance, attacking Leave but offering no vision of Britain in the EU, and averting their gaze from its defects), and Leavers.  Among the latter, he recognizes the ‘substance’ in the ideas of our friends Noel Malcolm, Richard Tuck and Chris Bickerton, who differ in their political starting points but agree on the legitimacy of Brexit.  Given his own political views, Anderson is a stern critic of the British system of government.  This makes the comparison he draws with the EU all the more compelling: ‘for all its woeful shortcomings … Westminster is vastly superior to this lacquered synarchy.’

 

A devastating indictment of the EU

Robert Tombs

Perry Anderson offers a critique of the European Union, a history of Britain’s relation with the EU, and an account of the Referendum and the vote to Leave. The tone of that critique is summed up in these passages, on the EU Court, the Commission, the Council, the Parliament and the Central Bank.  “The founding fathers of the Court, notes Anderson, included former Nazis, an Italian fascist, and a French collaborator: nearly all appointees were not lawyers but politicians…” And so it continues, ” corrupted by immunity in their occupance  (sic) of power”

Those familiar with Anderson writings over the last decades, which found admirers not just in Briefings for Britain, but a former foe, who found much to relish in his anti-EU écrits, the late Roger Scruton, will no discover more than an endlessly indulged proliferation of citations, books garnered from every nook and cranny, to support the view that the EU is a bad, failing, thing, full of “tawdry episodes”, whose effects have been to “dilute sovereignty without meaningful democracy, compulsory unanimity without participant equality, cult of free markets without care of free trade..”

The length of the present LRB  articles, the periodic style of the sentences, hides some crude and contentious judgements. An orrery of errors, as one of the leading thinkers of the First (pre-Anderson) New Left, E.Thompson might have said, were he not also a fervant opponent of the ‘Common Market’. Basically, there is very little of the new left left.

Politically, the two camps were divided by contrasting perceptions of what was at stake in the referendum. The Remainers consisted essentially of two groups, those who were moved principally by cultural issues and those principally by economic issues.

For the first group, composed of the young and most of the well-educated, the driving force was overwhelmingly a hostility to chauvinism – a rejection of the blind xenophobia and racism that threatened, they believed, to make Britain a suffocating prison of reaction. For the second group, leaving the EU threatened living standards, which were bound to drop cruelly on exit. Leavers were also divided into two groups. For the first, overwhelmingly located in the plebeian categories C2DE, the key issue was control over their own, and the country’s, destiny, something that could only be secured by departure from the EU. For the second, it was recovery of the independence that had been the basis of Britain’s prowess in the past. To these more general considerations, control of immigration and borders came second. Close to three-quarters of Remainers thought Britain a better country than thirty years earlier; nearly three-fifths of Leavers thought it worse.

Contrast with this, after a lengthy paragraphs on the way that, kept outside the Euro, voters felt no danger in voting to Leave.

The masses who voted for Brexit believed they were striking a blow at Brussels and the neoliberalism under which they had suffered for a quarter of a century. In reality, that neoliberalism – harsher than anything on the Continent – was British in origin, and could be overthrown without any of the instant penalties that would have been incurred if the UK had been a loyal member of the EMU. As for those who voted against Brexit, their warnings of disaster were for all immediate purposes irrelevant.

So in other word “taking control” was in Anderson’s eyes, with the unique talent for reading voters’ thoughts about “neoliberalism’, as they speak about all the time down the Duck and Dog.

Anderson describes the ‘shenanigans’ of the Second Referendum movement.

He proceeds to patronise left wing anti-Brexit supporters.

within their general mouvance, the youthful cadres of Momentum that had formed the shock troops of Corbynism shifted to an increasingly militant pro-Europeanism. This development, however, made clear a substantial gap between aspirations and abilities. That a passionate internationalism moved the new recruits to the idea of a second referendum was clear. But what kind of internationalism was it?

For a start, and a finish, not many of us can speak foreign languages….”. Among the young, an internationalism that is so largely sentimental yields solidarity with other Anglophones, of Commonwealth or other backgrounds. But in any wider or more lasting sense, sympathies without skills lack depth and staying power.” So welcome to the post New left world of the Anglosphere, joining the ERG and Nigel Farage.

Or, so the Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology at the  University of California Los Angeles  who has spent most of his academic career in the USA, tells us.

And, well that’s our effort to work for Another Europe, it’s just not Possible….

The mysterious synarchy thwarts them. Our “mouvance” – French for a “sphère d’influence”, in orbit of – a locution Anderson struggles with instead of simply saying wider movement – has come to nought.

Reforms, it seems, don’t work, never did, but then Anderson also gave up on revolution long ago, his songes of dual power,(Arguments in English Marxism, 1980s), replaced in New Left Review, with a wholesale slow burn up of leftism and any hopes for the European left. Post-New Leftism without apologies is the new mass line.

The man who once blamed the failures and supine position of the British working class movement and the Labour Party for its deference to institutions, the UK failure to experience a Second Democratic Revolution, is now prepared to acknowledge the superiority of the Palace of Westminster, imbued with the ghost of Hobbesian sovereignty, an election system that gives result that “that bear no resemblance to the divisions of opinion in the country; an unelected upper chamber crammed with flunkies and friends of the two dominant parties; an honours system devised to reward bagmen and sycophants” to the  wily manoeuvrings of Continental elitists.

A lengthy stay in Anderson’s well furnished library has shown us all up.

We could begin our re-education by reading this further marvel from Briefings for Britain,

Variable Geometry: Global Britain’s Opportunity Post-Brexit

Former diplomat Nick Busvine argues that we are already seeing positive signs of a more coherent and influential foreign policy as Global Britain begins to exploit the freedom of manoeuvre offered by Brexit.

Update

Sráid Marx  has posted today, on Anderson’s fellow Lexiteers, aka the Gammon Left.

Is learning from Brexit possible?

Last week the ‘Financial Times‘ revealed that the Tory Government is working with big business on plans to tear up those workers’ rights enshrined in EU law.  This would include ending the 48-hour limit on the working week; changing rules on work breaks and ending the inclusion of overtime pay in holiday entitlements.  This is the list reported but there are undoubtedly others.

That this was one purpose of Brexit and its likely effect was both predictable and predicted, it comes as a surprise to no one.  Yet large swathes of the Left in Ireland and Britain supported it, although much less vocally in Ireland because it is so unpopular.  In any case their support for it has assisted putting in place these projected attacks and is indefensible and inexcusable.

An analysis of why they took such a position would have to look at such things as an originally opportunist position becoming hard-wired into their politics; their nationalist perspective arising from the view that the nation state will introduce socialism and come to embody it; general simple-minded opposition to the EU on the shallow grounds that it is a creature of capitalism, and the strong tendency to have a more concrete idea of what you are against than what you are for.  There’s also a large dose of ignorance and stupidity involved.

The significant role of stupidity first hit me when I read that left supporters of Brexit were complaining that the negotiations on the British side were being conducted by the Tories.  Further examples became clear when they, like the rest of the Brexit movement, demanded a harder Brexit as the only one worthy of the name, and for the same reason – there was no point otherwise.

Now that even a blind man can see what the future invites, what are the chances that this left will reconsider its support for Brexit and the political approach that led to it?  What might this involve?

Well, much of this left also supports Scottish nationalism, which perhaps should be no surprise since this too involves an obviously nationalist project that harbours illusions in a separate capitalist state.

Read the full post through the link above.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm