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National Populism. Roger Eatwell, Matthew Goodwin. Review: A Feast of Gammon.

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Image result for National Populism. The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin. Pelican. 2018.

A Feast of Gammon.

National Populism. The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin. Pelican. 2018.

Gammon: This word probably derives from the same original as ‘game’ and gamble, but in Victorian and later slang it meant to impose upon, delude, cheat, or play the game on.”

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Millennium Edition.

Gammon:  term used to describe a particular type of Brexit-voting, europhobic, middle-aged white male, whose meat-faced complexion suggests they are perilously close to a stroke.

The term ‘gammon’ is linked to the unhealthy pink skin tone of such stout yeomen, probably because of high blood pressure caused by decades of ‘PC gone mad’, being defeated in arguments about the non-existent merits of Brexit and women getting the vote.

Gammon often make their appearance on BBC’s Question Time jabbing their porcine fingers at the camera while demanding immediate nuclear strikes against Remain-voting areas, people who eat vegetables and/or cyclists.

When gammon appears en masse it is often referred to as a “wall of gammon”.

The first known usage of the term ‘gammon’ to describe the complexion of men of an overly-jingoistic fashion dates from as far back as 1838 in a description of Mr Gregsbury, a Member of Parliament, in Charles Dickens’ novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

Urban Dictionary.

In George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman novels the word gammon crops up. As Tom Brown’s bully bluffs and wriggles through life, his career is gammon itself. A red-faced liar, and cowardly racialist, the ardent Imperialist is the forebear of today’s British cured ham populists and patriots.

National Populism refers to, in Eatwell and Goodwin’s view, movements that “prioritise the culture and interests of the nation, and promise to give voice to a people who feel that they have been neglected, even held in contempt, by distant and often corrupt elites.” (Page ix) The authors consider what national supporters “feel” about “corrupt elites”, and movements that promote these themes,  have to be taken at face value. They are not going to be called out as gammon, dismissed as irrational, uneducated, racists. They “see their own arguments as moral.” (Page 171)

From UKIP (which has never held direct political power, The French Front National (now Rassemblement National) – also never in government – to President Trump, Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, Matteo Salvini’s La Lega, in power in Italy with the ‘populist’ , Movimento 5 Stelle, the Freedom parties in the Netherlands and Austria, and others, there are common traits. They are populists in the sense that they wish to “make the popular will heard and acted on”, defend the interests of “plain, ordinary people” and wish to replace “corrupt and distant elites”. To these vague, not to say vacuous, words – thin enough – national populism adds one strong term, nationalism. National populists stand out with a “strong emphasis on immigration and ethnic change” (Page 80). Behind this diversity there is a “fairly broad alliance of people without degrees who share traditional values and a cluster of core concerns about their lack of voice, the position of their group relative to others, and in particularly immigration and ethnic change.”(Page 39)

Distrust of politicians, “rapid ethnic change” a fear of relative deprivation, under the effects of “neoliberal globalisation” (whose economics are left hanging in the air) feed national populism. But the perception of a threat of “ethnic destruction” is the pillar of the demand for “national independence and identity”. Concerned to demolish “misleading myths” Eatwell and Goodwin give legitimacy to fears about “hyper-ethnic change”, or in the words of famous polemicist they do not refer to, Renaud Camus, “le Grand Remplacement” (Révoltez-vous! 2015). This is not the biological racism of the 1930s far right or modern race-war fascism. It is more cultural. To use a word already taken into English, it is “identitarian”; “We do not think the term “racism” should be applied solely because people seek to retain the broad parameters of the ethnic base of country and its national identity, even though this can involve discriminating against outside groups. “(Page 75)

Angry White Men.

There is a history to be written about the writers and academics with a taste for the pink meat, the Gammon left and right. Eatwell and Goodwin began by refusing to scorn national populists as “crude bigots and old white men”,  far -from-well-off, uneducated, and marginalised from society. They point out that many of these parties have a degree of backing from the respectable middle-class, women indeed vote for them, as well as workers. France indeed has a whole array of intellectuals on the national populist side, some of whom, like Michel Onfray, Emmanuel Todd, and Jean-Claude Michéa, still claiming a wavering leftist thread, even a belief in ‘common decency’ for their sovereigntist dreams, others, Éric Zemmour at their head, clearly on the nationalist right.

Reviewing National Populism for – inevitably – Spiked, Jon Holbrook misses that point and rejoices at a counterblast against “the elite’s dismissive response” to “angry white men”. (Populism is a struggle for democracyJanuary 2019). Gammonry’s French cousin, the Beauf, the American Jacobin might add, is equally the much-maligned target of loaded put downs. Populism is a fight for democracy against “supra-nationalism”, the “transfer of power to transnational organisations”. Gérard Bras talks of the contempt expressed by liberal opponents of populism. For them it expresses the irrationality of the people, their ignorance and their characteristic whims. (“ exprime l’irrationalité du peuple, son ignorance et son caractère velléitaire”) Citing Jacques Rancière he asserts that the charge of “populism” expresses the contempt that, the ruling “politically correct hold for the ruled, (“le politiquement correct dominant tient les dominés”). As Holbrook puts it, “political correctness empowered liberalism to double down on its traditional fear of majority opinion….” (1)

Image result for beauf cabu

 

There is widespread awareness of what National Populism calls the “dealignment” of politics, the drift away from life-long political loyalties, and the decline of social democratic and left support in Europe. No doubt with this in mind the rival ‘left populist’ Chantal Mouffe has protested against the “demonising of the enemies of the “bipartisan consensus. They express opposition to this globalised neoliberal “oligarchy”, to what she dubs, “post-democracy”, and a push for popular sovereignty – whose limits and shapes remain to be defined. Inheriting strategic thinking about populism begun by her late partner Ernesto Laclau the interlocutor of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and some of the leaders of the (presently splintered) Podemos, proposes a political response. The red-faced masses’ “Xenophobic language”, writes Chantal Mouffe, “could be formulated in a different vocabulary and directed towards another adversary”. (2)

“Critics of the neo-liberal order” welcomed the UK leave vote, the “rising of the North” from the anti-EU “rust belt regions”. This was an authentic working class that turned it back on the Trade Union majority and the Labour Party’s official position. That is the ‘Lexit’, pro-Brexit, lament against internationalists, the “cosmopolitans’ from nowhere. But this book should give food for thought for those crying over the fate of the left-behind.

The message of National Populism,  is that, taking this into account, “we need to talk about immigration”.  How can, Éric Fassin has commented, the same “affects”, the emotions that fuel this conversation amongst supporters of national populism be retranslated into a left-wing populism? The chances are slim. I would say close to zero. What is their demand? Ending migration would come, if not at the top, at least close to it. National ‘preference’? Putting our ‘ain folk’ first, and, above all the Nation’s Sovereignty,. above class and ‘elites’. But then I have met national populists. They were, are, and will be, gammon. And who is leading them? Flashman Farrage, Flashman Rees Mogg and Ultra-Flashman, Boris Johnson. (3)

***

  1. Populisme: une enquête philosophique sur un concept insaisissable Review and synopsis of Les Voies du peuple (2018)

  2. Page 23. For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. 2018.

  3. Page 73 Populisme. Le grand ressentiment. Éric Fassin Textuel. 2017 The term ‘affects’, emotions,  an abomination in both English and French, comes from a reading of Spinoza (a small part of his writings) on the emotions in Frédéric Lordon, La société des affects. 2013. In this context, “By affect I understand affections of the body by which the body’s power of acting is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time, the ideas of these affections.” Affect (philosophy).

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Corbyn Plans “Bringing the Country Together” Behind His Brexit.

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Image result for alice in wonderland lion and unicorn I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! ...

Alice Meets Corbyn’s Brexit, “I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too.”

The pro-Brexit Morning Star (Editorial today) summarises Corbyn’s move:

Labour’s five proposals are a compromise. They do not represent what Labour would negotiate if it had the opportunity: this is no doubt why the list is far less ambitious than the Brexit vision outlined by Corbyn in Coventry nearly a year ago, when he pledged to “negotiate protections, clarifications or exemptions … in relation to privatisation and public service competition directives, state aid and procurement rules” and vowed that “we cannot be held back inside or outside the EU from taking the steps we need to support cutting-edge industries and local business [and] stop the tide of privatisation and outsourcing.”

Until a general election changes the game, Brexit is not Labour’s to negotiate. On the other hand, articulating a positive and ambitious vision of our future outside the EU, and how Labour would approach that differently from the Conservatives, is essential both to general election success and to transforming an economy broken by neoliberalism and auster

Here is Corbyn’s letter to Labour members:

I have written to the Prime Minister laying out Labour’s alternative plan so we can move beyond the mess the Tories have made of Brexit.

The Tory failure has left the country deeply divided and facing the threat of a disastrous No Deal outcome. Labour can and must take a lead in bringing our country together.

We are convinced that our sensible alternative, set out in the five demands in my letter, could both win the support of parliament and bring together those who voted Leave and Remain.                                           

More than any other party, Labour represents the hopes and ambitions of millions of people across all parts of our country. 

Whether people live in Tottenham or Mansfield, they face the same problems of austerity, the injustice of Universal Credit and insecure work. The real divide in our country is not between Leave and Remain, but between the many and the few.

I believe our alternative plan – which includes a permanent customs union, staying close to the single market, and full guarantees on workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections – can help move us beyond divisions over Brexit and lay the ground for the transformation of our country that only a Labour government can deliver.

Theresa May is unable to reach a sensible deal because it would split the Tories – and we will never vote for a bad Tory deal.

If Parliament is deadlocked, then the best outcome would be a general election. Without it, we will keep all options on the table, as agreed in our party conference motion, including the option of a public vote.

Thank you,

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party

This all looks, as some have commented, a strategy for either negotiating some agreement with Theresa May, or for many, many years, of future negotiating should Labour win an election.

The Guardian has commented that, “It is far from clear whether Labour’s five demands for UK withdrawal are achievable”.

The Guardian lists the 5 points and looks at them.

  • A permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, an agreement on commercial policy that includes a UK say on future EU trade deals.

The problem here is  that on present evidence, “The British government would have no say over new trade deals if it was in a customs union with the European Union, a former head of the World Trade Organisation has said. ” (Guardian 21st of January 2018). Nor is obvious how a sudden lurch back into a Customs Union is going to be re-worked out from scratch.

  • Close alignment with the single market, underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, with clear arrangements for dispute resolution.

The Guardian notes on this, “This part of the proposal sounds strikingly similar to May’s Chequers plan, but the EU rejected that as “cherry-picking” parts of the indivisible four freedoms. If Labour decides it wishes to be fully in the single market, the EU will insist it signs up to EU state-aid rules. “Corbyn will have to come out of the closet and say we accept single market rules,” says one senior EU official. If Labour wants to be in the single market, it will also have to accept continued freedom of movement, though senior Labour figures have sounded more warm towards that prospect in recent weeks.

This could equally be described as a pious intention, open to Labour to ‘negotiate’ as it sees fit. As noted on Labour List, (Sienna Rodgers)”“single market alignment” doesn’t amount to the “full participation” prescribed by the composite motion. (of the Labour Party Conference).

It is also open to the Morning Star Brexiteers and the “4 Ms” to “negotiate protections, clarifications or exemptions. That is, a merry game over many years, until they decide to break away completely and try for the WTO rule based trade. It is a recipe for endless rows, dramatic turnarounds, and a continuous diversion from any Labour government’s legislative programme.

  • Dynamic alignment on rights and protections so that UK standards keep pace with evolving standards across Europe as a minimum, allowing the UK to lead the way.

The word  “dynamic” cannot hide that this is always open to a Tory government to renege on. One of the obvious attractions of common European standards is that they were made in common not “aligned” with.

  • Clear commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation.

A commitment – no more. And, the Guardian states, “The political declaration – the non-binding part of the Brexit deal that May has proposed – already states that the EU and the UK will “explore the possibility of cooperation” involving agencies such as the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

  • Unambiguous agreements on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European arrest warrant and vital shared databases.

Something that remains open. The Guardian says, “Brussels has said it is difficult for the UK to have the same access to EU police organisations and databases without being a member state, including taking on EU data-protection rules and accepting the remit of the European court of justice. It is unclear if Labour would be prepared to accept this.”

On Labour List Sienna Rogers also observes:

 Corbyn’s list makes no mention of the backstop or of free movement.

It remains that Corbyn and his inner circle want Labour Party members to accept Brexit.

The present strategy may well involve a compromise to bring “our country together” – for yet more, and yet more, negotiations.

Corbyn allies in the influential groupuscule Counterfire do not relish such a consensus.

John Rees writes,

Marxism and the Brexit crisis

But now the entirety of the British political establishment, and the mass media, are pushing the Labour leadership to “save the nation” by joining in a Tory-inspired unity campaign aimed at achieving the seemingly politically impossible task of passing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

He, like the Morning Star, backs Brexit.

Brexit, in this compromise form is still Brexit.

Many people in the Labour Party simply do not accept Brexit in the first place.

Shiraz describes the move as  “Corbyn’s Brexit betrayal.”

Socialist Resistance writes on the forces, hostile to left-wing internationalism, who are driving the Corbyn stategy.

The British Road to Brexit

Milne and Murray haven’t changed their minds on that in forty-five years. That’s fine. The EU is a bosses’ club. What’s different now is that the push for Brexit is coming from the right of British politics and has galvanised every racist in the country. The 2016 referendum result wasn’t a rejection of a bosses’ club, it was a rejection of freedom of movement within the EU. Milne and Murray are in the Labour Party now and they are very definitely in a minority on this issue. The most recent evidence for that is the report commissioned by Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association which says:

“Labour would especially lose the support of people below the age of 35, which could make this issue comparable to the impact the tuition fees and involvement in the coalition had on Lib Dem support….

… “If there is an election in 2019, Labour will get a lower share of the vote in every seat in the country if it has a pro-Brexit policy than if it has an anti-Brexit position.”

Corbyn knows this already and yet he is risking electoral defeat. His letter to Theresa May setting out the terms under which Labour would support a Brexit deal makes no reference to the party’s conference vote calling for a new referendum. It doesn’t even mention delaying the exit date until a deal which meets his conditions for a soft Brexit are negotiated.

This is a big victory for those of his advisors who want Brexit to happen because they think it might set Labour on a road to socialism in one country. And it’s not just Milne and Murrary. Len McCluskey of Unite is dead set against a new referendum and so is Karie Murphy, Corbyn’s chief of staff who accompanied Corbyn and Milne to the recent meeting with Theresa May.

The only people this will give comfort to are those Tories who back May’s plan to run down the clock to a hard Brexit and the DUP. It will not win over a single Brexit supporting voter and it will demoralise the hundreds of thousands of Labour members the party will need to win the next general election.

As we learned a couple of weeks ago during the immigration debate, the Corbyn leadership is responsive to pressure from its left. Anti-Brexit members need to be kicking up a fuss about this capitulation to the idea of socialism in a single country across social media and in their wards, GCs and CLPs. And if you haven’t already done so get this resolution supporting a new referendum through your local party and affiliated unions.

The Pro-Brexit Labour Gatekeepers, From Milne to McCluskey.

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There is anger in the labour movement that a small group of pro-Brexit people are making party policy on Europe.

The Observer reported on Sunday that,

A senior union source said McCluskey seemed to be trying to bypass Labour party and TUC policy, which was to insist on a customs union and close involvement in the single market. “History will damn the treacherous moves to sideline the rest of the trade union movement and frustrate Labour party conference policy,” said the union official.

“He and his allies in the leader’s office haven’t made it a secret that they want Brexit to happen, but to do a secret deal behind the movement’s backs to get it done is shocking even for them.”

 Ana Oppenheim, an organiser for the leftwing anti-Brexit movement Another Europe is Possible, who is also active inside the pro-Corbyn grassroots movement Momentum, suggested any Labour MPs who refused to do all in their power to block May’s Brexit should be deselected.

“This is an existential moment for the left,” she said. “The Tory Brexit deal will mean a huge expansion of border controls and will open us up to unprecedented economic deregulation. If Labour MPs cannot unite to block it, they shouldn’t be Labour MPs. Members have mechanisms to choose MPs who actually represent the Labour movement, and we would encourage them to use these.”

Then there was this: in Private Eye yesterday:

There are claims that Corbyn has difficulty dealing with anybody with disagrees with him.

The highly articulate and focused Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, would normally be expected to have been at the meeting with the Prime Minister.

But apart from the differences PE outlines he is reported to back free movement, something the Lexit (pro-Brexit) left are dead against.

Having the unelected Milne in such a strategic position at the Downing Street and inside the Party means – the anti-Brexit internationalist left alleges – that attempts from inside the labour movement to reach a deal are reaching a critical point.

Shiraz posts today,

McCluskey’s Brexit manoeuvres

Four union leaders, including Len McCluskey of Unite, had one-on-one talks with the PM in Downing Street last month.

McCluskey is seeking commitments from May that would give some Labour MPs an excuse to back the government in the next “meaningful vote” on Brexit. That could allow Brexit to proceed without Jeremy Corbyn being held responsible by Labour’s anti-Brexit rank and file.  “The unions are at war given Unite’s attempt at a side deal,” an unnamed “senor union figure” told the FT, adding “and people are suspicious that it’s being nodded through by the leader’s office.”

Milne already has a programme for UK self-sufficiency:
Image result for the 4 M's Seumas Milne Maoist manifesto winchester

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2019 at 3:08 pm

“Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms” – the Story Behind the Communist Party of Britain’s Call.

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Image result for unicorn classical painting

Communist Party of Britain Brexit Sub-Committee.

Britain should leave the EU on March 29, liberating a future Labour government from EU Single Market rules and trading with EU and other countries on WTO terms if necessary, Britain’s Communists declared at the weekend.

At the first meeting of its new Executive Committee elected at the 55th Congress, the Communist Party said that the ‘pro-EU Tory minority regime’ and the EU Commission could not be trusted to reach any withdrawal agreement that did not serve the interests of big business and the capitalist class.

‘Locking Britain into the EU Customs Union would make any such agreement even worse’, Robert Griffiths explained, ‘because it would outlaw import regulation to protect strategic industries such as steel, while also impeding a mutually beneficial fair trade policy with developing countries’.

Britain’s Communists urged the labour movement to reject ‘anti-democratic manoeuvres’ to extend Article 50 in order to delay and possibly cancel Brexit. Instead, the CP executive called for a ‘People’s Brexit’ to leave the EU, its Single Market, Customs Union and new pro-NATO military structures so that a left-led Labour government will be free to pursue left and progressive policies that benefit the workers and the people by investing in transport, the environment, housing, productive industry and public services.

‘Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose

Communist Party calls for Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms (The independent Daily Paper of the Left, the  Morning Star).

The Morning Star has  yet to track down the insider’s account of the reasons for this call, and even the highly rated Skwawkbox has not, so far, published the ‘low down’

But the Newshounds of Tendance Coatesy are hot on the story that has rocked Britain’s left.

Our investigative reporters suggest that the announcement may be a sign of these possibilities:

  • The CPB has made the barking announcement so that anything, absolutely anything, Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne suggest for  Labour’s Brexit plans,  will look reasonable.
  • The Party has decided to follow Chantal Mouffe’s Left Populist strategy of hegemonically uniting  Gammon discursive articulations, with the most advanced sections of the labour movement,  through a chain of equivalences, in a People’s Brexit.
  • The WTO, as identified by cde Aaron Bastani, is the most advanced form of capitalist accelerationism whose rules will ensure the swift coming of total luxury communism –  faster than Novara Media’s Griffin farms in Norway.
  • Roger Griffiths and his mates have never got over the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy and its protectionist proposals.
  • The CPB actually believes this load of old cobblers.

The Central Committee of Tendance Coatesy is in permanent session debating our response.

On a serious note, it seems that the CPB is prepared to throw the Irish people to the Unionist wolves.

 

The Politics of the Gilets Jaunes and the Far-Right.

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Les Zouaves Paris après l'attaque du cortège du NPA dans une manifestation des Gilets jaunes.

“…the fact that the far right is present in this violence puts them off quite a bit. But it doesn’t bother me.” Verso Author, Éric Hazan.

The group who attacked the Nouveau Parti capitaliste during Acte XI of the Gilets Jaunes march turns out to have been created by former members of the violent far-right organisation, GUD, and (its continuing counterpart outside of Paris) ” Bastion social”.

Zouaves Paris: la résurgence de l’extrême droite radicale violente dans la capitale

France Soir, today.

And here:

“Je songe à ces méthodes qui consistent à violer l’intelligence révolutionnaire des militants (nombreux en France) qui ont l’habitude de se faire eux-mêmes leur opinion et qui se mettent loyalement à la dure école des faits.”

1939 Lettre à Trotsky [Marceau Pivert)

I refer to those methods which consist in violating and brutalizing the revolutionary intelligence of those militants – numerous in France – who are accustomed to making up their own minds and who put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts.

Pivert Answers Trotsky 1939

To read English language left-wing commentary on the Gilets Jaunes is to enter a world in which the far-right appears in the movement only from the outside. They are not the “real Gilets Jaunes”. The US left publication Jacobin has published an article that claims that criticism comes from supporters of Macron, and snobbish attitudes towards the “working classes (who) have been neglected and ridiculed” (IMEN NEFFATI). This academic defender of Gammon is not alone. Just translated into English is the contentious ‘sociology’ of Christopher Guilluy’s book, (Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France). Jacobin’s co-thinkers in Spiked recently interviewed Guilluy, who said,

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

‘The gilets jaunes are unstoppable’

Christophe Guilluy on the cultural divide driving the yellow vests.

I have not read the translation but the book was published a couple of years ago and is now in a cheap paperback (on the shelf…). It  is not a work of sociological investigation: it is an illustration of a thesis. That is, that the left has dropped the working class, the ‘popular classes’. It has succumbed to ‘globalisation’ and is now based on urban ‘people from nowhere’, the ‘elite’. The rest of society, the “periphery” is left to rot.  This view, shared by the former radical leftist,  Jean-Claude Michéa (who has also written on George Orwell’s concept of ‘common decency’), is that French society has become Americanised, “ inégalitaire et multiculturelle ” – unequal and multicultural. 

The last word should set alarm bells ringing.

The book will merit a fuller discussion but for the moment one can see the opening that the idea of a popular revolt against the globalised elite by the ‘real’ French (as the Gilets Jaunes call themselves, as, for example in the “Gaulois de Calais)” gives to the far right. Marine Le Pen, like the British extreme-right, is a strong critic of “globalism”. The infinitely flexible picture of the “people”, the left-behind, the “somewheres” is ready-made for their use. The below illustrates one effort at being humorous about the brave little Gauls standing up to the arrogant cosmopolitans.

Some of the French left, and not only those in la France insoumise who wish to channel this fight against the “elites” into their Rally’s strategy to “federate the people” behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon, see in the Gilets Jaunes a social movement in which they can intervene.

Some of those “accustomed to making up their own minds” have been a lot more sceptical..

Facebook sert l’extrême droite. Et l’extrême droite pilote les Gilets jaunes depuis Facebook.

There are large numbers of leftist activists, often from the most radical parts of the left, who, like the highly regarded comrades of  patrie ni frontières who have produced their own independent – often highly critical – assessments of the Gilets Jaunes.

And of the police violence:

This Blog, which shares a common political origin in the self-management (autogestion) current, considers that these voices need hearing.

From André Y.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and text

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm

A critique of Jacques Rancière’s Politics.

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Image result for jacques ranciere la haine de la démocratie

 

 A critique of Rancière’s Politics.

 

“Politics occurs because, or when, the natural order of the shepherd kings, the warlords, or property owners is interrupted by a freedom that crops up and makes real the ultimate equality on which any social order rests.”

Disagreement (La mésentente) Jacques Rancière. 1995.  (1)

Jacques Rancière is a critic of “post-democracy”, who is probably the first to have used the term. This political condition is one in which “elites exhibit paternal concern for their flock and protect it from its own rebellious spirits”. The essayist emerged at the threshold of the new millennium as a pioneering opponent of the – alleged – consensus ruling modern states. He staked out territory occupied by both serious efforts to grapple with the “neoliberal” policies and business influence on modern states, and potboilers claiming that there is no “real opposition” in societies dominated by the “extreme centre.” This is a political form “that has eliminated the appearance, miscount, and dispute of the People” and reduced politics to “the sole interplay of state mechanisms and combinations of social energies and interests”. The result is  “consensus democracy” a machine of power ruled by enlightened “experts” and the “absolute identification of politics with the management of capital.” (2)

The vocabulary of ‘oligarchies’, ‘elites’, ‘plutocrats’  and ‘post-democracy’, paralleled in French, and in English, is now part of the political talk of left and right populists. (2005) the target was The Republic, for which read la République française, “un régime d’homogénéité entre les institutions de l’État et les mœurs de société.” In this sense the ‘oligarchy’ loathed democracy, the unruly demos, any attempt by the unordered masses to shake up the regime. In other words, they dislike not the word, but the substance of democratic life. Rancière is equally referenced in France for L’introuvable populisme (2011). This criticised, pell-mell, “elite” contempt for the rough masses, secular French republicanism, and the racialism of the French state. There is a third string to this bow of ideas. In July last year, Rancière said that capitalism is so dominant today that it has taken over the left’s historical timepieces, resetting the political clock in line with market chronology. The elites run the world. (3)

How times change. If the words circulate, the claim that “democracy after the demos”, had eliminated dissensus, and had absorbed politics by top-down agreement, now looks threadbare. “Populist revolts’ have often gone beyond rebellion, to political influence and  – if we are to follow those who call Donald Trump a populist – to rule the most powerful state on the planet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Podemos Splits between the Errejón Camp and Iglesias’ as ‘Left Populism’ Fractures.

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Image result for podemos

Podemos in Major Split.

Left wing populism’ in Europe is fracturing.

The strategy of unity the ‘people’ against the ‘elite’ the ‘caste’ is has not succeeded in unifying the left in the European countries where it has had the greatest impact.

In France we have this:

Now in Spain Podemos, which unlike La France insoumise has a real democratic internal life and national political leaders of some independent statue, has split.

(From Mike P)

Íñigo Errejón, best known to English language readers as the subject of an interview-book with Chantal Mouffe (In the Name of the People.  2016) stopped belonging to the Unidos Podemos parliamentary group on Monday afternoon. (El País. 22.1.19)

The division was announced a few days ago,

Íñigo Errejón, a top official at the group that he helped transform from an anti-austerity movement into a national force with parliamentary and institutional presence, on Thursday announced his decision to run for the Madrid regional premiership at the May election in alliance with Más Madrid, the party created by the mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena.

El País, which few would suspect of sympathy for Podemos, also publishes a  column which announces that

La ventana de oportunidad que alumbró el nacimiento de Podemos se ha cerrado definitivamente

The window of Opportunity opened at the birth of Podemos has closed definitely.

Del 15-M al 26-M 

The above article, which refers to game theory and the Prisoner’s dilemma, point out that in these conditions the lack of co-operation may mean that neither will win.

Here are some extracts from an overview of this dispute:  (El País, 18.1.19)

Podemos founders go their separate ways ahead of Madrid elections

Pablo Iglesias confirms party split and says he is saddened by the surprise news that his colleague Iñigo Errejón will run with the Madrid mayor in May

On January 17, the fifth anniversary of the creation of Podemos, two of its leading founders publicly confirmed the fracture of the left-wing party.

Íñigo Errejón, a top official at the group that he helped transform from an anti-austerity movement into a national force with parliamentary and institutional presence, on Thursday announced his decision to run for the Madrid regional premiership at the May election in alliance with Más Madrid, the party created by the mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena.

Podemos Secretary General Pablo Iglesias said he was “saddened” by the surprise news, and wished Errejón “good luck building his new party.” He also confirmed that Podemos will be running with a candidate of its own at the May election, in direct competition with his former colleague.

A Marcos notes that their disagreements go back some time.

The differences between Iglesias and Errejón go back to 2016, when the former decided to join forces with the United Left (IU) in the general election. A few months later, in February 2017, Podemos held a congress to renew the party leadership and Errejón headed a current defending different political goals from those championed by Iglesias, whose views ultimately won out.

Then, in May of last year, Errejón ran in party primaries to find a candidate to the Madrid regional premiership. He won the nomination, but new problems arose when his first choice as a running mate was overlooked and a different person named without his prior knowledge or approval.

With four months to go before Spain holds local and regional elections, Madrid is not the only place where Podemos is running into trouble. In the northwestern region of Galicia, its En Marea coalition is breaking up. In Cantabria, the party is currently headed by an interim management committee. And in Barcelona, primaries will determine whether Podemos runs in the municipal elections with Mayor Ada Colau once again.

In May of last year, Iglesias survived a confidence vote when he put his leadership to the test after being heavily criticized for purchasing a €600,000 country house in Galapagar, a town northwest of Madrid, with his partner Irene Montero.

English version by Susana Urra.

There is more on this here:

From best pals to rivals: Merciless duel rages over the future of Podemos

(2017)

And here:

In the meantime today Podemos has seen fit to cause trouble for the Socialist led government by refusing to vote for legislation on housing and rents.

Podemos complica la vida al Gobierno en el Congreso

This development casts doubt on the ideas put forward by the best known theorist of Left Populism, Chantal Mouffe,

..this is the political strategy that I call “left populism”. Its purpose is the construction of a collective will, a “people” whose adversary is the “oligarchy”, the force that sustains the neoliberal order.

It cannot be formulated through the left/right cleavage, as traditionally configured. Unlike the struggles characteristic of the era of Fordist capitalism, when there was a working class that defended its specific interests, resistances have developed beyond the industrial  sector. Their demands no longer correspond to defined social groups. Many touch on questions related to quality of life and intersect with issues such as sexism, racism and other forms of domination. With such diversity, the traditional left/right frontier can no longer articulate a collective will.

To bring these diverse struggles together requires establishing a bond between social movements and a new type of party to create a “people” fighting for equality and social justice.

We find such a political strategy in movements such as Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, or Bernie Sanders in the US. This also informs the politics of Jeremy Corbyn, whose endeavour to transform the Labour party into a great popular movement, working “for the many, not the few”, has already succeeded in making it the greatest left party in Europe.

 

Populists are on the rise but this can be a moment for progressives too 

Many would say that the first basis of constructing a “collective will” is to have some unity on the left.

To construct a left.

This is obviously not the result of the politics of either La France insoumise or, now, Podemos. Podemos, naturally, as the Spanish press points out, has its own concerns, and difficulties, in recent electoral contests, such as in Andalusia.

More broadly Éric Fassin has summed up the central problems of ‘left wing’ populism during this debate (extracts).

Left-wing populism A legacy of defeat: Interview with Éric Fassin

 Is it a good strategy? Does it work?

……

The problem with the populist strategy, for the left, is that it’s neither left nor a winning strategy. It was even less so during the latest presidential campaign in France: everyone played that same card at the same time, including Macron, with a rhetoric of ‘centre’ populism! Of course, my argument is not just about France. The same considerations apply to the United States. But another dimension becomes apparent there, thanks to the availability of racial data. Trump’s success is not so much among working-class voters in general, but more specifically among the white working class. In a left-wing populist strategy, the racial dimension of the Trump vote is underestimated, and the class dimension is overestimated – whereas it now seems clear that his critique of the establishment was always just an illusion.

….

Beyond differences, left-wing populisms share the same premise: replace the opposition between right and left by the one between ‘us’ and ‘them’, people from below and elites from above. Obviously, the caste is less numerous than the people: ‘we are the 99% and they are the 1%.’ Indeed. But then, how come it’s so difficult for left-wing populists to reach a majority in elections? This is why we need to differentiate sociology and politics – and not conflate them as populism tends to do. If the working class voted according to their common interest, clearly the left would be flourishing today. That is not the case.

….

Politics is not just about elections. But I think that populism itself is defined by an electoral project. Mélenchon is first and foremost a former and probably future candidate running for presidential elections. So, indeed, there is more to politics than elections; but my little book was written in a context of elections, as an attempt to reclaim the opposition between right and left at a time when the populist illusion seeks to define the terms of debate far beyond elections.

 

The discussion, which is much longer, has to be read as a whole.

I highly recommend Éric Fassin’s clear and short, Populisme: le grand ressentiment (2017) which Radical Philosophy says is being translated into English (the point above about constructing a left “construire une gauche” is taken from the conclusion).

Image result for Populisme: le grand ressentiment

For a broader international starting point the Wikipedia entry  Left-wing populism is good.