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Counterfire to Spearhead Fightback Against Labour’s Keir Starmer.

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Fighting “Starmer’s rightward shift” “in the workplaces, the communities and on the streets”.

Last week the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), Lindsey German, asserted,

…there is no road to success for the left inside Labour.

The battle is on: and the left can’t win in Labour – weekly briefing

She observes,

Perhaps the most important reason for the failure of Corbynism was that there was none of the ruthlessness towards the right that we now see being used against the left.

We are informed that

Many Labour lefts backed Starmer despite the fairly obvious writing on the wall. This was for a variety of reasons: the shock and demoralisation of defeat and the call for ‘electability’; the continuing Brexit debate (where the People’s Vote campaign did real damage to the Corbyn left); the promises of Starmer that he would unite the party; the continuing rows over antisemitism.

These look pretty convincing reasons to have backed Starmer.

Most socialist internationalists (unlike Counterfire) opposed Brexit and saw no reason to go along with the pro-Brexit supporters around Corbyn.

Is anti-semitism within Labour, a hysterical ‘anti-Zionism’ with plenty of complotism around it that shades and indeed is, full of prejudice, an imaginary problem?

Most people think it is neither manufactured nor dreamt up.

The issue remains open as to what role the left can find within the Labour Party

But those who intend to make a hobby of “fighting” in the party have lost before starting.

Few wish to listen to them and their loud-mouthed insults.

So perhaps German is right to say that,

the fight is going to be outside of Labour, and organising inside will be an extremely pale shadow of that, with very high likelihood of failure on every major front.

The future is to go back to the left strategies of the early years of the new millenium,

We desperately need a mass socialist party in Britain, but Labour is not going to be it. At present there is no such party on the horizon, however there are hundreds of thousands who would identify with it. There are also major struggles ahead as we face unemployment, pandemic and attacks on workers. The building of such a party will most likely come from working in those campaigns and perhaps with an organised split from Labour (although this is unlikely to contain MPs). It has to be centred on those struggles and not on electoralism.

German has learnt a lesson from the massive electoral failures of previous efforts to create a “mass socialist party” outside of Labour: its inability to do well through “electoralism” – the ballot box.

Her comrades have plenty of experience in this area, one thinks of  the prominent role Lindsey German and John Rees played in George Galloway’s Respect Party….

The piece ends, “whether you stay or go, the key thing is to fight.”

How many battalions do these people have?

Counterfire runs what remains of the People’s Assembly, and has an influential position within the Stop the War Coalition, now comments on the actuality of the Revolution.

It has now launched an appeal on the lines sketched by German.

Starmer takes Labour right: It’s time for an extra-parliamentary left

In a statement the groupuscule (around 100 members) states,

Counterfire energetically supported the Corbyn project while always pointing out the pitfalls and the limitations of a purely parliamentary strategy for change. It’s very important now that we are clear about the new situation. Starmer’s witch-hunting of the left, his positioning as a reasonable and loyal opponent of this calamitous government shows that the attempt to transform Labour has been defeated. But this doesn’t mean that the phase of popular opposition is over.

Pausing to note the Tories’ “arrogance and incompetence” and the Black Lives Matter protests, they state,

..the fight is on. But it’s not going to be fought in the Labour Party, it is going to take place in the workplaces, the communities and on the streets.

This leads them to assert,

We urge everyone who is sickened by Starmer’s rightward shift to get involved in this kind of mass politics – building workplace organisation, supporting the People’s Assembly, fighting every cutback and closure on the ground.

Counterfire urges the creation of  working class movement.

Counterfire has been at the heart of the resistance since we launched just ten years ago. Our online support is growing daily, our website is read by tens of thousands every week, but we need active, participatory socialist organisation everywhere to create the kind of working-class movement that can win.

Counterfire is now committed to organising  “a dynamic extra-parliamentary left in every part of the country.”

Extra-Parliamentary, that is, as an alternative to the Parliamentary Road to Socialism, the Labour Party.

Some might suggest that a major factor in this turn is that Lindsey German and John Rees – and their ex-(and present) Communist Party of Britain mates – no longer have the ear of a friendly Labour leader who put up with their enthusiasms, rages, and belief that politics is decided by street theatre.

 

Labour Election Review 2019: Leadership and Brexit, initial Left Internationalist thoughts.

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Election Review 2019

“Concerns over the leadership, Brexit position and deliverability of the manifesto damaged Labour’s chances.”

It will take a while to digest the full report but these are some initial responses, from a left internationalist, that is, from an activist in the anti-Brexit left.

One of the reasons to speak as the impact is being felt is that there are already efforts to use the report to blame those opposed to the hard right Brexit project for our Party’s defeat.

Here was a view, expressed by somebody believed, not least by himself, to be one of Corbyn’s close friends(1st of June 2019),

 Vilayat Khan: So, let’s start with Corbyn and the Labour Party.  How would you assess Corbyn on Brexit?

Tariq Ali: I think Corbyn’s position is correct. I think to make Brexit into the major divide of the British politics is crazy. Given that whatever finally happens, whether it’s Brexit or Remain, the problems of ordinary people, working people are not going to be solved. Brexit is very much a debate, I think, within the elite, and I think people voted, large numbers of people voted for Brexit to kick the establishment and to say you can’t get away with everything.

..

And ever since it happened a large chunk of the English establishment has been trying to reverse the referendum. So that’s what is going on, and for Corbyn it’s a serious problem because half of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, especially in the north. So he can’t ignore them. The choice, which the right of the Labour party is offering him is to agree to a second referendum now, campaign around it and Remain, and basically ignore the Labour supporters in the north, in other words, send some working class supporters in the arms of the Brexit party. That’s unacceptable.

Tariq Ali on Corbyn and the British Media, Palestine, Kurdistan, Pashtun movements and how to revive Internationalism.

In the coming days we can expect a lot in this vein. There will be claims that the metropolitan liberal Labour “elite”,by pushing for a Second Referendum, ignored the Brexit proletariat and drove the working class into the hands of Johnson. They will be strongly made by those who themselves campaigned, like Ali, for a Leave vote. Given the track-record of the national sovereignty left it would not be surprising if they try to apportion blame to groups like Another Europe is Possible, which mobilised the internationalist left, and had a strong presence at the hundreds of thousand strong protests against Brexit, for the catastrophic election.

In a fact-denying exercise some are already trying to make the claim,

Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery, the two most outspoken proponents of Brexit in Corbyn’s deeply divided top team, said: “Let’s be clear, people lost trust in Labour after failing to deliver change after 13 years in government. This was brought to a head when the party ignored the democratic vote for Brexit; it was the excuse that allowed loyal Labour voters to finally break with a party they felt had been ignoring them for far too long. (Guardian)

This is not going to wash.

More broadly, as one of the authors of the Review, James Meadway, point out (below), the report avoids “superficial explanations”.

This the Election Review 2019.

Labour List notes that,

The project commissioners included MPs Ed Miliband, Shabana Mahmood, Lucy Powell, plus journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan, TSSA’s Manuel Cortes and former John McDonnell aide James Meadway.

These are key findings,

The report notes that Labour “lost support on all sides” in 2019 – around 1.7 million Leave voters and around one million Remain voters in net terms, compared to 2017 – and failed to attract swing voters.

Labour lost roughly equal numbers of Remain (1.9 million) and Leave (1.8 million) voters between 2017 and 2019. But it also gained around 900,000 Remain voters, while only winning over around 100,000 Leave voters.

Although one of Labour’s aims under Jeremy Corbyn was to attract non-voters, it was also identified that the Conservatives were more successful than Labour in turning out non-voters in 2019.

In summary,

It says the “broad consensus” across the party, reflected in the survey results, is that concerns over the leadership, Brexit position and deliverability of the manifesto damaged Labour’s chances.

The report, Election Review 2019, says,

  • There is a broad consensus across our Party – mirrored in the results from our survey of Labour members – that a combination of concerns about the leadership, Labour’s position on Brexit and our policy programme damaged Labour’s chances in this election. Our weaknesses going into this election were interlinked, and indivisible. They catalysed long term trends between Labour and our voter coalition.
  • This was an election where people were more often voting against the scenario they feared most, rather than for the party they liked best. We failed to provide a believable narrative for change, that enough of the electorate could vote for.
  • Concerns about Labour’s leadership were a significant factor in our election loss in 2019. ‘Stop Jeremy Corbyn’ was a major driver of the Conservatives’ success across all their key groups including previous non-voters, and among all the swing voters Labour lost to the Tories.
  • In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal poll ratings dramatically improved over the campaign.  Had these levels been maintained, Labour’s vote share in 2019 would have been 6 points higher. The very low poll ratings on leadership going into the 2019 election cannot easily be disentangled from the handling of issues like Brexit, party disunity and anti-Semitism.
  • The Tories won the 2019 election primarily by consolidating the Leave vote. In contrast, Labour lost support on all sides. Compared with 2017, in net terms, Labour lost around 1.7 million Leave voters; and around 1 million Remain voters. We also failed to attract swing voters, winning over far fewer swing voters than at any other recent election, and turning out fewer new non-voters than in 2017.
  • Non-voters (both those who did not vote in 2017 but turned out in 2019, and those who voted in 2017 but not in 2019) played a critical role in the Conservative success. According to analysis conducted by Datapraxis, well over 4 million voters turned out in 2019 who had not voted in 2017. In 2017 Labour benefited much more from 2015 and 2016 non-voters but in 2019 the Tories overtook Labour among 2017 non-voters, by turning out many older and Leave voters as well as some younger voters.
  • Whilst individual policies polled as popular, resistance to Labour’s reform programme came as people evaluated the overall package in our manifesto. Affordability, and the negative impact on the economy or their own personal finances were raised as concerns by voters. Unlike in 2017 many thought our manifesto was considered as unrealistic, risky and unlikely to be delivered.
  • Labour suffered a meltdown in Scotland, polling well below even the Tories, with the SNP making significant gains. The SNP gained at Labour’s expense among key swing voter tribes. Brexit, the UK leadership and our position on a second Independence referendum were key factors in our loss.

 

The Guardian puts two issues at the heart of the defeat,

 Jeremy Corbyn was deeply unpopular

The report is unflinching in its analysis of how the leader’s appeal to voters plummeted between 2017 and 2019. Had his popularity stayed at its peak level, it says, Labour’s vote share in 2019 would have been 6 percentage points higher.

By September 2019, it finds, 67% of voters disliked Corbyn, most strongly, and only 12% liked him. It links this to issues including Corbyn’s handling of complaints of antisemitism in the party, Labour’s Brexit position, and a perception of disunity due to events such as the defection of MPs to the short-lived Independent Group.

The report says research suggests an “intense” dislike of Corbyn was a key factor among voters who switched from Labour to the Tories; they raised issues such as antisemitism, perceived support for terrorism, and unaffordable policies.

The views of one 52-year-old woman who voted Labour in 2017 are summarised in the report as: “Frightened at the possibility of a Marxist government. Disgusted at Corbyn being a terrorist sympathiser. Most disturbed about plan to nationalise BT as I fear it would allow a Labour government to spy on internet users.”

4. A confused Brexit policy

In a poll of Labour members carried out for the report, 57% named the Brexit policy of promising a second referendum on any departure deal as the single most unpopular and challenging idea to sell to voters, citing views such as “dithering”, “dire”, and “reflecting division”.

This, the report finds, repelled both leave and remain voters. Of those who voted Labour in 2017, the party lost 1.9 million remain voters and 1.8 million leave voters in 2019. Given the generally pro-remain views of Labour voters, this represented a much higher proportion of leavers.

For many of those who changed their choice between 2017 and 2019, voting for another party in the European elections in May provided “a conveyor belt” away from Labour, the authors say.

Even those who stayed with Labour seemed to do so despite the party’s Brexit policy rather than because of it, with majorities of remain and leave backers saying they preferred to either stop Brexit entirely, or “get Brexit done”, respectively.

Comments.

Corbyn’s Popularity.

It would take a fully hyped up fan of the 2018 Jez-fest to ignore that Jeremy Corbyn was not liked by the electorate.

It is hard to criticise the former Labour leader about this, above all because it was made clear (at least to those who cared to know) that he had initially not wished to stand for that position.

But doubts were always there.

One aspect that was visible was an approach to the issues on which he made a mark, within the Labour and wider left.

Corbyn’s political history is tied to a particular vision of internationalism.

For some activists on the left his campaigning had an edge of the ‘anti-imperialism’ which always measured international issues through the lens of supporting, however ‘critically’ states and movements opposed to the USA, from Venezuela to Cuba, the Palestinians en bloc, even Iran, when they were standing up to Washington. Issues such as human rights, evoked in abstract, tend to melt when conflicts with America arise.

More to the point electorally what kind of appeal does this campaigning have for either activists or for the wider public?

Chatting to Tariq Ali and Roy, Corbyn recently referred to his work with the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) which has done precisely nothing to defend the Kurds, the Yazidis  and Syrian democrats against Islamist genociders, and the Assad regime,

 Like you, I wish that Stop the War didn’t have to exist, but it does, and here we are all these years later. And the derivation of those wars has been the refugee flows of the Middle East, has been the wars all across the Middle East, has been the refugee camps in Libya and Lebanon and so on.

This is his lament and call,

….the arms still flow to Saudi Arabia that have been used to bomb the people of Yemen, the war carries on in Yemen. The refugee crisis of the Rohingya people moving into camp (inaudible) continues. The refugee crisis in Libya, and Lebanon continues and others do. And so we do need a global movement that recognises the real threat to world security is health and poverty inequality. The real threat to global security are wars based on the abuse of human rights and the thirst for grabbing somebody else’s resources. The real threat to our security is actually the environmental crisis. That we should be facing in the future.

7th of June: Coronavirus, War & Empire: Arundhati Roy & Jeremy Corbyn in Conversation w/ Tariq Ali

Charitably this illustrates a wide-ranging concern with global issues.

Another, less favourable judgement is that Corbyn come across, even in a friendly environment, as a bit of talker, a high-pitched waffler, not a doer.

Even less kindly, most electors would have given up listening early on.

Brexit.

Was Labour’s confused position the result of pressure from ‘liberal metropolitan elites’?

Was it an honest effort to reconcile largely pro-Brexit working class voters with the views of the majority of Party members?

Many people in a position to know doubt this.

There is old mucker again: Jeremy Corbyn ‘would be campaigning for Brexit if he was not Labour leader’, says long-time ally Tariq Ali (Independent May 2016.)

“The Labour leader was forced to refute comments by his brother Piers that his pro-EU stance is a ‘party management’ issue.”

These claims did not disappear after the Referendum.

When Jeremy Corbyn announced on Tuesday that he would back a second EU referendum in all circumstances and campaign for Remain against a Tory Brexit, it marked a victory for the pro-EU movement inside the Labour party. The Labour leader resisted pressure to make the shift for months, worried about the potential loss of voters in Leave-supporting areas. He was persuaded to make the move by an alliance of MPs, grassroots members and union leaders.

But he has still refused to clarify whether Labour would campaign for Remain or Leave in a general election, a sign of the considerable influence of his four key allies, dubbed “The Four Ms”. The group — Karie Murphy, Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray and Len McCluskey — have been the strongest advocates for Labour to back Brexit.

Reported the Financial Times in July 2019.

The “compromise” that resulted was not just for a Second Referendum.

It was for a renegotiated deal for Brexit which would then be put to a popular vote.

If it wins the election, Labour wants to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote.

Rather than backing either Leave or Remain during the election campaign, the party will remain neutral until a later date.

Should a referendum under a Labour government be held, voters would be able to choose between a “credible Leave option” and Remain.

The party would organise the referendum within six months and decide which position to back at a special conference in the build up.

BBC.

In other words, you could back Labour to get a better Brexit, or because you wanted a ballot on whether Leave should take place.

It was this which looked, for the obvious reason that it was ” “dithering”, “dire”, and “reflecting division”.

Few bothered to go into this for the obvious reason that if you wanted Brexit there were other alternatives on offer.

Others may suggest that the Four Ms, with Corbyn behind them, equally played a major part in what the Guardian calls, the “dysfunctional ‘toxic culture’ (that) led to defeat…”

More to follow…

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2020 at 11:09 am

Faced with the Pandemic French Left regroups and debates a better future.

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L'initiative commune – Au cœur de la crise, construisons l'avenir.

French Left Offers Ideas for a Better Future.

On the 14th of May an unprecedented array of political figures from the centre-left (some more centre than left), the French Green Party (EELV), the Communist Party and radical ‘other-globalisation’ organisations such as ATTAC, issued a declaration that appealed for a new direction in French politics.

Titled, “At the heart of the crisis, let’s build the future” it was backed by one hundred and fifty personalities close to the left or to the ecologists , including Olivier Faure (Parti Socialiste), Yannick Jadot (Europe Écologie Les Verts ) or Ian Brossat ( Parti communiste français), called in a long public statement published in Le Nouvel Obsevateur for a “convention for a common world”

France is facing an earthquake on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of nature has encouraged  a pandemic which has generated a major economic crisis, created a brutal social shock, especially for the most precarious, and a out the functioning of democracy into question. Public authorities have had that had to improvise in the face of this major crisis. The extraordinary commitment of carers, the courage of those who have worked tirelessly in the service of all and the civic spirit of millions of people confined in difficult conditions, call for the gratitude of everybody.

Right now, the issue  about avoiding the worst and preparing for the future. Repairing  the damage already in face of us, the defence of liberty the obligation to prepare a resilient society, these require a strong collective response. The crisis confirms the urgent need for large-scale changes. From this imperative necessity, let us give birth to hope. We are not doomed to suffer!

The statement called for a strengthening on an egalitarian basis of the French welfare state, notably in the areas of health and pensions, ‘ecological transition’ (the Green New Deal, which has been a demand of French centre, green and radical left politics for much longer than its recent UK appearance), expansive and flexible European Monetary policy, and the reintroduction of the previous Parti Socialiste government’s tax on the rich (Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune, ISF),

TRIBUNE. « Au cœur de la crise, construisons l’avenir »

Further :

Amongst the signatories were Thomas Piketty, the radical leftist, Christophe Aguiton (La gauche du 21 e siècleenquête sur une refondation. 2017) and the former (Left-wing) Green leader,  Cécile Duflot.

These supporters did not prevent the web commentator Usul, close to La France insoumise, from claiming that this was an attempt to create a post-Macron “bourgeois bloc” of the centre-left. It was, he ironically put it, a kind of pot potpourri of nice green and liberal social democratic ideas that would appeal to the metropolitan elites, and continue the centre-left project, excluding the “classes populaires”. This is the return of the ‘gauche bourgeoise.”

Usul remarked that the bloc of forces excluded Jean-Luc Mélenchon

 

Usul. Le grand retour de la gauche bourgeoise

Here is his, witty, Video version.

The comparison with previous efforts to create a “bloc bourgeois”, allegedly the project of the Parti Socialiste (in power, be it remembered until 2017), runs up against a number of problems.

The book from which the expression is taken, L’illusion du Bloc Bourgeois (Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini. 2018) refers to attempts to go beyond traditional alliances, to bring together right and left. Emmanuel Macron has rather monopolised this strategy. The alternative ‘sovereigntist’ attempt to create a political expression that can capture the ‘popular’ classes in a left populist project, that is, La France insoumise (LFI), has failed to take off.

The demand to maintain social protection that is the weakest point of the ‘bloc bourgeois’ of the French centre-left, shown by many of the PS’s labour and welfare ‘reforms’ (see Pages 114 – 146 of the L’illusion). However in another context these rights are linked to EU standards. During the UK Brexit referendum, as promoted  by Another Europe is Possible, and other internationalist left forces, a pro-European strategy made inroads into the labour movement and some (urban) layers of the working class in ‘precarious’ employment by demanding that “une autre Europe possible”. The sovereigntist British left failed to defend these advances, and encouraged not just a hard right Brexit, but the victory of Boris Johnson.

A further sign of the importance of the above unity initiative can be seen on the site of the radical and democratic wing of the left, which forms an independent ally of La France insoumise, Ensemble. This appeared at the end of April and could be said to introduce the terrain on which the Nouvel Observateur declaration was made.

Signed by Clémentine Autain députée (groupe LFI) , Guillaume Balas coordinateur du mouvement Génération·s , Elsa Faucillon députée (groupe communiste) , Alain Coulombel membre d’EE-LV

Many initiatives, public or not, forums and petitions have been circulating since the start of the health crisis. They carry the will to bring about a new world.

It is even harder to dismiss this appeal, (issued this week) signed by the CGT (radical left Union Federation), Greenpeace, Attac, Confédération paysanne, Youth for Climate France and many other groups),

Plus Jamais ça : 34 mesures pour un plan de sortie de crise

(see Le Monde« Face à la crise, il faut sortir du système néolibéral et productiviste »)

In the meantime La France insoumise ploughs its own furrow, competing, it is said, with the Rassemblement national (ex-Front National): Coronavirus : La France insoumise et le Rassemblement national veulent profiter de la colère

The left sovereigntists – or “republicans” (including LFI, some of the PCF, and others, continue their own attempts to recover a political voice.

La gauche républicaine veut se réarmer idéologiquement

La France insoumise (LFI), le Parti communiste français ou la Gauche républicaine et socialiste (GRS), la petite structure de l’ancien socialiste Emmanuel Maurel ; des think tanks, comme Intérêt général ou l’Institut Rousseau ; un site, comme Le Vent se lève ; ou encore des politiques, comme Arnaud Montebourg ou Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The overarching themes these debates raise is brilliantly discussed by New Left Review hate figure Pierre Rosenvallon France Culture: Le coronavirus a-t-il déconfiné la gauche ?

One of the main themes emerging is a return to idea of planning, and the  merits of the commissariat général du Plan (CGP) that existed from 1946 to 2006,

The radio links to these articles (I do not repeat the one this Post began with):

Pour un projet social et écologiste, éditorial de Denis Sieffert, de la revue Politis.

Le monde d’après sera un champ de bataille, éditorial d’Hervé Kempf, du site Reporterre.

Un mal sanitaire pour un bien politique ? Editorial de Laurent Joffrin de Libération.

Better than own factionalists in fact…