Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Solidarity with all the Victims and their Loved Ones.

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To all the Victims and their Loved Ones.

London is the greatest city in the world, and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said Londoners “will never be cowed by terrorism” following the attack in which five people died near the Houses of Parliament.

Some 40 people were injured when the attacker drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and crashed into railings outside the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. A Metropolitan Police officer was one of those killed, as was the attacker.

Parliament Square and the surrounding area has been cordoned off since the incident, which began at about 2.40pm.

In a video message, Mr Khan said: “London is the greatest city in the world, and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.

“We always have and we always will. Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.”

Independent.

Brussels, yesterday.

Belgium has marked the first anniversary of the Brussels airport and metro terror attacks which killed 32 people, including one man from Hartlepool.

Political leaders, victims and families all gathered in the Belgian capital for moments of silence, wreath laying and testimonies.

On March 22 last year, twin suicide bombers claimed the lives of 16 people at Brussels’ Zaventem airport, while a further 16 were the victims of an explosion at Maelbeek subway station.

More than 300 people overall were wounded in the attacks, for which so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility. During Tuesday’s memorial services, wreaths were laid outside of both attack sites, with the names of victims read out.

Airport and train staff, security, rescue personnel, as well as Belgium’s King Philippe were all in attendance for the solemn occasion.

During Tuesday’s memorial services, wreaths were laid outside of both attack sites, with the names of victims read out.

Airport and train staff, security, rescue personnel, as well as Belgium’s King Philippe were all in attendance for the solemn occasion.

Prime Minister of Belgium.

Shiraz writes,

There was a time when no Islamist terror outrage was complete without an article published within a day or two, from Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, Terry Eagleton or the undisputed master of the genre, Seamus Milne, putting it all down to “blowback”. Such articles usually also claimed that no-one else dared put forward the “blowback” explanation, and the author was really being terribly brave in doing so. No such articles have appeared for a few years (the last one I can recall was after the Charlie Hebdo attack), so here’s my idea of what such a piece would read like today: (see post...)

Bang on cue the SWP screams,

We do not know the motivation of this particular attack. But it is inescapable that the war, torture, plunder and invasions backed by the British parliament and the government’s allies have created the conditions in which such horrors are certain to take place.

The shattering of Iraq and Afghanistan, the oppression of the Palestinians and many other imperial projects cast long shadows.

Their mirror on the far-right are also trying to make political capital out of the tragedy.

Poland’s prime minister drew a link on Thursday between an attack in London targeting the British parliament and the European Union’s migrant policy, saying the assault vindicated Warsaw’s refusal to take in refugees.

Reuters.

And,

Nigel Farage has suggested support for multiculturalism is to blame for the Westminster attack.

The former Ukip leader claimed the political support for multiculturalism had created a “fifth column” of terror supporters in Western societies.

Mr Farage argued this was the fault of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, claiming his government ordered “search parties” to track down immigrants from around the world to bring to the UK.

Independent.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

The French Far Right and Génération Identitaire.

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Image result for l'extreme droit en france organigramme

“The Identitarian movement is a pan-European socio-political movement that started in France in 2002 as a far-right youth movement deriving from the French Nouvelle Droite Génération Identitaire. Initially the youth wing of the anti-immigrant, far-right Bloc Identitaire, it has taken on its own identity and is largely classified as a separate entity altogether with the intent of spreading across Europe. The Identitarian movement advocates rights for members of specific European ethnocultural groups.” Wikipedia.

Last Night Channel Four News Broadcast a report, which covers a small French grouping within the ‘identitarian movement”, Génération Identitaire. Thisas can be seen, are only part of a wider far-right. view it here (I was signaled this by Facebook friends, I missed the programme):

France’s far-right youth movement emerging from the shadows

JONATHAN RUGMAN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Marine Le Pen’s far right Front National party is reckoned to be the most popular amongst young people, with as many as 40% of 18 to 24 year olds backing her. Now a far-right youth movement is emerging from the shadows. It is called Generation Identitaire and it’s proposing controversial solutions to France’s social problems.

They also interviewed  Renaud Camus whose views on the “grand remplacement“, that is the replacement of the European Population by non-Europeans, has its roots in conspiracy theories that claim this is an organised process by “élites politiques, intellectuelles et médiatiques”.

There was no reference to the mountains of  criticisms that have been made of Camus’ ‘thesis’: from Hervé Le Bras onwards (see: here).

Génération Identitaire  claims to be the barricade raised by young people to struggle for their identity, the vanguard of youth.

The wider Bloc Identitaire has around 2,000 members, and 600 activists.  Génération Identitaire has a lot less, in the low hundreds.

The use of the term “identity”,  is both a reflection of the confusion of ‘identity politics”(if every group has to go back to its roots, why not the ‘French’?), and the long-standing opportunism of the French Far-right, which trawls through every possible popular theme in order to appeal to a potential audience, and never forgets to add an intellectual gloss to its propaganda.

Thus we have “nationalisme révolutionnaire“, groups which refer to, amongst others, Blanqui, Proudon, Sorel, Gregor and Otto Strasser, nad have admired, at various time, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Iranian strong man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We also have, probably the biggest confusionist site of them all, Égalité et Réconciliation, which claims to stand for the Left on Work and the Right on Values is opposed to globalisation, and pitches much of its appeal to ‘an ‘anti-Zionist’ constituency. It is closely linked to the anti-Semite, Dieudonné.

This is their coming meeting:

The Front National’s appeal to the Sovereignty of the Nation is also intended to extend across classes and politics, and has succeeded in drawing in some (formerly  ‘left-wing’)  sovereigntists who agree that France must stand against the EU, Globalisation and Cosmopolitanism.

The report talked of young people’s support for the far-right.

This is a problem, though it is channeled into voting for the Front National rather than the groupuscles like GI.

Poll, 9.03.2017, people between 18 and 34 (Slate)

In examining these figures Jean-Laurent Cassely suggests that while young people generally have more liberal values than their elders, for the minority who do not hold them, the FN is appealing. That while there are fewer and fewer conservative voters those that are have moved further to the right, and that those too young to have memories of Marine Le Pen’s openly extreme father, Jean-Marie, are more inclined to cast their ballots for the FN.

Others look to the correlation between youth unemployment and support for the far-right.

The poll does show however that the total of young people backing left candidates, collected together, stands at …40%!

With 24% supporting the ‘centre’ Macron.

Channel Four mentioned protests against  Génération Identitaire‘s  Lille operation, but did not cover their ampleur, nor just how widely this was reported.

The far right group planned to open a bar to act as its headquarters in the northern city of Lille on 24 September 2016. Located just 200 metres from the Grand Palais, it will contain a boxing gym, a cinema a level advice centre, and a library. Aurélien Verhassel, the group’s local leader, said it would open only to ‘Europeans of French spirit, heirs to the Helleno-Christian civilisation’. Locals launched a petition to block the bar, called La Citadelle, citing concern that it ‘will propagate hate and cause incidents that are beyond control’.[15]

The petition had gathered more than 60,000 signatures by the 24th, but the Citadelle’s inauguration went ahead as planned with 30 members of the group present. Around 500 protesters, many of them supporters of the far-Left, marched behind banners with slogans such as ‘No fascists in our districts’ in an attempt to stop the bar’s official opening on the evening of the 24th.

In November 2016, demonstrations against the bar were still taking place. On the 19th, protesters had gathered between 600 and 1,200 people in the streets and 70,000 signatures against the bar on their online petition.

Wikipedia.

More simply: A Lille, des centaines de personnes réclament la fermeture du bar d’extrême-droite La Citadelle. Le Monde.

The Channel Four reporter’s reference to “tous les mosquees” instead of toutes le Mosqusées suggests an imperfect acquaintance with French.

There are, as the organigramme of the French far-right (above) indicates, many many groups, and this is just one, a marginal one.

The Boradcaster did not contrast the couple of thousand strong identitaire demonstration they showed with the over 100,000 moblised in Paris this Sunday by La France insoumise or the over 20,000 who attended the rally for Socialist Presidential candidate  Benoît Hamon.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 22, 2017 at 2:21 pm

George Galloway to Stand – for Pirate Party? – in Manchester Gorton By-Election.

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Image result for george galloway pirates

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Irn Bru!

Having already posted today I would not normally immediately follow with another.

But this is news!

Shiver me timbers..

Maties everywhere Thar she blows!

George Galloway to stand for Parliament again in Manchester Gorton by-election.

George Galloway is to stand for Parliament at an upcoming by-election in Manchester, he has announced.

The veteran left-winger accused Labour of being a “divided, ineffective opposition” and said he would contest Manchester Gorton to replace the late Labour MP Gerald Kaufman.

All hands hoay! 

Galloway chose to announce his decision on the Westmonster site, set up by Aaron Banks, which publicises Marine Le Pen, the Hungarian government and argues for a Farrage Hard Brexit (Westmonster describes itself as: “Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment, anti-open borders, anti-corporatism.” Press Gazette).

The “All-Asian short-list” hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton one of the most deprived constituencies in Britain. The short-listing, which excluded many better candidates, is the latest in a long line of insults delivered by mainstream parties to local communities. I will run as an Independent candidate and will write a regular by-election diary for Westmonster. This is my initial election statement.

I have a long connection with the Manchester area – two of my children live here – and with the Gorton constituency in particular. The late Sir Gerald Kaufman was a friend of mine for over 30 years. Our friendship began before I was an MP, continued throughout my near 30 years with him in Parliament and afterwards. His appearance on my television show was his last big interview and will stand the test of time.

Sir Gerald was a big figure in the House of Commons and was known far beyond it from Hollywood to Palestine and Kashmir. When he spoke people listened.

Now he’s gone to Davy Jones’ Locker..

Batten down the hatches!

I have decided to seek election for Manchester Gorton in the forthcoming by-election precisely because of my admiration for its late MP and I hope to persuade voters of every background that I am the best person to try to fill his shoes.

I want to continue his work on international issues – which are particularly important in Gorton- especially the issues of Palestine and Kashmir but also the broader questions, the dangerous confrontation between the west and the Muslim world which threatens all of us.

I would like to be the big voice for Manchester Gorton it still needs. Manchester is great, world class. But Gorton can’t be left behind. Whether it’s jobs -proper jobs – wages public services the NHS and schools. The struggle for students has always been a parliamentary preoccupation of mine. I was a Labour MP when Tony Blair introduced tuition fees and I broke a 3 line whip to vote against them. I opposed Blair’s privatisation of the NHS too and warned on both that a future Tory government would only pile on the misery on top of New Labour’s foundation.

I opposed Tony Blair with all my heart and soul and paid for it with my expulsion from the party in 2003 – after 36 years membership.

Heave ho!

This week is the 14th anniversary of the Iraq War against which I was one of the leaders of the greatest mass movements ever seen in this country. I make this plain here – if I am re-elected to Parliament I will seek to put Mr. Blair on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and lying to the British Parliament and people.

I think you already know that when I’m fighting for something everybody knows about it.

Whether it’s my speeches in Parliament or on the streets,  my films, my TV shows, my radio shows, my work on social media where I have over a million followers, when I’m fighting for Gorton everyone will know about it. Everyone will have to listen.

I have been six times elected to Parliament and I don’t think even my worst enemy would deny my impact there.

Of course there will be other choices you might make. A thicket of councillors will put themselves forward. I am not a local councillor any more than Sir Gerald was. I am a parliamentarian as he was a parliamentarian. I will be heard if you elect me, on matters local national and international. On Brexit and Scottish nationalism, on war and peace on houses and Schools on work and unemployment on immigration on the commonwealth on roads and refuse. I will live here, I will work here, I will serve here.

..

I am like Sir Matt a Scot of Irish background. There are plenty of us around Manchester. My 40 year relationship with Pakistan and Bangladesh my 40 years with the Arabs mean I can speak the language. I can talk the talk but I also walk the walk.

Galloway will be able to say to Labour, in at least four languages, Walk the plank!

If I were to win here it would be the Mother of All by-election victories for “The hard working people of Gorton” who would never be forgotten again.

If I don’t, then the alternative will be a career politician, with NO change and no Development for Gorton. It will remain the same most deprived 10% of constituencies in our country.

We know that Labour is divided, an ineffective opposition still busy fighting each other, there is a danger that the people of Gorton will never be heard from at Westminster again. Don’t settle for ordinary. It’s been half a century since Gorton had an ordinary MP. You can make that change, Think big, Think George Galloway for Gorton.

Image result for pirate saying

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Momentum, UNITE and Labour: an Activist Comments.

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Image result for momentum labour

A ‘New Kind of Politics’? 

Unite statement on Tom Watson MP’s claims on Momentum and Unite

20 March 2017

Responding to the claims made today (Monday 20 March) in the national media by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour party, Unite’s acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Tom Watson has made claims about Unite and its general secretary Len McCluskey which are entirely inaccurate.

“As Unite has made it clear it is exclusively for our executive council to determine which organisations we affiliate to. There are no plans for Unite to affiliate to Momentum. For the record, Len McCluskey has never met Jon Lansman to discuss this or any other matter.

“It is extraordinary that the deputy leader of the Labour party should  interfere in Unite’s democracy in this way, and it is very disappointing that he was allowed to make his unsupported claims without being challenged, and that the BBC ignored the Unite statement with which it had been provided well in advance.

“Mr Watson’s latest, and misguided, campaign is part of an unprecedented pattern of interference in the current Unite general secretary election by elected Labour politicians who should, frankly, be concentrating on their own responsibilities.

“Mr Watson is a Unite member with a right to a vote and a view. But he should remember that, first, he is deputy leader of the Labour party with the obligations that this senior post imposes, and second that Unite is not a subsidiary of any political organisation.”

Unite has complained to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the statement the union provided in good faith last night was only used in part and following representations from the union this morning. The union has also complained that Mr Watson was allowed to make his extraordinary claims about Unite and its general secretary without being subject to any demand for evidence.

This is in response to reports, such as this one, in the media. (Guardian).

Momentum’s Jon Lansman has hit back after fierce criticism by Labour MPs of his intention to affiliate trade union Unite to his grassroots group as a way to consolidate its power in the party.

The plans for Momentum to affiliate the UK’s biggest union and take full control of Labour’s structures by electing new representatives were described as “entryism” by the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, and were revealed after Lansman was secretly recorded speaking at a Momentum branch meeting in Richmond, south-west London.

In the recording, the chair of Momentum said the affiliation would require Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, to win his re-election battle against rival Gerard Coyne

….

A new constitution drawn up by Lansman last year made it clear that activists must be members of the Labour party in order to participate in Momentum, but in the recording, he suggested the restriction would not be enforced.

“It was important to require Labour party membership in the rules but it is down to enforcement. No one from the centre is going to tell you to kick people out,” he tells the meeting.

Watson tweeted Lansman on Sunday night, saying the recording was “very clear” in what it meant. “You’ve revealed your plan. If you succeed, you will destroy the Labour party as an electoral force. So you have to be stopped.”

Lansman replied: “We won’t allow non Lab members to hold office or vote (unlike Coop party or Fabians) but we won’t exclude them from activities/meetings. For 20 years the left was denied a voice. We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, & we need our mass membership to win again.”

Poor old Suzanne Moore, no doubt wishing she were back in happier days ‘punting’ in the river Orwell,  has wadded in, waving her pole in all directions.

A secret recording reveals that even Momentum has given up on Corbyn. Does anyone inside Labour have any idea how ludicrous this all looks?

The insanity of a leader unsupported by his MPs, falling desperately in the polls, inert over Brexit, has the party simply waiting to lose for the reckoning to begin.

The issues raised have now come to the ears of Ken Livingstone (Guardian)

Ken Livingstone tells Labour: don’t lose Momentum party plans

Ex-London mayor says he finds it ‘bizarre’ MPs have issue over changes that would allow leftwing candidate to stand as leader

Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, has said the grassroots group Momentum should be free to push for changes to Labour party structures that would secure Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy as a leftwing Labour leader.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, had accused the radical left group of “entryism” after its chair, Jon Lansman, was secretly recorded at a local meeting describing plans to elect a raft of leftwing candidates to key positions and his hope to seal an affiliation from trade union Unite.

A day of public accusation and backroom briefing by Watson and Corbyn allies ended in a fiery private meeting of MPs and peers on Monday night in parliament, where MPs clashed with Corbyn over Momentum’s influence on the party.

The tension hinges on a clause that Corbyn allies hope to secure at the next Labour party conference, to reduce the threshold of MP nominations needed for the next Labour leadership elections from 15% of MPs to 5%, which would make it easier for a leftwing successor to Corbyn to make it on to the ballot paper sent to members.

Comment.

Ken Livingstone’s comments are well aimed: the rule change under fire is a reasonable one.

UNITE is right complain about Tom Watson’s comments.

It is both hard to believe that he is unaware of the way they would be used in the union’s internal elections, and that he does not know that UNITE’s Executive is the body to which such a decision – which the union itself says is not on the cards – has to be referred.

But the “aspirational” claims by Jon Lansman, that UNITE should affiliate to Momentum, remain contentious.

It can hardly escape anybody interested – perhaps a declining number – in Momentum that the organisation has serious internal disputes, which led to the holding of the recent  ‘Grassroots Momentum’ Conference.

It would be too simple to describe this as a clash between leftist ‘factions’ and those around Jon Lansman. One day somebody may provide a diagram of the disagreements, in 7 dimensions.

This, apparently, escapes the attention of an enthusiast, Comrade Ladin who writes of its success within Labour, “Momentum’s strategy of mobilising members within these structures is undoubtedly the winning one” (Guardian. 20.3.16.7)

Others may point to internal critics’ comments which blow away the idea that this is a head-on battle between the Labour Right (Watson at the head) and Momentum.

As Stephen Wood in The Clarion remarks of the presentation of Momentum as a

….broadly consensual organisation where we “focus on what we agree about.”

The fundamental flaw is that while he is right that most of what was passed at the Grassroots Momentum conference and in fact even argued by his opponents on the Momentum Steering Committee he may actually have agreed to, he was absolutely against and stopped action being taken. Half-hearted support for the Picturehouse Workers Strike, a statement about suspensions and expulsions which has still never materialised were all agreed at what he described as “deeply unpleasant” SC meetings.

It would be easy to continue in this vein, and discuss the internal divisions of Momentum.

One thing is certain (at the risk of sounding the voice of ‘reasonableness’, but this is very much the case)  that  this is not a matter of  virtue , the leadership, and faults, “trots and the hard-left”.

Problems are not confined to one ‘camp’ or the other.

It is also the case that UNITE members who are active in the Labour Party, including those with positions of responsibility, are far from agreed on the merits of Momentum, whether on its general strategy, or the details of its demands.

UNITE is a “political union” that sees the best way of pursuing the interests of its membership lie in the Labour Party, above all a Labour Party in office.

Now would seem not a good time to divert attention away to other power struggles.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Emmanuel Macron: in the “battlefield” against Populists in French Presidential Elections?

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Image result for emmanuel macron affiche en marche

After the Dutch election, national populism is said to have another chance to make an impact in Europe in the French Presidential contest at the end of April (first round). Wilders may have been seen off in Holland but Marine Le Pen, who claims to promote the French “people” (in jobs, ‘priorité nationale’) against uncontrolled “mondialisation” (globalisation) the “elites” of the European Union. She leads the polls, with majority backing in the manual and administrative working class. The Front National’s chances may have been increased by the scandals that have all but wiped out the hopes of victory of Les Republicans’ candidate, François Fillon. It is claimed that many of the once favoured right-wing party’s supporters, feeling that their man has been the victim of a judges’ plot, filled with spite, and underlying affinity, could vote for the Front National in the decisive second round.

For some on the left of centre the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, a liberal, economically and socially, centrist, “progressive” even a ““centrist populist” now represents the most effective riposte to the far right. A sizable chunk of the Parti Socialiste (PS) right and socially liberal personalities in the wider left orbit, have smiled on his candidacy. Polls suggest he may come close to Le Pen in the April ballot, and, with transfers from all sides of the political spectrum, though notably from left supporters, could win the two-horse play off in May.

A Bulwark against National Populism?

For some commentators Macron could be at the crest of a wave of modernising politics that may be able not just to defeat Marine le Pen but set an example to others on how to overwhelm nationalist populism. For others it could pave the way for an international renewal of the centre, or the ‘centre left’, including the one time dominant modernisers inside social democratic parties This has resonance in Britain, where Liberal Democrats gush admiration, former Social Democratic Party stalwart,  Polly Toynbee has fully endorsed him as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen, disappointed Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall is said to admire Macron, as has former Europe Minister Denis MacShane, who sees him as standing up to Euroscepticism, and would no doubt enlist him in the battle to rehabilitate Tony Blair’s record in government.

It is tempting to think of, or to dismiss, Macron as a political entrepreneur, a “personality”, the creator of a “start up”, a political firm (Candidate Macron Jeremy Harding. London Review of Books. 15.3.17). Others have concentrated on attacking his “empty words” (discours creux), and efforts to appeal to all, strongly criticising French colonialism, while offering a dialogue with the ultra-conservatives of ‘Sens commun’, if not further right.

These, together with an elitist education and high-powered insider employment (from the heights of the State to Banking) are important facets of Macron’s character, and his present politics revolved around that personality. But this is to ignore the reasons why this candidacy is unsettling the Parti Socialiste. The former Minister of the Economy (2014 – 2016) under PS Premier Manuel Valls, with, from time to time, most clearly from 2006 – 2009, membership of the Socialists, he was marked out for the economic side of his “social liberalism”. Macron promoted the maximum loosening of labour protection in the El Khomri  labour law, and advanced his own proposals for wider economic reform.

A Tool Against Hamon.

The left outside of France was more interested in Socialist Party critics of the El Khomri law, the “frondeurs” for whom this summed up their dissatisfaction with Manuel Valls and François Hollande’s market reform and fiscal policies. But Macron could be said to be embody the breakaway of the opposite side of the “synthesis” that held the government together between the Prime Minister’s authoritarian modernisation and those with socialist and social democratic values. In this sense En marche! is a handy tool against the present candidate of the Parti Socialiste, Benoît Hamon, the left-wing ‘frondeur’ now representing the Party, with the support of the Greens, EELV and the small, but traditional ally of the Socialists, the Parti Radical de gauche.

The development of Marcon’s campaign bears looking at through this angle. Briefly, in 2016, Macron wished the outgoing President, François Hollande, to stand again. Perhaps heeding Valls’ own judgement that the divisions within the Left, including those inside his own party, were “irreconcilable” he founded his movement En marche! in April that year, as his personal ambition – were it possible – became more assertive, he was obliged to leave the government in the summer.

It is at this point that a programme publicly emerged. Relying on the authority of an economist he has now revived the deregulating, “working with grain of globalisation” “skills and competitiveness” economics of the 1990s centre left. In this vein the central elements of the electoral platform of En marche!, his “contract with France” (Retrouver notre esprit de conquête pour bâtir une france nouvelle) calls to “Libérer le travail et l’esprit d’entreprise” by lowering social charges and doing away with obsolete regulation. His priorities, if in power, are, he has announced to Der Spiegel, (March 17th)

Three major reforms: The labor market must be opened, we need improved vocational training programs and the school system needs to support equal opportunity again.

For Europe.

France must restore its credibility by reforming the labour market and getting serious about its budget.

(and, this precondition fulfilled…)

Much deeper integration within the eurozone.

Just beneath the surface language, which evokes a meld of promoting a “core” Europe (negotiated after a ‘hard Brexit“….)  and French patriotic feelings it’s not hard to discover the economic liberalism that Marcel Gauchet has described as fixing the limits of what is politically possible (Comprendre le malheur français 2016). Macron’s core proposals could be said to be an internalisation of the reduction of state action to the needs of economic actors.

This is more than the traditional call to cut red tape. It is for a shake up of labour laws that El Khomri only began. The dream of much of French business, right-wing politicians, and pundits, but some on the PS right is apparently now possible because, Macron believes, we are in “extraordinary times”  The wish that France could follow other European countries and make a clean sweep of all the laws and protections that ‘burden’ the land’s labour market, and revive the dream of ‘flexibility’ to meet the global challenge, had found its voice again. Perhaps it is no coincidence that a large section of the programme entitled “a State that Protects” is not devoted to welfare but to giving people a sense of security through the protection of the Police and Security services.

Beyond this constituency is Macron a newly minted saviour for the centre? He declares his movement, “transpartisan”. As Thomas Guénolé, author of the witty, Petit Guide du Mensonge en Politique (A Brief Guide to Political Lies. 2014) points out in Le Monde, his “révolution par le centre” bears comparison with former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s “advanced liberalism” in the 1970s (Le macronisme est un nouveau giscardisme. 16.3.17). They have a shared admiration for the Swedish social model, hard, then as now, to translate in French terms, an identical privileged background, and support for social and economic liberalisation against socialism or, today, ‘collectivism’.

It is difficult to see how this brand of “reformism” will marry welfare, and liberal economics. How “progressive” politics will deal with mass unemployment and the problems of the banlieue that successive modernising French governments of the right and left over last four decades have not resolved remains to be seen. Holding hands across the French social and political divide is unlikely to be the answer.

All Have Won, All Must Have Prizes!

The telegenic Macron would no doubt wish to begin the Presidency, transcending “party lines”,  by announcing, “The Race is over! Everybody has won and all must have prizes! But who will award the trophies? What other forces will there be to do the job in the National Assembly, whose election takes place immediately afterwards and which forms the basis of a President’s Cabinet?

The scramble to secure government posts and positions on Macron’s hypothetical list of candidates for the Legislative elections, is accompanied by the refusal of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls (despite his own record of less than easy relations with the leader of En marche!) to back his own party’s candidate Benoît Hamon.

Longer-standing political facts intervene at this point. While this hastily formed ‘trans-party’ may well get some candidates elected it is unlikely to win a majority in Parliament. As Guénolé points out, in order to establish his power properly Giscard had made a choice to ally with the right, the Gaullist party. Macron, while enjoying the backing of well-known individuals and small groups like the present incarnation of Giscardianism headed by François Bayrou and his MoDems, has yet to choose between an alliance with the real players: Les Républicans (LR) or the Parti Socialiste.

Either choice carries risks. The former agreement could end like that of the British Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, alienating liberal opinion. The latter would run up against the left, including not just the Hamon wing of the Socialists but those further to his left.

We might ask if, and it remains an if, Macron becomes President, if the results of his programme, which subordinate politics to the economy, would really mean in the words of his programme, that everybody would be have more control over their own destiny and that people would be able to live better together (‘chacun maîtrise davantage son destin et que nous vivions tous mieux ensemble‘) Standing against this possible future two left candidates, Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both in their different ways, offer to put economics in the service of politics. But that needs a further analysis…..

See also this,  French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s ‘anti-system’ angle is a sham 

Latest Opinion Polls.

Présidentielle: Le Pen et Macron au coude-à-coude, Fillon distancé 

French Presidential Hopeful Jean-Luc Mélenchon Leads “Citizens’ Uprising” in Paris.

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Image result for pour la VIe République. melenchon photos

TricoloresMarseillaise, l’Internationale, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon gathered tens of thousands of supporters in Paris at a rally Saturday calling for deep reforms in the French constitution. France 24.

Melenchon, who wants to shorten France’s 35-hour workweek, leave NATO, block free-trade deals and stop using nuclear energy, has pledged to summon a constituent assembly if he wins the election.

The 65-year-old former Socialist who previously served as minister for vocational training often depicts himself as the candidate of the people. He promises to get rid of what he calls the “presidential monarchy” and give more power to parliament.

The gathering Saturday between two iconic squares in the French capital – the Place de La Bastille and Place de la Republique – took place on the anniversary of the Paris Commune, an alliance between the middle and working classes who broke into revolt on the 18th of March 1871 in the wake of the collapse of Napoleon III’s Second Empire.

Melenchon was greeted to chants of “President! President!” as he joined the cortege. He later claimed on his Twitter account that 130,000 people had attended.

Melenchon, who is supported by the Communist party, has so far struggled to make his campaign take off. Opinion polls suggest he has no chance of making it to the second round of France’s presidential ballot on May 7.

Melenchon and his Socialist rival Benoit Hamon are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, but well behind far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative hopeful Francois Fillon.

Emmanuel Macron et Marine Le Pen au coude-à-coude.

Both Melenchon and Hamon have criticized Socialist President Francois Hollande’s austerity politics but have failed to join forces in the presidential race.

The first round of the French presidential vote will be held on April 23, with the two top vote-getters there going into a presidential runoff ballot on May 7.

With becoming modesty Mélenchon called the rally a “Citizens’ Uprising” and declared, “Voici notre maxime : quel que soit le problème, la solution est le peuple.” Here’s our motto: whatever the Problem, the People are the Solution.

Image result for Power to the People wolfie smith

Organisers claimed over 130,000 attended.

Mélenchon : «Ceci est une manifestation politique, une insurrection citoyenne»

The figures given by Mélenchon’s organisation are not universally accepted.

Le camp Mélenchon se moque des chiffres de la manifestation de Fillon mais… Huffington Post.

Difficile d’affirmer que la place de la République comptait quatre personnes au m2.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Yasmin Rehman wins secularist of the year award.

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Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.

A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.

It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.

It is time that all the left stands with these women.

Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017 (National Secular Society).

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”

She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.

“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”

Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”

She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.

Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm