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The Fall of the House of Andrew Murray? UNITE’s McCluskey Succession Battle Hots Up.

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Jeremy Corbyn Defends Labour Campaign Role For Ex-Communist Andrew ...

Andrew Murray, “Leaving the EU” was a “democratic impulse” 

In the 1970s it used to be said that, “The Communist Party can float an idea early in the year. It goes to trade union conferences as a resolution and it can become official Labour Party policy by the autumn. A few years ago we were on our own, but not now.”

These days the group that claims to carry the flag of British Communism, the Communist Party of Britain, has more modest achievements.

UNITE’s chief of Staff, Andrew Murray, who belately left the CPB in 2016, after joining the old Communist Party of Great Britain in 1976, followed by active membership of  the party linked to the Morning Star, has had more modest successes.

He has taken against “the poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights”,  “rancid identity politics”, the “newly declared culture war”,  and the “Brexit derangement syndrome” of those opposed to leaving the EU (Pages 97, 214 – 5. The Fall and Rise of the British Left.) 

Apart from Spiked, always ready to denounce the Woke Taliban, Murray’s bundle of views on these issues is not popular.  On the left they seem to have been swept to one side, above all by the Black Lives Matter movement, which, is clearly one for human rights and has been accused, by right-wingers of waging a “culture war”.

This is no doubt a reason why Murray has backtracked a little.

The working class has become, he writes in Tribune this weekend(Class Politics After Corbyn), largely a “sociological classification”, a”mass of wage labourers without collective institutions or an ideological project”. In Marx’s early terms, it is a “class in itself” but not a “class for itself”.

The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle.

The Poverty of Philosophy (1847).

In the absence of this unity, and political direction,

The space has been filled to some extent by what is now termed ‘identity politics’. Mention the term and right-wing columnists will start foaming about the demands of women and black people, above all, to have their identities as such recognised, and the specific and intensified oppressions which have shaped that identity addressed. The labour movement may have been ahead of the curve here, but not by very much.

In fact, identity politics has an ancient pedigree within class politics. For example, the Labour Party in the East End of London was bitterly divided in the 1930s between its large Jewish and Irish elements. The former were stalwart opponents of fascism at home and abroad, while the latter were not, due largely to the influence of Catholicism — indeed, priestly influence won much of the Irish element in Stepney Labour to a pro-rebel or at least neutral position in the Spanish Civil War.

At this point Murray wanders further into history, and finds solace in abstract reference to ‘imperialism’, “As in the USA, any approach to class politics has to be framed not just by the eternal verities of exploitation but also by an acknowledgement that the working class has been shaped by the experiences of imperialism and its concomitants of racism and relative privilege on a global scale.”

The left was indeed ahead of the curve but not because it confronted cultural clashes in the past, which one could extend to religious and national differences in Scotland and cities like Liverpool.

The 1980s, a formative time for Murray’s faction, Straight Left, was caught up in debates begun and collected in The Forward March of Labour Halted? Eric Hobsbawm,  (1981) Tribune’s editor Ronan Burtenshaw  may, like many, assert that with 80% of people today working in the Service Sector they are still objectively working class. But Hobsbawm was right to indicate that the decline (if not vanishing) of heavy industry  and  manufacturing, the closely knit politics based on work and community has effects which we can see today.

As Hobsbawm wrote, “the development of the working class in the past generation has been such as to raise a number of very serious questions about its future and the future of its movement.”

Murray visits the North and meets people who have difficulties with the use of migrant labour. A ” brand-name retailer had established a warehouse creating around a thousand jobs — but few if any were advertised in the local job centre. Instead, the work was subcontracted to a labour agency which recruited exclusively in Poland. ” This example could be found around the country, and not only in the ‘left behind’ areas.

Only wishful thinking can ignore this. There is no easy answer. There is nothing on the horizon  like the kind of struggles portrayed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) on the exploitation in the Chicago meat-packing industry, which could draw different nationalities together.

But for Murray there is a common cause that united at least some people, Brexit. 

I asked: ‘When people around here voted for Brexit what problem did they think they were solving?’ The answer: ‘Everything.’

He continues,

The desire for an alternative reality attainable through democratic endeavour remains alive, despite the marginalisation of the concept of political alternatives throughout the neoliberal era.

Leaving the EU was the issue that this desire came to hang its hat on in many areas. This was a democratic impulse which Labour, despite a radical leadership committed to popular initiative, got itself on the wrong side of. These are the people Labour left behind in the dash to support a second referendum.

 Murray was a key Corbyn adviser, drafted in to help on issues such as Brexit (“Labour should stay neutral in Brexit ‘culture war’, warns Corbyn ally“. October 2019)

He is not ‘neutral’ now.

Taking sides for Brexit – that is dividing people – is a stand, Murray claims is to be against an institution which is “an effective constitutional bulwark against democratic choice in its member states on major economic questions.”

In other words, all the reasons why people voted for Brexit, and one hopes that even the UNITE Chief of Staff is aware of less noble ones than democracy,  are less important than this.

Arguing backwards from what he sees as the neo-liberal nature of the EU onto the intentions of Brexit voters Murray claims they were following a “democratic impulse”.

The urge may have driven them to support a campaign backed by the free-market right, the fancy may have taken them to dream of a People’s Brexit as a stage on the British Road to socialism. But somehow, just somehow the ” democratic empowerment” of the vote now leaves Labour with new possibilities, away from “liberal fiat” ” It now falls to Keir Starmer to lead the long march from the security of North London to the battleground industrial hinterlands.”

That a majority of people in work voted to stay in the European Union, that manufacturing and industry (such as it is) are hit by Brexit, that many working class people backed Remain out of hard-headed self-interest, including an interest in the protections offered by the EU’s ‘liberal’ legislation, is beneath Murray’s radar.

Above all, if it was conflicts over , and dislike of the use of migrant labour is a form of “class politics”, then what kind of political class for itself is being created?

It is hardly one of class unity.

The trade union movement has been called the greatest movement for human rights in history, but what kind of sectional rights against others is he responding to?

What kind of future, what kind of bread-and-butter improvements can be campaigned for on that basis?

Is it a surprise that Murray’s team is  breaking up?

Last week the hard right Express ran this story,

LABOUR PARTY civil war could be in the offing, with a fierce critic of Sir Keir Starmer edging towards a breakthrough in the battle to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite.

..

Last week Mr Beckett issued a warning to the Labour leader, accusing him of punishing the working class for the coronavirus crisis.

He tweeted: “Boris Johnson & Keir Starmer, I have a message for you both.

“We won’t stand idly by while you dump the pandemic fall out on the working class.”

Mr Beckett has been tipped to see off the challenge of Steve Turner, a union official that has played a leading tole in industrial disputes involving industry sector giants British and Bombardier.

Beckett is proud of this record,

Things did not go according to plan.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2020 at 11:15 am

Former Corbyn Adviser Andrew Murray on Keir Starmer and the Brexit Fall Out.

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Brexit Derangement Syndrome” Andrew Murray Warns Labour Against ...

Andrew Murray, Former Corbyn Adviser, Anti-Imperialist.

Le Monde Diplomatique, it’s no secret – as we used to say- is no friend of the European Union. Its Director, Serge Halimi,  welcomed Brexit, but has wistfully remarked that it happened too late. In approximate translation he wrote in the March English language edition of the monthly, Brexit hasn’t freed EU of US

The UK’s decision to leave the EU has come too late. Brexit could have been good news for the EU, given that the UK is the state that has incarnated free trade since the 18th century industrial revolution, also alignment with the US since Winston Churchill’s ‘special relationship’, financialisation since the City of London began dominating the economy and politics, and flint-hearted neoliberalism since Margaret Thatcher’s reign. Britain’s departure could, in particular, have served as a reminder that the EU is not a prison: just as new states may join, existing members should be able to leave. On this score at least, the UK’s politicians have, after much delay, respected the will of its people, and that lesson in democracy has value right now.

It has not been too late for the soveriegntist inclined journal to publish – in its French edition – articles from supporters of the red-brown Full Brexit (with no indication of the nature of this alliance of the Lexit left, Communist Party of Britain, Faith Family and Flag, ‘Blue Labour’, former Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Communist Party, now stalwarts of the Brexit Party – members, and elected MEPs)  and assorted odd balls). Pro-Borders New Left Review star, social conservative, and Full Brexit backer Wolfgang Streeck, is another light in this little galaxy of national sovereigntists. 

Thus Chris Bickerton, author at the red-brown Spiked, which is now engaged in a war on the Black Lives Matter movement, has passed from their site to Le Monde Diplomatique. This pundit on Labour’s defeat, (Pourquoi le Labour a perdu. Chris Bickerton. February 2020.) As can be expected the article blamed metropolitan youth and elites’ dominance of Labour for refusing to accept withdrawal from the EU, supporting internationalism at the expense of the ‘real’ people in the Labour heartlands. Continuing the promotion of Brexit contained a lengthy justification for voting Tory, by an alleged Labour supporter and …a backer of the Full Brexit,  a gleeman called Chris McGlade, (« Je suis travailliste, j’ai voté conservateur »).

Such is the august publication which has welcomed Andrew Murray, Former Communist Party of Britain stalwart, leading figure in the, Stop the War Coalition (StWC) , Solidarity with the Anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine, UNITE Staff chief, and ‘adviser’ to Jeremy Corbyn on, amongst many things, Brexit.

The piece – alas not widely circulated in the British media – is titled:

Adieux discrets au corbynisme

There is an English version, but I do not have a sub to this, so the French will have to suffice.

Murray starts well (this bit is available without the sub…)

Starmer urged Labour to move beyond factionalism, probably optimistic given that the party has always hosted a range of competing tendencies, even in the years of Tony Blair’s ultra-centralising neoliberalism; the best Starmer can realistically hope for is to lower the fevered temperature of the ultra-polarised Corbyn years. However, he did not propose to move away from the main policies the outgoing leader had championed — public ownership of railways and utilities, major boosts to spending on public services to be partly funded by increasing taxes on the rich and big business, 

He generously concedes that the Labour membership made a clear choice (translation…)

Mr. Corbyn has given way to Sir Keir Starmer, the former Labour spokesperson, who won 56  % of the vote among party activists, supporters and unionists – a score barely less impressive than that obtained by Mr Corbyn in 2015 (59.5  % ).

Here comes the down side.

The ancient and, present, chair of the StWC laments, nevertheless, the loss of some of Corbyn’s keynote traits,”Le premier de ces traits est l’anti-impérialisme.” Noting that Corbyn would have a job getting through his ideas, indeed a  “scenario in which a parliamentary majority would support nuclear disarmament, much less a withdrawal from NATO.” There is a reference to the Middle East and the problems faced by any attempt to break the ” alliance with Washington or a reversal of British policy in the Middle East”. Whether this refers to the government’s and  Corbyn’s refusal to back opponents of Syria’s President Assad, to concentrate on justice for the victims of Daesh genocide, or to his more vocal backing for the Palestinians, is not clear. What is, is that Corbyn ran up against the “Atlanticist” alliances that dominate British politics – including President Trump’s active support for Brexit.

The anti-imperialist writer continues. Starmer has no record of backing social movements – movements Murray locates in mass demonstrations, such as the ones held by the StWC and anti-austerity protests, heavily backed by his own union, UNITE. 

The crunch moment came when the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the Labour membership, ignored the advice of Murray to accept Brexit (a cause he, too modest to mention, embraced fervently).

The “notables of the party did not cease thereafter wanting to reverse the verdict of the referendum, by demanding a second ballot rather than the negotiation of a soft Brexit”. This opened up a division between,

….parliamentarians and most members on the one hand and the majority of working class voters. somewhere else. The difficulties of the left in imagining a world outside the European Union ended up sounding the death knell for Mr. Corbyn’s project.

If only we had the will and the imagination to dream of a real People’s Brexit!

If only Labour had ignored the mass protests against Brexit – just as Tony Blair had the StWC demonstrations against the Iraq War .

Instead the party listened to its ranks, in which “the elites of North London” were over-represented.

For Murray Brexit was, and continues to be, not a conflict between internationalists and sovereigntists,. It’s between these ‘elites’ and  the “majority of working class voters”.

The present piece eschews the colourful description of pro-EU internationalists, infected by “Brexit derangement syndrome” , the malady of “human rights” and  “rancid identity politics”, see Andrew Murray. The Fall and Rise of the British Left. Verso, 2019.).

But even so…

Casting aside his own claim to be neutral in this Brexit ‘culture war’ Murray declares, 

The fracture within Labour, between the proponents of liberalism and the partisans of democracy, got the better of Corbynism.

So it is said. Liberalism is against democracy – a sentiment that without a doubt warmed the hearts of the editors of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Commenting on the Coronavirus crisis, with justness, that, “The United Kingdom is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, “

In conclusion Murray states,

In this sense, the crisis of today merges with that of yesterday. No matter how much Mr. Johnson claims he will overcome it, the promises of right-wing populism are likely to prove no less hollow than those of neoliberal centrism.

The contribution of Murray’s allies in the Full Brexit to the triumph of right-wing populism – their support for the illusion of a “people’s Brexit’ – is left unmentioned.

Right-Wing Identity Politics and the Trans Debate: the New Reactionaries.

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Image result for Rappel à l'ordre. livre

 

“In cultural matters the old division of right and left has come to look more like two Puritan sects, one plaintively conservative, the other posing as revolutionary but using academic complaint as a way of evading engagement in the real world.”

Robert Hughes, The Culture of Complaint. 1993. (1)

Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged Islamophobia. What looks like a parting factional swipe at a long-standing opponent of Corbynism, only adds to the culture wars. After the crisis over anti-Semitism recent weeks have seen a new battle, over Transsexuals, reach a peak. Some have demanded that transphobes be added to the list of the expelled. Defenders of family, faith and flag from Blue Labour, self-identifying libertarians, and supporters of the Brexit Party in Spiked, full-blown national populists, and radical feminists have joined together to attack demands for trans rights.

Judith Butler wrote in her critique of ‘foundational’ identity politics, Gender Trouble (2007) “If I were to rewrite this book under present circumstances, I would include a discussion of transgender and intersexuality, the way that ideal gender dimorphism work in both ways to discourses, the different relations to surgical intervention that these related concern.” At present it looks improbable that differences between gender-critical, or “materialist feminists”, and those defending transsexuals, can take place within reasonable limits.

For Blue Labour, citing the inevitable Christopher Lasch on ‘narcissism’, Jonathan Rutherford asserts that, “Like other forms of identity politics, the language of its more extreme advocates has the same mix of moral self-righteousness and ideological certainty. Scientific facts that compromise ideology are dismissed.” “Identity politics becomes the singular pursuit of self-interest detached from social obligations.” He claims, “It is a struggle that many women feel is all the more threatening because of the involvement of powerful lobby and corporate interests.” (The Trans Debate And The Labour Party)The nastiness of a minority amongst those defending absolute ‘cis’ gender has shredded that hope to pieces. The Suzanne Moore affair has opened up a breach that is unlikely to be bridged. (2)

In 1993 Robert Hughes was one of the first to suggest that Marxism, dead after the collapse of official Communism, has had an afterlife by shifting away from “economic and class struggle in the real world”, theorising instead a variety of oppressions and “discursive” articulations and antagonisms. This ‘cultural Marxism’, exploring themes from German and French left theory, has become a target for conservatives railing against “multiculturalism”. Speech codes, the “PC wars” of the 90s, and. fast-forward. Today we have Mark Lilla’s 2018 left of centre critique of “liberal identity politics” (The Once and Future Liberal), and Douglas Murray’s conservative broadside against “identity politics and intersectionality”, “the last part of a Marxist subculture” (The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity. 2019) (3)

National Populism.

Those attracted to national populism, who disdain the causes of minorities, have become champions of identity, of the “Somewhere” plain folks against the identity politics of the ‘Anywhere” cosmopolitan elites. This strategy is not confined to the English-speaking world. “The ambition is to imitate the activism of minorities – postcolonial or LGBT – fed by French theory …..in order to serve the cause of identity” writes Nicholas Truong in this Saturday’s Le Monde (Il s’érige contre la « dictature » de la « bien-pensance » : l’essor du national-populisme intellectuel et médiatique). In France, “national populism”, a “catéchisme néo-réactionnaire”, the theme of immigration, the fear of the “great replacement”, the ‘Islamisation’ of urban spaces, up to hostility to human-rights “mongering” (droits de l’hommisme) , and the “terror” of feminist campaigns against sexual violence and harassment. The denunciation of multiculturalist “bobos” (Bourgeois bohemians) parallels British sneers, from Blue Labour, Spiked to the Morning Star at the ‘Islington left”. Truong, with good reason, compares this to French Communist language of the past century attacking the “petty bourgeois”.

In Le rappel à l’ordre (2002) Daniel Lindenberg outlined the way a group of French writers had begun to denounce May 68, human rights, feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, Islam, and “globalism” (mondialisme). These “new reactionaries” had moved from the left critiques of market liberalism to national republicanism, He suggested that anti-globalisation could serve as a crossing-point

A “crude piece of work” commented Perry Anderson. It takes no more than a few minutes to see some names, Marcel Gauchet, Alain Finkielkraut, reappear in Truong’s article, some, like Eric Zemmour, and Jean-Pierre le Goff, author of a study that is recalled or its postscript on the enduring impact of “cultural leftism” post-68, had yet to come to wider attention. Others, like the once respected historian of the French left, Jacques Julliard are much more recent entries, though one was perhaps forewarned by his willingness to debate Jean-Claude Michéa, who asserts that the original sin of French socialism was its Dreyfus Affair alignment with democratic liberal human rights defenders. That one of these figures, Michel Onfray, a self-styled anarchist and pop philosopher has extended his openness to reaction by contributing to the pages of the Nouvelle Droite Eléments, is the occasion for sadness. (4)

Realignments to the right that have yet to go so far could be seen in the UK during the EU Referendum and Brexit process. The Full Brexit brought together left sovereigntists, Blue Labour, Labour Leave, activists in Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and members of the Communist Party of Britain. They contrasted the real popular sovereignty of the nation against the workings of the globalist EU elites. Andrew Murray has expressed the widely shared views of these sections with his hostility towards “rancid identity politics”, pitting the rights of “peoples” against the “poisonous seeds” of human rights (The Fall and Rise of the British Left. 2019)

The French new reactionaries have, Truong outlines, a strong and highly visible media presence right in the mainstream, the MSM. For those inflamed with hatred for identity politics Britain offers the consolations of Spiked, the Spectator, and the hard right press for those hostile to all things Woke, with the occasional television platform like Sky Press reviews. As interest in Brexit has waned some of  this new sect of plaintitive reactionaries  has taken up the cudgels against transsexuals. Elsewhere Verso Books publishes Andrew Murray, who thanks Tariq Ali for his “support and political commitment., The journal of Perry Anderson, New Left Review, is home to Wolfgang Streeck, a supporter of the Full Brexit, who believes that national borders are the “last line of Defence”….

 

*****

  1. Page 60. The Culture of Complaint, The Fraying of America. Robert Hughes. Harvill. 1994.
  2. Page xxviii. Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Judith Butler. Routledge 2007.
  3. Lecture 2. Multi-Culti and its Discontents. Robert Hughes. Op cit. “PC Wars” in Chapter 8. New Consensus for Old. One Market Under God, Thomas Frank. Vintage 2002.
  4. Page 169. Perry Anderson The New Old World. Verso. 2009 Jean-Claude Michéa and Jacques Julliard La Gauche et le Peuple. Champs. 2014.
  5. Page ix. Andrew Murray. The Rise and Fall of the British left. Verso, 2019