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Posts Tagged ‘Counterfire

 ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ Gains Support: Rally, Thursday June 21.

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Union Moves Towards People’s Vote on Brexit.

In the Daily Mirror it’s been argued by Alison McGovern that,

It’s hard to argue that this disastrous Tory government is doing anything but make a mess of Brexit.

In the past fortnight calls for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal have been getting louder , and in the months to come, I suspect the argument for the public to have their say – in the absence of a general election anyway – will become irresistible.

This follows this decision.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes,

“Our conference last weekend mandated us to campaign against this Tory Brexit which is failing our country before it lands us in even deeper water. We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with. For us, a Labour government committed to a manifesto for the many is a far bigger prize than Tory Brexit. I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who agree with us that the Brexit squeeze on workers is already not worth the juice and want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit exit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in Parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.

TSSA

Labour List reports.

Today the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has announced it will hold a rally to launch its campaign for a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.

The move suggests a pro-EU stance on the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Left of the Labour Party is gaining traction.

Earlier this week, as reported by LabourList, TSSA became the first trade union affiliated to the Labour Party to formally back a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Delegates at the union’s conference in Leicester also voted in favour of giving 16- and 17-year-olds a vote in such a referendum.

The transport and travel industry union now plans to hold a ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally on Thursday 21st June at Congress House in London.

Lord Andrew Adonis, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Labour MPs Catherine West and Geraint Davies are expected to speak at the rally, which is set to be hosted by left-wing NEC member Andi Fox.

Commenting on the event, union chief Manuel Cortes said: “We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with… I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”.

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.The ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally takes place on Thursday June 21, at 7pm at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London.

In a scatter-gun  article, A People’s Brexit that unites the left is the only way to confront an increasingly bold neoliberal mafia, Lindsey German, of the group Counterfire which leads the once influential People’s Assembly, argues against this movement.

Amongst her charges against the EU are the following:

“President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, last week insulted Italians for not working hard enough, being corrupt and not being serious. ” “the hero of many liberals, Emmanuel Macron, uses his presidency to launch vicious attacks on workers and students and to attack their rights.”

Apparently because many European countries are led by people whose politics German dislikes this is proof enough that the EU is rotten.

She concludes,

It’s really time to stop trying to reverse Brexit and start organising to deliver the sort of policies which can break the neoliberal consensus and challenge the far right.

It is hard to see, given the clashes she sketches between “populists” (from the furthest right to their allies such as the Movimento 5 Stelle ) and “liberals”, and the concessions of the latter to the former, what exactly this “consensus” is.

It is even harder to say what remains today of neoliberalism’, with its keynote free trade, and , minimal government intervention in business,  when Donald Trump has just announced another front in his trade wars, imposing 25% tariffs on Chinese goods followed by Beijing’s retaliation.

In fact it can be said with some certainty that the antics of those promoting a ‘People’s Brexit’ were a factor in boosting the British hard right, their ballot box allies.

German cites the sovereigntist economist,  Costas Lapavitsas who in an article (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour vs. the Single Market) in the US publication Jacobin “demonstrates how the EU regulations would prevent the development of policies which would benefit us all.”

Martin Thomas has dealt a death blow to these arguments.

The economist Costas Lapavitsas, who has done important work on financialisation, has written a widely-cited article for the US magazine Jacobin (30 May) to argue that Labour should back Brexit after all.

ndeed, his article systematically cites the “hardest” sort of Brexit — where Britain has no arrangement with the European Union to reduce economic barriers other than that given by general World Trade Organisation rules — as preferable.

Up to now, very few pro-Brexiters, outside a few right-wing nationalist Tories, have described that “no deal” Brexit as anything other than an admittedly damaging “worst case”.

Lapavitsas was a member of Syriza, one of the left-wingers who quit after the Syriza-led government capitulated to the EU-ECB-IMF impositions to form the Popular Unity party. Popular Unity’s line of agitating for “sovereignty and independence… against the new colonialism”, rather than for explicit socialism or a Europe-wide working-class policy, has proved unproductive. Although PU started with 25 of Syriza’s 149 MPs, and other prominent Syriza figures, it lost all its MPs in the September 2015 election, now polls between 1% and 2%, and has not rallied a large part of Syriza’s former left-wing base.

….

But “hard Brexit” cannot be a left-wing policy. The struggle for socialism is an affair of workers vs capitalists, not of Britain vs a “Europe” identified solely with neoliberal Brussels officials. Consider four points.

First: EU rules would not block anything in Labour’s 2017 manifesto. Domestic capitalist power would try to block some measures, and might try to draw the European Commission in on it, but by far the main obstacles to those measures lie within Britain.

Second: The frontline measures which the socialist left wants to see added to that manifesto would not be blocked either.

Restoring union rights to solidarity action, to quick responses, to picketing, would not be against EU rules. In fact, France has wider, better union rights than Britain had before Thatcher.

Restoring NHS funding would be against no EU rule. Both France and Germany spend markedly more on health care, as a percentage of national income, than Britain.

Restoring local government autonomy and funding, and thereby reviving social care and libraries, would be against no EU rule. Ditto for restoring welfare benefits.

Large measures on those lines would face domestic capitalist resistance much more than any hindrance from EU rules.

Third: the Single Market rules have become neoliberal not because they are “European” and “foreign”, but because they represent a trend of capitalist development pioneered… in London.

“Europe” in Lapavitsas’s picture, is just the neoliberal officials in the European Commission and the ECB. Workers? Labour movements? The argument proceeds as if no such things exist anywhere in Europe except in Britain and Greece.

Labour should certainly be pushed to policies which really would contradict Single Market rules. If the British labour movement rouses itself that far, then it can and must rouse labour movements elsewhere in Europe to do similar.

The reaction elsewhere in Europe to socialist mobilisation in the labour movement in Britain (if Britain happened to go first) would not just be anger from neoliberal officials in Brussels. Workers and labour movements across Europe would be inspired and energised.

The outcome would depend on the conflict between capitalists and workers right across Europe, not on legal battles between the British government and the European Commission.

Fourth: right now we face the danger of a real “hard Brexit”, not Lapavitsas’s imaginary “socialism in one (British) country”, or rather “‘industrial policy’ in one country”.

That Tory, or modified-Tory, “hard Brexit” will set us back in many ways. We should fight it, not accommodate to it by way of telling ourselves tales about it mutating into “semi-socialism in one country”.

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

Opposing the Air Strikes on Syria; Solidarity with Democratic and Progressive forces against Assad.

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Against Air-Strikes; Against Assad.

It is far from clear what is the best position to take faced with the hecatomb of the Syrian civil war.

Few can reasonably argue that a few military strikes are going to end the horrors, or that a full-scale invasion is either about to take place, or would help anybody.

If a sentence could sum up the stand of many of us on the left it’s the one put forward by the group Socialist Resistance. 

Don’t bomb Syria – No support for Assad.

As  Joseph Daher points out: The butcher Assad’s regime is “a despotic, capitalist and patrimonial state ruling through violent repression and using various policies such as sectarianism, tribalism, conservatism, and racism to dominate society”. No socialist can support it.

But neither can socialists support imperialist intervention against it. A US led coalition could only bring the regime down by sending in large numbers of troops, a move that would condemn the country to a worse hell than that inflicted on Iraq, in a regional and political situation which is even more volatile. The regrettable fact is that the secular and democratic forces which tried to bring down Assad have been seriously weakened, benefiting the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces on the ground. A settlement based on aggression by the French, Americans, British and their regional supporters will do nothing but create a worse sectarian and ethnic bloodbath.

In more detail the Fourth International publication International Viewpoint explains (“Our Destinies are Linked”: Joseph Daher on the Syrian Revolution.)

How should the internationalist left respond to calls from some Syrians and Kurds for assistance from the United States military?

There is definitely no easy answer, especially when people are getting massacred on one side and, on the other, the USA has no willingness of any regime change in Syria, as has been the case since the beginning of the uprising, or, as we saw, to stop the Turkish intervention against the Kurds in Afrin.

Today the main issue is really demanding the end of the war, an end to all military interventions and guaranteeing rights for the civilians. I expanded on this issue in the last question.

However, while disagreeing with groups demanding military interventions, we should still maintain our solidarity with all the democratic and progressive forces in Syria as well as the Kurdish socialist and democratic forces that resist against the two actors of the counter revolution: the Assad regime on one side and the jihadist and Islamic reactionary forces on the other side.

From this perspective, what we can argue is that it is necessary to defend a local dynamic of self-defense rather than increasing the stranglehold of imperialism, and therefore we should also support the provision of weapons and arms to these democratic forces in the region to combat both counter-revolutionary forces. These are important element that could empower the democratic and progressive forces on the ground and give them the tools to defend themselves.

For the people who don’t feel at ease with the fact of demanding arms and weapons with no political conditions and strings attached from the West, I would like to invite them to read Trotsky’s “Learn to Think.” [2]

This does not mean of course that we are uncritical of the leadership of these groups that have such demands, and we should maintain our independence and critical opinions, even when dealing with them.

We have to be clear that imperialist actors and regional powers all act according to an imperialist logic that maintains authoritarian and unjust systems. They all oppose the self-determination of the peoples of the region and their struggles for emancipation. Hence, anti-war activists whether in the Middle East or the West need to address all forms of repression and authoritarianism, and condemn all forms of foreign intervention against the interests of the people of the region.

Joseph Daher continues,

What are some direct actions that anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians can take in solidarity with the Syrian people, including those being massacred in Ghouta, Idlib, and Afrin?

Multiple things should be done. I think anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians should call for an end to the war, which has created terrible suffering. It has led to massive displacement of people within the country and driven millions out of it as refugees. The war only benefits the counterrevolutionary forces on all sides. From both a political and humanitarian perspective, the end of the war in Syria is an absolute necessity.

Likewise, we must reject all the attempts to legitimize Assad’s regime, and we must oppose all agreements that enable it to play any role in the country’s future. A blank check given to Assad today will encourage future attempts by other despotic and authoritarian states to crush their populations if they come to revolt.

We have to guarantee as well the rights of civilians within Syria, particularly preventing more forced displacements and securing the rights of refugees (right of return, right for financial compensations in case of destruction of their houses, justice for the losses of their relatives, etc.).

Assad and his various partners in the regime must be held accountable for their crimes. The same goes for the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces and other armed groups.

We need to support the democratic and progressive actors and movements against both sides of the counterrevolution: the regime and its Islamic fundamentalist opponents. We have to build a united front based on the initial objectives of the revolution: democracy, social justice, and equality, saying no to sectarianism and no to racism.

We of course need to oppose all imperialist and authoritarian actors intervening in Syria.

Effectively the same position is taken by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and others:

One theme that has caused great concern on the left is the absence of any clear condemnation of Assad from the main anti-war groups.

Supporters of Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party, which has paddled in the ocean of revolution but found its home in the safer pond of British pressure group politics, occupies leading positions in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

Lindsey German is a member of Counterfire and the national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition.

The StWC claims to oppose Assad. But her most recent article on the anti-war movement does not find the time to mention “the butchery” of the Assad regime” once.

A primed anti-war movement finds the new warmongers much the same as the old warmongers, writes Lindsey German.

April the 16th.

The strikes carried out by the US Britain and France this weekend have achieved nothing in terms of stopping the suffering of the Syrian people or of making the world a safer place. They are purely a gesture to show that western imperialism can ‘punish’ Russia and Syria, and to help determine the outcome of the war in Syria.

…….

Western imperialism has no clear strategy except more lashing out with little purpose – which is the net effect of this latest attack. The unintended consequence of the war in Iraq has been the strengthening of Iran. The failed strategy of regime change in Syria has also strengthened Iran. So now Iran will move to centre stage.

Donald Trump has appointed advisers, especially Secretary of State John Bolton, who are neocon hawks determined to overthrow the Iranian government. Next month Trump wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and to tear up the Iran nuclear deal – both likely to prove major flash points in the Middle East.

And Russia? Politicians and commentators are sighing with relief that they have managed to pull off a strike that was weak enough to avoid direct conflict with Russia. But the tensions between the powers are worse than at any time since the Cold War, and we have nuclear powers involved in clashes in a cockpit of war.

We live in dangerous times and this strike just made them more dangerous.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm

The Delusions of a ‘People’s Brexit’ and Corbyn’s Custom Union speech.

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How long ago it all seems.

Counterfire originated in a split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010. They led the Coalition of Resistance (CoR) – the grand title ‘resistance’  US term ‘coalition’ referring to liberal pressure groups, obscuring an alliance of national trade unions, local trade union and anti-cuts activists against austerity. CoR became the more successful People’s Assembly, which, held successful national anti-austerity demonstrations, thousands of local meetings, and continued the campaign against austerity with more political presence and energy.

Leading figures of Counterfire, Lindsey German, John Rees and  their small circle, run the Stop the War Coaltion (StWC) in a long-term partnership with other figures, notably Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), who now plays a major role in the Labour Party.

Coutnerfire activists are extremely competent and widely appreciated organisers of national campaigns and demonstrations.

Nevertheless there are many problems with their politics.

One that is of pressing concern is that their leadership feels, while the People’s assembly is sidelined in Labour’s project of becoming a “social movement” in a position to act as “player” in the Labour Party.

As keen supporters of the Respect adventure Rees, German, and others published on their web-site, have a distinct take on international issues, which continue the ‘anti-imperialist’ politics of the original Stop the War Coalition, in conditions, above all Syria, where this has led them into irrelevance at best, and at worst, a refusal to take an internationalist human rights approach to the slaughter.

In UK politics Counterfire takes a variety of positions, but they are guided by a pro-Brexit strategy which they call a ‘People’s Brexit’.

To this end they have used their control of the slimmed down People’s Assembly to adopt a list of what might be generously called ‘impossibilist’ demands for Brexit.

That is a list of what the PA said in 2017 on Brexit, without any indication of the political means in Parliament or how these principles could be achieved.,

 “We say no to  ‘No to A Bankers Brexit’. We need to overhaul  the tax system to clampdown on tax avoidance, to increase corporation tax, the personal tax and  inheritance tax of the wealthy.

4. The Peoples’ Assembly calls for a new charter for workers rights and for the abolition of the  anti-union laws. We need an end to Zero Hours contracts, and we call for mandatory collective bargaining for large workplaces.

5. We demand a  Charter for migrant rights: No scapegoating of refugees, full retention of rights for European workers

6. No TTIP and all neo-liberal trade deals (NAFTA and CETA etc.)

Unlike some of their allies this is not based on a specific policy of restoring national Parliamentary sovereignty detached from the rest of the world.

The whole wish-list is part of strategy to “take control” – they leave the ‘how’ for the ‘movement’ to decide.

Counterfire’s reaction to Corbyn’s speech on Monday can be taken in the light of these remarks.

Martin HallWhat does Corbyn’s Brexit speech really mean?

Overall, the speech reiterated Labour’s overall aims and objectives in terms of the kind of government it wants to be, and very good points were made regarding the rights of EU nationals, the refugee crisis, internationalism, workers’ rights and the paramount importance of keeping the NHS safe and out of any future deals the EU might cut with other countries.

As a strategy Hall comments of Corbyn’s intentions,

He will hope it will be seen as the continuation of the manifesto position of a jobs-first or People’s Brexit, and that it provides a big enough tent for most Labour voters to get under.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto makes no mention of a People’s Brexit.

This is a term unknown to the general public. It is used by pro-Brexit ‘Lexit’ forces, and employed by Counterfire through the People’s Assembly to disguise their alignment with the right-wing pro-business nationalists who led the Brexit drive. The other group which used the expression is Trade Unionists Against the EU, TUAEU (What We Need Is A People’s Brexit)  TUEAU has yet to respond to the revelation that they received a generous donation from far-right Millionaire and arch-Brexiteer, Arron Banks.

What Labour said was.

We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit, and seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.

We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.”  (Negotiating Brexit. Manifesto). In this context, supporting the idea of the UK being part of a European Customs Union, that is an free trade zone based on the same import duties, entirely consistent. It is, in short, no innovation.

Hall however continues,

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

‘The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.’

The “rabid” Remain supporters are no doubt there to contrast to the non-rabid Leave supporters….

The ventriloquists of Counterfire then speak for the Leave vote.

All the evidence from June 2016 points to the prime drivers of the Leave vote as a desire to take back control, including a variety of differing positions on the question of immigration and borders, allied to an attendant anger at what neo-liberal, free trade economics had done to the UK’s industrial heartlands.

That is, a key drive behind the Leave vote was…to “control”…immigration and frontiers.

No other example is given.

Counterfire avoids the fact that few people, outside of their restricted circles, talked about “neo-libralism” by pointing to the effects of economic restructuring. That is a way of claiming anybody who dislikes the way the economy has gone for their ‘anti-capitalist’ side.

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.

In other words he said everything and nothing about whether the future of the peoples of the UK is better or worse inside or outside the EU.

It remains to be seen how achievable any of this is, though. It is also possibly a speech designed in the hope of winning an election rather than securing a future relationship with the EU. If and when this is rejected by the EU, what will be next? Staying in the Single Market from the point of view that the EU is reformable? Reform from a position of sitting on the edge of the tent? It is quite likely that the EU will state that it will not countenance any deal that gives full access to the Single Market that allows Britain not to be bound by all of the four freedoms. So what happens then? That will be the real test and it may be one that the Labour Party is required to address sooner rather than later.

True: at some point there will be a show-down between the Sovereigntist left that stands with the Right and left-wing internationalists  opposed to Brexit, full stop. 

For the moment the below, from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror,  is a fair assessment,

Jeremy Corbyn blasted May for being on the road to nowhere – now his own journey is finally getting somewhere

The penny is dropping that Parliament could honour the referendum decision and still be in a customs union or the single market

 

Labour, the Customs Union and a Marxist Case against Brexit.

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Lexit Mythomania.

It has been said that Trotskyism is noted for ‘mythomania’. (1)

Whether on not that is true for Trotskyists the word fits the myth-spinning Lexit’ – pro-Brexit – left to a T.

Recently the leader of Counterfire asserted,

Labour should stick with its People’s Brexit strategy argues John Rees”.

I can’t recall Labour ever campaigning for or deciding in favour of a ‘People’s Brexit’, although few would doubt that Labour is in favour of a “A new economic settlement that works for the many.”

And Rees’ wish list of “better than the EU not worse than the EU.” is an interesting suggestion coming from a faction that supported leaving the EU under a Tory government that was bound to make things worse.

As Catherine West MP has written in the Independent (30.1.18),

It has often been argued by advocates of “Lexit” that a hard Brexit will allow a future Labour government to end austerity. That by leaving the single market and customs union and shaking off the shackles of Brussels we will have more freedom to invest in the economy.

This is nonsense. The reality is that austerity in the UK has been a political choice, made by this Tory Government, and has nothing to do with the EU or single market rules. EU rules impose no restriction whatsoever on the level of public spending. Its strictures are about deficits, that is, how much, in normal times, governments finance their spending by borrowing instead by taxation. Crucial is that the rules allow governments the flexibility to deliberately spend in a Keynesian manner during a recession and to invest.

Let’s be clear: a hard Brexit, whereby we leave the single market and customs union, will cause an economic loss that will reduce tax receipts and therefore risk an extension or intensification of austerity.

All credible economic analyses of the long-term cost of Brexit have found broadly the same hierarchy of effects: the further Britain travels from the single market, the greater the economic loss. Indeed, the Government’s leaked analysis, published by Buzzfeed, of the impact of Brexit says that the UK would be worse off under all scenarios. Furthermore, most estimates of the cost of Brexit may well be conservative and do not include uncertainty, business confidence and flight of EU workers, which will have a negative effect on the UK’s productivity.

She concludes,

for as long as the Conservatives remain in power, leaving the single market risks the extension of austerity for years to come, on top of the last decade of public spending cuts.

This is the report the article is based on: Busting the Lexit Myths.

The choice is clear. We can sit back and wait for the consequences of a hard Brexit to become so severe that it topples this terrible Tory government. Or we can stand up for those who will be worst affected and fight for membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Future generations will not forgive us for inaction or for perceived complicity in a Brexit that damages our country and our economy. Those of us on the left who believe in building a more equal, more prosperous and sustainable country must not be duped into supporting a Tory agenda that would do the opposite.

This brochure comes highly recommended from the guardians of Parliamentary Sovereignty in the Communist Party of Britain, as the product of  “Forces set on subverting the Brexit vote (who) have targetted the labour movement.”

Perhaps Counterfire, who campaigned for Brexit, alongside Trade Unionists Against the European Union (recently embroiled in controversy over their funding from hard-right millionaire Arron Banks), could bear this in mind and take a look at the real political debate over the EU.

If it’s not too much trouble

The BBC reports today,

Labour and customs union: Evolution not revolution. 

The Labour position has been to argue that “a” customs union was “a viable option” and that the government should “keep all options open”.

What we are likely to see on Monday is wording that makes plain that “a” not “the” customs union would have distinct benefits and is the most logical way to solve the thorny issue of the Irish border.

It won’t just be a viable option but a viable end point. And the policy is likely to evolve in another way too.

Currently Labour recognises that when we are out of the EU, we are out of the single market.

So it is arguing that it wants to retain the same benefits as single market membership – such as tariff-free trade.

I’m told the same formulation could be applied to “a” customs union, that in the long term a future Labour government could sign up to one, if the UK got the exact same benefits as it gets from “the” customs union – frictionless trade and a say over the external tariff on imported goods.

As Labour has talked about the benefits of some form of customs union before, this would be an incremental not dramatic move forward.

However party insiders say that Jeremy Corbyn can’t guarantee that a future Labour government would definitely be in such a customs union because it would have to be negotiated with the EU.

But one insider said that people listening on Monday will have no doubt where Labour is headed: That a customs union is the preferred option.

Speaking on LBC radio, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry gave credence to this by saying: “We have to negotiate a new agreement. That, we think, is likely to be a customs union that will look pretty much like the current customs union.”

On the strategy to take the New Statesman carried this article a few days ago,

A Marxist case against Brexit: Trade union leader Manuel Cortes on what Labour should do.

The TSSA General Secretary  states,

Cortes has called for the UK to remain in the EU. “Any Brexit deal that introduces friction and borders will finish off the job that Thatcher started because our manufacturing industry will just dwindle away,” he warns. A “soft Brexit” (remaining in the single market and the customs union), meanwhile, would condemn the UK to “vassal statehood” by making it “a rule-taker, rather than a rule-maker”.

Will Labour listen to this pro-EU view, one which many on the left (outside fringe groups like Counterfire or the Sovereigntist Morning Star) share?

But Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to end free movement and Corbyn has refused to endorse a new referendum on Brexit (Cortes was said to be “furious” when the issue was not debated at last year’s party conference). “The Tories are having a conversation with themselves, I think we need to have a conversation with the country,” says Cortes. “Labour is ideally placed to start that conversation.”

Does he believe that Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, could yet change his mind? “My view is that Jeremy listens to people and he will continue to look at what the facts are,” Cortes says. “And as those facts change, and he continues to listen to people, I’m sure he could change his mind. I see no reason why he would be fixated on any position.”

The AWL certainly agrees,

The resignation of the Blairite Lord Adonis from his position as adviser to the Tory government has shown the issue of Brexit, and whether or not to try and stop it, is not over in the Labour Party.

A new survey has suggested that allegedly 78% of Labour members want Brexit to be stopped or at least want a second referendum.

Up until last year’s election the right-wing of Labour (notably Progress) had only half-heartedly taken up the issue of stopping Brexit. They avoided directly opposing Brexit because they feared the electoral power of nationalistic sentiment.
They couched their opposition to Brexit primarily as the need to retain membership of the EU single market, aware that there was considerable cross-party concern about the impact of withdrawal on business.

For the left in the Party, issues of migrant rights and the growth of political nationalism were the major concern. Last autumn the Labour Campaign For Free Movement collected hundreds of signatures on a statement calling for the Party to be unambiguous in its defence of migration.

For Workers’ Liberty, opposing Brexit required taking the issue of defending migrants into “Leave” sections of the working class. These were often poorer sections of the class: unorganised and politically demoralised by decades of austerity.

Our positive case should include developing real links with the rest of the radical workers’ movement in Europe and transforming the EU.

Moving toward government, a radical Labour Party can energise the European labour movement. We can stop Brexit, challenge austerity on a cross-European basis and stop the nationalist narrative trapping British workers.

We need a working-class campaign to stop Brexit.

 

(1) A term which is something of a leitmotif in Christophe NickLes Trotskistes, Fayard, 2002,

As Mad Max Dystopia looms ‘left’ Counterfire lines up with Kate Hoey to denounce efforts to thwart Brexit.

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Kate Hoey: Fighting  EU free market policies

The Counterfire groupuscule has issued a dire warning about the dangers of the European Union.

Chris Nineham is  “a founder member and National Officer of the Stop the War Coalition” and a specialist in the works of noted theorist of the “actuality of the revolution” and the reification of commodities,  Georg Lukács  (Capitalism and Class Consciousness: The Ideas of Georg Lukács).

Nineham has now extended his brief to write on the European Union.

The EU has derailed left governments at least three times – don’t let Corbyn be next.

I shall not discuss his views on the Greek crisis, but focus on two episodes I know a lot better.

Amongst other things Nineham rewrites history to claim that,

“The EU – then the European Economic Community (EEC) – played a less dramatic but still decisive part in the calamitous story of the Socialist Party government in France in 1981 – 1986. “

This is some real history,

The 1982-3 ‘moment’, a conjuncture that brought together political and economic strategic change with a cultural shift towards the market, remains marked in PS history. The Mauroy government, abandoned a strategy, reinforced with the entry of Communist Ministers in the cabinet, of nationalisations, proactive industrial policy, and increased consumption, came as the first Mitterrand governments failed to reduce unemployment or stimulate growth. Put simply, with the world in recession, going it alone was not working. Warnings of economic disaster starring the President and Prime Minister in the face during the summer of 1982 and the judgement that the franc risked going through the floor, strained the country’s membership of the European Monetary System (EMS) to breaking point. Retrenching at this point was more than a “pause” in reform. The government suddenly dropped all the idea of top-down ‘statist’ economic intervention. The initial wave of nationalisations (which remained in place for the time being, including important parts of the banking system) were not the ‘instrument’ of economic growth and social change. Industry had to be “restructured”, that is modernised at the cost of closures and layoffs; budgets had to restrained. The PS, soon free of a vestigial alliance with the Communists (PCF), came to grips with what they considered the impossibility of ‘Keynesianism in one country’. The “mutation” of modern capitalism was embraced.

..

That the austerity programme in 1983, and the zealous pursuit of ‘modernisation’ under the subsequent PM Laurent Fabius, has marked the governing French left ever since is not in doubt. But the alternative answer, argued by the Minister of Industry, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, for France to “go it alone” outside the EMS, may well have led, as his opponents claimed, to a collapse in the franc, and to France going cap in hand, for help to another international “neoliberal’ institution, the IMF, with an equally severe plan for budget cuts. A left-winger might well ask about the reaction of the labour movement. From Mitterrand’s victory in 1981 to the policy change, there was little popular activity, and the brief displays of CGT militancy that followed the exit of the Communists from government never rose beyond fragmented protest

The Centre Can Hold’: Perry Anderson, French Politics in the Era of Macron, A Critique. Part One.

Chris Nineham argues further that Britain’s entry into the EU under PM Harold Wilson in the 1970s  was also a plan by the capitalists to sabotage left wing economic policies,

The pro Europe campaign won the referendum by more than two to one and business rejoiced. Wilson seized the chance to sack Benn and Heffer, shifting the balance of power in the cabinet from left to right. As economists Mitchell and Fazi put it recently in their book Reclaiming the State, the referendum ‘all but killed the impetus for radical reform’.

Following this defeat for the left, sabotage and subversion started in earnest. Investors and currency speculators used growing levels of inflation as an excuse to pull out of the British economy. There was a massive run on the pound. Instead of responding by deepening government control over the economy and introducing currency controls the government ended up imposing wage restraint and going to the IMF for loans that were tied to cuts in public spending on hospitals schools and on government Investment in industry.

He solemnly concludes on the basis of this ‘evidence’,  – that a vote to Join the EU was the precondition for such “subversion” that,

This history should give pause for thought to those who see remaining in the single market or the customs union as in any sense left policies. Pro-business and anti-left groups in social democracy have always lined up with the EU because it promotes free market policies. Today is no exception. The list of 64 Labour MPs who rebelled and voted in December to try and keep Britain in the customs union is a list of those who are amongst the most hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive economic agenda. Once again the issue of the EU is the frontline of an attack on the left, this time against Corbyn and Corbynism.

Kate Hoey, one of the most celebrated former members of the International Marxist Group (IMG) in Parliament and famous for her sense of humour.

And political judgement.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Counterfire calls for Corbyn to Follow Jean-Luc Mélenchon and “denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU as “capitalist con trick”.

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Rees explains to Corbyn how to follow Mélenchon’s book.

What, the masses, okay, John Rees and the groupuscule Counterfire, ask, should we do about Theresa May’s “gamble”, her all-too-evident desperation.

Well, they reply, to themselves, it’s proof of that agony the Tories are facing.

She has called a General Election.

You can’t get more desperate than that!

So,  Bring it on

Rees is a-buzzin’ at French politics,

Only weeks ago, Marine Le Pen was destined to be stopped only by a Blairite candidate. Now the far-left candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has upset all predictions and, even if he doesn’t make the second round, he has rebuilt the French left.

Jeremy Corbyn should be aiming to make good the poll deficit by similar methods because Melenchon was at least as far behind in the polls when the French Presidential campaign began as Corbyn is now.

So,

….audacity is the order of the day. Corbyn should take a leaf from Mélenchon’s book and denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU, for the capitalist con trick they are. He should unashamedly run as the establishment’s unbending opponent and as the outspoken champion of working people, the unions, and the social movements.

Then, if he fails, at least it will not be by his own hand and at the cost of demoralising the left and working people, their organisations and their hopes.

Yup, Mélenchon’s strategy of replacing the Socialist Party, that is Labour’s sister party, and his struggle for French “independence”, waving of tricolors an all, is just the recipe for a Labour victory.

He could also try a few of the poems Melenchon likes to stud his speeches with,

Mes frères, c’est dans la Paix que nous respirons à pleins poumons
L’univers entier avec tous ses rêves…
Mes frères, mes sœurs, donnez-vous  la main…
C’est cela la Paix.

Yánnis Rítsos.

Or this:

Rees is resolutely upbeat.

There may or may not be a majority Labour government, but that is not the only bad outcome for the Tories. There may be a minority Labour government supported by the SNP. There may be a Tory government with a reduced majority, and that would be a huge disaster for the whole UK ruling class and a huge opportunity for the left.

Those majority Tory governments are surely always an opportunity……

We need to make Theresa May’s election gamble her last, argues John Rees

Stop the War Coalition: only way Islamist Murder can be ended is by “campaign against both war and Islamophobia.”

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End Terrorist Attacks By Stopping Western Wars and Islamophobia says StWC.

War, Terrorism & Islamophobia: Breaking The Vicious Circle Stop the War Coalition, also reproduced on the site of the groupuscule, Counterfire, which occupies many of the StWC’s leading positions.

Lindsey German writes,

The threat of Islamic terrorism requires a serious analytical response which cannot ignore the background against which it exists.

Does this involve an analysis of what Islamic terrorism is, the nature of groups such as the Islamic State, their genocidal ideology and practice? Their relation to Salafism, the social and ideological conditions in which they have grown in?

No,

..every serious analysis of the increase in terrorism over the past 16 years has to confront one central fact: that the ill-conceived and misnamed war on terror has actually increased the level of terrorism in Europe, not reduced it.

And,

The terrible consequences of the Iraq war – and subsequent interventions in Libya and Syria – have indeed led to a growth in terrorism both across the Middle East and South Asia.

German does not go further.

She offers nothing about the history of Islamism, from the Iranian Revolution (1979) to the conflicts between Shia and Sunni that mark the greatest number of terrorist atrocities. Or the Algerian Civil War, (over 100,000 dead, 1991 – 2002), an example of religiously inspired violence and state repression which has profoundly shaped the Maghreb, and left support for murdering Jihadism to be mobilised in the present conflicts.

There is equally not a word on the decades long development of Islamism in all its various forms, from the Muslim Brotherhood, back to its roots in the writings and practice of figures such as Sayyid Qutb to cite but one name, that a “serious analysis” would have to grapple with in any effort to explain the intensity, the blood-stained killings that mark the present batch of jihadists.

This is no doubt a large area, a hard reading list even for the learned German, but she could begin here Islamism (Wikipedia). Or indeed with the books reviewed on this site yesterday, notably, The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood.

Such a study would show that the violence, the racism and the totalitarian ambitions of the jihadist wing of the Islamist movement cannot be reduced to an effect of Western Intervention.

The invasion of Iraq, and the failed state that the US tried to create, has increased the possibilities for Jihadists to spread, fueled the wars between Shiites and Sunnis, and led to the wholescale religious cleansing of non-Muslims from a large swathe of the Middle East.

But the springs for the terrorist violence in Europe, the mechanisms which organise it, which encourage it, the actual series of intentional acts of murder, lie in the material shape of the Jihadist groups, their ideology and the individuals who carry out the slaughter.

German continues,

It is worth remembering that those countries still reeling from the effects of these interventions face regular terrorist attacks against their own populations, with often dozens killed in single attacks on markets and other public places. These receive scant coverage in the British media and certainly not the emotional responses that mark an attack in London or Paris. But they alone should prove as false the idea that these attacks are about British values. They are political attacks designed to promote the ideas of IS or al Qaeda or other similar groups and their main targets are other Muslims.

This is all too true, which might lead the leaders of the StWC to support those in these countries, Muslim or not, above all the liberals and secularists, fighting the Islamists, and, above all, the Jihadists, linked with, or members of Daesh and Al Qaeda.

But no.

That is there.

Here is here.

And here is, apparently, where the problem comes from.

The first is that the foreign policy which has contributed to the rise of terrorism has to end. These wars are not history but are ongoing. Only this week there have been reports of a US bombing raid on a mosque near Aleppo in Syria which has killed many civilians, in addition to the bombing of Mosul in Iraq – as part of the campaign against IS – which has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, including 200 in a recent attack.

Such attacks are exactly what has helped feed terrorism in the past.

Sagely German notes that,

The second message is that the response to such attacks cannot be further racism against Muslims.

Those advocating “further racism” take note!

What we can be certain of is that these attacks will continue unless there are major political changes.

This climate of racism here in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, is only helping to create a vicious circle where Islamophobia leads to a growth in extremism and terrorism, which in turn leads to more Islamophobia. It is a circle which can only be broken by a concerted campaign against both war and Islamophobia.

This will surely defeat the genociders of the Islamic State.

That is, it would, if Islamism and the Islamic State had been created by ‘Islamophobia’ and racism.

Faced with the depth of the challenge that Jihadism presents this statement marks the inability of the Stop the War Coalition to rise above slogans.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm