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Posts Tagged ‘Counterfire

Campaign Against “Gender Critical Feminists” “Has to Stop” – Lindsey German (Counterfire).

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Sussex University backs trans-row academic despite her resignation | Metro  News

Pathetic attempts at ‘no platforming’ and demands for dismissal.”

Lindsey German on climate change and the case of Kathleen Stock

weekly briefing Lindsey German.

It has to stop  Counterfire (Monday).  

The decision by Kathleen Stock to resign from Sussex University is regrettable, if understandable. She has faced threats of violence, demonstrations and calls for her dismissal. The statements from both Sussex UCU and the national union both fell far short of what should be said faced with this campaign of intimidation. Accusations of transphobia against Stock are wide of the mark.

But the outcome raises wider questions about how we should handle debate on the issues of feminism and trans rights. There are very deep divisions here, but there is an acceptable and unacceptable way of dealing with them. The former involves serious and respectful debate and discussion, the latter the pathetic attempts at ‘no platforming’ and demands for dismissal which should be reserved for fascists.

This was also true last week when a well-attended meeting on women and prisons, organised by Woman’s Place UK, was subject to an unpleasant and sexist protest (Editor’s Note, see letter from Woman’s Place) by people who opposed their gender critical views and accused them (wrongly) of transphobia. It seems lost on these people that women are an oppressed section of society and that if there is a clash with other groups of the oppressed (such as transwomen and men) then it has to be taken seriously.

It is worth noting here that these protests tend not to be directed towards, for example, the government, or real transphobes, but towards those on the left, including established socialists and trade unionists, who are deemed to be wrong about this. In itself, this shows an inward looking and narrow approach – the rest of the left really is not the enemy.

It is not acceptable to use sexist, ageist and racist abuse, as seems to be the case from video evidence, against women. It is not acceptable to comment on their looks, the shape of their bodies, or anything else. We have spent decades now fighting against stereotypes of how women are supposed to look and behave, and it is still an uphill battle. How appalling then that people on the left, in the name of supposed solidarity with the oppressed, feel it is justified to join in with these right wing views.

Let’s be clear here: gender critical women are not fascists – they are mostly left wing. They should be allowed to organise as women without being abused and intimidated. And if you think that doing otherwise is helping fight oppression, you really are in a bad place. This has to stop – the only people it is damaging is the left.


German and, by extension, many of those in Counterfire, have been known to hold these views on the campaign of intimidation against gender critical feminism for some time. It is good to see this clear stand expressed.

Update: Top Newshound John gives the background:

We, the undersigned, have a variety of positions about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Some of us have not yet fully formed our opinions.

We are calling for action within our movement to allow debate to take place over proposed changes to the Act.

You may be aware that on April 13 this year, an activist, Tara Wood was convicted of the assault by beating of Maria MacLachlan, a 60-year-old woman who had gathered with others in order to attend a meeting at which they could discuss the potential impact on women and girls of such a change to the law.

On March 8, an incident also occurred on a Bectu picket line in which trans activists, with no connection to the industrial dispute itself, mobbed and verbally attacked a female trade union member on the basis of having recognised her as an attendee at a similar meeting.

And in late April women in Bristol looking to meet and discuss changes to the Gender Recognition Act were met with masked activists blocking entrances to the venue, and deliberately intimidating those wishing to go inside.

More recently, a meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK was targeted with a bomb threat which Hastings Police are investigating as a serious incident.

These cases are part of systematic attempts to shut down meetings organised by women at which they can discuss potential legislative changes and the impact these may have on any sex-based rights already enshrined in law.

They draw the whole of our progressive movement into disrepute.

Some trans rights activists even continue to justify the use of violence, meaning that many women are simply too frightened to attend meetings that are both public and lawful in order that they may discuss their own rights.

Other women, including ordinary women concerned for their rights, as well as those active within the trade union movement and other political campaigns, are also now anxious and fearful that they will be subjected to such attacks when engaging in any political activity, meetings, or protests.

We are sure that, whatever your view regarding the issues around the Gender Recognition Act, you will agree that it is unacceptable for women to be made scared to engage in political life.

We, the undersigned, publicly and unequivocally condemn the use of violence or tactics of intimidation on this issue.

(Some names,well-known on the left and labour movement, are underlined.)

Yours sincerely,
Judith Green
Ruth Serwotka
Kiri Tunks
Lucy Masoud
Karen Ingala Smith
Lindsey German
Paula Lamont
Julie Bindel
Helen Steel

Gill Butler
Mark Serwotka
Mike Clancy
Vicky Knight
Tony Burke
Gail Cartmail
Susan Matthews
Len McCluskey
Sean McGovern
Maggie Ryan
Jane Stewart
Steve Turner
Tony Woodhouse
Philipa Harvey
Sarah Johnson
Dave Harvey
Heather McKenzie
Marilyn Bater
Paul Embery

Jeni Harvey
Julia Bard
Lisa-Marie Taylor
Pilgrim Tucker
Mary Davis
Jane Shallice
Rebecca Lush
Emma Wilkes
Charlie Dacke
Sybil Cock
Gill Parke
Ann Sinnott
Harriet Wistrich
Cllr Julie Davies
Maria MacLachlan
Nic Williams
Debbie Epstein
Kristina Jayne Harrison
Kay Green
Rosie Brocklehurst
Carolyn Thomas
Philippa Clark
Christiane Ohsan
Mary Adossides
Meirian Jump
Miriam David
Trish Lavelle
Megan Dobney
Anita Halpin
Carolyn Jones
Kath Campbell
Rachel Burns
Marj Mayo
Annette Mansell Green
Hilda Palmer
Janet Newsham
Annie Gwilym Walker
Alice Bondi
Helena Coates
Ceri Williams
Debbie Hayton
Gill Knight
Eleanor Hill
Bronwen Davies
Pam Isherwood
Hayley Mullen
Sybil Grundberg
Anne Morch
Jane Galloway
Diane Jones
Karen Broady
Emma Dolan
Jan Pemberton
Beth Aze
Louise Hersee
Naomi Grint
Emma Aynsley
Roy Wilkes
Holly Smith
Marjorie Caw
Catherine Bjarnason
Charlotte Carson
Gerald Clark
Carole Regan
Bernard Regan
John Millington
Therese O’Meara
Amanda MacLean
Gwenan Richards
Jayne Egerton
Kim Thomas
Helen Saxby
Marion L Calder
Gwenda Owen
Hannah Tahir
Kate Graham
Rebecca Heath
Catherine Muller
Radha Burgess
Lisa Bishop
Emma Salmon
Jan Pemberton
Lynne Caffrey
Becky Vaughn
Jan Baxter
Kate Jerrold
Jennifer James

Cllr Amy Brookes
Elizabeth Carola
Marta Garcia de la Vega
Ruth Gordon
Lorraine Roberts
Sona Mahtani
Caroline Spry
Ann McTaggart
Denise Bennett
Cllr Bob Walsh
Sue Lent
Helen Watts
Emma Barraclough
Beth Vennart
Ruth Conlock
Emma Flynn
Cathy Devine
Barbara Hughes
Louise Paine
Prue Plumridge
Sarah Tanburn
Donna Stevenson
Dinah Mulholland
Olivia Palmer
Hannah Laurel
Sandra Easton-Lawrence
Helen Soutar
Paula Dauncey
Tessa McInnes
Lynn Alderson
Abigail Rowland
Christian Stahle
Barbara Brookes
Hilary Adams
Fiona English
Frankie Rickford
Julie Timbrell
Jess Goldie

Here is Woman’s Place

This story is becoming known internationally.

There is, for example, now a French Wikipedia entry on Kathleen Stock.

Stock devient notoire en janvier 2021, lorsqu’elle est accusée de transphobie dans une lettre signée par 600 philosophes et autres universitaires, qui s’opposent à ce qu’elle reçoive un OBE (Ordre de l’Empire britannique). En octobre 2021, une campagne étudiante appelant à son licenciement suscite à la fois des critiques et un soutien envers Stock. Un groupe de plus de 200 philosophes universitaires du Royaume-Uni prend position en faveur de Stock et de la liberté académique. Malgré le soutien que lui apporte l’université, Stock démissionne.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 1, 2021 at 10:04 am

A Renewed Labour Drive or a New Extra-Parliamentary left?

with 4 comments

Labour's Keir Starmer Is On the Right Side of Britain's Culture Divide -  Bloomberg

A number of different takes on the future of Labour and the left have emerged in recent months.

Last week Andrew Fisher (Labour party’s executive director of policy from 2016 to 2019) made an important contribution that should help focus minds. He wrote that,

Labour shouldn’t lurch to the right – it must get out the vote

Andrew Fisher

The idea of winning back millions of Tory supporters is a misdiagnosis. The aim should be registration and participation

The party has an identity crisis that reflects a changing class composition across demographic and geographic divides. In Scotland, the rise of Scottish nationalism and a Conservative unionist counterweight appears to have closed the door on Labour winning the sort of landslide the party used to take for granted, even in its dismal defeat in 2010. No wing of the party, in Westminster or Holyrood, has yet found an answer to that conundrum. These challenges are significant, but they are not insurmountable. If Labour is to win again, it has to be crystal clear about its potential voters – and the electoral coalition it needs to win.

One could observe that these demographic and geographical divisions – including the erosion of the Red Wall, and the rise of middle class led Scottish nationalism – are reflected in other parts of Europe. Centre and centre right nationalism has strong support in Catalonia. In Belgium where linguistic issues also play a big role, the Socialist Party, Forward, Vooruit, and is a small minority in the Flemish region, (13 out 124 in the regional Parliament, Greens with 14 and the once Marxist-Leninist  Partij van de Arbeid van België, 4). The erosion of the Northern Labour vote can be paralleled in Northern France (though not in Belgium’s Wallonia).

The cultural and economic basis of the decline of this electoral constituency has been explored in a series of books in France over the last decade. Retour à Reims by Didier Eribon is a personal and literary journey to the once heartland Communist and Socialist North of France where many people now back the far-right Rassemblement National of Marine Le Pen. There are many more directly sociological works. A parallel between the writings of Christophe Guilly  on La France périphérique (2014), (see his more recent Le Crepuscule De La France D’en Haute 2017) , the left-behind ‘real’ rooted working class and salaried people living in in non-metropolitan areas and the cosmopolitan left and the British Blue Labour tendency is obvious. Guilly has been criticised for his broad generalisations. A summary of the debates about the claims, and sustained critique is given in La Grande Confusion Phillipe Corcuff (2021) who notes their ethnic, that is, anti-immigration, drift and the echoes of his views on the right and extreme right and a part of the ‘confusionniste’ left. Numerous studies show that poverty is mainly concentrated in urban areas. Thus, three quarters of the working class do not live in “peripheral France” but in the cities. A similar remark can be made about the urban working class in the UK, many of whom continue to back Labour, and, in London, and other cities, were often voters against Brexit.

In this year’s regional elections the left vote, thought by some to have fractured into irrelevance, held up. If the mainstream centre right were the victors, he Socialists, sometimes in second-round alliances with La France insoimuse (LFI) and Greens (EELV), also drew some comfort, especially from Carole Delga’s victory in Occitanie in the south with a record score of 57.8%. The underlying problem was nevertheless abstention,  68%, much of which affected the left vote.

In No Society. La fin de la classe moyenne occidentale, (2019) Guilly talks of the new bourgeoisie is formed, the “winners of globalisation” concentrated in globalised metropolises as the focus of economic and / or cultural and geographic domination. The traditional middle class position of white collar workers and small businesses has been wreaked. Above all he argued (which can be supported by comparisons across Europe, Universal Credit being one) its is the welfare state and social security which has been cut back and replaced by reduced cover and ‘flexible’ working arrangements.

Without direct political representation, and deprived from an open voice even inside social democratic and left parties that have undergone a long process of embourgeoisement the sovereigntist author asserts that electoral ‘soft power’ to protest (Gilets Jaunes) or the vote people out, continues. Writing in the Guardian in 2019 Guilly claimed,

In France, the working classes donned hi-vis vests to show they still existed. Their British counterparts seized on Brexit to send the City of London a wake-up call. All over the western world, globalisation’s losers are pulling the strings of populist leaders in order to raise their own visibility. Far from being all-powerful, or even political wizards, the likes of Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini and Nigel Farage are little more than puppets of the working classes.

How Macron discovered the soft power of the working class

Yet in the UK it was a section of this internationalised bourgeoisie which backed Brexit, supported by the sovereigntist anti-EU left and their hangers on, and now runs the government in the form of the present Conservative Cabinet. Few would assert that Johnson is a “puppet’ of the working class. National populism is better at manipulating people than the ‘people’ are at using them.

So how does this help explain some of the background to Labour’s present difficulties? If there are, without doubt, underlying social trends at work which have dethatched’ a traditional social base from the left the ability of ‘voluntarist’ politics, populist or not, to win support suggests that political strategy has a big part to play.

Fisher says,

Labour lost Hartlepool because, as deputy leader Angela Rayner confessed, “people didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for”. Activists and MPs who trod the streets in May’s dire elections almost universally complained about the lack of clear, flagship policies on the doorstep. That complaint is recognised in the central thesis of Mattinson’s leaked analysis: that Labour needs “clearer, sharper, more uplifting messaging about the party’s values and Starmer’s vision”.

He continues,

The reason why Labour should focus on non-voters is pragmatic: there are simply more of them, and 2017 showed they can be inspired to vote Labour. Non-voters are more likely to have at least one of these overlapping characteristics: working class, young or from ethnic minority communities. All three of these cohorts have one thing in common: if they do vote they are more likely to vote Labour. But mobilising them will require the strongest voter registration drive in Labour’s history to overcome the voter suppression tactics that this government has imported from the American Republican right.

This important point reinforces the message that abstention, as in France, could become a growing problem for the left.

The conclusion,

Voter registration drives are labour intensive: they require passionate supporters going door to door in the right neighbourhoods with the right message. Social media can do some of the work, but it is no substitute for human engagement in target seats. It’s worrying, therefore, that Labour membership, as reported to last month’s national executive committee, has dived by 116,000 since Starmer became leader.

In contrast, when Labour inspires people to vote for them, it also inspires them to join. Starmer’s Labour must resist a strategy of triangulation based on exaggerated numbers of Labour-Tory switchers, and instead prioritise a strategy of inspiration: only then will it stand any chance of winning the next election.

Fisher may put too much emphasis on inspirational words; he is not wrong that it would be a mistake to focus on the views and needs of those who have voted Tory. A bit of ‘oomph’ is needed and clarity about the message. We could do with some strong campaigning on issues like rents and Universal Credit as well.

In this respect Dave Osler points in the right direction,

The next war is going to be different. Instead of harking back to 1990s Cool Britannia and the permanent 20 point poll lead Blair was gifted by Black Wednesday, Starmer needs to stop evading the fundamental question of what Labour stands for in the 2020s.

If he fails to do so – and do so soon – the battle is already lost.

By contrast Counterfire which runs what remains of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, and has a strong influence of the veteran protest group the Stop the War Coalition, has its own answer to the left’s difficulties.

Is the party over? Starmer and the deep problems of social democracy

As the right strengthens its grip on Labour, Chris Nineham looks at the context of of Labour’s crisis.

The crucial thing here is that we understand that there is politics outside of parliament, and that this is in fact the most important kind of politics. Tony Benn, the leading figure on the Labour left in a generation, left parliament in 2001 to, in his words, ‘devote more time to politics’. Amongst the most important things that have happened in Britain in the last twenty years have been the anti-war movement in which he played such an important role, the anti-austerity movements, the Black Lives Matter protests and the massive campaign in solidarity with Palestine.

Speaks the group which has made a specialism of running street protests…..

The last People’s Assembly demo on the 26th of June got a “good few thousand” on it.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Trump, Democracy, Fascism and….Counterfire.

with 4 comments

 © Leon Kuegeler / Anadolu Agency via AFP

The New Brown Threat?

Many groups on the left have published useful and thoughtful articles on the Trump Riot in the Capitol. Some have looked for analogies with the 1930s extreme-right. That is not just the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini but events like  the riots of the Ligues in 1934.

February 6, 1934

Bloody demonstration in Paris

On February 6, 1934, the radical Édouard Daladier presented his new government to the Chamber of Deputies.

It was the pretext for a violent anti-parliamentary demonstration which would  make the Republic tremble and ultimately bring about the union of the Socialists and the Communists, until then contested by the latter.


These leagues – mass political movements – brought  together discontented people of all stripes. They had multiplied on the right and on the left, on the margins of parliamentary parties, thanks to the economic crisis .

They benefitted from the support of three influential right-wing or far-right weeklies: Gringoire  (600,000 readers), Candide  (Pierre Gaxotte, 300,000 readers), Je suis partout  (Robert Brasillach, 100,000 readers).

They equally benefited from the support of a newcomer, Philippe Henriot (45), elected deputy for Bordeaux a few months earlier. A strongly Catholic militant on the right, anti-Republican, anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic, an excellent orator, he called three times in January 1934, at the rostrum of the Chamber of Deputies, to “sweep away the Republic”  (under the Occupation, he would put his voice at the service of Radio-Vichy ).

Wikipedia says,

The 6 February 1934 crisis was an anti-parliamentarist street demonstration in Paris organized by multiple far-right leagues that culminated in a riot on the Place de la Concorde, near the seat of the French National Assembly. The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators. It was one of the major political crises during the Third Republic (1870–1940).[1] Frenchmen on the left feared it was an attempt to organize a fascist coup d’état. According to historian Joel Colton, “The consensus among scholars is that there was no concerted or unified design to seize power and that the leagues lacked the coherence, unity, or leadership to accomplish such an end.”

There are many differences between the mass — far-right of the 1930s and today.

The obvious point is that the Washington riots were not stimulated by an outgoing President.

The next is that national populist ideas, MAGA,   fascist white nationalism, and modern conspiracy theorists have had plenty of time to develop since the 1930s. Observers point to their diversity, from a kind of Brexit Party nationalism, to  ‘paleo-conservatism’ , in the writings of  Patrick J. Buchanan (The Death of the West,2002) and  Stephen Bannon , founder of Breitbart, and and chief Trump strategist during the first 7 months of his regime., to the overt racism of Jared Taylor, a theorist of White Identity (White Identity, Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century 2011).

There is this as well:

Several prominent activists were spotted inside the building, and others flew Q-themed banners inside and out.

Others have some of the ideas of ‘identarian’ politics, and even the ‘libertarian’ identity politics of traditinal ‘somewhere’ people propagated by groups like the British Spiked network and others who reject ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ . 

Finally, despite the existence of armed far-right militias in the USA they do not have the hundreds of thousands of members that the 1930s Ligues in France, as in other European far-rights of the time, had. Nor is their experience of combat echoed outside of the small numbers of Veterans in the American armed services. They, unlike the totaliarian parties of the past, are also decentralised.

This debate in continuing. Others have looked further back to ‘Bonapartism’ and the Boulanger movement in France for analogies between today’s Trump supporters and populism across Europe and the world.

Most of the left considers that defending democratic institutions against the far-right is a priority, in the US, and everywhere.

The reasons are simple.

In the UK the radical left has stood many times on College Green outside Parliament, in tens of thousands for anti-austerity protests. The internationalist left has joined million strong protests against Brexit which have ended in the same place. We have lobbied our MPs. We have been at meetings inside the Place of Westminster.

Outside London we have protested against government and council policies. Suffolk protests outside the County Council have ended with protestors attending the council meetings making the decisions to implement cuts. In Ipswich we have stood outside the Tory MP of the time, Ben Gummer. He invited us, trade unionists, including members of left socialist and Marxist groups, into his office. We had an amiable, if animated, discussion.

We are democrats.

We do not ‘storm’ Parliament: we want power, not endless protest.

Democracy in its present shape may be imperfect. We are not bound by tradition. The past is not a law code. But if some geezer is going to tell me that the vote I cast in the ballot box is less important than their protest, I would the first to object.

Step forward another approach.

Counterfire is a British groupuscule which believes in the ‘actuality of the revolution’.

It sees it itself as standing at the epicentre of world events, and is prepared to offer its advice to left wing movements across the world.

Their best known members are John Rees and Lindsey German, prominent in the People’s Assembly and the Stop the War Coalition. More recently Rees has emerged as a figure defending Julian Assange.

They have just published a post by Kevin Ovenden, who used to be George Galloway’s bagman. Ovendon advised the French left not to vote for President Macron against Marine Le Pen during the 2017 Presidential elections, He, graciously, was prepared to fight against the far-right, to the last French activist  if….Marine Le Pen took power.

Now he offers a strategy to the US left.

The US left must constitute itself as an independent pole, and not fall in behind attempts to rehabilitate business as usual, argues Kevin Ovenden.

He argues against putting trust in bourgeois institutions,

As with the last effort, this move comes not because Trump has violated the rights of racial minorities, launched drone assassinations abroad or attacked the civil liberties of ordinary Americans. It is because he has tampered with the ruling class settlement – undermining US alliances abroad (Russiagate) and authorising a riot at what they call “the temple of US Democracy” on Capitol Hill.

Many on the US radical left have been quick to point out that this “sacred place” was built upon slave labour, sustained by robbery of US workers enforced frequently by extreme violence, and is the cockpit of projecting big power interests against weaker countries.

In other words, the Capitol is hardly worth a piece of piss its defence.

This is his answer,

A left based upon an insurgent politics and mass activity, capable of changing the overall political constellation.

We should all wish our friends in the Belly of the Beast the very best and do what we can to help. The biggest part of that is acting wherever we are to construct our own insurgent left in mass movements of resistance that are not contained by the old politics.


Not having the gumption to offer advice to the US left in general, I will give an opinion on this type: ignore him and Counterfire.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm