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Factionalism in the time of Coronavirus, Part 2: Counterfire.

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About - Counterfire

Why Indeed Should Anybody Join Them?

Counterfire, for those who do not know, is the principal force in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the People’s Assembly (just about the only group left doing anything in the latter).

They, like the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), have a close relationship with the former Labour leader through the StWC and with Andrew Murray, his former adviser, the  UNITE Chief of Staff, a member of the CPB until 2016. Lindsey German, leading Counterfire member, is the Convenor of the Coalition. Her partner, John Rees, an admirer of György Lukács and the ‘actuality of the revolution’, has been heavily involved in the leadership of the People’s Assembly (Against Austerity).

This is the latest event from the StWC.

IMAGETEXT

Many people on the left are very critical of the StWC, notably for its failure to show real solidarity with those oppressed and murdered by the Assad’s regime in Syria.

They say that that the Coalition has shown no sign of supporting what democratic position there is, and that it’s failure to stand, clearly, with the Kurds fighting the Daesh genociders was unforgivable.

Starmer.

How are Counterfire bearing up after the General Election, a new Labour leader, and the Coronavirus pandemic?

Recently German has been writing – sometimes  useful – articles on the government’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.

A failed government in a failed system – weekly briefing

With Britain having one of the worst records on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, you might think some caution, humility and even a change of direction might be in order. But as the government stumbles from one failure to another it seems both incapable and unwilling to change course.

But let’s not forget the political stand they have towards the Labour Party.

German also states the following,

So it is very often up to working people themselves to defend conditions – and that means unions. They have many faults – they are often slow and cautious, marked by years of defeat and legal restriction. Their leaders are also content very often to negotiate rather than take more militant action. Their ties to Labour lead them to further caution, and this is likely to get worse under Keir Starmer’s leadership. 

In February the revolutionary socialist groupuscule  instructed the left,

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

If Keir Starmer were to win, he would take Labour back to the centre-ground that proved so disastrous for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and social democracy across Europe and beyond. He is no friend of the left and no committed socialist should vote for him.

This is how, in April,  they greeted the arrival of Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s deadly crusade: supporting big business and undermining unions – CounterBlast 15 April

This morning the new Labour leader Keir Starmer used an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme to urge the government to provide an exit strategy for the lockdown this week and suggested that schools should be among the first to go back.

It is a signal to the establishment and big business that they can trust Starmer to look out for their interests. And it’s deadly for working-class people.

Starmer’s intervention can only strengthen the government in its desire to return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. No wonder Boris Johnson was so keen to invite him to government meetings – a ‘privilege’ denied of course to Jeremy Corbyn.

By May this had become:

Starmer’s foreign policy and the spirit of Blairism

Blair’s foreign policy represented a ruthless reaffirmation of this Labour tradition as the West’s ambitions expanded in the wake of the Cold War and Russia’s collapse as an imperial power of global weight. Corbyn offered a break with this tradition, inspiring many, but incurring the wrath of the establishment both inside and outside the Party. Starmer now seeks to expunge the very memory of this break. Guided by the spirit of Blairism, his foreign policy is certain to be one the Foreign Office will be only too gratified to call its own.

The hard-line pro-Brexit group has been gloating at the EU’s difficulties.

Covid-19, the crisis and the European ideal

As Europe reels from being the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EU is creaking at the seams and may not recover, argues Martin Hall.

Leninism.

German has the merit of  being open about her Leninist politics.

This is an example (April 21st).

The Dilemmas of Lenin

Written to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, Tariq Ali’s book also speaks to those of us involved in contemporary politics here in Britain. A new politics has been unleashed with the electoral advances of Jeremy Corbyn and widespread revulsion at the consequences of neoliberalism, epitomised most strongly by the Grenfell Tower disaster. This era is opening up a new interest in political discussion, and with it a real thirst to know how the left can achieve its aims against the vested interests of the few, aims which cannot be achieved through parliamentary legislation but will require the systematic transformation of society.

In this debate, people will return to past experiences of working-class history, including the Russian revolution – which changed the history of the twentieth century – and to the ideas of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. In doing so they will hopefully see past the distortions on both right and left which have so obscured and sometimes vilified that history, and see the incredibly brave, prescient and committed politics which made Russia the powerhouse of revolution.

It is hard to see what kind of role Counterfire will have in the coming months.

Serious articles, and some interventions around the pandemic, enter a crowded field.

Their political moment has passed.

There is not going to be a new Corbyn in the foreseeable future.

The role of opposition to Starmer inside the Labour Party is already taken by other small groups like the LRC and he cartel in “For a Broad Left Network“, some of whose members are not known to be friendly towards Countefire.

They have nothing to say about the fight in Momentum between Forward and Renewal factions,not to mention pro-European Momentum Internationalists. (1)

Finally we note that Counterfire has not responded to the CPB’s call for a new Popular Front involving the People’s Assembly.

*******

More on this: Undemocratic, backroom politics. Sacha Ismael. 

May the 18th.

A new grouping, Forward Momentum, is in conflict with those who run the Momentum office (which means, in Momentum as currently constituted, run the organisation). The office people seem to be supporting a counter-initiative, Momentum Renewal. Both will run candidates in the imminent National Coordinating Group elections.

 

Pro-Brexit Left accuses “dumb centrist” anti-Brexit Keir Starmer of Responsibility for Labour Defeat.

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Image result for keir starmer People'sVote

Dolchstoßlegende: Labour stabbed in the back by its anti-Brexit membership.

A couple of weeks ago the Morning Star published this assertion,

…in my view Starmer doesn’t seem electable at all — with his anti-Brexit views I don’t think he has a hope in hell of winning back our heartlands.

It was Starmer who was at the heart of our Brexit volte-face between 2017 and 2019, the biggest reason we lost 2.5 million votes. He has done nothing to own this calamity of the highest order and doesn’t seem to be able to accept his huge role in it. If he can’t see the problem how on earth can he try to put it right?

The answer is not Sir Keir Starmer

The author, Rick Evans, is apparently a Labour Party activist linked the ‘Red Labour’.

These are his politics:

But the claim that Labour lost the election because of Starmer is not an isolated one.

The pro-Brexit Counterfire makes the same charge,

Labour lost Leave constituencies because it became a Remain party, with Starmer and others mounting pressure on the party leadership to support a second referendum, and stating that they would campaign for Remain regardless of what was in any prospective Labour deal.

Starmer argued that this was the path to victory for Labour. In reality, it was a disastrous approach that alienated traditional Labour voters and drove them to the Tories. It’s difficult to defend Starmer’s leadership credentials when he was behind such a great miscalculation.

No socialist should vote for Keir Starmer

It looks as if the former supporters of George Galloway’s Respect Party are preparing for possible defeat and a return to their political isolation.

This is their more recent description of Starmer’s politics:

Starmer sides with Trump against Assange: expect more of the same if he’s leader

….unquestioning loyalty to the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic. But they can also expect Sir Keir to be a dumb centrist who will be out manoeuvred by the Tories…

Apart from Counterfire mocking the mute,  this is the kind of catch-all rhetoric we can expect from their side in weeks to come.

At is core is a new  Dolchstoßlegende, that Starmer stabbed Labour in the back by supporting the massive protests against Brexit.

It has equally expressed in an intellectual version.

New Left Review Editor and Brexiteer, Susan Watkins imagines, with the blessing of hindsight, that Labour could have let Brexit pass under Boris Johnson,

Placing the Labour leadership candidate within the “Remainer elite” who “betrayed” the working class she suggests that a better way would have been to follow the wiles of Harold Wilson and allow Labour MP’s to back the Tories and ignore the decisions of their Party Conferences.

The Parliamentary Party, acting alone (without reference to democratically agreed policy on the ‘tests’ on an acceptable Brexit deal, and favouring the option a Second Referendum), could, by

…giving Labour mps a free vote on Brexit legislation in 2019, ‘according to their conscience’, as Harold Wilson had done on the divisive 1975 referendum on the uk’s entry into the Common Market. With the ‘northern group’ voting for the bill and two dozen Labour abstentions, Johnson would have been denied the chance to make electoral hay out of the obstruction of Brexit, and the prospect of combating a much weaker Tory administration would have lain ahead at the next election. A Labour government could then have fought for an open immigration policy, or its own recalibration of the eu’s ‘four freedoms’.

Britian’s Decade  of Crisis Editorial Susan Watkins.

Lexit Left’s Responsibility for Defeat.

In reality the Lexit left share in the responsibility for Labour’s defeat: they sided with the hard right in voting for Leave, and encouraged the illusion that there was a “People’s Brexit’ waiting to emerge from the break with the EU. That is, they encouraged the very pro-Brexit feeling that Remainers like Starmer are alleged to have ignored, and let the red to blue switch-overs with a ready-made justification for their vote.

Not only did an alternative socialist Brexit not happen, it could not happen.

The Brexit project was part of the very hard-right, national neoliberalism, aligned with the “‘outward-orientation’ ” of sections of capital, “in the era of bubblenomics”, which was, and is “above all Atlanticist. ”

With this as the backdrop, Watkin’s strategy had been ruled out by the domestic political landscape as condensed in the House of Commons.

The idea that Labour could have left pro-Brexit MP’s vote, en masse, for the Leave legislation, was dead in the early years of the 2017 May government.

The option that The NLR Editor and friends have dreamt up was, it’s becoming clear, was already not on the cards.

Mike Phipps, in a review of this book,  May at 10, by Anthony Seldon,  indicates why.

These are the relevant sections of the article:

Some Party activists have suggested that Labour should have voted for Brexit to get it out of the way so that the 2019 general election could have been about issues less divisive for Labour voters and members.

There are several problems with this analysis. First, to have called for a vote for May’s particular form of Brexit would have collaborated in creating the bonfire of workplace rights and environmental safeguards that would follow leaving the EU. Secondly, it would have split the party down the middle, with most members and MPs opposed to Brexit. Thirdly, with some Labour MPs already breaking the whip, any attempt to impose a hard Brexit on the parliamentary party would have provoked not just more defiance but possibly a challenge to the leadership, Fourthly, it was only in April 2019 that the May government indicated a preparedness to negotiate with Labour – but there was no real willingness to move towards Labour‘s proposal for a permanent customs union.

Worse, the government was by now falling to pieces. Seldon suggests that Labour’s front bench was in intransigent pre-election mode, but the reality was that the talks ground to a halt when May’s own departure was being briefed to the media, with no commitment that any agreement reached would be honoured by her successor.

Mike continues,

Should Labour have adopted a different position to the compromise it made with itself over Brexit?

Leavers say it should never have floated the idea of a second referendum, which indicated contempt for the 2016 verdict of the voters. Remainers say Labour should have come out for a People’s Vote earlier, pointing to the slump in the Labour vote in the 2019 EU parliamentary elections and the rise in support for Remain parties such as the Lib Dems and the Greens.

The debate will rumble on in relation to the 2019 general election, but two things should be borne in mind.

Firstly, Labour’s position on Brexit was not seen by voters as the principal reason for rejecting the party in 2019.

Secondly, whatever position Labour might have adopted, it would probably not have changed the course of events prior to the election, which were not controlled by the party’s leadership.

This are the standout points,

The assumption that if Labour had somehow got Brexit out of the way, it could have fought the general election on different terrain overlooks the obvious point that, with Brexit done, there may not have been an election in 2019 at all, or 2020 or 2021. Johnson gambled in 2019, but he would have preferred to call a general election when the polls could give the Tories a clearer lead.

True, it would not have been the ‘Brexit election’, but the mobilisation of nationalist sentiment and the weaponisation of the Labour leader’s patriotism are themes that the Tories have used repeatedly in the past and are still exploiting now post-election. We shouldn’t be surprised: the rise of authoritarian nationalist conservatism is a global phenomenon challenging social democratic parties across the world.

He concludes,

With hindsight, we can see we were a long way from that and much more political and practical preparation was necessary after 2017 to make it possible. Furthermore, the absence of industrial struggle or a more generalised upsurge against government policy over the last nine years should have told us that there was something fundamental missing in the combination of ingredients that might bring a socialist government to power. Instead, we suffered a colossal defeat – and one from which we have to learn lessons.

While the Lexiteers may have helped soften up opinion for the Tories their influence was far from decisive. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that, while it did have some effect (above all in letting convinced Labour turncoats with a ready excuse for their ballot), that, “Labour’s position on Brexit was not seen by voters as the principal reason for rejecting the party in 2019” Leadership is the most cited reason for not backing the Party.

Mike is also right to underline that Labour politicians of any side  were, a minority in parliament, able to determine the way the issue played out as the election agenda was set, “whatever position Labour might have adopted, it would probably not have changed the course of events prior to the election, which were not controlled by the party’s leadership.”

Brexit has not gone away, at least in Labour debate.

Starmer comes under fire from Long-Bailey and Nandy over Brexit

Guardian.

Labour leadership hustings saw frontrunner criticised for party’s ‘tone-deaf’ approach

Long-Bailey implicitly condemned Starmer’s Commons-based tactics against Theresa May’s minority government, saying: “Unfortunately, we focused a lot on what was happening within Westminster, and didn’t convey what we were trying to do to our community. And that led to a lack of trust.

“It took so many other things down with it. So in the election, when we should have been talking about jobs, aspiration, industry, what the future will look like, we were talking about Brexit and trying to justify our position, which was confusing.”

Speaking later in the event, Nandy said Labour’s problem with Brexit was that it “took all the wrong lessons from what the public were trying to tell us”.

She said: “Brexit was a real problem for us, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And the reason it was a problem was because our response was so utterly tone-deaf.”

The “public” were not one group. Labour, as a party of over 500,000 members is part of the public, so are those who filled the streets protesting against Brexit, mass currents of opinion and street activity, the latter the”movementists” of Counterfire ignore, or denigrate.

This drew a measured response,

…Starmer vehemently rejected this analysis, saying that “fairly or unfairly, rightly or wrongly”, Corbyn’s leadership was the number one issue on the doorstep, as well as what he called “manifesto overload”.

Starmer said: “Whether what was in the manifesto was right or wrong, there was too much. There was a tipping point, and it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad, because people didn’t believe we could deliver it.”

“And every team was talking about what was coming up on the doorstep, the big issues. And there was complete uniformity across the country; it was number one, the leadership. Fairly or unfairly, rightly or wrongly, anybody who was in that campaign knows that was the number one thing that came up. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying let’s be honest about it.

The second thing was Brexit, of course. But that came up differently. If you were campaigning in the Midlands, it came up in a particular way. If you were campaigning in Scotland, it came up in a completely different way. But it did come up, I accept that.

The third thing that came up – this is not me, this is the teams reporting to me – was the manifesto overload. Now, whether what was in the manifesto was right or wrong, there was too much. There was a tipping point, and it did not matter whether it was good or bad, because people did not believe we could deliver it. And once you got past that point, there was no coming back.

And I’m really sad to say, but in all honesty antisemitism came up … It came up as a values issue and as a competency issue.”

Exactly. 

 

Counterfire on “Post-Corbynism”, “Rebecca Long-Bailey is not continuity Corbyn enough” .

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Image result for the sea of faith arnold
Post-Corbynism. 

Labour in vain? – weekly briefing

Lindsey German, on “ Post Corbynism” .

The leader of the revolutionary socialist Counterfire is already retreating from Long-Bailey.

And what’s more, she has, in-between defensive remarks based on her own group’s unique standpoint, begun to talk sense.

The main thrust is to undermine the claim that Long-Bailey is the ‘real’ left candidate to lead Labour.

The problem for the left however is that Rebecca Long-Bailey is not continuity Corbyn enough. She advocates the use of nuclear weapons. She declared herself a Zionist at the Jewish Labour Movement hustings. And she has signed a statement over trans policies in Labour which contradicts the manifesto pledges, and which threatens to lead to a witch-hunt against some feminists. I understand the pressure that she is under, but we can see from the experience of Jeremy Corbyn himself over the past four years that giving in to pressure doesn’t mean it gets easier further on down the line.

Lindsey German may be wrong to highlight ‘Zionism’ as a be-all-and-end-it all issue.

She ignores the pressing issue of Syria. Many would like to see Labour leadership candidates confronted with the need to support the Kurdish fight and that of democrats against Assad and wider Middle East. Other democratic struggles, across the world, are pressing, from Hong Kong to South America.

Labour’s whole flawed foreign policy needs dropping.

As Rohini Hessman says,

The attempt by the Corbyn team to cover up the brutality of Russian airstrikes in Syria illustrates what I call their pseudo-anti-imperialism: opposition only to Western imperialisms while supporting non-Western imperialisms like Russian imperialism and Iranian regional imperialism, which share responsibility with brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad for over half a million dead and over half the population displaced in Syria.[17] Putin’s is a far-right regime which has provided funding and other support to neo-fascist parties throughout Europe,[18] and to far-right politicians – including Trump – in the rest of the world. Evidence has emerged that it has supported Boris Johnson too.[19] One reason why it has bombed Syrian civilians and democracy activists in support of Bashar al-Assad is to entrench its power in the Middle East; but another is to support its neo-fascist allies in Europe by giving them an ‘enemy’ to demonise, namely millions of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives.[20] It is disturbing that Corbyn’s team would want to cover up the crimes of such a regime; equally disturbing is the implicit contempt for Syrian working people struggling against unemployment, poverty and authoritarianism.

 It is important that the Labour left – and indeed all socialists – abandon the simplistic notion that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ which has been used to support anti-Western tyrants and imperialists, and take a consistent position in solidarity with all struggles against oppression and exploitation. They need to be able to deal with complexity; to understand that it is possible to oppose military assaults on Iran and sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians, and at the same time oppose the repressive, extreme right-wing Islamic regime; to acknowledge that prejudice against Jews is racist and antisemitic, but denying Palestinians the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also racist, and campaigning for those rights is not antisemitic.

German continues on Long-Bailey,

She will get the majority of the left’s votes, although some of those will go to Keir Starmer, who is tacking very much to the left at the moment. His support for Owen Smith back in 2016, his record at the DPP, his ultra-remain politics, are all on the back burner for the next month and a half. Lisa Nandy is the most right wing of the candidates and has already signalled retreat on nationalisation. All three of the remaining candidates have distanced themselves from Jeremy Corbyn in a number of ways, even though December was clearly a Brexit election and even though there are many signs that Labour’s policies were, and remain, popular.

This is where it get sticky.

The Brexit election…German means an election in which Counterfire backed Brexit, and,  with the help of a rag-bag of parties like the Communist Party of Britain, the SWP, left sovereigntists, ‘traditional’ Labour nationalists helped confuse politics by supporting an imaginary ‘People’s Brexit’.

‘Remain’ was the right policy for internationalists, the prefix “ultra” signifying Counterfire’s annoyance at the consistent and principled influence on the left and the Labour Party of groups like Another Europe is Possible.

German opines further on Labour’s  popular policies,

Equally fanciful is the idea that the left-wing policies put forward by Corbyn were unpopular. Indeed if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we should look at the way in which Johnson’s government is scooping up a number of these policies and claiming them as its own. We’ve already had the nationalisation of Northern Rail, and rail nationalisation is likely to go much further. Now Johnson has declared massive spending on bus services, something that Corbyn was ridiculed over just a couple of months ago.

As has been said time and time again, such clear policies were swamped in the sheer volume of announcements the Labour Party put out.

The faith in Corbyn, a man with many merits, but not a charismatic leader for most of the population, is disintegrating.

Is this one answer?

Rebecca Long-Bailey would offer Jeremy Corbyn a place in her shadow Cabinet

The need to remove the failed team, the “corridor cabal”  that botched an already hard election battle, and to build a united Labour party, would suggest otherwise.

One threat has emerged.

On trans issues German says,

It should be possible for socialists to discuss these issues and reach a position which opposes all oppression. The trans debate in the Labour Party is in danger of ending up in a bad place if it does not do this. Some of the pledges put out by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights are in my view unacceptable, especially those calling organisations like Woman’s Place UK transphobic, and calling for expulsions of transphobes (presumably including members of WPUK). What I find most worrying here is that women who are good socialists are being branded as transphobes because they have a different perspective on women’s rights and trans rights, and that there are repeated moves to close down this discussion. This is being done in an authoritarian manner through threatening expulsion. We have already seen protests at WPUK meetings, attempts at no platforming women such as historian Selena Todd, and attempts to sack women who disagree.

This leads to a situation where it is impossible to move the debate forward. Labour’s manifesto called for full support for trans rights, but also for retention of rights relating to women as a sex under the 2010 Equality Act. Both Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey seem to have dropped this approach in favour of signing the pledge. Laura Pidcock’s eminently sensible call for discussion led to a stream of abuse directed at her. It really has to stop.

For a very different view (this Blog tends to agree with German on this issue but this is an important, heartfelt, article) see:

What’s Wrong With Woman’s Place?

There have been few more bitter struggles on the left in recent years than the conflict between those who support trans inclusion and those who style themselves as Gender Critical and refuse to accept that trans people should be socially or legally treated as their aquired gender.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2020 at 12:43 pm

The Brexit Left Hails, “the positive potential of a departure from the EU.”

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Daily Express 1 February 2020

Morning Star Sees “Positive Potential” in Brexit.

The Morning Star, wholly independent of the Communist Party of Britain and owned by the Co-Op, this week hailed the “positive potential” of Brexit Day.

Editorial.

The Morning Star claims that Labour ‘handed control’ of the Brexit process ” to enemies of the working class in Westminster and Brussels” by inflicting “defeats on the government”.

In the New Era,

Now Brexit is happening, Labour urgently needs to do what it should have done in 2016, the essence of which was actually outlined by Corbyn in 2018: to recognise the positive potential of a departure from the EU.

These include expanding public ownership without worrying about the strictures of the Lisbon Treaty, or the “rights” of parasitical firms exploiting our public services for profit; to plan economic development sustainably, intervening to clean and green our economy without allowing transnational companies a “fair playing field” on which to ruin our planet; rewriting public procurement rules so contracts are allocated based on public interest and the welfare of workers and users.

For the moment, none of this is on the table. Brexit is an opportunity, because it removes certain treaties and regulations which are barriers to a socialist transformation of society.

But every silver-lined opportunity has a cloud,

But it is no more than an opportunity. It has not liberated anyone. Britain has elected a hard-right government which is already breaking promises to end austerity and will wage ruthless war on our communities and our workforces. It is a pro-imperialist government aligned as slavishly to an aggressive White House as was Tony Blair’s.

Some on the left will blame all this on Brexit. Actually it marks a continuation of the policies of the past four decades rather than a departure from them. Labour can keep mourning the EU, keep pleading for total alignment with all its anti-worker treaties and court rulings, keep reproaching people for failing to understand what we could lose rather than inspiring them with a vision of what we can win.

Or it can move on.

And agree with the pro-Leave Morning Star.

By accepting the Boris consensus on Brexit we can finally, by leaps and bounds, engage in the real struggle. That is,

 it accepts we have left and throws itself into the fight for a better future.

Another editorial blames faith in the EU for a downturn in workers’ struggles,

A misplaced faith in the EU to protect workers’ rights has seen energies misdirected into lobbying on behalf of the supranational organisation rather than building a movement formidable enough to defend and extend rights.

The EU has prevented Britain from defending the national working class.

In fact EU rules have acted to prevent governments keeping manufacturing and construction contracts in the country to protect jobs.

The same applies to workers’ rights. Trade unions in particular have been systematically stripped of their rights over the past 40 years.

The national working class can only look to national struggles to fight for its rights.

One welcome result of Britain’s departure should therefore be abandoning the myth — laughable given the momentous struggle against attacks on pension rights currently raging in France — that the labour movement can look to the EU for protection. Workers’ rights can only be secured by the working class itself.

Only working-class action can defend workers’ rights

You wonder why the labour movement bothers with any legislation or tries to get MPs elected.

Perhaps the Morning Star will extend the CPB’s call to Boycott Labour and abstain in last year’s European Elections to the next British General Election.

Counterfire, meanwhile has held its conference.

Corbynism, socialists and the resistance – Counterfire’s conference

The revolutionary socialist organisation resolved to back Rebecca Long-Bailey in the Labour leadership contest.

In prose which only they have the secret of the groupuscule declares,

Counterfire is a revolutionary socialist organisation that differs with those in Labour about whether the party can be won to socialism and whether socialism can be attained through Parliament. Nevertheless, we were at the forefront of defending and encouraging the Corbyn project, while being fraternally critical when neccessary (sic).

They instruct,

Socialists in Labour should vote for Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Burgon in the current elections, it will be a boost to the entire left if left-wing candidates win the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labour Party. But the loss of the election has strengthened the right and Corbyn’s resignation is likely to lead to retreats, particularly on foreign policy issues. Increasingly the focus for socialists ought to be outside electoral politics.

On Brexit they declare,

That Brexit still represents an opportunity for rupture with Europe’s capitalist institutions and only makes sense from the left. There is no better deal for capital than the one it currently has.

Conference resolves:

In the context of the end of Corbynism and the inevitable moving rightwards of the Labour Party, to continue making the arguments within the left that making a break with the institutions of the EU is a necessary step on the road to socialism.

Agreeing with their national comrades in the Morning Star Martin Hall writes on Brexit Day that  “future is up for grabs”, to catch it the left must,

Understand that a rupture with the current model of capitalism in order to rebalance capital and labour in favour of the latter can only be achieved outside the EU.

Leaving the EU: this is about what sort of society we want – and it isn’t Johnson’s

Try wishing away this:

Image may contain: one or more people and crowd

Morning Star Puffs Long Bailey as Counterfire Attacks “Another Europe is Possible clique”.

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John Rees: Another Europe is Possible clique, Starmer and John McDonnell,  Responsible for Labour Defeat.

In today’s Editorial the Morning Star, wholly owned by the Co-op and independent of the Communist Party of Britain, argues for ‘left unity’ against any part of the left which opposes their own pro-Brexit line.

Left unity and the Labour leadership contest

The  response to Rebecca Long Bailey’s clearest pitch yet to succeed Jeremy Corbyn at the helm of the Labour Party shows that the contest is going to be difficult to navigate — not just for the candidates, but more importantly for the socialist left.

The Editorial does not pull its punches.

It’s plausible to see the most vocally pro-Remain shadow cabinet members as having accepted positions under Corbyn because they saw it as the best way to shift Labour to a pro-Remain position.

It has praise for Long Bailey but cautiously refrains from mentioning a single reason why the left criticise her.

Long Bailey’s first intervention in the race lays down a number of markers, in support for radical economic change and the crucial importance of trade unionism, which show she does not intend to accommodate to the status quo.

Watch  out the saboteurs are about…

It also holds out hope that the role of anti-socialist MPs in sabotaging the Corbyn project has been noted, pledging to democratise the Labour Party.

The the wrecking centre has a name and it is…..

But advocating unity cannot become an excuse to avoid the hard questions. The left has frequently pulled its punches in the name of unity since 2015, whether over reselection or in the battles over Brexit where elite-funded campaigns such as the People’s Vote were able to exercise a huge and distorting influence on Labour, dragging it towards a liberal accommodation with market principles and resulting in the absurd contradiction where the party of the organised working class was demanding that the Conservatives do more to ensure the frictionless movement of capital and goods across borders free of the threat of economic policy being changed by elected governments.

The Editorial  concludes that the working class must be vigilant!

That the interests of working-class people and those of capitalists are diametrically opposed.

A movement which forgets that, which cites Bank of England and big business concerns to oppose popular sovereignty, cannot authentically speak or fight for workers. That truth will need articulating as Labour picks its next leader.

Unpicking this ‘articulation’ this means than anybody who is an a pro-European internationalist should watch out!

The leader of the groupuscule Counterfire is another one who fancies he is a player in Labour Politics.

He is somewhat clearer not limiting his ire at the People’s Vote, but extending it to the internationalist left as a whole.

Another struggle is possible

Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived weakness as a leader is partly related to the issue of Brexit, although actually his stubborn insistence on retreating as slowly as he felt he could from the 2017 position of respecting the Leave vote speaks to the opposite case.

The forces ranged against him on this issue, from Sir Keir Starmer to John McDonnell, are actually to blame for the debacle. They and the Another Europe is Possible clique ran a uniquely unsuccessful campaign whose only practical effect is to have forced Labour into a position which materially assisted in its election defeat.

..

The  sage concluded with swipes against two Labour leadership contenders.

Sir Keir Starmer is the real candidate of the right, since they know the ridiculous Jess Philips is not a realistic option. He, and Emily Thornberry, are the architects of the Remain policy that wrecked Labour’s chances in this election. Both are mainstream economically and Trident/NATO Atlanticists…which is entirely consistent with a bit of Democrat-inspired Trump baiting.

Clive Lewis is an even more enthusiastic NATO supporter, attempting to steer left by backing a reselection scheme which won’t get past a first PLP meeting.

Many people will be hoping that this sectarian rant by Galloway’s old best friend mark a welcome return to the margins of politics for Counterfire.

His own groupuscule’s responsibility for encouraging illusions in Brexit, in their imaginary “People’s Brexit”,  should be a warning about indulging illusions that led to the only actually existing Brexit, the right-wing Brexit.

The Morning Star  is a more power visibly still a player, but one suspects that influence is bleeding away from its nationalist camp.

Seriously, who is going to back “progressive nationalism”?

Written by Andrew Coates

December 31, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Labour Remainers “Main reason for Labour’s Low Standing in Polls” – Counterfire Says Time to “take on” Johnson in Election.

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Old Slogan, New Times?

The dawn of Christmas Day found London laid out in a shroud of snow. Like a body wasted by diseases that had triumphed over it at last, London lay stark and still now, beneath a sky that was as the closed leaden shell of a coffin. It was what is called an old-fashioned Christmas.

ENDEAVOUR By J*HN G*LSW*RTHY.  (A CHRISTMAS GARLAND  woven by MAX BEERBOHM)

Self-identifying Revolutionary Socialist Lindsey German is a leading figure from Counterfire. This split from the Socialist Workers Party was clsoely involved in George Galloway’s Respect Party. At present it  runs what’s left of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. At present the groupuscule is  believed to cooperate extensively with the Morning Star, the daily organ of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB).

Every week she present the Alternative View (now re-titled Weekly Briefing) giving advice to the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

In the past this often included her organisation’s enthusiasm for a People’s Brexit.

The why and what of a People’s Brexit (Feburary 2018)

Labour should stick with its People’s Brexit strategy argues John Rees, but it has to make it much clearer what this means in practice

More recently Counterfire has been prominent in organising calls for a General Election.

This accelerated during the protests against Boris Johnson’s ‘proroguing’ coup.

Older readers may recall that they held a rally at the beginning of Sepmtber. It was starred by the presence of Tarqi Ali and Eddie Dempsy, and attended by dozens if not a couple of thousand. Many of those there carried EU flags,  Remain, Another Europe Is Possible and Socialist Worker/Stand up to Racism placards, but a careful spotter will have notice a few People’s Assembly posters.

German’s old comrades in Socialist Worker drew this conclusion from the events in parliament itself,

Defeat for Johnson should clear way to a general election Sadie Robinson and Charlie Kimber.

To their delight a  lot of people on the Rally platform agreed with Socialist Worker.

Many speakers on the platform took care to say that, whether people voted Leave or Remain in the referendum, we should unite against the Tories.

Writer Tariq Ali said, “People who voted to leave are not all racists. Many of them did it for good reasons to give the establishment a kick in the bum. They were fed up of neoliberalism.”

He said he was for a general election “the sooner the better”

Now, with the prospect of a Christmas season election coming into view those backing an immediate General Election are still there.

With Tariq Ali’s  moral authority ringing in her mind German writes today,

‘Delays have dangerous ends’ – weekly briefing

Jonson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill has passed its second reading, but he lost the timetable on the bill so will now face lots of scrutiny. Labour wants to prevent it going through. It is right to do so – recent Financial Times revelations showed the intention is to weaken workers’ rights following the deal. The obvious way of doing so would be to demand an election immediately – before Johnson’s 12th December date, which gives him more time to progress the deal.

Unlike the CPB/Morning Star German does not, critically or otherwise, support the present Withdrawal Bill.

With the help perhaps of the Financial Times that is.

Yet she still calls for an election on Johnson’s terms.

As Shakespeare says, ‘delays have dangerous ends’. The refusal by Labour to seize the opportunity of an election will cost it dear, especially since the Lib Dems are now tabling an amendment to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to have an election on December 9th, backed by the SNP. Labour, I would have thought, will have no choice but to back this – even if it doesn’t, the bill would pass on a simple majority, so starting an election campaign with Labour as the only party voting against it. To be trumped on democracy issues by the Tories and their junior partners is not a good look.

The problem for the Parliamentary Labour Party is that it doesn’t want to lose an election – with the possibility of MPs losing their seats – but it even less wants to win with Corbyn as leader. So delay is the tactic, hoping against hope for a second referendum, trying to repeatedly extend the deadlines from the EU, and probably launching another major attack on Corbyn’s leadership in the new year.

In other words, the Parliamentary Labour Party both wants to win, and to lose…

Worse, they want to stop Brexit!

Who is blame for the prospect of a poor polling?

The backer of a People’s Brexit is in no doubt.

The continuity Remain policy which was forced on Corbyn earlier this year is the main reason for Labour’s low standing in the polls. We were told months ago that Labour had to fully embrace a Remain position in order to win back those who abandoned them in the Euro elections. Labour has agreed to a second referendum with a Remain option on the ballot paper. Luckily delegates at last month’s conference had more sense than to go even further down the Keir Starmer road. That’s more than can be said for those members of the shadow cabinet who posed on the stage at the People’s Vote march.

And the result? Labour continues to lag in the polls, with three published at the weekend showing the Tories at least 10 points ahead of Labour. The policy certainly isn’t working vote wise.

McDonnell, Starmer and Abbott hang your heads in shame!

Rectifying the general line is still possible!

Instead of acknowledging this and trying to find ways to rectify it, Labour is compounding this mistake with one which may turn out to be even greater – running scared of a general election. And of course the two questions are linked.

German continues her attack on Labour by suggesting that the Remain camp, not the Labour MP’s who actually voted for Johnson’s withdrawal deal, are out of order.

Labour’s abandonment of those who voted Leave in 2016 has been led by those for whom membership of the EU is much more important than any of the class issues that face actual and potential Labour voters. They are happy to join in a cross-class alliance with Remain Tories, yellow Tory Lib Dems and Blairites who have left Labour. They remain horrified of a Corbyn government and would be much happier in a national government of the sort they have been touting for months.

She concludes,

 we have to be confident that if Labour builds on and strengthens its 2017 manifesto, if it mobilises its 500,000 members and a much wider number of supporters in a confident and radical way, then it can shift the votes in its direction. If it gets accused of denying the people a vote – which is what Johnson is saying – it will look shifty and scared, and deservedly so in many cases.

Alas, the plea to Labour Remainers appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

This Blog, like many in the Labour Party, remains intensely sceptical about backing a December election, set on Johnson’s terms.

It is not just a No Deal Brexit we are against, but Brexit full stop.

Other reasons are too obvious to list.

But, good news for internationalists:

Cheer up ! From the Morning Star bunker we hear today,

The City of London is a key nexus of imperialism’s nervous system, which is why the prospect of a Stop the War Coalition-supporting premier in Britain with a personal connection to Latin America’s anti-imperialist leaders is the cause of so much alarm in ruling class circles.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 28, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Brexit Bolsheviks of Counterfire Join Galloway and Skwawkbox Attack on John McDonnell’s “Flirtation with the Right.

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Image result for galloway and john rees

Counterfire  Cadres with an Old Friend.

And perhaps finds a new one:

A senior Labour source told the SKWAWKBOX:

They want to rig the referendum and disenfranchise four million Labour leave voters by forcing them to choose between Boris Johnson’s bad deal and remain, instead of the credible deal that Conference agreed only last month – not to mention millions of other sensible leave voters who want to leave on decent terms.

And of course, it’s a slap in the face for the millions of Labour and union members who voted at Conference to back Jeremy’s plan. They’ve boxed Jeremy in and isolated him from his team – and now this.

Skwawkbox now recommends this list of heroes, including Kate Hoey, to stop the rot,

Coming to the rescue?

In March this year, the Commons voted on a motion to hold a new Brexit referendum – and it was heavily defeated. If Labour’s largely centrist remainers, emboldened by the power grab in ‘LOTO’ last week, try to force a referendum on Boris Johnson’s bad deal, the Labour MPs who voted to defeat the March motion – many of whom then wrote to Corbyn urging him to reject a divisive referendum – are:

  • Kevin Barron
  • Ronnie Campbell
  • Sarah Champion
  • Rosie Cooper
  • Jon Cruddas
  • Jim Fitzpatrick
  • Caroline Flint
  • Yvonne Fovargue
  • Stephen Hepburn
  • Mike Hill
  • Kate Hoey
  • Dan Jarvis
  • Helen Jones
  • Kevan Jones
  • Emma Lewell-Buck
  • Justin Madders
  • Grahame Morris
  • Melanie Onn
  • Stephanie Peacock
  • Dennis Skinner
  • Ruth Smeeth
  • Laura Smith
  • Gareth Snell
  • John Spellar
  • Graham Stringer
  • Derek Twigg
  • Tracy Brabin
  • Julie Cooper
  • Judith Cummins
  • Gloria De Piero
  • Chris Evans
  • Mary Glindon
  • Andrew Gwynne
  • Carolyn Harris
  • Mike Kane
  • Stephen Kinnock
  • Ian Lavery
  • Liz McInnes
  • Jim McMahon
  • Ian Mearns
  • Lisa Nandy
  • Jo Platt
  • Paula Sheriff
  • Jon Trickett

Counterfire  joins the anti-McDonnell fray:

With friends like this: John McDonnell’s flirtation with the right is damaging and inexcusable

The non-Labour groupuscule  Counterfire, which controls the Stop the War Coalition and the People’s Assembly, writes,

The article begins with an account of the Labour position on Brexit, which few understand, and certainly not those who’ve tried to sell it to the public.

But bear in mind, Coutnerfire supported Brexit, seeing as an opportunity to turn the slogan “take back control” into a mass progressive movement.

They repeated this during this year’s Labour conference,

Labour need to distance themselves now and go into the coming election arguing for a Brexit in the interests of working people. Only by doing that can it free up space to talk about everything else.

Labour’s Brexit slide September 2019.

Keep focused on that. Beneath the dripping with contempt sentences, that all the comments on McDonnell’s conciliatory remarks about Alastair Campbell is this opinion,

Thankfully the recent Labour conference rejected proposals to push the party even further down a divisive and high-risk ‘Full Remain’ path.

Writes the Full Brexit Bolshevik Alex Snowden.

The piece continues,

McDonnell failed to articulate the compromise position adopted at Conference, undermining it by suggesting that a referendum happening before a general election is a real possibility. This is yet another example of the policy-by-media approach perfected by his shadow cabinet colleagues Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer, both of whom are known for exerting political pressure via comments during media appearances, irrespective of what Corbyn might be saying or what Labour conference may have voted for.

The Brexit Bolsheviks go in for the kill,

Such rhetoric has the effect of downplaying the importance and urgency of a general election. Meanwhile, the status of Brexit is enhanced: suggesting that a referendum could take precedence over an election reinforces the centrality of Brexit to British politics.

Whatever McDonnell’s intentions might be, that strengthens the forces of liberal centrism (embodied by Campbell) against a Left that seeks to overcome Brexit divisions in favour of class politics and a left-wing platform. It emboldens Boris Johnson and the Tories who want to trap Labour in a narrative that cynically pits Johnson as the people’s champion, upholding the democratic will, against an obstructive Remainer parliament.

One can only imagine McDonnell’s reaction to the patronising conclusion,

McDonnell has made important contributions to the renaissance of socialist politics in recent years, but his latest interventions point in the wrong direction. It’s time to get back on track.

These are the forces, hostile to socialist internationalism, that Counterfire has joined.