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Posts Tagged ‘Counterfire

Left Media Review, Labour, Brexit, Tories and the aftermath of the Peterborough By-Election.

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front page of the guardian

Brexit Can’t Be Wished Away by Calls for Labour ‘Unity’ around pro-Brexit Policy.

The Morning Star was one of the first off the block to respond to the Peterborough result.

Labour unity around their pro-Brexit policy was, their Editorial on Saturday asserted,  the only basis for electoral victory.

Tory disunity is Labour’s opportunity. But it must take it

Jeremy Corbyn’s determination that the party must stand for working-class unity and move beyond the referendum’s divisions stands vindicated.

….

… Labour’s chances of forming the next government rest on finding a principled basis for uniting the labour movement with and within the party that best represents its diversity.

The only credible basis for such unity lies in convincing a decisive majority of voters, most particularly Labour’s core constituency of skilled and lesser skilled workers, that Corbyn meant it when he said Labour would respect the referendum result.

A wide spectrum of opinion in the party understands this simple truth. It needs to become a decisive majority.

Socialist Appeal , which now poses as a leading voice on the Labour left,  told everybody who dissented to shut up:

Labour victory in Peterborough silences the cynics

The began with the spotlight on the ‘Blairites’ and the Jewish Labour Movement’s “plan”.

The plan was that Corbyn was to take the blame for allowing a hard-right, hard-Brexiteer MP to enter Westminster, having already overseen a tepid performance in the recent local elections and a poor one in the Euros.

Yet,

The Blairites, for their part, were more bitterly disappointed than anyone. Labour’s temerity to win in Peterborough represented a major setback for all their hard work to sabotage the party and finally get rid of Corbyn.

They went onto say this,

Brexit was supposed to be the ultimate expression of this cultural divide, with people culturally identifying with their stance on the EU to a far greater degree than any social class. The Euro elections were seen to confirm this, with the Brexit Party and strongly-remain Lib Dems gaining at the Tories’ and Labour’s expense.

Many on the left of the Labour Party (including so-called socialists like Owen Jones and Paul Mason) bought into this propaganda.

Despairing at the rise of the Brexit Party, which had apparently lulled the working class under the spell of racism and nationalism, these pessimists and sceptics concluded that Leave constituencies like Peterborough were a lost cause, and that Corbyn had to embrace a second referendum to at least hold onto his middle-class Remainers.

Who cares what the “middle class” think and vote, surely the sturdy working class would see the wool being pulled over their eyes.

As apparently they could

However, the 2017 general election and the Peterborough by-election both show that class-based demands can bridge the Brexit gulf. The by-election also proves that the European election results are not a good measure of Labour’s potential for success in a general election. The party’s vote share in the by-election was up 14 percent compared to the EU elections last month.

That is, when Labour came behind the Liberal Democrats…

This demonstrates that plenty of people who voted for other parties over Europe would return to Labour in a general election – as long as it runs on a bold, anti-austerity programme.

Apparently,

It has also vindicated Corbyn’s refusal to back a second referendum. It is very possible the result might have been different had the party gone down this route. Between this victory, Corbyn’s address at the Trump demo, and the newly launched tour of public rallies (‘Labour Roots’), there is the potential to take the initiative back to the grassroots.

After the Peterborough result, Corbyn challenged the Tories to “bring on” a general election. “We’re ready”, he said.

It is imperative this is accomplished as soon as possible, taking full advantage of the Tories’ internal crisis, and in order to avoid being bogged in the Brexit myre.

John Rees from the revolutionary socialist Counterfire is less sure.

He observes that, “concerns about a new coup” against Corbyn, “have persisted”

Writing yesterday the leader of a successful, several thousand strong march to demand a general election earlier this year he says,

 the issue of remaining in the European Union and of a second referendum which may prove even more consequential.

He has this stark warning against plotters,

the danger in this comes less from increasingly discredited figures like Tom Watson and those who support him in this argument such as former revolutionary socialist Paul Mason, who now calls for the sacking of Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s trusted head of communications and strategy.

It comes rather from members of the shadow cabinet who, although they were not part of the original Corbyn left, and although they share little of Corbyn’s radicalism, have been seen as loyal to Corbyn because they have observed the discipline of being Shadow Cabinet members.

Rees wants Labour to demand a People’s Brexit,

It would be better if Labour did not break faith with working-class Leave voters, and returned to the policy of a People’s Brexit, silently and stupidly retired before it had the chance to pull together both those who voted Remain but respected the referendum result and those who voted Leave.

How the left can take the initiative

A contrasting approach is taken by Socialist Resistance.

Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry are correct on Brexit

The article, which is important and should be read in full, begins,

The Corbyn project is in crisis, writes Alan Davies. The EU elections results were a disaster for Labour, brought about by a major failure by the Corbyn leadership. It was an election that Labour could have won and within the terms of the policy agreed by conference last year, but this policy was repeatedly watered down by the front bench.

This is a crisis that is a direct threat to the most important development ever on the left in Britain in modern times; the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party, which has opened up a real prospect of a left anti-austerity government at a time when world politics is moving to the right. That prospect is still there but the Labour leadership’s stance on Brexit, the issue that defines politics in Britain at the present time, is going to have to change.

..

Had Labour placed itself at the head of the growing anti-Brexit movement the result could have been very different. Overall, the European election vote was pro-remain with pro-remain at 40.3%. and hard Brexit at 34.9%. The Brexit party result was no surprise. It is not a new party as Farage claims but UKIP mark 2. UKIP polled 28%in the last EU election and this transferred to Brexit with some additional votes mostly from the Tories.

Although Labour went on to win the Peterborough by-election – which was important in that it denied momentum to the Brexit Party at this point – it did so on a reduced vote and because the Brexit vote was split (equally according to John Curtice) between the Brexit party and the Tories and reflected the same underlying situation. The Labour candidate, Lisa Forbes, who beat the Brexit party by just 683 votes, argued that her campaign had been successful because it had ignored Brexit and concentrated on local issues. This is a seriously wrong analysis that has been widely accepted on the Labour left and in particular by Momentum.

Davis continues,

The danger with this fence sitting is that it is based on avoiding crucial issues. On the one hand, the further away we get from what was already an undemocratic referendum – in that EU citizens and under 18’s were denied a vote – and as material circumstances changed, the less legitimacy the 2016 result has. This has never been challenged by the Labour leadership. Even worse was the idea that it would be possible to leave the EU without reducing the living standards of the vast majority in the process, or that there could be a Brexit that protected jobs. Ironically those areas where the majority voted leave which may well suffer most if Brexit goes ahead.

There is another very important reason as well to have a second referendum, and actually the most important, that is because it has become a democratic right at this stage of the Brexit shambles to have another vote. A second vote is itself a democratic right as circumstances change. Democracy can’t be a once off event that must be imposed despite the consequences and impact on peoples’ lives. The government has failed to implement what was promised in the referendum and crashing out without a deal cannot be remotely seen as what people voted for then the natural process must be to go back to the voters.

In the Clarion Martin Thomas is equally direct on the Peterborough result.

Labour won essentially because the Tory vote held up better than in the 23 May Euro-elections. Enough Tory voters thought that they will soon have Boris Johnson or another hard-Brexiter as leader, and so no longer have to protest by voting Farage.

Labour still lost many votes to Lib-Dems and to abstention.

The easing of pressure to oust the 3 Ms, the Milne-Murray-Murphy group who run the Leader’s Office, is not good. Seamus Milne and Andrew Murray are longstanding Stalinists, and responsible for shaping Labour’s shameful evasions on Brexit and antisemitism.

Those evasions affront most members, and demoralise and lose members. They affront most Labour voters, and lose votes.

They have ruined Jeremy Corbyn’s personal standing with the broad electorate. The latest poll (YouGov, 5-6 June) had Theresa May, at 29%, scoring much better as “best prime minister” than Corbyn, at 17% – even after May had resigned!

To all appearances, Corbyn is demoralised.

Labour after Peterborough

There is another aspect to take up , the depth of the fight against National Populism, something which the internationalist left and this Blog, have had underlined.

Mike Phipps puts this clearly in Labour Hub

The Big Debate II: Alternative Perspectives on Brexit

In Europe and beyond, the rise of rightwing economic and political nationalism is producing a polarisation into two distinct camps. On the one hand, there are those that support rational, tolerant, liberal, humanitarian, internationalist values and on the other, those that support irrational, intolerant, illiberal, anti-humanitarian, nationalist values. We must be the most consistent part of the first camp.

Internationalism should guide our approach to Brexit too. If leaving the EU were right for Britain, it would presumably be right for all member states, and logically we should call for the destruction of the EU and all its institutions. In practice, few argue for this. Internationally, all other significant socialist currents want to Reform the EU, which implies Remaining.

..

It’s time for a change of strategy. We are not economic nationalists, but nor are we content with the neoliberal European order. Above all, Labour is more credible when it is clearly advocating what it believes in, putting forward real solutions to problems, rather than trying to tack between different interests within the movement. Let’s press the  reset button and commit to a distinctive socialist policy towards Europe – radically overhauling its institutions to make them work in the interests of the many, not the elites.

Comrade Mike may well be right in stating the following, but we have to do everything we can to promote the following stand,

In the unlikely event of a new referendum, we should seek to break out of the binary choice of Leave or Remain and focus on Reform, which obviously entails Remaining. But it separates us from the passive Remain camp of the Lib Dems and Change UK. Our message is radically different: the EU is not fit for purpose and must be radically restructured.

The polarisation of poltiics, the evidence of those who support “irrational, intolerant, illiberal, anti-humanitarian, nationalist values.” could be seen in the previous post on this Blog, from the identity politics of Spiked.

For all their bombast about ‘Blairites’ the Lexit left are remarkably complacent about their allies in the Brexit camp.

The intellectual centre of this camp is the Full Brexit.

Its “mission” is  “to reshape Britain for the better” – with Brexit. The “left’s proper role is to be the architect of a better, more democratic future and, second, that a clean break with the EU is needed to realise that potential”

This brings together  supporters of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and Counterfire (such as Feyzi Ismail),   Blue Labour ( Lord Maurice Glasman, ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ Paul Embery) , prominent New Left Review contributor, Wolfgang Streeck, the Somewhere versus Nowhere People David Goodhart, Edouard Husson (for a French right-wing for everybody, “. Une droite de la France pour tous),  Labour Leave, the self-identifying ‘left-wing’ national sovereigntist, Thomas Fazi, and Spiked supporters and other Brexit Party members and supporters.

It published this piece in the run up to the European Elections,

“A signatory of The Full Brexit’s founding statement explains his decision to stand for The Brexit Party. All of Britain’s major political parties are committed to a feeble Brexit in name only, or cancelling Brexit altogether. TBP is the only major force fighting to defend democracy by carrying through the referendum result, and deserves the support of everyone committed to a Full Brexit.”

As good as The Full Brexit has been at marking out the left-wing case for Brexit, it has not been able to give those ideas a clear organisational expression. There is no Full Brexit Party in a shape to challenge Tory and Labour Parties at the election.

I have joined with the Brexit Party to put myself forward as candidate in Yorkshire and the Humber. I am working with some great people, like Lucy Harris who organised the Leavers of Britain Group, and the libertarian Andrew Allison.

To say we disagree on many things is putting it mildly. But every one of the Brexit Party candidates is committed to Leaving the EU and to democracy. No other party with any prospect of a hearing is even standing on a Leave platform.

The Big Debate II: Alternative Perspectives on Brexit

 

This should focus people’s minds when thinking about why fighting Brexit is part of a wider battle against National Populism and our own Red-Brown Front.

Perhaps this is a good sign..

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News From the Red-Brown Front: Bannon and Galloway Scheme Revolution as WRP Calls for General Strike for Brexit.

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Bannon and Galloway Scheme Revolution over some Tasty Grub in Kazakhstan. 

This is on the agenda….

Or so the WRP says,

Workers shake Labour to its foundations with their vote for Brexit!

The News Line says,

This means that a Brexit on October 31 or before, carried out by the working class taking general strike action to bring in a workers government, will be welcomed by workers all over Europe and lead to the revolutionary replacement of the EU by a Socialist United States of Europe.

Only the WRP and the Young Socialists are fighting for this policy and perspective. We urge all workers and youth to join today and to fight for the victory of the British and world socialist revolutions!

The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist ) founded by Reg Birch and whose best known former member is Alexei Sayle – not to be confused with Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who ‘best known’ member is Harpal Brar – is also chorting.

Long believed to have disappeared into red bases in Thetford Forest the one-time supporters of Enver Hoxha  finds in the Brexit Party an instrument of the working class.

Its organ declares,

The working class has used the Brexit party to tell the pro-EU ruling class to carry out our 2016 instruction to leave and we have given that ruling class a bloody nose.

Three years after we voted to leave, it was a staggering failure that we were made to participate in the EU’s elections. Even May herself admitted that taking part in these elections would amount to “failure”.

Fresh from their triumphal implementation of the red-brown mass line the former Revolutionary Communist Party, now Spiked, finds time for a whinge by some useless idiot, Isaac Doel.

Recently Nigel Farage was pictured drenched in milkshake after a pro-Remain protester launched the drink at him. This fuelled debate about the ethics of ‘milkshaking’ as a form of protest. Many jumped to the protester’s defence, claiming that throwing milkshake was an acceptable form of protest when dealing with ‘fascists’ like Farage.

High-profile Remainers frequently use the f-word to describe Nigel Farage. In a video recently posted on his Twitter account, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, said Farage ‘represents the creep of fascism across Europe’. ‘Fascist’ is a term used by those who oppose Farage’s politics to attempt to damage his reputation and delegitimise his Brexit movement.

Quite right!

Le Monde merely calls them “extreme right wing“: “le leader d’extrême droite, Nigel Farage”.

We prefer national populist.

The theme that the voters of the Brexit Party were expressing ‘working class anger’ is dear to many on the Lexit left.

In more measured tones LIndsey German comments, from Counterfire, that Labour’s poor showing was

..the result of trying to put a position which unites both sides of the referendum divide at a time when both sides are becoming more polarised. Jeremy Corbyn’s original position of a People’s Brexit had more chance of working. It was an approach that accepted the referendum result but committed Labour to a progressive Brexit.

In other words Labour should have adopted Counterfire’s views.

She suggests, not unreasonably,

The impasse at the top of politics can only be resolved elsewhere. That requires a focus on wider politics as well as trying to address the EU question. The major class divisions which cut across leave/remain, the issues facing people over their jobs, housing, education, are the ones on which people can find some unity. The left also needs to ask itself some questions: can the Corbyn project succeed in winning an election and making the first steps towards changing British government policies? How can Labour’s right be defeated? How can the left relate especially to working class people in the old industrial areas?

But this comes back to the “EU question”, and internationalists are not going to “unite” with the Brexit camp, ‘People’s’ or not.

Pompous Padre Giles Fraser says,

He found time yesterday to show some solidarity with the Red-Brown inner core:

Meanwhile more details emerge of the top Galloway Bannon summit.

Perhaps the WRP, the CPB (M-L) and the CPGB (M-L) should get an invite to the next jamboree.

 

 

The Last Gasps of the Pro-Brexit left.

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Image may contain: one or more people and text

Lacks “a sense of humility and appreciation” for Farage that ‘Left-Wing’ Full Brexit says is needed. 

With the Brexit Crisis fueling unprecedented voting shifts in the European election campaign the Pro-Brexit left ‘Lexit’ as they like to call it, (nobody else does) often feels to get away from the tiresome drag of cloud cuckoo land and escape to somewhere less mundane.

Time indeed to ihgnore the haemorigging of Labour votes to anti-Brexit parties, starting with the Liberal Democrats.

It’s there that the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) has finally found an echo for its Boycott Labour Campaign.

We need a People’s Brexit and a general election that can return a left and Labour government, which can begin to rebuild Britain for the people, not the bankers.

Respect the vote – SUPPORT a ‘People’s Boycott’ on 23 May 2019.

From the self-identifying  “Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants“.

The Socialist Party, which is thoroughly enjoying its trip away from the harsh world,  says of the European Elections.

Unfortunately, however, at this stage Corbyn and the left Labour leadership are not conveying a clear message to working class voters. A central reason for this is their continued mistaken attempts to compromise with the pro-capitalist Blairite wing of Labour – whether that is the local Labour councils cutting public services, or the Blairite MPs fighting for Labour to be seen as the party which defends the EU bosses’ club.

No mention of the pro Brexit Bosses’ Club.

No mention of the Love Socialism, Hate Brexit campaign which has captured people’s imagination across the left.

On the talks with May they say,

… reports from the talks have focused overwhelmingly on the Blairite demand for a second referendum, inevitably giving the impression to many Leave voting workers that Labour is not fighting in the interests of working class people and is instead focused on ‘reversing Brexit’.

No mention of Remain voting workers or the Remain supporters in the Trade Unions.

No mention of how to vote in the European election.

No mention of the Labour voters going head over fist to the anti-Brexit parties, which some polls suggest have pushed the party into third place.

Or this, somewhat optimistic claim,

A clear and unambiguous pro-Remain position from Labour would give the party a resounding 27% lead over the Conservatives, an 8% lead over the Brexit Party and a 14% increase in their overall vote, new research has revealed.

New European.

But apparently.

Bosses fear revolt against capitalism

At least the People’s Brexit dreamers of Counterfire say,

Tory collapse is only half the story; Corbyn’s Labour needs to sharply recalibrate around anti-austerity and class politics, argues Lindsey German

Farage understands he can only win the level of support he has by channelling the huge amount of anger about the failure to carry out the decision of the referendum. To do so he is prepared to downplay his racism, and he has some cover from erstwhile lefts who now support the Brexit party, but we can be sure that a campaign where he and Johnson are in competition (and with a myriad of fascist and extreme right parties spewing their filth) will have racism and scapegoating at their centre.

……

The only tactical vote is for Labour, because they are the only people who can beat Farage, and the higher Labour’s vote the stronger its left leadership will be. The alternative is strong Lib Dems – which will help Watson and Starmer.

How might they ‘channel’ this anger?

By joining Counterfire’s voyage to a People’s Brexit….

Note, Comrade Keir Starmer’s first appearance as an enemy of the revolutionary socialist groupuscule Counterfire.

The Morning Star with one toe in the carnival of reaction that’s taking place, dismisses worries about the far-right across Europe and Farage’s likely real political impact in the EU.

As indicated in this valuable article:

The far right is no great shakes

The European Union is proving to be a less reliable instrument for resolving contradictions among its member states and competing elites than either centre right, liberal or social democratic opinion has hitherto hoped.

In addition, although these right-wing populists are something of a problem for the big business and finance circles that stand behind the likes of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron they lack the long-term cohesiveness or numbers to reshape the institutions of the EU.

Like those leftwingers who think the EU can be transformed by populating its structures, they too will find out that the real decision-making ever eludes the grasp of forces outside the charmed circle whether they come from the left or the right.

Oddly, or not so oddly given reports that some of the hard line Brexit Bolsheviks will do more than follow the Communist Party of Britain’s call not to vote Labour the editorial concludes,

The populist right – in or out of the EU – cannot meet the needs of working people. Almost uniquely our country has a Labour government in waiting that can.

The Full Brexit, supported by prominent members of the Communist Party of Britain, and ‘Blue Labour’ Family Faith and Flag patriots, not to mention Spiked ex-Revolutionary Communist Party, (and Green Larry O’Nutter, better known under his pen name of Larry O’Hara)  tweets  about this article:

Lee Jones is Reader in International Politics at Queen Mary University of London.

Note these words well,

It is deeply lamentable that this crucial channel for political expression is being supplied by a party led by Nigel Farage. However, the explanation for this lies not with Farage’s unique talents, or the supposed far-right proclivities of millions of British citizens, as many now claim. Farage is only able to claim leadership of a pro-democracy movement because the left has utterly failed to do so. Despite admitting the EU’s many faults and being unable to mount a positive case for it, the left bottled the referendum, clinging to a discredited neoliberal edifice. The opportunity subsequently to return to its foundational principle of democracy and lead Brexit in a progressive direction has been squandered. Most so-called leftists have merely doubled down on their ludicrous insistence that only racists and fascists can oppose the EU.

He continues,

TBP ought to be a left-wing party. By failing to reclaim the banner of democracy from the Eurosceptic right, the left has created the opportunity for Farage to return.

Despite its important short-term contribution, however, in the longer term, it is doubtful whether TBP can help resolve the problems of British political life. While the most obvious limitations stem from its leadership, the deeper problems lie in the populist form of political organisation itself.

Accordingly, whatever Nigel Farage may or may not be, TBP is simply not a “far-right” party. It has only one policy, to defend democracy and uphold the referendum result, and there is no reasonable way to define this policy as “far-right”.

The academic opines that one should approach Farage’s start-up party,

…with a sense of humility and appreciation for the important role TBP is playing in the immediate crisis of British politics.

Jones concludes,

At present, TBP stands exclusively for the enactment of a democratic majority decision – no more, no less. To call this “far right” is hysterical, immoral, and deeply insulting to many millions of people.

The Brexit Party: Creature of the Void

At least the Socialist Workers Party says:

Vote Labour in the European elections – and increase the Tories’ crisis

Hold on…

The next few days matter. Labour could still launch a real fight that brings together the call for an anti-austerity and anti-racist Brexit with action over the NHS, housing, climate chaos and other urgent issues.

Back from the sidelines:

John Rees and Lindsey German on Farage and the Brexit Party – Don’t mention George Galloway!

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Image result for john rees and lindsey german glaooway

Rees and German in Happier Days.

John Rees and Lindsey German have been key people in the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

As effective leader of the People’s Assembly and  Convener of the StWC they have played a significant role in the most important left mobilisations of the new millennium.

Rees and German, who are also leaders of the revolutionary socialist Counterfire (a split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010), campaigned for Brexit.

Their call for a “People’s Brexit” has got absolutely no echo in the labour movement and the wider public.

The demand for a General Election is a to will for something not in the gift of the Labour opposition.

Now they are trying to come to terms with the rise of Nigel Farage’s Plc, the Brexit Party.

They do not mention Farage backer Galloway, with whom they have a long and close bond, once.

The growth of Nigel Farage’s party is remarkable, but not unstoppable, argues JOHN REES (Morning Star)

Rees explains the high scores for Farage in the opinion polls.

Leave voters have no effective, unequivocal, voice in establishment politics. After three long years of watching the political Establishment twist and turn, squirm and prevaricate, the political system is held in even lower esteem than it was before the referendum took place.

In other words, everything that produced the Leave vote in the first place has become worse in the last three years while the political representation of those who voted Leave is still non-existent.

The secret of the Brexit Party’s success is that it has fill this void.

The Counterfire leader avoids any in-depth discussion about the Brexit Party, part of a wider, a Europe-wide, rise in national populism, its class basis, and the way a “virtual” populism can capture a voting audience. Or how the ‘sovereigntist’ politics of this brand of “insurgency” mix patriotic national “taking back control” with Hard right policies.

He  misses out promoting his own hobby-horse, the defunct People’s Brexit, though loses no time in underlining that Labour has missed the boat for its “divisions”.

The Labour Party is divided and appears to many Leave voters as if it is permanently held hostage by the majority Remain Parliamentary Labour Party and constantly pressured into compromise by the second referendum campaign.

So Leave voters have no effective, unequivocal, voice in establishment politics.

Now what might an unequivocal voice be?

Obviously for Rees one that opposes, those who “dismiss Leave voters as knuckle-dragging racists who simply have to be exposed to the expertly informed opinions of Michael Heseltine, Tony Blair, Vince Cable, and Caroline Lucas until they except the revealed truth.”

No mention of Love Socialism, Hate Brexit.

No mention of the strong left opposition to Brexit, and for a People’s Vote.

The People’s assembly leader has some interest in what he claims is a “couple” (actually four, Claire Fox, Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, James Heartfield and Stuart Waiton, ex-Revolutionary Communist Party members, now writing for Spiked), of left-wing Farage fanatics.

Farage has even managed to convince a couple of gullible and/or desperate former leftists to act as window-dressing for his own free-market, NHS privatising, xenophobia.

Honesty would compel him at this moment to register George Galloway’s support for Farage.

The far-right Express reported on April the 24th.

Galloway reveals why he has MUST support Brexit Party – ‘no other party I could vote for’

BREXITEER George Galloway has said it is “not a difficult choice” to support the Brexit Party in the event that Britain is made to stand in the European elections.

There is little doubt that years of close collaboration with the Man in the fedora explain this gap.

Rees stood as a candidate for Galloway’s Respect Party.

In 2012 Counterfire hailed this result, the ‘Bradford Spring’:

Galloway victory: a landslide against war and austerity

Years of dishonestly working with somebody widely known for what he is all too visibly today have left their mark.

Rees recommends,

Indeed, in order to avoid the appearance that Labour had colluded in a class collaborationist relationship which extracted the Tory government from the very deep pit into which it has dug itself, a more or less total surrender by the government would be necessary.

That isn’t going happen, so the negotiations need to end now because all they are doing is sending a message to disillusioned voters that the Labour Party is part of a political Establishment which has already lost their trust.

In short, it makes Farage look like the insurgent outsider and Labour look like pork-barreling insiders.

Fair enough many would say.

But this?

A return to mass rallies would be one vital step in restarting the popular dynamic of support for Corbyn.

But more is required. The essential element now missing — it’s a direct relationship with the mass movements from which Corbyn has historically drawn his strength.

Efforts to conjure up this mass movement by the People’s Assembly have come to little more than a few thousand strong demonstration in London earlier this year.

He commends “the protest outside the Tory Party conference in Manchester in the autumn called by the People’s Assembly and the trade unions.

What has changed since January? 

Lindsey German argues, as one would expect, in the same vein.

An insurgent right can only be fought by an insurgent left – weekly briefing

She notes of the Brexit Party,

Headed by the far-right politician Nigel Farage, the party is projecting itself as an honest, democratic outfit, fielding non-white candidates and some from the erstwhile left in order to appeal to voters across the board who voted leave.

Again no mention of Galloway.

German also has a history of work with the man in the jaunty head-gear.

Famously she defended this decision about the Respect Manifesto in 2005,

George Galloway did not like what he saw. In particular, he objected to the twin questions of gay rights and abortion, which, he insisted, would jeopardise hundreds, if not thousands, of votes in the East End. It was not so much the ordinary muslim voter who would be alienated, but the leaders of the mosque and groups like the Muslim Association of Britain, who might withdraw their backing and influence their followers to do the same.

..

As for the non-appearance of LGBT rights in the manifesto, comrade German made no direct reference to it, but she said: “The idea that this was not an issue is not true – we always took it up.” The other parties were always bringing it up, according to comrade German, claiming that Respect was pro-gay – and despite the fact that they had dropped it from the manifesto too!

Comrade German concluded, totally disingenuously, that the motion had been moved “in bad faith”. No, comrade, you voted for it in bad faith, seeing as you have no intention, if your behaviour at conference is anything to go by, of actually abiding by it.

Notoriously she had said: “I’m in favour of defending gay rights, but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth” (see Weekly Worker July 10 2003).

Gay rights ‘shibboleth’

German cannot resist her own version of Rees’ snide attack on opponents of Brexit – including again, if not mentioned, the internationalist left.

Those who have been pushing for a second referendum seem particularly perplexed by this but it has always been obvious that treating the 2016 result as if it simply hadn’t happened, or treating the result as the work of ignorant and stupid people, would help to strengthen the likes of Farage.

No text is cited for the “ignorant and stupid” remark.

And,

The problem is that Labour has been looking less and less like an insurgency. That’s bad enough, but now Farage is claiming the insurgency mantle. Labour needs to get back out on the streets, arguing and campaigning across the country.

Slogans about insurgency – as it can be conjured up by an act of will – cannot hide the fact that those  backing Brexit have contributed to the left’s difficulties.

This is the way forward.

 

 

Counterfire, John Rees, So-called Marxists and Brexit.

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Image result for john rees with george galloway

“Genuine Marxists” with their one-time Best Friend.

Amongst many other things Brexit has divided the left.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, and the large number of people in Britain who have left-wing politics, from social democratic ideas, left liberalism, green politics, and all the varieties of democratic socialism have seen different views on the European Union become the burning political issue of our time.

The Marxist left has also been split.

What seemed like the majority view of both the non-Labour Leninist left and – it was assumed – the Labour left was a position extremely  hostile to the EU. Tony Benn had even described the UK as a “colony” of the EU, and this flight of fancy was not his alone.

The Referendum showed that there was a strong section of the radical left, including those who identify with the Marxist tradition, who stood for a Remain Vote. Today many are organised in the campaign, Another Europe is Possible, whose support goes from the Labour grass-roots group, Open Labour not far from the Party’s centre, the Green Party, to the Party’s Left, the democratic socialist Chartist, supporters of Momentum, to more radical groups, such as Socialist Resistance and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Left Unity has also given its backing to Another Europe. From Another Europe there is equally Labour for a Socialist Europe, which produces valuable material relating to Party debate. The allied initiative, Love Socialism Hate Brexit, has attracted Labour MPs, like Clive Lewis and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

The Lexit, pro-Brexit, Left, has grouped around The Full Brexit, an alliance of Family Faith and Flag Blue Labour, sovereigntists, The Communist  Party of Britain, Spiked contributors , the odd maverick Green, and supporters of the Revolutionary Socialist Counterfire. The Full Brexit’s recent troubles over Eddie Dempsey, and, now Paul Embery, opponents of “rootless cosmopolitans” illustrate the difficulties many on the left would have in working with this body, let alone its anti-EU politics.

Now, from the above Counterfire, ignoring such mundane issues, John Rees offers the left a masterclass on Marxism.

Marxists, so-called Marxists, and parliamentary socialists

He begins by citing this,

The only sensible reaction to the accusation by the Tory right that Jeremy Corbyn is “a Marxist“ is the one that Karl Marx himself gave. In response to some of his own would-be followers in France he said: “all that I know, is that I am not a Marxist”.

Marx was referring to Jules Guesde the leader of the French ‘Marxist’ tendency which became the Parti Ouvrier, and, after another name change, eventually became, in 1905, part of the first substantial french socialist party, the : Section française de l’Internationale ouvrièreSFIO.

A little further down Rees gives another “famous quotation” from Engels, on French socialism to support his politics,

“We have never called you anything but ‘the so-called Marxists’ and I would not know how else to describe you. Should you have some other, equally succinct name, let us know and we shall duly and gladly apply it to you.”

He states of this (Engels To Paul Lafargue At Le Perreux. London, 11 May 1889)

What was it that produced such a scathing remark from Engels? It was the idea, current among Marx and Engels’ French supporters, that support for reforms was just a trick meant to lure workers into more radical politics once they had seen such demands fail.

Marx and Engels would have none of it. They took seriously the demands for reform that arose from the working-class movement and inscribed them as basic demands in their own programme. They wanted them achieved because they knew that both the struggle to attain them, and any successes that were achieved, would strengthen the working class movement in practice and ideologically.

Rees, to put it simply, is  misleading. The exchange had a meaning only within its time of writing and does not refer to “reforms” in general.

Engels’ letter was in the context of one of the divisions that marked, and still mark, French socialism, and international socialism. That is between those who stand for internationalism, what would now be called universal human rights, and those tempted by National Populism.

This arose during the “Boulangist Movement” and the letter is about the ambiguous attitude of Marx’s son-in-law, who had expressed sympathy  for this nationalist upsurge.

Mitchell Abidor offers and excellent introduction to this episode, a mass movement around Georges Boulanger, a former general in the French army, General Boulanger and the Boulangist Movement.

The movement that had grown around Boulanger’s name was perhaps the first of its kind, a combination of royalists, Bonapartists, Republicans, socialists, and Blanquists. If it resembles any movement in this strange mix of followers it is Peronism, which was also able to attract followers from all ends of the political spectrum around the figure of a general. And like Peronism, Boulangism was able to do this because it can justly be said of the man at the heart of it that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there was no there there.

It is hard not to see some modern parallels,

Populism, nationalism, defense of the rights of workers; everything was in place for the birth of the movement that would bear the general’s name.

And,

From 1888-1889 Boulanger went from victory to victory, winning elections in seven different districts. Blanquists, the most intransigent of revolutionaries (but who were not immune to the temptations of nationalism and anti-Semitism) , were to say that with Boulanger “the revolution has begun,” and that Boulangism is “a labor of clearing away, of disorganizing the bourgeois parties.” So close were the ties between the extreme left and Boulangism that the police were convinced that secret accords had been drawn up between the two forces. And though the official Blanquist bodies were split as to how far they’d go in following Boulanger, it is a fact that the Boulangist movement’s strongest electoral showing was in the Blanquist strongholds in Paris. Indeed, throughout France, it was in working class centers that Boulanger garnered his greatest successes.

The Engels text in full reads,

We have never called you anything but ‘the so-called Marxists’ and I would not know how else to describe you. Should you have some other, equally succinct name, let us know and we shall duly and gladly apply it to you. But we cannot say ‘aggregate’, which no one here would understand, or anti-Possibilists, which you would find just as objectionable and which would not be accurate, being too all-embracing.

It continues,

What we need are letters from Paris, sent direct to the Star, bearing the Paris postmark and refuting the Possibilist calumnies which appeared in Saturday’s and Tuesday’s editions, namely, that Boulé’s election campaign was run on Boulangist money, that Vaillant had acted as an ally of the Boulangists, etc. I should say that you could do this perfectly well without ruffling your newly-found dignity as the one and only Catholic Church in matters connected with French Socialism.

Apart from Engels notably not criticising Lafargue’s misguided enthusiasm for Boulanger, what else does this refer to?

It is first of all, about the Guesdist tendency’s war with the “possibilitists” of Paul Brousse leader of the  Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France and with Édouard Vaillant a former Commmard, and ‘Blanquist’  elected a Municipal Councillor in 1884 in Paris

Engels backed the desire of his friend for an independent workers’ party – unlike the Possibilistes, and by extension municipal socialists of all stripes,   who turned from intransigent socialism and  were ready to compromise with the Parliamentary (and Municipal)  Republican left in order to achieve reforms.

But this leaves open the issue of what position should have been taken to Boulangism, a view, which Lafargue  was, unfortunately, to clarify further in a far from progressive direction.

As Abidor says,

We can multiply the number of quotations from those on the left who either supported Boulangism or refused to openly or uncompromisingly oppose it. Paul Lafargue, the great socialist leader and theoretician, who in 1887 wrote a bitingly mocking article on Boulangism, also wrote to Engels that “Boulangism is a popular movement that is in many ways justifiable.” The followers of the other great Marxist if the generation, Jules Guesde, wrote that “the Ferryist danger being as much to be feared as the Boulangist peril, revolutionaries should favor neither the one nor the other, and shouldn’t play the bourgeoisie’s game by helping it combat the man who at present is its most redoubtable adversary.”

He continues,

But not everyone on the left was willing to go along with or refuse to block the Boulangist juggernaut. Jean Jaurès wrote that Boulangism is “a great movement of socialism gone astray,” and the Communard and historian of the Commune P-O Lissagaray was a motive force behind the Société des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, which was formed to combat Boulangism and defend democracy, uniting in the group socialists, republicans, students and Freemasons.

This episode is described in greater detail in Les Hommes Révoltés. Les Origines Intellectuelles du réformisme en France (19721 – 1917) Emmanuel Jousse. 2017. Pages 150 – 152.

The campaign against Boulanger “« empêcher la réaction césarienne. » (halt the Caesarist Reaction!) attracted the support not only Paul Brousse and Vailliant  but the radical left ‘Allemanists” of Jean Allemane a trade unionist,  and veteran of the Paris Commune exiled to hard labour in New Caledonia, and Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, the author of the still valuable History of the Paris Commune of 1871, an event in which he participated.

In other words, the salt of the earth.

After Boulangism dispersed, left supporters of Boulangism were still churning out books justifying their alliance.

Pàtil-Emile Laviron claimed that the anti-Boulangist campaign has meant an alliance with the parliamentary establishment and neglect of the class struggle (“Oubliant leur principe de la lutte des classes, ils entrèrent dans la coalition parlementaire des radicaux et des opportunistes. Boulangisme et Parlementarisme.” 1888)

In Les antisémites en France : notice sur un fait contemporain 1892  Mermeix (Gabriel Terrail) claimed that right-wingers and anti-semites were merely ‘infiltrators” in the movement. The General had popularised the ideas of socialism, (“Le général Boulanger a donc puissamment aidé l’esprit public à évoluer vers le socialisme”).

This may not help sort out the ‘genuine’ Marxist sheep from the reformist Goats, but it does raise some contemporary issues about national populism and anti-antisemitism…

In some respects one can that an alliance against a serious hard-right nationalist project, Brexit, springs to mind….means marching with, though not supporting, a variety of groups with this goal, though not others, in common.

It is hard to tell, but one could ask if more than one section of the Full Brexit would have had some sympathy with General Boulanger. who stood for the “real” France, the “real” workers” against the cosmopolitans.

What would Galloway have done…..?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star) Denounces “Saboteur” Labour MPs and Calls for Hard Brexit, “on World Trade Organisation terms .”

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Be Vigilant! Communists Warn of Labour MPs’ “sabotage” against Brexit on April the 12th on World Trade Organisation terms.

Communists condemn ‘saboteur’ MPs and demand April 12 EU exit

3rd of April.

Monday evening’s votes in the House of Commons confirm that a substantial number of MPs remain determined to bind Britain as closely as possible to the EU and its rules and institutions if they cannot stop Brexit altogether.

These MPs show utter contempt for the EU referendum result – the biggest democratic vote in our history – and make a mockery of their past pledges to ‘honour’ the decision made by a clear majority of voters.

A majority of MPs have no genuine disagreement with the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement which ties Britain to the EU Single Market in most goods, keeps us permanently aligned with the EU Customs Union through the unnecessary Irish ‘backstop’, maintains EU Court of Justice sovereignty in large areas of economic and social policy and pledges to pay the EU at least £39bn in a bogus divorce settlement.

However, a substantial number of these are also holding out in the hope of locking Britain permanently into a customs union or overthrowing Brexit altogether in a second referendum that would exclude a real exit from the ballot paper.

Tragically, many of these would-be saboteurs are Labour MPs who put their loyalty to the EU above any loyalty to democracy, popular sovereignty and the Labour Party.

Many are opposed to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and have no concern that by painting Labour as an anti-Brexit party they are jeopardising the prospects of a left-led Labour government. Some openly support the possibility of an all-party ‘national government’.

The priority now must be to allow Britain to exit the EU on April 12 on The priority now must be to allow Britain to exit the EU on April 12 on World Trade Organisation terms and secure an early General Election and a Labour victory.and secure an early General Election and a Labour victory.

That government would then be free to carry out Labour’s left and progressive policies, which include aid for manufacturing industry and mutually beneficial trade agreements with European and developing countries.

What, some wreckers and saboteurs might dare to ask, is a Brexit on WTO terms?

Brexit: What is the ‘no deal’ WTO option?

One of the terms that keeps cropping up in the Brexit debate is “the WTO option”.

If the UK left the European Union without a deal, it would automatically fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

So what would that mean?

First, the basics. What is the WTO?

The WTO is the place where countries negotiate the rules of international trade – there are 164 members and, if they don’t have free trade agreements with each other, they trade under “WTO rules”.

Which are?

Every WTO member has a list of tariffs (taxes on imports of goods) and quotas (limits on the number of goods) that they apply to other countries. These are known as their WTO schedules.

The average EU tariff is pretty low (about 2.8% for non-agricultural products) – but, in some sectors, tariffs can be quite high.

Under WTO rules, after Brexit, cars would be taxed at 10% when they crossed the UK-EU border. And agricultural tariffs would be significantly higher, rising to an average of more than 35% for dairy products.

The government has set out its plans for tariffs in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Its temporary schedule would mean that 87% of imports by value will be tariff-free, compared with 80% before Brexit.

There will be some protection for companies producing cars in the UK, farmers producing meat and the UK ceramics industry. The government has attempted to balance the benefits of free trade in getting cheaper products for consumers, with protecting the livelihoods of some UK producers.

Some groups, which claim to be on the left, still cling to the idea of a “People’s Brexit”.

The Full-Brexit supporting Counterfire publishes today this;

Neoliberalism and Brexit: why Brexit is about more than just Brexit

“Brexit is about more than just Brexit” says Dragan Plavšić, “it’s about the wider crisis of neoliberalism and the long-diminishing authority and standing of the British state and ruling class.”

However, if Corbynism is indeed to be true to the discontented mood shift of which it is the most authentic expression, then it has to advocate a Brexit – a People’s Brexit – that provides a future Labour Government with the necessary freedom to undo the destructive and devastating effects of forty years of neoliberalism. A People’s Brexit is therefore the only real alternative to the neoliberals who wish to leave the EU or remain in it. A general election is feared by them all; the sooner we have one the better.

Most people will have forgotten what a ‘People’s Brexit’ was ever meant to be – and Plavšić does not enlighten us in this reheated rhetoric.

But Counterfire has published articles arguing that WTO rules are better than the EU’s,

“The WTO Red Herring

WTO anti-subsidy provisions are a completely different kettle of fish from EU state aid rules – being far narrower in their scope, far less stringent in their implementation and fundamentally different in how they operate.

The radical case against the single market is no myth February 2019. Reuben Bard-Rosenberg.

So the ‘left’ Brexit or People’s Brexit camp has adopted versions of the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ position, with the UK negotiating free trade deals with other states through the World Trade Organisation.

There is the minor problem that not only does this prospect go against present Parliamentary votes,  Labour policy, and the views of nearly all but the fringe of the fringe of the Party, but that it runs up against this prospect:

UK cannot simply trade on WTO terms after no-deal Brexit, say experts

The UK will be unable to have frictionless, tariff-free trade under World Trade Organization rules for up to seven years in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to two leading European Union law specialists.

The ensuing chaos could double food prices and plunge Britain into a recession that could last up to 30 years, claim the lawyers who acted for Gina Miller in the historic case that forced the government to seek parliament’s approval to leave the EU.

It has been claimed that the UK could simply move to WTO terms if there is no deal with the EU. But Anneli Howard, a specialist in EU and competition law at Monckton Chambers and a member of the bar’s Brexit working group, believes this isn’t true.

John Rees (Counterfire/People’s Assembly/Stop the War Coalition) Compares anti-Brexit March to “mild (as yet)” “mass fascist or populist right wing” movement.

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Clive Lewis and Lloyd Russell-Moyle “Angry Middle Class moblised for its own purposes by sections of the elite”.

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John Rees is a leader of the groupuscule, Counterfire, a split from the Socialist Workers Party. He is a national officer for the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) and a key figure in the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Counterfire has worked with many groups and individuals, as part of what they pretentiously call “united fronts”, including George Galloway of the Respect Coalition and Andrew Murray, now an adviser to the Labour Leader on Brexit.

Recently they have engaged with the Full Brexit, an alliance of the Family Faith and Flag Blue Labour, the Communist Party of Britain, writers for Spiked, left “magic money” Sovereigntists, and bee-in-bonnet anti European Union loud-mouths. Two of the groups involved, Labour Leave, and Trade Unionists Against the EU, have received money from hard-right millionaire, Arron Banks.

Feyzi Ismail from Counterfire spoke at their hundred strong Rally in London this Monday.

Rees, and Lindsey German, have close links with Jeremy Corbyn, including a long history of joint work in the StWC.

Rees claims to be inspired by revolutionary Marxism.

A revolutionary organisation remains the indispensable tool for overcoming the unevenness in working-class consciousness, maximising the effectively of working-class struggler recalling the lessons of past victories and defeats, and educating and leading workers in struggle. Formed from the working class by working-class people to help generalise and organise the struggle of the whole class it is itself a dialectical organism. Without the struggle to build such an organisation, the danger remains that the dialectic of capitalist development will remain blind or destructive; but if the struggle to build such and organisation is successful, we have a change – more, not less power – to make the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom.”

Page 302 The Algebra of Revolution. The Dialectics and the Classical Marxist Tradition. John Rees. Routledge 1998.

With these arms in hand Rees has seen fit to advise Labour on strategy.

In February this year he wrote,

Corbynistas! Up your game, or lose the game

….Jeremy Corbyn, who has historically held an anti-EU position only altered under pressure from the right wing in the first days of his leadership, and now aware that Labour would lose the next general election if Labour deserts the very large number of Leave voters, is embattled at the head of his party.

One way of improving Labour’s prospects would be to face down the remainers and second referendumers. All the placatory talk of Labour being a broad church which can accommodate diametrically opposed views is doing nothing to quell the determination on the part of the remain right-wingers to see the end of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

..

At a moment when the Parliamentary system is manifestly failing, when every dog in the street knows that the government is willing to sacrifice the interest of ordinary citizens on the altar of Tory party unity, why would any left-wing organisation simply play by the Parliamentary rules?

Mass activity can never be a ladder which activists climb and then kick away once leadership has been attained.

The Labour Party and the trade unions should have by now called a second demonstration to ram home to the political establishment the simple message that voters will not tolerate a government which flouts every day democratic norms to stay in power no matter how many votes it loses in the House of Commons.

Call the rallies now. Send left leaders of the movement out to address them. Call a mass national demonstration now. Call on every Labour movement organisation to build for it. Break the bounds of the Parliamentary deadlock and give ordinary people the chance to shift the political spectrum to the left, open up the path to a general election, and win a left Labour victory.

The People’s Assembly held such a march earlier this year on the 11th of January.

Barely noticed, a  few thousand strong, it ended in confusion and fisticuffs between far-right Yellow Jackets and the ‘real’ Yellow Jackets of the demonstration (Hundreds of protesters have joined a ‘yellow vest-inspired’ anti-austerity march through central London this afternoon. The demonstration is organised by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which is calling for a general election. Metro.)

Understandably Rees is pleased when the only mass activity in sight has been the campaign for the People’s Vote.

He could have followed Socialist Worker which today describes the call for a Second Referendum by last Saturday million strong march, an ” anti-democratic outrage”.

Rees goes further.

He begins with claims that the march was set up by the wealthy to further the aims of the “overwhelming majority of big capital”.

It is a “middle class movement” with a “vanishingly small” union presence (where it was before it began to vanish is not described).

It is a “variant” of a “mild (as yet)” mass fascist or populist right wing” groundswell.

In other words, confusionist words, the Counterfire leader claims that the gentle anti-Brexit protesters  are manipulated by big business, the “elite”, “grandees” the “high Establishment” into something, which the expert in Dialectical Algebra can see: the beginnings of a “mass fascist or populist movement”.

Rees lectures, in the stentorian tones of somebody who he has spent his entire life in universities, that one should have a “respectful and engaged tone” to some of the demonstrators.

Like calling them part of a proto-fascist movement….

Perhaps Labour MP Clive Lewis could answer the learned dialetician best.

This is a racist Brexit, not fit for the 21st century but for the 19th century. That’s what it represents – deregulation, low taxes, imperialism 2.0. Don’t quote me on that: quote the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

..

One of the other things you might know as well is this. There aren’t that many black MPs supporting Brexit. Do you know why? We’ve got a bit of a spider sense when it comes to shit like this. We can see that Brexit wasn’t going to end well for us, for black people, when it has targeted EU migrants. EU visitors here – welcome, welcome comrades. You are comrades, not a bargaining chip.

..

I’m not talking about “Remain and reform”. I’m talking about “Rebel and transform”, to turn Europe into a global entity that can tackle climate change and rebuild this world.

Speech at the Left Bloc Rally at the start of the 23 March People’s Vote anti-Brexit demonstration. The Clarion.