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Posts Tagged ‘Democracy

Russian pro-Navalny Protests, Conspiracist ‘anti-imperialists’ react.

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St Petersburg rally

St Petersburg: Crowd Shouts ‘Down the Tsar!. 

Alexei Navalny protests: Moscow in lockdown as police detain thousands

Riot police and national guard troops close central metro stations and block off streets


Moscow police have paralysed the centre of the Russian capital as protests in support of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny continue for a second consecutive weekend.

At least 3,000 people including Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, were detained at rallies across the country as supporters of the Kremlin critic took to the streets to protest against his jailing, despite biting cold and the threat of arrest.


Already the ‘anti-imperialist’ friends of  Vladimir Putin are responding:

George Galloway Retweeted:

The Notorious site The Grayzone of Max Blumenthal.

“Despite facing repression, Alexei Navalny is no hero. Russian writer Katya Kazbek reveals the Western-backed opposition figure’s real history.”



Eva Bartlett, a Canadian activist and blogger who is known for promoting conspiracy theories about Syria She writes opinion editorials  for the television network RT, aka Putin Telly.

“Western mass media and hypocritically-indignant Western representatives are again busily claiming Russian peaceful protesters have been brutalized by police in demonstrations across Russia on January 23.

The sloganeers demand the release of the unpopular petty criminal and Western flunkey, Alexei Navalny, arrested upon returning to Russia for having broken Russian law.”

A contrasting left wing analysis of the background:

Ilya Budraitskis

Russia: Mass protests calling for Navalny’s release on 23 January, set to continue

On 23 January, large-scale protests were held in Russia, the main unifying demand of which was the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who had been arrested a week earlier just after his return from Berlin (where he was being rehabilitated after being poisoned).

On the eve of the rally, after his arrest, Navalny’s campaign team presented a video about Vladimir Putin’s secret palace, which cost about 100 billion roubles (about $13 million) and was astonishingly opulent and senseless. Against a backdrop of economic stagnation, rising inflation, and unemployment, the story of this palace resonated enormously (over 90 million views on Youtube at the moment) not only as an example of corruption, but also as a demonstration of colossal social inequality in modern Russia.

Unlike the previous Navalny investigations in which high-ranking bureaucrats and oligarchs close to power have been the heroes, this time it is the authoritarian leader himself whose sustained popularity has until recently provided the legitimacy of the regime. Not surprisingly, the publication of the film and the call to go out into the streets provoked a panicked reaction from the authorities: “preventive” talks were held at every school and university, informing students that their participation in the protests would lead to “problems”, and all TV channels explained that the palace did not really belong to Putin, who preferred an ascetic way of life.

Read more view link (Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières)


Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Extinction Rebellion, Citizens’ Conventions and Socialism.

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Extinction Rebellion demand climate emergency bill [Video]

Emergency Politics.

Climate change is back on the political and activist agenda. Hundreds have been arrested during Extinction Rebellion protests in Britain this week.

But what is the direction of the movement? What are its politics?

Some people think that the issue is so important that it over-rides existing political divisions, that we can no longer have confidence in an ideology.

One of them is socialism:

The Morning Star  responded,

The most generous interpretation of this tweet is that XR wants to build the broadest possible coalition in favour of radical action on the climate, and does not want non-socialists put off.

If so, it was self-defeating: activists from many organisations attend large demonstrations and nobody was likely to assume that the communist banner, emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, spoke for everyone there.

By aggressively rejecting its message, XR achieves the opposite, signalling that not everyone is welcome on its demos. This may be deliberate: the organisation has a number of wealthy backers and it may fear that big money would be withdrawn if it becomes seen as a socialist movement.

The editorialist, a Cde Davidus Spartacus, continued,

But the problem with the assumption that such an assembly could address the climate crisis is the same as that of XR’s whole tweet: it wilfully ignores the central role of the capitalist system in driving climate chaos.

Socialism or extinction? XR’s tweet and a capitalist crisis

Why did XR Tweet this statement?

What is the current Campaigning of XR aimed at?

There are some past parallels and influences that have contributed.

A parallel can be drawn with the 1980s campaigns against Cruise Missiles. There was a widespread feeling that nuclear war remained an imminent threat. During the 1980s E.P.Thompson coined the term Exterminism.This highlighted the drift towards conflict propelled by a military structure and politics, that in the process of endless development, ” the USA and the USSR do not have military-industrial complexes: they are such complexes.” The movement against nuclear war is not a programme of resistance for the working class against its rulers; it is ‘the defence of civilization, the defence of the ecosphere — the human ecological imperative.’

exterminism itself is not a ‘class issue’: it is a human issue. Certain kinds of ‘revolutionary’ posturing and rhetoric, which inflame exterminist ideology and which carry divisions into the necessary alliances of human resistance, are luxuries which we can do without.


New Left Review No 121.1980.

Today we hear of a “dual-edged crisis facing humanity”, the climate crisis. The science is definitely on the side of those protesting on the issue of climate change.

But what of their strategy and tactics?

Anybody watching the Extinction rebellion in action can see some echoes of this CND tradition, right back to the direct action of the Committee of 100 of the 1960s.

One can see Extinction Rebellion as related to such movements, particularly as “Extinction Rebellion is a loosely networked, decentralised, grassroots movement which, like the Committee of 100, is prepared to break laws and risk arrest. Anyone who takes action in pursuit of “XR’s three goals and adheres to its ten principles, which includes non-violence, can claim to do it in the name of XR.” “anyone who plans an action that drives forward XR’s three goals and adheres to its ten principles, which includes non-violence, can claim to do it in the name of XR.”

But how could these actions move beyond protest to tackling the causes of global warming?

Previous radical green and other direct action movements, such as Zad occupations in French ecological he Nuit Debout camps, like that La Place de la République, the alter-globalisation  Occupy! camps have been marked by  the idea of “direct democracy” and “consensus decision-making”. This means lengthy, really lengthy, debates, that majorities can be overruled by minorities, and, as unkind people have suggested, there is a right of veto by the loudest and thickest).

Few would suggest that is going to work to gain national support and undertake the kind of structural change Extinction Rebellion aims at.

So they have now adopted the idea of a Citizens’ Assembly on the Climate Emergency,. Those taking part are chosen at random. This also has  supporters on the radical left, who like to remind people of the use of selection by lots to call up people in Ancient Greece for popular Assemblies that decided on legal cases, and took political decisions. “The Athenians believed sortition to be democratic but not elections and used complex procedures with purpose-built allotment machines.”

Given modern sensibilities the “random” aspect could be modified by ethnic, gender and age categories to ensure that a Citizens’ Assembly is a full tranche of the different groups in the population. How you would do that is anybody’s guess.

Peter McColl argues in Extinction Rebellion and the left (Left Foot Forward) that,

A Citizens’ Assembly is a participatory approach that takes a demographically balanced group of citizens and allows them to create proposals for a way forward. In Ireland this helped to deliver the long-running demand for equal marriage.

It’s not hard to work out why this approach appeals to some in XR. There has been a sustained and very effective attack on ideology over the past 40 years. This has left many to believe that socialism is unhelpful, a barrier to progress, and something that will get in the way of the change we really need. I believe none of that. But it is what we are told every day of our lives, and it’s unsurprising that this is what people believe.

For some, the response has been to attack the concept of the Citizens’ Assembly. This is also a problem. Throughout the twentieth century, the socialist movement actively fought the capitalist class, using mass mobilisation to win on many occasions. And it is attractive to believe that this is still something we can achieve. Indeed it is important to make the case that progressive change – from winning the vote for women to ending apartheid – is possible.

Ireland and Scotland may offer examples of how such conventions work. The latter is however dominated by people who already agree on nationalist break-away and will be able to devote their time to discussing, “the establishment of a legal framework providing the option for a referendum through the ‘Referendums (Scotland) Bill’ and cross-party talks to identify areas of agreement on constitutional change.”

But there is another example of a Citizen’s Assembly on issues closer to Extinction Rebellion’s heart,

Earlier this year.

French Citizens’ Assembly delivers a roadmap for stabilizing the climate

On Sunday 22nd June, a unique French body, the “Citizen’s Convention for the Climate” delivered a milestone proposal to the Ministry for Ecological Transition, including far-reaching measures for cutting national carbon emissions from buildings, transport, agriculture and other sectors so as to meet a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The citizens’ group, commissioned by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, was composed of 150 people randomly selected by mobile phone numbers. The group spent nine months exploring the climate challenge, interviewing dozens of experts and ultimately approving a series of 150 proposals to accelerate climate action.

The US populist magazine Jacobin has an opinion on XR, and offer a useful article that also discusses the French case.

Extinction” Is Exactly the Choice We Face MARK MONTEGRIFFO

Extinction Rebellion leaders have dismissed the idea that protests for climate action have anything to do with “socialist ideology.” But refusing to take political positions — and to relate green politics to the interests of the social majority — will reduce environmentalism to an ineffective moral protest.

What of Macron’s Assembly?

President Emmanuel Macron has accepted just 3 out of the 149 recommendations from a citizens’ commission following the gilets jaunes protests. Although such deliberative democracy has been praised in Ireland, for example — paving the way for its reproductive rights referendum — it contains an assumption that solutions could be found inside the context of our current neoliberal capitalism, so long as the discussion was participatory enough.

This is an odd way of reading the following, “qu’il retient les 149 propositions des citoyens à l’exception de trois“,that is Macron kept all but 3 of the proposals ! (Ce que Macron écarte ou retient de la Convention citoyenne pour le climat). Perhaps Jacobin writers will one day learn that writing the exact opposite of what happened is not a good idea.

The problem is that in the actual legislative process many have got lost…

The source of the problem is that it is being suggested by XR activists, that as long as we “participate” good sense will emerge. But apparently not by voting – one can only assume that in elections people get nobbled….

for this reason, XR proposes “sortition” — selecting citizens by lot, as an alternative to voting.

As Montegriffo points out, this idea is more than a floated demand. It refers to an actual Bill in the House of Commons, proposed by Green MP Caroline Lucas.

There is a campaign to support the “Climate Emergency Bill”, Climate emergency bill offers real hope.

From these cooler years of the early 21st century, we look to a bleak future. A future where the Earth continues to heat, with more extreme weather, with parts of our planet made uninhabitable, leaving millions homeless and destitute. A future where we face the threat of mass extinctions, for which we are responsible.

We will need all of our ingenuity and imagination to prevent this future from unfolding. As we see in the response to Covid-19, people can come together, and our governments can – when they need to – do the “impossible”. The climate and ecological emergency bill was introduced in parliament today by the Green party MP Caroline Lucas with our support. Drafted by scientists, academics and lawyers, it will – if backed all the way by MPs – strengthen the Climate Change Act and ensure that Britain has a comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore our natural world.

This is the relevant section of the legislation,

Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

  • What’s new in the Bill? An emergency citizens’ assembly(CA) will be convened to help both the UK Government and Parliament create and review the strategy to achieve the bill’s objectives. The CA will empower MPs to take bold decisions and allow people to have a real say in the pathway of, not only a fair and just transition to a zero carbon society but of one leading to a thriving natural world.
  • Why? Fundamental societal changes are required if we are to tackle the climate and ecological crisis, head on. In order to prevent a ‘yellow vest’ effect, it is essential that citizens are involved in decisions that will significantly change their lifestyles. Citizens’ Assemblies are a tried and tested route to engaging citizens in the democratic process. CAs empower politicians to arrive at recommendations that will address very difficult decisions -decisions that will have a profound impact on society. Whilst six-cross-party select committees did commission the Climate Assembly, UK, (CA,UK), the CA,UK’s remit fell well short of the scale and scope required to address the climate and ecological emergency: recommendations were advisory only, members were tasked with identifying a pathway to the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target with no mandate to question the target itself, and the assembly was not called upon to consider adaptation or biodiversity.
  • The CEE bill’s integration of an emergency CA means that the assembly members will be tasked to fully contribute to the recommendations for and the review of, the bill’s ‘strategy’ to meet the ‘objectives’, alongside both government and parliament. In this, the most exceptional of times- this dual-edged crisis facing humanity-the engagement of CA in collaborating in emergency policy-making will allow the government and parliament the public mandate to implement the necessary fundamental societal changes.

The potential futility of such an Assembly faced with an even less sympathetic executive than French President Macron is obvious. Also obvious is why on earth people selected by lot (fancy name “sortation”) should be entitled to decide on answers to the “crisis facing humanity” with no democratic control on their actions. Cynics may suggest that this sounds like a more elaborate version of “consultations” on legislation, a possibly useful source of ideas, but nothing path-breaking.

Above all, the idea that  all is needed   “in order to prevent a ‘yellow vest’ effect” suggests that the XR stunts are designed to threaten people with disruption unless they agree to this scheme.

We shall leave readers to enjoy Montegriffo’s concluding wordy, polemic,

 “what the movement is missing — or not stating clearly enough — is that the climate crisis is the result of neo-liberal capitalism, and a global system of extraction, dispossession and oppression.” Without this, Extinction Rebellion is more of an organization seeking to make a splash in the media, than a “movement” as such.


This also leaves XR open to other, dangerous influences. I was myself one of the admins behind Extinction Rebellion’s social media presence, and saw instances where activists, or individuals posing as activists, have disseminated eco-fascist propaganda. On occasion, we would receive messages asking whether this was official Extinction Rebellion material. Having to clarify that your group is not in favor of population control laws is probably an indication that the politics of the movement is not as clear as it could be.

The campaign continues:


Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2020 at 5:49 pm

Cancel Culture. “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”. From Rowling to Chomsky.

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alex (@alex_abads) | Twitter

“The task of Marxist politics is to defend these freedoms” – Ralph Miliband.

JK Rowling joins 150 public figures warning over free speech


Some 150 writers, academics and activists – including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood – have signed an open letter denouncing the “restriction of debate”.

They say they applaud a recent “needed reckoning” on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled stifling of open debate.

The letter denounces “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” and “a blinding moral certainty”.

Several signatories have been attacked for comments that caused offence.

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” says the letter.

US intellectual Noam Chomsky, eminent feminist Gloria Steinem, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and author Malcolm Gladwell also put their names to the letter, which was published on Tuesday in Harper’s Magazine.

The appearance of Harry Potter author Rowling’s name among signatories comes after she recently found herself under attack online for comments that offended transgender people.

A comrade writes (B),

 I don’t have an issue with the principles outlined in the letter, but I really think the idea of ‘cancel culture’ is perpetuated primarily by people who are performatively ‘woke’ and ‘anti-woke’. Like that person yesterday who was decrying mathematics as western imperialism on one side, and the likes of Andrew Doyle and Julie Burchill on the other. They feed off each other.

This looks like the best way to look at this.

When we come down to it, one of things the socialist left should do is to stand with liberal principles on issues of freedom of expression and non-conformity. Surely the bedrock of the diversity is multiple standpoints.

Marxists like Ralph Miliband took this view.

..the civic freedoms which, however inadequately and preariously, form part of bourgeois democracy are the product of centuries of unremitting popular struggles. The task of Marxist politics is to defend these freedoms; and to make possible their extension and enlargement by the removal of their class boundaries.”

Page 189 – 190. Marxism and Politics. Ralph Miliband. Oxford 1977.

To our shame this powerful tradition on the left has been overshadowed by the legacy of left regimes which turned their backs on civic freedoms.

You could say that the present dispute is much more minor, that it’s the hobbyist left versus the media version of the national populists. “Stifling debate”, moral panics, hysteria, controversies, like the TERF wars and the Western (if not US dominated) rows over racism (which ignore present-day Africa to begin with), the nationalist baiting, and the Brexit Party supporting Spiked, are more concerned with “speech and thought” than anything else.

Yet it’s hard to deny that restriction on debate, people being howled down, getting into serious difficulties for their opinions, not their acts,  has become a problem.

Are these only culture wars?

People mention that in the US you can get sacked at the drop of the hat – one fall out from these attacks – without any real employment protection.

It is also the case that this is not an issue confined to the lands directly cited by the authors of the letter, or just a matter of cultural “conformity”.

It only takes a minute to look at countries, from the, Russian Federation politics, China and Hong Kong, to Erdoğan’s Turkey, to see limits on freedom of expression leading to court sentences and prison.

Human rights, and expression is one of them, are the bedrock of the left.

I do have a serious problem with Chomsky though….and not just because he’s a supporter of Labour Against the WItch-hunt:


And this,

Not to mention those who shunned Charlie Hebdo…

American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky views the popularisation of the Je suis Charlie slogan by politicians and media in the West as hypocritical, comparing the situation to the NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in 1999, when 16 employees were killed. “There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of ‘We are RTV’ […]“, he noted. Chomsky also mentioned other incidents where US military forces have caused higher civilian death tolls, without leading to intensive reactions such as those that followed the 2015 Paris attacks.

Here’s the letter.

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

Harper’s Magazine.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.