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New Spat Between Admirers and Critics of Mélenchon on Labour List.

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Mr Virtual 6,3%.

Yesterday le Monde carried two pages around this article:  the fragmented Left Faced with the Challenged of Refoundation.

The principal article talked of the historic defeat of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s ‘lieu de rassemblement’ (rally) la France insoumise (LFI)  in this year’s European elections, where they got 6,3% of the vote (down from 19% in the 2017 French Presidential Election). It suggested that the undisputed leader of LFI was now concentrating on winning municipal positions off his rivals, the Communists, PCF, who were down even further at 2,49%. The impression given was that the French left was squabbling over crumbs (the literal meaning of emiettée is ‘in crumbs’).

In interview across the page in the daily of a loyal LFI cadre and MP  Alexis Corbière contained only staunch denial of any difficulties – the resignations that followed this collapse, and the accusations of autocratic inner rally running (LFI has no members, only affiliates; it is run as a Party-business) by the Little Caesar in charge. There was a defence of their “populist” strategy of assembling the ‘People’ against the ”Oligarchy’ above the old left right divisions ( Alexis Corbière : « L’alternative, c’est l’oligarchie ou le peuple »).

Le Monde, oddly, was concerned with the French Greens, Europe Écologie, who with Yannick Jadot won 13,48%.

Not a lot in fact but more than anybody else who might be considered on the left, something Jadot is very equivocal about himself – he does not rule our local alliances with  right-wing parties. who accept a Green programme.

While all this has been going on, a few days ago Labour List published the following article:

What Corbynism could learn from France’s Mélenchon

Mckevitt seems to base his knowledge of La France insoumise and its Leader largely on Chantal Mouffe’s book For a Left Populism (2018), and reports of his presence at last year’s The World Transformed.

“This dynamic populist demand, articulated by Mélenchon through a desire to completely remake the French state from “the people” up, exhibits itself in Corbynism through the relatively gradual, procedural and legalistic process of reforming reselection processes. Despite the shared values of democratisation and of a mass membership wrenching control from those with entrenched positions (and the strategic concern of Corbynism to transform the Parliamentary Labour Party), the party structure that Corbynism finds itself channelled through is ultimately limiting to the scope of this demand.

Mélenchon’s left-populism also finds itself in fundamental opposition to what he perceives as the global institutions of neoliberal capitalism.

He concluded, noting that even the Sun had spots – Mélenchon’s ‘Patriotism” and backing for “a radically patriotic interpretation of laïcité, ”  a term or a politics which is not explained.

Nonetheless, Mélenchon provides a template for us to understand the compatibility of a truly radical, anti-establishment structural analysis with a popular left-wing mass movement.

Today we have this reply: Why Labour should reject the politics of Mélenchon

“Beneath the veneer, Mélenchon is a profoundly divisive figure” writes Antony Tucker, “whose attitude to the press, failure to deal with racism on the left and rejection of internationalism should serve as warning, not an example, to our party.”

Tucker outlines Mélenchon’s indulgence of a “sovereigntist” view of the EU – criticisms of its workings based on the way it has undermined French sovereignty,, and promoted ‘German’ interests. he could have mentioned the LFI leader’s initial welcome for the Brexit vote, which still sticks in the craw – as a popular revolt against the EU ‘oligarchs’.

He continues into the murky depths of the Mélechonist milieu, “Mélenchon spends far too much time pandering to the conspiracy theorist fringe of politics.” It would be truer to say that his association with the Gilets Jaunes has created ambiguities of the “red-brown” kind known in the UK, when some of the protesters (notoriously Fly-Rider) have been active conspiracy mongers. This kind of over-claim obscures the problem of real red-brown cross-overs such as Étienne Chouard.

He treats himself to some moral outrage – again without explaining what the term laicite means or what politics it is based on – at the LFI chief’s “radical, authoritarian laïcité

Riding the crest of the this manufactured rage he manages something this writer would have thought impossible, soliciting sympathy for Méluche, ” Mélenchon has spread the sort of vicious conspiracy theories that these people feed off of, and frequently denies France’s role in the Holocaust. ” This conspi theory of its own tries to wash away the fact that all French republican politicians deny the responsibility of the French republic for the anti-republican Vichy regime.

Tucker concludes, in apoplexy, that the “nationalist and xenophobic beliefs that drive Mélenchon” are no model for the Labour Party.

Mr 6,3% might have been a better way of putting the would-be left Populist Federator of the People down.

Then there is the total, sordid, collapse of his admired template, the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela, and left-populism across South America.

A serious beginning of a critique of Mélenchon” and LFI and is available here: The Death of “Left Wing Populism”.

 

 

 

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Boris Johnson meets President Macron – French Media reactions, an Oaf preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

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Essuie mes godasses Manu! 

The extreme right Express ‘reports’:

Macron ‘got what he wanted’ – PM ‘tricked’ by French President into ‘behaving like an oaf’

EMMANUEL MACRON has been accused of “tricking” Boris Johnson as the British Prime Minister was filmed placing his foot on a table when the two leaders sat down during a meeting in Paris.

One wrote: “And Macron got the photo he wanted and our Prime Minister is once again the fool.”

Another added: “The oaf Johnson got tricked into behaving like an oaf in front of photographers. Only other oafs will think Johnson won this one.”

A third said: “He fell for it! And the picture looks just as we expect from this clown ‘cos he has form for being a fool.”

In keeping with the festive mood Le Monde’s main story on Johnson today (website) is this:

Boris, Jo, Rachel et les autres… L’incroyable famille Johnson

Boris, Jo, Rachel and the others, the Unbelievable Johnson Family.

Par 

Libération strikes a more serious note by headlining,

(Freely translated: Spinning in the Void Boris Johnson Turns to a Hard Brexit).

 

The chances of a “hard Brexit”, an exit from the European Union without agreement, “are of the order of one to one million,” prophesied on June the 29th Boris Johnson while still candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party . Yet a no deal” seems yet closer and closer. “All the objective elements are there, notes Aurélien Antoine, professor of public law at the Jean-Monnet University of Saint-Etienne and director of the Brexit Observatory. Postponements of the release date, the coming to power of Boris Johnson, the recruitment of customs officers in France, the recall of British officials in Brussels: on one side or the other, we prepared for it. “

 

The centre-right Le Figaro has this:

 

In the meantime the Hard Brexit supporting Morning Star, self-identifying as Jeremy Corbyn’s Best Friend, publishes a heartfelt appeal for ‘real politics’ and not voting in any referendum on the issue, from an inner city youth (King’s College London),

Second referendum? Not in my name

I’m a young person who would’ve voted to remain – here’s why I don’t want to ‘have my say’ in a second referendum, writes HECTOR

Brexit has always been an issue which divided the nation in half. The notion continually pushed by both of these campaigns, that every individual in our diverse and eclectic nation stands staunchly behind the polarised positions, of either a cliff-edge Brexit or overturning the result of the referendum, lacks any nuance and is a ridiculous generalisation.

In fact, I feel I am in a silent majority: those who just want a return to real politics

…..

He concludes:

That’s why, as a young person who would’ve voted to Remain, I say, no, I don’t want to have my say in a second referendum.

By contrast:

Socialist Worker says Labour should, “not give into Right” and back Remain in the EU.

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Don’t Give Into Right and Oppose Brexit Says SWP.

Sometimes, happy days, not to say,  months, you forget that the SWP exists.

But the pro-Brexit far-left is still there.

They show no signs of regretting their furious campaign for the – Hard Right – Brexit.

It’s one of the best kept secrets in politics that the SWP have thriven and recruited in the mass people’s movement to take back control and support Brexit.

As they  said, ““The outcome of the referendum represents a revolt by millions of working class people against years of austerity and economic decline”. Socialists and the Leave vote—a (brief) reply to Sean Leahy

They added, ” how can things possibly get worse?”

As Johnson’s plans wreak havoc they say, “Nothing to so with us. We are revolutionary socialists and can’t share the blame for anything.”

Hobson chose for them, and they cannot be blamed for their choice, actions, or vote.

Tory plan for Brexit is a threat to ­two million EU migrants

Latest Socialist Worker.

Whether you voted for this or not we should all defend migrants’ rights writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans.

Anti-racists—whether they voted Racist Leave or Remain—have to fight to defend and extend freedom of movement.

(Note: some of this may have been slightly rewritten).

The same Socialist Worker has this:

Corbyn’s confusion over the European Union emboldens the right

Labour has been caught in a bind since the EU referendum in 2016. Many working class people—the people it looks to for votes—support leaving the EU.

But a vocal set of right wing Labour MPs want to push the party towards opposing Brexit.

They support the EU because they like its pro-privatisation, pro-austerity rules that look after big business.

They’re increasingly cheer-led by prominent left Labour supporters, and backed by the Labour Party’s membership.

The Labour left now largely sees backing Remain as the only progressive response to the Tories’ racist, right wing version of Brexit.

The SWP offers this advice to Labour,

The anti-austerity, radical-sounding message that worked so well for Labour in 2017 is at risk of being drowned out.

Where demonstrations and action on the streets against the Tories could have dominated, opposition has focused on parliamentary manoeuvres and inter-party wrangling.

This is the right’s terrain—the left is always weaker on it.

The bulk of Corbyn’s speech on Monday—attacking austerity and tax cuts for the rich, promising more for ordinary people—got almost ignored by the press.

The longer Corbyn spends giving into the right over the EU, the more he allows them to set the agenda and sideline left wing politics.

People may have noticed that the article says “The Labour left now largely sees backing Remain as the only progressive response to the Tories’ racist, right wing version of Brexit.”

Some might observe that they are claiming that we are “cheering”  on the right.

In the heat of the struggle, in the exuberant mobilisations to “take back control” and back Brexit, the SWP can perhaps be forgiven their annoyance at the pro-remain left.

Nobody could possibly accuse them of stinking opportunism in seizing on this effect of their vote and claiming that they opposed it all along:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Jacobin’s European Editor Says ‘Haha” When Rival leftist Physically Assaulted.

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This is the story that inspired the hilarity.

A statement by Mark Osborn about an incident of physical violence at a meeting of Lewisham Momentum (15 August 2019).

A further series of unpleasant attacks on left activists aligned with Workers’ Liberty took place at the Lewisham Momentum meeting held on Wednesday 14 August.

The most serious incident at this Momentum meeting was that Bill Jefferies of Ladywell ward, Lewisham Deptford CLP, physically attacked me. He hit me on the chin and grabbed my throat, in the hall outside the meeting room as the meeting was breaking up. He is 10cm taller and 40 kg heavier than me.

I’m okay, as always. But my chin still hurts and there’s a mark on my neck.

Full statement via above.

Broder (David Broder@broderly @jacobinmag Europe editor) has deleted the tweet but his admirers, watching like ‘awks, noticed it.

Broder’s work for Jacobin on the international left is renowned.

He is a keen supporter of Mr 6,3% (the score of Mélenchon’s rally, La France insoumise, LFI,  in this year’s European Elections).

We look forward to Broder’s sympathetic coverage of the revolutionary patriotism behind this latest decision by LFI, their invitation to Thierry Ardisson, a ‘constitutional’ Monarchist, to star at the summer school.

Broder’s generosity does not extend to leftist rivals in Britain.

One questions why Jacobin have such an intemperate  enemy of British and Irish pro-European leftists, determined to re-enact the disputes of his youth,  as a gatekeeper for their European coverage.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2019 at 11:06 am

Communist Party of Britain Calls to Reject “Hysteria” about No-Deal Brexit which offers “new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries”.”

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Workers Unite Behind Communist Call for ‘no-deal’ Brexit, ” Labour government could then seek new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries.”

The Communist Party of Britain, who counted amongst their number until recently Andrew Murray, one of the Jeremy Corbyn’s key advisers on Brexit, and which runs the Morning Star, warns against a national unity government.

Their view on Corbyn’s offer of a Caretaker Government is not known but they favour a No Deal Brexi which is the reason widely given for this call.

The CPB’s Red-Brown allies in the Full Brexit (see below) are more forthright retweeting this which implies dropping the effort.

 

In other words the Full Brexit wants Brexit come what may.

 

 

Here is the CPB’s statement.

Left and Labour must resist ‘Very real threats’, say Communists

The labour movement and the left face three very real threats from the British ruling class, Mollie Brown declared at the Communist Party’s political committee on Wednesday (August 14).

Firstly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could present himself at a snap General Election as the ‘hero of Brexit’ who either delivered it on October 31 or failed in an heroic attempt and so needs a fresh mandate to succeed. Secondly, a so-called ‘government of national unity’ could be formed which closes down normal parliamentary processes in order to derail Brexit. Thirdly, if he remains Tory Prime Minister, Johnson will almost certainly try to use a ‘no-deal Brexit’ to be a closer economic, political and military alliance between Britain and a very right-wing US government led by the likes of President Trump,Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign policy advisor John Bolton.

The overriding strategic aim of the capitalist class and its politicians in all the main parties is to prevent the election of a left-led Labour government free from EU single market rules to pursue left and radical manifesto policies’, Ms Brown told the meeting. She urged Labour to fight for an immediate General Election with a pledge to respect the EU referendum result and take Britain out of the EU on October 31 or at the earliest possible time if it has not already happened.

Rejecting the ‘hysteria’ being whipped up by right-wing and pro-establishment politicians and media against a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, Ms Brown said a Labour government could then seek new arrangements with the EU, China and other countries. ‘Only a left-led Labour government would seek to enhance mutually beneficial relations which respect the rights of all workers, citizens and consumers and enable the British, Scottish and Welsh governments to use their new post-Brexit powers to build a productive, sustainable and equitable economy’, she concluded. Britain’s Communists welcomed the formation of the broad-based ‘LeFT’ alliance in favour of leaving the EU and fighting to transform Brexit into a people’s exit that will open the path to socialist policies.

This is their full position on a No-Deal Brexit (January)

Communist Party calls for Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms

BRITAIN should leave the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms to free a future Labour government from single market rule, the Communist Party declared at the weekend.

And, ‘Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose.

The Communist Party executive concluded that any revamped Withdrawal Agreement would continue to bind Britain to the ‘big business freedoms’ of the EU Single Market, which would obstruct any future British government’s efforts to promote infrastructure investment, manufacturing industry, economic planning, public ownership, regional development, public sector procurement and VAT reforms and a labour market that ensures full rights for all workers.

‘Locking Britain into the EU Customs Union would make any such agreement even worse’, Robert Griffiths explained, ‘because it would outlaw import regulation to protect strategic industries such as steel, while also impeding a mutually beneficial fair trade policy with developing countries’.

Socialist Resistance describe the real challenges ahead,

We are facing an unprecedented confrontation between government, Parliament, and people. Gordon Brown and Dominic Grieve have both described it as the biggest constitutional crisis since the English civil war of 1642 (no less), that will be launched next month in advance of the October 31 deadline.

Labour strengthens position

In response, Jeremy Corbyn has now written to the other opposition parties and remain Tories to say that Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government as soon as it is clear that it would win, and that in the event of this being successful Labour would seek form an interim administration with the aim of calling a general election. In that election, the letter says, ‘Labour will be committed to a public vote on the terms of leaving the EU including an option to remain’.

This throws down the gauntlet to the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and rebel Tories, at a time when remain MPs have been discussing a government of national unity led by the likes of Ken Clarke or Yvette Cooper. The letter’s clear commitment to a second referendum in the context of a general election is a major step forward in Labour policy and opens up clear battle lines with the Brexiteers and the hard right.

They note,

The new Left Campaign, launched recently by the Morning Star and supported by others on the left – such as Costas Lapavitsas, Kevin Ovenden, and Alex Gordon – is dedicated ensuring that Britain leaves the EU on October 31, and is completely uncritical of the no-deal Brexit being planned by Johnson and oblivious (apparently) to the racist, hard right, neoliberal nature of the exit they are supporting. They have been urging Jeremy Corbyn (fortunately unsuccessfully) to end any support for a second referendum and make a radical case for Britain staying in the European Union under the terms on offer.

They continue,

Since a successful no confidence vote would produce an election before October 31 that the Tories think they would lose, Johnson’s special advisor, Dominic Cummings has proposed a different and completely outrageous reading of the Act. He argues that since the date of such an election is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, Johnson should ignore a no-confidence vote, stay in office, and call a general election with a date that would ensure that it concluded after October 31 giving the Tories a better chance of winning by claiming that they had implemented the 2016 referendum vote.

Any attempt by Johnson to bypass Parliament and people will not be easy, or even achievable, however slick the Downing Street operation. A majority of both the population and MPs are against it, and opposition is growing as the implications become ever more clear. The Commons Speaker John Bercow has said, speaking in Edinburgh, that it is possible for MPs to block an exit on October 31, and he will strain every bone in his body to ensure that Parliament’s voice is heard.

Jeremy Corbyn rightly branded this, in a letter to the cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill on August 8, as “an unprecedented, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic abuse of power”. He went on to demand from Sedwill clarification of the rules surrounding ‘purdah’ which are designed to prevent an incumbent government from taking major policy decisions during an election campaign to the detriment of opposition parties.

He also asked Sedwill to confirm that in the event that Britain becomes required to leave the EU under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act during an election campaign, that the government would avoid this by seeking an extension to article 50 in order to allow an incoming government to take a decision of Brexit on the basis of the result. “Forcing through no deal Brexit against a decision of Parliament”, he said, “and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already under way, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic abuse of power by a Prime Minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of Conservative Party members.

 

No doubt in their push for a Hard, No Deal Brexit, the CPB would dismiss this as “hysteria”:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 16, 2019 at 11:24 am

Labour Activists Call to Fight No Deal Brexit as Morning Star and the Red Brown Front Back Pushing Hard Brexit Through.

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Turning the Tide Against Brexit.

Today the Morning Star, Jeremy Corbyn’s self-appointed Best Friend, carries this Editorial.

The writer claims that efforts to prevent a No Deal Brexit through Parliament are misplaced, if that’s not too mild a way of putting it.

Pious observations about “parliamentary sovereignty” and repeated bids by the Commons to “take back control” of the Brexit agenda have not impressed a public that sees through the democratic rhetoric to the anti-democratic reality — that these have been bids to frustrate implementation of the largest democratic vote in Britain’s history, the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

The key sentences that follow are these, attacking a National Government.

This spectre, which is not on the cards, any more than Caroline Lucas’ all-woman Cabinet, is ‘hard right’ – as opposed to the actually existing Hard Right ERC led Boris Johnson Cabinet….

As with the “state of emergency” used by French President Emmanuel Macron to rule by decree and attack workers’ rights, it would enable the undemocratic imposition of a hard-right reactionary agenda.

A Labour pitch to defeat Johnson based on preventing a no-deal Brexit helps feed his chosen image as the champion of the 2016 popular mandate to leave.

This – ignoring the state of emergency needed to push through a No Deal Brexit –  is  followed by the following guff, “Labour should speak for the public’s anger against a Parliament that has thoroughly earned it…” whose important phrase is this demand “freedom from the pro-corporate competition rules imposed by the EU single market..”

In other words, Back Brexit, No Deal or Not.

This is what Brexit means

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The Morning Star is not alone is misrepresenting the political line up over Brexit.

To cite one example, Left-wingers in other countries would get the impression from the pages of the US Jacobin, and other self-identifying left publications, who cover the issue by articles from various factions who have come out of the SWP and supporters of the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, that the British radical left has roughly similar politics to the Morning Star on this issue.

But the majority of the UK the left is at the forefront of the right against a No Deal Brexit, and a large section is against Brexit tout court. 

This battle is gathering momentum.

The hard right has made this call:

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As the Independent reports today the left is counter-attacking.

Labour activists tell Corbyn he must back cancelling Brexit to stop UK crashing out with no deal

Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to back cancelling Brexit altogether if it is the only way to stop the UK crashing out of the EU, as another battle with Labour activists looms.

Almost 30 local parties are demanding Labour “support revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal”, in motions being submitted to its conference in September.

The move threatens to shatter the fragile peace over Brexit policy since the shadow cabinet agreed Labour would campaign for Remain in any fresh referendum held while the Conservatives are in power.

The policy was attacked as a fudge – after Mr Corbyn admitted Labour could yet fight a general election as a pro-Brexit party – and says nothing about wider strategy to stop the no deal Boris Johnson is threatening

Now the local Labour parties have signed up to a campaign to maximise pressure in Brighton in September, launched by the grassroots groups Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe and Open Labour.

The motion “notes the vast majority of Labour members and voters oppose Brexit” and says the party still needs “a clear Brexit policy”.

It then states: “Labour will campaign energetically for a public vote and to Remain. We support revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal.”

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour MP backing the campaign, said: “No deal would be a catastrophic moment for the Labour Party and the people we represent. It would mean a huge economic crisis which the right wing of the Tory party would use to drive an agenda of deregulation.

“We must be willing to do absolutely anything to stop it – and of course that would mean, if we had to, whipping to revoke Article 50.”

And Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “It’s not the tool we would choose, but if revoking is the only option left on the table to stop the disaster capitalists, Labour has to be willing to use it. There can’t be any fudge or ambiguity on that.”

This year, anti-Brexit activists are likely to make a commitment to revoking Article 50, if necessary, a “red line” in the marathon Sunday evening get-together of constituency parties, trade unions and affiliated groups.

..

In total, 50 constituencies have already voted to submit anti-Brexit motions to the Brighton conference, of which at least 29 explicitly call for the Article 50 notice to be withdrawn.

The Morning Star  has promoted an alternative campaign Leave-Fight-Transform.

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LeFT: campaigning for Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit

Key figures in the CPB, its associated organisations and its milieu are well-represented – including CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths. Some of the Labour Party signatories are very close to the CPB, eg Marcus Barnett and Eddie Dempsey (the latter is the one who said that Tommy Robinson supporters are “right to hate the liberal left”). It’s worth noting that these were the organisers of a campaign for people to boycott the European elections, ie to refuse to campaign or vote for Labour even – or it might be more accurate to say because of – the Brexit Party surge.

Some comrades have speculated that this new organisation was launched because a pre-existing one, “The Full Brexit”, was too discredited by a number of its founders supporting and in one case – James Heartfield – standing for, the Brexit Party. This group distinguished itself by publishing an article from two of its leading people denouncing Irish republican groups as “the armed wing of the European Union” and calling for violent British state action to crush their opposition to a hard border.

But TFB has been quick to get a statement out supporting and trumpeting its involvement in LeFT. And the initial LeFT signatories include Phil Cunliffe, a central participant in the same ex-Revolutionary Communist Party/Spiked network as Heartfield, fellow Brexit Party candidate (now MEP) Claire Fox et al – and himself a supporter of the Brexit Party! Plus another Spiked writer, George Hoare.

This is not an initiative any self-respecting socialist should have anything to do with.

It was therefore genuinely disappointing to see that LeFT’s signatories include a number of supporters of the anti-Stalinist (ex-SWP) socialist group RS21: I recognised the names Jen Wilkinson, Brian Parkin and Colin Wilson. It seems surreal that these comrades could put their names to such a thing.

The Red Brown Front (an alliance of sovereigntist left individuals, Counterfire supporters, the CPB, which runs the Morning Star, Blue Labour social conservatives,  and Brexit Party backers)  in the Full Brexit, backs this campaign.

This is the alternative:

This is also worth reading: Prominent Centrists and the Fiction of the White Working Class

 

 

Maoism. A Global History. Julia Lovell. A Socialist Review.

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Maoism. A Global History. Julia Lovell. Bodley Head. 2019.

Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are “poor and blank”. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for changes the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written; the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.

Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong.

“Introducing a Co-operative” (April 15, 1958).

One of the “most significant and complicated political forces of the modern world” for Julia Lovell, Maoism is “A potent mix of party-building discipline, anti-colonial rebellion and ‘continuous revolution”, grafted onto the secular religion of Soviet Marxism”. The legacy of Mao-Zedong “unlocks the contemporary history of China”. It is equally a “key influence on global insurgency, insubordination and intolerance across the last eighty years.” (Page 7) At the conclusion of this wide-ranging synthesis, covering the history of 20th century China, and the “significant afterlife” of Maoist inspired uprisings and groupuscules, “case studies in radicalisation” across the globe, the author asks of the Chairman’s homeland, “How will the PRC weather the contrast between the CCP’s Maoist heritage and the hybrid, globalised nature of contemporary China?” (Page 465)

What is Maoism? A Global History paints a portrait of Mao, of rural origin, who placed his faith in the peasantry and produced the 1927 Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan. Marx, Lovell asserts, had dismissed the mid-19th century French peasants as a “sack of potatoes”, a reference to their wretched conditions in isolated smallholdings. Marx believed that attachment to their post-Revolution property was one of the social bases for Louis Bonaparte’s Second Empire. Mao recognised a revolutionary social force in Chinese rural associations. It might be suggestive that this Emperor began his career by creating a “religion that represents and fights for the toiling farmers” put into practice through “a brief reign of terror in every rural area” (Page 34) (1)

Maoism a system of ideas and practices was, Lovell considers, born out of the brutal repression by the 1927 nationalists of their Communist allies. A hitherto loose organisation, inspired by the Russian Revolution, founded in 1921, it had entered a military based alliance with the Guomindang, on instructions from the Moscow run Third International. The violence unleashed by Chiang Kai-Shek was dramatised in André Malraux’s outstanding la Condition Humaine (1933). The French novelist underlined, like the present pages, the Soviet influence on making the disastrous alliance, and imposing the Leninist line that the peasantry would follow the urban workers (“le paysan suit toujours” dit Vologuine “Ou l‘ouvrier, ou le bourgeois. Mais il suit.”).

In the Countryside. 

In 1927 the nationalists and gangsters tried to exterminate the Communists, beginning by massacring communists and union members in their newly won Shanghai stronghold. The result was not only recriminations against Moscow, but the rise of “men like Mao from outside the first generation of elite intellectual leaders” who began “to assert the primacy of the military and of violence.” (Page 30) A strategy of the countryside following the city was replaced by a struggle in the rural areas. Regrouped the armed party began the Long March to escape the military campaign. Entrenched in remote districts the Chinese Communists (who became the CCP) expanded their territory until they led the national liberation struggle against the Japanese occupation.

In the early 1930s Mao had started his own purges, preceding Stalin’s Great Terror. “The most merciless torture” was ordered to “expose ‘Anti-Bolshevik conspirators”. Tens of thousands were murdered. The “radical sacrifice” (Terry Eagleton) by the Communists themselves was melded into extreme violence against others, including suspect Party members. This is an enduring pattern. A Global History resounds with memorable accounts of the brutality of Maoist uprising and the policies of the CPC, in war, at home and by their allies in North Korea and Kampuchea. They are not diminished by the American interventions in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and vicious efforts of states to exterminate Mao inspired insurgencies.

Many readers will be most affected by some of the opening chapters. Edgar Snow’s 1937 glowing portrait of the Communist North West in Red Star over China made an enduring impression across the world. Yan’an was no only a centre of heroic resistance; it “projected a reverence for culture”. In 1942 – 3 the less celebrated repression of the ‘Rectification Campaign’ indicated how Mao reacted to anybody bringing up the “dark side” of life in the base areas. Known as the Yan’an Literary Opposition (Gregor Benton)  they cast doubt on Communist pretensions to egalitarianism and popular participation. Amongst these dissident voices Lovell focuses on Wang Shiwei, who had studied in Moscow and was a talented translator and writer. In Wild Lily Shiwei launched heartfelt criticisms of Communist dogmatism, lack of human warmth and kindness. Above all he focused on the hierarchy and privileges that marked out life in the redoubt. The Communists allocated, by rank, three classes of clothing and five grades of food. Why was this not allocated “on the basis of need and reason”. Why should healthy “big shots” get more than the sick of lower rank? Subordinates “look upon them as a race apart”. (2)

Mao did not tolerate this. Wang was hauled up to a Show Trial. His fellow critics were humiliated into public self-criticism during “struggle sessions”. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were locked up in the caves. Charged and condemned Wang survived for a while, working in a matchbox factory. He was exhibited to journalists to say, “I am a Trotskyist. I attacked Mao. So I deserve to be executed.” Yet, “Mao is so magnanimous” and that he was “grateful for his mercy.” The Party leader’s forgiveness was short lived. The Communist dissident was hacked to death in 1947, it is said, on Mao’s orders. (3)

The Stalinist Terror Foundation.

This was founding moment in defining Maoism. These “Stalinist terror tactics” meant those under suspicion as “unreliable”, whether educated in the critical spirit of the “cosmopolitan Enlightenment” (Wang had translated Trotsky and Engels), or just grumblers, suffered imprisonment. Many were killed when it was convenient. From the Hundred Flowers Campaign in the 1950s, when criticism was invited, to the Cultural Revolution, when it was called for again, those who opened their hearts and spoke out found themselves subject to “thought reform” in vast gaols, and death.

There was another side to the Maoist template. Those who focus on the CCP’s achievements might draw some comfort in the description of the “co-operative movement” launched at the same time. Land reform and “social levelling” in their territory coincided with the Rectification campaign.

This two-pronged strategy, suppression of dissidents and material improvement, and suppression of exploiting classes, for the masses, was the “process through which Mao created a disciplined party and bureaucracy”. For Lovell it served as a template for ‘high Maoism’ – combining extreme violence against a variety of enemies with servitude to the ‘mass line’. Rebellion co-existed with the cult of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought.

A Global History draws on Frank Dikötter’s landmark studies to trace out the history of the People’s Republic. From the great enthusiasm that followed liberation, accompanied with repression to the mass famines of the Great Leap Forward, a break-neck industrialisation and collectivisation campaign, which in rural areas resembled the tragedy of the Holodomor, right up the Cultural Revolution, one can feel the CCP leadership’s disregard for human life. In the same year, 1958, Mao was prepared to add nuclear war to the human costs of his social gestures. “Maybe we can get the United States to drop an atom bomb on Fijian.” Mao spoke to his doctor, “Maybe ten or twenty million people will be killed.” (Page 133) Mao’s solipsism and egotism extended to his personal life. His ‘feminism’ did not prevent him from amassing  a female seralogio, imposing his personal quirks on others,  and boorish behaviour.  (4)

Cultural Revolutions.

1966 saw the launching of the Cultural Revolution, broadcast worldwide with hopes of global revolution. “Chinese propaganda portrayed Mao as the genius saviour of the world revolution: battling Western imperialists, treacherous Soviet revisionists and capitalist scabs in his own party.”(P 125) Mao had broken with Khrushchev over de-Stalinism and peaceful coexistence with the West. Apart from the formal allegiance of Albania to China’s line, the first small stirrings of a pro-Chinese current in the international Communist movement had begun before the Cultural Revolution. In Australia, and elsewhere, for example, in France, pro-Chinese activists took the label “Marxist-Leninist”. For these and similar groups across the world, Lovell notes, Chinese support was largely an affair of sending glossy magazines, small publication subsidies, and invitations to bathe in the glow of the Mao cult in China itself. (5)

In portraying the ‘Mao mood’ that took hold in small circles of the non-Chinese left Lovell does not distinguish between these early, ‘first wave’ dogmatic and Stalin nostalgic M-L groups from the much more heteroclite surge of ‘soft Maoist’ groupuscules who flourished in the wake of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This proliferation of different factions was possible because, amongst other reasons, there was no centralised Maoist ‘International’ on Comintern lines. 

“Maoist fever”, fashion caught hold in many countries. I was on display in 1967 in Mao-jacket mannequin photo shots in Lui and the pages of the avant-garde literary journal Tel Quel in France, a centre of the craze. May 68 brought this to the fore, with the Gauche Prolétarienne attempting to create a ‘Mao-spontex’ synthesis based on the spontaneity of the masses, in its wake. Bizarrely, as Simon Leys pointed out in his 1970s writings, the Cultural Revolution was pictured as “anti-authoritarian” and its leaders internationalists. In reality the factions battling it out in China constantly used authoritative police and ‘mass’ measures to repress dissent and – in the Party – its supporters were dyed in the wool xenophobes (Les habits neufs du président Mao: chronique de la ” Révolution culturelle . 1971. (5).

A Global History coasts over these movements, such as the German K groups, and the Italian Red Brigades. While alighting on the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Action Movement, she does not include much on the groups that have been called part of the New Communist Movement, of importance on the US left, which endured till the 1970s. Terrorist violence, associated with but independent of Maoism failed – Action Directe in 1980s France was perhaps the only case of a group with full-blown Maoist origins. Above all, “Dogmatic loyalty to the theory of the Cultural Revolution and to the twists and turns of Chinese domestic foreign policy” took their toll. Mao’s death in 1976 and the fall of the Gang broke whatever remained of the Cultural Revolution. From that wreckage Bob Avikin’s initiative, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement created in 1984, represents a low point. A more lasting influence can be seen in the ‘post-Maoist’ parties, the Belgium Parti du travail / Partij van de Arbeid van België, and the Dutch Socialist Party, Socialistische Partij, which have dropped the Marxist-Leninist heritage and have won Parliamentary and local representation in their countries.

Much of the Post-68 New Left, Trotskyist, anarchist and radical socialist, often strongly influenced by Simon Leys, either made fun of the hard-core Maoists or treated them with contempt. Our humour was misplaced, as Lovell describes, when in 2013 ‘Comrade Bala”, Aravindan Balakrishnan, was found to have kept female members of his cult, the Brixton based Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought was found to have kept women in sexual slavery kept in line by physical assault.

Maoism Across the World.

A Global History spends more time on the weightier political impact of Maoism, in Malaya, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Peru, India, African countries and Nepal. Lovell offers serious insights into the way Maoist intolerant tactics, that is violence, inflected deeply rooted fights for national liberation and social justice. It is hard not to keep in mind the example of Cambodia, “The go-it-alone nationalism of Mao’s revolution combined with the Khmer Rouge’s innate jingoism to produce the murderous self confidence of Pol Pot’s regime, a state unanswerable o any external authority.” (Page 257), Or the impact of China’s backing for the genocidal attack by the Pakistani army and Islamist collaborators against the Bangladeshi national liberation struggle in 1971.

In contrast to the largely for show support given to pro-Chinese groups, military and other aid in many of these cases was real. She offers reservations not just on the intoxicated cult of the Shining Path, which emerged fiercely critical of post-Mao China, but on the strategies carried out in the People’s War, the lead up to the genocidal crushing of Indonesian Communism, contemporary India, and the Nepalese Maoists, now in government. They too have practiced cultural revolutionary purges. Yet, Even passionate critics of the Maoists– of whom there are many in Kathmandu, across the political spectrum – concede that the Maoists accelerated, and placed centre stage, a more inclusive identity politics that sought to given political representation to the people of Nepal in all their diversity’ (Page 410)

Today the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) remains indebted to Mao Zedong and has called for a vote for the Brexit Party. Naxalite guerrillas in the Indian jungle pursue their insurgency, the President of China, Xi Jinping, is said to be reviving Mao’s ‘mass line’. Yet those who would say that Mao had written beautiful characters on the revolutionary history of the 20th century are few in number. In Maoism. A Global History Julia Lovell has accomplished a harder task: writing out in clear deeply thought-through pages one of the most important balance-sheets of Mao’s sombre legacy to have been published in the new millennium. Its measured criticisms of Maoist revolutionary cruelty make it essential reading for all democratic socialists and supporters of human rights.

In August 2018, a UN committee heard that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes.

The claims were made by rights groups, but China denies the allegations. At the same time, there’s growing evidence of oppressive surveillance against people living in Xinjiang.

BBC.

 

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  1. The idea that Karl Marx dismissed the peasantry rests on a partial reading of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1869) Marx wrote of the majority of smallholding peasants formed “by the simple addition of isomorphous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes.” But he also asserted that Bonapartism, as the representation of those who wish to “consolidate the condition of his social existence, the small holding. It does not represent the country people who want to overthrow the old order by their own energies, in alliance with the town.” Page 240. Surveys from Exile. Karl Marx. Editor David Fernbach. 1973.
  2. “From the amount of grain, sugar, cooking oil, meat and fruit to the quality of healthcare and access to information, one’s position in the party hierarchy determined everything. Even the quality of tobacco and writing paper varied according to rank.” Page 174. Mao’s Great Famine Frank Dikötter. Bloomsbury 2010. Link.
  3. Link. Lovell says, “Wang was denounced as a Trotskyist (he had translated Engels and Trotsky). His supporters were “investigated in a witch-hunt for spies and undercover agents, they were interrogated in front of large crowds shouting slogans, made to confess in endless indoctrination meetings and forced to denounces each other in a bid to save themselves. Some were locked in caves, others taken to mock executions. For month after month, life in Yan’an was nothing but a relentless succession of interrogations and rallies feeding fear, suspicion and betrayal. “(P 175) Some broke down, lost their minds or committed  suicide. “Mao demanded absolute loyalty from intellectuals, who had to reform themselves ideologically by constantly studying and discussing essays by him, Stalin and others.”(Ibid) The Rectification Campaign was ended in 1945 he apologised for maltreatment and blamed his underlings. Wang Shiwei was killed in 1947, reportedly chopped to pieces and thrown down a well. Translations are contained in the excellent, highly recommended, dossier on Lib Com: Yenan Literary Opposition.
  4. “The one-party state under Mao did not concentrate all its resources on the extermination of specific groups of people – with the exception, of course of counter-revolutionaries, saboteurs, spies and other ‘enemies of the people’, political categories vague enough potentially to include anybody and everybody. But Mao did throw the country in the great leap forward, extended the military structure of the party to all society. ‘Everyone a soldier’, Mao had proclaimed at the height of the campaign, brushing aside such bourgeois niceties as a salary, a day off each week or a prescribed limit on the amount of labour a worker should carry out. A giant people’s army in the command economy would respond to every beck and all of its generals. Every aspect of society was organised on military lines with canteens, boarding kindergartens, collective dormitories, shock troops and villages construed to be foot soldiers. –In a continuous revolution. “(P 298 – 299) Frank Dikötter op cit.

  5. See: Chapters one and Two.  Les maoïstes. La folle histoire des gardes rouges français. Christophe Bourseiller. 2nd Edition. Plon. 2008 This is particularly informative: PEKING REVIEW AND GLOBAL ANTI-IMPERIALIST NETWORKS IN THE 1960S Hatful of History.

  6. See also Chinese Shadows  Simon Leys, 1977. 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 13, 2019 at 12:23 pm