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Posts Tagged ‘European Left

Boris Johnson, the “Trumpification of British Politics” and the Left.

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Our Ruling Class.

Talleyrand – Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754  – 1838) – was the most famous European statesman of his day.

His house. the Hôtel de Talleyrand, was celebrated,

Into this palace, as a spider into its web, he enticed and captured, one by one, heroes, thinkers, conquerors, princes, emperors, Bonaparte, Sieyès, Mme de Stael, Chateaubriand, Benjamin Constant, Alexandre de Russie, Guillaume de Prusse, François d’Autriche, Louis XVIII, Louis Philippe, and all the gilded glittering flies which buzz through the history of these past forty years. All this glittering swarm, fascinated by the penetrating eye of this man, passed in turn under this gloomy entrance bearing on it the inscription: Hôtel Talleyrand.

In the collection of writings from which this comes Victor Hugo described the death of the man who became a by-word by cynical diplomacy.

In Choses Vues the author of Les Misérables  describes his embalming, in the ancient Egyptian style.

The corpse lay in an empty chamber when a valet walked in.

He found that they had left the brain on the side-table.

The servant picked it up, and finding no other way of disposing of it, threw it into the outside sewer.

It is said that people have been looking for someone with Tallyrand’s cerebrum ever since.

Many would say that dealing Boris Johnson would be hard even for the most experienced politician.

El Pais says that “La única persona capaz de derrotar a Boris Johnson —y ya hay precedentes— sería el propio Boris Johnson.” (“the only person capable of defeating Boris Johnson – and there are precedents – is Boris Johnson himself”)

The European Press is full of such scorn for the man Le Monde calls a “buffoon” (while politely asking him to stop being one):

Le Monde, in an excoriating editorial, said Johnson had shown himself to be “a stranger to logic and convictions” in a career rich in “deceits, blunders and failures”. In the run-up to the 2016 referendum he “told lies on the side of a bus, promised the UK could have its cake and eat it, and compared the EU to the Third Reich,” it said.

As foreign secretary he “made his country an object of ridicule around the world with his amateurism, flippancy and ignorance”, France’s newspaper of record continued. Rivalling Nigel Farage for populism, Johnson’s “jingoistic rhetoric” promised Britons an unrealistic “glorious global future”.

His threat to withhold the €39bn Brexit divorce settlement would have “incalculable consequences”, damaging the international credibility of a country priding itself on being a champion of the rule of law, Le Monde said. And for the EU a Johnson premiership would mean “a mini-Trump across the Channel, dedicated to its sabotage”. Britain would become “a hostile principality, built on social, fiscal and environmental deregulation.”

Amongst the articles cited by the Guardian this stands out (Corriere della Sera)

Lord Chris Pattern says that Johnson is part of the ” una “trumpificazione” della nostra politica., the Trumpification of our politics.

He is equally,

Trump’s poodle: a liar who does not pay attention to the detail of reality, tells people what they want to hear and relies on their ignorance”.

Patten said Johnson exemplified the “collapse of rationality, of the relationship between the facts and what we believe” in present-day politics. “What he is offering is impossible.

All this looks as if it implies some serious thinking about changing Labour’s strategy.

A bounder in his own bailiwick is going to be hard to dislodge.

The Trumpification of British politics has begun; it does not look if a hasty declaration of an “insurgency” against Johnson is going to thwart it.

To begin with there is the impact of start-up political business, The Brexit Party. Helped by the ‘red-brown’ front, not to mention the support of former leftists, it has become a political player, and how to fight it. The Brexit Party is part of a broader trend towards national populism, which has helped dislodge the left from its historic bases of support in Italy and France. Left-wing populisms – in France and Spain – have been unable to counter the nationalist call to fight ‘oligarchies’ and ‘elites’ on behalf of the Nation.

The Brexit Party is not about to vanish:

Is an appeal to our own ‘identity politics’ of the people, the left-behind, the self-identifying native working class better than trying to build alliances on universal, internationalist,  fights for rights and interests?

Then there Johnson’s strategy: will Farage assist the disintegration of the Tory party, or will the Brexit Party pave the way for his victory as part of a new “great moving right show” that can resonate  deeply into the country’s electorate and culture ? Johnson hopes to rebuild the electoral support that got May- just –  elected and to extent it. How can an alternative be created from shards from the same ideology, which, the experience of European left populism indicates, is a sure way to strengthen the carnival of reaction, not to challenge it?

All these issues boil down to one: the Brexit project. Will Labour let Johnson pursue the goal – however much he twists and turns over the details – of a Hard Right Brexit, the only actually existing Brexit.

Apparently the Lexit left has the answer: it needs to back their version of Brexit.

The Morning Star editorialises.

..the trade union movement and the left has to make a decisions it to remain stuck in an increasingly sterile and immobilising debate for and against the EU? Or is it to shift the ground to the kind of withdrawal from the EU that must be secured to protect working people and to advance a progressive agenda that can beat the Tories?

Only class politics can defeat Johnson in Labour’s working-class heartlands. The dangers of not preparing are too serious to be contemplated.

The beginnings of a different approach are there, and have strong support on the left.

This is an excellent reply to such views:

Labour must re-energise the Corbyn project by opposing Brexit

witnessing the party’s continued ambiguity and evasion, many of the members who resolutely defended Corbyn as leader in the face of an establishment onslaught are asking themselves whether the values of straight-talking honest politics only apply if you agree with the leader. Going into a general election with the current policy on Brexit would be disastrous. By bringing its policy back into line with the democratic will of its members, and anchoring its support for Remain in a programme of cross-border resistance, Labour can clearly differentiate itself from the pro-business globalism of the Lib Dems and the utopian optimism of the Greens to win back disillusioned supporters.

With a vision aimed at defending the interests of all workers, British or not, Labour can win here and lead a Europe-wide offensive against capitalist exploitation. Co-ordinating this cross-border coalition will require conferences and organising events attracting activists with shared goals from across Europe. Labour can be the force to convene such events on a mass scale, to begin the fight for a democratic, socialist Europe.

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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..

The Death of “Left Wing Populism”.

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“Fashion dies young, ” (La mode meurt jeune) said Jean Cocteau (Le « populisme de gauche » est mort !)

It seems like another epoch.

‘Left wing populism”, the new strategy of the left, was going to sweep all before it.

In the “era of people” the old class divisions were eroded, politics was about moblising, giving a voice to, and joining together the victims of neo-liberal economics against the Oligarchy, the “elite”.

National symbols and a feeling of real  community needed to be retaken by the left.

In  France this reached the point of celebrating the “patriotic” revolutionary tradition of ‘the French’ with ‘left populists’ waving the Tricolore and singing the Marseillaise – as indeed their forebears in the French Communist Party were wont to do in times of popular unity and their own ‘National Fronts’ (1940s onwards).

We were lectured on how French nationalism – no doubt like so many other nationalisms in the eyes of their ‘left’ supporters – is uniquely revolutionary and ‘popular’.

It would not be hard to find the pages written on this, from Chantal Mouffe’s For a Left Populism (2018) to scores of articles on Mouffe, and the (deceased) Ernesto Laclau’s writings on populism.

It was recommended that the British Labour Party take note and develop its own “insurgent” style and politics.

In those distant days (31st of March 2019) the self-styled voice of the American radical left, Jacobin, was full of articles on the topic.

Anton Jäger and Arthur Borriello wrote,

Left populism is the new idiom of radical politics worldwide. It emerged as the answer to the problem of a weak and disorganized working class — but despite its electoral successes…

In contrast to a moribund old left, clinging to antiquated remedies when facing annihilation, left-populism has trimmed its sails to the wind.

Is Left Populism the Solution?

The previous year (2018, how distant it seems now! ) Jacobin’s European editor, Dave Broder boasted, of an event on the fringe at the Labour Party Conference.

Tonight Jacobin will host an event at The World Transformed featuring France’s most popular political leader, France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Winning seven million votes in last year’s presidential election, the radical left-winger is today at the forefront of the revolt against Emmanuel Macron’s crisis-wracked government.

He went onto to praise, Mélenchon and his movement’s

 ..success in uniting the oppressed…

The Left Should Welcome Mélenchon

Earlier this year Broder gave a reverential interview to the Leader of la France insoumise in the Jacobin supplement, the UK magazine Tribune.

‘Everyone should know — I am very dangerous’

This Blog has covered the growing crisis in his La France insoumise.

We have discussed this book, Le populisme : le grand ressentiment (2017) and interview (2018) Left-wing populism. A legacy of defeat: Interview with

Fassin had the foresight to say:

The problem with the populist strategy, for the left, is that it’s neither left nor a winning strategy. It was even less so during the latest presidential campaign in France: everyone played that same card at the same time, including Macron, with a rhetoric of ‘centre’ populism!

Today we read on a site of the French radical left close to the independent section of La France insoumise, Ensemble, though increasingly not close to Mélenchon himself, that the strategy of left-wing populism has unravelled right to down to reveal its bleached skeleton.

Le « populisme de gauche » est mort ! 

The economist Cédric Durand and the sociologist Razmig Keucheyan.

After tracing the origins of this strategy to the Latin America left, (an important inspiration for Ernesto Laclau inspiration), and the failures of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution” they state,

..the limits of the model are obvious, and even more so in Europe, where no current claiming “left-wing populism” has been able to gain power. The results of Podemos and La France insoumise in the European elections, accompanied in the Spanish case of very poor local elections scores, sound the death knell of experience.

It forced the left to think about what “people” means today. More complex and diverse, the ‘people’ are no longer those created during  the post-war economic success when the left bloc combined the salaried popular classes and certain fractions of the middle classes, especially intellectual ones. Globalisation, neoliberal Europe and the renunciation of social democracy have blown it up, creating a deadly cleavage between a supposedly protective nationalism and an all-market pseudo-internationalism. The populist strategy has been able to defy the hegemony of the neoliberalized left by jostling amongst the interstices of the historical formations.

But it failed to structure a new social alliance. How to explain the failure?

The summary of the answer to this is that,

The opposition between the 1% and the 99% has perhaps allowed to trigger a political movement and to incarnate it in a leader, but has  prevented it from developing long-term roots.

They argue that the backing for these parties, above all Podemos and La France insoumise,  has been based on too many differing social  constituencies. These are not just fragmented but lack  a consistently defined interest however much a political apparatus tries to “articulate to offer a stable political base.

To put it simply ‘federating’ a variety of ‘democratic’ struggles and social concerns together around a charismatic ‘Leader’ has not paid off.

No strategy based on Laclau’s picture of the rhetorical foundations of society and floating signifiers, or Mouffe’s agonism, and “effects” can hide the results of elections, and the failure to “capture” the – ambitious – Gilets Jaunes revolt to restore the “moral economy” that many very different social categories dream of  asserting faced with President Macron and his own simulacrum of a party, La République En Marche.

Perhaps the substantial part of LFI’s ecosocialism” and green planning (far from their personal property as Benoît Hamon and Génération.s, stand for une écologie humaniste qui prône l’humain au coeur de la réflexion écologisteindicates) can be saved from this wreck……

That is France, but the downward spiral of left populism has wider implications.

Above all Durand and Keucheyan ask,

Why do left-wing populisms prove incapable of dealing with disagreements and bringing pluralism to life? Podemos and La France insoumise are authoritarian structures. A clear-headed assessment obliges us to recognise this.

One party of the answer, which applies to French Left Populism,  is offered here.

In this article Après le départ de Charlotte Girard, «La France insoumise en difficulté»… et après? criticises above all La France insoumise for its “hégémoniste et exclusive ” political practice.

This is a striking observation.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon a été formé à l’école de Pierre Lambert: où qu’il soit passé (y compris comme premier secrétaire de la fédération PS de l’Essonne comme féal mitterrandien), il n’a jamais hésité devant les méthodes brutales, au nom des exigences de l’orientation politique du moment, cette orientation fût-elle éphémère.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon was trained at Pierre Lambert’s |(note, hard-line orthodox Trotskyist, with strongly patriotic/nationalist traits)  school: wherever he went (including as first secretary of the PS federation of Essonne as a loyal supporter of Mitterrand)  he never hesitated before brutal methods In the name of the political demands of the moment, however ephemeral they were.

It was often said that Left Populism was a strategy in a hurry.

It needed to build quickly to overtake and replace  the ‘old’ left, the compromised ‘neoliberals’  those unable to confront globalisation with a viable appeal to “the people”.

Internal democratic structures in such ‘start up’ parties, movement, best called in France’s case a rally, were not that important.

Fat chance….

When they lose votes in elections, when their strategy is in tatters, how else can their difficulties be discussed?

How can a return to alliances of the left bloc, the people of the left be made by charismatic leaders with a direct line of communication to the People?

The obituary of left populism may be premature.

The stakes are high:

Yet the “populist moment” today is the time of national populism of the right and the far-right, helped by political confusionism – the -red-brown ‘left’.

Let’s hope that the left stops listening to those who were so enthusiastic about  left populism only a few months ago reflect.

Beware ! to  anybody in the UK stumbling by chance on Jacobin, left-populist Dave Broder is now praising Jeremy Corbyn….

Update: this is in an interesting analysis of the “chain of equivalences” between La France insoumise and the Front National.

France Insoumise : Ces chauvin(e)s qui nous cassent les couilles.

«l’Insoumission »? C’ est un  « Front ». France ≡ National / Insoumise  ≡ Front.

C’est avec la naissance de la France Insoumise que Mélenchon (qui a passé la plus grande partie de sa vie dans le « socialisme ») et les siens ont abandonné le drapeau rouge au profit du sympathique et vibrant Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. Ils ont aussi abandonné cette vieillerie de l’International au profit de la très moderne Marseillaise. Mélenchon et les siens ne se réclamaient plus de la « gauche » mais du « peuple » en prétendant que le mot gauche est un attrape-tout, qu’il empêche de penser rigoureusement.

It was with the birth of France Insoumise that Mélenchon (who spent most of his life in “socialism”) and his family abandoned the red flag for the sympathetic and vibrant Blue, White, Red. They have also abandoned this old age banner of the International in favour of the very modern Marseillaise. Mélenchon and his people no longer claimed to be on the “left” but on the side of the “people” by claiming that the left word is a catch-all term, that prevents rigorous thought.

See also this (the fall-out continues on a daily basis):

 

The Limpet Leninists, Corbyn, his Advisers and Brexit.

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CLPD and Brexit Bolsheviks Try to Fight off Internationalist Challenge to Labour Fence-sitting.

It looks like Boris Johnson and the Hard Brexiteers will soon be running the country.

There is  lot of discussion on the left as to whether Corbyn will change the walking disaster that is his Brexit Policy.

There are those who suggest that this is not the best we can hope for.

 

The problem is that this lot truly believe in Brexit.

Corbyn supporters can waffle all they like, propose motions like the CLPB for “unity” around the pro-Brexit forces in Labour, and go on for ever about other Tory policies, but Brexit is the issue that runs through every single political debate in the country.

The prospect of Brexit making “austerity”, smashing and churning up people’s lives and rights, eroding collectivist politics in a frantic rush to trade on WTO rules, is what counts.

But that’s not what the inner circle really believe.

Comrade Jim Denham has a piece in Shiraz – for the CPB read an important influence on the thinking of Corbyn’s team. 

Is Brexit really a “working class” cause?

Communist Party of Britain (CPB) general secretary Robert Griffiths had a piece in the Morning Star of 31 May entitled “Time for Labour to stand unequivocally by the working class”. He claims that the way to do that is for Labour to back Brexit. Brexit is a working-class cause.

..

The editor of the newly-revived Tribune, (Note by TC, owned by US Jacobin publisher, pro-Brexit Bhaskar Sunkara) Ronan Burtenshaw, goes some distance in the same direction as the Morning Star. His piece in the latest Tribune is entitled “Hold the Line”. A “negotiated Customs Union and further developing a Norway model” will provide Labour with “grounds on which some form of renewed social democracy might be won in Britain.”

Ignoring left-wing campaigns like Labour for a Socialist Europe and Another Europe is Possible, Burtenshaw tries to make out that “People’s Vote is a movement for the restoration of the ancient regime” (i.e. for “the years of social liberalism before the financial crisis”). Burtenshaw advocates a form of “soft” Brexit that will satisfy no one and disparages Remainers on the spurious basis that they support “progressive social views” rather than what he defines as “class politics” (i.e. nationalist reformism).

The limpet Leninists can still be defeated:

 

Labour and National Populism After the Peterborough By-Election.

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Brexit Politics (Cold War Steve).

“When in a crisis” wrote Stuart Hall in 1979, “the traditional alignments are disrupted, it is possible, on the very ground of this break, to construct the people into a populist political subject with, not against the power bloc; in alliance with new political forces in a great national crusade to make Britain ‘Great’ once again.” (1)

In this,  The Great Moving Right Show, Hall foresaw the way in which the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher was able to bring together voters behind an “authoritarian populism” that played in the difficulties of Labour’s social democratic collectivist heritage. The details of radical free-market policies mattered less than law and order; the “nation” and “our people” appealed to the large racist constituency that had been given a voice by Enoch Powell and was visible in the street marches of the National Front; ‘popular morality” embraced her call for hard work and getting the state “off our backs”.

The Peterborough by-election was marked by the presence of a new army in that Holy War for British Greatness, the Brexit Party. As Alan Wager says, “for the first time since the introduction of universal suffrage, Peterborough is no longer a Labour or Conservative contest. Instead, an insurgent party just eight weeks old – the Brexit Party – came a close second, campaigning ostensibly on the single-issue basis they will “bring democracy back”. Farage, he continues, fills a vacuum. His defeat, acknowledged, if at all, with ill-grace, was not a decisive blow. The new start-up business/Party, “mixing together democracy and leaving the EU without any withdrawal agreement, clearly hits the electoral sweet-spot of the current moment “ Their impact on the Conservative Party leadership contest, and the potential boost to the No Deal Boris Johnson, is considerable. (2)

Farage’s own stunt – clearly planned in anticipation of victory – still went ahead:

 

This indicates, those inspired by one side of Hall’s articles argue, the left needs its own “national popular” language to counter the national populists of the Brexit Party and the Tory European Reform Group. Calls for class struggle, or mass protests, the “real struggle”, have been launched, largely to deaf ears. There were a couple of thousand People’s Assembly demonstrators in January. They might have sparked some sympathy if they had not finished the day with pointless fisticuffs between their high vis clothed supporters and far rightists in yellow jackets over who were the “real” Gilets Jaunes. The “floating signifier” of the People against the “elite”, the “power bloc” could be harnessed by the left and filled with democratic content. National Sovereignty could be the key to fighting ‘neoliberalism’, largely, it appears, an enemy located in the European Union.

National Therapy Culture.

“The Language of emotionalism pervades popular culture, the world of politics, the workplace, schools and universities and everyday life” began Frank Furedi in Therapy Culture. (2004) Today the ‘red-brown’ Brexit Party supporter is one of many who celebrate the national “Self”. Far from a bold assertion of self-affirmation and independence the Brexit crusaders wallow in victimhood and narcissism. Identity politics, of the ‘real’ working class, the ‘real’ British, the English has flourished. The quiet decency of love for people, culture and things dear has been replaced by cries of Treason, and Betrayal. (3)

The Brexit Party is an Encounter Group for this constituency. Perhaps it’s to ease their pain with palliatives like turning against the hard Brexit free market pain pain by proposing “John Lewis-style” – boss run – social ownership by companies part-owned by the workers in British Steel.

Socialist Resistance predicted a Carnival of Reaction after a Referendum Leave vote. It is still taking place. This time the moving right show is leading a simulacrum of Greatness, subordinate to a new American assertion of autonomous, unilateral, action. Those who pinned their hopes on a popular pro-Brexit revolt “from below”, paralleling the French Gilets Jaunes. But such signs of the vanquished standing up in the line of a “democratic and social revolution” seen in the rose tinted spectacles of the French journalist Edwy Plenel, has not appeared. They will not appear. (4)

Left Brexiters at an Impasse.

The disillusion of left Brexit supporters has yet to unfold. Larry Elliott, is a supporter of the ‘red brown’ Full Brexit grouping, which brings together Brexit Party backers the Communist Party of Britain, Labour Leave, some Counterfire supporters, and the anti-cosmopolitan Blue Labour. Elliott defends Jeremy Corbyn’s “Euroscepticism”, and places anti-EU politics on the left, ignoring long-standing radical socialists who have had a more favourable “transform and remain” stand for some decades. Those who recoil from National Populism and advocate this view turn a blind eye to Europe with a “a currency that doesn’t work, an economy that doesn’t work and a political process that doesn’t work.” Elliot is reluctant to describe in detail the socialist potential offered by a Brexit Britain, one carried out by the only available vehicle the Conservative government, negotiating with the WTO and Donald Trump,.

That the Labour leader has done a good job in keeping Leavers and Remainers under the same tent – a “marriage counsellor” – seems to be the “line” in some quarters. The idea that Labour needs its “herbivores” – middle class liberals – as well as is sturdy working class supporters may well be true. Stuart Hall talked of Thatcherism speaking out for those with negative experience of the corporate institutions of the social democratic consensus. Labour, it hardly needs saying, can draw on the lived experience of neoliberalism, austerity and the coercive bureaucracy of the shrunken welfare state.

But Brexit remains at the centre of everything. There is indeed a “significant minority”, with or without the romance of labour movement history, of Labour supporters who backed Brexit. But this claim covers something that needs thinking about. Efforts by Left populists to “federate” the “people” against the “oligarchy” have been set back in the European elections as Podemos and La France insoumise lost a lot of votes. It is even less likely that Labour can win support as an “insurgent” party against Europe and against those opposing National Populism and Brexit. 

This may help clarify Labour’s position,

It is commonly assumed that Leave supporters want to leave the EU — regardless of the type of Brexit — more than Remain supporters want to remain. But a new YouGov survey of over 1,600 British citizens carried out by academic researchers shows it is wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. 

While 33 per cent of the country now want a no-deal Brexit, 42 per cent say it is their least-favourite outcome. Our survey also shows that support for the Brexit Party is higher among financially comfortable voters — adding to previous research showing that support for no-deal is also higher in that group.

The gap between Remainers’ attitude to leaving and leavers’ attitude to Remaining holds true across supporters of all the political parties. Even Brexit Party voters are not all vehemently attached to leaving at any cost. Only 50 per cent prefer their lowest-ranked Leave option to Remaining.

Meanwhile, among people who voted Labour in 2017, 72 per cent of Remainers would mind “a lot” about leaving the EU, whereas only 25 per cent of Labour Leavers mind “a lot” about Remaining.

Everything you think you know about Leavers and Remainers is wrong.  Christabel Copper and Christina Pagel.

Not that these considerations will affect the Boycott Labour in the European Elections editors of the Communist Party of Britain’s Morning star.

They are still rattling out the same old tune,

 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.

That is….back the part of that diversity which alone, and against everything, supports Brexit….

There is only one Brexit on offer and this is the Man who would like to carry it out:

Matthew Parris.

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  1. Page 49. The Hard Road to Renewal Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left, Stuart Hall. Verso. 1988.
  2. Peterborough: Labours squeaky victory and the vacuum on the right. Alan Wager.
  3. Therapy Culture. Routledge 2004. The Minimal Self. Christopher Lasch. Picador. 1984.
  4. La Victoire des vaincus. À Proposes des gilets jaunes. Edwy Plenel. La Découverte. 2019.
  5. Jeremy Corbyn is right: Labour needs both its leavers and its remainers. 

Left Populism: La France Insoumise Faces Internal Challenge.

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Résultat de recherche d'images pour "la france insoumise Assemblée représentative de La France insoumise on the 23rd of June."

Mr 6,3% and his European List.

A few days ago I, as a loyal supporter of la France insoumise (along with half a million others who signed up to their free online registration of support) received a notification of their latest ‘conference’ the Assemblée représentative de La France insoumise on the 23rd of June.

The E-Mail invited me to put my name into a hat for the “tirage au sort” (selection by lot) to attend. 160 of us would be chosen by this method, and 80 “representatives” from the “different spaces” (its sounds as odd in French) of the “point de ralliement” of JeanLuc  Mélenchon.

There are no “factions”; indeed no different currents of opinion on an organised basis. There are no bothersome competitive elections, different political platforms or indeed anything more than an opportunity to talk as individuals  about the programme for the upcoming Municipal elections.

One is invited to contribute to the debate with comments on the “Texte programmatique national pour les élections municipales” – as in the good old days when the Parti communiste français invited members, and cells, to express their views on the Central Committee’s documents before the Congrès. Before that is, the CC’s line was adopted unanimously.

Cette assemblée sera composée de 160 insoumis·es tiré·es au sort et 80 représentant·es des différents espaces de La France insoumise. Une première phase du tirage au sort est prévue le mercredi 5 juinVous pouvez vérifier que vous êtes inscrit⋅e aux tirages au sort ici.

This kind of ‘democracy’ may remind some people of how Momentum operates, except that this is a group with MPs, MEP and a whole raft of councillors.

It has long irked many people and been cited as an example of how E-democracy  with a “charismatic” populist leader is no democracy at all.

The idea of a lightening struggle for power, that has no need for long-term structures, has been proved wrong by election results.

Today we learn that leading activists in lFI are speaking out and calling for democratic change inside the movement.

The Huffington Post this Thursday  reports that after last week’s discussion on “left wing populism” dissatisfaction with la France insoumise has moved now onto its internal structures and lack of viable democratic channels.

Si le débat stratégique entre “ligne populiste” et “union de la gauche” a focalisé l’attention la semaine dernière, c’est désormais la gouvernance même de La France insoumise et son manque de démocratie qui sont aujourd’hui pointés du doigt.

Amongst the many reasons why a large section of the Left in France, and elsewhere in Europe, is sceptical about ‘left populism’, is this kind of simulacrum of democracy cobbled together around a “Webocracy”.

The stimulus for this is that today Le Monde published an internal document of LFI in which members of the movement criticise these structures and their poor results (6,3%) in the European elections.

Une note interne à La France insoumise dénonce « un fonctionnement dangereux pour l’avenir du mouvement »

Dans un document que « Le Monde » s’est procuré, plusieurs dirigeants « insoumis » demandent plus de démocratie interne et critiquent sévèrement le mauvais score du parti aux élections européennes.

In a document that le Monde has obtained many leading figures of LFI have asked for more internal democracy and have heavily criticised the poor results of the party in the European elections.

This report gives some details:

Crise ouverte à La France insoumise

This is not the end of the troubles of LFI.

One of their best known intellectual, Thomas Guénolé,  has fallen out with the rally, and has been embroiled in a sexual harassment case brought by a young woman LFI activist.

Today we read this: Thomas Guénolé poursuit La France insoumise en justice

The political scientist is the author of some decent books (Petit guide du mensonge en politique, 2014) and some, in many critics’ view,  less than decent books  – (Islamopsychose 2017).

Guénolé had been active in LFI. He was a candidate on their European list this year, before falling out, drastically with them. He has called hMélenchon an « autocrat », la France Insoumise a « dictatorship », and denounced their “stalinist methods of stifling critics.  Guénolé has been accused of sexual harassment by LFI.

Today he announced that he will see them in court…

 

To cap it all  in le Monde yesterday (print edition) an appeal was published calling to break with the existing structures of the French left (follow my gaze, La France insoumise), in a “big Bang” to create co-operative structures.

It’s launched by Mélenchon’s  nemesis: Clémentine Autain.

Image result for clementine autain

 

Perhaps the Charismatic Leader will now take a back-seat:

Reflections on the European vote: Remain and Reform!

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2019 England European Election Results.

“If you wanted to show a foreigner England” begins chapter nineteen of Howards End, “perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit.” E. M. Forster gazes to the “gates of London itself. So tremendous is the City’s trail!” We pause for breath, “But the cliffs of freshwater it shall never touch, and the island will guard the Island’s purity till the end of time.”

If you wanted to show the Brexit Party after its triumph in the European elections, our media have decided, do not stray in the shadow of the City with the hard Brexit Nigel Farage and Home Counties Boris Johnson. Stand in the North and ask the views on Europe of those who voted for the Egocrat. They voted to Leave and to “get the job done”. Now.

In Bradford, on Channel Four News, a former Labour supporter was fed up with a party that ignores the “working class”. Labour stands now; he was ready to inform us, for the middle class. The days of Tony Blair’s robust proletarian politics are long gone. He left happy backing the Brexit Party, defending our Island Purity in the company of a man Benjamin Disraeli would have saluted as an Angel in Marble, a former Tory voter.

Decline of Working Class Politics.

1971 saw the appearance of The Decline of Working Class Politics by Barry Hindess. It talked of the “apathy, resignation and indifference” that “characterise the political position of the working class throughout the developed industrial countries of the west today.” The political sociologist that he was at that time charted the evidence in terms of a sharp drop in grass roots working class participation in the Labour Party. Hindess suggested that political action outside its formal structures, including industrial unrest, would not stem a longer term “rejection of politics”, formal politics amongst this section of the population. (1)

The 1970s and 1980s, with large scale union unrest, and radicalisations channelled into the Labour Party might be seen as a parenthesis from this trend. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, apparently a ‘left populism’ has been seen as a means to revive a mass socialist movement. Whether it can ward off the longer-term fragmentation and decline in working class politics is another issue.

Europe has seen some dramatic declines in working class parties, combining the fall out from the end of Official Communism in 1989 and the failures of ‘Third Way’ social democracy represented by Blair, Brown, die Neue Mitte in Germany, and social liberal governments in a number of countries, notably France under President Hollande.  In Italy the left, reduced by the centrist  Partito Democratico,  barely exists. 

In the elections this year France the once ruling Parti Socialiste scrapped a few seats this Sunday with 6,2% of the vote, while the left populist La France insoumise scored .. 6,3% . This contrasts with their leader,  Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  personal vote of 19,48% in the 2017 Presidential elections.  With some exceptions, such as the Dutch labour party, the only radical parties, with an ambiguous relationship to the left (sometimes in coalition with it, other times not), that did well were the Greens. The EELV won an unexpected 13, 47% in France (only a few months ago they barely topped LFI) and did well in Britain.

The main result from France was that the Marine Le Pen’s Party won 23,31% of the vote, while Macron’s party got 22,41% – a win for National Populism.

RN Prenez le pouvoir, liste soutenue par Marine Le Pen Jordan Bardella 5,281,745 23.31 –1.55 23 –1 22 –2
REMMoDem Renaissance soutenue par La République en Marche, le MoDem et ses partenaires Nathalie Loiseau 5,076,469 22.41

Italy is a slough of despond.

In Spain, by contrast the Socialist party (PSOE) did well, although another left populist group,  more democratic and internationalist than la France insoumise, lost a lot of votes.

 

The Spanish Socialist Party, which won the most votes at the recent April 28 general elections but fell short of a majority, secured another bitter-sweet victory at the “Super Sunday” polls yesterday. The PSOE, as the party is known, consolidated its power at the European Union, municipal and regional polls, but left-wing groups lost the jewel in the crown: Madrid City Hall, which until now had been controlled by former judge Manuela Carmena. Leftist groups also failed to beat out the right in the Madrid region. The conservative Popular Party (PP) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), with the support of the far-right Vox, could join forces to govern in Madrid. The divisions of the left, combined with the poor showing of anti-austerity group Podemos, were the key factors behind this failure.

..

The biggest turnaround, however, was for Podemos, which suffered a much greater loss than expected. The group’s founding leader, Pablo Iglesias, will now be left exposed to criticism for the poor result. The situation will also weaken his negotiating position with acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who needs the anti-austerity group’s support to form a government. Iglesias had been vying for a coalition government, and for Podemos to have control of several ministries. This may be off the table after Sunday’s polls, but the 42 seats that the group holds in the lower house of parliament are still essential for Sánchez if he is to be voted back in as prime minister, and Iglesias could negotiate a global pact – the group’s seats are key to forming a government in a number of regions, including Aragón, the Balearic Islands and Asturias, as well as dozens of local councils.

Socialists win big in Sunday’s elections but the right takes control of Madrid

The Podemos vote went down from 10,5% to 7,96%

Working Class Politics in Britain.

Occupational change, above all the shrinking of industrial employment, to the growth in tertiary, often precarious, employment with individual sometimes insecure, contracts, and employer monitoring. Welfare ‘reform’, from Britain’s Universal Credit to the mean-spirited cut backs imposed in France in Édouard Louis’s latest book, Qui a tué mon père, has further sapped class solidarity. Unions across the continent have been, outside a few white collar and transport sectors, weakened. That they have shrunk is not news to anybody. But the effect of that decline on what it means for a political working class identity, which seems at present going the way of other ‘identities’, a particularity, not universality, is not clearly recognised.

Inside Labour there are those still keen to listen to the voices of those who have backed the Brexit Party. Their voices count. In the pseudo psephology of the Brexit left they have more weight than anybody else – the Labour voters who went to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats to start with. There are those who consider that a firm commitment to leaving Europe, a ‘socialist’ Brexit, a People’s Brexit, or whatever phrase that have mongered this week, would best shore up Labour’s vote. Some go so far as indulge themselves in a neo-Stalinism that dreams of socialism in one country, Britain. 

Despite this they remain in denial.

Confronting the facts about the sections of the popular vote that go to the far right is never going to be easy. The French Front National, now Rassemblement National, of Marine Le Pen, has long been the “premier parti des ouvriers in France”. In a delicate and perhaps life-changing book Retour à Reims, Didier Eribon talked in 2009 of how members of his family in Northern France had passed from support for the Communist Party to voting for the national populist right. He asked for way to “neutralise” the xenophobic racist, “negative passions” that enabled the FN to mobilise its electorate. This non-fiction novel also covers homophobia, another issue which is becoming political in Britain, with the bigoted anti-gay scenes outside a Birmingham Primary school set to spread further.

Left Populists in Decline.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon sought not just to counteract the racialist right. La France insoumise promised to “federate the people”, beyond left and right, against the “oligarchy”. His party-movement, a “point de ralliement” (rallying point) is built on the Internet. Resembling in this respect president Macron’s La République en Marche, this easy to access network “is broad. But its hierarchy is steep. The man at the top stands aloof” Over the least year LFI has seen dissent, democratic, or nationalist, swept away. Indulging in his favourite sport, attacking every other group on the left, from the “social liberal” Parti Socialiste, to the ‘sectarian’ Communists, Mélenchon’s spend the last weeks of his campaign attacking the Greens. Ferociously (Crash de la France insoumise aux européennes : Jean-Luc Mélenchon à l’heure des comptes).

This is the consequence:  Elections européennes 2019 : la gauche dominée par EELV mais toujours aussi divisée

Left populism may have lost one prominent model and the other, Podemos, has had a set back, but will some continue to offer this “insurgent” template for Labour. Or will the left recognise that the best answer, in the far from wished for position we are in now, is to unite around an internationalist and Universalist position on Europe: remain and reform. The alternative is is to listen to these people.

The signs sent out by John MacDonnell, who has risen to the needs of the hour, in that direction are encouraging.

I have more trust in comrade MacDonnell than the group around Corbyn but this is the latest news;

.

Update: the Morning Star, of the Boycott Labour Communist Party of Britain, says today,

British politics is volatile. The emergence of the Brexit Party from nowhere to hold mass rallies up and down the country and dominate the stage at these elections shows how quickly any formation that captures an anti-Establishment zeitgeist can take off (without suggesting for a moment that this alliance of ex-Tory and ex-Ukip chancers are actually anti-Establishment.)

It also demonstrates the anger that large sections of the public feel about Parliament’s inability to deliver Brexit. Claims that a second referendum would “break the deadlock” don’t hold water. These results suggest one would simply entrench the division of the country into two mutually hostile camps

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  1. Page 167 – 8. The Decline of Working Class Politics. Barry  Hindess  Granada Publishing 1971.
  2. Page 160 Retour à Reims, Didier Eribon. Champs essaies, Edition. 108 with an introduction by Édouard Louis.
  3. Page 149 How Democracy Ends. David Runciman. Profile Books. 2018.