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Posts Tagged ‘European Left

French Left Marches to Protest at the Cost of Living and Climate Crises. “It’s the Start of a New Front Populaire” – Jean Luc-Melenchon.

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French Left Unity: Annie Ernaux, the Radical Left NPA, the Greens, Communists, Socialists, and La France insoumise.

140,OOO people took to the streets of Paris today to protest at the cost of living crisis and the lack of government action on climate change. (the Police figures are 30,000).

Speaking from the top of one of his campaign lorries as the protest was underway, Jean-Luc Mélenchon leader of La France insoumise, declared that this was the beginning of a new Front Populaire ” (C’est « un début de nouveau Front populaire »).

“We are going to live a week the like of which we don’t often see, it’s the Grand conjunction”, assured the former presidential candidate, using a metaphor recalling not just a coming together of events but of stars and planets in astronomical alignment. “We have the conjunction of  popular mobilisations, union mobilisation and an institutional crisis. 

The whole of the French Left (in the National Assembly aligned in the NUPES, Nouvelle union populaire écologiste et sociale) and dozens of left-of centre associations and radical pressure groups, brought by coach from across the country, joined the protest:

La France insoumise:

Parti Communiste:

Socialists:

Greens (Europe, Écologie Les Verts, EELV):

Solidarity from Ipswich (the book on the table is Annie Ernaux’s Les Années.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 16, 2022 at 6:57 pm

Paul Mason, “Labour’s Left Needs a Serious Strategy for the Starmer Era.” Some (favourable) Comments.

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On Tuesday Another Europe is Possible held a Webinar talk on the British economy, given by former John McDonnell adviser James Meadway. The economist outlined a critique of the latest Tory measures, as they unfolded like a drama played out before our eyes. The scenario acted out the analysis he had offered to a a refined audience on the New Left Review Blog, Sidecar, “should Truss’s plan fall short, as prices spiral upwards, growth disintegrates and the capital markets turn sour, there are many forces waiting to move: from the Don’t Payers to the striking workers, to those in her own party sharpening their knives for the next leadership contest”. For those present this week his message (as put clearly here) was that, in the wake of the wreckage unleashed by the Liz Truss government on the financial markets, that “the chaos and fundamental weaknesses of the British economy mean the route to anything like the “fairer, greener future” that Labour promised at its party conference is narrowing”.

Meadway made the point that Fiscal Credibility, which the Shadow Chancellor had advocated during the Corbyn leadership, was something that free-market ultras of the present cabinet has dropped in their Great Leap Forward. The wild borrowing, and the prospect of growth ‘unleashed’ by tax cuts, will leave a legacy. If Labour wins, he noted simply spending our way out of the austerity they will leave, will not be enough (I was thinking while watching, of left supporters of ‘Modern Monetary Theory and ‘fiscal sovereignty’). By contrast Meadway saw sources of finance for public spending in large “useless hoards of wealth held by our institutions” and tax reforms targeted at the unproductive wealthy and finance.

In the discussion that followed people broadly accepted that Labour had begun to offer a serious social democratic alternative to the Truss government. All seemed, as we are, encouraged and happy at Labour’s big rise in the Polls.

There were reasons to follow Meadway’s caution. One person noted the effect that the regime’s policies would hit hard on local government, where, he said, Labour Councillors were worried about the effects on their already pared down budgets. He pointed to a copy of Socialist Appeal which he had recently bought on a Solidarity Rally in his town. Meadway replied that there could be no repeat of the 1980s Militant strategy of setting illegal budgets.

Others, apart from one contributor who concentrated on the lack of support for Labour in Scotland, and the importance of the nationalists, the SNP (one might remark that the more borders pro-independence left are strong there as well) talked of creative ideas to develop Labour policy, including the Green New Deal.

You would not know it from reading books like the ‘biography by Tel’s Nipper of Keir Starmer, “The Starmer Project“, alt-left sites, or tweets by people still raving about ‘Keith’ but this kind of serious discussion is taking place across the left, from the articles of Andrew Fisher to the above Webinar.

Paul Mason offers his own, welcome, ideas.

LABOUR’S LEFT NEEDS A SERIOUS STRATEGY FOR THE STARMER ERA BY PAUL MASON

(Extracts and Comment).

” I watched Keir Starmer’s Labour conference speech last week in a hotel bar full of party activists and local councillors. When he said the words “…and yes, Great British Energy will be publicly owned”, many punched the air. Some punched the bar.

That was the moment Starmer sealed the deal – not just with the centre-left technocrats who form his natural base within the party, but with broad swathes of activists, from the left to the old Labour right, who’d been sceptical of his capacity for vision, passion and persuasion.

Starmer, long pilloried as a “wet wipe” by the left, pledged an end to austerity, repudiated trickle-down economics, launched a “mission-oriented” industrial strategy, and promised to renationalise the railways and decarbonise the electricity system by 2030. Shortly after he sat down, James Mills, a former aide to John McDonnell, tweeted: “Unpopular view, but this speech is very much a vindication of Paul Mason.”

Mason continues,

So where does this leave the left? Organisationally, Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy were trounced in most committee elections. They won a vote on proportional representation by combining with the Blairite right. And they passed conference resolutions on a £15 minimum wage and Royal Mail renationalisation with trade union backing.

This is the main point:

This polarised response to Starmer’s “statist” turn reflects a deeper problem: the Labour left is directionless, leaderless, riven into competing projects, with no guiding philosophy and – therefore – completely incapable of achieving its favoured objective: Gramscian “hegemony” within Britain’s progressive social majority.

To remedy this, we’re going to need a different left. There are some brilliant movements led by activists from the left: Enough is Enough, the Don’t Pay UK campaign, and much of the current wave of strikes – especially as it begins to mobilise the big public-sector workforces.

How to co-ordinate protests (do not forget that the People’s Assembly is still around, run largely by the groupuscule, Counterfire) is already a problem in areas where some people have ideas of their own about Enough is Enough. Getting these lefts to agree on fundamental political issues is, to say the least, hard, if not impossible. There are also micro-parties of the left some of which, however unsuccessful electorally, still present candidates in the ballot box.

Item: this, which the Internationalist left has argued for some time, is a fundamental starting point:

But there will be no synthesis, and no progress, until some fundamentals are sorted out. The first has to be a complete break with the Stalinist politics that led one delegate to denounce the leadership for supporting “US war crimes” in Ukraine – gaining a ripple of applause from the conference floor. The same politics saw Momentum pressured into refusing to support a motion in favour of arming Ukraine.

Paul Mason underlines this in his thread.

Obviously this Blog agrees with that!

But….

It not probable that the ‘astre mort’ of Stalinism, still shedding darkness over thirty years after the collapse of Official Communism in Europe and Russia, and the victory of the capitalist roaders in the Chinese Communist Party, will be wiped from the minds of everybody on the left. ‘Campism’, the ‘phantom limb’ of anti-imperialism that always sides with anything that is against the ‘West’, shows, equally, if sometimes a little dissimulating over Ukraine, few signs of having disappeared. Brexiter ultras on the left look pretty unrepentant, even if some, like Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain, are more overtly ‘red-brown’ at present.

So how exactly is this “different left” going to replace them?

One can only ask.

The next issue is open to discussion for different reasons.

The second requires overt commitment to the Starmer project. There are parts of it I do not like: the bureaucratic high-handedness over dissent; the narrow range of fiscal commitments; the tone deafness over frontbenchers attending picket lines. But it is clear now that Starmerism is how we’re going to defeat the Tories.

A Labour Party committed to renationalising the railways and decarbonising the electricity system, to redistribution through tax, benefits and increased wages, to full employment rights from day one and to a massive programme of green industrial investment is not “the lesser of two evils”. It is a project much more radical than Blairism and therefore the first chance of a “Labourist” government we’ve realistically had since Neil Kinnock squandered that opportunity at the 1992 general election.

Paul Mason does not discuss the influence of Labour First and Labour Tomorrow, in the same way he has talked of Momentum. There are big problems about the former’s project, which merges sometimes into Blue Labour. It could be said to operate as a drag on any form, social democratic or democratic socialist, of transformative commitments of the Labour Party. Redistributive taxation, a return to the Crosland commitment to equality (the strong point of 1950s Labour ‘revisionism’), and the Bevan support for democratic public ownership (his, and the Bevanite famous defence of Clause 4), are not guaranteed when these groups wield strong influence in the Party.

This is an opening to the kind of debates we are having, and will continue in journals such as Chartist.

The third task is to understand what the left brings to the project. We have the ability to mobilise from below – as with Enough is Enough and Don’t Pay UK – because we’re committed to working-class agency. Our concept of socialism is something achieved by people, not simply for them.

On top of this, we are anti-capitalists. We see the “exogenous shocks” that keep surprising the technocrats as the inevitable products of a wider crisis driven by climate change, deglobalisation, totalitarianism and the fragility of communities ravaged by inequality. For us, a party committed to the interests of working people has to fight the interests of the hedge funds, rentiers and surveillance capitalists who get rich through extracting profit from every aspect of our work, our leisure, our communications and the homes we live in.

These ideas need independent advocates. This is why critical left voices are important.

It is hard not to agree more with these concluding words:

So my advice to the Labour left is to forget the “Kieth” memes. Let’s make a brief list of things we want to achieve. Let’s mobilise the grassroots both in defence of real wages and for a Labour victory. Let’s be proud that, since 24 February, not a single Labour MP has publicly opposed arms to Ukraine, and demand that every candidate backs the party’s position publicly come election time. And let’s get some left MPs back onto the frontbench, where they can influence the leadership’s language, priorities and direction of travel. The new generation of left MPs need to stop trying to be the next Jeremy Corbyn and start trying to be the next Nye Bevan.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2022 at 11:46 am

Italy: Triumph of the ‘Post-Fascist’ Populists.

with 9 comments

 Fratelli d’Italia from 4,4% in 2018 to 26,4% and 86 representatives in the  Camera dei deputati.

“The left, as you well know, has a long and complex history in Italy, it has been able to establish strong links with the people, even in the darkest times. We are the land of Gramsci and Pasolini, one who knew just as well what it means to win rights by taking to the streets. We will have to do it with new tools, other places and new words but we are there among the people, we have credibility, consistency and honesty to claim. Everyone who knows us knows that we will not be bought off and I am convinced that the People’s Union (Unione popolare) is a project destined to amaze Europe.”

Luigi de Magistris, leader of the radical left  Unione popolare (UP) interviewed by the French regional daily (with origins in the Communist Resistance), La Marseillaise a couple of days ago, was steadfast (Luigi de Magistris est à la tête de la coalition Union populaire qui regroupe son parti, Démocratie & autonomie, et notamment Refondation communiste et Pouvoir au peuple.).

But the news today is that the far right  Fratelli d’Italia (a name taken from the first line of the National Anthem), led by Giorgia Meloni increased its vote, from 4,4% in 2018 to 26,4% and 86 representatives in the  Camera dei deputati in yesterday’s Italian General Election. It was not paralleled by a rebirth of the republic’s independent left. Efforts at mobilising the electorate, a presence in the streets, the public backing of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Jeremy Corbyn, came to 1,1% of the vote. Or, as La Repubblica has put it, “Il flop delle “altre” sinistre: de Magistris e i comunisti fuori dal parlamento.” – the flop of the ‘other’ left, of Magistras and the extra-Parliamentary communists. Another left alliance, with a Green hue, Sinistra Italia Verdi, Greens, got 3,55% and 6 seats.

The established centre-left, the  Partito Democratico, and allies, got  26% and forms the largest opposition bloc.

“Ms Meloni’s right-wing alliance – which also includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former PM Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia – will take control of both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, with around 44% of the vote.”

It looks as if many of the supporters of the  ‘populist’ ‘anti-establishment’ Movimento 5 Stelle, 5 Star Movement, whose score went down to 15,2% from over 32% in 2018, backed the far-right national populists this time.

Commentators in France, with one eye on the way Conservative political parties in Sweden are now co-operating to create a coalition with the Swedish Democrats, and another on the possibility of the French right in Les Républicains, working with Marine Le Pen, have underlined how the Italian right is now negotiating with Meloni. They are expected to elect her Presidente del Consiglio, Prime Minister. Could this be a precedent, they ask, for their own traditional right-wing parties to breach the “digue républicaine” – the republican dyke – that separates them from the Rassemblement National?

On Arte (available in 6 languages) the French political sociologist, Marc Lazar, has analysed the background to this election, L’Italie, Laboratoire du populisme. The author of Le communisme, une passion française (2002) and studies of Italian politics and Italian Communism, looks at the Italian ‘laboratory’ which has experimented with different forms of populism. From the “populism of the PDG”, Silvio Berlusconi, the transformation of the regionalist Lega Nord under Matteo Salvini into nation-wide right wing party aligned in Europe to forces such as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, the Swedish Democrats, Sverigedemokraterna, now the second largest group in the country’s Parliament, and the German  Alternative für Deutschland, AfD, to Grillo’s ‘anti-system’ Five Star Movement, we now have the “post-fascists” of Giorgia Meloni who began her political career as a member of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, founded by post-war supporters of Mussolini.

Detailed analysis: Post fascist leader giorgia meloni wins in italy

dave kellaway makes an initial analysis of the results of the Italian general election.

The far right welcomes the result. 

Viktor Orbán team says Meloni shares a ‘common vision’

Balázs Orbán, political director to Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said on Twitter:

Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni, Matteo Salvini and (Forza Italia leader) Silvio Berlusconi on the elections today! In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges.”

Marine Le Pen has sent her good wishes:

As has Zemmour:

Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has just released a statement, in which the party congratulates Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party:

We as the Alternative für Deutschland congratulate Giorgia Meloni on her election and hope for her that she will be the first woman at the top of an Italian government. Despite all the undemocratic warnings from the EU commission president von der Leyen and other politicians, the Italians have, like the Swedish Democrats before them, decided in favour of a political change. And that is completely their democratic right. The election success of the Fratelli d’Italia is a further victory for common sense. Germany, with its left-green traffic light coalition, is looking rather lonely in Europe right now.”

We await the reaction from Spiked guru Frank Ferudi who wrote these warm words for Meloni in July, “It is a sign of the times that someone pledging to defend sovereignty and democracy can be so easily called ‘fascist’ by technocrats who have done so much to trample over democracy.” The revenge of Italian democracy.The fall of Mario Draghi’s technocratic regime is a nightmare for the pro-EU elites.

Farage follows up this line,

Others have a different take.

I read #Saviano is trending because the voters of Meloni “invite” me to leave the country. These are warnings. This is Italy that awaits us. They are already drawing up a first black list of enemies of the homeland, in spite of those who said that Fascism is something else.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2022 at 12:01 pm