Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘European Left

Is the Spartacist League Bankrupt?

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Nifty Headlines Already Missed.

George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891) is set in a world where literature is becoming a commodity in the age of mechanical reproduction. Against the current and the pressure to produce pot-boilers, Edwin Reardon battles for the cause of art. The backdrop of the novel is obscure disputes fought out in ” the valley of the shadow of books”, the British Museum Reading Room.

A brief moment of happiness comes when the author meets a kindred soul, Biffin. Sophocles comes up.  “For half an hour the two men talked Greek metres as if they lived in a world where the only hunger known could be satisfied by grand or sweet cadences.”

Many people, well, at least one, like to compare the world of Leftist Trainspotting to New Grub Street. From our  garrets we do not visit the  Reading Room, but a greater virtual library. Ancient Greek poetry is replaced by the hard-to-decipher texts of leftist groups and their doings.

The latest topic is something of a bombshell, is the Spartacist League Bankrupt?

For decades the Sparts, the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), have been a feature on the left. Last year their founder, James Robertson (1928–2019) passed away, and received a fitting tribute from, amongst others, Tendance Coatesy and James Robertson (a guest post).

Celebrated in the UK for their Private Eye Columnist Dave Spart, the group serves as a technical template for creative home-made placards, most recently by leading members of the Lambeth Left.

Sectarian hilarity for the left-wing trainspotter! The UK ...

They have brought joy and comfort in an otherwise dull political world:

Sectarian hilarity for the left-wing trainspotter! The UK Spartacist League’s papers from 1978-2011 now digitised and online

Now we learn, from eagle-eyed Spotter Paul F, reading one of the famously accurate publications of a Spart splinter, ( Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International) that they may be in trouble.

Silent Amidst Mass Upsurge Against Racist Oppression

Spartacist League Declares Bankruptcy

Amid the most massive protest movement in decades, as it has continued week after week, the Spartacist League has not published a paper, put out a leaflet or posted a single statement on its website on the killing of George Floyd or the mass protests against racist police terror. And this despite the fact that the core issue posed is black oppression, which the SL, from its inception, crucially emphasized as key to proletarian revolution in the citadel of imperialism.

At the same time, we noted that the SL/ICL’s flagship publication, Workers Vanguard, has now shrunk to four pages, with an issue skipped in April.

The current Workers Vanguard (29 May) that they are selling consists entirely of a “translation of a revised article from a March 2020 supplement” – that is, an item originally published two months previously – to the paper of their Greek group. (Discussing some of the ongoing internal turmoil, the most recent issue of the ICL’s theoretical journal had publicized the expulsion, on accusations of racist conduct, of two members who were involved in the Greek group’s work.)

Alas the financial collapse of Spartacism is not behind this.

Their silence speaks volumes: the SL’s abject abdication is a declaration of political bankruptcy.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 23, 2020 at 9:11 am

Zeev Sternhell (1935 – 2020): Historian of Fascism and Pioneer of ‘Red Brown’ Studies.

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La Droite Révolutionnaire - 1885-1914, Les Origines Françaises Du ...

General Boulanger and the original Red-Brown Front.

In Memory of a Great Voice, Zeev Sternhell, 10 April 1935 – 21 June 2020.

France 24,

Israeli historian and political scientist Zeev Sternhell, a peace activist and one of the leading thinkers of the country’s left, has died aged 85, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said Sunday.

Polish-born Sternhell, head of the university’s political science department, was an outspoken champion of Palestinian rights who strongly criticised Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hebrew University president Asher Cohen hailed Sternhell, a professor emeritus there who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for political science in 2008, as “among the most important researchers” to emerge from the institution.

“His innovative political science research, which was translated into many languages, brought a deep change in the academic perception of ideological movements, specifically radical movements,” Cohen said.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab-led Joint List in Israel’s parliament, wrote that “during his childhood in Poland, Sternhell experienced the terrible results of fascism, and throughout his life had the courage and strength to research and fight it.

“For decades he was a significant voice for Palestinian human rights and against the occupation in the territories.”

The article continues,

His academic work also delved into the “French roots of fascism” and stirred lively debate and controversy, according to former student Denis Charbit, now a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.

Sternhell was a “very demanding” professor, but also one “attentive” to his best students, Charbit told AFP.

In addition to academic writing and books, he regularly published opinion pieces in Israeli newspapers, most notably Haaretz, many of which were critical of settlers.

On one occasion Sternhell called the settlement movement a “cancer” in Israeli society, and in another instance said a settlement should be attacked with tanks

Sternhell continued his political combat,

After receiving the Israel Prize in 2008, he was wounded the same year by a bomb planted outside his house by a right-wing extremist.

Sternhell himself said the attack was testimony to the “fragility” of Israeli democracy.

In an interview with Haaretz later that year, he warned of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the condition of Israel “not respecting the national rights of others”.

In a 2014 interview with Haaretz, during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Sternhell warned that the Jewish state’s democracy was “facing collapse”.

“The Israeli democracy is eroding, and the signs (of emerging fascism) exist,” he said.Tamar Zandberg, of left-wing party Meretz, said Sternhell’s lasting legacy would be his work towards “a strong and not occupying Israeli democracy”.

Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel offered his condolences to the Sternhell family, noting that while he didn’t share many of Sternhell’s opinions, “prominent intellectuals like him, from right and left, are the foundation to our existence as the people of the book”.]

According to Haaretz, Sternhell died as a result of complications following surgery.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and several grandchildren

Zeev Sternhell was at the centre of not just of Israeli political debate, but amongst the left and anti-fascists, in Europe, above all in France. Awarded a Ph.D. in 1969 from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris,  for his thesis on The Social and Political Ideas of Maurice Barrès, a key figure in the culture and ideology of the nationalist right, he had a great influence had, far wider than academic circles and far beyond the hexagone.

I first came across his books during the mid-1980s in the Bibliothèque municipale  Place Jules Joffrin, 75018 Paris in  The study,  Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, 1983; transl. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, has an enduring impact. This was reached many people on the left, as has been testified on hearing of his passing.

Sternehell’s work has found new audiences with the rise of national populism, and the creation of ‘neither right nor left’ red-brown fronts across Europe, from the pro-Brexit alliances in the UK to the defection of many parts of the sovereigntist left in many countries to the nationalist ‘anti-metropolitan elite” right. His account of the literary and polemical figure of the nationalist Maurice Barrès and his appeal to La terre et les Morts (Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français. 1972), the homeland heritage and the living memory of the dead, evokes ideas one can find amongst defenders of the ‘somewhere’ folk who criticise the ‘anywhere’ people.  

In La Droite Révolutionnaire, (First Edition, 1978) Sternhell proposed that late 19th century and pre-Great War France was the cradle of fascist ideology. France was, in Sternhell’s eyes, an ideal field for studying pre-fascism, and, full blown, “neither left nor right” fascist thought. His focus began on General Boulanger’s 1886 campaign, an anti-parliamentarian movement which, following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870 1871)  of  demanded ‘revenge’ against Germany, – the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France – and a clear out of the ‘cabals’ in the name of the People. His campaign was backed by Monarchists, Bonapartists, Maurice Barrès, some republicans and revolutionaries from the Blanquist tradition, and nationalists.

A part of the early French socialist movement  saw in the movement a protest against (as Sternhell put it) ” les grands seigneurs de la finance.” Some saw in Boulangism a patriotic reaction against Parliamentary and social elites,  that they could turn towards the left. Anti-Jewish sentiment, organised anti-semitism, appeared, leading to the creation of the Ligue antisémitique de France in 1889. Others from the socialist movement considered that the left should stand firm behind republican democracy and reject Boulanger: Le Bilan Boulanger. 1888 (M. Lissagaray)

In Ni droite ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (First Edition, 1983), Sternhell  turned to the 20th century.  In the years preceding the Second World War these movements drew together calls to “workers of all classes” against banking “hyper” capitalism, drew on the romance of the nation, and opposition to the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the elites of the Third Republic. This, he argued,  indicated that fascism originated and continued to operate as a synthesis of socialist ideas and nationalism.

The book surveyed anti-parliamentarian nationalism (the ‘ligues’), “planiste” sections of French social democracy (Marcel Déat), the Monarchist and anti-Semite Action française, the mass parties of the later 1930s, the Parti Social français (PSF), the Parti Populaire français (PPF) of the renegade Communist Jacques Doriot, and a mixed bag of admirers of National Socialism and Mussolini. 

Last year Sternhell edited and contributed to an important study of pre-war French far right movements, L’Histoire refoulée. La Rocque, les Croix de feu, et le fascisme français. Sous la direction de Zeev Sternhell. 2019.

In 2006 Sternhell published a study of anti-Enlightenment thought, Les anti-Lumières: Une tradition du XVIIIᵉ siècle à la guerre froide. Edmund Burke and Thomas Caryle took their place alongside Herder and Charles Maurras as those defend the “moral capital” of tradition against what Frank Feurdi, from the Red-Brown sie Spiked calls “the counter-culture establishment”. (The birth of the culture wars.  This century-long conflict is born of the Western elites’ loss of cultural and moral authority. Spiked 19.6.20).

Sternhell, by contrast, defended neither cultural nor moral authority nor tradition.

His work was offers us landmark historical studies and a brilliant exercise of the “critical tradition” of the Enlightenment.

As he wrote, “Aucun ordre établi  n’est légitime du seul fait qu’il existe. La justice et le bonheur sont des objectifs valables et légitimes…l’homme est capable d’aller en avant, a condition qu’il fasse appeal a la raison.” (Les anti-Lumières: Page 796).

“No established order is legitimate by the mere fact that it exists. Justice and happiness  valid and legitimate objectives …humanity  is able to progress, on condition that we use our capacity to reason.

Let that be Sternhell’s epitaph.


Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2020 at 11:22 am

Labour Defeat: Labour Left Alliance Blames Expulsion of Greenstein and Walker; Counterfire for not offering sole option of a People’s Brexit.

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https://labourleft.org/join-labour-left-a... - Labour Left ...

“Witch Hunt” Chief Reason for Labour Defeat.

There’s been time for people to digest the report on Labour’s election defeat,General Election Review

Cross factional, evidenced-based, from the ground up, their conclusions have been discussed by some very cross factions have now responded..

‘Labour Together’ Report: It was the witch-hunt, stupid!

(Thanks to Newshound David Walsh)

On the reasons for the defeat….

“But the report manages to spectacularly miss the key reason. The 15 Labour grandees (including Lucy Powell who took part in the 2016 chicken coup) appointed to run the review focus on platitudes like “Jeremy Corbyn was deeply unpopular” – but the authors seem to chiefly blame Corbyn’s character for that, rather than make any attempt to get to the bottom of what happened in the last five years.

We are happy to help: It was the witch-hunt, stupid (to paraphrase the Clinton adviser James Carville).

These masterminds of the new grassroots left continue,

 Instead of calling out the lie that the Labour Party was overrun by antisemites, the Corbyn leadership sought to appease right-wing saboteurs, pro-Zionist groups and the self-appointed leadership of “the Jewish community” who set out to obstruct the new members and the move towards socialist ideas. The Corbyn leadership behaved as though they believed this lie. The ‘leaked report’ shows that in the process they displayed an inability to recognise real antisemitism, while eagerly trying to get rid of prominent activists like Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson, none of whom can be accused of even a trace of antisemitism.


Corbyn’s decision to try to appease the witch-hunters made him into a sitting duck for the right inside and outside the party. The establishment media gleefully got in on the action. And if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth. This is, in our view, the chief reason why many working class voters turned away from the Labour Party at the general election of 2019.

Stand firm Cdes!

The Labour Left Alliance believes it is therefore of utmost importance that we learn the lessons from this massive defeat. Appeasement never works.

Here is their latest event:

Counterfire, creating the kind of surprise you get when you find out that the Pope celebrates Mass, believes that Labour should have backed Brexit.

Labour’s election result: drawing the wrong conclusions – CounterBlast

Alex Snowdon.

Labour’s failure last December really was a result of one dominant factor. It killed its electoral chances by capitulating over Brexit. It did terrible damage by supporting a second referendum and disregarding the result of the 2016 referendum which, however narrowly, clearly provided a mandate for leaving the European Union.

What Labour should have done is to support Counterfire and the Morning Star’s idea of a “People’s Brexit”.

Labour lost the election by dropping its sensible position of 2017 – to respect the referendum result and outline a version of Brexit relatively favourable to working class people – in favour of an incoherent fudge that satisfied nobody and looked weak.

The Policy ‘imposed’ on Labour, which included offering a new Brexit as outlined above dreamt up by the Four Ms, Karie Murphy, Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray and Len McCluskey was fudge. We should have presented to the electorate  only one option: a better Brexit.

…progress was subsequently reversed due to a major political error on Brexit. As the new leader, Keir Starmer, was in the vanguard of those demanding support for a second referendum, it seems unlikely that Labour will now learn the correct lessons.

Well, that’s that.

Two very different takes on the report.