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In Praise of George Soros.

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Soros: Open Diamond Geezer and His Enemies.

Frank Furedi, guru of Spiked,  wrote in the Daily Telegraph earlier this year.

My encounter with George Soros’s bright-eyed missionaries left me deeply disturbed

Soros does not believe in the legitimacy of borders nor in the authority of national electorates. Consequently he feels entitled to influence and if possible direct the political destiny of societies all over the world. Today it is the future of Britain; tomorrow it might be Italy or Hungary that will be the target of Soros’ largesse.

The problem with Soros is not that he is rich. (Note, like the proprietors of the Telegraph, the secretive Barclay brothers).  The rich, like the poor, are entitled to act in accordance with their political views. However, there is something morally wrong when a single individual seeks to use his wealth to alter the will of millions of people who constitute the electorate. It is even worse when an oligarch is able to exercise significant influence over the future of a society that he is not a part of.

Former Revolutionary Communist Party Furedi is not the only disturbed person around:

The Morning Star, happy with millionaire far right-winger Arron Banks backing for the anti-EU cause, and Trade Unionists Against the EU<  threw a wobbly about Soros during the Labour Conference,

The Chuka Umunnas, Anna Soubrys, Tony Blairs, Peter Mandelsons, Vince Cables, Andrew Adonises and sundry nationalist and greenish politicians, bankrolled by George Soros and other financial interests, are linked by their contempt for democracy and their hostility to Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the socialist policies they champion.

Demonising Soros they join the nationalist far-right.

As the Financial Times points out today:

The Soros conspiracy theory goes global

Three years ago, Hungary’s prime minister accused billionaire George Soros of trying to flood the country with Middle Eastern migrants.

In recent weeks, a similar allegation against Mr Soros has emerged in the US: internet conspiracy theorists and some Republican politicians have accused him, without evidence, of funding a caravan of Central American migrants heading for the US border.

Asked last week whether Mr Soros was financing the caravan US president Donald Trump said: “I don’t know who, but I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of people say yes.”

Mr Soros denies any connection. The frequency with which such unfounded allegations have been aired in the US highlights how divisive the issue of illegal immigration — a favourite campaign theme of Mr Trump— has become. But it also shows how anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories have spread from the fringes to the political mainstream, in both Europe and the US.

Soros can speak for himself. And does:

George Soros has been a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years. His philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations, supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries.

As in this:

budgets

 

George Soros is a supporter of Karl Popper’s idea on the ‘open society’.

In the Open Society and its Enemies  (1945) and the Poverty of Historicism (1957) he attacked ‘holism’ and the claim, notably by those claiming to be Marxists, to have discovered the ‘laws of history’ and to subject societies to their closed views. Popper painted a contentious picture of political philosophy. His account of the history ideas, a broad-brush picture of totalitarian inklings from Plato, to Hegel and Marx, is contested. The idea that there is a “falsification””principle in science which demolishes and claim to objective explanations of historical development, how societies work, or how modes of production and class struggle operate, is not one Marxists – of (probably) all stripes –  would agree with. But there are some who would certainly find fault with “total” explanations and the orthodox and Hegelian use of the term “totality” as a category.

Since democratic socialists, including democratic Marxist, stand for open debate and are not afraid of criticism, one can hardly fault Popper for stirring things up.

There is a vast literature on the debates created by these books, open as can be.

And do we disagree with the concluding words of the Open Society and its Enemies?

For to progress is to move towards some kind of end, towards an end which exists for us as human beings. History cannot do that ; only we, the human individuals, can do it;we can do it by defending and strengthening those democratic institutions upon which freedom, and with it progress, depends. And we shall do it much better as we become more fully aware of the fact that progress rests with us, with our watchfulness, with our efforts, with the clarity of our conception of our ends, and with the realism 28 of their choice.

Instead of posing as prophets we must become the makers of our fate. We must learn to do things as well as we can, and to look out for our mistakes. And when we have dropped the idea that the history of power will be our judge, when we have given up worrying whether or not history will justify us, then one day perhaps we may succeed in getting power under control. In this way we may even justify history, in our turn. It badly needs such justification.

Soros’ writings on ‘reflexivity’ need more a a glace oto get to grips with.

But this can surely be met with some sympathy:

Although the primary manifestation of the reflexive process that Soros discusses is its effects in the financial markets, he has also explored its effects in politics. He has stated that whereas the greatest threats to the “Open Society” in the past were from Communism and Fascism (as discussed in Open Society and its Enemies by his mentor Karl Popper), the largest current threat is from Market fundamentalism.

Faced with the kind of attacks Soros has received this is welcome:

Mr. Soros was born into a Jewish family in Hungary, and survived the Nazi occupation as a child in part by posing as the Christian godson of a government official.

After World War II, Mr. Soros fled Hungary for England as the Soviet Union consolidated control in his home country. He worked as a waiter and a railroad porter and studied at the London School of Economics, where he was deeply influenced by the theories of an Austrian philosopher who taught there, Karl Popper. Mr. Popper wrote about the consequences of what he called “closed” and “open” societies — concepts that shaped Mr. Soros’s investment strategy and philanthropy for decades.

His daring investments in companies and currencies proved hugely lucrative, prompting The Economist to call him “surely the world’s most intriguing investor” in 1987. His decision to short the British pound in 1992 earned his funds a reported profit of $1 billion.

By then, he was turning his attention to democracy-building in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Soros and his foundations supported groups and individuals seeking to bring down Communism, including the Solidarity and Charter 77 movements in Poland and Czechoslovakia. The leaders of both groups would later lead their countries in the post-Communist era.

In Hungary, Mr. Soros distributed photocopiers to universities and libraries as a means to fight government censorship, and he paid for dissidents to study in the West. The recipients included a young Mr. Orban, then a liberal activist.

After the end of the Cold War, with the Open Society Foundations as his main vehicle, Mr. Soros funded new work for destitute Soviet scientists in Russia, paid for free school breakfasts for Hungarian children and set up a college, the Central European University, that later drew the ire of Mr. Orban’s government.

In the United States, where Mr. Soros was granted citizenship in the 1960s, Mr. Soros’s efforts often won bipartisan applause. A professed admirer of President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to topple Communist rule in Eastern Europe, Mr. Soros, who at the time described himself as a political independent, was seen by anti-Communist Republicans as a fellow freedom fighter.

As his activities grew more prominent in Europe, and he began funding drug reform efforts in the United States, he started being cast in the 1990s as a central figure in a shadowy Jewish cabal by extremist figures such as the fascist presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. and allies of repressive Eastern European leaders who were targeted by groups funded by Mr. Soros.

The theories were initially confined to the anti-Semitic fringe, though Mr. Soros is not closely associated with Jewish or Israeli causes, and in fact has been accused of being anti-Israel and was criticized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

From: How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream New York Times. October the 31st 2018.

Here are some serious criticisms of Soros (201*

Throughout his career, Soros has made a number of wise and exciting interventions. From a democratic perspective, though, this single wealthy person’s ability to shape public affairs is catastrophic. Soros himself has recognised that “the connection between capitalism and democracy is tenuous at best”. The problem for billionaires like him is what they do with this information. The open society envisions a world in which everyone recognises each other’s humanity and engages each other as equals. If most people are scraping for the last pieces of an ever-shrinking pie, however, it is difficult to imagine how we can build the world in which Soros – and, indeed, many of us – would wish to live. Presently, Soros’s cosmopolitan dreams remain exactly that. The question is why, and the answer might very well be that the open society is only possible in a world where no one – whether Soros, or Gates, or DeVos, or Zuckerberg, or Buffett, or Musk, or Bezos – is allowed to become as rich as he has.

His response:

 I have been a passionate critic of market fundamentalism at least since I first discussed the phenomenon in my essay The Capitalist Threat in the Atlantic Monthly 20 years ago. Moreover, I have been a steadfast promoter of what Bessner calls the “root-and-branch reforms” that could bring about the better world that I and many others desire – for example, I would cite the positions I adopted regarding reforms after the financial crisis of 2008. Anybody who reviews the record will see that my proposals were far from the mainstream “centre left” approach that eventually prevailed. In the same vein, regarding eastern Europe post-1989, Bessner writes: “It was more than a lack of political will that constrained the west during this moment. In the era of ‘shock therapy’, western capital did flock to eastern Europe – but this capital was invested mostly in private industry, as opposed to democratic institutions or grassroots community-building, which helped the kleptocrats and anti-democrats seize and maintain power.” I agree. But Bessner continues: “Soros had identified a key problem but was unable to appreciate how the very logic of capitalism, which stressed profit above all, would necessarily undermine his democratic project. He remained too wedded to the system he had conquered.” To the contrary, my interventions were entirely in support of “democratic institutions and grassroots community-building”, and I urged others, including governments, to follow me in this approach.

Likewise, Bessner’s conclusion that my status “as a member of the hyper-elite and [my] belief that, for all its hiccups, history was headed in the right direction made [me] unable to consider fully the ideological obstacles that stood in the way of [my] internationalism” is unfounded. I don’t think I have ever expressed an optimism that history is headed in the right direction. Martin Luther King famously said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. I am less of an optimist, which is why I have spent my life actively trying to bend the arc in a positive direction. But recognising that I am a biased evaluator of my life’s work, I will submit it to the judgment to history.
George Soros
Open Society Foundations

It is still unfortunate that somebody with money can have a great influence on politics.

But this is hardly ‘post-democracy’ when Soros has helped stir up democratic action and debate from those excluded by the truly powerful – the right and the nationalists.

If we are unlikely to agree with all of his views then, tough.

He is a respected interlocutor.

And clearly, from the enemies he has: Soros is a diamond geezer.

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2018 at 1:18 pm

“For National Populism”: the Man-Crush of Spiked (former, Revolutionary Communist Party) for Viktor Orbán.

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Image result for orban cartoon

Orban’s Gallant Defiance of EU Elites.

A few days ago Frank Furedi was doing his chivalrous bit by coming to the aid of distressed demagogue Hungary’s PM, Viktor Orban,

The Hungarian government’s values are very different to the technocratic outlook of the EU federalists. The best way to describe the Hungarian government’s outlook is conservative, traditional and Christian. It is also democratic and very human. These are values that the EU oligarchy is determined to abolish, to erase from the European landscape and history, in order that it might replace them with its own technocratic cosmopolitan outlook.

Frank Furedi.  THE EU’S SHAMEFUL CRUSADE AGAINST HUNGARY

Furedi launched this crusade for Orbran and now his minions are now following.

The former High Up of the RCP and ex-Editor of Living Marxism Brendan O’Neill  has leapt into the fray in the right-wing Spectator.

Tory MEPs were right not to denounce Viktor Orban

You would never know it from the shrill media coverage, but Tory MEPs’ refusal to back the EU’s censure of Viktor Orban’s Hungary is one of the most principled things they have ever done. They are, of course, being denounced as Orban apologists, as cheerleaders for the authoritarian turn Hungary has taken under his prime ministership. Nonsense. They have taken a stand against authoritarianism. Against the authoritarianism of the European Union, whose technocratic arrogance has now reached such dizzy heights that it presumes the moral authority to punish nation states for doing what their own people, the electorate, have asked them to do. That is a far greater crime against democracy than any committed by Orban.

Good on the Tory MEPs who refused to back the anti-democratic censure of Hungary. And shame on those who are denouncing these Tories as bootlickers of Orban’s regime. It brings to mind the way that those of us who opposed the war in Iraq were written off as stooges for Saddam. Grow up, everyone: you can be critical of a foreign government while also opposing any tyrannical attempt by outsiders to overthrow or throttle that government.

What lies behind the New Course?

The Chief explained in August 2017.

Residing in Hungary for much of last year, I could see that the attacks levelled against that country by the EU-influenced media were motivated by the same impulses driving the anti-populist crusade across Europe. These attacks said more about the undemocratic spirit of Brussels than anything that was going on in Budapest.

WHY I WROTE A RADICAL DEMOCRATIC DEFENCE OF POPULISM

This book, appearing last year, to all the loud ‘umph of a falling hazelnut, intends to be a kind of alternative to Chantal Mouffe’s For a Left Populism (2018)

..one of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about Brexit, and remain so, was precisely because I see the EU as detrimental not only to public and political life in Britain, but also to the future of Europe. My book is devoted to explaining how the values espoused by the EU oligarchy are actually alien to the longstanding values of European civilisation.

The EU continually upholds the identities of minorities, regions and ethnic and other groups, but the one identity it singles out for attack is that of the nation. The EU prides itself on its celebration of identity politics and diversity; but its love affair with diversity doesn’t extend to appreciating the diversity of this continent’s national cultures. In my book, I argue that the EU is carrying out a culture war against national pride and consciousness.

National sovereignty is important for two reasons. First because it provides the largest terrain that humankind has discovered so far where democratic accountability can be exercised and have real meaning. Popular sovereignty can occur within a local community, a city or a nation – but it cannot be exercised in a territory larger than the nation. And the second reason national sovereignty is important is that it provides a context for the cultivation of a real, felt identity. There are other possible ways for people to develop their identities, but for most people the nation constitutes the largest area within which their identity can be forged and gain real purchase.

Having asserted the case for “identitarian politics” Furedi continues,

 in the course of researching this book, I came to the conclusion that, from the EU’s perspective, the main crime of the Hungarian government is that on many issues it promotes values that directly contradict those of the EU.

It is interesting to set these claims beside those made by Chantal Mouffe (who will be the subject of a full length  reply on this Blog, here is a very critical review in French, in which it is also published: Populisme de gauche, du nouveau ? Sur le dernier livre de Chantal Mouffe KHALFA Pierre) defending her new book, For a Left Populism (2018).

 She asserts that,

The only way to fight rightwing populism is to give a progressive answer to the demands they are expressing in a xenophobic language. This means recognising the existence of a democratic nucleus in those demands and the possibility, through a different discourse, of articulating those demands in a radical democratic direction.

This is the political strategy that I call “left populism”. Its purpose is the construction of a collective will, a “people” whose adversary is the “oligarchy”, the force that sustains the neoliberal order.

Guardian

This raises the obvious point that the demand “out with the immigrants” has no progressive content, nor does a demand for “sovereignty” rub up against markets, capitalism, or any of the left’s targets. That is the mechanisms which create inequality, injustice and oppression.

To put it at is starkest: those who claim that the ‘strain’ on public services ’caused’ is caused by migration and the EU ‘elite’ freedom of movement policy,  divert anger against austerity towards migrants…

Mouffe also claims that her alternative, “cannot be formulated through the left/right cleavage, as traditionally configured. “

It needs,

to bring these diverse struggles together requires establishing a bond between social movements and a new type of party to create a “people” fighting for equality and social justice.

Let us leave aside the point that such a “people” is something which has yet to be seen and touched, and how exactly does a “collective will” take decisions,  outside of her theoretical abstractions.

More significantly Mouffe’s examples, Podemos and La France insoumise, are widely different.

The first is a genuine mass movement with links to social movements (it was formed in the wake of the anti-austerity Movimiento 15-M), which, while not founding Podemos, are in close relation with a democratically organised organisation. Podemos has a proper elected leadership, conferences and internal debates, even ‘tendencies’. It takes decisions, hard ones in the case of the separatists populists of Catalonia, where they recognised national rights without giving way to the creation of ‘sovereigntism’, either of the Spanish state or the Catalan bourgeoisie.

La France insoumise (LFI), by contrast,  is a top-down Rally led by a Chief, Jean-Luc Mélenchon a “Party-Movement dedicated to training actors “in the art of becoming historical agents”. There is a simulacrum of internal democracy for its (massive, I am a ‘member’) on-line ‘membership, conferences of delegates in which a majority are chosen by lot, and policy decided by the Trainers. There are no internal tendencies (unlike their allies in Ensemble). LFI has recently been accused of drifting towards the nationalism which right-wing populism thrives on.

Feurdi and his mates have a simpler answer: they consider not just the kernel but the whole populist nut of people like Orban worth defending.

All the works of Lenin, Trotsky,  Marx, and Engels, all the ideas about capitalism, modes of production, class struggle, have evaporated.

The slate is clean.

The populists, Orban in case you asked,  are the Nation-People incarnate, proudly felt.

Woe betide ‘elites’ who attack them!

 

Frank Furedi (ex-Revolutionary Communist Party) Gallantly Defends Hungary’s Viktor Orban.

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Image result for orban hungary soros

Furedi: “democratic and very human.” culture of Hungarian regime.

In Europe it striking that, in the face of right-wing ‘populism’, some on the left have taken up the same right wing themes.

The German aufstehen movement, which claims inspiration from both Momentum and La France insoumise of Jean Luc Mélenchon has taken up the themes of harder controls over immigration and a hard-line on law and order. Apart from creating an almighty row in the party a couple of days ago (Wieder Streit bei der Linken: Sammlungsbewegung Aufeinanderlosgehen)  the echoes have been felt in France.

Both elements within LFI and the ‘left’ of the Parti Socialiste. Emmanuel Maurel, who is said to be about to join Mélenchon, have praised this stand on borders,. Maurel, who cites  Régis Debray, Éloges des frontières (2010)) says, “La gauche ne doit pas avoir honte de parler de nation, de frontière, de laïcité” The left should not be ashamed of the Nation, of frontiers, and of secularism.” (le Monde) The leader of LFI now repeats his hostility to EU principle of freedom of movement, the latest occasion only being a few days ago. (“Jean-Luc Mélenchon a réitéré, à plusieurs reprises cet été, son hostilité à la liberté de circulation et d’installation.”Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières. 9th of September). Some of his team openly admire the positions of Aufstehen: “ La gauche allemande anti-migrants saluée par un proche de Mélenchon (8th of September) 

It would not be difficult to find similar views, from Blue Labour stalwarts, to Trades Unionists Against the EU, and, in a more mute form on other parts of  (by no means all) the Brexit left’

The drift to ‘sovereigntistism’, that is the centring of politics on the issue of National Sovereignty, borders, law and order to the fore, is widespread.

No doubt after the Swedish election it will grow.

But the destination reached by the ex-Revolutionary Communist party, now present in Spiked, and reproduced by their writers for the Sun, broadcasts on Radio Four, and the Sky News Press Review – for the moment -stands out amongst the others.

THE EU’S SHAMEFUL CRUSADE AGAINST HUNGARY Frank Furedi

For some time now, Hungary has been the target of a witch-hunt led by an alliance of Euro-federalists and cosmopolitan politicians. The aim of their propaganda campaign has been to delegitimise the Hungarian government by portraying it as a xenophobic, quasi-fascist entity that threatens to undermine democracy across the continent of Europe.

This campaign of vilification against Hungary has to some extent proved successful. Hence a significant section of the European Parliament voted today to punish Hungary. For the first time ever, this institution has unleashed the EU disciplinary process, known as Article 7, against a member state.

After some attempts to portray the Obran government as just like all the others:  “like other countries it has its share of problems, of course. Some of the policies pursued by Viktor Orban’s government can be criticised.” we come to gritty kernel of Feurdi’s argument: 

The Hungarian government’s values are very different to the technocratic outlook of the EU federalists. The best way to describe the Hungarian government’s outlook is conservative, traditional and Christian. It is also democratic and very human. These are values that the EU oligarchy is determined to abolish, to erase from the European landscape and history, in order that it might replace them with its own technocratic cosmopolitan outlook.

the EU parliamentarians who voted to punish Hungary should be ashamed of themselves. They have betrayed the real values of Europe: those values of humanism and tolerance that were best expressed by the Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers.

Perhaps the Emeritus Professor of Sociology could find an appropriate  quote from Voltaire on the necessity of tolerating the intolerable and intolerant…….

We will surely need all we can get to save us from the “cosmopolitans” out to erase so much that is precious from  the European landscape and history.

 

From Revolutionary Communist Party to Spiked: The Archives Speak!

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1980 The Next Step 8.pdf

Ever Wondered why Spiked is so Quiet on Corbyn’s Past? 

France had its former ’68’ Maoists, above all from the Gauche prolétarienne (1968 – 1974), who became right of centre, and left-of centre, anti-communist liberals.

It even had Benny Lévy (also Pierre Victor; 1945–2003) who from a hard-line Marxist-Leninist leader and ideologue of the group ended up a student of the Torah in Israel.

Whatever else you might think he was serious, as this citation indicates,

To be Jewish. To be, in an absolutely singular manner… a thought of the Return. The Return to the Sinaï… The thought of the Return (la pensée du Retour) requires a critique of the atheology of the modern Jew . Theology of the silence of God after Auschwitz, critique of theodicy, finally return to the notion of absolute Evil, these are the points through which one must pass in a critical manner. In this sense, this book addresses itself at any man, insofar as he is still sensible to the question of the origin of evil.

This biography is worth reading and thinking about: Philippe Lardinois, De Pierre Victor à Benny Lévy, de Mao à Moïse ?, Luc Pire, 2008

Britain, belatedly, had the hard-line Revolutionary Communist Party (1978 – 1997).

Odd as it seems the group behind Spiked was one of the more forceful – or barking – organisations on the British far-left, though not doubt without the kind of Oxbridge paternity that would have paralleled the GP’s best known members’ background in the École normale supérieure.

Today former members write this,

THE TERRIBLE PRICE OF A ‘PEOPLE’S VOTE’

To overthrow the Brexit vote would be to overthrow democracy itself.

The Remainer elite is feeling excited. Why? Because it thinks it might finally have beaten down the democratic desires of ordinary people, especially the poorer, less educated ones. It is hopeful that its relentless fearmongering, its highly moneyed, deeply cynical campaign to depict Brexit as the worst thing to happen to Britain since the war, might finally be paying off. This is the truth behind the Remainer elite’s wild cheering of a poll analysis that seems to reveal that more and more constituencies have shifted towards having Remain majorities: it spies in this alleged shift an important victory for its campaign of delegitimising the democratic vote for Brexit and sidelining the rough, ill-informed people responsible for that vote.

Their one time leader and ideologue, Frank Furedi, screams:

THE FLIGHT OF THE ELITES FROM THE NATION STATE

When leaders lose faith in the nation, geopolitics becomes more unstable.

And this: SELL OUT BREXIT? NO DEAL

It does not look probable that anybody is going to write a serious biography of Brendan O’Neill, or Frankie.

But there are people out there interested in their past (I admit I have a couple of copies of the Revolutionary Communist Papers mouldering away somewhere and a pamphlet….)

The Revolutionary Communist Tendency / Party…

(Splits and Fusions. An archive of British Trotskyist publications)

Love them (?)  or hate them, the Revolutionary Communist Party were a significant component of the British far left of the 1980s.

Originating as a split from the Revolutionary Communist Group (Fight Racism Fight Imperialism), itself a split from the International Socialists, the Revolutionary Communist Tendency published 8 issues of a magazine Revolutionary Communist Papers before establishing the rather stylish tabloid paper The Next Step in 1979. TNS was, at first a 24 page theoretical review before becoming a weekly paper in 1985. The issues of TNS up to that point are consecutively numbered. From 1985 they are numbered 1 – 40-odd repeating each year.

The main preoccupations of the RCP were Ireland and anti-racism as reflected in their front organisations the Irish Freedom Movement, publishing Irish Freedom magazine, and Workers Against Racism

The RCT published a series of Revolutionary Communist Pamphlets whilst the RCP followed up with a number of books and pamphlets, often under the Junius Press imprint and a theoretical journal Confrontation (we will scan some copies of this in due course)