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Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Corbyn

Corbynism: What Went Wrong? Martin Thomas. A Review.

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Corbynism cover

A balance sheet of “Corbynism”

Solidarity, from the Workers’ Liberty site. 7th of September.

 Author: Andrew Coates

Just over a year after Jeremy Corbyn was elected, in September 2016, the new Labour Leader addressed the Burston Strike Rally in Norfolk. Reminded of this by a “social media snippet” I wonder how many people remember what the Islington MP actually said. The Internet informs us that he spoke of social justice, workers’ rights and opposed austerity.

By contrast it is not hard at all to recall the enthusiasm and warmth with which Corbyn was greeted by East Anglian trade unionists, pensioners, socialists. Or the new, often, young, people who came on our coach from Suffolk. That backing was reflected during the General Election in 2017 when people would speak to campaigners about their support for Labour. Sandy Martin was elected Labour MP for Ipswich, taking the seat back from the Tories with a majority of 831.

Bringing us down to earth Martin Thomas, observes, “In the 2017 manifesto, the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ were not used at all; in the 2019 manifesto, ‘socialism’ appeared once, and not to state an aim, rather to describe what already exists in the NHS”.

Early on in What Went Wrong Thomas further notes, “Corbyn rarely uses the word ‘socialist’, but he has commented on Chavez’s Venezuela, Evo Morales’s Bolivia, and Castro’s Cuba as if they are, more or less, models of a future society. That model of a future society is one to which workers in a country like Britain could never be won.”

This is a criticism of the “foreign policy” Corbyn project that was made by some on the left already wary of these countries’ socialist claims. It could be said to be a reflection on 1960s/70s “third worldism” which backed a variety of post-colonial states, in Africa, aligned at the time with the Soviet Union, as well as Communist Party led countries such as Vietnam, which have not created any form of socialist society.

Drawing up a balance sheet of “Corbynism”, the years when Jeremy Corbyn was the leader of the Labour Party, is an important task.

Martin Thomas offers a clear and valuable insight into the workings of the bodies that sustained the Corbyn project. This includes a detailed account of the workings, and the democratic deficit, of Momentum, which became a Corbyn “defence guard”. This he states was a ‘virtual’ (web-based) centrally run structure axed around supporting a ‘charismatic’ Leader. In this respect it reminds this reviewer of some European political organisations, such as the ‘movement’ La France Insoumise (LFI) of Jean-luc Mélenchon. All that seems to remain of the British ‘left populism’ and ‘social movement’ is a loathing, shared by many others on the Corbyn left, of a new ‘enemy’, Keir Starmer.

The more widely known influence of key Labour advisers, the “Stalinist-heritage” Seamus Milne, Andrew Milne and Steve Howell, all from the Communist Party, Straight Left background, and very pro-Brexit. If there was trade union influence it was from “top officials” and leaders, such as Len McCluskey of Unite.

With these figures at the centre Labour had no “interaction” with “workplace struggle”. Still less did he help with “rebuilding of the labour movement at the base, both ideologically and in organisation in workplaces and neighbourhoods.” It is, nevertheless, hard to see how Labour on is own could recreate a powerful union movement when economic change has underlined the basis for mass trade union struggles outside of the public sector.

What Went Wrong agrees with many commentators that Labour make a mess of Brexit. Since the Leader and key parts of his Office (LOTO) were glad that Britain voted Leave it was hardly likely that they would do otherwise. Conference manoeuvring blocked any clear call to oppose the Hard Right Brexit and fight for a new referendum.

Corbyn was unable to deal with antisemitism, and responded with “passive aggression” to any charges. “He himself had been ‘an anti-racist all his life’. Ergo, no real problem. He was unable, or more likely unwilling, to recognise that some of the “political antisemites” considered themselves the best anti-racists and anti-fascists….” That this response is awry had fed the present impasse on the issue. There are those, out of bad faith, only too willing to tar all critics of Israel with the “antisemitic” brush. The present purge of Labour, with its multiple injustices, is a shabby and counterproductive response to these political problems.

In what could be called a digression Martin Thomas criticises the Editor of Chartist magazine for his observations on the Trotskyist “obsession with the Russian Revolution”. Mike Davis has argued that building revolutionary parties is unimportant when radical left objectives might be achieved through existing left mass parties. Perhaps the AWL could show examples of mass revolutionary parties in the present day that indicate that Davis has placed his wager on the wrong horse. If Corbynism, JC4PM, did not win, surely a serious reform minded Labour government was worth campaigning for?

To get an idea of our present difficulties, hard right Tory Tom Hunt won Ipswich in 2021 with a majority of 5,479.

(Slightly sub-edited by the writer)

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See also,

The failings of Corbynism were more than the failings of Corbyn

Solidarity, AWL. 30th of August.

Author: David Osland

Corbynism isn’t over yet

Solidarity, AWL, 27th of August, Richard Price

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2021 at 9:39 am

Stop the War Coalition attacks Open Labour and Lisa Nandy’s ‘Liberal Interventionism’

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Image result for O RETURN TO BLAIR WARS – A REPLY TO OPEN LABOUR PAMPHLET

StWC Warns of “returning Labour to  ‘liberal intervention’.”

 

In the latest journal of Liberation, (ex-Movement for Colonial Freedom) Andrew Murray, former Corbyn adviser and chief of staff at UNITE the Union, wrote, “Corbyn has been replaced by Starmer as Labour leader but pressure from the mass of the movement on the key issues – no more wars of intervention, support for the Palestinians, no cold war with China – can make a difference.”

Murry, who was, and is, a leading voice in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) warned, “Biden signals a return to “business as usual” after four years of the racist authoritarianism of Trump. However, business as usual under Democrats and Republicans alike has meant one war of intervention after another this century, and Biden’s foreign policy team seems full of “liberal interventionists”. One area of great concern was that the West was drawn into “a quasi confrontational stance against China.”

Liberation Journal Winter 2020-21

These views have now been developed.

Murray, who spent many years( 1976 – 2016) in the Communist Party of Britain and Lindsey German (a leading member of the revolutionary socialist group, Counterfire) have written a polemic which grapples with the threat, as they imagine it,  of “liberal interventionism” taking hold within the British Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn writes in the introduction,,

Andrew Murray and Lindsey German have the benefit of a consistent and honest track record in opposition to war. They were part of the foundation group of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001 and have jointly written this pamphlet to ensure we do not descend into another bout of interventionism, and then pretend the consequences are nothing to do with the original military action.

The authors state,

In this pamphlet, we argue for the continuing salience of those policies amid indications that Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, and his Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy will look for ways to abandon them. Not only are the main lines of Stop the War’s policies popular in the country, but they are also overwhelmingly popular among the Party membership. And the contemporary international situation makes them as relevant as ever, notwithstanding many changes in the world since our foundation in 2001.

The attack against Stop the War has been most recently expressed in a pamphlet published by Open Labour – A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times. It was launched with the participation of Nandy, and subsequently endorsed by another member of Labour’s foreign affairs front bench team. Its arguments aim at returning Labour to its worst mistakes of the past, all made under the heading of ‘liberal intervention’.

This brochure then, is a reply to the  Open Labour pamphlet, Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times, by Frederick Harry Pitt snd Paul Thompson (in the distant past a leading figure in the radical left group Big Flame).

These is some of the core, well thought out and illustrated, arguments in the Open Labour document,

The dominant (though sometimes implicit) framing that drove Corbynism derived from anti-imperialist perspectives originally formed during the Cold War, national liberation struggles and opposition to repressive American interventions in South East Asia and Latin America in the 1960s and 70s. With the collapse of the Soviet block after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this binary ‘two campism’ posed the West against the Rest. However, anti-imperialism was reshaped and revitalised by military interventions, notably Iraq, influenced by the neo-conservative defence of US hegemony as the guarantor of an often somewhat shallow conception of liberal democracy.

They observe,

What is notable about its politics is the complete lack of interest in any conflicts not directly attributable to ‘the West’ and an inability to see any actor other than the US and its allies as having motives or powers. So, for example, Islamist attacks in Europe have typically been seen through a ‘reaping the whirlwind’ prism in which terror is wholly or mainly as a response to Western military intervention.

This will strike a chord with many people.

Anybody familiar with the tragedy of the Algerian civil war between a repressive military state and murdering Islamist groups during the 1990s, will be aware of the the underlying truth of this argument. Ii what sense was the Groupe Islamiste Armé, (GIA )a response to Western intervention? In what sense is are the mass murders of black Africans by Islamist Al-Shabaab in Mozambique, happening at this very moment,  the responsibility of the West?

One needs more than a few sentences to respond to the following, but the questions posed are at the heart of opposition to the Stop the War Coalition.

The Stop-the-War worldview cannot accommodate situations where Western inaction, rather than Western intervention, has played a decisive role in unfolding violence. When the STWC discusses the Syrian conflict, it is almost wholly silent about the role of Russia or Iran, and even the Assad regime itself. The response of  the Stop-the-War left to each and every major conflict the world over typically represents little more than a nostalgia trip getting the band back together for one last riff on the Iraq years. But contemporary conflicts do not sit easily with the Iraq complex of the left.

It would be hard to find any but the most general and unfocused criticism of Russia and Iran in the StWC public statements, If they have not gone as far as figures such as Chris Williamson in broadcasting false information that benefits the Assad regime it would be hard to find much that would distract from the view that Syria is a sovereign state and that however bad the state is the axis on which any solution to the civil war can be found recognises that soveriegnty.

Liberalism and the left.

An important section of A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times. is about the political and ethical underpinning of globally “spreading the rule of law”, “global human rights” and “global emergency services”, as Mary Kaldor and Alex Sobel put it in their Introduction.

An important section of is informed by the views of liberalion demosm and human rights developed by the late Norman Geras. They are close to the ‘synthesis’ of human rights and democratic Marxism defended by, amongst others on the internationalist left,  the present Blog.  In this Blog’s case they are informed by the critical take on Marxism and democracy of writers such as  Claude Lefort, (the democratic revolution and its ‘indeterminacy’) and Étienne Balibar ( l’égaliberté. Equality-Liberty) , and the more supportive views on democratic Marxism by Hal Draper,  “one of the creators of the Third Camp tradition). One of the bases for an alternative to Campism, is this area, independent of any ‘side’ but that of left-wing internationalism and evolving fights for human and democratic rights.

This contrasts with figures such as Andrew Murray who spent several pages of  The Fall and Rise of the British Left (2019) pouring scorn on human rights, “poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights”, full stop.

Some of the Open Labour writers’ strongest approaches is to these problems centred around political liberalism is this,

.. the late Norman Geras called those ‘tenets of liberalism not indissolubly bound up with capitalism’, namely its attempts to ‘set limits to the accumulation and abuse of political power…protecting the physical environment Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times,a space of individuals from unwarranted invasion’. It has done so albeit unevenly and imperfectly, historically through ‘evolving institutions and practices, political and juridical, to contribute to such ends’.

 

They summarise the accusation that the Stop the War Coalition is campist. That is,

The ‘two-campist’ positioning of Corbyn’s intellectual and political milieu, which relates world events to a crudely caricatured clash between the West and the rest, is instinctive and reflexive rather than properly thought through. It is an under-theorised posture automatically adopted in response to the vagaries and complexities of foreign affairs.

Campism, was originally the stand of the pro-Communist left. It was the duty of every revolutionary to defend the Soviet Union, the Socialist Camp, and, later, their Anti-imperialist allies. It can be seen the have left a trace: the gut feeling that anything the West does has to be opposed. It can lead some to ‘defend’ the forces opposed to the West, as certain leftists do, ‘defending’ Iran, Assad’s regime, and others. If the StWC could offer an example, surely they defend the Palestinian camp including Hamas, against Israel.

 

Reply by Murray and German.

The pamphlet is a diatribe in defence of the record of the Stop the War Coalition. Its internationalism, Murray and German assert, is based on that  “we have campaigned against the actions of our own government – which does not imply support for their enemies, In case you had not got that message they call it, “indigenous and home-grown opposition to a state’s foreign policy objectives.” Anybody reading the whole text will find this repeated and repeated, “Our anti-imperialism must therefore start from here. Britain is part of one imperial bloc, and that is the one we need to challenge in our effort to give the country a new direction in world affairs.”

I doubt if there are any people who’ve been on the left for any time has not heard the slogan The Main Enemy is at Home. . This is not campism “guided by support for another ‘camp’ of hostile foreign powers” but one thing is pretty clear, it not striking out an independent policy, it is being against one side. Or, as they put it in a lengthy list of causes, “The answer to this charge is simple: in every case we have campaigned against the actions of our own government – which does not imply support for their enemies.” They attack the ‘bloc’ in short.

Away from words this is a significant issue. The principle does not always sit easily with internationalism: our main friends may be abroad. How do we help people fighting against dictatorial regimes, and genocidal groups like the Islamic State (Daesh)? This is, as the Open Labour pamphlet frames it, a major issue of human rights violations, ethnic cleansing and genocide. All Murray and German can say on Syria is that there are lots of actors, “intervention on all sides “. They avoid the issue that it was Western, primarily US action, which permitted the Kurdish forces to survive and defeat the Islamist genociders and that it was Trump’s decision to withdraw that support which has let other Islamists, under the aegis of the Turkish state, to push them back. And, as we learn, is pursuing an invasion of South Kurdistan.

What do the StWC  propose for the Kurdish people in Syria and their defenders in the PYD ? I cannot recall anything from Corbyn, and even less from the StWC about meeting the military needs for armed defence. What exactly did they offer when they state, “That does not exclude solidarity and support for those struggling for freedom, of course”? Early Day motions in Parliament? Kind words before the Coronets of Power? They looked sheepish when asked about this when  Kobanê  was in imminent  danger of falling, and was saved thanks to allied airpower: today, they do even bother to look at the Kurdish struggle.

Human Rights.

What kind of human rights do the StWC defend? Murray and German manage the impressive job of talking about issues around “China’s growing military strength” without mentioning China’s record, from the persecution of the Uyghurs, clamp down on freedom for dissenters,  to the attacks on democratic forces in Hong Kong.

Instead they pontificate in a  flurry of speculation,

It is also more likely that Biden will follow Obama and Trump in prioritising confronting China. This represents the danger of a new Cold War, but not of an Iraq-style invasion or a Libya-style bombing campaign, at least for the foreseeable future. Britain has announced that it will dispatch one of its two aircraft carriers to the Far East to assist in this confrontational posture. Nandy appears signed up to the anti-China strategy – Stop the War can see no case for  Britain deploying military hardware on the other side of the globe, against a country which poses no military threat to us.

The authors were on their strongest ground, when outlining the failures of humanitarian intervention –  although the Western leaders in these cases were always careful to underlay the reasons for their acts with appeals to national self-interest rather than a serious case for human rights.

In reality the wars of recent decades were not noble crusades against ‘fascism’ but attempts at regime change involving the deployment of huge amounts of military might. This often succeeded quite easily in overthrowing existing governments. However, the methods of imperialist war and occupation proved totally incapable of building the better societies they had promised – instead they led to endless continuing conflict, widespread displacement, human rights abuses and often very large numbers of civilian casualties as well as refugees. Many societies will not recover from the consequences of being ‘saved’ by the West for generations.

Now all Murray and German  have left is a last bow to things that never happened and were never going to,

Corbynism offers a different approach to the world. His Labour government would have aimed at disengaging Britain from the US-led hegemonic project, focussing instead on dispute resolution, de-escalation of conflicts and the reallocation of resources to poverty alleviation. It would have been a friend, rather than the sworn enemy, of movements for liberation and social justice, and radical governments, around the world. Every effort would have been made to address injustices like the dispossession of the Chagos Islanders and the occupation of the Palestinian territories. And over the longer term it would have reduced the power of the City of London and curbed the arms trade, two drivers of neo-imperial policy. It would have taken arms conversion seriously. It would not have assumed that Britain has a right and responsibility to intervene militarily willy-nilly.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 12, 2021 at 2:59 pm

As Bastani Quits Labour Corbyn Left’s Fragmentation Accelerates.

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Image result for aaron bastani fully automated luxury communism

“Those with the least character to spare, can the least afford to part with their good word to others: a losing cause is always most divided against itself.”

William Hazlitt. On Jealousy and Spleen of Party. 1826

People join, the Labour Party, for many reasons, to get reforms done, to do a good job in local government, for specific policies, out of a commitment to social democracy, to the broad labour movement, to a variety of forms of socialism, and no doubt, for some, to make a career out of politics. Activism goes from delivering leaflets, attending meetings, holding street stalls, canvassing, to standing in elections, and working in elected positions.

Recent years have seen a newer form of activism, social media. Anybody can tweet, go on Facebook, or other networks. We  can even Blog…

Some have set up sites with more ambitious claims. Like the Canary and Skwawkbox Novara Media had its days of glory during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. From 2015 onwards it played a part in millions of people’s on-line clicking and flicking. Some at least considered them political players. They were all identified with one cause, Jeremy Corbyn and with the leader himself.

During the 2017 General Election, left-wing alternative media sites such as The Canary, The Skwawkbox, and Novara Media, well-known for their support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, were described in the Guardian as a “new force shaping the election debate”. By alternative media, we mean online news and commentary outlets that set intentionally themselves out as alternatives to a mainstream media that they consider to be biased and dishonest.

The reasons why will be debated for years, but that cause did not win…..

Fast forward to 2020, and to Labour’s 2019 General Election review, and these alternative media sites are now barely mentionedIn fact, they feature just briefly on page 96, buried in the final section of the chapter that dissects the Labour’s online campaign. Notable, too, is the lack of attention the sites received in post-election analysis. This is striking, since it is only in October of last year that Ash Sarkar was interviewing Corbyn on Novara Media, in a clear sign of their influence. In contrast to 2017, the narrative taking shape around left-wing alternative media is now one of decline.

Declan McDowell-Naylor. (1.7.2020.)

Are alternative media still relevant to the Labour Party?

The post-election and post Corbyn leadership decline has accelerated. The Canary’s founder, Kerry-Anne Mendoza quit Labour and has been embroiled in accusations concerning anti-Semitism, and her support for expelled Labour MP Chris Williamson. The site is studded with anti-Labour ‘stories’, Black Labour members are set to boycott campaigning for the party  Skwawkbox spends its time attacking Keir Starmer, its comments section dominated by abuse of the the “slimy knight”  “dry bumming” the membership. It has now pinned its hopes on the unlikely figure of Northern Labour MP Jon Trickett to become party chief this year. Novara Media, ploughs the same furrow, “Starmer’s Worst Week“….

This week a leaked presentation sparked ridicule for Labour, just as Starmer was caught lying in parliament.

The constant drip drip of attacks on Starmer and Labour may fortify the undoubted pleasure of hating. But many people will think that those who spend their time hurling abuse at their party enemies have not got over their rancœur at losing.

Yesterday this story was published in the Jewish Chronicle.

Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘attack dog’ quits Labour – allegedly ahead of an investigation into his conduct

 

The founder of the pro-Jeremy Corbyn website Novara Media has left the Labour Party, allegedly ahead of an investigation into his conduct.

Labour sources told the JC that the broadcaster Aaron Bastani, who was once dubbed Jeremy Corbyn’s “attack dog”, had quit his local Labour Party in Hampshire after being alerted to a probe into allegations made against him.

Asked to comment, Mr Bastani told the JC on Friday: “The idea that a journalist and member of the Labour Party would be suspended at the drop of a hat suggests deep seated problems inside the party in bringing together the kind of coalition that won Joe Biden the presidency last year.”

The strange final sentence apart (in what sense would Biden fit into Bastani’s ultimate goal of total luxury communism), this is the Novara Media’s own statement:

 

 

The weakening of alt-news sites reflects a wider fragmentation of the Corbyn ‘ultras’.

Labour Heartlands

This, and we would welcome more information, as if the ghost of 1930s Communist Party entryism into Labour has risen from the tomb.

The Weekly Worker reports on this event. Labour Left Alliance Conference.

If you want to understand the confused politics and contradictory strategy of the Labour left, the January 30 online discussion conference organised by the Labour Left Alliance was a good place to start. James Harvey.

The majority of comrades who attended and spoke clearly regard themselves as the real, militant left in the Labour Party – in contrast to the tame official left, represented by groups such as the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and Momentum.

Roger Silverman of the Workers’ International Network (WIN) and the LLA organising group set the tone in his political opening by suggesting that the one-sided civil war unleashed by the Labour right had finally reached boiling point

For those not up to speed here is Cde Silverman’s groupuscule, the site On the Brink.

WIN evolved out of an international online socialist forum, members of which had been corresponding and meeting over the years. In 2009 a draft document setting out our common consensus was published under the title Preparing for Revolution, and in 2012 another: The Future International: socialists and the movement against capitalism. (For these and related documents, see introducingWIN.pdf)

The meeting saw resolutions from Socialist Appeal (the faction created by Ted Grant after the split in Militant), and the Weekly Worker’s own Labour Party Marxists. If you still have the will to live after scanning a few paragraphs go to the link above…

There are, in contrast to the old ‘alt-news sites’ and these warring factionalists, left wing groups and sites offering serious articles about the future of the UK Left,  such as Labour Hub, (see: Focus on Organising  Michael Calderbank), The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty ( Scotland, separation and socialism. Dale Street.) , Anti-Capitalist Resistance (England and Labour: Nation or Class? Simon Pearson ). There is also Chartist, Radical federalism  Sam Tarry).

These are some sites identified with the broader cause of socialism. Perhaps this is why they are important reading, rather than ‘alt-media’ based on one leader.

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