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Backlash at Momentum Withdrawing Backing for Peter Willsman Exposes Deeper Left Rift.

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New forms of international solidarity, based on democratic human rights, should replace unconditional support.

Momentum withdraws support for Corbyn ally Peter Willsman for ‘deeply insensitive’ remarks about Jews

Independent.

The present crisis in the Labour Party over anti-semitism is a mess with which most people would recoil from.

The underlying problem is not this or that charge: it is a fight over Jeremy Corbyn’s politics.

Although the majority of the left stands with the anti-austerity programme, and for democratic socialist measures  to replace neo-liberal politics – give or take some divisions about how to respond to Brexit – there is no consensus about the politics of the Middle East and, above all, on the Israel-Palestine issue.

Is this  the central question of the age? In most people’s minds it is not. We could begin with the civil war in Syria, where massacres continue after genocides.

But there is no getting away from it.

Jeremy Corbyn comes from an honourable tradition on the left which puts international solidarity at the forefront of left campaigning.

It is part of his marrow.

Jeremy Corbyn has put the Palestinian people’s rights at the centre of his work.

It is scandalous to accuse him of underhand behaviour when he has acted in the plain light of day.

Or that Corbyn is of the same mind as everybody he’s been found in the company of.

Nobody can doubt that this involves cooperating, or at least appearing on the same platform,, as people he disagrees with.

But not everybody on the left accepted, or does now accept, the idea that solidarity means not taking a critical distance from the leadership and activists of liberation movements.

A thoughtful piece this year on the New Socialist site begins with a premise that seems very much of a different time:  Antisemitism and Our Duties as Anti-Imperialists. (The Editors April 2018)

The claim that groups like Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are liberation movements reflects a position of the 1960s and 1970s left on such struggles which has not worn well.

But in a wider sense what are the “duties” of “anti-imperialists”? Opposing colonialism, the occupation of whole swathes of the world by European powers, US intervention in Asian wars, ended by the 1970s.

The term ‘anti-imperialism’ was visibly coming apart after the the Khomeini  victory in Iran in 1979, which heralded a wider rise in diverse forms of political Islam – virulently opposed to the left. Yet these were, in Tehran,  ‘anti-imperialist’, as a whole section of the Iranian left claimed, before being executed or put in gaol.

Opposition to US-led intervention against Iraq, the Gulf War onwards, and in Afghanistan, had some meaning.

But it failed to inspire much support on the left for Baathism or the various Islamist groups that took power in Afghanistan

The idea of moral obligations to support positively anti-imperialist countries or movements opposing ‘imperialism’ has even less  meaning today when ‘anti-imperialism’ or ‘campism’ in the post-Soviet world has led some on the left to claim the mantle of ‘internationalism’ for support for a variety of repressive and reactionary states and movements opposed to the ‘West’.

Despite its obvious bankruptcy the influence of this stand can be seen at present far beyond the Middle East, with some continuing to back the blood-stained and  corrupt regime in Nicaragua on ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds.

The hollowness of this position is not hard to see. For those who wish to see them taken apart read Dan la Botz Nicaragua’s Popular Rebellion Stopped—For Now. (1)

Just as we would not tolerate unconditional support for Israel, above all in the form of the Israeli government, it is hard to see why why we should tolerate the – well-known – faults of the backward looking right-wing  Muslim Brotherhood ally Hamas.

This has its domestic translation.

In the present Labour Party row the issue keeps returning to the influence of anti-democratic, and prejudiced forces that style themselves ‘anti-Zionists’ operating in movements calling for  support for the Palestinians.

These range from those who have lost all sense of decency through their use of  ‘Nazi’ rhetoric against ‘Zionists’, Islamist and classic far-right anti-semites, to the probably more numerous, “conspiratorialist” individuals and groups.

But the Labour Party is not, as Labour Against the Witchunt and the its backers would like it to be, a playground where these individuals can engage in ‘debates’ on the template of the Letters Page in the Weekly Worker.

It is equally  true that the Labour Party is not going to be taught lessons about racialism from people like the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, who declared in June 2016,

Our freedom from the EU will make extremism less, not more, likely, as the pressure cooker is released.

Brexit: It’s a wonderful day for Britain – and its Jews

But we are not going to resolve our difficulties without a coming to terms with the need for forms of international solidarity, based on democratic human rights, to replace the old unconditional support. for movements we think are ‘anti-imperialist’ or progressive.

In the deeper senses outlined above this is simultaneously a foreign policy issue and a domestic one, so that this analysis by Steve Bush in the New Statesman is right at both ends put together:

The issue at stake is that Corbyn himself regards the row as a foreign policy issue, confined to the question of how Labour members can talk about Israel, while his critics primarily see it as a domestic issue, confined to the need to reassure British Jews of Labour’s intentions and to take the sting out of the row, which risks derailing a summer of detailed policy interventions from the opposition.

Momentum dump Peter Willsman from their NEC slate – in direct defiance of Jeremy Corbyn’s office

The backlash at Momentum’s decision illustrates all these issues coming to the surface:

Momentum drops Pete Willsman – support the comrade!

 

And so it goes….

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Skwawkbox launches an organised wrecking operation against Momentum.

LOCAL MOMENTUM GROUPS COME OUT FOR WILLSMAN AND THE #JC9YES9

National Momentum – or rather the officer subset of Momentum’s ‘NCG’ (National Coordinating Group) – made the widely-condemned decision yesterday to withdraw support from left-slate member Peter Willsman in the vital National Executive Committee elections, over antisemitism claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The decision sparked a major online backlash, with large numbers announcing they had ended their membership.

But others are staying within the organisation yet still making clear that the NCG has not spoken for them.

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(1) Notably,

Many of my generation, the generation of 1968, who supported the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979 (as I did), may have found these arguments appealing, reflecting as they did the situation forty years ago, but not only do they have little factual or logical merit, but they are based on a specious reasoning that denigrates ordinary people and idolizes strongmen. Such arguments are based upon three fundamental suppositions:

1) Nicaraguans and other Latin Americans cannot have legitimate grievances against the “Leftists” governments and would any case be incapable of creating their own movement, so they must be manipulated by some other force;

2) the United States masterminds and controls all political developments in Latin America from Argentina and Brazil to Venezuela and Nicaragua, and it is the real force behind any apparent popular opposition;

3) existing “anti-imperialist” governments (Russia, Syria, Nicaragua), whatever their character, must be supported against the world’s only imperialist nation, the United States.

These arguments can only appeal to those who have no understanding of the complexity of international political developments, of a world where, for example, people can organize themselves, a left can develop critical of a so-called leftist government, and the United States, powerful as it is, cannot always call the shots. That these authors provide shameful support for an authoritarian, capitalist government murdering hundreds and wounding thousands of its citizens is not surprising, given their support for Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia, Iran’s theocratic dictatorship, and Assad’s dictatorship in Syria. Zeese and Blumenthal represent what writer Rohini Hensman has called a neo-Stalinist current that came out of the left but now has little that is even vaguely leftists about it.[18]

Fortunately, the international democratic left has rallied in defense of the Nicaraguan people’s rebellion. Noam Chomsky spoke out against Ortega’s “authoritarian” government on Democracy Now.[19] Dozens of leftist intellectuals and political activists  principally from Europe and Latin America signed a statement strongly condemning the Ortega governments and containing these demands:

The unconditional release of all political prisoners; the transfer of information from the authorities to human rights organizations about the real situation of the persons declared missing; disarmament of the paramilitary army organized by Ortega and his government; an independent international investigation into the various forms and facets of repression, with appropriate sanctions; the constitution of a transitional government — with a limited mandate, — leading to free elections; and the end of the Ortega-Murillo government.[20]

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The Independent Backs Referendum on Brexit Deal.

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Britain in the EU is the best chance to constrain the power of big money and big business.

Amongst continuing chaos on the Brexit right and left this is worth flagging up: how some of the leading ideologues of Leave are now becoming disaster theorists.

In the Great Deception (643 pages long, long) Christopher Booker (who is also a climate change denier) and Richard North argued that that British membership in the EU is a “slow-motion coup d’etat” with an “agenda of subordination” to invasive centralised regulation that is economically harmful to the UK. “an entirely new form of government, one which was supra-national’ beyond the control of national governments, politicians or electorates” Everything else would become subordinate to this entity.

Those who have plodded through its weary pages, and bothered to retain more than the name of Jean Monnet (there are 3 other apocalyptic horsemen, Arthur Salter, Altero Spinelli and Paul-Henri Spaak), will probably remember only that the project the authors refer to was a United States of Europe. 

And that it was doomed, “…like the vision of Le Corbusier and a much grander scale, it would eventually leave a great devastation behind it: wasteland from which it would take many years for the peoples of Europe to emergence.”

The Great Deception, Can the European Union survive? Christopher Booker. Richard North. 2017 ‘Referendum’ Edition (First published 2005).

It seems, nevertheless, that now it’s the Brexit victory that can claim to have created a desert and called it their peaceful victory.

As both authors now say.

Theresa May’s Brexit proposal is so detached from reality that it can only end in disaster. CHRISTOPHER BOOKER (1)

It is this context which makes the Independent’s call today make sense.

The referendum gave sovereignty to the British people, so now they deserve a final say on the Brexit deal

Independent.

Morally, emotionally even, another referendum is needed to help bind up the wounds of the past two years

The Independent today launches a campaign to win for the British people the right to a final say on Brexit. Come what may in the months ahead, we maintain our commitment to our readers to retain balance and present many different points of view. But on this subject we believe a referendum on the final deal is right. We do so for three reasons.

First, amid the chaos of recent months, one thing has become increasingly clear: Theresa May’s approach – and indeed the chaos in parliament – is not working. We are simply not close enough to resolving so many big issues about which people care so much. The enormity of the task, the contradictions in both major parties and the ferocious divisions in their ranks have now stretched our parliament to its limits, to the point where the impasse leads us ever closer to an “accidental” Brexit, as foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt most recently acknowledged, without a deal.

Second, sovereignty rests with the people – the people should have the opportunity to finish what they began, to pause and consider whether they still want to go ahead with the Brexit course we’re on, just as they would any other major decision in their lives.

Third, while there are questions about the validity of another referendum – shouldn’t the original outcome be delivered? – we clearly know more now than we did in 2016, amid such deeply flawed campaigns on both sides. Ignoring these shortcomings and ploughing on regardless is a far bigger problem for democracy. Faced with the current turmoil in our politics, and with dangers ahead coming into focus, it is surely undemocratic to deny people a chance to express their opinion afresh.

The Independent also publishes this important commentary on Corbyn’s Labour Brexit speech by Nick Dearden, director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

It makes many of the points those backing The Left Against Brexit would make, but is too sanguine about the lingering influence amongst the Labour leadership of the view that Parliament, embodying Popular Sovereignty, can effectively work socialist wonders free from the kind of pooled sovereignty the EU works with. Those Corbyn listens to include influential voices from the ‘British Road to Socialism’ tradition which believes not only that, but that the EU is a particularly hard form of what used to be known (pre-Trump) as “neo-liberalism”.

Corbyn was brave enough to tackle the reasons why people voted for Brexit – and now he’s being savaged for it.

Nick Dearden

The real criticism you might make of Corbyn’s speech is that it’s not radical enough. After all, much of this analysis is common sense in many parts of Northern Europe where “industrial strategy” and “economic intervention” have not been dirty words for the past four decades. But Corbyn pushes the envelope, for instance insisting that those businesses who benefit from government intervention must be held to account for their levels of pay equality, for their climate impacts, for what happens in their supply chain.

This couldn’t be further from Donald Trump’s vision of the world. In fact, Corbyn explicitly eschews Trump’s protectionist trade wars. But, as economist Dani Rodrik consistently argues, if you want low tariffs and an open economy without high levels of inequality and poverty, you must have strong regulation on big business, coupled with high levels of investment and welfare. The alternative is a free-for-all for big money.

That’s what we’ve lived through in Britain – a “market knows best” approach in which all that mattered was slashing regulation and liberalising the economy. That’s what drove Brexit, and indeed it’s what is driving far-right votes in the US and elsewhere. Sadly, it’s not being listened to by the government because the hard Brexit being successfully pushed by Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg would turbocharge this model.

I want the EU to survive because I believe it can fulfil the dream of some of its founders to promote peace and equality. I want Britain in the EU because I believe it’s the best chance to constrain the power of big money and big business, to fight climate change, and to offer an alternative to the rise of Trumpism. That’s why I’m speaking at the Left Against Brexit tour in Liverpool tonight.

But it is a fantasy to think the EU can do any of this without serious top-to-bottom transformation. The EU has embraced far too much of the “market knows best” philosophy – often pushed by the British government. As a result it is coming apart at the seams, and before too long, Brexit will be the least of Brussel’s worries.

That’s why the policy direction Corbyn announced yesterday should not be seen as an attack on the EU. Rather it gives much-needed direction for the union as a whole. Only a Europe which embraces some of the changes set out by Corbyn yesterday has a hope of surviving. There is no going back to the day before the EU referendum— we either embrace fundamental economic reform, or we lose to the false promises of the growing far right.

John Rogan  signals this useful thread on the issues the speech dealt with.

A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour Left. Simon Hannah. A Democratic Socialist Review.

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A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour Left. Simon Hannah. Pluto Press 2018.

(This review article appears in the latest Chartist magazine).

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in 2015 victory and his re-election in 2016 have been followed a number of pacy biographies. There have larger number of efforts to explain the victory, often as part of a global rise of “outsider” politics. By contrast Simon Hannah’s A Party with Socialists in it, is an account of the North Islington MP’s leadership within the long history of the Labour left inside the party.

An issue hangs over A Party with Socialists in it. There may be socialists in Labour but can Labour become a vehicle for socialism? The late Ralph Miliband, Hannah observes, came to consider the party unfit for socialist purpose, unable to create a “radically different social order” (Postscript to Parliamentary Socialism. 1973)

The Labour Party, Hannah states, was created as a Broad Church designed to represent the “entire labour movement”. He suggests that the seating is arranged around two wings. There is the ‘transformative’ current – the socialist left – which aims to change society radically, facing sustained opposition from the Establishment. Seated separately have been the ‘integrative’ battalions in the Parliamentary party and major trade unions. Outside and inside office, they try to avoid friction by making peace with the Powers that Be.

A Party with Socialists in it ably covers more than a century of differences between right and left from the foundation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 onwards – a vast sweep. But historical reminders are often extremely relevant.

To explain the background to Blair and Brown’s modernising project it is useful to look at the 1950s ‘revisionist’ debate, between figures such as Anthony Crosland and Aneurin Bevan. This centred on the balance between social and private ownership and making property serve “social purposes”. In the 1970s this again became a live issue. While the first stirrings of the neo-liberal privatisation agenda could be seen inside the Conservative Party, Labour appeared to be rethinking the “balance” between public and private in the opposite direction.

Alternative Economic Strategy.

The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) came onto the Labour agenda. Stuart Holland’s version of the AES aimed to create a “new public ownership and social controls in the meso-economic sector”. It included nationalising the 25 top manufacturing companies to “harness the market power of big league firms”. Along with planning and rights to workers’ participation, it aimed to tackle inefficiency, to create jobs and end the decline in British profits and competitively. Hannah notes that the AES included protectionist measures. (Strategy for Socialism. Stuart Holland. 1975)

As Hannah notes, capitalists were unlikely to welcome the AES without ferocious opposition. Wilson, the figure of the ‘integrationist wing of the party, never intended this to happen. Only a shadow of the AES, a National Enterprise Board, that helped prop up some failing enterprises and the Bullock Report’s plans for corporatist works’ councils, “torpedoed” by the unions themselves, remained. (Pages 146 – 152) Avoiding ruffling the established powers ended with accepting an austerity programme in response to IMF demands. For Hannah this was “capitulation to international finance”. Efforts to bring together companies and workers through ‘Social Contract” wage restraint ended in the 1979 Winter of Discontent.

The 1980s rise and fall of ‘Bennism’, and the narrowly thwarted deputy leadership bid in 1981, saw the left rally around the former Cabinet Minister. Benn’s socialism, in Hannah’s account, was that of a “constitutionalist political reformer”. He based his ambitions on “genuine national sovereignty” and wider democracy including extra-parliamentary activism. Some saw this as a transformative ground for socialist activism; others considered that it placed too great a hope in a reformed Parliamentary system. It encouraged the belief that if the levers of the Labour Party were won, a sovereign left government could detach itself from the world economy, and bodies such as the IMF and implement the discarded AES. This idea remains popular on the left amongst those who wish for an independent Britain ‘taking back control’ from the European Union. 

Hannah surveys the left’s defeats in the 1980s. The first pitched battle was on the question of inner-party democracy (Page 164) The Chapter The Broad Church Collapses is valuable in covering with a critical eye on the main players, the inward looking and often fractious activities of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLDP) and the Labour Coordinating Committee (LCC).

Neil Kinnock’s modernising ambitions, a move to the centre, are widely said to have foreshadowed the 1990s dominance of Tony Blair’s team. Did Neil Kinnock isolate the left only by ditching radical policies and purging organised factions? (Page 197) Certainly Kinnock’s moves to remove policy making from Conference and NEC control were important to activists.

Forward March of Labour?

Others suggest that the search for policies adapted to the new constituencies appearing with ‘post-Fordist’ times played a part in the modernising agenda. A fierce inter-left polemic took place on the decline in the power of the industrial working class. (The Forward March of Labour Halted? 1981) Ideas about a post-Fordist production or a postmodern world may have had a limited appeal. But wholesale industrial run down, the defeat of the miners’ strike, and the wholesale closures that followed, saw the pillars of the labour movement disappearing. .

There were efforts to develop a response through new left policies in the late 80s, notably at the Socialist Movement Chesterfield Conferences called by Tony Benn, the Socialist Campaign Group and the Socialist Society, including Labour left journals and radical non-Labour forces. They attempted to learn from the experiences of municipal socialism shut down by Thatcher and the balance-sheet of the 1980s class conflicts. This initiative merits more coverage than the many pages devoted to the expulsion of the Militant platoons that claimed to represent the socialist vanguard

The Blair leadership appeared to cut off any chance of these Labour left or these ideas continuing as a serious ‘transformative ” current in the party. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, dedicating their book to the independent left-wing academic, concluded, at the zenith of New Labour, that the “route to socialism does not lie in transforming the Labour Party” (The End of Parliamentary Socialism 1997).

Nevertheless the mid-1990s the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA), broke the ‘sealed tomb’ of the left under Tony Blair, and in 1998 got 4 left-wingers elected to the Labour’s NEC. The CLGA was broader than the CLDP or, Labour Briefing. There is no account of the role in the CLGA of Labour Reform and other ‘soft left’ forces, including Tribune and contributors to the present magazine.

Progressive Umbrella. 

Blair and Brown may have ended in a progressive umbrella hard to distinguish from a liberal desire to inject justice over market outcomes. Yet they were not only an acceptance of the neoliberal consensus but also a response to its appeal and to changing class configuration. Their relaxed attitude to finance and acceptance of privatising public services, not to mention participation in the invasion of Iraq, were disasters. The Third Way ideology was vapid cover.

But not every single policy was unwelcome, as can be seen as Universal Credit replaces Tax Credits. Stealth redistribution, nevertheless, means little as the modernisers’ centre-ground has dried up. There is little space for Labour in a “neo-liberal” consensus following the 2007-8 banking crisis. Accepting Conservative austerity plans, apparently eternal fiscal features means attacks on bedrock public services. Put simply, why indeed should the majority pay for their mistakes?

Hannah states that the 1940s left tended to assume that their main disagreements with the Labour leadership was over the speed of change, not over principles. The collapse of the Ecumenical endeavour during the Blair-Brown years, largely put an end to this way of thinking. For many on the left the turn to “social liberalism” cut the ground under the feet of any common endeavour.

In the light of this those who had given up on transforming the Labour Party would also deserve a mention, not least because many of them are now against party activists. A Party has nothing about the short-lived Socialist Alliance (its main challenge in the 2001 election, with derisory votes), Respect (George Galloway MP), or the more recent Left Party. All of these bodies involved Labour left-wingers. Many could offer not entirely happy experiences of working directly with left-factions and the larger Leninist groups which shape their take on Corbyn’s Labour left and Momentum. This gap contrasts with the large space devoted to Militant. No doubt it was “witch-hunted” but Militant’s top-down discipline and claims to lead the socialist fight have long limited its impact within the Labour left and more recent attempts to form electoral alternatives to the party.

Another initiative, which Hannah could have mentioned, is that the People’s Assembly movement of protest against austerity united trade unionists, the Labour and non-Labour left with a wide range of activists. The status of affiliated supporters allowed many to have a voice within the party, which it was easy to transfer into full membership after Corbyn’s election.

It is striking that British Labour is alone amongst established European left parties to have undergone change in the wake of Corbyn’s victory, perhaps indicating that its structures are not such an obstacle to the left after all.

An “invaluable account”.

A Party is an invaluable account not just of the history of the Labour left but of the future prospects of the Corbyn leadership. Hannah ends with hope that ‘capitalist realism’ is ending. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership may open up many possibilities As John McDonnell puts it in his Introduction, Labour can be a “genuinely transformative party”.

Momentum, in this view, is not just an effective electoral machine to support Jeremy Corbyn. It helps extend Labour’s influence amongst the public, and tips towards being a social movement for change. It would be to equip the practical idealists with the Parliamentary muscle to carry open-minded socialist ideas into effect. If Labour came to power would it also be needed to counter business and right wing attempts to sabotage the project? Could it develop a new better, version of the AES that avoids its pitfalls? The alternative, offered by the factionalising remnants of the modernisers, is an attempt to jump on a ‘progressive’ bandwagon driven by French President Emmanuel Macron. It is a bit of everything, except a realistic way of tackling a decade of government austerity.

Postscript 2nd of June.

 

The present Labour Party debate and splits on the fall-out from Brexit can can be seen in the light of the lingering influence of the ‘Bennite’ claim that the objective of the party should be ““genuine national sovereignty”. Those , a shrinking but still influential current,  advocating a ‘People’s Brexit’,  with the bare bones of a 20th century version of an national Alternative Economic Strategy, seem to reproduce the same difficulties and, in their sovereigntism, fall well short of an internationalist democratic socialist goal.

Pressure Grows on Labour to Oppose Brexit.

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#StopToryBrexit – A Final Say For The Many.

The Conservative Party is now in open warfare over the terms of Brexit,

Michael Gove has literally ripped up Theresa May’s plan for a new customs partnership with the EU. To the surprise of the officials present, Gove tore the document in two at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Customs will be one of the biggest bones of contention at the Chequers. I understand that there is talk that the model favoured by Brexiteers, MaxFax, might be altered to include tariff alignment with the EU.

But if that’s the case, then Britain won’t be able to have a proper, independent trade policy. One of the Brexiteers close to the discussions warns that this is the ‘breaking point of what people are prepared to accept’.

Michael Gove rips up Theresa May’s customs plan 

Meanwhile the call for a People’s Brexit from anti-EU left (A People’s Brexit that unites the left is the only way to confront an increasingly bold neoliberal mafia, argues Lindsey German) is increasingly marginalised.

The assertion that shouting  “taking back control” would inspire a post-Brexit radical movement  is dead in the water.

Only the far-right has benefited, launching its own campaigns.

The idea that a Sovereign Parliament, free from EU rules will be then able  to turn the capitalist system into a Beacon of Socialism is crumbling faced with the prospect of disrupted production and distribution chains. What kind of ‘independent tariff policy’ with bargaining power is possible in the post neo-liberal world of Trump’s Trade Wars.

Only on the fringes  only those still wedded to the idea of ‘ourselves alone’, a Britain perhaps reinvigorated by Pharaonic  irrigation projects –  the removal of the surplus urban population to dig canals and grow rice in the countryside, continue on, regardless.

Then there remains the issue, which the pro-Brexit Trade Unionists Against the EU campaign and their allies in the Morning Star and the Socialist Party have failed to respond to, of the £54,000 donation the front received from far-right millionaire Arron Banks donated to their cause.

The Labour Party is now debating the serious issues that Brexit creates.

In the New Statesman PATRICK MAGUIRE comments,

 

The campaign for a second Brexit referendum is fatally flawed but it could still hurt Labour

There is undoubtedly a significant gap between Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit and the softer one most of the membership would prefer. Recent polling shows that 87 per cent would like to see the UK remain in the single market, and 78 per cent want a referendum on the final deal.

 

In other words, the only thing keeping the line behind Corbyn is fear of public division, not any popular left wing support for a Popular Brexit tailored to help a radical left government implement its programme.

 

Some in Labour are now speculating the campaign for a second referendum – or People’s Vote, to use its sickly-sweet brand name – could similarly dominate this year’s conference.

There is good reason to think so. The failure of Tory rebels to deliver MPs a meaningful vote on the final deal has given impetus to the campaign at the grassroots. Lots of constituency Labour parties are largely Europhile, and activists from 62 of them have already promised to table a motion demanding a second referendum.

As my colleague Stephen says in his column this week, it’s a given that the leadership won’t acquiesce. If it is voted on, then it may well be that Corbyn’s distance from his members on Brexit will be much harder to hide. If chicanery from his allies prevents a potentially embarrassing vote on Brexit for the second year in a row, then attention will be drawn to the gap anyway.

The campaign has many shortcomings. There is no majority in the parliamentary Labour party, nor the Commons, for a second referendum, and its advocates are making the same mistake as David Cameron: what happens if they lose? While the 2016 referendum left room for ambiguity on the shape of the Brexit deal, there would be no doubt as to what an endorsement of the government’s deal meant. Despite them, it is still likely to cause headaches for Labour.

The probable shape of a  ‘final deal’ is something no Labour leadership should accept.

What can we then do?

The last paragraph makes some serious strategic points, but faced with disaster that is Brexit you can’t help feeling that many will consider that the gamble is worth it.

Growing pressure on Jeremy Corbyn from Momentum to turn against Brexit

Financial Times. , (today)

Momentum, the grassroots political movement that helped to sweep Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Britain’s Labour party, is putting growing pressure on him to turn against Brexit and even push for a referendum on the final deal.

At last September’s Labour conference, Momentum played a key role in preventing delegates from voting on the party’s Brexit position (and we note, specifically on Freedom of Movement).

But this year, by contrast, several Momentum members said it could take the opposite role and force a vote among delegates on whether there should be a “people’s vote” on the final Brexit deal.

“Labour’s leadership fears that any tilt towards being anti-Brexit could cost the party the support of working-class voters in Wales, the Midlands and the North.” – not to mention that key Corbyn’s advisers such as Andrew Murray of UNITE are pro-‘People’s Brexit’.

This is the crucial point, “But the leadership of Momentum, while currently supporting Mr Corbyn’s position, is facing an upswelling of anti-Brexit sentiment among its membership of largely younger, more urban, supporters. One member of the shadow cabinet said the mood was changing and a general election could be won without the support of Brexiters. “There are people who want to keep the strategic ambiguity, there is a fear that if we are pushed too far on this it could screw up Labour’s electoral chances,” added one senior figure inside Momentum. “It’s possible that there could be an electoral route through being pro-Remain and that wouldn’t lose us votes, but it would be a risk.”

At a meeting of the Momentum version of its Central Committee,

Sam Tarry, political officer from the TSSA union, made an argument for a second referendum, while Mr McDonnell spoke against. With the attendees at odds over the issue they eventually agreed to put off a final decision until September.

The  petition of Momentum members calling for a second referendum stands (today) at 2,703 Signatures Collected. It needs just above 4,000 — 10 per cent of the group’s membership — to oblige a vote of all members.

It appears that Momentum supporters, as befits a left-wing organsiation, are more pro-Remain than even the heavily pro-EU Labour membership.

Political Satire and its Critics: From Spitting Image to Tracey Ullman.

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Image result for Tomorrow belong to me, SPitting image

Trigger Warning: Satire!

The reaction to Charlie Hebdo in the English-speaking world has always been marked by po-faced people telling the cartoonists what should and what should not be satire.

The usual hostility to French secular leftists by the likes of Giles Fraser, the ex-SWP supporting Priest, now a Patriot with a wanion, is one thing.

Now we see the same kind of reaction to Tracey Ullman.

As somebody who tabled a resolution at Warwick Students’ Union in the late 70s mocking Larry O’Nutter (something like, “we shall smash the trumpeting bourgeoisie; throwing the error-strewn imperialists apologists into smithereens i.e. into the gutter”) and got a counter-resolution in return taking the piss out of Andrew Coates (First line, “Marxism is all-powerful because it is true, it is not true because it is all-powerful – Louis Althusser), perhaps I have a decades old thick skin.

Ullman’s sketch on Corbyn last week raised the hackles of a swarm of his supporters.

It only offended me because her feeble attempt to give him a North London accent – speaking as Geezer born in his constituency.

 

Now there is this:

Being made of stern stuff I recall this, which I may guess few leftists would object to.

 

So there we have it.

Defeat of the po-faced.

 I fucking hate Tories!

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn Issues Welcome Statement on Banishing Anti-Semitism from the Labour Party.

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The cover of today's London Evening Standard

An important and dignified statement.

Some sections, which grapple with points which many people have made, are in bold.

Instead of taking notice of the reactions of those hostile to the Labour Party we should take them to heart.

The Jewish Chronicle reports,

Jeremy Corbyn has issued a direct apology to the Jewish community over the Labour Party’s continued antisemitism problem.

In a statement issued only hours before his meeting with leaders of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, Mr Corbyn writes: “We have not done enough fully to get to grips with the problem, and for that the Jewish community and our own Jewish members deserve an apology.

….

Writing in the Evening Standard, Mr Corbyn admitted the party’s monitoring of antisemitism had “been simply not fully fit for purpose” and also suggested that under his leadership the party “did not look closely enough at ourselves”.

Jeremy Corbyn: What I’m doing to banish anti-Semitism from the Labour Party

Evening Standard.

Anti-semitism is a poison that must be challenged wherever it raises its head, across Europe and at home. Hatred and bigotry towards Jewish people has no place in our society, whether on the streets or online. And that of course goes for the Labour Party too.

Today I am meeting leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss working together to tackle both old and new forms of anti-Semitism.

We have a particular duty to lead the fight against anti-Semitism in and around our party and movement. Jews have found a natural home in the Labour Party since its foundation, and been central to our movement.

The party has a long and proud record of standing against anti-Semitism. Jews belong in the Labour Party and we are utterly committed to making it a safe and welcoming place for them.

But we must also face the uncomfortable fact that a small number of our members and supporters hold anti-Semitic views and attitudes, which need to be confronted and dealt with more rapidly and effectively.

The evidence is clear enough. Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one member who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.

So let me be clear. People holding those views have no place in the Labour Party. They may be few — the number of cases over the past three years represents less than 0.1 per cent of Labour’s membership of more than half a million — but one is too many.

We are taking action. In the past fortnight more than 20 individuals have been suspended from party membership, and more are being investigated. But we have not done enough to get to grips with the problem, and the Jewish community and our Jewish members deserve an apology. My party and I are sorry for the hurt and distress caused.

We must strive to understand why anti-Semitism has surfaced in our party, which has always stood for equality for all and opposed racism and discrimination.

As I indicated in my letter last month to the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, there are two particular contemporary sources. First, individuals on the fringes of the movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people can stray into anti-Semitic views.

The struggle for justice for the Palestinian people and an end to their dispossession is a noble one — just as a genuine two-state solution is essential to lasting peace in the Middle East. But when criticism of or opposition to the Israeli government uses anti-Semitic ideas — attributing its injustices to Jewish identity, demanding that Jews in Britain or elsewhere answer for its conduct, or comparing Israel to the Nazis — then a line must be drawn.

Anti-Zionism is not in itself anti-Semitic and many Jews themselves are not Zionists. But there are also a very few who are drawn to the Palestinian question precisely because it affords an opportunity to express hostility to Jewish people in a “respectable” setting. Our movement must not be a home for such individuals.

Second, there are people who have come to see capitalism and imperialism as the product of conspiracy by a small shadowy elite rather than a political, economic, legal and social system. That is only a step from hoary myths about “Jewish bankers” and “sinister global forces”.

I

These views do no service to the struggle for a just society. Instead, they reproduce the sort of scapegoating that we recognise when directed at ethnic or religious minorities.

Anti-Semitism was responsible for the worst crimes of the 20th century. According to a survey conducted last year by two leading Jewish community organisations, anti-Semitic views are held by a minority in Britain, and are more likely to be found on the right of politics. But we did not look closely enough at ourselves.

I also believe our party’s structures, built to service a far smaller membership than we have now, have been simply not fully fit for purpose when it has come to dealing with complaints about anti-Semitism.

The problem has been aggravated by social media, which is where most of the instances of abuse appear to take place. Some high-profile cases have also been delayed by legal proceedings, and the reforms proposed by Shami Chakrabarti two years ago to make our response more effective were not fully implemented.

That is why our new general secretary Jennie Formby has, on my instruction, made it her priority to get on top of this problem and ensure that all complaints are dealt with swiftly and fairly, with investigations resourced as necessary. She will be setting out her plans in the coming weeks, including the appointment of a new legal adviser, and we are already taking action in many cases.

We will also embark on a programme of political education to deepen Labour members’ understanding of what anti-Semitism is and how to counter it.

When members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties we must recognise them as we would those of any other community. Their concerns are not “smears”.

I want to engage with the full range and diversity of Jewish organisations and have no truck with any attempt to divide the Jewish community into the “right” and “wrong” sort of Jews. Debate and pluralism are abiding characteristics of the Jewish community, and I celebrate them both within and without the Labour Party.

I hope that by taking the steps outlined, Labour will be reconnecting with our finest traditions of solidarity and equality. We stand with any community beleaguered or subject to hateful prejudice.

 

We cannot and will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters now.

Key issues for the left include challenging those for whom an anti- Zionist position – that is criticisms of the belief that Israel is the legitimate aspiration of a Jewish nation, and criticism of the Israeli government – have strayed into “attributing its injustices to Jewish identity, demanding that Jews in Britain or elsewhere answer for its conduct, or comparing Israel to the Nazis.”

The latter is particularly striking and has been the cause of major rifts within the left of the left, as well as within the broader labour and progressive movement.

The problem of “people who have come to see capitalism and imperialism as the product of conspiracy by a small shadowy elite rather than a political, economic, legal and social system.” which many have underlined for some time, is broader than anti-Semitism. It represents a wider failure of the socialist movement to educate supporters.

This which appears in the Guardian is a good place to begin from, even if it underlines some serious difficulties.

The central problem is that much (although by no means all) of the antisemitism in the Labour party has emerged from the online-fuelled grassroots movement that has been a major factor in sustaining Corbyn’s leadership.By its very nature, this movement resists control. The passion that drives it is not conducive to careful speech. Antisemitism is more than just carelessness (for some it is very deliberate) and it is more than just speech, but any attempt to address it must begin with serious attention to language in an age in which communication – on any issue – constantly threatens to spiral out of control.

While many in the Labour party are aware of the problems that unrestrained speech can cause, there are few practical suggestions as to what to do about it. Owen Jones has called for a mass “political education” campaign, but it will be difficult to corral Labour supporters into the institutional frameworks necessary for this. In any case, antisemitism is one symptom of a wider culture of tit-for-tat purging and abuse that has permeated the party for decades. Those who currently hold the whip hand (Corbynites now, New Labour in the past) are never eager to address it.

Corbyn has repeatedly condemned abuse, antisemitic or otherwise, although he rarely goes into specifics. Yet his supporters tend to ignore his less convenient pronouncements. He does not wield his authority with an iron fist and is unlikely to have the ability or the will to lead a mass disciplining of unruly Labour voices

While no one who sees themselves as part of the grassroots Labour movement really knows how to draw on its productive energies without its dark side, there is another section of the Labour left that does understand discipline and control. Parts of the trade union movement – and those, such as McDonnell, who are close to it – have considerable experience in these political arts. Formby’s appointment, backed by Unite, as Labour general secretary, backed by Unite, and the failure of the bid for the post by the Momentum founder Lansman, were a demonstration of the vulnerability of grassroots politics when it comes up against machine politics.

Cynics might therefore suggest that Jewish organisations who want Labour antisemitism addressed should concentrate on building ties with Formby, McDonnell and with the unions. Although some of the more authoritarian leftists within the party have themselves been accused of antisemitism, they are also pragmatic, and they have the ruthlessness to rid the party of antisemites and the message-discipline to refrain from hateful language – should they feel it’s in their interests to do so.

Of course, not only am I not advocating such an alliance, no appetite exists for it on either side. For one thing, ties between the Jewish community and beleaguered Labour centrists, including the centrist-leaning Jewish Labour Movement, are strong and deep. But the prospect of the decentralised grassroots Labour left eventually being subjugated by its centralising cousins is a very real one, whether or not it is antisemitism that provokes it.

Those who value the idealistic passion that permeates the Labour grassroots (including, with much ambivalence, myself) need to grapple with how its abusive, uncontrollable tendencies can be curbed, since these invite its suppression. Facing up to antisemitism and to the wider issue of abuse on the left isn’t just the right thing to do for its own sake, it is the key to ensuring the resilience of the movement.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Jeremy Corbyn: “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life.”

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Yesterday, BBC.

Jeremy Corbyn warns against US-Russia ‘hot war’

Air strikes in response to an alleged chemical attack risk triggering a “hot war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria”, Jeremy Corbyn says.

The Labour leader also said Parliament should “always be given a say” on any military action.

US president Donald Trump has warned Russia to “get ready” for missiles being fired at its ally Syria.

Theresa May has said the use of chemical weapons “cannot go unchallenged”.

She said investigations were continuing but that “all the indications” were that the Syrian regime of president Bashar al-Assad, which denies mounting a chemical attack, was responsible.

The UK and its allies were looking at ways to “prevent and deter” the use of chemical weapons, she added.

Speaking during a visit to Plymouth, Mr Corbyn said he had been making the case for Parliament – which is currently in recess for Easter – to be given a say on any military action for “many, many years”.

He said all countries had to get “around the table” to come up with a political solution to the war in Syria, adding: “We cannot risk an escalation any further than it’s gone already.”

Mr Corbyn opposed military intervention in Syria in the 2015 vote when MPs backed action against so-called Islamic State.

Asked what it would take for him to back action this time, he said: “Listen. what happened last weekend was terrible. What we don’t want is bombardment which leads to escalation and a hot war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria.”

The SNP also called for Parliament to have a say before any UK military action is authorised.

Defence spokesman Stewart McDonald urged the UK and its allies to “clamp down on the development and use of chemical weapons”.

He added: “Air strikes have not prevented these attacks and will not provide the long term solutions needed to end the war.”

Oppose the Trump-led attacks which will solve nothing!

Let’s begin with this tragedy:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2018 at 12:04 pm