Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party

Chris Williamson: Nicaragua, a “Beacon of Hope”.

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Chris Williamson in Brighton: Top Supporter (Tony Greenstein) on far-left.

This has now been tweeted.

The case of Chris Williamson is well known.

The man is so far gone that it hard to imagine the suspended from Labour MP  taking any notice of reality but here is an article, this year, from Labour Briefing by Mike Phillips, a Spanish speaker who knows Nicaragua,

New human rights report condemns Nicaraguan government

Mike Phipps 

A new report has slammed the Nicaraguan state for abuses carried out in the aftermath of last year’s protests. Crackdown in Nicaragua: Torture, Ill-Treatment, and Prosecutions of Protesters and Opponents, published by the US-based Human Rights Watch and based on work by an independent group of experts, appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, says that some of the abuse amounted to torture.

“Many of the people detained during the crackdown on protests were subject to serious abuses that in some cases amounted to torture – including electric shocks, severe beatings, fingernail removal, asphyxiation, and rape,” says the report. “Many injured detainees were reportedly denied medical care in public health institutions and doctors who provided care said they suffered retaliation.”

The prosecution of protestors has also violated the norms of due process, argues the report. “Protestors have been held in incommunicado detention, subjected to closed door trials, and denied the right to confer privately with their defense lawyers.”

The report further accuses the government of targeting journalists and cracking down on independent media outlets. It further cancelled the legal registration of nine civil society organizations. Top officials who bear responsibility for the abuses, far from being held to account, have been promoted by President Ortega.

The full report is available here https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/06/19/crackdown-nicaragua/torture-ill-treatment-and-prosecutions-protesters-and#page

 

Williamson, a vegan, is no doubt an authority on identity politics.

This is another strand he is following:

His supporters have had another setback with this news today:

Labour suspends Liverpool Momentum co-chair over alleged antisemitism

Jewish Chronicle.

He allegedly shared messages on social media that used antisemitic tropes around philanthropist George Soros

The co-chair of pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum in Liverpool has been suspended by Labour pending an investigation over allegations of antisemitism.

Chris Cavanagh – who is a close ally of suspended MP Chris Williamson – is accused of sharing messages on social media that contravened party rules including several that used antisemitic tropes around philanthropist George Soros.

The JC can reveal that Mr Cavanagh, a member of West Derby Labour Party, was informed of his suspension from the party earlier this month.

It is unclear whether he has also been suspended from his role as co-chair of Liverpool Momentum.

Last July, Mr Cavanagh had helped organise a Momentum meeting as part of Chris Williamson’s ‘Democracy Roadshow’ in which the Derby North MP – now facing expulsion over his repeated interventions in the party’s antisemitism crisis – attempted to unsettle Labour MPs deemed unloyal to Jeremy Corbyn.

During the meeting at Liverpool’s Quaker Meeting House, which the JC attended, one speaker was loudly applauded after he said: “What could be a greater threat to our democracy than a foreign government who is trying to veto the person we want for Prime Minister?

“Of course, I’m talking about the Israelis with their foot soldiers in Labour – the LFI [Labour Friends of Israel], the JLM [Jewish Labour Movement]. They are trying to take our democracy away from us.”

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Allegation that ‘Syrian Truther’ heads Chris Williamson Fund Raiser to Sue Labour Party.

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Syria ‘truther’ heads fundraising campaign to sue British Labour Party

Brian Whitaker.

al-bab.com

Bristol University professor David Miller – a member of the “propaganda professors” group which defends the Assad regime against accusations of chemical weapons use in Syria and disputes Russia’s use of a nerve agent against the Skripals in Britain – is behind a new campaign to sue the British Labour Party.

Miller is director and sole shareholder in a company called Campaign for Chris Williamson Ltd, which was registered on 17 July.

Williamson, MP for Derby North, has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of antisemitism and Miller has launched a crowd-funded campaign through his company to take legal action against the party. The aim is to raise £75,000 to cover the costs.

Miller is a prominent member of the quasi-academic Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media which claims that chemical attacks in Syria have been “staged” by rebels in oder to falsely accuse the Assad regime (see previous blog posts). Miller is a co-author of the group’s latest article which claims the OPCW’s investigation into alleged chlorine attacks in Douma was “nobbled”. The group also disputes that Russia was responsible for poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last year.

The convenor of the Working Group is Piers Robinson, who until recently was a professor in the journalism department at Sheffield University. Last year Robinson wrote a review of a book by two 9/11 truthers, describing it as a “diligent and painstaking work”. His name appears on the book’s back cover, endorsing it as “authoritative and carefully argued”.

Robinson and Miller have worked together on various articles produced by the Working Group and both are directors of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, a non-profit company which “facilitates and conducts rigorous academic research and analysis of propaganda”.

Wikipedia entry:

Brian Whitaker has been a journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian since 1987 and was its Middle East editor from 2000 to 2007.

He studied Arabic studies at the University of Westminster and Latin (BA Hons) at the University of Birmingham. He is currently an editor on the paper’s “Comment is free“.[1] He also writes articles for Guardian Unlimited, the internet edition of the paper. He runs a personal, non-Guardian-related website, Al-Bab.com, about politics in the Arab world.

Brian Whitaker: 2018.

Defenders of the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media

The Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media is made up of academics and PhD students from a variety of UK universities. It was convened by Piers Robinson. It is critical of the UK commercially-controlled media reporting about Syria, and has in turn been criticised by them.

Corporate media response

Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor of the Guardian wrote on 26 February 2018 that the group (which then numbered three professors, two lecturers and three postgraduate researchers) seemed “more like a propaganda exercise than a serious academic project.” Two days later Jonathan Cook write in an article entitled The Authoritarians Who Silence Syria Questions that Whitaker was “using every ploy in the misdirection and circular logic playbook to discredit those who commit thought crimes on Syria, by raising questions both about what is really happening there and about whether we can trust the corporate media consensus banging the regime-change drum.”[2]

The Times wrote that the group was “spreading pro-Assad disinformation”. Tim Hayward wrote that “a question thoughtful readers will likely be asking is why The Times has gone the trouble it has to give such prominence to a small group of critical academics.”

Recent Miller Tweet:

Perhaps this might explain the link between Miller and Williamson.

Bob From Brockley. What’s wrong with Chris Williamson? 2019

The time Williamson promoted a Syrian war crimes denier

For me, one of the most unforgivable things Williamson has done, last summer, was promote Vanessa Beeley, a war crimes denier and fake news merchant. Here is an extract from Oz Katerji in the New Statesman on this incident:

Williamson, who was attending the Beautiful Days festival, tweeted of his “privilege” in meeting Vanessa Beeley, a blogger who described meeting the Syrian regime’s war criminal president Bashar al Assad as her “proudest moment” and has waged a relentless campaign of lies and distortion to promote the Assad regime abroad… Responding in kind to Williamson’s endorsement, Beeley said in a Facebook post “Hats off to Chris Williamson, Labour MP – a genuine human being.”…

Williamson’s tweet provoked immediate condemnation, drawing a strong response from James O’Brien, who called Williamson a “disgrace” and referred to Beeley as “Assad’s very own Alex Jones.” The Washington Post’s Middle East correspondent, Louisa Loveluck, responded to Williamson’s endorsement of Beeley’s “reporting” with: “Beeley has justified the use of incendiary weapons against civilians, recycled and championed debunked conspiracy theories, and described a meeting with Assad as her proudest moment. This is cheerleading, not reporting.”

Noting that Beeley has viciously slandered the late Jo Cox (Beeley “has shamelessly accused her of being a “warmongering Blairite” and “al-Qaeda advocate” endorsing a policy of “wholesale devastation” on Syria.) Oz argues that the Labour Party has a choice between being the party of Jo Cox or the party of Chris Williamson.

The times Williamson promoted fake news about chemical weapons in Syria

As Katerji put it when writing about Williamson’s support for Beeley, “This is not Williamson’s first dalliance with pro-Assad trutherism, having voiced doubts over allegations that Assad was responsible for the gas attack on Douma while addressing a protest outside parliament in April 2018.”

More recently, Williamson has taken up a particular version of Douma trutherism: that the chemical attack was a managed massacre by rebels and the civilians White Helmet civil defence first responders, and that this is somehow proved by a dubious document (read all about it here) leaked from the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog, probably via Russia, to some pro-Assad activists in the UK called the “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media“, with which Beeley is connected.

Williamson is so obsessed with the “leaked document” that he has asked several questions in parliament about it, worded in completely dishonest ways. The theory holds that chemical weapons in Douma were not dropped from above but staged by Syrian rebels or their civilian first defenders, the White Helmets, i.e. that the rebels massacred dozens of their own family members. In my view, this conspiracy theory is borderline Islamophobic, based on the idea of Syrian rebels and civilians in rebel territories as savage, bloodthirsty jihadis.

Tony Greenstein, a Man with Experience in Barrack Room Lawyering,  backs Chris Williamson – in black T-Shirt, not the youth in the Stalinist Red.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2019 at 10:59 am

Academics, the Communist Party of Britain and Fellow Travellers, Counterfire, Union Officials and Eddie Dempsey Launch “Grass Roots” Campaign to Fight for Brexit.

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Communists Launch Campaign as Alternative to “internationalist and liberal” Remain and Transform Left.

The Communist Party of Britain has got round to launching its own pro-Brexit campaign.

As Luke Cooper says, it’s ten weeks before Johnson and his cronies intend to lead a come-what-may hard Brexit backed by Donald Trump

Some suggest that the Spiked/RCP Full Brexit Red-Brown Front, which some CPB people backed,  has become too toxic to sustain….

This initiative is backed by a variety of academics, trade union officials, from  CPG fellow traveller circles, Counterfire’s own friends, a handful of Labour Party Brexit types, Eddie Dempsey (said to be its leading voice), and even one (very odd) Green.

 

It is backed by the CPB’s house daily.

Editorial: The new LeFT Brexit campaign is a force for solidarity and understanding

This is a heartfelt plea by the – rightly – marginalised forces playing at a People’s Brexit while the only actually existing Brexit Isis the hard Right its supporters in the ERG wanted all along.

Currently only two perspectives are being projected in the press. The pro-EU position is portrayed as internationalist and liberal while Leave supporters are identified with Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump.

Trumpeting the move by the boycott Labour (in the European Elections) CPB the Morning Star asserts,

And anything that divides the working-class movement and weakens its unity also threatens our democracy — because in a class society like ours it is only this collective solidarity that provides a barrier against the wealth and power of the few.

The new Leave campaign provides a voice for that class solidarity. It represents the silent workplaces denied state aid because of the EU’s competition laws. It explains that our derelict regions and crisis-ridden social services, in Britain and across the EU, are the result of EU austerity policies that imposed the costs of the bankers’ crisis on working people.

In defence of its campaign to divide the labour movement, and support a Hard Brexit under WTO rules (the CPB official position), the editorial concludes,

The new campaign is therefore an important first step. It will be successful if it is firmly based in the trade union and labour movement and linked to active campaigning against industrial closure, precarious working, community impoverishment and the defence of services.

In doing so it will be a force for solidarity and understanding and thus for redeveloping the power of working-class unity essential for our democracy.

The consequences of not doing so, of a working class divided, should be a concern to all.

Here is the declaration of intent.

Leave – Fight – Transform: Founding Statement

The LeFT Campaign is a new grassroots network of socialists, trade unionists and community activists, committed to democracy, internationalism and socialism – and making sure the 2016 EU referendum result is implemented

To develop the potential of this moment, the left must ensure the 2016 referendum result is implemented, so that the UK breaks with the treaties, institutions and laws of the EU as well as the structural racism of Fortress Europe.

To shape the 21st century in a way which advances the interests of the working class, in all its rich diversity, to begin to turn the tide on the environmental crisis, and to extend democracy into all aspects of people’s lives, the left must demand a break with the status quo. We need to leave the EU and transform society.

You can read the list of the supporters via the above link.

Some examples:

Robert Griffiths (General Secretary Communist Party of Britain, Tony Conway (CPB   Convenor of ARAF – a BCP body), Prof Mary Davis (CPB) , Costas Lapavitsas (UCU, SOAS University of London. Sectarian Political Dabblers Party), Kevin Ovenden (Former George Galloway Bagman, Counterfire), Feyzi Ismail (Counterfire, UCU, SOAS University of London), George Hoare (Writer: Spiked)

 

Leading the new campaign is Eddie Dempsey with his own unique unity strategy:

 

Here.

 

Brexit: the Slippery Slope of Left Sovereigntism, from Modern Monetary Theory to Spiked.

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Résultat de recherche d'images pour "dictionnaire des souverainistes de droite et de gauche"

An Ideology Now at the Centre of UK Politics.

Sovereigntism, the assertion of unique national sovereignty,  is at the centre of British divisions over Brexit.

In French  souverainisme has been used for some time to describe hostility to the European Union (“Doctrine des défenseurs de l’exercice de la souveraineté nationale en Europe”) expressed by parties and intellectuals from the extreme right to the left. There is even a party, “République souveraine” led by Djordje Kuzmanovic .

During the presidential campaign of 2002, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who had founded the radical left  Centre d’études, de recherches et d’éducation socialiste CERES in the 1970s, had been a Socialist Minister in the first Mitterrand government, and served under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, presented himself as the “man of the nation”, above  partisan cleavages. As an opponent of the Maastricht Treaty, Jean-Pierre Chevènement  appealed in the new millennium to a new Gaullism of the left. In many respects Chevènement can be seen a trail-blazer for the evolution of socialists from a kind of Marxism on the left of the French Parti Socialiste (CERES, responsible for the claims that they would create a “rupture” with capitalism) critics of Mitterrand’s ‘modernising turn’ in the 1980s (expressed on the journal En Jeu)  to, outside the Socialists, republican socialism (1992, Mouvement des citoyens (MDC),  to openly nationalist sovereigntist politics which calls for an aligmement of La France insoumise with these right-wing anti-globalisation ‘patriots’. In this vein in 2015 he participated in the debates organised by the hard right Debout la France.

 The former socialist has even endorsed a degree of protectionist economics.

Sovereigntism can in this career alone be seen as a major source of political confusionism.

It rests on the idea that there is an entity called the ‘nation’, and the people, which, like Rousseau’s General Will, exists beyond all the different classes and political factions of a country. Populism, the claim to strand for the ‘real’ people against the ‘elites’ who frustrate their will, out of the self-interest of the oligarchies. In place of international bodies such as the European Union,  a sovereign Parliament, can solve all the problems in the land, by exercising full power.

Left sovereigntism claims that the same machinery, if captured by the right party, can do what it likes. With power in the hands of a left Labour Party,a People’s Brexit, a Lexit,  can “Bring back control” to the people.

Sovereigntism blurs the political lines and leaves the way open to more resolute forces who occupy the same terrain, all claiming to “take back control”. It has helped open the door to,

Exclusive nationalism and nativism, identity politics, critiques of globalisation and internationalism, and calls for democratic re-empowerment of the demos have converged politically on a new locus of inflated territorial, indeed ‘border’ sovereignty, aligning the call of ‘taking back control’ on behalf of a radically re-defined community (‘we’) with a defensive re-territorialisation of power along existing fault lines of nation-statism.

Populism, Sovereigntism, and the Unlikely Re-Emergence of the Territorial Nation-State. Aristotle Kallis. 2018.

Red-Brown Spiked (Italy: Salvini speaks to the gut of the nation) writer Thomas Fazi is perhaps one of the best known people who have argued for a “progressive vision of national sovereignty“.

History attests to the fact that national sovereignty and national self-determination are not intrinsically reactionary or jingoistic concepts – in fact, they were the rallying cries of countless nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialist and left-wing liberation movements. Even if we limit our analysis to core capitalist countries, it is patently obvious that virtually all the major social, economic, and political advancements of the past centuries were achieved through the institutions of the democratic nation state, not through international, multilateral, or supranational institutions, which in a number of ways have, in fact, been used to roll back those very achievements, as we have seen in the context of the euro crisis, where supranational (and largely unaccountable) institutions such as the European Commission, Eurogroup, and ECB used their power and authority to impose crippling austerity on struggling countries.

In a book written with William Mitchell Reclaiming the State, Fazi has argued, as an uncritical notice on the Counterfire site states, that,

The authors suggest that the left needs to provide a powerful alternative to neoliberalism, based around the state reasserting its supremacy over markets, and using its monopoly power over currency creation to introduce policies that favour the great majority. The insights provided by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) show how such an alternative strategy is possible for countries with their own sovereign currencies, but is not available for those who have ceded their power to supranational agencies (e.g. Eurozone nations who have relinquished monetary control and placed it in the hands of the ECB).

Fazi continues to push the line.

It is as plain that as Boris Johnson sets out the only actually existing Brexit plans, that ‘taking back control’ is a smokescreen for hard right attacks on rights and deference to the stronger – US – partner in any independent trade deals.

But what of this plan for monetary control?

Modern  Monetary Theory (MMT)  – this writer has attended lectures on it and read some of less technical materiel – offers at first sight an appealing alternative to financial austerity.

Now James Meadway, an left wing economist,offers some devastating criticisms of NMT. He also sheds light on the reactionary politics behind the idea, politics which help to explain by Fazi now appears  in  the Red Brown Spiked.

This is his case:

James Meadway Interview: “There are ways to end neoliberalism globally that are not progressive, and this will (increasingly) be the terrain the left is fighting on.”

James Meadway is a former advisor to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Previously, he was the Chief Economist at the New Economics Foundation and he is currently writing a book on left wing economics. In his interview with this website, he outlines the principles of Corbynomics, discusses a Green New Deal and explains why he thinks MMT would be such a misstep for the left.

Meadway outlines with appealing clarity the economic strategy of the Labour Party.

John McDonnell summarised the aim when he said “we want nothing less than an economy that is radically fairer, more democratic, and more sustainable, where the wealth of society is shared by all.” As the Shadow Treasury team has developed that since September 2015, I’d say the principles are:

– A rejection of the neoliberal premises that private ownership and markets will always be the best way to organise society;

– A belief that deep changes are required for our economy to begin to move it in a direction that benefits the great majority, including making it more sustainable;

– The principle that ownership and control of productive resources are the decisive factors determining economic outcomes, and that both should be decentralised, democratic, and collective as far as possible.

Instead of rhetoric about elites and globalisation, Meadway  offers a basis for a critique of ‘neoliberalism’,

I’d argue this shift in production relations – transferring ownership and reasserting the power of capital over labour – is at the core of neoliberalism in practice, but it can sit alongside the continued provision of welfare and other “consumption” provision by the state, in one form or another.

Labour, he argues, has begun to tackle this with the first Manifesto under the new left leadership.

So to the extent that the 2017 manifesto aimed to restore spending cuts and improved public service provision, it was essential – the damage done by austerity since 2010 has been both appalling, and entirely unnecessary – but not radically transformative. To the extent the 2017 manifesto went further, and posed the issue of correcting the colossal error of privatisation, it was more radical, because it began the process of reversing forty years of neoliberalism, but it didn’t point at something beyond what is common enough across the developed world. Likewise, [Labour’s] £250bn National Transformation Fund would be a huge increase in public investment for the UK, but would move us to around the average level of investment (relative to GDP) of the developed economy OECD group. To a significant extent, Corbynomics is Make Britain Normal Again.

Furthermore,

The second, underlying even this, is the transformation of ownership. This is more than only correcting the mistakes of the past by reversing 1980s and 1990s privatisations: it means broadening the scope of collective – not government – ownership across the whole economy, from renewable energy production (which, given the technologies we have, will largely need decentralisation), to worker ownership, to areas that we’ve only just begun to think about, like data. There are huge opportunities here to break out of the zero-sum games that neoliberal capitalism is forcing us into.

The interview is recommended to anybody with a serious interest in Labour economic policies, proving some solid foundations have been built. 

The core of the interview is taken up by a critique of Modern Monetary Theory.

In an a earlier article in Tribune, Against MMT, Meadway stated,

Unfortunately, however, MMT’s reassertion of a number of macroeconomic truths has been swamped by its distinctive contribution to theory — which is a rehabilitation of what is known as chartalism. Chartalism holds that money receives its value fundamentally as a result of its use to pay taxes — that, in the words of leading chartalist Georg Knapp, ‘money is a creature of law’. This is dubious as a historical claim, since money has existed in many different forms throughout history, and only some of those forms have arrived with the stamp of the state — and dubious as a description of reality today, since most money is created by private banks when people take out loans, whose relationship to the state is (at most) indirect.

This is the crucial political aspect:

MT’s grand claim is that money derives its value from its ability to pay taxes and, therefore, governments can exercise ‘monetary sovereignty’ by setting the value of money as they see fit. But the economy is not an island, it cannot be isolated from others in this way. Trade matters, as do the financial relationships between different economies — and both of those will depend on the value of the different currencies that economies use. MMT understates the amount these relative values can vary over time. As anyone using the pound since the Brexit referendum will have seen, these variations can be quite large. Countries running a deficit on their current account (meaning, broadly, that they import more than they export, counting goods, services, and flows of income) like the UK — which has a deficit funded from abroad — will always be vulnerable to demands for foreign currency that they cannot immediately meet. This is a significant impediment to sovereignty.

Meadway  concludes,

Worse yet, in a country so profoundly and obviously overstretched internationally, with a major financial centre that we know to be a major vulnerability, MMT promotes a blasé indifference to the real relationships of power and patronage that sustain the world economy. To the extent that it disorientates activists, peddling simplistic monetary solutions to complex problems of political power, it is a barrier to a genuinely transformative Labour government. We need to build an organised and educated mass movement that can see the problems such a government might face. MMT cannot help us do this — in fact, it will hinder us in that mission.

Without pretending to grasp the technical details it is clear that McDonnell  would not have spent so much time consulting respected advisers on taxation reform if the Shadow Chancellor believed that using MMT would magic away the problems of raising revenue for Labour’s spending plans.

This is more in the line of the introduction to this post.

Meadway states,

There’s something I didn’t cover in Tribune, but the underlying politics of MMT are worth spending some time on. The core MMT policy agenda has strikingly little to do with the left: support for dollar dominance; indifference (at best) to redistribution from the rich through taxation (usually argued as taxing the rich being “unnecessary”); and labour market authoritarianism via the so-called “Job Guarantee”. There’s not much in here that is recognisably of the left, if we think the left is basically about freedom and equality – there’s quite a different political tradition at work.

This comes through in many different ways. For instance, Bill Mitchell and Thomas Fazi described it (in Reclaiming the State, p.10) as “tragic” that the left adopted the causes of anti-racism, women’s rights, and LGBT rights in the late 1970s. Worse, they claim this is as “equally tragic” as the acceptance of neoliberalism by parts of the left over the same time period. Now this is reactionary garbage, however you look at it, and should be firmly rejected – but it’s an important indicator as to where MMT is coming from.

MMT is not an authentic programme of the left; it’s a programme for economic nationalism that, currently, is trying to attach itself to the left. Historically, economic nationalism has arrived in left or right variants, and there has been slippage from one side to the other. So at different times MMT’s proponents have used different arguments to gain a hearing – claiming in the 1990s that a “Job Guarantee” would help drive down wages, for instance, whereas now they claim the Job Guarantee is a good way to deal with climate change. MMT advocates are reportedly advising Matteo Salvini in Italy, and Bill Mitchell thinks his government should “lead” other European countries. Mitchell and Fazi approvingly cite the monetary policy of Nazi Germany before the war in their book. I could generously call all this a bit slippery. There are ways to end neoliberalism globally that are not progressive, and this will (increasingly) be the terrain the left is fighting on.

Put simply, neither industry  nor money can be successful in modern attempt to create autarkies, worlds self-sufficient for themselves.

Does this monetary sovereignty lead to autocratic regimes?

That is far from established but it looks as if it lacks the capacity to perform the miracles Fazi and his side claim for it.

But as for slippery slopes, Fazi’s support for the Full Brexit, and now, collaboration with Spiked, shows he is already on one.

 

Protest and Power. The Battle for the Labour Party. David Kogan. A Review from the Left.

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Protest and Power. The Battle for the Labour Party. David Kogan.  Bloomsbury. 2019.

 

“In 2019” concludes The Battle for the Labour Party, will Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, “remain a party of protest or find a formula to defeat a government that is deeply vulnerable? Can Labour set aside the internal divisions to become a party of power again?” David Kogan offers a portrait of Labour’s “schisms” between “ideologues” and “pragmatists” since the 1970s. For the left, and one has little doubt where the author (awarded an OBE on the Diplomatic List in 2014) classes the Corybinista”sans culottes” in this division, Labour’s leadership offers an opportunity for a dynamic and radical party of the left in Britain” and a socialist “new style of politics.” Has the Party Leader, as Jon Lansman suggests, “risen to the occasion”? Divisions over anti-Semitism, the re-selection of MPs, and Brexit point to damaging schisms. Kogan offers his own “insight” into Corbyn’s character and his movement, which, he asserts, point to a failure of leadership.

The backcloth of The Battle is a picture of the – confusingly labelled – New Left in the Labour Party. Through the lens of the Campaign for Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLDP), whose socialism, if defined, is traditional Clause Four nationalisation, this is not the New Left, as in New Left Review, and the movements with that name that began in the late 1950s. Led by the indomitable Vladimir Derer the CLDP focused, from 1973 onwards, on the “internal processes of the Labour Party.” Present day Party “fault lines” from the left’s high-water-mark in the early 1980s, isolation in the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, to Jeremy Corbyn’s election in 2015 and the 2017 electoral “apotheosis” are traced through this history.

Kogan gives a prominent place to CLDP activist, Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum. The re-selection of Labour MPs, the Rank and File Mobilising Committee (RFMC), disputes on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), marked high-water points the early 1980s. There is little detail on issues like the Alternative Economic Strategy – although the left’s hostility of the Tribune and Bennite Left to the ‘Common Market’ walks in, redistributive taxation, or nuclear disarmament. There is nothing on those on the New Left who explored, in local government, and in the Greater London Council during the 1980s, ways of expanding popular democracy. The ‘loony’ ideologues who tried to use council resources to decentralise power, to fund and involve community groups in decision-making, and to stimulate co-operative and social enterprise are skirted over. Kogan’s character rich account is one of ferocious, exhausting, conflict with Labour’s leadership.  (1)

The left, from its NEC political fighters, to these practical radical reformers, were pushed to the margins during the 1980s. The force of electoral defeat, crushing in 1983, the failure of the miners’ strike, and abolition of the left-run Greater London Council, in which the New Left played a part, in 1986 stand out. The break up of traditional class structures, accelerated by the liberalisation of markets, and denationalisation, was signalled by intense debate on the left on the halting of the forward march of labour. Enter Neil Kinnock, followed by John Smith and the years of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Premierships.

New Labour.

The Battle gives what may be a balanced account of New Labour in office. It “had a substantial role in reducing poverty and increasing public expenditure on key social services.” (Page 101) Yet, in introducing “public private partnerships” “private companies built up high numbers of contracts with the government to the benefit of their shareholders and executives” (Page 115). From the outset this policy, part of a wider programme of introducing the private sector into public services drained off resources, weakened staff pay and conditions, and established a policy lobby at odds with any equitable reform agenda, centre-left or radical.

For many on the left, and equality inspired social democrats, this was a bigger difference with Labour’s ruling circles than the shiny New Labour top-down organisation. It is to come to grips with the legacy of these policies, which failed to challenge Thatcher’s ‘new consensus’ that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s economic advisory team has developed its proposals for economic, financial and tax reform.

The Iraq War is another dividing line. The invasion of the Middle East continues to be a running sore. That Corbyn played a significant role in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) protests (2003) against it remains to his credit. After these demonstrations the StWC began to shrink down to what is a shell. Some of the reasons can be seen in the politics of the StWC. While largely united against the US-led Coalition’s occupation of Iraq, many on the left, including radical socialists, disagreed with the campaign’s blanket “anti-imperialist” stand. In Syria, where real genocides by the Islamists of Daesh and real state mass murder have and are taking place, that appears to mean abstention from solidarity with the US-supported Kurdish forces and standing aside from backing anti-Assad democrats. What was a plus point for the Labour Leader does not look entirely that way today.

With the Syrian hecatombs in full public view it might seem odd that some in the Labour Party give such attention to neighbouring Israel. The way in which at least some left-wingers have taken up the issue of ‘Zionism’ reflects the belief that the cause of the Palestinians is one in which they feel with absolute certainty that they are on the right side. They considered that they have a duty to raise this in the hardest ‘anti-imperialist’ terms possible. Corbyn’s own record of support for Palestine has included brushes, or worse with reactionary and anti-Jewish individuals and organised forces such as Hamas. Attracting an array of supporters, including those who indulge in abuse against ‘Zios’, they have been met with implacable opposition. Accusations of anti-Semitism swelled.

Wilder Shores of Left Politics.

Here Kogan enters a hard area. To take one case, he makes four references to obsessive ‘anti-Zionist’ Tony Greenstein, the Vice-Chair of Labour Against the Witch-hunt, largely run by the minuscule group around the Weekly Worker, and founded by them and their allies such as Jackie Walter – not MP Chris Williamson (Page 374) “Monster Raving” as some call him, is referred to, vaguely, as “pro-Corbyn”. The Brighton leftist has been a member of countless groupuscules, with endless squabbles to boot. He was not expelled for anti-semitism but under Rule 2.18 for prejudicial conduct, grossly detrimental to the party – some of the vitriolic language he habitually uses cited in the present volume. Voyaging to the further shores of politics the journalist calls the same Weekly Worker the “Communist Party of Great Britain” (real name – CPGB Provisional Central Committee) and to cite in all seriousness their front, the Labour Party Marxist, for an attack on Lansman and Corbyn. (Page 304) In the same vein Seumas Milne is described as the business manager of Straight Left, which was a factional organ and not “the house magazine of the Communist Party of Great Britain. (Page 262)

A charge, which many feel is justified, is that Labour’s leadership, and LOTO, (the Leader of the Opposition’s Office) did not face down these people. Many will agree that part of the problem is that Corbyn; “at the age of sixty-nine” was “not prepared to explain his past” or to admit disagreement with his views has any value (Page 366) The good sense of John Lansman is, by contrast there. “We have to own up to anti-Semitism, deal with it, wake up and recognise it. “(Page 368)   All is not lost. Other nuanced defenders of a critical stand on the present Israeli state and defenders of Palestinian rights exist. David Rosenberg of the long-standing Jewish Socialist Group is one. Having no truck with the conspiratorial ‘anti-Zios’ and plain anti-Jewish racism, he has pointed to the way some ‘anti-anti-Semites’ have tried to discredit the entire Labour left.

Fault Lines Over Europe.

The dividing line over Europe is more intractable. Corbyn, Kogan charges with effect, is not just anxious to appeal to Labour voters who backed leaving the EU in the referendum, but to have promoted a “Brexit that puts jobs, living standards and rights first.” (Page 381) Defenders of his stand say that the Labour Leadership does not just have to deal with pro-Brexit Labour constituencies. There are MPs who have swung in favour of the EU Withdrawal Agreement of 2018. But claims that Corbyn has at least kept the party together face the difficulty that the majority of members strongly oppose Brexit.

This is very far from relic of New Labour or confined to the ‘pragmatic’ wing of the party. If Seumas Milne and Corbyn could be said to be against the EU as a “capitalist conspiracy”, many on the radical left, including veterans of the democratic New Left, Greens and democratic Marxists with strong links to other European socialist and leftist parties, support Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) for a social transformed European Union. Its campaigns for a People’s Vote, a call with support across the Party, have so far, as AEIP worker Michael Chessum says, been outmanoeuvred by “traditional power politics”, and union block votes, at the Labour Party Conference. Despite the best efforts of figures like Andrew Murray and Len McCluskey this is unlikely to stifle debates at this autumn’s event.

Carnival of Reaction.

“A Tory-led exit for Europe would unleash a carnival of reaction,” wrote Seumas Milne (cited page 269 – source not given). There is little of the laughing people, the suspension of the “official system with all his prohibitions and hierarchic barriers” in the Brexit festival of the right, now led by the Queen’s Jester Boris Johnson. An orgy of accusations against the left, have seen the light of day, including a revival of the 1970s Institute for the Study of Conflict ‘reports’ on subversion, this time focused on domestic radical left “violence”.  We can face this down. But there is, as Kogan sadly recounts, an outpouring of “loyal” declarations by those who regard any criticism of Corbyn as treachery and the springboard for another “chicken coup”. (2)

There are no signs of an alternative ‘People’s Brexit’ to what Corbyn’s spokesperson described as the EU’s “failed neoliberal of capitalism” emerging. There is one Brexit, Johnson’s ERG Brexit. That, to adapt an old Stalinist phrase about the ‘socialist’ countries, is “actually existing Brexit”. The People’s Vote demonstrations are the biggest seen in Britain since the movement against the Invasion of Iraq, and have included a strong Left Bloc contingent. To govern is to choose. To prepare to rule is also to make choices. Shifts in the left over the last weeks indicate a will to take sides against Leave, and for a new popular vote on the issue.

Will Momentum, either as a traditional left Labour pressure group, or a new “social movement” survive these divisions? This is far from certain. Protest and Power gives reasons to be cautious about Labour’s prospects. But the emergence of a strong pro-Remain and Reform left indicates that bridges between the party wings exist. Whether Corbyn as a leader will bring victory remains in the balance.

*******

 

  1. See Pages 7 – 8 Reclaim the State. Experiments in Popular Democracy. Hilary Wainwright. 2003.
  2. The expression ‘Carnival of Reaction’ (which was used by the Irish Socialist James Connelly)  in the debate over the Europe is better known in the statements of the anti-Brexit Socialist Resistance). See: “It was clear, long before it was launched, that the EU referendum held serious dangers for the left as well as for multiculturalism and anti-racism in Britain. The campaign itself was always going to be a carnival of racism and xenophobia and an outcome in favour of Brexit would trigger a major shift to the right in British politics—both at the level of government and in terms of social attitudes. Racism and xenophobia would b e strengthened and the left thrown onto the defensive.” Alan Thornett. The UKIPisation of the Tory Party –The Brexit left in denial.  Also What position should the left take on the EU referendum?
  3. For Carnivals in the Marxist tradition, see: Rabelais and his World. Mikhail Bakhtin. Translated by Hélène Isolsky. Indian University Press. 1984.

“Popular Vote to Leave EU” “Upset Westminster Consensus” and may create “Terminal Crisis” for Tory Party – Morning Star.

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Worked Out Well – Morning Star Now Sees “Opportunity” in Johnson Premiership.

Boris Johnson as PM makes most people on the left sick to the stomach, anxious and uncertain about the future.

One thing that brings many together is loathing for the Hard Brexit, the only actually existing Brexit, that the new PM backs.

The Boycott Labour (in the European Elections)  Morning Star is quick off the block with an alternative view.

Offering its own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)  analysis the People’s Daily says,

Editorial: Only a militant left can defeat Boris Johnson

Where his coronation both poses a risk and presents an opportunity to the left is in his greater distance from the Establishment “mainstream” and the already evident breach between him and parts of the permanent state.

Britain remains mired in one of the most serious political crises in its history. The ruling class has largely lost its legitimacy and governing institutions are held in deep contempt.

A popular vote to leave the EU upset decades of Westminster consensus and has spawned what could still prove a terminal crisis for a Tory Party whose membership are gung-ho for a policy its big finance, fossil fuel and hedge-fund paymasters regard as madness.

Conditions are ripe, in this crisis of hegemony, for the “militant left” to take the lead.

Standing with the “popular vote” against the EU, from Durham former Miners to Surrey Stockbrokers, bright-eyed chimney sweeps, and delightful Dukes, with Farage, George Galloway, Reed Mogg, and…the Morning Star, the Communist Party of Britain daily says,

Johnson epitomises upper-class contempt for working people and the left can, if it stands with and for working people and refuses to patronise them, show that it has answers that he doesn’t.

To do so we must build a fighting left movement that clearly offers sweeping, radical change and appeals to the angry, the wronged and the destitute.

If we fall into the trap of alliance with the “status quo” wing of the Establishment for fear of Johnson making things worse, we will dig our political graves.

Johnson backs “consensus upsetting” Brexit, as does the paper which says that is is Jeremy Corbyn’s best friend.

For this Editorial it’s a choice between two groups of opponents of “status quo”, at least on the key issue of Brexit.

One is in Downing Street.

The other  could barely mobilise a couple of hundred people outside that road to listen to 20 speakers on Monday evening.

Even fewer people take seriously the idea that the Morning Star’s ‘militant left’ can offer an alternative Brexit.

The internationalist left does not support Brexit, in the shape of Johnson’s ERG hard Brexit, whatever remains of the Care Bear People’s, ‘Left’ brexit, or a soft Labour Brexit.

Our support seems strong and growing.

 

 

Labour’s Education on Anti-Semitism: A Contribution – Bernard-Lazare and the Dreyfus Affair..

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Labour launches new antisemitism education material

 

“Over the coming months, the party will produce educational materials on a number of specific forms of racism and bigotry,” the email reads. “Our first materials are on antisemitism, recognising that anti-Jewish bigotry has reared its head in our movement.”

The email includes links to an ‘antisemitism minisite‘ and a new five-page documen that LabourList understands has been written up by party officials and particularly the leader’s office. Both are titled ‘No Place For Antisemitism’.

The website page is comprised of a video from the Labour leader released in August 2018, text from the document (on “understanding” antisemitism, its history, conspiracy theories and Zionism), “helpful links and resources” that include the International Holocaust Alliance definition, an article by Corbyn in the Evening Standard and a Birkbeck university course, plus videos by Momentum.

There is a massive amount to read and discuss, to say the very least, on this issue.

From this Blog, some contribution could perhaps something should be said about a topic we have covered for a long time, the French left, a key battle ground in past and present  fights against anti-Semitism.

This piece draws on events which form the intellectual furniture of many on the European left, and apart from the importance of the issues outlined, may help to indicate why for some of us this combat is important not just because of the tragedies of the Twentieth century but has roots which go back to the final years of the previous century.

One of the most important crises in the shaping of the modern left, both liberal in the American sense, and socialist and social democratic in the European one was the Dreyfus Affair. As somebody from a background, both through family and culture, this landmark in the history of the left was something I – like many others on the left, though clearly very far from all – learnt of as an adolescent. One of the first serious books I read was Anatole France’s Penguin Island (L’Île des Pingouins. 1908) best known thread is a memorable satirise of the Dreyfus Affair – including well aimed shafted at the dogmatic minority of socialists who hesitated to become embroiled in this ‘bourgeois’ –  and attacks anti-semitism, in the shape of a Royalist leader, the Prince des Boscénos who loathes Jews and modern democracy.

One way of looking at how the legacy of the Affaire is through the history of the actions of individuals. One person who  played a key role in defending Dreyfus,  was the French anarchist critic, socialist, and, towards the end of his life, Zionist, Bernard Lazare. His campaigning and ideas deserve studying today, not just for his own value, but because the issues Lazare confronted  and grappled to answer, continue to be relevant.

 

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Bernard-Lazare (1865 – 1903).

 Je ferai le portrait de Bernard-Lazare. Il avait, indéniablement, des parties de saint, de sainteté. Et quand je parle de saint, je ne suis pas suspect de parler par métaphore.

I will draw the portrait of Bernard-Lazare. There is not denying that he that he had something of saint, of sainthood. And when I speak of saint there is no hint  of speaking metaphorically.

Charles Péguy  Notre Jeunesse 1910.

The wrongful conviction for spying on behalf of the German army of a Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus in 1894, brought to the fore the issue of anti-Semitism in France. The French left initially reacted without glory.

Jules Guesde, the leader of the self-proclaimed Marxist Parti ouvrier français (POF), and his supporters are often said to have been so keen to defend class independence that they downplayed human rights and was willing to see merit in any ‘anti-system’ force. While waiting for the socialist revolution he had refused to defend the republic against Boulangism. This, sometimes called one of the first ‘populist’ movements, led by a ultra-patriotic former General bent on restoring French national and military power,  and the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine from Germany. This heady mixture, centred on Revanchisme, – had offered an opportunity for anti-Jewish agitation. The germs of anti-Jewish leagues, although not formally endorsed by the 42 Parliamentary deputies elected in 1889 under the banner of Georges Boulanger began to appear in these decades.

The movement that had grown around Boulanger’s name was perhaps the first of its kind, a combination of royalists, Bonapartists, Republicans, socialists, and Blanquists. If it resembles any movement in this strange mix of followers it is Peronism, which was also able to attract followers from all ends of the political spectrum around the figure of a general. And like Peronism, Boulangism was able to do this because it can justly be said of the man at the heart of it that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there was no there there.

Like the Brexit Party it threw its net large. It would not be misleading to call Boulangism an early ‘red-brown front’ uniting extreme right traditionalists, sovereigntists, and ‘left-wingers’ against the Parliamentarian ‘elites’, Édouard Drumont baying for rule by plebiscite and national independence. One can see the stirrings of an anti ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ strand emerging, with an obvious target, La France juive, already signaled out by Europe’s leading anti-Semite, Édouard Drumont. It would not be too misleading to suggest that some on the Boulangist left took the view that they would stand “with” Boulanger against the oligarchs of the 3rd Republic,  while claiming to be “against” the General’s troops when it came down to the details of their economic and social programme.

It was able to do this, people of all political stripes were able to see Boulanger as one of their own, because the programme of General Boulanger, published as a broadsheet in 1888 was full of empty phrases: “Boulanger is work,” “Boulanger is honesty,” “Boulanger is the people” … He called for a revision of the constitution, yet never said in what that revision would consist. His slogan of “dissolution, revision, a constituent assembly” repeated slogans that had been in the air for years. And yet, the vast movement that rallied around him and attracted followers from all classes, all professions, and all political beliefs nearly put an end to the republic.

But more significantly, in the words of the historian Zeev Sternhell in his “La Droite Révolutionnaire” (The Revolutionary Right), “Boulangism… was, in France, the place where and a certain form of non-Marxist, anti-Marxist, or already even a post-Marxist socialism were stitched together.” But for Sternhell Boulangism goes even farther: The synthesis of the various currents that united behind the general included Blanquism, “which rose up against the bourgeois order , [and] the nationalists [who rose up] against the political order that is its expression.” This amalgamation was to result in something far more grav” e: “After the war this synthesis would bear the name fascism.”

General Boulanger and the Boulangist Movement

Mitchell Abidor

Sternhell’s account remains controversial – while some on the French left rallied to Boulanger, it was not long before a majority threw their weight against the movement. The revelations about the financial backing it received from the right in Les Coulisses du Boulangisme, by the leftist backer-turned critic ‘Mermeix’ (Gabriel Terrail), 1890, discredited it for many – a kind of Arron Banks moment. Reformists, anarchists, and democratic Marxists rallied against the new “césarisme” But the confusion left by Boulanger only served to retrench some forces into their own anti-Parliamentary anti bourgeois democratic  fortresses.

After initially hailing Emile Zola’s J’accuse in 1896, and making some declarations against anti-Semitism, Guesde again stumbled. He came to the conclusion that the innocence or guilt of Dreyfus was not a battle that “involved the working class”.

Nicknamed Torquemada in lorgnettes the arch-workerist was not alone.  Jean Jaurès in 1894 had talked of Dreyfus as part of “la caste des officiers de carrière”, who plight, though real, was not a matter for socialists to take up. His more liberal socialism had not yet evolved. The leading figure in the independent wing of the French socialist left had himself not been above attacking Jewish influence in finance, talking of the devastating effects of their “usury” on the country during a visit to French colonial Algeria in 1895.

Both Guesde and Jaurès were embedded in the anti-Semitic climate of the time. They took as an empirical ‘fact’  the exaggerated importance of “financiers juifs”; the “puissance juive” was significant part of capitalism. During the early years of organised French socialist parties (divided into at least 5 main currents), before Dreyfus marked out the rupture with nationalist anti-Semitism, there was little mention of working class Jewish migrants, their poverty, or of the persecutions Jews suffered.

If the capitalists of all background were the main problem, and there was no biological struggle between ‘Jews’ and ‘Aryans’, a fraction of capital was remained marked out as Jewish. They were part of an “elite”, the product of the capitalist system, but still active agents within it. The importance ‘Jews’ were given by at least some on the left a place established by pseudo-empirical ‘facts’ in books such as  Alphonse Toussenl’s Les Juifs, rois de l’époque : histoire de la féodalité financière (1847) was an early template. It is striking how some of the tropes in this literature, focusing on Jewish ‘dynasties’ such as the Rothschilds, remain in circulation.

Yet during the Dreyfus Affair the majority of the French left not only backed the unjustly imprisoned officer but came to oppose, strongly oppose,  anti-semitism.

The role in this by the anarchist socialist critic, of Jewish origin, Bernard Lazare and his circle, marked a political watershed.

Lazare’s l’antsiémitisme son histoire et ses causes (1894) had talked of the economic bases of anti-Judaism, competition between a “non-assimilated” group and those in charge of industrial and financial capitalism. The Jewish community was described as a  ‘state within a state’ and their “facility at trading”. Yet this loose language was in the context of an atheist attack on religious exclusivity. This angle also explains why the author, noting a lack of certainty in the afterlife, praised the Jewish willingness to “fight tyranny” in this world.

Such was the strength of Lazare’s contributions that the fighter for  Dreyfus been described as one of those who definitively classed anti-Semitism as an ideology of the extreme-right and aligned the largest part of the left, not only in France but internationally, against it. Ruth Harris’s The Man on Devil’s Island (2010) places his tireless efforts at the centre of the Dreyfusard movement.

Faced with the Dreyfus case Lazare had chosen his camp “They needed a Jewish traitor fit to replace the classic Judas” he  wrote, “a Jewish traitor that one could mention incessantly, every day, in order to rain his opprobrium on his entire race.” Working with Alfred’s brother, Mathieu Dreyfus, the critic badgered and cajoled every contact he could find to rally to the cause. Lucien Herr, the socialist librarian at the École normale supériere, became a notable ally and a bridge to the wider left.

One of the best known figures on the organised and Parliamentary left who took up the case was the socialist cited above,  Jean Jaurès.   He developed themes that echo right to the present day.

The first of these is that the cause of socialism, based on class struggle against capitalism, is linked to a broader moral humanism. In one of his most famous passages Jaurès said of Dreyfus, “I could answer that if Dreyfus was illegally condemned and if, as I will soon demonstrate, he is innocent, he is no longer either an officer or a bourgeois. Through the very excess of his misfortune he has been stripped of any class character. He is no longer anything but humanity itself, at the highest degree of misery and despair that can be imagined.”

The second is that Jaurès raised the banner of universal human rights. He saw the potential, despite obstacles, and class bias, in the legal system, “There are two parts to capitalist and bourgeois legality: There are a whole mass of laws aimed at protecting the fundamental iniquity of our society, and there are laws that consecrate the privileges of capitalist property, the exploitation of the wage earner by the owner. We want to smash these laws, and even by revolution if necessary abolish capitalist legality in order to bring forth a new order. But alongside these laws of privilege and rapine, made by a class and for it, there are others that sum up the pitiful progress of humanity, the modest guarantees that it has little by little conquered through a centuries-long effort and a long series of revolutions.”

These ideas remain pillars of democratic socialism.

In the years that followed the campaign against the imprisonment of Dreyfus, the re-trials, the work for his rehabilitiation, which saw the emergence of violent populist hatred of Jews, and the creation of the human rights body generally known as the Ligue des droits de l’homme (1898) generally known as the Bernard-Lazare became interested in Zionism.

Due to this experience with antisemitism, Lazare became engaged in the struggle for the emancipation of Jews, and was triumphally received at the First Zionist Congress.[1] He travelled with Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, the two men sharing a great respect for each other, but he fell out with Herzl after a disagreement over the project whose “tendencies, processes and actions” he disapproved. In 1899 he wrote to Herzl – and by extension to the Zionist Action Committee, “You are bourgeois in thoughts, bourgeois in your feelings, bourgeois in your ideas, bourgeois in your conception of society.” Lazare’s Zionism was not nationalist, nor advocated the creation of a state, but was rather an ideal of emancipation and of collective organization of the Jewish proletarians.

This is from one of his speeches on Jewish Nationalism (1898).

What does the word “nationalism” mean for a Jew, or rather, what should it mean? It should mean freedom. The Jew who today says: “I am a nationalist” is not saying in a special, precise and clear way that I am a man who wants to reconstitute a Jewish state in Palestine and dreams of re-conquering Jerusalem. He is saying: “I want to be a completely free man, I want to enjoy the sun; I want to have the right to my dignity as a man. I want to escape oppression, escape insults, escape the contempt that they want to bring to bear on me.” At certain moment in history, nationalism is for human groups the manifestation of the spirit of freedom.

Am I then in contradiction with internationalist ideas? Not in the least. How do I make them agree? Simply by not giving words a value and a meaning they don’t have. When socialists combat nationalism they are in reality combating protectionism and national exclusivism.

They are combating that patriotic, narrow, and absurd chauvinism that leads people to place themselves one against the other as rivals or adversaries, and who grant each other neither grace nor mercy. This is the egoism of nations; an egoism as odious as that of individuals, and every bit as contemptible. What then does internationalism suppose? It means establishing ties between nations, not of diplomatic friendship, but of human fraternity.

To be an internationalist means abolishing the current economic-political constitution of nations, for this constitution only exists for the defending of the private interests of peoples, or rather of their rulers, at the expense of neighboring peoples. Suppressing frontiers does not mean making an amalgamation of all the inhabitants of the globe. Is not one of the familiar concepts of internationalism socialism, and even of revolutionary anarchism, the federative concept, the concept of a fragmented humanity composed of a multitude of cellular organisms? It’s true that ideally this theory says that those cells that will group together will group together by virtue of affinities not caused by any ethnological, religious, or national tradition.

But this is of little importance, since it does admit of groups. In any event, we are here only concerned with the present, and the present commands us to seek the most appropriate means of assuring the liberty of man. Currently it is by virtue of traditional principles that men want to league together. For this they invoke identity of origin, their common past, similar ways of envisaging phenomena, beings, and things; a common history, a common philosophy. It is necessary to permit them to come together.

 

These ideas raise perhaps more difficulties than they resolve. How this internationalism be reconciled with any form of nationalism, however generous? Few examples , if any, exist to prove that it can. A better way of looking at the problem might be in terms of a common future, not a divided past, a world of fragmented common identities, and nation states.

This is one of Lazare’s statements on the issue of anti-Semitism,

To those who denounce the Jewish peril before you, respond by attacking capital, whatever kind it might be, Jewish or Christian. Capital without any qualifier. To those who enlist you to cry “Down with Israel!” answer “Down with Capital! Down with property!” and don’t go any further than that; don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your route by those who want to guide you into an impasse which will lead you to nothing. Finance, speculation, capital, property, in one word, all your enemies are not Jews, they are universal: they are Christian, Muslims, Buddhists.

Anti-Semitism and Revolution 1899.

In France writers have described the activist and writer as ‘Libertarian Zionist” sionisme libertaire, libertarian in French retaining its primary 19th left-wing sense. This Blog suggests that the contribution of Bernard-Lazare should form part of any education programme on anti-Semitism.

This is an admirable short account:

Bernard Lazare Mitch Abidor.

Bernard Lazare was born Lazare Marcus Manassé Bernard in Nîmes in 1865. Son a merchant family long-established in the South of France, he left his hometown for Paris at age 20, where he became closely involved in symbolist literary circles with an anarchist tinge.

He began his career as a militant writer in 1891, assuming the role of literary critic for La Nation, eventually writing for several reviews in which he attacked France for its friendship with the Kaiser; the world’s silence before the massacre of Armenians; and covering labor struggles and Socialist conferences (where he attacked Marxists as people who wanted “to construct a regimented society”). He collaborated on such anarchist reviews as L’EndehorsL’Action Sociale and La Revue Anarchiste.

In 1894 he published his first important work: L’Antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes, (Anti-Semitism, Its History and Causes) which explored the Jewish Question from antiquity to modern times. His general toughness when dealing with Jewish exclusiveness and what he saw as the Jewish role in the fostering of anti-Semitism, as well as his solution — which called for total assimilation — led the notorious anti-Semite Edouard Drumont to approve of and recommend the book.

But the outbreak of the Dreyfus Affair in 1894 saw Lazare enter the fight as “the first of the Dreyfusards,” convinced from the beginning that the captain was innocent of the charges against him. Because of his tireless fight for Dreyfus the great poet Charles Péguy said of him that he was “technically a prophet, the last to date.”

His experience with the Dreyfus Affair, and time spent in Central and Eastern Europe, led to his involvement in the defense of oppressed Jews elsewhere and, after meeting the founder of modern Zionism Theodore Herzl, he founded the Zionist magazine Le Flambeau. But he never denied his anarchist and class struggle beliefs, and as a result he broke with the Zionists.

Worn out by his unceasing battles, he died at age 38, Péguy saying: “He died for it (Dreyfusism), and died thinking of it.”