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Us lot In International Solidarity in Norwich.

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In the spirit of international solidarity us lot from Ipswich went to Norwich yesterday to back the Smash the Pay Cap demo.

After our internationalist duty was done, ending up, as you do, in the Queen of Iceni pub – and ignoring the chants of some tasty geezers shouting from the bridge while going to the Canary match, “We hate Ipswich, We Hate Ipswich, We are the Ipswich Haters” (this is not made up) – we resolved to visit Norwich more often.

There is some type, I believe he has something to do with Norwich, Clive is his name, with his arm round my shoulders.

Allez Les Clive Lewis!

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

European left in confusion faced with Catalan ‘Cross Class Unity’ for National Independence.

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Image result for catalan independence cartoon

El Paìs leads today with the story that the right-wing leader Puigdemot will go to the Catalan Parliament on Monday with a possible declaration of Independence.

Puigdemont irá el lunes al Parlament para la posible declaración de independencia

The Spanish daily cites the BBC’s report, Catalan referendum: Region’s independence ‘in matter of days’.

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Spain’s King Felipe VI on Tuesday accused Catalan secessionist leaders of shattering democratic principles and dividing Catalan society, as thousands took to the streets to protest against a violent police crackdown against the banned independence referendum held on Sunday.

The televised speech, a rare intervention by the 49-year-old monarch who is normally silent on politics, was a sign of how deeply Spain has been shaken by the Catalan vote and a police crackdown that injured 900 people.

On Tuesday tens of thousands of Catalans demonstrated in the streets of the northeastern region against action by the police who tried to disrupt Sunday’s vote by firing rubber bullets and charging into crowds with truncheons.

Tuesday’s protests shut down road traffic, public transport and businesses.

Socialist Worker comments,

Some Catalan politicians and pro-independence organisations played down the role of workers and emphasised that the whole nation was out.

The support of small business certainly added to the strike’s impact in key sectors such as food and retail. Public sector bosses told workers that they wouldn’t even lose pay for striking.

But the main bosses’ organisation in Catalonia condemned the strike. It took workers’ organisation to enforce it.

The SWP appears to consider that ‘the workers’ should lead a campaign for independence.

This seems to ignore that the Catalan government which is said to be about to declare independence is led by the right wing, Carles Puigdemont of the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, PDeCAT.

Andy Durgan has offered this analysis in

Spanish state out to smash Catalan independence referendum

…any decisive shift to the left would mean breaking completely with the neo liberal PDECat. The temptation to accept some form of “national” government is strong, not only inside the left nationalist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (which forms part of Junts pel Sí) but also among some sectors of the CUP.

Such a government would mean more austerity and cuts and this would also reinforce the rejection of independence that already exists among some sections of the working class in Catalonia; in particular workers of Spanish origin.

More specifically, revolutionary socialists should work to build the CUP, defending both its political independence and the need for practical unity with others on the left.

Whatever happens on 1 October, the political crisis that the Catalan movement has triggered in the Spanish state will only get deeper.

The crisis has indeed deepened.

But why should the left, and the Catalans are not shy in calling for support from the left in the rest of Europe, support the goal of independence.

For what end?

Some claim that the roots lie in the way the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal invalidated in 2010 the new autonomy statute (Estatut).

But what is a lot clearer is the demand to free the wealthy region from the ‘burden’ of Madrid.

Linguistic, cultural and a big degree of financial and administrative  autonomy, as the name Estatut d’Autonomia de Catalunya indicates,  are guaranteed already, even if they have stumbled faced with a hostile central government.

Does the fact that the right-wing PPR, in power in the Cortes, has, in the last few years, thwarted legitimate attempts to extend this make full independence justified?  Was the removal of the definition of Catalonia as a “nation” the tipping point?

What of the left?

To Durgan,

For most socialists support for the self determination of oppressed nations is accepted on principle. But in the case of a Catalonia, where the movement appears to be led by the right, providing such support may not seem so clear. For instance, the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont is a member of the bourgeois nationalist PDECat (European Democratic Party of Catalonia), which, has enforced cuts and austerity.

But the campaign for independence is far from being a mere tool of the Catalan bourgeoisie. While the immediate demand for independence came out of frustration with attempts to reform the Statute of Autonomy, the resulting movement was also shaped in the context of the economic crisis, the emergence of the Indignados movement in 2011 and the return of the PP to central government.

Indeed, but…..the movement’s unity was forged by blaming austerity on ‘Madrid’ and sought a solution in national sovereignty for Catalan which the following only seeks to hide.

The tone of its propaganda and its demonstrations is markedly progressive; talk of a republic that defends social justice and ethnic diversity is central to its propaganda. The main social base of the independence movement is among the Catalan speaking middle and working classes. In contrast, the main employers’ organisations, even those linked to the nationalist right, are opposed to independence.

Durgan does not consider in detail the Republican Left, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, with 9 seats, Puigdemont’s junior allies in the Parlament de Catalunya. Their project for a Greater Catalonia, including parts of France and the neighbouring areas of Spain in Valencia, is above all cultural and  “regionalist” carried into a state-building project.

The Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, CUP, with this vote 2015 336,375 8.20% and 10 out of the 135 seats in the Catalan parliament, are no doubt significant in holding the “balance of power” in the Parliament.

The CUP, which plays a central role in the movement, is undoubtedly the largest anti-capitalist grouping in Europe at present. Apart from its 10 MPs and 340,000 votes, it has some 370 local town councillors and around 30 mayors. Its militant anti-racism, feminism and internationalism, its opposition to the EU, set it apart from the rest of the left.

The first part of the assertion may well be contested, from the La France insoumise  (17 seats on the French National Assembly, nearly two and half million votes in those elections, over 7 million votes, 19,48% in the first round of this year’s Presidential ballot), onwards.

The second part apparently links internationalism with being anti-EU…..

One could naturally go for the maximum and start dreaming of this: Por una Catalunya independiente obrera y socialista, en la perspectiva de una Federación Libre de Repúblicas Socialistas Ibéricas

Back to the mundane real world: what of the actual left, notably Catalunya in Comύ, of Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona,? They have strongly denounced the repression, took part in yesterday’s protests, but hold the view that the October the 1st referendum was a “mobilisation” and call for a real referendum. Podemos, for all that one might criticise Pablo Iglesias’ ‘national popular’ strategy, and efforts to take the ’empty signifier’ of La Patria and shape it to the left, calls for negotiations and dialogue. 

Apparently this is confused, because they hesitate to weld together the demand for independence and sovereignty as the key aims for …the left. (L’instant de vérité pour le mouvement indépendantiste catalan).

Perhaps they should keep quiet about issues which oppose the left, root and branch, with the Catalan right, and wait until independence and national sovereignty are achieved.

Better in fact to oppose sovereignty and nationalism, Spanish and Catalan, from the word go.

More background.


The Catalan independence referendum is a smokescreen for other issues. Eleanor Rosenbach
Independent.

The ruling party in Catalonia, PDeCAT, has been plagued with allegations of corruption; debate around which has receded as demands for independence have increased. Spain’s governing party, the Partido Popular, for its part, has often sought conflict as a means of garnering public support.

Both sides in this debate are using the referendum to further their own political agendas. Spain’s governing party, the Partido Popular (PP), is a right-wing party housing a spectrum of thought from neoliberalists to the hard-line right. The ruling party in Catalonia, PDeCAT, is a centre right party of the Catalan bourgeois which has historically been the natural ally of PP and not a traditional supporter of independence. Interestingly, their move to advocate a referendum has stopped their support from dropping in recent months.

Alongside this, neither the national government nor the Catalan parliament are strangers to corruption in politics. PDeCAT has been plagued with allegations of corruption, debate around which has receded significantly as demands for independence have increased. PP, for its part, has often sought conflict as a means of garnering public support. Positioning this referendum and the spectre of independence as a threat to Spanish citizens and their economic future – as well as tugging on the strings of nationalist patriotism in demanding the continued unity of Spain – PP has engaged widespread support. In recent days, Spanish flags have poured from windows and balconies, and in towns throughout Spain people have cheered the Civil Guard – Spain’s law enforcement agency which operates on military lines – with football chants advocating the defeat of the opposition.

Of wider interest:

El Paìs reports,  There’s fake news in Catalonia too.

After a month of intense activity, primarily on Twitter, these pro-Russian profiles have managed to successfully place the secessionist challenge among the most relevant issues in international politics on internet forums. But the issue has not been presented as a dispute between the majority of Catalans who want to decide on their independence and the rest of the Spanish people, but rather as a crucial part of a crisis in the model of Western democracy and the European Union as an institution. Officially, the Kremlin has stated time and again that the referendum is an internal Spanish affair. However, the accounts that less diplomatically promote the Russian government’s interests on social media spoke yesterday of the EU’s imminent decomposition.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Review.

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Two Years of Wandering. A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia. Fedor Il’ich Dan. Translated, Edited and Introduced by Francis King. Lawrence and Wishart.

Fedor (Theodore) Dan was a leading figure in Russian social democracy. A prominent Menshevik during the 1917 Revolutions, he had chosen their side after the 1903 split with the Bolsheviks in the RSDLP (Russian Social-Democratic Workers; Party). During the Great War, King notes, Dan was a “Siberian Zimmerwaldist”, that is he opposed the conflict while under administrative exile in Russia’s far East and during his compulsory mobilisation as a Doctor in Turkestan. King writes, that Dan was described by Nikolai Sukhanov as, “one of the most major figures in the Russian revolution, one of the most outstanding actors in both the Russian workers’ movement and the events of 1917.” (Page 9)

Known to many on the left as the author of The origins of Bolshevism (in English, 1964), this is the first translation into any language of Dan’s Two Years of Wandering. Francis King is the Editor of Socialist History. His introduction outlines Dan’s background and his role in the crises of 1917. Dan, in conditions of political freedom, was part of the leadership of the Petrograd Soviet. Still calling for a “general peace” he took the Menshevik line of ‘revolutionary defencism”, which committed the country to continue fighting until this could be reached and support for a coalition Provisional Government.

This policy, opposed by its left wing around Martov, played a key role in the ‘end’ of Dan’s career in Petrograd. Bolshevik victory in October was not the only indication of their political dead-end. In the All-Russia Constituent Assembly elections of 1917 they won just 3% of the vote.

Continuing to support, “the idea of popular sovereignty, universal suffrage, and the Constituent Assembly” and demanding an end to terror for economic liberalisation, the Mensheviks tried to work within the new soviet structures. But what had begun in the Spring and Summer of 1918 with the “arrests and harassment of non-Bolshevik activists”. In June 1918, they, and the Socialist revolutionaries, were removed from the Soviet CEC. Yet they continued political activity. They focused on the defence of “the rights of labour” and the “defence of trade unions, with as a backdrop plans to make unions agents of “labour discipline” and “compulsory labour service” or the “militarisation of labour” exalted by Trotsky in Terrorism and Communism (1920). With their position set out in What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919 they had had a wider echo, Marcel Liebman and others record, within the official bodies (1)

For Trotsky the Mensheviks had in 1917, “together with the bourgeoisie, declared civil war against the Soviets”. In the Winter of 1920-1 the Mensheviks were systematically suppressed. (2)

In Lenin’s Gaols.

Dan’s serious travails began in 1919, when he spent 3 months in the Butyrka prison. Mobilised, again, in his medical capacity, he was put in charge of the Surgical Subsection of the Department of Medical Supplies. This was impossible task, faced with general chaos, the “constant inference of organs of the Cheka”, the sabotage of those who hoped for a return to private ownership and the prevalence of bribery. After protests, in an atmosphere of increasing hostility to the Mensheviks, Dan was reposted in what he describes as “official exile” to Ekaterinburg (Yekaterinburg), where he continued his “work service”. Further “wanderings”, which took him back to Moscow, then to Minsk and the Front in assault on Warsaw and finally to Petrograd, his native city, where Dan was finally caught in the Bolshevik repression and sent to Peter-Paul Fortress.

Two Years of Wandering is shot through with insights into those years of upheaval, the gaoling and exile of “thousands of socialists and non-party workers who (had) been so bold as to doubt the divine infallibility of the Bolshevik authorities, with all their fantasies, scandals, petty tyranny and occasional 180-degree turns. “(Page 53) From the famous 1920 visit of the British delegation to a meeting addressed by Printers’ leaders and Mensheviks, which criticised the “terrorist dictatorship of the minority”, the last Congress of Soviets at which the opposition was reluctantly tolerated, to the crackdown after the Kronstadt (1921) which marked the beginning of systematic elimination of dissent, the Mensheviks were disorganised. (3) A party that “had adapted all its tactics to the struggle for an open existence despite the Bolshevik terror.” was unable to mount any effective challenge (Page 98).

Dan was in prison during the Kronstadt revolt, which, when the news of this, following a strike wave, reached them, convinced those arrested that they were about to be shot. There were indeed mass killings. A gaoler, ‘S’ regaled Dan with tales of massacring whites. He also had this anecdote, “some Jewish trader they had arrested on suspicion that the leather he was carrying in his cart had concealed weapons under it. There were no weapons, but before letting the trader go, he wanted to have his ‘little joke’ at the expense of the ‘bourgeois’ so he stood him against a wall and ordered that he be shot – but they fired blanks. They did this three times – just to they could bring a little happiness to their prisoner when they told him he was free to go – although he could easily have died of heart failure.”(Page 121)

Sent to Remand gaol, Dan observed waves of new arrivals. Protests and demonstration were followed “on each occasion, a few intellectuals and party workers, together with hundreds of grey, non-party workers, would pass through the prison. There were tramway workers, workers from the Skorokhod, Obukhov, Putilov and Rechkin factories – all of working class Petersburg.”(Page 138) Conditions deteriorated, but perhaps what was most striking is that “once entering a Soviet prison, nobody can know even approximately how long he will be in there and how the imprisonment will end.” (Page 142)

Dan met an American ‘K’, identified by King as Adolf S Carm, arrested at the Third Congress of the Communist International “According to him he had been arrested on the strength of a denunciation by another American delegate, Haywood, in revenge for a polemical pamphlet K, had published against him in America. K was obviously very frightened and repeatedly stressed his devotion to everything the Bolshevik government did, including the practices of the Cheka.”(Page 155) Carm was released a couple of months later….

Dan was then sent to Butyri, a Cheka ‘internal prison’, a place where the “smell of human blood” was in the air. “the most dreadful aspect of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances in which this mass slaughter of people is taking place, where it has become an everyday occurrence.” (Page 145)

Hunger Strike and Exile.

For Two Years of Wandering hunger strikes, and a campaign “waged in the workers’ parties and working-class press of Europe” rather than kindness towards people who “had been in the same organisation at the Bolsheviks” The first response of the Bolshevik leadership came to them in the shape of the news that the All-Russia Cheka Presidium had sentenced all Mensheviks to be exiled for one year, and members of the party Central Committee for two years. As negotiations proceeded, their strike ended with the alternatives of, for imprisoned Mensheviks, either administrative exile in remote areas, or departure from Russia (Pages 179- 80) He chose Germany and arrived in Berlin in the winter of 1922.

As Francis King writes in his introduction – a significant contribution to the history of Menshevism in its own right – “it is the immediacy of this book which makes it so valuable” (Page 36). Dan shows understanding towards a variety of people, including anarchists, and a grasp of the plight of even imprisoned ‘whites’, that demonstrates the highest “common decency”. But Two years of Wandering is more than a personal memoir; it illustrates the “creation of a “large body of political of political police, operating with few constraints” built to enforce the governing monopoly of one party, the Bolsheviks” (Page 37).

Nevertheless, the Menshevik project of creating a ‘bourgeois’ democratic regime without a bourgeoisie that backed it was far from a viable alternative to the Bolsheviks, lacking, as King observes, both the “will” to govern and the instruments to do so. Dan’s evolution towards a form of “reform communism” also missed the tide of history. Yet, apart from its striking honesty, the book, smoothly translated, is a powerful antidote, written from the losing side of history, to the view that the early years of Bolshevik rule were only a joyous carnival of the oppressed.

********

(1) Trotsky’s reply to the Menshevik was, “If it were true that compulsory labour is unproductive always and under every condition, as the Menshevik resolutions says, all our constructive work would be doomed to failure. For we can have no way to socialism except by the authoritative regulation of the economic forces and resources of the country, and the centralised distribution of labour-power in harmony with the general state plan. The labour state considers itself empowered to send every worker to the place where his work is necessary.” Page 153. Terrorism and Communism. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1971. Pages 249 – 251. Leninism Under Lenin. Marcel Liebman. Merlin. 1980.

(2) Page 15. Social Democracy and the Wars of Intervention. Russia 1918 – 1921. Leon Trotsky. New Park Publications. 1975.

(3) King reproduces the speech of the Socialist-Revolutionary leader Viktor Chernov to this meeting with the British Labour delegation in Appendix 1. Liebman called his invitation ”an act of provocation” Liebman. Op cit. Page 251.

See Socialist History Society Newsletter.

Also, What is to be done: The Menshevik Programme July 1919

Economic Measures

1. The peasants should retain, on a collective or individual basis as they may freely decide, the public and privately owned lands which they seized and parcelled out at the time of the Revolution. Other lands, not as yet distributed, should be leased on a long-term basis to needy peasants and peasant associations, except for those lands on which large-scale model husbandry is being, and can continue to be, carried out by the state or by leaseholders. The decrees abolishing the Committees of the Poor should be put into effect without exception.

Agricultural communes should not be established by force, either directly or indirectly. Government-held supplies, agricultural implements and seed should be equitably distributed not only among communes but to all peasants who need them on communes and soviet lands.

2. The present food supply system should be replaced by one on the following basis:
a. The state should purchase grain at agreed prices involving a large application of the barter principle; it should then be sold at low prices to the poorest dwellers in town and country, with the state making up the difference. The state should make purchases through its agents, co-operatives or private traders on a commission basis.

b.  The state should purchase, at a price equal to the cost of production, a certain proportion of the grain surpluses held by the better-off peasants in the more fertile provinces, the proportion being decided with the advice of freely elected representatives of the local peasantry.

c. Grain should be purchased by co-operatives and workers’ organisations, who should at the same time make over the stocks they have procured to government organs concerned with food supply. The state retains the right to requisition supplies from large landowners who are deliberately hoarding them for speculative purposes. Transport arrangements are under the primary control of the state, co-operatives and workers’ organisations. All anti-profiteer detachments should be disbanded. The transfer of foodstuff from a particular locality shall not be prohibited save in exceptional circumstances and by a decision of the central legislature.

The state shall assist, materially and by administrative measures, the transfer of workers and their families from places where food is scarcest and their resettlement in fertile areas.

3. The state should retain control of major industrial enterprises that are fundamental to economic life, such as mines, metallurgical plant, the chief branches of the metal-working industry, etc. However, in all places where this seems likely to improve or animate production or to extend its range, recourse may be had to organising such enterprises by a combination of state and private capital, by the compulsory formation of a trust under state control or, in exceptional cases, by means of a concession.

All other large industrial enterprises except where state control is desirable for fiscal or other reasons and would not be deleterious to production, should as a rule be gradually transferred into private hands, by leasing to a co-operative or a new entrepreneur, or to the former owner on  condition that he accepts the obligation to restore and organise production. The state shall regulate the distribution of fuel and raw materials to different branches of production, enterprises and areas.

4. Small-scale industry should in no case be nationalised.

5. The state shall regulate the distribution to different areas, in accordance with a fixed plan, of the chief articles of mass consumption such as textiles, farm implements, salt, lighting materials etc with the aid of co-operatives and private traders.

6. As regards trade in other articles of the firs necessity and also in luxuries, the state should refrain from imposing restrictions and should allow co-operatives and private enterprises to function freely except in cases where regulation or even monopoly is desirable on account of the extreme scarcity of the product, e.g. medical supplies.

7. The credit system should be so reorganised as to facilitate in every way the use in trade and industry of available funds accumulate by producers in town and country and to afford scope for private initiative in trade, industry and agriculture.

8. The repression of speculation and trading abuses should be left to the courts and governed by specific legal provisions. All arbitrary acts of requisition, confiscation and the detention of goods should be punished. The law should protect rights of ownership in the case of all industrial and commercial concerns that are released from nationalisation. In future, when expropriation is required by the public interest it should take place on the basis of a decision by the supreme legislative bodies and on conditions determined by them.

9. Workers’ unions, in addition to taking a direct part in the work of regulatory bodies, are also and primarily representatives of the interests of the proletariat vis-a-vis the sate and private entrepreneurs. In this latter capacity they should be wholly independent of any state bodies.

10. Wage rates in state enterprises should be raised and minimum rates fixed for private enterprises in accordance with the commercial price-level for necessary goods….

11. The decree on consumers’ communes should be revoked. Workers’ and general co-operatives should be preserved as autonomous organisations, without the imposition of appointees or other interference in their internal affairs. They should also have the right to carry on non-commercial activity such as publishing, education, etc.

Political Measures

The right of voting for members of soviets should be extended to all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.all workers of both sexes. Town and village soviets should be elected by all workers, with a secret ballot and freedom of canvassing by word of mouth and by the press. Soviets and Executive Committees should be subject to re-election at fixed intervals. Soviets shall not be entitled to exclude individual members or groups from their midst on political grounds. All officials and public bodies shall be subordinate to local soviets and Central Executive Committees.

2. The Central Executive Committee of Soviets should once more function as the supreme legislative and administrative body, its proceedings being open to public observation. NO law shall come into force without being discussed and approved by the CEC.

3. Freedom of the press, of assembly and of association should be restored, and any party representing the workers shall have the right and be allowed to use premises for meeting, paper supplies, printing workers. Etc. Any restriction of this right that may be necessitated by the war against counter-revolution shall be established and clearly defined by the legislature; it shall not infringe the basic liberty and shall be applied only by the courts and institutions under their direct control.

4. The Revolutionary Tribunals shall be reorganised in such a way that the judges are elected by all the workers. Together with their subordinate investigatory commissions they shall have sole responsibility for combating counter-revolution. All officials should be directly liable to prosecution before these Tribunals for illegal acts committed in the execution of their duties, at the suit of the injured party in each case. Terror shall be done away with as an instrument of government; the death penalty be abolished , and likewise all investigatory and punitive organs independent of the courts, such as the Extraordinary Commission (CHEKA).

5. Party institutions and cells should be deprived of state authority, and party members of all material privileges.

6. The bureaucratic apparatus should be simplified by the extension of local self-government.

7. A policy of understanding should be pursed vis-a-vis the nationalities which have for any reason broken away from Russia, in order to put a speedy end to the Civil War an restore the unity of the state on a basis of national self-determination. The Cossack districts – Don, Kuban, Tersa, The Urals, Astrakhan, Orenburg, etc – should be allowed the widest possible autonomy and there should be no interference in their internal affairs or system of land tenure. Siberia should have regional self-government, and the independence of Finland and Poland should be recognised.

Central Committee of the RSDLP, 12 July 1919
Sotsial-demokratiia i revolutionsiaa. Sbornik dokumentov (Odessa, 1920), pp 9-15.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Europe, Internationalism, Socialist Alternatives (Pabloism), and…Keir Starmer.

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Keir Starmer, people may note, is a member of the Editorial Collective of this journal.

It would be ridiculous to say that Keir Starmer’s support for Socialist Alternatives nearly 30 years ago determines his politics today, as  Labour’s  Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

The group’s  main politics were not ‘trotskyist’, although the name above of Michael Raptis, a historic leader of a dissident libertarian self-management current within that tradition indicates ties and Maurice Najman of the Alliance marxiste révolutionnaire (AMR) indicates connections with the ‘Pabloite’ tradition.

It was, more significantly,  aligned to the European ‘alternative’ movements of the time which stood for ecology, feminism and self-management. These were forerunners of later radical green-left groups, Los Indignados, Podemos, the left of Labour and similar currents within social democratic parties.

But it is encouraging that Starmer’s politics today  are certainly in the line of the policy of fighting for an ‘alternative Europe’, and seeing Europe as the central site of struggle for the left.

How he remains within this perspective, if at all, remains to be seen.

See also: The British Pabloites

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 10:48 am

Labour Backs Free Movement and Single Market membership, a Step Forward for Internationalists.

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Image result for labour campaign for free movement

Labour to “abide by EU free movement rules”.

Labour makes dramatic Brexit shift and backs single market membership

Reports the Obsever.

Party opens clear divide with Tories, with support for free movement and paying into EU budgets for up to four years.

Labour is to announce a dramatic policy shift by backing continued membership of the EU single market beyond March 2019, when Britain leaves the EU, establishing a clear dividing line with the Tories on Brexit for the first time.

In a move that positions it decisively as the party of “soft Brexit”, Labour will support full participation in the single market and customs union during a lengthy “transitional period” that it believes could last between two and four years after the day of departure, it is to announce on Sunday.

This will mean that under a Labour government the UK would continue to abide by the EU’s free movement rules, accept the jurisdiction of the European court of justice on trade and economic issues, and pay into the EU budget for a period of years after Brexit, in the hope of lessening the shock of leaving to the UK economy. In a further move that will delight many pro-EU Labour backers, Jeremy Corbyn’s party will also leave open the option of the UK remaining a member of the customs union and single market for good, beyond the end of the transitional period.

Permanent long-term membership would only be considered if a Labour government could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules.

The announcement, revealed in the Observer by the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, means voters will have a clear choice between the two main parties on the UK’s future relations with the EU after a year in which Labour’s approach has been criticised for lacking definition and appeared at times hard to distinguish from that of the Tories.

(rest of article via above link).

The Financial Times comments,

Change of tack by opposition party puts UK government’s strategy under severe pressure

Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has come under fierce pressure after Labour announced it would change tack and campaign to keep Britain in the EU single market, at least during a transition period. After months of confusion over its Brexit policy, Labour now wants to in effect maintain the status quo in Britain’s relations with Europe for a transition period after the country leaves in March 2019. That would mean payments into the EU budget, free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would continue for a fixed period, possibly up to 2022, setting up a clear dividing line with Mrs May. The Labour policy will be welcomed by business and reflects the Treasury’s view that British companies should face only “one transition”, when Britain moves from an interim regime to a final, settled state based on a proposed free trade agreement.

 also comments,

Can Labour’s change of course over Brexit change Britain’s fate?

This change in position could not have happened without the agreement of Jeremy Corbyn, and that could not be taken for granted at the start of the debate between senior members of the shadow cabinet. Earlier this year, the Labour leader walked through the same Aye lobby as Theresa May for the vote to trigger Article 50 and he whipped Labour MPs to join him there. It is less than two months since he fired three frontbenchers when they supported an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for Britain to stay within the customs union and the single market.

The Labour leader, a career-long Eurosceptic, has not agreed to recalibrate the party’s position on Brexit because he has fundamentally changed his mind about the EU. But Mr Corbyn is more of a politician than his detractors or his admirers often acknowledge. On some things, at least, he can do pragmatism and triangulation as well as any of the other grubby compromisers in the rough old trade. His inner circle and his allies in the shadow cabinet include both Eurosceptics and Europhiles. He has surely noticed – everyone else certainly has – the dislocation between his views about the EU and those of the crowd who adored him at Glastonbury. The younger voters who helped him to upset election expectations in June are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit, as are many of his most passionate devotees within the party. A poll for Labour List, conducted before the announcement of this shift, found a substantial majority of party members thought Labour had not adopted a Brexit policy that was sufficiently different to that of the Tories.

This is a major victory for progressive internationalists in the Labour Party.

There remain forces within Labour who will resist this move.

Lexiters, sovereigntists, advocates of a “closed” shop for migration, who count themselves as Jeremy Corbyn’s new best friends, will fight this turn.

It is now above all up to supporters of Free Movement to advance our case.

As Michael Chesson explained a few days ago, in the Clarion,

The cause of free movement belongs to the left, not the right

By Michael Chessum

There is a section of the British left – some of it indigenous to the old Labour left tradition, some of it linked to the old Communist Party – that actively supports border controls, and has always viewed free movement as a means of undermining the power of organised labour. In the Labour establishment, support for border controls has been a regular fixture – whether as a means of appeasing “legitimate concerns” (and racism) about immigration since the 19th century, or as a electorally opportunist response to the Brexit vote.

These sections of the left do not want to have an argument about their position, and for good reason. The idea that we should take away people’s rights on the basis of their nationality (which is what ending free movement means) only makes sense if you are, on some level, internalising or pandering to prejudice and nationalism. Otherwise, we ought to “build a big beautiful wall” separating deprived northern towns from the south east of England, to stop all the inhabitants of Blackpool from coming down here, taking our jobs, flooding our labour market and eating up the housing stock.

The vast majority of progressives and leftwingers would not want to make such a case. That is why, in Labour’s manifesto, the end of free movement was presented as an immovable fait accompli. One week Labour will say that free movement must end because we are leaving the single market; the next it will say that we must leave the single market in order to end free movement.  It’s also why the main argument against free movement in Momentum branches and on the left will be “ssshh, you’ll damage the leadership”, or even “this is a plot by the right to damage Jeremy.”

Yet the fight inside Labour for free movement and migrants’ rights has always been led by the left, not the right. Under Blair, Labour was responsible for introducing some of the harshest asylum laws in Europe, many of them aimed at driving refugees into destitution. It worked with the tabloid press to feed a narrative of immigrant benefit scroungers and government clampdowns.  Historically speaking, the leadership of the trade union movement has often been the most anti-migrant part of it. The immigration controls mug was not designed by CLPD.

And the logic of the arguments for free movement are overwhelmingly radical relative to Labour’s historical centre. We call for all workers to have the same rights, regardless of where they were born – because it is through collective struggle that we improve our lives. We call for massive public investment, common ownership, greatly increased minimum wages and the abolition of anti-union laws. Free movement is part of “our” globalisation – not a step backwards from the social democracy of the Twentieth Century, but a radicalisation of it.

This is not to say that there will not be many on the right of the party who come round to the idea of free movement in the coming period, and not all of them for honest reasons. Some on the right genuinely believe in a similar principled case to that which I would articulate. Some view free movement as an important argument to win for the purposes of remaining in the Single Market and protecting Britain’s business interests. And yes, some will see an opportunity to divide the left and expose the awkward fudges made by the leadership in recent months.

The fact that the argument will be difficult cannot deter us from having it. The question of whether or not Labour should have whipped for Article 50 in March was controversial on the left, as it was across the party, but it was fundamentally a tactical question. Even the bigger debate over EU membership was not a matter of raw principle, in so far as it was possible to offer respectable (if deluded) left wing arguments on both sides.  But ending free movement – dividing workers by nationality, taking away people’s rights, implicitly endorsing of the idea that immigrants undermine living standards – is a matter of deep principle on which the left cannot afford compromise.

Despite appearances, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the prospect of Labour taking a pro-free movement line. Over the past two weeks, about 2,500 Labour members and supporters have joined the Labour Campaign for Free Movement. A number of unions – including some big ones – have come out in favour. And we should not forget that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are friendly to the principle, and have the radical social and economic programme that can make free movement palatable and electable.

You can sign up to it here.

See also from the Economist: The movement for free movement. An alliance of Blairites and Bolsheviks criticises Labour policy

Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to end free movement faces opposition from both left and right.

And, Labour List.  Labour Campaign For The Single Market Launched By McGovern And Alexander

Written by Andrew Coates

August 27, 2017 at 11:21 am

October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Critical Left Reflections.

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October. The Story of the October Revolution, China Miéville. Verso. 2017.

Autumn and the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution are drawing closer. The harvest of books on the new Soviet Power is still being gathered. It is, no doubt somebody has written, the duty of socialists to study, and this crop comes, for many, at the top of the left’s reading list. Should we begin with Lenin and the debates that have arisen after the publication of Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What is to Be Done’ in Context (2008)? The 17th century Jansenist theologian, Saint-Cyran, claimed to have gone through Saint Augustine’s writings, 22 volumes, ten times, and his writings against the Pelagian heretics thirty. (1) There are Leninists whose familiarity with the Collected Works of Lenin  exceeds that modest accomplishment. Far better, if we are to grasp what was a stake in Russia in 1917, to start first with accounts of events: the contending politics and theories, Bolsheviks and their opponents, are embodied in the acts of the revolution.

China Miéville’s contribution is, as he announces, “a short introduction for those curious about an astonishing story, eager to be caught up in the revolution’s rhythms. (Page 2). If it is more than as a “story” that he tells the tale, Miéville, from the radical left, and the accomplished author of the BasLag weird fiction trilogy, brings a freshness and enthusiasm to the narrative, which begins in the 19th century Tsarist Russian opposition, the 1905 Revolution, and above, all the immense tragedy of the Great War which overshadowed the events that unfolded. October leaves little doubt that the immediate alternative to All Power to the Soviets was not a coalition of the left, but the threat of a successful far-right coup that would have accomplished what General Kornilov had failed impose. Miéville has both charmed and irritated those already familiar with the plot, and, one hopes, instilled both interest and caution in those not.

The Saint-Cyrans amongst the left have not been slow to argue about the take on Lenin’s Letters from Afar (March 1917), which called for the Bolsheviks to take state power. For some this remains a “bombshell”, advocating an accelerated move towards a socialist regime, telescoping previous alliances and revolutionary ‘stages’ into an immediate drive towards something close to socialism. But Miéville claims (following Lars Lih) that, “His argument that the revolution must continue remained clear, as did his exhortation to worker, ‘you must perform miracles of proletarian and popular organisation to prepare for your victory in the second stage of the revolution’ – a stage not of socialism, he would soon clarify, but of taking political power, of winning over the Soviet, to ensure the victory of the (necessarily bourgeois, democratic) revolution (Page 98). It was “continuity Bolshevism, and yet contained the seeds of a distinct and more trenchant position”. (Page 99) Readers who wish to make their own judgement can follow debates on the relationship between socialism, the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and other aspects of Bolshevik programme and doctrine.

Defending the Revolution.

Of far greater interest are Miéville’s defences of the Revolution. In a concluding chapter there is a series of reflections on its outcome, to put it simply, Stalinism. The state organised Red Terror was, in a manner familiar to anybody acquainted with Miéville’s former organisation the Socialist Workers Party, explained as a result of external circumstances. The Civil War was the cause, ““Under such unrelenting pressures, these are months and years of unspeakable barbarity and suffering, starvation, mass death, the near-total collapse of industry and culture, of banditry, pogroms, torture and cannibalism. The beleaguered regime unleashes the Red terror.”(Page 312). Yet, ““there is no doubt that its reach a depth expand beyond control; that some agents of the Cheka the political police, seduced by personal power, sadism or the degradation of the moment are thugs and murders unconstrained by political conviction and wielding new authority. There is no shortage of testimonials as to their dreadful acts.”(Ibid).

October does not examine the view that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” unconstrained by the rule of law is fertile ground for abuse, thugs and murders. One may disagree with Kautsky’s critique of Bolshevism. But if Lih is correct that Lenin accepted the view that the democratic republic was an important stage in the “ripening of the proletariat” it is not the view that this is a “stage” “the essential basis for building up a Socialist system if production” that favours the eventual conquest of political power, that strikes us most today. It is his opinion that “people’s rights” such as “the protection of minorities” are the bedrock of socialism. (2)

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. 

Was Soviet Power, on the basis of interpreting Lenin’s reflections in State and Revolution (1917), made up of “working bodies, executive and legislative at the same time” a vehicle for these rights? Could take the state and politics back into the hands of the – restricted – electorate who controlled them? Lenin’s model was the barely over a couple of months long Paris Commune (8 Mar 1871 – 28 May 1871), a pluralist assembly, a heroic stand,  but which ended in a deep split between the patriotic majority of Blanquists who wished to fight by any means to the end, and an opposition of Proudhonists  and supporters of the First International (Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, Histoire de la Commune de 1871,  Published, 1876 and a standard source for Marxists for many years). Its own administrative achievements – contested – aside, this perhaps illustrates the difficulties of revolutionary democracy in war.

As Isaac Deutscher memorably commented, the Bolsheviks refused to allow the “famished and emotionally unhinged country to vote their party out of power and itself into a bloody chaos” are not hard to grasp. (3)

They had always tacitly assumed that the majority of the working class having backed them in the revolution, would go on to support them unswervingly until they had carried out the full programme of socialism. Naïve as the assumption was, it sprang from the notion that socialism was the proletarian idea par excellence that the proletariat, having once adhered to it would not abandon it. (Ibid)

The Russian Dictatorship of the Proletariat had immense ambitions. Soviet power was a lever to the transition towards socialism. But disagreements arose over the methods used to that aim. Those opposed to the militarisation of labour in War Communism, to the One Man Management that emerged, Taylorism, and what is called ‘bureaucracy’ indicated that the content, the social institutions, of ‘socialism’ were not something that was already there in the “programme”. No number of warnings about external threats can retrospectively annul the fact that the dissident voices within the left, the critics of Bolshevism whose views were far from the ‘formalism’ of Kautsky and the social democrats who rejected the revolution en bloc,

In a more open-minded fashion than many who wish to defend Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ state of grace,  Miéville says, Those who count themselves on the side of the revolution must engage with these failures and crimes. To do otherwise is to fall into apologia, special pleading, hagiography – and to run the risk of repeating such mistakes.”(Page 317) But without human rights, how can we judge such abuses? Without such standards – not trumped by the necessities of the moment – what do we have left? This is more fundamental than the ban on Bolshevik “factions” that took place at the  10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) 1921, that is –initially limited – clamp down on the freedom of inner-party debate. But even if the Party had reached agreements to tolerate loyal extra-party opposition, say with left Mensheviks and ‘non-party’ representatives in the Soviets – that is accepting disagreements in terms that they set, there was no prospect of accepting pluralism as such, that is the right of an opposition to say what they wish. As the twenties wore on this was no longer a matter of the external constraints of civil war, ‘temporary measures’, but became a matter of doctrine.

The Russian Revolution, it is customary to say, contained many potentials. Miéville points to the sense of popular power that it unleashed. Government decrees, on women’s rights, decriminalising homosexuality, and the recognition of national rights as the USSR was formed from different ‘republics’, and – within the limits of the censorship – artistic creatively briefly flourished. But the strategy of a ‘transitional dictatorship’ was the worm in the fruit.

******

(1) Page 293. Tome l. Port-Royal. Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin. 3rd Edition. 1867.

(2) The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Karl Kautsky. Ann Arbor. 1964 (1919)

(3) Page 505, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky 1879 – 1921. Isaac Deutscher. Oxford University press. 1979.

The Socialist Party (Militant) admits it has entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

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“A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. “

Labour figures in Northern Ireland quit, claiming secret group within the party.

Most of the key figures in the Labour Party in Northern Ireland tonight resigned from their leadership positions after alleging a secret internal attempt to subvert the party.

Six people – including the chair and vice chair – who have been campaigning vigorously for Labour’s ban on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland to be lifted have now walked away from their roles, claiming that a “small minority” of hard-left members had made their work impossible.

The split comes after several years of strong Labour growth in Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies where in a few years its membership has swollen from around 300 to more than 2,000, partly due to members who have joined in order to vote in the party’s leadership contests.

The report is followed by this,

Entryist suggestion

Although they did not use the word in their resignation statement, the members appear to be alleging an entryist attempt to take over the party in Northern Ireland.

Labour and other left-wing sources claim that recent or current members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and People Before Profit have recently joined Labour in Northern Ireland.

Those who have resigned are chair Anna McAleavy, vice-chair Damien Harris, vice chair membership Peter Dynes, secretary Kathryn Johnston, disability officer Keith Gray and women’s officer Mary Sheen.

In a statement, the six said that they would remain active members of the party.

They said: ‘We do not resign lightly. Instead, it is a heavy decision which has weighed on us for several months. It became evident from a very early stage that there are diverse and inimical political parties secretly organising within the LPNI contrary to Chapter 2 of Labour Party Rulebook 2017.

“Although these are a small minority among our committed and hardworking activists, members and supporters, they are a vocal and troublesome element. ‘This has presented us with irreconcilable difficulties.”

The Socialist Party has now admitted its members have entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

Labour Party Executive resignations – Socialist Party statement

A group of members of the Labour Party’s Northern Ireland Executive have suddenly resigned their positions, allegedly in response to left-wing groups organising within the party, with some of the former officers and some media outlets specifically referring to the Socialist Party in this context.

The Socialist Party supports Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies and the building of a broad, cross-community left in Northern Ireland. A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. Some did so solely to help defend Corbyn against the Blairite coup and have never attended a meeting. Others have got active locally in an open and honest way, aimed at helping Labour to develop as a vehicle for workers and young people to challenge austerity and sectarianism. However, Socialist Party members have not sought any senior positions within Labour. Some of those who have resigned from the Executive were not only aware of this but, for positive reasons, actively encouraged Socialist Party members to become involved in Labour at various points.

……

Some of those who have resigned from the Executive are also members of two parties – the Co-operative Party and Labour. This is perfectly permissible, as the Co-operative Party has affiliated status. We believe that socialist groups and anti-austerity campaigns should be afforded the same right to affiliate and work with others to rebuild Labour as a campaigning, left force. For those who are supporters of Corbyn’s policies, the focus should be on challenging the pro-capitalist right, including the Blairite-Tory entryists who continue to dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party and the apparatus and remain determined to undermine Corbyn’s leadership, no matter what the cost to the party.

The Socialist Party worked fraternally with Labour members – including some of those who have resigned from the Executive – in the successful Hands Off Our Libraries campaign last year, as well as in developing the five-point Re-Think agenda which was endorsed by the Labour Party locally and adopted by six labour movement candidates in this year’s Assembly election. We believe that the impact of Corbyn’s policies on political debate has created an important opportunity for the anti-sectarian left in Northern Ireland. We will continue with our constructive and positive approach in working with others in the struggle to build a working class alternative to the Green and Orange Tories on the hill.

Previous ‘fraternal’  links between the Socialist Party  and Labour Party include:

2017. Socialist Party Stunt : ‘Ana Key’ – ’11 Votes’ Ellen Kenyon Peers – is expelled from Labour Party.

In 2015 an attempt was made to launch this: (The Socialist, 25th of November. 2015) Trade Union Momentum launched to organise to defend Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn’s new best friends have not been idle since.

It was widely suggested that the SP may have been involved in the Northern Ireland equivalent of Momentum.

It is hard to imagine what kind of “fraternal” work was possible with a group that is fanatically pro-Brexit was possible in Northern Ireland during the EU Referendum.

This is the kind of stuff they are coming out with now: Venezuela shows battle that would be faced by Corbyn government. Decisive break with capitalism needed (The Socialist. August 2017)

History shows – including in the drama now being played out in Venezuela – that piecemeal reforms irritate the capitalists but at the same time do not satisfy the demands of the working class for real change. The British and other ruling classes throughout the world are attempting to use Venezuela as a scarecrow to frighten the working class away from socialism.

They can only be defeated through the adoption of clear, fighting, socialist policies in Venezuela and in Britain.

We can assist the masses of Venezuela, and ourselves, by explaining similar ideas in Britain and exerting pressure on the labour movement for the Corbyn revolution to be completed, both in the internal battle to defeat the Blairite right and programmatically with measures which can really lead to a democratic and socialist Britain.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm