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Chantal Mouffe Calls for Labour to Revive Failed ‘Left Populism’ as ‘Green New Deal’.

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Mouffe Advising M. 6,31%.

In the  1990s Chantal Mouffe was an avid reader of Carl Schmitt. In her take on the German theorist of the fundamental political antagonism between Friend and Enemy, had to become a democratic clash of opinions. (The Return of the Political. 1993.) In the Democratic Paradox (2000) she argued that the “agonistic practice of valuing and sustaining dissent in the democratic process as a more important goal than  consensus.”

Many writers before her, such as Bernard Crick (In Defence of Politics (1962, and five subsequent editions, the last in 2002) and Claude Lefort  (L’Invention démocratique. Les Limites de la domination totalitaire. 1981) expressed (often without needing words like ‘agonistic) through reading Machiavelli, and the history of the left’s relationship to democracy, have argued for the importance of free debate, disagreement, and rows. The French writer, Jacques Rancière has made something of a career out of arguing for the importance of “disagreement” and dissensus (Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy 1998. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. 2010).

Mouffe’s writing was by contrast aimed at a highly abstract set of liberal writers, such as John Rawls, and Jürgen Habermas, who argued for a liberalism based on an “overlapping consensus” (Rawls, Political Liberalism, 1993), or rational consensus “discourse ethics” bases on an ideal agreements (Habermas). It was an academic intervention in a series of related debates.

Since those days Mouffe has, it is said,  begun to engage in real politics.

The book, “In conversation with Íñigo Errejón Podemos: In the Name of the People (trans. Sirio Canos),  2017 had a wider readership than her books, or those of her late partner, Ernesto Laclau, on the way populism could be seen both as a way of “constructing the people” and upsetting the (alleged) political consensus of Western societies.

Since those days left populist parties have tried to put into practice the principle of ‘post class politics’ that ‘federate the people’ against the elite, the casta, the oligarchy – the permanently floating signifier of that the populist ‘revolt’ is said to be against.

In their best known form, in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), and Podemos, they have reached an impasse.

In France, after getting only 6,3% of the vote in this year’s European elections, LFI faced a major crisis. Some talked of the death of left-wing populism (Le « populisme de gauche » est mort ! June 2019).

The vote of Podemos has declined. They no longer appear an unstoppable force that would replace the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE. Podemos has also split with Mouffe’s friend, Errejón, forming a new party Más País, that is predicted to win seats in the coming elections, and split the left vote further.

Más País, is betting heavily on a version of the Green New Deal. This worth remembering in looking at the Mouffe article that appeared yesterday.

Centrist politics will not defeat Boris Johnson’s rightwing populism

Mouffe repeats her old support for ‘agonistic’ politics.

….fear of populism reveals something troubling about how we currently understand democratic politics. What most people seem to find shocking about Johnson’s strategy is that it involves an “us v them” confrontation – as if democratic politics could avoid conflict between irreconcilable political projects.


Since Thucydides and Machiavelli, we have known that politics involves conflict and antagonism and that it has, by definition, a partisan character. In politics, therefore, we are always dealing with an opposition between “us” and “them” – which means it will always be necessary to draw a political frontier between the two sides.

The post-Marxist theorist repeats the well-worn description of a world in which politics apparently had frozen for decades, from the protests against globalisation, to countless elections, rivalries, changes of government,  to the Arab Spring interspersed.

After decades of “post-politics”, during which citizens were deprived of a voice in the way they were governed – under the pretence there was no alternative – we are now living through a populist moment. Political frontiers that were said to have vanished are now being reinstated, in the name of recovering democracy and popular sovereignty.

She claims that the vote for Brexit was a protest against “post-politics”, although few can recall anything particularly beyond politics’ about the rule of the Conservative-Liberal Coalition dominated by political manoeuvering on a grand scale.

Perhaps people protested against those government’s austerity because of the effects this has on their lives.

But the answer seems to like in the idea that a vote for Brexit was tied up with demands for “Popular sovereignty and democracy”. But was the the anti-EU vote about a real loss of sovereignty and democracy  or the result of a campaign that articulated frustrations on a range of issues (not least immigration) into an “imaginary construction of a nation” under threat from the EU?

Mouffe does not say. Nor does she offer the slightest idea of what “real” popular sovereignty is, putting somebones on the ghostly concept that has floated around politics for over two centuries.

She notes that  “by articulating anti-austerity and anti-establishment sentiments with a nationalistic flavour” they gained support.

By blaming the EU for the deterioration of social and political conditions in the UK, Brexit became a hegemonic signifier – one around which a new “people”, identified as leavers, has coalesced. These are the “people” Johnson pretends to represent and whose will he accuses parliament of disregarding.

Yet many people, given the closeness of the Referendum vote, did not agree.

Why should they have to “understand” people. Why should they listen to Mouffe lecturing them that they should “not demonise all Brexiters as deplorables, or dismiss them for being unable to recognise the intellectual and moral superiority of the European project.”

Either it’s right to argue for Remain – in a strategy of transforming the EU – or it is not.

That is dissensus.

The article offers no answer, or rather one that avoids the issue.

In Britain, as in the rest of Europe, the way to answer the rightwing populist offensive is the construction of another “people” – through the articulation of a project that can link together various demands against the status quo. A project in which both leavers and remainers could feel that they have a voice and that their concerns are taken into account. One signifier for such a project could be a Green New Deal – which articulates multiple environmental and economic struggles around a demand for equality and social justice.

To be sure, such an “us” will never include everybody. It does, of course, require a “them” and the drawing of a political frontier. But we can have a frontier that makes democracy more radical – one that pits the people against the oligarchy, and the many against the few.

That is to plunge into a rusty tool box.

Left wing populist parties have failed to ‘construct’ the people. Targeting the shifting signifiers of the elite has not worked.

As Cédric Durand et Razmig Keucheyan argued, after the defeat of LFI in France, at its best,

L’opposition entre les 1% et les 99% permet peut-être de déclencher un mouvement politique et de l’incarner dans un leader, mais l’empêche de s’inscrire dans la durée.

The opposition between the 1% and the 99%  allows perhaps a political movement to get off the ground and to incarnate it in a leader, but it prevents its long term estbalishment.

There are, they note, fundamental conflicts of interests inside the “people”.

One stands us,  the ‘deplorables’ who back brexit include many, many, people who backed it out of xenophobia.

Understanding them is not just a pleasant sounding word, a wink to the wise, as Mouffe suggests.

It can become part of a left populist strategy.

In Germany, many consider, left populism, with its belief in the “people” “elite” conflict has opened the space to the red-brown politics of national populism.

Pop-Up Populism: The Failure of Left-Wing Nationalism in Germany

Aufstehen’s leaders insisted that their movement was not defined by its opposition to migrants. But they consistently cast migrants as either pawns in the game of finance capital or as the phony poster children of misguided urban idealists.

Theorists of left populism like to argue that “the people” needs an adversary against which it can define itself. Who was “the adversary” for Aufstehen? It was an eclectic group. At its head was Merkel’s government, followed by the forces of what they called “Goldman Sachs capitalism.” Arrayed behind them were a less typical crew for the left: an alliance of migrants (some of whom were suspect followers of “hate preachers of radicalized Islam”) and the naïve leftists who loved them. Together, they played the role of useful idiots for a ruling class intent on driving down wages by swamping the remains of the welfare state.

Against this union of elites and outsiders, Aufstehen offered “the realistic left” a middle approach that distinguished between “forced” and “economic” migration—lest all “competitors for scarce resources at the bottom of society” be given access to the German labor market and social welfare benefits. “If the core concern of leftist politics is to represent the disadvantaged,” Wagenknecht explained, “then the no-borders position is the opposite of being on the left.”

One see how populist rhetoric develops further in this recent interview on the red-brown site Spiked.

Nationalism is the search for a new solidarity’

Red Tory Phillip Blond on Boris, Brexit and the ‘post-liberal’ future.

 I think that what is happening is that nationalism has become a new principle of solidarity. Nationalism is the unifying principle between the vision of ‘Global Britain’ and those people who are demanding solidarity because they’re experiencing insecurity in terms of the care of their parents, the care of the children, and their own situation. There is fundamental realignment going on.

The Green New Deal is not the magic potion to make everybody forget about Brexit and ignore this realignment.

The fight against this nationalist “solidarity”, the rich man at his Brexit castle the poor man at his gate, and for the internationalist anti-Brexit cause, continues.

We need less understanding and more argument, till we have won our case through democratic means.


More reading: 

There are two articles in the latest Historical Materialism which point to further theoretical and practical problems about Left Populism.

Editorial Perspective: Is a ‘Left Populism’ Possible? Panagiotis Sotiris

In contrast to the proposals to think radical and emancipatory politics in terms of a left-populist strategy, we have attempted to present an alternative theorisation based on the dialectical contradictions and dynamics of the contemporary conditions of the subaltern in relation to the possibility to rethink the people, in an anticapitalist, post-national and decolonial way as the people-to-come, the people of the emergence of a new historical bloc. This requires not discursive constructions and rhetorical inventions but a new practice of politics, a new collective elaboration and experimentation for a potential hegemony of the subaltern, in a process that aims to fully unleash the potential of the subaltern for self-government.

Research Article: From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’  The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck Jerome Roos

Streeck’s account ends up stripping foreign workers of their status as fellow workers, treating class in narrowly national terms and throwing up a stark divide between the interests of ‘indigenous’ workers on the one hand, and the interests of migrants and refugees on the other. Taken together, these two moves do not only end up obscuring the common interests shared by these groups (in higher wages and increased public spending on education, healthcare and social housing, for instance); they also reinforce a narrative that considers migrants and refugees as mere extensions of the class interests of international capital – and, as such, an existential threat to the integrity of the European welfare state. In the process, Streeck ends up lending legitimacy to the ‘national-populist’ view that immigration, by exerting downward pressure on wages and placing unbearable strains on national welfare systems, constitutes a direct threat to the interests of ‘indigenous’ workers.111 This is a potentially dangerous claim for which there is no convincing evidence. Indeed, research on Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States has demonstrated that in all of these countries immigrants actually bring in more in taxes than they take out in benefits, meaning immigrants, on the whole, far from undermining the integrity of the Western welfare state, actively fund its redistributive policies.112 Moreover, as Tansel and Turner point out with respect to Streeck’s unsubstantiated claims about immigration lowering wages:

… comprehensive reviews on the subject suggest that ‘there is still little evidence of an overall negative impact on jobs or wages’ in the UK. Coupled with the findings of a state-of-the-art research project on asylum seekers which concluded that ‘no clear correlation [exists] between access to the labour market and the number of asylum applications a country received’, it is clear that ‘economic’ arguments against immigration and accepting refugees should be examined under extreme scrutiny.113

And yet, ever since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015 and the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump in 2016, immigration policy has increasingly become the stick with which Streeck continues to flog the dead horse of the cosmopolitan centre-left. In a 2017 essay for the Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, he even goes so far as to hold immigrant children – as opposed to government cutbacks on education spending – responsible for crowding public schools (so that ‘“white” parents … will find ways to send their children to schools where they learn the national language properly’), just as he construes immigration as a leading cause of urban segregation, contributing to ‘“white flight” from areas where immigrants cluster’, instead of seeing immigrant neighbourhoods as ethnically diverse working-class communities in their own right, which are often on the front-line of the financialisation-driven process of gentrification and among the first to suffer from austerity.114 Elsewhere, in a recent contribution to the social-democratic journal Juncture, he takes the argument even further, directly reproducing the Islamophobic trope that ‘mass migration’ leads to terrorism:



Again, as with the notion that immigration lowers wages and welfare provisions, there is little empirical evidence for the claim that it leads to greater terrorist violence. Indeed, notwithstanding a number of high-profile, high-mortality attacks in recent years (most notably those in France in 2015 and 2016), the moving average of victims from terrorist violence in Western Europe decreased sharply during the supposed era of ‘open borders’ since the 1990s compared to the bloody autumn days of Streeck’s idealised welfare state in the 1970s.116 Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in Europe continue to be committed not by immigrants or refugees with religious-fundamentalist motives, but by European citizens with ethno-nationalist or separatist motives.117

Beyond the liberty he takes with the facts, however, the real irony is that Streeck’s own analysis as laid out in How Will Capitalism End? is characterised precisely by such a ‘lack of any vision of a practically possible progressive future’ that he attributes here to immigrant ‘primitive rebels’. Moreover, it seems to be his own incapacity to imagine a feasible egalitarian alternative beyond the current ‘post-capitalist’ interregnum that is now driving Streeck to join a growing chorus of disillusioned social democrats in responding to the neoliberal pressures on what remains of the European welfare state by jealously guarding its last-remaining crumbs from the claims made upon it by migrant workers and their families. It is a development that has, on occasion, seen Streeck’s views on immigration and refugee policy veer dangerously close to the welfare chauvinism of the nationalist right.118



The Cockroach. Ian McEwan. Review “in the spirit of popular frontism against Brexit.”

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Image result for The Cockroach. Ian McEwan. Jonathan Cape. 2019.


The Cockroach. Ian McEwan. Jonathan Cape. 2019.

“Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature.” There is no need to scuttle to the reviews of Ian McEwan’s Brexit fable to get the tribute to Metamorphosis. The affecting shape-change of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa is transposed into a pamphlet on beetling Boris Johnson and the project of the ‘Reversalists’ to bring back cash from the European Union.

The Cabinet are fellow bugs. They “eerily resembled humans” despite their “shimmering blattodean core”. This courageous group, with their obsequious (cowed) Spads, would set “the country free from a loathsome servitude”. Has the moment come to squash the lot underfoot, or at least skip these overwrought pages?

Happily the tale shifts. Reveralism, that is, the Brexit project, was a favourite of People with One Idea, “Let the money flow be reversed and the entire economic system, even the nation itself, will be purified, purged of absurdities, waste and injustice.” People should be paid for consuming and a “counter-flow” of money away from the European Union was behind the cause of Reveralism in One Country. The fate of the opposing Clockwise cause was sealed by the promise of “national revival and purification”.

Samuel Butler in Erewhon (1872) imagined, a land in which, amongst other things, the sick are punished for being ill. Reveralism is not such an outrider. McEwan could take the unsatirical panacea, popular on some parts of the anti-EU left, of a solution to austerity through limitless money issues by a sovereign state, in his stride.

A bloody battle with France over fishing rights is equally less than unthinkable. Wetherspoons chief, Tim Martin, manager of pro-Brexit Beer Halls across the country, cannot heat a fish finger without a peroration on the plight of fisher folk under the EU. He weathers, with the backing of US president Archie Tupper, diplomatic crises, and, against the Gallic enemy, the Royal Navy is at the ready. There is a final push for the Reversalist completion Bill. The Royal Assent comes through. You can hear the thump of pint glasses of stale beer even now.

The Cabinet cockroaches celebrate,  “There will be hardship. It might be punishing in the extreme. I don’t doubt that enduring it will harden the people in this great country”. Continuing in pheromone “You have put a human shoulder to the wheel of populism”…..

The Cockroach is not a familiar insect. Some people in Britain may have only rarely seen one. Older readers might recall sentient cockroach creatures in the film of William Burroughs Naked Lunch (1991). Hutu extremists used the word to label Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. One can already see podgy hands at Spiked about to claw into the allegory.

The Cockroach can be read in the spirit of popular frontism against Brexit. It will annoy Brexit supporters. But it would be generous to say that this is better than a squib. It falls short of the ambition flagged up by reference to Kafka’s story. Sams has more of the diatribes against the “inconveniencies of trade” and love of the militia, of Joseph Addison’s Tory Foxhunter, than the words expressing the plight of Samsa and his family. Though this too is far from exact: ancient squires had a certain sincere conviction and more decency than Boris Johnson. Even cockroaches have.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Some Left Responses to Labour Refusal to Have a Policy on Brexit.

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Image result for workers hammer

Key pro-Brexit Constituency Labour has to Worry About.

The Morning Star reports,

A statement by the party’s governing national executive committee (NEC) said: “The NEC believes it is right that the party shall only decide how to campaign in [a referendum on Brexit] — through a one-day special conference, following the election of a Labour government.”

The statement was also reinforced by composite motion 14, that said Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit was “abundantly clear”, which was voted through.

Moments earlier, delegates narrowly rejected composite 13, that called on the party to “campaign energetically for a public vote and to stay in the EU.”

Quoting, exclusively, from the anti-composite 13 side of the debate the Party that calls itself Corbyn’s best friend notes,

Urging delegates to reject composite 13, Sheffield Hallam delegate Sophie Wilson said: “I represent a proud, northern ex-mining community of committed Labour voters and people who share our vision of a country that works for the many.

“Like so many of our heartlands, they also voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU.

“We cannot disregard the 2016 referendum, or attempt to leave behind our heartlands in the same way the Tories have done.

“I urge people to support composite 14 for the good of our people, to unite our electorate, and to ensure that we win a general election and deliver the radical Labour policies so desperately needed.”

Batley and Spen delegate Cath Pinder said: “Since the referendum the Tories have deliberately tried to widen the divide. Theresa May shut out all the 48 per cent who voted Remain as though they did not matter.

“Now Boris Johnson wants to make out it is the public against Parliament when it comes to Brexit.

“Labour will give the people the final say on any Brexit deal — unlike the Tories and the Lib Dems who won’t.”

In a parallel  Editorial today the Morning Star defended its claims to internationalism,

…. support for the EU on “internationalist” terms is contradictory. The EU is a driving force for imposition of unequal trading terms on poorer countries: its subsidised agricultural exports have had devastating effects on African farming. It is a key architect of treaties aimed at prioritising the rights of corporations over the rights of elected governments.

As then commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told John Hilary, then of War on Want, in 2015, when he pointed to the evidence that a big majority of Europeans were opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated with the US, “I do not take my mandate from the European peoples.”

In the end it was Donald Trump, not the EU, that ditched TTIP.

Vote for comrade Trump as the way to get rid of TTIP?

Well, apparently it’s the EU at fault all the way.

If socialists are serious about transforming our economy, challenging the power of capital and planning a sustainable future, we cannot simultaneously act as cheerleaders for one of the most powerful enforcers of the global economic status quo.

…..more serious still is the debilitating effect on our movement when “internationalism” comes to mean support for institutions of the ruling class. A revolutionary socialist movement must know its enemies.

The Communist Party of Britain believes in a Brexit on WTO rules: dump the capitalist WTO?

Fake News site Skwawkbox  also goes folk politics,


Unite deputy general secretary describes Thornberry’s full-remain position as a ‘car crash’ and brings house down with speech backing Corbyn on Brexit

The Unite deputy, Howard Beckett,

 …..brought the house down with a speech in which he demanded Labour’s conference support Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit – saying that to do otherwise would be to tie Corbyn’s hands in a nonsensical way and describing Emily Thornberry’s attempt to defend her full-remain position on a recent Question Time episode as a ‘car crash’.

No doubt we should all trust leaders, of the stamp of Corbyn, just like that, without indication of what his stand on the key British political issue of Brexit is.

Socialist Worker says,

Labour needs a general election campaign not based on what’s good for business and the EU—but a Brexit which can unite working class people and a fight against austerity and racism, and for action on climate change.

The Morning Star seems to suggest that Britain, free from the EU, without ‘cheerleaders’ for the capitalists, will be ready to become an internationalist state.

That’s ‘revolutionary socialism’ – though perhaps they could indicate what exactly that revolution means with a capitalist British state and capitalist class still in place.

But back to the electoral fall out.

Here is a different angle: Sráid Marx

An Irish Marxist Blog (Extracts)

Corbyn wins and condemns himself to defeat

The Labour Party has just decided, in advance of the general election that cannot be far off, that it won’t tell those who might think of voting for it whether, on the big issue of our time, it is in favour of Brexit or against it.  It wants instead to unite the nation around the belief that this is so unimportant that you don’t really need to know.

According to its leader Brexit might, or might not, be better than Remain, although if you believe what he says about his ability to strike a ‘credible’ deal, that might indicate to you that your support for Labour will result in support for Brexit.

The Labour leadership wants its members and supporters to continue to play the role of mushrooms and to forget that with this policy it received less than 15% of the vote in the European elections. It wants everyone to forget about being out-polled by the Liberal Democrats for the first time since 1910, a party on the way out just before; forget that it failed to win a majority in 2017 with 40% of the vote but has only around two-thirds of that support now in one opinion poll after another.

So, it doesn’t matter because Labour will go into the election with a dishonest position, that makes no sense even on its own terms; that has proved a failure in the European and local elections; that is opposed by the vast majority of its members and big majority of its supporters, and that will most certainly lead to defeat.

Michael Chessum says,



On Labour List,

Michael Chessum, national organiser of the Another Europe is Possible campaign group that backed the defeated pro-Remain motion, commented: “Labour members, 90% of whom want to stay in the EU, will be deeply disappointed with this decision.

”It is possible that the Remain motion had a majority in the CLPs, but because there was no card vote we will never know.

“Brexit is a project of the Tory hard right. It is about attacking workers, downgrading migrants rights and shifting politics to the nationalist right. Labour beating the Tories is the only path to stopping this project, and it is not to late for Labour to make clear that that it opposes Brexit outright.

“Though it is not the policy we supported, the calling of a special conference to democratically decide Labour’s Brexit policy was a concession which we won. But a fudge is not a unity position. It is deeply divisive among members, and risks losing a large chunk of our voter base.

This vote was set up as a loyalty test, but those grassroots activists who ran the campaign – Momentum activists, people who have fought for the left in Labour for years, know this is a nonsense. We have come so far in pushing Labour’s position towards a public vote, and while we might all be disappointed by this outcome, we must now prepare for the election. If Labour loses, the consequences will be dire.”

Boffy has this line on those running Labour,

I would say that the sour atmosphere created around the  way the victory of the Corbynista loyalist ultras was secured will not go away.

This, from reliable sources, looks an accurate account of yesterday’s Labour vote:

How Jeremy Corbyn stitched up Labour’s Brexit vote, writes Robert Peston


Labour’s leadership may have failed in the “drive by shooting” of Tom Watson (using his colourful words) but they have totally stitched up NEC and conference Brexit votes – by making sure their supporters were largely in the room, and keeping out those pesky Remainers.

None of this should come as a surprise. But it was still awe-inspiring to watch in action.

The point is that for the past 24 hours, all the attention has been on which way the big unions would vote.

And when Unison turned against Corbyn’s Brexit neutrality it looked as if the Remainers might just squeak a victory. But in the end the unions’ position was irrelevant.

Because the conference votes were done by a show of hands. And guess what? There just weren’t many Remainers on the conference floor.

I wonder how that happened?

It’s a bit like how two crucial 8am NEC meetings were cancelled and requests for emailed submissions on the Brexit policy were made at around midnight on the prior evenings, making it almost impossible for Corbyn’s critics to get their act together.

The Brexit position of the trade unions was always a red herring, what magicians call misdirection. What mattered was who was in the hall.

And that was sorted weeks ago though the choice of delegates.

For spectators like me – who spent 15 years observing the tactics of China’s leaders – all this is quite familiar.

For passionate Labour Remainers, it’s infuriating.

  • Update 20.05:

Just to explain in more detail the preceding points, a senior member of the shadow cabinet told me days ago that constituency Labour Party delegate selection had been organised to favour Corbyn loyalists.

About half those present were trade union delegates, who were thought to narrowly favour Corbyn’s Brexit ambivalence.

And immediately before the vote a delegate made a point of order from the platform alleging there were many in the conference room not entitled to vote – which was a suggestion she thought the vote was not being conducted in a robustly fair way.

Also there were lots of shouts at the end for a card vote, to verify the result via a formal counting process – which showed not everyone present thought the results accurately captured the view of Labour members.

All that said, Jeremy Corbyn won handsomely, which his allies told me he would over the preceding hours.

You can admire or criticise the professionalism of the operation to secure the win.

And of course I regret and apologise for my comparison with China which I thought was a joke but has caused unnecessary offence.

It is of course the case that the Labour leadership in the past would often simply exclude any motion they disliked that looked as if it might win from  getting on the agenda at all.

But they were not supporters of the Theory of Conference Sovereignty and Democracy.

Though the “populist left” where it has any strength (think France, think Spain) has evolved its own methods of excluding and ignoring dissent.

There remain some straws to clutch on:

Now to add to all the fun, there is this:



Corbyn’s Plan for “compromise” on Brexit welcomed by Momentum; “Step Forwards” says pro-Brexit, Morning Star Front, Leave Fight Transform (LeFT).

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Paul Mason’s Guide to the Fight Between Internationalists and pro-Brexit Forces in the Labour Party.

JEREMY CORBYN’s plan to offer a “compromise” to Leave and Remain voters in a new Brexit referendum was warmly received today by Momentum and acknowledged as a step forwards by Lexit campaign group Leave Fight Transform (LeFT).

Mixed reaction to Corbyn’s proposed party neutrality in second Brexit referendum

The only criticism the Morning Star cites comes from the Liberal Democrats.

The rest is plain sailing…

Grassroots Labour group Momentum said that the tricky issue of Britain leaving the EU should be “handled delicately.”

A spokesperson said: “Labour is offering another referendum with Remain as an option.

“Simply revoking Article 50 creates more problems than it solves.”

LeFT’s Sarah Cundy told the Star that the campaign group was “glad” to welcome Labour moving on from its “backwards position of campaigning for Remain over their own deal.”

“Labour is hopefully finally realising the necessity to respect Leave voters by not forcibly campaigning for Remain in a second referendum,” she added.

“But if Labour are to retain working-class support Labour MPs need to respect not only the will of the people but also the mandate to respect the result of the referendum on which they were all elected in 2017.

This is the field on which Paul Mason’s scenarios are set to play out.

On the one side, those who are in favour of Brexit, allied, for the moment, with those prepared to shore up Corbyn’s ‘Harold Wilson’ moment, and go along with the idea that there may be, possible, well there might be, a People’s Brexit, in any case it should be up to Labour to leave it open for people to negotiate one.

On the other are those willing to begin a campaign against National neoliberalism by fighting against Brexit.

Left of Europe By 

From an interview with Neil Davidson published in the Summer 2019 issue of New Politics. Davidson teaches at the University of Glasgow.

(unmentioned:  – Neil Davidson is a member of Revolutionary socialism in the 21st century.

Given the illusions many on the left have about the E.U., it’s ironic that its structure corresponds quite closely to the model of “interstate federalism” devised by the economist Friedrich A. Hayek in 1939. Hayek, in many ways the intellectual forerunner of neoliberalism, proposed that economic activity in a federal Europe should be governed by a set of nonnegotiable rules presided over by a group of unelected bureaucrats, without any elected members of government and irrational voters getting in the way.

That’s how the E.U. is structured. Its least democratic institutions—such as the European Commission, the European Council, the European Global Central Bank, and the European Court of Justice—have the most power, while those that are at least nomi­nally democratic—like the European Parliament—have the least. It’s a totally undemocratic institution. It’s more undemocratic than any of the nation-states that compose it, including Britain. It was designed to prevent social democrats from infringing on the logic of capital in Europe.”

Like a Panoptican the EU enforces its rule over the grid of couturiers.

It’s a wonder they ever changed the “non-negotiable rules” to limit working hours and guarantee minimum workers’ right.

Why do the Tories now not like it?

The Tory Party is not acting in the interests of British capital in pushing through Brexit. This dereliction of its duty is the result of how ruling-class parties have evolved in the neoliberal era.

Bad show chaps one might say.

The ‘stupid party’ argument has its limits.

Davidson believes that the Tories have got “distorted”. After Thatcher, its relation with financial capital—became ever closer, and that began to distort the capacity of the party to represent British capital as a whole.”.

Yet, two breaths later, the academic thinks that, “Brexit is a sign that neoliberalism is weakening or possibly coming to an end, not just in Europe but around the world. Protectionism is beginning to revive. Some of this is just rhetorical, but the conflict between the United States and China is a harbinger of things to come.”

So, finance capital’s power heralds the weakening of neoliberalism in the Tory Party.

The real capitalists  are behind Remain – the ERG, Rees Mogg and the rest are only ‘appearances’.

 The main backers of Remain and a new vote on Brexit are the big capitalists, the professional middle class, and sections of the well-paid working class. Each has different visions of the E.U. The bourgeoisie wants to stay in the E.U. or secure a soft Brexit for their class interests and neoliberal project. They have drawn behind them sections of middle- and working-class people who have illusions of the E.U. as a progressive and anti­racist institution.

Davidson is prepared to admit that,

Opinion on the left is divided about a new referendum on whether to stay in the E.U.


Most people on the radical left think this would be disastrous. It would simply consolidate divisions and open the whole situation to charges from the right of betrayal of the original vote. The left liberal press, like the Guardian, support a new vote and claim that there’s a majority for Remain. That may be true, but if there is, it is only a small majority. If another referendum manages only a narrow reversal, it would be catastrophic. It would not resolve anything and would only deepen the polarization and harden it on each side.

This response to the following is only intelligible if one accepts that the “radical left” is pro-Brexit and agree with his mind-reading assessment of our opinions.

This is not the case:


Davidson thinks that there is a new regime of accumulation emerging.

I think we are probably in a transition to a new phase of capitalism. This transition is going to last a long time. Think about the crisis of 1929. It took until after World War II for state capitalism and embedded social democracy to emerge out of the Great Depression. Or think about the transition to neoliberalism itself. The ruling class first articulated this strategy in the late 1970s, but it took a decade or two for it to be consolidated throughout the world system. So it will take some time for a new strategy to replace neoliberalism.

Paul Mason says that there is indeed one, national neo-liberalism, spearheaded by Trump and Brexit. It’s political strategy is a populist one, an appeal to the ‘people’ over the heads of representative democracy, grounded in national feeling.

It may seem, therefore, that the perfect neo-liberalism of the EU is an obstacle to this line of march.

In fact the EU’s mechanisms offer potential ways of thwarting national populism, once we engage in the institutions with the left across Europe.

Despite the bravado of the Morning Star backed pro-Brexit campaign, Leave Fight Transform (LeFT), they have lost support inside Labour, from the left, John McDonnell, to the centre-left – away from the marginalised remnants of Blairism.

This is the real combat

More brave words cannot hide this.

Socialism After the United Kingdom


Corbyn’s balancing act has opened the door in the party for the neoliberals to shift the party in favor of Remain. Labour now seems prepared to call for a new referendum and, in the event of that, support a vote for remaining in the EU.

He rregetfully claims that his lot (which he ptentiously calls “the” radical left, have been sidelined

To be honest we’re in a very difficult situation. Unlike in the Scottish independence referendum, the radical left failed to hegemonize the argument for Leave. Consequently, the center left immediately associate you with Farage and the right. It becomes even impossible to talk about the EU and its actual nature because all opposition to it is wrongly identified with that of the populist right.

I don’t think a general election is a solution of any of our problems in a broader sense, but it might make it possible to break out of the sense that Brexit is the only issue of our time. Even crashing out would obviously cause huge problems, but at least then Brexit is over, and we can start saying, “You put us into this mess, these are the demands — above all, protection of jobs — we want met as trade unionists and working-class people.”

Like many confusionists – from the Morning Star, Momentum, the CLDP and all – Davidson ends by looking for a way out through a folk left politics based on Climate Strikes and ‘anti-imperialism’.

Comrade Chessum puts that one in its place.

Whatever Corbyn decides to replay a Harold Wilson and remain “neutral” or not, its the machine that matter,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2019 at 11:46 am

Nick Cohen on the Brexit Bolsheviks of Spiked: James Heartfield (né James Hughes), from Sectarian Marxism to National Populism.

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Heartfield’s Brexit Party Steps up Competition with Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Holloway Road.

James Heartfield, from the Revolutionary Communist party and its successor organisations, will fight rather than support Corbyn in Islington, and stand for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. He’s not alone in that. In the European elections, Farage put forward four candidates from what was in the 1980s the RCP, and then morphed into Living Marxism, the Institute of Ideas and Spiked. The names may have been different but the personnel and mentality endured. One, Claire Fox of the BBC’s Moral Maze, is now a Brexit party member of the European parliament.


Meanwhile, if Corbyn has provided excuses for tyrannical regimes, his rival in Islington North from the Brexit party defended Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan tyranny.

This is one of Comrade Cohen’s starting points in this excellent article,

The conventional explanation for the success of the RCP is that it has cannily moved from the far left to where the money is. It understood that the media reward talking heads who will propagate any theory, however simplistic or false. “It still operates as a clique,” a former member told me as I was researching this piece. “But instead of attacking liberals from the far left it now attacks them from the libertarian right.” For denouncing political correctness, wokeness and other assorted horrors, it receives Koch brother money and commissions from editors desperate for “contrarian” thrills.

This is true and I am not sure this accounts for the enthusiasm of Spiked for the Brexit Party and their other main field of operations, the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, which brings them together with members of the Communist Party of Britain, Counterfire, Blue Labour, Labour Leave and other odd-balls, either (Why we’re campaigning for a Full Brexit. Meet the leftists making the case for Brexit’s transformative potential.)

See Bob on Going full Brexit: from Red Front to red-brown front.

From this one can see that their ideology has a lot in its misty mixture of virulent rhetoric. Which emerged when they discarded all political bearing s within Marxism traditions, and belief in the potential of working people and the whole range of the oppressed to change society and create for themselves forms of socialism.

Contrarianism, hostility to the welfare state social democratic Labour Party (ingrained in the group since its origins), a vague belief in the ‘risk taking’ promethean aspects of modern science and capitalism (grabbedat to justify anti-Green politics), the hatred of the “culture of complaint”, a well worn defence of the Enlightenment, and jibes at the identity politics of the 1990s, all go into the mix of Furedi  and chums. In place of Marxism they claim to be brave humanists as well.

There is a lot of ranting about elites – definitely outlined by Cohen as a vein of conspiracy thinking. But behind this there is a shift from standing for ‘strong democracy’ (Benjamin Barber) to national sovereignty thwarted by oligarchs and liberal elites, the cosmopolitan internationalists who oppose Brexit.

The EU is risk averse, it believes that if something moves it should be regulated. It represents risk as a form of danger not an opportunity.”The alternative is national sovereignty, “National sovereignty is not simply about waving the flag, it’s about understanding that only through the institutions of a nation state can you have a sense of control over your destiny and hold your leaders and politicians to account. It is only in this terrain that democracy has any real meaning.”

Sovereignty post Brexit: an interview with Frank Furedi

Cohen continues,

Brexit itself, however, is the ultimate post-crash conspiracy theory. Britain could be a buccaneering country again, as it was when it ruled a quarter of the world, if only it were not the victim of Brussels

Buccaneering nations are glamorous, no doubt, but exactly why do we need these pirates?

Conspiracy theory only gets us so far, what are they conspiring for?

One thing that struck me recently researching it, and reading, re-reading, far-right texts, is how some figures of the Nouvelle Droite in France, specifically Guillaume Faye, explicitly draw a link between defending ‘European civilisation’ (Faye shifted in the years towards his death last year to a more overtly nation based theme), and make a link between the kind of Furedi angle on glory that was Europe as independent sovereign states.(the RCP guru now slips from the Enlightenment to Judeo-Christian and Classical heritage) to overt ethnic racism. The route passes through nations, to ethnic groups, to ethno-racial forces. The elites, the ‘globalisers’ are out to thwart this.

The Spiked Red-Brown Front with the Brexit Party has not gone down that road – yet – but you can’t help feeling that the plea for the ‘white working class’ downtrodden by elites is pretty close to it.

Many of the contrarian themes – though very certainly not all, and there are some major differences over ‘Paganism’, of the RCP are also echoed in these quarters. Alain de Benoist though is more left-wing (he encourages pluralism and decentralisation, for a start) than Spiked on the issue of sovereignty.

The Spiked Red Brown front is serious, it is aimed not just at the Brexit party but through the Full Brexit Party, at the ‘left’.

Like the French nouvelle droite it seeks not just influence but political levers for a goal.

This is National Populism, a set of doctrines and ideas, attitudes and culture, that above all, denies that the democratic constitutions make sovereignty an ’empty psace’ which all can potentially occupy. Only the “real” people and their leaders can legitimately  do so.

Mind you a lot of their ideas are just plain drivel.

Defending the ‘anti-globalisers’ amongst the ‘native populations’.


Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm

TUC, to Campaign against “damaging right-wing agenda behind Brexit and supports a confirmatory public vote on any deal or no deal with a remain option.

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Image result for trade unions against brexit

The TUC Puts Words into Policy.

Motion passed at TUC yesterday.

Composite 04 Brexit

Congress recognises that the promises that were made during the EU referendum campaign are now distant memories, and that a Tory no-deal Brexit looms on the horizon – with potentially devastating results for workers in the UK.

Congress notes that the Tories have so far miserably failed to negotiate a Brexit deal that protects our jobs and our rights.

Congress notes with concern that Brexit, especially under ‘no deal’, would hit the NHS hard, with new immigration hurdles deterring EU healthcare professionals from coming to the UK to work in the NHS and the deep risk of wholesale privatisation flowing from a trade deal with the Trump White House. Congress fears the agenda of many Tory MPs is to enter into a devastating trade deal with Donald Trump which will reduce our rights and standards and leave our NHS and agriculture vulnerable to predatory US companies.

Congress believes too many Tory MPs are unwilling to defend the Good Friday Agreement which has brought peace and prosperity to Ireland. A hard border will have a devastating impact on the lives of people on either side of it.

Congress condemns the Tory government’s plan to categorise migrant workers earning less than £30k a year as ‘low skilled’ and allow them to stay in the UK for just 12 months. We will not let right-wing politicians and bosses divide our class. We will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with migrants to stop any attacks on them.

Congress will campaign against the damaging right-wing agenda behind Brexit and supports a confirmatory public vote on any deal or no deal with a remain option. Congress will continue campaigning for reforms to help build a Europe for the many through solidarity across borders.

Congress also supports a general election as a matter of urgency so that the British people can elect a government committed to ending austerity and building a new economic settlement that leaves no-one behind.

Mover: Musicians’ Union
Seconder: Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Supporter: Royal College of Midwives


It passed almost unanimously, with only the RMT transport workers’ union delegation voting against it.

TUC Congress demands Brexit referendum with option to Remain

The Morning Star was compelled to note,

Reiterating the TUC’s official position in support of a second referendum, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Whatever happens, we will fight for our jobs, we will fight for our rights and we will fight for public services.

“Even if there is a no deal, and I will do everything I can to stop that, that won’t be the end of it — it will just be the beginning.

“Because working people did end up paying the price of the banking crash.

“I think there is no appetite among working people to pay the price for a no-deal Brexit.”

Be warned though, the  Morning Star indicates,


On the issue of Brexit the current manoeuvres in Parliament will give the opportunity for an emergency motion that could help to stop the lemming-like rush to the Remain cliff.

Andy Bain is the Communist Party of Britain’s industrial organiser.

It was clear that the TUC would pass policy, however much the result of compromise, to oppose not just a Hard Brexit but to support a third referendum.

Hence this disingenuous  attempt yesterday by the pro-Brexit Morning Star to wriggle out of TUC policy before the vote was taken.

It argues against Labour’s position of stopping No Deal.

A pincer movement in which Labour is trapped between rival political forces which fetishise Brexit and divorce it from the political, economic and social crisis which created it must be met by a massive mobilisation to fight for a Labour government whose mission is to deliver the radical change its programme outlines.

Pacts based on stopping “no-deal” that shackle Labour to parties of the status quo, that are intrinsically hostile to any fundamental shift in wealth and power to workers and that have been complicit in the devastation of our communities by austerity, the relentless rise of child poverty and the fire-sale of our public assets will bury our movement’s message and hand Boris Johnson the narrative he craves, as the man who defied Parliament and fought to implement the 2016 referendum decision in the face of Establishment sabotage.

Polls suggest that despite purging his parliamentary party and losing Commons vote after Commons vote, Johnson’s strategy is paying off with a growing lead over Labour.

Our movement should throw aside parliamentary games designed to trap the Labour leader and demand an immediate election to unseat an illegitimate government and replace it with a socialist one.

The stakes could not be higher for our movement

There is no doubt that some people would just wish all the business of opposing Brexit would just go away and we could get back to unity around left folk politics.


But note this:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2019 at 5:34 pm

CWI Split: New Root and Branch Criticisms of the Socialist Party Published.

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Image result for cwi split

The present crisis within the CWI comes as no surprise to us. The only surprise is that it did not come sooner. With sufficient material resources, a rotten regime can last quite some time, as we saw with the Healyites. But in the end, it fell to pieces. This will be the fate of the CWI” (In Defence of Marxism).

The fallout from the CWI split continues.

Socialist Appeal, the ‘Grantite’ wing of the old Militant, has got round to producing their commentary.

This has just been published:

The recent convulsive faction fight and split in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), driven by Peter Taaffe, the General Secretary of SPEW, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, is now plastered all over social media for the world to see. Despite the stream of allegations coming from the Taaffe faction, and the rebuttals from the other side, the dispute in reality centres around prestige politics, a highly pernicious tendency that is invariably fatal in a revolutionary organisation.

It occurs when somebody places his or her personal prestige above all other considerations.

As the title of their piece indicates they intend to give their point of view, as loudly as possible, about their own break with what is now the Socialist Party.

The CWI split of 1991-1992: setting the record straight

The article continues in the same vein,

Prestige politics is closely connected with personal ambition, self-promotion and delusions of grandeur. These things have characterised Peter Taaffe from the very beginning. At first they generally passed unnoticed. Most members of the Militants were unaware of them. But to those, like myself, that worked closely with Taaffe on a daily basis for some years, they soon became quite evident.

Unlike Ted Grant, who was a Marxist theoretician of considerable stature, Peter was a very superficial thinker with no ideas of his own. Insofar as he expressed any, they were all filched from Ted. But Taaffe felt no gratitude to Ted, of whom he was intensely envious. On the contrary, he spent most of his time systematically undermining Ted behind his back, whispering in corners to his group of adepts that Ted was “impossible” to work with.

What Taaffe wanted was an organisation of yes-men and women – unconditional supporters who would never contradict him. Lenin once warned Bukharin: “If you want obedience, you will get obedient fools.” That reads like the epitaph on the grave of the CWI. Over a period, the yes-men and women in the Militant – raw, young careerists, politically ignorant, but greedy for personal advancement, crystallised into a clique, which, behind the backs of the elected bodies, was deciding everything.

That was the real basis of the 1991-1992 split. The rest is pure fable. After nearly 30 years, it is about time we put the record straight.

The following, by contrast,  are long, serious, documents and should be read through.

Just to signal their importance here are some passages.

A matter of prestige

A case study in bureaucratic centralism, prestige politics and rule or ruin sectarianism.

The struggle within the Committee for a Workers International.


The recent split in the forty year old Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) followed the declaration of a Faction by Peter Taaffe and his supporters on the International Secretariat (IS) after they lost a vote at the International Executive Committee (IEC), which is the organisation’s leading body, other than the World Congress itself. The Faction claimed major “political differences” with their opponents on the IEC who represented a considerable majority of national sections and members of the CWI. The Majority were accused of abandoning work in the trade unions and, in a calculated provocation, of capitulating to Identity Politics and “petit-bourgeois Mandelism” i.e., to a reliance on social forces other than the working class. The United States of America and the Irish sections were specifically targeted as culprits.

In affecting to “call things by their proper name”, the Faction described the Majority as a “Non-Faction Faction”. This opportunist and unintentionally comical characterisation did not honestly reflect the nature of the CWI Majority either politically or organisationally. There was no fully formed and homogeneous “Non Faction Faction” but a non-factional opposition with a number of different trends representing some quite diverse trains of thinking. A healthy regime, based on the principles of democratic centralism, would have viewed the emergence of “political differences” as a prelude to a patient extended debate in an attempt to identify and resolve them, not a precipitous rush to a split in order to prevent what the Faction themselves described as “regime change”. Whatever “political differences” that may or may not exist they could never justify the crude organisational methods employed by the Faction to split the International before every last avenue had been explored in an effort to resolve the areas of contention. In splitting the CWI they were responsible for an act of political nihilism in which nothing mattered except their own status and political self-interest.

McInally continues,

The Socialist Party of England and Wales (SP),of which Taaffe has been general secretary since the mid-1960’s, held a conference in late July of this year that was quickly followed by an “international conference” consisting almost exclusively of English and Welsh members, at which a newly “reconstituted CWI” was announced. Those in England and Wales, who support the CWI Majority, were told at the SP conference they had “placed themselves outside the party” i.e., subjected to administrative expulsions without the right of appeal. At the “international” conference, a World Congress of the “re-constituted CWI” was announced which meant the inevitable expulsion of the rest of the Majority internationally. The SP leadership took administrative action against leading supporters of the Majority in England and Wales, including removing them from positions and withholding their wages. In pursuing such tactics the Faction demonstrated its over-arching imperative was the maintenance of power and to secure for themselves the resources of the International including its considerable finances and the CWI “brand” itself. These actions constituted a “coup” by the IS and SP leadership group, the same people in reality, against the overwhelming majority of the CWI.

In making the maintenance of status, power and position their key imperatives the Faction employed a “rule or ruin” methodology, which constituted the worst type of sectarianism and which in this instance meant they calculated splitting the International was a price worth paying to retain their leadership position and, not a secondary consideration, the money. In the process of splitting the CWI they have also split the SP in England and Wales tooin which they have lost some of their best activists, including amongst its more youthful elements.



These events mark a critical juncture in the affairs of the SP which under its current leadership is marked for a process of inevitable descent into irrelevance and isolation. If the leaders of the new International that is emerging from the CWI Majority are to place themselves on a principled, non-sectarian basis, they must do more than denounce the false methods that led to this splitThey must examine and re-examine the whole history of the CWI over the past thirty or more years in particular, including the crisis of 1991-1992, to trace just how this bureaucratic degeneration developed. Only on that basis will they make the contribution they are capable of in the coming period.

This is also interesting from a US perspective – Oakland Socialist.

Another crisis in socialist movement: The split in the CWI

Particularly this:

Taaffe compounded these mistaken perspectives with a blunder of massive proportions: He and the Socialist Party supported Britain leaving the European Union – known as “Brexit”. Oakland socialist has had many articles explaining this issue, and the Socialist Party is not alone in this blunder. Much of the socialist left in the United States supported Brexit, just as many of them either overtly or covertly support the most bloody dictator of this century, Bashar Assad. Taaffe & Co. argue that the vote for Brexit was a working class rebellion against the European Union-imposed austerity. To the degree that workers supported Brexit (and that degree is questionable), it was a “revolt” in the same way as how some workers voted for Trump out of anger at what happened during the Obama years. All reactionary movements of any size have a working class element within them. That doesn’t change their nature. Brexit may have had some working class support, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was based on the idea that British workers and British capitalists have more in common than do British workers and their fellow workers throughout the European Union. It doesn’t change the fact that it was an anti-immigrant vote. (Not all workers who voted for Brexit are xenophobes, but that doesn’t change matters either.)

In any case, the ultimate responsibility for austerity lies with global capitalism, not with the European Union, which is merely recognizing this accomplished fact. It is more obvious now than ever as Britain edges closer to a trade deal with the United States if and when it leaves the EU. Such a deal will mean austerity and destruction of the British health care system on a scale many times worse than anything the EU imposed. Not only that, but as the departure from the EU looms, British politics is turning to the right. The looming Brexit has brought the British version of Donald Trump to power in the person of Boris Johnson. It has also strengthened the divisions within the Labour Party and weakened Jeremy Corbyn.

Another recent articles

The Split in the CWI: Lessons for Trotskyists

The Committee for a Workers International (CWI) has split in two. Is one side adapting to identity politics and abandoning the working class? Is the other losing touch with new mass movements against oppression?

Update: Comment.

While many of the criticisms of the CWI/Socialist Party seem organisational and party focused (comrades remark)  it is interesting that the US Oakland Socialist has begun to listen to the internationalist left on the issue of Brexit, which, for obvious reasons, plays a big part in British politics.

It is worth noting that the SP promoted this chap’s organisation, (which received funding from the far-right Arron Banks), Trade Unionists Against the EU,  during the Brexit referendum.


Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm