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The Latest Musings of Tariq Ali.

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Ali’s Latest Wistful Musings….

Dead Centre; The Year in Shock with Tariq Ali. 

Art Forum begins,

THE STUNNING RISE OF NATIONALISM, populism, and fundamentalism has roiled the world. It is tempting to imagine that we are witnessing just another rotation of political modernity’s cycle of progress and backlash. But we can situate the undoing of the demos in democracy’s longue durée while rejecting the false comfort of the idea that what’s happening is not new, that we’ve seen it all before. How did we get here? How did we create the conditions for Trump, for Brexit, for Mosul, for a daily sequence of devastating events, whether shootings or strikes? Is shock, that quintessentially modernist avant-garde strategy of instigating mass perceptual—and therefore political—change, somehow more prevalent than ever, albeit in radically transformed ways? Does shock, in fact, go hand in hand with apathy and desensitization?

Indeed, masses of perpetual  longue durées is a must for the quintessentially modernist avant-garde demos.

In this roiled (I have no idea of what this meansm but it suggests rolling all over the place) piece the Sage of Islington replies with his musings on this rotational cycle.

 Choice extracts:

Speaking of Brexit and Trump the veteran pundit, awake from a much needed twenty year doze, admits,

…what strikes me as unexpected is the speed with which this right-wing recrudescence has taken place. Suddenly, in every major European country, you have right-wing groups developing along anti-immigration lines, saying, “We’ve got too many foreigners in our country,” trying to unite voters around populist xenophobia.

On the wars and deaths that have led people fleeing from the conflicts in Iraq and Syriya he is clear where the blame lies.

Not with Assad at any rate….

we confront the fact that the US and its EU allies uprooted these populations in the first place. When you bomb Arab cities and Arab countries, reduce them to penury, destroy their social infrastructures, and effectively create a vacuum in which religious fundamentalists come to the fore, it is not surprising that millions of people want to run away.

Honesty compels him to admit,

We waged a left-wing campaign called Lexit, Left Exit from Europe, which was very small and had limited impact, but our position certainly did chime with the views of a number of people we talked to on the streets, etc., who said that the country was wrecked and that staying in the EU would prevent us from doing anything to fix it.

Brexit was far from the only recent instance in which far Left and Right have found unlikely common ground.

Apparently the real problem is what Ali (and nobody else) calls the “extreme centre”.

I wish I could say that I think the extreme center has been put on notice by the past year’s turmoil and by Trump’s election, that new prospects for the Left and for direct democracy have opened up in the wake of Corbyn’s and Sanders’s campaigns. Unfortunately, I can’t. In the 1960s and ’70s, there was a great deal of optimism. There were few victories, but the defeats weren’t of such a nature that we thought they were going to be permanent or semipermanent. We live in bad times, I feel—the worst through which I’ve ever lived. There was a ray of hope during the height of the Bolívarian experiment in South America, where Chávez’s incredibly moving idea to unite the continent against the empires was very heartening. His death and the dramatic drop in the price of oil have of course brought Venezuela to a dire state. While Ecuador and Bolivia are doing somewhat better, people feel that we are going to be defeated there. And then, with the economic changes that the United States wants in Cuba, one is wondering how long it will be before Cuba becomes a US brothel again. I hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, I won’t be surprised…

Nothing would surprise Ali…

But thankfully Good News and Merry Cheer is on the way,

Given the state of the world, I’ve been revived somewhat by working on a new book for the centenary of the Russian Revolution next year, The Dilemmas of Lenin. Lenin was a visionary inspired by utopian dreams, a man of practical action and ruthless realism. Rereading him and related works has been a real treat, so much so that my dedication is actually quite optimistic. “For those who will come after: The road to the future can only be unlocked by the past.”

Alan Partridge  could not have expressed these thoughts with such a deft touch.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Let Battle Commence!

The path to what’s coming starts from the beginning what went before.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Left Solidarity with the Syrian People.

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Father Christmas, when you visit from the heavens, with your millions of toys, don’t forget my little stockings, filled with blood. (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)

Not everybody follows the Morning Star:

Solidarité avec la lutte du peuple syrien.

Face à la guerre sans fin du régime Assad et de ses alliés contre le peuple syrien, face à la volonté croissante des puissants de liquider les aspirations démocratiques de la révolution syrienne, il faut réaffirmer notre soutien à la lutte du peuple syrien pour la démocratie, la justice sociale et l’égalité, contre toutes les formes de confessionnalisme et de racisme. Pour cela, il faut en premier lieu arrêter la guerre, qui ne cesse de créer des souffrances terribles, empêche le retour des réfugiéEs et déplacéEs internes, et ne profite qu’aux forces contre-­révolutionnaires issues des deux bords.

Facing the endless war of the Assad regime and its allies against the Syrian people, faced with the growing will of the world’s powers to liquidate the democratic impulses of the Syrian Revolution, we have to reaffirm our support for the Syrian people for democracy, social justice and equality, against all forms of confessionalism and racism. For that to be achieved a first step is ending the war, to bring to a halt the terrible suffering, the barrier to the return of refugees and those internally displaced, and which only fuels counter-revolutionary forces from both sides.

Socialist Worker (USA)

The counterrevolution crushes Aleppo

The Syrian regime and its Russian ally are in the last barbaric stages of an onslaught against Aleppo. Ashley Smith analyzes the consequences of the rebel stronghold’s fall.

Internationally, the left must reckon with its failure to unanimously support the Syrian Revolution, and it needs to re-learn how to combine opposition to all forms of imperialism with solidarity with revolution from below.

 The Stop the War Coalition has declined to follow calls for solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, or, express specific opposition to the taking of Aleppo.

This is their response:

Aleppo Debate: MPs In Denial Once Again  WRITTEN BY LINDSEY GERMAN ON 14 DECEMBER 2016.

“Lindsey German: ‘Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones'”

We were right to oppose intervention then, and we are now. The people of Aleppo are suffering from a war which can have no winners. It has destroyed much of the country.

We should be calling for an end to the war, with a ceasefire and attempt at a political solution, an end to all outside intervention on whatever side, and for humanitarian aid to those who need it. We should also allow Syrian refugees into Britain, something these hypocritical MPs have no intention of doing.

It hardly needs adding that German talks of a “war” without naming who is waging it in Aleppo. 

************

This is a really good round up:

LEFTIST GROUPS ON THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR.

Also see:  Why I will no longer write for the Morning Star Rabbil Sikdar.

This is the humanitarian war crime of our time, a genocide that we watched live on television Facebook for years — and we did nothing. We have witnessed ethnic cleansing, repeated breaking of ceasefires and remorseless ruthlessness towards civilian population. The Syrian resistance against a fascist dictator desperately needed solidarity from the international community, and especially the left.

Some gave it; I’ve seen some fantastic leftist activists bravely holding everyone to account; Oz Katerji, Idrees Ahmad and James Bloodworth being some of them. The late Jo Cox was a strong supporter of the inspirational White Helmets.

But how did the Morning Star respond? They called the near fall of Aleppo a ‘liberation’. What was genocide was seen as liberation by this socialist newspaper. Rather than backing down, they doubled down instead. For the past year the Star have led a horribly pro-Assad line, painting the rebels as Jihadists, pouring suspicion over established facts regarding Assad’s war crimes. They continuously echoed propaganda emanating from Russia, unequivocally supporting the Moscow line. Even as Russia and Assad rained destruction, bombing civilians, destroying hospitals and every emergency shelter — the Star continuously chose to support them.

..

I loved writing for the Morning Star because there were some good things to it. It did give a voice to the disadvantaged and voiceless often. But not the Syrian ones. My three editors were two women and a black man, the first black sports editor in the UK and one of the main reasons I continued writing at the paper by the end (I had more or less switched to sports content). As a liberal left-wing working class British Muslim, the Star gave me a platform to describe the world as I saw it through my own eyes. To talk about the racism, inequality and other vital issues. But they have betrayed the children of Aleppo. The blood and tears of the people of Aleppo did not matter to them. I’m not going to be writing for the paper while they spout disgusting Kremlin propaganda.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Save Momentum from Saboteurs – Owen Jones. Statement by Momentum (External Faction, Majority ‘A’ Tendency).

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Image result for Judean popular front

People’s Front (British Left Training Manuel). 

Momentum is a beacon of hope. It must be saved from the saboteurs. 

Before I begin this I note the following:

  • When Momentum was set up there were discussions by long-standing left-wing activists, members of the Labour Party and/or Trade Unions, engaged in anti-austerity campaigning and a variety of social movements. The potential for small organised left groups to join Momentum, bathing in the reflected glory of Jeremy Corbyn,  and use it for their own ends it was noted. One sectarian group, the Socialist Party even went so far as to try to set up its own front, called Trade Union Momentum, in order to recruit for their organisation (Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum. The Socialist. 9th of January 2016).
  • The principal problem appeared to be the presence of groups trying to recruit for their ‘party building’. That is, to split off (as they call it) the ‘centrists’ and ‘populist’ left from the dyed-in-the-wool ‘reformists’  and get them to join their own ranks, either overtly or in classic ‘entryist’ style, through various ‘fronts’ (one might envisage something like the ‘socialist platform’ in Momentum.
  • Leading figures in Momentum, notably Jon Lansman, were informed – repeatedly informed of these concerns. This is because the core of the original Momentum leadership are people we know and hardly unaware of this kind of thing. They were said to agree with us.
  • Having expressed these views, and stated my own belief, that the Labour party should be encouraged to develop as a modern inclusive  democratic socialist party, and not badgered from a half-in half-out group, I was encouraged by Momentum’s initial development. Notably its support for the Other Europe is Possible campaign, supporting a Remain Vote in the Referendum.
  • I and many others from the European democratic left side have not been encouraged by the launch of an “our Brexit” campaign linked with Momentum without the members being consulted.
  • I finally note that it the divisions in Momentum cannot be described as simply between “young idealistic” social movement types and older ‘Trotskyists’. The Trotskyists are battling ‘older’ people, and not all ‘Trotskyists’ are ‘old’, far from it.  The way the decision on ‘Our Brexit’ ( just cited) was reached raises concerns wider than any of these splits.

It is, these points in mind,  hardly out of the blue that the present crisis has happened.

Comrade Owen begins,

These are the things I want to write about, not the internal woes of the left. The left has had something of a reputation for turning infighting into an art form, immortalised by that People’s Front of Judea sketch in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But an emergent crisis in Britain’s left is so serious that, sadly, it cannot be ignored.

Momentum – the grassroots movement set up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory – is currently facing a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians. If they succeed, Momentum will be destroyed. The most prominent sectarian figures are embittered veterans of struggles from the 1970s and 80s, people who have only experienced defeat, and who won’t let an unexpected opportunity afforded by the seismic political developments of the last two years slip through their fingers. This is their last chance.

They jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits. They’re not interested in say, door-to-door campaigning, but rather in debating their obscure pet issues with long-winded interventions at meetings on a Thursday evening.

The only point that really strikes home is the lack of ‘door-to-door campaigning’.

But this is not a  fault unique to the ‘sectarians’.

One could argue that setting up a parallel organisation to normal Labour bodies is bound to divert energy away from this kind of grass-roots work.

Owen strays into perhaps excessive prose in the following,

Their opponents are younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented and pluralistic, lacking Machiavellian strategic ability – all of which the sectarians exploit. The sectarians smear their opponents as rightwingers, Stalinists, bureaucrats, as having ulterior and sinister motives (this article will be dismissed as the work of a rightwing establishment careerist in the service of a Guardian conspiracy to destroy the left). Everything goes wrong, they believe, not because of their own almost farcical strategic ineptitude, but because of the betrayal of others. Momentum offers hope to young people who have long been demoralised by politics. Those wrecking Momentum – if they succeed – could destroy that hope, and that is unforgivable.

It is wrong to call these forces “Trotskyist sectarians” as if there is a common unity amongst them.

This is not classic ‘entryism’: there are very diverse groups. Some of them work well with other people on particular objectives – such as promoting a social Europe, or, say defending secular democratic demands in Iran.  It is true, in a very general sense, that many of them refer to the Russian Revolution and Lenin (something I personally cannot empathise with). Others – I am thinking of former members of Left Unity –  have more in common with 1970s New Left radical groups than with the kind of moribund organisations at present hanging on as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Some of the opponents of the Momentum leadership have their own personal agenda, which appears to derive more from identity politics than the left, sectarian or not.

These are small groups, groupuscles if you will, or just alliances of affinity. There is no common unity – just cite the words Israel and Zionism, and, hey, see! –  except on organisational issues within Momentum.

It is therefore not just false but highly speculative  to claim that,

the sectarians are highly disciplined, highly organised, and highly experienced. The interests of their own sects are far more important than any movement. Only their sect, they believe, has the correct politics: everybody else’s are fatally flawed. They have no faith in the Labour party. Momentum, for them, is an embryonic political party. The prize is Momentum’s contact data, containing the details of tens of thousands of people. At an opportune time, they will walk away from Labour and found a new party, which will get 300 votes in a byelection. They will triumphantly hail these as 300 votes for socialism.

The ‘new party’ line, which is the decrepit Socialist Party’s objective, is too marginal even to bother with.

But…

Having said this I  must say that the following struck home:

Take the barrister Nick Wrack, one of the sectarian leaders. Last year he stood for the catchily named Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in Camberwell and Peckham, and secured 0.6% of the vote. There’s no life for the left in the Labour party, he told me in 2014.“Time for [a] new party that stands for socialism,” he lectured me before the general election. I was right to call for more working-class representation, he tells me, “but it won’t come from Labour,” he tells me, after Labour’s defeat.

Owen forgets: membership of the SWP, Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the Independent Socialist Network,  and a host of other groups……

And, “Nick worked as a journalist for the socialist newspaper Militant. He became its editor in 1994.”

But surely these are sectarian points?

And is this a fair summary of the other side?

The younger Momentum protagonists aligned to Lansman – who himself has gone on a political journey away from top-down structures – are known as “movementists”: those who dislike hierarchies and who are attracted by social movements.

There are problems, which Owen chose to ignore in his introduction to this book, about ‘movementist’ democracy. In  Podemos: In the Name of the People’ by Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón (foreword by Owen Jones) Jones celebrated this party’s success. But its own “democracy on-line” has worked to consolidate the party leadership. Critics, whom we have covered at length on this Blog, have asserted that Podemos is now organised on a “Pyramidal” “vertical” basis. It is said to have led to the withering away of the “circles” at the base of Podemos. It has, to put it simply, not been able to create structures  – to many critics –  that are markedly better than the old system. Podemos is now undergoing its own internal ‘factional battles, though one has to recognise that it’s on a healthy basis, that is, with real policy alternatives at stake.

I am not a member of Momentum, to the reasons I outlined at the start. Some elderly local people may be.

But it would seem that some kind of synthesis between these systems could be devised.

This would surely be preferable to this call for Armageddon:

 ….Jeremy Corbyn. An intervention by him would stop Momentum being taken over, allowing its rebirth as an open, campaign-focused movement. Without that, the sectarians will win. They must be stopped in their tracks. So much hope, so much optimism. We can’t let it end in rancour and betrayal.

Reports on Saturday 3d December  Momentum Meeting Round-UpClarion.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Momentum: An analysis of the latest Rows.

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Image result for MOmentum

New Kind of Politics? 

The Independent reports,

Trotskyists are trying to take over Momentum

Labour’s grassroots movement risks being taken over by a ‘disruptive, over-bearing and ultra’left’ faction, according to a new member of its national committee

Trotskyists are a ‘vocal, disruptive and over-bearing’ presence within Momentum, whose ‘sectarian attitude is destructive to our movement,’ according to a new member of its central committee.

Laura Murray, who also works as Special Advisor to Labour Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce, attended her first Momentum Committee, since being elected to the post of Women’s Representative, and has written a lengthy and scathing blogpost of the divisions within the movement that evolved from the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015.

Ms Murray said Momentum “would be engaging in collective self-denial if we were to downplay [Trotskyism’s] prevalence in Momentum. Dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyists are not the majority in Momentum. But they are a vocal, disruptive and over-bearing minority who have won themselves key position in the regional committees, National Committee and even the Steering Committee.”

Labour List led the way this morning with its account of the Momentum splits:

Fresh splits have emerged in Momentum in the aftermath of a crunch meeting to decide on reforms to internal democracy.

Laura Murray, women’s representative, has claimed that the tactics of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are contributing to a form of “hard-left warfare” in the Corbynite group.

She published a highly critical blog, following Saturday’s meeting of Momentum’s national committee, in which she alleged there was a “plot” to oust Jon Lansman, chairman and veteran Bennite organiser.

Murray said the two suggested groups in Momentum – those from a Labour Party background and those from movements such as Occupy and UK Uncut – had been joined by a Trotskyite faction.

“Some people take offence at this term being used — understandably, as it is Tom Watson and the Labour right’s insult of choice for us. But we would be engaging in collective self-denial if we were to downplay it’s prevalence in Momentum,” she wrote on Medium.

“Dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyists are not the majority in Momentum. But they are a vocal, disruptive and over-bearing minority who have won themselves key position in the regional committees, National Committee and even the Steering Committee. To be clear, I am not anti-Trotskyist per se, and I recognise the enormous contributions that some Trotskyist thinkers and groups have made to political discourse, but the sectarian attitude taken by Trotskyist groups within Momentum is destructive to our movement.”

Nobody from Momentum could be reached to comment immediately.

They also noted,

Controversial activists Jackie Walker has been elected to a key organising role at Momentum.

Walker, who was removed as vice-chair earlier this autumn after offending many with comments about anti-Semitism, has won a place on the conference arrangements committee at Momentum’s national committee meeting.

The meeting, on Saturday, came after repeated cancellations of the meeting by the steering committee, which meant that the national committee had not met in seven months.

Walker, who was suspended from the Labour party over comments made about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, was removed from her position as vice-chair of Momentum in the wake of her suspension from Labour.

Walker said she had not found a definition of anti-Semitism she could “work with”, and accused Holocaust Nemorial Day of not being sufficiently inclusive in an outburst at a Jewish Labour Movement event at Labour conference, which was filmed and subsequently leaked.

Numerous senior Momentum figures were said to be deeply unhappy with her remarks, and the head of the TSSA union Manuel Cortes described her views as “abhorrent”. Walker, who is Jewish, later apologised.

Laura Catriona Murray‘s controversial Blog began,

Waking up the morning after the Momentum National Committee, I had that feeling you have after a horrible break-up from someone you love. When you momentarily forget what happened, then you remember and the feeling of loss comes crushing down on you like a ton of bricks all over again.

She cites as a basis for her analysis:  Lewis Bassett of Lambeth Momentum has eloquently described the inevitable conflict between the two political strands which merged with Momentum’s inception — Labourism, those people steeped in the traditions and ideology of the British Labour movement, and Movementism, those activists which had previously spurned party-politics in favour of innovative and exciting campaigning organisations like Occupy, UK Uncut and Climate Camp.

Bassett  summarises his argument:

I cover three developments of Corbyn’s left-wing advance guard, the extra-parliamentary group that evolved out of Corbyn’s initial leadership campaign: first the transition from “social movement” activism to parliamentarianism; second, how the extra-parliamentary politics of post-movementist activists are being tapered by the Labour Party; and third, the way movementist tropes regarding democracy are being operationalised in order to sideline the decision-making structures in Momentum which benefit the traditional left. I end with a critique of the traditional left’s position in Momentum at present.

My experience suggests that “social movement” activists from the recent period of struggle (the alter-Globalisation era) have had a tendency to prefigure the world they want to see, such that at times they have announced the premature death of an existing one. These proclamations have often included the death of the nation state as well as the traditional left which, it turns out, have only been dormant.

In the first part of his analysis Bassett is not uncritical of “movementism”. He describes them in abstract terms – the shift to “state-centred” strategies and then offers an outline of how the Greek left, Syriza has operated in the face of the restless hostility of the EU Troika, which is a largely external and hard-fought over history. Discussing Podemos, he alludes to the centralisation of the party, from its initial  circle based democracy, to the present day centralised -E-democracy. Bassett does not discuss the possibility that the adoption of some of the recipes from Laclau and Mouffe’s analysis of ‘populism’. That is,  how to  articulate political protest through relations of “equivalence” into a machine that pits the People against the ‘Casta’ (the ‘elites’ as French and English language populists call it), and the importance Laclau gave to strong leadership figures to do this.

Bassett however does not discuss the organising principles that have come to the fore in many (post the new millennium) social movements, from Occupy onwards. Consensus-decision making, with its roots in 1970s US feminism and the Quakers, is considered by many activists to have been an obstacle to wider participation – how it could be applied to Momentum is a thought worth considering!  He also does not mention that the latest widely publicised social movement,  Nuit Debout in France  collapsed this summer without making any serious impact at all beyond a limited circle of activists. One of the reasons lay in these organising forms (although the Place de la République meetings allowed a modified form of majority voting).

Bassett continues in terms of a contrast between the two trends he cited above.

Or rather he does not discuss what exactly the ‘traditional’ left is.

One could argue that ‘social movement’ trend has the same 1960s and 1970s origins as the present Labour and an important section of the extra-Labour far-left. One only needs to look at post-May 68 in France to see both trends (themselves a galaxy of different approaches) converging, party, anti-party, movementist, a revival or mainstream political parties. The British left saw a similar, if much less profound, emergence of differing, but allied, currents.

Both were marked by political and social objectives wider than capturing the existing state structure (ideas about participation), recognition of the importance of issues of gender, sexuality, cultural and ethnic (‘race’)  oppression, and an expressed wish for more democratic political forms.

No doubt what might be called ‘traditional’ is an emphasis on the central importance of class inequality and class struggle, (the more radical ideas of self-management and workers’ control were also developed) but each strand is recognisable as part of what was once called the ‘New Left‘.

These priorities, this cultural shift,  extended to some nominally Leninist – or ‘Trotskyist’ groups – though clearly not to others who remain thoroughly – and mendaciously – anti-democratic.

An interchange between these different strands happened during the Rise of the Labour Left, from the late ‘seventies till the ‘eighties. The late ’80s Chesterfield Socialist Conferences, supported by Tony Benn,  were perhaps one of the best known examples of this approach, arguing for socialist and social movement initiatives “inside” and “outside” the State.

Therefore it is not without precedent or surprising that this happened,

…social movement’ actors and organizations became inflected by an emphasis on class as well as a renewed awareness of the material and ideological power of the nation state, which, in the theories that had been popular among the movementists, was thought about only in terms of its erosion (eg Hardt and Negri, 2001). This shift in political consciousness was the prerequisite for ‘social movement’ activists adopting state-centered strategies.

Having worked with Negri I am sure he would be flattered at this degree of influence, though I doubt if anybody moved from the “multitude” to the Labour Party through any deep reading of, say, Commonwealth (2009) to seeing the Labour Party as a vehicle for establishing the ‘common’.

The reason for the support for these activists is a lot simpler: Corbyn’s election to the head of the Labour Party….

The two trajectories discussed here – the movementist and the traditional left – converged on Momentum. Corbyn’s election demonstrated an organic demand for a movement that could outpace the Party in terms of organizing. Tens of independent meetings were held to discuss the victory and ask where next, while in many official Party Ward and Constituency meetings the election was brushed over with an embarrassed shudder by the caste of incumbents.

There are good reasons for this: if these activists intend to pursue their own strategy – protest – how are they going to govern?

A centre to Momentum began to crystalize around the right to possess and access the data gathered during the leadership campaign. The names and contact details of tens of thousands of supporters were made the possession of a board of trusties composed of several Corbyn-friendly MPs and the seasoned Labour Party activist Jon Lansman. With a name provided by popular left-wing commentator Owen Jones, Momentum was officially founded and all other independent pro-Corbyn initiatives and the mass of supporters accepted the branding.

Bassett outlines the internal situation:

At the newly-formed centre, Lansman and behind him a network of activists with deep roots to long embittered struggles within the Labour Party, represented one pole of attraction; on the other were the three members of staff and group of unpaid volunteers drawn from the leadership campaign, among them James Schneider whose own checkered political history diverges dramatically from that of the typically “tribalist” Labour Party activist. Schneider’s thoughts on the development of Momentum reveal his intellectual “fit” with the movementist trend, evidenced by a weariness of trade union practices (motions and delegates, for example), a preference for UK:Uncut style tactics and an expressed desire to make the Labour Party “more like a social movement” (Schneider, 2016). Unprepared and under siege (both within and outside of the Party) Momentum’s centre and Corbyn’s offices contributed next to nothing that would definitively shape the early development of the organisation. Likewise Lansman’s initial efforts to limit and control the spread of local groups was counterbalanced by the movementists in Momentum’s office who ensured a laissez-faire approach. The result was that the aims and structure of Momentum took shape without a shred of authoritative guidance, a power vacuum into which the traditional left gained ascendance.

He concluded,

Can the ‘social movement’ and the traditional left trajectories work together productively? It is possible that the traditional left has the ideological maturity to counter a post-movementist turn to short-termist Fabianism. On the other hand the movementists offer a useful skepticism regarding bureaucracy and a greater sense of post-colonial and contemporary feminist perspectives. Between the two tendencies is Momentum’s office, the core of which will be probably unwilling to hand over the keys to any national structure that fails to make Labour the movement’s primary vehicle.

Whether this is the real division in Momentum remains open to discussion.

Murray makes the reasonable critical  point of how Saturday’s Momentum meeting seemed to be developing which locates the most immediate problem.

This system of using inwardly-focussed and off-putting meetings to elect delegates to hierarchical structures and to discuss motions which are very rarely implemented has failed the left for at least the last century.

It is fairly obvious that the present clashes are leading away from either possibility: towards faction fights, people advancing their personal bug-bears (see ‘anti-Zionism’ above).

Murray’s own comments are hardly above the fray,

the AWL — a group with such extreme Trotskyist politics that they are almost a caricature of themselves — and their fellow travellers. Subtle support for imperialist wars, uncritical support for Israel and fanatical support for the European Union are amongst their policies.

It is perhaps not a good idea to make up the political views of your opponents when you complain about ‘factionalism’, as this farrago indicates…

Though many will sympathise with this more considered judgement:

those who feel very supportive of Jackie Walker, many of whom know her through the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) or anti-racism campaigning, and feel outraged that she was removed as Momentum’s Vice-Chair. I have sympathy for this group because I’ve campaigned for Palestine my entire adult life and know that censorship of free speech on Israel is a very real and dangerous thing. However, I — like many others — believe that Jackie Walker’s comments on Holocaust Memorial Day and security in Jewish schools were insensitive, unnecessary and entirely inappropriate to make at Labour Party conference, as Vice-Chair of Momentum. The rage felt by many when she was removed as Vice-Chair — which was a badly-handled and unpleasant affair — has rendered them unable to grasp the nuance of the situation and unable to appreciate that the action taken by Momentum’s Steering Committee was a reasonable compromise in the face of an escalating situation which Jackie Walker herself could have easily avoided.

And this,

Seven months in which those who rallied around Jackie Walker had their initial hurt and anger stoked by baseless allegations of racism and of a ‘Zionist conspiracy’ against absolutely everybody who didn’t agree with them. Seven months in which these various groups did their upmost to whip everyone else up into a frenzied atmosphere of hatred of Jon Lansman. Online and in local groups, Jon Lansman is demonised, vilified and dehumanised by people who have comparatively not committed an iota of time or energy to the cause of the left in their lives.

I can only say that the more I hear against Landsman the more I concur with Murray’s statement.

In fact the more I hear the more I like Landsman.

But I personally want the Labour Party to be a successful democratic socialist party, with a modern European radical left programme.

I do not want it to be just a “social movement”. I do not want it to be a play-ground for left factions.

I want it to change this country, as part of an internationalist left movement that transforms the world, starting with Europe.

On the evidence Momentum is not, at present, part of that future.

 As counter-evidence one can read Michael Chessum’s eminently sane report:  Thoughts on finding a positive way forward after the Momentum NC.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Momentum: Latest Internal Disputes.

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….rigorous and effective political discussion is not some self-indulgent distraction from the ‘real work’ – be that getting a Labour government or nudging up attendance figures at some demonstration. The great promise of Momentum is that it provides an opportunity to fight for political clarity among greater numbers of people….

Labour Party Marxists: Momentum: Fight for political clarity

Before beginning this post on Saturday’s Momentum Steering Committee meeting,  we note that there is no mention on the Momentum aligned  The World Transformed plan to hold events on the theme of “our Brexit” and “a Great Britain that takes power back from the economic elites Trump and Farage belong to.”

This has lost Momentum a lot of good will.

In the light of the Richmond Park by-election result, we await clarification of this idea, “Targeting marginal constituencies and areas with high Ukip support with a string of local events discussing Brexit to “Take Back Control”. How this will tie in with the decision to ” to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same.” when the events are intended to involve not just opponents but  “supporters of Brexit” (“bring together leave and remain voters“) remains to be seen.

But Momentum had other business to discuss than the details of most important issue in British politics today.

Left wins on democracy, but right keeps hold of Steering Committee – report of 3 December Momentum NC

Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate

Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.

The left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected seven months ago, before many events, debates and controversies.

..

The key votes:

•  The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before conference; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.

This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.

……

….many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact that the NC was stuffed with delegates elected on a dubious basis or not really elected, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.

Decisions taken

• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding programme.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions from Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.

And,

No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

This shows the, very low, turn out, for the on-line elections inside Momentum.

So, we know one thing clearly: there are some people who consider that there is a continuing battle between left and….right in Momentum.

There are also individuals, apparently on the Conference Arrangement’s Committee, publicly making the traditional virulently  sectarian remarks about opposing factions present at this meeting.

We look forward to seeing how they run this Conference. 

Whether it will be a force to win a Labour Party that fights for and wins an alternative to neoliberalism” remains to be seen.

But, as Red Flag, the group formerly known as Workers Power (League for the Fifth International) comment,

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Carnival of Reaction: Diane Abbott, “Sounding like Ukip is no way for Labour to win.”

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Diane Abbott: Labour Should Hold its Nerve Against Racists Who Say: “‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’”

What has happened to the “People’s Brexit“, or, as the leader of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey German, called, “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” ?

The Carnival of Reaction continues.

The latest news is that this individual had been elected to lead UKIP.

People in my family, where I live in Hackney, have been shouted at in the street and told: ‘What are you still doing here? We voted for Brexit.’ Brexit has become a euphemism for anti-immigrant feeling. “I’ve got friends on the South Coast, which is not ‘left-behind Britain’, and yet people are shouting at them on the bus: ‘Why are you still here?’”

Says comrade Diane Abbott in the I’ today.

..the shadow Home Secretary, argued that the party should “hold its nerve” and appealed to its huge membership to confront “toxic” arguments over immigration. “It’s as if the Brexit vote has given people permission to say they things didn’t feel able to say before,” she said in an interview with i.

She continues,

Ms Abbott’s appointment by Jeremy Corbyn, and her decision to take personal control of immigration policy, has dismayed some Labour MPs who fear the party’s failure to take a tougher stance on the issue will make it vulnerable to Ukip. But she has no truck with that argument, insisting: “I don’t think there’s any way forward for the Labour Party electorally from sounding Ukip-lite. “If you are attracted by Ukip arguments, you are going to vote Ukip. And in areas where they are not so upset about migration they are going to be baffled about what we are actually doing.”

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington added: “What some of my colleagues don’t seem to bear in mind is there are
people out there who are genuinely frightened by the turn this debate has taken.” Ms Abbott blamed anti-migration feeling in many Labour-loyal areas which voted for Brexit on disaffection in post-industrial Britain and a “cry of loss for a world which isn’t coming back”. She accused New Labour of taking those areas for granted on the mistaken assumption that there was nowhere else for its natural supporters to go. Ms Abbott argued Labour’s 500,000-plus membership should take the initiative in campaigning on the continuing economic boost from migration.

It was a tough task “in the era of Farage and Le Pen and Trump” but was the right thing for the party to do, she said. “If you were a Corbynista you would feel very let down if we said anything else. “We’ve now got the biggest social democratic party in western Europe, and we have to respond to it almost conversation by conversation, but at the same time being seen to address the real concerns people have about the NHS, job security and so on “I understand how high feelings run, but I just think we have to beware of a downward spiral in the debate.”

The Independent reports,

Some Labour backbenchers are furious with Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, accusing her of trying to stamp on any debate about immigration which could see Labour trying to “outdo Ukip”.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Crisis-Riven Momentum Shifts to National Populism: “This our Brexit”, “Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.”

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Momentum to Narrative Farage and Brexit Back Under Control. 

Momentum is undergoing a major crisis, amidst factional fighting and personal antagonisms.

This git so bad earlier this month that it appeared in the mainstream media  (How Momentum entered the crisis zone . Momentum was the engine of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Now a civil war is tearing it apart. New Statesman)

 Some of the exchanges are far worse than have been made public to a wider audience.

The latest has been an interminable dispute about its national structures.

It began with this, “MxV, an innovative digital democracy platform to enable Momentum members to shape the organisation’s purpose, ethics and structures.”

An on-line consultation resulted, we hear, in more suggestions for how the group should be run than a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of pin (see:  Democracy denied: Momentum’s online democracy platform.)

Or, the classic Left Unity conference debate on such issues.

Now Momentum is set to collapse into further in-fighting as the pro-Brexit – that is Lexit –  Populists take the initiative.

We observe that this ‘initiative’ has not been discussed with the Momentum membership at all. 

Corbyn’s Momentum group launches nationwide campaign to ‘Take Back Control’ of Brexit

‘Taking back control is not the preserve of the right.

Momentum has announced it is to host a series of nationwide events and debates to coincide with Government’s triggering of Article 50 in 2017.

Alongside The World Transformed the organisation – set up in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as Labour leader – will launch a series of political and cultural events in local communities across the country.

The events will run under the name ‘Take Back Control’ – the political slogan used by the Leave campaign during the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Emma Rees, one of Momentum’s national organisers, told The Independent: “After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”

Lotte Boumelha, a Take Back Control organiser, *added: “Theresa May claims ‘Brexit means Brexit’. But this empty phrase has been used to hide the fact that the government is in chaos. Many people, both leave and remain voters, have felt dis-empowered since the referendum and shut out of the debate.

“Take Back Control will be about reclaiming the narrative and opening up the negotiations. This is our Brexit. We should get to decide what it means and what it will look like. And while Theresa May has only a majority of 14 MPs – she will have to listen to us.”

In March, to coincide with the Government’s anticipated triggering of the exit process from the EU, The World Transformed will work with local Momentum groups, constituency Labour parties, and trade union branches to “bring together leave and remain voters, open up the Brexit negotiations and discuss how we can take back control from economic elites and establishment politicians.

How on earth these meetings are going to ‘take control’ of any negotiations, elites and politicians,  is as clear as mud. 

Anybody, anybody, who talks about “reclaiming the narrative” with Farage on the loose amid the Carnival or Reaction,  is a kenspeckle fool.

What are they going to do: story-tell it all to sleep?

The New Statesman comments,

While The World Transformed is “definitely” part of Momentum, according to Todd, its exact relationship remains under discussion, as does its relationship to the wider Labour party.

To repeat, nobody seems to know how the hare-brained initiative was decided on (certainly not by Momentum membership, or any accountable body, then by whom?), who controls it, and, as for its consequences…..

Anna Chen says,

Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum betrays the 70% of Labour voters who voted Remain