Posts Tagged ‘Left’
This is the full statement published by Jeremy Corbyn in the aftermath of the results of the two by-elections.
Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.
In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.
The Stoke victory is important, (Independent)
Labour has secured an emphatic victory in Stoke-on-Trent Central after fending off Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, raising doubts over the right-wing party’s ability to capitalise on Brexit.
Labour’s Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to Ukip’s 5,233, said the result showed “hatred and bigotry” were not welcome in Stoke, a former industrial city which has been a safe Labour seat since 1950.
Mr Nuttall managed to increase Ukip’s share of the vote by just two per cent despite the city’s strong support for leaving the EU.
The Conservative candidate, Jack Brereton, was narrowly pushed into third place with 5,154 votes, while the Liberal Democrats finished in fourth place with 2,083 votes. Turnout was just 38 per cent.
“Over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that,” Mr Snell said in his victory speech.
“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.
“Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed.
“Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear.
“We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.”
But…. the “political establishment” and the “political consensus” around Theresa May show no signs of weakening after the Copeland result.
John McDonnell has insisted the Labour Party leadership is not in denial as he blamed disunity in the party for its humiliating defeat in the Copeland by-election.
The shadow chancellor said Labour would “learn lessons” from the result, but said it had not been a verdict on the party leader. “This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn,” McDonnell said.
“We are in a difficult period over these last 20 months because of these leadership challenges and the divisions that have been sown within our party. The vast majority of our members want us now to unite and to campaign and hold the government to account, and that’s what we will do,” he told the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme, McDonnell was asked if he was in “denial” about the the position the party found itself in. “Not at all,” he said. “Quite the reverse.”
And he blamed Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for launching “attacks” on the party in the days leading up to the vote. “Please don’t do that,” he said.
Copeland has been held by the party since it was formed in 1983 but Tory Trudy Harrison snatched it by 2,147 votes in a historic victory. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade. Harrison polled 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour’s Gillian Troughton.
John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said Labour under Corbyn was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat”. He added: “We are in trouble as a party.”
Jamie Reed, the former Labour MP for Copeland whose decision to resign from parliament triggered the by-election also warned his former colleagues they were in trouble.
Labour backbencher David Winnick told the Press Association Corbyn should consider his position.
The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that,” he said.
“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”
Labour’s majority in the Copeland at the general election was just 2,564. But for an opposition to lose a seat to the party of power in a mid-term vote is extremely rare.
The last time it happened was the 1982 Merton, Mitcham and Morden by-election, although technically it was a Conservative gain from SDP as the sitting MP had defected from Labour to the SDP before the poll. Before that, the closest comparable case was Sunderland South in 1953.
Labour earlier held Stoke-on-Trent Central after seeing off a concerted challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.
But Corbyn admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. “Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty,” he said.
“But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland. In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
“To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”
Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the Tory victory in Copeland was not just a rejection of Corbyn but a pro-active “endorsement of the Conservative Party”.
Mandelson and Blair’s interventions have helped nobody but themselves, and the former Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, from somebody with the politics of liberal globalisation, has only done harm to those left-wing pro-Europeans who wish for ‘Another Europe is Possible”.
What effect this may have had on these by-elections is pure conjecture.
Whether one likes it or not this article in the New Statesman, a cold shower of scepticism, is a necessary warning to those wishing to explain away the Copeland defeat: 5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat. Other than Labour, of course. (Media Mole).
Whatever one thinks of Corbyn, for or against, and all points in-between, there remain the overriding problem of how to “reconnect with voters.”
The result is considered by one of Europe’s leading dailies, Le Monde, to be related to Corbyn’s “attitude ambiguë” towards Brexit. “Cette confusion” they note, supporting Theresa May in voting for Brexit plans, but claiming to not give her a “chèque en blanc” has eroded Labour supporters’ hopes (Royaume-Uni : défaite cuisante des travaillistes à une élection partielle.)
But would a call for Labour to be clearly opposed to Brexit and appeal to Remain voters work?
Given the divisions amongst those who may vote Labour but are not firm Labour supporters, this is unlikely to provide an answer.
But is this: a call for more internal uncertainty?
Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?
Stop Trump is a coalition of organisations and individuals that have come together to protest against Donald Trump’s planned state visit to the UK.
PLEDGE TO MARCH AGAINST TRUMP’S VISIT TO BRITAIN
Donald Trump’s presidency is turning out to be every bit as dangerous and divisive as we feared. The rhetoric of his campaign, and his early executive orders, have sparked a wave of fear and hatred. Those who are often already marginalised and discriminated against – particularly Muslims – have been particular targets for Trump.
Trump directly threatens steps towards tackling climate change, fighting discrimination, inequality, peace and disarmament. At the very moment when the world needs more solidarity, more cooperation, and a greater commitment to justice, he proposes to build walls and wants to turn us against each other.
We are dismayed and shocked by the attempt of the British government to normalise Trump’s agenda. People in Britain never voted for this. It is our duty as citizens to speak out. We oppose this state visit to the UK and commit ourselves to one of the biggest demonstrations in British history, to make very clear to our government, and to the world, this is not in our name.
We were launched on 2nd February 2017 in a letter to the Guardian. Our initial supporters include:
Dan Howell @DanIsNotOnFire
John Pandit, Asian Dub Foundation soundsystem
Bianca Jagger, Council of Europe goodwill ambassador
Talha Ahmad, Muslim Council of Britain
Shanza Ali, Muslim Climate Action
Rizwan Hussain, Jawaab
Kalpana Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group
Anas Altikriti, The Cordoba Foundation
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
Nirmala Rajasingam, human rights activist
Amrit Wilson, writer
Amna Abdullatif, The Women’s Platform
Rajiv Menon QC, NMP
Aysha Al-Fekaiki, Iraqi Transnational Collective (London)
Saqib Deshmuk, Writer/campaigner
Fizza Qureshi, Migrants Rights Network
Baljit Banga, Director, London Black Women’s Project
Halima Gosai Hussain, Inclusive Mosque Initiative
Fiaz Ahmed, JUST Yorkshire
Andy Gregg, ROTA (Race on the Agenda)
Aamer Anwar, Human Rights Lawyer
Shabana Mahmood MP
Ed Miliband MP
Tulip Siddiq MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Rushanara Ali MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Mhairi Black MP
David Lammy MP
Leanne Wood, Leader, Plaid Cymru
Hywel Williams MP
Clive Lewis MP
Tim Farron MP
Melanie Onn MP
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary
Malia Bouattia, NUS president
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary
Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary
Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary
Dave Ward, CWU general secretary
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary
Ronnie Draper, BFAWU general secretary
Christine Blower, President, European Trade Union Committee for Education
Paul Mackney, Former UCU general secretary
Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Kate Hudson, CND
Luke Cooper, Another Europe is Possible
Sujata Aurora, Chair, Grunwick 40 (personal capacity)
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
Mohammed Ateek, Syria Solidarity Campaign
Andrew Burgin, Left Unity
Marina Prentoulis, Syriza (UK)
Sirio Canós Donnay, Podemos (London)
Nicolo Milanese, European Alternatives
Prof Mary Kaldor
Neal Lawson, Compass
Adina Claire, War on Want
Hamza Hamouchene, Algeria Solidarity Campaign
Michael Collins, Right to Remain
Adam Klug, Momentum
Emma Rees, Momentum
Zoe Gardner, Refugee rights campaigner
Michael Chessum, Campaigner and journalist
Andrea Pisauro, Sinistra Ecologia Libertà
Bruce Kent, Pax Christi
Salman Shaheen, Journalist
Gracie Mae Bradley, Against Borders for Children
Hugh Lanning, Alliance of free movement
Neil Faulkner, Archaeologist
Jerome Phelps, Detention Action
Daniel Voskoboynik, This Changes Everything UK
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service
Shaista Aziz, Journalist/Everyday Bigotry Project
David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialist Group
Potent Whisper, Poet
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
James Moulding, Newspeak House
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Liv Wynter, Artist
Liz Fekete, Director, Institute of Race Relations
Gurnik Bains, Founder, Global Future
Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, SOAS
Denise Dobson, Holler4/Songworks Choir
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights
This campaign, with a solid list of respected human rights, left-wing, trade union activists, for example, Clive Lewis MP, David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialist Group, Gilbert Achcar, Michael Chessum, Andrew Burgin, Mark Serwotka,Gary Younge, Bianca Jagger, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary), Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper, Luke Cooper, Another Europe is Possible, the wonderful Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mohammed Ateek, Syria Solidarity Campaign, and… Owen Jones, deserves our support.
(Not to be confused with….er this: here…….)
The Guardian reports,
The government does not have “a blank cheque” to push through its vision of Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has said, despite the overwhelming Commons vote to pass the article 50 bill without a single amendment.
The Labour leader insisted there was little his party could have done about the bill, given its limited scope, but said he would continue to push for concessions and changes as the Brexit process continued.
“There was a referendum,” he told BBC1’s Breakfast programme. “There was a decision by the people of this country and we support the result of the referendum, and have to carry it out.
“It doesn’t mean we agree with the government on the economy for the future. It does mean we have to build good relations with everybody across Europe.
Then there is this,
Clive Lewis, the leftwing shadow business secretary, has resigned from the shadow cabinet to vote against article 50 at third reading. He was the fourth shadow cabinet minister to resign on this issue. His move will intensify speculation that he sees himself as a candidate in a future Labour leadership election, particularly because Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to order his MPs to back the bill has angered many of the party’s activists.
Brexit is a huge blow to progressive causes in the UK. Having been touted as a referendum on leaving the EU, the politics of UKIP and sections of the media turned it into a referendum on migration. The result was a resounding vote against migration and against further integration with Europe on a political, social and economic level.
Brexit has not just lead to “carnival of reaction” but is a defeat for the collectivist project of creating a social Europe, a transformed European Union.
Given that there was “little” that could have been “done about the Bill” many will sympathise with Clive Lewis: there is no reason to stand with the forces of the right and vote the Tories’ bill in.
Others will point to Donald Trump’s praise for Brexit, a “smart” move that could lead to the -welcome – “unravelling of the EU”..
Morning Star supporter Nick Wright asserts (Trump and Brexit) that,
Like Brexit, Trump’s victory represents the breakdown of the established order. Like Brexit it was a defeat for the main centres of capitalist power.
This is far from the truth.
Capitalist power is being configured, and the last thing these ‘victories’ indicate is a “defeat” for finance and business.
Trade Deals with the USA will be based on terms set down by Washington, opening up the UK to their products, their lower environmental standards, and public markets to their companies, already interested in the NHS.
The Tories, high from their success at the Parliamentary vote, will be free to weaken all EU social and environmental legislation.
If there was “little” that can be done in Parliament to stop the Brexit Bill, as Corbyn says, there will be little effectively done to halt these measures.
This is just bravura and wishful thinking:
“Good relations” and other warm words will not stop the building of barriers with Continental Europe.
The “kick up the backside” welcomed by Tariq Ali, has turned into a kick start to the anti-EU populist far-right, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National, the Alternative für Deutschland, to Geert Wilders’ Partij voor de Vrijheid.
In these conditions the last thing many will want to hear is the advice of the Brexit left, the supporters of a “People’s Brexit” who have fueled the rightward turn.
Many will find that attempts to avoid the issues this raises, and channel popular hostility against Trump into a new ‘movement’ Stand up to Trump that everybody on the left can support, ring hollow.
We have our own reactionaries to deal with: the Brexit supporters.
There is no People’s Brexit, outside of their rhetoric.
There is one Brexit: the Carnival of Reaction.
The real issue is to build a truly internationalist left that breaks with the Brexiters of all stripes.
Reuters reports (Sunday),
Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon embraced technology during the launch of his presidential campaign at a rally in Lyon on Sunday, with a 3D hologram of him making his speech appearing at the same time at another rally in Paris.
Mélenchon, wearing a Nehru-style jacket, tried to use the hologram technology give a modern look to his launch, which coincided with that of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon opened his meeting, transmitted by hologram to Paris, with a rousing speech. But it was hard to hide that the selection of the radical green socialist, Benoît Hamon as Socialist Party candidate, has created profound difficulties for the leader of La France insoumise.
After Hamon’s victory the French left is divided. While many welcomed the Socialists’ change in direction, for the majority of Ensemble, an alliance of radical left currents and part of the (nearly defunct Front de gauche), Mélenchon remains central to the left’s prospects in France.
On the Ensemble site Roger Martelli writes of the left’s Presidential candidates, (Gauche : et maintenant ?)
Depuis une quinzaine d’années, il est de tous les combats majeurs visant à redonner au peuple sa souveraineté et à la gauche son dynamisme. Son programme, dans la continuité de celui de 2012, reprend la logique « antilibérale » et démocratique qui s’est déployée après le choc de la présidentielle de 2002.
For over 15 years he has been there in all the principal battles which have aimed to return to the people their soveriegnty and to the left its dynamism. His programme, consistent with the (Presidential election) of 2012 (when Mélenchon stood, backed by the Front de gauch left bloc), takes up again the « anti-liberal » and democratic logic used since the shock of the 2002 Presidential elections.
Au fond, Benoît Hamon incarne la continuité d’un Parti socialiste qui a accompagné les reculs successifs d’un socialisme devenu hégémonique au début des années 1980. Jean-Luc Mélenchon ouvre la voie d’une rupture dont toute la gauche pourrait bénéficier.
At root Benoît Hamon embodies continuity with a Parti Socialiste which has, since it became hegemonic since the start of the 1980s, has been marked by a succession of backward steps. Jean-Luc Mélenchon opens up the prospect of a radical break, from which all the left could benefit.
Martelli’s reference to “popular sovereignty” raises perhaps one of the most serious problems about Mélenchon’s campaign. The leader of La France Insoumise is not only concerned with “une majorité populaire à gauche”. Or a ” dose” of populism into the left, to re-occupy the field of social division, with a campaign that can express a radical protest vote.
Another Adieu au Prolétariat.
Mélenchon’s ambitions extend far and wide as he asserts the need to replace the traditional strategies of the left.
In a series of writings he has talked about L’Ère du peuple in (the grandly titled) “époque de l’Anthropocène.” (the ‘new epoch’ in human political geography). In this perspective the old ‘hierarchy’ of struggles, centred on the primacy of the proletariat as a political subject, has been surpassed.
In a short history which takes him from the people as a ” multitude ” (without cohesion), the people/working class, as a demand-making category, we have come to the age of « networks » (réseaux). And, in France, more specifically, as he puts it himself, “réseau de soutien à ma candidature et à son programme”. (Réseaux et mouvements. 7th of January 2017)
The network launched as La France Insoumise is at the core of the electoral and social strategy. Mélenchon is engaged in an explicit effort to capture (in his terms, form), the People, in opposition to the Oligarchy, financial and globalising. It is not shaped only by economic issues, but the with the wider effects of capitalism in society: marginalisation, social division, the long series of cultural contradictions and demands of the diverse oppressed groups. Above all it aims to “net” the concept of the People, and refound the left as a movement capable of structuring it politically as a force for progressive transformation (details of the programme on their site). Membership of what might be called a permanent “rally” does not require payment, only backing.
Supporters put this project in the same political sphere as Podemos, as a movement that aims to expand the field of democratic mobilisation against the political caste (la casta), more commonly called, in French and in English, the elites.
For this venture, which draws on the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, populism is a political logic. The objective is to unify, to create a radical democratic People, not as (it is asserted) through the forms of exclusion and division, between “us”, on ethnicity or nationality and others.
Citizen-Movement and the Leader.
But, as Pierre Khalfa has observed, the “citizen-movement”, La France Insoumise, charged with this objective, organised in hundreds of “groupes d’appui” (support groups) is not democratic in the sense that political parties are – in principle. (Le peuple et le mouvement, est-ce vraiment si simple?). There are no organised confrontations between different currents of opinion; disagreements only arise over applying the ‘line’ in local conditions. There is, in fact,the worst form of Occupy style ‘consensus politics”, ruling out by fait real dissensus, wedded to the decisions of the Chief. It is “JLM who decides”. Or, as Laclau put it, the, “..the “symbolic unification of a group around an individuality” is inherent to the formation of a ‘people’ (Page 100. On Populist Reason 2005. ) (1)
Critics point to the lack of coherence in the definition of the would-be “people” a vast category with many internal conflicts between social groups. They also state that it is also highly unlikely that the ambition to remould populist resentment, expressed and solidly articulated in the Front National’s nationalist attacks on globalisation and a whole range of groups, from Muslims to migrant workers, has struck deep into French political reality. Detaching the ‘floating signifier’ of the People and putting it to a new use is a hard task. It more probable, and Mélenchon’s comments on Europe, migrant labour and the importance of the French ‘nation’, that it will end up more influenced by nationalism than become an alternative to it. Over everything lingers Pierre Khalfa put it the figure of “l’homme providentiel”, the Man of Destiny. (Le populisme de gauche, un oxymore dangereux).
In these conditions it is little wonder that many of the French left are not just wary of Mélenchon, but actively hostile to his entire project.
It is equally not surprising that elsewhere would-be People’s Leaders, like George Galloway in Britain, have warmed to La France Insoumise.
(1)Le peuple et le « mouvement. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (2.11.16. Blog).
“Il n’y a pas de carte. Il ne peut y avoir des cotisations mais seulement des participations financières à l’action c’est-à-dire des dons ou des versements réguliers pendant la durée de celle-ci. Il n’y a pas d’autre discipline que celle de l’action, c’est-à-dire celle que chacun s’impose dans l’action individuelle ou collective.” In other words, la France Insoumise is devoted to the “action” of getting votes.
Populists High on the Hog.
From the vantage point of the left, from liberals to socialists, Donald Trump is a ‘truth’, a reality, the “actuality of the populist revolution” that is hard to grapple with. The thousands who demonstrated against his Muslim/Visa Ban in London on Saturday, (40,000 to the organisers, 10,000 to everybody else), and the anti-Trump protests across the country, express heartfelt outrage at the US President’s xenophobic measures. It is to be hoped that they continue in the event of a Trump State visit to Britain. But beyond our backing for the worldwide campaigns against the new President the nature and destination of his politics needs serious reflection and debate.
In What is Populism? (2016) Jan-Werner Müller described modern populism as a “moralistic imagination of politics”. Müller’s description is tailor-made, not only for populist protest, the indignation at the ‘elites’, the neglect of “hard-working people” and respect for those who are “more ordinary” than others that marks UKIP and the galaxy of the Continental radical right.
But, What is Populism? argues, it is not just that for populists “only some of the people are really the people”. Trump has passed from the idea that his election represents the will of the ‘real’ American people, a claim to sovereignty that overrides any consideration of the plurality of the electing body, to efforts to bring the sovereignty of law to heel. In this case, the emerging political model, is an alternative to the ‘non-adversarial” consensus in ‘liberal’ democracies.
But Trump’s triumph is very far from a mobilisation against the “élitocratie” favoured by supporters of ‘left populist’ anticapitalism, through grassroots movements involving forces capable of giving voice and a progressive slant to demands for popular sovereignty.
It is an illiberal democracy.
Müller predicts that in power,
..with their basic commitment to the idea that only they represented the people”. Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (Page 102)
This looks a good description of Trump’s first weeks in office.
Nick Cohen has warned that the British Conservatives have not only failed to stand up the British Populists but forces may lead some of them to shift in the same direction (What has become of conservatism? Observer. 2911.17)
Populist Calls to Break up the EU.
After Brexit, Trump’s victory has reverberated in the democratic left as warning that, for some, that the left, from its ‘liberal’ US version to our socialist and social democratic culture, has lost touch with ‘ordinary people’. A rapid response has been to advocate some kind of ‘left populism’. For the moment the prospect of a left-wing populism in Britain looks reduced to making appeals to the ‘people’ against the Tory and financial elite. Or to put it simply, using the term as a way of looking for popular support on issues which play well with the electorate. A more developed tool-box approach, perhaps best mirrored in the efforts of the French Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to stand up for La France insoumise, ends up with precisely the problem of illiberal democracy sketched above.
This can be seen in the demand, formally announced today, by the French Front National, to prepare for what Marine le Pen has called ‘Frexit’. That is for a process which, if she wins power in the April-May Presidential elections, begins with renegotiating European Treaties, proceeds to France dropping the Euro, and ends with a referendum on leaving the European Union (Marine Le Pen promises Frexit referendum if she wins presidency).
Organising and supporting the anti-Trump demonstration were a number of individuals and organisations (Counterfire, SWP, Socialist Party) that backed Brexit. Trump is famous for his support for Brexit. It is alleged that Ted Malloch, who wishes the “break up of the EU” is waging a campaign to become Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union (Patrick Wintour. Guardian. 4.2.17).
Trump is said to be “cheering on” the populist forces in Europe. While not supporting UKIP the British ‘left’ supporters of Brexit cast their ballot in the same way to leave the EU. The results of the Referendum, it need hardly be said, are probably the best example of the failure of the left to ‘channel’ populism in its direction
Will these forces also welcome the “break up” of the EU? Would they back Frexit? An indication that they might well do comes from the strong support and attendance of Trade Unionists Against the EU at the ‘Internationalist’ Rally last year (May 28th Pour le Brexit) organised by the pro-Frexit Trotskyist sect, the Parti Ouvrier Indépendant Démocratique.(1)
If they take this stand, and these groups have to have views on every EU issue, regardless of ‘sovereignty;’ a part of the British left is in letting itself in for some major difficulties. In What is Populism? Müller asked, by placing the construction of the “people” against the “market people” – or the People against the European Union ‘neo-liberal superpower – will this “import the problems of a genuinely populist conception of politics? “ (Page 98)
The sovereigntist ideal of the Front National is quite clear about defining who the French ‘people’ are; it even intends to give them preference in jobs (préférence nationale).
What kind of ‘construction’ of the People around what Laclau has dubbed On Populist Reason (2005) as an “us” opposed to an (elite) “them” is that?
This indicates the kind of action Marine Le Pen takes against critics (the journalist asks her about employing her thuggish bodyguards as “Parliamentary Assistants” on the EU Payroll.
(1) “quitter l’Union Européenne” Wikipedia. More details in the Tribune des Travailleurs on the ‘Constituent Assembly’which will carry out this process. Mouvement pour la rupture avec l’UE et la 5e République
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.
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.