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Posts Tagged ‘Nationalism

Puigdemont Betrays National Cause of Catalonia – Socialist Worker.

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Image result for Carles Puigdemont

Puigdemont: Betraying United Catalan National Cause, Say British Leftists.

El presidente de la Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, declaró este martes la independencia de Cataluña pero abogó por suspender durante varias semanas los efectos de esta declaración para lograr una mediación.

El País

La suspensión” of the full implementation of the declaration of independence was in all the media this morning.

You can watch the right-wing leader’s speech here.

It must have been easy for the SWP to write this, immediately.

Carles Puigdemont betrays hopes of Catalan independence – but the fight is not over 

Today’s Socialist Worker.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has betrayed the hopes of the movement for independence from Spain by saying that “dialogue” must come first.

He told a session of the Catalan parliament on Tuesday night that he would “suspend the effect of the independence declaration” in “a gesture of responsibility in favour of dialogue.”

Before the referendum—held on 1 October in defiance of repression by Spanish cops—Puigdemont had vowed to declare independence within 48 hours of a yes vote.

Some 90 percent voted for independence. But Puigdemont did nothing until Tuesday, 48 hours and one week later.

By then he only said, “The voting said yes to independence and this is the way I’m going to follow”—eventually. First, “We have to start a dialogue because otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to reach our goal.”

But the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy has shown no interest in dialogue, responding only with repression and blackmail.

Puigdemont urged politicians and the media to “calm” and “de-escalate” the bitter row rather than ratcheting it up. He called on businesses moving their legal headquarters from Catalonia to return.

His climbdown only hands the initiative back to Rajoy.

Outside the park that contains the parliament building, where thousands of demonstrators were watching the speech on big screens, many responded with anger and disbelief.

Members of the pro-independence anti-capitalist party CUP shouted, “Shame on you”. They warned Puigdemont’s party—whose government CUP props up, that “It’s the end of our patience”.

Others were more positive, telling reporters they hadn’t expect Puigdemont to risk a unilateral declaration of independence yet. One man told the Euronews channel it felt like “The first day without the king of Spain.”

The fight for independence clearly isn’t over, but Puigdemont’s speech is a major setback.

Senior European Union (EU) politicians may have helped broker the backsliding.

Socialist Worker ends this article by supporting the movement for “democracy and independence.”

Today the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, CUP, demands that Puigdemont fixes a limit, a date, for negotiations to end.

Their twitter feed is full of demands that Catalan sovereignty be recognised, but little that is recognisably socialist.

The most recent declarations of the other main left nationalist group, 

No doubt Catalan national unity, and  demanding that  Carles Puigdemont, a right-wing career politician, leads the struggle for Independence come what may, against the Spanish Government, and the European Union, is more important in the fight for the Nation than class struggle, or any form of socialism or social democracy.

Meanwhile, for entertainment, we note this: (Socialist Party).

We stand with Catalonia

  • For a socialist republic of Catalonia!
  • The workers can finish what Puigdemont won’t!

This groupuscle managed to see a working class moblisation at the centre of the Independence Campaign.. NO doubt the workers were hard at inside the main cultural force for independence, the wealthy, business and Catalan government funded Òmnium Cultural, not to mention…see below.

Meanwhile in the Catalan Parliament, Junts pel Sí (the bloc behind right-wing  Puigdemont, which includes the so-called Republican left, has 62 seats, the CUP has 10.

Despite having only 10 of the Catalan parliament’s 135 MPs, this anti-capitalist force has become one of the central kingmakers in the process of self-determination conducted by the Catalan government. Its deputies are crucial for ensuring a separatist majority in the chamber, and so, while voting to put a pro-independence government into power, its radical anti-capitalist view has frequently clashed with the Catalan establishment and the liberal parties in charge of the Catalan government.

New Internationalist. Marc Almodóvar

That has not stopped the CUP setting aside such differences in the interest of the Catalan Nation and People and reaching an agreement to keep the right in power.

Government (62)

Confidence and supply (10)

  •      CUP (10)

Opposition (63)

This another example of ‘left-wing’ drivel being circulated at the moment.

Update: SWP calls for international support for coalition of right and left fighting for an independent Catalonia.

Please organise yourselves. Set up united solidarity campaigns with Catalonia. Mobilise in support of democratic rights in Catalonia and against repression. If they smash us, they can smash you tomorrow. Everybody has a stake in this.”

 

Meanwhile about the only people speaking sense are Podemos.

Francesc Xavier Doménech, deputy for Unidos Podemos, tells the Spanish government: “You are denying reality. This is a state crisis. This crisis cannot be resolved by applying the same measures taken to date, which are basically repressive measures.”

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2017 at 11:19 am

Against Madrid’s Repression, Against Middle-Class Catalan Breakaway State.

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Catalan Independence Supporters to Oversee Polling Booths in Break-away Election.

Grupos de activistas pro referéndum toman las escuelas para garantizar su apertura el domingo)

From the Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International (Northite).

Rarely do we agree with this group, but here they say some important truths which most of the English speaking left seems unable to articulate.

We would add that it is astonishing that anybody who claims to be socialist or left, in the case of the Catalan ERC  Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC; IPA:  and the smaller  pro-nationalist ‘radical’ left outside, can justify an alliance of the Catalan nationalist left with a corruption riddled (and much larger) pro-business party, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, PDeCAT), also known as the Catalan Democratic Party (CatalanPartit Demòcrata Català). It was founded in Barcelona on 10 July 2016, as the successor to  the now-defunct Democratic Convergence of Catalonia. Why the name change from its former incarnation, the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya   ? There is one family name that sums the reasons up, Jordi Pujol, a byword for sleaze and insider backhander, something that marks out modern Catalan nationalism.

The strategy of this alliance, which won 47% of the regional vote in 2015,and 71 out of 135 seats in the devolved parliament, has been to blame ‘Madrid’ – with overtones of the profligate, lazy ‘Southerners’- for all their economic and political problems.

Appararently this is ‘civic nationalism’.

But then there are people who can convince themselves that the SNP is ‘left-wing’.

 

30 September 2011

Oppose the state crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum!

For working class unity! No to separatism in Spain!

 

Catalonia is Spain’s richest region, representing a fifth of the country’s GDP. The separatist parties aim to create a new mini-state, through which they can claw back taxes presently paid to central government, while establishing direct relations with the global banks, transnational corporations and the European Union. They hope to transform Catalonia into a low tax, free trade area based on stepped-up exploitation of the working class.

The Catalan nationalists and their pseudo-left backers dress themselves up as progressives. However, nothing fundamental distinguishes Catalan separatism from similar separatist formations across Europe—the Scottish Nationalist Party in the UK, or those of an explicitly right-wing character such as Italy’s Northern League and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang. In all these instances, separatism has emerged in regions enjoying some economic advantage over the rest of the country, which the local bourgeoisie seeks to exploit to its own benefit.

An “independent” Catalan republic, were it established, would be nothing of the sort. It would be even more dependent on the major powers, in Europe and internationally. In alliance with the EU, it would continue the policies the Catalan separatist parties pursued in their alliance with Madrid: brutal austerity, slashing funding for education, health care and other social needs and using police to smash strikes and protests. It would be a dead end for workers.

 

Against capitalist Spain and the creation of a capitalist Catalonia, the ICFI calls for building the United Socialist States of Europe!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2017 at 8:56 am

German Elections and the AfD.

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Police blocks demonstrators protesting against the nationalist 'Alternative for Germany', AfD, party in Berlin

Turn left: Smash Nationalism!

Der Spiegel Editorial 

Democracy at Stake: Germany’s Slide to the Right

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost massive support in Sunday’s parliamentary election while the right-wing populist performed better than expected. What happens now?

This year’s general election in Germany has been heralded as an epochal shift. Merkel’s “grand coalition,” pairing her conservatives with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), was voted out of office and the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) became Germany’s third-strongest party. In the search for reasons for the shift, the language of politics is a good place to start. The AfD professed to be clear and decisive, their language was explicit — and voters rewarded them for it. The chancellor, by contrast, sought to avoid discussions and to completely ignore major issues focused on by the populists: foreign migrants and German uneasiness. Merkel’s political style, which is characterized by avoiding clashes, was punished to the greatest possible degree.

And the center-left Social Democrats were unable to settle on a strategy early on — or at least they were unable to stick to the tactics they found late in the campaign. It was only after the election, at 6:05 p.m. on Sunday evening, that the disappointed SPD, no longer bound by the discipline of the campaign, finally managed to define what differentiates it from Merkel’s Christian Democrats — which was touchingly awkward. Because in democracies, after the election is too late.

 It seems clear what will now happen: a coalition matching Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party — almost certainly under the leadership of a Merkel who suddenly seems shrunk and fainthearted, and whose days as her party’s leader no longer seem infinite. The only alternative would be new elections or — in a few weeks — a reversal on the part of the SPD. The party pledged on Sunday night that it would not be part of a coalition with Merkel going forward, and an about-face would be extremely damaging.

How should we look at this from the rest of Europe?

The success of the Alternative für Deutschland, (AfD) is the most immediately striking result.

International Viewpoint summarises this.

The AfD reached 12.6% of the votes compared to 4.7% in 2013 and becomes the 3rd force in the Bundestag with 94 deputies. Moreover, the AfD becomes the 1st party in Saxony with 27% of the votes against the CDU with 26.9%, and in general 1st force in the male electorate of the new Länder of East Germany. In Bavaria, the AfD comes in second place behind the CSU in many constituencies.

The AfD was able to take more than one million votes in the CDU / CSU, almost half a million in the SPD and almost 400,000 in the party Die Linke party, and mobilize more than one million of those who were not to go to the polls in 2013, in the framework of a participation of 76.2% of the electorate compared to 71.5% in 2013. Despite the great electoral success, the conflict reigns at the summit of the AfD after these elections: Frauke Petry, who obtained a direct mandate in Saxony, co-chair of the party with a more “moderate” profile than the first candidates of the party, Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, has just announced that it will not be part of the parliamentary fraction of the AfD to the new Bundestag. The words of Alexander Gauland announcing “to open the hunt against Merkel” and its fascistoid verbal provocations displeased her.

Many people will be wary of taring Germany with the far-right brush, particularly in view of the as large (UKIP) far-right vote recently in the UK, not to mention the Front National vote in the second round of the Presidential elections (Marine Le Pen, 10, 638, 475, 33,9%) this year. Not to mention a series of other countries’ far-right votes, from the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie,  in Belgium, 2014, , 1,366, o73, 20,3% to the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ, , 2013  958.29520,51 %40.

But Taz puts its finger on a major problem racism which it observes, the inherits and Afd is playing with. synthesise the ideas of the New Right and the Identity movement, the latter which has echoes across Europe.  Die Erben des Rassismus. This is something all of us have to confront, from the fall-out in the UK from Brexit, and the ambiguous response of some on the left to freedom of movement, to the problems with confronting right-wing ‘populism’ elsewhere, the AfD does concern us.

We are not going to fight racism and extreme nationalism by playing another form of ‘identity politics’ against the AfD’s identity politics but only through  movements based on universal emancipatory principles.

Bang on cue we hear this:

Germany’s new far-right party AfD says it will fight an ‘invasion of foreigners’ (Independent)

“One million people – foreigners – being brought into this country are taking away a piece of this country and we as AfD don’t want that,” Mr Gauland told the press conference.

“We say we don’t want to lose Germany to an invasion of foreigners from a different culture. Very simple.”

It is some consolation that the AfD is as rent with personality clashes and factionalism as UKIP.

Frauke Petry ‘drops bomb’ on rightwing nationalist party by announcing she will instead serve as independent MP.
The entry of the AfD into the Bundestag is already provoking protests.
 https://twitter.com/chefreporterNRW/status/912011834026336261
Yesterday:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Catalan Crisis: Between Opposing Repression and Opposing Nationalist Separatism.

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Left-Wingers in Spain who Call for a Boycott of the Catalan Referendum.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police have detained 14 Catalan officials and raided regional government ministries involved in organising a banned independence vote.

Tensions were already high before Josep Maria Jové, number two in the Catalan vice-presidency, and others were held.

Thousands of Catalans took to the streets in protest and the regional leader complained of a power grab.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the state had been forced to act.

Catalonia’s separatist government is defying a Constitutional Court order to halt the planned 1 October vote, which has been condemned by the Madrid government as illegal.

BBC.

Some on the Spanish left wholeheartedly support Catalan Independence, others, the right the hold the referendum.

In reaction to this clamp down it is unlikely that we will hear in the left media much about those who, while disagreeing with the Spanish government’s tactics, refuse to participate in the vote or those who are simply opposed to the break away of one of the most prosperous parts of the Iberian peninsula.

Here is a link to the former group, which includes  figures on the left: ‘1-O Estafa antidemocrática. ¡No participes! ¡No votes!’.

El Periódico notes two names of interest, the anti-corruption investigator activist and  (see below) Carlos Jiménez Villarejo  and the former coordinator of the Izquierda Unida (United Left) Paco Frutos.

The around 1,000 people behind this statement describe themselves are left wing figures, or a variety of ideological, cultural and political backgrounds, who have fought for freedom against Francism, against terrorism and against war, for the rights of women and social minorities, and today against cuts and austerity, the corruption and who oppose the policies of the Rajoy governments. The signatories seek a common future, freely chosen, in a pluralist Spain in which all the different people’s identities are recognised.

.. personas de izquierdas, de variada adscripción ideológica y de distintas culturas políticas, que hemos luchado por las libertades contra el franquismo, contra el terrorismo y contra la guerra, por los derechos de las mujeres y de las minorías sociales, y ahora contra los recortes, la corrupción y que rechazamos las políticas del gobierno de Rajoy, y con el convencimiento de que es posible un futuro común, libremente elegido, en el marco de un España plural donde estén reconocidas todas las identidades de los pueblos que la integran:

They charge the Referendum process with a lack of democratic transparency, with no proper rules, such as a minimum level of participation, and with having been launched “unilaterally” without the agreement of the opposition forces in Catalonia – all of which are indeed true.

It is also more widely the case that forming a breakaway state, that is to oppose the Catalan ‘people’ against the diverse People of Spain, rather cuts against the Podemos Laclau-Mouffe inflected self-declared aim of ‘federating the people’. It could be said to be a case of what Chantal Mouffe calls the “constitutive Other”, making the rest of Spain, lined up behind the ‘State’, the Enemy in the constitution of this new sovereign ‘People’.

This is a different view: Solidaridad con Cataluña! Viento Sur.

Solidaritat amb Catalunya! Kataluniarekin bat! Solidariedade con Catalunya! ¡Solidaridá con Catalunya! ¡Solidaridad con Catalunya!

La suspensión del autogobierno de Catalunya y la escalada represiva que están emprendiendo el gobierno y el poder judicial suponen la instauración de un estado de excepción permanente frente a la voluntad mayoritaria del pueblo catalán de decidir su futuro a través del referéndum el 1 de octubre.

In English from the Fourth International.

 

It is of interest to those Trotskyists in the UK now supporting the alliance between the right of centre Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, the representative of  regional capitalist interests, and various left nationalists, including apparently some on the ‘far left’  in their fight for a breakaway from Spain to read Trotsky himself on the past of the issue. 

In the 1930s Trotsky did not back the creation of another bourgeois state in Catalonia.

Leon Trotsky The National Question in Catalonia

(July 1931)

  • Maurín, the “leader” of the Workers and Peasants Bloc, shares the point of view of separatism. After certain hesitation, he has resolved himself with the left wing of petty bourgeois nationalism. I have already written that Catalan petty bourgeois nationalism at the present stage is progressive. But on one condition: that it develops its activity outside the ranks of Communism and that it is always under the blows of communist criticism. To permit petty-bourgeois nationalism to manifest itself under the Communist mask means at the same time to deliver a perfidious blow to the proletarian vanguard and to kill the progressive significance of petty bourgeois nationalism.
  • What does the program of separatism mean? The economic and political dismemberment of Spain, or in other words, the transformation of the Iberian Peninsula into a sort of Balkanic Peninsula, with independent states, divided by, customs barriers, and with independent armies conducting independent Hispanic wars. Of course, the sage Maurin will say that he does not want this. But programs have their own logic, something Maurin hasn’t got.
  • Are the workers and peasants of the various parties of Spain interested in the economic dismemberment of Spain? In no case. That is why, to identify the decisive struggle for the right to self-determination with propaganda for separatism, means to accomplish a fatal work. Our program is for Hispanic Federation with the indispensable maintenance of economic unity. We have no intention of imposing this program upon the oppressed nationalities of the peninsula with the aid of the arms of the bourgeoisie. In this sense, we are sincerely for the right to self-determination. If Catalonia separates, the Communist minority of Catalonia, as well as of Spain, will have to conduct a struggle for Federation.

Background,

During the first part of the 20th century, the main nationalist party was the conservative Lliga Regionalista, headed by Francesc Cambó. For the nationalists, the main achievement in this period was the Commonwealth of Catalonia a grouping of the four Catalan provinces, with limited administrative power. The Commonwealth developed an important infraestructure (like roads and phones) and promoted the culture (professional education, libraries, regulation of Catalan language, study of sciences) in order to modernize Catalonia. The failure in being granted an Estatute of autonomy in 1919 within the Restoration regime, led to radicalisation of the moderate nationalist parties in Catalonia, leading in turn to the creation of Acció Catalana (Catalan Action) and also Estat Català (Catalan State),[12] drifting apart from the Lliga. Among the leaders of Acció Catalana founded in 1922 and chiefly supportive of liberal-democratic catalanism and a catalanisation process were Jaume Bofill, Antoni Rovira i Virgili and Lluís Nicolau d’Olwer.[13] It also featured an internal elitist faction, moved by the thinking of Charles Maurras and Action française of which Josep Vicenç Foix and Josep Carbonell were representatives,[14] while Jaume Bofill was ambivalent to the extreme right French thinker.[15] Estat Català, somewhat more attached to the idea of downright independence, was founded right after the creation of Acció Catalana by Francesc Macià.

Currently, the main political parties which define themselves as being Catalan nationalists are Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, Unió Democràtica de Catalunya. The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, although deriving from nationalism, refuses the term “nationalism” and prefers to describe itself as pro-independence; so does Soldaritat Catalana

The most prominent figure in the Catalan politics in  the post-Franco years was Jordi Pujol President of the Generalitat de Catalunya from 1980 to 2003.

Pujol, and Catalan nationalism, have been associated with the massive corruption scandals he was involved with.

In July 2014, Jordi Pujol released a note explaining that for 34 years, including 23 as the President of Catalonia, he had maintained secret foreign bank accounts inherited from his father. The note apologized for his actions and explained that the millions had been declared and taxes paid. The scandal erupted in the Spanish media as it involves allegations against many family members, including trafficking of influence, bribery, money laundering and public corruption. At this time, his sons Jordi and Oleguer Pujol Ferrusola are being investigated by tax authorities. Another son Oriol Pujol resigned from his leadership position in CiU earlier in the month to face charges of public corruption as well. As a direct result of Pujol’s admission on 29 July, Judge Pablo Ruz issued an indictment against Jordi Pujol Ferrusola and his wife for money laundering and tax evasion. [10][11][12][13][14]

On 29 July Catalan president Mas, after a meeting with Pujol i Soley, announced that Pujol renounced both his salary and the office that he had been assigned as ex-president, as well as the honorary title of founding chairman of CDC and CiU.[15] The opposition parties from both left and right, nationalist and non-nationalist, have demanded he testify before the parliament. The main government allies in the Catalan parliament, Esquerra Republicana, have declared that they support stripping Pujol of all his honors.[16] The Catalan government has declared this a “private matter” that will have no impact on the movement for Catalan independence and the referendum scheduled for 9 November 2014.[17] In announcing his resignation from all party offices, President Mas initially stated that Pujol would keep the right to be called “The Right Honorable” as a former president of Catalonia.[18] Hours later the party spokesperson Francesc Homs stated that Pujol must “forfeit everything,” including the Medalla de Oro of Catalunya and all honorifics previously awarded to him.[19] Indicative of the conflicted reaction of many Catalan nationalists, his personal friend Xavier Trias, the Mayor of Barcelona, lamented on Catalonia Radio “He must disappear…He failed us. It is a disaster that has taken place and the shadowy times of Pujol are finished while a new era begins.”[20] Perhaps no one is more deeply conflicted than current President Mas who has acknowledged that Pujol is his “political father” and has stated that “he does not know the details and he is not interested in them either.” [21] The impact of the Pujol family scandals on the Catalan independence movement, the CIU party and Mas’ political future remain to be seen.[22]

Pujol and his family have been suspected for many years of cashing in on the political power he amassed as a 23-year president of Catalonia. In 1984 his family’s bank went bankrupt and was taken over by the Spanish government. His children have amassed a fortune in private businesses that frequently did business and received contracts from the Catalan government. Pujol’s wife and children have investments in the tens of millions of dollars in Mexico, Panama and Argentina. Financial records show the movement of money between foreign banks in Andorra, Switzerland, Jersey, Cayman Islands and other tax havens in excess of €100 million. Critics, including Jordi Pujol Ferrusola’s former girlfriend, charge that this family wealth could not be accumulated from a family inheritance or successful business practices.[23][24] Ever since the 1984 bankruptcy of Banca Catalana, as well as in subsequent years, whenever corruption allegations were made against Pujol, his supporters claimed that the charges were politically motivated against Catalonia.[25][26]

The matter is still under Investigation in 2017.[27][28]

While parts of the left in Spain support Catalan Independence, others charge them with wishing to free the wealthiest part of the country from the ‘burden’ of the poor South and compare them to the Italian  Lega Nord.

The Socialist Party, the PSOE, itself not stranger to corruption and other scandals, sides with the government against the Referendum.

Ahead of planned Catalan poll, main opposition Socialist Party sides with government. El País

SOE leader Pedro Sánchez shows support for PP’s attempts to deal with secessionist challenge.

In these conditions to reject the heavy-handed approach of Rajoy, and to call for a return to democratic norms, should not be confused with backing for the middle class separatist aspirations of Catalan nationalism.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm

English Labour Network, a “Patriotic” initiative.

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Image result for english labour network

Identity Politics?

Jean-Luc Mélelenchon perhaps set a precedent.

Image result for melenchon and patriotism

“They nourish national vanity and the love of supremacy by force. “We alone,” they say, each behind his shelter, “we alone are the guardians of courage and loyalty, of ability and good taste!” Out of the greatness and richness of a country they make something like a consuming disease. Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.”

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, by Henri Barbusse, 1917

Denham and key Corbyn ally join forces for “patriotic” English Labour initiative

A former Labour cabinet minister has joined forces with one of the leading lights of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign for the launch of a “patriotic” initiative to give English voters a voice.

John Denham, the former communities and local government secretary under Gordon Brown, has set up the English Labour Network in an attempt to help the party win again in the largest of the home nations.

The network aims to build on Labour’s progress in the June general election and allow it to take the seats in the “large towns and small cities”which are necessary to be able to form a government.

It will provide “practical support” rather than be “yet another internal party group lobbying for individual policies or individual candidates”, Denham writes on LabourList today.

George Orwell famously distinguished between patriotism and nationalism. “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” (Notes on Nationalism. 1945)

It is unclear if things are so clear cut, we find plenty of people talking sentimentally about ‘their’ nation, places and culture, in good times,  but using these to defend the superiority of their way of life against all others. Or simply giving priority to ‘their’ ain folk. It surely is not a coincidence that the ‘identitarian’ movement in the European extreme right tries to connect the two.

Orwell is nevertheless useful when we realise that it’s issues of power, that is the state, which mark nationalism. Sovereigntist ideas, on the populist right, and sections of the left which try to create their own radical populism, which see the capture of national sovereignty by the ‘people’ as the premise of political success, have a tight link to nationalism. If the right bases itself on the People against a variety of Enemies, from Globalised elites, to migrants, the left version targets Oligarchs and claims to ‘federate’ the people. There is some convergence in  that both could be said to reflect something of  Zygmunt Bauman’s idea that today, in ‘late modernity’  “the settled majority is ruled by the nomadic and exterritorial elite” (Liquid Modernity 2010).

David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere (2017), is perhaps  the most recent attempt to put forward this themes in British terms.  His  writing, on  the opposition between ‘somewheres’ and ‘anywheres’, talks of the need for the left to take up the concerns of ‘decent populists’. He argued for the importance of the ‘restless’ anywheres who dominate Labour policy making to take up the concerns of those, who vlaue   “group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)”. 

Drawing on this feeling for “a particular place and way of life”, in the line of  Blue Labour, along with “work family and community”, the English Labour Network, now proposes the following.

Labour Vision interviews John Denham on launch of English Labour Network. He tells us: “No Labour manifesto in my time has gone as far as this year’s in recognising the political identity of England”

Sam Stopp ” a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Brent and is the Chair of The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness. He has written regularly for LabourList, LeftFootForward, Progress Online and Open Labour. “

  •   Labour has to aim to win England for two reasons. One is that, despite the strength in Wales and the fact we’ve recovered in Scotland, we can’t rely on sufficient MPs from those two nations to give us a UK majority. But the second reason is that it will be harder for Labour to implement policies that will be controversial in England if it doesn’t have an English majority, or is a long way behind the Tories. So we have the aim for an English majority.”
  • The second (point) is a constitutional and democratic point. The Welsh and Scottish Labour parties have a great deal of autonomy from UK Labour, but there is no place in which England is actually discussed. And I think the history says that one of the reasons that England has remained so centralised … and all of the failures to devolve have failed … is that the whole thing is being governed by the interests of Wales and Scotland, rather than the ideas of England. So I think we need to have a clear place for England within the Union and a clear decision on how we’re going to devolve inside England. And that is now long overdue.
  • The third thing”, Denham tells me, “is the cultural one, which is that Labour lags in support among English-identifying voters. Now, that’s going to be particularly critical. If you look at the seats that we need to win at the next election to form a government and the ones that we have to defend if the Tories get their act together, they are largely seats that are actually pretty evenly balanced between leavers and remainers and more of the older, working-class leaver voters than the places that we won at the election. And so to lag behind amongst those voters is very dangerous. And the reason that identity is important is that people want to be respected for who they are.”This is where Denham gets passionate and it seems as though this third issue is the one that stresses him the most. “If somebody feels English”, he goes on, “nobody ever acknowledges that they feel English. It’s a clear way of saying that we don’t understand you, or we don’t know where you’re coming from. The irony is that we live in a society where all sorts of multiple identities are possible, but it’s almost as though Englishness is the one that’s not legitimate. If Labour behaves as though there’s something inherently wrong with being English, we’re never going to reach those voters. When we talk about the importance England and Englishness, nobody is suddenly going to vote for us because of this, but it opens the door to discussions about public services or industrial strategy or austerity or spending and all the other things.”

offers some important critical reflections.

Labour has slipped rightwards on immigration. That needs to change

 

Both Denham and Liam Byrne stress that they want good, not bad, patriotism. But Byrne also asks us not to dwell on “dusty history”, as if the toxic nature of modern jingoism isn’t derived precisely from the predominant chauvinistic version of our nation’s past. It will take more than a half-baked rebranding exercise to deal with these deep-seated issues. After Brexit, the idea that our national identity should be simply celebrated rather than critically re-examined is not only irrational but deeply irresponsible. Currently, the ELN looks more like a triangulating appeal to rightwing voters than a serious project for reimagining and building a more inclusive England, with all the difficult conversations that will necessarily involve.

This is connected to a wider strand of thinking in and around the Labour party that sees xenophobia and racism as confined to a minority of cranks on society’s fringe, with the current high levels of public antipathy towards immigrants being due for the most part to nothing more than the “legitimate concerns” of primarily working-class voters. It’s a view resting on spectacular naivety about the true nature and breadth of prejudice in Britain (which is in no way class-specific), as well as the misconception that it is experience of, rather than prejudice about, immigration that drives this antipathy.

This narrative becomes a shade more sinister when the dubious category of the “white working class” (apparently neglected more due to its whiteness than its class) is elevated to the status of Labour’s “traditional” support – the “core vote” residing in the “heartlands”. One wonders where in the pecking order this leaves the non-white working-class residents of Grenfell Tower, for example. It would be unfortunate if the answer to that question were to be found in the expressions of sympathy one hears from some Labour figures for people “anxious about … the rate of change of communities”. Labour neither has nor deserves a future as the party of those who don’t want black and brown people moving into their street.

We suspect that the problems lie deeper than this.

It is not just the cultural issues Wearing rightly highlights and which make a mockery of efforts to revive a ‘national identity’  from the left.

Brexit has been followed by the attempt of some inside the Labour Party to assert their own brand of sovereigntism.

Calling on support from ‘anger’ of the anti-EU camp, the sturdy “northern working class” to the people of England who have not spoken yet, these forces – they have a name, and that is those within the Lexit campaign, and supporters (who include Labour leadership advisers) wish to mobilise the ‘people’ against any commitment to oppose the Tories’ Hard Brexit. They believe that they can ‘federate the people’ around a new version of the old Alternative Economic Strategy, Keynesian economics administrated by  a ‘captured’ state.

The real difficulty is that the world is too ‘liquid’ economically and culturally, for any radical left  government both to moblise popular enthusiasm and to build the links we need with ‘other’ nationalities, other peoples with their own loves of place and “particular ways of life”, without at the very elast making direct agreements across Europe, inside and outside of the institutional structures of the EU.

Against ‘Left Populism’ and Sovereigntism.

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Image result for populism and parliament

Parliament now “Taking Back” the Country. 

A decade or so ago it was smart to hold Abigail’s parties, complete with prawn and grapefruit cocktails, diced cheese, salted biscuits, and bottles of Blue Nun and Mateus Rosé.

There is no post-modern irony in the present enthusiasm for restoring ancient Sovereignty. It is not just UKIP, the Patriotic Alliance, and the diehards of the Conservative and Unionist Party who look back to the days of British Constitution  ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. In the wake of the reverse evolution of the former ‘revolutionary communists’ of Spiked-on-line into the best activists for the national Parliament, a section of the left has persuaded itself that there is much to be said for critics of ‘liberal elites’.

With Brexit, now is the time to ‘take back control’ from the European Union. Concern with their electoral backing has led them to offer a ‘left wing’ defence of national sovereignty. Their retro-party, the People’s Brexit, does not seem to have attracted many guests as yet. But it is causing deep divisions on the left, turning people’s attention backwards and fuelling the growth of national populism.

Populism

Populism…An article in the latest New Left Review, a critique of the Jan-Werner Müller’s recent What is Populism? (2016). The book is described in the ‘Programme Notes’ as a “German contribution to a burgeoning genre on opponents of the liberal order.

The author, Marco D’Eramo, whom one assumes is not German, although the notes on the contributors fail to mention his nationality, marks its main point by assaulting the claim that populism has an essence. That it marked by charismatic Leaders is exclusive, and the People into the ‘real’ people, which they alone stand for. That it is, as a result, anti-pluralist, promoting an exclusive form of identity, actual or potential ‘occupancy’ of the state, suppression of civil society and pluralism. It is, above all, a “moralistic imagination of politics. With the aid of the latest discoveries of nominalist philosophy and Port Royal epistemology, They the People (New Left Review 103. 2017) shows that  Müller, like so much political science’s ‘ideal-type’ of populism, is wrong footed. It is not just ideal (as its inspirer, Max Weber, would, we cautiously suggest, accept), but an abstract universal taken for reality. (1)

There are well-aimed shafts at a theory, and hints that the book verges towards a view of fascism as a “populism plus”, and which tries to encompass Latin America and shunts to a footnote the inclusive ‘populism’ of Evo Morales’ Bolivia (a government not without its faults, from child labour to its recent development plans).

But he fails to extend his view from a defence of would-be left populists of Podemos to an examination of those who have taken Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s writings on the subject as textbooks for building another movement in France, la France insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. This is no longer an issue of political science, but of political strategy. Could Mélenchon’s Constituent Assembly, having swept away “la caste”, politicians and oligarchs, instituted “protectionnisme solidaire”, and taken the country out of existing European Treaties, establish “l’indépendance de la France”?

Marco D’Eramo’s argument is essentially that ‘populism’ – insofar as it has any fixed meaning amongst its nominalised splinters – results from neo-liberalism. And where might be the hottest point in their confrontation? We come back to Europe, where the technocrats of said economic policies have been implemented by a “political and financial oligarchy”.

Müller, he suggests, all to clearly reflects the modern German consensus against the “decisionist’ sovereignty of ultimate power in the Nation (crudely, Carl Schmitt), and a “distrust” of “not only any idea of popular sovereignty but parliamentary sovereignty too”. Haunted by the totalitarian past he has been led to calls to “constrain democracy”, adding, in his Constraining Democracy (2011) “supranational constraints to national ones”, that is, the rule of the oligarchs fronted by a German style Grand Coalition. Hostility to the European Union that incarnates this prospect is surely shared by Mélenchon, who does not hide his dislike of Teutons, or… ‘Anglo-Saxons’.

Cosmopolitan Democracy.

We have been there before. From Jürgen Habermas to David Held’s “cosmopolitan democracy”, there have been a number of idealistic ‘post-sovereignty” theories. In 1994 Held advocated “cosmopolitan democracy” which could perhaps serve as a paradigm. This would be a world based on a kind of empirical version of Kant’s picture of human autonomy, in which “sovereignty can be stripped away from the idea of fixed borders and territories and thought of as, in principle, malleable time-space clusters. Sovereignty is an attribute of the basic democratic law, but it would be entrenched and drawn upon in diverse self-regulating associations from state to cities and corporations. Cosmopolitan law demands the subordination for regional, national and local sovereignties to an overarching legal framework, but within this framework associations may be self-governing at diverse levels” (2)

Supporters of ‘strong democracy’, that is systems with more definable locations than, “malleable time-space clusters” would not warm to Held.  But from the late 1980s to the turn of the new millennium for much of the centre and ‘post-Marxist’ left, and not just academics ‘self-organised’ civil society, the basis for “associative democracy”, was a popular idea.

There is a whole earnest literature on these topics, by writers such as John Keane, out there, waiting, neglected, to be rediscovered. One hesitates to nod at D’Ernamo’s sneers at constraints, or put better, institutional frameworks that guarantee pluralism. Much of this writing, sometimes possibly self-serving from those competing to win positions within post-Communist societies, was concerned with the very real oppressions and problems of ‘totalitarian’ societies. Its lasting legacy is not empty droits-de-l’hommisme but the defence of the democratic rights of those who are not, and will never be, sucked up in the single Sovereign Power of the People. (3)

Attention turned elsewhere. It might be argued that it was the growing perception that ‘globalisation’ was not extending the capacities of “self-governing associations”, but the national economic management that underpins states’ legitimacy, led to the erosion of those limited circles who followed Held’s cosmopolitan hopes to the full. That ‘governance’ of the economy remained poised between the national states, and, in Europe, the EU, while appearing battered by global financial, distribution and production flows, forced democratic thinking back to the nation. There they would rediscover Parliaments and Sovereignty.

Supporters of ‘strong democracy’, that is systems with more definable locations than, “malleable time-space clusters” would not have warmed to Held. Elections over a range of decision-making institutions, not just councils and Parliaments, or associations, but a wider range of public service bodies, have however taken place, as Police Commissioners have been open to the popular vote, with the extension of democratic participation that has not been universally greeted.  Few today advocate workers’ self-management, the extension of democratic principles into private companies.

Sovereigntism and the Left Today.

Sovereigntism has in fact little to say about the extension of democracy. It is a programme for national concentration and depriving everybody but the backers of populist parties of an effective voice, illiberalism against the ‘liberal order’.  But cultural and political issues (ones which have led to a great deal of often abstract debate about the nature of the ‘people’, and  the ‘imagined community’ of the nation) are only one part of the problem. For the right and for the left populists economic governance is the prize.

The body administering these processes, the State, is ‘capitalist’, that is, is institutionally wrapped around the existing power structure. It is organised to promote the interests of business. WE do not need an elaborate theoretical framework to see this. Every day shows that in the UK the administration is a ‘privatising state’ with several decades of institutional aid to companies who live off prebends for delivering ‘services’. That alone would make it a poor instrument for a radical left sovereign power. If it remains united, or is divided into the separate ‘nations’ of the British Isles, no People’s Brexit will penetrate its existing Conservative dominated legislative agenda.

The sovereigntists of the left are obstacles to wider democratic change. Many have concentrated on the nationalist populist drift of many of their supporters. For all the claims to “federate the people” these echo all too clearly the faults of populism outlined by Müller. The General Will of the People, cannot be found. Their ideal constituency, turn out to ‘the workers’ as the real’ people and the rest, as the ‘elite’, a moveable object with no clear class basis at all. The link of the Organiser of Trades Unionists Against the EU with the far-right Westmonster indicates that at least some of them feel comfortable with xenophobic dislike for migrants. If they lack charismatic leaders, they make up for it with their own blustering rhetoric.

But the difficulties lay deeper. Politics in the West does not work day-to-day through Peoples and Movements, it works through, imperfect, representative democracy which articulates, give voice to, a variety of interests strongly inflected by class.  If, through the mechanisms of election and public pressure, from protest onwards, a left government may transform it, it is less than probable that any form of democratic socialism will govern without sharing sovereignty. Making legal and economic agreements with other powers. It would need some kind of transnational union, for commerce, for migration, for finance, complete with agreed regulations. Beginning with perhaps, Europe…

********

(1) Page 106. “technically speaking, I am trying to construct an ideal type in the sense suggested by Max Weber.” What is Populism? Jan-Werner Müller. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2016.

(2) Page 234. Democracy and the Global Order David Held Polity Press. 1995.

(3) Democracy and Civil SocietyJohn Keane Verso 1988.  John Keane (ed.), Civil Society and the State (Verso, 1988);

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm

National Organiser of Trades Unionists Against the EU Joins Far-right Westmonster site as former Leftists takes up National Populism.

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https://i1.wp.com/www.westmonster.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/shutterstock_76675009-1000x606.jpg

Former Leftists Wave the Brexit Flag.

As Galloway is joined by a prominent FBU Trade Unionist, Paul Embery (London Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and National organiser of Trade Unionists against the EU, a campaign backed by the Morning Star, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and, notably,  the Communist Party of Britain and Socialist Party) on the far-right Westmonster site, we ask: is a section of the one-time left drifting towards national populism?

Westmonster carries articles promoting the new “Patriotic Alliance” scare stories about migrants, and – favourable – reports on Trump and the chances of a Marine Le Pen victory in France.

On the same site Embrey argues that trade unions need to stop being, “an arm of a tin-eared liberal establishment” (TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH WORKING CLASS POST-BREXIT).

He argues forcefully against free Movement,

… on free movement, union leaders remain ambivalent at best, criminally silent at worst. This disastrous policy, which commodifies workers, atomises society and contributes to the undercutting of wages, has, more than anything else, contributed to the rupture between working-class communities and the political class.

Westmonster’s patriotic ‘socialists’ parallel many of the themes of the former ‘Marxists’ of Spiked-on-Line.

This section of the left has not just embraced the populist language of the “people” versus the  ‘elites’,  the ‘rulers’ of the European Union.

They have moved from ideas of “strong democracy”, which had something in common with the writings of Benjamin R. Barber, a critique of liberal “thin” democracy, based on rights, and advocacy of the ability of people to “govern themselves”.

In its place National Sovereignty has been rediscovered (see: Frank Furedi. Politics without sovereignty is not politics at all 2007).

Sovereigntism.

In parallel to French ‘sovereigntists’ (supporters of ‘souverainisme’), both former leftists and long-standing republican nationalists,  they both defend “national institutions and culture”. Against the European Union they support, ” une Europe des nations“, the economic and political  independence of each country, against globalisation. Right wing soveriegntists explicitly opposes  mass immigration, ‘left’ sovereigntists also express concern about both the free movement of capital and of people.

By its nature sovereigntism is fixed on national political institutions.

In France this tends to mean an exaggerated ‘republicanism’. In the UK it is driven by an obsession with Parliamentary sovereignty.

Spiked-on-Line fits comfortably into the role of the best defenders of the Mother of Parliaments.

Following challenges to Brexit by what he chooses to call an “Elite Remainer”and the  Spiked’s Deputy Editor Tom Slater evoked everything save the Magna Carta to defend Westminster.

Parliamentary sovereignty is a precious thing. We fought a civil war and chopped off a king’s head to establish that it is only a parliament, with the consent of its electors, that can govern, that can determine the politics of a nation. It was the promise of parliamentary sovereignty, of real representation for all, that agitators from the Chartists through to the Suffragettes struggled and fought and went to the wall for.

“The Brexit case was driven by disdain for the demos, not love for parliament.” he thundered, we must now defend not just parliamentary sovereignty, but also the radical, democratic ideas that underpin it..”

One time leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Frank Furedi has extended the argument in directions all too well-known to those familiar with French politics. In  August last year, (HOW ‘OPEN BORDERS’ BECAME AN ILLIBERAL CRY)  he tackled immigration.

The use of immigration as a tool to weaken national sovereignty is wholly destructive, provoking cultural confusion and uncertainty. An enlightened argument for freedom of movement must also uphold national sovereignty, and recognise the status of the prevailing national culture. Disregarding the special status of national institutions and culture is an invitation to a permanent war of cultures — that is, to real division and tension.

On the same Spiked-on-Line site, the day of Brexit was greeted by excited born-again nationalists,

THE BRILLIANCE OF BREXIT

Leading British public intellectual Julie Burchill announced,

It’s very handy that Brexit was born as the Labour Party was dying – now all of us comrades who are repulsed by forelock-tugging, nepotism and hypocrisy have a home to go to. I can’t remember a time when I felt so excited about the future. I was pleased but not shocked to learn that John Lydon, my teenage hero, is a proud Brexiteer – I’ve always said that the REAL thing the Remnants can’t forgive us for is not the imaginary hate crimes or the alleged economic Armageddon our victory will bring, but the fact that we’ve revealed them as a bunch of scared-stiff, curtain-twitching, tut-tutting, doom-mongering stick-in-the-muds, clinging on to the boring old status quo like a kiddy with a comfort blanket, when all this time they thought they were progressives. Bring on the chaos!

Former International Marxist Group member and Labour MP,  Kate Hoey says…

Today is brilliant because triggering Article 50 simply reflects the most basic element of democracy: putting into effect the choice of the people. With the entire establishment arrayed against them, the British public decided that the UK was strong, wise and generous enough to survive outside the restrictions of the European Union.

In a few years’ time, when we are making our own laws and freely trading with the rest of the world – including with our European friends – I predict that it will be very hard to find people who admit to having doubted that we could succeed as a proud independent country.

Kate is MP for Vauxhall.

Other comments include, from a member of the revolutionary wing of the Daily Telegraph, “It’s now up to left and right to contest what kind of future they want for the UK after Brexit. The 2020 election will pose a choice between socialism and capitalism. ”

Harsimrat Kaur adds a dash of humour by declaring, “The main reason I voted to leave was so we can implement a fair immigration system. The idea that a person with an EU passport has easier access to Britain than someone with a non-EU passport is outrageous. Going forward, I want to see us restore that equality.”

Equality indeed…

Brian Denny,  of the Trades Unionists against the EU, a regular contributor to the Morning Star and who appears to be a member of the Communist Party of Britain (see their site here),  says, “We have nothing to lose but Eurocratic dictatorship.”

In a gesture which links Spiked-on- line with Westmonster, Paul Embery (see above) says…

What happened on 23 June was a genuine democratic revolt. The establishment was shaken to its core. Working-class England – which had hitherto always played second fiddle in the minds of politicians to Middle England – arose from its slumber. And how! An entire class of people which had been ignored and patronised hit back. The left must get on board. Democracy just happened. We should cheer and embrace the new mood. Suddenly politics means something again. Suddenly we can see that the political order isn’t inviolable. There is a New Jerusalem to be built. And we have taken the first step.

Paul is regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and national organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Many people on the left will no doubt wish to congratulate the FBU on having a leading figure write for Spiked-on-Line and Westmonster.

Or perhaps to explain to them a few things about internationalism, the working class having ‘no country’, the British state’s ‘capitalist’ faults, and perhaps,  something about who’s in charge of making Brexit, transferring EU legal documents and rulings into British law under their own terms: the hard right wing of the Tory Party, cheered on by the millionaire press (as the Morning Star might say..).