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English Labour Network, a “Patriotic” initiative.

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Identity Politics?

Jean-Luc Mélelenchon perhaps set a precedent.

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“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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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…

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(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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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..).

Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..

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Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.

Don’t lump together Brexit and Trump.

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.

Myths

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.”’[8]

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’?

 

John McDonnell Rails against “Elites” and stands by “British people” for “Positive Brexit”.

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McDonnell Drops Internationalist and European Principles for Brexit “Enormous Opportunity”. 

John McDonnell backs Brexit as ‘enormous opportunity’ for Britain reports the Politics site.

Labour today promised to get behind Britain’s exit from the European Union, saying they now believed Brexit is an enormous opportunity for the country.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that Labour would not seek to prevent or delay Brexit, labeling those trying to do so as being “on the side of certain corporate elites”.

He told a meeting in central London that Labour “must not try to re-fight the referendum or push for a second vote,”

“If Article 50 needs to be triggered in Parliament, Labour will not seek to block or delay it,” he said.

He added that: “to do so would put us against the majority will of the British people and on the side of certain corporate elites, who have always had the British people at the back of the queue.”

In a shift from Labour’s previous support for the EU, McDonnell said he believed it had been run in the interests of big business.

“While Labour supported remaining in the EU to protect workers’ rights, we cannot hide from the fact that too much of the EU also had aspects of the old model, putting the interests of big business over ordinary people,” he said.

“Labour accepts the referendum result as the voice of the majority and we must embrace the enormous opportunities to reshape our country that Brexit has opened for us.”

He insisted that the party needed to change their attitude about Brexit

“It is time we all were more positive about Brexit,” he said.

McDonnell was asked how Labour could have any influence over the Brexit process when he had just ruled out voting against it, or seeking to block it.

He replied that the party would use “moral pressure” to influence the government.

“I think it’s the moral pressure that we’ll be able to exert… I don’t think it will come down to parliamentary procedures…” he insisted

“No government can resist (the moral pressure).”

Labour were accused of “capitulating” on Brexit, following McDonnell’s speech.

“Labour’s premature capitulation on Article 50 leaves those of us who oppose a hard brexit in a weaker position,” Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said.

“As a result we now have less power to persuade the government to give us proper details on their plans ahead of a vote.”

This language, the “British people” and the terms,  “certain” (which ones?) “corporate elites”, reflect national populist rhetoric.

They have no place in an internationalist socialist movement.

What exactly are the “enormous opportunities” McDonnell  is talking about?

Kicking out European workers, for example?

Ending EU legislation that promotes the workers’ and social rights that he cites, so that labour can be – even – more ‘flexible’?
More corporate giveaways and, perhaps, protectionism now that EU rules on a level playing field for the single market will be gone?

Negotiating with Donald Trump for a special US-UK trade deal?

The Shadow Chancellor gives no examples.

Nor does he specify  what the phrase “moral pressure” means, beyond insulting people’s intelligence with the assertion that, “”No government can resist (the moral pressure).”

One might suppose that McDonnell considers that one only has to think “positive” in front of the mirror, and, hop, positive things happen.

This intervention goes against the grain of the international democratic socialist left:

Left-wing parties across Europe are telling Jeremy Corbyn to block Brexit November the 14th.

Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure from left-wing party leaders across the continent to reverse Labour’s Brexit policy and block Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Socialist parties across Europe, including Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), are calling on the leader of the British Labour Party to form a parliamentary opposition to Brexit.

We endorse this recent statement by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Labour should vote against Article 50. (9th of November).

Editorial

On 5 November Jeremy Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror that Labour will vote in Parliament against triggering “Article 50” — the formal procedure for Britain quitting the EU — unless the Tory government agrees to Labour’s “Brexit bottom line”.

That, he said, is mainly continued UK membership of the “single market”, within which customs duties and checks are abolished and trade regulations are uniform.

Better if he had said that the bottom line is freedom of movement in Europe — the freedom of EU-origin workers in Britain to stay here securely, for their friends and compatriots to join them, and for British people to work, live, or study in other EU countries with almost citizens’ rights, including such entitlements as public health care.

Since all sides now more or less concede that Britain cannot stay in the “single market” without also continuing freedom of movement — presumably with European Economic Area membership, or a sort of EU semi-membership, like Norway — it comes to much the same thing.

Then Labour’s right-wing deputy leader Tom Watson intervened to say that Labour would push “single-market” amendments, but would vote for “Article 50” regardless. Corbyn seems to have deferred to Watson.

Corbyn’s initial stance was right, and Watson is wrong. When the judges ruled that Parliament must vote on “Article 50”, that was an assertion of democratic norms.

The Tory government, in its legal dispute with the judges, has taken its stance on “Royal Prerogative”, the most undemocratic feature of British politics, the residue from the old absolute monarchy, the supposed right of the government to bypass Parliament.

The referendum result of 23 June creates no compelling democratic mandate for the abolition of freedom of movement, or for that matter the removal of EU citizen rights from over 50 million people. Or to impose the re-entrenchment of partition in Ireland. Or trigger the erection of a further probable new border between England and Scotland.

Aside from the facts that 16 and 17 year olds were excluded; that EU citizens living here were also excluded (though they can vote in local authority elections); that the referendum was run on poor electoral registers; and that opinion polls now show a Remain majority, the referendum could create no mandate for any particular form of Brexit. The Brexit campaigners were definite only on promises which they would scrap on 24 June (£350 million more each week for the NHS) and vague on the hugely different post-Brexit models (Norway? Switzerland? Canada? Albania? Singapore?)

It is more democratic for Parliament to decide the terms of Brexit negotiations than for May’s Cabinet to do it behind closed doors.

May has given secret assurances to the Nissan bosses. Labour should demand she give public assurances to migrant workers, and to workers and students who may want to migrate.

Maybe the combined votes of Labour, Lib-Dems, SNP, and Europe-minded Tories will be able to win terms to “soften” Brexit. That will be good.

If May refuses to trigger “Article 50” on “softened” terms, insists on “hard” Brexit, and can’t get it, then that’s her problem, and Labour should not help her out of it. It will be good, not bad, if the government cannot pass “Article 50” through Parliament — that is, if Parliament, in one way or another, upholds the rights of migrant workers.

Jeremy Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror that he welcomed the prospect of May calling an early general election. Activists should prepare for that possibility.

Under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, passed by the Cameron government, May can call an early election only by engineering two successive votes of no-confidence in her government — not a good ploy — or by getting a two-thirds majority for it in Parliament, that is, only by getting Labour to vote for it too.

In circumstances like the present, where the Labour right’s relentless sabotage has given the Tories a not-yet-diminishing average 11% lead in polls over the last three months, Labour has an interest in gaining time to sort out the saboteurs, and a right to do so.

We have no interest in helping May to get a mandate from a snap election which she’d be fairly sure to win (despite “Remain” now having a majority in opinion polls), and which she could then cite as a “mandate” for hard Brexit.

Labour should fight every inch of the way to minimise barriers and divisions which the Tories want to raise with Brexit.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Socialist Party: For Ending the Free Movement of Labour to the UK.

with 14 comments

Image result for pro-europe demonstration trafalgar square left unity tendance coatesy

Capitalist pro-EU demonstrators.

The Socialist Party writes,

The EU referendum result was a massive rejection of the capitalist establishment but voting Leave was not a vote for a governmental alternative. Now Jeremy Corbyn has the opportunity to use his Labour leadership re-election campaign to rally both Leave and Remain voters behind a programme for a socialist and internationalist break with the EU bosses’ club, argues CLIVE HEEMSKERK.

The Party is exultant.

‘Project Fear’ lost (project hysteria about Johnny foreigners won…).

The main forces of British and international capitalism did everything they could to secure a vote in June’s referendum to keep Britain in the EU. President Obama made a carefully choreographed state visit. The IMF co-ordinated the release of doom-laden reports with the chancellor George Osborne.

And then there was the shameful joint campaigning of right-wing Labour Party and trade union leaders with David Cameron and other representatives of big business.

A propaganda tsunami of fear was unleashed to try and intimidate the working class to vote in favour of the EU bosses’ club.

But to no avail. Pimco investment company analysts mournfully commented that the vote was “part of a wider, more global, backlash against the establishment, rising inequality and globalisation” (The Guardian, 28 June).

No mention of, er, Jeremy Corbyn’s position in favour of Remain..

The article is full of a lot of tiresome self-justification, and statistics that minimise the Labour voters’ support for Remain, not to mention that of the overwhelming majority of young people, (“Just two out of five people aged 65 and over backed staying in. In contrast, 75% of voters aged 18 to 24 plumped for Remain). They apparently do not see it as a problem that, as the Mirror put it,  “Labour’s heartlands united with Tory shires” to vote Leave.

Accepting the present state of class consciousness – on this basis we could equally claim that the Tory shires were also voting “against the capitalist establishment” – is not a socialist standpoint.

Instead the so-called Lexit camp offered ‘understanding’ about fears about being swamped’ by migrants, and a cart-load of clichés about ‘Brussels’ links to big business, as if Westminster is not bound and foot to Capital.

We can also recall straightforward lies blaming the reform of the Code du Travail in France on the EU and the idea that Brexit would halt the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP),  when it’s been EU countries, and not the UK that have scuppered it for the moment.

The result was that during the Referendum campaign the Lexiters sided with the ‘sovereigntists’ who imagine that leaving the EU would ‘restore’ power to Parliament, and indeed the Nation.

In other words they stood on the same side as the most reactionary sections of Capital and the bourgeoisie, the Tory Right and the ‘populist’ nationalist-racists of UKIP.

If they are not always as honest as their virulently nationalist French allies, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID), about this, the strategy of the Socialist Party, like the SWP, the Morning Star and Counterfire, ties class politics to national sovereignty and erodes the internationalist basis of a common European left.

https://latribunedestravailleurs.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/tribune-meeting-28-mai.jpg?w=620&h=228

Trotskyist POID pro-Brexit Rally in Paris May 2016 backed by Socialist Party, Morning Star, Steve Hedley, Alex Gordon, Lexit campaign, and Co.

It is the task of the left to fight, not adapt to, the  carnival of reaction that took place during and is continuing after the Referendum.

But no doubt the Socialist Party would have found class reasons to ‘understand’ those in the Victorian proletariat who celebrated the 1900 ending of the siege of Mafeking and this joyous meeting of toffs and East Enders.

Image result for siege of mafeking celebrations in London

To these high-minded people, all capitalist politicians are to blame for nationalist campaigns that feed on racism (“All capitalist politicians, defending a system based on the exploitation of the majority by a small minority, to some degree rest on nationalism – with racism as its most virulent expression – to maintain a social base for capitalist rule”) . It’s never the ideology of others, who have no minds of their own. So they, the capitalist lot, are all to blame…

No doubt from the front page of the Daily Express, UKIP, to…the Liberal Democrats….

https://i2.wp.com/www.aljazeera.com/mritems/imagecache/mbdxxlarge/mritems/Images/2016/6/21/9b0dab20514e4f629643f00e451eff0f_18.jpg

The Socialist would no doubt dislike this UKIP poster.

Instead the Socialist Party has a position of the problem – but also opposed to the free movement of labour.

Or to put it less indirectly: migrant labour and ‘foreigners’.

This is a real sticking point.

In the negotiations that are taking place, the Socialist Party lays down a few ‘principles’, apparently socialist and ‘trade unionist’,  on the topic.

They state,

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.

It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

What is their position on the kind of ‘border control’ they do support.

The organised workers’ movement must take an independent class position on the EU free movement of labour rules that will be raised in the EU negotiations (see box).

Which is?

Here is the negative (Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU.)

What ‘free movement’ exists in the EU is used to allow big business to exploit a cheap supply of labour in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of low pay, zero-hour contacts and poor employment conditions.

Well there’s nothing here about pan-European efforts to end this ‘race to the bottom’.

Only a very British exit from the system.

We would like a specific answer: is the Socialist Party in favour of a “closed shop” controlling entry for European and other migrant workers entry into the UK?

How will this operate ?

Pre or post-entry?

To the whatabouters we ask: will ending freedom of movement from ‘Fortress  Europe’  mean that you can make a ‘socialist’ Fortress UK?

Migrant labour deserves an answer on how the Socialist Party wishes to regulate their future.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Boris Johnson: British to be “Heroes of Europe” opposing Nazi Aim of “one authority” in Europe.

with 15 comments

Heroes of Europe Against Hitler’s European Union.

What is it about former London Mayors and Hitler?

A few weeks ago we had Ken Livingstone’s comments about Zionists and Hitler.

No sooner had the din died down after Ken’s kenspeckle kiddy krap, than we have Boris’s bumptious borborygmi.

Boris Johnson: The EU wants a superstate, just as Hitler did

In a dramatic interview with the Telegraph, he warns that while bureaucrats in Brussels are using “different methods” from the Nazi dictator, they share the aim of unifying Europe under one “authority”.

He claims Winston Churchill would be joining him on the Brexit bus; he warns that the EU shares the same flawed ambition to unite Europe that Hitler pursued, and he challenges the Prime Minister to a proper “democratic debate” about the referendum live on television.

Interview,

(Boris) sees parallels between the choices that confronted his beloved Churchill, and Britain, during the Second World War and the decision facing voters next month.

“This is a chance for the British people to be the heroes of Europe and to act as a voice of moderation and common sense, and to stop something getting in my view out of control,” he says.

Johnson claims to be a real European.

Apart from his mastery of all the living tongues and cultures, he is a native speaker of Ciceronian Latin, and is said to be the only person alive who has read enough of the Emperor Claudius’ lost volumes on the Etruscans to be fluent in their speech.

He may be interested to read how his rancid rhetoric  has gone down in the rest of Europe.

Brexit-Befürworter Boris Johnson vergleicht EU mit Hitler.

The DW article – one of a whole page of similar instant German reports –   is content to outline Johnson’s rant.

The French reaction is more forthright.

Brexit : Boris Johnson dresse un parallèle entre l’Union européenne et Hitler

Pour appuyer son argumentaire contre l’UE, l’ancien maire conservateur de Londres n’a pas hésité à effectuer un parallèle surprenant.

To back his arguments against the European Union, the former Conservative Mayor of London has not hesitated to draw a surprising parallel.

We will be more forthright still.

Johnson is known for his talk about  ‘piccaninnies’ and black people’s  ‘watermelon smiles‘.

Not to mention his description of President Obama and the “part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire…”

Johnson has not only joined the Carnival of Reaction amongst those leading the Brexit campaign: he is now leading it.

As Mack Wrack General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  says,

A Brexit vote at the EU referendum will benefit Boris Johnson and his pursuit of power, Mack Wrack warned, as his union threw its support behind the Remain campaign on 12 May. The 37,000-strong Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the latest in a growing list of trade unions joining the battle to stop the UK breaking away from Brussels.

“It’s not our referendum,” Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, told around 200 delegates to the union’s annual conference in Blackpool. “The referendum is taking place because of wrangling amongst the Tories. It’s a result of pressure from the right-wing of the Conservative Party and the threat from Ukip.”

He added: “The outcome of a Brexit vote is likely to lead to a change in prime minister, and we could end up replacing one Old Etonian for another.”

“[Johnson] is the man who forced through the worst cuts in the history of the fire service, anywhere in the country, ever… So far the referendum debate has largely been a feud between elites over the best way to exploit workers.”

The comments come after the Trades Union Congress, Unite, Unison, the GMB and other major unions backed a Remain vote at the 23 June ballot. The FBU recently voted to re-affiliate with Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s shock leadership election victory in September 2015.

EU referendum: Fire Brigades Union backs Remain campaign and blasts Boris Johnson

Meanwhile:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2016 at 10:38 am