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A Critique of Susan Watkins – New Left Review – on “After Brexit”.

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Let Brexit Be Done!

 

“Holloa, my republican friend, d—n it, that’s a nasty lick you’ve got, and from one of people too; that makes it harder to bear, eh? Never mind, he’s worse off than you are.” It was, 1814, the time of the French Restauration. London had been celebrating a visit by His Sacred Majesty, the Bourbon King Louis the 18th. Zachariah Coleman a Dissenter and Radical, had not doffed his cap as the French King appeared. Hit by a burley Drayman’s fist, saved by the intervention of the above Major, the hero of The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887. Mark Rutherford, W.H. White) could stand for the left after the blow of December’s General Election. We are still reeling as the People have cheered, or at least, voted, Boris Johnson into office.

In Britain’s Decade of Crisis, Susan Watkins talks of this present-day “restoration”. “The Tories are back in office with their largest majority since the 1980s, thanks to the long-ignored northern working class”. Like the Bourbons, the PM’s “ traditional ruling-class persona” gave the trappings of “decisiveness, vitality, enjoyment”. Rolling these phrases the Editor of New Left Review sees no cause to revise her judgement on the Leave victory in the 2016 Referendum. “Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret this knocks against it, against which the whole global order establishment – Obama, Merkel, Modi, Junker, to Xi – has inveigled.” (1)

In another return to the old order New Left Review clutches at Tom Nairn’s portrait of British capitalist development. The “rising bourgeoisie was absorbed into the existing aristocratic state and civil structures”. “The world dominance of the City of London served to divert investment away from the northern industrial regions: higher returns were to be found overseas.” To cut a long, and contentious, story short, the country ended up with this: “While London remained the financial capital of Europe, ‘outward-orientation’ in the era of bubblenomics was above all Atlanticist.”

In other words, leaving the EU was not a knock to the neoliberal global order, or to “southern-based financialised capitalism”. Those gaining from “bubblenomics”, some of the funders of the Leave movement, show that much. The multinational state, Nairn’s bugbear, which he calls by the laborious name of Ukania, may be under strain. Watkins cites the ‘Scottish Rebellion’. She does not mention the sage’s speculation that “the breakup of Britain will be accompanied by the dissolution of its heartland or Southern nationalism into a larger European entity”. (2)

UKIP’s ‘National Independence” movement.

A belated English national independence struggle, led by UKIP, and with wider roots in the Northern Rust Belt, fuelled the demand for Leave. “England without London”, the alliance of the “disaggregated” working and middle classes who backed Leave, the ignored “will of the working class” given voice in Tory support is the result. But like the former mining and industrial districts of Northern France that have turned to Marine Le Pen, this is an alliance of the less-well off with their betters, the traditional reactionary wing of the right. French and British legitimists may add colour to the bloc; former mining families, self-pitying pathos. Racism, xenophobic, the germs of popular base for national populism, could be cited. They are not. One equally suspects that Simon Kuper is onto something when he talks of the “middle class anti-elitist” as the vanguard of Leave support, not the working class and poor ‘left behind’. (3)

Britain’s Decade of Crisis skirts over the movements against austerity that grew after the 2008 Banking crisis and state cuts. The People’s Assembly, run at the top by the small left group, Counterfire, funded by trade unions, such as UNITE, it galvanised and brought together grassroots protests. Prefiguring the election of Jeremy Corbyn, anti-austerity campaigns brought together left activists, local councillors, trade unionists and a big slice of community groups. Many involved joined the Labour Party – actively encouraged by the unions, and the transitional stage of supporters’ membership – under the new leadership. Some saw this as the basis for Labour insurgency, a challenge to “capitalist realism” in civil society. Yet, paradoxically or not, the anti-austerity movement began to fade the moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected and Momentum was floated as the new ‘social movement’. There is little doubt that placards and demos can only go so far when confronted with Council budgets and the Fortress of the DWP. (4)

Labour, Corbyn and the Media.

Watkins jumps to the challenge “from the Labour Left under Jeremy Corbyn: an appeal to redistribute wealth and recast foreign policy, distancing the UK from NATO’s wars.” We learn little about how Labour’s team prepared to turn these policies into a digestible form and the criticisms they faced, up to, and during the election about the unintelligibility and volume, of their plans Indeed the difficulties that the ‘Corbyn project’ faced are externalised.

We hear a lot about how the Parliamentary Party tried to frustrate Corbyn, and a great deal, a very great deal about the media’s hostility to Labour. The “Labour leader came under an unprecedented three-way assault—from the establishment intelligentsia, from his own parliamentary party and from opponents of his anti-war foreign policy.”

Nobody pointed out, that blaming foreign wars, with barely audible qualification, for the Manchester bomb attack – mass murder – was factually and politically doubtful. Nobody questioned Labour’s failure to give more than tepid support for Syrians killed by Baathist, Russian and Iranian forces, or do anything to back the Kurds, to back democrats against Assad, was reflected the ethically bankrupt ‘anti-imperialism’ of key Corbyn advisers. Nobody mentioned it in New Left Review!

Instead the issue of anti-semitism loomed over all others. She concludes“… given the scale and toxicity of the establishment onslaught, besides which the concoction of the Zinoviev Letter in 1924 appears the work of amateurs, the first duty is to salute the moral integrity of Corbyn and his courageous Jewish allies.” This no-holds, no concessions, defence offers little to resolve an over-commented issue. It is hard to credit that Corbyn supporters who reacted with as much vitriol as their critics helped resolve the issue, or that the way some treated the Labour Party as  a place to play out their absolute anti-Zionism, was not the best way to deal with a predictable attack from this quarter, helped. 

“The media’s anti semitism campaign represented a damaging assault on Corbyn’s Labour from above.” Far from the only one, but Watkins is eager to go for the next issue. “Brexit hurt the party from below—dividing it from an important section of its historic voter base.” Again, without surveying the influence of those called the Corridor Cabal, who backed Brexit even more enthusiastically than Watkins, or the turn outs on some of the biggest mass demonstrations ever seen in Britain, for remaining in the EU, she concludes, “ Instead of proposing an alternative solution to the crisis, as in 2017, Labour was the main force blocking the implementation of the popular vote, in a defence of the status quo—aligned with the Supreme Court, the House of Lords, the ‘Remainer elite’.”

Let Brexit be Done!

Any attempt to stop Brexit was not only doomed, it frustrated an alternative. “Corbyn could have avoided this position by giving Labour mps a free vote on Brexit legislation in 2019, ‘according to their conscience’, as Harold Wilson had done on the divisive 1975 referendum on the UK’s entry into the Common Market. With the ‘northern group’ voting for the bill and two dozen Labour abstentions, Johnson would have been denied the chance to make electoral hay out of the obstruction of Brexit, and the prospect of combating a much weaker Tory administration would have lain ahead at the next election.”

In other words, Labour should have let Brexit pass. The Northern patriots would have been appeased, Johnson, his key policy given the green light, his own remain opponents tossed aside, and pro-EU protesters rattled, would be in a mess. Or “much weaker”.

With the blessing of hindsight  Zachariah Coleman should have tipped his hat to the Bourbon King.

Having cheered him on his way, the Dissenter would only have to wait till 1830 to see the elite gone, and a fine musical, Les Misérables, written to celebrate it.

What now for Labour and the Left. Momentum, according to some reports, has frazzled out. Long-Bailey looks unlikely to hold the Corbyn candle. The pro-Corbyn left is fragmenting.  “The new left keeps open the prospect of taking the fight to the terrain of the future with bold solutions for inequality, climate change and the international order, as the Corbyn leadership tried to do” states Susan Watkins towards the conclusion of the New Left Review Editorial. This looks like a rerun of the alter-globalisation folk politics of the past, without any prospect of power.

What constituencies should the new left and Labour address? Reworking the themes of the Somewhere and Nowhere people, the Metropolitan and the Periphery, the political and electoral cartography stands as this: For Paul Mason, the progressive alliance of the future lies squarely with the ‘internationals’, the young metropolitan professionals of the Remain camp. For Wolfgang Streeck, the national level offers the only effective basis for democratic accountability, for calling the ravening forces of capital to order.” Paul Mason, internationalist, opponent of right-wing populism and “national neoliberalism”. Wolfgang Streeck, star writer for New Left Review, member of the alliance between left sovereigntists and Brexit Party supporters, the Full Brexit, the man who thinks national borders are the “last line of defence”…. The Editor leaves little doubt about where her support goes….(5)

*****

  1. Susan Watkins. Casting off? Editorial. NLR No 100. 2016.
  2. Page 391. The Enchanted Glass. Britain and its Monarchy. Tom Nairn. Radius 1988.
  3. Simon Kuper. The revenge of the middle-class anti-elitist. Financial Times. Feb 13th. 2010. Most British Leave voters lived in the south of England, and 59 per cent were middle class (social classes A, B or C1), writes Danny Dorling, geographer at Oxford University.
  4. Exiting the Vampire Castle. Mark Fisher. 2013. “One of the things that broke me out of this depressive stupor was going to the People’s Assembly in Ipswich, near where I live. The People’s Assembly had been greeted with the usual sneers and snarks. This was, we were told, a useless stunt, in which media leftists, including Jones, were aggrandising themselves in yet another display of top-down celebrity culture. What actually happened at the Assembly in Ipswich was very different to this caricature. The first half of the evening – culminating in a rousing speech by Owen Jones – was certainly led by the top-table speakers. But the second half of the meeting saw working class activists from all over Suffolk talking to each other, supporting one another, sharing experiences and strategies. Far from being another example of hierarchical leftism, the People’s Assembly was an example of how the vertical can be combined with the horizontal: media power and charisma could draw people who hadn’t previously been to a political meeting into the room, where they could talk and strategise with seasoned activists. The atmosphere was anti-racist and anti-sexist, but refreshingly free of the paralysing feeling of guilt and suspicion which hangs over left-wing twitter like an acrid, stifling fog.
  5. From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’: The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck. Jerome Roos. 2019 HISTORICAL MATERIALISM 27(2): 248-288

As an example of how the pro-Corbyn left is splintering this could not be better:

 

Here

Verso Publishes ‘Antisemitism and the Labour Party, Jamie Stern-Weiner’. Norman Finkelstein: “British-Jewish elites are terrorising Corbyn”.

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Verso have just put this out.

Antisemitism and the Labour Party

We are approaching the 2019 general election in bizarre circumstances. From the climate crisis to homelessness, Brexit to the NHS, the stakes could scarcely be higher. Yet a story about the Labour Party that has no basis in fact and whose partisan motivations are transparent is playing a significant role in our national conversation and might even influence the result.

The ‘Labour antisemitism’ controversy is, in its profile and its protractedness, unprecedented in modern British politics. Its prominence may increase still further as polling day draws near, while other progressive campaigns abroad—notably supporters of Bernie Sanders in the United States—are beginning to be targeted with the same allegations.

The Introduction sets the tone.

Like a creature from a horror film, the ‘Labour antisemitism’ controversy just won’t die.

The ‘antisemitism’ campaign is, in its profile and its protractedness, unprecedented in modern British political history. To find an analogy requires reaching back to those outbursts of collective madness which periodically stain the annals of human history and astonish all succeeding generations. If its consequences do not compare with those of the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthyite purges, still, in, bottomless irrationality, and self-perpetuating moral hysteria, the propaganda offensive against Labour lies squarely in the trajectory of these infamous episodes.

Some might remark that Stern-Weiner, apparently a DPhil candidate in Area Studies at the University of Oxford,  sounds pretty over the top as well.

He predicts that any Labour election difficulty will mean that the

” ‘antisemitism’ charge will briefly take on renewed salience as factional opponents seek to engineer his ouster (translation from American, his removal) . If and when he is ejected, the whole issue will vanish overnight, consigned forever to Orwell’s memory hole. What happens if Corbyn wins is less certain. But his opponents will continue to have resort to the ‘antisemitism’ weapon, while there are already indications that the relentless smears have curtailed his radicalism.

Stern-Weiner draws wider conclusions,

In any case, the ‘Labour antisemitism’ campaign set a template that is sure to be deployed against other popular movements of the left – as supporters of Bernie Sanders are beginning to discover. It is therefore critical that the strange events that have warped British politics since 2015 are soberly examined and the truth about them established – not just for posterity, but to help kindred  governments avoid repetition of Labour’s mistakes. This volume brings together a selection of analytical writings on the ‘Labour antisemitism’ affair” as a contribution to this effort.

Jamie Stern-Weiner .

21 November 2019

Norman Finkelstein is keen to underline his contribution.

 

Not long ago Finkelstein caused a lot of controversy for his view on Jews in Britain,

Jews have too much power in Britain. The three richest Brits in 2016 were Jewish.[12] Jews comprise only .5 percent of the population but fully 20 percent of the 100 richest Brits.[13] Relative both to the general population and to other ethno-religious groups, British Jews are in the aggregate disproportionately wealthy, educated, and professionally successful …These data track closely with the picture elsewhere. Jews comprise only 2 percent of the US population but fully 30 percent of the 100 richest Americans, while Jews enjoy the highest household income among religious groups.

Jews comprise less than .2 percent of the world’s population but, of the world’s 200 richest people, fully 20 percent are Jewish. Jews are incomparably organized as they have created a plethora of interlocking, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing communal and defense organizations that operate in both the domestic and international arenas. In many countries, not least the US and the UK, Jews occupy strategic positions in the entertainment industry, the arts, publishing, journals of opinion, the academy, the legal profession, and government. “Jews are represented in Britain in numbers that are many times their proportion of the population,” British-Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notes, “in both Houses of Parliament, on the Sunday Times Rich List, in media, academia, professions, and just about every walk of public life.” The wonder would be if these raw data didn’t translate into outsized Jewish political power.

The chimera of British anti-Semitism (and how not to fight it if it were real)

In the present E-Book Finkelstein argues the following,

The Labour Party’s code of conduct hitherto faithfully honoured its libertarian legacy as it allowed every idea, however bizarre or noxious, to be mooted. Prodded by the anti-Corbyn Jewish Labour Movement, the party’s leadership poured into the code a mass of verbal sludge  128 anti-semitism and the labour party that polluted the venerable principle of free speech. Now British-Jewish elites are terrorising Corbyn to accept a purported definition of antisemitism that, one, is and couldn’t but be gibberish, two, exemplifies ethnic special pleading, three, is not just pointless but also stifles vital debate, and, four, has nearly nothing to do with antisemitism and nearly everything to do with shielding Israel from deserved condemnation. The long and short of it is, to detoxify its code of conduct, Labour should junk the revised text, reject as a whole and in all its parts the IHRA text, and return to its radical roots.

If the Labour Party adopts them, it will become a willing dupe of Israeli hasbara; it will disgrace the party’s noble traditions; and it will betray Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to set the party on a new-old path of upholding Truth and Justice, wherever it may lead and whatever the price.

Why the Labour Party Should Not Adopt the IHRA Definition or Any Other Definition of Antisemitism.

Without going into the fraught debate on the code of conduct Finkelstein simply wishes Labour to adopt the US First Amendment and refuse to allow any abridgement of free speech.

Here is contributor Daniel Finn, in an article taken from the populist US journal Jacobin, arguing against what is now Labour policy on the Middle East,

A ‘two-state solution’ as envisaged by Israel and its Western allies would really be a ‘one state, several Bantustans solution’, with some pitiful fragments of the West Bank handed over to a supine Palestinian leadership to administer on Israel’s behalf. The longer Israel is shielded from any kind of effective pressure by euphemistic phrase-mongering, the more likely this outcome will be.

In the following contribution Finn writes on Chris Williamson,

This is where the Chris Williamson row comes in. The case against the MP mainly rests on the people he has defended rather than the things he has said. On that count, the charge-sheet is very uneven: it is one thing to criticize Williamson for circulating a petition in support of Gilad Atzmon, a true example of a Jewish antisemite (Williamson said he was unaware of Atzmon’s antisemitic comments, deleted his post, and apologised) it is quite another to attack him for supporting Marc Wadsworth, a black Labour activist who was the victim of an unpleasant stitch-up.

Overall, I find the arguments for his expulsion unconvincing and tendentious, even if you accept – as many of Williamson’s defenders do12 – that his interventions on the ‘Labour antisemitism’ controversy have often been clumsy, insensitive, and ill-judged. And to state a point that should be obvious: while some on the Labour left dislike Williamson and think he’s a liability who does more harm than good, disciplinary action has to be based on clear-cut principles, not political expediency. Unless he’s done something that clearly merits the harshest penalty, it should be up to Labour members in Williamson’s constituency party to decide whether he continues to be their representative.

But what really matters is how this case fits into the overall picture. If Chris Williamson had never been a Labour MP, the basic structure of the controversy would be exactly the same as it is today. And if Williamson is expelled from the party, retires from political life, and never says a word in public again, the controversy will still grind on remorselessly, for all of the reasons stated above. Williamson himself would just become one more link in the chain of guilt-by-association (‘X defended Y, who defended Z’) that has become wearingly familiar.

Williamson gets another defence here:

The Fake News Nazi Corbyn, Williamson, and the Antisemitism Scandal. 

David Edwards. Media Lens, 13 March 2019.

Both completely ignore the substance of the many weighty accusations against the – present – independent candidate in the General Election.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHRIS WILLIAMSON?

Amongst other issues this struck many people,

3. The time Williamson promoted a Syrian war crimes denier

For me, one of the most unforgivable things Williamson has done, last summer, was promote Vanessa Beeley, a war crimes denier and fake news merchant. Here is an extract from Oz Katerji in the New Statesman on this incident:

 

A thoughtful contribution by David Rosenberg tries to restore some sanity to this volume,

There is Another Way to Resolve Labour’s Toxic Wrangles Around Complaints David Rosenberg Rebel Notes, 24 July 2019

On Shami Chakrabarti’s  report comrade Rosenberg  notes

She sought to replace the paranoid and toxic atmosphere that was felt at times in the party, with an atmosphere ‘for learning, positive consensus and progressive change’ where members ‘discussed and debated difficult issues and differences, in an atmosphere of civility and a discourse of mutual respect’. For her that also meant ‘a moratorium on the retrospective trawling of members’ social media accounts and past comments’.

He argues (on the basis of how people who’d been on the far-right in the 1930s could be changed) in favour of this approach.

Chakrabarti added, ‘I do not recommend lifetime bans from the Labour Party. Present or future members of the NEC should not be robbed of their discretion to consider how someone may have changed their attitude’.

There are also Testimonies: Labour Jews Speak Out.

Many are important reading.

But does this volume bring ” together the most rigorous and penetrating analytical writings on the ‘Labour antisemitism’ affair?

For a start the (already over-used)  list, “Sixty Times Jeremy Corbyn Stood with Jewish People @ToryFibs November 2019″

Just stop at the start.

1. April 1977: Jeremy Corbyn helps organise the defence of Jewish populated Wood Green from a neo-Nazi march.

Jewish Voice for Labour (which is prominent in the present book) published the original, which says,

Corbyn organised the Apr. 1977 defence of Jewish populated Wood Green from a Neo-Nazi march.

I was there, in the thick of the violent counter-demo in the road outside Wood Green Tube station.

We had come down in coaches from Warwick University Students’ Union.

Yet it was known territory: I grew up just on the border (literally, my parents’ street at the time is the dividing line between Wood Green and New Southgate) and had lived there not that long before,  in Bounds Green.

Jeremy Corbyn, a young councillor, and a  minor trade union official,  was a liaison officer for Haringey councillors who worked with the organisers of the demonstration, labour movement, left, and campaigning bodies.

On 23 April 1977, a twelve hundred-strong National Front march through Wood Green was opposed by some 3,000 anti-racists, including delegations from Haringey Labour Party, trade unionists, the Indian Workers’ Association, local West Indians, members of Rock Against Racism and the Socialist Workers Party. While Communists and churchmen addressed a rally at one end of Duckett’s Com-mon, a contingent composed of more radical elements in the crowd broke away and subjected the NF column to a barrage of smoke bombs, eggs and rotten fruit. Eighty-one people were arrested, including seventy-four anti-fascists. Such are the bare bones of our history, but they explain little about what the National Front was, where it came from, and why so many people felt that it should be opposed.

The Battle of Wood Green 23rd April 1977 Keith Fleet (an invaluable post)

Fleet says, “One of the Labour Councillors at the time, and an organiser of the counter-demonstration, was Jeremy Corbyn, then a trade union official, now a Labour MP.”

Corbyn did a good job, but, as Fleet says, he was not alone, far from it, and I doubt if he’s every claimed otherwise.

The National Front were marching against immigration above all, from the sub-continent and the Commonwealth and were felt to target the black community, important in the area and next door Tottenham.

Wood Green has never been “Jewish populated” – although not far away Muswell Hill has a  Jewish community (see the transfer of the small Hornsey and Wood Green Synagogue to Muswell Hill here), and there is a Synagogue in Brownlow Road on the border with Southgate,  in Bounds Green, about a mile from the march…

The rest of list does not get better.

  • EDM3933 7 Nov. 1990: Corbyn signs motion condemning the rise of antisemitism
  • EDM634, 11 Apr. 2000: Jeremy Corbyn signs motion condemning David Irving for being a Holocaust Denier
  • EDM1124, 6 Nov. 2000: Jeremy Corbyn praised the ‘British Schindler’, Bill Barazetti, for his WW2 kindertransport
  • EDM742, 28 Jan. 2002: Jeremy Corbyn signs motion praising football clubs for commemorating Holocaust Day
  • EDM1233 30 Apr. 2002: Corbyn was a primary sponsor on a motion condemning antisemitism

And so it goes….mostly Early Day Motions  to Parliament….

This Blog agrees with some of Stern-Weiner’s Blog recent statement (if one replaces the word fascism with national populism and the extreme right),

This election is not like any other. The far-right is winning around the world. It might very well be that we are just one economic crisis, one climate shock away from the return of fascism across Europe.

This is the real threat to Jewish people.

It is the saddest of ironies that whereas Jews were a principal target of fascism in the 1930s, Britain’s Jewish leadership has now aligned itself against the chief bulwark of anti-fascism.

In the past and today, our best defence, our only defence, against the far-right, is a strong left, which promises a positive and inclusive plan for a fairer society.

If we want to defeat the far-right and to defeat the causes of the far-right, our only hope is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

A BRIEF RESPONSE TO CHIEF RABBI MIRVIS

The present E-Book, with its message against ‘Jewish elites’, and denial that there are serious problems with a conspiratorial minority in the Labour party which includes an anti-Semitic fringe, is not likely to help that call.

Nor is its constant use of the words “elites” and this claim -itself;f with no research offered, or clarity about what “power elites” and theories about elites arem how the floating signifier of “elites” has developed within  present day national and other varieties of populism.

Is the Labour Party Against Empirical Sociology? Notes on Power, Elites, and Anti-Racism Tom Mills and David Miller

The Labour mini-site warns against ‘theories [that] ascribe to Israel influence on world events far beyond any objective analysis’. This sounds reasonable enough, but who then should be the judge of what is ‘objectively’ acceptable? More research on this topic would likely help the movement to navigate such questions for itself, but this has only been made less likely and more difficult in the febrile political atmosphere that has taken hold around this issue.

This forway from the political shallows  doesn’t even mention the hard right Brexit project that’s unleashed a Carnival of Reaction in which ‘elites’ are the main target.

But then the side of pro-Reform and Remain internationalist left gets no mention, only sneers at the ‘Blairite’ claims to be “liberal cosmopolitan progressiveness” (Jeremy Gilbert).

Nothing there about anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner and hardline ‘left’  Brexiter Paul Embery:

Image result for rootless cosmopolitan paul embery

Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Tariq Ali: The Authorised Biography. Exclusive Extract.

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A Revolutionary, a Gentleman and a Scholar. 

Tariq Ali: The Authorised Biography. Cde RON.

Extract.

Big Ben, wrecked by imperial wars, was silent. Across the road, on College Green, the crowd at the People’s Convention Rally broke out in thunderous applause to a sober and mature speech by comrade Eddie Dempsey. While he struggled to make out the words, Tariq had never experienced a like event anywhere in Britain over the last hundred years. There had been huge demonstrations, strikes, and suchlike. Now, with the old mole peeking out, it looked as if the upper classes were unable to rule.

As a young maiden from the Donbass handed Eddie a bouquet, the veteran leader of a thousand struggles had to push back a tear. Tens of thousands had gathered together to call for a new government to “bring back control” from Boris Johnson, and his neoliberal EU backers. This was the start of a different world in the heartland of Capital. How had he explained it to Trotsky? “Trouble lies ahead. Who will bring the Imperial Mothership down? The British October Revolution will transform the planet.” (1)

Old friends and comrades strode around the grass, the audience thoughtfully clearing a wide berth as John Rees tired to press copies of his bulletin into their hands. A dapper George Galloway, at the head of a delegation from a nearby Wetherspoons, sipped at a flask of tea. Tariq smiled at their excited pink faces.

As he prepared to ascend the platform, the New Left Review editor, poet and accomplished songster and cabaret dancer, reflected on his contribution to the movement. Memories of advice, well taken, to Che Guevara, his role in setting up the Black Panthers and friendship with Malcolm X, how he helped Vietnam defeat American imperialism, his encouragement of democratic socialist Boris Yeltsin, his backing for the Liberal Democrats in Haringey, and the successes of his good friends in the Bolivarian Revolution. And, not least, his recent councils to Hong Kong troublemakers to “shut it” and read some serious Xi Marxist Thought.

There had been darker moments. Blair’s ‘New Labour’ counterrevolution, warmongers like Robin Cook, the grim reality of a country without opposition for several decades. The hard-faced satirists of Charlie Hebdo, like the social liberals Cabu and Wolinski whose fate he had predicted. That business of Jo Cox and her cover for White Helmet imperialism.

The rugged revolutionary cast these memories aside. He was back in Islington North telling Jeremy Corbyn to run for the Labour leadership on a Leave the EU ticket. Showing his agreement at the idea Jeremy had suddenly recalled an urgent meeting of constituents on the dustbin collections in a local street and disappeared. Tariq was left to enjoy his organic camomile tea.

A young activist approached. “You’re number 37 on the speaker list. That’s coming up in about two and a half hours. You can get a drink in the pub if you really want to hang around.” The price of adulation by the popular masses was high. Tariq slowly stumbled towards the nearest hostelry.

******

(1) The Coming British Revolution. Tariq Ali. 1971.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2019 at 10:54 am