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New Left Review, Oliver Eagleton attacks Owen Jones, “tough action on antisemitism is a proxy for antisocialism…”

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A New Generation of Struldbrugg Socialists.

As New Left Review (NLR)  enters its 61st year, while still publishing valuable articles, the political content has become dominated by Struldbrugg socialism. These long-living inhabitants of the  land of Luggnagg, Jonathan Swift discovered in Gulliver’s Travels, show not  not only all the “follies and infirmities” of other elderly people , but they are also extra-opinionated.

NLR founding figure, Perry Anderson, writes in his Parish journal, the London Review of Books this week, “The letters objecting to my account of the European Union, offer a range of criticisms, none without an intelligible rationale.”. (Vol 43. No5) The Struldbruggs are supporters of national sovereignty, or sovereigntists, but they tolerate imports, like a hefty shaft of rare and curious words, to remind us of our Bildungslücke.

The peevish, the morose, the covetous,, and the vanity of those those claim to challenge power from their laptops,  are hallmarks of those who wrote, as present Editor Susan Watkins did in 2016, welcoming the vote to leave the European Union,”  Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” Anderson indeed repeated this happy phrase in 2020,’critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks …” (Ukania Perpetua. NLR Second Series. 125).

Enter a new voice: Oliver Eagleton, whose work has appeared in Jacobin, The Article, Novara and openDemocracy, as well as Counterfire and Verso.

For the latter he wrote this hatchet job, which has disappeared from the archives:

 

Now there is this:

 

VICIOUS, HORRIBLE PEOPLE

A review of Owen JonesThis Land: The Story of a Movement

This is not really a review of Jones’ book, one written by somebody, Owen Jones, with serious experience and respect in the broad labour movement. It is a polemic against something Eagleton calls “McDonnellism”, against left internationalists who stood against Brexit, and  a  pretty good effort at aping his  Struldbrugg  elders.

The first thing that strikes the reader is that Eagleton follows the NLR line that Labour should not have opposed Brexit. He fails to mention that his journal actively backed the vote to Leave, with Editorial Board member Tariq Ali appearing on public platforms to cast the ballot on the same side as the European Reform Group, the Tory hard right, and Nigel Farage. As he himself wrote in 2020, “Labour will never be the Party of Remain. It’s time it stopped trying.”

Eagleton focuses on the movement for a second referendum, widely backed by the Labour grassroots, and the force behind million strong marches protesting against Brexit.

While autopsies of Corbynism invariably identify the Brexit polarization as a fatal turning-point, This Land is unique in detailing how Corbyn’s ambiguous position was partially responsible for creating that chasm in the first place. His protracted indecision generated a political vacuum that enabled the arch-centrist Remain movement to grow throughout 2018, winning over previously sceptical figures like Starmer and McDonnell.

……

McDonnell thus formed a second referendum pressure group inside the shadow cabinet, swaying the perennially indecisive Corbyn after purging the Leave faction from his office. Jones acknowledges the disastrous electoral fallout of this policy, but he concludes that ‘Labour had no real choice’. ‘Whatever decisions the party made’, he writes, ‘it would not have ended well’.

In this ‘review’ the idea that opposition to national neoliberalism, and to the hard right fantasy of the ‘anglosphere’ was behind this turn occurs not once.

Less interested in a political analysis of why Labour failed in 2019  – the obvious point being that Corbyn did not connect with the electorate, that there was gulf between the enthusiasm of the Corbynistas and the dislike of the majority of voters – Eagleton spares no words against Owen Jones, “a self-described ‘participant-observer’ in the Corbyn experiment”, marked by “instinctual conformism”, and takes a few side swipes at other highly regarded Labour people, including “Clive Lewis, the chest-thumpingly pro-nato Afghan war veteran..”

This paragraph, discovered in the thickets of ire. follows the main thrust of the book, “less a history of Corbynism than a prolonged apologia for McDonnellism.” One that refuses to challenge the idea that there was a crisis in the Party about antisemitism, and, Eagleton underlines, “. Alongside such incoherent formulations is a summary of Israeli history which ‘could have been written by Shimon Peres’, as one critic has remarked. ” Or that, “‘tough action on antisemitism’ is a proxy for antisocialism…”

Over it all there is the dark figure of John McDonnell….

Just as This Land’s timeline is manipulated to indict Milne… , “The same double-standard is evident in Jones’s disinclination to criticize his political mentor. In order to sustain the representation of Milne as obtuse Stalinist and McDonnell as master strategist, the latter’s political misjudgements must either be neglected or downplayed. Like Jones himself, McDonnell warned against Corbyn’s leadership bid; opposed the leader’s anti-imperialist agenda (including his widely popular response to the Manchester bombings); advocated ihra; cosied up to New Labour leftovers like Alastair Campbell; and pushed the party towards Remain out of an irrational fear of Change uk. A serious account of Corbynism would recognize the damaging effect of these climbdowns. “

For Eagleton, “Starmerism is the end-point of McDonnellism, the logical result of Jones’s prescriptions. ”

The Struldbruggs nod, and nod and nod.

Not any of them have a clue about getting the left into power in this country.

 

 

 

 

We hear on good authority that the person Oliver Eagleton attacks in this review  has also written a reply….

 

 

 

Tariq Ali Attacks John McDonnell and Welcomes Prospect of “Independent Labour Party” Breakaway,

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The coming British revolution: Ali, Tariq: 9780224006309: Amazon.com: Books

Tariq Ali, “a Sniff of Spring”.

I met Tariq Ali on an underground Train,

Like a bloated Red Mole in considerable pain,

He said he’d been there since a quarter past nine,

Trying to Find the Majority Line.

Refrain.

IMG, IMG, the Fear and the Dread of the Whole Bourgeoisie,

IMG, IMG, Volumes and Volumes of Bankrupt Theory.

East End Music Hall Song, 1970s.

How we used to love that ditty, down on the Mile End Road!

Now Tariq Ali has popped up again, a master left strategist. New Left Review have launched a Blog, Sidecar, a rival to respected organs, such as TC and Shiraz. Who should be one of the first off the starting bloc but Tariq Ali, Starmer’s War.

The young upstart begins by noting that, “the forces unleashed since 2008 are still in flux.”

How true, how very true.

He turns to Labour,

Then came the 2017 election, which saw a Labour vote higher than the last two achieved by Blair, depriving May of her majority. Many party officials and MPs were hoping for a crushing Labour defeat. Their disappointment could be seen on their faces. The BBC and Guardian were equally distressed. How could this have happened? An informal agreement was reached. Everything possible must be done to make sure Corbyn was defeated. It was. He was.

Labour’s 2019 defeat was not all down to this crew, he wisely adds.

The very active public campaigner for Brexit, who cast his ballot to Leave, notes that his wishes should have been followed by Labour but were not,

I’ve argued before that Labour should have stuck to the line that the referendum result had to be respected, adding that since it was not of their making,

Alas, it was the dammed McDonnell who fudged it,

The weakest link turned out to be Corbyn’s supposedly loyal ally and Shadow Chancellor. But John McDonnell – hailed by the soft left as ‘the most radical politician of his generation’ (see Jeremy Gilbert in OpenDemocracy, Owen Jones in the Guardian, James Butler in the LRB) – had already shown his colours at the time of the Manchester bombing in the run-up to the 2017 election

The former Red Moler continues in this vein for some time, some very long time,.

McDonnell, ” caving in to the well-funded Remainer lobby – led, of course, by Keir Starmer,” Starmer, O Starmer! ” “claque “”the rights protected were mainly those of police and spies” ” KCB for his efforts”,.

Once with Starmer’s  hands on the levers of power, , “The Tory-voting Jewish Board of Deputies – if not the hyper-corrupt, hard-right Netanyahu himself – was given veto power over Labour foreign policy.” ‘If not’, a sage addition to the thought… Now,  ” the real feather in Starmer’s cap would be expelling Corbyn from the party.” ” Starmer’s purge is neither competent, professional, lawyerly or sober, but ill-considered, clumsily executed and open to legal challenge.”

After this cascade of adjectives about a real problem, Labour suspensions and expulsions that many, rightly oppose, Ali comes to this damming finale.

Just like Blair and Brown, he offers no serious opposition to Conservative policies and sucks up to Washington. Then, it was Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, mutatis mutandis, it is China. In July Starmer met up with US Secretary of State Pompeo to reassure him that Labour was back on the rails. As proof, he told Pompeo that Britain needed to be harder on China, not just banning Huawei’s 5G technology but imposing sanctions on Chinese officials suspected of human-rights abuses.

Such a bad idea…

What is the right response to the Starmerism?

 There are three years left before the next general elections. An Independent Labour Party with even half a dozen MPs and a membership base of perhaps 50,000 – that number have left already since Starmer took over – could mark a real advance.

Ali sees light at the end of the tunnel, Corbyn has moved:

His newly announced Peace and Justice Project is a positive move; amid the winter gloom of Starmer and Covid, a sniff of spring. It is a multi-issue initiative, open to those inside and outside the Labour Party, in the UK and abroad; over 20,000 people have signed up already. There will be teething troubles, no doubt, but the creation of a new political platform and online movement is a step forward.

Let us pass over the attack on John McDonnell, a serious internationalist politician genuinely liked by many on the left. What exactly are the forces Ali imagines in his Independent Labour Party? Tina Werkmann’s new network?  Labour against the Witch-hunt led by Jackie Walker, the Weekly Worker and Tony Greenstein? Lord Voldemort, Chris Williamson, and his mates in TUSC?  The Staliniens of the CPB, and his mate Andrew Murray? Democratic Socialism Alliance (DSA) forum? The likes of Massoud Shadjareh, a stooge of the Iranian regime and one of the backers of Corbyn’s New Project? Counterfire? They couldn’t even run a coffee shop…..

And the fact that the likes of Ali ‘welcome’ such a move, Ali, International Marxist Group, Yeltsin supporter, Liberal Democrat, Green, and more recently Jeremy Corbyn’s best friend.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

Perry Anderson, New Left Review and Europe.

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See the source image

Perry  Anderson, New Left Review and Europe.

 

“But what would Brexit actually mean for the European Union, or for Ukania in parting with it? So far, all that was clear was that ‘Blairized Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianized eu’ and ‘critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it’, against which the entire global establishment had inveighed. “

Perry Anderson. Ukania Perpetua. New Left Review. 2/125. Sept/Oct 2000.

 

In Rule Britannia (1972) Daphne du Maurier imagined a Britain in which, because of economic and political failures, the UK had joined with USA together in a single nation, USUK. It halted talk about joining the Common Market. In a state of emergency, enforced by US marines, resistance comes from liberation forces led by Paddington Bear and, armed with bows and arrows, the Lost Boys.

In the detail this may be a faulty recollection. But Perry Anderson seals his account of the “distinctive” New Left Review arguments about “British state and society” and the endurance of the “liberal market economy” over the decades, the “deep structures of Labourism” reconciled to that order, the Corbyn moment, elected on a platform that rejected the “whole neoliberal order” with a picture of a defining moment in British politics, Brexit, that has less plausibility than the novelist’s scenario.

In the days of the ‘ultra-Europeanism” of The Left Against Europe, Tom Nairn wrote of the anti-EU left’s “retreat back to the lost ground of nationalism and ‘national sovereignty’.” (New Left Review 1/72 1975)

This is a lengthy Apolgia Pro Vita Sua. But in its account of British capitalist and political development, its state form dubbed, with Nairn’s cack-handed humour, “Ukania”, there is a glaring absence. Anderson devotes not a single line to the part played in the Referendum by the sovereigntist left, the Lexiters, including at least one member of NLR’s Editorial Board, the stentorian voiced Tariq Ali. Unmentioned is the curious alliances between these forces in the Full Brexit, Communist Party of Britain, Labour Parliamentary supremacists, Blue Labour spokespeople for the Somewhere People against the Nowheres the “rootless cosmopolitans”, the Brexit Party supporting Spiked Network,  and prominent New Left Review contributor Wolfgang Otto Streeck, to name but one new leftist who joined this merry band of Constitutionalists.

Anderson permits himself one glowing recollection of the past of this illusion, the 1970s and 1980s Alternative Economic Strategy (AES), which promised a British Road to Socialism, Exit from the European Union, marked by import controls, “the outlines of an English nationalism not inherently reactionary could be glimpsed in the Alternative Economic Strategy (aes) advocated by Benn, since the opportunities for progress in the eec had proved less than once believed. Still, the aes contained the obvious danger of a Jacobin centralization blind to the realities of peripheral nationalism. Only if that were overcome, could an English socialism put behind it the ‘shame and defeat of British socialism’.”The possibility that scepticism about this long-abandoned banner was fuelled as much by the implausibility of a siege economy grew at the cusp of globalisation, as by the deliberate cut to any prospect of European left working together in a common institutional framework, the EU.

Many, indeed many, of the pages of Ukania Perptua are devoted to Scottish Nationalism, English nationalism, British nationhood, and how it might deal with “peripheral nationalism”. None are taken up with the “anglosphere” promoted by Brexiters, not just as a transatlantic and antipodean cultural home for the English-speaking volk, but an economic trading sphere, a tamed free-market liberalism for an age of national populist governance. This was hard right project indicates why a section of the left opposed Brexit, and became involved with the wider anti-Brexit cause, though kept a distinct voice in Another Europe is Possible and within the Labour Party, where it played a pivotal role in promoting pro-Referedum policy with a wider social left edge.

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Nor is there any space for the views of the internationalist left which opposed Brexit and offered the slogan, and the outline of a programme, for “another Europe”. “The Brexit referendum was a domestic quarrel, in which both sides were at mass level essentially oblivious of the ostensible object of the occasion, the European Union itself, other than as an object of polar cathexis; Remain and Leave opinion at large equally ignorant of, and indifferent to, its structures and mutations.”

The pro-Brexit vote was a “social revolt” from below, regional and social, a “hinterland of decayed industries and discarded proletarian households” was pitted the against the “liberal academy” (whatever that US expression means in UK terms), “educated opinion”, and the “wider establishment.” The poor had voted – if not as  poor, or as working class – and had dealt a  “stinging popular rebuff to the political class as a whole, united (the minority of Conservative Brexiteers aside) in an empty defence of the status quo.”

The  “liberal intelligentsia”, (Anderson ignores the Trade Union Congress and trade union opposition to Leave), weighed little in the (narrow) outcome. Labour was paralysed by divisions on the issue and “unable to reach a coherent position”, “immobilized like Buridan’s ass” during the referendum and when the campaign for a Second Referendum swept into the streets (also passed over by Anderson).

Scruffy rootless cosmopolitans may ask, what was the weight of the faction in the Conservative Party, the European Research Group (ERG) each group and the poundage of the ventriloquists of popular anti-EU feeling in the right-wing media, UKIP, and, leading up to the 2019 General Election, of the Brexit Party? Did they really put so much money and effort in the media and campaigning endeavours exposed in Peter Geoghegan’s Democracy for Sale (2020) for their personal glory?   Anderson guards his options, the Brexiteers’ Second off the starting blocks, Project Fear, trumped the Remain Camp’s. Their Take Back Control won out – offering as a lifeline to the pro-Brexit Left who could point to its popularity above that of anti-immigrant sentiment. And whatever latest ruminations on Englishness have to offer.

Labour straddled both sides of the divide, Anderson opines, and is now n “confronted with the task, not just of reconciling ‘identity politics’ (sc. Leaver proletariat) and ‘social liberalism’ (sc. middle-class and youth Remainderdom), but of developing an agenda to compete with Johnson’s One-Nation Toryism, and not preempted by it.” Now, he reflects, Labour, “having lost the working class in 2019 by a huge margin, is in a still less secure position, penned in to the corral of an increasingly middle-class—professional, managerial, clerical—Europeanist constituency” It is led by Keir Starmer, a figure Anderson announces is “soft right”,  one is glad he’s got this publicly off his chest, after having to write rude things about the Labour leader under the cover-name of a NLR intern.  Labour has now a man ill-fitted perhaps, or not, to deal with the dislocation between these forces and the traditional working class constituencies, a British working class. Rivaling only Orwell in their hopes for the proles,  whose socialist potential New Left Review – in the present re-edition of the Nairn-Anderson thesis – may well indicate, if one looks hard enough, has a long record of admiring, we can keep a glimmer of faith.

Corbyn is done and dusted. Anderson adds no new insights into the traditional unprecedented-anti-left-campaign lack-of-steel-hardened cadres, terribly principled on US-led wars and US-imperialism, and Palestine, narrative. The learned editor cannot resist patronising the members, the “vast majority, neither young nor old possessing any political culture beyond the enthusiasms of the moment or the illusions of the past”, bear in mind that amongst his other qualities Corbyn is the activist tip of the same milieu – what of Brexit?

This lengthy passage indicates something,

Without any mass upheaval, or even such turbulence as marked the seventies, the order of Ukania has been disrupted as never before since 1911–14, with no new equilibrium in sight. All its components—economy, polity, ideology, territory, diplomacy—have simultaneously and interconnectedly been destabilized. The model of growth around which the country has been built since the late nineteenth century has generated such internal tensions that it has finally backfired. Contracting manufactures, swelling financial and commercial services, deepening regional inequalities, stagnant wages, soaring house prices, escalating inequalities, and when this pattern exploded in a banking crisis, the imposition of austerity to contain it, produced the convulsion of Brexit, and with it the risk of a drop in British gdp potentially greater than any on record. Decline, banished for a season from reputable discourse, has returned in more drastic guise. What lies ahead, many declare, is more like the term in Spengler’s mistranslated title—Untergang: not decline, but downfall; or perhaps, in its abruptness, the French dégringolade.

 

I am not sure that La Bourse is undergoing a dégringolade as yet. But me, looking at the latest on Brexit and US Trade Deals, I am phoning up Paddington Bear and the Lost Boys for help. Downfall is upon us! Watch out for Traitors! Get ready to storm the Führerbunker! This is one culture war that’s not going away!

 

I am also reading this very contrasting, and serious account about the  world economy’s present development :

Les capitalismes à l’épreuve de la pandémie

Robert BOYER

 

 

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On the Trade union reactions to further ‘blows’ to the ‘establishment’ see: Shiraz.

No deal and WTO rules would be “devastating” for manufacturing

On Anderson this recent thought-provokng critical survey indicates some bearings.

The Antinomies of Perry Anderson

George Souvlis

If back in 1992 he had considered the EU a possible vehicle for overcoming nationalist divisions, by the time of his 2000 editorial its subordination to the American hegemon had doomed such a perspective. This new conjuncture was, instead, defined by the expansion of the capitalist order throughout the world, a historical process that many theorists of the time described with the euphemism “globalization.”

Τhe US hegemon was expanding its geopolitical influence in new territories throughout the globe, establishing its economic interests ever farther-afield while creating new dependencies between the capitalist center and its peripheries.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 20, 2020 at 1:38 pm