Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Eagleton

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

with 8 comments

Image

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….