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Counterfire Pats Itself on the Back for Backing Brexit.

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Image result for LOndon says Lexit Tariq Ali

Pro-Brexit Left Tries to Rise from the Grave.

How is the left reaction to the present stage of Brexit developing?

Counterfire, a weather-vane on the pro-Brexit left offers indications of how those opposed to the growing class for a Second Referendum on the left think.

For those not familiar with who and what Counterfire is, it is a revolutionary socialist groupuscle that split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010 (Why we are resigning from SWP: an open letter.) They protested against the “authoritarian internal regime” of the SWP and its inability to create and work with, “a broad left response to the recession”.

They were the group most associated with George Galloway’s Respect, both inside the SWP (as the ‘left pltform’) and outside:Coutnerfire leader JohN Rees for example stood  for the Respect list in the WEst Midlands for the 2004 European Elections and was the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election. He also stood for Respect in the 2006 local elections in the Bethnal Green South ward of  Tower Hamlets.

Counterfire worked with Galloway in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). Lindsey Germain from the orgisation is their best-known figure in the  the StWC. This alliance became notorious for  its “anti-imperialism of fools”. In 2015, following the murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher the organisation stated, “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East”. It has played no active part in defending the population of Syria against the Assad regime’s violence, or in standing up for the Kurds fighting the genocidal Islamists of Daesh.

In domestic politics Counterfire was involved in the Coalition of Resistance (2010)  against Austerity, and is the leading force in the People’s Assembly (founded in 2013), whose national personal they have effectively provided. These are, in their own view, long-term strategic ‘united fronts’.

Counterfire itself promoted a Leave vote during the European Referendum.

Following the Leave victory Counterfire  has been prominent in what was known for a while as the “People’s Brexit” – that is a programme for a left government constructed outside of the structures of the EU (The why and what of a People’s Brexit John Rees)

The problem with this strategy is that trying to “block” the Conservative government’s policies without challenging Brexit has proved hard to do.

There is no movement in political or civil society to ‘take back control. There is no industrial unrest or indeed any other other forces demanding a left platform. There is only a Labour Party without political power. Unless Labour confronts the economic and social consequences of Brexit,that is opposes it, the labour movement lets  May and her hard Brexit opponents act as they wish.

This is the context for the present post:

Brexit and the left, two years on.

“The left should not avoid political struggle, it should actively work to shape the outcomes of political crisis argues David Bush

This article, which admirers  have compared to Mao’s On Contradiction, continues,

 It has been just over two years since Great Britain voted to leave the EU. With the final leave date set for March 29, 2019 Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU have revealed deep divisions within the Tory party and the broader ruling class.

………

In the runup to and shortly after the Brexit vote in the summer of 2016 many on the left sounded the alarm about the dangerous potential of Brexit for the UK, Europe, and even global politics.

Brexit was going to usher in a revanchist carnival of reaction. For the last two years, people have linked Brexit and the rise of Trump, using them as a sort of shorthand to describe the dangerous rise of rightwing populism across Europe and North America. Is this linkage warranted? Two years on what has been the actual effect of Brexit?

Apparently the Carnival was largely overshadowed by the good (but not winning) electoral performance of Labour in the last (post_Brexit0 eleciton)

The result of the election was a stunning near-victory for Labour. Corbyn’s Labour Party won 40 percent of the vote, drastically increased their seat count and took away the Tory majority. The Lib Dems, Greens and the SNP – which all backed Remain – lost votes.

And what of the reactionary side of the Brexit vote? Bush reassures us:

For many voters, living in forgotten communities, where jobs and hope have long disappeared, Brexit was seen as a way to reject the establishment.

One can only sight with relief that didn’t trundle out guff about “metropolitan liberals” “anywhere”.

But I dirgess.

Above all,

 The Lexit position was clear, there were no prospects for the working class inside the EU. It was argued that a Brexit vote would cause a crisis in the ruling class in the UK and in Europe and create better conditions in which to battle both the bosses and the far-right.

Er……?

It is not that the Brexit vote was destined to automatically lead to a decrease in anti-immigrant sentiment, rather that the Brexit vote opened up a political space in which those ideas could be shifted via political struggle.

Counterfire has shifted from arguing for a mass movement behind a People’s Brexit, to the view that Brexit offers the best conditions in which to fight  the expression of far-right prejudices and the bosses.

No evidence is offered for this claim

Except a thought experiment what might have happened if the Remain vote had won.

Looking into his vision of an alternative future the Counterfire Guru writes,

Two years on it is clear that if Remain won, there would more barriers than openings for the Left. David Cameron would still be the Prime Minister in a Majority government, the Tories would not be racked by political crisis, UKIP would be much more popular and able to harness frustration with the establishment more easily, British and EU capitalists would not be staring down a political crisis, Corbyn would not have had an election that would have put his internal critics on their back foot and shifted the political debate in the country.

Would it have offered the prospect of fighting an emboldened hard-right?

Obviously not.

Would it permitted a fight against the bosses?

Well, Yes it would!

Still, as it is, prospects are rosy:

When faced with business fears about Brexit, Tory MP Boris Johnson stated fuck business. Clearly, all is not well in the ruling class.

And,

Brexit from the outset was full of contradictions. Political struggle is and will always determine which side of the contradiction emerges from a political event. Too many on the Left forgot this basic outlook and retreated to moralism and fear. The Left should not dread shake-ups in ruling class institutions. It is messy, but that is the nature of political struggle – a shifting political terrain create openings, but it is also fraught with new dangers. The role of the Left is not to shirk from this struggle, to pine for institutional and political stability of capitalism, but to work to understand the potential, and actively shape the outcomes, of a political crisis. Two years on that is the lesson Brexit.

So in other words all Counterfire is left with is gloating at the “shake up” of “ruling class institutions” by internal squabbling amongt the Tories.

These, as Mao might have said, are “secondary contradictions” amongst the class enemy…..not to mention whatever mischief the pro-Brexit lot can stir up in the Labour movement.

But let the thought sink in: all they can show for Brexit is a bleeding big row.

****

An important reply (which is by no means in the same vein as the above)  is offered by Neil Faulkner: Lexit and the Left: a comradely response to Dave Bush (Left Unity).

Extracts:

The argument that socialists should support Brexit because the bulk of the British ruling class opposes it, because it has thrown the ruling class into crisis, and because the EU is a bosses’ club is no better. It breaks down at so many levels. Underlying it, I suspect, is the absurd notion that, in the hyper-globalised capitalism of the early 21st Century, there might be some sort of ‘British road to socialism’ – presumably under a Corbyn-led Labour government implementing some sort of ‘alternative economic strategy’. Is it not obvious that the state-managed welfare capitalism of the immediate post-war period broke down in crisis in the 1970s? Is it really credible to imagine some sort of social-democratic ‘new deal’ today, to be achieved in one country, in defiance of international finance-capital, and in isolation from the international working class?

..

The Tory regime is in deep crisis. The anti-Trump demonstration showed the potential to turn that crisis into collapse. We won a historic victory on 13 July. The British state, hosting the most important foreign leader in the world, could not guarantee security on the streets of its own capital, so was forced to move Trump around the countryside in a helicopter. The people controlled the streets and turned what was meant to be a state visit to honour a fascist supporting US president into a carnival celebration of our diversity, tolerance, and solidarity. The British Establishment was forced to mute its customary welcome – limiting it to  parades of Redcoats, tea with the Queen, holding hands with May – while the British people told the truth to the world that the man is scum. If we turned that into a mass social movement against Brexit and the Far Right, we can and will defeat them.

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The Delusions of a ‘People’s Brexit’ and Corbyn’s Custom Union speech.

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Image result for people's brexit

How long ago it all seems.

Counterfire originated in a split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010. They led the Coalition of Resistance (CoR) – the grand title ‘resistance’  US term ‘coalition’ referring to liberal pressure groups, obscuring an alliance of national trade unions, local trade union and anti-cuts activists against austerity. CoR became the more successful People’s Assembly, which, held successful national anti-austerity demonstrations, thousands of local meetings, and continued the campaign against austerity with more political presence and energy.

Leading figures of Counterfire, Lindsey German, John Rees and  their small circle, run the Stop the War Coaltion (StWC) in a long-term partnership with other figures, notably Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), who now plays a major role in the Labour Party.

Coutnerfire activists are extremely competent and widely appreciated organisers of national campaigns and demonstrations.

Nevertheless there are many problems with their politics.

One that is of pressing concern is that their leadership feels, while the People’s assembly is sidelined in Labour’s project of becoming a “social movement” in a position to act as “player” in the Labour Party.

As keen supporters of the Respect adventure Rees, German, and others published on their web-site, have a distinct take on international issues, which continue the ‘anti-imperialist’ politics of the original Stop the War Coalition, in conditions, above all Syria, where this has led them into irrelevance at best, and at worst, a refusal to take an internationalist human rights approach to the slaughter.

In UK politics Counterfire takes a variety of positions, but they are guided by a pro-Brexit strategy which they call a ‘People’s Brexit’.

To this end they have used their control of the slimmed down People’s Assembly to adopt a list of what might be generously called ‘impossibilist’ demands for Brexit.

That is a list of what the PA said in 2017 on Brexit, without any indication of the political means in Parliament or how these principles could be achieved.,

 “We say no to  ‘No to A Bankers Brexit’. We need to overhaul  the tax system to clampdown on tax avoidance, to increase corporation tax, the personal tax and  inheritance tax of the wealthy.

4. The Peoples’ Assembly calls for a new charter for workers rights and for the abolition of the  anti-union laws. We need an end to Zero Hours contracts, and we call for mandatory collective bargaining for large workplaces.

5. We demand a  Charter for migrant rights: No scapegoating of refugees, full retention of rights for European workers

6. No TTIP and all neo-liberal trade deals (NAFTA and CETA etc.)

Unlike some of their allies this is not based on a specific policy of restoring national Parliamentary sovereignty detached from the rest of the world.

The whole wish-list is part of strategy to “take control” – they leave the ‘how’ for the ‘movement’ to decide.

Counterfire’s reaction to Corbyn’s speech on Monday can be taken in the light of these remarks.

Martin HallWhat does Corbyn’s Brexit speech really mean?

Overall, the speech reiterated Labour’s overall aims and objectives in terms of the kind of government it wants to be, and very good points were made regarding the rights of EU nationals, the refugee crisis, internationalism, workers’ rights and the paramount importance of keeping the NHS safe and out of any future deals the EU might cut with other countries.

As a strategy Hall comments of Corbyn’s intentions,

He will hope it will be seen as the continuation of the manifesto position of a jobs-first or People’s Brexit, and that it provides a big enough tent for most Labour voters to get under.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto makes no mention of a People’s Brexit.

This is a term unknown to the general public. It is used by pro-Brexit ‘Lexit’ forces, and employed by Counterfire through the People’s Assembly to disguise their alignment with the right-wing pro-business nationalists who led the Brexit drive. The other group which used the expression is Trade Unionists Against the EU, TUAEU (What We Need Is A People’s Brexit)  TUEAU has yet to respond to the revelation that they received a generous donation from far-right Millionaire and arch-Brexiteer, Arron Banks.

What Labour said was.

We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit, and seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.

We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.”  (Negotiating Brexit. Manifesto). In this context, supporting the idea of the UK being part of a European Customs Union, that is an free trade zone based on the same import duties, entirely consistent. It is, in short, no innovation.

Hall however continues,

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

‘The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.’

The “rabid” Remain supporters are no doubt there to contrast to the non-rabid Leave supporters….

The ventriloquists of Counterfire then speak for the Leave vote.

All the evidence from June 2016 points to the prime drivers of the Leave vote as a desire to take back control, including a variety of differing positions on the question of immigration and borders, allied to an attendant anger at what neo-liberal, free trade economics had done to the UK’s industrial heartlands.

That is, a key drive behind the Leave vote was…to “control”…immigration and frontiers.

No other example is given.

Counterfire avoids the fact that few people, outside of their restricted circles, talked about “neo-libralism” by pointing to the effects of economic restructuring. That is a way of claiming anybody who dislikes the way the economy has gone for their ‘anti-capitalist’ side.

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.

In other words he said everything and nothing about whether the future of the peoples of the UK is better or worse inside or outside the EU.

It remains to be seen how achievable any of this is, though. It is also possibly a speech designed in the hope of winning an election rather than securing a future relationship with the EU. If and when this is rejected by the EU, what will be next? Staying in the Single Market from the point of view that the EU is reformable? Reform from a position of sitting on the edge of the tent? It is quite likely that the EU will state that it will not countenance any deal that gives full access to the Single Market that allows Britain not to be bound by all of the four freedoms. So what happens then? That will be the real test and it may be one that the Labour Party is required to address sooner rather than later.

True: at some point there will be a show-down between the Sovereigntist left that stands with the Right and left-wing internationalists  opposed to Brexit, full stop. 

For the moment the below, from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror,  is a fair assessment,

Jeremy Corbyn blasted May for being on the road to nowhere – now his own journey is finally getting somewhere

The penny is dropping that Parliament could honour the referendum decision and still be in a customs union or the single market

 

‘People’s Brexit’ Faced with Disaster.

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Image result for defend freedom of movement

“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”

Enrico Tortolano and Ragesh Khakhria: Trade Unionists Against the EU.

Emergency Demonstration:

This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.  

We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.

The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.

People’s Assembly.

In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.

He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.

In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.

The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.

After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.

The result?

Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.

Perry Anderson. Passing the Baton. New Left Review. 103. 2017.

Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of  ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.

I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’)  factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.

Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”

Or indeed that,

The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.

Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.

It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.

Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the  vote to  Leave?

And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).

There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’,  agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.

One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.

The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.

But first they have to get there….

For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it.  The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”

Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..

Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on  upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.

For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.

As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” 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.

Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”

This has not happened.

Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.

The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse,  and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.

Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a  Social Europe  are decidedly not.

Brexit Now.

For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:

No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.

Brexit is about to get real. Yet we are nowhere near ready for it

 From those who give advice to the left:

There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.

Neither Washington Nor Brussels. Daniel Finn.

It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.

But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds),  and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.

No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.

Just to give a flavour…

Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.

..

Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.

The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.

Left Unity.  Brexit, Democracy, and Oppression. Neil Faulkner

As Neil says,

“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”

Brexit “Demands”, People’s Assembly.

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People’s Assembly Debates Consequences of Brexit.

Before the Referendum the left advocates of a vote to leave had no words too harsh for the European Union (EU). Setting their intellectual framework Perry Anderson in 2009 asserted that it had established a “semi-catallaxy”, a “far from perfect Hayekian order”, that is a willed “spontaneous” free market far from popular control, with a “dense web of directives and often dubious prebends”. It was a “deputy empire” to the United States. The 2008 Banking crisis, austerity, tightened in the Euro-zone to mean a block on any attempts, as Greece saw, to offer alternative policies, it has become the institutional embodiment of ‘neo-liberalism’. The EU was remote not just from left politics, but from the peoples of Europe Put crudely, as Tariq Ali so often does, voting to Leave would mean giving a kick up the backside to all that. (1)

Counterfire, the principal force in the shrunken People’s Assembly, listed a version of this account. The central reasons to vote Leave were: it would strengthen the position of all those fighting austerity in Europe, especially the south; It would protect the next Labour government from challenges to reform under European law; The British, European and US ruling classes all want us to “stay”; The EU is turning into Fortress Europe; Brexit would mess up the Tories for a generation. (Five Reasons to Leave the EU. 2005)

The ‘predictions’ in this list have all been proved false.

Brexit has not strengthened any European force apart from the ‘Sovereigntist’ far right in countries such as France and Germany. The Front National now sees the assertion of national sovereignty, including protectionism, as a realistic strategy. For them it proves that the ‘nation’, the ‘people’ can assert itself against the EU.

Brexit has not ‘messed up’ the Tories who have discovered unity around their own version of Sovereigntism, bringing ‘control’ back to the ‘people’ ‘Hard Brexit’.

The American ruling class, at least the in the ungainly shape of Donald Trump, has enthusiastically welcomed Brexit.

Whether or not Parliament will be free from potential European threats to a Labour government’s plans remains to be seen: an “open” Britain will be submitted directly to the rules of the international market for the immediate future.

Fortress Europe, that is the policy of controlling settlement but allowing millions to gain refugee to the Continent, continues. Brexit has now introduced the issue of further barriers, this time against migrant labour entering Britain.

Counterfire.

Counterfire, whose Lindsey German is also a leader of the Stop the War Coalition, as well as the People’s Assembly, has made the issue of Islamophobia central to their politics. In their view the central aspect of racism in Europe today is hostility to Muslims. Their role, like that of their original group, the Socialist Workers Party, has been not only to defend – to cite Anderson again – the religious “protective shell of uprooted and vulnerable communities”. They have also seen in radical Islamism the potential seeds of ‘anti-imperialist’ revolt, in which the “struggle” would remove the outward garb of faith. (2)

There is little doubt that as Perry Anderson noted in the book cited above, Christopher Caldwell’s prediction that there would be deep conflicts over the existence of large Islamic communities in Europe would come about has been borne out. (Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. 2009) That this immigration was, “less manageable and less soluble than any that had come before it.” But was this the central aspect of what Perry Anderson called a “process of disintegration”, the result of mass immigration for economic reasons that just “happened” without popular consent? And what should the left’s response be? (3)

The progressive way is to respect diversity but to promote secularism. Counterfire and the SWP have refused to support liberal secular currents within Muslim Communities. Like the Orientalists they abhor they consider the ‘timeless’ nature of Islamic culture is a source of revolt, or reaction. For this fraction of the left, the brave individuals from a Muslim background, and the hundreds of thousands who support those who challenge the ‘conservative’ (a polite way of saying reactionary) leadership of the ‘community’ and the Salafist outriders are simply aping Western liberalism.

Yet, when the same forces are involved in the much wider alliances that include democratic groups fighting the ‘anti-imperialist’ regime of Bashir Assad, the same ‘eternal’ logic pushes a substantial number of the Stop the War Coalition’s supporters, not to say the Morning Star, to lump the lot onto the side of reaction.

Double standards barely covers this.

From Fortress Europe to British Castle.

Yet is European racism focused on prejudice against ‘Muslims’? Leaving aside the growth in anti-Semitism, Brexit has hardened hostility, hatred, towards European migrant workers. This massive fact can be heard every day in workplaces, the street, and the pub – in every social venue. This, only one aspect of the Carnival of Reaction that followed the Brexit vote, now dominates and divides debate on the left.

The suggestion that there should be a “two-tier” migration policy, access for the qualified and better off, no entry for the unskilled, is gaining ground. UNITE has proposed that workers can only be recruited amongst the already unionised or covered by collective agreements.  That “posted workers” under all forms of ‘detached’ arrangements, that is people employed under the terms and conditions that exist in their home countries, should be banned.

Of these suggestions only the latter measures up to the standard of equality. But if people are to be taken on under the same conditions, why does this not apply to recruitment?  Are only the unionised allowed employment in the UK? Perhaps, some might suggest, the unrealistic nature of the UNITE proposal is intentional Assuming that its officers are all too aware of how Agencies take on staff (not to say, reduce them to zero-hour contracts at the employers’ beck and call), one might suspect that this is a call to satisfy those with less noble concerns about the presence of migrants.

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With these, and many other considerations in mind, this is the People’s Assembly’s latest event.

7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.

Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party

Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers

Lindsey German – People’s Assembly 

Malia Bouattia – NUS President

Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE

Alex Gordon – Former President RMT.

This the blurb.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.”

 

It is unlikely that those who voted to Remain are in a mood to hear lessons from those who cast their ballots for Leave. That was the act that created the conditions in which these problems were created.  From the deep-rooted hegemony of Tory Sovereigntism, to xenophobia, tricking into the left, there’s a lot more to challenge than  the  “un-elected” (?) Teresa May. “Demanding” may be fine, but having an effect requires a lot more than the politics of demonstrations and mass meetings. And what on earth is this “people” and its “interests”? Perhaps they have passed from the peoples of Europe, to The People..….

Theresa May signals UK on path to ‘ruinous’ hard Brexit  Another Europe is Possible.

Migrants not to blame for UK problems. Support the Alliance for Free Movement.

 

 

 

(1) Pages 541, 543. The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.

(2) Pages 533 537. Anderson Op cit.

(3) Page 93 Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. Can Europe be the Same with different People in it? Christopher Caldwell. Allen Lane. 2009. Page 534. Anderson op cit.

 

The ‘People’s Question Time: Brexit.” Lindsey German: “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

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Brexit: Lindsey German says, “..a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

This is being organised the ‘People’s Assembly‘.

The People’s Question Time: Brexit – What Are Our Demands?
7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA. Register your place: https://pqtjan2017.eventbrite.co.uk/

Panel includes:
Emily Thornberry MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour Party
Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German – People’s Assembly
Malia Bouattia – NUS President
Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
(more tbc)

This is their puff: 


Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Brexit has been hugely divisive and has created a dynamic and unpredictable situation.

Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.

The idea that Brexit, whose purpose is to serve the bankers, the bosses and the corporations, and to attack migrant workers, can be effectively changed through demands that it is “negotiated in the interests of the People’ is a straightforward, to put it simply, lie.

Speaking for the People’s Assembly (who have never debated the issue in public still less asked supporters to vote on the issue) Lindsay German holds these views.

Next stop… the People’s Brexit (3rd of November 2016)

The missteps of the ruling class can create space for our side, notes Lindsey German

No doubt influenced by her groupuscules belief in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ German goes into say,

The job for all those on the left now should be not to overturn that decision but ensure that the ruling class’s division is turned in our favour. We need to fight for an outcome that ensures a solution to the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights, as well as total opposition to scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms. 

….

….a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines. This now has an urgency given the likelihood of a general election next year. It means putting forward these demands, mobilising around them, building trade union strength, doing everything to support Corbyn in these electoral battles, and trying to give a voice to the millions of working people, whichever way they voted, who are looking for an alternative.

If Brexit is the occasion for this “chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” then we are indeed in the actuality of great revolutionary events.

How Brexit will do anything but hinder the fight to resolve the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights,  is less than clear. As well as a being a major cause of the scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms it is becoming part of these crises.

Image result for retirement cottage honeysuckle

Well-established Rumour has it that this is German’s coming Retirement cottage. 

Looking forward to evenings eating toasted crumpets with honey, while Rees warms his slippers on the wood fire.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Sarah Palin, Trump Victory “inspired by Brexit” and “we don’t want this globalism.”

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Image result for sarah palin with trump

“Hookin’ up” with Brexiteers against “Globalism”. 

Sarah Palin has responded to Donald Trump winning the White House by likening it to the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“Well, see, Great Britain and America, see how we’re hooking up now?” she told the Associated Press at a Trump rally as the results rolled in.

“We’re going rogue and saying, you know, the people are going to take back control of our governance.”

Ms Palin continued: “Really, we’re going to be able to say, no, we don’t want this globalism […]

“We can’t be telling other countries, other nations how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.

“So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders, just like you all have done, especially recently.”

Reports the Independent.

The Daily Mail is enthusiastic. They continue the story,

Sarah Palin says Donald Trump’s sensational win was inspired by Brexit and said: ‘Britain – we’re going rogue and the people are taking back control’. 

The billionaire tycoon Donald Trump is set to be the next president of the United States after voters gambled on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’.

It was a similar message to the one used by Brexiteers who successfully convinced voters that Britain’s future was brighter outside the European Union.

Ms Palin, a former beauty queen turned Republican politician, said this spirit had spread across the Atlantic and bolstered Trump’s campaign.

James Corden, now also a big star in the United States, tweeted he had ‘Brexit feelings’ as it became clear Trump would win.

..

Speaking at the Trump Rally in New York she said: ‘See Great Britain! America! See how we’re hookin’ up now?

‘We’re going rogue and the people are going to take back control.

‘We’re going to be able to say we don’t want this globalism, and we can’t be telling other countries how to sweep their porches if we can’t sweep our own yet.

‘So we’ve got to take care of what’s going on here within our borders just like you all have done especially recently.’

It came as Nigel Farage booked himself onto the first plane to America from London this morning to meet his friend Donald Trump.

..

….he’s already thought of a role he could fulfill: President Trump’s ambassador to the EU.

Not to be outdone by Trump, Palin and Farage, the People’s Assembly is said to be preparing its own People’s Brexit march, according to RSL 21 (Is a People’s Brexit possible? Seb Cooke).

There are signs that The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will look to organise an event around the theme of a ‘People’s Brexit’.

As the People’s Assembly will be mobilising and using trade union and labour movement resources for a pro-Brexit rally – pro- in the direction they want, a “People’s anti-European Union events, RSL warns against joining any anti-UKIP activity when Farage leads a pro-Brexit, march against the High Court,

There is a temptation to have a broad, anti-racist demo and campaign with whoever is opposed to Farage. This by its very nature could include several figures from the pro-EU centre. To be so broad, this movement would at best be non-committal about the idea of Britain leaving the EU and at worst have several elements seeking to overturn the vote.

…while Farage’s march will be racist, it has been called over Brexit and that is an important distinction we should make.

The pro-Brexit ‘left’ now claims that their demand for open borders (outbidding the existing EU freedom of movement, in a universal call to tear down frontiers) will protect them from accusations that they have joined in with the likes of Trump, Palin, and Farage,

But as Mark Boothroyd notes  (Brexit ushers in a Carnival of Reaction),

The response to the Leave vote by pro-Leave leftists of increased attempts at migrant solidarity work are welcome, but they rarely confront the point that this activism is necessitated by the very victory of the Leave campaign, and these effects were warned about by pro-Remain activists. Failing to acknowledge what is driving the attacks that they  were warned were coming in the event of a Leave victory, is shortsighted and politically dishonest, and leaves unanswered the bigger questions as to what stance to take towards the ongoing Brexit negotiations and its effects on migrants.

One could say that there is equally a logic in Palin’s cries against ‘globalisation’ and a wing of the anti-globalisation left. Their demand for ‘no-borders’ cannot be taken seriously when the refuse to recognise the side they have chosen: the Brexit side, for National Sovereignty against ‘globalisaiton’.

The ex-SWP faction concludes that they think many left-wing Remain supporters will accept that they should work with the strategy of the ‘left’ Leave campaign

will be open to working on the basis of a left wing exit from the EU even if they remain pro-EU.

Cautiously they note that some will not.

They

can’t support a People’s Brexit platform because they simply don’t want any Brexit ever.

Oddly many on the left are going to say to the – ineffectual, declining and marginalised –  People’s Assembly leadership (another ex-SWP faction, Counterfire): we don’t want Brexit. 

I suppose in the supple tactical minds of anybody who’s been in the SWP the whirl of constantly changing campaigns is part of the political culture. One day for hysterical Stand up UNKIP campaigns. The next for a refusal to do anything but lie down as UKIP marches to British ‘independence’ and Trump.

These revolutionaries take their cue not from Marxism but from Vautrin, Jacques Collin,  Trompe-la-Mort, one of the central characters of Balzac’s Comédie humaine.

This one of his best known statements, (Le Père Goroit),

 Vautrin : « Il n’y a pas de principes, il n’y a que des évènements ; il n’y a pas de lois, il n’y a que des circonstances : l’homme supérieur épouse les évènements et les circonstances pour les conduire. »

There are no principles, there are only events; there are no laws, there are only circumstances: the superior man shapes his conduct to  fit events and conditions. 

 

Update: Globalisation is dead, and white supremacy has triumphed.  

You’re going to hear a lot of wailing from the left about our “disconnection” with the values of “ordinary working-class people”. It is bullshit – both as a fact and an explanation of what’s happened. In every state in America there are working-class people staffing beleaguered abortion clinics, organising unions among migrant cleaners and Walmart workers.

Those who tell you the left has to somehow “reconnect” with people whose minds are full of white supremacy and misogyny must finish the sentence. By what means? By throwing our black brothers and sisters under a bus? Eighty years ago the poets and miners of the International Brigades did not march into battle saying: “Mind you, the fascists have got a point.”

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Corbyn and the “Actuality of the Revolution” – Counterfire on Georg Lukács and Labour.

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Image result for IPswich workers militia

Ipswich Workers’ Militia: Ready for the ‘Actuality of the Revolution’. 

“The actuality of the revolution: this is the core of Lenin’s thought and his decisive link with Marx. For historical materialism as the conceptual expression of the proletariat’s struggle for liberation could only be conceived and formulated theoretically when revolution was already on the historical agenda as a practical reality; when, in the misery of the proletariat, in Marx’s words, was to be seen not only the misery itself but also the revolutionary element ‘which will bring down the old order’.”

Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought. Georg Lukács.  1924. (1)

Counterfire publishes this:

While thousands across the country have been attending rallies for Corbyn, and while the Labour establishment is in unprecedented disarray, some “thoughtful” and prominent former supporters of Corbyn have succumbed to self doubt and pessimism. This article will argue that the arguments they use reflect a way of thinking that has – throughout the last century – meant that many movements with the objective strength to defeat the right have floundered and failed. We will call this way of thinking vertigo and we will show how the great Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs identified the cure for vertigo at the heart of Lenin’s thought.

In  Corbyn: momentum meets vertigo Counterfire’s Dave Moyles has no doubt that the main problem of the left is those infected by “doubt and pessimism”.

Standing on the ledge of a great peak, they look at the abyss beneath and not upwards to the heavens.

The fears driving them can be easily summarised:

The waverers typically make two key points. First that when they backed Corbyn for leader last year they never expected him to win, but rather to “shift the terms of debate”.

Second, now that he has won, they argue, we are teetering on the edge of a precipice. The wave of enthusiasm could easily turn to despair. Just as defeat of Michael Foot laid the groundwork for Tony Blair (in a very telescoped, teleological view of history) so will this success be followed by defeat that could see the whole left destroyed. And the cliff on which we are standing is crumbling in the face of attacks from the media, the PLP and the Tories. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Take courage comrades! Look, he asks us, at the Russian Revolution! Or just The Revolution.

The Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs identified the cure to vertigo as the core uniting principle behind Lenin’s thought: the actuality of the revolution.

And,

…seen from the perspective of the actuality of the revolution, the question is how do we maximise the level of political organisation, confidence and radicalism across the mass of ordinary people; how do we turn what has traditionally been the second party of British capitalism into a transformative force; how do we weaken the power of the British state to resist this movement. Then the answer is very clearly Corbyn – and the mass rallies, mass membership, organisation of resistance to the PLP that is going on as part of the Corbyn movement. Then a question like Scotland is easy to answer – don’t be so blinkered as to worry about numbers in Westminster – the Scottish question is about fundamentally weakening the British state.

No need to worry about the bourgeois SNP….nationalism…

It’s all about the ‘state’.

Where to to now?

Counterfire is there to help sort things out..

Counterfire today argues for its members to be at the heart of the movements at the same time as focusing on the big picture – and we ask our members to discuss and debate the best strategy for these movements. Our website and our paper connect the struggle and point to a socialist strategy within them. But it is clear an organisation of the sort Lenin envisaged would have to be far bigger and incorporate many activists who today are part of no organisation – as well as some who are currently part of other organisations. We will need this if the energy and desire for change captured by the Corbyn movement is going to be able to keep rising and achieve real transformative change.

Lukacs and Lenin teach us to be more ambitious – we should be storming the gates of heaven.

Counterfire’s long-standing strategic faults are laid bare in this lyrical article.

They have a common source, Lenin as read through Lukács.

Not just Moyles but their leader Rees has written that we need to grasp “the laws of historical development; to detect the part in the whole and the whole in the part; to find in historical necessity the moment of activity and in activity the connection with historical necessity.” (1)

This approach means that in every “concrete analysis of the concrete situation” one can trace the operation of an inexorable dialectic. Inside of which a revolution is about to burst reality asunder. 

Rees has something in common with John Holloway’s views in Crack Capitalism (2010), that capitalism produces an endless series of ‘cracks’ in which revolutionary sparks fly.

The major difference is while Holloway is only too glad to let every sparkle shed its own light, Rees considers that it is the task of the Revolutionary Party/Network to gather them up. It is a kind of filter that collects together all the rational elements of revolt, binds them together, and hurls them against capitalism. It is the fuse that once lit enables the working class to become the ” absolute subject-object of history.”

It is, in short, a practical-theoretical embodiment of class consciousness.

Behind this is a  fundamentally awry take on Marxism.

Whatever the merits of Rees’s magnum opus on dialectics, and his analysis of Lukács, from Lenin to History and Class Consciousness, the application of the ‘dialectic’  is not only barely ‘mediated’ by politics, (or more crudely, reality) it is “expressive” at every moment.

Moyles expresses this to the point of caricature: from Corbyn Rally to Revolution it is but a step.

Can we dismiss the weight of right-wing ideology, nationalism, the views of the general public, the rightward drift across the whole of our Continent, the decades long hegemony of conservative ‘neo-liberal’ ideas affecting social democracy itself , the present Tory Government,  the lack of actually existing  successful example of  economic alternatives to capitalism, not to mention the Fall of Official Communism,   the failure of ‘anti-imperialism’, the power of Capital? 

Are they all about the vanish faced with the cunning of Proletarian Reason?

That the revolution is both actual (in the English sense, real) and ‘actuel’, in the sense used in many European languages, present?

Does anybody else seriously believe that the present disputes in the Labour Party will end with Jeremy Corbyn heralding the Revolution?

That “an organisation of the sort Lenin envisaged” is about to emerge?

People involved with the, the People’s Assembly, the anti-austerity alliance dominated by Counterfire leadership, not to mention the Stop the War Coalition in which the same group is heavily involved, should perhaps be informed of how Rees, German and Moyles consider their role in creating this “organisation”.

And no doubt the ‘Corbyn movement’ as well.

Although given that Rees and mates, echoed in the dwindling People’s Assembly, have claimed that the Tories threatened a “coup” during the last General Election, that the Brexit vote was a great “opportunity” for the ‘left”, it’s unlikely that there are many people around who take this lot seriously.

****

 

(1) Counterfire’s Jon Rees outlines his highly individual account of Lukacs in The Algebra of Revolution. The Dialectics and the Classical Marxist Tradition. John Rees. Routledge 1998. See the indulgent review by  Alex Callinicos The Secret of the Dialectic (1998).

(2) John Rees (Extracts) Strategy and Tactics: how the left can organise to transform society. Counterfire’s Site). 2010.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 28, 2016 at 12:45 pm