Posts Tagged ‘People’s Assembly’
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As Neil says,
“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”
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, 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.
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.
(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.”
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/
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
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.
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.
“Hookin’ up” with Brexiteers against “Globalism”.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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’.”
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.
…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.
End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report.
Around 80,000 people (the Tendance’s estimate) marched in London on Saturday. They protested against the newly elected Conservative government’s plans to continue, and deepen, austerity.
It’s unnecessary to list the faults of these policies. It’s enough to see the people begging in the streets, a few hundred metres from the office of Ipswich Tory M.P. Benedict Gummer. Without the response of the People’s Assembly, the unions, the diverse groups and parties on the demonstration, and the wider public, Cameron and Osborne will have free rein to create a mean-spirited free-market Britain.
From Ipswich and Stowmarket 42 people piled in our coach – there were more travelling to London by train. Up to 70% were under the age of 40, with a large percentage in their teens and twenties. This was reflected amongst the marchers, with a strong presence of young people.
While assembling by the Bank of England we were addressed by various speakers. Those advertised included Kate Hudson (Chair, Left Unity, CND) and Diane Abbott (Labour MP and candidate to represent the party for the London Mayoral contest). They and others made good, rousing, contributions on the need to fight austerity.
Weyman Bennett (SWP/Unite Against Fascism) linked people being rude to women wearing the Islamic veil to the massacre at Charleston and the heart-rending plight of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Lee Jasper (Respect Party), the ‘controversial’ former Director for Policing and Equalities under Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Authority Assembly continued in this vein.
Someone (one can imagine who) compared his peroration unfavourably to Ali G.(1) One Suffolk comrade remarked that on what she called the “shouting”.
It was to be regretted that there was nobody from the National Shop Stewards Network – a group which, whatever one’s political differences, represents a lot more than the former two users of the demo microphone – was not invited to speak.
The route of the protest, which began next to the City, took us from Ludgate Circus, down the Strand, past Trafalgar Square. This was the venue of a – poorly attended- commercial beano, a pop radio concert. It symbolised the use of public space for corporate gain.
Local People’s assembly groups (like Suffolk People’s Assembly) unions, Left Unity, anti-cuts organisations, disabeld rights groups,the SWP, the Socialist Party, and other (even) smaller left parties, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity , the Green Party …to Class War, were present.
In Parliament Square there were more speeches. Again there were solid well-argued arguments against the Cabinet’s plans, from Steve Turner (UNITE and the People’s Assembly) onwards. John Rees included a reference to the rights of atheists in a call for to defend the freedoms of different beliefs. His claim that the demonstrators were from all ethnic backgrounds was perhaps not fully substantiated by a glance at the overwhelmingly white crowd.
Charlotte Church made an exceptional contribution.
The Mirror called it an “incredible speech“.
The Conservatives’ intention was to create a society around their principles, of private profit and public loss.
Describing the idea that Britain needs austerity as “the big lie”, Charlotte said: “They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. When it’s done, it will he hard to reverse.
“One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package.
“I’m proud to be British because of the NHS and David Bowie, not because of the Union Jack.
“Be proud for the right reasons. We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from years of yuppie rule.
“If you are ashamed that you have to use a food bank, because this Government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall. You have the moral high ground.
“We are not afraid of national debt and we will not let our public services be attacked.”
She added: “What this country needs is economic stimulation – most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping.”
Earlier, she said: “I’m here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here – it is a massive turnout – everybody who thinks that austerity isn’t the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary.”
It was hard not to be moved by Charlotte’s clear and heart-felt words.
Her call for positive alternatives and hope will resonate across the country.
For many present, Jeremy Corbyn, standing for the Labour Party leadership, made a decisive call to make sure there is a strong left, anti-austerity, vote in this election.
End Austerity Now was a success.
Where we go from now is the subject of serious discussion.
One way forward can be seen in the multitude of protests against welfare reform: from the continued campaign against the Bedroom Tax, Benefit cuts, Workfare, to the – still not fully implemented – psychological treatment of some claimants.
It is to be regretted that some parties see groups like the People’s Assembly as a recruiting ground.
In Suffolk the Green Party does not appear to publicise this:
Suffolk’s best-known Green Party politician has pulled out of the battle to become Ipswich MP in next May’s general election – because he hasn’t “got the heart” to take on Tory Ben Gummer.
Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.
“Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.
“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.
The day was an achievement for the organisers.
It was, as they say, only a beginning.
(1) This is what Jasper said (Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s rampant racism. 17th of January) about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo (he doesn’t even mention the anti-Semitic murder at the Hyper-Casher):
“JeSuisCharlie in this context is nothing more than appeal from right wings white’s to be allowed to be racist without opposition in the name of free speech. It’s a sort of #WhiteLivesMatter statement particularly when viewed in the context of the tragic violence and world silence about the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram.
This privilege allows them to disregard the social environment and political context of such satire and its consequences. Writing in this flawed tradition is the perogative of white, middle class Libertarian anarchists. Charlie Hebdo is for me, a silly magazine and quintessentially an exercise in white privilege and arrogance.
Donestk Anti-Austerity Activists Says Communist Party of Britain.
The People’s Assembly has launched a Manifesto Against Austerity.
“The manifesto makes a compelling and powerful case for an alternative to austerity based on the needs of ordinary people — “A people’s Britain, not a bankers’ Britain.” It calls for a the building of a sustained mass movement to bring that alternative about, rather than simply calling for general election votes.”
The Communist Party of Britain has taken upon itself to add these comments to this – admirable – document (Communist Party. For Peace and Socialism. Date: 2nd of March).
Bill Greenshields, CP representative on national committee of the People’s Assembly, says,
Challenging the pro-austerity and pro-privatisation media and political consensus is a dangerous thing to do. That’s the increasingly strident message from big business and the bankers through their representatives in national governments, the EU and Washington.
British special services “advisers” have arrived in Ukraine to strengthen the armed forces and fascist paramilitaries of the Poroshenko government.
This is part of a war against those who resisted the Western-backed coup against President Yanukovych.
He had committed the crime of rejecting austerity economics and politics, therefore saying “No” to closer ties with the EU.
As EU and US sanctions are ratcheted up against Russia for daring to give political support to the antifascists, Britain says it will “not yet provide lethal equipment” to the “Euromaiden” coup leaders now in control of the Ukrainian state. For how long? The threat of escalating war and foreign intervention to consolidate their pro-EU austerity “reforms” becomes greater.
Brother Bill recommends to the People’s Assembly this wisdom,
The movement needs to reflect the democratic structures that have grown among the anti-austerity antifascists in Ukraine…
We hesitate to make a comment.
Or perhaps one is not needed.
(Initially discovered here)