Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Populism

Boris Johnson and the Politics of Friend and Enemy, Carl Schmitt and Brexit.

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It gets worse…..


And worse, as leading Lexit (‘left’ Brexit) supporter and former Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill backs Johnson.


Another Man With No Shame.

This has mortally offended many people.

There was uproar in the Commons on Wednesday as the Prime Minister repeatedly berated MPs, rejected calls to temper his language and said the best way to honour Mrs Cox – an ardent Remainer – was to “get Brexit done”.

The fact remains that many people are not going to stop being mortally offended by these comments.

Jo Cox has a special place in our hearts.

Image result for jo cox Ipswich suffolk Upper Orwell street

Upper Orwell Street Ipswich.

Johnson’s remarks are offensive and spurious.

But it looks as if they could signal a need for an account of the divisions is happening in British politics.

This might go beyond an explanation of the social, class and political interests driving the splits – the nationalist ‘mob’ and Trumpian Capital (Paul Mason)?

But what is striking  is not just that people have incompatible views, and express their dislike in robust words.

The language used by Brexiters against the “fifth column’ of remainer MPs. and the ‘traitors’ who oppose Brexit echos the kind of existential dividing lines drawn up by the radical right.

The national populist strategy of the Tory leadership and the Brexit Party could well be described in the terms of the  ultra-conservative  (and Nazi Party member) the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888 – 1985).

Schmidt has become an enduring  point of reference for his interest in how the rule of law can be suspended through the declaration of a state of emergency.

As he wrote: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

Boris Johnson’s instrumental attitude to the accumulation of  British Constitutional law, and his supporters overt contempt for representative body or law that thwarts but the Personified Voice of the People, looks distinctly Schmittian. The PM is, in effect, saying that he has the right, unrecognised by the Supreme Court, to decide on ‘exceptional’, measures to push through his Trumpian Brexit.

Restoring the Sovereignty of Parliament is an affront to the power of the People’s Leader to decide just how the law should work.

Yesterday Parliament showed  another of Schmitt’s ideas being played out.

That is the distinction between Friend and Enemy, which he held to be at the founding moments of ‘the political’.

An enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship.

The Concept of the Political (1927)

You only have to look at the National Populist site Spiked to see how this works out.

Far-right ideologue Brendan O’Neill says today,

Let Jo Cox rest in peace, you ghouls

These ghouls stood up in the Commons and physically pointed to Cox’s plaque as they denounced Boris for using allegedly dangerous words like ‘surrender’ and ‘betrayal’. And they took to Twitter and TV to insist that if Brexiteers, especially the PM, do not tone down their rhetoric, then others will die too; others will be murdered like Jo was. It was one of the most cynical, censorious, ghoulish displays in the UK political realm in recent memory. Using a murder victim as a debate-ender? Shame on you.

A serious account is given here.

Steve Bush says of Johnson,

when he tells Paula Sherriff, a Labour MP who has faced serious death threats, that her request that he moderate his language is “humbug”, it’s not because he’s ignorant, or because he hasn’t fully absorbed the consequence of what he’s doing. He knows, too, that his behaviour makes it less likely that Labour MPs will vote for the deal, meaning that his only path to deliver Brexit is an election campaign in which he pumps yet more vitriol into the public bloodstream.

And why wouldn’t he? He knows, too, that criticism of him in the organs of the press that really matter will be couched in the language of “both sides”, and that ultimately, whether it works out for him, politically, there will always be close protection officers. It’ll always be someone else’s death threat, just as it is always somebody else’s restaurant, somebody else’s partner, somebody else’s child, and perhaps, if it goes wrong enough, somebody else’s country.

See also Jim: Morning Star backs Johnson: objectively, for sure … but consciously?


Labour and Brexit: Corbyn Promises “Credible” Leave Option in Referendum.

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Image result for Another europe is possible 2019 protest

Stop Boris, Stop Brexit!

The latest Labour announcement  on Brexit.


And here:

On Labour List  Sienna Rodgers says,

. Labour’s current position was summed up by Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the TUC congress 2019 yesterday: “And in that election, we will commit to a public vote with a credible option to leave and the option to remain.” No more, no less. That is pretty straight-forward, but it does leave a couple of key questions unanswered. What is the credible Leave option? And would Labour back Remain in that referendum?

A “credible Leave option” means no deal wouldn’t be on the ballot paper. That in itself does attract some criticism, because it excludes a position held by a significant chunk of voters, and it has led a number of Labour MPs opposing a referendum. (They argue that a public vote could not include such a destructive option, but couldn’t be legitimate without it either.) On the whole, however, Labour is agreed on that front.

The debate that has sprung up recently is whether Labour would renegotiate and establish its own Leave option, or just stick Theresa May’s deal on the ballot paper – as some interpreted John McDonnell as saying last weekend.

On the second question regarding Labour’s referendum position, the unions are winning the argument so far. They want the official stance to be dependent on the quality of the deal negotiated, not confirmed before the election, as set out after a crunch meeting in July. McDonnell, Thornberry, Diane Abbott, Keir Starmer and other shadow cabinet members have pledged to campaign for Remain in the referendum, but as a whole Labour hasn’t nailed its colours to the mast. As yet, the ‘1975’ approach of allowing Labour figures to campaign as they wish hasn’t been ruled out either. This could all change at conference, however, when members may be able to force the leadership into unequivocally backing Remain – even against its own deal.

For ‘the unions’ read UNITE, advised by the pro-Brexit Andrew Murray.

The Straight Left recent member of the Communist Party of Britain, has influence not just on UNITE’s ageing boss, Len McCluskey but on Corbyn – his expertise won by supporting Russia’s President Putin no doubt indispensable on how to negotiate disputes between nation states.

A good guide to the thinking behind the turn to a ‘credible’ Leave option can be seen in Murray’s house journal, the Morning Star.

Its  editorial on the same speech (Corbyn’s speech shows where Labour’s true priorities should lie) says,

The permanent bureaucracy of the EU seems keen to work with Britain’s Remain-at-all-costs crowd to annul the referendum result.


some see Britain’s never-ending Brexit saga as a source of further destabilisation they could do without.

The above side-show, the “melodramatic spectacle” of left wing MPs protesting against prorogation, and Labour support for a referendum, stands in the way of a united front from below,

Labour’s unhelpful insistence on rerunning the referendum may be an obsolete policy by election time. Whether it is or isn’t, the labour movement mobilisation against Boris Johnson’s government should build throughout September and aim at a huge demonstration for democracy outside the Conservative Party conference, focused on forcing an election to address the catastrophic social, economic and environmental crises afflicting our country and the world.

This hope, barely hiding annoyance at their own inability to offer any “credible” Leave politics, is followed by this call.

A purge is needed to make the Party stronger. The Boycott Labour (in this year’s European elections) Morning Star advises,

Constituency parties meeting to discuss trigger ballots against serial saboteurs such as deputy leader Tom Watson must carry on even as we gear up for a looming battle with the Conservatives.

Counterfire adds an attack on John McDonnell.

(The Boris burnout – weekly briefing)

if, however, it declares as a Remain party in full and puts ‘country before party’, in John McDonnell’s unfortunate phrase, if it seems indistinguishable from the ‘extreme centre’, then it will lose.

Engaged in this united front from below, the Shut Down The Tories – Protest the Tory Party Conference (I assume they mean against) organised by  The People’s Assembly Against Austerity,  the two Brexit Bolshevik forces, and their red-brown allies, have yet to offer a “credible Leave” option.

None whatsoever.

There is only one actually existing Brexit, the Johnson one and no effort to conjure up a jobs first, People’s Brexit, run by Care Bears, has any credibility.

It is hard not to agree with comrade Paul Mason:

A return to the folk politics of the old anti-austerity protests cannot avoid the clash between internationalists who wish to Remain and Transform and the Lexit Left.

There is no ‘credible’ Leave option for the left, only for the Trump backing deregulating backing fractions of capitalism and their national populist allies, including the red-brown front.

Will Labour come out clearly for Remain?

The row is just developing.

Brexit: Tom Watson to break Labour’s uneasy truce

Deputy leader will argue party must ‘unambiguously and unequivocally’ back remain

The struggle continues…


Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2019 at 11:55 am

People’s Assembly (Counterfire) “Stop Boris” Rally in Chaos: Ash Sarkar and Owen Jones Refuse to Share Platform with Eddie Dempsey – the Red-Brown Front Bites Back.

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Full Brexit supporter Eddie Dempsey to Speak at People’s Assembly Stop Boris Johnson Rally next week.

“The one thing that unites [the people who turn out for Tommy Robinson]…. is their hatred of the liberal left. And they are right to hate them.”

Eddie Dempsey, 26th of March and Star Speaker at People’s Assembly rally on Tuesday.

More here: Pro-Brexit Morning Star Wades into the “Eddie Dempsey Affair” and Mounts Campaign Against Anti-Brexit Labour MP Clive Lewis. (Tendance Coatesy)

This information circulated widely in the last day (the stats on this Blog echo).

This happened:

The National Populist site, Spiked, bit back.

Counterfire obviously think Dempsey is an ideal figure to bring together supporters of their CareBears version of Brexit supporters with Hard Brexit backers:

Luxury Communist Bastani Is automated to  think so:

This prompts a helpful suggestion:


Spiked, whose network (ex-Revolutionary Communist Party)  are key founders of the Red-Brown Front the Full Brexit, which includes Brexit Party candidates like  James Heartfield, (now proposing to stand for Farage, against Corbyn in Islington North) Communist Party of Britain members, Counterfire supporters, Blue Labour, and all kinds of rag-tails and bob-tails. has leapt to defend Dempsey. *

Not only is Dempsey a national comrade but,

So there we have it. Bourgeois ‘leftists’ have No Platformed a working-class trade unionist. All because he supports Brexit. There could be no better example of how detached these people are from real radical politics and working-class interests.

No Platformed a pro-Brexit trade unionist

The fight against the Red-Brown Front continues.

Pour en finir avec Eddie !


One LM initiative in the post-Referendum period was “The Full Brexit”, an avowedly left-wing pressure group launched in the summer of 2018 to reframe the Brexit narrative as one about “democracy” rather than just bashing immigrants. Alongside a smattering of Blue Labour social conservatives and Lexit Marxists, a good half of its 20 founding signatories are RCP network members. Academic Chris Bickerton has been a Spiked contributor since 2005, when he was a PhD student at St John’s College, Oxford. Philip Cunliffe, Furedi’s colleague at the University of Kent, is another long term Spiked activist. Pauline Hadaway, another academic, is a veteran of the Living Marxism days. James Heartfield was a paid RCP organiser. Lee Jones seems to have been recruited at Oxford around the same time as Bickerton. Tara McCormack is an RCP veteran, as is Suke WoltonBruno Waterfield write for Living Marxism. Other signatories aren’t part of the network but have been promoted by Spiked: Paul Embery and Thomas Fazi for example (Fazi is also connected to the 5 Star Movement and recently retweeted an antisemitic tweet from someone with “Nazbol” in his user name). Many are also involved in Briefings for Brexit, which has several RCP veterans on its advisory committee, and some are involved with Civitas. This is a peculiar form of left-right crossover politics.


Labour Activists Call to Fight No Deal Brexit as Morning Star and the Red Brown Front Back Pushing Hard Brexit Through.

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Turning the Tide Against Brexit.

Today the Morning Star, Jeremy Corbyn’s self-appointed Best Friend, carries this Editorial.

The writer claims that efforts to prevent a No Deal Brexit through Parliament are misplaced, if that’s not too mild a way of putting it.

Pious observations about “parliamentary sovereignty” and repeated bids by the Commons to “take back control” of the Brexit agenda have not impressed a public that sees through the democratic rhetoric to the anti-democratic reality — that these have been bids to frustrate implementation of the largest democratic vote in Britain’s history, the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

The key sentences that follow are these, attacking a National Government.

This spectre, which is not on the cards, any more than Caroline Lucas’ all-woman Cabinet, is ‘hard right’ – as opposed to the actually existing Hard Right ERC led Boris Johnson Cabinet….

As with the “state of emergency” used by French President Emmanuel Macron to rule by decree and attack workers’ rights, it would enable the undemocratic imposition of a hard-right reactionary agenda.

A Labour pitch to defeat Johnson based on preventing a no-deal Brexit helps feed his chosen image as the champion of the 2016 popular mandate to leave.

This – ignoring the state of emergency needed to push through a No Deal Brexit –  is  followed by the following guff, “Labour should speak for the public’s anger against a Parliament that has thoroughly earned it…” whose important phrase is this demand “freedom from the pro-corporate competition rules imposed by the EU single market..”

In other words, Back Brexit, No Deal or Not.

This is what Brexit means

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, text

The Morning Star is not alone is misrepresenting the political line up over Brexit.

To cite one example, Left-wingers in other countries would get the impression from the pages of the US Jacobin, and other self-identifying left publications, who cover the issue by articles from various factions who have come out of the SWP and supporters of the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, that the British radical left has roughly similar politics to the Morning Star on this issue.

But the majority of the UK the left is at the forefront of the right against a No Deal Brexit, and a large section is against Brexit tout court. 

This battle is gathering momentum.

The hard right has made this call:

Image may contain: 1 person, text

As the Independent reports today the left is counter-attacking.

Labour activists tell Corbyn he must back cancelling Brexit to stop UK crashing out with no deal

Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to back cancelling Brexit altogether if it is the only way to stop the UK crashing out of the EU, as another battle with Labour activists looms.

Almost 30 local parties are demanding Labour “support revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal”, in motions being submitted to its conference in September.

The move threatens to shatter the fragile peace over Brexit policy since the shadow cabinet agreed Labour would campaign for Remain in any fresh referendum held while the Conservatives are in power.

The policy was attacked as a fudge – after Mr Corbyn admitted Labour could yet fight a general election as a pro-Brexit party – and says nothing about wider strategy to stop the no deal Boris Johnson is threatening

Now the local Labour parties have signed up to a campaign to maximise pressure in Brighton in September, launched by the grassroots groups Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe and Open Labour.

The motion “notes the vast majority of Labour members and voters oppose Brexit” and says the party still needs “a clear Brexit policy”.

It then states: “Labour will campaign energetically for a public vote and to Remain. We support revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal.”

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour MP backing the campaign, said: “No deal would be a catastrophic moment for the Labour Party and the people we represent. It would mean a huge economic crisis which the right wing of the Tory party would use to drive an agenda of deregulation.

“We must be willing to do absolutely anything to stop it – and of course that would mean, if we had to, whipping to revoke Article 50.”

And Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “It’s not the tool we would choose, but if revoking is the only option left on the table to stop the disaster capitalists, Labour has to be willing to use it. There can’t be any fudge or ambiguity on that.”

This year, anti-Brexit activists are likely to make a commitment to revoking Article 50, if necessary, a “red line” in the marathon Sunday evening get-together of constituency parties, trade unions and affiliated groups.


In total, 50 constituencies have already voted to submit anti-Brexit motions to the Brighton conference, of which at least 29 explicitly call for the Article 50 notice to be withdrawn.

The Morning Star  has promoted an alternative campaign Leave-Fight-Transform.


LeFT: campaigning for Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit

Key figures in the CPB, its associated organisations and its milieu are well-represented – including CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths. Some of the Labour Party signatories are very close to the CPB, eg Marcus Barnett and Eddie Dempsey (the latter is the one who said that Tommy Robinson supporters are “right to hate the liberal left”). It’s worth noting that these were the organisers of a campaign for people to boycott the European elections, ie to refuse to campaign or vote for Labour even – or it might be more accurate to say because of – the Brexit Party surge.

Some comrades have speculated that this new organisation was launched because a pre-existing one, “The Full Brexit”, was too discredited by a number of its founders supporting and in one case – James Heartfield – standing for, the Brexit Party. This group distinguished itself by publishing an article from two of its leading people denouncing Irish republican groups as “the armed wing of the European Union” and calling for violent British state action to crush their opposition to a hard border.

But TFB has been quick to get a statement out supporting and trumpeting its involvement in LeFT. And the initial LeFT signatories include Phil Cunliffe, a central participant in the same ex-Revolutionary Communist Party/Spiked network as Heartfield, fellow Brexit Party candidate (now MEP) Claire Fox et al – and himself a supporter of the Brexit Party! Plus another Spiked writer, George Hoare.

This is not an initiative any self-respecting socialist should have anything to do with.

It was therefore genuinely disappointing to see that LeFT’s signatories include a number of supporters of the anti-Stalinist (ex-SWP) socialist group RS21: I recognised the names Jen Wilkinson, Brian Parkin and Colin Wilson. It seems surreal that these comrades could put their names to such a thing.

The Red Brown Front (an alliance of sovereigntist left individuals, Counterfire supporters, the CPB, which runs the Morning Star, Blue Labour social conservatives,  and Brexit Party backers)  in the Full Brexit, backs this campaign.

This is the alternative:

This is also worth reading: Prominent Centrists and the Fiction of the White Working Class



Italy: Five Star Movement – once critically admired by New Left Review – on the Ropes.

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Image result for 5 star movement poster

Italy: Two Populisms Fall out.

The dramatic move on Thursday came after months of fighting between the League and its coalition partners, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

The cavernous differences between the parties were clearly exposed on Wednesday when parliament rejected a motion by M5S to block a high-speed rail project linking Italy and France. M5S has built most of its popularity on vehemently opposing the long-stalled project but was outvoted by the League and opposition parties.


Salvini has been threatening new elections for weeks as the League reached 39% in opinion polls. Meanwhile, support for M5S has more than halved to 15% over the last year.

The League also triumphed in May’s European elections, winning 24% of the vote. The M5S only managed 17%, putting it in third place behind the centre-left Democratic party, which took 23%.

The Italian 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle), it is often forgotten today, was at one time considered by some on the anglophone left to be ‘wing-left’ as well as populist.

Counterfire – who run what’s left of the Stop the War Coalition and the People’s Assembly, also called them, once upon a time,a “sort of coalition of resistance” (Beppe Grillo has wiped the smile off the face of the European elite argues Jo Franks. 2013)

Toby Abse, whose articles on Italy this Blog often relies upon, and are highly regarded by all, published this book review in 2016,

What sort of populism?

Toby Abse reviews: Filippo Tronconi (ed) ‘Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement: organisation, communication and ideology’, Ashgate Publishing, 2015.

This, which is long standing theme of comrade Abse, caught many people’s eyes,

Regrettably, Grillo’s most ardent British fans outside Ukip circles – where Arron Banks has actually suggested Ukip needs to copy M5S – have been the staunch Brexiteers of the New Left Review, a journal that in happier days popularised continental Marxism, and once even published an entire issue devoted to Tom Nairn’s challenge to the Europhobic anti-European Economic Community consensus of the British left in the 1970s.

This is no exaggeration.

While some call the movement “eclectic” and “anti-elitist”  – a way of avoiding saying right-wing red-browners –  New Left Review rated the movement for its opposition the system.

The thriving through Chaos, pro-Brexit, and publisher of a variety of sovereigntists such as Wolfgang Steek (that’s enough Coatesy) Editor of New Left Review editor Susan Watkins, was impressed enough to devote a section of one of the journal’s ponderous Editorials to the movement.

This are her assessments of the builders of the Red Brown Front in Italy:


This starts, “…only in the last few years have left oppositions started to produce national political projects with an impact at state level—flanked, and sometimes outflanked, by the radical right.”  Watkins continues looking at Corbyn, Syriza, Bernie Sanders, and (remember him, jean Luc-Mélenchon),  and, then, pausing, “Many on the Italian left would deny that Beppe Grillo (at the time 5 Star leader, the Jiminy Cricket founder of the movement now run by Luigi Di Maio) deserves a place in their ranks; not without reason”.

And yet….

The social profile of M5S’s 109 deputies and 54 senators was a marked departure from Italian norms (as with Podemos deputies in Spain): they were it workers, students, housewives and the unemployed, mostly in their twenties and thirties—rather than lawyers, professors and party officials. The M5S deputies pointedly took only half their allotted salaries, donating the rest to local projects; they disdain the formalities of the Palazzo Montecitorio, addressing their fellow deputies as ‘Citizen’ rather than ‘Honourable’—unlike the Corbynistas or Podemos. Uniquely, Five Star parliamentarians were obliged to vote according to their mandates, determined by online plebiscites in which at most 30,000 took part. Ignoring the mandate brought immediate expulsion; around a quarter of the parliamentary caucus has been ejected to date.

She continued,

 ..proponents of online direct democracy, the Five Stars take a position of radical iconoclasm towards Italy’s existing system: they aim to ‘open it up’ to the public by livestreaming back-room negotiations; with the rest of the left and the Northern League, they have assailed Renzi’s new constitution, but went farther in calling for pd President Napolitano’s impeachment over his illegal manoeuvrings to install Monti as prime minister in 2011.


Grillo targets Renzi’s grand-coalition government, rather than ‘the rich’, for ‘destroying the welfare state, the rights of workers and the education system and selling off strategic Italian assets’ to pay down the debt.

This was the key point for the NLR national sovereigntists,

Grillo, who had given full support to the Syriza referendum, derided the capitulation—‘It would have been hard to defend the interests of the Greek people worse than Tsipras did’—and went on to formulate a Plan B for monetary sovereignty within the eu.

This is her conclusion – bizarre as it looks today,

Italy’s Five Star Movement, which can’t properly be categorized as social-democratic—although the policy overlaps are remarkable: M5S shares Sanders’s views on immigration, Mélenchon’s on the euro, Corbyn’s on Western military intervention. One difference is Grillo’s stress on helping small and medium-sized manufacturers: although they all say this, he really seems to mean it—this is his own social background, after all, and an sme orientation also speaks to M5S’s new, ex-Lega supporters.

Another lies in the distinctive social demographics of the Five Stars’ base: they do well among students, the unemployed, unskilled workers, retailers and craftsmen, but less well among white-collar workers and badly among teachers—sectors that are far more supportive of Sanders, Corbyn, the Front de gauche and Podemos.footnote19 The reasons for that may lie in scepticism about the Five Stars’ version of online direct democracy—which can seem whimsical and, indeed, undemocratic—or dislike of Grillo’s coarseness: encouraging his audiences to shout ‘Vaffanculo!’ at images of politicians with criminal convictions, for example. But however poor Grillo’s taste, or repellent his jokes, M5S should be judged, like any political movement, by its actions. Its voter base, despite an influx of Lega Nord and ex-Berlusconi supporters, is still predominantly on the left.

A clearer analysis of the 5 Star Movement was hardly hiding in the broad daylight of left political journals.

Back in 2013 this appeared in Red Pepper,

How Beppe Grillo stole the left’s clothes. Lorenzo Fe 

Let us make clear that this is no victory for the left. M5S is an extremely ambiguous phenomenon. As Giuliano Santoro points out, Grillo and the co-founder of his movement, marketer Gianroberto Casaleggio, are both millionaires with a proprietorial conception of their organisation.

M5S’s constitution, written by Grillo and Casaleggio, states: ‘The name of the Five Star Movement is attached to a trademark registered under the name of Beppe Grillo, the sole holder of rights on its use.’ These rights have been consistently used to expel anyone who has tried to make the movement more autonomous from Grillo’s personal style of leadership.

rillo claims that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are now useless categories. Accordingly, he mixes environmentalism, degrowth and anti-austerity with anti-immigration remarks typical of the far right (for example he rejects citizenship for the children of migrants). When talking to CasaPound, who are self-declared fascists, Grillo stated that ‘anti-fascism’ does not concern him and that everybody is welcome to join the movement.

As the leftist collective of authors Wu Ming noted, Grillo’s proposals are ‘a chaotic programme where neoliberal and anti-neoliberal, centralist and federalist, libertarian and authoritarian ideas coexist’. Wu Ming also accuse Grillo of having channelled popular discontent against austerity in a purely electoral and politically very ambivalent direction, suggesting that this is one of the reasons why there was no Occupy or Indignados movement in Italy.

On the real nature of the 5 Star movement Toby himself noted,

The authors acknowledge that populism is not always rightwing, since no Italian political scientist can ignore the rise and fall of the left-populist Italia dei Valori party led by Antonio Di Pietro. But they see most successful European populist parties of recent times as being on the right (often the extreme right), and marked by anti-immigrant and anti-EU stances in their programmes. The problem with M5S for political scientists is that it fits neither category particularly well. Its original programme – the Carta di Firenze of 2009 – claimed that the Five Stars of its title stood for “[public] water, environment, [public] transport, [sustainable] development and [renewable] energy”.

However, whilst the original 2009 programme has never been repudiated, the absolute centrality to the party of Grillo’s blog has meant that he has shifted M5S to the right by repeated ex cathedra pronouncements on that blog about such topics as immigration. As Vignati points out (p19), “In 2000, Grillo criticised the ‘natural racism’ of Italians”. Regardless of whether Grillo’s recent anti-immigrant stance – particularly his opposition to the granting of Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy – is due to electoral considerations, as Lorenzo Mosca suggests on p159, or to the influence of Gianroberto Casaleggio, as Vignati seems to imply on p19, it does make it impossible to define M5S as ‘left-libertarian’ in programmatic terms.

Casaleggio’s assertion in a 2013 text – that “M5S sees the word ‘leader’ as belonging to the past; it is a dirty word, perverted” – is unceasingly belied by its practice, for, as Vignati rightly observes, “its ‘leaderist’ character prevails over the ‘leaderless’ rhetoric with which it is imbued” (p11). Given the emphasis on political families for classificatory purposes, it is rather surprising that none of the contributors comment on Grillo’s lash-up with Farage in the European parliament.

On whether the 5 Star Movement was ever ‘left’ he notes,

There is some disagreement amongst the contributors as to whether the M5S electorate could ever have been categorised as predominantly leftwing, although there seems to be broad agreement that its current constituency is very heterogeneous. Andrea Pedrazzani and Luca Pinto in chapter 4 – ‘The electoral base: the “political revolution” in evolution’ (pp76-98) – see the 2012 local elections as a watershed. Before then, “more than half of Five Star voters expressed preferences ranging from extreme left to centre left (52%) and the rest were divided between respondents who refused to be placed along the left-right dimension (21.6%), centre voters (13%) and rightwing voters (13.4%)” (p94). After the 2013 general election, “the percentage of leftwing voters in the M5S was just 38.4%; rightwing voters almost doubled, increasing to 22.3%; and people who refused to be placed along the left-right divide reached 27.7%” (p95). Or, to quote the same authors’ less statistical summary, “In its early days, the M5S was quite similar to those supporting the left-libertarian parties that formed across Europe in the 80s” (p95), but “Grillo’s anti-system stance has led to a relevant change in the composition of the Five Star electorate, which has gradually become more heterogeneous” (p96).

Also worth looking at:

More articles by comrade Toby: from 2018 to early 2019.

Italy’s government provoking a clash with EU

Against the background of attempts to form a new rightwing coalition across Europe, Toby Abse looks at the manoeuvrings of the rival Italian populists.

Recession and xenophobia

Toby Abse reports on the latest shenanigans of the right-populist government – and the stirrings of organised working class opposition


Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2019 at 4:56 pm

After Struggle Between “Trotskyist Method and Organisation” and “Petty Bourgeois Opposition” CWI is on the Way to Refoundation!

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Victors in Fight Against Petty Bourgeois Opposition.

Refounding the Committee for a Workers’ International on the basis of a Trotskyist programme and method

This document recalls the glory days of the 1953 split in the world Trotskyist Movement.

At an historic meeting held in London between July 22nd and 25th over 200 delegates and visitors to an international conference of the International Faction for a Trotskyist and Workers CWI took the decision to refound the Committee for a Workers’ International. Present at the meeting were delegates and visitors from England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, Finland, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa and the USA. Unfortunately, comrades from South Africa and Nigeria who had planned to attend could not due to visa problems.

This decision has followed an intense debate and political struggle in the CWI over the last seven months. This political struggle has been fought between those represented at this meeting who defend the Trotskyist method and programme the CWI was founded on in 1974 and a petty bourgeois opposition. This opposition has taken a right-ward opportunist turn, buckled to the pressures of identity politics, turned away from conducting a systematic and consistent struggle in the trade unions and blunted the revolutionary socialist programme that the CWI and its sections have fought to defend.

Other views exist..

The Socialist Party, and before it the Militant tendency, has been a section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) in England and Wales since 1974. The CWI is an international organisation based on the ideas and methods of democratic socialism, Marxism and Trotskyism, and further developed by the hard work and sacrifices of comrades across the world.

This includes 3 TDs (MPs) in Ireland, an elected council member in Seattle, and members fighting in the revolutionary movements in Sudan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Sadly, after 45 years, the majority of the leadership of the CWI and England and Wales section have chosen to abandon the CWI and the bold ideas it was founded upon.

On Sunday 21st July, a Special Congress in London passed a resolution stating that the many members of the Socialist Party who still support the CWI, “will have to do so outside of the Socialist Party”. In reality, the resolution is a cowardly method of expulsion from the party, following a campaign of witch-hunts, bullying and lies against the majority of CWI sections.

This was all but confirmed when the SP’s Welsh Secretary said from the platform “goodbye and good riddance” to CWI supporters – a remark the leadership has refused to retract.

The majority of the SP leadership are running scared from a debate about socialist programme and tactics, only half way through an agreed one-year process of debate. Instead of having a discussion in the democratically convened leadership bodies of the CWI – the International Executive Committee and the World Congress (which all sides had agreed to) and risking losing a vote, they have chosen to expel the majority of the organisation and walk away with the resources, including hundreds of thousands of pounds, against the will of the majority of its members.

They have, in effect, attempted to enact the bureaucratic expulsion of the majority of the CWI: entire organisations and groups in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel/Palestine, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Quebec, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Tunisia, and the USA from the CWI, as well as a majority of members in Germany and South Africa who oppose their plans.

Over 100 comrades in England & Wales, including a majority of active members in over a dozen key cities, stand together with the CWI majority in opposing this course of action. A meeting on 22nd July voted unanimously to refound the CWI in England and Wales, rejecting these bureaucratic expulsions and continuing to organise in the proud tradition of Militant in Britain – the traditions of socialist democracy and Marxism.

Further explanation and analysis will follow. We call on all Socialist Party members, and in the wider workers and social movements to join us in fighting for a socialist world!

One aspect of this dispute could do with some exploring.

The Socialist Party, the leading force in the CWI, and the self-proclaimed ‘victors’ in the battle, has a long record of its own identity politics rooted in opposition to the internationalist Remain side in the Referendum on the EU, and support for the Arron Banks funded Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

It is based on the spurious claim that the “real” working class, to which they have unique insight and feeling, back their assertion that the UK outside the EU would be on the path to socialism.

At present this political strategy is in tatters.

Lexit or a ‘People’s Brexit’, a kind of Care Bears version of Boris Johnson’s Trump-led Brexit is marginalised in the Labour Party, and clings on only in the stubborn assertions of a “Labour Party Spokesman” (who’s name is ) and the clique of Andrew Murray, Len McCluskey and other diehards.

  • The Socialist Party also stay true believers.

Writing in their theoretical journal, Socialism Today (July-August)  the Editorial warns against the “The people’s vote clamour.”

.some lefts like the journalist Paul Mason have now adopted the same stop Brexit position is a reflection of the broader evolution of such figures away from socialist ideas in a complex political conjuncture.

After this pompous assertion we learn that,

A rerun referendum – the capitalist establishment telling working-class leave voters they were wrong – would not be guaranteed to result in a Brexit reversal.

Nonetheless the people’s vote propaganda still has its purpose, above all within the Labour Party. It provides an allegedly ‘progressive’ cover for the right wing – deputy leader Tom Watson claims to “support the EU because I’m a socialist” – to build its base to move against Corbyn’s leadership when the time is right, either to sabotage a Corbyn-led government or form a new party.

Combating these agents of capitalism within the workers’ movement is the duty of every socialist.

No editorial from this crew would be complete with a final facile assertion,

The Tories’ Brexit travails are creating new opportunities for the workers’ movement and must be met with a clear programme for a socialist and internationalist opposition to the EU bosses’ club.

This is their own “clear” “socialist” and “internationalist opposition to the EU: the SP worked hand in glove with the TUAEU and it’s infamous Blue Labour, Spiked contributor, leader, Paul Embery – just barred from office from the FBU.

Here is Embery’s backing from a Brexit Party candidate:

Here is the Socialist Party’s own work with the same individual.

The socialist case against the EU: TUSC tour continues

London June 2016

“The Tory government could be brought down if Brexit triumphs” declared Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe to a packed London meeting of 120, part of TUSC’s 20-city tour ‘The Socialist Case Against the EU’ (now in fact 25 cities).

Paul Embery, London secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and national organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU, pointed out: “The EU is rampantly pro-austerity and that approach has caused suffering throughout Europe, a collapse in living standards, the rise of the far-right and the decimation of public services.”

Critic of “rootless cosmopolitans” Paul Embery is pictured on this tour: (Cardiff 9th of June 2016)

The re-founded CWI was constituted on the basis of the first four congresses of the Comintern, the founding documents of the IV International in 1938 and the congresses of the CWI. The determination and confidence of those present and represented at this conference was reflected in the collection which raised over £25,000.

Just like the early years of the Russian Revolution!

The conference agreed that the International Secretariat will seek to convene a world congress in 2020 of CWI sections and groups that defend the programme of the CWI and also invite revolutionary socialist organisations which are committed to building revolutionary socialist parties based on the working class and which are prepared to discuss and collaborate on an honest and principled basis.

The International Secretariat of the CWI will publish a fuller report of this crucial meeting in London and material related to the debate which has taken place in the coming week which has crucial lessons for all workers’ and revolutionary socialists.

One lesson we have already learnt is that the Socialist Party, which campaigns to be an affiliate of the Labour Party, expels “petty bourgeois” opponents, and would no doubt like to throw out from the Labour Party anybody who is an “agent of capitalism”.

Or who looks at their Leader Peter Taaffe the wrong way….

Other documents emerge:

Spanish section of the CWI walks out

Statement from the ‘In Defence of a Working Class Trotskyist CWI’ Faction to all members of the CWI

Dear comrades,

At the meeting of the International Faction in London held on 27-28 March the Spanish and Portuguese delegations unfortunately walked out of the meeting. In a final declaration JIR made the completely false assertion that they were being excluded from the Faction because they had raised political differences.

At this meeting a series of important political differences arose. This followed a telephone conference which was held between the entire Spanish EC and members of the IS Majority on Friday 22 March. At the meeting comrades from Spain raised a series of differences relating to method, the decisions taken by the leadership of the England and Welsh section at the recent congress of their section and also a clear declaration of important differences relating to the analysis of the CWI regarding the lowering of socialist consciousness following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the consequences this had for the international workers’ movement at the time alongwith the extent to which these effects are still present today.

At the end of this telephone conference JIR made clear that these issues were of critical importance to the Spanish leadership. It was agreed that they would be discussed in more depth at the Faction meeting in London. This was done on the first day. In the debate important differences emerged in relation to socialist and political consciousness, the consequences of the collapse of the former Stalinist states and the analysis we have had on Venezuela and some other issues which JIR stated were fundamental questions. During his intervention JIR argued that these questions had not been sufficiently discussed during the process of unification and that the comrades had been “deceived”, something which is completely false. He declared that these issues would be reported back to a special Spanish CC meeting which would then decide on its attitude towards the Faction.

In informal discussion following the meeting between the Spanish, Portuguese comrades and Phillip Stott (Scotland) Clive Heemskerk (England and Wales) and Tony Saunois (IS Majority) JIR made clear that these differences were fundamental and implied that the comrades would recommend to the Spanish EC and CC that they leave the Faction. He also stated that this would mean it would make no sense to remain in the CWI.

It was agreed that he make a formal statement of the situation to the Faction meeting the next day. At that meeting he was asked to make such a statement and argued that firstly Peter Taaffe should reply to the discussion. This was not acceptable as the content of the reply would partly be dependent on the declaration made by JIR

This approach by JIR was a continuation of the ultimatist approach which unfortunately has been the approach adopted by the Spanish leadership throughout the CWI factional struggle. JIR eventually made a declaration protesting against the alleged methods used in the meeting and falsely claiming that the comrades were being excluded from the meeting because they and the Portuguese delegation had raised political differences. As Tony Saunois was responding to this declaration, refuting the allegations made by JIR, stating that we were prepared to continue the discussion on these issues the Spanish and Portuguese delegations walked out of the meeting.

The members of the Faction at this meeting reject the false claims that the Spanish and Portuguese were excluded for raising political differences.

At the meeting it was clear that the Spanish and Portuguese delegations were arguing in our opinion from an ultra-left and sectarian standpoint. The International Faction is involved in a political and theoretical struggle against the opportunist capitulation represented by the Non Faction Faction. However, in conducting a principled defence of the methods and traditions of the CWI against this trend we are not prepared to paper over or mask important political differences with the sectarian approach adopted by the Spanish and supported by the Portuguese leadership for the sake of opportunistic expediency in the factional struggle within the CWI. The Faction openly discusses political issues and, unlike our opponents, we do not hide any disagreements that may arise. The Faction was formed to defend a principled Trotskyist approach in opposition to opportunism within the CWI. Now a sectarian ultra-left trend has also emerged which we will also politically oppose.

Labour’s Education on Anti-Semitism: A Contribution – Bernard-Lazare and the Dreyfus Affair..

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Labour launches new antisemitism education material


“Over the coming months, the party will produce educational materials on a number of specific forms of racism and bigotry,” the email reads. “Our first materials are on antisemitism, recognising that anti-Jewish bigotry has reared its head in our movement.”

The email includes links to an ‘antisemitism minisite‘ and a new five-page documen that LabourList understands has been written up by party officials and particularly the leader’s office. Both are titled ‘No Place For Antisemitism’.

The website page is comprised of a video from the Labour leader released in August 2018, text from the document (on “understanding” antisemitism, its history, conspiracy theories and Zionism), “helpful links and resources” that include the International Holocaust Alliance definition, an article by Corbyn in the Evening Standard and a Birkbeck university course, plus videos by Momentum.

There is a massive amount to read and discuss, to say the very least, on this issue.

From this Blog, some contribution could perhaps something should be said about a topic we have covered for a long time, the French left, a key battle ground in past and present  fights against anti-Semitism.

This piece draws on events which form the intellectual furniture of many on the European left, and apart from the importance of the issues outlined, may help to indicate why for some of us this combat is important not just because of the tragedies of the Twentieth century but has roots which go back to the final years of the previous century.

One of the most important crises in the shaping of the modern left, both liberal in the American sense, and socialist and social democratic in the European one was the Dreyfus Affair. As somebody from a background, both through family and culture, this landmark in the history of the left was something I – like many others on the left, though clearly very far from all – learnt of as an adolescent. One of the first serious books I read was Anatole France’s Penguin Island (L’Île des Pingouins. 1908) best known thread is a memorable satirise of the Dreyfus Affair – including well aimed shafted at the dogmatic minority of socialists who hesitated to become embroiled in this ‘bourgeois’ –  and attacks anti-semitism, in the shape of a Royalist leader, the Prince des Boscénos who loathes Jews and modern democracy.

One way of looking at how the legacy of the Affaire is through the history of the actions of individuals. One person who  played a key role in defending Dreyfus,  was the French anarchist critic, socialist, and, towards the end of his life, Zionist, Bernard Lazare. His campaigning and ideas deserve studying today, not just for his own value, but because the issues Lazare confronted  and grappled to answer, continue to be relevant.


Image result for bernard lazare dreyfus

Bernard-Lazare (1865 – 1903).

 Je ferai le portrait de Bernard-Lazare. Il avait, indéniablement, des parties de saint, de sainteté. Et quand je parle de saint, je ne suis pas suspect de parler par métaphore.

I will draw the portrait of Bernard-Lazare. There is not denying that he that he had something of saint, of sainthood. And when I speak of saint there is no hint  of speaking metaphorically.

Charles Péguy  Notre Jeunesse 1910.

The wrongful conviction for spying on behalf of the German army of a Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus in 1894, brought to the fore the issue of anti-Semitism in France. The French left initially reacted without glory.

Jules Guesde, the leader of the self-proclaimed Marxist Parti ouvrier français (POF), and his supporters are often said to have been so keen to defend class independence that they downplayed human rights and was willing to see merit in any ‘anti-system’ force. While waiting for the socialist revolution he had refused to defend the republic against Boulangism. This, sometimes called one of the first ‘populist’ movements, led by a ultra-patriotic former General bent on restoring French national and military power,  and the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine from Germany. This heady mixture, centred on Revanchisme, – had offered an opportunity for anti-Jewish agitation. The germs of anti-Jewish leagues, although not formally endorsed by the 42 Parliamentary deputies elected in 1889 under the banner of Georges Boulanger began to appear in these decades.

The movement that had grown around Boulanger’s name was perhaps the first of its kind, a combination of royalists, Bonapartists, Republicans, socialists, and Blanquists. If it resembles any movement in this strange mix of followers it is Peronism, which was also able to attract followers from all ends of the political spectrum around the figure of a general. And like Peronism, Boulangism was able to do this because it can justly be said of the man at the heart of it that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there was no there there.

Like the Brexit Party it threw its net large. It would not be misleading to call Boulangism an early ‘red-brown front’ uniting extreme right traditionalists, sovereigntists, and ‘left-wingers’ against the Parliamentarian ‘elites’, Édouard Drumont baying for rule by plebiscite and national independence. One can see the stirrings of an anti ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ strand emerging, with an obvious target, La France juive, already signaled out by Europe’s leading anti-Semite, Édouard Drumont. It would not be too misleading to suggest that some on the Boulangist left took the view that they would stand “with” Boulanger against the oligarchs of the 3rd Republic,  while claiming to be “against” the General’s troops when it came down to the details of their economic and social programme.

It was able to do this, people of all political stripes were able to see Boulanger as one of their own, because the programme of General Boulanger, published as a broadsheet in 1888 was full of empty phrases: “Boulanger is work,” “Boulanger is honesty,” “Boulanger is the people” … He called for a revision of the constitution, yet never said in what that revision would consist. His slogan of “dissolution, revision, a constituent assembly” repeated slogans that had been in the air for years. And yet, the vast movement that rallied around him and attracted followers from all classes, all professions, and all political beliefs nearly put an end to the republic.

But more significantly, in the words of the historian Zeev Sternhell in his “La Droite Révolutionnaire” (The Revolutionary Right), “Boulangism… was, in France, the place where and a certain form of non-Marxist, anti-Marxist, or already even a post-Marxist socialism were stitched together.” But for Sternhell Boulangism goes even farther: The synthesis of the various currents that united behind the general included Blanquism, “which rose up against the bourgeois order , [and] the nationalists [who rose up] against the political order that is its expression.” This amalgamation was to result in something far more grav” e: “After the war this synthesis would bear the name fascism.”

General Boulanger and the Boulangist Movement

Mitchell Abidor

Sternhell’s account remains controversial – while some on the French left rallied to Boulanger, it was not long before a majority threw their weight against the movement. The revelations about the financial backing it received from the right in Les Coulisses du Boulangisme, by the leftist backer-turned critic ‘Mermeix’ (Gabriel Terrail), 1890, discredited it for many – a kind of Arron Banks moment. Reformists, anarchists, and democratic Marxists rallied against the new “césarisme” But the confusion left by Boulanger only served to retrench some forces into their own anti-Parliamentary anti bourgeois democratic  fortresses.

After initially hailing Emile Zola’s J’accuse in 1896, and making some declarations against anti-Semitism, Guesde again stumbled. He came to the conclusion that the innocence or guilt of Dreyfus was not a battle that “involved the working class”.

Nicknamed Torquemada in lorgnettes the arch-workerist was not alone.  Jean Jaurès in 1894 had talked of Dreyfus as part of “la caste des officiers de carrière”, who plight, though real, was not a matter for socialists to take up. His more liberal socialism had not yet evolved. The leading figure in the independent wing of the French socialist left had himself not been above attacking Jewish influence in finance, talking of the devastating effects of their “usury” on the country during a visit to French colonial Algeria in 1895.

Both Guesde and Jaurès were embedded in the anti-Semitic climate of the time. They took as an empirical ‘fact’  the exaggerated importance of “financiers juifs”; the “puissance juive” was significant part of capitalism. During the early years of organised French socialist parties (divided into at least 5 main currents), before Dreyfus marked out the rupture with nationalist anti-Semitism, there was little mention of working class Jewish migrants, their poverty, or of the persecutions Jews suffered.

If the capitalists of all background were the main problem, and there was no biological struggle between ‘Jews’ and ‘Aryans’, a fraction of capital was remained marked out as Jewish. They were part of an “elite”, the product of the capitalist system, but still active agents within it. The importance ‘Jews’ were given by at least some on the left a place established by pseudo-empirical ‘facts’ in books such as  Alphonse Toussenl’s Les Juifs, rois de l’époque : histoire de la féodalité financière (1847) was an early template. It is striking how some of the tropes in this literature, focusing on Jewish ‘dynasties’ such as the Rothschilds, remain in circulation.

Yet during the Dreyfus Affair the majority of the French left not only backed the unjustly imprisoned officer but came to oppose, strongly oppose,  anti-semitism.

The role in this by the anarchist socialist critic, of Jewish origin, Bernard Lazare and his circle, marked a political watershed.

Lazare’s l’antsiémitisme son histoire et ses causes (1894) had talked of the economic bases of anti-Judaism, competition between a “non-assimilated” group and those in charge of industrial and financial capitalism. The Jewish community was described as a  ‘state within a state’ and their “facility at trading”. Yet this loose language was in the context of an atheist attack on religious exclusivity. This angle also explains why the author, noting a lack of certainty in the afterlife, praised the Jewish willingness to “fight tyranny” in this world.

Such was the strength of Lazare’s contributions that the fighter for  Dreyfus been described as one of those who definitively classed anti-Semitism as an ideology of the extreme-right and aligned the largest part of the left, not only in France but internationally, against it. Ruth Harris’s The Man on Devil’s Island (2010) places his tireless efforts at the centre of the Dreyfusard movement.

Faced with the Dreyfus case Lazare had chosen his camp “They needed a Jewish traitor fit to replace the classic Judas” he  wrote, “a Jewish traitor that one could mention incessantly, every day, in order to rain his opprobrium on his entire race.” Working with Alfred’s brother, Mathieu Dreyfus, the critic badgered and cajoled every contact he could find to rally to the cause. Lucien Herr, the socialist librarian at the École normale supériere, became a notable ally and a bridge to the wider left.

One of the best known figures on the organised and Parliamentary left who took up the case was the socialist cited above,  Jean Jaurès.   He developed themes that echo right to the present day.

The first of these is that the cause of socialism, based on class struggle against capitalism, is linked to a broader moral humanism. In one of his most famous passages Jaurès said of Dreyfus, “I could answer that if Dreyfus was illegally condemned and if, as I will soon demonstrate, he is innocent, he is no longer either an officer or a bourgeois. Through the very excess of his misfortune he has been stripped of any class character. He is no longer anything but humanity itself, at the highest degree of misery and despair that can be imagined.”

The second is that Jaurès raised the banner of universal human rights. He saw the potential, despite obstacles, and class bias, in the legal system, “There are two parts to capitalist and bourgeois legality: There are a whole mass of laws aimed at protecting the fundamental iniquity of our society, and there are laws that consecrate the privileges of capitalist property, the exploitation of the wage earner by the owner. We want to smash these laws, and even by revolution if necessary abolish capitalist legality in order to bring forth a new order. But alongside these laws of privilege and rapine, made by a class and for it, there are others that sum up the pitiful progress of humanity, the modest guarantees that it has little by little conquered through a centuries-long effort and a long series of revolutions.”

These ideas remain pillars of democratic socialism.

In the years that followed the campaign against the imprisonment of Dreyfus, the re-trials, the work for his rehabilitiation, which saw the emergence of violent populist hatred of Jews, and the creation of the human rights body generally known as the Ligue des droits de l’homme (1898) generally known as the Bernard-Lazare became interested in Zionism.

Due to this experience with antisemitism, Lazare became engaged in the struggle for the emancipation of Jews, and was triumphally received at the First Zionist Congress.[1] He travelled with Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, the two men sharing a great respect for each other, but he fell out with Herzl after a disagreement over the project whose “tendencies, processes and actions” he disapproved. In 1899 he wrote to Herzl – and by extension to the Zionist Action Committee, “You are bourgeois in thoughts, bourgeois in your feelings, bourgeois in your ideas, bourgeois in your conception of society.” Lazare’s Zionism was not nationalist, nor advocated the creation of a state, but was rather an ideal of emancipation and of collective organization of the Jewish proletarians.

This is from one of his speeches on Jewish Nationalism (1898).

What does the word “nationalism” mean for a Jew, or rather, what should it mean? It should mean freedom. The Jew who today says: “I am a nationalist” is not saying in a special, precise and clear way that I am a man who wants to reconstitute a Jewish state in Palestine and dreams of re-conquering Jerusalem. He is saying: “I want to be a completely free man, I want to enjoy the sun; I want to have the right to my dignity as a man. I want to escape oppression, escape insults, escape the contempt that they want to bring to bear on me.” At certain moment in history, nationalism is for human groups the manifestation of the spirit of freedom.

Am I then in contradiction with internationalist ideas? Not in the least. How do I make them agree? Simply by not giving words a value and a meaning they don’t have. When socialists combat nationalism they are in reality combating protectionism and national exclusivism.

They are combating that patriotic, narrow, and absurd chauvinism that leads people to place themselves one against the other as rivals or adversaries, and who grant each other neither grace nor mercy. This is the egoism of nations; an egoism as odious as that of individuals, and every bit as contemptible. What then does internationalism suppose? It means establishing ties between nations, not of diplomatic friendship, but of human fraternity.

To be an internationalist means abolishing the current economic-political constitution of nations, for this constitution only exists for the defending of the private interests of peoples, or rather of their rulers, at the expense of neighboring peoples. Suppressing frontiers does not mean making an amalgamation of all the inhabitants of the globe. Is not one of the familiar concepts of internationalism socialism, and even of revolutionary anarchism, the federative concept, the concept of a fragmented humanity composed of a multitude of cellular organisms? It’s true that ideally this theory says that those cells that will group together will group together by virtue of affinities not caused by any ethnological, religious, or national tradition.

But this is of little importance, since it does admit of groups. In any event, we are here only concerned with the present, and the present commands us to seek the most appropriate means of assuring the liberty of man. Currently it is by virtue of traditional principles that men want to league together. For this they invoke identity of origin, their common past, similar ways of envisaging phenomena, beings, and things; a common history, a common philosophy. It is necessary to permit them to come together.


These ideas raise perhaps more difficulties than they resolve. How this internationalism be reconciled with any form of nationalism, however generous? Few examples , if any, exist to prove that it can. A better way of looking at the problem might be in terms of a common future, not a divided past, a world of fragmented common identities, and nation states.

This is one of Lazare’s statements on the issue of anti-Semitism,

To those who denounce the Jewish peril before you, respond by attacking capital, whatever kind it might be, Jewish or Christian. Capital without any qualifier. To those who enlist you to cry “Down with Israel!” answer “Down with Capital! Down with property!” and don’t go any further than that; don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your route by those who want to guide you into an impasse which will lead you to nothing. Finance, speculation, capital, property, in one word, all your enemies are not Jews, they are universal: they are Christian, Muslims, Buddhists.

Anti-Semitism and Revolution 1899.

In France writers have described the activist and writer as ‘Libertarian Zionist” sionisme libertaire, libertarian in French retaining its primary 19th left-wing sense. This Blog suggests that the contribution of Bernard-Lazare should form part of any education programme on anti-Semitism.

This is an admirable short account:

Bernard Lazare Mitch Abidor.

Bernard Lazare was born Lazare Marcus Manassé Bernard in Nîmes in 1865. Son a merchant family long-established in the South of France, he left his hometown for Paris at age 20, where he became closely involved in symbolist literary circles with an anarchist tinge.

He began his career as a militant writer in 1891, assuming the role of literary critic for La Nation, eventually writing for several reviews in which he attacked France for its friendship with the Kaiser; the world’s silence before the massacre of Armenians; and covering labor struggles and Socialist conferences (where he attacked Marxists as people who wanted “to construct a regimented society”). He collaborated on such anarchist reviews as L’EndehorsL’Action Sociale and La Revue Anarchiste.

In 1894 he published his first important work: L’Antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes, (Anti-Semitism, Its History and Causes) which explored the Jewish Question from antiquity to modern times. His general toughness when dealing with Jewish exclusiveness and what he saw as the Jewish role in the fostering of anti-Semitism, as well as his solution — which called for total assimilation — led the notorious anti-Semite Edouard Drumont to approve of and recommend the book.

But the outbreak of the Dreyfus Affair in 1894 saw Lazare enter the fight as “the first of the Dreyfusards,” convinced from the beginning that the captain was innocent of the charges against him. Because of his tireless fight for Dreyfus the great poet Charles Péguy said of him that he was “technically a prophet, the last to date.”

His experience with the Dreyfus Affair, and time spent in Central and Eastern Europe, led to his involvement in the defense of oppressed Jews elsewhere and, after meeting the founder of modern Zionism Theodore Herzl, he founded the Zionist magazine Le Flambeau. But he never denied his anarchist and class struggle beliefs, and as a result he broke with the Zionists.

Worn out by his unceasing battles, he died at age 38, Péguy saying: “He died for it (Dreyfusism), and died thinking of it.”