Coatesy from Tendance Coatesy, who is a friend of this site, reports the following:-
I have just had an unpleasant visit from the Police.
Apparently it follows a “complaint” from Ipswich-based Islamists, Jimas.
The details of the complaint were not given.
But they apparently centre on this Blog, posts on this organisation (notably a dossier sent to me by somebody close to Harry’s Place) and, it is claimed “E-Mails.”
What they are specifically I do not know.
It all took place, believe or not, well over a year ago, when and what, they did not see fit to elaborate much upon.
But is was claimed that I had a met a leading member of Jimas – completely untrue – to discuss matters.
It was also said that E-Mails from somebody calling themselves The Usual Suspects, were at issue.
I am not the “Usual Suspects” and it is a slander to suggest that I am.
Equally I repeat: I have never met anybody from Jimas.
As for the political attacks on Jimas (and other Islamists) on the Blog Tendance Coatesy, I wonder if it is the business of Suffolk police to act on these matters.
One could say that this is a case of political intervention way beyond their remit.
As for Jimas, well, rest assured that your attempts to ‘get’ me are not appreciated.
Particularly the claim – wholly made-up – that I ‘met’ with them.
As this Blog has an international readership I wonder what people in other countries think of this.
Reblogged from Tendance Coatsey:
Chokri Belaid: Tunisian Patriot, Marxist and Secularist Killed by Islamists.
At the of January Chokri Belaïd wrote, “Official violence and that of the militias is present, with the political assassination in Tataouine, and warnings and calls for the liquidation of political competitors without the authorities responding. The situation that gave birth to December 17, 2010 is still current.” (Hat-tip Paul F)
His party the Mouvement des patriotes démocrates (حركة الوطنيون الديمقراطيون) is Marxist, pan-Arab and Secularist.
It is part of the Front Populaire, (الجبهة الشعبية) ou Front populaire pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution (الجبهة الشعبية لتحقيق أهداف الثورة) * which unites left parties in opposition to the Ennahdha, Islamist-led Tunisian government.
Belaid has been described as the “bête noire” of the Islamists, particularly after the lawyer defended freedom of expression, and the film Persepolis.
On Wednesday morning he was shot outside his front door.
Tunisia Live reports,
Leftist politician and leader of the Popular Front coalition Chokri Belaid was shot to death this morning outside of his home.
Shortly after news of his assassination consumed the airwaves and social media, protesters took to the streets to express their indignation over Belaid’s assassination.
Over the course of the day, demonstrators made their way to the Interior Ministry in Tunis’ main thoroughfare, Habib Bourguiba avenue, where they showed solidarity with Belaid and chanted slogans against the ruling Ennahdha party.
The situation turned violent at around 2:30 p.m. with police resorting to tear gas and batons to empty out and lockdown Habib Bourguiba avenue.
Protests have spread across the country, and some of Ennahdha’s regional headquarters have been attacked.
As today’s General Strike is underway this is what people are saying,
They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dégage (get out, in
French),” “This will be the last day for this government,” and “Bring down the oppressor of the people, bring down the Brotherhood party.”
Belaïd’s family openly accuse that government of responsibility.
Le Monde reports,
L’assassinat de Chokri Belaïd n’a pas été revendiqué. Mais partisans et sympathisants de l’opposition dénoncent déjà à l’unisson le “premier assassinat politique“ en Tunisie depuis la chute de l’ancien dirigeant Zine El-AbidineBen Ali en janvier 2011 et affirment : “On a assassiné un démocrate”. Tous les regards se portent en particulier contre Ennahda, ouvertement accusé par la famille d’être responsable du meurtre de l’opposant.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Chokri Belaïd. But opposition supporters and sympathisers have already denounced, in chorus, the “first political assignation in Tunisia since the fall of the former leader, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. “They have killed a democrat”, they have declared. All eyes have turned towards Ennahda, openly accused by the deceased’s family of being responsible for the murder.
Le frère du défunt, Abdelmajid Belaïd, a ainsi lancé: “J’accuse (le chef d’Ennhada) ached Ghannouchi d’avoir fait assassiner mon frère”, sans plus d’explication pour étayer cette accusation.
The brother of the deceased, Abdelmajid Belaïd, has launched this charge, ‘I accuse Rached Ghannouchi of the assassination of my bother”, he said, without giving details to back up this accusation.
The Islamist Government has denied that this is the case, deeply regretting the murder.
But as, Nadia Chaaban, (left Tunisian deputy) says,
Tout le monde savait que Chokri Belaïd était menacé. Aucune mesure de protection n’a été prise. En laissant se propager des discours violents dans des espaces tels que les mosquées, ce gouvernement laisse faire et cautionne.
Everybody knew that Chokri Belaïd was under threat. There were no measures taken to protect him. In letting violent speeches (Note, by the Salafists) flourish in such places as mosques, the government has let this happen and endorsed it
Others point to Ennahdha’s ”ambiguous” relations with violent Salafists (Here)
Nor is Ennahdha completely above suspicion.
Their persecution under the Ben Ali regime should not make us forget that even this ‘moderate’ Islamist party has a past acquaintance with violence, for example, in the bombing of tourist hotels in the 1980s.
Last year opposition trade unionist protester, Lotfi Naguedh, was killed fighting with Ennahdha thugs.
The most that one say with certainty, on the present evidence, is that this murder did not happen in a political vacuum and that the ruling Islamists did not protect its opponent.
In 2011 George Galloway said of this party and of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,
I welcome the imminent victory of the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunisia, which I think will provide very good governments on the Turkish model.
The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (Ennahdha) won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.
His paper has frequently offered space to Ennahdha supporters.
The governing coalition of secularist and Islamist parties is now in its second year. Despite their differences, these parties have clearly demonstrated the possibility of reconciliation, co-operation and partnership between moderate Islamists and moderate secularists, an important model for the Arab world.
Others who claim to be on (Western) the left, have, with varying degrees of hostility, judged the Tunisian secular opposition, and left, harshly.
The latest news is that a “technocratic” government of national unity it being formed around Ennahdha.
Many Tunisians seem not to share Milne or Galloway’s assessment of the party.
The coming days will see them out r protesting against Ennahdha in force.
With one death already this promises to be a very serious challenge.
* Front Populaire.
- Parti des travailleurs tunisiens de Hamma Hammami
- Parti du travail patriotique et démocratique, aile menée par Mohamed Jmour
- Mouvement des patriotes démocrates de Chokri Belaïd
- Patriotes démocrates (Watad) de Jamel Lazhar
- Parti de la lutte progressiste de Mohamed Lassoued
- Ligue de la gauche ouvrière de Jalel Ben Brik Zoghlami, trotskiste
- Parti populaire pour la liberté et le progrès de Jelloul Azzouna, socialiste
- Front populaire unioniste d’Amor Mejri, panarabe marxiste
- Mouvement du peuple de Mohamed Brahmi, nationaliste arabe nassérien
- Mouvement Baath d’Othmen Bel Haj Amor, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Parti d’avant-garde arabe démocratique de Kheireddine Souabni, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Tunisie verte d’Abdelkader Zitouni, écologiste
Written by Andrew Coates
By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatesey)
The Algerian hostage killings are shocking.
El Watan reports up to 50 hostages dead, though there are serious doubts about the accuracy of this figure.
This has to be looked up with deep ethical and political seriousness.
These are some reflections:
The Algerian army’s operation was entirely their own. On France-Inter and Europe I this morning it was repeated that the Algerians were determined to put an end to the crisis without negotiating – a long-standing principle. They were determined to “deal with internal problems by themselves (more here). The experience of confronting armed and murderous Islamists in Algeria, from the 1990s civil war to the present, is that the state’s army is prepared to use maximum force with minimum respect for human rights.
The Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been a leading figure in ’Al-Qaeda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi), is now clearly identified as the leader of the attack. He is dead. Belmokhtar has operated in the north of Mali. The ’emir’ is held responsible for kidnapping several French nationals in the recent past. In December Belmokhtar announced in une vidéo publiée par Libération.fr,that he had broken with Aqmi and created a new group, Al-Moulathamin (those who sign with blood)»), close to the Mouvement unicité et jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (le Mujao, which controls the region of Gao in Mali). The reasons for this are likely to be connected to Belmokhtar’s personal smuggling rackets. However his men remain in alliance with Aqmi.
There are therefore clear links between the hostage taking and Mali. Belmokhtar is said to have demanded that the French intervention should end. Anybody going further into the shifting alliances and disputes in Mali should pause and look at this seriously before offering an analyses of, for example, the relations between the Tuaregs, their group, the l’Azawad (MNLA) (more here), and the Islamists. I would be very very cautious in this areas.
Belmokhtar is a man with an armed band with blood on their hands. It is no surprise that an Irishman who escaped from the Algerian hostage crisis had explosives tied around his neck.
“Primary responsibility for tragic events in Algeria rest with terrorists who murdered some and held others hostage”: For the first time it’s hard to disagree with Foreign Secretary William Hague.
How Not to Respond:
Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition directly links the taking of hostages to the French intervention in Mali. She states that, “This new scramble for Africa, where the old colonial powers of France and Britain try to reassert their control in the resource rich region, looks likely to end in tears very quickly. ” No doubt she can barely contain the floods of teardrops this morning.
She goes on to say, “When France began its air strikes and invasion in Mali last week the rebels there warned its government that there would be retaliation. Blowback has come more rapidly than anyone expected.”
German then says, portentously, “The spread of the wars and instability to Africa is a very dangerous development.”
The Stop the War Coalition have shown scant regard to what the people in Mali think themselves, or much awareness of what has happened in the country.
German now shows an astounding ignorance when she says, “The long running civil war in Algeria is being escalated as a result of instability elsewhere. “
Somebody should buy her a good Chronology and teach her how not to confuse the 1990s with, say, the year 2013.
Let us make the point that the primary concern should be the wishes and interests of the people of North Africa and Mali.
It is clear that the Islamists, in their various shapes and alliances, are opposed to the most basic human rights. They torture and murder. They rape women who do not wear full Islamic covering. They destroy Muslim religious shrines that they consider ‘pagan’. They ban the wonderful music of the country. They fuel existing ethnic hatreds.
Opposition to them in Mali is not motivated by a ‘scramble for Africa’, which few outside the StWC and their ’anti-imperialist’ arm-chair generals have noticed at play in this crisis.
Still less, as some, like her partner John Rees suggests, is it a matter of the ‘West’ against ‘Islam’.
The fight against the Mali Islamists is motivated by common human decency.
And it comes from the people of Mali.
There are many issues around the French intervention, and the forces that govern the country. There is the background of the neo-liberal policies that have weakened the state and let the way open for this crisis. There is the responsibility of the country’s political class and army.
Does France intend to stay? Will its intervention, as the Nouveau parti anticaptialiste argues, make things worse?
But until we get that point, of combating the Islamists – in solidarity with Mali and North African peoples – across we will be as morally and politically bankrupt at Lindsey German.
Tendance Coatsey opines on “The Cairo Conferences – or how some on the left have got the Muslim Botherhood so wrong”:
Above: John Rees speaking at a Cairo Conference
One major factor that explains the inability of some on the British left to support, clearly, Egyptian democrats is their [the British "leftists"] long-standing links with the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is not just a matter of domestic alliances with the (then) Muslim Association of Britain in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).
On the principle of being ‘with’ the MB – indeed anybody – when ‘fighting’ ‘imperialism’ and its allied states: this reached its highest point in the Cairo Conferences, from 2002 to 2009.
Wikipedia is the most convenient source of the history of this alliance,
The first conference was held on the 17–19 December 2002, at the Conrad Hotel on the banks of the Nile . Four hundred attended. Speakers included former United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dr Hans von Sponeck. Former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella (TC Note- who had become an Islamist) chaired the conference. One outcome of the conference was the production of the ‘Cairo Declaration’, which took a stance against the then looming Iraq war; it also noted the negative effects of capitalist globalisation and U.S. hegemony on the peoples of the world (including European and American citizens). In addition, it noted that “In the absence of democracy , and with widespread corruption and oppression constituting significant obstacles along the path of the Arab peoples’ movement towards economic, social, and intellectual progress, adverse consequences are further aggravated within the framework of the existing world order of neoliberal globalisation”, while firmly rejecting the ‘advance of democracy’ justification for attacking Iraq.
The UK Stop the War Coalition, in particular John Rees then of the SWP, initiated the signing of the declaration by European leftists, including: Jeremy Corbyn MP, George Galloway MP, Tony Benn, Susan George (scholar/activist based in France), Bob Crow, Mick Rix (general secretary, UK train drivers’ Aslef union), Julie Christie, George Monbiot, Harold Pinter, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (Muslim Parliament), Tommy Sheridan (Scottish socialist), Dr Ghada Karmi (research fellow, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter), Tariq Ali. attended.
I shall miss out the specific references to Iraq and concentrate on what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty highlighted of the original ‘Cairo Declaration’.
Selective and misleading extracts from the ‘Cairo Declaration’ have been published in “Socialist Worker” (18th January 2003). The carefully edited extracts refer to the internationalist struggle against neo-liberal globalisation, the growth of poverty and unemployment as a result of capitalist globalisation and US hegemony, and the need for total opposition to war on Iraq. Such worthy sentiments, however, are not representative of the politics encapsulated in the ‘Cairo Declaration’. The ‘Cairo Declaration’ criticises the US for ‘maintaining the existing uni-polar world order’ and blocking a shift in the balance of power ‘towards multi-polarity.’ This is not an obscure and coded call for working-class struggle against capitalist inequality. It is a complaint that the domination of international markets by large-scale US capital (uni-polarity) is squeezing out the local capitalist classes and elites (multi-polarity).
It would be tedious to go through all these ‘conferences’ declarations but this one indicates the truth of this analysis (from the 3rd Conference 2003),
• The U.S. monopolizes political, economic and military power within the framework of capitalist globalization, to the detriment of the lives of the majority of the world’s people.
• The U.S. imposes control through naked aggression and militarized globalization in pursuit of its rulers’ interests, all while reinstating the characteristic direct occupation of classical colonialism.
• The U.S. global strategy, which was formulated prior to September 11 2001, aims to maintain the existing unipolar world order, and to prevent the emergence of forces that would shift the balance of power towards multi-polarity. The U.S. administration has exploited the tragic events of September 11, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, to implement the pre-existing strategy. Attention to this global context helps explain current world developments:
• Prioritize the interest of monopolistic capitalist circles above those of the people, including Europeans and U.S. citizens.
• Integrate the economies of different countries into a single global capitalist economic system under conditions which undermine social development and adversely affect the situation of women, child health, education, and social services for the elderly. In addition, unemployment and poverty increase.
The last conference in 2009 was under the banner of ”The International Campaign Against Universal Imperialism and Zionism”. Its main slogan was “Pro-Resistance and Anti-Occupation with its crimes”, will be discussing a number of issues such as supporting the resistance, developing the struggle against the occupation of Iraq, confronting the racist policies of imperialist governments and issues against dictatorship and globalization in Egypt and the Arab world.
Workers’ Liberty’s comments on the 2003 Cairo Declaration, are relevant,
The Cairo Conference was convened by an organisation committed to the defence of the national security of Egypt. At best, the conference was financed by local businessmen. (At worst, the Iraqi government had a hand in funding it.) Those attending the conference including representatives of the Iraqi Baath regime, members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a delegation from the Cuban Castroite regime, and various veteran Stalinists lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I will not go into the issue of Israel, or Stalinism.
The most important point is that they [the "left" supporters of the Cairo Conference/Declaration] aligned themselves with a section of the pious Egyptian bourgeoisie – with all its own financial and capitalist links with Gulf States.
The MB’s anti-globalisation and ‘anti-imperialism’ now stand as a cover for their promotion of their own religious-political national interests.
These interests are increasingly anti-democratic and anti-working class.
But will those in Britain who have worked with them draw a balance sheet?
It seems highly unlikely.
On the eve of the election this appeared on the Respect Site.
We are on the edge of a political earthquake in British politics. In polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over Labour. Labour has panicked and launched a vicious and negative campaign of dirty tricks against Respect but this has been sidelined by our magnificent positive campaign with the Respect battle bus, advertizing truck and campaign groups in every ward.
Polling conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency.
This is what happened (including the Middlesbrough by-election),
“Labour has won three by-elections, holding Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham parliamentary seats.
It increased its share of the vote in all three seats, but its majority was down in Rotherham, where the previous MP had quit over expenses claims.
The UK Independence Party came second in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, and finished third in Croydon North.”
How did Respect fare?
|Rotherham by-election, 29 November 2012|
|English Democrats||David Wildgoose||703||3.30|
|Liberal Democrat||Michael Beckett||451||2.11||-13.87|
|Trade Unionist & Socialist||Ralph Dyson||261||1.22|
|no description||Clint Bristow||29||0.14|
|Croydon North by-election, 2012|
|Liberal Democrat||Marisha Ray||860||3.5||-10.5|
|Christian Peoples||Stephen Hammond||192||0.8||N/A|
|National Front||Richard Edmonds||161||0.7||N/A|
|Monster Raving Loony||John Cartwright||110||0.4||N/A|
|Nine Eleven Was An Inside Job||Simon Lane||66||0.3||N/A|
|Young People’s Party||Robin Smith||63||0.3||N/A|
This is a good thing.
That is despite (as Toby says) the fact that the Labour winners in Rotherham and Croydon are part of the hidebound right-wing of the party.
It is still an anti-Coalition result.
The sensation of these elections is of course the UKIP vote.
These ‘fascists in blazers’ are the weevils of the British politics.
What for the left?
TUSC (261, 1,22 % in Rotherham and 277, 1,6% in Middlesbrough) and the Communist Party (119 votes) did not do well at all.
Ridley’s votes (1,778, 8, 3,4%) are far too many for any socialist to rejoice about.
Somebody who says this, ““[Respect] is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.” She explained that government support “goes towards that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East”. She went on to attack the Tories and Lib Dems, saying that all the mainstream parties are “riddled with Zionists”” represents forces that have no part in the labour movement.
Still one cannot but smile as ‘Rapper Jasper’s’ result: a lost deposit.
And at the pitiful attempts to draw comfort from their result by Respect supporters (wonder how long this link will last before these ‘democrats’ take it down).
The obvious fact is that Respect have drawn from the old (and now unused) Liberal Democrats’ by-election strategy: publish boosting made-up door-step reports and ‘polls’ just before an election.
And the truly magnificent score of the Rotherham Liberal Democrats (2,11% below an Independent, 2,73%) brings a spring to the step.
As promised, Coatsey is on the ball with his analysis of the French Presidential election:
François Hollande: a socialist analysis:
“The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possession of a modern nation is the national debt.”
Karl Marx. Capital. Vol. 1. Page 919.
“Enfin les difficultés commencent.”
Alexandre Bracke-Desrousseaux (SFIO) – Socialist Parliamentary Deputy. 1936.
I jumped, literally, for joy listening to the Exit Polls for the French Presidential election. That François Hollande won was more than a relief after so much tension during the campaign: it was elating. That Greece showed such a strong showing for anti-austerity parties, with the left bloc Syriza coming second, was a further boost. The sight of the celebrating crowds across France, the country at its forward-looking and generous best, will remain in the mind for a long time. It gave a fillip to the left in all Europe. Good on you!
The French Stock-Exchange, the Bourse, did not share this happiness. This morning we hear reports of plunges in share values. Is Hollande such a threat to Capital? Who is he, what are his politics, what policies will he pursue, and what are the implications for the left, French and European?
According to large parts of the British media François Hollande is ‘centre-left’. This is not a term much used in France. Others, more accurately, call him a ‘social democrat’. Does this mean, as Terra Nova’s spokesperson said, that the former Parti Socialiste’s General Secretary is a ‘moderniser’ of the stamp of Tony Blair, or Gordon Brown? That is somebody ready to wipe out the French version of Old Labour?
Nothing could be less sure. Talking with the philosopher-sociologist Edgar Morin in Saturday’s Le Monde (5.5.11) Hollande referred not to the ‘centre-gauche’ but to the Gauche. They discussed the “famille socialiste” (which for both includes a – 19th century – communist and libertarian component). Who were the thinkers and political actors who have inspired Hollande? He cites the influence of Marx’s analysis of capitalism (“utile pour comprendre ce qu’est le capitalisme”) even if the system has changed, Jean Jaurès for his synthesis of socialism and republicanism, the communist black poet, Aimé Césaire, Victor Hugo and Albert Camus. It would he hard to find a leader of the Labour Party, or any European third-way ‘moderniser’, with a parallel list of influences.
Second and First Lefts
Hollande’s social democracy has led some to say that he is the “spiritual son of Jacques Delors” and what is known in France as the “Second left”. This is the current of thought associated with one-time Prime Minister Michel Rocard (PM, 1988 – 1991), and the ex-Christian Trade Union, the CFDT (Confédération Démocratique du Travail). It was strongly opposed to the ‘Jacobin’ left tradition of reform from above. Embodied in, say, the French Socialist (and now ultra-republican), Jean-Pierre Chévènement this took the ‘battering ram’ approach to socialism, a parliamentary majority could thrust through a programme of radical reform (as the 1981 Projet Socialiste offered). The First left in reality was less of a trend of thought than a series of policies for socialism through Parliament that collapsed at the first sign of serious economic difficulty – as happened under Mitterrand in 1984.
The Second Left combined an ethical socialism indebted to the ‘personalism’, Catholic humanism, of Emmanuel Mounier and his journal Esprit (founded in the 1930s), and a belief in the central value of democracy. It was associated with support for decentralisation, and a degree of ‘self-management’ (worker participation, influenced by the Guild Socialism of G.D.H.Cole rather than Marxism or anarchism) in industry. Delors’s concern about budgetary probity and economic realism was combined with left-liberal values. It wanted to change people from below, (civil society) not by Parliamentary Acts. It petered out by the end of the 1980s (as Rocard became Prime Minister) as it too failed to change much in French society, and was unable to change a market society by moral example.
This stream of thought, influential in the 1980s, and present in the ‘anti-totalitarian’ left up till the 1990s, is dispersed today. It faded away as its moderation ebbed away into a diffuse enthusiasm for ‘modernisation’ and by-ways, such as the pro-enterprise Fondation Saint-Simon (whose closest present day offspring is Terra Nova). The present CFDT leader, François Chérèque is not associated with any strong ideology and Rocard is barely audible. Martine Aubry, the actual daughter of Delors, and identified with some of his ideas, lost out to Hollande in the Socialist ‘primaries’. Only in the vaguest sense is the President an inheritor, in his moderate ‘possibilism’ and scorn for sweeping, uncosted and not thought-out, reform. The sociologist Alain Tourraine, one of the last theorists connected to the Second Left, has nevertheless praised the President as the only person capable of combining support for “European construction” with social policies. (Le Monde. 26. 4.12). If this may be true it is also the case that almost the whole of the French left, including those hostile to the EU’s existing make-up and leadership (like Jean-Luc Mélenchon) equally share such an ambition.
Others say that Hollande combines the ‘First’ with the ‘Second left’. By this they refer to his praise for the last Socialist President, François Mitterrand (1991 – 1995), who was said to incarnate the former. Mitterrand however had a background in the ‘Parliamentarism’ of French ‘radical socialism’ (a name potentially misleading to English readers, it signified opposition to ‘revolution’ and owed the first term to 19thcentury British ‘radicals’ like Cobden and Bright). His Socialism, as for his radical allies, drew on the ideas of equality and social solidarity expounded by French novelists like George Sand and the later Victor Hugo, and ‘social republicanism, with some influence of Lois Blanc’s schemes for welfare and gradual socialisation. His reliance on state-led change was ‘reformism’ boiled down to agreements with parliamentary groupings, or, as the Socialists became the dominant force in the National Assembly, to deals between the party’s different leaders and tendencies.
Hollande’s debt to this approach to one aspect of the First Left is still important, though. It lies in his republicanism. In le Monde he argued strongly against Edgar Morin’s proposal that the word “multicultural” be put into the Constitution. “The word ‘multiculturalism’ creates ambiguities, it could indicate that we’re a society without common terms of reference. This doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to people’s origins, but that we have to make a Republic in which all citizens feel they are recognised. I prefer to reinforce Secularism (laïcité) in the Constitution because it’s a one of the important principles of freedom – every citizen, all religions – are treated in the same way – in fraternity. Secularism enables us to live together, with the same rights and responsibilities.” (5.5.12). This republican equality (the value that for Hollande is the ‘soul of France’) stands in sharp contrast to both Sarkozy’s efforts to attack immigrants, especially those of a Muslim background, and the British multicultural left’s attempts to play on religious difference. Its success was notable in the ‘mixed’ crowds, of every ethnic background, that celebrated Hollande’s victory.
Socialism, Hollande, has written, means putting capitalism in the service of social objectives. The Parti Socialiste dropped references to class struggle and a ‘break’ (rupture) with the market in the 1990s. But it did not become, as some on the left alleges, ‘social liberal’ on the model of New Labour. Nor do the categories of First and Second Left fit a world transformed, it is said, by ‘globalisation’. Neither state-run nor grass-roots initiatives alone could confront the altered world. It is this context which led the Socialists (influenced by the intellectual revival of the left in the late 1990s) to attack ‘finance’ and uncontrolled globalisation (Declaration of Principles. 2008). How the proposed to tackle it was through the European Union – an idea increasingly problematic as the EU itself began, critics asserted, to operate as a funnel for the interests of finance and global capital.
Speaking at Bourget in January this year Hollande identified finance capital as his principal foe, “Il n’a pas de nom, pas de visage, pas de parti, il ne prèsentera jamais sa candidature, il ne sera donc jamais élu. Cet adversaire, c’est le monde de la finance.” (It has no name, no face, no party, it will never stand for election, and hence it will never be elected. My main adversary is the world of financial world). In this vein the Presidential Candidate attacked the “excesses” of bankers’ pay, bonuses, and the profits that financial markets make. The framework which encourages profiteering, instability, restrains the wages of the ordinary people while putting pressure on states to cuts public spending, is a “construction politique” (le Monde. 5.5.12). The task is to change this structure. The problem is that financial markets do indeed have a face, including prominent former Labour party politicians, like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson (now both well-paid rewarded of this world), whose actions have helped create the problems the French socialists face. **
Hollande offers only moderate measures to begin to fulfill the mission. Taxation of the wealthy, proposals to employ more, not fewer, teachers and front-line civil servants, appear modest enough. It is the challenge to European Union-led austerity is far more significant. Today we hear signs that this may be watered down, that a compromise may be reached with Germany, that the time is not ripe for confrontation. Yet it is what Marx called the debt’s position as a “collective possession” that is going to cause the main problems. A strategy for growth will not make this go away.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon left the Parti Socialiste and founded the Parti de gauche (PG) because of a previous failure to stand up against plans for Europe-wide fiscal controls in the referendum of 2008. His electoral score as the candidate for the Front de gauche in the first Presidential round two weeks ago, was, at 11%, less than hoped for, but a major advance on original projections (well below 5%). The European issue remains a live one, and will be raised again as we now move towards the Legislative Elections. A strong FdG vote could keep Hollande on course.
For the moment we simply send Hollande all our best wishes, with all our heart.
*La Deuxième gauche. H. Hamon, P.Rotman. Seuil. 1984. Esprit. Michel Winock. Seuil. 1996.
** Les marchés financiers ont un visage.Geoffery Geuens. Le Monde Diplomatique. Mai 2012.( Here.)
Note: Caroline Fourest is important in grasping the role of religion, ethnicity, race and secularism in the campaign. See her latest column D’une digue républicaine à l’autre. here.
Given the number of ill-judged and banal commentaries there have been from both the left and the bourgeois media, I have refrained from commenting upon the tragic events in Toulouse. It is especially important to weigh our words carefully at this time, given the vulnerable position that minority groups find themselves in. A considered response will be posted in due course. For now, this (below) seems to me to be the only proper response (from Tendance Coatsey):
Sadness at Toulouse.
Desperate sadness is all I would comment about the murders and stand-off in Toulouse.
Last night one of my closest comrades was so moved by the events that he had to come round to mine and speak about it.
Another phoned me to talk about it.
It is simply enormously distressing.
You may or may not be aware of the government’s strategy to have state-run social welfare taken over by various religious charities and groups (since it worked out so well in Ireland). One example is the Ipswich-based jobseeker training course which is run by the YMCA – specifically, YMCA Training. The scheme appears to consist of having claimants spend thirty hours a week in a YMCA office looking for jobs on computers. Comrade Andrew Coates has been lucky enough to experience this shining example of faith-based welfare in action.
The YMCA promises high quality services. It says that ‘We are dedicated to inspiring individuals to develop their talents and potential and so transform the communities in which they live and work.’ There are two centres in Ipswich, one for young people on the town outskirts. The other, Dencora House (popularly known as ‘the Den’) on an industrial-commercial estate in another far-flung suburb, Whitehouse. After varying periods of unemployment (dependent, for example, on age), the workless are assigned, in their majority, to a ‘course’ of thirteen weeks at these units. In theory, after a short period of CV and presentation skills induction, participants should be sent on ‘placements’ in various enterprises, local government, or the voluntary sector. The latter is an important growth area. In many cases taking over from ’community service’ ordered by the Courts. Then you have to attended a session back at ‘the den’ to do ‘jobs search’ – sit in front of computers (never enough available) looking at a page of ads, filling in a few forms – in fact what you would normally do anyway if you’re looking for work.
The last time I was obliged to undergo this rigmarole there were the following complaints. Dencora House is in the middle of nowhere. It is very hard to get to from a lot of East Suffolk (its catchment area). It costs £1,70 pence each way on the bus there, from Ipswich that is. From other places, plenty of rural districts, it’s double, even treble. Dole is just over £60 pounds a week, New Deal is £15 plus, minus (yes) the first £4 of your travel expenses. The rest of the journey’s cost is covered. But you had to queue up every Friday with all your tickets to get this back. In some cases this meant £30 to £40 – laid out beforehand on the Dole money just mentioned. Next, placements have been known to be thinly disguised exploitation of free labour. A training scheme offered for some over 55 year olds was on learning to ‘lay bricks’ (guess what the qualification is worth). Then there was the fact that even then some people never found placements and were stuck in the Den all week, doing little. At around forty people there during peak days there was also the question of health and safety – one men’s toilet for about 35 men. Anyone getting stroppy was threatened with being ‘exited’ (charming word) – that is suspended form all benefit whatsoever. Finally there was the simple fact that the process rarely lead to work for anyone who was not already highly employable.
Switch to the present. Numbers of those thrown out of work swell and swell, even in relatively prosperous East Anglia. Yesterday I was told by someone on his way to ‘the Den’ that there on many days there are around 170 people there. Sometimes just two members of staff. The jobs supplement of the Ipswich Evening Star has roughly five pages of ads – at most. Those at ‘the den’ have to work through them – there is an even worse ratio of participants and computers. Many, hell of a lot in fact, are now obliged to spend their whole 13 weeks at Whitehouse. Even those with a placement promise spend weeks waiting for it to be processed. Staring at the walls and the odd screen. Waiting for the few toilets to be free (large waiting list there as well). They are thrown out at lunchtime for an hour. Believe me the charms of ASDA, a chippie and a small café are about all the area has to offer. Any complaints? Exit! Get really angry? Exit! Want an alternative? Exit!
Personally, I’d rather starve.
Yeah, you are supposed to be there for 1 week of induction then get stuck in a placement… everyone seems to be doing 30 hours job search a week… not far from full time hours. Then the job search sessions are not supervised anyway! Always under staffed.
4 pages of job search sounds good… then when you realise that only one page are small adverts (the rest are big box adverts) then short list out jobs you can do (there seems to be a lot of caring jobs etc. around which aren’t applicable) you end up with just 3 or 5 jobs to apply for and everyone applies for them so you stand no chance even though you apply for them anyway as you need a job (better then staying there and getting so little money)
I am quoting loads but you should read this post in full and also the comments. I’ll just quote some more from Dan.
Dencora House is understaffed and over populated with people. YMCA Training loves exiting people for silly reasons to narrow this number down. Please Note: They are still paid for the whole 13 weeks whether you spend one morning or an entire 13 weeks there.
YMCA Training do not have a good relationship with a good pool of businesses – even though in Ipswich alone they have (or did have) around several members of staff working placements out. Over the last 5 years both the Jobcentre and YMCA Training have employed over paid staff (I applied for information of the YMCA Training one) to engage in partnership with businesses and the Jobcentre. The Jobcentre had a controversial post (in my opinion) of a salary over £30,000 a year to bring more businesses on to the database. I only see about 40% of the jobs advertised in the Evening Star (expensive) on the Jobcentres database (free).
I can recall a JCP staff member coming into an crowded room of Jobseekers to do a speech (planned by YMCA Training) into giving us a firm talking to into not getting ourselves exited from the course to cause them more work as she is sick of all the overtime she was getting dealing with new claims. hello? We would all love to help you out and get into paid employment.
YMCA Training do not have a good relationship with a good pool of businesses – even though in Ipswich alone they have (or did have) around several members of staff working placements out.
YMCA Training has severed a lot of ties with local employers and this has become the main reason why people are not offered on to work placements.
I would say that staff members (when in) reading out ‘activities’ on ‘Write down the names of the companies next to the logos’ and ‘What are the name of these companies that used these slogans on TV adverts?’ as a time wasting activity are not beneficial to the job seekers or learning or training these people anything let alone anything transferable into a job. It makes you (whether you are 18 or 60) feel so small like you are back at nursery school with those child-like classroom activities.
The [OFSTED] report also concluded about the lack of availability of computers and lack of private use of telephone.
There is even more on the Ipswich Unemployed Action site.
We are not moaning about having to attend a course – generally we all like to develop ourselves and meet new people – but your treatment on the course is like being an object – a ‘thing’.
Many people are dismissed for trivial reasons and lies to lower the numbers of the already overcrowded rooms in the centre.
Going to the toilet or getting a drink of water outside allocated breaks is a possible dismissal offence and so is taking a plastic cup of water or cup of tea or coffee outside the centre (the small break-out areas are not enough to hold the people in attendance so people venture outside).
This kind of thing isn’t new – it is called ‘customer feedback’ and most organisations value it. YMCA Training do not. Andrew provides the punchline.
This morning I went to Dencora House, Ipswich. For my ‘New Deal’ induction at YMCA Training. A little while in and I was summoned. YMCA manager and colleague. Copies of this Blog, and the Ipswich Unemployed Action’s, on the table.
Apparently, the chief said, some people are upset about this kerfuffle. Deary me.
The upshot is I face being suspended from all benefits for exercising my (see YMCA Induction Pack), ‘freedom of conscience’. Apparently human rights do not apply to the out-of-work on the New Deal. Still no doubt they’ll find some way of justifying themselves. YMCA Mission Statement, ‘Motivated by its Christian faith, YMCA Training’s mission is to inspire individuals to develop their talents and potential and so transform the communities in which they live and work.’ Needs some creative re-writing.
I am really hacked off about this. Obviously we need sanctions for claimants who abuse the system, but cutting off someone’s benefits because they wrote about the system on a blog?
If we’re getting the whole story from Andrew – and he doesn’t strike me as a bullshitter – then this is an illuminating case study of faith-based welfare in action. ’This is our basic service, and if you don’t want to use it or if you raise questions or challenge us in any way, we will cut off your income. Stop writing or starve.’
This is why faith-based welfare doesn’t work, won’t work, can’t work and shouldn’t work.
Andrew, stay strong. Keep up the good work and don’t let the bastards grind you down.
( Coming from many quarters of the left the organisers are “united in our determination to combine our strengths”. They hope to “open a debate”. Chris Strafford in the Weekly Worker asks “what is the point?” of this. Bruce Robinson of the AWL notes that the Convention is designed to “avoid controversy”. Indeed apart from rallying the committed, attracting (?) new blood, and having face-to-face discussions – not such bad ideas – it is unclear what the goal is. The final session is named “Question Time for the Left.” The BBC programme of that name is a platform for the loud-mouthed, the know-alls, and the – interesting – know somethings. Select your own featured speakers to fit that description. Only the most ecumenical will foresee much value in George Galloway or Lindsey German’s perspectives.
The hubris staring Brown in the face after a decade of overweening self-confidence in his own merits and the virtues of the market economy overshadows everything. As a response it is surely important to discuss a socialist economic project. From the global re-regulation of finance and banking, we ought to look at a European-wide strategy to bring (first) utilities and public transport under social ownership, and an equally cross-Continental centralisation of upgraded social rights and benefits. Brown’s market state is uniquely vulnerable to the banking and credit crisis through its dependence on private finance, and (incompetent) private contractors. Instead of farming out services (in the NHS for example) to instruments like problem-ridden Equity Funds, renewed publicly funded Welfare institutions need to be expanded to cope with the existing inequality and potential economic disaster. To propel this we have to have strong trade unions with expanded rights.
No doubt there will be many at Manchester with their own ideas on these topics. Not to mention others, from feminism, anti-racism, local government, anti-war action and ecology. The Socialist Movement published nearly two decades back still useful documents on many of these subjects – indicating how much we have retreated in the intervening years.
Anyway, this may not be welcome (hah!). But like the Ancient Mariner collaring the Wedding Guest I would like to tell the Convention a few things. Let’s clear the decks of a few albatrosses, and if we have to do penance for this, so be it.
To begin with, Nick Wrack of Respect Renewal is right to say that, The experience of the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance, the Scottish Socialist Party and, latterly, the split in Respect would make the most optimistic exponent of left unity reach for the nearest barge pole.” The fall-out from this squabbling has not gone away (nor the guilty parties held to account). Nevertheless an inability to win large-scale political (as opposed to union) support is common to all the left. Inside the Labour Party John McDonnell has not made great headway either. Next, a major unresolved issue is the failure of the Respect/Left List factions to confront their own communalist and opportunist alliance with cross-class Muslim notables and Islamist groups. This has been combined with covering for Islamicist bodies violently opposed to the most minimal of progressive politics and human rights. Domestically there has been an inability to build a democratic programme axed around the kind of secular equality which can confront communitarians and racists. Finally, the Convention’s call for serious thinking makes no sense if the left jumps, without some of this, at the latest get-rich-quick scheme: a turn to the Green Party, whose identity as “on the left” is not at all clearly established in the eyes of many of us. There’s a lot to say on this, but my glimmering eye fades and I turn away – for now.
It’s electing the America you want time. I want Barack Obama to be Prez, but more on this later. This moment the concern is Republican running-mate to John McCain, Alaskan Sarah Palin. US liberals, and their European fellow-travellers, have apparently, gone “berserk” about her. To Nick Cohen they have poured supercilious scorn on her Hillbilly faith, and show “sexual disgust” for the ‘hockey mom’. Ugg. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/07/uselections2008.republicans2008 Well I suppose I’m not a lone figure but I’d like a lot more disgust. That woman is the kind who, when her own mother visits, charges her full board and lodging. Frankly the Republicans have gone for broke in selecting a Christianist on their ticket. If they win McCain will preside over exactly the kind of regime that will bolster the super in any lefty’s -ciliousness. And, no Dave Osler, even the masochist in me doesn’t fancy her at all.
No doubt this will go through the wash as the world’s news media covers this election to saturation point. The cultural cringe that leads these folk to ape US expressions, such as “you guys” (which manages the feat of being both sexist and banal), and weighs down their prose with the leaden (redundant in English) participle ‘gotten’, are but signs of a deeply boring interest in everything political-US. Instead of the wit of Buffy-speak and the Simpsons we get the Mayor of Houndstown. on the mortgage crisis and the greatness of the American Dream
Not that we should sneer too much. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1856 of a land of people of “invincible stoutness”, “saving stupidity”, and “insular limitation”. Life there was ruled by business, “political economy”. Everyone had a bombastic “good opinion” of the country. The essay was called English Traits It makes you wonder if there’s a meme to explore here: each imperial hegemon reproduces the same characteristics. .
What really is at stake in the Presidential elections is US exit strategy from Iraq and the international role of the US. Both candidates claim to offer a new start. Obama promises to withdraw. McCain talks of this “with honour”. But he remains wedded to such interventions. Jeffery Goldberg writes, “Nothing in his experience, recent or not-so-recent, has moved him away from his essential belief that the president has a duty to confront perceived threats well before they reach American shores.” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200810/mccain/5 McCain could therefore militarily menace Iran. He builds on Phillip Bobbitt’s idea (Terror and Consent. 2008) of “preclusion” (preventing hostile states acquiring weapons of mass destruction) and the war against terrorism. Any President will, obviously, try to maintain US global dominance. Some veer to co-operation (liberals and pro-Americans’ preference) others to unilateralism; a choice not really about policies, but essentially between politeness and rudeness. What marks McCain out is that by these views he has not clearly renounced the type of catastrophic adventures of the Bush years.
Some are so sickened by the amoral cheer-leading for Islamicists by a minority of the anti-war movement that they have forgotten what a disaster the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been. That is, the horrendous death-toll, by occupiers and sectarian killers, the sheer misery faced by millions of Iraqis, and the legacy of organised thieving, Western-led, carried out under the Allies’ disaster capitalism. Across the planet the blood-stained forces of Islamic reaction have been strengthened. The justifications for toppling the Baathists, that it would replace Saddam’s tyranny with a solid legal structure and civil society, have unravelled. There is a parody of democracy, dominated by kleptocrats and religious-ethnic factionalism, better able to serve global corporations than its own people.
It is unlikely that Obama will resolve these problems – how could he? Nor that McCain will be more than marginally worse in organising a pull-out. The important point is what conclusions they draw for the future: to continue ‘preclusion’ or drop it.
Why back Obama then? Every time I hear Republicans say that he is “not ready” for political power, like some English toff talking about the natives in Colonial times, my hackles rise. I would like to see Obama elected because of his ethnic background. Tough luck if that’s identity politics.