Watch this and then tell us a Labour victory doesn’t matter

November 17, 2014 at 6:21 pm (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism)

Pete Radcliff writes:

Those who argue that there would be no difference between a Tory or Labour election victory, watch this. If there are any socialists who don’t think they can connect with an election campaign run on these views – if they don’t think our movement will have their hopes raised by such a victory – I would like to know why.
Of course, hope and abstract promises don’t change the world – we would need to organise vigorously to make Labour in power do as much as we can of what we need.
If you don’t think this is the case, let me know. Go for it – I have the day off work (Pete wrote this earlier today-JD)

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The fall of the Wall, 1989

November 8, 2014 at 8:47 am (AWL, democracy, From the archives, Germany, history, Human rights, liberation, posted by JD, revolution, stalinism, USSR)

The Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 by the East German state, was a symbol of the totalitarian Stalinist systems. The wall was a monstrosity and we are glad it was torn down by Berliners on the night of 9 November 1989. The collapse of Stalinism was a victory for freedom. Despite a wave of capitalist triumphalism that followed, the workers of the former Stalinist states are now able to meet, discuss and form their own organisations. Here, an editorial in Workers’ Liberty magazine of July 1990 examines the reasons behind Stalinism’s collapse in Eastern Europe.


For over 60 years the typical totalitarian Stalinist society — in the USSR, in the USSR’s East European satellites, in Mao’s China, or in Vietnam — has presented itself to the world as a durable, congealed, frozen system, made of a hitherto unknown substance.

Now the Stalinist societies look like so many ice floes in a rapidly warming sea — melting, dissolving, thawing, sinking and blending into the world capitalist environment around them.

To many calling themselves Marxists or even Trotskyists, Stalinism seemed for decades to be “the wave of the future”. They thought they saw the future and — less explicably — they thought it worked.

The world was mysteriously out of kilter. Somehow parts of it had slipped into the condition of being “post-capitalist”, and, strangely, they were among the relatively backward parts, those which to any halfway literate Marxist were least ripe for it. Now Stalin’s terror turns out to have been, not the birth pangs of a new civilisation, but a bloodletting to fertilise the soil for capitalism.

Nobody foresaw the way that East European Stalinism would collapse. But the decay that led to that collapse was, or should have been, visible long ago.

According to every criterion from productivity and technological dynamism through military might to social development, the world was still incontestably dominated by international capitalism, and by a capitalism which has for decades experienced consistent, though not uninterrupted, growth.

By contrast, the Stalinist states, almost all of which had begun a long way down the world scale of development, have for decades now lurched through successive unavailing efforts to shake off creeping stagnation.

The Stalinist systems have become sicker and sicker. The bureaucracies tried to run their economies by command, and in practice a vast area of the economic life of their societies was rendered subterranean, even more anarchic than a regular, legal, recognised market-capitalist system.

The ruling class of the model Stalinist state, the USSR, emerged out of the workers’ state set up by the October 1917 revolution by way of a struggle to suppress and control the working class and to eliminate the weak Russian bourgeoisie that had come back to life in the 1920s. It made itself master of society in a series of murderous if muffled class struggles. Its state aspired to control everything to a degree and for purposes alien to the Marxism whose authority it invoked. And it did that in a backward country.

In the days of Stalin’s forced collectivisation and crash industrialisation, the whole of society could be turned upside down by a central government intent on crude quantitative goals and using an immense machinery of terror as its instrument of control, motivation, and organisation.

When the terror slackened off — and that is what Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin essentially meant: he told the members of his bureaucratic class that life would be easier from then on — much of the dynamism of the system slackened off too.

To survive, the bureaucracy had to maintain its political monopoly. It could not have democracy because it was in a sharp antagonism with most of the people, and in the first place with the working class.

So there was a “compromise formation”, neither a self-regulating market system nor properly planned, dominated by a huge clogging bureaucratic state which could take crude decisions and make them good, but do little else. State repression was now conservative, not what it was in the “heroic” days either in intensity or in social function.

The USSR slowed down and began to stagnate. And then the rulers of the USSR seemed to suffer a collapse of the will to continue. They collapsed as spectacularly as the old German empire collapsed on 11 November 1918.

Initiatives from the rulers in the Kremlin, acting like 18th century enlightened despots, triggered the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe. But it was a collapse in preparation for at least quarter of a century.

The Stalinists had tried nearly 30 years before to make their rule more rational, flexible and productive by giving more scope to market mechanisms. Now, it seems, the dominant faction in the USSR’s bureaucracy has bit the bullet: they want full-scale restoration of market capitalism. Some of the bureaucrats hope to become capitalists themselves. But with its central prop — its political monopoly — gone, the bureaucracy is falling apart.

The fundamental determinant of what happened in Eastern Europe in the second half of 1989 was that the Kremlin signalled to its satraps that it would not back them by force: then the people took to the streets, and no-one could stop them.

It is an immense triumph for the world bourgeoisie — public self-disavowal by the rulers of the Stalinist system, and their decision to embrace market capitalism and open up their states to asset-stripping.

We deny that the Stalinist system had anything to do with socialism or working-class power. Neither a workers’ state, nor the Stalinist states in underdeveloped countries, could ever hope to win in economic competition with capitalism expanding as it has done in recent decades The socialist answer was the spreading of the workers’ revolution to the advanced countries; the Stalinists had no answer.

The Stalinist system was never “post capitalist”. It paralleled capitalism as an underdeveloped alter ego. Socialists have no reason to be surprised or dismayed about Stalinism losing its competition with capitalism.

The bourgeoisie has triumphed over the Stalinists, but it has not triumphed over socialism. And genuine socialism receives the possibility of rebirth as a mass movement from the events in Eastern Europe.

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Lutfur Rahman and communalism in Tower Hamlets

November 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm (Bangladesh, communalism, democracy, Jim D, London, populism, Respect)

Re-elected Mayor Luftur Rahman

Eric Pickles has taken over the administration of Tower Hamlets council for two years after an inquiry commissioned by his department found wholesale mismanagement, questionable grant-giving and a failure to secure best value for local taxpayers.

Pickles plans to dispatch three commissioners to administrate grant-giving, property transactions and the administration of future elections in the borough.

The commissioners, who will be answerable to Pickles, will be in place until March 2017 and are tasked with drawing up an action plan to improve governance in the council, including the permanent appointment of three senior council officers including a chief executive.

The PwC report alleges corruption, cronyism and improper, communalist (though it doesn’t use that word) distribution of grants.

Among the key findings:

  • Poplar Town Hall, a Grade II listed building, was sold for £875,000 to a political supporter of Mr Rahman even though the bid arrived late, and after rival bids had been opened, which created a “risk of bid manipulation”. A higher offer was rejected, contrary to independent advice, and the winner was later allowed to change his contract.
  • Grants were handed out to organisations that were “ruled ineligible”, with some £407,700 given to groups that failed to meet the council’s own minimum criteria. Council officers were over-ruled in many cases.
  • The council appeared to show “a tendency towards denial or obfuscation rather than an inclination to investigate concerns raised”.  It did not properly investigate issues raised in a BBC Panorama programme that alleged Mr Rahman intervened to increase grants paid to some local Bangladeshi organisations.
  • Public money was spent “inappropriately” on political advertising for the Mayor.

Comrade Coatesy has done an excellent job of summarising the report and the media response. He concludes with these words of wisdom, with which we heartily concur:

“Pickles is a one-man anti-democratic foul abusive swine.

“But before protesting at this those on the left should avoid saying that Rahman’s administration and satellites (are) innocent  because they say so.”

Some background information (drawn up by a comrade before the publication of the PwC report):

Rahman was previously the leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council.  However, he lost this position in 2010.  The same year he was selected as the Labour candidate to stand as the directed elected mayor of Tower Hamlets before being removed by the party’s NEC.  The reason for him losing both positions were accusations that the Islamic Foundation of Europe (IFE) had signed up some hundreds of members to the Labour Party to advance Rahman’s cause.  The IFE is part of a network of groups around the East London Mosque aligned to the Jamaat-e-Islami (aka Maududists), which has its origins in India but is now more significantly is a force in Pakistan and were chief amongst the anti-secessionist forces in the civil war that created Bangladesh.  They are Islamist in that they support an Islamic state based on Sharia law, but are (on the whole) social conservatives not jihadists.

Rahman won the 2010 mayoral election as an independent although Tower Hamlets is by no means a majority Muslim borough, less than 40% are Muslims but they do constitute the bulk of Labour’s electoral base and once Rahman was able to win this no-one could beat him.  Rahman’s position was strengthened by the party formed around him, Tower Hamlets First (THF), winning 18 of the 45 council seats in 2014 and under the mayoral system Rahman can run the administration drawing on only these councillors.  THF is entirely drawn from Tower Hamlets Bangladeshis (and one would assume, Muslims), although six have previously been councillors of both the Labour Party and Respect.  One of these, Abjoi Miah, was a key member of Respect and appears to have been the key link person between Respect and IFE/Jamaat.  He is now the central organiser of THF and a power behind Rahman’s throne.  The turn to the Labour Party and Rahman appears to have been because IFE/Jamaat lost confidence in the Respect MP for Bow and Poplar (in Tower Hamlets), George Galloway, after he made a complete fool of himself on Celebrity Big Brother.

There are three important points to make about the Rahman/THF rule in Tower Hamlets and the possibility of other councils becoming Muslim run:

First Rahman and THF do not present as Islamists.  For example, the council maintains an LGBT policy.  It might be the case that Rahman and many of the THF councillors are not Islamists but communalists who wish to promote the interests of those of Bangladeshi origins, something that is not without precedent in local government politics in Britain.  The most notable feature of Rahman/THF rule is not the establishment of an Islamic state in the East End, but the creation of a version of the millet system that existed under the Ottoman Empire whereby everyone is related to as a religious group.  It is common for local councils to run a layer of social services through local voluntary groups and charities.  In Tower Hamlets these are becoming increasingly demarcated on religious lines, that strengthens the links between people of Bangladeshi origin.  Through its Community Faith Building Support Scheme the council gives direct support to faith based groups, the budget for 2014 being £1.3 million.  Of the 2013 funding, although funding went to a variety of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh groups, two-thirds went to Muslim groups.  It is such communalism and setting of religious identity into policy structures that is most problematic here, not any overt militancy.

Second, what is notable about Tower Hamlets First is their relative youth. These are not bearded elders in traditional attire, but young men in suits and whose beards are either neatly clipped or absent.  In sharp distinction to older generations, there are women amongst THF’s councillors.  This group has coalesced around three factors: the shutting down of channels in the Labour Party to their advancement, the rise of Respect in Tower Hamlets showing the potential to mobilise Muslim voters in a new way, and the organisation hub of Jamaat-e-Islami based on the East London Mosque.   The last of these is probably the most important, but one that might not be readily replicated elsewhere.  As Innes Bowen has shown in her recent book, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent, while most mosques in Britain are affiliated to the conservative quietism of the Deobandi and Barelwi strands of Sunni Islam, the East London Mosque is affiliated to the Islamist idea of Jamaat-e-Islami, with IFE being part of this stable too.

Third, success for Tower Hamlets First was tied up with the mayoral systems.  Tower Hamlets First do not have the spread across the borough to win the majority of the council seats, and have only 40 per cent.  Their control is thus based on winning the direct elections for mayor that Rahman did comfortably in 2010 where he took much of Labour’s vote, and more tightly in 2014 against a strong Labour challenge.

 Rahman’s links with the Islamic Forum of Europe and Jamaat-e-Islami are described on pages 27-29 of this booklet.

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Hong Kong workers strike for democracy

September 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm (democracy, Eric Lee, LabourStart, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, workers)

From LabourStart:

Support the online campaigns!

  • International Union of Foodworkers - http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkiuf
  • Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions - http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkctu
  • The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) – the only independent union in China – has called for workers to strike in support of the democracy movement as mass civil disobedience actions come under heavy police attack. The Swire Beverages (Coca-Cola) union and the HKCTU unions of school teachers and dockers are striking and will be joined by other member unions.

    Tensions have been building in Hong Kong since the August 31 government announcement that candidates for the position of Chief Executive would have to be vetted and approved by a pro-business, pro-Beijing committee.

    The protests, originally organized by the students’ federation and the Occupy Central coalition, have drawn increasing numbers of supporters. The mainland government has harshly condemned the protestors’ demands and the “illegal” protests.

    On September 28, the HKCTU declared “we cannot let the students fight alone”, and called for workers to strike in support of 4 demands: the immediate release of all the arrested, an end to the suppression of peaceful assembly, replacing the “fake universal suffrage” formula with the genuine political reform workers have been demanding, and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

    The HKCTU has been the backbone of the democracy movement, before and following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Their courageous action deserves the support of trade unions everywhere.

    Show your support – click on the links above.
    Then, spread the word – via facebook, tweets, etc.

    Thank you.

    Eric Lee

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No to an English parliament

September 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm (democracy, Jim D, London)

I am and always have been for re-organising Britain as a federal republic. However, I am not for an English parliament. England seems to me far too big to be a sensible unit for regional government. Calls for an English parliament are nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with:

a) nationalist rubbish about “a voice for England,” and

b) the Tories getting one over on Labour.

I support regional government in England, including a much bigger and much stronger London Assembly … and the abolition of the office of mayor.


H/t: Sasha

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A ‘Yes’ campaigner answers Dale Street – and he answers back

September 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm (class, democracy, posted by JD, scotland)

bag piper in kilt with rippled Scottish flag Illustration Stock Photo - 3474908

A fascinating exchange over at Socialism First (“The real alternative to Scottish independence”), following their publication of Dale Street’s critique of George Monbiot’s pro-independence article in the Guardian (DS’s critique also published here at Shiraz, three posts ago): fascinating because of what it tells you about the irrationality, dishonesty and near-hysteria that seems to characterise much of the pro-independence ‘left’:

    1. September 4, 2014  Bob Carey-Grieve

      “Monbiot also overlooks the fact that the Scottish Parliament which legislated for the referendum on 18th September owes rather a lot to the “no brigade” (i.e. its creation by the last Labour government) and was created by the very British state…” A truly horrible article, but this last point reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be for ever grateful to the generosity of the British State. It’s a very them and us scenario, we give and you receive, which is why so many Scots want to leave the Union. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. We have nothing to thank the UK or Labour Party for, the Scottish people created their Parliament, Labour and the UK merely granted us a concession. This article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule, to parties not elected by us. I’d consider myself an internationalist, but given thats not an option on the table, all socialists should want to see power devolved to local people, should want to see a written constitution enshrining the protection of the NHS, should want to see the decommissioning of nuclear weapons. This article offers no hope for the future. It just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.

      September 5, 2014 Dale street

      Why do so many ‘yes’ advocates have such a problem understanding the simplest of arguments and plain statements of fact?
      It is no more than a statement of fact that the last (thoroughly right-wing) Labour government introduced legislation to stage a referendum in Scotland, and that this subsequently resulted in the creation of a Scottish Parliament.
      The only reason this is mentioned in the article is to counter Monbiot’s simplistic (not to say ignorant) attempts to portray ‘no’ supporters as the forces of darkness and ‘yes’ supporters as the forces of sweetness and light.
      But Bob knows better!
      The sentence, he writes, “reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be forever grateful to the generosity of the British state.”
      (Isn’t it amazing how many ‘yes’ advocates are able to uncover the hidden, inner, deeper, subterranean and subconscious meanings of words and actions? Indeed, the ‘yes’ campaign has created a veritable cottage industry of cod-psychology. It could be called: Monbiot Mindreaders Inc.)
      Having read something into the article that simply isn’t there, Bob can then retreat further into a parallel universe of his own creation: “The article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule. … It (the article) just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand, to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.”
      This is obviously contradicted by the paragraph in the article which states the exact opposite:
      “Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this? asks Monbiot with a rhetorical flourish. No, socialists don’t want to be part of it.”
      But then we get to Bob’s own politics, encapsulated in the sentence: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
      Let’s not quibble about figures. For the sake of argument, let’s just accept this as a statement of fact. Because the conclusion which Bob draws from it (vote ‘yes’) sums up the difference between nationalism and socialism.
      Socialism is, in part, about the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor. That’s why socialists support progressive taxation. That’s why socialists support rich EU states paying money into the EU, for example, so that the EU can then pay grants to poor EU states and regions. (It’s the strings we’re against, not the redistributive grants themselves.)
      Nationalism and nationalist/regionalist separatism are about something different. Their basic approach is: “We are rich here. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. Let’s go our own way.”
      Bob’s statement could just as easily have emanated from a member of the Lega Nord. It is, after all, exactly what they say. (And at one time their battlecry was “Roma ladrona” – “Rome: big thief”. The SNP and their supporters have simply replaced “Rome” by “Westminster”.)
      Or, in relation to the European Union, Bob’s statement could have been uttered by a member of UKIP: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
      But if Scotland were independent, runs the obvious counter-argument, then within its borders Scotland could carry out progressive policies to reduce inequalities. The problem with that counter-argument is:
      – A promise to cut corporation tax and a refusal to raise income tax (remind me again: which party is it that opposes a top tax-rate of even 50p?) is not a promising start to reducing inequalities.
      – Socialists are generally in favour of ‘bigger units’ (i.e. the creation of states covering a greater area) because the bigger the state, the greater the resources which can be redistributed to challenge inequalities.
      – Capitalism is an economic and social system which, by its very nature, generates inequality. Attacking inequality means attacking the rule of capital – not creating yet another border in the world.
      – The agency of any such attack on the rule of capital is the working class organized as the labour movement. But the pro-independence campaign replaces a political discourse based on class by one based on national identity: “We (Scots) don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.” It therefore weakens the only agency capable of challenging the rule of capital.
      Bob writes that he considers himself an internationalist but that that is not an option on the table.
      In fact, being an internationalist is an option every day of the week. And on 18th September there’s certainly nothing internationalist about adding another border to the world.

        • September 6, 2014 Bob Carey-Grieve

          The point about giving more than we receive was to counter the idea that runs through the original article and the entire British media, that Scots should be thankful for all the concessions bestowed upon them by the British State and Labour Party. It is not England’s gifts to give, and those who think like that have misunderstood the whole point of what the union was supposed to be, equal partners. Scots have been repeatedly told that they owe everything to England, including even devolution according to the author. Devolution was not some great generosity bestowed upon us by lovely Labour. It was a cynical attempt to quash the West Lothian Question once and for all.

          The Labour Party are not the magnanimous agents of change here, they are not the answer to Scotland’s social issues, they are the problem. They’re failure to deliver social equality is the driver behind Scottish nationalism. And incidentally, the SNP are not the progressive party who have designs on cutting corporate tax to woo business. As I said, given that we are not in the throes of a worldwide socialist revolution, Scottish people deserve the opportunity to build a society on social democratic principals, rather than the neoliberal values of Westminster. Asking them to submit to more austerity (promised by both Labour and the Conservatives), the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour), and divert money from social services to fund redundant nuclear weapons (again Labour Policy), complemented by the occasional foray into an illegal war (Labour Labour Labour), is not Socialism by any stretch of the imagination, it’s asking them to prop up a system based on elitism, privilege and cronyism – House of Lords anyone? Should we have opposed the self determination of all the former colonies of The British Empire for some misplaced sentiment about borders? Should we be trying to bring Australia, Jamaica, Fiji, Kenya et al back into the fold since the author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone? Like the rest of the BT campaign, this author offers no hope for the future, only more of the same bleak misery. Maybe he should go and talk to some people queuing at a Foodbank, or the terminally ill forced back into work, or the disabled who have lost their homes due to the bedroom tax all about Milliblands plans to continue austerity, about the Conservatives promising to make Scotland pay, about the probability of being pulled out of Europe by a UKIP campaign. Maybe he should talk to the parents of any soldier who died in Blair’s war. Now compare that to the idea of paying for a childcare revolution on the back of weapons of mass destruction. There is hope one way, there is only misery the other.

    1. September 8, 2014 Dale Street

      Yawn.

      Empty tedious bombast. (From beginning to end)

      Cheap and transparent attempts at emotional blackmail. (“Why don’t you go and talk to …”)

      Factual inaccuracies (“the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour”))

      Total misrepresentation of what is being argued. (“The author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone.”)

      Logical incoherence. (Socialism is not on the agenda. So let’s collapse into Scottish nationalism. As if the latter could ever be some kind of surrogate for the former.)

      The case for a ‘yes’ vote on 18th September in a nutshell.

      Bob’s latest contribution sums up what’s wrong with the case for ‘yes’ better than I ever could.

  1. September 8, 2014 Bob Carey-Grieve

    I could say your arrogant replies are typical of the way Better Together debates. Typical Labour apologist, refuses to contemplate that Labour could have defeated the Bedroom Tax but decided not to bother showing up on the day. But what really speaks volumes is how you haven’t put forward one single positive idea, dismissing the Tory agenda, your campaign partners, with a wave of your hand. You won’t discuss the Tories because it’s emotional blackmail? Disgraceful

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Radio 4 gives Gramsci a (reasonably) fair hearing

September 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm (AWL, BBC, capitalism, class, democracy, Disability, history, intellectuals, Italy, Jim D, literature, Marxism, modernism, socialism)

It’s not often that the bourgeois media gives an anti-Stalinist communist leader and thinker a fair hearing – or, at least, allows that person’s thought and record to be presented in a balanced and objective manner.

But today’s ‘Great Lives’ on BBC Radio 4, introduced by the former Tory MP Matthew Parris (a good broadcaster, despite his politics) gave the life and thought of Antonio Gramsci affair hearing.

Dr Tom Shakespeare, a disability activist and former Euro-Communist, supported by Professor Anne Sassoon (‘expert witness’) presented a sympathetic and generally fair profile of Gramsci that is well worth listening to, here.

Naturally, I don’t agree with the Euro-Communist slant of the presentation, but that doesn’t detract (much) from the quality of the case put forward by Shakespeare and Sassoon, which will, hopefully, introduce a lot of new people to the ideas of this heroic figure and giant socialist intellect.

Once you’ve listened, you could do a lot worse than move on to this…

Antonio Gramsci

Gramsci
A collection of articles discussing the life and ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci

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Why the f*** is Labour backing Cameron’s EU posturing?

June 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm (David Cameron, democracy, elections, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, populism, reformism, stalinism, Tory scum)

EU Flag

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:

“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of  incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …

“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”

Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.

Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy –  anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.

In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.

Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.

It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.

But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.

At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.

The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.

Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not  the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.

Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no;  the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”

What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.

 

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Solidarity with imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists

June 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, Egypt, Free Speech, Human rights, media, posted by JD)

We must all register our protests, as best we can. Staff at Channel 4 (including Jon Snow, below) made their feelings known this evening:

Pete Radcliff's photo.

Excerpted from Press Gazette:
National Union of Journalists’ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet described the sentences as “outrageous” and called for the British Government to condemn the verdicts.”The NUJ condemns in the strongest terms these sentences meted on journalists who were merely doing their job,” she said. “This is an outrageous decision and travesty of justice made by a kangaroo court.”Al Jazeera has rejected the charges against its journalists and maintains their innocence. This is a brutal regime which is attacking and arresting many journalists to attempt to silence them and prevent them from reporting events.

“The British Government must immediately signal its opposition to this verdict and do all it can to have the sentences overturned. The NUJ is calling on all media organisations to register their protest in support of colleagues at Al Jazeera and all the Egyptian journalists who have been attacked and arrested by their country’s authorities.

“Governments must not be allowed to deny journalists, wherever they are, the right to be able to report independently and in safety. The freedom of journalists is an integral part of any democratic process.”

Free speech campaign group Index on Censorship said the verdicts sent a message that journalists “simply doing their job” was considered a crime in Egypt.

Chief executive Jodie Ginsberg condemned the verdicts as “disgraceful” adding: “We call on the international community to join us in condemning this verdict and ask governments to apply political and financial pressure on a country that is rapidly unwinding recently won freedoms, including freedom of the press.

“The government of newly elected president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi must build on the country’s democratic aspirations and halt curbs on the media and the silencing of voices of dissent.”

Ginsberg said at least 14 journalists remained in detention in Egypt and some 200 members of the press were in jails around the world, and that concerns are growing over the safety of media representatives across the globe.

“Index is deeply concerned at the growing number of imprisoned journalists in Egypt and around the world,” she said. “We reiterate our support to journalists to report freely and safely and call on Egyptian authorities to drop charges against journalists and ensure they are set free from jail.

“And we ask governments to maintain pressure on Egypt to ensure freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights are protected. Index joined the global #FreeAJStaff campaign along with other human rights, press freedom groups and journalists.”

The hashtags #journalismisnotacrime and #FreeAJStaff were trending on Twitter this morning after the verdicts came through.

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Brave Afghans shame (some on) the Western “left”

June 16, 2014 at 6:50 pm (Afghanistan, anti-fascism, Civil liberties, democracy, elections, ex-SWP, Guardian, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, liberation, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, SWP)

The picture below should shame anyone and everyone in Britain (and the rest of the West) who doesn’t bother to vote …

Image: Men show their fingers after the ink-stained part of their fingers were cut off by the Taliban after they took part in the presidential election Men show their fingers after the ink-stained part of their fingers were cut off by the Taliban after they took part in the presidential election, in Herat province June 14, 2014.

…but even more, it should shame those on the so-called “left” who have ever expressed (publicly or privately) any degree of sympathy for the rural fascists of the Taliban. You know who you are (and so do we), you scum.

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