Enough equivocation: the left must campaign to Stop Brexit!

October 20, 2017 at 11:35 am (Anti-Racism, AWL, Brexit, campaigning, Europe, labour party)

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DMVt6zWWsAEquYe.jpg

Illustration: John Rogan (via Tendance Coatesy)

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Opinion polling on 10-11 October showed 64% saying that the Tory government is doing “badly” in negotiating Brexit, and only 21% saying it is doing “well”. 47% said that, with hindsight, they thought the vote for Brexit in June 2016 was wrong, 40% that it was right.

Only a small minority say that Brexit will make Britain better off economically — only 23% overall, and only 12% of Labour voters. 44% think Brexit will make Britain worse off. 39% expect Brexit to be bad for jobs, 22% bad. 31% expect Britain to be bad for the NHS, 25% bad. Among Labour voters, 51% expect “bad for the NHS”, 17% good.

Meanwhile the Tories’ talks with the EU are going badly. On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th ministers, and then chiefs, from the 27 other EU states will hear a report from Brexit negotiations after five rounds of talks. The EU 27 are insisting that the UK must promise a clear list of closing-the-account payments before they will even start discussing a new deal on trade. That new deal itself will be difficult. Canada’s trade deal with the EU, with much less baggage to impede it, took eight years to negotiate and ratify, and nearly collapsed.

There is no sign of progress towards the trade deals with other countries which the Brexiters airily promised back in 2016. With right-wing nationalists like Trump gaining ground in many countries, the terrain is more difficult for such deals. All that should be a signal for the left and the labour movement to start a drive to stop Brexit.

We should oppose and harry the Tories at every point. We should demand — as some pro-EU Tories are already demanding — that any exit deal must be voted on by Parliament. Not just in the my-way-or-the-highway alternative the Tories are offering — their deal or a crash exit with no deal at all. And not just by Parliament.

The June 2016 referendum had the defects of all referenda — a poor form of democracy. It was biased because 16-17 year olds and EU citizens resident in Britain were denied votes. It was run in a way which artificially limited the mass media debate to a Tory-vs-Tory contest. And on top of all that, it was a one-off vote about a very vaguely-sketched alternative.

Democracy means stopping elites like the Tories grabbing full power to make and shape things to their own liking from such vague mandates. The populace must retain its say. Minorities must retain a chance to become majorities. Given we’ve already had the first referendum, probably the only way to stop the Tories trashing people’s rights is a second referendum.

“A Labour MP”, quoted by the Financial Times on 17 October, said: “the public would need another vote on whether to go ahead, given that the Leave camp had offered a more positive manifesto [than any possible exit deal] in June 2016… It would be a ‘final say’ now that we know the facts. The people would want to have the final say over all of this”. That MP also told the FT: “this would not be a ‘second referendum’, despite all appearances to the contrary”. Huh? It would be second, and it would be a referendum, wouldn’t it?

In any case, the MP is right. We didn’t want the first referendum, but now it’s happened we must demand a “final say” for the populace. The alternative is to let the Tories have their way unchecked, to let them cancel the rights of EU citizens and of British citizens to be able to work and study in the EU, to let them make difficult-to-reverse decisions, all on the authority of an old referendum and the Parliamentary majority of a moment. Our basic guideline should be working-class solidarity and social levelling-up across borders. Immediately, we should also be backing French workers in their battle against the very pro-EU but anti-worker Macron government.

Also, however, we cannot let the immediate issue of the re-raising of economic and social barriers, and the suppression of rights to free movement, wait on the general and longer-term issue of reorienting the labour movement towards a workers’ Europe. “Stop Brexit” and “Second referendum on any exit deal” should be immediate slogans, alongside “Freedom of movement”.

On 12 October, Jeremy Corbyn said that he would vote Remain in a second referendum, but in these terms: “There isn’t going to be another referendum, so it’s a hypothetical question but yes, I voted remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind on that”.

Last week I met by chance, on a bus, a member of Corbyn’s inner circle, someone I’ve known for decades. I can’t quote him by name, because it was a conversation on a bus, not an on-the-record interview. But those who have followed Labour statements on Brexit will recognise his responses as only a snappier and more candid rendering of the official line.

What should Labour do about Brexit? Response: oppose the Tories, criticise the Tories at every step, wait and see, and avoid further commitment. What if the Tory government falls before it can complete a deal? Won’t Labour then have to say something definite? Response: long silence. Then: “That would be very difficult”. The Corbynista insider was sure of one thing: Labour cannot, must not, come out for stopping Brexit. Labour must equivocate in order to keep both its pro-Brexit and its anti-Brexit supporters on board.

This craven, manipulative approach to politics is incompatible with socialism, and unlikely to work in the long or even medium term. Tens of thousands joined a “Stop Brexit” march at the Tory party conference on 1 October in Manchester — some of them chiming in with pro-EU Tories like Stephen Dorrell, some of them going on to join the anti-austerity march the same day.

So far there’s still a majority for the resigned view: Brexit will be not very good, or positively bad, but now we just have to go through with it. That majority is beginning to break up. Probably it will wane and wax in the next months and years as the talks between the Tories and EU go worse or better. A determined drive by the left and the labour movement can and should turn the majority into a minority, and stop Brexit.

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The Stalin-Hitler pact debated in the Graun’s letters page

October 19, 2017 at 5:49 pm (fascism, Germany, Guardian, history, Poland, posted by JD, stalinism, USSR, war)

Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov signs the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact in Moscow, 23 August 1939. On the left is German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop

Above:  Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov signs the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact in Moscow, 23 August 1939. On the left is German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Photograph: Heinrich Hoffmann/Getty Images

An attempt, in the Guardian‘s letters page, to defend Stalin’s alliance with Hitler (aka the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), using a well-worn Stalinist line of argument:

Contrary to Tim Ottevanger’s view (Letters, 16 October) of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939, a pact that astonished the western world, I think it was one of the most significant in the last 200 years. At that time any intelligent observer, including Stalin, knew that the Nazis planned to eradicate Bolshevism and to gain Lebensraum in eastern Europe. The Soviets were engaged in a gigantic educational, agricultural and industrial transformation lasting less than a score of years, a process that took the UK over a century. They had to ensure that they were capable of defeating an onslaught from the greatest military machine ever known. The pact not only gave the USSR an extra 22 months of further industrialisation, but also allowed it to occupy eastern Poland after the Nazis attacked it on 1 September 1939. But for this extra 100+ miles of “buffer zone” the Nazis would have probably captured Moscow in 1941 and much land beyond it. Instead, as Churchill said, the Soviets “ripped the guts out of the Wehrmacht”. But for this the Nazis would have won the war in Europe with cataclysmic implications for the UK.
David Davis
Chesterfield

…and three replies:

David Davis’s claim of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939 being all about “buying time” (Letters, 18 October) is like similar claims about Chamberlain at Munich – risible historical revisionism.

If Stalin was really concerned with buying time while Soviet reforms were completed, why was he still merrily engaged in the wholesale slaughter without trial of anyone who looked at him in a funny way, from top generals to the merest peasant? Why did the Nazi Blitzkrieg on 22 June 1941 take the Soviets completely by surprise (and despite umpteen warnings from other nations)? Why in particular did the Nazis and Soviets between 12 and 14 November 1940 negotiate the Soviet Union’s entry into the axis, which only failed over disagreements over spheres of influence?

No, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was nothing more than two bullies coordinating their collective shakedown of their weaker neighbours, who, once there was nothing else left easy to despoil, began eyeing up each other to satisfy their perpetual greed, for there is no honour among thieves.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Reading David Davis’s astonishing defence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (and the Soviet partition of Poland with Nazi Germany), I was inevitably reminded of AP Herbert’s satirical wartime poem Less Nonsense: “In 1940, when we bore the brunt / We could have done, boys, with ‘a second front’. / A continent went down a cataract / But Russia did not think it right to act. / Not ready? No. And who shall call her wrong? / Far better not to strike till you are strong. / Better, perhaps (though this was not our fate) / To make new treaties with the man you hate.”

How depressing that, nearly 80 years later, that shabby and cynical pact still has its advocates.
Andrew Connell
Cardiff

David Davis has a rather rose-tinted view of the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. It is true that it kept a slice of Poland (and the Baltic states) out of Hitler’s hands, at least for 22 months, but why did Stalin insist upon imposing his style of repression upon their populations, with mass deportations to Siberia and the killing of several thousand Polish officers at Katyn – or does Davis still believe Moscow’s wartime lie that the Nazis did it? Yes, the pact did buy time for Moscow, but, in that case, why did Stalin do nothing to build defences in the newly obtained land? And why did Stalin do nothing to prepare for a German invasion, and refuse to act on the numerous reports that an invasion was in the offing

That the Soviet forces were woefully unprepared for the invasion was shown by their confused and largely ineffectual conduct as the Wehrmacht stormed in on 22 June 1941. Had Stalin ordered a proper defensive strategy over the previous months, the Wehrmacht would have been stalled and repelled well before it reached, as it did, the outskirts of Moscow. Stalin squandered the temporal and territorial advantages that the pact offered. Moreover, the execution of 30,000 officers and the jailing and killing of many hundreds of thousands of civilians in Stalin’s purges a few years previously hardly helped guarantee the country’s military, industrial and administrative readiness for war – or does Davis still believe that they were “traitors”, as Moscow insisted at the time?
Dr Paul Flewers
London

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NUJ: Murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia must be investigated

October 18, 2017 at 5:03 pm (assassination, blogging, campaigning, corruption, crime, Europe, journalism, media, posted by JD, unions)

Statement from the National Union of Journalists (UK):

The NUJ joined the European and International Federations of Journalists in condemning the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb on 16 October in the town of Bidnija, near her family home.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed
© Running Commnentary

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was known for her investigative journalism and her blog Running Commentary, which was one of the most widely read websites in Malta.

The journalist had been sued many times for her blog posts in which she revealed several corruption scandals involving Maltese politicians. In 2016, she was named by Politico as one of “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe”, after being the first to break news of Maltese politicians’ involvement in the Panama Papers leak.

In February this year, The EFJ denounced the freezing of her bank accounts and libel suits filed against her by Maltese economy minister and his consultant, following a report revealing that both men visited a brothel during an official trip in Germany.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ president, said:

“We are appalled by yet another killed journalist in Europe. This killing and its circumstances must be swiftly and thoroughly investigated. It reminds us that the safety of journalists must still be considered a priority in the European Union.”

According to a media report, Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a police report 15 days ago saying she was being threatened.

Tweet Justice for Daphne at  #DaphneCaruana

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Matgamna and Hornung on Lenin and the Russian Revolution

October 16, 2017 at 7:59 pm (AWL, class, From the archives, history, Lenin, Marxism, posted by JD, revolution, Russia)

Above: the young Lenin’s police mug shot as he is arrested in 1895.

By Sean Matgamna and Andrew Hornung (adapted from a series of articles first published in Workers’ Fight in 1974).

Read online (below), or download pdf

Who was Lenin? He led the workers of the Tsarist Russian Empire to make the most profound revolution in history in 1917. He was the leader of the Russian Bolshevik Party, without which the workers would have been defeated.

Of Karl Marx’s fate at the hands of his alleged followers in the early socialist movement, Lenin wrote that it was often the fate of revolutionaries that after their deaths their names were made into legends to console the oppressed, while their ideas — their real politics, what they had stood for in life — were thrown out and replaced by something else. Something very like that happened to Lenin himself. It happened to him almost immediately after his death. The bureaucracy which ruled the USSR mummified his poor physical remnants, built a great ‘Lenin Mausoleum’ and created an obscene national shrine around the mummy.

Lenin had stood for maximum working class democracy. The rulers who made him — and Marx — into a holy icon of their pidgin-Marxist state religion, proceeded in the decades after his death to build an anti-socialist totalitarian state on the groaning backs of the people of the USSR. Lenin had liberated the many oppressed nationalities of the Tsarist empire: Stalin put them back under the control of Great Russian chauvinist jailers and oppressors. Lenin had stood for the international socialist revolution. Stalin tried to build ‘socialism’ in backward Russia, substituting “socialism in one country” for Lenin’s programme of international socialism. Lenin had defended the right of independent trade unions to exist in the USSR: everywhere Stalinists ruled and rule, such organisations of the working class are systematically and brutally rooted out.

At every important point the Stalinists, who lyingly call themselves Leninists, radically cut away what Lenin had really stood for and adopted anti-working-class policies — the very opposite of those which Lenin spent his life fighting for. Now that Stalinism has fallen in the USSR and Eastern Europe, we have the inverse process. Lenin, who spent his last crippled years fighting incipient Stalinism, is scapegoated for the discredited despotic system which rose up on the defeat of Lenin’s last struggle, continued after Lenin’s death by Trotsky and others.

This pamphlet is offered to the reader as an introduction to what Lenin — the man who led the greatest working class revolution so far — really did in his life, what he said and what he fought for and against.

The contents were published as a pamphlet in 1987, based on articles in the weekly Socialist Organiser in 1982 (nos. 108-113). They have been slightly edited for this reprinting. The 1982 text was adapted from a series of articles in the paper Workers’ Fight in 1974.

The beginning of Bolshevism

Born in the provincial town of Simbirsk, into the family of a schools administrator, Lenin was no stranger to revolutionary ideas other than Marxism. His brother Alexander had been hanged in 1887 for planning the assassination of the Tsar. Alexander had been a member of the populist, agrarian socialist Narodnik organisation. But if the execution of his brother sharpened Lenin’s sense of injustice, it was not the views or the methods of the Narodniks that influenced him, but those of Marx, Engels and Plekhanov. By the time he was 19 Lenin had already read Marx’s Capital and begun to ground himself seriously in its scientific method. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eminem on Trump: “Fuck walkin’ on eggshells, I came to stomp”

October 15, 2017 at 10:12 am (Brexit, culture, Europe, populism, posted by JD, protest, rage, Trump, United States)

Not being particularly au fait with the world of rap, I am indebted to the Observer‘s splendid Catherine Bennett for alerting me to this entirely appropriate response to that piece of shit, Trump:

Bennett’s piece, entitled It’s time we stopped being so polite. Let’s start stomping, laments the politeness of Brit protests against Brexit (the UK equivalent of Trumpism, as all but the most bone-headed ‘Lexiters’ must by now surely realise), and is well worth a read:

If public protest is any guide to public feeling, what can we learn from the Autumn of Discontent? That, for anyone in doubt, is the series of anti-Brexit demonstrations that began in London in September, and were due to continue on Saturday with regional rallies in each of the UK’s 12 European parliament constituencies.

For sense and civility, the remainers’ approach has, as always, much to teach the idiot rhetoricians of Brexit, recently heard blithering about a “tiger in the tank”. The latest round of anti-Brexit rallies will, say the organisers of the Cambridge event, “send a message to all our political representatives that the time has come to rethink the damaging path that the UK is now on, and say to them that we can and we must stop Brexit”.

Presumably, political representatives who insist that 52% of an advisory vote on an unknown outcome represents the settled will of the people are nonetheless believed – if they notice it’s happening – to be capable of a rally-induced epiphany. Possibly, even without the added magic of an Alastair Campbell or an AC Grayling, regional rallies can change hearts and minds. Perhaps the sort of people who have committed to this catastrophe could still contemplate a mild-looking crowd with interesting banners and feel something other than relief, that British disgust for irresponsible leadership expresses itself so differently from Eminem’s.

Is this the worst that can happen? Not Eminem’s “Fuck walkin’ on eggshells, I came to stomp” but, in the words of the remainers’ self-styled saviour Vince Cable, “We accept the negotiations are taking place, but at the end of it we want the British people to have a say.” Not “I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against”, but a sequence of walks with a title referencing the opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

  • Read the full article here

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Monk at 100

October 13, 2017 at 8:12 pm (culture, jazz, music, posted by JD)

Thelonious Sphere Monk, born (Rocky Mount North Carolina) Oct 11 1917; died Feb 17 1982


Above: Monk (piano) with Charlie Rouse (thr sax). Larry Gales (bass), Ben Riley (drums), Fairfield Hall, Croydon UK): playing Rhythm a Ning

The always-perceptive Gary Giddins commented, in a 2002 interview:

I can’t imagine anyone confusing Monk with any other performer. If you do a blindfold test and play Monk, the listener is likely going to know it’s him after about two bars. Everything about the way he approaches the piano and music is so distinctive. People used to use words like idiosyncratic and eccentric, but there is, of course, more than that — there is a tremendous beauty in Monk’s music, and it is peculiar to him. Everything about his attack, the particular percussiveness of his style, his use of chords, his astonishing time, can only be described as “Monkian.” And in terms of his almost exclusive reliance on jazz, most great jazz pianists have some classical training that seeps into their approaches to melodic line, time, harmony and everything else. With Monk, when you try to trace him back, you always go back to figures in jazz itself, to stride pianists, to Teddy Wilson, and to musicians who specifically predate him in that music. Even though he quotes from folk songs and all kinds of different material in American popular music, there is nothing obviously European about his influence. You would never say, “His playing comes from the fact that he spent his childhood learning how to play Mozart sonatas.” You just don’t hear that in Monk’s music.

When I was an undergraduate, I spent the summer of my freshman year studying in the South of France. One of the Americans in my group was a classical pianist who had actually toured as a prodigy in the United States and in Europe. He didn’t know a great deal about jazz, but he absolutely worshipped two jazz pianists, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans. The reason was that he was astonished at the idea that when these two musicians sat at the keyboard you knew instantly, from the first note, that it was them. The idea that an attack could be that distinct and individual filled him with admiration.

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Catalonia: right to choose, yes! New borders, no!

October 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm (AWL, democracy, elections, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

By Martin Thomas and Tony Holmes (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website); slightly amended by JD to take account of latest developments:

Charles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, has announced his cautious response to the referendum on independence in Catalonia his government called on 1 October.

The Spanish government declared the referendum illegal, and deployed heavy Spanish police force to try to stop it, but it largely went ahead. 92% voted yes, on a 43% turnout. A series of opinion polls carried out by the Catalan government since 2011 has in recent years shown a slight majority against independence, most recently 49%-41% in July this year.

Puigdemont asked the Catalan parliament, where he leads a coalition government, for a mandate to declare Catalonia an independent state. He proposed “suspending the effect” of the independence declaration “for a few weeks” and seeking talks with the Spanish government and exploring international mediation. The Spanish government had warned that it would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid if Puigdemont went for independence. It may still do so, though the immediate call by EU chief Donald Tusk for Madrid to negotiate makes that less likely.

Judging from the failure of the Spanish police to stop the 1 October referendum, such an attempt by Madrid could not go smoothly, and might lead to a low-level civil war between Spanish and Catalan police. The European Union and neighbouring France have said that a Catalonia which declared itself independent could not expect to be admitted to the European Union, implying that it would face a degree of economic blockade, with serious trade barriers surrounding it. It is conceivable that the stand-off could be resolved by the reintroduction of a 2006 law ceding more autonomy to Catalonia, which was approved at the time both by a referendum in Catalonia and by a vote in the Spanish parliament, led at that time by the social-democratic PSOE.

The current People’s Party (conservative) government in Madrid got that law annulled by Spain’s constitutional court in 2010, starting a process towards the current crisis. Democratic principle mandates concessions by Madrid to Catalonia.

The people of Catalonia have the right to a proper referendum on separation, and to be allowed to separate without sabotage or disruption if they vote for separation. It is, however, good that Puigdemont called for negotiations rather than immediate separation. To denounce restraint as a sell-out would be wrong for three reasons.

Firstly, there is no solid evidence of a majority for separation. That 40% of the electorate voted yes on 1 October is not solid evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession” An honest Brexiteer writes …

October 11, 2017 at 11:14 am (Brexit, economics, enemy intelligence, Europe, identity politics, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, privatisation, reblogged, truth)

From Peter North’s blog (9th Oct 2017):

I don’t like this Brexit, but I will live with it

Now that we know there isn’t going to be a deal we can at least narrow down some of the possibilities of what post-Brexit Britain looks like.

In the first year or so we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won’t last. Domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete and we’ll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.

Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.

Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that’s not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.

Since a lot of freight will no longer be able to go through Calais we can expect a lot more use of the port at Hull so we may see an expansion in distribution centres in the North.

All in all we are looking at serious austerity as it will take a few years at least to rebuild our trade relations with third countries. If we go down the path of unilateral trade liberalisation then we will probably find it hard to strike new deals.

Meanwhile, since tax receipts will be way down we can expect major cuts to the forces and a number of Army redundancies. I expect to see RAF capability cut by a third. Soon enough it will become apparent that cuts to defence cannot go further so we can expect another round of cuts to council services. They will probably raise council tax to cope with it.

After years of the left bleating about austerity they are about to find out what it actually means. Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime.

Interesting though will be how rapidly people adapt to it and habits will change, thus so will the culture. I expect cheap consumables from China will stay at low prices and they manage to circumvent the taxes and import controls anyway.

What I do expect to happen is a lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. Basically it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us.

We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s.

The London economy will also change. Initially we will see an exodus back to the regions until rental prices normalise to the new conditions. Anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

This will see a revival of local politics and national politics will become a lot more animated. I expect the Tories will be wiped out and we will have to put up with a Corbyn government for a while, but they will be tasked with making all the major cuts. We’ll soon see how far their “compassion” really goes. Even if Corbs does manage to borrow, it won’t go very far. It won’t plug the hole.

Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. My gut instinct tells me that culturally it will be a vast improvement on the status quo. There will be more reasons to cooperate and more need to congregate. I expect to see a cultural revolution where young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than becoming tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We’ll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations, probably plugging back into Euratom, Erasmus, and a large part of the single market. It will take some time to plug back into the EU aviation market. The EU will be very cautious about what it lets us back in on.

Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other.

I’m of the view that in recent years people have become increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent, inventing psychological problems for themselves in the absence of any real challenges or imperatives to grow as people. I have always primarily thought Brexit would be a reboot on British politics and culture. In a lot of ways it will bring back much of what is missing. A little austerity might very well make us less frivolous.

What I do know is that the banking crisis of 2008 set in motion a series of events whereby much of the corrective potential of it was dissipated with debt and spending, largely to preserve the political order. The disruptive potential of it was barely felt in the UK. Ever since we have stagnated and though the numbers on screen may tell a story of marginal growth, I just don’t see it reflected in the world around me. I still see the regions dying out and London sucking the life and vitality out of every city, including Bristol. It reminds me that the wealth of a city is its people, not its contribution to GDP.

Ahead lies challenging times. It will not be easy. Those who expected things to improve will be disappointed. But then I have a clear conscience in this. I never made any big Brexit promises. I never said there would be sunlit uplands. I did not predict that the government would make this much of a pigs ear of it, or that we would be looking at the WTO option. I expected parliament would step in to prevent that. That it hasn’t tells you a good deal about the state of modern politics.

And so with that in mind, as much as I would have had it go a different way, I think, given the opportunity to vote again I would still vote to leave. Eventually it gets to a point where any change will do. I prefer an uncertain future to the certainty I was looking at.

451 Comments

JD adds: the comments are well worth a gander

This is what Mr North wrote the next day (10 Oct) following the attention his post received in the Graun and elsewhere:

“explaining yesterday’s post which seems to have cause something of a stir. The short version is that I do see quite a lot of potential in Brexit to reboot British politics, not least because a trashed economy would finally settle this stagnant politics of ours. It would be the final big push to wean the British off the state.

“I suspect the reason the post went viral is because it’s probably the first time Grauniad hacks have seen honest Brexit motives out in the open. I see Brexit as taking toys away from spoiled toddlers – and if we can’t stop a hard Brexit then there is still a lot to be said for going the full monty rather than preserving the dismal status quo of retail politics. I can see how it will culturally reinvent Britain.”

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Morning Star letters page: a “total waste of space”

October 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, conspiracy theories, CPB, Europe, Jim D, nationalism, plonker, publications, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

The letters page of the Morning Star is not somewhere I’d normally recommend for either political enlightenment or a good laugh.

But following the super-patriotic Daily Mail of the Left‘s  decision to publish a token anti-Brexit letter last week, various rancid old Stalinists and Little-Britain nationalists have been spluttering with rage. One Mike Magee, for instance, fulminated in hilarious cod-Marxiese against the publication of any such “ignorant and ill-founded” letters from unbelievers (I personally just love the claim that such letters might “confuse” those who are “already unsure of which line is correct”).

As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, I feel it’s a public service to republish Mr Magee’s stern missive, followed by a straight-faced riposte from a splendid husband-and-wife team, who (not for the first time) bring some much-needed sanity and decency to the paper’s letter page.

Don’t add to the EU confusion
MANY readers will want to reply to Alan Yearsley’s letter (M Star October 4) criticising the Star for not giving equal coverage to the Remainers protesting at the Tory conference that Brexit is a monstrosity. I would direct a contrary criticism to the Star.

The paper’s editorial line is based on sound factual evidence as exemplified by left-wing anti-EU campaign Lexit, including now the referendum result, whereas Mr Yearsley and his Remainers simply “believe” (imagine, presume or surmise without credible evidence) we can reform the EU from inside.

 He cites a couple of “benefits” which do not require membership of the capitalist club, and there are many more such examples of collaboration across borders that do not require a corporate state to exist.

 The EU is an oversized homunculus which no amount of reforming surgery can beautify – 45 years inside prove it.
The Star’s editorial line is Marxist even though the rest of its content is directed at a wider left-leaning readership. Marxism is a scientific outlook formed from careful study and analysis of human society throughout history, and our modern day observation and experience of it.

 Neither science nor Marxism relies on human hopes and fancies but on human experience.

 My point is that publishing ignorant and ill-founded letters is not part of the Star’s remit. It only serves to confuse further those who are already unsure of which line is correct.

 An aim of the capitalist media is to obfuscate reality and thereby confuse the mass of the people. It is not the function of our paper to add to that confusion.
MIKE MAGEE Frome

The Star’s letters page is total waste of space
Mike Magee is absolutely right (M Star October 8-9), and Alan Yearsley is quite wrong (M Star October 4) in his criticism of our paper

There is no place in it for ignorant and ill-founded letters, which only serve to confuse.

In fact, discussion of difficult and complicated political questions like Brexit is best avoided altogether.

Our paper’s editorial line is there to be followed. What else is it for?

Come to think of it, do we really need a letters page? It merely provides space for arrogant readers who think they have all the answers to lay down the law to the rest of us.

If we scrap the letters page, that would allow more space for news reports and the all-important Star comment, which tells us what to think and saves us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.

Of course a paper like the one were are suggesting would lose a lot of its present readers, so a very much larger Fighting Fund would be needed. We are sending a small cheque to help.
BETTY AND CHRIS BIRCH London SW6

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Against Spanish nationalism *and* the Catalan independence movement!

October 8, 2017 at 8:04 pm (Andrew Coates, democracy, internationalism, national liberation, nationalism, protest, spain)

Andrew Coates (at Tendance Coatesy) writes:

https://ep02.epimg.net/politica/imagenes/2017/09/08/actualidad/1504872254_629045_1507455934_noticia_fotograma.jpg
The left should not pit one national flag against another.

Against Catalan Nationalism.

The “nation” should have the “right” to self-determination. But who is that “nation” and who has the authority and the “right” to speak for the “nation” and express its will? How can we find out what the “nation” actually wants?”

Rosa Luxemburg. The National Question.

The Catalan referendum has burst on the European scene without, apparent, warning. That this is not in fact true can be seen in an informative article in the Socialist Workers Party journal, International Socialism, which concludes by putting the issue of Catalonia centre stage ( Héctor Sierra Podemos, Catalonia and the workers’ movement in the Spanish state  Issue: 155) That it has been at the heart of Catalan politics for some time is well known; that there is a long history failed negotiation over recognition of the Catalan nation, and, perhaps, more pressing, calls for greater financial and political powers for the Generalitat, failing to recognise the laws that they passed, has become common knowledge in the last week. That the Rajoy government was prepared to act, brutally, on its threats against voting on independence, has stirred deep emotions, far beyond the Iberian Peninsula.

But perhaps a sign of the lack of urgency the issue recently evoked in Spain itself can be seen in the exchange between a leading figure in Podemos, Iñigo Errejón and member of the country’s right-wing government, José María Lassalle on the latter’s Contra el populismo (2017) in El País (9.9.17 and 16.9.17) at the beginning of September.

In this erudite discussion, the Minister of State cites Laclau, Gramsci and Stuart Hall in support of his view that the affective and political “people” has not been broken, and that the “institucionalidad democrática” remains open to the “admirado Errejón”. In Lassalle’s recognition of democratic dysfunctions, alongside a eulogy of European social peace, there is no mention of Catalonia, or of any method of dealing with those his boss considers less “admirable”.

National Popular.

It takes, nevertheless, little imagination to see how many of the ideas circulating in Podemos, of the People, of the National Popular, taken from Laclau, and used, as Lassalle suggests, as a kind of political “cartography”, would become important during the Catalan crisis. Within Podemos the current, Anticapitalistas, “Podemos en Movimiento” (13% at the February 2017 Congress), have long criticised the “populism” of its leadership, which seeks to ‘federate the people” of Spain against the ruling political ‘Casta”. A central charge it that they, both the Errejón tendency (Recuperar la Illusion, bring back the Hope), 34%) and the leader Pablo Iglesias’ grouping, (Podemos para Todas, 51%), have failed to recognise that there are effectively many “peoples” in Spain. (1)

In dialogue with Chantal Mouffe Errejón, has called for a “new democratic national-popular identity”. ”The issue in Spain is whether it’s possible to build a national narrative at the service of subaltern majorities that is also respectful of pluri-nationality and the right to decide.” (2) Translated into the present, this has involved the, entirely reasonable, attempt to open dialogue between the pro-independence forces in the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC) and the central government. What this clearly does not do is encourage people to separate, to form a distinct “us” in Catalonia, aside from the wider struggle for an “emancipatory and radically democratic project” and “popular sovereignty”.

It would be interesting to trace how supporters of Catalan’s own path to “popular sovereignty”, or as it would better be described, ‘sovereigntistism’ the belief that the major political social and economic problems of the day be solved by getting one’s hands on the sovereign powers of a state, could perhaps defend some of the original axioms of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s ‘post-Marxism’. That is, the idea that the working class is not the dominant political subject of emancipatory politics, but only one element in the “plurality of agents” brought together by “relations of equivalence” constituting democratic movements and demands, making up the figure of these Peoples pitted against the Spanish State. Some may radicalise the later Mouffe. That the Catalan partisan collective will has overflowed the boundaries of one state, created its own “relations of exclusion” against the institutions of ‘Madrid’. It would be free to create its own agonistic site where, it can create its own “agonistic democracy”, and let the fight against neo-liberalism begin on a new terrain (3)

Collective Will.

But in fact we now have a free for all for those wishing to build a “collective will” against the said administrative structure. Appealing for international support for their cause some Catalan enthusiasts have not hesitated to describe the Spanish state as ‘fascist’ ‘Francoist’, full of loathing for ‘Madrid’, no doubt hinting that one of George Orwell’s most celebrated books was Homage to Catalonian Independence. Perhaps they trust to at least some of their audience’s ignorance of the Siege of Madrid, which fell some months after Barcelona.

Others, apparently more reasonable, have wheeled out the view that Catalan nationalism is welcoming, “Catalan national feeling is like Scottish in that it is “civic”, non-violent, opening impatiently to the new global world. It’s unlike Scotland – and more “ethnic” – in its passionate emphasis on Catalan language, history and culture.” It will not be source of exclusion, but will find its way back to “intimate” ties with Spain. (Neil Ascherson. Catalans are not alone. Across the world, people yearn to govern themselves .Observer. 24.9.17)

Laclau’s study On Populist Reason (2005) deals with the “nature and logics “ of collective identities. He envisaged the possibility of a People out of a plurality of ‘ethnic identities’, as well as its opposite, “ethno nationalism”. Podemos would not be untrue to this way of thinking to attempt the former. (4)

But those on the left pushing the Catalan separatists have other fish to fry. The SWP argues first and foremost for the dissolution of the Spanish state, as a potential springboard for a wider anti-capitalist struggle.

The damage to the Spanish ruling class that the loss of Catalonia would cause is unimaginable; Catalonia makes a large contribution to the state’s revenues, with 18.8 percent of national GDP. The centrality of national unity to the dominant ideology of the ruling class would also turn the event into a political earthquake. A victory for independence would thus precipitate a crisis of unforeseeable consequences, throwing into chaos not only the PP but Spanish capitalism as a whole.

Socialism can only be achieved internationally, but by opening new prospects for the left in Catalonia and by breaking the consensus imposed by fascism in the transition to democracy, Catalan independence would advance the cause of the entire working class. And, if a triumph of the Catalan left would be a positive development for workers in the rest of the state, what would the consequences of its defeat be?

Héctor Sierra Podemos, Catalonia and the workers’ movement in the Spanish state  Issue: 155

The Fourth Intentional, reproducing an argument familiar to those who have heard the radical Scottish nationalist refrain of the Break up of Britain are vaguer though equally optimistic for the future of the left, and keen for, as they put it, “the democratic rupture throughout the State”.

In a lyrical vein the FI states,

It is more than a mere historical anecdote that the Catalan independence flag is directly inspired by the flag of the Cuban revolutionaries who defeated the Spanish colonial army on the island in the late 19th century, a defeat that would decisively contribute to the ruin of the first Bourbon restoration. The struggle in Catalonia has certainly hurt the second and a republican victory would allow us to imagine a new rise of the popular movement and an update of the anti-capitalist and eco-socialist perspective in Catalonia, the Spanish state and throughout Europe.

Let us support the struggle of the Catalan people

These aspirations are no doubt of comfort to those who, after what El Periodico commentators have repeatedly called a new May 68 – complete with vote – now confront potential economic chaos. Aware of these difficulties the nationalist bourgeois politicians who are running the independence show are divided on their immediate tasks, although the President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, looks determined to press ahead with a declaration of independence. Sacrifices to achieve that end are to be made in the name of a possible, not yet visible, anti-capitalism, or more broadly the eternal right to self-determination or, in their own eyes, for Catalunya. What is more precious than national independence and sovereignty? 

Many will without hesitation support the wish for negotiations with these demands, hard though the first two may be to put into any specific form. We can be sceptical about Iglesias’ efforts to capture the ‘floating signifier’ of the Patria for the projects of Podemos, yet see in their stand some hopes for compromise. Equally, on some things on which no agreement can be reached: one should do more than just oppose Rajoy and his clampdown, one can moblise against it.

No Sleeping with the Enemy!

But nobody has yet to explain convincingly why the world in general, and the left-wingers in particular, should stand behind the cause of a prosperous region of Spain, led by a coalition of right and left, to ‘take control’ in the name of the People. Rosa Luxemburg reminds us that the ‘right’ to declare this a separate entity rests on the political parties who backed the referendum,  Junts pel Sí​, held together a coalition of right and left, while the Podemos inspired grouping Catalunya Sí que es Pot  abstained, and the other opposition parties opposed it. 

This, if carried through, will be an act that immediately divides the Spanish people, gives full rein to populist ressentiment on all sides, and obscures the issues of the different class and political interests behind the pro-independence bloc (not to mention the ingrained corruption of some of its elements). To put it simply, no left worthy of its name enters into systematic long-term coalitions with right wing nationalists. They are, to use a term often cited by Chantal Mouffe, taken from Carl Schmitt, the enemy.  (5)

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(1) A useful account of Podemos, which underlines that Laclau and Mouffe are far from the only intellectual influences on the party is in Chapter 10 La Gauche du 21e Siècle, Christophe Aguiton. La Découverte. 2017.

(2) Page 148 –9. Podemos in the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón and Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016.

(3) See Agonistics. Chantal Mouffe. Verso 2013.

(4) Page 198. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau Verso. 2005.

(5) For all our sympathy for the Podemos attempt at rational dialogue, the concepts of the People, and the National Popular function in this crisis as signs that confuse debate. See. Debating Catalonia Izquierda Unida MP Alberto Garzón debates the Catalan independence referendum with the CUPs Pau Llonch. This is a concrete example of how ‘left wing populism’ sliding around on the Catalan national issue obscures a left strategy that gives priority to building a left. Which leads us to reject the strategy of ‘people’ versus “oligarchy”, the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ and the Mouffe-Laclau problematic: See: Populisme le grand ressentiment. Éric Fassin. Textuel. 2017.

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