Announcement from Shiraz HQ

December 27, 2017 at 4:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Due to some technical difficulties (and the need for a seasonal break), there will be no posts at Shiraz Socialist until early January 2018, when normal service will be resumed.

Readers are urged to check Shiraz Socialist for new posts in the first week of January.

Happy New Year (to most of you)!

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McCluskey Jewish News interview

December 21, 2017 at 10:36 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, israel, labour party, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, Unite the union, zionism)

Len McCluskey was recently interviewed by the Jewish News: given Unite the Union’s influence within the Labour Party, and McCluskey’s recent comments on the question of anti-Semitism within the Labour movement, we feel it’s important that his views, as expressed here, are more widely known. By linking to this interview, Shiraz is not necessarily endorsing what McCluskey says, or the commentary of his interviewer:

EXCLUSIVE interview with Len McCluskey: ‘Ken’s comments were indefensible’

Leader of Unite tells Jewish News he’s ‘uncomfortable’ about part of his union’s boycott policy and how Prime Minister Corbyn would have purchase with Hamas

By Stephen Oryszczuk December 14, 2017


Above: an earlier interview that Len now says could “be taken the wrong way”

Len McCluskey is big in size and influence, but his voice is soft and his messaging simple. The country’s top trade union leader, the boss of Unite was ‘what won it’ for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership, as the undisputed power broker in left-wing politics, with 1.5 million members. Whatever you think of him, his views count, so it’s interesting to talk to him about Jews, Israel, beating up anti-Semites, talking to terrorists, and what Jeremy Corbyn would do as prime minister. I ask how long we have. “As long as it takes,” he says. The others can wait.

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We start on Trump’s Jerusalem embassy announcement – “not in the slightest bit helpful to Israel” – although he understands why Netanyahu would welcome it. His main issue is that “it makes the process of bringing both parties together – of peace – that much further away”. Has the US relinquished its role as peace broker? “I think so. I mean, how can [Trump] offer an olive branch to both Israel and the Palestinians and say ‘come to Camp David’ when he has done this? Even when Russia recognised West Jerusalem, I think the world sees East Jerusalem as a legitimate Palestinian area. I just think this is so sad. It makes peace more difficult.”

The British government criticised it, to no effect, just as it does Israeli settlement building, so what would a Jeremy Corbyn government do differently, if anything? Nobody has a magic wand, he says, adding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perhaps the world’s biggest problem today. “It’s about trying to create a process, climate and culture where people can sit down and – in a reasonable and realistic fashion – try to see if there’s a way forward.” To that end, he says Labour should recognise a State of Palestine, because “we all agree about a two-state solution,” although he acknowledges growing calls for a one-state solution.

Read the full interview here

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Hard-Brexiteers in disarray – but so is Labour

December 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm (Anti-Racism, Brexit, Daily Mail, Europe, internationalism, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Mail and Express

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears on the Workers Liberty website):

In mid-December, Theresa May agreed to keep British economic regulations “aligned” with the EU, thus opening the way to talks on a transition period and a Brexit trade deal. And rebellious Tory MPs defeated the Government in the House of Commons, to limit the Government’s ability to legislate by decree over Brexit.

The hard-Brexit press, the Mail and the Express, backed the “alignment” deal, but were furious at the Tory rebel MPs. On 9 December the Mail‘s headline was: “Rejoice! We’re On Our Way”, and the Express had: “Huge Brexit Boost At Last”.

On 14 December the Mail‘s front page accused the Tory rebel MPs of “betraying their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters” and opening the way to “a Marxist in no.10”. The Express said: “Outrageous! Rebellion by 11 stubborn MPs threatens Brexit chaos”.

The hard-Brexiters are in disarray.

In 2016 Brexiters claimed that their choice was democratic because it would “take back control” of British affairs from the EU authorities. Now they assent to Britain being “aligned” with EU regulations in which, after Brexit, it has no say, but rage against Parliament saying that the Government cannot use the June 2016 referendum result as a mandate for autocratic powers to do what it likes.

The EU Single Market is a system of “regulatory alignment” within the EU to ease trade. No more, no less. If Northern Ireland remains sufficiently “aligned” with the EU to allow everyday free movement across the border within Ireland, and also “aligned” with Britain, then Britain must remain “aligned” with the EU.

Norway and Switzerland opt out of some Single Market provisions (on fisheries for Norway, for example), but in return comply with the rest, in bulk, without having any say in them. “Alignment” means Britain being either a Single Market member, or an associate of the same sort as Switzerland or Norway.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s talk of Britain being in “a single market” with the EU, but not “the Single Market”, is obfuscatory.

In contemporary neoliberal capitalism – which, despite what its champions say, is a regime crammed with regulations and codes and box-ticking – easy trade involving rapid movement of relatively small items requires agreement over regulations. If you want to trade with the EU, with EU regulations.

A British government could change the Single Market from the inside, but it can’t change the structure from the outside into a different single market.

Before June 2016 Brexiters talked of making many new trade deals which would allow a Britain outside the EU wider world trade. There is no movement on that front. The chances of a big deal to speed trade between Britain and the USA (by far the UK’s leading export destination after the EU) are slight in the era of Trump.

So the Tory government, pushed on, no doubt, by big-business lobbyists who want the trade routes open, is edging crabwise towards some sort of “soft” Brexit. The explicit hard-Brexiters are on the back foot.

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the few right-wing Tories who openly criticised the “alignment” agreement, is reconciled to May’s way. He said on 17 December: “She has to stay until Brexit is completed”.

In some ways all this is to our advantage. It means that the Tories are constrained to deflate, bit by bit, the hopes of those who really expected good things from Brexit. The evidence is that most Brexit voters didn’t really expect good from Brexit, but rather voted to express “identity” and “values” and hostility to immigration; still, those who did expect good face discredit and demoralisation.

The Tories will still be avid to limit the rights of people wanting to move from EU countries to Britain, but are likely to settle for much looser limits than Ukip types would want.

All such advantages could however prove slight or entirely illusory. Mishaps and crises in the Brexit talks, causing higher barriers than any rational capitalist calculation wants, remain likely.

Needed, in order to give substance and sticking-power to the advantages, is a solid positive campaign for free movement, for keeping borders low and easy, for solidarity and social levelling-up across Europe – and, in fact, to give people the democratic right to a second verdict on Brexit when the shape of any deal emerges. Labour should be waging that campaign.

Instead, it is still equivocating. On 17 December, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who spoke up occasionally for free movement in the months after the 2016 referendum, and had said in a constituency newsletter that the electorate should have the right to vote on a final deal, backtracked and said: “The Labour party does not support a second referendum”.

John McDonnell is taking refuge in obfuscation about “a” single market and “the” single market. Labour still rules out continuing free movement, though front-bench Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer has talked vaguely of “easy movement”.

All that must be turned round. Support the Labour Campaign for Free Movement!

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Lexit going to plan!

December 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm (Brexit, Europe, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum, workers)

The Sun thinks it’s great:

The Mirror doesn’t like it:

Theresa May refused EIGHT times to rule out scrapping vital workers’ rights after Brexit

The 48-hour week and paid hols are under threat in a plot by Brexit-backing Tories to axe the EU’s Working Time Directive

By Dan Bloom Political reporter,  19 DEC 2017

Theresa May has refused to commit to upholding the vital protections (Image: AFP)

The 48-hour week and paid holidays are under threat in a plot by Brexit-backing Tories to axe the EU’s Working Time Directive.

Over the weekend reports suggested Brexiteers in the cabinet will demand the scrapping of the vital protections in order to agree a phase one deal.

Labour’s Wes Streeting said: “Today has underlined how weak Theresa May really is. She is at the mercy of the Brextremists in her own party.

An economists’ study says Brexit is already costing Britain £350 million a week in lack of growth, investment and output.

Remainers were quick to point out the figure bore a remarking resemblance to the figure that certain pro-Brexit campaigners suggested would be available for the NHS after the UK’s departure.

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Labour: time to end Brexit evasion

December 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm (Brexit, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, MPs, reformism)

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Remain
Corbyn campaigned for Remain, but has equivocated ever since

Theresa May has finally managed to cobble together a form of words with Jean-Claude Junker, allowing talks to begin on a trade deal.

But still the Tories remain hopelessly divided, with the ultra-right hard-Brexit fanatics opposed even to vague talk of “regulatory alignment” (something that’s essential if a hard border in Ireland is to be avoided).

So far, Labour’s stance of calculated ambiguity has served it well. The party fought the June election with a manifesto that accepted the referendum vote, but was evasive on just about everything else regarding Brexit. Labour reassured leavers in the Midlands and the North that it would not undo the referendum result, while cultivating remainers whose priority was thwarting May. Since then it has continued with one message for older leavers, another for young remainers. In parliament, Labour’s response to May’s European chaos often sounds more like commentary than combat.

Until November 2016 Corbyn defended free movement across European borders, and said that Labour would vote against Article 50 unless the Tories committed to staying in the Single Market. Then he bowed to Labour’s right wing and some of his own advisers, who subscribe to the Stalinist “Lexit” fantasy (an exit from the EU shaped by the left, to the benefit of workers — advocated by some on the left, such as the Morning Star and the SWP. It was always an illusion. It is obvious now that it’s an illusion. No-one on the left now seriously argues that pressure on the Tories can shape Brexit to be positively advantageous to workers. The only way Brexit damage can be minimised is by minimising Brexit, by keeping the barriers between Britain and the EU as low as possible).

When Theresa May brought Article 50 to parliament in February, making clear that she wanted a “hard Brexit” taking Britain out of the Single Market and (for most purposes) the broader Customs Union, and refused accountability to parliament on the negotiations that would ensue, Labour imposed a three-line whip on MPs to vote with the Tories. 47 of Labour’s MPs defied the whip and voted against.

After the Article 50 trigger vote in Parliament, the headlines could have read that Labour opposed Brexit, a Brexit in which the Tories’ policies and approach will dominate. Instead, Labour’s amendments were a damp squib that were scarcely noticed by most voters, including Labour supporters.

Shadow EU-exit minister Keir Starmer has said that Labour will refuse to back an exit deal unless it meets six tests. These are: 1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU? 2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union? 3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities? 4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom? 5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime? 6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK? The tests say nothing about the “management of migration” being fair to migrants and their families.

Last week Labour voted with pro-EU Tory rebels demanding proper parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit. This marks a small step forward: Labour had previously voted to authorise the Tories to negotiate without provision for checks or vetoes by parliament, and on the final deal to offer only an “our way or no way” vote – either the Tories’ formula or a crash exit with no deal. And when the SNP put an amendment calling off Brexit if parliament fails to approve the exit deal, Labour MPs were whipped to oppose it. (19 Labour MPs defied the whip and voted for the amendment).

Labour cannot lurk in the shadow of Tory disunity and incompetence forever. The negotiating timetable for the second phase of Brexit negotiations will force choices on Downing Street and Corbyn will need to respond. But Labour has come to rely on ambiguity as a way to avoid confronting the fundamental issues.

John McDonnell revealed the essence of the party’s convoluted Brexit calculations when he said Labour prefers to talk about “a single market” as distinct from “the single market”. There is only one single market under discussion in the real world: the UK can be in it, as most Labour MPs, Labour members and trade unions would like, or out of it, which is the government’s goal. McDonnell’s use of the indefinite article demonstrated not political cunning, but hopeless incoherence and evasion.

As a result, Labour’s stance looks both vague and pernickety – focused on the terms and conditions without describing the actual product. This has blunted attacks on a prime minister who doesn’t appear to know what she is buying but ticks the T&Cs box regardless.

Labour ambiguity works as long as the government is also hiding from tough decisions. But May’s Brexit path will, inevitably, become clearer as the second phase of negotiations proceed. Then Labour will have to stop its European prevarications. The options will be fewer and simpler: follow or lead.

Labour’s job should be to keep open the option of staying in the EU, making labour-movement links across Europe, and fighting for free movement, social levelling-up and working class solidarity. All of which means coming out plainly and aggressively against Brexit.

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Andy Razaf, Maxine Sullivan: Mound Bayou

December 16, 2017 at 9:18 pm (black culture, civil rights, history, jazz, Jim D, music, Slavery, song, United States)

Andy Razaf, born December 16 1895, died February 3 1973.

Razaf was a song-writer, poet, African prince and associate of Fats Waller, who wrote many songs including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Honeysuckle Rose and Black And Blue.

According to Wikipedia: Razaf was born in Washington, D.C. His birth name was Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo. He was the son of Henri Razafinkarefo, nephew of Queen Ranavalona III of Imerina kingdom in Madagascar, and Jennie (Waller) Razafinkarefo, the daughter of John L. Waller, the first African American consul to Imerina. The French invasion of Madagascar left his father dead, and forced his pregnant 15-year-old mother to escape to the United States, where he was born in 1895.

Singer Maxine Sullivan recorded a fine album of Razaf’s songs, with trumpeter Charlie Shavers amongst others, in 1956. She included one of Razaf’s lesser-known songs, Mound Bayou.

Again, accord to Wikipedia: Mound Bayou traces its origin to people from the community of Davis Bend, Mississippi. The latter was started in the 1820s by the planter Joseph E. Davis (brother of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis), who intended to create a model slave community on his plantation. Davis was influenced by the utopian ideas of Robert Owen. He encouraged self-leadership in the slave community, provided a higher standard of nutrition and health and dental care, and allowed slaves to become merchants. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Davis Bend became an autonomous free community when Davis sold his property to former slave Benjamin Montgomery, who had run a store and been a prominent leader at Davis Bend. The prolonged agricultural depression, falling cotton prices and white hostility in the region contributed to the economic failure of Davis Bend.

Isaiah T. Montgomery led the founding of Mound Bayou in 1887 in wilderness in northwest Mississippi. The bottomlands of the Delta were a relatively undeveloped frontier, and blacks had a chance to clear land and acquire ownership in such frontier areas. By 1900 two-thirds of the owners of land in the bottomlands were black farmers. With high debt and continuing agricultural problems, most of them lost their land and by 1920 were sharecroppers. As cotton prices fell, the town suffered a severe economic decline in the 1920s and 1930s.

Shortly after a fire destroyed much of the business district, Mound Bayou began to revive in 1942 after the opening of the Taborian Hospital by the International Order of Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor, a fraternal organization. For more than two decades, under its Chief Grand Mentor Perry M. Smith, the hospital provided low-cost health care to thousands of blacks in the Mississippi Delta. The chief surgeon was Dr. T.R.M. Howard who eventually became one of the wealthiest black men in the state. Howard owned a plantation of more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2), a home-construction firm, a small zoo, and built the first swimming pool for blacks in Mississippi. In 1952, Medgar Evers moved to Mound Bayou to sell insurance for Howard’s Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Howard introduced Evers to civil rights activism through the Regional Council of Negro Leadership which organized a boycott against service stations which refused to provide restrooms for blacks. The RCNL’s annual rallies in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1955 drew crowds of ten thousand or more. During the trial of Emmett Till‘s alleged killers, black reporters and witnesses stayed in Howard’s Mound Bayou home, and Howard gave them an armed escort to the courthouse in Sumner.

Author Michael Premo wrote:

Mound Bayou was an oasis in turbulent times. While the rest of Mississippi was violently segregated, inside the city there were no racial codes… At a time when blacks faced repercussions as severe as death for registering to vote, Mound Bayou residents were casting ballots in every election. The city has a proud history of credit unions, insurance companies, a hospital, five newspapers, and a variety of businesses owned, operated, and patronized by black residents. Mound Bayou is a crowning achievement in the struggle for self-determination and economic empowerment

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Labour Against the Witch Hunt “cannot retain any credibility if it includes a group whose positions are anti-Semitic”

December 15, 2017 at 10:00 am (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, CPGB, labour party, posted by JD, wankers)


Above: August Bebel: “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools”

By Tony Greenstein in the present issue of the Weekly Worker (and it should go without saying that whilst we welcome Mr Greenstein’s belated recognition that anti-Semitism exists on the left and – specifically – within his and the CPGB’s ‘Labour Against the Witch Hunt’ outfit, we regard much of the rest of this piece as incoherent nonsense):

On December 2 a Labour Against the Witchhunt meeting was effectively ambushed by a small Trotskyist grouping, Socialist Fight. A series of close votes was taken, the result of which meant that the previous decision of the steering committee, that Socialist Fight should no longer participate in meetings of LAW, was overturned.

Stan Keable, the secretary of LAW, had written to inform SF that it was no longer welcome at our meetings, but despite this their comrades turned up. For various reasons – not least that most people were unaware of the full extent of the anti-Semitic positions of Socialist Fight – those present voted against the steering committee position.

It is now incumbent upon LAW to demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that it wants to have nothing to do with Socialist Fight. Not only because its positions are anti-Semitic, but because a campaign whose purpose is to reject the false anti-Semitism campaign of Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement cannot retain any credibility if it includes a group whose positions are anti-Semitic.

I was not aware, at the time of the last meeting, that Ian Donovan – a ‘left’ supporter of the overtly anti-Semitic Gilad Atzmon – had penned an obnoxious and anti-Semitic article the day before, entitled ‘Third-camp Stalinoids bring witchhunt into Labour Against the Witchhunt’.

There is no future for Labour Against the Witchhunt if Socialist Fight and its members remain an integral part of the organisation. For that reason I believe that it is essential that the next meeting, on January 6 should overturn the previous decision. If my views do not prevail, then I will resign from the organisation – as I believe will Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left.

It may seem incongruous to have an anti-witchhunt group itself excluding people, but we have no choice. It is a fact that the Labour Party’s witchhunt primarily takes the form of the weaponisation of anti-Semitism – the smearing of people as anti-Semitic for no other reason than their support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism.

It therefore flows, as night follows day, that LAW cannot include in its ranks people who advocate politics which are anti-Semitic. To include Socialist Fight or its members within LAW, given their stated policies, would be to concede that the Zionist attack on the left as anti-Semitic has some substance. It would be political suicide.

It is extremely unfortunate that a socialist group believes that in the age of modern capitalism the Jewish question survives. It was primarily a question of the social and economic role in the feudal era of Jews as what Abram Leon termed a “people-class”. It only survived politically in the capitalist era as a result of the memory of that role, combined with the delayed and arrested development of capitalism in eastern Europe.

It is noticeable that even today in countries like Poland and Hungary there is still considerable anti-Semitism because of their underdevelopment compared to western Europe. The Pew global attitudes survey shows the difference in anti-Semitic attitudes very clearly between western Europe and eastern Europe (leaving aside Greece and Italy). In France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Britain, anti-Semitic attitudes can be found in 10% or less of the population.

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Trump’s favourite hate-monger bites the dust

December 13, 2017 at 6:43 pm (Anti-Racism, Asshole, civil rights, Democratic Party, misogyny, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Trump, United States, women)

From the US SocialistWorker.org website (nothing to do with the UK SWP):

Elizabeth Schulte reports on the election defeat of a sexual predator and reactionary.

Roy Moore
Roy Moore

HEY TRUMP, tweet this.

Your sexual predator endorsee for Alabama senator went down the tubes last night–and literally rode out on the horse he came in on.

And, oh yeah, the women you sexually assaulted and then called “liars”? They aren’t going away. They held a press conference this week, and they want Congress to do something about your crimes–and, yes, they are crimes.

In a down-to-the-wire election, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones defeated Bible-thumping sexual predator Republican Roy Moore in a special election Tuesday to fill the Senate seat left open by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general.

But the big winner in this election is the women of #MeToo–who broke the silence about sexual harassment and assault committed by powerful men.

Moore’s fanaticism in the service of hate and reaction is well known–he was drummed out of the state Supreme Court for his statue of the Ten Commandments, and he defied the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to grant LGBT couples their legal right to marry.

But in the end, it was the women who came forward to tell their stories of being abused who turned the tables on him–including one woman who said the holier-than-thou evangelical forced himself on her when he was a district attorney, and she was just 14 years old.

Moore’s response to these calls for justice was to smear the women as liars and double down on his nauseating bigotry.

This election was about far more than vote in Alabama for a Senate seat. It was a test of support for Republican monsters like Moore, their bigoted policies and the presidency of Donald Trump.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

MOORE’S CAMPAIGN presented itself as a referendum on the Trump administration–and threatened that the Republicans’ big plans for next year would be in peril if he lost. “If they can beat [Moore], they can beat [Trump’s] agenda, because Judge Moore stands with Donald Trump and his agenda,” Moore strategist Dean Young told ABC’s This Week.

Sections of the Republican Party fled from Moore, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alabama’s longtime senior senator Richard Shelby, who said he cast his vote for a write-in candidate instead of Moore.

But not Trump. Though the president reluctantly campaigned for the GOP establishment’s choice, Luther Strange, Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary earlier this year, Trump eagerly jumped on board when Moore became the nominee–despite the allegations of sexual harassment.

Trump recorded a robo-call for the candidate and made an appearance at a pro-Moore rally in Florida–the day before he was scheduled to visit the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, no less. Former Trump White House adviser and alt-right celebrity Steve Bannon has also been a fixture of the Moore campaign.

Trump and Moore have a lot in common. Like trying to silence women who accuse them of sexual assault.

As Alabama voters were casting their ballots, Trump went on the attack against a group of women who are calling on Congress to investigate their sexual assault claims against the president. In a sexist tweet, Trump said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand “would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).”

Trump’s refusal to go along with Republican Party leaders and continue promoting Moore was a calculated pushback against the #MeToo campaign and its hundreds of women stepping out of the shadows to tell their stories of abuse and, in some cases, bring down their abusers.

At first, the Republican National Committee withdrew its support for Moore’s campaign when the allegations of sexual assault emerged. But it flipped on that decision after Trump decided to continue endorsing Moore.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BUT THAT wasn’t enough to push Moore over the top. With absentee ballots still to be counted, Jones had defeated the Republican candidate by some 20,000 votes, with about a dozen counties that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election switching over to the Democrats in this race.

The margin of victory for Jones is about the same as the number of voters who wrote in another candidate. As FiveThirtyEight.org pointed out, of all Alabama senate races since 1990, only the 2014 race, in which Jeff Sessions ran uncontested, had a higher share of write-in votes.

But while the media will focus on this number, Jones built up his margin of victory in counties with major cities like Birmingham and Huntsville, where African Americans especially voted overwhelmingly for him. Jones also had a stronger advantage among women and younger voters, according to exit polls.

In Birmingham’s primarily Black Woodlawn neighborhood, Genesis Johnson told the Washington Post that he hadn’t voted since 2008, when he supported Barack Obama for president. He felt compelled to cast his vote for Jones this time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Labour: selections, factionalism … and Akehurst

December 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm (AWL, democracy, labour party, left, Momentum, posted by JD, reformism)

Above: Labour First factionalises

By Will Sefton (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity)

We may well have reached ‘peak Momentum’. These are the most favourable political circumstances Labour’s hard left could envisage.

They feel politically vindicated by the general election result, have a well-funded, well-staffed organisation holding a vast amount of data on Labour members and have reshaped Labour’s membership through successive rounds of mass recruitment.

So says Luke Akehurst, secretary of Labour First, writing a sober article about Momentum and local council selections in the course of the last couple of weeks of right-wing hysteria from the bourgeois press, with Roy Hattersley and Angela Rayner making (politically differentiated) contributions.

Akehurst is relatively realistic on Momentum’s political advances. The “centre-left”, as he calls his wing of the party, did okay on nominations to Labour’s National Executive, although Eddie Izzard still has 100 fewer Constituency Party nominations Momentum-backed candidate Yasmin Dar. One of the “centre left” candidates — Izzard, Johanna Baxter or Gurinder Singh Josan — could win a seat.

Across the UK, the left of Labour is, in fact, not sweeping the board. The picture is mixed. In Haringey, the campaign against the £2 billion Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) regeneration plan has ensured nearly all of the incumbent Progress-dominated council Cabinet have been ousted by Corbyn supporters. In Lewisham East, the right retained control of the party. In Watford a Momentum-backed trade unionist would not have got onto the shortlist for the MP candidate without an intervention by the National Executive.

The two organised right wing groups within Labour – Progress and Labour First – are not identical, though they work closely with each other.

What really bothers Progress, so they say, is the lack of experience of the left candidates as against established right wingers. Akehurst and Labour First are more worried about the kind of politics that these councillors will be putting forward and who they feel they are accountable too. He mourns the passing of cosy dinners and drinks receptions with lobbyists and property developers.

Undoubtedly it is true that many of the new intake in councils in 2018 will be relative newcomers, some involved in politics within the last two years. That only indicates that the pressure on new left councillors to make cuts, to carry out “tough decisions”, will be intense. It highlights the importance of discussing the strategy for councillors in a fight against austerity. It cannot wait till May. It needs to be more than an anguished plea for a Labour Government in 2022. Without such a strategy the left will be caught up in passing on more cuts and participating in running services in a dire state following seven years of Tory austerity.

Having a layer of Labour councillors who are accountable to Labour members and the local labour movement, who want to mobilise it to fight, is long overdue. But can we get this?

Minimally local council candidates should call for the next Labour government to restore all the money that has been cut since 2010. Local labour movements should call meetings to discuss the needs of the area and what strategy is needed to defeat the cuts. Our movement has historical examples that can be learnt from — victories at Poplar and Clay Cross, as well as those that ended in defeat as with the fight of the local government left between 1979 and 1985.

We must be absolutely clear that there is no subversion of democracy, no underhand coup, going on in Labour. Members are simply exercising their democratic right to select the representatives they want. Some right-wingers are moaning about an increasingly factional atmosphere and condemn the fact that Momentum has used its membership to mobilise people in ward and selection meetings.

Roy Hattersley notes that Momentum is not as tightly controlled as Militant, but has a much further reach. He raises the spectre of the “far left pamphleteers” being a dominant and aggressive force once more. But the movement could do with more pamphleteers and more engagement with tough arguments! Healthy labour movement organisation relies on members engaging with political arguments. Factionalism is simply arguing for a point of view and winning people over to it.

Both Labour First and Progress do just this! It is what Hattersley is doing. In this sense, we will need more factionalism, more organisation and more opportunities if members are to exercise their democratic rights. Unfortunately some on the left have chimed in in with the furore. Quoted in the Times, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said that established MPs and councillors had an “absolute right” to be there and to be listened to.

Rayner seems to have got confused between the divine right of Kings, which many councillors seem to want, and the open political debate in which all sides have the chance to make their case. Typically, as in Haringey, right-wing councillors would rather duck a political fight. There the right have resigned rather than go through an open selection process. They have refused to be held to account, and they have branded local members as bullies and unthinking drones who are mobilised purely to cause trouble for hard-working stalwarts.

Akehurst offers a more active strategy. “We have to build up our capacity to out-recruit Momentum by mobilising the larger latent public support of the centre-left and some centrists who want an electable Labour Party. This will require huge investment in digital and press recruitment advertising, coherent messaging, an attractive candidate for whenever Jeremy retires, and fresh policies, not 1997 answers to 2017 problems (though these are preferable to 1917 or 1977 ones).”

“Sadly, the existence of Momentum requires similar factional rigidity and structure on our side…This is contrary to the historic culture of the Labour Party, which until 2015 was not factional…we are buzzing around them as an incoherent rabble of individualists.” This is utter nonsense.

The Labour Party has had factions for all its history; only, before Corbyn, the left was much weaker and the party was a rump. Akehurst is rewriting history, presenting the Labour Party as a friendly place where everyone used to get along, to try and weaken the grip of the left and to convince people that it is both wrong and irregular for there to be disruption to the normal boring, bureaucratic and cliquey goings on of local parties. In the face of the false nostalgia, we need to assert and fight for a democratic party that debates its policies and political differences in the open.

  • Coatesy’s view, here

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Prez and Billie express their love one last time

December 9, 2017 at 9:59 am (humanism, jazz, Jim D, love, music, The blues)

60 years ago (December 8 1957), a tired, demoralised Prez played the blues one last time for the great platonic love of his life, Billie. Prez is second up, following Ben Webster:

“It was time for Prez…If he got up, he might collapse on prime time. But when the moment came, Prez stood and, Looking at Lady, played in one chorus- its colors those of twilight in October- the sparest, most penetrating blues I have ever heard. Billie, a slight smile on her face, kept nodding to the beat, her eyes meeting Prez’s, her nod invoking memories only she and Prez shared. As he ended his solo, Lady’s face was full of light and love, and Prez, briefly, was back in the world” – Nat Hentoff, Boston Boy (2001)

Lester Young died in New York, March 15 1959
Billie Holiday died in New York, July 17 1959

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