Muslim women ‘stopped from becoming Labour councillors’

February 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm (elections, Galloway, Islam, islamism, Jim D, labour party, misogyny, sexism, women)

Shazia Bashir

“Because I didn’t have my father’s consent and support, I had to step down. I was pressured into stepping down”  – Shazia Bashir (above)

Another said she had been told by Labour members “Islam and feminism aren’t compatible”.

An advocate for gay rights was told: “This is un-Islamic. Leave that for white people.” And many spoke of being criticised for being too Westernised.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35504185

A comrade from a Muslim background comments, “I can tell you the number of people in my family who were surprised by this story when I mentioned it to them and that is nil – which, at an educated guess, is almost certainly also the number of people in the SWP, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and other groups who usually fall over themselves to say how much they support Muslim women, who are likely to do anything about this issue.

JD comments: it’s not just a Labour Party problem or a problem at councillor level: just look at the misogynistic abuse Naz Shah got from Galloway and his Respect Party supporters when she stood against him in Bradford West at the general election.

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US Socialist Worker on Election 2016

February 2, 2016 at 10:07 am (Democratic Party, elections, posted by JD, Republican Party, United States)

Here’s the US Socialist Worker‘s take on the run-up to US Election 2016, written before the Iowa caucuses, in which Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders very nearly defeated Hilary Clinton. By the way, the US SW has nothing to do (any more) with the UK SWP:

Year of the renegades?

The usual election circus is reflecting broader dissatisfaction with the status quo.

IT SEEMED so simple–and soul-deadeningly boring–a year ago. Election 2016 would be a match-up between two political dynasties–the Clintons and the Bushes–with nothing but months of Super PAC spending and stage-managed sound bites between then and the election.

Now, we’re headed for a February where the Republican heir apparent Jeb Bush is bumbling along among the also-rans in opinion polls, and the first primary contests seem certain to be won by right-wing maniacs who regularly denounce their own party’s establishment leaders. Billionaire Donald Trump remains the runaway frontrunner, but Tea Partier Ted Cruz is coming up on the outside.

And on the Democratic side, a self-identified socialist has a fair shot at winning at least the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary over Hillary Clinton, who was once thought to have the Democratic presidential nomination in the bag a full year before the party’s convention.

For anyone on the left, this should inspire both dread and enthusiasm.

Neither Trump nor Cruz may survive what promises to be a bruising and unpredictable GOP primary battle that won’t be decided for months. But in the meanwhile, they give legitimacy to ideas at the far right of the mainstream political spectrum–and then some.

As for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he has a lot more obstacles–like, for example, the Democratic Party’s completely undemocratic practices, like seating party insiders and officeholders as unelected “superdelegates,” specifically designed to head off left challenges–between him and the party’s presidential nomination.

But Sanders has tarnished the aura of inevitability that once surrounded Hillary Clinton–and what’s more, he’s done so by generating real excitement among millions of people who vote Democratic mainly because they despise the Republicans, not because they feel inspired by the corporate-dominated party that falsely claims to speak for them.

Sanders is talking about the issues that should matter in a real election campaign, like jobs, health care, poverty, challenging racism and the like. It’s no wonder that so many people see him as a breath of fresh air–though he has also gone along with many conventional mainstream Democratic positions, most obviously to defend and extend the power of the American empire.

We can celebrate the opinion polls that show Sanders gaining support against Clinton, most of all because of what they show us about the growth of a layer of people in society who are looking for a radical alternative to the political and social status quo.

If Sanders fails in his still-long-shot quest to win the nomination and then does what he has promised from the start and endorses the presidential candidate of a pro-corporate party, he won’t have answers for the questions those people are asking. Socialists need to be ready with answers of our own, and we can start now, as this election year is unfolding.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AT ONE point not too long ago, Hillary Clinton greeted Sanders’ candidacy within the Democratic Party as a positive. Clinton understood that Sanders’ campaign would motivate the party’s base of progressive supporters, while she could still be seen as the “realistic” candidate who stood the best chance against the Republicans in a general election.

Since then, opinion polls have shown that Sanders could hold his own against the Republicans. In December, in a hypothetical race against the GOP’s front-running reality TV star, the Vermont social democrat came out ahead by 13 percentage points–stronger than Clinton’s 7 percent–according to a Quinnipiac poll.

As Sanders has climbed in the polls–building a clear lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, threatening in Iowa and creeping toward a real contest nationally–the Clinton campaign went on the attack.

Often enough, this merely provided further evidence of what a cynical political insider she’s always been. According to the Nation, for example, the Clinton campaign put out a press release calling Friends of the Earth Action a “dark money group”–after it put out TV ads commending Sanders’ fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

During a candidates’ debate in South Carolina, Clinton claimed that Sanders was going to undo all of the Obama administration’s hard work on a health care law and tear up the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Clinton acted as if she was attacking Sanders from the left, but as Sanders explained during the debate, he favors a much more radical solution to the health care crisis that the ACA has made worse in numerous ways: a universal, “Medicare for All” health care plan.

For the most part, though, Clinton is sticking to what she knows. That’s her claim to be the only “viable” candidate against a host of scary Republicans.

As the first primary contests approach, the organizations whose jobs it is to rally followers behind the conventional liberal choice–the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, a number of unions–are announcing their endorsements of Clinton. This despite her record of betraying the very people who are expected to campaign for her–as in the case of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which only recently backed the campaign for a living wage at Walmart, where Clinton once served on the board of directors and silently sat by while the mega-retailer rolled over workers.

The Clinton campaign understands that the odds are still with her winning the party’s nomination. But victories for Sanders in New Hampshire, Iowa and beyond would damage her inevitability factor in a race against Republicans.

What all this reveals is something that mainstream political commentators have a hard time predicting or processing–despite all the talk about Clinton being the most viable candidate among the widest range of voters, Sanders is showing that there is a huge opening for unapologetically liberal and even radical political ideas.

The huge electoral support for Sanders is a reflection of the state of U.S. politics, where a growing number of people are expressing their dissatisfaction with status quo politics. That sentiment is expressed in specific attitudes about issues like police violence or racism, but it can also be seen in the widespread feeling that political leaders don’t represent us–and don’t even try. No event illustrates this more than the protests by residents of Flint, Michigan, whose elected officials allowed their drinking water to be poisoned.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ON THE other side of Election 2016, the Republican Party establishment is discovering that its anointed “inevitable” candidates–conservatives like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio with just enough sheen of moderation to appeal in a general election–are in big trouble.

The reason is that the Republican right–unleashed as attack dogs during the Obama years to drive the political mainstream further and further to the right–isn’t going away. It wants its place in the spotlight.

The mobilization of the Tea Party fanatics, backed by big-money right-wingers like the Koch brothers, was central to the Republican victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. But Republican base voters were whipped up not only against “big government” and “special interests,” associated with the Obama administration, but the “Washington elite” in general–which sometimes meant Republican leaders like former House Speaker John Boehner who were judged to be not fanatical enough.

Now that it’s time to elect the president, the GOP establishment would like the right-wing fringe to step aside. But no such luck. In spite of every vile statement and blunder, billionaire Islamophobe and immigrant hater Donald Trump has stayed well ahead of the pack in opinion polls. After the rise and fall of crackpot Ben Carson, Ted Cruz has been the only contender to make a real run at Trump–and in some ways, he’s more of a threat to the party establishment than Trump.

The structure of the Republican primaries, with delegates awarded based on the proportion of votes in each contest, guarantees that the nomination battle will drag out for months. It’s impossible to predict whether Trump or Cruz will survive to become the party nominee, or if the establishment will unite around an alternative. But whatever the case, this is a recipe for chaos and splits within the historic party of Corporate America.

The enduring appeal of the Trumps and Cruzes in Election 2016 is more evidence of the instability and polarization in a society that’s motivating people to reject politics as usual. But it’s not only that.

In Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this month, he boasted about the amazing U.S. economic recovery. But for most working-class Americans, there are few signs of these better times. This, coupled with the Obama administration’s escalation of the “war on terror,” has produced a frightening and unpredictable world.

This is why Trump can gain a hearing for right-wing ideas that attempt to redirect the blame onto scapegoats, such as immigrants or Muslims.

In this respect, Trump is leading the way for the Republicans, as conservative ideologues Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in the National Review: “[W]hile Trump is not a conservative and does not deserve conservatives’ support, Republicans can nonetheless learn from him…He has exposed and widened the fissures on the American right. If conservatives are to thrive, they must figure out how to respond creatively, sensibly and honorably to the public impulses he has so carelessly exploited.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IT FRIGHTENING to think of the “public impulses” that Lowry and Ponnuru want another Republican to exploit less “carelessly.” But as the atrocities of the Republican presidential contenders pile up, it will be important to remember that the same political circumstances are radicalizing people to the left.

The strong support for Bernie Sanders is the most obvious evidence. But the people being won over to Sanders won’t necessarily stop with a campaign within the Democratic Party. While Election 2016 goes on, there will be many opportunities for protest and politics, with those enthused about the Sanders campaign certain to play a role.

And the odds are still strong that Sanders will ultimately confront those supporters with a choice later on this year. They can join him in supporting the candidate who beat him for the Democratic nomination, even if they represent everything that millions of Sanders supporters are fed up with.

Or they can stand for a real alternative. That will mean casting a ballot for an independent left candidate next November. But even more important, it will mean participating in the grassroots movements and struggles well beyond the ballot box that, as history has shown us, can bring real change.

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Sanders: a socialist headed for the White House?

January 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm (Democratic Party, elections, Eric Lee, posted by JD, socialism, United States)

By Eric Lee

This article appears in the current issue of Solidarity and on Eric’s own blog


Sixty years ago, the Socialist Party ran its last presidential campaign in the United States.

In its heyday, the party could capture upwards of a million votes, achieving this result in 1912, 1920 and again in 1932. The best result was the first one, when Eugene V. Debs led the party to six percent of the national vote. But less than a quarter century after Norman Thomas won nearly 900,000 votes at the height of the Great Depression, the total number of votes the Socialist could muster nationwide was a mere 2,044. Its final Presidential candidate, the successor to the legendary Debs and Thomas, was the little-known Darlington Hoopes.

By then, even the last stalwarts in the party accepted that it was no longer feasible to wage presidential campaigns. Within a year of the Socialists reaching their electoral nadir, the party was strengthened by the decision of Max Shachtman’s Independent Socialist League to join their ranks. The Shachtmanites rejected the traditional independent electoral strategy and called instead for the Socialists to join the ranks of the Democrats.

It took Shachtman and his comrades a decade to achieve their goal under the charismatic leadership of Michael Harrington. While the Socialists were grappling with issues of electoral strategy, a young man joined their youth organisation in Chicago, the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL).

His name was Bernie Sanders.

Like many other YPSLs (pronounced “Yipsels”), the young Brooklyner was active in the peace movement through the Student Peace Union and the civil rights movement through the Congress of Racial Equality. Before joining the YPSL, Sanders was introduced to politics by his older brother, Larry, who would take him to political meetings. Larry was active in the Young Democrats. It was in the YPSL that Bernie would learn about democratic socialism.

Half a century later, he continues to define himself as a democratic socialist. He advocates a program of reform that most socialists would be very comfortable with, including breaking up the big banks, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and creating employment, health care as a right for all citizens, free tuition at all public universities, campaign finance reform, strengthening union rights, and much more.

His campaign for the presidency launched earlier this year has galvanized the American political system and given new hope for a rebirth of a democratic socialist movement in the country.

What has changed that allows a democratic socialist to emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, to become a serious contender for the presidency sixty years after the unfortunate Darlington Hoopes won only 2,044 votes? And what are his chances to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency in November?

I think that three things have happened to allow a professed socialist to run a credible campaign for the presidency in 2016.

First of all, the economic crisis that hit America (and the world) from 2008, triggered – as it did in many countries – a rise in critical thinking about capitalism. We have seen big gains for parties and leaders once considered “far left” in several European countries, and while this cannot express itself in America in the creation of a new mass party of the left like Syriza, it can and does express itself in social movements like Occupy, in the trade unions and in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

But an economic crisis alone cannot create the basis for the rise of a socialist left in a country like America. There have been a number of economic crises, with periods of mass unemployment, in the years since 1932, but none of these resulted in the rise of an overtly socialist candidate or movement.

The second factor that allows for the rise of Sanders is the passage of time since the end of the Cold War. One cannot overstate the importance of Stalinism in undermining and weakening the American left over many decades. Whether it was McCarthy-era red-baiting and persecution (which affected everyone on the left, not just the Stalinists) or the idiotic, counter-productive tactics of the Stalinists themselves, it was nearly impossible to say the word “socialism” aloud in America so long as the Soviet Union existed.

But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a generation of Americans has grown up with no personal memory of that period, people for whom the word “socialist” is not necessarily a deal-breaker. There are people voting for Bernie Sanders today who were born in 1998, nearly a decade after the Wall came down. All voters under the age of 40 came of age politically only after Communism’s historic defeat.

None of this applies to Sanders, of course. The 74-year-old is a veteran of the YPSL from a time when socialists really were on the margins of American life, and when “socialism” really was a dirty word. But his supporters largely come from an entirely different generation, who’ve grown up in a different world.

The third thing that has happened is that Bernie Sanders, who his entire political life has been an independent, an opponent of the two-party system, has chosen to run as a Democrat. Some people on the small organised left in America would have preferred it otherwise. They would have liked to support a campaign like Ralph Nader’s, free of the taint of what Socialists use to call the “sewer” of the Democratic Party.

Nader himself followed in the tradition of a large number of well-intentioned but long-forgotten attempts to forge left-wing third parties in America. These included the peace campaigner Dr Benjamin Spock (People’s Party) who received fewer than 80,000 votes, or ecologist Barry Commoner (Citizen’s Party) who received 234,000 votes. Sanders was personally sympathetic to Nader, Spock and Commoner, campaigning for the latter two. But he learned an important lesson: to win a Presidential election in America, you need to run as a Democrat.

The extraordinary success of his campaign so far – regardless of what happens next – shows that he was right. His campaign is a vindication of everything Max Shachtman, Michael Harrington and their comrades fought for on the American left from the mid-1950s until now.

But does Sanders really have a chance?

I write these words two weeks before the Iowa caucus vote on February 1, the first electoral test of the Sanders candidacy. At the moment, all the polls show Iowa to be a tie between Sanders and Clinton. In the following vote, on February 9 in New Hampshire, polls show Sanders winning. If America wakes up on February 10 to learn that Bernie Sanders has won both Iowa and New Hampshire, it will represent a political earthquake.

Sixty years after the disappearance of the Socialists from the main stage of American politics, they have made a triumphant return. A former YPSL member from Chicago, still talking about the same democratic socialism he learned in the party of Debs and Thomas, may be on his way to becoming the forty-fifth president of the United States.

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Unison: Prentice re-elected as vote collapses and corruption is exposed

December 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm (corruption, elections, UNISON)

Dave PrentisDave Prentis has been re-elected as leader of UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, amidst allegations of ballot rigging, in face of a call by one-third of the union’s national executive committee for his suspension and with a public petition calling for an independent enquiry and a re-run of the election.

Ed Whitby writes:

So Prentis has been elected on less than 50% of the vote, and less than 10% of the membership voting.

In the last 10 years Dave Prentis has gone from 185,000 votes to 66,000 votes losing 119,000 or two thirds of his vote.

This in an election where:

* There is known corruption in the important London region, with staff members recorded organising support for Prentis against all the rules

* No hustings or debates to raise profile of alternate candidates

* No information in the unions two membership publications on the other candidates

* Meanwhile Prentis appeared in almost every article on the unions magazines and in weekly emails sent to all members.

So while there is no great news for the left coming a poor third and fourth, this is no mandate for Prentis and surely must create the opportunity for a debate about the direction of this important public sector trade union.

Overall votes and turn out in last 3 elections:
2005: 244,000 votes (16% of membership), 2010: 216,000 (14% of membership), 2015: 134,000 (9% of the membership)

Results 2015
Roger Bannister 16,853 (12.6 per cent)
John Burgess 15,573 (11.6 per cent)
Dave Prentis 66,155 (49.4 per cent)
Heather Wakefield 35,433 (26.4 per cent)

Previous results

2010
Dave Prentis
145,351
(67.3%)
Roger Bannister
42,651
(19.7%)
Paul Holmes
28,114
(13.0%)
216,116

2005
Dave Prentis
184,769
(75.6%)
Roger Bannister
41,406
(16.9%)
Jon Rogers
18,306
(7.5%)
244,481

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France: Front National leads vote but fails to win regional power – Coatesy’s analysis

December 14, 2015 at 6:41 pm (Andrew Coates, democracy, elections, fascism, populism, posted by JD, reblogged)

Out blogging friend and expert on French politics, Coatesy, provides the following analysis:

Embedded image permalink

Final results graphic from second round

The BBC reports,

The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.

France 24.

Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.

The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).

The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.

The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.

Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.

Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.

In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.

After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.

Pause for breath – there is worse to come:

“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”

Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”

The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.

The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.

Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.

Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.

“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”

On the left there is not much relief.

Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.

The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.

L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.

We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).

Observations.

  • The Front National has failed to take over some of the levers of the established French political structure. This is a victory for their opponents. Regional councils, it has been observed, are a relativity cost-free platform for the display of  administrative stagecraft. Control of their budgets gives an opportunity to show off policies, reward patrons, and attract attention. Control of one of them would not have tested the FN’s national policies. It would have given the far-right party momentum. They do not have this.
  • The cost of the “sursaut républicain” is not to be underestimated. Despite reports that the FN is now attracting members from highly educated and .experienced French  administrative sectors (traditional sources of political cadres) the party continues to claim that it stands alone against the other parties, the political elite, the equivalent of the Spanish ‘casta’. With the Parti Socialiste calling its supporters to vote for Sarkozy’s  Les Républicains in the regions where they were alone capable of beating Marine Le Pen’s party, the claim will continue to appeal to their electorate.
  • The FN still headed the results. Indications that they performed well in the first round amongst young people (34% amongst the 18-24 year olds), the unemployed, workers (43%) , self-employed, farmers and agricultural workers (35%), white collar public sector workers (30%) and indeed all social categories. While the party is most supported amongst the young and the “popular classes” the results  suggest a party with a broader national appeal than any other French political force. (Elections régionales : qui a voté FN ?)
  • From a rate of 57% in the first round, to 50% in the second, abstention marked these elections. That workers, the out-of-work, and above all the young, are amongst the biggest groups of abstentionists, is thin against the above evidence of their far-right voting.  (le Front national, premier parti chez les jeunes… qui votent.Le Monde. 7.12.15.)
  • Claims that there is a “left wing’, ‘national’ socialist (protectionist and working class) strain in the far-right’s language in the formerly left North, and a more traditional hard right (xenophobic and morally reactionary)  line in the South East, have been eroded in this election. They were always doubtful – given the homogenising effects of modern politics. ( Les trois visages du vote FN Joël Gombin  Le Monde Diplomatique November 2015.) But both the protectionist, and above all the xenophobic  themes in the FN’s policies have had a nation wide impact.
  • The results have produced a crisis on the French right and left. On the right there are growing voices to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to run again for the Presidency. . The former is a serious political project, led by Sarkozy’s long-term more emollient and apparently more ‘moderate’ rival, Alain Juppé after what is widely seen as a personal set-back for Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Sarkozy face à un échec personnel).
  • On the left, there are those in the ruling Parti Socialiste who wish to create a new centre left party free from the historic baggage of the left, and indeed the word socialist. This skirts over the more difficult task of re-connecting with the popular electorate. A government headed by one of the few politicians in France to admire Tony Blair, Manuel Valls, that has failed to offer substantial reforms to improve the quality of life for wage-earners, reduce unemployment, and has been unable to relaunch economic growth, is not in a strong position to appeal to these lost voters.
  • The left, taking stock, did not suffer electoral annihilation, although it lost in important regions, including the Ile de France (surrounding Paris, perhaps the consequence of a big, 10.2% drop in the FN vote between rounds). With 5 regions for the left against 7 for the right it may seem as if their formal political strength has stood up. The Socialists, in agreement with the Greens (EELV), 6,81 %, and the Front de gauche,  nevertheless did not shine in the electoral scores (around 7%). Inside the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained that the complex regional alliances and lists that the bloc has entered into prevented getting a clear message across. It is very doubtful if this was a major factor in their results – although perhaps somewhere in France Mélenchon’s personal message of the Bolivarian Revolution, on the Venezuelan model has support. His own refusal to give any recommendation for the second round was not universally appreciated.  The Greens lost half their votes – they had 12,18% in 2010.  ( Elections régionales : la débâcle des écologistes).

There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)

President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.

His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.

The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.

The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.

The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.

In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.

Its policies centre on  ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.

These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.

Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.

The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.

Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst  some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.

Populism, as they say, is about being popular.

In this respect, with 27% of the vote,  the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.

The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche,  Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work  (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).

Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche,  have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”

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Pinch yourself, comrade, but Labour is exciting again

September 11, 2015 at 8:41 am (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism)

By Dave Osland (at Left Futures)

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1I guess I’ll never make it as a bureaucrat. When people start droning on about paragraph this, subclause that of any organisation’s rulebook, I usually interpret it as a cue to get another pint in.

But if there is now going to be a debate over what  precise mechanism Labour should use to elect leaders in future, let me say this now; the current arrangements have proven a huge success.

I’m not just saying that because they are perceived to favour the candidate I have backed from the beginning, namely Jeremy Corbyn. My point is that they have enabled Labour to engage the electorate in a manner I haven’t witnessed in decades.

This was brought home to me forcibly when I attended a routine City drinks reception, and I was struck by the number of people who – knowing that I am a Labour Party member – raised the subject of the race.

I should stress here that the attendees were not in the main high rollers with telephone number salaries. Instead this was in the main a gathering of what you might call ‘the real City’, middle-class commuter belt people on what most of the country would consider a good whack, but hardly enough to lead the life of Riley in expensive London.

They were there for the free plonk and canapes and the networking, but many spontaneously buttonholed me and started talking politics.

It’s not that any of them were raving Corbynistas. The first of the many double-cheek mwah-mwah kisses I got that night came from a young woman I had assumed to be apolitical, who looks like Liz Kendall, dresses like Liz Kendall, and was most impressed with – yeah, you guessed – Liz Kendall.

Similarly, a man who once sat on the board of a company you will certainly have heard of revealed that he had been a Labour Party member as a young man in the 1970s, and had signed up as a three-pounder with the intention of voted for LK.

A guy who has set up his own successful PR outfit – yes, aspirational businessman to a Tee – mentioned that his wife had rejoined as a full member after the May defeat, and was supporting Burnham. That had, in turn, increased his interest in what Labour does.

His colleague confided that he had not voted for many years. He liked some Corbyn policies, detested others, but was glad that there would again be a clear choice between opposing parties. Maybe that will get him to the ballot box next time.

To top it all, a multimillionaire corporate lawyer who had taken a drink revealed that his father had been a Communist partisan in a southern European country in world war two and that, if anything, he finds Jeremy insufficiently assiduous in promulgating the needs of the toiling masses.

Now, the last few months have – probably unavoidably – seen Labour Party members too wrapped up in the internal battle to notice that we are talking to the public again, in a way that I haven’t seen in years.

As it goes, I live in Hackney North, one of the few constituencies where the CLP still boasts a four-figure membership that enables it to be a genuine force in the community.

But we have all heard the stories of areas where Labour barely functions and it is hard to even get a quorate meeting together.

The oft-remarked-upon energy that has been generated in the last few months has presented us with a one-off opportunity to rejuvenate our structures up and down the country.

Let’s stick with OMOV. And the one-year free membership for registered supporters looks like a no brainer.

Yes, I have heard old stagers argue that they shouldn’t have the same rights as those us who have been around for yonks, but from a marketing perspective, this idea is a clear winner.

What’s more, the need to win over people who voted other than Labour in May is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. We need to go easy on the social media Thought Police routine.

Let’s declare an amnesty for those who may have tactically backed the Lib Dems in hopeless seats or voted Green in disillusionment with our offer four months ago. Nor should past support for the Tories or UKIP be any bar to involvement now.

If people have changed their minds, they should be welcome on board.

Now the voting has closed, thanks are due to Jeremy, Yvette, Andy and Liz alike. Yes, things got harsh at times, but as the standard marital advice cliche goes, least said, soonest mended.

Comrades, Labour is exciting people again. When was the last time you could say that with a straight face?

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AWL statement: don’t celebrate, organise!

September 11, 2015 at 8:07 am (AWL, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, solidarity)

“Don’t mourn, organise”, the American trade union activist Joe Hill famously told his comrades in 1915 as he was railroaded to a firing squad on trumped-up murder charges.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leader on 12 September, we should flip that motto into “don’t celebrate, organise!” And if he has a near miss, Joe Hill’s original will do.

All the opinion polls since early August show Jeremy Corbyn ahead. They also show him more popular with voters in general than the other candidates.

Corbyn, an unassuming campaigner and supporter of workers’ struggles for forty years, has become the seed around which a surge of anti-capitalism, generated by the crashing and grinding of the system since 2008 but previously dispersed and almost “underground”, has crystallised.

It will be wrong, terribly wrong, disastrous, if we think that once we’ve elected Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, then we can sit back and let ourselves be towed by the new leadership to a better future.

The basic ideas of democracy, workers’ rights, and social provision which Corbyn represents are not such as can prevail just by having a good advocate in the high ground of politics.

They can prevail only by determined and militant mobilisation of the rank and file.

A relatively “moderate” Labour right-winger, Luke Akehurst, has denounced Corbyn’s supporters as “moving through the party like ISIS in their jeeps in Iraq”. Decoded: he wants to demonise the Corbyn camp, and move against it as the US has moved against Isis. The New Statesman reports that Corbyn “faces a significant number of Labour MPs not merely against him but actively out to get him”.

Behind those MPs stand hundreds of “advisers”, “researchers”, spin-doctors, think-tank people and other careerists. And behind them, the billionaire media and the whole entrenched power of the ruling class. The smear and scare campaigns of the last couple of months — “Corbyn will make Labour unelectable” — are only the start.

They are the minority. A small minority. But compact and rich minorities win unless the working-class majority makes itself organised and compact, striking with a fist rather than flailing with limbs askew.

Corbyn’s advisers will tell him to go softly-softly, to woo the maximum number of right-wingers who may grudgingly cooperate for a while.

We’ve seen where that approach leads with Syriza’s decision to form a coalition with the right-wing Anel, to elect a moderate right-winger president of Greece, and to invest in cajoling Hollande and Renzi and Lagarde to sway Schäuble towards less harsh EU policy.

Working-class, socialist majorities need to be made and sustained in dynamic action. Unless the Corbyn campaign presses on to transform the labour movement radically, it will be neutralised and then reversed by the entrenched power of the right wing. If Corbyn wins, we should press him to start by opening out the Labour Party conference at the end of September, allowing debate on rule-change reforms and political challenges usually stifled.

Already in some areas, like Sheffield, Corbyn supporters are organised into active, regularly-meeting, local groups. Elsewhere there have been only rallies and phone-banks without organising meetings. The first step should be to get local groups going everywhere – democratic, active, open to debate, geared both to campaigning on the streets and to transforming their local Labour Parties.

Transforming the unions, too. The great lesson of the last big ferment in the Labour Party, in the early 1980s, is that the left-talking union leaders who had let it happen, by supporting democratic reforms within Labour, also cut it short. Because no similar democratic reforms were made within the unions, the top union officials could meet with Labour’s leaders in January 1982, at Bishops Stortford, plan to start reeling back the left-wing surge, and carry through the plan.

The TUC congress assembles the day after the Labour leader election result is announced. Trade unionists should argue for it to raise the pressure on Labour.

Young supporters of Corbyn have a national conference for ongoing organisation on 20 September. We need a similar general conference as soon as possible.

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Owen Jones: “If Corbyn wins…my thoughts about the problems, and what can be done”

September 1, 2015 at 7:54 am (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism)

I honestly don’t know how influential Owen Jones is – or will be – in a Corbyn-led Labour Party. But as JC’s most prominent supporter in the mainstream media, Jones’s views will certainly carry a great deal of weight and this remarkably candid article gives us some important pointers as to how mainstream Corbynistas are thinking:

Owen Jones

Owen Jones

Author of ‘The Establishment’ and ‘Chavs’, Socialist, Guardian columnist. Losing my Northern accent. My views etc… https://www.youtube.com/c/OwenJonesTalks

My honest thoughts on the Corbyn campaign — and overcoming formidable obstacles

A confession: I didn’t originally want a ‘left’ candidate in the Labour leadership election. My view was that, in the midst of general post-election demoralisation, a left candidate could end up being crushed. Such a result would be used by both the Labour party establishment and the British right generally to perform the last rites of the left, dismiss us as irrelevant, and tell us to shut up forever. I originally toyed with starting a campaign to enlist Lisa Nandy, the straight-talking ‘soft left’ Wigan MP, but she had just given birth, so that wasn’t going to happen. [https://twitter.com/OwenJones84/status/600625839231893505] The Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett was originally approached by several people asking him to stand: for the reasons above, I suggested it was bad idea. Instead we began brainstorming a ‘Not The Labour Leadership’ tour alongside a presumably dispiriting leadership contest with three candidates dancing on the head of a pin, with the aim of helping to rebuild a grassroots movement.

In all honesty, when Jeremy got the nominations, my instinctive reaction was somewhere between nervousness and trepidation. On top of the reasons above, I was worried (as someone who first met him a decade ago) that the personal characteristics that, in actual fact, have contributed to his popularity amidst a general anti-Westminster mood — understated, modest, his anti-firebrand disposition — might count against him. (On that count, I was clearly very wrong). Obviously there was no question I would do anything other than wholly support the campaign — I’d be a charlatan to do anything else. As one of the only people with a media platform who isn’t hostile to Jeremy — let alone supportive! — I’m pretty much duty-bound to be helpful and rebut the stuff thrown at the campaign as best I can.

But I originally felt that if he came third, that would in itself be a huge political achievement. The big contribution of Jeremy’s campaign, I felt, would be to put policies on the agenda, shift the terms of debate, and help rebuild a grassroots left movement; that this achievement could be built on, and crucially used to shift public opinion.

If you’d asked me privately back in May what I thought about a left candidate winning the Labour leadership, I’d have responded simply: “I don’t think we’re ready for that yet”. We’d need to spend the next few years building a formidable movement, I’d have argued, to win support for the policies we believe in, and to shift attitudes on a number of issues. Such a candidate would face formidable opposition from both within the Labour party, and from very powerful groups outside it, too. Without a big grassroots movement behind it, such a leadership would be crushed like an insect in someone’s hands.

But obviously the thing about history is that it doesn’t unfold in ways you can control. “Hey, history, tell you what, could we run this three years instead when we’re more ready?” A grassroots movement and political phenomenon has emerged now. It could well be that, without Jeremy’s candidature, it would never have emerged. It has to be engaged with as constructively as possible. It is like riding a tiger — a tiger that, yes, may well throw you off. Read the rest of this entry »

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Matgamna: why the left must back Corbyn

August 22, 2015 at 12:54 pm (AWL, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, socialism, unions)

This article by Sean Matgamna, one of the founders of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, also appears on the AWL’s website and in their paper, Solidarity: ________________________________________________________________________

Seize the chance the left has now

In the three months since the general election hundreds of thousands of people have joined the Labour Party, the party that lost the election.

Over 600,000 people have signed up to vote in the Labour leadership election. 300,000 have become full members of the Labour Party. The rise in Labour Party membership started immediately after the general election. Twenty thousand joined in the first couple of days after the defeat. Opinion polls report that in his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has the support of between 50 and 60% of those eligible to vote. He has the backing of the bulk of the trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party.

Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union explained that what the trade union leaders are trying to do in backing Corbyn is to shift the political axis of mainstream labour movement politics radically from the politics that has ruled the roost in the labour movement for the last 21 years, since the Blairite coup in the mid-1990s. Jeremy Corbyn, Ward said, is the antidote to “the Blairite virus”.

The confluence of large numbers of rebellious people joining the Labour Party and union leaders looking for an “antidote” to neo-Thatcherism — that is what “Blairism” in the labour movement is — has produced something very like a mass movement to reclaim the Labour Party for the working class and the left. This mass movement has to be judged for what it is, not by how it measures up to our own working-class socialist politics. It would be a miracle indeed, if such a movement began with adequate working-class socialist politics.

It is for socialists to work to convince this movement of the need for socialist politics.

To do that socialists must be part of the movement, engage in dialogue with it. The alarm at the idea of a Corbyn victory in the press and in the ranks of the Labour Party Blairites tells its own story. The war criminals, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, architects of British participation in the invasion of Iraq, warn against electing Corbyn. Tony Blair: “If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation.”

Their’s is the voice of the Blairite virus. Their warnings that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would be unelectable are beside the point: a left-wing Labour Party could and would have to inform, shape, educate and re-educate “public opinion”. That is what a proper opposition party does. A serious political party is not, should not be, what the Blair-Thatcherite Labour Party now is — an election machine to install venal careerists in ministerial office. The influx into the Labour Party is itself evidence that this is possible. In any case, it is necessary.

There are vast numbers of people in Britain who have been deprived of a political voice and a political party by Blairite rule in the Labour Party. For a quarter of a century, at least, the working-class and the labour movement has been deprived of genuine representation in Parliament. British politics has been dominated by the political-personal rivalry of different strands of Thatcherism.

In a world on which the banks and their relentless greed have brought down catastrophe, Britian’s “public discourse.” has focused on the hunt for “cheating claimants” and an unending outcry against immigrants. The ideas, norms, consequences and ideology of market capitalism has not been contested by the political labour movement. All that can now be changed.

But let us take the worst possible case: what if the Labour Party in the course of educating “public opinion”were to lose an election? In 1931, when the Labour Party leader, Ramsay MacDonald and his associates went over to the Tories and to a Tory-led coalition government, with Macdonald as Prime Minister, the Labour Party was reduced to about the same number of MPs it had had in 1906, at its beginning. But if the Labour Party had not stood up to Macdonald and to the bourgeois economic consensus of that time then there would have been no 1945 victory for a Labour Party committed to the radical reform-socialist programme which created the modern welfare state. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are 31% of Londoners bigots?

August 20, 2015 at 11:42 am (Anti-Racism, elections, Islam, islamism)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

A few days ago it was reported that nearly a third of Londoners –  31% – felt uneasy at the prospect of a Muslim mayor.

Some responded to the poll result with cries of bigotry – others applauded the 31% for being Islamorealists. It seems probable that people who registered unease did so for a range of reasons, and with different degrees of certainty.

It’s useful to compare that 31% figure with the percentage who would be made uncomfortable by the idea of a mayor from an ethnic minority – 13%. Presumably almost all of the 13% were also part of the 31%. Clearly such people are bigots. But what about the 18% who would be happy with a non-white mayor but not with a Muslim one – and indeed the further 13% who didn’t feel able to give a decisive answer when asked how they’d view a Muslim mayor?

You don’t have to be a racist to be an anti-Muslim bigot (though it probably helps). Although white nationalists tend to be anti-Muslim by default, many of the most prominent counterjihadists are non-racist, and of course not all of them are white.

Someone like Ali Sina would never vote for a Muslim mayor. He has said:

“It is time to put an end to the charade of “moderate Islam.” There is no such thing as moderate Muslim. Muslims are either jihadists or dormant jihadists – moderate, they are not.”

Treating Muslims as a monolithic bloc is an obvious marker of bigotry. But some of those who felt they couldn’t unreservedly say they were ‘comfortable’ with the idea of a Muslim mayor might not have meant to imply that under no circumstances would they vote for a Muslim, just that they’d want to know more. With so much debate around Islam and extremism, people are becoming increasingly alert to the sharp differences of opinion within Muslim communities. Television programmes such as The Big Questions return to the topic of religious extremism and conservatism obsessively. Those taking the survey may have felt wary about such illiberal views.

However even those actively anxious about Islamism are likely to have favourable views of Muslims who call for reform or adhere to more liberal interpretations of Islam – I bet a fair few of the 31% would have been more than happy to vote for someone like Maajid Nawaz or Sara Khan. And some of them, at the last election, were probably rooting for Muslim Naz Shah to beat her non-Muslim rival George Galloway.

And there are likely to be similar differences of opinion amongst the 55%, those who said were fully comfortable with the idea of a Muslim mayor. Some may just be easy-going types who would see any Muslim mayor as a positive symbol of multiculturalism and diversity. Others might be more actively politically engaged, perhaps opponents of the Prevent programme and of the comparatively tough approach Cameron is taking towards radicalisation. Would such Londoners welcome a Muslim mayor who disagreed with them on these issues? Probably not. Maajid Nawaz, in particular, would be the last person some Muslims would vote for – and non-Muslims from some sections of the left –Nathan Lean for example – would most likely go along with them.

In other words, at least a few of the 55% are likely to have particular questions for Muslim candidates, questions which relate specifically to their Muslim identity, not simply (as would be the case for any candidate) to their political views. In this they are no different from some of the 31%. Whereas a liberal might want to be reassured that the Muslim candidate shared their secular values (and Muslim liberals will probably be particularly vigilant) others, by contrast, will want to check that the candidate is not a ‘sell out’, an ‘Uncle Tom’. Right across the spectrum, for different reasons, people will want to be sure that a Muslim candidate is the right kind of Muslim – but their definitions of what the ‘right kind’ are will differ.

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