Enough equivocation: the left must campaign to Stop Brexit!

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

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

Illustration: John Rogan (via Tendance Coatesy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement from the National Union of Journalists (UK):

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

Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed
© Running Commnentary

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

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

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

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ president, said:

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

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

Tweet Justice for Daphne at  #DaphneCaruana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Read the full article here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

451 Comments

JD adds: the comments are well worth a gander

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Call to the democratic Left on the events in Catalonia

October 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm (Civil liberties, class collaboration, democracy, Europe, Human rights, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

From Open Democracy

A group of social scientists working at various universities and citizens in Spain and abroad

4 October 2017

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

Protesters gather in front of the Spanish National Police headquarters during a general strike in Catalonia (03 October 2017)
Above: Barcelona protest at Guardia Civil and Policia National violence

The appalling scenes of police violence that took place on 1 October in Catalonia along with the most baffling disrespect for democratic procedures and democratic substance that preceded them a month ago in the Catalan Parliament urges us to raise a collective voice.

This voice belongs to the democratic, non-aligned left, a left whose expression we have been longing for. While this voice unequivocally and strongly condemns the authoritarian violence endorsed by the central government, it sternly and democratically resists nationalistic discourse. We refuse to accept this binary as the choice we must face. Pluralism and debate cannot be eliminated in the name of democracy for the following reasons:

1) Europe has gone through enough nationalistic wars and has, we hope, learned enough from the oppression it has variously exerted inside and outside the continent, to be able to resist the appeals of the nationalistic siren calls of the XXI century. Masking the rejection of income redistribution and the neglect of social injustice, as well as the erasure of the diverse origins and languages on Catalan territory, with ethno-nationalist colours will not do.

2) The Catalan independence movement is, mostly, a middle-class movement whose leaders, across all the spectrum of the right-wing led alliance, are far from being oppressed. Their voice is not subaltern and has been loudly heard while neglecting, obliterating and silencing all kinds of dissent including from the left. We should not let their cries prevent other voices.

3) The self-cancellation of democracy – announcing the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence without a majority, as was done today by the leader of the Catalan nationalistic movement – is not only a matter of legality but of downright illegitimacy. No matter how strong a movement is, no matter how loud, as long as it is a minority, it is not a majority. The mocking of democratic procedures is not a game that comes at a small price; it will not do.

We write this because we stand with all those defending civil and political rights, and with subaltern grassroots movements opposed to the advances of neo-liberalism in all its forms. We do not condemn civil disobedience when all democratic possibilities have been exhausted. Nor do we oppose referendums provided that conditions of legitimacy are respected. But we are not prepared to accept this referendum as part of a democratic struggle against oppression.

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

—-

Nathalie Karagiannis, Peter Wagner, Marie Angueira Cebria, Johann Arnason, Caroline Brew, Selene Camargo Correa, Rebeca Carpi Martín, Gerard Delanty, Jean de Munck, Juan Carlos Gavara de Cara, Lola Diaz, Juan Diez Medrano, Luisa Fernandez, Johan Heilbron, Oliver Hochadel, Andreas Kalyvas, Yannis Karagiannis, Dimitris Leontzakos, Manuel Lisandro Castillo, Elia Marzal Yetano, Lourdes Mèndez, U.B. Morgan, Claus Offe, Rommy Morales Olivares, William Outhwaite, Susana Narotzky, Montserrat Pareja Eastaway, Carlos Pérez González, Ana Pérez Pérez, Rosa Pérez Pérez, Rosa María Pérez Pérez, Angelo Pichierri, José Maria Mateo Rello, Ana Maria Rodríguez López, Arturo Rodriguez Morató, Samuel Sadian, Will Shank, Eugenia Siapera, Bo Stråth, Leonor Valencia, Carlos Valera, Daniela Vicherat Mattar, Myrsini Zorba

H/t: Tendance Coatesy

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Conservative Home: “That pitiable conference, this directionless party — and the tale of Johnson’s lion and May’s frog”

October 5, 2017 at 10:33 am (Conseravative Party, enemy intelligence, Europe, gloating, posted by JD, reblogged, Tory scum)

From Conservative Home (republished for the information of comrades)

Sketch: The day the Prime Minister looked as though she was going to die on stage

“Even her warmest admirers will want her doctors to testify that she is fit enough to carry on without wrecking her health.”

WATCH: May’s jinxed speech 3) Problems strike the stage set

“’A country that works for everyone’ becomes ‘A country that works…or everyone’, as letters begin to fall off the slogan.

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Clarion: review of Labour conference 2017

October 4, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Brexit, campaigning, Cuts, democracy, Europe, health service, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, unions)

The world (partly) transformed:

By Maisie Sanders (Lewisham Deptford youth delegate, pc) and Sacha Ismail (Clarion editor)

Lots of people have been saying that Labour Party conference was a huge step forward for the left. They are right, as long as you add that there is a lot of work now to do and that it won’t happen automatically or through just pushing further down the same road.

There were many more delegates, something like 1,200, and they were much more left-wing, with a clear majority of Corbyn-supporters. Apparently 13,000 people attended some meeting to do with the conference – the conference itself, official fringes, The World Transformed and other fringe events.

The average delegate or observer was much more “scruffy” than in previous years – lots of people with badges, etc, many of them young. Of course many Clarion supporters and people we know were delegates. Getting into discussions, selling the magazine (the conference special we produced as well as issue 9) and promoting left-wing causes was easy. With determined effort but not back-breaking exertion comrades collected £1,370 for the Picturehouse strike fund.

The Clarion supported and our editor Rida Vaquas spoke at a packed fringe meeting about fighting unjust expulsions and suspensions put on by Stop the Labour Purge. We held a joint social and produced a bulletin with Red Labour supporters

Anecdotal evidence as well as reports in the press suggest that the Labour right is extremely demoralised. Many MPs and members of the House of Lords did not even bother to attend the conference.

Moreover we are seeing the beginnings of a living Labour Party democracy again.

Things in Brighton were in many ways wonderful, but at the same time a mixed bag, reflecting the wider situation on the left. The atmosphere was sometimes celebratory to the point of being unthinking – one minute conference was cheering calls for dismantling the border regime, the next minute cheering Mi5 and Mi6 (literally). The conference was a mix of left-wing and stroppy and a bit back-slapping, uncritical and “follow your leader”. Thus:

• More time had been allocated to policy discussion, with pointless external speakers eliminated and speeches from shadows ministers, etc, squeezed. To some degree this time was used well. There was some interesting and inspiring discussion and contributions. More left-wing motions got submitted and passed – on the NHS, on the right to strike, on housing and other issues. On three occasions (over stopping and reversing benefit cuts, NHS privatisation and democratic control of schools) delegates used their newly established right to say that bits of the National Policy Forum reports were not left-wing enough and refer them back.

• A clear majority of CLP delegates voted to reject the Conference Arrangements Committee report after complaints about virtually all emergency motions being ruled out of order (though the CAC was saved by the union vote). Even the finance report caused a delegate to get up and ask how much is being spent on the Compliance Unit!

• The bulk of the motion promoted by The Clarion on trade union rights made it through compositing, with the result that the conference voted unanimously for a strong position on workers’ rights, including support for the Picturehouse, McDonald’s and other strikes and the demand to repeal the 1980s/90s Tory anti-union laws. That is a major advance. Momentum NHS did something similar with policy on the health service.

• Hots on the heels of the left’s victory in the Conference Arrangements Committee elections, left candidates Anna Dyer and Emine Ibrahim easily won the elections for places on the National Constitutional Committee (which are elected by conference). This could potentially be important in raising, stopping and reversing unjust expulsions and suspensions of left activists.

• The two democratic rule changes proposed by the National Executive Committee – to expand the number of elected members’ representatives on the NEC from six to nine, to reduce the nomination threshold for leader from 15 to 10pc of the parliamentary party, both passed easily with little fuss. (So did the rule change on dealing with racist, anti-semitic, etc, behaviour.)

• Corbyn, McDonnell and other’s speeches were more left-wing than previously, for instance in terms of cancelling PFI contracts and supporting strikes (though not without ambiguity).

However:

• Delegates voted, at the instigation of Momentum and CLPD, to deny themselves the right to discuss Brexit and stand up for free movement. In some ways this discipline and ability to totally dominate the conference agenda was impressive – but it was also a total abdication of responsibility. In keeping these issues off the agenda, the “official” left did exactly what the right did last year! It would be interesting to know who made the decision that Momentum opposed discussing Brexit.

• Despite an increased number, there were relatively few motions on the agenda. That is in large part because of the procedural barriers to doing it, including large numbers ruled out. However it also seems to reflect relative lack of interest among some left activists (and certainly a lack of leadership from Momentum – see below).

• Some delegates seemed more comfortable making speeches about themselves, their experience, how bad the Tories are, how great Jeremy Corbyn is than about the motions on the agenda or specific ideas, issues and demands (to be fair, the way the conference is still organised, with many motions discussed at once, leant itself to this).

• Leading figures seemed not bothered about what is passed or not passed. At the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom fringe meeting, for instance, not a single speaker mention the motion on union rights going to conference that afternoon. A shadow minister said at the same meeting that he supports the right to solidarity strikes but it is not party policy – when in fact it was passed unanimously in 2015.

• As a result of the NEC’s call, all democratic rule changes except the ones the NEC had proposed were remitted to the forthcoming democracy review. The exception was a rule change from Brighton Pavilion on removing the need for motions to refer to “contemporary” events – the CLP’s delegates did not not accept remission and instead it was voted down. Not exactly a model of bottom-up democratisation and a stalling of the pace of reform…

The Momentum office’s role in the conference was mixed. It was more together than last year, when they had almost no intervention at all. In justice it must be said that Momentum played an important role in some of the successes described above – for instance the left victory in the NCC election and organising delegates to refer back sections of the NPF report. But again, with the exception of Momentum NHS, which is an autonomous campaign with a different political bent, they seem to have got no motions submitted and discouraged discussion of motions in their pre-conference delegates meet ups (and did not discuss it publicly anywhere else); they did not help delegates caucus and discuss, with even the daily briefings promised not seeming to materialise; and they actively prevented discussion on migrants’ rights.

Mobilising people to attend and linking them up to an app telling them how to vote is good, but no substitute for democratic organisation and serious political discussion and intervention.

The World Transformed fringe featured many interesting and useful sessions and speakers, with some real highlights, as well as showcasing many important struggles. Once again its team should be congratulated for a good event. But there were some rather glaring and it seems politically-determined gaps – what we should advocate about Labour council and cuts, for instance, and the Russian Revolution! Some of the sessions would have benefited from having more left-wing grassroots activists and fewer medium-sized names who just waffled generalities.

So, real and enormous progress, but a lot more to change to achieve even quite limited goals in terms of reviving the labour movement, let alone socialist advance. In particular:

We need a wide-ranging discussion and a big fight around democratic reforms, with the fundamental aim of a sovereign conference. The review announced by the NEC should be approached positively but not trusted. There is a real danger that it will be tightly controlled by the leadership and the big unions, with more radical proposals excluded and thus made much more difficult to pass at conference. As part of democratisation, we need a renewed fight to prevent further expulsions and suspensions, reinstate expelled and suspended comrades and create a transparent, accountable disciplinary and membership system.

We also need to push the new, left-led CAC for much more immediate and easier reforms to how conference itself functions – basic things like clear standing orders, motions being published in advance, speeches for and against, proposers getting a chance to respond.

We need a focus on policy. Clearly the leadership is becoming bolder, but before you get to the much wider questions of how to challenge capitalism or even “big” policy problems like ownership of the banks and free movement, there are still numerous gaps and inadequacies. On union rights, the NHS, social care, council housing, public sector pay and more, either the policy passed is not adequate or there is evidence it will be at least partially ignored or softened. This is not a matter of denunciation or nitpicking, but of applying pressure and seeking to firm up and develop things. Again, we need to insist that it should be conference that decides what Labour Policy is.

We need a serious discussion about what Labour councils should do to fight the funding cuts which are now reaching crisis level.

We need to build constituency-level Young Labour groups and campus Labour Clubs as vibrant centres of discussion and campaigning. There was almost nothing about this at the conference, except what Clarion supporters raised.

We need to mobilise the party, at every level, to actively support workers’ struggles, linking this to Labour policies for higher wages, security at work and, now, abolishing the anti-union laws.

Let us know what you think. Write a reply here at Shiraz and/or at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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Bombardier ruling exposes stupidity of anti-EU claims of left and right

September 27, 2017 at 10:37 am (Brexit, Canada, capitalism, economics, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, United States, workers)

People work on a C Series aeroplane wing in the Bombardier factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland September 26, 2017
Above: Bombardier workers at the Belfast plant

America’s Department of Commerce has made a preliminary finding that the Canadian company Bombardier had received unfair state subsidies and sold below cost.

It has now imposed a 219.63% countervailing duty on Bombardier’s new commercial jets, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Bombardier, the largest employer in Northern Ireland with a workforce of 4,100, describes the contract as “critical” to its operations.

The US International Trade Commission will now consider the case ahead of a final ruling in February.

The dispute centres on the sale of 125 C-Series airliners, the wings for which are made in Northern Ireland.

Boeing alleges that the subsidies Bombardier receives from the UK and Canadian governments mean it is launching its new C series jets below cost in the US, and so the US trade authorities should impose tariffs.

Boeing had accused its much smaller rival of “price dumping” to win a lucrative contract from the American carrier Delta. The US aerospace giant claimed each jet cost $33m (£25m) to produce, but that Bombardier had sold them for $20m (£15m) each.

Bombardier also disputes claims that support it had received from governments – £75m from the UK and $1bn (£745m) from Quebec was illegal.

Bombardier says Boeing’s position is hypocritical and absurd – hypocritical because Boeing prices its new planes very cheaply at launch, and because Boeing has received huge subsidies from the US government over the years; and absurd because Boeing is claiming to be damaged by Bombardier’s sales even though Boeing does not sell any competing planes of a similar size and has not done so for a decade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now said the Canadian air force will not buy Boeing’s Super Hornet jets from “a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.” Theresa May, in turn, has said she will raise the issue with the famously protectionist Donald Trump when she grovels to him later this week at the UN.

This case provides a classic demonstration of the stupidity of those (on both left and right), who try to make out that the EU is the major obstacle that a British government faces (or would face) if it tried to give state aid to particular industries. Both supporters of Theresa May’s “industrial strategy” and of Jeremy Corbyn’s interventionist industrial policy have suggested that, when the UK leaves the EU, it will have greater freedom to apply state aid. But in a capitalist world, state aid may still come into conflict with new trade deals if one side or the other decides that such government intervention provides a legitimate reason to impose tariffs.

Some sectors of the economy (of which aerospace is just one) have very significant government involvement almost by their nature. In such cases it may be very difficult to treat trade disputes as “purely commercial” matters. As things stand, it will be the US trade authorities that decide on the Boeing-Bombardier dispute.

In any future US-UK trade deal, would we want US and UK courts deciding these matters, or would some joint arbitration body be a better way to adjudicate? This issue places May and the Tory anti-EU fanatics in a very difficult position, given their hostility to the ECJ and (presumably) any other supranational court with national jurisdiction.

Maybe post-Brexit the little-Britainers of left and right will stop complaining about “Brussels” interfering with national governments and start complaining about “Washington”, “Geneva” … and, indeed “the rest of the world”?

  • JD acknowledges the use of information from a piece by Andrew Lilico at City A.M. in the preparation of this post.

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The Brexit hypocrisy of Labour’s ‘moderates’

September 27, 2017 at 8:23 am (democracy, Europe, labour party, left, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism, unions)

From The Clarion:

By Rick Parnet

Leading people on the right or self-styled “moderate”* wing of the Labour Party are making a fuss about Momentum, in defence of the leadership, keeping the Brexit/free movement debate off this week’s conference agenda.

It is understandable why left-wing delegates who did not want Corbyn to suffer a defeat went for this, but Momentum (and CLPD) were wrong to do it, both because the issues of Brexit and migrants’ rights are so important (and the leadership needs correcting on them) and because conference has been denied the opportunity to debate this hugely important issue (sure, with its own consent). Left-wing activists should organise to call those who made this decision to account and challenge them politically.

However, it would be foolish to think that most of the leading “moderates” are either genuinely concerned for party democracy or sincere and consistent on the issues. On both most of them display large elements of anti-Corbyn opportunism. (What I describe here largely concerns the leading people on the right, not necessarily everyone sympathetic to some of the things they say, especially on this issue.)

Dominating the conference till this year, the right specialised in keeping controversial issues it feared losing on off the agenda – and by far less democratic methods than winning a prioritisation vote. In fact, even this year, the out-going, right wing-led Conference Arrangements Committee has ruled out numerous motions – on nationalising the banks, for instance, and on stopping arms sales and military support for Saudi Arabia. It ruled out 24 of 26 emergency motions, including all 23 from CLPs – and, please note, TSSA’s emergency motion on Brexit and free movement.

Much of the left leadership’s record on democracy (for instance in Momentum) is poor, but the idea that we need lessons from those who have spent thirty years attempting to suppress every spark of independent life in the Labour Party and labour movement – and are continuing to do so, though with less and less success – is absurd.

On the substantive issues too, people on all sides have short memories.

It was only last year that the right, then much more in control of the conference, worked to keep Brexit and freedom of movement off the agenda, because it feared that delegates would vote to defend free movement! Like Momentum and CLPD this year with eg rail, last year the right championed the uncontroversial issue of child refugees – helpfully put in a different subject area by the CAC – precisely in order to stop free movement being discussed.

This was when Jeremy Corbyn was still standing tough in defence of free movement – before he gave in, after many months of right-wing and Stalinist and media pressure and with no support from Momentum as its office, directed by Jon Lansman, ignored its democratically agreed policy.

Remember the arguments during last year’s leadership election and still being made now – that Corbyn was “soft on immigration” and so couldn’t appeal to “working-class voters”. No doubt many “moderates” genuinely believe in migrants’ rights and are happy to take a more liberal position. But the idea that their leaders are consistent advocates or reliable allies in this struggle is wrong. Note that their motions for conference on the single market did not mention migrants’ rights or free movement (unlike the motions from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement). The right pitched these issues only when they wanted to appeal to people on the left.

In the coming arguments it would be absurd to rule out temporary and limited tactical alliances with people on the right of the party who are willing to stand up for free movement. But the left needs to maintain fierce independence and hostility at all times, including by exposing the right-wing leaders’ real record and motives, and to seek to take the lead in this fight.

* Apparently we are no longer allowed to say “the right” because it offends people. On one level I don’t care what we call them. But

i) Whinging about being called “the right” (which clearly means the right of the Labour Party), from people engaged in a determined campaign of name-calling, lying, cheating, bullying, expulsions, etc, is a bit rich.

ii) Their conduct is far from “moderate” and so are many of the positions they spent years defending, ie privatisation, PFI, growing inequality, “flexible labour markets”, etc – not to mention migrant-bashing – under Blair. I am proud to be “extreme left”, but what the Labour right have promoted and are still reluctant to break from is not moderate social democracy but a fairly extreme version of neo-liberalism.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply btl here at Shiraz and/or at  theclarionmag@gmail.com

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