Labour conference: Brexit and freedom of movement not to be voted on

September 25, 2017 at 1:11 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, solidarity)

By Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Momentum

Big disappointment that freedom of movement was not discussed at Party conference. Conferences should be about debating differences not only giving predictable 99 percent near universal acclamations.

All the indications are that freedom of movement would have safely won if it had been debated.

Before the priority vote, a 1,000-strong demo took place outside conference largely organised by Lib Dems and Greens. I would guess at least 20-30 percent of demonstrators were migrant workers. There are a great number on the South coast. These people and their friends are seriously concerned about the mixed messages from the Party.

I was loudly selling Clarion to the demonstrators with its free movement front cover and many articles on the Labour Campaign for Freedom of Movement. There was excitement when I told them that we might get freedom of movement debated and passed at Labour conference.

I had a great response. Demonstrators were forcing on me ten pound note contributions – that doesn’t often happen!

The lessons of Labour’s success in the recent general election is that our policies need to be simple and clear. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’.

We will see what the NEC statement says today. I fear those migrant workers will scratch their heads, if they even read it.

Labour’s needs to say clearly, as Corbyn said last year, that immigration is NOT a problem. Capitalism, exploitation are.

Solidarity with migrant workers. Fight on for freedom of movement.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? Btl comments welcome here at Shiraz and at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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Brexit bonfire of workers’ rights

September 12, 2017 at 9:36 am (Anti-Racism, campaigning, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, Migrants, posted by JD, scotland, solidarity, TUC, unions, workers)

 


Published in the Morning Star, Saturday 9th Sep 2017
As Brexit moves closer to Brexit, protecting workers’ rights must be foremost in our minds, says LARRY FLANAGAN

AS THE reality of Brexit moves ever closer, concern continues to grow within the trade union movement about the implications for employee rights.

With many of the rights and protections afforded to workers in this country deriving from EU legislation, questions arise about what will change once the UK is no longer bound by European directives.

Little comfort is gained from Tory government claims that its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will seamlessly repeal EU laws and replace them with new versions which will become incorporated into UK statute.

Recent experience of other prominent attempts to simultaneously “repeal and replace” major pieces of legislation suggests that the loss of binding EU commitments will place many aspects of employment law at risk, subject to the political whims of government.

Post-Brexit, important gains in employee rights — such as health and safety protections, rights for temporary workers and paid maternity and paternity leave — are ripe for attack by right-wing politicians.

Britain has not always been at the forefront of initiatives to improve employment protections, particularly in comparison with the rest of Europe, so it is difficult to see an emboldened political right suddenly changing tack once EU safeguards are removed.

Britain has long had some of the most obstructive anti-trade union laws in Europe, and the obstacles facing unions grew even more daunting with the Tory government’s 2016 Trade Union Reform Act.

This highly restrictive Act, disingenuously portrayed by the right as a progressive piece of reform, is a politically motivated attack on the ability of employees to campaign through their unions.

In the context of Brexit and the Westminster government’s attack on trade unions through the Trade Union Act, it is essential that unions organise and that members are fully informed and engaged in the work of their own union.

The Educational Institute of Scotland will shortly launch a ballot on the renewal of its political fund — another restrictive aspect of British trade union law that obliges all unions which wish to campaign, on any political issue, to operate a distinct fund for the purpose and to ballot on its retention every 10 years.

Given the current political climate, union campaigning is perhaps more important than at any time this century so it is vital that the EIS, and other unions, maintain this political campaigning role. One slightly unexpected positive of the government’s Trade Union Act is that it has placed a spotlight on the value of unions, led by an active membership base, in protecting employee rights.

Although the government’s intent was to weaken union effectiveness, the legislation has provided a jolt and reminded members of the importance of being active in their union.

A key issue for the movement must be the rights of people from other EU countries who have chosen to come to live and work in Britain.

These continue to be at risk as a result of Brexit, despite some attempts to assuage concerns on this issue.

It is deeply distressing that many people who have chosen to make Britain their home, and who have made a positive contribution to many aspects of society, are being treated as pawns in political posturing and Brexit-induced haggling.

The fact is that many of these workers are fulfilling vital roles in our society and in our economy, including in our public services such as health and education, and do not deserve to be treated in this way by our government and demonised as they are by many in the tabloid media.

From the perspective of Scotland, migration is essential to the future economic prosperity of the country.

This year’s Trade Union Congress provides an important forum for unions and members to work together to stand up for employee rights, and to send a message that we will continue to fight for our members in the run-up to Brexit and beyond.

  • Larry Flanagan is general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

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Patriotic, pro-Tory Morning Star obliged to publish anti-Brexit views … to keep afloat

September 10, 2017 at 8:57 pm (Anti-Racism, CPB, Europe, immigration, Migrants, nationalism, posted by JD, unions, workers)


The lineup’s changed a bit since 1975, but the Morning Star/CPB remain staunchly little-England

After having backed the Tories against Labour over Brexit, and siding with David Davis against the foreign menace, it must have come hard for the loyal, patriotic and thoroughly nationalist Morning Star (second only to the Daily Mail in anti-European fervour), to have to publish some pieces opposing Brexit.

But the Morning Star’s difficulty is that, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it depends upon the union bureaucracy to keep afloat: and that means publishing what they say, even when it goes against the patriotic stance of the Morning Star‘s political masters, the Communist Party of Britain, which hates Europe and all things European.

So, in Saturday’s Morning Star there were four pieces by union leaders (Horace Trubridge of the MU, Larry Flanagan of the EIS, Manuel Cortes of the TSSA, and Gail Cartmail of Unite), all of which oppose Brexit.

I’m sure the Morning Star won’t mind us republishing their articles, starting with Manual Cortes‘s:

If we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people, says MANUEL CORTES


BREXIT ain’t the route to socialism in one country. Still less to world revolution. Disagreements over the best option for our class has split sections of the left since the referendum was announced.

Sadly, many have been slow to get to grips with the realpolitik, continuing to rehash the 1970s anti-joining positions without much regard for how 30 years of neoliberalism have changed the balance of forces for our side.

Those who thought that the referendum outcome would be Remain weren’t the only ones who failed to anticipate the Leave vote.

Neither did Nigel Farage or the three muppeteers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox, who are committing political hara-kiri on Britain’s behalf on a daily basis.

The trouble is, if we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people.

Just like when Labour helped to prosecute the war with Iraq, we must oppose Tory Brexit because it’s “not in our name.”

Our union was resolutely in favour of remaining. Not because the EU offers any road to a socialist nirvana. But because we feared, rightly, that in Tory hands, Brexit would do more harm than good to working people.

Handing the Tories carte blanche for Brexit and subsequent trade deals is like TTIP on steroids, which ain’t good class politics. Not for ours, anyway.

From the perspective of TSSA members working on Eurostar, acquiescing to Tory plans to restrict free movement is to conspire with those in the boss class who seek to divide worker from worker by accident of birth.

Socialists shouldn’t be resurrecting borders that lock workers out of Britain or, for that matter, confine ours to our soil. Never mind one that could reignite a volatile situation in Ireland where our union organises workers from Cork to Belfast.

Looking at restricting free movement is already damaging our living standards and public services as EU citizen workers head elsewhere.

It is a sad fact that some of the people most concerned about immigration — those left behind by globalisation — are the first to be impacted by the flight of EU workers.

In less than a year the rate of EU nurses coming to work in the UK has fallen from 1,304 to just 46 this April.

The Health Foundation said there was a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone, adding that the NHS could not afford such a drop.

Last year we hosted some 85,000 seasonal workers through the autumn but now fruit is already withering on the vine and the price of homegrown produce is rising because 26,000 fewer agricultural workers are coming from eastern Europe.

Recruitment agencies report being hard-pressed to come up with half that number for this coming season.

The University and College Union is worried about the impact in education. Short-term employment contracts already make higher education a precarious employer so EU nationals, uncertain about their settlement rights, are now choosing to work elsewhere in Europe. Care homes are also in recruitment crisis and unable to access the labour force needed for our old folk.

Brexit is an economic disaster in the making as inflation is already rising and real wages are falling.

Worse is yet to come if we end up having to import even more food if there aren’t enough workers to pick and process food on our shores. And a Tory dog-eat-dog immigration policy will simply let the forces of reaction triumph. Building on the For The Many pledges in Labour’s 2017 manifesto we must continue to signal Labour’s route map to a new economic settlement which ensures noone is left behind.

Let’s put down those shameful “immigration control” mugs and refuse to let migrants be the scapegoats for the many ills we are facing.

The Tories’ “post-Brexit” plans for immigration will make our country poorer and even more divided. Wages will go further down because as the TUC has already warned, “illegal immigration” will rise, leaving more workers with no rights and no minimum wage.

Tory Brexit cheerleaders want to create a US-style labour market, where millions of so-called “illegals” toil hard to keep the biggest economy in the world motoring.

They have no rights and the fear of deportation means they can’t take on their bosses. The authorities pretend to clamp down, but in effect they turn a blind eye as the US economy will collapse without them. This is illegality by design which only benefits the bosses.

Morning Star readers know that the Tories really don’t give a monkey’s about immigration provided it gives capital a pool of cheap labour to boost their profits.

So far they have partly achieved this through deregulating our labour market. Brexit is them seizing their opportunity to create an underground economy in which workers don’t stand up to bosses because the penalty is deportation.

It’s time to call the Tories out on their intentions. Their leaked immigration policy, though a dogwhistle for xenophobes, is clearly in the economic interests of capital. Time now to stop shadow boxing and get stuck in.

The antidote to the Tories’ freemarket craziness is not restriction of free movement but an end to workers’ exploitation through labour market regulation, a living wage of at least £10 an hour and a trade union in every workplace.

The Tories seek to divide us. Our job is to create unity and build on Marx’s original vision of a world without borders where workers of all lands unite!

  • Manuel Cortes is general secretary of transport union TSSA.

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Open letter to the deluded pro-Brexit “left”

September 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, CPB, Europe, ex-SWP, Human rights, immigration, Jim D, left, Migrants, populism, Racism, rights, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, Tory scum)

p46 - Potential measures
Above: the leaked Tory plans

Open letter to the deluded pro-Brexit “left”

Yes, I mean you lot at the Morning Star/CPB, SWP, Counterfire and Socialist Party:

I take it for granted that as self-proclaimed leftists, you are knee-jerk anti-racists and internationalists opposed to anything that tends to divide, rather than unite, our class.

And yet you called for a Leave vote in the referendum, and continue to back Brexit! In the case of the Morning Star/CPB, you oppose continued membership of the single market and customs union – in other words you want a “hard” Brexit!

To its shame, the Morning Star continues with this folly, publishing Daily Mail-style editorials that more or less explicitly back David Davis against the “intransigent” Michel Barnier and the “EU bosses in Brussels, Bonn and Frankfurt.”

Some of us tried to warn you about the Pandora’s box of xenophobia and racism that you were opening. Yet even when the Leave vote was immediately followed by a sharp increase in racist attacks and incidents (in fact, hate crime in general, such as attacks on gays), you wilfully closed your eyes and stuffed your ears, mouthing shameful banalities and evasions like “there was racism on both sides” and “racism didn’t begin on June 23rd.”

Well, yesterday we caught a glimpse of what the Tories have planned for EU citizens in Britain, or coming to Britain.

The plans are not yet official government policy, but all the signs are that they soon will be. The leaked document is explicit about ending a rights based approach. EU citizens arriving after Brexit would have to show passports, not ID cards; they would have to apply for short term two year visas for low skilled jobs; they would be prevented from bringing over extended family members and be subject to an income threshold (£18,600 per year) even to bring a spouse.

Employers, landlords, banks and others would have to carry out checks on paper-work. The hostility towards immigrants Theresa May deliberately stirred up as Home Secretary would intensify, and rub off on all “foreigners” and ethnic minorities, whether from the EU or not. British-born people of colour would inevitably find it more difficult to obtain work and accommodation.

As immigration lawyer  Colin Yeo  has commented: ‘The first and most obvious [result] is that the plans would make the UK a far less attractive destination for migrants. This is of course the whole point. The Home Office is protectionist by nature and worries only about security. The economy, consequent tax take, international relations and “soft power” international standing are considered worth the sacrifice. But what would happen to the sectors of the economy dependent on migrant labour, such as agriculture, food processing and hospitality? Are the public ready for a huge recession, massive job losses and reduced funding for public services and infrastructure?’

Andrew Coates, who knows a thing or two about France, has noted that ‘the scheme is a policy of National Preference, close to the demand of the far-right Front National, for jobs to go to first of all to UK Nationals.’

Deluded comrades: how are you now going to explain yourselves and your craven role as foot soldiers for the carnival of reaction that is Brexit? Your original  arguments and justifications for your pro-Leave stance during the referendum varied from the bizarre (after Farage and Johnson – us!) through the deluded (vote Leave to oppose racism!) to the frankly egregious (immigration controls are a form of closed shop!).

There was only ever one argument in favour of Brexit that made any sense from a socialist perspective: that EU membership would prevent a left wing government from implementing nationalisations and other forms of state intervention into the economy.

This urban myth has been perpetuated by left-reformist anti-Europeans and by Tory anti-interventionists for the last forty years.

But it’s wrong, at least according Article 345 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU of 1958, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’ This Article remains in force and makes a nonsense of the claim that existing EU legislation prohibits the kind of nationalisation, or other economic intervention, being advocated by Jeremy Corbyn.

But even if it did, is anyone seriously suggesting that if Corbyn gets elected on a manifesto that includes public ownership, he would not be able to implement it if we remained in the EU? Nonsense. As the pro-Brexit right continually reminded us during the referendum campaign, Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world, and (unlike Greece) would have little difficulty in forcing the EU to accept a Corbyn government’s right to introduce such relatively minor reforms as taking key industries and services into public ownership. Anyone who’s ever taken a train in France or Germany knows this.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right and I’m wrong: what is the benefit for a social democratic Corbyn-style government, of voluntarily leaving the EU, rather than pushing ahead with its programme regardless, and (in effect) daring the EU to kick the UK out? That’s a question I’ve asked many times in debates with you lot, and to which I have never received a coherent reply.

As the reactionary, anti-working class and essentially racist nature of Brexit becomes more and more obvious, I cannot believe that anyone who calls themselves a socialist, is not appalled. It’s probably too much to ask the self-absorbed, self-deluded, ultra-sectarian groups that comprise the pro-Brexit “left” to simply admit that you’ve got it wrong, and reverse your disastrous policy on EU membership. That kind of intellectual honesty is not part of your culture. But I think internationalists and anti-racists do have the right to demand that you make it clear that you support free movement, oppose a “hard” Brexit and support the maximum possible degree of co-operation and integration between British and European people (and, in particular, workers via their organisations) in or out of the EU.

Is that too much to ask, comrades?

JD

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The nasty taste of Brexit Britain

August 24, 2017 at 11:14 am (Civil liberties, Europe, Guardian, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, labour party, posted by JD, Racism, Tory scum)

From todays Guardian:

EU nationals deportation letters an ‘unfortunate error’, says May

By Mattha Busby

Theresa May admitted the Home Office made an “unfortunate error” when it mistakenly sent up to 100 letters to EU nationals living in the UK ordering them to leave the country or face deportation.

The prime minister was forced into the statement after it emerged that a Finnish academic working in London had highlighted the warning letter she had received, which told her to leave the UK or risk being detained.

Although Eva Johanna Holmberg has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade, the correspondence from the Home Office said that if she did not leave the country of her own accord the department would give “directions for [her] removal”. It added that she was “a person liable to be detained under the Immigration Act”.

Holmberg, a visiting academic fellow from the University of Helsinki at Queen Mary University of London, was told that she had a month to leave, a demand that left her baffled. “It seems so surreal and absurd that I should be deported on the grounds that I’m not legal. I’ve been coming and going to this country for as long as I remember,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of image they have of me but it’s clearly quite sinister based on the small amount of info they actually have on me.”

Her story was rapidly picked up on social media, but after the Guardian asked the Home Office for clarification of her situation the department immediately backtracked and said the letter had been sent by mistake.
(Read the full article here; read what Coatesy says here)

… all of which just goes to confirm that this comrade’s concerns are fully justified:

A Labour Party that merits migrants’ support

By Anke Plummer (NHS worker and Unison member) in the Clarion

I am an EU immigrant who has lived in the UK for the last 27 years. Having met a British guy (now my husband) during my gap year in 85/86, I had returned to my native Germany to complete my training there. I returned in 1990, newly qualified. I applied for three jobs, had three job offers and have been in employment ever since.

It takes a while to become familiar with a new country and a new culture, and to feel fully at home, but I have always felt part of British life and British people. Britain seemed so diverse and multi- cultural, tolerant and vibrant compared to the Germany I remembered from my childhood. I never really felt different or “foreign”, but instead felt that I belonged.

One disadvantage of being an EU citizen was not being able to vote in general elections (or certain referendums), but that did not seem to matter much.
We had two children and, due to circumstances, my husband stayed at home with them and I continued to work and be the breadwinner. We have lived in our town for 20 years and are very much part of the community.

All that changed with the EU referendum last year. From one day to the next I was no longer simply part of the great collective that makes up British society, but I had become a foreigner, an outsider, somebody who – somehow – was part of the problems that ail this country. Comments like “the country is full” and “immigrants put a strain on our services” are easily heard in conversation.

Now, I am used to anti-immigration rhetoric from the right-wing press and right-wing parties, but more recently that rhetoric seems to be seeping into Labour’s language too.
 I understand that Labour’s position would be to unilaterally guarantee full rights to EU citizens who are already settled in this country, and of course I welcome that position. However, there is also increasing talk about EU citizens being a threat to British workers, and that immigration should be curbed to only allow in those immigrants who are of benefit to the British economy.

Whichever way I try to look at it, that makes us second class citizens, commodities even, which are useful to bolster British economy when necessary, but can be rejected when no longer needed. Jeremy Corbyn was recently asked by Andrew Marr what would happen to (for example) Polish plumbers, if they were no longer required. Would they be sent back to Poland? Corbyn was careful to avoid answering that question.

The warm and welcoming Britain I fell in love with (well, after my husband, that is) seems to be disappearing. If I am only welcome because of my economic value, I am not welcome at all. I am simply viewed as a resource, not a human being. Now I feel that I have to justify my existence here by being able to demonstrate my economic worth. Speak to other immigrants, and you will probably very soon hear them say something like “I have been here for X number of years and I have always worked”. The perception that immigrants come to take from Britain and not give anything back, has filtered deep into the psyche of the nation, so we feel the need to demonstrate that we are different!

If I had stayed at home with my children instead of my husband, my economic value in the eyes of the government and politicians would be much reduced. If my industry no longer needed workers (not likely any time soon – I work for the NHS!), would I still be welcome to stay?

Friends are quick to tell me that “I will be OK” and “surely I will be allowed to stay”, but well-meaning as they are, they really miss the point. “Being allowed to stay” is really a far cry from feeling a fully welcome and accepted member of society. Being left with uncertainty and anxiety about your future in the country you have invested your entire adult years in and which you have made your home, is cruel and shows a disregard by the government for the people it claims are “valuable members of society who contribute much to British life”.

Britain no longer feels like a safe place where I belong and which I can call my home. It still is the place where I have chosen to live, yes, but for the first time in 27 years we are entertaining the idea of leaving.

Having been a Labour voter (in local elections) for 27 years and having become a Labour member following the 2015 election, I am urging Labour, and its supporters – including the Corbyn left – to keep on the straight and narrow during these turbulent times and to not stray down the path of appeasing anti-immigrant sentiments – even when they are dressed up in left-wing sounding language about protecting workers in Britain. I am watching Corbyn backtrack on this issue with some concern – I hope my continued support for Labour and Corbyn will not be in vain.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

* The Labour Campaign For Free Movement

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No excuses for Sarah Champion

August 17, 2017 at 6:46 pm (child abuse, Europe, immigration, Islam, Jim D, labour party, misogyny, Murdoch, Racism)

Trevor Kavanagh’s column quoted Champion approvingly

Sarah Champion would not have been wrong to have raised the question of the likely connection between sexual abusers’ cultural (not racial, or even religious) backgrounds and their attitudes towards women and girls. Others have done this without making any concessions to racism. What she was – unforgivably – wrong to have done, was to have written about such a sensitive matter in the Sun, a rag with a long and well-known record of taking a (shall we say) cavalier attitude to racism.

Indeed, all this could well have been a set-up by the Sun. They wrote the headline and quite possibly the line which made it specific about “white girls”. Champion’s office had the Sun‘s final version of the article before it was published, and, of course, she could have objected to this but either didn’t bother checking it or (more likely) was flattered to be published and thought it would raise her profile.

Even so the outcry, at first, was not that great. It looked like Champion was going to survive it. According to today’s Guardian, “the Labour leader’s office appeared to back Champion until yesterday lunchtime, when positive emails from her office to the Sun in the aftermath of her article’s publication were highlighted by the newspaper.”  By and large Corbyn supporters online had been quiet about the issue. Even the SWP were not really kicking off about it.

What did for Champion was Trevor Kavanagh’s shamelessly racist pro-Brexit article that quoted Champion approvingly. It used language that echoed Nazi stuff about the ‘Jewish Problem’, and thanked Champion (and Trevor Phillips) for “making it acceptable to say Muslims are a specific rather than a cultural problem.”

The article closed with a sinister rhetorical question:

One day soon, if Philip Hammond and Liam Fox are right, we will be back in charge of immigration.

What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?

Not surprisingly this caused outrage and the Corbyn team, quite rightly, wanted to respond but Sarah Champion’s article was the elephant in the room, inhibiting the Labour leadership from making an immediate, outspoken response.

All the evidence (including her own record as shadow equalities minister) suggests she’s an idiot rather than a racist. But that’s no excuse. She had to go.

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Labour should defend the single market – and free movement

July 13, 2017 at 7:57 pm (Anti-Racism, capitulation, Europe, immigration, internationalism, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism)

Anna Soubry David Cameron Meets Ministers To Discuss Steel Crisis
Anna Soubry: to the left of Corbyn on this (Getty Images)

By Sacha Ismail (of Workers Liberty):

As the UK-EU negotiations on Brexit begin, the political landscape in Britain is in flux. The general election result was widely interpreted as a riposte to the Tories’ push for a hard Brexit. Now senior Tory critics of a hard Brexit, and indeed of Brexit per se, are becoming bolder.

Some, for instance Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry, even advocate the maintenance of free movement from the EU. More senior Tories have hinted at that too. Meanwhile polls suggest public opinion is shifting. A new YouGov/Times poll says that 58 per cent of people believe that trading with the EU is a higher priority than controlling EU immigration. More voters now believe Britain was wrong to vote to leave than right: 45 to 44%. A Survation poll found that 55% favoured a “soft Brexit” with the UK remaining in the EU single market and customs union, while only 35% favoured a “hard Brexit”. Survation found that 48% favour a referendum on the final Brexit deal, while only 43% are opposed!

All this is despite a lack of leadership from the Labour Party. Labour generally criticises the Tories from the left, i.e. from a more anti-Brexit position. It has rightly denounced the government’s concessions on the right of EU citizens to stay in Britain as “too little” — because as the campaign Another Europe is Possible and numerous migrants’ rights groups have explained, the offer is hedged round with all kinds of very bad limits. It’s “too late” because it should have been done a year ago, when Labour proposed it. More generally, however, Labour’s position is as clear as mud. With one, decisive exception: senior Labour spokespeople are very clear that they support an end to free movement from the EU. In other words, the position they have tied themselves to is to the right of that taken by Anna Soubry.

Labour’s stance has no doubt been given encouragement by the Stalinist-origin types in Corbyn’s office who think that leaving the EU is a win for “fighting the monopolies” or whatever. But its origin is with the Labour right. As late as November 2016, Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror that Labour would vote in Parliament against triggering “Article 50” unless the government agreed to a “Brexit bottom line” that included staying in the single market — and thus accepting continued free movement. Then Tom Watson, who combines right-wing, Stalinist and pseudo pro-working class strands in his politics, intervened to say that Labour would put down amendments but vote for Article 50 regardless. Corbyn eventually deferred to Watson.

Corbyn did not publicly endorse ending free movement until well into 2017, and then he did it in such an unclear way it looked very much like he was unhappy about it. Yet that then became Labour’s policy in the election. The leaders of the organised Labour left played a poor and even harmful role here. During the many months before and even after the referendum when Corbyn was holding the line on free movement, Momentum never once stated its support for this principle, let alone campaign to back Corbyn up. This was despite Momentum committees repeatedly taking a stand in favour of free movement, most recently in December 2016, when a motion on it passed with only a few votes against. Not long after the 23 June referendum, Momentum leader Jon Lansman made it clear that he favoured the left advocating an end to free movement.

Did he stay quiet on the Momentum National Committee because he thought that position would lead to a breach with his allies, many of them young and enthusiastic about migrants’ rights? Whatever the backroom manoeuvring was, Momentum never carried its democratic mandate on this, even while that was in line with Corbyn. Labour Party members or their representatives have never been given a chance to vote on this issue. At last year’s Labour Party conference, no motions were submitted advocating an end to free movement – but motions were submitted opposing it, including from the national Young Labour committee and CLPs including Norwich South, Clive Lewis’ constituency. These motions originated with socialist activists on the left of Momentum.

Unfortunately these motions were not prioritised for debate and the Labour right successfully counterposed the issue of refugee rights (which it seemed less keen on during the Blair years!) to having a discussion on free movement. The bulk of Labour members are very likely in favour of defending (and extending) free movement, and certainly vast majority of left-wing activists are. Yet this has not found expression in the hierarchy or public position of the party. Supporters of the hard right Progress group, which is making such a big deal of fighting a hard Brexit, like to say it will be possible to retain close ties to the EU while also limiting immigration. If the labour movement stands up and fights it can shift things further.

It is time to stop the retreat — starting on the left. Labour and trade union activists should unapologetically argue: 1. That leaving the single market will make workers in Britain “poorer and less secure”. We should oppose it. Like it or not, remaining in the single market means accepting free movement of labour from the EU. 2. That, in any case, people coming to Britain is not a problem. The labour movement should reject the right-wing idea that it is, and champion unity of all workers to win better conditions and rights for all.

We need an organised campaign to make these arguments, shift Labour’s position and finally make the labour movement a positive rather than a negative factor in the shifting patterns of the UK-EU negotiations.

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Reassessing Corbynism: success, contradictions and a difficult path ahead

June 21, 2017 at 7:35 am (class, conspiracy theories, democracy, economics, elections, Europe, immigration, labour party, left)

A worthwhile (and generally leftist) critique from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI):

Corbyn’s success in building an alliance that extends from Greens to UKIP voters only postpones the moment of Labour’s reckoning with Brexit

By Matt Bolton, Doctoral Researcher, University of Roehampton

The trickle of mea culpas from the rapidly diminishing band of Corbyn-sceptics following the election result has now turned into a flood, and not without cause.  Once widely-held truisms – Corbynism is a ‘movement’ more clicktivist than canvasser, Corbyn himself is electorally toxic, Labour face a 1931-style demolition and the collapse of its Parliamentary presence – have been shown to be categorically wrong.  Corbyn ran an energetic, positive, smart campaign, founded on an unashamedly tax-and-spend manifesto.  The quick-witted air war was backed up online and through unprecedented numbers of volunteers taking to the streets to engage potential Labour voters and getting them to turn out on polling day.  Such mass activism had long been promised by Corbyn’s most vocal supporters, but aside from his own leadership campaigns, had been in sparse evidence on the ground.  But there is no doubt that when it came to the crunch, Corbynism cashed its activist cheques.  This level of enthusiastic political engagement would simply not have taken place with another leader – although the suspicion persists that a lot of the urgency was the product of retrospective regret on behalf of younger Remainers that they had not done the same (or perhaps even voted) during the EU referendum.

The election result also clearly demonstrates that Corbynism has not destroyed the party’s parliamentary presence.  Labour has made some promising gains, particularly in England, and as Paul Mason notes, seem to have somehow picked up votes both from the liberal and green metropolitan left, and a decent sized portion of the former UKIP vote.  This was undoubtedly a remarkable and wholly unexpected achievement, one which few in the top echelons of either party thought possible up until the moment of the exit poll.  But while Labour are rightly still celebrating a welcome electoral step forward, not to mention capitalising on the total collapse of Theresa May’s authority as Prime Minister, unpicking the reasons why Corbyn was able to bring this unlikely electoral coalition together reveals that many of the criticisms levelled at the Corbyn project continue to hold.  Indeed, in some ways this election has merely postponed a true reckoning with the contradictions and regressive tendencies that run through the Corbynist worldview.  In particular, Corbyn’s success postpones once again the moment of reckoning at which the left finally recognises that the acceptance of Brexit and the end of free movement constitutes a fundamental, generational defeat, one for which gains in the House of Commons, however welcome, are scant recompense.  With this in mind, then, this article is not yet another mea culpa.  It is rather an attempt to take stock of what has changed and what has not, in the form of some first thoughts on how this election result – and in particular Corbyn’s Green-UKIP alliance – was possible.

This was the first post-deficit election

Direct comparisons with previous elections (whether on seats or vote share) are misleading.  Each election takes place in an entirely different context, which shapes what can and cannot be said within the campaign, and what is regarded (rightly or wrongly) as ‘credible’.  Much of the day to day grind of politics consists of the battle to shape that context (as can be seen with the struggle  over the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ interpretation of the referendum result, a battle which until Thursday night at least, May seemed to have comprehensively won).  The 2015 election was dominated by discussion of the deficit and debt.  The endless repetitions of how the Tories were still ‘clearing up Labour’s mess’ trapped Ed Miliband in political-economic territory from which he could never win  –  every word from his mouth was framed by the context of how Labour’s supposed overspending had led to the crash and the ‘deficit’.  This frame has, incredibly, now virtually disappeared. Labour were careful to cost their manifesto nonetheless – demonstrating that the difference between their position and Miliband’s cannot be explained by mere hard left ‘will power’ – and the Tories failure to bother doing the same, lazily assuming the line from 2015 still held sway, left any attacks they made on Labour’s spending plans seem hollow and hypocritical.  But it was the combination of austerity finally starting to bite the lower middle classes in a way it hadn’t in 2015 (school cuts and the NHS winter crisis cut through in a huge way) and Brexit that really wiped the economic slate clean.  The Leave promises of an extra £350m a week for the NHS, regardless of their veracity, put public spending for services back on the ‘credible’ electoral playing field in a way that we have not seen since 2005.  Add in May’s own desire to boost infrastructure spending, and Corbyn and McDonnell had the space to make spending commitments that were just not available to Miliband.  They made the most of it.

The left’s instinctive trust in Corbyn allows him to successfully triangulate

The idea that Corbyn is a truly authentic man who has stuck to his principles through thick and thin is prevalent even amongst his fiercest critics.  It is also his greatest weapon when it comes to keeping the left (and the youth vote) onside while in reality triangulating as ably –  if not more so –  as any Blairite.  Labour’s policy on immigration in this election was well to the right of the 2015 manifesto.  Miliband was pilloried by the left for proposing ‘controls on immigration’, which slogans on mugs aside, amounted to a two year ban on EU migrants receiving benefits.  Corbyn’s manifesto went even further than May herself by pledging to end free movement of people from the EU come what may in the Brexit negotiations.  While the effect of this was to almost entirely drain the ‘immigration debate’ from the election in a way unimaginable even six months ago, this was only due to the total capitulation of both Corbyn and the broader left on the issue.  The immigration policy in Labour’s 2017 manifesto was more extreme in concrete terms than what most of the Leave side were proposing in the referendum -  in essence assuring full withdrawal from the single market, whatever the consequences -  and yet Corbyn’s supporters on the left accepted it because they refuse to believe that Corbyn himself, as a man of principle, can really mean it.  While every word Miliband (or indeed virtually anyone else who is not Corbyn) is treated with suspicion, despite the pro-single market arguments of the contemporary Blair being inherently far less punitive on immigration than Corbyn’s position, Corbyn is given the benefit of the doubt every time, even when the policy is written down in black and white.  This is triangulation of the highest order, enabling Labour to appeal to hardline anti-migrant UKIP voters while also keeping the trust of the ‘cosmopolitan’ urban left.  It is doubtful any other Labour leader would have been capable of achieving this.  Yet the faith in Corbyn’s supposedly unshakeable core beliefs is such that his party’s policies on immigration barely register amongst people who would be incandescent with rage if another Labour leader even vaguely gestured towards them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Corbyn on foreign policy: the pros and cons

May 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Clive Bradley, Human rights, immigration, imperialism, internationalism, iraq war, labour party, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)


Above: Corbyn’s speech today

This piece was written by Clive before Corbyn’s speech today (26/05/2017) on foreign policy. In this speech, Corbyn – whilst making it clear that the terrorist perpetrators are the ones guilty of the acts they perpetrate – seemed to reiterate the simplisticblow-back” view of foreign policy held by his friends in the pro-Taliban/Putin/Assad Stop The War Coalition. Clive – characteristically – is scrupulously fair to Corbyn: I, personally, think he’s too fair:

The limits of Labour’s multilateralism

By Clive Bradley

There has been some recent media attention on Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged past links to the IRA and the claim that he is a “pacifist” — meaning, he is opposed to any and every kind of military intervention, even around “humanitarian” issues.

Corbyn does have a record of support for the Republican movement in Ireland (that is, not the IRA as such, but the nationalists fighting for a united Ireland), and he was long involved with the Stop the War Coalition, which did indeed oppose — sometimes, in Workers’ Liberty’s view, with terrible arguments — the major military interventions involving Britain since the Iraq war (Libya; Syria); the key forces within it including Corbyn, also opposed intervention in Kosova.

But in both cases, while Corbyn’s own politics are influenced by a left-wing tradition of political “softness” towards noxious movements simply because they are at odds with “the West”, his record is probably more concretely connected to a desire to resolve conflicts through negotiation and diplomacy. (This is true, I think, even of his more controversial statements about, for instance, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement). And this commitment to diplomatic solutions comes top of the Labour manifesto promises on foreign policy. “We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis,” it states, boldly.

Referring to “ongoing wars across the Middle East, unprecedented numbers of refugees, global terrorism, climate change, the threat of nuclear conflict, a devastating food crisis across East Africa and beyond, an erratic US administration and a more combative government in Russia…” it insists that: “We [must] exhaust diplomatic solutions alongside international, regional and local partners within the framework of international law.”

Though describing the Trump administration as “erratic” seems a bit of an understatement, here Labour is at least prepared to call into question a “special relationship” that previous Labour governments (Blair, obviously, but going back long before that) have embraced. The statement goes on: “When [Trump] chooses to ignore [our shared values] whether by discriminating on the basis of religion or breaking its climate change commitments, we will not be afraid to disagree.”

On one key conflict, Syria, Labour promises to “work tirelessly to end the conflict and get the diplomatic process back on track” — which is implicitly critical of recent military actions. It is unclear what this implies regarding the ongoing, less high-profile Western military involvement in the Syrian conflict. And Corbyn personally does not have the best record on denouncing Syria’s murderous president Assad. But as far as it goes, Labour’s policy is unobjectionable. “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution — a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.” This for sure is the only basis upon which peace can be
achieved.

The Party also promises to address other conflicts — it mentions “Kashmir, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.” Indeed on Yemen — where the Tory government has backed a brutal Saudi-led war, Labour demands “a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of [human rights] in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.” This would be a welcome change indeed in British foreign policy. A more comprehensive look at arms sales in general would have been more welcome still.

Many such conflicts pose sharply perhaps the most vital issue facing Europe and the Western world — the refugee crisis, which is driven by wars and poverty and shows no sign of abating. On this, Labour is vague: “In the first 100 days of government, we will produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis.” That is an improvement on the Tories’ utterly lamentable record.

The commitment to “conflict resolution”, if it led to anything in practice, would be a part of any meaningful solution to the crisis. But only part. Immigration is at the heart of the political debate. The issue was clearly central in fact to the Brexit vote. It is the issue which, above all others, the Corbyn leadership finds it hardest to challenge mainstream prejudices. On one level this is hardly surprising — given the toxic stream of anti-immigrant propaganda delivered daily by so much of the media (the Daily Mail being an obvious example). If Labour took an unequivocal line supporting free movement it would be savagely attacked in the press — and many of its core voters, those who voted for Brexit and so forth, would prove hard to win over in the short term (certainly before the election).

While Labour this time certainly avoids the idiotic pandering to these prejudices which marked the Miliband campaign in 2015, still it is backtracking from earlier, stronger statements. Labour is, of course, better than May’s Tories. But a general sense of good-will towards immigrants and migrants, and promises to “meet obligations”, do not equal a policy.

And on defence policy, Labour’s current commitments are a very long way to the right of what might be expected from the Corbyn team. Labour will support Trident. More: “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk, shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars”.

Labour, by contrast, commits “to spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence [to] guarantee that our Armed Forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of [their] obligations.” No doubt this reflects compromises with Labour’s pro-NATO right wing.

There is certainly much to support in Labour’s manifesto commitments on foreign policy, but the broad sweep of it is pretty “mainstream” — multilateralist, favouring diplomacy over armed intervention, with some commitments to the rights of immigrants (whether from EU countries or refugees), but nothing hugely specific, and nothing which could be construed as particularly radical. It is, nonetheless, for sure, a step forward in comparison to the Blair years.

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The Socialist Party’s “wretched concession” to nationalism

April 27, 2017 at 9:16 pm (AWL, Europe, identity politics, immigration, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reformism, Socialist Party, trotskyism)

Image result for picture Lindsey oil refinery strike
Above: the 2009 Lindsey oil refinery strike

NB: this article is from the AWL: anyone from the Socialist Party is welcome to send us a reply, which will be published on this site.

By Ira Berkovic

At best, Hannah Sell’s article “Brexit and the left” (Socialism Today, the magazine of the Socialist Party, Issue 207, April 2017) is a series of platitudinous banalities. At worst, it is a wretched concession to nationalism.

In a rare direct polemic against other group on the left (the Socialist Party prefer to plough their own sectarian furrow, acknowledging the existence of other tendencies only occasionally), Sell makes a number of claims about Workers’ Liberty which range from the distorted to the straightforwardly untrue. She accuses us of “having consistently argued that the EU is progressive”. This is not our position.

The institutional infrastructure of the European Union, like all capitalist institutions, is a class instrument, constructed to enforce the rule of capital. But the continental integration it brings with it provides a higher platform for working-class solidarity and united struggle than the hard right’s alternative — a Europe of competing national-capitalist blocs, walled off behind high trade barriers and intensive immigration controls. That was the choice on offer in the 23 June referendum; that is why Workers’ Liberty was for “remain”.

She next accuses us of having “no concept of the limits to capitalism’s ability to overcome the barrier of the nation state”. In fact, we have repeatedly cautioned against the view that capitalism has bypassed the nation state entirely, echoing the arguments of Ellen Meiksins Wood and others. Rather, nation states themselves “globalise” by making themselves attractive sites for international investment, and plugging into interconnected world markets. This globalising logic creates objective, material basis for a greater degree of working-class unity than “national” working classes struggling solely against “their own” ruling class, behind barriers and borders.

Sell scoffs at the idea that capitalism might “carry through the task of the unification of Europe and that this would be ‘progressive”, apparently impervious to the reality of the degree of European integration and unification capitalism has already achieved. To repeat: the existence of a single market, and the erosion of borders throughout substantial parts of Europe, provide an objectively higher, better, basis for working-class unity than the vision preferred by the right, and apparently by the Socialist Party, of rigidly delineated national-capitalist blocs. For that process to be reversed under pressure from economic nationalism and xenophobic “sovereignism” — currently the only meaningfully hegemonic forces behind the drive to break up the EU —would certainly not be “progressive”. The article finishes by repeating the Socialist Party’s wretched position on immigration – that is, an unquestioning acceptance of the idea, which does not survive contact with evidence, that migrant labour straightforwardly depresses pay and conditions for domestic labour, and that the solution to this is to apply controls at the border.

Migrant workers are as much part of our class as British workers. Our politics must be as much for them as for British workers. We must defend their rights – their rights to migrate freely and safely, free from the violence of border controls, and their right to legally seek work – as vociferously as we defend the wages, terms, and conditions of domestic labour. To adopt any other position necessarily implied that the rights of British workers come first, simply by dint of the fact that they are British. There is no other word for this but “nationalism”.

Sell’s article says that “the only way to push back is for a united struggle of all workers”. Quite so. But in the context of what is essentially a polemic against a policy of free movement, and for restrictions on immigration, it is plain that, for the Socialist Party, “united struggle” is not the “only way to push back”; they also favour legislative mechanisms to restrict immigration. Sell cites the 2009 Lindsey oil refinery strike, where workers protested at bosses’ use of Italian migrant labour on terms that undermined collectively-negotiated agreements, as an example of the kind of struggle necessary.

That strike began as a strike demanding “British jobs for British workers”. Undoubtedly the Socialist Party comrade involved did play an important role in shifting the dispute away from such racist slogans and onto politically healthier terrain. But those who, while supporting the Lindsey workers’ fight for national agreements to be respected, sounded a note of caution about the risk of viewing migrant workers as the enemy, were right to do so.

Sell quotes Giorgio Cremaschi, leader of the Italian union Fiom, supporting the strike, but none of the Italian migrant workers themselves. Migrant workers’ agency is missing from the Socialist Party’s picture; the implication is that “united struggle” in fact means struggles by British workers against the way migrant labour is “used”. The fact remains that the Lindsey scenario is rare. There, a unionised domestic workforce, with collectively-negotiated national agreements, saw their employer physically bus in migrant workers and employ them on terms outside the existing agreements. This is not the basis on which any significant proportion of migrant labour comes to Britain – or, to use the Socialist Party’s schema in which migrants are passive instruments of neo-liberalism with no agency of their own, “is brought”.

Ending free movement, which is the Socialist Party’s policy, would not do anything to meaningfully protect trade union agreements. It would, however, significantly disadvantage working-class people from EU countries attempting to move to make a better life for themselves and their families. The Socialist Party give their pro-immigration controls position a labour-movement gloss by claiming that the “control” they favour is a kind of (presumably state-enforced) closed shop, whereby employers wishing to “recruit abroad” must be “covered by a proper trade union agreement or by sectoral collective bargaining”.

But the vast majority of migrant labour does not consist of workers directly “recruited abroad”, but of workers who come to Britain, sometimes as a result of acute poverty and lack of opportunity in their countries of origin, looking for work. Does the Socialist Party propose to have border police checking union cards at Dover? Should we expect to see Socialist Party delegates at Britain’s airports and docks, telling migrant workers – the very people who, in previous generations, helped lay the foundations for our modern labour movement – that employers will use them to undercut British workers, and that the class conscious thing to do would be to get back on the plane or boat and go home?

All workers – local and migrant – should be “covered by a proper trade union agreement or by sectoral collective bargaining”, but this will be imposed on employers through class struggle. To propose it as policy we want the existing state, with its Tory administration, to adopt as a fix for a perceived immigration “problem” is a political contortion undertaken by a tendency visibly uncomfortable with the implications of its own perspective.

The Socialist Party should take some responsibility for the logic of its position. Be honest! Just say it, comrades: you think immigration depresses pay and conditions for domestic workers, and to solve this problem, you think there should be less immigration. That is the substance of your view. No amount of gloss, nor any amount of reassurances that you do not consider migrant workers to be at “fault”, as Sell puts it in the article, change that fundamental fact.

Workers’ Liberty takes a different view. Our view is that no human being should be “illegal”. Our view is that the right to move freely, including to move between states, is a fundamental human right, and that restrictions on that right cannot be imposed except by state violence. Have employers sometimes attempted to “use” migrant labour to lower their costs? Of course — just as some employers historically exploited the entry of women into the workforce to drive down wages by paying them less than men. In proposing restrictions on immigration, however packaged and presented, the Socialist Party echo the Lassallean socialists of the 19th century who opposed women’s entry into the workforce on the basis that they would be “used” to undercut existing, male, workers’ wages.

The free movement that exists between EU member states should be extended, not restricted. Bosses’ use of migrant labour to undercut local labour should be met with common struggle and demands for levelling up, not calls to end free movement. By arguing that the rights of British workers can be protected by restricting the rights of migrant workers, the Socialist Party give ground to nationalism.

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