Whatever Trump now says, fascists like Bannon and Gorka still hold sway in the White House

August 15, 2017 at 1:47 pm (anti-semitism, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, profiteers, Racism, Trump, wankers)

Anyone foolish enough to be impressed by Trump’s belated condemnation of the far right, should remember that he still employs people who can  accurately be described as fascists: Bannon, Gorka and the slightly less high-profile Miller. Then, of course, there’s his own long record of blatant, crude racism.

This excellent discussion, concentrating on the sinister Gorker, is well worth putting 15 minutes aside to watch:

Permalink 2 Comments

The “erratic and chaotic” Trump administration

August 13, 2017 at 7:24 pm (identity politics, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Russia, strange situations, Trump, United States)

 Martin Rowson 05.08.2017 Illustration: Martin Rowson (The Guardian)

Martin Thomas spoke to Andrew Gamble about the character of the Trump government. Andrew Gamble is a Professor in Politics at the University of Sheffield and the author of many books on political economy. [The interview was recorded at the end of July, before the North Korea crisis blew up, and also appears on the Workers Liberty website]

MT: Since the 1940s the world markets have been structured by a series of institutions: the WTO, the IMF, the G20, the G7, NATO. The USA has been central to all of these. Is Trump going to blow them up?

AG: He hasn’t been tested by a major international crisis yet, but almost certainly there’ll be one during his presidency. How he will react is unclear: how much he will be guided by people like Mattis and McMaster and how much he’ll do something unpredictable. There is a risk it could be the latter. While he hasn’t done much that’s very radical yet, he has certainly disoriented the complex web of international alliances that the US has put so much store by over the last 70 years. He has upset Australia and Germany: very long-standing allies. He has given comfort to Russia and some other states which are normally not close to the US at all. This has been very unsettling for lots of other states. The likelihood is that that’s going to continue because of the erratic and chaotic way the Trump administration works.

MT: The Economist (26/1/17) commented that Trump was bringing to political dealing his approach from business bombast and brokering: “he aims high, pushes and pushes, but then settles for less than he originally sought”. But, as the Economist comments, “dealing with countries is a higher-stakes game than bargaining over Manhattan building plots”.

AG: I think it is partly that. He clearly had so little actual political experience. His business background was fairly low-level – real estate – he wasn’t CEO of a major international company or anything like that. Tillerson is a different category of a businessperson from Trump. Trump’s experience was as a reality TV host. That too has coloured how he has approached things. He approaches relations with other leaders with an eye on how it’s going to play with his base and how he can make himself look good. He uses bluff and does outrageous things partly in the belief that this will enhance his ability to do deals. This is in itself a very unsettling way of conducting relations.

In the first six months he sent out more than a thousand tweets. These things are superficial in one way, but they betoken a style which is deeply unsettling: the fact that he is prepared to put things into tweets which normally, in previous presidencies, would have been private communications, the fact that he’s prepared to go public. I had wondered whether his behaviour might start to change as he learnt more about what the US Presidency was like. But it seems at the moment that this doesn’t seem to be happening. Every time his behaviour has become a bit more normal it has been followed by reverting to some of his old techniques and habits. I conclude that he probably isn’t going to learn very much and what we’ve seen in the first six months is likely to carry on.

All US Presidents have had courts. But Trump’s court is particularly fluid and has some very opposed factions within it, which, in policy terms, point in quite different directions. Trump seems to pivot from one of these factions to another, so that no faction is dominant for very long, and he plays the factions off against one another. That makes the policy even more erratic and hard to read for foreign observers. Where this is all going is strange. We should expect some major shocks, and particularly if crises of one kind or another test Trump.

MT: The Russia connection? What’s in it for Trump? And what’s in it for Russia?

AG: It is mysterious how difficult it is for Trump to shake the Russia connection off. That has led me to believe that there is something going on which we don’t understand yet. The likely thing, although there isn’t firm evidence for this yet, is that Trump’s business empire is reliant in some way on Russian money – not government money, but oligarch money. There were stories at one time, of links through Deutsche Bank, which is one of the main funders of the Trump business empire.
The multiple links of people associated with Trump with Russia are extraordinary. There is probably something of substance behind it all. He has also got people, particularly Mattis and McMaster, who represent the American political security establishment and a traditional US policy towards Russia, and that of course chimes with what a lot of Republicans want.

So Trump has been forced to concede on the sanctions. But it doesn’t stop him! The latest revelation, that at the G20 meeting [7-8 July in Hamburg] he had a second 60-minute chat with Putin in which Putin used a Russian translator and Trump wasn’t accompanied by a translator. That in itself was a breach of state department protocol. What is going on? Why would you do that, when there is so much focus on his links with Russia and his associates? Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Trump’s North Korea threat: ‘unnecessary, scary, irresponsible’

August 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm (nationalism, North Korea, nuclear war, posted by JD, stalinism, Trump, war)

Robert E Kelly is widely recognised as one of the few genuine experts on North Korea. His reaction to Trump’s golf club tirade against North Korea on Tuesday (that any threat to the US would be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before”) was to call it “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.”

Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University (South Korea) spoke to The Washington Post about what he meant, and what could happen in the near future.

Interview conducted by Herman Wong:

POST: Let’s address Trump’s comments. Your tweet said they were “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.” How so?

KELLY: “Unnecessary” in the sense that the North Koreans already know that we dislike them, that we want them to act differently and so on and so on. And just a few days before, Secretary Tillerson was on TV saying “we’re not your enemy” and Trump goes off and says this.

He just undercut his own secretary of state. So that’s what I meant by unnecessary.

“Scary” because what he said sounds like Old Testament-style rhetoric. “Fire and fury.” He’s like some prophet from the Old Testament talking about fire and brimstone.

And “irresponsible” because it sounds like Trump shooting his mouth off again. Maybe his national security team approved of that kind of language, but it sounds a lot like what Trump does on Twitter, which is shooting his mouth off and saying stuff and his national security people have to walk it back in the next couple of days.

POST: You’ve said before that “much of the overheated rhetoric coming from Trump administration about North Korea” is actually to pressure China. Who is the audience for Trump’s warnings?

KELLY: My sense is that there are two ways to read these things.

The optimistic one is that Trump got this cleared by his national security staff and he’s sounding a little unhinged or angry because he’s playing the madman role. And the point of this role — not that he’s actually a madman, but to pressure the Chinese into coming around.

He plays this sort of game and the Chinese are like: “Oh, my God, he might actually start a war and kill us all; let’s go pressure North Korea.”

This is a way of Trump signaling to China to get serious about North Korea — which, to defend the president, is not necessarily a bad idea because I do think China still has a lot of leverage over North Korea. The best way to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully is to get the Chinese to push the North Koreans harder. I know that’s pretty disputed today. A lot of people just don’t think the Chinese have that weight. But I do.

The negative interpretation is that Trump just shot his mouth off. And now the whole world is like: “Oh, my God, Trump is as unpredictable as Kim Jong Un, and we’re going to have nuclear conflict between these two schoolyard bullies who don’t know how to back down.”

North Koreans didn’t waste any time at all. One hour after that comment they were talking about nuking Guam.

This is just bickering. This is all rhetoric. This is not going to happen.

North Koreans are not going to nuke the Americans out of the blue. The North Koreans don’t have offensive intentions. Attacking the United States would be suicidal. The Americans would respond with so much force, North Korea would just be wiped off the map. We know this.

The North Koreans know this. They’re not apocalyptic ideologues like Osama bin Laden, willing to risk everything on some suicide gamble. The North Koreans are pretty rational. They are pretty tactical. They’ve been smart over the years. It would be very out of character for the North Koreans to suddenly launch a weapon at San Francisco. So I don’t buy that at all.

POST: Trump’s “fire and fury” statement echoes North Korea’s own threats, and some supporters have suggested that nuanced statements in the past have been ineffective and Trump is speaking in a way the North Koreans would understand. What do you make of that?

KELLY: The thing I don’t like about that though is that the United States isn’t some pesky, rogue country with a history of doing crazy stuff and dealing drugs and counterfeiting like North Korea.

North Korea has a reputation as a rogue. We don’t expect it to act any better and it’s a small part of the global economy that’s not really that relevant for global rules.

When the Americans act that way, when the Americans start talking like that, it sends signals to everybody. The center isn’t holding. The Americans are expected to be better than this. We don’t talk this way, in the same way we don’t expect the South Koreans to talk the same was as the North Koreans do. We expect more from democracies, we expect more from liberal countries.

I think it’s one of the reasons people like you and I are having this conversation, because it’s so uncharacteristic for American leaders to talk like this. Maybe it’s going to work. Honestly I haven’t thought that far. But it’s risky, it’s really risky. Because it sends a signal to everybody else out there that: Hey, you can’t trust the Americans, they might launch a nuclear war.

POST: How do you think Trump’s comments will be received in North Korea? How about in Japan or South Korea?

KELLY: We already know how North Koreans are going to take it. An hour or two later they threatened Guam. That’s how North Koreans always respond to threats. They always reach for the most outlandish rhetoric: Really aggressive, personal insults against the president of South Korea and the United States, the racism and all that.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that the North Koreans immediately went over the top by threatening a nuclear strike on American territory. That’s why we shouldn’t get into these kinds of war of words with the North Koreans. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to lead us anywhere.

The South Koreans and the Japanese will sort of roll their eyes and say “what is going on over there.” This is just Trump the unhinged. That’s what I’m really worried about — that our allies in Asia are increasingly thinking we are unreliable because the president’s kind of off his rocker.

POST: You tweeted Tuesday, in all-caps, “WE DON’T HAVE TO BOMB NORTH KOREA.” What are America’s options? How likely are China and Russia to stick to sanctions?

KELLY: Sanctions are the most likely, peaceful way to resolve this. Chinese economic pressure through sanctions, enforcement that leads to pressure on the elite bottom line in North Korea, not the popular bottom line. When you get factions in North Korea to start fighting over diminishing resources, that’s the kind of pressure we’re looking for. That can only come around if China plays ball.

If that doesn’t happen, and that hasn’t happened for 15 years, then my sense is missile defense. But you get a lot of push back on this, too. A lot of tech people say missile defense is a boondoggle, it doesn’t work, THAAD is overrated. My own sense from the briefings I’ve seen over the years about missile defense is that THAAD is at least reasonably effective. It’s a start.

POST: What next?

KELLY: I think the North Koreans will not stop the missile testing program. The Americans will slowly adapt to that in the same way it adapted to the Russia, China and Pakistani nuclear weapons. We’ve learned to adapt and live with those, and we’ll do the same with the North Korean ones as well. We will adapt even if Trump doesn’t admit it.

In the next three or four days, my guess is that the Trump national security staff will go out and clean up the remark and say we didn’t exactly mean this. We want to have talks, go to the U.N. etc.

POST: What should people who are paying attention to the North Korea situation for the first time know?

KELLY: I would say two things.

Consider that for 70 years, North Korea has had the opportunity to do major damage to South Korea, later Japan, eventually the United States, both against American forces in the region and now against the American homeland. It’s had opportunities for a long time and has never gone after them.

North Korea now has a long history of restraint, actually. It has a long history of tactical provocation. But North Korea has never gone over the edge. It has always pulled back.

And that leads a lot of us in the analyst community to believe that the North Koreans do not intend to use nuclear weapons. So all of this hysteria, this “World War III is around the corner” kind of stuff, is highly unlikely because the North Koreans have had the opportunity for a while. Look at North Korea’s past behavior as a predictor of future behavior.

The second thing I would say is that if there really is war coming, the big reveal for that would be an evacuation or call for evacuation of Americans living in South Korea. That is the big red flag. So if you see the Americans are told to get on a ship at Busan and go to Japan, you know the American airstrike is coming.

Permalink 1 Comment

Scottish left: still grovelling to nationalism

July 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm (elections, identity politics, nationalism, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Socialist Party, SSP, SWP)

Image result for picture Scottish Socialist Party SSP

By Dale Street

“The Labour Party in Scotland has been wiped out.” That was the verdict of the Socialist Party Scotland (SPS) on the 2015 general election. The next step was: “The trade union movement must now prepare to build a new mass party for the working class.”

In alliance with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the SPS had stood ten candidates in Scotland under the ‘Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’ (TUSC) banner. Their votes ranged from 0.2% to 0.7%, and amounted to only 1,772 in total.

But that did not constitute a “wipe-out”.

The slump in the Labour vote in 2015, explained the SWP, demonstrated that “the crucial task for all on the left in Scotland is to quickly discuss and organise for a united left alternative in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.”

The SWP was contemptuous of “some in the Labour Party who argue that what is happening in Scotland is just a wave of nationalism.” What this “failed to understand” was “the shift in the political landscape and the potential for the left to grow.”

Apart from allying with the SPS to stand TUSC candidates, the SWP had also given a tacit call for a vote for the SNP: “The SWP is not calling for a blanket vote for the SNP on 7th May” (in effect: a call to vote SNP in most constituencies, but not all).

For the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) Labour’s performance in Scotland in the 2015 general election had borne out its pre-election predictions:

“Make no mistake about it. We are witnessing the end of an era. Like the Liberals prior to the labour movement, Scottish Labour is a beast that will soon be almost extinct over the next decade.”

The election result was further proof of the need for unions to disaffiliate from Labour:

“The unions in Scotland need to stop propping up the bankrupt project that is Labour. We’ve seen attempts by the biggest of all unions, Unite, to drag Labour back to the left. That’s proven utterly futile.”

“Union leaderships should combine with the SSP and all genuine socialists to build a mass working-class socialist party to stand up for Scotland’s working-class majority population.”

The SSP had stood four candidates in the election – after the SNP and the Greens had, unsurprisingly, ignored SSP proposals for a single pro-independence ‘Yes Alliance’ candidate in each constituency. Their total vote was 895.

In their approach to this year’s general election and analysis of its results, the SPS, SWP and SSP struck a very different tone. But it was no better that that adopted two years earlier. And it was certainly a lot more incoherent.

The SPS stood no candidates in the general election. Nor did TUSC. Nor did the non-existent “new mass party for the working class” which the SPS had looked forward to after the 2015 general election. Instead, the SPS “campaigned in support of Corbyn’s manifesto.”

But this did not mean campaigning for a vote for the party in Scotland (Scottish Labour) which was standing on the basis of that manifesto (however inadequately it promoted its contents in its election campaigning).

The SPS coupled its support for “Corbyn’s manifesto” (minus support for Scottish Labour) with “pointing to the need to adopt a far more sensitive approach on the national question”, including “as a minimum the right to a second referendum when there was a majority in favour of one.”

After the election the SPS talked up “significant swings to Labour in working-class areas in Glasgow and across the West of Scotland”. In fact, the popular vote for Labour in those constituencies was either static or less than in 2015 general election.

The SPS also fell over itself with helpful tips about how Scottish Labour could have improved its performance and “doubled their numbers (of MPs) in Scotland”. But such belated advice would have had more credibility coming from an organisation which had actually campaigned for a Labour vote.

In the run-up to this year’s general election the SWP again made an implicit call for a vote for the SNP, using the formulation “We call on our readers to vote Left in every constituency – to choose the candidate who is best able to carry forward the fight against austerity and racism AND FOR INDEPENDENCE.” (Emphasis added.)

Any number of Scottish Labour candidates would have met the first two criteria but none would have met the third. But in England and Wales all Labour candidates were endorsed by the SWP, for what it was worth, simply because they were Labour.

In other words: it was okay to vote for a right-wing Labour candidate in England, but wrong to vote for a left-wing anti-independence Labour candidate in Scotland!

The SWP looked on in awe when a thousand people turned up to hear Corbyn speak in Glasgow during the election campaign. But this was coupled with criticism of Corbyn for not supporting a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Corbyn was “on the side of the majority of Scots who don’t want a second referendum,” complained the SWP. But the normally let’s-not-waste-our-time-with-any-of-this parliamentary-shite SWP was aggrieved by Corbyn’s failure to “respect the majority for a second referendum in the Scottish Parliament”!

In its analysis of the election result the SWP concluded that “using the crude measure of first-past-the-post elections, independence has won this election”. The three anti-independence parties, explained the SWP, had won only 40% of the seats.

But in the real world, using the only slightly more sophisticated measure of the popular vote, independence lost. Anti-independence parties picked up 63% of the vote.

Inconsistently, the SWP attributed the SNP’s loss of seats to the fact that “the SNP leadership staked so much on a second independence referendum.”

So: independence won the general election in Scotland, according to the SWP, but the party which had championed independence had lost seats because – errrr – it championed independence.

The SWP was realistic in its analysis of Scottish Labour’s poor showing in the election and the fact that its increase in the number of seats held masked a more basic electoral stagnation. But, at the end of the day, this was all irrelevant.

With the election – yawn – out of the way, the SWP could get back to business as usual:

“We should not postpone the fight against austerity to focus on a second referendum and let the SNP off the hook. Battling against those attacks now should be at the centre of the left’s political action.”

Like the SPS’s “new mass party for the working class”, the “mass working-class socialist party” which the SSP had looked forward to in 2015 had also failed to materialise by the time of this year’s election.

Left to its own devices, the SSP stood four fewer candidates than it had in 2015, i.e. none.

“But that does not mean that we will not be campaigning,” the SSP explained. It would be campaigning – for independence:

“Our annual conference last weekend committed all SSP members to spend the next six weeks making the case for independence and helping to ensure this become the ‘independence election’.”

This was the vital task confronting SSP members because “Theresa May is heading for a 60-70 seat majority at Westminster, and Labour is heading for a hiding.” Only Scottish independence could provide a defence against the approaching Tory onslaught.

Boldly, the SSP declared its readiness to criticise the SNP for failing to be sufficiently pro-independence:

“In the very important debate Alex Salmond initiated last week between him and Nicola Sturgeon about this being ‘the independence election’, we are bound to say we agree with Alex. … We will press the SNP to put an unequivocal commitment to independence in its manifesto. And we will criticise them if they do not.”

Unfortunately for “Alex”, having the SSP on his side turned out not to be enough to save him from defeat.

But the SSP was as good as its word. In an article snappily entitled “Independence Offers Our Only Escape From a Zombie Tory Government” SSP co-convenor Colin Fox let the world know:

“Our party will be writing to the SNP to insist they put independence at the epicentre of their manifesto. We will be campaigning to increase support for independence with a series of sparkling initiatives which we will unveil in the next few days.”

But the election result was not as predicted by the SSP. May’s credibility, the SSP acknowledged, was “in tatters”. Corbyn’s gains had shown that socialist ideas “are highly popular, and this must be welcomed.” And a second general election was “a strong prospect.”

The SSP attributed the loss of 21 seats by the SNP to “their failure to make the case for independence – supposedly (sic) their core belief.” This is the same SNP which, according to the SWP, “staked so much on a second independence referendum.”

The SNP’s defeat, concluded the SSP, “underlined the case for a reinvigorated broad-based Yes movement.”

In other words: prospect of strong Tory government necessitates Scottish independence; actual election of weak Tory government necessitates … Scottish independence.

Some things never change. And one of them is socialist organisations which have collapsed into tailending nationalism – even when the nationalism they chase after is in electoral decline.

Permalink 3 Comments

SNP fakers and cybernats try to blame Labour for Tory re-election!

June 26, 2017 at 8:34 pm (AWL, conspiract theories, identity politics, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, scotland, SNP)

Steve Bell's If ... 13/11/2014 Copyright Steve Bell 2014

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

Scottish Labour and/or its leader Kezia Dugdale bear the blame for the re-election of a Tory government on 8 June. That’s the line currently being systematically promoted by cybernats. And it’s not confined to the fringe elements of cybernattery.

SNP MP Angus McNeil and SNP MSP and Scottish Government minister Mike Russell have both tweeted about how Scottish Labour supposedly backed a vote for Tory candidates in the general election. The cybernat argument runs as follows: • If the Tories had not won 12 new seats in Scotland, then Tory MPs plus DUP MPs would be a minority in Westminster. • The Tories were able to win 12 new seats in Scotland because Scottish Labour and/or Kezia Dugdale backed Tory candidates. • Scottish Labour and/or Kezia Dugdale are therefore to blame for Theresa May being back in Downing Street.

Scottish Labour’s vote increased by 10,000. The Scottish Tory vote increased by over 300,000. Scottish Labour could therefore persuade only an extra 10,000 voters to vote Labour. But it supposedly managed to convince more than 30 times that number to vote Tory. The only “evidence” that Labour did anything like encouraging Tory votes is a brief televised interview with Kezia Dugdale in which she said that with the exception of a few constituencies in the north east of Scotland, Labour was best placed to beat the SNP. The problem with this statement was not that Dugdale was calling for a vote for the Tories. She wasn’t. She was merely stating a fact. The problem with the statement was that it summed up the weakness of the Scottish Labour election campaign: it identified the SNP as “the enemy” to be beaten, instead of offering a positive alternative (a Corbyn-led Labour government) to win back ex-Labour voters who had switched to the SNP.

The cybernat campaign to blame Scottish Labour for the election of a Tory government signals a further lurch by the SNP activist base into fantasy politics. It also diverts attention away from the helping hand which the SNP has repeatedly given to the Tories (and vice versa).

In 1979, the SNP voted with the Tories in Westminster to bring down a Labour government. Without support from SNP MPs, the Tories would not have succeeded in winning their motion of “no confidence”. Between 2007 and 2011 the SNP minority government in Holyrood relied on support from Tory MSPs to get its annual budget through Holyrood. As the then Scottish Tory leader Annabelle Goldie later explained: “When the chips were down, he (Alex Salmond) had to find support for his budget … he took those Tory votes and was glad to get them. Our position was very clear. In return for supporting their budget, the SNP would include Conservative policies in their budget. It was as simple as that.”

From 2014 onwards the SNP deliberately polarised Scottish politics around national identities. In opposition to the SNP proclaiming itself the champion of Scottish-identity-politics, the Tories were able to rebuild support by playing the same role in relation to British-identity-politics. In the 2015 election campaign the upsurge in support for the SNP was exploited by the Tories – as their election strategists subsequently boasted – as an opportunity to whip up English and British nationalism in opposition to Scottish nationalism, thereby garnering more Tory votes.

In the 2017 election campaign SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Kezia Dugdale had offered – in a private conversation after the EU referendum – to ditch Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence. This revelation — irrespective of whether or not it was true – was a boost to Scottish Tory efforts to portray themselves as the only reliable opponents of Scottish independence. It was a cynical ploy by Sturgeon to undermine support for Scottish Labour, even though it meant boosting the Scottish Tories’ electoral prospects And the Tories certainly made a point of exploiting Sturgeon’s revelation to the hilt.

There is no political party in Britain as fake as the SNP. There is no “social democracy” as fake as that of the SNP. There is no “anti-Toryism” as fake as that of the SNP. And there is no election analysis as fake as the cybernat version which blames Scottish Labour for the Frankenstein monster of a Scottish Tory revival created by the SNP’s own tunnel-vision, flag-waving nationalism

Permalink 5 Comments

Even after Grenfell the Tories still lust after a “bonfire of red tape” – and will use Brexit to pursue it

June 24, 2017 at 6:02 pm (Civil liberties, Conseravative Party, Europe, Human rights, Jim D, libertarianism, nationalism, populism, rights, Tory scum)

Above: Cameron’s stunt that backfired

“In our commitment to be the first Government to reduce regulation, we have introduced the one in, two out rule for regulation … Under that rule, when the Government introduce a regulation, we will identify two existing ones to be removed. The Department for Communities and Local Government has gone further and removed an even higher proportion of regulations. In that context, Members will understand why we want to exhaust all non-regulatory options before we introduce any new regulations” – Brandon Lewis, the then housing minister (now the immigration minister), in 2014, rejecting calls to force construction companies to fit sprinklers.

Apart from racism and xenophobia, the other driving force behind all wings of the Leave campaign was deregulation – the idea that EU rules and regulations restrict Britain’s freedom. This idea was central to the Leave campaign, and its implications were spelled out plainly by the influential Conservative Home website.

Boris Johnson has spent years writing and telling lies about EU “red tape”, and his old employer, the Daily Telegraph launched a campaign for a “bonfire of red tape” in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. Post-Grenfell that expression “a bonfire” leaves a nasty taste in the mouth (as Jonanthen Freedland wrote in the Guardian, “well they’ve had their bonfire now”).

But don’t be deceived into thinking that the Tories and their Brexiteer press are having second thoughts post-Grenfell.  That would require a degree of honesty and common decency that is beyond them. The Daily Express, bizarrely, suggested that EU energy-saving regulations were to blame for the use of the cladding that spread the fire (despite the fact that it’s illegal in Germany). But what is known, as George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian, is that in 2014 the government rejected the idea of obliging construction companies to install sprinkler systems in new buildings – as part of its commitment, it explained, to a “one in, two out rule for regulation”. It is surely just a coincidence that, according to Property Week magazine, the Tories received more than £1m in donations from property and construction companies in the year to the 2015 election.

That “one in, two out rule” was part of the tape-burning zeal of the Tories, summed up most crudely in the 2011 Red Tape Challenge dreamt up by former David Cameron adviser and Brexiteer Steve Hilton. He and the rest of the “new Tory right” had wet dreams about transforming Britain into a Singapore-style paradise of minimally regulated offshore swashbuckling. In 2013, Cameron himself stood in front of an exhortation to “Cut EU red tape”, so he could hardly complain when such arguments were deployed mercilessly against him in the referendum.

The Tories’ plan to use Brexit as the opportunity for a “bonfire of red tape” has not gone away, even if, post Grenfell, they’re a little less brazen and gung-ho.

The proposed Great Repeal Bill, transferring EU law into British law so as to avoid a legal vacuum on day one of Brexit, is the means by which the Tories intend to continue their deregulation programme.

Under so-called “Henry VIII powers”, the government will assume unfettered powers to bypass parliamentary scrutiny and rewrite laws originating in European legislation.

It’s a pretty good bet that they have the Agency Workers Regulations, the Working Time Regulations and uncapped compensation in discrimination claims, in their sights.

A briefing from Another Europe is Possible and Global Justice Now warns of the possible consequences of the Great Repeal Bill, arguing that it “has the potential to grant the government an almost unprecedented level of unaccountable power, using a political process that will chill democratic scrutiny”.

The briefing makes the following recommendations:

1. The government must reveal specific details of the content of its Great Repeal Bill, and it must be a clear and detailed bill (not a ‘skeleton bill’)
2. This must happen very soon, with a clear proposed timetable to ensure proper time necessary for the task with a minimum 6 months for consultation and 6 months for debate
3.  The transfer of EU law into UK law must be transparent, clear and accountable:

  • it must include provisions to ensure that delegated power to the government  is clearly and precisely defined in scope and purpose.
  • Henry VIII powers should be avoided, and when used, subject to the super-affirmative procedure.
  • Sunset clauses should be used to ensure that the delegated legislative powers do not last indefinitely.
  • There must be enhanced processes and resources for screening and scrutinising delegated legislation, including through new or existing parliamentary committees.

4. The government must guarantee, on the face of the bill, clear explicit provisions to prevent the bill affecting human rights, equalities, or environmental laws and standards, and to prohibit the use of delegated legislation to change or undermine such laws and standards.

A simpler approach, however, would be to use May’s election humiliation and the present volatility of British and international politics to campaign to stop Brexit altogether. The received wisdom is that it can’t be done and, indeed, that to attempt to do so would be undemocratic. But the definition of democracy is that people are allowed to change their minds. Why should the narrow verdict of 12 months ago be sacrosanct for all time? If we want to stop the Tories’ plans to deregulate society, the obvious way to do so is to stop Brexit. Of course, that will require that Labour comes off the fence and drops its present stance of studied ambiguity on the subject.

  • JD would like to acknowledge this excellent Guardian article by Steven Poole, which he used extensively in the preparation of this post.

Permalink 1 Comment

Ex-Marxist SNP’ers out on their ears

June 13, 2017 at 1:21 pm (elections, identity politics, nationalism, populism, scotland, SNP)

Inline image

Above: Kerevan’s advert in his local paper: odd that he said that the general election was not about independence, and then subsequently goes on to say that the election result is a chance to seize independence.

Dale Street writes:

Ex-IMG’er George Kerevan and his bag-carrier  Chris Bamberry (ex-IMG and SWP) both lost their jobs on June 7th.

But the ‘thinking’ of Bamberry on the ‘thinking’ of Kerevan is still apparent from an article by Kerevan (or in Kerevan’s name) in The National.

(The front cover below is genuine. The one beneath it is a spoof.)
 Inline image

 Inline image

Permalink 12 Comments

SNP: the dirtiest, most undemocratic party in Britain

June 3, 2017 at 3:06 pm (cults, elections, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, SNP)

Difficult to see why the SNP is proposing a “progressive alliance” with Labour.
SNP election leaflet, Airdrie and Shotts constituency:

                                            Inline image
Meantime, social media are highlighting the silence of the ‘left’ nationalists:

                                                                  Inline image

And the “All Under One Banner” super-size demonstration for Scottish independence appears to have opened up some rifts in the nationalist camp. (Stewart McDonald is an SNP (ex-)MP standing for re-election. Sandra White is an SNP MSP. I don’t know who Darini is.)

                                                  Inline image

                                                             Inline image

.
By Dale Street

When the SNP government’s record on the NHS was criticised by a nurse during the Scottish party leaders’ debate a fortnight ago, the response from the SNP and their followers was to vilify the nurse.

SNP MSP Jeane Freeman and SNP (ex-)MP Joanna Cherry led the charge, falsely claiming that the nurse was the wife of a Tory councillor. Once unleashed by Freeman and Cherry, the allegation was then taken up by other SNP parliamentarians and by SNP cybernats. In fact, they ratcheted up the smear campaign to the level of a frenzy, claiming that the nurse had been a BBC “plant” and that she was not actually a nurse. While her criticisms were ignored, the nurse herself became the target of systematic abuse and denunciation. But the nurse was a nurse. And she was not the wife of a Tory councillor. (Even if she had been – so what? Women won not just the right to vote but also the right to have their own political opinions a long time ago.) The SNP’s social media campaign of smear and vilification crumbled within a matter of hours. But not before it had demonstrated that Scottish “civic and joyous” nationalism is just as putrid as any other variant of nationalist ideology.

The SNP itself is the most undemocratic party in Britain. Policy adopted at its 2015 conference bans its elected parliamentarians from public criticism of any other parliamentarian, and from public criticism of SNP policy. The SNP’s intolerance of criticism by an NHS employee is emblematic of its intolerance of criticism in general. Substituting itself for the people which it claims to represent, the SNP responds to criticism of its record by denouncing critics for “talking Scotland down”. The SNP does not use rational political arguments to bond together its cult-followers. Instead, it specialises in emotional denunciations of its political opponents.

Thus, Labour are “Red Tories”, even as the SNP simultaneously proposes a “progressive alliance” with Labour, and also sits in coalition administrations with Labour in Scottish local authorities. And the Tories are defined as the party of the “Rape Clause”, even though the SNP ignored the “Rape Clause” until they found a role for it in their current election campaigning.

In 2017, as in 2015, the SNP claims that only SNP MPs will “stand up for Scotland” and “give Scotland a stronger voice” in Westminster. In fact, its MPs have consistently ignored the majority of the Scottish electorate, which remains hostile to independence and a second referendum. At Holyrood, where the SNP has now been in power for over a decade and has had a real opportunity to “stand up for Scotland”, it has made steady progress backwards. Cuts in council funding, declining literacy and numeracy standards, less teachers, less FE places and teachers, less working-class access to Higher Education, falling NHS standards, declining economic performance, and more child poverty. In fact, the SNP’s main achievement in recent years has been to revive the Scottish Tories’ electoral fortunes.

The polarisation of Scottish politics around the single issue of independence has allowed the Tories to rally support from “No” voters in the 2014 referendum. Through its sole official spokesperson (i.e. Nicola Sturgeon), in the six weeks since an election was called the SNP has bounced back and forth on whether the election results in Scotland should be interpreted as a mandate for a second independence referendum and for Scottish membership of the EU. But this is all a matter of political calculation.

To argue openly that the general election in Scotland is all about independence (and for the SNP, it is) would fuel the growing backlash against the SNP. To argue openly in favour of EU membership would alienate the one third of SNP voters who backed “Leave” in 2016.

Sturgeon has dismissed Corbyn as “unelectable” and as someone who “won’t be going anywhere near Downing Street.” As in 2015, the optimum outcome of the general election for the SNP would be either a Tory government or a minority Labour government. The former would allow the SNP to run with the theme that only independence could save Scotland from permanent and alien Tory rule, even though over a quarter of the Scottish electorate are now likely to vote Tory. The latter would allow the SNP, or so it hopes, to demand a second referendum in exchange for not bringing down the government, even though Corbyn has rightly ruled out any deals or alliances with the SNP.

Doorstep canvassing confirms that support for the SNP is in decline. In the time remaining before the general election, Labour canvassers need to push the SNP vote into further decline, and to make sure that the decline is to the benefit of Labour rather than the Tories.

Permalink 12 Comments

The SNP and the Tory #rapeclause

May 29, 2017 at 5:53 pm (elections, nationalism, populism, scotland, SNP, welfare, women)

c8ujnuaxkaacaz6

By Dale Street

#Rapeclause was one of the four most popular Twitter hashtags used by SNP MPs and MSPs in the run-up to the Scottish council elections held earlier this month.

SNP MSP Humza Yousaf tweeted about “Tory born-again Brexiters and rape-clause advocates.” Fellow SNP MSP James Dornan explained: “If you’d rather vote for the Tories than SNP, you’re a right-wing Rape Clause supporting enabler.”

(Ex-)MP Paul Monaghan tweeted: “The rape clause is beneath contempt and reveals nothing but a callous disregard for human life.” Fellow (ex-)MP Pete Wishart appealed: “Now more important than ever. Vote till you boak. Make sure the rape clause candidate is absolutely last.”

Following in the footsteps of their parliamentarians, cybernats made #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth (i.e. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson) central to their case for voting SNP in the council elections:

“Thursday #council17 election. A great chance to show Ruth Davidson how disgusted you are by the Rape Clause #rapeclauseruth #rapeclause. … Time Tories are punished for Rape Clause at council elections #council17 #rapeclauseruth.”

“Vote SNP for Scotland. Vote Tory for #rapeclauseruth. … Only one party stands up for Scotland and only Scotland. #VoteSNP #council17. Scots Tories controlled by #rapeclauseruth via London.”

“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth as she rises in the polls. … A huge success for ‘NicolaSturgeon #rapeclause local election campaign. Very well done boss. You should do that again in GE2017.”

With the general election campaign now underway, #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth remain particularly popular hashtags for cybernats.

#Rapeclause refers to the requirement that as of April of this year victims of rape must complete a lengthy form to obtain child tax benefits for a third or subsequent child born as a result of rape.

This is an exercise in humiliation, one which forces victims of rape to relive the trauma of rape and which could cause damage to their mental health. The fact that the bulk of the eight-page form can be completed by a health professional or social worker is irrelevant.

This bureaucratic imposition on rape victims is the result of broader Tory cuts in welfare spending: As of April of this year, child tax benefits are restricted to the first two children. But exemptions apply to children born from rape (and multiple births, and adopted children).

The solution to the #rapeclause is to scrap the cap on restricting child tax benefits to the first two children. If there is no cap, there is no need for exemptions, and no need to subject rape victims to a process of bureaucratic humiliation.

There are certainly SNP parliamentarians, members, supporters and voters who are genuine in their opposition to the #rapeclause and link their campaigning against it to the demand for scrapping the cap on child tax benefits.

SNP hypocrisy

But the broader Scottish-nationalist campaign around the #rapeclause and the political role which it plays is of an entirely different order. It is steeped in opportunism, cynicism, hypocrisy and an irrational demonization of their political opponents.

Reviving an SNP meme from the period immediately following last year’s EU referendum, #rapeclause is used to equate Tories with Nazis and fascists in general:

“We need silent protests at every Tory meeting with #rapeclause #foodbanks #TryBrexit. Don’t let friends of fascism get elected. … The extremely low calibre of Conservatives promoting fascist policies like #rapeclause in Scotland. Vote for better and fairer.”

“#Rapeclause fans cry foul! The being (i.e. the Tory candidate) standing as a defender of fascist policy (is) scared of the humanity, integrity and decency of @AngusRobertson #SNP. … I am sick of our lying media pushing this fascist agenda. #rapeclause.”

“So it’s now a straight fight for Scotland. The SNP and Greens versus the BNP led by @ruthdavidson #rapeclause. … On the day we hear Spitting Images is making a return, #rapeclauseruth rekindles the ethos of Norman Tebbit’s jackbooted Nazi thugs.”

“France, Holland and Austria rejected far-right Nazi candidates. It’s our turn on June 8th. #ToriesOut #VoteSNP #rapeclauseruth. … #rapeclauseruth and #CantTellTheTruthMay: two of the most vile women in this country today. Hitler would be proud of either.”

Demonisation of the Tories for promoting infanticide (“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth.”) leads into the demonization of those deemed guilty by association.

If the #rapeclause puts the Tories beyond the pale, anyone who associates with them automatically deserves to be equally condemned and ostracised – even if the supposed ‘association’ is a fiction created by the truest followers of the SNP cult:

“So, Labour, Greens, Lib-Dems didn’t condemn this vile #rapeclause. Your Tory friend #rapeclauseruth is a disgrace. … Labour openly campaigning for the #rapeclause Conservatives in the Borders and the Highlands. This is a conspiracy.”

“With Scottish Labour cheering on #rapeclauseruth from the sidelines, what a wretched embarrassment they are. … Labour/Tory: two cheeks of the same arse. How’s that #rapeclause working out for you?”

“So now we have @kezdugdale in cahoots AGAIN with #rapeclause @ruthdavidsonmsp. Both happy to wear the Orange sash of sectarianism.”

Political critics of the SNP and its record in power can also be tarred with the same #rapeclause brush:

David Torrance, a journalist who has written articles critical of the SNP government (because that’s the kind of thing journalists do) becomes “Tory boy Torrance” who “ticks the predictable boxes to talk up #rapeclauseruth et al.”

A photograph of writer and broadcaster (and SNP critic) Muriel Gray with Tory MP David Blundell turns out to be a photo of “A #rapeclause facilitator hand in glove with a socialist #rapeclause apologist.”

And a nurse who criticised the SNP’s record on health in last weekend’s Scottish Leaders Debate was subjected to a vicious cybernat witch-hunt, including: “Ranting ‘nurse’ on #LeadersDebate is a Tory councillor’s wife – a #rapeclause supporter! How does that square with her ethics?”

#Rapeclause is also invoked in support of that favourite demand of true Scottish nationalists: a targeted consumer boycott of insufficiently patriotic businesses.

A visit by Ruth Davidson to the Express Bakery in Dumfries resulted in: “Bakery to avoid in Dumfries: Express Bakery. Product recall: These #rapeclause apologists have had their fingers in your pies.”

And a visit by Davidson to the Edinburgh Shortbread House also saw the latter added to the boycott list: “Mmmm, shortbread with added #rapeclause. … So your company supports the #rapeclause. No custom from me then.”

(Scotland, 2017: An Edinburgh-based family business which manufactures Scottish shortbread are traitors to the nation.)

For a swathe of Scottish nationalists the #rapeclause is not just yet another example of bad Tory policies. It is the essence of Britishness and the British state, and further evidence of the need for independence:

“The BritNats coalescing around the #rapeclause party. Given the collapse in Labour support, realignment of politics in Scotland almost complete. … All together to help Theresa May rape Scotland. #VoteSNP to save Scotland.”

“’Our precious union. …’ If this and #rapeclause are the best it can offer, I want no part in it. At 63 years of age, I’ve never felt so ‘foreign’! … Straightforward for anyone who doesn’t support the #rapeclause – Independence it is!”

#Rapeclause serves the same role as “Red Tories”. In 2015 the SNP used “Red Tories” to target and undermine support for Labour. In 2017, faced with a resurgence of support for the Tories, the SNP is using #rapeclause to try to stifle that resurgence.

And the SNP’s focus on the #rapeclause stinks of hypocrisy.

Benefits cap

In August of 2013, as the debate about the 2014 referendum began to pick up steam. Alex Salmond committed the SNP to imposing a benefits cap (based on “Scottish values”) in an independent Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon was given the job of working out the details.

(This was not a specific cap on child tax benefits. It was an across-the-board benefits cap. That made it even worse.)

In the 2015 general election campaign, in which the Tories proposed the welfare ‘reforms’ which include the child tax benefit cap, Sturgeon declared that scrapping the benefits cap was not an SNP priority.

When the Tories’ welfare ‘reforms’ subsequently made their way through the Westminster legislative procedures, two SNP MPs (Hannah Bardell and Corri Wilson) sat on the Commons Public Bill Committee which scrutinised the legislation – but did not denounce the #rapeclause.

After the Tories’ legislation had become law, the SNP denied that Holyrood had the powers to not apply the cuts in Scotland. Proven wrong on this, the SNP then promised “real, credible, affordable plans” to mitigate the impact of the cuts. There is still no sign of those plans.

In fact, Holyrood has the powers not just to scrap the #rapeclause but also the two-child cap itself.

The cost of scrapping the cap over the next four years would be £195 millions. This is roughly equal to the money the SNP Holyrood government will be losing – each year, not over a period of four years – from scrapping Airport Passenger Duty.

The #rapeclause was on the statute books for over eighteen months before it came into effect. But only in the run-up to the council elections did the SNP discover that the #rapeclause was the defining feature of the Tories, all opponents of independence, and the British state itself.

And some of the cybernats so incandescent with rage at the #rapeclause clearly have a long way to go in improving their feminist credentials.

Denouncing “#rapeclause Ruthie” as “a despicable, divisive and dangerous wee witch” smacks of Tommy Sheridan’s attitude to his female political opponents. So too does another cybernat’s cultist description of Sturgeon, Davidson and Dugdale:

“Let’s summarise: A fearless leader who loves her country. A harridan who supports the heinous #rapeclause. The next ruler of Narnia.”

Permalink 14 Comments

The net closes on Trump: either a traitor or a useful idiot

May 11, 2017 at 8:10 pm (Asshole, corruption, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, Putin, reaction, Russia, strange situations, Trump)

It’s pretty obvious that former FBI director James Comey was sacked because the FBI’s investigation of Russian government interference in the 2016 election was closing in on Trump. All other explanations – and in particular, that the cause was Comey’s handing of the Hillary Clinton email affair – are simply preposterous.

Trump has denied any collusion: but he would, wouldn’t he? All the (admittedly, so far largely circumstantial) evidence points to Trump being either a traitor or Putin’s useful idiot.

Putin has always denied attempting to influence the US presidential election: but he would, wouldn’t he? Albeit, with a smirk.

Comey spoke in March at a rare open hearing of the congressional intelligence committee, which is also investigating the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give the committee details that were not already publicly known. He also said he could not give a timetable for its completion. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

Also testifying before the committee was National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers.

He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to damage the presidential  prospects of Hillary Clinton.

What are the allegations?

In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing ones in order to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Since then, Trump has faced well-sourced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he is in no doubt that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic Party during the election, but that at the time he left his post in January, he’d seen no evidence of collusion.

However, Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said the material he had seen offers circumstantial evidence that US citizens collaborated with Russians to influence the vote.

If the Trump campaign were found to have colluded with Russia it would eclipse the Watergate scandal and be the most outrageous act of treason in US history.

Which campaign members have been accused of deception?

Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from any federal probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election, because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, but now – outrageously – turns out to have been heavily involved in the Comey sacking.

Flynn was fired after he was exposed as having lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser. Flynn has a long history of close and friendly relations with the Putin regime, and has received payments from the regime’s propaganda channel RT.

flynn.jpg Flynn (left) dines with Putin

He lied about having discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Sessions was accused by Democrats of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing in January, when he said he had “no communications with the Russians”:  it later emerged that he had met Kislyak during the campaign.

Sessions denied any wrongdoing, but removed (‘recused’) himself from the FBI inquiry into Russia’s interference in the election: now it transpires that he’s played a key role, at Trump’s behest, in getting rid of Comey.

Trump could be heading for impeachment over his corruption and treacherous links to Russia. But, unlike even Nixon, Trump doesn’t play within the rules of bourgeois US politics.

Trump is still very popular with his base. He can argue plausibly that he has tried using Executive Orders to do what he said he would do. Where these orders are being reversed by the courts or bureaucracy he will point to the key idea that the system is broken and dominated by a liberal elite.

The Russian issue doesn’t currently  impinge on his supporters’ admiration for him as they are in general isolationists. He’s on 80% approval ratings with Republican voters.

Trump won’t go quietly and the ace up his sleeve is the movement behind him. It is a  genuine mass movement, plebeian in character (often sole traders, shop keepers, small business owners, lumpen blue collar workers, the unemployed, farmers etc) and radical in the sense they don’t defer to authority. If he wanted he could probably mobilise enough of them to turn up outside the Capitol with guns and set up camp. There is a history of this kind of thing happening in the US at state level.

The impeachment of Trump would in all likelihood enrage his mass base, fuelling ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories and resentment against bourgeois democracy: fertile ground for American fascism.

That doesn’t mean that the left shouldn’t use the charge of treason and collaboration against Trump, or not campaign for his impeachment. Some on the left (and even the liberal-left) have recoiled against this, on grounds of supposed “McCarthyism” (a claim that Trump himself has raised): but that’s nonsense. The suggestion of collusion with Putin is not comparable to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s and ’60’s: Putin is behind an ultra right wing international campaign to promote reaction, nationalism and isolationism wherever he can. He’s backed Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and a host of other ultra-right and semi-fascist movements.

It’s not McCarthyism to denounce Trump for his links with Putin, up to and possibly including outright treason. But it’s not enough: the US left must also engage with Trump’s working class base and convince them that this billionaire racist, shyster and charlatan offers nothing worthwhile to American workers.

Permalink 16 Comments

Next page »