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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Why ISIS (as well as Putin) may be supporting Le Pen

April 21, 2017 at 5:10 pm (elections, Europe, fascism, France, islamism, Jim D, nationalism, populism)

Russian President Putin shakes hands with French far-right party leader Le Pen during their meeting in Moscow
Photo: Sputnik/Reuters

Putin’s de facto support (including financial support) for Le Pen is well known, and all of a piece with his pro-Trump interference in the US election and his backing of the Brexit cause.

It has now been plausibly suggested that Le Pen may also be the unwitting recipient of the conscious and deliberate support of ISIS.

An unsubstantiated piece of pure speculation? Maybe, but I found this report from a serious and well-informed source, at the very least, worth taking seriously. This is no wild conspiracy theory:

How The Champs-Élysées Attack Affects The French Presidential Election

Why Islamists Might Want Le Pen In Power

By M.G. Oprea

There’s good reason to believe ISIS was involved in planning, not just inspiring, Thursday’s attack, considering the swiftness with which it claimed responsibility, and the fact that the terror group knew the attacker’s name. But given Le Pen’s strong rhetoric against ISIS and Islam in France, why would the Islamic State plan two attacks in one week, knowing full well that it would benefit Le Pen alone among the candidates?

One possibility, as elaborate as it may sound, is that if Islamists want to keep French Muslims from integrating into French society and encourage them to resist through violence, it would be in their best interest to have Le Pen in power. A Le Pen presidency would give the Islamic State the narrative they need to radicalize a very susceptible French Muslim community.

As we know, ISIS is incredibly media-savvy. It strains credulity that two attacks were planned for the week before the election with just enough time for the media to really dig into them but not enough time for them to fade from voters’ memories. The timing doesn’t seem like coincidence.

It’s hard not to think that the men arrested in Marseilles, or whoever helped them plan, knew full well the result a terror attack could produce in Sunday’s elections. When police prevented the well-planned plot, the terror cell, with or without direction from ISIS, went to Plan B—a man with a machine gun on the Champs-Élysées.

Regardless of how Thursday’s attack came to pass, it will almost certainly help Le Pen in Sunday’s election. But it will hurt future prospects of quelling the tensions between France and its Muslim community, or of stifling Islamist influence in those communities—something that was never going to be easy in the first place.

M.G. Oprea is editor of the foreign policy newsletter INBOUND. She holds a PhD in French linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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Don’t let Erdogan become Sultan

April 16, 2017 at 5:09 pm (AK Party, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, Middle East, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, religion, turkey)

Alan Thomas shared Kader Sevinc‘s post (on Facebook).

Thanks to Kader for this. Vote #hayir: don’t let Erdogan become Sultan!

.

“Turkish Constitutional Referendum: All you need to know” by CHP European Union Representation, Brussels

The 16 April referendum on a package of some 18 amendments to the current Constitution is about the future of Turkish democracy. What is at stake is the replacement of the current parliamentary system by an all-powerful Presidency.
The ayes claim it will make the regime “more efficient, stream-lined and more responsive to popular will”. They assert that the President – now elected by direct suffrage – must have “commensurate authority”. They declare that the Presidential system is “the answer to all the problems and challenges the country is facing at home and abroad”.

The stark reality is quite to the contrary. A “yes” vote on 16 April will have the following consequences:

It will mean the end of the separation of powers, of checks and balances because both the legislative and the judiciary branches of government will come under the control of the President.
The President, not the elected Parliament, will be making laws by issuing executive orders.
The President, not the elected Parliament, will prepare and execute the national budget – with no accountability.
The President will be able to dissolve the Parliament – at will.
The President will have the power to appoint judges to the Constitutional Court and other high judiciary bodies.
The President retains political party identity, making the Presidency a partisan institution; this contravenes Article 101 of the present Constitution that is not affected by the proposed amendments and that calls for a bi-partisan President.
The Vice-Presidents and Ministers appointed by the President will answer not to the Parliament or to the people, but only to the President.

In short, the referendum will be a choice between a parliamentary democracy and one-man rule, between saying goodbye to democracy in all its surviving manifestations and giving Turkey another chance to reclaim its secular democracy. A “yes” vote will mean Turkey’s further estrangement from the Euro-Atlantic community and the EU. A “no” vote would give the democratic, secular and liberal forces the opportunity again to turn Turkey into a progressive, forward-looking country. Whether “yes” or “no”, 16 April will be a turning point for Turkey. The people of Turkey will say “no” and choose to go forward.

Please download our publication “Turkish Constitutional Referendum: All you need to know” for detailed analysis of the current situation, full unofficial translation of the proposed changes article by article, latest poll results, CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement ahead of referendum and unfair campaign conditions, NO campaign by photos and more.

Kader Sevinç

CHP Representative to the European Union

Party of European Socialists & Democrats (PES) Presidency Council Member

Brussels

Please download “Turkish Constitutional Referendum: All you need to know” in pdf format.

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Brexit and the environment: the Telegraph gives the game away

April 16, 2017 at 12:48 pm (Beyond parody, climate change, environment, Europe, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, profiteers, Tory scum)

 A man with vote leave EU badges.  Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

After Brexit, Britain can be free of the EU’s restrictive green targets 

Editorial, Daily Telegraph 15 April 2017

Government sources say that the Tories will scrap the EU’s green energy targets when legislation is repatriated to Britain. This is excellent news and one of the very best reasons to have supported Brexit.

Leaving the EU must result in a more competitive economy – it would be ridiculous to swap Brussels bureaucracy for Westminster meddling.

The targets are absurd: 15 per cent of energy must be met by renewable sources by 2020, excluding even nuclear. The only way to accomplish this is via public subsidy, which, it is estimated, will cost the average household an extra £100 per year.

Renewable energy will be part of the future mix, for sure, but let it serve human need, not green ideology. Why rob the consumers only to provide them with technology that is often inefficient and unreliable?

If the Government scraps the target then it will be a victory for our campaign to cut EU red tape. That said, there is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.

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The Closing of the CEU: the closing of Hungary

April 13, 2017 at 1:46 pm (Civil liberties, Europe, fascism, Free Speech, Human rights, Hungary, intellectuals, nationalism, populism, posted by JD)

The ultra-reactionary government of Viktor Orbán imprisons refugees and asylum seekers in barbed wire-fringed detention centres, is hostile to a free press, and (taking a leaf out of Putin’s book) is targeting NGOs that receive “foreign” funding.

Despite being a member of the EU, the Hungarian government is presently conducting a “Stop Brussels” campaign – a survey full of loaded questions aimed at scuppering the EU’s efforts to resolve the refugee crisis by requiring Hungary to take in its fair share of migrants.

Now,  the government has passed a new law that requires foreign-accredited universities to provide higher education services in their own countries – which would effectively shut down the Central European University (CEU) founded by Georg Soros, a financier who embodies for the fascistic Orbán the influence of globalisation and international capital.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Budapest on Sunday to urge President Janos Ader not to sign the law, but on Monday he did just that.

Writers, artists, civil libertarians and intellectuals have signed an open letter to President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani regarding the threat to the Central European University (CEU). The open letter, which was published on poet George Szirtes’ blog, is titled “The Closing of the CEU: the closing of Hungary“, and reads as follows:

We are deeply concerned about the passing of the disgraceful law intended to shut the Central European University in Budapest.

The law, intended for this one specific purpose, is the latest step taken by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to close out democratic institutions in the country, including press, media and NGOs.

Please note we do not say opposition institutions since the CEU is in no way a political opponent of the government. It is simply an independent university.

On 10th April, the president of the country, János Áder, signed the law and, that night, for the second night running students were out in the streets protesting in their thousands and tens of thousands. Those students are the last bastion of hope against the establishment of an authoritarian state in Hungary.

If that should happen it would be a serious blot on the EU’s conscience to have permitted this act of the Orbán government to pass without response. It reduces Europe. It weakens it. It takes it one step further to the edge of disintegration.

It is vital to act quickly. We ask for a period of intensive fact-finding into the legality of the Hungarian government’s law in this specific instance and its consequences for freedom of education, and for a process of mediation, bringing the parties together around the principle of European rule of law.

To add your name, visit George Szirtes’ blog

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Falklands: “that bloody war” 35 years on

April 2, 2017 at 11:09 am (fascism, history, imperialism, nationalism, Robin Carmody, war)

Image result for picture Falklands War Belgrano

Above: The Sun cheers the deaths of 323 Argentine conscripts

By Robin Carmody

The thing about the phrase “that bloody war” – as a pejorative for a major war, which reshaped your country’s political norms and assumptions, viewed at medium distance – is that, by definition, it can only ever be used by those who have been in abeyance and who lost out as a result of it. The other side will regard it as “the good war”, their war, the war of which they, rather than the country as a whole, were the highly subjective victors.

Anyone brought up after the 1980s with little historical foreknowledge could be forgiven for thinking that there was always a universal, cross-class consensus that the Second World War was the ultimate “good war”. Not so. The working class, its great domestic victors, always viewed it that way, but landed, aristocratic and anciently-established interests – the demographic which, crucially, was extended further down to attract an only recently socially arrived, petit-bourgeois audience by David English, Nigel Dempster and Lynda Lee-Potter at a time of great perceived internal crisis for their interests, when they knew the upper class could not retake control by itself and needed new footsoldiers who didn’t have the money but did have the ambitions – viewed it for many years afterwards as “that bloody war”, cursed its impact and legacy. All the evidence that we were fighting bona fide fascism as never before in our history failed to sway them (and I’m not immune from a much smaller-scale version of the same thing; while not pretending that there would have been another Holocaust or industrial genocide, I do not dispute that the junta was objectively fascist), and not just because it exposed dark skeletons in their own family closets (and some of that was simply a mournful, melancholy wish to retain the old Anglo-German friendship, on which matter I would have sympathised with them in almost any circumstances but those) but because, even if Britain had only been on the winning side rather than the real winner, their class could not even claim that. The Second World War, its social gains for Britain’s poor neutralised, reversed and abandoned, has long since become a safe, cosy “good war” for the ruling class, but let no-one tell you that it was always such a thing.

The very fact that no-one now – except possibly Peter Hitchens (who only quite recently embraced a revisionist stance on the matter), only he’d regard the language as beneath him – calls the Second World War “that bloody war” does not, in fact, reflect well on the British politics of my lifetime. Had the position of the previous 35 years been maintained, they would have to view it as such, could not pretend that it was – as it never was in its own time – their war.

And so, inevitably, to my own usage of the term. There is, I’ll admit, scarcely a day that goes past when I don’t curse “that bloody war”, the one now 35 years away, close to the time that had lapsed then since 1945, and – as a setting up of a political consensus perceived as beyond question or dispute (this is why I cannot be as concerned about the removal of the broadcasting fig leaves insisted on by the ruling elite of 1990 as others are; it is much deeper issues that concern me) – 1945’s utter nemesis, a revenge for 1945. (I also happen to live somewhere which played a major role in both.) In that respect, at least in terms of language, I am in a similar position to the first young fogeys (not then so named; that had to wait) who raged in the 1970s about what had happened in their lifetime but scarcely, if at all, their direct recollections, and had as they saw it denied them the world they felt they deserved (of these, Auberon Waugh is by far the most defensible, mainly because he mutated after the fact into every bit as strong an opponent of ignorance and greed falsely sold in the name of “Conservatism”). That is the story of our times. Where once it was the squires in the country houses who would curse “that bloody war” of recent history, now it is the socialists, the romantics, the idealists, above all others the Europeans. Where once it was those who worshipped inequality, saw it as God’s will, who used that pejorative, now it is those who believe most passionately in equality. Where once it was the supporters of letting everything fall into place – by definition, a luxury for the already privileged – who used that phrase, now it is the supporters of logic and organisation.

I do not deny that, even if it was a much less severe and extreme version than that one, our “bloody war” of now, like their “bloody war” of then, was fought against fascism. That’s mainly what makes it so painful. But while a clearer and more direct path may begin only when Brian May stood on the roof of Buckingham Palace – in that other year, 20 years on, marked by a reactionary nationalist tide between April and June – the road to Brexit does, ultimately, begin at Goose Green. If you dispute me, consider – however much you may not regard them as “yours” – the SDP and the Tory wets, the two most pro-European factions in British politics, who stood throughout “that bloody war”, overwhelmingly stronger than the actual government immediately beforehand and waiting for a decisive victory had Britain lost. Or, as “we” will now say as assuredly as the squires and feudal lords once said of the 1939-45 war – only “we” know that we are saying it from an entirely different starting point and reasoning, as defensible as theirs was indefensible – if, in losing, it had won.

Consider that the precise equivalent today of saying, as Auberon Waugh did in 1972, that “West Countrymen never shared the general enthusiasm for World War II”, would be to say that Mancunians and Liverpudlians never shared the general enthusiasm for the Falklands War. And think on.

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Deluded Stalinist fools still don’t get it as Article 50 is triggered

March 29, 2017 at 8:43 pm (CPB, Europe, fantasy, grovelling, Jim D, Marxism, nationalism, populism, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Brexit opens the way to progressive politics? Even the Stalinists now have doubts

On the day that Britain takes a great step backwards towards nationalism, isolationism and nativism, Tory backwoodsmen, Ukip and other and racists throughout England are celebrating.

Those on the left (and, indeed, liberal-left and Greens) who campaigned for internationalism and anti-racism against Brexit are divided between advocates of giving up in despair and those who vow to fight on to reverse this historic defeat.

But by far the most pathetic, incoherent and demoralised observers of the Article 50/Brexit debacle are the shower of supposed “leftists” who advocated Brexit on the grounds that it could magically turn into something progressive – a “people’s Brexit” or “Lexit” some fantasists called this mirage. Chief amongst these self-deluded idiots were the Stalinists of the CPB and Morning Star, though a few degenerate ex-Trots followed in their slipstream, bleating about how the vote was nothing to do with immigration, but all about opposition to neo-liberalism, austerity, etc, etc.

Most of these fools remain (in public, at least) in complete and utter denial – even in the face of sustained increases in racist incidents directly attributable to the Leave campaign and referendum result. The wretches of the Morning Star show some very slight signs of recognising the disastrous results of their pro-Brexit idiocy. Today’s editorial (which can be read in full here), includes the following admission:

“Since the result of the June 23 vote, almost everything has gone wrong, with the significant exception of the left’s success in mobilising even more Labour Party members to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 than in the previous year.

“To those who see Brexit as a victory for narrow nationalism, this is hardly surprising.”

To which those of us who do, indeed, see Brexit as a victory for narrow nationalism, can only agree that we’re not surprised in the least. In fact, we predicted it.

The M. Star continues:

“The vote to leave the EU is interpreted as a triumph for the right which has predictably knocked the stuffing out of the left.

“But the risk is that assuming people voted to leave the EU for right-wing reasons, and that Britain will therefore lurch to the right in consequence, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Right! so the fault lies with those of us who warned about the inevitable consequences of a Leave vote, and “interpreted” it as “a triumph for the right” instead of deluding ourselves with the ridiculous reactionary socialist fantasies of the CPB and the Morning Star.

On this day of defeat and shame, serious socialists need to recall the words of a Marxist revolutionist who doesn’t meet with the approval of the Morning Star:

“To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s programme on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives — these are the rules of the Fourth International” – Leon Trotsky, The death agony of capitalism and the tasks of the fourth international, 1938.

NB: see also Comrade Coatesy, here

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Martin McGuinness and “the hand of friendship to unionists”

March 21, 2017 at 6:50 am (communalism, From the archives, history, Ireland, Monarchy, nationalism, posted by JD, reformism, republicanism, RIP, strange situations)

Image result for picture Martin McGuinness met the Queen

By Sean Matgamna (first published in 2012)

In a hugely symbolic moment on 27 June, during a royal visit to Northern Ireland to mark her jubilee, the former commander of the IRA shook hands with the Queen.

The man who commanded the force responsible for, amongst other things, the death of the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten, exchanged a handshake with the woman whose armed forces murdered 14 innocent civil rights marchers in his hometown of Derry. This was, all proportions guarded, a real life instance of David Low’s famous cartoon “Rendezvous” in which Hitler (“the bloody assassin of the workers”) greets Stalin as “the scum of the earth”.

The response of the press, in Britain, Ireland and internationally, was very positive.

The Guardian thought “it underlined how far we have come since the Troubles”. The Mirror contained an unusually calm and rational article from Tony Parsons who described it as “the end of something — the decades of hatred, loathing and bloodshed” as well as “the beginning of something, too — when the raw wounds of the past can perhaps begin to heal”.

The Belfast Telegraph, traditionally a Unionist paper, hailed the handshake as “bridging a gulf that spanned centuries”. The southern Irish press was unreservedly impressed. The New York Times called it “a remarkable sign of reconciliation for both figures”.

The working-class socialist response to this would seem to be fairly straightforward. McGuinness claims still to be a republican in both important senses of the word. As a “capital R” Republican he appeared to make peace with the highest symbol of British rule while her state and government continue to “occupy” the northern part of Ireland and deny his people self-determination.

Even more objectionable is his apparent suspension of “lower case” republicanism — the rejection of rule by hereditary, unelected privilege. Contempt for such an institution should be taken for granted by even the mildest democrat.

Didn’t McGuinness, by shaking the Queen’s hand, acknowledge both her right to rule and her government’s sway in Ireland?

A glance at the fiercest critics of this historic handshake is a reminder that things are more complicated.

Before the meeting the Daily Mail advised the Queen to burn her gloves after carrying out her “distasteful duty”. The Sun’s front page headline declared “We don’t blame you for wearing gloves M’am”. The Times cartoonist provided an image of the Queen putting on four pairs of gloves before shaking the bloodstained hand of McGuinness.

The idea that there might be plenty of blood on the monarch’s hands too didn’t occur to any of them.

The Daily Mail was the one paper that didn’t deem the occasion to be worth a front page story. Inside, though, they brought us arch-militarist Max Hastings under the headline “I’m sorry, even in the name of peace, it was wrong to shake his blood-soaked hand”.

Hunting for evidence that McGuinness, the deputy prime minister and latter-day conciliator, remained “a fanatic”, Hastings alighted on his principled decision not to take his full ministerial salary (£71,000).

For me, that is evidence that Sinn Fein retains some connection with its mainly working-class base. For Hastings, it shows “certitude about his own moral compass” and this, he claims, is “the foremost requirement of a fanatic”.

On what appears to be the opposite side of the spectrum, McGuinness and Sinn Fein have been attacked by harder line Irish Republicans for yet another betrayal. Protests were held by dissident republicans, and senior SF councillor Alison Morris resigned in opposition to the event.

It’s important to register clearly what the critics are opposed to. On the republican side it isn’t seriously claimed that McGuinness or his party have become soft on the monarchy. For certain McGuinness and Sinn Fein have rapidly acclimatised to being part of the establishment and clearly enjoy being normal bourgeois politicians. What took place on 27 June was, however, more than just a further shift down that road.

The justification given by Sinn Fein had nothing to do with either the Queen or British rule. McGuinness described his move as “in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity”. There is no reason not to take that rationale at face value. He went on to claim that this sort of symbolism had the potential to define “a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves”.

That view can be criticised as naive. It can be attacked as a top-down way of managing the communal differences without challenging the fundamental causes. In common with most elements of the “peace process” it seems to reinforce rather than undercut cultural division. It’s a different matter, however, to criticise it for “going too far” towards the unionists. The least bad fault with modern-day SF is that they are insufficiently intransigent nationalists. Yet that is the criticism most commonly levelled at them from the left.

And it’s hard not to take some pleasure from the visible discomfort this event has caused to the British right. The fact that their Queen has felt it necessary to shake the hand of the former IRA commander has opened a very old sore for reactionaries.

The most reliable of these, Peter Hitchens, summed up the problem in the Mail on Sunday. After a few predictable and gratuitous personal swipes at McGuinness he compressed all his familiar anxieties into this short sentence: “If anyone doubted that the Good Friday Agreement was a humiliating surrender by a once-great country to a criminal gang, they can’t doubt it now.”

The sort of Tories whom Hitchens and Hastings write for spent their formative years insisting that those who took up arms to fight British rule anywhere in the world were no more than criminals. They said it too of Mandela and the ANC. Time and again they have seen these claims crumble to dust as the era of direct imperialist rule has given way to triumphant independence movements. And it hurts deeply.

Hitchens’ adult life has been blighted by one episode after another of “humiliating surrender” by his “once-great country” to movements fighting to free their countries from colonial or racist rule (or “criminal gangs” as he prefers to put it).

But the Irish people have not yet won a united independent state. The British have not surrendered and nor would it matter much if they did. The key to Irish territorial unity is, and has for decades been, democratic unity between its people. What Martin McGuinness did on 27 June offended the sensibilities of democrats and socialists because of our contempt for the institution of monarchy. However, his motive at least was progressive.

It was also republican in the sense defined by the founder of modern Irish republicanism Wolfe Tone — “to replace the name Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name Irishman”. We should be bold enough to point that out.

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Reactions to Indyref2

March 14, 2017 at 11:33 am (Beyond parody, Europe, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, scotland, SNP)

These are all genuine:

It’s odd. I voted in the Westminster & Holyrood elections. Can’t remember anyone offering to fuck my life up.
 
Politics today: Insert silver bullet into single chamber, spin revolver, place barrel on temple.
 
Like King Arthur, summoned from sleep when the realm is threatened, our heroes awake from slumber:
 
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 Sturgeon wants an indyref without a plan on the basis Brexit is happening without a plan.
 
Spent all day (and many prior) trying to grasp the idea that the answer to nationalism is more nationalism. It’s an inscrutable mindset.
 
I knew life expectancy in parts of Scotland was lower than the rest of the UK, but a generation lasting 5 years is pretty bleak #indyref2
 
As a 24 year old it is nice to know I have lived for six generations. Mightily impressive. #indyref2
 
Not even an hour since the announcement and I’m already sick of this shite #indyref2
 
WELCOME TO BRITAIN. ALL REFERENDUMS ALL THE TIME. WE ALL HATE EACH OTHER NOW. NEXT WEEK A REFERENDUM ON GRAVITY. SEND HELP.
 
BMG poll for Herald: 49 per cent of Scots do not want a 2nd independence referendum before Brexit; 39 per cent do; 13 per cent are unsure.
 
I’ve already seen an international publication photoshop Nicola Sturgeon’s face onto Mel Gibson’s body. Please, not again.
 
#Indyref1 was flag-wavers screaming at a passive majority. #Indyref2 will be two lots of flag-wavers screaming at each other. I can’t wait.
 
2017-19 was going to be longest stint without a major UK election in half a decade so at least #indyref2 is job creation for journalists.
 
As Scotland pushes for #IndyRef2, what would Europe look like if all independence movements won? #maps
                                          
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Second Scottish referendum: why Corbyn was wrong

March 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm (labour party, nationalism, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, SNP)

Image result for picture Jeremy Corbyn Kezia Dugdale
Above: Dugdale and Corbyn

By Dale Street (also published at the Workers Liberty website)

Only a fortnight ago Kezia Dugdale summed up Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence:

“[At this weekend’s Scottish Labour annual conference] I set out Scottish Labour’s opposition to another independence referendum. Scotland is divided enough already, without yet another attempt to separate our country from the rest of the UK.

The people of Scotland do not want another independence referendum. It’s time for the Nationalists to listen to the voices of ordinary working people. [Given the levels of poverty in Scotland], it would be shameful to spend the next few years talking about independence.”

Although it counted for little more than gesture politics, Scottish Labour underlined its opposition to a second referendum by launching an online petition:

“Sign the pledge against a second independence referendum and join the fight for a stronger Scotland inside a reformed UK, with jobs and opportunities for all.”

But last weekend Jeremy Corbyn visited Glasgow and told the media: “If a referendum is held, then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”

“A spokesman for Corbyn” and “a source close to Corbyn” tried to minimise the damage.

According to the spokesman: “Jeremy reaffirmed our position today that if the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, it would be wrong for Westminster to block it. Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament”.

But Labour has not taken a position that Westminster should agree to a referendum if Holyrood votes for it. And Corbyn’s argument that the Labour Party should not “prevent people from holding referenda” does not fit in with Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum.

According to the “close source”: “Westminster blocking a second referendum would give the SNP exactly what they want – more grievance. Kezia Dugdale is absolutely right to oppose a second referendum at Holyrood and keep the pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to rule one out.”

But the SNP has an infinite supply of “more grievance” anyway. Their entire political life consists of conjuring up “more grievance”. And if Dugdale is right to “keep the pressure” on Sturgeon to rule one out, a second referendum could only be the result of a defeat for Scottish Labour – not something to be described as “absolutely fine”.

Corbyn, his spokesman and the close source all reaffirmed opposition to independence in the event of a second referendum.

But this faded into the background, overshadowed by (not entirely accurate) headlines along the lines of Corbyn: Second independence referendum should be held and Corbyn absolutely fine with a second Scottish referendum.

Corbyn’s opponents within the Labour Party were quick to exploit his statement: “Often asked why I resigned from Shadow Cabinet. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jeremy Corbyn. He’s destroying the party that so many need”, tweeted Scotland’s only Labour MP.

For the viscerally anti-Corbyn MSP Jackie Baillie it was too good an opportunity to miss: “This is a misguided and irresponsible comment from Jeremy Corbyn that is an insult to the dedicated work of Scottish Labour MSPs, councillors and thousands of activists who have campaigned against a divisive second referendum”.

Of course, Corbyn’s factional opponents within the Labour Party will attempt to exploit the issue.

And it would be legitimate to argue that Corbyn’s core argument is correct, i.e. Scotland’s right to self-determination means not just the right to independence but also the right to hold a referendum without having to seek Westminster approval.

Even so, Corbyn’s statement was wrong on any number of levels.

Despite the attempted spin of the unnamed spokesman and close source, Corbyn’s layback attitude to the prospect of a possible second independence referendum cannot be reconciled with Scottish Labour policy.

Corbyn’s statement clearly came out of the blue and without advance warning: Corbyn had not described a second referendum as “absolutely fine” when he had spoken at the Scottish Labour conference just a fortnight ago.

Although Corbyn was referring to what position Labour in Westminster might or should adopt towards the demand for a second referendum, his statement read – even without the additional spin by the media – as an endorsement in principle of a second referendum.

The statement confused “people holding referenda” with the SNP’s campaign for a second referendum.

Opinion polls suggest there is no popular support for a second referendum (at least in the short term). The SNP demand for another referendum is the product of its own one-trick-pony nationalist politics, not a reflection of public opinion. The SNP wants to hold a referendum, not “people”.

By appearing to legitimise their demand for a second referendum, the statement played into the hands of the SNP. Sturgeon’s mocking response to Corbyn’s statement was to tweet: “Always a pleasure to have @jeremycorbyn campaigning in Scotland.”

The statement also played into the hands of the Tories, who have already overtaken Labour as the official opposition at Holyrood. It allowed them to present themselves as the only genuine opposition to Scottish independence (which, in turn, is a further gift to the SNP).

Corbyn’s statement was also an extension of what is wrong with his approach to Brexit.

For Corbyn, it seems that once a referendum appears on the political agenda, the specific interests of the labour movement no longer count for anything. Instead, the labour movement should either submit to the result and vote with the Tories (Brexit) or submit to the demand for one and vote with the SNP (Scotland).

Above all, it is not “absolutely fine” if a second referendum were to be held. Irrespective of the result, it would divide Scottish society and weaken the labour movement – in both cases, probably for more than a generation – to an even great degree than the 2014 referendum.

The 2014 referendum was a profoundly divisive event. Previously coexisting national identities were pitted again each other. By elbowing aside class-based politics and voting patterns in favour of national-identity politics, it also resulted in a collapse of electoral support for Labour.

A second referendum would take that process a stage further. In fact, the impact would be far worse than in 2014.

In 2014 the SNP did at least attempt to run a campaign which was based to some degree on economic arguments (however spurious those arguments may have been). But identity politics will be at the core of a second referendum: bad English/British (racist and pro-Brexit) and proud Scot (pro-EU and inclusive).

What was fundamentally wrong with Corbyn’s statement was not so much his off-the-cuff speculation about what position Labour in Westminster might take about a second referendum. It was his failure to understand the poisonous political impact of a second referendum, whatever its result.

Corbyn was wrong. And no-one on the left should feel obliged to defend the indefensible.

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