From Labour Uncut:
April 15th, 2015:
Long simmering tensions within Ukip are now bubbling into public view. Earlier today, Uncut bumped into an old 1990’s Westminster stalwart who had been involved with the long and difficult development of Ukip’s manifesto. He painted a picture of a house divided, riven by personal and political enmities.
At the root of all of the problems lie Nigel Farage’s personality: a man given to fads and enthusiasms with a notoriously thin skin and a congenital inability to hold his tongue or stick by the rules he sets for others.
Farage’s elision of immigration and race is blamed for toxifying Ukip’s brand by Douglas Carswell who is now operating virtually as an independent.
Mark Reckless is said to feel that Farage doesn’t understand the scale of risk he took in defecting while Raheem Kassam, Farage’s spinner, is regarded by many MEPs and staffers as a poisonous disaster.
Douglas Carswell’s absence from today’s manifesto launch almost did not register. He was absent from Ukip’s general election campaign launch at the end of March and can barely bring himself even to mention Nigel Farage’s name.
A prolific tweeter, Carswell has managed just two tweets in more than 250 over the past fortnight that mention his leader. Probably a record for a candidate in this campaign.
Mark Reckless has always lacked a certain bonhomie, as his former Conservative parliamentary colleagues attest, and has been cut out of the leader’s inner circle. Party resources aren’t flowing into Rochester and Strood to defend the seat as volunteers are being directed to Thanet to fight for Farage and so Reckless too is coming to terms with life as a virtual independent.
His absence from today’s manifesto launch was also notable. That Ukip’s two sitting MPs had better things to do than present a united front with their leader, speaks volumes about their estrangement from Nigel Farage.
Raheem Kassam was hired last November by Farage and is very much the leader’s shiny new toy. Kassam is blamed for Farage’s decision to focus on migrants with HIV in the leader’s debate, infuriating Carswell, whose father was one of the first to identify HIV/Aids in Uganda in the 1980s.
Kassam has also made enemies among the party’s MEPs, particularly the popular former director of communications, Patrick O’Flynn. Kassam used to edit the right-wing Breitbart site which coincidentally ran a story outlining how “senior members” of Ukip were moving to remove O’Flynn for being anti-business.
Yet Kassam retains the leader’s ear so he remains in post.
As Ukip’s poll rating slides, so the pretenders to the throne manoeuvre. Farage is already said to be exhausted, irritable and prone to tearing up his schedule. With three weeks to go, insiders fear that if the poll rating sinks below 10%, any last vestiges of discipline will breakdown and the party will very publicly implode, just as voters make their decision.
H/t: Nick Cohen
The French revolutionary socialist Yves Coleman (of the group Ni patries, ni frontières), has written a lengthy and detailed piece on anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe. This is one of the most comprehensive and important articles on these closely interconnected subjects to have been published so far this century. It appears in a 12-page pull-out in the present edition of the AWL’s paper Solidarity. Comrade Coatesy has already commented on supplementary article by Coleman that also appears in Solidarity: About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept. We reproduce Coleman’s main article in full below:
Protest in Greece in memory of a Pakistani immigrant murdered by ‘Golden Dawn’ fascists
Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe
Around 1.1 millions Jews live in the European Union and 19 million Muslims. It’s obviously very difficult to compare the situation of an ethnic/cultural/religious minority living in Europe for centuries with the situation of religious and/or national minorities whose importance has massively grown after the Second World War, and in some cases only during the last 40 years.
Nevertheless, many militants (inspired by left academic researchers) compare anti-Semitism in the 30s to the situation of Muslims in Europe today.
This comparison is flawed1, for many reasons, but it remains a fact that the anti-Islam paranoia which dominates Western media, and the long and complex relations between the Islamic world and Western powers nourish extended racist discrimination and social exclusion against Muslim workers, “alien” or not, living in Europe.
For definitions of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism this text mainly uses those provided by the European Fundamental rights Agency (FRA) with a few additions. Obviously they have not been conceived by so-called “revolutionaries” and do not have a great theoretical significance. They are clearly focused on discrimination: this legalistic and multiculturalist perspective deliberately neglects, or even completely erases, social inequalities, the division of society into classes, and refuses to take into account discriminations if they are not based on ethnic, racial, religious, or gender pecularities.
In addition, if you study in detail, from a historical and anthropological point of view, anti-Semitism and all the issues linked to the cultural, religious, economic and military contacts between Islam and the “Christian West”, contacts which have given birth to today’s anti-Muslim racism in Europe, then the differences between anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism appear so huge that you can no longer engage in any comparison – or only so from a purely demagogic angle. The too famous “competing memories” can lead you to compare the statistical figures of the Armenian, Jewish, Gypsy, Cambodian, Tutsi genocides with the number of victims of the transatlantic slave trade or the number of victims of colonialism; and then you will be inevitably led to establish a dangerous hierarchy between these evils. Or you can even go as far as suggesting that capitalist Europe is preparing a “muslimicide” analogous to Hitler’s Judeocide, as if European Muslims in 2015 are in a similar position to European Jews in the mid 30s …
This article deliberately takes a minimalist focus: the issue of democratic rights for all human beings, whatever are their origins and philosophical or religious beliefs. In this limited frame, the great advantage of the FRA definitions is that they focus on concrete, identifiable, phenomena, which we want to fight and defeat today, even if they don’t cover their more general socio-economic causes.
The polemics which have been launched between social scientists – and by extension between radical left activists – around the content of these two definitions often hide ideological issues (“Zionists” against “anti-Zionists”, secular Republicans against supporters of “multiculturalism”, sectarian atheists against intellectually dishonest believers, partisans of a binational State in Palestine and supporters of two separate states, etc.) and their main effect is to divide and paralyse the militants concerned with an efficient struggle against all forms of racism, here and now.
Anti-Semitism is an ideology based on the conscious, or unconscious, hostility to the “Jews”2 for religious, social, national, racial and/or economic motives. “Jews” may be actually Jewish by religion or culture or not. It does not matter for the anti-Semite; what matters for him is to attribute them negative or even sometimes positive qualities3 in order to discriminate and exclude them.
To this very general definition, one can add that anti-Zionism can sometimes, not always, lead to anti-Semitic conclusions4: when Jews are accused of exaggerating the Holocaust; when they are denied the right to self-determination, granted to all the other peoples living on this planet; when classic anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic clichés are used to characterise Israel or Israelis; when Israeli policy is systematically compared to that of the Nazis; when Jews are considered as a “fifth column”, a “lobby” of “cosmopolitan” people who are only loyal to Israel, etc.
Anti-Muslim racism (“Islamophobia” for the European Union and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) is an ideology which sees Islam as a “monolithic bloc”, sharing “no common values with other cultures”, “inferior to the West and barbaric”, more “sexist” than all the other religions, “supportive of terrorism” and of an agressive politics leading to military conflicts and war.
Anti-Muslim racists justify “discriminatory practices towards Muslims and their exclusion from mainstream society”, practices which they want to enshrine in laws.
To the elements of this FRA definition, one can add that anti-Muslim racism is often mixed to (and fuses with) anti-Asian, anti-African, anti-Arab or anti-Turkish racism, up to the point it’s difficult to distinguish between them.
Today in the Western world, anti-Jew racism and anti-Muslim racism are not, most of the time, religiously motivated. They can mobilise “anti-capitalist” or “anti-imperialist” plot theories which denounce the role of “the Jews”, or present Islam as the main threat to human civilisation today. Anti-Semites and anti-Muslim racists hide their political agenda behind all sorts of radical, leftish or pseudo-humanist reasoning: some pretend they are particularly moved by the sufferings of the Palestinians; others that they only want to defend women’s rights and democracy; some pretend European Muslims should not be blamed for what happens in the Middle East and North Africa, but constantly blame European or American Jews for what happens in Israel; some consider Europeans Muslims should spend all their time condemning Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram or al-Qaeda, but defend any military aggression of Tsahal, any “targeted murders” with their inevitable “collateral damages5”, or find lousy excuses for racist Israeli settlers or Israeli far right politicians. It’s rather easy to unmask these discourses, including in our own ranks, provided we open our eyes and are ready to lose… some “friends” or “comrades”.
Before analysing these phenomenon and their extent today, one has to recall some of the important political changes which started in the mid-1970’s and set the context for anti-Semitism and Muslim racism today. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ann Field (at the Workers Liberty website)
A few weeks ago we carried a series of articles arguing for a Labour vote rather than a Green vote in the general election.
The arguments in the articles were all very calm, cool and collected, a series of reflections on the fact that whatever the apparent attractiveness of – at least some – Green policies might be, this did not justify calling for a vote for the Greens.
But when it comes to arguing with people like yourself – socialists who are calling for a vote for the SNP in the general election – I don’t think that the same measured and moderate approach is justified.
That’s because I think you’ve simply lost the plot.
It’s true, I admit, that this isn’t a conclusion I’ve reached overnight. It’s a conclusion which I began to reach during last year’s referendum campaign, when your eyes started to glaze over at the prospect of Scottish independence.
From a socialist point of view, your arguments made no sense at all. You seemed to argue – in fact, you did argue – that the referendum was an opportunity to pass judgement on all the bad things British imperialism and the British state has done over the past 300 years.
(As part of the imperialist centre, Scotland had been just as “guilty” of all those bad things as Britain. But that basic historical fact, like so much else, simply passed you by.)
You also argued that the very existence of the British state was an obstacle to democratic and working-class advance in Scotland. (It was the only time that the working class got even a passing mention in your delirious pro-independence outpourings.)
I don’t know if you came up with that argument yourself, or whether it’s something you picked up from the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) website: “The single biggest obstacle to the Scottish people building a better society is the British state, the Westminster regime, the Crown powers.”
(If you did pick it up from the SSP website, I’m surprised that someone who prides himself on being a class-struggle socialist didn’t find anything odd about this statement. Such as the reference to “the Scottish people” rather than the Scottish (or British) working class. Or the vague reference to “a better society” rather than to workers power and socialism.)
Either way, your argument didn’t make sense.
The British state and the “Westminster regime” can hardly be said to be impervious to reform. In fact, they’ve been subject to quite a lot of reforms over the past 300 years.
How else, for example, could there be such a thing as the universal franchise? Something of a step forward, I’m sure you’d agree, compared with the franchise which existed in Scotland (and England) in 1707.
Sure, the British state is an obstacle to achieving workers power. And it certainly does contain feudal leftovers, such as the Crown powers, which are absent in other states.
But the reason why the British state is an obstacle is not because it’s British or because the Houses of Parliament are located in Westminster rather than Milton Keynes. It’s because it’s a capitalist state, and that’s why capitalist states exist.
It’s not really a difficult argument to get your head around.
Your argument – and that of the SSP – that Scottish independence was a necessity because of the nature of the British state struck me at the time as being about as logical as arguing for independence for Bavaria because Article 14 of the German constitution guarantees private property.
Or arguing for independence for Texas because: a) it has a lot of oil (cf. Scotland); b) it would be a blow against US imperialism (cf. blow against British imperialism). In fact, I do recall some members of the SSP advocating independence for Texas for precisely those reasons.
But there was one thing you were crystal-clear about during the referendum campaign.
You did NOT support the SNP. You had NOTHING IN COMMON with the SNP. You were a socialist, NOT a nationalist. It was a GROSS SLANDER to suggest that you were accommodating to the SNP and to nationalism in calling for a ‘Yes’ vote.
But now you’re calling a vote for the SNP.
I will say, however: credit where credit’s due. At least you’re open about calling for a vote for the SNP. Unlike all those people in and around the ‘Radical’ Independence Campaign who are backing the SNP but too shamefaced (and dishonest) to admit it.
Some people might regard it as an impolite way to put it, but I’ll say it anyway: your arguments for a vote for the SNP for garbled, incoherent and completely off-the-wall. (In that sense, I would concede, they are a ‘logical’ extension of your call for a ‘Yes’ vote.)
Argument number one: Labour are Red Tories. There’s no difference between Labour and the Tories.
Not much to say in response to this. Other than that it shows just how far removed you are from reality. To say that Labour’s policies are woefully inadequate is true, and I’d agree with you if that was your argument. But to argue that there’s simply no difference is really quite whacky.
In fact, given Labour policies such as increasing the higher rate of income tax, increasing corporation tax, introducing a mansion tax, taxing bankers’ bonuses, and limiting the use of zero hours contracts, the difference between Labour and Tory policies is probably greater than it has been at any point over the last twenty years.
(I agree to your inevitable objection: Given how far to the right Labour shifted under Blair, it’s not difficult to move to the left from that starting point. But that shift has taken place and needs to be registered.)
And even if there really was no difference between Labour and the Tories – as if trade unions have 50% of the vote at Tory Party conferences! – this would, at most, be a reason not to vote Labour. It would not be a reason to vote SNP instead.
Argument number two: Getting more SNP MPs to Westminster would keep a Labour government on the left and ensure it implemented what the SNP calls its progressive policies.
Logic never was your strong point, was it?
If Labour are Red Tories (argument number one), then there is no way the SNP could push them to the left (argument number two). And if Labour are Red Tories (argument number one), then how could they have progressive policies which could be implemented only thanks to a contingent of SNP MPs (argument number two)?
There’s also the obvious point that you don’t get a Labour government unless lots of people vote Labour (including voting for Labour candidates far removed from socialist politics). Voting SNP instead of Labour makes the chances of a Labour government (which the SNP would supposedly push to the left) less likely.
Yes, the Labour right wing in Scotland is making a big thing out of this argument. And yes, you and the SNP can accuse them of scaremongering (just as in the referendum anyone who pointed out that the SNP’s sums did not add up was accused of scaremongering).
But that does not alter the fact that more seats for the SNP mean less chance of a Labour government and more chance of a Tory government.
Your argument number two also has no more in common with reality than your argument number one.
Example one: Since last September Labour has had a policy of increasing corporation tax (unfortunately by just 1%). SNP policy throughout the referendum campaign was that an independent Scotland would cut corporation tax by 3%. This policy was abandoned by the SNP only last month.
A straightforward question: Has Labour adopted a policy of increasing corporation tax under pressure from the SNP? Or has the SNP dropped its policy of cutting corporation tax to con Labour voters into believing that a contingent of SNP MPS would ensure a Labour government implement its progressive policies?
(In this case: a progressive policy which the SNP still does not support, even if, for the last four weeks, it has abandoned support for a cut in corporation tax.)
Example two: In January 2014 Labour announced that it would restore the 50% rate of income tax for top earners. The SNP has consistently rejected that policy: there would be no tax rises in an independent Scotland. This policy of no 50% tax rate was dropped by the SNP just one week ago.
Another straightforward question: Did Labour decide to restore the 50% tax rate under pressure from the SNP? Or is the SNP’s one-week old support for the 50% tax rate another attempt to con Labour voters into switching to voting SNP?
And the SNP’s promises to work with Labour in Westminster but – heaven forbid! – NEVER with the Tories does not sit very well alongside their record in Holyrood.
Or did you miss that interview with Annabelle Goldie (former Tory leader in Holyrood) in the “Daily Record”, the one where she said:
“They (the SNP) were quite happy to work with us when they needed to. Alex Salmond knew he could not get agreement from Labour. When he had to get support for his budget, I don’t remember him jumping up and down and saying he cannot do business with the Tories.
Alex Salmond took those Tory votes and Alex Salmond was glad to get them. What suited him in 2007 and 2008 and in the ensuing years of minority government is the very thing now he says he’ll have no truck with.”
The SNP is not a political force to push a Labour government to the left. In words of one syllable, John McDonnell (leader of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs) explained why not in an article in the “Daily Record” last week:
“Given their track record in Scotland of supporting cuts in public spending, their attempts to race to the bottom on tax and in privatising rail and now the ferries, there is a huge divide between what socialists in the Labour Party stand for and the nationalists of the SNP.
What we (the Labour Left) want are the exact opposite of the cuts and privatisation programmes inflicted on the Scottish people by the SNP. You can’t be an austerity party in Scotland and expect to be taken seriously as an anti-austerity party anywhere else.
A vote for the SNP is a vote for their version of austerity. Worse, voting for the SNP might help the Tories stay in power. That would be a massive blow for the working class in Scotland and England.”
In fact, it’s really quite sad – although I think a more aggressive expression would not be out of place – to see SSP members out on the streets campaigning to unseat Labour MPs who share John McDonnell’s politics.
Do you really think that unseating Katy Clark and replacing her by an SNP right-winger is going to: a) help bring about a Labour government; b) push that Labour government to the left?
Argument number three: Voting SNP and sending as many SNP MPs as possible to Westminster is a way to fight back against austerity.
That’s an odd argument.
Just seven months ago you were telling me that there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that you could fight austerity at Westminster, that austerity was INSEPARABLE FROM the very existence of the British state, and that’s why Scotland HAD TO ACHIEVE independence.
But now you’re telling me that you can fight austerity at Westminster after all! It all depends on who gets elected and on the basis of what politics! I suppose I should be flattered that you now agree with one of my anti-independence arguments, even if it’s taken you seven months to get round to parroting it.
But now you’ve come up against a new problem: the SNP’s own record of ‘fighting’ austerity. Because, for all their demagogy, soundbites and rhetoric, their ‘opposition’ to austerity consists of implementing it.
Since 2007 the SNP have cut 130,000 places in Further Education colleges, the main route for working-class youth into Higher Education. That’s why class inequalities in Scottish education have remained unchanged under the SNP.
More cuts have been imposed on the fire service under the SNP than under any other Holyrood government. The SNP member who was the FBU’s Scottish Regional Secretary got his just rewards for agreeing to those cuts by being booted out of office last year, losing the election by 20% to 80%.
There is a chronic shortage of nurses in the Scottish NHS. Accident and Emergency (A&E) services in the Scottish NHS are in a state of crisis, performing even worse than in England. More people are waiting longer for A&E treatment.
But the SNP government’s spending on the NHS remains proportionately lower than the Con-Dem coalition’s. What has increased under the SNP is spending on private healthcare – up by 47% since 2011, amounting to £100 millions.
Since 2007 Scottish government funding of local authorities has been cut by 24% in real terms, even though, using the SNP’s own figures, the cut in the Westminster grant to Scotland has been less than half that (10%). SNP-controlled councils have passed on those funding cuts by axing jobs and services.
SNP-controlled Dundee Council is currently implementing £8 millions worth of cuts. The SNP-Labour coalition in Edinburgh is now imposing £22 millions worth of cuts, axing 1,200 council jobs, and withdrawing £11 millions of funding for voluntary sector organisations.
When the Procurement Reform Bill was going through Holyrood the SNP voted down Labour amendments requiring that at least the Living Wage was paid by any employer awarded a public contract (although, to better masquerade as the workers’ friend, the SNP has now changed its policy on the Living Wage as well).
This is not the record of a party committed to fighting austerity. It’s the record of a party which implements austerity.
And the SNP’s demand for Full Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland (FFA, which is what the SNP really wants from the next Westminster government) would mean more austerity.
The last Institute for Fiscal Studies report and the last Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report both confirm that replacing the Barnett Formula by FFA would result in an annual shortfall of around £6.5 billions. This could be plugged only by tax rises or spending cuts involving massive job losses.
In the referendum campaign the SNP’s answer to this shortfall was: oil. But since last September the price of oil has fallen from $110 a barrel to $50 a barrel.
The SNP’s figures never stack up. But they carry on regardless. And when anyone points this out, the response from people like you is: Scaremongering!
Argument number four: Voting SNP, sending SNP MPs to Westminster instead of Labour ones, and the resulting hung Parliament will create new openings for working-class and socialist politics.
This is no more than your referendum refrain of ‘an independent Scotland will create openings for the working class’ applied to the general election. Now we’re supposed to believe that replacing Labour MPs by SNP ones is going to boost working-class politics.
It was nonsense then. And it’s even more nonsensical now.
The SNP is not a working-class party. It has no links to the trade unions. It is not a vehicle for working-class political representation. It does not claim to be any of these things. And it does not want to be any of these things.
Sorry to state the obvious, but the SNP is a nationalist party. That’s why its election material talks about Scotland, not class, and why it appeals to voters’ national identities, not their class identities:
“The general election is Scotland’s opportunity to make our voice heard loudly and clearly. Whatever the outcome in May, only one party is stronger for Scotland: the SNP. More SNP seats – more power for Scotland.”
That’s the message from SNP politicians as well. According to Stewart Hosie: “The general election is Scotland’s opportunity to hold real power at Westminster.”
(Scotland to hold real power at Westminster? Something you and the SNP were telling me only a few months ago was absolutely impossible! And yet the SNP claims that they are the one party you can trust!)
And that’s the message that people are buying into on the doorstep.
That this is not an election in which the different competing parties represent different class interests (however inadequately in the case of Labour). It is not an election in which you vote to decide which party will form the next government. It is an election in which you vote for which party will best represent Scotland.
(If you haven’t noticed that, you should get out more.)
Politics ceases to be a matter of conflicting class interests. Instead, it becomes one of competing national interests. And that is truly fatal to any prospect of advancing a specifically working-class political agenda.
You probably still have enough leftovers from your socialist politics in you to recognise that the statement “You’re a traitor to your country” is an inherently right-wing statement.
But when the SNP denounces Labour Party members as “traitors to Scotland” for having voted ‘No’, you delude yourself into believing that’s the stuff of a working-class break from Labour to the left rather than a collapse into nationalism.
The SNP is not a vehicle for your avowed socialist politics. It’s the object of your fantasies. And your fantasies are a measure of your own collapse into nationalism and your readiness to be a self-deluding satrap for the SNP.
In fact, when I wrote above that you had lost the plot, I was really being too charitable. Politically, you’ve clearly lost the will to live.
Yours, most certainly not in solidarity:
From today’s Daily Telegraph … Sturgeon denies this, but she would, wouldn’t she? Who can seriously doubt that this is almost certainly true, if only on the principle of cui bono?
Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by The Daily Telegraph.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has privately said that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material”, a leaked memorandum seen by The Telegraph has revealed.
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by this newspaper.
The disclosure undermines public claims made by Miss Sturgeon this week that she wants to build a “progressive” alliance with Ed Miliband and other left-wing parties to keep the Conservatives out of office.
It appears to confirm growing speculation in Scotland that the SNP would privately favour another Conservative-led Westminster government – which it could campaign against in a bid to stoke up anti-English sentiment and make an “out” vote more likely in another referendum.
The Telegraph has seen the official British Government memorandum which includes details of a private meeting between Miss Sturgeon and Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK.
The memorandum which was written by a senior British civil servant, dated March 6th, states: “Just had a telephone conversation with Pierre-Alain Coffinier (PAC), the French CG [consul-general]. He was keen to fill me in on some of the conversations his Ambassador had during her visit to Scotland last week. All of this was given on a confidential basis.”
It continues: “The Ambassador….had a truncated meeting with the FM [Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister] (FM running late after a busy Thursday…). Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats… that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material).”
The civil servant appeared so surprised by the private admission made by Miss Sturgeon that he questioned whether there might have been an issue with the “translation” during the conversation.
However, it was later established that the conversation took place in English as all the French officials are fluent.
It is a common diplomatic courtesy if an ambassador to the UK visits one of the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for the British Government to be given an official readout of the conversation although the SNP leader, who has only been in position since the autumn, may have been unaware of this formality.
The disclosure of her private comments may undermine Miss Sturgeon’s new-found popularity, after she was judged by snap opinion polls to have “won” Thursday night’s general election debate with six other party leaders.
She is increasingly seen as a potential “kingmaker” in any Coalition talks as Labour support in Scotland has slumped with the SNP expected to gain dozens of seats in next month’s general election.
Yesterday, Miss Sturgeon was mobbed after she returned to Scotland in scenes reminiscent of the “Cleggmania” recorded after the Liberal Democrat leader’s success in the 2010 general election debates.
Miss Sturgeon’s comments may threaten the SNP’s huge opinion poll lead in Scotland, which is built on the support of traditional Labour voters who have grown disillusioned with the party but remain hostile to the Tories.
Yesterday, unaware that the memo had been leaked to the Telegraph, she continued to openly back Mr Miliband.
“If the SNP and Labour combined have more MPs than the Tories do – if there is an anti-Tory majority – we can lock David Cameron out of Downing Street,” she said.
“I’ve challenged Ed Miliband, and I do so again: if we have that anti-Tory majority, the SNP has said we will vote to stop a Tory government even getting off the ground.”
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, and Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the “astonishing” account of her comments proves that the SNP really wants a Tory Government with few or no MPs in Scotland, allowing the party to push the case for a second independence referendum.
Mr Murphy said: “This is a devastating revelation that exposes the uncomfortable truth behind the SNP’s General Election campaign. For months Nicola Sturgeon has been telling Scots she wants rid of David Cameron yet behind closed doors with foreign governments she admits she wants a Tory Government. It’s déjà vu all over again – the SNP say one thing in public but another private.”
Mr Rennie said: “It is astonishing that Nicola Sturgeon can look people in the eye and declare the SNP would never support the Conservatives in government when in private she secretly wants them to win.
“Despite her fluffy, positive words about working with the rest of the UK this reveals her sole ambition is to break up the UK. I’ve no doubt that the Tories in government alone would fuel the Nationalist fires. She is open with foreign diplomats about her wishes now she needs to end the chicanery and be open with the voters.”
Ms Sturgeon’s stated views in the document come after a number of opinion polls showed that Mr Cameron has significantly higher approval ratings in Scotland than Mr Miliband.
Above: the Tories wasted no time in rushing out this bizarre video
One thing emerged very clearly from Alex Salmond’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show: the Scottish Nationalists are bare-faced opportunists and liars. Nicola Sturgeon has already back-tracked on the SNP promise not to vote on issues that effect only England; on Sunday Salmond made it clear that his earlier promise that the referendum would settle the question of Scottish separation “for a generation” has also gone by the board. He hinted in unmistakable terms that a pledge to hold a new referendum is likely to be included in the SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto.
But it was his arrogant boast that the SNP would, in effect, control the policies of a future Labour government that was most memorable: “If you hold the balance, you hold the power” he gloated. Socialists should not be taken in by Salmond’s claim that the SNP would use its power to insist on some policies of which we might approve (dumping Trident and moving away from austerity): Salmond’s vision of the SNP as the force that will make or break a Labour government is both profoundly anti-democratic and a calculated gift to the Tories. Say what you will about Salmond, he’s not an idiot, and knows full well that his arrogant boasts about holding Labour to ransom (the accurate description used by the Tory press) make it more likely that the Tories will win in May – something that it’s pretty obvious that the SNP leadership relishes.
And, of course, the SNP has form when it comes to de facto support for the Conservatives.
Despite the Scottish Labour Party’s disastrous choice of the wretched Blairite Murphy as its leader, serious people who want a Labour government know that a Labour vote is essential everywhere – including Scotland.
Miliband should make it clear that no deal of any kind (including so-called “confidence and supply”) is on offer to Salmond, Sturgeon and the Tartan Tories.
And a final point: Alex Salmond is not the leader of the SNP and even if he is elected to Westminster in May, he won’t lead the party there (that role will remain with Angus Robertson). So who the f**k does this potential back-bencher think he is, to be dictating terms to anyone?
By Anne Field (Workers Liberty)
On Saturday 6 March a special conference of the Scottish Labour Party voted by 69% to 31% for a constitutional amendment declaring it to be a party which “works for the patriotic interest of the people of Scotland.”
The bulk of the opposing votes came from Unite and Unison, plus a scattering of local parties. According to unconfirmed reports, the GMB voted for the amendment, and the CWU and ASLEF abstained.
Winning a third of the conference to a vote against the amendment was no small achievement.
Local parties and affiliated organisations had been subject to the emotional blackmail of the need to be seen backing the leadership in the run-up to the general election.
Eight of the nine speakers called from the floor to speak on the proposed amendment spoke in favour of it.
To create the right “atmosphere” at the conference, a thousand people were in attendance, but only a small minority were actually voting delegates.
The constitutional amendment also contained all manner of references to “the Scottish people” and things Scottish and had been presented by the leadership as the way to undercut support for the SNP.
Anyone on the left — apart from those who have pitched their tent in the pro-independence camp —will share that aim of defeating the SNP, but this will not help.
Modelled on Blair’s re-writing of the party’s Clause Four, which had committed the party to the “common ownership” of industry, the amendment was meant to be newly-elected leader Jim Murphy’s very own “Clause Four moment”.
As Murphy put it last December: “It’s the biggest change in Scottish Labour’s history… I want to rewrite Clause Four of Scottish Labour to bring us closer to the centre of Scottish life.”
Blair’s rewriting of the Clause Four was a genuine political statement — it was part of his mission to destroy the Labour Party as the political wing of the workers’ movement. His actions dominated news headlines for months.
Murphy was not even amending Clause Four! He was amending Clause Two of the Scottish Labour constitution, nothing more than a sentence stuck in between Clause One and Clause Three.
Murphy’s announcement created no more than a ripple of media coverage.
Most media coverage mentioned the constitutional amendment only as a footnote to its coverage of the conference. (That includes the party’s own website reports of the conference.) The remaining media coverage (including LabourList) did not mention it at all.
Murphy’s re-writing was a transparent exercise in squalid opportunism.
Despite losing the referendum, the SNP is on course to wipe out Labour in the general election. So, runs Murphy’s logic, the party needs to be more Scottish than the SNP. Yet only a few months earlier Murphy’s Chief of Staff John McTernan had warned that “you can’t out-nat the nats”.
(McTernan himself is hardly best placed to “out-nat the nats”. In 2002 he e-mailed a Labour MSP about to visit Sweden: “I think you’ll really like it. It’s the country Scotland would be if it wasn’t narrow, Presbyterian, racist, etc., etc.)
The new “Clause Four” is irrelevant to reversing Labour’s fortunes.
Insofar as anyone takes it seriously the commitment to “the patriotic interest of the people of Scotland” will be positively damaging.
The SNP lost last September’s referendum. But its great achievement in the referendum campaign, apart from thoroughly poisoning political debate in Scotland, was to push class and social issues to the sidelines of political argument, and replace them with “Scotland’s national interests”.
Instead of poverty and inequality being identified as a product of class and capitalist oppression, they were presented as the product of “Westminster rule” and a distant “Westminster establishment”.
Murphy seeks to challenge the SNP on its own territory: which party is best placed and most suited to representing Scotland’s national and patriotic interests. Given the nature of the SNP as a narrow Scottish-nationalist party, the answer to that question will always be: the SNP.
Apart from reinforcing the nationalist element in Scottish political discourse (and, consequently, the SNP’s electoral prospects), Murphy’s attempt to put patriotism centre-stage is also a challenge to the rationale for Scottish Labour’s existence.
As the one anti-amendment speaker called at last Saturday’s conference put it:
“Patriotism is an essential tool in presenting class interest — the ruling class interest — as the interest of all of us.
“The primary purpose of the Scottish Labour Party should be precisely the opposite of that. It should be exposing the class nature of Scottish society. It should be attacking austerity. It should be increasing redistribution of wealth. It should be promoting equality.
“On the basis of this kind of programme we should be fighting tooth and nail to halt the nationalist offensive.
“So let’s stop talking about about patriotic interest and start talking about the class interest instead.”
“Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.
“These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups.
“Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics. There is something distinctive about Islamist identity. Islam is a global religion, allowing Islamists to create an identity that is intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world, from Afghanistan to Palestine, and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement.
“In an age in which traditional anti-imperialist movements have faded and belief in alternatives to capitalism dissolved, radical Islam provides the illusion of a struggle against an immoral present and for a utopian future”.
Kenan Malik is always worth taking notice of. He was obviously too bright to stay with those idiots calling themselves the ‘Institute of Ideas’, and now seems to have broken with them and become a free-lance intellectual of considerable force. His article on Islamism in today’s Observer is outstanding, and if you haven’t already done so, you should read it now.
Make no mistake: Syriza’s victory is an inspiring moment for the working class of Greece and the left throughout Europe and beyond. Shiraz Socialist is not about to join the bleating chorus of sectarians, Stalinists and other defeatists who have already begun predicting a sell-out by the new government. Some of these people on the UK left are well described here by Comrade Coatesy.
However, it has to be admitted that Syriza’s coalition deal with the far right wing anti-immigrant (and on occasion, antisemitic) Independent Greeks party (ANEL) is disappointing and worrying. The following disturbing article from Anton Shekhovtsov’s blog, offers a possible explanation for this unlikely alliance. We cannot vouch for the accuracy of what the author claims, but his theory certainly makes sense and is at least worthy of serious attention:
Greek left-wing SYRIZA forms a coalition with the pro-Kremlin far right
After a landslide victory in the early parliamentary elections held on 25 January 2015, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that secured 149 seats in the new parliament has surprised the left-wing voters and sympathisers by agreeing to form, already on 26 January, a coalition government with the far right Independent Greeks party (ANEL) that now has 13 seats. Popular support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn led by currently imprisoned Nikolaos Michaloliakos has slightly decreased: the neo-Nazis have secured 17 seats (one seat less than in 2012), but the Golden Dawn is still the third largest party in Greece.
Both SYRIZA and ANEL are so-called “anti-austerity parties” implying that they oppose reducing budget deficits as a response to the Greek financial crisis, as well as rejecting the austerity package put forth by the EU and the IMF. The “anti-austerity” platform may seem the only agenda that has drawn the two parties they share, but they also share a similar approach to foreign policy issues – an approach that may undermine the EU unity over the Russian threat.
Both parties are overtly pro-Russian, and SYRIZA’s leader Alexis Tsipras denounced the sanctions against Russia imposed by the EU for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its invasion of Ukraine that has already cost Ukrainians thousands of lives. In May 2014, i.e. already after Russia had started its invasion of Ukraine, Tsipras travelled to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin’s major allies such as Valentina Matviyenko, chairman of Federation Council of the Russian Federation, and Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Both Matviyenko and Pushkov are sanctioned by the US, while Matviyenko is also sanctioned by the EU. This did not prevent Tsipras from holding a meeting with her.
|Valentina Matviyenko and Alexis Tsipras at a meeting in Moscow, May 2014|
In Greece, our [i.e. Russia’s] partners could eventually be Leftists from SYRIZA, which refuses Atlanticism, liberalism and the domination of the forces of global finance. As far as I know, SYRIZA is anti-capitalist and it is critical of the global oligarchy that has victimized Greece and Cyprus. The case of SYRIZA is interesting because of its far-Left attitude toward the liberal global system. It is a good sign that such non-conformist forces have appeared on the scene.
The pro-Russian sentiments of SYRIZA were manifested, in particular, in its voting behaviour in the European parliament. For example, on 16 September 2014, when the European Parliament ratified the EU-Ukraine Association agreement – an agreement that was one of the reasons of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – all six MEPs of SYRIZA voted against the ratification of this agreement.
If SYRIZA is Russia’s “Trojan horse” in the EU, then ANEL led by Panos Kammenos may be even worse.
ANEL (founded in February 2012) is a far right party that Daphne Halikiopoulou and Sofia Vasilopoulou describe as “highly conservative and nationalistic right-wing”. In its opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, ANEL is similar to, yet is more moderate than, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. ANEL is also prone to conspiracy theories. For example, as argued by Pavlos Zafiropoulos, ANEL and its supporters believe that the Greek government “is spraying the populace from airplanes with mind-controlling substances”. Anti-Semitism is not alien to ANEL either: “Panos Kammenos, speaking on a TV program made the baseless claim that Jewish people in Greece are not taxed in contrast to Christian Orthodox Greeks”.
The driving force behind the pro-Russian approach of ANEL seems to be Gavriil Avramidis, who was elected MP with ANEL in Thessaloniki in 2012. He is also head of the Patriotic Social Movement “Greek-Russian Alliance” founded in 2001 and aimed at widening co-operation between Greece and Russia.
Yet Avramidis may be not the only politician in ANEL who is lobbying Russian interests in Greece. Kammenos visited Moscow in the first half of January 2015. Moreover, an article titled “An Attempt at Reviving the Russian Party” that was published on 22 January in the Greek Russian-language newspaper Afinskiy Kur‘er (Athens Courier) discussed the pro-Russian approach of ANEL in general.
|An article titled “An Attempt at Reviving the Russian Party” published in Afinskiy Kur’er (Athens Courier). Gavriil Avramidis is featured on the central photo|
Several questions remain, however. Are pro-Russian sentiments indeed important for ANEL? Will ANEL contribute to the strengthening of SYRIZA’s pro-Russian positions? Will the new coalition government push for lifting the EU sanctions against Russia that is escalating its invasion of Ukraine?
Doubtlessly, Russia will try to capitalise both on the victory of SYRIZA and the formation of the SYRIZA/ANEL coalition government. Putin has already congratulated Tsipras on his party’s victory saying that he is “confident that Russia and Greece will continue to develop their traditionally constructive cooperation in all areas and will work together effectively to resolve current European and global problems”. BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse, currently in Athens, reports that he has seen the Russian ambassador Andrey Maslov entering the SYRIZA main office.
Kammenos’ visit to Moscow was most likely connected to the possibility of the formation of the SYRIZA/ANEL coalition government. At the same time, Avramidis visited the General Consulate of Russia in Thessaloniki on 23 January 2015, i.e. just a few days before the parliamentary elections, to discuss, with Consul General Aleksey Popov, the renewal of the cooperation between Greece and Russia, as well as lifting the sanctions against Russia.
|(left to right) Russian Consul General in Thessaloniki Aleksey Popov and MP Gavriil Avramidis, 23 January 2015, Thessaloniki|
Since the EU is a consensus-based organisation, imposing or tightening sanctions against Russia requires all the Member States to agree to such moves. Hence, the issue of sanctions may become a negotiating point for the new Greek authorities when they meet with more influential EU players to renegotiate the terms of the bailout programme for Greece. SYRIZA and ANEL are “anti-austerity” parties in the first place, so their pro-Russian sentiments may increase the cost, rather than contribute to lifting or blocking, of the EU sanctions against Russia.
I had hopes that it would not have been a 55/45 split in the Scotland’s referendum but more of a 35/65 one. Instead the vote swung from closer towards independence than most had anticipated a year ago and the Scottish National Party has gained thousands of recruits from disappointed Yessers and those on the left who have given up on the Labour Party. They are likely to win most of Scotland’s seats in the next general election.
This, along with the rise of UKIP this swing to nationalistic and populist politics should not be surprising in Britain. It’s happening all over the continent, with France’s Front National having a good chance of winning the presidency and the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and of the Sweden Democrats.
This sort of politics with its whiff of the thirties is very alarming.
Kenan Malik’s piece here is excellent on the rise of right-wing populism within Europe:-
“What are considered populist parties comprise, in fact, very different kinds of organizations, with distinct historical roots, ideological values and networks of social support. Some, such as Golden Dawn, are openly Nazi. Others, such as the Front National are far-right organizations that in recent years have tried to rebrand themselves to become more mainstream. Yet others – UKIP for instance – have reactionary views, play to far-right themes such as race and immigration, but have never been part of the far-right tradition.
What unites this disparate group is that all define themselves through a hostility to the mainstream and to what has come to be regarded as the dominant liberal consensus. Most of the populist parties combine a visceral hatred of immigration with an acerbic loathing of the EU, a virulent nationalism and deeply conservative views on social issues such as gay marriage and women’s rights.
The emergence of such groups reveals far more, however, than merely a widespread disdain for the mainstream. It expresses also the redrawing of Europe’s political map, and the creation of a new faultline on that map. The postwar political system, built around the divide between social democratic and conservative parties, is being dismantled. Not only has this created new space for the populists, but it is also transforming the very character of political space.
The new political faultline in Europe is not between left and right, between social democracy and conservatism, but between those who feel at home in – or at least are willing to accommodate themselves to – the post-ideological, post-political world, and those who feel left out, dispossessed and voiceless. These kinds of divisions have always existed, of course. In the past, however, that sense of dispossession and voicelessness could be expressed politically, particularly through the organizations of the left and of the labour movement. No longer. It is the erosion of such mechanisms that is leading to the remaking of Europe’s political landscape.
as broader political, cultural and national identities have eroded, and as traditional social networks, institutions of authority and moral codes have weakened, so people’s sense of belonging has become more narrow and parochial, moulded less by the possibilities of a transformative future than by an often mythical past. The politics of ideology has, in other words, given way to the politics of identity…
we need to establish new social mechanisms through which to link liberal ideas about immigration and individual rights with progressive economic arguments and a belief in the community and the collective. Those who today rightly bemoan the corrosion of collective movements and community organizations often also see the problem as too much immigration. Those who take a liberal view on immigration, and on other social issues, are often happy with a more individualized, atomized society. Until all three elements of a progressive outlook – a defence of immigration, freedom of movement and of individual rights, a challenge to austerity policies and the embrace of collective action – can be stitched together, and stitched into a social movement, then there will be no proper challenge to the populists.”
Eric Pickles has taken over the administration of Tower Hamlets council for two years after an inquiry commissioned by his department found wholesale mismanagement, questionable grant-giving and a failure to secure best value for local taxpayers.
Pickles plans to dispatch three commissioners to administrate grant-giving, property transactions and the administration of future elections in the borough.
The commissioners, who will be answerable to Pickles, will be in place until March 2017 and are tasked with drawing up an action plan to improve governance in the council, including the permanent appointment of three senior council officers including a chief executive.
The PwC report alleges corruption, cronyism and improper, communalist (though it doesn’t use that word) distribution of grants.
Among the key findings:
- Poplar Town Hall, a Grade II listed building, was sold for £875,000 to a political supporter of Mr Rahman even though the bid arrived late, and after rival bids had been opened, which created a “risk of bid manipulation”. A higher offer was rejected, contrary to independent advice, and the winner was later allowed to change his contract.
- Grants were handed out to organisations that were “ruled ineligible”, with some £407,700 given to groups that failed to meet the council’s own minimum criteria. Council officers were over-ruled in many cases.
- The council appeared to show “a tendency towards denial or obfuscation rather than an inclination to investigate concerns raised”. It did not properly investigate issues raised in a BBC Panorama programme that alleged Mr Rahman intervened to increase grants paid to some local Bangladeshi organisations.
- Public money was spent “inappropriately” on political advertising for the Mayor.
Comrade Coatesy has done an excellent job of summarising the report and the media response. He concludes with these words of wisdom, with which we heartily concur:
“Pickles is a one-man anti-democratic foul abusive swine.
“But before protesting at this those on the left should avoid saying that Rahman’s administration and satellites (are) innocent because they say so.”
Some background information (drawn up by a comrade before the publication of the PwC report):
Rahman was previously the leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council. However, he lost this position in 2010. The same year he was selected as the Labour candidate to stand as the directed elected mayor of Tower Hamlets before being removed by the party’s NEC. The reason for him losing both positions were accusations that the Islamic Foundation of Europe (IFE) had signed up some hundreds of members to the Labour Party to advance Rahman’s cause. The IFE is part of a network of groups around the East London Mosque aligned to the Jamaat-e-Islami (aka Maududists), which has its origins in India but is now more significantly is a force in Pakistan and were chief amongst the anti-secessionist forces in the civil war that created Bangladesh. They are Islamist in that they support an Islamic state based on Sharia law, but are (on the whole) social conservatives not jihadists.
Rahman won the 2010 mayoral election as an independent although Tower Hamlets is by no means a majority Muslim borough, less than 40% are Muslims but they do constitute the bulk of Labour’s electoral base and once Rahman was able to win this no-one could beat him. Rahman’s position was strengthened by the party formed around him, Tower Hamlets First (THF), winning 18 of the 45 council seats in 2014 and under the mayoral system Rahman can run the administration drawing on only these councillors. THF is entirely drawn from Tower Hamlets Bangladeshis (and one would assume, Muslims), although six have previously been councillors of both the Labour Party and Respect. One of these, Abjoi Miah, was a key member of Respect and appears to have been the key link person between Respect and IFE/Jamaat. He is now the central organiser of THF and a power behind Rahman’s throne. The turn to the Labour Party and Rahman appears to have been because IFE/Jamaat lost confidence in the Respect MP for Bow and Poplar (in Tower Hamlets), George Galloway, after he made a complete fool of himself on Celebrity Big Brother.
There are three important points to make about the Rahman/THF rule in Tower Hamlets and the possibility of other councils becoming Muslim run:
First Rahman and THF do not present as Islamists. For example, the council maintains an LGBT policy. It might be the case that Rahman and many of the THF councillors are not Islamists but communalists who wish to promote the interests of those of Bangladeshi origins, something that is not without precedent in local government politics in Britain. The most notable feature of Rahman/THF rule is not the establishment of an Islamic state in the East End, but the creation of a version of the millet system that existed under the Ottoman Empire whereby everyone is related to as a religious group. It is common for local councils to run a layer of social services through local voluntary groups and charities. In Tower Hamlets these are becoming increasingly demarcated on religious lines, that strengthens the links between people of Bangladeshi origin. Through its Community Faith Building Support Scheme the council gives direct support to faith based groups, the budget for 2014 being £1.3 million. Of the 2013 funding, although funding went to a variety of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh groups, two-thirds went to Muslim groups. It is such communalism and setting of religious identity into policy structures that is most problematic here, not any overt militancy.
Second, what is notable about Tower Hamlets First is their relative youth. These are not bearded elders in traditional attire, but young men in suits and whose beards are either neatly clipped or absent. In sharp distinction to older generations, there are women amongst THF’s councillors. This group has coalesced around three factors: the shutting down of channels in the Labour Party to their advancement, the rise of Respect in Tower Hamlets showing the potential to mobilise Muslim voters in a new way, and the organisation hub of Jamaat-e-Islami based on the East London Mosque. The last of these is probably the most important, but one that might not be readily replicated elsewhere. As Innes Bowen has shown in her recent book, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent, while most mosques in Britain are affiliated to the conservative quietism of the Deobandi and Barelwi strands of Sunni Islam, the East London Mosque is affiliated to the Islamist idea of Jamaat-e-Islami, with IFE being part of this stable too.
Third, success for Tower Hamlets First was tied up with the mayoral systems. Tower Hamlets First do not have the spread across the borough to win the majority of the council seats, and have only 40 per cent. Their control is thus based on winning the direct elections for mayor that Rahman did comfortably in 2010 where he took much of Labour’s vote, and more tightly in 2014 against a strong Labour challenge.
Rahman’s links with the Islamic Forum of Europe and Jamaat-e-Islami are described on pages 27-29 of this booklet.