EU: time for the UK left to face reality

February 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm (David Cameron, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, left, Murdoch, populism, Racism, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, Tory scum)

Portada de The Sun (United Kingdom)

As Cameron embarks on his campaign to sell his “reformed” relationship with the EU, the xenophobes have begun their anti-EU campign in earnest. Today’s Sun gives us a taste of what to expect: denunciations of migrants, demands for stricter border controls and thinly-disguised racism.

It’s time for the left to get real: the anti-EU movement is of necessity nationalist, xenophobic and border-line racist. No matter how much idiots like the Morning Star, the SWP and the Socialist Party try to dress up their anti-EU rhetoric with the word “socialism” and dire warnings about the evils of international capitalism and the “bosses’ Europe” they cannot escape the reactionary logic of their anti-EU stance.

Yet for decades now most of the British left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — has agitated “against the EU”. The agitation has suggested, though rarely said openly, we should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

Yet the possibility of a serious unravelling of the patchwork, bureaucratic semi-unification of Europe, slowly developed over the last sixty years, is more real today than ever before. The decisive push for unravelling comes from from the nationalist and populist right.

And that calls the bluff of a whole swathe of the British left.

For decades, most of the British left has been “anti-EU” as a matter of faith. In Britain’s 1975 referendum on withdrawing from the EU, almost the whole left, outside AWL’s forerunner Workers’ Fight, campaigned for withdrawal. Since then the left has hesitated explicitly to demand withdrawal. It has limited itself to “no to bosses’ Europe” agitation, implying but not spelling out a demand for the EU to be broken up.

The agitation has allowed the left to eat its cake and have it. The left can chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country. It can also cover itself by suggesting that it is not really anti-European, but only dislikes the “bosses’” character of the EU.

As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist! As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neo-liberal governments could be anything other than neo-liberal!

As if the material force behind neo-liberal cuts has been the relatively flimsy Brussels bureaucracy, rather than the mighty bureaucratic-military-industrial complexes of member states. As if the answer is to oppose confederation and cross-Europeanism as such, rather than the capitalist, neo-liberal, bureaucratic character of both member states and the EU.

As if the EU is somehow more sharply capitalist, anti-worker, and neo-liberal than the member states. In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

As if the answer is to pit nations against Europe, rather than workers against bosses and bankers. The anti-EU left loves to gloatingly  remind us of the EU leaders’ appalling treatment of Greece and Tsipras’s capitulation – despite the fact that while in Greece and Southern Europe the EU is indeed a force for neoliberal austerity, in the UK no-one can point to a single attack on the working class that has originated with the EU against the will of a British government: indeed the EU has forced reluctant UK governments to enact limited but real pro-worker legislation (despite the Morning Star‘s dishonest claims to the contrary, the EU has been responsible for real pro-working class reforms such as the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, the Agency Workers Regulations and the Working Time Regulations – none of which are at any immediate risk as a result of Cameron’s “renegotiation”).

When Socialist Worker, in a Q&A piece, posed itself the question, “wouldn’t things be better for workers if Britain pulled out of the EU?”, it answered itself with a mumbling “yes, but” rather than a ringing “yes”.

Socialist Worker is against Britain being part of a bosses’ Europe”. Oh? And against Britain being part of a capitalist world, too?

Britain would be better off in outer space? Or walled off from the world North-Korea-style? “But withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t guarantee workers’ rights — the Tories remain committed to attacking us”. Indeed. And just as much so as the EU leaders, no?

A few years ago the Socialist Party threw itself into a electoral coalition called No2EU. Every week in its “Where We Stand” it declaims: “No to the bosses’ neo-liberal European Union!”, though that theme rarely appears in its big headlines.

Even the demand for withdrawal is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (i.e. all the neo-liberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

That is not what the no-to-EU-ers want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too. A speech by RMT president Alex Gordon featured on the No2EU website spells it out: “Imperialist, supranational bodies such as the EU seek to roll back democratic advances achieved in previous centuries… Progressive forces must respond to this threat by defending and restoring national democracy. Ultimately, national independence is required for democracy to flourish…”

But does the left really want the EU broken up? What would happen?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face disapproval at best.

There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.

Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.

Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.

The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

It’s time for the anti-EU left to get real, face facts and pull back from its disastrous de facto alliance with some of the most reactionary forces in British politics.

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‘Little Jazz’: remembering Roy Eldridge

January 30, 2016 at 5:03 pm (Anti-Racism, civil rights, good people, history, jazz, Jim D, Racism, song, United States)


Above: Roy in 1942 with Anita O’Day in the Gene Krupa Orchestra

Jazz trumpeter Roy ‘Little Jazz’ Eldridge was born this day (Jan 30) in 1911

Roy was a tremendously exciting player, generally regarded as the link between Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He died (Feb 26 1989) a well-respected jazz elder statesman, but he never achieved much public recognition or made much money. Also, as a black musician coming up in the 1930’s he knew all about segregation and was sometimes refused service in joints that had his name up in lights outside …

Roy was a sensitive guy and had to put up (or not) with a lot of racist shit, especially during his stints with the otherwise all-white big bands of Gene Krupa and then Artie Shaw. In fact, on leaving Shaw in 1944 he vowed “As long as I’m in America I’ll never in my life work with a white band again.”

However, Roy always spoke well of Krupa, and the following contemporary press report may explain why:

Krupa Fined After Fight Over Eldridge

York, Pa – Gene Krupa used his fists two weeks ago to subdue the operator of a restaurant here who refused to allow Roy Eldridge admittance. Gene and his band were playing a one-nighter at the Valencia Ballroom … It was reported that the restaurant man made “unfair” and ungentlemanly remarks regarding Eldridge, and then asked Roy to leave the place. Krupa took offense. Words tumbled forth. Finally, Krupa and the restaurant man “mixed” with fists flying. Police were called, Krupa was arrested, taken to jail and fined $10. Then he was released.

It maked the first time the color line had been drawn on Roy since he joined Krupa’s crew … Musicians in the Krupa band applauded their boss for his action, although both Roy and Gene said they were “sorry as hell” the occasion arose where force was necessary to maintain right – Dec 15, 1941.

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The last time a semi-fascist came close to winning the US presidency

January 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, BBC, conspiracy theories, fascism, history, Jim D, literature, populism, Racism, Republican Party, United States)

Johnathan Freedland’s always excellent Radio 4 programme The Long View, today compared the loathsome Donald Trump with three previous “outsider”/”celebrity” populists who, at various times, seemed to be potential contenders for the US presidency: William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh. All were extreme reactionaries, anti-semites (though there is some evidence that Hearst belatedly changed his attitude towards Jews), and islationists. At various times, all three expressed admiration for Hitler.

In fact, only Lindbergh got anywhere near to being a serious political force, and in his brilliant book The Plot Against America Philip Roth creates a convincing alternative history in which Lindbergh won the Republican nomination in 1940 and went on to defeat Roosevelt in that year’s election.

Freedland reminded listeners that a recording of Lindbergh’s September 11 1941 Des Moines anti-war speech can still be heard. A terrifying forewarning of what Trump now parades before the American people and the real threat he poses to the whole world:

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Peaceful Muslim woman, kicked out of Trump rally, speaks

January 11, 2016 at 12:08 am (Asshole, fascism, Human rights, Islam, jerk, Jim D, plonker, populism, Racism, United States)

Just listen to what she has to say. Trump and his people are certainly racists … and pretty damn close to fascism:

Let’s just hope that this woman’s evident decency and generosity of spirit bursts Trump’s bubble.

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The Nightmare of Cologne: Denialism and Bigotry are not the only choices

January 9, 2016 at 10:55 pm (Anti-Racism, Germany, Human rights, immigration, islamism, misogyny, posted by JD, Racism, reblogged, religion, thuggery, women)

This article has been re-blogged from the Rambling Infidel:

A member of a German-Tunisian association handed out flowers Thursday near the site of scores of holiday assaults in Cologne, Germany. 

Above: a member of a German-Tunisian association hands out flowers near the site of the assaults

By The Rambling Infidel

Writing this article will be like walking through a minefield because this is a very sensitive issue. As it touches on sexual violence, multiculturalism, immigration and intergration, which are not easy subjects to talk about.Let me make one thing VERY clear from the start: I am not interested in spreading propaganda or spreading hatred and bigotry towards people. Nor am I interested in endorsing far-right narratives about immigrants, muslims or whatever group they wish to persecute. However, I believe we must have a serious and scrupulous discussion about this, as for too long now this issue has been swept under the rug, deflected and dodged. We cannot remain silent on this.

What happened?

In Cologne, there were reports of shocking sexual assaults taking place during the New Years celebrations prompting 90 legal complaints by women to the police. Dozens of young women in Cologne were groped: and in one case raped, by hundreds of men described in testimonies as having a “a North African or Arabic” appearance.

The attackers are believed to have organized themselves into gangs then stalked, molested and eventually mug women as they were enjoying New Years celebrations. The accounts of these assaults seem very reminiscent of the sexual molestation -with the intent to intimidate women- that went on in Tahir Square during protests that brought down President Mubarak and Morsi respectively in Egypt in 2011 and 2013.

Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart on the same night. In a seperate incident a gang rape of two teenage girls in the southern German town of Weil am Rhein on New Year’s Eve is believed to have occured. Police have arrested four Syrians, aged between 14 and 21, as suspects.

Shocked German authorities called these assaults “unprecedented in nature” saying “hundreds of young men appeared to have participated”.

Who did it?

The identification through testimony of the attackers in Cologne as “North African or Arab men” will inevitably raise the question of whether they were refugees from Syria and Iraq or recent migrants from North Africa. As of now, we are not sure all the attackers were recent migrants into Europe, but it is clear that at least some will be if we go by suspects currently detained by German authorities.

German police initially claimed there was no evidence that asylum seekers were involved in the violence, only for it to emerge that they had in fact detained several (mainly from Syria) on the night.

This does not mean there have not been cases of sexual assault committed by migrants in Germany, never mind in other European countries and amongst refugee women also. We are seeing a growing number of anecdotal cases where this is happening. I stole my anecdotes from this piece.

In November a club in Bavaria started turning refugees away after a string of complaints of sexual harassment from female clients.

In Baden-Württemberg at least one hospital has hired guards to protect nurses who feel intimidated by the refugees they treat.

The Woman’s Council in Hesse claimed in an open letter to the state parliament in September that they have substantial evidence of sexual abuse, including forced prostitution, in refugee shelters.

In August a regional paper in North Rhine-Westphalia also reported police covering up a serious sexual crime. After hearing about the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a refugee, the paper enquired with police as to what crimes they knew of in the refugee shelters.

There have been other reported cases in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland  and within refugee camps and shelters. This is a full blown European problem.

Why?

It is true refugees and migrants are no more likely to commit sex crimes or any other crimes than the local population. Sexual harrassment on the street is obviously not exclusive to Arabs and Muslims. In recent years India (last I checked it was a Hindu majority state) has had huge problems with sexual violence. However, there are certain truths that must be stated. This by no means discredits my previous points but it gives a more nuanced picture of this crisis. That is what is often missing from these debates- nuance.

One plausible reason why there is this sex crime phenomenon among migrants is because of a gender imbalance in favour of males among the migrants and refugees. According to the International Organization of Migration 66.26 percent of adult migrants registered through Italy and Greece over the past year were male. Many are young, unmarried, military aged males. Some are fleeing being coerced to join militias in Iraq and Syria, some have come from refugee camps in Turkey and hope to bring family members with them and others are simply fleeing the dangers of war.

Politico had a great article explaining why having such a massive gender imbalance is a problem. It argues a skewed gender imbalance in favour of males can lead to an increase in violence. It references the research of Valerie Hudson in her book which focused on China’s surplus male population which found an imbalanced sex ratio can lead to more violence, crime, rape and danger for women.

“There are also clearly negative effects for women in male-dominated populations. Crimes such as rape and sexual harassment become more common in highly masculinized societies, and women’s ability to move about freely and without fear within society is curtailed. In addition, demand for prostitution soars; that would create a deeply ironic outcome for Sweden, which invented the path-breaking Swedish abolitionist approach to prostitution.”

It is important to take this into account when dealing with the migrant and refugee crisis.

There is also a cultural dimension to this sadly.  Many of the men come from The Middle East and North Africa which are not exactly known for their exemplary treatment of women. I know this sounds like a racist thing for me to say, but it is absolutely true.
In many of these countries arcane and backward ideas about women and sexuality are widespread. Women’s bodies are shamed, women are taught as girls to revile their sexuality and to feel guilty if a man is “seduced” by their “fitna”. This then leads to men feeling  they have the total right to sexually harass any woman who is not in a burqa or the “correct hijab” or anything that does not meet the “modesty” standard. They are all asking for it. Hell! even women in burqas get harrassed so women never get a break from this oppression. Sexual harrassment for women in the Middle East and North Africa is so much a part of daily life that, for example, the Cairo metro is gender segregated in a reactionary measure to try to address this.

While a cultural element does undoubtedly exist, one has to be careful of not exaggerating it to the point of evoking old stereotypes of dark-skinned, foreign men out to prey on white women. This struggle will not be won by sinking down to racism and collective punishment. Like I said before a nuanced understanding is what we need not propaganda.

The responses

What I found particularly unhelpful was when the mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker was asked by journalists what women could do to protect themselves better from this. She said. “There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length”and that she would soon be issuing a “code of conduct” for women “so that such things do not happen to them.”

Yeah…I intend to molest and mug a women, but shit! She’s an arm’s length away from me! therefore I can’t do anything. Reker’s comments reeks of utter stupidity. She is essentially saying “German women watch you behavior, dress modestly, dont look cheery and keep quiet”. I can’t believe I have to say this in 2016 but women are not to blame in any way for sexual assaults they expierience. The blame LIES exclusively WITH the creeps who violate a woman’s bodily integrity and no one else.

This is the same backward and medieval mentality used to excuse sexual harassment of women all around the world whether in Egypt, Nigeria or India.

There are two responses one often sees in reaction to events like this, both are unhelpful and feed off each other.

The knee jerk reaction from immigration sceptics was “I told you so, you PC Liberals were wrong”, therefore we should “shut the borders”, as  “they cannot adapt to a civilised society”.

Pegida and their likes will definitely be more mobilised as they have announced a protest on the 9th January where they will to spread their alarmism, bigotry and their Eurabia conspiracy theories which is very scary.

As you can see Pat Condell with his terrible shirts jumped with glee to “prove us all wrong” about “third world muslim men” invading Europe through sex Jihad of western women.

On the other hand, the extreme left wing spasm was “we do it too”, “we are no better”, embodied in articles such as this. This piece basically argues “white people also commit sex crimes”, which is true. No one is saying the west is perfect when it comes to sexual harrassment but all of a sudden it is a problem if you point out sexual harrassment done by someone of a different culture.

This wasn’t the only absurd reaction.

Laurie Penny I am afraid to say does have a whisk of a point here. Of course, anti muslim bigots like PEGIDA will faux concern for women so that they can exploit this in order to attack muslims. However, it is dangerous to imply that anyone who explores the plausible cultural phenomena behind sex crimes done by muslim immigrants is automatically a bigot.

Conspiracy theories like this certainly do not help. This is pure denialism and a refusal to face up to reality. A very common trope among the left these days.

Then we have this from The Independent which instead of blaming the specific people responsible for the crime, it blames all men and says to point out the “difference” is to play into the far right narrative. The problem is not about race. While gender is part of the problem there is also a cultural one. Cultures can have specific ideas within them that are harmful and can be changed for the better. It is not “racist” or “bigoted” to point that out as the slimy writer implies.

This piece in the Guardian by Gaby Hinsliff was marginally better than the various tepid responses from Liberals but still it veered into apologetics.

Again, we have this refusal to give the attackers any sense of autonomy and free will. Gaby is arguing these attacks happened as a result of German women being materially better off than their attackers. In fact many of the refugees have I Phones and the latest Samsung devices, even if they did not have them that is not excuse or an “explanation” for their action. There are many people around the world who are much poorer than the refugees from the Middle East who are capable of moral restraint. This is moral bankruptcy.

Maajid Nawaz’s take in the Daily Beast was so much better. His argument is we should take a level headed, sensible approach to this grounded in data and facts which does not stigmatize all refugees but also doesn’t pretend there is not a problem. For example, creating citizenship and employment courses to help these refugees intergrate better into European societies.

What was quite worrying about the Cologne case was how reluctant authorities were to give out information. This sparked accusations of a cover up done by the police which has lead to the Cologne police chief announcing his resignation.

Even the German public broadcaster, ZDF, on Wednesday apologised for delays in reporting on the wave of sexual assaults and for deciding to postpone a news segment until Tuesday.

This discrepancy will inevitably be noticed by right wing media outlets who will use it to feed their narrative that the mainstream media and the multicultural Liberals are liars who are not interested in protecting European citizens but rather in appeasing the “Islamic invasion of Europe” that will destroy western civilisation.

We are right to fear the far-right who will exploit this for their own despicable agenda. If you follow the faces of the “Counter-Jihad” movement like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Tommy Robinson or Pat Condell on Twitter you will notice they had a field day with this story

In saying that, I do not think the response should be that we are held hostage by what the far-right may or may not do and just ignore the problem or not say anything about it in order to maintain the PC, so called “multi-cultural” status quo. I certainly do not think there should be any censorship under any circumstance. We should know the truth even if it is uncomfortable to us.

Germany is now at a stage where we want to be so sensitive that they will arrest people for hate speech against migrants. You can arrest as many people as you want for saying things you don’t like but it is not going make the sex attacks done by Arabs magically dissappear. This enforcement of political correctness using state coercion will backfire as it will just breed defiance; because you cannot punish people for simply having opinions.

Silence and suppression will only embolden racists, fascists and anti-immigrant/refugee propagandists. Their legitimacy only comes from the fact that they claim to “speak the truth” on the supposedly rapid “Islamization of the west”. As with all propaganda there are certain grains of truth to what they say and if Pat Condell or Anne Marie Waters is the only person you hear speaking on this then do not be surprised if considerable numbers of people sympathise with them even if it is only a little bit with their views.

What is to be done?

I don’t have all the answers but I am skeptical the anti-immigrant response of “keep out the muslims” will actually do anything. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just transports it somewhere else. It essentially says you can rape or harass “your women over there” and amongst “your people” but just dont’t bring it to “our women over here”. Of course, I am not suggesting we take all of them in, as that is impractical. But it is also wrong to have a “shut the borders” policy, not only is it impractical, it is plainly immoral as it punishes those who desperately need refuge from war, fascism, theocracy and anarchy.

We must firstly, affirm without excuse or exception the right of women to their bodily integrity and their right to public safety. Secondly, confront and refute these backward, medieval ideas about women, honour and shame that lies under these crimes. Thirdly, urgently address integration, citizenship and social cohesion. Until we do that, then this problem will fester which will lead to more racism, more hostility towards migrants and refugees and the bolstering of reactionary forces within Europe.

In Norway which has went through similar problems is now offering newly arrived migrants classes on sexual violence. You may think this isn’t perfect but it is certainly better than silence. I would suggest we make them compulsory for all refugees and migrants. In addition, we should have comprehensive citizenship and integration programs for these people to improve social cohesion.

I would also propose that we should prioritise families in particular women and children in order to achieve a gender equilibrium like Canada has done with its own refugee policy. This to me is a fair and balanced policy as we are able to help the very vulnerable fleeing the Middle East, not have an absolutist rejectionist stance but keep things under control.

We must be sensible, level headed and calm without giving in to populism and demagoguery . Denialism and bigotry are not the only choices we have.

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Trade Unionists Against the EU: where Stalinists get into bed with Ukip

December 18, 2015 at 11:25 pm (class collaboration, Europe, Jim D, populism, Racism, stalinism, UKIP)

 

As Cameron pursues his preposterous exercise in gesture politics – the demand that EU migrants be denied in-work benefits for four years, Corbyn has adopted a sensible and principled stance: he told the Party of European Socialists, meeting in Brussels on Thursday, that “If someone is working, paying taxes like anyone else, he should have access to the same benefits as everyone else.”

In contrast to Corbyn’s position, an outfit called Trade Unionists Against the EU offer their support to Cameron’s call for a discriminatory restriction on benefits to foreigners, in this letter published in the Guardian:

Zoe Williams misses the point about Cameron’s negotiations with EU member states (There is no master plan. On the EU, Cameron is flailing, 14 December). Restricting benefits to EU migrants may or may not be a sensible, legal or logical way to meet the concerns of people, be they “Ukip-minded” or not. But once our PM had to ask permission to do so, the issue was completely transformed. It is no longer one of EU migrants’ access to benefits, but the far more fundamental question of who decides how British taxpayers’ money is spent. It became a question of national sovereignty. That’s why organisations such Trade Unionists Against the EU are not awaiting the outcome of “negotiations” and are campaigning to get the UK out. The issue is as simple as it is clear: if the British people take a democratic decision to do something – in this case change the benefit system – they should be able to do so without having the prime minister scuttering around Europe asking permission. This will continue to be the case while the UK remains a member of the EU.
Fawzi Ibrahim
Trade Unionists Against the EU

Extraordinarily, the people behind his xenophobic rant claim to be “left wing.” In fact, Trade Unionists against the EU is chaired by a Stalinist, Doug Nicholls, and involves prominent CP’er and self-proclaimed “little Englander” Brian Denny and regular Morning Star contributor John Boyd.

These Stalinists claim that their campaign is completely independent from the right wing Tories and Ukip, who dominate the main anti-EU campaigns. But that letter to the Guardian makes it clear that when the fake-left bullshit (“exit left“, etc) is stripped away, their stance is identical to Ukip’s.

Not only that, but Leave.EU (presently battling it out with Vote Leave, for recognition as the official anti-EU campaign), set up by wealthy Ukip backer Arron Banks and little more than a front organisation for Ukip, is now sharing a website with this Stalinist front organisation: these utterly reactionary little-Englanders are, in truth, natural bedfellows.

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Front National win in first round of French regional elections: Coatesy’s analysis

December 7, 2015 at 10:22 pm (Andrew Coates, fascism, France, posted by JD, Racism, reblogged, Uncategorized)

Predictably excellent coverage from Tendance Coatesy:

Front National: National Preference.

France 24.

France’s far-right National Front (FN) party rode a wave of fear over immigration and terrorism to storm to a commanding position in the first round of voting in the country’s high-stakes regional elections on Sunday.

The anti-immigration party led by Marine Le Pen scored around 28 percent of the vote nationally and topped the list in at least six of 13 regions, according to final estimates from the interior ministry.

The FN came ahead of both former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), which earned 27 percent, and President François Hollande’s Socialists, with 23.5 percent, official estimates showed.

Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen broke the symbolic 40 percent mark in their respective regions, shattering previous records for the party as they tapped into voter anger over a stagnant economy and security fears.

The polls were held under tight security in the first national vote since Islamic State group terrorists killed 130 people in a wave of attacks across Paris on November 13.

Despite its commanding position, the FN now faces a tougher battle in a second round of voting next Sunday after the Socialists announced they were withdrawing candidates in three regions in a bid to block the far right from power.

Progression of Front National.

Le Monde states that the Front National (FN) totaled 6 million votes in the first round.

The real importance of this result gives Marine Le Pen’s party a chance to normalise and streamline its presence,

The Financial Times cites this,

James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University said: “These results are a shock but they shouldn’t be a surprise.

“What Marine Le Pen wants above all is a chance to show that her party can govern more than a medium-sized town. For that, a region with several million inhabitants offers a perfect testing-ground, giving her party time to deliver some results before the presidential and legislative elections of 2017.”

The Front National has talked of the “suicide collectif du PS” – the group suicide of the Socialist Party.

The far-right won in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, one of the birthplaces of the French labour movement, and the socialist and Communist left. Over the last few months there have been many reports on growth of the FN the area, including a whole series on the radio station France-Culture. As the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus states, “C’est une région à forte tradition ouvrière, victime de désindustrialisation, de délocalisations, de chômage de masse et de fermetures d’entreprises,” It’s a region with a strong working class tradition, the victim of de-industrialisation, the delocalisation of companies, mass unemployment and business closures.”

Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées was another region affected: the birthplace (Castres) of Jean Jaurès (1849 – 1914) the leader of twentieth century French socialism. It was where he received his first Parliamentary mandate, backed by the miners of Carmaux. Jaurès was assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the extreme right, precursors of the Front National.

There is little doubt that spreading anxiety about Islam played a part in the elections. But the FN’s breakthrough cannot be simply attributed to fear in the wake of the Paris murders and Marine Le Pen’s leadership’s (not to mention their activists) attempts to spread hatred against Muslims.

Its  strategy has been to campaign and stir up hatred against all foreigners, beginning with those running the European Union (EU). The message, given very clearly in the poster above, is that outsiders are out to get the French, take their jobs, their homes and undermine their living standards.

The party demands that France leaves the Euro, and that “priorité nationale”(or La préférence national) be given to French nationals in employment. Jobs will be given to those with French nationality in preference to anybody else (Les entreprises se verront inciter à prioriser l’emploi, à compétences égales, des personnes ayant la nationalité française). This also means – in terms very close to those proposed by the David Cameron’s government, that social benefits, from housing onwards, are taken away from migrant workers and immigrants. It demands an end to “massive immigration” and free movement in Europe. The FN denounces immigration as “une arme au service du grand capital” (a weapon of Big Business), an apparently ‘anti-capitalist’ position They propose to limit legal immigration 10,000 a year.  Being born in France will no longer mean automatically acquiring French nationality.

If the FN claim to support ” laïcité” and to support “assimilation” of different cultures into France this is on the basis of the «racines chrétiennes de la France», Christian roots of France (sometimes «judéo-chrétiennes») – at odds with the universalism of humanist values which have no such unique roots.

The Front National has also worked UKIP and British tabloid territory in spreading scare stories about benefits and housing for migrants and refugees. They even include the principle that demonstrations in favour of illegal migrants are forbidden. and that anti-French racism is  recognised as  an aggravating factor in criminal offences (1)

The measures the FN propose imply a disengagement from the EU and a return to full national sovereignty. In some respects the FN’s ideas have an echo across a wide spectrum of political currents, including a section of the left. The FN does not simply attack the EU and the effects of globalisation. They stand for ‘sovereignty’, restoring what they claim should be the full power of the ‘nation’. This, known in France as “souverainisme” (soveriegntism)  is  embraced equally vociferously  in the United Kingdom by those urging leaving the EU. Like the British Conservatives they are also hostile to the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the FN this is wider than a political demand.  It is tied to a wider programme of economic protectionism. These economics are more widely shared than in the UK. Emmanuel Todd  – known in the English-speaking world for his scorn against the Je Suis Charlie movement – is a long standing supporter of “intelligent protectionism”. He, like the FN,  is anti-Euro and goes so far to find inspiration in the German nationalist protectionist Frederich List.

Many of the FN’s national policies may be classed as pure demagogy. For their working class and “popular” electorate the FN  propose to raise the minimum wage, benefits, notably pensions,  (for French citizens), and put controls on the price of  gas, electricity, transport and petrol. (Le Front national, cette imposturele Monde. 4.12.15.)

The governing Parti Socialiste has been unable to offer much in the way of making life better for those out of work in regions like Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie – the national unemployment rate stands at a  stubborn 10,2%. In this northern area unemployment amongst the young is at  31,8 %.

These economic issues, rather than identity or religion, are also at the heart of the failure of the Parti socialiste to continue to win overwhelming support from those of a Muslim background. Le Monde (4.12.15.) reports that it is not opposition to gay marriage or to teaching gender equality in schools – issues on which a number of organised Islamic groups made common cause with the conservative Christian right – which has affected their voting behaviour. It is the inability of President Hollande, and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls to improve their living conditions which has struck home.

The complicated alliance of the Socialists’ left opponents in the left-wing Greens (EELV) and the Front de gauche make it hard to decipher their national score of 10 to 11 % (sometimes aligned together, sometimes not), although it is clear that the Green vote has almost halved (l’Humanité). To to predict where and if there will be agreements with the PS is equally hard.

On the far-left the results are negligible. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) was too weak to present its own lists and backed Lutte ouvrière who obtained  320 054 votes nationally  (1,5 %)

The Socialists meanwhile are discussing – and arguing about – possible agreements with other forces for the second round.

Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (LR) have just announced that they will refuse to enter into any alliances with the other parties.

The French political class – and all those dependent on the decisions and funding of the French Regions – will soon have to face up to the Front National with its hands on some levers of power.

Indications that initial flash points will concern exactly the allocation of the regional funds.

Left reaction:  Communiqué de Ensemble! Contre le Front national et la droite, il faut un sursaut à gauche !

Political scientists’ analysis: «Le FN réussit à incarner le vote utile contre la gauche»

Le vote Front national devient « un vote de plus en plus national » et « inter-classiste ». C’est ce qu’estiment cinq chercheurs de l’Observatoire des radicalités politiques (ORAP) de la fondation Jean Jaurès. Dans une analyse fine des résultats, ils mettent en évidence « l’hégémonie culturelle » de l’extrême droite, l’échec de la « stratégie Buisson » de la droite et l’aveuglement de la gauche.

Their voters are more and more national (and not locally based), and cross-class. They decsibre the “cultural hegemony” of the far-right and failure of the right (LR, Sarkozy) to capture their electorate by their own nationalist rhetoric and cultural conservatism (Buisson, one of his main advisers), and the blindness of the left.

You can read this (downloaded paper) for free:  Le « nouveau » Front national en question. Alexandre Dézé April 2015.

*****

(1)  Front National programme: Immigration Stopper l’immigration, renforcer l’identité française: “Les manifestations de clandestins ou de soutien aux clandestins seront interdites.

– Le racisme anti-Français comme motivation d’un crime ou d’un délit sera considéré comme une circonstance particulièrement aggravante et alourdira la peine encourue.”

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An initial attempt at a socialist and humanitarian response to the Paris massacres

November 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm (capitalism, democracy, Europe, fascism, France, Human rights, humanism, internationalism, iraq, islamism, Jim D, Marxism, Middle East, modernism, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, terror, turkey, war, workers)

What follows is a statement drawn up by myself. It is based in part upon the AWL’s statement in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I have not discussed it or “cleared” it with anyone. Critical comments are welcome -JD:

To massacre ordinary workers enjoying a drink, a meal, a concert or a sporting event after work, is a crime against humanity, full stop.

What cause could the Islamist killers have been serving when they massacred 130 or more people in Paris? Not “anti-imperialism” in any rational sense — whatever some people on sections of the left have argued in the past — but only rage against the modem, secular world and the (limited but real) freedom and equality it represents. Only on the basis of an utterly dehumanised, backward looking world-view could they have planned and carried out such a massacre. Such people are enemies for the working class and the labour movement at least as much as the capitalist ruling class – In fact, more so.

Modern capitalism includes profiteering, exploitation, and imperialism, but it also includes the elements of civilisation, sexual and racial equality, technology and culture that make it possible for us to build socialism out of it.

Lenin, the great Marxist advocate of revolutionary struggle against imperialism, long ago drew a dividing line between that socialist struggle and reactionary movements such as (in his day) “pan-Islamism” [in our day, Islamism]: “Imperialism is as much our mortal enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism.”

We, the socialists, cannot bring back the dead, heal the wounded, or even (unless we’re present) comfort the bereaved. What we can do is analyse the conditions that gave rise to the atrocity; see how they can be changed; and keep clear critical understanding of the way that governments will respond. This must not be mistaken for any kind of attempt to excuse or minimise this barbarity or to use simplistic “blowback” arguments to suggest that it is simply a reaction to the crimes of “the west” or “imperialism.”

Immediately, the Paris massacre is not only a human disaster for the victims, their friends and families, but also a political disaster for all Muslims, refugees and ethnic minorities in Europe. The backlash against this Islamic-fundamentalist atrocity will inevitably provoke anti-refugee feeling and legislation, attacks on civil liberties and hostility towards all people perceived as “Muslims” in Europe: that, quite likely, was at least one of the intentions of the killers. The neo-fascists of Marine LePen’s Front National seem likely to make electoral gains as a result of this outrage.

The present chaos in the Middle East has given rise to the Islamic fascists of ISIS, and their inhuman, nihilist-cum-religious fundamentalist ideology.

Throughout the Middle East, the rational use of the region’s huge oil wealth, to enable a good life for all rather than to bloat some and taunt others, is the socialist precondition for undercutting the Islamic reactionaries.

In Afghanistan, an economically-underdeveloped, mostly rural society was thrust into turmoil in the late 1970s. The PDP, a military-based party linked to the USSR, tried to modernise, with measures such as land reform and some equality for women, but from above, bureaucratically. Islamists became the ideologues of a landlord-led mass revolt.

In December 1979, seeing the PDP regime about to collapse, the USSR invaded. It spent eight years trying to subdue the peoples of Afghanistan with napalm and helicopter gunships. It was the USSR’s Vietnam.

The USSR’s war had the same sort of regressive effect on society in Afghanistan as the USA’s attempt to bomb Cambodia “back into the Stone Age”, as part of its war against the Vietnamese Stalinists, had on that country. In Cambodia the result was the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge, which tried to empty the cities and abolish money; in Afghanistan, it has been the Islamic-fundamentalist regime of the Taliban. In Iraq the West’s bungled attempts to clear out first Saddam’s fascistic regime and then various Islamist reactionaries, and introduce bourgeois democracy from above, have been instrumental in creating ISIS.

Western governments will now make a show of retaliation and retribution. They will not and cannot mend the conditions that gave rise to this atrocity, conditions which they themselves (together with their Arab ruling class allies) helped to shape. Ordinary working people who live in war-torn states and regions will, as ever, be the victims.

Civil rights will come under attack and the efforts of the European Union to establish a relatively humane response to the refugee crisis will be set back and, quite possibly, destroyed.

These blows at civil rights will do far more to hamper the labour movement, the only force which can remake the world so as to end such atrocities, than to stop the killers.

Public opinion will lurch towards xenophobia. Basic democratic truths must be recalled: not all Middle Eastern people are Muslims, most Muslims are not Islamic fundamentalists, most of those who are Islamic-fundamentalist in their religious views do not support Islamic fundamentalist militarism. To seek collective punishment against Muslims or Arabs, or anyone else, is wrong and inhuman.

The first, and still the most-suffering, victims of Islamic fundamentalist militarism are the people, mostly Muslim, of the countries and regions where the lslamists are powerful.

The only way to defeat the Islamists is by the action of the working class and the labour movement in such countries, aided by our solidarity.

Refugees seeking asylum in Europe do not in any way share blame for this massacre. In fact, many of them are refugees because they are fleeing Islamic-fundamentalist governments and forces like ISIS. To increase the squeeze on already-wretched refugees would be macabre and perverse “revenge”.

We must remake the world. We must remake it on the basis of the solidarity, democracy and spirit of equality which are as much part of human nature as the rage, hatred and despair which must have motivated the Paris mass-murderers.

We must create social structures which nurture solidarity, democracy and equality, in place of those which drive towards exploitation, cut-throat competition and acquisitiveness and a spirit of everything-for-profit.

The organised working class, the labour movement, embodies the core and the active force of the drive for solidarity, democracy and spirit of equality within present-day society. It embodies it more or less consistently, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how far we have been able to mobilise ourselves, assert ourselves, broaden our ranks, and emancipate ourselves from the capitalist society around us.

Our job, as socialists, is to maximise the self-mobilisation, self-assertion, broadening and self-emancipation of the organised working class.

We must support the heroic Kurdish forces who are fighting and defeating ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq, opposed by the Turkish government. We must demand that our government – and all western governments – support the Kurds with weapons and, if requested, military backup: but we will oppose all moves by the governments of the big powers to make spectacular retaliation or to restrict civil rights or target minorities or refugees.

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Sandra White MSP and First Minister Sturgeon issue apologies for antisemitic cartoon

November 12, 2015 at 10:44 pm (anti-semitism, israel, labour party, palestine, posted by JD, Racism, scotland, SNP)

Sandra White’s tweet: the Murdoch image may be OK, but the Rothschild ‘war pig’ image is plainly antisemitic

By Mark Gardiner (Community Security Trust – CST)

Lessons in community relations

Yesterday (11/11/15), CST Blog featured an article stating the need for politicians and their political parties to adequately apologise, in words and actions, for antisemitic behaviours on their watch.

The article was highly critical of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP and the Labour Party; and Sandra White MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) and the Scottish National Party. CST welcomes the fact that White and her party leader First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP have now moved swiftly, and directly, to try and allay Jewish communal concerns. Regrettably, the situation concerning Kaufman remains unchanged. Both White and Sturgeon’s behaviour and communications show how things could have been done better: not perfectly, but certainly better.

The publication of yesterday’s Blog came shortly before Sandra White MSP and First Minister Sturgeon MSP issued separate, further, lengthier apologies, for the grotesque antisemitic cartoon that White had retweeted. The new apologies were not related to CST’s posting and were sent in letters directly to SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, a group with which CST has long worked.

The apologies are now public. (See SCoJeC here, the Glasgow Herald here, the letter of apology from Sandra White here and First Minister Sturgeon’s letter here.)

Above: the original version of the “Rothschild” half of White’s image

Sandra White’s letter describes the antisemitic cartoon as “repellent and offensive” and includes:

“…I had not intended to retweet this picture, and was horrified to learn that I had done so. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I deleted the tweet…There is nothing that happens in Israel or Palestine that can be justification for any racial or religious hatred. I truly believe that Scots of all backgrounds are welcoming and inclusive and this is something I have always been proud of…”.

Nicola Sturgeon’s letter explains that she has spoken directly to Sandra White and states:

“Regarding the original tweet itself, I find it and the image it contains abhorrent. As I stated at Giffnock [Synagogue], I will not tolerate anti-Semitism or religious or racial hatred of any kind at any level in our society.”

Both individuals have moved quickly to try and rectify the damage that has been done, writing in swift and direct response to SCoJeC as the representatives of Scottish Jewry. Ideally, both letters should have explicitly called the cartoon antisemitic, but they are not overly formulaic, and appear sincere and heartfelt, which is of paramount importance in such matters. Also of considerable importance is that SCoJeC (and CST) noted that White should have tweeted the apology, given that this was where the offence occurred. She has speedily done so.

This sorry episode may actually be of long term benefit to both Scottish Jews and the SNP. It has demonstrated antisemitism to a leading political party, that is clear in its opposition to antisemitism, but perhaps understandably does not grasp or recognise it as instinctively as Jews do. Furthermore, the First Minister, and one of the party’s most prominent pro-Palestinian voices, now know why Scottish Jews fear the potential for anti-Israel activism to lead to antisemitic ways of thinking.

Of course, the controversy will only benefit Scottish Jews and the SNP if both parties actually want a constructive and trusting relationship. The fact that both parties want (and largely have) this relationship is shown by the quick and effective communications between the SNP and SCoJeC.

This final lesson is reinforced by the conclusion of Nicola Sturgeon’s letter, from which others would do well to learn. This is it:

“I look forward to working further with you [SCoJeC] and further strengthening the links between the Scottish Government and the Jewish community in Scotland, which is and always will be an integral and highly valued part of Scottish society.”

This should be the response of all political parties, universities, trade unions, churches etc to Jewish concerns about antisemitism in pro-Palestinian spaces. It should be a willingness to learn from mistakes, a drawing closer to those who have been hurt and a recognition that British Jews fear antisemitism because they fear antisemitism: not because they are some kind of hostile political entity, seeking opportunistic points scoring on behalf of the Israeli government, or a mythical Global Zionism.

(For further views on this closing point, see David Hirsh at Fathom, here.)

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Trojan Horse: The Graun’s Adams shows his hand – again

October 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm (anti-semitism, Brum, Champagne Charlie, children, Education, Guardian, islamism, misogyny, Pornography, Racism, religion, religious right, sexism, thuggery, women, youth)


Above: Adams
Park View school in Birmingham

Teachers and senior staff linked to the Trojan Horse allegations of “undue religious (ie Islamist) influence” in Birmingham schools, have been appearing before the misconduct panel of the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) since mid-October. The NCTL is the professional body for teachers and has the power to impose lifetime prohibitions on teachers.

As the hearing has not yet concluded (it is expected to last until December), Shiraz has taken a conscious decision not to cover the proceedings, even though the hearing is in public and the local Birmingham Mail has carried extensive reports of the disturbing evidence presented by witnesses. Most of the national press, including (until now) the Guardian, also seem to have decided not to cover the hearing in detail, or to be very circumspect in their coverage, while it is in progress*.

But today’s Guardian carries an article by the paper’s Education editor, Richard Adams, headlined Witness in ‘Trojan Horse’ case accused of religious slurs”.

Adams’s story is written entirely from the standpoint of the teachers and senior staff accused of misconduct, and seems to be based upon the ‘line’ of cross-examination being pursued by their lawyer, Andrew Faux, as he attempts to discredit one of the witnesses (‘Witness A’, a former teacher at Park View School) who has given evidence of malpractice. Faux has accused Witness A of herself making a series of racial and religious slurs.

Faux, as a lawyer acting for some of the accused teachers, is perfectly entitled to pursue this line of cross-examination. What is, however, quite outrageous, is for the Guardian, in one of its few articles covering the hearing, to report Faux’s attacks in detail, adding that the witness “faced an internal complaint in the wake of comments she was alleged to have made at an event.” No details whatsoever are given of the evidence presented by Witness A against the teachers and senior staff of the Trojan Horse schools.

Adams closes his article by repeating, once again, the tired old red herring that “The [Trojan Horse] letter is widely regarded as a hoax” – yes it is, but that’s not the point. The question is, are the claims of Islamist influence in Birmingham schools true or not? The answer to that question has nothing to do with whether the Trojan Horse letter was all it purported to be.

Whether Adams is acting directly on the wishes of Mr Faux and his clients, or whether he (Adams) is so committed to defending/excusing the accused teachers and senior staff that he simply cannot write an impartial article, we shall probably never know.

But he has form:

Here’s what  Adams, had to say about this matter  in June 2014, shortly after the story first sufaced: “Is the Trojan Horse row just a witch hunt triggered by a hoax?”

This shabby article by Adams was not a one-off: he had previously reported on Park View School  (the academy at the centre of the allegations) following a visit that was quite obviously organised and supervised  by the school’s ultra-reactionary Islamist chair of governors, Tahir Alam. In short, Adams has been a mouthpiece and conduit for the Islamist propaganda of people like Alam, Salma Yaqoob and the SWP throughout.

_____________________________________________________________________

  • * Adams has written two other articles covering some of the allegations, and emphasising that “The Department for Education said its case against Johirul Islam, a former teacher at Park View, ‘has been discontinued’ in the hearing’s fourth day… The decision suggests the NTCL may struggle to press its case against several other teachers facing similar allegations” (here)
  • * The Guardian website has carried another article reporting one of the allegations of misconduct: this was not, however written by Adams, but came from the Press Association. And as far as I’m aware (and I read the Graun every day) it did not appear in the print edition – C.C.

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