Why Labour should support free movement and oppose Brexit

December 3, 2016 at 3:03 pm (Anti-Racism, AWL, democracy, Europe, labour party, populism, posted by JD, workers)

Labour must seek to persuade Leave voters, but make no concessions to nativism

By Martin Thomas

It is conceivable that within a year or so there will be no European Union, or not much of an EU, for Britain to quit.

In Italy, Salvini’s right-wing nationalist and anti-immigrant Lega Nord may be able to seize the initiative after the likely defeat on 4 December of prime minister Matteo Renzi in Renzi’s referendum on increased executive powers. Or it may be the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, who has tacked left sometimes but who greeted Trump’s election with right-wing bombast. Trump, Grillo said, had defeated the “journalists and intellectuals of the system, serving the big powers. Trump has screwed over all of them — Freemasons, huge banking groups, the Chinese”. The Lega Nord wants Italy to quit the euro, though not the EU; so does Grillo; so does Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia.

In Austria, also on 4 December, neo-Nazi Norbert Hofer may win the presidency. Next March and April, Marine Le Pen of the Front National could win the much more powerful French presidency. She is way behind in the polls at present, but then so was Trump for a long time. She wants France to quit the EU as well as the euro. Her likely second-round opponent, François Fillon, is not quite a “call out the border guards” type, but he is a social conservative, a Thatcherite, who rejoices that “France is more rightwing than it has ever been”.

The Netherlands also has elections in March 2017. Since Britain’s Brexit vote, Geert Wilders’ anti-immigrant PVV, which wants the Netherlands to quit the EU, has usually led the opinion polls. Maybe none of these dislocations will happen. 65 years of European capitalist integration, since the Coal and Steel Community of 1951, have created a web of connections with staying power. But even one upset, in Italy, France, or the Netherlands, could unravel an already-shaky EU.

Probably, in the short term at least, a looser free-trade area would survive, rather than a full return to frontier fences, heavy tariffs, and high military tensions, but “Brexit” as such would dwindle to a detail. If the EU survives on present lines, its anxieties and tensions will work against easy terms for Brexit. They will make “hard Brexit” probable whatever the Tories want.

Already many of the Tory ministers positively want “hard Brexit”. That will be regression. A break-up of the EU would be worse regression. It would increase divisions between the working classes of different countries. It would threaten the rights and security of 14 million people in Europe who live, currently as EU citizens, outside their countries of origin.

The new border barriers would make things even harder for refugees from outside the EU. The break-up would sharpen competitive pressures on governments to squeeze their working classes, and reverse the mediocre and patchy, but real, processes of social levelling-up which have come with the EU. It would expose each country more to the gusts of the world markets. Foolish is the idea, circulated in some parts of the left, that a break-up or partial break-up of the EU would be good, because all disruption of the existing system must be good.

Salvini, Grillo, Hofer, Le Pen, Wilders will not replace the EU’s neoliberalism by anything more generous. They will only add anti-immigrant and nationalist venom. The mainstream left, the “centre-left” as it shyly says these days, is alarmed, but unable to respond with flair.

In Austria, the Social-Democratic SPÖ has a coalition government with Hofer’s neo-Nazi Freedom Party in the Burgenland province. In Italy, the Democratic Party, the main remnant of the once-huge Italian Communist Party, is led by Renzi, whose drive for strong executive powers and anti-worker policy has given the right their opening. In France, on 25 October a poll found only 4% of voters “satisfied” with the record of Socialist Party president François Hollande, whose latest move has been to slash workers’ rights with a new“Labour Law”.

The choice, not just between progress and stagnation, but between progress and rancid regression, depends on the clumsily-emerging new forces on the left, like the Corbyn movement in Britain. We must stake out political ground, win arguments, rally people to principles, remobilise the labour movement at ground level, pull together into political effectiveness young people who still overwhelmingly reject the new nationalism and racism.

Neither the Corbyn-McDonnell leadership of the Labour Party, nor Labour’s biggest left grouping, Momentum, is doing well on this. In the run-up to the June 2016 Brexit referendum, John McDonnell said, rightly, that: “One of the fundamental rights the EU protects for its citizens is freedom of movement. I think this is critical. The right of working people to live and work where they choose is a hard-won gain of the labour movement… We should stand foursquare for freedom of movement in Europe. The right to travel and seek employment is a fundamental one”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Isaiah Dreads and the Left’s fatal flaw

November 29, 2016 at 5:04 pm (class, culture, history, left, music, solidarity, workers)

Related image
Above: what sort of accent would he have had?

Guest post by Robin Carmody:

In October 1984, early in the season that ended with Bradford and Heysel, there was a major fire at Norwich City football ground. You’ve almost certainly never heard of it, because it didn’t happen during a match and so nobody was killed. But it very easily could have done; football grounds had been allowed to decay, partially out of a Tory belief that the conditions in which working class people had to live didn’t matter, so badly that Bradford, like Hillsborough, could have happened to multiple other sets of fans at multiple other times. It is, in fact, a wonder that they didn’t.

But imagine if that fire had actually killed as many Norwich fans as Bradford or Liverpool fans were killed in the disasters that did happen. How would the Left’s response have differed? Could it – would it – have responded with as much empathy and fellow feeling for the dead and the bereaved? Might elements of it, even, have felt that those who died were en masse class traitors, unworthy of equal levels of support?

The unfortunate situation that continues to prevail on much of the English Left is that when many Leftists say that they support working class people who do not speak RP, and the right of those accents to be heard and not discriminated against and perceived as a badge of stupidity, they only mean working class people in areas, and the accents of those areas, which were largely made by the industrial revolution and have experienced heavy non-white settlement since 1945. When it comes to working-class people in areas, and especially the accents of those areas, which were largely unaffected by the industrial revolution and have not had such levels of immigration (other than, in a much more concentrated period the reaction to which has now had disastrous political consequences, from Eastern Europe), they are often capable of the most obscene levels of prejudice, discrimination and the treatment of entire forms of working class speech as badges of stupidity.

It hurts much more to hear this sort of thing from the left in the same way that, even after Maxwell had withered away the paper’s soul and got rid of everyone from Pilger to Waterhouse, it hurt much more to see the Daily Mirror run covertly racist and anti-Semitic lies about the Beastie Boys in 1987, or to equate modern Germans with Nazis in 1996, than if it had been The Sun; you simply expect better, and expect more, from those who portray themselves as against prejudice and discrimination. Portrayal of people with, say, Scouse accents as thick – a partial factor in the Hillsborough disaster (and over-compensated for by the constant tabloid references to “Jamie” Bulger, a name never used by his family, as if they could only counterbalance the years of dehumanisation with an equally insulting faux-chumminess) – comes pretty much entirely from people who do not deny their prejudice, but flaunt it, boast about it, wallow in it. You don’t expect anything else from them. Portrayal of people with West Country or East Anglian accents as thick, on the other hand, comes disproportionately from people who make a great point of how immune they are from prejudice, how even-handed and equal their treatment of others is (eg leftie comedians on Radio 4). But in this field they completely abandon those rules and are, quite often, guilty of some of the most obscene, incontinent and just plain unpleasant abuse and mockery of other people I have ever come across. It is, by those criteria, far more actively disappointing.

And what makes it worse is that the prophecy is self-fulfilling. While accents with left cred, such as that of Liverpool, have strengthened and enhanced, those without are in the process of withering and dying. Worse, leftists from regions such as south-west England have, in many cases, internalised such rhetoric and believe it applies accurately to themselves; in my direct personal experience, they frequently do not speak up against negative stereotyping of their regions and actively join in with it themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fidel Castro’s legacy: Cuba as a class society

November 26, 2016 at 9:34 am (Cuba, history, Marxism, national liberation, posted by JD, revolution, stalinism, workers)

 Castro leads his victorious troops
Castro leads his victorious troops (photo: History Archive/Rex/Shutterstock)

Pablo Velasco and Sacha Ismail examine Castro’s legacy in an article written in early 2012, largely informed by  Cuba Since The revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment, by Sam Farber.


The 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro and his 26 July Movement to power was a bourgeois revolution which smashed Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, but replaced it with their own Bonapartist regime.

Half driven by US hostility and half by choice, this government opted to become a Stalinist state in 1961, adopting the model of the USSR and similar states.

Farber calls this a “bureaucratic system of state collectivism”, in which society’s economic surplus “is not extracted in the form of profits from individual enterprise, nor is it realised through the market. Instead, it is obtained as a surplus product of the nation as a whole. The surplus is appropriated directly, through the state’s control of the economy”. Cuban workers and peasants received their means of subsistence in the form of largely non-monetary rations — low cost or free food, housing, education, health and other welfare facilities. However the surplus product pumped out of the direct producers is controlled and allocated by the ruling bureaucracy — “without any institutional constraints by unions or any other independent popular organisations”.

Cuba’s achievements and failures “resemble those of the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam before these countries took the capitalist road”. Part of this was Cuba’s receipt of “massive Soviet aid from the early sixties to the end of the eighties… even the most conservative estimates would place it well above Cuba’s calculated losses from US economic aggression during that period”. Between 1960 and 1990, Cuba received about 65 billion dollars of Soviet aid on very favourable terms.

The “systematic repressive nature of the Soviet-type regimes made it politically difficult to build enduring oppositions within those societies”. In Cuba there was “certainly no lack of physical brutality… particularly during the first twenty years of their rule. There were thousands of executions, and there was large-scale imprisonment, throughout the revolutionary period, of tens of thousands of people under typically very poor living conditions and physical mistreatment.”

Who rules Cuba?

The state bureaucracy that developed out of the revolution is still in power.

The state owns the means of production and the bureaucracy “owns” and controls the state. The “one-party state” is in fact a no-party state, since the bureaucracy rules directly through the myriad of state and state-sponsored “mass” organisations.

The bureaucracy has privileged access to consumer goods through special stores, separate hospitals, recreational villas, and trips abroad. The armed forces and security services have their own medical facilities. Since the two-tier economy of hard currency and pesos was legally established in 1993, more conventional inequality has been unleashed.

The political ideal of the Cuban elite has been summed up by current head of state Raúl Castro as “monolithic unity” (2009). Although there is enforced mass participation in Cuba’s polity, there is a complete absence of democratic control. Cuba has had a variety of ruling institutions, but none function democratically. The Communist Party was formed in 1965 and has only had six congresses in over 50 years. The Popular Power assemblies were not established until 1976 and allow only vetted candidates to stand on their biography, with those “elected” able only to rubber stamp decisions taken elsewhere by the bureaucrats.

Cuba does not have the kind of impersonal rule of law and citizens’ rights against the arbitrariness and capriciousness of the state which exist in some bourgeois societies. This is evident in the crimes of “social dangerousness”, and “antisocial behaviour”, and the use of imprisonment, electric shock treatment and psychiatric institutions for opponents. Fidel Castro has admitted that there have been 15-20,000 political prisoners in Cuba and Cuba currently has 531 prisoners per 100,000 people, the fifth highest rate worldwide.

What about the workers?

The idea that Cuba is ruled by its workers is laughable. In 1959, the Cuban working class “was not socialist in any meaningful sense of the term, nor did it lend its own distinctive character to the Cuban revolution”. Fidel Castro himself has admitted as much on numerous occasions.

The working class was certainly not passive during Batista’s dictatorship. Despite the shackles of the state and business-gangster trade unionism, sugar workers, rail workers and bank workers fought militant reformist struggles around pay and conditions. The 26 July Movement had its own trade unionists who did organise successful strikes on a number of occasions after the rebel leadership landed in Cuba in 1956. But the general strike they called in April 1958 was a failure and workers’ action only an adjunct to the main, guerrilla warfare strategy for taking power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unite supports free movement of people

November 21, 2016 at 9:05 pm (Anti-Racism, CPB, Europe, immigration, Jim D, stalinism, Unite the union, workers)

Image result for picture Unite logo

The following resolution was passed by the last Unite EC:

“On the back of the referendum vote to leave the European Union, the decisions taken by the British Government on the shape of Exit could have profound implications on this [union]’s members. Therefore we believe nationally and locally Unite should be campaigning on the following:
– To ensure at the very least all workers rights currently in EU law come into force in UK law.
– To ensure European works council structures are not affected and we continue and we continue to increase our co-operation and solidarity with our sister trade unionists in the EU.
– To defend the free movement of people as it currently exists including our right to work in the EU and European workers rights to do the same here. The best guard against employers using Brexit as an excuse to attack pay and Ts and Cs not putting up new borders but strong trade unions organising all workers regardless of where they are from.”

**

JD comments:

Given that Unite continues to fund the Morning Star, which advocates a withdrawal from the single market, perhaps the union should make its democratically decided view known a bit more clearly – especially to the CPB and  the Morning Star: and if the paper and the party continue with their reactionary stance, Unite should cease spending members’ money supporting them.

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Trump victory: revolt of the NCO’s

November 17, 2016 at 6:26 pm (civil rights, Democratic Party, elections, fascism, middle class, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reaction, Republican Party, Trump, United States, workers)

 Steve Bell 171116Illustration: Steve Bell (Guardian)

By Barry Finger

The US Presidential election is the culmination of the long-standing economic and cultural grievances of America’s non-commissioned officer class, a subclass largely composed of white men from the rust-belt, whose factories have been asset stripped and sent abroad and whose unions or small businesses, pensions and prospects have been decimated. They are not the poorest of the poor – not even the poorest of the white poor.

But neither was this a revolt led by the white working class rank and file, the many who never fully shared the benefits of life in the skilled trades and ascendant key industries of a dominating economic power. From this platform, they had assumed a quasi-social leadership role over the traditional working class and, through their unions, often fought for broad programs of social remediation within the existing social order that they also jealously defended.

This election was a revolt headed by those who had acquired a modest stake in middle class life and now find that life, and the institutions that made that life possible, disappearing. It is led by white working men whose fortunes have fallen, afflicted by wage stagnation and an ever-widening social disparity in income and wealth that has consigned them to the wrong side of the divide. They prided and deluded themselves that they and they alone had reliably done society’s heavy lifting and were, in turn, entitled to certain expectations. Above all they had the expectation of a well-run and stable social order, an order in which they would continue to enjoy a place of respect and authority and a rising standard of living, which could be passed down to their children.

They had, above all, placed their confidence in the ruling class, who had historically indulged this self-estimation only to find themselves abandoned in an increasingly globalizing economy. This sense of free-fall has been massively reinforced by a shift in equality’s center of gravity owing to greater racial and gender inclusiveness, with which it coincided. That abandonment has become the crucial factor in the increasingly polarized and caustic political conflict, a conflict that can be resolved in a progressive or reactionary direction.

Society’s NCOs asserted themselves. But they did not assert themselves in a vacuum. Nowhere in the developed capitalist world has the left acquired traction. Our manifold debacles need not be rehearsed. Suffice it to say that the left has not provided an oppositional center of gravity that could capture this white working class disenchantment and channel it into a progressive direction.

No one expecting to extract a concession from the system could reasonably vote for the Greens. There are perfectly honorable and noble reasons to cast a protest vote, to put a place marker on a vision of liberation that may yet be. But this is not where concessions are realized absent a massive movement surge from below. And that, unfortunately, does not describe the current American scene.

But the liberal wing of the American ruling class, having neutralized the Sanders’ insurgency, effectively corralled this discontent into the Trump alt-right pigsty, where, they thought, it could be contained. Clinton had something to offer Wal-Mart and fast food workers: a raise in the minimum wage, subsidized childcare, a modified Obama plan. She could offer a path to citizenship to the dreamers and subsidized public tuition. But by failing to derail voter suppression through the South – and even in Wisconsin, and by failing to offer a grand inclusive program of economic reconstruction to restore the white working class and sweep up the multiethnic poor and near poor into co-prosperity, she could not counterbalance the appeal of the far right.

Clinton was perceived, and correctly so, as being the agent of global financial and corporate interests, the very interests that had inflicted this protracted social setback to white workers. She was the face of the status quo.

This is a neo-fascist moment and it is bleeding into advanced economies throughout the world. It was all but announced here by the open intervention of the deep state, in the form of the FBI’s bombshell intervention on behalf of Trump barely two weeks before the election. And make no mistake about it. Neo-fascists, unlike traditional reactionaries and conservatives, are unencumbered by economic orthodoxies and can run an economy. They, like the far left, fully understand that capitalism is not self-correcting and place no faith in markets. They fully appreciate the need for massive doses of state intervention and are fully prepared to blow a sky-high hole through the deficit.

That is why, contrary to Paul Krugman and others, the stock market, after an initial shortfall, began to boom. Massive tax cuts, a protective wall of tariffs, relaxation and elimination of environmental and Wall Street regulations, huge public works in the forms of infrastructural renovation, the promise of a border wall and the spend-up on military hardware all herald and shape the state-led investment boom to come. Caterpillar and Martin Marietta soared. As did Big Pharma, soon free to price gouge without fear of criminal investigation. Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin had field days. Private Prison corporations are licking their chops at the prospect of the FBI and police being let loose on immigrant communities and communities of color. Student loan services and lenders, no longer facing government competition, got a new lease on life. Even too big to fail banks stocks rose with the prospect that Dodd-Frank being repealed. Increasing after tax incomes will stimulate working class demand and in the hands of the wealthy drive up share prices.

Paradoxically, gun manufacturers saw a drop in stock prices. Speculators shorted gun stocks presumably because the threat of gun regulation has been removed thereby eliminating the perceived urgency on the part of gun enthusiasts to stockpile arms in anticipation of that threat.

The Trump insurrection, fueled by this NCO revolt, effectively defeated the two political parties, the Republicans no less than the Democrats. It appealed to white workers equally on the basis of anxiety over economic decline but also on the basis of prejudice, the loss of class status and the promise of a return to class collaboration, a new deal –if you can pardon that usage, with a responsive nativist-oriented ruling class. It promises, in other words, rule by like-thinking CEOs who can be relied upon to restore prosperity within the confines of a retro 1950s-like social order that erases the gains of women – right down to basic bodily autonomy — and minorities. In that regard, Trump will refashion the civil service, the permanent government bureaucracy, on a purely political basis, essentially ending the primary path to upward mobility on the part of minorities who cannot be relied upon to pass a political litmus test. If proof is needed, see how an tea-party Republican such as Scott Walker could decimate the civil service in Wisconsin and then tweak that example to fit Trump’s outsized predilections.

The nominal Republican Party has been effectively transformed into a white nationalist party and if it succeeds in raising rust-belt white incomes and economic security on that basis, while checking the aspirations of Blacks, Hispanics and women, it will have legitimized and institutionalized that transformation.

The Democratic Party has discredited itself. It is an empty vessel, unable to defend the living standards of the multi-ethnic American work class. It is a party of split loyalties, in which workers, women and minorities take a back seat to corporate interests. And the corporate interests they take a back seat to are precisely those global, financial and tech sectors that are decimating living standards and feeding the revolt.

Trump has started the political realignment in this country. Social movements, central to which is labor, can stay loyal to the Democrats and cave, or they can find their way to political independence and make a credible appeal to Trump workers to jump ship on the basis of class solidarity.

Barry writes for New Politics magazine

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AWL statement on the Trump victory

November 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm (capitalism, conspiracy theories, Democratic Party, elections, fascism, immigration, libertarianism, misogyny, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Trump, United States, workers)

Image result for picture Workers Liberty logo

This piece also appears in Solidarity:

Donald Trump has won the US Presidential election.

He won by tapping into the reality of and the fear of poverty and failure among millions of working-class Americans.

He won by exploiting the deep racial divisions that have blighted the US for centuries. He attacked all Hispanic workers when calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. By scapegoating Muslims.

He won because millions of Americans wanted to revolt against the political establishment. But this man is not the “blue collar billionaire” that his supporters dubbed him. Just a billionaire and also part of, the nastiest part, of the establishment!

Donald Trump is an idiot blowhard but the political functionaries around him are not. This election was probably won by the Trump camp calculating the “demographics” of the USA. By exploiting the different insecurities that many people feel. By understanding and approving of social fragmentation in the USA and working it to Trump’s advantage.

But in short, Trump made his appeal to a white working class which has been excluded by the powerfully destructive forces of US capitalism over the last 30 years as it moved its business to anywhere in the world where labour is cheaper.

Even when Trump made his appeal to African-Americans, in order to soften his image, he could not resist treating those communities as people whose real political views and interests were worthless to him. “What have you got to lose”, he said, “Your life couldn’t get any worse”. Unsurprisingly, the polls said 90% of those African-Americans who were voting, would not vote for Trump.

As shocked as we are by this result the truth is that Trump always stood a good chance of winning after the exit of Bernie Sanders from the election. With his calls for free college tuition, the removal of student debt, a national health service, Sanders represented a radical break from the status quo, but one which, with sufficient organisation on the ground, the whole of working-class American could have united behind.

Clinton

By nominating a a presidential candidate who was always going to continue the Clinton-Bush-Obama programme of complacency, corruption and corporate-interest politics, the Democrats ensured discontent among millions of people would rise.

It was simply Hillary Clinton’s turn to pursue austerity and warmongering. Donald Trump was there to exploit and hypocritically ridicule this “establishment”.

What happens now? He may not be able to put through a programme of economic nationalism. He may not be able to expel thousands of Hispanic workers. But he will be able to load the Supreme Court front bench with conservatives. Already vulnerable abortion rights and the right of LGBT people to marry are under threat. Trade unions too will be under attack.

Trump’s election will give the green light to the neighbourhood vigilantes who fear young black men so much they are prepared to put a bullet in their back. The reactionaries who stand outside abortion clinics. The virulently anti-immigration Tea Party people. The organised fascists. And some of these people — the alternative right, the libertarians — are already part of Trump’s camp.

Not everyone who voted for Trump approve of his violent sexism. But many did. There were people who overlooked the serious charges of sexual assault; that is they do not think this behaviour is wrong. Not everyone who voted for Trump is racist. But many are. US racial divisions run deep.

One of the saddest things about this election is how long-time union members, who in different circumstances would regard themselves as anti-racist voted for Trump.

In places like West Virginia where there virtually no stable jobs Trump won big majorities. Maybe people just hear what they want to hear when Trump uses opportunistic lies like “I am going to make America great again”. But the coal mines will not reopen. The miners will not go back to work. This is a man who made his fame on the basis of ruthlessly telling people “You’re fired”. If big business is now in fracking, and not coal, that is where state support under Trump will go.

Capitalist rule as is in fact epitomised by the US two-party system, may have lost it’s legitimacy but without a socialist alternative to replace it, things can get much worse.

What can the socialist left do now? Passively regarding Trump voters as ignorant rednecks who could never be pulled away from his politics is wrong. Yes, many millions are poorly educated. But in this vastly wealthy society that is a shocking crime. As are these facts — that 21% of American children live in poverty, that 10% of workers are in low waged jobs, that 30% do not have health insurance and 40% do not have a pension.

Wherever the left is — in the US or in Europe — we all have to argue for class politics, the politics of justice and solidarity and at the same time making the strongest challenge we can against racism and xenophobia.

We do have a chance to do these things. Remember Bernie Sanders drew larger crowds than Trump for his attacks on Wall Street and the power and privilege of the “millionaires and billionaires.”

Here in Europe our struggle is against Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen and Beppe Grillo. But it also against those in the labour movement who think anti-immigration sentiments and mild token opposition to the rule of capitalism is enough. And we also warn against a left which makes semi-populist stances against “the capitalist EU”, against globalisation, but never sets out a positive socialist programme: for equality, for working-class unity across borders, for the appropriation for the banks, for secure jobs and homes for all.

Events are showing us that campaigning for a social-democratic left “getting into power” is not enough. Getting working-class representation is about building a mass political labour movement organised around socialist politics. The necessity is not new but it has just got many times more urgent.

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British CP and Morning Star go Third Period

November 10, 2016 at 9:32 pm (apologists and collaborators, CPB, Europe, fantasy, fascism, history, Jim D, left, misogyny, populism, Putin, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Trump, United States, workers)

Image result for marine le pen Trump caricature

2017 Nightmare: Presidents Le Pen, Trump and Putin (Financial Times): big chance for the left?

In 1928 the Stalinised Communist International (Comintern) adopted the  “Third Period” line which led the German Communist Party to denounce the Social Democrats as “social fascists” and dismiss the threat of Hitler taking power: it said “fascism” was already in power, and another form of “fascism” could thus be no new threat; and anyway, “after Hitler, our turn next!”.

The reality of Nazi rule led the Comintern to drop the Third period approach in 1934 and seek alliances with bourgeois forces via the so-called “Popular Front.”

Historical analogies are never 100% accurate, but the similarities with the Third Period were apparent as the Communist Party of Britain and their follow ‘Left Exit’ fantasists tried to give the Tory/UKIP dominated Leave cause a left-wing figleaf during the referendum campaign. This has led to some extraordinary Daily Mail-style editorials in the Morning Star (the CPB’s de facto mouthpiece) culminating in a shameful attack on parliamentary democracy and the campaigners who brought the High Court case forcing the Tories to acknowledge parliamentary control over Brexit.

The CPB  and Morning Star have continued their lurch towards Third Periodism in their coverage of the US Presidential election. An article in August accused Clinton of “demonis[ing]” Trump and praised his “sensible comments about the anti-Russia, anti-Putin hysteria rampant among policy-makers of both parties.”

The suspicion that the Morning Star‘s formal neutrality between Clinton and Trump (in itself a respectable enough stance, taken for instance by most Trotskyists) wasn’t in reality quite so “neutral” as all that, has been confirmed by todays editorial, which (after a few words about Trump’s racism and misogyny) includes the following:

Some commentators highlight Trump’s different tone taken in his acceptance speech, with platitudes about being president for all Americans, as though willing Trump to come into line.

This desire regards political normalcy as the target for all politicians, although it lies in tatters today.

Trump’s election isn’t alone in pulverising this discredited thesis. Britain’s referendum decision to leave the EU has similar aspects.

Both campaigns were derided by Establishment politicians and liberal media outlets from the outset.

Those whose votes secured the election of a self-styled outsider as US president and said No to membership of an unaccountable, institutionally neoliberal, bureaucratic EU superstate were demeaned as racists, xenophobes and idiots by liberal elites unable to believe that their conventional wisdom had been spurned.

Polling organisations’ failure to foresee the result of either phenomenon illustrates an inability to identify or empathise with those who have had enough and want something better.

There will certainly have been racists, xenophobes and idiots involved in both campaigns just as there were backing Clinton and Remain.

Insulting voters for their temerity in disagreeing with a business-as-usual agenda in these terms breeds resentment and makes political revolt more likely.

When defamatory name-calling is conjoined with efforts to dress up the Establishment choice — whether Hillary Clinton or the EU — as the “progressive” alternative, self-delusion takes over and assumes Emperor’s New Clothes dimensions.

[…]

Millions of working-class US voters have seen closed factories, lost jobs and plummeting living standards as their material basis for voting Trump because of his pledge to overturn free trade deals championed by Clinton.

Will Trump honour this pledge or be able to carry it through Congress?

Time will tell, but the possibility exists that those who backed him on this issue will mobilise seriously to insist that there is no backtracking.

The genie of working-class revolt, albeit scarred with unattractive features, is out the bottle and may not be so easily restrained again.

Cross-party neoliberal consensus is crumbling in the US, in Britain and across Europe too, which demands a socialist intervention.

Or, to put it another way: “After Trump, our turn next!”

(NB: I should add that I don’t disagree with the need to understand why workers are attracted by ultra-right wing racist populism as exemplified by Brexit and Trump, and to then argue for a socialist alternative – but I do object to the stupid and dangerous delusion that these movements are somehow progressive and good for the left).

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Uber case decision – featuring Queen Gertrude

October 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm (GMB, Human rights, law, posted by JD, workers)

Uber app
Getty Images

By Katie Lancaster of Farrer & Co.
(posted 28/10/16)

Well, well, well – Ian, the Black Cab Driver, who was born just off the Caledonian Road and who drove me home from the office late last night you are absolutely correct – the Employment Tribunal “is not silly”, they know what a taxi driver is when they see one and, most significantly, they have decided that Uber drivers are not genuinely self-employed and are in fact “workers”.

The Employment Tribunal did not go so far as to say that the two Uber drivers were working in conditions of “modern-day slavery”, as suggested by Ian, and they were not asked to determine whether or not the Uber drivers were employees, but they did agree with Tom Linden QC’s arguments that the two Uber drivers who brought their case are “workers” within the meaning of s.230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The significance of this judgment is that as workers, Uber drivers will be entitled to:

  • 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave per year (equivalent to 28 days’ leave including Bank Holidays)
  • a maximum 48 hour average working week
  • statutory minimum daily and weekly rest breaks
  • the national minimum wage and national living wage
  • protection under the ‘whistleblowing’ legislation
  • protection against unlawful discrimination
  • not to be treated less favourably if they work part time
  • protection against unlawful deductions from wages

Workers do not have the same rights as employees, as workers are not entitled to statutory employment rights such as: unfair dismissal, statutory redundancy payments or TUPE protection. Even so, the implications for Uber are significant in that a requirement to pay a driver the minimum wage and 5.6 weeks’ holiday per year is not to be sniffed at – particularly given the sheer volume of Uber drivers on the roads in the UK.

What next?

It is inconceivable that Uber will not seek to appeal this decision, I believe they have already said that they will appeal, and the appeal will be fascinating to follow. In the meantime, this decision will also have far broader significance than Uber drivers, as the “gig-economy” spreads far and wide and there is no doubt that the significance of this case will be picked up by anyone working under similar terms and conditions. Following hot on the heels of the announcement earlier this month that the Prime Minister has engaged Matthew Taylor (previously head of the No 10 Policy unit under Tony Blair) to lead a review of workers’ rights and practices, this case comes at a particularly relevant time and will be followed closely.

I do not normally recommend reading Employment Tribunal decisions as the most pleasurable way to spend a Friday evening, but on this occasion I commend it to you. Following a quick skim-read of the decision it has something for everyone: excellent arguments made by Mr Reade (for Uber) and Mr Linden (for the drivers, supported by the GMB union), a hard fought legal dispute, a David vs Goliath struggle and victory for the underdog, brilliantly summed up by the Tribunal Judge Mr Aslam in, at times, highly amusing terms, quoting Shakespeare – Hamlet’s mother no less. If nothing else, for anyone who intends to take a taxi within the next 12 months, I suspect it will be essential reading!

I will leave you with my favourite quote from the Employment Tribunal’s Decision in paragraph 87:

We have been struck by the remarkable lengths to which Uber has gone in order to compel agreement with its (perhaps we should say its lawyers’) description of itself and with its analysis of the legal relationships between the two companies, the drivers and the passengers … Reflecting on the Respondents’ general case, and on the grimly loyal evidence of Ms Bertram in particular, we cannot help being reminded of Queen Gertrude’s most celebrated line:

The lady doth protest too much, methinks“. Hamlet, Act III, sc2.

Employment law is brilliant. It is real, it is relevant, and it is alive and kicking.

Link to the case can be found here.

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Campaign to support Iranian workers launched

October 28, 2016 at 11:05 am (class, Human rights, internationalism, Iran, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)

Shahrokh Zamani: 1963-2015

Remember Shahrokh: build a movement!

Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign officially launches!

The Campaign to build solidarity with the workers’ movement in Iran was officially launched last week on 20 October in London. The meeting, held at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers heard contributions from a number of speakers from the labour and trade union movement and included veteran Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Opening the meeting, PCS activist and Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN) supporter, Matt Wells outlined the aims of the campaign and the reason for launching it now, at the same time bidding farewell to IWSN, whose work the new Campaign will build on. The Iran regime’s opening up to ‘Western’ Capitalism had not paid off for the workers and youth of Iran and repression of the labour and trade union movement continued. The death of Shahrokh Zamani last year underlined this. His imprisonment and then, what we believed to be murder, for forming an independent trade union and refusing to be silenced even when behind bars, was meant as a warning to workers and youth from the regime. However, we refuse to be silenced inside and outside Iran.

Daniel Randall, activist in the RMT trade union and worker on the London Underground, then spoke. Daniel outlined the importance of solidarity for the workers’ movement; that the solidarity was based on class and not national borders. Daniel recounted how the petition to free Shahrokh and Reza (Shahabi) had been important not just in the aim to secure their release but also in raising the consciousness of his workmates about the importance of working class unity.

Omar Raii, executive committee member, National Union of Students, and NCAFC activist then spoke. Campaigning around the statements issued by the Campaign so far had helped to re-politicise the students’ movement in Britain and also raise awareness of the workers’ movement in Iran.

The meeting then heard from Aram Nobakht, a Workers’ Action Committee activist in Iran, who told the meeting about his shock and disbelief when he heard about Shahrokh’s death. Initially he thought it was rumour. When they were talking to Shahrokh exactly on the night prior to his untimely death “he was, as always, full of energy” But then it became clear that it was true. Shahrokh’s body showed signs of poisoning. But the activists had no time for sorrow. Aram went on to say: “It’s no coincidence that Shahrokh was killed at exactly the moment when the labour movement and its militancy and the radicals have been on the rise again, including daily strikes, including street clashes with the cops, even factory occupations and so on.”

“Shahrokh was tirelessly organising day and night from his prison cell. What made Shahrokh different from other typical labour activists was his obsession with building a revolutionary party. In the past we repeatedly asked him to tone down the language of his articles and his statements. He said ‘I have been sentenced to 11 years in prison, I have nothing to lose, there is no way out of here. … Can you assure me that I’ll be released alive from this prison? If … [so] then I will keep silent. … I don’t want to lose the chance to fight this regime.’

“The legacy of Shahrokh is still alive. … In his last days Shahrokh was emphasising the importance and significance of publishing a bulletin as an organising tool, as an organising organ for our committee. Over the past year we’ve been systematically involved in publishing and distributing bulletins in the labour areas, in areas around factories … along with distributing and handing out leaflets … in defence of other political activists …”

“We do believe that we are [following] on the same way as Shahrokh suggested and this is the only trustful and reliable way for founding a party, a revolutionary party from below … by finding the most militant workers, educating them, recruiting them, that’s the only basis for our future party. And this is the legacy of Shahrokh Zamani.”

Kelly Rogers, BECTU activist and leader of the strike movement amongst cinema workers then outlined how her own experience in the workplace had taught her the importance of solidarity in the face of attacks from the employers on the pay and conditions of workers. This had inspired her to organise with her workmates. Kelly said that while there was no comparison in Britain with the harshness of the conditions faced by Iran’s workers struggling against their employers and the regime, she understood that the attacks on workers come from the same place – the ruling class.

Peter Tatchell then gave a powerful and inspiring speech which concluded with a promise that the Iranian regime’s tyranny would fall.

The meeting agreed to launch a statement which will be published in the next few days and publish a model motion for trade union, labour movement and student movement organisations which is published below.

NB: all spoke in a personal capacity unless otherwise stated.

Affiliate to the campaign!

A model motion for trade union branches, student and labour movement organisations:

SOLIDARITY WITH WORKERS IN IRAN

This branch notes
1. That the July 2015 nuclear deal between the Iranian, US and European governments has opened up trade and diplomatic relations. However there has been no “peace dividend” for Iranian workers, as shown by the shocking flogging of 17 gold miners for protesting against layoffs in late May.
2. The continuing plight of working people in Iran: unemployment is still 12.2%, with youth unemployment at 27.8%; high inflation and unpaid wages pushing many employed workers into poverty; around 18% of children suffering from malnutrition etc.
3. The continuing imprisonment and repression of workers, teachers and other political activists for exercising basic democratic rights such as forming independent trade unions, expressing dissent and calling for equality for women, national minorities, disabled people, LGBTQ people, etc.
4. That despite continuing repression there has been a resurgence in Iranian workers’ protests in many sectors – car workers, rail workers, miners, nurses, gas workers, steel workers, sugar cane workers, teachers …

This branch believes
1. That Western governments and organisations like the ILO agency cannot be trusted to push for genuine workers’ and human rights in Iran. Iranian workers and others fighting for their rights need international solidarity from labour movements around the world.
2. That above all, like workers everywhere, Iranian workers need the right to strike and independent trade unions freed from state control.

We resolve to
1. Publicise the struggles of workers in Iran as well as other battles for human rights against the dictatorship.
2. Invite a speaker from the newly formed Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign, named for the Iranian trade unionist and socialist jailed for campaigning to form independent unions and found dead in prison last year (September 2016).
3. Support and publicise the SZAC’s activities and protests.
4. Affiliate to the SZAC (which is free) and make a donation of £…

(Bank account: ‘WSN’ – Sort code: 60-83-01 -Account Number: 20018467)

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How, just 50 years ago, the closed shop reinforced the colour bar

October 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm (BBC, Civil liberties, history, Human rights, immigration, posted by JD, Racism, Socialist Party, unions, workers)

A superb BBC Radio 4 programme today, told the story of how rail worker Asquith Xavier took on the colour bar operated at Euston station by NUR lay officials claiming that all they were doing was operating the ‘closed shop’; Socialist Party members take note:

BBC, 15 July 1966:

1966: Euston staff ‘colour bar’ ended

A West Indian refused a job at Euston Station will now be employed there after managers overturned a ban on black workers.

Two months ago Asquith Xavier, a train guard from Dominica, was refused a transfer from Marylebone Station to Euston because of his colour.

The new job would have meant a pay increase of around £10 a week for Mr Xavier who started work for British Railways (BR) as a porter 10 years ago.

He was informed about his rejection and the reason for it in a letter from Euston’s local staff committee whose members belong to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR).
BR does not have to abide by staff committees’ recommendations on appointments but they are very influential.

However, at a news conference on Friday BR spokesman Leslie Leppington said the colour bar at Euston Station had now been ended and Mr Xavier would be given a job.

However, Mr Leppington insisted the ban – rumoured to have been in place for 12 years – had not been a “real” colour bar.

He said it had been instigated by the workers out of a desire to protect their jobs and had never been management policy.

“If we had wanted to impose a real colour bar we would not have done it this way.

“We would have found some excuse to show he was not suitable for the job, wouldn’t we?” Mr Leppington said.

Mr Xavier, 44, is currently off work due to ill health and was not at the news conference.

But afterwards the secretary of the West Indian Standing Conference, Jeff Crawford, said they would be calling for the government to take action.

“We are going to urge the government to conduct a full and independent inquiry into discrimination throughout British Rail – to find out the extent of the problem, the cause and effect and the solution,” Mr Crawford said.

Similar bans to that ended at Euston are reported to be in force at other London stations including Camden and Broad Street.

But under current law the government’s options to curb them are limited.

The Race Relations Act was passed last year but contains only measures to combat racial discrimination in public places such as hotels and pubs (discrimination in the workplace was not illegal until an amendment to the Race Relations Act in 1968 -JD).

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