Brenda Sanders RIP

January 13, 2017 at 11:34 am (good people, posted by JD, RIP, Unite the union, women, workers)

Brenda Sanders

Above: Brenda

From Martin Mayer:

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Brenda Sanders, our first and only woman Chair of the T&G Executive Council. She died in hospital on Saturday after being poorly for some time.

Brenda was a calm and firm woman with strong convictions and steely determination, very often under-estimated by those who did not know her well. She was at the head of the T&G Executive Council in its final period of existence prior to the historic merger with AMICUS to form UNITE in 2008. This was a tense and difficult time for the Executive members as the merger plans developed. She always ensured that the views and concerns of T&G Executive Council members were heard by both General Secretaries – even when that was unpopular!

Brenda was proud and honoured to be the first woman Chair of the union’s Executive Council. It marked a very important stage in T&G women’s fight for equality in our union. She was certainly a credit to her T&G sisters who helped to create some of the most progressive equalities structures in any union.

Brenda we remember you with immense pride and a great deal of sadness.

Martin Mayer
Chair United Left

The Funeral will take place on the 26th January at 1.30pm, at St Hillary’s Church, Wallasey Village
then 2.30pm at Landican Cemetery

It will only be family flowers. Contributions can be made to a charity – to be confirmed.

Cards and letters of condolence are to be sent to:

10 Primrose Grove
Wallasey
CH44 7AS

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How credible are the allegations about Trump and Russia?

January 12, 2017 at 9:08 am (apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, populism, posted by JD, Putin, Russia, strange situations, Trump, United States)

From PBS Newshour


Above: Trump’s news conference

On Tuesday evening, CNN reported unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence compiled a dossier on the president-elect during his visits to Moscow; BuzzFeed later published 35 pages of content from the alleged dossier. But Mr. Trump dismissed the developments as “fake news.” Judy Woodruff speaks with former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey and former CIA officer John Sipher for analysis.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. We are having some guests join me here at the “NewsHour” anchor desk in the coming weeks. Tonight, it’s Steve Inskeep, who many of you recognize from NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Welcome, Steve.

STEVE INSKEEP: I’m delighted to be here. It’s an honor. Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re so glad to have you.

And we are devoting much of tonight’s program to our lead story, and that is the Donald Trump news conference today.

It came amid a swirl of stories about the president-elect and Russia.

DONALD TRUMP (recording): Its all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At his first news conference since the election, Donald Trump flatly denied the Russians have any compromising information on him.

DONALD TRUMP (r): But it should never have been released, but I read what was released. And I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an absolute disgrace.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The bombshell burst Tuesday evening, when CNN reported the president-elect and President Obama were briefed on the matter last week. The report included unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence compiled a dossier on Mr. Trump during visits to Moscow.

The Web site BuzzFeed then published a 35-page cache of memos from the alleged dossier, including a claim of sexual activity caught on a Moscow hotel room surveillance camera. The New York Times and other major news organizations said they had been aware of the information for months, but could not verify the claims.

Today, Mr. Trump insisted he wouldn’t put himself in such a position.

DONALD TRUMP (r): I told many people, be careful, because you don’t want to see yourself on television. There are cameras all over the place, and, again, not just Russia, all over.

Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: From there, the president-elect lit into the news media again. He condemned BuzzFeed.

DONALD TRUMP (r): It’s a failing pile of garbage writing it. I think they’re going to suffer the consequences.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And he accused CNN of being fake news, and brushed off persistent attempts by its correspondent to ask a question.

Later, CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, defended its reporting, and BuzzFeed said it published what it called a newsworthy document.

As for the leak itself:

DONALD TRUMP (r): I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that. And that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Russian hacking more broadly, the president-elect suggested an upside to the probing of Democratic Party computers and e-mails.

DONALD TRUMP (r): The hacking is bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked. Look at what was learned from that hacking, that Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Likewise, he acknowledged the intelligence verdict that President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking, but he didn’t leave it there.

DONALD TRUMP (r): I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And looking ahead, Mr. Trump suggested the hacking will not necessarily hinder future cooperation with Putin.

DONALD TRUMP (r): If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability. Now, Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe he will be doing it more.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There were also questions about the Trump Organization’s business ties to Russia, and he denied there are any.

DONALD TRUMP (r): We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to. I just don’t want to, because I think that would be a conflict. So I have no loans, no dealings and no current pending deals.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump has not released tax returns to verify his claims, and he said again he won’t do so until a federal audit is finished.

He also declined to say whether his associates or campaign staff had contact with Russian officials during the campaign. An ABC reporter tweeted later that the president-elect denied any such contact after the news conference ended.

We take a closer look at Russia, the president-elect, and these latest revelations with former attorney at the National Security Agency Susan Hennessey. She is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and is managing editor for the Web site Lawfare about the intersection of the law and national security. And John Sipher, he served almost 30 years at the CIA, both in the agency’s clandestine service and executive ranks. He was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s and he ran the CIA’s Russia program for three years. He’s now at CrossLead, a consulting firm.

And welcome to both of you.

So let’s start, Susan Hennessey, but I just want to ask both of you in brief, what do you make of this report?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, Former NSA Lawyer: Right.

So, for the moment, the real story is the allegations themselves are unverified. They’re obviously quite salacious in nature. The real story is that the intelligence community thought it was appropriate to brief the president of the United States and the president-elect.

That means that serious people are taking this seriously. That’s different than saying that the intelligence community believes the allegations or has substantiated them. But this is a matter that is not just simply a matter of fake news or something that we should disregard.

It clearly passes some degree of preliminary credibility.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John Sipher, your take?

JOHN SIPHER, Former CIA Officer: I think the question is, is this real?

And there are things on the positive side and the negative side on that. On the positive side, for those of us who have lived and worked and worked in Russia and against the Russians, it does feel right. It does feel like the kind of thing that Russians do. A lot of those details fit.

Also, I think, the author has some credibility, which is on the positive side.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the former British intelligence officer.

JOHN SIPHER: That’s right. Yes.

On the negative side, it really is hard to make a distinction if we don’t know who those sources are. He talks about his sources providing various information. In the CIA, before we would put out a report like that, an intelligence report, there could be, you know, hundreds of pages of information on that person’s access, on their suitability, on their personality.

We don’t have that. And, secondly, the fact that a lot of this reporting is the presidential administration in Russia and the Kremlin is a little bit worrying, because, I mean, that’s essentially a hard nut to crack. And U.S. intelligence agencies have been trying to do that for years, and the fact that he has this much data about them does put it into question a little bit.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Hennessey, let’s talk about your organization, Lawfare.

You had a copy of this, what, several weeks ago. And you started looking into it, decided not to put it out, but you did look into it. How did you go about figuring out or trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t here?

SUSAN HENNESSEY: Right.

So, the document was shared with us to — so that we could provide some professional input as to whether or not it was credible. As we were satisfied that the relevant government entities were aware of the documents, and then like everybody else, we attempted to talk to people in various communities to see whether or not the allegations seemed credible to them.

I think the point that we’re at now, it’s really not about our organization or anyone else verifying the specific facts. The FBI is conducting an investigation. We will expect — there are very specific allegations in this document. Those allegations can either be proven true or proven false.

And so we should expect some answers that provide some additional clarity. One important note is just because a single fact in the document is true, it doesn’t mean the rest of the document is true. And just because a single fact in the document is false, that doesn’t mean the rest of the document is false.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That the entire thing is false.

Well, John Sipher, let’s go back to what you said a minute ago. You said there are parts of this that are credible, and you said it’s the way the Russians operate. What did you mean by that?

JOHN SIPHER: It must look odd to views or anybody who has read this thing. It’s such a different world.

But Russia is a police state. Russia has been a police state for much of its history. And this is the way they often do business. They collect blackmail on people. When I lived there, we had audio and video in our houses. We were followed all the time. Restaurants and places, hotels like this are — have video and audio in them. They collect this.

They do psychological profiling of people to try to see who might be sources for them. This is just the way the Russians operate. So when you read this, it smacks of the kind of thing that we would believe is credible. That doesn’t mean it is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The methods.

JOHN SIPHER: Right, the methods, right, and the — right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you went on to say that the precise details in here are not borne out, are not verified by any individuals outside of this report, the British — the British office.

JOHN SIPHER: Right.

And in that sense, it’s difficult because of the hyperpartisan atmosphere here. The fact that this is now in the public is going to spin up on the salacious details and these type of things, whereas I think the FBI does have a lot of experience doing very sensitive investigations like this, working with partners overseas and others to try to put this together, because there are a lot of details that we as citizens can’t follow up on.

Did people travel during those certain days? Who are these people? And that’s the kind of stuff that we just can’t do, and the FBI can and will.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For example, Susan Hennessey, there’s a reference in here to an attempt to get the FISA court, the court that has to OK investigations, surveillance of individuals, permission for them to look at four different people who were working for the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization. How unusual would something like that be?

SUSAN HENNESSEY: So, certainly, it’s highly unusual in the context of a political campaign or a presidential election.

That said, there is news reports that perhaps there were additional attempts to secure a FISA warrant, and that the FBI reportedly obtained one in October. If the allegations in the documents are true, are accurate, those are the kinds of things that would fall within FISA.

That’s the type of warrant that the government would pursue. That said, just like everything else, we’re a step away from actually verifying the substance of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Verifying.

John Sipher, if you’re in charge of the investigation to figure out what is and what isn’t right, if anything is accurate in here, what do you need to do now?

JOHN SIPHER: What you need to do is take each piece of this document and run it to ground.

So, you need to find out — they talk — the issue here is not the salacious details, the blackmail piece. The issue here is the criminal behavior if people in the Trump campaign were working with Russian intelligence to collect information on Americans.

If that’s the case, there’s a lot of detail in there that needs to be verified. And we have to find out, did the people travel on the days they said they traveled, those type of things? So, there are a lot of things to run down that you can run down with your partners and information that you can collect as part of an investigation in U.S. travel records, all these type of things.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Hennessey, what would you add to that? If you were involved in trying to determine if any parts of this are accurate or to verify that they’re not accurate, how would do you that?

SUSAN HENNESSEY: Right.

So, certainly, the FBI is going to be calling on all of their resources to investigate the specific allegations, things like travel records, things like financial documents. They’re also going to need to draw on intelligence sources. And so there are specific sort of comments about meetings between Putin and others, very sort of high-level, high-value intelligence targets.

They would really need to reach very deeply into their intelligence networks and the networks of allied intelligence agencies in order to see if anything to lend credibility or substantiate these very serious allegations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John Sipher, we saw that Senator John McCain had a role, the Republican senator, of course, from Arizona, had a role in this. How did he come into this, and does that tell us anything?

JOHN SIPHER: Well, Senator McCain, obviously, has a lot of experience working with the government on sensitive things and has always been a hawk on Russia issues. And I’m supportive of that. I think he’s been good in that case.

My understanding is the author of this himself provided information, this information to get to the FBI, through Mr. McCain, who got the information through the FBI.

And, obviously, other news places had it. What’s interesting is President Trump, President-elect  Trump seems to think that the intelligence agencies themselves leaked this information, whereas it doesn’t seem to me that that’s the case.

The fact that you and others have had this for so long and actually held off on putting it suggests to me that this information has been out there for a while, and I think that’s why General Clapper and others briefed the president-elect on this last Friday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What would you add to that?

SUSAN HENNESSEY: So, I think this is an incredibly important point.

So, when President-elect Trump today seemed to suggest that he believes the intelligence community leaked this, saying it would be a blot if they had done so, there’s absolutely no indication that the intelligence community is the source of the documents.

BuzzFeed, the organization that published this document, this is actually not even an intelligence community document. It is a private company. It’s not even classified material. And so a little bit, there is a suspicion that once again Donald Trump is using his personal attacks on the intelligence community a little bit to divert attention away from the substance of the allegations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly to both of you, how confident are you that we’re going to know eventually whether this is — whether any of this is accurate?

JOHN SIPHER: I have confidence.

Yes, I have confidence that the FBI is going to follow this through. My nervousness is that these kind of things are going to dribble and drabble out for the next several years and cause a real problem for this administration going forward.

SUSAN HENNESSEY: Because this is so important to the credibility of the president, we would really want to see him establish some kind of independent commission or council in order to really get to the bottom of these facts and provide some reassurance to the American people, not only that this is being investigated, but also that President-elect Trump himself is taking this matter very seriously.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Hennessey, John Sipher, we thank you both.

JOHN SIPHER: Thank you.

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Momentum, as it presently exists, to be abolished?

January 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm (labour party, left, posted by JD, unions)

Image result for MOmentum

Nick Wrack has just posted this on Facebook:
“This has just been sent to members of the Momentum Steering Committee by Jon Lansman.

I am still digesting the contents of the email but I am staggered. It has to rank as one of the most undemocratic manoeuvres in the history of the British left – and that is saying something.

What was the purpose of the National Committee meeting on 3 December? Now we can understand why the Steering Committee has not met.

A constitution will “apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments”.

The local groups and special interest/liberation groups are to be by-passed and the whole correct structural set-up is to be abolished by a plebiscite.

“If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.”

So, it would seem, the conference, set for 19 February, will no longer decide policy, even if it still goes ahead.

“From: Jon Lansman <jon.lansman@peoplesmomentum.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 7:39 PM
Subject: Proposal to Steering Group: A new constitution for Momentum
To: Marsha Jane Thompson <xxx>, Christine Shawcroft <xxx>, Sam Tarry <xxx>, Jacqueline Walker <xxx>, Martyn Cook <xxx>, Michael Chessum <xxx>, Matt Wrack <xxx>, Sam Wheeler <xxx>, Professor Cecile Wright <xxx>, Jill Mountford<xxx>, Maggie Simpson <xxx>
Cc: Emma Rees <xxx>, Adam Klug <xxx>

Dear Colleagues 

I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.

Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.

I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.

The papers which are included in this mailing set out:

The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;

A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;

A paper on interim governance.

A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.

The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:

Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;

Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;

Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.

If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.

If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.

In solidarity

Jon Lansman
Chair 
Momentum National Steering Group

Jon Lansman’s attachments:

Interim governance

Election process

Momentum members’ survey

Momentum constitution

**********************************************************
See also: Tendance Coatesy

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Open Letter to the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party

January 10, 2017 at 6:40 pm (campaigning, democracy, labour party, posted by JD, reformism)

labour-party-logo

From Momentum South Birmingham to the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party

Dear Comrades

Regardless of your views on the leadership election and the movement around Jeremy Corbyn, it is clear that the Labour Party faces a huge task locally and nationally. The polls are unlikely to be that out of kilter with reality and if there was a general election tomorrow in all likelihood the Labour Party would lose, and badly.

More specifically, here in Birmingham we also face big challenges. With the Midland Metro Mayor election next year and “all-up” council elections in 2018, we will need a large, motivated and dynamic ground operation to achieve the results we want. In particular with the Metro Mayor, the Conservative candidate, Andy Street, is clearly no fool and the contest will be a very tough one. Without a significant Labour presence on the streets and in our communities, we won’t win.

The Tories have vast amounts of money and plenty of friends in the media to help put their case. The Labour Party has the overwhelming case that exists for a democratic socialist society, obviously, but more prosaically, it’s huge membership, which has more than trebled nationally in just over a year.

That membership will need to be mobilised. And in order for it to be mobilised it will need to have a say in how the party is run.

It was therefore with huge disappointment that we learned that the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party voted to exclude all members who had joined in or after July 2015 from selecting our candidates for the 2018 local elections.

Two thirds of Labour Party members have been disenfranchised at a stroke. It is also worth bearing in mind that the next local elections after 2018 will be in 2022, so selection will take place in 2021. Therefore if you joined the party in July 2015 you will face a six year wait to select a council candidate. The national Labour rule is 6 months.

This cannot be right. There needs to be a freeze date, but the one imposed by the Birmingham Board is ludicrously excessive and smacks of cynical gerrymandering.

It is also self-defeating.

How do we expect to have a motivated membership knocking doors, delivering leaflets and taking the case for Labour candidates into our communities if we won’t even let that membership select those candidates? How will we build the big, lively, well-resourced campaigns that we will need to get Sion Simon elected in 2017?

Momentum South Birmingham calls on the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party to overturn the decision and instead have the usual six month freeze date. It is in our party’s interests to do so.

In solidarity

MSB

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Theresa May and the “Shared Society”

January 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm (capitalism, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

 Ben Jennings 09.01.17
Cartoon: Ben Jennings, Guardian

By Phil Burton-Cartledge (first published at Phil’s blog All That Is Solid)

When you’re a leading politician and especially a Prime Minister, the pressure is on to stand for something. And as the real choices in politics truncated to who could best run the Thatcherite/neoliberal settlement, necessity and expediency dictated that one must pretend to be something more than a manager of that consensus. John Major had his Back to Basics campaign, married to the Citizen’s Charter and Cones’ Hotline wheeze. His Blairness got no less a figure than Anthony Giddens to cook up “The Third Way”, the impossibility of marrying market fundamentalism to half-recognisable social democratic objectives. Even Bill Clinton bought into that one. Dave had his Big Society, a convenient celebration of volunteering just as the Tories committed themselves to butchering public services and replacing them with philanthropy and a committed citizenry. Ed Miliband had One Nation. The exception is Jeremy Corbyn, who is yet to fully define himself despite offering a politics that decisively breaks with received wisdom.

In her own way, at least at the rhetorical level, Theresa May also defined herself differently, and now her philosophy has a name: the Shared Society. Looking forward to a major speech on the matter, we know this is so much guff because of her record. In the six months May has been in power she’s prevaricated, delayed, prevaricated, and delayed some more. With a dose of control freakery, as noted by Andrew Rawnsley, she’s carried on flogging off strategic industry, and has overseen a budget that barely differed from an Osborne effort. May’s shared society isn’t looking that different from late period Dave, truth be told. And that’s before we start talking about the NHS and the declaration of a humanitarian crisis by the crazed militants of the Red Cross. Her talk of dealing with “the shorter life expectancy for those born poor, the harsher treatment of black people in the criminal justice system, the lower chances of white working-class boys going to university, and … the despicable stigma and inadequate help for those with mental health conditions” remains just talk as long as these crises carry on without the government appearing to care too much about them.

Still, her original address from the steps of Downing Street was perceived as a master stroke from within the Westminster circus. Talk of dealing with everyday injustices, including economic anxiety and security came like a revelation to folks who rub shoulders with working class people only when ordering a latte. But it would be churlish to deny May’s speech had significant cut through. Unlike Dave and Osborne who only pretended concern, May sounded like she meant it, that she understood something about the difficulties of modern life. In an uncertain world, she crafted a message pledging certainty, of a national community that has everyone doing their bit and getting their just rewards. This is where the shared society comes in. She defines it as,

A society that doesn’t just value our individual rights but focuses rather more on the responsibilities we have to one another; a society that respects the bonds of family, community, citizenship and strong institutions that we share as a union of people and nations; a society with a commitment to fairness at its heart … it goes to the heart of my belief that there is more to life than individualism and self-interest. The social and cultural unions represented by families, communities, towns, cities, counties and nations are the things that define us and make us strong. And it is the job of government to encourage and nurture these relationships and institutions where it can, and to correct the injustice and unfairness that divides us wherever it is found.

Had Ed Miliband defined his One Nationism thus, the Tory press would have dubbed him a proto-totalitarian. Yet, from an ideas perspective, the shared society is interesting for three reasons. We know from her long stint in the Home Office that May is a petty-minded authoritarian who, like her predecessors, happily ramped up the government’s snooping powers in the name of terror prevention. All throughout her career, May has never been one to celebrate individual sovereignty. Second, she is riding the wave of (English) nationalism. As Wolfgang Streeck has argued, societies that have seen labour movements broken and discourses of resistance buried turn instead to whatever ideological resources are to hand. In this case, nationalism is resurgent because the nation appears eternal vis a vis cultural, political and economic turbulence. Farage exploited noisy, entitled, frightened English nationalism to his advantage, and now May is doing the same – albeit in calmer, more measured (and respectable) tones. And thirdly, her “active government” promises social reform that will build a “great meritocracy”. Forget your Ed Miliband, she’s channeling Clem Attlee. Again, we’ll wait and see about that as there’s been nothing beyond a slight smoothing of social security policy.

It’s bollocks, but unlike the wonky visions of days gone by it has a certain simplicity to it, one that even newspaper columnists will be able to understand. It promises justice and security, mainstays that should be Labour’s, but have proven difficult to meld together and “own” in recent times – the fact May freely speaks this language and is treated seriously goes to show how far our party still has to go. Yes, May suffers from the triple vices of incompetence, dithering and control-freakery, and Brexit could undo her leadership. But her undeserved reputation as a serious grown up rests on this rhetoric, of knowing and understanding the problems of, shock horror, the working class. And most importantly, her apparent no fuss willingness to do something about them.

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Unite the Union, Scotland: Mark Lyon “in the wrong meeting” …

January 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm (Guest post, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Unite the union)

Image result for Picture Mark Lyon Unite
Above: Mark Lyon

By Ann Field

Len McCluskey launched his campaign for re-election as Unite General Secretary at a meeting held in Glasgow last Saturday. Thanks to Mark Lyon, the International Transport Workers Federation full-timer who chaired the meeting, it ended in a fiasco.

In fact, the fiasco had been built into the meeting before it even started.

Since the summer of last year Lyon has dedicated himself to splitting the United Left Scotland (ULS), the Scottish ‘section’ of the national United Left (UL), which functions as a kind of ‘Broad Left’ within Unite.

Stage one of Lyon’s efforts was a meeting held in late August, which he dishonestly presented as a ULS meeting.

Details about the meeting were sent from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com (not the actual ULS e-mail address, but a close imitation). The e-mail was headed “United Left Scotland Meeting” and signed off as “United Left Scotland”.

Lyon did not inform elected ULS co-ordinators of his meeting. Other ULS activists were also left off the e-mail list used to publicise the meeting. But Scottish Unite full-timers certainly attended the meeting in numbers – at the behest of the Scottish Regional Secretary.

Stage two occurred in mid-November, when Lyon sent out an e-mail which proclaimed the existence of the Progressive United Left Scotland (PULS), proclaimed who the PULS candidates would be for the Scottish territorial seats in this year’s Executive Council (EC) elections, and proclaimed himself as elections co-ordinator.

This meant that two PULS candidates would be standing against the two ULS candidates who had been selected at a ULS meeting to contest the Scottish territorial seats. And one of the PULS candidates was not even a UL member.

(In fact, prior to some last-minute juggling by Lyon in his personal selection of the candidates, neither of the PULS candidates he had initially chosen were UL members.)

Stage three followed quickly on the heels of stage two. In late November Lyon circulated a splenetic e-mail on the national UL e-mail address list.

Longstanding ULS members were subjected to personalised abuse, the UL National Chair was denounced for a “deeply personal, vicious and unwarranted attack” on Lyon, the ULS was dismissed as an “oppressive and undemocratic body”, critics of PULS were scorned as “a few self-interested individuals”, and the outcome of ULS-PULS ‘negotiations’ was systematically misrepresented.

Ironically, among the spurious criticisms of the ULS most consistently raised by Lyon were his claims that it was undemocratic and suffered from a culture in which abuse and bullying were condoned.

And yet here was Lyon – in the absence of any meetings of PULS members (insofar as it has a membership in any meaningful sense of the word) – proclaiming the existence of a new organisation, announcing the names of its candidates for EC seats, and launching into a prolonged tirade of personal abuse against ULS and UL members.

In December Lyon sent the first of a series of e-mails publicising last Saturday’s meeting. As had been the case in August, Lyon excluded ULS co-ordinators and a layer of ULS activists from the list he used for all e-mails publicising the meeting.

(Lyon has yet to master the art of blind-copying e-mails. Who he deems worthy, and unworthy, of receipt of one of his e-mails is therefore visible to all.)

But what was the status of Saturday’s meeting?

Was it a PULS meeting? One e-mail publicising the meeting had the header “PULS National Slate and Campaign Materials” and was signed off as “PULS”. An eve-of-meeting e-mail also referred to “our PULS meeting tomorrow.”

Was it another sham ULS meeting? Lyon used the unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com address for most of his e-mails about the meeting. And in one e-mail Lyon had declared: “PULS is not a replacement for the ULS. It is the ULS.”

Or was it just a personal venture by Mark Lyon, not subject to any kind of accountability to any broader body? One e-mail publicising the meeting was simply signed off by “Mark” and sent from Lyon’s personal e-mail address.

Another question raised about the meeting was Lyon’s statement in one of his e-mails that the meeting would be attended by “the seven Executive Council candidates we [presumably: PULS] are jointly running in the forthcoming election.”

But who were these seven candidates which PULS was “jointly running”? (And jointly with whom?)

Lyon’s problem was that by the time of the meeting the full UL slate for this year’s EC elections had been published on the UL website.

The two candidates on the slate for the Scottish territorial seats are ULS members, not the PULS nominees. And there are six, not five, Unite members from Scotland listed on the slate as standing for various industrial seats.

Saturday’s 80-strong meeting was no larger than the meeting organised by Lyon in August. In fact, it may have been marginally smaller – despite the presence of an additional five Unite full-timers who had not attended the August meeting.

So much for Lyon’s claim in his splenetic e-mail of last November: “I am part of a group of about 150 people in Scotland and growing. … We grow daily in number and strength in our region.”

It was only towards the end of the meeting, when Lyon announced “our” seven Executive Council candidates, that the fiasco-in-waiting finally came to the surface. Fortunately, McCluskey had left the meeting by this point and was spared witnessing the debacle first-hand.

Lyon introduced “our” five Scottish candidates for various industrial seats on the EC. The sixth Scottish candidate – a member of the ULS, and an official UL candidate – was not asked to address the meeting. In fact, Lyon had not even invited him to the meeting.

Lyon then introduced “our” candidates for the Scottish territorial seats. They were the two PULS candidates whom he had personally selected in November – not the ULS members listed on the official UL slate (whom Lyon had likewise not invited to attend the meeting).

When it was pointed out from the floor that Lyon had failed to mention the ULS members standing for the Scottish territorial seats and officially recognised as UL candidates, Lyon curtly responded:

“You’re in the wrong meeting. They are not United Left candidates. We are supporting our candidates who have been democratically agreed. We are the United Left, we created the United Left, we’re not a different group.”

Lyon clearly thinks that he, rather than the UL, can decree who is a UL candidate. He likewise believes that he, rather than the UL, can decide what constitutes the UL. He even thinks that his own individual personal opinions amount to “democratic agreement”.

And his quip that “you’re in the wrong meeting” might have seemed very clever at the time (if only to Lyon himself). But it is a comment he will hopefully come to regret.

The person who, according to Lyon, was “in the wrong meeting” was an official UL candidate for a territorial seat on the EC. If that UL candidate was “in the wrong meeting”, then that tells you everything you need to know about the nature of Lyon’s meeting.

In fact, if anyone was “in the wrong meeting” – even if he exited it before Lyon’s plea to support non-UL candidates – then it was arguably the United Left’s own candidate in the General Secretary election, i.e. Len McCluskey himself.

The meeting which he used to launch his re-election campaign was one which denied a platform to three Scottish UL candidates, called for a vote for candidates standing against two UL candidates, and refused to call for a vote for a third UL candidate.

Although Lyon made a half-hearted attempt to present the meeting as a UL event, he deliberately withheld information about the meeting from ULS co-ordinators and activists.

And it was a meeting where the disproportionately large number of union full-timers in attendance – including Lyon himself – was at odds with McCluskey’s description of Unite as being primarily about “lay-member radical activism”.

To beat Coyne’s shameless campaign of right-wing anti-migrant populism, McCluskey needs to promote “lay-member radical activism”. But, thanks to Mark Lyon, he could not have chosen a worse event to launch his campaign than last Saturday’s meeting.

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Make America Great Again – with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown jazz Orchestra!

January 7, 2017 at 4:56 pm (jazz, music, New Orleans, posted by JD, United States)

Make America Great Again!

Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown jazz Orchestra

Review by Jamie Evans (“Just give ‘Jamie Evans’ a credit and add ‘rabid anti-marxist, High Tory, Master of the Wandsworth Hunt and Corbyn-hater’. Joking of course :-)”)

https://artistxite.co.uk/label/Troubadour-Jass-Records

Any newcomer to the world of jazz wouldn’t get far without hearing the name “Marsalis”.  That New Orleans dynasty has produced several extraordinarily talented jazz musicians, Wynton probably being the best known

His brother, trombonist and composer Delfeayo is not so widely recognised but certainly deserves to be, judging by the depth of talent exhibited on this newly released album.

Wynton is noted for his dogged respect for jazz tradition and refusal to accept novelty and change for the sake of it. This reviewer totally agrees

So it is a pleasure to see that Delfeayo and the Crescent City-based Uptown Jazz Orchestra have produced a glittering range of styles that embrace a wide diversity (My apologies for not listing all the contributors here as there are so many of them. Buy the CD to find out!).

The title track Make America Great Again! is a tongue in cheek political polemic with a voice-over narrative while Star Spangled Banner offers a comparatively faithful rendition of a patriotic composition.

Reverential nods are given to the great big bands of the past.  Second Line inclines towards the Duke with Strayhorn echoes and lovely Hamiltonesque clarinet weaving above the choruses while Symphony in Riffs remembers the halcyon days of Benny Carter.

A homage to Count Basie, All of Me, takes  different approach. Sparse piano from Kyle Rousssel, more funky that the the Count ever envisaged, leads us in and, as we suspect, towards the end of the second chorus – Bang , in comes the orchestra.

Delfeayo’s trombone is featured in Skylark and surely Hoagy Carmichael would have approved of the subtle, mellifluous treatment it is given?

The superb 20-piece UJO has had a regular weekday workout in a famous New Orleans venue for six years. “We play feel-good music. Don’t come…if you feel like being depressed,” says Delfeayo.  If ever I get to the Crescent City, count me in.

A superb CD which embraces some of America’s great musical forms.

Tracks:  Star Spangled Banner; Snowball; Second Line; Back to Africa; Make America Great Again; Dream on Robben; Symphony in Riffs; Put Your Right Foot Forward; All of Me; living Free and Running Wild; Skylark; Java; Fanfare for the Common Man; Dream On Robben (instrumental

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Three arguments against free movement, and three responses

January 5, 2017 at 9:01 pm (Anti-Racism, AWL, Europe, immigration, internationalism, labour party, Migrants, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, reformism, Socialist Party, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

By Ira Berkovic (also published at the Workers Liberty website)

In the debate in the labour movement around “free movement”, which is in fact a debate about immigration, a number of arguments have been made by left-wing advocates of ending free movement – that is, leaving the EU on a basis which abolishes the rights of free movement to the UK that EU citizens currently have, and which UK citizens currently have to other EU states.

This article attempts to respond to some of those arguments, and present a positive case for defending and extending existing freedom of movement.

Argument One: “By ending free movement we can make Britain a giant closed shop”.

See: “Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit opportunity”, Clive Heemskerk, Socialism Today No. 201, September 2016.
“Standing in the way of control: thoughts on Labour post-Brexit”, Tom Muntzer, The Clarion, 28 November 2016
“Workers need safeguards and strong unions to make migration work”, Len McCluskey, LabourList, 5 November 2016

A closed shop is a workplace in which membership of the recognised union is a condition of employment. It is a gain which grows out of workplace organisation and strength, when a union is strong enough to impose it on the employer.

It was illegalised by Thatcher’s anti-union laws in 1990, and now exists only in a handful of places in a spectral form, where workers are able to establish a culture and a common sense in the workplace whereby choosing not to join the union is universally understood as a very bad idea.

So, what has any of that to do with the debate on immigration?

In what is simultaneously the most fantastical and, in some ways, the most offensively reactionary, “left-wing” argument against free movement, some have suggested that the existing free movement arrangements could be replaced by a form of immigration controls that legally compels bosses who wish to “hire abroad” to operate closed shops, so the foreign workers they recruit must be union members in order to get jobs, or be covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey puts it like this: “Any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad can only do so if they are either covered by a proper trade union agreement, or by sectoral collective bargaining.”

The implication is that if employers are legally forced to only hire union workers covered by collective bargaining agreements, there will be no financial incentive for them to hire cheaper, migrant labour.

The demand relies on two assumptions: one, that migrant labour necessarily has a depressing effect on the pay, terms, and conditions of domestic workers. And two, that employers deliberately and directly hire migrant workers in order to drive down their costs, because migrant workers will work for less.

But in a genuine closed shop, the enforcing body is the trade union. In this version, the British state will apparently become the enforcer. Quite how this is supposed to work in practise (whether, for example, it will involve uniformed border police checking people’s union cards at Calais and Heathrow) is not clear.

And why will the proposed law apply only to international migrants? Why will a Polish worker looking for work in London require a union card, but not an English worker from, say, Blackburn looking for work in London?

And why is it imagined that the existing labour movement, that has not been able to overturn the law banning closed shops in order to force employers to recognise them for domestic labour, will succeed in forcing employers to operate closed shops for migrant labour?

Some advocates of this policy on the revolutionary left justify the approach with reference to the First International, which did indeed set as part of its aim resistance to attempts by employers to “play off” workers from one country against those of another.

But two key differences with the contemporary situation are missed out. Firstly, the disputes to which the First International was responding were ones in which employers who faced strikes in Country A attempted to directly hire workers from Country B, in order to break the strike in Country A. Almost no migrant labour in Britain today is directly recruited abroad, and none of it on the conscious, explicit basis of doing the work of striking workers in Britain.

And secondly, the methods of the First International were solidaristic, linking workers’ organisations across borders to appeal directly to workers not to allow their labour be used to undermine the struggles of their brothers and sisters abroad. This approach has nothing in common with the hostile attitude to migrants and immigration implied by the policies of today’s anti-free-movement left.

There is a nationalist arrogance implied in this politics. The implication is that British workers are unionised, militant, and in an almost permanent state of struggle to defend their conditions – which is why bosses want to use migrant workers, who of course have no trade union consciousness and are little more than scabs, to undermine it.

The reality is quite different. As we know, strikes are at historically low levels and the labour movement has halved in size since its 1979 height. The picture of a militant and combative “native” labour movement having its struggles undermined by bosses shipping in migrant strikebreakers is simply false. In fact, some of the brightest spots in contemporary class struggle in Britain are migrant workers’ struggles, such as the organising by the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB) and United Voices of the World (UVW). As Jason Moyer-Lee of the IWGB puts it, these struggles mean migrant workers often leave their jobs “better than they found them”.

Overturning the law on closed shops, and reintroducing them as a feature of the industrial landscape in this country, is a worthy aspiration. But that will be achieved through organisation and struggle. To demand a state-enforced “closed shop” as a means of “solving” the largely illusory “problem” of migrant labour depressing wages for domestic workers is, at best, bizarre.

It either functions as a demand that migrant workers have adequate trade union consciousness before they move to Britain (again, why demand this of a Pole moving to Britain, but not a Geordie moving to London?), or is simply a dishonest obfuscation. Uneasy with straightforwardly expressing the political core of their demand – that immigration be reduced – the policy is wrapped up in “trade union” verbiage to make it appear like something other than what it is, a demand for boosting one group of workers at the expense of another, in this case on the basis of nationality and immigration status.

It is the very opposite of the politics of class unity and solidarity that the principle of the closed shop is supposed to express.

Argument Two: “We need fair immigration controls”.

See: “My cure for a divided Britain: a programme of managed immigration”, Stephen Kinnock, The Guardian, 19 September 2016

Versions of this argument are used by a range of people in the labour movement, from Blairite and soft-left MPs through to some on the far-left. Read the rest of this entry »

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TSSA/Momentum: bloody foreigners coming over here taking our railways

January 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm (Europe, Jim D, labour party, left, nationalism, populism, reformism, unions)

Momentum’s Facebook page carries a bizarre video which comes from the TSSA rail union.
It’s about railway privatisation, but instead of talking about private businesses exploiting passengers and workers, it focusses entirely on the French, German and Dutch public railway companies that have bought up parts of the UK system, and basically rests on an implied “foreigners stealing our railways” message. Really dodgy, and particularly unhelpful at this time of Brexit-inspired nationalism and racism.

On the TSSA website the link to the video is accompanied by the following gems from the union’s recently re-elected General Secretary Manuel Cortes:

“This film makes the case that it is high time the UK takes back public control of our rail operating companies back [sic] from Keolis, Arriva and Abeilio [sic] who are just front companies for the French, the German and the Dutch states.

“Brexit has made Taking Back Control of train operating companies a vital economic necessity. Leaving the EU but leaving our rail operating companies in the control of EU countries to continue reaping the profits, would now be preposterous.

“It’s a no-brainer case and we hope this film will be shared widely and be used to hold the Tories to account in England and Wales – and in Scotland too where under SNP nationalist rule ScotRail has been tuned [sic] into a Dutch rail colony – for their unpatriotic and misguided running down of UK rail.”

Yes, we must hold the Tories to account for being unpatriotic!

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John Berger RIP

January 3, 2017 at 12:23 am (Art and design, culture, literature, Marxism, modernism, posted by JD)

Image result for picture John Berger

From: Felix Stalder
Date: 2 January 2017
Subject: <nettime> John_Berger (5 November 1926 – 2 January 2017)

John Berger is dead. He died today, at the age of 90. Obits are surely
being written right now. However, Sally Potter’s birthday thoughts
from last November seem a more apt and personal way of remembering.
“Ways of Seeing was, together with Robert Hughes’ “Shock of the New”,
one of the first books about art I read as teenager. It stayed with me
ever since.

As if as a testament to his continued relevance, the LA Review of
Books published today a long article on his theory of art.

That theory evolved considerably between the 1950s and the 2010s.
Yet two threads hold it together with the tenacity of spider silk: a
critique of the political economy of art and a sophisticated account
of its human value, each rooted in a committed but elastic Marxism.

A Marxist art criticism of any real subtlety has to be elastic,
because it must deal with a problem Marx himself diagnosed but
failed to solve. Berger puts it like this:

A question which Marx posed but could not answer: If art in the last
analysis is a superstructure of an economic base, why does its power
to move us endure long after the base has been transformed? Why,
asked Marx, do we still look towards Greek art as an ideal? He began
to answer the question […] and then broke off the manuscript and
was far too occupied ever to return to the question.

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-smuggling-operation-john-bergers-theory-of-art/

H/t: Bruce R

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