Archive 2019

30th December 2019

“All over people changing their votes

Along with their overcoats

If Adolf Hitler flew in today

They’d send a limousine anyway.”

(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash (1978)

RLB

Rebecca Long Bailey – already the focus for right wing fury

There is no reason why Prime Ministers, politicians or pundits should take notice of the observations of a rock n roll band but the words of The Clash from 1978 ring true over 40 years later.  Back then the Thatcher government was imminent, with the rolling back of the progressive post war gains of council housing, comprehensive education, an NHS free at the point of use and the privatisation of key strategic industries all within the Tories’ sights.

Those goals have largely been achieved, and more besides, as successive governments have either pushed further down the road mapped out by Thatcher, or done nothing to reverse the setbacks initiated by her administration.  For an entire generation of young people the struggle to find decent work, affordable housing and consistent healthcare has become the norm.  The burden of university tuition fees can be added to that list.

The massive protests against nuclear arms, which immobilised cities across the UK in the 1980’s, have been replaced with an almost unquestioning acceptance of the need for Trident nuclear submarines and, through successive anniversary commemorations of the two World Wars, an almost craven acceptance of the virtues of the UK’s armed forces.

It has become accepted wisdom for many that the City of London is integral to the UK economy and that any challenge to its role would simply bring sterling crashing down with a recession to follow.  While the evidence for this is scant successive governments, including Labour administrations under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have formed a ring of fire around the City, making it untouchable in any economic discussion.

Stringent controls on the operation and function of trade unions have been absorbed into the new ‘consensus’ with the Blair/Brown period of Labour government making no difference to the restrictions placed upon trade union activity.  Local government has been consistently under funded and its role undermined, once again, long before the Tories introduced ‘austerity’ into the political lexicon.

Across Europe there is a rise of the right wing, with governments in Poland, Hungary and Italy being the most extreme, while political parties such as Vox in Spain, National Rally in France and Alternativ fur Deutschland in Germany are all gaining ground.

The effective disappearance of the Brexit Party in the UK does not buck this trend.  On the contrary, the newly branded ‘One Nation’ Conservative Party, that nation being England, is providing a home to former Brexit Party members as well as succour for members of the far right Britain First faction.  Even Tommy Robinson has reportedly become a member.

Against this background the selection of a new leader for the Labour Party becomes even more important.  No one will expect them to stem the rising tide of right wing activism across Europe.  However, they may acknowledge that there is also opposition to this and may even support a rejection of the economics of exclusivity that go with it.  The Labour manifestos of 2017 and 2019 provide the framework for such an approach and their essence must be maintained if Labour is to move forward.

The mobilisation against this position has been high profile and fast, with interventions from Yvette Cooper, David Miliband, Tony Blair, Tom Watson and Roy Hattersley to name a few, stressing the need to break with so-called Corbynism quickly and decisively.  Hattersley, a former Labour Deputy Leader, has taken a particularly hysterical position, calling upon MPs not to support Rebecca Long Bailey if she is elected in the forthcoming leadership contest.

Hattersley imagines that the majority of the 500,000 plus membership of the Labour Party, many of whom supported Corbyn, are made up of ex- Communists, Trotskyists and members of the Militant Tendency, all of whom have been waiting in the political wings to seize their moment and gain control of Labour.

Quite where Hattersley thinks so many disaffected left wingers have been hiding in the whole of the UK, never mind the Labour Party, is hard to credit but such is the paranoia of the political establishment. What Hattersley and his ilk refuse to acknowledge is that the policies which ensured that Jeremy Corbyn won two leadership elections, may actually be popular, if fought for and argued for on the doorstep.

The fright which the 2017 election result gave the political establishment in the UK was a recognition that the Thatcher based consensus had broken down and people wanted a Labour Party that could oppose such policies.  The systematic demonisation of Labour and its leader in the intervening two years undoubtedly played a part in the disastrous 2019 result.  The consistent sharpening of knives from his own backbenches did Corbyn no favours.

The new Labour leader will face the opposition of the Tory press, the BBC and even large sections of social media.  If Labour is to roar back in the 2020’s the new leader should not face the opposition of their own MPs, their own party, or the trade union movement in trying to argue the case for progressive social change in the UK.

Labour needs to build trust from the grass roots and persuade voters that social change is in their interest.  Simply being an electoral machine, which appeals to a notion of consensus on terms dictated by the political establishment, will change nothing.   Boris Johnson already has an 80 strong majority in the House of Commons, we do not need the disaffected Labour leaders of the past, or the opportunists of the present to help do his job for him.

 

Fightback Friday!

13th December 2019

People's Gov

The Tories – not for the many but for the few

To suggest that the British working class collectively took a gun and blew its own brains out in yesterday’s General Election may sound melodramatic but is not far from the truth.

Faced with the opportunity to properly fund the NHS; embark on a major programme of Council house building; start a green industrial revolution to invest in new jobs and industries; take back control of the inefficient, privately run water, rail and postal services, the UK voted simply to, Get Brexit Done.

This virtually meaningless and indefinable slogan was a major factor in returning the Conservatives with an 80 strong majority and, in effect, the capability to negotiate whatever form of Brexit they choose.

The other major factor in Labour’s defeat was clearly, from a wide range of reports, dislike of Jeremy Corbyn.  At least, it was dislike of a version of Jeremy Corbyn crafted by the media, the Tories and many in the Parliamentary Labour Party over the past two years, terrified by how close Labour came to victory in 2017, with Corbyn as leader, and determined to make sure there was no repeat.

It is remarkable that the position Labour were in after the 2017 election could be turned around so dramatically.  Having effectively robbed Theresa May’s government of its majority, and pulled off the biggest swing to Labour since 1945, the obvious thing to do would be to build upon that success, based around the 2017 manifesto For the Many, Not the Few, as well as Corbyn’s personal popularity.

The policies, based around the core values of public services, the NHS, state control of key industries, abolition of tuition fees in the 2017 manifesto were not significantly different in the 2019 manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, so why the shift?

The vilification of Jeremy Corbyn by the UK press, in particular, and media in general has been sustained and systematic over the past two years.  This has been both personal and political but in particular has focused upon leadership ability, past political associations and personal integrity.  The latter has been particularly sinister, accusing a man with a lifelong record of anti-racist activism of being anti-Semitic takes some nerve.  Throw enough mud for long enough however and, for many people, they will take the view that some will stick.

The past two years has also seen the erosion of a clear Labour position on Brexit, which in 2017 was to honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and leave the EU.  For much of the Parliamentary Labour Party this position was unacceptable and they have consistently agitated against it.  Support for the so called People’s Vote campaign, a significant Remain faction within the Parliamentary group and splits, by the cabal around Chukka Umunna for example, have both undermined the Brexit position and fuelled the debate around Corbyn’s leadership.

The culmination of this process was the policy position of Labour seeking to negotiate a new deal with the EU, then put that to a second referendum, which would also have Remain on the ballot paper.  Faced with the simple and systematic onslaught of Get Brexit Done this was an almost impossible position for Corbyn to sell.  It was further exacerbated by the position that Corbyn as leader would remain neutral in the referendum process.

If anything was setting Labour up to fail, this was.

The Labour right wing will no doubt paint themselves as moderates and point the finger at the ‘hard Left’ Jeremy Corbyn as the fall guy for the election defeat.  The media are already spinning this narrative.  Even though Corbyn has already said he will step down as leader there are those sharpening the knives to get him to step down sooner, rather than later.  The only thing preventing them stabbing him in the back may be the number of knives they already find there and the lack of space for more.

The battle to maintain the core values in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos as the basis of Labour’s programme in opposition begins now.  Siren voices will call for restraint and moderation.  The issues facing the people of the UK, however foolish they have been in this election, require radical solutions.

Labour needs to regroup and find a way of getting its message across.  Just because it failed to do so in 2019 does not mean that the message is wrong.  Whatever the working class thought they voted for in getting Brexit done in 2019 will soon unravel, as the Tories revert to type.  The working people of the UK deserve better than Boris Johnson and they need a radical, committed Labour Party, which is on their side, to come home to.

The fightback is underway!

Week Five: Which Side Are You On?

7th December 2019

logo

The final leadership debate in the UK General Election has once again laid bare the question which is at the heart of the election; which side are you on?  That question is not one of whether to leave or remain within the EU.  It is a question of the direction which the country takes after the 12th December.  That is a choice between the continuing chaos, cutbacks and austerity of a Tory government or the prospect of real change under a Labour government.

The bluff and bluster of Boris Johnson continues to attempt to mask the fact that poverty and homelessness have increased over the past decade, the NHS is in crisis and billionaires in the City of London are on the increase.  The Labour Party programme sets out a clear agenda for change which would address these issues, tackle child poverty, invest in industry, peg back the runaway profiteering in the City of London and tackle the issues of climate change.

For Johnson the mantra, Get Brexit Done, has become the hollow cover for a campaign short on any significant ideas for change and in denial about the damage a decade of austerity has inflicted upon working class communities.  Where the Tories do make specific commitments, such as putting more police on the streets or increasing NHS funding, they are usually stealing Labour’s clothes, having recognised that the Labour manifesto has identified key issues affecting the daily lives of people in the UK.

More than actual substance, the Tories have focussed upon a series of smear tactics, aimed specifically at Jeremy Corbyn, such as the anti-Semitism campaign, questioning Corbyn’s ability to secure a Brexit deal and, on matters of national security, branding the Labour leader an enemy of the state.

The Tory campaign has been aided and abetted by the usual suspects in the right wing press and significantly by a distinct bias on the part of the BBC, which has caricatured Labour’s position and colluded in the assertions that Labour’s programme would be bad for the country and the economy.

Inevitably, social media has played a different role and Labour has used this channel to get its message out where traditional media are failing.  Whether this is enough remains to be seen but the battle will certainly intensify in the final week of the campaign.

The latest tactic from the political establishment has been to attempt to undermine the credibility of leaked documents, showing collusion between the Tories and the US in carving up the NHS, by suggesting that they are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.   The intention here is twofold.  The first is to raise questions about the authenticity of the documents and therefore the validity of Labour’s claims.  The second is to imply Labour collusion with an outside State, interfering in a UK General Election.

Consistent with the entire campaign against Labour there is no evidence to back up these claims but they are made, and reported as headline news, in the tried and tested expectation that if you throw enough mud, some of it is going to stick.

The biggest fear of the political establishment and the billionaires which the Tories represent is a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government.  It is not that such a government would be revolutionary.  It would not transfer power from the hands of the rich and powerful and into the hands of the poor and disenfranchised.  It would not initiate State control of the commanding heights of the economy and nationalise without compensation.  It would not even cancel the obsolete Trident nuclear weapons system or withdraw from the equally obsolete and strategically brain dead NATO military alliance.

However, a Labour government would stop the free run at privatisation and profiteering which are characteristic of every Tory administration.  It would constrain the tax dodgers, the dodgy landlords, the low paying bosses and the economic gambling houses of the City of London.  It would shift the emphasis in how the country’s wealth and resources are used away from individual gain and shareholder dividends and back towards collective community investment.

Far from being a manifesto for revolution Labour’s programme is a series of baby steps but steps in the right direction.  They are steps which, if delivered, may just make people realise that more significant change is not only possible but is desirable.  For the political establishment, that is the dangerous thing.

As Labour’s manifesto states, it is time for real change.  It is ironic that whatever the outcome of the vote on Thursday there will be change.  However, only Labour offers the prospect of that change being positive and beneficial for the many, rather than more years of the few having their snouts in the trough at the expense of us all.

A vote for Labour is the only vote that makes sense on Thursday, in order to send out a clear message to the political establishment that we know which side we are on.

Week Four: Mendacious Fictions

30th November 2019

Chief-Rabbi-attacks-CorbynChief Rabbi – perpetrates mendacious fiction

The chief rabbi inadvertently coined the phrase which sums up the past week in the UK General Election with his use of the term “mendacious fiction” in an article in The Times (25/11/19).  In his article chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis stated,

“The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’ are a mendacious fiction.”

Mirvis also claimed that “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top has taken root” in the Labour Party.  The Orthodox chief rabbi, the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue which represents around 50% of Jews living in the UK, nevertheless claimed maximum airtime with his claims as the BBC and right wing media gave virtually uncritical coverage to his remarks.

The rabbi was careful not to mention Jeremy Corbyn by name but still managed to make a series of statements which would otherwise land most people in a court of law for slander, stating,

“How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?”

He then went on to add,

“Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.”

Mirvis does concede that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but went on to urge the public to “vote with their conscience.”

Hopefully the public will take his advice to heart and vote for a Party with a Leader whose commitment to tackling racism, prejudice and injustice has been demonstrated time and time again in a political career spanning over forty years.  They could even vote for a political party whose Leader has stated clearly and unequivocally,

“There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.”

Alternatively, they could buy in to the mendacious fiction pedalled by the chief rabbi, who represents a conservative section of the Jewish community but by no means the Jewish community as a whole.  The Jewish Socialists’ Group for example are quite unequivocal in their opinion that,

“We can see no evidence that a victorious Labour government would persecute, disadvantage, hurt, oppress or delegitimise Jewish citizens.  On the contrary, the party’s commitment to equality and to challenging discrimination are key to its values and manifesto commitments.”

The chief rabbi’s article had clearly been ‘in the can’ for some time, so it can be no coincidence that The Times chose the date of Labour’s launch of its Race and Faith Manifesto to publish the chief rabbi’s mendacious fictions, in order to undermine the Party’s commitment to justice and equality for those of every race and faith in the UK.  No prizes for guessing how much media time and column inches Labour’s commitments received, compared to the comments of the chief rabbi.

The media had clearly targeted this week as key in their anti-Corbyn calendar with the BBC having scheduled a 1-1 interview with Andrew Neil for the 26th November.  It was entirely predictable, given the dynamic of the news cycle, that Neil would launch immediately into the anti-Semitism question.  His attack line was to press Corbyn for an apology to those who claimed to have been victims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Corbyn pointed out that allegations of anti-Semitism came from small minority, that disciplinary procedures were in place, with cases being tackled, and that he abhorred anti-Semitism or racism in any form, both in the Labour Party and in society.  The failure to give an actual apology was a tactical error but Corbyn also cut a defensive figure on an issue on which Labour in general, and he personally, should occupy the moral high ground.

There is no doubt that Neil’s interviewing style is both obnoxious and hectoring, not letting the actual truth get in the way of a good headline, but that was hardly an unknown.  Corbyn should have been prepared to hit back and hit back hard.  His body language signalled retreat and Neil continued to attack.  On the subject of Brexit, the economy, defence of the NHS and pensions, the pattern was set and the interview ended in disaster.

Neil in effect utilised a series of mendacious fictions, that Labour is weak on tackling anti-Semitism, that Labour is weak on the economy, that Labour does not have a clear position on Brexit, to challenge Corbyn at every turn and shout down any response.

Once again the news cycle did not pick up on Corbyn’s commitment to oppose racism, to gain justice for the WASPI women, robbed of their pensions, to tackle injustice and poverty, or to be the only party offering a second referendum on Brexit.

With a NATO summit taking place in the UK next week there will be plenty of scope for the usual mendacious fictions about Britain being disarmed and unsafe under a Labour government to come to the fore.  Corbyn is not only a lifelong anti-racist but a lifelong peace campaigner and the media will no doubt look to turn this against him as the campaign enters its final ten days.

Trash can US President, Donald Trump, will be taking tea with the Queen at the taxpayers’ expense.  He has made no secret of his support for a Johnson rather a Corbyn government and will no doubt reiterate his position when he visits next week.  That at least could be an advantage for Labour, given how toxic a figure Trump is for most in the UK.

This week has been a setback for Labour but it is by no means a defeat. There is no doubt that the political establishment is still sufficiently worried by the prospect of a Corbyn government that they will throw everything into the final stages of the campaign.  Mendacious fictions will come pouring forth.  Labour will not only need to stand firm but do its utmost to go on the offensive.  With the right wing press and ‘impartial’ BBC set against them, it will be a tough task.

Social media will be vital, word of mouth will be vital, unity around Labour’s manifesto will be essential, if real change is to stand a chance and Boris Johnson is to be packing his bags on 13th December.

 

Week Three: The Blue Red Herring

22nd November 2019

Manifesto launchLabour Manifesto launch – real change in prospect

This week saw the first head to head TV debate between Tory Leader, Boris Johnson, and Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  Inevitably the billing was promoted in the form of a boxing match, Johnson v Corbyn, only lacking a weigh in between the two candidates.  While Johnson was clearly ahead on body weight it was demonstrated throughout the debate that Corbyn was clearly ahead in political weight. On questions of trust, racism, the NHS and housing Corbyn out punched Johnson at every turn.

One area of Corbyn’s game does needs to be tightened however.  Johnson had primed his allies in the right wing press on his main attack line, announcing that he had written to Jeremy Corbyn to ask him which way he would campaign on EU membership, specifically posing the question,

“You are proposing a second referendum on EU membership. In that referendum, would you recommend the UK should remain or leave?”

This attack line was used by Johnson throughout the debate, pressed as an area in which Corbyn was failing and would fail to give clear leadership.

On several occasions Corbyn reiterated the Labour position that a Labour government would negotiate a new deal with the EU and put that deal, alongside Remain in the EU, to a second referendum, in effect a People’s Vote.  It sounded defensive and allowed Johnson to land punches.

It is the policy of the Tories to Leave the EU.  It is the policy of the Lib Dems to Remain.  It is Labour policy to go to a People’s Vote.  Corbyn was simply reflecting the policy of the Party, whether he personally would campaign for a new deal or Remain is irrelevant but Johnson and the Tory press are keen to make this the main issue.

Corbyn has clearly been placed in an invidious position by the Remain camp within Labour, who have pushed Labour into a position that is difficult to pitch positively.  Prior to recent conference decisions Labour had a clear position; honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum, Leave the EU but with a better deal than the Tories.

Many campaigners for a People’s Vote clearly wanted no such thing but saw the process as a vehicle to Remain in the EU.  The opportunist Lib Dems are the embodiment of this position, having encouraged the People’s Vote campaign then proposing to deny the people an option, by committing to Remain without a referendum.

The latest twist in the Lib Dem position is to suggest that they will consider supporting Boris Johnson’s Leave deal if he offers a second referendum alongside it.  Hanging on the coattails of the Tories is once again the Lib Dem position, nothing new there.

Labour’s current position makes life difficult for Corbyn but not impossible.  Given the numbers who demonstrated in recent months in favour of a so called People’s Vote, Labour’s best pitch under current circumstances is to call out that constituency and stress that Labour is the only party offering that option.

Corbyn cold sharpen his position by turning Johnson’s question back on him and asking,

“If your Brexit deal is so good, why don’t you have the confidence to put it back to the people in a second referendum?”

This would offer the possibility to shift the Brexit element of the election debate away from Corbyn’s leadership on the issue and towards Johnson’s democratic credentials.

In spite of the opportunism of the People’s Vote process it is still important for Labour to find its own attack line on Brexit.  Otherwise there is the real danger that the massively positive programme outlined in the just published manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, will be overshadowed by the Tories and their media cohorts, diverting attention by pressing the ‘leadership’ red herring as the key issue.

The headlines alone in Labour’s manifesto signal a challenge to the assumptions that have persisted in UK politics for almost four decades: a green industrial revolution; rebuild our public services; tackle poverty and inequality; the final say on Brexit; a new internationalism.  The detail beneath these headlines indicates a programme to begin shifting the balance of wealth and power away from the wealthy and the tax dodging elites and towards working class people.

Even though, in spite of what the Tories and their press allies might say, Labour’s manifesto falls far short of being a programme for socialist revolution, it is still a programme for real change and one which offers real hope to the ordinary people of this country.  The Tories, the banks the tax dodgers and the City of London will conspire against it.  The task in the coming weeks, is to make real change happen.

Week Two: The Many or the Few?

16th November 2019

Remembrance

Johnson lays a wreath…but when?

How many people watch and how much impact Party Election Broadcasts have in today’s multi media world is hard to gauge.  However, they must be deemed sufficiently important for the campaign teams of the major parties to put some effort into them.  The broadcasts from the Conservative Party and the Labour Party this week were an interesting microcosm of the contrasting visions on offer from the UK’s major political parties.

The Tories went with personality, as they assume that Boris Johnson has a personality that is a saleable commodity.  The entire five minutes was taken up with a cinema verité style talk to camera in response to a series of inane questions about how Boris spends his day, what he likes to eat, his favourite bands and an impromptu demonstration of how not to make a cup of tea (take out the teabag!).

The office that Boris wanders through on this pinhead odyssey just happens to be littered with posters shouting out Tory election slogans such as ‘20,000 new police officers’, ‘Unite our Country’ and hilariously, ‘Properly funding our Schools’.  Really?  Has Johnson seen the state of schools in the UK as a result of the break up of the comprehensive system and the introduction of academies?  The icing on the cake is to hear Johnson cite The Clash as one of his favourite bands, showing him to have even less grip on political reality than most suspected.

Like Nigel Farage, Johnson is a phoney ‘man of the people’ and the broadcast simply reinforces this impression.  All that comes across is that there is a smug posh bloke out there trying to trick you into voting for him.  The inevitable ending is an exhortation to Get Brexit Done.  In any event, the phoney war between Farage and Johnson ended this week when Farage agreed not to stand Brexit Party candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017, hoping to create a de facto Leave alliance.

The Labour broadcast is in stark contrast, focusing upon real people actually working for a living, struggling against the lack of resources in the public sector in the case of a firefighter and doctor, the diverse community engagement activity at a local football club and the struggles of a small farmer.  Care, compassion and community are the clear messages which emerge.  Rarely has the Labour slogan, For the Many, Not the Few, seemed so relevant.

In other highlights this week the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, interviewing Jeremy Corbyn on the subject of immigration, did her best to tie him into the numbers game, pressing for a target on net migration.  Unfortunately for Kuenssberg, Corbyn outsmarted her at each turn in the interview.  While Kuenssberg pressed for a number Corbyn insisted that immigration was an issue relating to family circumstances and the needs of the economy, not an arbitrary target to be used as a political football.

The BBC had covered themselves in glory earlier in the week with their coverage of Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph.  Boris Johnson, having turned up looking like a man with a hangover from last nights party, proceeded to approach the Cenotaph with an upside down wreath.  In order to save his blushes the BBC obligingly substituted footage of Johnson from 2016, when advisers had made him comb his hair and tuck his shirt in, for subsequent coverage of the event.

The ensuing Twitter storm saw the BBC apologise for their ‘mistake’…in having gone through the archives and found replacement footage? Not a mistake but media manipulation.

The Tories meanwhile had a hard time on Sky, where the unfortunately named Party Chairman, James Cleverley, turned up for Sophie Ridge on Sunday, having been empty chaired by Kay Burley on Sky News a few days earlier for failing to put in a scheduled appearance.  Ridge pressed (not so) Cleverley on Tory claims about Labour spending plans, which Tory Central Office had calculated as reaching a mind boggling £1.2 trillion.

Cleverley clearly thought he was on safe ground, attacking Labour on the economy, until Ridge asked what figure that Central Office had calculated for the Tories spending promises.  Cleverley was flummoxed and burbled in a style reminiscent of his party leader but Ridge pressed the point.  If the Tories had spent so much time working out the alleged cost of Labour plans surely it was not too big a step to put a price on their own?  Clearly it was and the question remains unanswered.

On the fringes of the election trail Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson continues to cry, ‘Me! Me! Me!’, into the dying Winter light of an equally lacklustre campaign offer.

The opening weeks of a General Election represent the border skirmishes, rather than the main battle, but the Tories have already thrown antisemitism, immigration, Brexit policy and the economy Labour’s way.  Expect more disinformation on foreign policy, defence, nationalisation, plus law and order to come in the weeks ahead.

In spite of their best efforts, aided by the right wing press and an obviously biased BBC, the Tories are not making ground and Labour are slowly closing the gap in the opinion polls.

Published manifestos are expected soon…..

Week One: No billionaires, no poverty

9th November 2019

Corbyn Change

Jeremy Corbyn – launching Labour’s campaign for real change

The first week of the General Election campaign in the UK has already seen fault lines open up between the two main parties in a way which will define what this election is about.  The commitment of Labour to address the needs of the many, not the few has been evident in announcements on housing, public spending, maternity pay and childcare.  The position of the Tories has largely been to play catch up, by making public sector spending promises which are a poor shadow of those made by Labour.

It is remarkable that the Tories have miraculously discovered that the NHS, industry and pubic services might be things worth investing in.   The difference of course is that the Tories are merely paying lip service, in order to win votes, whereas a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would be committed to a real effort to shift the balance of power in favour of those currently paying the price for the failures of capitalism.

In spite of their efforts to steal Labour clothes the Tories have stumbled through a chaotic first week of campaigning, which has seen the supercilious Jacob Rees-Mogg forced to apologies over remarks about the Grenfell Tower fire; the resignation of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, who supported a former aide whose testimony caused a rape trial to collapse; and Johnson himself being caught on video making a rambling speech in Northern Ireland, at which he appears not to understand the terms of his own Brexit deal.

Johnson had set the tone earlier in the week with a column in the Daily Telegraph in which he compared Jeremy Corbyn to Joseph Stalin.  Johnson accused Corbyn of hating “profit so viscerally that he will destroy the very foundations of prosperity in our country.”

Johnson went on to suggest that Labour Party members “pretend that their hate is only directed at certain billionaires, at whom they point the finger with a vindictive pleasure that has not been seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks.”  The absurdity of Johnson’s remarks were summed up by Corbyn who responded via Twitter on “The absurdities the ultra-rich can come out with in order to avoid paying a little more tax …”

The media have done their best, no doubt in the interests of balance, to cover issues that have been problematic for Labour.  The resignation of Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, was plastered across the press as a shock which had “stunned Labour.”  In reality Watson’s decision had been known to Corbyn’s office a week earlier and the timing agreed with the Labour leader.  In spite of Watson stepping down for genuine personal reasons the media narrative inevitably ran the story they wanted about splits in Labour.

The antisemitism bogie was also given a further run with former Labour MPs, Ian Austin and John Woodcock, being given airtime disproportionate to their importance to wheel out the old trope that Labour is lax in tackling antisemitism.  Both went as far as to say they would rather see Boris Johnson continue in Downing St than Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister.

Margaret Hodge, recently reselected as candidate for her seat in Barking, who knows Corbyn’s record as an anti racist of many years standing, also refused to endorse the Labour leader.  When pressed as to who she would rather see as Prime Minister, Johnson or Corbyn she responded,

“I want a Labour government.  I think any government is more than any individual. And I want a Labour government.”

The real low point came when the 8th November front page headline and editorial of the voice of the conservative Jewish community, The Jewish Chronicle, addressed a call “To Our Fellow British Citizens” it stated,

“The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite. In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.

Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult. But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that. Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.”

The subsequent article is a disgraceful fabric of lies and unsubstantiated allegations, including asserting that antisemitism in the Labour Party is “inspired by its leader” and that Corbyn personally has “racist views”.

Not surprisingly Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, tweeted the Jewish Chronicle front page, swallowing the slurs lock, stock and barrel.

With four weeks still to go every effort will be made by the media, the political establishment and those opposed to justice and human rights for Palestine to caricature Labour’s position and slur Corbyn personally.

For his part Corbyn has stood by his pledge not to get into the politics of the gutter.  He has stood by the clear message of Labour’s first week of campaigning; no billionaires, no poverty.

It is a message which those siding with the few fear.  It is a message which is having an increasing impact with the many.

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer…..

29th October 2019

GECorbyn

Corbyn – ready to fight the General Election

With the date for a UK General Election now established as 12th December 2019, mobilisation to support the manifesto of the Labour Party has to be an absolute priority for the labour and trade union movement.  The austerity loving Liberal Democrats have demonstrated that they are fully paid up members of the pro EU Remain tendency, blind to the devastation EU membership has wreaked upon the UK economy over the past forty years and indifferent to the impact upon workers’ rights.  As their time in coalition with the Tories demonstrated, their interests align with those of big business, not the working people of the UK.

The Scottish Nationalists continue to bluster as paper radicals but like the Lib Dems align themselves to the EU and will work towards preventing Brexit at any cost.  The DUP continue to tread their sectarian opportunist path, in defence of partition and the protection of Protestant privilege, in the North of Ireland.  They do not want Northern Ireland to be treated differently to other parts of the UK, unless they say so.

The Tories have gathered some momentum under Boris Johnson but will still be vulnerable to hardline Leavers defecting to the Brexit Party and pro-EU one nation Tories drifting towards former bedfellows the Lib Dems.  Enough disaffection across the country could see the Tory vote dwindle and, in some cases, let Labour in through the middle.

Labour, while having a compromised position on Brexit, negotiate a new deal then go to a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper, are still the only Party with policies which will give hope to working people in the UK.  The core manifesto promises represent the best chance in a generation of effecting anything like a shift in the direction of travel in social policy and would begin to challenge some of the core economic assumptions which have underpinned the neo-liberal consensus of the past forty years.

Public sector investment is the engine of the economy.  Without it the private sector cannot function.  Without schools, roads, hospitals and welfare provision the private sector could not operate on any significant scale.  Labour’s commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030 is the biggest single commitment of any party to taking seriously the climate emergency and linking environmental concerns to the need for progressive industrial investment.

The Green Deal will be at the heart of Labour’s pitch to the electorate in general and young people in particular.

Labour are committed to the re-nationalisation of the failing railway infrastructure; bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership; taking back the water industry from foreign investors profiting from water supply, a basic human need.  Labour will be committed to more Council housing; more investment in and co-operation with local government; a rebuilding of the NHS and adult social care programmes.

Ofsted will be abolished and a National Education Service established.  University tuition fees will go.  Anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Tories to shackle workers’ rights and left unchallenged by the EU, will be repealed.  Universal Credit will go.

Housing bought purely for profit and standing empty while people are homeless will be subject to compulsory purchase.

Ironically, the major barrier to Labour implementing such a radical programme is membership of the EU itself.  The four pillars of the EU, the so called four freedoms for the movement of goods, services, capital and labour are not freedoms in any real sense at all.  They are the freedoms of the free market, the freedom for capital to move and cheap labour to be exploited.  They are constraints, they are chains.

The manifesto which still stands up to scrutiny, published in the 19th century, had a bit to say about chains.  As Marx and Engels quite rightly observed in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), workers of the world “have nothing to lose but their chains.”

As importantly, and even more relevant now than it was then in the face of the worldwide climate emergency, is the closing sentence of the quotation, “They have a world to win.”

A Labour victory in December may not be quite on the scale of winning the world, but it will be a first step in the right direction.

 

No ifs, no buts, General Election now!

20th October 2019

Last Chance

Jeremy Corbyn – last chance looming

Boris Johnson has sent a letter to the EU requesting an extension to the UK withdrawal process until 31st January 2020.  Johnson has sent the letter because he had to, under the terms of the Benn Act, but he as not signed it.

Johnson has also sent a second letter, which he has signed, making it clear that, while he was obliged to send the first letter, he does not agree with it and will press on to deliver his declared position of securing UK withdrawal from the EU by the 31st October 2019. This position has been confirmed by Cabinet Minister in charge of exiting the EU, Michael Gove, on Sky News this morning, who claimed that the government had “the means and the ability” to leave on 31st October.

EU Council President, Donald Tusk has acknowledged receipt of the UK’s letter requesting an extension and has said he will consult EU leaders “on how to react.”  It is likely that EU leaders will sit on their hands for as long as possible, waiting to see what new drama unfolds in the UK Parliament before taking a view.

The Parliamentary chicanery which resulted in this position looks set to continue this week when the government proposes to bring its Withdrawal Bill to the House of Commons, in order to get agreement in principle on Johnson’s deal, before the hand to hand combat of scrutiny and amendment proposals begins.

This process could be quickly circumvented however with a vote of no confidence from Labour and a motion resulting in a General Election.  There is no prospect that the Bill the Tories present will be amendable in any way acceptable to Labour’s current position.  Labour conference policy is to press for a General Election, after which a new deal can be negotiated with the EU and put to a referendum with Remain also on the ballot paper.

This in itself is a hugely compromised position, reflecting the extent to which the pro-Remain faction within Labour has gained ground and is effectively holding Corbyn hostage.  However, the danger of pressure mounting inside Parliament for a second referendum, which poses Remain against a leave deal negotiated by Johnson, must surely be less acceptable to many on the Labour frontbench.  A General Election is the only logical demand to make.

The schisms within Labour however may run too deep for this position to gain traction.  Significant front bench weight, including John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Kier Starmer are weighing in behind a pro Remain position.  Starmer has already said that Labour would support an amendment requiring Johnson’s deal to be put to a referendum, a proposal he expects to be tabled.  The net effect of this would be a Johnson deal vs Remain referendum, effectively forcing those supporting Leave to back Johnson’s deal.

In any event a General Election would be certain to follow, which Labour would go into significantly weakened and divided, either because of a Remain outcome to the referendum, or having to live with Johnson having succeeded in his deal being endorsed.

Having tactically failed to press home the advantage of forcing a weakened Tory Party into a General Election in September, it would be a crime to compound the error further and not press for an election now, ahead of any discussion on the Johnson Withdrawal Bill.

Corbyn has a last chance to retrieve something from the current mess and outflank the backstabbers in his own party.  Failure to do so is likely to set back the chances of a radical Labour government for a generation.

Turkey – NATO attack dog or Isis ally?

13th October 2019

SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 09: A photo taken from Turkey's SanlNortheast Syria burns after Turkish missile attacks

The withdrawal of the limited US contingent of troops based in Northern Syria this week undoubtedly opened the door for the increased Turkish military presence and its assault on the Kurdish population.  The Turkish incursion is undoubtedly an invasion but it is effectively a stepping up of the ongoing invasion of Syria which has been happening for the past eight years, routinely characterised in the Western media as the Syrian Civil War.

Having effectively stepped aside to allow Turkish troops free rein to attack the Kurds who were, up until this point, allied to the United States in the fight against ISIS, US President Trump then tweeted,

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…”

Whatever Trump meant precisely, the response of the Turkish government, from Vice President Fuat Oktay, left little room for equivocation.  Oktay said Turkey was intent on combating Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.

“Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said.

As a member of the NATO military alliance it would be usual to expect some consultation with partners before embarking on unilateral military action against a neighbouring state.  Some weak kneed disapproval of Turkish action has been voiced in London, Berlin and Paris but no suggestion that this should be universally condemned and certainly no suggestion that the rights of the Kurdish people to self determination should be on anyone’s agenda.

The Syrian government has reacted through Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, who called on the country’s Kurds to rejoin the government side after being abandoned by their US allies.

As an oppressed minority within Turkey the Kurdish people, under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have been engaged in armed conflict inside Turkey since 1984, in their struggle to improve the rights of Kurds in the country.  While the original desire of the PKK for an independent Kurdish state, which would incorporate parts of existing Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, has been dropped, the demands for equal rights and fair treatment remains.

Turkey considers Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists and has already launched two major incursions into northern Syria in recent years. The first was in 2016, when Turkey and Syrian opposition fighters it backs, attacked areas held by ISIS west of the Euphrates River. Last year Turkey launched an attack on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 people.

There is little doubt that energy spent by Kurdish forces consolidating areas regained from ISIS control will now have to be diverted to defend against the Turkish threat.  The opportunity for ISIS to exploit this division and reassert itself in areas of northeastern Syria is obvious.

Western media reports that Turkey gained clearance for its attack from Russia, as part of the agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran in relation to the Syrian conflict, appear to be at odds with the condemnation of the Turkish incursion by Iran.  It is equally likely that, whatever its notional alliance with Russia, or for that matter NATO, Turkey saw the opportunity to weaken or wipe out the PKK opposition and has seized it.

A more sinister interpretation is offered by the New York Post (21/9/19) which notes that,

“Since 2012, the Turkish intelligence service MIT, under (Turkish President) Erdogan’s direction, has been providing resources and material assistance to ISIS, while Turkish customs officials turn a blind eye to ISIS recruits flowing across Turkey’s borders into Syria and Iraq.”

ISIS re-established in Syria would add to the de-stabilisation of the Assad government, potentially undermining it, which has been the intention of the West since fighting began.  A de facto alliance with ISIS to undermine the PKK would suit Turkey’s domestic objectives as well as retaining a NATO foothold in Syria.

It may just be that, for Turkey, being an attack dog for NATO and at the same time an ally of ISIS, are simply two sides of the same coin.

Corbyn rallies the troops in Newcastle

6th October 2019

CorbynCOLLAGECorbyn lays out Labour plans in Newcastle

In a pre election General Election rally in Newcastle upon Tyne last night, Jeremy Corbyn set out the vision for a Labour government which would transform the economy of the UK and change the lives of many working class people.

Nick Brown MP (Newcastle East) set the tone at the start of the rally by declaring that the key issue facing the country and the world is the climate change emergency.  Ian Lavery MP (Ashington) agreed that compared to the climate emergency Brexit was merely a sideshow.  Chi Onwurah MP (Newcastle Central) gave an informed and intelligent assessment, based upon her own experience as an engineer, of the practical steps which could be taken to deliver a green industrial revolution and meet the Labour commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Rising local star Laura Pidcock MP (North West Durham) gave a barnstorming performance with a blistering attack upon the employment legislation of successive Tory governments, the inequities of universal credit and the need to address poverty by creating well paid, unionised jobs for working people.  A deserved standing ovation followed.

Corbyn synthesised and built upon the commitment which had been outlined by speakers before him.  He stressed that Labour would take back into public ownership the railway system, the Royal Mail and the water industry for starters.

Corbyn outlined a social, economic and environmental programme which would address life issues for working people from the cradle to the grave including:-

  • a National Education Service with the abolition of private schools and investment in local neighbourhood school provision;
  • abolition of university tuition fees;
  • continued support for and investment in the NHS;
  • a programme of investment in Council house building and penalties for investors buying empty property for profit, while thousands go homeless;
  • co-operation with and investment in local government;
  • local transport and highway infrastructure investment outside the South East of England;
  • the abolition of universal credit;
  • a green deal which would prioritise investment in manufacturing and new technology to both create jobs and reduce climate emissions;
  • a four day working week with no loss of pay;
  • an end to fracking.

Brexit was, inevitably a feature for all speakers.  Corbyn stressed the dangers of a no deal exit from the EU, suggesting that such a scenario would inevitably lead to a reliance on trade with the US, with the opening up of the NHS to market forces and the international pharmaceutical companies.

Such a scenario is already a danger.  Whether a no deal exit from the EU would exacerbate that would depend on the political character of the government elected after the next election.  While Ian Lavery’s declaration that,

“Labour is not a Remain party, it is not a Leave party it is a socialist party”

was greeted with stormy applause, little was added to clarify the position Labour would take in any referendum situation post election.  Continuing to ride both horses may prove increasingly difficult, especially as the Tory position sharpens around Leave and the austerity loving Liberals pin all of their hopes on a Remain campaign.

It would be a tragedy if Brexit became Labour’s Achilles Heel when such a radical programme of change is on offer and there is a real chance that the orthodoxy which has prevailed since the 1980’s can be challenged.  As things stand Labour will go into the General Election with a compromised position, offering a new deal with the EU which will be put to a referendum, with Remain also on the ballot paper.

It is a high risk strategy and not a simple one to sell.  It is also an irony that departure from the EU would actually give Labour far greater freedom to implement the programme of measures which are shaping up as the next manifesto.

Any further reference to the international situation, regarding the migration crisis and participation in adventurist overseas wars was for Corbyn to clarify.  The message was inclusive, supportive and directly opposed to the hostile environment created by the Tories.  It was light touch but positive nonetheless.

There were gaps.  No mention of the cost of the Trident nuclear submarine programme and the need to cancel it.  No reference to withdrawal from NATO.  No discussion about the overblown military budget.  No mention of the Palestinian question. These are always controversial issues for Labour, easily avoided in front of a home crowd but ones to which Labour will need to have responses under the scrutiny of a General Election.

There is no doubt however that Corbyn was in his natural environment.  As an intelligent and articulate speaker he sees the complex links across a range of issues and is able to transmit his enthusiasm and ideas to a crowd desperate for change.  The mood at the Newcastle rally was buoyant, it will need to continue to be so in the North East and beyond, for the coming election and its wake, if Labour is to make good on its promises and begin to make the changes the people of the UK desperately need.

Corbyn concluded by emphasising the hope that was of offer to working class people in the UK from a Labour government, stressing the values of cooperation, community and commitment that would drive, and be reinforced by. such a programme.

The Labour Manifesto may not be a completely perfect package but there is much to play for and the alternative is infinitely worse.  The sooner that Labour’s prospectus for change is put to the people of the UK, the better.

History Will Judge

28th September 2019

Supreme Court

Boris Johnson – guilty as charged

The past week has been dominated by the judgement of the Supreme Court that the proroguing of Parliament by Boris Johnson was not legal.  In effect the proroguing was pronounced null and void and Parliament resumed sitting on Wednesday.  The furore was fuelled further by the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday night when, following a statement by Johnson in which he expressed disagreement with the Supreme Court outcome, he went on to make a series of provocative statements in support of his stated position to leave the EU by 31st October.

In a remarkable outburst Johnson told MPs the Supreme Court was “wrong to pronounce on a political question at a time of great national controversy”.

Many regard the current period in UK politics as one which will be the subject of intense study by future generations, a period upon which history will pass unfavourable judgement upon the actions of the politicians of the UK.  Textbooks will be written, theses will be drafted and philosophers will pontificate.

It is unlikely that the judgement of history will conclude anything other than that David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson were weak and ineffectual Prime Ministers.  Many hope that the Supreme Court ruling this week will be seen as evidence of the independence of the judiciary, reinforcing that no-one, not even the UK Prime Minister, is above the law.

Within the current parameters of the debate this is true.  While the decision of the Supreme Court has split legal opinion, it is widely accepted that it represents a final judgement on the proroguing of Parliament and its effect of stifling the ability of MPs to scrutinise the actions of the government.  The judiciary can bring the executive to heel and only the Queen is above the fray.  The system works….except…..

What is actually being played out is a struggle exposing the splits within the UK establishment over the country’s future direction.  Within these boundaries the Supreme Court judgement is one which gives slightly more emphasis to one side than the other but is only independent within the terms set by the establishment itself. Having been wrapped in a life of ermines and fur the Supreme Court judges, many Eton educated like the Tory Party politicians, could only pontificate within the class boundaries set by the system.

If the judgement of history is to be any measure of progress it must be far harsher than anything pronounced by the Supreme Court this week.  History must question why any system would allow for a small minority to become rich beyond imagining, while sections of the population live with unemployment and poverty.

It must judge with amazement the desire of political leaders to persuade the population to be tied into a European wide structure which reinforces the inequalities and prejudices inherent in the system.  It must question the motivation of those on the other side exhorting the population to leave the EU in order to pursue their own personal aggrandisement and ambition, rather than the real interests of the people.

History must surely frown upon all of this being played out against a backdrop of austerity, insecurity and uncertainty for much of the population, while a small minority continue to get rich playing the gambling halls of the City of London.

History may be able to judge that a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government was able to stem the tide, that the period of mendacity and misjudgement turned a corner in 2020 and the first steps towards a socialist Britain were taken.

A vote of no confidence in the government this week would be a first step in the right direction, followed by a swift General Election in which the forces of progress, inside and outside Parliament, mobilise for a Labour government to be elected on a progressive platform.  Anything less and the judgements of history will, in all likelihood, be being made from a dark place.

Populism is not a dirty word

15th September 2019

Allende

Populism – winning for Salvador Allende in Chile 1970

The crisis of British imperialism has been playing out in one form or another for over a century.  The re-division of the nineteenth century colonial empires was the driving force behind the recently, widely commemorated, First World War.  The widespread massacre which that conflict represented saw Britain emerge, still as a world power, but a weakened one.

The outcome of the Second World War was to reinforce the hegemony of the United States, ahead of Britain in terms of its imperialist influence, and accelerate Britain’s relative decline upon the world stage in economic, political and military terms.

Not that the influence of Britain was diminished entirely.  As a nuclear power, permanent member of the UN Security Council and founder member of military alliance NATO, Britain still had a role to play in imperialist power plays around the globe.  The days of Britannia “ruling the waves” were however, long gone, and the UK has largely played second fiddle to the world policeman role of the US ever since.

The military hegemony of the United States has flourished in proportion to its economic dominance, while the reverse can also be said of the UK.  The push to join the European Community in the 1970’s was part of a bid by the UK establishment to shore up its global position, as its independent economic power waned.  The former colonies of the Empire were kept within some degree of political and economic orbit, through the Commonwealth, but increasingly looked to non-capitalist models of development to assert their identity.

Joining a European trading bloc that could both mitigate some elements of the UK’s decline and potentially offer routes into guaranteed European markets seemed like the smart move for British ruling circles.

The European question has been a fault line in both major UK political parties ever since.  The Left in the Labour Party led the campaign against EC membership in 1975, rightly arguing that the constraints imposed by the Community at that time would not allow a Left Labour government to deliver radical measures, such as increased public spending or nationalisation, to change economic direction.  The transformation of the EC into the European Union, with its mission of ever greater economic and political union, has only tightened those constraints.

The Conservatives, as the key representative of ruling class interests in the UK, have taken a pragmatic approach to the EU.  The Thatcher negotiated ‘opt out’ essentially ensured reduced contributions while accepting the Thatcherite economic policies of the EU itself, focussing upon inflation control over public spending or employment rights.

This pragmatism has however always been tempered with a strand of right wing Conservatism which sees the EU as a constraint upon the independence of the UK, a barrier to the UK being able to make trade deals, and a block upon the ability of UK business to exploit cheap labour.  Such arguments have been wrapped in the flag of sovereignty, control over borders and limiting immigration but are essentially part of the Little Englander mentality which has fuelled the rise of Nigel Farage and placed Boris Johnson in 10, Downing Street.

For the Left in the UK the position has been complicated by the leadership of the Labour Party and TUC welcoming aspects of EU membership, such as the working time directive and free movement of labour, then elevating these notions into great examples of international co-operation and friendship between peoples. The fact that EU membership has done nothing to prevent the mass privatisations of the Thatcher years, the sale of Council housing, the tearing apart of the education system, the destruction of local government, zero hours contracts, or the contraction of the NHS does not appear to register.

Add to that the liberalisation of the rules governing the movement of capital and the obscene profits made from stock market gambling in the City of London, it should be clear that the interests of the EU are hardly those of defending, protecting or expanding the rights of ordinary people.

The Leave driven elements of the British ruling class, fronted by Boris Johnson, are clearly pushing for a new deal for the UK which will see it as a European offshore tax haven, outside the EU but closely aligned, and still a major player due to its nuclear capability and high levels of military spending.  This tendency also sees the transatlantic relationship with the United States as key to the UK’s future.

The more pragmatic tendency in the UK establishment continues to be to Remain.  This position is supported by elements of the Conservative Party, the austerity loving Liberal Democrats and sections of the Labour Party, not least Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who are now openly flouting Party policy and suggesting that Labour should adopt an openly pro-Remain position.  With the TUC and CBI on board for Remain positions there will clearly be a significant push on this front before the next General Election.

The problem is that remaining in the EU solves nothing.  The German economy is slowing, the French and Italian systems are in crisis, mass unemployment plagues Spain and Greece, the Eastern Europeans economies are feeling little befit from EU membership.  The migration crisis continues to be a live issue across the EU.  Talk of reuniting the country divided by the outcome of the 2016 referendum is tosh.  The referendum outcome reflected the divisions in the UK, it did not cause them.

There is a crisis of capitalism across Europe.  Constraining public investment and limiting the rights of workers, to maximise corporate profits and enrich the City of London, has had its day.  Spending on weapons of mass destruction when schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure go begging for investment, has had its day.  Zero hours contracts, the free movement of cheap labour, constraints on the operation of trade unions, have had their day.  Racism, xenophobia and prejudice against migrants and asylum seekers, has had its day.  Failing to acknowledge the climate emergency and invest in new forms of energy when the planet is dying, has had its day.

The European Union is not Europe.  It is a particular club formed with particular objectives, which do not meet the real needs of the peoples of its constituent nations.  The argument to remain and reform is spurious, just as the idea of a peoples capitalism is spurious.

However the current Parliamentary shenanigans play out in the coming weeks, the first step towards a socialist path of development of the UK must be to leave the EU.  Membership over the past 40 years has illustrated time and again the failings of the EU for the peoples of Europe.  It is time for the people to fight back.

Populism has become a dirty word, hijacked by the right wing to describe the politics of Trump, Johnson and Farage.  Yet populism brought Castro to power in Cuba, Allende in Chile, Mandela in South Africa.  It fuelled the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.  A populism of the Left is needed now more than ever in order to mobilise against demagogues on the Right and crush the arguments of the weak kneed liberal centre.  There is no fence left to sit on, it is time to take sides.

General Election now – the real demand!

31st August 2019

stop the coup

Protests set to continue this weekend against the shutdown of Parliament in the UK

The furore this week over the decision by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to prorogue Parliament has inevitably generated more heat than light.  It is interesting for example that both Speaker John Bercow and former Tory Lord Heseltine described the move as a “constitutional outrage”, though neither have been sufficiently outraged to suggest that the move is unconstitutional.

In part this may be due to the opaque nature of the British constitution, which is often incorrectly described as unwritten but is correctly characterised as uncodified, essentially meaning that while much is written down, it is not all in one place or been agreed at one time.

This reliance on past practice and precedent gives any UK government a high degree of latitude in its interpretation of what is legally permissible in constitutional terms.  Proroguing Parliament prior to a Queen’s Speech is not, as the oleaginous Jacob Rees-Mogg, newly installed Leader of the House, has been at pains to point out this week, unconstitutional in itself.  The question presently being tested in the courts, is whether this proroguing for this length of time, at this point in time, could be deemed unconstitutional and therefore stopped.

It will be a surprise of if the petitioners, led by Gina Miller, former Prime Minister, John Major, and latterly Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, are successful in this endeavour.  Even if they are, the anti-no deal camp does not appear to have a coherent purpose other then preventing no deal.  Quite what they are for is split between Remain at all costs, a second referendum and a General Election.

Parliament will sit for little more than a week next week, before proroguing till the 14th October, just two weeks ahead of the 31st October deadline for leaving the European Union.   Any Parliamentary moves have a small window of opportunity within which to block no deal.  It is also entirely possible that whatever Bill is drafted for discussion, pro-Leave MPs will filibuster out before it can pass into law.

There are many ironies in the present situation.  In spite of her vehement opposition to no deal Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson ruled out supporting a vote of no confidence, which would have seen Jeremy Corbyn become caretaker Prime Minister with a view to suspending Article 50 and calling a General Election.  Swinson and her ilk have earned themselves the soubriquet ‘Meatloafers’ – I would do anything to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but I won’t do that.  Truly ironic from a party which propped up the Cameron government; voted through each of George Osborne’s austerity budgets; agreed to cut welfare benefits; raised tuition fees; and did not pip a squeak when then Home Secretary, Theresa May, introduced her ‘hostile environment’ policy for asylum seekers and refugees.

Tory Remainers, whimpering now that they find Johnson and Rees-Mogg leading the charge to a Hallowe’en no deal, forget that options to prevent this have been in front of them several times but when it has come to the crunch they have always voted for their seats, their careers and their government.

There is of course the final irony that the streets may well be thronged this week with people supporting democracy, opposing Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament, yet calling for the UK to remain part of an anti-democratic institution with a nominally elected Parliament but where the real power lies with the unelected commissioners – the European Union.

The streets do need to be filled.  People do need to express their sense of outrage and injustice.  They need to be outraged at child poverty in the world’s fifth richest economy.  They need to be outraged about the potential outsourcing and privatisation of the NHS.  They need to be scandalised by the super rich, who bankroll Johnson and the Tory Party, plundering the resources of the country and syphoning their profits off into tax havens.  They need to oppose the commissioning of new Trident nuclear weapons systems.

There is much to be angry about, of which Johnson proroguing Parliament is one thing, but the real demand on the streets should be for the one thing everyone from the present government to the Lib Dems, DUP, Scottish Nationalists and anyone not supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are afraid of: a General Election.

Cuba reaches three million visitors in 2019

25th August 2019

Cuba car

HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 16 (ACN) Cuba reached the three million international visitors on August 15, sixth days later than in 2018, informed the Ministry of Tourism

This result is achieved in spite of the campaigns organised and directed by the Government of the United States to prevent the flow of tourists to our country.

It also demonstrates the confidence and recognition achieved by Cuban tourism as a destination that offers safety and quality to its visitors.

Canada remains the main market for tourism to the Island, followed by European markets; Russia stands out as the one with the highest growth rate, with development perspectives for the coming seasons.

Once again Cuba is ratified as a great Caribbean destination for its nature, heritage, culture, safety and hospitality of its people, the Ministry of Tourism stated.

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Outrage at US Congresswomen ban

16th August 2019

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Ilhan Omar – more support than Trump thinks….

No doubt every dope who sees any criticism of the Israeli government as a trope for anti-Semitism will have a go, but banning US Congresswomen from visiting Israel, really?  That is what Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has stooped to this week however.  Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota were banned from entering Israel shortly after US President, Donald Trump said Israel would be showing “great weakness” by allowing them to enter the country.

Kowtowing to the US in the usual fashion, Netanyahu complied saying in a statement following the decision,

“The plan of the two Congresswomen is only to damage Israel and to foment against Israel.”

In her own statement following the decision Ilhan Omar expressed outrage that the action could be taken by Israel, under pressure from Trump, and that it was an impediment to her carrying out her legitimate democratic role, stating,

“As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is my job to conduct oversight of foreign aid from the United States of America and to legislate on human rights practices around the world. The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.”

The Israeli position was further endorsed by US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who said the US “supports and respects” Israel’s decision to deny entry to Tlaib and Omar.

“This trip, pure and simple, is nothing more than an effort to fuel the (boycott movement) engine that Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar so vigorously support,” Friedman said in a statement released this week.

The fact that Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress has not gone unnoticed.  Trump’s position picks up where he left off last month in criticising the two women, along with Congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, telling them to “go back” to the countries they came from.

The Congresswomen have made no secret of their opposition to the actions of the Israeli government, in defiance of United Nations resolutions by occupying the West Bank and Gaza, or of their support for the boycott movement.  The Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, aims to end international support for Israel because of its policies toward Palestinians, as well as its continued construction of West Bank settlements, a clear violation of international law.

Netanyahu indicated his fear of Israeli human rights abuses being exposed, stating: “They have defined the destination of their visit as ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel.’ And unlike all the Democrat and Republican congressmen who have visited until today, they avoided asking for any meeting with any Israeli official, whether in the government or in the opposition.”

In his usual fashion President Trump vented his spleen further over the issue by taking to Twitter and posting,

“They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

The two Congresswomen planned to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and representatives of human rights organisations. They were to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.  Tlaib planned to stay two extra days to visit her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta.

Writing in the US People’s World in July, Chauncy K Robinson concludes her article in defence of Ilhan Omar with the following observation on Trump,

“His aggressive re-election campaign, which uses the tool of white supremacy to divide the nation, would have his base think differently, though.  In Trump and the right’s narrative, Omar and anyone similar to her are the “enemy.” But the enemy of what, or whom?  That’s the real question. Trump’s “team” is made up of the wealthy who want to preserve the exploitative capitalist system that chokes American and world progress and puts our very planet in peril.  For the sake of humanity, we all need to be on the team that opposes him and his rhetoric.”

The full article can be read here

https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/no-going-back-in-defense-of-rep-ilhan-omar-against-trump/

The national unity delusion

10th August 2019

Corbyn election

Jeremy Corbyn: No10 on the horizon?

The anti-Jeremy Corbyn campaign of the political and media establishment in the UK took a new turn this week, with the calls for a government of national unity to stop a no deal Brexit.  The Tories have installed the most volatile and unstable leader in years as Prime Minister, in the form of Boris Johnson.  The Liberal Democrats have elected a diehard anti- Labour, anti-Corbyn leader in the form of Jo Swinson.  Labour have been calling for a general election for months, as the only way out of the Brexit impasse, in spite of the insistence of the BBC and other media that they have been sitting on the fence.

The manoeuvrings of the political establishment to avoid a general election are a measure of how afraid they are of the prospect of a progressive Labour government being elected.  It should have happened when Theresa May suffered an unprecedented parliamentary defeat when her EU Withdrawal Bill first went before the House of Commons.  It should have happened immediately following the Tory leadership election, in order to test the positions of the major parties with the electorate.

With the government in a state of turmoil, the Tory leadership barely keeping the parliamentary party together, it would be logical for the Labour opposition to unite behind the leadership in order to demand a real people’s vote in the form of an election.

Why is this not happening?

Unfortunately, the diehard right wing within Labour, with Deputy Leader Tom Watson at the forefront, cannot grasp that the defeat of the Tory government is a higher priority than stopping Brexit.

A vote of no confidence in the government must be tabled once Parliament reconvenes in September.  If that vote is carried it must be the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who is invited to form a government.  If he cannot do so within 14 days a general election must be the outcome.  If Johnson refused to quit and Labour was unable to form a caretaker government, there could then be a second no confidence motion 14 days after the first where Labour would try to force a general election.

The call for a so called government of national unity is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent this process and suggest that a leader with cross party support should be selected, in order to ensure a no deal Brexit is stopped by seeking an extension to the Article 50 process, before an election can be held.

Labour renegades Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie have leapt on the bandwagon, seeing yet another chance to stop Corbyn by any means, in the process doing nothing more than expose their opportunist credentials still further.  Candidates mooted for the ludicrous national unity government notion have been as diverse as the Green Party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, Tory octogenarian Ken Clarke and Tory renegade Change UK MP, Heidi Allen.  Labour backbenchers Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper have also been in the frame.  The idea that any of these could mobilise a parliamentary majority to stop a no-deal Brexit is frankly bizarre.

The parliamentary arithmetic suggests that the national unity notion is a dead duck from the start, so why raise it?  The reality is that there are sections of the Labour Party which have never come to terms with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victories and remain more committed to undermining him than they do to punishing the Tories and Liberal Democrats for a decade of austerity.

These people will continue to seek any avenue to bring the leadership of Corbyn into question and add to the prevailing media narrative that he should not be Prime Minister.  They know that a Corbyn government would not be ‘business as usual’.  They know that his leadership so far has not been ‘business as usual’.  They know that a Labour government with a socialist programme, committed to tackling the profound economic, social, environmental and democratic crises engulfing the country, would be an uncomfortable place for them.  However, that is the place we need to be.

All the Old Duds

26th July 2019

Johnson(2)

Johnson – blah, blah, blah

The first days of the Boris Johnson premiership have confirmed a number of things.  Johnson’s blustering performance outside 10, Downing St, when accepting the role of Prime Minister, was full of hot air.    His speech and response to questions in the House of Commons this week was an object lesson in talking loud and saying virtually nothing.  In short, Johnson is little more than an incorrigible windbag.

That such windbagging has landed Johnson the top job in UK government says more about the parlous state of the Conservative Party than it does about Johnson’s skills as an orator, negotiator or political operator.  In truth Johnson’s oratorial appeal lies almost entirely in his ability to deliver a witty one liner or a quick witted riposte when cornered.  These are useful skills that will undoubtedly garner a few headlines from journalists, too lazy to see beyond Prime Minister’s Questions, but they are not sufficient to justify being in charge of the government.

As a failed Foreign Secretary Johnson does not bring to the job of Prime Minister any notable experience in a senior ministerial position.  On the contrary, he has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted and that his grasp of foreign policy goes little beyond kowtowing to US President, Donald Trump.

In relation to the UK/Iranian citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently jailed in Iran, even Johnson acknowledges some culpability in her ongoing incarceration.  He either blurted out the truth in suggesting she was training journalists in Iran, effectively implying she was a British agent, or he has inadvertently implicated an innocent woman in activities she has had no part in.  In either scenario, Johnson’s intervention can hardly be seen as a diplomatic coup de grace.

Johnson’s first Cabinet appointments clearly reflect a desire to brook no disagreement, about Brexit in particular, with a hard core of pro-Brexit loyalists being brought in to help prop up Johnson’s Brexit by 31st October, “do or die” pledge.

Such luminaries include Priti Patel as Home Secretary, a hang ‘em, flog ‘em or deport ‘em appointment if ever there was one.  Patel’s credentials include being sacked by Theresa May for having secret discussions with Israeli officials, in order to influence UK policy, including advocating that the UK send military aid to Israel.  Patel has also consistently supported anti-immigration bills, and opposed same sex marriage.

The Chancellor’s role goes to Sajid Javid, a Tory in the mould of Norman ‘get on your bike’ Tebbit, who will no doubt exhort the poor to work harder and stop whinging while their benefits are being cut.  Dominic Raab comes in as Foreign Secretary, a former pretender to the premiership in the leadership race, a Johnson loyalist, while he is PM, and fully paid up member of the pro-US, pro-nuclear club.

Michael Gove resurfaces as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a title of meaningless bombast, which will effectively see him in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations.  Long time Johnson cheerleader, Liz Truss, turns up as International Trade Secretary while recent convert and former Remainer, Matt Hancock, hangs on at Health and Social Care.  Jacob Rees-Mogg bags a Cabinet post as Leader of the House.

The list goes on.  The chairs may have changed around but the tune remains the same.  Johnson characterised it as “to deliver Brexit by 31st October, unite the party, defeat Jeremy Corbyn – and energise our country.” Deliver, unify, defeat, energise – DUDE, as Johnson would have it.  Unfortunately for Johnson there is not a dude in sight, young or otherwise, and the Tory Cabinet could only ever be a collection of duds.  They have managed to deliver ten years of austerity, initially aided by the opportunist Liberal Democrats and lately by the Democratic Unionist Party thugs.  For the good of the people of the UK they should not be afforded ten minutes more.

The sooner a General Election is called, the better chance Labour has of turning back the tide in favour of the many, not the few.

That racist tweet in full

20th July 2019

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DCAmerican Heroes: Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

On 14th July 2019, US President, Donald Trump, communicated the following message in a sequence of three tweets regarding the attitudes and views of elected Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Omar arrived in the US as an eight year old refugee from war torn Somalia, being naturalised as a US citizen as a child.  Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were born in the US.

If there was any lingering doubt that the current occupant of the White House is a white supremacist and racist this statement alone should dispel such illusions.  Omar has responded by saying,

“We have condemned this president’s racist remarks.  I believe he is a fascist.”

Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, has accused the president of “stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society” while 2020 Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren stated,

“He is trying to divide and distract us from his own crimes and from his deeply unpopular agenda of letting the wealthy and well-connected rip off the country.  We must do more.”

Trump’s campaign for the 2020 presidential election is underway.  At a rally in North Carolina this week mention of Omar prompted Trump supporters to break into an eruption of “send her back” chants.  Trump claims to have tried to stop this but the evidence suggests otherwise.

The racist tweet was aimed at all four Congresswomen but the demonisation of Omar is exacerbated by her Muslim faith, adding more than a hint of Islamophobia to Trump’s remarks, a toxic mix which will not be lost on his electoral base.

The basis for the 2020 election was spelled out even further in a sequence of tweets on 15th July when Trump proclaimed,

“We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country. They are anti-Israel, pro Al-Qaeda, and comment on the 9/11 attack, “some people did something.” Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders, which means drugs, crime, human trafficking, and much more. Detention facilities are not Concentration Camps! America has never been stronger than it is now – rebuilt Military, highest Stock Market EVER, lowest unemployment and more people working than ever before. Keep America Great!”

Trump appears to have added a new ally to his roster in the form of US Congressman, Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, who has enthusiastically endorsed Trump’s position and stepped up the abuse against the four congresswomen.

The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) has condemned the recent spate of attacks stating,

“Trump sank to new lows accusing four women members of Congress of “hating America” demanding they “go back to where they came from.”  Lindsey Graham added injury to insult by labelling them “a bunch of communists” and by implication suggesting they were advocating “foreign ideas.”

But socialism and communism are as American as apple pie.  Let’s recall that before the arrival of the Mayflower, the original Native American inhabitants held land in what is now the U.S. in common: it was capitalism that was brought in from outside.  And throughout U.S. history socialists and communists made many signal contributions to public life from serving as Generals in the Union Army fighting against slavery, to drafting Social Security legislation, to adding enormously to American arts, letters, and science.”

Not that Trump or his electoral base care about any of that.  The politics of Trump thrives on the need for a public enemy, or enemies, against which he can defend the US, its interests and its so called ‘greatness’.  The four Congresswomen are the domestic manifestation of this approach.  US sabre rattling in the Persian Gulf, stepping up its threat of military action against Iran, is the international dimension.

Reducing politics to the good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats, cowboys and Indians is, ironically, the Trump method.  It worked in 2016 because the Democrats fielded an establishment candidate incapable of hitting back with enough power to dent the Trump base.

It will be a tall order to dislodge Trump in 2020 but the Democrats urgently need to find a candidate to make inroads, otherwise another four years will see an even more dangerous world for progressives both inside and outside of the United States.

Replacing the conspiracy theorists

7th July 2019

US-Mexico

Protests against detention camps on the US-Mexico border continue

The normalisation of reactionary ideas is an increasing trend, which is in danger of pushing what is accepted as mainstream much further to the right in political debate.  The scale of right wing governments across Europe, the election of Donald Trump as US President, the imminent installation of Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister, all help perpetuate the ‘normalisation’ of right wing ideas.

It can begin in what appear to be small ways.  The Thatcher government in the UK introduced the concept of the ‘right to buy’, a means of dismantling social housing delivered through local government.  The right to buy emphasised the right of the individual over the collective need to provide working class housing.

The privatisation of state run industries and key utilities in the same period was based on the ideological shift away from services being run for public good and towards an emphasis upon private profit.  Comprehensive state education was dismantled in favour of local management of schools and more recently the academy system, set up to profit the private sector.

In all cases the State was demonised as having failed to deliver and, it was argued, only the private sector could come to the rescue of the economy.  The consequences speak for themselves every day.

The basis of the economics of the European Union, that inflation control is the main objective of economy policy, whatever the consequences for the economy and however little government control that allows over policy direction, is widely accepted, even on sections of the Left.  The collective squeezing of the weaker economies of Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland in order to maintain the aggrandisement of Germany, France and UK has been a key feature of the EU for over forty years.  The economic annexation of Eastern European states by the EU has only continued this trend.

The rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, the Brexit Party in the UK and Alternativ fur Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, all fiercely nationalist and against the over bloated bureaucracy of the EU, suggests that the Maastricht Treaty based consensus in the EU is coming to an end.  The irony is that the so called populist parties across Europe are basing their appeal upon the failure of the EU to deliver for the poor across the continent.

As ever, the easy approach for right wing demagogues of this ilk is to focus in upon what appear to be the simple answers.  The free movement of people in the EU results in too many immigrants, taking too many jobs, or as asylum seekers living on welfare.   In the same way the Trump slogan to Make America Great Again resonated with the dispossessed in the United States, the right wing in Europe are playing upon the same fears and insecurities.

Even Russian President, Vladimir Putin, suggested recently that liberalism in the West is dead.

The views of the right are being given further credence by the emergence of theoretical approaches which seek to back up and justify the actions of these groups.  Prominent at the moment is the so-called “great replacement” theory which calls for the forced deportation of ethnic minority communities, focusing upon paranoia that white people are being wiped out through migration and violence.

The “great replacement” conspiracy theory was initiated by right wing French writer, Renaud Camus, who claims that a global elite is conspiring against white European populations and culture.  Not far from Hitler’s view in the 1930’s that the conspiracy was headed by Jews and Communists.

There are a world of madcap theories out there but when one is being referenced by political leaders in Italy, Germany and the tweets of the President of the United States, there is cause for concern.

In practical terms this results in justifying migration detention camps in North Africa, paid for by the EU, in order to prevent potential migrants reaching Europe.  Kenan Malik, writing in The Observer (7/7/19) suggests,

“The EU-funded prisons are places of true horror in which sexual abuse and torture are commonplace.  European government are aware of the conditions.  But these prisons are far enough away to allow them to wash their hands of any responsibility.”

Similar detention camps on the US-Mexico border were recently condemned by US Democratic congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as concentration camps.  Even after two terms as President, Barack Obama could not close down the US internment camp in occupied Cuba at Guantanamo Bay.

Whether it is defending values under threat, protecting our way of life or stopping overcrowding, the justifications for these actions are always spurious.  The ordinary people of the world, of whatever colour, race or creed have more to unite them than divide them.  Those seeking to perpetuate division, under whatever theory or banner, are seeking only to defend their own vested interest in the status quo.

Speaking out and taking action are essential to combat the rise of the right and bring about control, which can truly see the emergence of governments of the people, by the people, for the people.

 

Trump walks the tightrope

23rd June 2019

Missile batteries

Iranian missile batteries disabled by cyber attack

US President, Donald Trump, continues to walk a political tightrope in the Middle East.  Trump has been trying to paint himself as the great statesman in recent days, for pulling back from a decision which may have resulted in the deaths of 150 innocent Iranians.  Trump claims that he called off air strikes upon Iran at the last minute last week, after being told of the potential death toll.  The threatened strikes were in response to the Iranians shooting down an unmanned US spy drone, which had ‘strayed’ into Iranian air space.

Quite where Trump imagines he gets the authority to toy with the lives of 150 Iranians, or anyone else, is anyone’s guess.  The fact that he can portray himself as magnanimous for not indulging in this arbitrary execution is monstrous.  The position is further compounded by the fact that Trump is responding to a crisis which is largely of his own making.

In pulling the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal signed between Tehran and Barack Obama, Trump triggered increased tensions with Iran.  The renewed sanctions as a result have upped the pressure upon the Iranian economy, given the hardliners in the Islamic Republic greater prominence and squeezed the living standards of ordinary Iranians to breaking point.

Trump may not have killed any Iranians in a direct military strike, on this occasion, but the US sanctions regime, combined with the profiteering, corruption and ineptitude of the Iranian government itself, is ensuring that the people of Iran are suffocating slowly.

Recent reports indicate that US retaliation has taken the form of cyber attacks upon Iranian weapons systems.  US officials claim that the cyberattacks, part of a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions, have disabled the Iranian computer systems that control its rocket and missile launchers.

The United States is determined to stem the tide of Iranian influence in the region, particularly its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen, its role against intervention in Syria and its influence upon the government of Iraq. The US is supported by its regional proxies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are equally concerned that the power and influence of Iran does not upset their own designs to be regional superpowers.

The US, Saudis and Israel have a collective interest in keeping the flow of oil to the West, while at the same time ensuring the flow of weapons from the US and UK into the Middle East.

White House hawks in the form of National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have argued for military strikes against Iran.  Trump’s recent stand down is by no means a guarantee that the threat of conflict is over or that one could not erupt due to mistake or misunderstanding.

The recent attacks upon oil tankers in the Persian Gulf appear to be the first steps in a pattern of provocation in which Iran is blamed for actions which the US has to then address, in order to protect its ‘vital interests’.

Whatever the US may say publicly the only endgame for the Trump administration is regime change in Iran.  The economy in Iran is on its knees, protests continue to sweep the country, the credibility of the regime is lower than ever.  Oil exports are virtually at zero, further compounding the weakness of the economy and the misery of the Iranian people.  In short, Iran poses no economic or military threat to the United States.

The Iranian people have suffered 40 years of mendacity, poverty and oppression under the Islamic Republic.  They are undoubtedly ready for change, just not change imposed by the US or its proxies, but change which they lead and the direction of which they determine.  That is something the Trump White House will not be comfortable with as regime change for the US means change that is pro US.

Given the history of US intervention in the region a US friendly government in Iran is not something which can be guaranteed, or which the Iranian people should be expected to deliver.

The keys to the door

16th June 2019

JohnsonIt’s no joke – a Johnson premiership is possible

Anti-working class, misogynist, racist, homophobes seem to be the order of the day for what passes for leaders of the so-called free world at present.  Donald Trump is the exemplar of course, with a sprinkling of European demagogues close behind.  However, the Tory Party election for a new leader in the UK sees failed Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, coming up on the rails.

Laughingly described, largely by themselves, as the world’s most sophisticated electorate the Tories are engaged in a process of sucking themselves and the UK into a vortex, the outcome of which is likely to see Boris Johnson with the keys to 10, Downing Street.

The media insist that this process is driven by fear of Nigel Farage, as many Tories are scared of losing their seats to the Brexit Party at a general election if they do not elect an openly pro Brexit leader.  Johnson is also seen by many Tories as the only candidate with sufficient ‘personality’ to oppose the people’s stockbroker.

This is course plays into the media’s hands.  The UK press have for many years insisted on reducing the political process to a personality contest, it makes for easy confrontational headlines.  The BBC has for some time also been complicit in this delusion.  Having been a cheerleader for Farage for some time the state broadcaster would like nothing better than a Farage vs Johnson heavyweight Brexit bout.  Pay per view watch out!

Back in the real world there is only one thing that all eleven Tory candidates, now down to six at the time of writing, have in common.  That is their antipathy towards, and fear of losing a general election to, Jeremy Corbyn.  The Labour leader has studiously avoided the politics of personality throughout his political career and is showing no signs of wavering from the politics of principle which have characterised his political judgements.

The fear of the Tory candidates is not about Corbyn’s public image, it is about the substance of his policy positions and the manifesto commitments likely to form the basis of a Labour General Election platform.

Tackling austerity by reinvesting in public services, nationalising the rail network, building much needed Council housing, increasing rates of corporation tax, creating jobs for young people, tackling the military budget, squeezing the corporate tax dodgers who leech on the economy; these are the sorts of policies that make every Tory candidate afraid.  These are the sorts of policies which won Labour the Peterborough by-election, seeing off the challenge of the Brexit Party and reducing the Tories to a feeble third place, following their derisory fifth place finish in the European elections.

Whoever wins the Tory leadership race will become Prime Minister.  A new Prime Minister does not however change the existing arithmetic in Parliament without having a general election, the very thing they all wish to avoid, for fear of a Labour victory.

As a consequence, the bluster about renegotiating the EU withdrawal deal, which the EU insist is not up for renegotiation, has in one form or another been in all candidate pitches.  Johnson insists up front that preparation for no deal is necessary, both as a negotiating position and in order to be ready for the potential reality.

Johnson’s stance relies upon the EU shifting its position massively or the UK Parliament allowing a no deal option to be on the table.  Neither look likely at the moment.

It has been the case for some time now that the only way out of the political deadlock facing the UK is a real people’s vote, in the form of a general election.   For all of the bluster, the Tory leadership race may turn out to be a prelude to just that.  Boris Johnson’s grip on the keys to No.10 may not be very firm after all.

 

The orchestration of war against Iran gathers pace

4th June 2019

As US President, Donald Trump, arrives in the UK increased tension in the Middle East raises the real possibility of further conflict in the region.  Jane Green for the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) assesses the dangers.

anti Trump

Anti Trump protesters fill the streets of London – 4th June 2019

The visit of United States President, Donald Trump, on a state visit to the UK, coincides with the most belligerent and threatening period of US foreign policy since the war on Iraq in 2003.  The focus of the Trump administration upon the Islamic Republic of Iran, clearly the new public enemy no.1 for the US, has escalated in recent weeks to the point where Iran is being accused directly of terrorist action against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

The incident, which occurred early in May, remains shrouded in mystery.  However, the suspicious issue of the attacks on four Saudi tankers, at the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, on 12th May has clearly been used to engineer an anti-Iran climate.

At the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting, convened in Saudi Arabia last weekend, King Salman used his opening address to condemn the attacks, stating,

“We emphasise that these subversive terrorist acts are aimed not only at the kingdom and the Gulf region, but also on the security of navigation and energy supplies to the world.”

The Saudis clearly blame Iran for the attacks and are attempting to unite Muslim and Arab opinion against Iran.

US national Security Adviser, John Bolton, speaking in London last week claimed that he will be able to present evidence that Iran was behind the attacks, although it was evident that producing evidence was not the main issue for Bolton, who stated,

“I don’t think anybody who is familiar with the situation in the region, whether they have examined the evidence or not, has come to any conclusion other than that these attacks were carried out by Iran or their surrogates.”

In the year since President Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal which lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear programme, pressure upon the Iranian regime has been steadily increased.  Sanctions have been tightened to the point where Iran’s oil exports, its main foreign currency earner, have been reduced to zero.

In April the US designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group with Trump stating that the move “recognises the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft”.

The policies of US administrations for over 40 years, from Jimmy Carter and Reagan to Trump, have consistently focussed on how to engineer regime change in Iran.  The United States remains keen to see Iran return to its role following World War Two.  During that period Iran was the most reliable ally of the US in the Middle East, both in terms of supporting US strategic interests and in securing the flow of cheap oil to the US, Europe and Japan.

Opposition to the Iranian revolution was most brutally manifest in US support for the attack of Saddam Hussein upon Iran, which led to the 8-year long war with Iraq in the 1980s and hostile relations with the regime ever since. The US has supported all attempts to destabilise and overthrow the regime. George Bush famously characterised Iran as being one of the countries in his ‘axis of evil’ and threatened regime change.

Even after the JCPOA agreement reached in 2015, which supposedly lifted sanctions, the US continued to maintain paralysing banking sanctions on Iran that prevented it from trading easily with the rest of the world. Since May 2018 the sanctions regime has become untenable.

In a tweet on 18th August 2018 Trump boasted that: “The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.  I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

The irony of this statement aside, it is clear that the actions of the US do not tend towards peace, either in the world or in the Middle East.  Provocation, duplicity and lies have been the stock in trade of US foreign policy for decades and this is no less the case in the present situation.

The United States has sent some of the its most deadly weapons of war to the Persian Gulf close to Iran, including several warships, an aircraft carrier and fighter jets as well as B52 bombers.  This is in addition to the deployment of the US Patriot Missile system to the region. The US Navy announced that on Sunday, 19th May the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, in coordination with the US Marine Corps, conducted military exercises in the Arabian Sea highlighting US “lethality and agility to respond to threat”.  On the same day, Donald Trump threatened to “destroy Iran forever.”

In response to the ongoing US pressure the Iranian government has stated that it will reduce its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, making clear in a statement of the National Security Council of Iran that “the Islamic Republic of Iran at the current stage is no longer committed to complying with restrictions on maintaining only a certain inventory of the enriched uranium and heavy water.”

The position of the Iranian government resulted in a rapid and negative reaction from the European Union, and many European politicians expressed concern about the decision of the Iranian government.

There is little doubt that the increase in sanctions has exacerbated the profound economic and social crisis inside Iran, as the regime continues to suppress waves of protest against its political and economic policies, as well as its widespread human rights abuses.  The theocratic dictatorship in Iran is only interested in protecting its own position, whatever the cost to the Iranian people.

The United States is clearly seeking to use this situation to its advantage, in order to force regime change upon Iran, in a shape that will be consistent with maintaining US interests and hegemony in the Middle East.  The stepping up of both rhetoric and action by the United States could, at any point, provide the spark which sees the Middle East go up in flames.

With both Israel and Saudi Arabia, the heavily armed allies of the United States in the Middle East, increasingly strident in their denunciation of the Iranian regime, the prospect of conflict is further intensified.

The visit of President Trump to the UK must be accompanied by a clear anti-war message.  The people of Iran have suffered at the hands of the theocracy for over forty years.  It is their right to shape a democratic future in their own interests, not those of the existing dictatorship or any external power.  For that they need peace and continued international solidarity from labour, trade union and peace groups across the world. They do not need to be staring down the barrel of a US gun.

Poverty and no philosophy

26th May 2019

Child-poverty-729642

Millions still suffer poverty in the UK

The United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, this week published his final report on deepening poverty in the UK.  Alston accused the government in his report of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population.”   Alston is a 69-year-old law professor at New York University and has been UN poverty rapporteur since 2014, carrying out investigations in that period in the US, China, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Laos and Chile.

Alston usually expects a detailed analysis or refutation of his reports but this has not been forthcoming from the UK.  So far, the response from UK ministers has been to dismiss the report as “barely believable” and to suggest that the report is “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty.”  Work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has claimed that the report is politically biased.  The government is preparing a complaint to the UN as well as requesting a meeting with the UN high commissioner on human rights.

Alston’s claim, that the government’s approach to benefits has been to create “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”, inevitably infuriated the Daily Mail who described the claim as “simply ridiculous” and “an insult to our national intelligence.”

Alston has indicated that changes to the welfare system are essential, to tackle the fact that, in one of the world’s richest countries, even official figures show that 14 million people are living in relative poverty.   He defends his claim of the creation of a 21st century workhouse stating,

“I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search for people who have been out of work for months or years.  They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless.  That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse.  The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.”

The publication of Alston’s report last week has inevitably been lost in the welter of publicity around the European elections and the resignation speech of UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, resulting in a feeding frenzy in the Tory Party as the battle to replace May gets underway.

Alston does not frame the report’s conclusions in this way but it is an indictment of capitalism as a system that the lives of millions can be wasted due to lack of education, opportunity and employment.  In the day to day cut and thrust of political debate it is easy to forget that exploitation is endemic within capitalism and, as Karl Marx pointed out, the extraction of surplus value from wage labour the source of all wealth.

While the views of Karl Marx get about as much airtime as those of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK media these days, Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson remains a darling of the British liberal press.  Writing in The Observer (26th May 2019), Watson is pessimistic about Labour’s performance in the European elections and the Party’s expected loss of support.  Watson states,

“This was the first election I can remember where Labour members said they couldn’t support us.  One member I met in Bristol broke down in tears as he told me that, after 44 years of voting Labour, he was going to vote Lib Dem.”

As Deputy Leader of the Labour Party you may think that Watson would have been quick to point out the record of the Lib Dems in propping up the Tory Coalition government, inflicting years of austerity upon the country, reducing public services to the bare bones and the NHS to an organisation struggling to fulfil its mission of delivering free health care at the point of  use.

Watson may have pointed out the Lib Dem position on student tuition fees, their support for which has ensured many years of debt, and in many cases anguish, for many young people.  All this and more was inflicted upon the people of the UK while Lib Dems cavorted in a Tory led Cabinet.  Not to forget the fact that, as UN rapporteur Philp Alston has pointed out, an estimated 14 million people in the UK are living in relative poverty.

So, Watson may have said, get real, pull your socks up and vote Labour!  Of course not.  Watson chooses instead to wallow in the Brexit debate and suggest that,

“Our performance is a direct result of our mealy-mouthed backing for a public vote on Brexit when it is being demanded loud and clear by the overwhelming majority of our members and voters.”

Other than the opinions of his dinner table guests and friends in the media, there is no evidence for Watson’s assertion that the majority of Labour members and voters back a public vote.  If anything, the outcome of the European elections is likely to show that there is a far greater appetite for leaving the EU as soon as possible, as the Brexit Party sweeps to the top of the polls.

Watson may not like it but he has to face up to the reality that the EU is not only undemocratic and unaccountable, it is unpopular.  It is a sad fact that some of that unpopularity is based upon the erroneous anti-people messages pedalled by Nigel Farage and his ilk.

However, some of that unpopularity is based upon the reality that after 40 years of EU membership the UK still has 14 million people living in poverty, including 30% of children, and is engaged in creating a digital 21st-century workhouse.  Why should anyone vote for that?

Watson cannot see this because he has no political or philosophical framework within which to view the world.  He is an opportunist simply wanting to catch the next media trade wind to carry him into office.   As Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson should be out there arguing the case for a people’s Brexit and the socialist transformation of the UK economy, whether the BBC and the media like it or not.  Otherwise he should just stand down.

 

No Deal Looms Large

19th May 2019

May buried

Theresa May – politically dead and almost buried

There can be no doubt that any marriage of convenience brings with it grounds for divorce.  The coupling of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, in talks to find a Brexit deal, certainly had more the aspect of a shotgun wedding than a match made in heaven.  It is no surprise that we have now reached the point of irretrievable breakdown.

As Corbyn states in his letter to May, ending the talks,

“…there has been growing concern in both the shadow cabinet and parliamentary Labour Party about the government’s ability to deliver on any compromise agreement.”

With May making clear during the week that she would outline a timetable for her departure, following the European Union Withdrawal Bill going before Parliament in the first week in June, the talks had clearly run out of road.  As shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, observed recently, “negotiating with the Tories is like trying to enter a contract with a company that’s going into administration.”

With European elections looming on 23rd May, in which the Tories could trail in an embarrassing fourth or fifth place, and for which they have not even offered a manifesto, there can be little doubt that the momentum will be with the pro-Brexit tendency when it comes to electing a new leader.

Under these circumstances it is clear that any deal negotiated between May and Corbyn would effectively have been ripped up the moment a new Tory leader was installed.  As Corbyn states in his letter to May,

“As you have been setting out your decision to stand down and cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded. Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other members of the cabinet.”

It would certainly strengthen Corbyn’s position if members of his own party, notably Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, and Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer, had the wit to hold the line with regard to Labour Party policy, rather than pursuing their own careerist agenda.  While the BBC and much of the media continue to caricature the Labour position as ‘confused’ Gary Younge, writing in the The Guardian (17th May 2019) put the Labour position succinctly stating,

“The policy itself is pretty straightforward.  It supports a second referendum if parliament rejects the prime minister’s deal and a general election doesn’t follow.  They just can’t get their story straight.”

There is little doubt that the Labour position is one of compromise. The fact remains however that the likes of Watson and Starmer are hell bent on distorting the story.  Their intention is to force Labour away from its policy position of delivering on the outcome of the 2016 referendum, to one of supporting a so called people’s vote, in the hope that this will result in a Remain outcome thus avoiding Brexit entirely.

Using Labour policy, of the second referendum as a last resort, to push a pro-Remain position is consistent with the overriding will of the UK political establishment, including most MPs, the City of London and the establishment media.  Watson and Starmer are clearly welcome bedfellows in this company.

The joker in the pack however remains the anti-EU ultra tendency within the Tory party and the anti-EU character of the party’s membership.  It is unlikely that a Tory leadership contest will go beyond the party conference in September, allowing that event to be a coronation for the new leader.  That will give the new leader, and new UK Prime Minister, less than two months to settle a deal or leave the EU with no deal on 31st October 2019.

Will a pro-Brexit Prime Minister, perhaps the Tory grass roots favourite, Boris Johnson, be concerned about a no deal exit?  They will certainly claim that their election by the 160,000 or so Tory Party members will give them a ‘mandate’ to deliver on whatever platform they put forward.  It will be hard for any of the Parliamentary Conservative Party to resist the position of its own grass roots.  Ironically, getting no-deal across the line just means sitting it out for two months, no messy votes in Parliament to deal with, no protracted negotiations.

One thing any Prime Minister fears, whatever their legislative failings and parliamentary struggles, is to go down in history as the shortest serving PM in history.  An ego as inflated as that of Boris Johnson certainly could not tolerate that, so any deal which gets him elected will almost certainly be predicated upon building a sufficient coalition to be able to see him through to 2022, the fixed parliamentary term period.

Theresa May has promised to pull out the stops and come up with a “bold offer” when the EU Withdrawal Bill gets to Parliament in June.  Unless by some miracle that is the case and the Bill passes, the race to watch over the summer will be the Tory leadership contest.  The shape of Brexit may well be determined by it.

12th May 2019

Euro elections – panic and absurdity

Nigel-Farage

Farage – absurd but ahead in the polls

 

Panic on the streets of London,

Panic on the streets of Birmingham,

I wonder to myself,

Could life ever be sane again?

Panic by The Smiths should be the theme tune of the up and coming European elections, with panic characterising the positions of most of the major UK political parties, and some of the minor ones, in the face of the tsunami of support being garnered by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The Conservatives in particular appear to have surrendered any hope of mounting even a cursory campaign on the assumption that their right wing supporters will protest by voting with Farage, while the Remain loving Tory centre will simply not turn up to vote.

The media driven Farage machine appears to be hoovering up any hopes UKIP may have harboured of a revival on the back of the Brexit debacle.  UKIP without Farage was always a busted flush and now that the media darling has formed another vehicle for his vanity, his erstwhile cohorts are simply left coughing out Farage’s exhaust fumes.

On the Remain side there are the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, both cravenly pro-EU to the core, and the Tory in disguise Change UK, made up of Labour and Tory splitters and a variety of media personalities hoping to catch the Brussels gravy train.  While this liberal hotch potch share common ground in their love of the EU and hatred of Brexit, it does not extend to them being able to co-operate to generate a pro-Remain platform.

That leaves the Labour Party as the only consistently credible force capable of minimising the impact of Farage and providing some coherence and focus to the EU election debate.  The media, in particular the BBC, are set against the Labour position and will do their utmost to characterise the Labour leadership as not having a clear position.  However, as Jeremy Corbyn states in the introduction to Labour’s European election manifesto,

“Labour has put forward an alternative plan to seek a close and cooperative relationship with the European Union, including a new comprehensive customs union with a UK say, close single market alignment, guaranteed rights and standards, and the protection of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.”

It may be a position based on some compromise, given the make up of the Parliamentary Labour Party and some of the factional infighting Corbyn still has to contend with, but it is a position and one which has been consistently articulated.  It is also a position that is either too subtle or too complex for large sections of the media to be able to grasp as they seem to be largely incapable of reflecting it.

Labour’s position is further clarified in the manifesto introduction as follows,

“Labour will continue to oppose the Government’s bad deal or a disastrous no deal.  And if we can’t get agreement along the lines of our alternative plan, or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.”

Once again this appears to be too nuanced a position for either the media or the Remain supporting parties and factions to grasp.  Labour is not opposed to a public vote but it is clearly a last resort as it will, of itself, not solve the Brexit question.  It is therefore vital that all other means to find a negotiated solution are explored, in order to deliver on the outcome of the 2016 referendum result, consistent with Labour’s policy position to do so.

The political establishment in the UK has always been in the Remain camp and will continue to do all in their power to overturn the 2016 referendum outcome.  The EU’s status as a capitalist club par excellence for UK banks and corporations is not something they will give up on easily.  The Liberal, Green and Change UK agenda effectively falls within this camp, albeit dressed in a form of faux internationalism which fails to realise that the ‘free’ movement of people is simply a cover for the easy movement of cheap labour.

The incoherence of the Remain position, combined with the difficulty Labour faces in getting anything other than a distorted version of its message across, leaves the field open for Farage to keep plugging away with his single issue Brexit Party campaign.  Farage’s party will end up with the most UK seats in a parliament it is dedicated to dissolve.

The fact that these European elections are happening at all is an absurdity.  It is no more absurd however than seeing the EU as a vehicle for peace and progress.  The tragedy remains that the real reasons for needing to leave the EU have been buried.     A real socialist internationalism, as called for by Labour’s John McDonnell recently, which actually works in the interests of the peoples of Europe, not its banks and corporations, is what is needed.  No amount of voting for Farage and his ilk will achieve that.

Tories sink into the mire

4th May 2019

local elections

You would be hard pressed to believe, from press and media coverage, that local elections this week have been a meltdown for the Tory Party with Labour having largely held their position.  The BBC in particular have sought to characterise the elections as a ‘plague on both your houses’, portraying the results as a further indication of splits in both major parties over Brexit.

It is hard to deny that there is a grain of truth in the fact that Brexit has had an impact upon local election results, given its dominance in UK politics at present.  However, the reality of politically driven austerity, clearly the fault of the Tories, resulting in hugely damaging cuts in local jobs and services cannot be ruled out.

The actual figures for losses paint more mixed picture than the media would like to portray.  Across the country the Tories lost 1,334 local councillors.  Labour lost 82 councillors.  Across the country the Tories lost control of 44 local councils.  Labour lost control of 6 councils.  The Liberal Democrats did increase the numbers of councils they control by 10 while adding 703 to their tally of local councillors, mainly at the expense of the Tories in the South and South West.

The Labour right wing, always keen to take any opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, have fuelled the media narrative by agreeing that the results are a major blow for Labour and suggesting they illustrate the need for a so-called People’s Vote to break the Brexit deadlock.  Quite how such a conclusion can be extrapolated from the reality of the figures is hard to see but there are those in Labour, spearheaded by Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who refuse to let the facts get in the way of their version of the world.

The media have made little play of the fact that Labour candidate, Jamie Driscoll, won the North of Tyne Combined Authority Mayoral contest.  An openly Momentum backed candidate, Driscoll beat establishment candidate, Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council for the Labour nomination.  Attempts to subvert Driscoll’s campaign through so-called Independent, John McCabe, a smokescreen candidate for the Labour right wing, failed to dent Driscoll’s appeal.  Local entrepreneur, Charlie Hoult, in a desperate tilt at populism from the Tories made it through to the count of second votes but was soundly defeated by a 76,862 to 60,089 votes margin.

While the realities of the powers of the so-called Metro Mayors is limited, and Driscoll will have the intransigence of the local Labour establishment to contend with, his election nevertheless represents a positive signal that a Left wing programme can attract votes.

The usual suspects, in the form of Professor Sir John Curtice, have been wheeled out to predict that, based upon this week’s result a General Election would result in the two main parties gaining only 28% of the vote each and would lead to another hung Parliament.  However, a cold analysis of the figures does not take into account the dynamics of an election campaign and the real issues which parties will have to address on the doorstep.

There is no getting away from the fact that, even discounting the Brexit debacle, the Tories have a dismal record and with a clear programme based upon addressing the need of the many, not the few, Labour stands every chance of winning a General Election.

It is clear from the response to the local election results that Tory strategists know that they are on the ropes.  Calls for May’s resignation have intensified while her greeting at the Welsh Conservative Conference this week was far from warm.  The sacking of Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, days ahead of the local elections is see as a tactical blunder on May’s part and Williamson has clearly positioned himself in opposition on the backbenches, not being prepared to go quietly.

With Brexit discussions set to resume next week and European elections still scheduled for 23rd May, it is hard to see where else the Tories can turn but to hope that a new leader can help dig them out of the hole they find themselves in.   Labour on the other hand must stand firm and not be distracted by the splitting tactics of Change UK or the antics of Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.

The prospect of a General Election may yet be within grasp and in a General Election scenario a united Labour Party will undoubtedly win.

No Red Carpet for Trump

27th April 2019

Trump NRA(2)

Trump – promising the NRA he will oppose gun control

The right wing press are in a spin about Jeremy Corbyn calling out US President, Donald Trump, as a misogynist, racist, climate change denier and refusing to have anything to do with the state visit scheduled for the 3rd – 6th June.

The Daily Mail, not surprisingly, were almost gleeful in their denunciation of Corbyn stating,

“Jeremy Corbyn was accused of ‘staggering’ hypocrisy last night after snubbing the Queen’s invitation to a state banquet with Donald Trump.

Despite his record of meeting terrorists and extremists, the Labour leader yesterday said he would refuse to attend the dinner with Mr Trump at Buckingham Palace in June.”

The Daily Mail were incensed by a tweet from Corbyn which made his position categorically clear stating that,

“Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a President who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”

What is not to agree with?  State visits from US Presidents are not the norm.  If anything, the honour accorded to Trump is only the third state visit by a US President in the 67-year reign of the present Queen, making it more the exception rather than the rule.

The bluster about Corbyn snubbing the Queen and the hot air from failed Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith that this demonstrates that Corbyn is “unfit to be Prime Minister” is just a smokescreen.  The idea that the Queen is above politics and that a state visit somehow exempts a visiting leader from the normal rules of politics is nonsense.

The monarch, as the UK Head of State, is the embodiment of the ruling class and symbol of everything that is outdated, undemocratic and anachronistic about the British state.  Corbyn should have no qualms about snubbing either the US President or the British monarch for perfectly sound political reasons.

It may be expected that liberal bastion, The Guardian, would take a different line but if senior correspondent Simon Jenkins is to be believed, that is not the case.  For Jenkins it is merely a matter of courtesy, stating,

“A US President has been invited to Britain on a state visit.  It is a state courtesy, between one democracy and another, on the occasion of a wartime anniversary.  No conceivable purpose is served by 200,000 people coming to London to shout insults at him.”

Jenkins argues that simply opposing policies or a particular politician does not win political arguments and that however much anger Trump generates that is “no reason for childish protests”.  Oozing condescension Jenkins argues that there is no room for direct action in the pantheon of methods in which messages can be delivered.  Trump may well shrug his shoulders if a quarter of a million people turn out to oppose his visit but there is no evidence to suggest that he is open to rational debate either.

Sometimes the loud, noisy, visibility of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets is the only way to get a message across, not only to President Trump but to the millions who will watch elements of the visit on TV and social media.  Is our only response really to concur with Jenkins that we extend Trump every courtesy?  In the concluding words of his article, Jenkins suggests that we bow down to the climate change denying racist saying,

“You are welcome, Mr. President.”

That is simply not good enough.  Trump does not and will not play by the rules, even the distorted rules that pass for political discourse in the United States.

There is no reason on Earth to welcome Donald Trump to the UK or anywhere else, President or not.  There is every reason to oppose the policies and practice of the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, especially when that leader embodies the very worst aspects of that society and would willingly impose those ‘values’ on others.

The debate will rumble on until Trump’s visit and beyond.  Taking a principled stand will be another stick used by the right wing media to beat Jeremy Corbyn.  However, Corbyn has given a clear lead on this issue and opposition to Trump’s visit must be vocal and it must be loud!

Cuba Stands Firm

 19th April 2019

The Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive U.S. escalation, and prevail

Cuban flag

In 1961 the United States attempted to reverse the revolution in Cuba by sending an invasion force to the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón).  The invasion was defeated and the Cuban revolution continues to flourish.  The following statement was released by the Cuban government to mark the 17th April anniversary of the Playa Girón invasion.

Revolutionary Government Declaration

Today, April 17, is the anniversary of the launching of the United States’ 1961 military invasion at Playa Girón. (Bay of Pigs) The Cuban people’s resolute response in defense of the Revolution and socialism, within only 72 hours, produced the first military defeat of imperialism in America. Strangely, the date was chosen by the current U.S. government to announce new aggressive measures against Cuba and to reinforce their implementation of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Revolutionary Government rejects, in the strongest terms possible, the decision to now allow action to be taken in U.S. courts against Cuban and foreign entities, and to aggravate impediments to entering the United States faced by leaders and families of companies that legitimately invest in Cuba, in properties that were nationalized. These are actions established in the Helms-Burton Act which was denounced long ago by the international community, and which the Cuban nation has repudiated since its promulgation and implementation in 1996, with the fundamental goal of imposing colonial tutelage on our country.

We repudiate, as well, the decision to reinstate limits on remittances that Cuban residents in the U.S. send to their families and friends, to further restrict travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, and impose additional financial sanctions.

We strongly denounce references that attacks against U.S. diplomats have occurred in Cuba.  They attempt to justify their actions, as is customary, with lies and coercion.
Army General Raúl Castro stated this past April 10: “Cuba is blamed for all evils, using lies in the worst style of Hitler’s propaganda.”

The U.S. government resorts to slander, to cover up and justify the obvious failure of its sinister coup manoeuvre, designating in Washington an impostor “President” for Venezuela. They accuse Cuba of being responsible for the strength and determination shown by the Bolivarian Chavista government, the country’s people, and the civic-military union defending their nation’s sovereignty. They lie shamelessly, alleging that Cuba has thousands of military and security troops in Venezuela, wielding influence, and determining what happens in this sister country.
They have the cynicism to blame Cuba for the economic and social situation Venezuela is facing after years of brutal economic sanctions, conceived and implemented by the United States and their allies, precisely to economically asphyxiate the country and cause suffering within the population.  Washington goes so far as to pressure governments in other countries to attempt to persuade Cuba to withdraw this unlikely supposed military and security aid, and even to stop lending support and solidarity to Venezuela.
The current U.S. government is well-known, within the country itself and internationally, for its unscrupulous use of lies as a tool in domestic and foreign policy. This is an old habit among imperialism’s practices.
The images are still fresh of President George W. Bush, with the support of current National Security John Bolton, indecently lying about supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a lie that served as the pretext to invade this Middle Eastern country.  Recorded in history, as well, are the bombing of the Maine anchored in Havana, and the self-inflicted Gulf of Tonkin incident, episodes that served as pretexts to unleash brutal wars in Cuba and Vietnam.
We cannot forget that the United States used fake insignia painted on the planes that carried out bombings here as a prelude to the Playa Girón invasion, to hide the fact that they were U.S. aircraft.  It should be clear that the U.S. slanders are based on an absolute, deliberate lie. Their intelligence agencies have more than enough evidence, surely more than any other state, to know that Cuba has no troops in Venezuela, and does not participate in military or security operations, even though it is the sovereign right of independent countries to determine how they cooperate in the area of defense, which is not a U.S. prerogative to question.

Those making this accusation have more than 250,000 soldiers and 800 military bases abroad, some of them in our hemisphere.  This government also knows, as Cuba has repeatedly stated publicly, that the more than 20,000 Cuban collaborators, more than 60% women, are undertaking in this South American country the same work currently being done by another 11,000 professionals from our country in 83 nations; contributing to the provision of social basic services, fundamentally in healthcare, which has been recognized by the international community.

It should also be absolutely clear that our firm solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is Cuba’s right as a sovereign state, and also a duty that is part of our tradition and among the irrevocable principles of the Cuban Revolution’s foreign policy.  No threat of reprisal against Cuba, no ultimatum or pressure on the part of the current U.S. government will dissuade the Cuban nation’s internationalist vocation, despite the devastating human and economic damage caused by the genocidal blockade to our people.

It is worth remembering that thuggish threats and ultimatums have been used in the past, when Cuba’s internationalists supported liberation movements in Africa, while the United States supported the opprobrious apartheid regime. Cuba was expected to renounce its solidarity commitments with the peoples of Africa in exchange for a promise of forgiveness, as if the Revolution needed to be pardoned by imperialism.

At that time, Cuba rejected the pressure, as we reject it today, with the greatest disdain.
Army General Raúl Castro recalled this past April 10, “Over 60 years, facing aggression and threats, Cubans have shown the iron will to resist and overcome the most difficult circumstances. Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the capacity to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom conquered with so much sacrifice.”

The Cuban government calls on all members of the international community and U.S. citizens to put an end this irrational escalation and the hostile, aggressive policy of the Donald Trump government. Member states of the United Nations rightly demand, year after year almost unanimously, an end to this economic war. The peoples and governments of our region must ensure that the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace prevail, for the benefit of all.

The President of the Councils of State and Ministers Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez declared this past April 13, “Cuba continues to have confidence in its strengths, its dignity, and also in the strength and dignity of other sovereign, independent nations. But Cuba also continues to believe in the people of the United States, the homeland of Lincoln, who are ashamed of those who act beyond the boundaries of universal law, in the name of the entire nation.”

Once again, Cuba repudiates the lies and the threats, and reiterates that its sovereignty, independence, and commitment to the cause of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, are not negotiable.

Two days before the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the victory at Playa Girón, a historic site within our national territory, where mercenary forces backed by imperialism bit the dust of defeat, the Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive escalation of the United States, and prevail.
Havana, April 17, 2019.

A Brexit breather…?

13th April 2019

If there is anything that is close to rivalling the ineptitude of the British government it is the indecisiveness of the European Union.  Faced this week with the opportunity to end it all, by pressing the Brexit button on 12th April, or offering a lengthy extension which would kick the Brexit can a long way down the road, the EU did neither.  Instead UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had her plea of a short extension till the 30th June returned to her in a Hallowe’en mask, with an offer of an extension till 31st October.

The absurdity of this position has been rehearsed throughout the media this week.  It has however afforded the BBC in particular the opportunity to resurrect airtime for one of its darlings, Nigel Farage, trumpeting the launch of his latest vanity project, the Brexit Party.

Preparations are now underway for European elections on 23rd May, which the UK will contest unless, by some miracle, Parliament agrees a Brexit deal before then.  If the UK were to fail to take part in the elections Britain would automatically leave without a deal, effectively being kicked out of the EU on 1st June.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the UK was expected to “continue its sincere cooperation” while it is still a member state.  While Theresa May agreed the UK would continue to abide by its obligations, a tweet by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on 7th April suggested that,

“If we are stuck in we must use the remaining powers we have to be difficult. Sincere co-operation so far seems to be a one way street.”

Needless to say, this caused much furore in Brussels in spite of Rees-Mogg’s relatively minor status in the scheme of things.  The implications of Rees-Mogg’s comment was taken to be an indication of how a more hawkish successor to Theresa May could engage with Europe, should the Prime Minister be forced to fall upon her sword.

Of more concern across Europe is the prospect of the election on 23rd May returning a highly Euro-sceptic bloc of MEPs from across the Member states.  With right wing governments in Poland and Hungary, the idiosyncratic nationalist Five Star Movement running the show in Italy, the fascist Vox party gaining seats in Spain and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front) poised to capitalise upon discontent in France, the EU project could look distinctly wobbly by the 24th May, whatever the state of play with Brexit.

The discontent in the UK could also provide oxygen for both UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party.  A low turnout may play to their advantage.  Whatever the promises made by a British Prime Minister they are unlikely to play nicely if elected to an assembly they are dedicated to abolish.  Quite what sort of political platform any of the major parties will stand on, to elect MEPs for what may be a five month period, will also be interesting to see.

Negotiations between the Tory government and the Labour Party appear unlikely to be fruitful given the intransigence of the Government.  In spite of this the BBC, in the form of chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, continue to characterise the negotiations as ones in which the Labour Party needs to give ground.  Perhaps Kuenssberg’s much trumpeted break from Twitter will help clear her political head.  Not something to rely on though.

Either way, most MPs are close to the end of their Parliamentary tether and are simply glad to be allowed a recess over Easter, before re-entering the Brexit fray on 23rd April.  Depending on progress once Parliament returns a General Election is still an option, as the only real prospect of renewing both a failed Parliament and a failed government.

Weighing against this is the fact that the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory is the only thread keeping the Tory Party together.  However, even that thread could snap once the Brexit bartering resumes.  A people’s government negotiating a people’s Brexit may yet be a possibility.

Netanyahu set to tighten grip

5th April 2019

NetanyahuPartners in Crime – Trump endorses Netanyahu re-election

With Israeli elections scheduled for 9th April incumbent Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, looks set to be returned to office in some form of coalition with ultra right nationalists, who are demanding the annexation of the occupied territories and the expulsion of all Arabs.

For a Prime Minister who, in his ten years in office, has stuck resolutely to positions including no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the status of Jerusalem and no acceptance of any Palestinian pre-conditions in negotiations, acceding to the demands of the ultra right would not be a great departure.

The Golan Heights, which is part of Syria, was occupied by Israel in 1967, has always been contested by the Syrian government and recognised as Syrian by the international community.  However, just two weeks ago the United States government formally recognised Israel’s ‘right’ to the Golan Heights.  The move follows the recognition by the US last year of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, in spite of its contested international status, and the promise to relocate the US Embassy there.

Over the past year Palestinians locked in the blockaded Gaza strip have been protesting against the Israeli occupation on a weekly basis.  Over that period alone Israeli soldiers have killed 194 people, including 40 children.  Nearly 29,000 people have been wounded of which 7,000 were shot with live ammunition.

The UN commission investigating Israeli claims that the protests are a cover for attacks upon the border fence, itself illegal, has not found this to be the case.  On the contrary, the UN said that the demonstrations were almost entirely civilian and the use of lethal force by the Israelis was neither necessary nor proportionate.  Israeli snipers have shot dead civilians hundreds of metres from the border fence.

The US has in effect been supporting Israeli action against the Palestinians.  Trump has made no secret of his support for Netanyahu and the feeling is mutual on the part of the Israeli leader.  The European Union on the other hand has done nothing to support the justified cause of the Palestinians.  As things stand there is little prospect of a peace settlement and Netanyahu’s re-election will only push that further from reach.

In the meantime the weekly protests by a blockaded people, armed with sticks and stones, will continue against one of the world’s most powerfully armed military regimes.  In any other part of the world such an army firing on unarmed civilians would be arraigned for war crimes.  It seems that, under US cover, the Israeli government not only has immunity but will continue to act with impunity.

Put It To The People in a General Election

23rd March 2019

Stop Brexit

Putting It To The People? A General Election would!

It may be a stretch to suggest that the UK is ungovernable at the moment but there can be little argument that it is ungoverned.  What passes for government at the moment, under the notional leadership of Theresa May, is little more than a loose coalition of warring factions unable to come up with any agreement on the way forward for Brexit.  This has effectively immobilised any meaningful discussion around major issues which continue to be the day to day concerns of the people of the UK; peace, health, homes and jobs.

This travesty is exacerbated by the fact that the Tories are only able to notionally govern as they are propped up by the votes of the unrepresentative gangsters from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  The DUP pose as defenders of Northern Irish integrity but in reality continue to pursue their sectional and sectarian interests, in defending the rights and privileges of one section of the community in the annexed statelet.

The DUP plea for Northern Ireland to be treated the same as the rest of the UK in the withdrawal process contradicts their stand on social issues such as gay rights and abortion, where they are happy for the position in Northern Ireland to remain driven by their bigoted agenda.

The DUP position is reinforced by their ideological bedfellows in the European Reform Group (ERG), who are equally reactionary in their social policy and equally committed to steering the UK towards a no-deal Brexit.

The pressure to avoid no-deal continues to be the default position in Parliament, the media generally and, insofar as it is possible to gauge, with large sections of the population.  The Put It To The People campaign will no doubt point to the demonstration in London this weekend, in favour of a second referendum, and the four million signatures to the petition calling for the same as evidence of this.   A far as the evidence is presented, this would not appear to be an unreasonable position.

The anti no-deal tendency however is little more than a cover for the long running covert campaign to remain in the European Union.  If no-deal is off the table then the UK must leave with a deal.  The deal presented by the Prime Minister has been rejected twice by the House of Commons.  She may not test it a third time.  The deal proposed by the Labour Party has also suffered defeat in the House of Commons.  Remainers argue that if no-one can agree a deal, the only options are to remain, or go to a so-called People’s Vote.

The Labour Party position, to have a UK wide customs union, close alignment with the single market and co-operation on workers’ rights, environmental and security issues, is one around which the EU would be prepared to negotiate.  Its chances in the House of Commons however have been sabotaged by those in the Labour Party committed to remain in the EU at all costs, in spite of having been elected on a manifesto which promised to deliver Brexit.

The departure into political exile of Chukka Umunna and the so called Independent Group (IG) has simply reduced Labour’s voting power in the Commons.  More sinister is the formation of the Future Britain Group, spearheaded by Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.  When the IG made their move on the 18th February Tom Watson lamented their departure, suggesting that a front bench reshuffle would be in order to accommodate different views within Labour.

Watson was less keen to publicise that on the very day of the IG departure (18th February) the website domain name futurebritaingroup.co.uk was registered.  Less than three weeks later, on 9th March, Watson announced the formation of the Future Britain Group, an open faction within the Labour Party.  All coincidence?  Perhaps…..

It is not surprising that Watson will be addressing the Put It To The People march in London this weekend.  The remain faction in Labour is alive and kicking.  Their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn at all costs continues to be their modus operandi.  In that respect they are effectively working hand in glove with the DUP and the ERG on an ‘anything or anyone but Corbyn’ agenda.

Where the voting will go and how factions will align and divide in the House of Commons next week is anyone’s guess but no-deal is looking like a distinctly possible outcome.  If that is the case then it must be followed by a real People’s Vote, in the form of a General Election, a chance to put the Labour programme in its entirety in front of the British people.

Now that would be worth marching for.

Is the Iranian regime anti-imperialist?

8th March 2019

The occasion of the 40th anniversary of the revolution in Iran has resulted in a plethora of articles analysing the origins of the revolution and its development.  Jamshid Ahmadi assesses the reality.

iran demo Protests against the regime and Western intervention, a daily feature of life in Iran

The mantra that my enemy’s enemy is my friend can have some mileage and as a starting point in assessing our attitude towards any given regime may not be bad place to begin.  However, it is a dangerous principle to apply too rigidly because, in many circumstances, the complexities beneath the surface require a more nuanced response.  Very little in international politics is strictly black and white.

This is particularly the case when considering the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the attitude that the Left should adopt towards the regime.

There can be no doubt that the basis of the 1979 revolution was a progressive one, in spite of the widespread portrayal in the Western media of despots deposing the Western friendly regime of the Shah.

The Shah’s power base was the British and United States oil corporations who had installed him in power in 1953, in an MI6 and CIA backed coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh.  The administration under Mossadegh had initiated a process of nationalising the oil industry and had kicked out British contractors.  The plan was to take back Iranian oil assets for the benefit of the Iranian people, rather than the Anglo-Iranian Oil Corporation who had controlled Iran’s natural assets for most of the twentieth century.

Not surprisingly, the leeching away of Iran’s natural resources to line the pockets of Western millionaires proved to be an unpopular approach with broad sections of the Iranian people.  While the Shah was able to create a relatively prosperous middle class, on the back of oil and gas revenues, the lot of Iranian workers was one of low pay, uncertain employment and widespread poverty.

SAVAK, the Shah’s infamous secret police, were used by the regime to keep the population in line and to quash any sign of protest or unrest.  Nevertheless, protests began at least two years before the revolution in February 1979, with workers defying the authorities and taking to the streets.  Their demands focussed upon an end to the repressive regime of the Shah and calls for a system based upon democracy and social justice.

That the demands of the working class and the Left also chimed with those of the clergy ensured that the base of the national democratic revolution, which saw the overthrow of the Shah, was a broad and popular one.

The overthrow of a staunch ally inevitably meant that the Western powers characterised the revolution as hostile to their interests.  The holding of 52 US hostages in the former US Embassy in Tehran, from November 1979 until January 1981, only exacerbated the image of the revolution that the West sought to portray.

The position was further complicated by the Western inspired attack upon Iran by Iraq, in September 1980, which initiated a conflict that was to last eight years and cost over 1 million lives.  The war also became a key source of income for the West’s military industrial complex.  At one stage the UK government were training Iraqi pilots while selling anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran.

Internally however the war was the means by which the clergy consolidated its power inside Iran.  Calls to unite the nation against the Iraqi invader went hand in hand with attacks upon the Left, which resulted in imprisonment, torture and exile for many.  While the Left was far from supine in the face of this onslaught it was not united.  Calls for a people’s front, against the subverting of the aims of the revolution by the clergy, did not result in the required unification of Left forces.  Within three years the clergy had managed to secure complete control of the entire state apparatus.

While the initial demands of the national democratic revolution in 1979, for peace, social justice and democracy were undoubtedly anti-imperialist in character there is nothing to commend the subsequent theocratic takeover of all levers of power by the reactionary clergy.

The record of the regime on human rights, social justice and equality is nothing short of appalling and has been rightly condemned by solidarity organisations around the world.  The unjust imprisonment, torture and execution of trade union activists, women and the political opposition continues unabated.  The basic freedoms of expression and assembly are denied to those critical of the regime.

In economic terms the oil and gas wealth of the nation now lines the pockets of the corrupt clergy and their allies, rather than the Western corporations.  The outcome for the ordinary people of Iran is little different to the days of the Shah, with unemployment, unpaid wages and poverty prevalent.

The Iranian regime has been inflicting abuses upon its citizens for nearly forty years, so why do some on the Left still see the regime in Iran as an ally in the wider anti-imperialist struggle?

While brute force has been the stock in trade of the theocratic dictatorship of the Islamic Republic the regime in Iran has not survived for 40 years without employing a certain amount of guile.

The international balance of forces has shifted over that time, with the defeat of the Soviet Union, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the intensification of the oppression of the people of Palestine by the state of Israel, being key features of the current period.

The Iranian regime has positioned itself in direct opposition to US allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia; supported Syrian President Bashir al Assad against external Western intervention; and supported Houthi rebels in Yemen, resisting the onslaught of the Western armed Saudi coalition.

Recent talks in Moscow, with leaders from Russia and Turkey, to seek a resolution to the civil war in Syria are designed to reinforce Iran’s anti-Western appeal.  Trade deals with China, North Korea and Venezuela also help reinforce Iran’s position as part of an anti-Western camp.

However, while chanting anti-Western slogans, the Islamic Republic remains desperate to attract Western investment to prop up its ailing economy.  Technological development is required if the economy in Iran is to progress and reliance on oil sales is vital to the economic survival of the regime.

For the Iranian regime the nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the US, EU and China, was an opportunity to open up the economy for exploitation through the lifting of sanctions.  The reneging on that deal by the Trump administration in the US has plunged the Iranian economy into a tailspin.

The international alliances forged by the Iranian regime are not out of a sense of anti-imperialist solidarity but the need to shore up the theocracy at any cost.  Like the last days of the Shah, the Islamic clergy are increasingly blind to the reality of protests around them.  Across eighty cities there were protests and demonstrations, on a massive scale in January 2018 and action has continued in a wide range of workplaces and cities since then.

The task for the Left in the West is not to find justifications for supporting the Iranian regime as some kind of anti-imperialist bastion.  On the contrary, as in the time of the Shah, it is the Iranian people feeling the brunt of the repressive policies of the regime who need international support and solidarity.  The demands of protesters over the past year have become increasingly political in character, demanding an end to the widespread corruption practiced by the regime and seeking a democratic way forward for Iran.

As the situation inside the country becomes more volatile there can be no doubt that the West will seek to impose a solution.  It is not beyond the bounds of the West to go the route explored in Syria and look to create a Free Iranian Army as a conduit for cash and weapons.

This would spell disaster for the Iranian people.  Having been thwarted in their national democratic desires once already the Left should not be complicit in the Iranian people being thwarted again.  The future and fate of Iran should be in the hands of its people, without Western political or military interference.

The support of the Left should be firmly on the side of the demands of the people of Iran for peace, social justice and democracy and firmly against the theocratic dictatorship, which for forty years has denied this to them.  Is Iran anti-imperialist?  If that is the right question the answer must be, not yet and it never will be under the current regime or with continued Western interference and intervention.  However, with the support of the Left, the Iranian people may be able to pick up where they left off in 1979 and truly follow through to deliver a real revolution for Iran.

Jamshid Ahmadi is assistant general secretary of Codir, the Committee for Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights. For more information on Codir please visit: www.codir.net

This article first appeared in the Morning Star (5th March 2019)

No More, Mr. Nice Guy?

3rd March 2019

Tom WatsonTom Watson – really as good as he seems?

Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.  There’s a nice guy.  Loves music, goes to Glastonbury.  Realised that he ought to lose weight to address health issues and has done so.  Slimmer, fitter and infinitely plausible sounding.  Just the kind of guy to take the antisemitism row in the Labour Party to the next level.  Who would believe that Tom Watson would be anything other than reasonable?

Tom Watson knows this.  Those stirring up the antisemitism row in the Labour Party know this.  The Mossad agents who, if they are not directing all of this will be wishing they were, know this too.

As Deputy Leader of the Labour Party you would think it would be Tom Watson’s job to know the rules of that party.  There is every chance that he does.  So he will know that there is a clearly stated policy position; clear recommendations from an internal report by Shami Chakrabarti; and clear procedures for dealing with accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.

None of these processes include bypassing democratically agreed structures and taking any complaints you have directly to the Deputy Leader.  Yet this is what Tom Watson is proposing. In spite of any complaints or accusations having to go through an agreed procedure with General Secretary, Jennie Formby, Watson is proposing to tear up the rule book and suggest that complaints come to him.

Quite how Watson is proposing to deal with such complaints is unclear.  There is nothing in the Labour Party rule book to give the Deputy Leader the power of judge and jury when it comes to matters of internal party discipline.  In fact, should Watson read the rule book, he will find that there is no role at all.  Of course, Watson knows this.

So why the grand gesture?  Watson, and those perpetrating the antisemitism row, are waking up to the fact that Labour Party members on the ground know this is a sham, that antisemitism is neither institutional nor endemic within the Labour Party.  The widely reported comments of Chris Williamson MP, at a meeting in Sheffield last week, that Labour has been too apologetic about antisemitism and has been demonised by the media over the issue, hit the mark with many local activists.

Watson could not allow this to pass by without a response that would grab the media headlines.  His suggestion that complaints should go through him was designed to do just that.  With its usual lack of rigour, the BBC spent no time analysing the practicality or legitimacy of Watson’s suggestion but simply ran with it as part of its long running anti-Corbyn agenda.

This weekend The Observer joined the fray with a front page lead article claiming Labour faces new row over efforts to curb antisemitism (The Observer 3rd March 2019), its thinnest piece of journalism in a long time, based on internal emails over a year old, discussing how best to handle procedures internally within the Labour Party.

Internal investigations by the Labour Party and the cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee have exonerated Labour of the “institutional racism” which its detractors claim.  The reality is that for many in the political establishment and media, the prospect of a Labour government which may question, and even criticise, the actions of the Israeli government in Palestine is too much to contemplate.

Many Israelis criticise the actions of their own government.  Many Jews not living in Israel, including Jewish Voice for Labour, are critical of the actions of the Israeli government.  These criticisms are no more tropes for antisemitism than criticism of Donald Trump makes us racially anti-American.  The Israeli government, its flaunting of international law, its illegal policy of occupying Palestine and its random killing of Palestinian demonstrators, are all legitimate areas for debate and criticism.

The antisemitism row within the Labour Party is expressly designed to suppress debate on these issues; conflate legitimate criticism of the Israeli government with racism; and undermine the credibility of the Labour Party in general and its leader in particular.  It is an organised, systemic campaign of vilification, with the clear objective of destabilising the Labour Party and undermining its chances of forming a government.

Tom Watson received nearly £65,000 between December 2015 and June 2018 from pro-Israeli government lobbyists.  At a critical point in the political life of the UK and with the prospect of Labour winning a general election a real possibility, is he really the man to be second in command?  Mossad may think so but should we?

Political Oblivion Beckons for Closet Tories

23rd February 2019

TIG

So called Independent Group smile in the face of political oblivion

Labour splitters finally took the plunge this week with the insignificant seven firstly making their move, to set up the so called Independent Group, closely followed by Labour Friends of Israel Chair, Joan Ryan, and three austerity supporting Tories, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.

Quick to spot an opportunity to hang onto some headline grabbing political coat tails Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, has offered a non aggression pact with any Independent Group MPs who trigger by-elections in their constituencies, by not standing candidates against them.

The flaw in Cable’s plan is all too obvious.  These worthy democrats, advocates of a second vote on the EU referendum, elected on the Labour manifesto of 2017, which clearly stated Labour would seek the best Brexit deal for the UK, are reluctant to stand down and test their views with their own constituents.  The same is true of the Tory troika.

Justification for this was put by Enfield North MP, Joan Ryan, interviewed on Radio 4 this week.  When asked why she would not be standing down to put her position to voters in a by-election she was quite clear as to her reasons.  Slightly paraphrasing, she essentially said that she had made it clear to voters in 2017 that Jeremy Corbyn had no chance of becoming Prime Minister, so they could still vote for her, safe in the knowledge that Corbyn would not end up in Downing St as a result.

Quite what mandate Ryan believes that position gives her is open to question.  The assumption that voters put their cross against her name on that basis, rather than voting for the Labour candidate because Corbyn offered a genuine alternative, is probably delusional.  In any event, it does not suggest that any great efforts will be made to woo Ryan back into the Labour ranks.  She is clearly better left heading towards political oblivion with her cohorts.

The hypocrisy of the Independent Group having shown itself in its first days, there is little that is likely to commend them to an electorate desperate for a resolution to the Brexit issue, an end to austerity and a programme which offers a vision to rebuild the UK economy by investing in people and the regeneration of public sector services.

As the Tory party continues to fracture over the Brexit issue it remains Labour that has the only clear position that can lead the UK to a resolution of the crisis.  Jeremy Corbyn, in his letter to Theresa May, on 6th February clearly articulates what is needed.  A UK wide Customs Union, close alignment with the Single Market, agreement on workers rights, environmental and security issues.

This is a position many EU leaders have said they could do business with.  It is a position which could command the support of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons.  It is a position which exposes the hypocrisy of both the hard right Tory European Reform Group and the closet Tory, Independent Group.

It is a position which it should be easy for Labour MPs to articulate and hold the government to account for failing to deliver.

Three Cabinet Ministers, led by Amber Rudd, are calling upon Theresa May to rule out a no deal Brexit, in line with Labour’s position, and are preparing to vote for an amendment in the House of Commons to this effect.  What little support May thought she could hang onto is clearly dwindling.  The Tories are limbering up for a leadership challenge in the summer and are beginning to jostle for position.

At a time when a united opposition is the real necessary ingredient to continue the push for a general election, the Labour right wing create a diversion by putting their own personal position and egos before the needs of the people.  The Independent Group is a sham.  Once its members are put to a vote of the people, it will quickly be exposed as one.  The sooner we can get to that point and have a Labour government with a radical programme of reform elected, the better.

Mexican Wall stand-off

17th February 2019

Trump WallTrump and cohorts examine a wall ‘prototype’

United States president, Donald Trump, has declared a “national emergency” on the country’s southern border with Mexico, in an attempt to secure the funds to build the controversial wall between the two countries.  Trump’s announcement was linked with his willingness to sign a bill to avoid another government shutdown, the last of which lasted for 35 days over the Xmas and New Year period, and affected 800,000 public sector employees.

Many of the federal workers, who were locked out or forced to work without pay for five weeks, still have not been paid, are struggling with rent and mortgage arrears and many are threatened by property repossession, such are Trump’s ‘man of the people’ credentials.

The bill, which released federal funds and avoided another government shutdown, sanctioned the release of $333 billion of which only $1.3 billion was designated for “border security”, Trump’s euphemism for the wall, which is well short of the estimated $5 billion + required to build a structure along the 2000 mile border with Mexico.

Opponents have already questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s declaration under the National Emergencies Act, which was designed to allocate funds to major natural disasters or catastrophic events.

Senator Bernie Sanders has made his opposition plain, stating,

“It is clear to me that there is not a ‘national emergency’ with regard to the southern border.  What President Trump is doing is unlawful and must be opposed vigorously in the courts and legislatively.”

Sanders is one of the promoters of two bills in Congress aimed at preventing the president from diverting military construction and disaster relief funds into the building of the wall.  House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi has been clear that,

“This is not a national emergency and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”  Adding that, “Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and…naked contempt for the rule of law.”

Attorney Generals from states across the US are preparing legal challenges if Trump looks to divert federal funds for the border wall project.

While the national emergency is widely seen by Democrats as a money grab by the President, the Communist Party of the USA has seen even more sinister intent behind the move.  In the People’s World (15/2/19) paper of the CPUSA, it was suggested that for most Republicans building the wall was not the main issue,

“What they really want is to keep the issue alive to stir up racism and fear among white voters. Their hope is that white voters in general, like much of the Trump base, will see immigrants and people of color as the enemy. That fear plus fear of socialism and communism and the fear that Democrats are the party of all those “invaders” and “socialists” seems to be the way they want to go for the 2020 Trump re-election campaign. And even if Trump is impeached the strategy will work, they hope, for the rest of the Republican Party. The phony “national emergency” helps lay the groundwork for this racist strategy while, at the same time, testing just how far the president can go in overthrowing constitutional norms.”

Pro-Latino groups in the US have certainly expressed concern that, whether or not the wall gets built, Trump is drumming up a racist agenda with more money for beds in detention centres and a massive increase in agents to run down undocumented migrants.  The scapegoating of the Latino community as criminals certainly appears to be a key focus of the funding package and one which representatives of the Latino communities in the US intend to vigorously oppose.

Trump himself has been his usual blasé self, announcing in a press conference,

“We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we’ll get another bad ruling and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court.”

Clearly Trump is relying upon the conservative Supreme Court to go his way but, even without this outcome, the legal wrangling will no doubt fuel his re-election campaign as 2020 approaches.  Without a single brick being laid in the building of a wall Trump’s racist agenda will set the tone for the next battle for the White House.  The Democrats will need a determined and pro-people based campaign to make sure the Trump bandwagon does not gather momentum.

Corbyn Clears the Way

9th February 2019                                                    

Corbyn letter                Corbyn outlines the way forward for Theresa May

The dead end option of a second Brexit referendum, beloved of the right wing in the Labour Party determined to oppose Jeremy Corbyn at all costs, slipped further from view this week.  The ostensibly unlikely cause of this retreat was correspondence from Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, setting out the basis for a Brexit which would avoid the dreaded No Deal option.

Corbyn, reflecting Labour Conference policy, has been consistent in his position in advocating a UK wide Customs Union with the EU, taking out the backstop argument at a stroke, and close alignment with the Single Market, “underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, with clear arrangements for dispute resolution.”

Corbyn goes on to outline the need for dynamic alignment with rights and protections for UK workers; commitments to engagement in EU agencies relating to the environment, education and industrial regulation; and agreements on the detail of future security arrangements.

In spite of the insistence of the BBC and other sections of the media that Labour has no policy on Brexit, it is clear from Corbyn’s letter that Labour clearly has and, if in government, would be prepared to implement it.

The waters are muddied not just by the media however but by the right wing in both the Labour and Tory parties.   The European Reform Group (ERG) of Jacob Rees-Mogg et al, would happily leave the EU without a deal and go straight to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.  At this stage in the negotiations, with Parliament set against a No Deal option and business unprepared for anything more than a transition period, the ERG position is more out of touch than ever.

The ERG, in cahoots with the DUP, do command enough votes to torpedo any deal May puts to Parliament, unless she can win Labour support.  Corbyn’s programme offers that opportunity but May fears that the right wing in her party will split and the Tories fall apart.  The ERG so far have supported May in crucial votes, if only to keep a General Election at bay.

Labour progress is hampered by the antics of the so called People’s Vote group of MPs around Chuka Umunna, who insist that a second referendum is the only way forward.  The People’s Vote is essentially a Remain front organisation, convinced that a further vote would change the result of the 2016 referendum.  This is a huge gamble but the MPs associated with this group are equally concerned to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership, taking to social and any other form of media, as often as they can to do so.

The People’s Vote response to Corbyn’s letter has been described as apoplectic, a sign that they are being outmanoeuvred.  Other EU leaders have welcomed the approach outlined by Corbyn as a way forward.  There are rumours that a breakaway party of right wing Labour MPs could be formed as early as next week, a reflection of the tactics adopted by the Social Democrats (SDP) splitting from Labour in the 1980’s.

Any so called ‘centre’ party is likely to suffer the same political ignominy as the SDP but could still do untold political harm in the short term.  Ironically, although they may never admit it publicly, the Labour splitters share the same aim as the Tory ERG; keep Corbyn out of 10, Downing St.

Whether the backstabbers in Labour make their move, or dither hopelessly as the ERG did in its failed coup against Theresa May, remains to be seen.  What is clear however is that the only way out of the present impasse is not being offered by the right wing of Labour, or the right wing of the Tories.  It is not being offered by the Government.  The only credible way forward, currently on offer, is coming from the Leader of the Opposition.

White House hawks have no answers

2nd February 2019

PompeoBolton

White House hawks – Mike Pompeo and John Bolton

With US intervention back on the international agenda in Venezuela, White House hawks, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton, have not taken their eye off US long term ambitions in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, managed to squeeze in a tour which took in eight Middle East countries in the space of a week last month, summing up his mission in a speech in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as

“The need to counter the greatest threat of all in the Middle East, the Iranian regime and its campaigns of terrorism and destruction.”

Pompeo’s aim has been to build a coalition of the willing in the Middle East with the ostensible aim of rolling back Iranian influence in the region, for which can be read, asserting US dominance wherever possible.

While the United States has clear allegiances with both Saudi Arabia and Israel in the region its influence elsewhere has been diminished due to its history of military and economic intervention.    The Iranian regime is an easy target because of its history of opposition to the United States, its support amongst the Shia Muslims in the region, in opposition to Sunni led Saudi Arabia, and its adventurous foreign policy which the US can characterise as a threat.

Pompeo’s message appears to have been well received among Sunni Arab leaders, with Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, saying in a news conference with Pompeo in Amman,

“We all have problems with Iran’s expansionist policies in the region.  All Arab countries, and I think the United States too, would want healthy relations based on the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the other, and respecting the sovereignty of other countries.”

In Cairo, Pompeo said that Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan had been “instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions,” adding that Bahrain was working to combat Iran’s “illicit maritime activities” in the region.

Quite how close this is to a unified Arab coalition against Iran, the long term goal of the US, is hard to gauge and Pompeo may have been offered warm words in friendly capitals just to make sure military and economic aid keeps flowing.

The Pentagon are certainly concerned that US leverage may be on the wane, due to the recent announcement that troops will be pulled out of Syria, and concern has been expressed that the hawkish position taken by John Bolton could precipitate a conflict when US influence is at a low ebb.

Bolton directed the National Security Council to ask the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. Since Bolton took on his role in April, he has intensified the administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran, being instrumental in persuading President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal last year.

The twin offensive was continued when Pompeo was interviewed via video link to delegates to the World Economic Forum in Davos recently, where he stated,

“…the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran is very real. You mentioned Yemen. You mentioned Syria. I think you talked about the challenges of Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon. It’s still the case that Iran is striving to reduce Iraqi freedom, sovereignty, and independence. Those are places where Iran is truly the malign actor, and it’s why we’re so happy that the coalition that we’ve built out…. is so central to creating the stability that the people of the Middle East so richly deserve.”

The recent intervention by the United States in Venezuela has seen both Pompeo and Bolton leading the charge in the misinformation campaign against the legitimate government of Nicolás Maduro and flying the flag for greater US interference in the affairs of Venezuela.

The government of Iran by no means enjoys the popular support that the Maduro government does but the future of Iran should be in the hands of its people.  The human rights record of the Iranian regime and its suppression of political and trade union rights has been widely condemned.  That does not mean that the answer to the situation in Iran lies with the hawks in the White House, far from it, and the Iranian people continue to deserve our support in their struggle for peace, human rights and democracy.

Stop US Interference in Venezuela

27th January 2019

maduro

Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, under pressure from a US backed coup

The creeping coup d’etat against the government of Venezuela took a new turn this week when minor right wing senator, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president.  The move was immediately backed by right wing allies in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Canada in what has clearly been a co-ordinated move to intensify the interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

CIA backed opposition groups have been active within the country since the death of former president Hugo Chavez in 2013, resulting in a steady flow of economic and civil disruption.  The clear aim has been to reverse the progressive gains of the Chavez years by undermining his successor, Nicolás Maduro, in an attempt to make Venezuela safe once again for international capital.

US foreign policy has been left in the hands of administration hawks such as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who have spearheaded the disinformation campaign against the Venezuelan government.

Pompeo has called for the Organisation of American States (OAS) to side with the opposition in an attempt to isolate Maduro stating, without a hint of irony,

“All OAS member states must align themselves with democracy and respect for the rule of law.”

Bolton has hinted at US action to undermine the revenues of the Venezuelan government stating,

“We think consistent with our recognition of Juan Guaidó as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela that those revenues should go tot the legitimate government.  It’s very complicated we’re looking at a lot of different things we have to do, but that’s in the process.”

As a state which has maintained an illegal economic blockade against the island of Cuba for almost 60 years, the threats by the United States against Venezuela should not be taken lightly.

A resolution discussed by the OAS calling for the recognition of Guaidó passes over its founding Charter and was endorsed by only 16 of the 34 members of the body. It was firmly rejected by Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bolivia, El Salvador and Dominica, while Mexico recognised the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their political system without external pressure.

The representative of Venezuela, Asbina Ixchel Marín, declared,

“In Venezuela, a coup took place, promoted by a group of countries that claim to justify it here in the OAS. It is a violation of the rules of international law. This session is an outrage to the OAS Charter, the Constitution of Venezuela and our people. We reject your call and no act that occurs here will be valid. ”

US action in Venezuela has not yet had the unequivocal backing of European nations but it appears to be only a question of time.   UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has echoed positions taken in Germany, France and Spain that the coup d’etat government would be recognised if Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, did not call elections in eight days.  Pedalling the US line that the 2018 elections which endorsed Maduro as president were “deeply flawed”, in spite of being recognised as transparent by a range of international observers, the UK action is in danger of adding to chaos in Venezuela.

So far the military have continued to back the legitimate president, Nicolás Maduro, with defence minister Vladimir Padrino stating that the coup attempt risked bringing “chaos and anarchy” to the country, going on to state,

“I have to alert the people of Venezuela to the severe danger that this represents to our integrity and national sovereignty.”

Given the recent history of US military interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria there is a growing fear that this option will not be off the table for the US in Venezuela.  John Bolton, in particular, has been particularly hawkish in his attitude towards Iran, calling openly for military intervention.  He is unlikely to be less strident in his approach to Venezuela.

The US has always been keen to ensure that it own so called ‘backyard’ is safe for US capital, hence the fact that Cuba remains a thorn in its side.  It is no surprise that the coup attempt in Venezuela follows closely upon the election of right wing Donald Trump supporter, Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil.

Unless checked now, US interference across South America, either through economic pressure or direct military intervention is only likely to increase.  That is an issue not just for the people of South America but for progressive people across the world.

 

All Washed Up

20th January 2019

may washed(2)

Washed up UK Premier, Theresa May

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has nowhere left to go.  Politically she is all washed up. On Tuesday night she suffered the biggest Parliamentary defeat of any Prime Minister in history, when her Brexit deal was lost by a margin of 230 votes.  A day later she won a vote of confidence in her government by a margin of 19 votes.  What do these seemingly contradictory votes tell us?

Essentially May is a hostage to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) thugs in Northern Ireland and the so called European Reform Group (ERG) in her own party, led by the Member for the eighteenth century, Jacob Rees-Mogg.  Both groups are dead against May’s Brexit deal, along with many other MPs, but could not bring themselves to vote down the government itself, as they have vested interests in preventing a General Election which could hand the keys of 10, Downing St to Jeremy Corbyn.

Both groups know that a Corbyn led government would re-open negotiations with the EU, something the EU would have to accept on the basis of the government having a new mandate, and seek to negotiate a Brexit in the interest of the people of the UK, not the banks, corporations and the City of London.

This is exactly why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rejected the offer of talks extended by Theresa May as a stunt.  May, having failed to negotiate a deal in the so called ‘national interest’ over a two year period, had the temerity to suggest that it was the duty of opposition leaders to meet with her to find a solution to the Brexit impasse.  Corbyn has made it clear that he will only meet if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is off the table.  May will not make that promise for fear of alienating the DUP and ERG.

Ironically, those leaders from the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Scottish Nationalists, who have met with May, have demanded that taking no-deal off the table is a condition of any progress.  Only Corbyn was brave enough to make it a condition of talking to May in the first place, hence the usual vitriol from the right wing press about Corbyn not acting in the national interest.

The national interest for Corbyn is not the interests of the banks, corporations and City of London but the interests of ordinary people, for whom the EU has been a disaster for most of the 40 years of UK membership, and certainly over the past ten years of enforced austerity.

As ever though the Labour leader is having to walk a fine line.  There is a cohort within the Labour Party still believing that remain is the best solution and that the EU is the greatest political protection for peace and workers rights.  Others have threatened resignations if there is a second referendum. as they see that as a betrayal of the first vote and the expressed majority desire to leave the EU.

As Corbyn has consistently argued, the only real way out of the impasse is a General Election which gives a new government the mandate to negotiate with the EU.  In the short term that would require a suspension of Article 50 and an extension of any transition period before departure.  That election would need to be fought on the basis of Labour being clear that it will negotiate a Brexit deal; that the EU does not act, or allow a UK government to act, in the best interests of its people; and that the election itself would be a genuine people’s vote, as opposed to the spurious demand from some in the political centre.

In short it is not a campaign for a so called people’s vote that is required but a clear articulation of the need for a people’s departure from the EU.  Any other solution, usually characterised as bringing together a divided nation, is merely fudge.  The nation is divided over Brexit, the challenge is to takes sides and raise the standard for a people’s leave, that puts to bed the delusion that the EU is an expression of internationalism and defender of workers’ rights once and for all.

The Second Vote Delusion

13th January 2019                                                    

pro eu protest

Pro EU demonstrations – London March 2018

The British political establishment are increasingly mobilising for a second referendum in order to break what they describe as the impasse over Brexit.  General opinion appears to suggest that little public change has taken place since the 2016 referendum and the outcome could be exactly the same.  The real driver behind the second referendum call is not a desire for democracy, the cloak in which it is draped, but a desire to get a ‘remain’ outcome and thereby halt the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The craven pro EU Liberal Democrats back the second referendum, as do the Green Party, much of the liberal media and increasing sections of the anti-Corbyn Parliamentary Labour Party.   Tony Blair has periodically been wheeled out by the media to trumpet his call for a centrist alliance, possibly even a new centre party, anything to dilute the influence of a left leaning Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

The problem for Corbyn over the coming weeks is that he will not be able to rely upon the support of his Parliamentary colleagues in his effort to expose the failure of the government and bring about a general election.  Theresa May, it is widely expected, will lose the Parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday.  It is now widely expected that Jeremy Corbyn will follow that defeat with a call for a vote of no confidence in the government, on the basis that the call being made any later would not allow for an election before the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019.

However, Corbyn will not win a vote of no confidence in the government because the DUP, unless things change in the next couple of days, will not back such a move, Tory MPs are equally unlikely to defect in favour of a general election, which could see them losing their seats, and the Parliamentary Labour Party is not a body of support which can be relied upon.

So, May loses the Brexit vote and Corbyn does not succeed in winning a vote of no confidence in the government; where to go?

The pressure for May to resign will increase from inside her own party, especially if she loses heavily.  However, trading one Tory for another is ultimately neither here nor there.  Apart from the hard core Little Englander right wing, of the Jacob Rees-Mogg variety, the Tories are predominantly pro-EU.  They can see the EU for what it is, the continuation of Thatcherism by other means, and they have been desperate since the outcome of the referendum to find a way back to a remain position and to revoke Article 50.

More serious than internal Tory strife will be the pressure from within Labour for Corbyn to back the call for a second referendum.  Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge for example has said,

“The time for prevarication is over.  If May’s deal fails we have to test the will of the House and if we fail, we must consider all options including campaigning for a second referendum as this is party policy.”

Quite what the question would be in a second referendum however is not clear.  London Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is leading the push for a second referendum and seems to be even more deluded about its likely outcome saying,

“A public vote would not only allow us to move beyond the current stalemate but would actually start the desperately needed process of healing the deep divisions that have opened up within our society.”

Khan has not been living in the real world if he really believes the ‘deep divisions’ within our society only emerged as a result of the referendum.  He is even further removed if he thinks the outcome of a second vote is a solution.  What if ‘leave’ wins again? What if there is a small margin in favour of ‘remain’?

Khan is keen to suggest that “the EU has been a force for good for generations – boosting our living standards, strengthening workers’ rights and acting as the greatest movement for peace and democracy the world has ever seen.” (The Observer 13th January 2019)

How far those on universal credit, or austerity driven zero hours contracts feel the boost in living standards, might be something for Khan to contemplate.  The same considerations apply to workers’ rights, which have been progressively eroded over the whole period of EU membership, with increasing constraints on trade union activity and membership.  As for peace and democracy, the migrant crisis is just one example of the EU siding with US policy in the Middle East, to support interventions which have resulted in the deaths and displacement of millions.

Given the current alignment of political forces, and the overwhelming desire of the UK political establishment, a second referendum may well be on the cards.  Just don’t expect it to provide any magic solutions.

 

Resistance to reactionary Bolsonaro

6th January 2019

lula

The largest economies in both North and South America are now under the control of deranged right wing, anti-people populists, avowedly anti-socialist, anti trade union, anti climate change, anti abortion and generally anti  progress in the interest of ordinary people, of any kind.  The United States has already suffered two years of the presidency of Donald Trump.  Some mitigation, in the form of Democrat control of the House of Representatives, may be in prospect but that has yet to be tested.

This month saw the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as the president of Brazil.  Bolsonaro’s election is the culmination of a creeping right wing coup in Brazil which began with the demonisation and imprisonment of Workers Party president Lula de Silva, followed by the impeachment of his successor Dilma Rouseff on trumped up corruption charges.

The main ‘crimes’ of these Workers Party presidents had been to enact policies which began the shift in the distribution of wealth, away from the banks and corporations in Brazil, and towards the poor and disenfranchised. Following the ongoing example of the Cuban revolution, the Chavez government’s transformation of Venezuela, the progressive polices adopted by Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia, the long term ‘loss’ of Brazil to the international corporations was too much to contemplate.

In his swearing in address Bolsonaro promised to help Brazil free itself from “corruption, criminality and economic responsibility and economic submission.” For Bolsonaro this translates into plans to allow commercial mining and farming on protected indigenous reserves.  Little wonder that the powerful agribusiness sector in Brazil, for whom he has promised “less bureaucracy”, have given him its backing.

Bolsonaro has already ditched plans to host a key UN climate conference next year and has appointed a foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, who regards climate change as a Marxist plot.

Bolsonaro’s social agenda takes little working out from his promise that,

“We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots.  We are going to unite the people, rescue the family, respect religions and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat genre ideology, conserving our values.”

His appointment of anti abortion evangelical preacher, Damares Alves, to head a new ministry overseeing families, women, human rights and indigenous communities reinforces the reactionary nature of Bolsonaro’s programme.

The link between Trump and Bolsonaro is by no means fanciful with Trump heralding Bolsonaro’s “great inauguration speech” and the Brazilian president responding that,

“I truly appreciate your words of encouragement.  Together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people.”

On his first day in office Bolsonaro immediately reduced the proposed increase in the minimum wage, an adjustment which will immediately impact upon 48 million workers in Brazil.

Bolsonaro has expressed support for the military dictatorship which ran Brazil from 1964 – 1985.  His vice-president is retired army general, Hamilton Mourão.

The Workers Party continue to lead resistance to the Bolsonaro government and, through the Popular Committee for the Defence of Lula and Democracy, the ongoing campaign against the imprisonment of former president Lula and the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.  Progressive Brazil is in for a long struggle.

http://www.pt.org.br/artigos/

Cuba 60

1st January 2019

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

Cuba 60 pic