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

jewsstandwith960-513x346

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.