Take a chance on May? No Thanks!

26th November 2018

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 Jeremy Corbyn outlines a Labour Brexit at the CBI last week

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, follows her party conference Dancing Queen embarrassment with another Abba themed pitch today, as she appeals to the British public and the House of Commons to take a chance on me.  The Brexit deal negotiated over the last two years with the EU is, May tells us, the best possible deal.  It is a rare moment of concurrence with President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also desperate to get a deal concluded, who has made it clear that this is the only deal on the table.

It took leaders of the EU 27 states less than an hour to sign off on the deal and the mood music suggests that there is little if any room for manoeuvre as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.  For May, in a premiership which has been defined entirely by Brexit, it is a case of this deal or no deal at all.  She clearly sees the endgame in terms of her time as both PM and Tory Party leader and has decided that she will stand or fall on the ground she has marked out.

The deal will go before the House of Commons this side of Xmas.  All of the politics and Parliamentary arithmetic at the moment suggests that it will not be passed.  The fascist bully boys of the DUP, whom May has leaned upon to prop up her government, have branded the deal “pitiful and pathetic”.  They are unhappy about Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK due to its land border with the Republic of Ireland but are essentially scared that the deal opens the way to a United Ireland by the back door.

May herself has vowed to defend the fiction of the so called United Kingdom, a defence of the historic partition of Ireland, but the DUP do not regard this as enough assurance.  The pro-Brexit European Reform Group, led by the anti-charismatic Jacob Rees-Mogg, are equally concerned by the defence of the union issue, as well as the timescale on any transition period, and would rather see a no deal scenario with the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules than a deal which gave the EU any say beyond 29th March 2019.

The much vaunted challenge to May, which Rees-Mogg and his plotters have trailed for months has still failed to materialise, betraying either a lack of nerve or a lack of numbers in their ranks.  While it seems likely that they could muster the 48 ‘letters’ needed to trigger a leadership contest, the 150+ votes needed to oust May seem less likely to be forthcoming.   Without a clear leader, who could command majority support even amongst Tories, the pro Brexit faction are worried about handing the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.

In his speech to the CBI recently, Corbyn set out the key elements of what he has described as Labour’s “sensible” approach to the Brexit issue.

Instead of the temporary customs arrangement May has signed up to as a backstop, to prevent a hard border in Ireland, Corbyn has underlined Labour’s backing for a permanent customs union.

Corbyn has been quite emphatic that,

“This is a bad deal for the country. It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.

“That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”

Corbyn has also stressed the need for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be protected to prevent a “race to the bottom”, a live issue given that EU membership has seen a proliferation of low paid jobs and zero hours contracts across the UK.

Corbyn has also called for “a strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring we have the powers to support our public services and industry and transform the economy in all our regions and nations.”

With the Commons vote now confirmed for 11th December the ground is likely to move quickly.  Support for Brexit within Labour’s ranks is by no means solid, with a cohort led by Chuka Umunna seeking to press for a second referendum, rather than accepting the result of the first.  A lack of discipline in Labour ranks could certainly complicate the Parliamentary arithmetic in the short term and even jeopardise the chances of a Labour government being elected.

There are those in Labour ranks who would rather see a pro Remain Tory government than a pro Brexit Labour, such is their lack of class awareness.  Now is the time for Labour to hold firm to its present position, defeat the shambles which is the May government, then from a position of strength in government, negotiate a Brexit deal which works for the people of Britain, not just its banks and corporations.

 

 

Trust

30th September 2018

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 Jeremy Corbyn – a triumphant speech to Labour conference

Trust is a most sought after commodity in politics.  Trust between candidates and voters.  Trust between colleagues within political parties, particularly if they are in government.  Trust in the system to deliver opportunity and reward for those prepared to work hard.  Peace, health, homes, and jobs continue to be the things that people need now and have needed since time immemorial.  People need to be able to trust in a system that will make these things attainable.

There is a growing narrative on the Left that trust has been eroded over the past decade.  The banking crisis of a decade ago not only exposed the precarious nature of the casino economy of the banks but rubbed salt into the wound, when taxpayers had to pay the gambling debts for bets that did not pay off.

The past decade has also seen the series of scandals associated with TV personalities, their ability to get away with sexual abuse, and the complicity of the authorities in covering up such abuse.  The LIBOR rate fixing scandal, another banking scam, was exposed in the past decade.  Broken promises to address tuition fees for students and a decade of politically driven austerity, punishing the poor while the rich continue to thrive, are part of the legacy of the 2010 – 15 Tory led coalition government.

Sexual revelations have generated the #MeToo movement, seen US entertainer Bill Cosby imprisoned and Donald Trump’s candidate for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on the ropes over his sexual activities. Trump will no doubt find an equally right wing candidate, should Kavanaugh’s nomination be rejected.  However, as well as the issues raised about how victims of sexual assault are treated publicly, the power of the Supreme Court and its role in shaping life in the US have been questioned.

Who can we trust?

The answer to this question is too often framed narrowly by both academics and pundits.  They will implicitly accept that capitalism, as a system, is worthy of trust and with a few modifications is capable of delivering on the needs of the people.  What is required, such commentators argue, is a rebuilding of trust.  We need to reshape and rebuild trust in the banks, trust in the government, trust in the systems and institutions to provide for the many.

A variant of this debate is articulated by Will Hutton in The Observer (30th September 2018) in setting out the case for “stakeholder capitalism”, described by Hutton as,

“…a self-standing, distinct set of interlinked propositions about how capitalism can be made to work for all, requiring a radical change of mindset from the traditional left and libertarian right alike.”

Hutton welcomes the commitment by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, at Labour Party conference last week to demand that every company with more than 250 employees allocate 10% of shares to employees, up to an individual benefit of £500 per person.  Hutton however suggest that MacDonnell should go further and,

“…declare that his aim is to create a new generation of British companies whose strength will be built on the new communities of interest between repurposed trade unions, customers and long term shareholders.”

Hutton is arguing for belief and trust in corporations to act in the public good in order to benefit us all.  He wants us to accept that trust in corporate magnanimity, with some modifications to control their excesses, will reshape capitalism for the benefit of all.  The ‘repurposed’ trade union will presumably be one designed to put the company interest before that of employees and avoid confrontation at all costs.

This is the usual sophistry of the soft Left, faced with the prospect of a Labour government which might actually take some radical steps. MacDonnell’s plan is about sending out a message to companies that they will not have everything their own way under a Labour government. They will have to consider their employees, their rights and to a certain extent give them some stake in the company.  However, a few company shares is not the point.  The main beneficiary of the MacDonnell plan will be the Treasury, which will raise an estimated £1.2bn from the private sector to invest in roads, schools and hospitals rather than going into the pockets of shareholders.

Capitalists are not co-operators.  They are connivers and dodgers.  They will pay employees as little as they can get away with, they will pay as little tax as they can get away with, they will play the system for as much advantage as they can extract from it.  It is naïve to think otherwise.  A programme for a radical Labour government has to be about outsmarting the corporations and, in the first instance, harnessing the resources of the state to support people’s basic needs.

That will involve public investment in roads, transport and housing.  It will require the rebuilding of the devasated public sector infrastructure, modernising the communications infrastructure and diverting funding for weapons of mass destruction into socially useful production.

Ironically, for Will Hutton and commentators of his ilk, the real upsurge in trust in recent years has been the growth of Labour as a mass party and the widespread belief in the trustworthiness and integrity of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Some of those who should be Labour’s allies fail to see this but for the enemies of Labour it is clear.  The orchestrated smear campaigns against Corbyn, from press, media, government and the weak kneed within his own party, are all designed to present an image of Corbyn as incompetent and his ideas as unacceptable.

The real lives of people however cannot be manipulated by social media and press commentary.  The reality of austerity, zero hours jobs, spiralling housing costs and dwindling life chances may not be obvious to the friends of Theresa May, or even Will Hutton, but for many in the so called United Kingdom it is the stuff of their daily lives.

Corbyn, in his speech at Labour conference last week, laid out a vision that can begin to shift that balance.  We all need to get behind it.   We need to trust that with the collective will of the people we can make change happen.

 

Actually existing and imaginary anti semitism

22nd September 2018

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Jeremy Corbyn

✔@jeremycorbyn

Ten years ago today the financial crash began.

The people who caused it now call me a threat. They’re right.

Labour is a threat to a damaging and failed system rigged for the few.

 

Actually existing and imaginary anti semitism

by Nick Wright

It was with a sense of relief that I caught Jeremy Corbyn’s tweet marking the tenth anniversary of the financial crash and setting out Labour’s plans to deal with irresponsible speculative banking practices. This is real substantial politics that goes to the core of the choices facing people in Britain and provides a welcome respite from the highly concocted ‘debate’ around alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Such naivety!

But Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle misses no opportunity. In response to the video he tweeted the following: “Been hesitating to tweet this bevause (sic) I keep thinking it can’t be, surely it can’t be.

But the more I think about it, the more it seems it really is. This is ‘nudge, nudge, you know who I am talking about don’t you?’

And yes I do. It’s appalling.”

As Pollard undoubtedly anticipated this set off a twitter storm in which the more rabid critics of Corbyn made explicit what he implied. Nudge, nudge, know what I mean.

Equally predictable was the response of many people who allowed themselves to be tangled up in his twitter train. Comments ranged from sheer misbelief that even a notably partisan Tory like Pollard could concoct such a thing to a world-weary recognition that nothing less can be expected from the man.

For readers whose mind does not run on the twisted tracks that Pollard lays let me explain. Pollard is saying that in criticising bankers and the banking system Corbyn is giving voice to an age-old antisemitic trope.

There is, of course, no basis for Pollard’s slur. But let us deconstruct this narrative a little.

Bankers are rarely popular and in times of capitalist crisis less so especially among petty-bourgeois commercial interests and small business people whose dependence on credit is nowadays increasingly shared by all working people enmeshed in a tangle of mortgages, credit card debt and borrowing.

Of course, there does exist a subterranean antisemitic trope that conflates bankers with Jewish people. In the inflationary panics of the Weimar Republic, the Nazis played it to the deluded whose votes they sought. But far from challenging the power of finance, Hitler sought its support, and when the foundations of capitalist rule were in danger he found both German and (to the extent they could be separated) international finance willing partners.

Banker Kurt Baron von Schröder’s account of how he hosted the critical meeting between Hitler and Reich Chancellor von Papen is revealing.

“…This meeting between Hitler and Papen on 4 January 1933 in my house in Cologne was arranged by me after Papen had asked me for it on about 10 December 1932. Before I took this step I talked to a number of businessmen and informed myself generally on how the business world viewed a collaboration between the two men. The general desire of businessmen was to see a strong man come to power in Germany who would form a government that would stay in power for a long time. [ . . . ]

And it was international bankers and Montague Slater, governor of the Bank of England, who facilitated the transfer of Czechoslovakia’s gold reserves to Hitler the better to aid his war plans. (The Independent 30 March 1997: The Nazis’ British bankers, Secret war documents may reveal that Germany had staunch allies at the Bank of England).

If some Jewish banking dynasties exist today it is precisely because institutional antisemitism by medieval state and church confined Jews to certain trades including money lending, and these traditions were maintained through the development of mercantile capitalism and are now embedded in the present system of state monopoly capitalism. But in today’s politics, no great explanatory power is mobilised by a futile attempt to separate out “Jewish” capital from capital as a whole or find class interests that distinguish Jewish bankers from others.

For those early socialists who failed to break free from the then prevalent forms of antisemitism the German social democrat, August Bebel defined such beliefs as ‘The socialism of fools.”

It has always been necessary for socialists to make explicit the ways in which occupation and social positioning reveal how successive social systems organise classes. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the vast bulk of Jewish people in Britain were super-exploited workers, in the main garment workers, furniture workers and craftsmen. And if the vast majority of Jewish people in Britain have improved their conditions of life they are as far from the centres of wealth and power occupied by the financial elite as any other British person.

So who is propagating this equation – Jews as bankers. Bankers as Jews.

It is Stephen Pollard who is playing with this antisemitic trope. He does it knowingly precisely in order to mobilise the discourses that present-day social media make possible conscious that this profoundly dishonest tweet will provoke.

But he miscalculated and instead drew criticism down on his own head. His tweet answering the overwhelmingly negative response he provoked is revealing in its faux self-criticism

“I accept all the criticism of this tweet, and that I may be way off beam. But this is what happens when antisemitism is allowed to flourish — and when an antisemite leads a party. You start to read his every word through that prism. Even if the words aren’t about Jews.”

So there you have it. Jeremy Corbyn is responsible for Stephen Pollard’s capitulation to an antisemitic trope.

The public service union leader Mark Serwotka, this year’s president of the Trade Union Congress, made an entirely reasonable point when he suggested that the Israeli State might be interfering in British politics.

A leader in the online newspaper The Independent described this as “the stuff of historical antisemitic tropes” and suggested that now  “If Mr Serwotka is a dedicated anti-racist, he should at least ask himself why he has fallen into this manner of thinking.”

One might ask Stephen Pollard the same question.

Of course, unlike Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged antisemitism Israeli State interference in British public life is not imaginary but rather established fact. It was only a short while back that the Israeli State was compelled to recall a member of its embassy staff here after he was caught on camera discussing — with allies in British political life — how to take down a politician. (In this case, a Conservative deemed to be too much an Arabist.)

In conflating Mark Serwotka’s well-founded comments — which amount to nothing more than straight forward criticism of actions by the Israeli State – with hostility to Jews as such the Independent has given some credence to the narrative upon which reactionary Zionist opinion trades.

Not all bankers are Jewish, not all Jews are bankers. Not all Jews are Zionists, not all Zionists are Jewish. Stephen Pollard might have capitulated to an anti-semitic trope, Mark Serwotka hasn’t.

This original article is from the following site

https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/actually-existing-and-imaginary-anti-semitism/

 

Anti-Semitism row reflects media bias

7th September 2018

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Jeremy Corbyn – under siege by a biased media

The demonisation of Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, by the British government, media and factions within his own party, continues apace as the return to Westminster after the summer recess precedes the party conference season.

The damage inflicted upon Labour by the almost certainly Mossad inspired debate over anti Semitism is hard to calculate.  It has undoubtedly muddied the waters in the fight against racism in the UK.  It has given succour to those who believe that any criticism of the Israeli government and its policies is anti Semitic.  It has proven to be a rallying point for those opposed to a Corbyn government at all costs.

In spite of the fact that Corbyn has overseen the development of the largest mass based social democratic party in Western Europe, boasting more members than the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists combined, the UK media continue to characterise the policies of the Labour opposition and the leadership of Corbyn in particular as unpopular.

A report published in The Independent (19th July 2016) indicated that in the first two months of Corbyn becoming Labour leader,

“Over half of the news articles were critical or antagonistic in tone, compared to two thirds of all editorials and opinion pieces. Besides the almost total lack of support in the latter, especially in the rightwing media, the high level of negativity in the news reporting struck us as noteworthy here….Corbyn’s voice is often absent in the reporting on him, and when it is present it is often presented in a highly distorted way. In terms of the news sources used in the articles, the civil war within Labour is very enthusiastically amplified.”

Ongoing monitoring of the UK media suggests that this has not changed in the two years.  Media coverage of Labour in general and Corbyn in particular remains overwhelmingly negative.  The showing made by Labour in the June 2017 General Election has, if anything, exacerbated this trend as right wing fury at Corbyn’s increased popularity, and the failure of the Theresa May government to rise above the level of debacle, is reflected in the BBC and popular press.

Corbyn is not corrupt, racist or prone to publicly bad mouthing those who oppose him.  He has a long and distinguished history of standing up for the rights of oppressed minorities.  Prominent Middle East author and journalist, Jonathan Cook, has recently commented that in relation to Corbyn,

“It is a sign both of their desperation and their weakness that they have had to resort to the nuclear option, smearing him as an anti-semite.  Other, lesser smears were tried first: that he was not presidential enough to lead Britain; that he was anti-establishment; that he was unpatriotic; that he might be a traitor.  None worked.  If anything, they made him more popular.”

Cook has also highlighted documentary work undertaken by TV channel Al-Jazeera, looking at the work of Israeli lobbyists in the UK and US to interfere in the politics of each country.  The US series has not been aired.  The UK version shows Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, helping to create an anti-Corbyn front organisation in the Labour Party and working closely with the pro-Israeli Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel.

Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) boasts a membership of some 80 Labour MPs, many of whom have been wined and dined on all expenses paid trips.  As a result, the widespread international condemnation of the Israeli killings of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza in May, led LFI to take to Twitter to condemn Hamas, not Israel, for the killings.

Former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, disgraced himself recently by comparing a passage in a speech by Corbyn to that of Tory racist Enoch Powell in 1968, telling the New Statesman that it was,

“the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech”

If Sacks really believes this then he is living in a world far removed from the realities faced by most of the UK’s black and ethnic minority population and has a poor grasp of the depth of the endemic institutionalised racism of the British state.

Corbyn’s offence was to be critical of a group of hardline pro-Israel partisans who had disrupted a Palestinian solidarity meeting, referring to them, in accurate political terms, as Zionists.  The rightwing media have pounced upon this to suggest that Zionist is simply a code word for all Jews and therefore use of the term is anti-Semitic.  This is nonsense of the highest order, not least because not all Zionists are Jews and by no means are all Jews Zionists.  As Corbyn stated in his defence he was using the term “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people”.

Political journalists of any nous will of course understand this.  However, they appear to be either incapable of articulating it, or are unwilling to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

With the conference season up and coming leadership issues, analysis and challenges are always a great media talking point.  Boris Johnson appears to be lining up a tilt at Theresa May’s job and Vince Cable has announced he will, gradually, stand down as Liberal Democrat leader.  Is there an obvious challenger to Corbyn? Not yet but with the British media and establishment firmly in the “anyone but Corbyn” camp, and a chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party leaning the same way, anything is possible.

Whoever emerges and wherever they emerge from, you can bet there is a good chance they will be a Labour Friend of Israel.

 

 

A People’s Brexit beckons

22nd July 2018

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 Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – ready for a snap election

Where politicians start to call for a government of national unity you can usually be sure that there is a war on.  It may not be a shooting war but it is a war all the same.  This week the Tory Remainers, ostensibly to fight off the threat from the so-called European Research Group, headed by the oleaginous Jacob Rees-Mogg, made such a call through their regular mouthpiece, Anna Soubry.

The Remainers are of course fearful that the Rees-Mogg gang will hi-jack the Tory Party and their places and positions of privilege will be lost.  However, they are more fearful still that any moves on the part of the hard core Brexit faction will lead to the downfall of the precariously balanced Theresa May government and allow Jeremy Corbyn into 10, Downing Street.

Soubry and her Remainers, both in the Tory Party and the Labour Party, are pitching to be the new voice of the establishment in the UK.  Along with the Liberal Democrats, a few Scottish Nationalists and the craven Ulster Unionists, who will do all in their power to prevent Irish unification, the Remainers are essentially an extension of the politics of David Cameron, George Osborne and a whole host of Tory leaders before them, including Margaret Thatcher, who saw the future of British capital as being safer inside the European Union than outside it.

The push to become part of the European Economic Community (EEC), as it then was in the 1970’s, was very much an acknowledgement that the post war UK economy needed a new direction and required significant investment in order to develop.  The nationalisation of key industrial sectors, the introduction of comprehensive education and the establishment of the NHS had all provided a firm basis from which to extend social ownership and control of the UK economy.

Counter to this, resistance to controls upon the outflow of capital, lifting constraints upon the City of London and opposition to a progressive tax regime, had been core to the developing Tory agenda, which coalesced around the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.  The reliability of markets in former UK colonies, while still strong and linked through the neo-colonial framework of the Commonwealth, were always likely to diminish, as indigenous capital took hold or liberation resulted in more socialist orientated development.

Alignment to Europe was seen as a buffer against the future diminution of Commonwealth based markets, while at the same time providing an opportunity for UK capital to extend its reach into Europe.  The inability of the ideologically weak 1970’s governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan to build upon the gains of the post war socialisation of the UK economy, paved the way for the election success of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

The first act of the Thatcher government was to free controls on the export of capital and over the course of the following decade went on to oversee the deconstruction of nationalised industries, trade union rights, local government and a progressive education offer.  This was all undertaken with, at the very least the benign indifference, if not the complicity, of the European Union.  The idea that to remain in the EU will in any way guarantee the rights of immigrants, employees, women, the elderly or anyone else is a fantasy with no firm basis.

The current Remainers recognise, as did Thatcher, that the EU is the safest bet for British capital in an increasingly complex and globalised market place.  The call for national unity is merely a call for the defence of British capital.  It in no way reflects the interests of working people in the UK any more than the EU defends the rights of the low paid or unemployed in Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy, the guest workers in Germany or those on zero hours contracts in the UK.

While the Brexit faction may not yet have hi-jacked the Tory Party they have, with the complicity of the media, hijacked the political debate on Brexit.  Long term the case for a non-aligned republican Britain, outside of both NATO and the EU, a re-united Ireland, Trident missiles de-commissioned and the military budget reduced by 50%, with re-investment in the NHS a priority, can easily be made.  None of which would be to the liking of Rees-Mogg and his ilk.

It is probably too big a leap for a first term Corbyn led Labour government.  However, it is encouraging to see that the Labour Front Bench have no less than 35 bills ready for introduction following victory if there is a snap election.  A government which made zero hours contracts illegal, embarked on a programme of Council house building, invested in the NHS and increased penalties for tax dodging corporations would be a start.

The Brexit question would still have to be addressed but it would be from a very different starting point.  An EU resisting a truly popular Labour programme of public investment, which according to current rules it would, may find its liberal façade rapidly crumbling.  Under such a scenario, a people’s Brexit may yet be on the cards.  That General Election would be a start……