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The coming year could prove to be fruitful for the left in US, UK and Latin-America

Though deploring the situation, Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times (extract):

The race to be the next Democratic nominee for the US presidency has begun. Most of the energy in the party seems to be on its “progressive” wing, exemplified by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

These are politicians who attack the rich and privileged in a way that used to be taboo in mainstream US politics.

The populism of the left has an important Latin American branch. The election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of Mexico in 2018 was greeted enthusiastically by the far-left all over the world. Mr Corbyn, once an enthusiastic fan of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, is an old friend of Mr López Obrador and was a guest of honour at his inauguration.

In Britain, the post-Brexit blues could easily present Jeremy Corbyn with the chance to become prime minister.

A Corbyn victory in Britain would inspire left-populists around the world, much as Brexit persuaded rightwing populists (including the Trump campaign) that history was moving in their direction.

*Rachman is a writer I usually avoid, finding his views on many subjects distasteful. However his work is widely praised. The only quotable clue to my aversion is in this review:

“His first book, Zero-Sum World was published in 2010 in the UK. It was published under the title Zero-Sum Future in the US and translated into seven languages, including Chinese, German and Korean. The book argued that the thirty years from 1978–2008 had been shaped by a shared embrace of globalisation by the world’s major powers that had created a “win-win world”, leading to greater peace and prosperity”.

Really?

 

 

 

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‘For the many, not the few’: American socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, unseats the chair of the Democratic Caucus

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was elected in a New York primary, becoming the Democratic Party’s candidate for Congress and unseating Joseph Crowley, chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House.

Shelly Asquith describes this as “an election result that sent shock waves through the US political system . . . “

She adds that Crowley’s campaign outspent Ocasio’s 18-1, with donations from corporations including Google, Facebook, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

Max Crema, a Labour Party member, commented: “Most people in his extremely diverse district have no idea who he [Crowley] is — he doesn’t even live there. He’s just like the rest of the party’s elites … Democratic voters are sick of being taken for granted.”

Running on a platform of free healthcare and university education for all and the abolition of the immigration enforcement department, Ocasio refused corporate funding, instead relying on small donations and a community organising operation.

She will now stand for Congress in Queens and the Bronx, a district that is considered safe for the Democrats. Her win against Crowley will have given fresh hope to Bernie Sanders supporters who hope that he will stand in 2020.

Shelly is reminded of Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership election: “The role of getting students and young people involved couldn’t have been easier: the policies were enough. “The campaign’s energy was wild! Driven almost entirely by young people, the campaign brought together seasoned activists, many of them DSA members, with people newly energised by Alexandria’s passionate championing of progressive ideals: universal healthcare, abolishing ICE and taxing the rich.”

In Ocasio’s viral campaign video she used the slogan “for the many”. Max Crema confirmed that the campaign did look to the Labour Party: 

“Jeremy Corbyn’s repeated victories as Labour leader have been an inspiration to the American left. As much of our country descends into xenophobia and racism, his bold vision for the future has been taken up as a rallying cry.”

Elsewhere in New York, another socialist candidate is vying to unseat another sitting Democrat. Cynthia Nixon is standing for Governor on a similar platform to Ocasio. Labour’s manifesto slogan ‘For the many, not the few’ has been used in her campaign -see her website.

Shelly continues: “What can we learn from this? Young, working-class, migrant communities in particular are leading a revitalisation of socialism in America, especially in the big cities. Like the Labour Party, the Democratic Party is changing. Proximity to the establishment and big money won’t wash, and people are calling out for candidates that cannot be accused of ‘you’re all the same’ “.

As a visit from Donald Trump on July 13th looms, she wonders if the next time a US President visits the UK it would be Bernie Sanders (or a Sanders-ite) visiting Corbyn at Number 10.

And ends: “What a very special relationship that would be”.

 

 

 

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Highlights from ‘In Defence of Radical Politics’ – 2

steve-statsThis paper by Steve Schofield has been republished from his new website in full on this site. It has attracted widespread interest (left, with most readers from UK ). In In Defence of Radical Politics, he continues to look at Labour Party strategies from the 1979 election defeat:

“(T)he over-riding objective of a new generation of parliamentary Labour leaders has been to carry out what, until recent events, was a remorseless elimination, both intellectually and organisationally, of any semblance of radical politics within the party . . .”

Though the rhetoric was of a radical centre and a ‘Third Way’ of providing public services through partnerships with business and through social enterprises, Schofield itemises the reality:

  • a form of creeping privatisation,
  • a distancing from the trade unions
  • and an even closer attachment to an aggressively militarist United States

He continues by looking at grass-roots actions: through the Occupy Movement initially across the United States and into Europe, millions of people came together to challenge the legitimacy of a system that had extended and accelerated the accumulation of wealth and power by a corporate elite at the expense of ordinary working people. Many grass-roots actions volunteer support in New York and New Jersey for communities affected by flooding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, stemmed from this experience of direct democracy, as did the Spanish anti-eviction campaign, Plataforma de Affectados, which spread across the country using civil disobedience and direct action to prevent thousands of families from being evicted. Those radical energies have also led to the growth of anti-austerity parties such as Syriza in Greece, Front de Gauche in France, the Five Star Movement in Italy and Podemos in Spain, all of which have fundamentally challenged social-democratic orthodoxy.

Schofield then turns to the UK and the United States where that power struggle has been played out internally through the Labour Party and the Democratic Party respectively:

“Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders have attempted to re-align their parties around social justice and anti-austerity policies, drawing on the sheer energy and enthusiasm that emerged from the Occupy movement. Sanders, after an extraordinary campaign based on grass-roots support and funding, ultimately failed to gain the nomination but challenged the establishment consensus in a way that would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier . . .”

He gives a brief, definitive explanation for Corbyn’s election:

“For the mass of ordinary members, and those encouraged to participate as supporters with voting rights, the virtual extinguishing of a radical alternative by the Labour elite was intolerable in the face of the crisis facing working class communities. Corbyn’s was an authentic alternative voice that represented how they felt about issues like austerity, privatisation and disarmament. In effect, the Labour movement was attempting to take back the power, through the leadership campaign, that had been lost during the Blairite years with the neutering of party constituencies and conferences, as well as the fracturing of the relationship with the trade unions”.

After an overview of what he sees as ‘irreconcilable differences’ he expresses the need for a new party of the left, combining the traditional strengths of Labour with the new politics of participatory democracy and embracing a range of social movements. It would have to bring together both organised labour and workers without any trade union representation in the precarious world of zero-hour contracts and self-employment; as well as attract left-wing members of other parties like the Greens and the SNP, and the many millions of working people who have become so alienated from politics that they simply don’t vote.

In essence, Schofield writes, this party will be rebuilding a world-view that was second-nature to past generations, steeped as they were in a culture of working-class radicalism.

(Ed: perhaps like the Common Wealth Party?)

Past radical generations would have witnessed the latest crisis as further evidence that capitalism as a system only survives by further extracting the surplus value of labour through profit; they would have looked at the legacy of social democracy as, at best marginal and fragile, and at worst, by embracing much of the neo-liberal economic agenda, a capitulation to the power of capital; finally, they would have been disgusted by the behaviour of the New Labour elite who used their status as senior politicians, only gained through the support of the labour movement, to secure lucrative directorships and consultancies with the very corporations that have benefited from privatisations decimating public services and eroding workers’ pay and conditions. Schofield continues:

“There has never been a better time for organising around a new radical programme. Over recent years, grass-roots initiatives such as community renewable energy projects, co-operative housing schemes and local food networks have provided signposts, albeit on a small scale, of how the economy might break free from the tethers of capitalism”.

He asks: “How can we develop a social wage to reconcile new technologies with the loss of traditional work, or how can we achieve a no-growth economy with zero-carbon emissions that restores the integrity of planetary eco-systems and diversity of life while still providing a material base that benefits all working people?”

Campaigns like the Green New Deal and the Just Transition movement have brought together trade unions and environmental groups in support of just such radical programmes. But the challenge is to embrace the very diversity of these ideas and approaches in a way that can mobilise mass support for radical politics and create a common ground based on a strong ideological vision of a post-capitalist society. This can only be achieved through a vigorous but also generous debate on political and economic priorities, such as on the balance between parliamentary representation and extra-parliamentary action. A vibrant and confident political movement with a strong ideological base and sense of purpose can achieve precisely that. Some core elements are clear in the short-term:

  • public ownership of major utilities and the railways,
  • the reversal of privatisation in the NHS and local government,
  • accelerated council house building and renewable energy programmes
  • and nuclear and conventional disarmament.

However, individual policy areas should only be seen as part of a medium to long-term strategy for a fundamental redistribution of power to working people through devolution and economic democracy leading to a post-capitalist society.

For example, the democratic consensus might be to create a decentralised energy infrastructure based on renewable energy and community ownership. By having increased control over the means of production, working people will be able directly to assess the merits of any economic activity, weighing all issues including employment and environmental factors. If the balance of the argument is that quality of life considerations lead to the rejection of a particular form of production, this can be done in the knowledge that public investment is taking place across a range of socially-useful activities and that necessary work is being equally shared. The traditional threat of unemployment without destructive and wasteful capitalist development will be consigned to history where it belongs.

My own interpretation of the legacy of the radical left has remained the same throughout my lifetime, that it is impossible for working people to realise their own creative capabilities without removing the shackles of capitalist exploitation. Fundamentally, post-capitalism isn’t about a form of economic rationality but human creativity.

The utopia of shared work and the emancipation of time to realise the full potential of every human being is worth any amount of struggle in the face of grotesque inequalities and environmental breakdown that could, if we let the capitalist elite prevail, lead to the destruction of all life on the planet.

 

Read the full article here: http://stevenschofield.co.uk/?page_id=63

 

 

 

Sanders and Corbyn: sounds familiar. Next?

In the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, Senator Bernie Sanders gained 60% of the vote, compared with Hillary Clinton’s 38%. As noted earlier on this site, Sanders has a Corbyn-like appeal for younger voters and is attracting far larger audiences than expected. 

.
bernie 2 sandersThe Times reports that, in a speech to his supporters after the contest, Mr Sanders said the result marked a new era, adding: “What the people here have said is that given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics and establishment economics”. 

“A message that will echo from Wall to Street to Washington”

Sanders’ message that that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their Super PACs [political action committees] and that the economy is rigged in favour of a “billionaire class” struck a chord among New Hampshire voters who did not trust Mrs Clinton and her ties to Wall Street, reference being made to the “1%”.

According to exit polls, income inequality and jobs – two central themes of the Sanders campaign – were the top issues for Democrat voters. More than half said they were dissatisfied with the current state of politics.

They cared more about a candidate’s trustworthiness than about experience or electability, a ranking of priorities that favoured the Vermont senator.

Bernie Sanders has assembled an online fundraising operation and ‘electrified’ the youth vote with promises of a “political revolution” that would bring Scandinavian-type policies to the US.

99%-3

In Canada, Britain, Greece, Italy and Spain also, ‘a sense of revulsion at the political elite’ is leading the popular vote for those seen as trustworthy candidates, who care for the 99%.

Will Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders eventually combine to confound tyranny and usher in a New World Order?

justin 2trudeauJC 4 smallJeremy Corbyn’s support for peacemaking is on record. Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister designate, has confirmed he will withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria ( Watershed)

Will the humane Bernie Sanders continue President Obama’s appalling drone strikes? When asked, Sanders answered, “Yes and no,” pointing out that killing civilians is counter-productive. Drones are “one tool in the arsenal,” he said, that have at times “clearly backfired on us.”

Will there be a fruitful interaction on this and on their humane and constructive economic policies between the British prime ministerial candidate, the Canadian PM designate and US presidential candidate Sanders?

Remarkably, Sanders is said to be “running right alongside [Clinton] in a statistical dead heat for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination” in the New Hampshire primaries, according to the New York Times, citing a CNN/WMUR poll.

bernie sanders

He has a Corbyn-like appeal for younger voters and when Clinton and Sanders made public appearances within days of each other in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders drew the larger crowds, although it was Clinton’s first visit of the year.

By September 2015, polls had Sanders leading Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and in one poll he had climbed to within 10 percentage points of her nationally.

Like Corbyn, he is attracting far larger audiences than expected. In the key state of New Hampshire, Mr Sanders now enjoys a 22% lead over Hillary Clinton according to a poll carried out last week by CBS and YouGov.

In the interim, benign politicians and media analysts speak out against execution without trial 

Last month MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones sought permission for a judicial review of the policy, claiming that “targeted killing” is unlawful and Sir Simon Jenkins once again writes powerfully, denouncing air-strikes as a ‘cruel delusion, a pretence of humanity, immoral and stupid’, citing Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq again and Libya where city civilians as well as armies were bombed.

Patrick Cockburn wryly comments in the Independent that the ability to execute its own citizens has been a mark of tyrannical government from Rome in the days of the Caesars to Moscow during the Great Purge in the 1930s. He adds that where evidence for an existential threat is lacking, it can be exaggerated or manufactured, as notoriously happened in 2003 over the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Stupid and arrogant political leaders in the US and Britain are said by Cockburn to use drone warfare because it shows them as apparently effective against evil-doers – and avoids the public backlash caused by soldiers coming back in coffins.

They stoutly deny the all too visible evidence that drone warfare does not wipe out resistance but inflames and recruits angry young terrorists – or resistance fighters.

In September 2011, in Yemen, propaganda cited the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a high point in its counter-terrorist campaign, but four years later Cockburn points out, AQAP has become stronger than it has ever been, spreading through Yemen and capturing a port city.

Meanwhile mainstream media plays its leaders’ game, with mock horror at Russian bombings in Syria, with a drone video shot over the district of Jobar showing remnants of bombed-out residential buildings, most of them with gaping holes and others with their top floors collapsed. One slide:

damascus damage

A reader sends a link to an article in which the US defence secretary has warned that Moscow will soon start paying the price for its escalating military intervention in Syria, but still claims the moral high ground for the Anglo-Saxon ‘wars of intervention’.

News of Russian military action is hyped while, as our reader comments, the US minimises its own military attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) emergency trauma hospital in Afghanistan. The MSF hospital in Kunduz was repeatedly bombed by coalition forces, even though they had been given the hospital’s co-ordinates. An enquiry by International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) has been activated.

Jenkins reminds us that in each of the wars of intervention – against Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq again and Libya – cities as well as armies have been bombed, overtly to terrorise regimes into surrender.

But the killing of Pashtun militants has done nothing to halt the Taliban’s path back to power in Afghanistan. It has merely replaced possibly moderate elders with tribal hot-heads. Obama’s first drone attack in Yemen killed one al-Qaida suspect, 14 women and 21 children. In a six-year period to 2011 an estimated 3,000 innocents were killed in Pakistan alone, including 176 children.

In the days of conventional war, when international law was still observed to some extent, Jenkins points out that such ‘casual slaughter’ would have had an infantry unit court-martialled and jailed.

We ask again: will Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders usher in a New World Order?