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This is Why Israel’s Mass Protest Movement Will Never Lead to Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 5:43am in

Since November of 2019, Israelis have been protesting to demand the resignation of indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since the spring of 2020, these protests have escalated to the point where thousands of Israelis take to the streets every week to demand his resignation. However, Netanyahu, who has been in power for over a decade, will not budge.

 

Democracy?

A system where a politician can remain in power even after losing an election can hardly be called democratic. In Israel, however, this has happened several times in the past decade. Prime Minister Netanyahu lost the elections numerous times and through underhanded backroom horse-trading, was able to create coalitions that kept him in power.

During the last election, he created an upset that was probably the most impressive of them all. It was clear that the opposition block headed by former IDF chief General Benny Gantz had a solid majority. Yet even then, Netanyahu was able to get Gantz to capitulate at the last minute and allow him to lead the government with Ganz working for him as defense minister.

Since those fateful elections and the humiliating capitulation of retired IDF general Gantz, who, by the way, promised voters he would never serve in a government led by Netanyahu, Israelis have taken to the streets. Netanyahu’s indictment, paired with the huge impact of the coronavirus and the Israeli government’s inability to control the spread of the disease, has brought about civil unrest the likes of which Israel has never seen.

However, even though thousands are taking to the streets week after week, there has been little reporting on the protests in the United States and no impact on Netanyahu, who is protected by coalition agreements and a political reality that promises to keep him in the PM’s seat.

 

Protests throughout the country

The popular movement’s focal point has been a protest encampment across from the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence on Balfour Street. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that protesters have taken to the streets throughout the country. In one case, about 200 anti-Netanyahu protesters marched for eight days from the city of Kiryat Tivon in the north to the protest camp, “receiving upwards of 100 police tickets for violating public health along the way.”


Protesters march during a protest against Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 6, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown. Ariel Schalit | AP

The government has tried to use emergency regulations to limit the protests, and the Israeli police have been using heavy-handed tactics against them to no avail. There are reports of arrests, tear gas, and even stun grenades being used against the protesters, who nevertheless violate the regulations and continue to march without permits.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators holding posters emblazoned with the slogans, “Crime Minister,” “Bibi Go!” and “We are the Hope” stand on one side of the street as pro-Netanyahu groups, far smaller, but louder and more prone to violence, stand on the other. Pro-Netanyahu groups are often heard shouting “traitors” and “You are not Jewish” to their counterparts on the other side of the street.

 

Violence directed at the Ultra-Orthodox

Hatred of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, not to be confused with orthodox Zionist groups who practice an entirely different brand of Judaism, is commonplace among Israelis. Not unlike their counterparts in the U.S., they are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and have been hit hard by the disease. In many cases, they have been accused of not following safety guidelines.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, by and large, reject the State of Israel and understandably distrust state institutions. Israel has been persecuting them from its very foundation, and the enmity between the government and Ultra-Orthodox communities has a long and violent history.

Enter COVID-19. The Ultra-Orthodox community rejects the internet, television, and any other form of communication that is not from within the community. Many still refuse to speak Hebrew and use only Yiddish. Socializing is a crucial part of their life, be it during study, prayer, family gatherings, or large community gatherings like weddings or other festivities.

The state, which for decades has been interfering with their chosen way of life in an attempt to secularize them and turn them into Zionist soldiers, now sends riot police into their homes, synagogues, and community gatherings, once again trying to deny them the right to gather, worship and celebrate. No effort has been made to reach out and provide them with the information they need to remain safe and clashes between the two sides are quite simply horrifying.

Protests have been erupting from within these communities and police are using all forms of brutality, including brutal beatings, tear gas, and water cannons to quell them. Protesters have even been run over by police vehicles. As expected, the Israeli government’s success in reducing the virus’s spread within this community has been dismal.

 

No budget

As hard as it may be to believe, and even though Israel has held three elections in less than two years, there is already talk of new elections.

The Israeli daily Maariv reports that Netanyahu is now blocking efforts to pass a budget, leaving government agencies with no idea what their budgets will be for 2021. Members of Netanyahu’s own coalition are rightfully nervous and demanding a budget for 2020-2021 be released. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is in no rush. He is stalling for as long as he can and prefers not to commit to a budget but instead to appropriate funds to his cronies based on their support. Furthermore, chaos is good for Netanyahu, and there are speculations that he wants to hold new elections soon and blame it on his partners in the coalition government.

Israel Mass protests

A torn poster depicting Netanyahu lies at the bottom of a fountain during a protest in Tel Aviv, Oct. 8, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

The lack of ability to function by Israeli government institutions was already apparent before COVID-19. Now, government agencies are functioning even less, with health care and education in a state of collapse. Add to that the lack of financial stability, or even a financial plan, and, according to Maariv, Netanyahu has a good case to call for new elections.

If there is one thing that Netanyahu knows he can rely on, it is the support of the “Right Block.” This “Block” is made of West Bank settlers, “National Religious” parties, and other neofascists. They have a right-wing agenda and can rely on Netanyahu to respond to their every whim and wish. The Block openly calls for pushing Palestinians out of Palestine, destroying the Holy Sanctuary, and building a temple to replace the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is an agenda that Netanyahu is happy to pursue. Indeed, one of his cabinet ministers, Rafi Peretz, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, is part of the movement to build the “Third Temple.”

Perhaps it is needless to mention, but none of the Right Block’s supporters participate in the anti-Netanyahu protests. In fact, there is at least one group that consistently shows up to disrupt the demonstrations and engage in violence. This group, called “La Familia,” originated as fans of the Beitar-Jerusalem soccer team. Beitar has a reputation for cultivating violent right-wing gangs, and quite naturally, they are Netanyahu supporters.

 

It all leads to nothing

While mass movements may, from time to time, lead to real change, it is unlikely that will be the case in Israel. As in the United States where anti-Trump and anti-fascist protests lead to little immediate political change, the Israeli political system has created a protected zone in which Netanyahu’s place is secure.

Furthermore, demands (if one can call them that) made by anti-Netanyahu groups for him to resign are weak and have little political backing. Unlike the clear agenda set forth by neofascist Zionists and the religious-Zionist settlers, the so-called Israeli “center-left” has no clear agenda, no real principles, and no ability to bring about change. They are weak politically and lack the ability to outsmart the man who has shown time and time again that he is the greatest horse trader in the business, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Feature photo | Israeli protesters chant slogans during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post This is Why Israel’s Mass Protest Movement Will Never Lead to Change appeared first on MintPress News.

Superhero Palast fights the evil election supervillians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 7:49am in

Less than two weeks to go until Election Day – what can you do? Begin by reading Greg Palast’s How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanished Voters and then go out and stop the theft. Not only is Palast one of our premier investigative reporters he is also a great storyteller, and the best part, the stories are all factual. This latest tome reads like a rogue’s gallery of real crime. Because they are rogues and they committed real ... READ MORE

Peaceful Transfer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 1:06am in

If you dislike elections, take heart: this one may be the last.

Good luck to us all.

Bolivia: First Election Since US-Backed Coup Pits Right against Left, Rich Against Poor and White against Everyone Else

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 6:22am in

Eleven months after a U.S-backed military coup overthrew the democratically elected Evo Morales and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, Bolivians will go to the polls on Sunday, offering them a chance to repudiate the coup government of Jeanine Añez, who has ruled the country since last November.

The last year has been a period of constant political struggle, as the self-described “interim government” has fought to impose its rule on a rebellious population, attempting to bring sweeping changes to the Andean state. Yet despite the arrest, exile, and repression of his colleagues, polls show MAS candidate Luis Arce as the clear frontrunner among many, with some suggesting he could win the election outright in the first round of voting.

Although the conflict is a political one, it is impossible to deny the clear and overt racial dynamic at play. While the country’s right-wing parties draw their support from rich, upper-class white Bolivians, many of whom live in eastern areas, the MAS is inordinately backed by the country’s indigenous or mixed lower-class majority.

MintPress has been speaking with a number of major MAS actors in this weekend’s election. Most of them see the event as an opportunity to reassert racial equality and reject an older model of white domination that ruled the country since the Spanish Conquest until Morales’ election in 2006.

“On October 18th we have to bury the fascist right…look at who the candidates for the right are, they’re people descendants from the Spanish, from Croatians, from all those empires. They don’t believe in our sovereignty or our culture,” said Juan Vilca of the Unified Syndical Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia.

What we’re excited about is that we have a winning formula, Luis Arce for president, he represents economic stability and can reach the middle class, and for vice president, we have an indigenous campesino, our brother David Choquehuanca, he’ll make sure that our culture and identity are respected, he’ll make sure our poncho, our chicote [whip], our chuspa [traditional bag], our sombrero, our dress, is respected.”

Bolivia Elections

A woman walks past a wall full of electoral posters in El Alto, Bolivia, Oct. 15, 2020. Juan Karita | AP

Morales, who escaped persecution in November by fleeing to Mexico, and later Argentina, was the country’s first indigenous leader since the Spanish conquest. Coming from the Aymara nation, he was a poor peasant farmer before becoming politically active in trade unions. Morales, with his strong indigenous features, made racial equality a central focus of his administration. The 2009 constitution officially changed the country’s name to the “Plurinational State of Bolivia” to recognize its multi-ethnic nature, with the indigenous Wiphala flag granted equal status to the more traditional tricolor design seen internationally. This did not please Bolivia’s wealthy, mostly white, westernized elite.

Addressing a crowd, Eva Copa, president of the Bolivian senate and herself an Aymara from the city of El Alto, said of her political opponents, “They call us Indians as if it’s an insult, but I’m proud to be an Indian!” later adding at a MAS rally that,

In this election we’ll vote against racism. October 18 is where we recover the dignity of our indigenous cultures, where we say no to hate and division. We’ll say no to violence, because we come from the culture of peace. We’ll destroy the whole idea of ‘fraud’ [referring to Morales’ disputed electoral victory last year] which they used to steal the election from Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. The city of El Alto has always been a tomb for tyrants and we’ll prove that again on October 18.”

Part of indigenous identity in Bolivia is a respect, even reverence, for the natural environment, which they call “Pachamama” (Mother Earth). Leonardo Loza, a leader of the Chimore Union Federation and MAS candidate for senate in the city of Cochabamba explained why so many inside the country see this election as a turning point in the country’s history.

Our identity and culture is at play in this election, our lives are at play, our way of life is at play, our harmony with Pachamama is at play, our coexistence between Bolivians is at play, and of course, democracy is at play. That’s why the October 18 elections are so important.”

A little known senator from a party that received only four percent of the vote in last October’s election that Morales won (before being ejected by the military on spurious vote rigging charges), Jeanine Añez was an unlikely choice for president. A strongly conservative Christian, she arrived at the presidential palace brandishing a massive, leather bound bible, proclaiming that God was returning to government. Much of Bolivia’s Christian right see indigenous people as lesser citizens. Añez herself had previously described the country’s indigenous majority as “satanic” and suggested they should not be allowed to live in cities but should be relegated to the highlands or the deserts. In this election, Bolivia’s far-right have campaigned on the slogan “creemos” (we believe), presenting themselves, the true believers, against the satanic non-believers who still worship Mother Earth.

During the November coup, leaders burned the Wiphala flag in the streets, while security forces ripped off and burned the Wiphala patch that was added to their uniforms, a gesture symbolizing a return to a country with a strict racial hierarchy. “The burning of our Wiphala was what hurt the most, absolutely,” said Franklin Flores, an Aymara MAS lawmaker. “The way our mothers, our sisters, our daughters were beaten with sticks and gassed by the police, just for being indigenous. That hurt our soul and it always will, we’ll never forget those moments. With our vote now we can overcome all that and give back dignity to our people.”

In order to force the recently re-elected Morales from office in November, the country’s right-wing relied on a campaign of violence against MAS officials. Patricia Arce, mayor of the town of Vinto, for example, was captured, had her hair shaved off, and her body painted red before she was publicly dragged through the streets barefoot, her captors abusing her forcing her to agree to leave office. Morales made clear that he was only leaving to avert a bloodbath.

Once in power, Añez certainly did not have it all her own way, and was met with stiff but mostly uncoordinated resistance to the coup from the country’s indigenous and working-class. She quickly signed an official order pre-exonerating all security services from any crimes committed during the “re-establishment of order,” effectively giving the army and the police a license to kill anyone who opposed her. This they immediately used, carrying out a number of massacres against MAS supporters.

“During this coup, we, as indigenous women, have been treated worse than animals, I think to them we don’t exist, but that pain hasn’t been for nothing,” said Juanita Ancieta, Secretary of International Relations for the MAS, and an indigenous Quechua woman.

Our children have risen up with enormous strength in defense of indigenous women, that brings us huge joy, huge pride. These elections are the chance to end that discrimination, that racism, and we’ll do it with our vote, we don’t need violence because we want to build a government of peace. I want to say to the right, that we are Bolivians too, even if we have ideological differences, we’re all humans in our Pachamama,” she added.

Since the European conquest, much of Latin America has been exploited as a vast mineral resource, enriching Europeans, and later, North Americans. Bolivia was no exception. From its discovery in 1545, the vast silver mountain of Potosí (which, for centuries, produced more than half the world’s supply of silver) enriched the Spanish king and funded Madrid’s escapades around Europe and the world. Just 50 years after its founding, the city of Potosí had a population equal to that of London or Paris. Today, the silver is mostly gone. But Bolivia is still rich in tin, hydrocarbons, and lithium. Morales attempted to redress the balance by nationalizing the country’s mineral wealth, using the proceeds to fund ambitious anti-poverty projects. This may have sealed his fate; Morales contends that the events of November constituted a “lithium coup,” a notion backed up by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. When challenged on his role in the coup, the billionaire (whose electric vehicles require vast amounts of lithium for batteries) responded, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

During his time in office, Morales emerged as one of the world’s foremost critics of the international system, continually asserting that unfettered capitalism was the root cause of human suffering. Internationally, he opposed U.S. imperialism and attempted to build far reaching networks with other independently-minded Latin American countries, all while promoting Palestinian rights and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. In 2015, his presidential plane was grounded in Europe after it was alleged that American dissident Edward Snowden might be on board en route to a new life of asylum in Bolivia. Diego Pary, an indigenous Quechua and Morales’ Foreign Minister until the 2019 coup, said that,

The diplomacy of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples reached the world during the last government. From the foreign ministry we showed the world what Bolivia really is, we showed the world our indigenous cultures, but sadly that indigenous diplomacy, that values unity and integration, has been abandoned. With this election we can rebuild Bolivia’s standing in the world, the values of our indigenous cultures have so much to contribute internationally.”

Bolivia Elections

A Queen Elizabeth I monument is covered in an Indigenous “Chola” outfit during a protest against colonization in La Paz, Oct. 12, 2020. Juan Karita | AP

As they wrap up their election campaign, the Movement to Socialism appears in a confident mood. A recent poll shows Luis Arce at 42 percent nationally, more than 9 points ahead of his nearest challenger Carlos Mesa (who was president between 2003 and 2005). Under the Bolivian system, if any candidate wins over 40 percent of the vote in the first round and is 10 points clear of second place, there is no second round runoff election. The Bolivian right obviously sees the danger, with Añez herself recently dropping out of the race to rally support around one candidate. Thus, unless projections are wildly inaccurate, a fair vote on Sunday will have the MAS in a strong position.

Yet there are serious concerns the election (which has already been postponed multiple times) will be far from fair. “Citizen observers” are being directly paid by U.S. government organizations USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, groups expelled from Bolivia under Morales’ premiership for interference in domestic affairs. In the wake of the coup, the U.S. expressed its delight at what it called the “preservation of democracy,” releasing a statement that all but said, “we did it.” Since then, it has continued to back Añez.

Añez’s government is also trying to impose a 48-hour lockdown straight after the election, claiming it is an anti-COVID-19 measure. However, critics allege it could be an attempt to stop protests against upcoming electoral fraud.

Henry Nina, the president of the Intercultural Confederation, the country’s largest indigenous organization, was confident that justice would be achieved.

We’re going to win back our identity, as the 36 indigenous and Afro nations of Bolivia, recognized by the constitution that we fought for. They’ve discriminated against us, they’ve dismantled our institutions such as the Ministry of Culture, a people without origin and without culture is not a people. This is why we have to rebuild democracy on October 18, so as to be able to rebuild our culture and our identity.”

Sunday represents Bolivia’s best chance to secure lasting peace, with a resounding MAS victory being a repudiation of the right’s military coup in November. Already, through constant struggle, the country’s indigenous groups and trade unions have forced the government to concede to an election. The question remains, however, if it loses, how will the government react?

Feature photo | An opponent of former President Evo Morales fights a supporter of the Movement Towards Socialism Party in La Paz, Bolivia, Oct. 5, 2020. Juan Karita | AP

Oliver Vargas is a British-Bolivian journalist covering the ongoing coup in Bolivia for MintPress News. His writing has appeared in teleSUR, Redfish and The Grayzone among others.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Bolivia: First Election Since US-Backed Coup Pits Right against Left, Rich Against Poor and White against Everyone Else appeared first on MintPress News.

Americans Afraid of Violence at Election Buying Guns and Ammunition

There was a report in this weekend’s I, for 10 – 11th October 2020, that the sales of armaments in the Land of the Free has gone up as people are afraid of violence breaking out between the supporters of Joe Biden and Donald Trump at the election. According to the report, ‘Fears it could all turn ugly fuel boom in arms sales’ by Andrew Hay, some are even afraid the violence could lead to civil war or social collapse. The article runs

Americans worried about possible violence after the presidential election are forming community watch groups or even taking up arms.

A common fear is that the 3 November contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden remains undecided, leading to protests that could escalate into civil unrest, or even sectarian conflict.

For Americans like financial adviser David Powell, the greatest worry is that they could be forced to take sides to protect civil rights, private property and even lives. “I’m not part of any group, don’t want to be part of a group, I’m your regular guy who is watching the news and is getting really concerned,” said Mr Powell, 64, or Raleigh, North Carolina. He said he worries about “Antifa thugs”, a term conservatives use to describe left-wing anti-fascist activists. He said he is prepared to “stand guard”. Some people are planning foreign vacations around election day or heading to rural retreats. Others have bought guns. Firearm sales hit a monthly record of 3.9 million in June, according to FBI data.

In Portland, Oregon, left-wing activist Dre Miller has reached out to leaders of the right-wing Proud Boys to set up a line of communication to resolve conflicts. “We need to be able to call a ceasefire when things get out of hand,” said Mr Miller, 37, an organiser with a Black rights group. “As a black man I cannot stand back. I’m standing up and standing by.” (p.13).

I’m not surprised. Although the Black Lives Matter protests have been described as mostly peaceful by the mainstream media, conservatives have posted videos on the internet showing violence and intimidation by BLM protesters, as well as mobs and individuals chanting racist slogans against Whites. This strikes at the racial and political fears that led to the emergence of the survivalist and militia movements in the ’80s and ’90s. They were formed by right-wing Americans afraid of social collapse and violence from Communists, the extreme left, and Blacks. There was a report on YouTube that Black Lives Matter protesters and a White militia faced off against each other a month or so ago. I’ve also seen reports that four members of a White militia have also been arrested for trying to kidnap the mayor of a town in Minnesota in order to start a civil war.

I don’t doubt that some of the fears of social collapse have been provoked by the emergence and collapse of CHUD, the autonomous anarchist commune in Seattle a few months ago. This lasted all of several weeks before it collapsed due to violence and lawlessness and the police moved in. But I’ve also no doubt that some of the fears also go back to some of the inflammatory, racist gibberish that the ultra-conservative right spewed against Obama. The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones ranted about Obama being the antichrist, and he and other members of the far right claimed that he was a Nazi, or communist, or militant Muslim, or atheist, filled with a genocidal hatred of White Christians. A couple of pastors running a church radio station told their listeners that he would start a ‘White genocide’ that would kill more people than Chairman Mao. Jones also claimed that Obama was plotting against the American people. America’s first Black president was going to declare an environmental emergency in order to imprison America’s people in FEMA camps as part of the globalist agenda to take over the world and turn us all into transgender cyborgs controlled by the evil, Satanic one-world government. Well, Obama’s been and gone for four years now, and Americans are as free as ever. But my guess is that those fears of a radical Black takeover are still lingering, and have been stoked by the BLM protests.

And there are parts of the American far right that would welcome a civil war before White and non-White, leftists and conservatives. The right-wing blogger Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, posted a piece years ago expressing his view that America was going to disintegrate as the non-White areas split away from the White. I think he might have been looking forward to it, like many other extreme right-wingers, in the hope that it would mark the establishment of a White ethno-state.

So far tensions haven’t quite gone that far over this side of the pond. Britain has its fair share of gun freaks and shooting enthusiasts, but there isn’t the gun culture there is in America and paramilitary organisations like the militias are very definitely illegal over here. The NF/BNP used to organise weekend ‘self-defence’ courses, but these were shut down very quickly when the cops found evidence of weapons manufacture. When the contents of a garden shed was examined, the found a can of weed killer with its name crossed out and ‘Jew Killer’ written instead. Since then the BNP has collapsed and a slew of extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi organised proscribed as terrorist organisations.

Moreover, the Black Lives Matter protests over here have also been mostly peaceful, although this is challenged on YouTube by right-wing counterprotesters. The protests, like those in America, have been composed of both Blacks and Whites. One of the speakers at the protest in Cheltenham was a cute little girl, whose father was White. Black Lives Matter, or at least the branch in Bristol, also put out a statement that they weren’t trying to start a race war, but stop one. Whether these protests and the response to them would have remained peaceful had Sasha Johnson and her Black militia been active is highly debatable. As it is when the clip of her rallying her troops appeared on YouTube there were calls for government action from Alex Belfield amongst others. A right-wing backlash is now taking place against Black Lives Matter. Priti Patel and other members of the government have apparently denounced them so there is the potential for similar racial and political violence over here.

I honestly don’t know what can be done about the tense situation in America, except hope that the people with cool heads prevail and the protests, counter-protests and political rhetoric are toned down. The racial supremacists are going to be disappointed, as America is too old and stable for there to be a civil war. But there is the potential for serious violence and damage to people’s businesses and property, and obviously that needs to be avoided.

Let’s hope common sense and decency prevails against those seeking to provoke intolerance and violence.

A Lesson from the 1980s Mitterand Government: Labour Needs to Keep to Socialist Values

I used to be a member of the Fabian Society in the 1980s, and still have a few of their pamphlets around. One of those is by the Labour MP Denis MacShane, French Lessons for Labour. This discusses Francois Mitterand’s Socialist Party government which was in office from 1981 to 1986, its positive achievements and failures, and why it lost the 1986. Even after thirty-four years, some of the points made by the pamphlet are still very relevant. And one is particularly so now that Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour party and trying to return it back to Blairite Thatcherism. Because of the reasons MacShane considers Mitterand’s government failed to get re-elected was because they didn’t govern according to traditional socialist values.

This is very clearly argued in the passage ‘The need for socialist values’ in the pamphlet’s final chapter, ‘Conclusion: What Lessons for Labour?’ This runs

The relative failure off the French Socialists to set the economy moving in the right direction or to develop a positive partnership with the unions may be related to their dropping of the ideas and values of socialism soon after the election. By the end of the five years’ government, Socialist ministers were openly saying that their main achievement had been to show that they could alternate with governments of the right. This may be so but it was a major scaling down of ambition and unlikely to mobilise mass support.

Mitterand’s and ministers’ assumptions of the “national” or “above party” mode so quickly after the 1981 election and thereafter until very shortly before the 1986 contest was more than a choice of language. It was a suspension of that part of the socialist project aimed at developing egalitarian values and practices in society. In country that attaches great importance to parole, headed by a Socialist president with an extraordinary command of the language the adoption of the discourse of “modernisation” , “flexibility”, “dynamism” is to dilute the reference to politics with the nostrums of the Wall Street Journal. The qualities listed above may be necessary but to emphasise them to the exclusion of other values that distinguish socialist from conservative governments is a mistake. On all French coins the three words “Liberty”, “Equality” and “Fraternity” are inscribed. They predate Marx but each is an important element of socialist values. Of thee, the concept least applied by Mitterand was equality. Studies of the last Labour Government in Britain also showed that inequalities widened and poverty increased. If a democratic socialist government is to lessen those inequalities then some sense of necessary austerity, some imposition of standards of citizenship will have to take place. There must be some link between sacrifice and equality – that, in addition to economic growth, is perhaps the beginnings of the modern socialist project. The call to equality, the call to sacrifice was not heard clearly throughout the five years of socialist government in France. They began by thinking they could please everyone and ended by being voted out. (pp. 33-4).

I realise that Blair adopted much the same policy when he took office. His government included former Conservative MPs like Chris Patten in a ‘Government Of All the Talents’. His first act in No. 10 was to invited Margaret Thatcher round to visit. He had also managed to get Clause IV, the passage in the Labour Party constitution committing it to nationalisation, dropped earlier in the 1980s. Instead of pursuing traditional socialist policies, Blair claimed his government instead had found a ‘Third Way’. In practice he followed Thatcherite orthodoxy by continuing privatisation, including that of the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state. Blair was intent on winning over swing voters in marginal constituencies and turned away from the party’s traditional working class base. In reward for this, he was supported by the Murdoch press and received donations from big businesses that had previously donated to the Tory party. New Labour stayed in power from 1997 to 2010, so it might be thought that his policy of simply becoming ‘Tory Lite’ is successful. However, Blair lost the support of traditional Labour voters and members. He won with a lower number of votes, I believe, than Jeremy Corbyn had when he lost the 2017 election. It’s been said that by 1997 the public were so sick of the Tories, that Blair simply didn’t need to adopt their policies. He could simply have carried on with the real, socialist, Labour party policies of nationalisation, a mixed economy, publicly owned and properly funded NHS and a welfare state that genuinely supported the sick, unemployed and disabled. Policies that this country desperately needs.

For all Corbyn’s personal unpopularity, created by a vicious, libellous media, his policies – which were and are those of the traditional Labour party – were very popular with the public. But Keir Starmer has turned away from them in order to return to those of Blair. He and his grotty supporters no doubt believe this will win votes and the next election. This will probably not be the case. Blair had the support of the Murdoch press, and the Tories were more unpopular than Labour. Boris’ popularity has massively declined due to his massive incompetence in tackling the Coronavirus and is currently below Starmer’s according to recent polls. But the Labour party is still less popular than the Tories despite the Blairites telling us all that with Corbyn gone, they’d be 20 points or so ahead.

Blair’s government notwithstanding, one of the lessons Mitterand’s government has to teach us on this side of La Manche is that the Labour party needs to govern, and be seen and heard to govern, according to the values of equality and fraternity. And we need to get rid of austerity for ordinary working people. We’ve had nothing but austerity for the past ten years, and the result is nothing but bloated pay rises for the obscenely rich, and starvation and misery for the poor. It’s about time this stopped, and a proper taxation policy imposed on the rich for the benefit of everyone in this great nation.

Cancel Culture: The Scourge of the Voter Purge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2020 - 10:10am in

Hundreds of thousands of voters have been struck from the voter rolls and they have no idea. There's no question that this attack on the voter rolls is affecting voters of color and young people. Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic voters are being removed by the hundreds of thousands from the voter rolls of America. And this could absolutely change the outcome of ... READ MORE

How Does the Ban on Teaching Anti-Capitalist and Extremist Materials Affect Mainstream Textbooks?

Yesterday, Gavin Williamson, the secretary of state for education, issued his departments guideline informing schools what they could not teach. This included materials from organisations determined to end capitalism, as well as anti-Semitic material, opposition to freedom of speech and which approves of illegal activity. The Labour Party’s John McDonnell pointed out that this would mean that it’s now illegal to teach large sections of British history and particularly that of the Labour Party, trade unions and socialism, because all these organisations at different times advocated the end of capitalism. He is, of course, right. In 1945 or thereabouts, for example, the Labour Party published an edition of the Communist Manifesto. He concluded

“This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”

The economist and former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varousfakis, who has also written a book, The Crisis of Capitalism, also commented this guidance showed how easy it was for a country to lose itself and slip surreptitiously into totalitarianism. He said

“Imagine an educational system that banned schools from enlisting into their curricula teaching resources dedicated to the writings of British writers like William Morris, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Paine even. Well, you don’t have to. Boris Johnson’s government has just instructed schools to do exactly that.”

Quite. I wonder how the ban affects even mainstream textbooks, which included anti-capitalist or other extremist literature. For example there are any number of readers and anthologies of various political or historical writings published by perfectly mainstream publishers for school and university students. Such as the one below, Critics of Capitalism: Victorian Reactions to ‘Political Economy’, edited by Elisabeth Jay and Richard Jay, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 1986). This collects a variety of writings authors such as John Francis Bray, Thomas Carlyle, Marx and Engels, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hill Green, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw. These texts obviously document and illustrate the reactions to the rise of economics as an academic subject in the 19th century, and several of the authors are titans of 19th century British culture, literature and political philosophy, like the art critic Ruskin, the socialist, writer and artist, William Morris, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, the liberal political philosophers John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hill Green, and Matthew Arnold, the headmast of Rugby, the author of Culture and Anarchy. This is quite apart from Marx and Engels and John Francis Bray, who was a socialist and follower of Robert Owen. Carlyle’s now largely forgotten, but he was a philosopher and historian who was massively influential in his day.

Clearly this is an entirely respectable text from a very respectable publisher for history students. But, thanks to the government’s new guidelines, you could well ask if it’s now illegal to teach it in schools, thanks to its anti-capitalist contents.

The same question also applies to very respectable histories by respectable, mainstream historians and political scientists, of extremist movements and ideologies like Fascism, Nazism, Communism and anarchism. For example, one of the books I used while studying the rise of Nazism at college was D.G. Williamson’s The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982). It’s an excellent little book published as part of their Seminar Studies in History range. These are short histories of various periods in history from King John and the Magna Carta to the origins of the Second World and the Third Reich, which include extracts from texts from the period illustrating particularly aspects and events. Williamson’s book is a comprehensive history of the Nazi regime, and so includes extracts from Nazi documents like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Goebbel’s diaries and as well as eyewitness account of Nazi war crimes and individual acts of heroism and resistance. It presents an objective account of Hitler’s tyranny including its horrors and atrocities. There is absolutely no way it, nor other books like it, could remotely be considered pro-Nazi or presenting any kind of positive assessment of Hitler’s regime.

But if schools are now forbidden from teaching anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic, racist and anti-democratic material, does this mean that they are also forbidden from using books like Williamson’s, which include the writings of the Nazis themselves to show the real nature of the regime and the motivations of the men behind it. I hope not, and Owen Jones in his tweet attacking the new guidelines quotes them. From this, it should be possible to make a distinction between texts produced by extremist organisations and extracts from them in mainstream histories or editions from mainstream publishers. According to Jones’ tweet, the guidelines state

Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation. Examples of extreme political stances, include, but are not limited to

  1. a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism or end free and fair elections.

2. opposition to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religion and conscience.

3. the use or endorsement of racist, including anti-Semitic language or communications.

4. the encouragement or endorsement of illegal activity.

5. a failure to condemn illegal activities in their name or in support of their cause, particularly violent actions against people and property.

Responding to Jones’ tweet, Jessica Simor QC asks this very pertinent question

Do the fourth and fifth bullet points mean that schools should not accept Government money?

Good point.

I also have no doubt that the vast majority are going to be extremely careful about which organisation’s materials they use because of the danger of using extremist or otherwise inappropriate material.

But I can also how sometimes it may also be necessary for schools to use such materials in order to criticise them and educate their pupils about their dangers. For example, in the 1980s the BNP or NF tried to appeal to schoolchildren by launching a comic. Other extremists have also turned up at the school gates on occasion. When I was at school in Bristol during the ’81/2 race riots, a White agitator with a beard like Karl Marx’s turned up outside the school entrance with a megaphone trying to get the kids to join in. We ignored him and the headmaster next day in assembly said very clearly that any child who did join the rioting would be expelled.

Nazis are also known for lying and deliberately distorting history. If some Nazi group, for example, produced a pamphlet aimed at schoolchildren and teachers found it being passed around the playground one of the actions they could take, as well as simply banning it and punishing any kid who tried to promote it, might be for a suitably qualified teacher to go through it, pointing out the deliberate lies. When Hitler himself seized power, one Austrian university lecturer embarrassed the fuhrer by showing his students how Hitler took his ideas from the cheap and grubby neo-Pagan literature published in the back streets of Vienna. One of these pamphlets claimed that the ancient Aryans had possessed radio-electric organs that gave them superpowers like telepathy. I think it was highly unlikely that anyone listening to this professor’s lectures on Hitler ever came away with the idea that Hitler had some deep grasp of the essential forces of human biology and and natural selection.

I see absolutely no point to this legislation whatsoever. Teachers, parents and educators are already careful about what is taught in schools. In the past few years most incidents of this type have come from fundamentalist religious schools. These have mostly been Muslim schools, which have been caught teaching their students to hate Christians, Jews and non-Muslims, but there was also a Jewish school which became the centre of controversy for its opposition to homosexuality. In the 1980s Thatcher and the right-wing press ran scare stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating students with evil subversive subjects like peace studies. I am not aware that anyone with extreme left-wing, Communist or Trotskite views has been trying to indoctrinate children. But there are concerns about Black Lives Matter, which I have heard is a Marxist organisation. If that is the case, then the guidelines seem to be an attempt to ban the use of their materials. BLM did produce materials for a week of action in schools, which was thoroughly critiqued by Sargon of Gasbag, aka Carl Benjamin, the sage of Swindon and the man who broke UKIP. Sargon has extreme right-wing Conservative views himself, though I honestly don’t believe that he is genuinely racist and his criticisms of the BLM school material was reasonable. Williamson’s guidelines look like a badly thought out attempt to stop them being used without causing controversy by tackling the organisation’s anti-racism or its critique of White society.

But it also marks the growing intolerance of the Tories themselves and their determination that schools should be used for the inculcation of their own doctrines, rather than objective teaching that allows children to come to their own. Way back in the 1980s Thatcher tried to purge the universities of Marxists by passing legislation making it illegal for them to hold posts in higher education. They got round it by making a subtle distinction: they claimed to be Marxian rather than Marxist. By which they argued that they had Marxist culture, but weren’t actually Marxists. It’s a legal sleight of hand, but it allowed them to retain their teaching posts.

These new guidelines look like an extension of such previous legislation in order to preserve capitalism from any kind of thorough critique. Even when, as the peeps Mike quotes in his article, show very clearly that it is massively failing in front of our eyes.

Schools are now for indoctrination, not education, as teaching of non-capitalist ideology is forbidden

I Am Ignoring Amy Coney Barrett

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 5:25am in

Mitch McConnell has the votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, a former Antonin Scalia clerk who has pledged to continue her mentor’s work...

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Tony Benn on the Misrepresentation of ‘Moderates’ versus ‘the Left’ in the Labour Party

I fond this passage, ”Moderates’ versus ‘Left Wing’ – a Misleading Description’ in Tony Benn’s Argument’s for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981). In it, the great man shows that its the Labour party as a whole that’s moderate, and those the media describes as moderates aren’t always moderate Labour, but just as likely Tories or Lib Dems. He writes

First, the uxse of the adjectives ‘moderate’ and ‘left wing’ mjerits some examination. The Labour Party, being avowedly socialist in its aims, is itself left wing and so are all its members, as compared to the Conservatives and Liberals. Moreover, the term ‘moderate’ is equally confusing. By any world standard of socialism, the entire Labour Party is exceptionally moderate, offering, even in its supposedly ‘full-blooded’ manifestos in the past, the most modest proposals for changes in the structure of wealth and power, all to be achieved firmly within the framework of parliamentary democracy, complete with regular and free general elections. The main characteristics of the ‘left wing’ of the party are that it may be more analytical and philosophical in its approach, and more committed to carrying through the policies agreed at conference, once they have been endorsed by the electorate and a Labour government is in power. By contrast, some of the self-proclaimed ‘moderates’ have ended up in other political parties. Whatever else they turned out to be, the were not moderate socialists but committed Conservatives or Liberals. Thus the labelling now in general use is not very accurate in describing the wide spread of opinion within the party, and the spirit of tolerance to be found among people of differing views. (p. 35).

Everything Benn said is right, and unfortunately as true now as it was when he wrote it nearly forty years ago. The Labour Party has always been very moderate in its approach to socialism. That’s why it aroused such scorn from Lenin and the Communists, and why historically even other continental socialists, who had more moderate views, looked down upon the Labour party as something that wasn’t really, or was just barely, socialist.

And we’ve seen that the so-called ‘moderates’ in the Labour party were and are anything but. They’re neoliberal Thatcherites, true-blue Tories. They were caught intriguing against Jeremy Corbyn in order to prevent the Labour Party winning the 2017 and 2019 elections. In their struggles to overthrow him, some of them even appealed to Tories and Lib Dems to join constituency Labour parties. One of the intriguers was, apparently, a member of a Conservative internet group, and more extreme in his bitter hatred of Corbyn and his supporters than the real Tories. But you’ll be purged as a member of the hard left and an anti-Semite if you dare mention this. It’s only Corbyn and his supporters that are infiltrators.

As for Jeremy Corbyn and the Left, I’ve said many times before: Corbyn wasn’t particularly. The policies he adopted and advocated were traditional Labour policies of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised NHS and strong trade unions able to protect working people. This is the social democratic consensus which governed this country from the end of the Second World War to Thatcher’s election in 1979. It is not even remotely Communist or Trotskyite. But the media have bellowed and screamed that it is, and unfortunately there are too many people who believe this flagrant lie. People who have no idea what Communism is, or what Trotsky said.

Tony Benn: the greatest Labour leader and Prime Minister this country never had.

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