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NO2EU – No way to build a new workers’ party

April 2, 2009

For years the left has been agitating for a trade union challenge to new Labour. We have a government that is ‘labour’ in the way the National Socialist German Workers Party was ‘socialist’ or the USSR was ‘soviet’, i.e. not at all: it’s a vestigial label. It seems simple enough that what we need is a party of labour, a party that represents, as the Campaign for New Workers Party puts it, the millions not the millionaires.
This is particularly crucial in the forthcoming European elections. The BNP in some regions needs only a small percentage swing to gain its first MEP. This would be disastrous not just as a morale-booster for a vile party of hate, but practically, since the Euro gravy train offers, in expenses and salaries, a huge boost to the coffers of any party which gets elected.
We are faced with the worst economic crisis since the 30s. We have deflation for the first time in decades and the IMF predicts that the UK economy will be the worst hit of all the developed nations. In a crisis people look for scapegoats. People who lose their jobs, workers whose pay and conditions are cut, pensioners whose meagre pensions shrivel, want somebody to blame. It’s a sad fact that, spontaneously, the people who are blamed in this dog-eat-dog society are your neighbours, fellow workers, the poorest of the poor. A crisis is the breeding ground for racism, xenophobia and hatred.
In this situation, it is crucial for socialists to offer a clear explanation for the crisis and point the way to a solution based on solidarity not division. Sadly, the NO2EU—Yes to Democracy campaign, launched with the backing of the RMT to contest the Euro elections, does the opposite.
The title, which is already registered and not negotiable, is fundamentally mis-educating. It points to the EU as the cause of the problems faced by workers. This is patently not the case. We are in a global financial crisis, which is affecting the US and China, France and Brazil. It is a crisis of capitalism. With even bourgeois commentators quoting Marx’s Capital, it is laughable to focus on the EU.
It would be laughable were it not for the tragic consequence of fuelling xenophobia, the very danger that has already reared its head in the Lindsey strikes. ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ was raised as a slogan in the early days of the strike – and gleefully seized on by the rightwing press. Socialists involved in the strike, particularly from the Socialist Party, did a good job in clarifying the aims of the strike and moving it away from xenophobia, but that was clearly there as a spontaneous element in the first wave of independent working class action we’ve seen since the recession.
The Socialist Party have been brought on board the NO2EU initiative, largely because of the involvement in the Lindsey dispute, and credit for any class-conscious demands in the platform, such as ‘Yes to international solidarity of working people’, is due to them. But it is a doomed enterprise to turn something that is at base a nationalist mess into anything that can be supported by socialists:
Nation states with the right to self determination and their governments are the only institutions that can control the movement of big capital and clip the wings of the trans-national corporations and banks.
This is pure nationalism, and has nothing to do with international workers solidarity. It is a nonsense to think the two can be combined. When you have two ideologies pulling in opposite directions, which one will prevail?
In an election, the title and headline will be all most people will read of a campaign. Much has been made of the way the rightwing press seized on the ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ slogan. What is to stop them doing the same with the anti-EU message of this campaign? NO2EU will be presented as much the same as UKIP and other reactionary nutters. For some in NO2EU, that is exactly what they want. There are plans for TUAEC (Trade Unions Against the EU Constitution), the forerunner of NO2EU, to share a platform with Teddy Taylor, the ultra-right Tory.
The most worrying aspect of the campaign is the attitude to migrant workers:
The social dumping of exploited foreign workers in Britain is being carried out under EU rules demanding the “free movement of capital, goods, services and labour” within the EU. Successive EU Directives and European Court of Justice decisions have been used to attack trade union collective bargaining, the right to strike and workers’ pay and conditions.
The Single European Market … creates a pool of working people to be exploited and treated no better than a commodity like a tin of beans. These EU rules allow employers to escape from national collective bargaining and employment legislation and impose lower wages and worse working conditions, creating a “race to the bottom”.
The Single European Market didn’t create that pool of exploited workers: capitalism did, several hundred years earlier. And from its inception capitalism has set worker against worker: English against Irish, Irish against Chinese, European against Asian, Asian against African, South African against Zimbabwean, and so on. The answer is not to attack the free movement of labour or the migrant workers, but to organise all workers on the job, and impose trade union wages and conditions.
Neil Cafferky of then Socialist Party explained at a meeting of the Left Unity Liaison Committee that the ‘social dumping’ clause arose from the RMT’s problems in the shipping industry, where Chinese workers were employed at one tenth of the wages of British seafarers. Clearly, this is disgraceful exploitation, but equally clearly the answer is for trade union action to raise the wages of the Chinese seafarers. The idea that these super-exploited workers should be blamed and described by the term ‘social dumping’, as if they were some form of toxic waste, is obnoxious.

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The rights of nations and flying kosher pigs

April 2, 2009

Tony Greenstein reports on the sacking of Arab rail workers at the urging of Avigdor Lieberman.

I was watching an interview with Lieberman before the Israeli elections and I thought: he really is a Nazi. He was arguing that Israeli Arabs must show their loyalty or forfeit their citizenship.

Then I remembered that we have compulsory citizenship lessons on the national curriculum, and that immigrants must pass a citizenship test before they can become naturalised: they have to prove they know our history and culture before they can get our passports.

And it’s all absurd and perfectly logical. If you are going to put up walls and stop people coming and going; if you are going to treat people differently on the basis of what passports they do or don’t hold; then of course it makes sense to define at determine what constitutes citizenship.

Especially if you’re going to kill people on the basis of what nation they are from. Nations are constituted buy the people who are born in a particular area. Except for those who, through no fault of their own, were born elsewhere – whose parents were abroad at the time – because clearly it would be absurd for one child to be a citizen and its sibling not, purely through the accident of where Mummy happened to be when she issued that one.

So you must be born there or genetically linked to someone who was. In Britain we extend this to people whose grandparents were born here – mostly. This is because we are a fair people – firm but fair – and because we used to have an empire in our grandparents’ day, to which we exported our finest men and women. It wouldn’t do for their issue to be denied entrance to the land of their (grandparent’s) birth.

Now in Israel they do it somewhat differently. They extend the genetic link a bit further back. This is why some misguided people liken Israel to apartheid South Africa: some people who were actually born there are treated rather worse than some others whose genetic link is back to biblical times.

Now the reason they are misguided is they don’t take into account the Nazis. The Nazis were a murderously bigoted lot who believed in the Volk, racial purity and the inferiority of other races – particularly the Jews. They were responsible for concentration camps, unspeakable atrocities, crimes against humanity on the basis that they were perpetrated on ‘sub-humans’.

So you see it’s a different situation from apartheid South Africa. Jews need the state of Israel, to protect them from any future Nazis. And a state has to be secure in its borders. Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbours who – like the Nazis – hate Jews and make various attempts to kill them.

Now here’s the problem: among Israel’s native citizens are some who have cousins, grandparents, and a common language with those murderous neighbours. If the genetic connection can bind Jews to a land they haven’t lived in for 2,000 years, maybe it also works on those Arabs. Maybe they feel less loyalty to the Israeli state than to their brothers and sisters in Gaza who are having the fuck bombed out of their hospitals and schools by the aptly named Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

If you believe in the right of Israel to exist – and its right to defend itself – then the Israeli Nazis like Lieberman do have a point. You can’t bomb Gaza and not expect Israeli Arab citizens to react.

As it goes, I have no brief for Israeli-Nazis or Hamas-Nazis. I think national socialism is a poisonous anti-human creed in whatever guise it appears – socialist Zionism, islamo-fascism, nationalistic anti-imperialism. Anti-Semitism was described as the ‘socialism of idiots’. That goes for any ‘ism’ based on nation, religion, race or gender. Socialism is for all humanity, undivided, or it becomes its opposite: the tyranny of us (the righteous) over them (the sub-human).

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How to avoid talking out of your arse

April 2, 2009

I’m reprinting here a post from a previous blog Kylie’s arse which attracted favourable comments when first published.
The current collective consciousness on the left around oppression is such a miasma of postmodern, subjective, sentimental, victimised, emotive dreck. I feel a certain responsibility for having added my bit to the heap. Here by way of restitution, I offer the following insights painfully gleaned over a lifetime of politcal twaddle.

1. Membership of an oppressed group does not confer authority. It does not guarantee authenticity. It does not make you right. You should be judged by what you say and do, not by what you are. I offer in evidence my Cabinet of the Oppressed: Margaret Thatcher (women’s rights), Robert Mugabe (racial equality), David Blunkett (disability), Osama bin Laden (international relations), Golda Meir (special responsibility for minorities), the entire Gandhi dynasty (democracy and anti-corruption). Feel free to nominate others to strengthen our inclusivity.

2. Being a VICTIM does not make you right. You may be worthy of sympathy, redress, sensitive consideration, but it has no bearing on the quality of your argument. Reality is dialectical: the victim becomes the oppressor, and vice versa.

3. History is not a licence to kill. An atrocity is an atrocity, however badly treated the perpetrators, whatever legitimate grievance they may have. I give you Nazi Germany, Dier Yassin, 9/11, Beslan…

4. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend: people and nations change sides; alliances shift. If you base your position on tactical considerations, you will end up incoherent. We endlessly repeat the argument that it was the West who armed Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. The argument applies equally to us. We may lack the fire power, but we give hostages to our future enemies if, for example, we lie about the repressive regime in Iran simply because it is threatened by the US: it will come back and bite us.

5. If you feel it, suspect it. If it feels good… wait a minute. Outrage is the crack of left polemic. There’s that flaming high – oh it feels so good! All too soon, you come down. You regret giving in to the seductive flame. You feel a bit bad, a bit ashamed, a bit depressed. Someone flames back. It feels good to join the fray again – a bigger hit. And so it goes on and on and on..Emotion brings an aura of authenicity. If you feel it, it must be real. Aint necessarily so. The evolutionary point of emotion is to move you to action. Sometimes it’s rash, dangerous to move. Except in a literal emergency, it’s better to think first. Left polemic is full of pseudo-emegencies, where the adrenalin pumping makes it feel like life and death, but nothing is lost by taking time to consider.

6. You have to laugh or else you’ll cry. The situation of the left today is a tragic absurdity, if you lose your sense of humour, you may as well shoot yourself.