The Corbyn Identity

In the last 2 months I have been listening to loads of opinions about Corbyn and the obstacles he faces. The most valuable one at this stage of play comes from a very knowledgable and experienced friend and comrade. He told me that, in reality, the True Blairites are a tiny minority of MPs and that the vast majority of MPs are hugely pragmatic people who will not want to upset the grassroots and will be able to adapt to the new landscape.

At the end of the day, you can’t deny that the survival and winning instinct is in the MPs’ DNA. Some of them are even very good actors and quick learners: my friend tells me that he knows of one MP who expressed support for different 3 candidates, including Corbyn, in front of different audiences.

The Blair Identity, a project of mental infiltration in the Labour Party that probably inspired the script writers of the film The Bourne Identity, may turn out to be a flop (an expensive one for the country). Jason Labour has now discovered the details of the plot and is sorting things out.

So, should the Corbynistas relax?

Not at all. The internal opposition to Corbyn, not just from True Blairites, is real. The political fight for quotas of power and the debate for alternative policies will continue. There are huge tasks ahead. But, as I suggested in a previous post (Corbyn’s Survival), reinventing grassroots democracy in the Party is not only a key issue for Corbyn. It should become his overwhelming priority too.

Why?

It is essential in itself, as a matter of principle. But also, think about this: We in Britain like to think that we are world champions of democracy. A democratising agenda, of the party and the country, would be a great asset that no right-wing media would dare to contest. It would also bring plenty of “communication opportunities” to the Corbynista camp. There is so much rot in the governance of UK PLC. Just read the Private Eye.

What about the socio-economic agenda?

Whilst remaining committed to the general principles of increased social rights and public ownership, and being a strong opposition, Corbyn should allow the grassroots of the party, the experts in social issues and the anti-austerity movements to take a stronger lead in this conversation. They can be more “radical” than the Parliamentary Labour Party. Collaborative revolution.

The general elections are not here yet. Let’s build strategically. The future of he country is at stake and we cannot waste this opportunity.

Refugees welcome?

Malcolm Rifkind (not sir, sir), the prominent Tory MP who was caught on camera by Channel 4 allegedly trying to sell his political favours to a Chinese investor, has treated us all today in the BBC, which is increasingly biased towards their new Conservative Masters, to a refined, yet disgusting, distinction between refugees worth protecting and the rest.

To summarise his position, for this man of grave voice and dubious ethics, refugees are welcome in our Disunited Kingdom only if they flee from war zones. He claims that once they are “safe” in a refugee camp in a neighbouring country, like Lebanon or Turkey, their desire to travel to Europe is an indication of other issues at play.

Let’s make it clear, Malcolm, in a language that power people like you can understand better than no one else: why don’t you piss off to Jordan to live in a tent in the desert? You have had already a good free ride as a member of the elite all these years, so it is only just that you start picking up the slack. You have made loads of money, for you and all the faceless corporations you have “served”, which I am sure you can use in the refugees camps for all sort of good deeds. Ah, and you advocated military interventions in Libya and Syria. Perhaps you would like to say sorry in person to some of the victims of your political “errors of judgement”.

It would be unfair for Malcolm to omit a reference to all those smug inhuman beings who will certainly support his views. I saw some of them last night in Twitter and on TV saying they didn’t want to have refugees in Britain. They are the same lot who do not want migrants, or anyone different to them, nearby. I propose to have a public register where these individual can indicate, by posting their postcode, that they are not willing to have refugees and migrants in their neighbourhood. That way we can spare the poor victims of war and the global crisis of capitalism of the undesirable company of these uncivil members of society.

Everyone has the right to escape from poor living conditions. The aspiration to live and work in peace and good health is legitimate. At this time in history the question is not whether we bring down borders but how we do so. It is urgent.

Picture from Foreign and Commonwealth Office used under the Open Government Licence v1.0

UK Response to Refugee Crisis

Prime Minister,

This is dramatic.
Refugees can’t wait.

Mr Murdoch,

People die in lorries
and crossing the sea.

Her Majesty, Chancellor,

Let’s pull our weight
to end this misery and hell!

We understand, darling,

We will talk to our partners in Europe,
cause nothing can be done without them.
We will be tough with human trafficking,
and reclaim sovereignty on Calais.
We may even have to bomb ISIS,
…Tony Blair will get all the blame!

And for those who flee from war,
equipment, water and food
should be sent, in due course,

But we’ll do things properly:
We’ll connect with the nation,
capturing the imagination
of every decent mind and soul.

Let the public jump
off our glorious cliffs
with hand-made parachutes
and Mickey Mouse full kits.

Let them fly to the jungle,
to run a triathlon,
in the scorching heat,
wearing a fur coat
(a plastic one, I mean).

White nose Johnny
will sing a love song
in 5 different languages,
naked,
in the North Pole.

Oh,
and Chris Evans can auction
a red gorgeous Ferrari
on a BBC show.

Bidders will flock!

…A new foreign policy?
Forget it, you fool!

…Don’t tax the rich,
they could leave us soon.

…New approach to fair trade?
We are UK PLC, dude.

…More migrants on our soil?
We can send them to the moon!

…What do you mean by “solidarity”?
Charity will just do!

Originally published in www.poesiaindignada.com with the title of “Solidarity”. Modified on 29/08/15

Copyright © 2014-2015. Tony Martin-Woods
Todos los derechos reservados. All rights reserved

€uroscam, a real eye-opener

€uroscam is a fascinating documentary based on new research carried out by Ricard Vergés on the European origins of the Housing and Construction Bubble in Spain.

Vergés lost his job for uncovering some of the business, professional and political practices leading to the socially painful and relatively distinct Spanish version of the Global Crisis.

The director of this documentary, Guillermo Cruz, combines an inquisitive retrospective narrative of events in Spain and Germany with interviews with well known academics, politicians, business men, journalists and activists.

Inevitably, €uroscam features (although not as a interviewees) people like Rodrigo Rato, former Director of  the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Rato, who was also Spain’s Economics Minister during the Conservative Governments of 1996-2004 is now facing charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

€uroscam questions the legitimacy of the Spanish Public Debt contracted as a result of the almost deterministic negligence of the Spanish and European political and corporate elites, responsible for the plight of millions of Spaniards.

The video has subtitles English and lasts a bit more than an hour.

#anuncomfortabledocumentary

Our Chinese Crisis

I saw the U.S. chief editor of the FT, Gillian Tett, last night on Channel 4 talking about this new-not-so-new crisis in China. I have to confess that her self-righteousness made me sick. I guess it comes with the job (hers and mine).

It is very sad to see all these clever, educated and eloquent people, the cheerleaders of global capitalism who did not foresee the big financial crisis in the U.S. and Europe, the myrmidons who turn a blind eye to financial and political incompetence when it suits their masters, demanding that the Chinese Government completely deregulate access to financial markets and stop “bureaucratic” intervention (whilst snarling their upper lip).

We had deregulation and re-regulation in the USA and the UK and the whole thing crashed anyway.

So, what’s a fair diagnosis for the Chinese Crisis?

Well, it is a structural fault of global dimensions: the Social Structures of Accumulation that come with this phase of Global Capitalism are collapsing and there is little we can do to prevent this from happening. Conventional regulation and deregulation can only slow down the collapse in some places or for some people, but nothing else. (If you want to know more about Social Structures of Accumulation, there is plenty of academic and non-academic readings and videos about it).

Is there anything else that can be done?

Capitalism is self-destructive, so Hopefully it will take care of itself. However, there is no room for complacency: Our Governments should alleviate the pain caused to people across the world, with our solidarity. We can engage as individuals in rebuilding, culturally, politically and economically, our own communities. We can help others to do the same.

But what is wrong with capitalism? It would be easier to answer this question by explaining what capitalism is and what is good about it:

Capitalism is a combination of values, social relationships, practices, institutions and legally binding rules enshrined in national and international laws, that has enabled a few people in the world to extract and abuse for their own benefit the economic resources of the majority.

Capitalism is based on the supremacy of human predatory self-interest, disregarding most other aspects of human nature, and it is supported by cultural domination. Contrary to what many people believe, capitalism does not respect individual freedom or private property as a universal human rights.

Capitalism cannot work well at the same time in all places across the world because it relies on inequality. The wealth of someone is the destitution of someone else somewhere else in the world.

The good thing about capitalism: If you are lucky enough to be born in the countries whose States have been supportive of the economic interest of their “industrialists”, mainly in North-America and Europe in the last two centuries, then you may be able to benefit, as a worker, as an independent professional/trader or even as a non-producing individual, from the economic surplus that flows around you, but only by virtue of the “Welfare State”, a sort of deal between business, common people, cultural elites and politicians for all of us to have a decent life without causing trouble to each other.

Unfortunately, the “Welfare State”, comprising socio-economic rights, in the workplace and beyond, and public services, is being dismantled in the places in the world where once worked, and will not take off in most places in the rest of the world because of the lack of resources in those places. The inherent inequalities of the capitalism have become more acute at this stage are there are no signs that this will change.

Is this an apocalyptic vision?

Sort of. But I am confident that there are a lot of talented people across the world working on alternative forms of co-operative economy and on peaceful sustainability. There are also many other people promoting political and cultural movements that will Enable our transition to a different form of global society. Crucially, human ingenuity is on our side. All the technological inventions, scientific discoveries and social advancements of the last century were the work of common people like you and me, either a) people who were paid a salary for their intellectual and physical efforts, very often working in publicly funded institutions or b) self-employed people who had to fight their way as individuals in a network of corporate (capitalist) interests.

So, there is a future, of course, but you won’t read about it in the FT.

Corbyn’s Survival

I have just read an interesting piece of Matthew D’Ancona in the Guardian. He suggests that Labour MPs will not respect Corbyn and will bring him down. His concerns are fully justified.

What should Corbyn do when he wins?

He will have to introduce new mechanisms of participation in the party, with a strong online component, to enable members and supporters, at local and national levels, scrutinise and direct more closely the political action of Labour MPs.

Obviously, the representative nature of the mandate of MPs and their relationship with their constituencies cannot be constitutionally altered overnight.

However, Labour MPs and party officers will have to be very careful not to contradict the party members and supporters when working on parliamentary initiatives or when deciding the direction of their vote. Ideally, they would have to engage with them more regularly when designing party policy and the electoral programme.

What are the requirements for this democratic transformation of Labour?

a) the participation mechanisms will have to be fair, secure and accessible;

b) the engagement with the members and supporters will have to be sensible and gradual yet motivating and politically empowering, combining wisely presential and remote engagement;

c) the introduction of e-democracy in the Labour Party has to conceived not only as a mechanism to articulate decision-making and improve accountability but also as a

  • a learning process for the members, the supporters and the party itself
  • and as tool to build a community of practice.

There are have been cases of misuse of online participation, of course, but in this country we have now plenty of expertise to ensure these requirements are met.

If Corbyn and his supporters are committed to building a stronger organisation and become a movement for social change, this is the way forward (and the only way to ensure his survival as leader!)

Entryists fear not

The Labour Party is in turmoil. The New Labour establishment, and some sectors of the media, are terrified by the Corbyn-mania. The avalanche of new supporters is being exaggeratedly linked to Radical Left “entryists” and Tory trolls.

Interestingly, the term “natural supporter” has been used in some quarters to refer to the people who should be allowed to join Labour as supporters, as opposed to those who shouldn’t. This is, sadly, a term that does not help to differentiate much. Blair’s New Labour associated itself with the world of business and with highly successful, economically, individuals. More recently, Labour has shown support for many of the economic and social policies of the Tories. Hence almost anyone could be a “natural supporter” of Labour nowadays, even those who criticise migrants and benefit claimants, even those who defend austerity, or those who aren’t bothered about zero hour contracts.

Should the party do anything about people who are believed to have signed up as supporters or members with the intention of harming the organisation?

Yes, they should. Party officers can and should research cases of infiltration of people who have no loyalty whatsoever to the organisation, people who are not genuinely prepared to support it under any circumstances. If there are indications of ill motives, the party should challenge the people concerned in order to give them a chance to explain themselves and come clean (if they can). At this point it is very important to delegate this type of enquiry to local branches, as they know better the people in their neighbourhood.

What if someone is a member of a left wing organisation?

If the person genuinely wants to help the Labour Party to be a stronger and more appealing and successful organisation, the applicant should be allowed to become a supporter, even if s/he has been critical of Labour or s/he militates in another organisation. The key requirement should be simply good will.

The future 

I believe the future for the Left in the UK lies on the idea of multi-party platforms, as explained recently by Stephen Moss in the Guardian. This is the formula which has already catapulted the Real Left to the power in Madrid and Barcelona, in Spain. You can read more about it in an article I wrote for Left Unity.

If we want to stand effectively for the principles of social justice that inspired the creation of the Labour Party and for the future of our public services, our children and our environment, we in the Left need to get used to the idea of multi-layered and fluid organisational loyalties.

Electronic democracy

We need much more citizen power and responsibility, coupled by new types of mandate for political decision-making.

Participation is increasingly electronic. Whether we like it or not, online platforms and tools are more successful in generating engagement and are becoming the norm in many situations.

Open online political participation is therefore to be celebrated, developed and extended into various areas of public life. It allows waves of common people to define the direction of any organisation, including political parties and governments.

It is true that participatory democracy, as opposed to the traditional representative democracy, generates asymmetries, as it gives more real power to people who are more active. Research carried out on in the area of participatory budgets across the world confirm the obvious: local activists who have more time at their disposal, and therefore more information and opportunities to coordinate their actions, can shape the decisions. This is natural and inevitable in any system in which common people have a real opportunity to participate politically on a regular basis and become influential activists if they wish so.

Openness is the way forward. Only the establishment has anything to fear.

¿Un Podemos dentro del PSOE? El caso inglés

¿Te imaginas que de la noche a la mañana el PSOE eligiera un nuevo líder que propusiera políticas similares a las de IU o de Podemos? ¿A que es ciencia ficción? Pues algo así parece estar sucediendo en Gran Bretaña.

En mayo de 2015 el Partido Laborista puso en marcha su proceso interno de elección de líder del partido. Un candidato de izquierda radical, Jeremy Corbyn, se coló en la carrera al recibir, por los pelos y en tiempo de descuento, las 35 nominaciones de diputados requeridas para presentarse al puesto (algunos de los diputados que lo nominaron confiesan que lo hicieron simplemente para generar debate). Los otros tres candidatos, que contaban con el beneplácito de los “grandes” del partido, partían con expectativas considerables, pero en cuestión de semanas el numero de simpatizantes inscritos y afiliados al partido (con derecho a voto) se disparó y los oficialistas se hundieron en las encuestas. Corbyn es ahora el claro favorito.

Las votaciones han comenzado esta semana y se prolongarán hasta mediados de septiembre. Hay un verdadero entusiasmo entre los sectores más progresistas de la sociedad británica. La Corbyn-manía es imparable, a pesar de las zancadillas mediáticas recibidas, y es un fenómeno que tiene apoyo popular real entre los votantes laboristas, digan lo que digan los administradores del Partido Laborista, quienes han puesto en marcha una purga de afiliados draconiana para detectar “entristas” de otros partidos de izquierda, así como Tories, derechistas, que quieren que Corbyn salga elegido porque creen que eso significaría el fin de los laboristas.

¿Cómo es posible que al aparato del Partido Laborista, controlado por los herederos de Tony Blair, se les haya “colado” Jeremy Corbyn?

Para entender este acontecimiento desde una perspectiva española hay que tener en cuenta dos cosas 1) El Partido Laborista en realidad solo es comparable al PSOE en cuanto a la orientación de sus respectivas políticas oficiales. Ambos partidos, a distintos ritmos, han abrazado en las últimas décadas la economía de mercado “libre”, donde la iniciativa corporativa es la norma, como único sistema posible. Sin embargo, hay diferencias fundamentales de naturaleza histórica, orgánica y organizativa entre los dos partidos. 2) Los sistemas parlamentarios de ambos países son muy distintos.

Aquí está la explicación a muy grandes rasgos:

1. Existen “tendencias”, oficialmente reconocidas dentro del Partido Laborista, de izquierda socialista, aunque son muy minoritarias. Sigue habiendo activistas dentro del partido que han continuado denunciando tropelías como la Guerra de Irak, los crímenes contra Palestina o la austeridad. Jeremy Corbyn es una de esas voces limpias del laborismo radical. Al cobijo de la agrupación local del partido del barrio londinense de Islington, donde lo han venido seleccionando como candidato parlamentario desde los 80, Corbyn ha sobrevivido como diputado. Obviamente,  ha votado en contra de muchas iniciativas parlamentarias laboristas contrarias a sus principios durante varias décadas.

2. Es cierto que el descontento con el “nuevo laborismo” de Tony Blair ha empujado a muchos laboristas reales a dejar el partido o simplemente entrar en un estado de hibernación, pero otros continuaron dentro, convencidos de que esa organización era, histórica y políticamente, más suya que de los blairistas. Los partidos políticos de izquierda real fuera del laborismo, al contrario que en España, carecen representación parlamentaria, con la excepción de los Verdes, que tienen un diputado. El sistema electoral británico es mucho más implacable con las minorías a nivel estatal que el español.

3. Por ultimo, recordemos que Partido Laborista fue fundado por los sindicatos para servir de ala política parlamentaria de la Clase Trabajadora. Los sindicatos más fuertes del país siguen siendo hoy día el principal contribuyente económico del partido, en un país donde no hay subvenciones directas a los partidos (ni a los sindicatos). Los “modernizadores” de Tony Blair, con sus propios donantes de fondos al Partido Laborista, tienen, al contrario que las élites del PSOE, una oposición interna substancial y que sigue contando, aunque diezmada, con medios para plantar cara al establishment.

¿Qué futuro le espera al Partido Laborista si Corbyn consigue ganar? ¿Escisión? ¿Empoderamiento popular?

¿Es posible que los partidarios de Corbyn, entre los me cuento a pesar de no militar en el Partido Laborista, podamos construir una alternativa real y sólida al neoliberalismo, en este país y en Europa?

On Corbyn

Gordon Brown is right. Labour cannot be just a party of protest. For Labour to change Britain under Corbyn and contribute to the necessary transformation of Europe, it will have to become a party in power.

What does it take to win the next General Election for Jeremy Corbyn and all the activists and people who support his project?

Well, it is still a long shot, but there are certain things that will have to be set in motion as soon as possible:

  1. Corbyn needs to gather public and explicit support from some of the most prestigious economists in the world whose ideas underpin Corbyn’s agenda. It would help to counteract the accusations of economic incompetence. This has to be done at the right time and in the right way. Even relatively “friendly” media, like the Guardian, will ignore any endorsement provided by the academic world, as demonstrated few days ago when the letter showing support for Corbyn signed by 28 professors was given the same treatment as any other letter sent to the paper written by any other reader.
  2. The anti-austerity and social justice message is already very clear. Corbyn needs at this stage to engage with key activists and figures, inside and outside Labour, and outline in greater detail some big tangible projects that can capture people’s imagination and will benefit a vast majority of people. This will contribute to the development of a one-nation labour spirit.
  3. The business world is extremely diverse. The Corbyn camp needs to be aware, and show publicly, that there will be many industries in the country that will actually benefit greatly from the growth, equality and investment agendas of Corbyn. Divide and rule. A sector of the media will also follow suit and engage more positively.
  4. Corbyn should take advantage of people’s anger about Europe and the disillusionment about politics and turn them into a vast desire for radical transformation of democratic governance, both in the UK and in Europe.