Out September 15th: “Syriza – Inside the Labyrinth”

syriza_ovendenBy Pluto Press (200 pages | 5 x 7 3/4 | © 2015).

With a Foreword by Paul Mason.

In January 2015, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, became the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, winning 149 out of 300 seats and badly defeating the then-ruling conservative New Democracy party. In Syriza, Kevin Ovenden presents an in-depth analysis of the political events leading up to this seemingly sudden reversal of political power in Greece, exploring the origins of the turbulent Greek political climate, from the beginnings of the Communist Party of Greece and the Greek workers’ movement following the First World War, to the brutal civil war that shook the country in the aftermath of the Second World War; the rise and fall of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and the growth of radical politics in the 1970s; and finally the crushing austerity demands following the debt crisis of the 2010s.

Ovenden also examines the far-right movements in Greece as well, focusing in particular on the negative impact that the xenophobic and nationalistic Golden Dawn party has had and continues to have to this day.

Syriza’s victory in Greece is a central event of the twenty-first century, whose ramifications are sure to be felt for decades.

Go to Pluto Press to order your copy.

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Why Juncker and May need each other

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Whatever the spat between them this week over dinner, Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May are both of the pro-neoliberal centre right, and they need each other

“Praise god it’s not Russia this time!”

The Russian embassy in London neatly trolled Theresa May as she stood on the steps of Downing Street this week accusing Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU of interference in the British general election.

It was an extraordinary claim. Though it has to be said, the leaking to Germany’s leading conservative paper by officials on the Juncker side of what seems to have been an ill-tempered over-dinner meeting with May to discuss Brexit was unusual only in terms of who the target was.

Britain is not Greece. But the behaviour of the Luxembourgeois Juncker came as no surprise to anyone in the southern European country that has been ground in the maw of the European institutions over the last eight years.

Not just hostile leaks, but crashing the banking system was the kind of intervention the European Commission and European Central Bank engaged in at the end of June 2015 – directly to interfere through methods of financial terrorism in the Greek referendum.

Those fanatically pro-EU liberal figures praising Juncker in this spat with May would do well to remember that his Bollinger-fuelled bullying continues to be directed at the Greek pensioner, the Spanish unemployed youngster and the French factory worker trying to preserve their workplace rights and job.

Others of us have been reminded that liberal free-market capitalism has had only ever a nodding acquaintance with democracy and popular sovereignty.

And both Juncker and May are wholly committed to the neoliberal, corporate capitalist policies whose failure is measured in widening inequality, mass unemployment across Europe and a permanent class war from above.

Both are also of the centre right. He was the prime minister of Luxembourg who turned it into a tax haven, before moving on to his sinecure in Brussels.

That makes May’s claim about “interference” in the British general election all the more absurd. As the local government elections confirmed this week, the general election on 8 June presents a straight choice – either the return of a May government, or its defeat, with the only alternative being a government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The very last thing that Juncker, Angela Merkel, the outgoing Francois Hollande or any of the European institutions or mainstream governments wants to see is a victory by a socialist-led Labour Party in Britain.

Labour’s plans to renationalise the NHS and rail, to invest and to redistribute wealth are entirely at odds with the rigged economic orthodoxy and breach the rules that lock it into the EU. Just as European-wide effort went into holding back the surge of Jean-Luc Melenchon in France in favour of promoting the Blairite Emmanuel Macron, so are they all committed to a Tory government in Britain.

So why the heat over that dinner? First, it is a sign of the clashes to come over the Brexit process. Those are perilous – for both sides.

Less remarked upon in this story is who it was that Juncker was speaking to when his entourage leaked that dinner table conversation and his haughty assessment of it.

It was the rest of the EU and its 27 governments. Beneath the proclamations of ironclad unity, the European Commission and Merkel have been working flat out to hold a common front.

Last year Merkel made an astonishing speech to the German equivalent of the CBI. She told big business not to go off seeking sector by sector deals with London – car manufacture, machine tools and so on. Instead, everything had to go through the German state and in turn through the EU negotiating team, in which Franco-German interests are strongly represented.

The EU is a powerful bureaucratic entity in its own right. But European capitalism is not a singular force with a single state. It is an agglomeration of national capitalisms – with sectional interests – and 27 states semi-organised in a hierarchy.

The primary aim in the Brexit process, say EU officials, is to maintain that arrangement. But if all were well, why would any effort be required to do so? All is not well.

Economic stagnation has produced enormous political strains in one European country after another. France is the latest, where neither of the twin party pillars of the political system made it into this weekend’s second round of the presidential election.

In Italy, the third biggest economy in the EU, the national carrier Alitalia has just gone bust. EU state aid rules prevent a nationalisation rescue. The anti-EU Five Star Movement is ahead in the polls.

We are often told that all the 27 EU states have a common economic interest in this Brexit process, which means “all the cards are in their hands”. It is true that the giant German economy could cope with a rupture in trade with Britain if no deal came out of the Brexit negotiations.

Other countries are not so sanguine. The government of the Netherlands is impeccably pro-EU. But the high proportion of Dutch trade with Britain means bosses and politicians there are much more nervous about Brexit.

So one side of this was shoring up the EU27 members and reinforcing the mantra that Brexit must be painful to ordinary people in Britain pour décourager les autres.

The second thing the Brexit dinner revealed was the essential unreality of the Tories’ negotiating position. Labour’s Keir Starmer hit the mark this week when he said a Corbyn-led government would rip up the Tories’ otherworldly plan, and outline a strategy based upon workers rights and economic growth – for the many, not the few.

One reason for the mess of the Tory negotiating position is that May is just not very good. Her lack of competence is attested to in how she was caught flatfooted by these leaks.

But it runs deeper than that. It is rooted in what the May government has been trying to do over the last nine months, which is to square a circle and exit the political mess David Cameron left them with after failing to win his referendum.

Behind all the chauvinistic flag-waving aimed at recuperating votes that went to UKIP in 2015, May wants a big business Brexit. And big business remains of the view it had overwhelmingly this time last year when it campaigned hard for Remain.

It would much prefer Brexit to mean not Brexit. That has been politically impossible in the wake of the referendum. With a majority of just 13 MPs in the Commons, the May government has been susceptible to the threat of revolt from two minority wings.

The Brexit fantasists – the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who think that waving a Union Jack will restore the British Empire – and the ideologically committed pro-EU minority of Kenneth Clarke and Anna Soubry.

The farrago of the government’s position is a product of this basic instability. And it is led by a prime minister who Clarke described on candid camera at the time of the Tory leadership succession last year as lacking in any big ideas and an eternal pragmatist – from reluctant Remainer to apparently hard Brexiteer.

May has surrounded herself with advisors from her time at the Home Office, which she ran with all the narrow-mindedness of a provincial Tory magistrate.

She is now hoping for a big majority through which to assert some control, not to pursue some hard Brexit, but to bury the referendum and return the Tory party in government to close alignment with the City of London and big business. That centres upon something she has been trailing for some weeks, to the alarm of the Tory Brexiteers.

It is to seek a long transitional arrangement with the EU in which all the strictures of the single market – which is not a trading relationship, but a legal enforcement of big business’s rights – are maintained, possibly renewed every year by vote of parliament.

It is to buy time and to avoid the kind of clashes that could open ruptures at the top – in Britain and in the EU – through which an insurgent popular anger could break.

As in any negotiation between capitalist interests there is antagonism. But May and Juncker have much more in common in seeking to control this process and quell what Diane Abbott called “a roar against the establishment” delivering the Leave vote in the referendum.

There are tensions. But they need each other – Juncker needs a big Tory win on 8 June.

And if you want to see what real interference looks like – then if Labour can continue to recover in the polls, it will be in your face in the coming weeks.  Including from Brussels, from Berlin, from Paris and from Washington.

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France: an historic moment for the left

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Jean-Luc Melenchon with tens of thousands of supporters at an alection rally in Paris

Radical left (including far left) – 7.7 million

Social Democracy – 2.3 million

Liberal centre – 8.7 million

Right (including independent right-wing Gaullist) – 9.2 million

Fascist right – 7.7 million

The decline of the principal parties of the left and right (broadly defined) in the first round of the presidential election has revealed a new reality in France. They had 55 percent in the first round in 2012. Now they have 25 percent.

Where does it go from here? There are figures from the social democrats and the traditional right who would like it to go back to a decade ago, when between them they took in the first round 21 million votes.

That is not going to happen. Together this time they won less than 10 million votes. Le Pen’s strategy is spelled out in documents produced by Front National theorists. It goes beyond 7 May and the National Assembly elections four weeks later – though both are critical for the FN.

It is to reconfigure French politics and its system between two poles: the “globalisers” and the “patriots”; the “internationalist neoliberals” and the “economic nationalists”. And it is to make that coterminous with “pro-system” and “anti-system”, conventional and insurgent, “elites” and “the people”.

It is to suppress the social realities of class from expression in politics. Class cannot be erased entirely. It is a fundamental material fact of everyday life. It is more to destroy the old left versus right polarity, based upon the historic class politics of France.

The FN, then, would be at the centre of a massive political and social pole. It would be free to hegemonise it, to organise it and to choose how to radicalise, and when to change tactics. It would have all the power of initiative to execute a bid for control of the state – with the support of enough of the elites, not in revolutionary conflict with them.

All that against the systemic forces, who would undermine themselves through their commitment to the politics, ideology and economic strategies which – as we saw in 2008 and even in the “good years” running up to it – bring great crises, not stability.

To say this is a longer term strategy is not to endorse the meme, which I’m sure is intended to sound alarm, but actually underestimates the coming period: “Macron 2017 = Le Pen 2022”. Ruptures and violent clashes are unlikely to hold off for five years and obediently synchronise with the French election cycle.

The committed Macronites – Manuel Valls, Guy Verhofstadt, Tony Blair, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and all the rest – also want to realign politics along this axis. That is what their year of the “liberal fightback” is about.

They share with Marine Le Pen the same medium term political goal – though their longer-term aims are antagonistic.

They believe that an essentially Blair-Clinton-Merkel centre can prevail and that their system will work – economically and politically – once the path is renewed to 1990s “modernisation” and the rejuvenation of the global liberal order.

The element of their own political histories and self-aggrandisement should not be underestimated. Just as Margaret Thatcher thought she had been a prime mover of history in bringing down the Soviet Union, so these Third Way politicians believe that it is they who delivered the neoliberal “golden age”.

They will miss me when I’m gone, Blair told his friends 10 years ago. “When history shows I was right, they will call for Enoch,” said Enoch Powell mouldering away in the 1980s.

Such realignment cannot be brought about if there is a powerful and insurgent force on the left. That is why both Macron and Le Pen want to crush the left.

In the first round of the presidential election there were 7.7 million votes for the radical and the anti-capitalist left. The 2.3 million voters who stuck with the Socialist Party, against right wing leaders telling them to vote for Macron, did so behind a left wing candidate.

Some 750,000 of those social democratic voters are so alienated from what Macron represents, and he was an economics minister in the disastrous outgoing administration of Francois Hollande, that polling suggests they will not vote for him in the second round. They will abstain.

In all, nearly 10 million people voted for the left, and in a ratio of more than three to one for candidates well to the left of someone from the better wing of mainstream social democracy.

In order for Macron and Le Pen to achieve the political realignment they want, these 10 million voters of the left need to be disorganised, demoralised and dispersed across the political field. Reduced to disoriented ions, then to be attracted to either of the two poles: Macon and Le Pen.

For 10 million is a big number. And the campaign which brought the 7 million to vote for Jean-Luc Melenchon was massive, with huge rallies, a dominating presence online, and a reach into layers deeply alienated from the system. It was a campaign that grew as Le Pen’s faltered.

This raises the potential for a very different reorganisation of politics, and therefore of the field of the class and social struggle. Not two poles, but three: a radical and insurgent left; a liberal centre, with satellites from the wreckage of the old party system; and the hard right cum far right.

That is the favourable political outcome for not only the left, but for the working class movement as a whole. Macron and Le Pen both know this. Both are enemies of the working class movement. Both want to stop that happening.

So both of them in the next two weeks to the second round on 7 May and then to the National Assembly elections will aim to pillage and plunder from the 10 million voters of the left.

It is not merely about accruing votes. It is a political onslaught aiming to destroy the advance made by the radical left, which now is an obstacle to both the centre and the far right creating the new political reality that they jointly believe serves them way beyond these elections – strategically for the coming few years.

The weapons of Le Pen, of Macron and of the left

The weapon of Le Pen is the considerable base of active support the FN has been allowed to develop over the last 30 years in working class areas. A cadre of activists fighting hard to take her fake anti-establishment message into the very strata where the radical left has just built a huge vote. Jean-Luc Melenchon outpolled Le Pen among the youngest group of voters despite the FN having been placed first for over a year in that demographic. Youth unemployment is at 24 percent.

Just 3 percent of PS voters and 12 percent of France Insoumise voters say they are so blindly enraged at the system that they are prepared to vote Le Pen in the second round. So much for the horseshoe theory: that the far left and far right are essentially one in the same. Some 31 percent of the centre-right’s voters, in contrast, say they will vote Le Pen in the second round. The FN grew out of the French right, with all its barbarities.

Le Pen wants much more than those 850,000 votes from the left. She definitely needs a lot more if she is to have any hope of finishing close or even winning. Some 43 percent of centre-right voters say they will vote for Macron. Denying her votes from the left and working class is crucial, and not only in stopping her advance electorally.

This is the portal through which Le Pen, and behind her fascism in France, hopes strategically to achieve two things. First: to dissolve the radical left. Second: then to advance as the “anti-system” force in a bipolar political system. This battleground is critical for the far right and for fascism in a way it is not for the capitalist forces of the centre.

The reason why there were so many violent clashes between the Nazis – who crucially had a mass street-fighting force marking them out dramatically from today’s FN – and Communist activists in Germany between 1929 and 1933 (as analysed in an very good book by Eve Rosenhaft) was not because the Communists were violent thugs just like the Nazis.

It was because the Nazis knew they had to penetrate into those working class neighbourhoods. That meant breaking by all manner of tactics – from violent intimidation, including murder, to political initiatives – the Communist or social democratic presence there.

When Golden Dawn in Greece launched their September offensive in 2013, they murdered Pavlos Fyssas. He was known throughout his neighbourhood. He was an anti-racist and popular rap artist. He was part of the political and social reality in that poor part of Athens-Piraeus. Someone hanging out in the open-air cafe, greeted by loads of young people. A physical presence of the young-left political culture that Golden Dawn have to destroy.

Similarly with the murderous assault on Sotiris Poulikogiannis and a group of trade unionists putting up Communist posters in Piraeus. He is a very known figure in the docks and in his neighbourhood. “Taking him out” had a political purpose. Cracking the skulls of the radical left in order to crack its base of political support and supplant a neighbourhood “Communist character” with one who is of Golden Dawn. A position in a locality conquered.

The Front National is not using those tactics. But it is capable of them. Jim Wolfreys is the latest acute observer of the FN to remind us that behind the carefully detoxified image that Marine Le Pen has confected it remains at core a fascist formation.

That is attested to by the fact that of 1,500 FN councillors elected three years ago some 400 had left the party by January of this year. Some cited factionalism and administrative chaos. Others, however, said that upon standing as a newcomer to the party and getting elected, they found to their shock that there was a hard core with fascist and violently racist beliefs.

That shows two things. That there is a strong fascist spine, and that the careful strategy of softening the image and building up an electoral coalition of different segments comes with overheads. It means a broad footprint electorally, but also a strategic gap between that and the sharp dagger that committed fascists know they must fashion if they are not merely to win some representative elections but to conquer actual power.

The FN strategy has been labelled, by analogy to the eurocommunist politics of the left developed in the 1970s, eurofascism. A theoretical reference point for eurcommunism was a reading of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. He wrote of a distinction between a “war of position” and a “war of manoeuvre”. In the war of position, a military metaphor, leadership of a bloc of social forces is built up over time, through intervention in the fields of political and social life – elections, for example – in order to gain strategic advantage on an impending field of battle.

Strength is accrued behind this “counter-hegemonic bloc” at the expense of the hegemonic bloc of forces supporting the old order and system. A war of manoeuvre is, by distinction, the open clash of forces – direct, with methods of struggle including violence and the immediate application of force.

Gramsci, unlike some of his interpreters, knew that a war of position gives way in moments of manifold crisis to a war of manoeuvre. You build up resources of strength to use them – not to admire them. Committed fascists in Europe know that too, whatever combination of tactics they choose at a particular moment.

The battle to secure the 10 million voters of the left from incursion by the siren and fake anti-establishment voice of Le Pen is therefore strategic. It is not only about the numbers of potential voters denied to the fascist project. It is about solidifying the radical left pole of politics in France. Upon that basis it is possible to push back hard to regain from the FN those working class votes that it has been allowed to build up, election after election, over the last 30 years.

It has done so not because people have gone over directly from far left to far right. But because it has been afforded the room to manoeuvre, within this war of position, to win one concentric circle after another, centred upon the support that forms immediately around its core – those who were previously of the traditional right, with all its reactionary ideas and prejudices.

The weapon to secure the anti-system left vote against the far right, and to aspire to unify the working class against this deadly hostile force, is a militant and mass front of working class and left organisations, with social movements and groups of oppressed minorities, against the FN.

That cannot be done under the banner of Emmanuel Macron. For his front – the one signed up to by the social democrats and Gaullist right – is aimed squarely against a militant and left-led anti-fascist insurgency. It is crafted to crush the radical left, without which there can be no effective anti-FN campaign. His programme is for an assault on working class life, from pensions to disapplication of the mandatory 35-hour week and strengthening the police and security state. He needs a pliant working class.

The Macron message and strategy cannot undermine the FN. They are a mirror of the FN’s. With paeans to the EU and to the wonders of global capitalism, he is prepared to see the former industrial towns of the north and the eviscerated areas of the south of France go to Le Pen – provided he can lift a vote from elsewhere using Le Pen as a scarecrow.

The weapon of Macron in the working class movement is the old parliamentarist and trade union bureaucracy of the Socialist Party, which has stood as political master over the Communist Party for 40 years. They are calling not for militant action against Le Pen, to unify the working class movement and to prepare for the neoliberal offensive of a Macron government.

They are giving political support to Macron. For those of the right of social democracy, it is because they believe in what Macron offers. They saw him more as their candidate than their party’s own over the last four months. For those on the left of the Socialist Party, such as Benoit Hamon, it is something else: a strategic impasse leading to tactics dictated by someone else.

Despite the treachery of the right, the left social democrats still cohabit with them in the same party. Moreover, they share some essential political parameters. They say an insurgent politics of rupture will benefit only the far right. The prime, public political argument that Hamon put against Melenchon – against whom he was not antagonistic in the campaign – was that he would lead to a chaotic break with the euro and EU. The only beneficiaries of that would be the Front National., said Hamon

He claimed, somewhat unconvincingly, that he had a plan to get some agreed change in the EU and modify the deadly ordoliberal- austerity orthodoxy. The German social democrat Martin Schulz was apparently in favour of it. Though deeply critical of Macron, Hamon’s political line was little different from his: we need to get this EU system working again, and I have the ear of someone in Berlin.

The left of the Socialist Party is tied not only to the right in their joint electoral endeavour for the National Assembly elections. It is tied politically also. And by endorsing Macron, it has subordinated itself further. The only people strengthened by that are Macron and his allies such as Manuel Valls, and Le Pen herself. That is because she wishes to portray herself as the candidate “of the people”, now temporarily having relinquished the leadership of her party to present herself as everywoman: the embodiment of France against the old political machines.

Macron is relying on the bankrupted old forces of working class politics in France to break the insurgent left and deliver it back to the centre, possibly with some offer of seats for the social democrats – with their 6 percent on Sunday – in the National Assembly. Le Pen is also relying on that. For if the leaders of the left insurgency embrace the old political game, she will be free to appeal to the millions who reject it and who voted left in numbers which the FN cannot have expected six weeks ago.

Two paths – servitude or a new resistance

There are two paths in the next 12 days. One is for Macron and his vacuous rallies to dominate. That is what Le Pen wants. Her surrogates have said for months that Macron is the figure she would prefer to fight in a second round.

The other path is for the third pole of 7.7 to 10 million voters of the left to continue to assert itself in France. A ruthlessly independent pole, adopting a two-fold policy. That is a direct fight, with methods that the FN has rarely faced in its history, against Le Pen and aiming to deny her working class votes. A cordon sanitaire around the fascists – for that is what they are. A militant and mass movement which confronts her.

The left is not in the final round. It can be in the streets, workplaces and neighbourhoods, and with an equally important second message: an iron hard line of political division against Macron, preparing working people, young people and the social movements to fight the incoming Macron presidency. Challenging the forces of the centre to join the effective anti-fascist fight, welcoming any that do, but refusing political concession to their brand of dissolving left and working class power.

Macron will not fight Le Pen effectively. He will joust with Le Pen aiming for the playing field they both want. In a militant confrontation with Le Pen, the left can strengthen itself and also undermine Macron. To lead to a second round where the votes are counted in the shadow of a political reality defined by the left leading its 10 million voters in the extra-electoral field.

On that basis also to deliver a radical left vote in the National Assembly elections, which will be contested against the liberal centre, the right and the far right – equally. It means fighting to break the FN, but refusing to give political support to Macron. The centre-right has called for a vote for Macron. It is their business to win their 7 million voters to do that. But they will have to clash with their base on issues from Islamophobia and racism to gay marriage to do so.

The left can force them to – by not joining them behind Macron. The gain is two-fold. The suppression of Le Pen in other areas so that she is less able to penetrate the working class, and the disorganisation of the systemic right, who are at the centre of the French state. The police thugs who terrorise Black youngsters in the banlieue will be with either Le Pen or Fillon/Sarkozy.

Our side, meanwhile, will unite and rally against Le Pen with the effective methods. That will force their side to scrap with their own base, which they have helped lead towards Le Pen in the first place – because they collaborate with the FN all the time.

That all requires a political and organisational rupture with French social democracy and with its marionette of 40 years, the Communist Party of France. Whatever the motivations, and with them his political-personal weaknesses, Jean-Luc Melenchon throughout the election campaign was for refusing an old style pact with those decrepit old forces. He was right. In the same way that the Labour reformist Keir Hardie was right to break completely from electoral pacts with the Liberal Party in Britain over a century ago, and Andreas Papandreou was right to destroy the old Centre in order to found Pasok in Greece in the 1970s.

That’s seen now more clearly than in the near miss of Melenchon being in the runoff. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party, in the false name of anti-fascist unity, are aiming to restore their own fortunes at the National Assembly elections, over the corpse of this radical breakthrough by the insurgent left last Sunday.

In endorsing Macron, they do three things. They give political support to someone who will launch an offensive against working people. They help Le Pen – for she wants this political constellation of her against all the old party machines. And they do Macron’s bidding in trying to rip away a part of the “insubordinate left” back to the centre, in return – if they are lucky – for some local pacts to deliver some parliamentary seats.

Marine Le Pen gained 1.3 million votes on Sunday compared with 2012. But it was lower than what she ought to have got if her share of the vote in the regional elections, on a lower turnout, in December 2015 had been maintained. On that equation she should have gained 3.5 million – nearly 10 million votes over all on Sunday.

Melenchon, on the other hand, did gain over 3 million votes compared with 2012. Out of the ashes of the catastrophic presidency of Francois Hollande, it is the radical left and not the fascistic right who have gained the most.

The cheerleaders of the international capitalist class are in danger of making themselves look even more ridiculous by claiming that this is their moment. Marine Le Pen is not behaving as if it is her moment – but rather, with some cunning, that is only a moment on a slightly longer journey.

This is actually the moment of the fighting left. The agency for rupturing into a half century political settlement has been someone whose politics are actually closer to the patriotic social democratic left than they are to anti-capitalist revolutionaries.

But the rupture is made, in any case – égal. And that poses a challenge for those of us who are of the anti-capitalist left. Our politics – in a practical, and therefore real sense – were formed out of 1968. In the intervening years it has been easy for them to become buried under sedimentations of formulae and reflexes built up in decades of relative social peace, punctuated by minor eruptions. And with each subsiding of an eruption, so the sediment thickened.

Now there is a great rupture. Our biggest enemy is old formulae and habits of thinking. The recently old – that is. The older theorisations from times of great upheaval can be very useful.

The anti-capitalist left has a huge amount to offer in assisting this process of forcing the reconfiguration of politics in France to the advantage of the working class and of the oppressed. To bring that to bear, however, does mean being as radical as the young French people who voted en masse for Melenchon, and providing them with the tools to maintain this insurgency.

It does mean breaking once and for all with a satellite status orbiting the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. They are dying stars. Out of their orbit is the only way to avoid going down with them.

Above all it means believing the evidence of one’s own eyes, not being consumed with the pain of one’s old wounds.

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‘How can you rape a whore?’

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Tanks roll onto the streets at the start of the Colonels’ Coup in Athens on 21 April 1967

Those were the words of Jack Maury, the head of the CIA station in Athens, upon being asked whether the military coup in Greece that began with tanks on the street 50 years ago represented “the rape of democracy”.

The colonels’ coup was the response of the nexus of the deep state in Greece and its allies abroad to two years of enormous instability. That upsurge had been triggered by the popular insurgent events of July 1965.

They were meant to have been impossible in the authoritarian state constructed after the civil war in the 1940s. It had resulted in the outlawing of the Communist party, the exile of many militants and the banning of trade unions.

But still, the working class and young people especially rose in revolt in 1965. The trigger was a government crisis – the dismissal of the centrist prime minister Giorgos Papandreou. The response to this “Royal Coup” by memorandum quickly spread beyond the confines of parliamentary politics and into enormous street mobilisations.

It rocked the Greek political system and ruling class on its heels for over a year. But the movement stalled – the forces of moderation dominating. It was only then that the colonels were able to seize the opportunity to strike on 21 April 1967.

A wave of repression, state murders and torture ensued. That is what an actual coup d’etat looks like.

The junta lasted until 1974, its downfall prefigured by the student occupation of the law school and then the polytechnic uprising in Athens, in November 1973.

I first visited Greece in 1983 almost exactly 10 years to the day following the law school occupation.

It was on a school trip. We visited both the law school and the polytechnic. It was at the height of the short-lived reforming experiment of the Andreas Papandreou government. He was to capitulate to forces of capital, foreign and domestic, within the next year.

We stayed in a cheap hotel at the back of the polytechnic. It had been a secret police station and torture centre under the junta.

Just before Easter we visited two friends of our classics teacher. They lived just off Alexandras Avenue, on Ioustinianou, if I remember correctly.

They were both Communists. He was still in the KKE; she had joined one of the big Maoist formations during the metapolitefsi in the 1970s.

We listened rapt as they told us about a history of Greece very different from the classical period we were learning about in school.

They had been active underground during the dictatorship. And we learned something new about Gerald, our teacher, beyond the astonishing feat that it appeared he could recite from memory just about all of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Sappho, Euripides…

He was the best kind of English liberal. Nothing to do with the creeps of the Liberal Democrats, but in the mould of Bertrand Russell. He also had a passion for walking, and later produced two authoritative volumes of hill walks on the Greek islands and mainland.

That night he told us how this cover of a respectable English classics master enabled him to travel throughout Greece in the dictatorship years – sometimes with groups of schoolboys from Yorkshire he was taking on a trip over the Easter holidays. He was thus able to pass on messages and information between people he knew who were in the resistance, most of them of the radical left.

He was not politically sympathetic to communism. But he did think it the right thing to do to assist the anti-junta underground, which used civil and military tactics.

The generation of that struggle still forms a major part of the Greek society – so do the right wing authoritarian forces which were then interpolated between the security apparatus, the American embassy and the royal palace.

A woman who confronted a Golden Dawn gang trying to terrorise immigrants in her town’s street market recently gave evidence in the trial of Golden Dawn. It turns out she had been a student in Athens in the early 1970s and had taken part in both the law school and polytechnic occupations.

We stayed up nearly till morning that night back in 1983, getting quite (well, very) drunk, talking with our teacher and his remarkable friends, and listening to songs of the Greek left.

“Under the junta, we used to have to hide the records and play them at a whisper,” our hosts told us. “But not now. We can play them as loud as we like.”

One of the songs was “To Gelasto Paidi”. It’s a translation set to music by Theodorakis of a poem Brendan Behan wrote at the age of 12 for Michael Collins – “The Laughing Boy”.

In this version the words are slightly changed. It begins now not with “It was on an August morning…” but, “It was 17 November….” the early morning in 1973 when the tanks burst into the polytechnic to crush the uprising.

It’s unusual in that many songs of the Greek left – like, for example, the Italian Bella Ciao – are of a partisan style and speak of repelling the foreign invader.

Here, those responsible for killing “the laughing boy” are the so called “army of the people” – the national army, the embodiment of national unity in which all participate equally under national service and which is supposedly above politics, equally disposed to all the parties. An act of civil war, in other words – as was so with the killing of Michael Collins in 1922.

It is a reminder that although all the forces of international reaction, concentrated in Europe in the Cold War mechanisms of Nato, supported the Greek coup, it was the Greek state itself, acting on behalf of the ruling class, which executed and initiated it.

It had found the room to do so, not least in part, because the biggest moderating brake on the movement that preceded it was the idea of the popular revolt stopping short of seriously confronting and dismantling that state.

It was the idea of holding back from forcing through a division of the nation, with the poor against and expropriating the wealthy elites, as the only way to then unite a people on a true basis.

Instead, there was to be only change limited to what the liberal forces around Papandreou (the father of Andreas) would agree to.

The result was not a liberal transformation of Greece. It was the military seizing power.

The clip below is a reminder of something else too. The immense capacity of people to struggle, even when mistakes have been made leading to terribly adverse circumstances.

It is of the big concert in October 1974 after the fall of the junta. Theodorakis conducting. The great contralto Maria Farantouri singing.

The stars, however, are to a large extent the thousands in the stadium.

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Melenchon and the left alternative to the liberal front

France Election

Rally for Jean-Luc Melenchon in Marseille where he denounced Trump’s attack on Syria and read a poem by the Greek Communist poet Yannis Ritsos against war

(This is a column for the Morning Star newspaper in Britain written on Sunday 9 April)

The French presidential election moved further into uncharted territory this week following a televised debate between all 11 candidates.

A snap audience survey following the debate on Tuesday night found that the radical left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was already rising in the polls, was seen to be the big winner of the evening.

The far left New Anti-capitalist Party’s Philippe Poutou’s withering attacks on fascist Marine Le Pen and the candidate of the mainstream right, Francois Fillon, also won wide recognition.

The first opinion poll conducted in the two days following the debate showed a dramatic tightening of the race. It put Le Pen and the liberal-centrist Emmanuel Macron both down to 23 percent.

In joint third were Melenchon and Fillon on 19 percent. Benoit Hamon, the candidate of the centre-left Socialist Party, had fallen to 8.5 percent. Other gainers included the two candidates of the smaller far left with 2.5 percent between them.

It was one poll, but it confirmed the steady rise of Melenchon and his France Insoumise (France Unbowed) election front, which is backed by the Communist Party of France.

This election was already unprecedented and is more unpredictable than ever with two weeks to go before the first round, which will determine the two lead candidates to go head to head in a runoff a fortnight later.

The Socialist Party and the centre right represented by Fillon have been for 40 years the twin pillars of the French political system, itself an anchor of the EU, to which both parties are firmly committed.

At the start of this year the socially conservative Thatcherite Fillon was the frontrunner. But his candidacy has been sinking under a weight of corruption allegations.

Hamon was the surprise winner of the Socialist Party nomination in a US-style primaries process. He is from the left of the party, but is more akin to the late Michael Meacher than to Jeremy Corbyn.

His selection in a vote of two million people indicated a desire among many Socialist Party voters for some leftwards shift after the disaster of the presidency of Francois Hollande.

Much conventional commentary predicted that as a fresh candidate of the historic centre left, he would eclipse Melenchon and emerge as the standard bearer of the left as a whole.

But after a brief poll bounce, he came crashing down. There are two reasons why.

First, the neoliberal right of the Socialist Party refused to reconcile to the selection of a moderately left wing candidate.

The defeated Manuel Valls has since led a string of right wing grandees to endorse a rival candidate to their own party’s – the investment banker Macron. He says he is neither left nor right and combines a cosmopolitan social policy with a promise to introduce shock neoliberal reforms.

This is a pattern in social democratic parties elsewhere in Europe. In Spain, the party barons preferred to oust a centrist leader and support the formation of a government of the right rather than entertain some move towards the left anti-establishment Podemos party.

In Greece, Pasok preferred to go into government with the right rather than look to the left. The once mighty party is now about to be dissolved in favour of some new centrist confection.

Those in the British Labour Party fomenting civil war against the Corbyn leadership should look to Europe and behold where their counterparts have ended up.

The second reason for Melenchon’s rise is more positive. It is the radical left policies he is standing on combined with an insurgent political campaign that emphases a break with the old political orthodoxies.

He is drawing huge crowds to rallies and making inroads with innovative techniques. His campaign has launched an imitation of the Mortal Kombat video game. It’s called Fiscal Kombat.

It is not just that his policies are more left wing than Hamon’s – a 100 percent wealth tax, for example. It is also his appeal to working class and popular France to rise up at the ballot box against a discredited system.

The disastrous experience of the Hollande presidency has deepened the alienation of millions from the mainstream political system. He came in five years ago saying that his “only enemy is world finance” and promising some limited reforms in the wake of the post-2008 crash.

But despite controlling the National Assembly and most regions and large municipalities, Hollande’s government rapidly capitulated to the demands of the employers and of the EU.

With a popularity rating of just 4 percent, Hollande was unable to stand for a second term. For those touting some centrist alternative to Corbyn – Hollande was it, the French Ed Miliband.

The backlash has been particularly strong among the young. Youth unemployment is at 24 percent.

And it is among young voters that Le Pen’s Front National has made the greatest advances in the last three years.

Her message fuses a fake anti-elitism and economic radicalism with weaponising the racism and authoritarianism which the French state itself has turned to with its state of emergency and targeting of the Muslim community as a result of its participation in the war on terror.

Until two weeks ago mainstream commentary was united on what the consequences would be for this pivotal election for the future of European politics.

The choice was to be between Le Pen and “the populist tide” and Macron, enormously hyped in every liberal and business paper in Britain and Europe as the saviour of the liberal centrist order following the shock defeat of Hillary Clinton last November.

As for the left – it should simply get behind the neoliberal investment banker as the only hope to stave of the fascist right.

Indeed, most foreign coverage of France ignored the Melenchon candidacy. Not now.

His advance has radically changed the picture. And it has not been simply that he has consolidated “the left vote”. His rise has come at the same time as Macron and Le Pen have both stalled.

It supports the case of the radical left across Europe that there is a strategic alternative to collapsing back behind the failing neoliberal centre which has opened the door to the far right in some countries.

It is that a radically insurgent campaign, based upon the interests of the working class and neglected majority and refusing the politics of racial division and scapegoating, can mobilise vast numbers of people for progressive change.

Can Melenchon’s rise take him into the second round of the election? It is still more likely that it will see Macron versus Le Pen. But no one is in a position to rule anything out.

In some ways as significant is the impact of the campaign already in shaping the politics of the election and beyond.

Speculative head-to-head polls put Macron beating Le Pen by about 59 percent to 41 percent in a second round election. That is a wide margin for a French presidential election, but a worrying large number of people who would cast a vote for a fascist candidate.

With those polling figures what it would take for Le Pen to win would be 90 percent of those who say they would vote for her actually to go and do so, as against just 65 percent for Macron.

There’s the rub. Le Pen’s support is much more solid than Macon’s is. Strangely, large numbers of people are not too keen to vote for an investment banker as the default candidate.

Many French voters have yet to make up their minds. The abstention rate could be close to 30 percent, historically high.

So even on the sole measure of stopping the far right, the Melenchon campaign, which is exciting wide layers, makes an impact. It is likely to bring more people out into political action and to stop Le Pen. And it can lay the basis for the left to play a role in the social and political struggles to come.

For whatever the result of this election – France is set to become the latest site of the breakdown of the European political system and of growing social turmoil.

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The Trump gang, Huntington and ‘ideological-race war’

ABU GHRAIB PRISON

Abu Ghraib 2003 – war of torture and racial humiliation

Donald Trump apparently doesn’t read books. The far right gang around him do.

The book that springs to mind looking at their outpourings in the last week is Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. It was popular in hard right circles when it came out 20 years ago, as the Steve Bannon generation of fascistic ideologues were cutting their teeth in a post Cold War World.

Huntington gave a racialised rationalisation for the widening military conflicts and interventions of the US, which he said would characterise the new “World Order” rather than the disappearance of conflict through global trade and what became known as neoliberalism.

China was already beginning to rise. There was much anguish in the US about “American declinism”. And the backlash in the Middle East to decades of US and foreign power domination, and to local tyrants, was also underway. Both have developed apace since. Declining US power has not stopped them.

Huntington claimed that the conflicts arose from a fundamental “clash of civilisations”. He divided the world into 10 supposed fixed civilisations (though the number varied) – Western (of course), Islamic, Orthodox (Russia), Latin American, Sinitic…

There was no reality at all in the categories – “Orthodox civilisation” was defined by Eastern Christianity; “African civilisation”, geographically by just the southern two thirds of the continent of Africa.

The logic of the enterprise was to justify the imperial clashes the US would engage in.

So to rationalise both war in the Middle East and increasing military tension with China, Huntington came up with the nonsense idea that there was a common “Islamo-Confucian” civilisation, which brought together Muslims and Chinese as a joint enemy of the US, leading the superior bloc of “Western civilisation”.

Now the Trump gang are lashing out at Muslims in general, putting Iran “on notice” of possible military action and musing about a major war in the South China Sea.

In doing so – as with the planned turn to protectionism – they are putting forward their plan to secure the interests of American capitalism and imperialism. They are also talking up trade wars with Germany and the EU capitalist bloc. Deep US interests have had to grapple with a rising China and the question of the Middle East long before Trump entered the White House.

George W Bush tried to do it, with Tony Blair, in 2003. But their efforts came to nought in Iraq. They were defeated there – that’s the principal reason why Trump falsely claims he was against the Iraq war: it was a loser.

Barack Obama modified the strategy. Not boots on the ground, but drone wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a “pivot to Asia” based upon building up a trading bloc and deepening military alliances against China. That is a zone of trade protectionism in itself – just that it was to stretch beyond California, across the Pacific and into southeast Asia through the TPP trade deal. That deal is now dead.

Obama’s Middle East policy also failed, especially when he lapsed back into the delusions of regime change in Libya and Syria.

China’s rise continued under both Bush and Obama. They attempted to manage it. But they could not make it serve a renewal of US dominance. In any case, Obama is out now.

So there is a continuity in what the Trump gang is doing. But there is also a break – a very dangerous one.

The war on terror necessitated anti-Muslim racism at home and abroad. But it was not driven as a “race war” or a religious war. Those who referenced Huntington were marginal in the Bush administration. The ideology instead was that the exercise of “shock and awe” in Iraq would provide a “demonstration effect” in the region that would rapidly lead to political change and the embrace by new, pro-Western and liberal regimes of the global order, US-centred corporate power and all the neoliberal fantasies.

Blair reheated the old European “liberal imperialist” ideology of the 19th century, making a keynote speech in Chicago in 1999 – before 9/11 but at the time of the Nato war in Kosovo. The idea of imperialism and colonialism as a “civilising mission”. He brought it to the table of the neoconservatives who came to power with Bush.

They regarded the Islamic Middle East as “backward”. But they saw themselves as civilising it, arrogantly believing they could “nation build” by war and occupation (and, naturally, profiteering and pillaging – as 19th century European imperialists had done).

They cannot be civilised

The Trump gang does not believe you can “nation build”. And Theresa May said much the same when she was in Washington.

They share the old idea that Muslims are inferior, but believe they are irredeemable. You cannot civilise them, or the Chinese. You have to crush them. That means crushing them as a people, a “rival civilisation” – eliminating the threat.

So those who thought that a rejection of Bush-Obama era “regime change” was somehow a rejection of war were seriously mistaken.

It actually means more war, but with an even more barbaric and dangerous justification, ideology and conduct.

The war on terror has beaten the bloody path to this. As the anti-war movement pointed out at the time, a war on something called “terror” would have no boundary, no point at which an armistice could be declared, no peace negotiations, no post-war, but endless war.

Trump deliberately talks now of “Islam-ic terror”, not of “jihadi terrorism” or “Islam-ist terrorism”. However imperfect those latter two terms are – and they have always suggested there is something specifically Muslim that is the problem – they did leave space for saying there are “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”.

George Bush was at pains to point out – whatever the hypocrisy – after 9/11 that he was not going into a “war of civilisations”. At the time, even Tony Blair said the same – though in the years since he has increasingly claimed that the fundamental problem is within Muslims as a whole, the “good” are covering up for the “bad”, all are implicated in “the problem”.

The Trump gang is going further – and saying so is no backhanded compliment to what went before.

From what we know of them already, at the heart of the gang are people sympathetic to the idea of a war of civilisations – the superior eliminating the threat of the inferior. Trump himself has said, “It is not true that all men are created equal.”

War – the major wars that Trump’s gang say they are prepared to contemplate – are barbaric in themselves. Does this alternative ideology and justification, then, make any actual difference?

Trump’s defence secretary General “Mad Dog” Mattis oversaw the near annihilation of Fallujah in Iraq – all in the name of nation-building and creating a liberal global order. The British empire in China and India oversaw the starvation of at least 12 million Chinese and six million Indians between 1876 and 1878 through a deliberate policy of exporting food from the famine areas in the name of free trade. All under the Victorian ideology of the West civilising the Rest.

The slaughter of the First World War was unparalleled up to that point – motivated by a simple clash of rival powers (not supposed civilisations) and justified to the public by modern national chauvinism.

Liberal capitalism has its own horrors. But it is also capable of producing reactionary forces and ideologies which take that horror even further. Trump has arisen from the crisis of neoliberal order, and through the main party of US capitalism.

War and eliminationist racism

On one level Hitler’s regime in Germany in 1939 was merely carrying out the expansionist war policy which the aristocratic military in 1914 had pursued and which was to meet the agreed aims of German big business, to be achieved by one means or another. German capital and its state functionaries wanted the end of the enfeebling Versailles Treaty. Hitler ended it.

But the German expansion eastwards in the Second World War came with a new ferocity and barbarity, flowing from the worldview of the masters of the Third Reich.

The anti-Semitic policies of the 1930s in Germany – legal discrimination and segregation against Jews, daily propaganda campaigns, Jewish Germans marked out as no longer full citizens, and therefore not protected by either the law or the normal values pertaining to proper citizens – gave way to the Holocaust from late summer 1941 onwards.

There were stages and thresholds crossed to turn an ideology for the elimination of the “malign influence” of a people in national life, “corrupting the national organism”, into the physical annihilation of millions of people on account of who they were.

One of the key elements enabling the others was the ideology shaping the kind of war that was to be fought to the east of Germany.

It would be mass, mechanised murder, for sure – as was 1914-1918.

It was to be a war of conquest and grabbing resources (Trump says once the US was in Iraq it should have just taken all the oil). That was also the case on all sides in the First World War.

But in addition, it was to be something else: an “ideological-race war of annihilation”; a war of existence – of “being or not being” – the existence of the “superior” race and its civilisation to be secured by the destruction of inferior cultures and the elimination of the people who bore them (peoples and races used interchangeably).

That was the ideology for the invasion of the “Judeo-Communist” Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. It was translated into orders down to unit level to ignore “the rules of war”, such as the protocols against torture and killing prisoners. And it was in the crucible of that horrendous theatre of war that the ultimate barbarity of the Holocaust was forged.

The point is not some direct comparison – still less equivalence – between Trump and Hitler.

It is merely this: imperialist wars generate of necessity murderous racism. The US war in Vietnam killed two million people and maimed millions more. You cannot do that day in day out without regarding the victims as somehow less human than yourself as perpetrator, whether torturing peasant farmers or incinerating them from B52 bombers.

And that inhuman racism gave rise to the mindset of the US force at My Lai, who systematically tried to annihilate a whole village – going door to door – for no military purpose but with a state of mind we can describe only as genocidal.

Abu Ghraib and the occupation of Iraq revealed similar horrors of our own time, accelerated by the dispensation from “normal rules” that the US state gave itself in the abnormal war on terror.

But if the racism arising from the mass murder of war becomes not an incidental though necessary feature but firmly embedded in the reasoning for war itself, in its commanders’ choice of targets, of weaponry, of methods of terror (which is what war means), of the war’s aims, then a threshold may be crossed.

Not callous disregard and sickening excuses for mass murder. Not the haphazard My Lai massacre, covered up by an embarrassed US high command.

But extermination as policy. Extermination of the inferior culture-race. The elimination or amputation of a civilisational rival, which happens to be a strategic adversary as well.

We have already glimpsed over that threshold from the bloody peaks of the war on terror and ensuing disasters unleashed to halt the Arab Spring.

We know full well what the US war machine – the largest among its rivals and in the world – is capable of. Now in the part of the US state machine nested in the White House are people who are more than comfortable with the use of the terrible power. They also at the very least entertain fantasies of racial supremacy and a worldview which sees conflicts over plunder as coming down ultimately to conflicts between superior and inferior peoples.

How will that develop? We do not know. But are we really to wait and see?

The time to stop the Trump gang is now.

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First he has come for the Muslims – how many mosques must burn?

 

mosque-torched

Mosque in Victoria, Texas, burnt down the day after Trump announces his racist ban

Trump is attacking on a broad front. There are many reasons to fight him and to stop him coming to Britain for a propaganda boost.

But we should be clear – firmly in the crosshairs are the Muslims. He has started his assault on all of us by attacking them.

The racist travel ban targets Muslims. The far right media and Fox in the US tried to claim the terror attack by a white supremacist and Trump fan on the mosque in Quebec was actually committed by a Muslim. A sickening lie worthy of Goebbels.

A mosque was burnt to the ground in Texas on Saturday, hours after Trump announced his racist ban. This is a nightmare, and it is happening.

Why Muslims?

In part, because Trump’s team are themselves viciously racist against Muslims. But it is also that anti-Muslim racism and prejudice have been growing for 20 years, fuelled by the war on terror.

It is the central propaganda lie that the fascist Marine Le Pen hopes to use to win the French presidential election. The far right AfD in Germany has made Islamophobia the lynchpin of its advance. And it is the prime justification for ever more wars, which Trump is prepared for, in a different way from the previous government, but in the same places in the Middle East.

The forces of reaction and barbarism everywhere see Trump’s attack on Muslims as their path to power, including the reactionaries of ISIS who believe it will bring them more recruits.

Amid all the apparent chaos around the Trump gang’s Executive Orders, we can safely conclude there is a strategy. They think that by taking the anti-Muslim racism one stage further with the racist ban they can rely on the pool of Islamophobia that has already been built up.

If they can make the ban hold, if Theresa May can bring Trump to Britain with the ban in place, then the door will be open to all the other attacks where the Trump regime wants to go, but is nervous to implement now.

There is a draft anti-gay Executive Order, but Trump pulled back from signing it yesterday. Do you think he will hold back forever? If he gets away with the Muslim ban today, he will feel confident to legitimise anti-LGBT bigotry tomorrow.

Women’s rights: the Trump gang want to ban all abortion and he would like to make his misogyny the new normal. If five year old Muslim children can be handcuffed at an American airport today, women can be handcuffed, abused and forced to carry a pregnancy they do not want tomorrow.

He has announced that he will indeed build a wall with Mexico. Work hasn’t started yet. Stopping that work tomorrow, means ending the Muslim ban today.

Trump’s plan faces two big problems. The reality of the ban has led political figures and many ordinary people who may have gone along with or even supported previous Islamophobic measures and military actions in Muslim countries to speak out and oppose this one because they think it goes too far.

The echoes of the 1930s – burning places of worship, terror attacks on a congregation at prayer and people denied the right to travel on the basis of their religion – are just too close.

More importantly, masses of people have taken action to stop it.

If not now, when?

We all need to do what we can to build on that and take it wider still. That means uniting everyone who does not like Trump and what he represents, and explaining to everyone we know why we must take a stand now against this racist ban, which is a critical part of the Trump gang’s bid for power.

The protests are working. Trump had to cancel a visit to a factory tomorrow for fear of protests. He had to retreat on a part of his Muslim ban on Saturday and exempt US Green Card holders, whom his chief of staff, the White Supremacist Steve Bannon, had initially included.

The protests are forcing divisions in Washington. In Britain they can force Theresa May to come out against Trump, the ban and the state visit.

A hundred and one reasons to oppose Trump – one of them we must all raise in common now if we want to stop him in his tracks: the racist ban on Muslims.

Many people are recalling the words of pastor Niemoller in Nazi Germany: “First they came for…”

Well, first the Trump gang has come for the Muslims.

Will we all stand together now to fight that and prevent what may come next?

Please encourage everyone to join the protests, to sign the petitions and to raise their voices with all their imagination and creativity.

In London – to the American embassy on Saturday.

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No to Trump – some next steps for a new movement

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London’s Whitehall blocked by over 30,000 people on Monday evening

The US

Trump sacks the acting Attorney General, saying she has betrayed the government for declaring his racist travel ban illegal.

His press secretary says complaints that the White House’s message on Holocaust Memorial Day did not even mention Jews are “pathetic”.

Senior Republicans in Congress complain that they were “kept in the dark” about the Order.

Senior Democrats rush to airports to be filmed supporting protests which originated and are driven way beyond the Hillary Clinton campaign last year. It acknowledged in October that it faced an “enthusiasm gap”. Well – there’s no lack of enthusiasm across these rising protests now.

Opponents of Trump in the US political system and state have overseen their own terrible policies, including under Obama. But in opposing Trump now they have to – either intentionally or by the logic of events – go outside of the golden circle in Washington and encourage collective resistance which is anything but a part of the partisan game in the beltway.

So Obama breaks all norms, says he opposes Trump’s racist ban and supports the protests at US airports.

Britain

Unprecedented protests of tens of thousands take place on a Monday night against Trump and him visiting the country.

The leader of the opposition says Labour will vigorously oppose and will support the demonstrations.

A petition against Trump and his visit is now approaching one and three quarters of a million people.

The parliament calls on the US government to drop the racist ban.

The foreign secretary complains that people are “demonising Trump”.

The prime minister refuses to join the parliament in opposing the ban, but merely says that Britain does things differently.

She says Trump will come to Britain, as she stands alongside the Irish prime minister who himself is facing a revolt over his intention to visit Trump in Washington.

It is revealed that May was privately briefed about the incoming ban when she met Trump. But she did not say so and pretended she knew nothing.

She lied – either because she agreed with the ban and did not want to say so, or because she was too weak to say no to Trump.

Her big push to appear strong on the world stage is turning into an incompetent shambles.

Weak, lying and incompetent – that’s the picture that is emerging of the British prime minister. People might put up with one or other of those characteristics, but they won’t put up with all three for very long if they come to see that that’s what Theresa May is.

Any cautious thought that the initial wave of protest – the women’s marches 10 days ago – would be the peak has now gone with the wind. This is not a spasm of opposition to be followed by bitter and grudging acquiescence.

The first wave of protests has brought out people who have never demonstrated before. They have seen in a few days that they can have an effect. They protest – it is mentioned in parliament, MPs come to visit their protest, the leader of the opposition supports them and calls for more, the demonstrations are in every news outlet, the government faces growing demands to back down.

Millions more have seen that. And more too can feel that they can stand up and be counted at this moment and change things.

Large numbers of people in Britain will only just today be discovering that there is a petition of unprecedented size.

They will know something is going on, but they won’t yet know the things that those who have already protested know.

If they get to know those things from those who do know, then many will join in.

Simple things and basic points:

Do you like the idea of a sexual predator who calls women “pigs” being treated as “our closest friend”? Come join the protests – he’s not welcome and his racist ban must go.

Obama says he is against Trump’s racist ban and says it’s right to protest against it. Why won’t Theresa May say that? We should make her listen.

Trump’s government says it’s “pathetic” to to talk about Jewish victims on Holocaust Memorial Day. We have to take a stand today – never again!

Gay people are frightened that he is coming for them next – first the Muslims and the refugees, then the gays… We’ve all got to add our names, get out on the streets and stand together. We won’t let this happen.

He’s a billionaire who made his money by cheating his workforce and small contractors. He’s a fraud. That’s why he gets on with half the Tory cabinet.

This is racism – of the worst kind. If you are banned from travelling because of what you look like or your religion. What comes next? We cannot allow that to come next.

Millions of people are up in arms against this in the US. Saying no to Trump is not being “anti-American”, it’s standing with most people in America.

The Tory government are not ignoring the protests. Look at the news – they are all over it. Far from ignoring them, the government is looking closely at them and is very worried. We can force them to end this shameful relationship with Trump.

Margaret Thatcher said that the poll tax would stay for ever. Six months later the poll tax went and so did she.

Theresa May is no “iron lady”. She’s weak and shifty.

So let’s join the movement, get people to sign the petition, go to the demonstration in London or elsewhere on Saturday. And let’s see what we can do in our area, school, college, workplace, church, mosque, synagogue, gay village, community group, trade union and neighbourhood… on- and offline.

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