Notes from the front – of 19/2/2016

Mobilise for 19 March – challenge the racist offensive

There is a huge racist offensive taking place in Britain and in many other European countries. In Britain, the Tories, UKIP and the overwhelming majority of mainstream media including the BBC are determinedly pushing issues of race up the political agenda, having decisively stepped up this reactionary offensive immediately after Britain’s May 2015 General Election.

This is part of the current Tory agenda, which is to provide a racist distraction to its own economic failures. Big business, when tends to support freedom of movement for its own reasons, is willing to play along as support for the Tory austerity offensive is paramount.

The government’s immigration and extremism bills will introduce various discriminatory measures. And they are also central to the ideological offensive. The bills and the stream of rhetoric from ministers; against refugees, migrants and Muslims, set the terms of the scapegoating agenda.

In addition the forthcoming EU referendum is being used by both sides as a platform to attack immigration. The right on the leave-EU side claims leaving will reduce immigration whilst the Tories on the remain-EU side have fought for an agreement that allows discrimination against migrants over child benefit and welfare claims.

Since the 1990s a racist ideological offensive has been steadily stepped up across Europe and impacted on mass opinion. In Britain an element of this can be seen in the rise of concerns about immigration, as tracked by opinion polls. Ipsos MORI, for example, ask each month asks what are the ‘most/other important’ issues facing Britain today. The two charts below are taken from their January 2016 survey – the second one just separates out the issue of immigration.

Chart 1

Chart 2

The general pattern is that the portion of the population which considers immigration an important issue has steadily increased, apart from the period after the 2008 financial crash when concerns about the economy dominated over all others. The Tories know that concerns about the economy, the NHS and other issue will increase and want to use the racist offensive as a division and distraction.

Although the perception that immigration is an important issue has been rising, it is important to stress that it has still been a minority view – apart from the recent peak of 56 per cent in September 2015. In January 2016 the figure was 46 per cent.

Amongst supporters of political parties the differences are significant. In January 2016 79 per cent of UKIP and 59 per cent of Tory voters rated immigration important compared to 48 per cent of Lib Dems and 35 per cent of Labour.

Labour supporters overwhelmingly do not identify immigration as an important issue. This needs to be grasped within Labour, where the right-wing continues to undermine Labour’s standing amongst its own supporters with its concessions to racism. Labour’s Blairites are part of this degeneration, with Peter Mandelson criticising Jeremy Corbyn for attacking Cameron’s EU migrant benefit proposals.

Corbyn’s stance, of opposing discrimination on the grounds on nationality, is both morally correct and a sound electoral approach. To win Labour must differentiate itself from the Tories and motivate a broad coalition of electoral support on a progressive basis. Labour’s victory in Oldham, where the campaign made no concessions to racism, illustrates the gains Labour can make.

The fight against the current racist offensive needs the support of all progressive people. It is important that socialists, anti-racists and supporters of equality mobilise for this year’s UN anti-racism march in London.

* Stand up to racism & fascism – National Demo Saturday 19 March Assemble 12 noon London

The Venezuelan revolution is under attack – step up solidarity

The central project of imperialism in Venezuela is the overthrow of the revolution and restitution of a capitalist state.

December’s elections to the National Assembly saw the counter-revolution advance. Since then the Venezuelan right-wing has repeatedly claimed that the elected President Nicolas Maduro will be removed from office, within six months.

The National Assembly leader Henry Ramos Allup says that Maduro can be removed by an ‘unstoppable’ force, and claims that ‘today, no one doubts that that lapse of six months is too long.’ He announced this a day after Venezuela’s Supreme Court backed the legitimacy of Maduro’s decree giving him powers to deal with the economic crisis, in the face of opposition from the right-wing controlled National Assembly.

The right-wing blames the whole economic crisis on the President and says that granting Maduro more economic powers ‘only deepens and aggravates the crisis’. The government’s supporters point to the damage inflicted by thh ‘economic war’ being waged by parts of Venezuelan business allied with the right-wing opposition.

Last week a post from Allup on Twitter seemingly implied that he did not believe the removal of Maduro needed to be by constitutional or even peaceful means. He pointed out that the government says it can only be recalled by a constitutional and peaceful electoral process, and said ‘others believe there are better solutions’.

Following Allup’s comments, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition said it will launch discussions aiming to devise a procedure before the end of February to oust President Nicolas Maduro. ‘There will be a special day of debate among political leaders on this subject,’ Jesus Torrealba, Executive Secretary of the right-wing opposition coalition MUD, told AFP on Saturday, adding that ‘in a few days, we will announce our agenda for change.’

President Nicolas Maduro has responded to Allup’s comments, urging Venezuelans not to underestimate the seriousness of the threats, saying that ‘the people must be ready [and] must be mobilised,’ to face ‘the threats that he has made against the constitution and against the people.’

Venezuela’s governing United Socialist Party (PSUV) is fighting right-wing attempts to reverse the progress made since Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. The Government has announced to new policies to expand the budgets of social programmes. Grassroots movements are also mobilising against the right-wing’s proposals to privatise social housing.

Now is the time to step up international solidarity.

* To find out more attend the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Dayschool High Stakes in Venezuela & Latin America – Saturday March 5, 11.00am (tea, coffee and registration from 10.30am), ITF House, 49-60 Borough Road, London, SE1.
Invite friends on Facebook here
Register online here

Imperialism being pushed back in Syria

The struggle in Syria has entered a new stage. The Munich deal on ‘a nationwide cessation of hostilities’ represents a set-back for the pro-imperialist forces, whose aim is the overthrow of Syria’s government.

The deal allows for continued military action by the US and allies against ISIS, and for military action by Russia and the Syrian regime against those opposed to the deal – especially ISIS and al Nusra, which is linked to al Qaeda.

The balance of forces inside Syria has significantly changed. The regime has secured major military advances, whilst the Kurdish YPG and allies have expanded their areas of control. Aid deliveries to civilians under siege have begun.

There is no immediate end to the war in sight. But the deal codifies the set back that has been inflicted upon the US government with the disappearance of its ‘anti-Assad and anti-ISIS’ forces, and a setback for the Saudi regime and Turkish government which have been the main support of the sectarian (takfiri) forces inside Syria.

The Saudi, Turkish and UAE governments have offered ground troops as part of a US led invasion force in Syria. But this is not viable from a US perspective, in the immediate future.

The Turkish government is continuing to shell Kurdish forces inside Syria. It has allowed 850 opposition fighters across its border in the past week, in an attempt to save the opposition forces in Azaz and Marea from defeat by YPG forces. For now, the momentum is against imperialism and its unreliable Turkish and Saudi allies. It is with the Syrian regime and its allies.