Populism: a dead end for the left

Published on: Wed, 20/11/2019 - 15:27

Eduardo Tovar

In recent decades, there has been much discussion of “populism” as newly significant form of political movement. Some on the left even say we should embrace it.

Admittedly, there are major conceptual difficulties when discussing “populism”. Even if we limit ourselves to examples on the ostensible left, movements labelled “populist” can be so different in their substantive politics and theoretical groundings that they conflict directly.

On the one hand, there is Chantal Mouffe’s highly pluralistic and heterogenous “left-populism”, which is very much oriented towards liberation politics such as

The case for a four day work week

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 08:43

Daniel Randall

Struggles over working hours, the amount of each day over which workers are compelled to sell our labour power to a boss, were foundational for the early labour movement.

Karl Marx called the Factories Act of 1847, which restricted the working day to 10 hours, “the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class.” Shortening working hours claws back some time from our employers, and widens the amount of time during which where we go and what we do is not determined by direct instructions from capital.



French metro workers strike

Published on: Mon, 16/09/2019 - 13:57

This report on the Paris metro workers’ strike appeared in the newspaper of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) on 18 September and was translated from the French by Luke Neal.

A strike on RATP (the Paris metro) has got the the ball rolling in the fight against pension reforms in France. After 12 years of lethargy - at least on the surface - the strike has made a smashing comeback in Parisian transport: 100% of strikers on the metro, 60% on buses and in maintenance workshops. The capital was paralysed on Friday 13 September. Well dug, you old mole!

Two days earlier, the traffic forecasts announced by the management had had the effect of a bomb, triggering the media comedy: RATP agents would be privileged, retiring on average with 3700 euros!

“3700 euros? I earn 2000 euros by working staggered hours and public holidays with work periods of 6 days in a row!” corrects a striking driver interviewed during the rally in front of the company headquarters. “Retirement at age 50? A legend. Many leave at 58. Not to mention the stories of the reductions, ” confirms another.

The work regime is no longer so special, except for the lower starting age. Leaving early, but with what? Since the contribution period is the same as for all employees, the reduction works to penalise earlier retirement through a lower pension for the same contribution. The pension is calculated over the last 6 months – a ‘speciality’ that still concerns more than 5.5 million civil servants.

“Isn't it fair, the six-month calculation? But everyone should have the last six months!” “If they want to make a unique retirement, let them do it to those at the top: they can lower their own benefits. Working? Alright, but not to death!” These are the words of strikers, who had only one thing in mind on Friday 13: what further action should the movement take?

Strikers said: “It is up to the base to decide what to do next. I agree to be led, but the unions must not sign anything without consulting us.”

“In 2007 we felt betrayed by the unions. I am a CGT union member but I am still bitter. We want our decisions to be taken up. Anyway, we're going to converge [struggles]. In 1995, we were converging – that’s what made us strong. There's no secret, we can't fight off the pension reforms alone.”

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Euro elections: left is still floundering

Published on: Wed, 29/05/2019 - 09:27

Michael Elms

In the 23-26 May 2019 elections to the European parliament, social-democratic parties and left-of-the-left parties floundered in the face of rising nationalism.

The mainstream social-democratic group in the European Parliament lost 45 seats; the left-of-the-left grouping lost 13. The mantle of “left” opposition to the rising right seems to have gone to the Greens and Liberal Democrats, who gained 19 and 42 seats respectively across the continent. At the time of writing, it seems likely that the European Parliament will remain dominated by parties of the mainstream right.

The single largest

Macron, Salvini, and the left

Published on: Wed, 27/02/2019 - 12:09

Joan Trevor

On 7 February, France recalled its ambassador from Italy, the first time this had happened since Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini declared war in 1940. The recall was the latest act in a growing row between French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s coalition government, formed of the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right National League.

Macron had criticised the coalition for promoting the “leprosy” of nationalism, and Italy’s new policy of turning away migrant boats from its shores. The Italian government accuses Macron of hypocrisy for returning migrants in France to

The Yellow Vests: potentials and dangers

Published on: Wed, 20/02/2019 - 11:38

Michael Elms

The Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) movement, now fourteen weeks old, drew thousands of protestors onto the streets of France on 16 February. Although the latest demonstrations fell short of the estimated 50,000 who came out the week before, the movement shows little sign of stopping.

The general strike that some in the Yellow Vests movement called for 5 February failed to materialise, but France’s biggest trade union confederation, the CGT, did call a well-followed day of action among public sector workers. Alongside the Yellow Vest actions, ferment continues in colleges, with several

Right danger in Gilets Jaunes

Published on: Wed, 16/01/2019 - 12:05

Michael Elms

On Saturday 12 January, an estimated 84,000 people joined “Act IX”, the latest round of Gilets Jaunes demonstrations around France. Down from 300,000 back in November, but up from 50,000 on 5 January.

The Gilets Jaunes demonstrators are calling for action against inequality and for renewal of democracy. The demands of the movement are vague but currently centre on restoring the recently¬scrapped “ISF” wealth tax on the richest. Many Gilets Jaunes also demand the introduction of referendums on the Swiss model — a system which socialists have long described as inadequate tinkering, and too

Two communiqués from the Gilets Jaunes

Published on: Sun, 13/01/2019 - 19:48

Lille regional assembly of the Gilets Jaunes

Call to trade unions adopted by the Lille regional assembly of the Gilets Jaunes

(One participant estimated 350 Gilets Jaunes present, but another eyewitness called that figure "exaggerated")
Communiqué from the Gilets Jaunes of Hauts de France region to trade union organisations

It's been seven weeks and the "Gilets Jaunes" mobilisation has seen no let-up. We are on the roundabouts every day, on the motorways, and in the streets every Saturday, facing ever-more-violent repression! Some imagined that our movement would come to an end with the holidays. But we are still here, determined to

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