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Economist Thomas Piketty says he would vote for Corbyn and McDonnell

French economist Thomas Piketty sat down with Newsnight host Evan Davis to discuss the wealth inequality caused by capitalism and the importance of taxes, as well as philanthropy. He also spoke about his support for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Piketty will join the economic advisory panel assembled by John McDonnell to shape Labour’s future economic policy.

Labour In For Britain

 

Alan Johnson voices Labour’s In For Britain campaign video to remain in the European Union.

Against pragmatism: the undermining of Jeremy Corbyn. An articulate & very relevant Blog by @SZeitblom

This weekend, something important happened.  As a Labour Party member, I received an email from the party leader asking for my views on whether the UK should join in the bombing of ISIL in Syria.  It was a leader, elected with a huge mandate, putting into practice what he promised during his election campaign – something that veteran Labour members of thirty years’ standing have confirmed to me is wholly unprecedented – no leader has approached Party members in this way before.

At the same time, many Labour MPs are furious, with some Labour sources apparently claiming that this was “undemocratic”.

This reaction – Orwellian in a precise sense – is deeply illustrative of the problem Labour faces, which is, in its turn, a comment on the conduct of politics in modern Britain.  It’s not just that this shows that many in the mainstream of politics define “democracy” in a very partial way; but how ideological the language of everyday political discourse has come.

There is a view – expressed in the media and by many participants in mainstream politics, including many Labour MPs – that the politics of the Corbyn leadership is somehow ideological and even extreme in a way that distinguishes it from what is normal, or pragmatic, or constitutes “business as usual”.  Actually, on examination, the very opposite is the case.

To take economic policy: there’s plenty of evidence that the Labour leadership’s p0licy, far from being extreme, is simply returning to the economic basics in the face of an austerity policy that is failing even in its own terms (as, for example, Chris Dillow has argued in blog posts here and here).  In particular, Dillow argues – in my view wholly convincingly – that it is the austerity economics of George Osborne, distant from the real economy and failing even in its own terms, that is mired in extremism and ideology; one of the reasons why Corbyn won was that, alone of the Labour leadership candidates, he was willing to ask the big questions about an economy of falling wages, investment shortage and crisis levels of productivity – all three obviously linked and exacerbated by Osborne’s deficit mania and ideological loathing of the public sector.  By contrast, Corbynomics looks like a simple return to economic basics relying on a sober and above all pragmatic assessment of Britain’s economic weaknesses.

The same is true on the biggest foreign policy issue of the day: Cameron’s drive to involve Britain in bombing ISIL in Syria.  It’s not just that the case for war has not been made, with no clear explanation of how additional bombing will defeat a stubborn foe that draws on hatred of the West as a recruitment tool, or what the long-term plan for the region is; it’s also that the lessons of how a hubristic West got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, or left behind appalling chaos in Libya, have not been learned.  The point about the case against war – as expressed by Jeremy Corbyn and others – is that it is essentially a rational one, as distinct from the combination of wishful thinking and post-imperial essentialism on which the case for war appears to depend.

Or democracy itself.  The response of the Labour right to Corbyn carrying out his election manifesto to consult Party members – the members who provide his overwhelming mandate – is eloquent of an approach to democracy that is based overwhelmingly on their own entitlement and a belief that they, by virtue of who they are, know best.  Ultimately their opposition to consulting members seems to be based on a definition of party democracy that sees members as followers, and no more than that; that is scared of opinions that are not filtered through a rigid set of ideological assumptions, or by advocacy or focus groups sharing their own mindset.  But, economically and in terms of foreign policy, those assumptions have been proved wrong time and again; by the continuing failure to cut the deficit, or by the thousands sanctioned into dependence on food banks, by failed workfare programmes, or by the chaos of Iraq and Libya.  Ultimately, when authenticity is elsewhere, reality has a habit of catching up with you.

Sometimes the cognitive bias can be astonishing.  I have seen members of Progress, with its membership structure and millionaire funders – arguing on social media that Momentum is a party with a party. It’s perhaps this absence of self-awareness that explains why the Labour establishment didn’t see Corbyn coming and still can’t understand how the forces that carried Corbyn to the leadership reflect real changes in the way in which people perceive the need for change.  And by asking members for their views on Syria, Corbyn is demonstrating his confidence in his new honest, collaborative approach to politics.

I think the Corbyn leadership has made some serious errors.  In the face of unrelenting hostility from both the media and from within the Labour Party itself, Corbyn and those around him needed to be rather more circumspect. But it remains grounded in reality in a way that its critics – political and media – just aren’t.  And as Labour’s traditional right prepares to line up to vote for yet another potentially disastrous war, it needs perhaps to reflect long and hard about who in this debate reflects empirical reality, and who are the ideologues.  And they may want to ask – in terms of practical politics – whether they want to be seen as supporting yet another foreign policy disaster.

@pghodges Opinion Piece: We Must Not Bomb Syria

I do not support the proposal for bombing in Syria that is currently dominating the headlines. The horrendous events that took place in Paris weeks ago have inevitably caused calls for escalation in military intervention to combat ISIS. President Hollande openly declared war, and can hardly be blamed for such an emotional response to the second Islamist extremist atrocity to occur in his capital city this year. Similarly in the UK, David Cameron has also made the case for bombing Syria, where ISIS are headquartered. Opinion is severely divided, with Cameron’s announcement met by a march for peace. Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition who opposes military intervention, has also been left fighting a war of wills against much of his Shadow Cabinet, with many of them threatening to defy the party whip in order to back the government’s plans. Corbyn has since stated that Labour’s position is against bombing, but has given members a free vote.

Much of the argument I see against bombing refers to Britain’s involvement in Iraq, in which Tony Blair’s Labour government, pandering to the United States, joined what many now believe was an illegal war, based on knowingly dodgy intelligence that proved to be incorrect. However, I do not oppose bombing in Syria because of Iraq. The fight against ISIS is not the same as the situation was in Iraq, and the possibility of military action should not be ruled out just because of guilt from our previous involvement, although lessons must of course be learned. We must understand that the instability that we helped to create has assisted ISIS in gaining a foothold in the region. Thousands of civilians lost their lives, and the major cause of these losses was the supposedly coordinated bombing that we carried out. Bombing, no matter how well intentioned, leads to the loss of innocent life. Always. There have already been air strikes in Syria, and they have led to thousands of civilian casualties. Syrian refugees are already fleeing a civil war and the threat of ISIS; we must not add our bombs to that list.

There are several justifications used to support bombing. The first, and of course most important to the majority of ordinary people, is to protect our streets. We are under threat from ISIS, I would not argue for a moment that we were not. But we are not under the threat of a military invasion from a recognised state, and our defence policy must reflect this. We are most threatened by much harder to detect lone wolf attacks, unfortunately often carried out by people born within our own borders, who align with the murderous ideology of a terrorist organisation that hides in plain sight amongst many civilians in the Middle East. We are not fighting an army in uniform. If we were to carry out air strikes on anywhere that harboured Islamist extremists, bombs would not fall very far from us.

Moreover bombing is expensive, with each mission easily costing a million pounds. Now financial cost should not be the deciding factor in such a moral argument, but that money could instead be used to improve our intelligence services, put more police on the streets and properly equip them to deal with attacks like Paris. When it is reported that London’s ambulance service could not deal with terrorist attacks, how can we possibly say that our streets are safe and secure? The threat we face at home is in no way countered by bombing in Syria, it just makes us more of a target.

Those in favour of bombing in Syria say that it is our only hope of defeating and degrading ISIS. Who could disagree with that motivation? I certainly don’t. But if we want to defeat ISIS, creating more recruits for them through bombing is illogical when we already know that they are fuelled by propaganda against the West. You can’t stop an ideology with more killing. A sentiment which many now calling for military action probably supported following the Charlie Hebdo attack in January. If we assert that free speech cannot be stopped by bullets, why do so many believe that Jihadism can? Is the pen only mightier than the sword if we agree with what it is writing?

Many of the ISIS strongholds are located in the middle of areas densely populated with civilians. One civilian casualty caused by Western intervention is another propaganda tool for ISIS to use. ISIS want us to declare war, they want the recognition and chaos that it brings. Instead of falling into their trap, we should focus on choking off ISIS’ funding, find out who is buying their oil and selling them weapons, and place sanctions on those helping them. I am not naive enough to believe that military action will not be necessary, but it should involve boots on the ground with the support of stable governments in the region. Anything else repeats the West vs Middle East narrative that will ultimately make us less safe and strengthens ISIS’ recruitment. At the same time, we must push those governments with appalling human rights records like Saudi Arabia to change. It is hypocritical to denounce the horrendous acts of violence carried out by ISIS just because they threaten us, when similar acts are also carried out by those we trade with and supply weapons to. We must also plan for the fallout when ISIS are defeated, including putting an end to the Syrian civil war. With Assad and ISIS, we appear to have adopted the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Any plan to defeat ISIS must not be seen as support for the Syrian regime also guilty of killing its own people.

I believe that so many people are in support of air strikes because it is instinctual after the barbarity of events like Paris to feel like we must do something. But reactionary bombing is not the right response. We best fight ISIS by continuing to live in the way that they hate. Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. The coming together that we saw in the wake of the attacks; the vigils held across Europe, La Marseillaise being sung at Wembley, the protection of Muslims from our own forms of extremism. That is doing something. That is how we win.

Bombing Syria : An impassioned letter to David Cameron by Labour’s @Amina_Lone : Pause and reflect before any action

Dear David,

Like millions of us, I know you will be reeling after the horrific attacks in Paris. How can anyone with an ounce of humanity not feel compassion, grief and solidarity with the innocent victims and their loved ones?

I hope you will take a brief moment, pause before you take any action.

Take a minute to listen to an English Muslim woman speak about how millions of Muslims including my family and me, stand side-by-side with you.

Wanting justice and our enemies caught. The people who have claimed responsibility for this atrocity are Daesh (Isis by their name).

Daesh hate me and they hate you. They would like to slit my throat just as much as they would want to do the same to the person next to me. They hate us all.

Especially moderate Muslims who dare to expose them for the charlatans that they are. They want to eliminate us all. They do not discriminate when it comes to their enemies.

They hate our neighbours, our families, our friends and our way of life. They live and die consumed by a hatred I hope I never experience. The language they use, the tools they deploy, all form into a twisted ideology that is pure evil.

Let’s be clear. We are at war. We are faced with an enemy that wants to destroy us. That wants to use our children, our neighbours, and our country against it. It wants to divide and rule, to sow seeds of mistrust and fear, to threaten and to fight each other.

That is their world and one they want to populate across our secular, progressive and free nations.

My 24-year- old son said: “That could have been us, at a concert. I read this guy’s account who was in the audience saying how the gunmen lined people up and shot then one by one.”

He went quiet and shook his head. He continued with irony: “It’s going to be fun to be brown now. People are already a bit twitchy and now it’s going to get much worse. I’m going to have to shave fully.’

On Daesh, he said: ‘These people use children as child soldiers to blow themselves up. They are sick.”

He is right. These soulless people groom and exploit children until they are lost. They intimidate them, brutalise them by exposing them to violence then use their bodies as human bombs. The children and young people who get trapped by Daesh are victims, too.

What is a 15-year-old child but a collection of raging hormones and growth spurts? To turn a child into a ticking time-bomb shows us the depravity of the enemy we face.

We need to protect our young people who are vulnerable from clicks on a keyboard. They want to turn our children against us and we must not allow them access to our future. Like millions of Muslims, I fear for my children as much as yours.

I fear these perpetrators of violence who want to turn them into child soldiers, against their own families and countries.

This is my home. I am an English woman through and through. My family pass the Tebbit test. Tea is our favourite household beverage and in quintessential English style, we put the kettle on in moment of crisis. That’s the English way. That’s our way. We are one nation and I will fight for my country, our country and all I love of it.

Listen and work with the moderate Muslims who are often the silent majority. Listen to why many like me will not be silent when our ‘allies’ claim cultural or religious leverage about atrocities in their own countries.

Why we all must speak out when secular bloggers and journalists are killed in Bangladesh and the state turns a blind eye or when Saudi Arabia sentences 17-year-olds to medieval sentences that include beheading and crucifixion.

We need to open up debate about free speech, human rights and tolerance. Don’t do what Daesh want and close the airways down. Come out and hear why I fear for our young sons and daughters being radicalised by men in combat gear, speaking from distance lands about a proxy war.

Of naïve and foolish people being seduced by a false sense of belonging and kinhood. Listen to the families that have lost their children and mourn for them to come home. Many sold falsehoods and tales about brotherhood in their Prophet’s image.

Instead, the reality is that they are brutalising Muslim and non-Muslim children, young people, women, men and old people. These perpetrators are animals and not one Muslim I know supports them or their heinous ideology.

I implore you to consider this before you make any decisions that may be reactive rather then responsive. We need you to unite our beloved country.

Build on our strong history as a nation of tolerance, fortitude and courage. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder. The pen is mightier then the sword and in the spirit of the French, I wish you liberty, equality and fraternity.

Amina Lone

Co-Director of the Social Action and Research Foundatio