Sunday, 17 July 2016

Another Failed Coup

There are, of course, similarities between the failed coup in Turkey, and the failed coup, by a handful of Blair-right, Labour MP's, against Jeremy Corbyn. All coups involve a small minority acting against a figurehead, and, in both these cases, that figurehead has huge popular support. At the same time, whilst Jeremy Corbyn has, perhaps, around 80% of support of party members, and there is little support for any alternative choice, President Erdogan has the support of around half the population, whilst the other half of the population is irreconcilably hostile to him.

Its still unclear who was behind the coup in Turkey. There are three apparent possibilities. Firstly, from the time of Ataturk, and the creation of modern Turkey, the military has been the bulwark against Islamist reaction, and protector of the secular state. Given Erdogan's Islamist politics, which he has combined with an increasing authoritarianism, and pulling of power into his orbit, it is possible that the coup is a typical Kemalist coup, as seen several times in the last century.

On the other hand, there has been suggestions that the coup was organised by a “parallel” structure, in the military, around the US based Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan's AKP had used the Gulen Movement to attack secularists, in the state and military, before, but then the AKP and Gulen got into a power struggle. Its possible, as Erdogan has claimed, that the coup was the work of Gulenists.

However, its also possible that the coup was more akin to the Reichstag fire. In other words, Erdogan, having accumulated increasing state power in his hands, faced one major institutional barrier, which was that of the military. By organising a coup that is planned to fail from the start, Erdogan, thereby, gives himself the justification to use those levers of state power he already possesses, to crush any potential bases of opposition, within the state. Already, thousands of military personnel and others have been rounded up, some have been summarily beheaded, by their captors, others face, at least, long prison sentences, whilst, despite Turkey's requirements for EU membership, at some point, there is talk of bringing back the death penalty.

What gives credence to one of these latter two explanations is that the coup seems to have been badly organised, and not well supported. The coup was geographically wide, but had no depth. Small groups of troops were involved, across the country, but with no significant support in any particular area. It was also suggested that some of the rank and file troops that had been drawn in, had actually been told that they were engaging in military exercises!

On the other hand, it could just be another case that those involved in plotting were “fucking useless plotters”. Its possible that those engaged in the plot like those engaged in the plot against Corbyn, have simply not woken up to the 21st century world in which they live. In other words, the Turkish plotters took control of the state broadcaster, bridges and so on, but left Erdogan at large, and forgot that, in today's world, a leader can get their message out to the masses, above the heads of the plotters, by using mobile phones, and the Internet.

The plotters in the PLP, did try to eliminate Corbyn. They tried to force him to stand down, via their vote of no confidence; when that failed they tried to keep him pinned down, even according to some TV reports threatening to “kidnap” him, and so on. They used all of their privileged access to the Tory media to spread the lie that it was Corbyn that was in a minority, and isolated, whereas the reality was that it was they who were in a tiny minority, and severely isolated from the vast mass of the membership.

But, Corbyn had the support of hundreds of thousands of party members, of trades unionists and so on, all linked together via social networks. To an extent, the more the old media come out to attack Corbyn and his supporters, the more that old media, the old journalists caught up in the Westminster bubble, along with all those old politicians like Eagle, Benn, Smith and so on, look pathetic and incredulous. A huge cognitive dissonance exists between the world that the old media and the old politicians are describing, and trying to get the public to believe in, and the reality of the world that the mass of people see for themselves, and that the mass of people drawn in around Corbyn's supporters see, and discuss via their expanding social network.

The reality and extent of that dissonance can be seen when the politicians and Tory media ridiculously try to explain the huge growth in party membership as being nothing more than an influx of Trotskyists. Not only does everyone involved know that the Trotskyists and assorted revolutionaries amount to no more, in total than a couple of thousand members across the country, many of whom are politically opposed to joining the Labour Party, but all of the people who have joined the party in recent months, must themselves be appalled, when they have stopped laughing, at the ridiculous accusations that most of them are some kind of sinister force joining the party.

That is one reason that the dissonance is illustrated by the fact that Labour MP's who have made such accusations against their own local members, then are afraid to go and face them, hiding away in a Westminster cupboard, talking only to the Tory media, and ridiculously getting the Labour Party's General Secretary to close down all branch and CLP activity, at a time when the party should be on a war footing to be opposing the Tories! On the one hand, we see Blair-right MP's taking advice as to how they could get hold of the Labour Party label if they split from the party, we see reports that Stephen Kinnock, has been meeting with Paddy Pantsdown about a re-run of the disastrous lash up with the Liberals of the 1980's. 

Its clear that the Blair-rights, whatever they have told the soft lefts they have dragged along with them, and got to stick their heads above the parapets, about this only being a “military exercise”, are prepared to split the Labour Party for their own right-wing sectarian ends, and in the meantime they are prepared to bring all Labour party activity to a halt, to stop all opposition to the Tories in their time of crisis, simply in order to try to hold on to their own privileged positions, and to reintroduce a right-wing authoritarian grip on the party as Kinnock, and then Blair did previously.

Of course, there is another point here, which is that all of this social media, and new technology of itself does not change the fact that in order to build up a huge social movement on the basis of it, the message you are purveying must itself be credible, and must resonate with those it is targeting. On the one hand, Erdogan could mobilise large numbers of people from within that section of society that supports his AKP, but there also seems to have been large numbers of opponents of the AKP who came out to oppose the coup.

The reason for that is that large numbers of democratic elements within Turkey seem to have realised the lesson of Egypt. That is that although they might oppose the creeping Bonapartism of Erdogan, the answer to that is not a leap into simply another form of Bonapartism in the guise of military rule. That is, however, why the prognosis for Turkey has to be an accelerated slide into Civil War. Whether Erdogan organised this coup as a false flag operation, or whether he is merely taking advantage of it – he has described it as a “gift from God”, because it enables him to purge the army – to accrue to himself dictatorial powers, and impose yet further restrictions on civil society, the fact remains that the other half of society that does not support him, along with the Kurds, who continue to fight for their own interests, will only be provoked into further resistance.

That is a difference with the coup in the Labour Party. In terms of party members, trades unions members, including all those who have been long standing members, Jeremy Corbyn has overwhelming support. The media can keep talking all they like about a civil war in the Labour Party, but there is really no such thing taking place. The only reason that the PLP are holding on, as a tiny minority is because of the privileged position they hold.

Simply being an MP gives them added weight. Not only do they have privileged access to the media, but the current Labour party rules give them a privileged position to nominate and effectively veto the nomination of the party leader and deputy leader. They talk now about Jeremy having lost the support of the PLP, but he never had it. They put him on the original ballot only for show, because they thought he could never win. In fact, he only managed 35 votes for his nomination from the PLP, whereas 40 MP's supported him in the no confidence vote. His support within the PLP is actually increasing not falling! The PLP also has a privileged position because its representation on the NEC is far greater than its size warrants.

But, the members of the PLP are also in privileged positions because they currently only face being deselected when elections are called. That is unlike any other position within the Labour Party. Councillors have to stand against other candidates for selection at every local election; Chairs, secretaries, treasurers, EC members and so on, all have to be elected every year. But, MP's more or less have a job for life, unless when an election is called, a local CLP starts the process of deselecting their MP. At the very least, MP's should have to stand in a selection process with other candidates at each election, as with councillors. But, constituencies that are unhappy with their MP, should be able to deselect them at any time, thereby expressing the fact that they have no confidence in them, and preparing to replace them.

In the absence of that, the only option is to pass motions of no confidence in the MP, as Angela Eagle's CLP did. But, that is why the LP bureaucracy has moved to close down party meetings, in order to stop that tsunami of opposition to the current PLP being formally expressed in motions of no confidence in them. We can expect to see further such dirty tricks being employed by the PLP, and its current apparatchiks, to try to hold on to power. That is why they have prevented the 130,000 new members from having a right to vote; its why they have introduced the £25 charge for registered supporters; its why Michael Foster has used his large wealth to go to court to try to have the decision of the NEC overruled, that Jeremy is automatically on the ballot as incumbent.

They know they do not have long to do that, because large numbers of party members will be voting in new left-wing members of the NEC. But, we have seen the way the apparatchiks deal with that too. In Brighton and Hove, the party has been suspended following its AGM, which elected a new left-wing Executive Committee. The Blair-rights will seek to find any reason to have the NEC election results declared invalid, so as to hang on to power, because, via the NEC, and control of the party apparatus, the right-wing have control over the party, to close it down, and act at will.

But, sooner or later that appearance and reality has to come into alignment. There can be no split in the Labour Party, because the forces of the right are too tiny compared to the rest of the party. Even if they retained the label, it would soon become worthless in their hands. They would be a bit like BHS, bought for a pound by Dominic Chappell, milked for a short period, before collapsing. The real Labour Party, whatever the label, exists in the half million members, in the networks of members, socialist societies and trades unions across the country, and however much the Blair-rights try to undermine it, to gut it, and to destroy it, that Labour Party will live on, and grow. In fact, it would grow far more quickly, far more healthily without all of those other disruptive Blair-right/Kinnockite elements.

In Turkey, Erdogan has been creating an ever more centralised and authoritarian machine. The coup may have been aimed against him, but will, in the short term result in an even more authoritarian regime. It could be viewed rather like Hitler's consolidation of power, via the Night of the Long Knives, and destruction of the Strasserites, and his further tightening of power after the Reichstag fire. Corbyn's position is completely different.

In the 1980's and 1990's, first Kinnock, and then Blair undermined party democracy. In the process they gutted its membership. They took the party further and further to the right in a hopeless quest for centre ground votes, which, like a carrot dangled in front of a donkey, kept getting further away from them, each time they moved towards them, and facilitated an even greater move to the right of the Tories under Thatcher and Major. In order to control this party, they introduced ever more authoritarian rules, making the party leader into a Bonapartist figure, supported by a bloated front bench in Parliament, and a bloated bureaucracy within the party outside parliament.

Eventually, when the electorate could stomach the Tories no more, when even journalists like Martin Bell stood as candidates against Tory MP's, who looked, increasingly as though they were part of a regime from a banana republic, complete with corruption, bribery and sex scandals, they elected Blair. For the first period, with a booming global economy, Blair was able to curry favour with the voters. Yet, the reality was, that almost from day one, Blair's governments began to lose support. Around 5 million Labour voters deserted the party, as the Blair-rights, including people like Ed Miliband, Hillary Benn, and Angela Eagle, continued to follow those same old, failed policies of the past.

It was that, which hollowed out Labour's support in urban areas, and which created the social layers that more recently lined up behind the BNP, then UKIP, and which voted Leave in the referendum. Yet, people like Eagle, and Smith want to take us back to those same old, failed policies that destroyed support for Labour. Only Corbyn, consistently opposed all of those old, failed policies, and only he now represents the potential for forward movement, and progressive change, and hope for the Labour Party.

Corbyn did not create the bureaucratic, Bonapartist regime in the Labour Party, which now hamstrings it, and has led to the current crisis. He inherited it from Kinnock/Blair and Brown. In this respect, Corbyn is more like Gorbachev than Erdogan, in terms of the mechanics, and setting aside the politics. Corbyn, having inherited the position as Leader, instead of trying to tighten that grip, has introduced a process of Glasnost, and Perestroika. The old party apparatchiks, like McNicholl, obviously resist, and the old members of the Politburo/PLP, use their connections in the Tory media and other external power bases, to organise their coup against Corbyn, to try to prevent the process of democratisation and renewal, going forward.

They must not be allowed to succeed.

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