Lindsey German on Evo Morales and Farage’s gamble
Everyone on the left in Britain should be paying attention to what is happening in Bolivia. For this is just the latest round in a class war which exists around the world, and which involves the right internationally launching an onslaught on left movements and parties in order to maintain the vicious inequality and exploitation on which they thrive.
And we should be in full solidarity with Evo Morales, the elected president forced to resign in a coup by the police and military, and now claiming political asylum in Mexico.
Morales is a left politician, representative of the indigenous people of Bolivia, who has presided for more than a decade over reforms in Bolivia which have dramatically reduced poverty and inequality. There are of course many criticisms that can be made of him – his failure to sufficiently confront big business or to deal with energy multinationals, the high levels of poverty which still remain, and his decision to run for election for a fourth time.
But none of this should be an excuse for standing on the sidelines. Morales represented the poor, the indigenous and trade unionists. The coup – which has definitely fascist elements involved in it – is not about supposed electoral irregularities in recent polls but about defeating another left government in Latin America. It is, no surprise, supported by Donald Trump and will have involved the CIA.
Scenes of leftists and trade unionists being humiliated, physically assaulted and tied up on the streets are redolent of those when Mussolini first came to power in Italy in the 1920s and launched huge attacks on the left. There are reports of house raids and shootings which mean that comrades in Bolivia are suffering at the hands of a vicious right wing.
We have unfortunately seen too many coups in Latin America, most famously that in Chile in 1973 when Salvador Allende’s left reformist government was drowned in blood, with tens of thousands dead or exiled. There were many criticisms to be made of Allende, and the left made them. But it didn’t stop us turning out on the streets in large numbers, boycotting Chilean goods, and supporting Chilean refugees.
The attitude by some on the left, that Morales had major problems or was an example of top down socialism, or that he was only a reformist, really miss the point. This attitude betrays a real sectarian politics which doesn’t look at the broader balance of class forces. It also misses the fact that these issues aren’t just questions for those in Latin America – they affect us very directly.
We’re in the throes of an election which is going to be unprecedented in its nastiness. The right wing are determined to maintain their rule and will do anything to stop a Corbyn government. They are already attacking Corbyn for supporting Morales, and they will regard this event as a victory for their class and their values.
A Labour victory here is about Britain but also about the fortunes of the left worldwide. Latin America has seen many defeats recently, and ongoing attacks on left governments in Venezuela and Bolivia. But it has also seen inspiring or positive developments – the huge movement in Chile, the release of the left PT leader Lula who was unjustly imprisoned in Brazil, the Argentinian elections, for example. Just as Chile 1973 heralded not just a dark night for Chileans but the beginning of neoliberalism, victories and defeats worldwide have a knock-on effect.
If our sisters and brothers in Bolivia face a violent right wing backlash, our solidarity is vital. I will be speaking at a meeting in support of the Bolivian left in London tonight. That should be the start of a mass trade union solidarity movement here. Because we face the same enemy.
Farage’s difficulty is Labour’s opportunity
Open warfare appears to be breaking out in the Brexit party. Good. Farage has unilaterally decided to bolster the Tories in return for promises from Boris Johnson if he is elected (what could possibly go wrong?). But the Tories aren’t satisfied with this free gift which will help them hold onto seats, but want more, and Farage is under major pressure to stand down in more places, especially in seats the Tories hope to win from Labour. It’s very hard to see how he can do this and maintain even a scintilla of credibility.
Labour should milk his Tory links for all they are worth. We know that many Leave voters will continue to vote Labour in any case (and according to polling more are drifting back to Labour) but now is surely the time to try to disentangle the feeling of betrayal over Brexit from the other issues which face people and which are much more connected with class. Recent YouGov polling (yes, it’s not all bad) shows that Labour policies are popular but it is not trusted enough on economic issues.
So 64% support increasing the rate of tax on those earning £123,000 or more, 60% support increasing it on those earning £80,000 plus, 56% support nationalising the railways and 50% support nationalising the water companies.
Labour can only overcome this by putting forward the policies and explaining clearly how they would pay for them. They will not do it by watering down some of these policies and others passed at the conference. An election is the chance to discuss a range of issues from nationalisation, getting rid of private education and immigration and free movement. Whatever Labour does, it is subject to attack – so have policies worth fighting for and face down the attacks.
The Tories have nothing to be proud of in its policies. Jeremy Corbyn has criticised them for their inaction over the floods in largely working class areas in Yorkshire and north Derbyshire (many of them old mining areas). This is exactly the sort of issue that Labour can show has been exacerbated by a range of policies from cuts to lack of dealing with climate change. And it can win votes in doing so.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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