A reader writes

Alan Trevarthen squeezes in some of his thoughts on the French election just ahead of a three hour l

When I first caught sight of 'Le Blog' I started reading with apprehension, but congratulations, it contains some of the most perceptive comments I've seen yet. No easy achievement because explaining to the Anglophone world the tactical skirmishing and strategic thinking involved in the French Presidential elections must be almost as hard as explaining cricket AND American football to the French.

Before Le blog I had been reading the BBC's blog on the same subject. Their's seems to be unmoderated, open to all. That is democratic, certainly, to let everybody have their say, a noble principle, but alas, too many uninformed opinions kill a blog.

I like the BBC, well at least I like Radio 4 on long wave, (except when the news is put to one side for a month or two of cricket), but I feel the need to give my personal criticisms of their blog here in the hope these comments will encourage you to avoid the same mistakes

1 - Not enough French contribution in the BBC blog.

The French know the 12 candidates. They also know their own Republic and their culture. They themselves have a pretty good idea of what they want in life. Perhaps it is not always achievable but they have done a good job so far (apart from Paris. I'd like to see Paris gain its independance, but that's my personal opinion from where I sit in Brittany). It is the French who should be able to explain themselves best to an Anglophone blogsite. Apparently, too few have found the BBC site, and of those who have, many appear to limit what they say, perhaps to avoid using English compound verbs.

2 - There are too many contributions by outsiders living elsewhere. They may never have lived in France, but through their own country's unbiased press, and their own gut-feeling, they intuitively know what's best for the French.

(Often these are people who have voted George Bush, Margaret Thatcher, or Tony Blair, for themselves)

For example I see contributions from USA nationals whose main statement seems based on a gripe that France 'betrayed them' at the UN by not joining them to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, and so, it appears, the French should wise up and behave responsibly now, and not worry about their jobs flowing to 50 euro a month wage rate countries.

And I see too many letters from residents of Britain who would evidently tick yes to more than one of the following
a - The hundred years war is still going on
b - The French Empire was less successful than the English Empire because it was in places that did not speak English.
c - The Murdoch press tells us all we need to know about the French.
d - The French were all guillotined during the Revolution, but because they are Catholics they have rebuilt their population.
e - All taxes paid in Britain go directly to French farmers.

I should have let my French wife, Anne, have her say, she is the politically savvy one in the family, but she is out on the terrace, sheltering from the broiling sun under the shade of the fig tree, tearing legs off frogs for our three hour lunch.

Alan Trevarthen is a Cornish born mining engineer, who has spent much of his working life in 20 or so countries worldwide. Now retired he lives permanently in Brittany with his French wife, Anne.
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No, the battle in Momentum isn't about young against old

Jon Lansman and his allies' narrative doesn't add up, argues Rida Vaquas.

If you examined the recent coverage around Momentum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was headed towards an acrimonious split, judging by the vitriol, paranoia and lurid accusations that have appeared online in the last couple days. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this divide was between a Trotskyist old guard who can’t countenance new ways of working, and hip youngsters who are filled with idealism and better at memes. You might then be incredibly bemused as to how the Trotskyists Momentum was keen to deny existed over the summer have suddenly come to the brink of launching a ‘takeover bid’.

However these accounts, whatever intentions or frustrations that they are driven by, largely misrepresent the dispute within Momentum and what transpired at the now infamous National Committee meeting last Saturday.

In the first instance, ‘young people’ are by no means universally on the side of e-democracy as embodied by the MxV online platform, nor did all young people at the National Committee vote for Jon Lansman’s proposal which would make this platform the essential method of deciding Momentum policy.

Being on National Committee as the representative from Red Labour, I spoke in favour of a conference with delegates from local groups, believing this is the best way to ensure local groups are at the forefront of what we do as an organisation.

I was nineteen years old then. Unfortunately speaking and voting in favour of a delegates based conference has morphed me into a Trotskyist sectarian from the 1970s, aging me by over thirty years.

Moreover I was by no means the only young person in favour of this, Josie Runswick (LGBT+ representative) and the Scottish delegates Martyn Cook and Lauren Gilmour are all under thirty and all voted for a delegates based national conference. I say this to highlight that the caricature of an intergenerational war between the old and the new is precisely that: a caricature bearing little relation to a much more nuanced reality.

Furthermore, I believe that many people who voted for a delegates-based conference would be rather astounded to find themselves described as Trotskyists. I do not deny that there are Trotskyists on National Committee, nor do I deny that Trotskyists supported a delegates-based conference – that is an open position of theirs. What I do object is a characterisation of the 32 delegates who voted for a delegates-based conference as Trotskyists, or at best, gullible fools who’ve been taken in.  Many regional delegates were mandated by the people to whom they are accountable to support a national conference based on this democratic model, following broad and free political discussion within their regions. As thrilling as it might be to fantasise about a sinister plot driven by the shadow emperors of the hard Left against all that it is sensible and moderate in Momentum, the truth is rather more mundane. Jon Lansman and his supporters failed to convince people in local groups of the merits of his e-democracy proposal, and as a result lost the vote.

I do not think that Momentum is doomed to fail on account of the particular details of our internal structures, providing that there is democracy, accountability and grassroots participation embedded into it. I do not think Momentum is doomed to fail the moment Jon Lansman, however much respect I have for him, loses a vote. I do not even think Momentum is doomed to fail if Trotskyists are involved, or even win sometimes, if they make their case openly and convince others of their ideas in the structures available.

The existential threat that Momentum faces is none of these things, it is the propagation of a toxic and polarised political culture based on cliques and personal loyalties as opposed to genuine political discussion on how we can transform labour movement and transform society. It is a political culture in which those opposed to you in the organisation are treated as alien invaders hell-bent on destroying it, even when we’ve worked together to build it up, and we worked together before the Corbyn moment even happened. It is a political culture where members drag others through the mud, using the rhetoric of the Right that’s been used to attack all of us, on social and national media and lend their tacit support to witch hunts that saw thousands of Labour members and supporters barred from voting in the summer. It is ultimately a political culture in which our trust in each other and capacity to work together on is irreparably eroded.

We have a tremendous task facing us: to fight for a socialist alternative in a global context where far right populism is rapidly accruing victories; to fight for the Labour Party to win governmental power; to fight for a world in which working class people have the power to collectively change their lives and change the societies we live in. In short: there is an urgent need to get our act together. This will not be accomplished by sniping about ‘saboteurs’ but by debating the kind of politics we want clearly and openly, and then coming together to campaign from a grassroots level upwards.

Rida Vaquas is Red Labour Representative on Momentum National Committee.