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Donald Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists after car rams protesters in Charlottesville

The US president denounces “many sides” after a woman is killed and 19 others injured.  

Donald Trump has refused to condemn white supremacists after a car rammed into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19 others. Police have arrested 20-year-old James Fields of Ohio and charged him with murder.

The US president criticised the “violence on many sides” but refused to single out the far-right protesters. He said in Bedminster, New Jersey: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” 

The car attack targeted those demonstrating against the “Unite the Right march”, called to protest against plans to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee. A civil rights investigation into the incident has been launched by the FBI. Among those present were Ku Klux Klan members.  Later that afternoon, two police officers died when a helicopter monitoring the clashes between protesters crashed in woodland south-west of the city.

The Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and former presidential candidate responded to Trump by tweeting: “Very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.” Another Republican Senator, Cory Gardner of Colorado, said: “Mr President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.

The Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, commented: “The march and rally in Charlottesville goes against everything the American flag stands for. President Trump must condemn this in the strongest terms immediately.”

Unlike Trump, Virginia’s Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe explicitly condemend the far-right. He told a press conference: "I have a message for all the white supremacists, and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you're patriots, but you are anything but a patriot.

"You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. But my message is clear: We are stronger than you."

US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has been publicly criticised by Trump, said: “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.

“I have talked with FBI director Chris Wray, FBI agents on the scene, and law enforcement officials for the state of Virginia. The FBI has been supporting state and local authorities throughout the day. US attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail.”

Charlottesville, a liberal college town, where 86 per cent of residents voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election, has been repeatedly targeted by white supremacists. On Friday, the day before the attack, torch-bearing protesters chanted “white lives matter” as they marched through the University of Virginia campus. In February, the city council voted to remove and sell the Robert E Lee statue, and to rename the surrounding Lee Park Emancipation Park.

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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.