By: NY Brit Expat (Note: this piece came in just as we were doing our platform transfer and by the time that task was complete we were deep into Holiday season and I wasn’t sure it would get the prominence it deserved. I apologize for the delay. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour is, if anything, …
Sep 07 2015
By: NY Brit Expat
Can I begin by saying how much I have enjoyed the Labour party leadership elections? I was set not to when I saw the original candidates for the post. It was downright dispiriting. Then Jeremy Corbyn declares his candidacy, we have the nail-biting nominations process, he gets through, the Unions start coming on board, the Constituency Labour parties supporting him hands down, the purges by Labour of those that “do not share its aims and values”, now Corbyn as the frontrunner of an election which will be declared next week. This has not only been exciting, it has been a breath of fresh air and it is a conversation that Labour has needed to have for quite a while. I have enjoyed it thoroughly, now we just need to hope that the grandees of the Labour party do not pull a fast one and he is expected to win. Yes, win!
In many senses, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has shaken the political landscape in Britain. There are a number of things that have led us to this place (among these are the Scottish referendum and the collapse of Scottish Labour, and the general election result which the Tories won), but I think the straw that broke the camel’s back actually was the decision of Labour’s grandees to abstain on the Welfare Bill enabling a vicious attack on women, the disabled and the working class to pass with opposition coming from the Scottish National Party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. It became evident that while Labour claimed to be the opposition in Parliament that they had proved themselves to be enablers of the Tories rather than an opposition. Jeremy Corbyn is set to win the Labour leadership election; by August 24th he had moved into the front of the pack with odds of 3/10 of winning.
For those that haven’t heard of Jeremy Corbyn, let me introduce you to a left Social Democrat who is one of the few remaining in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). He is the Member of Parliament from the People’s Republic of Islington representing Islington North. He is a man of integrity and principles and has a long list of defying the Labour party whips more than 238 times at least according to The Sun. Normally, I would never quote The Sun, a right-wing Murdoch spread, but you do need to read this if only to get an idea of how Corbyn is being characterised.
Corbyn is a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the People’s Assembly, is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Amnesty International. He opposed the Iraq War, supports LGBT rights, supports a united Ireland, opposes tuition fees at Universities, opposes the creation of Academies and Free Schools, supports the introduction of a living wage voted against the horrific Welfare Bill (that Labour MPs were supposed to abstain on), has spoken at demonstrations of the People’s Assembly, against the Iraq war, against austerity among many others. He is also a vegetarian, supports animal rights, wears old jumpers and often wears a black cap (yes, it is similar to Lenin’s).
His candidacy differs from Bernie Sanders (and this is not only because he is further to the left of Sanders) as he is not an outsider seeking to be leader; he is a long-term member of the Labour party and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group. He will probably win the Labour leadership contest despite opposition from the right, centre and centre-left of the Party and despite smears in the mainstream media from fellow party members and members and ideologues of the ruling class. Moreover, the momentum behind him does not come as much as from within in the party itself as from those who left or are outside of the Labour party due to its transformation into New Labour which lost them the base of the party.
Aug 03 2015
I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.
But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.
They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.
I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.
But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight.
I awake am not, and you are not, to use the term in Le Gauchiste’s piece last Sunday, “homo oeconomicus.” I awake want to be unchained, and I awake want others to be as well.
But how can we take power away from the Koch brothers and those like them without saying their names with the repetition of a liturgy, becoming fixated on their power and our lack thereof, and even routinely employing martial metaphors in our theory and practice? I am not talking about “eliminationist” language, which of course is disgusting, authoritarian, and rightly verboten. I am talking about the language “of force,” using imagery we may routinely feel justified if not compelled to use, but which we sometimes would prefer not to use on some internal level.
Perhaps sometimes to be squeamish is to be healthy. I may be hesitant, but I cannot simply stay inside and ignore the cries and gasps of my brothers and sisters on the outside who cannot breathe. In that situation, I have no choice, if I am to be moral, but to go outside and to join some way in the revolt against the hands and ropes literally around their throats.
Interestingly, Dr. Fanon’s full quote begins with, “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture.” Revolution is not culturally, much less genetically, predestined, and neither is it designed in advance to implement this or that 10-point plan. “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
If I am not of the particular culture that is the oppressed group outside my window, I cannot pretend to be in a position to lead them in their time of greatest need, to tell them what their priorities should be, or to attempt to move their gaze from the hands and ropes around their necks back to the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming, TPP, or even to the holistic and fundamental need for global system change from anti-human unsustainable capitalism to deep democracy with economic, social, and cultural, as well as civil and political, rights for all. It is their breath being lost in that moment, not mine.
Similarly, if one is being deported, or one’s parent or spouse is, in that moment, nothing else matters. Or, if a woman is being forced to abandon control of her own body because of someone else’s religion or brutality, the invasion of her person, her human dignity, and her most personal liberty and privacy is being violated, which cannot be condoned or made to wait.
While never forgetting root causes, I need to join them, follow them, take whatever solidarity positions in the masses they prefer me to have. I may even catch some words or glances of misdirected hostility or suspicion from time to time, because, THEY CAN’T BREATHE and can’t be expected always to speak or see clearly and fairly in their agony toward those who fit the outward description of the oppressor group who show up in peaceful support. Within strict limits of my right and duty to protect my own person, I should be tolerant and forgiving of their occasional minor mistakes that result from the confusing plight for which they did not ask.
And indeed, if I am not in the oppressed group, I may make mistakes too–some of my “fighting words” and show of support from time to time may not be helpful or revolutionary but rather inauthentic, presumptuous, or pretentious. While self-flagellation helps no one, neither does grandiosity.
More broadly, even from a revolutionary perspective, by being a fighter all or most of the time when I want or need more than anything to be a lover, am I not thereby becoming in some way part of the system I detest? I want to have a clean conscience as regards my friends and even my enemies as much as possible, but it is more than that. I awake want to reject holistically the system that has been foisted upon us, but even “to reject” at every turn is to live in contrast to that system rather than in freedom from it.
I am guilty as charged in some or all this and raise this complex issue of “just means” in all sincerity. In fact, I recently, ironically rather haughtily, stated as such in a religiously-themed piece I published at Daily Kos, which thankfully only a few of my best buds read (which may be the same with this here piece!): “[I] don’t claim to be pious and admit to being something of a fighter out of a sense of obligation, but with words only.”
In my opinion, apathy, not confrontation, is the social disease of our time. Faced with the seeming choice between allowing myself to be apathetic and risking imperfect confrontation, I often feel obligated to do the latter in part because so many choose the former. But is that wise? Is that the best I can be doing as a species-being?
We won’t get any modicum of heaven on Earth without raising a lot of hell. We still live in a “fighting age” and need to put on our “fighting clothes” (shout out to JayRaye and the Hellraisers like Mother Jones who are daily chronicled in Hellraisers Journal). But how we each choose to raise hell must be personally authentic to the time, place, and particular Hellraiser, with justice in the service of love not unforgiving fanaticism.
Many of us would prefer to stay in our caves, preferably a well-appointed man or woman cave. Nonetheless, caring humans crawl out even when we do not have to, blink at the uncaring sky, and seek out peace, liberty, and justice for all or at least for those we see before us being choked by “the man.” In that case, our duty is to do whatever we can to stop the choking. Our solitude and circumspection may have to wait.
But they cannot always wait. We must in general follow our bliss even as, when duty calls, we “confront,” “battle,” and “defeat” the “foes” who are the beneficiaries of divide and rule. Not always an easy balancing act. Even to begin to describe the system is to risk a migraine and to expose our own disproportionate political-economic weakness as individuals in it–a bubble-driven system powered by financial gimmickry, non-dischargeable consumer debt, production based on profits and not human need, and environmental destruction; the unsustainable but seemingly unstoppable use of non-renewable resources; the exploitation of labor and the reserve army of the unemployed; and prejudice and discrimination by “race”/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth or other happenstance that has nothing to do with one’s infinite value as a beautiful human being; and which, in a workplace and on a street near us, is reinforced not only by institutionalized state violence but also by cultural hegemony.
Pass me the bong. As bad as the global system is, we the people, taken off the farm and often wedged into inhumane living conditions, are not at all inclined to or interested in external violence. Stress results in massive self-medication involving alcohol and other drugs, at its worst a form of internal violence. However, right wing terrorists who say, for instance, that they are trying to provoke a two-way “race” “war” are not only grotesquely immoral but also liars. It is a one-way war of right wing terror and police violence against people of color. The former (and sometimes the latter) hope to dehumanize African Americans and to encourage other lone wolves and small groups of racist killers. They do not seriously expect that African Americans are going to engage in retributive racially murderous acts.
Almost all working people, regardless of our race or ethnicity, first and foremost want peace and security for ourselves, children, elderly, and other vulnerable persons with whom we may come into contact and will not purposely engage in violence except as a last resort. In short, except for the terrorist who is exercising a bloodthirsty and hateful will to power, every normal human instinct is to walk or even run away from a gunfight. That is why stand your ground laws are not only completely unnecessary but also causative of violence. They pretend people are in harm’s way who are not in order to sell unnecessary guns that cause unnecessary injury and death. We may chafe at and hopefully do protest injustice, but we do not use violence unless truly exceptional circumstances are presented–unless, that is, we are among those mercenaries engaged in state-sanctioned local or international police action or those desperate who have been unable to find lawful employment and get caught up in the illegal non-prescription drug industry.
But how do we ourselves also avoid wallowing in the toxic language of hate?–for there are things to hate. Should we avoid the intellectual exercises and temptations involved with understanding and refuting the intellectuals and propaganda gurus of the powerful? Must we ourselves eschew aesthetics, intellectual development, and intellectual pleasure? How can we engage in the study that leads to greater ability to engage in argumentation against the philosophers of the powerful, such as Nietzsche and Rand, without becoming mesmerized or coopted in the process?
I will not link to “The Atlas Society” website, but in a 3/5/11 piece by one Stephen Hicks, the many differences in the two are, to my view, overwhelmed by their similarity in rejecting socialism and aid to society’s losers and exalting “the hero”:
In politics, they agree that contemporary civilization has very significant problems, and that socialism and the welfare state are nauseating; but while Nietzsche has good things to say about aristocracy, slavery, and war and bad things to say about capitalism, Rand says the opposite. Finally, they share the same exalted, heroic struggle sense of life–although Nietzsche adds to that a strong dose of bloodthirstiness that we do not find in Rand, while Rand regularly adds a strong dose of anger that we do not find in Nietzsche.
We have no choice but to “fight the power” and the ideas they use to blind us to the fact that they are not actually engaged in exalted, heroic struggles but mass injustice to maintain their system of divide and rule by any means necessary for the purpose of controlling the world’s resources for their own profit-taking and capital accumulation. However, we refuse to lose sight of what makes us beautiful, which has nothing to do with how we look or winning spelling contests, or our fighting ability
or winning anything else, from awards to games to wars to battles for interpretation of our history.
True allies respect the disrespected:
“I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it,” [Spike Lee] tells VIBETV. “All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
We must also respect ourselves and our own imperfect humanity. Permanent deployment is deadly, including participating in endless political battles against mercenary politicians, pundits, think tanks, and advertising gurus who wish to define and commodify us at so many dollars per vote under a “First Amendment” that speaks not the language of justice in the service of love but the language of money in the service of more money. And it is not simply a matter of getting back to the future either. Our ancestors made horrible mistakes too, often of tribalism, paternalism, sexism, and other forms of division and social hierarchy, so that to awake is not merely a retrospective cultural event.
So not only the will to power but also power itself as an end or a means to money stinks with the stench of greed, selfishness, and death. We absolutely don’t want to become like the Koch brothers.
But is there an easy, or at least emotionally cathartic way out? When we awake, as we must, should we try to make being a loser “cool”?
That “loser as coolness” commodity was produced and sold two decades ago to great aesthetic effect … seems like yesterday
We should refuse to be purchased by a consumer culture that can even package the language of the desperate and their would-be allies for commercial purposes. Surely the stuff of revolution is more than adoption of a certain fashion consciousness. Signs of solidarity must be more than proudly affecting the pose of “losers” in some kind of kubuki show of support for those who truly suffer from the grosser forms of injustice.
As a precaution from being frauds, do members of the left then need to adopt cultural austerity? Do we need to stop reading all books other than our chosen school of socialist thought and lose what little sense of humor we still have? Will doing otherwise lead us down the slippery slope to being poseurs? Of course not. We should not try so hard to “fight” “the winners” in their own fixed games that we either adopt the tokens and terminology to which we have been assigned or only speak with our own insider terms of reference.
The advertisers and other mercenaries working for the ruling class have decided all manner of linguistic packaging to keep us enticed and preoccupied when all the while inside the packages there is very little there there. “Mystique” itself is such an impressive French-sounding word. But we should not adopt an anti-intellectual pose any more than we should adopt the pose of “loser.”
Still, when we unwrap the supposedly precious intellectual commodities of the ruling class, when we touch those rings of power, we should be careful and realize that, like Frodo Baggins, there is nothing so special or moral about any of us that makes us beyond temptation.
Let us begin to be awake by giving up our craving for acceptance in the supposedly glamorous world of waiting for Mr. Übermensch. Let us not be so occupied with the minds of our enemies that we are unable to free up our mental energy away from that which does not make us more loving global citizens, including the “correct” spelling and pronunciation of the names of mercenary intellectuals we are expected to admire. Let us not be taken in either by their brilliance and mental dexterity or our own.
We do not want to become one of the ruling class or one of their mercenary class who gets to stand nearby in the high places, feed our betters grapes, and wave fans over them in their exalted, heroic struggles.
Jul 20 2015
By NY Brit Expat
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only (Charles Dickens, 1859, A Tale of Two Cities, Book I, Chapter 1).”
Jun 15 2015
Polytheistic idolatry is the only thing that gets destroyed, says Daesh, which somehow rationalizes the destruction of historical antiquities, as though there can only be one history, apparently a Sunni and/or Ba’athist one. Only statues that are deemed idolatrous would get destroyed or apparently as originals resold with copies destroyed for social media documentation. But what counts as idolatrous in a modern commodity economy.
Daesh is only controlling the mythology reproduced by the media in order to further not the goals of actual religious beliefs, as they are simply looters maximizing accumulatable wealth. One can say that they are even projecting a pre-modern accumulation of dominance and subjugation returning West Asia and North Africa to some pre-capitalist mode of production. Of course the ideological contradictions will flourish as Daesh elites will keep their modern networked social media and slick magazines as well as their modern weapons in an attempt to reduce all other variants of Islam to their hegemony. Daesh are not the Sentinelese or the Auvergnats – they are common crooks, the lowest form of banditry tarted up when they refer to their genocidal barbarism as a “management of savagery“.
ISIS’ efforts to erase pre-Islamic pictorial art successfully communicates their brand image. What ISIS fails to mention is that they are destroying fakes. Blouin Art Info reports that upon the release of the Mosul Museum video, experts determined that “most, if not all’ of the statuary on view were plaster fakes. The officials at the Mosul Museum had previously transported the originals to the Baghdad Museum. The New York Times reported that many of these sculptures were replicas of ancient objects and a portion of the sculptures on display were reconstructed from fragments which included original shards of ancient sculptures.
Fox News’ misreading is that this is something more immoral than the actual activity of the market in art forgery, made complicit often in human history by an entire discipline of art history and archaeology so that Fox’s headline “How ISIS created a terrorist art market“, is simply that they are following practices of pillaging going back even before the period to which Daesh wishes to return if only symbolically.
Of course the killing of suspected homosexuals will deprive Daesh of many of the population from which the making of such artwork come. These are the premodern warlord-despots of an imagination-free fundamentalist world of gender, class, and ethnic subjugation. They predictably lack the civility of the Greeks upon losing their (Elgin) Marbles.
Footage released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed the ruins of Syria’s Palmyra untouched as the militant group claimed it only destroy statues which it deems polytheistic, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Palmyra is home to a massive Roman theatre where ISIS reportedly executed 20 foreign fighters earlier this week who had been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
ISIS militants have reportedly executed at least 400 people in Palmyra since capturing the ancient Syrian city, Syrian state media said earlier this week.
ISIS captured Palmyra – and Iraq’s Ramadi – earlier this month despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes.
A YouTube account believed to be affiliated with ISIS posted a video on May 26 showing parts of the city’s ancient ruins and colonnades. It was not clear when the video was shot.
An activist with an anti-regime group in Palmyra said the ruins have not been damaged adding that ISIS said they would only destroy statues they deem idolatrous.
“They haven’t been damaged and members of the organization [ISIS] told residents that they will not damage the city’s antiquities, but will destroy the idols,” the activist with the anti-regime Local Coordination Committee for Tadmur, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“Perhaps it’s because the Palmyra antiquities are mostly columns and large buildings and not statues of people, which they consider idols that must be destroyed, and they have no problem with the other antiquities.”
The ideologically-driven destruction of priceless Iraqi artifacts by Islamic State may be a ruse that actually hides a much more cynical operation, in which fakes are smashed to pieces while real treasures are smuggled out of the country and sold on the black market to fund the terrorist army…
Whether worthless or priceless the verdict for destruction is the same. The current terrorist art and antiquities market is dictated by two factors: (1) can an item be transported to a location where a buyer exists for it, and (2) can the artwork be passed off as legitimate once it arrives.
May 25 2015
Epidemics of cholera as well as other serious diseases, including neoliberalism, can take a toll on solidarity. “Trade” deals, and the conduct used in pushing them through to adoption, can be purposely choleric in order to accentuate a breakdown in solidarity. A carefully-orchestrated disinformation and intimidation campaign can provide a loud and pushy disincentive to obtaining and sharing knowledge and growing into a healthier society.
The Gipper is credited with the famous saying “trust, but verify.” However, it is actually an old Russian proverb. The phrase came in handy when scrutinizing the actions of the potentially dastardly Russian Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
With matters of political economics, we have learned over the last hundred years that verification is not always easy because labels sometimes defy reality. Since the fall of the authoritarian state capitalist Soviet Union, which claimed to be real and scientific socialism, apathy has set in about true human choice on matters not having to do with consumer goods. The possibility of a heterodox deeply democratic vision for humanity is laughed at by commenters. They blithely point to North Korea and the supposedly happy riveters south of the border who produce things once made by Americans for the great now debt-driven and trade-imbalanced American marketplace.
Speaking of Russia, its dolls and other trinkets are now made in China too. Ironically, the British Green Quaker documentary filmmaker David Malone aptly says that modern “trade” agreements are like Russian dolls, with lots of other dolls inside that have nothing to do with trade. We are expected to place the doll up on a shelf and not worry what’s inside, even if the shelf is getting repossessed.
Anyway, it’s not really as simple as opening up to see the next doll inside, although it would be nice if we were allowed to at least do that before making the purchase. If the global “we” really wants to understand something that comes with risk, such as a disease, or a series of massive “trade” deals, we must first be able to put the pieces as well as the whole under a microscope, do DNA tests, and have plenty of time to learn what exactly it is we are seeing. Learning the ecological context is also critical.
Sounds like technical questions best left to experts! So, we can sit this one out. Maybe it is we who are dialectical dolls here, expected to live superficially without addressing our interior selves. Why concern one’s pretty little self with such manly and adult details?
More broadly, absolutely do not ponder whether the globalization of hegemonic capitalism is the disease or the cure. That would necessitate openly and closely studying and discussing, without fear of repression, the system that is being imposed, the crises it inevitably causes, the insolvency it constantly courts, the reserve army of unemployed workers, the lack of fair distribution of the winnings that arise from the system, and calmly comparing the available alternatives, including everything from tweaks to overhauls to repeal and replace.
Democracy is this potentially great mass experimental method if the powers that be would allow it to work deeply and openly. If we were allowed to trust but verify we could be engaged citizens. Instead, we are forced to leave democracy to neoliberal politicians, experts, and talking heads, as if they will explain to us what little it is that we need to know after they have made their decisions, which have bound within them unprecedented curtailments to democracy.
This sounds more like oligarchical exploitation than rule by the people. But what can we do to defend ourselves in times like these?
At least from the time of Spartacus, solidarity has been the enemy of exploitation, always has been and always will be. But woe unto those who take the risks of speaking the truth to power, or even seeking the truth. The doubt-inspiring whispers are reaching a chorus of “shut-up and know your place.” Self-doubt cannot help but set in:
In the end, did Spartacus really want to be free and in solidarity with other people in the struggle to be free? Wasn’t it really pretty nice being a Thracian gladiator after all? And for his followers, as they were hanging from crosses every bit as real as Jesus’s, might they not have had a little buyer’s remorse?
Come to daddy. Put aside those passions. Don’t question too much. It’s for your own good that you are being led through the valley of the shadow of death in a blindfold.
May 18 2015
By NY Brit Expat
Like everyone else, I got it wrong. I was expecting a Tory minority government propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) if needed to get legislation passed.
It was also clear that the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) had been courting the Tories hoping for another small shot at power; their slogan that “they would give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain” really made me think that they had never understood the Wizard of Oz; if they had, they would have realised that the Wizard was a fraud who only granted what the Tin man (heart) and Straw man (a brain) already had; provision of a testimonial and a diploma do not change reality, only perceptions of reality. I wondered who wrote their script; revealing that you are frauds is never a good idea for a political party.
I was at a friend’s house planning to watch the beginning of the election results there and then I saw the exit polls. I gasped and my stomach screamed! I thought surely this was wrong. I grasped at straws: it didn’t include postal votes, people do not always tell the truth (in the US people deny that they wouldn’t vote for a person of colour as they do not openly want to admit their racism) … I went home to watch a national nightmare unfold (one does not put a fist through your friends’ only telly, it is certainly not good guest behaviour).
The exit polls (316 Conservatives/Tories, 239 Labour, 58 SNP, 10 Liberal Democrats, 2 UKIP, 2 Greens, 4 Plaid Cymru) actually underestimated the extent of the damage. The Tories were predicted to be heading towards a minority government; I thought that was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the final result.
While I knew that the Lib Dems were signing their own death warrant by joining the Tories in coalition, I thought that they would lose seats in the Labour heartlands (Northwest and Northeast) squeezed by Labour, lose their seats in University towns that they won from their opposition to the Iraq war (due to their support of increasing university tuition fees which they opposed in their manifesto). I expected student votes to go to the Greens, but not enough to give them the seats which went to Labour), but I thought that they would hold historical bases of support in Devon and Cornwall (where the main opposition is Tory); I had underestimated the obvious fact that why vote Tory-lite when you can have the Tories in all their glory?
I knew Labour would suffer severe losses in Scotland (their unionism during the elections, corruption of Labour councils up there, the uselessness of the carrot offered by Gordon Brown towards the end of the referendum and strong opposition to austerity in Scotland), but wiped out except for 1 seat in Glasgow was more than I expected. In Scotland, I knew that the Lib Dems would hold Orkney (and lose everything else; I stayed up to watch Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander‘s head roll which given everything else was a small bright spot in election results); the Tories have been very weak in Scotland for a while, so their having one seat near the Scottish borders does not surprise me at all. But the Scottish National Party winning 56 seats was beyond my expectations (and their own, I think).
I went to bed at 6:30am stressed out and still hoping for a Tory minority government. I woke up to a political nightmare. The Tories have won a majority, they do not need the DUP, they do not need UKIP (who only won 1 seat anyway; small favours, but they took their first local council in Thanet). They most certainly do not need the Lib Dems; who will be very lonely sitting in Parliament.
Apr 19 2015
In Memory of Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015.
At the 2009 Summit of the Americas, Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a copy of Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America which details the United State’s military aggression, economic exploitation and political coups or “regime changes” in Latin America.
In the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Obama’s reception by Latin American nations was noticeably cool – primarily because the United States refused to end its 50 year boycott of Cuba.
So at the 2015 Summit of the Americas, Obama walked in with a smile on his face and a proposal for a rapprochement with Cuba in one hand, and, in the other, his newly minted Executive Order 2015 which placed sanctions for human rights abuses on several Venezuelan military leaders and government officials. Under his emergency powers, Obama declared Venezuela a “threat to the United State’s national security.”
What was Obama thinking? Did he think people wouldn’t notice the bait and switch as he tried to appease Cuba and the Latin American nations while at the same time he applied the same old cold war tactics to isolate Venezuela as the more recent example of a Latin American country standing up to US imperialism? (To make matters worse, these particular military officers and judicial officials are those that many Bolivarians see as the most active in preventing a highly publicized attempt to destabilize the Venezuela government in February 2014 to set it up for another coup.)
The unanimous demand from the Latin American nations to repeal the sanctions against Venezuela show how disconnected Obama and the United States government are from changes in the balance of power in the Americas in the last decade. This includes the failure of the United States to maintain its neoliberal hegemony and the rise of a left liberal block of nations (i.e., Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil among others).
Admittedly, much of the loss of US hegemony in Latin America is due to the United States over-extending itself in brutal and unsuccessful oil wars in the Middle East and Asia, but much of the impetus of this new left leaning block is due to the influence of the Bolivarian “21st century socialist revolution” of Venezuela. Beginning with the election of Hugo Chavez in the late 1990s and the drafting of a “socialist” constitution, Venezuela has been instrumental in establishing several inter-regional support groups such as ALBA, UNISUR and CELAC which exclude the United States. The new left liberal block of nations has also benefited by Venezuela’s generous sharing of its oil wealth with its neighbors.
So even though most will scoff at the idea that Venezuela is a real military threat to the United States (given the size and nuclear capability and the fact that Venezuela recently reduced its military by an unheard of 34%), the spread of an ideology that challenges the United States’ right to exploit and impoverish its southern neighbors could be sufficient reason to consider Venezuela a “threat” to United States’ ideology of imperialism; thus causing the US to resort to its age old practice of “regime change.”
Seems Like We’ve Heard This Tune Before
For the past 150 years, the United States has treated Latin American as its own personal backyard to exploit. Most of the exploitation has been accomplished through economic dominance and the support of right-wing dictatorships. However, if we look at those countries that experienced actual “regime changes” involving military coups, we can count, just since World War II, a minimum of 11 countries (and I’m sure I’ve missed some) where the United States was either directly or indirectly involved with military regime changes in the Americas– either to protect specific multinational corporate interests or change regimes that promoted an ideology that was more generally in conflict with Capitalist interests (communism/socialism, nationalism, liberation theology): Guatemala
1954, Cuba1959, The Dominican Republic – 1961, Brazil – 1964, Chile – 1970-73, Argentina – 1976, Nicaragua – 1981-90, Panama 1989, Venezuela 2002, Haiti – 2004, and Honduras – 2009.
To learn some more about a recently published secret report that documents the United States plans for achieving regime change in Venezuela follow the discussion below …
Feb 01 2015
The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected. This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.
However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).
Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany. Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!
Jan 11 2015
I was thinking of writing about the Charlie Hebdo massacre which culminated in an anti-Semitic attack in a Kosher Supermarket leading to the deaths of Jewish shoppers. I was considering addressing the issue of why we should have solidarity with the victims even though I found their articles racist and the errors of secular extremism adopted by the French left, done so well here; really, does anyone really think that deserves execution? I was going to talk about my deep fears and worries for French Muslims and the inevitable security measures that will be introduced that will affect the freedoms of French citizens and how those would be used against ethnic and religious minorities and possibly against French political dissidents. I also was considering discussing my anger at Hollande’s keeping Netanyahu updated on the situation in the supermarket.
This is the same Netanyahu whom is urging French Jews to emigrate to Israel and who was part of those leading a “national unity” march today in Paris and that Netanyahu represents no one but those that voted for him, much less the Jews living outside of Israel that he is encouraging to move to Israel which is engaged in a constant state of war. What is this saying to French Jews, and for that matter, all Jews living outside of Israel?
Are they actually implying that Netanyahu in some way represents all Jews?! Sorry, this man does not and will never speak for me … putting my anger at this aside for the moment, we actually have something positive to discuss!
I decided to go for a story that actually could shift Europe in a positive direction and that is the upcoming Greek elections on January 25th. Following the failure to elect a President in Greece, Samaras was forced into snap elections (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/29/greece-crisis-president-snap-election).
This means that they will be granted 50 seats to help them make a government. However, the issue does not appear to be whether they will win, but whether they will win with 151 seats to ensure a majority in Parliament. If they do not win that majority, things are up in the air as an understatement.
Jan 04 2015
There can be no immaculate conception of socialism …
Aneurin Bevin, 1945;
or of our posts about socialism.
I had hoped this post would be the fabulous coming out ceremony for a pamphlet I have been working on in my spare time for over a year on the need for a global social compact. I view Pope Francis as being a potential key Gramscian player in this prospect. I was going to highlight how Cuba may present a unique opportunity for the global social compact paradigm. But, as they sometimes do, real world events in my little world have taken precedence over the Holidays, and the pamphlet is not complete. Nonetheless, I feel I can still take an abbreviated stab at the post I mentioned week before last in a comment on MrJayTee’s excellent Cuba post:
a look at the Cuban constitution, Cuba’s survival of the fittest/meanest capitalist island neighbor immediately to its east, and the potential helpful role of Pope Francis
(My patient, kind but busy tovarishch MrJayTee prefers I keep my posts short anyway, so perhaps this is divine providence.)
Before I get into the meat of this post, I need to get some slights, and caveats, out of the way. Let me begin by “apologizing” to socialists who happen to be Catholic for the Immaculate Conception invocation, but it seemed to fit my situation, and, 55 years into both experiments, it seems to fit Cuba’s as well. That cultural reference got Aneurin Bevin, the founder of Britain’s National Health Service, in trouble with this important left subgroup seventy years ago. But what the hell, Bevin, and after him the Castro brothers, did more to help the working class have earth as it is in heaven than any pope or archbishop of Canterbury in my estimation. So, please accept my laurel and hardy handshake and nonpology.
As for caveats, for stinging critique by me of the Catholic Church’s anti-women, anti-GLBT, and in general anti-human policies, and its tendency to produce smarmy moralizing with little or no praxis to produce change, please see here and here, respectively, including ditty about:
the unelected Constantinian conservative RC majority of the SCOTUS, the Republican Party’s politburo, the vanguard in robes of U.S. political corruption and global neoliberalism, his humble flock, who put capital unction into the grotesque shunning of humanity that is institutionalized social repression
In a nutshell, while I have taken the gloves off with Pope Francis’s street cred, I believe in working with him too.
I do need to add one last preliminary sting:
No, Pope Francis, I do not buy that you did all you could to protect your own priests from right wing killers/torturers in Argentina’s Dirty War. I will not battle that history out in this post, but suffice it to say that you could have placed your prestige, and your body, on the line to protect them, but failed to do so.
To see how a real moral leader leads by example, please read Gramsci’s 1925 speech directly to the face of Mussolini and the Italian parliament.
Moving right along …
Nov 17 2014
Some illusions are not good. Keeping up appearances can be dangerous. We should have the courage to admit that we or those we love or should love are in need. A political party that is too afraid to speak this message is nearly worthless.
I love the honest moment many critics hate in Akira Kurisawa’s One Wonderful Sunday (1947) when the director, through the female co-lead, confesses the act of creating for the public good by turning to us, the viewers, and begging for help for the poor lovers of post-WWII Japan: “There are so many poor lovers like us.”
Generations later, the Japanese left is by and large retaining its moral courage against a denialist onslaught that would have fit right in with Fascist days gone by. In a vicious campaign of moral inversion that would make Karl Rove proud, those who dare to stand by the historical veracity of the exploitation of “comfort women” are themselves scandalized. The current conservative Japanese effort to expunge from history the Japanese military’s mass brutalizing of women during WWII is, needless to say, itself deeply shameful. But this need for maintenance of societal illusion is by no means a new creation. Nor can the U.S. exempt itself from criticism with respect to its own deep and wide illusion at home and abroad, and in particular with respect to Japan.
In these sad days it is difficult to remember except with sadness that not too long ago a first term presidency was won on a simultaneously discomforting and audacious vision—
The title of The Audacity of Hope was derived from a sermon delivered by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright had attended a lecture by Dr. Frederick G. Sampson in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1980s, on the G. F. Watts painting Hope, which inspired him to give a sermon in 1990 based on the subject of the painting – “with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God … To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope… that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.”
While “her” audacity is commendable, where is “ours”? Can we look on at a person in such a condition and not ask why and then do all we can to change those conditions?
This vision, which was ultimately an appeal to honestly assess the requirements of justice in the service of love, has been diminished through a societal psychosis brought about only in part by an opposition party strategically incapable of telling the truth on anything serious. The Republican Party is built on lying, to be sure. But it has received decades of assistance from the pathetic unwillingness of the U.S.’s so-called liberal party to have the audacity to honestly call even for old time liberal religion and from the pathetic unwillingness of the so-called liberal media to have the audacity to expose lies on a prolonged basis except of the inconsequential variety–such as the covering up of the pathetic sex life of a president with a consenting intern. While I hope most of us would agree that Bill Clinton was a putz, our collective political lives should not turn based on what he does with his. Had he turned to the camera and said “There are so many poor [so to speak] lovers like us” we all should have clapped, laughed, or yawned, but certainly immediately moved on.
It is worth pondering who is really running this sickly thickly syrupy daytime theatre of life in the U.S.–so comfortable with societal psychosis once reserved for dreams of a heavenly one–while we put on our daily generally modest costumes. We have lost the will to pray, oh Lord, for a Mercedes Benz or even a new pickup, although we may still feel this unexplained ungratified compulsion to purchase new gizmos with whatever is left over after the tank of gas that will get us from our trailer to our part time jobs if we can get them.
It can sometimes be difficult, however, to tell the actors from the playwrights, for even the playwrights have to play dress up, or, more typically, dress down. When you are an imperial family, it is important to look the part, which will vary according to the needs of the occasion. If your power is mainly cultural, with pretentions of divinity, your plumage may need to be bold. While living large you may feel compelled to use your women and children more like props than actors on the stage of your pampered world.
If your power is economic, you may need to dress like regular small business folk on the way to the quaint grand opening of a new five and dime, complete with soda fountain. Your appearance should reflect the business needs of your milieu, even if that means you too must look like you eat tons of that processed corn-shit you sell to us at everyday low prices.
Before I come back to them, I want to mention the customers. You may wholly or partly not realize it, but, if you are reading this, you are likely sitting or standing (pray not driving) in the Wholly Walton Empire. You won’t actually get to “[m]eet the 6 Walton Heirs at the [t]op of the Walmart [e]mpire,” but it is important to their tight hold on power in the U.S. that you and hundreds of millions of species-beings like you remain alienated and not develop class consciousness of them and moral consciousness of the ends and means of their empire.
Now back to our story …
The Walton family are just regular folk, plus lots of money and power. They are at the pinochle of a homestyle capitalist family built on the illusion of choice. They are mere country vendors.
Other small town folk make the stuff that they vend, which we stuff into our bodies and souls to the limit of our credit and physiological and psychological capacity to intake stuff.
These ultra rich “regular folk” use slick mercenary politicians from both U.S. ruling parties to carry out their policies in exchange for chump change and neoliberal-circumscribed political power implemented through the kabuki theatre of “aw shucks, pass me them taters” known as U.S. “democracy.” A broad spectrum of “regular folk,” sometimes already wealthy but usually not “ultra rich,” compete within this mercenary class. Enter folks like Jeb (make no mistake, Jeb does not come to Arkansas because he cares about education)
and “our” very own HRC.
Now what in tarnation does this have to do with Japan?