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Case for Brexit Boosted as Defence Secretary says it “can enhance UK’s lethality”.

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Defence Secretary” Makes Strong Case of Brexit Benefits.

With all that talk about Dunkirk and valiant little Britain Battling Brussels Bullies it’s a wonder the military side of Brexit has not gotmuch of an airing.

Today that’s all changed.

Brexit ‘can enhance UK’s lethality’, says defence secretary

Brexit represents an opportunity for Britain to boost its global military standing and “enhance our lethality” in response to the threats posed by Russia and China, the defence secretary will say in a notably combative address at a defence thinktank.

Gavin Williamson intends to argue in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute on Monday that a post-Brexit UK should redefine its role as a global power prepared to intervene against countries that “flout international law”, backed up by new military technologies and capabilities.

The cabinet minister, who is increasingly keen to talk up Brexit at a time when a deal is elusive, is expected to say leaving the EU will allow the UK “to consider how we not only project but maximise our influence around the world in the months and years to come”.

Williamson is expected to conclude: “Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass.”

Without challenging the premise of this rabid rant this was Labour response:

Labour’s Nia Griffith, the shadow defence secretary, said Williamson’s rhetoric was undermined by cuts to the defence budget of £9bn in real terms since 2010.

“Instead of simply engaging in yet more sabre-rattling, Gavin Williamson should get to grips with the crisis in defence funding that is happening on his watch,” she said.

It is hard to deny that the concerns of the Leave voting, ‘left-behind’, ‘people-from-somewhere’, and their wish to “enhance our lethality” have to taken seriously.

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry calls for “timely and effective” new elections in Venezuela and “targeted sanctions”.

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Left needs to say more than this, and Thornberry has said it.

This was posted today on John McDonnell – The People’s Chancellor.

Shadow foreign secretary will make clear rebuke to record of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.

Labour government would not indulge human rights abuses by Britain’s allies or by regimes that “call themselves ‘socialist’ but … betray every socialist ideal”, the shadow foreign secretary will say on Wednesday.

The reference by Emily Thornberry, when she sets out her proposed policy under a Labour government, is intended as a clear rebuke to the record of the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro.

JeremyCorbyn has so far opposed the decision made by a majority of European Union states, including the UK, to recognise the rival Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, but Thornberry is eager to ensure that Labour’s opposition to interference is not misconstrued as support for the Maduro regime. Guaidó’s party is a member of the Socialist International, with which Labour is affiliated.

The key themes of Thornberry’s speech at the Institute for Government setting out her vision of a Labour foreign policy will inevitably draw parallels with the ethical foreign policy set out by Robin Cook as the first foreign secretary of Tony Blair’s 1997 government.

This is an extremely welcome move.

Unlike many, who have suddenly become experts on Venezuela, this Blog has been reluctant to comment on the crisis in the country.

This numpty for example, thinks he knows it all:

It would seem that the only thing keeping Maduro supporters going in Britain is the fact that Trump and most of the EU (with exceptions like Italy’s far-right/populist government, “Italy has vetoed an EU statement on the Venezuela crisis amid political confusion in Rome“.)  is against him.

It  is as plain as a pikestaff that the Maduro regime is not just on the skids, but that 3 million people have fled  Venezuela, and that the corrupt Chavista government has remained in power through the use of force – including the torture of opponents.

There is a steady drip drip of stories such as this: how pro-regime millionaires have been salting their stolen cash away in foreign banks.

And this:

It is not necessary to go further to agree that Emily Thornberry has the right approach, from first principles, on how to deal with this issue.

Here is what she has just said, (Belfast Telegraph).

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called for timely elections but declined to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader as interim president.

…in a break with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Thornberry backed the use of targeted sanctions and “whatever means necessary” short of a military invasion to bring about change.

….

Ms Thornberry told an event at the Institute for Government in London on Wednesday: “What I am saying is that we begin with dialogue.

“That offer has been made, internally and externally we need to ensure that happens.”

She added: “That’s the best way to proceed rather than somebody saying ‘that’s it, we’ve had enough, we recognise X, we don’t recognise Y any more’.

“That’s not the way to treat another country, even a country in as desperate a situation as Venezuela.”

Ms Thornberry said she was a “great believer in sanctions” as a way of using foreign policy muscle “that doesn’t involve killing people”.

She said there should be “timely and effective” new elections in Venezuela but “there should be no invasion, there should be proper discussion and negotiation”.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Taking a Stand on Venezuela and Nicaragua.

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Left Should Stand with our Sisters and Brothers.

Recently Pablo Iglesias the leader of Podemos said after denying any financial links with Venezuela of his former admiration for  the President Hugo Chávez that,

I don’t agree with some of the things I said in the past. The current political and economic situation of Venezuela right now is dire. To rectify in politics is a good thing. (Creo que rectificar en política está bien)

13th of December. Podemos chief grilled in Senate over Venezuela financing links

Reuters today reports, The Venezuelan regime is gearing up to the end game: Maduro says Venezuela’s civil militia grows to 1.6 million members.

“We will arm the Bolivarian militia to the teeth,” Maduro said, without detailing how many of the militia members were actually armed. “An invading imperialist force may enter a part of our fatherland, but the imperialists should know that they will not leave here alive.”

Maduro is cosying up to the Turkish far-right President:

The Turkey-Venezuela mutual admiration society

Latin American country is increasingly isolated, but Ankara’s not joining in. 

The FT reports on the background:

The economy is shrinking but the country has so far refused to produce economic data on gross domestic product or inflation despite repeated requests and potentially a major default on Venezuela’s sovereign debt. The country’s inability to pay bondholders could lead to it losing over the next few months of one its main assets — the international trading company Citgo.

What should be one of the richest countries in Latin America, given its extensive oil and mineral resources from gold to bauxite and diamonds, is now one of the poorest.

Basic supplies and food are scarce and, as well as an exodus of talent, there is a growing refugee crisis as people try to escape to neighbouring countries such as Colombia and Brazil.

According to a recent paper from Brookings, there are already more than 3m Venezuelans living outside the country, including a million in Colombia. The exodus includes the desperately poor but also skilled workers and technicians on whom the economy depends. Within that group are many of those who built the state oil company PDVSA but are fleeing the corruption and mismanagement that now dominates the company.

What is left of the economy only keeps going as a result of loans from Russia, in return for which Moscow is being allowed to establish a military base in the country and cash-for-oil deals with the Chinese.

Human Rights Watch states,

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and punish its critics. Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Security forces have arbitrarily detained and tortured protesters, and raids in low-income communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse. Other persistent concerns include poor prison conditions and impunity for human rights abuses.

Another regime is also in crisis, and using repression to crush dissent, Nicaragua.

Harassment and persecution of the voices denouncing repression in Nicaragua

There is a pressing need for the international community to recognize the right to defend rights and to provide a safe space for defenders to do their work.

On Wednesday December 12 the National Assembly of Nicaragua voted to cancel the legal registration of Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH). After the announcement Vilma Nuñez, 80 years old, the president of CENIDH and one of the most recognized human rights defenders in the region declared “We have done our work with conviction and we will continue doing it until Nicaragua is really free”.

Just a week earlier I met Doña Vilma, as she is known, in Washington DC when she came with a delegation of human rights organizations from Nicaragua to participate in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and present their testimony about the continuous repression in the country.

Her strength and commitment to the protection of civic freedoms in her country are remarkable. However, her voice had a sadness tint when talking on how the situation continues to deteriorate in Nicaragua.

During the hearing the activists from Nicaragua provided updated information to the Commission on how the human rights crisis in Nicaragua has evolved and the serious consequences for people in the country.

The organizations denounced how the State of Nicaragua continues to discourage and punish social protest and political dissent, despite the incessant calls to terminate the violence.

The threats to civic space in Nicaragua are not new. Civil society in the country has been facing growing restrictions as political power has increasingly concentrated in recent years and civic space has become completely repressed.

However, the situation has worsened since April 2018 when proposed regressive changes to the social security system sparked widespread, mass protests across the country. The government violently repressed the demonstrations. Since that more than 300 people have been killed and more than 600 remain in detention.

Abuses and violations to civic space in Nicaragua vary from violent repression of social protest, violence against journalists and censorship of the media, and arrest and criminalization of activists to the introduction of restrictions to civic space through the legislative framework.

Despite these developments, as clear as a pikestaff, many on the British left continue to support these regimes.

Protests at a recent conference in solidarity with Latin America were not welcome

Watch this and weep.

It is time for solidarity with those oppressed by the regimes of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

It is also time for some senior Labour figures  to follow Pablo Iglesias and say, “To rectify in politics is a good thing.”

The magazine Labour Briefing has just carried this article on its web site:

The civil unrest and police violence that swept across Nicaragua earlier this year leaving over 300 people dead have been followed by a wave of state repression against human rights organisations and media outlets. Most shocking among these are the police raids on CENIDH, the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, whose director is Vilma Núñez.

……

According to Amnesty International, most of the victims in the recent unrest were killed “at the hands of state agents.” Yet what happened is talked about in Nicaragua Solidarity circles abroad as if it were an internationally orchestrated coup against Ortega, thus justifying the brutality of the regime‘s response. The irony is that, as the Trump Administration ratchets up the rhetoric against Nicaragua, it is the self-serving actions of Ortega himself that leave the Nicaraguan Revolution less able to defend itself.

Some on the left understand this. Noam Chomsky has called for early elections. Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, and former Uruguayan President José Mujica have also been sharply critical of Ortega. None of these individuals are in the business of promoting US government interests. Rather, they understand that defending the gains of the Nicaraguan Revolution requires the orderly exit of the corrupt dynasty that has betrayed it. Others on the left should now speak up for the basic rights of Nicaraguans as a matter or urgency.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Patriotism and Nationalism, from Orwell to Trump Mocking France’s War Dead.

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Nice One Trumpy!

Comrade George Orwell wrote,

 “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

NOTES ON NATIONALISM  Polemic, GB – London, 1945

People have debated these lines and the article for many years.

But Trump has just clarified the meaning of these sentences.

Trump Mocks France for World War Losses

First thing in the U.S. morning, the U.S. president took another — even more pointed — crack at the French leader. After a fractious visit to Paris over the weekend, Trump returned to the theme of a European army to defend the continent’s interests and took renewed offence. In a particularly sharp jab, Trump implied that the French needed the U.S. to rescue them from the Germans in both world wars.

 

The tweet comes after Trump spent a weekend in Paris with other world leaders commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. In an earlier tweet, the American president had called Macron’s suggestion “very insulting.” Trump’s latest broad-side was ill-timed, falling on the third anniversary of Paris terror attacks that killed more than 130 people and left hundreds more injured.

…..

Scroll down to this:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” Macron said in an address to world leaders gathered for Armistice commemorations, with Trump sitting nearby.

His office later tweeted this part of the speech, which went on to say ‘by putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.”

It was seen as a direct rebuke of Trump’s ‘America First’ policies. Indeed, Macron has used social media to mock the U.S. leader in the past. When Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, Macron launched an initiative to recruit U.S. scientists with the tag line “Make Our Planet Great Again” — a play on Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.”

 

The President persists and signs:

 

French Army response to Trump’s fear of a dose of drizzle:

Trump is still at it:

 

For the moment this is the official French response, no comment: 

L’Elysée se refuse pour l’heure à tout commentaire après cette série de tweets, indique l’AFP.

However much one may normally disagree with Marcon, we are in in solidarity with the French President against this draft-dodging flatulent flaccid fraud US President.

Here is Plantu rendering a loving homage to the other side of America:

Written by Andrew Coates

November 13, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Jair Bolsonaro: Where Populism Meets Fascism.

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Fascist Wins Brazil Election.

Jair Bolsonaro declared Brazil’s next president

Guardian.

A far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist has been elected as Brazil’s next president after a drama-filled and deeply divisive election that looks set to radically reforge the future of the world’s fourth biggest democracy.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper who built his campaign around pledges to crush corruption, crime and a supposed communist threat, secured 55.1% of the votes after 99.9% were counted and was therefore elected Brazil’s next president, electoral authorities said on Sunday.

Bolsonaro’s leftist rival, Fernando Haddad, secured 44.8% of votes.

In a video broadcast from his home in Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro thanked God and vowed to stamp out corruption in the country.

“We cannot continue flirting with communism … We are going to change the destiny of Brazil,” he said.

This result concerns the left across the world.

These are some notes.

For in-depth analysis of the background see:

The most important presidential race in Brazilian history (plus statements from MST & PSOL). James N. Green. Links  – International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Brazil: will fake news win the election?

As Brazil’s presidential election reaches its second round, support for rabid, homophobic extremist Jair Bolsonaro is being whipped up by an unprecedented tide of ‘fake news’, distributed on social media, particularly WhatsApp,  Red Pepper. Sue Branford.

Brazilian socialist Andressa Alegre spoke to Solidarity about the experience with the governments led by the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) between 2003 and 2016.

More broadly:

Brazil goes back to an oligarch past

 Anne Vigna. le Monde Diplomatique. May 2018.

Post Lula, post Dilma Rousseff, power has shifted to powerful landowners aggressively asserting their rights over land they don’t use but don’t want to lose, and politically motivated violence is up.

Jair Bolsonaro and the threat to democracy in Brazil

Yesterday Brazil voted for a fascist. Jair Bolsonaro is now the President of Brazil.  He comfortably outpolled his nearest rival, Fernando Haddad, a former Mayor of Saõ Paulo and Minister for Education in the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by 55 to 45 per cent.  Although his lead appears to have narrowed in the final days before polling, it was still a decisive victory. The fourth largest country in the world could now slide from democracy to dictatorship.

Here are some pressing issues.

Brazil’s presidential election: fearful LGBT community prepares for a ‘proud homophobe’.

Tom Phillips. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières

Activists say that while violence and discrimination against the LGBT community have long existed, Bolsonaro’s brazen bigotry has helped launch a new era of brutality and threats.

“It’s as if the gates of hell have been opened – as if hunting season had been declared,” said Beto de Jesus, a veteran LGBT activist and founder of São Paulo’s huge annual gay pride parade. “It’s barbarism.”

James Green, an American academic with longstanding ties to Brazil’s gay movement, said Bolsonaro’s “repulsive” discourse had left some gay and lesbian couples wondering if it was even still safe to hold hands in public: “He has unleashed all the demons in Brazilian society and they are out there now: unmasked and vicious and violent.”

Renan Quinalha, a São Paulo-based lawyer and LGBT activist, said recent weeks had seen a “frightening” spike in reports of physical or verbal abuse carried out by Bolsonaro supporters. He described a mood of fear and trepidation, both at the violence and the prospect that, as president, Bolsonaro might try to roll back hard-fought gains such as the 2011 legalisation of same-sex unions.

The Rise of the Brazilian Evangelicals

Au Brésil, les évangéliques ont voté Jair Bolsonaro.

The Evangelicals have voted for Bolsonaro – who is himself a Catholic.

There is a good case, given the intolerance, cult of violence, apologies for dictatorship and trumpeting of the most reactionary elements of free-market capitalism, religious bigotry  with themes of law and order,  and threats to withdraw from all international treaties and organisations, to  suggest that Brazil’s President is a figure in which  fascism meets populism.  

But this is far from the end of the story,

Brazilian presidential front-runner Jair Bolsonaro has flaunted a macho distaste for gays. He’s recommended that parents beat effeminate boys. He’s said he would prefer a dead son to a homosexual one.

And he has the vote of Tiago Pavinatto, a gay lawyer and columnist for O Estado de S. Paulo, one of the nation’s largest newspapers.

Bolsonaro has “flirted with homophobia because he’s an ordinary, rude man and he knows that,” said Pavinatto, 34. “He will be surrounded by people who will ensure gay rights be respected.”

This is no random, one-off case. Pavinatto is part of a surprisingly large segment of the gay community — 29 percent, according to a Datafolha survey this week — who intends to vote for the former Army captain. And it underscores just how strong the desire is among many Brazilians to prevent the party of Bolsonaro’s opponent, Fernando Haddad, from returning to power

Disgust with corruption during the 14-year rule of the Workers’ Party runs so deep that some gay voters have been willing to bet that Bolsonaro’s hostility is a mere ploy. Others support Haddad with great reluctance or are refusing to vote entirely.

Brazil’s gay groups, flourishing in its cosmopolitan cities, have been made a scapegoat in Bolsonaro’s grievance-fueled campaign. The candidate has pointed to homosexuals as evidence of moral decay as he preaches a return to conservative values.

Strong rejection of the Workers’ Party and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva drive Bolsonaro’s backers, and that isn’t different in the gay community. But gays find themselves torn between disapproval of corruption associated with Lula’s legacy and resistance to a candidate who has repeatedly antagonized them.

Why Many of Brazil’s Gay Voters Will Overlook Bolsonaro’s Homophobic Rants  

Apart from the problems with the Partido dos Trabalhadores, Workers Party, the disaster that is ‘Bolivarian’ Venezuela under their eyes- 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2014,-and clashes as some Brazilians have rioted against the presence of over 100,000 refugees – the Brazilian left has lost another potential source of inspiration.  (September. Brazil calls in army after mob attacks on Venezuelan migrants )

In a Video produced by the Left of centre French weekly l’Obs, violent scenes have already taken place in Post-election Brazil.

 

The French Daily Libération underlines the disappointment of the 44.9% who voted for his opponent Fernando Haddad, and the dangers of this result: “You are worth more than Bolsonaro.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 29, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Neither Norman Finkelstein nor Jonathan Sacks but Democratic Socialist Internationalism!

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Just when you thought Jonathan Sacks had scraped the bottom of the barrel.

There is hysteria, and there is hysterical foam-speckled raving.

British politics has seen the two merge over the last month as some people have made what can only be called – charitably – as the Media Madness of Crowds.

The most offensive delusions, that the a Labour Government, led by, Jeremy Corbyn, would pose an “existential threat” to British Jews, have been peddled.

The wildest seers, like Norman Finkelstein, have been given free reign to speculate on the site of the Flagship publishers of the New Left about whether Jewish wealth, “didn’t translate into outsized Jewish political power” in Britain. Having found that, “Were it not for the outsized power of British Jews, it’s hard to conceive that British society would be interminably chasing after a hobgoblin.”

At present Finkelstein feels armed from his American pulpit to intervene in the British debate on what kind of procedures the Labour Party should adopt on fighting anti-semitism FINKELSTEIN CRITIQUES IHRA ‘DEFINITION’ – AND REJECTS IT WHOLE.

The author of the Holocaust Industry uses all the moral authority of John Stuart Mill to defend the right to rant – something he so far not had much success with when lecturing his close friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Norman Finkelstein: Teaching John Stuart Mill in Iran  2014)

Then there is this.

Corbyn’s “Zionist” remarks were “most offensive” since Enoch Powell, says ex-chief rabbi

New Statesman.  GEORGE EATON

Whatever the Conservative former Chief Rabbi’s politics are today, this is what the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, who gave Enoch Powell’s discipline Nigel Farage a platform in his paper, had to say after the Brexit vote:

Brexit: It’s a wonderful day for Britain – and its Jews

It’s certainly a truism that when times are troubled, the Jews are often the first target. But the referendum demand from voters that we regain control over immigration isn’t an attack on immigrants, on foreigners – or on Jews. It’s an attack on people being denied any say on a core issue of politics.

Indeed, far from Brexit hurting minorities, the real problem for minorities comes when politics ignores such concerns – when the mainstream loses touch with people and the only vehicles left to make a point are extremists. Marine Le Pen is surging in France not because all the French are fascists but because the French governing class – Eurofanatical to the core – treats its voters with contempt.

That has been the EU’s fundamental flaw. It regards voters as uncouths who need to have what’s good for them imposed on them. Just look at Greece. That’s how and when extremists prosper – and that’s when the Jews suffer.

Our freedom from the EU will make extremism less, not more, likely, as the pressure cooker is released.

We will take no lessons on far-right extremism from Pollard – who looks even more of an empty vessel after we’ve seen the ‘Tommy Robinson’ campaign merge into a pro-Brexit, pro-Trump one.

Nor, as David Rosenberg writes, is Sacks in a strong position to attack Powell.

You were never my Chief Rabbi, bruv.

When asked last year what were his four favourite books of 2017, Sacks included Douglas Murray’s the Strange death of Europe, which the “respected rabbi” described as “unsettling” and “disturbing”. Sacks continued: “Murray weaves a tale of uncontrolled immigration, failed multiculturalism, systemic self-doubt, cultural suicide and disingenuous political leadership. Accurate, insightful and devastating.” (1) Lots of Powellite themes there which Sacks found strangely attractive. Needless to say Murray included an apologia for and re-interpretation of Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.

But then again it wasn’t the likes of Rabbi Sacks, and the cushioned middle classes who experienced on the streets the fallout from Powell’s hate speech. It was predominantly the Asian communities facing vicious racial violence, including racial murders, and the anti-racist movements, abused and attacked by the far right forces Powell encouraged. Those Asian communities, the anti-racist movements, the refugee communities today, in the face of brutal attacks, have continued to resist. And through those years of resistance they have known they can rely on solidarity from allies beyond their own communities. One absolutely constant and ever-present ally, at their side then and now, is Jeremy Corbyn.

We do take seriously the threat posed by the racist far right.

If there are attacks on Jews in Europe, they are not alone.  Let’s begin with the events in Chemnitz where, “For two nights running, hundreds and then thousands of right-wing extremists and sympathisers have taken to the streets.” Their targets? “Far-right vigilantes ‘hunting down’ migrants in Germany after man’s death.” (Sky)

This Blog is not a supporter of the extreme ‘anti-Zionist’  politics presented as the core of ‘anti-imperialism’ which many consider one of the origins of this dispute. This approach has resulted in a failure to defend Syrian democrats, even the Kurds in their to-the-death-struggle against the ISIS genociders, and an obsessive concentration on Israel in a world rent with human rights abuses, from Myanmar to Central Africa. (1)

Nor do we wish to turn the Labour Party into a forum for people all-too-anxious to ‘debate’ playground motions expressing their hatred of ‘Zionism’.

But it is hard to argue that pro-imperialist, or pro-West politics are anything other than despicable faced with their equal inability to bring a solution to the Syrian civil war, the creation of a viable two-state solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict,  or the horrors taking place in Yemen.

The present frenzy looks less and less to do with such issues.

For the first time in many years this Blog agrees with  Lindsey German on what the relentless campaign means,

There can be no doubt about what this represents – the serious attempt to remove a twice-elected Labour leader who has left wing politics, who supports a range of causes and movements including those for the Palestinians, who is committed to redistribution of wealth and power, who wants more money spent on decent public services, and whose election as prime minister would inspire working people around the world.

When the lying has to stop – weekly briefing

It is as simple as that.

Common decency, as they say, ranges the left behind Labour.

********************

(1)  I have read the Murray book, which draws on somebody I am lot more familiar with, Renaud Camus, the theorist of the “great replacement” (the take-over of Europe by immigrants) and a pillar of the French far-right.

(2) For a thought-provoking introduction to different views read the latest at Shiraz: A history lesson for Corbyn on antisemitism, Zionism and Stalinist-influenced “anti-imperialism”

Samir Amin (1931 – 2018) – from the Critique of Capitalist Development to the Rejection of Political Islam.

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Samir Amin, (1931 – 2018).

Tribute to Professor Samir Amin

This Sunday, August 12, 2018 we learned, with great sorrow and sadness, of the passing the eminent development economist Professor Samir Amin on the eve of his 87th birthday. An illustrious thinker, the late Samir Amin leaves behind a wealth of economic thought on developing economies that he has inspired since the early sixties by his many publications and thought-provoking conferences.

As its Director for 10 years (1970 – 1980), IDEP is particularly touched by the passing of one of its pioneer-directors who made an indelible mark in the history of IDEP through his accomplishments in training and research in the domains of development planning and economy management in Africa. His astute leadership enabled the institute to gain and strengthen its identity in the delivery of capacity development and research programs that were strongly tailored to fight against underdevelopment.

With Samir Amin, IDEP gained momentum and is proud to be continuing on with this momentum, almost forty years later, in delivering on its mandate of building the capacity of African countries to effectively plan for their development and efficiently manage their economies.

In this sad moment, we offer our condolences to his family and to the African continent, to which he has always devoted himself with remarkable zeal and dynamism.

United Nations Economic Commission on Africa.

In French (Amin was Franco-Egyptian):

Mort de l’économiste Samir Amin, figure de l’altermondialisme

Par LIBERATION, avec AFP — 

“UN BAOBAB EST TOMBÉ” : SAMIR AMIN, LE THÉORICIEN DU DÉVELOPPEMENT INÉGAL, EST MORT  l’Humanité.

Samir Amin, l’économiste du Sud, est mort Le Monde.

“Le Franco-Egyptien s’est illustré par son analyse critique du système économique mondial et par son engagement en faveur des pays du Tiers-Monde.”

Like many I first came across Amin through the debate on capitalism and underdevelopment.  My introduction was  ‘Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism‘ (1976 ). This was one of many books in which he developed the idea that, “how accumulation in advanced capitalist countries prevents development, however that may be defined, within the peripheral social formations, usually referred to as “underdeveloped” countries. Samir Amin ranks among those who realize the necessity not merely to comprehend the growing crisis of world capitalism, as it manifests itself within individual nation states, but also at the world level.”

A lucid and memorable tribute is given in Red Pepper,

Nick Dearden looks at the theories of one of Africa’s greatest radical thinkers

Samir Amin (1931-2018) was one of the world’s greatest radical thinkers – a ‘creative Marxist’ who went from Communist activism in Nasser’s Egypt, to advising African socialist leaders like Julius Nyerere to being a leading figure in the World Social Forum.

Samir Amin’s ideas were formed in the heady ferment of 1950s and ’60s, when pan-Africanists like Kwamah Nkrumah ran Ghana and Juliuys Nyrere Tanzania, when General Nasser was transforming the Middle East from Amin’s native Egypt and liberation movements thrived from South Africa to Algeria.

Africa looked very different before the International Monetary Fund destroyed what progress had been made towards emancipation and LiveAid created a popular conception of a continent of famine and fecklessness. Yet through these times, Amin’s ideas have continued to shine out, denouncing the inhumanity of contemporary capitalism and empire, but also harshly critiquing movements from political Islam to Eurocentric Marxism and its marginalisation of the truly dispossessed.

Global power

Amin believed that the world capitalism – a rule of oligopolies based in the rich world – maintains its rule through five monopolies – control of technology, access to natural resources, finance, global media, and the means of mass destruction. Only by overturning these monopolies can real progress be made.

This raises particular challenges for those of us who are activists in the North because any change we promote must challenge the privileges of the North vis-à-vis the South. Our internationalism cannot be expressed through a type of humanitarian approach to the global South – that countries in the South need our ‘help to develop’. For Amin, any form of international work must be based on an explicitly anti-imperialist perspective. Anything else will fail to challenge structure of power – those monopolies which really keep the powerful powerful.

Along with colleagues like Andre Gunder Frank, Amin see the world divided into the ‘centre’ and the ‘peripheries’. The role of peripheries, those countries we call the global South, is to supply the centres – specifically the ‘Triad’ of North America, Western Europe and Japan – with the means of developing without being able to develop themselves. Most obviously, the exploitation of Africa’s minerals on terms of trade starkly favourable to the centre will never allow African liberation, only continual exploitation.

This flies in the face of so much ‘development thinking’, which would have you believe that Africa’s problems come from not being properly integrated into the global economy which has grown up over the last 40 years. Amin believes in fact Africa’s problem stem from it being too integrated but in ‘the wrong way’.

In fact, as long as the monopolies of control are intact, countries of the centre have had few problems globalising production since the 1970s. Sweatshop labour now takes place across the periphery but it hasn’t challenged the power of those in the North because of their control of finance, natural resources, the military and so on. In fact, it has enhanced their power by reducing wages and destroying a manufacturing sector that had become a power base for unionised workers.

So there is no point whatever in asking countries of the centre to concede better trading relationships to the peripheries. Amin is also concerned at environmental activism which too often becomes a debate about how countries of the centre manage their control of the world’s resources, rather than challenging that control. It is vital that Northern activists challenge the means through which the ruling class in their own society exerts control over the rest of the world.

Amin’s views on political Islam brought him to the attention of many secularists, including this Blogger.

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism 2007.  Monthly Review.

On an initial reading he offered a rigorous critique of Islamism.

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West!

On the basis of this position, every current of political Islam chooses to conduct its struggle on the terrain of culture—but “culture” reduced in actual fact to the conventional affirmation of belonging to a particular religion. In reality, the militants of political Islam are not truly interested in discussing the dogmas that form religion. The ritual assertion of membership in the community is their exclusive preoccupation. Such a vision of the reality of the modern world is not only distressing because of the immense emptiness of thought that it conceals, but it also justifies imperialism’s strategy of substituting a so-called conflict of cultures for the one between imperialist centers and dominated peripheries.

The exclusive emphasis on culture allows political Islam to eliminate from every sphere of life the real social confrontations between the popular classes and the globalized capitalist system that oppresses and exploits them. The militants of political Islam have no real presence in the areas where actual social conflicts take place and their leaders repeat incessantly that such conflicts are unimportant. Islamists are only present in these areas to open schools and health clinics. But these are nothing but works of charity and means for indoctrination. They are not means of support for the struggles of the popular classes against the system responsible for their poverty.

On the terrain of the real social issues, political Islam aligns itself with the camp of dependent capitalism and dominant imperialism.

It is the latter assertion, which straightforwardly answers  the false assertion that Islamism contains a kind of sublimated ‘anti-imperialism’ which is attractive. This was clearly sensed by his critics who tried to claim that the reactionary nature of political Islam was hidden behind a “welfare” vision of society. While in many ways this seems strange perspective today in the light of the rule of Daesh,  Turkey may make the case for a synthesis between authoritarian populism and Islamist welfarism.

There were and are equally clear difficulties in claiming that  Islamism was in some unexplained manner not “really”anti-imperialist. Yet various forms of actually existing Islamism were engaged in armed combat with….imperialism well before they began murdering civilians outside of their own lands.

In the debate in Monthly Review that followed Amin was criticised in Analyzing Political Islam. A Critique of Traditional Historical Materialist Analytic by  2009

The point is that if the left is ever to become serious in challenging militant/political Islam, it has to move past and dump its heavy baggage of Eurocentrism and the careless analysis of political Islam. The current wave of militant Islam is a force to reckon with, and dismissing it as reactionary—true as it may be—is unhelpful. Yes, militant Islam has an extremely narrow ideological view of Islam, and an exceedingly oppressive vision of societal change, especially concerning the treatment of women.

This vision is not shared by the vast majority of Muslims in Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and even India. That being said, this dominant obscurantist current of political Islam in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan is also locked in military/guerilla combat with U.S. imperial power and client states in the region.

But here’s the rub, militant Islam is also supported by people in these respective regions not, as mentioned earlier, because they support its vision of a Muslim “welfare state” rather, the support is because the United States is seen as ruthless, anti-Islam imperial occupier. Alongside, people in these states are also very tired of the tactics of Islamists, especially as they terrorize and target unarmed and uninvolved people. Overwhelming numbers in Muslim-majority states would like the Islamists to disappear, just as they would also wish the same for U.S. imperial presence and the client regimes that rule over them. If this complexity could be grasped, it may enable people on the left as well Western political leaders and the media to desist from homogenizing the makeup of entire Muslim-majority societies as reactionary or obscurantist.

Similarly, the popular anti-imperialist sentiment in Muslim majority states should not be confused with the actions of militant Islamists, which are not anti-imperialist. Militant Islam is conceived and imagined in the present, current context. It is, therefore, a “modern” manifestation that posits its own version of the Islamic “welfare state” for the current conjuncture to rival the Western capitalist state and Enlightenment notions of modernity. Understanding militant Islam in its current context will only enable the development of a coherent strategy of opposition and an alternative non-Eurocentric vision of society.

Comments on Tariq Amin-Khan’s text

Amin defended this analysis, focusing on how different forms of political Islam could be simultaneously ‘modern’, that is a part of a globalised world, and backward-looking, with their textual and ritual evocations of utopias.

Political Islam is a modern phenomenon. Tariq does not see that this was my thesis. All of the ideological, political and social movements of the “modern” world (i.e., of actually existing capitalism, which is both globalized and polarizing, thus imperialist by nature) are modern, because they are inseparable from capitalism. Bourgeois democratic liberalism, whether conservative or reformist, socialisms (social democracy, historical communisms), fascisms, ethnocentrisms (or para-ethnic movements), the nationalisms of the imperialist powers, the nationalisms through which dominated peoples express their resistance, movements of “religious renaissance” in all their forms, be it liberation theology, apparently “fundamentalist” revivals, both Christian and others, and new sects, all these movements are “modern”.

But it is not sufficient to understand them simply as modern. Even more, it is necessary to choose between them and identify those which move society forwards and, on the basis of a critique of capitalist modernity, participate in inventing socialist modernity.

As for the ‘welfarist’ aspect of political Islam,

the fact that the movements inspired by such formulations have recruited their rank and file from the most disadvantaged classes does not change the reactionary utopian character of these formulations. I include political Islam (even political Islams, in the plural), but also political Hinduism, political Buddhism, North American Christian fundamentalism, new sects and others, in this large family of illusions, apparently attached to the past (but in fact modern) and able to mobilize the “poor” in certain circumstances. Their success, like at the present moment, is the result of the failure of the relevant (socialist) lefts to oppose capital’s offensive, which has seized the historic opportunity provided by the erosion and then collapse of the progressive forces that had formed the world after the Second World War.

Amin was nevertheless primarily interested in the geopolitical game.

Describing the Middle East he stated in his original article on Political Islam that,

The region of the Greater Middle East is today central in the conflict between the imperialist leader and the peoples of the entire world. To defeat the Washington establishment’s project is the condition for providing the possibility of success for advances in any region of the world. Failing that, all these advances will remain vulnerable in the extreme. That does not mean that the importance of struggles carried out in other regions of the world, in Europe or Latin America or elsewhere, should be underestimated. It means only that they should be part of a comprehensive perspective that contributes to defeating Washington in the region that it has chosen for its first criminal strike of this century.

This view, which puts the conflict between ‘imperialism’ and the rest of the world, became more trenchant as the years went by.

During the Arab Spring he out the two, secularism and anti-imperialism, together and declared,

The ongoing U.S. project of military control over the planet by its armed forces, supported by their NATO lieutenants, the erosion of democracy in the imperialist core countries, and the medievalistical rejection of democracy within Southern countries in revolt (taking the form of “fundamentalist” semi-religious delusions disseminated by political Islam, political Hinduism, political Buddhism) all work together toward that dreadful outcome. At the current time the struggle for secularist democratization is crucial for the perspective of popular emancipation, crucial for opposition to the perspective of generalized barbarism.

2011: An Arab Springtime?

But imperialism came to play its role.

Counterpunch summarised his opinions in 2017.

A main pillar of Amin’s thought is that far from battling political Islam, the NATO and US have enabled such regional movements as a divide and conquer approach to maintaining power. This critique upends the dominant narrative of Uncle Sam’s war on terror as a noble pursuit.

According to Amin, since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the lone superpower has been spurring a “permanent civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds.

What does all this mean?

Amin writes: “US armies have protected those who subsequently had to take the direction of the Daesh (or ISIL), the Caliph himself!”

In Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism, Amin presents a thought-provoking interpretation of Russian history in the global system. It involves geography and history and of course human agency.

He considers the Czarist Empire and the colonial empires, quite different. Further, Amin considers Lenin and Stalin and the Ukrainian crisis, the latter of which constitutes no small threat to widening armed conflict.

Russia remains a pivotal nation on the world stage, in spite of its capitalist restoration. Its importance as a counterbalance to the imperialism of the Triad (US, Europe and Japan) is Amin’s special focus, and for good reason.

For many  the belief that US was involved in the rise of Daesh seems an unproven and tied to conspiratorial claims about the  ‘sponsorship’ of the Islamic state made by supporters, amongst others, of the Assad regime.

Amin also made claims about the “le coup d’état euro-nazi de Kiev ” and, giving a name to the US involvement, stated that the Hillary Clinton had founded ISIS, “A ce propos la presse aux Etats Unis a reconnu que l’accusation portée par D. Trump à savoir que Hilary avait activement soutenu la mise en place de Daesh – était fondée.” (Samir Amin; l’élection de Donald Trump (25 / 11 / 2016) (1)

Amin, it might be said, failed to keep up with developments inside  Islamism. He ignored the self-driven ideological causes and nature of the Deash genocidal and totalitarian regime. There is a disregard for the weight of doctrine. There is no serious analysis of its relation to earlier forms of political Islam and the ideologies of radical Salifist currents that were drawn to jihad. There is nothing on the buds of tyrannical  “micro-powers” of Islamism dispersed across the world including within the ‘West’ and the way in which these can become ‘proto-states’ in trying to create a racist misogynist Caliphate.

In short, neither the ‘global jihad’ nor the blood-drenched reality of Islamist rule in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban and Boko Haram, the jihadis of the Maghreb and Mali,  and the Somalian killers, can be explained only in terms of geopolitical rivalries, or, as a regression to a pre-Enlightenment ‘utopia’ in modern political and technological armed dress.

Louis Proyect reflects on some of these issues here:  Samir Amin, dependency theory, and the multipolar world

Amin’s defence of a “multi-polar world” was nevertheless a positive vision of the future.

Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World

A genuinely multipolar world will become a reality only when the following four conditions have been satisfied.

  •  Real advances towards a different, ‘social’ Europe, and hence a Europe that has begun to disengage from its imperialist past and present and to embark on the long transition to world socialism. Evidently this implies more than a mere exit from Atlanticism and extreme neoliberalism.
  • The prevalence of ‘market socialism’ in China over the strong tendencies to an illusory construction of ‘national capitalism’, which would be impossible to stabilize because it would exclude the majority of workers and peasants.
  •  Success of the countries of the South (peoples and states) in rebuilding a ‘common front’. This is also essential to provide the leeway for popular classes to impose ‘concessions’ in their favour and to transform existing systems of rule, replacing the dominant comprador blocs with new ‘national, popular and democratic’ blocs.
  •  Advances at the level of national and international legal systems, harmonizing respect for national sovereignty (including moves from state to popular sovereignty) with respect for all individual and collective, political and social rights.

Amin opposed the Muslim Brotherhood root and branch, “We should not just look at the Muslim Brotherhood as a political Islamist power but as a backward movement that rejects workers movements and social justice, preferring to talk about charity as a form to ensure their control over the people,” he once said, according to al-Ahram.” The New Arab.

Dearden puts Amin’s contribution best in these paragraphs,

Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.

He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.

 

 

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(1) Again, opinion is perfectly manipulated on the subject. Jihadism is only the inevitable product of the triad’s continued support of reactionary political Islam inspired and financed by Gulf wahabism. The exercise of this so-called Islamic power is the best guarantee of the total destruction of the ability of societies in the region to resist the dictates of liberal globalization. At the same time, it offers the best pretext for giving the appearance of legitimacy to NATO’s interventions. In this regard the press in the United States acknowledged that Donald Trump’s accusation – that Hillary had actively supported the establishment of Daesh – was well founded.” Samir Amin Blog.