Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Imperialism

The Armistice and the Literature of the Great War.

with one comment

Image result for the general sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon.

 

Both of my grandfathers fought in the Great War. My English forebear was, like his brothers, a socialist and a Clarion cyclist. Perhaps inspired by Robert Blatchford’s patriotic seizure at the outbreak of hostilities, Alfred, after a few pints with his friends, walking from Bethnal Green to the City, signed up. My Scottish ancestor,  James, was also a socialist. Less taken by the fight against the Boche and a member  of the ILP, which had a strong anti-war sentiments,  he was swept up by conscription.

I properly got know Alfred when, retired from his work in the Print, and very elderly, he and his wife moved to Bounds Green in North London. He talked of Dickens (I have his complete set) and his Labour beliefs, but never spoke about his war. My mother told me that he had been so desperate in the trenches that had tried to nerve himself up to shoot himself in the foot to get out as wounded. He told her that the officers had been brave, helped by spirits. My grandmother’s first husband, of Huguenot descent like her, had been killed. Left with a small child she got no support from his family. Alfred took to her. They married and had two other children.

Neither of my grandparents ever wore a Poppy. The East Ender said once a few words, not complimentary, about the British Legion who produce them. They did not need to display one; my parents never had one: I do not need to wear one.

Some of the books and poems that we read about the Great War stay in our hearts. Sassoon’s lines in Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man (1928) “And here I was, with my knobkerrie in my hand, staring across at the enemy I’d never seen.” The words of An Irish Airman Foresees his Death (1919) “my country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, No likely end could bring them loss, Or leave them happier than before.” (W.B. Yeats). And the immortal, “The Old Lie: dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori. (posthumously published in 1920, Wilfred Owen).

The chapters in Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That (1929) on his harrowing service in the first wave of the Somme offensive, holds a special place in the literature. He captures “feeling “empty and lost” amongst the slaughter, death sentences for “cowardice”, army pettiness and incompetence, alongside the soldiers’ good sense and humour. Wounded in the cemetery at Bazentin-le-petit church on 20 July 1916 These experience is complemented by the memorable pages of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth on her work as a nurse  in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, which took her to london, Malta and  France.

The most obvious difference with literature in French and German is that authors from these countries were writing about battles taking place on their own landscape. Barbusse’s, vivid, trench language-filled,  Le Feu: journal d’une escouade, 1916 is blood and fury. Babusse added sonorous appeals against national hatred . With its passion it stands head and soldiers over the to-be-Panthonised, Maurice Genevoix’s Ceux de 14, photographic realism, gutted of politics. Ernst Jünger’s Stahlgewittern (Storm of Steel is technically one of the finest, but politically already full of the nationalism which wroke havoc in Germany.

There is more common decency and humanity in writers such as Graves than anything that a cheap-jack journalist or ‘radical’ has written in the last few days.

Sunday, one hopes, with see these cited amongst the witnesses of the Great War.

Advertisements

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

with 9 comments

Image result for samir amin

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.

 

 

***********

(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.

Trump Orders Change in British Brexit.

with 37 comments

Trump has not just shat on the table after a good Feed at Blenheim Palace….

“I told May how to do Brexit but she wrecked it — the US trade deal is off, says Donald Trump”

The Current Bun.

Amongst further reasons to hate Trump are these:

George Orwell once wrote (Notes on Nationalism) of those on the British left who has a “transferred” nationalism, “one who looks upon the U.S.S.R. as his Fatherland and feels it his duty to justify Russian policy and advance Russian interests at all costs..”

It looks as if the present crop of British nationalists look to Trump’s America as their new Homeland.

We confidently expect the keeper of the Presidential Potty, Nigel Farage, to come up with some justification for this tirade of tripe.

He has already opined thus:

Meanwhile:

 

Amongst the protests against Trump today this is our local one:

 

 

 

Venezuela Hyperinflation at the One Million Mark as Maduro Regime Faces Breakdown. 

with 5 comments

Image result for venezuela hyperinflation

Venezuela Hyperinflation Index Reaches the One Million Mark

…just two years ago, when we launched the Bloomberg Cafe Con Leche Index, a coffee cost 450 bolivars. Or that today’s price is the equivalent of almost one-fifth of the monthly minimum wage. Or that to buy a cup with the most common bill in circulation — the 100-bolivar note — you’d need to gather up a stack of 10,000 of them.

Libération 22nd of June, François-Xavier Gomez.

In Venezuela, the minimum wage has now been raised  to 1 dollar.

For the fourth time this year, President Nicolás Maduro has raised the minimum wage for Venezuelans. On the 1 st July it will pass to  million bolivars, against 1 million since 1 st May To this sum is added a monthly food voucher for a value of 2.2 million bolivars. On 1 st January, the minimum wage stood at 250,000 bolivares. The inflationary spiral that is devastating the country’s economy renders any attempt at conversion useless. The government keeps the figures of the price rises hidden from its own public, while external sources (World Bank or International Monetary Fund) put them  at 2,700% for 2017, with a forecast at 13,800% for this year.

These incredible  figures mean that a month’s minimum salary will buy you, ” deux bouteilles d’huile, ou un kilo de poulet, ou une douzaine d’œufs” two bottles of cooking oil, a kilo of chicken and a dozen eggs.

More than 120,000 Venezuelans have formerly asked for asylum in Peru alone – outnumbering those fleeing to the USA,  which is overwhelmed by the flood of refugees who total more than  353.000 of whom 16.000 are children. They have added to a country’s difficulties where already 60% work in the ‘informal’ economy.

The Maduro ‘Bolivarian revolutionaries’ – once the best known example of ‘populism’ claiming to be on the left and a central  inspiration for some European left leaders, such as the Spanish speaking Jean-luc Melechon (MÉLENCHON : “CHAVEZ, C’EST L’IDÉAL INÉPUISABLE DE L’ESPÉRANCE HUMANISTE, DE LA RÉVOLUTION“) – are trying to hold onto power through repression.

El estado de derecho está “virtualmente ausente” en Venezuela.(Noticias ONU).

Rule of law ‘virtually absent’ in Venezuela, UN report says. Government forces carry out killings with impunity.

Guardian 22nd of June,

Government security forces in Venezuela carry out unjustified killings without any apparent consequences, as the rule of law is “virtually absent” in the country, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The UN human rights office called on the government to bring perpetrators to justice and said it was sending its report to the international criminal court (ICC), whose prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation in February.

The report published on Friday cited “credible, shocking” accounts of extrajudicial killings of young men during crime-fighting operations in poor neighbourhoods conducted without arrest warrants. Security forces would tamper with the scene so that there appeared to have been an exchange of fire, it said.

“The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights. “The impunity must end.”

Perú, desbordado por la migración venezolana

El País 29th of June.

Más de 120.000 venezolanos han pedido asilo en el país andino, que ahora supera a Estados Unidos en número de solicitudes

In the left-leaning Vice Tommy Walters reported last week  on those who seek to deny these realities.

Why Are People on the UK Left Supporting Venezuela’s Authoritarian Regime?

Prominent Labour figures held a gathering in London to show their solidarity with a human-rights abusing government.

The obvious irony of denouncing other countries’ human rights records while simultaneously ignoring the Venezuelan government’s own crimes seemed to be lost on many. It would only have taken Williamson a second to find the numerous videos and reports from international human rights organisations documenting unlawful detentions and the repression of protesters in Venezuela. As the VSC builds closer links with UK trade unions, such as Unite and the Transport Workers Federation, the Venezuelan government continues to imprison its own union leaders.

Walters summarises,

Today, any remnants of the optimism of the deep social reforms of Maduro’s revolutionary predecessor Hugo Chávez are long gone, replaced by a successor who turns to violence and coercion to keep his citizens in line. Emblematic of this is the perpetual imprisonment of Leopoldo López, an opposition leader who is currently under house arrest, and has been described by Amnesty Internationalas “deprived of his freedom” in a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent”. At the meeting, Amnesty International was widely discarded as being funded by “neo-liberals”, while the single mention of López dismissed him as an illegal provocateur “rightly convicted of fermenting street violence”.

To explain the dismal economic performance, the VSC blamed US imperialism, while ignoring the role of Chavez’s years of high borrowing and over-reliance on oil revenues. The Venezuelan economy had been contracting for four years before Trump imposed sanctions last year.

True to form the last few days have seen the Morning Star has rushed to defend the predatory clique running Venezuela in the name of ‘socialism’.

OLIVER VARGASresponds to an article by liberal hipsters Vice and its misrepresentation a recent Venezuela Solidarity Campaign event.”

Calling the above an “episode in red-baiting” the author flays around trying to find the cause of the economic difficulties of the country in the policies and actions of the comprador clique that’s taken over the mantle of left populism.

Nothing to do with them: it’s about:

The fact that the price of oil crashed almost overnight in the first year of Nicolas Maduro’s presidency is ignored.

The crippling sanctions are ignored. The siphoning of essential goods across the border by Colombian paramilitaries is ignored.

The distorting effects of currency speculation by international finance are ignored.

The economic impact of the wave of opposition riots, vandalism and blockades is ignored.

Maduro must have the healing powers of a living saint to keep people in monthly eggs and cooking oil, with a bit of poultry, in these conditions and after all these attacks!

With an airy wave of the calloused toiler’s hand Vargas dismisses reports (by the UN amongst others) about repression.

“Intimidation”, you’re having a laugh, “After all, Chavistas have been putting up with personal insults for much longer.”

The real problem is “pernicious terrorism that citizens have suffered at the hands of the opposition.”

With a call to order Vargas thunders:

Chavez represented the first successful defeat of the “end of history” and US triumphalism.

In those times of defeat for the left, Chavez built an economy that provided both significant GDP growth together with equality. He combined that with a thoroughly internationalist outlook that encouraged social movements around the world.

The huge changes in the country together with popular mobilisation mean that those who had been excluded from politics for 500 years were finally able to take leadership of their own country for the first time.

Maduro is the continuation of that legacy, though with an incredibly difficult external situation as the key factor separating them.

For all these reasons, I expect Chavez will pass into popular folklore as Che Guevara has done. Western writers may oppose that and the movement he represents but if they’re to write on it then it is incumbent on them to at least try to objectively understand why Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution still have the energetic support of the poor majority in Venezuela.

Human Rights Watch will disagree:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 29, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Toff Priyamvada Gopal Throws a Wobbly Over Uppity King’s College Porters.

with 6 comments

Image may contain: 3 people

‘Madam’ ne sied pas à son altesse, Dr Gopal.

Priyamvada Gopal is a person with a bit of a history.

Support for gender segregation in 2013, See, Gender Segregation and the Postmodern Politics of Despair.

Attack on Mary Beard earlier this year: Oxfam scandal sparks Twitter row between Cambridge academics.

Her latest escapade was not in long in getting into the media.

The Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal announced today that she will refuse to supervise any students at Kings’ College, due to what she described as “consistently racist profiling and aggression by Porters”.

The Cambridge Student.

This is apparently the substance of her charges.

She described one of her experiences at the college: “‘I repeatedly asked them to address me as ‘Dr Gopal’ and repeatedly failed to get them, including the aggressive Head Porter to whom I attempt to complain to address me as anything other than ‘madam.’”

Gopal apologised to students but pointed to similar testimonies from other members of the university from ethnic minorities. She said that a King’s student told her that “the issue of racial profiling and unconscious bias at the King’s gate is something we are aware of”.

The response from King’s College Visitor Service was described by the academic as a “classic nopology” – the head of the department stated “it has not been my experience”, according to Gopal.

The professor, who came to Cambridge in 2001, has been involved in several public controversies in recent months, including an argument with Mary Beard over the Oxfam scandal and a Daily Mail article depicting her as a “hate-filled don”.

She has also been an active user of Twitter as a platform for defending her beliefs, having 18,000 followers. In March, however, she announced she would tweet less as she feared “turning into an anti-troll”.

King’s College have said the following: “We have investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff.

“Every visitor was asked to show their card during the course of that day, as the College was closed to everyone except King’s members.

“Non-members such as Dr Gopal were asked to take alternatives routes, around the College.”

“This was a matter of procedure, not discrimination.

Some might observe that Madam Gopal is the embodiment of conservative upper-class entitlement masquerading as the fight against oppression.

Apparently she has taken the following action ” I have finally decided on my behalf & of other people of colour.”

 

Bless!

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Communist Party of Britain-Marxist Leninist (CPGB -ML) and Stop the War Coalition on the Trump/Kim Jong Un Meeting.

with 8 comments

Image result for CPGB-ML Harpal Brar discusses DPRK on BBC’s primetime The One Show
 

On BBC’s One Show. Really…

On Monday 11 June, CPGB-ML chairman Harpal Brar joined guests on the BBC’s primetime One Show to discuss the historic meeting between US President Trump and Marshall Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers Party of Korea, in Singapore this week.On this video, you can see both the package that was broadcast by BBC One and the rest of the comments made by Comrade Brar during the course of the hour-long recording session.As the only person in the room supporting the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),

Comrade Brar put a strong and persuasive case in favour of the Korean people, their government and their hopes for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. Contrary to years of hysterical hyperbole demonising the north, its socialist system and its leaders, journalists in the capitalist press are now having to concede that the DPRK’s decision to arm itself with a nuclear deterrent was a wise one, and that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong Un and the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) has been anything but ‘crazy’.For our part, we have always fully upheld the Korean people’s right to work for peace and reunification without outside interference. It is US imperialism that stands in the way of this strong desire of the masses of both the north and the south of Korea, not the DPRK government, which has long pursued a policy of striving towards reunification.

That is why one of the most popular slogans of the WPK and the DPRK masses for decades has been and remains:
Korea is One!

This is closest we’ll get in Britain to the DPRK’s response.

It is laughable but Harpel Brar is seen strutting around – unchallenged – on most London left demonstrations.

Some on the left are more concerned with what they claim are “regime change” plans for North Korea than about the reality of this tyranny.

Just before the summit (11th of June) the Morning Star was issuing warnings on this theme:

Nagging doubt hang over Trump’s talks with North Korean leader

But, until reality dictates otherwise, a nagging doubt remains that Washington — especially the plethora of neoconservative cold warriors surrounding the president — has something more sinister in mind.

The likes of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo find it difficult to talk in anything but ultimatums, demanding “the Libya model” as the basis for Pyongyang’s agreement to renounce its nuclear weapons programme.

After the summit this was their response:

Trump and Kim agree to work towards the denuclearisation of Korea

While the global response to the meeting has been largely positive, Iran warned North Korea against trusting the US after Mr Trump recently pulled out of the 2015 international nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran last month.

John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition takes the regime change angle equally seriously while dismissing depth of the concluding agreement,

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing.

What does the Trump-Kim summit mean? Not much, says John Rees.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

…..

What Trump has actually done is to tear up a functioning nuclear deal with Iran and replace it with a meaningless multilateralist statement of intent with North Korea.

We may all welcome the retreat from earlier war-mongering rhetoric but this deal will not preclude it’s sudden return because there’s nothing of substance in it.

Kim Jong Un must be laughing all the way to the DMZ. In a single bound he’s escaped from the dunce’s corner of international relations and now bestrides the world as, well, if not quite a colossus, then at least the admired ally of the most powerful head of state in the world.

China too will be relieved that any likely further pressure to contain their ally has just sharply decreased.

The real lessons of the circus in Singapore are two-fold.

One, this is another episode in the decline of US power. The initiative was taken out of US hands when North and South Korea began another round of détente at the Olympic games and it has never regained it. Trump has merely managed to grandstand on a stage that he neither created nor on which does he control the action.

Two, the age of populist leaders is an age in which foreign policy goals are determined as much by domestic campaigning priorities as by traditional international relations strategy. US Presidents are supposed to at least make a show of pursuing goals agreed on by the entire foreign policy elite, otherwise known as the ‘national interest’. Trump isn’t interested in that, although he sometimes has that approach forced on him by the wider US power structure.

…..

If there is one thing more dangerous than a US President following the dictates of the foreign policy elite, as Bush did with the Project for the New American Century, it’s a President following his own mercurial interpretation of what viewers of Fox news think is a good idea. But that is where US economic decline wedded to overwhelming military power, plus the aftermath of defeat in Iraq, has brought us.

In other words Trump is still a danger.

There remain three principal points to make:

  • North Korea, the DPRK, is a totalitarian tyranny. Yet, “Trump seemed to play down the severity of human rights violations in North Korea. “It’s rough,” Trump allowed after being asked about North Korea’s human rights record. He then said: “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way. Not just there.” (Kim Tong-Hyung). We did not expect the CPGB (M-L) to mention this either, but Rees, acting as a chess strategist on the world stage, fails to tackle the issues which the New York Times has just summed up as “Atrocities Under Kim Jong-un: Indoctrination, Prison Gulags, Executions”. Perhaps these are more important than the “decline of US power.
  • On the DPRK some parts of the left have a serious analysis. Shiraz reposts a piece from the US Socialist Worker by David Whitehouse. It says, “During a period of famine in the 1990s, Kim’s father looked the other way while Northern citizens developed private markets for farm produce and other goods. If Kim Jong-un really shifts resources away from military investment, North Koreans can look forward to making even more money from their private efforts.Meanwhile, soon after coming to power in 2012, Kim embarked on structural economic reforms that provide freedom to managers at the enterprise level — freedom to hire and fire at will, set wages at variance with national guidelines, and cultivate their own suppliers and buyers without going through the national planning process.

    These reforms, which mirror the early measures of Chinese economic liberalization in the 1980s, have promoted the development of a new middle class, at least somewhat independent of the ruling party hierarchy. This group definitely has an interest in Kim following through with diplomatic engagement that can open the economy even further.

    North Korea’s working class is overwhelmingly poor. Anecdotal reports, including from asylum-seekers who make it into South Korea, suggest that workers harbor intense hatred toward the rich upper layers of the party hierarchy and toward residents of the city of Pyongyang, where wealth is concentrated.

    To some extent, Kim seems to be able to use the popular cult of the Kim family to deflect popular anger away from himself — and toward those just a few layers below him. Right now, says North Korea specialist Andrei Lankov, “Kim Jong-un is popular. Everyone supports him.”

    Kim wants to keep it that way. The burden of domestic expectations has helped drive him toward the Singapore summit, where he hopes that de-escalation of hostility with the U.S. will bring relief from sanctions — and open up export possibilities, access to international finance, and investment from countries such as China and South Korea.

  • If Rees suggests that ‘populism’ is now the engine of US foreign policy, does this mean that Trump tore  up the Nuclear deal with Iran to please Fox News watchers? What exactly does the term American imperialism mean if instead of “military industrial” interests we have crowd pleasing as the motor of decision-making? Does it mean that ‘anti-imperialism’ now signifies fighting the mob and its leader’s “sound and fury”?

It may well be that there will be less than a massive response in London to a Stop Trump protest against the US President who’s a”walking shadow, a poor player,that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.”

Many on the Left state rational opposition to Air strikes, other go loudly Mad – John Wight makes a Comeback.

with 5 comments

“Pattern of alleged chemical weapons attacks”.

By now the pattern of these alleged chemical weapons attacks is set in stone. They come at seminal junctures in the conflict, when Syrian government forces are on the verge of a significant strategic victory or advance against the alphabet soup of Salafi-jihadi groups that are operating in the country.

On Sputnik News RT writer  John Wight (lately of Socialist Unity until he fell out with Andy Newman)  continues,

Though no one is suggesting (at least certainly not me) that no attack took place, or that the footage of children stricken in the aftermath was fabricated, until independent verification is forthcoming the claim of Syrian army culpability cannot be taken at face value — not when we are dealing with probably the most heavily propagandized conflict of modern times, wherein the information war has been elevated beyond the status of an adjunct to the conflict on the ground to the point where it is now a key and crucial front in of itself.

 …

The clamour for Western military intervention follows these alleged attacks is deafening, whipped up by the usual complement of neocon ideologues and regime change fanatics for whom every day is a cruise missile day. Meanwhile, Trump’s threat that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would pay a “big price” is redolent of the posse-speak that has come to exemplify his administration’s engagement with a world that has long been straining under the weight of US hegemony.

By contrast Comrade Paul Mason has written a reasonable article on the Syrian crisis.

Futile air strikes on Syria won’t defeat Assad and Putin

The West should impose punitive economic and diplomatic measures on Russia and Iran, and back a secular-led military opposition.

I am against Britain joining a military strike on Assad’s Syria. It’s an inadequate and cynical gesture designed for domestic consumption by governments whose own legitimacy is being eroded. The idea that it will save significant numbers of lives is rubbish, and known to be rubbish, by the politicians and retired military people advocating it.

What would, in the short-term, save lives in Eastern Ghouta would be to place massive economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia and Iran, who are the real powers controlling Assad’s war in Syria; and to back or re-create a secular-led military opposition on the ground, starting with the Kurds of Rojava. But that is not going to happen.

..

A left foreign policy and defence strategy for Britain in a disintegrating global order has to start from the principle of defending human rights and observing international law and building capacity for democratic opposition in the countries stirring up conflict. The alternatives to a shower of guided missiles require more than bravado and rhetoric.

To bring the perpetrators of the war crime in Douma to justice means unblocking the multilateral system at the UN and the International Criminal Court. That in turn means persuading the Russian people to elect a government that does not sanction torture, chemical weapons attack, the assassination of opponents and the conquest of territory by brute force.

..

But strategically what’s going to end the regimes of Putin, Assad and Rouhani is the one event the west won’t countenance: their political overthrow by secular, democratic and pro-social justice movements. That’s my weapon of choice against the perpetrators of the Douma attack.

Meanwhile if you think this reasonable Wight does not.

Paul Mason replies to this kind of rubbish:

The big demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq gathered a very broad group of people together.

They included parties of the far-left, many Labour members, unions, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and, under the aegis of the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain, a group led by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. (1)

Today will we see MAB demonstrate against air strikes in Syria?

It is doubtful.

MAB deplores Syrian regime war crimes and massacre of innocent civilians

8th of April.

Last night forces loyal to Syrian dictator and war criminal Bashar Al-Assad used chlorine gas and other unidentified chemical weapons, banned under international law, in Douma near the capital Damascus. To date, 70 people have suffocated to death, with scores more still suffering, including women and children. The death toll is expected to rise. This comes amid continuous bombardment of the surrounding areas in Ghouta, which has levelled complete neighbourhoods and has left thousands dead and wounded.

What we will see is people like Wight who clearly back the Assad regime.

As in here, (September 2016).

Why the Syrian People Won’t Accept a Deal to Remove Assad

The Syrian government’s crime in the eyes of the West is not the lack of democracy – how could it possibly be given the longstanding alliance between Western governments and Saudi Arabia, run by a clutch of medieval potentates? – but rather the fact that Syria under Assad has long refused to bend the knee to US and Western hegemony, especially with regard to the country’s support for the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, and its friendship and alliance with Iran. Together they make up an axis of resistance which Washington and its regional allies have long been intent on breaking.

Despite the courage and tenacity of the Syrian Arab Army and people, there is little doubt they would have succeeded in this endeavour without Russia’s intervention in the conflict, beginning at the end of September 2015. When Vladimir Putin addressed the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations days prior to Russian aircraft flying their first sorties against anti-government forces in Syria, he effectively announced the birth of the multipolar world demanded by Russia’s recovery from the lost decade of the 1990s, caused by Washington and its European allies’ attempt to impose a Carthaginian peace on the country in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union, along with China’s ferocious economic growth and global footprint.

Russia’s military intervention was and continues to be a remarkable achievement of logistics, planning, and organization, necessary in the successful projection of hard power thousands of miles beyond its own borders. It has allowed it to showcase some of the most advanced aircraft, missile systems, and technologically advanced weaponry in the world today, beating Washington at its own game in the process. This, to be sure, is the real reason for the demonisation of Putin that has been a mainstay of Western media coverage over the past year and more.

The presence of such individuals, not to mention Wight’s new best friend, the notorious Neil Clarke (Hard Facts is with Neil Clark) and their groups will create great problems for an anti-War movement.

Who wants to march with those defending war criminals?

******

(1) On the latter’s involvement see Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent : inside British Islam  Bowen, Innes, 2013.