Written by: JT White
- September 29, 2013
In recent years Britain has become a hotbed for anti-Muslim bigotry like many of its neighbours on the Continent. It has become the primary means of mobilisation for marginal elements on the radical Right. Old canards against immigrants are being recycled and directed purposely to siphon off disenfranchised working-class and lower middle-class support for mainstream parties in this way. For instance, the BNP’s accusations that there are South Asian paedophile gangs were transformed into ‘Muslim’ paedophile gangs as if the grooming and rape of non-Muslim children has any basis in theology. It is now a staple of right-wing commentary that there are ‘Muslim’ paedophile gangs in the shadows of every city in the country. Naturally, the mainstream media has plenty of time to feed its own rape-mania and has no qualms about fanning the flames of anti-Muslim racism in doing so. No real concern for the victims of child abuse.
Given that the Muslims have become the main target of groups like the BNP the old targets have had to take a backseat. The main reason for this is that it has become more acceptable to express disdain for Islam than the West Indians who settled here in the 1950s. Likewise it has become completely unacceptable to engage in old-fashioned Judeophobia. Meanwhile bashing Muslims has become an umbrella for spreading enmity against South Asian British citizens. The slur ‘Paki’ has been replaced with ‘Muslim’ in the vocabulary of every racist in the country. The EDL have attacked Sikh temples in the past and have marched under the chant ‘We love the floods! We love the floods!’ in reference to the floods which devastated Pakistan in 2010. Of course, the EDL has no qualms about exploiting the sectarian tensions on the old Indian subcontinent and soaking Sikh and even Hindu support. In that way the rabble of aging football hooligans and skinheads can claim to non-racist in its joy at the prospect of Mother Nature drowning Pakistani children.
This is the same reason the EDL has been filmed wagging Israeli flags, and making Nazi salutes. When Lee Rigby was killed the EDL was quick to jump on the scene and soon there emerged a video of the goons yelling for the ‘black bastards’ to be deported. Mostly unreported went the attempts by the EDL to make headway in electoral politics. The British Freedom Party was founded in 2011 with Paul Weston, a former UKIP blogger, as well as with an influx of ex-BNP members. In one of the speeches given by Paul Weston he said “In fact, Islam is worse than Nazism” before sounding off about the stoning of women. He went on to claim that the growth of a Muslim population will lead to the breakdown of British society, pointing to the Lebanese Civil War and the collapse of Yugoslavia. In other words, Weston places the blame for the collapse of these societies on Lebanese Muslims and Bosnian Muslims. That would imply Weston takes the side of the neo-Fascist groups in Lebanon and the nationalist fantasists of a ‘Greater’ Serbia.
In spite of his courageous support for the ‘lesser evil’ to Islam the new party soon evaporated. Its existence lacked the strong presence of a fart in the wind. Not content with this failure Paul Weston formed Liberty GB with much of the same herd and little deviation from the comradely affection for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. The new group soon found plenty of friends in soaking up the right-wingers of the blogosphere united in their hatred of Muslims and non-whites. Soon Mr Weston was on YouTube again looking to beat the competition posed by various videos of cats flushing toilets. He had some more revealing words too. By the summer of 2013 Paul Weston was giving talks on what he described as the “racial and cultural war against the indigenous people of this country.” Going on to deem this “genocide” Weston goes on to claim the cities are “inundated with the Third World”. He lists the places which have been “inundated” as follows: Tower Hamlets, Bradford, Birmingham, Luton and Leicester. The plot thickens.
All the while Paul Weston is adamant that it’s not just the Muslims that are the problem. Oh no, most certainly not! The Muslims are only the means in Weston’s mind, a foreign race imported to undermine and destroy white Britain. The people responsible are broadly pinned as ‘liberals’, ‘hippies’, ‘multiculturalists’ and ‘Marxists’. In his more blunt moments Mr Weston claims that it’s all the Frankfurt school. From beyond the grave Jewish Marxist intellectuals such as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse are responsible for political correctness, multiculturalism, feminism and mass-immigration. It’s all a part of a calculated plot by the Jews who deems ‘cultural Marxists’ who created critical theory to wage ‘cultural terrorism’ against Western civilisation. He claims “the Left control pretty much everything”. Yet again the raison d’être of National Socialism resurfaces in the clever language of a counter-Jihadist.
The anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the Frankfurt school are responsible for a vast array of problems has become increasingly popular and mainstream on the Right. It originates in the mad ramblings of Lyndon LaRouche and in the twenty years since it has been taken up by American shock-jocks and the reactionary press in Britain. It has been promulgated by many cultural conservatives such as William Lind. Naturally the BNP have moved in on this. In 2011 Nick Griffin put across his non-understanding of the Frankfurt school in a talk with Simon Darby and posted it on the Party’s YouTube channel. This year the BNP appears to have gone on to hold a knuckleheaded talk on the Frankfurt school where the Jewish intellectuals were painted as belonging to an international conspiracy alongside the Freemasons, the Illuminati and Bilderberg. If anything it’s good to see that the Illuminati conspiracy theory has finally been given the audience it deserves.
Not coincidentally, Anders Behring Breivik promulgated the same theory in his manifesto and considered ‘cultural Marxists’ to be “traitors” deserving of execution. In that same manifesto Breivik praises the EDL as a ‘blessing’ and quoted Paul Weston’s Gates of Vienna blog posts predicting ‘a European civil war.’ Fortunately, the economic crisis in Britain has not been so severe as to produce the conditions necessary for a full-blown fascist resurgence as we have seen in Greece for instance. The rabbles organised by the EDL come nowhere near the ranks of Blackshirts led by Sir Oswald Mosley. It’s primarily an online phenomenon with the potential to influence psychopaths and thugs to take action. It was this that led to Breivik’s rampage and the numerous attacks on mosques and Muslims since the Woolwich murder. It would seem that this could get a lot uglier before the liberals wake up to find what they have allowed to flourish and take it seriously.
Written by: JT White
- September 27, 2013
You may have heard recently that the Labour Party has rediscovered itself as the revolutionary vanguard ever ready to play dictatress to the proletarians of the UK. Unfortunately the slogan won’t be ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ exactly because Ed Miliband has pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months, to protect the minimum wage, repeal the bedroom tax and to incentivise private companies to develop on the land they own. No promises to reverse course on tuition fees, certainly not on ‘free schools’, the coming sale of Royal Mail and the on-going privatisation of the NHS so ignored by most of the mainstream media. If you read The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Express you will of course know this is the most radical position ever taken in the last thirty years. That is only demonstrative of just how deeply the termites have spread and how well they have dined. Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson have condemned Ed Miliband’s positions for abandoning the New Labour script of triangulated means to compete for the Conservative vote and, naturally, taking the working-class vote for granted. The Blairites are totally on board for the Cameron prescription of fiscal conservatism (for the poor anyway) to restructure the welfare state and public services.
The right-wing commentariat are on the offensive to safeguard the existing order (or should that be disorder?) of bloated energy oligopolies and the particular approach Cameron has taken to pumping up a housing bubble in London. The bedroom tax has appeal because gutting the benefits system will make some in the public feel good that Nicky Welfare isn’t getting away with spending his £60 a week on lager anymore. That’s the only discussion we’re allowed about benefits. No one wants to talk about the fact that Nicky Welfare’s housing benefit doesn’t go on his drinking habits, but it does go straight into the pockets of a landlord. The housing crisis is not up for discussion anymore. The Conservatives and Lib Dems have been hard at work trying to patch up the system as it was when Gordon Brown was in the Treasury. All of them will talk the talk about the need to build more houses to stoke the chronic shortage and lift people out of dilapidated housing. There is no serious commitment to extending public money to building more social housing. Instead the government and the so-called left-wing opposition are signed up to selling off these houses thereby feeding the same processes of debt and property speculation which laid the basis for the last crash.
At the same time, the Labour Party has not reclaimed Clause 4 to recommit itself to the nationalisation of industries and assets. Instead Miliband waffles as the NHS is sold off bit by bit and even as the delegates vote unanimously in favour of renationalising the railways the Labour leadership looks for the door. Yet ‘Red’ Ed can’t help himself from affirming a vague commitment to an even more vague democratic socialism. It seems like just five minutes ago Ed Miliband was calling himself a “modern progressive social democrat” and affirmed a commitment to a “responsible capitalism”. It shows how far things have gone, Tony Blair knew what he had to say to get ahead back in 1983 when he described himself as a socialist influenced by Karl Marx. Keep in mind ‘Red’ Ed is the same leader looking to chuck out the troublesome unions, while he has taken the side of Boris Johnson in his support for a “use it or lose it” policy on land ownership. Even Margaret Thatcher maintained a 60p tax for nine years, but Ed is so ‘red’ for supporting the 50p rate. The truth is the spectrum has moved considerably to the Right and now the much lauded centre is hardly a bastion of moderation. At best Labour offers to hold back a bit more than the Conservatives: austerity lite, rather than austerity.
Meanwhile the liberal press is in just a bad shape as it agrees with the right-wing analysis for the most part. The liberals love the idea that the socialist movement and its project are long dead. To them Ed Miliband is a nuanced centre-left politician, better than Tony Blair but not as bad as Tony Benn. It’s just another variation on the Third Way paradigm of New Labour and New Democrats. There is virtually no difference in rhetoric as Miliband has been oh so very careful not to distinguish himself from the odious stench of Blairism. Nor has he set out to distance himself from the Brown mound. He doesn’t want to define himself or to be defined and yet he expects to win an election on the same old pablum. The conservative press have already laid down their script, as they had done from day one, Ed Miliband is a leftist and his failures are to be taken as failures of the Left. The liberals more or less have swallowed so much of the premise as to tie themselves to this conclusion. When it came to Syria the Labour leader was distinguished not by his success but by his failure to push through his ‘yes’ motion. It would’ve made his father proud. It might only be reasonable able to hope Miliband can produce more of these fuck ups once in office.
Written by: Reuben - September 18, 2013
It is not often that I find myself agreeing with Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, let alone the Prime Minister, but the attempt by the Football Association to crack down on Tottenham fans yelling “Yid Army” – with threats of criminalisation – really is worthy of derision and opposition.
As various commentators have explained in recent days, the word “yid” in “yid army” is a reclaimed term of abuse. Early in the 20th century Tottenham became known as the “Jewish club” mainly on account of their huge Jewish fan base. In response to the abuse this provoked, Tottenham fans – Jewish and non-Jewish – took the position of “yeah we’re the yids and we’re fucking proud of it”.
I can understand where David Baddiel is coming from when he claims that Tottenham’s identity as the “yid army” legitimises the racism of other fans. Going with my dad to watch West Ham vs. Tottenham in the West Ham stands, I encountered a mad level of racism directed against Tottenham and its fans, which as a Jew made me feel more than a little uncomfortable. Yet the most offensive chants were not about “yids” but about “gassing the Jews”. In other words it was the very identity of tottenham as a Jewish club – not the word Yid – that provoked racist chants. And the right response to bigotry is surely not to suggest that football clubs and other public institutions cease to identify themselves with any minority groups that might come under attack. The correct response to anti-Semitism is never to de-judaize.
Yet this is about more than anti-semitism and the response to it. Recent years have seen renewed attempts to heavy handedly clean up the terraces, with fans increasingly being thrown out or warned for swearing and for abusive chants. In Scotland the government passed laws, aimed at Rangers and Celtic fans, that can put people in Prison for five fucking years if they are found to have engaged in “sectarian chanting” – a category into which the authorities place IRA songs.
And this is also about more than football. For it is a legacy of New Labour’s attempts to make Britain a generally duller place. Lacking any desire to transform society at large, nulab and its allies managed to quench their thirst for reform by trying to imbue the entirety of the public sphere with the atmosphere and values of an Islington coffee shop. 24 hour drinking was introduced not to liberate us but to encourage a more moderate, “french” drinking culture, with then-minister Vernon Coaker explaining that he wanted to stop people thinking it was “acceptable” to drink to get drunk (if he’d ever listened to that fine 16th century drinking song Martin Said to His Man, he would understand that drinking to get-drunk-is-a virtue that runs far too deep in the English spirit to be pushed aside by a mere minister of state and his petty Norman bureaucracy). Meanwhile pubs suddenly became a place that you couldn’t light a cigarette in, nor put on any live music without going through an onerous licensing process. Hunting with hounds was banned not because killing animals was wrong (after all we eat meat) but because we urbanites didn’t like the mental world of those who did it – the fact that they got some kind of non-utiliatrian pleasure for killing a fox.
New Labour have of course been ejected from office. But the political atmosphere that they established – wherein social spaces that are not dominated by the metropolitan middle class are there to be intervened in and fucked around with – remains. Let’s keep the “Yid Army” on the terraces. And while we’re let’s kick those who want to sanitise the game as far away from football as possible.
To contact Reuben email email@example.com
Written by: Salman Shaheen
- September 13, 2013
Ed Miliband’s summer of silence has been criticised from the left as the perception grows that Labour has failed to provide a coherent and effective alternative to austerity.
The standard riposte to those who claim there is little that now separates Labour from the Tories is to say look at the party’s achievements in government: working tax credits, the minimum wage.
Certainly both policies have been vital to offer some modest protection to the lowest paid workers from the full brunt of market forces. Certainly both are a darn sight kinder than the Tory bedroom tax.
But the minimum wage, at £6.31 an hour, is not enough to meet the basic needs of Britain’s working people. Harder still for struggling families in London as rent rockets and the cost of living soars.
Working tax credits are a life line to people on the bread line. Around 5 million people claim working tax credits, costing £6 billion a year. This is a cost the taxpayer shoulders because we rightly accept that the tax system should be redistributive, that those who earn a little more should help those in more precarious positions. This is a cornerstone of social democracy.
But, in reality, working tax credits effectively subsidise big corporations to exploit poor people. Companies don’t pay their workers enough to live on, so the government tops up their wages, easing the pressure on employers to pay employees fairly.
Now, as the government prepares to roll out its chaotic universal credit system, is the perfect time for Miliband to end his silence and enter the debate for a bold alternative.
Let’s stop subsidising some of the world’s biggest companies to exploit some of Britain’s poorest people. Let’s scrap tax credits. And let’s bring in a mandatory living wage that will ensure everyone has enough to lead a decent life.
Of course, people will worry about the small family-owned cafes or the niche bookshops who struggle to turn a profit next to the likes of Starbucks and Amazon. But there are better, more targeted ways to support small local businesses than through tax credits.
Miliband has pledged to back a voluntary living wage. But when was the last time a big corporation voluntarily stopped exploiting someone?
Labour needs to find its voice and it needs to deliver real policies that help people. Replacing tax credits with a mandatory living wage would be the perfect way to demonstrate a commitment to helping the crushed bottom under the boot of austerity, whilst at the same time saving £6 billion a year.
But in signing up to Conservative spending plans and refusing to pledge to repeal the bedroom tax, Miliband has shown he lacks the vision necessary to make policies that resonate with Labour’s core working class supporters.
Written by: JT White
- September 12, 2013
Since the Crash of 2008 we have witnessed the resurgence of free-market libertarianism on the American Right. The bailouts of the banks may have kept the cogs turning in the capitalist system, but it was a violation of everything held most often by free-market libertarians. It didn’t take long and the Tea Party movement emerged as the basis for a renewed Republican opposition to the Obama administration. Backed by Fox News and associated nut-hatch Republicans the Tea Parties flourished at city halls where they fought for health-care to remain privately run for profit and not on the basis of need. It seemed peculiar for liberals and radicals that the conservatives had managed to mobilise protests across the crisis-riddled body of America. Even for conservative Republicans it was an odd sight, right-wingers taking to the streets like anti-war protestors. The parallels reached an apogee of high farce with Glenn Beck leading demonstrators to Washington in an obscene satire on the March for Jobs and Freedom. In a way these farcical scenes are nothing new.
It may be a surprise for some, but there is a long history of this on the American Right. It was Christian rightist Paul Weyrich who infiltrated the activist circles of the New Left in the 1970s. He would set out to use these same methods to mobilise the conservative evangelical community as an electoral bloc for the Republican Party. The right-wing televangelists were easily organised once it looked like the churches might lose their tax-exempt status. The spiritual leader of a hippie commune Francis Shaeffer snapped at the landmark decision of Roe v Wade on abortion. He had been a figure of the 1960s cultural revolution and yet Shaeffer flipped and became a major fundamentalist leader on the issue of abortion. He would lobby the Ford administration and even advocate terrorism as a necessary method in the battle to defend the sacred foetus and its right to life. By the time Shaeffer died the Moral Majority had taken over with much more reactionary agenda of rolling back advances in women’s rights and gay rights (causes that he had actually supported).
Developments on the Right are not to be separated from the circumstances of the time. The revival of a Protestant Right came in the 1980s in reaction to the dramatic cultural changes of the 1960s when a greater sphere of freedom was attained for African-Americans, as well as homosexuals and women. Feminism had emerged from the failure of the Commune movement in its descent into patriarchal forms of domination. The increased accessibility to contraceptives and abortion had liberated individuals from the old sexual morays of the past. There was a burgeoning opening for civil liberties and rights, as well as some economic opportunities, for African-Americans. The Right did not need so much an economic reaction as a cultural reaction to try and slow these developments. And so the Christian Right swooped in to elect Ronald Reagan in a coalition with the anti-Communists, the neoconservatives and the libertarians.
We find the same when we look into the history of the anti-Communist Right. The cause of anti-Communism had belonged to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the 1940s originally before it was absorbed by the Republican Party with the demagoguery of Joe McCarthy and the ‘Red Scare’ of the 50s. The best way to support a rightward shift in the Democrats was to co-opt the means by which the Truman administration had sought to justify the military-industrial complex. The Republicans had found a way to outmuscle the Democrats. This was later made further evident by the Democratic administrations which launched the war in Vietnam. The Republican administration of Nixon intensified the war to win not just one term but two terms in office. So anti-Communism became a solid pillar of American conservatism until 1989 when the Berlin Wall, unexpectedly, collapsed when faced with the might of the German people.
After that the anti-Communist Right largely lost its purpose as its mission seemed to have been fulfilled, and not by American hegemony but by forces endogenous to the Soviet system. Significantly, old Cold War conservatives such as Pat Buchanan have moved to a non-interventionist position on foreign policy since the Berlin Wall fell. The CIA agent Chalmers Johnson and army man Lawrence Wilkerson have made similar ideological shifts. It is consistent because if one believes that the American hegemon was necessary to safeguard the free world from the tentacles of the Soviet conspiracy for world domination then once the threat is gone the US should retreat and become a normal country. This has opened up a space for other rival tendencies on the American Right: such as the neoconservatives who updated the rational for American military aggression. Yet it also created greater space for scepticism of the military establishment from such sectors as the free-market libertarian Right.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century the prevailing forces of reaction would have largely discredited themselves and opened up a space for the Tea Party movement. The Bush administration was a lot like the Reagan administration in that it was an alliance of the Christian Right with the neoconservatives. Bush had posed as a ‘compassionate conservative’ pledging a prudent foreign policy of staying out of other peoples’ business. Before the election of 2000 was successfully stolen Bush had found an ally in Dick Cheney, a hawk of unbelievable proportions. Once in office the Bushites jumped at the opportunity to crackdown on civil liberties and engage in multiple wars. The Protestant and Catholic Right were mobilised to support the Bush administration in its support for abstinence promotion in Africa, its opposition to abortion, gay marriage, as well as euthanasia and stem-cell research. The neoconservatives moved in to provide the rationalisation for the bloodbath in Iraq. By the election of 2008 both the Christian Right and the neoconservatives were left largely discredited just by association with the crimes of Bush.
With the incoming Obama administration the Republicans had to open up a new front as Obama was following a more hawkish position in foreign affairs than Bush. The prospect of economic reform had to be fought because the country was in a deep recession and the Left might win greater ground in such desperate times. What is called ‘Obama-care’ really comes out of the conservative searches for an alternative to serious health-care reform in the 1990s. It was supported by Newt Gingrich. The individual mandate was a means to safeguarding the state of affairs which denies the American citizen a fundamental right to adequate health-care. Reform is somewhat inevitable given the role that the health system has played in bankrupting American industry. But at the other end the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry will be pushing hard to make sure their interests are covered. As if this situation weren’t bad enough the Koch brothers moved in to finance a surge in libertarian protest. Faced with this the Obama administration had no reason to establish a national health service. Once again, serious and much needed reform was offset and America would remain the only advanced capitalist society – other than South Africa – without universal health-care.
So the space had been opened up for a resurgence of interest in Ron Paul, the Austrian economists and even the fiction of Ayn Rand. The paranoid rambling clown Glenn Beck rose to stardom. Significantly Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, a member of the Ayn Rand cult, as his running mate. It was a necessary front opened up by the bailouts of banks under Bush and Obama. The agenda of shrinking the state had newfound support given the new mission was austerity to destroy what little of the New Deal had survived the decades of erosion by Republican and Democratic administrations. It should also be noted that the space has been opened up to paleoconservatives who have positioned themselves against the military adventurism of the neoconservatives. Yet it has been the libertarians who have been able to muster a position in mainstream American politics. The Tea Party movement succeeded in providing the basis for a Republican victory in the midterm elections of 2010 and Ron Paul made it into the debate at the 2012 election. Even still this is more so a symptom of chaos on the American Right – to be compared with Barry Goldwater’s winning the Republican ticket in 1964 – than an emergent platform to see take office in 2016 or even 2020.
Written by: Guest Post
- September 10, 2013
This is a guest post by Harriet Agerholm
Last week, Lord Stern, the foremost climate change economist, concluded that Cameron’s claims that fracking would drive down domestic fuel bills were entirely ‘baseless’. In the US, gas is rarely exported due to the large distance it would have to cover in order to reach the European and Asian markets, so internal production has driven down its price. In the UK, however, we trade a significant amount of our gas production to other nations, and therefore, according to Stern, households are unlikely to benefit from a drop in the price of gas. Fracking won’t help to reduce fuel poverty, despite what some politicians say.
Lord Stern isn’t the first expert to reach this conclusion, but it appears that the Coalition is impervious to the advice it is receiving. Not only does it ignore the economic flaws in its plan, but it refuses to see the full extent of the environmental costs.
Part of the problem is the fact that too much emphasis is placed on the immediately obvious hazards of fracking: water pollution and earthquakes. These dangers are real. Last year geophysical research at Columbia University found that as a result of wastewater disposal from fracking, more than one hundred small earthquakes were triggered in Ohio. However, these problems have potential solutions. They are symptoms that need to be acknowledged and prevented from happening, but they also distract from the real long-term harm of fracking – its impact on the climate.
Cameron’s government hides behind the façade that natural gas is a lower carbon option and is, therefore, better for the environment than coal or oil. It is common knowledge that although natural gas has a lower carbon footprint than other fossil fuels, it is has just as much, if not more effect, on warming the planet. Tom Wigley of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado points out that the amount of methane that leaks into the atmosphere when fracking is carried out will “more than offset the reduction in warming due to reduced CO2 emissions”. Far from reducing our impact on the environment, natural gas could actually accelerate global warming.
Ed Davey, the energy minister, addressed the issue of methane leakage and the other hazards fracking poses last week, saying that there would need to be strict regulation of the industry. But given that many of fracking’s effects are unknown, how is it possible to regulate properly against the dangers? And given that they have so much to gain, do we trust huge fossil fuel companies to stick to the rules? Energy companies (BP, for example) don’t exactly have a spotless record on this sort of thing. Davey also claims that gas is necessary for a transition to renewables, but while there is a great deal of political energy going into finding gas, there seems to be little effort being made to promote actual sustainable energy.
Writing in The Guardian recently, Conservative MP Nick Herbert derided anti-fracking protestors for being middle class clichés, on the grounds that their actions aren’t of a comparable scale to Egyptian freedom fighters or Martin Luther King. Of course they aren’t. But in the UK, what is? Is Herbert seriously arguing that any act of political protest in the UK is invalid because things aren’t as bad here as in Tahrir Square or the Segregation-era Deep South? And doesn’t the relatively small number of protestors reflect a problem with our society, rather than the protesters themselves that these are the only people protesting? Surely it’s disappointing that only such a small, specific, group are willing to campaign on an issue like this which affects everyone.
Herbert says that protesters like those who oppose fracking are undemocratic. But surely the purpose of democracy is for everyone to have a say, and everyone to have some influence? The fact of the matter is that Cameron is determined that fracking should continue, while the protestors think he’s wrong (and have quite a lot of good evidence to back up their view). So maybe the best way to get your voice heard is to act rather obnoxiously (in the eyes of Nick Herbert) and protest.
Written by: JT White
- September 2, 2013
The backbone of calls for intervention has long been Turkey. How may we make sense of this? The government of Erdogan has its own fantasies of neo-Ottoman glory and may want to reassert its authority and influence over the region it ran for so long. That goes hand-in-hand with the old aim of carving a Kurdish Republic out of the body of a nearby neighbour to answer the Kurdish question, conveniently, without handing over any pieces of Anatolia. That aim has almost been achieved in Iraq where the Kurdish province has become more and more independent of Baghdad through its oil arrangements with Turkey. The Kurds of Syria are under threat from certain rebel forces, leading to 40,000 of them fleeing to Iraq and now the bridge over the river Tigris has been closed. That doesn’t particularly worry the Turkish government. But Erdogan might like to see a conclusion of some kind hastened by force in order to cease the influx of refugees to camps on Turkish soil.
All the while the major support for the Syrian rebels comes from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Saudi royal family want to see the competing model of Ba’athism dead and has no scruples about sending swarms of Wahhabi fundamentalists into Syria to finish the job. In doing so the House of Saud hopes to see the life of the republican and secular nationalist rival snuffed out. No such thing as Arab unity when it comes to holding onto the oiliest dirt in the ‘Middle East’. The sectarianism of this war was triggered by factors not totally internal to Islam. In Syria there is a class basis for sectarianism as the military is dominated by Alawite Muslims and economic power rests in the hands of a Sunni Muslim elite. Perhaps the Saudi oligarchy hopes to see a new regime which relies on the Sunni elite in Syria and not on the military dominated by Alawites. It would be a convenient move to flood the country with arms to Islamist groups who wish to deal with the Alawite Muslim minority.
Not coincidentally the Syrian regime is the only Arab ally of Iran, an officially Shi’ite republic, to the extent of backing Khomeini in the fight with Saddam. The Iranian government is now returning the favour in pledging support to Assad and going as far as sending 4,000 troops to assist in quashing the rebellion. The Assad regime is the stable route of arms to pass from Iran to Shi’ite militia in Lebanon and Iraq. Both the Iranians and the Hezbollah are anxious at the possibility of greater isolation in a region vulnerable to the military adventures of Washington and its proxies. Hezbollah may have defeated Israel in 2000 and 2006 at a huge cost. Hassan Nasrallah will be more than aware that the Israelis are not going to forget about Lebanon any time soon. Significantly, Lebanon has refused to grant the US permission to utilise their airspace to launch the attack. The Jordanian and Iraqi governments have joined with Lebanon in this refusal. So that would effectively rule out an attack from the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and Diego Garcia. If there is to be a strike then it will have to be orchestrated from the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile the al-Maliki government would prefer not to see Syria bombed by the US for it may stir the sectarian impulses which are already pulsating within its own borders. Perhaps Nouri al-Maliki fears a Sunni rebellion. The Shi’ite militias of Iraq have already clashed with rebel forces in the defence of Assad’s regime and have threatened further action. Likewise the Hezbollah have threatened to take action should the US start flinging cruise missiles like pebbles. On the other side of Lebanon, the Israeli government wouldn’t mind if Assad disappeared but fear what might arise in Syria if he actually does fall. The possibility of an unencumbered fight between Israel’s enemies doesn’t appeal much, but neither would free elections. Note that the Israeli airstrikes against Syria were not stepped up to take out the Assad regime; instead it seemed to be more directed towards prolonging and exacerbating the conflict. So long as Hezbollah and Iran are left vulnerable it doesn’t matter how high the mountain of Arab corpses rises.
Written by: JT White
- September 2, 2013
Written by: JT White
- September 2, 2013
The opposition to another war has its usual crowd of seasoned anti-war activists, from Lindsey German and John Rees to George Galloway and Tariq Ali. Yet the push for intervention has attracted a considerably broad range of opposition voices. Somewhat surprisingly Glenn Beck, Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage have all come out in opposition to any intervention in Syria albeit for reasons we can only describe as nutty. Nick Griffin claims we must take the side of the Assadian abattoir because a war with Syria is only a stone’s throw away from a war with Russia – a country he designates as the “last great bastion of the white race” - though I’m sure Putin will be glad to hear Mr Griffin is on his side. As for Farage it is, no doubt, more about the huge sacrifices of ‘our boys’ out in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as an extension of his calls for serious austerity. Of course, if it weren’t so damn costly (to us) it would be fine to rush in and drench ourselves in the blood of the Syrian people. It looks like another way for the UKIP to soak up the puddles of Tory disenchantment. And naturally Glenn Beck frames the events in terms of a coming apocalypse because there are to be ”no winners in the West” from sending guns to Syria’s Islamists.
At the leading newspapers of reaction we can find major columnists who have all come out in stern opposition and criticism of David Cameron and his hawkish posturing. Only weeks ago Con Coughlin was scathing about the naïveté of Peter Oborne in his latest book on Iran’s right to enrich uranium (a case refreshing in its incongruity to the hysteria around its subject) and yet Coughlin and Oborne were unified against the prospect of another war in the Middle East. At The Daily Mail, the reactionary Peter Hitchens was quick to express gratitude to Parliament for the outcome and had nothing but ferocious contempt for Cameron’s adventurism and went as far as to call for the PM’s resignation. Even the interminable Lord Tebbit came out to damn Cameron for this and suggested it would Cameron’s fault if he was ousted over this. This isn’t the first time the Right has turned out to oppose a war, Iraq had right-wing opponents such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. It shouldn’t be a surprise in a sense, solidarity is not a value of the Right given that the system they represent already exists and has far from any serious competitors or enemies on the horizon poised to supersede it.
Meanwhile it is the self-appointed guardians of social democracy who have taken a more vocal line of support. Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams turned out to pen a war-hungry article with Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg in The Evening Standard. Though I am never disappointed in Simon Hughes and the lows to which he will stoop. It was sad to see Shirley Williams on board for war as she had taken a noble stand over Iraq, then one may recall that she voted for the Health & Social Care act (so it’s hardly the first betrayal). The opposing article was written by Tory MP Douglas Carswell, it was a modestly sceptical piece of writing which stood in stark contrast to the delusions of the Liberal chickenhawks. Paddy Ashdown seems to honestly believe that the only way to strengthen international law is to take the side of the Obama administration, which has been blunt that the intervention will be made outside of the UN and thereby violating international law. As if this wasn’t cretinous enough Lord Ashdown had a hissy fit as soon as the government couldn’t get its way. The list of reasons to torment these people to the end of the earth gets longer by the day it would seem.
Written by: JT White
- September 1, 2013
There’s a great anecdote recalled by Tariq Ali when David and Ed Miliband faced each other for the Labour leadership. Towards the 1992 election David Miliband was a speechwriter for Neil Kinnock. Around this time the old man phoned Tariq Ali and asked him if he had listened to Kinnock’s latest speech. Immediately without hesitation Ali launched into a tirade against Kinnock, deeming his speech ‘empty nonsense’ to which Ralph replied “I think David wrote that speech.” On that note the pair enjoyed a good laugh. Contrary to what you’ve read, in the mainstream press, both the Miliband brothers were always a part of the right-wing of the Labour Party. Even as the two of them stood on stage and poised against one another for the big seat neither stood out. Three years later and we can say that if David Miliband had won then we would probably be on the road to war right now, if not indeed in the early phases of a readily expanding bombing campaign.
Last week I criticised the ‘lesser evil’ supposedly offered by Ed Miliband. Only three days later Miliband had delayed the vote on Syria and put forward a rather dull motion to slow the process with the hope of avoiding a split in his own party. Effectively Miliband was shirking from giving an unequivocal ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the fundamental question and wanted to hold off what seemed to be inevitable for a little while longer. In the end the modicum of opposition posed by the Labour Party converged with a rebellion in the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. In the end, by 13 votes, David Cameron was defeated and so was Ed Miliband as both motions were cancelled out. It was the first time a government had lost a motion of this importance since 1782, ironically when the British were considering an intervention to snuff out the fledgling Whig Republic across the Atlantic. Later the British Empire would clash with the early USA as the Madison administration set out to annex Canada in a tradition we could summarise as ‘When in doubt, conquer Canada…’
In my last article on ‘red’ Ed I highlighted the cowardly manoeuvres he has pulled to secure his base even as he courts the Conservative vote. Just as Ed Miliband had sought to avoid a clear answer (which might rock the boat) on Syria, he had given contradictory answers as to whether or not he would repeal the Health & Social Care act of 2012 – the bill which amounts to an enforced path of gradually privatising the NHS. I think the main point that Miliband has lacked any guts still stands. Though it should be noted it was his bungling leadership which opened the space (perhaps unintentionally) for Parliament to effectively rule-out British participation in the Syrian conflict. Miliband may reap the electoral rewards for this as the vote has shown up just how inept and vulnerable the government remains. It could’ve so easily gone the other way. Indeed it would have if ‘red’ Ed had got his way, it remains the case that he believes Britain can do something about Syria he’s just not clear on what that something might be, or is, or should be.
So it’s nearly a week since my last piece on Miliband, have I changed my mind? Broadly not, as the Labour leader remains a problematic figure as he has from the very beginning. It remains the case that there is an on-going crisis in the political class as well as in the economy. The paralysis of Lib-Lab-Con over Syria is partly symptomatic of this crisis, and we as leftists can’t take advantage of the situation then we aren’t to be let off lightly. With all that in mind, good reasons for caution, we may praise Ed Miliband for a brief moment of originality which speaks rather kindly of his bungling way. Even if it’s a failure, it is a failure which would’ve made his father so very proud.