Marching Season

(Melody)

Inauguration Day draws near, and the fascists think it’s clear:
Get out your guns, at last our day is here!
Now it’s time to fill the streets, with the sounds of marching feet,
And to make a lot of people live in fear.
‘Sieg Heil’ they’ll yell as they march, looking for something to torch.
‘Remember 1933’ they yell.
But now it’s 2017,
And how that ends, we all have seen.
Which is why it’s time to send them back to hell.

 

CHORUS: Oh, you won’t be marching in Montana with your rifles and your flags
For it’s time you learnt: The people won’t lie down.
And we will not endure your taunts,
Or the swastikas you flaunt.
Remember: If you play with fire, you will burn.
So just stop and count the cost, because the battle will be lost.
Soon you’ll envy all the others, safe at home.

So, when Adolf married Eve, tell me: What lesson did he leave?
How to celebrate a fascist honeymoon:
First you go and you get hitched, then you find yourself a ditch,
And you consummate your marriage with a BOOM.
He’s your leader, take his lead,
His example you should heed.
If you don’t, it will hurt more than if you do.
If you want to go unharmed,
Hit the snooze on your alarm
Just say ‘Fuck it’ and your kneecaps will thank you.

(CHORUS)

Here’s to Marek Edelman, and the Bielski Partisans,
To Durruti and the Panthers and the MIR.
They all fought you way back when, and now we’ll fight you once again,
For your bonehead bullshit isn’t wanted here.
Here’s a piece of free advice:
Don’t expect us to be nice,
And do watch out for surprises from above.
All the people in the know,
Say ‘Bring aloe if you go’:
For every Ribbentrop must meet his molotov.

(CHORUS)

At night when I’m not sleeping

(Melody)

At night when I’m not sleeping,
I see those armoured cars,
The air unfit for breathing –
From my mind it’s never far.
The city in full blackout
Save for the flaming streets
Prepared by brave young compas
Who defended our retreat.
Along the Alameda
We marched, and we weren’t few
Till we reached La Moneda
In the president’s full view.
The voices full suddenly silent,
That had just been raised in song
As the cops began the riot
They’d been preparing all along.
Some things are soon forgiven,
Some sights soon fade to black.
But I’m forever living
The moment they attacked.

 

Armoured cars and water cannons
My heart began to race
Stifling the urge to panic
As poison mist inflamed my face

 

Though by sunup the bastards
Had left no trace of their shame,
To my eyes, the Alameda
Will never look the same.

 

They took my fear and turned it
Into incandescent rage
That in my eyes is burning
Like a thousand gas grenades.
And when I see a cop now,
I clearly see the day
When our lines are advancing
And they all run away.

 

Whenever that proud day might be,
And let it not be far
Perhaps I’ll close my eyes
And see no fucking armoured cars.

Ein Demokratiebegriff, der sich nicht für die Namensgebung eignet

Einige Gedanken zum Aufsatz Schöner, neuer Faschismus von Michael Kraske

„Nationaldemokratie“, spottete ich, „was soll das sein? Nationalsozialistische Politik erfordert einen Demokratiebegriff, der sich nicht für die Namensgebung eignet. Wenn mit der Wahl des Führers die Demokratie beendet ist, rennen Sie immer noch mit der Demokratie im Namen herum! Wie dumm kann man eigentlich sein?“

Timur Vermes, Er ist wieder da

Die faschistische Propaganda nimmt realexistierende Probleme, dichtet diese faktenunabhängig den Sündenböcken an, die gerade herumliegen, und gibt sich selbst als die Lösung aus. So ist der Faschismus der kapitalistischen Gesellschaftsordnung immer wieder zur Rettung geeilt, und deshalb ist eine vermeintlich antifaschistische Politik, die diese Gesellschaftsordnung nicht angreift, oder gar verteidigt, höchstens als Treibstoff für faschistische Bestrebungen geeignet.

Auf der Webseite des Freiraum-Verlags ist von Michael Kraske unlängst ein Aufsatz namens Schöner neuer Faschismus zum Wahlerfolg der AfD in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern erschienen, der diesen politischen Widerspruch getreu verkörpert.

Vorab: In Kraskes Aufsatz ist durchaus viel Gutes zu finden. Seine Analyse des Verhaltens und der programmatischen Einstellung der AfD ist sehr lesenswert, ebenso seine Abgrenzung zwischen AfD und Faschismus im eigentlichen Sinne. Insgesamt ist Schöner neuer Faschismus ein sehr lesenswerter Text. Meine Kritik gilt nur einem Teilaspekt des Aufsatzes, und zwar dem, in dem es um die Stichwörter „Demokratieverachtung“ und „die da oben“ geht. Auch gilt die nachfolgende Kritik keineswegs nur Kraske, denn das, was an seinem Text auszusetzen ist, ist im politischen Diskurs eigentlich gang und gäbe.

Bei Kraske wird das soziale und wirtschaftliche Elend, in dem in bestimmten Bevölkerungsteilen der Faschismus erst gedeihen kann, nicht geleugnet. Daß es sich dabei um das absehbare Ergebnis einer jahrelang – und auch heute noch – konsequent verfolgten neoliberalen Politik handelt, das erwähnt er nicht.

Daß zum Aufstieg der faschistoiden AfD Demokratieverachtung gehört, ist durchaus richtig, nur wird diese Demokratieverachtung nicht ganz richtig verortet. Die Demokratieverachtung will Kraske (und ja nicht nur Kraske) in den Äußerungen der AfD sehen, und dort ist sie auch durchaus zu finden. Dabei wird aber übersehen, dass seit geraumer Zeit ein zutiefst demokratieverachtendes Klima herrscht, und zwar ganz oben. Wenn nach einer von der Liberalisierung des Finanzwesens herbeigeführten Wirtschaftskrise eine totale Mobilmachung ausgerufen wird, um die für die Krise verantwortlichen Firmen auf Kosten der Krisenopfer zu rekapitalisieren, kann nur von Demokratieverachtung die Rede sein. Wenn der demokratische Wille der Mehrheit der griechischen Bevölkerung, sich kein Geld mehr zugunsten deutscher Konzerne vom Mund absparen zu wollen, einfach ignoriert wird, verrät die Oberschicht eine zutiefst menschen- und demokratieverachtende Grundeinstellung. Wenn die Hartz IV-Verarmungsgesetze der Mehrheitsmeinung entgegen nicht nur nicht aufgehoben, sondern in verfassungswidrigem Maße verschärft werden, sieht man, wie viel Wert auf demokratisches Staatshandeln an maßgeblicher Stelle eigentlich gelegt wird. Und wenn Staat und Medien auch noch Feindbilder und Sündenböcke am laufenden Band fertigen, um die eigene menschen- und demokratieverachtende Politik zu rechtfertigen, schaffen sie das Klima, das den Aufstieg einer AfD erst möglich macht. All das müsste in einem Text zur Rolle der Demokratieverachtung beim Aufstieg rechtsextremer Bewegungen richtigerweise vorkommen. Bei Kraske und den anderen Autoren, die den Rechtsextremismus ohne Systemkritik analysieren wollen, kommt all das aber gar nicht vor, und so kann diese Analyse nur ins Leere laufen.

Den Aufstieg der faschistoiden AfD bringt Kraske u.a. auf den Nenner „Demokratieverachtung“ und liegt damit auch nicht ganz falsch. Die Sache geht aber gründlich schief, als Kraske seinen Demokratiebegriff offenlegt.

Bei Kraske gelten allem Anschein nach alle Parlamentarier – zumindest der etablierten kapitalistischen Parteien wie Union, SPD usw. – pauschal als „Demokraten“, und zwar ohne jegliche Rücksicht darauf, was sie eigentlich für eine Politik machen. Angela Merkel nimmt Kraske in Schutz mit dem Verweis darauf, dass sie „demokratisch gewählt“ sei. Ja, sagt Kraske, es gebe durchaus Probleme mit Lobbyisten und so, aber das sei alles im Endeffekt doch nicht so doll, als dass man den demokratischen Charakter des Regimes insgesamt in Frage stellen könne.

Im Roman Er ist wieder da (und im gleichnamigen Film) lässt man den wiederauferstandenen Adolf Hitler sagen, nationalsozialistische Politik erfordere „einen Demokratiebegriff, der sich nicht für die Namensgebung eignet“, d.h. eine lexikosemantische Landschaft, in der „Demokrat“ ein Schimpfwort ist. Da drängt sich die Frage geradezu auf, wie so ein Demokratiebegriff überhaupt entstehen kann. Wie ist es überhaupt möglich, dass „Demokratie“, womit schließlich eine Gesellschaftsordnung gemeint ist, in der die Bevölkerung über ihr Geschick selbst entscheidet, zum Schimpfwort degradiert wird? Dazu müssen die gedanklichen Voraussetzungen bereits erfüllt sein.

Man stelle sich eine Gesellschaft vor, die im wahrsten Wortssinne demokratisch ist, in der alle die Politik mitbestimmen und ihre Interessen und Wertvorstellungen in der Politik auch wiedererkennen, in der sich deshalb auch alle einer anständigen Lebensqualität erfreuen, und in der alle auch recht zufrieden sind, weil sie sich auch bei Problemen unschwer Gehör und Abhilfe verschaffen können. in dieser Gesellschaft, die sich mit Fug und Recht demokratisch nennt, kommt einer daher und sagt Demokratie ist Scheiße! Sie gehört abgeschafft! Seine Bemühungen wären wohl nicht gerade mit Erfolg gekrönt.

Damit man mit solchen Parolen punkten kann, bedarf es einer totalen Aushebelung des Demokratiebegriffs, eines unübersehbaren Demokratiedefizits. Im Fazit bedarf es einer spürbar undemokratischen Gesellschaftsordnung, die sich Demokratie schimpft.

Genau dieser Demokratiebegriff entspricht dem üblichen Sprachgebrauch in Politik und Medien, und von Michael Kraske wird er auch nicht in Frage gestellt. Dieser armselige Demokratiebegriff, wo alle, die keine Nazis (oder weder Nazis noch Antikapitalisten) sind, als Demokraten durchgehen können, wo eine demokratische Politik eben eines ist, die auf verfassungskonformem Wege entsteht. So kann Kraske – und mit ihm viele andern auch – Angela Merkel als „demokratisch gewählte“ Kanzlerin bezeichnen, obwohl weder sie noch ihre Partei eine demokratische Mehrheit genießen (41,5 % der Stimmen, 29,6 % der Wahlberechtigten) und allein ihre Stellung als Kanzlerin bzw. Regierungspartei Koalitionsverhandlungen zu verdanken haben, die keiner demokratischen Einflussnahme zugänglich sind. „Demokratisch“ ist in diesem Sinne alles, was rechtmäßig abläuft.

Diesem Demokratiebegriff zufolge sitzen in den Parlamenten lauter Demokraten. Das weiß er auch ohne inhaltliche Prüfung ihrer Politik, denn für diesen Demokratiebegriff kommt es auf den (un-) demokratischen Charakter der politischen Inhalte gar nicht an. „Demokratie“ als reine Verfahrensordnung ist das. Damit hat die realexistierende kapitalistische Demokratie einen Demokratiebegriff ins Leben gerufen, auf dem jeder Faschist eine Symphonie spielen kann.

Ähnlich verhält es sich mit der Demokratieverachtung. Auch die braucht der Faschismus nicht erst mitzubringen, sondern bekommt sie von einer Politik frei Haus geliefert, die alles, was sie anstellt, als höchsten Ausdruck der Demokratie lobpreist.

Der kapitalistische Demokratiebegriff hat nämlich seine Grenzen. Sind diese Grenzen einmal erreicht, so steht die Gesellschaft vor der Wahl: Kapitalismus oder Demokratie. Die in ihrem festgefügten Weltbild verfangene kapitalistische Politik ist aber gar nicht in der Lage, offen zu gestehen, dass sie diese Grenze erreicht hat, will sie doch ums Verrecken nicht wahrhaben, dass es diese Grenze überhaupt gibt. Da kriecht sie der Kapitalistenklasse also immer weiter in den Arsch, ganz egal, was die Wählerschaft davon hält, und kommt sich dabei vor wie das Demokratischste, was es überhaupt nur geben kann. Und im Kapitalismus ist sie das auch.

Der Faschismus braucht gar nicht erst tätig zu werden, damit ein Demokratiebegriff entsteht, der sich nicht für die Namensgebung eignet. Er braucht nur abzuwarten; früher oder später tut der Kapitalismus das seine.

Die von Kraske erwähnte Wut auf „die da oben“ ist nicht das Problem, sondern lediglich eine Begleiterscheinung der Erkenntnis, dass man Wirtschaft wie Politik scheißegal ist. Wenn man durch den Abbau der bitter erkämpften Errungenschaften der Arbeiterbewegung – Kündigungsschutz, anständige Altersvorsorge, Löhne und Sozialleistungen, von denen man leben kann u.v.a.m. – immer ärmer wird und einem von der Politik bestenfalls eine Zuspitzung des Elends in Aussicht gestellt wird, kann man entweder verzweifeln oder eben stinksauer auf die werden, die einen vorgeblich vertreten. je nach dem, was sich an Alternativen gerade anbietet, eignet sich diese Wut genauso gut für einen radikaldemokratischen Aufstand wie für einen Pogrom. Staat und Medien bieten Feindbilder an – Geflüchtete, Muslime, Migranten, Arbeitslose, Menschen mit Behinderungen, den Feminismus, das „Gutmenschentum“ – um notleidende Menschen gegeneinander auszuspielen. Wer trotz Armut und Arbeitslosigkeit immer noch relativ privilegiert ist, wird diese Feindbilder – die zu seiner Stellung als Privilegierter unter den armen Säuen beitragen – erst hinterfragen, wenn sich eine Alternative anbietet, die seine beschissene Lage schlüssig erklärt und einen plausiblen Ausweg bietet.

Genau dazu ist eine kapitalistische Gesellschaftsordnung aber nicht in der Lage. Stattdessen spart sie dem kategorischen Imperativ des Kapitalismus zuliebe bei denen, die es sich am wenigsten leisten können, und schützt sich vor der Reaktion der Benachteiligten mit Feindbildern und Grundrechtseinschränkungen. Ja, ja, wir würden so gern was gegen die Armut tun, aber wir müssen die Flüchtlinge versorgen/ aber es gibt ja diese muslimische Weltverschwörung und wir müssen uns wehren/ aber der Afghane macht uns den Hindukusch strittig. Alles, aber auch wirklich alles, um nicht sagen zu müssen: Aber dazu müssten die Reichen Steuern zahlen, und das wollen sie halt nicht.

Da bedarf es keiner besonderen erfinderischen Tätigkeit seitens des Faschismus. Die faschistische Propaganda übernimmt diese bereits verankerten Lügen und gibt sie in zugespitzter Form wieder und sich selber als die Lösung aus.

Aber selbst die ausgeklügeltste Propaganda vermag dem Obdachlosen nicht vorzumachen, dass er in einer Eigentumswohnung in der Rosenthaler Str. wohne. Einem verhungernden Menschen kann man noch so viele schöne Fotos von seinen Leibspeisen zeigen, satt wird er davon nicht. Staat und Medien erzählen diesem Menschen, das, was er durchmacht, sei die Demokratie und habe alles seine freiheitlich-demokratische Richtigkeit.

Der Faschismus sagt dazu: Stimmt! Das ist Demokratie! Und wenn die erst weg ist, wird’s dir endlich besser gehen.

Und dann kommt so ein Kraske (oder einer der vielen andern) daher und versucht die Adressaten der faschistischen Propaganda für diese „Demokratie“ zu gewinnen, die sie verarmen lässt. Wen wundert’s, dass die Nummer nichts bringt?

Selbst die verlogenste Propaganda nimmt sich gern und oft etwas nachweislich Wahres als Rohstoff, um überzeugend lügen zu können. Am wirksamsten ist sie, wenn sie die realexistierenden Probleme des Adressatenkreises, v.a. die, die von der Politik gern geleugnet oder bagatellisiert werden, anerkennt, und diese echten Probleme mit falschen Ursachen und Lösungsvorschlägen versieht.

Bei Parteien wie der AfD geht es in der Propaganda zu einem Großteil um das realexistierende, spürbare Demokratiedefizit. Wer gegen diese Propaganda ankommen will, darf dieses Demokratiedefizit allein schon der eigenen Glaubwürdigkeit zuliebe nicht leugnen, sondern muss den Scheinlösungen des Faschismus echte Lösungen und eine echte Kritik am bestehenden System gegenüberstellen.

Ein systemkonformer Antifaschismus ist gar keiner.

On Lexit and other Luckups

The Lexit campaign, which is now celebrating what is adherents are somehow convinced is a victory (a conviction they share with every major figure on the European far right), is yet another case study in the crisis of strategic imagination that plagues the left in Britain and beyond.

A brief modern history:

In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the left dedicated massive energy and resources to planning a march on Downing Street and Whitehall. The turnout was indeed massive, at least in the six-figure range. Those assembled marched from one place to another, and then listened to a series of speeches, whilst organisers coordinated the whole thing with the police in order to ensure that any disruption to the ongoing war planning was minimised. Even as the war on Iraq is in its thirteenth year, it is common to hear this event described as an anti-war victory.

Much more recently, the Labour Party resoundingly lost a general election after attempting to unseat a hard-right government by plagiarising its worst policies. Labour leader Ed Miliband, who had done as much as anyone to lead the party into the abyss, resigned. A leadership contest between people who made Ed Miliband look good in the first place suddenly became interesting when Jeremy Corbyn, one of a handful of surviving ‚Labour left‘ MPs, became an official candidate with the blessing of Blairite MPs keen on ‚rebranding‘ the disintegrating party. Throughout what fancies itself the revolutionary left, proclamations abounded that This Changes Everything, and those voices only got louder when Corbyn beat the right-wing competition by an unheard-of margin. No one ever seemed to have any thoughts on how Corbyn’s victory was meant to change everything, even as left-of-Labour organisations such as Left Unity and the Socialist Party seriously considered dissolving in order to join Labour. Since then, the thoroughly right-wing Labour machine has engaged in one campaign after another to undermine their alleged leader and his supporters, and Corbyn’s only response has been to move to the right in an effort to appease them.

What do all of these debacles have in common with the so-called ‚Lexit‘ campaign, which argued that a vote to exit the EU on the terms of the most reactionary segments of the British ruling class would be a working-class victory? Each is an example of a failure of strategic vision that is so complete that the absence of a strategy was scarcely felt.

The most charitable reading of the failure of the 2002 – 2003 anti-war mobilisation is that those who organised it massively overestimated the democratic instincts of the ruling class, and thus assumed that proof of the sheer numerical strength of anti-war sentiment would suffice to cause the US and UK governments to reconsider their war plans. This naive faith in the democratic nature of the society – again under the most generous possible interpretation – was compounded by the fact that the strategic horizons of the organisers found their limits in the terms of their permits and the Public Order Act. It takes a truly staggering lack of imagination to see well over 100,000 people assembled in a highly strategic location for a common purpose and not think of anything better for them to do than go for a walk, listen to some lectures, and go home.

A similarly naive faith in the democratic instincts of anti-democratic institutions can be seen in the response of much of the left to the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon. By the time Corbyn became leader, the Labour party machine had firmly established that the grassroots membership were utterly irrelevant to party policy. Even conference resolutions, such as the resolution on rail renationalisation, that are passed by overwhelming margins and reflect majority public opinion are routinely disregarded by a party machine dedicated to marginalising the majority of the population. Given all this, the only way Corbyn’s leadership could possibly result in a fundamental reorientation of a party that has become the acceptable face of the British right is if there was a clear, well-thought-out plan of action independent of the party to force the issue. From countless discussions in which I have raised the issue and equally numerous articles on the ‚Corbyn Changed Everything‘ theme, it is clear that scarcely anyone was even considering the issue, let alone proposing a solution. Once again, the underlying idea is that benevolent members of the ruling class will fight our battles for us if only we vote the right way.

Even against that lackluster background, however, ‚Lexit‘ is a particularly pungent testament to the intellectual bankruptcy of a certain segment of the left, and is all the more damning because it – like much of the rest of the examples of left strategic agnosticism – comes from those who presume themselves to be the intellectual heavy-hitters of the revolutionary left.

At this point, it is worth recalling a few basic things about what was at stake in the EU referendum. The EU referendum was not merely a vote about whether it might be a good idea to leave the EU at some unspecified time in the future; it was a vote on whether to leave the EU on the terms set by the most right-wing elements of the most right-wing government in recent memory, and at a time when the left particularly in England and Wales is not in a position to exercise any meaningful influence on the outcome.

As such, any attempt at a ‚left case for Brexit‘ cannot merely point out that the EU is an undemocratic, unaccountable, neoliberal capitalist institution with the blood of thousands of refugees on its hands. That it undeniably is, but it does not automatically follow from that the UK leaving the EU under the current circumstances will necessarily improve things, or even that Brexit under current conditions will not make things worse. Anyone wishing to claim that Brexit in this context will improve the situation in Britain and/or Europe as a whole must provide actual argument in support of that assertion. They must explain how Brexit can be beneficial from a left perspective and how the left can avert the obvious dangers of making such a substantial institutional shift under a right-wing government. This is the bare minimum that one must offer in order to make a case for ‚Lexit‘ that is worthy of being taken seriously.

What is truly remarkable is that, not only did no Lexit advocate ever attempt to address these basic questions – the indispensable starting point of any strategic analysis of the referendum – the questions do not even appear to have occurred to those purporting to make a left case for Brexit. Nor has anyone attempted to argue against the importance of these questions either in the countless debates in which I’ve participated or any of the pro-Lexit articles that have been published. The extent of the analysis, such as it is, has been ‚The EU is shit; therefore, leaving is good no matter what the circumstances‘. One could just as reasonably argue that, since Ryanair is crap, the only thing for it is to jump out of the plane 30,000 feet over Yeovil without a parachute.

This is strategic incompetence on a positively epic scale. The basic questions that Lexit advocates never even acknowledged are not arcane considerations that only a Clausewitz scholar would think to raise. They are questions we all ask and answer on a daily basis when faced with a decision: What are the likely consequences? Given that, which is the better option? What will I need to do in order to see that it turns out the way I want? Yet, these common-sense questions elude those who presume themselves the intellectual vanguard of the movement. To be sure, it is not a good look.

In assessing what our response to something like the EU referendum should be, it is essential to have as clear a picture as possible of the relevant factors: Why does this referendum exist? Is it the result of working-class struggle from below or has it been imposed from above? What forces are arrayed on each side? Who is in the best position to take advantage of each result? Who has the most to fear from each? Which option offers the left the most favourable conditions, given the current state of left organising?

By none of these strategic measures did it make even the slightest bit of sense for the left to support the UK leaving the EU at this time. This referendum was not the fruit of struggle from below; it was imposed in order to settle a disagreement within the ruling class, between the modernising, internationally orientated élites who seek to take advantage of Britain’s status as a subaltern imperial power at the interface between the US and the EU, and the more reactionary, traditionalist sector who think that everything would be better if the UK simply pretended that the sun never set on it, and who rely to a much greater extent on mobilising xenophobic and white nationalist sentiment in order to push their reactionary agenda.

On the former side, we have David Cameron, much of the Labour Party, the trade union bureaucracy, and the bulk of the multinational corporations; on the latter, we have the likes of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Ian Duncan-Smith, UKIP, and virtually every fascist group in the UK. Given this array of forces, the most reactionary segment of the ruling class was poised to benefit from a leave vote; it is they who have pushed the issue for decades and almost certainly have detailed plans at the ready for the event of Britain’s departure from the EU. They have prepared this pitch, and given the current government, they were obviously going to supply the umpires and the ball as well.

It is an utterly trivial matter to see who will have the most to fear from the triumph of the reactionaries: migrants, both EU and non-EU, BME communities, actual and suspected Muslims, unemployed workers and people with disabilities, and the working class more generally.

For the left, the strategic question posed by the referendum was, thus, whether to maintain an unfavourable but relatively stable status quo in hope of regrouping and building the strength needed to take the initiative with some hope of success, or to opt for a dynamic situation in which the most reactionary sectors of society would have well-nigh unprecedented opportunities to create facts on the ground.

It is certainly possible to come out ahead from a position of great weakness. The history of revolutionary movements and guerrilla resistance offers plenty of examples. But it as at least as possible to be crushed like an Ewok under an anvil. The riskier option can pay off – sometimes – but those advocating it have the responsibility to go into some detail about how they propose to go about it. To do so, by definition, it is necessary to acknowledge the reality of one’s own weakness and the inherent risks, and to base one’s plans on those realities rather than vague hopes and platitudes about faith in the working class.

Not only did Lexit advocates fail to offer even the beginnings of a plan, by and large, they refused to acknowledge the risks inherent in handling a win to reaction or the position of weakness in which the left finds itself.

It is long past time for accountability. The same self-styled leaders who called on the working class to walk into a dangerously volatile situation in which reactionaries held the initiative with no plan and no ideas are the same people who regularly insist that a quick A – B march is the miracle cure for everything. They are the same ‚leaders‘ who measure success in terms of turnout rather than results, and who believe the police when they claim a fascist rally has been cancelled. And when proven utterly wrong, they are the ‚leaders‘ who change the subject and accuse critics of ’sectarianism‘.

We now find ourselves, following the narrow plurality for Leave in the EU referendum, in the dangerously volatile situation that these ‚leaders‘ claimed would be a good thing for unspecified reasons, And we must think and act quickly if the worst is to be averted.

But whatever hope we have of avoiding a massive deterioration in the situation will prove illusory if we allow those whose utter incompetence and refusal to admit mistakes got the left into the sorry state it’s in to continue acting as if they had any credibility. It is long past time the left as a whole recognised these leaders for the liability they are and sought a new approach.

A True Statesman

Mr Speaker, these are frightening times. Everywhere I go, I see ordinary people going about their lives gripped by a profound sense of insecurity, even foreboding. As Members of this House, it is our duty, indeed our honour to do something about that. I’d go so far as to say that the desire to improve people’s lives is why we went into politics in the first place. I know that’s why I did.

All my life, both before and since I came to Parliament, I have been guided by my belief that there are no trivial problems. No problem is trivial for those who suffer it. All people want and deserve solutions to the problems that plague their lives, no matter how small those problems may seem to those of us who can claim tens of thousands of pounds in expenses every month.

And just as there is no such thing as a trivial problem, I believe there is no such thing as a drastic solution. Solutions either solve the problem, or they are no solutions at all. All anyone wants, and all anyone can ask for, is a solution that does what it says on the tin.

That is why I, as a member of the opposition, am proud to stand in solidarity with our Government in their bold and innovative proposals to deal with the problem of young criminals nicking things out of shops. Trivial, you say? Then you must not be a shopkeeper.

I have disagreed with the Government on many things, and I am sure I will disagree with them on many more in the future, but when someone gets something right, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that. The Government recognise that the only way to deal with this problem is to strike at the root. The Government seek to cure the disease rather than just treating the symptoms by asking the obvious questions: Where do these criminals congregate? Where do they plan their attacks on our nation’s economy? Where do they find a safe haven when the deed is done?

I have in my hands the Government’s White Paper, which summarises the findings of their extraordinarily exhaustive review of the available evidence. I hope that everyone in this House, including those who disagree with the Government’s plan, has at least taken the time to read it, because it deserves to be read.

After months of investigation, the Government’s researchers came to the conclusion that these criminals hide and conspire in the very symbol of innocence itself: Our nation’s playgrounds. It is from these cradles of our children’s dreams that they launch their daily attacks on our economy and on the brave men and women on duty every day at our nation’s off-licences. Greater cynicism than this is hard to imagine.

I have yet to hear any opponent of the Government’s proposal deny any of what I have just said, and so I believe I am entirely justified in taking it as common ground. We are all in agreement that there is a problem. We are in agreement about what it is. We are all in agreement that it is serious and that something must be done. Am I mistaken?

I would like it noted in Hansard that not even the left wing of our party disagrees with the Government’s and my analysis of the issue.

Ah. I’ve just been informed that he’s popped out to the lav. Well, we can’t deny him that, can we?

So all of us – supporters and opponents of the Government’s plan alike – agree about the nature of the problem, with one possible exception. One cannot help but notice, however, the gulf between the well-reasoned, thoroughly researched proposals offered by the Government and the simplistic response offered by the opponents of the plan.

Do they offer any alternatives? No, at least they offer no alternatives that are worthy of the name. All they say is that it’s ‚wrong‘ to put landmines in children’s playgrounds. They question whether it’s ‚moral‘. They claim it goes against their ‚principles‘.

‚Principled objections‘ are what separates the pontificating moralist from the statesman. We should always be suspicious of these appeals to principle, because they eliminate options. Moralists may have no problem eliminating potential solutions from consideration based on their ‚principles‘, but statesmen have no such luxury.

Imagine where we would be if statesmen were guided by a politics of principles rather than one of pragmatism and possibility. It hardly bears thinking about, for it is a world where the Spanish royal family might even today be denied their rightful place on the throne, a world where the arts would forever be impoverished because Picasso would never have been inspired to paint his masterpiece Guernica, Shostakovich might never have composed his Leningrad symphony, and Churchill might never have had the good fortune to be Prime Minister in what might never have had the chance to be Britain’s finest hour.

Where moralists can see nothing but maimed bodies and ruined lives, statesmen see the enrichment of history.

And whilst there are no trivial problems, there are always trivial obstacles, and statesmen do not allow trivial obstacles to deter them from great solutions. Great solutions like the Government’s Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

I do not wish to seem heartless here. The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative do not hold a monopoly on humanity. I, too, feel strongly that innocent lives must be protected, and I would not support the Initiative if the Government had not gone to such great lengths to craft safeguards in order to do just that.

Because I trust that everyone here has read the proposal, I note merely for the record the scientifically tested fail-safe mechanism that is built in to the proposal. According to the proposal’s safeguards, the mines will be used according to a strict formula, and will be laid in playgrounds in direct proportion to their proximity to council estates and comprehensive schools. But it does not stop there. The proposal further provides that not a single mine will be laid in playgrounds belonging to estates in  a council tax band higher than F.

This is how statesmen show humanity, not by closing doors, but by opening the window to opportunity.

The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative, or, to put the matter more bluntly, the proponents of inaction in the face of the plight of our great British shopkeepers, seek to terrify us with spectres of limbs and lives lost, and have even soared to heights of alliterative wizardry to deem the Safe Playgrounds Initiative the ‚charnel house of childhood‘. This pathetically pornographic, petty pusillanimity, Mr Speaker, is synonymous with siding with those who are sullying the sanctity of our stores. They have decided to take up the cause of our enemies. Shame on all of them.

It is time that we all came together and did our bit to make Britain once again safe for shopkeepers, and that, Mr Speaker, is why I urge this House to support the Government’s motion and implement the Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

For the next time you hear about rejected asylum claims

If you want to know how credible official determinations on asylum claims are, it’s worth looking at the factors the relevant UK statute itself (s 8 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004) gives as ’specified types of behaviour‘ supporting a finding that a refugee’s account is not to be believed:

► failure without reasonable explanation to produce a passport on request;‘

If you think you’d be in danger if returned to your country of origin, would you give the authorities – whom you have no reason to trust and every reason to suspect – a document that makes it easy to send you back?

‚► production of a document that is not a valid passport as if it were. Note: there is no „reasonable explanation defence“ in this instance;‘

See above. Plus, falsified papers may be the only way for some people to be able to leave their country safely (or at all). It’s also not exactly unheard of for a state to deny passports, exit visas, etc. to people it’s persecuting in order to prevent them evading persecution. There are so many reasonable explanations for this in the context of running for one’s life that one can’t help but suspect that that is the whole reason a ‚reasonable explanation defence‘ is not permitted in this case.

‚► destruction, alteration or disposal of a passport, ticket or other travel document without reasonable explanation;‘

See above. And, of course, with all these ‚reasonable explanation‘ exceptions, it’s worth remembering that the reasonableness of one’s explanation will be assessed by people who have never even seriously contemplated how they’d go about fleeing the country if they were facing persecution. The courts have said that caseworkers shouldn’t base these determinations on what someone ‚genuinely fleeing for their life‘ (etc) would do, but decision-makers faced with situations so radically outside their experience can hardly do anything BUT rely on prejudice.

‚► failure without reasonable explanation to answer a question asked by a deciding authority;‘

This is so broad that it could be used to stitch up refugees by asking them unreasonable questions (humiliating, based on false premises, so vague as to be incomprehensible, irrelevant, invasion of privacy, etc etc etc) and then rubbishing their claims based on their supposed failure to answer the question to the caseworker’s satisfaction.

‚► failure to take advantage of a reasonable opportunity to make an asylum or human rights claim while in a safe country;‘

‚Safe country‘ does not mean that the country is necessarily safe. It simply means it’s been declared safe by governments looking to limit the number of successful asylum claims. Plus:

1. If you’re desperate to avoid being sent home because you have reason to believe you or your family will come to harm, and you’ve heard that country A will use any excuse to reject an asylum claim, but country B is more likely to give refugees a fair go, are you going to make your claim in country A merely because it happens to be on a list of ’safe countries‘ that you’ve never seen? Even though you have a much greater chance of being sent back to death or torture?

2. Running for your life isn’t the same thing as moving house to take a new job. You aren’t necessarily going to have a lot of time to prepare and make sure you’ve got the money and contacts you need in order to make a go of it. You probably don’t even speak the language (how many people would be conversant in every local language they’d encounter fleeing from Syria to, say, Britain by the overland route?).

You have to consider how you’ll live wherever you end up settling. If you know that one country has an established community of people who come from the same country as you and share your language and culture, that is an essential lifeline. It’s the difference between arriving penniless in a strange place and having to navigate the legal system and everything else with no assistance and no local knowledge, and having people who speak your language who will be able to give you a hand in making sense of it all.

‚► failure to make an asylum or human rights claim until notified of an immigration decision, unless the claim relies wholly on matters arising after the notification;‘

Again, if you’re fleeing for your life, you’re going to want to stay away from the place you’re fleeing from for as long as possible. If you can do that without having a punt with authorities you know nothing about and have no reason to trust (and thus risking deportation), chances are you’ll at least consider it. Once again, we have an arbitrary bullshit factor that makes perfect sense to bureaucrats, but has nothing to do with the reality of running for one’s life.

‚► failure to make an asylum or human rights claim before being arrested under an immigration provision, unless there was no reasonable opportunity to claim before the arrest or the claim relies wholly on matters arising after the arrest. ‚

See above.
These are the sorts of factors that can lead to people being sent back to countries they’ve taken considerable risks to get away from. Keep that in mind the next time your hear about asylum claims that are denied for lack of credibility.

The Abstainers

(Melody)

If elected, well, you know I’m gonna be,
I’m gonna be the one who’s got no time for you.
As an MP, well, you know I’m gonna be,
I’m gonna be the one whose vote’s too good for you.
If you’re renting, you should know I’m probably,
I’m probably the one who’s getting rent from you.
You voted Labour, and you should know you’re gonna be
You’re gonna be the ones who get completely screwed.

Continue reading →

Conspiracism: A (Further) Definition

Since the publication of CounterPunch or Suckerpunch?, my Twitter feed has been bombarded with attacks from people who take issue with some aspect or other of my critique of fascist and white-supremacist ideology and ideologues. Many of those who have been offended by the article take me to task for things that really merit no detailed refutation, such as the claim that I equate opposition to US-Israeli crimes with white supremacism. No examples of statements by me that would support such charges are forthcoming, because none exist.

However, much has been made of my use of the concept of conspiracism, and that, I think, does merit some response in order to differentiate between how I am accused of using the term (despite defining it quite explicitly) and how I actually define it. Although those who have attacked my use of the concept have made it clear that they do not do so in the best of faith, some might well be confused by their distortions. As such, I will endeavour below to set out my working definition of conspiracism even more explicitly.

It seems worthwhile to start with what conspiracism is not. Conspiracism is not, first of all, any interpretation or explanation of events that conflicts with an official narrative, even if that interpretation or explanation should ultimately prove false. Nor does the concept of conspiracism extend to all investigation and examination of actual or suspected conspiracies. Conspiracies certainly exist; listing examples is trivial (Watergate, the overthrow of Allende in Chile, COINTELPRO, or the conspiracy of the  US consulate and embassy in Santiago to kill Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, recently demonstrated following a lengthy judicial inquiry in Chile).

In short, then, a hypothesis does not constitute conspiracism merely because it posits the existence of a conspiracy, nor does it become conspiracism simply because it ultimately proves false. These are empirical questions that can only be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Nor does the concept require a person to believe in every conspiracy ‚theory‘ that’s going. Indeed, to require that would be patently absurd, since such ‚theories‘ are often mutually exclusive. A person who believes the Nazi myth about the power of the Rothschild family is no less a conspiracist because she does not buy into controlled demolition. To say otherwise would be akin to calling the pope an atheist because he believes in Catholicism, but not Hinduism.

Rather, conspiracism is a habit of thought, or analytical mode, as I have described it elsewhere. It is a profoundly Manichaean view that sees the plotting of shadowy elites as the motor of human history. It is characterised not so much by specific ‚theories‘ (for conspiracists are a deeply sectarian lot and jealously defend their own beliefs against the proponents of alternate versions), as by a specific style of argument and a highly particular brand of ‚activism‘. From my own observations of, and interactions with, these circles, I have found the following characteristics to be consistent features of the conspiracist worldview:

  • The preference of an individualistic, moralising view of power over any form of class analysis. Conspiracists see the evil of a handful of individuals behind the injustices of capitalism rather than a set of material social relations giving rise to specific classes with specific interests and a specific array of forces between them. This is an essentially conservative worldview where the problem is the venality of the court, rather than monarchy itself. As such, it lends itself to conservative solutions, e.g., replacing those in power rather than abolishing the system that allows them to wield power.
  • Non-falsifiability: There is no evidence that is capable of refuting a conspiracist’s pet narrative. Indeed, the lack of supporting evidence – or the existence of contrary evidence – serves only to prove the awesome power and foresight of the conspirators. An example of this thinking can be seen in the Pentagon Papers, the classified internal record of the US occupation of Indochina. One pet project of US intelligence was to prove that the indigenous peasant resistance in Vietnam was armed, funded, and controlled by Moscow, ‚Peiping‘, or both. After years of evidence gathered in the field showed that the National Liberation Front were only using weapons they had captured from the French and US occupation forces, or had improvised themselves, the intelligence analysts concluded that this proved that Moscow and/or ‚Peiping‘ had such total control that there was no need to issue orders or send weapons.
  • Strict binarism: Either one buys into the particular narrative a conspiracist espouses, or one bust support the ‚official story‘. The possibility that someone might reject both is excluded a priori. This gives conspiracists a perceived monopoly on dissent.
  • No good-faith, informed scepticism: Conspiracism leaves no room for the possibility that someone might consider the available evidence and reach a different conclusion. The conspiracist’s preferred version is a Self-Evident Truth, and anyone who does not see that is either a dupe (’sheeple‘) or – if their counterargument is good – actively working for the enemy. This creates a cult-like solidarity (in the face of an exponentially growing conspiracy) combined with immense in-group pressure not to express any dissent. If you dissent, you must be One Of Them.
  • The absence of concrete proposals: Conspiracists rarely have much in the way of concrete solutions to offer. Mostly, they believe that things will sort themselves out if only the ’sheeple‘ learn ‚the truth‘. Beyond platitudes like ‚WAKE UP‘ or the call to ‚take back America‘ (often paired with the invocation of a past age of goodness and legitimate government), conspiracism offers no real programme of action. Because conspiracism is, however, never short on convenient scapegoats, it provides a fertile ground for fascism and other reactionary ideologies that seek to pre-empt any revolutionary social change, as well as ‚good-faith distraction material‘ (to quote a leaked Booz Allen Hamilton memo on declassification policy) to keep people busy who might otherwise organise in a fashion more threatening to power.

 

CounterPunch or Suckerpunch?

How ‚America’s Best Political Newsletter‘ Mainstreams the Far Right

Introduction

CounterPunch, which bills itself as ‚America’s best political newsletter‘, offering ‚independent investigative journalism‘, tends to figure quite prominently in the reading lists of left-leaning activists, who doubtlessly appreciate its consistent antiwar stance, its critical analysis on US economic and foreign policy and US-sponsored Israeli apartheid, and the regular contributions from such leading Left writers as John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Paul Street, Jeremy Scahill, and Tariq Ali. Indeed, CounterPunch generally tends to be thought of as a Left media outlet. However, in writing for, and sharing articles published on, CP, Leftists are unwittingly helping to promote the agenda of the far right. Continue reading →

Your Suffering Isn’t a Bug – It’s a Feature

I still see claims that ‚austerity‘ isn’t working. This is problematic in two respects: For one thing, the term ‚austerity‘ itself is an utter lie. This isn’t about everyone having to tighten their belts in a time of generalised scarcity – it’s about robbing workers (employed and unemployed) of basic necessities in a time of highly concentrated opulence. ‚Austerity is a dangerous euphemism because it conceals what is actually going on.

‚Not working‘ is no better, because it accepts the official narrative that the purpose of these murderous cuts was to bring about an economic recovery and all good things. That’s nonsense. You don’t bring about an economic recovery by putting more and more people out of work, forcing millions of unemployed people and people with disabilities to go without anything at all because they didn’t look hard enough for jobs that don’t exist, and then making those same unemployed people available as an unpaid forced labour pool for private industry. If the idea were to bring about some sort of genuine economic recovery, these policies would have been abandoned the minute it became unmistakably clear that that isn’t happening.

And yet the consensus of all the major parties is that the cuts must go on. If there’s such broad agreement amongst the ruling class that something must go on, obviously it’s having the desired effect. It’s just that they haven’t been honest about the desired effect, which wouldn’t exactly be the first time the ruling class ever told a porkie.

Plus, haven’t we been hearing that the economy is much better now, that catastrophe has been averted, etc. etc.? If these were measures put in place to deal with a current crisis – and not the logical continuation of policies going back three decades – surely the reaction to this news would be general celebration and an abandonment of policies that did what was needed, allowing us all to return to better times.

And yet that’s not happening. In fact, the reverse is the case, the Tories are proceeding to deepen the cuts, as the Labour Party had also promised to do. Clearly, then, the ruling class are well chuffed with the effects that ‚austerity‘ is having, and want to continue.

This is not just an issue because ruling class propaganda happens to be false. This has created an utterly inaccurate framework of debate that often goes unquestioned by those fighting against the cuts. The kind of fightback that is needed will not be achieved by accepting a framework that implicitly assumes good faith and benevolent intent on the part of the ruling class, but only by framing the issue with language that makes it clear that working class suffering isn’t a byproduct of these policies, but the intended goal.