I always enjoy Eddie Ford’s entertaining and insightful writings on the European Union, Brexit and the Conservative Party.
I would, however, want to pick up on comments in his article, ‘21st century global reality’ (February 8), that Britain leaving the European Union and putting the “‘Great’ back into Great Britain is just post imperial fantasy”; “that its position as a permanent member of the UN security council is owed purely to its imperial past”; and “as the Soviet Union is history, so is the British empire”.
I obviously agree that the British empire is no more (although the Commonwealth as its formal successor has more than symbolic relevance and importance than is often understood), and it may be correct to talk of “imperial past”. But this does risk falling into the classic failure of ‘official’ communism in Britain to recognise and understand the implications that capitalism in Britain is imperialism and that British imperialism is still one of the most powerful and active in the world.
The population of the United Kingdom is around 65 million - just 0.9% of the world total of 7.6 billion - yet its economy is still probably the sixth largest in the world and its defence budget is the third largest. This relatively high wealth and military global power stems precisely from the fact that British imperialism is the oldest in the world and is a major global force in the here and now.
This links to Paul Demarty’s article in the same issue, where he comments that “failure to renew [Trident] is to decommission by default” (‘Earthquakes and H-bombs’). A better way of putting it might be to say that, given Trident renewal will come into operation in 20 years’ time and is expected to be in service for a further 20 years, a vote to renew Trident was in fact a vote against any form of nuclear disarmament for at least the next 50 years.
Conservative and media advocates of Trident renewal are pretty open and clear that its purpose - alongside major capital purchases, such as the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (hilariously described as a very big, slow moving, easy target by the Russian foreign ministry) - is to “project British power across and around the globe”.
Pacifists and liberals are fond of criticising Trident on the basis that ‘it can never be used’, whereas in reality advocates of its renewal are much more accurate in saying, ‘It is used every second, every minute and every day to keep us safe’ - in reality, to constantly underpin British global capital imperialism, to provide hard, destructive military power to back up its day-to-day, cut-throat competition with other major imperialisms and capitalisms.
Failing to recognise the nature of British imperialism has been a major blind spot for much of the left, including those who would otherwise be described as revolutionary and/or communist. This is a failure to recognise that the great majority of the wealth and power of the British capitalist class is based on imperialism, and financial tribute extracted every second of every day from working people from around the globe. Plus, a failure to recognise that social democracy, which is extraordinarily ideologically dominant in British politics, including (especially) in the Labour Party, is a direct product of imperialism in its heartlands and certainly not a vehicle for its supersession.
These failures have led to continued illusions, including and especially in the Labour Party, that capitalism can be reformed and made to work in the interests of the majority, that any transition from capitalism to socialism can be peaceful and gradual, and often a failure to give adequate solidarity with forces worldwide who are fighting and combating imperialism - including for aims and objectives and using methods which we patronisingly and naively think are ‘inappropriate’ or distasteful for ourselves.
Moshé Machover’s latest letter (February 8) is the epitome of anti-Marxist cynicism. He doesn’t even bother to hide it. He claims to have been making ‘tongue-in-cheek’ statements about a basic question of Marxist analysis and programme. Apparently, when he wrote that “the capitalist class, irrespective of religion, is international”, he was engaging in satire. When he posited that if some fairly wealthy individual from the third world were to buy themselves Maltese or Bulgarian or Cypriot citizenship, they would be buying into the ‘EU ruling class’, he was indulging in some kind of alternative comedy, or something.
Nonsense. This was a political argument which is unsustainable and Moshé is now backing away from it in embarrassment and trying to obscure that as best he can. He talks about the basic understanding that bourgeois states are the instrument of - and thereby in a sense the property of - those bourgeois who are citizens of that state, as being “pseudo-Marxist”. But it’s a very basic concept; there are only two alternatives possible to this concept.
One is that the entire concept of the bourgeois state is incorrect - that states do not belong to a particular class, but serve the interest of all classes. To believe that is to openly reject Marxism. The other is what Moshé originally argued, and in effect is still arguing, with his half-arguments that capitalists can buy their way into any ruling class that takes their fancy just by parting with a whole load of cash. That is Kautskyism or worse; it does credit the bourgeoisie with being an international class. From the point of view of its objective interests, though obviously not its current political consciousness, the only international class is the proletariat.
The problem Moshé has is that the factual data available today - from a variety of sources, including Jewish ones - clearly show that, in material terms, there is an overlap between the Israeli ruling class and the ruling class of the main western imperialist countries, most notably the United States. Moshé has given up contesting the empirical facts: they are just too well known and widely available. So he is just engaged in sophistry.
The Jewish components of the ruling classes of the USA, and to a lesser degree western Europe, greatly exceed the representation of Jewish people in the populations of these countries at large. This layer therefore has a lot more social weight than Jews ‘in general’, from whom it is distinct by class. These bourgeois constitute a distinct caste within the bourgeoisies of those countries; without buying any citizenship of anywhere, by birth, thanks to the Israeli Law of Return, they are entitled to Israeli citizenship as well as that of their country of origin.
Exercising this right is, as Shlomo Sand noted and I quoted, a cinch. An aggressive, ethnocentric project - political Zionism - is the dominant ideological trend among Jews today, and particularly bourgeois Jews. The chain of evidence and reasoning is obvious and simple; it is true, as Moshé notes, that the Israeli Law of Return does give privileges to Jews of “poor and modest means” over Palestinians. But it gives a lot more power - over the state itself - to bourgeois who exercise their birthright, for no more than the price of an identity card, simply by virtue of the class nature of the state.
Moshé then asks why the large minority of Jewish-Zionists in the US ruling class is able to lead the non-Jewish majority to accept hard-line pro-Israel policies that they would not otherwise be inclined to. The answer is twofold and the two are closely related: greater cohesion or ‘punching above their weight’: political Zionism knows what it wants, as opposed to the varied other trends in the bourgeoisie who have no particular axe to grind on this, but would be inclined to see Israel as a more ordinary ally, even if this was not a factor.
The other is class authority: the Jewish bourgeoisie is now seen by the non-Jewish bourgeoisie as a particularly class-conscious layer of bourgeois with a very old culture rooted in the commodity form, and hence a valuable asset of the system itself. The role of Jewish bourgeois such as Friedman, Joseph, Kissinger and many more as exemplary class-conscious ideologues is very highly regarded, in contrast to the suspicion that the Jewish bourgeoisie generated in the pre-war period of anti-Semitism. This is a result of a major post-World War II shift in consciousness of the bourgeoisie.
This is not an extravagantly complex thesis. It accords with material reality today, and is fully in tune with the method of Marxism and historical materialism. But for Moshé it is anathema; it appears to provide substance to allegations that many Jewish bourgeois are not loyal to one, and only one, nation-state, which apparently matches an anti-Semitic trope. This may cause discomfort, but if material reality points to some variant of this, it is not helpful even to Jewish people to avoid it by falsifying social reality. Apart from anything else, this will not work, and will actually make any problems that result from this realisation, even worse.
Moshé recommends an essay by Susan Cain and Mark Mason, titled ‘Demystifying US and Israeli power’ to provide an alternative explanation. I don’t have space here for an extensive examination of this item, but I have to say that, on reading it, this really is a strange conspiracy theory in its own right.
It basically seems to argue that the whole appearance of Israeli power in American and western society is a hoax organised by shadowy corporate and military-industrial forces, who have some kind of vested interest in giving the appearance of such Israeli power to hide their own interests, and that bourgeois politicians and what they say is of no relevance, as such politicians have no power anyway. They are simply a camouflage to hide the real interests of the puppet-masters behind the scenes. Apparently these people have fooled much of the left, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, into believing that the Israel lobby has real power in the USA and elsewhere.
The text is close to unreadable because of the strange conspiracy-mongering and repeated assertions that defy straightforward logic. It really is a caricature of Marxism - which, to be sure, notes that the state is a tool of class oppression, but which does regard bourgeois politics as having comprehensible logic in its development and contradictions, even if debased.
What is ironic is that Moshé can recommend such a text as an antidote to so called ‘conspiracy theories’ about matters that are pretty much open. Israeli political influence in western society is not hidden. Maybe he will claim that once again he is being “tongue-in-cheek”?
Donald Trump is a constant topic of conversation, in the pub or in the media - even in the Weekly Worker. Why? Because he is the president of the most powerful country that has ever existed on this planet. He has given his richest citizens even more money than they already had, he has made racism respectable (well, maybe not respectable, but nearly normal), he has banished fears of global warming and other natural disasters (from empty heads) and he has raised the prospect of nuclear war - his own most feverish dream!
But he is a buffoon. This helps to make him extremely dangerous but could also offer a glimmer of hope. He is perceived by most around the world, including in his own country, as an idiot and a laughing stock. For instance, by the tourist companies in “shithole” countries, who are advertising their wares by quoting him. World leaders like (OK, as well as) Theresa May kowtow, but they only add to the contempt they face from their own citizens.
He is also recognised by many as not so much an anomaly as a culmination. Obama bailed out the banks, but not the foreclosed, he kept the Bush tax cuts, he didn’t close Guantanamo, he upped the number of drone strikes and the persecution of whistleblowers. So Trump might be a buffoon, but he is not alone in his buffoonery: he just makes it blindingly obvious.
Trump, the narcissist, couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks about him, as long as they recognise his greatness, his hair, his long fingers ... Some of his coterie of billionaires, bankers and failed generals do care (a bit), but they don’t know what to do about it and, given the apparent impunity with which they have cut their taxes and fiddled their elections, they don’t see that they really need to worry. Meanwhile, the rest of the world recognises unveiled contempt when they see it.
And he comes so very soon after another clown, George W Bush, and people are beginning to notice. Is this the ‘beacon on the hill’? Is this the ‘leader of the free world’? The emperor still has a big gun but Trump is busy shredding his clothes. This could be a notable stage in a long-drawn-out process of the USA losing ‘soft power’. So, as I say, ‘a glimmer’.
Yassamine Mather argues no to neoliberal feminism, but yes to women’s rights, as if they are two different things! The woman’s movement works within the system, so supports capitalism, and therefore is reactionary and neoliberal.
As socialists, we should be interested in one thing and one thing only: the overthrow of capitalism - a system that works in the interests of the minority - and replacing that with socialism, which will work in the interests of the majority. That is the only system that can give men and women equality. Everything else is just a distraction from this and helps maintain the status quo. Surely all working class men and women should be fighting for this?
But if women disagree and want equality with men, then try to get equality with men like Peter Jones - and try to get me equality with Deborah Meaden! I’d love equality with her bank balance.
It seems pretty clear that your correspondent, Victor Jenkins, has something going on in his bonce related to spite, hatefulness and vitriol (Letters, February 8). Possibly about finding strength and reassurance from snide and sneering posturing. Certainly something about combining a coldly, unsympathetic relationship to other members of our communist family with empty abuse. What a handy exemplar of psychically inadequate schoolyard loudmouths, it could be said.
In any event, top marks to the Weekly Worker for providing a powerful antidote to the currently fashionable syndrome of ‘no-platforming’. Your letters page must be an absolute horror story for anyone clustering within those ludicrously sanitised ‘safe spaces’ of theirs.
Just on the off-chance comrade Jenkins’ debilitating condition is contagious, next time I buy his Socialist Party paper in the street I’ll make certain to wear rubber gloves. For his information, I buy a copy whenever coming across a vendor, thereby keeping in touch with other flavours available on our Marxist left wing. Maybe the comrade too might like to give that different take on things some consideration? Even more urgently, he should bear in mind that our capitalist enemies positively lather at the gills in glee when witnessing any such demonstrations of disunity as he provides. It means they can continue with an almost free hand to subject both humanity and our planet Earth to their horrifically exploitative agendas.
Now I come to think of it, suchlike facts are the only condemnation required of diversionary self-indulgence from any comrade, including Victor Jenkins. Sincerely, I wish him well in his upcoming period of recovery - assuming that’s the pathway he chooses.