No clean break
The general election is a means of resolving the UK’s political crisis. This crisis is multi-layered, like an onion: peeling back the outer layer of the Brexit crisis, we find underneath the crisis of the social monarchy, inside that a global environmental crisis, and at the heart is the crisis of global capitalism and imperialism (eg, the wars in the Middle East). Whilst all UK parties have programmes and policies which address these issues, they have no solutions. After the election these crises will continue to paralyse our politics.
Take Brexit. The Tories promise the middle class and working class they will ‘get Brexit done’. The slogan appeals to a wider audience, who just want it done and dusted. People are exhausted by the political paralysis and want to go back to the cosier consensus before the Brexit ‘revolution’, when people didn’t hate each other so much. Of course, Johnson’s deal won’t do that: it will merely be the next turn of the Brexit screw and an extension of the crisis.
Republican socialists begin from their own independent programme and policies - not least on the European Union, the British union, the future of the social monarchy, imperialist wars and ecological disaster. Labour is not and has never been a republican socialist party. This does not mean republicans should ignore the political struggle currently underway across the UK.
The EU referendum has pushed politics along the road it was travelling. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, politics is now a battle between unionists and nationalists - between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party - and in Scotland between the Tory unionists and Scottish nationalists. England still has the old politics of Tory versus Labour, while Wales is somewhere in transition - this election will reveal how far it has gone.
Labour remains divided between liberals and socialists - most obviously amongst Labour MPs. The liberals have been fighting to undermine and overthrow Corbyn. They are waiting for him to fail in this election, so they can make a comeback. The liberals have given plenty of ammunition to the Tories, not least over anti-Semitism. Now they have gone into low profile during the election, because they want to keep their seats and salaries.
We should listen carefully to the criticisms of the Labour Party and distinguish between reactionary-liberal criticisms and progressive, working class, democratic ones. I presume Dave Vincent’s criticism of the Labour candidate for Calder Valley making no mention of “trade unions, socialism, public services or Corbyn” is his attack on liberal Labour (Letters, November 28). Yet Dave seems to reserve his main criticism for Corbyn. We are not leftwing allies of the liberals in some sort of anti-Corbyn pincer movement to undermine Corbyn Labour.
The problem is that he discusses Labour as if it is the only party in the election and Corbyn the only leader. Labour is in an election battle with the Tories and Dave ignores them. In terms of the political struggle between parties we should critically support Corbyn Labour against the Tories. In Dave’s letter I saw only criticism, but no support.
Dave criticises Corbyn’s policy on a Labour Brexit as not “credible”. He says Corbyn is not offering Brexit, but “soft or hard versions of ‘remain’, which is therefore a total betrayal on the 17.4 million (mainly working class) ‘leave’ voters. Labour has also conspired to take ‘no deal’ off the table with no people’s mandate to do so.” This criticism is straight out of the Faragean playbook, not least because Labour has no mandate to put ‘no deal’ on the table. That mandate came from Trump, who told May and Johnson to do so.
The battle over the UK’s membership of the EU is a three-sided struggle between reactionaries, liberals and democrats, which corresponds to leavers, remainers or republicans. Republicans do not make ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ the main question, but highlight the fact that England and Wales voted to leave and Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain. This highlights the level of political consciousness and the divergent politics within the UK.
Nobody voted to leave the single market or customs union, not least because this was not on the ballot paper. It is quite possible to leave the EU and remain in these market structures. Dave has invented an Anglo-British exit from everything. This so-called ‘clean break’ is a Faragean invention. Farage and the Tory right invented ‘Brexit’ and redefined it to be imposed on Northern Ireland and Scotland. They ‘rewrote’ the referendum question in invisible ink to include the idea of a clean break.
Dave accepts the Faragean, Anglo-British interpretation of the referendum. He forgets to mention that a ‘clean break’ means anti-working class immigration laws and free trade with Trump. I can understand why Farage and his millionaire backers want a clean break, but not why a trade unionist like Dave supports it. Republicans and socialists should reject bogus democratic arguments, which ignore the rights of the Irish and Scottish people to remain in the EU and which seek to impose an exit from Europe’s single market and customs union in favour of Little England’s.
Although to a large extent going back over old ground - most especially given the detailed examination of matters by Peter Manson (‘Within the current order’, November 28) - I think it is worthwhile to share how my local Labour candidate’s pre-general election meeting turned out to be both an eye-opener and a profound confirmation of Marxist truths.
It was an eye-opener in the sense of the realisation that sky-high expectations have been raised by Corbyn(ism) - indeed, not only by specific policies, but also by a change of atmosphere in UK society; and a confirmation in the sense that there existed in the meeting a hotchpotch of psychological, cultural and political reasons to refuse to address the real extent and fundamental nature of problems generated under capitalism. Everybody either spontaneously or deliberately steered away from any discussion or acknowledgement of that fact - nobody was prepared to face up to the severe limitations and outright contradictions in each and every one of Corbynism’s ‘solutions’. This was despite the recognition by everyone present of the serious and utterly disgusting situation that exists for British citizens right now in relation to housing, poverty, energy costs, a dysfunctional railway system and generalised profiteering, etc.
With extreme poignancy, a very elderly comrade pointed out how the Andrew Neil BBC interview (that took place the night before the meeting) had made him feel it was “essential” to attend, despite being “rather ill”. The problem is that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell do not seem to realise how the mass media and establishment in general are nothing other than a cynical, vicious, ruthless and dangerous enemy. Corbyn’s criminally polite, non-confrontational (to the point of supplicant) and to all intents and purposes self-mutilating performance on the matter of so-called anti-Semitism within Labour (as peddled out by that coldly/grimly aggressive Andrew Neil) was both an utter betrayal and an almost unbearable tragedy.
Not a single soul in that meeting room was anything other than thoroughly decent-minded and deserving of full respect (most notably our first-time and firmly left-leaning Labour general election candidate herself) - despite everything, the mountain remains there to climb. It is a mountain that stretches across wide, loose-scree slopes with its summit frequently hidden above cloud!
The campaign group, Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (Lazir), considers the recent attack by the chief rabbi on Labour to be part of an ongoing campaign to prevent a Corbyn-led government being elected that would criticise Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
We note that Labour has been haemorrhaging Jewish support since before Corbyn became leader. It began with his (Jewish) predecessor, Ed Miliband, when he condemned Israel’s August 2014 invasion of Gaza, which killed 2,200 Gazans and wounded over 10,000 more. Israeli-supporting Jews were furious that Labour described this action as “wrong and unjustifiable”. Previously, wealthy Jewish donors had supported Blair and Brown for their pro-Israel stance - and now they were pulling their money out from Labour because it dared to criticise their colony.
Lazir also notes that Corbyn was clearly identified as a target by Israel in the 2017 documentary, The lobby, that investigated the influence of the Israel lobby in the UK. It exposed the strong links between the Israeli embassy and the Jewish Labour Movement, which became active in 2015 in response to, as its chair said, “the rise of Jeremy Corbyn”. Here was evidence that the JLM was acting as little more than a front for the Israeli embassy and that the mission it set itself was to weaken Corbyn in the hope of removing him from the leadership. Ofcom rejected complaints that the documentary series was anti-Semitic or had breached impartiality rules. (JLM was formerly the pioneering Paole Zion, which had participated in the 1948 nakba ethnic cleaning of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland.)
Early on, the JLM and other pro-Israel lobbyists understood that the most effective way to damage Corbyn and undermine solidarity with the Palestinian cause was to weaponise the charge of anti-Semitism. The Israelis had been working on this since 2004, when their scholars worked with selected Jewish NGOs and academics to create a definition that would define meaningful criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. The result was the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which has been foisted upon millions of UK citizens through its adoption by the major unions and political parties. This wholesale attack on our human right to freedom of expression was orchestrated by Zionists in the UK. On this basis, anyone who states that Israel is a racist endeavour can be labelled anti-Semitic. Since Israel passed the nation-state law in July 2018, declaring the rights of Jews superior to those of all others, one can now be called a Jew-hater for simply pointing out the truth.
Lazir would also like to highlight that the myth of a “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” has been created by a media only too willing to undermine the Labour Party. The volume of anti-Semitism-related complaints against Labour members has been cited as evidence that anti-Semitic discourse in the party is commonplace. A March 2019 survey asked the public to estimate the percentage of Labour members against whom anti-Semitism complaints had been made. The average response was 34%. In reality, as of July 2019, the proportion of Labour Party members subjected to disciplinary procedures - ie, summoned for a hearing in response to a complaint, but not necessarily found guilty - amounted to less than one-10th of one percent. This skewed view is compounded by a media which ignores statements from Jewish Voice for Labour, which, unlike the JLM, requires full members to be both Jewish and Labour - and which completely support Corbyn.
Lazir believes the UK’s mainstream media has become so terrified of pressure from the Zionist lobby that it now ignores human rights abuses by Israel as a matter of course. The recent attack on Gaza that left 34 dead, including a family of nine, who just happened to be in a building that Israel considered empty, was ignored by the BBC and hardly reported upon by major news outlets.
Lazir calls upon the media to reflect upon whose interests it is serving in allowing those from outside the UK to influence the election of our leaders, through promulgating these politically motivated and fraudulent anti-Semitism smears. Telling Jews they are at risk when they are not is fake news and dangerous misinformation. Our democracy is being undermined by Israel supporters - as enacted by rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a man who defends every bomb that falls on Gaza. Even Tories like Sir Alan Duncan were targeted for supporting Palestine. This election is major for the British people - let’s not let Israel mess it up by smears and slander.
I don’t entirely agree with Robbie Leslie’s response (Letters, November 28) to my previous letter (November 21). I think things are rather worse than he suggests, when it comes to Middle East policy. It wasn’t that the US and co had “no clue” - they didn’t care. As regards “divide and rule”, it’s not so much a plan as a knee-jerk tactic for the whole of the ruling class.
There was, however, a strategy, which was laid out by the Project for the New American Century over 20 years ago. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest wanted to assert American dominance in the Middle East, among other regions, and make sure they controlled the oil. So in 2003, after 9/11, in they went - with a little help from Tony Blair, amongst others. They went in with the usual attitude of imperialists - not with “no clue”, but with the usual combination of ignorance and arrogance, like Siamese twins, that the American government has displayed for so long - inherited from Europe, of course.
Peter Van Buren’s book We meant well is interesting on what some of the Americans thought they were doing. He and some of his state department colleagues may have “meant well”, but they were constantly thwarted by their superiors and the military leaders in doing anything useful. Generals would suggest a dairy project or a laundry, for instance, with no consultation with Iraqis - anyway they had hardly anyone who could speak Arabic - but this was to brighten up their CVs, and the next general would drop it for his own bright idea.
The author repeats often that what the Iraqis actually wanted - apart from the departure of the Americans - was clean water, electricity, proper healthcare and garbage clearance. What they got was useless gestures and rampant corruption. Obviously, the state department tried to screw him after his book came out.
What the US government got was the looting of Iraqi oil and the looting of their own taxpayers. Any and every report critical of the US occupation has tale after tale of the corruption from the top down. And it was not just US taxpayers, of course: the US funds its wars by debt and the world’s creditors dare not call in their loans in case the dollar collapses - and with it their own assets. So the world’s taxpayers are looted.
After reading reviews of the film, I read Chris Kyle’s American sniper and, when the film based on the book was on TV, I watched that too. Clint Eastwood’s film is not quite as openly ‘patriotic’ as the book; in the film Kyle and his wife watch the twin towers burning on 9/11 and anything further is left to the viewer. In the book Kyle rushes off to his military outfit dedicated to what he calls “payback time” and ends up in Iraq - payback for what?
In the book he refers to “going deep into Injun territory to look and wait for the bad guys”. He has total contempt for those he’s killing, as well as a complete ignorance of their, or US, history. “They hated us because we weren’t Muslim,” he writes, and he defines as evil anyone who wants to kill Americans: “Savage, despicable evil - that’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages’. There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there.” That must make life easier for confused politicians and journalists wondering about knife attacks in London. His other description, much used, was “insurgents”. For this latter-day saint of American imperialism there were no, or few, human beings in Iraq - they were “insurgents”.
In a further bout of masochism I watched The hurt locker on TV (gotta keep an eye on them) and in this ‘classic movie’ there were precious few human beings in Iraq - sorry, Iraqi human beings. With one (possibly four) exceptions all the Iraqis were shifty, dodgy characters, who shouldn’t look at American soldiers. The latter were the good guys - brave, self-sacrificing and going through terrible mental turmoil. The last point might be true, as a look at the suicide rates for combat troops when they go home might indicate, but the question is never asked: ‘What were they doing there?’
The contempt for ‘the natives’ is the norm for imperialism - and indeed for all class rule. The riff-raff are not often human and they are best treated as sub-human, since they harbour either vicious intent or, if they’re properly grateful, smiling deference. This caricature of human beings helps to feed the backwardness and ignorance of the masses in imperialist countries and helps to stop them challenging bestiality - or, better still, encourages them to join in. Talk of the ‘western values’ we hear so much about must cause a hollow laugh in the bulk of the world’s population.
Karl Rove, a force behind much Republican evil, famously said in 2004, “We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality.” And so they do - not just the pillage, looting and destruction, wherever they put their mind to it, but their by-products too. The “empire” managed to sire Islamic State in Iraq, just as they had sired al-Qa’eda in Afghanistan and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
They are not merely “clueless”: they are extremely dangerous, and we need to get rid of the bastards - though not by terrorism.