I could not have been the only Weekly Worker reader to have breathed a sigh of relief when a week went by without having an article by Daniel Lazare, the editors’ favourite liberal Stalinist. Unfortunately, last week Lazare came back with another article, this time on his two favourite bugbears, ‘fascism’ and ‘constitutionalism’ (‘Texas and the F-word’, June 10). I have suffered through Lazare’s articles for some time now, but this one certainly takes the cake for its total embrace of liberal ideology and disregard for reality.
Lazare never defines ‘fascism’. Whatever one thinks of Jack Conrad’s analysis of it, Lazare offers no coherent understanding of the term. He invokes cowboys, the Mexican border, voting, abortion and guns in a bizarre attempt to argue that there is a novel fascist threat in America. Nowhere does he elaborate upon or even acknowledge how any of this is fascism now, but was not fascism when it came to the fore decades ago. Anyone reading between the lines of Lazare’s argument can see that he is simply following the liberal understanding of fascism, where any kind of racist militarism magically becomes fascism, even when it lacks any of the fundamental components of a fascist movement, such as corporatism.
Nor does Lazare say what he means by ‘constitutionalism’. What do the Texas abortion restrictions have to do with that? Lazare never says. He seems to insinuate that, because Texas legislators perhaps occasionally invoke the constitution in political statements, and live under a federal government that is based on a constitution, everything they do must arise out of the US constitution. Such reasoning is what runs through his other pieces railing against what he perceives to be ‘constitutionalism’.
This is not even a liberal understanding, but a completely nonsensical one. It doesn’t take a Marxist to realise that the constitution - a piece of paper that contains some vague laws - does not govern all affairs in American society. This would be the worst kind of idealism and something so nonsensical that calling it liberal would be unfair to liberals.
In reality, constitutional provisions have always taken on whatever meaning is politically expedient at the time. Thus, despite the fourth amendment guaranteeing the right of the people against unreasonable government searches, Congress passed the Patriot Act and has continued to fund a mass surveillance state, all without even a hint of constitutional restriction. So too was Obama able to assassinate US citizens despite the fifth amendment right to due process of law before any deprivation of life by the government. Such basic facts are not relevant to Lazare, because he needs to tie every problem in American society to a nonexistent constitutionalism.
The factual problems with Lazare’s arguments are staggering. He speaks of a “real” constitution, which just so happens to contain everything that he despises. The liberal justices have thus always been wrong and the Originalists have always been right, in Lazare’s mind. He claims that the second amendment “outlines a sweeping right to bear arms, as growing numbers of constitutional scholars have come to recognise”. (The reader cannot help but laugh, when the only references Lazare makes to support this claim are a law review article from 1989 and one of his own Jacobin articles.)
Anyone capable of common sense can see that the second amendment is not the reason for America’s gun epidemic. The second amendment didn’t infuse gun manufacturers with the power to make high-powered guns available on the consumer market. Nor did it prevent Congress from passing legislation restricting gun ownership. This is because the second amendment, like the rest of the constitution, is not some supernatural document with the ability to control the actions of all politicians in the country. It takes on whatever meaning is politically expedient for the dominant political faction.
Until 2008, the Supreme Court and the majority of lower courts always examined individual gun ownership against the particular gun’s necessity to a well regulated militia. In other words, existing legal precedent allowed regulation of the types of guns that could be sold to individuals. If Congress had wanted to ban certain types of guns from being sold in interstate commerce, it could have done so. Whether the Supreme Court would have struck down such legislation as unconstitutional has nothing to do with the text of the second amendment. In a 5-4 decision a single justice’s interpretation of the amendment would decide the legal meaning of the amendment one way or the other. Lazare does not seem to grasp this basic aspect of judicial decision-making, instead believing that the constitution has a divine, ideal existence apart from the reality of mere mortals.
A Marxist with any sense can see how idiotic Lazare’s arguments are. They start from a particularly flawed, idealist premise that posits that ideas - such as constitutionalism - move history, and not human beings. This is about as far from materialism as it gets. Why such nonsense has to occupy a column in every week’s issue is beyond comprehension. Unfortunately, I suspect that we will see many more of Lazare’s liberal diatribes in issues to come.
David M Rossetti
I read with interest David Douglass’s review of ‘Thatcher vs the miners: the battle for Britain’ (‘Story built on lies’, June 3), because I’d recorded the programme myself to watch it later. It was as bad as Douglass writes - though one wouldn’t expect much from Channel 5. It’s best to watch it in bits, by the way, as it is rather depressing, frustrating and conducive to anger.
As Douglass also says, “It is now 37 years since the miners’ Great Strike; a whole new generation has arrived who are largely ignorant of what happened and why it is important.” One might suspect that Channel 5 needed that passage of time to even attempt to get away with what they did. The overall picture given was of a strong, determined, steely-eyed Margaret Thatcher, who didn’t put a foot wrong, versus a hapless Arthur Scargill, who didn’t put a foot right.
There was a group of commentators - smug Tory scum would cover it, I guess - bigging her up: her strength, her judgment, her tenacity and all the rest of it. There were a few, like Dave Douglass, some miners’ wives and others, who had a lesser role - is that balance? The forces of the state were on one side and the miners on the other, but the latter were just bit-players in the whole drama.
Dave Douglass covered it well, but I would just like to add a couple of points that struck me. The early part of the programme was supposed to give ‘background’ and ‘history’ and so they covered the miners’ strikes of the 70s along with a brief overview of the industrial unrest of that decade. However, the story given was that trade unions, and especially miners, were fighting for ‘higher wages’.
As I remember it, following Nixon’s removal of the dollar from the gold standard and the ‘oil price shocks’ of 1973 and 1979, they were actually fighting to try and maintain their standard of living. Inflation went to over 20% and workers didn’t see why they should pay for it. In 1979 Callaghan tried to enforce a new ‘social contract’ that would hold wages and (just to be fair) dividends down to try and control inflation.
It was immediately dubbed ‘the social con-trick’ by the left and, among other things, it was pointed out that dividends being held meant that share prices would go up due to the extra retained revenue. When Thatcher came in (cue angelic pics on Channel 5) her government drove inflation further through the roof and to ‘cure’ that pushed unemployment to over three million and accelerated the de-industrialisation that we suffer now.
Another notable aspect of the programme was the glee with which Neil Kinnock greeted any and all setbacks to the miners, which he and the programme put down to Scargill’s ‘extraordinarily poor leadership’. Kinnock’s been waiting for years for this chance. He thoroughly deserved to lose the 1992 general election and to be mostly remembered as the bloke that nearly fell into the sea at Brighton all those years ago.
Former Revolutionary Workers Party central committee member David John Douglass argues that, on the basis of Marxism and dialectics, what Juan Posadas said about extraterrestrials being necessarily communist because of their advanced technology is a reasonable proposition (Letters, June 10).
In fact, the Posadas argument, to say the least, was rather naive. The ‘UFO’ debate polarises into two camps: the open-minded versus closed-minded individuals - the latter represented by people like Paul Demarty, whose thinking seems to rarely go beyond mainstream academia. Since the latter often dominate, because they represent mainstream views, the arguments of Posadas were not subjected to any serious scrutiny by the wider left, who keep away from the issue because they fear the ridicule factor, deployed by people like Demarty to shut down any debate.
Sightings of UFOs happen all over the world and I am far from convinced that those behind the phenomenon are all benign. It goes back thousands of years into prehistory, which Demarty is probably unaware of, and was the source of all the main religions, like Christianity - with its ‘god making man in his own image’ narrative, and so on - that plague the human mind, while religious people continue to be unaware of who these ‘gods’ really were.
More open-minded researchers, who have gone beyond mainstream academia and delved into the prehistoric origins of homo sapiens in southern Africa, have a different story to tell. For instance, Zecharia Sitchin, who studied at the London School of Economics, wrote his best seller, The 12th planet, based on his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, which clearly reveals that humans were genetically engineered from homo erectus into homo sapiens as slave-workers for the aliens, referred to as ‘the Anunnaki’. The term ‘Anunnaki’ means, in modern English, ‘those who came from the heavens (ie, space) to earth’. Religionists, establishment academics and other mainstream thinkers have claimed that Sitchin has misinterpreted Sumerian text, but, the more they knock him, the more he is confirmed by modern science and astronomy.
For instance, on the basis of his interpretation of ancient Sumerian text, Sitchin predicted back in 1976 that another planet in our solar system would be found beyond Pluto with a huge elliptical orbit. In 2016, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology found the gravitational fingerprint of another planet, 5,000 times the mass of Pluto, on the outer fringes of the solar system with an elliptical orbit. This is precisely what Sitchin predicted, but on this amazing development in astronomy the closed-minded and the anti-Sitchinites remain silent. The astronomers are calling this new planet a gas giant, but they wouldn't know this by its gravitational evidence alone. The scientist and researcher, Michael Tellinger, confirms the general validity of Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Sumerian text in his book, Slave species of the gods - the secret history of the Anunnaki and their mission on earth.
I am not suggesting that Sitchin is infallible, but he is closer to the truth than his detractors and the closed-minded, and he has had too many hits to not take seriously. What we can be certain of is that the deep state knows more about the extraterrestrial, and inner-terrestrial, phenomena than they are letting on. All the evidence suggests, at least from an open minded perspective, that we are not alone in this solar system, the truth of which organizations like Nasa must be well apprised.
The point of all this is to warn against the naive Posadas view that those behind the UFO phenomena - whose existence have been confirmed by astronauts and pilots, both military and civilian, and others - are automatically benign. To draw such a view from Marxist dialectics is unwarranted. What we can draw from dialectics though is that, in Hegelian dialectics, regarding the relationship between essence and appearance, sooner or later, essence must appear - meaning in this case, that the secret activity of ‘UFOs’ related to this planet and its connection to humans will eventually be uncovered.
Campaign for Democratic Socialism
I really must comment on Hannu Reime’s letter (May 20). He concedes that the intervention of Iran and Russia in 2015 saved Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and that the USA was so “interested” that it “gave arms and material support to the rebels, some of it through Saudi Arabia”, while “Turkey and Qatar also aided anti-Assadists”.
He then goes on to assure us that good old Uncle Sam is not such a bad guy after all, because the US had not “actively sought to overthrow Assad” and “Syria has been torn apart by geopolitical gangster wars”. Well done for that gangster theory of the global class struggle. Never mind analysing US imperialism as the global hegemonic power, with its transnational corporations and Wall Street financiers - there are other gangsters just as bad if not worse actively fighting in Syria. This is simply Judaeo-Christian moralism and certainly not a Marxist approach at all.
What went wrong for the left in Europe - and can they make a comeback? That’s the subject of a critical debate to be held by Labour Party activists later this month.
Around five years ago it looked like left grassroots movements were set to take Europe by storm. Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece - politicians of the radical left were drawing huge crowds across the continent. Corbyn’s Labour became the biggest political party in Europe. Podemos pioneered new ways of harnessing the energy of local communities. People power was the order of the day.
But now things look very different. Politicians of the right, like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, seem to have hijacked the populist cause
This meeting will explore what happened and the potential for things to change again. The main speaker will be Marina Prentoulis, associate professor in politics and media at the University of East Anglia, who was once known as the UK face of the Greek Syriza Party. She has a new book out, Left populism in Europe: lessons from Jeremy Corbyn to Podemos.
The meeting is being held by the Labour In Exile Network (LIEN) group of Labour Party members, many of whom claim to have been unfairly suspended or expelled by Keir Starmer for their support of Jeremy Corbyn. As one of the founder members of LIEN, and the suspended chair of South Thanet Labour Party, I believe the ending of the Covid crisis will see the left rise again.
The lockdown has stopped grassroots movements making their voices heard. The people who would be out on the streets protesting against the social injustices are the same people staying in to stop the virus spreading. But, as soon as it is safe, we will be out there, in numbers bigger than ever before, forcing a new approach to health, housing and jobs.
I believe this will mean radical change for the Labour Party too. Just when we need a radical approach to deal with the problems Covid has brought, Keir Starmer seems to be taking the party in the opposite direction. But ordinary members will not accept this - and one of the critical things we will be discussing at our meeting is how we take the party apart and build it anew to face the post-Covid challenge.
The meeting is on Tuesday June 22 at 7pm.
I am enjoying reading the Weekly Worker hard copy now that printing has been resumed. However, I did find the articles on Israel, Turkey, and the USA very depressing last week. Perhaps the authors of these articles can, in future, include references to the developing left in these countries, no matter how small?
But I did enjoy reading the articles by Derek James and Paul Demarty about education and the Labour Party, respectively. Both articles have one thing in common - perspectives for Britain post-Covid. As I have written before, Tony Blair, like Tito in Yugoslavia, must have been an ‘unconscious Trotskyist’ when he came up with the idea of getting 50% of school and college leavers into university.
Generally speaking, university graduates are on the left. This contrasts with the politically backward blue-collar workers, who have recently voted in rightwingers as the new general secretaries of Unison and the GMB union. Things can only get worse, if - as seems highly likely - Gerald ‘Gerry’ Coyne is voted in as the new general secretary of Unite. In reference to the Unison and GMB results, the Blairites are saying, ‘Two down, one to go’.
As Paul Demarty concludes, with the election of Gerry Coyne, the way will be open for the delabourisation of Labour. Rather than the Americanisation of British politics we will actually be witnessing its Italianisation. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union in 1989-91, the Italian Communist Party changed its name - first to the Democratic Left, and then to the Democrats. Labour could actually go through ‘Progressive Democrats’ to just ‘Democrats’.
On May 6 Labour’s candidate Nik Johnson was elected as the new metro mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. ‘Dr Nik’ has now recently nominated a Tory as his deputy. This state of affairs has come about because Johnson was only elected on the basis of Lib Dems and Greens giving their second preference votes to him. So upset are the Tories, both locally and nationally, at the result in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that home secretary Priti Patel is planning to replace second-preference voting with ‘first past the post’ for all mayoral elections.
So desperate are the activists in the Labour Party in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to not ‘rock the boat’ that there has not been a squeak in opposition to Dr Nik nominating a Tory as his deputy. All this fits in with the delabourisation of Labour and its change into a party similar to the Italian Democrats. The trade unions in Britain, just like in Italy, will become non-political under rightwing leadership.
In contrast to Hillel Ticktin in his recent talk to the Communist Forum, I believe that the world economy is now entering an era of deflation. This explains why Joe Biden can come out in support of Keynesian economic policies, because inflation is not a threat any more. However, in the short term we will witness a rapidly expanding post-Covid economy. In my analysis, this will bring a rapid rise in interest rates, leading to a deep slump in two to three years’ time.
This is why I expect Boris Johnson to hold a snap general election on the first Thursday in May 2022. If he waits any longer, the post-Covid economic bounce could be over. A general election next May will see a landslide for Boris of 1997 proportions, but this time in favour of the Tories. Labour will be reduced to fewer than 150 seats. Andy Burnham will then replace Sir Keir Starmer as Labour leader. Whatever the result next May, there are 22 ‘red wall’ seats that have yet to fall to the Tories. Next May we will see Yvette Cooper and Ed Miliband lose their seats there - a fitting end to their parliamentary careers.