Friday, March 17, 2006

France Protests: Against "Slave Labour By The Back Door" posted by lenin

The French protests are continuing: between 250,000 (police lies) and half a million people (organisers estimate) were out in force yesterday to oppose the law that allows workers aged between 18 and 25 to be sacked in the first two years of employment without a reason. The BBC has said of that law: France tackles youth unemployment. Yes - by making it easier for them to be unemployed. French business leaders are complaining that the laws don't include older workers as well. Union leaders are calling for more protests this weekend, but it seems to me that it would be more apposite to call for a general strike. Some demonstrators barricaded themselves in a town hall, while others have occupied universities: 25 of them on the last count. Over the weekend, the police invaded Sorbonne University and drove out protesters with the use of tear gas. Much of the media have focused on a limited pocket of 'violence', involving about 300 protesters: Paris labour law protest turns violent says The Guardian. Interestingly, the report also says that some far right activists were found to have been attacking the protests. How nice of them to perform such a service for capital and the government. They were not, however, half as proficient as the police.

There are a lot of comforting noises and lullabies being sounded about this: this is not May 1968, we are told, for the protesters are only concerned about their job security, not bringing down the government. Henri Weber, a Socialist Party politician, reassures the New York Times that it's all so very different now: "Sixty-eight was a mass revolutionary movement to create a socialist society", whereas this movement is concerned with a policy only. He said the same thing about the banlieue riots last November. Okay, it's true, this is not a revolutionary movement toward socialism. However, May 1968 started out as a series of student protests against the closure of Nanterre university rather than as an insurrection. It escalated as a result of the police invasion of Sorbonne, and the use of violence and tear gas by police against a number of students who set up barricades. There followed a series of mass strikes, some of them led by grassroots militants, which the union leadership tried to control by channelling them into wage demands and such.

There are some very encouraging developments: the students have decided to support the youths arrested over the banlieue riots; the students are asking that workers strike with them on March 23rd; some are trying to build barricades with the help of Jose Bove, who knows a thing or two about construction and deconstruction.

Marie Périn, an LCR student activist, writes:

Together we are recreating our university – people have organised themselves and everyone knows what they have to do.

The picket lines have been very important in explaining the occupation to students and building support for it. We now get around 800 students turning up to our general assemblies.

We’ve also made strong links with the teaching staff. They came to our general assembly to tell us they agreed with the strike and picket, and that we would learn more from the experience of organising an occupation than we would sitting in lectures!

This movement is really growing. There are 82 universities in France and 60 have joined the national coordination committee against the CPE youth employment laws.

Some 45 of them are involved in strike action and 25 are completely occupied. There’s a real determination among students to win.

We’re now building for the joint demonstration called by youth organisations and trade unions on Saturday. The student national committee has issued a call for strike action on Thursday of next week and we’ll be trying to win support for that.

We are also creating links with the wider movement against neo-liberalism in France.

One of the vice presidents of the university is a member of the local no collective that organised the campaign against the European Union constitution last year. We’re going to hold a joint meeting with the no collective in the university next week.

The other key strategy is to build support for the anti-CPE movement among lycée (high school) students.

We’re sending delegates to lycées to try and get them out onto the streets. This movement began in the lycées and in the suburbs. If it grows, we will win.

Victory at the moment simply means stopping this law. But such a victory will leave the government severely weakened. It will demonstrate the potency of mass politics. It is already polarising opinion sharply, and polls show most French people are on the side of the students and workers who are protesting. And out of victory can come the inspiration, the confidence and the resources to convert the germinal anti-systemic impulses that one has seen in the anticapitalist movement into a mass movement.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Massive US air attack on Samarra posted by bat020

News just in:

US launches major offensive against Sunni insurgents

More than 50 US warplanes were today involved in the biggest air offensive launched by the Americans in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the US military said.

A huge air and land offensive was launched this morning against insurgents in an area north-east of the volatile town of Samarra, which is 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The US military, which announced details of the operation late this afternoon, said some 1,500 Iraqi and US troops and 200 tactical vehicles were involved in Operation Swarmer, which it said would last several days.

The operation began with Iraqi and US forces conducting a combined air and ground assault before forces from the 2nd Commando Brigade seized buildings in the area.

More here.

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Zizek goes to Atheist Heaven. posted by lenin

Regarding this spat about Zizek between Le Colonel Chabert and Alain et al at Long Sunday.

Perhaps it's transference, but I used to think that Zizek had all the answers. Even when he was wrong, I assumed he knew it and was being contrarian, using the cunning of reason to provoke thought and all that rubbish. Even now when he's writing absolute pig shit like this, (apparently a re-mix of this and this), I feel the urge to say "well, he didn't mean that". But he did, and does. To clarify, practically everything in Zizek's latest is a regurgitation of increasingly common Eurocentric - well, actually, Christian supremacist - platitudes about Islam and secularism. It's interesting that in doing so, he actually explicates an argument that less 'provocative' commentators would disavow: that atheism is a legacy belonging to Europe, that it is a specifically Christian ethos, and that it is the only thing that can save us from violence that allegedly derives from religion (not ours, theirs). To put it bluntly: we Europeans, we atheists, we Christians in drag, are the only alternative to the hellish fundamentalist Mohammedans - and they should be grateful for us. This is contemptuously balanced by a glancing reference to Christian fundamentalism in the standard cursory fashion of Islamophobes. He's a downright liar too: he says "What makes modern Europe unique is that it is the first and only civilization in which atheism is a fully legitimate option, not an obstacle to any public post." Chabert points out that about 1 billion people have just slipped out of his purview, but even if we accept the reduction of the world to Islam vs the West, are we supposed to forget that Rhazes was denouncing religion as the cause of social injustice in Persia while such a claim would have meant death if made public in Europe at the same time? Or that Emperor Akbar was espousing the "path of reason" while Bruno was being burned at the stake? It's impossible that Zizek doesn't know this. So, why is it essential to claim atheism for Europe?

A couple of years back, Bat discussed what he referred to as Zizek's residual attachment to liberalism: the least that one can say is that it's looking a lot less residual these days. Of course, he has always taken a feeble liberal humanitarian line on Israel-Palestine, just as he did on Kosovo. But if anything, the residue is from Stalinism. For instance, take this piece on the EU Constitutional Treaty vote, where he asserts that the Third World "cannot generate a strong enough resistance to the ideology of the American dream", as if it isn't in fact doing so, and therefore the choice is between Europe as the new Second World and America as the First World, one of which the Third World will pursue like a starved puppy. He loves this line from Yeats: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity", suggesting that it is "a good description of today’s split between anemic liberals and impassionate fundamentalists": the 'fundamentalists' in this case are those who protested about the Muhammad Cartoons, while the 'best' are the anemic liberals. In his NYT op-ed, Zizek specifically espouses an unproblematised liberalism: "the only political force that does not reduce [Muslims] to second-class citizens and allows them the space to express their religious identity are the 'godless' atheist liberals". Deep-fried bullshit from start to finish: witness the hysteria of liberals over the Incitement to Religious Hatred bill and faith schools for Muslims (Christians and Jews can have these, but these rough savages?). Western liberals can't stop reducing Muslims to second class citizens, when they are not busy wishing for them to be reduced to pink mist.

And here's another inversion of reality: "The ultimate irony, of course, is that the ire of Muslim crowds turned against Europe which staunch anti-islamists like Oriana Falacci perceive as way too tolerant towards Islam, already capitulating to its pressure; and, in Europe, against Denmark, part of the Scandinavian model of tolerance. It is as if the more you tolerate Islam, the stronger its pressure will be on you". Really? It’s 'as if' that, is it? The ungrateful, selfish bastards; we give them an inch, they think they’re entitled to have their countries! The 'ire' of these crowds was turned against some pretty obvious racist caricatures produced in a country where Islamophobia is rife, the far right are riding high in the polls and Muslims are an embattled minority. In the longer article, Zizek briefly acknowledges the falsity of the free speech and tolerance argument in respect of the caricatures, pointing out Denmark's lack of tolerance, the ban on Nazi holocaust denial etc etc. In the NYT article, which addresses an altogether different kind of audience, it doesn't even appear. Fallaci, Zizek's "staunch anti-islamist" is actually a bilious racist these days, particularly against the "Sons of Allah". Zizek scampers on, whingeing about the liberal “propensity to self-blaming”, a mytheme directly lifted from the lexicon of the hard right and the racists, and now a favourite weapon of liberals against other liberals (mainly liberals who support imperialism against liberals who oppose it). And then, discussing the heightened sectarian violence in Iraq, the author of Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? says "totalitarianism": "Is not the lesson of all totalitarianisms that the fight against the external enemy sooner or later always turns into an inner split and the fight against the inner enemy". Well, no: a) because the 'totalitarianism' thesis is a preposterous intellectual fraud, and b) because the fight against an external enemy is already a fight against the inner enemy: the US could not govern Iraq even to the extent that it is able to were it not for collaborators from within, and this has always been the case. There is an analysis of the 9/11 attacks that is alarmingly similar to that of the Bush administration: they attacked New York and Washington out of "hatred simple and pure", which derives from a "logic of envy and resentment": they hate us, and they're just jealous, cuz we're rich n free n they're not.

Back to the 'cartoons':

The Muslim crowds did not react to caricatures as such; they reacted to the complex figure/image of the “West” that was perceived as the attitude behind the caricatures. Those who proposed the term “Occidentalism” as the counterpart to Edward Said’s “Orientalism” were up to a point right: what we get in Muslim countries is a certain ideological image of the West which distorts Western reality no less (although in a different way) than the Orientalist image of the Orient. What exploded in violence was a complex cobweb of symbols, images and attitudes (Western imperialism, godless materialism and hedonism, the suffering of Palestinians, etc.etc.) that became attached to Danish caricatures, which is why the hatred expanded from caricatures to Denmark as a country, to Scandinavian countries, to Europe, to the West – it was as if all these humiliations and frustrations got condensed in the caricatures. And, again, one should bear in mind that this condensation is a fact of language, of constructing and imposing a certain symbolic field.

The seductive Lacanian packaging positions the "ire" at the Muhammad cartoons (which Zizek still doesn't acknowledge as racist, only blasphemous, only disrespectful within the confines of religion) as a reaction to the West as perceived through a distorting phantasmatic screen, "a complex cobweb of symbols, images and attitudes": this would be more impressive if Zizek did not reveal his own "complex cobweb" in the process. It is interesting to see what the figure of the "Muslim crowd" which continually reappears in Zizek’s analysis stands for. Perhaps a clue is offered when he writes: "when we are dealing with the scene of a furious crowd, attacking and burning buildings and cars, lynching people, etc., we should never forget the placards they are carrying, the words sustaining and justifying their acts". Precisely - the "scene"! Because, let’s be honest here, most Muslims – while they had every right to be angry about the depictions – were not on the streets. This was a totemic issue not for Muslims, but precisely for the liberals and their racist counterparts who fulminated about free speech. Jyllands-Posten specifically designed its campaign to convoke some sort of reaction, and those who repeatedly republished them over four months with not a squeak of violence from anyone did the same. In so doing, they reaffirmed their self-image as liberals while asserting the essential incompatibility of their liberalism with Islam: it is exactly the politically correct racism that Zizek once noticed in the rhetorical strategies of Pim Fortuyn. Similarly, as Chabert points out, it is only a few short steps in Zizek's metonymy from "Muslim crowd" to "terrorist", with "fundamentalist" the intermediate link in the chain.

Is Zizek being the contrarian here? Playing it for laughs? Substituting lucidity for ludicity? I don't think so - it seems to emerge from his political commitment to liberalism, which is becoming more obvious, and his philosophical commitment to a reinvention of Pauline Christianity. I think the former is partially a reflection of his experience of opposing the Stalinist regime, later supporting Slovenia's secession from Yugoslavia, and his contribution to the formation of the Liberal Democratic Party which then became the long-term government of Slovenia. (By his own account the latter helped stop the recrudescence of extreme nationalism and racism, but he tends to vaccilate between defending secession these days and stating that he in fact opposed it, at least on 'theoretical' grounds.)

And look, since this has been talked about: it is not a particular problem for me that Zizek flatters his audiences, manipulates their desire in order to achieve acquiescence and what have you. The problem is to what end he puts his courtiers' skills: if it is in order to repoliticise cultural studies, to break with a certain kind of facile "postmodernism", to get people to read Lenin, to oppose US imperialism and so on, wonderful; if it is to indulge in narcissistic liberal preening (which is actually so narcissistic as to revel in its own capacity for limited self-critique), reflate Eurocentrism and slip ugly, lazy, racist nonsense past the bullshit-detectors of his readers, then it is nothing short of pernicious.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"American Islamic Congress": House Neocons posted by lenin

Everyone wants Iranians to be free - the proper Leninist question is what kind of freedom, for whom, and in whose interests? I got an e-mail from an Alyson McGee of the American Islamic Congress, informing me of an Iran Freedom Concert to take place at Harvard University. You read that correctly: preppy Tommy Hilfiger-wearing American students are going to rock for freedom in Iran. This event is being supported by the AIC, and so I suppose if I want to know what it's all about, I should check out what the organisation represents. It isn't hard to discover.

The founder is Zainab Al-Suwaij, an Iraqi Shi'ite dissident who moved to the United States and hooked up with some neoconservatives to support the war on Iraq. She has spoken to the Republican convention and exerted a great deal of energy in 2003 arguing on news shows for an invasion. The reason for setting up the AIC - after 9/11, she had an epiphany. Muslims had to reject extremism and American Muslims in particular had to embrace Americanism. On the statement of principles page, the site urges American Muslims to revel in "the spirit of American diversity" and "classic American principles of individual rights and social justice". America is a "haven for Islam", it gushes. It urges Muslims to censure "hate speech", but as America is an open-door for Muslims, the main enemy is Muslim "hate speech" toward Americans. One of its projects, the Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA) is running an essay contest encouraging American youths to dream up ways to help their fellow youths in the Middle East get "individual liberty". And look at these figures from the board of directors:

Dr. Khaleel Mohammed is an extreme apologist for Israel, and one of these "Muslim refuseniks" we keep hearing so much about. Essentially, he's a comfortable, upper-middle class American who has identified with US power and probably isn't interested in subjecting himself to the ascetic demands of religion.

Kanan Makiya, you probably already know about: ex-Trotskyist, neocon convert, the sound of bombs dropping on Iraqi cities was 'music' to his ears, and he expended a great deal of energy slandering dissident Arab intellectuals who also refused to support the Gulf War.

Dr Hillel Fradkin hails from the American Enterprise Institute and is a Benador Associates speaker (Benador Associates is a PR firm that promotes conservative speakers on the Middle East), and also an apologist for Israel. He is President of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, an organisation devoted to 'clarifying and reinforcing' the role of Judeo-Christian morality in public life, and "improving public appreciation" of the role of business in a 'moral society' - essentially, an outpost of the neoconservative and Christian Right.

Dr Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim is also a Benador Associates man. He has a record of opposition to Egypt's pro-American dictatorship, and appears to think the neoconservatives are serious about supporting democracy there.

Sayyed Nazeem Kadimi is a member of the Al-Khoei Foundation whose founder, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, loudly supported the war on Afghanistan and was hacked to death in Iraq after befriending local Baathists urging Iraqis to look on US and UK troops as liberators.

Essentially it's a coalition of the pitifully purblind with the obviously charlatan, one that provides an alibi for US aggression under the rubric of an American-as-apple-pie campaign for individual liberties. At best saps, at worst ruthless apologists for imperialism: you'd really have to be retaining water in the head to take these people seriously when they talk about freedom for Iran or anyone else.

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Mass Pensions Strike to Hit Britain. posted by lenin


Council workers have voted for what could be the UK's biggest industrial action since the General Strike of 1926, in protest at pension changes.
Up to 1.5 million staff will stage a walkout on 28 March following a ballot of unions representing cooks, refuse collectors, home helps and others.

The unions are angry at government plans to scrap a rule that allows some to retire on a full pension at 60.

Councils say that costs mean this must rise to 65 for all employees.

Like shit to a blanket, the words 'costs' and 'rising' attach themselves to any discussion of pensions. As I mentioned before, the entire 'pensions crisis' is a manufactured calamity, an attempt to induce sufficient panic as to get people to acquiesce in a systematic attempt to elongate their working lives - and thereby increase the absolute amount of time people give of their lives to capital. The government is leading the drive on behalf of and in collusion with the private sector, the former represented by the Local Government Association and the Department of Work and Pensions, the latter represented by that flush-faced sack of beef tallow and head of the CBI, Sir Digby Jones. The head of the government's pension commission is former head of the CBI, Adair Turner. Unsurprisingly, Mr Turner and Mr Jones have very similar things to say about what should happen to our pensions. In the case that has prompted this strike action, two red herrings are surfacing in the New Labour toilet, and left to float sideways: the first is that the law which enables workers to retire at 60 with full pension will become illegal under new age discrimination act, to which the only fair response is that an age discrimination act that facilitates the exploitation of the elderly is not an age discrimination act worthy of the name; the second is costs, which we have dealt with before.

Our pensions are under attack. We are constantly being told to save money we don't have, (while spending it at the same time so as to keep the High Street booming), and what is worse is that we are being told to invest it in company pension schemes under the HM Government-facilitated illusion that such pensions are guaranteed, when they are not. £5bn has disappeared as these company pension schemes have collapsed, because companies are not obliged to fully fund them, and frequently dip into them to shore up profits. So, workers who did decide to forego some of their income for a more comfortable retirement now find themselves obliged to rely on the same state pension that we are repeatedly told we cannot rely on because it's going to diminish in size. Aside from being asked to work longer (in many parts of the country, longer than the average life expectancy), spend more, and invest in company schemes, the new scheme from Mr Turner will require those who do not have occupational schemes to pay 5% of their income into a National Pension Savings Scheme: it is effectively a regressive tax which targets the poor, who are least likely to be able to afford such a scheme.

The present situation is already dire enough. Our pensions are meagre: while many European countries provide pensions amounting to at least 70% of working income, in Britain the state pension provides on average just 37% of the income gained through employment. Pension poverty is one of the largest components of poverty in the UK: 2 million pensioners live in poverty (and this, predictably, disproportionately affects women, whose pay is still well below that of men). Many expect to have to live off the value of their property, which again reinforces existing pay disparities, because many of the poorest workers can't even get on the fabled 'property ladder', and those who earned the most will have the most value in their properties.

And now the capper: by forcing workers to labour on until they are 65 years old instead of 60, one effectively transfers huge amounts of cash from workers back to their employees (in this case, the state). This particular move will transfer £100bn from pensions, which are really deferred wages, to the government (which will use it to buy nukes, wage war or give tax cuts to their rich friends in the name of enhanced business initiatives). It is a massive rip off, and the intention is that it will be replicated across industry - and it is sold to us as a form of crisis management, as if the wages do not in fact belong to us. This strike action is long overdue.

*cf Beethoven, Symphony No 9, Fourth Movement.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Coming Attack on Iran. posted by lenin

What does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply? - Roland Barthes.

Well, Iran is getting fuck all for its help in the occupation of Afghanistan. The indications from the US toward Iran are increasingly bellicose: air strikes either by the US or Israel which is penetrating Iran already, the manipulation of centrifugal forces in Iran, the possibility of sanctions. Why? As ever, for democracy 'n' freedom 'n' cos they've got nukes 'n' they're terrorists 'n' evildoers, 'n' they're Defying The Will Of The International Community. These charges are familiar to point of banality: Iran is accused of pursuing a weapons of mass destruction programme and of sponsoring terrorism. The latter charge has a dual propaganda value, involving as it does both a cassus belli and an explicit redemption of Bush's invasion of Iraq (it'd all be fine if it weren't for Iranian evil-doers). No proof has been offered for this, and the claim is utterly without sense since Iran is already doing nicely out of the present set-up, and will be delighted if a SCIRI-led coalition could dominate a united and pacific Iraq. But there is evidence to suggest that bombs devised by the British are being used by resistance fighters. This is not new, but the intensity and rapdity with which the accusations are being repeated, is.

China and Russia are presently blocking a US-sponsored resolution instructing Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities, and one assumes that this has to do with the fact that Russia has been supplying the materials for Iran's first nuclear energy facility, while both Russia and China are major customers for Iran's oil, which Iran has threatened to withhold if there are sanctions. Russia has signed a large number of bilateral agreements with Iran, and the two countries have been cooperating militarily and economically. China and Iran developed strong relations during the 1990s, with the former supplying missile technology to the latter, often against US pressure. Their opposition will not necessarily hold. France, on the other hand, is supporting the US's statement, which is possibly a problematic stand for them to take since they have well-known economic interests in Iran, not least with Renault and Peugeot. Meanwhile, the Gulf states, who have no veto, have totally capitulated to the US agenda.

But what is the Bush administration up to? As Juan Cole points out, it is impossible to take the official justifications for the present belligerence seriously. Aside from the fact that the country's ruling Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwah against the production of nuclear weapons, we are nowhere near a stage where it could plausibly be a concern. Nuclear weapons can be produced using highly enriched uranium, or plutonium: Iran has produced reconstituted uranium, but according to the IISS, it is contaminated and unusable. To produce sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to make a bomb, Iran needs gas centrifuges, of which it has only 20% of the number required. (Report here). The IISS reckons it would take Iran at least ten years to get itself sorted out with a nuclear weapon. In familiar enough fashion, we can also refer to previous accusations coming from Iranian exile groups (then designated terrorists by the US government, since removed from the list), including - you'll enjoy this - sattelite imagery. Those accusations were immediately shot down by the IAEA. The best the IAEA can do after a year of brow-beating from the United States is say that they can't rule out the possibility that Iran might have some illicit programmes and that although the NPT has not been breached, a secondary (and entirely voluntary) agreement had been, which is something of a famished, chlorophyll-starved, caterpillar-eaten fig leaf. We also had the Iran-Al Qaeda connection for a while, but of course that was crap too. Cole asks:

If the Supreme Jurisprudent of theocratic Iran has given a fatwa against nukes, if the president of the country has renounced them and called for others to do so, if the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of a military nuclear weapons program, and if Iran is at least 10 years from having a bomb even if it is trying to get one, then why is there a diplomatic crisis around this issue between the United States and Iran in 2006?

There are a number of reasons, and oil must be prominent among them. In particular, as I mentioned, the US doesn't like Iran's ties with the PRC, (and deeply disapproves of the gas pipeline it is building with India and Pakistan). China has chronic fuel shortages, and could grow much faster and become a much more threatening counter-power to the US if it could get all the oil it needed. The oil China gets from Iran and Venezuela is essential to its build-up, and so for that reason, as well as for its own increasing reliance on Middle East oil, the issue of control over Iran's oil is crucial. Then there's the matter of Iran's hand having been strengthened by the occupation of Iraq, and the ascension of forces friendly to the Islamic Republic. This hasn't gone down well with Israel, which bears Iran a particular grudge for helping Hezbollah drive the Israelis out of Southern Lebanon. Similarly, having neutralised one local rival, they have demonstrated considerable impatience to get started on another. Essentially, the interests of the US and those of its closest ally dovetail: both deeply regret the overthrow of the pro-Western Shah, which repressed the population, had friendly relations with Israel, and allowed the US to call the shots; they would like to restore the monarchy if at all possible, and the only question is how to do it. The possibility of a cold war with Iran is being floated: in practise this means a slightly less speedy march to war. What we are most likely to see are airstrikes. I've even heard Richard Perle raising the spectre of Osirak.

The contemptuous obviousness of the lies is grating. If someone is going to lie to me, I expect creativity and circumlocution. I want wild, meandering tales about trips to the moon, shark-eating antelopes and visits from mermaids. Instead, we get the stale old fairy tale about Muslim evildoers, nuclear-armed madmen, swivel-eyed fanatics sponsoring terrorism. The hypocrisy of a state in possession of over ten thousand nuclear warheads allying with other states in possession of nuclear weapons (France, UK, Israel) to denounce a country with no nuclear weapons for allegedly desiring to do so - is that supposed to be lost on us by now? Are we not supposed to notice when Bush goes to India to cut a deal on nuclear materials in the same week that he is moaning about Iran's pursuit of the same? Are we supposed to forget that Iran is calling for a nuclear-free Middle East, while Israel won't even acknowledge its nuclear weapons facility in Dimona? No, I don't think so: I really don't think they expect most of the world to buy this shit. It's a warning to other countries, delivered with a hateful smirk, like the grin on a death's head. The warning simply says: "You're Next."

Demonstrate this Saturday.

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Galloway Blog posted by lenin

George Galloway's blog is up and running, and the first post is here.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

"A Sea of Demonstrators" posted by lenin

This is fantastic:

Crowds marched through the city on Friday to rally against HR 4437 – The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

Supporters of the bill before Congress say it beefs up border protection. But thousands of people in Chicago's Latino community call the pending bill a blatant violation of rights.

As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the protesters -- of Polish, Irish, Latino, Chinese and many other nationalities -- gathered at Union Park, at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street, and marched to the Loop. From the air, it appeared to be an endless sea of demonstrators, flooding the streets to protest the recently-passed house bill, which would make it a crime to hire or even help undocumented immigrants.

At the end of the day, organizers say it was more than half a million protesters. Police estimated the crowd at 300,000.

“I'm definitely surprised to see this many people,” said protester Cesar Garza. “I expected a small amount of crowd, but this is… wow! I'm really surprised.”

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Update on Galloway Smear. posted by lenin

Just under two weeks ago, I pointed out that some quotations attributed to Galloway by El-Khabar, the Algerian newspaper, were false. This appears to have been due to poor translation rather than any malice on the part of the interviewer. To their credit, few British media outlets actually repeated these quotations. One did, following the replication of the claims across some right-wing blogs, on the basis of a BBC Monitoring translation. The 'People' column in The Times reproduced them the very day I pointed out that they were garbage.

And would you believe it, a number of people had the temerity to doubt me. The Muslim-baiting ex-pat yank over at the Daily Ablution was having none of it. He complained that my piece was an "ad hominem attack devoid of any evidence". Ooooh, look at her! Meanwhile the blimpish Tory blogger Squander Two, who at least shows signs of having once been in possession of a sense of humour and of remembering what it was like, exerted himself in all sorts of hilarious ways to 'prove' how the quotes were credible.

What these cabbages weren't to know was that while they were howling at my smiling moon, the Times' lawyer was listening to the tapes of the interview, and comparing them with the material published by The Times. And I think she might also have heard it asked "For what other public figure would you publish potentially damaging comments without checking with the individual concerned to make sure they are accurate?" Further: "You are familiar with Mr Galloway's record with libel suits?" Stuff like that. Here is the delicious follow-up:

The People column recently (February 28) repeated comments attributed to George Galloway by the Algerian El-Khabar newspaper that the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was “worse than the September 11 attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London”. Mr Galloway actually said to El-Khabar that Muslims are now more marginalised than ever before, “worse than the aftermath of 9/11, worse than the aftermath of 7/7”. We are happy to correct the record and apologise to Mr Galloway.

The Times has only corrected the most egregious misrepresentation, which is the only one it reproduced, but I think it ought to be obvious enough that the translation was a very poor one and mixed up a lot of what Galloway said. Anyone with a single ganglion of brain tissue uncolonised by layers of media defamation would have raised an eyebrow at the above, or the thought of Galloway telling anyone that the Iraqi resistance 'relied' on him, or that Denmark was the only country in the world with racism in it. Anyway, when I tell you Galloway-stalkers something, don't take chances with your reputation: accept reality, live with it and move on. I expect retractions from you all.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Untermenschen posted by bat020

Sometimes even the Telegraph has its moments. The paper carries an excellent front page story today about Ben Griffin, the former SAS soldier who quit in disgust last June after witnessing the Iraq occupation at first hand. There's also an interview with him inside:

"As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees."

Ben Griffin gave an extraordinary speech at the International Peace Conference held in London last December. Dunno why it took the mainstream media three months to pick up on the story, but better late than never I suppose.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Backgammon at Guantanamo posted by bat020

The comments to lenin's post below note that the Telegraph's attempt to smear Moazzam Begg was written by none other than Con Coughlin, a "journalist" who does little else but loyally regurgitate every titbit of "intelligence" horseshit passed his way by his spook masters.

This reminded me of a ludicrous propaganda piece Coughlin wrote last month about how wonderful life was in Guantanamo Bay. It bears the peculiar distinction of containing a fiction that is not simply implausible, but actively unimaginable:

The inmates are issued with tan-coloured prison clothing, are provided with a range of toiletries, games such as backgammon and chess - which they play by shouting moves to inmates in neighbouring cells - and a copy of the Koran.

Yup, you read that right: playing backgammon by shouting moves to a neighbouring cell. Could someone please explain to me how this is even possible?

3:23:00 PM | Permalink | | | Print

France: Capital, Class and Fascism. posted by lenin

Following recent protests by young French workers and students, further protests erupted yesterday over the attempt by the government to downgrade working conditions for those aged 18 to 25. Students occupied the Sorbonne university, the first time the university has been occupied since 1968. The neoliberal 'reforms' are deeply unpopular, with 55% of French voters demanding their repeal and labour and socialist movements unanimously ranged against them. Villepin, never the most popular of French leaders, has seen his popularity slump 11 percentage points because of it. Nicholas Sarkozy, the hard-right 'populist' who issued racist slurs against Muslim youth last November, has been trying to distance himself from the reforms. It won't wash, however, as he is the most fervent advocate of 'free market' economics in the French government and has loudly supported this policy in the recent past, but he is just opportunistic enough to perform a complete volte-face on the issue, perhaps hoping to win over large segments of the lower middle class and rural vote that Le Pen was able to win over some years back. It is also part of his ongoing power struggle with Villepin, whom he accuses of leaking charges of corruption against him.

Villepin is in a curious double-bind over this. As an advocate for French capital, he is implementing this neoliberal assault just as he comes under attack in the EU for increasing protectionism, which he calls "economic patriotism". This probably represents the main concern of French capital: international competition and what capitalists undoubtedly see as unreasonable protection for labour. Timothy Garton Ash reflected the concerns of Europe's ruling class last year: "while Europe is trying to achieve the 35-hour week, India is inventing the 35-hour day. Whatever our 'knowledge-based' advantage, no economy can compete successfully on such terms. Things must change, if they are to remain the same." The British government has been loudly making this case too. I might add that this illustrates perfectly how the exploitation of 'developing states' works to the detriment of workers in the West. Despite the fact that French workers have been rejecting the neoliberal assault for a couple of years, most notably dealing a brilliant blow to the EU Constitutional Treaty last May, the Socialist Party has not been able to increase its support: they will win if the incumbent Villepin is the UMP candidate, but lose harshly if Sarkozy is the candidate. Noticably, the Trotskyist left, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire and Lutte Ouvriere, takes a combined 10% of the vote but because their votes are split they will come behind the poujadist candidate Phillipe de Villiers. Unfortunately, the LO is a deeply sectarian organisation and no coalition will obtain there. However, there certainly is a basis for a new radical left coalition comprising the LCR, PCF and Socialist Party members who dissented over the Constitutional Treaty.

Shortly after the loss of the Treaty vote by the SP leadership, most of which supported it, a number of leading party figures started to denounce those who had campaigned against it and called for a split with the Left in the party. Most notable among these was Michel Rochard, the former Socialist Prime Minister and Bernard Kouchner, the former imperial governor of Kosovo. The leadership was purged of Treaty dissenters, and even attacked the right-wing leadership of Attac. These splits are the result of a left realignment in France, rather than the cause of it. Where Jospin's 'plural left' united the radical movement that emerged in Autumn 1995 with the right-wing of the Socialist Party, that coalition broke down in considerable disappointment after Jospin's government watered down its proposed reforms and privatised more industry than previous Tory governments. Jospin was disastrously beaten by Le Pen in the 2002 Presidential elections, but since the formation of a right-wing government under Chirac there have been repeated fight-backs by French workers and students. As Jim Wolfreys notes, however, the Tory government has succeeded in passing most of its agenda, using the colourless Raffarin to impose its policies before making him a scapegoat when the Constitutional Treaty was lost. So what is happening?

Well (from Wolfreys again):

‘In recent years,’ remarked the sociologist Emmanuel Todd in November 2005, ‘French political life has been nothing but a series of catastrophes. And each time the ruling class’s lack of legitimacy becomes more flagrant’

Social democracy has proven itself useless to the working class in this respect. The ruling class's hegemony is weak, Yet:

[T]he link between social democracy and its popular electorate is deteriorating but has not broken. On the one hand, for the first time in a century working people have been deprived of effective political representation. But on the other, the
organisational and institutional infrastructure of social democracy remains, ‘even if its centre has largely fissured and its contours have altered’, and social democratic parties no longer act as ‘producers of meaning’ in defence of the interests of those on modest incomes. Political traditions take a long time to establish and a long time to break down.


So while social democracy is no longer able to mobilise around a programme of social transformation, it is able to maintain a level of electoral support by default.

But the history and structure of the French labour movement and left provides opportunities:

[S]ocial democracy has never been as coherent a political force in France as in Britain, historically divided between the Socialist and Communist parties. The same applies to the crisis of France’s main trade union confederations. The fact that a fragmented trade union movement organises no more than one in ten workers means that its leadership is influential, but not as monolithic or as heavily bureaucratised as elsewhere. Frustration at the unions’ leadership of the strikes against pension reform in 2003, dissipating the movement by separate rather than consecutive days of action on nine different occasions, led workers at a mass meeting in Marseille in June 2003 to jeer and whistle at CGT leader Bernard Thibault, greeting him with cries of ‘General strike!’


[T]he electoral performance of the Trotskyist left
shows that it is possible to build an electoral base on a platform which counters the pessimism of social democracy by stressing working class potential for self-activity. The movement and its political expression appeared to be unfolding according to parallel or consecutive rhythms until the May 2005 referendum. The linking up of the LCR and the associative network of the radical left with the PCF and parts of the Socialist left during the referendum campaign made a longer term anti-neoliberal alliance a tangible possibility.

But a tendency to remain aloof from the movement is still a problem for some elements of the far left. LO reacted to the riots of November 2005 by counterposing the youth of the suburbs to the working class, as if the two were somehow separate entities. Worse, the organisation also echoed the racist stereotyping of the riots as the work of ‘yobs’ and petty criminals, attacking those involved for having no social conscience, and deploring, with no trace of irony, their lack of solidarity. LO’s refusal to initiate or engage consistently in political campaigns (anti-racism,anti-fascism, the social forum process, the EU constitution referendum) means that its interventions are generally made in reaction to events, be they those laid down in the electoral calendar, or when strikes and protests flare up.

There is obviously no guarantee that the crisis in French society will continue to redound to the benefit of the Left. For one thing, the present lack of organisation can certainly lead to demoralisation and can encourage a substantial layer of the working class to succumb to the racist serenading of the far right. For another, the lacklustre response of much of the French left to the banlieue riots last year risks leaving those communities a) outside the orbit of the movement, and b) vulnerable to racist attacks. The strategy of Le Pen's National Front has for some decades been to prove that they can successfully manage the state and suppress challenges to capital. It is no surprise that several members of the French ruling class called for Tory a coalition with Le Pen. The intensification of the present crisis could see a substantial layer of the UMP peel off to form such a coalition, perhaps also involving Mr de Villiers, whose main function at the moment is to split the petit-bourgeois right. In short, if the left that emerged from 1995, the anticapitalist movement, the sans papieres, the anti-Treaty campaign and the worker and student resistance to Chirac's neoliberal assault doesn't form a coalition and force a realignment of the Left, as the German left recently did with much success, then fascism is a distinct possibility. It's either socialism, or barbarism.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

[The Left/Liberals/the Metropolitan elite/bruschetta munchers/the chattering class]* are in bed with [jihadism/radical Islam/the enemy/Islamofascism]* posted by lenin

*Deleted as appropriate.

Look, I fully appreciate that Nick Cohen must have something to do, somewhere to situate himself, something to eat (and drink), and a place to sleep. It isn't that I begrudge him these things. But if he must persist in his present degeneration, why pay him to write at all? Why can't he have a spot on the Moral Maze, where he may bark and howl freely, and be paid for the same? If he has to be allowed to write, at least take away his cut and paste privileges and stick him on an agony aunt column. It is nothing more noble than brute sadism to put him through the arduous routine of machinations in the office and cacchinations at the bar.

Take this, for instance:

When Radio 4 invited the exeditor of the Erotic Review to analyse The Road to Guantanamo, a vague notion that had been bubbling in my mind for months became a certainty. Liberal London has gone mad. It has cut its last mooring with rational debate and is floating away on a sea of self-delusion.

"I felt radicalised by it," cried Rowan Pelling, as she announced that Channel 4's film about the three British Muslims from Tipton the Americans arrested in Afghanistan had turned her into a militant. "I really did."

For those of us who see the former purveyor of genteel pornography around Soho, it was a terrifying declaration. Will the bombshell turn into a human bomb and take out the decadent sex shops which once sold her magazine with an exploding Donna Karan bag?

Ah, a little suicide bomb humour. But mark this: "radicalised" for Nick Cohen is now a synonym for "strapped with a suicide belt and ready to detonate", just because some Muslims happen to be involved.


Anyone who reads the papers knows that although the "Tipton Three" are innocent, the Americans had reasonable grounds for picking them up. They listened to Islamist imams in Britain, studied in a jihadi school in Pakistan and went into Afghanistan when the war began.

Now, I want to say something else about this later, but one thing that does bear remarking on is that the evidence that they listened to "Islamist imams" is contradictory accounts from some who knew them, while the stuff about the "jihadi school" in Pakistan is pure fiction: they attended a mosque in Karachi at one point, but there is no claim that they "studied" there, much less for jihad. Some elements of journalistic accuracy are swept aside for the sake of Cohen’s ‘point’ (which is?).

Anyway, insensible on this issue, he moves on has a go at the Archbishop of Canterbury over Sudan (regurgitating his Observer piece) and attacks Clare Short for having hosted a meeting with Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Houses of Parliament:

[T]he allegedly Left-wing feminist Clare Short hosted a Commons meeting to defend Hizb ut Tahrir, a far-Right party that wants to establish an Islamic empire, persecute homosexuals and force women into second-class citizenship. She couldn't see that she was making a nonsense of her professed principles.

This is a curious statement: it isn't a mystery that the reason this meeting took place was because there is a threat to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir under new 'terrorism' laws and despite the fact that it is not a violent or terrorist organisation. Short was not defending the politics of the group, but it's right to exist as a legal organisation. Cohen defends free speech for Nazis and racists, but Muslims must have special conditions attached. What was that about making a "nonsense" of one's "professed principles"? It's fair to say that there isn't a coherent argument in Cohen's article, just a sequence of reactionary gripes spuriously unified as auto-left critique.

Cohen: he looks older and fatter these days.

Aaronovitch was harping on the same themes earlier this week, adumbrating much the same case and strongly implying that they were in fact guilty of having fought for the Taliban on the basis of the same extrapolation from a minute pool of heavily selective 'evidence'. Look, if torturers in Guantanamo Bay couldn't find any evidence, and the British police force couldn't find a reason to charge them after arresting them when they got back from Torture Island, perhaps sedentary fatso journalists should shut their fucking faces before letting their spleens spurt? Since when did you all become Miss Marple (or, more accurately, Inspector Clousseau)? Meanwhile, the Telegraph has reacted to the publication of Moazzam Begg's book about his experiences in Guantanamo by floating US claims that a Begg 'confession' that he had trained with Al Qaeda was not obtained through torture as he claims.

There can be no doubt about the function of all of this: it is to minimise and distract from American crimes in Guantanamo, now coming to the fore. What else does it mean when those who specifically upbraided the Hussein regime for torture, yet can’t discuss torture by Americans without seeking some way to impugn the victims? What an outcry there would be if someone spent a lot of time trying to explain that some of Saddam's torture victims had fought against him (as indeed some obviously did). How many spit-flecked column inches would it have generated if some antiwar commentator had complained about the lack of "ambivalence" in the presentation of Iraq's torture methods? To put it very mildly, charges of left-wing complicity with this and that are uniquely unimpressive coming from this lumpen layer of hacks.

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Development, failed states, imperialism & ideology. posted by lenin

Just a few quotes first:

Foreign policy in practise:

British historian Mark Curtis has noted that the primary function of the British state, "virtually its raison d'etre for several centuries - is to aid British companies in getting their hands on other countries' resources."

As for the British security services:

"As Lord Mackay, then Lord Chancellor, revealed in the mid-1990s, the role of MI6 is to protect Britain's 'economic well-being' by keeping 'a particular eye on Britain's access to key commodities, like oil or metals [and] the profits of Britain's myriad of international business interests'." (Curtis, 'Web of Deceit', Vintage, 2003, pp.210-211)

Why Iran?:

A clue to what the logic is that governs the program can be glimpsed in the Heritage Foundation’s 2006 Index of Economic Freedom. The think tank’s index is a kind of measure of how pleased you’d be with a country if you had a whole pile of cash to invest, or goods and services to sell, and were looking around for a good place to expand your stock of capital. Hong Kong, for example, which tops the list, has everything a capitalist could want. No tariffs and no barriers to trade, no pesky minimum wage laws, free entry of capital, unrestricted repatriation of earnings, and a low corporate and personal income tax rate. Other countries high on the list include Singapore (no tariffs, low corporate income tax), Ireland (hungry for foreign investment and willing to do whatever it takes to get it), Luxemburg (virtually free entry of goods) and the UK (good foreign investment climate, minimal tariffs).

The countries at the bottom, on the other hand, are a veritable Who’s Who of international pariahs, as defined by US State Department: Cuba (rank: 150, restricts and imposes performance criteria on foreign investment); Belarus (rank: 151, “concerted resistance to the private sector, and resistance to privatization” serving “to hinder foreign investment; follows “active policies of import suppression and export promotion”); Venezuela (rank: 152, “government controls key sectors of the economy” limiting US investment opportunities); Zimbabwe (rank: 154, “generally unwelcoming to foreign investment,” preferring “majority Zimbabwean participation” in new ventures and eventual local ownership); Iran (rank: 156, see below) and north Korea (rank: 157, ”firmly rooted in communism” with a “central command economy” which “controls all imports and exports” and prohibits most foreign investment). We’re supposed to believe these countries -- the perennial bugbears of US-UK foreign policy – are countries of concern, not because they set local development and economic sovereignty ahead of what Western investors and trans-nationals believe is their inalienable right to accumulate capital wherever they like, but because they’re supposed to be anti-democratic and contemptuous of human rights.

Another branded revolution:

Contrary to claims that Lukashenko's repression has produced an "information black hole", the choice of news is wider than in 1996. The EU-funded EuroNews channel is available on cable, which millions of people have, and access to uncensored websites is easy in internet clubs and cafes or at home.

Despite this, there is a huge campaign by foreign governments to intervene in the Belarussian poll, even more controversially than in Ukraine in 2004. While Russia is hardly engaged in this election, Europe and the US are pumping in money. According to the New York Times, cash is being smuggled from the US National Endowment for Democracy, Britain's Westminster Foundation and the German foreign ministry directly to Khopits, a network of young anti-Lukashenko activists.

Poland has reopened a state-owned radio station on its eastern border to beam programmes across Belarus, while the German government's Deutsche Welle started broadcasts to Belarus this year. Alexander Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate, has been touring European capitals and getting endorsements that amount to blatant interference in a foreign electoral contest.

Some of this foreign money will be used to fund street protests promised by opposition activists if Lukashenko is declared the winner. They have already dubbed it the "denim revolution", giving supporters little bits of the cloth as symbols to copy the successful demonstrations in Ukraine and Georgia.

But why is the US, with the EU in its wake, so concerned about Belarus? Is it because Belarus stands out as the only ex-Soviet country that maintains majority state ownership of the economy and gets good results? Is ideological deviance forbidden? (The IMF, while admitting Lukashenko's economic success, calls it "ultimately unsustainable", being based on cheap Russian energy imports and wage increases that outstrip productivity growth.) Is the problem Lukashenko's independence, his friendliness to Russia and resistance to Nato, his abrasive, don't-push-me-around style? As one Minsk resident put it to me, he's a "Slavic Castro".

It is a simple enough task to discern "double standards" in Western foreign policy rhetoric and to locate the hidden standard that underlies it. If you want to understand why the US has been so friendly to the Uzbek dictatorship, even going so far as to suppress an attempted inquiry into the infamous and bloody massacre in Andijan, you only have to look at the facts: a) the US was allowed until recently to station troops there, part of its strategy of placing "lily-pads" across South Asia; b) the US, particularly some of Bush's friends, had important oil interests in the country; c) the country was privatising, in however corrupt a fashion, which allowed British American Tobacco among others to get a massive foothold in the economy, d) it was also a member of Guam, an anti-Russian, pro-Nato alliance formed by former Soviet states in the 1997, and therefore seemed to be pursuing a course congruent with the interests of the US in the region; as an ally in the "war on terror", it supplied evidence gained through torture which, although extremely unreliable, certainly gave the impression of active support and helped to justify internal repression. That has now changed: Uzbekistan has quit Guam after some years of warning; US troops were asked to leave; recently Western NGOs have been booted out; the economy, despite having yielded to Western interests in crucial areas, remains largely state-led and therefore impenetrable to exploitation by overseas capital; and the use of evidence acquired through torture has blown back in the Americans' faces. Hence, reports like this. One would have to be an ostrich to think that the US was seriously concerned about human rights in Uzbekistan, Belarus or anywhere else. The ruling class doesn't stay where it is through virtue.

However, what is interesting is the ideology of developmentalism which coincides almost precisely with the Washington Consensus, and therefore provides a crucial role in naturalising claims derived from geopolitical interests. For instance, what is it with the developed/developing state dichotomy? Typically, a ‘developed’ state is one which is equipped with a liberal democratic mode of governance and a free market economy (the first inessential, the latter a chimera), with the emphasis latterly on neoliberalism. A ‘developing’ state is one which reaches toward that end, that state of ‘development’. It will, if it does, have reached the ‘end of history’, a realm of perpetual peace and growth. The West, having pioneered this model, finds it to be universally applicable, to have enjoyed unadulterated success. In this ideology, states that fail to ‘integrate’ into the global system, will fail. They will become ‘failed states’, possibly ‘rogue states’, in need of humanitarian intervention and what have you. Alternative models of 'development' simply don't exist. Is it so surprising that the neoliberal 'deal' produced at the Gleneagles G8 summit was lauded as a bonus for the Third World by many who ought to have known better? How much distance is there between the views of the leadership in NGOs oriented toward 'development' and the priorities of Western capitalist states? When Claire Short used to brag about sponsoring this or that development project, it would simply have seemed unworldly to ask what the British business interest was in the project (there usually was and is one). Because 'development' means 'more capitalism'. The multinationals who are running sweat-shops in Vietnam are 'developing' the country, and the government is pursuing a course of 'development' for allowing them to do so.

At the root of this is wilful amnesia. Where would the original accumulation of capital that helped 'develop' the West have come from if not for colonies, piracy and the slave trade? How could the West have 'developed' if not for the stimulation of demand in overseas colonies, or the superexploitation of labour in plantations for the production of sugar and cotton for developing domestic markets? Development for the West entailed and still entails underdevelopment and exploitation for the rest. For example, Britain's possession of India was what characterised it for Churchill as a first rate rather than a third rate world power: and it did indeed provide a massive source of cheap labour, not to mention the most important trading market in the whole empire. The East India Company pioneered the strategy of modern multinationals: have things manufactured very cheaply overseas, sell them much more expensively to domestic markets. The whole point about the term 'development' is that it is a relational term: one is 'developed' as compared to someone else who is not developed, or who is underdeveloped. To put it another way, the 'developing' states and the 'developed' states share a history, an interdependent one characterised by plunder.

It is still the case, of course. As Chomsky noted at the height of the Clinton euphoria: "Seven out of ten diamonds sold in the West are cut in India, with super-cheap labor, now being driven down to still greater depths of misery thanks to structural adjustment. But there is a bright side: 'We pass some of the benefits to our overseas customers,' an Indian diamond exporter observes. Workers and their families may starve to death in the New World Order of economic rationality, but diamond necklaces are cheaper in elegant New York shops, thanks to the miracle of the market." To keep that state of affairs going, you have to 'integrate' those you intend to exploit into the system throughly and completely. To do that, you need to create and support client regimes, threaten and deter those regimes that do not pursue your interests, divide your opponents, and keep those you intend to exploit dependent on you. That's the reason for 'economic integration' and Structural Adjustment Programmes that supposedly recreate 'Western' models of growth (ideological artifices that no Western state actually pursues). This is why 'economic freedom' is seen as the talisman that generates other forms of freedom (even though we know from South Korea, China, Chile, and now Iraq and Haiti, that neoliberalism is in fact highly compatible with, indeed has an affinity with, authoritarianism).

Hence, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski (in The Grand Chessboard): "In brief, for the United States, Eurasian geostrategy involves the purposeful management of geostrategically dynamic states and the careful handling of geopolitically catalytic states, in keeping with the twin interests of America in the short-term: preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation. To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."

Or, as David Harvey puts it in his Neoliberalism: A Brief History, citing Karl Polanyi: "The idea of freedom '…degenerates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise' which means 'the fullness of freedom for those whose income leisure and security need no enhancing, and a mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of property' But if, as is always the case, 'no society is possible in which power and compulsion are absent, nor a world in which force has no function', then the only way this liberal utopian vision could be sustained is by force, violence and authoritarianism. Liberal or neo-liberal utopianism is doomed, in Polyani’s view to be frustrated by authoritarianism, or even outright fascism".

Yes, they aren't all that fussed about liberal democracy. For instance, Middle Eastern states developing polities that are not supine is the last thing the US can countenance. And even the totemic 'free enterprise' can take a hike if it doesn't suit. One of the virtues of the film Syriana was to have acknowledged this. The oil is running out, the Middle East has some of the last reserves, and what the US wants is to ensure that they have optimal access to it. They're not doctrinal about it either: when the neoconservative fundamentalists tried to privatise Iraq's oil economy, big oil knew better: 'we' can exploit it more efficiently if the Iraqi state continues to own it, and gives 'us' preferential costs, because 'we' can then pass on any externalities to the Iraqi taxpayer while repatriating the profits. We can roughly pin down the definitions as follows, then: a 'developed' state is one which has partaken of the loot of 'undeveloped' states; a 'developing' state is one which allows the 'developed' states to do this; 'economic freedom' is whatever structure best avails this process; a 'failed' state is one which 'fails' to hand over the loot, preferring either to spread the wealth a bit more equitably among the domestic populace (as in Venezuela and possibly Bolivia) or among a domestic elite (as in Zimbabwe, Belarus etc); a 'rogue' state is a 'failed' state whom one of the 'developed' states intends to attack.

12:38:00 PM | Permalink | | | Print

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