socialism

Tommy Robinson Exploiting the Misery of the White Working Class

Last Monday, 13th May 2019, the great man at the Zelo Street blog put up an article explaining how Tommy Robinson was avoiding the more prosperous areas of northwest England to concentrate instead on the poorest, and those areas with the highest levels of depression. The virulent anti-Islam campaigner, late of the EDL, Pegida UK and the BNP, was avoiding towns like Crewe, Chester, Southport, Lancaster, Northwich, Winsford, Runcorn, St Helens, Ellesmere Port, Chorley, Wilmslow, Ashton-under-Lyne, and places like them. Instead, he was concentrating on towns like Brinnington, Birkenhead, Blackpool, Rochdale, Burnley, and Barrow-in-Furness.

Brinnington has the highest levels of clinical depression in the north and midlands. According to the Groaniad, it accounted for 23.6 per cent of all cases seen by GPs in the town. Four other areas with the highest levels of depression are in or near Birkenhead – Bidston Hill, Tranmere, Woodchurch and Birkenhead Central. Another two are in Fleetwood, near Blackpool. Robinson is due to visit that fair town, as well as Carlisle, which has another area with a very high incidence of depression. Three more areas are Rochdale, whose Heywood area Robinson was due to visit on Saturday. Robinson cancelled a visit to Blackburn, but turned up in Burnley, which has two of England’s most deprived towns near it. He also planned on visiting Barrow-in-Furness, which has an acute heroin problem.

Zelo Street concluded

And by pure coincidence, Stephen Lennon is favouring the area with a visit this week. All the while, The Great Man is waving his begging bowl, telling those amongst whom he comes that he needs their help. That they live on the margins of society, and he lives in the lap of luxury, does not seem to occur to those willing to cheer him on.

Living high on the hog while preying on misery. Welcome to the Tommy Tour.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/tommy-robinson-campaign-trades-on-misery.html

It’s not just that Robinson is exploiting the poverty and poor mental health afflicting the people of those towns, he’s also trying use their misery to distract them from the real economic and political causes of their problems. These areas have suffered from the decline of traditional industries, resulting in high unemployment rates. Which would also account for the massive rise in depression due to the lack of self-esteem, hopelessness and sheer despair. These are areas that have not been helped by the neoliberalism embraced and enthusiastically promoted by the Tories, the Lib Dems and Blairite Labour. Thatcher made it very clear that she did not believe in providing any help to failing industries or direct state interference in the economy. Failing companies were to be allowed to fail, on the grounds that state aid was inefficient and would prevent the operation of the market forces that would see new industries take off to provide work and prosperity.

This hasn’t happened. These areas are still poor and depressed. And it was situation made worse in the 1990s when the Tories decided to destroy whatever remained of the British mining industry. This was touted, again, as saving the country from supporting a failing and uneconomic industry, but the real reason was to destroy the NUM, which had overthrown Heath’s government in the 1970s.

But Conservative ideology prevents any discussion of the failings of private industry or the precious market forces, which the supporters of the free market are constantly telling us must be obeyed at all costs, and will ultimately bring back jobs and wealth. And so scapegoats must be found to explain why the free market isn’t working as it should, or to direct popular anger away the businessmen, think tanks and politicians pushing these policies. And so Fascists like Robinson accuse racial or religious minorities or outside groups of causing these problems. The Nazis made Jews synonymous with capitalism, and so claimed they had created a socialist Germany when they persecuted and murdered them. Capitalism, however, was retained and encouraged, although private industry was subject to a complex system of state planning. George Orwell described it as ‘the socialism of fools’. And right-wing populist politicians across the world, from Trump in America to the EDL, UKIP and the Brexit party in Britain are doing it today. Aided by mainstream Conservatives.

The right-wing press, and particularly the Heil and Speccie, have been telling their working class readers that their poor and underprivileged, not because of Tory policies that have decimated manufacturing industry and are destroying the NHS and welfare state for the profit of big business. No, it’s because high-spending Labour authorities and liberal ‘political correctness’ are deliberately diverting funding to undeserving groups, like Blacks, other ethnic minorities, gays and in the case of Tommy Robinson and his supporters, Scary Muslims.

The right have been doing this since Bacon’s Rebellion in 17th century. This was a revolt in Virginia where the slaves were joined by White indentured servants. The rebellion was put down, but to ensure that Blacks and poor Whites never united again to challenge the social hierarchy, laws were passed that separated Blacks from Whites, and gave Whites a higher social status. But crucially, these laws did not improve conditions for the indentured White servants. Materially, they gained nothing from these laws. Nevertheless, they had the psychological effect intended. From then on, White indentured servants didn’t make common cause with the slaves against their exploitation, or at least, not so much, because Blacks were now their social inferiors.

And it’s the same here. Robinson fully supports neoliberalism. Indeed, in his attack on a female academic at Liverpool John Moores University, he defended it against left-wing academics such as herself. He and his supporters offer precious little that will make the lives of ordinary working people better. The only thing they offer is more division and hatred.

There are issues with Islam, such as the continuing malign influence of the preachers of hate and the dangers of self-radicalisation for the young and disaffected through the internet. And authorities have targeted ethnic minorities for a greater proportion of aid because these groups are, or have been, more deprived, or have specific needs that can only be addressed through projects directed to them. Like the rape helpline for women from ethnic minorities, which Robinson so grossly misrepresented as deliberately excluding Whites and legitimising the assault of White women. It wasn’t the case, and his vile tweets about it resulted in the phone line having to be shut down because of the abusive calls they were receiving, thus depriving extremely vulnerable women of the help they needed.

Fortunately, Robinson’s tour of the northwest isn’t going as smoothly as he planned. A string of towns have made it clear that he is not welcome, there have been large counterprotests. And to cap it all, the internet platform, Stripe, that makes it possible for people to donate their hard earned cash to him, has thrown him off. Which makes it a bit more difficult for him to scrounge off the poor and misinformed.

Robinson poses as a member of the working class, defending them from the politically correct Left and militant Islam. He isn’t. He’s a very rich man, thanks to the money he’s been given by his followers. And he offers nothing to the working class except more neglect and poverty, but with racial hatred and suspicion added. He’s a disgrace.

This Thursday, those who really want to see working people’s lives improved should ignore him, and his lies about Europe and Muslims, and vote for somebody else instead.

Media Censors the Opinions of 37% of Americans. And Now They’re Gloating About It.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 10:40pm in

1-3-18Thirty-seven percent of American citizens are socialist or communist. That’s far more people than voted for either Hillary Clinton (28% of eligible voters) or Donald Trump (27%) in 2016.

The majority is voiceless. A privileged minority rules. The United States is a political apartheid state.

If the Left were allowed on the ballot in this fake democracy, given space in newspapers and on television, invited to join political debates, and if it wasn’t brutally suppressed by the police and FBI, the Left wouldn’t need to wage a revolution in order to take over the country. Leftists could easily win at the ballot box if America were a real democracy.

Media censorship plays a major part in the conspiracy to deny the majority Left its rightful role as the nation’s rulers. Socialist and communist Americans read newspaper editorial pages and draw the false conclusion that they’re members of a lunatic fringe. More than 1,000 papers—yet not one single leftist opinion columnist or editorial cartoonist on staff?!?

Leftist Americans exist by the millions but many are isolated from one another. They watch CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews and figure they’re all alone. None of the three major cable news networks employs a single left-wing commentator. They go to the polls but there’s no left party on the ballot. Or if there is, they’ve never heard of it and don’t want to waste their votes.

To be a Leftist in America today is analogous to how black people felt until recently while watching TV: you don’t see anyone like you. The powers that be want you to feel like the Invisible Man, as though you didn’t exist. You know you exist. But you can’t miss the system’s message that you don’t matter.

American politics is a party to which you have not been invited.

This has been the state of affairs for as long as I can remember. Even as more Americans become disgusted by runaway capitalism, censorship of the Left has become increasingly thorough and ferocious.

There used to be a little space. In the 1990s lefties like me were granted occasional mentions in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and NPR. Even FoxNews had us on to serve as punching bags. Shortly after 9/11 we disappeared along with the Twin Towers, relegated to a few blogs and alternative weeklies. Now newspapers and cable TV news and corporate news websites never give space or air to representatives of the Left. (Don’t email me about AOC. She’s a Democrat, not a leftist.)

Censorship of the really-existing Left is impressively thorough. You’ll find exactly as much opposition to the government on the media here in the U.S. as you’ll find in North Korea.

Ashamed and afraid, the gatekeepers used to have the decency to keep secret their suppression of people whose political sin is that they really, truly believe that all humans are equal. They didn’t even think they were biased. They thought they were reasonable. Moderate. Middle of the road.

Censorship with a smile is no longer enough for America’s corrupt news media. Now they’re brazenly contemptuous. The bastards even seek to elevate censorship of the Left to a proud American value!

On May 12th the Times ran another in a string of hit pieces on RT America, a television network it described as the cat’s paw of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.” RT, the Times complained, “amplifies voices of dissent, to sow discord and widen social divides. It gives the marginal a megaphone and traffics in false equivalence.” Imagine that: giving airtime to people we’ve always censored! “Voices of dissent” must never be “amplified.” They must be silenced.

This has become a standard talking point.

“RT America has a modest audience, exploring stories of dissent, injustice and poverty within the U.S. that it says American news outlets ignore,” NPR sneered in 2016, as if dissent, injustice and poverty were standard fare on corporate media outlets. Anyway, if RT’s audience is so small, why is the political establishment so worried about them?

The formerly-liberal Guardian has gotten into the act: Fringe opinion takes centre stage [on RT],” it wrote in 2017. “Reporting is routinely bolstered by testimony from experts you have never heard of, representing institutions you have never heard of.” It is true that RT rarely interviews “experts” like John Bolton and William Kristol, neocon architects of the Iraq War who despite their evil idiocy pop up everywhere from CNN to the Bill Maher show. Far more often, they interview people who have been right year after year about issue after issue—people like me.

I get interviewed by RT often. (Disclosure: I am a frequent guest on RT’s sister radio network Sputnik News and draw cartoons for them too.) Never once have they told me what to say or not say. I wish I could say the same about many “mainstream” U.S. media outlets.

Many attacks against RT originate with the U.S. government’s national security apparatus. The Times piece blithely cites the RAND Corporation, Molly McKew, a right-wing lobbyist for the anti-Russian government of Georgia, and the Director of National Intelligence to support its allegations. A 2017 report issued by the DNI groused: “RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use. RT has also focused on criticism of the U.S. economic system, U.S. currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the U.S. national debt.”

Notably, the report did not question the accuracy of those assertions.

It certainly didn’t suggest that the U.S. stop doing all those things that make it look so awful.

To U.S. corporate propagandists the solution is clear: censor more and censor better.

Make censorship good.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Mike Presents Two Good Reasons Not to Vote Tory in these Elections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 8:44pm in

With the European elections looming on Thursday, Mike today has presented two very good reasons why no decent, thinking person, should vote Conservative. Or rather, the Tories themselves have.

The first is Tory grandee Michael Heseltine. The former member of Thatcher’s and Major’s cabinets, who is an ardent pro-European, has said that he will not vote for the party of which he is such a prominent member because of its determination to take us out of the European Union, and because it is infected with extremism. I’ve no doubt this won’t surprise his detractors in the Tories, as Maggie herself once sneered at him as ‘a socialist’. He isn’t, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t exactly right in this instance. The Tories do want to take us out of Europe, and they are infected with extremism.

And the second reason exactly proves Heseltine’s point. It’s Boris Johnson, the man who would be Prime Minister. Or in his case, Chief Chump. BoJo has shown himself to be ruthlessly self-seeking, treacherous, conniving, mendacious, vain and massively incompetent. This is the man, who lied that leaving Europe would save the country £300 million + a year better off, and that this money would be spent on the NHS. Nothing of the sort has happened, and Boris was then forced to bluster about how it wasn’t a lie, and nothing was really promised when he plastered it all over the sides of buses. It was just an example, of what could be done with the money. Honest, guv’. And then when the issue of the EU came round again, he was trying to repeat the same lie. He also squandered millions of public money when he was mayor of London on three watercannon, which are illegal in mainland Britain, and so couldn’t be used. And then he wasted £65 million on the plans for a garden bridge that would never be built. This is the same man, who, when he was head of the Foreign Office, started to recited ‘The Road to Mandalay’ when being shown round Thailand’s holiest temple. And couldn’t work out why it might not be tactful when the British ambassador gently told him it wouldn’t be appropriate. The man, who went to Russia to cool tensions down with Putin’s government, and on his return made a speech stoking them back up again. And this is apart from the racism, the comments about ‘grinning pickanninies’ and the membership of the European Research Group. Who, jokingly, called themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’. But it wasn’t a reference to the rank in the Klan, no, honestly.

The fact that Boris sincerely wants to be Prime Minister shows exactly how far to the right it has lurched, and how utterly bereft of talent and integrity its leaders are. Don’t vote for them, in any election.

EU elections: Conservatives deliver two clear reasons NOT to vote for them

Will German Social Democrats expel youth leader for socialist ideas?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/05/2019 - 6:13am in

The SPD — the Social Democratic Party of Germany — is Germany’s oldest political party. Its history includes both revolutionary struggle against capitalism and the betrayal of revolution. Many still consider it a socialist party, and its youth organization identifies as Young Socialists.Read more ›

At the Trotsky Conference in Beleaguered Cuba

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/05/2019 - 10:40pm in

Tags 

socialism

Trotsky Conference in Cuba Poster
Last week I was in Cuba to attend an academic conference on Trotsky. The night before the conference began I had arrived very late at the government-regulated air B&B where I was staying. First there had . . .

Read more ›

Book Review: An Anthropology of Marxism by Cedric J. Robinson

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/05/2019 - 8:49pm in

In An Anthropology of Marxism, reissued posthumously, Cedric J. Robinson provides a novel lens for deconstructing the work of Karl Marx by challenging Marx’s assertion that capitalism is an essential precondition for socialism. Robinson’s account holds great potential as a tool of political praxis, writes Eric Loefflad, and its critique of Marxism offers a new dimension of Marxist strategy for today’s world. 

An Anthropology of Marxism. Cedric J. Robinson. Pluto Press. 2019.

In the decade following the 2008 financial crisis, global inequality is rising, climate disaster is impending and far-right authoritarianism is enjoying one political victory after another. As existing institutional logics fail to explain, let alone rectify, these situations, it is unsurprising that Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism, long marginalised after the fall of the Soviet Union, is experiencing a resurgence. However, this renewed Marxist interest is accompanied by claims that Marxism is prone to rigidity/exclusionism in its theory of universal emancipation. Diverse in its manifestations, this line of critique has portrayed the Marxist tradition as flawed in its primary location of transformative agency in a predominantly white male industrial working class whose exploitation is facilitated by their status as formally equal agents. What is lost in this account is capitalism’s reliance on inequality-based structures that include: the uncompensated labour of women in the domestic sphere, racialised colonial dispossession and the coerced extraction of value from slaves, serfs and peasants.

Against this backdrop, Cedric J. Robinson’s An Anthropology of Marxism (hereinafter ‘Anthropology’) provides a novel lens for deconstructing the work of Marx and the critiques lodged against it. Reissued from its original 2001 edition with a foreword from HLT Quan and a preface by Avery Gordon, the central argument of the now deceased Robinson is that Marx was incorrect in his assertion that capitalism is an essential precondition for socialism. Here he frames Marx’s theoretical synthesis of German philosophy, English political economy and the French revolutionary legacy as failing to interrogate its own cultural and intellectual presumptions. Rather, by rejecting pre-Enlightenment emancipatory endeavours as inconsequential instances of ‘primitive socialism’, Marx embraced the very conceits of bourgeois ideology he purported to critique.

From this premise, Robinson offers an alternative genealogy of socialism by turning to eleventh-, twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe. According to this narrative, peasant uprisings against the power of merchants, feudal lords and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church were driven by interpretations of Christianity that, in varying form, called for radical distributional and gender equality. This foundational eruption of socialism prompted the existing order to suppress these efforts through a reconfiguration of previously pluralistic Christian doctrines that labelled these popular movements as ‘heretical’. Yet, despite this concerted suppression, a formative socialism lived on through religious orders such as the Franciscans, and later the Jesuits, who attained influence as dispute resolvers and charity-providers throughout Europe and later its overseas colonies.

Image Credit: Karl Marx statue (Jörg Schubert CC BY 2.0)

From here, Robinson shows how the legacies of formative socialism shaped the thought of both Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel, yet were excluded from Marx’s depiction of these theorists. Following this, Anthropology turns to Marx’s usage of Aristotle. Here Robinson claims that Aristotle’s conception of a political society of formally equal citizens, and its erasure of women and slaves, is reproduced in Marx’s conception of proletariat agency and its emphasis on formal equality as constitutive of capitalist social relations. For Robinson, this exclusion of medieval socialist formulations that centred the plight of formally unequal subjects was symptomatic of Marx’s investment in bourgeois Enlightenment conceptions of linear progress through rationality. Thus, under Marx’s influence:

the originated discourse in Western socialism became subjugated knowledges. In their place socialism acquired an alternative and secularized natural history, one drawn from the discursive practices of scientific discourse and bourgeois hagiography (111).

In evaluating Robinson’s argument, we must understand the intervention he was making in the context of Anthropology’s original 2001 publication. As Quan notes in the foreword, Robinson can be read as a response to the anti-socialist ethos of the post-Cold War era that purported to discard Marxism into the world-historic repository of failed ideas. Thus, in continuing the socialist project by unmooring it from its Marxist baggage, Robinson’s claim was ‘an unwavering act of faith in the ability and role of ordinary women and men to make their society anew’ (p. ix, notes omitted). While this may clarify Robinson’s purpose, it raises the question of how his analysis should be treated in our current moment in which Marxist critique has regained its relevance.

That said, one means of engaging Robinson’s Anthropology is to understand it through the same modes of Marxist analysis it critiques. While Anthropology decries dialectical materialism as bourgeois intellectual arrogance that deprived socialism of its original promise, ironically Anthropology can be interpreted as presenting an extraordinarily innovative dialectic in its own right.  Here, if socialism, i.e. spiritual anti-hierarchical medieval communalism, was a ‘thesis’ that found its ‘antithesis’ in the individualistic rationality of the bourgeois Enlightenment, then Marxism can be understood as a ‘synthesis’ of the socialist ethic with Enlightenment analytical methods.

This interpretation is supported by William Robert’s recent contextualisation of Capital within the workers’ movement of Marx’s time, which shows how Marx’s theory stemmed from claims that labour’s political goals required a sufficiently radical understanding of its distinct arena of struggle. If the medievally-rooted socialist ethic informed this backdrop of labour activism, then, far from ‘intellectual conceit’, Marx’s mastery over bourgeois theory for the purpose of levying an all-pervasive critique acted to prevent workers’ assertions from being co-opted by ultimately futile capitalist offerings of reform. While this view preserves Robinson’s premise that the existence of socialism is not contingent on the emergence of capitalism, it does add the caveat that perhaps socialism, at least in Marx’s context, required Marxism to resist capitalism.

Nothing about this interpretation should detract from Robinson’s overarching point that we must decentre the agency of Marx’s privileged white male industrial working class when theorising anti-capitalist resistance. Although the Marxist tradition is certainly not without chauvinism in this regard, it has also been remarkably adaptive to self-critique. A key illustration of this is Onur Ince’s demonstration of how capitalist domination is a globally interconnected force, but its exploitation is experienced (and resisted) in different ways across varying temporal and spatial contexts that include wage labour, involuntary servitude and colonial dispossession. In taking this multi-layered perspective to the next level, Anthropology shows how postcolonial/decolonial critiques of Marxist orthodoxies regarding the non-European world also apply to Europe itself.

Beyond its analytical value, Robinson’s account holds great potential as a tool of political praxis.  For what Anthropology confronts is the question of how exactly are we to make sense of the cultural and political significance of Europe’s medieval period in our current global moment? Especially in Europe and settler offshoots, this historical period is susceptible to being problematically invoked by both the liberal centre and the far right. For liberal centrists, this era can be characterised as an alleged ‘dark age’ of ignorant barbarism, and the fact that it was transcended justifies the narrative of linear progress. For the far right, this era acts as an alleged ‘golden age’ of pure white Christian identity that justifies the resurrection of violent, and potentially genocidal, fascism. Both of these narratives mischaracterise the material dynamics of the current global crisis and, in varying capacities, both are rooted in the belief in Western superiority over all other peoples. Through Robinson’s account, we are provided with a third option for understanding the contemporary meaning of Europe’s middle ages: a legacy of ordinary people struggling for emancipation against unjust material conditions. Thus, paradoxically, Anthropology’s relentless critique of Marxism offers great potential in forging an entirely new dimension of Marxist strategy in the actually-existing world.

Eric Loefflad is a PhD candidate in Law at the University of Kent, Canterbury. His current research focuses on the intertwined material histories of law, empire and the emergence of modern political consciousness.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Cautioning Trojan Horse Socialism in The Year of Our Bernie

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/05/2019 - 8:00am in

Tags 

Blog, socialism

I can’t stand political Eeyorism. Much
like the lovably, ever-depressive Eeyore’s parade-raining, the tendency to
quash political optimism attached to perceived momentum is a stagnating online
political trope. Irony aside, here’s some rain for my fellow anti-capitalists:
Trojan Horse Socialism does have a serious downside of which we need to be
aware. 

Trojan Horse Socialism is the approach
whereby popularly desirable policy proposals serve as the vehicle by which
democratic socialism can breech the walls of the Shining City on a Hill. Once
inside, social democracy opens to the flowering of democratic socialism. First,
universal healthcare; then, dictatorship of the proletariat. 

This strategy has been thrust into the
political limelight in the wake of the growing popularity of social democratic
policy advocacy in the post-Bernie United States. BB (Before Bernie), tentpole
proposals such as Medicare for All or free college/debt cancellation were inconceivable
as viable galvanizing Democratic Party initiatives, let alone mainstream
talking points. However, AB (In the Year of Our Bernie), there has been
considerable growth supporting such policies among the American electorate,
opening the socio-political landscape into policy terrain that presents both
wonderful potency and also regressive compromise. It is this latter possibility
that concerns me. As voyagers into foreign political lands, we need to be aware
that there be dragons here. 

Why this matters for socialists is that
the fervent advocacy for AB policy proposals is exposed to logistical
machinations of a self-perpetuating system that actively territorializes
political, social, economic, and cultural resources into its gambit. While
advocacy for Medicare for All might be a necessary step in the creation of a
genuine democratic socialist political economy, it is most assuredly not
sufficient. And what is worse, it may even provide the seeds for a greater
efflorescence of the emerging neo-feudal assetization of the economy.  

Learning
From the Past: The Ambivalence of the Australian Labor Accords 

One way to understand the threat that
confronts our journey is by looking at past explorations. Of course,
transposing an analogous situation onto our own is limited by the
particularities that distinguish the previous from our current historical
context. But the value in considering the failures of other encounters with a
political clearing is more than merely “understanding history so we know not to
repeat the same mistakes.” It is a way to genealogically construct an
analytical angle on the hegemonic foe that we are contesting. Even if our
corner of the fabric is unique in many ways, there are commonalities to its
composition. It is these constitutive consistencies that persist even through
diverse iterations. 

As a genealogical test case, we can look to the Accords of the 1980s and 1990s which helped build neoliberalism in Australia. Presented as a cooperative bridge between the concerns of workers and the floundering economic conditions confronting the Hawke-Keating government, the ACTU-Labor Accord was a landmark legislative initiative that expanded healthcare and superannuation (among other social benefits) to all Australians. In exchange for these “offsets,” unions agreed to quell their antagonism to the growing share of capital’s hold over GDP. Former Prime Minister Hawke avers,

The concept is we would provide improvements, particularly in health and education, which they [the unions] would regard as an offset to increase in money wages, so they wouldn’t look for the same degree of increase. That meant they were protected, employers didn’t have to pay as much, so it increased their competitive position. That was the overall concept of justice all round.

Further to this, at the time, Treasurer
Keating explicitly claimed that the increasing disproportion of capital’s share
of GDP would actually benefit workers in the long run. This was the Aussie
version of the “rising tide raises all boats” argument. However, the
concessions made to capital have proved to disempower – to the point of near
immolation – worker agency in Australia since. 

In her recent landmark exploration of the construction of neoliberalism in Australia, Elizabeth Humphrys provocatively asserts that labour built neoliberalism. Not just the Labor Party (ALP), but with the Aussie “u,” the implication is that there was an affective and libidinal investment into neoliberal rationality by the workers themselves. By champing at the bit for some measure of material protection in a precarious historical moment, unions far too easily relinquished crucial choke points that characterize worker power in contestation to capital’s advances. The result has been the entrenchment of neoliberal rationality and policy within the Australian socio-political and socio-economic landscape. This has led to declines in union participation, legitimized disciplinary actions against union activity, stagnating wages, rising inequality – you know the story. In short, everyone – even labo(u)r – is neoliberal now.  

Understanding
the Trojan Horse Relations of Social Democracy

What this genealogy instructs is that
the complex relation between democracy and capitalism is fraught through and
through. In the agonism between social concerns and economic vitality, the
concessions we make have effects that outstretch popular political rationality.
Of course, concessions will be made. They must in order to get anything done.
However, the issue isn’t merely about identifying which concessions to make, but even more integrally, examining under what conditions these concessions
are made. This is a crucial task that must not slip to the background in our
zeal to pass policy. Examining the conditions under which concessions are made
means that there needs to be a clear understanding of the logistical, technical
constitutive powers that operationalize any potential policy. 

Recently, Bhaskar Sunkara graced Fox Business’ WSJ At Large wherein he sought to explain and defend the legitimacy of the rise of socialism in the United States. At the close of the discussion, prompted by Sunkara’s foil Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute, host Gerry Baker asked if Sunkara was being a tad disingenuous with his motivations for supporting social democratic programs when in reality he wanted to sneak in “real genuine workers’ soviets.” Sunkara  parried the question by asserting that “we need to start with what works. And I think social democracy works and it’s proven.” He closed his retort by saying that the move towards democratic socialism wasn’t a relevant question for the next 10 or 20 years. Later on Twitter, Sunkara wrote that he was surprised by the “informed Fox host” for his perceptive interrogation and that he chose to “dial it back” (presumably for the Fox audience). He continued by remarking, “we need to fight for the ‘near’ (M4A, childcare) and the ‘far’ (socialism w/democratic worker control).” This was promptly quote re-tweeted by Dead Pundits’ Society host Adam Proctor who wrote,

I think this is [sic] brilliant way to sell the democratic road to socialism to a mainstream audience: Worker’s co-ops and other processes of collective ownership are rational, democratic responses to market forces, i.e. capital’s response to class struggle social democracy. It won’t win over the WSJ crowd while we’re appropriating their Lambos, but they certainly can’t caricature us as irrational maniacs in the interim.

The admission of the Trojan Horse
Socialism strategy is not surprising. Both Sunkara and Proctor are two of the
more consistent and prominent emerging voices on the Millennial socialist left.
That is, we know who they are. What deserves attention is whether this strategy
is vulnerable to the one experienced by the labor movement in Australia
mentioned above. Interestingly, Sunkara hints at the inherent limits of the
Trojan Horse strategy in the interview. Sandwiched between his claim that
“social democracy works and it’s proven” and his remark that the question of
democratic worker control won’t be relevant for the next 10 or 20 years, he
notes the persistence of another Trojan Horse within social democracy itself:
“[Social democracy is] reliant on the profits of capital. It’s reliant on
business investment.” He further explains the leverage capital has under social
democracy in its capacity to threaten capital flight until the social
democratic institutions become more capital friendly. 

It is this leverage that needs to be
unpacked a bit. Often we think of leverage as being something possessed. One has leverage when one is positioned with
some advantage in relation to a task, challenge, or need. But leverage is not
merely an exogenous capacity encircling the relational. It is also, and perhaps
most potently, a constitutive relational force embedded within, as part of the
very composition of the relation in the first place. This means that the Trojan
Horse within social democracy is not external to the relation between the
democratic institutions and capital but is intrinsic in constructing this
relation in the first place. Therefore, the Trojan Horse relation within social
democracy between democratic institutions and capital is one based on
reciprocal concessions as constituted through leverage. As we saw in the
example of the Aussie Accord, these concessions have immediate benefits and
disadvantages for both sides. The task therefore becomes to prepare for the
potential disadvantages facing our ventures so that we don’t get swept away by
the neoliberal tide in our AB zeal. 

The
Limits of Trojan Horse Socialism and The Emergence of Neo-Feudalism and The
Asset Economy

In order to best prepare, we must
understand our context. The monstrosity of “neoliberalism” consumes the
majority of critical political discourse today. But there is a two-headed
dragon emerging from the socio-economic seas that we need to include in the
bevy of concerns comprising neoliberal critiques. On one side we have the
emergence of what some are calling “the new feudalism”; on the other, the asset
economy. 

In a 2016 article entitled “Welcome to the New Feudalism
– with Silicon Valley as our Overlords,” Evgeny Morozov describes the steady
march of Google and Facebook toward feudal ownership over greater proportions
of the economy. By “[destroying] all competition and [making] the world
dependent on their platforms,” these neo-feudal lords will increase their
control over how economic resources are accessed. One such result could be the
institution of micro-payments for everything from time spent web surfing to any
and all social media activities. Deemed “mini command economies” by Financial
Times Alphaville contributor Izabella Kaminska, the expansion of these platform
economies is producing a situation in which the centripetal force of these and
other platforms is creating the leverage relations by which any social
democratic concessions will take place. 

In a similarly-themed article, Joshua A.T. Fairfield warns of a
“Return to the Middle Ages.” Sensational imagery aside, the threat he bespeaks
is not restricted to the platforms Google and Facebook. The Internet of Things
interconnects the most seemingly-benign of household devices to centralized
information processing centers. Our Fishtanks can be used by hackers to breach
our data; Roombas map our homes; Fitbits manage our bodies; even the central
computers on our cars provide a steady flow of information to mini command
economies (increasingly so as electric cars with no autonomous motors gain
market share). 

This leads to the second head of the
confronting dragon. Beyond the discomfort that comes from privacy being a value
of yesteryear is a deeper, ingrained causal mechanism that reveals the
potential disadvantages facing the Trojan Horse Socialist strategy: the asset
economy. After the recent news of Apple’s reinvention as a services company,
Digital Economist and author of Platform
Capitalism
Nick Srnicek tersely explained this novel phenomenon:
“Capitalism on its way to ending private property for the masses and having
everything provided as-a-service by quasi-monopolistic firms.” Welcome to the
neo-feudal asset economy. This is a world in which mini command economies own
the platforms that dictate the limits and demands of socio-economic life and
then provide the only conditions under which this life can be lived.

Increasingly, the focus of such
neo-feudal capital enterprises is shifting from simple commodity production to
asset ownership and management. As landscapes are recomposed into assets
controlled by infoscapes, relations of leverage are being reconstituted around
new arrangements within the asset economy. Fairfield notes how these mini
command economies become the owners of even the devices that we think we own.
Our smartphones, for example, are fancy electronic boxes packaged with
sensitive proprietary software inside that is owned and controlled by a mini
command economy (i.e. corporation). They own. We lease.

As these platforms increase their
territorialization of social life, the constitutive leverage relations that
condition any social democratic policy prescriptions shift focus, from the
logic of the commodity to the logic of the asset. While this may not seem to
necessitate a drastic strategic shift, we need to understand these novel
leverage relations in order to proactively prepare for the reciprocal
concessions that will certainly face any social democratic policy initiatives.
In the fight for Medicare for All, for instance, we must be prepared for
concessions that allow for universal healthcare on the condition that medical
information is collated through the exponential expansion of biopolitical
technologies and centralized infoscapes that can be used to securitize this
data in the private sector which is tendentially increasing its role as
creditor to the public sector. So while the state may provide healthcare, it
will be doing so through an expansionary debtor relation with private capital. Which
means that not only will our data become an asset for potential securitization
but even the supposed purity of the social democratic position (i.e. that
social protections embed markets) will be contaminated by the continuing
transfer of public payments to service our debts to capital. This in turn
produces a population whose increasing priority is the management of its social
assets (i.e. datafied human capital). This is not the road to democratic
socialism. This is the road to serfdom.

This is why we need to invent novel
mechanisms in our perpetual fight for the transformation of the democratic
institutions that partake in the leverage relation that constitutes the
reciprocal concessions in the first place. Electing Bernie, winning a united
government, and building labor coalitions is – I hate to be the Eeyore – not
sufficient. There needs to be a strategy to confront the perpetual logistical
expansion of the technological logic that frames the very possibilities for any
policy initiatives. This requires more than electoral politics; more than
building class power; more than non-reformist reform Trojan Horse Socialist
strategies to wiggle our way inside. It requires a wholesale recomposition of
the technological logic that conditions socio-economic life itself. Until then,
it’ll be nothing better than one step forward two steps back, or worse. 

This is not a reproduction of the
reform versus revolutionary socialism debate. Rather, this is an analytical
reorientation that conditions the very possibilities for that debate. Said
otherwise, in order to think through effective strategies that might constitute
genuine anti-capitalist endeavors, we need to make sure we acquaint ourselves
with the devil we’re preparing to make a deal with.

The post Cautioning Trojan Horse Socialism in The Year of Our Bernie appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Sargon Attacked for Anti-Semitism

After the Mail on Sunday’s hit piece on YouTube rightist Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad at the weekend comes yet another attack from the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle. Sargon has been adopted by UKIP as their second listed candidate for the southwest. And so the media has spent the last few weeks tearing him apart for his highly controversial views about race and feminism.

Sargon’s Infamous Rape Tweet

Sargon is infamous for his tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’ after she read out in parliament the rape and death threats she’d received over social media. He also made a video against ‘political correctness’ and identity politics, in which he used various racial slurs against Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and Asians, called gays ‘fags’ and the mentally handicapped ‘retards’.

Apparent Support for Sexual Abuse of Boys 

The MoS’ article discussed these, but also included new allegations, that Sargon approved of the sexual abuse of underage boys. A dossier of information handed over to the rozzers by an unnamed senior official in UKIP included the recording of a conversation Sargon had on YouTube. In it he said he could be quoted as saying that it was acceptable to f*** young boys, because it was normal in ancient Greece. ‘It’, he said, ‘all depends on the child’.

Jews, Identity Politics and the Holocaust

Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article reporting that Sargon has now been attacked for anti-Semitism for comments he made at an evening in New York with YouTube independent journo and actor and stand-up comedian Carlos Alazraqui. The evening was recorded, and put up on Sargon’s YouTube channel under the title ‘The Manhattan Panel’. Sargon had made the comments in response to a question by a member of the audience about a powerful and influential Jewish political group, and how he could point them out without engaging in identity politics.

Sargon replied by defending Jeremy Corbyn. He stated that though he was loath to defend a socialist, Corbyn didn’t deserve the pasting he had received. He then went on to make the following comments

“Jewish people do very well in our societies. That’s to their credit, they work hard. It’s not that this is illegitimately gained. But then I can see why people are resentful that successful, rich, well-off people, who are well connected, who are socially very advanced, are then playing the game of identity politics as well.

“I can see why it doesn’t seem fair. It seems like an unfair defence, an unfair advantage that they have. If someone were to say, ‘Well that’s anti-semitic thing to say,’ it would sound to me like someone criticising feminism and being called a mysoginist. To me it’s just another brand of identity politics.”

He then went on

“Jewish people are very smart, they work very hard, of course they’re successful, if we want to even have any idea that we’re living in a meritocracy, if Jews weren’t succeeding in our societies they must be being held back. But they’re not, they’re doing great, because they’re not being held back, because they do work hard, because they are smart.

“We need Jewish people, unfortunately for them, have got to drop the identity politics.

“I’m sorry about the Holocaust but I don’t give a shit. I’m sorry.”

It is this comment about the Holocaust that was criticised by the two papers as anti-Semitic, who also mentioned that he had also made other racial and anti-Semitic slurs.

Sargon’s Defence of Racial Slurs against Asians

Zelo Street in their piece about Sargon’s comments linked it to the remark he made in his video defending his right to use abusive terms against those of others, gays and the mentally handicapped. He argued that he had the right to call Asians ‘ch*nks’ because they were generally more prosperous and thus more privileged than Whites. Zelo Street quoted Sargon’s comments, adding their own pertinent remarks thus

“Because Asians are privileged. In almost every walk of life, Asians make more money [what does that remind you of?], they have better results, and they do better in life than me, just a dumb-ass cracker. So when Asians are filling up all of those top spots in better proportion than white people [?] you have to understand you have institutional privilege”.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/carl-benjamin-in-anti-semitism-storm.html

This is based on the Buzzfeed article at

https://www.buzzfeed.com/markdistefano/benjamin-akkad-racial-statements

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism on the Disparagement of the Holocaust

Sargon’s comments were inevitably going to be considered anti-Semitic. Way back in 2014 the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism published a list of remarks they considered to be anti-Semitic. Two of them were about lack of sympathy for the Holocaust. These were ‘Jews talk too much about the Holocaust’, and ‘Jews talk about the Holocaust to make people feel sorry for them.’ These are more or less the kind of sentiments Sargon was expressing.

Zionist Appropriation of Holocaust 

Now Tony Greenstein, who is a Jewish anti-Zionist, has made the point that the Jewish community in Britain is generally comfortably middle class, and that the loud accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at critics of Israel are unjust, because Jews don’t suffer the massive hatred and institutional racism suffered by Blacks, Asians and Muslims. In contemporary Britain, there are no forced deportations of Jews as there have been of Blacks and other non-White minorities, such as those of the Windrush generation and their children.

Greenstein and other Jewish critics of Israel, such as Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe and even Hannah Arendt have described how the Holocaust has been appropriated by Zionism to support and fend off criticism of Israel. This is controversial, obviously, but nevertheless it’s  a fair point, which should be able to be discussed without accusations of anti-Semitism.

But Sargon didn’t mention Zionism. He was simply referring to ‘the Jews’.

The Holocaust and Gentile Resentment of Jewish Success

A number of Jewish writers and bloggers have made it clear that they don’t like people praising them for their economic and social success, because this can too easily turn into envy and resentment. Which is absolutely true. The Nazis and other anti-Semites resented Jewish success. They attempted to explain it with stupid, murderous conspiracy theories like the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These claimed that the Jews were planning to enslave non-Jews and were doing their best to squeeze gentiles out of important positions in politics, business and culture. This happened in Germany, which during the 19th century was one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe. I’ve read histories of the Jewish community in 19th century Germany that have argued that there was far less prejudice against them there than in France or Britain. The Holocaust, apart from the Jewish people’s long history of persecution, has left behind a terrible legacy of social insecurity. It continues to be discussed because it occurred in the West, in one of the most civilised and cultured nations in Europe. It fascinates and terrifies because it shows that, despite the West’s ideas of progress and civilisation, they also could commit horrific acts of mass barbarism against innocents, simply because they were the wrong race.

Anti-Semitism and Persecution Easily Generated Under Fascism

And such resentment can be generated very quickly, even in societies where there was little traditional anti-Semitism. In Italy, for example, there was also extremely little anti-Semitism. The Jewish community was small and assimilated. They were proud Italians, so proud, in fact, that many even joined the Fascist party. But this changed after Mussolini passed his infamous racial legislation in 1937. It was a milder imitation of Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, and similarly banned Jews from positions in the Fascist party, government, education and certain businesses. Initially there was shock and outrage from the Italian public. But after a few years of repression, in which gentiles who commiserated with and supported Jews were harassed and punished, part of the Italian public began to wonder if the Jews had not brought it all on themselves and deserved it for somehow conspiring against Italy and Mussolini. The regime’s spies were thus pleased to observe that anti-Semitism was therefore increasing.

See: Christopher Duggan, Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy (London: Vintage Books 2013).

Asians in Similar Social Position to Jews

Asians are in a similar situation. Although certain Asian groups, like the Chinese and Hindus in Britain, have managed to prosper, they have also experienced racial prejudice and discrimination, and are at risk of abuse and violence from racists and Fascists like other, less privileged minorities. Hence the same concern to see them also protected from racism, including abusive language.

Sargon Not Anti-Semite, But Views Normalise Racism

I don’t think it’s fair to call Sargon an anti-Semite. I think he may even have claimed to be Jewish. He clearly admires the Jews for the way they earned their success through hard work and enterprise, although not everyone in the Jewish community is rich or comfortably off by any means. David Rosenberg on his blog has described how there are still Jews, who are poor and depend very much on the welfare state that Sargon, as a Libertarian, sorry, ‘Classical Liberal’ would like to see demolished. And Sargon is right in that there would indeed be something wrong with Britain as a meritocracy, if talented people from minorities like the Jews couldn’t rise in society.

But Sargon’s views on race, identity politics and the Holocaust are ignorant and dangerous, because they legitimize certain forms of racism. And his views on the Holocaust are particularly dangerous because, without its proper remembrance, horrors like it may be all too easily committed again. Sargon has argued with the Far Right on debates on YouTube, but some of his views are so close to theirs that Fascists like Richard Spencer have confessed to using some of his videos as gateways to their own vile ideologies and organisations.

Sargon thus deserves all the media criticism he has received for his extreme right-wing views. He was always a liability to UKIP, and since Batten adopted him and the other YouTube rightists he’s been bringing them down with him. And I don’t doubt the criticism are over yet.

 

 

 

Private Eye on ChangeUK MP Stephen Dorrell’s Role in Disastrous and Exploitative Tory Policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/05/2019 - 5:06am in

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 3rd – 16th May 2019 has an article about the major role the former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell played in creating and promoting the disastrous Tory policies of rail privatisation, the Private Finance Initiative and the privatisation of the NHS. These are policies which the magazine speculates will make him unpalatable to those centrist Labour voters that ChangeUK hopes to appeal to. The article runs

The adoption of former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell as a Change UK candidate in the European elections may be a Tory too far for ex-Labour voters wanting to switch to the centrist cause.

Dorrell’s Tory CV harks all the way back to the dying days of the Thatcher era when he was a whip – a supposedly “wet” Tory helping push through her ultra “dry” policies.

Under John Major, he became a Treasury minister, active in the Rail Privatisation Group behind the sale of the railways. Against expert advice, Dorrell was one who pushed for separation of responsibility between trains and track – with dire results. Railtrack, the privatised track operator, eventually collapsed after lethal crashes caused by poor maintenance.

As health secretary it was Dorrell who began the 20-year disaster of the private finance initiative (PFI) in the NHS. “I am a strong supporter of the PFI,” he told the Commons, calling PFI “the best opportunity that we have had in the history of the NHS” to “deliver the best healthcare.” It wasn’t. And it didn’t.

Dorrell launched a failed bid for the party leadership in 1997 and never held a ministerial job again. Later, under the coalition, he was seen as a critic of Andrew lansley’s NHS reforms – but not too loud a critic.

Having left parliament in 2015, he has kept up his interest in giving corporations access to the NHS, chairing Public Policy Projects, a subscription-based outfit “focused on the big issues in health and social care”. His group arranges breakfasts and receptions for businesses to meet political and NHS insiders. Recent events have included meals iwth health secretary Matt Hancock, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire, Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan and top NHS officials.

Dorrell has also worked as a healthcare and public services adviser to KPMG since 2014; and last year became an “associate” of Cratus Communications, a lobbyist for developers. If Change UK really wants to fix the UK’s “broken politics”, it may have to cast its net a little wider. (P. 7).

These are all very good reasons why genuine Labour voters shouldn’t vote for him. But they’re also reasons why traditional Labour voters shouldn’t vote for any of the former Labour MPs in Change UK. All of the so-called Labour ‘centrists’ are really nothing of the sort. They’re red Tories, as fanatically keen on privatisation and the dismantlement of the NHS for the profit of private healthcare firms as the Conservatives. Blair was responsible for the introduction of much of the legislation allowing the NHS to purchase services from private healthcare providers, including the operation of the health centres and polyclinics, which he hoped would be run by private firms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to become simply a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare firms.

The real centrists and moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, who wish to renationalise the NHS, the rail companies, water and part of the national grid. These are policies both the Tories, Change UK and the Labour ‘centrists’ loathe and detest. Just as they loathe and detest his plans to renew and strengthen the welfare state and give workers back proper employment rights and powerful trade unions able to defend them.

As Mike, Zelo Street and the various other left-wing bloggers have described on their sites, Change UK and its mixture of former Tory and Blairite Labour MPs shows that there really isn’t any difference between the two.

Private Eye’s article is thus a very good reason not to vote for Dorrell personally nor his wretched party in general. And the solid support for Blair’s own privatisation and destruction of the welfare state by Change UK’s former Labour MPs and their fellows still in the Labour party also demonstrates why working people need to see a genuine socialist Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn once again in power and winning elections, from the European all the way to Westminster.

Are any of Rosa Luxemburg’s ideas relevant for us today?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/04/2019 - 4:46am in

One hundred years after the murder of Polish-German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg, are any of her ideas relevant for people today who want to transform society to achieve social and ecological justice? I believe the answer is yes. In spite . . .

Read more ›

Pages