Archive | June 15th, 2017

The Drone War: Understanding Who Must Die From Above

NOVANEWS

Photo by Debra Sweet | CC BY 2.0

In late October of 2016, I took a break from reading for my various social science courses to work for a couple of hours at my work-study job at the Vassar College Athletics Communications Office. On this particular day, I had to provide commentary and audio for a video stream of the game which is played live online, largely for parents and family members of the players. At halftime, the parents of someone on the team approached my boss to talk, and in this conversation, one parent casually commented that the other loved to watch their child play while in their office at General Atomics. General Atomics, the defense contracting company which, among other things, manufactures the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper, the two most-used military drones.

This chance meeting with a General Atomics employee speaks to the larger context of drone warfare as well as the logics behind it. This person could, through a video image and the sound of my voice, be transported from an office in California to a sports field 3,000 miles away. At the same time, General Atomics was producing and selling military drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the U.S. military to be used in locations across the world, thousands of miles away, while being controlled remotely in places such as Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

In the context of the game stream, one is completely aware of the rules of the contest and the bounds of play, the participants are numbered and their names are listed, they are in uniform, and their actions are occurring within a clear set of guidelines and norms. No one is trying to speculate on the loves, hates, future plans, or deep-seeded beliefs of players based on the footage. Further, the contest is projected with my description and the assistance of statistics and information provided by a team of people there, who know the athletes, and the coaches, and can hear and see close up what is occurring. In the other context, the U.S. military takes control over decisions of life and death in places they do not and cannot understand, making decisions based on their understandings of patterns of life and metadata from thousands of feet in the air. There are not rules to what they are seeing, there are no uniforms, and there is rarely information in any fashion from people who are physically present. Instead, it is just the video, being watched from thousands of miles away, as people are targeted for death.

How do we begin to understand an outlook where an un-narrated stream of a sporting event would be self-explanatorily difficult to understand, but similar video footage gathered by unmanned aerial vehicles is sufficient to understand who below must die? The perceptions and lenses that enable this outlook must be picked apart in order to comprehend (and begin to resist) the pull of drone warfare.

Drone-use has become the United States’ preferred way of waging war. Unmanned aerial vehicles are piloted remotely from thousands of miles away providing both surveillance in near-constant streams, and the ability to drop bombs. Through this new means of violence, Americans are not vulnerable, and are instead separated physically from the violence and death. The U.S. drone campaign is waged almost entirely in secret and without the hindrance of laws, international or domestic. The U.S. Executive and the various military and intelligence agencies involved are able to forward the drone war with unilateral power, with U.S. sovereignty extending globally.

In a short time in early 2016, the United States “deployed remotely piloted aircraft to carry out deadly attacks in six countries across Central and South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, and it announced that it had expanded its capacity to carry out attacks in a seventh,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer explains. Drone bombs kill people not only in “hot war zones” like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but also in Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Pakistan.

A myriad of ethical and moral problems arise in the face of this new way of killing engaged in the United States. The dominant institutional justification for drone-use, as outlined by former President Barack Obama and others involved, asserts that the strikes of drones are safer, smarter, more efficient, more accurate, and cost less lives (American and otherwise) than the methods used in traditional warfare.  They are the civilized way of waging war. Over the course of his eight years in office, Obama repeatedly asserted that he was not “opposed to all war” but instead “opposed to dumb wars,” one of which being the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. He contrasted drone-use with “conventional airpower or missiles” and “invasions of these territories” saying that drones are more precise, cause less civilian casualties, and do not “unleash a torrent of unintended consequences” such as causing people to see the U.S. as an invading and occupying force.

However, an engagement with the realities of drone warfare proves these notions to be false. Instead of being ethical, drone-use has unleashed an often indiscriminate volley of bombs on thousands of people in many countries, and drone violence has become a go-to answer to the problem of American existential fear of terrorism.

This is displayed in the continuous and repeated failure of unmanned aerial vehicles and their operators to differentiate friend from foe, supposed-target from civilian. The lack of capacity (or care) to discriminate between people is repeatedly seen, whether it be in the 2011 murder of a Yemeni governor, the first Obama approved Yemeni strike which killed 14 women and 21 children, the first drone attack in Pakistan which left two children dead, the 2013 bombing of 12 Yemeni people in a wedding party, or the murder of American teenager Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi while failing to kill the bomb’s target.

We are left in a present where the call for this somehow ‘ethical’ way of war becomes more and more enticing and normalized as the drone war rages on in the early days of the administration of Donald Trump with no end in sight.

The faith in powerful institutions and U.S. technological ability that enables the view of drones as ethical, as demonstrated by the General Atomics employee, is clearly astronomical. This discourse doesn’t just enable an acceptance of the usage of drones, but an acceptance based on the claim that drones do not kill people but save lives. The new biopolitical and theopolitical sovereignty seen in U.S. drone-use is vulnerable because drones are constantly making mistakes. This is evidence of the incredible strength of the perception of U.S. sovereignty as all-moral and all-knowing, the belief in drone technology as mythically powerful, and the Orientalist view of people in the Middle East and Africa.

However, the indefensible imperial reality of drone violence also reveals that if these produced narratives are weakened, a different understanding of the drone war may emerge. This view could be one that elicits horror, shame, and revulsion, as well as profound fear of the state. But it could also be purposed to weaken the state apparatus that wage drone warfare.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir, Somalia, YemenComments Off on The Drone War: Understanding Who Must Die From Above

What the Nazis Did to Us

NOVANEWS

Photo by ptwo | CC BY 2.0

The speaker did not give his name, but he was apparently a well-known member of the Hebrew University academic community in Jerusalem. He was a sociologist who started his presentation by pulling up his sleeve and showing the numbers tattooed on his arm.  He was a Holocaust survivor who had immigrated to Israel from Poland.  He reminded everyone in the room that he had spent his entire professional life on the subject of the Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

His opening point was that violent experiences in life shape individual behavior, stressing the fact that upward of 30% of children who are beaten severely by their parents grow up to be child-beaters when they become parents.  He went into statistical and anecdotal evidence backing up his claim, noting how the memories of being beaten cause many to repeat that practice when placed in positions of authority. His examples included severe cases of “cycles of violence” when abused people vented their violence on others. The main argument was that the practice of using brutal force used against people can actually become part of a culture.

Then he made the statement that angered nearly everyone in the classroom: “What the Nazis did to us, we are doing to the Palestinians.” The reaction was immediate: one metal lunch box was thrown, several cups and plates and a half-eaten orange landed near the speaker. From that point on the presentation was a free-for-all with shouts of denunciation in several different languages. I tried to approach the speaker, but he left the room quickly as people made threatening gestures.  I listened to the comments from others milling around; they were all negative. I can remember an older woman saying over and over, “How could he say that?” Others questioned whether he really had been in the death camps. I didn’t hear or see anyone who supported his assertions about the treatment of Palestinians.  I wondered at the time if there was any validity to the charge, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone in that room.

Months later, when I returned to the United States, I was interviewed by a reporter from our local newspaper. The journalist was a young man who was looking for an interesting insight into the current conflict in Israel.  I recounted the story about the Israeli sociologist. The newspaper handled it very carefully with quotation marks around the charge about the Nazis. I had no idea that the story would be considered controversial. But two days later I was visited in my home by two very nervous rabbis. They began the conversation by saying that they knew many people who said they had known me for more than twenty years but didn’t realize I was “anti-Semitic.”

I was shocked by this reaction.  I couldn’t imagine that repeating the story from the Hebrew University in Israel would make me anti-Semitic.  I called attention to the quotation marks, but the rabbis were undeterred. They said just repeating such a story was proof that “I was anti-Semitic.” At this point, I became angry and asked for a chance to come to the synagogue to explain the situation. The older rabbi said it was “out of the question,” that I was not Jewish and therefore could not address the congregation.  I insisted, saying I had a right to defend myself from those who thought I harbored prejudice. I raised my voice, asking – then demanding – that I had a right to tell my side of the story.  Finally, the younger rabbi acknowledged that maybe there would be an interest in hearing the whole account of what happened.

On the next Friday evening my wife and I went before a congregation of about eighty people. The men were on one side of the room and the women were all on the other side. I didn’t detect any positive response from the men as I recounted the story; they all sat there with their arms folded on their chests. On the women’s side there were a few that gave me the impression that they were there to listen, not to condemn.

Here I was a Gentile standing alone, speaking to a group of Jews about Israel and a very unpopular analysis set out by a Jewish sociologist who survived the Holocaust. My knowledge of Jewish history was sketchy at best, but I do remember saying that the Jewish people (because of their history) should be more sensitive than anyone to violence and discrimination. I tried to be objective and provide some understanding of why there was so much emotion on the subject.  I could tell by the body language in the room that I was not succeeding.

Several men in the back interrupted me, making very negative statements about “Palestinian terrorism,” and why it was necessary for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to use strong-arm tactics. That brought an equally strong response from several women on the other side of the room, charging that the IDF was betraying Jewish values. There were tears in the eyes of some women as they pleaded for a less aggressive approach on the West Bank.

A highly-spirited, unregulated debate ensued between several angry men in the back yelling at the women in the front. After a few minutes, no one seemed to pay any attention to me. Unknowingly I had activated tempers on both sides of the controversy. After about ten minutes of a free-for-all, one of the rabbis thanked me for coming to the synagogue. I left the room as the discussion continued.

It has been said of the Holocaust that, “All the victims were not Jews, but all the Jews were victims.” The horrific experience of the Holocaust did, in fact, make an impact on Jews all over the world; they did identify with the victims, and they still do today.  One cannot visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, without coming away with images of utter cruelty and mass genocide that was visited on the defenseless European Jewish community. There are displays of the artifacts left behind by the children – their drawings, letters, diaries, and toys.  Words cannot describe the account of how six million people were murdered because of their ethnic, religious heritage.

Perhaps the one unifying factor of the Jewish people is that they all feel the heartbreaking history of the Nazi gas chambers as helpless victims were led to their deaths. “NEVER AGAIN” says it all. The echoes of that pledge are still heard loud and clear, but the discrimination continues. Anti-Semitic behavior is actually increasing in many parts of the world.

The memory of the Holocaust illustrates that Jews have a split personality that represents both the powerless and the powerful. First there is the account of how six million Jews were herded into railroad cars, sent to the death camps and massacred without mercy. On the other hand, Israeli Jews today have one of the best trained armies in the world.  It is though they are making certain that they will never again be led to their deaths as a powerless people.

Nearly everyone in Israel serves in the military. Guns are everywhere. It is as though each Israeli is repeating the phrase “Never Again” as they go about their daily routine with an assault rifle slung over their shoulder. They don’t seem to be boisterous about their weapons; it is more a matter of a resolute, personal necessity to survive in a nation surrounded by unfriendly neighbors. Yes, all Jews were “victims.” And that status is always in their minds.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on What the Nazis Did to Us

The Loyalist Zionists Who are Keeping Theresa May on Life Support

NOVANEWS
 
a marriage made in hell – Loyalism and Conservatism

The links between Ulster Unionism and Zionism have always been close.  The British Mandate in Palestine began in 1920 and it was ratified by the League of Nations in 1922.  The Partition of Ireland began in 1921 and Southern Ireland became independent in 1922.

Both Ulster and Palestine involved British imperialism using a settler population in order to maintain its presence in another peoples’ land.  Ulster had been the subject of the Plantation of Protestant settlers in the 17th century.  Palestine was the subject of Jewish settlement in the 20thcentury.  As the first Military Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs(1920-1926), wrote in his autobiography Orientations:

 
Jackie McDonald – S Belfast UDA Brigade Commander – Arlene Foster met him a few days after a UDA killing

“Enough [Jews] could return, if not to form a Jewish state … at least to prove that the enterprise was one which blessed him that gave as well as him that took, by forming for England ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.”

The agreement by the British to support the Zionist colonisation of Palestine was symbolised in the Balfour Declaration whereby the Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balour wrote a letter of November 2nd 1917 to Lord Rothschild in which Britain promised the land of the Palestinians to the Zionists.  Promises made in the Declaration that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’ was honoured in the breach.

Zionist settlers in Palestine based their claim on the Biblical ‘return’ of the Jews to Palestine just as the Protestant settlers of Ulster believed that in settling the north of Ireland they too were fulfilling god’s mission.

 
Arlene Foster – DUP leader, blamed for loss of hundreds of millions on energy scheme

It is no accident that when an Israeli propaganda group, Stand by Israel, sent out a Pledge for Israel to candidates in the general election, 5 of the DUP’s candidates – Jeffrey Donaldson, Paul Girvan, Gary Middleton, Ian Paisley, Jim Shannon – signed.  Although the founder of the DUP, Ian Paisley was in habit of making anti-Semitic jokes, he was nonetheless fully signed up to the idea that Israel represented the ‘return’ of the Jews as a precursor of the second coming of Christ.

 
Theresa May addresses journalists after she returned from the Palace – she managed not to mention the election outcome

Both Israel and Ulster were set up as settler colonial states and both indulged in ethnic cleansing – in Israel’s case of Palestinians and in Ulster it was Catholics who were forced to flee from pogroms in 1921.

Just as Israel is a Jewish supremacist state, Ulster was set up as a Protestant Supremacist state.  In the words of James Craig, the Viscount Craigavon, Ulster’s first Prime Minister, ‘we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State’ which became popularly known as a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.’

The Democratic Unionist Party was formed by Ian Paisley in 1971.  Paisley was the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ireland and an anti-Catholic agitator.  From the very start the party was linked with loyalist terror gangs such as the Ulster Defence Association.  This tradition has continued to the present.  Arlene Foster, the present leader of the DUP, met with the leader of the UDA, Jackie MacDonald, just three days after their Southern Antrim brigade murdered a fellow paramilitary.

It is no surprise that Theresa May, whose party has vigorously attacked Jeremy Corbyn for his links with Sinn Fein and the IRA, has no problem with forming an electoral alliance with a party with close links to Protestant death squads.  People forget that whereas the IRA attacked the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (renamed PSNI), all of them armed, the Loyalist death squads of the UDA and the Ulster Volunteer Force attacked Catholic civilians at random.

As was proven by the 1990’s Stevens Inquiries, intelligence information was supplied to these Loyalist death squads by British agents inside these groups.  The army’s Force  Research Unit, a military intelligence unit, ran an agent Brian Nelson inside the UDA and the FRU helped the UDA kill hundreds of innocent Catholics.  Indeed they agreed restriction orders with the RUC in order that these killers wouldn’t be apprehended by the Police.  One particularly notorious murder was that of the Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, whose crime in their eyes was defending Republican soldiers.

Former Tory Prime Minister John Major has spoken out against any alliance with the DUP, following on from Ruth Davidson.  Given the present impasse in Belfast between the DUP and Sinn Fein, which has meant that Stormont, the local Assembly hasn’t met for months, the British government going into an effective coalition with the DUP removes any pretence that it is an honest broker.

It is a measure of the desperation of the Witch of Westminster that she should ally with these creatures.  Not only are they anti-gay and anti-abortion but they are also sectarian racists.  Fitting allies for a discredited Prime Minister  May.  May has demonstrated that in order to hold onto  power she will literally ally with the devil.  However I suspect that this alliance, made as it is in hell, will have a rather short lifespan.

Tony Greenstein

A Joke in Very Poor Taste

London Review of Books

Daniel Finn 12 June 2017

As Britain woke on Friday morning to discover that Theresa May had flushed her Commons majority down the drain, people found themselves having to learn about an unfamiliar party on which May (or her successor) would be relying to get anything done. The titles of the hastily commissioned primers – ‘So, Who Are The DUP?’; ‘Who are the Democratic Unionists and what do they want?’ – told their own story. The Democratic Unionist Party is Northern Ireland’s largest political force and was until recently the principal coalition partner in one of the UK’s devolved governments. But most of the time, what happens in Belfast or Derry is deemed irrelevant to political life on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Superficially, this year’s election campaign was an exception, with events in Northern Ireland discussed more widely than at any time since the Good Friday Agreement. But that was because the Conservatives thought they could damage Jeremy Corbyn by highlighting his relationship with Sinn Féin in the 1980s. The fact that Northern Ireland’s government had collapsed just a few months earlier, however, was barely mentioned; neither Corbyn nor May was asked to spell out in detail what they planned to do about it.

The Westminster arithmetic makes any speedy resolution of the Stormont crisis unlikely. Problems had been accumulating from the first day of the power-sharing arrangement back in 2007, as Ian Paisley, the DUP’s leader since its founding in 1971, had done little to prepare his supporters for a deal with their republican enemies. Paisley’s apparent bonhomie with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness infuriated many DUP activists, and it wasn’t long before Paisley’s deputy Peter Robinson had eased him into early retirement. Robinson was more intransigent than Paisley in his dealings with Sinn Féin, and Robinson’s successor Arlene Foster more intransigent still; the DUP used the requirement for cross-community consent in the Northern Ireland Assembly to block reforms that had already been agreed on in peace talks.

Brexit added another fault line: the DUP campaigned to leave the EU, while the other main parties all plumped for Remain, as did 56 per cent of voters in the region. The referendum exposed a light-minded attitude towards the Good Friday Agreement among Leave-supporting politicians in both London and Belfast: mixed messages about the likelihood of a ‘hard border’ in Ireland betrayed the fact that most Brexiteers hadn’t thought about the question at all before taking the plunge.

The text of the Good Friday Agreement explicitly referred to the Irish and British states as ‘partners in the European Union’, and tacitly assumed that questions of sovereignty would get hazier as European integration progressed; anyone born in Northern Ireland is entitled to an Irish passport, and the only sign of the border in recent years has been the text message from your mobile phone company when the train goes past Dundalk. The prospect of a harder-edged approach to national identity after Brexit seemed to delight the DUP leadership. The party is adamantly opposed to any special status for Northern Ireland when its departure from the EU is finalised – although with an eye to farming interests, it also wants to keep trade flowing across the border. Squaring that circle will be a key issue in the negotiations to come.

The Stormont government collapsed when Arlene Foster refused to take responsibility for mismanaging a renewable heating scheme that may end up costing Northern Ireland half a billion pounds, and Sinn Féin pulled the plug. A snap regional election at the start of this year saw the DUP come perilously close to being overtaken by Sinn Féin, but its performance in the Westminster poll last week was much more assured, adding two seats for a total of 10; Sinn Féin and an independent unionist accounted for the rest of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.

The idea that Theresa May – or any Tory politician – can serve as an impartial mediator while relying on DUP votes at Westminster is a joke in very poor taste. A parliamentary alliance between the Tories and the DUP will reinforce an ideological convergence between the parties. ‘The immense contribution of the security forces during the Troubles,’ the Conservative manifesto said, ‘should never be forgotten. We will reject any attempts to rewrite history which seek to justify or legitimise terrorism.’

Official inquiries have exposed a long record of collusion between state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries who waged a ruthless war on nationalist civilians. The DUP wants to shut down all investigations that bring its fictitious narrative of the ‘Troubles’ into question. DUP leaders always saw the loyalist paramilitaries as allies in the struggle against Irish nationalism, refusing to take responsibility for their actions in public, but privately urging them to keep on killing when the IRA called a ceasefire. Now the party wants the IRA to be held exclusively responsible for the conflict, the state forces exalted, and the loyalists forgotten: anything else would be ‘legitimising terrorism’. The Tories agree (there was hysteria when Corbyn insisted on condemning loyalist bombings as well as IRA ones). And Michael Gove, now back in May’s cabinet, in 2000 denounced the Good Friday Agreement as a ‘moral stain’, a ‘capitulation to violence’ and a ‘denial of our national integrity’. He defended the comments last year.

The DUP may be out of step with Britain’s political mainstream in many respects, but as far as security policy is concerned, it marches in tight formation with some very powerful interests. For those who value civil liberties in both Britain and Northern Ireland, that will pose a grave problem, however long the current arrangement at Westminster lasts.

Theresa May to be propped up by Christian Zionists

In a stunning upset, the British electorate moved sharply to the left in Thursday’s general election. The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gained dozens of seats, while Theresa May’s governing Conservatives lost their majority.

When the prime minister called the snap election seven weeks ago, polls suggested she’d win a massive majority.

Even such Labour stalwarts as Guardian pundit Owen Jones predicted that under Corbyn the party would be crushed.

But Corbyn’s ebullient grassroots campaign, built on policies of free university tuition, social justice and more investment in public services, generated enthusiasm that defied virtually all expectations.

May moves right

Diminished and humiliated, May will hang on as prime minister for now. But unable to command a majority in the House of Commons on their own, the Conservatives will rely for support on the 10 lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, a Christian Zionist group in Northern Ireland which pushes extreme pro-Israel policies.

It also staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, a position that might make it more at home in America’s Bible Belt.

This means that while the British electorate embraces more progressive policies, May is likely to hunker down and move even further to the right in defiance of public opinion, including the growing support for Palestinian rights.

Who are the DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was founded in the early 1970s by the late Ian Paisley, a Protestant cleric notorious for his anti-Catholic bigotry.

Paisley’s DUP opposed any change in the status quo of Northern Ireland, an entity created by the British in 1921. As Ireland struggled for its independence, the British imposed partition in order to give Protestants, largely descended from Scottish and English settlers, an artificial majority.

This “Protestant state for a Protestant people” ruled over Irish Catholics with bigotry and an iron fist.

Unionists’ violent rejection of Irish nationalist demands for equality in the late 1960s inaugurated the three-decade low-level civil war known as “The Troubles” in which more than 3,500 people were killed and 50,000 injured – nearly two percent of the Northern Ireland population.

Paisley’s demagoguery and incitement has been blamed for at least some of the deaths in the conflict.

But after almost a lifetime spent opposing accommodation, in 2007 Paisley led the DUP into a power-sharing government with the leaders of Sinn Féin – the party he had just a few years earlier denounced as a “filthy nest of murderous Irish nationalism.”

Islamophobia

Although Paisley underwent some form of transformation, many in his party have not and the DUP leadership is accused of maintaining ties with violent pro-British extremist groups, called loyalists, that carried out hundreds of sectarian murders of Catholics.

Loyalist paramilitaries endorsed DUP candidates in Thursday’s election.

After Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, the Good Friday Agreement, politicians can no longer utter open expressions of anti-Catholic bigotry of the kind in which Paisley routinely indulged.

But some of that bigotry appears to have morphed into Islamophobia. In 2014, an evangelical pastor attacked Muslims as “satanic.” The DUP’s Peter Robinson, first minister of Northern Ireland at the time, defended the comments, before eventually apologizing amid public outrage.

Friends of Israel

The DUP is a staunchly pro-Israel party – Ian Paisley himself launched the group Northern Ireland Friends of Israel in 2009.

Before this election, members of the DUP joined dozens of candidates from other parties signing a so-called Pledge for Israel.

The party also has its own DUP Friends of Israel lobby group in the Northern Ireland legislature.

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel co-chair Steven Jaffe explained that the party’s strong support for Israel stems in part from religious beliefs.

“Many DUP [members of Parliament] come from a Bible-believing Protestant background,” he told The Times of Israel in 2014. “They have a very sincere and positive attitude to the biblical roots of the Jewish people’s connection to the land.”

These Christian Zionist beliefs are what motivate many extreme supporters of Israel, such as the powerful US lobby group Christians United for Israel.

Since 2015, CUFI also has a UK branch. The group had been due to celebrate in London 50 years of violent Israeli occupation in the West Bank at a “Night to Honor Israel,” before it was canceled amid what it claimed were security threats.

The “Pledge for Israel” was also emailed by CUFI UK to its supporters just before the election.

Settler-colonialism

The identification also stems from the shared history that Northern Ireland was created through imposed partition, for the benefit of a settler-colonial group, against the wishes and rights of the indigenous population, just like Israel’s 1948 creation in Palestine.

The DUP “identify with Israel fighting for its survival, and they feel the international media is unfairly hostile to Israel just as they believe it was hostile to their own cause,” Jaffe explained.

Veteran Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn shed light on this sense of a common cause between Zionists and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland, during Israel’s December 2008 to January 2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Israeli society “reminds me more than ever of the unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s,” he observed. Like Israelis, unionists were a community “with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.”

As The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin has observed, “the racist discourse of the Protestant establishment in the north of Ireland” is “almost identical to what Israeli politicians say about Arabs.”

Israel’s justice minister Ayelet Shaked, for instance, called Palestinian babies “little snakes.” Paisley once claimed that Catholics “multiply like vermin.”

Exporting repression to Palestine

The overall responsibility for the violence lay with the British state, which propped up the bigoted Northern Ireland regime for decades.

But while the peace process ended the most violent manifestations of British repression, that apparatus of state violence has been rebranded for export to Palestine.

Several veterans of the now disbanded Royal Ulster Constabulary have been employed by the European Union to train Palestinian Authority security forces that work closely with Israel’s military occupation.

This is the same Royal Ulster Constabulary that colluded with loyalist militias on a vast scale in the murder of Catholics, and whose members are now honored by DUP leader Arlene Foster as heroes.

The morning after the vote, it is no wonder that many are describing May’s desperate deal with the DUP to stay in power as the “Bad Friday Agreement.”

In a stunning upset, the British electorate moved sharply to the left in Thursday’s general election. The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gained dozens of seats, while Theresa May’s governing Conservatives lost their majority.

When the prime minister called the snap election seven weeks ago, polls suggested she’d win a massive majority.

Even such Labour stalwarts as Guardian pundit Owen Jones predicted that under Corbyn the party would be crushed.

But Corbyn’s ebullient grassroots campaign, built on policies of free university tuition, social justice and more investment in public services, generated enthusiasm that defied virtually all expectations.

May moves right

Diminished and humiliated, May will hang on as prime minister for now. But unable to command a majority in the House of Commons on their own, the Conservatives will rely for support on the 10 lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, a Christian Zionist group in Northern Ireland which pushes extreme pro-Israel policies.

It also staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, a position that might make it more at home in America’s Bible Belt.

This means that while the British electorate embraces more progressive policies, May is likely to hunker down and move even further to the right in defiance of public opinion, including the growing support for Palestinian rights.

Who are the DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was founded in the early 1970s by the late Ian Paisley, a Protestant cleric notorious for his anti-Catholic bigotry.

Paisley’s DUP opposed any change in the status quo of Northern Ireland, an entity created by the British in 1921. As Ireland struggled for its independence, the British imposed partition in order to give Protestants, largely descended from Scottish and English settlers, an artificial majority.

This “Protestant state for a Protestant people” ruled over Irish Catholics with bigotry and an iron fist.

Unionists’ violent rejection of Irish nationalist demands for equality in the late 1960s inaugurated the three-decade low-level civil war known as “The Troubles” in which more than 3,500 people were killed and 50,000 injured – nearly two percent of the Northern Ireland population.

Paisley’s demagoguery and incitement has been blamed for at least some of the deaths in the conflict.

But after almost a lifetime spent opposing accommodation, in 2007 Paisley led the DUP into a power-sharing government with the leaders of Sinn Féin – the party he had just a few years earlier denounced as a “filthy nest of murderous Irish nationalism.”

Islamophobia

Although Paisley underwent some form of transformation, many in his party have not and the DUP leadership is accused of maintaining ties with violent pro-British extremist groups, called loyalists, that carried out hundreds of sectarian murders of Catholics.

Loyalist paramilitaries endorsed DUP candidates in Thursday’s election.

After Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, the Good Friday Agreement, politicians can no longer utter open expressions of anti-Catholic bigotry of the kind in which Paisley routinely indulged.

But some of that bigotry appears to have morphed into Islamophobia. In 2014, an evangelical pastor attacked Muslims as “satanic.” The DUP’s Peter Robinson, first minister of Northern Ireland at the time, defended the comments, before eventually apologizing amid public outrage.

Friends of Israel

The DUP is a staunchly pro-Israel party – Ian Paisley himself launched the group Northern Ireland Friends of Israel in 2009.

Before this election, members of the DUP joined dozens of candidates from other parties signing a so-called “Pledge for Israel.”

The party also has its own DUP Friends of Israel lobby group in the Northern Ireland legislature.

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel co-chair Steven Jaffe explained that the party’s strong support for Israel stems in part from religious beliefs.

“Many DUP [members of Parliament] come from a Bible-believing Protestant background,” he told The Times of Israel in 2014. “They have a very sincere and positive attitude to the biblical roots of the Jewish people’s connection to the land.”

These Christian Zionist beliefs are what motivate many extreme supporters of Israel, such as the powerful US lobby group Christians United for Israel.

Since 2015, CUFI also has a UK branch. The group had been due to celebrate in London 50 years of violent Israeli occupation in the West Bank at a “Night to Honor Israel,” before it was canceled amid what it claimed were security threats.

The “Pledge for Israel” was also emailed by CUFI UK to its supporters just before the election.

Settler-colonialism

The identification also stems from the shared history that Northern Ireland was created through imposed partition, for the benefit of a settler-colonial group, against the wishes and rights of the indigenous population, just like Israel’s 1948 creation in Palestine.

The DUP “identify with Israel fighting for its survival, and they feel the international media is unfairly hostile to Israel just as they believe it was hostile to their own cause,” Jaffe explained.

Veteran Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn shed light on this sense of a common cause between Zionists and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland, during Israel’s December 2008 to January 2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Israeli society “reminds me more than ever of the unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s,” he observed. Like Israelis, unionists were a community “with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.”

As The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin has observed, “the racist discourse of the Protestant establishment in the north of Ireland” is “almost identical to what Israeli politicians say about Arabs.”

Israel’s justice minister Ayelet Shaked, for instance, called Palestinian babies “little snakes.” Paisley once claimed that Catholics “multiply like vermin.”

Exporting repression to Palestine

The overall responsibility for the violence lay with the British state, which propped up the bigoted Northern Ireland regime for decades.

But while the peace process ended the most violent manifestations of British repression, that apparatus of state violence has been rebranded for export to Palestine.

Several veterans of the now disbanded Royal Ulster Constabulary have been employed by the European Union to train Palestinian Authority security forces that work closely with Israel’s military occupation.

This is the same Royal Ulster Constabulary that colluded with loyalist militias on a vast scale in the murder of Catholics, and whose members are now honored by DUP leader Arlene Foster as heroes.

The morning after the vote, it is no wonder that many are describing May’s desperate deal with the DUP to stay in power as the “Bad Friday Agreement.”

Posted by Tony Greenstein at 02:23

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Corbyn’s victory is greater than the keys to Number 10

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By Nasim Ahmed | MEMO

Britain underwent the most important general election of this century. For the second time in a row, Conservative leaders scored the most spectacular own goal ever to be seen. Twice within the period of two years, British prime ministers gambled with the lives of the British people and lost; on both occasions Conservative leaders put their self-interest above the national interest and the electorates punished them for it.

It has now become resoundingly clear that the electorate does not like being taken for granted. Former Prime Minister David Cameron and current Prime Minster Therese May have learnt this the hard way. Cameron paid the highest political price in gambling to hold an EU referendum for no reason other than to please his own backbenchers. May too will most likely pay the same price for her humiliating defeat in calling a snap general election for no reason other than to inflict a crushing defeat on the Labour party.

But it is the Conservatives that have suffered a great defeat, even though they have won the election and are still in power. Hubris and opportunism assured their humiliation. They imagined they would have a landslide victory and increase their control of the Commons. With more Conservative MPs May was confident – to the point of carelessness – in being able to ease through a hard Brexit. She underestimated the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Believing him to be weak and unpopular, a caricature from bygone years, she was certain of attaining absolute power.

That we are now talking about the triumph of Corbyn over May is one of the more remarkable stories in British politics. Rarely has another leader had to take on so many enemies. He wrestled against the Tory war machine while fending off foes within his own party. The vast majority despised everything he represented culminating in172 Labour MPs voting against him in a no confidence motion. Labour MPs at one point were talking about going through an ongoing cycle of leadership contests until they forced him out. With such a desire to sabotage his campaign it would be naïve to assume that some Labour MPs were not secretly collaborating with the Tory party to see his downfall.

While the major parties in Westminster were gunning for him, the mainstream media stooped to levels unseen in British politics. For long periods, the entire mainstream media undermined him, mocked him, ridiculed him and constructed a narrative that would have totally damaged any other candidate. The traditional so called left wing media were nowhere to be seen, in fact they cheered for his public execution. Even his so called friends defected saying “I’d find it hard to vote for Corbyn”.

The inability of the Labour MP’s and the mainstream media to see what was happening was further proof that the entire establishment was really out of touch. They lived in their own little bubble inside an enormous echo chamber, thoroughly convinced of the lies and propaganda they propagated.

Faced against such challenges the achievement of Jeremy Corbyn in the last two years has been nothing short of remarkable. What this has shown more than anything else is the growing appetite for social justice; even socialism shall we say. He has turned Labour into a socialist party with the largest membership in Europe. Public ownership, and civic and community pride have all been returned to the political agenda. Corbyn has also succeeded where many before him have failed; to empower large sections of the population that were living in self-imposed political alienation. There’s a younger generation who have spoken for the first time and they have turned their back on austerity and having to settle for the crumbs left behind from the Chancellor’s budget.

The triumph of Corbyn is likely to see a push back against decades of unhindered neo-liberal economic policy which has been responsible for unprecedented levels of inequality not just here in the UK but also around the globe. This victory, as many believe, is substantial.

Corbyn has not won the election but his triumph has been to bring back into public ownership, not-for-profit utility companies, and investment in the health service, the police and public services back on the agenda. Privatisation, free market fundamentalism, and bankers’ greed at everyone else’s expense is now blown out of the water.

The Labour leader achieved wide popularity because of his ethical foreign policy. His years in the back benches have been spent defending human rights across the world and fighting against imperialism and political domination of all kind. In his manifesto he promised to block the sale of weapons to repressive regimes and pushed for a more ethical exports policy. The rights of the Palestinian people are very close to his heart. It was, telling that despite the mudslinging against him over his track record in the Middle East he has come through unscathed if not stronger.

No coming election can ignore the issues raised by Corbyn over the past few years. He may not have won the election but the victory he has achieved is more than just the keys to number ten. Equality, social justice and ethical foreign policy are back on the agenda and the mainstream media can go on mulling over them by eating some humble pie.

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Syrian Army, Hezbollah reaches border with Iraq for the first time in years

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By Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News |

Late on Friday afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Hezbollah and allied Iraqi paramilitary contingents dashed through southeastern Homs and reached an Iraqi border point, thus slicing adrift the frontline between rebel forces based in the Al-Tanf region and ISIS militants in the neighboring Deir Ezzor governorate.

Unopposed by the US Airforce and its vetted Syrian proxies, the SAA and its allies drove through over 40 kilometers of abandoned desert territory and managed to link up with an Iraqi garrison across the border.

The advance was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense and an Hezbollah-linked outlet moments ago.

Effectively, the SAA is now able to reopen trade between Damascus and Baghdad. Government forces have not controlled any parts of the largely ISIS-controlled border with Iraq since 2014.

In addition, Hezbollah is now able to be supplied with weapons from Tehran via an all-important land route. Previously, the Lebanese group relied on complicated airlifts for new armaments.

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UAE-tied militants kidnap, torture hundreds in Yemen

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Militants backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reportedly kidnapped and tortured hundreds of people in southern Yemen.

On Friday, the American news and analysis website The Daily Beast published an investigation bankrolled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism NGO, which pointed to the findings.

The probe said the militants, who would fight under the banner of the Elite Forces, had spirited the men away from their homes and brought them to a secret prison compound in southern Yemen, where they were tortured.

Earlier in the year, the United Nations had likewise reported an increase in forced disappearances in southern Yemen.

The UAE has served as an ally of Saudi Arabia in the latter’s 2015-present campaign in Yemen to restore the impoverished country’s former Riyadh-allied government. The Elite Forces have been fighting in Yemen since the same year to assist the Saudi-led campaign.

The investigators interviewed local rights activists and families of those abducted, who said the situation at the al-Riyyan airport, which has been used as a place of incarceration for the abductees, compared to that in the notorious US-run prisons such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

The kidnapping spree took place under the pretext of clearing out suspected al-Qaeda-linked elements. Activists, however, told the Bureau that many of those abducted had normal jobs while al-Qaeda was in control in the area, and were not tied to the group.

According to various reports, Abu Dhabi holds notable sway in southern Yemen and looks to be trying to expand its leverage there by lending its support to southern separatists.

The separatists are led by two pro-Emirati officials of Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who have been sacked by him over suspicions of serving the Emirates.

The men, Hadi’s governor for Yemen’s port city of Aden, Maj. Gen. Aidarous al-Zubaidi, and his state minister Hani bin Breik, reacted to the sacking by breaking ranks with Hadi and forming an autonomous regional body in southern Yemen.

Saudi Arabia then “invited” the separatists to the kingdom, in what was seen as an effort at seeking explanation from them for parting ways with Riyadh-allied Hadi.

Observers say the Emirates increased activities could drag Doha into a political struggle against Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the month, Yemeni sources reported that militants backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had engaged in infighting in the southern port city of Aden, with UAE-backed militia seizing a facility there.

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The Forward publishes criticism of Alison Weir, but refuses to publish response

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If Americans Knew 

The website of the Forward newspaper recently published an opinion piece by political hitman Spencer Sunshine, in which he slammed the American Left and specific individuals for alleged antisemitism, including Alison Weir.

Sunshine is a writer/activist who focuses on antisemitism, and specifically on seeking it out — or inventing it — among leftists and supporters of Palestinian rights. (More on Sunshine below.)

While slurring those he disagrees with is Sunshine’s modus operandi (he throws around accusations of bigotry with the abandon of a spoiled schoolboy), we expect better of the Forward. Journalistic ethics require that media allow people to respond when they’ve been criticized, yet the Forward has failed to publish Weir’s response. (More on the Forward below.)

(The right of response is affirmed by the Society of Professional Journalists, the International Principles of Professional Ethics in Journalism, the BBC, MediaWise, the National Conference of Editorial Writers, and many, many others. The American Society of Newspaper Editors states: “Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond.”)

Below is Weir’s letter responding to Sunshine’s piece:

To the Editor,

I was disappointed to see the Forward chose to publish Spencer Sunshine’s recent reactionary screed “The Left Must Root Out Anti-Semitism In Its Ranks.” However, that Sunshine should attempt to dismiss me as an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist” did not surprise me, as Sunshine has a long history of working to silence criticism of Israel and Zionism. At a talk in Portland, Oregon he described virtually every form of Palestine solidarity as anti-Semitic.

Accusations of “left anti-Semitism” have long been used to undermine solidarity with marginalized people, a population Sunshine often seems to ignore. His article about the history of anti-racism in the United States, for example, almost entirely omitted the efforts of communities of color, focusing instead on mostly-white “antifascist” groups.

Of Sunshine’s work, the pieces I’m familiar with are hatchet jobs, misrepresenting his subjects to suit his goals and exploit his audience’s fears and gullibility.

Sunshine seems to operate according to an all-too-often successful principle: if you accuse someone of something bad enough, it doesn’t matter how wrong, sloppy, or biased you are. Certain accusations tend to be show-stoppers, tainting by default–and he employs these with shameless abandon.

Sunshine clearly hopes that simply saying the magic words “conspiracy theory” will prevent others from listening to me directly or examining my work. In fact, my book and multitude of articles and speeches are exhaustively researched and based on serious sources. All of my work is transparent, with sources clearly cited or linked, so others can read more and decide for themselves. While I’m only human and certainly not infallible, I strive to use reliable sources and be as transparent as possible about my sources and the evidence supporting my work.

Sunshine refers to a JVP statement critical of me, but fails to mention that the statement does not claim that I am anti-Semitic.  More important, he fails to make any reference to two open letters rejecting the criticism of me, signed by some incredibly prominent and principled academics, humanitarians, and thousands of activists, including many members of JVP itself. Indeed, I continue to work with many JVP chapters and individuals, who have brought me to speak in their areas and who are accomplishing important work.

Sunshine operates as a hitman for the reactionary forces who would have us never stand up against oppression for fear of not speaking carefully enough and unintentionally giving unfair offense. It is important to try to speak accurately and fairly, but when people are dying and the prospect of peace is rapidly receding for two populations (and everyone else affected by the violence and instability that radiate from the conflict), perfection is no longer the enemy of good but the enemy of peace and life itself.

Let us act, debate and try to solve this tragedy, not police each other’s words to the point of utter inaction. And let us not attack those working for justice, peace and human rights with false and malicious accusations.

If Sunshine showed half the enthusiasm for opposing atrocities and championing human rights for all humans–even Muslims, Palestinians, and people of color–that he shows for thought policing activists, he could make a positive difference In our shared world.

Sincerely,

Alison Weir

More information:

Spencer Sunshine is an early instigator and enthusiastic champion of the campaign to silence Weir, which has been roundly rejected by numerous prominent humanitarians, academics and activists in two open letters (here and here; see also this article on CounterPunch ). He identifies himself as an “anti-fascist writer” and is close to antifa groups, a movement known for celebrating and perpetrating violence (he was apparently unfazed when violence occurred a few months ago at a protest he organized).

The Forward is a venerable newspaper founded towards the end of the 19th Century. It is a leading, or perhaps the leading, publication serving the American Jewish community. It operates as a nonprofit and appears to have assets of over $50 million. The paper leans heavily towards an Israel-centric viewpoint when reporting on Palestine and Israel. Nevertheless, it is a professional publication which should hold itself to the highest journalistic standards.

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A 21st-Century Marxism: The Revolutionary Possibilities of the “New Economy”

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Photo by Ann Wuyts | CC BY 2.0

It should hardly be controversial anymore to say we’re embarking on the “end times” of…something. Maybe it’s corporate capitalism, maybe it’s civilization, maybe it’s humanity. Whatever it is, the unsustainability of the contemporary ancien régime, on the global level, has become obvious. Economically, socially, politically, and environmentally, the next fifty years will see major upheavals, which may end up dwarfing those even of the 1930s and 1940s—the Great Depression and World War II.

In this moment of crisis and uncertainty, as we wonder what might come next and if in the long run there is any hope for a positive resolution of the predicaments society finds itself in, we would do well to consider whether that old revolutionist Karl Marx has anything to say about our future. His intellectual fortunes, after all, have lately been on the upswing. As the greatest theorist ever of capitalism and revolution, it would be odd if his ideas couldn’t illuminate the prospects for social transformation in a time of acute crisis.

Marx was mainly an analyst of capitalism, not a prophet or planner of socialism or communism. He did, however, predict socialist revolution, even arguing that it was inevitable and would inevitably take the form of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” This dictatorship, supposedly, would implement total economic and social reconstruction even in the face of massive opposition from the capitalist class, in effect drawing up blueprints to plan out a “new society” that would, somehow, on the basis of sheer political will, overcome the authoritarian and exploitative legacies of capitalism. Through necessarily coercive means, the government would somehow plan and establish economic democracy, in the long run creating the conditions for a “withering away of the state.” How such a withering away would actually happen was left a mystery; and none of Marx’s followers ever succeeded in clearing the matter up.

In my book Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, I have explained how this whole Marxian schema of revolution was always fundamentally flawed, and even, in some respects, blatantly anti-Marxist (i.e., contradictory with the basic premises of Marxism). No such revolutionary rupture—a sudden radical break with capitalism in the form of a politically planned, coercively administered flowering of workers’ democracy—could ever happen, and ever has happened. Marx misunderstood his own system when he predicted it.

Even the greatest thinkers make mistakes. What is unfortunate is that their followers persist in these mistakes, to the point that even today it seems virtually no one has grasped the contradictions between basic Marxian conceptions of social dynamics and classic revolutionary prognostications that Marx and Engels made in the Communist Manifesto and other writings. Further discussion of these matters can be found here.

If we drop the ideological baggage of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” however, we will find that at a more fundamental level of Marxist theory there is a clue to how a transition out of corporate capitalism may occur—how, in fact, it will have to occur, if it is to happen at all. From a broad perspective, there is only one path to a post-capitalist society (leaving out the possibility of nuclear holocaust and total systemic collapse).

Transforming the “economic base”

The key to imagining a positive outcome of the decline of the contemporary order lies in the Marxian idea that production relations are the foundation of every society. That is, political, cultural, and ideological structures are grounded in class structures. The obvious corollary is that a post-capitalist society can evolve only on the basis of the evolution of new production relations, i.e., class (or rather, ‘no-class’) relations. Just as new economic relations emerged over centuries during Europe’s transition from feudalism to industrial capitalism—and it was on the ground of these structures that a new society developed—so new ways of organizing production will have to evolve in the coming generations in order for humanity to live to see a less crisis-ridden era than the present.

More precisely, inasmuch as the predatory regime of corporate capitalism is founded on the privatization of resources (of production, profit, the natural environment, etc.) and on authoritarian and antagonistic relations of production, a more just and stable society will have to be grounded in the public production and distribution of resources, and in relatively democratic and cooperative economic structures.

As such structures progressively emerge over the next fifty and a hundred years, a new kind of politics will, necessarily, evolve on their basis. The gradual, global “social revolution” will not, and cannot, be politically willed and imposed after a seizure of state power, as Lenin attempted and Friedrich Engels predicted. (“The proletariat seizes state power, and then transforms the means of production into state property.” What you have in this case is just state capitalism.) Rather, the long-drawn-out political revolutions will occur step-by-step as society, in particular the economy, gradually and organically evolves new, more democratic institutions, precisely to the degree that the old economy descends into crisis.

What will the new institutions look like? Marx was wisely reluctant to speculate in detail about the future. But we’re in a more fortunate position than him, because we can already see the seeds of a new economy being planted. They have yet to sprout in a very visible way, but on the grassroots level there are, nonetheless, glimmers of hope.

The new economy

Activism around the “solidarity economy” has in the last decade been garnering more and more attention. Worker cooperatives and public banking, for example, are two concepts that are gaining traction even in the United States, as their growing coverage by journalists and scholars testifies. A recent In These Times feature article on public banks describes the remarkable potential of these institutions, as well as challenges the movement faces. But Shelley Brown, an activist from Santa Rosa, is far-sighted in her optimism: “All it’ll take is the first domino to fall,” she says. “Towns and cities will turn in this direction [toward public banking] because there’s no other way to turn.” She might have added that sooner or later, if economic stagnation and crisis persists (which it’s bound to), states will do so as well, compelled by popular movements and widespread unrest to adopt institutional innovations like public banking.

Worker cooperatives have been more prominently featured in the media than public banking, in part because of their striking successes in both Europe and North America. In my above mentioned book I tell the story of how the cooperative New Era Windows was formed several years ago in Chicago, a few years after its worker-owners had, as employees of Republic Windows and Doors, made international headlines by occupying their factory. That was in the wake of the 2008 crash, when the factory was about to close and the workers were being denied severance pay and other benefits to which they were entitled. Five years later, with the help of their union (the United Electrical Workers) and a nonprofit called The Working World, they had turned the business into a co-op.

More such successes may emerge following the next economic collapse. Similarly, to bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S., more unions may follow the lead of the United Steelworkers in building industrial cooperatives across the country. The cooperative movement is still in its early stages, so one cannot predict what its potential may be. What one can say with a fair amount of certainty is that public pressure will continue to build for measures like these to protect jobs and in so doing transform the economy.

It might seem that such “interstitial” institutions as public banks and worker cooperatives—or even the aggregate of all types of cooperatives, including in the housing, retail, agricultural, insurance, health, and credit sectors of the economy—have little or no revolutionary potential, being too marginal for that. And certainly, for now, this criticism has force. Whether it will still have force twenty or thirty years from now, after economic and environmental crises have savaged the dominant political economy and popular movements have had time to build substantial bases of power, is an open question. Given the unpredictability of history, it is myopic to arbitrarily declare that all “localized,” decentralized, municipal or regional attempts to build oppositional institutions will forever be condemned to marginality and cannot serve as nodes of national and international anti-capitalist movements.

The inevitable reaction against neoliberalism

In any case, the necessity of creating public forms of economic interaction to save society, in the long run, from the total destruction that will ensue if the privatization and marketization of everything continues unchecked implies that some form(s) of public banking and producer cooperativism will, sooner or later, have to become hegemonic. The hegemony of such institutions is precisely what the revolutionary goal has always been. “Cooperativism” is just another name for workers’ democracy, which is the ideal that has always guided Marxists and other radicals.

It may be that (as Marxists have traditionally argued) the nationalization of key industries will eventually prove necessary and possible; but the idea of national industries democratically run is, in effect, just the idea of worker cooperativism writ large and transposed to the political sphere. The more the idea of democratic administration and ownership—as in municipal enterprise, community land trusts, cooperatives, participatory budgeting, etc.—permeates the public consciousness, the more likely it is that assaults on the commanding heights of corporate capitalism will become feasible.

If dire prophecies of another economic collapse, one even more serious than that of 2008–2009, are borne out, the chaos that follows will surely, in the end, empower “radical reformers” agitating for a more democratic and cooperative political economy—in addition to more conventional progressives demanding a reversal of the international austerity regime. For it is hard to see how in such a scenario popular movements can continue to be suppressed indefinitely, everywhere. And insofar as activists press for a transformation of production relations (at the local, regional, national, and international levels)—in the direction of abolishing the private appropriation of profits and the authoritarian, exploitative structures of business—they will be laying the groundwork for truly revolutionary changes. The sorts of changes that will someday, perhaps, make possible a move away from the capitalist “growth economy” that cannot but devour nature, people, democracy, and society itself.

In short, while it’s necessary to abandon the old Marxian conception of proletarian revolution, the central insights of Marxism give us clues into how a gradualist revolution might proceed. We have to embrace the project of slowly building a new economy from the ground up, while continually agitating for changes in national policy that will facilitate such a project. This is what a twenty-first century Marxism looks like.

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“For the Many, Not the Few:” Labour Party Gains in Britain Highlight Political Viability of Socialism

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British Prime Minister Theresa May recently called for snap elections to take place on June 8th an in effort to win a more powerful mandate for her Conservative Party ahead of Brexit negotiations.

However, May’s plan backfired as the Conservatives lost their majority of seats in the vote. Now no party holds an outright majority in Parliament.

While the Conservative Party lost seats, the Labour Party led by socialist Jeremy Corbyn won an additional 24 percent of seats and its largest share of votes since 2005.

These gains by the Labour Party underscore the political viability of a socialist platform during a period of right-wing and neoliberal resurgence.

The results of the election were “incredible” for the Labour Party, Corbyn told the BBC after the vote.

“The party that has lost in this election is the Conservative Party,” he said. “The arguments the Conservative Party put forward in this election have lost. I think we need a change.”

He affirmed that Labour did not lose. “We gained seats in every region of the country, we won three million more votes on a much higher turnout. I think that is a pretty good result.”

The election results position Labour as a formidable opposition party and point toward the popularity of their anti-austerity and socialist platform, spearheaded by Corbyn.

“What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics,” Corbyn said in a speech after the vote, “they’ve had quite enough of cuts to public expenditure, under-funding our health service, under-funding our schools and our education service, and not giving our young people the chance they deserve in our society.”

Corbyn was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1983 in Islington, a leftist area of London. He is a long-time union leader and peace and human rights activist who railed against his party’s support for the Iraq War under Tony Blair.

In the recent election, many voters were drawn to the Labour Party’s socialist platform, outlined in its new manifesto, titled “For the Many, Not the Few.”

The manifesto is a radical document that directly takes on the politics of austerity, privatization, and neoliberalism.

It calls for broad access to education, universal healthcare coverage, nationalization of critical utilities, free college tuition, economic security for workers, massive expansion in public housing, and major taxation efforts to redistribute wealth from corporations and the richest 5% of the population to working people.

The party’s plans would reverse welfare cuts, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, prohibit unpaid internships, empower unions’ ability to organize, provide free pre-school childcare and free lunches to all primary school students, and lower the voting age to 16.

“Let’s build a Britain that works for the many, not the few,” Corbyn wrote in the manifesto. “We will measure our economic success not by the number of billionaires, but by the ability of our people to live richer lives.”

The manifesto called for an overhaul of British foreign policy.

“We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy,” the document states, “commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis.”

In the wake of the recent Manchester terrorist attacks, Corbyn boldly made the connections between terrorist violence in Britain and the country’s foreign policy.

“We will also change what we do abroad,” he said, speaking of his party’s new platforms. “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”

He promised to ensure “our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country.”

The rise of Corbyn and the success of the Labour Party has been watched with excitement by leftists around the world.

In 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders applauded the election of Corbyn as the head of the Labour Party.

“At a time of mass income and wealth inequality throughout the world, I am delighted to see that the British Labour party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader,” Sanders said. “We need leadership in every country in the world which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all.”

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Sometimes Our Nightmares Don’t Come True: the Tories Lose Their Majority

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Photo by Afshin Darian | CC BY 2.0

When Theresa May called a snap election a few weeks ago, she enjoyed a 20-point lead in the opinion polls. Translated into votes, this lead would create a huge Tory margin of victory of around 100 seats in parliament.  The Tory working majority after winning the 2015 election was 12 seats.

At the same time, Labour’s prospects looked dire.  The unceasing sprays of venom directed at him by the billionaire tax-dodgers who own the right-wing media, and by the supposedly neutral BBC and the supposedly “liberal” Guardian, were compounded by the Blairite backstabbers in his own party, who made desperate attempts to unseat him as party leader.  Corbyn has long said that Blair should stand trial at The Hague for war crimes, so it is just as well that Labour did not beat the Tories, even if it prevented them from having an absolute majority.

Blair would be adding experts in the laws of war to his legal team had Corbyn prevailed.

The factors which caused May to lose her majority just before Brexit negotiations are due to begin on June 19 (apart from the gamble she took in calling an election well before the Conservative term in office expired in 2020), will become clearer in time, but already the contrasts between the two main parties responsible for the outcome of the 2017 election are discernible in the very different party campaigns and the leaders who fought them.

The Tory campaign was pathetically inept.  Confident of victory and with their base seemingly secure, the Tories went after “patriotic” Labour voters (“patriotic” taken by the Tories to mean “wanting a hard Brexit”). The Tories were heedless of the fact that many Labour voters in the UK’s rustbelt were the prime victims of the austerity policy implemented by the Tories since 2010, and simply could not countenance another 5 years of the Tory boot on their collective necks, even if they were inclined towards Brexit.

The Tories in their carelessness and indifference had simply lost count of the victims of austerity–  not just those who are unemployed and underemployed, but also the working poor, as well as the disabled and homeless, those in increasingly unaffordable rented accommodation, those having to rely on the burgeoning number of food banks, students crippled by debt, poor children who would lose free school lunches, nurses whose wages have been stagnant since 2010, the police and firefighters who have lost their jobs in the tens of thousands since 2010, the growing number of homeless veterans, even the civil servants who have seen their numbers cut by one-third (even as they are being asked to deal with the repercussions of Brexit, the UK’s greatest postwar administrative challenge), and so on.

All this was taking place while the National Health Service and education were undergoing a stealth privatization (even the national blood transfusion service was flogged-off to Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital), local councils were having their budgets slashed, funds for emergency disaster relief were drained, legal assistance for those unable to afford it was cut to the bone, and so forth.

These were the people very much at the heart of Ken Loach’s award-winning film I, Daniel Blake.

At the same time, the stock-portfolio class was benefitting from tax cuts, as well as a “light-touch regulation” of the tax-dodging wheezes used by many of this class, and an elimination of taxes on their mansions and inheritances.

“Austerity” is a shameless hoax attempting to magic the banking-induced crisis of 2007-2009 into a crisis of the welfare system.

The Tories said there were no “magic money trees” when it came to dealing with the deficit, though Dodgy Dave Cameron and his finance minister George Osborne deliberately chose policies that increased it (e.g. by reducing taxes on the rich).  The deficit has risen steadily since 2010.

The Tories and their banker pals were determined to make ordinary UK citizens pay for the bankers’ mistakes by sacrificing their wages and pensions, health care, education, prospects of decent employment, and adequate social services.

In the end, the victims of austerity resorted to May’s robotic slogan “enough is enough”, and shoved it into her face.  May never seemed able to move beyond such vapid soundbites, “Brexit means Brexit” was another, and “strong and stable” repeated ad nauseam became an object of fun for the television comedians.

Labour’s campaign pitch was simple but effective– this is what the Tories have been doing to anyone who is not wealthy, and we undertake to reverse what they have done.

The party manifestos reflected this state of affairs—while the Labour manifesto pledged to undo what the Tories had done, the Tory manifesto only promised more of the same, though this time with “compassion”, accompanied by a plethora of lies.

Oh, and the Tories were the only party which could deliver on Brexit.

Sufficient numbers of the electorate saw through the Tory ruse.  May and her handlers were stealing the clothes of the far-right pro-Brexit UKIP, which had the effect of wiping-out UKIP in this election, but also turning-off voters repelled by the idea of having to vote for what was in effect two UKIPs– the official UKIP and May’s “UKIP lite”.  Judging by the results, many voters called a plague on both these houses.

The discrepant campaigns were reflected in the glaringly different performances of May and Corbyn in the hustings.

May was known to be a “details” person, able to master reports and briefings, but whose preference was for the cabinet room and not the rough and tumble of the campaign trail.

Her exposure to the public was a disaster for the Tories and May herself.  Her handlers made the crucial mistake of thinking that a 20-point Tory lead when she called the election could somehow be conjured into a manifestation of her popularity with the electorate.  It took a few days of campaigning to shred this notion.

May is unable to think on her feet, so she refused to take part in televised debates with the other party leaders.  A substitute was sent in her place, which made May’s absence even more obvious.

Her one-on-one TV interviews with Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil were car crashes, so that was the end of that.

Her public walkabouts were just as disastrous.  Unable to deal with jeers when she visited a social housing estate, and flummoxed by a distressed person with learning disabilities who asked May why her benefits had been cut by the Tories, May’s “appearances” were soon limited to carefully staged settings with bused-in Tory activists.

In the meantime, Corbyn was relishing the public campaign.  UK electoral law mandates equal television coverage for the main parties, so he could engage with voters who were now seeing a Corbyn not filtered by the rancid portrayals pumped out by the right-wing media.

Corbyn made a few gaffes, but his ease when meeting voters, and engaging with them, was evident.  Moreover, he was very much on message— the Tories couldn’t campaign on their cruel and irresponsible record of austerity (in fact they had to avoid mentioning it), but Jeremy could!

In a way, the media depiction of Corbyn as a cultish figure of the “looney left”, allegedly out of touch with the commonsensical electorate, did him a favour.  It overlooked his 40 years of campaigning experience as a politician, mostly on behalf of causes not obviously popular, which gave him a resiliency, and an adaptability to situations, which May clearly lacked.

Corbyn (in the main) kept his principles intact and adapted to the campaign’s circumstances, while May adapted her principles to the campaign while being unable to deal with its circumstances.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves– Labour lost this election, and Corbyn and his supporters conducted, at best, a successful holding operation.  They arrested Labour’s slide into oblivion by reverting to social democracy after the “Thatcherism lite” of Blair and his successors, but deeper and more lasting transformations are still to be awaited.

The Tories, to put it mildly, are in a mess.  May’s government survives courtesy of the Ulster Unionists, an even nastier lot than the avowedly nasty Tories.  The Unionists are against abortion and gay marriage, as well as providing a home for climate-change deniers.  Their leader, Arlene Foster, is implicated in a corruption scandal.  Any “understanding” with them is bound to be brittle.

Meanwhile, the knives are out for May within her own party.  Widely derided for her “own goal” performance in this election, she can hardly afford to take a false step from now on.

The election was meant to strengthen May’s hand in Brexit negotiations, but the opposite has happened– she will now go to Brussels absolutely bereft of bargaining chips when she deals with the vulpine Eurocrats.  They took Tsipras and Varoufakis to the cleaners when Greece wanted to renegotiate the terms of its eurozone membership, and May can expect a repeat performance.

There is a two-year timeframe for the completion of Brexit negotiations, and it may be safe to assume May won’t be prime minister by the time these are completed.

Posted in UKComments Off on Sometimes Our Nightmares Don’t Come True: the Tories Lose Their Majority


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