Monday, October 31, 2016

"The Assad regime has become a representative of the internal First World in Syria, the Syrian whites. I think the elites in the West find Bashar al-Assad more palatable than other potential interlocutors. He wears expensive suits and has a necktie, and, ultimately, these elites prefer a fascist with a necktie to a fascist with a beard. Meanwhile, they don’t see us, the Syrian people. Those who are trying to own the politics of their own country have been rendered invisible."

Syria's "Voice of Conscience" Has a Message for the West
A Dr.  preaching neo-orientalism, imperialism and patronizing other countries, brandishing an empty term ("democracy) of the West, i.e. the capitalist, imperialist democracy of the Western powers that we have seen in practice not only in wars and occupations, but in IMF adjustment programmes, in global capitalism's uneven development, in plunder by corporations, in NGOs working with repressive regimes and perpetuating power structure, in Western powers working with local regimes in aborting, diverting or co-opting uprisings or confining it to the parliamentary capitalist democracy, oppression within the undemocratic European Union itself, level of corruption on an unprecedented scale, driving down wages, undermining unions (even banning people from joining a union), gambling with pensions, corporatization of education, undermining academic freedom, a development of an oligarchy and a mediaocracy, depolitization, passivity and narcissism, a plague called identity politics instead, the rise of the far-right as a consequence of neo-liberalism and a crisis of the nation-state.

You don't have to read the book. The rhetoric of the West's mission to spread "democracy" and the title of the post are quite telling. According to Dr. Klass's "democracy" is when "citizens have a meaningful voice in determining how governments make decisions about their lives." That is the narrow, mainstream concept of democracy that we hear everyday. That implies that Western citizens through the voting process are "determining how governments make decisions about their lives". 


Dr Klass condemns using violence to spread democracy. The use of violence is not the main and the initial means of "spreading democracy". "Democracy" (i.e., free market and privatisation, stability, political dependency, debt, monopoly of the media, etc) has been imposed through peaceful means: unequal trade deals, economic adjustment programmes, perpetuation of uneven development, geopolitical interests, sborting or confining people uprisings, support of the "moderates" against the progressives and the leftists, propgating the bourgeois concept of women's freedom and culturalizing social antagonisms,  


The argument of "spreading democracy" is inherently flawd because reactionary powers cannot by their nature spread democracy. The history of of imperialism in the Middle East, Latin America and Indonesia, for instance, is rife of the Western war on democracy.



Sunday, October 30, 2016

In a foundational work of medical literature, The Welfare of Bodies and Souls (Kitāb maṣāliḥ al- abdān wa al-anfus) of Abū Zayd al-Balkhī (849–943), we find the author stating: 

"The best drink that humans, through their reason and understanding, have devised a means of producing, is the refined grape-drink among whose properties is that it intoxicates [al-sharāb al-ʿinabī al-raqīq alladhī min ṭabʿi-hi al-iskār]. It is, of all beverages, the most noble in essence, most superior in composition, and most beneficial—if taken in moderation, and not to excess."

Abū Zayd is, of course, speaking of grape-wine.

"The benefit of a substance to the body lies in what the substance provides the body by way of health and strength, whereas its bene t to the soul lies in what the substance provides the soul by way of happiness and ani- mation: for these two things—I mean: health and happiness—are the end to which all people strive in this world; and they are not found together in any food or drink save for in this particular drink [illā fī hādhā al-nawʿ min al-sharāb].

. . . Its benefit to the soul is the happiness and animation that it provides the soul. It is is something unique to it among all foods and drinks, for none of these have in them anything of which the pleasure is transported from the body to the soul producing therein—as does this drink— an abundance of happiness, animation, openness, stimulation, self-contentment, generosity, and freedom from cares and sorrows. 

Among its virtues is that it acts to produce a marvelous effect within the capacities of the soul by bringing forth from it that which was not seen to be present in it prior to drinking: such as the capacities for courage and magnanimity—which are known to be the noblest of human capacities—this even if these things were lacking in a person before: thus, wine gives courage to the coward and makes generous the miser. It also increases that which is already present in a person: such as the capacities for understanding, memory, intellect, eloquence, and sharpness of thought; for it is known that these virtues increase in a person when he has reached the midway state of drinking—before he is overcome by inebriation.

Further among its virtues is that it is the thing that creates a cause for friends to come together around it in conversation and close company . . . It is known that society is made pleasurable by listening or by conversing . . . and that it is by listening and conversing that companionship and happiness fourish in social gatherings—and that nothing makes listening and conversing so agreeable and pleasurable as partaking in wine. It is wine that provides excellence to society and conversation . . . and there is nothing that makes possible relations of intimacy and confidence between friends so tastefully and pleasantly and effectively as does drinking wine together. In this way one finds that . . . the person dearest to anyone from among all his associates is his boon-companion who drinks with him."

Quoted in What is Islam? by Shehab Ahmed, 2016, p. 59

Friday, October 28, 2016

Britain: The party of war

"For the past 18 months, Britain has been complicit with mass murder as our Saudi allies have bombarded Yemen from the air, slaughtering thousands of innocent people as well as helping fuel a humanitarian calamity"


How Britain's party of war gave the green light to Saudi in Yemen


and


"These days, Canada is the second-largest arms exporter to the Middle East. Our Alberta oil sands produce more carbon emissions each year than the entire state of California. Our intelligence agency is allowed to act on information obtained through torture."

Think Canada is a progressive paradise?
"Though it was originally published before the iconic events of 9/11, now more than a decade ago, S. Sayyid’s A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (1997) has assumed even more timely significance since its first appearance. In this pioneering book, Sayyid provocatively suggests, and one can still see the logic of his proposition, that we must see political Islamism as a particular phase of decolonization of Muslim political cultures. Sayyid took the rise of Islamism as a challenge to ‘Western’ political hegemony, and particularly its self-congratulatory declaration of the End of History. That proposition still demands attention."

Islamism — A Eurocentric Position?

Thursday, October 27, 2016


لأن الشيوعية قد أصبحت، بفضل المنظرين الماركسيين، في نظر الشغيلة وعموم الفقراء والمهمشين مرادفة للعلمانية أحيانا، للإلحادية حينا آخر، للتقدمية عند البعض، للتنويرية عند البعض الآخر، وحتى أنها قد أصبحت تظهر في الوعي العمومي (الشيوعية كمرادف للماركسية) كفرقة سياسية أو ايديولوجية تنازع الايديولوجيات الأخرى (الشيوعية في مواجهة الدين)...فمن الطبيعي أنه حينما تظهر الشيوعية كشيء واقعي، كشيء بسيط يمكن أن تصل اليه الجماهير بنهوضها الثوري التلقائي، وبدون الحاجة للمذاهب النظرية والايديولوجية، بل ضد المذهبية نفسها، فإن تلك الجماهير التي تباشر الشيوعية في حركتها بمستويات وأشكال متنوعة لا ترى فيما تقوم به أية شيوعية....وهذا طبيعي، لأن الجماهير لا ترى في حركتها حركة علمانية أو حركة إلحادية أو تقدمية أو تنويرية، فهي لا تواجه سوى شروط حياتها المادية المباشرة، ولا تستهدف غير تغيير أسلوب الانتاج الرأسمالي الذي يدفعها الى حضيض الفقر والبطالة والمجاعات والحروب وقمع أجهزة الدولة وتسلطيتها. لذلك فهذه الجماهير لا تتجه لعلمنة الدولة (فتلك مهمة العلمانيين، أي أولائك الذين يطمعون في تحرير الدولة من كهنوت الدين وليس تحرير العمال من الاستغلال) ولا للإلحاد (فتلك مهمة الملحدين، أي أولائك الذين يطمعون في نزع فكرة الله من عقول البشر وليس نزع الطبقية من حياتهم) ولا للنزاع الايديولوجي (فتلك مهمة الأحزاب وتحشيدها للجمهور كوقود لحرب المنافسة السياسية). وبما أن الشيوعية في الذهن العام لتلك الجماهير هي العلمانية، الإلحادية...الخ فلاشك أنها لا ترى الشيوعية في حركة نضالها حتى وإن كانت حركتها قد وصلت الى درجة مهمة من النضج نحو الشيوعية...


وجمنة (في تونس) ليست سوى محاولة نحو الشيوعية. لكن الشيوعية، بطبيعتها 
كحركة تاريخية، لا يمكن أن تتطور الا على سطح اجتماعي واسع، بل وأممي، لكسر شوكة الرأسمال وكسر الحصار الذي تسلطه الدولة على كل محاولة محلية منفردة، لذلك فجمنة لن تتطور الى حركة شيوعية بدون استجابة بقية الشغيلة والفقراء لندائها الذي لا يمكن أن يكون محليا....

فبقدر ما تتطور جمنة نحو الشيوعية فإنها تبتعد عن الشيوعية الوهمية المرادفة للعلمانية، الإلحادية...الخ. ذلك أن موضوع الشيوعية التاريخي ليس العلمانية ولا الإلحاد ولا غيرهما من ترهات المثقفين، فموضوع الشيوعية الوحيد هو تغيير أسلوب الإدارة الإجتماعية للإنتاج، وتوجيه هذا الأخير لتحقيق الحاجات الفعلية المتضامنة والمتوازنة للبشر بدل توجيهه للربح. فهل قامت جمنة بغير ذلك؟
محمد مثلوثي، تونس

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The fundamental problem with the EU these days is that it needs a federal state structure simply in order to exert its basic functions. The EU 28 is a dysfunctional mess in virtually everything it does. The eurozone is stuck in a perma-crisis. The EU is pathetically weak towards Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and largely absent in Syria. Now we know that it cannot even do trade deals.
My overall conclusion is that the next phase of European integration — which will happen eventually — will have to be preceded by a period of disintegration. Brexit was only the start." — Wolfgang Münchau, the Financial Times

After creating such a crisis and plunder, that is probably how neo-liberal EU will restructure itself, but with more plunder  (privatisation and robbery), more attack on the living standard of the workers, more nationalism and xenophobia at home and abroad.

I think Stratfor.com analysis regarding the future of the EU is more sound than the above one. There will be more disintegration, but with emerging power blocks rather than complete disintegration.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argues that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters."
"This is the importance of Ngugi. Born in 1938, the son of a tenant farmer in rural, British-occupied Kenya, Ngugi grew up working the pyrethrum farms that were once the property of his ancestors. He came of age during the Mau Mau rebellion, followed by the Churchill government’s violent ​response, which included​ the detention of 150,000 Gikuyu people in concentration camps where they were electrocuted, whipped and mutilated. He vividly describes this period in his novels “Weep Not, Child,” the first East African novel published in English, “A Grain of Wheat” and “Petals of Blood.”

"Such a rich body of work [Wizard of the Crow] is of potentially tremendous importance to our understanding of how the world came to be as it is. Ngugi captures the progression from the raw plunder and violence of colonialism to the corruption of national Third World elites by the predatory forces of global capitalism, which he cheekily represented in “Wizard of the Crow” by the fictional global bank.”

The Nobel Committee got it wrong

Monday, October 24, 2016

"It is difficult to apportion blame accurately, but it is not an intractable puzzle, so long as we consider history and common sense. On the one hand, and at the most basic level, how could one absolve the regime? It was not Jabhat al-Nusra or Qatar that ruled Syria with an iron fist the past four decades. It is one thing to hold external actors responsible for playing a fundamental role in weakening the opposition by hijacking it and encouraging militant elements in the push to overthrow the regime. It is another thing to cling to this narrative as cover for the regime’s decades of repression, its damaging neoliberal economic policies, and other ills. The killing and destruction we are witnessing today in Aleppo and elsewhere is being perpetrated by all sides, but overwhelmingly by the Syrian regime. This destruction is not a break with, but rather a manifestation of, the essential tenets of its rule under different circumstances.

The regime in Syria would react in the same manner to any threat to its rule. It is not as though Assad would have tolerated a locally grown and independent, secular, anti-imperialist, pro-Palestine, leftist opposition, militant or not. The only difference today is the identity and character of the forces behind the opposition. It is this difference that gives the conflict a geopolitical dimension, from which the regime is poised to benefit by deftly identifying and manipulating the opposition’s multi-layered contradictions.

Furthermore, there is an instructive history that fuels cynicism vis-à-vis the external supporters of the “pure and consistent revolution” narrative. What do we make of the decades-long support the Syrian regime received from some of the same oil-rich Arab countries that have bankrolled the militarization of the uprising? Or the extensive cooperative economic plans drawn up between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria’s Assad on the eve of the uprising, as though it was a match made in heaven? And what to make of the early US interest in supporting the Syrian opposition, when Washington supported crushing its equivalent in Bahrain only months before, all the while overseeing the mayhem unleashed next door in Iraq with its brutal and fraudulent 2003 invasion?

The basics are not a puzzle. There can be no return to the pre-2011 rule of Syria—whether or not Russia or the almighty wills it. Similarly, the opposition will not overthrow the regime and build a secular, democratic, and socially equitable Syria, because neither its external supporters nor its strongest internal militants desire it. Those who do actually desire a secular, democratic, and egalitarian Syrian society exist on both sides of the divide, but their voices are drowned out."

The full piece:

The deabte over Syria has reached a dead end

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"These days, Canada is the second-largest arms exporter to the Middle East. Our Alberta oil sands produce more carbon emissions each year than the entire state of California. Our intelligence agency is allowed to act on information obtained through torture."

Think Canada is a progressive paradise?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Britain’s university system now “serves a renewed patrimonial capitalism and its ever-widening inequalities.” 
— John Holmwood’s 2014 valedictory message as British Sociological Association president.    
The Rise of the Corporate University in the UK
"Donald Trump can’t undermine American democracy because it barely even exists."

That is a headline on foreignpolicy.com

I think I should update my radicalism in calling the US a capitalist, imperialist democracy. Probably a better qualification would be "the US is a capitalist, imperialist plutocracy".

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When we condemn and oppose the Western barbarism of the war and invasion of Iraq and the "liberal defense of murder" we are anti-American and supporters of Saddam Hussein. When we condemn and oppose Russian and Assad's barbarism we are dupes of US propaganda. When we condemn Israeli barbarism we are anti-semitic. When we condemn torrorist attacks in France and the US saying that is a product of state terrorism we are called apologists for terrorism. I guess we must be anti-semitic, anti-Russian, anti-American, CIA agent, Trotskyite socialist, Anarchists.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Lorna Finlayson’s book has the deceptively simple aim of showing that there is no distinction in kind to be drawn between the methodology of political philosophy and the philosophy itself. And, she suggests, since the methodology is in turn really just a way of trying to sustain the distinction between political philosophy and politics, the collapse of this distinction also supports the claim that the political philosophy/politics distinction is itself untenable. Political philosophy—or, it turns out, mainstream analytic political philosophy—has a mistaken understanding of itself as standing outside or above the messy power-ridden realm of actual politics, Finlayson argues; this misunderstanding is ideologically motivated, and the methodology of political philosophy serves to exemplify and buttress it. Showing that the distinction between the methodology of political philosophy and political philosophy is ideological, in the pejorative sense familiar from critical theory since Marx, will help to emancipate us from this misunderstanding and allow us to see that political philosophy is political all the way down. Thus emancipated, we will be better placed to see that much of what we have taken to be neutral philosophical virtues—constructiveness and charity are her examples—have been serving the ideological purpose of bolstering liberalism, while what presents itself as dissent from the primacy of analytic liberal political philosophy is already disciplined by this methodological buttressing in ways that mute its ability to challenge the dominance of liberalism."

— David Owen

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Dr.  preaching neo-orientalism, imperialism and patronizing other countries, brandishing an empty term ("democracy) of the West, i.e. the capitalist, imperialist democracy of the Western powers that we have seen in practice not only in wars and occupations, but in IMF adjustment programmes, in global capitalism's uneven development, in plunder by corporations, in NGOs working with repressive regimes and perpetuuating power structure, in Western powers working with local regimes in aborting, diverting or co-opting uprisings or confining it to the parliamentary capitalist democracy, oppression within the undemocratic European Union itself, level of corruption on an unprecedented scale, driving down wages, undermining unions (even banning people from joining a union), gambling with pensions, corporatization of education, undermining academic freedom, a development of an oligarchy and a mediaocracy, depolitization, passivity and narcissism, a plague called identity politics instead, the rise of the far-right as a consequence of neo-liberalism and a crisis of the nation-state.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"It should never be forgotten that joining a “school,” or associating oneself with a certain theoretical perspective, means associating oneself to an intellectual field, where there is an important struggle for access to the dominant positions. Ultimately, calling oneself a Marxist in the France of the 1960s — when the academic field was in part dominated by self-identified Marxists — did not have the same meaning as it does to be a Marxist today.
Concepts and canonical authors are obviously intellectual instruments, but they also correspond to various strategies for becoming part of the field and the struggles over it. Intellectual developments are then partly determined by relations of power within the field itself.
Also, it seems to me that relations of power within the academic field have changed considerably since the end of the 1970s: after the decline of Marxism, Foucault occupied a central place. In reality, he offers a comfortable position that allows a certain degree of subversion to be introduced without detracting from the codes of the academy. Mobilizing Foucault is relatively valued, it often allows his defenders to get published in prestigious journals, to join wide intellectual networks, to publish books, etc.
Very wide swaths of the intellectual world refer to Foucault in their work and have him saying everything and its opposite. You can be an adviser to the MEDEF and edit his lectures! [A reference to François Ewald, adviser to the main French business federation; see above.] I would say that he opens doors. And you can’t really say the same of Marx nowadays...
... We’re heading towards a much more authoritarian kind of liberalism, with a return to family values, a return to a total fantasy of national culture, and the good old pre-globalized capitalism…

Concerning Violence ends on a powerful note bound to leave you with a knot in your stomach. Lest our daily brush with the news, with the forces of globalisation, consumerism and capital, with all this new inter-connectedness and our (however valid) criticism of the United States’s imperial ambitions distract us, Fanon reminds us that Europe is at the root of all our problems today, and it is Europe to which we are ideologically and materially enslaved.
The camera moves swiftly through the centre of a massive gathering of people in tattered clothing, emaciated, looking expectantly into the camera – the wretched of the earth, literally – as Fanon’s most damning words appear on screen:

"From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries toward that same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the third world. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the under-developed peoples. 
The ports of Holland, the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialised in the Negro slave trade, and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor under-developed peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: 'It’s a just reparation which will be paid to us'."
 Fanon documentary confronts fallacies about anti-colonial philosopher

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Via Joey Ayub' blog

"The inherent contradictions which have plagued Syria and the world should give rise to deeper realizations, eloquently expressed by Kurdish activist Dilar Dirik in a Facebook post: “It is the capitalist-statist-nationalist-patriarchal system that forces people around the world and at the moment especially in the Middle East to choose between lesser evils in the name of freedom. Forcing millions of people to pick between ISIS or Assad; religious fundamentalism or secular militarism; monarchy, caliphate or racist nation-states; women's pornification or complete veiling; Sisi or Morsi; Atatürkism or Erdoğanism; etc are not choices but perfect weapons of breaking the people's will. To force people to settle between death by drowning or by burning is the perfect way to make them lose the most fundamental human power: hope."
"Putting a stop to the far Right’s advances and the furious referendums would demand a break with the social-demolition policies that feed… the far Right’s advances and the furious referendums. Yet these are neoliberalism’s very policies!"

An Oligarchy Aggrieved


"What I have in mind here is to take seriously the fact that the historical record of “capitalist” foreign policy – the structuring and management of spaces of capital – is so incredibly diverse: from the Peace of Utrecht that left a specific political geography on the Continent regulated by British power-balancing, via the Vienna Settlement and the Concert of Europe, the construction of the Western Hemisphere through the Monroe Doctrine, formal and informal imperialisms in the late 19th century, the American interwar strategy to break up the old empires and replace them at Versailles by pushing mini-state proliferations through the principle of “national self-determination,” based on liberal and republican state forms and tied into notions of collective security, German and Japanese notions of autarchic regional orders – Carl Schmitt’s “greater spaces” – to US hegemony and the European Integration Project. The political geographies of historical capitalism cannot be derived from a particular “logic of capital,” either with recourse to the generic concept itself, or particular phases of capitalist development, but require a much more fine-tuned historicist approach that emphasizes their construction – rather than subsumption under some sub specie aeternitatis principle – be it the classical IR trope of power politics and states as security accumulators in a condition of anarchy or the classical Marxist trope of capitalist geopolitics. For what is a capitalist foreign policy supposed to be, in the abstract? So we are broadening out into other fields, into other areas while trying to theoretically refine or reformulate the early brilliant, but theoretically somewhat problematic, work of Brenner and Wood...

You have to understand that mainstream Anglo-American IR was, until very recently, built on the assumption that theorizing departs from the existence of the interstate system as a natural given, rather than something that requires 
explanation in the first place. It posits the political as an autonomous sphere in which states are generically endowed with a unitary rationality and ascribed certain attributes, foremost survival, security, and hence power-maximization. 

Once these axioms are in place, you can then establish by means of a series of logical deductions how rational state action in a condition of international anarchy leads to certain likely outcomes, including power-balancing, leading to some kind of self-equilibrating systemic logic. This is a nice little exercise in abstract logic, actually modeled, by Kenneth Waltz, in analogy to the workings of the anarchy of competitive markets self-regulated by the invisible hand. It is also said to be grounded in ancient wisdoms – si vis pacem para bellum – but bears hardly any relation to reality. So the works of Hans Morgenthau and later of Kenneth Waltz are really premised on drawing an analytical Rubicon between the state and systemic interstate relations and anything that goes on within societies within these states. So the domestic and the social are excised from the remit of what could count as possible influences on statecraft and foreign policy – party politics, business and sector interests, social crises and so on.

This is of course an incredibly narrow, impoverished and ideological way to think about international relations as a social science..."
Rethinking International Relations

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Some years ago, I a ended a dinner at Princeton University where I witnessed a revealing exchange between an eminent European philosopher who was visiting from Cambridge, and a Muslim scholar who was seated next to him. The Muslim colleague was indulging in a glass of wine. Evidently troubled by this, the distinguished don eventually asked his dining companion if he might be so bold as to venture a personal question. “Do you consider yourself a Muslim?” “Yes,” came the reply. “How come, then, you are drinking wine?” The Muslim colleague smiled gently. “My family have been Muslims for a thousand years,” he said, “during which time we have always been drinking wine.” An expression of distress appeared on the learned logician’s pale countenance, prompting the further clari cation: “You see, we are Muslim wine-drinkers.” The questioner looked bewildered. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Yes, I know,” replied his native informant, “but I do.”

— Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam?, 2016
 
"Perhaps the central function that meritocracy plays — complete with SAT exams and other presumptively objective testing mechanisms — is in normalizing the growing class disparities in money, power, and resources. Top universities have been the essential building blocks of our new Gilded Age, facilitating the transfer of wealth and opportunity from one privileged generation to the next — and doing so while cloaking the extent to which today’s meritocratic elite are really the beneficiaries of a modern version of an "old boys’ club."

And this applies to elite universities in general,

"[H]igher education is a profound instrument of social power, one that can project values independent of state and corporate demands and offer its students and community members a space for their own cultivation. The dilemma is that our universities, in particular our elite ones, are doing less of this work and far more of the invisible work of class reproduction."

Meritocracy in Obama's Gilded Age

Friday, October 14, 2016


"It is Turkey’s tilt towards Russia and, to a degree, Iran, which is the main change in the strategic equation on the crowded battlefield of north-west Syria.

During five years of civil war that has killed up to 500,000 Syrians and displaced half the population, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, sought to topple Mr Assad, backing rebel forces against him and allowing jihadi volunteers to use Turkish territory as a launch pad into Syria.

That sharp focus is fading out as Ankara has turned to more pressing considerations — especially since the violent attempted coup against Mr Erdogan in mid-July.

Turkey’s main goal in Syria now is to prevent Syrian Kurdish fighters from consolidating an autonomous territory below its border. 

One element in this new equation is that Moscow and Tehran were quicker to condemn July’s attempted coup than Washington and most European capitals, even though Turkey is a Nato ally and EU candidate member."

— David Gardner, Financial Times, 13 October 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

In this times of barbarism, absurdity and mediocrity, I wish Dario Fo, who has just left us forver today, could give me some of his wit.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague are now visiting professors at the London School of Economics, London. They have joined the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security.
William Hague and peace! Remeber that scene in Life of Brian? Peace? The man who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq (and thus was complicit in the destruction and the consequnces of that war) and who came out recently to reitrate that support by standing with Blair. Blair himself became a peace envoy to the Middle East, didn't he? 

Regarding Angelina, here is a good dissection of the "ideology" of charity and the hypocrisy of it.

Against Charity
I recommend
The Accidental Death of an Anarchist 
by Dario Fo
Britain

May emerged as the preferred candidate of the Tory establishment. Her job, it seems, is to organize the transition to a new form of Conservative politics with less emphasis on austerity and economic competence and more on racist populism. Amid a record period of declining living standards and economic stagnation, the currency of politics today is resentment; it is never just “the economy, stupid.”

Theresa May's Le Pen Moment


"I think that anti-war activists and socialists should condemn the actions of all states which commit acts of aggression and war crimes, not only those of Western powers or states aligned with the West" 

"I think we should oppose Britain when it's doing things which are not good for the civilians of Syria, and its support for Israel and its backing of Saudi Arabia in its attack on Yemen, but we can also protest other countries when they're carrying out other barbarisms. It's just political consistency and speaking to principle." — Mark Boothroyd, a Labour Party activist

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Postwar West German ministry ‘burdened’ by ex-Nazis, study says

"Up to 76 per cent of officials in the post-1945 West German justice ministry were former Nazis, according to an official history published on Monday that highlights how party members protected each other long after the second world war." 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"From the start of the hideous Saudi bombing campaign against Yemen 18 months ago, two countries have played active, vital roles in enabling the carnage: the U.S. and U.K. The atrocities committed by the Saudis would have been impossible without their steadfast, aggressive support."

US and UK have participated in Saudi war crimes
"What feeds the hatred towards the West has nothing to do with Donald Trump. It has to do with with the 1,000lb fragmentation bombs, the cruise missiles, and 155mm artillery shells that are being dropped all over areas that ISIS controls."
 — The Real News Network

Monday, October 10, 2016

"When Obama states that it is “the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization,” he is articulating a liberal version of Islamophobia, according to which Islam is culpable for violence committed by Muslims, even if most Muslims are “peaceful.”

Thus, following every controversy, the range of debate remains restricted to right-wing and liberal variants of Islamophobia, although with an overall steady shift to the right. Hence, just as it is correct to point out that Republican denunciations of Trump’s rhetoric wring hollow, given their strong support for the logic that underpins it, the same applies to Democratic denunciations of Republicans, and for the same reasons.

While the Right views all Muslims as a problem and as a fifth column in Western nations, the liberal establishment sounds more reasonable in that it differentiates between terrorists and the majority of Muslims. But it nevertheless holds an entire group of people responsible. This is why establishment liberals believe that “moderate Muslims” should “take responsibility” for denouncing the terrorists, that leftists and anti-racists should get over their political correctness, and that everyone should join them in supporting the war on terror and its practices of war, surveillance, indefinite detention, and drone strikes."

The Roots of Islamophobia
"Many of the arguments used to defend the Syrian regime’s devastating attacks on rebel-held cities are eerily similar to those used by U.S. politicians, in their public statements and in a series of bipartisan Congressional resolutions, to defend Israel's massive assaults on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. By combining segments of these statements and resolutions supporting Israel’s “right to self-defense” with certain anti-imperialists’ writings on Syria, I was able to put together the ultimate guide to defending war crimes."

A Handy Guide for Defending War Crimes

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Insecurity and the New World of Work

"Since 2007*, almost all the aggregate increase in employment in the UK is accounted for by ‘non-standard jobs’, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These included low-pay self-employment, ‘flexible’ and zero-hours contracts and part-time work."

Friday, October 07, 2016

Just another news item

"As the rescuers approached, they found overloaded wooden vessels and rafts that evoked scenes of the slave trade."
A new YouGov poll has found the British public are generally proud of the British Empire and its colonial past.



Monday, October 03, 2016

This is an  edited extract from Neil Davidson's forthcoming book 

Peregrine Worsthorne, then associate editor and columnist with the ultraconservative London Daily Telegraph wrote in response to a survey conducted on the centenary of Marx’s death: “Being very conscious of the existence of the class-war, I have to admit to being very influenced by Marx without whose writings this idea would never have become so all pervasive. ... I am a Tory-Marxist, in the sense of accepting the need to take sides in the class war, even if, so to speak, on the other side.” More recently, Niall Ferguson has commented in an interview: “Something that’s seldom appreciated about me...is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I’m on the side of the bourgeoisie.”

However–and where conservatism becomes interesting–in so far as it supports the existence of capitalism, it embodies a contradiction which has from time to time produced intellectually fruitful results. Alasdair MacIntyre writes of Burke that he “tried to combine adherence in politics to a conception of tradition which would vindicate the oligarchical revolution of property of 1688 and adherence to the doctrine and institutions of the free market”. However, the social stability and cohesion which conservatives regard as desirable are constantly being disrupted and dismantled by the operation of capitalism–the very qualities for which Marx and Engels gave it a qualified welcome in the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”.

Expanding on MacIntyre’s discussion, Peter McMylor has pointed out that supporters of the “peculiar institution” in the South before the Civil War like George Fitzhugh–admirers of Burke to a man–nevertheless drew the logical conclusion from his position, which was to refuse the intrusion of the industrial market society emerging in the North and rely instead on the stability of a rural one based on slavery. Hayek considered himself a “Burkean Whig” in relation to Burke’s economic thought, with its idolatrous reverence for “Market” (with a capital M and without the definitive article), but never a conservative. Hayek naturally draws on Burke’s most extreme statement in support of “Market”, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity. On other occasions, however, Burke showed a pained awareness of the destructive power of modernity in a more general sense. David Bromwich rightly points out: “We now accept with little challenge the arrangements of a commercial democracy and an empire at once commercial and military. Burke is a historian of their human cost. No other writer has seen so comprehensively what was gained and what was lost with coming of political modernity.”

Marxists would dispute whether “no other writer” had observed these contradictions, since Marx himself did–indeed, as we shall see, this is one of the points where his views overlap with those of conservatives; but there is no doubt Burke was one of the first writers to do so. What is uncomfortable for socialists is that some of Burke’s finest expressions of this position are in Reflections on the Revolution in France, occurring in the very passages in which he laments the treatment of Marie Antoinette at the hands of the mob and mocks “this new conquering empire of light and reason”: “On the scheme of this philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom, as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by their own terrors, and by their own concern, which each individual may find in them, from his private interests. In the groves of their academy, and at the end of every visto, you see nothing but the gallows.”

The reflex among Marxists, including this author, is to defend the French Revolution, even the Terror, against attempts to treat it as either a non-event or an explosion of irrational millenarian fury. But while this is still necessary, it needs to be undertaken while simultaneously bearing in mind that the French Revolution was not simply a series of great popular
interventions, but the gateway to capitalist development in France with all the violence against the popular masses which that involved–a violence all the more unconstrained because of its rationality. Burke saw something of these possibilities–at least enough such that treating him as the founding father of modern “revisionism” is simply wrong. On the contrary, it was precisely because he had no doubts about the bourgeois nature of the Revolution that he feared the destructive power of its triumph and influence.  

The consequent “fear of modernity” gives conservatism whatever vitality it still retains as a critical intellectual tradition. Quite early in the neoliberal era, in 1987, two conservatives, the British Max Beloff and the American Irving Kristol, debated the future of their tradition in the pages of Encounter. In response to an accusation by Kristol that British conservatism was tainted with association with an aristocratic remnant, Beloff responded by saying that the threat to its survival “is not its links with the aristocratic tradition, but its alleged indifference to some of the abuses of capitalism. It is not the dukes who lose us votes, but the ‘malefactors of great wealth’”. A more recent example by a self-described “true conservative”, Brian Appleyard, writes of the immunity granted to banks and other financial institutions responsible for triggering the present crisis that “the failure forcibly to end these abuses as a disgrace and a grave threat to the social peace we crave”. 

In fact, writers in this tradition have contributed some of the most searching non-Marxist critiques of neoliberal globalization. The best of these have been far more serious in nature than vapid productions by supporters of liberal and social democracy–Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee in the UK, Paul Krugman and Paul Stiglitz in the USA–with their endless attempts to exculpate the Labour and Democratic parties from responsibility for the ongoing catastrophe, and their blank refusal to recognize the remorseless, implacable nature of contemporary capitalism. 

These affinities between Marxism and conservatism go deeper than simply a shared concern over the effects of neoliberalism. Their shared ambivalence towards capitalist modernity itself is one of these affinities. Consequently, although Marx and Engels are scathing about “feudal socialism” in the “Manifesto”, treating it as a variety of “reactionary socialism”, they conceded that “at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history”. Thomas Carlyle is mentioned as one of the representatives of this school–although there was nothing remotely “feudal “ about him any more than there was about Burke–and Engels had earlier drawn on Carlyle’s work in his pioneering study of the English working class.

There are also deeper philosophical similarities. Arguing from a Marxist perspective, Andrew Collier strikes an authentically conservative note by pointing out that “the correct method in political philosophy” is not “to construct an ideal of human life and then work out what political arrangements would be most conducive to it”. Burke would not have disagreed and, as this suggests other parallels. Alan Shandro points out: “Marx’s political thought bears a structural similarity to conservative thought in that each seeks to ground its political program upon the study of society as it actually exists, rather than upon a vision of human nature considered apart from society.” This was one reason why Max Weber praised the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, “it refrains...from moralizing”: “It simply does not occur to the authors...to rant about the baseness and wickedness of the world. Nor do they think it their task to say, ‘This or that is arranged in a particular way in the world and it should be arranged differently, namely in such and such a way’.”

The key to their inner connection between conservatism and Marxism lies in the initial premises with which both begin, namely a set of assumptions about human nature, as Collier explains: “Marx reaches his revolutionary conclusions from the usually conservative premises that society is an organism and that the task of politics is to serve the good of the organism, not to realize certain ideals. ... What he shares with conservatism is his belief that starting from where we are rather than from an idea of where we want to do, and asking what can be done, not for the good of people in general, but for the good of these people, with these traditions, these needs, these skills, these resources.” There are, of course, limits to these parallels: “What divides him [Marx] from conservatism is his belief that the existing society involves contradictions, which prevent it from flourishing, and which can only be eliminated by changing the system. It is definitive of contradictions that they are both essential to the society of which they are part, and destructive of it.”

The final sentence in this passage suggests where conservatism and Marxism and actually divide, and why the former is mostly blind to what it shares with the latter. But even at its most perceptive, conservative critiques cannot offer an alternative adequate to the task, which would involve embracing a revolutionary solution, equally destructive–albeit from the other direction–of the very stability and order they see as threatened by capitalism.