- Manchester: an explosion of hate and fear
- Extremists of the neoliberal “centre”
- The CIA and the war of ideas
- Enemy of the system – the US campaign against Julian Assange
- Money, power and mining
The vile bomb attack in Manchester on May 22 has left a noxious smell of racism and fascism in the British political atmosphere in the election run-up.
Prime Minister Theresa May was very quick to ramp up the terror alert status to “critical” and send the army onto the streets in a bid to show just how strong and stable she is.
The gesture has a hint of coup d’état about it. Even pro-establishment Guardian journo Jonathan Freedland had to admit that troops being deployed in the middle of a general election campaign was “new and unsettling terrain for British democracy”.
As Gianfranco Sanguinetti noted, in his book On Terrorism and the State, regarding a similar situation in Italy in the late 1970s: “The reasoning currently in vogue is simple: if you love democracy, you have to defend it; to defend it you have to fight its enemies; to fight the enemies of democracy, no sacrifice is too great: the nobility of the end justifies every means; no democracy for the enemies of democracy! Something which was never essentially a democracy has now visibly ceased being so”.
But even worse was to come from media commentators who seem eager to pave the way to a grim authoritarian-capitalist future.
The right-wing Muslim-hating newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins sent a tweet in which she called for a “final solution” – this apparent call for genocide is apparently now the subject of a police enquiry.
Incidentally Hopkins, formerly of The Sun and now with Mail Online and LBC, was sponsored through her university education by the British Army’s Intelligence Corps.
Allison Pearson of The Daily Telegraph tweeted:”We need a State of Emergency as France has. We need internment of thousands of terror suspects now to protect our children.”
Meanwhile, Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, struck an equally fascistic note when he tweeted: “A nation whose children are attacked must take action”, adding that “there is a strong justification for hate right now”.
O’Neill, and Spiked in general, has a proud history of amplifying authoritarian capitalist viewpoints under the cloak of a seemingly “radical” background – Spiked used to be called LM, or Living Marxism, and emerged from the very peculiar Revolutionary Communist Party.
As George Monbiot noted, O’Neill’s group has travelled “from the most distant fringes of the left to the extremities of the pro-corporate libertarian right” and it has never ceased being divisive and disruptive.
Explains Monbiot: “The organisation began in the late 1970s as a Trotskyist splinter called the Revolutionary Communist party. It immediately set out to destroy competing oppositionist movements. When nurses and cleaners marched for better pay, it picketed their demonstrations. It moved into the gay rights group Outrage and sought to shut it down. It tried to disrupt the miners’ strike, undermined the Anti-Nazi League and nearly destroyed the radical Polytechnic of North London. On at least two occasions RCP activists physically attacked members of opposing factions.”
O’Neill, like Spiked as a whole, has a particular love of industrial capitalism and can barely suppress his hatred for anyone who dares to put the health of the environment above the quest for endless economic growth.
Indeed, he has specifically complained that environment protest “contributes to the increasingly mainstream hostility to economic growth”.
And he described eco-activists opposed to the third runway at Heathrow as “plummy-voiced enemies of progress, those most entitled and eco-pompous of millennials”.
He has also condemned the”leftish set’s warped, myopic anti-Semitism” and “the way in which attacking Israel has become a means of being derogatory about Jews”.
Meanwhile, over in France, the new “centrist” president Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, has announced that he wants to further extend the country’s State of Emergency, for the sixth time since the Paris attacks of November 2015, and bring in unspecified new “anti-terror” laws.
And “anti-terrorism” was said to be high on the agenda of the NATO summit in Brussels this week (see Acorninfo, below) where Macron was meeting with counterparts such as Theresa May and Donald Trump.
Rabid support for industrial capitalism, bitter opposition to environmentalism, anti-Muslim rhetoric, hysterical calls for “action” in response to terror attacks… Funny how so many of these people seem to be reading from the same centralised script…
One of the most insidious terms on the contemporary European political scene is “centrist”.
It is a label claimed by the new French president Emmanuel Macron as well as by former UK prime minister Tony Blair.
And it is insidious because it is used to define extreme neoliberal capitalism as a norm, as a default position, as a “common sense” non-ideology whose assumptions and aims can never be fundamentally challenged, except by “extremists”.
Centrists like to make great play of being beyond the “divisive” politics of left and right and yet are always happy to exploit those divisions to cement their own position.
Thus Macron’s supporters in France urged left-wingers to vote for him to keep out the extreme-right Front National and condemned defeated left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon for not ordering his supporters to vote for Macron in the second round.
Fellow “centrist” Blair saw Macron’s election as “a real victory for a more global approach to politics”, adding that he represented “a spirit which has echoes in every European country and in the western world in general”.
Blair’s supporters in the UK like to claim that the “populism” of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is a mirror image of the right-wing populism of Donald Trump – the centrist line is always to lump all “extremists” together and suggest that if you go far enough round the “political spectrum” in either direction you will end up in the extremist hell of a kind of Nazi-Soviet pact, an anti-American, anti-semitic red-brown alliance that poses a chilling danger to strong and stable democratic values.
From the point of view of the centrist, which is of course well represented in the corporate media, anti-capitalism is peripheral and dangerous, always liable to open a Pandora’s box of hateful savagery.
This strategy is, unfortunately, very successful in terms of preventing the emergence of an anti-capitalist worldview that is capable of challenging reality as presented by the centrists.
Too many critics of neoliberalism allow themselves to be contained within the narrow political frameworks constructed by the dominant capitalist system.
Because centrists say that opposition to neoliberal globalisation amounts to a form of nationalism, some leftists are suckered into speaking in terms of “national” sovereignty as a bulwark against global Capital, rather than espousing a radical rejection both of the capitalist system and of the nation-states which maintain and enforce it.
Because centrists are always claiming that their policies are best for “growth” and for “creating jobs”, some leftists feel they have to justify their own policies using the same criteria.
Because centrists argue that the only alternative to imposing austerity is for states to borrow yet more money, some so-called left-wingers fall into their trap of proposing more debt to the bankers rather than the abolition of the whole capitalist money-system.
Because it seems obvious that, given the nature of elections and the shaping of public opinion, nobody can win an election on an authentically anti-capitalist platform, those leftists who engage on the electoral level of politics drop all real anti-capitalism from their rhetoric and programmes, and make do with reformism.
But this is a big mistake. They are not tailoring their politics to match the views of the public, but to match the views of the public as presented by the neoliberal centrists!
They are buying into the centrist line that the vast majority of the population are very happy with the way the world is organised and are firmly opposed to any fundamental change.
But what if that is simply not true? What if most people are sick to death of this hollow, money-fixated society and are longing for something else? What if most people are horribly aware of the dull limits of their daily grind, their daily consumption, and dream of a different existence?
What if most people are appalled by the spiralling destruction of the natural world, the police-state surveillance of every nook and cranny of their lives, the hypocritical warmongering propaganda churned out by the system’s media?
What if they are just waiting for someone to speak the truth, to say plainly that industrial society is a disaster, that the grey capitalist world of production, exploitation and consumption is a world not worth living in, that there are more important things than money, that things could be so very different, so much better, if only we could smash down the walls of the cells in which have been imprisoned?
Where is the passion? Where is the rage? Where is the desire? Where are the calls to insurrection, to revolution, capable of stirring up a powerful groundswell of contempt for the self-defined centrists and everything they represent?
It is not entirely accidental that there is a distinct lack of a coherent and vibrant ideological opposition to capitalism.
For many decades the agents of capitalist power, notably the CIA, have been engaged in what the Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci called a “war of ideas” to prevent any such movement arising.
Robin Ramsay of Lobster magazine, a specialist in secretive US interference in UK politics and culture, writes: “Much of the international political landscape of the postwar era in Britain consisted of US-funded or directed political projects – propaganda or psychological warfare projects they would now be called. And this was on top of the formal military-diplomatic-financial structure of NATO, the IMF, World Bank, Gatt, the UN etc.”
In Germany, there has long been suspicion that American influence might have been behind the emergence of the “antideutsch” strain of leftism which conveniently combined anti-fascism with a fervent admiration for American imperialism and Israeli repression of Palestinians.
And a fascinating recently-released CIA document sheds some light on American capitalist attitudes to the “French Theory” philosophical movement which gave birth to postmodernism, postfeminism, postanarchism and that whole pompous school of pseudo-radical academic thinking which delights in pouring cold water on all notions of overturning capitalist hegemony and creating the other world for which we yearn.
The document, written in 1985, radiates with American self-congratulation that the anti-capitalist ideas which had been so powerful in France in 1968 had now been replaced by a philosophy that was friendly to US corporate and military interests.
It declares: “There is a new climate of intellectual opinion in France – a spirit of anti-Marxism and anti-Sovietism that will make it difficult for anyone to mobilize significant intellectual opposition to US policies.
“Nor will French intellectuals be likely to lend their weight, as they did before, to other West European colleagues who have become hostile to the United States on broad issues like disarmament.”
This shift in attitudes, it reports with evident delight, had been “weakening the traditional anti-Americanism of the leftist intellectuals and allowing American culture and even political and economic policies to find new vogue”.
The CIA reveal themselves to be very keen on “New Philosopher” Bernard-Henri Lévy, known as BHL in France, whose position of power at the Grasset publishing house was crucial in spreading the US-friendly ideology he was promoting.
They also single out for ideological praise “the influential structuralist school associated with Claude Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and others”.
Of vital importance for the CIA is the destruction of an intellectual climate critical of capitalism and the imposition of a US-style money-orientated culture. They report gleefully: “There is no gainsaying that French youth, who once joined every new intellectual fad, now think of careers in science or business”.
The US agents note the rise of “a new wave of genuinely pro-American sentiment, rooted in the vogue of American popular culture, in respect for the American economic vitality of the 1980s, and in admiration for the new image of self-confidence that the United States now projects in the world.”
In a perceptive article on the implications of the CIA document, US philosopher and writer Gabriel Rockhill notes that it “should come as no surprise to those familiar with the CIA’s longstanding and ongoing investment in a global cultural war, including support for its most avant-garde forms”.
He notes that the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which was headquartered in Paris and later discovered to be a CIA front organization during the cultural Cold War, was among the most important patrons in world history, supporting an incredible range of artistic and intellectual activities.
It had offices in 35 countries, published dozens of prestige magazines, was involved in the book industry, organized high-profile international conferences and art exhibits, coordinated performances and concerts, and contributed ample funding to various cultural awards and fellowships, as well as to front organizations like the Farfield Foundation.
Rockhill states: “The intelligence agency understands culture and theory to be crucial weapons in the overall arsenal it deploys to perpetuate US interests around the world.”
Former Marxists are particularly useful in channelling their propaganda as they provide “the perfect model for constructing deceptive narratives that amalgamate purported personal political growth with the progressive march of time, as if both individual life and history were simply a matter of ‘growing up’ and recognizing that profound egalitarian social transformation is a thing of the—personal and historical—past.”
Rockhill adds: “This patronizing, omniscient defeatism not only serves to discredit new movements, particularly those driven by the youth, but it also mischaracterizes the relative successes of counter-revolutionary repression as the natural progress of history.”
He correctly identifies the key aim of the CIA’s overall strategy to dismantle the cultural left in Europe and elsewhere as not being to abolish it entirely, which wasn’t regarded as possible, but instead “to move leftist culture away from resolute anti-capitalist and transformative politics toward center-left reformist positions that are less overtly critical of US foreign and domestic policies”.
There we have it. It’s the centre again. Indeed, the CIA report itself predicts that New Left intellectuals will weigh in heavily in supporting “moderate Socialists who are trying to create a broadbased center-left alliance”.
And the important point that Rockhill is making is that the CIA’s pro-capitalist contamination goes much deeper than mere party politics and into the heart of the contemporary ways of thinking that are considered by many self-defined radicals to be central to their “alternative” view of the world.
He says: “The CIA’s reading of French theory should give us pause to reconsider the radical chic veneer that has accompanied much of its Anglophone reception.
“According to a stagist conception of progressive history (which is usually blind to its implicit teleology), the work of figures like Foucault, Derrida and other cutting-edge French theorists is often intuitively affiliated with a form of profound and sophisticated critique that presumably far surpasses anything found in the socialist, Marxist or anarchist traditions.”
But the apparent sophistication of the postmodern position is simply intellectual bait in the CIA trap into which large sections of the so-called “left” have fallen.
As Rockhill writes: “According to the spy agency itself, post-Marxist French theory directly contributed to the CIA’s cultural program of coaxing the left toward the right, while discrediting anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism, thereby creating an intellectual environment in which their imperial projects could be pursued unhindered by serious critical scrutiny from the intelligentsia.”
Of course, the one thing the CIA report does not do is to spell out the US agency’s clandestine role in bringing about this cultural shift away from genuine anti-capitalism and towards pro-imperialist postleftism, whether in France, Germany, the UK or elsewhere.
But then, they don’t really have to. Some of us are still perfectly capable of reading between the lines…
The shocking way that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been intimidated and smeared by the pro-American neoliberal system has been condemned by investigative journalist John Pilger.
He writes on his website: “For almost seven years, this epic miscarriage of justice has been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. There are few precedents.
“Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife.”
Prosecutors in Sweden have now announced that they are suspending their investigation of highly dubious rape allegations against Assange, who has been sheltering in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for five years to avoid extradition via Sweden to the USA.
“That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, and to the principle of free speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious. I would call it anti-journalism,” writes veteran anti-imperialist Pilger.
“Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.
“The previous editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, ‘one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years’. Yet no attempt was made to protect the Guardian’s provider and source. Instead, the ‘scoop’ became part of a marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.
“With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a ‘damaged personality’ and ‘callous’. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that ‘Scotland Yard may get the last laugh’.
“Journalism students might well study this period to understand that the most ubiquitous source of ‘fake news’ is from within a media self-ordained with a false respectability and an extension of the authority and power it claims to challenge but courts and protects.”
And the reason for the unprecedented and co-ordinated judicial-media attacks on Assange, whom some useful idiots on the fake “left” are also happy to condemn? It is simply, Pilger points out, that “WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians”.
Challenging the criminal hegemony of the US-dominated global capitalist mafia remains the number one contemporary political heresy, it seems…
“All the power’s in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it”
As The Clash once pointed out, the close relationship between money and power is at the corrupt heart of our capitalist society.
Money buys power and money is used by those in power to ensure that money and power remain permanently in the same elite hands at the expense of the rest of the population and of the natural world.
Take, for instance, the experience of residents living close to the UK’s largest opencast coalmine at Ffos-y-Fran near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.
Since 2007, they have been enduring what can only be described as a nightmare, with horrific levels of air and noise pollution, with cancer clusters and disturbingly high rates of childhood asthma.
Resident Alyson Austin told the BBC her family’s life had been ruined by the coal dust: “I find it difficult to put the washing out on the clothes line or enjoy my garden. On hot days we can’t even open the windows.”
Like good citizens, the locals went through all the “usual channels”, including a public inquiry, petitions, protests, High Court legal action and even a report from the UN’s special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes.
But their complaints have been ignored and calls for an investigation into the health implications dismissed.
Five hundred locals attempted to take court action as a group, but their application was refused by the High Court “as they were deemed unable to afford it”.
Money always wins. The game is fixed. If you have no money then you have no say in a society where money, and greed for money, is king.
With the democratic process well and truly exhausted – and exposed as a sham – the only way forward was direct action.
Thus, in the early hours of 21 April 2017, under the banner of Earth First! and Reclaim the Power, a bunch of plucky rebels disrupted the mining operations.
At 5am, two of them blocked vehicle access to the mine by using D-locks and an armtube to lock onto the cattle grid at the entrance, while three others climbed down towards the bottom of the vast hole to lock onto the 300 tonne excavators used to extract coal (see video).
No coal mining took place all day.
The response from the system? Guilty of aggravated trespass, they were ordered to pay £10,000 compensation to Miller Argent, the company which is profiting from the misery of the people living alongside its environmentally disastrous mine.
A crowdfunding initiative has been launched to help the brave activists pay off this sum and we would urge people to help out if they can.
In the meantime, we are left with a useful reminder of the fact that the judicial system, in the UK as elsewhere, exists primarily to protect private property and private financial interests. It is designed not only to favour the rich, but to systematically punish the poor for their lack of wealth.
It’s a fraud, a scam, which is imposed on us using all the “authorised” violence of a state which has always existed to serve the interests not of ordinary people but of an arrogant ruling class which despises and exploits them in every way possible.
Ten thousand people took to the streets of Brussels on Wednesday May 24 to tell US president Donald Trump, and the imperialist warmongers of NATO, that they were not welcome in the Belgian capital. Said the No to NATO protest call-out: “NATO and its member states participate in illegal wars and military interventions, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. They contribute massively to international instability, fuelling the arms race and militarization. NATO remains committed to humanity’s biggest threat: nuclear weapons. NATO is the world’s most aggressive war machine. We must leave NATO and NATO must be dissolved.”
* * *
“By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority.” That is the prediction from Jorgen Randers, an academic and author of 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. He adds: “Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode.” The process seems to be well underway…
* * *
A victory has been notched up in the battle to save one of the few museums in the world to be dedicated to the life and works of an anarchist. As we reported in Acorn 33, the Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis Museum at Heerenveen, in the Netherlands, celebrating one of the fathers of Dutch anarchism and libertarian socialism, was faced with closure and a petition was launched to keep it open. This has succeeded in persuading the municipal council of Heerenveen to lift the immediate threat to the museum.
* * *
Opponents of plans to frack in North Yorkshire have welcomed confirmation by Barclays that it plans to sell its stake in Third Energy. Barclays owns 97% of Third Energy, which has permission to frack for shale gas at its KM8 well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire. Friends of the Earth described the decision as “a massive blow for the fracking industry” and urged them to keep up pressure on the bank.
* * *
Anti-fascists from across the UK are mobilising to oppose the Muslim-hating English Defence League in Liverpool on Saturday June 3. Email London Anti-fascists at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line COACH2LIVERPOOL to travel from the South of England.
* * *
Acorn quote: “Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates within the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density. To the point that any return to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable”.
Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection
(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.
Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress