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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hideous Idols.

 
Democracy by Airstrike.

We might, in synoptic terms, see the invasion of Iraq as leading ultimately to the elections of an Iraqi government. This is not to take a teleological view of the invasion as undertaken in order to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq. It was a teleological calculation that led a great many Iraqi leftists to support the intervention. Similarly, David Aaronovitch argued that the prospect of free elections is good reason to bomb Afghanistan as well as the justification for, and ultimately the function of the intervention. It's democracy by airstrike. It can be said that this is not only highly mistaken, it is almost a bastardisation of historical materialism. Karl Marx would remind us that history progresses by its bad side. If we take this too literally then we might come to the conclusion that injustice now is necessary for justice later. The point is actually more subtle: The advent of democracy in Iraq is inseparable from the violence of the invasion and occupation, but it is not a justification of the aforementioned horrors. In this sense Iraq is not unique.

The evils of the war were not perpetrated for the good of Iraqis. But it is the case that the Iraqi people should make the best of their country now that they are free of Saddam. It is precisely because the war was not fought to free Iraq that another intervention was necessary. This time it came from the Iraqi people, including from those who had supported the invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power. We shouldn't sneer at the Iraqis who supported the intervention, in their minds the invasion didn't have to lead to an occupation. In his writing on India Karl Marx likened progress to "that hideous, pagan idol," who drinks the nectar "from the skulls of the slain." He did so not to claim that there is no progress, but to emphasise the horrifying price that has to be paid for it. In the same line Marx writes that it's only when "a great social revolution shall have mastered the results of the bourgeois epoch, the market of the world and the modern powers of production," and subjected them to the control of the people will we have broken with progress as a monstrous god.

It's worth noting that Marx was writing about British colonial rule in India, particularly with regard to the economic composition there. So it should be stressed that the ultimate emancipation of Iraq will come out of the economic conditions. As Terry Eagleton comes out with it, the moral and the material dance hand-in-hand, while at the same time the moral and the material are at daggers drawn. Material development equates to moral development insofar as the advance of productive forces promotes the unfolding of creative power and capacities in man. Yet every advance in civilisation is an advance in barbarism, as Walter Benjamin would remind us, if it brings in its wake new possibilities of emancipation it also arrives coated head to foot in blood. Once again in synoptic terms, we can see the processes of productive advance as a general movement onwards and upwards as generations amass the material preconditions for the new world, as Marx put it, through miserable toil. Capitalism was born indebted to feudalism and slavery in this way.

Defeating an Empire.

The US wanted to avoid any concessions as the resistance in Iraq wanted to end the occupation, in an attempt to hold-off the inevitable Washington managed to prevent elections for the first couple of years. In the meantime a series of market reforms were imposed to destroy Iraq's civil society, opening the country to multinational corporations and privatising everything in sight - the only law of Saddam's left in place was to prevent unionisation. These reforms were illegal until they could be ratified by an Iraqi government of some kind. The first moves towards a new government for Iraq were made for this reason. This included a new constitution, which was quickly typed up by unelected officials. As the Iraq war went on the US had to back down from its war aims, to the extent of trying to block free elections in Iraq. The grass-roots movement for democracy could not be suppressed because it had mass support in the country. It was Iraq's intervention in the US occupation.

Eventually the elections could not be avoided given the strength of the support for democracy in Iraq. So the US first tried to manipulate the elections and when that failed the US came out with its war aims explicitly in 2007. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the conditions were that the US have privileged access to Iraqi oil and that the US can continue its combat operations in Iraq indefinitely. The Bushites were determined to maintain these conditions in January of 2008, but the US government had to back down within a couple of months in the face of Iraqi nationalism. It was in 2009 that the US government finally conceded defeat and began to move to withdraw troops from the country. The privileged access of American corporations to Iraqi oil has been lost, that's not to say that the US has not plundered Iraq - but it does say that Iraq may finally be making the first steps towards independence. By 2010 the Obama administration had to give in to Iraqi "obstructionism" and initiated military withdrawal from Iraq.

It's true that Obama has attempted to maintain and expand the bloated US embassy in Iraq, there have been signs that the US have given up on the diplomatic presence in Iraq. In Febuary 2012 the Obama administration opted to initiate a reduction of funding and staff for the US embassy, which has over 16,000 people in staff and runs on an annual subsidy of $6 billion. More so the embassy will find itself hiring Iraqi staff and source goods and services from the Iraqi economy. Even still this event signifies the ongoing decline of American influence in Iraq. The war has been a disaster for the US overall, specifically in terms of its strategic goals for the region. The invasion had failed to reverse the increasing isolation of Israel on the world stage while Iranian influence in Iraq has only been increased. Elections have empowered Shi'ite conservatives and nationalists in Baghdad, the new Iraq will have peaceful relations with Iran. Washington can continue to dream of an isolated Iran that can be readily cowed.

At History's End.

In defence of the suggestion that it is preferable to export democracy by military intervention, Christopher Hitchens would point to the French role in the American Revolution to throw-off the British rule. So in his mind it remained possible to spread democracy by armed force. Democracy in India came as a by-product of British colonial rule, it was not an indigenous invention. The defeat of European Fascism is what led to the emergence of democracy in Germany and Italy. This still falls short of a justification for the criminal invasion of Iraq, as British rule in India was hardly about nurturing a democracy with a socialist constitution. At the same time, we may safely say that the defeat of Hitlerism in Germany only came about once 'appeasement' had failed and German expansionism came to threaten British interests abroad. Churchill's real concern was that the Fascists would seize the Suez Canal before moving on to India. In the end the British empire was lost in the war and frankly it was the best way to lose it.


The official line of the Communist Party in China is that the accumulative processes of capitalism are necessary in order to create the preconditions for historical change. So the capitalist revolution under Deng Xiaoping required such an ideological justification, the idea is that the Communist Party can push Chinese society through capitalist development to socialism and then to communism. Mao had tried to bridge the chasm between partially post-feudal China and socialism without giving ground to the burgeoning forces of capitalism; whereas Deng sought to "cross the river by feeling the stones". The teleology rears it's head once again in the guise of capitalism with Asian values, where capitalism can and must be drawn upon to construct socialism it is in place for that purpose. It is almost theodicy - vindication through the existence of evil. This really represents the victory of the capitalist roaders, the ultimate revenge of the anti-Maoists after the Cultural Revolution - that was made crystal clear in Tienanmen Square!

At the same time, it's worth acknowledging that, the historical materialist conception of history could be used to justify a non-interventionist stance. The US was not in favour of overthrowing Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War and even after it US policy remained supportive of Hussein's regime. So it shouldn't be forgotten that it isn't necessarily the case that history tends towards liberation. The US allowed Saddam Hussein to crush the massive uprising against him in 1991, specifically providing the authorisation for Hussein to use airstrikes against the Iraqi people. It's also not consistently non-interventionist to suggest that the US should've allowed Saddam to be overthrown by his own people. The economic sanctions imposed on the country by the US strengthened Saddam and devastated the population, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead in the end. This devastation prevented an uprising which would have removed Saddam Hussein from power. A ruination of all is not out of the question at history's end.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thanking Monica.

In Praise of Sex Scandals.

What can we say of the economics of the New Democrats? Well, it wasn't too soon after the election Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan met with Bill Clinton and told the President that his election promises of social reform could not be carried out without increasing the deficit, which would lead to higher interest rates that would undermine economic growth. The dinosaur libertarian Greenspan advised the Clinton administration to slash spending in order to convince the bond markets to lower interest rates and growth would ultimately be generated. Surprising Greenspan the President swallowed this theory without a fight. Clinton made the case for austerity in order to achieve greater long-term economic growth. The prescription was a significant cut in public spending coupled with minor tax increases to fill the koffers left ransacked by 12 years of Republican government. It displeased the middle-class he had pledged to cut taxes for and further diminished the standard of living for the American working-class.


Out of a triangulated politics the Clinton administration implemented welfare reform which was much harsher than anything the GOP ever rammed through a complacent Democratic Congress in previous decades. As the boom emerged there was a widespread belief that it would not all come crashing down because of the innovations in computer technology. The guarantee of stability and stupendous rates of growth came with the advances in computer technology, equations and mathematical models could now be used to bring order to a chaotic marketplace. The state was not needed to intervene either. In theory, it would ensure long-term growth and the confidence in the midst of deregulation produced from this led to an orgy of lending. The banks could now throw money at millions of new lenders. High levels of competition and productivity were now within reach of a self-stabilising order. This is what became known as the New Economy.


Alan Greenspan was concerned when he found little evidence for any rise in productivity, yet he did find signs of "irrational exuberance". In 1996 Greenspan argued that the markets might be overvalued and that a dangerous speculative bubble was beginning inflated. The press attacked Greenspan and he buckled to the pressure. He now claimed that the advances in computer technology had been so significant as to ensure rates of productivity that could not be measured in the traditional way. Greenspan told Clinton it was like "discovering a new planet". The high-tech boom itself had come out of huge amounts of public investment over many years which culminated in the dotcom bubble. This was all going on as deregulation opened up the financial sector to run amok. It would all later blow up in the form of subprime mortgages. The financialisation that began in the 1970s and was intensified under Reagan and Clinton led to the economic disaster that we're still living with.

If we want to take the glass to be half-full then we might take the view that the Lewinsky scandal which saved social security from Clinton's prescribed privatisation as Robin Blackburn has noted. It was in the mid 1990s that the widespread attitude was that the social security system required radical reform. The privatisation lobby basked in the popular perception that an aging population would soon make social security unsustainable in its current form. As Clinton had just sold the workless down the river it was expected that the administration could well do the same to the retired and soon to be retired. Clinton had a top secret "Special Issues" coterie - with Larry Summers at the helm - to go over the minute details of the basis for a "bipartisan policy" on social security that would splice individual accounts into the program. Note the emphasis on unity in American politics runs constant, the preference is always for consensus rather than dissensus.

The New Democrats had snuffed the life out of the welfare program that had been established with the New Deal, now it was social security to be asphyxiated. It just needed to be harsh enough to win over the Republicans without appearing to be Draconian in order to keep the support of a fair chunk of the American public. It soon looked like it was going to be triangulation par excellence. So what went wrong? At the time the Republicans and the media were engaged in a moral crusade against Bill Clinton over a variety of accusations regarding his personal, sexual and political conduct. By 1998 the "Special Issues" agenda had developed seriously over the years and Clinton attended a meeting to review the project. This was in July, shortly before he was handed a subpoena and it wouldn't be long before he was confessing to an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Now Clinton could not be seen to be trashing a long-standing institution of American society. Social security reform was put on ice, the reform would have to be reformed quickly in order for it to be saleable.


It was not the time for a radical overhaul of the system as it had been founded during the New Deal. As one member of the "Special Issues" team would later put it "Toward the end of 1998, as the possibility that the President would be impeached came clearly into view, the policy dynamic of the social security debate changed dramatically and it became clear to the White House that this was not the time to take risks on the scale that would be necessary to achieve a deal on an issue as contentious as social security reform." Quickly the plan was reoriented to strengthen social security through a rare recourse to the budget surplus that the austerity had attained, of course a portion would be invested in equities. Clinton came to propose that 62% of the budget surplus be used to build up the social security trust fund. He promised to veto any attempts to divert social security funds to other uses while calling for 15% of the trust fund to be invested in the stock market.

The investment would be overseen by the social security administrators. It had the potential to create a powerful new lever over economic policy, naturally Alan Greenspan became an opponent of investing social security funds on the stock market. Nevertheless the reform was well received among the American public, the pessimism around social security was supplanted for optimism and the GOP had to concede that social security should be prioritised. And as the sex scandal deepened President Clinton fully endorsed the system. It set back the privatisation lobby in the form of right-wing think tanks as well as the corporate wing of the Democratic Party which Clinton had nursed so well. The consensus was now that social security had to be preserved, even George Bush pledged to prioritise it. The service remained untouchable until the recent economic crisis. This is probably the only reason to praise Clinton's promiscuity that had in the past led to so much misery for others. Fucking Monica Lewinsky may be the only worthwhile decision Bill Clinton ever made.

The 'Masterful' Bill Clinton.

On the Perils of Clintonism.

Since Bill Clinton made his rather glib speech at the Democratic National Convention the BBC has been running a three-part series of documentaries called The Clintons. It's subject is Bill Clinton, post-Reaganite America and the Clinton era of the rise of Third Way politics in the 1990s. Clinton was the first of the business Democrats who reconstructed the Democrats as a right-wing force of reaction and not of reform. The moderation of Dukakis and Mondale was jettisoned, after 12 years of Reaganism nothing short of a sharply conservative redirection of the Democratic Party. It had been in the works for a very long time, as the Kennedys and Carter had played a major role in the degeneration of New Deal liberalism into an electoral husk. The Kennedy liberals oversaw the expansion of the national security state as part of the launch of a criminal war in Indochina, while they took a knife to the top rate of tax for the wealthiest Americans.

After the creature of Nixon had been chased out of the White House it was Carter who initiated the first deregulatory measures on industry while he anointed Paul Volcker - who would soon become the hammer with which the poor would be battered. With that in mind Jimmy Carter was the last concession made to the grass-roots radicals of the 60s, before him there was George McGovern and since him there have been none. To get a feel of Bill Clinton's soul one only has to look to the 1992 campaign trail. The first sex scandal to preempt the Lewinsky scandal erupted with Gennifer Flowers coming forward to put it to the press that she had had a 12-year relationship with Clinton. The immediate response from the Clinton campaign was to act as though Clinton had anything to do with Flowers and only admitted to sleeping with her once several years later. The first objective was to change the subject for the press as it looked as though the story wouldn't just go away.

This is what The Clintons didn't include in its first episode. Clinton saw to it that Ricky Ray Rector was put to death in 1992. At the time, Rector was "seriously mentally impaired", to say the least as he had survived shooting himself in the head after he had shot a police officer in the back. But the court rejected the claim of grave mental impairment and gave Rector the death penalty. Clinton could have pardoned Rector, but instead he flew over to Arkansas to exploit Rector's execution to appear "tough on crime". On the night of his execution, Rector saved a slice of pecan pie to eat later, not understanding his death would come first. The sad irony is that Ricky told his incompetent lawyer that he would like to vote for Clinton. It took 45 minutes for the state's murderers to find a vein in Rector's arm into which they would shoot sodium thiopentol. Meanwhile Bill Clinton had dinner with Mary Steenburgen. And as for Clinton's way with women he has been accused of rape on more than one occasion.

As Christopher Hitchens saw, at the time, Bill Clinton demonstrated a willingness to pander to the racist subconscious of the electorate. On top of this, it was a presentation of ruthless harshness on Clinton's part and the ability to keep liberals on his side even when he stoops to this abysmal low. No one should've been surprised that Clinton would be willing then to bomb the only aspirin factory in Sudan to deflect media attention away from the notoriously semen-stained dress. Once again, the people who have to pay the price for Clinton's sexual conduct are not white and do not have the same privileges of a man of his economic and political status. Hitchens was right to conclude that the public and private face of Bill Clinton are one in the same, that the infidelities of this President was in tune with his most appalling political decrees. Not just Sudan, we shouldn't lose sight of Iraq where the Clintonites used sanctions to starve hundreds of thousands of people. Nor should we forget about the Turkish crimes committed against the Kurds with US arms supplied by Clinton.

The primary legacy of Clinton is the approach he pioneered - that of triangulation specifically. Basically, it amounted firstly to the looting of supportable planks from the Republican platform in order to bag the corporate funding that follows it. Secondly comes a series of psephological measures to "test the water" such as polling to see when it would be best to adopt the proposals. All the while the liberal Left are to be kept on board with the "lesser evil" allure of the Democratic platform. The extent to which the Clinton White House was able to coopt the Left into its base no matter what it did was quite incredible. Not just Ricky Ray Rectar and the aspirin factory in Sudan. Think Waco, where the FBI incinerated 82 people with the broad approval of the liberal Left. This is what convinced a network of lunatic right-wingers that something had to be done. In fact it ultimately led to the Oklahoma City bombing, its perpetrator had come out of the emergent militia movement and its hardline anti-political purism. Still, at least it wasn't for a blowjob.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Spain's Pain.


Santiago Carrillo just passed at the age of 97, perhaps the last major figure of Spanish leftism to have fought in the Civil War and participate in Spain's transition to democracy. He became a major figure in the rising Eurocommunist movement, which could be understood most fairly as an attempt by the Communist Parties of Europe to take an independent line from the Soviet Union. It took the form of an embrace of the democratic norms and institutions of Western Europe in a bid to differentiate itself from Trotskyism. As the Civil War broke out Carrillo was brought into the orbit of the Soviet Union and he was later complicit in the Paracuellos massacre - in which some 2,000 prisoners were shot. The massacre was taken up as an instance of "red barbarism" by Franco's Nationalists. General Franco claimed that the war he waged on Republicans and the Spanish Left in the 1930s was a crusade for Christian civilisation - and he found common cause with reactionary rightists of all stripes to this end.

Franco's Falangists had finished the Second Republic by 1939 and in its place crafted what would be Europe's longest reigning dictatorship. The anarchist revolutionaries of Spain were crushed by the combined forces of Fascism, Stalinism and Western democracies. For the reactionaries in Spain it meant the end of the social upheaval and rebellious unionism that had threatened the fabric of Spanish society for too long. Francoism in Spain was born out of a negation of radicalism, at first Franco only promised a return to order and an end to the revolution. Yet he endorsed liberty, equality and fraternity in his first proclamation. He was quick to promise the middle-class the reversal of land reform, the banning of trade unions along with the parties of the Popular Front. The General went further to promise the return of the monarchy and defence of Catholicism. Leading conservative intellectual William F Buckley, Jr. described Franco as an 'authentic national hero' and condemned the left-wing government as 'visionaries, ideologues, Marxists and nihilists'.

As noted by Richard Seymour, the priority in rural areas of Spain during the Republican era was land reform and the countryside was subject to high unemployment. This helped the Popular Front government to spring up with the promise of quick land reform. The unemployed peasants couldn't wait for the government to deliver and opted to occupy large estates, starting with 3,000 farms in the province of Badajoz. The government legalised the early occupations given the amount of civil unrest and hundreds of thousands of peasants were resettled. The seizures provided not just land and work, a democratic forum was opened up where arguments were waged over the whole future of how the society would develop from then on. It was this which General Franco conquered and destroyed, the peasants and leftist leaders were swiftly done away with. Franco set out to undercut the Left with promise of nationalisations, even the Falange flag was designed to mimmick the flags of the anarchists they intended to annihilate.


Today the very radicalism that the Spanish Fascists had fought to eradicate has resurfaced in the time of austerity and widespread despair. As Fascism collapsed and Spain became a monarchical democracy Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo came to power in Marinaleda in 1979 and, as the rest of the world fell under the spell of neoliberalism, embarked upon the construction of a pocket of what has been described as a 'communist utopia'. There in Marinaleda there is no need for mortgages, while full employment has almost been achieved Sánchez Gordillo has sought to move to a common ownership of land and establish wage equality. Housing is now a right in Marinaleda, taxes are low and the groundwork of a direct democracy laid down. This continues while the rest of Spain suffers an unemployment rate of 25%, even the rest of Andalusia endures a 34% unemployment level. The situation is actually more dire than it is in moribund Greece in this regard. Everywhere there is disaffection and it has taken on living forms in the streets.

The Mayor of Marinaleda has become a prominent figure seen as a surfer on the tall waves of popular anger at the sight of the government handing billions to banks and cutting services to cover the bill. It's obvious he is not a lone-wolf either. The 8 million strong indignados have protested for hundreds of days against the austerity regimes of the established Left and Right of Spain's mainstream politics. The indignados have no faith in the formal institutions of representative democracy anymore. The striking miners of Asturias have taken to firing homemade rocket launchers at riot police and blocking off roads. It was the Asturian miners who were put down by Franco's forces in 1934 only to awaken from their slumber in 1962 and fight valiantly. Franco killed 3,000 miners in 1934 and captured many thousands more, but still they rose up again. Now it's the austerity regime of the Spanish government backed by the Euroconservatives at the heart of the EU that the miners are fighting against.

The egalitarian pocket Marinaleda stands out in Andalusia where around half the arable land is owned by 2% of the land-owners. In the Mayor's own words "The concentration of land ownership in Andalusia is 10% higher than it was in the Second Republic. They tried an agrarian reform. But it was annulled with Franco's coup d'etat... The agrarian reform is still pending." Sánchez Gordillo has been most controversial for orchestrating the looting of supermarkets. It was an act of civil disobedience to grab lentils, oils, beans, chickpeas and milk in order to redistribute the supplies through food banks to the poor. The police have been unable to arrest Sánchez Gordillo given his immunity as the Mayor of Marinaleda. The renegade Mayor has issued calls for other mayors to follow his example and for the occupation of empty buildings owned by the banks. A welcome cry in a country with 800,000 empty homes and millions in need of affordable housing. The death of European social democracy gives many good reason to seek out a more radical solution.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nick Clegg didn't say 'Sorry'.


The much maligned Liberal Democrat leader opened his video address with the words 'I would like to take this opportunity to put a few things straight...' He's chosen to apologise at this time as it has become impossible to ignore the ratings pit that the Liberals are currently living in. Now the only mission left is to try and slither out of this sorry hole. Clegg goes on, oh how he goes on, 'We made a promise before the election, that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances - but that was a mistake. It was a pledge made with the best of intentions. But we shouldn't have made a pledge that we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver. I shouldn't have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around.' He then throws in a dash of realpolitik 'Not least when the most likely way we'd end up in government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who are both committed to put fees up.'

Here's comes the magic 'There's no easy way to say this,' brace yourself for it, 'we made a pledge, we didn't stick to it and for that I am sorry.' It's not clear what exactly Clegg is apologising for here, but then he adds 'When you've made a mistake you should apologise.' Clegg is emphatic 'I will never again make a pledge, unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it. I accept that won't be enough for everyone, but I owe it to you to be up front about it.' Notice politicians never do anything wrong, at worst they're just 'mistaken'. It's always an 'accident' when it sends approval ratings into a downward spiral. Clegg knows full well what he means when he says 'And I don't believe it should cast a shadow everything else that the Liberal Democrats are achieving in government. When we're wrong we hold our hands up, but when we're right we hold our heads up too.' So it was right to rise tuition fees even though there is no economic reason for fees.

It's been widely recognised among serious economists - even by Thatcherite Samuel Brittan - that the cuts are totally unnecessary. The current rate of government debt amounts to 65% of GDP, while it was over 180% of GDP when the NHS was established. Not only are these cuts unnecessary, they have actually increased the rate of borrowing rather than decreased it. The UK government has committed itself to a high level of unemployment for years to come, but it would actually be a better way to reduce deficits if we cut unemployment to raise tax-revenue. Yet Clegg claims that the Lib Dems are 'fighting' to rebuild the economy, while it has been driven into a double-dip recession and there's no end in sight. He also claims spuriously that the Lib Dems are 'defending' the vulnerable. Contrarily, we find Jeremy Hunt talks about opening up health-care to be rinsed of £20 billion by private companies and there's even talk of £8 billion cuts to the NHS on the horizon.

Furthermore, the UK government has slashed benefits for the disabled by £4 billion and has contracted Atos to throw as many disabled people off of the dole line as they can. The Daily Mirror has reported that 32 people died a week last year after being deemed 'fit to work' in this way. The government has actually imposed quotas on job centres to knock three people a week off of benefits and people claiming JSA can live in fear of losing their stipend of £60 a week for six months at most. As part of workfare claimants were bussed in to steward the Jubilee unpaid and without accommodation. So much for 'fairness' in present-day Britain. It's the basic assumption of widespread social democratic values that the state should guarantee a safety-net at least for the vulnerable. It's Nick Clegg who has led the Liberal Democrats to betray this liberal principle in his willingness to be escorted over to the right by austerity junkies David Cameron and George Osborne.

Friday, 14 September 2012

What ever happened to Brotherhood and Unity?


Quite some time ago in the middle of a talk about a political union in Europe there was a debate on Newsnight. It was apt that Nigel Farage make an appearance in standard populist colours against the liberal multiculturalist elites. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as Farage drew a comparison between the European Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UKIP leader suggested that the reason Yugoslavia collapsed into appalling violence in the 1990s was a result of the imposition of Yugoslavia over sovereign nations in a bid to craft a multiethnic federal system. Thankfully Farage is too thick to comprehend the implications of such an analogy. Effectively it would go as far as an endorsement of the Fascist movements - such as the Ustaša and the Chetniks - that devastated the region before the Partisans triumphed over them. This is nothing unusual, and it's not the first time that the analogy has been drawn between the EU and Tito's Yugoslavia. Farage has deployed it repeatedly.

After all it was the final victory over the Communist-led Partisans who had succeeded where the Left had been defeated in Italy and Greece where the West crushed left-wing movements soon after the War. Out of the warring chaos parts of the Yugoslav Kingdom fell into the hands of Hungarian fascists, as well as German and Italian occupying forces; the Bulgarians and Albanians. Croatia and Bosnia were unified under the clerical fascist Ustaša while the Serb Chetniks fought against the genocidal regime with the aim of building a Greater Serbia. The Croats became a client-state of Nazism where Jasenocav (the fourth largest concentration camp in Europe) was founded with the expressed intention of exterminating Jews, Roma and Serbs. There around 600,000 people were slaughtered. There was a great deal of collusion between the Ustaša and the Catholic clergy, going as far as forced conversions of Jews and Orthodox Christians. The establishment of a socialist Yugoslavia was the ultimate defeat of Slavic brands of Fascism.

The West took the side of Tito's Partisans for pragmatic reasons and the Serb Chetniks as well as the Ustaša of Croatia were defeated. The Soviet Union lent the Partisans support only to portray Tito as an agent of Western imperialism after the split between Tito and Stalin. It was clear that the new Yugoslavia was not going to bow to any foreign power. Instead Tito carved out a particular place for his country as a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement with an apposite place in Europe between the competing superpowers of West and East. The idea was that the unity of Yugoslavia would prevent it from being thrown about by international forces. This is contrary to Farage's warped wish to see a free-market world of nations, where every country is powerless to the onslaught of international finance and multinational corporations. In his invincible ignorance Farage fails to see that British withdrawal from the EU would undermine British sovereignty even more. Likewise Farage cannot understand the implications of what it means to say that the EU is just another Yugoslavia.


It should be kept in mind that there have been many right-wingers who found the sight of Yugoslavia's crumbling into barbarism absolutely beautiful. This differs strongly from the small band of leftists who supported Milosevic out of a misguarded belief that it was the last chance to hold together Yugoslavia. By the time of the explosion of violence it was already too late and Yugoslavia was dead on its feet. What did the Right see in this? Well, the multiethnic composition of the federalism and its dependence on a culture of solidarity could not have repulsed many rightists any more than it did. The Titoist campaigns against nationalist sentiment certainly worry backward types like Nigel Farage. No doubt the Eurosceptics fear a federal state where they will be stamped out. Even more freightening is the possible end of the racial tensions that the Right can exploit to its ends. A culture of solidarity doesn't stop at ensuring improved relations between countries and peoples, it could go as far as to build a strong working-class movement.

After all the primary reason for the policy of brotherhood and unity was to hold together Yugoslavia as a socialist system. Tito could not launch a Stalinesque collectivisation, as it would've torn the country apart. Instead Tito decided to give away power to the republics and build the country into a model of market socialism. It featured a limited place for private enterprise and markets combined with a decentralised state-planning apparatus and workers' self-management. It was a prosperous system of development and growth for quite some time. The average rate of GDP was 6% at one point and the standard of living increased significantly, with the establishment of universal health-care and education came a life expectancy of 72 years and a literacy rate of 91%. Every Yugoslav citizen had a right to a job, unemployment was reduced drastically until the 1980s and every worker had a free month-long holiday every year with pay. There was affordable housing and public transportation across the country, while the borders were held open.

It's this model that the Right despises. It is not coincidental that so many right-wingers wanted to leave the Slavs to slaughter one another. The more honest reactionaries have been blunt in their support for the violence. Michael Savage was an open defender of Serbian nationalists attacking Muslims. Later Savage went on to attack Bill Clinton during the intervention in Yugoslavia. He even labelled the President 'Clintler' with regard to the NATO bombing of Serbia. What else would you expect from this fascist? Then there was Nora Beloff who wrote to The Economist in condemnation of the critics of Serbian atrocities. The way she saw it the Muslims are guilty by virtue of being Muslim, she's of the Israel First brigade you see. In this view the Serbs are just exercising their right to self-defence as the Christians fending off the barbarous Muslim hordes. Hitler said about the same of the Poles. It's about the same line that Karadzic has used to defend his actions - such as sending snipers onto the roof of his hotel to shoot civilians as he made his escape.

Really Existing Democracy.


The incumbent President has come out of the Democratic National Convention smiling only to be confronted with upheaval in the Middle East. Yet the approval rating of the candidates, the atmospheric desperation and mediocre speeches of the Conventions are more or less irrelevant. As Mark Hanna would remind us "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember the second." Follow the money and you'll find the winner. It was Bush who outspent his opponents in 2000 and 2004, he didn't even need to win over enough votes - the cash was enough. When Obama got in there was a gap of over $400 million between his campaign and McCain's. Incidentally the Obama campaign won the award for the best marketing campaign of 2008. What's the situation in 2012? It was predicted that campaign contributions would exceed $1 billion. So far Romney had raised over $193 million whereas Obama had raised almost $350 million.

What does all of this signify? Well it's important to take from this that the United States is not really a democracy in the strict sense. Instead it might be better understood as a polyarchy. Polyarchy can be understood as a system in which a multiplicity of political parties - who represent a coterie of powerful interests - compete with one another to govern the society. The political class faces a dual constituency, in which the needs and wants of the poor come second to the needs and wants of the rich. The convergence of interests plays a huge role in political concessions and development in general. But we can debate the extent to which interests overlap and produce a particular outcome. After all, there is an opposition within capitalist relations between the interests of workers and bosses. The political processes may even be seen as purely managerial in this sense, the working-class has to be managed in such a way as to slot into a mandate.

It seems more or less compatible with Thomas Ferguson's investment theory of politics, where the political parties represent blocs of investors. The standard split in American politics can be drawn between high-tech capital intensive and low-tech labour intensive business, the latter being more nationally oriented than the former. The Republican Party responds to the interests of a specific slice of American capital, which seeks to drive down labour costs through anti-union measures and insulate itself from foreign competition. By contrast the Democratic Party was capable of the New Deal because it represented a portion of capital which could tolerate unionisation that would leave it unscathed. It's worth noting that the major support for Franklin Roosevelt came out of banking and oil. So the New Deal reforms could scathe the interests of industrialists to improve the living standards of workers because it did little to harm the interests of finance and energy.

There are said to be ten lobbyists for every member of Congress looking to shoot down any attempt at significant financial regulation. That's not all. The situation has worsened since then and the Obama campaign accepted over $745 million in 2008 and the campaign team went on to win an award for the best marketing campaign of 2008. Since then the Supreme Court has removed all obstacles to even greater corporate influence on elections and has legalised the unrestricted flow of corporate dough into the campaign war-chests. We shouldn't forget that the Bush administration set a major precedent in US history. Bush did not need to win over the electorate to attain office, the immense support from Big Business was enough and the US Supreme Court made sure the interests of Corporate America were not opposed in the election. At least there may be cause for celebration in the fact that the contributions have not yet reached $1 billion as predicted.

Shouting Fire.


The recent explosion of outrage in the Middle East over an anti-Islamic cartoon produced in America has raised the debate over freedom of expression and speech once again. Here's some food for thought on this complicated matter. As Slavoj Žižek argues there is a point at which censorship can function as the measure of cultural standards. He suggests we shouldn't fear censorship for this reason. It's been commonplace for European countries to ban explicit Fascist propaganda, swastikas and so on, yet in Hungary the restriction has been altered to outlaw Communist and Nazi propaganda. This new change leaves the door open for other Fascist propaganda - it's the rehabilitation of Fascism other than the Hitlerian variety. We wouldn't like to live in a society where you argue against rape. Instead Žižek argues that the ideal situation would be where anyone who argues for rape to be legal is immediately disqualified by virtue of their position. It's certain that the sanctions of regard are already in place to some extent across the West.


Consider the following: If I came into your home and put up a poster which declares that the Holocaust was a 'hoax' it would not be a violation of my right to free-speech and free-expression if you were to rip down the poster and throw me out of your home. It would be utterly absurd for me to claim that this is a fundamental violation of free-speech, as well as a concerted effort by the Left to subvert our society and undermine the unremitting greatness of the white man. Even the most strident advocate of the right to free-speech would shudder at the thought of defending this case. So there is a distinction between private and public space, which is relevant to free-speech as there is a difference between expression in the home and expression on Speakers' Corner. Really freedom of speech is not supposed to be applied consistently as a universal principle justifying every statement in any situation. The complex question regards the specifics of the particular situation.

The conflict between private space and free-speech becomes increasingly ambiguous when it comes to the media, in which debates can be held in a space which is at once public and private in a way. The extent to which the broadcasting is a form of involvement of your private space is blurred. Significantly the popular anger about political correctness has emerged with the decline of the public space in recent decades. It has become a means of political mobilisation for the Right in the post-political era. The only struggle worth fighting is to preserve the permissive society of racists, sexists, homophobes and so on. After all, we're led to believe that the Left are working to undermine our civil liberties with this totalitarian notion of political correctness. Even though political correctness can be found on the most conservative of university campuses in the US. It's primary focus is the phraseology deployed in statements regarding race, gender, sexuality etc. 


Political correctness is not as much a matter of what can be said as much as about how it can be said. Nevertheless it is viewed with suspicion by many, we are told it must be combated for it is an imposition on our wholesome society from the lair of cultural Marxists. You can tell it's a concocted panic as it is endorsed by the mainstream media and commentariat. No one ever stands up to promote political correctness. It is only railed against by the brave journalists who are paid by Rupert Murdoch. At the same time there is little concern for the evacuation of meaningful political language and discourse. You can see this when the use of the word 'profits' is replaced with 'jobs' whenever a politician talks about a deal involving government and business. It's more blunt when the mass-killing of foreign civilians becomes 'collateral damage' while kidnapping and torture by governments becomes a 'rendition'. As Gore Vidal observed, you can now 'liberate' a country by bombing it - this is true decadence! The death of 1789 may not be far off the emptying out of the language of politics.

It was politically correct for conservatives to accuse Ken Livingstone of 'homophobia' when he said that the Conservative Party is 'riddled' with closet homosexuals. He was accused of racism when he said that he looked forward to seeing the Saudi Royal Family 'swinging from lampposts'. Yet at the same time Ken Livingstone is constantly accused of being a rabid anti-Semite with a sympathy for Muslim extremism. An honest observer can see that Ken Livingstone has used provocative language in picking fun at the opponents of his worldview: whether it's Tories or the King of Saudi Arabia. As for the allegations of anti-Semitism Ken Livingstone is an outspoken critic of Israel and has been vilified as a Judeophobe for over three decades because of his position on the conflict. With all of this in mind it has to be acknowledged that these accusations are forms of political correctness expressed by the Right. It seems that the phenomenon has transcended left and right.

As Stewart Lee once said political correctness is little more than a clumsily institutionalised form of politeness, which has downsides too but it's a lot better than the time when people could make all kinds of obscene comments. Before political correctness, in Britain, we lived in a country where people like Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson were allowed on television to spout jokes that pick fun at gays, women, ethnic minorities and the disabled. That was a time when we could watch shows like The Black and White Minstrel Show, in which white actors "blacked up" for the sake of 20 years of "family entertainment". And it has to be acknowledged that very often the stories of political correctness going mad are exaggerated. Lee has pointed this out that the infamous example of Birmingham Council banning Christmas. Actually Birmingham Council decided to use the word Winterval as an umbrella term to cover Christmas and other religious celebrations around the same time.