Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Fuck You, Sir.

 Where are the Jacobins?

Michael Gove has spat out a warning against "militancy" directed at teachers in an interview with Andrew Marr and has played the usual tune that those out-of-control unions are an "inconvenience" for ordinary people. Though the line is not unique to Gove's personality, rather it is the case that he is acting as any other politician would in his role. Of course, it is unique of Michael Gove to send out a mass-letter to head teachers across the country in which he informed them of their "moral duty" to keep schools open. The reaction of anger from head teachers was more than appropriate as Gove was nothing more than a know-it-all, who was grossly overpaid as a journalist (he was once paid £5,000 to declare his love for Tony Blair) and now feels he knows something about how the education system should be run. As late as 2008 Gove described Iraq as "a proper British foreign policy success", he had no time to mention the millions slaughtered, displaced, mutilated and robbed by that miserable conflict.

The main area of interest for Gove is not education but foreign policy as he is a member of the Henry Jackson Society, which is fully dedicated to the active promotion of democracy abroad by military intervention if necessary. Importantly for teachers the fact that Michael Gove is a neoconservative means he is adept at spinning "noble lies", not facing up to the consequences of his own actions and drawing up disastrous policy. The Iraq war consisted of the media and the soldier holding the Iraqi down so that the businessman can go through his pockets. The education reforms consist of the teachers being held down by anti-union legislation and the media whilst the Bullingdon Boys ransack the class-rooms. If you think that the Coalition has debt reduction in mind with any of its' reforms you should take a good look at the cuts to higher eduction, the funding of which amounts to 0.7% of GDP and the debt was around 70% in 2010.

So when you find that Mr Gove has increased the extent that the forces of the market can interfere with education, and he makes it easier for teachers to be sacked, don't think it has anything to do with "debt reduction". Keep in mind this is the same minister who pissed £21 million into the mouths of consultants. Remind yourself that out of 32 of these so-called "free schools" 13 of them will be in the most affluent areas, only 2 will be in the 10% most deprived areas and 10 in 20% of the most deprived areas. Less than a fifth will be opened in the North and over half will be opened in the South. These schools are a blessing for the most sharp-elbowed parents of the middle-class, who are necessary to win over in order for a Conservative majority to be achieved in 2015. Teachers are expected to work until the age of 68, raise contributions by up to 50% and all for a pension that will be shrunk in value by 15%. As if all of this is not bad enough, Michael Gove and David Cameron actually demand that the teachers lie down and let this happen.

For a clear and fair debate over the issues we might turn to the BBC, which would disappoint in the usual manner with Newsnight on Monday. Where Jeremy Paxman is basically paid to ask the wrong questions for the sake of concision and conventions. Thus, he opens the show with a line about those selfish teachers going on strike and depriving a "large number of children" of an education for a single day... So we should not be surprised to find Paxo giving the trade unionist a prod about the "damage" done to children, who'll have to endure the unremitting horror of daytime television. Oh think of the children! Then he prods her again about the "audacity" of teachers to go on strike when they have a lot more time off than anyone in the private sector. Tory fopdoodle Nick Boles was keen to point out on Newsnight that the teachers contribute 6.5% to the scheme while the government contributes 13.5% and went on to play the classic line that public sector workers are "pampered".

No doubt the name of the game is a vulgar populism, which pits workers against one another in a bid to divide and conquer. We have seen it again when David Cameron stresses that public sector pensions cost every household £1,000 a year. Cameron invoked the coming pensions crisis, which has come about because there will soon be more retirees than people in work and so there is a need for serious changes. For the Tories the change has to come in the public sector, "change" being in the long-term the overhaul of the current pensions system and the creation of a private system. The only possible ways to deal with the pensions crisis is to either raise taxes or increase immigration. These options are a nightmare for politicians concerned with their careers. So the first easy answer is to raise retirement age, leave the mess for the next government to clear up and give yourself an advantage in opposition. In the long-term the answer will be privatisation no doubt as the crisis is inflamed by the careerism of our beloved MPs.

The resort to strike action is unquestionable in this instance, the only real matter is just how effective it will be. This isn't 1974 when industrial action broke the back of a Conservative government and brought down Ted Heath, who had struck out at the social democratic consensus in a way which was not emulated by the Thatcherites. The approach of the Con-Dem Coalition is not much different from Heath's scatter-gun attack, though Cameron does not have to bludgeon the unions to curtail their ability to resist pay-cuts, redundancies and dawn raids on pensions. Heath was brought down by significant industrial action, though it should not be forgotten that it was industrial action that contributed to the fall of Callaghan in 1979. Since then the labour movement has been smashed, the extent to which was demonstrated in 1990 as workers endured some of the biggest wage-cuts in the world. Union membership has declined sharply as has the influence of unions in the Labour Party.

The necessary approach is not a general strike, which for some signifies the beginning of the long-awaited uprising against the ruling class in the name of equality, fraternity and so on. The truth is a lot less climactic! In actuality a general strike might reveal just how fragile the unions are to a wave of populism on which David Cameron would ride over us to the next election. There is a genuine need for a coordinated series of strikes which hit the government on policy in serious ways, as well as serious protests and civil disobedience which goes beyond the standard formula that is used to organise Flash Mobs. At the same time, we need an adequate leadership capable of breaking through the media-wall to the alternatives to cuts and expose the Coalition for what it is. It isn't clear what will happen over the next 10 years, the political class are in a silent crisis as George Osborne is willfully opening a door and no one knows what is on the other side.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Politics of Berlusconismo.

La Rivoluzione Culturale 

For Italy the "End of History" did not just mean the end of the Cold War, the triumph of liberal democracy and global capitalism, it meant the end of politics as it had been experienced for decades. The fall of the Soviet Union led to a kind of domino-effect in Italy, in which the Communist Party collapsed in 1991 and then the Christian Democrats disintegrated in 1994 after the biggest corruption scandal in post-war Italian history. The Establishment was shaken to it's core. The Americans had withdrawn the Cold War level of support for the forces of reaction. The aim of which was to prevent the rise of Eurocommunism in Italy, which was a significant attempt by the Communist Party to take an independent line from the Soviet Union; to embrace the democratic norms of Western Europe and differentiate itself from Trotskyism at the same time. All alternatives to late capitalism were ruled out completely as 'failed experiments' as the mainstream politics collapsed and then came the emergence of Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian version of Rupert Murdoch soon launched Forza Italia just as the five parties which had governed Italy since 1947 imploded. Since winning a term in 1994 Berlusconi has changed Italy in ways which were unimaginable before Tangentopoli. As social democracy began to 'disappear' the discourse narrowed to the point that the spectrum runs from technocratic liberalism to reactionary populism. The mass-media has been complicit in the imposition of a new discourse narrowed to benefit a regenerated band of old politicians in a supposedly post-ideological era. Berlusconi went even further to fuse technocratic liberalism with reactionary populism. As politics are rendered an apolitical spectacle in which the minimal dignity of state authority is obliterated and the state is left to function as cynically as possible. Ironically it was Berlusconi who was behind the "cultural revolution" in Italy. To paraphrase Erik Gandini, the TV empire Berlusconi built subjected the Italian people to a culture which is a reflection of Berlusconi himself.

The crisis of the early 90s also facilitated the rise of Lega Nord, a secessionist pack of racists, in precisely the working-class areas of Northern Italy which had supported the Communists. These are the natural allies of Berlusconi. It appears that Silvio Berlusconi has a knack for reawakening the darkest tendencies in Italian politics. It was Berlusconi who also brought self-described "post-Fascist" Gianfranco Fini in from the cold in 1994. Until last year, if Berlusconi had died of a Viagra-overdose he would have been succeeded by a man who considers himself the heir to Benito Mussolini. So beneath the buffoonery of the regime there is a sinister strand in which Silvio Berlusconi is truly at home, in the grizzly shit under the surface of the public persona which has been enhanced over the years through plastic surgery and hair-dye. Remember it was Berlusconi who first said "What is on TV exists, what is not on TV does not exist."

As Gandini goes onto explain, il Cavaliere is linked with il Duce on a physical wavelength as both of them were very physical in a way that Italian politicians are not normally. Berlusconi used his body language, his virility and even his smile to reach people in a way that the bespectacled politicians of the Establishment cannot. He resurrected the same kind of physicality as Mussolini. All the while he remains totally contemporary, Berlusconi belongs to the post-political era of savvy managerialism which can easily be imported from the TV industry. In the world of television it is all about emotive imagery and the consequent impressions. The way Berlusconi used the attack on him in Milan served him well, the scandals were 'disappeared' from the media for a while and he could play the victim even as he is the most privileged man in the country. It is about gut reactions, passions and rages. This is the way to turn TV stars into politicians as Berlusconi has done in the past.

As il Cavaliere has resurrected the "Fascism Lite" of Italy, so it could be that he embodies Italian ultra-politics. Slavoj Žižek would specifically designate forms of right-wing populism and fascism as ultra-politics. The ultra-political leader is charged as the commander-in-chief to destroy the enemy, a military task that forms the basis of his legitimacy. Rather than the regulated opposition between social antagonists, the political here requires the physical destruction of enemies. The enemy is whoever poses a threat to our way of life, which is decided by the leader. As ultra-politics is authoritarian by definition, the depoliticisation of conflict is accomplished through the militarisation of politics. This is done as the conflict is reformulated as between "us" and "them", where there is no common ground for symbolic conflict. The class struggle is reformulated in order to instigate a working-class rebellion against the corrupt elites and the corrosive effects of immigration.

Silvio Berlusconi presents himself as the stereotypical Italian male: corrupt, sexually promiscuous and bombarded by legal problems. To the average voter, this says "I am one of you." The mockery of politics along with the larger than life persona of Berlusconi functions to depoliticise the most political of events. The persona feeds into the populist paranoia of anti-communism and anti-immigrant campaigns.  Anyone who opposes him - which includes the majority of the population - is a part of the corrupt elite of communists which has imposed immigration on Italy and wants to open the floodgates of African immigrants into the country. The anti-political tendency in society can bifurcate into two seemingly separate strands, business-oriented authoritarianism in one corner and militant anti-statism in the next. The potential forms of which each take can be horrifying, just take the Oklahoma City Bombing which was a reaction of the angry white men against Big Government that was to hold responsible for all evils in society.

It is not that Berlusconismo is purely anti-political or ultra-political, but rather it is the apex at which anti-politics meet ultra-politics in a way which has changed Italy in ways that were unimaginable before Tangentopoli. The natural reaction to the unprecedented corruption scandal in a post-political age was disillusionment with the political class in general and despair at the Establishment. The anti-political Forza Italia offered a libertarian line originally, which was highly popular in the North. Typically the party consisted of the cynics who once filled the ranks of the fallen Establishmentarian parties and has picked up the vote of the disillusioned. The rise of Berlusconi as a political force has complimented the "cultural revolution" - which turned his values into national values - he had already achieved before he ever ran for office. The fallout from the Cold War necessitated a resurgence of the radical Right as the only force which could take-up the popular appeals of class against the Left.

The Obscenity of Berlusconi.

"I am absolutely sure to be the most democratic man to ever become Prime Minister in Italy." - Silvio Berlusconi

The long awaited and final downfall of il Cavaliere may come in the form of a conviction for paying an underage girl for sex, as well as other charges of fraud, it is clear that these allegations are just the tip of the ice-berg with this man. For Berlusconi it is all an elaborate conspiracy cooked up by communists, just like the months of legal battles over corruption allegations, constitutional crises, political infighting and a lot of sex scandals - which have become an obsession for the media. These scandals and crises left Berlusconi hanging in power by a thread. Back in February women demonstrated against Berlusconi, who personifies the rampant sexism and misogyny which is endemic in Italian society. The sexual excesses of Berlusconi have been widely documented and chewed up by the media, though we ought to remember that, as Noam Chomsky once said, "When the press focuses on the sex lives of politicians, reach for your pocket and see who's pulling out your wallet."

The glorious accomplishments of Berlusconi style authoritarianism include a stagnant economy, one of the world's highest levels of public debt and 30% youth unemployment. He has seen to it that the state will sanction the murder of illegal immigrants, the boats they use to travel over to Italy can be sunk. As for those people who dare to try and climb aboard fishing boats can be beaten without any serious chance of prosecution. Berlusconi has also been keen to introduce legislation to raise the prison sentences for illegal immigrants to a third higher than for an Italian. With the state of emergency implemented in 2008, thousands of soldiers were deployed to "combat" illegal immigration, organised crime and sexual deviancy... Oh the irony! Berlusconi was eager to speak to the hysterical fears of Italians with a populist line of delivery on policy which was supported by the mass-media that he dominates. At it's weirdest and most disturbing moment Italy saw Jewish-Italians voting for neo-fascists on the basis of Berlusconi's support for Israel.

The populist campaign Berlusconi has launched against the judiciary, who were heroes after Tangentopoli in the early 1990s and to whom Berlusconi is partly indebted in that sense. Since then he has consistently portrayed the judges as agents of the radical Left and has succeeded in doing so, the judiciary has been left widely discredited. In 2009 it seemed as though the separation of powers had been seriously undermined by Berlusconi in this way. Through the mass-media which he dominates directly and indirectly, a new commonsense supplanted old values and ideas. There was a common belief that there was no alternative to Berlusconi, which has some ring of truth to it as the Italian Left has yet to recover from the collapse in the early 90s. Then there is the notion that he embodies the country and that the Party of Freedom is the people of Italy. Meanwhile, the Italian state has become a shadow of Big Business as Berlusconi hurled himself into politics to defend his empire from the Left.

"The real Italian anomaly is not Silvio Berlusconi but communist prosecutors and communist judges in Milan who have attacked him again and again since he entered politics." - Silvio Berlusconi

Keep in mind that Berlusconi first came to power in May 1994 in the shadow of Tangentopoli - the biggest bribery scandal in post-war Italian history - which led to the collapse of the major political parties in a quagmire of corruption charges. As Forza Italia was founded in the midst of the crisis prosecutors found that Berlusconi had made a payment of 23 billion lire, the equivalent of more than £10m, to Bettino Craxi. It was the single largest bribe ever paid to an Italian politician. Berlusconi was convicted in that case but the conviction was quashed because of the statute of limitations. The Socialist Party which was led by Craxi collapsed and the former Prime Minister fled to Tunisia rather than face a prosecution. In retrospect, the current Prime Minister of Italy has made Richard Nixon look polished and not just clean in morals. The lurch to the Right in the midst of political turmoil in the 1990s might be matched by a lurch to the Left after Berlusconi finally falls.

It appears that the regime that he has been constructing all these years may not last until 2013. The conflict within the government over major issues like the intervention in Libya. Even Gianfranco Fini has abandoned il Cavaliere to found a new party of his own after he helped to secure the five-point programme of the incumbent administration back in September. It is seems quite strange in retrospect that it looked as though Berlusconi would no doubt serve a full 5 year term in 2009. It should also be noted that there is still a need for a Gramsci or a Togliatti, just as there was in 2009. There has been a resurgence in support for opposition parties in local elections which has further undermined Berlusconi's position. There is also a growing youth movement to force him from office on the streets, it looks as though the government might finally crumble. But there is still a serious need for a viable alternative to Berlusconi, which is the only reason he has been able to hold on this long. 

The lack of formidable opposition to Berlusconi has been made evident over the years by his unsettling ability to constantly reinvent his political platform and relaunch himself. Even when Romano Prodi won the General Election of 2006 by a small majority Berlusconi could resort to the game that he was "robbed", the insinuation of vote-rigging and the refusal to concede victory. Then the legal wranglings, which constrained the ability of the opposition to gain a majority in the Senate, he had personally crafted contributed to the crisis which led to Prodi's downfall in 2008. Remember this is the same fellow who claims to be the target of intense scrutiny from a left-wing elite which has exercised a campaign against him through the judiciary and the media. The line that there is a conspiracy against him is constantly used even though he dominates the media in Italy. After Avvenire questioned the moral fibre of the Prime Minister il Giornale, which is run by his brother Paolo Berlusconi, vilified the editor of Avvenire as a closet homosexual who had harassed the wife of his lover.

"I always win, I'm cursed to win." - Silvio Berlusconi

The man is no underdog, which is clear as Silvio Berlusconi is the only Prime Minister in the history of the Italian Republic to rule for a 5 years. He has had unprecedented influence on the country's culture in the last 30 years and has dominated the political discourse for over 15 years. Two years ago he commanded the biggest majority in Italian political history. He has garnered the hospitality of such political leaders as Vladimir Putin, Muammar al-Gaddafi and Tony Blair. To each of whom he has "donated" at least nine watches. He has used the money he has accumulated over the years to purchase splendid homes at home and abroad, including one in the Bahamas. The paranoia of elites is befitting of an aging reactionary, similar to Richard Nixon in that sense, who sees a sinister network of enemies unfolding before his very eyes. Though it is also a convenient way to explain away the flaws of policy, fall in approval ratings and mass-demonstrations in the streets.

The result of a referendum has undermined legislation Berlusconi introduced in favour of nuclear power, the privatisation of water and trial immunity for cabinet ministers. In spite of il Cavaliere's call for a boycott of the referendum 57% of the electorate turned out and 95% of them voted against Berlusconi in effect. So it looks like Silvio Berlusconi might actually face trial for the liaison with an underage prostitute Karima El Mahroug, whom he saved from a prison cell with the pull of a few strings. Then there is the case in which David Mills, the estranged husband of Tessa Jowell, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail by a Milan court for taking a bribe. In spite of the fact that the conviction was annulled on appeal, because of the statute of limitations, magistrates in Milan are bent on prosecuting Berlusconi for bribing Mills. Two other cases pending concern alleged tax evasion by Berlusconi and his son Pier Silvio, as well as the sale and purchase of rights to American TV shows by Berlusconi's companies.

In spite of all this the man has managed to win the last vote of confidence by just 24 votes, with a great deal of help from Lega Nord in spite of the frustrations with the coalition. The coalition government he leads is about to initiate the first series of cuts which will amount to $57 billion by 2014. Of course, a crackdown on tax evasion would be out of line even though that is the only way to reduce taxes in the long term. Clearly it would seem that the resistance to austerity measures in Italy has the same problem as the anti-cuts activists in Britain. The mass-media has no room for the alternatives to spending cuts, which is bad news for the Left in Italy and elsewhere. With an approval rating of 29% it would seem that Silvio Berlusconi is doomed, it might be that the Italian people do not require a viable alternative to shunt Berlusconi out of office. But it remains unclear what would come from that in regards to real change, even if Berlusconi is left to die in jail, another political vacuum could follow as seen in the early 90s and the damage done will reverberate in Italy for a long time.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Republican Reptiles for 2012.

Rick Santorum joined the Republican Presidential race on a socially conservative ticket which is opposed to abortion and gay rights. It is worth mentioning that the former Senator for Pennsylvania enraged gay rights activists in 2003 when he compared homosexuality to paedophilia and bestiality. For Mr Santorum the state has the right to ban any behaviour deemed to be antithetical to the "healthy, stable, traditional family". Ironically, Rick Santorum has a "Google problem" which equates his surname with gay sex. The man also clinged to the theory that there were weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq until long after the Bush administration dumped the suggestion. The Santorum brand of conservatism was rejected by voters in 2006 when he lost his seat in the Senate. In the race to the White House in 2012 Santorum lacks connections to the Tea Party, though his conservative outlook is attractive to the Christian Right, he also lacks a 'big persona' which will only mean his "Google problem" will be exacerbated further on the campaign trail.

Mitt Romney has made it clear that he is running for 2012 with his usual lack of sky-high charisma and witticism, which would work well on Fox News if Romney had not passed a suspect health-care reform in Massachusetts. Even though the conservative position used to be for the individual mandate, the Republican opposition to "Obama-care" has been a strictly opportunistic strike against Obama. As the costs of health-care in the US have driven the car industry to bankruptcy the debate over the health system was re-opened in 2008. The fight which took the dynamic of Republicans against Democrats was more like a clash between the interests of health insurance and the car industry, which easily transcended the boundaries of party-affiliation. Even as Romney has lurched further to the Right he is still viewed with suspicion, for he is a Mormon and the Christian Right will not go in for someone who thinks that Jesus Christ was the brother of Lucifer.

Despite all of this, Mitt Romney is a serious contender and it is no surprise he is running as he has basically been in campaign mode since he failed to win the GOP nomination in 2008 and, in doing so, pissed $40 million of his own cash into the wind. On an amusing side-note the announcement was made with a scenic backdrop in New Hampshire which has been subsidised with $1 million from the federal government. Similarly, New Gingrich has presided over a multi-billion dollar boondoggle in Georgia which produces F-22s at tax-payers' expense even though military spending in the US amounts to 50% of military spending in the world. Though it would appear that Gingrich is finished after the controversy over his comments regarding "right-wing social engineering", so the Newt no longer looks conservative enough in a race in which purity matters even more than usual. Then there are the disagreements which have led his campaign team to go AWOL.

Typically, Sarah Palin out-shined the dull Mitt with the credentials she garnered from the McCain-Palin ticket and the links she has established with the Tea Party movement. Combine that with the books, the reality TV show and the work Palin has done at Fox News there is a ready source of support once she has declared she's running. So she can afford to come in late, perhaps just as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are looking especially weak. We might not have long to wait for her announcement in that case. At the same time it might be the case that she has outlived her run as the populist symbol of American motherhood. Especially as Palin was linked with the Tucson shooting, from which Giffords has only just recovered. We also have to keep in mind that it is Corporate America which matters most in American elections and right now Sarah Palin only has a 4% rating, she has been surpassed by Michelle Bachmann at around 8% and the forerunner is still the damp Mitt at 33.5%.

Michelle Bachmann stood out in the recent Republican debate in New Hampshire and may have even upstaged Mitt Romney. She wooed the crowd with the kind of hard-hitting populist rhetoric, early on she declared Barack Obama to be a "one-term President" before promising to repeal Obama-care when she takes office. Bachmann inevitably won a warm reception as she has five children of her own and 23 foster children, which meshes well with working-people who vote out of an opposition to abortion. Just like when she compared raising taxes to the Holocaust, the Tea Party and the conservative shock-jocks loved it. But as Gingrich and Romney have demonstrated, the GOP has not had a tradition of opposition to the individual mandate or state-intervention for that matter. So it would seem that Michelle Bachmann is not a part of this tradition on the American Right, or more accurately that she doesn't wish to be associated with it, for it is an impure aspect of the conservative movement.

Bachmann is still not as prominent as some of her rivals, the attention she has drawn has inevitably led to comparisons with Sarah Palin. There have also been some interesting revelations about Palin recently. We find that she had begged Tony Hayward for a 1,700 mile BP pipeline, which would have stretched across America. This came a year after BP was responsible for the biggest oil spill in the state's history. In 2007 Palin slashed $237 million in funds for around 300 construction projects as she initiated a budget of $6.6 billion - the largest budget for the state of Alaska - before vetoing an additional $238 million in funds for 350 projects the following year. Recently it was announced that Sarah Palin is to visit Britain and Sudan, she has already been snubbed by Thatcher much to the chagrin of Rush Limbaugh and others. Thatcher represents the earlier generation of women politicians, the "iron ladies" who out-manned the men.

As Jacques-Alain Miller pointed out Palin is a break with this in that she displays her femininity and motherhood. The imagery has a "castrating" effect on male opponents, it is not that she is more manly than them but it is the use of the sarcastic put-down of male authority. She knows that the phallic authority of her opponents is just a posture which can be mocked for her gain. Note the way in which Palin mocked Obama as a "community organiser", exploiting the sterile aspects of Obama's appearance - diluted black skin, slender features and big ears etc. As Slavoj Žižek goes on, in Palin we find "post-feminist" femininity without a complex and the roles of mother, prim teachers, public figure and sex object converge. All the while Todd Palin is displayed at her side as the First Dude of Alaska, a phallic toy if anything. The implicit sting which adds insult to injury is that it is a Republican woman who has ran for the Vice Presidency and may even run for the Presidency in 2012. So it should be a surprise that the Palin effect offers false liberation.

At this point it looks unlikely that Sarah Palin will run for President as she was notably absent at the debate in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Michelle Bachmann has drawn considerable attention from the shock-jocks and support from the Tea Party. It remains questionable whether or not the Right would put forward a woman candidate. The Tea Party movement sprung out of the legitimate grievances of working-class Americans, but it was also manifested as an expression of a feeling of loss. The white man had finally lost his majoritarian status in America, along with the appearance of loss in power over the state and the privilege derived from that. The consequent anxiety and fear collides with grievances that go back decades in a classic instance of displaced class struggle. The idea that a Republican woman could ride this wave into the White House seems delusional. If anything the Tea Party functions as a bulwark against the Left, not a spring-board for a particular candidate.

Then there is the man who took over where Bush left off in Texas, who has been elected three times and has ran the state for over 10 years now. Rick Perry has not declared whether or not he is running yet. If he were to run he would automatically become a serious contender for the Presidency given his 10 years  as Governor of Texas. Perry supports the Arizona immigration act, which could have been written by the American Nazi Party. Rick Perry supported the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia, which was opposed by his cold predecessor. It is worth noting that Rick Perry has signed over 200 death warrants in his time as the Governor of Texas, whereas George Bush executed 152 people in his time as Governor. In 2009 Rick Perry joined in his own special way and started to spew secessionist rhetoric in response to the stimulus spending by the Obama administration. This kind of rhetoric is still popular in Texas, where even the liberals wouldn't mind a Republic of Texas.

The rhetoric Perry came out with was welcomed by the Right and he has cultivated a rugged image with tough talk and going for jobs which culminate with the shooting of coyotes. He has courted the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement successfully, but he has also held onto his mainstream status as a conservative. So Rick Perry is capable of the rhetoric needed to rally the crazies around him, but he can do so whilst holding onto his ties with Corporate America from which he derives his "mainstream" status. Without the close links with corporate power Perry could find himself in the right-wing limbo where Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and Michael Savage can be found any day of the week. It is a balancing act of bringing together the most reactionary elements of the working-class together with the political forces of capital. This is what the fusion of economic liberalism with social conservatism was designed to accomplish. The slogan of which might be "Tax-cuts for the rich, no rights for fags!"

It is possible that Rick Perry is the "dark horse" of the GOP. Just the other day Rick Perry gave a rousing speech on conservative principles at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans and it is plausible that he was posturing as a conservative heavy-weight just before he makes the "decision" when Texas wraps up legislative business at the end of the month. Perry then went on to detail a four-point prescription for the economy which began with "don't spend all the money" which followed with an emphasis on low taxes, legal reforms to prevent frivolous lawsuits; a fair and predictable regulatory climate. The crowd then showered him chants of "Run, Rick, Run!" He received the greatest applause from the audience, at an event attended by Bachmann and Gingrich. It is clear that he would immediately become the forerunner given the banality of the Republican line-up and might actually give the incumbent a run for his money.

As President Rick Perry might repeal the "Obama-care" reforms as a populist gesture, deregulate further and impose greater anti-union legislation where it is necessary. In regards to taxation it remains unclear whether Perry is a part of the Goldwater tradition, which cuts spending in order to cut taxes. As the Bush tax-cuts have been renewed the spending cuts will be enormous and may even be bigger than the cuts seen under Clinton. This is true regardless of who is elected in 2012. It is also true that the next term will still be dominated by the fiscal stratagem known as "starve the beast". The justification for which comes in the form of trickle-down thinking, tax-cuts will lead to the investment necessary to create jobs. It will also be defended on the grounds that it will lead to less spending. In actuality the tax-cuts will lead to another enormous deficit in years to come and will only function to facilitate even greater cuts in the long-term. This is the reason we will probably see the privatisation of social security within a few years.

Don't Forget Brian Haw!

Brian Haw died in his sleep at the age of 62 after a struggle with cancer. In the last 10 years he has become a fixture of Parliament Square in a perpetual state of protest which defied the people responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis in war, who were eager to break him with the changes to law which David Blunkett likened to a "sledgehammer". Months ago Boris Johnson won a court order to evict Brian Haw, supposedly in preparation for the Royal Wedding, just as Boris had stamped out Democracy Village back in 2010. It was just when Haw was being treated for cancer in Germany that the Mayor, in collusion with David Cameron and Theresa May, decided to make his move and Haw immediately appealed the order in spite of his deteriorating condition. In fact, it was just as the Con-Dem Coalition came to power in May 2010 that Brian Haw was arrested for perhaps the last time at 8:30am.

Over the years there were consistent attempts by the Establishment to bring his 24 hour protest to a halt. He was repeatedly arrested and taken to court by the British government, which supposedly stands for enshrined notions of bourgeois freedom. Every time Haw won so much more cunning methods were used to force him out of Parliament Square. Protest outside Parliament, without permission, was banned in 2005 and only Brian Haw was exempt because his demonstration began years before the law was passed. Oh the absurd intricacies of legal wrangling! There were efforts to evict him by force and when that didn't work the government restricted the demonstration to 1 metre by 3 metres. The most recent efforts have limited the protest to the pavement and now it looks like the protest will be kicked off of the pavement and would no doubt disappear as a result.

It is important to remember that Haw began his protest outside of Parliament in 2001, first of all against the fresh round of sanctions imposed on Iraq by Western governments and then against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Brian Haw was the son of one of the soldiers who liberated the concentration camp of Belsen. As an evangelical Christian he was deeply concerned with the suffering of oppressed peoples around the world, he had visited Northern Ireland during the Troubles and Cambodia's Killing Fields. Sadly, it would appear that Tony Blair has the last laugh in this instance and that might be a testament to the nonsense that is Karmic retribution. It is at least a testament to the moral fibre of how society that Tony Blair has gotten away with the outright war crime in which he indulged so enthusiastically. Over 1 million people have been slaughtered in Iraq, along with millions left deformed and dispossessed in the economic reforms imposed without the consent of the Iraqi people.

Iraq had been first subjected to sanctions by the United Nations soon after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the US struck back at the disobedient client state. In the 1990s the sanctions led to the deaths of over half a million children and possibly more people than the number of people who were killed in the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Before the sanctions Iraq was a developed country, rich with oil and dependent on imported food. In 1996 the UN Security Council permitted Iraq to sell oil in order to secure food and other essentials for it's people. The control of the capital accumulated from the sale of Iraqi oil was under the Security Council, which was in turn dominated by the US. The special sanctions committee responsible for what is allowed to flow into Iraq in exchange for oil consistently opposed the rejuvenation of vital services such as power and water.

The country was permitted to restore it's oil industry as supplies of food and contracts for equipment were withheld in New York. The worth of the equipment exceeded $1.5 billion and included the equipment needed to diagnose and treat cancer, as well as X-Ray machines, the tools necessary to put out fires and even toilet soap. The stated purpose of these sanctions was to "pacify" Iraq by forcing it's government to stop building weapons of mass-destruction. In one instance, Britain blocked vaccines for yellow fever and diphtheria from being exported to Iraq on the grounds that the vaccines might be used in weapons of mass-destruction. The country was basically held to ransom, of which the Iraqi people suffered the real consequences and Saddam Hussein held onto power in the meantime. Though the Ba'ath regime was left crippled, it only clinged to power because of the impact of the sanctions on the Iraqi people and looks likely that Saddam would have been deposed in the Arab Spring.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Party for the Grafter.

Yesterday Ed Miliband began his speech with a couple of wearisome anecdotes that had been chewed for him by a public relations team, and then spat into his mouth, only for him to unload such trite in front of the British public. The first of these pre-chewed tales featured a father living on incapacity benefit, who had not worked since he was injured 10 years. Miliband stresses that the injury was real and that he was a good man, but only to strengthen his point that there was a job out there for this man. According to Ed Miliband it is not right for the tax-payer to support a man who was injured and has not been able to find work for a decade. He then moves on to the story about Southern Cross care homes, which left families betrayed and elderly people at risk and treated as commodities whilst millions could be pilfered. This is an obvious attempt to use two emotionally charged examples, there is a great deal of anger about both cases thanks to the mass-media.

For Miliband the story of Southern Cross and the story of the man on benefits are linked by an absence of social responsibility. Too many people see the Labour Party as representative of the people ripping off our society, Miliband is referring to bankers as well as benefit claimants. So the Labour Party has to change, though not to crackdown on an out-of-control financial sector. The "change" will come in the form of more cuts to benefits, because people who have been injured and out of work for 10 years are just lazy feckless cunts. The incisions to welfare being made under the Coalition were drawn up by an investment banker under the Labour government. We hear 'Red Ed' speak of a corporate culture which rewards wealth creation and not failure, don't forget this is the same line spewed on a regular basis from the politicians of the established Left and Right. So we know what it means, it means responsibility for poor people and not rich people.

You don't have to be a rabid communist to be pissed off about what happened in the Southern Cross care homes, which the right-wing press has demonstrated well. We heard from Peter Mandelson that New Labour was "intensely relaxed" about people getting rich and now we hear Ed Miliband say he "applauds" people who get rich. In the background lurks the trickle-down theory, these people generate wealth and jobs so we should be ever so grateful for the crumbs they're willing to throw to us. Though Miliband has some words to say about executives paying themselves huge bonuses, it all boils down to a lack of "responsibility" a the bottom. When he says "we will be a party that rewards contribution not worklessness" Miliband is really saying he will shower the mega-rich with tax-cuts, loopholes which can be used to avoid even more taxes and plenty of subsidies. For the poor Miliband has essentially promised the prescription of cuts drawn up under Gordon Brown and now being implemented under David Cameron.

Ed Miliband wants to make Labour the Party of the Grafters. The problem here is that the bankers, Miliband refers to early on, are just individuals who have adjusted to the conditions of the financial system. So to use the term "grafters" as distinct from the archetypal "greedy banker" is ridiculous, as the character of the banker has little to do with the way in which the financial sector works. The contradictions inherent to capitalism and the chaos of market forces cannot be overcome by the virtue of "responsibility" among individuals. And still Miliband goes on about Fred Goodwin. The system is about business-oriented individualism with self-interest as a key value, to hold the poor to the standard of altruism within this system is a complete double-standard. Especially as "responsibility" for the rich has nothing to do with acknowledging the huge disparity between rich and poor in this country, let alone even trying to deal with that inequality.

There is no real reason that this speech could not have been made by David Cameron. It sounds familiar, like the twaddle pumped out by Maurice Glasman which has now been recycled by the Conservatives in order to appear more moderate. The Nasty Party have become Red Tories. The platitudes of Miliband's speech are indicative of the ongoing trend of Blue Labour within the Party. The Labour Party has to play the game of appealing to a plurality of constituencies, to win over the middle-classes and the wealthy whilst holding onto the working-class vote. For a long time the Party has taken it's working-class base for granted, in power New Labour tossed some scraps to the poor - e.g. the minimum wage, working tax credits - whilst keeping to the status quo established in 1979. The relaunch of conservative rhetoric about "social responsibility" is an attempt to win over the middle-classes and eventually win back support from Canary Wharf.

Although the Labour Party was founded as the Party of organised labour, it was literally born out of the labour movement at the end of the 19th Century, it did manage to garner the support of the mega-rich and even the likes of Rupert Murdoch under the leadership of Tony Blair. The call for "responsibility" for the rich will appeal to the traditional base of the Labour Party whilst more serious calls for "responsibility" for the poor will appeal to Big Finance. The long-term aim of Miliband's speech is to organise a convergence of support for Labour, from bases which are in conflict, in order to propel the Party to victory in 2015. It probably will fail. It may even be a sign that the attempts to drive out the unions by Peter Mandelson will be taken to an even more thorough level in years to come. Though the Labour Party might always be the mainstream party to throw more crumbs off of the table, in terms of major decisions the Party might never differ greatly from the Conservatives.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Reconsider Lenin.

Life after Politics.

In our supposedly post-ideological wonderland where all great things have been done and all the grand narratives of history have come to an end. We have seen the collapse of Communism and the End of History, as Francis Fukuyama put it, to which George HW Bush gurgled the words "new world order". Conspiracy theorists have since drawn links between the words of Bush I, the events of 9/11 and the war embarked upon by Bush II. The irony being that the words were chosen to mark the closure of a grand narrative, while the events of September 11th 2001 seem to have opened up another grand narrative. For liberal revisionists, the fall of the Berlin Wall came at just the right moment. The demise of Communism in 1989 closed the end of the revolutionary era which began in 1789 with the French Revolution, in which the French passed through the Terror of the Jacobins in order to reach democracy and leave behind feudalism.

The revolutionary figure of Vladimir Lenin is irredeemable in this post-political era, where the greatest threat to Progress are beliefs, passions and ideologies. Let alone dirty words like 'class'. Of course, the irony is that the Enlightenment view of history as progress is at once superstitious - it was disproven by Hitler and Stalin - as well as a pillar of the prevailing ideology. It is also ironic that in such an era of managerial politics that people can only be mobilised by fear. The Bushites mobilised support for the Iraq war by manipulating legitimate fears of terrorism. Though the Bushites were ultimately derided as "extremists" in the same tone as Islamists and Communists. The secular rationality of the market contradicts with it's own perpetual striving, which requires a bit more than agnosticism. It needs reactionary populism, race-baiting and outright fear-mongering to secure itself. There is no place for revolutionary fervour of any kind.

The almost natural inclination of the market is towards pragmatism, into which moral relativism and scepticism are built. At the same time the capitalist system needs to legitimate itself through an ideological superstructure which could range from McCarthyism to right-wing forms of Christianity and populism. The problem emerges as the tendencies of the market begin to subvert the very structure to which it owes legitimacy and defence. For capitalism this contradiction is unavoidable, though it can be managed through cultural warfare. When there is a contradiction between ideology and action a crisis can emerge, so a new kind of discourse must be imported to account for the deficiency. It is not that liberalism is hostile to belief, it is supposedly indifferent to the beliefs of individuals provided those beliefs are not a threat to liberalism. To keep invasive identities at a safe distance there is a need for an invasive belief.

The only permissible positions on revolution are the calls for a revolution without revolution and the outright rejection. Coincidentally this is what differentiates the positions taken, on the French Revolution, by modern conservatives and liberals. In this guise the fullest realisation and logical conclusion of Lenin's work is Stalinism. The reactionary might also cite figures like Mao as evidence that every revolution fails and leads to a bloodbath. Only a conservative acceptance of the status quo is the morally acceptable position. From such a standpoint, Che Guevara is comparable to a Nazi because he fought alongside Fidel Castro to overthrow Batista. Even though the counter-revolutionary forces may have been responsible for the deaths of up to 20,000 Cuban civilians. We should rest assured that Guevara and Castro are the true villains because their revolution was violent. There can be an invasive belief in liberalism to oppose revolution, but to overthrow Batista no such belief in socialism is permissible.
The Fall.

Noam Chomsky denounced Lenin as a right-wing deviant of Marxism, for his opportunistic vanguardism and for laying the foundations for Stalinism. A core idea of socialism is democratic control of production by the workers, thus the point of trade unions is to represent the interests of workers and defend such interests. The swift repression of factory councils and soviets by the Bolsheviks is in opposition to this core idea of socialism. Chomsky stresses that by 1918 Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin held that there needed to be a militarised workforce, in order for progress and development to be secured. The various forms of oppression utilised by the Tsar were recreated under Lenin, e.g. the Cheka, and utilised throughout the Red Terror. For libertarian socialists like Chomsky the Soviet Union is a stain on socialism, for which Lenin and Trotsky are personally responsible.

From an orthodox Marxist perspective we can see that it was not possible to build socialism in backward conditions deprived of the enormous accumulation which takes place under capitalism. The attempt to do so would lead to what we now know as Stalinism. The Bolsheviks were looking to hold the Russian state in place until the revolution came in Germany. Socialism requires a plentiful surplus amassed under capitalism and a revolution could only take place in an advanced capitalist society. The accepted view that the Soviet Union was a socialist state is a bi-product of a convergence of 20th Century propaganda. For decades Communists and anti-Communists alike, depicted the Soviet Union as the first realisation of the socialist ideal. The US sought to demonise socialism by equating it with the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union portrayed itself as the leading socialist state in order to use the moral weight of socialist ideas.

At this point it is appropriate to delve into the issue of comfortable resistance, a tendency which is rife on the Left, it opts for the safe position at which criticism can be avoided and cheap moralisations can be made without consequence. It is also a position of privilege, unique to Western affluence and freedoms. The distance of power gives leftists room to theorise and act with a great deal of freedom. Though the same distance from power was officially maintained in China by the Maoists and in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, nonetheless a kind of totalitarianism functioned and left millions dead. The anarchic distance from power is not an avoidance of the horrors of totalitarianism. It may sound totalitarian to say that power is required to change the world, but it is not the case that every attempt at revolutionary change will lead to totalitarianism.

For Chomsky the Fall can be located in the moment when Lenin seized power. Similarly market fundamentalists invoke a vision of the free-market, which has never existed, in order to dismiss the critics of capitalism and to advocate further neoliberal reforms. These fundamentalists are quick to point out that the free-market has never truly existed and the current economic order is state-capitalist rather than laissez-faire. As Žižek has pointed out "to search for the intruder who infected the original model cannot but reproduce the logic of anti-Semitism." In order to criticise the history of socialism, it has to be acknowledged as "our own" past and not to comfortably jettison the foreign intruder responsible for the corruption of socialist ideals. The failure to do so led to strange parallels, with recent protests across Eastern Europe which locate the recent crisis in a cabal of socialists conspiring to prevent capitalism in it's most pure form.

Begin from the Beginning.

In order to stand for equality, human rights and freedoms it is imperative to not avoid consequences of doing so and go further to undertake the actions necessary to defend and assert such ideals. This is not a position only taken by "extremists", it was the position taken by Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. Force was necessary to defeat Fascism and white supremacy in both instances. It doesn't mean that there every action undertaken are justified by such ends. We should keep in mind the bombing of Dresden by the Allies and the mass-rape of German women by the Red Army. Similarly the suspension of habeus corpus during the American Civil War, which may have been necessary, is certainly not above criticism. We should not refrain from appropriate criticism, as it would not be to deny the greatness of Churchill and Lincoln. This begs a serious question.

At what point do the means devalue the end? Where this point is located is deeply ambiguous. The neoconservatives will argue that it is necessary to use violence to defend freedom, but in effect these same people act to undermine freedom through such means of "defence". In other words, we must defend Western values by infringing upon them on a huge scale. So there are huge risks involved in the use of such force and this is a good reason for a cautious attitude towards power. The variables of a situation, the context and the details of which, are of the highest importance. As without such it can become easy to be led to "defend" our country only to find ourselves involved in torture and killing to snatch the natural resources of another country. Similarly a defence of socialism with gulags and show-trials would be to lose an order worth defending in any way.

As the First World War began in 1914 much of the Left, along with much of the intelligentsia, succumbed to nationalist fervour and supported war. The strident radicalism built up in the run-up to the rebellion of 1905 had been decimated in defeat and the revolutionaries were exiled. But it was the nationalism of 1914 which destroyed what remained of such radicalism. The Bolsheviks were among the few to oppose the First World War as Lenin thoroughly rejected the "patriotic line" of the day. The tragedy being that if the revolt of 1905 had succeeded in regime change for Russia the War might have been forestalled. Instead Lenin had to reinvent revolutionary politics at a time of total breakdown in 1914 and succeeded in doing so. After the Civil War the Bolsheviks had to retreat to the New Economic Policy in 1922, Lenin argued that we should "begin from the beginning over and over again".

In the current epoch of post-politics it would seem that we need to reformulate the socialist project in it's entirety. So it could be said that the full engagement with Lenin offered by Žižek is well overdue. The dominant belief that capitalism as a liberal democratic consensus can last forever is truly utopian. In a world of finite resources, which are in ecological decay, infinite growth is not possible and not a sustainable system for development. Even in a financialised global economy it is not possible to have 3% economic growth every year forever. The dependence on oil is particularly important in this respect, once oil prices spike and no one can afford a barrel of oil civilisation as we know it will quickly grind to a halt. When the crash occurs the free-enterprise system will no longer be an option. If we're lucky we may have to choose between socialism and barbarism.

The Latest Series from Adam Curtis.

Here are the three episodes of the latest series by documentarian Adam Curtis, in full wholes and not in tedious 10 minute chapters, along with the articles I wrote on each episode and the series in recent weeks. I strongly recommend the work of Adam Curtis, whether it be his documentaries, his blog or his articles in the press. The commentary he has to offer is related to the areas of his focus back in Oxford, specifically: genetics, evolutionary biology, psychology, politics, sociology and elementary statistics. In his latest series of films he looks at the way we have come to believe that the old hierarchies of power can be supplanted with self-organised networks from the internet to the global economy. Today we dream of systems which can balance and stabilise themselves without the intervention of authoritarian power. In reality this is the fantasy of the machines, it is not indicative of nature and it is an insufficient means of changing the world for the good.

Adam Curtis has offered a consistently fascinating and intelligent alternative to the realm of acceptable commentary in the mass-media. With the standard BBC accent Curtis comes across as just another Oxbridge liberal and, in all fairness, Curtis studied and worked at Oxford before he went to work in television which means he was born into a bourgeois background. But it is not the case that Curtis is a part of the Establishment and has been routinely attacked by the commentariat for his more controversial documentaries. In Pandora's Box he explores the dangers of the use of technocratic and supposedly rational theories in politics to run society, whether it be the social engineering of Bolshevik Russia or economic science in Britain. The acceptable commentary on monetarism in Britain is that it has been a successful way of controlling inflation and Curtis challenged this and pointed out that the money supply was actually on the rise by the time inflation was brought down to less than 3% in the 1980s.

In the conclusion of The Trap Adam Curtis calls for the reformulation of positive liberty in order to pursue radical change, which will not necessarily lead to tyranny and oppression as Isaiah Berlin argued. Before that in The Century of the Self Curtis argued that the average citizen has become a slave to their own desires, just as politicians have as well, in doing so we have forgotten that we can be more than that and that there are other sides to human nature. In The Power of Nightmares he concludes that the politics of fear will not last forever and leave the political class where it was left to concede that it has no ideas to offer the masses. For him the "War on Terror" is a grand narrative which was used to make sense of the world, it served the interests of politicians, journalists and terrorists in this way. The view of terrorism Adam Curtis put forward in The Power of Nightmares was criticised on the false grounds that he "implied" that al-Qaeda did not exist. It is clear that these are not the projects of just another Oxbridge liberal.

As a commentator Curtis is primarily concerned with the way ideas can effect the world, which would distinguish him from classical Marxists who would stress the role of the economic system in relation to ideas and the way the world is run. He is concerned with the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few. The latest series of films challenges the ideas of the Left which originate in the counter-culture of the 60s. Since then have been fused with the ideas of the libertarian Right, so to eliminate race, gender and class in a radically individualistic conception of the world. For him there is a dire need for leadership and inspirational visions of a better world on the Left, to challenge power we need to go beyond self-organised networks of individuals. There is a lack of a grand alternative to capitalism right now, there are plenty of alternatives which are not articulated well and are left to stew in academic circles for a long time.

The thesis is reminiscent of the Žižekian call for serious collective acts, as well as an examination of old ideas like communism, critique of ideology and the reactualisation of Lenin. We should not be so fearful of power, but rather be willing to use power. Slavoj Žižek would also emphasise that there are times when we can and should just sit still. He has also suggested that the contemporary Left should "begin from the beginning over and over again." In other words, we should not attempt build further on the revolutionary epoch of the 20th Century and descend to the point at which we started and rethink what we are doing. After doing so we can once again attempt to ascend the High Mountain, to borrow a simile used by VI Lenin. Even after the disaster of the 20th Century we should reorganise and make another serious attempt at radical change, just as Samuel Beckett once wrote "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Africa, Barbarism & Civilisation.

In the last installment of All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace we saw some of the horrors which Africa has been subjected to. The focus of the episode is on the Congo, which inevitably draws the focus to Rwanda, in the post-colonial era. Curtis shows us the way in which the Belgian documentarian Armand Denis explored Africa in the 1930s and made films to inform audiences in the West about Africa. In Rwanda he helped create the myth that the Tutsis were a noble race of people who originated in Egypt whilst the Hutus were a separate race of ignorant peasants. Actually the Tutsis were the dominant group, though the Hutus held some positions in government, but lived on the same land as the Hutus and neither saw the other as a different race. The myth was constructed to serve the colonial interests invested in Africa at the time. We may be reminded that in the trajectory of history, advances made in emancipation are also advances made in barbarism.

The Belgians brought scientists in to provide a defence of the myth. The scientists conducted some tests and concluded that the Tutsis (15% of the population) were the natural rulers, because they had larger brains and were more intelligent than the Hutus. The Tutsis and Hutus were made to carry racial identity cards to create a segregated system in which the Tutsis ruled. The arrangement was maintained for decades to benefit the Belgian Empire and white settlers in the country. In recent decades the Congo has become increasingly important in the age of globalisation, as corporations have flooded into the country to extract a wide range of resources. The Congo is particularly valuable because of its resources which include copper, uranium and coltan. It was Congolese uranium which was used to make the atom bombs, which were then used against Japan by the US, whilst copper became fundamental to running the Cold War. The value of coltan exploded in recent years because it is essential in the production of laptops, game consoles and mobile phones.

When the Congo first gained independence from Belgium in 1960, the country was ill-prepared for self-governance and Patrice Lumumba was elected. The country soon descended into chaos and Lumumba had to fight against rebel forces for control of the precious resources. The corporations active in the extraction of the valuable resources were unhindered by the chaos in the Congo, which left hundreds of thousands dead, terrorised and mutilated. The US feared Patrice Lumumba might side with the Soviet Union and with the help of the Belgians arranged a coup, he was kidnapped and killed before his body was dissolved in acid. Rwanda became independent in 1962, the Hutus fled massacre by the Tutsis after liberal Belgians had encouraged a Hutu rebellion against the Tutsis. Out of imperialist guilt the liberals called for rebellion in order to make amends. The only way to do so, for the liberals, was to ensure self-government for Rwanda and freedom for the individual over "racial divisions". To the horror of the liberals, the violence spun out of control as the Hutus looked upon the Tutsis as alien to them.

Mobutu Sese Seko emerged out of the violence as the dictator of the Congo in 1965 with the vital support of the CIA. Mobutu changed the name of the Congo to Zaire, he set about to loot millions of dollars from the country whilst the industrial infrastructure collapsed. To maintain his power Mobutu reverted to anti-Communism and anti-imperialist rhetoric, which functioned to marginalise some of the old links to Belgium and strengthen fresh ties to the US. It is significant that Mobutu was keen to stamp out all symbolic remnants of Belgian rule, while he strengthened the hold of the Americans over Zaire. All opposition was quickly killed off and at a much deeper level Mobutu killed the liberal dream of a democratic Africa. Zaire became a place where other dreams went to die. Nazi rocket scientists had taken America to the moon but their job was over, Mobutu brought them into Zaire to build a launch pad on a plateau in the jungle and build a space programme for the country. The German scientists only succeeded in crashing a few rockets into the countryside.

In 1967 Western mining conglomerates backed a campaign of violence in Zaire in a bid to create a separate state based on the concentration of minerals in the East of the country. The corporations sent in white mercenaries and the mission to build a new state soon turned into racist violence as the conflict spilled over into Rwanda. The forces loyal to Mobutu then crushed the rebellion and responded with violence against whites, with looting and violence. At the time Dian Fossey was in the mountains, she aimed to prove that there were deep connections between human beings and primates through evolution. Fossey was detained by the soldiers where she was imprisoned for a fortnight, it is not clear what happened in that time though she told some people she was gang-raped by the soldiers. Eventually she escaped to create a new camp at which she could continue to study gorillas. Fossey then retreated to a isolated existence and tried to protect the gorillas at all costs, which went as far as to kidnap Africans and to humiliate them. The local people began to hate her.

Over 30 years later the ruling Hutus set out to exterminate the Tutsis and the West resorted to the old racist line that the Hutus and the Tutsis were ancient races in conflict. So the massacres were a result of an incomprehensible antagonism, it was only incomprehensible because the Western media were unwilling to recognise the consequences of our actions. The racial identity cards then helped the Hutus wipe-out the Tutsis. As the Tutsis fought back, the Hutus fled into Zaire and Western aid agencies came to the rescue of the innocent victims but found themselves protecting mass-murderers. The Tutsis then invaded the camps and Mobutu then sent troops in to stop the fighting, but they just joined in the looting and Mobutu fell from power. The boom in the West fueled a rise in commodity prices throughout the world, the value of minerals in the Congo skyrocketed. Then troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Chad and Libya to seize the precious resources. Behind them Western companies and consumers were looking for new goods, whilst 4 million people were slaughtered between 1998 and 2003.

The idea of a democratic Africa had died in the Congo, but another liberal idea was born there. The idea that we are not different or superior to animals, we are linked to them in nature and we should recognise that fact. This was the idea which was born out of the research Fossey was committed to, which would further undermine the Enlightenment view of human beings as separate and distinct to animals. Fossey was murdered in 1985 she had become a part of the Western tradition of brutalising Africans for the sake of an ideal which is beyond the comprehension of such primitives. We might use the term post-traumatic subject to describe Dian Fossey, possibly even to excuse her brutality towards the Other as an expression of that trauma. If we are to do so we cannot help but note that there is a condition of permanent trauma in the Congo. In contrast to the Western notion of a post-traumatic condition where in a woman is raped and then may have some hope of moving on. In the Congo women are raped and then raped again, and again and so on, there is no hope.

We should bare in mind that the material conditions amassed through the exploited toil by the impoverished can provide the conditions for the development of civilisation. It is not that barbarism comes before civilisation, the relation between barbarism and civilisation is synchronous rather than sequential. Not every change will arrive peacefully, in fact change often arrives drenched in blood. The conditions created by slavery have enabled capitalism. In a sense it could be said that the horrors of slavery were necessary, though that is not to say that those horrors should just be forgotten. The tragic history of Africa in particular cannot be acknowledged with the great debt of Western civilisation to Africa being acknowledged also. The debt owed by liberalism to slavery and feudalism is hardly, just as the existence of class society is barely made today, if ever, recognised especially by liberals and conservatives. The view of history as Progress is much more popular among that crowd, because it avoids debts and leaves no room for interventions.