C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Another Central American Coup

The military of Honduras has reportedly seized power, exiling president Zelaya at gunpoint yesterday. This follows the recent murder by the military of a leftist presidential candidate.

Obama and Hilary have reportedly been tut-tutting the coup, but given that the US has a military base in Honduras, and directly funds the pro-US parties, it is highly unlikely the coup could have occurred with prior US approval, if not direct assistance. Some things never change, regardless of who is in the White House.

At this time, the State Dept has officially condemned the right-wing military coup, and there is no clear evidence that the US has conspired to oust the legitimate president. We shall see what unfolds in the next few days.

'Mission Accomplished'

Despite being immensely unpopular, the Iraqi Government is throwing open the nation's oil fields to foreign investors. As we have seen, oil was the last thing to be economically 'liberalised' by the occupiers and Vichy Government:

Domestic firms, including SOC, are furious, however, that contracts are being awarded to their foreign counterparts.

Jaber Khalifa Jaber, head of the Iraqi parliament's oil and gas committee and a Fadhila MP, said Iraq is under threat from an "economic occupation".

"The companies will just share the oil between the Americans, the French, the British and the Japanese ... just like the Sykes-Picot agreement," he told AFP, referring to the Anglo-French accord that divided up influence in the Middle East in 1916.

The 'Good' War

Simon Jenkins of the Guardian has an article on Afghanistan, with which I find myself largely agreeing:

Vietnam began with President Kennedy's 1963 intervention to keep the communist menace at bay and make the world safe for democracy. That is what George Bush and Tony Blair said of terrorism and Afghanistan. By 1965, despite Congress scepticism, American advisers, then planes, then ground forces were deployed. Allies were begged to join but few agreed.

The presence of Americans on Asian soil turned a local insurgency into a regional crusade. The hard-pressed Americans resorted to ever more extensive bombing, deep inside neighbouring countries, despite evidence it was ineffective and counterproductive.

No amount of superior firepower could quell a peasant army that came and went by night and could terrorise or merge into the population. Tales of American atrocities rolled in. The army counted success in enemy dead. A desperate attempt to "train and equip" a new Vietnamese army made it as corrupt as it was unreliable. Billions of dollars were wasted.

Every one of these steps is being re-enacted in Afghanistan. Every sane observer, even serving generals and diplomats, admits that "we are not winning" and show no sign of doing so.

History is not a forte for most in the mainstream media. As history is occurring now in Iran, for instance, the conservative MSM is attempting to spin the protests as somehow being analogous to the 'colour' revolutions of the former Soviet bloc, protests that the left don't support as the left allegedly admires the Iranian regime's 'anti-Americanism'.

It's not merely the Tory shysters who are to blame, however. Jenkins hits the nail on the head when he says that 'a heavier guilt lies with liberal apologists for this war who continue to invent excuses for its failure and offer glib preconditions for victory.'

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Neoliberal Iraq

"Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, promulgated four orders that included 'the full privatisation of public enterprises, full ownership rights by foreign firms of Iraqi businesses, full repatriation of foreign profits...the opening of Iraq's banks to foreign control, national treatment for foreign companies and...the elimination of nearly all trade barriers'. The orders were to apply to all areas of the economy, including public services, the media, manufacturing, services, transportation, finance, and construction. Only oil was exempt (presumably because of its special status as revenue producer to pay for the war and its geopolitical significance). The labour market, on the other hand, was to be strictly regulated. Strikes were effectively forbidden in key sectors and the right to unionise restricted. A highly regressive 'flat tax' (an ambitious tax-reform plan long advocated for implementation by conservatives in the US) was also imposed.

These orders were, some argued, in violation of the Geneva and Hague Conventions, since an occupying power is mandated to guard the assets of an occupied country and not sell them off."

(p. 6)

Harvey, D. (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

They're not quite lying...

...But they're hardly telling the truth.

Recently, I've had occasion to raise some concerns about what is arguably one of Australia's leading conservative blogs. The author of said blog is not an idiot, but holds some views that seem to me to be rather off the mark, particularly as regards modernism, feminism, and racism.

On this latter topic, I noticed these comments recently, in an apparent attempt to inflame white resentment:

Again we have the double standard. Whites are held to have wealth solely on the basis of inherited privilege...

The other problem with all the claims about white males being privileged is that it hides an underlying trend in which the real wages of white working class men have been falling since the 1970s.

It's a double whammy: you get paid less in real terms than your father did and at the same time you're told that you should be punished for being privileged - even though there are other groups doing better than you.

This is a deceptive bit of 'reframing', and both the far-right, and the more mainstream ruling elites do it all the time.

Let's take a look at the main substantive claim here, namely, that the wages of 'white working class men' have declined since the 1970s. Whilst it's technically true, it's extremely misleading. The author does not specify his source, but I presume he is referring to this data from the US, where 'real', inflation-adjusted wages peaked in 1972, only to enter steady decline thereafter, with a feeble, if temporary improvement in the late 1990s.

From this chart, we can conclude that it is not only the 'white working class' that has suffered, but all non-farm workers in the US, on average. We might just as easily claim that Black or Hispanic workers' wages have also gone down.

Now, many of the problems that conservatives note in society are genuine. There are plenty of things for people to be aggrieved about. The problem for conservatives is that they can't implicate capitalism in their grievances. This means that they are doomed to misunderstand our wages chart above. Our chart tells us that wages began to decline in the US in the wake of stagflation of the economy, the oil crisis, and the gradual abandonment of Keynesian welfarism for neoliberal economic policies.

We can see further that wages continued their decline under that cherished conservative, Reagan, whose assault on organised labour, and whose transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has since been known as Reaganomics. By the early 1980s in the US, the seeds were basically sown for the immiseration of workers thereafter, by way of the 'reforms' implemented by Reagan. No mention of this by the conservatives, however.

Furthermore, when wages peaked in 1972, union membership in the private sector was 28%. Today it is 8%. A quarter of all workers in the US earn wages that place them below the poverty line. The minimum wage in the US has repeatedly been attacked as a supposed barrier to employment. Today, it stands a third lower than it did in 1968. (source)

Meanwhile, the pay of CEOs was 26 times that of the average worker in 1965. In 1980, it was 40 times greater. By 2004, it grew to being 500 times greater (source). Clearly, as Mark Richardson said, 'some groups' are doing vastly better than others, however, this is on the basis of class, not race.

It's a shame, really, that rather than form a broad coalition seeking better rights for all, conservatives are all-too-often content to remain silent about their counterparts in power, and choose instead to scapegoat mythical 'liberals', or to indulge in the worst sort of race-baiting. Nonetheless, it has ever been thus, and this is why a better deal for all workers, white or otherwise, will never derive from the dead-end of conservatism.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A response to AWH

Brett at AWH has a particularly stupid post here, indicating that all differences between right and left are reducible to economics. Further, Brett claims that anarchism is 'extreme right'. Because I'm banned at AWH, and because my attempts at sockpuppeting under various Russian monikers were unsuccessful, I'll include my brief response here:

If economics is the sole means by which you establish a person's politics, you end up with all kinds of stupidity, as you see in this post. Britain's economy under Churchill had an enormous amount of planning, particularly during WWII. Churchill even nationalised the banks, so by your logic, he is therefore a leftist. Ditto Dubya. Reagen greatly increased state control over the economy by means of regulating labour. He must be a lefty too.

Meanwhile, the most noted anarchists in history - Proudhon, Kropotkin, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists, Chomsky - are all firmly on the left.

I presume this post was just another pathetic attempt to claim Hitler was a lefty. Attempt failed.

Damn these guys are stupid.

'Socialism' under Obama

Some people are saying that the GFC has plunged Obama's US into socialism.

But then, some people are morons.

(Chart taken from here).

Conservatism and Fascism

The following has been taken from Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism:

Italian and German conservatives had not created Mussolini and Hitler, of course, though they had too often let their law breaking go unpunished. After the Fascists and the Nazis made themselves too important to ignore, by the somewhat different mixtures of electoral appeal and violent intimidation...the conservatives had to decide what to do with them.

In particular, conservative leaders had to decide whether to try to coopt fascism or force it back to the margins. One crucial decision was whether the police and the courts would compel the fascists to obey the law. German chancellor Brüning attempted to curb Nazi violence in 1931-32. He banned uniformed actions by the SA (Sturmabteilung, i.e. brownshirts - THR) on April 14, 1932. When Franz von Papen succeeded Brüning as chancellor in July 1932, however, he lifted the ban...and the Nazis, excited by the vindication, set off the most violent period in the whole 1930-1932 constitutional crisis. In Italy, although a few prefects tried to restrain Fascist lawlessness, the national leaders preferred, at crucial moments, as we already know, to try to "transform" Mussolini rather than to discipline him. Conservative national leaders in both countries decided that what the fascists had to offer outweighed the disadvantages of allowing these ruffians to capture public space from the Left by violence. The nationalist press and conservative leaders in both countries consistently applied a double standard to judging fascist and left-wing violence.


Conservative complicites in the fascism's arrival in power were of several types. First of all, there was complicity in fascist violence against the Left...Mussolini's squadristi would have been powerless with the closed eyes and even the outright aid of the Italian police and army. Another form of complicity was the gift of respectability...Alfred Hugenberg, Krupp executive of the party that competed with Hitler most directly, the German National Party (DNVP), alternately attacked the Nazi upstart and appeared at political rallies with him...But while Hugenberg helped make Hitler look more acceptable, his DNVP membership drained away to the more exciting Nazis.

We saw...that the Nazis received less direct financial help from business than many have assumed. Before the final deal that put Hitler in power, German big business greatly preferred a solid reassuring conservative...to the unknown Hitler with his crackpot economic advisors...[B]usiness contributions did not become a major resource for Hitler until after he attained power. Then, of course, the game changed. Businessmen contributed hugely to the new Nazi authorities and set about accommodating themselves to a regime that would reward many of them richly with armaments contracts, and all of them by breaking the back of organized labour in Germany. (pp. 99-100).

On the 'socialist' misnomer:

Fascists had also found a magic formula for weaning workers away from Marxism. Long after Marx asserted that the working class had no homeland, conservatives had been unable to find any way to refute him. None of their nineteenth-century nostrums - deference, religion, schooling - had worked. On the eve of WWI, the Action Française had enjoyed some success recruiting a few industrial workers to nationalism, and the unexpectedly wide acceptance by workers of their patriotic duty to fight for their homelands when WWI began foretold that in the twentieth century Nation was going to be stronger than Class.

Fascists everywhere have built on that revelation...As for the Nazi Party, its very name proclaimed that it was a workers' party...Mussolini expected to recruit his old socialist colleagues. Their results were not overwhelmingly successful. Every analysis of the social composition of the early fascist parties agrees: although some workers were attracted, their share of party membership was always well below their share in the general population. (p. 103).

Also, Wikipedia has some reasonable information about the Nazi's attempt to position themselves as a workers party that aimed to include the middle class, and which utterly rejected Marxism.

And whilst I haven't quoted the relevant passages at length, the final power grabs of both Hitler and Mussolini came courtesy of conservatives attempting to form coalitions. We can conclude that whilst conservative and fascism are not the same thing, neither has anything remotely to do with leftism, and leftism is not implicated in the rise to power of fascists in Italy and Germany.