Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Position in the Forthcoming UK Election [always subject, however, to new information]

This is going to be one of the most complicated elections to date - class and regional interests will compete with cultural priorities (as in Brexit, Scotland and Ireland) and assessments of leadership. Personally, the matter is simple. National self determination and democracy first, then socialism.

We need a strong Government to see through national independence and then we can fight over the results. I regret that Labour failed to offer a strong socialist Brexit but it didn't and it must take the consequences of that failure of nerve. The SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens are now mere creatures of a foreign power. UKIP are behaving like morons. 

Five years of Tories (even ten) is a small price to pay for national independence. It may be a lesson to the Left in not expecting foreign bureaucrats to deliver a programme that you failed to persuade your own people to accept ... so it is a lesson also in political education and democracy as well.

Once national democratic self-determination is secured, we can get back to the business of national socialism (before the term was lost to fascists) and inter-nationalism as we used to understand it before bureaucratic federalism by nincompoops became the fashion.

Unless, of course, the Left continues to be dumb enough to be Jacobites under the Hanoverians ... in which case it deserves permanent exile and a New Left needs to arise.

Some people really do not get it - there is no socialism without democracy and there is no democracy outside the organic nation state and there is no peace in the world without organic nation states that are socialist.

But before you get to peace and socialism, you have to have the secure, organic and democratic nation state in the first place. In 1975, we had not completed the task of democratising our own country before we started handing over powers to a foreign empire - 42 years later, we can start to get back on track again.

Logically, for the first time in my life, I am going to have to vote for my nice liberal Tory in Tunbridge Wells to secure the Revolution of June 23rd and resist the devious attempt of the local Liberal Democrats to reverse a mass democratic vote in favour of a malign centralist ideology (Labour simply does not matter where we live and is staffed by Europhiles in any case).

In other constituencies, other political equations will result in other decisions (in some cases, there will be a strong argument for Labour) but at least I know where I stand - with some regret since I would much have preferred a Corbyn-led Party of the Left to rule.

But I just don't trust his Party machine nor his MPs not to undercut him and the nation and he clearly lacks the authority to command them. His and McDonnell's messages about the economy and austerity are right but meaningless without national democratic self-determination and the trimming required to retain power and keep their Party together creates profound distrust.

There are three questions to ask in each case: what effect does my vote have in my locality if I am not interested in making a mere gesture for the national totals?; is the leading candidate committed by free choice (most Tories and some Labour) to democratic national self-determination?; and, if not, who is the next best candidate committed to that core value.

So there we have it ... a necessary evil. The Left completely out-classed by the usual suspects. In the end, one goes for the candidate in each case most likely to serve the cause of democratic national self-determination both by values and by ability to win. The rest is for the future.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Trump's Bombs - An Analysis

The question today is whether the Assad Government (the use of 'regime' is a propaganda tool otherwise we would say Trump Regime or Hollande Regime, only our enemies are 'regimes') used chemical weapons in Idlib. There are five reasonable theories:

- a) it did

- b) Assad is not in control of his forces and one of his Syrian airbase commanders undertook this action without authorisation (in which case he must still take responsibility if he does not expose and remove the commander, that is, if he can),

- c) the Syrian Air Force (as the Russians once said) accidentally struck a chemical weapons dump in rebel hands (this is plausible but we have to add the possibility that the air force deliberately bombed such a dump),

- d) a chemicals dump in rebel hands was deliberately used in a false flag operation by rebels or proxies for political reasons against its own people (unfortunately this really cannot be dismissed as a possibility given what is at stake and the ruthlessness of all parties in the struggle),

- e) chemical weapons were brought into the area by an unknown group in order to create an incident or provocation for political reasons.

The truth is that we really do not know what happened and the reasons to take d) and e) seriously without accepting them as necessarily true are these:

- i) chemical weapons stocks cannot be assumed to be solely under the control of the Syrian Government nor unavailable from a range of proxy actors in the country,

- ii) all proxy actors have shown the ability to disregard civilian life in the past when it is politically useful or deemed necessary (just as much as the Government in Damascus),

- iii) proxies and their client rebels were in a desperate political situation in relation to the US Presidency increasing the motivation for a desperate acts,

- iv) the timing was totally counter-intuitive to Syrian state interests to the extent that option a) above is almost certainly irrational: Damascus appears genuine in its anger at the turn of events (only the radically absurd notion that Damascus was testing Trump to the limit accounts for the fact unless a faction of the Syrian Air Force undertook the action to scupper the peace process),

- v) Russian protests at the claims should be treated with care but the firmness of the protest indicates genuine anger at the claims with Russia in a better position to understand the facts on the ground than the West.

There are other considerations to be taken relating to the Western side. Western intelligence has proven poor in the past. Its incoming intelligence may come from the very persons who may be motivated to undertake a 'false flag' operation. Western allied assertions have often been dictated by their unified stance towards Russia and not by the facts on the ground. Whatever the truth of the matter on the ground, conservative Republicans, European allies, pro-rebel activists (who are well funded) in Washington, and senior State Department, intelligence and Pentagon officials are all engaged in manouevres to place an unstable Presidency under control and force him into a defining interventionist line. The underlying aim is to shift his policy from a populist one to the standard line that has existed since 1945 of forward defence against Russia.

This last motivation is not to be dismissed. Trump has threatened to over turn American foreign policy priorities. In this one action, he has proven that he is not willing or able to do that when push comes to shove. Because of what is at stake, without conspiracy theory being required, these facts provide the motivation for taking d) and e) seriously. Given the long history of such operations in American and Western foreign policy, provocation must be accepted as a real possibility in the context of what has been called the American Deep State (that is, those career military and foreign policy officials with skin in the game of a particular policy line). The speed of alignment of allies indicates that this manouevre represents a major political win for the international shared position underpinning the NATO model.

This is not to say that the American Deep State engaged directly in a provocation but only that its reaction to a provocation and its own difficulties in controlling the Presidency would have made the calculations of third parties capable of a provocation ones that encouraged direct action. However, this is not to say that d) and e) are true representations of events and we do not want to go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory with no more facts in favour of a provocation than one of deliberate state action but only to say that d) and e) are, at this point in time, no more nor less possibly true than a), b) and c). The wise and fair approach would have been either to undertake investigations in order to bring the matter before the UN or supply sufficient reliable intelligence (better than the rubbish presented to the UN in 2003) into the public domain that would incontrovertibly justify direct action that we could all support. In this regard, Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right in his caution.

Without public access to intelligence, a reasonable suspicion has to be that Trump was guided into a machismo gesture by motives far beyond the simple direct response to a humanitarian disaster. If so, it was not even directed at Russia primarily, let alone Damascus. It was directed at halting a certain turn in American foreign policy, signalled only days before, and shifting it back in a conservative direction through the advisory intervention of an array of forces within the Washington and NATO establishment with two aims in mind - the restoration of the elimination of the Assad Leadership from the ultimate game plan for Syria (a position strongly advocated by France and Britain) and the re-assertion of a policy of contestation for territory and influence with Moscow and the final burying of any suggestion of a Washington-Moscow detente.

Again, we are not saying here that a) and b) were not possible - far from it - but only that the trajectory of events seems not to be a simple one of a proven war crime resulting in a efficacious direct response but rather one of a crime veiled in the fog of war and being used in such a way that it raises the reasonable suspicion (no more) of it being a provocation. Eliminating all chances of it being a provocation through rapid investigation (with a refusal by the Syrian Government to permit investigation being a reasonable admission of guilt) should have been prior to what amounted to an act of war. 


Since writing this note, we have seen the publication of the important letter from Theodore A Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which casts severe doubt on the intelligence assessment on which the bombing was based and which indirectly raises questions that relate directly to the analysis above. 

It may be useful to note that Al-Nusra (or rather its successor organisation which really is just a rebranded Al-Nusra, meaning Al-Qaeda) is on the very border of the town, that it was reported as quarrelling with the other rebel groups as recently as January and that the original Al-Nusra seized one Syrian air base and besieged another before the September 2013 Chemical weapons Agreement and then captured the second after it (conditions would never have been ideal for any decommissioning). Most observers agree that some chemical weapons are in the hands of rebel groups and Al-Nusra declined to sign the 2013 Agreement. 

This is definitely not to say that Al-Nusra 'did it' (we have no evidence of that) but only to say that a lot more questions needed to be asked before lobbing missiles around and reversing policy on the say-so of analysts working for agencies with skin in the game of preserving the policies of the previous Administration. Maybe answering those questions would have led back to Damascus but it seems a lot of key questions were not being asked any more than they were in previous 'shoot from the hip' American operations. 

This is not a cowboy show on 1950s TV with men in black hats and men in white hats who can see each other clearly across the saloon, designed to entertain tired less-than-well-educated punters at the end of a tough working day ... it is complicated and it decides whether tens of thousands live or die or are maimed or made homeless. This means that a high level of intelligence analysis is required without the 'sources' (which include the 'white helmets') being given too much leeway as if they had none of that 'skin in the game' themselves.

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Left and Intangibles

The Left often has a difficulty with intangibles. Often the notion that what is intangible is important is rejected altogether because of an over-insistence on materialism. Acceptance of the importance of intangibles does not reject materialism as the basis for being and so of society and politics. It simply sees the emergence of 'things from things', from matter, as constructions of minds that are material but have evolved into a consciousness that is creative in using language, concepts, the creation of new formations of matter through science and manipulation and new relationships as tools and weapons in the struggle for power, resources and status.

On the other hand, the Left often collapses this analysis into a po-faced Frankfurt School vision of intangibles which is riddled with inappropriate moral judgments that derive ultimately from Judaeo-Christian habits – hence the often trotted out garbage about commodification and objectification as if the concepts meant much more in their hands than the sort of moral disapproval that Jeremiah would have warmed to. The correct approach to intangibles is one that is detached and neutral about the fact of intangibles and concentrates on their actual use in ‘really existing’ human relationships as instruments of power – in effect as weapons and tools.

For example, it may well be (I think it is) true that so-called 'commodification' and 'objectification' are potentially progressive insofar as they are expressions of actual human being. It is the interpretation and use to which they are put by power that is problematic and not their use in themselves. Even consensual pornography, let alone free trade with full information, can be highly progressive if undertaken between equals freely choosing their position. The issue is thus not the fact of intangibles or even their analysis but the ownership of the use of them and the right to choices about use value. The Left has certainly not come to terms with late liberal capitalism’s ability to create and control economic and power relationships based on these intangible weapons and tools rather than on the use of iron, steel and rail.

The current political case study is the violent struggle in America going on at the moment between liberals trying to define their own fake news as truth and conservatives discovering that they can create their own truth with impunity as fake news. The struggle sometimes seems trivial but it is a war as important as the mid-twentieth century ones conducted with bullets and bombs because ultimately it is about control of the levers of informational power and so economic choices affecting the material lives of millions. Both sides are basically lying liars who have got into the habit of lying but this complex eco-system of lies is a good example of the power of intangibles and of the Left's failure to rise above the lying to create the opportunities for the mass of the population in order to derive their own functional truths from full information and a solid grounding in critical thinking.

As we write, the US stock market rises and employment levels are increasing and yet an entirely different vision of reality is presented as truth because it is necessary for some people to believe it is true – the same applies to the persistant apocalypticism about the British economy under Brexit. These are examples of political intangibility distracting us from reality that are as absurd as our uncritical acceptance of brands and the claims of corporate social responsibility going on within capitalism. As invented reality spins away from really existing material reality, so the chances for cataclysm do increase - hence our social progress as a continual two steps forward, one step back amongst mountains of gore and lost dreams. The educational problem is one of lack of critical thinking under complex social conditions and the equally important lack of some sense of the self as more than simply the creature of social conditions - this last lie is the fatal pessimistic crime of the modern intellectual liberal left towards the people.

There is thus a total system of intangibility overlaying materiality with many layers within it, all derived from a materiality for which there is no serious Left critique that is not mired in a priori theory. The dead weight of all forms of essentialism - especially the cant of Kant - gives power to an intellectual class denuded of intellect. Our new critique should encompass our acceptance of the value lying in intangibles in economics, in culture, in social relations and in politics but then explore how to vest the value in the people in general rather than in self-interested classes – including an intellectual class which is highly manipulative of intangibles in its own class interest. In short, the Left has no serious philosophy of the human condition that is not already moribund and it is time to call the universities out on their failures.