No 1600 22nd October 2021
Crocodile tears for an assassinated MP cannot restore the credibility of the parliamentary racket or the floundering British ruling class now one of the weakest of the imperialist powers as the whole capitalist system heads for the greatest Slump & world war disaster in history. New “crackdowns” cannot stop a rising tide of international hatred and resistance from the Third World which spills into domestic “terrorist outrages” now and then but is an unstoppable tide throughout Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Instead new “security repression” only adds to the discrediting of the democracy racket as the Tory twisters bend the rules even more to try and stay on top (and Labour lets them). Fake- “left” once more washes its hands by blaming the terrorists for “causing” repression, an upside-down nonsense when it is crisis wracked capitalism driving the world into chaos and deserved rebellion. Crude revolt will become revolution but needs a scientific Leninist leadership to build the mass struggle not “left” frauds
The deluge of tearful “tributes” after the fatal attack on rightwing Tory MP Sir David Amess was a display of ruling class sanctimony and hypocrisy that will disgust every sound thinking worker.
And the same with the “respectful” tone of the press and media, and the great circus of archbishops and commentators wheeled out to deliver their unctuous hagiographies and pious mumbo-jumbo clichés about all “standing together”.
And undoubtedly a chorus of allegedly “theoretical” “left” condemnations will follow as it did in 9/11 and as it does after every one of the increasing numbers of such outbursts.
What they won’t say is that not only was most of the “heartfelt” eulogising a repellent and shameless display of insincerity in itself by parliament’s crew of total shysters, opportunists and practised dissemblers, – every greengrocer round Westminster will have sold out its stock of strong onions – but it is yet another grotesque lie about the giant fraud of “democracy”, representation and “service” still being hyped up.
For the incident to have been an “attack on democracy”, there would have to be some real democracy in the first place.
There never will be while capitalism lasts.
However much they are “decent chaps” (a long stretch) in the multitudinous bars and dining rooms that line the House of Commons club-on-the-Thames, their class interest is always on the side of the tiny minority who drive down and live off the rest of us.
The last thing any of these mountebanks are there for is to “take up the cause of ordinary people through unstinting public service” whatever few individual, mostly trivial, local issues any particular MP might pursue, diligently or not.
Their primary function is just the opposite, to cover up the gross and vicious reality of a class system which is nothing but a hidden outright dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, maintained by the overwhelming power of international big capital and backed up by the might of capitalism’s state forces, the police, the army, the courts, the MI5 & MI6 gestapo spy services, and the giant computer surveillance systems at GCHQ etc.
And those are all ready to use whatever level of violence and repression they need in case of class upheaval or discontent at the miserable lot of ordinary workers, bad enough in “good times” and getting more desperate by the minute for many as the system’s crisis collapse bites harder and ever more vicious austerity is imposed to intensify the exploitation of the working class, in a desperate attempt by the ruling class to survive the onrushing Catastrophe of the entire world capitalist order.
That applies across the board, obviously so with the ultra-rightwing jingoists like “Sir” David, trying to turn the clock back (impossible) to the arrogant, racist and fascist “values” of a long-defunct and has-been “British Empire” but in fact with the entire gang however “liberally progressive” they pretend to be.
These careerist MPs, every one of them, defend a monopoly capitalist order which by its very nature is unstoppably hurtling into an abyss of economic and political collapse.
And to survive, the ruling class is being forced to impose ever more savage austerity, poverty, pain, inequality and suffering on ordinary people – with renewed cutbacks, tax hikes and price rises coming this winter which will push millions of already hammered families to the edge of desperation and sometimes over the edge into complete despair and even suicide (and with some of the poorest around Sir David’s Southend area).
Gross hypocrisy by this whole circus goes much further; covering up and defending an international system of monopoly exploitation which imposes far worse conditions on the Third World of indescribable outright military warcrime butchery as well as indirect slaughter through its massive arms race sales (and “advice”) for the most grotesque and criminally thuggish fascist and tribal regimes (all grovellingly and kow-towingly welcomed into football clubs, racecourses, and London society’s clubs too – so much for “British sovereignty”).
And even worse in many ways is the slow but much more extensive violence of world exploitation in terrorised and brutalised sweated factory labour and plantation slavery which feeds the coffers of the rich West multinational combines and their billionaire owners, along with gross profiteering in return, which leaves most of the planet to suffer hunger and ignorance, without clean water or decent sanitation at the mercy of disease and pandemics killing millions.
No vaccines for the billions unable to pay the grossly overinflated prices of monopoly pharmaceutical corporations.
And that is not the whole story either.
As Marxist understanding has long warned the working class, such routine exploitation and barbarity is now giving way to an inevitable plunge into total financial disaster prefaced by intensifying cutthroat trade war hostilities which can only end in world war, the Third in just over a century and by far the greatest breakdown and collapse of this system in history.
This oncoming Catastrophe of incomprehensible war destruction, (far beyond the Second World War in extent and horrifying technology, from nuclear weapons to deliberate disease and debilitating chemicals) will be worse even than the planet threatening ecological and environmental havoc wrought by unrestrained plundering and wastefulness in pursuit of profit for the few.
War has already been warmed up for twenty years in blitzing, massacre and dismemberment of country after country under a deluge of lying demonisations and Goebbels big lie “justifications” like the non-existent “WMD” – all voted for, approved, “justified” and sold to the masses by the entire crew of Parliamentary twisters and frauds who would make a used-car sales convention look shiny white.
That includes all the “left” Labourites, who might make token votes sometimes against particular wars (Iraq but not Serbia eg) or for reforms to “ameliorate” the Slump, but who “accept the result” when they “lose” as part of going along with the overall pretence of everyone fairly “having a say”, thereby giving valuable credibility to the whole slick hoodwinking racket, propping it up from the “left”.
And while one or two individuals might pursue a righteous cause here and there – standing up for the dispossessed Palestinians against the barbaric Zionist landtheft and colonising occupation of the artificial-state of “Israel” (arch-terrorist smiter of the downtrodden Arab nation), for example, it is either done for cynical “credibility” purposes or if genuine enough, is mostly still swamped out by the overall fostering of delusions in the “democratic process” under capitalism (backed up by a chorus of fake-“left” also fostering democracy illusions).
The pretence to be vigorously fighting the class war on behalf of the dispossessed and downtrodden is mostly pure opportunism or at best, useless and disarming class-collaboration, always ready to “put aside all differences” with the ruling class when it comes to any hint of real class conflict.
Only overthrowing the entire system to take finance, industry, agriculture and mining production into common ownership for planned development will ever change things, and Parliament is never going to do that.
And if it tried it would be overturned itself, by force or by skulduggery as the tepid and ineffectual Corbynites found out, sabotaged by poisonous propaganda, lies and vicious false press demonisation – and their own cravenness and capitulations whenever challenged.
Far more devastating fates have followed for many other “democratic path” advocates, like Salvador Allende’s Socialist Unity government in Chile, toppled by CIA-supported military coup in 1973, or the Morsi Arab Spring presidency, overturned by a CIA/Zionist set-up coup, riding on the back of a deliberately hyped-up petty bourgeois counter-revolt.
Or the 1965 barbaric slaughter of the Indonesian national-liberation government of Sukarno and, most of all, the local Communist Party which backed it, disarmed by its own Moscow-trained revisionist delusions in democratic paths and wide open to the massacre of as many as 3 million members and alleged supporters, instigated by a British intelligence conspiracy as new historic file disclosures have just further revealed, and under a Labour government at that.
Small wonder the mood of worldwide anger is growing.
Those upholding the system are obviously in the front line.
And the terrorist event will have united every one of them in the sudden cold realisation of just how explosive and violent the class struggle is going to become, ultimately steamrollering across the entire ever-more-unequal and degenerately callous and tyrannical dominance of the 800 year old Western capitalist world, now out of time and heading for the historical buffers.
Hence the only “genuine” or sincere part of any of the speechifying over David Amess was the universally agreed denunciation of all “violence” and “terrorism” as never being anything other than totally “unacceptable”, with only the tamest and most polite (and therefore ignorable) reformist protest to be allowed.
Everything else, including even merely the verbal expression or thinking of hostility and the inevitable hate the system stirs up, is not only to be cracked down upon as brutally and ruthlessly as possible but also declared to be beyond reason and without cause or basis except some mysterious unexplained “evil” purpose (as brainwashed into minds by such “cultural” fictions as James Bond).
But condemning and “cracking down” with intensified censorship and “monitoring” programmes will only make things ten times worse, adding to the universal repression and surveillance which helps produce all the hatred in the first place.
World turmoil has every rational reason to exist, driven by the unstoppable growing class and anti-imperialist hatred and contempt across the planet from billions and billions of the downtrodden and cruelly slave driven, kept in utter degradation and misery for centuries and who have had enough of it.
Certainly the great upheavals of the last years in waves of terrorism, jihadism, insurgency and street revolts are far from romanticised ideas of what “revolution” is supposed to be according to all kinds of petty bourgeois “fake-left” theorising, usually involving some kind of extension and elaboration of the “organised Labour Movement” with demands for “better conditions” and clear and coherent demands from the beginning (obviously with their particular group of PC-approved perfect comrades guiding the way in an orderly fashion).
Mostly as yet the chaos and insurgency across the world remains a long way from any socialist notions either, or even working class sensibility, not least because of the historically temporary collapse of confidence in rational Marxist understanding and science caused by the retreats from Leninism of Moscow revisionism and the liquidation of the Soviet Union and Soviet camp it led to.
But the erupting turmoil makes clear that revolution is now brewing world wide and will inevitably be bloody and destructive, the cataclysmic ending of a centuries-long capitalist system that should have been turned over and buried decades ago.
Of course it is confused and seemingly sometimes backward, a great stew of rebelliousness, hate, despair, desperation, determination and willingness to sacrifice.
So far, many of the religious sectarian conflicts which have swept the Middle East particularly can be seen as self-defeating or frustrating in their sometimes ruthless puritanisms, and particularly their sectarian infighting, leading to bitter conflicts among themselves (like the savagery of the Sunni Muslims against the Shia and others deemed to be apostates – as in Afghanistan ISIS against Taliban, in Syria and elsewhere).
At the worst they have been vulnerable to imperialist manipulation and misdirection on occasion, or simply have aims which play into the hands of reaction – most notably in their hostility to communism or some anti-imperialist nationalism.
But it is both ridiculous and treacherous, and a long way from any Marxism, to denounce these uprisings and onslaughts, however unfocused, as nothing but “headbanging fanaticism” and particularly to being just another form of reaction or even “fascism”.
Monopoly imperialism is the cause and source of all the reaction in the world including any confusion in the nascent struggles against it.
And as spontaneous anarchic mass street movements demonstrate, in the Middle East and Latin America (with very different cultural traditions but driven by the same crisis) the great sentiment behind them is one of anti-imperialism and hostility to the West and to the colonialist jackboot on their necks in one form or other, (physical colonies pre-war, finance monopoly domination post-war).
But a lone jihadist attack is a different matter it will be argued, with the academic “Marxists” wheeling out supposed principles of struggle decrying such “individual terrorist” methods as not just “counter-productive” and mistaken but perhaps even reactionary.
They will be decried as getting in the way of “proper revolutionaries” and of “playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie”, (as the Genoa Black Bloc anarchists were for example by the CPGB (WW) and CPGB-ML alike, and 9/11 subsequently and the ISIS etc) all conveniently allowing the fake-“left” groups to make their usual “condemnations” and line themselves up with dismayed petty bourgeois public opinion, and thereby helping imperialism escalate and intensify its repressive measures and punishments under the guise of “policing the world”.
Certainly a lone terrorist, however much damage he or she might succeed in doing, is not going to change the world – and Marxist politics has always argued that a much better way to fight lies in the political and philosophical education of the mass revolutionary movement which will more and more spontaneously erupt.
And Marxism will always make clear its separation from barmy fundamentalist notions.
But to deplore or condemn such anger and hostility to the ruling order is just craven capitulation.
It fails to ask the question – why is this hatred constantly emerging and at such devastating cost to those who carry it through?
What does it signal?
And if this is “not the right way” then what does need to be done to prepare and guide the working class for the titanic struggle it faces for survival as this degenerate capitalist order disintegrates (and one sign of which is the “terrorist” turmoil itself).
It is open to question whether the MP’s assassination constitutes a “lone attack” anyway in the sense understood a century ago.
Bourgeois analysis has for some time been describing such outbursts as some kind of dispersed mass struggle, stimulated but not directly coordinated by various jihadist groups via the Internet.
It would be a phenomenon of the globalised and interconnected world of the 21st century, responding to the same contradictions and conflicts manifest around the world.
In this specific case it could potentially reflect the mass struggle in Somalia where the Al-Shabaab Islamic movement has been waging a struggle against a Western orientated and backed stooge government, now losing its grip further as mass sentiment in the region is increasingly turning against imperialism.
Brutal Western suppression of the Al-Shabaab, waged by African Union forces operating out of next door Western-stooge Kenya has been significantly set back in recent years.
Now overturn of the Tigrayan elements which have controlled Ethiopia to the north, since they toppled the communist Mengistu regime (after the 1989-91 Gorbachevite revisionist liquidation of the USSR saw its support withdrawn – see EPSR No1595) has ended forty years of Western orientated reaction, stooging for Washington against all stirrings of anti-imperialism in the region.
It was their military intervention (guided by Washington) which put down the semi-independent Islamic Courts in Somalia which had begun building some stability after the warlordism of the 1980s and the defeat of direct US intervention (mythologised by the reactionary film Black Hawk Down), installing instead the current pro-Western puppet regime.
But Ethiopia, the core of Western control over the entire Horn of Africa, has taken an anti-imperialist turn under the bourgeois nationalist Abiy, much hated now by the West which is pouring out non-stop demonisation stories against Addis Ababa (like those against China, Myanmar, Russia, Venezuela etc etc) to whip up Western public opinion and support behind the Tigrayan reactionaries and their continuing vicious attempts to reverse the new progress with terrorising massacres and attempted coups, to disrupt the newly established multi-ethnic government.
Alongside, anti-imperialist sentiment is growing again in Sudan where the CIA successfully organised yet another fraudulent “freedom and democracy” colour revolution recently, whipping up petty bourgeois support to remove the thorn-in-the-side Omar Bashir government, again larded with the dollops of “genocide and repression” Goebbels lies and “warcrime indictments” that pour out against every government that refuses to toe the imperialist line (but never seriously against imperialist “allies” like Saudi Arabia, the Zionist occupation or the Kosovan gangsters):
Hundreds of pro-military Sudanese protesters have rallied for a second day in Khartoum, in an escalation of what the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, called the “worst and most dangerous crisis” of the country’s precarious transition.
The protesters are demanding the dissolution of Sudan’s post-dictatorship interim government, saying it has failed them politically and economically.
“The sit-in continues, we will not leave until the government is dismissed,” said Ali Askouri, one of the organisers. “We have officially asked the Sovereign Council [the military-civilian body that oversees the transition] not to interact with this government any more.”
Sudanese politics is reeling from divisions among the factions steering the transition from three decades of iron-fisted rule by Omar al-Bashir. Bashir was ousted by the army in April 2019 in the face of mass protests driven by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian alliance that became a key plank of the transition.
The latest demonstrations, left undisturbed by security forces, have been organised by a splinter faction of the FFC. Critics allege that these protests are being driven by members of the military and security forces, and involve counter-revolutionary sympathisers with the former regime.
The protesters have converged on the presidential palace where the transitional authorities are based, shouting “One army, one people” and demanding a military government.
Sudan has undergone dramatic changes since the removal of Bashir, who is wanted by the international criminal court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where a conflict that began in 2003 killed 300,000 people.
The US removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and investment.
But domestic support for the transitional government has waned in recent months amid a tough package of IMF-backed economic reforms including the slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.
The previous Bashir government was hardly the Leninist revolution either, and undoubtedly affected by the sectarian problems which disrupt the potential Arab-national anti-Zionist anti-imperialist unity, but it was less compliant with imperialist skulduggery, which includes plans to use Sudan as another weapon against Ethiopia (along with pushing the reactionary Cairo dictatorship of “President” general al-Sisi into war moves against Addis Ababa also).
Whatever links the lone terrorist against the MP Amess might have had or not with any of this – and the only clue so far is his Somalian background, though one with Western political links via his father – it is this murky international perspective of imperialist dirty dealing and lying propaganda, – everywhere and not simply in Africa, – which has to be the perspective for understanding why such incidents keep on erupting and what are the material factors driving them.
To keep on decrying and denouncing world “terrorism”, however tragic the result for some individuals, (often innocent) is to stand with imperialism, as much of the fake-“left” has done, notably since the New York World Trade Centre attacks but often previously too, over the Irish national-liberation struggle for example.
And this goes hand-in-hand with their retreats and Pontius handwashing whenever workers states have been obliged to take firm action against disruption and counter-revolution – joining in the claque against “totalitarianism” etc.
The “security” responses to the latest incident are going to tighten the contradictions even further as the intensified surveillance and police state censorship which petty bourgeois fearfulness is demanding for MPs makes a mockery of the pretences about a ”democratic and liberal society where at least you can speak your mind without expecting the midnight knock on the door” (“speaking your mind” always being code for individualist counter-revolutionary provocations and organisation against workers state discipline as in Belarus or Hong Kong etc etc).
Pretended Western “freedom” has always been a gigantic LIE as far as any working class, anti-imperialist, socialist and especially revolutionary opinion or science is concerned (and always will be, however many “campaigns for press freedom” the fake-“left” runs – as always diverting attention with useless reformism and illusions).
So it gets harder and harder to denounce alleged “totalitarianism” in a country with more CCTV cameras per head than any other, the biggest “spy” listening station in Europe in Cheltenham, and a reactionary state broadcaster pumping out non-stop anti-communism (and pushed ever further rightwards by deliberate reactionary appointments and sackings for even the tamest of attempts at “balance” or revelations damaging to the establishment like the Dr David Kelly WMD exposés – by both Tories and Labour) supplemented with a billionaire controlled “private” press of unrestrainedly vicious reaction.
And it will be even harder as the supposed “democratic access” to MPs is hemmed in with identity checks, looming armed-police presence and pre-vetting for “suspicious opinions”.
“Prevent” and “Channel” de-radicalisation (ie pro-Western brainwashing and forced propaganda) have already alienated much of the Muslim community so proposed escalation of their programmes can only ultimately backfire.
These moves will only add to the growing realisation of the reality of bourgeois rule as class dictatorship, already being made clearer by a desperate ruling class now facing the need to impose far more draconian conditions on the working class than seen so far if it is to have any hope at all of surviving the great crisis collapse hurtling towards the entire Western system, almost certainly in the form of a dollar collapse and inflationary crisis that grows more imminent by the day as endless bourgeois economic and political analyses hint (though themselves playing down or denying the full mind-boggling implications):
A global pandemic. Rising inflation. The threat posed by climate change. Global policymakers have enough to keep them occupied without a developing country debt crisis adding to their list of problems.
That is a real possibility. Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used their annual meetings to stress the pressure poorer countries were under and the need for urgent, collective action. They are right to be worried because debt is at record levels, defences against a crisis are inadequate and the clock is ticking.
Problems have only gradually surfaced. In the first phase, developing countries borrowed money, some of it from multilateral institutions, some from individual countries and some of it from the private sector.
At the time, this seemed relatively safe because the world economy was growing and demand for the commodities produced by low-income countries was strong. The assumption was that debt interest payments would be met by future export revenues. Then, commodity prices crashed in the mid-2010s and the Bank and the IMF started to voice concerns.
The pandemic ushered in a second phase because, while no part of the world was left untouched by Covid-19, poor countries were hit harder than developed nations. Poor countries were more fragile going into the pandemic, had less scope to stimulate their economies, and are on the wrong side of the global vaccine divide.
David Malpass, the World Bank president, said last week that of the 74 countries eligible for soft loans and grants through his institution’s International Development Association’s arm, over half were “in external debt distress or at high risk of it”.
When the US Federal Reserve starts to raise interest rates the third phase will begin. Many poor countries have borrowed in US dollars, and the cost of servicing these loans – already high – will increase still further as the Fed tightens policy. That will be the point of maximum danger.
Malpass knows this. Last week, he said: “A comprehensive approach, including debt reduction, swifter restructuring and more transparency is needed to help countries assess and manage their external debt risks and work toward sustainable debt levels and terms.”
As things stand, the chances of getting a “comprehensive approach” seem remote. In April 2020, the G20 group of major developed and emerging market economies agreed a debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) designed to ease the immediate financial pressures on the poorest countries, but this was only ever a stopgap solution and has had only limited success.
...“The G20 are asleep at the wheel as the debt crisis intensifies in lower income countries,” Jones said. “The current rise in global interest rates will worsen the crisis, preventing countries from recovering from the pandemic. The G20 urgently need to compel private creditors to take part in debt restructuring.”
You might as well ask a wolf pack to turn Vegan.
And this piece does not convey a half of the real problems facing the world because of the contradictions built in to the production for private profit system and its relentless need to endlessly expand production despite there being no-one left to sell the goods to (because they are all on ever-diminishing wages, barely able to cover the gas bill).
The enormous extension of credit mechanisms, both state and private has kept the world economy upright (just) for the post-war “boom” period (and perhaps also, ironically, the partial stability produced by the workers states and their planned economic development - despite using capitalist methods).
Another analysis, heavily edited, conveys some of the scale of the disaster, but without the remotest comprehension of where things are going - :
The benefits that come with being able to print the world’s reserve currency are, sadly, also a curse. The US has been able to run massive deficits for years to have a living standard and an empire that was beyond its means, while politicians have been able to claim the imbalances were a sign of a healthy economy, evidenced by the willingness of the world to lend the US such vast amounts of money. The plague of printing the world’s trade and reserve currency is that it erodes the need for fiscal discipline as problems can be kicked down the road.
...When the tech bubble of the 1990s burst, the US should have accepted the painful economic corrections by readjusting from a bubble economy to a real economy. Instead, interest rates were lowered to reinflate asset bubbles and thus transition from a tech bubble to a housing bubble that could fund the consumer-driven surge.
When it burst in 2008, the interest rates were lowered to near-zero and remain at this level 13 years later. The US has ever since been caught between a rock and a hard place as low-interest rates result in malinvestments and fuel economic inequalities as the rich can snatch assets cheaply, although increasing interest rates and restoring fiscal discipline would burst the bubble economy and diminish the role of the US in the international system. Thus, the solution to the crisis caused by excessive borrowing and spending was to borrow and spend even more to reinflate the bubble economy. The Global Financial Crisis was not resolved, but made much worse by delaying the day of reckoning.
It is usually difficult to assess what will prick the bubble as it can be something minor (such as the failure of subprime loans) that unravels the larger house of cards with deteriorating fundamentals. However, the issue this time has been nothing less than a global pandemic that resulted in a closure of the global economy, coupled with an economic war against China.
America must not only recover from the pandemic, but it must also recover from a collapsing bubble economy that has gradually deteriorated over the past decades. The US national debt has ballooned from $5 trillion in 2001, to $10 trillion in 2008, and will any day now cross over $29 trillion.
With near-zero interest rates and no more tools in the toolkit, the next financial crisis will predictably be a crisis of the dollar. The response to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 was bailouts amounting to a few hundred billion dollars, which devastated the US middle class and fueled populist movements on the political left and right. Currently, the US is moving towards a $3.5 trillion “reconciliation bill.” The Biden administration is even pawning Washington’s political legitimacy by attempting to reassure the American people that the reconciliation bill “will pay for itself.”
...The coming crisis will likely be a crisis of the dollar. At some point, the US will be forced to restore a fiscal discipline that was lost long ago. That entails increasing production and reducing spending – the exact opposite of current policies. This painful readjustment will reduce the standard of living of Americans and diminish the role of the US in the international system. It appears that the option of making voluntary and somewhat orderly adjustments has expired, and market forces will compel the US to make corrections in a disorderly fashion.
Disorderly!!You can say that again as the man said.
But this Norwegian professor has no grasp of just what disorderly will mean.
America is not going to make any “painful readjustments” however orderly or not.
It will turn, and is, to war just as capitalism has always done and as has been festering for decades, to blame the rest of the world and to destroy the great surplus capital and production capacity that is clogging the system (the insane and incomprehensible trillions of dollars and pounds in corporate accounts and offshore tax “havens”).
The professor thinks China and Russia can stay out it but they cannot remotely continue with a “better adjusted” capitalism (full on in bonarpartist Russia, under workers state control in China); if they do steer clear it will only be because they have not lost all sense despite still hamstringing revisionist illusions in “peace struggle” and “not rocking the boat” and remain well armed (with some encouragingly robust sentiments expressed recently by China against Western bullying).
As the EPSR has long explained it is Marxist science that is able to grasp these questions and forewarn and theoretically arm the working class (against all the reformist complacency, jingoism and sneering anti-communism of the fake-“left”). So, just as an example, not to brag but to demonstrate the importance of revolutionary theory, it was warning of this more than 20 years ago (and in fact before that):
It is the possible collapse of the dollar itself, and the collapse of the entire postwar system of debt-financing of the whole historical might of US imperialism in its world-dominant political positions which is now on the cards.
And such a dramatic historical transformation, — with America being one of the first economies to collapse rather than the last, — would not be limited to just a return to isolationism, or just a return to a powerful US continental economy prior to its neo—colonial spread into becoming the world’s banker and gendarme.
The incredibly inflated better-off American living standards and lifestyles, benefiting from worldwide acceptance of American government debt via prized dollar ‘loans’ and gifts, — and benefiting from the artificially extended production boom that all this credit created, — — would collapse too.
For very many of the better-off Americans, and for the tens of millions of worse-off Americans especially, such a dramatic collapse of the US economy itself would pose the revolutionary question in the USA among the first rather than last (EPSR No981 12-01-98).
For the moment the American ruling class has retreated from the full-on implications of the onrushing crisis and the turn towards isolationism and belligerent fascist bluster represented by Trumpism, with one wing of the billionaire ruling class hoping to stretch things a little further with trillions (!!) more QE dollars.
So they have been backing the just-as-reactionary but more “conventional” Joe Biden Democrats, still relying on softly-softly reformist pretences to try and hold the line instead of the open populist fascist aggression that has produced an already terrifying street turmoil response (antifa, Black Lives etc), and an equally terrifying breakdown in relations with international “partners”, most notably Europe (already talking of its own military).
As the cuttings indicate Bidenite spending will only worsen the dollar problem (and is so uncertain that it is already splitting the votes wide open in Congress) and so the Trumpite Republicans are busy preparing the ground for a return, stitching up the already twisted and heavily manipulated US electoral racket (always dominated by big money advertising, vote bias and exclusions, public relations image building and outright manipulation) with even more gerrymandering and ballot-fixing across state after state, imposing new regulations to exclude or intimidate sector after sector of the minority and working class communities, bias the results, and secure outcomes favouring the ultra-reactionaries by bent rules about structural “majorities” and “collegiate votes” etc etc.
And if they cannot pull off an electoral coup there is always outright intimidation and violence of which the farcical but dangerous Capitol Hill event was a taster.
British imperialism is already going down this desperate belligerence and bluster route, under the Borisite Tories.
The ruling class domestically is one of the worst placed in the world to cope with the intensifying ruthlessness of the international trade war, long ago abandoning most of its own industry for fear of the working class (shutting down coal mining notably) or being forced to sell it because it was unable to keep up (Rover car sales etc etc), – leaving an economy owned by overseas monopolies using Britain as a convenient assembly point (and that only because they get substantial subsidy bribes from a desperate British bourgeoisie).
It makes its living these days almost exclusively by the parasitical syphoning of money from the great flows of world monopoly capital which by dint of chance historical momentum (the English language eg) and geographical luck still flows through London.
Even then it is not the owner of most of it but just the service agent for the giant multinational finance houses owned and controlled by more successful bourgeoisies – forced to turn a profit by engaging in ever more disreputable and dirty dealing, for oligarchs, tycoons, former dictators, gangster sheikh thuggery and drug barons, with the “my word in my bond” City of London now the prime fulcrum for illicit and ill-gotten gain money-laundering and “tax-avoidance” using the network of “tax-havens” set up in the post-war years on “British” colonial islands.
The grovelling to these international monsters – like the forelock tugging to Saudi thugs at last Saturday’s Newcastle football game – makes a mockery of hollow British ruling class “world beating” and sovereignty pretensions.
These are part and parcel of the turn to jingoism and chauvinist reaction which is the only solution any ruling class, but especially the hopeless British, has to the problems of the crisis.
Hence Brexit whipping up fascist attitudes and scapegoating in all directions on any big lie pretext like Ireland and the Protocol.
Boris Johnson’s brag of developing a “high-wage high productivity” economy were already shot to pieces when Thatcherism was on the rise (which was why Thatcherism was on the rise – to force down the working class and its no longer affordable post-war reformist gains).
Cheap foreign labour was a temporary salvation but now the associated costs (expensive Euro-monopoly regulations for environmental and working conditions) are too much.
But Brexit is about whipping up international belligerence to try and bully a way through the trade war, slipping in behind American imperialist aggression and pushing down the working class.
If jobs are “released” by migrants being held out, the British workers will be expected to take them – at the wage and condition levels already set, fooled by the chauvinist “exceptionalism” lyingly hyped up around Brexit.
Jingoist hatred and hostility is also helping the ruling class tear up all the expensive old “democracy” racket and the reformist gains it is supposed to present.
And this is not coming about because of incidents like Southend as the fake-“lefts” immediately declare, once more cravenly blaming anarchism and “jihadism” for
“giving them an alibi to introduce yet more measures of surveillance”
(CPGB in its Weekly Worker paper echoing past fingering of the Black bloc in anti-capitalist riots eg see EPSR No 1100).
Of course capitalism will take advantage of the petty bourgeois fears stirred by such events but it needs no excuses and will do this anyway. In fact it already has been, particularly during Brexit and with the wide-boy ignoring of democratic rules used to slide in the Boris Johnson crew in the 2019 election.
And so blatant is this that there is hugely growing disquiet in the middle class:
The Oscar-winning film producer and environmentalist David Puttnam has announced his resignation from the House of Lords over concerns the UK government is on a “path to self-inflicted disaster”.
Lord Puttnam, a Labour party member, was nominated to the Lords by Tony Blair in 1997 and has served on a number of select committees focusing on broadcast regulation, media plurality and digital communications.
In his retirement speech on Friday, Puttnam warned of “multiple dangers” facing British democracy and accused Boris Johnson of running a “populist government that’s trampling on held rights and conventions, with the sole purpose of tightening its grip on power”.
Puttnam pointed to the government’s plans to widen the Official Secrets Act, along with its proposed elections bill aimed at making photo ID mandatory at polling stations, as recent examples of creeping authoritarianism.
His main concern though centred on the government’s lacklustre response to a report he co-authored as chair of the select committee on democracy and digital technologies in June 2020.
In it, the committee warned political power was being “ceded to a few unelected and unaccountable digital corporations” and that a “pandemic of ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’” had taken hold.
“If allowed to flourish, these counterfeit truths will result in the collapse of public trust, and without trust democracy as we know it will simply decline into irrelevance,” the report said.
The committee offered 45 recommendations for the government to implement that would update electoral law for the online age and create a more digitally literate society.
“The ‘resurrection’ of our capacity to trust each other, and the systems through which we receive information – the same information on which we base many of the most important decisions of our lives – is fundamental to our survival …The only accurate way to describe the government’s response to our report is ‘lamentable’,” Puttnam said.
A resident of West Cork in Ireland for more than 20 years, Puttnam also pointed to the “pig-ignorance” displayed by MPs during Brexit negotiations towards the Irish border as another reason for his departure from politics, and said he was “embarrassed” by the country Britain had become since leaving the EU.
Even the Guardian’s resident reactionary Zionist Jonathan Freedland is agitated:
If this wasn’t us, how would we describe it? If this was Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, or Poland, what language might we use? Would an announcer on the BBC World Service declare: “Amid fuel and food shortages, the government has moved to cement its grip on power. It’s taking action against the courts, shrinking their ability to hold the ruling party to account, curbing citizens’ right to protest and imposing new rules that would gag whistleblowers and sharply restrict freedom of the press. It’s also moving against election monitors while changing voting rules, which observers say will hurt beleaguered opposition groups … ”
It doesn’t sound like us. We like to tell ourselves that we live in a mature democracy, our institutions deep rooted. Political competition is brisk, never more so than at this time of year, as one party conference ends and another begins. This is not a one-party state. ..
It’s a consoling thought, but not a reliable one. Almost unnoticed, perhaps because it’s done with an English rather than a Hungarian accent, our populist, nationalist prime minister is steadily setting out to weaken the institutions that define a liberal democracy: the ones that might act as checks and balances on him. And he’s moving, Orbán style, to make it ever harder for his government to lose power.
Start with the courts. After all, that’s what Boris Johnson did. It seems petty to suggest that he is out for revenge after the supreme court delivered an 11-0 humiliation over his unlawful suspension of parliament in 2019, but Johnson is acting like a man determined to settle a score.
He set his sights early on a bill to reform judicial review, the process by which courts can overturn unlawful decisions by the government and others. The language is less overt than it was, but that bill stays true to its initial aim of declaring entire categories of government action off limits to judges – and it explicitly bans a particular, 11th-hour form of judicial review often used in immigration cases. No wonder the Law Society has been sounding the alarm, warning of a threat to essential curbs on “the might of the state”.
If that enrages you, think twice before taking to the streets. Under the new police bill, ministers will have the power to suppress pretty well any protest they don’t like. It makes it a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, merely to cause “serious annoyance” to the public. The police will be able to clamp down on a demonstration, or ban it altogether, on the flimsiest basis. If they deem a demo sufficiently loud to cause someone in the vicinity “serious unease”, that would be enough.
Of course, no one goes on a march unless they know about whatever outrage the government or others has committed. That can take a whistleblower or journalist or both, and Johnson is moving against them too. He wants to widen the scope of the Official Secrets Act, applying it to more areas of government activity and increasing the punishment for breaking it. Crucially, he refuses to add any kind of public interest defence for journalists or their sources. Even the Sun calls the move a “licence for cover-up”, adding that a society where journalists and whistleblowers face jail even over leaks that are clearly in the public interest is “in the grip of oppression”.
But Johnson is bent not only on preventing his government from being held to account. More sinister, he is taking steps to ensure it can’t easily be replaced. He wants to tilt the playing field of electoral competition permanently in the government’s favour, and his first target is the referee.
The Conservatives’ elections bill hands ministers powers over what has, until now, been an independent Electoral Commission. Suddenly, ministers will be able to deploy the commission as they see fit, using it to define what counts as election campaigning. A minister could order the commission to impose a criminal penalty on a group that had been campaigning for, say, higher NHS pay, six months before an election was called, by retroactively defining that effort as election spending. It’s not hard to imagine ministers using that power selectively to hurt their opponents. Little wonder that an alliance of charities and trade unions, convened by the Best for Britain group, has called the change “an attack on the UK’s proud democratic tradition and some of our most fundamental rights”.
The same bill would require voters to show photo ID before being handed a ballot, a remedy for the nonexistent problem of voter fraud – and a practice known to exclude poorer voters less likely to back the Conservatives. Meanwhile, note who got the money from a £1bn fund set aside by the government for struggling towns: in a remarkable coincidence, 39 of the 45 towns chosen are in constituencies with a Conservative MP, even when that meant cash going to a Tory-held seat rather than the poorer place next door. That looks a lot like using public money as an electoral war chest to keep Tory seats Tory.
And let’s not forget a trick straight out of the Orbán or Donald Trump playbook. Ofcom, like the Electoral Commission, is meant to be independent. But Johnson persists in his determination to install in the chair an ideological ally: the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.
There is a pattern here, if we’re only willing to see it.
It is a pattern of capitalist crisis collapse, domestic repression and international war solvable only by revolution guided by Leninist understanding. Freedland will not say that. But the working class can. Build Leninism.
Back to the top
Against Chris Barratt’s attempted response on his PBI theory: Part Two (issue No 1596 p12-14 for Part One)
Specific examples of sophistry and partial quotation come right at the beginning in Barratt’s floundering attempt to justify his absurd and idealist PBI “theory”.
Most glaring is the misrepresentation of the headline from the previous polemic against him.
This becomes virtually the core of his whole reply, supposedly tackling a contradiction between the headline and the content of quoted expositions used in the polemic against him.
In two ways he uses this alleged “difference” to avoid tackling criticisms previously made; first by embarking on an elaborate “refutation” of a single phrase as a means of avoiding all the other points made previously and indeed the entire body of the previous polemics, which tackle all the allegations he makes and, secondly, by doing this against something that was not said anyway, setting up a straw man argument. Don Quixote would have been proud.
So, much of his piece (also in EPSR 1596) is devoted to an allegedly unresolvable contradiction between the headline on the last polemic from Don Hoskins, and the overall thrust of past analysis in the EPSR, citing, particularly, quoted articles from past editor Roy Bull which were included (ironically) in the Hoskins letters to counter his idealism.
What the previous headline did say is that it rejects Barratt’s theory of “PBI” – petty bourgeois individualism - as a “thing-in-itself”.
Barratt wilfully twists this specific and quite clear statement around to suggest it means rejecting the understanding of individualism in its entirety.
Don Hoskins is “denying the existence of petty bourgeois individualism” (the narrow world view common to the spiv, the “honest” street trader and the shopkeeper all the way up to the “self-made” entrepreneur, professional or successful artist etc etc - see millions of gushing bourgeois press articles) – Barratt’s letter declares with a misplaced “triumph” at allegedly catching someone out.
Such an assertion would mean that the EPSR leadership has suddenly taken to rejecting a fundamental aspect of Marxism, and one brought out strongly in hundreds of issues of its paper, which is essentially that class interests underlie the outlook of petty bourgeoisie reformist and fake-“left” politics, colouring everything they do with a hostility to the collective struggle and discipline of the working class (sometimes overtly and sometimes in hidden ways behind all kinds of pretences about being “for Marxism”, against capitalism and even advocating revolution (except where it is clearly actually fomenting under their very noses in the turmoil and upheaval across the planet)).
Such subjective individualism reflects a complacency and narrowness seeing no further than the immediate circumstances around it and which cannot grasp and does not want to grasp the world Catastrophic depth of the crisis, the revolutionary movement driving it and the objective need it imposes for class war.
Individualism, saturating all bourgeois consumerist and celebrity “culture”, hero-worship, fan-dom and fatuous apeing of self-obsessed “influencers”, most modern literature and look-at-me and “my identity” “art”, capitalist politics and of course all justifications for exploitation, “success” and inequality, is at the heart of capitalist society.
It is the basis for its delusory assertions that individual brilliance, self-madeness, creativity, self-motivation and effort, are the sole foundation of wealth and privilege rather than class dominance, power, inheritance and all the advantages brought by education, class networking, freemasonries, snobbery and ownership.
Even where genius, inventiveness, hard work or sheer luck etc might bring one or two exceptional individuals to the surface, (mostly where they prove useful to the bourgeoisie) that is nearly always facilitated by class privilege or overridden and swamped by corruption, backscratching and class coordination.
To suggest that the EPSR’s Marxism is suddenly rejecting such basic class understanding is not only absurd but grossly insulting.
The headline alone, on which Barratt builds his “argument”, says otherwise.
The “rejection” it sets out is against the proposition of an abstract embedded flaw in comrades’ psychology which leads them to carry out actions allegedly damaging to the building of a party and often without being aware of it – that being the thrust of Barratt’s previous letters and against which several polemics have been made ((EPSR No 1587 & No 1588)).
Now, all kinds of petty bourgeois and reactionary class influences certainly are constantly at work in a class-divided society in which the agenda for ideology and politics is not only completely set by the dominant bourgeois class but imposed upon on it with saturation coverage through education, literature, entertainment, media, social-media, politics, and every other form of influence from cradle to grave, bolstered by non-stop overt and deliberate anti-communism, bogeymen lies and “communist or terrorist” threat hysteria, and hate campaigns consciously whipped up by the capitalist state intelligence agencies and secret propaganda departments (see recent revelations on how the Indonesian massacre of 1965 was provoked and inflamed by British intelligence).
And all of that is reinforced and propped up by an array of long ago completely bought, class-collaborating “labour movement” politicians and trade union leaders, saturated in anti-communism and thoroughly imbued with all the values of the bourgeois system to the point where they are at least as “conservative” as the Conservatives; with onion layers of fake-“left” groups propping them up (entryists, vote “real socialism” democracy advocates etc) and keeping them going, even as they carry through the vilest of betrayals, stabbing in the back the most pathetic of “left” posturing, and making sure that effectively no resistance at all, either physical, electoral or ideological, is offered to the bankrupt, sleaze-ridden, profiteeringly corrupt and increasingly fascist-jingoistic ruling class.
Swamping of all life with such ideology, and the pressures of struggling to keep a head above water may well have an effect (as Barratt correctly says) on the attempts of the Leninist party to analyse and understand the world.
Awareness of the possibility of such errors and influences is important, but spotting them can only be done by assessing the party’s analyses and testing their conclusions against the unfolding events in the real world – not by seeking out “hidden” psychology in specific individuals.
Pinning down such class influences is a part of the inner party polemic which must be encouraged and allowed to rage freely, until agreed understanding is established.
But insistence on such concrete analysis is sneered at further on in Barratt’s “answer” (see below).
Barratt’s wilful misrepresentation of the headline’s meaning in order to build up an “argument” is a shallow effort to mislead – exposing the falseness of his position and confirming the validity of the previous arguments against his “theory”.
In his last letter he is clutching at straws to try and defend a nonsensical notion founded in a hostility to the specific leadership of the EPSR at present and more generally to the need for leadership at all, and the disciplined approach it imposes on the struggle for understanding (see further quotes below).
It is in itself a reflection of petty bourgeois individualist attitudes.
Previous pieces both by Don Hoskins and Phil Waincliffe made these points (ibid) and particularly criticised the emphasis he gives to alleged subjective personality flaws in his arguments rather than to the battle for objective revolutionary science but he either chooses not to answer these polemics or to slide past them with a sentence or two.
Instead, to cover the inadequacy of his ridiculous counter-argument Barratt begins his letter with some pseudo-profundity about how the alleged differences have “opened up the discussion and taken things to the realm of Leninist philosophy”.
It brings to mind a comment from Lenin during the trade union debate at the 1921 Tenth Bolshevik Congress – “When I read that I almost crossed myself”.
The sarcasm at that time was directed against Bukharin’s posturing assertion of the “sacred slogan of workers’ democracy”, mocking an abstraction which Bukharin was using to challenge party leadership authority, in support of Trotsky’s mistaken demand for a “shake-up” from below in the party to tackle bureaucratism (see EPSR No 887 21-01-97).
We should be sticking to practical and concrete analysis and tasks Lenin said, not such abstractions – adding that Trotsky’s approach to battling the inevitable difficulties of bureaucracy in the new workers state was far more bureaucratic itself than such flaws, which would only be countered by the long patient struggle to develop the new socialist society (countering the insidious class pressures of petty bourgeois individualism all around).
What is more, Trotsky’s challenge came with a spirit of hostility that could only damage the unity of the struggle of the new Soviet state to survive in the face of the onslaught by 15 imperialist armies and White counter-revolution, trying to destroy it (see also ILWP (EPSR) Book Vol 5 - Against Trotsky’s Permanent Counter-Revolution).
On a smaller scale, so does Barratt’s sniping.
Of course no objections could be made against the need for a deep philosophical understanding of world development and against drawing out the dialectical materialist significance of unfolding events and developments – it is a foundation stone of Marxism and its perspective. The more this theoretical underpinning is emphasised the better.
Demonstrating the revolutionary nature of the contradictions driving world movement and development, through constantly analysing the most up-to-date events and the shifting balance of class forces, is a continuous process using the theoretical framework of historical and dialectical materialism first developed by Marx and Engels and expanded, extended and developed since by Lenin (and subsequently the EPSR).
Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolution as Lenin said (and the EPSR insists) – and no way to reach an understanding of the increasing confusions, jingoist antagonisms, crisis austerities and turmoil being imposed by the Catastrophic breakdown of capitalism and of finding a clear class-war path through them to overturn and end this system and establish socialism (and thereby open up humanity’s capacity to develop theory and philosophy far more deeply).
In this polemic there is no jump to “the realm of philosophy” – it has been a philosophical battle from the start.
Talk of “realms” is just phrasemongering, either preposterous pomposity or a deliberate effort to throw dust into the eyes by pretending he has a deeper chin-scratching grasp.
Other supposedly profound observations dotted throughout the letter only reinforce this assessment.
For example he asserts that “the less an individual..thinks individualistically over a long period of time and the more they think objectively, then the less likely it is they will suffer from PBI”.
But since PBI is essentially defined as “thinking individualistically” this says nothing at all. It is a truism or to use another term, just gibberish.
The same with a later comment that “overly defensive arguments are ultra-defensive”.
Well, duh. Blue things are blue.
The point to this latter tautology however is to smuggle through the lying assertion that there has been “overly defensive” argument – or that it even makes up a complete culture in the supporters group – with the implication that Barratt has somehow been “prevented from speaking out”.
The intention is to repeat the previous laughable comparison with Gerry Healy, Trotskyist leader of the former Workers Revolutionary Party, who suppressed discussion because of his theoretical weaknesses, leading to a bullying tradition driven by consequent “defensive cover-ups”, as explained in the ILWP Book Vol 2 on the Struggle to Re-establish Bolshevik traditions).
But no such suppression has happened; just the opposite the great battle has continued to keep on producing a newspaper putting the EPSR understanding in front of the working class and inviting polemical comment, carried through by other supporters (as Barratt has frequently conceded) even while he sat on the sidelines.
Just as sly, in the latest letter, is his use of quotes from previously cited EPSR articles on the party question which take single sentences and phrases out of context to try and twist their meaning (a dishonest polemical trick that Lenin was particularly scathing about).
Consider the main quote he uses from a piece from Roy Bull which polemicised against the wooden rule making and formalities of the Open Polemic, and its fetishising of democratic centralist mechanisms at the expense of the fight for a correct analysis, and in fact suspension of such real world analysis until a formal structure and set of rules for debate and theoretical dispute was established.
He fillets a single short paragraph from this article (from EPSR No 803, quoted in full in the reply in No 1587 and again in an extract in part one of this article in No 1596) about “ideas having to be fought for” and that this is done
“at the highest level inside the revolutionary party”.
There is no disagreement.
He then skips at least a dozen paragraphs to continue the quote with:
“What makes good communists, who will eventually dominate world society is the willingness to struggle for an independent grasp of what leadership science has already begun to prove is correct understanding of the world.
“What stands in the path of such development is petty-bourgeois individualism, cloaked as a fetish for democratic centralism.”
But this removes the entire thrust of the No 803 article which is explaining that rules, votes and party structures are pointless if the battle for a continuingly updated perspective on the real world is not made the central question, going on to ridicule the idea that a majority vote, however elaborately bound around by procedures, could determine whether a particular line was correct – when it is reality and the match the theory makes with reality that makes it correct.
And that can only be determined by testing it against real events and developments, not by voting.
If a majority of the Labour Party declare that opposition to Zionism’s barbaric blitzing landtheft occupation of the Palestinians’ country to be racism (“left anti-semitism”) that does not make it so.
Barratt omits the both the paragraph before his first extracted sentence and a whole section following which make things clear, before reaching the second quote and for good reason – it undermines the thrust of his whole argument such as it is.
So let’s put a few back:
Now it says:
Communist discipline and democracy also flow out of the correctness of ideas, not out of constitutional rules.
The only possible basis for unity is not an agreed democratic structure for party decision-making but a correct analysis of the international class struggle. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary practice, no united party struggle.
Barratt quotes only the next sentence -
Ideas have to be fought for. The highest form of the class struggle is the struggle inside the revolutionary party.
and misses this -
The only worthwhile ‘rules’ are those dictated by the need to take theory into practice.
Argument can only go on for so long before the need to act arises. Once a decision to act has been clearly established in the eyes of most of the party, the requirement for the whole of the party to carry out that decision so as to test it in practice, (the only way to find out if the understanding is correct), – or at least not to sabotage the decision, – is obvious.
Well might he leave these out because it precisely this part that he himself “rejected” – the need for a disciplined framework for the polemic and revolutionary party struggle for understanding.
In fact this highly selective “quoting” does not even sustain his case for the existence of some embedded psychological flaw; he is obliged to “reinterpret” the quote with the weasel phrase “Roy Bull clearly intends it to be taken that PBI is a phenomenon”.
Really? So why did he not say so? After all he has “clear thinking and advanced comprehension” Barratt says earlier on (heavy-handedly implying that subsequent thinking falls short – yet another snide insult aimed at demoralising and undermining).
The No 803 article and many others “clearly” states the exact opposite to Barratt’s notion of some inherent personality flaw carrying “petty bourgeois individualism” like a virus that can be “suffered from”.
Just the opposite. It suggests that it is in the battle to understand concrete developments and contradictions that the class pressures and influences of individualism generated by the petty bourgeoisie can best be identified and pinned down.
Barratt sneers that such an approach is just trickery used against him.
The EPSR is “claiming that because we get the world right any critique is misplaced and erroneous” he complains.
No such thing has ever been said, and nor would it be, so to sustain this whinging calumny, he goes on with another, asserting that “multiple times in emails, (verbal) arguments, and polemics it has been claimed I am not presenting a world view and therefore what I am saying is automatically suspect.”
Again sophistry and twisting; what has been argued is that if petty bourgeois influence is being called out, it needs to be demonstrated with reference to the concrete analysis (the world view), so that everyone can see how it is manifest rather than simply put forwards as an accusation based on some alleged “hidden” personality flaw.
But not only does he not offer any such evidence, he had repeatedly declared the EPSR to be very good, and presenting a world analysis he agrees with (apart from one or two very minor points over the years – always taken on board).
In the No 803 article above for example (and a number of later polemics - No 1052, 1065, 1080, 1116 among others) there is a concrete analysis which happens to be of other developments in the labour movement and class struggle, namely the elaborate framework of rules and procedures being set forth by the Open Polemic, its justifications for them and their polemical criticism of the EPSR for allegedly “jumping the gun” in having a leadership put forwards an assessment of unfolding events without going through an elaborate mechanism (the OP’s unfinalised “multanimous practice”).
The EPSR’s identification of the petty bourgeois class basis of the Open Polemic emerges from the analysis of their group and its methods, not the other way round of looking for abstract “PBI”, while being guided by a set of “symptoms” for “spotting it” (amounting to bureaucratic rules in themselves).
Such an approach is itself built on a schematic notion, an idea of what “perfect Leninism” should be.
It is thoroughly subjective itself and idealist – exactly the philosophy of the petty bourgeoisie and the accusation that Barratt throws at everyone else.
And this is made clearer by the whole approach in Barratt’s piece of trying to find and describe “what makes a good communist” (a question mainly being asked in order to present himself as a “good Leninist”).
Now, it is not unreasonable to expect comrades struggling for leadership in the working class should make an effort to set a good example, avoid personal bad behaviour, and be willing to sacrifice time, resources and energy for the struggle; many existing workers states, and notably Cuba, make a point of recognising and lauding particularly energetic, devoted or variously exemplary comrades.
Cynically mocked as they are by Trots and other middle class elements, the Stakhanovite workers of the 1930s were also upheld, rightfully, in the Soviet Union as setting a powerful example by their voluntary additional or intensive work.
And in sharpening periods of the class war such sacrifices have reached the extreme – tens of thousands of Bolsheviks and their supporters lost their lives in the bitter civil war to defend the revolution from 1917 to 1921, many more in the anti-Franco struggle in Spain and many, many more in the titanic struggle to defeat imperialism’s fascist onslaught after 1941 against the Soviet Union, essentially part two of the great Bolshevik Revolution.
Ditto the Chinese comrades in their nearly three decades long war to establish the proletarian dictatorship in Beijing (and in their aid to the North Koreans, who also made staggering sacrifices against horrific imperialist blitzkrieg in the early 1950s).
Ditto the Cubans, the Vietnamese (suffering millions of dead and many more maimed and damaged) and many others like the Nicaraguans, Venezuelans Kampucheans and many more in the wave of anti-imperialist struggles after the Second World War.
And many unnamed others.
But upholding a battle to be “good communists” as the aim or the target of struggle, skirts dangerously close to making it a moral question, and like most “morals” founded in idealist notions.
It is practically almost impossible anyway.
Barratt himself admits, the human material for building the struggle is inevitably flawed, the result of an upbringing in capitalism.
His approach is then to find ways to tackle such flaws with the aim of developing “good communists” and stopping “backsliding” (however nicely and sympathetically that is to be done).
And at this point his PBI theory enters the picture as being the main “flaw” to be “rooted out” and “corrected” – particularly he adds snidely “in senior leaders” (hinting once more at the real purpose of this entire construct).
But this turns things upside down.
The aim is not to achieve a party of “good communists” at all, (or Leninists as Barratt insisted he should be seen as) who then produce sound analysis.
That would be yet another variant of the OP approach of setting out a formula for how things should done first, after which the business of making the analysis can be done.
The aim is good communism, which is to say revolutionary theory, using the science of Marxism-Leninism.
It is the fight for correct understanding which is primary and guides all the necessary programme, strategy and tactics:
A party represents a specific understanding of the world broken down into programme, organisation, strategy and tactics with its own internal discipline, nothing peculiarly magical in itself. What matters is whether the ‘party’ interprets the world correctly or not, what leadership it gives, and whether workers follow it or not, based on their experience of how correct the party has been, or otherwise (EPSR No 881 25-11-96).
From this will come the development of good communist cadres as they struggle to develop their own independent grasp of theory in the constant polemics of the party discussion, which reaches its highest level in the inner party, among the most experienced and advanced comrades.
This goes further; in one sense the EPSR argued from its foundation that it is usually pointless, or even time-wasting and paranoia-inducing, trying to pin down subjective failures and flaws in individuals, or false notes and subversion.
The great hunts, probes and international investigations carried out by the Trotskyist groups through various special committees and commissions to find moles, renegades and spies have largely been a waste of time and money.
Certainly bad apples exist and much worse, police infiltrators and spies from the MI5 and MI6 secret police gestapos, penetrating throughout the labour and protest movements as revelation after revelation has shown – often under such cynical “deep cover” that they form relationships and families or even become the group leaders themselves.
Well and good if they are exposed but better to devote attention and understanding to exposing and showing up the bad politics or mistakes during polemics and discussion.
Also the Leninist party obviously does not accept anyone with any opinion into its ranks – there has to be agreement with and willingness to work for the fundamental revolutionary principles already established.
As said before:
The real debate certainly needs to be restricted to those genuinely dedicated to a Marxist-Leninist, workers-state, proletarian-dictatorship, revolutionary perspective. But within that framework (on the doubtful assumption than any membership would be left to the CP Revisionist groups, the SLP, or the ‘Socialist Alliance’ on such a basis), -- unrestrained polemics should roar forwards on every contested issue of anti-imperialist struggle since the Bolshevik Revolution. (EPSR No 1079 06-03-01).
The real scientific socialism of letting new international developments constantly put old-established theoretical positions (all of them) to the test of objectivity, has yet to spread beyond the efforts of the EPSR. (Ibid)
But even that “membership restriction” is itself a living dialectical one whereby the constant battle to deepen the party’s understanding is also a process of constant development and acceptance of comrades as they develop (or non-acceptance if they do not) through their understanding being challenged and advanced by what the party has grasped so far (and which they in turn might advance), by party education (formal and informal) and by their necessary constantly deepening study of the huge body of existing theory, most particularly in 100 or so volumes of Marx, Engels and Lenin but also in many other writings too including 1600 issues of the EPSR and its books).
False notes, suspicion inducing behaviour or simply opportunism might sometimes occur too, and as the Leninist movement becomes more significant may sometimes be an issue – certainly once the Bolsheviks were in power and people joined them just to go along for the ride, or for careerist purposes, it became necessary to weed them out in purges (which does not have the sinister connotations bourgeois propaganda would put on it, meaning simply ending or suspending membership).
But this is a way off and throws the wrong emphasis anyway.
In the quotes Barratt uses there is of course the phrase, “what makes a good communist” - but the entire thrust of the argument he cites is not on what they are but on what they do, their “willingness to struggle for understanding”.
More clearly the point is made in another issue (No 1170):
Potential forces in the revolutionary workers movement cannot convincingly be assessed on the basis of individual worthwhileness (ea).
But a difference can be examined in how any perspective can demonstrably be shown to be endlessly openly inquiring and re-inquiring into every aspect of the historical class struggle, - past, present, and future, including its own mistakes, believing that polemicising on everything IN FRONT OF THE WORKING CLASS is the only way to a longterm reliable revolutionary party of leadership, ------ and how other perspectives or tendencies are ONLY motivated by sectarian self-justification and self-preservation.
Such SECTARIANISM is fundamentally a petty bourgeois CLASS outlook, and will basically remain that way, apart from isolated individuals rediscovering a proletarian class courage to get out the scientific truth, regardless of who gets hurt. [EPSR No 1170]
Armed with revolutionary theory fought for by a party built for the purpose, constantly elaborating and extending the scientific understanding first grasped by Marx and Engels and Lenin, that class force can and will overturn imperialist degeneracy, establishing the state power of the working class to finally control, plan and organise society and its production in the interests of all, repairing the horrific natural and social damage, waste and distortion of capitalism and unleashing the huge potential of all humanity (leaving none behind) in harmony with the natural world.
Standing against the necessary class discipline of such struggle is the self-interested and obsessed narrowness of the petty bourgeois, and one of its core features is a hostility to leadership.
Barratt’s long campaign of vilification was saturated in this spirit directed not just against the party leadership but all the comrades in support, arrogantly insulted and belittled for not falling in behind the accusations he made.
The whole PBI theory was a smokescreen to cover up Barratt’s hostility over a long period, sniping and undermining the leadership of the EPSR with allegations about supposed “bad behaviour”, “intimidation” and “violence” poured into the ears of other comrades.
It was mixed together with sometimes correct points about the development of cadres as independent thinkers, but turned on all those who did not accept his accusations for being “lickspittles” – echoing all the insults poured on Bolshevik leadership from the moment it developed the understanding of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only path through to the real development of mass participation in taking society forwards (the only true democracy, in contrast to the lying pretence of parliamentarianism, the cover for the bourgeois class dictatorship which rules capitalism).
“Mere pawns” was the 1904 accusation against Lenin’s Bolshevik section, and “hacks, fanatics and clones” against the EPSR when its supporters backed the unitary party basis for the Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (before the suppression and censorship of Leninist politics forced it out).
Barratt’s insults followed a split in 2009 (see Part One) when he vacillated over the issues under discussion, focused around the nature of Obama-ism.
Should this new phenomenon be regarded as an advance for the working class, not because of any illusions in the US Democrats (all sides agreeing them to be just one of two reactionary wings of the bourgeois establishment) but because it was a gain produced under pressure –
or should the working class be warned that this playing of the PC cards of black civil rights reform (a “black man in the White House”) and feminism (Hillary Clinton) was last ditch trickery to rescue a failing imperialist “democracy” brought to a point of near-collapse by the global credit Catastrophe and (effectively) defeats from war weariness.
The paper’s line said not only should any sense of “gains” be understood as only a hollow fraud while imperialist crisis continued, but they would be a diversion from the only perspective that can matter – the need for revolution.
The totally reactionary nature of Obamaism, its Bidenesque extension, - and his “left” props like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – is much clearer now (see cutting at the end) but it produced a bitter battle that unfortunately saw comrades depart.
Whether or not that could have been “handled better” is a moot point and criticism that the polemic could have been more fully explored was valid and was not refused in discussion subsequently.
But the challenge became out and out sabotage following a robust response to a call to topple the leadership and impose “pre-vetting” on the paper (effectively setting new leadership in place).
Once that battle was lost Barratt turned to out-and-out hostility spreading lies and vile accusations against the leadership of alleged “bullying” and worse.
As already set out in part one and previous polemics (EPSR No 1586, No1587 and No1588), none of this is true and none of it was accepted by comrades in a series of meetings where all these allegations were heard out and countered ten years ago (see the previous polemics and further points below).
Like Trotsky Barratt refused to accept the decisions of the supporters group then, continuing a campaign of vilification and sabotage against the leadership ever since.
But their refusal to accept all this plus Barratt’s own long training in the EPSR (including many valuable contributions) and a clever mind meant that he realised over a long period of time that the EPSR, isolated and limited as its group’s efforts might be, was continuing to develop Leninism and crucially put forth the analysis for open debate.
Despite all the vilification it was developing the perspective that he was obliged to recognise is a far closer approach to the objective revolutionary science required for the working class than anywhere else, and in complete contrast to the appalling fake-“left” groups, whose reformism, pacifist uselessness and out-and-out bilious anti-communism are more and more exposed by the rapidly deepening crisis Catastrophe, and the growing ferment of anti-imperialism in the world.
But while wanting to return to the group he was unable to let go of his own conceit or admit his own errors, developing this elaborate theory to “justify” his position after the straightforward (!) accusations of “violence” etc” had been rejected by comrades.
By declaring there to be a hidden “PBI” he could continue making the same accusations but under cover of them being allegedly “unconscious” and hidden.
But it is not a coincidence that there are echoes of Trotsky’s 1921 conceit and disruptive “shake-up” in all this.
It was the steadfastness and discipline of Lenin’s Bolsheviks which proved vital for providing the revolutionary leadership which was able to guide the great proletarian upheaval of the early twentieth century through the turmoil and breakdown of capitalist crisis, slump and war and especially the breakdown of 1917.
After years of sniping, vacillation and non-stop attempts to “reconcile” the Bolsheviks with the Menshevik groups (ie to blur and confuse the differences between them which Lenin’s line was for sharpening and clarifying all the time, to expose their petty bourgeois compromising and ultimately reactionary nature), Trotsky was obliged to recognise the Bolshevik success and joined them at the last minute in the summer of 1917.
But while making significant organisational contributions to the revolutionary civil war which followed he was unable to overcome his own egotism, a petty bourgeois individualism par excellence.
His mistakes were countered, and even proved “useful” foils under Lenin’s leadership (in that fighting out the contradictions developed new knowledge) but were already disrupting things once the immediate threat of the civil war was headed off (see ILWP (EPSR Books 4.5,6,7 and multiple papers) and especially as Lenin was forced to retire from day-to-day work, from exhaustion illness and possibly weakened by the Left-SR assassination attempt on him in 1918.
No imputation is made that Barratt would have done the same and it remains an unknown in the light of his tragic death.
His repeated insistence that he supported the EPSR and its analyses might have been a positive sign but the attempt to cover up past mistakes and hostility with this pseudo-scientific PBI theory was a significant undermining of the supporters, playing into the hands of reaction.
And his insistence that he be described as a “Leninist” reflects the nothing but individualist conceit trying to cover-up the vacillations he made during the EPSR conflict over Obama-ism.
The correctness of the EPSR’s line did not take long to emerge as the Obama regime oversaw coups in Honduras and Paraguay, Egypt and Libya and the pursuit of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now a recent academic account exposes even further just how slickly and cynically the Obama White House used the doublespeak justification of “humane war” and “legality” not just to continue but to escalate the same war agenda as Bush, effectively in secret.
By fooling the liberal middle-class and playing on the meaningless notion of a “war on terror” but “trying to kill more nicely” Obamaism overrode the doubts and dismay caused by defeat and setbacks.
The purpose of bullying and intimidating the world to overcome the Empire’s crisis demoralisation was intensified with a sick “logic” that is beyond parody.
The revelations are damning (with some of the more credulous liberal acceptance of “good intentions” edited out):
The very idea of more humane war may seem a contradiction in terms. The US’s conflicts abroad remain brutal and deadly, but what’s frightening about them is not just the violence they inflict. This new kind of American war is revealing that the most elemental face of war is not death. Instead, it is control by domination and surveillance.
For all its routine violence, the American way of war is more and more defined by a near complete immunity from harm for the American side and unprecedented care when it comes to killing people on the other. Today, there are more and more legal obligations to make war more humane – meaning, above all, the aim of minimising collateral harm. Countries like the US have agreed to obey those obligations, however permissively they interpret them and inadequately apply them in the field. Absolutely and relatively, fewer captives are mistreated and fewer civilians die than in the past. Yet, at the same time, the US’s military operations have become more expansive in scope and perpetual in time by virtue of these very facts.
Obama had run as a kind of anti-war candidate in his fairytale 2008 campaign, and when it turned out that he was a hard-bitten pragmatist, in this and other areas, many of his supporters were surprised. Obama expanded the “war on terror” to an awesome extent, while making it sustainable for a domestic audience in a way his predecessor never did.
...As the worst sins of the prior administration were disowned, Obama’s lawyers claimed authority to continue war indefinitely across space and time, devising formal legal frameworks for targeted killings. The rise of the armed drone empire under Obama’s watch was merely the symbol of the extension and expansion of endless war.
“Lawyerliness suffused the Obama administration,” observed Charlie Savage, the New York Times reporter who broke many explosive national security stories during the Obama years. But that lawyerliness often served as an elaborate rationalisation process. The president’s men and women, Savage has written, “were trying to fight al-Qaida while adhering to what they saw as the rule of law”. Though what they saw as the rule of law meant little more than self-regulation, their commitment to humane standards of fighting war – while by no means perfect in legal theory or military practice – had rhetorical power for some Americans, significant effects on the fighting itself, and helped produce endless war.
Obama continued a process begun in the later Bush years...Expansion and humanisation went together, branding Obama’s wars with an ominous trademark.
Beyond its other shortcomings, the transformation of American war incurred a gargantuan risk that its defenders and its opponents largely failed to notice before it was too late. In November 2016, it blindsided them. “He has relentlessly questioned the efficacy of force,” said the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg toward the end of Obama’s two terms, “but he has also become the most successful terrorist-hunter in the history of the presidency, one who will hand to his successor a set of tools an accomplished assassin would envy.”
This outcome was scary, no matter how tightly controlled...
But not only did Obama design a far bigger and more encompassing form of war than necessary, and not only did he undermine the US’s earlier commitments to a legal order consecrating peace to do so. His policies helped create the conditions for a shocking and terrible finale.
No dove, Donald Trump nevertheless capitalised on the perception that mainstream politicians were committed to endless wars. And he won. The arc of the moral universe ran through the humanisation of interminable conflict. But it bent toward an ogre. More and more humane forms of fighting abroad had now brought disaster at home, too. Then Trump went on to repeat the very same pirouette from anti-war candidate to endless war president that Obama had performed. And now Joe Biden risks doing the same.
In March 2009, a landmark legal brief gave clear, jaw-dropping notice of how Obama’s wars would be conducted, formalising and globalising the “war on terror” in a way that Bush had never done officially.
There would be no limitations in space or time on the conduct of counter-terrorism. This would matter much more than Obama’s more widely remarked reforms: symbolically banning torture or fiddling with prisoner and trial rules.
Two months later, Obama met in the Oval Office with a group of civil libertarians and human rights advocates. “No one questions your values,” began Anthony Romero, the American Civil Liberties Union head. “But when your substantive policies are not substantively different from your predecessor’s, then the comparisons are fair.”
Later that year, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and in December, he travelled to Oslo to give his dazzling acceptance speech. The premise of his Nobel lecture was that terrorism, which he privately described (according to interviews) as a boring regulatory quandary, was so new and threatening that it required thinking “in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace”. No matter the illusions some had cultivated when Obama ran, for a president, at least of the United States, an anti-war stance in power was out of the question.
... As the New York Times editorialists pointed out in lauding Obama’s rhetoric, “he directly challenged the widespread ambivalence and aversion” toward the Afghan war among Americans, too.
Obama turned to armed drones more times in his first year alone than Bush had in the entirety of his presidency. Almost from the start, Obama’s policy called for engaging in targeted killing, not only by drone but also with the Special Forces or standoff missiles sent from long distances. Introduced in secret and then normalised in public, targeted killings transformed the “war on terror” so that it stretched further and further across the Earth.
By the end of Obama’s time in office, drones had struck almost 10 times more than under his predecessor’s watch, with many thousands dead. The air force now trained more drone operators than aircraft pilots, and the bases and infrastructure of drone activity had been extended deep into the African continent, not merely across the Middle East and south Asia. Meanwhile, light-footprint Special Forces operated in or moved through 138 nations – or 70% of all countries in the world – in Obama’s last year in office. Actual fighting took place in at least 13, and targeted killing in some of those.
The attractions of this approach were clear. First and foremost was the need to get the war off the US’s front pages, and stop body bags from coming home. What’s more, Obama was genuinely concerned by the threat of domestic terror attacks. The month after the Nobel speech, on Christmas Day, the near destruction of Northwest Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit by the Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, “the underwear bomber”, caused Obama enormous consternation. The near miss led the president to intensify in practice what he had defended in theory and his lawyers had blessed.
An equally enormous incentive was the need to avoid the damaging political attacks that his predecessor had suffered for the treatment of captured prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, along with the CIA’s black sites. If no one was captured, no one could be mistreated. But beyond these factors, Obama embraced the ideal of humanity in warfare not merely as what the law required but as a morally legitimate and legitimating enterprise.
The enlargement of the “war on terror” through targeted killings, and its extension in space or time, initially received little public scrutiny. The world had reacted with horror when Bush’s national security strategy in 2002 had forthrightly claimed the need to engage in pre-emptive self-defence without any imminent threat. In what sceptics regarded as an absurd oxymoron, Obama’s lawyers now invoked the “elongated imminence” of threats they said justified force. Not only was targeted killing allowed in self-defence, but Obama also asserted the legality of doing it pre-emptively.
Then there was the extraordinary way the law was stretched to cover new terrorist groups, as Obama’s war expanded to new places. Domestic law posed little barrier to targeted killing itself, at least for non-Americans, because in its Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Congress had allowed armed force to be used against any “persons” connected to the September 11 attacks. But it became a burning question whether a rapidly changing al-Qaida and new copycat groups that claimed its name were close enough to those involved in September 11 to earn legalised death. In the landmark March 2009 legal brief, Obama’s lawyers drew on the Bush-era notion of “associated forces” of al-Qaida in order to expand the range of legal targets. It was applied to groups such as the Islamist al-Shabaab outfit in Somalia with few or no ties to al-Qaida, and to individuals in virtue of their membership in this and other far-flung outfits. In 2014, to justify military action against Islamic State without needing to get congressional signoff, Obama’s lawyers deemed Isis to be Osama bin Laden’s “true inheritor”.
There were legal arguments for each of the steps Obama took, their credibility differing from case to case. Taken together, however, they blessed an expanding “war on terror” with unpredictable consequences.
Nor were these kinds of legalistic sleights of hand confined to counter-terrorism. In 2011, the US commenced a United Nations authorised humanitarian intervention in Libya but transformed it into an illegal regime change, with deplorable consequences for that country. The Libya operation depended on an essentially unlimited rationale for presidential war that the attorneys provided.
If so little of this registered in mainstream US public debate, it was because the Obama administration emphasised the humanity of the fighting. From summer 2011 onwards, the drone programme began to receive more intense scrutiny in the press. The Obama administration would partially and strategically lift secrecy over the years that followed. By doing so, it normalised targeted killing – not hard to do given the enthusiasm for the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on 2 May 2011, in a dramatic commando raid. At the same time, it set out to demonstratively minimise collateral harm. If the alternative to targeted killing was indiscriminate killing, and if the alternative to drones was full-on wars like Iraq or Vietnam, then it seemed obvious to many that Obama’s way was the right one.
Early statements for public consumption absurdly claimed that no collateral damage was being inflicted in these targeted killings, which outside reporting easily contradicted. “We’re exceptionally precise and surgical,” enthused John Brennan, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, in June 2011. He claimed that US counter-terrorism operations had not involved a single “collateral death” in almost a year “because of the exceptional proficiency and precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop”.
That was far from the truth. Obama himself had been so upset by excesses in the new incursion he ordered into Yemen that he stopped the drone attacks there for a year between 2010 and 2011. Most hard to reconcile with the idea of humane war were reports of the US carrying out “signature strikes”. These targeted males of fighting age in a given area without certainty that they were individually terrorists, let alone threatening ones. It was a presumption reminiscent of the Vietnam-era practice of declaring “free-strike” zones in which anyone remaining was presumptively an enemy. As the “war on terror” wore on, administration estimates of civilian casualties were raised, even as outside monitors reached much higher totals.
Most of the early critiques of targeted killing concerned how the humane standards of the laws of war applied. This focus anticipated the debate of the later Obama administration, which was whether too many innocent people were dying, not whether the interventions themselves were legal, where American force could go and how long it could stay.
As he ran for re-election in 2012, aware that someone else could inherit the system he had built, Obama began a process to codify drone policy. He even told Jon Stewart on an episode of The Daily Show two weeks before winning that he wanted a “legal architecture” to make sure that “not only am I reined in, but any president’s reined in”. And after winning, he gave his speech at the National Defense University at Fort McNair divulging that he had issued an executive order a year earlier clarifying the humane controls his administration placed on targeted killing.
This Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) was an essential document. Where the March 2009 legal brief signalled war without limits in time or space, the PPG belatedly promised that it was to be humanely conducted. It promised that outside areas of active hostilities, and “absent extraordinary circumstances”, no killing would occur unless capture was “infeasible” and there was a “near certainty” that no one other than the terrorists would suffer. And where Bush had given the CIA blanket authority to strike anywhere, Obama demanded oversight. He met weekly to pore over “kill lists” that he personally vetted, and formally committed to doing so in the guidance document.
Written in 2012, the PPG was only publicly released two years later. Harvard Law professor Naz Modirzadeh cuttingly described the document as mixing together a number of “legal-ish” standards. The optics of humane behaviour, Modirzadeh suggested, were “being used to give an international law-like gloss” to “an approach that most allies see as violating” other parts of international law, most of all the rules controlling force.
The lawyer Martin Lederman, a former Obama official, took umbrage. How could anyone, he wondered, have the effrontery to complain about the attempt to humanise the war? Brutal war was worse than humane war, right? Lederman did not confront whether humanisation could work as a spoonful of sugar intended to help the medicine of endless war go down.
One of the insidious results of the humanisation of endless war was to prompt activists to demand even more humane war. Obama offered something between war and policing. Why not go all the way, these critics reasoned. If war was going to occur off battlefields and without time limit, so the argument went, it really ought to resemble the permanent institution of policing with its far more stringent rules on killing, only now on a global scale. But this was an extremely risky argument. In order to implore maximum humanisation, it conceded that illegal war could be endless and everywhere. Did the humanisation of so nightmarish a practice as endless global war make it better or worse?
Humanitarian and military lawyers bickered around how much wartime humanity was going to be enough. They tacitly agreed not to fight over the war itself. The campaign to seek more humane war did not challenge the enterprise of war itself....
It was hard to know whether he actually cared about the imperative of peace, as opposed to wanting part of his audience to think he did. It was extraordinary, all the same, that Obama voiced the fear of endless war as he did. Obama’s statement reflected growing perceptions that a dreadful error had been made at the start of the war he inherited, or somewhere along the way on his own watch. “Since world war two,” Obama said to graduating West Point cadets the following spring, “some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.” Nor were the costs merely for victims far away.
Obama was often criticised for failing to hold perpetrators of torture under the prior regime accountable. But to concentrate on this point misses his constant invitation to Americans to see that “we” had tortured and that “we” are not the kind of people who would ever do so again. ...
Torture was not us – but, his argument seemed to imply, endless war is.
It fell to Trump to recognise the war as a disaster...
In contrast to Obama, Trump left no doubt about his opinion of humane war. He actively praised brutality. On the campaign trail, he claimed that torture works. He did so again when he was president.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the feared restoration of brutal older forms of war that Trump personally favoured. The executive order to reinstitute torture was never issued, in part because secretary of defense James Mattis found torture unconscionable. And Trump’s proposals were met by the howls of leading Republicans, such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The CIA itself pushed back, reflecting a period of institutional self-correction parallel to the one the military had undergone after Vietnam – even if neither held anyone accountable for past crime.
Was the same to be true of its endlessness? In office, Trump strove mightily to discontinue certain aspects of endless war – the Afghan part most notably – even as he intensified the war overall.
Sometimes, his attempts to withdraw forces provoked howls of rage across the political spectrum – especially when he abandoned Kurdish allies by beginning a pullout from Syria in 2019.
To a more divided reception, Trump bombed the Syrian government in retaliation for chemical attacks, and executed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Suleimani when he was in Iraq in 2020.
By comparison, Trump’s augmentation of the military budget (which he constantly bragged about), his escalation of the use of the Special Forces even beyond the high-water mark Obama reached, and his expansion of the drone empire with ever more strikes, encountered little bipartisan complaint. After all, it was just the policy of the prior two presidents, only more so.
Now Biden has completed the withdrawal in Afghanistan that Obama began and Trump struggled to take to the end, even as both preserved the new forms of counter-terrorism to replace troops on the ground. The chaotic situation has caused a bout of national soul-searching in the US, as it finally brought home just how feckless the Afghan “nation-building effort” has been all along. But Biden rigorously distinguished the counter-terrorism he always planned to continue from the withdrawal he finished. And the attacks by Isis-K at Kabul airport led the US’s national security and surveillance authorities to intensify for the future...moves into endless counter-terrorism...
Through the presidencies of Bush, Obama and Trump, the US could take strides to keep its wars humane. But it did so while entrenching its globalised militarism, as one anti-war candidate then another became an endless-war president. And now one more, alas, seems a prisoner of the script.
Adapted from Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War
And in case the sheer horrifying fascist logic of all this still is not apparent consider this little slice of “humane” principles applied to war:
The US military is making increasing use in Syria of a gruesome and secretive non-explosive drone missile that deploys flying blades to kill its targets.
Described as less likely to kill non-combatants, the so-called ninja bomb – whose development was first disclosed last year – has been used a number of times in the last year to kill militants in Syria, including those linked to al-Qaida, most recently earlier this month.
Officially designated as the Hellfire AGM-114R9X – usually shortened to R9X and sometimes know as the “Flying Ginsu” – the weapon has been increasingly deployed in targeted assassinations by the US Joint Special Operations Command.
The missile, believed to have been first used in 2017 to kill al-Qaida’s then No 2 leader, Abu Khayr al Masri, in Idlib province, first came to wider attention when its existence was disclosed by an article in the Wall Street Journal last year.
The weapon uses a combination of the force of 100lb of dense material flying at high speed and six attached blades which deploy before impact to crush and slice its victims.
Video that emerged in June this year, posted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared to show the remains of one of the missiles used in a strike on a vehicle, also in Syria’s Idlib that killed a Jordanian and Yemen, both reportedly members of Hurras al-Din, a group affiliated with al-Qaida.
The weapon is believed to have been developed during the administration of Barack Obama at a time when the US policy of targeted drone assassinations attracted considerable criticism for the number of civilian casualties caused by the strikes.
The deranged sickness of this degenerate and Catastrophe ridden imperialist system knows no bounds.
It will only get worse once the Catastrophe breaks in earnest.
Only revolution to overturn this disgusting system will suffice.
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