kamikaze kapitalism (2003)

 
yes to war – a jovial war . . . a total war . . . a social war . . .

 

THE FOLLOWING TEXT WAS WRITTEN (by me) JUST BEFORE THE LAUNCH OF THE WAR ON IRAQ. IT INCORPORATES MANY OF THE THINGS WRITTEN A YEAR PREVIOUSLY IN A TEXT CALLED “KAMIKAZE KAPITALISM”. THIS, WRITTEN AT THE END OF FEBRUARY 2003, MAKES THEM MORE UP TO DATE, THOUGH CLEARLY WE COULD ADD SOME THINGS ABOUT WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING SINCE. THOUGH ITS INTENTION WAS TO INFLUENCE THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION A BIT, IN THE LIGHT OF SUBSEQUENT EVENTS, THIS TEXT’S INADEQUACIES ARE MORE APPARENT.

bushbin copy2

 

We refer you to a recent compilation of schoolkids actions against the war – click here: Schoolkids and the war

war & peace:
thoughts on the looming war

The main reason to fight these wars, and to contribute to a movement of opposition to every aspect of capitalism, is because without such a movement, life is not much worth living. A war in Iraq without a practical inventive movement developing will just add to the sense of disgust, demoralisation and cynicism towards life…….

“Yes to war

A jovial war

A total war

A social war”

 

– handwritten placard on anti-war demo in Montpellier, February 15th 2003

There wasn’t much social war throughout the world on February 15th, 2003. In New York there was social war from their side – the violence of the cops – beatings, literally throwing those arrested into the back of their vans, etc. (this, after some would-be demonstrators from out of town were beaten up by the cops before they could get on the buses to the demo). In New York, State violence was met with a bit of independent violent anger, which was at least a practical expression of the critique of the dominant ideology of pacifism in these demos. In Athens, however, violence was also ideological – the reflex of anarchist street fighters who think you’re a softy if you don’t trash some symbol of American capital. It’s a routine they try on every demo. We’re not against anti-hierarchical violence, but in Athens it’s completely predictable, an expression of an activist ritual. It precludes thinking about other audacious activity which might be tactically more useful. Most people are uninspired by this, thinking only “There they go again.” Obviously one cannot be against anti-hierarchical violence without being a moralist hypocrite, one cannot compare the brutal violence of the State and the Economy with its violent opponents. But such violence when carried out, say, in Genoa in 2001 has a history and development behind it which is a little different from those who turn it into a specialism (although there was some of that too in Genoa).

However, the dominant ideology on Saturday, throughout the world, particularly in the West, was pacifism. Perhaps it’s inevitable given the enormously low level of opposition to capital there is in the world today, compared with the epoch of the Vietnam war. But as many have said before, peace is not the absence of war. And pacifism, as an ideology of harmony, hides so much. Accepting the ideology of ‘United for Peace’ means keeping your mouth shut about so many contradictions.

Take, for instance, that dreadful drone, “All we are saying is ‘Give Peace A chance”: even Blair could legitimately sing that one. The implication is “Give peace a chance and if that doesn’t work out, try war.” Only as a last resort of course. The Iraqi people have been at war for over 20 years, and the period of ‘peace’, the last almost 12 years, has been as devastating as war will be. And the daily humiliation that people suffer everywhere because of the need for money is never peaceful. Opposition to war is the minimum, a way of saying things mustn’t get worse – but the only way to stop things getting worse is to prepare for social war (and this isn’t really stopping things getting worse, but rather the only way to feel better despite things getting worse). The rest is wishful thinking – “We can stop the war”. And when such a dream of easy victory leads to disillusion, then what? If people think that millions marching through the streets – and nothing else – is going to stop this madness then they’re going be demoralised. The only easy victories are for the most powerful, not for the powerless, who are going to have to fight back from one of the lowest troughs in the history of class struggle in the Western world. And pacifism contributes to stopping people developing such a fight back.

What else happened that Saturday? Sure, it’s good that people took over the streets from the cars. And street theatre can sometimes have some originality – like the parodies of marching soldiers and the imitation cheerleaders shouting anti-war chants in Chicago.(1) And mass friendly atmospheres are what make you want to live despite this depressing world. And it was good to hear that in Cyprus Turks and Greeks marched together and briefly invaded a British military airport. Doubtless there were other good things, but I suspect after they start bombing the really radical opposition will show itself, though the numbers will be far far smaller. It’s indicative of this utterly counter-revolutionary epoch that millions of people on the streets didn’t achieve a millionth of what was done by the presence of 200,000 during the Poll Tax riot of 13 years ago. There were no occupations of, or attacks on, petrol company buildings or any other expression of this mad world. In part it’s because this war is not seen as something that directly effects people’s daily lives, but it’s also because at present few people want to take risks, and are easily defeated, seeing everything in terms of stopping the bombing (which won’t happen).

However, let’s look at what pacifism means in practice.

Pacifism means writing to Congressmen or M.P.s, or to other representatives of mass murder. It’s better to do nothing than to give these scum credibility, with their fake democracy, than to give them the words and ideas so they can appear to take in people’s concerns, making them look like they can empathise with your point of view. Above all, it’s better to do nothing than give oneself the illusion that one is doing something. People who never take a tiny little risk – even in conversation – complacently pat themselves on the back that they’ve signed a petition or whatever. If some Congress (wo)men are opposed to this war it’s not because they think killing (or starving) people en masse is horrific but because they are frightened that some of their power and profits will be lost (mainly because the war might provoke an opposition, both internally and externally, which will get out of hand and generate opposition more generally, but also fear of not being able to buy off those leaders of foreign capital who feel threatened by this push towards intensified U.S. hegemony). Whilst sections of the ruling class – including sections of Wall St – are very jittery about this war that doesn’t mean to say it won’t take place. It’s a gamble. Hasn’t the history of capitalism always been a gamble? A large amount of the ruling class in Nazi Germany secretly opposed Hitler’s war policies from 1934 on, but that didn’t stop him.

Pacifism means sending little packets of rice to the White House, which is depressingly naïve in the extreme. According to this ideology Eisenhower decided not to drop a nuclear bomb on China when it took over a small island because tens of thousands of people decided to send him little packs of rice. This gave him an opportunity to parade a humanitarian image of concern, whilst the real reason for this had more to do with the political military balance of power during the Cold War at that time. If some people believe in such easy victories it’s also very convenient for our enemies to have people believe such victories can be won so easily, which I imagine was one of the reasons Eisenhower claimed he was influenced by those little packets of rice. Bush is far more ruthless than Eisenhower. It looks like at least 150,000 people could die within 2 days. He’ll spend a few minutes with his dinner guests cracking sick jokes about the rice.
Apparently in the U.S. those who want to oppose the war and have never participated in political things before can send off for an activist pack – a kind of How to Oppose the War set of formulations, rather like a travel pack for tourists to an unknown country. It’s a sign of the times – so little urge for discovering things for yourself, so much need for guidance from experts.
As for die-ins, they’re embarrassingly banal in terms of street theatre, stating what is obvious to everybody about war, including Bush, Blair, Saddam and co. Amazingly, war kills. Perhaps we should have die-ins during peace time because capitalist peace also kills – and certainly not just in the Third World. It’s so much of a reflex thing to do if you see things in terms of a cause. In terms of Street Theatre it’s so utterly unoriginal. Better is the group of people in Britain dressed up in smart clothes, white coats and clipboards who go around military sites saying that they’re weapons inspectors and have come to check for weapons of mass destruction.

The problem with so much of these activities is that they’re so other-directed, media-directed. The media becomes the event. Everyone scans the paper afterwards to see if they’ve been photographed. But it’s just a story. Media-orientated activity – except when it consciously subverts the media – never teaches you (or anybody else) what you didn’t know in the first place: you never learn more about yourself, your friends and social relations in general; there’s no progress in consciousness or self-confidence.

Let’s compare them with some real opposition to the war: e.g. in Scotland, Motherwell, 2 train drivers charged with driving a trainload of armaments destined for the Gulf, refused and were threatened with discipline, threats which were withdrawn when all their mates backed them. At Shannon airport a group of people invaded the area where there were USAF aircraft and attacked them with hammers. In Britain, almost 400 reservists have openly refused to fight in the Gulf if called up, a ‘mutiny’ which could lead to their imprisonment.

Pacifist attitudes may play a part in these latter actions – but they are independent and involve genuine risks (it’s an arrogant ultra-leftism to assume that everyone who calls themselves a pacifist is subservient to everything about this world). However, pacifism when it ideologically opposes the violence of the powerless (say, George Monbiot outraged at the attack on MacDonalds and banks in London, May 2000) or practically opposes it, by handing ‘violent’ (they usually only attack property) people over to the cops, such pacifism is a force on the side of this violent society, and has to be opposed.

Media Wars

Although media propaganda and counter-propaganda will be very different during the coming war from propaganda during previous wars, it’s worth looking at our text “Notes Towards A Text On the1991 Balkan War And The Media” on our website. It’s a sign of the growing alienation that during the Gulf war the media, as an arm of the various Ministries of Defence, thought it was essential to pretend that all the bombs hit their targets spot on (e.g. that endlessly repeated shot of a cruise missile going down the ventilation shaft of a building), and that there were virtually no civilian casualties, when in fact at least 150,000 died. With Kosovo, they changed their tune, partly because the Big Lie had enraged so many people, and you can’t repeat the same bullshit and get away with it twice. This time around they’re saying in advance that there may be 500,000 casualties (wounded as well as dead) in the first 2 days. We are meant to be numbed by Operation Shock & Awe before it even happens. They pre-empt our anger in order to disarm it – when the bombing actually starts they hope we’ll just feel depressed.

One other notable difference between the previously mentioned wars and this is that the media will be far more openly split between pro-war factions and anti-war factions, as they already are. This does not necessarily mean they’ll be greater practical opposition: the media, as its essential function, lulls people into passivity. There’ll be a lot of people saying, “Well, at least The Daily Mirror (or whatever) tells the truth now” as if ‘telling the truth’ can substitute for doing something about it. In fact, such criticism on the part of the media will probably placate many of the anti-war public into a purely media-orientated ‘opposition’. Moreover, submission to such ‘opposition’ means allowing the media to define the parameters of what constitutes ‘reasonable’ debate.

Another Vietnam?

Comparison with the opposition to the war in Vietnam is usually simplistic, a bit of wishful-thinking. For one thing, there is no conscription: much of the more practical genuine opposition to the Vietnam war involved draft-dodging, attacks on draft centres and an international network of people helping draft dodging. In Vietnam itself, it involved fragging of army officers. And it took place within a general historical atmosphere of opposition to the totality of this society (massive black ghetto riots, May 68 in France, etc). That revolutionary wave has been defeated, at least for the moment: nowadays people’s freedom to think and fight for themselves is greatly reduced – for one thing, those who work have to work far more than they ever did at that time, unemployment is far higher and State benefits far lower. Moreover, the war dragged on for years: if there’s war in Iraq there’s a good chance it’ll mostly be over after a few weeks and they’ll probably be considerably less US casualties; opposition to the Vietnam war was partly due to the enormous amount of young Americans, disproportionately black, killed and maimed. An over-optimistic comparison with that epoch ignores so much.

Another example: people are saying that it took several years for an opposition to the US in Vietnam to develop, whereas now there’s a massive opposition before the war has started. Though the opposition to the Gulf war was a lot less, the biggest demonstrations against it were before it started. Afterwards, the jingoistic media, particularly in the States, made opposition a dangerous thing – opposed often violently by patriots, and the level of opposition fell off considerably.

Will Colin Powell be the first black President of the USA?

 

The utterly reactionary Powell, who was not only one of the leading military strategists of the Gulf War but had also been involved in covering up massacres by the US in Vietnam (notably, Mi Lai), is presented to the world as a liberal. This not only illustrates what ‘liberal’ has always meant but also how far to the right all the various false choices presented to us have become. Powell is a far subtler politician than Bush or Rumsfield – hardly difficult. With his mild reasonable façade, he was the main man responsible for winning over support from Arabs and elsewhere for the bombing of Afghanistan which killed more civilians than the destruction of the twin towers and the damage to the Pentagon. This diplomacy won support on the basis of the war being against al Quaida and the Taliban alone. Now that that appears to have been won (at least, against the Taliban) the goalposts can be conveniently moved. His cleverly engineered ‘change’ from soft cop ‘dove’ to hard cop hawk – in order to carry those spectators doubting the push to war with Iraq into the pro-war camp – is an example of this.

Arguing with a brick wall

There’s a tendency in much of the propaganda against the war to assume that people who support the war who have no political power position do so out of naivety, because they’ve been lied to and believe the lies, that they are reasonable people and that all you have to do is reasonably point out the contradictions: Americans are not directly threatened by Iraq, there are loads of allies of America which are undemocratic and brutal, loads of other countries have weapons of mass destruction, but they don’t have oil etc. etc. However, I think a lot of ordinary people support this war for the same reason as the rulers: they believe they can get something out of it, that in a dog eat dog world, you have to identify with your ‘own’ country, your ‘own’ State. Recession is making life very precarious, let’s bomb ‘our’ way out of it, fuck everybody else. Of course, few would ever openly say it, preferring to lie to themselves with the dominant ideology than openly show themselves up to be so brutalised, but I suspect they secretly think this as much as the rulers do. There are of course some who don’t pretend to any moral/ideological justification. They openly say “Nuke ‘em” as if showing how brutal they are somehow makes them tough, masculine and coldly realistic. This, of course, is very narrow short term thinking (many Germans supported Hitler for similar reasons, but war made their lives hell, even if they survived): it’s not really a question of attacking the morality of this mentality but of attacking it in its own terms. Such narrow self-interest isn’t self-interest at all. It supports powers that wreck individual and collective power, believing that the protection racket of the State and the Nation really does protect Americans (or Brits). The fact that 9/11 was quite possibly allowed to happen(2) shows how protective such rackets are (not to mention the 10s of 1000s of Americans killed each year by economically induced work ‘accidents’). Moreover, the hostility engendered by war threatens the lives of Americans and Brits everywhere. This is what the various States want: a climate of insecurity making everyone look towards ‘their’ government to provide security.

On top of the increasing threat of terrorism as a result of the war, the poor in America have nothing to gain in other ways from this war. The destruction of fixed capital (the infrastructure – machinery, factories, sewerage and water works etc.) in Iraq will undoubtedly bring jobs – but only for the super-poor and super-exploitable Iraquis and their neighbours. Ultra-poor workers who work in Wal-Mart, for example, will still be unable to buy goods from that ultra-cheap store. The only Keynsianism that’s still alive in the States is military Keynsianism – the State using taxes to pay for arms etc.. Since 1973 finance capital has dominated: periodic banking crises means US capital can cheaply buy banks like in Mexico and South America when they self-destruct. Now it is at a crossroads. With the re-emergence of the Asian Tigers, after the 1998 crisis, American finance capital is squeezed and hemmed in, unable to realize its overproduction of commodities which means it needs new markets, like Iraq and its neighbours. Therefore the USA takes on the mantle of traditional Empire building and must use war as a means of realizing abandoned profits. Certainly US capital is technically capable of boosting consumer-led production at home by indirectly increasing the income of the poor in a re-run of Roosevelt’s New Deal, but the ultra-narrow short-termism of the dominant, finance capitalist, forces ruling in the US can see no use for such a policy. Besides, the increased consumer power of the working class in the 25 years after World War ll was because the working class was increasingly capable of winning its demands for a higher real income. In fact, this was part of Keynes’ aim – to avoid the threat of insurrection by buying off the working class with a higher ‘standard of living’ but it didn’t work out because a significant section of the working class used this greater margin of freedom to confront the whole of this society.

The Road To Hell

During the war on Afghanistan endless liberal commentators comparing the higher numbers of deaths by bombing in Afghanistan with those killed in the World Trade Centre said that the difference was that those in Afghanistan were killed unintentionally. A great consolation for the friends and families of the dead. An alcoholic driver who persistently and repeatedly over years mows down increasing numbers of people can fairly claim he didn’t mean to. Killing loads of ‘ordinary’ people is justified by saving more lives in the long run. Trouble is, it doesn’t. The means cannot be separated from the ends. For the State and the world market, the lives of you or me are merely a function of their hierarchical use. Hierarchical violence has only intensified capital accumulation as its end.

Unlike a serial drunken driver, there are very real hidden intentions -in Kosovo, in Afganistan, in Iraq.
Judgement of people on their explicit intentions is no judgement at all: it divorces intentions from the practical manifestations of these ‘intentions’, a way of accepting everything at an abstract level.

The function of ideology is always to hide secret intentions with socially acceptable ones. An anti-ideological understanding involves looking at the relation between the concrete results, intentions that are hidden and the social relations that are part of both the intentions and the results. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly a good intention. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Kosovo, the Kurds & Cohen

One of the cleverer supporters of this stupid war is the Leftist journalist, Nick Cohen, who came out for the US/UK Axis of Good in The Observer on 16th February. Rightly, he attacks the Socialist Workers Party-dominated Stop The War coalition for its alliance with the British Association of Muslims – but then traditional Leftists have always made alliances with their future gravediggers. Cohen supported Nato in the Kosovo war, ironically for a Jew, since under the non-intervening surveillance of KFOR, KLA-dominated Kosovo now ethnically cleanses all non-Albanians including Jews (though Serbs, Gypsies, and Turks are far more numerous and so more persecuted). Clearly it’s not just the SWP which makes alliances with their future executioners (a stylistic exaggeration here, since Cohen doesn’t live in Kosovo and has a well-healed journalistic career in a country where State-backed anti-semitism hasn’t existed for sometime). This ethnic-cleansing is not on the scale of the Milosovic-backed cleansing of the 90s, but it’s still horrific: killings and disappearances, mainly of Serbs; massive evictions, looting of personal property and destruction of houses of all ethnic minorities by the restructured KLA (no longer called that, but responsible for internal order, along with Nato’s/the UN’s KFOR); summary arrests without trial; massive unemployment targeted at Serbs; power cuts targeted at the Serb areas; racist attacks on Serbs and Albanians married to Serbs, with the acquiescence of the authorities; deliberate underfunding of schools for Serb kids. A predictable aftermath of the war, which is nevertheless hardly ever spoken about. Indeed, once a war is officially over, the dominant media having previously been so concerned about the country, conveniently, have no further interest in the inhabitants of the former warzone. Just as expulsion, backed by arms, of inhabitants from their houses is rampant in Afghanistan, doubtless after war in Iraq, the world’s media will focus attention on another part of the world, and we’ll find it very hard to find out what’s happening there.

Cohen, as a Middle Class journalist with pretensions to supporting the underdog, never talks to those at the bottom of the pile, but prefers to interview Salih, a leading light in the PUK – a party that’s part of the Kurdistan Nationalist Front, which governs Iraqui Kurdistan. Salih is disarmingly honest about the real reasons for the war, “It would be a good irony if at long last oil becomes a cause for our liberation – if this is the case, then so be it. The oil will be a blessing and not the curse that it has been for so long.” Cohen adds: “The conclusion the Iraqui opposition has reluctantly reached is that there is no way other than war to remove a tyrant…As the only military force on offer is provided by America, they will accept an American invasion”.

One would expect a journalist to take a politician at face value, but even so, it’s obvious that Salih is full of contradictions. In the same paper, in an article Cohen himself refers to in his own article, another member of the official Iraqui ‘opposition’ laments the fact that Bush isn’t going to keep his promise of allowing them to have some power in the post-war Iraq, even pointing out the fact that they intend allowing that well-known friend of the Kurds, the Turkish army, to control Iraqui Kurdistan. Even if Salih is one of the few bourgeois Kurds for whom oil will be a cause for liberation, it’s clear if the vast majority become better off under a US-backed Turkish army than they had previously been under a US-backed Saddam Hussein it’s because of the vast injection of US/UK investment and money. Moreover, it’s probably a big ‘if’ even in the case of the high-ups in the PUK: probably they’re just doing a re-run of their history of sucking up to Saddam Hussein in their efforts to gain some bourgeois nationalist independence, though this time sucking up to Bush and his petrol dollars. Like Saddam before it, the American State will use them, then drop them if convenient and more profitable.

Anyone who wants to know about the sickening history of the Kurdistan National Front can read a text we put out, written mainly by a Kurdish guy in 1991, available from Class Against Class – “THE KURDISH UPRISING & KURDISTAN’S NATIONALIST SHOP FRONT AND ITS NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE BAATHIST-FASCIST REGIME (plus an account of the workers’ councils”, about the Kurdish uprising of 1991, an uprising that was independent of the Kurdish nationalist parties. Suffice to mention their attitude during Halabja, 1988. Before the chemical bombing, with Iran and Iraq competing militarily for control over the town, thousands tried to leave. The Kurdish National Front’s army of peshmergas refused to allow them to do so unless they handed over loads of money, clearly not an option for most. Trapped, thousands died in Saddam’s chemical bombing, chemicals supplied by the West, including the notorious A.G.Farben from West Germany. Afterwards, the nationalist peshmergas – officers and ordinary guerrillas alike – systematically went round looting the abandoned houses, stripping the dead bodies of valuable goods. Now, however, with American and UK money, they’ve built the kind of modern ‘democracy’ that poorer forms of capitalism cannot afford, and which allows the US/UK to present Kurdistan’s “freedom” as a propaganda weapon against the horrendous nature of the Baathist regime.

Nick Cohen has joined that band of exceptionally shoddy vaguely Leftist journalists and other careerists spouting the notion that the war is somehow “finishing off what we failed to do in 1991″.(3) Only this, surprise surprise, is a tiny distortion of the facts. To be sure, in ’91, the allied coalition of Western capital, had encouraged the possibility of an uprising of the poor, and many of those who then took part in the uprisings had illusions in being ‘saved’ by the West. The uprising – in the form of placard-waving demonstrations (absolutely forbidden in such a fascist society) had already started before the 3 day ground war had begun. So did the allies encourage such a movement by, say, attacking Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican guards? No – these were left well alone, in tact to protect the government. Instead the UN-backed forces did the one thing to ensure that this uprising was defeated. When tens of thousands of Iraqui conscripts, many of them Kurdish and Shiites press-ganged into fighting, mutinied in the South and fled, armed, from the front, they were massacred in the famous “turkey shoot” on the road to Basra. Maybe as many as 100,000 mutineers, well-armed with guns and a hatred capable of destroying the Baathist regime, were killed, many of them buried alive by gigantic sand-moving bulldozers. Saddam had already given in to all the coalition’s conditions so as to crush the uprising. The Saudi government, America’s main ally in the Gulf, was in favour of letting him crush the uprising (a fact reported in Cohen’s own paper, The Observer, a little after the Gulf War): it was afraid of it being successful because it would be an inspiration throughout the Arab world (and probably elsewhere). Some of the food-drops landed on the heads of the Kurds they were meant to save. Much of the money raised from the charity shows lined the pockets of the Kurdish nationalist parties which had, for years previously, often collaborated with Saddam as part of their rivalry with opposing nationalist parties. Both were just a cover of ‘humanity’ designed for the cameras. Their purpose was to hide this essential complicity between the Iraqui regime and the West against the only possible exit from the horror of this world – the class struggle. Complicity and rivalry, whether in the form of business and trade or in the form of politics & war, is the essence of capitalism and of all the rackets. It’s well-known that America was Saddam’s ally during the Iran-Iraq war, and the chemical bombing of Halabja was virtually ignored by the West until it was a convenient atrocity to mention over two years later when Saddam became Public Enemy No.1 with the invasion of Kuwait. In fact, he’d been virtually encouraged to invade by the U.S.: they wanted a war as part of definitively establishing their hegemony in the world after the fall of so-called communism.

The better of two evils: murder or murder?

A letter in The Guardian (UK) says, “What is the peace campaigners’ alternative to war? Of course, we are being lied to, but our policy towards Iraq has been a complete failure and caused unknown deaths. Wouldn’t a short war be better? Even if it involved tens of thousands of casualties would that be worse than another 12 years of sanctions and another half a million dead children?”. This wasn’t an ironic letter. It’s the logical outcome of those who think in terms of “our policy” – who think in terms of a “we” that includes the rulers, the State, the Nation. Delirious as it is, it shows the appalling inadequacy of those against the war who still want to change State policy, who look to the State, or the United Nations (which, incidentally, might well back US/UK policy, thus undermining all those legalists who oppose the war on the basis of lack of UN backing) as the means of changing things. At the start of 1991 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament advocated UN sanctions as an alternative to bombing Iraq. As an American banner said, “Sanctions are weapons of mass destruction”. Reformists everywhere constantly put forward policy ideas which are presented as positive and acceptable. Then a few years later, if these ideas are enacted, they prove to be just as bad, or even worse than the policies they claimed to oppose. Resignation to ‘political realism’, the desire for immediate effectiveness governed by the false choices presented by this society, the acceptance of the laws of the ruling lies, which is the exclusive point of view of the present, has never been so sick. More importantly, in resigning oneself to the “better of two evils” one avoids what can over time be truly effective, at least for yourself and the people you know: initiating independent subversive activity.

Poodles and other dogs of war

It’s a bit shallow, a kneejerk cliché, to denounce the British State, and Tony Blair, for being the poodle of American foreign policy. This is blind to the fact that British and American capital often share a common interest in the protection and development of finance capital, albeit at different levels of the hierarchy. Up till now this has been the material basis for Britain’s subservience to America – the enormous amount of Anglo-American finance-based businesses. As part of the dominant criticism of Blair, this accusation of being Bush’s poodle is a way of reducing everything to merely the personality of the leaders. The ideology that a change of leadership changes anything means supporting one section of capital against another and never looking at material reasons for ruling class behaviour. It’s a perspective that prefers to resort purely to a moralistic critique because looking at things more deeply would entail some consistent commitment to doubting everything. Those who superficially denounce Britain as the poodle of America would probably support those sections of European capital which recognise that one of the US/UK Axis’ war aims is to heat up the competition with Europe, to fight, through proxy wars, for their supremacy during the permanent crisis which is our only future. For example, the present conflict in the Ivory Coast is one between the US and France. Most people don’t know that France has been closely connected to the massacres in Rwanda and Zaire, and its history in Algeria has been no better than Americas’ in Vietnam. Chirac’s threatened use of the veto is down to his fear of losing all autonomy for French capital (which is why he’s supported by the French Socialist Party, and Le Pen’s Front National). France wants a piece of the pie, and Chirac’s threat is a negotiating strategy. There are some who know this but continue to press for the veto, because they see this as realistic politics. Such ‘realism’ means giving up what you know to be true, like admiring the Emperors’ New Clothes so as not to cause offence, submitting to what is considered ‘correct’ in the array of false choices presented to you, even when you know it’s bullshit.

War is the health of all States. Moreover, the US/UK “special relationship” might have its limits: it’s still even possible that the dominant section of Britain’s rulers will throw their lot in with the EU, whose interests often clash with those of the USA (a symptom of the difference is over Palestine, with Britain and the EU being far more in favour of a Palestinian State than the USA). Sure, this won’t happen during this war or even for some time after, but if the war generates enormous problems (e.g. a further weakening of UK capitalist interests) and enormous opposition then a section of the ruling class could push Britain in that direction. But only an enormous opposition will cheer us up, not how this or that politician makes political capital out of it and co-opts it.

Bin Bin Laden

“Since September 11th we haven’t heard from the [anti-globalisation] protestors. I’m sure they are reflecting on what their demands were because their demands turned out to be very similar to those of Bin Laden’s network…They say world trade is evil, we want to stop it. If he says that too, do they still want to say that? There is a sort of anarchist’s chaos”

 Claire Short, 5/11/01

Demagogic manipulation is not confined to bin Laden, obviously. Here, Short is echoing the semi-fascist Berlusconi, who said in September that there is a “strange unanimity” between Islamic terrorism and the anti-globalisation movement, under which pretext he proceeded to raid at least 60 autonomous centres, shutting most of them down. With the FBI mouthing about Reclaim The Streets** as being ‘terrorist’ (though not yet putting them on the proscribed list for fear of seeming ridiculous) we’re in for a long long winter of repression. This is a creeping totalitarianism far more insidious and subtle than fascism (the legal aspects of this totalitarianism are not the only significant aspects: it’s the madness of the isolation and the fake gang-like communities that the ruling show inspires that are driving people to the edge).

HOWEVER:
Osama Bin Laden, under the demagogic guise of speaking for the poor Palestinians and all the other Third World proletariat suffering under the weight of globalised multinational capital, represents that section of the Saudi bourgeoisie which has lost out to the domination by foreign, mainly US, capital since the Gulf War. A bit like Lenin almost 100 years ago (in the very different historical circumstances of a proletarian insurrection) he wants to develop a purely national capital not subservient to foreign domination. Islam, and his attempt to give it a ‘radical’ image, is the ideological cohesion given to this competition with the worlds’ dominant power (the fact that other sections of the Bin Laden family are very close to Bush is irrelevant). It is probably not accidental that this attack on the WTC has coincided with the beginnings of a resurgence of opposition to capital, and it is really no surprise that some demagogue would try to co-opt the weak ‘critique’ of capitalism represented by the more Middle Class sections of the anti-globalisation movement, regardless of the intentions of these critics. As we said earlier in relation to Bush and Blair, it’s not intentions that count: if you want to reform or modify the commodity economy and its States you inevitably succumb to their contradictions, you inevitably give fuel to those you hadn’t dared imagine would use your ideas like that.

According to Thatcher, “Islamism is the new Bolshevism”. This has a partial truth to it. Maybe it’s for this reason that the Socialist Workers Party can feel comfortable sitting down at the same table as the British Association of Muslims: they can both represent rebellion whilst repressing it in reality. Given the retreat of almost all independent anti-hierarchical revolutionary perspectives, in particular the retreat of the class struggle in the UK since the defeat of the miners, one of the few perspectives that seems (to some, at least) to be against the market economy, and its domination by US capital, is Islamic fundamentalism. It appears to be against the market mainly because, unlike the so-called progressive nature of Bolshevism, it represents a pre-capitalist semi-feudalism. in which monetary considerations are not the be-all and end-all of life. Islamism is able to win over maybe millions to a cause that seems rebellious but is as utterly submissive as the defence of the stars and stripes, and can inspire radical revolt against this mad world even less than defence of the Socialist Fatherland did, with a very different content, in previous epochs.

Too oily to say

The war on Iraq will probably be an environmental disaster, and not necessarily just for the Iraquis. Saddam already created one in Kuwait by setting fire to some of the oil. A scorched earth policy is a real possibility, though maybe the US and UK have taken that into account somehow. However, bombing by the Axis powers could also devastate oil wells and create extra havoc to the Earth. It’s good to have something to look forward to.

The Recession

It doesn’t help to simplify this war by just reducing everything to foreign policy. War is the continuation of the commodity economy by other means. 9/11 was an oh so convenient cover for repressing opposition on the eve of a very predictable recession. As workers are discovering through the mass sackings, the war has become a pretext for yet another restructuring of the economy hit by recession and for bringing in various forms of legal repression. In the States it’s a way of stopping all internal opposition to the vast cuts in public spending and to the results of the recession, an opposition which was far more likely to have been vaster before 9/11 than after. Meanwhile, those sacked and humiliated in other ways under the cover of this war, are meant to be consoled by the fact that unlike, the victims in New York and Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re alive. Merely surviving is meant to compensate us for our lack of anger and life. If Wall St. is jittery it’s because they realize that a risk-taking anti-war movement could also trigger off a movement against the results of the recession.

In the end, if we try to oppose these wars it’s mainly to oppose them as convenient covers for the repressions and vicious insecurity that millions of workers are being thrown into by this recession. To be sure, we must oppose these wars – ignoring them can only add to the brutalising power of the dominant world. But ambivalence towards organising specifically against these wars has good reason – if these wars become just an opportunity to campaign separate from daily life, whilst we have to submit even further to the miseries of work/home/leisure/the street, then such campaigning becomes just a convenient cover-up. By not challenging the totalitarian contradictions where we might be able to really effect something – in our daily life – we are not really facing up to the real underlying truth of these wars. In fact, this is the fundamental false choice these wars have thrown up.

Israel & Palestine

The continuing madness in the Middle East, though held up as a specific geo-political aberration, is in many ways a model for modern super-alienated humanity. Zionism encourages the anti-semitism it claims it opposes by equating what it secretly knows is a perfectly justifiable anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, thus encouraging those who hate Israel’s policies into attacking Jews in general (one might just as well say that any German who opposed Hitler was a German-hating German ). It’s enough to know that during World War ll some significant right-wing Zionists tried to do deals with Hitler because they knew how his policies would encourage the Zionist perspective they held so dear.

And the suicidal/homicidal desperation of the ‘ martyrs’ clearly discourages any proletarian identification with such a deathly perspective (unlike the intifada of the 80s, which did.scare the powers-that-be into doing a deal with the millionaire Arafat, whose ‘protection’ of the Palestinians has included doing political deals with King Hussein of Jordan at the time of his massacre of 2000 Palestinians in 1970). The vicious cycle only encourages an identification with various forms of hierarchy which seem to offer some kind of hope and protection but which only incurs greater viciousness on the part of the opposing sides and destroys any possible perspective in which people could recognise themselves in each other.

The identification with a hierarchical gang is an increasingly psychotic phenomena seen all to clearly in the ghettoes and sink estates of modern captialism. In the Middle East this takes on a specific political form, which nevertheless, has some similarities with the horrendous situations now developing amongst a largely defeated and divided working class.

Getting Personal

My initial reaction to 9/11 was “Oh shit – another atrocity”, then with the shrug of the shoulder “the chickens have come home to roost” kind of stance, then maybe scared – they’re really going to exploit this to the full, then angry; but having done little with this anger, and there being virtually no practical opposition to the war with Afghanistan, I just got used to it, resigned to it, like most people, no? Can we re-discover this anger, that sense of moment that was there the day they started bombing Afghanistan when they start bombing Iraq? And what do we do with it?

Others (not just Palestinians) cheered the bombing of the twin towers and the Pentagon initially, driven by a hatred of the dominant moralist hypocrisy, and then after the initial ‘joy’ of the spectacle of two of the most dominant symbols of American power being destroyed or partly destroyed, began to realise what it meant in terms of the intensification of insecurity for the vast majority of us and intensification of State security it entailed. They missed the point that it could have been, for the most part, them and their friends dead. They fixed on the ultra-rich scum who mostly deserved to die (their wealth being based on the misery and often death of others) in the suicide bombing to hide the fact that there were cleaners, secretaries, tourists, plane passengers, etc. who could have been them or those closest to them. Even then, the bitter logic of some was “Well, that’s capital for you – America’s chickens have come home to roost. Well, these things happen. At the very least, 20,000 kids die each day because of the commodity economy. So it goes.” Sure, there’s a truth in all cynicisms but it gets you nowhere, and only makes things worse

Isn’t our hatred of the system based on fighting the indifference it builds in us, fighting getting so used to horror, fighting the hypocritical moralists that cynically use certain deaths so that it just becomes an excuse for another competing ideology, another image of goodness and reason hiding brute force and hierarchy?

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These wars may well continue all the way to a war with China[5], and maybe the European Union, the long-term possibility which really could be the war to end all wars. If people are not to be disillusioned and demoralised in their opposition to this war and to their consequences then a social movement which threatens the totality of capitalist social relations will have to develop. It’ll have to learn from the defeats of the past, the strengths of previous social movements as well as overcome the enormous weaknesses of the present movements. And all this over the next ten – fifteen years (after that, it’ll almost certainly be too late). It’ll have to somehow affirm a will to live buried beneath the suicidal capitalism that is now engulfing every nook and cranny of the planet.

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Post-script to War & Peace

If nothing much happens on demos it’s mainly because of the nature of the groups who organise in preparation for these demos. There are, perhaps, three types of groups, roughly. There are the simple anti-war groups who get together purely because they oppose the war and want to ‘do’ something. Everyone might have very different ideas about what this ‘doing’ means, but the essential thing is for each person to think that merely being part of the group means they are doing something. Inevitably this ‘doing’ comes down to the lowest common denominator, and, indeed, some groups think that’s fine. Each individual in the group might disagree with some or even most of the leaflets put out or the activities carried out, but the need for the family of the group, to feel somehow cosy all together, is paramount, so disagreements are shoved under the carpet. This lowest common denominator, so as to be absolutely inclusive, means everything that gets done – leaflets, banners, demo-style activities, etc. – is utterly predictable, and is what everybody else throughout the world does and thinks is ok to do, and is usually orientated towards the media and towards very acceptable ‘reasonable’ propaganda. Many of these groups think of themselves as being ‘not political’ (a strange idea considering war is thoroughly political) – but in not asserting any point of view outside of opposition to the war they succumb to, and keep quiet about, all the contradictions of the coalition of hierarchical political groups that do the official organising. There must be thousands of these anti-war groups throughout the world, keeping political discussion down to the safe minimum, and activity down to just doing what you’re meant to do.

Then there are the more independently spirited activist groups, who sometimes do interesting things, but who think discussion is for those who want to sit in armchairs all the time. And then there are those who want to sit in armchairs all the time who sometimes have interesting takes on it all, but who think that activism is just for those who want to run around like headless chickens. Does anyone want to go beyond these false oppositions, to combine theory and practice – or is it all too difficult to overcome the safety of old habits and roles?

But regardless of the type of group, the main thing is the desire for consensus which always reduces each person to a collective conformity. For example, no one wants to say, “I can do things with X, Y & Z, maybe – but not with A B C, at the moment” In an epoch in which community has never been so crushed, each individual fears breaking up  the Happy Family atmosphere. Instead of a federation of individual initiatives that spark each other off, there’s a resignation to the desire to ‘do something’ collectively no matter what, which never tries to do anything slightly different. The collectivity becomes less than the  sum of its parts.

War is obviously horrifying, and it makes everything seem so utterly stupid: Do we just want to do a lot of anguished hand-wringing, do we just want to pretend to oppose it, to make a show of being morally – or ideologically – correct, or do we seriously want to do something? As was said earlier, our good intentions are meaningless – and  the road to hell is paved with them.

Feb. 27th 2003

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Footnotes:

1 However, most street theatre – and these demonstrations have been excessively theatrical – conforms to the dominant, utterly shallow, circular logic of this society – “What is good appears, and what appears is good”. For a look at some of the contradictions of street theatre in a different epoch see “1969: Revolution as Personal and as Theatre”. Also pp.32-33 of “You Make Plans – We Make History” on Genoa, Reclaims the Streets etc., both on our website.

2 Normal procedure for a hijacked plane is that within 10 minutes the USAF should be up in the air trying to divert the plane off its course, shooting it down if necessary (though that would probably have given Bush a bad press). Traffic controllers knew the plane had been diverted and therefore hijacked within a few minutes of take-off, yet it wasn’t until the first plane had struck one of the towers, over an hour later, that the USAF started to get into action. There’s undisputed evidence that the US had planned, before 9/11, to bomb Afghanistan to get regime change there so as to have greater control of the area, threaten opposing capitalist interests, get access to the oil in the Caspian Sea, etc. Also, apparently, the head of the section of US intelligence in charge of investigating the bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf by bin Laden and Al Quaida resigned because of the enormous obstacles put in his way by the Bush administration– this, sometime before September 11. This does not imply some previously arranged Machiavellian plot by two seemingly opposed sides – the simplistic fantasy of those who love the literally endless fact-finding of conspiracy theories – but rather the idea that the US State had several good reasons for allowing Bin Laden, without his knowledge, to carry out terrorist attacks on the US (attacks, the precise nature of which, the Bush administration also had no knowledge of). Top amongst these reasons, apart from the obvious oil and foreign policy interests, was the fear of a resurgent internal opposition in the wake of such victories as the Janitors’ strike and the events of Seattle to Genoa, an opposition which would have been made stronger by the weakness of Bush’s credibility given the way he was elected. A former British PM, Lloyd George, wrote in his War Memoir’s: “In the summer of 1914 there was a sign that the autumn would witness a series of industrial disturbances without precedent….A strong rank and file movement, keenly critical of the policies and methods of the official leaders of Trade Unionism, had sprung up and was steadily gaining strength. Such was the state of  the home front when the nation was plunged into war”. Though one can exaggerate the emphasis on the use of war to de-rail class struggle, it’s still a useful counter-balance to traditional Leftist thinking which only sees in war the battle for resources.

3 Cohen is a clever hack. Fancying himself as a modern George Orwell, he often takes apart much of Blair’s internal social policy from a traditional socialist democratic Welfare State point of view, supporting official strikes etc. with a bit of ironic style. But he can share a platform on Any Questions with Anne Widdecombe and not spit in her face. An inevitably innocuous critic of Blairism, he was uncritically, admiringly, interviewed by the anarchist journal Black Flag around the time of the Kosovo war, which the nice Black Flag was discreet enough not to mention. This, despite opposition from many of the Black Flag collective. But the ideology of thinking the collectivity is more important than any individual point of view meant no-one resigned.

4 On September 12th 2001 the only plane allowed take off from American soil – the rest were grounded for 48 hours – was one provided by the government for the Bin Ladens to flee the country. This has allowed various Leftists to declare that the whole thing is a conspiracy – but anyone knows from their own experience that members of the same family often have nothing to do with each other, and often hate each other. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to know that opposing hierarchies reinforce each other as much in their rivalry as in their complicity.

5.Phoenix note Sept. 2005: For a very interesting text on China in the current international political economic situation, see Loren Goldner’s site “Break Their Haughty Power”(‘China in the Contemporary World Dynamic of Accumulation and Class Struggle‘)

                                            February 22nd 2003.

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Kamikaze Kapitalism:

Horror Yesterday, Horror Today, Horror Tomorrow

Another day, another war looming, another anti-war leaflet.

Written: February 2002

Amongst many, the initial reaction to the twin towers bombing was a terrified “It could happen here” and a subsequent desire to show to the so-called Third World poor that not everyone in the West were complicitous with “their” government’s brutal foreign policy. However, after a few months of nothing crazy happening on London’s tube or a kamikaze attack on Canary Wharf, most people are just glad to be physically alive, unlike the Iraqui, the Afghani, the New Yorker, the Israeli or Palestinian victims of this new phase of capitalist competition. But though we might have got used to the mad logic of capitalist war and capitalist peace, not all of us are resigned to the inevitability of it, till death us do part. Beneath the sense of impotence in the face of the horror, beneath the inevitable anaesthetisation to it, beneath the depression that niggles constantly, and makes you want to avoid watching or reading the news, beneath that inertia that makes you wish you could get motivated, stalks a restless anger, pacing the prison bars of indifference and cynicism. The ruling show does everything to encourage this sense of the uselessness of struggle, in particular by keeping quiet about the social movements that are struggling: the movements in Iran and Argentina, the social explosions in Algeria, the – admittedly rare – strikes of schoolkids against the bombing of Afghanistan in Italy, France and Berlin.

A leaflet is not enough to release this anger, but it could contribute some clear reasons for it. If, over time, we don’t wreck this logic of competing gangs of capitalist rackets, we’ll all end up utterly wrecked ourselves. And if your response to this is “Yeah – we know all that” or “So what else is new?” isn’t that merely indicative of how wrecked we have already become?

Bin Bush! Bin Blair! Bin bin Laden!

So Bush, and the Gulf War veteran, Colin Powell (the first Black US President…?), have decided “to finish off what we failed to do in 1991”. Only this, surprise surprise, is a tiny distortion of the facts. To be sure, in ’91, the allied coalition of Western capital, had encouraged the possibility of an uprising of the poor, and many of those who then took part in the uprisings had illusions in being ‘saved’ by the West. The uprising – in the form of placard-waving demonstrations (absolutely forbidden in such a fascist society) had already started before the 3 day ground war had begun. So did the allies encourage such a movement by, say, attacking Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican guards? No – these were left well alone, in tact to protect the government. Instead the UN-backed forces did the one thing to ensure that this uprising was defeated. When tens of thousands of Iraqui conscripts, many of them Kurdish and Shiites press-ganged into fighting, mutinied in the South and fled, armed, from the front, they were massacred in the famous “turkey shoot” on the road to Basra. Maybe as much as 100,000 mutineers, well-armed with guns and a hatred capable of destroying the Baathist regime, were killed, many of them buried alive by gigantic sand-moving bulldozers. Saddam had already given in to all the coalition’s conditions so as to crush the uprising. The Saudi government, America’s main ally in the Gulf, was in favour of letting him crush the uprising: it was afraid of it being successful because it would be an inspiration throughout the Arab world (and probably elsewhere). Some of the food-drops landed on the heads of the Kurds they were meant to save. Much of the money raised from the charity shows lined the pockets of the Kurdish nationalist parties which had, for years previously, often collaborated with Saddam as part of their rivalry with opposing nationalist parties. Both were just a cover of ‘humanity’ designed for the cameras. Their purpose was to hide this essential complicity between the Iraqui regime and the West against the only possible exit from the horror of this world – the class struggle*. Complicity and rivalry, whether in the form of business and trade or in the form of politics & war, is the essence of capitalism and of all the rackets. It’s well-known that America was Saddam’s ally during the Iran-Iraq war, and the chemical bombing of Halabja was virtually ignored by the West until it was a convenient atrocity to mention over two years later when Saddam became Public Enemy No.1 with the invasion of Kuwait.

*

Some spectators who support these wars say “Well, we can’t just do nothing”. It’s kind of true but it begs the question, “Who is this ‘we’?”, and it’s this that few try to answer. Most use ’we’ in order to turn their enemy – the protection racket of the British State, defender of the most horrendous market economy in West Europe – into an avuncular friend: they give the State an initiative in inverse proportion to their own initiative. Killing some of the poorest people in the world is justified because it’s done unintentionally (rather like an alcoholic driver who persistently mows down scores of people can fairly claim he didn’t mean to). Judgement of people on their explicit intentions is no judgement at all: it divorces intentions from the practical manifestations of these ‘intentions’, a way of accepting everything at an abstract level. This abstraction is there when Blair talks of Bin Laden not knowing the value of human beings – he of course means exchange value. The destruction of a very small section of the worlds’ working class is fine if it helps ‘liberate’ people so as to get rid of an archaic localised manifestation of the economy, which, despite endless flirtations from a modern capitalism, has always played hard to get.

However, the other false choice is the traditional Left, which also take at face value many of the explicit intentions of “the war against terrorism”. Whilst they might criticise the ideology that “The ends justify the means” that still doesn’t lead them to try to understand what’s behind the explicit ends – except to reduce it all to a pretext for ensuring the security of the oil in the Caspian Sea. This simplistic reductionism is, above all, a way of playing the specialist, finding a One Answer dogmatic ‘explanation’ for it. It just leads them to attack the irrationality of this particular policy, as if capitalism isn’t inherently irrational for the vast majority (but ‘rational’, in the short term at least, for the powers-that-be). Ends and means are invariably intertwined: the real ends of this war – having a base to make sure there’s no threatening uprising in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Algeria, the oil/gas pipeline, a long-term militarised intensification of competition with China, and general battles over resources (human & natural) – are perfectly compatible with the means – the terrorisation of the Afghani poor, coupled with the carrot of modernisation, and the propaganda and legal war at home used to quash all opposition, especially towards the recession. But the Left wants to simplify everything by just reducing everything to foreign policy. But war is the continuation of the commodity economy by other means. As workers are discovering through the mass sackings, the war has become a pretext for yet another restructuring of the economy hit by recession and for bringing in various forms of legal repression. Meanwhile, those sacked and humiliated in other ways under the cover of this war, are meant to be consoled by the fact that unlike, the victims in New York and Afghanistan, we’re alive. Merely surviving is meant to compensate us for our lack of anger and life.

“Since September 11th we haven’t heard from the [anti-globalisation] protestors. I’m sure they are reflecting on what their demands were because their demands turned out to be very similar to those of Bin Laden’s network…They say world trade is evil, we want to stop it. If he says that too, do they still want to say that? There is a sort of anarchist’s chaos” Claire Short, 5/11/01

Demagogic manipulation is not confined to bin Laden, obviously. Here, Short is echoing the semi-fascist Berlusconi, who said in September that there is a “strange unanimity” between Islamic terrorism and the anti-globalisation movement, under which pretext he proceeded to raid at least 60 autonomous centres, shutting most of them down. With the FBI mouthing about Reclaim The Streets as being ‘terrorist’ (though not yet putting them on the proscribed list for fear of seeming ridiculous) we’re in for a long long winter of repression. This is a creeping totalitarianism far more insidious than fascism (the legal aspects of this totalitarianism are probably the least significant: it’s the madness of the isolation and the fake gang-like communities that the ruling show inspires that are driving people to the edge).

HOWEVER:

Bin Laden, under the demagogic guise of speaking for the poor Palestinians and all the other Third World proletariat suffering under the weight of globalised multinational capital, represents that section of the Saudi bourgeoisie which has lost out to the domination by foreign, mainly US, capital since the Gulf War. A bit like Lenin almost 100 years ago, he wants to develop a purely national capital not subservient to foreign domination. Islam, and his attempt to give it a ‘radical’ image, is the ideological cohesion given to this competition with the worlds’ dominant power. It is probably not accidental that this attack on the WTC has coincided with the beginnings of a resurgence of opposition to capital, and it is really no surprise that some demagogue would try to co-opt the weak ‘critique’ of capitalism represented by the more Middle Class sections of the anti-globalisation movement, regardless of the intentions of these critics. It’s not intentions that count: if you want to reform or modify the commodity economy and its States you inevitably succumb to their contradictions, you inevitably give fuel to those you hadn’t dared imagine would use your ideas like that).

According to Thatcher, “Islamism is the new Bolshevism”. This has a partial truth to it. Given the crushing of almost all independent anti-hierarchical revolutionary perspectives, in particular the retreat of the class struggle in this country since the defeat of the miners, the only perspective that appears to be against the market economy, and its domination by US capital, is Islamic fundamentalism. Islamism is able to win over thousands, maybe millions, to a cause that seems rebellious but is as utterly submissive as the defence of the stars and stripes, and can inspire radical revolt against this mad world even less than defence of the Socialist Fatherland did, with a very different content, in previous epochs.

*

The decision by a section of the US ruling class to bomb Saddam Hussein off the map (and to bomb a lot of the people he, the US, the UK and the UN have helped to immiserate over the years) is likely to be opposed by a considerable section of the ruling classes of different parts of the world. Not just the obvious ones – those closest to the area of conflict – but also in the European Union and even in Britain. Those superficial anti-Americans, who criticise the British State, and Tony Blair, for being the poodle of American foreign policy, are wilfully blind to the fact that often British and American capital often share a common interest in the protection and development of finance capital, albeit at different levels of the hierarchy. Up till now this has been the material basis for Britain’s subservience to America – but those who support one section of capital against another never look to material reasons for ruling class behaviour – they prefer to resort purely to a moralistic critique. Such attitudes look for the solution to this madness as being, not through their own initiative,or the intitiative of the rest of those dispossessed by this world but through trying to get changes in the policy of the State. This just opposes one horrific solution to another horrific solution: just look at CND’s proposal, during the Gulf War, of sanctions against Iraq as opposed to war. Some solution! During the war on Afghanistan (which, of course, is not over yet by any means) that hero of the Left, Tony Benn, could even dare to propose that the United Nations should intervene in this war (the poor of Iraq might have a slightly different take on this proposal), a proposal which received a massive cheer from demonstrators. Hope from some external authority is the carrot keeping people passive and subservient (this passive ‘hope’ will doubtless soon be optimistically given to the majority of Labour M.P.s who, at the moment at least, are opposed to any extension of the war against terrorism to more bombing of Iraq). In this epoch, the endless parade of false choices, rarely challenged by a concrete social movement, makes the fantasy of possible stability through a change in the persona and direction of the State seem realistic, regardless of the real history of this ‘realism’. Some Leftists parade the Stalinist-style State of Afghanistan of the late 70s and 80s as a golden age, selectively forgetting the vicious atrocities. For those of us with a better memory than that of a goldfish, the State, under all its guises has always been a weapon of class power, like the commodity economy it manages.

Those who superficially denounce Britain as the poodle of America would probably support those sections of European capital which recognise that one of the US/UK Axis’ war aims is to heat up the competition with Europe, to fight, through proxy wars, for their supremacy during the permanent the permanent crisis which is our only future.. Most people don’t know that France has been closely connected to the massacres in Rwanda and Zaire, and its history in Algeria has been no better than Americas’ in Vietnam. War is the health of all States. Moreover, the US/UK “special relationship” has its limits: it’s still even possible that the dominant section of Britain’s rulers will throw their lot in with the EU, whose interests often clash with those of the USA (a symptom of the difference is over Palestine, with Britain and the EU being far more in favour of a Palestinian State than the USA, regardless of its occasional pro-Palestine verbiage).

The main global political development over the next epoch will be the development of intensifying conflict between America and some of its erstwhile allies. This conflict might even eventually lead to the war to end all wars (and everything else). Where then will be the crude anti-Americans, who identify capitalism mainly with American power and focus their hatred so narrowly?

*

In the end, if we try to oppose these wars it’s mainly to oppose them as convenient covers for the repressions and vicious insecurity that millions of workers are going to be thrown into by this recession. To be sure, we must oppose these wars – ignoring them can only add to the brutalising power of the dominant world. But ambivalence towards organising specifically against these wars has good reason – if these wars become just an opportunity to campaign separate from daily life, whilst we have to submit even further to the miseries of work/home/leisure/the street, then such campaigning becomes just a convenient cover-up. By not challenging the totalitarian contradictions where we might be able to really effect something – in our daily life – we are not really facing up to the real underlying truth of these wars. In fact, this is the fundamental false choice these wars have thrown up.

B.M.Combustion,London, WC1N 3XX,

February 2002.

P.S. The continuing madness in the Middle East, though held up as a specific geo-political aberration, is in many ways a model for modern super-alienated humanity, pushed to its illogical conclusions. Zionism encourages the anti-semitism it claims it opposes by equating what it secretly knows is a perfectly justifiable anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, thus encouraging those who hate Israel’s policies into attacking Jews in general (one might just as well say that any German who opposed Hitler was a German-hating German ). It’s enough to know that during World War ll some significant right-wing Zionists tried to do deals with Hitler because they knew how his policies would encourage the Zionist perspective they held so dear.

And the suicidal/homicidal desperation of the ‘ martyrs’ clearly discourages any proletarian identification with such a deathly perspective (unlike the intifada of the 80s, which did.scare the powers-that-be into doing a deal with the millionaire Arafat, whose ‘protection’ of the Palestinians has included doing political deals with King Hussein of Jordan at the time of his massacre of 2000 Palestinians in 1970). The vicious cycle only encourages an identification with various forms of hierarchy which seem to offer some kind of hope and protection but which only incurs greater viciousness on the part of the opposing sides and destroys any possible perspective in which people could recognise themselves in each other, which is the basis of such racist State ideologies as Zionism.

The identification with a hierarchical gang is an increasingly psychotic phenomena seen all to clearly in the ghettoes and sink estates of modern captialism. In the Middle East this takes on a specific political form, which nevertheless, has some similarities with the horrendous situations now developing amongst a defeated and utterly divided working class. 

The following text was originally in our text You Make Plans – We Make History”.

THE KAMIKAZE BOMBINGS:

DON’T TAKE SIDES – MAKE SIDES!

“Mr.Blunkett admitted that some of the measures, including wider powers for the police to detain terrorist suspects, will directly clash with civil rights legislation but claimed the new powers were needed to prevent Britain becoming a police state.” – Guardian report, 24/9/01.

“In order to save the village we had to destroy it” – U.S.General, during Vietnam war.

The mad self-contradictions of capitalist ideology and practice are intensifying by the day. Soon, in the name of economic “realism” reality for the vast majority could be destroyed, not just by war but by ecological collapse.

Although this will also be a war to serve the interests of American (and to a lesser extent British) capital against their rivals, the war being unleashed is primarily a war against the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised, those living precariously, those who sell their labour – what some of us intransigents still call “the working class”. Already the GMB Union has shown their clear policing function by saying that now is not the time to push the struggle against privatisation. Osama Bin Liner, trained by the SAS and the CIA, has provided capital, on the eve of a very predictable recession, with a perfect alibi. Class struggle in the USA was on the increase, fuelled by some victories (e.g. the janitor’s strikes), and one could have expected mass redundancies in the airlines, already on the cards before September 11th, to have been resisted. Now – what’s the chance?

Apart from all the other consequences, the consequences for the anti-globalisation movement, as with all opposition, could also be disastrous unless people start to make sense of what’s happening and start to oppose the terror of all sides, which some have begun to do. A new European Union anti-terrorist law defines terrorist offences as criminal acts, including damaging property and urban violence, committed with the aim of “intimidating and seriously altering or destroying the political economic or social structures of countries”. Gordon Brown has said that with the mass murder in New York, it’s the power of “the world economic system that’s under attack” (13/9/01). More clearly, Burlesquoni has said that there is a “strange unanimity” between Islamist terrorism and the anti-globalisation movement. Which is why, in the name of “the supremacy of our civilsation…which has brought us democratic institutions, civil, religious and political rights of our citizens, openness to diversity and tolerance of everything”, he’s ordered his cops to raid 60 autonomous social centres in Italy. The same is happening in Germany, as well. Everywhere foreigners are being deported, in the name of “diversity” and democracy. On the internet, security blocks are being put up against such websites as “Rage Against The Machine” and Cornell and Columbia University chatrooms. In the land of the free, campus demonstrations at 150 or more U.S. universities are not mentioned in the media. Vigils in New York, including by the families and friends of some of the victims, go unreported. As for ‘free speech’. What about the cleaners at a Land Rover factory in Solihull who were sacked for exercising this ‘freedom’ when, during a 2 minute silence for the victims of the attack, they shouted out slogans (what they were wasn’t reported). Freedom of speech is nothing more than the freedom to repeat the monologues of the various factions of the ruling class, and the duty to remain silent when your bosses tell you.

Everyone with a minimum of anxiety about what all this means knows that the instability that wreaks horror that wreaks the sense of utter helplessness has to be opposed. But of course ‘how’ is the central question. But sometimes anything’s better than petrified watching the events unfold. That’s why people go on demos. It’s not enough, of course – but it has, occasionally, led to more vital challenges to capitalist social relations (e.g. Genoa, or, even better, Poll Tax 1990)

People who hate this mad world are going to have to be brave enough to speak out and demonstrate and clearly oppose all sides in this mad battle of the terrorist multi-millionaires. As the initial immediate actions of Israel, led by the man who ordered the mass slaughter of thousands of Lebanese refugees in 1982, has shown, and as the intensification of State security measures (such as the proposed introduction of ID cards, or the right to intercept and read e-mails – oh so very very useful in the fight against terrorism) are also showing, this atrocity is being used as a cover for the massive reinforcement of the causes of such atrocities. Let’s talk about what we can do before the State, under the cover of “security” brands all the attacks on “the world economic system” as being the same.

ONLY A MASS SOCIAL MOVEMENT COULD BEGIN TO OPPOSE THIS WAR

ONLY A MASS SOCIAL MOVEMENT COULD BEGIN TO OPPOSE THE TOTALITARIAN TERROR OF ALL ‘SIDES’

BECAUSE ONLY A MASS SOCIAL MOVEMENT COULD ENCOURAGE THE POOR IN EVERY PART OF THE WORLD TO SEE WHAT THEY HAVE IN COMMON.

A workers demonstration erupted in a city in Iran (Sabzehvar) just after the terrorist attack with slogans and banners proclaiming “Death to God!” (an improvement on “God is dead!”), This city has been in an insurrectionary mood for some months, though with virtually no publicity in the media. Independent self-organised strikes, General Strikes, road blockades etc. have been going on for a couple of years now. At the end of August, demonstrations about having the city designated the regional capital erupted ;into big battles with the police, barricades and the blocking of the equivalent of the M1 – the highway to Mashad. 2 were shot dead, but there were instant demonstrations at police stations for the immediate release of those arrested, resulting in attacks on police stations. At the same time there have been big movements against the non-payment of wages amongst key industrial workers. Nothing of this has got reported in the rulers’ media. Likewise, the uprising in Algeria, involving millions of people, which was as much against the Islamic fundamentalists as against the State, and which started in the Kabyllie in April and continued up till fairly recently, went unreported. It is these kinds of movements, which have at their centre the practical critique of everyday life, which get repressed and forgotten about in any war, including amongst those who oppose the war. War becomes an opportunity to campaign separate from daily life, whilst often the same people campaigning have to submit even further to the miseries of work/ home/ leisure/ the street.

Much of the present gearing up for war is co-opting the superficial critique of this build-up by emphasising that it is not innocent people who will get killed, but just the armies. This doesn’t just mean that when ‘ordinary’ people get killed we’ll hear little about it, that, as in the Gulf war, when well over 100,000 civilians were killed by the Alliance, all we’ll be shown is videos of pinpoint attacks on precise targets. Nor does it just mean that the media will avoid pointing out that the press-ganged conscripts who’ll get blown to bits, are as innocent as the vast majority of Afghans. It may well mean that, after the inevitable mass starvation etc., Afghanistan’s cities will be heavily invested in (whilst guerrilla warfare will probably be confined to the mountains), like some equivalent of the Marshall Plan, a kind of military Keynsianism.This, to show how great the values of democracy etc are, like some 21st century equivalent of West Berlin. Meanwhile, parts of the rest of the world will be economically disinvested to make up for the loss of immediate profit. The daily toll of 20,000 kids dying from starvation and easily curable disease will increase but it won’t specifically be America which is to blame but the world economic system, whose subversion will be defined as ‘terrorist’.

Written on September 29th, 2001.

 

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Dialectical Delinquents footnote: This was pure spur of the moment up in the air speculation, partly based on all their pre-war propaganda of not wanting to hurt the vast majority of poor victims of the Taliban, and of how they were going to vastly invest in the place after they had won: clearly a bit of research would have shown that the USA, with its 2 billion dollar daily debt is in no position to do a ‘West Berlin’ on Afghanistan. And a bit of reflection would have made us realise that propaganda was all it was, all the more confusing for being a bit different from the kind of pre-war statements around the Gulf War or other wars. Nevertheless, it’s better to write something interesting and possibly useful whilst the immediate situation is fresh and open to influence, even with significant mistakes, than to wait for the perfect critique well after the situation is over.

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