Dec 11 2018

UK: THE POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES OVER THE BREXIT DEAL

This article first posted by Socialist Democracy (Ireland) analyses the crisis for the UK state, the British ruling class and the Tories and Labour over there deal May is trying to get through parliament.

UK: THE POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES OVER THE BREXIT DEAL


The unveiling of the draft agreement on withdrawal from the EU has intensified the political crisis within the British ruling elite – provoking a rash of resignations from the Conservative government; threats to overthrow the premiership of Theresa May; and warnings of dire consequences should it fail to win support in Parliament.

The draft agreement has brought clarity to a number of issues. One of these is the weight given to Irish concerns in the negotiations. Despite all the talk about Ireland being high on the agenda it was the relationship between the UK and the EU that was the overriding priority. Issues such as the Irish border were prominent but only to the degree that they could be used as a means to advance the EU’s broader aims. An EU that imposed 42% of Europe’s banking debt on the Irish people would have no hesitation in sacrificing them again to secure an agreement. Another myth that has been dispelled is one surrounding the influence of the DUP over the British government. When it came to formulating the draft agreement the British were prepared to override their objections – the unionist tail didn’t wag the British dog. If the DUP does have any influence it is because their views are shared by the most right wing elements of the Conservative party. On the European-wide stage the political and social weight carried by northern unionists is very limited.

Draft agreement
The draft agreement – which largely conforms to the demands of the EU – also reveals the relative weakness of the UK. Despite the threats of walking away without an agreement – the so-called “no deal” option – the British were forced to accept what was offered. Theresa May’s earlier claim that “a no deal was better than a bad deal” has now been completely reversed. And there is no doubt the draft agreement is a bad deal that puts the UK in a worse position than if it had continued as member of the EU. Its main provisions include:

• the UK paying the EU £39 billion to cover all its financial obligations in a “divorce” bill.
• a 21-month transition period, for government and businesses, under which the UK will remain under the jurisdiction of EU rules and the European Court of Justice.
• the potential extension of the transition period (during which the UK would continue paying into the EU) if a long-term trade deal cannot be finalised by the end of 2020.
• the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU until a broader EU-UK trade deal can be finalised.
• the triggering of a “backstop” – in the event of a trade deal not being struck – that would keep the UK in a single customs territory that could only come to an end with the agreement of the EU.
• the application of EU competition rules during the period of any temporary customs union.
• the downgrading of access to the single market for British based financial institutions.

The terms of this agreement will be hugely damaging to the British economy. It is not the soft Brexit or the least worst option that many commentators are portraying it as. But given the relative weight of the parties to the negotiations (the EU’s $14 trillion economy, as against the UK’s $2 trillion economy) this was likely to be the outcome. The overriding priority of the EU to preserve itself as a political and economic bloc – which required a clear demonstration of the disadvantages of Brexit – was always going to prevail. What the draft agreement clarifies is that the only choice there was (and continues to be) is not between a hard and soft Brexit but between Brexit and no Brexit.
Brexiteer delusions

For many arch Brexiteers the draft withdrawal agreement has dealt a bitter blow to their vision of how a post Brexit Britain would operate on the world stage. While they may console themselves with the thought that they were betrayed by government officials the truth is that their vision bore no correspondence to material reality.

In a global economy dominated by trade blocs and customs unions an “independent” Britain was always going to find itself in a relatively weak position. This weakness was exposed in the negotiations. It was also exposed in the lack of progress in advancing trade deals to replace the ones that Britain was a party to as a member of the EU. There was no evidence that renegotiating existing deals would produce better terms. There was also no evidence that Britain was advancing negotiations on new trade deals with other regions not covered by EU trade deals. Most of the trading blocs favoured negotiations with the EU rather than individual states. Many of the Brexiteers proposals on trade seemed to be based on the belief that the legacy of the British Empire would help the UK develop trading relations with former colonies. This ignored the fact that the days of colonialism and imperial privilege are long gone and that countries such as India are expanding economies and regional powers in their own right. They may be interested in trade deals but those deals will reflect the current power relationship between the two.

The much trumpeted US trade deal also came to nothing after it became obvious that it too would be unfavourable for Britain. Most of the negativity towards this proposed deal centred on the prospect of the US dumping cheap agricultural products (the infamous chlorinated chickens) into the UK market. While this was just one element of the proposed deal it did highlight how the US would use the relative weakness of Britain to force changes in regulations and standards not just in agriculture but across the whole economy (including public services). The fall-back position for the Brexiteers was that Britain did not need a deal with the EU as it would be covered by WTO rules which would allow trade to continue. This ignores the fact under those rules much of Britain’s trade would be subject to additional tariffs. It also assumes that the UK would be automatically admitted to the WTO. However, this is not the case and several countries, including China, have already raised objections over outstanding disputes. There are also doubts over the continued existence of the WTO with the Trump administration threatening to collapse the organisation. The current trends of consolidating trade blocs and increasing conflict over trade would place a British economy outside of the EU in a very vulnerable position. That some leading Brexiteers have been reduced to forecasting a fifty year wait for the benefits of Brexit to materialise really shows the weakness of their economic arguments.

Where the Brexiteers believe they are on firmer ground is on the question of sovereignty and the claim that it will enable Britain to “take back control”. Yet the likely outcome of negotiations shows this claim to be as dubious as those made on the economy. The reality is that Brexit, by weakening the economy and removing it from the political institutions of the EU, actually diminishes British sovereignty. It places the UK in the position of adhering to rules that it will have no role in formulating. One of the arguments made for Britain joining the EEC back in the 1970s’ was that a pooling its sovereignty with other states would increase its influence and arrest the relative decline Britain had experienced in the post WWII period. Brexit would be a complete reversal this long standing strategic orientation of British capitalism the consequence of which would likely be an acceleration of economic decline and a further loss of sovereignty.

While the arguments of the arch Brexiteers may be delusional they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have an appeal to a section of the capitalist class that sees a benefit in doing away with regulations and human rights. It is no coincidence that the models for post Brexit Britain are authoritarian states such as Singapore. If this vision was to prevail it would usher in a wholesale assault of the living standards and democratic rights of the British working class. While such predictions may sound alarmist it would be wrong to underestimate the irrational and destructive tendencies inherent within capitalism. The historical record shows that they have prevailed before and there is no reason to believe that they will not prevail again.

Conservatism and populism
The factional struggles within the British ruling class over Brexit are reflected in the current upheavals within Britain’s traditional ruling party. While the Conservative party is often portrayed as the party of big business the need to construct an electoral majority means it’s base of support stretches across class lines – encompassing not only the bourgeoisie but also the petit bourgeoisie as well as backward sections of the working-class. It was these latter two social layers that was critical in delivering the Brexit vote.

It is also the case that a faction of the capitalist class itself – based primarily upon finance capital – was also in favour of Brexit. Indeed, it was hedge funds that provided much of the finance for the various leave campaigns. This was evident at the time of the referendum and has become even clearer from the subsequent investigations into the networks that funded the advertising and mass data collection operations such as Cambridge Analytica. There is a notable trans-Atlantic character to this with some of the main funders of the pro Brexit campaign – such as hedge fund boss Robert Mercer – also being among the biggest donors to the Trump presidential campaign.

It is this nexus of finance capital and far right politics that has been the driving force of populist movements across the world. Their emergence in the period following the financial crash is evidence of the decay of capitalism and – as a consequence – the intensification of rivalries between different factions of the capitalist class. They fit the Marxist definition of populism as an attempt by a sectional interest to impose itself within the ruling class and upon society as a whole.

The rise of right wing populism – and the aggressive nationalism and racism at its core – also points to a growing rivalry between capitalist states. The intra capitalist rivalry operates not only on a domestic but also a global level – populism and imperialism are therefore completely bound up together. We see how inter imperialist rivalry has been ratcheted up over the recent period as the Trump administration seeks to restructure US relations with other states within north America and between itself and the other political-economic blocs in Europe and Asia. Much of this is currently centred around trade disputes with the US using tariffs and the threat of tariffs to impose terms on its rivals. One of those rivals is the EU and the Trump administration clearly sees Brexit – and more generally the rise of right wing populist movements within Europe – as a means to weaken it. Trump himself has explicitly backed Brexit and even suggested that the leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson would be a better choice for prime minister than Theresa May.

While such rhetoric from a president is new the US view of the EU as a rival or potential rival has a long history. Indeed, one of the reasons the US supported British membership of the EU in the past was the belief that its close ally would act to limit the ambitions of the bloc. Within the EU the UK has played a spoiling role – promoting expansion over integration and limiting the development of any independent capacity in the areas of defence and foreign relations. The danger for the US is that a UK outside of the EU diminishes its influence. For the British the risks are potentially greater with a post Brexit UK – that is more closely aligned with US interests than ever before – being viewed as a hostile entity by the EU. In this scenario the prospects of a so-called soft Brexit recede even further.

The dynamic of Brexit is towards greater confrontation between the UK and the EU. This is necessitated by not only the conflicting priorities of the two parties put also the unequal nature of their relationship. The demands of the Brexiteers – and their backers in the US – can only be achieved through a weakening of the EU. And though it appears contradictory – given its nationalistic character – Brexit if it is to have any chance of “success” has to be exported to other parts of Europe. This is why the wave of right wing populism has increasingly been organising on an international level with links being forged between various states and parties across the globe that ranges from the British Brexiteers to the Trump administration and the reactionary governments in Eastern Europe and most recently to South America with the success of the far right in Brazil. What we are witnessing is the formation of a right wing international promoting its own perverted version of permanent revolution. The irony is that when it comes to an internationalist understanding of politics the populist right is currently miles ahead of a left – whether that be social democratic or so called revolutionary – that cannot raise its sights beyond a national level.

Despite the recent success of the populist faction of the capitalist class it is still uncertain that it will be successful in imposing its programme within the ruling elite or upon society as a whole. In the face of the populist upsurge the dominant sections of the capitalist class are seeking to reassert themselves through their weight in the economy and influence over state institutions. In the US this is seen clearly in the opposition of many sectors of business to Trump’s trade policies. The warnings from business leaders – and from officials such as the Governor of the Bank of England – about the dire consequences of a no deal Brexit are evidence of this intra class struggle in Britain. In the face of this the most ardent Brexiteers within the Conservative party have been put on the back foot with their latest threats to overturn the leadership on Theresa May coming to nothing. Most of the right wing forces in Britain – whether they are leave or remain – are now consolidating around the approach to Brexit set out by the government. Whether this will hold remains to be seen but it does show the determination of the ruling class and the ruling party to remain united.

While there may be divisions within the capitalist class what all the factions – liberal, conservative or populist – are united on is the overriding priority to maintain their rule and to counter any potential advance for the working class or for socialism. In a period of acute crisis the ruling class will opt for fascist and authoritarian solutions over the most modest of reforms. This is the lesson of history and it is the lesson of today. It also points to the folly of a Popular Front strategy to counter the populist right that attaches the working class to a supposedly more “progressive” faction of the bourgeoisie. This can only end in disaster.

Labour and the working class
The working class must look must look to its organisations and parties. In the case of Brexit this means the trade union movement and the Labour Party. Unfortunately, their current position on Brexit is almost indistinguishable from that of the Conservatives. Rather than oppose Brexit and its ruinous consequences for the working class the Labour Party accepts the outcome of the referendum and says that a Labour government would negotiate a withdrawal from the EU.

It has put forward six tests on which to judge any withdrawal agreement. These include the UK having the “exact same benefits” as it currently has as members of the Single Market and Customs Union; and preventing a race to the bottom in terms of employment rights and conditions. The Labour leadership know these tests cannot be met. But rather than use them as a basis on which to oppose Brexit the tests have become a mechanism to appease various factions within the labour movement and to distance the party from the coming disaster. In practice the Labour party has adopted a position of passive acceptance of Brexit. Some left commentators have argued this is a clever strategy from Labour that will see the party sweep to power as the government falls apart. However, the sharp economic downtown and boost to reactionary politics that will follow from Brexit would not provide conditions favourable to the election of a social democratic government.

Labour’s position on Brexit has been in keeping with Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to most issues in which the preservation of the unity of the labour movement has been the overriding priority. In the case of Brexit the leadership has sought to balance between the Blairites who oppose Brexit (but also want to maintain the status quo) and the traditional right within the labour movement who want to pander to the anti-immigration sentiments of the most backward elements of the working class. Another current within labour (and which Corbyn has long been aligned with) is one that has opposed the EU on the basis that it is a barrier to the implementation to of a socialist programme in Britain. This current has a long history from the CP’s British Road to Socialism of the 1950’s, the Bennite movement of the 70’s & 80’s, the trade union backed No2EU of the 2000’s, right up to the present day advocates of Lexit. Despite their diversity the ideological thread that runs through all these is the proposition that socialism can be advanced at a national level.

In order to justify its stance the Labour party has indulged a number of myths surrounding the referendum outcome. The most common of these is the regional divide – that there was a marked difference in the views of Labour supporters on Brexit depending on where they lived. There is an assumption that most Labour supporters in the Midlands and north of England voted for Brexit. Sometimes this is expressed in terms of the disproportionate number of Labour MPs representing constituencies that voted Leave. While this supposed dilemma for the party has been used to justify the cautious approach of the Labour leadership it is not one that is actually based on reality. Various studies and surveys related to the referendum result have revealed that almost two thirds of Labour supporters voted Remain. It is also the case that most people in employment voted Remain. Moreover, levels of support for Remain among Labour supporters and people in employment were similar across all regions. Such research presents a sharp contrast to the lazy stereotype of working class people as being more prejudiced than other sections of society. This is not to say that there are not backward elements within the working class but by themselves were not decisive in determining the outcome of the referendum. They will also not be decisive in the election of a future Labour government – either because they would never support the party or in a general election many of them would vote on issues that took priority over Britain’s membership of the EU. Indeed, there was evidence of this in last year’s general election in which the predicted advances by the Tories in Labour held seats in Brexit voting regions of England never materialised.

If opposition to Brexit is high among Labour supporters it is even higher among the party membership with surveys showing ninety percent in opposition. This opposition was demonstrated at the party’s conference this year with dozens of anti-Brexit motions being submitted and a motion calling for the party to “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote” being overwhelming backed by delegates. The Labour leadership has said that its preference is for a general election but for such an election to have a decisive impact Labour would have to adopt a position that was unambiguous in its opposition to Brexit and which would contrast dramatically with that of a Conservative party under the likely leadership of an arch Brexiteer. An election in which clear alternatives were posed would also deal with the argument about respecting the outcome of the referendum that the leadership has hidden behind. A victory for Labour under these circumstances would be a demonstration of a shift in public opinion and provide a mandate to change the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

While the above would be the best scenario on Brexit it may not be what comes to pass. The ability of the ruling class to hold together and impose their own solution – railroading a deal through parliament or holding a second referendum, or going for a hard Brexit if its populist faction wins out – cannot be dismissed. Indeed, given the slowness of the Labour leadership to evolve its Brexit position, these latter scenarios are probably more likely. The least that should be demanded of Labour is that they follow through on their six tests on Brexit and vote down whatever withdrawal agreement the government brings forward. The worst case scenario would be for Labour to support the withdrawal agreement on the basis that any deal is better than a no deal scenario. As the deadline for approval of an agreement approaches the pressure on the party to act in the “national interest” will be intense. Given the record of the Labour leadership and the trade unions on caving in to such pressure – most recently over allegations of anti-semitism – this is a real possibility. Such a move – by facilitating the ruinous consequences of Brexit and disappointing the hopes that millions of people (particularly the young) have invested in a Corbyn lead Labour party – would be a huge betrayal that would destroy any prospect of a social democratic government coming to power in Britain.

People’s Vote
As the deadline for Brexit approaches the campaign for a People’s Vote has been ramped up. This is the call for a referendum on the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU. Though not stated explicitly this is designed as a mechanism for stopping Brexit – the assumption is that a rejection of the withdrawal agreement would see the UK continue its membership of the EU.

The People’s Vote campaign very much aligned with the interests of the dominant section of the capitalist class who favour the status quo. That can be seen in the financial sponsors of the campaign and also in its spokespeople who are drawn exclusively from the so-called “centrist” current within British politics that encompasses Blairites, Lib Dems and a section of the Conservative party. The main spokesperson for the campaign is Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell. Increasing interventions on Brexit by the former PM suggest that he is one of the main figures in this conservative opposition to Brexit even though his unpopularity keeps him off any public platform. Blair’s role highlights the weakness of a campaign that seeks to mobilise popular support but which promotes a brand of politics and accompanying personalities that have long been discredited. The conservatism of the People’s Vote campaign is revealed by its hostility to the social democratic policies promoted by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. For them it is not just about preserving the status quo in relation to Britain’s membership of the EU but also in relation to politics and class relations within Britain. What they share with Brexiteers is an implacable opposition to anything – even the modest programme of reform put forward by Corbyn – that could give encouragement to the revival of a working class movement.

Socialism
As it stands the working class in Britain – and more broadly across Europe – have been bystanders to the factional struggles within the capitalist class and the various bourgeois parties aligned to them. On Brexit the alternatives presented – whether they be for or against – all fall within the framework of continued capitalist domination. This goes unchallenged despite the supposed ascendancy of the left within the membership and support base of the Labour party. What this points to is a severe weakness not only in terms of organisation but also in terms of politics – of adapting to public opinion rather than advancing a programme that promotes an independent working class and pro-labour position. While we have no illusions in the reformist approach of the Labour party (even one lead from the left) its current position on Brexit is actually putting its own platform of modest social democratic reform in doubt.

The left (whether revolutionary or reformist) must oppose Brexit on the basis that it is wholly reactionary. It is reactionary in the political sense that it gives free reign to nationalism and racism but it is also reactionary in the economic sense in that it seeks to turn back the clock to a period when national economies and nation states were dominant. It flies in the face of the ongoing development of capitalism towards greater integration of markets and internationalisation of production. The delusion underpinning Brexit and the other forms of right wing populism is that these historical trends can be overturned.

Socialists shouldn’t concede anything to such reactionary delusions or retreat back to the perspective of the nation state. At the same time we should not hold any illusions in an EU which is irredeemably pro-capitalist and is irreformable. The recent experience of the bailouts and crushing austerity programmes imposed on Ireland and Greece are ample evidence of this. What the EU represents is a failing attempt by European states and capital to adapt to the integrating and internationalising trends within capitalism. It is the contradiction between these economic trends and the attachment of the European ruling classes to their own nation states that is at the root of the crisis and which is fuelling the rise of right wing populism.

Socialists, especially those guided by Marxism, recognise that the tendencies inherent within capitalist development cannot be reversed. Indeed, the nature of these developments – particularly the expansion and integration of the working class – point towards more favourable conditions for the achievement of socialism. Of course this is not an automatic process – it is dependent on the creation of an international working class movement which has socialism as its explicit aim. This is undoubtedly a huge task and one whose realisation seems far off. Yet the future of such a movement lies in the social and political struggles of today and the solidarity that is being built across national boundaries. One of these current political struggles is over Brexit. While it will be fought primarily within the British labour movement its consequences will be felt in many other countries (not least in Ireland). Workers cannot afford to be reduced to bystanders but through their own parties and organisations seek to shape the outcome. For socialists in the Labour party and trade unions this demands the development of a political position that goes well beyond a defence of Jeremy Corbyn.

19 .11.18

This article was first posted at:-

http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentBritainPoliticalCrisisIntensifiesAsDraftBrexitDealUnveiled.html

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Nov 29 2018

FAKE NEWS AND CONSPIRACY MYTHS

We are posting two related articles. The first is from Media Lens and is about their book, Propaganda Blitz, which addresses the issue of corporate control of the mainstream media. The second is written by Thomas Klikauer and looks at the connection between ‘fake news’ and the far right.

There is a connection between the two. The mainstream media’s promotion of the fake news story about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and the ‘suicide’ of Dr. David Kelly. The AltRight has built on this fake news precedent to develop their own on-line communities, addicted to conspiracy myths, amongst isolated individuals. Their longer tem aim is to mobilise these communities for their own Far Right ends.

 

1. PROPAGANDA BLITZ

 

When we started Media Lens in 2001, our guiding aspiration was that independent, web-based activism would have a profoundly positive impact on public discourse.

Hard to believe now, but we nurtured hopes that the greater honesty and compassion of thousands of non-corporate media activists would force traditional media to improve. ‘Mainstream’ outlets that continued to sell elite bias as objective Truth would be relentlessly exposed, become a laughing stock – they would simply have to raise their game. We even had a notion that decent, or half-decent, people working within corporate media might secretly welcome these pressures and quietly embrace change out of enlightened self-interest. Why? Because corporate executives love their children, too. As was very obvious then, and is even more obvious now, the prioritising of profit over people and planet must be reversed.

But, of course, human beings and human societies are not that reasonable and rational. It was never going to be that easy. What has actually happened is that, as non-corporate media have increasingly exposed the limits and failings of corporate media, the latter have adopted a bunker mentality, shutting out inconvenient truths, shutting out dissent, shutting down communication with critics. When we started sending media alerts, BBC and Guardian journalists regularly responded with quite rational, reasonable responses. Now, we mostly receive stony silence, or abusive sneers.

Make no mistake, there has been change: corporate media have been grievously wounded by web-based activism. Their response has been to retreat into an ever more extreme fantasy world that in many ways exceeds the madness even of the McCarthyite era. They have actually become much worse, not better.

In the 1950s, the West really had recently faced down a genuinely existential Nazi threat; Stalin was an utterly ruthless dictator who did in theory (if not in reality) head a party and state bent on global class war and revolution. East and West did find themselves facing a perceived enemy armed with weapons that could wipe us all off the face of the planet, if only by accident. The hysteria, lying and propaganda were preposterous; but they did have some basis, however tenuous, in the real world.

Now, by comparison, we have the same or worse levels of hysteria and intolerance directed against Iraqi, Libyan, North Korean and Iranian ‘threats’ that exist only in the crazed crania of state-corporate propagandists for whom war is just profit-maximising by other means, just another marketing plan. We have claims that omnipresent Putin is seeking to undermine Western democracies at every turn, influencing everything from Brexit to the election of Trump, and of course Corbyn.

And yes, Corbyn – a life-long anti-racist campaigner, a rare compassionate human being in British politics – has been found suddenly to be posing an ‘existential threat’, no less, to Britain’s Jews on the basis of exact truth reversal and pure invention. The Five Filters website recently collated a list of 107 Guardian and Observer articles – all but three of them published this year – promoting this completely fake scandal. As Noam Chomsky commented to us earlier this month:

‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 9, 2018)

It takes someone of Chomsky’s integrity and standing to help us all to, in effect, pinch ourselves and recognise that the 107 Guardian articles really are fake and really have been published in a corporate newspaper that endlessly rails against ‘fake news’. We ask you, does it take more than a glance at this separate list of Guardian and Observer attacks on Corbyn published between 2015-2017 to understand that the antisemitism ‘scandal’ is just the establishment throwing the ethical kitchen sink at Corbyn having thrown everything else? Could it be more obvious that Corbyn’s mild socialism is simply not allowed as an option for voters?

More incredible even than all of this is the impossible, the unimaginable, the completely insane response to looming climate catastrophe. Set aside this summer’s staggering extreme weather events in the UK, Europe and right around the world. Set aside the giant hurricanes and typhoons that will soon, scientists warn, exceed the category 5 maximum-level strength, such that there will be ‘superstorms capable of taking out cities like Dubai or Tampa. They are here, right now’. Why would that not happen? CO2 levels are rising inexorably. Temperatures are rising inexorably. And last year, as energy analyst Barry Saxifrage reported:

‘humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.’

But these smaller scale disasters and warnings are dwarfed by the fact that the governments of the world have already sat back and watched the loss of Arctic ice guarantee climate mayhem – a loss already dramatically impacting the jet stream, which has become weaker and wavier (key factors enhancing the destructiveness of the recent superstorms) – without any perceptible sense of emergency. As former Nasa climate scientist James Hansen makes clear, the claim that leaders have done much of anything to address this genuinely existential threat is ‘bullshit’, a ‘fraud’.

There is no alarm, no sense of crisis. Our leaders have done nothing. Beyond platitudes, they have said nothing. Why not? Because they don’t exist. It is clear enough now that we, the people, in fact do not have representatives or leaders: we have puppets selected to respond to the needs of corporate interests for war and growth, and yet more growth. But if we are looking to someone in the cockpit to steer us away from the mountain of evidence of looming climate cataclysm, then there is no-one flying the plane. If we are looking to corporate media to recognise and respond to truth, then forget it – they have battened down the hatches, have excluded all but the most tepid dissent and have buried their heads in the sand.

So it’s up to you and us. Can anything be done? We genuinely do not know. But we do know that we cannot give up on everyone and everything we know and love; we cannot accept defeat. To give up on hope is to guarantee there is no hope. As the historian Howard Zinn said so well:

‘There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.’ (Howard Zinn, A Power That Governments Can’t Suppress, City Lights, 2007, p.267)

http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/880-propaganda-blitz-new-media-lens-book-and-an-urgent-appeal-for-support.html

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2. THEORIES THAT KILL

 

On October 28, it was reported that within 72 hours three hate crimes killed two African-Americans in Kentucky, nail bombs were send to Democrats and to people who criticised Donald Trump. Finally, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services. The men who committed these acts had one thing in common: they believed in conspiracy theories.

It is in this context that Christian Alt and Christian Schiffer have published their German-language book, Angela Merkel is Hitler’s daughter published by Carl Hanser Press. We have entered the age of “half-truths, fake news, paranoia, resentment and irrationality”, they write – and the age of conspiracy theories. The hallucination that Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, is “Hitler’s daughter” is one of the more laughable – albeit obscene and very dangerous – conspiracy theories. As a matter of fact, conspiracy theories are not really ‘theories’ at all.

Neither are they scientific. They are not a confirmed type of explanation about nature and society made in a way consistent with scientific methods. Conspiracy theories do not produce provable knowledge. As a consequence, they would better be labelled ‘conspiracy beliefs’ – or, even better, ‘conspiracy myths’. Their advantage, however, is that they appear to provide broad, internally consistent explanations that allow people to preserve beliefs in the face of uncertainty and contradictions.

With the rise of Facebook, etc, conspiracy myths seem to have developed their very own digital reality, which exists quite apart from analogue reality. Inside this digital space, a “large amount of bullshit” has been invented. In Germany it is no longer uncommon to hear conspiracy myths, such as “Secret forces created the refugee avalanche that is destroying our homeland”. There never was an avalanche. There are no secret forces. And refugees will not destroy our homeland.

Still, these are more than just dangerous misbeliefs. They are early signs of a rising fascism. Historically, the Nazi hallucination of a Jewish world conspiracy paved the way to Auschwitz. Today, conspiracy myths are high currency for nearly all rightwing politicians – and perhaps a few leftwing politicians as well. A clear indication of their ascendancy is the current occupant of the White House. Donald Trump is known to be a ‘birther’: ie, someone who believes that presideent Barack Obama did not have an American birth certificate.

Slightly less nuts but equally dangerous was the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy. No, Hillary Clinton did not run a child pornography network in the back room of a pizza shop. Yet conspiracy mythologists claimed that ‘CP stands for Cheese Pizza, but it also means child pornography’. Perhaps – as one of the world’s key demagogues, Steve Bannon, says – “The story is more important than reality”. Existing separate from the mainstream press, conspiratorial stories are distributed widely through the internet without fact-checking, counter-arguments, editing, etc. With quality journalism being increasingly eliminated, ever more people seem to believe what they read on Facebook.

Conceivably, every new authoritarian regime comes with a new form of communication. Hitler had a radio called Volksempfänger (People’s Receiver). His ideological successors – today’s populists – have the internet (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc), via which “truthiness” (Stephen Colbert) is broadcast. One of the most hideous ‘truthinesses’ is the idea that ‘Obama was born in Kenya’. Today, many Americans still believe that.
In many cases, conspiracy myths work particularly well when they target individuals and small groups: Obama, Hillary Clinton, ‘witches who eat children, and Jews who poison wells and create Aids’. Conspiracy myths also mix well with romantic novels and sell millions of books. Today, many are created and broadcast by “bullshit factories”. These result in some Facebook users only seeing ‘truth’ as “echo chambers” or “mirror” of their own world view.

This is largely the case inside Germany’s crypto-Nazi party, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) – referred to by some as ‘A Fucking Disgrace’. The party has “by far more Facebook fans than party members” – 400,000 of them, compared to just under 30,000 members. A relatively high usage of Facebook was also found in the case of so-called Reichsbürger (sovereign citizen) Wolfgang P, who shot dead a policeman in 2016. Wolfgang P believed that “World War III was on the way, civilisation was breaking down and he had to defend his home”. His own particular conspiratorial hallucination had deadly consequences.

Here are a few other examples of conspiracy myths:
• Vaccination causes autism and smoke detectors listen to what we say.
• Che Guevara is the cousin of Ariel Sharon.
• Princess Diana only pretended to be dead.
• Michael Jackson had to die because he ‘rejected those in power’.
• The World Trade Center was blown up on George W Bush’s orders.
• 9/11 was a false flag attack organised by Dick Cheney.
• Israel and George Soros planned the war in Syria.
• Jews control the world.
• The holocaust never happened.
• The Rothschilds have already moved their gold to China.
• Anne Frank’s diaries are fakes.

The authors claim:
… women are more likely to believe in conspiracies compared to men and religious people are more likely than non-religious people to believe in them. Secondly, an increase of income comes with a decrease in believing in conspiracy theories.

While conspiracy myths have existed since feudal times and most likely even before that, one gets the impression that today, “whenever and wherever something exists, there is some sort of conspiracy myth” about it. Almost all conspiracy myths come with a hefty dose of paranoia as well as a circle-the-wagon feeling of “If you are with them, you cannot be with us”. Already those who utter the slightest possibility of disbelief are assessed as being “with them”.

What nearly all conspiracy myths have in common is their attempt to reduce complex social, economic and political issues to simple, black and white explanations. They explain them in a way that is easily understood. On the other hand, there are also some more elaborate conspiracy myths – and ‘Angela Merkel is Hitler’s daughter’ is among the best examples of those. Here it is:

Adolf Hitler died in a plane crash in the 1950s. But before that Hitler donated his sperm to Gretl Braun, the sister of Eva Braun. Eva Braun was the lover of the Führer. The insemination was successful and Gretl Braun gave birth to a girl called Angela. Angela is named after Eva Braun’s niece, Angela Maria ‘Geli’ Raubal.

This might sound laughable (actually it is), but, on the other hand, “more bullshit is always possible”, enriching the world of conspiracy theories on a daily level. Much of this applies to the motto, “Whatever excites and is outrageous will lead to more clicks … this is the e=mc2 of the internet.” Secondly, “‘True’ is whatever is good for us and our group.” A prime example was another particular conspiracy myth, one of the most hideous and dangerous examples: the infamous Protocols of the elders of Zion. Although shown to be a fake by the New York Times in 1921, its afterlife continued when Germany’s “Nazis distributed it massively during the 1920s”.
This conspiracy theory had extremely bitter consequences, ending in Auschwitz. Even today, “the protocols are still read and believed”, as the recent case of an AfD parliamentarian shows.

All this indicates that, as ridiculous as many such myths seem to be, “conspiracy theories have to be taken enormously serious”. Obviously, the people behind them never refer to themselves ‘conspiracy theorists’. They call themselves “truth seekers dedicated to enlightenment”. To be a conspiracy myth inventor, it is important to know that facts do not matter at all. What matters is the believability of a conspiracy.

Perhaps one of the true “masters of conspiracy theories was Adolf Hitler. He also believed in the protocols … similar tendencies can be detected in Donald Trump”.

https://www.weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1228/theories-that-kill/
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Nov 23 2018

AN IRELAND UPDATE – SOUTH AND NORTH

We posting to articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website on the current political situation South and North. The first looks at the recent Presidential election; the second at the collapse of Stormont.

1. IRISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: AN ELECTION WITHOUT CANDIDATES

Sinn Fein presidentail candidate. Liadh Ni Riada, appealing to the lowest common denominator in ‘A New Ireland’ – but no mention of Sinn Fein!

Throughout the presidential election one could only watch open mouthed as RTE, an organisation usually incapable of reporting real events, spent day after day in minute analysis of a nothing burger election.

The clear favourite was Michael D Higgins who has left his Labour Party days long behind to become a living figurehead representing more or less nothing. The other candidates were self-publicists and reality stars with the exception of the Sinn Fein candidate, Liadh Ní Riada, who successfully imitated the bland conservatism of her opponents. It is hardly a surprise that a minority of the population struggled to get as far as the polling booth as a wave of apathy swept the state. Continue reading “AN IRELAND UPDATE – SOUTH AND NORTH”

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Nov 23 2018

RENEGING ON REPEAL: A NEW THREAT TO ABORTION RIGHTS IN IRELAND

This article, first posted by Socialist Democracy (Ireland) on the situation in Ireland following  the earlier successful repeal of the 8th amendment highlights the need to organise independently of the state. 

 

 

RENEGING ON REPEAL: A NEW THREAT TO ABORTION RIGHTS IN IRELAND

After a period of quiet relief following the repeal referendum the struggle around abortion rights is returning to the political agenda. The effect of the referendum was simply to remove abortion from the constitution and make it an issue for legislation.

It is now becoming evident that government proposals will be quite restrictive and that the battle will resume in the Dail when legislation is brought forward shortly. There is another issue that will not go to the Dail but is being settled in quiet negotiation between Fine Gael health minister Simon Harris and the Catholic Church about the transfer of ownership of the new maternity hospital to a private company controlled by the church. The nuns have made it clear that their ethos will prevail within the new company. Aside from the massive privatisation giveaway new legislative proposals that include a conditional freedom of conscience for medical practitioners means that abortion rights for the majority of women could be easily blocked. Continue reading “RENEGING ON REPEAL: A NEW THREAT TO ABORTION RIGHTS IN IRELAND”

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Oct 04 2018

ALL UNDER ONE BANNER DEMO – EDINBURGH, OCTOBER 6th

ALL UNDER ONE BANNER

Saturday 6 October Assemble 12.30pm,
Johnstone Terrace
Edinburgh

 

RIC Edinburgh has agreed to organise a contingent on the march to
emphasise RIC’s Scottish republicanism, internationalism and diversity.

We have new banners for the event including –

Another Scotland Is Possible, Another Europe Is Possible, Another World Is Possible
For an Independent Scotland – Freedom Come All Ye – For Scottish Internationalism
For a Democratic, Secular, Inclusive, Sustainable, Social Scottish Republic

We will have Catalan flags and Palestine flags and welcome others too.

Trade Unionists for Independence are marching with us

Other socialist, green and radical groups are invited to join us.

 

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also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/09/11/edinburgh-october-6th-a-rallying-call-for-the-left/

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Oct 03 2018

REVIEW: BALLYMURPHY PRECEDENT (Channel Four)

The following review from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) is of the film Ballymurphy Precedent made by Callum Macrae for Channel Four.

 

 

A HIDDEN HISTORY OF BRITISH MILITARY REPRESSION AGAINST CIVILIANS 

The Ballymurphy massacre has the simplest of all dramatic structures. It is a narrative built around a chronology – a three-day assault by the British Army on a Belfast housing estate following the introduction of internment that left ten unarmed civilians dead and many others badly injured. This story is told through a mixture of stock footage, interviews, re-enactment of events and documentary evidence. Continue reading “REVIEW: BALLYMURPHY PRECEDENT (Channel Four)”

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Oct 03 2018

THE IHRA AND APARTHEID ISRAEL

We are posting three pieces following the Labour Party’s adoption of the IHTA statement on Anti-Semitism. the first is by Moshe Machover, founder member of the socialist Matzpen Party in Israel, who successfully resisted  a joint Zionist and Labour Right attempt to have him expelled from the  Labour Party. The second is by a Shahd Abuslama, a Palestinian artist at Sheffield University. The third is a statement from Radical Independence Campaign’s Edinburgh branch.

 

1. WHY ISRAEL IS A RACIST STATE

Moshe Machover

That Israel is a racist state is a well-established fact. On July On July 19 2018, it enacted a quasi-constitutional nationality bill – ‘Basic law: Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people’ – which has been widely condemned as institutionalising discrimination against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens. As many have observed, this law merely codifies and formalises a reality that long predates it.(1) Continue reading “THE IHRA AND APARTHEID ISRAEL”

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Sep 20 2018

FRANKIE GOES TO IRELAND

Following Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland we are posting this article by D. R. O’Connor Lysaght of Socialist Democracy (Ireland).

 

FRANKIE GOES TO IRELAND

He came, he saw and, well, he addressed congregations considerably smaller than those prophesied, talked to representative of the many individuals assaulted by officials of his bureaucracy and went back to Rome. During his stay, he expressed strong distaste for the holy perverts, but did not announce any positive steps to deal with them. Of course, he could be trying to play a long game, but the question here is whether such a game is winnable. Continue reading “FRANKIE GOES TO IRELAND”

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Sep 14 2018

FRENCH POSTAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL STRIKE FUND

French workers remain one of the best organised groups in Europe. This is why Macron has launched attacks on the rail workers (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/04/14/french-public-sector-workers-under-attack/) and the postal workers. The organised French working class offers the best alternative to the neo-liberalism of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche and the rampant national chauvinist, racist Right populism of Marine Le Pen’s Fronte National. The post workers have been on strike since March. We are publishing this appeal.

 

FRENCH POSTAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL STRIKE FUND

French Postal Workers are locked in a fight to the death against the Macron government, defending wages, conditions and the right to organise as trade unionists. We urge trade unionists to support the fight by contributing to the information strike fund at the link below. Continue reading “FRENCH POSTAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL STRIKE FUND”

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Sep 11 2018

EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT

Allan Armstrong puts the case for building a Scottish-wide Left contingent on the ‘All Under One Banner’ march in Edinburgh on October 6th

 

EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT

 

35,000 in Glasgow, 10,000 in Inverness, 13,000 in Dumfries and 16,000 in Dundee – ‘All Under One Banner ‘ clearly represents something significant in Scottish politics. However it requires an examination of a wider politics going back to 2014 to appreciate the nature of this phenomenon.

A thwarted democratic revolution

If we look at the Indy Ref1 campaign we can see that it represented a democratic revolution, with 85% actually voting, following a registration drive which drew in 97% of the potential electorate. This was something unprecedented in UK politics. Continue reading “EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT”

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