Jan 16 2019

Review: Class Not Creed, 1968

Category: ReviewsRCN @ 6:58 pm

Fifty years after the beginning of the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland, the whole island is coming alive with mass political activity. Campaigns against water charges, against sexual violence, for abortion law reform, for marriage equality, and for affordable housing have spilled onto the streets in virtually every major city in Ireland over the past five years. Protests in the south have consistently mobilised tens of thousands of people, particularly young people and women, and demonstrations have also taken place north of the border in a more limited way. Meanwhile, the Brexit vote in 2016 and the collapse of Stormont at the start of 2017 have precipitated a political crisis in the north, making partition a central political issue in perhaps the most serious way since the Good Friday Agreement was concluded in 1998.

Cover of Class Not Creed, 1968

Against this political backdrop, a critical examination of the civil rights movement launched in 1968 could not be any more relevant. It is useful that Fermanagh-born Richie Venton, the Scottish Socialist Party’s national trade union organiser, has helped to open the space for this in Scotland with the publication of his latest pamphlet, Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s lost opportunity for socialism, not sectarianism. It has already shifted hundreds of copies, according to Richie, and has been used as the basis for discussions at SSP branch meetings.

The 18-page pamphlet is not a new work, but rather the republication of the opening chapter to Socialism – Not Sectarianism: Labour & Northern Ireland Politics 20 Years On, which Richie co-wrote in 1989 with Peter Hadden, the late leading light of the Militant tendency in the north of Ireland. Richie, a teenager at the time of the civil rights movement, was by 1989 a key organiser for the Militant tendency in Liverpool. Therefore, the pamphlet repeatedly references the arguments advanced by the Militant newspaper while the civil rights movement was underway, even though it had only a “tiny” following in Ireland; this partly obscures the political reality in which the mass movement existed, and the political forces which drove it forward and influenced, to varying degrees, its collective decision-making. It presents events through one narrow, partisan lens. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with that – as long as readers know what to expect.

Irish workers’ struggle

Richie opens the pamphlet with a brief primer on the workers’ movement in 20th century Ireland. “Under the shadow of the 1917 Russian revolution,” he writes, “the capitalists faced a mobilised Irish working class in 1918-21.”1 This peculiar framing implicitly plays down the significance of Easter Rising in Dublin just two years previously, which took place with the participation of armed trade unionists in the Irish Citizen Army. (The Russian revolutionaries themselves were among the harshest critics of those who distanced themselves from the rising and played down its significance; Lenin famously chided them in July 1916: “Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.”2)

It is particularly unfortunate that, by doing this, Richie erases one of the most immediate Scottish links to the Irish workers’ struggle: James Connolly, the Edinburgh-born trade unionist and leader of the Irish Citizen Army. It is a failing on the part of the Scottish Socialist Party that it fails to mention him once in its first pamphlet on Ireland in at least several years, published in Connolly’s 150th birthday year (just months after the Connolly150 conference, chaired in part by Róisin McLaren, who has since been elected the SSP’s joint national spokesperson). If we are generous and assume the exclusion was not a political slight, this instead highlights one of the shortcomings of republishing, without introduction or context, a text written for a different time and purpose than best serves the SSP in 2018.

Britain’s interest in Ireland

Richie contends that, by the 1960s, the “outlook of the British ruling class towards Ireland” had changed due to the decline of the northern economy and the opening up of the southern economy to foreign (especially British) investment. The British ruling class “began to look upon the border and the sectarian monster of their own creation as nightmarish obstacles” to their new preference for “some form of unified capitalist Ireland”.3 Later in the pamphlet, he argues that the British ruling class “favoured piecemeal reform” in the north, but “had created state forces in the RUC and the B Specials (Ulster Special Constabulary) beyond their immediate control”;4 in his conclusion, he argues that British capitalism in 1989 was “happy with the prospect of a united Ireland”.5

This understanding of events essentially relegates the role of the British ruling class, and by extension the British state, in Ireland to a purely passive one. Rather than working in tandem with northern unionists and deliberately provoking loyalist reaction to secure its interests in Ireland, the British state in the late 20th century was instead beholden to unionism and loyalism, thwarted in its new ambition of Irish reunification on capitalist terms.

To back up this argument, Richie points to the landmark 1965 trade talks between liberal unionist Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill and his southern counterpart, Taoiseach Seán Lemass. But here, Richie overstates their significance and their intent; Cabinet documents released in 1998 reveal that even O’Neill’s predecessor, the hardline anti-Catholic bigot Basil Brooke, supported the talks, writing: “I do not think either the constitution or Protestantism is threatened in any way.”6 The talks were ‘symbolic’, as Richie says, only in the sense that even hardline Ulster unionists did not feel threatened by them.

In order to believe that the British ruling class had by 1968 become a passive actor in Ireland, we have to accept, firstly, that the British ruling class had no continuing economic, political or military stake in maintaining partition and, secondly, that it therefore maintained partition for some other reason.

Richie observes of the economy in the southern Irish state: “From 1958 the Southern capitalist government sought … closer integration with imperialism, throwing the doors open to foreign investment. By the ’70s, two-thirds of the 100 largest companies in the South were wholly or partly British owned. Over half the South’s imports and 70% of exports were with Britain.”7 The British ruling class, then, were very capable of extracting profit from the southern state without need for further constitutional upheaval. Richie also acknowledges that this turn to foreign investment was driven by the southern state’s inability to develop “a healthy, independent economy”, which he correctly identifies as a direct consequence of partition.

Alongside this, the northern statelet provided the British state with a strategic military outpost on the island (particularly crucial in the context of both the Cold War and NATO’s latter-day expansionism, considering the southern state’s official military neutrality) and kept the boot of sectarianism on the neck of the Irish working class on both sides of the border. Richie accepts that the partitioning of Ireland “threw back the workers’ movement for decades”, but fails to explain why he felt partition did not continue to serve that purpose in the 1960s. Far from being an obstacle, the economic evidence cited by Richie suggests that partition was continuing to handsomely reward the British ruling class with the continued economic subjugation of the southern state, a strategic foothold in the north, and a marginalised and divided working class on both sides of the border.

Besides these benefits of partition, the British ruling class have always been keenly aware of the consequences of withdrawing from Ireland. Richie touches on this briefly, but only “the prospect of sectarian civil war, with all the damage it could mean to industry and investment”. The stakes may well have been higher. Having lost a great deal of authority in the Suez Crisis in 1956, as well as all of its colonial possessions in Africa by 1968, the British Empire was in a long period of decline. However, Britain was far from acquiscent to the process; its costly military ventures in Malaya, Kenya and the Falklands are testament to that. As in 1916, when the Easter Rising shook the Empire to its core, the prospect of losing its foothold in its first colony threatened to deal a devastating blow to an increasingly defensive British imperialism. By the 1970s, with modern Scottish nationalism also gathering momentum, the total unravelling of the British state, ending Britain’s status as a world power, was not an unrealistic prospect.

The extreme paranoia of part of the British ruling class towards the prospect of a united Ireland was articulated by Jim Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when he privately told Conservative MPs in 1983 that Ireland could become a “Cuba off Britain’s west coast”8 in terms of its threat to British interests. In terms of Ireland’s political trajectory, Richie acknowledges that British capitalists “were not entirely confident of the outcome if sectarian civil strife were to go unchecked, with the growth of socialist movements within the civil rights movement and an insurrection by the workers of the Bogside”.9 It is difficult to reconcile this assessment with the suggestion that the British ruling class were warming to Irish unity.

Members of Socialist Democracy, a Trotskyist organisation that traces its own history to the civil rights movement, have concluded persuasively: “Partition is fundamentally necessary to maintenance of a stable political framework for Ireland guaranteeing the safety of capitalism on the island. Defeat for Britain, or even voluntary withdrawal, would threaten this and also the stability of the capitalist state in Britain itself. At the very least it would fatally weaken the most reactionary and sectarian institutions and organisations in the north and remove the key mechanism for dividing the Irish working class, thus opening the prospect of real political worker’s unity.”10

The civil rights movement itself

On the civil rights movement itself, Richie’s principal criticism is that the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) did not advance a socialist programme, and instead had “restricted their demands in effect to an equalisation of unemployment and slum housing, within a democratised, capitalist Northern Ireland”.11 He argues that the civil rights movement should have made an appeal to Protestant workers on the basis of class. This is undoubtedly correct, but Richie likely overstates the success of such a move.

Writing in 1972, Eamonn McCann, the future People Before Profit MLA and previously a key organiser of the Derry Housing Action Committee (which Richie commends for campaigning “alongside Protestant tenants in the Fountain district as well as with Catholic tenants”12), shares Richie’s regret that not enough was done to build class solidarity between Protestant and Catholic workers. However, he suggests more realistically that the civil rights movement could have built “some tenuous links with militant Protestant workers”, rather than instigated a “mass deflection from the ‘loyalist’ camp”.13 Richie attempts to play down the extent to which Protestant workers were privileged over their Catholic counterparts by highlighting the poor conditions in Protestant working class communities like the Shankill. This ultimately minimises the degree to which the militancy of the Catholic population was drawn directly from material discrimination and the degree to which the base for loyalism was drawn from the relative privilege of the Protestant population, creating a gap which cross-community slogans alone would not be able to bridge.

In terms of the content of a socialist programme, Richie proposes “a minimum wage, a massive building programme and a socialist planned economy that could ensure decent conditions for all with no discrimination”. He assigns little importance to the issue of partition, perhaps reflecting an impulse on certain sections of the left to focus narrowly on bread-and-butter issues at the expense of developing a wider institutional challenge to the state and the ruling class. This means that while Richie places himself in opposition to reformist currents within NICRA, he inadvertently leaves unchallenged the illusion peddled by those forces that the northern statelet can be reformed; centring a class analysis of partition in a socialist programme is equally necessary to challenge both reformism and left nationalism.

Richie goes on to argue that the vehicles best placed to advance this socialist programme would have been the Labour Party in the south, the Northern Ireland Labour Party in the north, and the all-island trade union movement. In support of this, he points to the apparent leftward shift of the Labour Party in the south in the late 1960s, neglecting to mention that same party, under the same leadership, forming a coalition in 1973 with Fine Gael, who Richie himself describes as “the Tory party whose origins are in the fascist Blueshirt movement of the 1930s”.14 He notes the electoral success of the NILP and its positive role in the civil rights movement, but shies away from making a serious analysis of how it failed to make itself relevant in the years that followed, especially as partition became a more significant political issue; likewise, the nature of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the reason why it became the southern Labour Party’s sister organisation in the north is not subjected to serious scrutiny.

It is particularly interesting to note that Richie was writing his defence of the Labour Parties, north and south, just as the Militant tendency was questioning its long-standing commitment to entryism. By the end of 1989, the Irish section of the Militant tendency had abandoned the Labour Party in the south in favour of setting up what is now known as the Socialist Party, effectively disowning the very tactic which Richie continues to defend in a pamphlet re-published three decades later.

Debate and scrutiny

Besides the content of Richie’s pamphlet, it is concerning that it came to be published in the name of the Scottish Socialist Party without reference to the party’s official position on Ireland. This was similarly the case with Richie’s previous pamphlet on the Russian Revolution, 1917: Walls Come Tumbling Down (also a republication of an earlier text, this time one from 2001 or thereabouts). The 1917 pamphlet was published without being presented to the SSP’s executive committee for approval, never mind the SSP membership.

It is possible (though tenuous) to argue that the decision to publish 1917 was at least in line with the motion passed at the SSP’s 2016 conference instructing the party to “explain the truth about the Bolsheviks to the wider public” while making clear “the Stalinist degradation”, but the SSP conference has not discussed Ireland for more than a fleeting moment in years. The publication of 1917 was followed by a gently critical review in the Scottish Socialist Voice by the paper’s editor, Ken Ferguson (who has a different approach to the Russian Revolution, drawn from his background in the Communist Party of Great Britain), but no similar critique of Class Not Creed, 1968 has appeared. For all intents and purposes, the content of the pamphlet appears to outsiders to represent the official position of the SSP.

This does a disservice to SSP members who could reasonably expect the opportunity to pick apart a subject of considerable complexity and importance (not least to the Irish community in Scotland), rather to have one point of view imposed on them, particularly in a pamphlet which peppers its arguments with hostility towards other left traditions on Ireland; Richie variously accuses left republicans of “ignorant assertions” and uses Tony Benn’s diaries to lay at least partial blame at Bernadette Devlin’s feet for the Labour government’s deployment of troops to the north of Ireland.

With the British ruling class now in a period of sustained crisis as the UK’s exit from the European Union looms, there is an urgent need for the Scottish left to grapple seriously with major strategic questions, some of which also challenged the civil rights movement in 1968, and to identify the pressure points that can deliver advance for the working class. Building links with appropriate forces in the north of Ireland, based on a socialist analysis of the situation there, could be particularly useful. In other words, our understanding of the British state and its interests could prove crucial to intervening effectively in the months to come. Though it is smaller and less influential now than perhaps at any other point in its history, the SSP remains the most significant organised pro-independence grouping to the left of the Greens. With all due respect to the author, the SSP can and must make better contributions than this.

Connor Beaton is a former member (2012-18) and national secretary (2017-18) of the Scottish Socialist Party. He works as a journalist focussing on Irish legal affairs.

Footnotes and References

1. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 2.Back To 1. Link
2. “Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.” then Back To 2. Link
3. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 4.Back To 3. Link
4. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 7.Back To 4. Link
5. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 18.Back To 5. Link
6. “I do not think either the constitution or Protestantism is threatened in any way.” then Back To 6. Link
7. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 3.Back To 7. Link
8. “Cuba off Britain’s west coast” then Back To 8. Link
9. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 16.Back To 9. Link
10. Joe, Craig et al. The Real Irish Peace Process. Socialist Democracy, 1998, p. 40.Back To 10. Link
11. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 13.Back To 11. Link
12. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 6.Back To 12. Link
13. “some tenuous links with militant Protestant workers”, rather than instigated a “mass deflection from the ‘loyalist’ camp” then Back To 13. Link
14. Venton, Richie. Class Not Creed, 1968: Ireland’s Lost Opportunity For Socialism, Not Sectarianism. Scottish Socialist Party, 2018, p. 13.Back To 14. Link

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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

JOHNMACLEAN100

Category: Commemorations,Cultural CelebrationRCN @ 9:47 pm

JOHN MACEAN100

JohnMaclean100 was formed by Gavin Paterson and Alan Smart, with the help of a small group of musicians, in late October 2018.

We believe that protest sings can make a greater impact than even the best of speeches, and nowhere is this truer than in the case of educator, social justice activity, peace campaigner, and revolutionary, John Maclean. His legacy over the years has been kept alive by songwriters more than by politicians or well funded heritage organisations.

The JohnMaclean100 website proves this, and will be a permanent, ever growing and living monument to John Maclean 100 years on from his return tae the Clyde from Peterhead prison on December 3rd 1918  John Maclean Day. Continue reading “JOHNMACLEAN100”

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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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Jul 25 2018

STILL TALKING ABOUT JOHN MACLEAN

Category: Commemorations,Our History,ReviewsRCN @ 4:29 pm

Gerry Cairns replies to Allan Armstrong’s review of his book,  The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John MacLean (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/06/22/allan-armstrong-reviews-the-red-and-the-green-by-gerard-cairns/)

STILL TALKING ABOUT JOHN MACLEAN

 

Replying

Reviews and reviewers can vary. In reply to a new book or a new film the reviewer has different motives – be they professional, journalistic or political/polemical. When I read Allan Armstrong’s review of my own book, The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John MacLean, it felt like a different kind of review. It was personal but certainly not in the way one would expect. It was refreshingly personal. It was not in any way, shape or form a personal attack as you would usually associate with “personal” in that sense. It was, however, a personal reflection of the man whom my book is about and who has inspired Allan throughout his adult political life. It also prompted a personal reflection of Allan’s political journey and it is important that this started Allan’s review. Continue reading “STILL TALKING ABOUT JOHN MACLEAN”

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Jun 22 2018

ALLAN ARMSTRONG REVIEWS ‘THE RED AND THE GREEN’ BY GERARD CAIRNS

Review of The Red and the Green – Portrait of John Maclean by Gerard Cairns

Gerard Cairns has recently published his informative and challenging new book, The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John Maclean. I have known Gerry since the early 1990s and I would find it hard to call him Gerard, so I will use Gerry for the rest of this review.

The book’s title reveals the two main aspects of Gerry’s assessment of John Maclean. The Red and the Green highlights Gerry’s research into ‘Red’ John and his relationship with the ‘Green’ or Irish community on Clydeside .[1] A Portrait of John Maclean examines Maclean the political activist and family man. It raises questions about how Socialists organise and relate to others, especially their partners and families. When assessing  Maclean, Gerry brings his own personal experience to bear. “This has been a very personal portrait of a man I have researched, studied, lectured on, debated for a long time.” [2] Thus Gerry’s book is viewed through the prism of his own life of political activism. Continue reading “ALLAN ARMSTRONG REVIEWS ‘THE RED AND THE GREEN’ BY GERARD CAIRNS”

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Feb 25 2018

THE RED AND THE GREEN: A PORTRAIT OF JOHN MACLEAN

Gerry Cairns has published a new book,  The Red and the Green: A Portrait of John Maclean. This makes use of new material relating to Maclean’s relationship with the struggle in Ireland. Stevie Coyle posted the following review on Facebook, and there is an edited version in February’s  Irish Voice. Hopefully this informative review will be just  the first review to address the issues that Gerry has raised.

THE RED AND THE GREEN: A PORTRAIT OF JOHN MACLEAN

Members of the Irish community were among those present at the launch of Gerard Cairn’s biography of John Maclean titled The Red and the Green: A Portrait of John Maclean.

The event – organised by Glasgow’s radical bookshop Calton Books and held in McChuills Bar – saw the author demonstrate a passion for his subject and gave an intriguing insight into Maclean the man and the revolutionary, which he interspersed with humour. Continue reading “THE RED AND THE GREEN: A PORTRAIT OF JOHN MACLEAN”

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Nov 22 2017

‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ – 60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW

 

On November 11th, 60,000 people mobilised by the Far Right marched through the streets of Warsaw on a Police Independence Day march. Poland and Hungary are two EU member countries where the Far Right has been able to mobilise, greatly encouraged by the Right populist and chauvinist parties that are in government there.

There are some, particularly on the British Left, the Lexiters, who believed that a Brexit vote would open up the way to further progress. In reality, it has been the Right and Far Right in Europe that that has been strengthened. It is a sad indication of the disorientation of the ‘internationalist’ Left over Europe, that it is the ultra-nationalist Far Right that is able to mobile internationally across Europe for its vision of a ‘White Christian Europe’. Because  British Left has no alternative vision for Europe, it is leaving it to the Far Right to put forward its European vision to counter the neoliberal EU bureaucracy. Instead the Lexiters are trying to revive a British road to socialism, this time via a Corbyn-led British Left government.

The following two articles are from Tony Greenstein’s blog (see http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk). The first article describes the politics of the march. The second shows the close relationship between the Israeli state under Benjamin Netanyahu with the Right populist governments of Poland and Hungary, and explains this link. 

 

‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ 

60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW

Xenophobic phrases and far-right symbols mark event described by anti-fascists as a magnet for worldwide far-right groups

 

Tens of thousands of nationalist demonstrators marched through Warsaw at the weekend to mark Poland’s independence day, throwing red-smoke bombs and carrying banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations”. Continue reading “‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ – 60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW”

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Oct 28 2017

AN IRISH LANGUAGE ACT IS FOR EVERYONE

One of the bones in contention between Sinn Fein and the DUP over the suspended Stormont is the Unionists’ refusal to pass a law recognising the Irish language. The Unionists have used their veto within the post-Good Friday Agreement set-up to ensure that British law does not extend to Stormont. Provision was made by Westminster for the Welsh language in 1967 and 1993, and by Holyrood for Scottish Gaelic in 2005. Nevertheless, there has been a constant undercurrent of anti-Welsh and anti-Gaelic attacks from Unionists in these two countries too. Given that reactionary unionism currently dominates UK politics, it is well to take notice of what is happening in Northern Ireland, particularly with the Tory government dependent on the DUP.

However, the article below, written by Fergus O’Hare takes a much broader view of why Irish (and by implication) other minority languages are important for the whole of humankind. Fergus was very active as a Peoples Democracy member in the Northern Irish Civil Rights Movement, and later in the Northern Resistance Movement. In 1981 he was elected to Belfast City Council.  Later he became the headteacher  of Northern Ireland’s first Irish language secondary school, Colaiste Feirste, and was involved in Radio Failte, the first legal Irish language station in Northern Ireland.

 

“It is well to remember that nations which submit to conquest or races which abandon their language in favour of that of an oppressor do so, not because of altruistic motives, or because of the love of the brotherhood of man, but from a slavish and cringing spirit. From a spirit which cannot exist side by side with the revolutionary idea.”

James Connolly

Belfast demonstration in support of the Irish language

 AN IRISH LANGUAGE ACT IS FOR EVERYONE

 

The current opposition to an Irish Language Act has been fueled to a large extent by ignorance and bigotry. An Irish Language Act is not just needed for Irish speakers and learners or lovers of the Irish language. It is needed for everyone. It is needed for society.

In modern liberal and democratic societies many activities are supported, promoted and paid for from public funds, not because they are used by everyone in society or even by a majority in society but because they are not. Many artistic, sporting and other activities have minority followings but in a mature and inclusive society they are supported by taxpayers money or through other official support mechanisms because such a society recognises that all our lives can be enriched and made more interesting when a variety of interests and activities, even those of minority interest, are catered for and supported. Continue reading “AN IRISH LANGUAGE ACT IS FOR EVERYONE”

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Aug 11 2017

A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH

Bob Goupillot writes about organising against discrimination, oppression and exploitation, and how this affected the Movement for Recovery in Mental Health.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH

 

 

The Recovery movement has several roots these include

  • The various historical movements for greater Civil rights.
  • The evidence from experts by experience those who have survived mental illness.
  • Evidence from non-western cultures.

1)      Movements for increased Civil Rights

One of the lessons from history appears to be that it is only when people who are discriminated against, oppressed or exploited organise themselves and raise their own demands that real material improvements in their situation are brought about. Continue reading “A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH”

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