Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Why British Bombs would not have helped Allepo

As the Battle for Aleppo ends and the territory falls into the hands of the murderous Assad regime, people are turning to all sorts of explanations as who is to blame for this tragedy and the sickening human cost that occurred as a result. Predictably, front bench Tory's and the mainstream media have pointed the blame to those who prevented the bombing of Assad's forces in 2013. They accept that the killing fields of Iraq and the disintegrated state of Libya have tainted the west's decision to become involved in these conflicts. Many of them even admit that the moral case for western military intervention has become significantly weakened due to the mistakes of the past. The horror of Aleppo presents a counter argument: the cost of non-intervention. Those who opposed the intervention must bear part of them responsibility for Assad's actions in the region goes the argument. The problem with this argument though is that it is such a gross revision of history that, even as Aleppo burns, it requires a response. 

Let me be clear. Assad and Putin are responsible for horrendous crimes. Social media flocks with their apologists, those who think they are so radically minded and opposed to western imperialism, that they can't help but hypocritically lecture us about how Russia's horrendous actions in Syria are justified or even moral. Earlier this week, the morning star newspaper rightly provoked disgust when they described the fall of Aleppo as a 'liberation'. When the U.S. bombards countries with bombs, such apologists would not dare to deny civilian casualties. When Russia and its allies are responsible, they ape the rhetoric of the most ardent conservative: that the dead in Aleppo are not civilians but terrorists; that civilian deaths are either the fault of the rebel militia or a necessary evil; that civilians are rejoicing at their 'liberation'. On Tuesday Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari even went so far as to hold up a photograph of a solider helping a woman from a truck. 'This is a Syrian solider' he proclaimed 'She is a woman fleeing eastern Aleppo'. In the age of the Internet such lies are unwise. It was quickly discovered that this was, in fact, a woman in Fallujah, in Iraq, being helped by state militia
Indeed, Fallujah itself should serve as a stark reminder of the moral bankruptcy of those who condemn the war crimes of the U.S. and UK but support those of Russia and Syria. They rightfully denounced U.S. Forces who assaulted Fallujah in 2004, using white phosphorous as they did so, a substance that can burn down to the bone. In spite of this, they shake their heads and cover their ears when confronted about the horrors of the Russian assault on Aleppo. The UN has received credible evidence of up to 82 Aleppo citizens being shot dead where they stood. Amnesty International have reported cases of civilians - including children - being massacred in cold blood, and accused Russia of showing a 'callous disregard for international humanitarian law'. In addition to this, thousands of civilians are said to be crammed into an area of no more than two square kilometres and Lina Shami, an activist in Aleppo , reports there are 'no safe areas' and that civilians are 'threatened with field executions or are dying under bombing'. All the while, Russian bombing has been indiscriminate, destroying local infustructure.  This is not to say we should never criticise the rebels. What began as a democratic struggle in Syria more than five years ago has been sabotaged by Islamist extremists such as Islamic State, which came in from post invasion Iraq. However, Aleppo had a democratically elected council and Independent civil service, now lost.
 Are those who opposed military intervention against Assad in 2013, before the west turned its firepower on his Islamist extremist opponents to blame? Here is what the then Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons in 2013 in the debate before the proposed intervention ‘It is not about taking sides in the Syrian conflict, it is not about invading, it is not about regime change and it is not even about working more closely with the opposition: It is about the large scale use of chemical weapons and our response to a war crime’. Similarly, US president Barack Obama, portrayed the case for intervention as being solely about degrading Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. Nothing about the specific areas of Syria, nothing about the rebels. It was specifically sold as a limited operation focused entirely on chemical weapons. Yes, there was the obvious fear that that this would mean creeping direct military involvement, and there is no precedent of western military involvement in the Arab world ending in anything other than disaster. It was, nonetheless, not what was debated.
There are however concrete actions that the west could be undertaking now. The case for British humanitarian aid drops in Aleppo and elsewhere is overwhelming. These would show support for the people who are besieged who Assad and his Russian backers are trying to starve out. A UN monitored evacuation plan needs to be put in place. Syria is a reminder of the need for consistency. Those of us who passionately opposed the disastrous western wars in Libya and Iraq are not apologists for Putin or Assad. Similarly, those who denounce the opponents of western military intervention should have far more humility about Iraq and Libya: The hundreds of thousands dead, the sectarian conflict, the millions displaced and traumatised, the extremist groups flourishing in the chaos. They should speak out against the wests alliance with a head chopping dictatorship such as Saudi Arabia, which exports extremism – including to Syria – and which is butchering Yemini civilians with British made bombs.
If you oppose war crimes, if you oppose the murder of innocent civilians then you should speak out about whoever is responsible. There is no contradiction in opposing the crimes of western or Russian foreign policy, or in denouncing both the bombs of Syria and of Saudi Arabia. Call it consistency, or perhaps a better term to use is morality.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Why The Snoopers Charter is Unsafe and Immoral


The Tory introduced Snoopers charter became law on the 29th of November 2016, meaning that the UK now has the most invasive state surveillance laws of any nation in the developed world. The invasive domestic snooping legislation means that the UK government will be able to maintain a mass database, recording the entire online browsing history of every person in the UK, regardless of whether they are doing anything wrong or not. They will then allow dozens and dozens of government organisations and agencies to trawl through this database looking for dirt. The only people exempt from the Charter are MP’s themselves, who seem far too interested in their own political careers that they clearly don’t want to be caught doing things contrary to the interest of the people, like say spying on the plebs that they claim to represent. While it makes sense for the secret services to look into what suspected terrorists are plotting, this legislation goes a lot further than that. First and foremost, it presumes that every single UK citizen who does not hold a position in government is a potential criminal who needs to be spied on, then it requires all kind of non-security related agencies to trawl through their internet history.

The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd has continued with the pathetic excuse that this bill is about preventing terrorism by claiming that ‘the internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront these challenges’. However, this kind of fearmongering provides no excuse for why the government just passed a law that allows people working for the Health and Safety Executive, the food standards agency, various fire and rescue services, The NHS Business Services authority and even the Gambling Commission to rifle through peoples Internet Browsing histories. Even the smallest understanding of the unprecedented powers this bill gives to non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos should be enough to tell you that that Amber Rudd’s justification story makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Despite this, the problems with this bill go well beyond the fact that Rudd has lied about its intensions.

A major concern is the potential for corruption in allowing so many agencies to trawl through people internet histories. Just imagine the potential for scammers and stalkers looking for dirt to blackmail their victims with. Allowing the employees of such huge number of agencies to access peoples private data doesn’t just provide direct opportunities for scammers and stalkers who might work for these agencies, it also offers them opportunities to steal and sell peoples private data to criminals. Aside from the extraordinary number of agencies that will be required to trawl through people’s internet histories, there is obviously the problem of keeping such massive stockpiles of private data safe from data loss and hackers. We all remember stories of government ministers and civil servants losing vast amounts of data by leaving it on the train, sending it via unrecorded mail, or simply stuffing it into bins in public parks. The creation of such vast databases of private information means that the potential for human error is absolutely enormous, and that’s before we even get to the damage hackers could do with access to the Internet browsing histories of pretty much every single person in the UK.

 The German Government has recently claimed that their worried about Russian hackers could interfere with their voting systems and the Chinese have developed incredibly advanced cyber warfare technology. The idea that Russian and Chines Hackers wouldn’t see the potential value in access to massive dumps of the Internet browsing records of pretty much every UK resident and business requires some serious mental gymnastics to wrap your head around. Not to mention there are also plenty of criminal hackers out there who must be ecstatic at the idea of the government creating massive stockpiles of private information for them to get their hands on.  

Aside from the security issues and the assault on British liberties this legislation represents, just imagine the precedent the UK is setting to other authoritarian regimes across the globe by collecting the browsing histories of every single member of the population, who does not is not in some way able to rule over the country. Just imagine the potential for political repression when barbaric and repressive regimes like Turkey follow Britain’s lead and begin spying and begin spying on every single citizen and trawling through their private data looking for anything to persecute their citizens for. Predictably, despite the obvious concerns, large numbers of right wing authoritarians are cheering up this appalling insult on the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence and the ability of British Journalists to do Investigative journalism without fear of being of meddling from any number of state agencies with vested interests in interfering in their work. As I explained in my previous blog post, I am no fan of Fidel Castro. However, I find it especially ironic that the same right wingers who were only a few days previously busy lecturing everyone about how authoritarian Castro was, are now wildly cheering an invasive state surveillance regime that Cuban Communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams. These right wing authoritarians endlessly repeat the mantra of ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide you have got nothing to fear’ without the remotest concern that this law creates huge opportunities for repression, persecution of the innocent and for the loss/theft of private data.

In a way these people are displaying an astonishingly naïve and staggeringly hypocritical faith in the government. When it comes to the latest Tory Privatisation scam these right wing apologists will always claim that the state is woefully inefficient and that the private sector has to take over. However, when it comes to the government running vast databases of private information they’ve trawled from innocent people, suddenly in their minds the state becomes so wonderfully and exceptionally efficient that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are non-existent. The hypocrisy of right wing authoritarians really does seem boundless.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Lessons of Castro and the Cuban Revolution.


The death of one of the most poignant figures in politics, Fidel Castro, on Saturday 26th of November has provoked mixed reactions from around the world. Donald Trump has condemned Castro as a ‘brutal dictator’ while Barack Obama, perhaps ironically, said that America is extending a ‘hand of friendship to the Cuban people’. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn has praised Castro’s ‘revolutionary heroism’. While the Cuban  leader’s death seems to have ignited debate around the world, there is no denying how important Castro and his actions were. I however think that this in itself, is the wrong approach. We should not mourn the death of a dictator, nor support the rhetoric of those who would use Castro’s death to further an equally oppressive agenda. Instead we should be using this point to both call out the oppression carried out by the Cuban regime, and to call for an alternative that rejects both US imperialism and authoritarian socialism, instead embracing direct democracy and workers self-organisation.
Before the 1959 revolution, Cuba symbolized Imperialism ant it’s most pernicious. Its war of liberation from Spain was appropriated by the US, whose government claimed that victory as its own and rewrote the newly independents country’s constitution to ensure its dominance. Cuba’s sugar was taken by imperialist interests that maintained its subservient status. Its culture – the voice of the slaves who refused to be silent – was emptied of its content and fed to the tourists for their consumption. The dictator of Cuba at the time, The U.S backed, Fulgencio Batista, revoked most political liberties, aligned with the wealthiest landowner who owned the sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnant economy that widened the gap between the rich and poor significantly. Batista also carried out wide scale violence including torture and public executions; killing thousands of people.
All that ended on January 1st, 1959 when a United States confident of its global dominance was challenged by a small Caribbean island. Following this, every national liberation movement and every occupied country stood up and celebrated. Imperialism, it seemed, was not so impenetrable after all. Again and again, the Cuban revolutionaries refused to surrender to threat or blackmail – it is that refusal that explained the blind wrath of its enemies. Republican and Democrat administrations sustained the siege of Cuba for six decades, angry in disbelief at their own ineffectiveness. It was of course, this kind of collective resistance that foiled the 1961 US backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs. The 1962 Missile Crisis, however, showed the leadership in Cuba that Soviet support was conditional and that Cuba was a small actor in a Global Power Game. Distancing itself briefly from Russia, that was the moment when the country moved into its most radical phase, joining with the liberation struggles of the Third World in a common front that stretched from Latin America to Vietnam. That was the moment when Cuba began to symbolize for many people the rising of the oppressed, expressed in the image of Che Guevara.
After the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Castro declared that the revolution was socialist. This was surprising, given that Fidel himself came from a radical nationalist background. His announcement was mainly a recognition of both Cuba’s dependence of the Soviet Union and of the central role the – soon to be refounded - communist party would play in the country’s future. Indeed, Cuba’s move to Socialism became increasingly clear through the inevitable failure of the 1969 sugar harvest to produce ten million tons, strengthening the country’s dependence on Russia. Indeed, when Fidel went to Chile the future supporters of the viciously anti-communist dictator Pinochet, took to the streets to ban their pots in protest.  In this context, Socialism was understood to mean a strong centralized state along Soviet lines. This concided with both Castro’s and Guevara’s view of how revolutions are won – by the actions of a small and dedicated group of Guerrillas acting on behalf of a mass movement. What this meant is that when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia in 1969, Castro supported the action, confirming once again Cuba’s dependence on the Soviet Union. Cuba’s alliance with Russia was, in a sense, part of a new state following Che Guevara’s death, which rejected Guerrilla tactics and looked towards forging alliances with likeminded countries.  
However, Cuba asserted its own bolder foreign policy. During the seventies, the role of Cuban forces were key to defeating right wing insurgencies and sustained Castro’s anti – imperialist image. There is little doubt that their actions hastened the end of apartheid, yet in the horn of Africa, Cuban troops defended governments allied with Soviet regional interests that brutally repressed internal liberation movements. In addition to this, Fidel refused to be a subordinate to Russia. He used his Charisma and clout to fire occasional warning shots towards Moscow on the one hand, and to reinforce his control of the state on the other. The survivors of the Guerrilla force that brought down the Batista dictatorship remained, for the most part, at the centre of power for the five decades that followed.
The Socialism that Castro espoused unfortunately bore little resemblance to the work of eighteenth century scholars like Marx or Proudhon, speaking about the ‘self-emancipation of the working class’ or how ‘anarchy is order’. It was a Socialism with a command structure much like that of the Guerrilla army in which Fidel was Commander in Chief.  What held it together was both Fidel’s incontestable authority and the unrelenting hostility of the United States, which not only tried to murder Castro numerous times but was willing to starve the Cuban people into submission. This is not to suggest that the system built by the revolutionaries had not heralded gains. Most celebrated of these were efficient and universal systems of health and education. However, beyond that life was hard, even before the withdrawal of Soviet aid and the period which followed, which brought the island to the brink of disaster. While it may have been dictatorial authority that foiled the attempts on Castro’s life by the US government, it was collective solidarity that held back collapse following Cuba’s darkest moments. Yet there was always serious discontent expressed in workplace resistance and the disillusionment of African veterans, as many of the promises of the revolution proved to be illusionary. While there was basic social provisions there was little in the way of consumer goods and dissent was treated harshly, whatever its form.
The extreme concentration of power at the top of the pyramid structure stifled any hope of socialist democracy. Political institutions were centrally controlled at every level; local organs of the government, like the committees for the defence of the revolution, maintained vigilance against dissent. On occasions when discontent grew too noisy, thousands of Cubans were dispatched to Miami amid clamorous marches denouncing the departed as ‘scum’. It was relatively simple to dismiss calls for democracy from internal critics as ‘imperialist propaganda’, rather than a legitimate claim by working people that a socialism worthy of its name would guarantee them that right. Public information was available only in the form of state newspaper Granma, and state institutions at every level were little more than channels for the communication of the leaderships decisions. An opaque bureaucracy, accountable to itself alone, with privileged access to goods and services, became increasingly corrupt in the context of an economy reduced to its minimal provisions. Castro’s occasional calls for rectification removed some problem individuals but kept the system intact.
Yet Cuba survived, due in good part to Fidel’s sharp political instincts and his willingness to find allies wherever he could in the wake of the fall of Eastern Europe. However, though ‘Pink Tide’ leaders celebrated Fidel’s legacy, as the twenty first century dawned, new anti-capitalist movements, with their emphasis on democracy and participation, had little to learn from Cuba. The reality was, after all, that the island featured a heavily authoritarian version of socialism that could allow the repression of gay people, the denial of criticism, and the emergence of the regime that now prevails in Cuba, where a small group of Bureaucrats and military commanders control the economy. They will be the beneficiaries of Cuba’s re-entry into the World Market, not the majority of Cubans. Fidel, who fell ill in 2006, said relatively little from then on. His death will be mourned across the Third World, because Cuba for so long represented a possibility of Liberation from Imperial oppression. Its very survival inspired hope, and yet the state that Castro built serves as a constant reminder that any socialism worth its name requires deep and radical democracy.    

Friday, 25 November 2016

Trump's Far Right Cabinet

There are many terrifying things about Donald Trump: The fact that he has publicly praised Vladimir Putin, his rampant misogyny and racism, the fact that he has never had a job in politics before in his life. However, if these things are somehow not enough show that Trump is an extremely dangerous individual then the atrocious people he is picking for senior positions in the next government should be. Needless to say, the line-up reads as a rogue’s gallery of apologists for torture, racial and religious discrimination, deportation and all manner of abuses of civil and human rights. The common sense reaction to this should be the widespread condemnation of Trump and all his appointments from people of all political stripes, especially democrats. However, rather than present a vigorous united front against these nominees and demand that Trump replace them, Democrats and Republicans who in the past have been sensitive to concerns about civil liberties are at best offering to give them a chance and at worst supporting them!

One notable exception to this is Trumps appointment of Steven Bannon, the former head of far right propaganda outlet Breitbart news, as his chief strategist. On a policy level, Bannons appointment is potentially catastrophic. Breitbart peddles in disinformation and conspiracy theories of every far right stripe. Under Bannons leadership Breitbart – joining Infowars – has become the voice of the alt right, publishing articles promoting popular white nationalist tropes such as ‘black on white crime’ and that ‘rape culture is inherent in Islam’. It should come as no surprise then that White Nationalists and neo Nazi groups openly glorified Bannons appointment. ‘Bannon is our man in the white house’ wrote one commentator at Neo Nazi website Daily Stormer. Perhaps the most defining aspects of Bannons alt – right white supremacy, is that he vehemently denies its own existence. He is just ‘defending free speech’. He is just an anti-establishment firebrand. We are told that voting for racist policies is not a racist act. We are told that sexual assault is not a misogynist act. That mocking disabled people is not ableism and that vowing to deport Muslims and Mexican immigrants is not xenophobic.
Luckily, Bannons appointment has rightly received a wave of condemnation both from mainstream and non-mainstream sources and there is a vague chance that Bannon may not keep his job as Trump’s chief strategist. The most notable character amongst those calling for the firing of Steve Bannon is former contender for Democratic presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders. In addition to this however, some 169 House Democrats signed a letter calling on Trump to fire Bannon, pointing to allegations of anti-Semitic remarks he made. They were also joined by 10 sitting senators and Maryland’s Democratic Senator Elect Chris Van Hollen. Anti-Semitism then, would appear to be a litmus test for congressional democrats, but not Islamophobia, or the advocacy of human rights abuses like torture!
Take, for example, Michael Flynn, the former general Director of Obamas Defence Intelligence agency who Trump has tapped to be his national security advisor. Flynn was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Joint Special Operations Commands dirty wars in the Muslim world, and was critical of Obama for ending the use of torture and committing to not putting additional prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. He has also maintained a Twitter account where he doesn’t shy away from telling people that ‘Fear of all Muslims is rational’. Although Flynn does not have to face Senate confirmation, federal lawmakers could still make their voices heard about his extremism. Most in Congress have not yet responded to the Flynn pick. Indeed, the only acknowledgement of it comes from Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat member on the Senate armed services committee, who put out a statement saying that Flynn has ‘served honourably’ and that he ‘respects him’. The only note of criticism was in two separate sentences implying that the only issue with Flynn is some ill-tempered remarks he made during the presidential campaign. ‘I do not agree with Flynn on every issue. I have concerns about some of statements he made in the heat of the campaign’ Reed said.
Then there’s Trumps pick for CIA chief, Kansas Republican representative Mike Pompeo, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate. Pompeo is an outspoken defender of CIA torture that was used by the Bush administration, has called for the death penalty for NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and implied after the Boston Bombings that ‘Islamic leaders across America’ are ‘potentially complicit in these acts’ because they supposedly refuse to speak out against terrorism (they have actually spoken out many, many times). California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff did speak out against Flynn writing that he is worried about an ‘impulsive president with a volatile advisor’ – but then praised Pompeo as ‘someone who is willing to listen and engage’ even if they have differences.  This is particularly troubling because Schiff is a senior member of the house intelligence committee, meaning that his views could influence many of his colleagues. Similarly, the incoming ranking senate Democrat on the intelligence committee, Virginias Mark Warner, didn’t even bother to list any disagreements with Pompeo, simply congratulating him and saying that he would ‘look forward to learning more about his views on national security and intelligence policy and his vision for the CIA’. There are also Republicans who are typically strong on civil liberties who refrained from opposing Pompeo. Michigan Republican Justin Amash, a strong critic of government intelligence agencies, noted his disagreements with Pompeo but also called him a ‘great pick’.
For the Attorney general slot, Trump picked Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who will also require Senate confirmation. Sessions has a troubling history of opposition to civil rights, and is a staunch advocate of crackdowns against undocumented immigrants. The incoming Democratic Senate leader, New York’s Chuck Schmer, said in a chummy statement that ‘I know Senator Sessions and we work out in the gym’. Schmer added ‘I am very concerned about what he would do with the Civil rights division at the department of justice, and am interested to hear what he has to say’. Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake appeared unbothered by Sessions record. Flake is relatively moderate on civil rights and immigration issues, and refused to support Trump due to his advocacy of discrimination. This did not stop Flake from saying he would ‘support Sessions nomination’ however.  
Criticism of the Trump picks has been scattershot. Amash, despite his praise of Pompeo, expressed concern about Sessions, noting the wide powers he will have as attorney general. Democratic Representative Don Beyer, who represents a Northern Virginia district with a large Muslim population put out a statement condemning both Flynn and Sessions. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, upon hearing that the warmongering John Bolton, may be picked as secretary of state, blasted out an op-ed denouncing the Bolton pick as a betrayal of Trumps campaign promises; He also said the Pompeo must answer for his support for waterboarding. Senate Intelligence Committee member Rob Wyden, had perhaps the strongest statements of any Democratic Senator, calling Flynn’s remarks about Muslims ‘profoundly alarming’ and criticising his position on torture and other war crimes.
Its Horrifying that Trump surged to victory with the extremely vocal backing of bigoted Nazi Saluting fascists; It’s even more alarming that Trump has given these extremists an inside track to the white house; and it’s disgusting that by doing this Trump has given the racist Nazi worshiping scumballs such an elevated sense of victory and validation. Trump is finally in a position to be held accountable, and for members of Congress to simply express isolated disagreements with these extreme nominees – but say they will support them anyway or plan to give them a fair hearing essentially – essentially throws away any leverage Congress has to pressure Trump to appoint people to the government who respect civil and human rights.    

Sunday, 20 November 2016

What Has Been Going on in the UK?

Given the understandable amount of coverage bloggers like myself have been given to The US election over the past few months, it has been easy to overlook many of the things that are going on in my own country, the UK. Donald Trump's victory really should not have come as a surprise to British people, given that we are still dealing the huge act of economic self-harm that British public inflicted on themselves earlier in 2016. However, aside from these two cataclysmic acts eclipsing both the mainstream and independent media in Britain, there are a number of other issues and events that deserve our attention. Here is a quick summary of events that have slipped under the radar.
 
·     1. The hope that the Tory's are going to bin their economically self-destructive ideological austerity agenda in favour of an investment led strategy following Brexit, took another blow with the announcement that the rail electrification project for the South West of England has been indefinitely suspended. This is in spite of the fact that a February 2016 poll by BMG found that the number of people who strongly support austerity has dropped to 7%, while only 28% see it as a necessary evil. I find it especially ironic that Tory's like Theresa May won't shut up about the 'will of the people' when it comes to defending their desire to push through Brexit without any democratic oversight' by parliament, but will completely disregard it when it comes to making sensible economic policy.
·     2. Theresa May visited India in order to beg for some kind of trade deal with them, but ended up getting chastised about her obstructive attitude towards Indian migration and the 'detrimental' immigration policies she implemented during her time as Home Secretary. Despite announcing new schemes to help wealthy Indian businessmen travel to the UK, May refused to relax visa restrictions on students coming from the country to the UK. Additionally, Theresa May didn't even bother to schedule a meeting with the Indian conglomerate Tata to discuss the ongoing crisis in the British steel industry. 
·     3. After returning from her failed trip to India, Theresa May decided to continue the Tory policy of pathetically sucking up to the Chinese communist government, even allowing herself to be lectured about the importance of 'mutual trust' by the Chinese, when one of the contractors they lined up to build the UK's rip off nuclear infrastructure for us has been charged with nuclear espionage in the United States! Upon making this deal David Cameron locked Britain in an economically suicidal contract to pay China £92.50 per MWh of electricity for 35 years, at a time when the global cost of renewables is in decline. By leaving office, Cameron has put Theresa May in a lose-lose situation where she can either enrage China by pulling out of the deal (a dangerous move considering the weak position geoeconomic position Brexit has put us in) or shaft the British public by continuing with a shambolic rip off. 
·    4. The Crown Prosecution service are considering a 'corrupt practices' case against the Vote Leave mob, which included Tory frontbenchers like Boris Johnson, for lying to the electorate over claims like 'we will give the NHS £350 million pound a week' and their scaremongering that 'Turkey is joining the EU': Both claims that run directly counter to the evidence. If a case was brought successfully it would not have any influence on the referendum result but could result in criminal prosecution of anyone found to have deliberately misled the electorate, which in this case is probably quite a few people
·    5. The Brexiter argument that the collapse in the value of the pound has been a great thing for British exports took a massive blow when it was revealed that the UK trade deficit has widened significantly to 12.7 billion. Not only did the vast gap between imports and exports grow dramatically, the volume of UK exports actually fell by £200 million pounds. The argument that a collapsing currency is great for the economy is absolutely ridiculous, because as anyone who understands UK trade knows, the UK continues to import vastly more than it exports, but when the evidence shows that the collapse in currency value has coincided with a significant decline in exports, even the argument that it is good for the export sector looks incredibly weak. Despite the misguided line of thought for Brexiters on the economy, the Tory's will clearly continue to push this myth that a collapsing currency is somehow good for the UK's (import based) economy.
·    6. The Tory's suffered a humiliating defeat in the Supreme Court where the high court ruling that the Bedroom Tax discriminates against disabled people and children was upheld. Of course, disabled people and parents have been arguing for years the so called bedroom tax places a charge on something that is a basic necessity, and it is a shame that the Tory's thought they had to appeal the high court ruling in the first place. All that remains to seen is how they will react to this new development. 
·    7. The latest figures from the Trussell Trust food bank, showed that the increase in food bank dependency in the UK is still continuing. The charity handed out a record number of food parcels in 2015-16 and their evidence shows that two of the leading causes of food poverty were benefit delays and Tory Welfare cuts, accounting for over 40% of referrals between them. Not only this but data from the University of Hull found that there is a correlation between food bank use and areas with high numbers of people who are in skilled manual work or unable to work due to long term illnesses or disabilities. This must not become normal or accepted.
·    8. The Tory assault on Children's rights suffered a setback in the House of Lords where peers voted against a Tory plan to allow local governments to opt out of child protection measures. This Tory effort to throw children's rights legislation on the fire is clearly designed to make the large scale privatisation of day care centres and child protection services more appealing to corporate outsourcing companies like G4S and Serco. The reason I describe the vote in the Lords as a setback rather than a defeat though is because Tory ministers can simply reinstate this legislation, when the bill returns to the House of Commons.
·     9. If you need more evidence of the detrimental consequences of the Conservative assault on children's rights, the Homeless charity Shelter reported that 120,000 children will spend this Christmas homeless, and that the new Tory benefit cap will end up impoverishing an estimated 319,000 children, if it wasn't already clear to anyone reading this, it should be absolutely clear that Tory austerity policies end up economically punishing children for being born into poor families.
·    10. Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused to launch an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave. An event in 1984, that saw police launch an unprovoked attack on striking miners. This is despite the fact that the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster found that several police officers involved in hiding and fabricating evidence of Hillsborough were also involved in lying about orgreave, by painting striking miners as riotous and refusing to acknowledge that the police launched an attack. Following Rudd’s refusal to hold an inquiry the Guardian revealed that she hadn't even bothered to review the evidence collected by the IPCC, or the evidence held by South Yorkshire police. The Home office then refused to reveal what information Rudd had actually reviewed before deciding to scrap the whole inquiry. It is absolutely ridiculous that Rudd could have decided there were no grounds for an inquiry without even bothering to review fundamental pieces of evidence. Amber Rudd is demonstrating that after 32 years the Tory's are still intent on shamelessly playing party politics with the justice system by refusing to hold an inquiry into the appalling police conduct at Orgreave.
·     11. A long awaited report from the United Nations absolutely hammered the Tory government for their savage mistreatment of disabled people. Not only did the report find that Tory welfare cuts have disproportionately affected disabled people and hindered their rights to live independently and live in their communities, but the report also found that disabled people in Britain have suffered a barrage of right wing, anti-disability propaganda that has routinely portrayed disabled people as 'making a living of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy or putting a burden on taxpayers'. 
The U.S. Election and Trump's victory have overshadowed what's going on in British politics, but it is important to remember the U.S. aren't the only country going through hard times at the moment. Whatever the mainstream media tell you about Theresa May and the Tory's being a 'safe pair of hands', it should be beyond obvious that she is an extremely dishonest and incompetent Prime Minister, with dangerously authoritarian and anti-democratic streaks. The story's I have highlighted from US election week prove this, but as long as the bulk of the Labour opposition and the mainstream media continue to fail to hold Theresa May's feet to the fire, millions of people will continue to believe that Theresa May is a competent politician doing a good job!                

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Why do Brexiters Suddenly hate Democracy?

We all remember how many Brexiters used 'Democracy' and 'Sovereignty' as one of their core arguments for voting to leave the EU. Their simplistic argument relied entirely on creating a caricature of the EU as deeply undemocratic and corrupt, and how it would be a triumph for democracy to retake political decision making in the UK. It didn't matter that many remain voters pointed out that the UK has a completely unelected head of state and an unelected civil service, not to mention that the 800+ member House of Lords is the most bloated unelected legislative chamber in the whole world. Many Brexiters didn't care that their vote to leave the EU would simply strengthen these institutions, as well as hand more power to the most ludicrously right wing and anti-democratic forces in British society. It is true that anyone with any knowledge about the 'vote until you get it right' Irish Lisbon Treaty, the TTIP corporate power grab or the appalling treatment of Greece by the European Commission, will know about the contempt for democracy that runs throughout EU institutions. However, out of all the countries in the EU, the charge that EU institutions are anti-democratic must have looked by far the most ridiculous, coming from the UK. In spite of all this, Brexiters bought the democracy argument in their millions. 
 
Fast forward a few months and this professed Brexiter love of democracy and sovereignty has been completely reversed in wake of the High Court decision that Theresa May has absolutely no right to invoke article 50 and begin the process of quitting the EU without first gaining parliamentary approval. Suddenly, Leave voters are out in force condemning the ruling by a British sovereign court to let the British Parliament have a democratic say in the article 50 process. Many of them are upset that the British Parliament will probably try to undermine their anti-immigrant, economically suicidal 'Hard Brexit' pipe dream that they have been fantasising about. They wanted Theresa May to draw up a fanatically right wing Brexit strategy and then impose it on the British public without the slightest bit of parliamentary scrutiny, and now they are throwing their toys out of the pram because the high court has ruled that this would be anti-democratic. Furthermore, many of these are the same people saying they wanted British law made in British courts. However, if you are going to turn around and say that you are opposed to British courts having a say in the law as soon as they introduce a piece of legislation that you don't like, you can't of cared about the issue of sovereignty all that much in the first place, and we're clearly just using it as a catchy slogan to discredit the opinions of anyone who disagrees with you. It is quite extraordinary and utterly hypocritically how these people operate. If the concepts of democracy and sovereignty are useful to their argument then they won't shut up about them, but as soon as the concept of democracy starts to get in the way of their 'Hard Brexit' wet dream, they suddenly prefer dictatorial authoritarianism with no democratic scrutiny whatsoever. It's bad enough that Theresa May even tried to contest the case that she simply should not be allowed to bypass parliament and go ahead with Brexit on her own. In fact, there is little better way of demonstrating to the public that she is a savagely right wing authoritarian than trying to give herself the power to make huge decisions without any democratic oversight. 

One of the most bizarre reactions to the high court decision comes from the UKIP leadership contender Suzanne Evans who has upped the anti-democratic extremism game. Although Nigel Farage has said that he will not be supporting Evans campaign to become party leader, he has made illusions to wanting to march on the high court, presumably so he can stay relevant. This is especially ironic given that since their inception UKIP have been the flag bearers for the democracy and sovereignty argument against the EU. I presume then that Evans won't have a problem with me reasonably assuming that UKIP are a party with no respect for democracy whatsoever. After all, Evans objects so strongly to the decision that she has called for the judges who made the decision to be sacked. Brexiters like Suzanne Evans want a dictatorial and right wing Prime Minister to go about the article 50 process with no democratic oversight or analysis at all, and if the courts say otherwise, they want the judges sacked. Against a backdrop of racist violence and far right propaganda coming from extreme Brexiters, the idea of sacking judges for daring to uphold democracy is extreme stuff. Saying that, relying on UKIP members to make appropriate statements is like relying on the world to stop turning, these were after all the same party who said that Brexit was achieved 'without any shots being fired'. 

Unsurprisingly, the reaction from the right wing press in the UK to the court decision, was equally as inappropriate and hypocritical. The front page of the Daily Express for example contained a ridiculous assertion that ‘November the third 2016 was the day when democracy died’. As far as the fascistic journo’s at the Express are concerned, an unelected Prime Minister trying to completely bypass parliament is ‘democracy’ somehow. This is such an absurd piece of ‘Dictatorship is Democracy’ logic that it could easily fit into George Orwell’s famous dystopian slogans that ‘war is peace’ and ‘freedom is slavery’. That said, this headline is only weeks detached from an equally as terrifying express front page that tried to change the definition of democracy to include locking pro remain MPs up in the tower of London. Unbelievably however, the Express are by no means the worst culprits of this kind of democracy revisionism. In an article decrying the judicial decision, the extreme right wing hate publication, the Daily Mail, attacked Judge Terrence Ethron for being ‘openly gay’. Within Half an hour or so of the article going up on the Mail’s website, the newspaper proved they knew how disgraceful their line of attack was by removing the homophobic wording from the article headline. However, the main text of the Daily Mail article continues to expose details of the Judge’s personal life for what seems to be no other reason than to negatively highlight his sexuality. The unfortunate thing about this deeply irresponsible ranting from the right wing press is that millions of gullible idiots will simply lap up the drivel they’ve red in their preferred propaganda rag, and actually believe that this ruling in favour of parliamentary sovereignty is the attack on democracy that the right wing hacks are telling them that it is.

The UK is rapidly becoming a very intolerant place where the ideology of Brexiterism is held supreme by a number of extreme right wingers, and other considerations like parliamentary sovereignty, democratic scrutiny of the actions of the government, judicial independence and freedom of speech are continually being slung onto the scrap heap. Within a matter of months the Brexit camp has gone from singing the praises of democracy and asserting the sovereignty of the UK parliament, to a cacophony of anti-democratic shrieking because the High court has ruled that the UK parliament Is sovereign and should have a vote about whether the Brexit plan Theresa May and three Brexiters eventually manage to cobble together is good enough to justify invoking article 50 and beginning the process of quitting the EU. Of course, people voted for Brexit for all manner of reasons, not just because of the ‘democracy’ argument. However, for those who did somehow buy into the Brexiter democracy argument, then this anti-democratic wailing from Brexiters like Nigel Farage or Suzanne Evans, must surely be a massive ‘you’ve been fooled’ sign, that is pretty hard to ignore.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Why he Won

President Trump. These are two words which, less than six months ago, many thought would never be said. Trump seemed to a lot of mainstream commentators like a ridiculous candidate, not worthy of anyone’s vote. Trumps victory has been greeted with howls of outrage by many who say that they are ‘stunned’ and ‘shocked’ at the result.  It is for these reasons that I think we have been taking the wrong approach. Trump was never a joke and treating him like one simply strengthened is position. His election represents a cry of anger from the millions of people who felt abandoned by the USA’s rotten political system. The only thing that makes this in the least bit shocking is that there was no strategy or coherent movement around Trump. A broad range of people from ex coalminers to middle class business owners, came out to vote for Trump in what was perhaps the biggest ‘fuck you’ to the political establishment in American history. The same establishment who have spent the last four decades pandering to the mega rich and allowing the erosion of the American Middle Class and American industry.

The Racists, Sexists, White Supremacists Fascists and Xenophobes obviously came out to vote for Trump. Why wouldn’t they? Since Trump launched his vile campaign, he has been pandering to them for votes. Trump has always been one of them, and always will be. However there is more to Trumps victory than just Racism. Of course the bigots in America, won the greatest victory of their lives, but they clearly didn’t achieve it on their own, there’s simply not enough of them. Indeed, as Nate Cohn in the New York Times rightfully points out, this election was decided by people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, they can’t all be bigots. Clinton won only 65 percent of Latino voters, compared with Obamas 71 percent four years ago. She performed this poorly against a candidate who ran on a program of building a wall along Americans southern border, and who kicked of his campaign by calling Mexicans Rapists. Clinton won 34 percent of white women without college degrees and she won just 54 percent of women overall, compared to Obamas 55 percent in 2012. Clinton, of course, was running against a candidate who has gloated on film about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’. To believe that Trumps appeal was entirely based on ethnic nationalism and misogyny is to believe that a near majority of Americans are driven only by hate and a shared desire for a far right political program. I certainly don’t believe that, and the facts don’t bear that out.
Finishing his campaign, Trump promised to break the control of Washington and ‘Drain the swamp’, it was a message that appealed to many people. However, all these that voted for Donald Trump because they saw him as an outsider need to take a closer look at who Trump has recruited to help him set policy. The Trump transition team is run by former contender for Republican Presidential nominee Chris Christie. Furthermore, the team is nothing more than a who’s who of influence peddlers including energy advisor, Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch industries and the Walt Disney Company; Eric Ueland, a senate republican staffer who has previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs and William Palatitucci, an attorney in New Jersey whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon. The group has held regular meetings at the Washington offices of Baker Hostetler, a law and lobbying firm. On the last Thursday before the election, the group hosed a meeting attended by Microsoft’s Ed Ingle and Steve Hart, two lobbyists who have worked to promote the Trans Pacific partnership that Trump so passionately ridiculed in the debate. Other meetings have included briefings with Lobby groups that represent Wall Street Interests, as well as with groups that represent Saudi Arabia and the South Korean Government. Trump of course is not alone in relying on entrenched political insiders to shape his future administration, but it is undeniable that Trumps portrayal of himself as an alternative is nothing more than a lie that many Americans bought into, hook, line and sinker.
So who is responsible for Trump winning the election? The most obvious Culprits to start with are the republican elite who allowed their party to be hijacked by a far right and brutally unsuitable demagogue. A few notable exceptions such as Mitt Romney and former president George W. Bush, refused to endorse Trump, but the majority of republicans decided it was in their own political self-interest clamber onto the Trump bandwagon and cheerlead for him, despite knowing full well that he is one of the most dangerous candidates ever to run for office in the USA. The problem with blaming the republicans however, is that their recent history is stuffed full of terribly incompetent presidential candidates. Richard Nixon is rightly remembered as the most dishonest president in history. Ronald Reagan was a B movie actor, who went on to wholeheartedly apply neoliberal pseudo economics throughout his time in office. Ten there was George Bush who made Reagan look like a towering intellect by comparison. Then in 2012, there was Mitt Romney, just imagine who thought it was a good idea to put forward a vampire capitalist like Romney at a time when the nation was still suffering from the fallout of the fallout of a Global financial sector meltdown! Trying to blame the republicans for selecting terrifying, dishonest and outright moronic presidential candidates is like blaming the sun for setting at night or attempting to stop the tide coming in by shouting at it. It is just what republicans do!
If you’re looking for a particular voting demographic to blame for Trump, then there’s a much more obvious one than the white working class scapegoats. The white evangelical Christians came out to back the least Christian candidate the US has ever seen, and they are getting an astonishing free pass from the majority of the media elite for their hypocrisy. The exit polls suggest that Trump won the evangelical Christian vote 81% - 16%. In the key swing state of Florida, which arguably helped to secure the presidency for Trump, that margin was an even more emphatic 85% - 13%. Trump is a divisive, arrogant, intolerant, sexist, abusive, casino building, multiple times divorced, sexual predator, yet millions of so called evangelicals flocked the polls to give him the strongest evangelical endorsement of any candidate in decades. It is actually pretty easy to understand why millions of working class Americans would want to stick two fingers up to the political class that have oppressed them for years on end, but what I can’t wrap my head around is why people who claim to uphold the principles of the bible would want to vote for such a ludicrously immoral candidate, especially when a number of evangelical ministers specifically told them not to vote Trump. Then again, blaming white evangelicals for their abject hypocrisy is as fruitless as blaming the republicans for putting forward an even worse crackpot candidate than the ones before Trump. White evangelicals flocking to the polls to vote Republican is as reliable as the Republicans picking terrifying presidential candidates for them to vote for.
In my view the most blameworthy people of all for this result are the Democratic Party elite who worked tirelessly to undermine Bernie Sanders and rig the Democratic primaries against him. These people deliberately crushed Sanders campaign simply because they believed that it was Hillary Clintons turn to be President. The polls clearly showed that Sanders had a much better chance of defeating Trump, but the Democratic Party elite and pretty much all of their anti-democratic super delegates, sided with Clinton, but it is much worse than that. The evidence is absolutely clear that elite democrats deliberately rigged the contest to ensure that Sanders couldn’t win the nomination. The incredible misfire of derailing a grassroots democracy campaign in favour of appointing the most pro-establishment Wall Street friendly candidate imaginable is all too obvious now Trump has won, but it was always a deeply risky move, especially considering the revolutionary mood that has been growing in global politics since the global financial sector insolvency crisis of 2008. People all over the world have been crying out for alternatives to complacent political elites who allowed the global financial sector meltdown to happen in the first place, then even more unforgivably loaded the cost of the crisis onto the backs of ordinary people whilst allowing the super-rich minority to make themselves even richer. Incredibly the Democratic Party elitists decided to completely ignore this revolutionary mood and install their favoured Wall Street backed puppet candidate rather than support the candidate who was running an inspirational anti-establishment campaign that was tapping into political anger at a political system that does not serve the interests of ordinary people. We will never know whether Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump, because the Democratic Party elites colluded with Clinton to prevent the possibility. However, we can be sure that Sanders message of change would have done a lot more to take out of Trumps ‘make America great again’ message, than Clintons constant ‘more of the same’ rhetoric.
Overall, there are two responses to Trumps victory, one is to blame the people of America, and the other is to blame the elite of the country. In the coming days and weeks, many political pundits will be doing the former. Frightened liberals have already written explainers on how to move to Canada: On the night after the election the Canadian immigration website went down after a surge of traffic. The people who brought us to this precipice are now planning their escape. Blaming the American public for Trumps victory only deepens the elitism that rallied Trumps campaign in the first place. It’s unquestionable that racism and sexism played a role in Trumps rise, and it’s horrifying to contemplate the ways in which his triumph will serve to strengthen the cruellest and most bigoted forces in American society. Still, a response to Trump that begins and ends with horror is not a political response, it is a form of paralysis, a politics of hiding under the bed. This is a new era that requires a new type of poitics, one that speaks to people’s needs and hopes rather than their fears. Elite liberalism, it turns out, cannot defeat right wing populism. We can’t move to Canada or hide under the bed. This is a moment to embrace democratic policies, not repudiate them.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The US Election: A Choice Bettween Two Forms of Violence

There should be a plural term for violences. This would help us to talk about and choose between different forms of violence. Today, it would seem, with the US election, this would mean judging between different brands of violence, in the sense of product lines. Calculated, targeted and intimidating violence – the violence of drones for example, compared to inflammatory, provocative and intimidating violence – the violence of terrorism. Today the American people will have to choose between two forms of violence. The system, represented by Hillary Clinton and the anti-system conjured up by Donald Trump. In my blog post on the subject I have actively tried to avoid using broad terms like ‘fascism’ or ‘totalitarianism’. Such terms function to stop thought and end judgement by precluding discrimination. They are used to mobilise an attitude that pre-empts scrutiny, or even interest. If something is fascist or totalitarian we should be able to ask what kind it is and how bad it might be, but the history of fascism makes such questions taboo.
 
For the first Time I break this rule. Donald Trump is a fascist. Do not vote for him. He draws on all the violence of the extreme capitalist market place, combines it with the showmanship and cartoonish flamboyancy of the games show. And applies it to mobilising violence against minorities, supposedly in the name of ‘making America great again’. It is not merely Trumps own personality that has caused this, however narcissistic or bigoted it may be. Trump is able to fund his own campaign, hardly any strings attached, and the voters who see trump as an alternative to the rotten political system they are living under love him for it. This is more than about personality politics. This is also a weakness however. Trump is on his own. There are no Trump Stormtroopers. He has not created an organised movement. He is the personification of the late capitalist spectacle. He draws a crowd, creates an audience, goads them into exuberance and, as a master of the political branch of the entertainment industry, gets votes. Trump draws his support from the energy and thrill of violation. The American media and marketplace is constantly stimulating people and putting them on edge, yet it is remarkably dull and bland. It makes the violation of norms seem ‘authentic’ and ‘real’. By violating people and processes, speaking the unspeakable, and breaking the will of the conventional Trump creates a reality. This is a politics of turnout, not organising or creating a political machine ready to change America. It is for this reason that if elected, Trump will find himself having his strings pulled by establishment republicans, like his vice chancellor, Mike Pence. However, I also think that if Trump wins it leads to war or dictatorship because these are the only ways to control the expectations and forces such a call unleashes. America won’t tolerate dictatorship so it leads to war, external against whoever gets on the wrong side of America, and internal against minorities.
However, violence of a different kind has already been taking place against Americans of colour and those who are poor. Over 50 million who are eligible are not registered to vote, and over the last decade more than ten million, in homes and households where people are registered, have lost jobs in manufacturing. In Brexit Britain we are told that many voted to leave the EU because the health service is under pressure, because housing is costly when it exists and because incomes have flatlined.   However, in the US is there is no NHS or social security net. It is a brutal country. Its wealth makes this worse. While Trump supporters are not exclusively poor, many have experience hardships that Trumps rhetoric appeals to pose an alternative to. Hilary Clinton personifies the system violence of the past thirty tears that has created this situation. From the industrial incarceration of black people, the job losses of globalisation without counter measures to the Iraq war. Now Hillary agrees that invading Iraq was a mistake, but she remains an interventionist and cold warrior, fully engaged with the traditional projection of American power, and of course Wall Street. Those who simply want to remove this reality are worse than naïve.
Of course, many of the people who are voting for Hillary or Trump have their reasons for doing so, and I am not going to tell you how to vote. However, we will inevitably see a continuation of traditional American violence. When Barack Obama still appeared as an outsider candidate in 2008, he described his foreign policy as ‘don’t do stupid shit’. Today its miserable imperative is an essential instruction as to how Americans should vote: Don’t do stupid shit!

Against The Third Party

In the aftermath of the official Presidential debates, plagued by numerous scandals and hand wringing over who is the worst choice, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remain in a tight race for the White House. However, it is clear that both candidate have alienated sections of their Party’s own support base. Hillary Clinton has not been able to win over segments of Bernie Sanders core support and Donald Trump seems far too extreme to warrant the support of many traditional republican voters.
 
Many Americans – repulsed by both Clinton and Trump – are likely to cast a vote for a Third Party. Predictably, mainstream commentators have been quick to condemn this type of vote, evoking the memory of Ralph Nader’s Green Party run in 2000, and referring to Third Party voting as election spoiling. Much of this hysteria has centred on the ‘Bernie or Bust’ campaign, which is increasingly associated with the candidacy of Jill Stein.  Despite many on the left endorsing a Green vote, Stein has pooled a significant faction of her support from pandering to America’s anti-vaccination crowd. Her party also holds extremely anti science positions on nuclear energy and genetic engineering. However, the Green Party is by no means the largest third party in American politics.  
That distinction belongs to the Libertarian Party, whose presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former republican governor of New Mexico has seized upon the dissatisfaction that many Americans feel with both the Republican and the presidential candidates in order to promote yet another right wing agenda. However, Johnson is not simply repeating the tired old libertarian talking points. He’s changing the role of traditional Third Parties in the US. Instead of staking his territory far to the right of Donald Trump, in order to attract true believers in capitalism, he has lunged to the centre in hopes of attracting bipartisan support. He is behaving like a major party candidate in a year when the Republican nominee consistently acts like a third party candidate. Combining the rhetoric with an isolationist economic platform, Trump certainly does not seem to have mellowed overtime. Instead he has presented himself as the right wing pole of the political landscape. This has cleared space for Gary Johnson to present the Libertarian Party as a progressive alternative to Trumps republicanism. This is not a new phenomenon however. Since its founding forty years ago, the Libertarian Party has served as a right wing protest party, whose main task has always been to badger the GOP into continuing to repeal scarce state protections for ordinary people, each time Republican enthusiasm wavers.
While Johnson may make embarrassing appeals to progressive minded young voters, he can’t escape from the fact that the Libertarian program is inherently antagonistic to the vast majority of people, both in the US and globally. The Libertarians want to completely demolish the already weak federal protections for organised labour. They want to abolish all minimum wage laws. They promote open borders, but for the cynical reason of providing a more flexible labour force for American business. Since their inception they have worked to actively abolish the limited social safety net that protects some of the most vulnerable workers. Such an extreme right wing platform leaves Johnson with few options when it comes to presenting the Libertarian Party as some kind of progressive force, capable of snagging both moderate Republicans appalled by Trump and dissident democrats disillusioned with Clinton. By emphasising decriminalisation of drugs and cutbacks to military spending as the main planks of his campaign Johnson has been able to paint the Libertarians as a progressive force in American politics. This has allowed him to place himself not only to the left of Trump but to the left of Clinton – who remains associated with the tough on crime extremism of the 1994 omnibus crime bill and the military interventionism that characterized her tenure as secretary of state. By focusing in this way on the two most visible manifestations of state power – military intervention and the Drug war – Johnson does make a believable argument that the state is far too big and powerful. It is by hammering this point home that Johnson has built a campaign intended to appeal to the right left and centre.
This is not entirely the fault of Johnson himself. Indeed, by incorporating pieces of Libertarian ideology into their rhetoric over the past several decades, the GOP has helped prime the pump for Johnson’s rise. He has every reason to believe his message will resonate with republican voters who have consistently cast their ballots believing that government intervention is the problem. On the other hand, it is safe to assume that ant capitalists will not find themselves drawn to the Johnson campaign in droves. The real concern is that the 2016 campaign may drive the worst aspects of ‘anti-state politics’ among young progressive voters – an especially dangerous prospect in an election where capital is overwhelmingly backing Hillary Clinton. Socialists must make the case that right wing Libertarianism gravely misunderstands the real dynamics of power in society. Power isn’t just embodied by the state. – And unregulated market competition can never structure a society.
Despite all of his faux progressive window dressing, socialism is the antithesis of the politics of Gary Johnson and his brand of Libertarianism. It is for this reason, that the Libertarian Party will never be a progressive force and does not deserve our vote.