Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Why Gun Control is an Inefficient way of Dealing with Gun Violence

In response to mass shootings, such as the one’s witnessed in Orlando and Dallas, we always hear the liberal call for gun control amplified. In certain ways this logic makes sense. The Republics commitment to guns reeks of double standards, and gun lobbies such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) are ridiculously powerful. However, calling for gun control in light of shootings which target a given group or minority is also profoundly reactionary. It neglects the core causes of shootings: the systematic oppression of LGBT people, black people and other minorities. It also ignores the historic and ongoing racialization of gun legislation. All the while, reinforcing a narrative that legitimises the right of ‘professional’ groups, such as the police and the military, to arm themselves. Indeed, since the Orlando massacre, mainstream liberal news outlets such as CNN, have been rife with stories about how easy it is to get a gun in America. At the stonewall vigil in New York, a call for politicians to ‘get guns of the streets’ was met with applause from the four thousand strong crowd, and every elected official that spoke conveyed these same virtues. Despite this, most politicians have avoided discussing the social and political attitudes which shape homophobia, which was the real motivation for the Orlando gunman. Those same members of congress who conducted a theatrical sit in on the House of Representatives floor, had little to nothing to say on the climate of hate leading up to the massacre. This blog post will look at why, if we are to bring an end to gun violence, we must focus on what causes it, not just what facilitates it.

Homophobia

The prevalence of widespread homophobia in causing attacks such as the Orlando massacre, should be absolutely obvious, considering how common homophobic violence was in the United States and abroad. The National Centre for Transgender Equality, found that 63 percent of Transgender people in the US have experienced severe acts of discrimination including loss of jobs, school bullying, eviction, and even physical assault. Ethnic and racial LGBT minorities are particularly vulnerable to this kind of discrimination. In 2014, eighty percent of anti LGBT murder victims were people of colour. This is not limited to the US however, In the United Kingdom, homophobic hate crimes increased by twenty two percent in 2015, while forty eight transgender women were murdered in Brazil, in January of this year. Nor is violence and discrimination against LGBT people purely a product of individual acts. In spite of the fact that the US proclaims itself to be wonderfully democratic and free, over twenty two states have legalized hate through anti LGBT laws. More than one hundred anti LGBT laws have been proposed in councils and government institutions throughout the entire country in the course of one year, many of them a response to the federal legalisation of same sex marriage in 2015.
The Orlando massacre saw violence being carried out against Latino, black and brown LGBT people, in the one space where they try and show solidarity with one another. However, rather than using the attack as an opportunity to discuss state sanctioned discrimination and the rising violence that is happening as a result. The liberal mainstream media outlets have focused on introducing more aggressive gun control legislation, while the more right wing outlets such as Fox News have focused on issues such as terrorism and Islam (In spite of the fact that a 2015 poll found that US Muslims are more accepting of homosexuality then evangelical Christians, Mormons, and Jehovah’s witnesses). This ignores the fact that homophobic attacks are not an aberration, but rather a feature of the negative political and social attitudes directed towards LGBT people, and people of colour. In blatantly failing to acknowledge this, politicians have been all too happy to play along, escaping any responsibility for fostering this environment of hate.

The Racialisation of Gun Laws

Focussing concerns about violence purely on gun control, also helps to avoid uncomfortable questions for politicians about the racialized nature of existing gun laws. The access to guns as well rhetoric about the second amendment, guaranteeing every American citizen the right to ‘keep and bear arms’, gives the impression of equality under the law. However, these laws are actually applied differently according to the race of the person committing the violence, the number of people involved and the race of the victims.
Take for example the ‘Stand your Ground’ laws. A study in 2012 examined 200 stand your ground cases in Florida, and found that defendants who killed a black person were found not guilty 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person were found guilty 59 percent of the time. Adding to this, 2012 saw George Zimmerman acquitted of second degree murder, despite killing seventeen year old African American boy, Trayvon Martin, in cold blood. Later that year, African American women Marisa Alexander, was initially sentenced to twenty years for firing a warning shot, when her husband threatened to kill her.  This kind of racial discrimination under the law, extends to gun control legislation. The Democrat’s strongest actions for gun control have been based on the no fly list, a racist measure left over from the Bush era, which almost exclusively targets Muslims. This is in spite of the fact that, mass shooters are typically right wing, white men from Christian backgrounds. Even ACLU lawyers, making the case against the no fly list have no idea how someone gets on there, or how they can be removed. This means that, as the Justice Department rightfully admitted, hundreds of thousands of people could be listed as a result of outdated information. This makes clear that, far from being separate from racist policies, laws surrounding gun control disproportionately target black Americans that possess arms, making them a target of police violence. Yet I have never seen leading democrats hold a sit in to protest the killing of black and brown people by police. Indeed, they seem all too happy to support the police. This leads me to my next point.

Solving the Gun Problem with more Guns

Another problem with channelling the debate towards gun control is that it creates and thus legitimises violence perpetrated by the police. Those asking for the banning of assault rifles, seem to conveniently forget that police surround protests with barricades and those very same assault rifles. To justify this, politicians draw the distinction between what they see as legitimate gun use and what they see as illegitimate gun use. In response to the Orlando shooting, former US Army Command general Stanley Chrystal said ‘our leaders can start by keeping guns out of the hands of those who cannot be trusted to use them responsibly’. So, for politicians and the mainstream media, who can be trusted to use guns responsibly?
It would seem that the answer to this is the police and the military. Despite this, taking this view tends to see these institutions as inflatable, whereas the routine murder and intimidation of minorities by the police, shows us this is not the case. Martin Luther King Jr believed that state violence, was a problem and he made no exception to the United States, declaring it the ‘greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’. This statement is as true now as it was then. The US military continues to brutalise the Global South, while in the US itself, 1,185 people died at the hands of police in 2015. That’s more than the number of people killed in mass shootings in the last fifty years. Queer folks, particularly queer people of colour, experience high rates of physical and verbal abuse at the hands of police. A survey carried out by organisation Make the Roads, of residents in Jackson Heights, found that 54 percent of LGBT respondents had reported having experienced abuse from authorities. The number was even higher for transgender people, 61 percent of whom reported harassment by cops. These findings are not unique to New York. The Williams Institute at UCLA found in a 2014 national survey, that nearly three out of four people living with HIV, reported face to face contact with police last year. About a quarter of those reported Hostile attitudes from officers. Indeed, it is telling that the Orlando gunman had previously worked for G4S and was obsessed by the New York Police Department. He even purchased his assault rifle from an NYPD officer. This tendency towards violence, reflects a mentality which has distinguished America’s history, from the illegal invasion of Iraq to the genocide of Native Americans.

Conclusion

One could make the argument that, despite all the factors I have mentioned in this article, it is necessary to side with the Democratic stance on gun control, in order to combat Republicans and Gun Lobbies. In my opinion however, the failure of liberals to recognise aspects of the debate such as police brutality and discrimination against minorities, makes siding with democrats on the issue extremely counterproductive, to the cause of advancing social change. Instead, we should seek to open up a space to the left of Obama and Hillary Clinton, which while criticizing Conservative stances of guns, also challenges the root causes of gun violence in American society.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Movements and Revolutions #3 - Remebering the Dutch Teenage Partisans

On July the second, sculptress and former member of the anti-Nazi Dutch Armed Resistance, Truus Menger Oversteegen, (pictured) died at the age of 92. Ideas of anti-fascism are often used in a patriotic way, in order to remember those who died during the Second World War. However, her life should remind us of the important role that Socialists and Anarchists played in the fight against the Nazis. Importantly, the fact that the Dutch state did not recognise Overteegen’s role in the resistance until 2014, tells us something about the politics of WW2 commemorations. During the war, Oversteegen, Mirjam Ohringer, and Els Schalker Kastange, described themselves famously as the ‘three musketeers’. All three were militant left wing women, who had had radical values instilled in them long before the outbreak of the Second World War. Each of them also suffered great personal losses as a result of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In 1941, just one year after the invasion, almost all of Mirjam’s family, was swept up in a wave of anti-Semitic arrests in Amsterdam, and subsequently murdered in Mauthausen concentration camp. Els’s father was murdered in Dachau, while Truss lost three member of her resistance group, including Hannie Schaft - ‘The Girl with Red Hair’, who became an icon of Dutch antifascist resistance. After World War two ended, they promoted an unapologetically left wing form of political commemoration, under the slogan ‘Not Now, Not Then, Never’, as an attempt to promote the real story of Dutch resistance.
 

The Netherlands before the War

Mainstream story’s about Anti-Fascist resistance in occupied Western Europe tend to focus specifically on Germanys 1940 conquest. This is hardly surprising. Before the German Invasion, the Netherlands had Aheared to a policy of strict Neutrality. The country had narrow bonds with Germany, and less so with Britain. The fact that they had not been invaded during the First World War, and had not engaged in a war with any European country since 1830, meant that Anti German sentiment was not strong there. In addition to this, the German ex Keiser had fled to the Netherlands in 1918, and lived there in exile. The shock of the German invasion forced the country to adopt a neutral stance during the war, even going as far as shooting down British planes as well as German ones, and routinely handing refugees that the Dutch police caught, over to the Gestapo.
This absolute cowardice from the Dutch government to resist the Nazis in any meaningful way whatsoever either prior to or during the war, meant that the seeds of resistance were sewn early. By November 1938, during the Kristallnacht, many Dutch people received a taste of things to come. During the Kristallnacht, the burning of German synagogues could be seen from the Netherlands. As if to send a message out to their own government as well as Dutch fascist movements, an anti-Nazi movement started to gain popularity, it was one that would persist into and long after the war. Involved in this resistance were Oversteegen, Ohringer, and Schalker Kastange, the ‘three musketeers’ whose families participated in ‘Red Aid’, a group which helped Jewish and political refugees illegally cross the border between Germany and the Netherlands. They proudly recall in their memoirs that, at an early age, they learnt to be silent about the strangers that were hidden in their bedrooms. In the first years of the Nazi occupation, these young women handed out leaflets, distributed illegal newspapers and helped to procure aid for refugees.  Their success in never being caught, depended on what they had learnt from Red Aid. All this happened while the Dutch government routinely failed to stand up against the fascists.

Growing Resistance

In 1941, Socialists and Anarchists in the Netherlands participated in a general strike, in response to the first Nazi raid on Amsterdam’s Jewish Population. This was unusual for the Dutch, who up to this point had only participated in more subtle forms of resistance, such as tearing down posters and handing out leaflets. Regardless of this, resistance was what was required. The old Jewish quarter in Amsterdam had been cordoned off into a ghetto. In the raid, 425 Jewish men were taken hostage by the Nazis and sent to death camps. Many citizens of Amsterdam rightly protested this gross violation of human rights. The next day, factories in Zaandam, Haarlem, IJmuiden, Weesp, Bussum, Hilversum and Utrecht all joined in. During the protests Mirjam’s father hid one of the printing presses producing the anti-Nazi leaflets in his tailor shop, while Truss and her sister Freddie leafletted factories. The strike was sadly destroyed within a day, with German troops firing on the unarmed protesters, and killing at least nine people. Despite this, resistance only intensified as a result, and no other country showed such overt refusal to cooperate with the occupiers.
As I mentioned earlier, with the neutrality of the Dutch government towards the Nazis, political repression was originally not as harsh as it was in other occupied territories. However, the repression that followed the general strike was brutal, firmly changing the nature of resistance. It became much more dangerous for Jews to participate in organised protest. Most, Like Mirjam, were forced to go into hiding. Deportations, supported by the compliant Dutch police force, went up, while some people could earn small sums of money for reporting Jews. It was around this time of mounting oppression, that a local militant approached Truss and her sister, both of whom were still in their teens, to join the partisans. This small cell of fighters, consisting of eight members, was connected to other groups through their commander Frans Van Der Wiel, and became one of the most famous Dutch resistance groups. When the student Hannie Schaft joined them in 1943, they considered her the ‘intellectual’, because all the initial members came from working class backgrounds. Together, the three women and five men sabotaged railway lines, rescued Jewish children and killed Nazi collaborators. While violence was never their aim, they grieved over the murder of Jews and political opponents. Truss even courageously carried on after her comrades were arrested and shot, a fate that befell Hannie Schaff.

After the War

When the nationalist forces led by Prince Bernhard, a onetime Nazi sympathiser, joined the fight, they rolled back the Community Party’s influence in favour of a conservative led ‘national front’. There are still rumours that Truss’ fighting units were deliberately turned over to the Nazis. For years tensions remained between the Dutch government and the communists. These tensions were quickly washed away however in the post war commemoration culture, which celebrated a unified struggle, led by the monarchy, against the German invaders.
Despite this, for left wing militants like Truss, the struggle extended beyond national liberation. They had hoped that a defeat of fascism would usher in a left wing reconstruction of Europe. Despite this, the Cold War quickly dashed their hopes, and revamped tensions between communists and nationalists. 1n 1952, when the Communist Party organized the first commemoration for Hannie Schaff, the government ironically banned the demonstration, and a police force was sent in to disperse the crowd. For years, the Dutch left organized its own World War Two commemorations, separate from the official ones. It is no surprise that it took the Dutch state until 2014, to give Truss and her sister acknowledgement for participating in the resistance.

Conclusion

Even the long overdue recognition of left wing freedom fighters, has served the function of depoliticizing resistance movements. The horrors of Nazi occupation are used to remind us of abstract notions of sovereignty, justice and democracy, and to reinforce the idea of liberal capitalism as a free and democratic socio economic system. For veteran fighters like Truss, this kind of commemoration must seem vacuous and void of any political message. They believed that fascism grew up in the folds of free market capitalism. They knew that their willingness to take direct action and resist the pre fascist state, helped them survive in the dark years that followed. As we lose this generation of resistance fighters, we must not let official culture erase their revolutionary politics. We are living in an era of officially sponspered nationalism, persecution of refugees and the growing threat of far right movements. Therefore, it is important that we fully remember this legacy.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Awful Arguments #5 - The 'Theresa May is a Champion for Feminism' lie


I have long maintained as a Libertarian Socialist, that in order to offer a complete critique of Capitalism and the State, we must show solidarity with the groups most oppressed by this system. We should seek to take an intersectional approach to the issue, realising that activist organisations which focus on the rights of gay people, black people, transgender people, and etc. cannot focus solely on one group or minority. In addition to this, we should seek to mount a fight against fascism and all ideologies which seek to limit our rights and subject us to unaccountable authorities.  It is for this reason that I refuse to play by the rules of mainstream identity politics. I am sick to death, of liberals arguing that all that is required for the advancing of social change is electing women and minorities to government, and leaving it at that. This is not to say that I don’t support women or any other groups having a say in decision making process, but that we need to recognise that capitalism and statism are inherently oppressive, and require more than liberal reform. Some of the reactions from the more liberal news outlets to the fact that Britain now has another female Prime Minister are ridiculously misinformed at best. This article will point out why Theresa May is not a champion of feminism.
 

May Is Not a Feminist Prime Minister

The very notion that the left should support the likes of Theresa May simply because she is female, is absolutely absurd. Just a quick look at the politics of this appalling women, should reveal why it is never a good idea to judge candidates based solely on their identity and not their policies
Since the Conservatives were first elected in 2010, May has helped to implement an austerity programme responsible for cutting public services, dismantling the welfare state and redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. Women have been brutally affected by these kinds of policies. They increasingly have to rely on Zero hour contracts that don’t guarantee enough money, and have lost more in real wages than men. The fact that child care relies heavily on women, means that they often have to rely on food banks to feed themselves and their children. This pattern is especially true for women of colour. In the Midlands, unemployment among minority women increased by 74.4% between 2009 and 2013. As a result of all this, decreasing job security is pushing women back into the home. Combined with the growing housing crisis, the destruction of affordable publicly owned housing and cuts to social services, many women are forced to stay in abusive relationships, because they have no other option. In 2014 May claimed that she wanted to ‘end violence against women and girls’. However, her austerity agenda reveals that this is nothing but an appeal to popular morality, a fa├žade to hide all the factors which contribute to a highly unstable economic situation, for many women in the country.
Theresa May’s job as home secretary from 2010-2016, meant that she was in charge of managing issues relating to immigration and safety. For all of Theresa Mays empty rhetoric about being the most feminist Prime Minister the country has ever had, you would think she would have promoted this through her immigration reforms. Instead, she has overseen legislation which empowers landlords to evict tenants without immigration status, wholeheartedly supported cuts to lifesaving services, and made it so that migrant women with no status in the UK cannot access public funds, preventing them from moving into refuge spaces. May is also responsible for covering up sexual abuse behind the walls of Yarl’s wood immigration detention centre. For those of you that don’t know, Yarl’s wood holds migrant women awaiting deportation. Research done by Women against Rape found that about 70 percent of the women there are already survivors of sexual violence, a frightening figure which illustrates the extent that migrant women come to Britain to escape violence. We know from the testimonies of many past detainees that sexual violence in the facility is vast, the only reason we cannot be sure of the exact figures is because May refuses to release them. Her reasoning for this, is that to essentially go some way to ‘ending violence against women and girls’ by blowing the whistle on this abuse, would ‘prejudice against the commercial interests’ of companies like G4S and Serco, who help to run the detention centre. This shows how much the Prime Ministers allegiance lies firmly with big business, and against vulnerable women in search of safety.  

Fallacious Identity Politics

The general reaction from the mainstream media and some politicians to the fact that we now have a female Prime Minister seems to have been that this is somehow a victory for feminism. Theresa May seems prepared to stick by this narrative. Indeed upon her first PMQ’s, May stated that
‘I Keep Hearing from the Labour Party, What do the Conservatives do for women, well it just keeps making us Prime Minister’

This is just such a fallacious comment that I barely need to explain why. It essentially uses the fact that the conservative Party have had two female Prime Ministers, to whine that Labour have never had a female leader. The comment fails to explain that two of the contenders in last year’s Labour Leadership election were female, and were beaten due to massive support for Jeremy Corbyn and his progressive agenda. I have to wonder if May remembers the fact Liz Kendall was from the unpopular tight wing fringe of the Labour Party, and that she only picked up 4.5% of the vote as a result. I also have to wonder if May thought about Angela Eagle, who lined herself up to replace Jeremy Corbyn during the anti-democratic efforts to bully him out of his job, but then chickened out after it became clear that Corbyn was not going to step down. Unless Theresa May is arguing for an overturning of democracy within the Labour Party, so it can be replaced with a leadership selection process based on gender, it is not entirely clear what the Prime Minister is getting at. This sets a dangerous precedent for politics, as it essentially boils all issues of ideology down to whether our politicians are men or women. It clearly does not matter to Theresa May what gender the leader of the Labour Party is, she is just using a version of conservative pseudo-feminism in order to score political points against Corbyn, in the hope that it will make her look like a champion of women’s rights.

Conclusion

Overall, there are two different worldviews that surround feminism in politics. The first seeks to make representation within conventional politics more equal. The second seeks to address the root causes of sexism. It seems that while ideological work is being done to give air to the first worldview. Some are arguing that this worldview will help towards greater women’s rights as a whole. Despite this, what status can you rise to when you are a women in a detention centre awaiting deportation? Can Theresa Mays gender really save anymore domestic violence refuges from closing? The media will use Theresa May to strengthen the ideology of neoliberalism, by giving it a feminist makeover and saying to the electorate, ‘don’t worry yourself about politics, that’s for us to deal with’. However, the only feminist victory worth celebrating will be the abolishment of Mays Austerity Programme and racist immigration policies.

Friday, 22 July 2016

After Dallas

At the end of a week that opened with Independence Day on the 4th of July, Americans got some stark reminders that not everyone in the country is free. Over the course of five days, at least seventeen people were killed by police. The most widely protested of these shootings was of Alton Sterling, a thirty seven year old black man shot dead in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, a thirty two year old black man shot in Minnesota. In an event that was not unrelated to these two incidents, but added to the shock and controversy surrounding them, Micah Xavier Johnson shot five police officers in Dallas, who had been assigned to an anti-police brutality march. After an extended standoff, Johnson was killed when police equipped a drone to deliver a bomb. In the aftermath of these terrible events, the right has seized upon the killing of police officers to discredit the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Other conservatives have claimed that black Lives Matter is making it harder for police, propagating the myth that policing is the most ‘hazardous job in the country’. Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani claimed that the black lives matter movement is ‘inherently racist, because it divides us’ chastising activists for supposedly ignoring violence in black communities. There are obviously lots of other issues at play here, access to guns being among them. I would like to do another blog post on why on think gun control is insubstantial, in dealing with violence. However, as the wave of mourning and protests suggests, people in America are crying out for more substantial changes than gun control. This blog post will focus on the race and police brutality aspect of the recent events, explaining why we can’t let bigots and conservatives, co-opt them for their own ends.
 

Black Lives Matter

Within moments of the shooting of the five Dallas police officers by Johnson, mainstream media outlets were asking: where do black lives matter go from here? The New York Times even went as far to present two versions of the same story with the headline declaring ‘Strides of Black Lives Matter Halt in an Instant’ and then ‘Black Lives Matter was Gaining Ground. Then a Sniper Open Fired’
The general premise surrounding such rhetoric, is the misinformed assumption that the killing of the police officers stem from the ideas of BLM. Firstly, it needs pointing out that this is a dangerous assumption, in that it creates hostility towards anyone demanding accountability from their government, on the issue of race. This is despite the fact that Johnson was identified as a lone assailant, not affiliated with any activist group. This has happened before, when in March 2015, two police officers were killed in Ferguson, critics of the movement tried to lay the blame at the feet of BLM. However, this tragedy did not end the movement, because the movement to cause this tragedy. Indeed, despite claims that BLM are only focussing on black Americans, they have managed to take a relatively intersectional approach to social issues, by extending their concerns to education, labour, gender equality and the rights of LGBT people. The intimidation and arrests of those who have videotaped police misconduct and protested, has not stopped the wave of organising across the entire country. Regardless of the rhetoric coming from the mainstream press, surely the ability of the movement to clearly articulate its objectives, and to concentrate on an array of issues, answers all questions about the movement’s future viability.

Broken Windows Policing

As I mentioned earlier in the article, one of the main people to condemn Black Lives Matter, following the Dallas shooting was the Former Mayor of New York. However, his rhetoric that black lives matter is divisive is extremely ironic, coming from someone who has been the flag bearer of ‘broken windows’ policing.
The premise of broken windows is a simple one: small crimes or acts that seem ‘disorderly’ such as vandalism and public drinking, must be repressed in order to prevent more dangerous forms of criminal behaviour. The idea first emerged when corporations in New York became enthusiastic about plans to rejuvenate some of the main areas of the city, in an effort to attract tourists and wealthy residents. However, these plans ran headfirst into the city’s growing population of homeless people. The racial demographics of New York’s homelessness, being predominantly black, made the New York’s homeless, be associated with criminality and danger. Newspaper articles responded to this, by linking the mere premise of homelessness with crime and vandalism, implicitly preying on racist fears. It was for these reasons that the policy of broken windows policing was specifically developed. In the decades since, broken windows has been at the heart of a broad range of policy initiatives, like stop and search and CompStat – fuelled arrests in African American communities. The unreasonable response to Eric Garner’s sale of loose cigarettes, responsible for his suffocation and death was broken windows policies taken to their logical conclusion. What policies like these do is target the victims of a socio-economic system that already neglects minorities, because of their historical status as subservient, and the longer we keep such policies alive, the longer structural racism will be a problem.

Sterling and Castile were killed because of the Colour of their Skin

Some progressive to left leaning publications have published articles in the aftermath of the killing of Castile and Sterling, trying to detach the killings from the issue of white supremacy, by arguing that it is wrong to assume that skin colour can commit murder, and that not just black people are victims of police violence. This is well intentioned, but fails to address the issue of racism.
One article that caught my attention was a piece in left leaning publication Jacobin entitled, ‘Did the colour of his skin kill Philando Castile?’ by Barbara and Karen Fields. This article sees the authors repeating the commonly used phrase that ‘Skin colour has no capacity to act, either for good or for ill’. This is obviously a true statement, but tells us nothing, because no one who is not a complete racist, ever claims the opposite. It also fails to explain why Sterling and Castile were ultimately, stopped and killed. I understand what people who use this argument are trying to do, in shifting blame away from the target to the aggressor, but few who claim that such attacks happen because of the colour of the targets skin, are trying to blame to the victim. Instead, they are pointing to structural patterns of white supremacy within society. To make the ‘skin colour can’t pull a trigger’ argument, is to do nothing more than to cloak a generally misguided approach to police brutality, in the language of progressive politics. Surely it would be more constructive to take an approach which recognises that there are a myriad of different issues at play here, such as class, but that white supremacy is one of the main factors.
This leads me to my second point. In their Piece, Barbara and Karen fields do make some attempt to come up with a structural argument, explaining police killings as the result of increasing ‘emotional instability, poor judgement, inadequate training and ill-considered policies’. However, this kind of argument ultimately falls flat, when looking at it from a historical point of view. American police have nearly always killed black people, without having to worry about the consequences of their actions. One may be tempted to highlight cases of police killing white people, in an attempt to highlight the inadequacy of arguments focusing on skin colour, and it is important that we take these cases into account. However, the damage wrought on white communities by heavily militarized police, does not change the fact that young black men are five times more likely to be killed by police then young white men. Focussing our arguments on white supremacy does not neglect structure or blame the victim. Rather, it is central to the idea of questioning hierarchy in American society. Without understanding this, it is impossible to understand why the right to bear arms applies to white Americans but not to black Americans, and why the right to ‘stand your ground’ was one enjoyed by George Zimmerman but no Trayvon Martin or Marissa Alexander.

Conclusion

I would like to end this blog post by quoting Frank Castro, a fellow political blogger. In his article on the Dallas shooting he states.
‘In the aftermath to come, Americans should remain vigilant of the mainstream media’s tendency to blame-both-sides equally, regardless of the lopsided casualties of police violence. And whether or not Americans will agree or disagree with Johnson’s actions should not be the question we explore most. Focusing on his actions alone is a convenient diversionary tactic which enables America’s white supremacist power structure to delegitimize his anger and sweep the issue of state terror back under the rug. Instead, we should ask how are we going to communicate to police officers that if they wish ever again to be secure from the consequences of their violence, their top priority must be to stop terrorizing black and brown communities. That if they truly desire their own safety, they will first have to stop murdering people — or else more chickens, inevitably, will come home to roost’.
This is largely accurate. When dealing with issues that involve race or other minorities, it is important to recognise the importance not just of the issue itself but the general reaction to it, as this is the thing that will determine the direction our society goes in. There are many who will unfortunately use the events in Dallas to throw fuel on the fire of racist politics and white supremacy. There are others who will try and ignore the issue of race completely. Our duty should be not to accept either of these viewpoints, but to mount our own opposition to racism, and the power structures that facilitate it.  

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Turkey Coup Attempt

Watching events unfold in Turkey over the past few days has certainly been interesting. The attempted military coup of President Erdogan, and the ensuing state of emergency that followed, will certainly have dire consequences for the people of Turkey. During the coup attempt, Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) shut down the two main bridges over the Bosporus in Istanbul. Other routes into the city such as Ataturk airport were captured and closed by the military. In addition to this, police units in the city were disarmed and civilians told to leave the streets. While this was going on, tanks were moved into the capital, Ankara, over which fighter jets were being flown. Heavy shelling and fighting soon broke out. Much as one may rightly be against the regime of President Erdogan, with his war against the Kurds, his persecution of anti-war academics his suppression of freedoms of speech, we should be under no illusions that this coup attempt was a crusade for democracy. Indeed, we should even be happy the coup attempt failed. Despite this, in lieu of the arrests that have already occurred, we can expect President Erdogan to clamp down further on the Kurds and opposition.  This blog post will look at precisely what has happened in turkey in these past days, assessing what some of the consequences may be.
 

How the Coup Unfolded

By the time a state of emergency was declared, it became clear to everyone that the military were attempting a takeover of power. Despite this, it took the people orchestrating the putsch over an hour to make a statement. Before soldiers eventually did manage to storm the state television and radio broadcaster and read out their declaration, the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of the ruling AKP, made a hasty comment on television, calling on the Turkish people to resist the coup.  Meanwhile, Istanbul erupted in fighting. The headquarters of the Turkish Military was occupied by plotters by around midnight. The Chief of the General Staff, Hulusi Akar, was taken hostage and forced to endorse the coup. The Parliament and the headquarters of the intelligence agency were fired at from fighter jets, while tanks patrolled in critical areas. The attacks concentrated on the police headquarters in Ankara, an institution considered loyal to the Erdogan and the AKP.
It later became clear that the coup attempt had not been planned by Generals. Indeed, most of the plotters were from the gendarmerie air force and were assisted by some parts of the armed forces. When this became clear, many senior generals, began phoning in to CNN Turk to condemn the coup, declaring it illegal and traitorous, and commanding the involved military units back into the barracks. Statements of opposition to the coup also came from numerous organisations, including the far right Nationalist Movement Party (AHP), the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), and the Pro-Kurdish Peoples Democracy Party (HDP). Half an hour after midnight, Erdogan himself manged to connect to CNN Turk, calling on his people to flock to the streets and airports and show loyalty to their president. Thousands of civilians did just that. Similarly, on the direction of the Minister for religious affairs, mosques all over the country implored people to take to the streets. By now government forces, civilians and AKP paramilitaries were able to take back some of the land, held by the military. When Erdogan eventually spoke at Aturuk airport at 4am, fighting was still continuing, but he and his supporters could definitively claim victory.

Why did the Coup Attempt Fail?

So, as I have made clear, the coup attempt was disastrously planned and executed. Indeed, it is difficult to wonder how anybody thought it was a good idea. Firstly, there was no political planning for the coup, despite its base of support being among those angry at the AKP regime. For a military coup to have got the support of the vast majority of the county’s population, it would have to be seen as paving the way for greater democracy and freedom in Turkey. The fact that the coup offered none of this, means that there is now not only large opposition to Erdogan in Turkey, but large opposition to putsches as well.  
The weakness of the Coup made it plausible that the action was launched prematurely. After it was clear that the regime in Turkey had won, President Erdogan called the coup attempt a blessing of Allah, for it had allowed the government to purge the military of ‘cancerous elements’. Erdogan had wanted to do this for quite some time, but was not able to, due to the semi independence of the military from the AKP. In addition to this, there is evidence indicating that the police and judiciary, planned to commence operations against individuals within the Turkish military, on July 16. Those elements may have been preparing for a coup in advance of the meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) in August, in which issues related to the Military are discussed with the government. Point being, fear of these actions unfolding, may have led the Military to stage their coup, much earlier than planned.

Who Was Responsible For the Coup?

Though this seems to be a plausible explanation for the timing of the coup and indeed why it was such a huge failure, it also remains unclear who the anti AKP elements in the military were. What we can say for definite however, is that they were a minority, not supportive of the late 2015 escalation, of the war in North Kurdistan. Despite this, all top military commanders, who have been arrested in the AKP’s struggle against the military since 2007, were found innocent and released from prison. In addition to this, just a few days before the coup attempt the Turkish Military had received, through legislation, cover for its bloody war crimes in North Kurdistan. This did not mean that the military was being made more independent. In fact, the AKP was forced to reconstitute the Military and go in to alliance with it. Part of the reason for this was the AKP losing its partner in the state, Gulens Religious community, after Erdogan blamed the Gulen for initiating corruption investigations against him. Following this, it became obvious that the AKP dominated paramilitaries could not fight the Kurdish Liberation Movement on their own. They needed Heavy Artillery to do so. The General Staff were happy with this arrangement, and were planning to use it to strengthen their own position within society. It seems likely that they were not involved in the coup.
However, there were tensions within all sections of the state, and within wider society. Since the 2013 Gezi Uprising, political and economic instability has constantly risked social upheaval. The latest developments in this crisis include the ousting of ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and a costly and risky war in North Kurdistan. Averting the risk caused by these actions and stabilising the bourgeois order, were surely among the main motivations of the coup. The fact that some higher commanders may have conspired in the coup, or were at least unsure what side to position themselves, makes clear that this is a complex situation. It is likely that some commanders only began siding with the government, after they saw that the military was going to fail. It is also likely that followers of Gulens religious community, within the military, were involved in the coup attempt. However, if they were organised in the military, chances are that a standoff could have taken place between the AKP and Gullenist elements. As such, while the top commanders in the military were probably not followers of Gulen, it is plausible that the two groups could cooperate, as despite not sharing the same ideology, they share a common enemy, are strongly pro NATO and both have a vaguely anti interventionist foreign policy. In their collaboration with the AKP, the military has already been successful in forcing Erdogan to take stances in Favour of NATO and wary of intervention in Syria. Despite this, both sides still remain partially independent of each other. The cleansing of the military by the AKP of those who conspired in the coup attempt, will not eradicate the possibility of a second one. That will be determined by the ability of Erdogan, to control the crisis he has produced.

The Countercoup

After the attempt to institute a military led government in the place of the AKP’s was essentially defeated, Erdogan started his countercoup almost immediately. A tide of repression against those supposedly involved in the coup attempt, or people ‘blacklisted’ by the government, had started.
In the space of one day following the coup attempt, almost eight thousand people were arrested. More than six thousand of these were soldiers. The number of people being detained and arrested is also expected to rise, as stated by the minister of justice. Since Friday night, Erdogan has kept asking people to occupy major places, in order to show loyalty. No other incidence could have provided him with the opportunity to mobilize his people on this scale, and consolidate his support. Many young soldiers, not all of whom were necessarily part of the coup, have been beaten and tortured by the crowd. Saturday night saw some groups attacking Kurdish neighbourhoods, some of which are well known for being left wing. One group also attacked Moda in Istanbul, a town well known for its bars and cafes, shouting slogans about the evils of drinking alcohol. Police supported some of these attacks, particularly when people in left wing areas began to fight back against the fascist mob. These same mobs interrupted Erdogan’s speeches over the weekend with the slogan ‘we want execution’ to which Erdogan replied ‘It is your right to demand it’. So far, these attacks have been unsuccessful and were resisted everywhere. Despite this, these factors show that Erdogan does not just want to eliminate the coup plotters, but to tighten his hold on all defiant sectors of society, and re-establish his authoritarian status through mass right wing mobilization.

What can we expect to Happen Next?

So, we have established so far that Erdogan appears to be the clear winner. An event like this was what he needed to regain credibility. More importantly however, he now appears to be a democratic hero, capable of rallying the Turkish people behind him. The countercoup signals exactly that.
Amongst all this, there is no doubt that Erdogan will use this opportunity to further consolidate his power. This is so obvious that US secretary of state John Kerry, explicitly expressed his concerns that Erdogan will use the failed coup attempt as an excuse to further crackdown on democracy. That would clearly be an overstretching of his capacities, triggering a severe crises, or even another coup. Since his popularity has peaked, he may call for a general election as soon as late autumn. In his distrust of the Military, he will try and build up a stronger department of police and Special Forces, loyal to the AKP. However, he has made no significant material gains. Many leading generals of the war in North Kurdistan were arrested. These included a high ranking generals who were hailed as a war heroes, after successfully leading operations in bedrocks of the Kurdish community, incidentally making them responsible for war crimes. They are now declared to be traitors. It is interesting, that so many of the soldiers waging war in North Kurdistan, were amongst the rebels. This might indicate that the war is not going too well for soldiers.  
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), released a statement on July 16h declaring the coup a war between rivalling factions of the Turkish state, and that the Kurds and all other democratic forces should stay out of the conflict. However, it would be more than surprising if the PKK did not use this situation to their own advantage. There are other units on the ground such as the police, but without the heavy artillery of the Armed Forces, the balance of power shifts heavily in favour of the Kurds. While we cannot know exactly what the Kurds will do at this point, it appears as if they are currently approaching the situation with care. While Erdogan may be unwilling to talk to the Kurds, the black hole left by the arresting of military personnel may leave him with no option, but to try and reopen peace negotiations with the PKK.

Conclusion

Overall, whatever happens in the coming days and weeks will be crucial for Turkey. Erdogan is likely to use the opportunity not only to arrest the plotters, but to push forward for stronger mobilizations and an intensified attack on opposition. It is important to remember that, what happened in the last two days was not a military coup for democracy, nor democracy against a military coup. It was and remains a war between a coup and a countercoup that will deepen, rather than solve, authoritarianism in Turkey.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Case Against Trident Renewal

Today the UK government is set to make the decision on whether or not they want to spend £205 billion pounds, on renewing a bunch of pointless killing machines that no one in their right mind would ever use. The idea is officially supported by both major political parties in the UK, despite it being a much more divisive issue in the Labour party, with Jeremy Corbyn strongly opposed to Trident renewal. Nuclear weapons are mainly a massively expensive leftover from the cold war. Nuclear weapons are absolutely useless against the likes of ISIS and Al Qaida, and neither are they of any use against home-grown terrorists. France’s stockpile of nuclear weapons has not stopped them suffering terrorist attacks, and the same can be said for Pakistan. The idea that the UK would be open to invasion from some country unspecified by the government, should we stop wasting millions of pounds on the ability to indiscriminately wipe out vast numbers of people, is absolutely absurd. Some of the countries without nukes that have not been invaded yet include Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan and Australia. It seems that the message Theresa May is trying to put out by calling for Trident Renewal, is that we are so bad at international diplomacy, that we won’t be able to stop other countries from declaring war on us, unless we invest billions in a huge ‘fuck off’ nuclear deterrent. This blog post will look at why the renewal of trident would be an absolute disaster for world politics and the species.
 

Trident Myths

For 65 years the British debate over nuclear weapons has been dominated by the myth that they are necessary for international security and power on the international stage, meaning that to speak out against them is to show a lack of backbone and patriotism. This is an oversimplified but highly potent manoeuvre. It has had an influence on elections, and means that politicians defending the status quo can swagger around, knowing that they have got a highly effective propaganda narrative up their sleeve.
When Tony Blair decided in 2006, to kick start the successor to the current submarine base nuclear weapons system, Trident, he was hoping for a traditional battle that would cement his legacy as the leader of the centre right New Labour, burying the CND supporting wing of the party who had been blamed for losing the 1983 and 1987 general elections. In the end Blair got a debate in parliament, which forced Blair to rely on the Conservative opposition to get his motion past. Fast forward to 2016, when our attention is being directed towards Russia’s actions in Ukraine, through suggesting that the Baltic States, which are formal NATO allies, are next on their expansionist list of targets. Surely it would be irrational for Britain to show a sign of international ‘weakness’ and not to renew their nuclear weapons, at a time when the country is facing so much peril. Indeed, it may be irrational if one believed that nuclear weapons had any part to play in Putin’s Calculations in the unfolding crisis. The truth is however, that the UK acquired and has retained its nuclear weapons, because of domestic political considerations and manipulation of historical narratives, not because of any genuine international strategy. The British identity is heavily influenced by our experiences during the Second World War, when Britain stood against and defeated the Nazis. The fact that Putin has been compared to such despots as Hitler, is no coincidence. If a threat from Russia was a good case for trident, then a good start would be to get British banks to stop investing in Russia nuclear programmes.  Finally, Even though there is no credible scenario where Britain would stand alone in facing a Russian invasion of Europe, this does not seem to dent many people’s fears.
It seems that much of the justification for replacing trident given by politicians, like Theresa May, is based on the idea that with their finger on the button, they would act rationally. This logic is flawed on multiple levels. Firstly, if those in control are rational then the only decision they could make would be to not use nuclear weapons. If they are not rational, they will not accept this. Denis Healy, who was secretary of state for defence from 1964 to 1970, revealed in 2008 that he would never have given the order to press the button. He realised that there is no point in killing 20 million innocent Russians, and indeed no point in retaliating. Also, if he acted pre-emptively, a huge swath of the British public could be dead within 24 hours. However, could trident give a credible counter threat, as mainstream political logic assumes it can? Well according to Field Marshall Lord Brammal, a former head of the armed forces, the answer to that question should be a definitive no. He states that ‘nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the treats and scale of violence we now face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism’. In addition to this, former defence secretary Michael Portillo has described the argument that we need to renew our nuclear weapons system, due to threats from North Korea as ‘absurd’.

How Renewing Nuclear Weapons Benefits Private Corporations

Following the Second World War, The US denied Britain information about the Manhattan project, the scheme which amalgamated the nuclear weapons system of the UK, US and Canada, and which led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In 1950, this denial of information to which UK scientists had contributed, led to the re-establishment of, British nuclear weapons programme, the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE).
In the years that they remained a government run institution, the AWRE carried out a number of successful tests, in places such as the Pacific Islands. In 1987 however, the Conservative government renamed the establishment, simply as the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), and later announced plans to privatise the operation of Britain’s Nuclear weapons system. In 1993, the contract to run the UK nuclear deterrent was handed to a consortium called Hunting BRAEA. By 1998, all independently developed British Nuclear weapons had been phased out, leaving only the Vanguard Submarine based Trident missiles, built by the American company Lockheed Martin. After several safety breaches, including an incident where workers ended up inhaling plutonium, Hunting BRAEA lost the contract to maintain Britain’s Nuclear weapons in 1999. Following this, responsibility for our nuclear weapons was handed to another consortium, called AWE management Limited. The UK government defended this process, by arguing that the Ministry of Defence had a golden share in the operation (an agreement which allows a government organisation, the right of decisive vote in a shareholder meeting).  A problem with the ‘golden share’ system arose in 2003, when the EU declared the UK governments golden share in the privatised British airports authority illegal, as it was deemed contradictory to the free circulation of capital in the EU. This has not stopped the government from repeatedly talking up their share in AWE. It has been estimated that the ministry of defence now pays over £600 million a year to the AWE. In 2011 the Ministry of Defence agreed to throw an extra £750 million into the company for them to renew a uranium plant. That is on top of the £500 million on the Project Mensa warhead assembly plant and another £120 million completely wasted on the development of the cancelled Hydrodynamics research facility at AWE Aldermaston.  If the UK government do decide to renew Trident, these private companies will soak up the vast majority of the development cost.  
How an earth can what MP’s are about to vote on renewing, be considered an Independent nuclear weapons system, when it now relies on American missiles built by Lockheed Martin, and is administered by a private consortium which is two thirds made up of American Companies. The fact that this is to the cost of £600 million a year to the British taxpayer, and the fact that our public services are simultaneously being dismantled, is absolutely scandalous.

Could we Stop Trident?

So far in this blog post I have made the argument that, there are both negative political and economic issues, associated with trident renewal. This last section will look at the potential of social movements and practical issues, to stop trident renewal, in its tracks.
The first major stumbling block trident renewal faces is whether the new submarines will be fit for purpose by the time they are ready. After all, the £205bn price tag is a lot of money for a useless weapon. Secondly, the government needs somewhere to base the submarines. They are currently stationed at Faslane near Glasgow. There are no suitable sites outside of Scotland, and during the first independence referendum, the government admitted that it had no plan B, if Scotland left the UK. In addition to this, austerity weighs heavy on the trident debate. When the plan to renew trident was first launched in 2007, the project was estimated to cost up to £15bn. Fast forward to today, when society has been ravaged by severe cuts to public services, and estimates suggest that renewal will cost about £205bn, which fights the logic of the establishments own austerity. All this puts social movements like CND in an excellent position to challenge the government’s trident programme and propose policies which involve investing in public services, and concentrating on renewable energy.

Conclusion

Overall, the establishment do not care about whether weapons of mass destruction are necessary. Even if they do, they don’t care whether it is good value for money, or whether we should take a more diplomatic approach to international relations. They want large amounts of money to be wasted in this way, so they are not going to give a damn about objections. Anyone that does protest Trident renewal on moral or practical grounds, will be inevitably derided as an extremist or a terrorist supporter, by the mainstream media. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Fantastical Corruption of the British Ruling Class

One thing that may act as a thorn in the side of the new Parliamentary cabinet, during their three years in office, will be election fraud. During the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives over spent on campaigning in 33 constituencies, most of which they then went on to win. I would like to address the potential consequences of this in a future blog post, but needless to say the scandal is telling of the tendency of mainstream political parties towards corruption. In this parliament alone we have seen changes to the electoral Register, the removal of MP’s, the re drawing of constituency boundaries and the packing of the House of Lords with unelected Tory peers. Despite this, political corruption is an issue that reaches far beyond the Tory’s. The rise of far right parties such as UKIP, indicates that disillusionment with the ‘corrupt Westminster establishment’ is something the radical left needs to recognise as a problem, and offer an alternative to. It does not help then, that the moderate left tend to view corruption as superficial examples of rotten Tory’s misbehaving, while Leninists dismiss those concerned with political corruption as ignoring the real issues in society. The reality of the situation however, is that political corruption has for a long time been a fundamental means by which the political system has operated and social control has been secured. It is therefore important for the radical left to look outside of traditional party politics in our criticism of corruption, not only as a defensive measure against the far right, but for the a rebuilding of an Anti-Capitalist left.

The Anti-Corruption Left

In order to understand the lefts struggle against corruption and capitalism, we need to look prior to the late 1920s. Before then, the political system functioned according to complex systems of patronage and bribery. Aristocrats would constantly bribe the electorate with food and drink, or threaten them with eviction and boycott of trade, in order to install candidates who would work in their interests into the House of Commons. Violence carried out by hired mobs was routinely deployed by candidates against others. The Treasury was constantly plundered in order to fund the expenses of Cabinet Ministers. When reform minded candidates were elected they were often bought off with government positions. None of this was solved with the great reform act of 1832, the year that Britain supposedly became a modern democracy, after the middle class joined the aristocracy in the political elite. Bribery declined slightly after the 1880s with the implementation of the secret ballot and the inclusion of sections of the working class within the electorate, however corruption scandals and voter intimidation continued well into the 20th century. Overall, while other nations used spies and direct force to manage and quell dissent, the main form of social control in the UK was corruption. Bribes, Backhanders and threats, were the main elements that allowed the elite to control the classes beneath them.
It was for this reason that the radical left, which developed over the course of the century, bound up its critique of capitalism with its critique of corruption. This type of corruption was an example of economic power being converted into political power, and therefore needed to be challenged if the working class were ever going to control the means of production. This fact is overlooked by the liberal left which over emphasises the reformism of movements like the chartists, and by the Leninist left, which focuses solely on the need for revolutionary parties and candidates in order to achieve change. The truth is however, after the betrayal of the 1832 reform act, the anti-capitalist left formed a movement against an elite which held a fierce monopoly over land and capital. In its most radical incarnation it questioned the idea of hierarchy altogether, seeing this political system not just as an evil in itself, but as a means through which capitalism was defended and upheld. Although working class movements like the Chartists were partly reform based, the militant hostility directed by such groups at institutions like the House of Lords, was not just a moralistic criticism of the behaviour of its members, but a recognition that the House of Lords was a bastion of unjust authority, which operated according to thoroughly traditional corruption interactions. As such, the radical left fought for reforms in order to ensure its own independence, and work towards a revolutionary goal.

Blair and the New Corruption

Skip ahead to the 1997, when Tony Blair was elected, claiming that his government would be ‘whiter than white’. I have picked this example, as many people, despite the obvious reservations about the Iraq war, regard the Blair years as a progressive time period, when people were still reeling from the destruction caused by Thatcher, and wanted things to get better.
Upon coming to power, it almost immediately became clear that Labour had accepted one million pounds from the head of formula one, in exchange for exempting it from a ban on tobacco advertising. New Labour became almost synonymous with corruption scandals, the most significant being revelations in 2006 that they were offering financial backers peerage in the House of Lords, and the police investigation into the party in 2007 for accepting anonymous donations via third parties. By the end of Blair’s final term as Prime Minister, it was clear that Labour had embraced corruption just as much as the Tory’s. In retired life, the Blair family have established a cottage industry in property, shell companies and tax avoidance. This is not to make old labour sound infinitely better. After Labour settled in as a party of government following the Second World War, it often found itself at odds with its own voters. Similarly, Labour have not suddenly improved following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader. However, the complete rejection of anti-corruption politics and the embracement of neoliberalism by Blair, facilitated the development of disillusionment.

Consequences

Of course, the Blair years did see the rise of environmental and anti-globalist movements, outside of mainstream party politics. More recently however, disillusionment with unaccountable politicians has taken on a very different form indeed. It has taken the form of xenophobic populism, now a key strategy of both Labour and the Tory’s. The justification for the anti-immigrant bigotry emanating from our main political parties, has been the rise of UKIP. However, the whole reason for UKIP’s popularity is that they have seized Labours former role as ‘the voice of the working people’, not because they reflect a deep seated racism within the working class. The increasingly bad tempered and racist nature of the official Leave campaign, during the EU referendum debate, and the rise in racist hate crime that has occurred as a result, highlights the dangers of political apathy being channelled into the ‘Thatcherism on steroids’ ideology, espoused by UKIP.
Farage has shown signs that corruption, in its political and electoral forms, is going to be a major emphasis of UKIP’s campaigns in the future, even if he is no longer the leader. In 2015, UKIP accused the Tory’s of electoral fraud in order to beat them in South Thanet. Kent Police investigated and decided there was no case in the accusation, but now that the constituency is implicated in Tory electoral fraud, UKIP are unlikely to leave the issue alone. The Party have also previously accused Labour of engaging in postal vote fraud, even going as far to racialize the issue in the most horribly fascist way possible, by blaming immigrants for Labours electoral victories! As a result of this, just as the corrupt nature of parliament and the elite, has become UKIPs ground by linking these problems to immigrants, the left needs to prevent corruption from being an issue monopolised by racists as well. One obvious way of doing this would be to point out how ridiculously corrupt UKIP are, as illustrated by the election of disgraced ex tory MP Neil Hamilton, as a Welsh assembly member.

Is Social Democracy the Best we can Hope For?

Just as UKIP are a response to political corruption, so is Jeremy Corbyn. His promise of a ‘new kind of politics resonates with many people. Indeed, recent polling has shown Corbyn edging ahead of Cameron, in approval ratings. Although it is questionable whether we should be looking to politicians to do this, preventing the return of Blairism, and re occupying the anti-establishment terrain, currently occupied by UKIP’s racist populism, should be a crucial task for the left.
In my opinion, the lefts overall stance on corruption cannot focus solely on the liberal left’s moralistic notion of class conflict, nor can it focus on the Leninist idea that corruption is somehow ‘not a real issue’. Those in the former mentioned group, who warn of our ‘hard won democratic freedoms’ being taken away from us, are putting forward an inadequate analysis of British politics. The radical left has constantly grappled with the system of corruption and authoritarianism that characterises British politics, and which is currently being imposed by the Tory’s. As such, while it is of course true that they have wrestled important political concessions from the elite over the last two centuries, these were rarely if ever ends in themselves, and were perceived as the first step in wider social and economic change. In failing to recognise this fact, the liberal left does not do themselves or leftism any favours. Similarly, leftists cannot dismiss corruption as a superficial side effect of capitalism. It is important to recognise that historically, corruption has been a fundamental aspect the way British politics has developed, and as such so has opposition to it. Therefore, we must present a critique of corruption that acknowledges the issues importance, while at the same time proposing solutions that go beyond voting for the lesser of two evils.

Conclusion

Apathy and anger with the elite are fuelled by actual inequality and exclusion, just as misguided complaints about immigration are often based on real problems such as lack of decent and affordable housing. Reclaiming the politics of anti-corruption from the right is a possible and desirable, task of the British left. Showing that immoral bosses and politicians are the enemy of both British and migrant labourers is a decent starting point. However, from a Libertarian Socialist point of view, we need to open up a non-hierarchical space to the left of Corbyn and Sanders, which takes corruption and its effects seriously, and also points to alternatives.