Sunday, 23 October 2016

Trump Is wrong! The US Election Wont be Rigged, but the Economy Will Be.

In the final US Presidential debate on Thursday 20st October, Republican Nominee Donald Trump refused to say if he would accept the result, instead offering a scary response of ‘I will keep you in suspense’. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly shown signs that he considers the election and the polls to be rigged in Hillary Clintons favour. Ignoring the fact that accusing an election of being rigged before an election result shows incredible lack of confidence in your own campaign, Clinton’s response has been similarly dishonest. Clinton not only has the backing of Wall Street and Pharmaceutical companies, but also has the support of many people on the left who, as I pointed out in my last blog post, see voting for Clinton as the lesser of two evils. None of this however answers the question of whether the US election itself is actually rigged in favour of either candidate. While, unlike her rival, Hillary Clinton has the support of capital and sections of both main parties in the United States, Donald Trump has the ability to fund his own campaign as well as a significant pool of grassroots support who are attracted to his anti-establishment platform, albeit a Racist and misogynistic one. While the polls are currently predicting a firm win for Clinton, these factors mean that we should not rule out the possibility of a Trump win entirely. Either way, it is naïve to suggest that Wall Street and the Political establishment will give up its grip on power in any way. Ultimately then, the question we should be asking is not whether the election will be rigged, but how rigged the economy will be under either Clinton or Trump.
 

Why Clinton is the Establishment Candidate

Before the candidates were chosen, and just days before the critical New York primary which had a major role to play in securing Clintons victory, the Bernie Sanders Campaign released a new advertisement that that hoped would help overcome its rivals Home state advantage and Take the Vermont Senator over the top. The advertisement said the following:
Wall street banks shower Washington politicians with campaign contributions and speaking fees. While Washington politicians are payed over $200,000 an hour for speeches that oppose raising the living wage to $15 an hour. Two hundred dollars an hour for them, but not even fifteen bucks an hour for all Americans. Enough is enough.
The idea that elections are influenced too much by corporate donors was the main plank of Sanders criticism of Hillary Clinton and is now the main plank of Donald Trumps. Admittedly, Donald Trump does not advocate raising the minimum wage or introducing higher taxes on corporations, and has repeatedly had to defend his decision not to release his own tax returns. However, few seem more emblematic of the relationship between plutocrats and politicians than Hillary Clinton. In her time between leaving the State Department in 2012 and launching her own presidential campaign, Clinton personally pocketed $22 million – nearly four hundred times the median household income in 2015 – from speeches given almost exclusively to interest groups that had recently lobbied the government. While Clinton sometimes made populist gestures in public, they appeared to contrast starkly with her activities in private – especially when it came to her cosy relationship with Wall Street. In any case, it somehow proved controversial to assign blame for national problems – from deep and abiding inequality to the assembly line of corporate friendly legislation coming out of congress – to the very visible nexus linking politicians and the wealthy. With the Sanders campaign neutralized, many probably assumed that the issue had been safely put to bed. However in recent weeks, a continuous stream of documents published by WikiLeaks, mixed with Trumps predictions of election fraud has forced the issue into a much sharper view.
The sheer volume of emails, transcripts and internal campaign contributions that have emerged, particularly over the past few weeks, is simply staggering. WikiLeaks latest document dump contains emails related to Clintons Campaign Chairman John Podesta. Most notable are remarks from a 2013 speech to the National Multi Housing Council where Clinton discusses the need to have ‘both a public and a private position’. There are however a number of other notable findings that need to be pointed out:
·         Upon accepting the Democratic nomination Clinton remarked that we should ‘never let Wall Street wreck the economy again’. In spite of this, in a leaked 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs, she referred to the idea that Wall Street caused the 2008 recession as an ‘oversimplification’ going on to complain of regulations on financial executives, arguing that the ‘bias against people who live successful lives’.
·         At the firms Alternative investments Symposium that same year, Clinton told bankers that financial reform ‘really has to come from the industry itself…The people that really know the industry are the people who work in the industry’. Elsewhere, we see her apologising to the firm for the Dodd – Frank reform Bill and saying it ‘had to pass for political reasons’.
·         Just weeks before announcing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, Clinton dismissed concerns about the project as the whimsical objections of ‘radical environmentalists’ who supported Bernie Sanders, declaring ‘my view is that I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend the repairing and building of the pipelines we need to fuel our economy’
·         In other speeches, Clinton prised Walmart (whose board she once sat on) for helping to foster a ‘spirit of community that I think is absolutely essential to the maintaninance of democracy’. Despite this, the vehemently anti-union firm has in fact devastated many local communities, displacing at least four hundred thousand jobs and allowing the Walton family – which has also made donations to Clinton – to amass a fortune that surpasses the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans.
·         While the Democratic Party platform backs a $15 minimum wage, emails show that a senior Clinton aide not only advised against it but likened the Democratic base to the red army for favouring it. Also, Even though the Clinton campaign supports an extension, emails revel that she praised the Simpson – Bowles deficit reduction plan, which specifically called for cuts to the popular program.
Taken together they document the inner workings of the Clinton machine and offer a window into the incestuous relationship between corporate America and many of its political masters. Perhaps most strikingly, they show the deceitfulness of the Democrats and show the content many high ranking officials in the party have for its base of activists. Were it not for the apocalyptic prospect of a Donald Trump victory in November, the leaked emails could have well sent Hillary campaign flying of the rails.

Trump’s Economic Platform

Despite Donald Trump’s racist and sexist rhetoric, as well as his endorsements from far right groups such as the KKK, much of Trump’s support is primarily rooted in Economic issues. In 2016, a radical, right wing, middle class insurgency that began in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has displaced, at least temporarily, the hegemonic capitalists in the Republican Party. Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate is the most recent act of struggle for the leadership of a Party that began in the aftermath of the global recession and the election of Barack Obama.
Donald Trump’s ‘outsider’ campaign for president marked a deepening of the right wing radicalization of sections of the middle classes and of the crisis of capitalist hegemony in the Republican Party. When Trump announced that he would be standing as a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in June 2015, few political commentators including myself took his campaign seriously. With a field dominated by Republican mainstays like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, most believed that Trumps campaign would fall at the first hurdle.  However, within a month, Trump was out polling a crowded republican field. In July 2016, he became the Republican presidential nominee. What makes Trump so unacceptable to the Republican establishment is not merely his unabashed bigotry, nor his current electoral calculations. Trump, in many ways is a radical right wing opponent of capitals dominance over the Republican Party. Not only does Trump express the xenophobia and Racism of his populist base, but he rejects central tenets of the bipartisan neoliberal agenda that has impoverished sections of the middle class as well as working and poor people. Trump rejects the idea of the US as a muscular, imperialist nation ready to use force to protect the global interests of US capital, instead promising to invest the millions spent on wars on US infrastructure. He blames NAFTA and other Trade deals for the loss of US manufacturing jobs, and calls for high tariffs to protect US jobs against ‘unfair’ competition.
It is easy to see why this would appeal to the middle classes. The impact of three decades of neoliberalism, in particular with the stagnation of real incomes and growing inequality, combined with the massive loss of personal wealth, growing personal debt and growing economic insecurity amongst broad segments of the US working and middle classes, has led to deepening dissolution with conventional politicians. While younger working and middle class voters were disproportionately attracted to Bernie Sanders campaign, older white middle class voters have been drawn to Trump. Caught between a decimated labour movement and an extremely aggressive capitalist class, parts of the middle classes are drawn to a politics that scapegoats immigrants, unions, and people of colour. The Trump phenomenon is due in part to the rise of right wing populism throughout the western world and the dangers that modern capitalism is posing to peoples livelihoods.
Of course, it is unlikely that whatever the result in November, that the Trump phenomenon will permanently transform the Republican Party. In the unlikely event of a general election victory for the Republicans, Trump will want to concede a number of his anti-establishment policies, in an attempt to create unity in what has become an extremely divided party. Those that refuse this offer of unity are likely to try and distance themselves from trump as far as possible thus starving him of support from within his own party, similarly should republicans accept Trump, they will probably work increasingly to push him to compromise on more and more of his anti-establishment principles. Finally, while I am sure that Wall Street and Corporations would rather see someone they know they can bet on to look after their interests become president, a Donald Trump victory will cause all but shoulder shrugging from the owners of capital.

Conclusion

 In conclusion, while Wall Street will have to accept the result of this election, this will not change the inner workings of the economy. With Hillary Clinton we see a candidate whose allegiance to corporate America is in plain sight, with Donald Trump we see a candidate who will have to have to have his views moulded and his power restricted in order to meet capitals demands. This is not to suggest that the candidates do not pose different threats, while with Clinton we will most likely see a reversal of corporate regulation, with Trump we are likely to see an emboldened far right and increasingly militarised police force. It is for this reason, that the left must fight not just the candidates but an increasingly holistic and dangerous capitalist class.   

Monday, 17 October 2016

Clinton or Trump? the US election and the Dangerous Politics of Lesser-Evilism

Now that the selection of the presidential candidates for both the Republicans and the Democrats in the U.S is done and the first formal debates have taken place, people are beginning to take sides. In less than one month from now voters will be asked to decide who they want to be the country’s commander in chief for the next four years.  A sentiment shared by many people on the left is that it is necessary to vote pragmatically for Hillary Clinton, purely in order to stop Trump from setting foot inside the White House. Indeed, the Working Families Party have become the latest group on the US left to throw its support behind the Democrats presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. An earlier supporter of Bernie Sanders campaign, the WFP justified its endorsement of his rival out of fear of a republican victory, which that argued ‘would emperor the most malignant tendencies in America Society’. They are not irrational in this fear: Trumps outlandishly racist and misogynistic rhetoric has alienated a massive number of voters. Indeed, as a result of this, Clinton now seems to be ignoring her growing list of scandals, basing her campaign on the assumption that Trumps unpopularity will deliver her to victory. While polling predicts that a Trump victory is unlikely, it would be extremely misguided to simply assume that Clinton will easily win the election. Trumps political strength lies in his ability to exploit anti-political sentiment for his own ends. Also, his independence from the donor class and ability to fund his own campaign, gives him the flexibility to pivot quickly when needed. Still, accepting that Trumps chances of winning the forthcoming election are more likely than predicted, a strategy of voting for the lesser of two evils by itself will do little to prepare the left for the struggle ahead. 
 
The idea of voting for the lesser of two evils rests on the notion that, given the limited choices on offer in a two party system, the left should work to elect the less destructive of these two options. That is opposed to the idea that it is more in line with the lefts principles to abstain, to spoil your ballot, or to vote for a third party. Critics of the ‘Lesser evilism’ strategy argue that the lesser evil is still an evil and that failing to recognise this compromises the lefts demands of honesty in politics. The dismantling of the anti-war movement in the run up to Obamas victory in the 2008 elections stands as an example of the flaws of ‘lesser evilism’. This could not be truer with this election. Clintons close ties with big capital, the defence industry and the neoconservative establishment in Washington cast doubt on the idea that we really stand much to gain by voting for Clinton. This blog post will look at why, even if some figures on the left do decide to adopt a strategy of voting for the lesser of two evils, it is more important to retain our principles and to prepare for the challenges we will face from either a Clinton or a Trump presidency.  

Social Forces

It would be incredibly naïve, in risk assessing a victory for Clinton or Trump, to limit ourselves to each candidates stated policies or rhetoric. Remember, policies in this instance do not reflect anything but the candidates desire to gain power. The Democratic Party for instance has many laudable qualities thanks in part to the efforts of left wing people within the party itself. However, this does not reflect how Clinton would act in office. Neither would Trumps supposed opposition to Nafta and foreign intervention hold up in the context of a government filled with pro-war and pro-free trade Democrats and Republicans. As such, it is much more informative to examining the social forces propelling the two candidates. By social forces, I do not just mean the electorate, but organised institutions or movements that aim to pursue set goals. They operate during and in the time between elections and are therefore a much more reliable measure of how a candidate will act once in power.
One of the most astounding aspects of Trumps candidacy has been the limited amount of social forces he has attracted. While a handful of republican supporting groups such as the National Rifle Association, the Wall Street Journal editorial and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani are backing Trump, he has alienated my of the groups that Republican candidates typically rely on for funding and voter mobilization. Not only have former Republican nominee Mitt Romney and former present George W. Bush both shunned Trump, but he has been described a ‘National Security Risk’ by fifty GOP officials. Even The network of neoconservative Think tanks and donors that were previously supporting Ted Cruz in the Republican leadership context have abandoned ship, instead throwing their support behind Hillary Clinton. Likewise, the fact that both The Chamber of Commerce and numerous other financial leaders have condemned Trumps support of the Glass Steagall act – a move that would force the break-up of large financial institutions – strongly suggests that Wall Street is backing Clinton.
Overall, the vast majority of Social forces lie behind Clinton’s campaign. Trumps attacks on big finance and free trade, his negative comments about the Iraq war, and his lack of willingness to endorse traditional conservative values has alienated the vast majority of America’s right wing. Although Trump has garnered support from anti-immigration groups and endorsements from the KKK and the American Nazi Party, these forces have played little role in Trumps rise, except to deliberately help rake in the racist vote. Rather, Trumps rise has grown out of a deep-rooted anti-politics sentiment in American society. Trumps campaign has used a mixture of blatant Xenophobia and disgust at the elite to tap into this sentiment. While this approach has paid off amongst white, middle class males, this electoral pool does not seem organised into a coherent movement. The lack of social force behind the republican nominee is significant: undermined by Republicans and Democrats alike, it would force Trump to make concessions to the establishment that he has pitted himself against. 

A Trump Presidency

While it is clear that a Trump led government would be limited in its ability to enforce many of the policies that the candidate espouses on the campaign trail, it would also not be without its dangers. There are a number of threats that a Donald Trump victory might pose, ones for which the Left needs to be prepared.
Firstly, a victory for Trump in November could embolden the far right factions in American Society, giving them greater confidence to pursue their agendas. This is not to suggest that broad support for such factions is the main factor in Trumps success. Xenophobic rhetoric acknowledged, Trumps image as an alternative to the status quo means that his campaign reaches far beyond the narrow appeals of the KKK or Neo- Nazi groups. However, as can be seen with the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in the UK, victories for campaigns based on Xenophobia can give the far right a false sense of social legitimacy. In other words, a Trump win will not necessarily lead to increased membership or electoral turnouts for far right groups, but may lead them to undertake more audacious acts of violence on immigrant communities, overestimating their level of public support. A Trump presidency could fan the flames of this racist discontent, by introducing harsh immigration measures, in order to distract from his weak authority. It is important that the left be prepared for any further instances of racist violence. For every anti-immigrant march or protest, it is the lefts duty to organise a counter demonstration. Furthermore, we must broaden our attempts to show support with al groups badly affected by a Trump presidency.
Secondly, there is the possibility that once in power, Trump might retreat from his anti-establishment rhetoric and seek to mend the divide in the Republican Party by seizing on the idea of unity. This could involve Trump strengthening his position on more traditional republican including the second amendment, abortion and same sex marriage. Perhaps more likely however is that Trump will try to reproach dissident republicans on the bases of introducing greater ‘law and order’ measures – A theme which has come up in the presidential debates and one which dominated the republican convention.  If this does turn out to be the case, we can expect an administration that is more proactive in its support for the police and its repression of groups like Black Lives Matter. Again, it goes without saying that such groups should not retreat from their activism in the face of such repressive measures and should instead seek to raise awareness of the dangers posed by surveillance and police brutality. In spite of this, the amount of hostility Trumps campaign has attracted from both democrats and fellow republicans, makes it more than likely that traditional Republicans will seek to preserve their ties with the political establishment by distancing themselves from trumps agenda.

A Clinton Presidency

The situation is quite different in the Democratic Party. After briefly veering to the left to defeat her rival, Hillary Clinton has moved further to the right, eager to win over republican voters and donors alienated by Trump. Many have obliged. Clinton’s campaign now finds itself with the baking of an astoundingly large set of social forces, from the finance sector, the Pharmaceutical industry and Google to trade unions and the Working Families Party. With the support of some of the most powerful and financial forces in the US establishment, a Clinton Presidency would operate with far greater coherency than anything her rival would be able to achieve. Her administration would be much better positioned to project its power onto society, preserve a consensus around Clintons preferred policies.
Given her track record, there would be little doubt about how Clinton would use her authority. Besides, Hedge funds and big pharmaceutical companies don’t dump millions of dollars into a campaign without expecting something in return. Her Time as secretary of state also gived us some idea of what a Clinton Presidency would look like. Despite her progressive language (compared to her rival at least) at debates, Clinton is essentially a war hawk. She successfully lobbied for NATO air strikes in Libya and has actively pursued a similar response in Syria and Iraq, proposing expanded airstrikes and more ground troops in the war against ISIS. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Clinton would limit this hawkish approach in the White House. The pressures and powers that force candidates to have to do something about each new conflict will not be immune to Clinton. More to the point, she will not want to be immune to them. Within Clintons first term, we would likely see deeper US involvement in Syria and Iraq, a more aggressive posture towards Russia and a quick detrition of US Iranian relations. That some on the left seem willing to shrug their shoulders and simply vote for Clinton as the ‘lesser evil’ seems remarkably short-sighted. A Clinton presidency would make the world a more dangerous place, further destabilise the Middle East, create a breeding ground for ISIS and other terrorist organisations and increase the flow of refugees from Syria and Iraq. 
Another threat from a Clinton presidency relates to the Israel Palestine conflict. Given Clintons longstanding support for Israel’s occupation, as well as her ties to pro-Israel lobbyists like Haim Saban, we should expect her to forcefully back the occupation against its growing number of critics. Primarily, this will mean an attack on the most effective wing of the Solidarity with Palestine movement: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Already Clinton has made here opposition to such groups an important aspect of her campaign. In May, in response to requests from Israel advocacy groups, she publicly called on the United Methodists to reject a further boycott from of companies. In addition, in her speech to AIPIC earlier this year she threatened to take action against BDS. Over the past several years, activist groups of a range of different causes including BDS have experienced a wave of repressions from restrictions on campus student groups, to campaigns persecuting professors to efforts to silence or punish activists. Under a Clinton administration, these efforts to repress and silence those who dare to speak out would likely broaden in intensity.

Conclusion

To take the view that by voting for either of the candidates in this election, we are voting for the lesser of two evils, is to ignore the reality that people in America are faced with two different threats. A Trump administration would be weak, but also prone to attacks on already vulnerable communities. A Clinton presidency would be a confident and powerful alignment of establishment forces, capable of using its authority to expand the surveillance state and US foreign policy.
The Left needs to be prepared for either scenario. In the case of a Trump presidency, we will have to put out efforts into building anti-racist struggles around immigration, Islamophobia and police violence. In the case of a Clinton victory, we will desperately need a real anti – war struggle – one informed by but also surpassing the Iraq war.  Assuring ourselves that either of these candidates is a ‘lesser evil’ leaves us ill prepared to organise an effective opposition to such policies. We need to start preparing for the dangers on the horizon.

Friday, 14 October 2016

On Aleppo

Let me begin by saying that the bombing of rebel held Aleppo by Syria and Russia is beyond horrific. For so long, people have fought on the principle that Schools and Hospitals are not legitimate targets in war and that to target such places constitutes a war crime. The bombardment of Aleppo started in September. A ceasefire earlier that month put a brief stop to the conflict, but Aleppo has been under heavy bombing ever since. Although there are volunteers working hard to help those affected by the bombing, death and injury reports continue to pour in. At the time of writing, at least 99 civilians in Aleppo have been killed in the past two days. Russia and Syria have been repeatedly accused of war crimes by the UN Security Council. In a particularly blunt UN session earlier this year, the accusations focused on the use of bunker busting and the bombing of 275,000 civilians living in the rebel held areas of the city, weapons that Moscow’s accusers say were dropped by Russian aircraft. In the same meeting, Matthew Rycroft the UK ambassador to the UN, walked out of the chamber with his US and French counterparts, before the Syrian government representatives began speaking. With these sort of tensions rising many are understandably scared about what the situation in Syria and the whole of the Middle East will develop into.

Let us not pretend that this sort of brutal violence is limited to Russia and Syria’s attack on Aleppo however. The bombing of Hospitals is being carried out by the Saudis in Yemen, and the Americans in Afghanistan. Those who provide medical aid in those areas see international law as being in ruins. So far this year, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), 21 of their supported medical facilities in Yemen and Syria have been attacked. Last year an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was destroyed by a US attack, those trying to escape from the building were gunned down from the air, 42 patients and staff died. To understand why such atrocities happen, it is not enough to point to the new techniques of war such as drones and Special Forces. The Red Cross, when it was first started, was a Global Humanitarian movement and an alliance of military aligned volunteer units. This did not seem to be a contradiction. As long as a nations Army’s hospitals obeyed the Geneva Strictures by separating themselves from defensive military positions, civilian medics could volunteer on the understanding that they would not be deliberately harmed. An element of trust existed there. This could not be further from the way wars are fought today. With the fragmentation of numerous states along religious or ethnic lines, the essential story has become ‘we the normal folk against an inhumane and alien force’.
If you want to point fingers you could look to George W Bush’s administration’s refusal to treat Al Qaida detainees in Afghanistan as combatants, and its institutional tolerance of torture, sexual violence and extra judicial killings. Although these set a baseline for the crimes currently being perpetrated by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and the Syrian Regime, this is a far more complicated issue spanning a range of decades and numerous political careers. I would argue that a large part of what seems to be fuelling the hostility in Syria is apathy or downright smear campaigns against those groups that care most about bringing an end to war crimes. Volunteers funded by the US have repeatedly been labelled biased by the Russian state, ignoring that its status as an important medical organisation precedes any biases it may have. Similarly, on Tuesday the foreign secretary of the UK, Boris Johnson launched a scathing attack on anti-war groups for not devoting enough serious attention to Russia’s war crimes, instead suggesting that the UK should be prepared to shoot down Russian planes. While these comments are obviously examples of politicians playing politics, considering the situation in Aleppo, there are a number of other problems with this mentality.
  •       Both Russia and the west have actively worked to undermine aid workers and anti-war groups. Russia through it bombing campaign in Aleppo not only makes the job of aid workers harder but puts them in extreme danger. Similarly, in the UK, the conservative led government have repeatedly worked to undermine the anti-war movement. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the labour party, constantly has his opposition to nuclear weapons dismissed as unrealistic and dangerous. Similarly, following last year attacks on the Bataclan in France by ISIS, the UK media opportunistically used it as an opportunity to undermine the Stop the War Coalition by taking points they had mad in articles about UK intervention is Syria out of context. The main reason for this is that both Russia and the UK clearly have foreign policy interests that are diametrically opposed to the intentions of organisations that aim to put a stop to or to mitigate the effects of war. The idea that Russia or the UK would simply jump to the defence of these groups, based on their priorities is absurd.
  •      There is clearly a massive amount of hypocrisy in criticising the tactics of groups that aim to put an end to conflict, while simultaneously arguing for an escalation of that conflict yourself. As previously mentioned, Russia cannot criticise the tactics of aid groups while orchestrating a bombing campaign in the affected areas. In the same way, Boris Johnson cannot criticise anti-war groups for not trying to put a stop to the situation in Aleppo, while simultaneously arguing for the escalation of the conflict through the shooting down of Russian planes. If either country actually cared about the effectiveness of the organisations they are criticising they would do all they can to help them in their task. They do not want to do this however, because it is easier and more beneficial to their interests, to use anti-war groups and aid organisations to score points of your political opponents.
  •      Both Russia and the west have supported the bombing of Syrian rebels, seeing the democratic self-organisation of people in the region as a threat. Although Russia and Syria pose more of a threat to Aleppo militarily, Col Steve warren, the US military spokesperson for Baghdad declared earlier this year ‘It’s primarily Al Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, Al Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities. Similarly John Kerry declared last year,  at a press conference with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, that ‘we see Syria fundamentally, very similarly, we want the same outcomes, we see the same dangers’. It is clear through Russia’s support of the Assad regime that what is meant by this is that they both see the rebel force as a danger in Syria. However, if this was not clear enough, you just need to look at when John Kerry said to aid workers, some of which probably worked in Aleppo, that the opposition were responsible for continued fighting, and said to expect three months of bombing that would ‘decimate the opposition’. Overall, before criticising anti War groups for being complacent both Russia and the UK need to account for their role in escalating the war in Aleppo.
The danger from all of this should appear obvious. If we do not stop the use of war crimes committed by anyone, then the next big war – should it occur – will see the Geneva Conventions go out of the window. Aleppo has shown us this. Our grandfather’s generation were shocked at the ways in which the Nazis broke the Geneva Convention, our generation have come to expect it to be broken in all wars. However, we need more than words around the UN table in order to sort this problem out. We need a movement from below, like the one that created the red cross, and which built the MSF in the 1970s. We need to understand that if you tolerate inhumanity anywhere in the world, then it can easily arrive at your own doorstep.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Movements and Revolutions #5 - the Battle of Cable Street

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the battle of Cable Street: The successful defeat of, Nazi Sympathiser, Oswald Mosley’s march through the east end of London, by people of a range of different backgrounds and beliefs. Cable Street has long reflected the diversity of the entirety of the UK. Even today it is home to people from a range of different backgrounds and nationalities. In the 1930s however it was home to a Jewish community whose stand against prejudice and racism has become famous. Across the street from the train station stands a huge painting of the battle, giving residents of Cable street a stark reminder of what happened in 1936. Despite racism and authoritarianism being issues which affect many people’s everyday lives, it is arguable that the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street could not have been recognized at a more timely moment. Since Britain’s vote to leave the EU, we have seen a rise in racist hate crime. At the same time, we have seen a spike in popularity for far right parties all over Europe. As such, it is important that we remember how previous generations have reacted to such intolerance.

What Happened At The Battle?

In 1936, the East End of London housed the largest Jewish population in the UK. Its 60,000 Jews had already been enduring mounting anti-Semitic violence and intimidation, largely organised by the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Having fallen out with the British government, the BUF turned to dirty politics, trying to drum up support by exploiting tensions between Jewish, Irish, and other groups who were all struggling for Jobs and decent housing.
This outpouring of racist campaigning by the fascists culminated when Oswald Moseley, The BUF leader, arrived in east London with 5,000 ‘Blackshirts’. Among the impoverished workers of the area, Oswald Mosley and other members of the British Union of Fascists, built their movement in a horseshoe around the Jewish community. Throughout the mid-1930s this group had moved closer to Hitler’s brand of fascism with Mosely Himself stating that ‘fascism can and will win in Britain’. Consequentially, the British fascists adopted a dangerously anti-Semitic stance, describing Jews as ‘rats and vermin from the gutter of Whitechapel’. Prior to the Cable Street march, the BUF had engaged in multiple meetings and leafleting of the area in order to intimidate Jewish people and undermine community solidarity. Despite a petition signed by 100,000 people, the British government permitted the march to go ahead and designated 7000 members of the police force to accompany it. The Fascists felt prepared and ready to take their hateful message to the streets.
When the BUF arrived in East London they were met with a human wall, whose diversity was proof of an interracial solidarity that ran deeper than social tensions. Three hundred thousand people – Jewish tailors, Irish Dockers, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, or just workers – had all come out to block the fascists’ entrance to their community. The counter protest was in defiance of the orders of the Labour Party and other prominent British Labour leaders. Despite this, it soon developed into the biggest riot the UK had seen in years. All provocations had been given not by governments or political parties, but by a unified opposition to racism and a faith in solidarity. Mosely’s march had been interpreted by Jews and workers alike as a challenge to battle. Famously confronting Blackshirts with the chant ‘they shall not pass’, the BUF march was successfully disbanded. The Battle had dealt a blow to British fascism. One that it would never recover from.

Aftermath

The battle took place when Fascism seemed to be on the rise in other European cities, led by Hitler, Franco and Mussolini. For many on the left Cable Street was only the beginning of wider struggles against fascism. Some would go on to devote their lives to anti-fascist activism while others would go on to volunteer in the Spanish civil war, as soldiers for the republicans.
The Battle of Cable street has rightly become mythologised as an iconic example of non-sectarian solidarity. However, the victory was also hard to digest for many Anglo Jewish establishment, as it exposed the divide between working class Jews and their political leaders. The mainstream response to antisemitism by heads of the Jewish church, The Labour Party and the communist party was that it was caused by Jews themselves, and that they should seek to keep a low profile and not interfere in politics. Part of the significance of Cable Street was that - for those Jews that came out on the streets to protest- it was a rejection of that view. As a result of this mainstream view however, for many years following the event, Cable Street was pushed to the margins of Anglo Jewish memory. After the Second World War, the Jewish community in the east end diminished as families were able to relocate to more appealing London suburbs.  While becoming more middle class and less marginalised, for a long time British Jews repudiated their working class history. In spite of this, many younger Jews now seem to be embracing their radical past. On the frontier of this is Jewdas, a London based collective whose satirical publications and activism, has gloriously irritated the British Jewish establishment. Earlier this year, Jewdas threw a party on Cable Street, where the crowd dressed up as fascists, communists and working class Jews. It is important to note here that Fascism is not just about Jews; It is about minorities in general and how they are under attack. Celebrating cable street is part of asserting the right and the need to stand up to fascism.

Conclusion

Little is recognisable from that period on Todays Cable Street, apart from the faded street signs. Since 1936, the demographic of London’s East   end has undergone multiple changes, yet the new residents have faced similar challenges. The area has become home to a large Bengali and South Asian community, which has faced racism incited by Britain’s far right. British politicians have already been criticised by the UN for allowing a rise in racist hate crime following Brexit. This is a trend that has been replicated across the continent as countries struggle to handle the influx of migrants from the middle east and Africa. The increasing intolerance displayed throughout Europe shows that the lessons from Cable Street are still relevant today. We are fortunate that the far right in Britain is small and fragmented, but you just have to look at France, Germany, Austria and Hungary to see much more powerful and organised right wing movements. Finally, although todays right might not adopt the same image as Mosley’s Black shirts, it poses just as much of a threat and deserves just as much opposition.