Thursday, 10 August 2017

Which Dictators to Condemn?

The unfolding situation in Venezuela is certainly a worrying one. Madurno’s attempts to rewrite the constitution, put in place by his predecessor Hugo Chavez has resulted in the house arrest and removal of opposition politicians and the violent put down of protest. These attempts by the Venezuelan government to secure what seems like ultimate power. People who have been reading my blog for any length of time will know that I am not an authoritarian socialist, and events such as the ones happening in Venezuela are always deeply disheartening.

Yet the response from the mainstream media in the UK has not been to ask for solutions to the current crisis but to direct their anger towards Jeremy Corbyn for expressing support for Chavez and Madurno in the past and to shout at Corbyn to condemn the violence that is happening there. This is despite the fact that Corbyn has said that he condemns ‘All forms of violence’ presumably including the violence by the Venezuelan government in his admittedly broad answer. Yet if you personally think Corbyn should have been more specific and straightforward in his condemnation that is down to interpretation. It is not a point I am going to linger on.

So Why doesn’t Theresa May have to Condemn Saudi Arabia?

While we may be witnessing Totalitarianism taking tentative root in Venezuela, there’s already a well-established family tree of despots that our government supports. This is a country that goes out of their way to oppress women, views homosexuality or being transgender as immoral and views the appropriate punishment for disobeying its oppressive traditions as public whipping or execution. While the UK government may stop short of singing their praises, it certainly supports them in deed. I am of course talking of the Saudi dictatorship.
In a way that is not dissimilar to what Madurno is trying to implement in Venezuela,  Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy where the King rules and makes laws by decree and both the head of state and the government – an unelected leader and de facto dictator. There have been no criticism of his despicable activities by the current UK government.
Also like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia’s worth is also measured in barrels of oil, western powers have historically meddled there in order to secure a fulsome supply of gasoline that so much of economy is based on. It does this by enthusiastically supplying Saudi Arabia with a well-stocked and plentiful arsenal of modern weaponry, regardless of the fact that the weaponry we supply is then used to murder children in neighbouring states like Yemen. In addition to this, huge amounts of British made weapons sold to the Saudis regularly find their way into the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS.

We don’t just have deals with the Saudis

Its recently been reported that the British government have quite possibly directly helped Saudi Arabia by giving Saudi agents training from the British police. This would have directly assisted the Saudis in their suppression of peaceful protest and their arrest of more than a dozen people, facing potential execution.
Those arrested include Mujtaba al Sweikat who was arrested aged 17 for being the admin of a Facebook group critical of the government and photographing street protests and Munir al-Adam who was born with an eye and hearing deft and faces execution for saving messages from rioters on his phone. Other so called ‘juveniles’ who have received death sentences in relation to disagreeing with the monarchy are Ali al Nimr, sentenced to death by crucifixion, Dawood al Mahroon and Abdullah al Zaher both sentenced to beheading.
The arrest, detention and torture of these young people is bad enough, but the barbaric nature of their sentences is not something that any civilised county should support or ignore in their communications with Saudi Arabia.  Any state that supports and trades with a country like this needs to have serious words with itself. These are not idle threats, Saudi Arabia regularly carries out torture and execution, usually in public.

A Call for Action

Far from distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia’s horrific actions, the Home Affairs Select Comitee has been told that hundreds of Saudi Arabian police officers were trained by the royal college of policing.  According to the BBC, there are plans to widen the training from forensics to cybersecurity, mobile phone analysis and CCTV.
A number of MPs including former Labour Leader Ed Miliband have written to Theresa May to urge her to ‘personally urge’ the Saudi royal family to halt the executions. There are also numerous online petitions addressed to both Theresa May and Donald Trump, the most notable one being from the charity and anti-death penalty group Reprieve, asking them to intervene.
As you can tell however, these criticisms have entirely fallen on deaf ears. It seems our government would rather direct their anger at Jeremy Corbyn and his somehow half-hearted response to events in Venezuela. This is despite the fact that neither Corbyn nor our government have any real control over Madurno’s actions. Meanwhile they polish the ego of a rogue state in all but name. Standing passively by while they commit heinous atrocities on their own people.
Theresa May has even gone to the length of defending the Saudis activities on a global stage, suppressing a recent report into the funding of extremism whilst denying that her motivation is to protect arms deals. Arms that may very well find their way into the hands of terrorist groups that we and other western nations are sending our own troops to fight.

Conclusion

It is true that all forms of tyranny, whatever form they take, should be condemned. While you may or may not be convinced that Corbyn has done that with Venezuela, I know wholeheartedly that he and other political leaders have rallied bitterly against the actions of the Saudis. Yet May and her government continue to turn a blind eye to the facts that are laid out before them.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A.1 What Does Libertarian socialism mean?


This first section of my guide to Libertarian Socialism will look at what Libertarian Socialism is and what it stands for. Ultimately it aims to create a society where individuals can cooperate freely together as equals. It follows from this that Libertarian Socialists oppose the unjust or unnecessary exercise of authority, instead emphasising more cooperative, non-hierarchical types of social, political and economic organisation.
 
However, Libertarian Socialism is a usually misrepresented idea. Many people think that giving people more power over the economy and political systems means ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’. This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel. For example, in countries which have considered Absolute Monarchy necessary, the entire concept of democracy or republicanism must have been seen to imply disorder or confusion. Those with a vested interest in preserving the status Quo will obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work in practice, or that a different type of society will lead to chaos.
Libertarian Socialists wish to change this view so that people will see that Cooperative and mutually beneficial organisation are both possible and desirable. This guide is part of a process of changing the commonly held ideas regarding these concepts and there meaning. Libertarian Socialism is not an extremist ideology and our only enemies are the charlatans in power, bigots and exploiters.
We have seen the damage that misrepresentation and distortion of certain ideologies can do. In 1927 in the US, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco were executed for a crime they did not commit. Essentially, they were killed because they were foreigners who held the value of Libertarian Socialism. So this FAQ will attempt to correct some of the misunderstandings or distortions that Libertarian Socialism has come under by people who do not understand our ideas, large sections of the media and ideologues who wilfully misrepresent our ideas for political gain.   
What Does Libertarian Socialism Mean?
One Common misconception about Libertarian Socialists is that we are against authority in all aspects of life. While this is true of egoists (a small section of the individualist anarchist movement) you get very few Libertarian Socialists who believe in Stirners theory that all rules and regulations are fictional ‘spooks’. Instead many of us just reject the unjust use of authority. You will see what this means later.   
For a full definition of Libertarian Socialism we need to look at these terms in isolation from one another, paying attention to their historical meaning.
LIBERTARIAN: someone who believes in freedom of action, expression and thought. Basically someone who believes in free will. Understandably then, Libertarian may also refer to general scepticism of authority. Specifically authority that seeks to limit peoples free will. 
SOCIALISM: a social and economic system where the producers possess a means of influence over their workplaces and are able to reap the rewards of their labour. Socialism in a political sense also refers to giving people equality in the way decisions are made.  
So, put simply, Libertarian Socialism is a political idea that believes in freedom of action and thought, in which all people have a say over the political decisions that effect their lives, as well as the right to reap the benefits of their labour.
Yet this is still somewhat vague so let’s elaborate. Arguably the most obvious source of hierarchy we face today is hierarchy from government. Again, as a movement based on freedom of thought Libertarian Socialists will have different views on government. However, we will all be opposed to forms of government that limit liberty such as mass surveillance or war. Many of us are happy to support candidates like Jeremy Corbyn who offer a safety net to protect against the worst excesses of capitalism. Yet as democratic, non-Hierarchical networks of mutual aid grow, governments should play gradually less and less of a role in society, and issues such as transport, housing, health and the environment should be put more in the hands of the ordinary people that they directly affect.
 
We apply the same logic to capitalism. We support unionisation for higher wages and better working conditions of course. Yet we are in favour of the establishment of more cooperative enterprises where thee people who do the work have a direct say over working conditions, and how the produce is manufactured and distributed. In this situation, wealth is distributed amongst the people who create it. Again, Libertarian Socialists support the minimization of hierarchy and the strengthening of democracy in the workplace as well as in daily life. I aim to elaborate on our views on government and capitalism later in this series.

Overall, Libertarian Socialism is in favour of the strengthening of equality and freedom in all aspects of public life. In the next Instalment, I will explain some of the attempts to distort both the terms 'Libertarian' and 'Socialism' and why the ideas name makes sense in the original context of both these beliefs.