Once upon a time in a land not too far away…

Imagine this scenario… Once upon a time in a land not too far away a leader of a political party was elected by the biggest majority in the parties history and their election to the leadership attracted over 350,000 people to join that political party making it the biggest political in Europe. The reason this new leader was so incredibly popular was because he believed in policies that helped the many not the few.

But the rich nobles and their friends amongst the Grandees of this political party didn’t like the idea of these policies that were going to benefit the many not the few because they were ‘the few’ and they wanted policies that would benefit them. 
So the party Grandees and most of their servants in the party bureaucracy turned against this most popular of new leaders and embarked on a 2 year campaign to publicly undermine and humiliate the incredibly popular new leader. 

Previous leaders of the party, previous government ministers, sitting MP’s, party officials all publicly ridiculed the new leader and made jokes about his clothes and his beard. Some of these party Grandees even told the voters that the best way to support the values of the party was not to vote for the new leader because they said he was so completely useless.

Some of the 350,000 new members complained that the party Grandees were being disloyal by openly attacking the incredibly popular new leader but the Grandees were not used to being criticised by ordinary people and insisted that their servants in the party throw the complaining new members out of the party.

Then, taking their cue from the party Grandees, all the media folk in this land started to think that this incredibly popular new leader must in fact be incompetent because so many of the parties Grandees were saying so and saying so so often. 
It also turned out that some of the rich nobles who gave the jobs to all the media folk were friends of the party Grandees so they encouraged all the media folk to attack the incredibly popular new leader and rewarded them when they did so.

So all the media folk openly attacked the new leader and shamelessly ridiculed him even though some have them had a legal duty to be impartial. They said that the problem was that all the people who voted for the incredibly popular new leader and the 350,000 who joined the party once he was elected, must be stupid because they could not see what the rich nobles and all the party Grandees could see. 

This went on for nearly 2 years and all the voters of this land watching all this everyday started to think there ‘cannot be smoke without fire’ and that the new leader must indeed be incompetent because all the rich nobles, the party Grandees and their servants in the party and even all the media folk kept saying so and saying so so often.

Strangely it turned out that the voters actually agreed with most of the policies the incredibly popular new leader put forward but the 2 years of all the party Grandees and all the media folk saying over and over again that the new leader was useless meant that the voters wouldn’t vote for the new leader even though they agreed with the things he wanted to do.
As a result when the election came along the new leader wasn’t incredibly popular anymore and not many of the voters voted for the new leader and he lost the election.

The party Grandees and their servants and all the media folk then said ‘see we told you the new leader was useless’ and all the 350,000 new members were expelled from the party for being something called ‘Trots’.

Thank goodness its just a dystopian fantasy eh!

Anti-Semitism, colonialism and the banality of evil.

I’m reading Hannah Arendt’s, Eichmann in Jerusalem, for the first time. This is her study of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann the chief bureaucrat behind the Holocaust. When the book was first published Arendt was vilified as being a ‘self-hating Jew’ because she used the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to describe the unexceptional, bureaucratic, corporate, ‘yes man’, that was Eichmann.

It seems self-evident to me that what she says about the human capacity for evil is correct. It wasn’t the punks, hippies, nutters, anarchists, eccentrics and rebels who committed the atrocities of Nazism; on the contrary it was ordinary, normal, little men and women like Eichmann.

And I’ve met hundreds of Eichmann’s over the years. Otherwise unremarkable men and women who have invested their sense of self in obediently doing as they are told as if this were a moral virtue.

Most intriguingly the first two chapters of the book are basically discussing why and how the German and Austrian Zionists were negotiating with the Nazis in the early 30’s. Indeed, Arendt reports that Eichmann made great play in his defence of the fact that he had supported Zionism and the idea that the Jews needed their own ‘ground beneath their feet’ as he put it. He also claimed that he had ‘saved’  thousand Jews by extraditing them, to Palestine.

This is all in the historical record of course but nonetheless Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party for referring to it in order to make a broader point about how criticism of Israel and Zionism, as a distinct philosophy, is not in-and-of-itself, anti-Semitic and how anti-semitism in the LP is being used for petty political gain.

ZIONISM (noun) – a movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. It was established as a political organisation in 1897 under Theodor Herzl, and was later led by Chaim Weizmann.

But even from this first reading of Arendt it seems clear that between 1933-37 the Nazis and the Zionists worked closely together for the common objective of removing ‘the Jews’ from German territory. What Livingstone actually said was that Hitler ‘was supporting Zionism’ and it is clear that whether Hitler himself did, the Nazis as an organisation did.

“They came in order to enlist help for the illegal immigration of Jews into British-ruled Palestine, and both the Gestapo and the S.S. were helpful.”

But in fact such was the nature of Nazism and the total rule of the Furher that it is inconceivable that Hitler had not sanctioned this cooperation between the Nazis and the Zionists. Indeed, Eichmann at his trial confirmed that he had been partly responsible for setting up training schemes for German Jewish emigrates to Palestine – as Livingstone has recently claimed.

Indeed, Arendt provides clear evidence that before the outbreak of WW2 at least some Zionists saw the Nazis as allies and the British as the enemy – because the British were in charge of Palestine and resisted Zionist aspirations.

“… their chief enemy, prior to the extermination program, was not those who made life impossible for Jews in the old countries, Germany or Austria, but those who barred access to the new homeland; that enemy was definitely Britain, not Germany.”

The Nazis supported a Jewish homeland as a solution to what they conceived as ‘the Jewish problem’ i.e. removing Jewish people from Europe.

“Zionists, according to the Nazis, were “the ‘decent’ Jews since they too thought in ‘national’ terms.”

But so what might we ask? What was Livingstone trying to imply by these remarks? What is Arendt trying to prove by reporting it on so extensively? These  Zionists in  the 1930’s were clearly not Nazis, neither were the Nazis Zionists. On the contrary surely these particular German Zionists were merely trying to make the best of the terrible situation of German Jews under the Nazis and further their Zionist cause in the most difficult of situations and for a few years the aspirations of Zionists coincided with the objectives of the Nazis. “My enemies enemy is my friend…” and all that.

But perhaps the point Livingstone was trying to make is that ‘Zionism’ as a philosophy is inconsistent with Western Enlightenment political ideas of religious tolerance and freedom. Israel as conceived by Zionists is a state in which full citizenship is only granted to those of the Jewish faith. In Israel today non-Jews do NOT have the same democratic, social or even property rights as Jews. The tragic irony of the Jewish victims of Nazism where they were persecuted because of their religious faith, establishing a Jewish state in which the extent of your human rights are determined not by your humanity but by your religion, cannot be ignored.

Many (most?) of us who criticise Israel argue from the position of believing in a genuine 2 state solution. We argue that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 borders and that Palestine be allowed to develop as a credible and sustainable homeland for those displaced by the establishing of Israel.

The problem for Israel is that this would mean they would be surrounded on three sides by a hostile Palestinian state that has never accepted the legitimacy of the Israeli state and indeed claims the territory that Israel itself sits on.

Thus some (many/most?) Israel’s have come to believe that a credible and sustainable Palestinian homeland is incompatible with the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. And lets face it the Israeli government is manifestly not interested in a 2 state solution as the continued building of settlements on the West Bank illustrates. The Israeli government is clearly committed to the gradual appropriation of most of the area they occupied in 1967. They are seeking over time to redefine the borders of an expanded Israel. And they would presumably argue that the survival of Israel as a Jewish state is absolutely dependent upon doing so

Thus it would appear that the phenomena of the conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism comes from the fact that many Jews conflate criticism of Israel with calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Many Jews believe that those who criticise Israel do not accept that Israel is a legitimate state and ergo should be dismantled as a state.

And to some extent this is of course true. There are many men and women of good faith across the globe who do not accept the ligitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. Indeed, there are many Jews and indeed some Israeli Jews who do not accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state in which rights are determined by religion. Many believe that Israel should be transformed into a secular democratic state with equal rights for citizens of all religions. It could still be a safe-haven for Jews but not a state in which Jews were privileged by dent of their Jewishness.

However, and this is where it gets really tricky, there are many millions, especially in the Middle-East, who believe that the state of Israel should cease to exist completely and be replaced by a Palestinian, Muslim state, in which Jews would undoubtedly become an oppressed majority as full citizenship would only be granted of the Muslim faith.

Thus many Jewish people see ‘criticism’ of Israel and/or support of the Palestinians, as de facto an attack on Israel as a Jewish state and thus, according to this logic, as being against the Jewish nature of Israel and thus being anti-semitic.

However, for a Western, secular, educated, agnostic or atheist, gentile, Jewish claims to the land of Israel are based on a Bronze Age, tribal, origin myth and can not hold political legitimacy in the 21st Century… if it were not for the horror of the Holocaust. But the Holocaust did change everything and in the West after WW2 the Holocaust made calls for a Jewish homeland morally and politically irresistible.

For the Muslim inhabitants of British Palestine the Holocaust is understandably less compelling as a moral justification for the forced appropriation of their land. From their perspective the events of the Holocaust took place far-away in Germany, yet it is they, not the Germans, who have had to pay the price for the Nazis crimes.

And that in itself reflects a Eurocentric, colonial and racist world-view in which the plight of European Jewry is privileged over the plight of Middle-Eastern, Muslim, Arabs. Far from being the oriental outsiders of Medieval history, today the Jews of Israel are regarded in the West as being part of ‘us’, as being part of a civilised, democratic, modern enlightened, Western Europe, as opposed that is to the primitive, uncivilised, violent, Medieval, theocracies of the Muslim, Arab world.

In this light Israel can be seen as nothing more than the latest instalment in the story of European colonisation and appropriation of the land and resources of the third world. One of the many tragedies of the Israel/Palestine conflict is that 70 years after the defeat of the Nazis their racist, colonial, Eurocentric, moral degeneracy is still playing out in the Middle-East.

My review of Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalisation on the Culture Matters website.

My review of Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalisation on the Culture Matters website.

http://www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/arts/films/item/2483-hypernormalisation

The Lansman Momentum Constitutional Coup isn’t really about Lansman at all – its about Corbyn and McDonnell

I suggest that the ‘Lansman Constitutional Coup’ of Momentum, isn’t really about Lansman at all – its about Corbyn and McDonnell.

A grassroots movement was useful to them at the beginning but now in order to put up a credible fight in the next election they are going to have to come to an accommodation with the centre of the Labour Party. Not the Blairite, ultra-right of the party, they will never support Corbyn. But the soft-left, Guardian-reading, pragmatic, party loyalists who would like to see more left-wing policies if they could be convinced the voters do too (Owen Jones et al).

So in order to appease the soft-left of the party, Corbyn/McDonnell will have to compromise on some of the policy shibboleths of the left. Could be Trident or Palestine/Israel or a pullback on the rhetoric around Blair as a war criminal, or whatever. In order to pursue this strategy of ‘appeasement’ Corbyn/McDonnell could not countenance a grassroots Momentum that was further to the left than they are and unwilling to compromise on these policy shibboleths. Continue reading

Political Managerialism, Proceduralism, Electorialism and Legalism 

The suits rule the world!

They probably always did but briefly from the mid sixties to the early eighties the ‘suits’ were derided as boring bureaucrats. To be an accountant was just about the most laughable career choice anyone could make and banking was for dull old men.

During this period the rulers of the universe were rock stars and actors, film makers and playwrights. It was teachers, lecturers, doctors and lawyers who were the stars of their professions. And in politics it was iconic individualists like Tony Benn and Norman Tebbit who captured the public imagination.

But after 1979 the ‘suits’ mounted a counter-revolution and took back control of every aspect of our lives. But these weren’t Thatcher’s risk-taking ‘entrepreneurs’; these new ‘suits’ were the boring A-grade students who at school got all the prizes but completely lacked charisma or imagination and were about as risk-averse as you can get.

This has led to the sociopathic dead-hand of corporate managerialism taking over all our lives. The dreaded MBA has spread the myth that all organisations are the same and that ‘managing’ a bank, a supermarket or a button factory is the same as managing a hospital, a school or a theatre.

And worst of all this world-view has infected politics , and even the politics of the left. The labour party, the trade unions and the labour movement have been overtaken by a technocratic managerial proceduralism, electorialism and legalism that has rendered them almost apolitical.

Continue reading

Brexit is going to be the death of Corbyn

There is huge anger on social media and from the ‘liberal’ media about Corbyn imposing a three line whip on LP MP’s to vote to trigger Article 50.

Many middle class ‘liberal’ LP supporters are outraged that ‘their’ party is choosing not to reflect their core values. Well, hi folks, welcome to the world many of us have been living in for 30 years!

Lets face it by 1997 the Gang Of Four who split from the LP in the early eighties to form the SDLP, must have been sick to their stomachs because Blair’s New Labour was everything they have could have ever hoped for! And during New Labour the LP became an overwhelmingly middle-class party. Labour MP’s had always tended to be from the professional middle classes but in the Blair years the activists and bureaucrats all became middle-class. As a result the values and priorities of the party became increasingly middle-class. New Labour was the Libdems but having stolen the history, structures and electoral success of the LP.

Continue reading

Three Score Years And Ten

The average lifespan in the UK in 2016 is 81 years. Earth has existed for 4.53 billions of years, Homo Sapiens as a species have existed for only 200,000 years but in that time 108 billions of people have lived their “three score years and ten.” Time will go on infinitely after we are dead. Who knows how many more billions will be born, live and die?

Live is abundant. Human life is abundant. But paradoxically for each of us as individuals it is a time-limited resource that will inevitably come to an end. So our own lives are infinitely precious to us and those who love us. 

Even more so if like me you do not believe in any kind of ‘afterlife’. If there is no afterlife then before we were born our consciousness did not exist and after the spark of ‘life’ leaves our body our consciousness will once more cease to exist… for eternity. The universe has existed for 14 billion years. 1 year x 1 milion x 1 thousand x 14. For 14 billion years i did not exist and the universe seems to have coped quite well. And after my consciousness ceases the universe will continue on its path for billions and billions of years hence. The same applies to you, whoever you are, and however succesful you think you are.

All of us, however ‘great’ we think we are, whatever ‘success’ we achieve in our short lives, are almost entirely insignificant. In a billion years Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, Ghandi, Henry VIII, the Egytian Pharoahs, the Inca Kings will all have disapeared into the mists of time. Even in ten thousand years almost everything we regard today as politically, economically, historically or culturally significant will be forgotten.  (Bear in mind that agriculture and the first cities developd ten thousand years ago. The ‘great and the good’ of today will have no more significance than the lowliest of the low. Time reduces us ALL to dust.

Any living creature has to constantly seek for food, water and shelter in order to survive. They also have to try and avoid becoming food or shelter for some other creature. So in that sense all living creatures have to ‘work’ to live – “life is struggle” as the Buddah so reassuringly put it.

For the vast majority of humanity currently living it is no longer possible to find food, water and shelter in the natural environment either because there is no productive natural environment to speak of, or it is all ‘owned’ by other homo sapiens who claim that only they are entitled to benefit from the resources of their patch of the natural environment and who will use brute force to protect their monopoly over those benefits.

So almost all of us have to sell our labour to other homo sapiens in order to ‘earn’ the right to access food, water and shelter. We have no choice in this. Work or die. This however is a very recent development. For 190,000 of the 200,000 years our species has existed we lived in small (150) egalitarian, nomadic bands who survived by collaborating and sharing the abundant natural resources around them.

But in the last three hundred years human ingenuity leading to mass production has coincided with a long brutal, political struggle leading to the temporary triumph of libetarian and egalitarian ideas, has led to many millions of us having access to a myriad of luxuries far beyond the necessities of food, water and shelter. 

This is of course to be welcomed and not many of us in the rich West would swap our comfortable desk jobs, our central heating and our smart phones for a strip of land and a peasants hut. But global neoliberal capitalism based on the self-defeating idea of infinte growth within finte resources, means that most of us alive today live out our few short decades of individual consciousness on a meaningless treadmill of consumerism. Working all day at boring or unpleasant tasks unrelated to our own dreams and interests in order to ‘earn’ the  credits that will enable us to buy more stuff, and when we have acquired that particular stuff, we will be convinced by advertising and peer pressure that it isn’t good enough stuff, so we will return to our ‘jobs’ and work even harder to get some ‘better’ stuff. 

Not only this, many of us have also been conned into believing that our ‘success’ in fulfilling these ‘jobs’ is what defines our worth and our status in society and for many it these ‘jobs’ that give a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives. Unsurprisingly then that these ‘jobs’ become incredibly important to many of us, they consume all our energy, creativity and dominate our emotional life. We spend most of the daylight hours doing them and indeed some of those who are ‘succesful’ at these ‘jobs’ are rewarded with extreme material wealth and extraordinary levels of social privilige. Conversely some of the ‘failures’ even kill themselves because they do not ‘succeed’ at these jobs. They end their three score years and ten prematurely and return to the eternity of non-existence that had preceeded their birth and the brief flicker of their consciousness that momentarily illuminated the cosmos, because they did not get the promotion they desired or because a particular legal system had declared them ‘bankrupt’.

To carry on like this we have to inflict a sort of mass self-deception, we have to avoid looking at our existential reality, at our almost total insignificance and we have to convince ourselves that our successes and our failures are meaningful, that they do genuinely say something about our moral worth, that we do matter, and not just to those who love us, but to the universe.

Ultimately as individuals we are ALL insignificant and individual achievement or failure is an illusion. ‘Success’ is as empty of meaning as ‘failure’ and the wealth and  privilige of the ‘succesful’ is as undeserved as the suffering of the ‘failed’.