Popular Posts

Pageviews last month

Sunday, October 13, 2013

John Pilger:Old game, new obsession, new enemy. Now it’s China.

Countries are "pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world," wrote Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, in 1898. Nothing has changed. The shopping mall massacre in Nairobi was a bloody façade behind which a full-scale invasion of Africa and a war in Asia are the great game.

The al-Shabaab shopping mall killers came from Somalia. If any country is an imperial metaphor, it is Somalia. Sharing a common language and religion, Somalis have been divided between the British, French, Italians and Ethiopians. Tens of thousands of people have been handed from one power to another. "When they are made to hate each other," wrote a British colonial official, "good governance is assured."
Today, Somalia is a theme park of brutal, artificial divisions, long impoverished by World Bank and IMF "structural adjustment" programmes, and saturated with modern weapons, notably President Obama's personal favourite, the drone. The one stable Somali government, the Islamic Courts, was "well received by the people in the areas it controlled," reported the US Congressional Research Service, "[but] received negative press coverage, especially in the West." Obama crushed it; and in January, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, presented her man to the world. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government," effused President Hassan Mohamud, "thank you, America."

The shopping mall atrocity was a response to this - just as the attack on the Twin Towers and the London bombings were explicit reactions to invasion and injustice. Once of little consequence, jihadism now marches in lockstep with the return of unfettered imperialism.

Since Nato reduced modern Libya to a Hobbesian state in 2011, the last obstacles to Africa have fallen. "Scrambles for energy, minerals and fertile land are likely to occur with increasingly intensity," report Ministry of Defence planners. They predict "high numbers of civilian casualties"; therefore "perceptions of moral legitimacy will be important for success". Sensitive to the PR problem of invading a continent, the arms mammoth, BAE Systems, together with Barclays Capital and BP, warn that "the government should define its international mission as managing risks on behalf of British citizens". The cynicism is lethal. British governments are repeatedly warned, not least by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, that foreign adventures beckon retaliation at home.

With minimal media interest, the US African Command (Africom) has deployed troops to 35 African countries, establishing a familiar network of authoritarian supplicants eager for bribes and armaments. In war games, a "soldier to soldier" doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. The British did the same in India. It is as if Africa's proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master's black colonial elite whose "historic mission", warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the subjugation of their own people in the cause of "a capitalism rampant though camouflaged". The reference also fits the Son of Africa in the White House.

For Obama, there is a more pressing cause - China. Africa is China's success story. Where the Americans bring drones, the Chinese build roads, bridges and dams. What the Chinese want is resources, especially fossil fuels. Nato's bombing of Libya drove out 30,000 Chinese oil industry workers. More than jihadism or Iran, China is now Washington's obsession in Africa and beyond. This is a "policy" known as the "pivot to Asia", whose threat of world war may be as great as any in the modern era.

This week's meeting in Tokyo of US secretary of state John Kerry and defence secretary Chuck Hagel with their Japanese counterparts accelerated the prospect of war with the new imperial rival. Sixty per cent of US and naval forces are to be based in Asia by 2020, aimed at China. Japan is re-arming rapidly under the right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to power in December with a pledge to build a "new, strong military" and circumvent the "peace constitution". A US-Japanese anti-ballistic missile system near Kyoto is directed at China. Using long-range Global Hawk drones, the US has sharply increased its provocations in the East China and South China seas, where Japan and China dispute the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Advanced vertical take-off aircraft are now deployed in Japan; their purpose is blitzkrieg.

On the Pacific island of Guam, from which B-52s attacked Vietnam, the biggest military buildup since the Indochina wars includes 9,000 US Marines. In Australia this week, an arms fair and military jamboree that diverted much of Sydney, is in keeping with a government propaganda campaign to justify an unprecedented US military build-up from Perth to Darwin, aimed at China. The vast US base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs is, as Edward Snowden disclosed, a hub of US spying in the region and beyond; it also critical to Obama's worldwide assassinations by drone.

"We have to inform the British to keep them on side," an assistant US secretary of state McGeorge Bundy once said, "You in Australia are with us, come what may." Australian forces have long played a mercenary role for Washington. However, there is a hitch. China is Australia's biggest trading partner and largely responsible its evasion of the 2008 recession. Without China, there would be no minerals boom: no weekly mining return of up to a billion dollars.

The dangers this presents are rarely debated publicly in Australia, where prime minister Tony Abbott's patron, Rupert Murdoch, controls 70 per cent of the press. Occasionally, anxiety is expressed over the "choice" that the US wants Australia to make. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warns that any US plan to strike at China would involve "blinding" Chinese surveillance, intelligence and command systems. This would "consequently increase the chances of Chinese nuclear pre-emption... and a series of miscalculations on both sides if Beijing perceives conventional attacks on its homeland as an attempt to disarm its nuclear capability".
In his address to the nation last month, Obama said, "What makes America different, what makes us exceptional is that we are dedicated to act."

10 October 2013

This article was first published in the Guardian, UK

John Pilger's new film, Utopia,
is released in cinemas in the UK on 15 November and is launched in Australia in January.
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tariq Ali: The Miliband Affair

Ralph Miliband was no patriot. He was a stern critic of the British ruling elite and its institutions.
The only function of the assault on the reputation of Ralph Miliband was to punish and discredit his son. This operation, masterminded the Daily Mail and its editor — a reptile courted assiduously in the past by Blair and Brown — has backfired sensationally. It was designed to discredit the son by hurling the “sins of the father” on the head of his younger son. Instead, Edward Miliband’s spirited response united a majority of the country behind him and against the tabloid.

Ralph, had he been alive, would have found the ensuing consensus extremely diverting.
The Tories and Lib-Dems made their distaste for the Mail clear, Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight held up old copies of the Mail with its pro-fascist headlines (“Hurrah for the Blackshirts” the best remembered), two former members of Thatcher’s cabinet defended Miliband pere with Michael Heseltine reminding citizens that it was the Soviet Union and the Red Army that made victory against the Axis powers possible in the first place and an opinion poll commissioned by the Sunday Times revealed that 73 percent supported Ed Miliband against the Rothermere rag. Did these figures compel the paper to hire a hack writer to carry on the Mail campaign in a marginally more ‘sophisticated’ style, but replete with smear and innuendo? If Paul Dacre is soon put out to pasture on his large estate in Ireland, the story will have a Hollywood ending. The triumph of good against evil, as one might say, using the language often deployed by tabloids and politicians in these bad times.
The demonization of Ralph Miliband raises a few issues avoided by both the Tory and the liberal press. These relate to Miliband’s own political views on Britain, its political institutions as well as the world at large; the context of the first Lord Rothermere’s addiction to Mussolini and Hitler and their English offspring in Britain (Oswald Mosley and gang but not them alone) right up till September 1939 and the question of patriotism and its compatibility with left-wing views.

The popularity of fascism on the Right was not, alas, confined to the Rothermeres or the Mitfords. The class confidence of European conservatism was shaken by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia whose declared aim was to destroy global capitalism. Fear stalked the corridors of power in every capital and the presence of large numbers of Marxists of Jewish origin in both the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties stoked anti-semitism throughout Europe. The impact of the black-shirted fascist triumph in Rome, five years after the Bolshevik victory, should not be underestimated. With rare exceptions the European Right, including its liberal segments, greeted it as a huge triumph for western civilization and heaved a huge collective sigh of relief. Capitalism had found its own shock troops

Distinguished English-language publishers in London (Hutchinson) and New York (Scribners) published Mussolini’s My Autobiography in several editions: the introduction by Richard Child, a former US Ambassador to Italy and a fascist groupie who helped ghost-write the book, praised the dictator in extravagant language as one of the “leading statesman in the world.” To the end of his days the fascist leader would quote from memory what Winston Churchill had said during a visit to Rome five years after the fascist triumph in 1927:
I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.
Churchill proceeded to explain the international significance of fascism as lying in its capacity to mobilise friendly social forces to defeat the common enemy:
Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.
Here we have it without any obfuscation. Fascism was a necessary bulwark against the threat of communist revolution. And all this was written and spoken long before the abomination of Stalin’s purges and the famines resulting from forced industrialization. It became the common sense of the continental Right and explains, apart from other things, the ease with which the regime at Vichy began its years of collaboration with the Third Reich after the 1940 occupation of France.

The British politicians — Chamberlain, Halifax, Butler and co — who would later be denounced as ‘appeasers’ were, in fact, far more representative of the Anglo-European elite than those who hurriedly changed their minds at the last moment when they realized that Hitler would neither agree to an equitable sharing of the continent and its colonies or oblige London by attacking the Soviet Union before taking the rest of Europe. This made war inevitable.

Churchill was never shy when it came to explaining primary and secondary contradictions. His strategic priority was to defend the interests of Britain. He was the most consistent and eloquent defender of its overseas colonies as were others in the imperial elite. In 1933 the British Secretary of State for India, L.S. Amery calmly explained to fellow parliamentarians, without arousing a storm of protest, why it would be hypocritical for Britain to oppose the Japanese occupation of Manchuria:
I confess that I see no reason whatever why, either in act or in word, or in sympathy, we should go individually or intentionally against Japan in this matter. Japan has got a very powerful case based upon fundamental realities…that is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continual aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalism? Our whole policy in India, our whole policy in Egypt, stands condemned if we condemn Japan.
Imperialist leaders of the early 20th century were less prone to double standards than their contemporaries. As late as 1939, Churchill, in his collection of essays Great Contemporaries, saw no reason why his reflections on Mein Kampf and its author should not be reprinted:
‘The story of that struggle cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance, the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome, all authorities or resistance which barred his path…I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations.’
British and American bankers and businessmen were in the forefront of arming the Third Reich as a ‘bulwark against Bolshevism’ (as Lloyd George, mimicking Churchill, explained). The Governor of the Bank of England did not mince words: British loans to Hitler should be seen as an ”investment against Bolshevism.” This was a common view of the elite at the time. ‘The German claim to equality of rights in the matter of arms cannot be resisted and ought not to be resisted. You will have to face rearmament of Germany,’ declared the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 6 February 1934. A month later the Chairman of Vickers Limited justified sales to fascist Germany: “I cannot give you an assurance in definite terms, but I can tell you that nothing is being done without complete sanction and approval of our own government.” [War is Terribly Profitable by Henry Owen, London, 1936.] It was ever thus.

This was the atmosphere in which the Daily Mail and other tabloids (not to mention Geoffrey Dawson at The Times or King Edward VIII at the Palace) demonstrated varying degrees of affection and sympathy for the Third Reich. And it was this context that explains the attraction of many British intellectuals and workers (including comrades Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt and others) to Communism as the only force capable of defeating the Nazis. In this, as Heseltine reminded the country, they were not so wrong. Curiously enough, Ralph Miliband, contrary to Tom Bower’s slurs in a recent issue of the Sunday Times, was never attracted to the Communist Parties or the groups to their left. Nor was he a partisan of the armed struggled line in South America even though he was ferociously hostile to the US-supported military dictatorships in the region.

The student uprisings of 1968-9 found him at the London School of Economics. His initial reaction, like that of Jurgen Habermas in Germany, was to describe (in a private letter) the occupation of the LSE by radicals as ‘fascism of the left’. He strongly disapproved of the notion that students should elect their professors and when it was pointed out that he would win by a large majority, he was not amused. He changed his mind after the mass arrests and the sacking of Robin Blackburn, writing that “sophisticated Oakeshottismus is a fairly thin crust; when it cracks, as it did here, a rather ugly, visceral sort of conservatism emerges.” He told me later that one of his big regrets was not resigning immediately from the LSE after Blackburn was sacked.

He was a fiercely independent-minded Marxist scholar who could be equally scathing about left-wing verities (he spoke very sharply to me in the 70s when I suggested that world revolution was not a utopia) as those of social democracy. His key work on Britain was Parliamentary Socialism (1961) where he referred to the “sickness of labourism,” leaving no doubt as to where he stood. And later he was prescient on what the future might really hold given the collapse of the broad Left, writing in 1989:
‘We know what this immense historic process is taken to mean by the enemies of socialism everywhere: not only the approaching demise of Communist regimes and their replacement by capitalist ones, but the elimination of any kind of socialist alternative to capitalism. With this intoxicating prospect of the scarcely hoped-for dissipation of an ancient nightmare, there naturally goes the celebration of the market, the virtues of free enterprise, and greed unlimited. Nor is it only on the Right that the belief has grown in recent times that socialism, understood as a radical transformation of the social order, has had its day: apostles of ‘new times’ on the Left have come to harbour much the same belief. All that is now possible, in the eyes of the ‘new realism’, is the more humane management of a capitalism which is in any case being thoroughly transformed.’
His political views were far removed from those of his sons and pretending otherwise is foolish. Ralph was not a one-nation conservative who believed in parcellized “social justice.” He remained a staunch anti-capitalist socialist till the end of his life. He was extremely close to both his sons, was proud of their success but as any other migrant refugee would be — kids have done well in a foreign land — , not in a political sense at all. He loathed New Labour and in of our last conversations described Blair as ‘teflon man’. Neither he nor his wife Marion (an equally strong minded socialist and feminist) ever tried to inflict their politics on the kids. Given his short temper I wonder whether this self-denying ordnance would, in his case at any rate, have survived the Iraq War. I doubt it.
And what of patriotism? Is it any different to national-chauvinism, jingoism, etc.? Does it have the same connotation in an occupied nation as in the occupying power? Many decades ago I was facing three journalists on Face the Press on Tyne Tees TV in Newcastle. The most rightwing of them, Peregrine Worsthorne from the Sunday Telegraph, annoyed by what I was saying interrupted me:
“Does the word patriotism have any meaning for people like you?”
“No,” I replied, “in my eyes a patriot is little more than an international blackleg.”
Taken aback, he muttered, “Rather a good phrase.”
In fact I had pinched it from Karl Liebknecht the German socialist, explaining his vote against war credits in the German parliament in 1914.

Ralph Miliband, like many anti-fascists, joined the armed forces during the Second World War. He opposed the wars in Korea and Vietnam, spoke loudly and clearly against the Falklands expedition. Even a cursory glance at Socialist Register, the annual magazine he founded in 1964, reveals the strong internationalism that was at its core. Marcel Liebman’s text on ‘The meaning of 1914’ might be well worth reprinting as official Britain prepares to celebrate the centenary of the carnage that was World War One. Ralph was always grateful (his word) that Britain offered him and his father, Jewish refugees fleeing occupied Belgium, asylum in 1940. Despite that fact he remained an outlier, a stern critic of the British ruling elite and its institutions as well as the Labour Party and the trade-union knights and peers.

It might be better if all sides left it at that…

If you like this article, please subscribe.
published in Jacobin Magazine 12/10/2013              

Chomsky: US drone campaign is world's biggest terrorist action