Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nixon in China

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Now, I'm glad that Phil at least is talking some sense on the filthy foriegners release story - from the tone of the Beeb you'd think Tony Blair himself had been murderering people (well, he has been, but they're about three or four years down the line on that one).

This story starkly illustrates something important - Traingulation strategy meets Nixon in China. this story, whilst embarrasing, would have barely scratched teh Tories? Why, because the hang 'em and flogg 'em brigade are their natural supporters, they have nothing to prove on being tough on crime. Just as Nixon, the arch anti-communist had the political backing for rapprochment with China, so too does a party on it's natural ground have the opportunity to strike out - the other side don't have teh will, the reosurces or the credibility to criticise.

Triangulation means basically using office to steal the other side's clothes - it means working to stress your toughness on law and order, etc. You can do this, precisely because of the Nixon in China effect, your own side can't criticise because they want to stand behind you (and understand the reasons). However, it means you are forever running scared of losing the newly won clothes, the new credibility - the other side will want their natural position back.

That is where this scandal is coming from.

It's a hegemonic war of position, with Labour arrayed against powerful media forces backing retributive policies and disgusting patriotism. This battle was over before it began. Honest politics means confronting and changing minds, not doing it by stealth. machiavellianism, don't do it kids.

Update Paul Anderson talketh sense too.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Mornington Crescent Manifesto

Well, SIAW, Phil and Dave are all in on the act, so lets look a little closer at the manifesto drawn up when the pub closed.

1) For democracy.
We are committed to democratic norms, procedures and structures — freedom of opinion and assembly, free elections, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, and the separation of state and religion. We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance, of those countries in which liberal, pluralist democracies have taken hold.

I'll leave aside that separation of legislative and executive functions isn't necessarilly democratic (local authorities in the UK used to not make such a separation - the appearance of cabinets and executives has seen a diminution inf democracy, in fact). They assume and call for the continued existence of the state. The state is based upon minority oligrarchic rule, where democratic forms tend to be abstract and ephemeral rather than fundamental. The state and democracy cannot co-exist. Liberal states are better - obviously - than illiberal ones, but by far better is no state at all.

2) No apology for tyranny.
We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.

What about economic tyranny? What about states that use economic blackmail to effectively neuter and overturn the democratic will of other states? What about a system of international relations still routed in feudal norms and assumptions rather than democratic ones? I'd suggest the division of the world into nation states is a mode of tyranny - the arbitrary limitation of freedom of movement, the arbitrary division of wealtha nd thus power.

3) Human rights for all.
We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.

Let's just say I'm not keen on the language of rights - we wouldn't need rights if we didn't need protecting from something. Rights are like title deeds to certain forms of treatment and behaviour - the rights to human dignity. These cannot and shouldn't be owned. Free development for each I think is a better call, a rounder call, and one to which we should mobilise ourselves and make the goal of our community.

4) Equality.
We espouse a generally egalitarian politics. We look towards progress in relations between the sexes (until full gender equality is achieved), between different ethnic communities, between those of various religious affiliations and those of none, and between people of diverse sexual orientations — as well as towards broader social and economic equality all round. We leave open, as something on which there are differences of viewpoint amongst us, the question of the best economic forms of this broader equality, but we support the interests of working people everywhere and their right to organize in defence of those interests. Democratic trade unions are the bedrock organizations for the defence of workers' interests and are one of the most important forces for human rights, democracy-promotion and egalitarian internationalism. Labour rights are human rights. The universal adoption of the International Labour Organization Conventions — now routinely ignored by governments across the globe — is a priority for us. We are committed to the defence of the rights of children, and to protecting people from sexual slavery and all forms of institutionalized abuse.

Generally egalitarian? Puh-lease. Relations between groups? Howabout a more positive goal - the emancipation of all human beings - affirm that universal identity. One world, one people. The stuff about trade unions in hopelessly utopian, either they are part of a struggle to advance and emancipate working people or they will simply become a feature of their management and repression. Note the paragrapoh does not mention class once. This is the effect of reaching out to liberals.

5) Development for freedom.
We stand for global economic development-as-freedom and against structural economic oppression and environmental degradation. The current expansion of global markets and free trade must not be allowed to serve the narrow interests of a small corporate elite in the developed world and their associates in developing countries. The benefits of large-scale development through the expansion of global trade ought to be distributed as widely as possible in order to serve the social and economic interests of workers, farmers and consumers in all countries. Globalization must mean global social integration and a commitment to social justice. We support radical reform of the major institutions of global economic governance (World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank) to achieve these goals, and we support fair trade, more aid, debt cancellation and the campaign to Make Poverty History. Development can bring growth in life-expectancy and in the enjoyment of life, easing burdensome labour and shortening the working day. It can bring freedom to youth, possibilities of exploration to those of middle years, and security to old age. It enlarges horizons and the opportunities for travel, and helps make strangers into friends. Global development must be pursued in a manner consistent with environmentally sustainable growth.

Pious liberal hand-wringing. How about supporting no trade? How about supporting distribution rather than trade? Capital is not a trading system, the fair trade movement labours under that impression. Capitalism rewards the ownership of capital - that's the lesson Charlie Marx taught us, profits go to the countries that are heavilly capitalised. That is the bind, because it means coutnries wiythout capital, unless they have rent seeking resources find it almost impossible to accumulate capital (indeed, local elites usually export it and invest elsewhere where profits are easier). Capitalism holds back development. Again, not mentioned.

6) Opposing anti-Americanism.
We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. This is not a case of seeing the US as a model society. We are aware of its problems and failings. But these are shared in some degree with all of the developed world. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name. Its peoples have produced a vibrant culture that is the pleasure, the source-book and the envy of millions. That US foreign policy has often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported regressive and authoritarian ones does not justify generalized prejudice against either the country or its people.

Yes, let us remember America's revolutionary history, and celebrate the ongoing battle for democracy there. Its government of usurpers and oligarchs is irrelvenet to what America stands for. When the anti-democratic parts of it's contsitution are removed, it may well become as described above.

7) For a two-state solution.
We recognize the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There can be no reasonable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that subordinates or eliminates the legitimate rights and interests of one of the sides to the dispute.

Bleurgh! For a no state solution. Who would a liberated Palestine belong to? Palestinean capitalists. Who would arecognised Israel belong to? Israeli capitalists. Who would own neitehr - the workers. Workers have no country.

8) Against racism.
For liberals and the Left, anti-racism is axiomatic. We oppose every form of racist prejudice and behaviour: the anti-immigrant racism of the far Right; tribal and inter-ethnic racism; racism against people from Muslim countries and those descended from them, particularly under cover of the War on Terror. The recent resurgence of another, very old form of racism, anti-Semitism, is not yet properly acknowledged in left and liberal circles. Some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of "anti-Zionism". We oppose this type of racism too, as should go without saying.

Wasn't this covered under (4) above, and if not, why not? Remember kids, there is only one race, the human race.

9) United against terror.
We are opposed to all forms of terrorism. The deliberate targeting of civilians is a crime under international law and all recognized codes of warfare, and it cannot be justified by the argument that it is done in a cause that is just. Terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology is widespread today. It threatens democratic values and the lives and freedoms of people in many countries. This does not justify prejudice against Muslims, who are its main victims, and amongst whom are to be found some of its most courageous opponents. But, like all terrorism, it is a menace that has to be fought, and not excused.

Now, how do you define deliberate targetting of civilians? Aiming at them, or aiming at something knowing you're going to hit them? Knowing that civilians will die as a consequence of your actions sounds like targetting them to me - or are some people trying to define war in a way that means it's somehow not terrorism with a bigger budget? I can remember at least one signatory defending a prima facia case of targetting civilians in history (see if you can guess who and what). This paragraph amounts to supporting rapiers over gund because one is less gentlemanly.

10) A new internationalism.
We stand for an internationalist politics and the reform of international law — in the interests of global democratization and global development. Humanitarian intervention, when necessary, is not a matter of disregarding sovereignty, but of lodging this properly within the "common life" of all peoples. If in some minimal sense a state protects the common life of its people (if it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life), then its sovereignty is to be respected. But if the state itself violates this common life in appalling ways, its claim to sovereignty is forfeited and there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue. Once a threshold of inhumanity has been crossed, there is a "responsibility to protect".

Bollocks to soveriegnty - bollocks to internationalism - the world for the workers! What is this threshold of decency? After all, isn't hunger and starvation an obscene form of trorture? Isn't dying at half the life expectency of other countries a form of massive slaughter - since nation states are getting in the way of resolving these far greater crimes against humanity (compared to which Saddam was an amateur) shouldn't they be swept away by some sort of worldwide movement?

11) A critical openness.
Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse-making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the "anti-war" movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there are no opponents on the Left. We reject, similarly, the idea that there can be no opening to ideas and individuals to our right. Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticized in clear and forthright terms. Conversely, we pay attention to liberal and conservative voices and ideas if they contribute to strengthening democratic norms and practices and to the battle for human progress.

The left is the enemy - the left of capital have always made excuses at the expense of the working class an our interest. Socialists should always be opposed to the left and hostile to conservative and liberal forces that want to try and trap us into supporting their mode of exploiting us rather than another. Socialists must be hostile to all otehr political parties whether avowed capitalist or alleged labour.

12) Historical truth.
In connecting to the original humanistic impulses of the movement for human progress, we emphasize the duty which genuine democrats must have to respect for the historical truth. Not only fascists, Holocaust-deniers and the like have tried to obscure the historical record. One of the tragedies of the Left is that its own reputation was massively compromised in this regard by the international Communist movement, and some have still not learned that lesson. Political honesty and straightforwardness are a primary obligation for us.

Absolutely agree.

13) Freedom of ideas.
We uphold the traditional liberal freedom of ideas. It is more than ever necessary today to affirm that, within the usual constraints against defamation, libel and incitement to violence, people must be at liberty to criticize ideas — even whole bodies of ideas — to which others are committed. This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general. Respect for others does not entail remaining silent about their beliefs where these are judged to be wanting.

Agree again.

14) Open source.
As part of the free exchange of ideas and in the interests of encouraging joint intellectual endeavour, we support the open development of software and other creative works and oppose the patenting of genes, algorithms and facts of nature. We oppose the retrospective extension of intellectual property laws in the financial interests of corporate copyright holders. The open source model is collective and competitive, collaborative and meritocratic. It is not a theoretical ideal, but a tested reality that has created common goods whose power and robustness have been proved over decades. Indeed, the best collegiate ideals of the scientific research community that gave rise to open source collaboration have served human progress for centuries.

Reads like someone inserted their hobbyhorse into a manifesto, but yes, agree again - copyright is bunkum.

15) A precious heritage.
We reject fear of modernity, fear of freedom, irrationalism, the subordination of women; and we reaffirm the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century: liberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness. These inspirational ideas were made the inheritance of us all by the social-democratic, egalitarian, feminist and anti-colonial transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — by the pursuit of social justice, the provision of welfare, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men and women. None should be left out, none left behind. We are partisans of these values. But we are not zealots. For we embrace also the values of free enquiry, open dialogue and creative doubt, of care in judgement and a sense of the intractabilities of the world. We stand against all claims to a total — unquestionable or unquestioning — truth.

Bloody liberals. We stand for these values, but aren't that committed to them. What crap, if you stand by these values and want to pay more than lip service to them do something about it, become active - enforce these values. So there are universal human values which should be enforced by war, if necessary, perhaps. Jesus wept!

Anyway, it's nice to see a strong liberal statement come out, and for it to clearly show once again the dividing line between socialists and liberalism.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It's unreasonable to demand the possible


Hat tip The loony collective.