Friday, 31 January 2020

False flags and SNP betrayal on Brexit 'independence' day

And so, here we are, last day of January, with sundry Brexiteers waving Union flags and celebrating their 'Independence Day'. Well, obnoxious and crass as it all seems, good luck to them.

The more substantive question one may ask on this day is: independence from what? From one form of hegemonic control and elite rule to another? And, indeed: transition to what? Same capitalist system, just a different set of neoliberal economic arrangements?

Still, let people have their moment. When all the dust has settled over the 'Brexit Issue', many will hopefully come to realise that this was really an establishment-rooted crisis all along, and that when the varying elements of the self-serving capitalist order at the core of it are finished 'sorting it out', there will be no appreciable benefit for all those so cynically dragged into and embroiled in their 'Great Debate.'     

For others here in Scotland, this could have been another red letter day, one, indeed, that could have transcended Brexit Day itself, by marking the decisive moment that Nicola Sturgeon set out the date and plans for a new Independence referendum. 

Instead, Sturgeon and the SNP leadership have evaded that key opportunity by wrapping themselves in another nationalist flag and set of jingoistic bunting. And, no, it's not the Saltire. 

As it has done for the past three-and-a-half years, the SNP has been waving EU flags and emblems as it prioritised the issue of Brexit over Scottish Independence.

All the key political resources and energies it has expended on defending the UK from Brexit could have been concentrated on building, planning and agitating for independence.

Not only has it won successive popular mandates and parliamentary votes for Indyref2, it has now, on this official Brexit Day, exhausted every last possible 'wait and see' excuse for not proceeding with those approvals.

Sturgeon's speech today was a classic in political window-dressing, stressing the 'importance' of 'realistic holding' rather than 'false routes', and 'ongoing political persuasion' over 'obsession with process'. It has to be 'legal' and 'legitimate', she insists.

Yet, none of this provides the remotest explanation of how she or her party are going to counter Johnson's, or any other agent of the establishment's, perpetual blocking of that process. The reality of the SNP's 'problem' here may be obvious. The absence of any serious Plan B after all this time is completely inexcusable.

What, moreover, is this insistence on the 'proper way of doing things'? As one timely comment has it: "If people in the past relied on politicians ‘doing things properly’ we would still be waiting for the vote!"

And, indeed, one can only but suspect a more base purpose behind Sturgeon's 'realism' and 'hope' speech: the reality of protecting SNP party interests, careers and salaries, and keeping their MPs in cosy Westminster seats; and her hope that the Yes street can be tempered, managed and encouraged to keep building and delivering those very convenient mandates.

It's understandable, of course, that Indy supporters and other Remainers in Scotland will be lamenting the Brexit hour tonight. Scotland, after all, voted strongly to stay in the EU.

Yet, while many are wrapping themselves in that blue and starry flag, they should remember that the UK decision to leave represents the very material change that gives them this vital new opportunity to realise Indy.

That Sturgeon has still managed not to utilise and advance that golden opportunity even by this Brexit Day is politically unconscionable.

And judging from the wave of disappointed, disillusioned and dejected Yes people responding to her "excellent...proper cut above" speech, she and her inner cabal must surely see the dangerous new political waters they now find themselves in. 

On this day of Brexit and lost chance for Scotland, many will now come to see not only the Union establishment as a major impediment to Scottish independence, but the leader and supposed party of independence itself.

And it's worth noting at this juncture that before we ever get to that Independence Day for Scotland, we better also start thinking about just how independent it can ever be from those prevailing neoliberal rules and the kind of establishment-abiding values and priorities that this party continues to uphold.       

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

January gloom: fearful skies, elite narratives and political tumbleweed

January. New year, new decade. But little hopes of earthly wake-up or political cheer.

Australia is on fire. Martian red skies. Choking black smoke. Eden razed. Climate reality. Apocalypse right here and now.

Across the grey floor of forest ash, blackened, bewildered sheep stumble amid the mass incineration of another half a billion creatures.

A dehydrated koala sups welcome water from a kindly fireman. But it's feeble little eyes may also be asking: 'What have you done to my ancient, loving habitat, careless caretaker species?'

Australia's own ancient humans may be sharing the same thought.

As fleeing kangaroos gather in abandoned streets and residents retreat to shrinking shores, the country's leader, like most of his global accomplices, babbles and postures, lost in the suffocating smog of denial, beholden to king carbon, unable, it seems, even to comprehend the staggering implications of such corporate greed and political complicity.

While the fires rage on, massive flash floods, hail and dust storms ravage other parts of the country, all part of the new catastrophic mix.       

Elsewhere, Everest melts, grass replacing glaciers. With rapidly-rising Himalayan temperatures, once reliable seasons of Hindu Kush water flows are giving way to erratic floods and looming drought for millions below. 

There's no such permanent thing now as 'permafrost'.

We're now seeing every severe symptom of climate breakdown, from hotter oceans to unstoppable wildfires, ferocious tornadoes to expanding desertification, and even the distinct likelihood of more epic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Dark hawk skies

Amid this historic emergency, already fearful skies are filled with more dark menace as neo-con jets and drones swoop down like righteous vultures on yet another 'errant regime'.

The planet may be burning, multiple species being erased, human extinction imminent, but Washington's hawks and their allied flock must still bomb, plunder and patrol, keeping vigilant claim over all coveted lands and resources below. The warmongering priorities of Empire.

And, of course, while carefully caveating their 'discomfort' over Trump's illegal assassination of Soleimani, dutiful Democrats and every other every voice of calibrated liberal imperialism still manage to avoid the remotest expression of sympathy for Iran.

How quickly Western media used the tragic error of the Iranian-downed passenger plane to demonise an entire state, talk-up nominal street protests as 'mass insurrection', and push the usual liberal interventionist script for 'regime change'. 

Beyond the hype, University of Tehran professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi offers this more  grounded admonition: "Western media claims there are big protests going on in Iran. This is crude and desperate propaganda. Iran is calm and things are normal. Anti-Iran warriors can fool the ignorant, but they sharpen the wits of the wise. The expulsion of US occupation forces from Iraq is inevitable."

Palace placebo

If the real world of Middle East suffering and climate calamity are all too much to contemplate, there's always the facile world of 'royal crisis' to occupy us, as spluttering columnists and craven 'correspondents' keep the subjects dulled and diverted with agonised speculation over the 'exiting couple'.

Which all goes to prove the high propaganda value of narrative control, in this case a vacuous slew of 'news', comment and deliberation over 'titles, roles and financing', rather than elementary challenging of the monarchy itself.

No need to ask serious questions about the very existence of a grossly privileged, indefensible institution when we're all consumed with the 'problem' of how to 'modernise' it. Altogether, a right royal scam.

As with a contrived Brexit narrative, we're now enjoined to take a 'position' over 'Megxit': how will they manage to live, conduct their duties, derive their income, maintain their security?

Establishment narratives, establishment tensions, establishment crises; how humbly grateful we should be in serving to engage and 'resolve' their 'problems'.

The laughable notion of British 'political modernity': from military to monarchy, and media framing of both, another parched wasteland of deference, obedience and conformity. A tumbleweed of obsequious infantilism.

Gloom after Corbyn 

And so it is with the political wilderness we now survey in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn's defeat. The dark cloud over that hoped-for dawn will take a long time lifting. 

This wasn't any normal election. It was a very British election coup. No prospective progressive leader like Corbyn, threatening the inner sanctum, could ever have withstood such a virulent onslaught of establishment attacks and media smears.

How did it ever come to this? Remember also that Labour had been out of power for over a decade. Yet, even having weathered the cruel storm of Tory austerity, a working class 'Red Wall' still voted for Johnson.

How could such people have opted for more Tory punishment rather than Corbyn's promising policy alternatives?

Beyond the easy 'Tory turncoat' line, it's more useful to consider the impact of public exposure to narrative propaganda.

Voters had been driven by an all-encompassing Brexit narrative that had enshrined leave or remain as the 'absolute issue', the 'dominant question of the day'.

Accordingly, Corbyn had been placed in a seemingly impossible position, coerced and cajoled by the usual cabal of backstabbing PLPs and Blairite centrists, yet had still found a way of trying to balance and maintain the support of both leave and remain bases.

Yet, an already toxic Brexit narrative had turned into a polarising zero-sum game, leaving Corbyn in a no-win one.

And the more liberal remainers ramped-up the Brexit fear factor, the more Corbyn's already fragile leave constituency diminished.

If much of Trump's support in the poorer blue collar hinterlands was a backlash against years of Wall Street/Obama/Clinton liberalism, a similar anti-liberal mood in the UK had found sullen, determined expression in 'Get Brexit Done', and held to Johnson as its fast and ready 'deliveroo'.

Yet, for all the valid leftist reasons for rejecting a deeply neoliberal EU, much of the wider leave public have been played in thinking that Brexit will deliver them from the same neoliberal penury.

In or out, the key issues of economic injustice still prevail. All the real political battles for socialist change still need to be fought.

But the electorate were also deeply influenced by the relentless demonising of Corbyn, the most ferocious media assault in modern political history, staining his character and casting doubt on his 'too radical', 'undeliverable' manifesto. This was narrative propaganda on an emergency scale.

Recall what many voters related as the 'main reasons' for Labour's defeat. The trip words and accusations resonate like an echo of every media-generated soundbite, from the Sun and Mail to the Guardian and BBC: he was a 'friend of' Hamas/Hezbollah/IRA; 'soft' on Russia; 'untrustworthy' on national security; 'confused' and 'dithering 'over Brexit; and, of course, 'antisemitic', and 'unable to deal' with the 'antisemitism crisis'.

All this drip-drip repetition and innuendo was enough to plant a sufficient level of suspicion and doubt in the public mind, more than enough to tip the balance. And after the close run in 2017, the establishment was leaving nothing to chance.

The BBC's part in the smearing of Corbyn was so extreme that Justin Schlosberg, a notable Jewish academic and co-author of Bad News for Labour. Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief, is preparing to mount a legal challenge over its output.

Days after Corbyn's defeat, Blair was back, picking over the bones like some gloating ghoul. But even worse than his salivating over Corbyn was the BBC/Guardian et al's indulgence of his shameless message, proving the deep pathology not only of Blair, but his eager host media.

And be under no illusions here. The establishment won - assisted, vitally, by its establishment liberals. A hopeful, historic socialist project duly nullified. 

Cravenly pledging 

Nor does it stop with Corbyn's removal. As the new leadership contest unfolds, the same set of forces are moving to ensure that no such threat ever presents itself again.

With dismal predictability, all five contenders have given due notice of their entirely safe credentials.

In a key show of compliance, every one, notably Corbyn 'continuity candidate' Rebecca Long-Bailey, has endorsed a 10-Pledges document laid out by the Jewish Board of Deputies 'to end the antisemitism crisis.'

An admirable open letter by Tony Greenstein criticising Long-Bailey's decision notes how, contrary to its grand claims, the BoD speaks for less than a third of Britain's Jews, has a relentlessly Israel-defending agenda, has approved the mass bombing of Gaza, and is in every main political sense part of the Tory establishment.

Under the BoD's Pledge 4, previously expelled figures like Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth would be permanently banned from the party. Anyone supporting such people would be banned under Pledge 5. Pledge 7 would give sole responsibility to the Jewish Labour Movement for 're-education' of 'errant' members. And Pledge 8 would render the Corbyn-supporting Jewish Voice for Labour a 'fringe' body, with only 'main representative groups' like the BoD to be engaged by the party.

A much-commended letter of response from Jewish Voice for Labour also denounces every aspect of the Board's document, noting with perfect clarity:

"The Board of Deputies Ten Pledges to End the Antisemitism Crisis is staggering in its chutzpah.* This organisation, deeply unrepresentative of British Jewry, presumes in effect to dictate to a major political party how it should run its internal affairs." 

Long-Bailey's acceptance of the 10 Pledges places her in the same position as establishment-approved Sir Keith Starmer. 

For many Labour leftists, it's a capitulation too far: "It's over."  Other Jewish Labour members have resigned in protest.

What chance of any radical positioning now from Long-Bailey, a prospective leader that caved so quickly to such a reactionary body? And, as Asa Winstanley reminds us, she did so in "a fawning blog post on The Times of Israel website acceding to all the Board of Deputies’ demands."

Jon Lansman, Long-Bailey's campaign director, has commended her for signing up to the Board's document, and for making this astonishing claim: “It is never OK to respond to allegations of racism by being defensive...The only acceptable response to any accusation of racist prejudice is self-scrutiny, self-criticism and self-improvement.”

Which, in effect, means that, within Labour, you now only simply have to call someone antisemitic and they have no primary right even to deny the charge. We have, it seems, fallen into a whole new dimension of black-hole McCarthyism.

And what, meanwhile, of Palestinian suffering, so intentionally erased from view by this whole peddled 'crisis'?

As Rachael Swindon notes: "Since 1967, Israel have demolished more than 50,000 Palestinian homes. This is ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, made worse by global powers turning a blind eye to routine atrocities. Shameful."

She also poses this small test of the candidates' political morality: "Palestinian homes are being bulldozed to the ground by occupation forces. Don't be afraid to say it. I'm interested to know the Labour leadership contenders position on ethnic cleansing."

For Chris Williamson, hounded from the party and abandoned by faux 'leftists': "No decent person could look at this and still defend the apartheid state of Israel."

And the five candidates' responses? Resounding silence - except, predictably, to accuse Swindon, also, of antisemitism.

The hard lesson, thus, endures: such forces will never be appeased or placated. You can only come out, openly, honestly, assertively, and confront them, in the process making the unassailable case for Palestinian justice.

If Long-Bailey has fallen so cravenly at that first hurdle, Corbyn may also now realise, in retrospect, that, despite his much more honourable efforts, he really had nothing to lose in this regard.

Dreich Scotia

Still, every dark cloud has a (potentially) silver lining. Johnson's victory now gives relentlessly Tory-rejecting Scotland a vital new opportunity to escape the political desert of Westminster.

In optimistic spirit, 80,000 stoic souls braved the Glasgow wind and rain to march All Under One Banner - or maybe All Under One Brolly - for Scottish Independence.

Drab Scottish weather, long to rain over us, yet enduring hope of finding progressive shelter from the perpetual cloud of Tory, Union rule. 

But, of course, Johnson says 'no' - raining again on our parade. What a surprise. Democracy dismissed, like it or lump it.

Condemnation and defiant words from the SNP now are not only a waste of time, but a real distraction. We already know and understand the mind of power. It does what it wants. It doesn't even need to respond. The important response at issue now is that of the SNP leadership. Alas, that too is looking like a quiet, rainy day indoors.

What's the actual purpose now of 48 lame SNP MPs sitting in the comfy chambers of Westminster? What's the rational purpose of an independence party if it doesn't seize this crucial chance and do everything to disrupt, agitate and organise for independence? Might it even have the political courage to abandon Westminster altogether as a defining statement of its supposed ultimate goal?

SNP defence spokesman, Stewart McDonald - already establishment-proven in his posturing concerns over Britain's 'military capability', lauding of Nato and relentless Russia-baiting - tells us that the "problem for the Prime Minister is that many Scots have psychologically left Westminster behind, and our Parliament in Edinburgh is seen as the centre of political representation and democratic expression. His position simply will not hold."

But, as viewed from the Indy street, it is many of those very SNP MPs, now so psychologically and physically centred at Westminster, whose own comfortable positions will not hold.

It's also worth noting, lamentably, how many SNP MPs, like McDonald, and even much of the party 'left', fell conveniently silent over the establishment treatment of Corbyn.

There's a certain view within the Indy camp that we should avoid any 'preoccupation' over the Indy ref impasse and stay focused on building support for Yes. But even if that figure reaches its most decisive level, the establishment will still be saying 'permission denied'.

As Alan Bissett responds: "We can build all the public support we like but at some point there needs to be a political or legal mechanism which will enable independence – or at least a referendum – otherwise what’s it all for?...At the moment I’m hearing silence from the leadership of the SNP about what this mechanism will be, and I’m starting to suspect it’s that they simply don’t know and are stalling for time in the hope that we haven’t realised it."

Suspicions now abound that Sturgeon and her tight inner circle will string it out, urging the Yes street to concentrate on securing an SNP majority at the Holyrood 2021 election. But, again, why would yet another mandate change anything? Why wait?  

In effect, Yes demands for a September 2020 Indy poll are not only being blocked by a Tory establishment, but tempered and stalled by an equivocating SNP and narrow party interests.     

Big picture resistance

Quite reasonably, some may ask what relevance this, or any other, quest for independence has, anyway, in the face of a massively more imminent global environmental crisis.

It's true, of course. The planet comes first and foremost. No inhabitable world, nothing left to fight for.

But that primary undertaking shouldn't inhibit us from simultaneously mobilising for other kinds of progressive change. The point is to pursue all useful political openings that shake up the system, negates the existing order, and reclaims people power over elite institutions. 

Occupied Palestinians will resolutely never abandon their struggle against systematic brutality and a murderous apartheid regime. What moral excuse might relatively more comfortable others have?

From the massive shows of global protest over climate breakdown and public rejection of more Middle East warmongering, to the heroic Right of Return marches in Gaza and resilient street protests in France (subject to almost complete BBC blackout), corporate, state and political power is now facing its own set of existential emergencies, and, with its backs to the wall, resorting to even more brutal and fascistic actions.

This is abundantly evident, for example, in Trump's politically-distracting turn to neo-con warmongering over Iran and increasing overtures to Israel, and in crisis-ridden Netanyahu's own turn to all-out annexation of West Bank land and open embracing of other far-right states.

But it's also evident in the British state's continuing efforts to recreate and extend its militarist-imperialist 'might' and repressive connections abroad, while deploying every mendacious effort to hold together its fracturing Union and decaying political 'authority' at 'home'.

Any coherent challenge to such reactionary power and oppressive structures requires thinking at multiple and interconnected levels of resistance.

Radical internationalism, in defence of planet, rejection of militarism and support of global others, sits in perfect compatibility with radical civic nationalism, in pursuit of the same, more 'localised' goals.   

After the British establishment's panic halting of progressive Yes in 2014, and ruthless termination of Corbyn's own socialist project in 2019, wouldn't it be great to demonstrate that radical resistance and common weal resilience by winning Scottish Indy in 2020? 

'Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will', as Gramsci had it. Or, as the Bard assured us, 'it's coming yet for a' that'.