Thursday, June 30, 2016

Flash Analysis of Brexit from my Favorite Stupid Marxist

Once upon a time, a woman with whom I was once quite close provided the best description of a certain lead guitarist of the "world's most famous rock 'n' roll band."  Said she of him:  "He's my favorite stupid person."  


I have my own favorite stupid person, although he's no rock guitarist.  He flogs himself as  an unrepentant Marxist, but he'll always be Stupid Lou to me.

What makes him my favorite, and stupid?   Worried about the repercussions of Brexit on the EU, this unrepentant endorser of Syriza, of the MOUs with the Troika, of the euro, of servicing debts, of referendums where "No" means "Yes," provides the following insight:

"And most importantly, given the genocidal-like slaughter of Syrians, the end of the EU would make it that much more difficult to get political asylum."

The mind boggles, doesn't it?  

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the EU has so violated its own asylum policies, has so trashed the "governing" international agreements on the handling of refugees that Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has returned some $60 million dollars to the EU in protest of the EU's actions.

Maybe he hasn't been keeping up with with current events, but Chancellor Merkel has led the EU into an agreement where essentially it pays a bounty to the Turkish government for preventing the movement of refugees to Greece.

Maybe he doesn't know yet that the EU is upset with his Syriza comrades in the Greek government for not deporting sufficient numbers of refugees back to Turkey, for not taking advantage  of the hard currency being bestowed upon Erdogan.

Or maybe he just doesn't care.  Being unrepentant means you never have to apologize for being stupid.

June 30, 2016

Report From London

Below, received from my friend William Bowles: 

30 June 2016

[A lightly edited version of this was published in the latest issue of Coldtype, available here as a pdf]

It's very rare that you see the ruling elite totally at a loss for words: but they were. Gobsmacked and stunned would be accurate descriptions of the look on the political class's collective face on the morning of June 24, 2016.

It's the corporate/state media that effectively calls the shots when it comes to national decision-making in the UK these days, so most people assumed that the Remainers would win the previous day's vote on whether or not the country should remain in Europe. The pre-voting propaganda was so solidly devoted to the "immigration problem," that nobody considered the implications of actually exiting from the EU should the Brexiters win the vote. In fact, it just added to the confusion, the results of which are all too apparent now, with pro and anti at each other's throats. And all of it, engineered.

However, almost a week after the vote, economist Richard Wolff spelled out the reasons for the result during an interview with the Real News Network:

"It's perfectly clear that the mass of people wanted to send a message to the old, established, austerity-committed government of David Cameron, that they don't want him, they don't want what he does, they don't believe in any of this. They believe that the leadership of the European Union, what is crushing Greece, etcetera, is not something they want to be part of. They feel victimised by all of that. And the Brexit vote gave them a chance to say no, we don't want it. Sure, there were racist elements and anti-immigration elements. That's part of the British political scene. Of course it's going to play its role, seeking its objectives as part of this."

The BBC's propaganda campaign in favour of remaining had been as relentless as their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn since his election as leader of the Labour Party almost a year ago. So it seemed almost logical that, in a bizarre inversion of reality, that he, not Cameron, is the one they, and the rest of the media, would blame for Brexit.

Media watchdog Medialens highlighted one of the meanest media attacks on Corbyn in the days following:

"Perhaps the worst example of an anti-Corbyn attack, post-Brexit, was in the Mail on Sunday. A piece by Dan Hodges was illustrated by a Photoshopped image of a malevolent vampiric Corbyn in a coffin with the despicable headline, 'Labour MUST kill vampire Jezza.' That this should appear just ten days after Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered is almost beyond belief." -

Reading what passes for news this past seven days, you'd never know that the real cause of the upset was the Tory Party, which, aside from Cameron's resignation, has barely been mentioned; for the reality is that it was an internal spat in the Tory Party that started the whole Brexit ball rolling.

Instead, the Remain camp feels they've been cheated out of victory by their Brexit opponents -- wrongly labelled as a bunch of Nazis and xenophobes. This is exactly the way the BBC has been portraying events: images of angry Remainers demonstrating outside Parliament, contrasted with interviews of penitent Brexiters, who have seen the "error of their ways" and wished they'd voted with their "internationalis"' brothers and sisters. So no problem taking in the refugees then?

A convenient scapegoat

Initially this was going to be a kind of blow-by-blow diary of the vote and its dramatic outcome, but it's two stories: one about the UK as a broken capitalist state and its relationship to the EU; the other, much more important story, of the attack on Jeremy Corbyn by his enemies inside and outside the Parliamentary Labour Party in an conspiracy to remove him as leader of the party.

Medialens reports:

"Attempts to unseat Corbyn have been supported by Left Foot Forward Ltd, a company set up by Will Straw, which runs the country's 'No. 1 left-wing blog' of the same name. Straw is the son of Jack Straw, who served as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair. . . . Will Straw is 'among a network of longtime Blairite stalwarts trying to re-found the Labour Party -- a project demolished by Jeremy Corbyn's landslide victory in the Labour leadership elections in September 2015.'

"The independent journalist Steve Topple highlights the links between coordinated attacks on Corbyn and a network of Labour figures with direct links to the PR company, Portland Communications.... The PR firm was set up in 2001 by a former adviser to Blair. Its clients include the World Economic Forum, the EU, the UK government, Barclays Bank and large companies, including Morrisons and Nestle."All this is reminiscent of the dirty tricks the Establishment used against a previous Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in 1976, as Ann Talbot of WSWS reminded us in 2006:

"For a large part of his career and throughout his time as prime minister from 1964 to 1970 and again in 1974-76 Wilson was the object of a smear campaign that emanated from the British security services and the CIA. They fed material to the press that appeared to substantiate the view that he was a Soviet agent who had been put in place after the KGB had supposedly murdered Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell. In the course of the documentary, the Daily Express defence correspondent Chapman Pincher unapologetically admitted his part in spreading those rumours."

The political class sees Corbyn as a danger, although we are constantly told that socialism is so passe, so 20th-century? So what's the panic? Why the demonisation of this man, if he is so ineffectual and seemingly from another era, with his scruffy clothes and his vaguely subversive and quaint ideas about not wanting to drop atomic bombs on people? Just what is it that the elite are so afraid of that such venomous dirty tricks should be used against him?

The Great Unwashed

The truth is that Corbyn's election woke up a sleeping giant -- not just those few percent who tipped the balance in favour of Brexit, but the millions of working people who have had enough of austerity while the richest one percent get even richer.

They voted not so much about leaving the EU as in giving the government a black eye in the only way they could (what does this tell us about the current state of of the Labour Party, never mind the Tories?).

In any case, given the nonsense both government and media have been talking about for the past couple of months, how could anyone come to the right conclusion based on so much disinformation and outright lies?

So what should Corbyn do? Or is he just going to turn the other cheek to the vicious attacks being made on him?

Writing on the World Socialist Web Site, on June 29, Julie Hyland clarifies:

"The extraordinary scale of the right-wing coup, which had already seen Corbyn lose most of his shadow cabinet in a series of timed resignations, was intended to force the Labour leader to resign. But in a statement put out moments after the result, Corbyn said that he had been elected 'by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters"' only last September, and 'I will not betray them by resigning.'"

The second assault on Corbyn (after the carefully timed shadow cabinet resignations), a vote of no confidence passed by 170 Labour MPs (with 40 in his favour), has no legal basis, but is merely an opinion. The only way to attempt to remove him is to call for an election which, I believe, requires the signatures of 50 Labour MPs. Fine, let them run a new election, they have the numbers. But it's an election, which according to a YouGov poll, Corbyn will win all over again, and by much the same margin.

As I write, Angela Eagles, one of his former shadow cabinet colleagues, in a traitorous move, has been persuaded to stand against him. But she was roundly trounced in the election that made Corbyn head of the Constituency Labour Party last year, collecting just 16.9 percent of the votes against Corbyn's 60 percent. In fact, Corbyn was so popular with rank-and-file Labour supporters that he got more votes than all the other contenders combined. Now he has to live up to the faith those voters put in him, but it's an uphill struggle with the combined weight of the Establishment, the media and his own colleagues in Parliament, out for his blood.

Corbyn has, in my opinion, only one chance of success and that's if if he steps outside the straightjacket of Parliament and works directly with his supporters. Perhaps ultimately, this might mean splitting the Labour Party in two (and not for the first time) but I doubt Corbyn has got the bottle to do that. It is, after all, an Institution. But as far as I'm concerned, it would be no great loss, in fact I view the Labour Party as an obstacle to real progress.

This is, after all, one of those extremely rare moments in our lives, when things change radically. A dislocation if you like, or revolution even, which is why I wonder whether Corbyn has the bottle or not to take a step into the unknown? 52% did, even if they didn't know it at the time due to our devious and lying media.

Of course, there's still no guarantee that a way won't be found to either neutralize, reverse or rerun the Referendum, now that the awful reality of a Brexitized UK has sunk in. Awful, because that's the way the elite want it to be and demonizing Corbyn as its cause is an essential part of it.

The issues go to the very heart of a broken economic and political system, not just our place in Europe. The next few weeks are critical.

And if this was not enough to raise the country's blood pressure, next week we see the publication of the long-awaited (by some at least) Chilcot report on the Blair government's murderous and illegal assault on Iraq. A report that has been delayed over and over again and is now more than two years past its original publication date.

Will it change anything? It all depends on its content, but which by now will have been well sanitised of anything truly incriminating for our present or past political class. But it adds to the overall sense of unease that permeates the country at this critical juncture in the downward spiral of capitalism.

Monday, June 27, 2016

And Bob's Your Shambolic, Wonky, Pear-Shaped Uncle....

So in the aftermath of the Great One-Off of Britain's referendum on membership in the EU, "shock and awe" seems to have taken on, if not a whole new meaning, at least a different application, and a different target.  Now it's the financial traders, the stock-jobbers, the hedge-fund managers who emerge from buildings, still intact but hollowed out, blinking and wondering, "What happened? Who and how did we get into this? Who and how can we get out of it?"

Suits and body armor by McQueen, the City fathers and sons and daughters are incredulous:  "What do you mean 'they cut the power? How could 'they' cut the power, man? They're animals!

We have some in the business, some out of the business, some who are the business saying "This is another Lehman Brothers moment."

We have some proclaiming the situation isn't that bad:  "This is a Bear Stearns moment."

Others proclaim the situation is worse than Lehman Brothers.

One says this:

"There's no playbook for this," says one executive at one investment banking and brokerage company, that, years before,  had been buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Note: post edited, material removed after initial publication.

June 27, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Post-It #3

Over on Michael Roberts' blog, I  came across this which sums it all up:

If you are this squeamish about (possible) consequences and retaliations of a Brexit, then, gentlemen, I suggest you go back to your dinner parties, essay writing, painting and embroidery, and forget everything about the revolution.

The fact that those reading that blog, squeamish and un-, might not be gentlemen, does not detract from the accuracy of the comment.  Props to its author

The prospects, terms, relations, and needs of accumulation are not what they were 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, even 7 years ago.  The structures embodying those relations and mechanisms are no longer adequate. They break down; they decay; they wobble, stagger, come apart.  No getting around it.  That's history, or more precisely, when the structures become inadequate, history erupts, and the eruption is anything but neat.  It's a mess, as it could only be, given these conditions of its origin.

Britain's disengagement from the EU, along with incredible contortions the EU has gone through, making a shambles of its own refugee policy; its assaults on the living standards of workers in order to preserve bankers and bondholders, is indicative that the existing institutions, relations. structures of capital, no longer correspond to the needs of accumulation; and that the needs of accumulation are more than ever in conflict with the limitations of both private property in the means of production, and the reproduction of the working class.

In or out of the EU, the bourgeoisie everywhere are forced to find ways to drive the cost of labor below its value; below what is necessary for its reproduction as a working class  in order to extract a level of surplus value that will also be adequate to levels of profitability. What's in the cards are continued assaults on workers' living and labor standards across the EU (and capitalism) as "economic adjustment" requires liquidation-- liquidation of jobs, liquidation of job protections, liquidation of social welfare, liquidation of "stability" in favor of aggrandizement.

That it takes a toll on what some of the so-called "enlightened bourgeoisie" (an oxymoron if ever there was one) consider institutions of "progress" "cooperation" "humanity" shows just how contingent progress, cooperation, and humanity are on expanding capitalist reproduction, and how meaningless those concepts are to capitalism. 

After Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal; after the EU ploys against refugees, and the EU play in the Ukraine-- does anyone truly think remaining in a union of European capitalists offers a future different, more "hopeful," than its immediate past?  That there's a shred of "progress"  "cooperation" "humanity" involved in the grand confederacy of European capitalists?

This "mess," this eruption of history, also contains class struggle.  So the workers of Northern England, of Wales, of that portion of the "United Kingdom" asset-stripped, beat down, abandoned, zombified by banks and property speculators didn't miss the opportunity to tell the too-clever-by half Cameron to "sod off" with his prospects for a "greater Britain in Europe."  Those workers have been living in the "greater Britain in Europe" ever since Callaghan. 

And what a genius Cameron is-- thinking 2016 was just like 2015, and his plebiscite would quiet the voices of the old Tories; that he could sell coal to Newcastle, since the mines were now all closed.  I know there's at least one lady who's less than happy with this self-important posh twit-- Queen Elizabeth II who will now have to remember her passport when she wants to visit Balmoral Castle. "Oh bring back the days of hanging by the neck until dead at the pleasure of the sovereign," she tweeted just the other day to Helen Mirren.  

Heads on pikes, anyone?  Eton schooled heads in particular on pikes?

This "mess" is not the product of the British working class' xenophobia; its conservatism; neither its betrayal nor its duping. The dysfunctionality is capitalism breaking down capitalism. It's ugly. It's unavoidable.  It's history.  It's also a shift in class struggle, bursting through but still  covered in the grime, muck, and blood of bourgeois "progress,"  bourgeois "opportunity,"  bourgeois "order."

June 25, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Next? Post-It Series #2

Logical question, not that anything at all has been accomplished, but still.....the votes are in and Britain, temporarily,  has voted to exit the European Union.  Temporarily...not temporarily the exit stuff; but temporarily the "Britain" part, because Scotland and Northern Ireland voted remain.  So it's England and Wales, or soon will be. Cameron and Osborne and Johnson and Corbyn and Farage will have accomplished what the Scots couldn't, or didn't want to, the dissolution of their union with England.

And Northern Ireland?  What was that Hudson said in Aliens?  "That's great, this is really fuckin' great, man. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We're in some pretty shit now, man!"  

So much for Good Fridays.  Maybe Gerry Adams can build a fire, sing a couple of songs.

So what's next? For starters-- a campaign for a referendum.  Are you serious?  "So nice they tried it twice"?  This one takes advantage of the disorder now gripping the ruling parties while at the same time puts the truth, and the lie, to the "reclaim our government" bullshit of the exiteers.  This one is for Britain, or whatever assumes its place: Leave NATO.

Withdraw from NATO.  No US military bases in Britain.  And more importantly, you want to control your borders?  Then withdraw all British military forces currently active in other countries; close all British military bases outside the "borders" of Britain.

And then?  How about a referendum to abolish Thatcher's Nationality Act?  Keep the home fires burning.

June 24, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Microanalysis of Venezuela (Designed to Fit on a Post-It)

As in Greece with its "new socialists," the Bolivarian "revolutonaries" in Venezuela have decided it's better to starve the people than to repudiate the international debt.

Chavez's "socialism" was nothing other than an iteration of the oft-repeated and always failing strategy of "sowing the oil" to create a dynamic economy. Didn't work then, doesn't work now. Oil production for export is simply the pre-formation of a tourist-driven economy-- the product, producers, and reproduction of non-development. The economic footprint of the industry is so huge that the level of support it requires exhausts the rest of the economy, deprives the society of any basis, of sufficient resources to enhance productivity in other sectors.   "Black gold," my ass.  Tar pits, sucking down flesh, bone, and blood is more like it.

So while the "left" salutes, or bemoans, Syriza's loyalty, or betrayal, in its allegiance to the EU and paying its debt; and while the "left" repeats the salutes, with fingers crossed, for a Britain led by its government of the posh +  punters + toffs + tossers to remain in that international association for the advancement of capital, it should keep one hand free for applauding the righteousness of the Bolivarian revolutionaries.

Meanwhile, I've seen the Bolivarian future, and it looks a lot like Greece dancing to the music of the gaitas and guacharacas.  The shelves are empty, pero bailar mis queridos. Cumbia, Cumbia! 

Chicha, mis queridos!  It won't be long until the tanks are rolling, your rich dig up a new Pinochet, and the light at the end of the tunnel is just a white phosphorous round coming your way,  

June 21, 2016

Saturday, June 04, 2016

True Story

Met Ali in Chicago. I think it was before the first Frazier fight. He was walking down Michigan Ave with a crowd around him. He stopped to sign autographs and answer questions, so I stepped into the mix. First thing I noticed, he really was beautiful, I mean Greek god-come-to-life-beautiful, I mean better looking than Mandela beautiful. I mean TV, photos, movie can't do him justice beautiful.

I asked him, "Champ, what about all those writers who say you've slowed down?"

"What writers? Who cares about them? I want to know if you think I've slowed down?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I have no idea, " I said.

Then Ali said: "Don't move. Don't move a muscle." The crowd around us backed up and oohed, anticipating my imminent, and rapid, deconstruction.

Ali threw maybe 20 punches at my head, at different points on my face, pulling each punch by about 1/4 inch to avoid contact. I didn't move because I never saw any of the punches coming...not a one, just a blur.

Then Ali dropped his hands and said "Now what do you think?"

I said, "I'm betting on you, Champ."

I asked him for his autograph, and he took the book I was holding and signed the title page. The book was Marcuse's Reason and Revolution, which I still have to this day, with Ali's autograph on the title page.

The other thing I noticed when Ali was signing my book-- the knuckles on both hands were bone white-- from all the impacts from all the punches.

June 4, 2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Little Ado About Something

1.  While the European Union tries to "kettle" refugees in Turkey, turn them back to Libya before they reach international waters, struggles to reign in Italy and its navy which has committed the unpardonable sin, according to the EU, of upholding the law of the sea by insisting on rescuing people at risk on the sea, even where and when those people are of darker skin and a different religion than the EU finds admissible; while the European Union contorts and distorts its own refugee policy to deny safe haven to those fleeing barrel bombs, militias, armies, automatic weapons, air strikes waged, supplied, supported in part, by the very same countries that make up the EU; the big worry, apparently, for some socialists in the United Kingdom is that a majority of people in Great Britain might actually vote to leave this confederation of capitalists; this union of exploiters; this common market designed to flatten every particular impediment to the accumulation of capital.

Wouldn't that be a pity?

In two words, "Hell no."

2. What's the big deal?  According to some socialists, the big deal is that a "leave" vote represents a capitulation to British chauvinism, racism, ethno-centrism, nationalism, and xenophobia.  Sure I repeat myself, but I just want to be clear.  According to some, the success of a Brexit vote would symbolize the isolation and separation of the English working class from the Scottish working class, and the working class of Ireland.

Really?  Some could, and some actually did, make the same argument for voting against the Scottish referendum on independence from England-- as if the separation of Scotland was not a program of the Scottish bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie for separation to establish "territorial exclusivity" for the rights of exploitation.  Separation of Scotland from England would have exactly zero impact on the unity of the Scottish and English working class as solidarity and unity can only in mutual support for struggles against the bourgeoisie as a class, in both local and international manifestations.

Has Britain's membership in the EU advanced, by a single shred, English workers' solidarity with Irish workers?  Of course not.  Such solidarity in fact could have been advanced if English workers demanded that Britain withdraw from the EU; that Britain oppose EU policies; that Britain not support the "bailout" of the Irish banks; a bailout of criminals, scammers, and anti-worker goons, that forced about 400,000 workers and young people to abandon Ireland.

How did we ever get to the point where voting to remain in an organization of anti-worker rip-off artists becomes essential to workers' solidarity?  Here's how:  Because nothing terrifies the left like the prospects for the abolition of capital.

In a word: Nothing.

3. And we get this:  "The Brexit movement is dominated by racist, anti-immigrant forces like UKIP and Boris Yeltsin  Johnson.  Argument for leaving the EU automatically plays into the hands of these racists."

Really?  "Automatically?"

See  1 above: Hell no.  Only if the socialists abandon anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois opposition to the EU, only if the socialists abstain from identifying the EU for what it is-- a continental confederation of capitalists, only if the socialist do not articulate opposition to the EU as part and parcel to the commitment to the emancipation of all labor, and all laborers from, the categories of "illegal/legal," "documented/undocumented," "migrant/native," only if the socialists abandon class solidarity beyond borders by acceding to capitalist solidarity beyond borders, is the field open for the UKIP or worse, the wannabe Enoch Powells or worse, next year's model fascists and worse to cover themselves with the poser-left rhetoric of concern for the "real, authentic, national, British worker."

Should revolutionary organizations agitate, organize for Britain to leave the EU as part of a general revolutionary program?  Ask yourself first, if there were a proletarian revolution in Britain would a revolutionary government of workers' councils remain in the EU?

Hell no.

That tells us all we need to know.  We don't get to the one, that revolutionary opposition to the EU, without articulating that opposition at every opportunity prior to a revolution.

June 1, 2016