The far-right are rising but have no vision

Our enemies are rising far too fast. The arguments of challenge are platitudinous for the most part and seldom have the sweeping narrative that the far-right can provide. The thing is though, there is compelling narrative to our histories. Europe is full of multiplicities and differences. Its professed homogeneity is false, as is its conception of race. There is not a point, an area or a type of argument in which I think it is necessary to concede ground to the right.

These bastards are beatable, it just requires an honesty about the world we live in. How the world economy was structured, how our governments capitalised upon the gulfs created by the empires and processes of underdevelopment and how globalisation made the underdeveloped economies the proletariat of the world and restructured the economies of the metropole to the benefit of the few. This devastated internal industry and changed class dynamics radically.

The easiest scapegoat are migrants. They are not the reason the factories, shipyards and mines closed though. They do not work in the phantom shells of industry. Industry was off-shored.

The times we are living through reflect the globalised system being challenged by the rising economies of the non-European powerhouses, like China. So, the forces of the West are restructuring labour conditions within the West, processes of proletarianisation. Migrants play a key role in that, in that they exist in precarious conditions and therefore have lower wage demands. This is not the reason for hate, it is the reason for solidarity and connected struggle.

The thinking of the right does not address the globalised systems that dominate us. Their analysis provides no vision other than a return to the great, white imperial projects of the past. Not only are these visions redundant, they are hopeless.

We must win.

DEATH ON THE MED OR CRASHED HOPES – BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS

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Moral indignation is in the air, and rightly so. At a time of the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, when more migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean than any other time in recent history, the British government revoked funding for EU coastal ‘rescue’ services.Their reasoning – brutal in its intentionality – is that it encourages migrants to gamble their fates on the crossing. The UK government has decided that the greatest deterrent to migration is death itself. Lampedusa looms large over the hopes and prospects of the underdeveloped world. The dreams of a better life shall be crashed by the waves of the Med.

While this should morally outrage us, the situation is far more complex than it would first appear. With the unprecedented wave of migration that has hit the Italian coastline in the last year, a coastal service call ‘Mare Nostrum’ was formed. Mare Nostrum is an old Roman imperial and fascist term of Mussolini’s Italy, literally translated to ‘our sea.’ Funded through the European Commission, all European economies contribute to the service, accounting for around 90 percent of Mare Nostrum’s kitty. The rest, it seems, comes from Israel and Jordan. Mare Nostrum’s future seems uncertain with the EU’s FRONTEX agency taking more responsibility of policing the border.

Couched in the language of ‘search and rescue,’ the project polices the borders of Europe – already amongst the world’s most impenetrable. Throughout the EU and Israel, the position taken towards migrants is violent. Migrants represent an existential threat to the identities of the so-called ‘civilised world.’ Israel brazenly refers to African migrants seeking security in its territory as ‘infiltrators,’ threats to the purity of the settler-colonial state.

Migrants hoping for a better life across the sea find themselves on a perilous journey between Scylla and Charybdis. On the one hand, they face death at sea. On the other, they face the possibility of being picked up by border security services, detained indefinitely and in most cases deported back to their homeland. Those lucky enough to avoid capture or death enter into a world of uncertainty, where they are likely to work in unregulated labour, forming the under-class of Europe.

As European governments like the UK reduce their support for sea border control, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) forms. MOAS is a recognized foundation based in Malta and led by Martin Xuereb, a Sandhurst graduate with 26 years of military service throughout the EU to boast. The commander on the seas – or Onboard Operations Manager in bureaucratic parlance – is Marco Cauchi, an anti-terror expert coming from 20 years of service in the Maltese Army.  Ostensibly set-up for saving migrants after the Lampedusa disaster, this foundation is now filling the gap left by the states of Europe, who have left Italy overburdened by the growing migration crisis.

Watching MOAS at work is telling. Kitted-up as if they are dealing with a biohazard, the staff treat migrants as walking vessels of disease. They jetty the boat to the side of their rescue ship, take the migrants to the nearest coast and go back to port. What happens to the migrants next is not a consideration, for at least they ‘saved’ them from the perilous sea.

The spectacle of the overcrowded boat is not what it seems. To us, they seem to be a daredevil mission, so overcrowded it is as if they are just jumped upon. To those on them they are a gamble of the highest order. Whereas we would not be paid to take the risk, they often pay upwards of $1,000 to smugglers to get them a space on the criminally overcrowded vessels. So, to them, being picked up by the benevolent MOAS is not being saved, it is like dropping to the bottom of a pinball machine. Another chance lost, an even more risky gambit to attain their hopes and dreams if they have the will or ability to ante up again.

The migration crisis is not going anywhere. In our lifetimes, it is only going to get worse. The people who fill the boats do so in the hope of having the agency that life in the centres of capital provide. The underdevelopment of Africa, the protracted warfare in the Middle East and the effects of climate change are all causal factors for the crisis. And all of them have their roots in Europe and its settler colonies.

The short-term solution is bleak. The people who will risk everything to find a better life than what they’ve been born into will not be assuaged by the threat of death or detention and deportation. They remain trapped between Scylla and Charybdis. In the long-term, if Europe does not want to accommodate the masses of people who knock upon its door, it must start to address the underlying causes of migration. That entails making our governments break-away from the imposition of neo-liberal orthodoxy through international financial institutions, an active mobilization against our governments’ open and proxy warfare in the Middle East and a real attempt to limit the effects of climate change, vastly cutting our emissions. Any other solution is no solution at all.

Draft letter to MPs to vote for Palestine recognition

When parliament returns from recess on October 13th, you are faced with a vote of conscience: symbolic recognition of the statehood of Palestine. I ask that for this vote, you ignore vested interest and vote based upon reason, compassion and a sense of historic responsibility. As a backbench debate, this is a free vote and therefore how you vote will be taken account of as you seek re-election.

I am not going to condescend you. I assume you know of the inept administration of Palestine when it was mandated to Britain following the fall of the Ottomans. The mandate was hamstrung by the Balfour declaration; a promise to make Palestine a Jewish homeland that was made before WWI was even won. The long and short of Britain’s role in the historic land of Palestine is that it made incommensurable promises and in so doing stoked tensions that burn at this very moment. As Ernest Bevin acknowledged, the mandate of Palestine was the worst error of British de-colonisation as he foresaw the apartheid state-system that now determines the lives of Palestinians, whom Britain had a sacred vow to better under the mandate. 

Over the summer, we witnessed the devastating human consequences: over 2,100 Palestinians killed, even Israeli data acknowledges the vast amount of those were civilians. Out of the 72 people killed on the Israeli side, 66 were soldiers – meaning 91 percent of Israeli fatalities came in the battlefield. The disparity of this conflict is stark. The Palestinian people must have a voice on the international stage and the occupation of their lands must come to an end. A huge step towards this is recognition of Palestinian statehood. Given Britain’s role in the conflict, the symbolic importance of recognition cannot be overstated.

The basis for statehood is no longer the partition agreement of 1947, but the pre-1967 borders. This represents a huge concession to the state of Israel that speaks volumes of the Palestinian will for peace. Israel refuse to return to their borders under international law and continue to seize further land, with 988 acres of land taken to global disapproval in August.

Britain is a minority within the global community in not recognising Palestine, with 134 out of 193 UN member states already conferring recognition. Britain have many times affirmed the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination, the time to back our words with deeds is now.

Recognition is the first step to ending the cycle of violence and the first rung of the ladder to end the occupation, militarisation and oppression of Palestine by Israeli forces. A failure to use your free vote towards peace will be interpreted as a violent act. The sun has now set on the British Empire, but the blood has yet to dry. I trust that you will take the necessary action to redress the grave historical wrongs of the past.

Why Frank left and has now returned

writers blockFor years now, I have been unable to write. With many of the older posts on here, I was communicating the ideas of others. I was a young man coming to understand politics when I met the crew in London that guided me towards an anti-imperialist understanding of the world. With their help, I developed a cannon to fire. What I fired was loaded with their knowledge and understanding, I merely filtered their words and pegged on theoretical and philosophical overtones.

The arsenal I developed meant I felt I had made worthy interventions, but as particular issues manifested – particularly the ‘Arab spring’ – divisions emerged within my political group and I departed from the position I held. I dissolved Frank and withdrew from politics. I completely disengaged and threw myself instead at community work.

After two years, I had extinguished myself there. I ran into issues I had not even contemplated. I applied my theory, only for it to be taken as naïve. My kindness and will to understand was a weakness in the eyes of those I was helping and I was a perpetual outsider, easily manipulated and forever guilty. My conception of human-nature brutalized, the remnants of my idealism were trampled over.

So, I have now re-engaged with the political world and am once again feeling the need to communicate my ideas. What motivates me to write is lacking in so much of what I read.

At a time of universal deceit and co-option, the greatest act is that of refusal. All we have is refusal, the ability to negate. We must maintain the lens that shows us that what we are being sold is a product; a projection and not a reality. In the words of Theodor Adorno “wrong life cannot be lived rightly” – we must embody that negation and hold out for something better. If our generation are not going to be trail-blazers, we can at least be a ratchet that prevents power from enveloping us all.

We must slowly start to push back. For that, we need those with the ability to write, to intervene and to argue to play their role. So, Frank is back – with a slightly new angle. I have no consistency and am writing through a form of muzzle.  But, these are the early stages of re-engagement. In time, there will be growth from this. A more refined web-domain, run by myself and other minds that think alike is in the pipeline, as with a few greater projects that will emerge if I am disciplined enough.

The challenge of being a writer in our age is to learn and apply the lessons of history to our discourse. Being aware of the modern realities and historical legacies of prejudice and discrimination. Living and writing by a code that stops age-old privileges from emerging and asserting dominance within spheres of influence. The most important thing being a self-drawn boundary, which shows awareness of what is and is not my struggle.

Like Martin Luther King and Karl Liebknect, I recognize that the war is at home and not abroad. My beef is with Britain and the global system it operates within.  My cannon shall never point at any other than power of our time; the multi-nationals, the military industrial complex, NATO and the rest of the new global empire, run by the United States – but maintained by Europe and its settler colonies.

Whilst this moment of history predominates, the role of a writer is to deconstruct this. In the amazing words of Arundhati Roy: “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

Oh dear! What are the British people thinking of?

Originally posted on Michael Roberts Blog:

The British people are not stupid.  They know that neoliberal, neoclassical ‘free market’ economics does not work, even if they don’t use those terms.  In a survey by YouGov, the leading public opinion pollsters in the UK, more than two-thirds of those asked wanted the railways, the energy companies (gas, electricity) and the postal service (Royal Mail was recently privatised for a peppercorn price and is now controlled by American offshore hedge funds) renationalised.

Support for nationalisation

The questions were: “Do you think the government should have the power to control prices of the following things, or should prices be left to those selling the goods or service to decide?”; and “Do you think the following should be nationalised and run in the public sector, or privatised and run by private companies?”. 84% wanted to continue the taxpayer funded National Health Service and did not want to move to a private insurance system as…

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In defence of Russell Brand

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The last thing us younger generations need is the dilution of our mood. By all means speak for yourself and if you wish to defend the spectacle of democracy that is the representative model that Britain employs, be my guest. We, however, do not see representation in our system and never have. Hence, the lowest voting rate in the last General Election was in our demographic, where a meager 40 percent of those eligible cast their vote, 20 percent below the national average.

We are pissed off, for good reason. The high water mark has been reached. Unlike those writing their editorials who suckled on the teat of the state in the post-war years, my generation have our roots in the legacies of Thatcherism. Corporate Britain reigns supreme. Housing is unaffordable and university a debt to bear for the rest of our lives, reduced to luxury we question whether we can afford. The dreams of our youth are chipped away and dredge of a life serving the interest of others predominates. Our reward is smaller property for startlingly higher prices that prices out the vast majority.

Inequality in Britain is astounding compared to our neighbours. Cynical economics employed by successive chancellors from both Labour and the Conservatives have used house price inflation to fuel the economy. Those who owned houses pre-boom saw their social position improve exponentially. Those who did not have ownership face being moved out of the job-filled cities either by circumstance or force. In their short-sightedness, policy makers have left us with social conditions that the generation who like to laud above us never had to contend with. Their pontification falls on deaf ears.

We know what Labour did. We know the positives and the negatives. But the Victorian era understanding of the deserving and undeserving poor was given roots by New Labour. Not only that, the education reforms, privatisation and even the loathed ATOS checks on incapacity benefit were brain childs of Labour’s neo-liberal modernisers. Class politics have returned in a huge way and knowing this full well, we exist under a state that relentlessly constrains all of the social vessels that we could once employ to get our voices heard. Radicalism is gone. The left has been decimated.

The victory of the US and its allies in the Cold war, spearheaded by Thatcher and Reagan, tore into the social structures that were in place to stem radicality as soon as the threat of revolt was controlled. Full spectrum dominance eviscerated the possibility of a world without US dominance, even if it is now being brokered by a semblance of multi-polarity.

Throughout Europe a crass, simplified, highly propagandistic narrative has been the hallmark of our education. America and Britain are the global policemen of our world, helping the free world. What we have seen in the news flies in the face of what we read in our textbooks. We know that the global corporations are bound to US militarism. We see the propping up of client states. We see the hypocrisy and geo-political interests that channel warfare, so we are receptive to the call for dissent, revolt and the return of a revolutionary spectre haunting Europe.

Ask a Greek, Cypriot or Spaniard what power they have at this moment in history. The neo-liberal orthodoxy has brought the war home and a whole new type of engagement is necessary to confront the difficulties of our time. The advancements and defeats of recent history mean the historical analysis offered by Marx and Marxists is now highly limited. We need to develop new ontologies, committed to core principles; a modern form of Chartism with an established series of demands that fuels social action. Riots, upheaval and instability are coming. Who knows what next?

Faced with the problem of political participation of our time, voting is an irrelevancy. Clung on to by the privileged, the cloak to throw over the pan that sets alight. The riots were a contained explosion that indicated the radical disavowal sections of my generation had and continue have with current orthodoxy. The next time will not be quelled by the re-introduction of what should have been basic rights. We have targets in our crosshairs. Those in power must heed the warnings and start to shift, else they’ll be pushed to. And that is what democracy is about.

Reflections on the Equality Movement’s Libya Discussion

We have an information gap regarding the beginning of the Libyan uprising. For a few days, the east of the country was destabilised. The eastern peoples and tribes believed that a new dawn had emerged and Gaddafi years were over. To many (whether the majority or not still remains unknown) this led to elation. However, this (mass) eruption was momentary, for Gaddafi’s crackdown looked to be ending all potentialities of change. Gaddafi seemed to be on course for a complete reclamation of power. The only thing standing in his way was the “International Community”. The imperial intervention is the only reason the armed conflict perpetuates. It is for this reason that the leaders of the rebels continue to reject the terms of ceasefire – for they know their only hope of power is shot from NATO planes.

The topic of discussion “Imperial Adventure or Humanitarian Intervention?” was inherently misleading, a false dichotomy and allowed the cancerous moral ambiguity to take hold of the room. Three of the panellists disagreed on the actions our government should have taken. Oliver advocated intervention, Ahmed supported it as the forces he is intimately connected with required intervention to continue to hope for change and Richard thought diplomatic routes could have been tried before intervention, which is never right.

Sukant Chandan took the position that needed to be taken; our problem is with the UK government, solely, and we must meet discuss, plan and act on how to stop their imperial aggression from the inside. As Andy Higginbottom, Ethesham Haque, myself and Fiona Edwards echoed from the floor – we must focus our attention on our governments and “get serious about British imperialism”. In case anyone missed it, the forum was the Equality Movement. A place where we collectively come to understand how we are living in the belly of imperialism and educate ourselves about our government’s machinations before we even begin to politicise about others. As this seemed to elude the majority of the room, one can only conclude that the equality movement, as it stands, is a forum for anti-imperialism at a time when the people it speaks to and with are not anti-imperialist. The moral supremacy of those who prescribe to the ideals of the West makes a straw man of the anti-imperialist position, so allow me to restate it.

Gaddafi is opposed on many levels and for many reasons. Libyan society has its own internal dynamics that only Libyans can truly know and overcome – it is not for us (i.e. those in the belly of the beast) to speak of their struggle to justify our own governments action, implicitly or explicitly. As most can see only too clearly – the pointing of the finger towards the third world is a diversion away from the brutality of our world, at this very moment in Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq… Moreover and most importantly, the fingerprints of our intelligence services are all over the murder scene that is Libya. Let us unite in opposition against the perpetuators of these crimes.

While one may feel that Sukant Chandan, like Ortega, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Louis Farrakhan, Mumia Abu Jamal and many others have bent the stick too far in supporting Gaddafi, their general attempt to re-humanise the de-humanised is necessary. Anti-imperialist integrity demands relentless focus on the perpetrators of the current global order and the denial of their right to decide who is and is not human. One should never make other country’s leaders accountable to our government and our constructed and decrepit ethics of “human rights”, by proxy.  Cries for “dignity”, “democracy” and “equality” sufficed to find consensus within the room on Friday. However, it was fundamentally problematic as it was predicated not on rational argument – but emotion. Areas of disagreement were contested with screams from the floor. Two of the panelists (Ahmed and then Richard) demanded that Sukant “shut up!”, while Oliver constantly harassed Lowkey to stop him from talking. With such a departure from reasoned discussion, a basic and always banal point was missed.

The CIA employs people in Langley whose sole function in life is to work out ways of maintaining power. The most obvious conclusion, therefore, is that empire’s interests were in both Gaddafi’s basket and the bitter tribes of eastern Libya. This is not to say that the governments determine the cause of history. Rather it is consistent and well known policy to build diplomatic dams to ensure that any radical sentiment can be contained with reforms that conserve the general order and/or make strategic gains. Effective strategies are contingent upon planning and a feasible transitional power structure, such conditions require years of meticulous planning and negotiations.

There is now a mountain of evidence that French, US and British intelligence services were in play from the very beginning. So, we must posit the hidden fist that precipitates the market’s hand. As I have argued elsewhere, morality is never the catalyst for military force and to even humour the possibility is to fall into the realms of ideology. Likewise, as Sukant argued from the platform, imperial intervention is not engaged upon on a whim. The decision to engage in Libya was taken by our government not on the basis of caprice, but strategy. If one refuses to accept this, then it is a legitimate question to ask “how do you consider yourself anti-imperialist?”

If one holds that our government invaded the sovereign territory of Libya on the basis of unverified and unsubstantiated claims of “massacres” to prevent a “greater massacre”, then one accepts that our government is at war for reasons that include morality, compassion and a form of internationalism. Advocates of such a position, are, as far as I am concerned, are liberal.  The fundamental lesson of Iraq has not be learnt – don’t believe the words of leaders and embedded correspondents.

Holding such a position does not entail that the Libyan people are represented by those who seek to negotiate terms with imperialism. Never did Sukant or anyone undermine the legitimate grievances of the Libyan people, who are not all “contras”. The masses should not be forgotten, neglected or spoke past. The reason the anti-imperialist position is taken is not tokenist, foolish support for old leadership, it is because we must understand the liberation of the world’s people requires a true break with 500 years of imperial rule from the North European peoples and their settler colonies. We must also pay homage where it is due, for all Gaddafi’s faults (and, yes, there are many) he did fund, support and facilitate anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. The Libyan crowd who attended the meeting and heckled Sukant non-stop exposed that they’ve little care for what Gaddafi does internationally, as they have such grievances with him domestically. Such a position is understandable, for a Libyan. Not supposed Internationalists.

The Libyan people stand in an intolerable situation. Once again, collective punishment is being administered by the forces of empire against the mass population for the power of their leadership. As I write this, the people are being bombed with depleted uranium infused rockets by a conglomerate of Western governments and their neo-colonial client states. Libya has tribal conflict grounds enough for civil war – and it is a battle of structural elites one ruled by a variable who the West hate (especially the tories), the others trusted figures who know how to do business. In between all of this are the Libyan masses – who lack proper representation and are stranded between a rock and a hard place.

The rebel’s leadership are strongly neo-liberal and represent sections of Libyan society, bitter at Gaddafi’s stifling of their interests, economic and otherwise. The “Interim Government” has been recognised by the French, Qatari, Italian and Portugese government and have begun a process of privatising the nationalised Central Bank and Oil industries. Just like in Iraq, the destabilisation of the regime is followed by the seizing of the countries assets through a scheme of privitisation. The language is more complex, the procedure more beauracratic, but the will remains colonial, and the architects remain Western.

There was nothing new in the build up to this war – anyone who is a serious about anti-imperialism did not fall into the trap of moral ambiguity. There is not a case of Western interventionism that was engaged in for compassionate reasons. The state cannot operate on such a level, to humour it is deeply naive. Seymour himself recognises this, as he sees the state as a structure composed of the interests of capital – neocons just call it realism. We call it empire and empire works to further its interests continuously.

However, empire’s time is coming to an end; it is freefalling and will have hit the ground before the end of our lifetimes. While hurtling towards the ground, austerity budget in hand, it is prone to lash out and attempt to reclaim its losses. We must not take our eyes off it and make sure the beast dies its long overdue death. The Libyan intervention is the containment of the Arab Spring, an attempt from empire to stifle third world momentum.  It is an ill conceived plan to make strategic gains. It could be a disaster, let us hope it is and that the Libyan people unite to slice the fingers off the imperial forces. Though, one at the moment must admit, the West may have a dream come true if the world remains enchanted. As Gideon Rachman articulated in the Financial Times other day:

“policymakers in Washington…have a dream. In this, the governments of Syria and Iran are toppled and replaced by much more moderate regimes. The Israelis, reassured by the disappearance of their biggest foes, agree to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Egypt stabilises and becomes a prosperous democracy. Colonel Gaddafi is defeated and the grateful Libyans hail the west as heroes. A new and legitimate Yemeni government takes up the fight against al-Qaeda. The Saudi government embraces reforms that defuse its internal crisis, and keep the oil flowing.”

The invasion was got through on the basis of an information gap, filled by international media and a diasporic Libyan community. Diplomacy was not extended, just arms. Now the imperial airforce controls the skies of another Arab country, bombs its people at will and our radicals want to perpetuate the moral ambiguity that this thrived upon. It is just like Iraq in this respect. Think about the amount of people queueing up to assassinate Saddam, both literally and metaphorically. When the time came to invade, there were thousands of Iraqis ready to sing to the tune of empire to kill their foe. With Libya it is no different. With the destruction of Iraq witnessed by all, one would think the world would have learnt a lesson, especially the world’s self-professed radicals. Instead, they deliver talks substantiated with moral ambiguity. As far as I am concerned, it is not possible at this moment in history to be neutral between forces – it is clear what the terms of this conflict now are and those who take the side of the rebellion, side with the imperialists. This goes some way to explaining why Richard Seymour has “far more in common” with a neo-conservative follower of Irving Kristol than a third-worldist.

Humanitarian Interventionism: the moral coat

“It is no use painting the foot of the tree white, the strength of the bark cries out from beneath the paint” (Aime Cesaire).

After years in the doghouse, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is once again scratching at the door – begging for a return from exile. The line of obfuscation: “we were hijacked by neo-cons in the case of Iraq, really the doctrine stands for the type of morality exhibited in Sierra Leone or the Balkans”. The recent media contortions of unrest in Libya have not only opened the doghouse, but added a sense of immediacy to the need for debate of this issue and let the mongrel back in.

Having myself previously espoused the theory, believing it to be a continuation of the internationalism of the left, I critique it on the most fundamental issue with the doctrine – that it is a moral cloak. The doctrine is of no practical value – it is merely ideological. Platitudinous as it may be, it needs to be said: military aggression is never “humanitarian”, neither is starving third world countries through sanctions, installing puppet governments nor riding rough shot over historical and cultural traditions. Abstract morality, the supposed guiding principle, necessarily excludes historical analysis – as from a vacuum it is far easier to make blunt Manichean decisions where the West is good and all systems that are different are evil. Engaging in a genuine global political discussion of ethics entails fidelity to the truths of history – acknowledging that Western imperialism in all its forms and guises is not the solution, but the fundamental problem stifling true progress through imposing its will upon the world. Our global ethic seeks to break the chains of hegemony and unleash the forces, some good, some bad that have been excluded from the modern conception of statehood and stability.

Humanitarian language is spoken to drive up popular support for what would otherwise be seen as antithetical to the values of freedom, democracy and justice. The self-acknowledging imperialist does not care for internationalism and does not recognise the universality of their obligations. Their support is harnessed through statistics and analysis about the effect on Western markets – a cost/benefit analysis suffices to garner their support.

Fluffed up language about alienated and oppressed “others”, who require the liberal media to speak for them is used for a purpose. At times prefiguring imperial intervention it is worth comparing the business and mainstream news. The business is brazen in its intentionality – the mainstream news argues for the same conclusions, not through appealing to heads or wallets, but to hearts. It is of no coincidence that the manual for liberal intervention is dusted off when the cost of a barrel of oil has increased to as much as it was pre-Iraq. Liberal humanitarianism carries the “compassionate” along with the imperial without the vast majority being aware of this reality.

Although bereft of practical functionality, the doctrine evokes “morality” as if it is absolute and recognised by all. An analysis of our moral heart is instructive. Principles of exception run through all moral calculuses from Bentham to Rawls. Action based (deontological) and consequentialist (teleological) ethical systems have restricted scope that essentially break down to subjective choices on the part of the moral agent. When applied internationally a deeply Eurocentric and worrying political ethic manifests. The realpolitick, as most know only too well, restricts moral salience to nation-hood, cultural affinities or whiteness. The unseen foundation upon which abstract thought takes place is oppression.

Liberal internationalism is paternalistic and neo-colonialist at heart. The presupposition is that the Enlightenment provided the whole world with the tools and pathway for progress – in light of this, all that predated must be destroyed for the dawn of the new demands the disintegrating of the old. The march of “progress” and “civilisation” can only be described as barbarous. World history will judge the damage of our new ontologies – our whole way of being in the world is infected with a sense of mastery. Liberal internationalism is predicated upon the global hierarchy which places the thought, products, culture and lives of the West on high and all “others” upon low. Our moralising is nothing more than a shrill call for assimilation.

Human Rights may purport to be universal. In their abstract form, the declarations are universal in scope – but never in application. That many do not even reflect upon their inconsistent and contradictory ethics is enough to underwrite their claims. Universal morality is not an ideal that I wish to shatter, rather, like Aime Cesaire: “I have a different idea of a universal. It is of a universal rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars there are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all”. It is time we all realised we cannot attain this ideal without acknowledging the rotten core of Western morality and its vacuous and decrepit universality, and follow the consequences of this realisation through, no matter the cost. In the short term this entails removing the West’s global military and “diplomatic” presence, not extending it.

Haiti: one more shameful UN betrayal (Peter Hallward)

 

Almost everyone now accepts that the United Nations brought cholera to Haiti last month. The evidence is overwhelming and many experts (including the head of Harvard University’s microbiology department, cholera specialist John Mekalanos) made up their minds to that effect several weeks ago.

Poverty and a lack of rudimentary infrastructure compels much of Haiti’s population to drink untreated water, but there has been no cholera there for decades. Haitians have no experience with – and therefore little resistance to – the disease. All the bacterial samples taken from Haitian patients are identical and match a strain endemic in southern Asia. Cholera broke out in Nepal over the summer, and in mid-October a new detachment of Nepalese UN troops arrived at their Haitian base in Mirebalais, near the Artibonite river. A few days later Haitians living downstream of the base started to get sick and the disease spread rapidly throughout the region. On 27 October, journalists visited Mirebalais and found evidence that untreated waste from UN latrines was pouring directly into an Artibonite tributary.

By early November, Mekalanos couldn’t see “any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred” as a result of UN troops. Mekalanos and others also refute UN claims that identification of the source should be a low public health priority.

Probably as a result of UN negligence, more than 1,200 people are already dead and 20,000 infected, and the toll is set to rise rapidly over the coming weeks. So is the number and intensity of popular protests against this latest in a series of UN crimes and misadventures in Haiti in recent years, which include scores of killings and hundreds of alleged rapes.

Rather than examine its role in the epidemic, however, the UN mission has opted for disavowal and obfuscation. UN officials have refused to test Nepalese soldiers for the disease or to conduct a public investigation into the origins of the outbreak. Rather than address the concerns of an outraged population, the agency has preferred to characterise the fresh wave of protests as a “politically motivated” attempt to destabilise the country in the runup to presidential elections on 28 November. Protesters have been met with tear gas and bullets; so far at least three have been killed.

So far, in fact, so normal. The truth is that the whole UN mission in Haiti is based on a violent, bald-faced lie. It says it is in Haiti to support democracy and the rule of law, but its only real achievement has been to help transfer power from a sovereign people to an unaccountable army.

To understand this requires a little historical knowledge. The basic political problem in Haiti, from colonial through post-colonial to neo-colonial times, has always been much the same: how can a tiny and precarious ruling class secure its property and privileges in the face of mass destitution and resentment? The Haitian elite owes its privileges to exclusion, exploitation and violence, and only quasi-monopoly control of violent power allows it to retain them. This monopoly was amply guaranteed by the US-backed Duvalier dictatorships through to the mid 1980s, and then rather less amply by the military dictatorships that succeeded them (1986-90). But the Lavalas mobilisation for democracy, which began in the 1980s, threatened that monopoly and with it those privileges. In such a situation, only an army can be relied upon to guarantee the security of the status quo.

Haiti’s incompetent but vicious armed forces, established as a delegate of US power, dominated the country for most of the 20th century. After surviving a brutal military coup in 1991, Haiti’s first democratically elected government – led by president Jean-Bertrand Aristide – finally demobilised this hated army in 1995; the great majority of his compatriots celebrated the occasion. Lawyer Brian Concannon recalls it as “the most important step forward for human rights since emancipation from France”. In 2000, Aristide was re-elected, and his Fanmi Lavalas party won an overwhelming majority. This re-election raised the prospect, for the first time in modern Haitian history, of genuine political change in a situation in which there was no obvious extra-political mechanism – no army – to prevent it.

The tiny Haitian elite and their allies in the US, France and Canada were threatened by the prospect of popular empowerment, and took elaborate steps to undermine the Lavalas government.

In February 2004, Aristide’s second administration was overthrown in another disastrous coup, conducted by the US and its allies with support from ex-Haitian soldiers and rightwing leaders of the Haitian business community. A US puppet was imposed to replace Aristide, in the midst of savage reprisals against Lavalas supporters. Since no domestic army was available to guarantee “security”, a UN “stabilisation force” was sent in at the behest of both the US and France.

The UN has been providing this substitute army ever since. At the behest of the US and its allies, it arrived in Haiti in June 2004. Made up of troops and police drawn from countries all over the world, it operates at an annual cost that is close to twice the size of Aristide’s entire pre-coup budget. Its main mission, in effect, has been to pacify the Haitian people, and make them accept the coup and the end of their attempt to establish genuine democratic rule. Few Haitians are likely to forget what the UN has done to accomplish this. Between 2004 and 2006, it participated in a campaign of repression that killed more than a thousand Lavalas supporters. It laid siege to the destitute pro-Aristide neighbourhood of Cité Soleil in 2005 and 2006, and has subsequently contained or dispersed popular protests on issues ranging from political persecution and privatisation to wages and food prices. In the last few months the UN has also kept a lid on the growing pressure in the capital, Port-au-Prince, for improvement in the intolerable conditions still endured by about 1.3 million people left homeless after January’s earthquake.

Today, cholera or no cholera, the UN’s priority is to ensure that next week’s elections go ahead as planned. For Haiti’s elite and their international allies, these elections offer an unprecedented opportunity to bury the Lavalas project once and for all.

The political programme associated with Lavalas and Aristide remains overwhelming popular. After six years of repression and infighting, however, the political leadership of this popular movement is more divided and disorganised than ever. Fanmi Lavalas itself has simply been barred from participation in the election (with hardly a whisper of international protest), and from his involuntary exile in South Africa, Aristide has condemned the ballot as illegitimate. Many if not most of the party’s supporters are likely to back its vigorous call to boycott this latest masquerade, as they did in the spring of 2009, when turnout for senate elections was less than 10%. This time around, however, half a dozen politicians associated with Lavalas have chosen to run as candidates in their own name. They are likely to split the vote. Haiti’s people will be deprived of what has long been their most powerful political weapon – their ability to win genuine elections.

Since it is almost guaranteed to have no significant political impact, this is one election that might well achieve its intended result: to reinforce the “security” (and inequity) of the status quo, along with the many profitable opportunities that a suitably secured post-disaster Haiti continues to offer international investors and its business elite. “This will be an election for nothing,” says veteran activist Patrick Elie. Properly managed, it may even provide an opportunity for rightwing presidential candidates like Charles Baker to pursue the goal that has long been at the top of their agenda: restoration, with the usual “international supervision”, of Haiti’s own branch of the imperial army.

And if that comes to pass, then when the UN eventually leaves Haiti its departure may only serve as a transition from one occupying force to another, reversing decades of popular sacrifice and political effort. In the meantime, though, it looks as if the UN may soon have more opportunities than ever before to fulfil its mission in Haiti.