Macron’s Victory is Not a Relief

When Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen in the French election on May 7th, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Macron was not the best candidate, but the danger of Marine Le Pen’s fear-mongering, hard-right politics was the overriding priority. The Economist, a prestigious magazine which leans towards right-of-centre political narratives, tweeted an article about the French election to the effect that Macron’s success proved that pro-European, centrist, ‘reasonable’ politics was still capable of challenging and defeating the troubling phenomenon of nationalist populism. The mainstream Left, as well as the centre, took heart from this in their own way – in the era of Trump and Brexit, a victory for ‘reason’ and ‘moderation’ is something positive.

To me, such thinking is dangerous. It is a matter of course that Marine Le Pen’s brand of neofascism must be opposed – the glorification of an abstract concept of French national identity, often drawing on narratives of an idealised past which never existed for the majority of French, can only lead to the effective criminalisation of ‘difference’, not to mention the dehumanisation of large sections of France’s own population (migrant workers, people of colour, political progressives, etc.). It ends up tearing families apart, boosting the legitimacy of belligerent racism, and providing both a shield and a sword for the very cold, impersonal financial institutions it claims to oppose.

However, rallying around Macron’s style of politics is not the answer. Macron’s ‘pro-European centrism’ is not the heartening response to far-right populism that The Economist would like it to be. On the contrary, it is the very same neoliberalism whose failure to adequately manage the social tensions & polarisation generated by de-industrialisation, sweeping privatisation and the swollen importance of the speculative and unpredictable financial sector produced Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage & Donald Trump in the first place. In other words, Macron is not the response to Le Pen – Le Pen is the response to decades of ‘Macron’, or of Macron’s economic politics.

You cannot cure the symptoms of a disease by perpetuating its cause. Today’s neofascism and neoliberal centrism are not the polar opposites which the prevalent political & media narratives make them out to be. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. If we continue with the already tired narrative that the only alternative to the ‘ultra-ideological’, populist zealotry of the far-right is the apolitical and technocratic centre, then that is what we will be reduced to in every election – we will not be able, we will not even allow ourselves to think about politics as an exercise in questioning society or mass participation (whether belligerent, as in the case of social movements, or tacit as in the case of voting) in leading society in a certain direction. Politics will become a bland matter of fear and hysteria – fear of immigrants, of finance, of difference represented by the Marine Le Pens of our respective countries, and fear of fear, fear of ideology, fear of fascism, represented by our Macrons. As far as I am concerned, this is a bleak prospect. It is neither politics nor democracy, but spectacle, and as a spectacle is how it should be treated.

Throwing our support behind the Macrons of this world is no way to put the Le Pens in their graves and bury their threat. Many have already said, “Macron 2017 = Le Pen 2022”. Even if a Le Pen doesn’t win in 2022, we will again be faced with the false choice, a neoliberal technocrat or a neofascist. My view is that we should be brave enough to refuse to participate in this spectacle, which does not empower people, which does not “grant people a voice through their vote” but, on the contrary, exerts the moral and political pressure of fear and hysteria on them – which makes it very easy for the supposedly democratic institution of universal suffrage to become the plaything of obscure and dubious forces in the realms of ‘high politics’ that most people (no matter the ‘respectable’ newspapers they read) neither see nor understand.

To reject this false choice, this false ‘politics’ and refuse to legitimate it by casting a vote is not laziness or apathy, but an act of courage, the only truly political act within the limits of electoral politics one can make these days. What is needed is not to champion the neoliberal, whether Macron or Hillary, whose platform (we are seeing in the United States) is often adopted in large part by the ‘hideous’ neofascist candidate anyway – what is needed is a popular, strong, viable left-wing alternative capable of overturning politics as we know it. This might sound grandiose, idealistic, even naïve, but sometimes, the ‘big’ and ‘radical’ solutions really are the only ‘realistic’ ones.

Labour from the Left…

The Labour Party is heading into its first election under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a host of left-wing groups are rallying in its support. Momentum, which describes itself as a “grassroots campaigning network” says that it’s “mobilising the mass campaigning movement that we need to get Labour into government”, while the Socialist Workers’ Party (whose _1aSWPsigns & slogans are a familiar sight at protests) believes that “an insurgent Labour election campaign” can defeat Theresa May’s government and boost the fortunes of Britain’s scattered Left. Even the Communist Party has said that it will field no candidates and throw what little support it has behind Labour.

However, in spite of the support it can count on from students (55% of whom apparently plan to vote Labour) and left-wing activists, Labour’s electoral prospects are looking bleak. Opinion polls are predicting a landslide victory for the Conservatives on June 8th, and although such polling has lost a lot of credibility lately, the results of the local elections on May 4th, in which Labour lost control of many of its most reliable strongholds including Glasgow and the Welsh heartlands of Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, seem ample evidence that Corbyn’s Labour will take a battering on June 8th.

The question of why people are turning away from Labour is not a simple one. Some political analysts suggest that national issues such as Brexit are undermining traditional party alliegences, and that Labour doesn’t appear credible or capable of delivering a beneficial Brexit deal in the eyes of the electorate, while the Conservatives offer a strong hand in the UK’s negotiations with Brussels. This is, at the very least, questionable – while Theresa May continues to take a confrontational stance against the 27 countries of the EU, and with inflation already outstripping wages and eating into long-stagnant real incomes after the fall of the value of Sterling, it seems unlikely that May will be any more capable than Corbyn of delivering a ‘favourable’ Brexit deal. Most of the evidence points to the opposite being true – that the little England mentality which drives the Conservatives towards advocating a ‘hard-Brexit’ will lead to considerable hardship and insecurity for the majority of working people in the UK. That is not to say that the EU itself is a guarantor of economic security or prosperity (after all, it is still dealing with the consequences of the 2008 economic crash it failed to predict, and Greece is likely to be crippled with unsustainable debt for the next seventy years because of EU policy there); simply that the illusions of Conservative voters and politicians alike will soon unravel as the UK sinks deeper into poverty and crisis.

The cracks in the Conservative Party’s narrative notwithstanding, Labour is not heading into the election in a position of strength. An overwhelming bias on the part of the country’s major televised news channels and newspapers directed against Jeremy Corbyn has apparently (as far as the local elections indicate) taken its toll on public opinion and presented Labour as a party at war with itself, incapable of offering ‘strong & stable leadership’ (which is conveniently the Conservative slogan for the election). A not insignificant number of people who usually support Labour, it seems, are turning away from the party because they do not see Corbyn as capable of leadership.

The problem with this narrative is clear: it assigns blame for Labour’s disunity to Corbyn and ignores the evidence that it is the parliamentary Labour party’s refusal to rally behind their elected leader which is responsible for creating this disunity. Corbyn’s supporters recognise this, but they refuse to acknowledge that Corbyn himself isn’t free of blame. _1Elect

In 2015, when Corbyn won the Labour leadership election by a landslide, he found himself in a position to change the nature of politics in the UK. He and his supporters could’ve offered the British people a radical alternative to both the populist hard-right, represented at that time by UKIP under Nigel Farage, and the impersonal, careerist, neoliberal mainstream the failure of which had accelerated the political turmoil not only in the UK, but throughout Europe. Both the UK and the rest of Europe are torn today between far-right populism (Le Pen, Wilders, Farage until his resignation, etc.) which sees migrants as less than human and offers a false sense of community by measuring people against an abstract, idealised ‘identity’ (‘Britishness’, ‘Frenchness’, etc.) penalises deviations from that identity, on the one hand, and the impersonal, neoliberal establishment whose failure to manage the social contradictions which have arisen since the 1980s produced far-right populism in the first place. The UK is bizarre, because Theresa May and her Conservative Party seem to represent both, the hard-right insurgency and the institutionalised establishment. Nevertheless, rallying around one is insufficient opposition to the other – the situation desperately cries out for a viable left-wing alternative.

Many of the young voters who flocked into the ranks of Labour and Momentum in support of Corbyn hoped that he would be this alternative. But the hope and enthusiasm soon dissipated as folks realised Corbyn wasn’t offering what they had hoped for. He has shown that he lacks the political will to be the insurrectionary he needs to be – after all is said and done, he instructed Labour councillors to implement the Tory austerity measures he was supposedly dead-set against, he climbed down over Syria and Trident in a vain effort to maintain the unity of Labour’s disparate factions, and he offered policies insufficient to meet even his own declared aims of reducing the influence of the finance sector and improving the well-being of the majority. While his core of support continues to champion him as a radically progressive option, the rest of us recognise that Corbyn’s Labour is ju_1aStopLabourst about staggering along and is not capable of being the mass, popular, democratic and socialist opposition which the UK needs so badly.

The Blackmail

Whenever election-time comes around, the overriding priority of the political left becomes the removal of the Conservative Party from office. This implies campaigning for Labour as a matter of course, because it is the only vehicle with any prospect of unseating the Tories and, therefore, must be supported in spite of its ‘imperfections’.

The language with which this position is articulated has changed since Corbyn’s election as leader. Before September, 2015, it was said that the Labour Party must be supported ‘reluctantly’ or ‘critically’ as the only available alternative to the aggressive policies of the Conservatives. After Corbyn’s election, Labour was framed by the numerous, splintered left-wing groups as a genuine progressive alternative, a ‘new kind of politics’. As I explained above, however, this was not so. In fact, Corbyn represents not a new politics, not a break with the established and failed norms, but, on the contrary – because of the passionate support, opposition and general discussion & debate he provoked – a revival, a re-legitimation of the same tired old politics the failure of which is why people were crying out for change when Corbyn appeared on the scene in the first place. The language changed, but the position remained the same: whether reluctantly or enthusiastically, whether as an imperfect shield against the Tories or as a progressive socialist party, the left must support, campaign and vote for Labour.

This is political blackmail. The narrative that any leftist who criticises or refuses to support Labour is complicit with the politics of the Conservatives, that failing to vote against the Conservatives is tantamount to voting for them, must be refused and resisted. Simply casting a vote for Labour under current circumstances is harmless enough, but urging left-wingers to support and campaign for Labour is counterproductive. I agree with Slavoj Zizek, when he says that the most useful thing for the left today is not to “stop talking, start acting”, is not to scramble to ‘do something’ because the Conservatives are so cruel and their policies creating such hardship, deprivation and discrimination, but the opposite – stop rushing to ‘do something’ and start talking seriously again about mass democracy and popular, unconventional alternatives to the existing model & framework of politics.

Isn’t the demand that we ‘stop talking, start acting’ nothing more than a rephrasing of ‘stop thinking and do something’? Politics throughout much of the Western world has brought itself to crisis point. In France, the United States, and much of Europe right-wing populists are drawing on and spreading the apprehension many people feel at the state of things today, directing it against everything from impersonal financial institutions, immigrants and ‘unpatriotic’ people. It offers a false vision of restoring the ties of community, tradition and stability (drawn from the idealised image of a past which never really existed) which have been dislodged, disjointed or outright destroyed by changes in the economic structure of the wealthy countries towards post-industrialism, atomisation (that is, destruction of ties of class and community solidarity in favour of cold individualism, or, more accurately, fend-for-yourself-ism) and sweeping privatisation & marketisation without, however, changing the fundamental economic organisation of society and, therefore, turning the concept of community into a cannibalistic and racist on_1aMacronLePene. Meanwhile, the neoliberal establishment presents itself as the champion of superficial ‘tolerance’ and ‘respectability’ while continuing to champion the very speculation, sweeping privatisation, technocratic and business-centred model of politics of which today’s far-right populism is a bi-product.

This political situation – like the spread of the speculative and unpredictable marketisation which produced it – is multinational and deeply complex. In its midst it is perfectly legitimate for the serious leftist to see campaigning for an institutionalised, dyed-in-the-wool establishment party in a national election – a party which offers no substantial alteration of the political climate but a mere set of moderate reforms it would struggle to pass given its internal disunity, no less – as the waste of time and effort it is. It is time to stop scrambling to do something immediate, to act in the short-term, and start thinking and talking seriously about alternative models of politics. This might mean surrendering to the prospect of a Tory government in the immediate future (as if this wasn’t inevitable anyway), but if we refuse it in favour of Labour campaigning we shall never extricate ourselves from the predicament in which people are uttering the phrase, “If Macron wins in 2017, Le Pen will win in 2022”. Do we want to be perpetually returned to the predicament of “Macron 2017 = Le Pen 2022” to which politics will be reduced if we continue to neglect serious thinking, talking, debating about alternatives in favour of our current strategy of never looking beyond the next election? No. At the moment, there is no alternative to the false choice between neoliberalism or neofascism. As long as removing the Tories, and not radically changing British politics and society remains the priority of the left, no alternative will ever emerge. We must build one, it is imperative that we build one, and that starts with resisting the blackmail, the moral pressure, the “vote Labour or be complicit with the Tories” pessimists and nay-sayers. It starts with resisting the urge to stop thinking and start acting, and taking up serious, critical thinking again.

 

May or Corbyn?

On May the 4th, 2017, local council & mayoral elections were held in England, Scotland & Wales. The results are the first indicators for both commentators and the electorate at large which way the General Election of June 8th might swing. It seems that the Conservatives are making considerable gains across the board, while Labour is struggling to cling onto its own heartlands and UKIP, a party essentially without a purpose post-Brexit, has lost every seat it had been defending. Many are now suggesting that, come June 8th, Labour will be ‘annihilated’ in favour of Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise of ‘strong & stable leadership’, though of course Corbyn’s young and idealistic supporters remain hopeful.

Strong and Stable Leadership?

This is what Theresa May is promising. The Conservative Party is advancing two main appeals to the electorate. The first is that Theresa May is the only candidate who can be trusted with the Brexit negotiations. Only Theresa May, it is argued, can extricate the UK from the EU with minimal harm to the British economy or society and lead it into a strong position, with its economy intact and its options open. The other parties would botch, and perhaps even try to reverse, Brexit – so goes the Conservative Party’s narrative.

The second appeal is that the election is a simple matter, a choice between two candidates for the office of Prime Minister: Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn? In this case, Theresa May should be trusted to lead the country in a decisive way and in the national interest, because Jeremy Corbyn is finding it difficult enough to keep his own party from falling apart at the seams and would preside over a return to the factional warfare and political-social anarchy of the ’70s should he enter No. 10 – so goes the Conservative Party’s narrative.

This Conservative narrative must be questioned. May is arguing that neither Corbyn nor anyone else can be trusted to deliver a favourable Brexit deal, but we must ask, is she so trustworthy? I am personally opposed to the EU, I do not think it is a viable project for many reasons. However, reading my country’s Prime Minister accuse the EU of meddling in the General Election with a straight face, and some of the stuff coming from hard Brexiters to the effect that “we want the EU’s trade benefits but not its freedom of movement”, it seems to me that May and her party are suffering delusions of grandeur with regard to the EU. The UK, after all, is one country whose economic strength is due in large part to its position as a centre of finance, a position which has been, to say the least, thrown into question by Brexit, while the EU is 27 countries and one of the most significant economic entities on the planet. Theresa May promises to “fight for Britain” and deliver a clear Brexit deal in Britain’s national interest. But we must ask, what is she going to negotiate with? How is she going to persuade the EU, which forced Greece to sell off its national assets and demanded billions of Euros worth of cuts in return for useless and even harmful loans (which support not the relief, but the increase of the country’s unsustainable debt) to be lenient and give the UK a beneficial deal? The EU’s negotiators might not be inclined to go easy on Britain when they hear how they’re being attacked by its politicians. Frankly, anyone who thinks that Britain’s Brexit deal will come on any terms other than those dictated by Brussels is deceiving themselves and will soon get a bitter dose of harsh reality, when the talks go sour. Britain has nothing to negotiate with, and Theresa May’s bombast will make the country’s hand in the negotiations weaker, not stronger.

The Conservative Party’s other claim must be questioned as well. Theresa May claims that a Corbyn government would be a “coalition of chaos” unable to unite the country and carry it through these difficult and crucial times, while a Conservative government with a renewed mandate would do just that. However, the Conservatives don’t exactly have a rosy history when it comes to the well-being of the country’s ordinary, working folk – after all, last year DWP figures showed that 2,380 people declared ‘fit to work’ had died between 2011 and 2014, while underemployment and in-work poverty have soared and the housing crisis has deepened. The NHS is at breaking point, with neither enough beds nor enough staff to handle an increasing burden and the staff that remain overworked and underpaid, while across the country real incomes have stagnated and are beginning to be outpaced by inflation.

These are hardly the hallmarks of a government that has the interests of the “just about managing” and the working class at heart. Working class people shouldn’t delude themselves and buy into the Tory rhetoric about Brexit and Britain – her government stands opposed to them, will squeeze them hard, and will, eventually, either land them in or drive them to the brink of a disastrous new recession. Continued Tory governance would be a tragedy.

The Labour Party’s Agony

The actual choice to be faced by the electorate on June 8th is not entirely clear. The Conservative Party’s narrative is that the choice is between ‘strong & stable leadership’ with a clear objective and direction, the sort of leadership which can carry the UK through the Brexit negotiations in a dignified way and deliver a deal favourable to British economic and social interests (as the Conservatives define those interests), on the one hand, and the chaotic and weak leadership of Jeremy Corbyn who cannot even keep his own Labour Party united and, therefore, cannot be trusted to lead a government in the national interest or muster the political will to ‘stand up for Britain’ as Theresa May supposedly will.

Personally, this reminds me of an intensified version of the ‘stability or chaos’ rhetoric utilised against Ed Miliband in 2015. The most important press outlets in the UK, including both televised news and printed newspapers, tend to share and support the Conservative narrative. Several academic studies have found media coverage of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to be ‘overwhelmingly negative’, and this is of course an important factor in shaping public opinion against the Labour Party and in support of the Conservatives. Furthermore, while outlets such as the BBC consistently turn a critical eye towards Labour, they just as consistently fail to mention outstanding weaknesses or failings of the Conservatives – such as, for example, the fact that several Conservative MPs were under investigation for electoral fraud prior to the announcement of the General Election, as well as some newspapers’ attempts to associate Labour’s Corbyn and MacDonnell with communists & ‘Stalinists’ because of their appearance at the same May Day event as the latter, despite the fact that the actual communists present tend to shout anti-Labour Party slogans throughout that demonstration (I know, I attended last year and witnessed it first-hand).

However, the blame for Labour’s electoral retreat cannot rest solely at the feet of the press, or even the admitted rightward shift in the British political climate which allowed a party like UKIP to enter the national conversation just as it has successfully painted Corbyn’s relatively moderate left-wing views as extremist. Corbyn himself has failed to provide effective leadership of the Labour Party, for a variety of reasons. His supporters would emphasise the consistent attempts of Labour’s MPs to destabilise his leadership; some have publicly denounced him, and then there’s the ‘coup’ that they attempted to stage in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. It is not only the internal conflict within the party which undermines Corbyn’s prospects of a successful election, though – the man who was once considered a saviour of the British left-wing has failed to convey his political and social message to the electorate. The large rallies of enthusiastic supporters we’ve seen on the television since he became leader haven’t translated into electoral success, and Corbyn’s own politics remain dubious.

Corbyn’s supporters among the Labour membership see him as a man of principal and vision, a leader with a human touch who represents a rupture with the cold, impersonal, careerist politics of the past. However, there own politics is anything but clear, and it is somewhat problematic. It is undeniable that Corbyn’s election in 2015 was the beginning of a leftward turn for a Labour Party that had been dominated by Blair’s ‘third way’ brand of politics for two decades, but this turn was less radical than the enthusiasm with which left-wingers, fatigued by a lack of alternative to neoliberal centrism, greeted it made it seem at the time. It was, at best, a cautious attempt to take a few steps in the direction of a more labour-centred politics, not an outright departure from the capital/business centred politics which the Conservatives and Labour shared and, to some extent, still share.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters on the left-wing of the Labour Party are struggling to define their political position at its root. After having spent decades in the movement of opposition and protest, they suddenly find themselves having to manage a political party within the framework of electoral politics and electoral contestation of power. They are faced with a choice, a dilemma they cannot resolve – if they resign themselves to their penchant for protest and opposition, they will condemn their Labour Party to permanent opposition and therefore exclude themselves from the possibility of winning political office, which alone would give them the opportunity to implement a progressive programme on a national scale. If, however, they choose to step into their position of leadership in the Labour Party, to play the political game and go along with the prioritising of electoral contests and parliamentary opposition, then they will have to choose also the politics of conciliation between the left, centre & right of the party in order to keep it together and present a united opposition in parliament. This, in turn, would mean the watering down of their left-wing, social democratic principles and the reversal of even the few cautious step towards labour-centred politics they have taken.

The question for the left in the UK, then, seems to be, ‘which road’ – resignation to permanent opposition and conflict within the party in the name of ‘principle’, or the politics of conciliation and reduction of the Labour Party to the old, dull, uninspiring opposition it once was in acceptance of the narrative that ‘there is no alternative’ to the choice between neoliberalism and the proto-fascist right?

The Left’s Only Option

The problem with this question is clear, but difficult for some to acknowledge or even understand. The problem is that both options, both choices, centre on the idea that the Labour Party is the left’s main political vehicle. The Labour left often finds itself equally opposed to the Conservative Party and the ‘Blairite’, ‘moderate’ Labour MPs, but advocates voting for and working with the Labour Party because it alone gives the left even a slight chance of entering government and removing the Conservatives. Removing the Conservatives from government at the first possible opportunity is its most important, unifying priority of this ‘left’ – more important than building a viable political alternative, more important than the neoliberalism and incapability of challenging the vested interests of finance capital Labour invariably displays in office.

This is a harmful policy, because it focuses political strategy on the short-term. The necessity and moral pressure of either removing the Conservatives from office, or keeping them from it, overrides everything – including the actual policies, ideological, political and institutional weaknesses, and political and social objectives of the Labour Party itself. There is always an excuse for the Labour Party, and it invariably boils down to, ‘opposing the Conservatives is the most important thing, it overrides everything’. But opposition to the Tories, though necessary, does not override everything – the left must resist its own pressure and recognise this standpoint for the self-defeating twaddle it is.

To the Labour Party’s narrow electoralism must be opposed the long-term and difficult work of infiltrating working class communities and organising a popular, democratic network of institutions centred upon mass participation and a decidedly socialist programme. The strategic goal of such organising efforts is not to win elections, but to create “dual power”: instead of winning elections and inheriting existing institutions, we must build new institutions organised around the central principle of mass socialist politics, capable of challenging and eventually superseding the entire existing political structure.

This programme sounds, under present circumstances, idealistic, it seems little better to many left-wingers than wishful thinking: Of course, they tell us, such a programme sounds very nice, but it cannot be done without surrendering government to the Tories, or to a Labour Party dominated by its Blairites. Our answer is that the masses of working folk, the victims of capitalism and neoliberal rapacity, must leave their position as observers of the electoral spectacle and step onto the stage of history as participants, not as voters but as political actors in their own right. Until this happens, until the left starts organising for it, we will be stuck in a perpetual trap: The Labour Party no matter what, no matter who leads it, no matter what its policies are, no matter how capable it is, because short-term opposition to the Tories overrides all other priorities. The left must stop telling itself electoral fairy-tales and vying for the inheritance, through parliament, of existing institutions, which have perfected over centuries of operation their functions in defence of the social, economic and political power of capital, and would not allow a dent in this power. Instead, we must build new institutions, popular, democratic, mass and revolutionary institutions which alone can transform the country and lead it in a genuinely progressive and socialist direction.

The choice this election is not May or Corbyn, not Tory or Labour – it is General Election, or people’s democracy?

 

Beautiful Images of Burning Cops Come Out of Paris May Day

On May Day, 2017, crowds of anti-racist workers and militants rallied in Paris to protest against the hard-right Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen. Subsequent clashes with the authorities, a traditional feature of demonstrations in the French capital, produced images of riot police engulfed in flames which a notorious, if predictable, British tabloid ‘newspaper’ has called “horrifying” in an article.

Unsurprisingly, this police-cheering article failed to mention the recent murder of Liu Shaoyo or the (supposedly ‘accidental’) assault and rape of a young black man by Parisian cops earlier this year, and left out the Paris Police Department’s extreme violence during last year’s months-long uprising against a draconian labour law.

The proletarian population of Paris – the people of colour, migrant workers, poverty-stricken youth of long-neglected suburbs – see the police as their enemy. The incidents mentioned above are just some of countless proofs that their view is correct, and that the defence of “law and order”, which alone justifies the maintenance of police, is in reality nothing but the defence of the State and the class of rich, property-owning tyrants which bolsters it against the popular initiatives of the masses.

It is true that the anarchist line of fetishizing immediate, short-term violence and hitting out blindly against police and bank windows must be opposed. This is because such an approach, unaccompanied by solid, long-term and difficult organising work, cannot possibly bear fruit. However (and this must be emphasised), the placing of peaceful protest on a pedestal, the denouncing of violence against the police with greater vigour than the denouncement of the police themselves, the “shake-hands-with-cops” line of ‘moderate socialist’ posers and liberal charlatans must be opposed much more determinedly. This approach is not a neutral, respectable, peaceful approach as the ‘official’ Left would have us believe. It is, on the contrary, actively anti-socialist, anti-people and a shameless and quite disgusting signification of the collusion between moderation and respectability on the part of ‘socialists’, on the one hand, and the oppressive bourgeois State, the dictatorship of wealth, on the other.

Images of police engulfed in flames are not horrifying, they are not regrettable – they are beautiful. As a comrade said, speaking of the photographs, “there’s nothing horrifying about it. This is art”.

 

Time To Forget Labour & Move On

Theresa May took the United Kingdom by surprise on the 18th of April when she called an early election for June 8th. She has, of course, said since becoming Prime Minister that no election would be held until 2020, and there are questions about whether parliament will allow the election to go ahead since the Fixed Term Parliament Act, introduced by the Coalition government in 2010, allows a General Election only once every five years. However, with the Labour Party so divided and the majority of its MPs willing to act against their Party’s interests to destabilise its left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the election may indeed happen and it is more than likely, despite the desperate hope among Corbyn supporters, that the Tories will win if it does.

The next few weeks will likely revolve around a single major question: who will push through a Brexit deal? While all parties, from MPs to grassroots campaigners, prepare themselves for the major political engagements to come, it is imperative that the British left take a hard and sober look at itself and ask some tough questions about its own tactics, objectives and politics.

The Inadequacy of Labour

Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015 (and again a year later, when challenged by Owen Smith) the parliamentary opposition has been thoroughly divided against itself. Two narratives about this division have been put forward; Corbyn’s opponents, those (somewhat questionably) referred to as ‘Labour moderates’ by the press, argue that Corbyn is too left-wing to be credible among the middle class electorate and are appalled by the shift of the Party leadership away from their own centrist politics towards a mild, social-democratic reformism. By contrast, Corbyn’s supporters challenge this narrative, suggesting instead that the centrist Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), termed ‘Blairites’ because of their alleged affinity to the politics of the Party’s former leader and pariah Tony Blair, is frightened of Corbyn because he threatens their comfortable and steady careerism, offering the only real chance of substantial, progressive change in the content and direction of British politics as well as in the field of the economy.

There are grains of truth in both these narratives, but both fall within an overarching ideological framework which is, at least, very problematic. Much as they claim to be polar opposites, both the ‘Labour moderates’ and the Corbyn camp are firmly committed to the strategy of parliamentary opposition whereby their ultimate objective is to acquire political power and influence by means of elections. While it is undeniable that all politics is reducible in the last instance to the struggle for and exercise of power, the left must ask itself whether parliamentary and electoral contestation is an effective strategy for the attainment of its ends and, furthermore, in whose interest power would be exercised if it were to be won.

Of course, even with its current internal divisions and lack of credibility among much of the Brexit-focused electorate (in spite of what Corbyn’s enthusiastic supporters would have us believe), it remains possible, even probable that the Labour Party will win governmental office again one day, if not in the near future. The more important issue is whether Labour is capable of representing a genuinely progressive alternative to the status quo.

Corbyn was elected Labour leader on the back of a wave of frustration among many young and low-income Britons (as well as nostalgic ‘Old Labour’ survivors) fed up with the monotonous life offered by late capitalism. Stagnating incomes, worsening inequality and what Antonis Broumas describes as “the destabilisation of societal structures by financial markets, starting from states and businesses and reaching all the way down to communities and families” had generated widespread dissatisfaction among many strata of the population, and while some turned to the proto-fascist far-right, others saw a left-wing challenge to the continuance of the status quo in Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership. Winning by a landslide against three other candidates barely distinguishable from one another, it was thought that Corbyn, McDonnell & co. would bring the Party ‘back to its roots’ in the working class with policies favouring state ownership, social investment & relatively egalitarian distribution of wealth.

There were, of course, several problems with this. Although many blue-collar workers had had a tendency to vote Labour before the scrapping of Clause IV, Labour was never a working-class or socialist Party in the proper sense. While the Party was once capable of offering some economistic comforts to working people, such as job security, relatively high wages and strong Unions, it never pursued the political power of the working class without which liberation from the systematic violence of market structures is impossible nor did it hesitate to suppress workers’ struggles when the power & profits of the bourgeoisie were threatened. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the traditional working class, centred around large-scale industry, which had formed the basis of Old Labour’s political strategy, has more or less disintegrated as a result of the outsourcing of industrial production to Third World countries with cheaper labour costs, and what remains of it can no longer be considered an effective collective agent of social change or the transcendence of the capital-labour relation.

It can therefore be argued that Corbyn’s appearance on the political scene, rather than the positive shake-up of the Establishment it was made out to be by his supporters, was in fact a negative and frustrating occurrence which prevented, or at least delayed, something which would’ve been much more progressive – the complete disassociation of self-identified socialists and progressives from the Labour Party. Let us be clear that Labour, no matter the rhetoric of its leadership, is a Party thoroughly integrated into the political apparatus of the capitalist State, and invariably behaves as such. The Party’s opposition to the very ‘austerity agenda’ it’s leadership claims to oppose has so far been ineffectual, with Corbyn ordering Labour councils to implement the budget cuts he claims to be so fervently against (Labour activists tend to claim that council officers will implement the cuts if Labour-controlled councils refuse to do so, as if cuts are somehow more humane when implemented by the Labour Party), and it is therefore difficult to believe, in the absence of complete self-delusion, that Labour, whether led by Corbyn or Karl Marx, could present a socialist opposition to capitalism.

Against Elections, For Struggle

There have been debates around the desirability of a new parliamentary Party of the left, but it is reasonable to argue that after decades of socialists and legal Marxists unsuccessfully attempting to utilise the structures & processes of bourgeois democracy towards socialist ends, the struggle against capitalism and imperialism must be centred outside the field of electoral or parliamentary politics.

As Lenin explained a century ago, the State, of which parliament and elections are an integral part, is not a neutral mechanism standing above the class antagonisms of society. On the contrary, the State is a product of the conflict between classes; its very existence is testament to the fact that the conflicting interests of the various classes cannot be reconciled unless and until the entire social formation which opposes classes to one another is transcended.

It follows that capitalism cannot be transformed into socialism by means of contestation of parliamentary seats. Participation in electoral politics (not to mention orientation of political strategy around elections) is counterproductive to those who seek an avenue for socialist and working class politics, because elections, far from being a valid method of contesting the power of the elites or “the 1%”, are in fact the principal means of restraining politics to the structures and ideological framework of the bourgeois State; their centrality to political discourse only obstructs the exploration of the alternative, mass-based political practices and forms of organisation, outside the bourgeois State,  which the proletariat will require to overthrow capitalist-imperialism and build socialism.

This is not to say that elections can’t have their uses. Socialists & revolutionaries can permit themselves to work with progressive candidates over issues of mutual concern, as long as they continue to advocate a proletarian political line and do not subordinate themselves to parliamentary/electoral considerations. In addition, the appearance of particular progressive candidates in electoral contests has the potential to open a more general space for debate and the advocacy of more radical ideas which we would do well to exploit. However, our political strategy must never be centred around elections or parliamentary politics which are, in the last instance, a spectacle whose purpose is the remove politics from the arena of the everyday lives of ordinary people (where it belongs) and place it instead into the realm of Parties, States and high politics.

What Can We Do?

As I said above, politics and political power belong among the everyday lives of ordinary working people, and it is imperative of communists and socialists to build it there. There are those who, whether openly or implicitly, treat community work and political agitation among the people as nothing more than a compliment to electoral politics, the ultimate aim of which is merely to encourage people to vote Labour, Green, etc.

Treating the masses as nothing more than voters and approaching community work as an exclusively local, short-term concern is an inexcusable mistake for anyone who claims the title ‘socialist’. It is the sinful, victimised, flawed, imperfect masses of real proletarians who are at the centre of politics, not the parties, politicians and statesmen about whom we hear so much. Politics is ours, not theirs, as is the world and everything produced (by us, by our class) in it. It is with us, among us, in our daily interactions with one another, with our bosses, with our work, with our families and friends, that power is to be found. Work among the masses is neither a hobby, nor a pastime, nor a way of securing votes; it is a vital means of building an alternative, revolutionary, working class political power opposed to that of the bourgeois State.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, If You Think Anti-Imperialism is “Apologism”, You’re Missing the Point…

What do anarchists, Maoists and Marxist-Leninists have in common? No, this is not the set-up of a bad joke. What we on the revolutionary left share is the conviction that our aim is the overthrow of capitalism and the State. At least, that is the claim. However, when confronted with actual issues of anti-imperialist praxis, many self-proclaimed revolutionaries seem to turn into average, whining liberals making their excuses for imperialism.

This is best illustrated with an example, and one of the most appropriate contemporary examples is that of North Korea. Every principled communist recognises the necessity of defending North Korea against the intimidation tactics of the US imperialists. This is because, though the world is complicated, communists recognise that US-led imperialism is still the primary enemy of the world’s masses and the principle obstacle to liberation. Communists therefore take it upon themselves to defend North Korea by any means at their disposal, including anti-war campaigns, working to improve cultural ties, and refuting the lies and half-truths spread about the country both by imperialist State media and by the ‘soft’ ideological apparatuses of imperialism such as “pro-democracy” NGOs. This last point is a vital and necessary component in opposing the ideological foundation of the imperialist war-drive.

It seems fairly obvious to a communist that no country can be bombed into freedom, particularly when those bombs are being dropped by the most ravenous and aggressive military in modern history. Whatever problems the Korean people have, those problems are for the Korean people alone to deal with, while we in the West must expend our efforts in opposing interventionism and aggression against any country, no matter which, no matter under which circumstances. As Lenin wrote over a century ago, “if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia, and so forth [i.e. an oppressed, poor country against an oppressing, rich country – RC], those would be “just”, “defensive” wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every Socialist would sympathise with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slaveowning, predatory “great” powers”. It was true then, and it is true now. However, mention North Korea to an anarchist, or a (supposedly anti-war) liberal, and all international context, all talk of imperialism and solidarity, all revolutionary comprehension is flung out, tossed aside, and our anarchist and our liberal starts spouting the same nonsense about the governments and regimes of the victimised countries as the imperialists. Intentionally or unintentionally, by choosing to emphasise the negative in the countries victimised, intimidated and attacked by imperialism rather than the conflict, the contradiction between these countries and imperialism, these so-called ‘revolutionaries’ become mouthpieces for the imperialist bourgeoisie little different from the warmongers on Fox News.

That the countries which are victimised by imperialism are not paradises, that many of them are governed by regimes which rule contrary to the interests of the popular masses, even that some of them have been terroristic bourgeois dictatorships, is not the point. The point is that no matter how anti-people a country’s government may be, the intervention of imperialism invariably worsens the situation. Not once in history has imperialist aggression or occupation improved a situation, in any country – on the contrary, imperialism multiplies the sufferings of the masses, manipulating politics, culture, economics and social organisation to its own ends with extensive and perpetual terror, whether physical or structural. No-one can claim, for example, that Saddam Hussein’s regime was popular, revolutionary, or that it stood on the side of the mass of Iraqi proletarians and peasants. Nevertheless, every left-winger worth his salt opposed the US-British invasion of Iraq and were right to do so, seeing that a puppet regime was subsequently installed and a murderous chaos swept over the country.

Neither North Korea, nor Syria, nor any other country subjected to the intimidation, blackmail, and aggression of imperialism is too much different: no matter what our opinion of their governments or political systems, it is the duty of revolutionaries to oppose the agendas of ‘their own’ ruling classes, to stand against the war-drive unconditionally and in all circumstances, and to stand in solidarity of the victims of imperialism. Whatever other problems the people of the world have, whatever internal issues they face, those issues and problems are theirs to handle, not ours; as citizens of the imperialist metropolises and revolutionaries at one and the same time, our policy, our duty, is not to spout “look how totalitarian North Korea is”, it is not to promote the spreading of bourgeois democracy into Syria or Iran. Positions like these disqualify anyone who holds them, whether ‘anarchist’, ‘communist’ or whoever else from the right to call themselves ‘revolutionary’ or ‘anti-imperialist’, because they are identical with the positions, standpoints, and agendas of imperialism. Our policy, our duty as revolutionaries is to stand against the imperialist bourgeoisie of our own countries, to work for the defeat of their class interests and their policies of aggression. As Lenin said, “during a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its own government”. This standpoint is true not only in times of war, but at all times: a revolutionary class cannot but desire the frustration of the reactionary, imperialist State’s aims, the weakening of its structures and the failure of its reactionary policies.

 

We Need Militant Anti-Imperialism, Not Pacifism

The international imperialist camp, headed by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, holds the permanent spectre of war over the heads of the world’s inhabitants. It is, for the most part, capable of maintaining itself through mechanisms of structural and systematic coercion, whereby institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank bind the majority of countries to economic systems and policies which are disproportionately favourable to the already-wealthy imperialist countries, while so-called ‘Third World’ countries which, owing to the abundance of natural resources (such as the Congo, a primary supplier of the valuable resource of Cobalt) are left to stagnate in poverty.

Imperialism, a word once on the tongues of proletarians from the largest cities to the smallest farms and factories, is not a conspiracy of the ‘looney left’. This is not the 1930s, when workers, to varying extent, recognised that their interests and the path to collective improvement was opposed to capitalism, nor the 1960s when, sometimes cautiously, sometimes adopting naïve and ultra-leftist political outlooks, millions mobilised, in their own ways, against imperialism, epitomised by US aggression against Vietnam. To secure oil, rubber, and suppression of the idea that a poverty-stricken people in Southeast Asia could openly defy US interests and voluntarily choose sovereignty and socialism over American capitalism were the aims of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, all of which found themselves disgraced when farmers in sandals, shouldering twenty year old rifles and carrying their small pouches of rice with them, left the most formidable military machine in the world running from Saigon with its tail between its legs.

Forty-two years after the end of the War in Vietnam, the resistance of the Vietnamese people and the mobilisation of millions of ordinary folk all over the world against the US presence there still provide a striking example from which revolutionaries, anti-imperialists, and the honest and sincere advocates of liberation from the structural violence and systematised anarchy of international capitalism continue to draw lessons. Opposition to imperialism is an unconditional duty of anyone calling themselves ‘socialist’ or ‘revolutionary’. As Che Guevara said, anti-imperialism “is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to death or victory”, because we know that the same imperialism which today bombs the only force standing between the Syrian people and the overt, religious fascism of Daesh, the same imperialism which today crushes the lives out of poor farmers in Indonesia, the same imperialism which today reduces Venezuelans to going without basic necessities and Greeks to scraping a difficult and painful living…this same imperialism reduces social services to decay, piles hundreds of patients in hospital hallways for lack of staff, beds and room on the ward, drives thousands to prison or depression through debt. Though our country has become and remained rich through imperialism, while the nations of the Third World are squeezed, it is the same imperialism which bears down upon the proletarians of Britain, the oppressed nationalities in the United States, and the people of the Third World.

So-Called ‘Anti-Tankies’

At protests against war, conferences called to oppose budget cuts to important social programmes, and in all the four corners of social media, one can find without too much effort a petty, arrogant, self-absorbed type of individual who prefers to be referred to as “anti-tankies”. The typical anti-tankie is somewhat obnoxious, usually spending more time deriding anti-imperialists’ solidarity with the people of North Korea against the permanent militaristic intimidation imposed by the US (through nuclear blackmail, the occupation of South Korea by tens of thousands of American troops, massive yearly military drills which simulate invasion of the North, etc.), or with our support for the people and the Army of Syria against US-European proxy militias such as the FSA and religious fascists such as Daesh, than denouncing imperialism itself.

The ‘anti-tankie’ enjoys denouncing the alleged ‘crimes’ and ‘human rights abuses’ of countries like North Korea, China, Syria, etc. while remaining mysteriously silent on the crimes of the US. He (and from what I’ve seen they are overwhelmingly male) doesn’t understand that anti-imperialist solidarity, support for the peoples and countries which stand in opposition to the hegemony of the imperialist bloc, does not imply uncritical cheerleading for the political standpoints or governments of such peoples, movements or countries, anymore than the Chinese Communist Party’s agreement to a United Front with the Kuomintang against Japanese aggression implied the Mao was singing the praises of Chiang Kai-shek. Solidarity with the victims of imperialism, with, for example, the people and the government of Syria, is the recognition in terms of practical politics that the contradiction between the Syrian people and the regime which governs them is, under the conditions of an aggressive assault by proxies of the United States and Europe which has seen hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed, subordinated (reduced to a non-antagonistic contradiction) to the antagonistic contradiction between Syria and the fascistic proxies of imperialism. As Lenin emphasised, “to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology”. This is not dogmatism, this is not a suggestion that any criticism of any Marxist political position is bourgeois; it is, on the contrary, a recognition that Marxism is so far beyond the bourgeois ideology and the bourgeois ideological conception of society that the only legitimate criticisms of Marxism originate within Marxism’s own framework. I mention this to paraphrase Lenin and say that to belittle anti-imperialism, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree is, wittingly or unwittingly, to support and strengthen imperialism. This includes, in times when a certain country or a certain people is under attack from imperialism, consciously choosing to emphasise the internal contradictions between the government and the people over the contradiction between the oppressed nation and imperialism. To do so is to strengthen and support imperialism, and to oppose the oppressed, and to oppose socialist revolution.

Revolutionary Defeatism and Pacifism

In addition to systematic economic coercion, structural violence, and military force, imperialism can call upon agencies of ‘soft’ power, often NGOs such as Amnesty International, to reinforce its agenda and discourage opposition. Though formally independent from the institutions of policymaking, such as the State Department in the US, these NGOs spread the ideological outlook of the imperialist bourgeoisie, encouraging people to conceptualise certain phrases in a particular way under the influence of a bourgeois and pro-imperialist worldview. For example, we are not encouraged to view “human rights” as the right to shelter, the right to food, the right to medical care, clothing, education, a liveable wage, and a degree of control over one’s own life and the life of one’s community independent of market and profit imperatives. Instead, “human rights” means the ‘right’ to a British-American style parliament, to a competitive system of multiple political parties created and dominated by the ruling class, out of touch with most of the population and encouraging partisan divides over support for parties while obscuring the economic and social interests of the class as a whole, the right to free speech for racists, homophobes, and others whose worldview depends on the dehumanisation and victimisation of folk for their way of life, etc., etc.

One of the most potent ‘soft’ ideological agencies of imperialism is the nefarious viewpoint of pacifism. Pacifism supposedly discourages violence in all circumstances, insisting that peaceful solutions can always be found. Gandhi, an icon in the West, was a pacifist who advocated unconditional non-violence (and also a racist). In countries such as the UK and the US Gandhi is practically deified, the symbol of the claim that peaceful non-cooperation can defeat empires if used correctly. In India, however, Gandhi is not so revered, and he is actively despised by some, while Bhagat Singh, a Marxist and pro-independence militant who fought violently against the British occupation, is widely revered, his legacy being claimed and exploited even by politicians and political parties who standpoints the man himself would probably have despised. Gandhi, it is reputed by some, may, by his policy of non-violence, have delayed Indian independence by more than a decade.

In the United States, it is Dr King who is held up to the masses as a hero of non-violent change. However, it seems today that Dr King’s more radical statements, such as “my government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and “capitalism has outlived its usefulness”, are obsessively hushed up, as is the fact that he was most likely assassinated by someone within the very political Establishment with which he often tried desperately to cooperate. It is not unreasonable to argue that the gains made by black people in the United States were granted more out of white fear of the Black Liberation Movement whose figureheads were people like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers than because of the genuine effectiveness of MLK’s non-violence, while even today the non-violent, non-disruptive, largely private protests of Colin Kaepernick have provoked outrage from the white supremacist, chauvinistic liberal establishment.

The lesson ought to be clear: Pacifism is a poison, which keeps crushed, victimised and attacked people unarmed. It is a still-born attempt to fight against an enemy within his rules. Violence, the antagonistic clash of two irreconcilable aspects of the same thing, is an inherent part of change in nature, and society is no different. We must not begrudgingly, reluctantly accept that some force may be necessary to overthrow the violent, rigid, powerful and thoroughly trenched social, economic and political order of capitalist imperialism, but embrace revolutionary, liberating violence, a violence which restores humanity to impotent and pacified masses across the world, as a welcome and useful tool against the structural and reactionary violence of the system.

In Conclusion…

…The enemy is not ‘crony capitalism’, nor ‘the excesses of neoliberalism’, but capitalist-imperialism, a political, economic, social and cultural order so well entrenched that we cannot escape its influence even in the most private recesses of our thoughts. The way we think, the way we dream, the internalised belief-systems and ideological values which determine our behaviour patterns, are all shaped by imperialism – and that is especially true of people in the UK and countries like it, who live within the imperialist camp itself. For a long time, even after the overthrow of the ruling class, even after the construction of an economy designed to fully satisfy the needs of the whole population and elevate the masses above the animal concerns of food, shelter, and work, the traits of capitalist-imperialism will remain – not only in commodity production, in the necessity of certain forms of hierarchy, but also in our thought and behaviour patterns.

If we are ever to overthrow capitalist-imperialism, if we are ever to rid the planet of the systematically chaotic and anarchic rule of the market and push humanity towards the realisation of its full creative, productive, cultural and innovative potential, we must organise against imperialism, we must do battle with its ideology, with its conceptions and its worldview, and we must organise the masses of its victims against it as it actually manifests to fight against it as it actually is, as it actually exists. Militant solidarity between those trodden into the mud by imperialism, whether in Ferguson, Mexico, Syria or North Korea, seems like a good place to start.

 

You’re (Probably) Wrong About North Korea…

In light of the recent tensions between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), it seems appropriate to produce a short piece about the little-known country in opposition to the hostility shown it by US-European policymakers.

Common Claims About the DPRK and Contrary Evidence

The following is a list of commonly-believed claims about North Korea which often come up in conversation, and the rebuttals of such claims.

“North Koreans are poor and often don’t have enough to eat”. While it is true that there are, sometimes, food and supply shortages in the DPRK, it is worth keeping in mind that the same is true of most countries in the world. Millions of people in India, Bangladesh, most of Africa, and even some parts of the United States and Europe lack healthy food, hygiene and basic services. The city of Flint, Michigan suffers from a water-supply which is so unclean that it quite literally poisons the people who live there, while slum-dwellers in India, in addition to often not being paid enough to buy food, often have to share such basic things as toilets between several dozen people. We in the west ought to remember that most countries around the world are poor and, unlike most countries, the DPRK is under one of the world’s strictest trade embargoes.

“North Koreans are subjected to constant pro-regime propaganda and lack unbiased information”. It is true that the DPRK media and information services can sometimes be restrictive, but we have to wonder whether our own ‘information services’ are too much better. Most people in our countries rely for their information on news outlets owned and controlled by multi-millionaires which provide partisan and low-quality reporting on both world affairs and our own countries. How many Americans, for example, know that their own government flooded neighbourhoods across the country with hard drugs to quell the political dissent of the Black Panthers, that the CIA effectively installed the Suharto regime in Indonesia which subsequently murdered up to three million people, that the US military sprayed Agent Orange, a lethal chemical weapon, over Vietnam which has left deformed babies being born even half a century after the war, or that it slaughtered upwards of 2 million Koreans during the Korean War? Now, compare the number of Americans who are aware of these documented facts, with the number who sincerely believe that North Koreans believe their leaders were sent from heaven and believe in unicorns, and you might start questioning your own information services before making claims about North Korea’s.

“North Korea is an oppressive dictatorship which imprisons anyone who questions or criticises the regime”. There is no reliable evidence of this whatsoever. First, defectors are not a dependable source of information about life in the country; their testimonies often fall apart with inconsistencies, all defectors are drilled by South Korean intelligence before they are allowed to speak to the press and, remember, there were Iraqi defectors who confirmed Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMDs, which turned out to be bogus. In addition, defectors often praise the United States, which is guilty of all the above-mentioned crimes and more, as a champion of freedom. Secondly, the United States has a habit of spraying peaceful protesters with tear gas, beating and severely injuring or even killing dissidents (such as Fred Hampton), and handing down outrageous sentences for petty crimes. Next time you’re about to claim that North Korea has hundreds of thousands of basically innocent people in prison camps, remember that the United States has two million people in the same situation, and the UK imprisons more people per head of the population than any other country in Europe.

“North Korea is an aggressive and unpredictable country”. Aside from a few minor artillery exchanges, as often as not initiated by South Korea, the DPRK has not attacked or been at war with anyone since the 1953 armistice which ended the Korean War, while the US has attacked around 30 countries in that same time, not including covert operations, and was usually the aggressor which initiated the hostilities.

“Foreign films and culture are not allowed into North Korea”. Frankly, I don’t think the Korean people are losing much because they can’t listen to Katy Perry or Justin Bieber. The DPRK does, however, host an annual International Film Festival.

“North Korea distributes its resources poorly, spending disproportionately on the military while the people suffer shortages”. The DPRK has been the victim of nuclear blackmail by the United States no less than 7 times since the Korean War, and there are 33,000 occupation troops maintained by the United States just across the border, in South Korea. It is often claimed by Western media, news outlets, documentaries and such that North Korea is paranoid to suspect that the United States is hostile towards it and ready to attack, but that is overlooking the fact that the US and South Korean militaries hold yearly military drills which simulate an attack on the DPRK, and that the US was on the verge of attacking the country in 1994 over a nuclear research sight which it has a right to have under international law. It is likely that the DPRK would’ve been attacked by the United States and South Korea in the late 1990s, when it was at its most vulnerable, had it not been for the government’s “military-first policy”. Meanwhile, the United States spent $598.5 billion on the military in the fiscal year 2015, and recently launched a $29 million missile attack on Syria and dropped a $300 million bomb on Afghanistan, but cannot afford meals on wheels and is cutting social programmes across the country.

“There is no democracy in North Korea, the Workers’ Party and the Kims rule with an iron fist”. In addition to the Workers’ Party, the Christian Democrats and the Chondoist Party also sit in the Supreme People’s Assembly, the DPRK’s national legislative body. The Workers’ Party is, however, viewed to be above partisan politics and considered to be the leading force behind the country’s social, political and economic development, identified more with the ‘national spirit’ and the ‘national character’ than with anything else. It is true that the DPRK does not have a parliamentary political structure in the sense of the UK or the US, but to view any non-parliamentary political system as a form of dictatorship is, quite frankly, chauvinistic and racist.

“North Korea is often jealous of South Korea, a democratic country to which many North Koreans defect”. In South Korea, people are imprisoned for voicing left-wing political opinions of any sort, including pro-Trade Union, communist or socialist views, under accusation of “sympathy with the North”. South Korea has barely recovered from dacades-long military dictatorships which were killing between two and five thousand protesters a month by 1980, and remains rife with corruption, inequality and poverty. Furthermore, before the collapse of the Soviet Union the DPRK enjoyed considerably higher living standards than South Korea, which changed only due to the economic turmoil which any country would go through if it abruptly lost its biggest trading partner (imagine the turmoil in Europe if the United States suddenly collapsed as a country).

In conclusion, most of what we in the West know, or think we know, about North Korea is either fallacious or constructed out of a mixture of half-truths and subjective, unverifiable claims from unreliable sources. We must question the social and political nature of our own countries and the actual agendas of our own leaders before we mindlessly parrot falsehoods about any foreign countries, especially the DPRK, the most consistent victim of imperialist hostility and intimidation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-1991.

The Current War Drive Against North Korea

Recently the United States, supported by its allies, has stepped up its intimidation of the DPRK. It has, for example, sent warships to the region and threatened a pre-emptive strike against the country if it attempts to exercise its legitimate and legal right to test its defensive nuclear weapons (imagine if China threatened a pre-emptive strike against the US for weapons test, what international outrage there would be over such an affront to American sovereignty!). The recent Tomahawk missile strike against Syria and the dropping of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US military’s arsenal, MOAB, on Afghanistan, have also been interpreted as ‘shows of force’ aimed at intimidating North Korea and China.

Many liberals and moderate ‘socialists’ have interpreted this as part of the aggressive foreign policy stance of the Trump administration (while other liberals, crying over the ‘violence’ of Black Lives Matter protests, have cheered Trump as finally acting in a presidential manner with these actions), but in fact it represents nothing more than an increase in the intensity of the long-standing US policy of maintaining its effective economic stranglehold and political domination over much of the world, whereby the planet’s poorest countries pay to keep the United States on its throne as the richest country in the world, by any means necessary, including military aggression. The very fact that a country which puts its own national interests ahead of those of the US/European bloc exists is considered intolerable by US policymakers, so imagine the fury caused by the mere existence of a country as fiercely and proudly independent as the DPRK. War against this country benefits no-one but the military contractors who tend to profit from sending young soldiers into the meat-grinder; the Korean people, especially, cannot be bombed, shelled and blasted into American ‘freedom’. Anyone committed to peace, democracy and human rights, instead of whining over false or at least unverified claims about life inside North Korea, should contribute their whole effort towards militant opposition to the aggressive, imperialist war-drive, opposition by any means necessary.

Dear Corbynites…

It is about time that everyone with an iota of common sense realise that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t working for the Left. After around a year and a half as the leader of the Labour Party, this has become painfully obvious to all but Corbyn’s truly devoted supporters.

The Corbynites’ reluctance to accept the impotence of their figurehead is understandable. After almost three decades of neo-liberal triumphalism, the rise of Blairism within the Labour Party, and a horribly fractured and sectarian Left which has stood powerless in the face of the rise of deregulation and speculative, volatile finance capital for so long, it is not difficult to comprehend that socialists would show enthusiasm for a man whose discourse and stated agenda, though hardly radical, fall noticeably outside the accepted political narrative. Furthermore, after Corbyn took a battering from the right-wing and centrist media and political ‘Establishment’ in his campaign for and in the first months of his leadership of the Labour Party, it is understandable (but not excusable) that the so-called ‘Corbynistas’ tend to simplistically dismiss any criticism of Corbyn or his policies, no matter the source or content, as a right-wing, ‘Blairite’ attack not worth a moment’s consideration. However, at a time when just managing to keep Jeremy in office is considered a victory for the Left, it is time to ask – is Jeremy really the ray of hope that so many long-frustrated left-wingers thought he was?

If we really look at Corbyn’s time in office so far, and consider it logically with politics, and not desperation masked as enthusiastic revivalism, as our starting point, we will be disappointed. Corbyn failed, for example, to impose his anti-war line on the parliamentary Labour Party at the time of the vote on the bombing of Syria. Had he done so, it would not have stopped a single pro-war Labour MP voting in favour of the bombing, but it would have forced the tension within the Party out into the open and perhaps driven out the more right-wing elements. Instead, a free vote was permitted to maintain the façade (and it was and remains a mere façade, an appearance) of Party unity, to avoid a conflict which could not be avoided – and, for the sake of maintaining an appearance of Party unity which had already been shattered, British bombs fell upon the long-suffering people of Syria.

This example can be used to illustrate the entire problem. There are several people who, while supporting Corbyn in public, admit among themselves that whereas they wholeheartedly agree with his political principles, they would prefer a leader who was a little more savvy in actually running a parliamentary political Party (maybe someone like John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor). But this won’t do. It isn’t just that Corbyn, while correct in principle, just isn’t too good at running things, it is that the very concept of a parliamentary Labour Party is incompatible with the project of an emancipatory Left with the working class at its core.

We often see, appearing on the news, specialists in economics or political science talking very proudly and very arrogantly, holding their stuck-up little heads high, about complicated terms and formulas that most people neither understand nor give a rat’s ass about. The facts are much simpler. It doesn’t require a PhD in economics or social theory to understand that national political systems, be they liberal, parliamentary democracies or not, cannot control an economic or financial system the very essence of which is international interconnection and interdependence. International capitalism (or, more accurately, capitalist imperialism) is regulated exclusively by the rate of return on capital, or, in other words, by the potential for profit. Everything – production, trade, etc. – is regulated (that is to say, controlled or based on) the potentiality for profit. This potentiality is handled through the speculative financial system, the stock market and so on (and since the major banks and companies of international finance, which also reap the vast majority of its benefits, are based in the First World, it is understandable that the financial sectors of First World countries have massively swelled, swelling also inequality). The speculative financial system is, essentially, systematic, international gambling – an investor or team of investors puts money into something it is gambling will be profitable, and wins or loses. If it wins, things stay the same – the vast majority of people work awful jobs for low wages, are numbed and stunted by the fact that their lives revolve almost completely around the tedious monotony of dehumanising, impersonal labour, and so forth, while the investors get rich; if, on the other hand, the investors lose, the enterprise either collapses, in which case who knows how many people are thrown onto the streets or into the dole queues, or the rest of us are expected to pick up the bill. Of course, this profit-based system brings a world of good to those who can appreciate the huge variety of products it brings to the market, but since about 70-80% of the world’s population earns less than £7 a day, that is not most of us. As far as capitalism is concerned, actually producing the things people need to live is a by-product, while the endgame is profit for profit’s sake. If you can’t afford to buy stuff, if you have to spend the majority of your pay-packet on basic upkeep and barely have enough left over for a pint at the end of the week or a birthday present for your kid, tough luck and go fuck yourself. In this system, it is “I spend, therefore I am”, and if you can’t afford to spend, well…

Ultimately, capitalist-imperialism is the root of our problems. It is the reason unemployment and dole queues exist – it isn’t because you as an individual are just unemployable, or are too lazy and ought to try harder, or whatever (don’t get me wrong, their are lazy folks out there, but when the vast majority of the world barely earns enough to make end’s meet you sorta have to start seeing that there’s a bigger, more systemic problem than individual laziness), it is because, for the capitalist, employing you is no gain and sacking you is no loss. Think about it, do we really need our bosses at all? What are they there for? Of course, we need sight managers, coordinators, etc. to manage these big, complex enterprises with a lot happening, but our bosses, the people who own the company, the people who invest, what do we really need them for? If everything was nationalised tomorrow and there were no more bosses, no more private owners, would there really be no more jobs – would we stop needing cars, electricity, rubbish pick-up, mechanics, engineers, shelf-stackers, teachers, etc…? Of course not. The bosses don’t provide work, the work is already there because it needs to be done – all the bosses do is take the majority of what a worker makes for profit, they line their pockets by robbing the workers. You might think the tax man takes a lot of what you earn, and he does, but the fact is, the proletarian earns more than he is paid, often considerably more, and that is taken by the boss, by the capitalist as a profit on his investment (which is you, the worker, or more accurately, the wage he pays you in exchange for working). This isn’t about a few greedy individual bosses, it is about the fact that greed, or the absolute imperative for profit, is the entire basis of the capitalist system. This is why Detroit, in the US, crumbled – it was more profitable to outsource the jobs, and (no matter what Trump says) that will never be reversed while capitalism exists.

Capitalism cannot be reformed, and certainly not through a liberal democratic political process based around individual nation-states. Capitalism is international, it is rapacious, and it is constantly trying to outrun its own demise, leaving a trail of devastation and a mass of obsolete, ruined and dehumanised human beings in its wake – like one of those old westerns, where the villain runs from town to town trying to escape justice, harming and killing anyone who finds him suspicious and might turn him over and continuing his wicked ways while he’s on the run, and everyone knows that it is not till someone takes the initiative to stop him, and kill him if necessary, that his trail of misery will come to an end, because he will never change his ways.

Anyone who sincerely considers themselves opposed to the obsolete, decadent and ruinous system of capitalism must realise that it is capitalism itself, and not just its excesses, not just “casino capitalism” or “crony capitalism”, which is the problem. Once it has been acknowledged that capitalism itself is the problem, it follows that no parliamentary system based upon capitalistic property rights (i.e. respect for private property and ‘business’, large or small) will be sufficient to reform, much less to abolish and supersede it. Capitalism reforms at its own pace, in its own way, and for its own benefit, and that is not enough for any sincere, decent socialist who desires the liberation of human potential, of human creativity, from the fetters of profitability and neo-liberalism. For, capitalism doesn’t promote innovation or creativity, it just chains them to profit – ideas, no matter how brilliant, no matter how useful, are simply worthless if there’s no way to turn a profit from them. By contrast, the Soviet Union, a socialist country, sent the first satellite and the first person into space, Cuba found a way to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies, and much more could’ve been accomplished had the relentless capitalist assault on the socialist world not been victorious in the shape of a self-seeking, bureaucratic class, a red-bourgeoisie about which Mao warned us, but was unable to defeat in his day.

It isn’t just the ineffectiveness of Corbyn as a political leader, then, that is the problem, but rather the incompatibility of any project for the liberation of the working class and the creation of a society based around the meeting of human needs in which the liberation of our potential as an active, conscious, thinking species might become possible with parliamentary, bourgeois democratic political systems and processes which by their very nature are joined inseparably to the nation-state, property-rights, and capitalism. Only the organisation of the victims of capitalism, of the starving beggar, of the bloke on a zero-hours contract struggling to pay the bills, of the woman in the dole queue who can’t heat the flat where her kids sleep, of the underpaid and abused migrant labourer…of the proletariat as a class, against capitalism and for socialism, led by a political Party of committed revolutionaries from the ranks of the masses themselves, only that will ever be capable of building socialism. The social-democrats, reformers, and Corbynite sell-outs shouldn’t be so quick to throw the word ‘socialism’ around.