Tuesday 30 May 2017

The One Thing I Agree With The Iron Lady On

As a leftist, it is virtually an article of faith to axiomatically hate and despise Margaret Thatcher, for good reason I would wager.

She was the Godmother of what we now call neoliberalism, an economic doctrine that has wreaked much havoc across the world, especially in the global south. She smashed the workers and trade union movement in Britain. She was very friendly with dictators like Augusto Pinochet, Zia Ul-Haq and Suharto. In addition, she was an ally of Saddam Hussein, an admirer of the Saudi royal family and very soft on the apartheid regime in South Africa. And is responsible for so many other iniquities.

Her acolytes and supporters repeatedly described her, in the totally vacuous and fawning tributes and obituaries in the aftermath of her death in 2013, as a "fearless champion of freedom, democracy and rule of law" when she was anything but the opposite. If I had things my way she would've been described as a champion of despotism and tyranny and an enemy of liberty and democracy.

Anyways, enough of my vitriol. I'll save that for another day to get it out of my system.

Despite my criticisms of her, there is one issue where the 'Iron Lady' and I would see eye to eye, somewhat: The Falklands War.

The reason why I feel the Falklands war, and more importantly the defeat of Galtieri, was on balance a good thing was because of its biggest collateral benefit, which was, the utter embarrassment and discrediting of Galtieri's murderous, fascist junta, and its eventual overthrow.

It was also a bloody nose for the United States, who were uncomfortably made to choose between their British allies or their Argentine junta clients. What many people don't know is far from standing side by side with Britain all the way, Reagan pleaded with Thatcher not to completely retake the islands which would lead to "Argentine humiliation" and tried to produce a compromise between Argentina and Britain, as recent revelations have subsequently revealed. It was only when it was clear that Britain had the upper hand that the US gave firm support to Britain.

The neo-fascist regime of Galtieri and his junta was a favourite of the Reagan administration and the neoconservative apologists like Jeanne Kirkpatrick who viewed the regime as a "bulwark against Communism" in Latin America. Presumably because the "Majestic General's" death squads would stamp out any movement that was not in total subordination to American interests in South America (like the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende inconveniently elected in Chile in 1970). Moreover, the junta also helped to train and arm the CIA backed homicidal Contra mercenaries in its war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

During the reign of the Argentine Junta, as part of its "Dirty war", (a policy green lighted by the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger- why he is still on the outside is beyond me!) anyone who fit the bill of a "subversive" which included leftists, trade unionists, intellectuals, students and journalists simply "disappeared" and was never seen or heard of again.

Any tin pot dictatorship can throw a dissident in jail, and censor their publications because they dislike their opinion, but it is often the most appalling and filthy totalitarian regimes that just make people "disappear". It has that psychological effect of sending a warning to an already terrorised population that if they fall out of line then they or their loved one will be next.

"Los desparecidos" was the name given to an estimated 30,000 people who met this unfortunate fate. Calling them "the disappeared" gives you the impression that there was an air of mystery as to what happened to them. The reality is that most were horrifically tortured, sexually violated, and then murdered.

If you read Jacobo Timerman's, Prisoner Without a Name, about what this hideous regime did to prisoners (especially female ones) in the notorious torture centre of the Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics, you will encounter horrific accounts that will curl your hair:

"The entire affective world, constructed over the years with utmost

difficulty, collapses with a kick in the father's genitals, a smack on

the mother's face, an obscene insult to the sister, or the sexual vio-

lation of a daughter. Suddenly an entire culture based on familial

love, devotion, the capacity for mutual sacrifice collapses. Nothing

is possible in such a universe, and that is precisely what torturers

know...From my cell, I'd hear the whispered voices of children

trying to learn what was happening to their parents, and I'd witness

the efforts of daughters to win over a guard, to arouse a feeling of

tenderness in him, to incite hope of some lovely future relationship

between them in order to learn what was happening to her mother,

to get an orange sent to her, to get permission for her to go

to the bathroom."

This was the reality that the people of Falklands Islands woke up to in May 1982, and would eventually have had to face. It simply could not be allowed that an anti-Semitic, fascist dictatorship run by professional murderers, rapists and torturers could invade an island it had no right to, and trample on the right to self-determination of the inhabitants; it had to be expelled.

Now, in having this opinion, I am to a certain degree in a minority amongst the left- not that I mind that much.

Some on the left, out of a very synthetic and dogmatic pseudo-"anti-imperialism", not merely opposed Thatcher's war to retake the Falklands (that's one thing) but sided with the Galtieri junta. It is so bizarre to me that some of them were delighted that the 'Malvinas' had been 'liberated' from British imperialism when it was clearly the case that the Argentine junta were the ones acting like imperialists and were the naked aggressors.

However, it must be said that most of the left certainly did not like Galtieri because of its suppression of leftists and trade unions and the support it received from the United States, but opposed the war mainly because of discomfort at the flag waving, bloodthirsty, "Argie bashing" jingoism and the ridiculous "Rule Britannia" imperial nostalgia that surrounded that war.  And the belief that Mrs. Thatcher would manipulate this reservoir of patriotism to boost her popularity for the 1983 election.

I can understand the aversion to aggressive British chauvinism, especially when it veered in to xenophobia. I don't like it either. The infantile, puerile nonsense makes me want to puke out food that I've forgotten ever eating.

 The infamous headline from The Sun

 after the controversial sinking of the Belgrano

Nonetheless, despite all this, and despite the fact it helped Thatcher get re-elected I think the war was a good thing, not because of "British pride" but because it’s collateral effect meant the downfall of the fascist junta and the re-establishment of Argentinian democracy.

Because of my internationalism, my love of liberty and a fundamental and visceral antipathy towards tyranny of any sort (especially Fascist tyranny), I simply cannot regret the defeat of Galtieri at the hands of Thatcher or delude myself into thinking the end of the regime was insignificant because it might be a convenient point of credit for Mrs. Thatcher. In my view, a free and democratic Argentina, emancipated from the dark days of fascist oppression and tyranny is the greater good to come out of this whole episode.

There is a very simple principle at stake with the Falklands/Malvinas question: the right to self-determination of the people who live there. If they wish to remain British, which clearly they do, then that is what their status should be. If they still of a sudden want to be part of Argentina or wish to do what the Americans did in 1776 and declare independence from Britain then I would support that right too. But the fact of matter, as the 2013 referendum demonstrated quite clearly, the islanders wish to remain British. So, this is a non-issue for me, and the Argentines are simply punching air.

Hopefully at some point this question that derives from a petty 19th century imperial quarrel will be buried once and for all.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Notes on Manchester Attacks

I don't mean to disappoint you but I don't really have alot to say on the Manchester attacks because I would just be repeating myself, and you would find that boring. Nonetheless, I somewhat feel compelled to write something on this bloodbath, so I will really try not to seem like I am repeating myself or recycle talking points I have used in response to past tragedies.

I feel sorrow for those whose lives were taken, those who were maimed and injured, and those who are looking for their loved ones among the missing, and sadly those feeling the pain and loss of losing a loved one. I cannot even begin to imagine what those poor people are going through right now. We musn't forget that on the recieving end of these atrocities, every time, are living and breathing human beings and wrecked families. I have nothing but complete and unconditional solidarity with the city of Manchester, and my fellow compatriots who have been affected by this tragedy.

 The Burj Khalifa in Dubai in solidarity with Manchester

My emotions are surging full of rage at the evil commited by the depraved savages responsible for this heartless murder of innocents. This wasn't an attack on the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime ministers. It wasn't even directed at armies or police forces. It was aimed at ordinary people. It targeted children, harmless, powerless, innocent children. Religious fascists don't bomb children going to an Arian Grande pop concert because they have a grievance over this or that imperialist crime on "Muslim lands". They do so because they are wicked, lawless, evil and motivated by an ideology that is based on sadism, hatred, dehumanisation, cruelty and absolutism. An ideology that not only denies, but negates any sense of morality, humanity, civilisation and virtue.

As shocking as this is, it should not be surprising. The moral universe of a Jihadist has no issues with decimating children in cold blood. For example massacaring children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan or firing a bullet (though failed to kill) into Malala Yousufzai's head because she demanded an education. I can go on and give you inummerable examples of these kinds of atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria etc. They will not hesistate to murder 'their' own children. What made you think they would not be doing the exact same thing to ours? The life of a child has no value to these nihilists.

Saffie Rose Rousse, one of the named victims. 
She was 8 years old. Just 8 years old!
My heart is breaking.
A beautiful little girl decimated by bloody ugly monsters

We cannot prevent every terrorist attack. No matter how sophisticated the national security system, no matter how hard the intelligence service works, even if we turned our society into a totalitarian police state (which I would be strongly against), we still wouldn't prevent every attack. Some attacks are just going to fall through the cracks.

What we can control is our reaction. React we must, but the issue is in what type of reaction we will give. Just as Malcolm X said the racist will never be his teacher, we also must not allow theocratic fascists to be the teachers of free and civilised peoples. We must firmly state that we will not give in to the logic of terror.

We must resist that niggling temptation to sink into the politics of fear and the politics of suspicion, because once we go down that road we will end up in the desolate state of the authoritarian police state to whom we will surrender our hard won liberties to in the hope that they can gurantee us permanent security. Once we arrive at this sordid destination, then we will neither have security or liberty. All we will have is a society paralysed by fear, polarised communities, a broken social fabric and a state with a great amount of power that it will inevitably abuse and use arbitrarily.

How not to respond to terrorism 101

Unfortunately, the usual suspects have, as usual, exploited this tragedy to spread their tendentious agenda. While the people of Manchester stand united, give free taxi rides, donate blood, open their doors to strangers and make general messages of love and solidarity - the people we should really be talking about. Others call for a "final solution" and stir up racial and sectarian hatred.

This is language of fascism and effectively an incitement to genocide. She should face serious moral accountability and really ought to retract this disgusting statement. Part of our reaction must include not allowing this kind of toxic anti-Muslim demagoguery to be pervasive.

Now, we are right to be angry, to be filled with rage, even, to be filled with hate. Often in our public discourse hate is often seen as a bad thing - for good reason most of the time- and how we should focus on love - again often for good reason. But I would say that in order to know what you love, you must know what you hate (and the vice versa applies too) and there is justification in this instance for hate, at least for me, because it is directed at those who deserve it and based on a desire for justice, not directed to those who are innocent or based on revenge or a desire to persecute and demonise others.

I hate the fact that twenty two of our fellow citizens - many of them children- were murdered, I hate the savage who did it, I hate those who will apologise for it, and I hate the filthy, murderous ideology that underpins such barbarism. I want to destroy that ideology and the groups that fight under its banner. Not only destroy it, but obliterate it, extinguish it, and systematically and absolutely disgrace and discredit it. Compromise with this kind of absolutism is unthinkable and not possible. There is nothing to negotiate, I seek its complete destruction. Jihadism and its various terror surrogates must be opposed, resisted and fought wherever they are, and the resistance should only be criticised when it falters or waivers in its opposition to these reactionary forces.

What we have to realise is there is no quick solution to this problem. We cannot ignore it or explain it away with silly turgid masochistic talking points or benign but ultimately hollow statements of 'all we need is love'. Nor can we pretend that we can simply bomb, shoot, torture, legalise and "close our borders" our way out of this. What is required is a very strong and resilient political, social and ideological struggle against this form of Islamic absolutism, alongside those resisting it on the frontlines in other countries, aswell as our own (this has nothing with the 'clash of civilisations' bullshit or Eurabia alarmism), based on international solidarity above all else. But it must be rooted in a different kind of politics.

We need a politics that is unapologetic in defending what these nihilists are out to destroy; the joys of life and our 'infidel liberties'. A politics that seeks to unite people from different communities towards a common goal. A politics that neither rushes to blame the other, nor attempts to explain away evil through moral relativism or victim blaming. A politics that sees the moral outrage in terror, but also understands the need to analyse the political and social context in which terror thrives. A politics that takes religion and ideology seriously but doesn't engage in collective blame, nor calls for the persecution or authoritarian measures against the other. A politics that acknowledges that there are many stupid and immoral ways of engaging in this struggle, that are rooted in chauvanism, hatred and irrational demonology, but understands that there is no principled or intelligent way of being against this struggle. A politics that will call on all of our principles, all of our intelligence and all of our solidarity and internationalism.

In short, a very difficult politics, but a principled and intelligent one.