Western Policy in crisis across the Middle East

The developing crisis in Libya highlights the deep failures of Western policy in the Middle East. The capital, Tripoli, fell to Islamist militias – reportedly armed and supported by Qatar, at the weekend, following weeks of fighting after the Islamists lost elections.

Libya’s foreign minister, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, quoted in the Guardian, says that the militias ” are now stronger than the government itself, and … now possess arms even more sophisticated than the government itself”.

As instability and the chaos of war engulfs Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya, it is opportune to re-examine the assumptions behind the West’s policy towards Libya, which led to the descent into anarchy. Click to continue reading

Is Great Britain now an anti-imperialist country?

Nu’man Abd al-Wahid

By all honest accounts the British establishment has visited war, carnage, slavery, genocide, terrorism, imperialism, colonialism, impoverishment, starvation and concentration camps on mankind over the last four hundred years. In most cases, especially in the earlier period, such grisly adventurism was executed under the pretext of civilising the native, that is, the aboriginal peoples of the earth. This unsolicited global carnage made England and Great Britain a rich country. The wondrous booty of the establishment’s maritime entrepreneurialism trickled down to the cheering populace and they tugged their forelocks in appreciation and in reciprocation the multitude conferred legitimacy on their wise leaders. The populace migrated to the establishment’s new foreign possessions which in itself eased economic tensions on the home front – by many migrating abroad, there were less challenges to the order of things on the home front.

It is difficult to imagine Albion would have reached such stupendous levels of effortless affluence without resort to such single-minded blood-lust inflicted on the aboriginal peoples of the earth, which herein was the very foundation of its Empire. As Winston Churchill argued in a cabinet meeting in January 1914:

“we are not a young people with an innocent record and a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves, in time when other powerful nations were paralysed by barbarism or internal war, an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory, and our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seems less reasonable to others than to us.”[i]

The Empire’s track record for four hundred years is impossibly gruesome and one wonders which stars conspired to allow it to pervert the course of justice. From the moment Queen Elizabeth I’s first pirate set out in the 1560’s to capture and kidnap black Africans to sell in South America to the 1960’s (and beyond) when the UK revived the notion of mercenaries (after it being absent for centuries) as a strategy to be employed in fighting anti-imperialist and nationalist forces in North Yemen, Great Britain has concealed its basest intentions by invoking noble ideals to justify self-serving, military interventionist policies.

The notion that England has a civilising mission and a responsibility towards the people it considers its inferiors is now well past its sell by date as a justification for military intervention and occupation. Ideals rooted in liberation from capitalism and imperialism, are more and more frequently invoked to justify the continuation of the UK’s military aggression and colonialism in the Global South.

One could argue the Empire’s appropriation of liberal ideals for its sordid ends began with Britain’s Zionist mission in Palestine. This imperialist project which set off now almost hundred years of conflict was justified by members of the Labour Party as a socialist project. Ramsey MacDonald, the Labour Party’s first ever Prime Minister and justified this enterprise in the 1920’s in socialistic terms. In his book “A Socialist in Palestine” he claimed that Zionism was a threat to the then Palestinian elite which ran and owned the country because the Zionist presence was encouraging the Arab worker to unionise and seek “relief from corrupt and exploiting landowners”.

Macdonald claimed that Palestinian elite “rally the Arabs in their own sectional self-defence rather than in that of the Arab people…The winds of Europe are blowing in upon them and they cannot stand the cutting blast. They see the coming shadow of a cultivator protected in his labour and property, they see the end of unjust exactions, they see their power vanishing…”

As can be seen, the coloniser is referred to as a “cultivator”, while the imperialist gangster which is protecting the coloniser’s “labour and property” is referred to as the “winds of Europe”.[ii] The new Zionist settler according to the British left leadership was unshackling the ordinary Palestinian Arab from the feudal reactionary and fascistic leadership and certainly not laying the foundations for the theft of his land.[iii]

Recently, Professor Richard Toye in his biography of Winston Churchill argues that Britain’s greatest hero helped to pave the way for African and Asian liberation movements by virtue that he drafted and signed up to the Atlantic Charter. The charter, issued by the USA and UK during World War 2, had advocated the right of all people to national sovereignty and self-government once the war was over. Churchill therefore had inadvertently helped to “unlock the forces anti-colonialism” by signing up to this charter.[iv] This is obviously palpable nonsense. Although Churchill did sign up to the charter, he is on record saying that the charter would not apply to people under the British Empire specifically mentioning Nigeria, East Africa and Palestine.[v] Furthermore, Churchill was central to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran in 1953. Indeed, during Churchill’s final general election campaign he bemoaned that Labour had ‘scuttled’ away from its responsibility in Iran after Mosaddegh had nationalised the oil industry.[vi]

With a good dose of chutzpah, the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, has accused Argentina of possessing a colonialist attitude towards the Falkland Islands. He argues that because the British settlers on the Islands want to remain British and as Argentina wants them to be something else i.e. the return of the Islands, this was ipso facto colonialism on Argentina’s behalf. However, Cameron reassured that “all defences were in order in the British-held South Atlantic archipelago.” He may have been referring to the nuclear armed armada, that Argentina has accused the UK to the area.

Argentina is not the only country with colonialist or imperialist ambitions that need to confronted by Her Majesty’s Government. Russia is in the crosshairs as well. And we have no lesser authority on this than someone who supported the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the British led intervention in Libya. The Financial Times contributing editor and former New Statesman writer John Lloyd claims that the situation in Ukraine is a struggle between Russian imperialism and globalisation. In a sentence which bears all the hallmarks of blinkered imperialist he claimed that the west have been reminded that “imperialism is alive and well, even rampant, and threatens the vision for a more global world economy.” Note that Russia is portrayed as imperialist for its supposed role in Ukraine, while this person will never portray the British invasions of Iraq, Libya and the urge to intervene in Syria as imperialist.

A former Member of Parliament and author calls attention to the inevitable fate facing Chinese imperialism in Africa.

Obviously, the foundations of this new packaging of British imperialism as anti-imperialism will partly be laid by the leg soldiers, domestic neo-colonial officers or “activists” who live and work amongst the populace. The most ridiculous manifestation of the idea that Britain is an anti-imperialist country occurred in late 2011. An activist and graduate of Aberystwyth University, Daniel Renwick, argued that the UK is already a culturally anti-imperialist country:

“the great thing about British culture is that it is anti-imperialist, really. It’s not British anymore or English anything from food to football. It sounds atrocious to me, I don’t know about you…what good English meal is there? Fish and Chips?.. Yorkshire pudding?…I mean Kenny Dalglish has tried to build the whitest football team in the Premier league in ten years but I don’t know if that’s the best, its definitely not, Manchester City are and they’re globalising….There is a point here that I’m making right. Culturally, we are anti-imperialists already.”[vii]

This grotesque nonsense was spewed on an anti-imperialist platform of all places! The idea that a nation’s food consumption shall inevitably define its geo-political orientation is flawed in the extreme. If this was the case, the United States is on the verge of being the most anti-imperialist in the world. The notion that the sportsman in one of the main football teams in the UK is a rejection of a parochial and imperial British identity and an embrace of some kind of ‘globalisation’ is easily undermined by pointing again to the United States. In other words, no one would argue that American society exemplifies racial and social equality by virtue that its American football, basketball and other sports teams have a racially diverse makeup.  Furthermore, Manchester City football club has been available to purchase expensive players from around the world due to the fact that its owners are also the rulers of a British neo-colonial entity, United Arab Emirates. It is because of British imperialism, which literally drew the lines in the sand for the entity known collectively as UAE, that Manchester City football club is “global”. Renwick gleefully turns this particular situation on its head in order to depict Great Britain as anti-imperialist.

Renwick’s deviousness and trickery is, as we have seen, nothing new to British politics. It is inevitable that a dubious character will drape British culture in an anti-imperialism cloak. Unfortunately for charlatans, there are those who have, in the words of Jay Z, “been inoculated from the snakes and the fakes, the corny handshakes.”

In conclusion, the appropriation of anti-imperialist terminology and discourse by the agents and minions of British imperialism on the one hand will continue unabated but on the other nothing will be said in areas of the world where British imperialism has a strong presence such as the Persian Gulf. Would British Aerospace be the successful company it is, if it were not for the purchases of arms from Britain’s despots in the region? The Empire drew lines in the sand and named these lines, “Qatar”, “Kuwait”, “Dubai”, “Abu Dubai”, etc. and as such has been rewarded handsomely for such artistry. One day, who knows, there may be a threat to the “stability” of these imperial concoctions from Iranian “imperialism.”

Furthermore, it is important to not mistake a Britisher’s sometimes well warranted criticisms of American, French or any other western government’s foreign policy as anti-imperialist. Far from it. Great Britain, like any other country, will always be looking to defend and further its imperial interests. If those interests can be deceptively defended by tarnishing its adversaries with anti-imperialist sounding rhetoric, so be it; if not, other arguments will be utilised.

[i] Clive Ponting, “Churchill”, Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1995, pg. 132.

[ii] Ramsay MacDonald, “A Socialist in Palestine”, Jewish Socialist Labour Confederation – Poale Zion, 1922, pg.19-20

[iii] Joseph Gorney, The British Labour Movement and Zionism, Frank Cass and Company Limited, London, 1983, chapter 7 and pg. 151.

[iv] Richard Toye,”Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made”, Pan Books, London 2011, pg 316

[v] Ponting, op, cit., pg. 535 and John Callaghan, “The Labour Party and Foreign Policy: A History”, Routledge, London, 2007 pg, 144

[vi] Toye, op. cit., pg.281-282

[vii] Daniel Renwick, “What is anti-imperialism”, London, 28.11.2011. (http://vimeo.com/35192059) accessed 16th August 2014. Kenny Dalglish was the former manager of Liverpool City Football Club. Renwick is referring to his second spell as manager between 2011-12.

A visit to the Edinburgh Book Festival

Book FestivalMorning Star

People living in the West don’t need their governments to remind them who their enemy is. Not when they have an obliging intelligentsia to do it for them.

For anyone who visits the annual internationally renowned Edinburgh International Book Festival, a trip to the bookshop reveals more than any number of speeches from government ministers and leading politicians ever could who this year’s global pariah of choice is. Last year it was books on Syria and its ‘evil dictator’ Assad that were doing the rounds, the year before that it was China, while the year before that books on Iran filled the shelves.

This year it was no surprise to see the prevalence of books on Russia at the festival. I counted at least ten different titles, each making the case for regarding Russia as a threat to stability, security, and peace in the world. Covers included lurid pictures of Vladimir Putin, designed to depict the Russian leader as a dangerous maniac bent on global domination. The titles alone are revelatory. For example:

  • The New Cold War: Putin’s Threat to Russia and the West
  • The Last Man in Russia: And the Struggle To Save A Dying Nation
  • Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin
  • Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History
  • The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia

By now you should be getting the idea: Russia is the current focus of Western liberal commentators and an intelligentsia that extends itself in parroting the views of their own governments, abandoning their critical faculties in the process. While conformity may be the enemy of critical and independent thought, for such people it is a religion. Acceptance and respectability, after all, requires nothing less. How else are they to secure those newspaper columns, book deals, and invites to dinner parties and literary functions without which their lives would not be worth living?

The history of Western colonialism and wars of conquest is replete with its cheerleaders in the form of newspaper columnists, novelists, and writers. During the high water mark of the British Empire, Rudyard Kipling was its unofficial chronicler. His most famous poem is White Man’s Burden, which he wrote as a celebration of the takeover of the Philippines by the United States in 1898.

‘Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.’

 In modern times the now departed British writer and journalist Christopher Hitchens was most prominent when it came to carrying on the tradition of providing literary and journalistic muscle for the projection of imperial power. From a withering critic of the West and Western foreign policy in the 70s and 80s, Hitchens underwent a slow but sure metamorphosis throughout the nineties. It reached its apogee after 9/11, when he enthusiastically embraced the wars unleashed by George W Bush.

For him, and other members of the liberal literati, US imperialism and militarism was suddenly a force for good and human progress in the world. The Stealth bombers, Abrams tanks, battleships, aircraft carriers and legions of kevlar-helmeted marines which at one time stood for death and destruction in the name of US hegemony, now constituted the vanguard of a neo-enlightenment, spreading civilisation and democracy to the dark peoples of the world.

Here was Hitchens’ advice to the US and British military leaderships, published in the pages of the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper, just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

‘The best case scenario is a rapid attack by precision-guided weapons, striking Saddam’s communications in the first hours and preventing his deranged orders from being obeyed. Then a massive landing will bring food, medicine and laptop computers to a surging crowd of thankful and relieved Iraqis and Kurds. This could, in theory, all happen’.

Then, after the invasion, with the resulting slaughter and carnage at its height, Hitchens had this to say this during a speech he gave at Kenyon College, Ohio in 2004 on the destruction of Fallujah:

“The death toll is not nearly high enough… too many have escaped”.

Hitchens is merely the most prominent example of the intellectual and ideological bankruptcy of Western liberalism in recent times, the poster boy of an ignoble tradition reflected in the plethora of anti-Russian and anti-Putin books featured at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. As John Pilger wrote: Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what George Orwell called the ‘official truth’. They simply cipher and transmit lies’.

The British poet Humbert Wolfe put it better in the 1920s, when he wrote: “You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”


Ferguson, Missouri is only the latest chapter in an old story

usa-missouri-shooting-protestsThe social unrest that has engulfed the small town of Ferguson, Missouri in the United States – in the wake of the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer – is as predictable as it is horrific. It refutes more than any amount of academic research ever could the notion that words such as justice, freedom and democracy accurately describe the reality of life for millions in a country that likes to represent itself as the land of the free.

Racism continues to poison social relations in America, with black people in particular regarded as an enemy within by police departments and the reactionary system they represent all across the country. This is especially the case in the South, where though African-Americans are no longer forced to live on plantations they might as well be given the brutality they regularly endure at the hands not only of the police but also the judicial system and a political class that has all but reduced them to the status of subhuman. The evidence in this regard is irrefutable.

According to statistics published by the FBI in 2012, black people constituted 51.1% of homicide victims and 53.4% of homicide offenders, an inordinate number when you consider that blacks make up 14% of the total population. Further, a white police officer killed a black person on average twice a week in the United States over a seven year period up to 2012.

Crime, given the socioeconomic factors involved, cannot be divorced from the poverty and inequality that gives rise to it. And it is here where black people in America fare worst. The website Black Demographics reveals that

  • 28.2 percent of black families are living in poverty, compared to 11.8 percent across all races
  • 23.8 percent of black people over the age of 18 are living in poverty, compared to 13.9 percent across all races

It also reveals that blacks are

  • three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than whites
  • more than three times more likely to be handcuffed
  • almost three times more likely to be arrested

When it comes to incarceration, the Washington Post revealed last year that the US prison population had reached a staggering 2.4 million people. Out of this number – which accounts for a full quarter of the entire world’s prison population – 38% of them are black. Compare this to whites, who make up 35% of the US prison population while constituting 78% of the population at large.

These and other social indicators leave no doubt when it comes to the plight of black people in the United States. It is a plight which the election of the country’s first black president in 2008 has failed to arrest.

When Barack Obama swept into the White House on the back of his talent for soaring rhetoric, accompanied by the hopes of millions of poor and hitherto disenfranchised people of all races, Americans allowed themselves to believe that the ‘change agenda’ which the nation’s first black president espoused throughout his election campaign would translate into the kind of action that would transform their lives and at last release them from the chains of poverty and social exclusion they have suffered for generations.

It has not. Indeed, if anything, Obama’s record in office proves that his presidency has been nothing more than old wine in a new bottle where social and economic justice is concerned, which in the US is inextricably linked to race.

Another factor in this current crisis, caused by yet another killing of a young black man by a white police officer, is the militarisation of the police. Rather than serving the public, especially in low income black communities, the focus is self evidently on intimidating them with overwhelming force and the sort of firepower associated with a warzone rather than the streets of a small town. The mindset involved as a consequence is one of confrontation rather than cooperation, coercion rather than consent, with young black men in particular demonized as gang members and criminals even if they are neither.

As the world watches this latest crisis unfold in the streets of an American town, the words of Martin Luther King ring as true today as they did when he spoke them four decades ago: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Young black men in America are not only unheard in 2014, they are brutalised and killed with impunity.



ABBA join GMB members for protest at Wincanton HQ

asbo small format

The GMB says that the words of Mamma Mia perfectly sum up the position of Agency workers employed by Tempay at the Wincanton warehouse in Swindon – “I’ve been cheated by you since I don’t know when, So I made up my mind, it must come to an end”

GMB members employed by employment agency Tempay mounted an ABBA themed protest outside the headquarters of Wincanton Logistics in Chippenham today, and were joined by Clare Moody, the newly elected Labour MEP for the South West.

At a Swindon distribution depot in South Marston, operated by Wincanton on behalf of a household name retail giant, the majority of permanent warehouse staff are employed through an agency called Tempay. Many of these staff have been working at the same site on permanent assignment for several years, but using Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations these staff are guaranteed only 7 or 8 hours work per week, and are paid only minimum wage. This is nearly £2 per hour pay than the warehouse staff employed directly for Wincanton.

GMB members handed a giant “corporate ASBO” into the Wincanton HQ , to draw attention to the unethical use of the Swedish Derogation. Placards read “Wincanton takes it all” and “The Swedish Derogation is unethical”

GMB consider that Wincanton are unethically using Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) to avoid giving effect to Section 5, relating to equal pay. Since the Agency Workers Regulations came into force in 2011, agency workers are guaranteed no less favourable treatment for terms and conditions and working conditions after completing a qualifying period of 12 weeks. However, a legal loophole under section 10, also called the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to pay less, if they guarantee a small payment between assignments.

Andy Newman, Wiltshire GMB branch secretary, said “We have around 200 GMB members out of 280 permanent staff with contracts with Tempay.

“Many members have told me that due to their Swedish Derogation contracts they can be working for 37.5 hours one week, and then the next week can be cut back to 7 hours. This leaves them feeling very precarious, and you can see how this would lead them to be reluctant to assert their rights

“GMB calls upon Tempay to pay our members the rate for the job, and for Tempay to go back to their client, Wincanton, and ask them to cease the unethical use of Section 10 of the AWR”.

Labour MEP Clare Moody joins protest against Swedish Derogation with GMB Abba

Labour MEP, Clare Moody, joins GMB protest against the “Swedish Derogation”

Open letter condemning Guardian ad by supporters of Israel

The Guardian newspaper has published an ad by supporters of the apartheid State of Israel, which among other things smears the Palestinian resistance as ‘child killers’. Given that Israel’s latest massacre of Palestinians in Gaza has up to now involved the slaughter of 400 children, this is beyond parody. The right wing Times refused to carry the ad, while the supposedly progressive Guardian published it.

Stop the War Coalition have produced an open letter condemning the ad and the Guardian for publishing it. They are asking people to sign and share it.

Please do so.

The ad and more on the story can be found at Electronic Intifada.



Israel’s slaughter has started again: Let’s make tomorrow’s demo massive.

New Gaza 'buffer zone' - land stolen by IsraelThere’s a demonstration tomorrow, 9th August, in central London – details are below. Let’s turn out in huge numbers.

As you’d expect, the ceasefire negotiations have produced nothing. Hamas, the legitimate elected government of Gaza, has said that a ceasefire which leaves Israel’s control as tight as it was is no ceasefire worth having – to go back to where we were a few months ago means constant shortages of medicine, constant threat of power shutdowns, constant drones flying overhead, frequent assassinations, continued destruction of the tunnels which are vital for getting food, animals, medicines and resistance weapons in (because, as Obama said, no country would tolerate missiles railing down on it, and would have the right to defend itself).

Israel and Egypt won’t give any ground. Literally, they are taking ground. Israel has snatched several more kilometres more of Gaza as a “buffer zone”.

As I write this, Israel’s slaughter campaign has restarted. Friends in Gaza are once again hearing the screams of children in their homes.

So we need to put more pressure on.

Contact your MP and make it harder for Cameron to do his “do not criticise Israel in public” nonsense.
Click to continue reading

The Yes campaign for Scottish independence: seeking an escape hatch from the real world

RT and Morning Star

With six weeks to go before people in Scotland go to the polls to decide the future of the United Kingdom, the referendum campaign has by now settled on the political arguments being articulated on either side of the debate.

Over the past year or so I have written a number of articles putting the case for No. The basis of my argument is that uniting working people on the basis of class rather than separating them on the basis of any other factor, be it nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion, and so on, is the non-negotiable cornerstone of any progressive politics which has as its objective social and economic justice.

Click to continue reading