why they’ll never ‘beat the BNP’

Michael Crick: Is a middle class public schoolboy called Tristram the best way to beat the BNP?

Tristram Hunt: What you have to say to people thinking about voting BNP is that you are putting your children’s future at risk, you are putting your standard of living at risk, because what business wants to invest in a BNP town?

Newsnight 1/4/10


Good morning capitalism

Netanyahu, last time round

Netanyahu was one of the single most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into – just a liar and a cheat. He would open his mouth and you would have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth. With Barak and Arafat you were in the margin of error. I mean these were two relatively honest guys who had the right motive.

– Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, interviewed by Clayton Swisher.

Diego Garcia and the “marine reserve”

In quantitative terms, the forced deportation of the people of Diego Garcia may reasonably be considered an imperialist crime of lesser consequence. The initial victims amounted to a mere 1,700, not including their beloved dogs who were taken from them and gassed. Yet the idea that a defenceless people of an island paradise could be tossed aside in their entirety, only to be replaced by a US military base that is now used to extend suffering across the Middle East fires me up like few other things can. As John Pilger explained in his excellent documentary:

“There are times when one tragedy, one crime, tells us how a whole system works behind its democratic façade and helps us understand how much of the world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments often justify their actions with lies.”

Diego Garcia has popped up recently due to the British government’s consultation about the creation of a marine protected area around the Chagos archipelago. The consultation made clear that: “Any decision to establish a marine protected area would be taken in the context of the Government’s current policy on the Territory … i.e., there is no right of abode in the Territory”. It is quite clear then that anyone who participates is collaborating with British imperialism. The environment card has long been used as a poor excuse by the British government to prevent resettlement. We are also meant to believe that the operation of a massive US base hasn’t had an environmental impact because the troops eat KFC and don’t go fishing.

Those most deeply complicit are grouped together in what is called the Chagos Environment Network. The government consultation document was not only prompted by CEN but also cites them. One of the organisations behind the Chagos Environment Network is the Pew Environment Group, part of a massive think tank and advocacy organization with multi-billion dollar resources. Naturally the CEN material look pretty swish: they got money. Having been involved in grass roots activism, I know that even tasks like putting a decent website together can be challenging for well intentioned but cash and time poor groups. For instance, although I’ve never been involved in Chagossian stuff, I remember hearing something about the troubles that were endured in relation to setting up www.letthemreturn.com and sure enough, the website for the national campaign in support of the Chagos islanders appears not to exist right now. Unfortunately, there are presently no powerful organizations with a $5 billion dollar endowment willing to campaign for the rights of poor creole people living in Crawley.

Without digressing too much, this is all part of a bigger question which is: “what strategies are being adopted by business when it comes to environmental issues?” We know that climate change among other environmental problems cannot be seriously addressed without posing a major threat to the capitalist status quo. We also know that, at least prior to the recent climategate crap, capital was trying to come to terms with the IPCC consensus on anthropogenic (human) global warming in order to reduce the fallout for capitalism. A key indication of this trend was the demise of the Global Climate Coalition and the defection of its key members (Daimler, Ford etal) to a Pew body, the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change. In fact, the co-option of all sorts of these “post-materialist” issues has been a key strategy, conscious or not, of capital since the beginnings of the neo-liberal project. Pew’s own shift from the idiosyncratic right to a more enlightened business stance was designed to “reinfuse the idealism of the Sixties into our work”.

Naturally, the conservationists pay lip service to the fact that the Chagossians exist. But standing up to imperialism is strictly off the agenda. According to CEN supporter Tony Juniper:

“Irrespective of arguments about fish, the protection of the natural features of this outstanding area must be achieved with justice for the Chagossian people.”

What is obviously meant to be a admirable statement in fact shows that the Chagossians are really an afterthought in all of this. If we were to rank white people, turtles, fish, and black people in a hierarchy of importance we can take a pretty good guess as to who would go where. Thankfully, the CEN has said that conservation will be done “without prejudice” for the Chagossians, no doubt in the same spirit as the Balfour Declaration.

Juniper makes clear that the issue is of quite limited importance to him, with this flippant statement:

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that any resettled Chagossians would have very little time to live there. In as little as a couple of decades the islands will become vulnerable to rising sea levels.

What a bizarre little shit Juniper is. The capitalists screw the world environment up, resulting in rising sea levels, reduced diversity and depleted fish stocks. And who do the bourgeois greens and arrogant conservationist establishment think should pay the price to set things right? The poor and the oppressed. The sheer hypocrisy of cleansing islands of their population and then nobly declaring them a nature reserve as the British government ignores court decisions by employing Royal Prerogative should make any decent human being sick to their stomach.

Britain has no right to these islands. The Chagos Environment Network equally has no right to offer its pronouncements on what should be done with them. For all principled people the position to take is crystal clear: end the occupation and allow the Chagossians to return with genuine reparations, who as the rightful inhabitants must have full sovereignty over their land, sea and environment.

More information:

Jon Snow- FAIL!

Channel 4 has probably the most respected evening TV news programme in the UK. It’s an hour long, with very short ad breaks. Its key presenter, Jon Snow, is almost a cult liberal figure with his stripey ties and socks. Its main headline tonight was the tragedy in Haiti, to which it returned to twice. Here is a transcript of Snow’s unacceptably piss poor effort to give viewers some background on Haiti’s desperation:

Along with its experience of natural disasters and its desperate poverty, Haiti has also suffered from years of political turmoil.

This sounds informative. What is the nature of Haiti’s political turmoil? According to Snow:

Hopes were high in 1986 when Jean Claude Duvalier, better known as Baby Doc was forced from power. During his rule thousands of Haitians were murdered and tortured. 4 years after Baby Doc fled to France, former Catholic priest Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected. But in just a matter of months the army had seized power and thousands tried to escape to the United States on makeshift rafts. Aristide was returned to power again but was forced out for a second time in 2004 and UN peacekeepers have been there ever since, their leaders killed in todays earthquake. Under the present President Rene Preval there have been improvements, less violence and more tourism but once again a natural disaster has shattered Haiti’s fragile progress.

Right. So no mention of how the indigenous population were wiped out when the Europeans first landed. No mention of how the French then took control, importing vast amounts of slaves to produce cash crops for massive French profit. No mention of France’s endless brutality. Nor the crippling indemnity demanded by France for their lost property when Haitian’s had fought for their freedom. Nor slave owner George Washington’s support for the white planters resisting revolution.
Ok- maybe I’m expecting too much. Perhaps a brief mention of Haiti’s uniquely brutal roots in slavery and Western (um..our) imperialism is unrealistic. But what about the twentieth century? The US occupation under Woodrow Wilson, on behalf of the bankers, lasting nearly twenty years? No mention of how the refugees in their “makeshift rafts” were treated by the US. How the US was consistently opposed to the “Catholic priest”, funding and organising his elite opponents both before and after his initial election triumph. What about the CIA’s admission in 1993 that they had fabricated hostile propaganda on Aristide? Or how the “international community” cut aid prior to the 2004 ouster of Aristide or the evidence to say the West were deeply involved in the coup itself?

Snow then poses a few questions to a Nick Caistor (some BBC hack) from Norwich (where Alan Partridge lives):

what is it about Haiti?…we’re conscious of voodoo, the Tonton Macoute, strong Catholicism. Is there something in the spirit?

At least Snow is good enough to admit he doesn’t have a fucking clue. But what the hell is he saying here? That Voodoo and Catholicism have cursed the natives, who are ultimately responsible for their own suffering? That Haitian mythology was responsible for Duvalier’s militia? Really, what are you trying to say here Jon?

Caistor disagrees with Snow, saying that Haiti’s problem is not voodoo but the Duvalier dictatorship that “destroyed hopes of proper democracy” and “the scrabble for power after they’d gone.” Again, little Haiti exists in a bubble, the crucial role of outside forces completely erased from memory. But Snow continues in this manner with his next question:

The peoples of influence are the French, the Americans, the United Nations. Is there some possibility that out of this terrible suffering and devastation perhaps the bars of the worlds cage will be rattled and someone will at last do something?.

“The peoples of influence”. What a way to put it. It’s not inaccurate when you take a brief look at Haiti’s history as victim of imperialism. But Jon Snow doesn’t think for a minute that “the peoples of influence” might be part of the problem. It is the peoples of influence who will come to save Haitians from themselves.

Danny Ayalon’s Open Letter to the Arab World- Why Bother?

Here is the “historic op-ed” of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, from Asharq Al-Awsat and used as filler in the Independent:

Recently the Israeli government has made significant steps to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and reach out to the Arab world. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel.

The Reality: Netanyahu’s speech called for peace negotiations without prior conditions. It then laid out a list of prior conditions, including recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people , any Palestinian state being demilitarized with no army and no control of airspace, and Jerusalem remaining the ‘united capital of Israel’. According to the International Court of Justice, East Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel. If Palestinian leadership were to recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people then they would be prejudicing the rights of Palestinians within Israel who have been threatened with expulsion on the creation of a Palestinian state and already face widespread discrimination. But for many it was as much the tone as the substance of Bibi’s speech that grated. According to Peace Now in Israel, it included:

Not a word of self-criticism about Israel’s mistakes over the years, not a word about the moral need to put an end to the occupation, not a word about the Palestinians’ right to negotiate with Israel as equal partners in a real process.
 Freedom of movement and a normal life are a prize the government is willing to give the Palestinians in exchange for their loyal behavior towards Israel.

Having said this, the speech was notable in that it saw a leading right-wing Israeli recognise the theoretical inevitability of a Palestinian state. This was perhaps progress after decades of occupation and suffering. It was, for instance, a marked improvement over a speech Netanyahu made at Bar-Ilan back in 1989. Here he argued that Israel should have carried out “large-scale” expulsions of Palestinians at times when “the damage would have been relatively small”, that is, during the Tiananmen square massacre earlier that year. “I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people,” he said.

Ayalon continues:

My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks to improve access and movement for Palestinians and has assisted the facilitation of economic developments in the West Bank, through close co-operation with international parties to expedite projects and remove bottle-necks.

The idea of an “economic peace” is a handy way to avoid the fact that Israel is evading international law and this is what has to end. The grassroots Palestinian group Stop the Wall has already detailed how economic development has been about making the West Bank economy function under and incorporate occupation, “relegating it to a subjugated and dependent position”.

During and after the second Intifada Israel brought the Palestinian economy to its knees. 60% of the population was living below the poverty line at that time. That Israel can let the economy function when it feels like it and claim this as evidence of their magnaninity is shocking.

Of course, more can and must be said about Palestinian economy and dependence (for now see: http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hanieh190708a.html and Oren Gross’ ‘The Economic Aspects of Israeli-Palestinian Peace’, American International Law Review, 2000 as well as Sara Roy on de-development). But back to Ayalon:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a right-wing government has, in an unprecedented move, declared it would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank. All of these moves taken together amply demonstrate Israel’s willingness for peace.

The Reality: Note the reference to “a right-wing government”. The concept of “Nixon in China” is very functional for bigoted right-wing governments anywhere – and it is a favourite of Danny Ayalon. But there is no substance to the idea that the Israeli right can be conducive to peace. In fact, Ayalon is part of a political party (Yisrael Beiteinu) that has proudly stood “opposed to the Road Map and the disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria” and advocates “Building in Yesha, the Golan and Jerusalem – Increasing the Jewish Presence in Yehuda, Shromron, the Golan and East Jerusalem by building more cities, towns and neighborhoods.” At the same time, Israel itself must have an exclusively Jewish character. The very idea of a two-state solution disturbs Yisrael Beitenu because at the heart of it lies a “disturbing disparity”. This disparity is not that Palestinians would be forced to live on at most 20% of their historic homeland. It is rather that 20% of Israel’s population would be non-Jewish: “A nation and a half for one state and half a state for the other”. Back in the real world, a two-state solution would likely lead to a dominant Israeli state on 80% of the land with large settlement blocs remaining in the West Bank.

There are now around 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, cutting up the land so that a two-state solution is less and less viable. All of the settlements are illegal and have always been illegal. Why build new settlements if you acknowledge they are illegal and will have to be removed? Yet the “restraint” which Ayalon mentions refers only to “no new starts” and is quite different to an end to settlement activity. So what Ayalon says is an “unprecedented move” does not demonstrate Israel’s “willingness for peace” at all. In fact, it quite clearly demonstrates that Israel is still not complying with international law.

In fact it “allows the completion of nearly 3,000 housing units and 28 public buildings already underway in the West Bank, and it dosen’t include development in contested East Jerusalem.” As seen above, Israel denies that East Jerusalem is occupied. As in Shiekh Jarrah this doesn’t always lead to “settlement building.” You don’t need to build settlement homes if you can just kick out Palestinians and live in theirs:

And what does Israeli Foreign Minister and Ayalon’s party boss, Avigdor Lieberman, think of the settlement restraint?: “it is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again full force.” Great…this is someone who really craves peace.

That the bullshit brigade at Harry’s Place can blog this without any critical comment shows them up for who they are. The sometimes meaningful criticism of the left for apologising for anti-Western governments or bigoted Islam is defused when those making the critique so evidently struggle with comparable double standards. At least “the left” can make a better claim for standing up to power.

P.S. – if you’d like to hear Ayalon get his comeuppance at a speech in London look here.