Welcome To The Desert Of Unreason.

March 23, 2011

The cruise missiles are flying, the American and British and French bombers are bombing, the American and satellite politicians are lying — there is nothing new there. It seems probable that the dictator of Libya will be overthrown in a few days. It might take a little longer; perhaps there will be an upsurge of patriotism on the part of those who did not hate him so much; perhaps there will be a small upsurge of shame on the part of those who wish to profit by his collapse. No matter. He will be gone, and the Western imperialists will control Libya as they did before Colonel Kaddhaffi launched his coup.

Now, none of this is particularly surprising. The Western imperialists — the Americans and their lackeys, if one can be so polite as to call people like Sarkozy and Cameron lackeys, which actually attributes to them merits which they do not possess since lackeys are customarily more or less useful people and Sarkozy and Cameron have no use-value — anyway, they have all been trying to find pretexts for attacking Libya almost since the campaign to destabilise the Arab states began. Libya, actually a less calamitously badly-run Arab state than most (of course that is the faint praise that damns) has been represented as the next domino ever since Tunisia caved in.

Does this mean that the Western imperialists engineered the whole shebang, perhaps bribing the Eastern Libyan tribal leaders and Kaddhaffi’s political allies to turn on him? Impossible to say and not really worth discussing in consequence. Besides, like most political operators, the Western imperialists are far more opportunists than they are technicians of disaster. That disaster follows in their wake goes without question; their selfish greed can provide no other consequence. But opportunities to generate disaster are there for the taking.

However, before we turn away from the whole affair in disgust (it is hard to see Kaddhaffi as someone deserving to be actively protected) it’s worth noting that there are serious consequences even if these may not be taken too seriously in practice. This is the first time in recent history — the first time since the end of the Cold War, certainly — that unprovoked Western imperialist aggression has been legitimated by the United Nations. The war against Serbia was fought without U.N. support; so was the invasion of Iraq. Granted, the U.N. did not oppose these horrible episodes, but it did not endorse it, and on many recent occasions, largely with South African support, the Security Council has held out against endorsing Western aggression. Admittedly, the U.N. allowed Western aggression in Afghanistan, but 9/11 was a fairly serious provocation. Admittedly, the U.N. has consistently rewarded Western aggression by offering ex post facto imprimaturs (in Iraq and Somalia and Haiti to name but three). However, you might argue that in these cases the U.N. couldn’t do anything to stop the consequences of Western aggression and might well have been endeavouring to ameliorate the horrid effects of bombardment, invasion and political destabilisation.

But you cannot say that with regard to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. That resolution permitted Western invasion of Libya in support of the rebels in the civil war, something desired by the Western powers in various civil wars (for instance, those in southern Sudan and Darfur) for decades or more. It was a blank cheque for aggression to be drawn on the planetary moral bank, a bankrupt institution if ever there was one (but America has plenty of experience of fraudulent bankruptcy, moral or financial). What bloody idiot would vote for such a thing, given the stinking record of the United States and Western Europe in the Arab world and in Africa?

Well, it was called for by the Arab League — but the Arab League is an American catspaw. It was, however, drafted by, among other Security Council members, Lebanon of all countries. Yes, Lebanon — one of the major beneficiaries of the Arab revolts so long as Western powers were kept out of those revolts, for it was in Lebanon where Hizbollah was able to take power in consequence of a crazed squabble in the Lebanese Parliament and the desperate unpopularity of the pro-American, pro-Israeli right wing in that Parliament. So, by deliberately calling for Western imperialist aggression in a Mediterranean Arab state, Hizbollah, defined as a terrorist organisation by the United States on orders from Tel-Aviv, was painstakingly loading a double-barrelled shotgun, cocking it, aiming it at its own foot and pressing the trigger. If the U.S. Marines come ashore yet again in Beirut in the next five years, nobody will be able to say that Hizbollah has any right to be surprised.

But when that happened, many in the U.S. said that this was a fruitless exercise. Granted the U.S. wanted to have the right to destroy Kaddhaffi. Granted, the French had recognised the rag-tag rebels of Benghazi. Granted, the British Defense Minister had put a stick of special forces ashore on Libya only to have them ignominiously rounded up again. The line-up was complete. But it would still be hard to sell to the average citizen in the streets of the U.S., for it usually takes weeks to get all those zombies marching to the beat of the media drum — especially with the media drum having long since instructed the zombies to hate and distrust the Commander-in-Chief who would be calling for any such aggression. The only way would be to hide behind the United Nations, and it was widely suspected that neither Russia nor China would endorse Western aggression.

But they did. They supported the resolution, and so did South Africa. No doubt the Russian and Chinese governments felt that it did not matter, since they would have no prospect of gaining control of Libyan oil in any event. The Zuma administration’s foreign policy is a catspaw of the West, like so many of its policies, so the South African vote was inevitably going to be whatever Washington wanted. Still, the Russians and Chinese may yet come to rue their decision to give the West a free hand to invade whatever countries they want to attack; the Russians and Chinese will certainly not find that the same benison will be granted to them. On the contrary, they will probably find their own erstwhile satellites, like North Korea and the Central Asian dictatorships, falling increasingly under Western imperialist control with the enthusiastic applause of the “international community” cheer-led and conducted from behind the scenes by the blood-drenched U.S. State Department. Effectively, with three of its core members submitting to Western power, this could be the end of BRIC before it even begins.

Yes, but what is this all about?

The U.S. hates Kaddhaffi, who has been their enemy of last resort since the late 1970s. When Palestinian dissidents blew up an American pub in West Germany in 1985, the U.S. bombed Tripoli and tried to kill Kaddhaffi; when Palestinians under orders from Iranians blew up an American airliner (in revenge for the Americans blowing up an Iranian airliner) in 1988, Kaddhaffi was blamed and sanctions were imposed on the basis of all this absurdity. It was with difficulty that the African Union (led by South Africa) was able to get Libya back into the international community again; the Americans wanted them a pariah forever.

It has very little to do with oil. Libyan oil can only be transported via the Mediterranean, which the U.S. controls. If the U.S. wants Libya to divert its oil from Western Europe to the United States it has only to send an e-mail to get this assured. Therefore, it is all about publicity and propaganda. Having manufactured Kaddhaffi as an enemy, what we are now seeing is the last act of the tragedy; the destruction of the enemy. It worked in Serbia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Haiti and in Somalia — all countries where, to some extent however minor, a nation’s government had defied the United States and therefore the nation had to be punished. Libya is about to be punished through the installation of a new government dependent on the U.S. for its survival. This will be defined as democracy, though no doubt for Western Libyans this will not be perceived as such.

It is, of course, possible that the consequences may not be very pleasant for the West. While it is unlikely that very many will mourn Kaddhaffi’s fall, it is still true that he has stood up against the West and therefore has some claim to patriotism which the tribal rebels of Benghazi and environs have forfeited. Hence the overthrow of Kaddhaffi may be seen as an entirely Western move, in which case there may be uprisings against the easterners which will necessitate a permanent Western military commitment in Libya to safeguard the oil and the Westernised government. It is even possible that Islamic fundamentalists may find a fertile soil in the ensuing squabbling. This is all speculative, but it is very probably what Hizbollah had in the back of their minds when they called for the West to oust Kaddhaffi. It would be mildly amusing (from a safe distance) if the Western attack on Libya, which is intended to secure a docile petro-puppet, generated instead an unstable anti-Western regime, such as happened (to some extent, at least) in Iraq, and to a far greater extent in Afghanistan.

However, let us suppose that this does not happen, that the installation of the new government goes as planned, the oil flow continues as desired, and everything is hunky dory in Washington, D C. What difference will this have made? Neither Obama, nor Sarkozy, nor Cameron, stand to gain much from their famous victory. In a few months, unless there is some calamity, it will have been forgotten about and the medal ribbons won will be unmemorable. Nobody will make much more money out of the oil revenues than they would have made otherwise.

But meanwhile, in all three countries, the governments are pursuing policies which will lead almost inevitably to their doom. Britain, of course, is deliberately dismantling its welfare state (on the pretext of resolving the economic crisis) in order to hand the money saved to the ruling classes. France had begun doing this even before the economic crisis. In the United States, Obama is leaving the dismantling of the welfare state to local politicians, who are enthusiastically using the gigantic state budget deficits to attack the rights of civil servants — while the plans for dismantling U.S. Social Security, once opposed by Democrats but now clapped on by those tedious buffoons who back Obama are well advanced.

These plans are all going to exaggerate the problems of the current depression, since the current depression is caused by a lack of purchasing power; these plans are all aimed at reducing the spending power of the working and middle classes. In other words, the countries who are flinging their military weight about are, behind the scenes, endeavouring to wreck their own economies as effectively as they are wrecking Libya’s. Hence, there is no long-term plan visible; what Obama and his little scatterbrained friends are doing is simply what Clinton and Bush and their friends did before them, but then under more favourable conditions. As the radioactive clouds drift across Japan and the turbulence of global weather grows ever more menacing, it is business as usual in the command bunkers.

Let us hope that they soon disappear under a plutonium-laced tsunami . . .

 

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This Winter Coming.

March 22, 2011

Appropriately, as we push on towards the beginning of winter, we are going to have our next election. Oh joy — a breath of chill air! A rainstorm of municipal councillors clogging the sewer outfalls! What could be more appropriate?
However, the interesting question is what will actually happen.
Municipal elections are different from national and provincial elections in that they arouse less excitement, paradoxically, since they are actually ones in which electors, theoretically, exercise a much more fundamental choice. You can remove a councillor who has not been performing by simply not voting for him; you can’t remove a Minister or an MEC who hasn’t been performing — not unless you are a newspaper editor or a massive financial donor to the ANC.
As a result, one might expect a drop in support in municipal elections. However, at the moment the white supremacists and the DA are extremely optimistic (and desperately so, since they badly need to improve their representation — they have yet to attain the status of the NP in 1994) and particularly optimistic about municipal elections, since whites and coloureds are far more urbanised than africans and therefore have more prospect of gaining power in towns. Therefore, there is likely to be a lot of get-out-the-vote in the DA and its friends. In contrast, the ANC has been quite late and apathetic in its municipal election campaign, and this is all tempered by the obvious problems regarding municipal service delivery and the general integrity of ANC-controlled municipalities; the ANC has announced that it is not happy about these things. As a result, the likely apathy of the municipal election will probably influence the ANC far more than the DA.
So what predictions can we make, on the basis of past results? Here we must turn to Roger Southall and John Daniel’s work of pro-Zuma propaganda, Zunami, supposedly a book about the 2009 elections. Buried within this book are some interesting facts which prove that Southall and Daniel and their friends are talking spinach; Zuma’s electoral performance was unspectacular. Here’s another useful table for you:

2004 2009 Change
Potential voters 27,436,000 29,956,000 +9.2%
Registered voters 20,674,000 (0.75 of total) 23,181,000 (0.77 of total) +12.17%
Votes 15,612,000 (0.76 of registered) 17,680,000 (0,76 of registered) +13.24%
ANC vote 10,880,000 (39.7% of potential votes; 69.6% of votes cast) 11,650,000 (38.9% of potential votes; 65.9% of votes cast) +7%

What this means is that between 2004 and 2009 the ANC’s percentage of the votes cast declined by 5.32%. Not a massive decline, but notable considering the increase in the registration and of the actual votes cast, both of which were substantial increases over the number of potential voters. This raises a lot of doubts about the claim that voters are becoming hostile to the political system, a claim made almost universally by the white right and the far left (both of whom are hostile to the ANC and to democracy, which denies them their undeserved power).
The most logical conclusion to draw from this is that chaos within the ANC served to encourage its enemies, and that this encouragement among its enemies might have encouraged the ANC to whip up some votes (we might recall that their principal slogan in 2009 was “Defend the ANC”). It was interesting, for instance, that CoPe in 2009 gained far more votes than the ANC lost. Meanwhile, however, big issues were the provincial ones; the gains in KwaZulu-Natal because of the collapse of the IFP, and the losses in the Western Cape because of the collapse of ANC structures there and the alienation of the coloured vote. What can we make of this? Let’s see the provincial breakdown , derived from the same book but adapted to make it more coherent.

Province 2004 2009 Change
Eastern Cape ANC 1,806,000 (79.3%) 1,609,000 (69.7%) -10.9%
Eastern Cape DA 165,000 (7.2%) 230,000 (10%) +39%
Eastern Cape ethnic makeup — 7,341,000 total: 6,423,000 african (87.5%), 513,000 coloured (7%), 381,000 white (5.2%). Per capita income R15,146
Western Cape ANC 742,000 (46%) 666,000 (32%) -10.2%
Western Cape DA 432,000 (26.9%) 989,000 (48.7%) +131%
Western Cape ethnic makeup — 4,540,000 total: 1,076,000 african (23.7%), 2,437,000 coloured (53.7%), 978,000 white (21.5%). Per capita income R36,898
KwaZulu-Natal ANC 1,287,000 (47.4%) 2,192,000 (63.9%) +70.3%
KwaZulu-Natal DA 276,000 (10%) 364,000 (10.3%) +31.9%
KwaZulu-Natal IFP 1,009,000 (36.6%) 780,000 (22.2%) -22.7%
KwaZulu-Natal ethnic makeup — 9,812,000 total: 8,156,000 african (83.1%), 875,000 indian (8.92%), 646,000 white (6.5%). Per capita income R20,211
Free State ANC 838,000 (82%) 756,000 (71%) -9.8%
Free State DA 90,000 (8.8%) 127,000 (12.1%) +41%
Free State ethnic makeup — 2,993,000 total: 2,543,000 african (85.1%), 361,000 white (12%), 85,000 coloured (2.8%) Per capita income R36,084
Gauteng ANC 2,408,000 (68.7%) 2,814,000 (64.7%) +16.9%
Gauteng DA 712,000 (20.3%) 924,000 (21,2%) +29.8%
Gauteng ethnic makeup — 9,316,000 total: 6,810,000 african (73.1%), 1,993,000 white (21.4%), 325,000 coloured (3.5%), 186,000 indian (2%). Per capita income R43,189
Limpopo ANC 1,487,000 (89.7%) 1,319,000 (85.2%) -11.3%
Limpopo DA 63,000 (3.8%) 57,000 (3.7%) -9.5%
Limpopo ethnic makeup — 5,499,000 total: 5,341,000 african (97.3%), 141,000 white (2,5%) Per capita income R14,354
Mpumalanga ANC 979,000 (86.3%) 1,152,000 (85.8%) +17.7%
Mpumalanga DA 81,000 (7.1%) 102,000 (7.6%) +25.9%
Mpumalanga ethnic makeup — 3,650,000 total: 3,332,000 african (91%), 281,000 white (7.7%). Per capita income R22,027
Northern Cape ANC 222,000 (68.7%) 253,000 (61.1%) +14.9%
Northern Cape DA 37,000 (11.6%) 54,000 (13%) +46%
Northern Cape ethnic makeup — 1,122,000 total: 512,000 african (45.7%), 487,000 coloured (43.5%), 119,000 white (10.6%) Per capita income R24,604
North-West ANC 1,083,000 (81.8%) 833,000 (73.8%) -23.1%
North-West DA 72,000 (5.5%) 96,000 (8.7%) +33.3%
North-West ethnic makeup — 3,448,000 total: 3,103,000 african (90.2%), 281,000 white (8.1%). Per capita income R18,498

(All of the above figures are taken from Zunami, but are extremely unreliable — especially the per capita income, which bears no relationship to the province’s share of GDP and of population.)

Now, what can we make of all this? The relationship between DA support and white support is particularly interesting; in the North-West the DA vote is 80.7% of the white population, almost exactly the white voting population. In the Northern Cape, in contrast, the DA vote is 45% of the white population — probably suggesting a high FF+ voting base. In Mpumalanga the DA vote is 36% of the white population. In Limpopo the DA vote is 40% of the white population. In the Eastern Cape the DA vote is 60% of the white population. All this suggests that the african vote and even the coloured vote is not very significant for the DA in these provinces. It seems obvious that in these provinces there is potential for an increased DA vote — but in these provinces the DA vote is also insubstantial. There is no real prospect that the DA is going to win any of the major towns in these provinces. Hence, they are not going to win Nelson Mandela, and if Buffalo City, God forbid, is incorporated as a metro city, they will not win that, either.
Since the DA is not doing well enough in KwaZulu-Natal to count for anything much (there the DA vote is only 56% of the white population) the only remaining place for the DA to succeed is in Gauteng. It seems significant that the DA did not do particularly well, there. While they picked up numbers, so did the ANC (surprisingly, but perhaps this is because Gauteng is an extremely affluent province and there are a lot of african civil servants there). Hence it is virtually impossible for the DA to accomplish much there.
And that means that this forthcoming municipal election is not going to bring much of a surprise. It is most probable that there will be another decline in the ANC’s proportion of the vote; there is likely to be a lot of disillusionment with the Zuma administration. However, this decline is unlikely to be more dramatic than the 2004-2009 decline. As a result, while the ANC will win many (probably virtually all) of its municipalities with a reduced majority, the reduction will not be enough to make a significant difference to the insignificance of the DA. In many municipalities, the fall in ANC support may be counterbalanced by growing african urbanisation, so the DA may even decline.
As a result, the ANC will probably be able to conceal its weakness in this municipal election. On the other hand, after the election there will very probably be massive squabbles within municipal ANC structures which will embarrass the party hideously. So the weakness of the ANC will be concealed, but the party activists will be aware of it. The stage will be set for an extremely unpleasant internal national conflict in 2012.


Confusion, Delusion, Revolution.

March 8, 2011

Yes, there is a fresh spirit of expressing popular discontent with their governments evident in the Arab world. No, this is not something new. Between 1950 and 1970, Arab governments installed by Western imperialists went down like a row of ninepins unless, like the Yemeni or Lebanese government, they were actively propped up by direct Western intervention.
But after 1970, Arab governments stabilised. Was this because they suddenly became more likeable? Not exactly. The answer is twofold; the victory of Israel over Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and an intensification of Western intervention. Western support helped keep Jordan afloat (the Israeli invasion had wrecked the country), propped up the monarchy in Morocco and the dictatorship in Algeria, and attempted to prop up the right-wing tyranny in Lebanon (which helped promote the civil war there); most particularly, the dictatorship in Egypt was sustained with Western money (especially after it signed a peace agreement with Israel).
In Libya, Syria and Iraq, highly repressive (but relatively wealth-redistributive) dictatorships established a stultified culture where all utterance focussed on glorifying the regime in exchange for hard cash. These states were tolerated by the West in part because they served as useful tools sometimes (Syria in offering military aid to crush Palestinians in the chaotic Lebanon, Iraq in trying to overthrow the Iranian government through the first Gulf War — significantly, in both cases, the West eventually turned on their tools, using Israeli power against the Syrians and directly crushing the Iraqis). Basically, between Western agents and intensified tyranny financed by a higher oil price, the Arabs were almost politically paralysed. It didn’t help that the secularism fostered by Nasser had failed, and that its sponsor, the Soviet Union, was essentially chased out of the Arab world by America and its oil companies.
None of this, however, means that the people of the Arab world were happy with their rulers. The interesting question is why they waited so long to object to them. 1989-91, when the West was constantly banging on about the global revolution, passed with scarcely a bubble of discontent in the Arab world. After 1999 there were uprisings all over Latin America (though these, significantly, were largely driven by democratic reformism rather than by revolutionary action, even though the reformism was spiced with revolutionary rhetoric) but not in the Arab world. Maybe this was because the Americans showed themselves so very willing and able to drop bombs with pinpoint accuracy on the menacing creches, orphanages, museums and health facilities which were endangering Western security from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. But in fact the only Arab revolution during this period was the one in Palestine, and this one sputtered and died, doomed from the start because it was led by the hapless Palestinian Authority, and then crushed like a snail under the Zionist jackboot.
So why has 2011 been the year of Arab revolution? We can write off all the claptrap about “social media”, as if there never ever was a real revolution before people could tweet about it. People who talk about such things should be confined. Rather, we have to ask what people’s motives are — and the answer is that they appear to be the same motives which people have had for the last sixty years; they don’t like being ruled by a gang of corrupt goons working for Western big business. (Much like in South Africa, in fact — except that the realisation that this is the nature of the current government has not become universal yet.)
So the real question is, why now? Have people become more aware that they are oppressed than before? It seems difficult to believe. The difference, therefore, seems to be that people have become aware that they can do something about it.
A variety of factors may have converged on this. The dictators are getting old and weak and their followers are more and more corrupt. As a result, their popularity is declining while their capacity to strike fear into their enemies is not increasing. When the dictator of Tunisia went too far in his corruption — and it was a trivial matter which sparked the uprising against him — ultimately he lacked support, and the cruel tenacity to make use of what support he possessed. Hence he went.
When the dictator of Egypt found himself faced with an uprising, he lacked the authority to use effective force against it. He was too old and feeble to wish to control the country for much longer, and yet he was sufficiently egotistical to be reluctant to hand over to anybody else. Hence he dithered and prevaricated until his generals told him to go. But, of course, handing power over to the military after the fall of an unpopular, undemocratic, corrupt regime, at best takes us back to Nasser (who together with his fellow junior military officers overthrow Farouk). At worst, takes us to every corrupt military regime which has misruled in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia for the benefit of Western imperialism. In other words, the grand revolution in Egypt may have led virtually nowhere.
As for the events in Libya, this seems to have been a combination of tribal revolt and attempted military putsch. It has already led to a civil war in which Western countries are trying to get directly involved. Assuming that this succeeds in getting rid of Gadaffi (which would at least make African Union meetings marginally more sane in conduct if not in content) it is far from clear that this will lead to a substantial improvement for the Libyan people.
So the actual performance of the revolutions which have been most strongly foregrounded in Western propaganda has not been terrific. On the other hand, there have been plenty of other uprisings which Western propaganda has chosen not to foreground. So there does seem to be something happening, but it isn’t just that dictators are getting old and incompetent.
There have, however, been a number of empowering events recently. The American invasion of Iraq might have been expected to encourage Arabs to be docile and submissive (which was almost certainly its intention) but the incompetence of American action and the remarkably successful uprising against the occupation bred an unexpected pride in Arab resistance. Then, the remarkable success of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, surviving PA putsch and Israeli invasion (they may not be brilliant performers, but they’re still there), almost certainly energised the Arab resistance to Israel; so, undoubtedly, did Hizbollah’s startling performance in fighting the Israeli army to a standstill on the Lebanese border, which was more than anybody else had managed in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, of course, Bush’s War On Terror just happened, coincidentally, to be a War On Muslims. Most Arabs tend to be Muslims. Therefore, to the sense that Arabs had more potential than they were using, came the other sense that the most powerful country in the world wanted to kill them in sufficiently large numbers to be worried about.
And then, of course, Obama was elected. For a start, everybody thought that he was going to be a good guy. Then he turned out to be a lot like Bush. But — a timid, cautious Bush, one who was dependent upon a splintered base and therefore needed to suck up to his opponents. Also, he started a couple more wars which tied down the U.S. military even more completely than Bush had. Suddenly it must have seemed that it was possible to challenge governments which were historically subservient to U.S. interests, because the U.S. was no longer able to do much to support those governments.
Indeed, so it has proved. Not that the U.S. can’t do anything, but it can’t do as much as it used to be able to do, and it can’t do nearly as much as it would like to do. Hence, in a way, what we are seeing is the possibility of decolonisation in the Arab world, for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But — of course — it’s only a possibility. The U.S. may not be able to send in the Marines any more, but it has plenty of comprador elites to work with in the Arab world who are just as happy to shoot down the locals as the Marines would have been. Therefore the Arab revolutions have not, thus far, succeeded — although the turmoil happening almost across the Arab crescent is certainly welcome news for democratic freedoms in the region — and there may yet be immense clampdowns coming.
Some speculate on whether the revolution will spread south. Well, to be precise, some hope and pray that there will be a revolution in South Africa, because they have no prospect of winning power through democratic elections. This is not likely, quite simply, because the energising effects of Arab radicalism do not exist in central or southern Africa. If Africa is going to have any revolutions, we are going to have our own revolutions in our own way. The idea that revolutions happen as an imitation of other countries having revolutions is as absurd as the idea that revolutions happen because someone suggests having a revolution on Facebook. Revolutions happen when there is a perceived need for them, and if there is going to be a revolution in Zambia it will be because the Zambians don’t feel there is any other way to get what they need.
What we really need in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa, is change we can believe in. But that is another story altogether.