Doomsday Scenarios.

November 28, 2015

A mildly fascinating question: how close are we to global thermonuclear war?

This is not a jocular question. In South Africa we are obsessed with the failings and foibles of our own government (though these are often covered up by the press, who single out very specific failings and foibles and deploy them for the purposes of their controllers). We are also, sort of, aware of the potential global economic crisis, and are growing increasingly aware of the undeniable global environmental crisis. But the fact that we might be killed off by a war, either vapourised by igniting lithium deuteride or frozen in the ensuing global winter (rather ironic that it would sort out the global warming problem) is out of our consciousness.

This question is raised by the shooting-down of a Russian Su-24 strike aircraft by the Turkish Air Force over northern Syria.

Is this going to lead to a world war? Informed sources closely connected with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the countries under its ambit say, “No, the Russians wouldn’t dare” in various ways. Obviously war can only be started by Russia, since NATO countries, by definition, do not start wars — they engage in humanitarian interventions, as in Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Iraq, etc., etc., etc.

So, let’s put the question another way. Is this going to lead to a world war in the real world, as opposed to the fantasy world in which the Western politicians and their bought media live? The answer is that we really don’t know yet. It could have been said that when Kaiser Wilhelm sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir, it didn’t start a world war — but the First World War was partly provoked by French fears of German meddling in what it considered its own affairs, so yes, that action did in a sense start the world war, or at least contributed to it. So, if there’s going to be a global thermonuclear war within the next couple of decades, if there are any subsequent historians, they would certainly say that the Turkish shootdown was a major contributing factor.

What actually happened is fairly simple and clear. The Russians were giving close air support to the Syrian Arab Army, which is taking over the area between Aleppo and the Turkish border so as to cut the supply lines of the Wahhabi guerrillas who control half of Aleppo. This area is partly occupied by Turkmen guerrillas linked to the Al-Nusra Front, which in turn is part of the Army of Conquest funded by Saudi Arabia. These guerrillas are from Central Asia, and are associated with the Islamic extremist movements in that region; they were presumably recruited there and trained in Turkey, and the Turks are pretending that they are Turks (they have some ethnic connections, although the territorial links have been broken for half a millennium) and supposedly under Turkish protection.

The guerrillas in question are connected to al-Qaeda and are in an informal alliance with the “Islamic State” guerrillas, so in theory the United States is at war with them, and NATO is at war with them, and therefore, Turkey is at war with them. In practice, the guerrillas were brought there by NATO countries, and could not survive without Turkish support, including aerial reconnaissance (this was what a Turkish RF-4 was doing over Syrian territory when the Syrians shot it down) but providing aerial fighter cover for the guerrillas is a step much further than the Turks have taken before.

The big question is whether the Turks did it on their own, or whether this was part of a NATO (for which read, of course, American) project to raise the stakes in the fight.

The same question can be asked about the bomb which blew up a Russian airliner over the Sinai peninsula. This was claimed by the Islamic State, and it’s perfectly possible that the Egyptian authorities at the Sharm-el-Sheik airport were so sloppy as to allow Islamic State guerrillas to smuggle a kilogram of high explosive connected with a barometric-pressure fuse (the airliner exploded when it reached cruising altitude, exactly like the Lockerbie airliner which was bombed with a barometric-pressure fuse) on board. After all, the Egyptians are only fighting a massive war in the Sinai Peninsula, part of their massive war against political dissidents everywhere, they are only a police state, they are only utterly dependent on foreign tourism to prop up their ramshackle dictatorship — how unsurprising that the first attempt to bomb an airliner in the area should succeed!

Or else we might ask if the Saudi intelligence services, or the Israeli intelligence services, or even the American intelligence services, might have been involved, with the goal of making the Syrian intervention unpopular with the Russian public. It’s the kind of exceptionally stupid thing they would do. (Using a barometric-pressure fuse instead of a time fuse is also a hint; the Lockerbie bomb was set by the Iranians in revenge for the shooting-down by the Americans of their airliner the previous year, and the Russian war in Syria is in support of Iran, and in alliance with Iran. A message from the Godfather, like a horse’s head in your bed.)

Of course IS might have acted alone, and the Turks might have acted alone (although NATO has backed them to the hilt and denounced the Russians for having an aircraft in a place where the Turks could shoot it down, and pretended to believe all the transparent lies the Turks have provided to excuse this incredibly provocative behaviour). The point is that nobody has acted to calm the tensions (except the Russians, who responded very cautiously to the airliner downing, in contrast to the excited yelps of joy coming out of the Western media on the subject, and who have responded to the Turkish action by simply beefing up their air defenses in Syria and imposing economic sanctions against Turkey — by any standards a proportionate reaction).

The thing is that the Russians are supposedly acting in an informal alliance with NATO, and yet it was a NATO country which shot the aircraft down while it was engaged in combat with the “extremist terrorists” whom NATO politicians are forever denouncing verbally. And yet despite these denunciations, NATO countries (and their allies, such as Australia) are major sources of recruitment for these Wahhabi guerrilla forces in Syria. Somehow, thousands of young disaffected Muslims manage to leave Britain and France and Australia and travel to Syria, and nobody stops them. After they have been trained and experienced combat, some of them come back, and of those, some proceed to try to shoot up trains with automatic weapons, or shoot up concerts with automatic weapons, or blow up bars with explosive belts.

Where do they get the guns and the explosives, and how is it that the most intensive political surveillance in the world is incapable of noticing either the weapons, the training, or the willingness to use them? Or is it that the surveillance notices them and the political control behind the surveillance is quite happy to see it all happen, because it can be used politically to justify more complete political repression and panic the public into blind support for the ruling class and racist endorsement of xenophobic and imperialist policies? Or is it that the surveillance notices them and the political control encourages it all to happen?

None of this is certain, except that no NATO country can be trusted to tell the truth about what is going on. (And Syria can’t be trusted much more, and Russia only a little more.) However, one minor point is that China stands with Russia in its Syrian policy, while the Chinese are very uneasy about the Islamic fundamentalist guerrilla movement in its Central Asian provinces, and are worried that the Americans seem to be supporting this movement — so the Turkmen receiving training and combat experience in Syrian Wahhabi guerrilla forces might ultimately be used to destabilise China, as the Chechens receiving the same things in the same forces might be used to destabilise Russia. China also sent a small naval force to support Syria when the Americans were trying to invade Syria in 2013 over the fake chemical weapons crisis. It does, then, seem that some sort of global bloc is forming.

The trouble is that NATO has been on the march since it invaded Serbia in 1999, and as NATO becomes economically weaker it becomes more and more dependent on military strategies. Its leadership, to put matters politely, lives in la-la land; one of its current propaganda tropes is that the Syrian government is backing ISIS, which makes exactly as much sense as the notion that Francisco Franco was backing the Spanish anarchist movement in 1937 (the claim then made by the Stalinists).

And as a result of floating on an ocean of fantasy pumped out by their public relations consultants (some of whom go under the name of intelligence agencies) the ruling class of the NATO countries has decided to launch a cold war against Russia and China (and incidentally to promote political turmoil in Brazil and economic sanctions against South Africa — of the BRICS countries only India is exempt from assault because it is so very, very right wing that the NATO ruling class hasn’t the heart to hurt it). But this cold war hasn’t been very effective; Russia wouldn’t give up its military bases in Crimea, and wouldn’t knuckle under when sanctions were imposed as if Russia were Equatorial Guinea. And then Russia went and decided to offer support to Syria, and coordinate the military and political cooperation between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, far more effectively than America was able to coordinate the cooperation between Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And so Russia must be punished, and so the Su-24 was shot down.

But all that does is piss off the Russians and trouble the Chinese (who aren’t keen about the Americans muscling in on their turf, although the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is allegedly aimed against the Chinese will probably damage the economies of the participating countries, and the Americans are incapable of doing anything effective in the South China Sea except irritate the Chinese military and Chinese big business). It also creates the impression that the NATO countries are both heavily armed and slightly crazed, and possibly desperate.

The last time the situation was like this, in the early 1980s, everybody in the world was scared, and as we now know, the most scared people of all were sitting in the Kremlin, nibbling their nails up to the elbow and jumping whenever a fresh radar blip showed another NATO combat or missile testing their defenses. Putin and Xi don’t give the impression of being frightened — but the NATO leadership scamper in circles on a regularly choreographed basis. “The Russians are coming! The Chinese are coming! ISIL/ISIS/Daesh are coming! The anti-semites are coming! Jeremy Corbyn is coming! We officially call for public panic and amok-running!” As a result, the Russians and Chinese (and the Indians) are all boosting their militaries quite substantially.

And these maniacs, and these more measured but quite clearly worried people, are the people with their fingers on the nuclear buttons, and there is no way of snipping those fingers off, or taking the fuses out of the nuclear warheads. If we get through the next decade without mushroom clouds in all directions, we will be exceedingly lucky. Maybe the Malagassy lemurs will survive. Maybe they will make a better job of it than we did.

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This Modern World.

May 29, 2014

In recent months the United States has suffered a minor setback in its project to rule the world through military conquest. Minor setbacks, however, are often much more important — for imperial powers — than their actual scale warrants. This is because imperial powers depend on the illusion of their omnipotence and invincibility in order to bully or bribe their allies into line; once that illusion is weakened, allies become less enthusiastic and potential enemies become emboldened.

The issue is the U.S. failure to launch a NATO war against Syria, and its failure to drive the Russians out of the Crimea. The latter is closely related to the former, since the U.S. propagandises, and by now probably believes, that Syria would flop like a wet rag if the evil Russians were not holding it up. These are, by any standard, trivial defeats. Syria survives, but it is in ruins thanks to the U.S.-driven civil war. Russia remains in the Crimea, but the Ukraine is well on the way to being a U.S. puppet, far more than it was after the “Orange Revolution” coup which the Americans organised in 2004. (What use the Ukraine is for the U.S. would be another matter; the U.S. seems to collect failed states the way a fetishist collects soiled underwear.)

In order to assess the significance of this one needs to compare the globe now with the globe twenty years ago. In the first years of the Clinton administration, the United States was probably more politically powerful than it had ever been in history. It dominated the world militarily and ideologically. Russia, its former enemy, was rushing over a cliff of failed statehood under the orders of U.S. neoliberal technocrats. China was weak, insignificant and subservient. India was heading towards a kind of pro-U.S. fascism like a gigantic Argentina. Europe, the smaller Asian states and Latin America were all firmly under the neoliberal yoke; Africa was ruined. There were no challenges, and seemingly no problems.

It was obviously something which could not last. Theoretically, the Clinton administration wished to control the world through diplomacy and economic power. Actually, however, it launched the most destructive war of the late twentieth century — the war in the DRC, which ensured that Central Africa would never rise again and that African people would begin to realise that the new colonialism was worse than the old — and also launched the first First World colonial war of the new post-Soviet era, that against Yugoslavia.

The aftermath of this process, quite wrongly blamed on the Bush administration which simply followed Clinton’s lead, remains with us today. The successive implementations of this policy by the Bush and Obama administrations have ensured it would — the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic. Many of these were conducted by American puppet states, but America stood behind them. And there were also the destabilisations and coups aimed at installing more puppet states — Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Madagascar, Iran, Honduras, Sudan, Paraguay, Egypt, Syria. When you think of it, this is a remarkable list, more spectacular in some ways than the similar list which could have been drawn up in the 1950s and 1960s, because in those days the public was only dimly aware of what was going on, both at home and in the target countries. Nowadays pretty much everybody knows, but the rent-a-mobs turn out in the streets anyway and the NATO press dutifully prints the press-releases of intelligence agencies and the military under the by-lines of rent-a-journalists.

However, all this is making people rather nervous. The Russians could not intervene effectually when the Americans threw out a Russian ally in Georgia and brought in an extremist anti-Russian stooge. However, they did quietly beef up their “peacekeeping” forces in the breakaway provinces of that country, and when the Tbilisi gangsters launched their mad invasion of those provinces the Russians gave them a very bloody nose indeed which made both America and the junta quite unpopular in Georgia. The Russians noted, from this, that any American intervention in a neighbouring state would be likely to lead to conflict, and made their plans accordingly. Therefore, when the Americans intervened again in the Ukraine to turn a stupid populist protest against a corrupt government into a fascist coup, the Russians were again ready. They seized the Crimea — believing, rightly, that the act would play well in Sevastopol and Moscow, but also believing that if they hadn’t done that, NATO would have thrown their fleet and air force out of the Crimea.

There’s nothing unusual about this; it’s power-politics, even though there is more merit in what the Russians did than in what the Americans did. What is unusual, however, is the American response. Instead of marching off to Kiyiv to get whatever they can out of their seizure of the bulk of the Ukraine, the Americans have been whooping for conflict with Russia, fabricating preposterous claims about the Russians mobilising troops against the Ukraine (they aren’t) and destabilising the Ukraine (it would be hard to top the destabilisation created by the Kiyiv government) and menacing the world and, basically, cranking out the same staggering bullshit which the Americans used to legitimate their invasion of Iraq. The Russians, almost certainly, are thinking “Well, we are dealing with psychopaths, and it’s a good thing we have our unsinkable aircraft-carrier in case we need to launch a bombardment of the psychopaths’ agents in the Ukraine”.

It has basically come down to the position that the Americans are no longer satisfied with making a small advance here or there. They want everything, all the time, and they cannot tolerate any opposition or any obstacles. President Obama and his Western European stooges talks about Russia in precisely the way that Clinton talked about Serbia before the bombardment. The trouble with this is that Russia is not Serbia; Russia is an extremely powerful country with a massive nuclear missile force and a large army, and also a respectable-sized economy. It is also a country in a loose economic alliance with China and India and Brazil, with a close military alliance with China and a series of contracts to modernise the Indian military, and enjoying friendly relations with all of its neighbours except the Ukraine and also with Iran. So, casually messing with such a state as if it were a small friendless dictatorship like North Korea is not sensible policy.

Particularly not sensible because most of those states have ambiguous attitudes towards the United States at best. The United States not so long ago responded to China’s seizure of some uninhabited islands in the South China Sea by overflying the islands with warplanes and delivering tough but empty talk to most of China’s neighbours, most of whom were listening, at most, with half an ear, and some of whom were probably not listening at all because they remember being invaded or destabilised by the U.S.. China, therefore, is nervous and watchful for any further insults — making this a bad time to try to pick a fight with Russia. But both Russia and China are very worried, too, about America’s behaviour in Libya and Syria, and China is probably troubled about the West’s behaviour in Africa. Their perception is increasingly that the U.S. in some way is meddling in their affairs, and they don’t like it; at the moment it is only peripheral for China, but the Russian example suggests to Beijing that at some stage, when the U.S. advance reaches a point intolerable for China, they will face the same sort of treatment.

The world, therefore, is becoming a dangerous place. Latin America does not, for the most part, like the foreign or economic policies of the U.S. Africa is unhappy at being treated as a punch-bag. Therefore, the only really reliable allies of the U.S. now are their satellites in Western Europe and Asia (and the former British Dominions with the exception of South Africa), and their puppets in Eastern Europe, Western Asia and parts of Africa. The latter aren’t good for much except bases. The satellite states are perfectly willing to launch military or economic attacks so long as the enemy can’t fight back — meaning that they are not going to be much help against a strong and determined adversary like Russia or China.

Meanwhile the United States is growing relatively weaker in both military and economic terms by the year, and it is expending its treasure and sometimes its blood in fruitless ways which damage its own interests. The situation is rather like the later Roman Empire, with provinces revolting and the Germanic and Parthian and Scythian hordes itching to attack the periphery while politicians at the centre fight each other and plan impossible aggressions. The big difference is that the Roman Empire, for all its unattractiveness, had a lot going for it in terms of communications, stability and harmony, whereas the American Empire as currently constructed is a ruling-class looting spree with almost nothing positive to justify its existence. The Chinese and Russian states are little more appealing, of course; the only positive thing to say about them is that they are not actively trying to undermine the potential success of smaller nations, and therefore smaller nations can potentially shelter under their problematic umbrellas.

So the danger of a serious world war fought for perceptions of national survival is growing greater. This is more or less what Gwynne Dyer predicted in 2004, although back then he imagined that Europe would either retain its independence or join up with Russia. Since Europe has become a satellite of the United States — an expanded version of Britain’s status at the time when Dyer was writing — this makes things more menacing, because Europe united with America against Russia has immediate potential for conflict; meanwhile, Russia and China are far closer together than Dyer imagined could happen.

Amid all this, we appear to be stumbling toward another economic crisis, into which weak countries like Ukraine will plunge even closer towards fascism, while Europe and the United States will have no alternative but to intensify their plundering of the world, while China, Russia and perhaps India will find themselves in competition for the spoils. This suggests a scary combination of both 1914 and 1939 — with thermonukes in the hands of maniacs and, constantly in the background, the whip of global climate change and food shortages egging everybody on to increasing acts of futile bravado and desperation.


And On We Go.

March 11, 2014

Rollback! Or should it be Containment? Brave little secretly-CIA-funded organisations promoting Freedom in Occupied Europe! Why should we allow some country to have the wrong kind of government just because they voted for it? Straits crisis! Enemy tanks rolling through the streets of an unhappy victim of the Enemy! Duck and Cover!

In reality the Cold War was so unutterably convenient for Western imperialism that it never really went away after the Soviet Union jacked it in and folded up like a rotten orange. Still, those of us who do not live in the mentally-enslaved economic labour camp called the Free World are possibly a bit startled at its sudden return fully-grown, full of fight and full of 99 44/100 % bullshit. How did we get here? Well, did we expect someone to hold up a sign saying KINDLY REMAIN SEATED ACT II WILL COMMENCE SHORTLY, or something?

What happened in the Ukraine was and is quite unsurprising, but is also — well — a bit disturbing.

The Ukraine had been a Russian satellite since the days of Peter the Great — that’s over 300 years back for you innumerates — and had been part of Russia since Catherine. But in 1917 the German invaders proclaimed it independent (backing the nationalists, who were happier to be ruled by Germans than by Moscow) and since then everyone with plenty of money from the Pripet Marshes to the Black Sea dreamed of using that money to establish independence from the ghastly Bolsheviks and become really filthy rich.

It didn’t help that Stalin decided to make an example of the Ukraine and starve out its wealthy peasants with genocidal consequences. As a result the Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis in with open arms, which made it much easier for the Nazis to starve out the remaining wealthy peasants with genocidal consequences. Many of them didn’t mind because the Nazis were at least murdering the filthy Yids, and therefore when the logic of history brought the Soviet Army rolling back across the black-soil belt, with the blue-tabbed NKVD executioners following them to sort out the traitors, many Ukrainians became partisans against the Soviet government in support of the Nazis. They were successful enough that the CIA was still sending them arms as late as 1953.

All this festered until 1991, when the Communist Party disintegrated and Boris Yeltsin took over the USSR in a coup. In order to sustain his popularity and ensure that the Americans paid his vodka bill, Yeltsin agreed to simply break up the USSR altogether, splitting the country up along lines which in most cases were as arbitrary as the colonial lines drawn in Africa, but which had previously hardly mattered because by the 1970s it was a lot easier to get from Russia to the Ukraine than from South Africa to Mozambique. But by 1992 there was a well-policed national border in the way, and a lot of Russians were on the wrong side of it, and the best way for demagogic, corrupt Ukrainian politicians to hold on to power in Kiev was to promote hatred of Russians.

One thing which Yeltsin had done when he sold out the Russians of the Ukraine (incidentally, people talk about “ethnic Russians” versus “ethnic Ukrainians” but this is bullshit; Russians and Ukrainians are of the same ethnicity, they just talk slightly different languages — like the difference between Bavarian and Hanoverian) was to secure a naval base at Sebastopol. This is the only big naval base in the Black Sea, the only sea on the Russian border which is ice-free all the year round (although easily denied access to the world-ocean if you blockade the Dardanelles or the Bosphorus). Though it seems silly to outsiders, access to world trade is important to Russia, and while Yeltsin was allowed to sell out independence, democracy and the Russian economy, if he’d sold out Sebastopol he’d have been lynched.

The Americans and the Russians have waged a tug-of-war with the Ukraine as the rope. The Russians have the much stronger tug-of-war team, but every once in a while the Americans send in goon squads to beat them up, ensuring that they win the match. That’s what happened in 2004, when George W Bush’s “Orange Revolution” kicked out the Russian-backed corrupt gangsters from Kiev and replaced them with American-backed corrupt gangsters. The latter mob, who will be familiar to anyone who’s been seriously involved in Eastern European prostitute-trafficking, ruled the roost until late last year. The Russians were obviously not happy — they’d have preferred their own crooks in charge — but since the Ukraine runs on gas power and the Russians control the whole of Ukraine’s supply of gas, the Russians had other things to worry about.

The trouble was, however, that the boss of the Ukraine did a foolish thing. He jailed a businesswoman who had American connections. Suddenly, the people of the Ukraine rose up in all the majesty of an oppressed mass struggling to be free, and demanded that billionaires be allowed to make gigantic profits from sweetheart petrochemical deals with Russia without fear of being sent to jail. If this sounds tipsy, it is; it was our old friend the Tea Party, the masses demanding a better deal for the classes, but with the tea made in a samovar instead of a pot. (This doesn’t mean that the jailed businesswoman was any more corrupt than the party boss, of course.)

At this point, you would expect the boss of the Ukraine to get all nervous. The Yanks were against him, and they’d installed him in the first place. He had two options; go with the Yanks, release the businesswoman, and get thrown out, or go with Moscow and alienate his right-wing corporate support-base, but stay in power (maybe). Being gutless he chose to do neither. Then Europe offered him a sweet bailout to escape from his immediate economic worries (the Ukraine is bankrupt) in exchange for much bigger economic worries later (and the Europeans have a habit of failing to fulfil their own obligations in deals while insisting that you fulfil your own obligations to the letter and beyond). The “opposition” in Kiev, a bunch of bought-and-paid-for corporate hacks and spook front people, welcomed this with glee and pretended that it was the overture to full European Community membership (which it wasn’t). The Ukrainian President got a phone call from Moscow telling him that it wasn’t a good idea (which was perfectly true, although Vlad “Impaler” Putin has his own private definition of the word “good”)

Apart from Sebastopol there was another reason for Russia to be edgy about Western activities in the Ukraine, and this was NATO. When Gorbachev pulled out of Eastern Europe it was on the understanding that Eastern Europe wouldn’t join NATO. Then Eastern Europe joined NATO and there was nothing the Ukrainians could do about it except quietly tell Byelorussia and the Ukraine that joining NATO would be a Very Bad Idea. One of George Bush’s spectacular projects was abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the USSR (the Russians have the quaint idea that treaties should be held to, but the Americans have this “unsigning” policy they bring out whenever convenient, and anyway the USSR no longer exists) and deploying anti-ballistic missiles in Poland, allegedly to defend Europe against Iran (which has no missile that can reach Europe).

The deployment didn’t happen, but the Obama administration is even more keen on ABMs and wants to deploy them as far forward against Russia — oops, Iran, sorry — as possible, preferably on the Ukrainian border. The Russians don’t like that, partly out of pride, partly out of grand strategy. They really don’t want NATO’s tanks on their front lawn. They see NATO as a weapon aimed at them (and who the hell else could it be aimed at — Somalia?). And so they’re distrustful of the Americans and the Western Europeans for the rather shallow reason that they’ve broken every promise they ever made, and they are nervous about the Americans deploying strategic weapons on their borders. Hey, aren’t these Russians mean and paranoid! It’s not as if the Americans would get all uptight if the Russians were to, say, deploy strategic weapons to Cuba. Oh, wait . . .

So when the People marched in support of Western big business, NATO and America’s right to stick its nuclear dick wherever it wishes, Moscow got antsy. The boss in Kiev, with his usual acumen, hid under the bed and waited for everything to be over. Unfortunately, the People began to stop showing up after a while — who the hell really cares about corrupt businesspeople and gigantic loans which those businesspeople will pocket and then make the rest of the public pay for? So the people backing the People had to up the ante a little, and enter the Ukrainian fascist movement, stage right, with thugs in steel helmets and carrying rifles suddenly showing up and taking pot-shots at the local cops. That made up for any shortage of mass membership, since the cops showed a certain reluctance to face rifle fire. Call in the army! But unfortunately the Americans fund the Ukrainian army and they were able to persuade them to “remain independent” (that is, side with the businesspeople and the fascists). The Boss of Kiev came out from under his bed, filled a few suitcases with banknotes and scuttled off across the Russian border. Another triumph for democracy!

Not really. It turns out that nobody is going to bail out the Ukraine. The current government is therefore engaged in doing what it is told — namely, proposing to slash salaries, reduce what remains of social services and generally turn the Ukraine into Greece-Beyond-The-Bosphorus, which is not quite what the Pan-Slavs had in mind. It’s going to make them unpopular even with the western Ukrainians; what the Russians in the Ukraine are going to think about that doesn’t really bear consideration. However, the Russians aren’t going to get much consideration, because in order to rally the western Ukrainians, one of the first things the new Kiev junta did was repeal a law guaranteeing Russians the right to be educated in their language and use their language in the courts. We don’ need no steenking Russkis!

The Russians in the Ukraine are therefore unhappy, but they have nobody to help them, except in the Crimea where the Russian naval base was entitled to deploy about 30 000 troops. Understandably, the Russians in the Crimea (overwhelmingly the majority) felt in a strong position. They took control of the territory. Maybe they did so with Russian help; they certainly did so with Russian approval and the Russians made military demonstrations in the region to support them. Efforts by the Kiev government to take back the government buildings and military bases seized by the Crimeans failed and the Russian government meanwhile condemned the Kiev government for its anti-Russian stance.

So we have a standoff. Kiev can’t invade the Crimea and enforce its will, because that would mean war with Russia. It would be logical for the Kiev government to moderate its anti-Russian stance, but unfortunately it consists almost entirely of parties whose whole rationale is to hate Russians, and its policies are such that it badly needs a nationalistic distraction. Of course, if the Kiev government simply guaranteed the Russian government’s rights in the Crimea and then called on the locals to negotiate with Kiev, perhaps with Russians observing, then a deal might be reached. This could probably be organised under the counter, even as the Kiev government banged its empty anti-Russian drum.

Unfortunately, the Americans are already there, and they are, as is their habit, opposed to anything which smacks of diplomacy. They want to get everything, preferably through force. But they have no force and the government they are backing is technically illegitimate, unpopular with a minority of Ukrainians, and likely to become unpopular with just about everybody. However, they control the Kiev government and can get it to do whatever they want, and this has nothing to do with the interests of either the Kiev government or the Ukraine.

So they are accusing the Russians of aggression, because the Russians have followed the terms of their agreement with the Ukraine. Nobody outside America and her satellite countries takes this seriously for a moment. Obviously the Chinese don’t like precedents which might affect Outer Mongolia and Tibet, such as the idea that the Crimea should have independence or autonomy, but they’ve had to live with such precedents before, as in South Sudan and Kosovo (where secession imposed by armed might supported by foreigners was cheered to the echo by the Americans). Basically, nobody whom the Americans aren’t paying gives a stuff about the Crimea. Probably not even the Ukrainians give very much. It’s a wholly manufactured crisis intended to give the American media the excuse for whomping up a new Cold War with Russia (and with most of the rest of the world, but naturally the Americans pretend otherwise).

It all makes perfect sense from the American paranoid sociopathic perspective. For the rest of us, we should just stand behind Putin (unpleasant as he may be, he hasn’t once put a foot wrong in this crisis) and hope that the Americans will eventually see reason and allow the crisis to wind down. But we should also remember that ultimately, the Americans are not going to stop doing this until their horrible regime implodes.


The Syrian Experiments.

November 21, 2013

It is interesting to read old Noam Chomsky works, because the passionate indignation felt by serious American leftists around the American assault on Central America in the 1980s is displayed all over these works. It will be remembered that while the Americans gave massive military aid to dictatorships which they viewed as friendly to American interests, they financed guerrillas — terrorists, in the sense that they routinely murdered civilians in order to frighten the general population into withdrawing support from the government, and also in order to encourage the government to use increasing brutality against its populace and thus delegitimise it — in Nicaragua. (As they did elsewhere routinely, but somehow to American leftists doing it to Nicaragua was especially bad.)

Thirty years later, it is equally interesting to observe the absence of any kind of passionate indignation expressed by American leftists about the American assault on Syria in the 2010s. The assault has a certain similarity to the one on Nicaragua. The goal is to install a conservative government reliably friendly to the United States. The method is to train guerrillas and infiltrate them into the country from secure bases in neighbouring countries under US control — Turkey, Lebanon and Israel in the case of Syria, Honduras and Guatemala in the case of Nicaragua. In the Syrian case, admittedly, many of the guerrillas are not Syrian themselves — as was also the case in the guerrilla war which the Americans organised to overthrow the Afghan government in the late 1970s.

The violence is also more brutal. If we are to believe the propaganda, something like 130 000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011. In ten years, the Nicaraguan Contras killed only about 30 000. That suggests that the Syrian violence is nearly ten times more vigorous than the Nicaraguan — although it’s still less violent than what the Americans unleashed on Afghanistan.

So, a bloody imperialist aggressive war aimed at regime change, with Americans cleverly using their wealth to avoid suffering casualties (and even getting other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Britain, France, Turkey and other satellite states, to stump up the cash). This was not, in the past, a practice which delighted the American and the Western left. But now, there is substantial support for this war on the left (especially the left which exists only behind keyboards on the Internet). What opposition there is from the left is tepid, timid and hedged with apologias and qualifications, in which almost no criticism of the Syrian guerrillas does not first proclaim hostility to the Assad government. Why should it be that it is so hard for the Western left to stand up for its principles thirty years after it seemed so simple?

The Ba’ath oligarchy in Syria is not a pleasing organisation. It is a self-perpetuating ruling elite, controlled headed by the Assad family as if it were little more than a feudal kingdom. Unlike the FLSN in Nicaragua, it appears neither democratic nor liberatory. However, when one compares the Ba’ath oligarchy in Syria with the regimes which are attacking it, especially in the Arabian peninsula, or with the military dictatorship in Egypt or with the terrible chaos in Libya, one notices that the Ba’ath oligarchy is secular, relatively non-sectarian, relatively committed to a developmental agenda, sympathetic to the rights of woman and endeavouring not to crush minorities. It is more tolerant of minorities than the Turkish government, for instance, which is incapable of protecting its Kurds against the wrath of a bigoted and brutal military.

The people whom the Western left are backing (or at least refusing to condemn) in Syria, just like the ones which they treated in the same way in Libya, are not just bigoted and brutal, they’re actually off their chumps. Virtually all are so passionate about being Sunni Muslims (generally of the demented Wahhabi persuasion) that they want to impose Sunni values on everybody — taking particular aim against the Shi’ites (Ba’ath is dominated by Ahmadis who are a faction of the Shi’ites). Their version of Sunni values largely entails the belief that certain categories of people — especially women and non-Muslims — are less than human, and that pursuing certain normal human behaviours renders you less than human and liable for execution — because everybody is so innately corrupt that they have to be stopped from all misbehaviour by main force. The Americans are even sponsoring al-Qaeda in this mess (gaining the bonus that al-Qaeda are now murdering people not only in Syria but also in Iraq, where the Americans wish, in the long run, to overthrow the Shi’ite-dominated government) which shows just how crazed the whole affair is. (Naturally vast amounts of demented nonsense are poured out in the media and in political debate to pretend that demented tribalist theocrats who are murdering modernisers, democrats and patriots are actually liberals — which is justified by endless racist broadsides about how Arabs are not like us.)

It seems obvious that supporting — that failing to condemn — such people undermines everything that the Western left traditionally stands for. Meanwhile, offering any support for the guerrillas whom the Americans and the Saudis and the Israelis are supporting totally undermines the ideals of the Western left. It also plays into the hands of global imperialism and neo-colonialism, which the Western left once considered such a threat that it was (rightly) willing to support unlovely regimes like Ho’s North Vietnam and Sukarno’s Indonesia because they stood up against these sinister forces. What’s going on? What has changed since the 1980s?

The Western left loves to see itself as revolutionary, although it has had no experience of revolutions — the nearest thing to revolution was the half-baked episode of 1968-9, and most veterans of ’68 are senile now. Therefore the Western left has spent its time watching other people experience revolutions, and since 1979 this has almost invariably been revolutions launched by imperialists against the left and the interests of the people. What is happening in Syria is, in a sense, a revolution — a change of government against the will of the government.

It is also, in a sense, a movement of the people — insofar as the people on behalf of whom the “Free Syrian Army” claim to be fighting are in the majority in Syria. Whether those people actually support the “Free Syrian Army” is impossible to tell, but surely if there were overwhelming opposition to the guerrillas they would have been much more completely crushed than they have been. It seems likely, in fact, that most Syrians do not very strongly support either side in principle. Why else, in fact, do people flood out of the country to escape the fighting, rather than joining in on one side or the other? (Admittedly the rare experiences of being occupied by the “Free Syrian Army” seem to have been so unpleasant that they have often been driven back to supporting the Ba’athites.) But in effect, Syria has little tradition of active mass-based politics, and many Syrians appear resigned to the notion that everything is always decided somewhere else, by someone else, without reference to them.

These are legitimate problems which could be considered seriously if the issues were not so clear-cut when the matter is viewed as two evils, one of them enormously greater than the other. However, the Western left amplifies these issues into much larger size than their significance warrants, and then, by buying into the propaganda pumped out by Western puppets such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, convinces itself that this is a people’s war and that we must be on the side of the people. Problem solved! Smugness secured! Let us move on to other matters, such as the hideous homophobia of the evil Putin regime in Russia!

The Western left is so accustomed to losing that it no longer trusts any ideological structure which it has created. It assumes that it can only succeed by following along behind someone else’s bandwagon and thus perhaps gaining some reflected glory. The fact that by doing this it renders itself incapable of providing meaningful support, however, means that it gains no glory at all — who has included the Western left in the battle honours of the Libyan struggle? Nobody, and rightly, because all they provided for that struggle was bad-smelling wind.

All this silly posturing means that the policy of posture and of a degraded form of entryism — “let’s walk along behind the striking workers and see if they’ll allow us to hold one end of their banner!” — has become completely dominant in the Western left. We can see this in South Africa, of course, where the Trotskyites these days provide rhetorical aid to any project which plutocracy comes up with — from smashing the union movement to weakening provincial government and thus undermining democracy. However, in South Africa the Trotskyites still have a legitimacy (however spurious) and a rhetorically radical stance to lend; they are at least a left-wing camouflage under which plutocracy can shelter in order to fool the people. In the rest of the West the Trotskyites have no legitimacy and the plutocracy has no need to conceal itself, so they are reduced to desperately imitating plutocratic slogans in a vain attempt to get attention, like whores who have lost their looks.

These are problems caused largely by circumstances. The collapse of the USSR, along with the intensive resurgence of the power of capital, has demoralised the left to an astonishing extent and rendered it all but impotent. It is understandable, then, that the left should be desperate to try to make it look as if it is relevant, or at least useful, to some or other purpose.

But why should the left become so convinced that imitating the right is the answer? Cowardice, yes, and despair, and frustration, and intellectual bankruptcy, all are there. But, also, there is the fatal belief that somehow history is on the side of the left. Somehow, then, if there is turbulence anywhere, the left will gain by it. The destruction of a moderately conservative system and its replacement by a radically conservative system is seen as a positive affair on the part of the Western left because the radically conservative system cannot possibly survive, for sooner or later the People will rise up and obliterate it.

If you read some of Trotsky’s writings at the time of the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany, he makes a number of more or less sensible predictions about the horror which the Nazis will unleash against the workers, and about how the Nazis will provide a useful screen for capitalist oppression even while they are imposing oppression of their own. But at that time, the Stalinists were shouting that the Nazis were simply a front-organisation for capitalism, just like social democracy, and that therefore there was no difference between the Nazis and the social democrats and the liberals, and therefore, one should fight hard against the social democrats and the liberals — harder, if anything, against them than against the Nazis, because once the Nazis are in power, everybody will realise how bad the situation is and then will overthrow it and universal democratic peace will materialise. Trotsky could see that this was an extraordinarily stupid policy, but it was adhered to by the entire German Communist Party at the time, so that they marched unthinkingly into the hands of the Nazis and thence to Dachau and Buchenwald.

The only thing which has changed is that the old stupid policies were imposed by Stalin, whereas now they are pursued in the name of Trotsky. Trotsky would probably have most of the current crop of Western Trotskyites taken outside and shot, simply as a matter of social hygiene. In most of the countries where the Western left’s policies of “the worse, the better” are applied, however, the business of executing idiotic leftists is taken on by the right with considerable energy and dispatch. Sadly, the smart leftists are eliminated at the same time. And with every convulsion of this kind, the left grows weaker and the right grows stronger, and the voices of the left calling for their own massacre and silencing grow fainter, and fainter, and fainter.

 


GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!

March 30, 2013

Why do we even bother to keep inhaling this irritating oxygen which only prolongs our life, why do we insist on exhaling this annoying carbon dioxide which allows plants to prolong their life? Why not leap into the void for no reason and thus demonstrate that no reason, nothing but a void, exists anywhere? Also, why write blog posts?

The trouble with being confronted with absolute futility and impotence and the inevitable victory of all that is meaningless (and yet somehow, in that meaningless, evil) is that it’s all in the mind, you know. If you look away, and resolutely allow yourself not to think about the issue at hand, or else translate the issue at hand into that which can be assimilated within a familiar narrative provided by the forces of futility and impotence – that makes it all better, like the loving mother sweeping up an infant bitten by a jumbo puff-adder and kissing it better on the suppurating fatal wound.

It all began with the announcement that South Africa’s armed forces had sustained yet another defeat. So far, nothing particularly unusual. However, the defeat happened in the Central African Republic, a country which most South Africans would have difficulty finding on a map despite the rather helpful name of the nation. What were they doing there in the first place, then?

Apparently, we didn’t need to know. To be more precise, we did not ask, when President Zuma announced that we were deploying troops to the Central African Republic, how long they would be there, or what the implications of their mission were, or (subsequently) how that mission was proceeding. We have, in fact, become inured to the notion that when there is some petty squabble somewhere in an African country, the South African sheriff is expected to ride into town and command everyone to lay down their guns and shake hands.

Except that in this case, there was no sheriff. The sheriff was, apparently, sitting safe in Paris, and he had sent all his deputies to Mali in an attempt to crush the Tuareg rebellion against the military dictatorship there. (An action which seems to have failed, since the French troops eventually aligned themselves with the Tuareg rebels in order to survive.) The sheriff had therefore asked South Africa to send a posse to the Central African Republic to intimidate the locals into being nice to each other. How that was to happen was not specified, since sending a posse is not usually the way to calm the locals down – witness Vietnam in 1961 and Afghanistan in 1979, not to mention Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and Somalia in 2006 and – oh, you can probably fill in plenty of territories for yourself, all the way down to the Marikana massacre.

South Africa had in 2007 sent a small military training team to the Central African Republic, in an attempt to stabilize a country after its latest military coup by trying to introduce some professionalism into the military. This is only possible, however, if a) the military wants to be professionalized, b) the political forces in power wish to professionalise the military, c) the political opposition has enough faith in the non-military political establishment not to make use of the military to seize power. None of these factors existed in this instance, so the project was a laudable but completely futile and meaningless one. (Perhaps, had both South Africa and France been resolved to bring these conditions about, this could have been accomplished, but it seems very clear that nobody wanted to do any such thing because all three conditions would have endangered the perpetual dominion of the pro-French dictator with whom South Africa had signed the deal.)

Sending 400 soldiers into the country under these conditions in order to block a rebellion which had already taken over most of the country was entirely absurd. It was, essentially, providing the rebels with much-needed potential hostages. Granted, the rebels initially stopped acting and eventually signed a deal with the dictator. However, once the rebels inspected the situation they saw that, far from being “special forces” (troops trained to live off the land under highly hostile circumstances and with considerable understanding of guerrilla warfare) the forces sent out were paratroops – light infantry lacking even soft transport, apart from a couple of fiberglass jeeps, and deprived of all heavy weapons. What was more, Zuma had (no doubt to save money, and perhaps to be wholly consistent with all his other manoeuvres) sent off only half as many troops as he had promised to send.

Once the rebels realized that the President had no intention of keeping his word in 2013 any more than he had done so for the previous decade, there was absolutely nothing standing in their way except a national army which would run away at the first sound of gunfire, and an understrength company of South Africans five thousand kilometers away from potential reinforcements at the end of a wholly unreliable supply line depending on occasionally rented transport aircraft flying in from air force bases which South Africa could easily be denied access to. As a result, they marched into the capital city, kicked the President across the frontier, and shot every South African who got in their way – 13 dead, 27 wounded, a very convenient 20% of the entire force. (The few French in the town had already pulled back to the city’s airfield as a prelude to evacuation, and were left alone; it was the job of the South Africans to die covering the French withdrawal, drawing rebel fire, rather in the way that the French themselves died covering the British withdrawal to Dunkirk – how cleverly these Gallic gunmen learn perfidy through example!)

The South African press is of course utterly incapable of addressing any such action on any sane level. They know that something has gone wrong, but it violates the key norms of South African journalism on almost as many levels as it fulfils them. Yes, this is a stuff-up by President Zuma and his incompetent cabal, but the stuff-up was called for by Western imperialism, whom the South African press defends at all costs. Yes, this is a military disaster, but it is not a disaster of poor military performance, discipline or leadership – it cannot be blamed on the incapable of black people to fight (not in the least because it was what the South African press used to call “black-on-black violence”). Nor can it be squeezed with difficulty into the mythological entity which the South African press calles “The Arms Deal” with the same air of absolutely unquestionable answering of all questions with which Der Stűrmer used to refer to “The Jewish Peril”.

The best which has been done has been to identify a few shabby South African businesspeople and politicians who have attempted unsuccessfully to make money in the Central African Republic and to claim, without any evidence, that this was somehow the reason why troops were sent to the Central African Republic – that the intervention in 2013 was made to save investments lost in 2009. By doing this, the press manages to avoid mentioning the actual political incompetence and colonial subordination of the Zuma administration and thus avoid criticizing the forces which sponsor the press. This ices and cherries the shit-cake which we are having to eat in a country which is now plainly as devoid of military and diplomatic leadership as it has long been devoid of intelligence agencies.

Against the background of all this useless ugly, it seems a considerable fall from significance to mention the acquittal of the police officers charged with the murder of Andries Tatane which happened so soon after the Central African Republic catastrophe. And yet it is not, because Tatane’s murder was very much in the consciousness of South Africans and may be seen quite clearly as a precursor – one of many, of course – to the Marikana massacre itself.

Tatane was seized by police while he was ranting at them in rebellion against their efforts to suppress a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. They savagely beat him to the ground, aiming their shotguns charged with plastic projectiles at him so as to intimidate him into being passive while they continued to beat the stuffing out of him. He continued to resist even while lying bloody and bruised in the street, so two of the policemen fired their shotguns at a range of about thirty centimeters, using projectiles which can maim people at a range fifty times greater. One of the blunt plastic cylinders tore Tatane’s heart apart and he died on the spot. The whole episode was captured on video footage which was shown around the world, but particularly in South Africa, where the majority of the populace was horrified. (The professional demonstrators of the far Left chose not to make an issue of the event, however, since Tatane was a local and not a member of any organization identifiable with the far Left – so it goes.)

There was, however, no organization to pursue the matter to the bitter end, so the provision of justice for Tatane’s killers was left to the official structures – the police, the independent police investigations directorate which was in process of being stripped of its independence, and such well-meaning but utterly incompetent and ideologically blinkered allies as the Human Rights Commission. The consequence has been predictable catastrophe. No attempt seems to have been made to pursue the matter through official police channels, by identifying all police officers present (which would have been easy, since the available forces were written down at the local Public Order Police base) and then charging them all with defeating the ends of justice (automatic dismissal from the force and loss of pension) unless they testified against the killers and confessed their own part in the case (which might lead to dismissal but not necessarily loss of pension). This wasn’t done because the police always cover up everything they do, even in a case in which they have been videotaped shitting on the national flag, constitution and great seal of office. Nobody in high political office chose to cut through the coverup.

Nor, it would seem, did anybody order the public prosecutor’s office to do anything effectual. Instead, all the investigators seem to have behaved with all the competence of a group of clowns whose shoelaces are tied together performing on a surface greased with soap and olive oil. They tumbled about and eventually arrested seven policemen who were solemnly declared to be the ones responsible for Tatane’s death even though only two people had pulled the trigger and only one fired the shotgun which penetrated the protestor’s vitals. The witnesses which the investigators had dredged up declared that they had been tortured into making false accusations against the police. (Yeah, right, that is an absolutely commonplace event in South Africa.) They retracted their testimony, and instead of sending them down for perjury as he should have, the magistrate simply beamed at the retracting witnesses with an air of “Good boy! Well done! Here’s a bone!”.

Lacking witnesses, the investigators suddenly found that they had nothing. There was video footage, but they had not used it  This was partly because the footage, although it showed sundry police officers beating Tatane without cause and two of them shooting him at point-blank range with lethal weapons, was of poor quality. Perhaps it could have been enhanced? But several of the police officers were wearing riot helmets so that you could not see their faces, and were not wearing other identifying masks so that you would have to ask the people visible in the footage who they were. And, alas, those people were nowhere to be found, or had already testified that they were unreliable witnesses and been let off the hook by the magistrate.

So the magistrate breathed a sigh of relief and let the accused out of the courtroom free as birds, and maybe freer. He added a substantial smear against Andries Tatane on his own account – that Tatane, by being rude to the police, had actually brought his own death on himself, so in his opinion the whole trial was a waste of time. (At this point the magistrate should have been dragged out of the courtroom and necklaced in the nearest soccer stadium, but nobody has the energy to do such things any more.) It’s worth pointing out, by the way, that despite the unfitness of the magistrate to hold any judicial office whatsoever, the verdict itself was not a miscarriage of justice – we can’t say that guilty men walked free, because the prosecutors had failed to show that any of the police in the dock had anything at all to do with the death of Andries Tatane. For all we know, they had been flown in from Port Nolloth specifically to function as fall-guys.

So the police, when backed by the ruling class, have absolute impunity for whatever they do, and there is nothing we can do about it. Phew, it is quite a relief to have that sorted out.

After that, it is almost trivial to note the trial in which the money behind Oscar Pistorius was allowed to overrule public opinion and ensure that Pistorius will be a free man with no stain on his character until he has been found innocent by a properly constituted court of puppets of money. The court fell just short of declaring that the name of Reeva Steenkamp would be henceforth declared unmentionable in public. Some may say that this shows that our society sanctions the murder of women. The Creator feels rather that our society sanctions that rich people may do whatever they please. Which we already knew, so what’s the big deal, apart from the need to stick a million severed heads on sharpened poles against the background of the flames and ashes of the establishment’s loathsome constructions?


After the World Ended. (I)

December 25, 2012

So, now we know. The attempts to remove the Zuma system from the ANC have failed one after the other. Polokwane was actually the last best hope, as the Creator always feared. Prosecuting Zuma was blocked by the control of the judiciary by Zuma’s backers. Splitting the ANC was only a little more effective than the (still more absurd) efforts of the PAC had been fifty years earlier. Trying to work within the system failed because Zuma has introduced the Führerprinzip into the ANC and all decisions are taken from the top down with the Brownskins reduced to simply acclaiming the decisions of the Divine Master.

If change cannot come within the ANC system, it follows it must come from outside the ANC system. Instead of simply turning the ANC into something like what it was before, we must change the system in order to exclude the ANC from power. Since the ANC is now poisoned beyond recovery by the corruption which Zuma introduced, we must replace the ANC with something which is not poisoned.

This seems, superficially, easy, so it is quite important to point out why it is much more difficult than it looks. The reason why it looks easy is that people placed in positions of authority for the specific goal of undermining public discourse have said that it is easy, and since we would all agree that this needs to be done, we wish to believe that they are telling the truth and know what they are talking about. Instead, they are ignorant yahoos, and are in any case deliberately lying for private gain and under the orders of corrupt people.

In essence there are two categories here: the Trotskyites who preach revolution, and the DA who preach electoral change.

Revolution is easy; you just overthrow the government, like was done in 1994. The Trotskyites have all read The History of the Russian Revolution, or at least have spoken to people who have, or maybe they have looked at the pictures in the Classics Illustrated version, so they have noticed that you say you wanna revolution, and said revolution arrives. Yay! That must be how the ANC did it. And, after all, there are people who are out there who are clearly pissed off, and that’s all you need, isn’t it?

Trotsky didn’t bother to write about the ninety years of revolutionary struggle which preceded 1905, because he was writing for people who understood revolutionary history. Unfortunately, today’s Trotskyites understand only revolutionary rhetoric and wordplay. Therefore, they forget about the forty years of revolutionary struggle which preceded 1990 and the four years of revolutionary struggle which followed it. They forget about this because they want to pose as revolutionaries – pitifully sticking their faces through cardboard cut-outs of Lenin on the armoured car – and don’t actually understand that there is a difference between posing and being. (Since they emerge from a tradition which insists that there has never been a real revolution because there has never been a revolution that they were in charge of, and which also insists that pretense and reality are exactly the same thing because Baudrillard said so, they can get away with this. After a fashion, they can.

In reality, though, launching a revolution in South Africa will be extremely difficult. It was a tremendous struggle to carry out even the partial revolution which South Africa accomplished in the period 1980-1994, and this revolution enjoyed some support from the ruling class. Against the hostility of the ruling class, and under the much less pleasant conditions of the present global order than those prevailing in 1980-94, it is all but inconceivable that this process should win. The Trotskyites are at best fooling themselves, but more probably they are trying to fool the public which might genuinely desire revolution.

None of this means that revolution is impossible. It will not, however, happen within the next decade, and it will require an immense conspiratorial effort which cannot be undertaken in public. Anyone wanting to do it is welcome to try.

Those who want change by means of elections appear much more likely to succeed. The DA has expended from little more than 1% of the vote in 1994 to over 20% of the vote now. It follows naturally that by 2034 or so they will command 400% of the vote. All hail the Powers that Be!

In reality, as the Creator has pointed out incessantly, the existence of an opposition party does not make it better than the government, and the grim fact is that the ANC has deteriorated as a party representative of the will and wishes of the people of South Africa, precisely in line with how it has become similar to the DA. We could, borrowing a phrase from the treacherous pseudo-intellectual babbler Jeremy Cronin, refer to the “Zillefication” of the ANC, a process which Cronin supports 100% because he is a glove-puppet of the corporate forces behind both Zuma and Zille.

More alarmingly, once there is little or no difference between the DA and the ANC in terms of policy, the only difference is in presentation. Since the DA must present itself as a white-supremacist party in order to appeal to whites (and to the coloureds who love being whipped by whites – a book about coloured voting politics ought to be called Fifty Shades of Brown) they simply cannot present themselves to africans who are not subordinated masochists, and most aren’t. The growth of the black middle class has provided the DA with a modest power-base in the African community, but it isn’t enough. So, it is extremely unlikely that the DA is going to double its vote-share within the next decade, and it must double its vote-share if it is to displace the ANC or at least reduce the ANC below the magic 50% mark.

In short, there is no existing party which provides a real alternative to Zuma’s ANC, and there is no existing party which can defeat Zuma’s ANC. Add to this the fact that there is no revolutionary movement capable of overthrowing the ANC and the conditions are hostile to the development of such a movement, and we can all sit down and have a good cry.

But after tears come action, at least after a fashion. If we want to change things, we will have to go ahead and create the conditions under which change can happen. We must, therefore, establish structures capable of facilitating change. Such structures can take various forms, but in order for them to succeed, it is absolutely necessary to identify what change is needed and how such change is to take place. It is also vital that a large minority of the population (at a minimum) identifies such change as necessary and is prepared to make sacrifices in order to accomplish it.

This is why bodies like Occupy failed; they were able to see that there was something wrong, but they thought that saying so was all that was needed, that the wave of mass revulsion against the prevailing corrupt system would sweep all before it. In reality, there was such a wave, but it was inchoate, and any attempt to turn such a wave into practical action came up against the deep-seated hostility to change which has been inculcated into all modern societies by the ruling class. Occupy, being dominated by fantasists and self-centred publicists, was unable to do anything about this or even acknowledge that it was a problem. Indeed, Occupy also suffered from the same kind of problem that South African Trotskyism suffers from – the belief that revolution is easy, and also the notion that it will happen without leadership. (It is interesting that the thing which most impressed the initial supporters of Occupy – the leaderless “General Assembly” – has been identified after the collapse of Occupy as the movement’s biggest stumbling-block, because it actually allowed noisy egomaniacs to dominate the movement and thus render it hostile to incomers and incapable of effective action.)

So what is needed is a much more traditional movement against the regime. In effect we need to go back to the past, back to the 1950s and 1960s, and study why movements like the Liberal Party and the Progressive Party failed, why the ANC was only partially successful and the PAC such a train-smash, and generally examine how people attempted to change the disastrous circumstances in which we found ourselves, both working within the system altogether in order to ameliorate it, working within the system in order to change it, and then challenging the system from outside. And all this is possible.

Just difficult..


Secrets and Lies.

August 6, 2010

There are some very loudly orchestrated complaints about how the new proposed secrecy bill and the hinted-at media tribunal will destroy journalism in South Africa. The orchestration and the complaints are predominantly coming from journalists, of course. This is very like the nineteenth-century campaign by crooked shipowners against the introduction of the Plimsoll line which was intended to prevent overloading and thus discourage the then-common practice of sending out unmaintained, overloaded ships with scratch crews and then taking out a whopping insurance policy on said ships. (When the Plimsoll line was made compulsory, one innovative crooked shipowner painted it on the funnel.)
Now, what is all this about? Currently, South African information classification is in chaos, like everything to do with intelligence operations in this country. The draft bill is intended to bring order to the chaos by identifying the procedures for classifying information at various levels of secrecy and by fixing penalties for violating these procedures. Order, one would think, is good. Also, all governments do things which they don’t want the general public to know about because a serious fuss might injure the national interest, whatever that might mean in practice.
Meanwhile, journalists at the moment are more or less immune to penalties for telling lies. If a journalist is caught lying about anything to do with government or ANC, the vast conglomerate employing the journalist will send lawyers in defense. The judiciary has established a clear precedent that any lie told about the government or the ANC can be defended on the grounds of “public interest”; that is, even if the journalist knew it wasn’t true, it might have been true, so the public has a right to be misinformed. (None of this applies to opposition parties and obviously not to private citizens, though journalists very rarely lie about opposition parties or about private citizens of any significance — of course, only very wealthy private citizens can take newspapers to court.) This looks like a problem in need of a solution which a media tribunal might exist to provide.
On the other hand, can we trust the government not to abuse such powers? At the moment, the South African media enjoy rights similar to those enjoyed by the American media. (The difference between them is that the American media can, generally, be drawn into line by waving the flag and appealing to patriotism, concepts which the South African media find incomprehensible.) The proposals would make South African law more like British law, enabling the government to suppress information which it found embarrassing and to punish newspapers and journalists stepping out of bounds. The British government routinely abuses such powers to bring the media to heel (one of the last holdouts, oddly enough, was the BBC, eventually squashed by the Hutton Commission for telling the truth about the Iraq War).
If the media were brought to heel in South Africa, if it were banned from printing sensitive information and terrorised into compliance with government doctrine, this would make very little difference in the media’s service to the public interest. At the moment, the media can make up political lies, meaning that we do not know whether what we read is true — so people believe the media according to their political preconceptions. The media are also unanimously in pursuit of a narrow political doctrine, essentially neoliberalism with a lick of white racial supremacy. So, if the media were instead forced to conceal truths rather than invent lies, and cleave to an ANC-oriented political line, all which would have changed would be the doctrines being presented. The essential practice and the moral bankruptcy would not change.
Most political journalists, where they are not making stuff up, depend on leaks and smears. Leaks and smears are either manufactured for the occasion (mainly by the right-wing, mainly foreign-funded think-tanks which have taken over civil society) or they are provided for political purposes by factions within the Tripartite Alliance — this latter is where almost all the reliable information in the media comes from. This latter is a very convenient procedure for Alliance politicians, so it is not going to be stopped by legislation. All which might have to happen would be that some of the politicians would have more trouble getting their leaks published than others — but this would probably depend very largely on how much political and economic pull their contacts possessed.
However, it is one thing to say that journalists are sluggards, crooks and liars. It is another to pass the Promotion of Sluggards, Crooks and Liars Act of 2010. Even if it made the situation no worse, it would make room for the situation to get worse, just as journalists under apartheid used apartheid media legislation to excuse their corruption and toadying. The fact that the journalists whining about the proposed curbs are politically bigoted and personally dishonest does not make the curbs a good thing.
That being settled, there remains an interesting question: what is the agenda behind the proposed curbs on the free flow of information? Is it likely that South Africa suddenly has a spurt of state secrets? If we had a dynamic state it is perfectly possible that there would be some legitimate secrets; if the government were importing thorium from North Korea to fuel a clutch of breeder reactors, or running guns to the Colombian resistance, or in possession of footage of Robert Mugabe getting a blow-job from Peter Mandelson, it would be prudent to prevent the information from getting out. However, we don’t have a dynamic state and we probably have few secrets of any importance from anybody. Commercial secrets may be important, but they don’t really need special laws to protect them — they just require the existing commercial laws to be enforced, instead of being winked at, as now.
One plausible reason for the new information classification bill is essentially personal. The President is a former ANC spook whose power-base depends heavily on former ANC and MK spooks. One of his cronies, Mo Shaik, who is remarkably incompetent by any sane standard, was recently put in charge of South African spookdom. Spooks are not brave combatants or brainiacs; they exist not to provide information, but to control its flow. If people knew what spooks know, they would know that the spooks know very little, so to preserve their illusion of competence, spooks rely on secrecy. Spooks also rely on bureaucracy, as a shield behind which they can conceal their ignorance and incompetence. Also, of course, bureaucracy plus secrecy is a shield for corruption, and the Shaik family is monumentally corrupt, a corruption which the present government shares.
If this is so, then the media is making a fuss about nothing (which is the media’s speciality, of course). Of course, the media would do this anyway. In order to hide their fundamental corruption, they are brandishing these proposed curbs as an attack on the people’s right to have the media tell the lies the media want to tell to them, instead of the lies someone else wants the people to hear. A sober examination of the media’s treatment of all this is generally disgusting, although there are a few still, small voices to say that all this matters not at all, because the ANC is not actually going to go through with these curbs. Certainly, if it is all a matter of the vanity of incompetent spies and a hangover from the absurd notion that the press, which sucked Zuma’s poisonous tit throughout his campaign, is somehow anti-Zuma and needs to be forced into the paths of unrighteousness, we need not take this crap seriously. It is all then a public relations campaign on every side.
But what if there is more to it than this? The question of the media tribunal is something which one would not really expect the ANC to pursue seriously. Now that power is in the hands of the crooks who clustered around Zuma, it no longer matters all that much that they shriek at each other like fishwives with Tourette’s in the pages of Business Day and the Mail and Guardian. This is entertaining, and serves to hint at who is on the way up and who down, but it does not decide anything. Hence a media tribunal will not make a major political difference to the interests of the people who are ostensibly calling for it.
On the other hand, if journalists are called before a media tribunal to answer for their political bias, unless they are carefully prevented from doing so, they will reply that they have been bought by politicians, and that their political analyses were written for them by politicians’ spin-doctors. In other words, a media tribunal could completely discredit what remains of the perception of journalistic integrity, but would also reveal the horrible fact that the facade of journalistic integrity (and of politicians’ supposed hostility to journalism) conceals the fact that journalism and party politics are two tentacles of the same corporate octopus. (Apologies to Paul the Psychic Cephalopod.)
In that case the politicians and the ruling class have good reasons for not upsetting the apple-cart and introducing a media tribunal. (Of course there could be a media tribunal along the lines of the military tribunals in the United States, held in secret and with nothing but the verdict made known — but this would destroy the whole political point of the exercise.) So, why are they enthusiastically talking about doing it? Why should we take them seriously? For we should — these are the same terms in which they talked about abolishing the Scorpions, and next to that action, introducing a media tribunal would be an almost trivial episode.
A few years back the press suddenly received some black or brown editors of white newspapers. Felicia Oppelt [note the Creator’s creative spelling here] took over the Daily Dispatch, Ferial Haffajee took over the Mail and Guardian, Mondli Makhanya at the Sunday Times. All are gone now, and white power restored, but the move was surely significant. It also coincided with the rise to centrality of black pundits who plagiarised the articles, language and ideas of white journalists. Many of these, again, are gone, or replaced at least by reliable American coffee-coloured sell-outs like Eusebius McKaiser. The reason for this experiment was, surely, that the whites who run the media recognised that having white faces fronting the media discouraged black people from believing a word the media said. The theory was that rubbish talked by black people would be believed by black people, since black people are notoriously stupid and racist. It doesn’t seem to have turned out that well, since the easiest way to win over a black audience is by jeering at Moeletsi Mbeki or Xolela Mangcu. However, the plan was, in principle, the same as the electoral strategy of the Democratic Alliance, which will probably succeed in the long run.
The problem with having black people as fronts is not just that they are black. No doubt the owners of our media are racist, but they aren’t as racist as that. No, the problem is that black people may have come from the wrong background. The owners are well prepared to identify white people who hold the wrong opinions, or might be seduced into holding the wrong opinions — the kind of people who might lead their newspapers down the wrong track, by failing to identify precisely what the ruling class wants, or even pursuing non-ruling-class agendas. But it’s much harder for white power-mongers to identify properly subservient black people. Recall the embarrassment of Wits University having to purge Deputy Vice-Chancellor Makgoba when he made trouble. Recall the way that Tsedu, the former black editor of the Sunday Times, failed to print Zuma smears on demand and had to be replaced. It’s much safer to have trustworthy, reliable white people in charge — and yet since everybody knows that they are only there because they can be trusted to tell the right lies, nobody with any critical sense believes them. Cleft stick city.
But what if there were a media tribunal? What if there were serious laws against revealing state secrets, especially if such secrets were artfully ill-defined? Why, then, you could practice self-censorship. Management would then have much more control over the content provided by the media — every editor would be concerned that if the wrong stuff were printed, management would have a copper-bottomed pretext for dismissal. And a perfect alibi for such control-freakery — it’s not I who is forcing you to suppress truths and instead publish lies, it’s the bad, bad ANC government! I am just as opposed to censorship as you are, but, regrettably, we have to acknowledge realities . . .
This is exactly the line the English press took under apartheid. It enabled them to pretend to rail at the oppressive government while secretly cooperating closely with it. The period since 1994 has been a nervous and tense time for media moguls precisely because there has always been a danger that some damned journalist might stumble out of line and inadvertently print something embarrassing to the ruling class. The Selebi and Agliotti trials show just how dangerous this could be — there have been heroically successful efforts to conceal the facts in both cases, erasing the tentative fumblings of a few investigators and commentators to suggest that something might be spurious about the ridiculous lies of the official narratives. With the media moguls and the politicians arm-in-arm in unshakeable alliance against truth, justice and democracy, we can expect a bright future for psychosis in South Africa.