Monday, May 11, 2009

Stand Up Obama - who's laughing?

Bush was a dull witted beast - a burger munching, pretzel choking, torture monkey who couldnt even tell a good joke. How refreshing then to see the current POTUS kick back with a few of his high society buddies and reel off the one-liners. I dont think I would add anything by parodying the actual jokes. I will try to categorise them though.

Lets see... there was the joke about Obama's kids hijacking Air Force 1 and taking it for a spin around Manhattan at low altitude (causing several buildings to be evacuated and presumably scaring some New Yorkers shitless) - thats a new 21st century branch of comedy called unintentional terrorism. And there was the jolly torture joke - "Cheney is busy writing a book; how to shoot friends and interrogate people". Out with the faux moral outrage about torture, the real agenda is scoring political points against the Republicans.

This all took place at the annual White House Correspondent's dinner, a distasteful nexus of film stars, mass-stream media and politicians. For this cabal, the real world of torture, terrorism and bombing raids is far away; a media image to be manipulated. There is for instance Clinton and Obama's crocodile tears over bombed Afghan villagers. The real pain for the administration is not that it happened but that it became visible.

We now have a 'rethink' going on in which "'tactical actions' should not undermine strategic goals". The focus apparently should be counter insurgency rather than conventional war. However the murder of villagers - that is the destruction of the resistance's base - is classical counter insurgency. If you cant coopt or corrupt then exterminate, is their motto. This has the same dynamic as the Israeli barbarity in Gaza at the beginning of the year.

Obama as head of the world's most irresponsibly powerful Imperium has nothing new to offer. He heads an historic relic which knows only how to wreak hideous amounts of casual destruction against whoever it designates 'failed peoples'. But Obama is not there to change the direction of the juggernaut, only to polish its exterior.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scientific Socialism for the dull

Roy Hattersley, former UK Labour Party minister, recently reviewed a new biography of Engels, "The Frock-Coated Communist" in The Guardian newspaper. Hattersley freely admits he finds Engels Anti-Duhring/Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, unintelligible, and then quotes from it
"Engels wrote that when the means of production become state property, "the proletariat abolishes itself as a proletariat, abolishes all class distinction and class antagonism, abolishes also the State as a State". I am still not sure how the thought-process that concludes with this fantasy can be called scientific rather than utopian"
Now as former Labour Party minister he should know all about how control of state property can still leave the working class fucked over. And its probably no accident that he leaves out a key part of the Engels quote, that it is the proletariat that turns the means of production into state property after seizing political power. That is to say that the proletariat itself should control the means of production and that the act of revolution should be the act of the working class itself.

The only fantasy at work here is possibly the idea that the Labour Party in government means that the proletariat runs the country. The Tories stopped trumpeting that obvious fallacy quite sometime ago, and I'm positive that the Labour Party itself no longer believes it, if it ever did. What I wanted to take task with however is the idea of scientific socialism that Hattersley feels free to parody without understanding.

For Engels, actually, scientific socialism was based on two principles. Firstly that history changes, and is explained by, material forces and political/economic contradictions rather than ideologies. Secondly that Capitalism was based on exploitation of workers on one hand, and reliance on them as consumers on the other, a contradiction bound to lead periodically into crisis. I would have thought the current economic crisis would be enough to suggest there was something fundamentally correct about Marx and Engel's analysis.

Instead of regurgitating the high ideology of the Cold War, that the Soviet Union proves that socialism will never work, Hattersley ought to look at whether it really was a test of the principles. In fact the idea that socialism can exist in one relatively backward country in the face of aggression from the rest of the world runs diametrically opposed to what Marx and Engels argued would be necessary - that it must be an international system with no military and economic competition and that it must be based on 'advanced' capitalism. It is no surprise that the USSR after being blockaded and invaded on all sides became a place where communism was not possible.

It is welcome however to see the revival of interest in Marx and Engels, a tendency not unrelated to the present round of capitalist war and crisis.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Manufacturing Mayday violence

Happy Mayday all. I joined a May Day protest/dance party in Hamburg, which was really a bit of a blast. Named "Krisenfest" we (looked to be a couple of thousand) danced our way to Hafencity and back along the waterfront to the Fischmarkt. Hafencity is a massive yuppie accommodation and business project which makes Canary Wharf in London look small. Specially commissioned apartment blocks, a philharmonic hall and many, many other buildings are built on former container and warehouse land. One would think with the crisis in full swing building would have slowed to a halt, as has the port traffic in Hamburg Port. But no, its full steam ahead on projects for the rich whereas workers elsewhere are being thrown out of work and social cuts loom. The krisenfest highlighted the disparity - plenty of money for banks and architecture firms and none for the rest of us. The philharmonic hall was 'shoed', banks water pistolled and generally a good time was had by all.

The cops were mostly hands off, except for one incident where the protest trucks/sound systems had to separate from the protestors for a short while( they went down a street and most of us over a footbridge). The cops took the opportunity to stop the trucks and harass the occupants. A potentially ugly scene was avoided when the cops backed down under the hard stares of the rest of the crowd.

There were a number of other (smaller) Hamburg Mayday demos which had a much heavier police 'footprint'. About 700 anticap/anarchists marched through St Pauli to Rote Flora, and there were a smaller number of antifa protestors in Barmbek later on. It was a pity that our forces were so divided, but I guess that reflects real differences in how to go about protesting

Elsewhere, Berlin cops who had whipped themselves into a frenzy about potential violence, managed to provoke it themselves when they raided a peaceful dance party. There is a rather good report on the Berlin activities here. In Istanbul the violence was again caused by the cops who wouldnt even allow free assembly. The mantra from media was predictable: 'violent protestors around the world' - blah!

Here's a report from Reuters trying to figure out the violence in Berlin,

Rioting on the May 1 Labor Day holiday, which since it started in 1987 has caused extensive damage to parts of the city, had been on the wane in the last three years after police shifted tactics from battling rioters to de-escalation. [...] Police in Berlin expect further violence when members of far-right parties, labor unions and leftists march. The trouble in Berlin on Friday began at the end of an otherwise peaceful gathering of about 2,000 people, police said. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at trams and cars. Glass windows at bus stops were also destroyed by rioters.

Now I'm not a specialist in cop logic, but I would have thought that if you had less riots with a policy of 'de-escalation' - then its probably anti-logical to convince yourself that there was going to be violence and then act in such a way as to ensure that it was going to happen. Unless of course your role as cop is not keeping the peace but bringing to bear the means of violence against anyone with ideas of changing the status quo.

There is of course a pressing social concern for the powers that be. In the context of a German economy forecast to contract by 6 percent in 2009, with unemployment likely to rise to nearly five million,

Michael Sommer, president of the German Unions' Federation, has warned that 'if business corporations react to the crisis with mass layoff of workers, it is very likely that social revolt take place.' Sommer said this was not a threat, but a comment on the prevailing atmosphere.

Instead of formulating policies to defuse the social crisis, the ruling class prefers to set loose its attack dogs

"Whoever throws a stone or wears a mask must be immediately taken out of play," [Rainer Wendt, chairman of one of Germany's national police unions] told the Neuen Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper.

And of course the cops/ruling class know there is a potential revolutionary in every disgruntled worker. So they raid peaceful events, kill a protestor in London, provoke more anger and all the time calling for an expansion of police numbers. So there you have a vicious circle of cop logic: more police=more violence=still more police.

But this is an old fight and an old enemy and in the best spirit of the day, there is always 1000s on the street willing to resist.