Trump and the NRA

May 5, 2018

Of course Trump supports the NRA 100% because they are the future brownshirts and fascisti that he will need for his march on Washington when he is impeached or otherwise removed from office. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Trump the Chump

May 5, 2018

“Your second amendment rights are under siege but they will never ever be under siege as long as I’m your president,”

It is  contradictory statements such as this that make you realise just how stupid Trump is.


UKIP and the Black Death

May 4, 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/04/black-death-ukip-almost-wiped-out-in-english-local-elections

On the one hand, listening to the radio this morning one couldn’t help but laugh out loud when the general secretary of UKIP described the party as akin to the Black Death in that it lies dormant for a long time and then comes back to life when you are least expecting it. He will hopefully open them to ridicule and do damage to the party in the short term. What he actually meant was that the Black Death was a positive development in that it freed people up from the necessity of staying in their village in the long term and led, some have argued, to the development of modernity and the end of feudalism. Be that it is it may, it was a pretty stupid thing to say.

However, it was not necessarily wrong and as welcome as it is to see the party  reduced the point where it has only a few councillors left in the country, it would not be a good idea to disagree with Paul Oakley’s basic point that what UKIP represents is indeed a dormant force. Xenophobic populism morphing into outright fascism is always a real and present danger in any liberal democracy. When the conditions are right then populist and simplistic answers to specific and complex questions are always sought.

It is the vagaries of the United Kingdom’s electoral system of First Past The Post that has prevented the far right from ever attaining more than marginal success in electoral terms. This does not mean, however, that there is no potential for its development. Although I am in favour of electoral reform (along German/Scottish lines) we should also be under no illusion that a party like UKIP would not do well under that system. We only have to look at the rise of the AfD in Germany – now the official opposition in Parliament — to see that danger. However, it is perverse to argue that we should cleave to an undemocratic electoral system (as perverse as it is to cling to the hope that the unelected House of Lords will save us from Brexit) rather than build alliances against the hard right.

Unfortunately, the traditional hard left seems also to be going on this sort of anti-elitist binge which smacks increasingly of national Bolshevism.

Now is not the time to be attacking liberal democracy as some sort of elitist plot, in the hope that coat tailing xenophobia and populism will lead to a socialist revolution. This was tried once before when significant parts of the German left reacted to the rise of fascism in the 1930s by trying to steal their clothes on the spurious grounds that after fascism it would be their turn. This mad Stalinist policy was counter-productive then and is certainly counter-productive now. For all their faults the EU and the Democratic party in the US are the only realistic games in town against the rise of Russian and Trumpian xenophobic nationalism.


Externalities

April 30, 2018

There is a considerable movement at the moment, involving people such as Stephen Pinker and others, who maintain that essentially things are getting better as we begin to solve many of the central problems that have bedevilled human society for centuries. They argue that we are living longer, that the gap between the richest and the poorest, seen in global terms, is shrinking rather than expanding and that there are fewer wars than there have been in the past. There is some merit in these arguments and it is incontrovertibly true that things are getting better in basic terms in the advanced West. Even in the developing world there are some signs of improvement, particularly in Africa as China moves in. However there is one major factor that they tend to ignore, or rather they do not ignore it, but they certainly tend to downplay it. I refer of course to the ecological question and the future of the planet. What is important to recognise, however, is that the ecological question cannot be separated from the social one of the patterns of the distribution of wealth in class society.

Capitalism has always survived through externalising its central contradictions. Post-war capitalism during what the French call the 30 glorious years from 1945 to 1975 was based on bringing what were external costs in the interwar period back in-house. The social state is essentially the re-domestication of externalised capitalist cost. The most prominent example of this is, of course, health provision. The European model, under pressure of a sizeable and politically active and unionised industrial working class, promised social provision “from cradle to grave”. It is this model that is breaking down even while what it provided – take the NHS as the prime example – is held in extremely high political regard. It is increasingly clear that the “glorious thirty” were the exception to the rule and that we are now witnessing a re-wilding of society. This leaves us with the absurd position of a Conservative Party  having to defend what is essentially a socialist system of social provision in which each gives to the best of their ability and receives according to their needs – except of course it is possible to avoid taxes the richer you are. The Conservative Party’s true face is shown not with regard to the NHS but to Brexit.

However, it is a highly complicated relationship which exposes the internal divisions within the party itself. On the one hand it is made up of Osbornite free marketeers who are fundamentally opposed to the NHS but see no opportunity to undermine it in present political circumstances, but who are at the same time in favour of staying in the EU because of the expanded market access it gives them. What these elements of conservatism have in common with the populist xenophobia of Farage and Ukip is that they are all essentially deregulators. Osborne believes it is possible to carry the deregulatory impetus into the EU and turn it into a mere free trade area, Farage thinks that it would be easier to deregulate outside of the EU. The only difference between them is a tactical one.

What we have seen in Europe since 1975 has been the re-wilding of the economic landscape and the re-exporting of social problems in terms of both internal class dynamics and external production priorities. Social costs are increasingly born by those who can least afford them at home and the environmental costs of increased production are largely borne by the developing world.

It is for this reason that Pinker et al. are able to argue that the world is generally getting better, but that is because they are part of the middle class in the advanced capitalist world that is the protected minority ( and I include myself in that group). What Trump, Brexit and the ecological crisis show is that you can only go on externalising your problems for so long before they come back and bite you on the arse.


Mea Culpa (again)

April 26, 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/toronto-van-attack-rightwing-islamist-terrorism-claims

So it appears that I was, once again, wrong about the depth of depravity that the far right can sink to. The message still seems to be “tell a lie, tell it big, get the hell out of there .”


Toronto, Theweleit and Misogyny

April 25, 2018

There are some obvious things to say about the attack in Toronto yesterday  as well as some less obvious ones.

The first observation is that the number of commentators rushing to condemn Islamic extremism before any evidence was available has certainly reduced. Someone like Katie Hopkins in the UK or just about anyone from Fox News would, only a couple of months ago, have rushed into print to condemn the attacker and along with them all Muslims.  (of course it may well be the case that they  did indeed do this, but I have missed them if so) Instead, a near universal silence has fallen and a different message has started to arrive. It would appear that the attacker was part of a movement, the Incel movement, that sees men as being on the receiving end of some sort of feminist plot to do men down in the modern world, predominantly sexually.  As this message comes to the fore, coverage decreases accordingly. It becomes an interesting if incomprehensible event, unrelatable to others and not representative of anything.

Minassian’s attack seems so far from a grasp of reality that it is tempting to write it off as the ravings of an individual who displays all the signs of serious mental illness. However, this would be a mistake, because if it does turn out to be the case that the killer is part of this group then further questions flow from his attitudes and actions. If the motivation is truly one of the hatred of women per se then it will be important to point out that rather than being separated off from the rest of the hard right and the alt right, it will be necessary to make the point that hatred of women is an essential part of the psychology of Fascism.

Klaus Theweleit’s 1977 two-volume work Male Fantasies stands up to rereading in this context. He points out quite convincingly that the male fear of the female body and women as humans as such is an integral part of the fascist mindset and that it emerged out of both Willhelmine Germany and the trauma of the First World War and Weimar. Anything that threatens to undermine or penetrate the rigid male carapace is to be rejected as “unworthy” of existence. For fascism the only true role of the woman is that of the wife and mother, subordinate to the fighter. It could be argued that the weapon that was chosen in Toronto, and in so many other recent attacks; namely, the car or the van is so often seen as an extension of the male personality, providing a solid, armoured, even penile, carapace itself.

A centenary after the end of the First World War we are still confronted by male attitudes to women which essentially still nestle in the same folds of the male psyche. The attack in Toronto represents the armed extension of the Weinstein phenomenon  and the #metoo movement will need to take account of that. Men will also need to think about what Toronto says about us.

Fundamentalists of every stripe are almost invariably men and their first target, whether it be religious fundamentalism or secular, is always women.


Trump and Brexit

April 24, 2018

In truth Trump and the Brexit vote knocked the stuffing out of me, not because I had any love for Hillary or the EU, but because of what it says about the generalised retreat into globalised national chauvinism and the paucity of any alternative vision. The recrudecence of national bolshevism on the left is even more depressing.