The current General Election is taking place in conditions where British politics is in a state of more flux and fragmentation than not only in the lifetimes of those generations alive today, but also of previous generations. In some ways it is unprecedented: there are no apposite comparisons in the history of British capitalism. Both major parties, the Conservatives and Labour, are at such historically low levels of popularity that it is hard to imagine that either of them are likely to be able to achieve an overall majority in parliament even though we have an undemocratic first-past-the-post system that is biased to giving the party with a plurality of votes a crushing, undemocratic overall majority in parliament. It could not be absolutely ruled out that either party might just make it as a result of some event stampeding voters in either direction, but it is not something most people would like to take a bet on.
Note: Hat-tip to The Electronic Intifada for some of the factual material included here
The British government’s blatant attempts to exploit the murder in France of the Charlie Hebdo staff and the other killings associated with it are both sinister in their implications, staggeringly hypocritical, and virulently racist in their own right. While Theresa May talks about the need to ‘wipe out anti-semitism’, David Cameron condemns the liberal Pope Francis as being too soft on Muslims who are outraged by pornographic depictions of Mohammad in Charlie Hebdo, and issues his own Downing Street encyclical on the ‘right to be offensive’ to Muslims (but not to Jews, obviously).
This reflects official practice: Muslim-baiting in this country has state-sanction, but not just bigotry against people of Jewish origin per se (which is reprehensible, but very marginal today), but also meaningful criticism of Jewish/Israeli racism against Arabs and Muslim people, or expressing appropriate, even though non-violent, anger against Israel and those who support it’s crimes against Arabs, is to be stigmatised and persecuted.
The comment below was recently received in response to the Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism that was published on this site in September. The issues raised are on a qualitatively higher political level than most previous responses received to these theses, and therefore require as full a political reply as possible. So I am turning the response to them into a separate item, in order to address the issues posed properly. Comrade Eric’s comment reads in full as follows:
The problem with this materialist analysis is that there isn’t a material connection between the American-Jewish bourgeoisie and the state of Israel. Or rather there is a connection but it is of no particular significance compared with the connections between the American bourgeoisie and other states in general. Israel is not the state of the Jewish bourgeoisie. It does not defend Jewish property throughout the world.
That many of today’s top capitalists in America are Jewish is surely of some significance in determining American orientation towards Israel and foreign policy in the Middle East in general. But if, for example, we look at Sheldon Adelson, the most notorious Zionist fundraiser and lobbyist, we find that he was not a Zionist until 1988. (See http://theweek.com/article/index/229275/sheldon-adelson-7-surprising-facts-about-2012s-biggest-donor). Such individuals play the role of philanthropists, party funders and lobbyists but their attachment to Israel is ideological rather than material and is thus plastic. Indeed until 1967 Jewish elites in America had very little interest in Israel at all. It was the ten day war that transformed Israel into a strategic asset and allowed Jews to express support for Israel without fear of being accused of dual loyalty. Norman Finkelstein locates 1967 as the year when the Holocaust Industry kicked off. Continue reading
The torture report on the CIA is an exercise in damage limitation. Realising how much the supposed ‘excesses’ of the Bush administration and the stratagems for US/Israeli world domination of the neocon Project for the New American Century have damaged the self-proclaimed moral authority of US imperialism, the Democratic Party are using this report, of the CIA’s Inspector-General, to try to distance themselves from some of the crimes of their predecessors.
It is cynical hogwash on the part of the Obama administration. This report was commissioned apparently in 2004, under Bush. Its findings were suppressed earlier but ultimately, in the aftermath of US imperialism’s obvious failures and defeats in Iraq and the wider Middle East, it became untenable for an American bourgeois establishment that is not (as yet) prepared to openly break with the formal pretence of democracy, to suppress these facts indefinitely. Not if it wanted to continue the hubris and chutzpah that makes US Presidents believe they have the authority to lecture the world on ‘human rights’.
Down with all racial hierarchies!
There is a major contradiction at the heart of modern capitalist ideology today when it comes to questions involving the social construct of ‘race’. One pole of the contradiction is that advanced capitalist governments in the West are increasingly insistent that racism is a thing of the past, that unlike their predecessors, they are opposed in principle to racism, and that racism is against the essence of liberal capitalist meritocratic ideology. This strain of bourgeois ideology depends on an abstract model of a market economy where someone’s money, no matter their colour or origin, is as good as anyone else’s, and anyone can enjoy the rewards of the ‘hard work’ which supposedly enables capitalist ‘success’.
But while this ideology is propagated, massive racial inequalities persist, hierarchies remain and are unyielding for nearly all ethnic minority populations. It is still true that particularly non-white minorities in all the advanced capitalist countries all suffer from disproportionate rates of unemployment, low-pay when employed, precarious employment, lack of access to quality education, disproportionate levels of ill-health and greater difficulty accessing quality health care. Such minorities are also disproportionately subjected to police and state violence, to deaths in custody and at the hands of the police in general.
In the United States, where America’s first black President is in his second term, the recent protests against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, have once again underlined that for American blacks, despite Obama and all his works, racial oppression very much remains and continues unabated. The Missouri case is one of so many over so many years and decades; it is telling that even now such things can explode into significant struggles. If society had really changed for the better in some fundamental sense, as the ideologues of capitalism claim, then there is no way that such major conflicts could erupt between large sections of a traditionally oppressed minority and the forces of the state.