Power Dynamics

Destabilisation on the eve of WW3

stop bombing

Opinion leaders in the West seem to take four positions on the fast-moving Middle East quagmire:

  1. Some favour more proactive military intervention against our purported enemies and welcome more refugees and economic migrants from the wartorn region allegedly to boost the economy. This group clearly believes not only in the concept of humanitarian wars, but also favour global governance over nation states. It's the classic Blairite position.
  2. Others seem quite gung-ho about bombing the Middle East to smithereens, but are not so keen on accepting refugees to appease popular opinion at home. This is a classic position of rightwing populists. They oppose para-state terrorism with superstate terrorism under the pretext of national security.
  3. Some are keen to welcome as many refugees and economic migrants as possible, but oppose more imperialist intervention. They are keen to do the right thing and blame any social and economic problems on the Western multinationals and US imperialism. However, this faction only ever seems to get its way on migration and despite years of antiwar demonstrations always loses when it comes to support for more military intervention. They claim to oppose destabilisation abroad, but welcome it at home often preferring outsiders to their own reactionary working classes.
  4. A fourth group, with surprisingly large support from pragmatic public opinion, opposes both more military intervention and more mass immigration. Some may characterise this as isolationist and you're certainly a hypocrite if you want to rely on cheap oil from the Middle East. Mind you, many small-c conservatives would also support protected markets, anathema to the largely globalist elites, whether left or right-branded.

Which position is least likely to harm more people and which position is most likely to prevent more terrroists outrages in European cities? Here's another secret: While political elites favour high-risk strategies, often billed as progressive, ordinary people on the ground tend to favour stability. Any policy that's likely to heighten tension, jeopardise job security or cause large population movements tends to meet with popular disapproval. The masses have to be persuaded to support either war or radical socio-environmental change.

If you believe much mainstream propaganda from CNN, Fox News and the BBC and are prepared to forget the details of recent military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, you may well believe only the enlightened West can save the Middle East from itself. You may be persuaded that this time our leaders support the good guys and will bring about peace and democracy. I think this would be an extremely naive position at odds with mountains of hard evidence, not least the collusion of US, UK and France in arming and funding rival Islamic fundamentalist groups and their massive arms and oil trade with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar and UAE.

However, beyond any shred of doubt the infamous Islamic State or Daesh (if you prefer) have committed unspeakable atrocities. We do not know if they are directly linked to the terrorists who killed over 130 innocent people in Paris on 13 November, but we do know large swathes of Europe's Muslim population have lost trust in Western enlightenment and a vast oversupply of cheap labour from migrant communities has exacerbated the deskilling of Europe's native working classes. More important just as the native birth rate has declined in much of Central and Southern Europe, the continent's Muslim population continues to grow both through greater fertility (or rather a greater cultural propensity to go forth and multiply) and through immigration. Whether this phenomenon is good, bad or neutral surely depends on the sustainability of the economic model that has driven such rapid growth worldwide and led so many to move to pastures anew. However, unless we can address the growing sense of helplessness of Europe's disparate parallel communities and keep growing the economy by extracting more resources (by outsourcing production to low wage regions and becoming more reliant on imports), any economic meltdown is bound to see a rise in tensions between rival groups.

In an ideal world we would not need to police borders or even lock our doors at night, but then in such a Shangri-La we would not steal resources from our neighbour's land or fund gang warfare to discredit our rivals. By pursuing a high-risk strategy of more military intervention in a volatile region, our ruling classes have failed in their primary duty to defend their electors. This strategy will only breed more distrust, limit everyone's personal freedom and lead more to escape the inevitable ensuing social mayhem. In a time of so much disinformation and emotive arguments, it takes courage to oppose a double dose of destabilisation.

Winning the War of Minds

Over the last 20 or more or years, one faction has usually won the day, proponents of military interventionism, open borders and global corporatism. Yet some armchair analysts may be forgiven for failing to notice how the media manipulate the traditional left/right divide to win favour with the electorate. Just before the 2003 US/UK occupation of Iraq, two million British people demonstrated against military actions, while public opinion remained steadfastly sceptical of the changing narrative of warmongers. Yet it hardly mattered, once a hardcore of activists had vented their frustration and parliament had staged a token debate with a few cabinet resignations, the then Labour government could rely on the Tory Party to offset any damaged caused by Labour rebels. The US would have gone ahead with or without UK support anyway. Yet within a week of the invasion of Iraq, UK public opinion supported the government again, for evil Saddam Hussein had been toppled. The mainstream left and right often play a game, taking it turn to advocate bold globalising policies and blaming their predecessors for any adverse effects of previous escapades. Thus the Tories blame NewLabour for running an unsustainable deficit and failing to make work pay by offering generous welfare handouts and encourage migrant labourers. Yet in power, the Tories seem just as happy as NewLabour to oversee the transformation of UK Labour market into an international jobs fair. Big business has long considered nation states with protective labour markets obstacles they have to overcome. They also need access to resources to drive economic growth, but are smart enough to appeal to universalism when they want to smash traditional nation state borders and to humanitarianism when they want to topple inconvenient governments in another part of the world.

Right now, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party doesn't stand a chance in hell of winning the next general election. The Tories rub their hands in glee as the Labour Leader espouses a combination of international welfarism, shortsighted neo-Keynsianism, naive open-borderism and conscientious objection to incessant warmongering. Traditional labour supporters may well support Corbyn on the latter point, but actually care about defending their nation and livelihoods. Cameron has the Tory press and decades of subtle BBC propaganda on his side. He can pose as a responsible defender of Western values, forced to take action against foreign terrorists and despotic regimes. Yet both the Labour Left and the Tory Right have failed to address the primary concerns of most ordinary people, security at home. Your average working class person doesn't care about the details of the Syrian conflcit or whether ISIS/Daesh are a bigger threat to us than Bashar Al-Assad. They care about their neighbourhoods and jobs. If you want to bring terrorism onto the streets of Britain, then a combination of more airstrikes and more open-door immigration could usher in a police state much more authoritarian than anything Augusto Pinochet or Erich Honnecker could have envisaged.

All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Left vs Right: The Yin and Yang of political analysis

Left vs Right: The Yin and Yang of political analysis

As idealist teenager I always wanted to side with the notional left on everything. The left represented progress towards a better tomorrow freed of human suffering, prejudice, inequality and exploitation, a panacea in which all human beings could enjoy life to the full in a giant communal garden of Eden. The right, on the other hand, represented the forces of reactionary conservatism emotionally tied to the establishment and traditions that prevented progress to a fairer world. I could summarise my naive adolescent appraisal of the left versus right dichotomy as a simple battle between good and bad. The left stood for altruistic goodness and the right for selfish evil. If only life were so simple? However, this simplistic characterisation of left and right still holds true for many youthful political pundits. If you want to discredit a political stance, it often suffices to call it rightwing, end of debate.

The real distinction between left and right transcends broader political questions such as the balance between state control and private enterprise or the relative merits of equality and healthy competition. A left-winger, at heart, is just a wishful thinking idealist who believes social and technological progress will enable us all to enjoy a very high standard of living if only the greedy rich could share more of their wealth. Right-wingers on the other hand are simply pragmatists. They do not necessarily mean to harm anyone else, just they believe we can only really take care of ourselves and our family and should owe greater allegiance to our national community than our species as a whole. While left-wingers view humanity as an organic network that will converge on a new progressive agenda, right-wingers view people as a complex web of competing individuals and in-groups with different interests and indeed different strengths and weaknesses.

Fifty years ago in the midst of the Cold War, it may well have seemed that the notional left, at least in Western Europe and North America, challenged a notionally right-wing establishment. Conservative parties would tend to favour private enterprise, family values and civic pride, while the left called for greater state control, more social welfare and international solidarity. In reality most Western governments, whether nominally left or right of centre, pursued business-friendly social interventionism, often confusingly called social democracy, to engineer high living standards, a growing consumer economy and relative social cohesion. National debates would be framed in terms of progress versus traditionalism, personal freedom versus social intervention or democracy versus tyranny. However, both the left and right had plenty of skeletons in their proverbial cupboards. While the libertarian right could point to godless dictatorships behind the Iron Curtain, the radical left could expose national capitalism's complicity in supporting not only Mussolini and Hitler, but also dictatorships in Spain (1937-75), Portugal (1933 to 1974), Greece (1967 to 1974) or Chile (1973 to 1990). Whichever way, authoritarian regimes of the notional left and right, had the blood of tens of millions on their hands. Moreover, these regimes often enjoyed the full support and collaboration of governments in supposedly democratic countries. Meanwhile much of the European radical left sought either to distance themselves from the Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist China or downplay their authoritarian excesses. Yet repressive regimes of all hues tended to favour collectivist rights and responsibilities over personal freedoms.

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the notional left would champion the self-determination of subjugated peoples, whether in Ireland, India or the African colonies. Imperialism remained largely associated with the right, except when dealing with regions and peoples attempting to free themselves from a rival imperialist power. As the Spanish and Portuguese empires waned, the British, French and later American empires could spread their more technologically advanced liberal mercantilist culture, often supporting local forces of national liberation. As the Ottoman Empire declined, the French, British and Italians filled the vacuum as progressive purveyors of Western civilisation, a concept which would later morph into freedom and democracy. The left's view on self-determination began to change with the birth of the Soviet Union. While previously the left had always favoured the self-determination of all peoples in the age of expansionist empires, socialists became more interested in international solidarity and in defending what many saw as a workers' state, whether deformed or not. Yet many of the struggles, from which quasi-socialist regimes emerged, started as wars of national liberation from foreign oppressors.

Nothing epitomises the modern left more than its oxymoronic obsession with equality and diversity. Surely, the more diverse we are, the less equal we are too, except in the loose sense of equality of opportunities, rights and responsibilities. A hunter-gatherer community will never be equal to a globally integrated complex society reliant on advanced technology and an extreme division of labour. That doesn't mean hunter-gatherers are in any way intellectually inferior, just they use their intelligence in a different way. Hunter-gatherers conceive wealth in terms of their ability to enjoy the bounties of nature, not as their ability to use abstract finances to allocate strategic resources for their personal benefit. Yet traditional ways of life that evolved over thousands of years are rapidly giving way to a globally integrated high-tech mono-culture. The more we talk of diversity, the less we have. As fewer and fewer people survive as subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers (the latter being an endangered way of life), most of humanity now depends on the financial economy. Globalisation has unmasked a massive, and indeed growing, disparity between the financially rich and poor, concealed only by generous welfare in wealthier countries and lower costs of living in some low-wage regions. Equality and diversity initiatives really have little to do with either equality or diversity, but merely managing global convergence as people from different social and cultural backgrounds come into contact with each other.

The heirs to the great European and American working classes, who in large part made today's world possible through skill and dedication, have either had to adapt to a volatile service economy or have been made redundant through automation and/or outsourcing. By keeping large swathes of the population dependent on welfare, the social democratic left has mainly succeeded in keeping the consumer economy alive while slowly but surely thwarting the willpower and self-motivation of millions in the growing underclass trapped on benefits. How could the heirs of the once-proud labour movement defend a system that not only demotivates the lower classes, but wrecks family life and requires a massive social surveillance apparatus to maintain some degree of social order. Fatherlessness alone costs taxpayers hundreds of millions through additional welfare support needs and lack of ambition in teenage boys. Yet the trendy left sees the demise of the traditional two-parent family as a sign of progress, because it allegedly empowers women and homosexuals to break free from heterosexual patriarchy. Yet in promoting this brave new world, the lifestyle left have broken with thousands of years of cultural evolution across many diverse societies. Rather than adapting the traditional roles of men and women in line with technological and social change, the doctrinaire left seeks to eradicate all functional differences. As a result in many Western countries, young men have become great demotivated underachievers, while women have an advantage in a plethora of non-productive people-oriented roles, such as social workers, project managers or recruiters. While female emancipation has been enabled by technology developed mainly by men, it has effectively turned most women into wage slaves and undervalued their traditional role as mothers.

All too often many of the forces that pose on the left advocate policies that suit the needs of power-hungry transnational corporations much more than those of ordinary women or men. Meanwhile the globalist left pretends to oppose the excesses of global capitalism, such as environmental depredation, grotesque overindulgence or mind-bending hyper-consumerism. Yet these are mere side effects of a system that creates insatiable demand for elusive opulence.