31 October 2005
The day before 3
This man has built his alter in his patio as a tourist attraction.
The day before 2
As will this woman and her husband who are located just across the street.
The day before 1
It is still the 31st October, but the preparations are well underway.
These woman have pitched their stall outside the cemetary gates. They will stay there until the early hours of the 3rd November.
Days of the Dead: An Introduction
The 1st and 2nd of November are the Days of the Dead in Mexico. I plan to post photographs from my local cemetary, as well as images from the alters that will be set up in peoples' houses. That is later, this is to tell you what it is all about.
The festival has had a Papish tinge added to it, but the origins and practices are pre-conquest. The Roman Church basically had to accept something that the local population was not going to give up, so they cast around for a existing festival of their own and decided that All-Souls would do the job nicely. The fact that the calenders had changed helped, but the older festival was carried out at about this time, anyway, so the locals did not object. Other that this we are looking at is something that has continued pretty much unchanged for milenia. . .
The Days of the Dead are the two days when the living can actually speak to the dead. I don't mean that they can comune nor be in touch with - they can actually talk to the dead and the dead can talk to the living.
You are confused, I understand. Let's begin by looking at the Place of the Dead. The Mexicans have never really accepted the Papist notions of heaven, hell and purgatory. English people don't accept the last one; Mexicans are sniffy about all three. When we die we move from one reality to another. We go and "live" in the Place of the Dead and this place is as real as the lands we inhabit here in the Land of the Living.
To make it even easier for you, let's imagine that the Place of the Dead is Oldham. Now, we know it's there. We sort of know how to get there. It's just that we are in no hurry to make that journey. However, if we have to, then we go with as good a grace as we can muster and if we have to spend eternity there, well, we just accept it. That's the Mexican Place of the Dead - it's like Oldham.
Now I want you to imagine that on two days a year you could make a telephone call to Oldham. Obviously the means of communication are different, but the principle still holds. How do they communicate with each other? They do it via rituals that the dead may remember as it may be that the dead no longer speak our language - this analogy with Oldham is spot on! Sometimes, if the bond is very, very strong then direct, spoken communication is possible. I will not photograph mothers talking to their babies nor old widows to their husbands, but it does happen. Usually the communication takes place when the living person is asleep, but if that bond is strong then may not be necessary to get tucked up first.
The first day is for infants and children; the second for adults, but the rituals are the same for both. The night before an alter will be prepared in the house. A table will be covered with a white cloth and photographs will often be placed upon it. The favourite food and drink of the dead will be put there as well, along with things like the cigarettes that the dead smoked. In some parts of the country fires will be lit to guide the dead on their journey home. When it's all over and the food is eaten, it tastes lifeless, as if all the nutrients have been removed and only an empty husk is left. The same is true of the drink: you can swallow a whole bottle of tequila that has been on an alter and you won't get drunk. Someone else has been there before you...
The cemetaries will be open from the morning of the 1st November to the night of the 2nd. Many people will just go and camp out there for the whole period. Graves will be washed and garlanded with flowers. Sometimes the alter will be moved from the house to the grave, sometimes it won't: it all depends on the family. This is popular religion and everything depends of following the custom of your particular family. Children will run around playing amongst the graves, fathers will sort out the sleeping arrangements and mothers will cook food. If they didn't bring anything with them the street outside will be full of hot food vendors and their stalls. Someone will have a guitar and songs will be sung. It is at once a very public festival, full of joy, and at the same time very private. There is nothing sad about any of this. How could it be otherwise - their relatives are coming to speak to them.
As people bed down for the night, be it atop the graves or in their own homes, they know that all the questions that have nagged them for a full year will be answered. People will toss and turn in their sleep as matters of great weight between them and their dead are discussed and resolved.
We are nothing more than the sum total of the dead generations. What we do in life is an act of trust so that our sons may take over from us. When I am gone a photograph of me will go on an alter so that my sons may bring me home for one night of the year. It is the way things have always been, the way things are and the way they always will be.
30 October 2005
Anti-Imperialism From The Right
I must confess and say that I had never heard of Professor Michael S. Rozeff until a few minutes ago. I followed a rather convoluted chain and found his archive at the Lew Rockwell site.
His Malevolent Hegemony essay is probably the best critique of imperialism that I have read in a long, long time. Furthermore, and let the left eat its heart out, he is not a socialist. No socialist could write that "history is made by individual decisions and acts," it's just not the way that we see the World.
However, the basic argument that the author presents is one that both left, right and centre could agree on. This is what we need more of: a coming together of all sides to oppose this war against Iraq. We must leave our ghetto and stop pretending that only old socialists can object to the new imperialism.
I am not going to post extracts from the essay - it should be read and savoured in its entirety.
Good news from Mexico
Mexico became the 100th country to accept the International Criminal Court when her ambassador to the U.N. formally handed in the Congressional ratification notice on Friday. Mexico has also refused to grant Americans imunity from the court, thus opening the (slim) possibility that some torturer down here on holiday may find that it comes with a free trip to the Hague thrown in.
29 October 2005
Plamegate: Avoiding The Issue.
It's nice to see the right try to either muddy the waters or just ignore the issue of Lewis Libby's indictment altogether, but I don't think it's going to work, lads.
Muddying the waters is probably the daftest strategy. However much the right may try to hide behind Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's words that "this indictment is not about the war," that is exactly what it is about. Had the Bush regime not wanted to wage a war of aggression against Iraq, then the need to fabricate evidence for that war would not have been needed. It was needed, but Joe Wilson refused to provide the necessary lies, so his wife was outed as a CIA operative as an act of revenge. It is the coverup from that act which will form the basis of Libby's trial.
Looking ahead, it is not too speculative to posit a rising American death rate in Iraq coupled with a deficit that reaches Argentinian levels. Add to those factors a regime that is more concerned with preventing its senior members from becoming bad boys' boyfriends in the federal nick, and you have a recipe for a quite wonderful disaster.
Yes, it makes far more sense to ignore this whole matter. Pretend it doesn't exist and concentrate of George Galloway. The problem is, lads, that almost a 100 British soldiers are dead and over three billion quid is down the toilet all because you and tossers like you wanted to play silly buggers. Do you think that this is going to be forgotten?
Have you any idea how much I am going to enjoy watching NewLab get flushed down the toilet?
The Cuban Petrol Station Attendent
Cuban petrol stations are the same as petrol stations pretty much anywhere else in the world. The forecourt is where the petrol and diesel are pumped and the small shop is where the customer pays his bill. Usually, as elsewhere in the world, one can buy cigarettes, drinks of various kinds and snacks. The 24 hour stations come in handy when children decide that they are hungry at three o’clock in the morning and father has to wander the streets looking for something that will fill their growing stomachs and thus allow him to get back to sleep.
Knowing better than to argue with plaintive cries I got dressed and walked the short distance from the hotel to a petrol station. I had shopped there before, so was on nodding terms with the security guard who helped man the place. As I went to open the door he held up his hand to stop me: the place was closed because the cashier was eating her meal. It would open in about an hour’s time. O-Kay – so a 24-hour petrol station was closed – I looked around and saw that two lorry drivers had settled themselves into their cabs to await madam’s pleasure. I figured that I would have to join them.
As luck would have it the security guard had got to know me and he went inside to ask if this foreigner could buy some drinks and nibbles, please? The cashier looked through her window and saw the bloke that she had been talking to the day before, so I was allowed to pass through.
I had a chat with her again. Was it normal, I wanted to know, for petrol stations to close so that the staff could have their breaks? Oh, yes, replied the girl, how else could they eat – I didn’t expect them to work and eat at the same time, did I?
The funny thing about this attitude is that the day before that same attractive young woman had been complaining about shortages, power outages, and how everything was the government’s fault. Would she like to swap her meal breaks and security of employment for some consumerist toys I wondered?
She did not understand the question. Most Cubans have never lived under capitalism. They equate it with the ability to buy things from shops that are always bulging. They do not realise that goods are rationed under both systems. At least under socialism they are rationed to everyone equally. Under capitalism they are rationed by price. And for most of the people on this planet, most of the goodies that capitalism offers will always be out of reach.
I contented myself with the remark that I had been a projectionist for years. Twice a week I used to work all day, showing films from early afternoon to late at night. No breaks. I had also been made redundant three times in ten years. No job means no money to buy things.
The conversation ended there as I returned to my family with my purchases. The girl was very quiet as I left, but I don’t know if she really believed me – or even if she understood my words fully. How do you explain unemployment to a person who has never experienced it? Come to think of it, how to explain a letter that I had just received from a nephew in Manchester. He had been working at some McJob or other and had refused to go in on his day off. Thus he had lost what admittedly was a pretty shit job: but all the jobs are shit jobs – there are few unions with any real powers in NewLab Britain.
The above was written and then filed away before I read Neil Clark's comments on his blog. He notes that "In Poland, a country where 12% 0f the population are living in poverty, the long-suffering electorate have said enough is enough- and voted instead for a government and a President which puts social solidarity ahead of appeasing western multinationals."
This is fine, and more power to them, but it does leave me with the sad feeling that we are a bit like Sisyphus. The only difference between us is that we actually reach the top of our hill, we have "social stability," and then we allow it to be taken away from us. So we have to start all over again. When will we ever learn?
28 October 2005
The Oracle Speaks.
I have just had a nice long chat with the Oracle of Delphi and this is what she reports. As you might expect with oracles, dates and timings are not very exact.
She reports that there is going to be a "spectacular" as she called it. She declined to be more specific, but I was led to believe that this could be a major attack on the occupation forces or a bombing. Whatever it is this spectacular will leave the occupation authorties gasping for breath as they survey the damage.
The Oracle then made it clear that this would not lead to the final push that would see everyone in Iraq piling in to kill Americans: rather she saw it as the start of a second front that would weaken imperialism economically. Things became vague once again so I was not clear if she was talking about Venezuela switching its oil sales into euros, or a cabal of Asian central banks pulling the plug on the T-bill.
I asked her about the indictment of Lewis Lewis today, but I only got a hollow laugh in return. "Do not be distracted by those who wish only distraction," the lady replied.
"Does this mean that the issue will be settled in the field," I asked?
The Oracle's reply was muffled and I could not make out her words, but I did hear a cat, purring contentedly in the background.
I asked her about the warmongers who had got us into this mess, spending a total of £3 billion that any decent Labour government would have spent on rebuilding Britain's wrecked industries, but I heard no answer. All I heard was raucus laughter from the Oracle and her attendents. Laughter that went on and on. . .
This has to be a damned joke, or a bit of sabre-rattling to keep in with his master in Washington. I mean, Tiny Tony Blair wasn't seriously threatening Iran, was he? The source is The Times, and as we all know, the Times is a scab sheet these days so maybe it's not even true?
Let's just think about this for a moment: Iran has a population of about 68 million, and the median age is 24 years. In other words they could mobilise an army of millions of young men in a territory that is about three times the size of Iraq. In case anyone has forgotten, the Americans and their British puppets can't even control Iraq, so God knows how they would go on in Iran.
No, it has to be a joke - or sabre-rattling. I mean, to go off and attack Iran, now, would be as daft as a country like Germany, say, attacking the USSR in 1941 when Britain was still undefeated.
27 October 2005
Rightist blogistas twist Iranian President's words
I don't want to turn the blog into yet another running commentary on the day's news. I find sites like that very tedious indeed. Nevertheless, and this being my toy, I am going to break my rule. . .
Why are the rightist bloggers twisting what the Iranian President said? In his speach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of both Israel and the USA - so why are these pretend leftists not quoting him properly?
Could it be that they know that most of their readers are indifferent to America's future at best? That those of us on the real left know that the centre for world capitalism is found in the USA and that if - blessed day - the USA took a serious hit our fight to see the home grown version of the disease destroyed would be made that much easier?
As far as Israel is concerned, I am old enough to remember when the Zimbabwean Resistence shot down a Viscount airliner that belonged to Air Rhodesia. The survivors were then massacred on the ground. Various rightwing types then got themselves into a lather, but we, the real left, agreed with the guerrilla who was quoted as saying that "little snakes grow into big snakes, so it is always better to squash their heads when they are still young".
The aim was to see Rhodesia destroyed and this was a step on the road to that destruction. We knew that defeat for Rhodesia would lead to one more loss for international capitalism - and we were bloody well right! We also had, let's be honest, an atavistic desire to see Rhodesians chopped up into little bits. They were the scum of Britain - types who didn't have the balls to be workers nor the brass to be gaffers - so they inhabited that never-never world that only the middle classes understand. Lacking both balls and brass some of these creatures had found a home in that colony and had spent a lifetime lording it over the natives: until the natives hit back!
Now what was true of Rhodesia is true also of Israel. A little bit of consistency, comrades, is needed here. A western, capitalist, creole state that exists to suppress the locals is the same no matter where it exists. The sooner it ceases to exist the better it is for the locals and the better it is for us.
Welcome to the Post-Modern World
I suppose that if I had to put a date to the end of the modern era it would be 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course, the demise of modernity had been announced already by the likes of Francis Fukuyama, who told us that we were living at The End of History. To be fair to Dr. Fukuyama, he did put a question mark after his title, which suggests that he wasn’t entirely convinced himself.
Fukuyama was thinking about history in the Hegelian sense; that human progress had a definitive end, and that this end was liberal, western capitalism. Countries would accept this model and history as the tale of competing systems would cease. It was a lovely theory that had only one slight flaw: it was total bollocks.
At first this was not apparent. There was much mutual backslapping as various types told each other that the future was going to be rosy and dollar signed. Naturally there were those who seemed to be dragging their feet, but a short bombing campaign soon brought them to their senses. Once Kosovo had been removed from the evil clutches of the recalcitrant Serbs, these types told each other, then everything would be jolly. Then reality kicked in because the Kosovo-Muslims did not want to live in a nice, multi-cultural, social democratic state: they wanted to stuff the Serbs. They had always wanted to stuff the Serbs, that is why their fathers had joined the SS Skanderburg division over 50 years earlier, that is why Kosovo’s autonomy had been stripped from her to protect the Serbian minority: the Kosovans just enjoyed killing Serbs. Of course, the Serbs also enjoyed killing Kosovans, which brings us full circle to 1999 and the American-led war against Yugoslavia, but the whole point about that war is that the West’s leaders convinced themselves that a little bombing would go a long way, and that milk and honey would flow once the wicked government in Belgrade had capitulated. They were just plain wrong.
As states collapse, their peoples are not suddenly becoming docile consumers of the latest Western pap: older loyalties are re-emerging, and beliefs and values that the West thought long dead and buried are emerging into the daylight once again. In a world that has gone mad an individual’s family will provide his basic support. Extend the family to cousins, uncles and the like and you have the makings of a clan. Extend it still further to take in the clans who live around yours, probably those clans who share the valley with you, perhaps those who are engaged in similar economic activities to you; then you have the beginnings of a tribe. As the state collapses these loyalties will become more and more apparent.
Why is the state collapsing? Largely because it has failed as a primary focus of its citizens’ loyalties. In the case of Africa the states have long struggled to even build a nascent loyalty, but it is not just Africa that is seeing the end of the modern states’ system. The United Kingdom was forced to concede autonomy to Scotland in a so-far successful attempt to head off a drive for full Scottish independence. However, one success story needs to be set against a whole tranche of failures of hold the modern state together. From the USSR and Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Somalia; the state can not only collapse, it can implode. Even when a successor state manages to take over, it is often so weak that its coercive powers are limited. Groups within that state will then begin to operate autonomously as the power vacuum is filled. Sometimes those groups will be traditional, at other times they will be newcomers to the political scene. Either way they will challenge an already declining state for the peoples’ loyalty.
Mexico is a case in point. In the South the Zapatista rebels control much of the Mayan areas. In the North the drug barons have stepped in where the state has failed and are providing money for schools, hospitals and even sports stadia. Yes, they are killing each other as well as innocent civilians who get in the way, but they are also creating statelets within the main state that are immune, seemingly, to the latter.
The state is thus losing its monopoly over death and destruction. Wars are now being fought by a whole range of people, as the Mexican drug dealers have shown. There is nothing that is actually new about this; that is the way that wars were fought before the rise of the modern state. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to see these old forms of warfare return. Families used to fight wars, as did tribes, cities and religions. Now they have begun to do it again.
What is new is the way in which these conflicts are impacting on already weakened states by the effects of globalisation. Russia and Chechnya are a case in point. In the past those two could have gone at it until Hell had frozen over and it would not have effected the rest of us. However, what would happen if the Chechens decided to mount sustained attacks on the Gazprom network that supplies natural gas to Western Europe? One can imagine under such a scenario the Western powers pressuring Moscow to settle the conflict on terms favourable to the Chechens – give them anything, so long as the gas continues to reach its consumers.
So we are heading into a world that will be interesting to say the least. As the state loses its importance – or vanishes altogether – new forms of governance, conflict and personal relationships will have to emerge to provide security for the individual. Paying for all of this is going to be interesting in a world where people are no longer willing to accept a weakened state's fiat currency.
Interesting times. I might return to this theme at a later date, always assuming that indolence doesn't get me first.
Steve Bell from The Guardian
On Peronism and Labourism
During the mid to late 1940s union membership reached record levels. A health service was opened to all and a massive campaign of council house building began. Many industries such as the railways and the tram services were nationalised and the private sector was put on notice that it had to obey the government's edicts.
This country was not the Britain of Clement Attlee, rather it was the Argentina of Juan Peron. What Peron did after 1946 was essentially the same as what Labour had started the year before. Now it is true that the rhetoric was very different on both sides of the Atlantic. Peron said that In Argentina there should not be more than one single class of men: men who work together for the welfare of the nation, without any discrimination whatever.
By way of contrast, in Britain, the great Nye Bevan was thundering That . . . no amount of cajolery can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. . . So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation.
Rhetoric aside, Labour did not herald the dawn of a socialist Britain, and Peron did not turn into another Mussolini. What did happen was that both parties came to believe in a corporate state where big unions, big business and big government would sort things out. Probably the only difference between them by the 1950s was that Peron had lost what little middle class support he had to begin with, thus the Peronist rhetoric became more class based.
So why is Peron still regarded, at least outside Argentina, as a nasty right-winger, when his policies were broadly the same as those of Labour during the same period?
Memories of right and left
I can't remember the year, but it was the mid 1970s, and I am pretty convinced that the place was Red Lion Square in London. The National Front were due to hold a meeting and the unions, Trades' Councils and political parties were all clamouring for people to go along and "peacefully protest". Yeah, right.
A small group of us, me the projectionist, a Manchester docker and two lads who worked in factories, decided to get the train down. This we duly did and we arrived at Euston Station in the late afternoon. We had a couple of pints near Euston and set off for the demonstration.
When we got there we found that time had slipped us by and we couldn't actually reach the rest of the crowd because of the police lines. We could hear the racket coming from just down the street, but getting to it was out of the question. Standing around in the drizzle did not seem like a good idea, so someone suggested that we take shelter in a pub that was at the other end of the street. We justified this by saying that if the evil Nazis managed to burst out of the square, then we would spring into action as a sort of strategic reserve. Feeling thoroughly justified we walked down the street and went into the swill shop.
The place was almost empty - I wonder why? - so getting served was easy. I had to listen the the same whinge as before because, of course, the docker wanted his pint of mixed and stubbornly refused to believe that nowhere in London served mild. Anyway, we took our bitters and went and sat in a corner. Then we saw them for the first time. A group of six blokes about our ages. We knew who they were and they had certainly clocked us. The National Front were sitting in the other corner of the pub.
We were wearing the same type of clothes, that's the rum thing. They were not skinheads in bovver boots and we were not festooned with badges. One of the labourers had been given an ANL badge by a girl who wanted to recruit him into her three-initial party, but after he had shagged her the badge had been thrown away. Other than that all we were wearing were our union badges and the docker had his CPGB badge on as well, but they were all small, brass things and could not be seen across a room. Nevertheless, we recognised them and they damn well knew who we were.
Everyone had full pints in front of them so that meant that whatever was going to happen was not going to happen for another five minutes at least - no bugger wanted to spill beer that cost twice as much in London as it did in Manchester, at least on our side of the room. The NF lads seemed to be of the same mind so everyone settled down to have a good glare at each other.
"Wotcha do," shouted one of their group to nobody in particular in ours.
"Docker," shouted our docker back. "What about you?"
"Meat Porter," came the reply.
Everyone digested this information and then an NFer shouted over: "I'm a docker too."
That was it. For the rest of the night we chatted together. We steared clear of overt politics, but the two dockers at least found that what troubled one also led to sleepless nights for the other. Containerisation that would lead to the closure of London Docks was the big topic between them. The rest of us just talked until the place closed and then we all shook hands and went our seperate ways.
I was no fan of the National Front because the NF was trying to recruit our people and turn them into scabs. This notion that race is stronger than class as a primary focus of people's loyalty has always struck me as just plain daft. That said, I had to admit that I had a lot in common with those Londoners. I just wish that they hadn't been such dupes, that's all.
I don't get this. The Washington Post reports that the Iraqis are using increasingly sophisticated explosive charges to destroy American vehicles. About half of the occupiers who are culled over there are culled by these devices.
How can this be? There is not an insugency, because there are no insurgents. There are only Baathist deadenders who will soon be picked up by the police. Surely this is the gist of what the Chimp and his men have said, time and time again?
26 October 2005
George Galloway was slung out of the NewLab Party for stating the obvious truth: the war against Iraq was a war of aggression. He called upon the peoples of Iraq - and Arabia - to unite against this aggression. He pointed out to the armed forces that they had a duty to refuse to obey illegal orders. Given that an RAF officer is now on trial by court martial for refusing to fight in this war, Galloway's "crime" may simply turn out to be that he was the first to articulate a view that many others now hold.
However, that probably does not explain the vitriol that is aimed at Galloway's head. The attacks on him are far to personal for that. I can think of three reasons why the the brave boys of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders loath him so much.
The first is that Galloway was right and they were wrong. He said that Iraq would fight, but the warmongers chose to believe that "This will be no war - there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention." As the American death toll climbs over 2,000 it is obvious that Galloway was right and they were wrong and that must really hurt.
Secondly, Galloway is a working class bloke from Glasgow who used to be a boxer. He wears flash suits and smokes Cuban cigars. He was loud and rude to the U.S. Senate and such things can never be tolerated. He does not play by the rules that the warmongers have tried to set, in other words. Galloway uses people like this as toilet paper, wipes his arse on them and then laughs at their discomfort.
Finally, our warmongering friends know, deep down in their little tums, that NewLab is nothing more than Tony Blair's temporary takeover of a party that George Galloway has far more right to belong to than Blair will ever have. As Iraq falls further and further from imperialism's orbit, so their hold on Labour gets weaker and weaker. They know that when the recriminations start it will not be George Galloway who has to answer for a lost war and a disgraced country. It will be them. Hitting Galloway is all they have left...
I don't fancy yours much...
2,000 Americans are now very dead.
I promise not to make a habit out of this, but certain things are too good to miss. Anything happened today? asked one not very observant cakewalker. Yeah, it did: The cull reached 2,000. As Iraq goes, so goes the regime back home.
Enjoy what's left of the war, lads, 'cos the peace for you is going to be lousy.
The Iraqi Chimurenga
This article was written and published in 2004, but nothing has happened since then to change the argument.
The Iraqi Chimurenga
It is should not be regarded as unusual for socialists to come together with others to oppose the war against Iraq. The issue is not Saddam Hussein and the Baath party; the issue is opposition to imperialist aggression. If the early steam-powered left could support the Boers in their fight against the British Empire in the early Twentieth Century, then it is only right and proper that the Internet powered left should rally to Iraq’s aid in the early Twenty-First. The Transvaal and Orange Free State were hardly models of liberal government and neither for that matter was Abyssinia in 1936 nor the clerical-fascist dictatorship that was the Poland of 1939. In supporting these countries we ignore what they are because of what they represent, which is opposition to imperialism.
Neither is it unusual to see a few socialists acting as imperialism’s cheerleaders. We are lucky today in that these are minor figures whose loss is scarcely noted, but in 1899 the movement lost men of the stature of Robert Blatchford, one of the founders of modern British socialism. If the early labour movement could shrug off Robert Blatchford then losing today’s pseudo-socialists presents even less of a hardship. Blatchford made his last contribution to British politics in 1937 when he announced his support for the Tory government of the day. Few people on the left even bothered to comment.
However, what is strange about this war is how different it is from previous anti-imperialist struggles in one important aspect: there is no government or political organisation that can be said to head the resistance. Turning back to those earlier fights, the governments either continued in place – on horseback in the case of the South Africans – or they went into exile. In either case a leadership existed that could claim to speak for the people under occupation. Such a leadership could persuade the guerrilla groups to unite under one national banner. France, for instance had at least eight separate resistance groups that covered just about every shade of political opinion in the country. However, it also had General Charles de Gaulle in London who could sent his representatives into the country to cajole the groups to unite. Iraq seems to have a myriad of groups, most of whom are doing sterling service in freedom’s cause, but the outside observer is entitled to wonder just why the Iraqi General de Gaulle has not put in an appearance?
Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector for Iraq thinks that he has in the form of Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, with Rafi Tilfah, the former head of the Directorate of General Security (DGS) as his deputy. Ritter’s argument is that the Baath Party changed its ideology during the 1990s and became less pan-Arab and more Islamic. Thus the flag was changed to include the “God is Great” message and the various Sunni and even Shia tribal and clan groups were incorporated within the Baathist state framework. Ritter goes on to argue that resistance operations in such cities as Fallujah and Ramadi are “carried out by well-disciplined men fighting in cohesive units, most likely drawn from the ranks of Saddam's Republican Guard”.
Although Ritter does not state this, some evidence for the view that the Baath Party is still in charge could be deduced from the seamless transition that Iraq made from a conventional war against the foreign aggressors to a guerrilla resistance. Normally one would expect to see an interregnum as the defeated people come to terms with the disaster that has overtaken them. However, in Iraq, as the casualty figures show, the war did not end, it simply shifted from a conventional defence against aggression to a guerrilla one.
However, the first problem here is that if the Baath Party was providing the impetus for the resistance it is surely inconceivable that they would not have set up a resistance front of some kind by now. It probably would not call itself the Baath Party, so as to attract as many nationalist followers as possible, and it would probably have as its titular head an individual not directly connected to the party. However, it would be claiming to be the legitimate government of Iraq, it would be demanding to take that country’s seat at the United Nations and its spokesmen would be appearing on our television screens every evening. The Baathists may very well have been the thugs that George W. Bush and his poodle in London claimed, but there is a no evidence to suggest that they were so stupid as to not realise the propaganda value that having an underground government would bring.
Another problem is that Fallujah erupted not as a result of any well orchestrated insurrection, but because the Americans killed 18 demonstrators in April 2003. That casual act of brutality came on top of house raids, road blocks and body searches, events which had already alienated the population, anyway. What began with children throwing stones then spread to men firing rifles, but it was a resistance that grew; it did not suddenly explode, fully-formed, into life.
What was true of Fallujah was true of other cities as well. The city of Hit actually welcomed the invaders until house searches led to stone throwing and then a single grenade attack on American forces. The American response was to swamp the town with soldiers in May of 2003. The people rose up in what one correspondent called "the first popular uprising against the US occupation". In the ensuing street battles some five American soldiers and an unknown number of Iraqis were killed.
To make matters even more interesting, of the insurgent leadership that has emerged, most if not all are people who were actually persecuted and who lost family members under the old order. The case of the young Shia radical Muqtada al-Sadr is probably the best known in the West. He lost his father, two brothers and an uncle to Saddam Hussein, but that did not stop him from raising an insurgent force to fight the Americans. Less well known is the tribal sheik who seems to be acting as the spokesman for the insurgents in Fallujah. Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi is now wanted by the Americans, a situation not unfamiliar to him since as he remarked to a journalist, “during Saddam’s time I was tortured and prevented from preaching. If you say the truth you will become an outlaw and wanted. Saddam was unjust and the Americans are also unjust. That is why I am wanted”.
Moving down the guerrilla line to the rank and file insurgents, those who have been interviewed all seem to either be singing from the same choir sheet, or they are all telling the simple truth as they see it. What they say is that they had no connection to the Baath Party. The guerrilla who uses the nom-de-guerre Abu Mujahed can stand as a representative of all those nationalist who are fighting for Iraq. Here is a man who watched American films and listened to American music, especially that of Bon Jovi:
“It gave me a glimpse of a better life. When I heard that the Americans were coming to liberate Iraq I was very happy. I felt that I would be able to live well, travel and have freedom. I wanted to do more sport, get new appliances and a new car and develop my life. I thought the US would come here and our lives would be changed through 180 degrees.”
However, when he saw the rabble that had been let loose on the streets of his part of Baghdad, his welcome turned to rage and he found that his neighbours shared that fury as well. A seven man resistance group was formed. Each, according to Abu Mujahed, has his own reason to fight. Some are unemployed former soldiers, one is a strict Muslim and fights for his faith, the rest are simple patriots who want the Americans out of Iraq. They started out by buying weapons from the looters who had raided the Iraqi Army’s weapons dumps at the end of the conventional phase of the war. Then they asked superannuated army officers to give them “impromptu tutorials in bomb-making and communications”. According to this guerrilla, there is supposedly “a sheikh who co-ordinates some of the groups,” but Abu Mujahed claims not to know who this man is.
In the days when journalists could move more or less freely around Iraq, other reporters filed similar stories: the Iraqi resistance was made up of just about anyone who could beg, borrow or steal a weapon and it was born out of the "humiliations of foreign occupation".
What all this seems to show is that those who are waiting for a Ho Chi Minh or Fidel Castro Ruz to emerge and lead the people to independence are probably going to be disappointed. There is no national leadership behind the Iraqi insurrection. The guerrillas are locally based and what leadership there is only operates at regional or tribal level.
It is possible that William S. Lind is correct in his view that pre-modern forms of warfare are making a comeback. In the case of Africa the pre-modern period was yesterday, at least in historical terms, and the Rhodesian Revolt of 1896-97 will serve as a well-documented case-study of how such wars were fought. The Shona people of what is today Zimbabwe had a word to describe tribal conflicts where everyone who wanted to fight that day piled in. The word that they used was Chimurenga. Following their revolt against rule by the British South Africa Company in 1896-97, the concept of chimurenga began to be applied to any war against oppression – for that reason the guerrilla war of 1972-1980 that led to the destruction of Southern Rhodesia and to the independence of Zimbabwe is the Second Chimurenga.
However, for our purposes, it is the First Chimurenga – that of 1896-97 - that is important. On the one hand there were the Ndebele regiments that fought as conventional infantry. They managed to put the city of Bulawayo under siege, but once the British had recovered from their initial shock the rifle and machine gun soon decimated the Ndebele army. Once this had been done the Whites could negotiate an Ndebele surrender because the latter had a national political leadership that the ordinary people obeyed. However, the Shona had no such leadership because they did not live under a single political authority. Their system of government was a clan based confederacy which did not allow any single leader to emerge as the Shona’s paramount chief. The Shona revolt was led by their local chiefs and drew its inspiration from spirit mediums who were in contact with the people’s ancestral spirits. These mediums were often able to negotiate strategic alliances with other Shona groups, but this coordination remained essentially local, and each clan basically turned out to fight when the mood took it. This meant that the Shona were never able to threaten a White controlled city, but it also meant that it was the Shona revolt that lasted longer than that of the Ndebele. Since the British colonisers had nobody to talk to, they had to suppress each rebel group individually. This they were able to do because the rifle tends to outmatch the spear. This option is probably not available to the Americans and their clients in Iraq. Unlike the Shona, the Iraqis are equipped with modern weapons and have proved that they know how to use them. (See: Ranger, Terence; Revolt in Southern Rhodesia 1896-7, Heinemann, London, 1967. Esp. Ch. 6 & 8)
The jury is probably still out on the type of war that the Iraqi people are waging. A leader may still emerge to unite everyone under one national banner, but given what has happened thus far that does seem increasingly unlikely. However, in the final analysis, it really does not matter how the Iraqis choose to wage their war of liberation. What matters is that they have joined a select and heroic pantheon of nations who have refused to go quietly into imperialism’s long night. If for no other reason than that we owe them our support. They already have our admiration.
|This is all new to me and I would like to do the following:|
1. Change the "about me" section on the upper right of the page.
2. Add a blogroll so that the few blogs that I am taken with can be listed.
Why The Exile?
Choosing the name was the hardest part. I wanted something that would reflect what I am. After considering some alternatives - the Socialist, the Mancunian Abroad - I decided that what I am most of all is an exile. So here's the blog.
I was born in Manchester, England, in 1956. I left my local secondary-modern at the age of 15 and worked as a projectionist for many years. To list all the other things that I have done would take forever, but I am pleased to report that I have never taken much of an interest in any of them, nor in any gaffer that I have ever known. I agree with the late Mick McGahey who once said that "the highest loyalty any working man can have is to the class he was born to". I heard McGahey say that in 1974 and I have tried to live up to it ever since.
The early 1980s were spent on the dole. The university grant was decent in those days, especially if you were over 25 and got the age addition grant. Spending the state's money appealed to me and I became a mature student. The end of the decade marked the end of my studies. Well, the state had a lot of money and I had plenty of time to kill, so I made sure that my student days lasted for six years.
I got married to a Mexican girl around about this time. We moved to Mexico City in 1992 and two children and over a decade later we are still here. I now sell second-hand clothes, since for some reason I can't seem to find any other work. I wonder why? My hobbies include fishing and, er, fishing.
Why the blog?
I have been thinking about starting a blog for months, but indolence always prevented it from happening. It is said that hard work never hurt anyone, but I prefer not to take any chances. Two things happened to change my mind:
1. No matter what the cakewalkers may say, the war against Iraq is going badly for them. Their stooges in the UK are trying to put a brave face on things, but victory for Iraq cannot be long delayed. Former Polytechnic Revolutionists who have now seen the light may find it hard to believe, but the war's end will lead to major political upheaval in the UK. Their day is done, along with that of Blair and the whole odious creed known as New Labour. I want to add my tu'pence to that debate.
2. Living in Latin-America has given me a different outlook on life from the one that I had in the UK. Socialism and nationalism go hand in hand over here and this is a theme that I would like to address on this blog. Put simply, the people who opposed the war tended to be from the traditional (economically based) left and the old right. Maybe we have more in common than just a war?
So these are the motives for the blog, but I will comment on other things as the mood takes me. It's my toy after all...
25 October 2005
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02 October 2005
British Politics 04
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01 October 2005
American Election 2008
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Social Work Industry
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