30 January 2007
Towards a new working class party.
The Labour Party was established in 1900 as the political voice of the labouring, or working, class. For most of its history it has been an alliance of socialists and labourists. The former were mainly, but not entirely, middle class, and the latter were the party's working class core.
Today the party has shed its image as being the voice of the working class in favour of a policy that takes the working class vote for granted - on the principle that we have nowhere else to go - and which competes aggressively with the Tories and Liberal-Democrats for middle class support.
This has left the working class without a political voice and it has responded to this by disengaging from politics altogether. The problem here is that by doing so it only encourages the Labour Party to move further to the right and seek yet more middle class votes.
What working class activists should do is recognise that the old Labour Party coalition of middle and working class activists can never be bolted back together again. A new working class party should be formed, but one that avoids the mistakes of earlier attempts to create such bodies.
We need to accept that the British working class are not socialists and most of them never will be. Thus an attempt to set up a socialist party will more than likely go the way of Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party and become yet another set of boring initials that most people are not interested in.
What is needed is a party that can bring together working class socialists and labourists. The party needs to have in the preamble to its constitution a variation of the old Labour Party's clause four. It should state that the aim of the party is to: Ensure the economic security of the working class via the collectivisation and democratic management of the British economy.
Social issues need to be avoided for the simple reason that they are divisive: economic ones are not. The party must keep as many people inside the tent as possible. It isn't that working class people are hostile to much social policy, but they are indifferent to it. Why create divisions within our ranks when the victors in any such faction fight are not going to gain any extra votes as a result of that victory?
Secondly, the party should make it a matter of tactical policy to attack and ridicule the middle class, as a class. The socialists will join in with gusto because they know that to destroy capitalism, the middle class which acts as capitalism's buffer, must first be destroyed. For the more pragmatic labourists, the tactic will make sense because the local middle class - the teachers, social workers and council officials - are already loathed and feared, anyway. Again, we play to our strengths and not our weaknesses; we unite our class and do not seek to divide it.
Leading on from this, the party should adopt as its symbol the sarcastic working class two-fingered gesture of contempt. For too long the Labour Party sought to educate and uplift its working class supporters: and the working class supporters just ignored them. Put another way the party sought to indoctrinate them into an acceptance of middle class mores and culture and it failed. Many of our new party's natural supporters will be working class by conviction and culture, as well as by income. We need to accept this, and we need to work with the grain of our classes' values and not against it.
For this reason, the party might want to consider inviting the likes of the great Bernard Manning along to give it a collective laugh at the founding conference. To do so would be to enrage the middle class, and thus increase the party's appeal. With luck, and a dose of press management, the very people that working class people loath will start to attack the party. The more they do this, the more the party can be expected to grow.
How can this party be got off the ground? Well, to a certain extent, the roots are already pushing through to the surface. Many housing estates already have a residents' group of some kind, the trick is to contact them and offer some kind of coordination. A founding conference is possible, if enough people agree to attend, but we have to accept that most members of these groups are too poor to pay for their travel and lodgings. It would make more sense to offer a conference online. A model constitution could be drawn up, and if a group accepted it, then that group would become the party's branch in that area. It is then up to each branch to recruit other members for their constituency.
It is probably too early to worry about a national leadership. What is needed first and foremost is to get everyone singing from the same choir sheet, more or less, and worry about who becomes General-Secretary after the party starts winning some council seats. We should remember that many candidates were elected as Independent Labour prior to the official creation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. What is being offered here is simply a variation on that theme.
Finally, what should this party be called? Well, it will be the party that represents the British working class. The name should be simple, and it should state what the party is about. There is really only one possible name:
The Working Class Party
29 January 2007
Somerfield workers show the bosses what they think of them.
It could be that the BBC was having a slow news day, but this item is still a gem. "I declare the underground YouTube Somerfield competition open to all Somerfield staff", claimed one wag who then proceeded to start the ball rolling by uploading his video offering. Now it seems as if the staff at every Somerfields' branch want to get in on the act by ridiculing the company. The Exile's favourite is this spoof advert, but there are lots more to watch and chortle over.
Good on you, Somerfield workers. Finding ways to amuse yourselves, getting paid for it - and giving the rest of us a laugh at your bosses' expense. We may not be in a position to take on the enemy directly, at least for the time being, but sarcasm, ridicule and contempt sure makes up for some of our failings.
25 January 2007
A blueprint for the new imperialism
In an interview in today's Independent, the former leader of the Liberal-Democrats, Lord Ashdown - better known as Paddy Pantsdown - says that the way to deal with uppity natives is to establish ". . .the rule of law. It is not elections, I'm afraid. If you have elections before you establish the rule of law then all you do is elect the criminals who ran the war." He went on to argue that: "It is necessary to have something close to martial law at the beginning; if not, you lose control." All this is needed so that "economic reform" can take place.
Translated into simple English, Ashdown is putting forward a blueprint for capitalist exploitation in the new century. Take the country, open it up to rapacious western business, and only then allow the natives to vote.
This ties in rather nicely with a Neil Clark essay which argues that "Henry Ford democracy" is the name of the game: let to people vote so long as they vote for parties that the west approves of. If they don't, then hit them with sanctions.
23 January 2007
Iraqis use a missile to shoot down an American helicopter
Saturday saw 25 American soldiers killed in Iraq, 12 of them when a helicopter went down. It now emerges that the Iraqis may have used a shoulder fired ground to air missile, which if true would make for an interesting development in this war.
Up to now the Iraqi forces have stuck to the low-tech approach of roadside bombs and hit and run ambushes - with a dose of sniper fire just to keep the occupiers nerves on edge. Can it be that they have managed to get hold of some sophisticated equipment as well?
If they have, then the results will be interesting, because the USA uses helicopters as its transport workhorses - the roads are too dangerous by far for that kind of thing.
If the Iraqis can cut off the American air supply then they will have won a great strategic advantage, and brought the war measurably closer to its end.
22 January 2007
America's surge plan takes shape.
The American plan for the new counter offensive against iraq is becoming clearer. Basically the idea is to spread the troops out into about 40 small forts throughout Baghdad, thus to provide support for the Iraqi puppet forces who are supposed to do the actual fighting.
That is the plan, anyway. A more likely outcome is that the Iraqis will find reasons not to fight - and who can blame them? - and that American casualties will go through the roof. It is also highly likely that the guerrillas will team up and try and take out one of the forts.
Now that would be wonderful!
18 January 2007
Political divisions grow in the USA over Iraq
Opposition to the Chimp's plan to surge 20,000 troops into Iraq is gathering steam in the USA. The Senate is leading the opposition with a resuolution that should be debated soon. Even if it fails it will open up the political divisions within the country and make further aggressions less likely. The White House realises this, which is why they are scrambling to avoid a showdown on the issue.
To make matters even more interesting, the military has joined the debate. This new website invites serving officers and other ranks to sign up to oppose the continuation of the war against Iraq.
On one level all this is all to the good. On another it is worrying for the anti-imperialist left. If the USA is forced to withdraw from Iraq thanks to internal divisions, then the myth may grow that the country was not thoroughly defeated. Rather it was betrayed by forces within; a myth similar to the one that existed in Germany after the Great War, in other words. Should that happen, then the country could be up and starting more wars within a decade.
It should not be forgotten that the Vietnam defeat left the USA more than able to invade Grenada less than a decade after the last American helicopter lifted off from Saigon in 1974. Do we really want that to happen again?
Far better to hope that these internal divisions can be overcome and that the Americans are united enough to fight it out to the bitter end in Iraq. Only if the USA is so thoroughly defeated that the defeat cannot be hidden, will imperialism's shadow lift from all our lives.
17 January 2007
Tension mounts in the Gulf
As the USA prepares to send another carrier group to the Persian Gulf, Iran has announced that it has shot down an American pilotless drone over its airspace. It all looks like sabre rattling, if only because even the chimp is not so stupid as to order his forces to attack Iran and run the risk that the Iraqi Shia will then rise up and destroy the American army in Iraq.
However, and here is where things start to get interesting: has anyone told the Iranians that? We may happily assume that the Americans are rational enough not to try and take on Iran, but can the Iranians be sure?
Would it not make sense for them to try and catch the Americans on the hop and mount an attack of their own against the occupation forces in Iraq?
Why wait for the USAF to arrive, when you can at least destroy the American army that sits right next door?
12 January 2007
Surging forward in Iraq
Just a thought, but the American plan to surge 20,000 troops into Iraq, seize Baghdad and, er, do something, relies on the Iraqis playing their alloted roles. If they don't, then the wheeze will fail.
The Sadr militia has to be defeated, and the puppet regime has to send its troops into action against them. The problem is that Sadr controls most of the police and a big chunk of the army. Nevertheless, the Americans expect this force to aid them in the fight.
Do we not see problems here?
11 January 2007
America sends more troops to Iraq as the Brits prepare to leave.
The Chimp has announced that the USA will send a further 20,000 troops to Iraq, at the same time as the British prepare to withdraw almost 3,000 of theirs. That will leave only about 4,500 British troops in the south of Iraq, far too few to influence events, if the American adventure goes pear-shaped.
In fact, Blair refused to comment on America's troop surge, when invited to do so in the House of Commons. Rather he fell back on some generalities about how different the two countries' roles were.
It now looks fairly certain that the American aim really is to take on the Shia militia headed by Moqtada al-Sadr. It is possible that even Tony Blair has realised that this could lead to disaster, and this is why the British are starting to head into the sunset.
10 January 2007
Shit happens in Somalia
Following on from the recent "liberation" of Somalia by the Ethiopian army, the Americans have decided to liberate it a bit more by killing heaven knows how many Somalis in an air strike. The Americans were supposedly after a trio of al-Qaida men, but at the time of writing it is uncertain if they have been killed or not. They do seem to have killed one four year old boy, however, but quite what his relationship was to al-Qaida is unclear.
It is also being reported that American ground troops have gone into action in Somalia, operating out of a base in Djibouti.
All we need now is for the Chimp to stuff some more tissues down his trousers, strut around an aircraft carrier and announce "mission accomplished," and then we will know that the USA is bogged down in yet another war.
09 January 2007
Why America is losing the agitprop war in Iraq
The Americans are losing the agitprop war because they are too hidebound, according to this Newsweek article. They tend to rely on press releases:
These can take hours to prepare and are often outdated by the time they're issued. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, director of the military's press operations in Baghdad until this past September, complains that all military-related information has to be processed upward through a laborious and bureaucratic chain of command. "The military wants to control the environment around it, but as we try to [do so], it only slows us down further," he says. "All too often, the easiest decision we made was just not to talk about [the story] at all, and then you absolutely lose your ability to frame what's going on."The Iraqis, by way of contrast, are issuing Video Compact Disks (VCDs) and sending out mobile telephone video clips, both of which are catching the occupiers on the hop. The article argues that "What the insurgents understand better than the Americans is how Iraqis consume information. Tapes of beheadings are stored on cell phones along with baby pictures and wedding videos.".
This argument is unconvincing. What the Iraqis probably understand is the power of the VCD and the thirty second 'phone clip, which is not quite the same thing.
The VCD has been around for a long time, but never took off in the west. However, that is not the case in the Third World. Basically, a VCD uses CD-Rom technology to produce a disk that has the same quality as a VHS tape. It certainly isn't DVD quality, but that is not the point. The point is that it doesn't need a DVD burner on the computer to copy it: a CD-Rom burner will do. Copies of the latest Hollywood blockbuster are made and sold via the army of street traders that operate in any city. Other traders buy one copy of the latest epic and then run off copies using their own home computer. These are sold and some of the buyers are traders themselves who make additional copies to sell. The whole process is informal and very, very efficient.
Mobile telephone clips are very popular in the west, but probably not with the type of person who writes for Newsweek. This writer can remember a cartoon frog that spoke with a Manchester accent and told its viewers how much it hated "fucking students," or this rather delightful shot of a girl climbing some stairs.
Such clips are downloaded and then passed around freely; it is a small step from there to pass around clips of American tanks being blown up, especially if you happen to be living under their guns.
So what is happening is not a different consumption pattern, rather it is an informal network of people who are willing to distribute disks and pass around 'phone clips, and that we also have in the UK.
The British left needs to play catch-up with this technology. Instead of selling dreary newpapers on street corners, the activists would be much better employed working at a computer producing snappy, witty, 30 second clips that make people laugh.
08 January 2007
Did Moqtada al-Sadr put the noose around Saddam's neck?
|Rumours are starting to circulate that Moqtada al Sadr was the man who noosed Saddam Hussein and then launched him through the trapdoor.|
Other reports have it that Sadr is now the owner of the hanging rope, and that a Kuwaiti businessman is trying to buy it off him.
As always, the question is not whether these stories are true or not. The question must be, do the Iraqis believe them to be true?
04 January 2007
The wrist actions are getting more and more frantic for one wankblogger at least as he pulls over the prospect of an Islamist defeat in Somalia.
For the record, the said islamists seem to have retreated into the wooded, hilly lands that make up the border with Kenya. A nice safe spot for an irregular force to go, the Exile thinks.
Furthermore, the new government which the Ethiopians have installed, a government that was nearly slung out of its Nairobi hotel-in-exile for being unable to pay its bill, is likely to last just as long as the Ethiopian army remains in situ. Then its back to business as the Somali clans fight for the spoils.
02 January 2007
Saddam's death: what were the Americans thinking?
The repercussions surrounding the death of Saddam Hussein continue to reverberate. One wonders what the Americans were thinking about, when they handed the former president of Iraq over to a bunch of gloating, triumphalist Shias?
A cynic might argue that the death of Saddam in such a manner actually could be seen as furthering America's strategy. The much telegraphed plan is to increase the numbers of occupation forces and try to recapture Baghdad. That means fighting the 50,000 strong Shia militia headed by Moktada al-Sadr that is based in that city. Obviously the Americans cannot fight both the resistence and the Sadr militia at the same time, so allowing the Shia to kill Saddam could be part of a ploy that aims at encouraging the Sunnis to take time off from the war while the USA attacks Sadr's men.
A real cynic would argue that this is exactly what could happen, but that it won't help the Americans very much. The Sunni are quite likely to sit back and watch the Americans bleed themselves white in the coming conflict. Then, when Sadr has been defeated, they can restart their attacks on the occupation forces.
Once the guerrillas have finally forced the occupiers to leave, a new Sunni strongman will take over because the only force that could stop that happening will have been destroyed by courtesy of the Americans.