[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Tony Hall
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Feb 22 04:14:25 GMT 2006
(Our dear comrade Tony asked me to post this, and he sincerely wants
feedback. I told him that though there's terrific analysis below, the
punchline is dreadful - probably my supervisor's worst-ever idea - and he
has a responsibility to show how the balance of forces can be adjusted to
make anything like a 'global new deal' happen, given the vast and growing
weight of evidence to the contrary. But let's hope he's back more often on
the debate list and can make his case... Do feedback to him at the cc line
address - and here, too.)
Yes, in my name
Tony Hall resurfacing here, back on debate.as I have said before, as a
journalist for many years, in many places, I have seen and written on a lot.
.Quiet, you at the back, and stop shifting in your seats! I am almost 70.
Settle down, listen carefully and take in some wisdom already. Let's look
today at geopolitics and the Islamic world, the lessons, what to do now. And
come with me on my personal journey. Meander with me through my meanderings.
Some of my years I spent side by side with Palestinian secular and other
colleagues and Arab and Islamic experts in London, editing international
news magazines, working sometimes for moneyed Emirates and Saudi bosses who
at least always tolerated my pro-PLO editorials; travelling in the Middle
East, meeting some wonderful Palestinians; talking to a few fine Israelis -
and attacking and exposing the worst. A cover line we did on Menachem Begin
back then was "Once a Terrorist, Always a Terrorist".
With Arabs and Arabists, Muslims and Islamists, I was on friendly working
terms - some of them are still in hailing distance over time. To name a few,
I worked in London with Teddy Hodgkin, Malise Ruthven, Fathi Osman of Al
Azhar University, Dilip Hiro, Helena Cobban, Ahmed Rashid, Ziauddin Sardar.
I worked with Alastair Duncan, Michael Adams, Roger Hardy...
I still treasure meetings in West Beirut with Yassir Arafat and others of
the leadership at PLO HQ (and evenings at the Commodore with foreign
correspondents, with David Hirst in his Corniche seafront apartment), with
Anwar Nusseibeh and other leading Palestinians in East Jerusalem, with Uri
Avnery in Tel Aviv.
I recall, still intrigued, and with some dismay, the long wait in the
ante-room of the simple offices in the Dubai creek, for an "audience" with
the Sheikh Maktoum who owned our London-based magazine, and whose ruling
family oversaw the Borgiastic explosion of Dubai as the city state
playground of Western consumer capitalism that it is today.
Down the coast I dropped in on the tiny enclave state of Qatar, a one-hotel
town then, under an old ruler subservient to Saudi Arabia, but today, under
the reforming son who overthrew him, a most modern, open-society garbed and
buzzing home of Al Jazeera, of World Debates, of mega-events and venues (as
in Dubai) of the fastest growing airline...
How the West loves to pour so much of its ill-gotten capital into coastal
City States which keep the trillions safely out of the hands of the people
of the hinterland, and so mushroom into vast tax free offshore and enclave
pleasure domes and moneypots for merchant banks: the ripoffs of British
colonial piracy into Hong Kong (and prewar Shanghai) leaching China, into
Singapore, leaching Malaysia; the recycled Arab petrodollars which spawn the
Dubais and the Qatars and suck up the skills of Western and other émigrés
escaping their own unwieldy democratic homelands, and keep the money away
from the Arab people. Or any other ordinary communities.
It's not been easy, with so many restless natives about, to nurture and keep
these exotic places safe for Western capital, or safe until it can be
parachuted out into banks. It's taken a lot of hard work by a lot of
Intelligent men, to help prop up oppressive regimes against popular
movements, to ensure that the zeal of young men is turned from a hunger for
freedom and social equity to a lust for wealth, or its opposite, the extreme
abnegations of religious fundamentalism.
Some names from earlier times come to mind: Von Meinertzhagen, Brit
actually, the colonial soldier whose viciousness in quelling the Kisii
uprising in Kenya early in the 1900s was legendary, went on to play many
important games in Kuwait, and down the Gulf. Henderson was another who
followed almost the same itinerary decades later. After hunting down and
killing the freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi in the Kenya forests, he went on
playing games there into early independence, until Oginga Odinga was able to
deport him. Nothing daunted, he went on to do grand work in policing and
quelling the restless Shia majority of the Gulf statelet of Bahrein, that
earliest of British émigré Gulf outposts and Arab banking refuges.
Back to my own journeys.I recall with a shudder the brief, curt meeting I
had, still further down that coast, with yet another of those legendary
British males. He was John somebody, acting as a senior information official
in Oman, where the young Sultan had ousted his intractable old father from
the capital Muscat, with a little help from British Army friends, to ensure
that said army would have a free hand in quelling a rebel movement in a
large area between Oman and Aden, and so make Oman, the southernmost Gulf
state, safe for the enterprise of Margaret Thatcher and her son.
Over in one of my favourite, real countries, Turkey - Muslim, but holding
out still as a secular state - there was a long night in Ankara during
military rule, secretly meeting with former social democratic prime minister
Bulent Ecevit and his wife, when he was under house arrest, not allowed
visitors and not allowed to be quoted. After being smuggled into their
apartment block, past police guards, I shared with them a good meal and many
confidences, the notes of which I have not published to this day. This was
the man who ordered the invasion of Cyprus which has left half the island
under Turkish rule up to now; an invasion which put the kaibosh on a Greek
right-wing plot to overthrow Archbishop Makarios, and so indirectly led to
the overthrow of the Colonels' vicious rule on the Greek mainland, and to
the long social democratic premiership of Andreas Papandreou (though these
two social democrats would never admit to having anything in common -
perhaps under the EU umbrella today, they would). In more recent years,
Ecevit returned to a quite long rule as Turkey's prime minister. He lost the
last election to the present Muslim party leader, a good and moderate man
who should lead Turkey into Europe. Ecevit's part in preparing the way, as
that of the right of centre Suleyman Demirel, will one day be acknowledged
Muslims I have known.In my boyhood I knew Transvaal Indian Muslim families.
As an adult, joining Congress, I fell in with the Mosies and the Maulvis and
the Aminas. Through struggle friends we met some great Algerians, Sahnoun,
and Djoudi. Through many family postings in our own exile diaspora we were
woken by the call of the muezzin, in Dar es Salaam, Delhi and Dakha, in
Moshi, Mombasa, and Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Harar. "Awake! It is better to
pray than to sleep."
I have worked with more Muslims, lapsed or devout, than I can remember. My
wife too: when her UN project accountant wanted to borrow the Landrover to
go to Friday prayers, she would have to throw him the keys because he had
already washed, and should not risk defilement by touching a woman. "He was
a sweet man, but sometimes I wanted to tease him, say boo! and reach out as
if to prod him."
Some of those Muslims I knew may have been as mixed as I, a lapsed Anglican
atheist leftist married into a Jewish-German family. Their mosque attendance
was about as ceremonial as my church attendance, for weddings and funerals.
Mind you, sometimes people like Archbishop Tutu almost make me want to pick
up where I left off on the wine and the wafer. Wasn't he so lovely the other
day? Taking his purply-covered grey mop-haired chortling self into quite a
risky crowd scene in Haiti, just so he could show the diaspora's support for
the victory of a halfway decent presidential candidate. A lively, important
camera opportunity for BBC World - and was SABC there?.
I think the Anglicans would accept atheists. Christina Stead recalled that
when she was asked her religion in her new school, she said 'atheist'. So
the schoolteacher marked her down as Anglican. Perhaps I could have fellow
traveller status with the Anglicans, as I have always had with Communists.
The trouble with going back to the Islamic fold, though, as many left
strugglers have done, is that there seems to be no room for fellow
Talk about cultural mix-ups: never will I forget the mind-blowing encounter
I witnessed at Copenhagen's Bella Centre in 1980, during the Mid-decade UN
Women's Conference. There was New York feminist Bella Abzug, as robust and
almost as celebrated as the late Betty Friedan, slugging it out from the
floor, in her rich Brooklynese, with a platform panel of newly-chadored
young Iranian women, graduates from US universities who had gone home to
join the revolution, trying to explain to Bella in the accents of
Minneapolis and Ann Arbor why they valued the veil, and felt passionate
about what Khomeini had wrought. (Ah, Iran!). As one of the international
journalists on the team producing the conference daily newspaper I took
feverish notes, and stood eagerly on the edges of the continuing debate in
the passage as the crowd spilled out, between big Bella and the circle of
black-garbed, soft spoken self-confident women.
I don't know which I remember with greater sharpness, my report on "Bella's
encounter at the Bella Centre" (the coinciding names made a good headline)
or my long interview with former plane hijacker Leila Khaled, still with
PFLP (never PLO, note) but now in a peaceful teaching job.
But I digress. I wander. It's homily time.
I don't enter the lists much these days as I chill out and contemplate
Lately though, it does concern me that leftists are losing the plot in a few
crucial ways. So here I am, finger-wagging once more, because things are
Awake comrades! It is better to be up early when you are dealing with the
Was it Chomsky, or another luminary, who coined the elegant idea, after
Seattle and the wave it started, that there were now just two great powers
left, US imperialism, and the worldwide popular movement? If that is to be,
then please, let us not have people on the left shooting their rhetoric wide
and wild, in different directions on some issues, sometimes doing a Cheney
the dick, and shooting a fellow hunter, sometimes shooting themselves, and
their cause, in the foot.
We can't have the millions of the growing global movement hobbling about in
slightly different directions. Know your enemy, and hold your focus, or you'll
have well-meaning plain folk, not just racists, from Arnhem to Lille to the
Potteries bending their right ears in wrong directions.
It is strange, though I don't mind, to find myself so often in recent years
holding thumbs and cheering on the sidelines for the redoubtable French and
German leadership, left and right of centre, keeping their heads, holding
their course and they lead and steer the European project, the last
surviving civilising mission, around the constant hazards and traps -
usually Anglo-American in design.
But how many on the left have come to grips with the fact that Europe, the
struggle for, is one main front line against imperialism? And how clear are
we, that to hold firmly to the secular state, with its social protections,
And now those cartoons. Oye.
It's not nice when I am driven to nod at the words of the appalling
Christopher Hitchens, the boy Trot of London days turned sleazy Washington
reactionary, when he fights from the cartoon corner.
How does this happen? Because so many liberals, and on the left, some of the
best and brightest, are writhing through convoluted arguments about 'racist
Danes' and 'badly drawn, unfunny' cartoons (would the devastating wit and
acid pen of a Steve Bell or a Steadman or a Zapiro have made it more
justifiable?) out of misplaced tolerance for bigotry, chauvinism, and sheer
male thuggery, in the name of a third world community oppressed by racialism
and imperialism. And thus the fundamental decency and enlightenment of the
faithful gives way to a primitive male frenzy one imagines helped the
Inquisition to spark off the Catholic riots against Jews and Muslims in 15th
To make the point just how politically outrageous it all is. Has any
commentator noted that in all the Danish flags burned and Scandinavian
embassies gutted and French consulates attacked for weeks, the Stars and
Stripes and the Union Jack remained almost untouched? Yet these are the
flags waved by the biggest imperialist rogues, the greatest killers and
defilers of mostly-Muslim societies, the allies of Zionism and spoilers of
Is this because the British and American mainstream media didn't print the
cartoons, out of fear, purporting to be good taste? Is it because the
protesters were stirred up by extremists to behave like mindless, cowardly
mobs, so that justified rage and frustration at Zionist Israel, at
imperialist America and Britain (O Tom Paine, how we have fallen!) were
warped into misdirected viciousness against a small social democratic state?
Is this the apotheosis of imperialism, to draw leftists towards a kind of
validation of the anger of those same extreme fundamentalists whom the
Americans armed, trained and let loose on the indigenous, yes, indigenous,
women-liberating, land-reforming left leadership of Afghanistan in the late
1970s, before the Soviets even went in*, to go on and on wreaking havoc,
until the Twin Towers, Chechnya and beyond?
*(the CIA having first used Hafizullah Amin to destabilise the reform)
How many leftist commentators, by the way, have got those narrative
historical ducks in a row, on Afghanistan, and who enabled the war?
So, comrades, get your minds and bourgeois consciences unscrambled: let's
hear it for the following two straight-talking people.
One is called Fons. He is cool, he says it a bit like a post-hippie leftist,
quiet and direct. And typically of the finest of all online and hard copy
magazines, the great Counterpunch, they gave him space, along with all the
more nervous reactions.
The other straight shooter is a most brave and important political figure,
forced to seek political space on the right of centre (shame on the left!)
called Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Here are their comments, first:
They're Just Cartoons
Chill Out Jihadis
By CHRISTOPHER FONS
9 February 2006
Many "leftists" have taken the position that the cartoons published in the
Danish paper and elsewhere are primarily a representation of Western racism
and should be condemned. Nonsense.
As a leftist I thought that our goal was liberation through thorough and
robust debate and confronting irrational ideas and superstition in
particular? This means that if someone is offended because we say that the
world is round then too bad. The truth hurts. If we are constantly weary of
offending, then truth, yes I believe in such a thing, will never overcome
the backward state of affairs today that allows gays to be treated like
second class citizens, intelligent design to be taught in schools and people
in the US and Britain to believe that the war in Iraq is being prosecuted
for humanitarian ends.
Much of the sentiment not to offend and to side with reactionaries at times
comes from a sincere desire to defend oppressed people and expose the
hypocrisy of Western imperialism that consistently speaks of democracy and
tolerance and practices support for dictatorship and racist laws at home and
abroad. In Europe and the United States it also comes from a desire to side
with people of color who have traditionally not assimilated into our
societies as well as people from other European countries. And this gets to
the crux of the matter, assimilation. If a society is going to function a
certain set of ideas must be widely accepted otherwise sectarian conflict
will ensue. This is not to say that Vietnamese or Algerians that move to
France should all have to become Christians or cook fancy entrees but they
should accept that women's equality before the law or universal suffrage
need to be accepted.
In the Western tradition, where today's Left traces its roots, the American
and French revolutions put into practice universal values that have allowed
us to create political systems that now allow universal suffrage and equal
protection before the law. This is not the end of our program, nay it is
just the beginning, but it is a start that puts us, those who embrace
universal values, ahead of those who choose a chosen group or a sacred text
as the basis for society. Anticipating the counter-argument, that the West
at times uses these values to enforce intolerance and is just as exclusive
as alternative systems, I would agree to a degree, but this does not negate
the fact that the Rights of Man or the Bill of Rights allows ALL people to
be accepted and treated as equals not just a specific ethnic group or a
divinely anointed. We should then embrace liberal ideas when freedom will be
advanced by such a defense. Not as Confederates did to defend slavery but as
Northerners did to liberate.
The Left then should defend the oppressed, but not blindly.
Multi-culturalists in particular have had a hard time with this idea
seemingly supporting every movement from the Nation of Islam to the Tamil
Tigers. Just because people are discriminated against doesn't mean that the
movement that they found to overcome this discrimination is worthy of
support. If the movement that would come to power as a result of victory
would be worse for the women or workers of said movement, then it is not
worthy of unconditional support.
Another way of looking at the issue is through the lens of immigration.
Let's say there is a small Scandinavian country with a functioning social
democratic system and you want to do your internationalist duty and allow
millions of people to come into your country from all over the world where
people are fleeing economic and political despotism. If said immigrants
bring with them backward ideas, like sexism, religious superstition, belief
in inequality, etc... what will be the result for your good deed? It could
transform the place into a backward place not because said immigrants are
inferior human beings but because their cultural traditions have been
respected. Should we thus sacrifice equality and social democracy on the
altar of tolerance for oppressed groups?
To the cartoons. They may have been published by racists to inflame. So
what? Chill out Jihadis; fly a kite, smoke a joint and flip through the
pages of Playboy if you are so uptight.
Christopher Fons lives in Milwaukee and runs the Red and the Black website.
He can be reached at: fonscy at yahoo.com
Dutch MP backs Muhammad cartoons
The Somali-born Dutch MP who describes herself as a "dissident of Islam" has
backed the Danish newspaper that first printed the Prophet Muhammad
Ayaan Hirsi Ali said it was "correct to publish the cartoons" in Jyllands
Posten and "right to republish them".
Her film-maker colleague Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in
a case that shocked the Netherlands.
Ms Hirsi Ali, speaking in Berlin, said that "today the open society is
challenged by Islamism". She added: "Within Islam exists a hardline Islamist
movement that rejects democratic freedoms and wants to destroy them."
Ms Hirsi Ali criticised European leaders for not standing by Denmark and
urged politicians to stop appeasing fundamentalists. She also said that
although the Prophet Muhammad did a lot of good things, his decree that
homosexuals and apostates should be killed was incompatible with democracy.
Ms Hirsi Ali wrote the script for Submission, a film criticising the
treatment of women in Islam that prompted a radical Islamist to kill Van
Gogh in an Amsterdam street in 2004.
Papers in several European nations have reprinted the satirical Danish
cartoons. People have died in violent protests over the cartoons, which have
also been denounced throughout the Islamic world. The drawings include an
image of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
Ms Hirsi Ali said the furore over the cartoons had exposed the fear among
artists and journalists in Europe to "analyse or criticise intolerant
aspects of Islam".
>From a report by BBC News, 9 February 2006
Finally, I would like to pass on the warning I will put in the introduction
to my own coming blog, as it deals with aspects of the same concerns:
We on the left, while constantly vigilant anti-imperialists, must be
careful, in order to forge and focus our vigilance, how we criticise the
actions of Western powers, what we castigate them for, and who we make
common cause with. Four examples will show what I mean. The first three
involve Africa, as it happens, and each leads typically to generalising
about an African situation, therefore to dehumanising the people involved by
stereotyping them, one side only as perpetrators, the other side only as
My first example was when Noam Chomsky, not long after 9/11, slipped into
making an odious comparison. He said that Clinton's bombing of a
pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (on wrong intelligence that it may be an Al
Qaeda arsenal) led to the death of more people than the attack on the Twin
Towers in New York. It was a rhetorical shock tactic too far.
My second is the case of Somalia, the implosion of Mogadishu into perpetual
violence, disorder and warlord misrule from 1990 until today. The assumption
is almost universal that the American troop landing and presence had a lot
to do with it. Quite false. The US landing and presence was a feckless
imperial knee-jerk, just as UN sponsored negotiations may have led to some
kind of truce. But beyond that,
the upheaval had nothing to do with outsiders. It started and continued
with the contest for control over the capital between the leaders of two
sub-clans of the same clan, at the very moment they should have been united
in celebration: they had bravely and triumphantly, in house to house and
street battles, ousted the president-turned-dictator and his heavily armed
followers from the capital.
How did they snatch chaos from triumph? Mainly at fault was the leadership
of the sub-clan which had marched into the city from their base to the
north, claiming they were the rightful army, though the other sub-clan had
done most of the fighting. The incomers fired their RPGs at the hotel owned
by the rival leader - and 25 years of hunger and war began, on which no
marines or blackhawks had any effect.
Third, there was a pointed reminder in a reader's letter from Scotland to a
liberal left development magazine, under the heading "Just intervention":
"I am not a military or warlike person. I am not generally a supporter of Mr
Blair. I was against the invasion of Iraq. But I have to say that you were
quite wrong to include Sierra Leone in a list of interventions implied to be
unnecessary and brutal. I have not yet met a Sierra Leonean who is not
grateful for what the British Forces have done there in 2000 and since, or
who does not believe that their actions were necessary, proportionate to the
threat, and effective. The activities of the so-called rebels were utterly
horrific; and we were the outside power under special obligation to help."
My fourth case may seem almost arcane, but it is actually at the heart of
the problem: left misconceptions, and tactics, which are useful to corporate
It is in the form of extracts from a post-Cancun commentary in 2003 by an
activist in Canada, Yves Engler. It was headlined: How the Left swallows the
He wrote: commentators, from the left and right, on the WTO ministerial
in Cancun seemed fixated on the harm wealthy nations' farm subsidies are
doing to the world's poor. From the tone of these pundits one could be
convinced that European, Japanese, Canadian or US farm subsidies were at the
root of all the poor world's problems.
The Guardian, for instance, bellowed, "there is only one way to address the
growing gulf between rich and poor countries: abolish agricultural
We should ask what country has ever escaped poverty by depending on
agricultural exports? Dependence on commodity production has, in fact,
always been a recipe for underdevelopment.
Egyptian author, Samir Amin, has a much better explanation of how
agricultural subsidies should be understood. "Let us be perfectly clear: the
Americans and the Europeans, like every other country or group of countries,
have the right to formulate national or collective policies. They have the
right to protect their industries and their agriculture, and they have the
right to institute income-redistribution measures to meet the demands of
social justice. To argue for the dismantling of the edifice supporting such
rights in the name of some hypotheses of abstract liberal economic theory is
another matter entirely.
"Should we, for example, demand that the industrialized nations reduce their
levels of education and training, or their capacities for research and
development, so as to bring them into harmony with less-developed countries
on the grounds that their advantages in those domains have given them a
competitive edge in world trade?
"Regretfully, the strategy for which the nations of the South have opted,
which is to let the North set the rules of the liberal game, to achieve
"free market" principles, makes no sense."
While some good came of Oxfam and others "on the left" railing against farm
subsidies, in showing up the hypocrisy of rich countries, it is
disconcerting that segments of the left seem to believe that agricultural
subsidies are a significant cause of world poverty. More disturbing is that
some of these groups' policy prescriptions consist of reinforcing economic
It tells us how effective neo-liberal propaganda has been. Even many
progressive people can only see the world through its lens. Perhaps it's
time for a new lens.
So wrote Yves Engler. But there is a broader, and more sinister geopolitical
motive in making rich country farm subsidies a main issue in the global
anti-poverty campaign. It is to use this as a stick to beat the EU which,
with France in the lead, strongly supports farm subsidies, exercising their
right, and for the reasons, which Samir Amin outlines, as a tool to protect
their economies and societies.
Never mind that the ACP tariff agreements with the EU protected the smaller
African and Caribbean banana farmers, while the rival US tariff arrangements
simply protected their own Central American mega-growing companies - with
the WTO ruling for the US banana republics in the name of "free trade"! -
Europe can be conveniently dumped in with the US, even by the anti-poverty
left, in committing the ultimate sin, by holding on to subsidies.
The EU, particularly France, is dragged through the mud all the time in the
British and American liberal media on this. And the liberals fall for it
every time. Crusaders like George Monbiot, and many others, use this stick
constantly, perhaps ingenuously - let us hope not disingenuously - because
it is an easy issue to unite third world nations against all developed
nations. In all EU, G8 and other forums, Blair pumps the issue, to round on
On this, as on several other issues and events I have outlined here, it is
indeed time for a new lens. A lens which can be used with more caution, but
giving more clarity and a sharper focus, for firmer coordinated action.
I hope, by this my first entry, dredging up the exceptions, to shake up any
one who expects to be lulled into a sequence of shared assumptions, or
support for the tactical dictum that my enemy's enemy is my friend. There is
no case in history where the good of humankind has been served by following
Awareness of imperialism, outfacing it, countering its worst effects where
possible, whether as Lula tries to in Brazil, like Nestor Kirchner in
Argentina, Chavez, Morales, Castro of course - and even as Malaysia did to
stop meltdown - is a necessary condition for broad-based national
socio-economic progress. But it is not sufficient, if we make common cause
with backward or oppressive political or cultural regimes. We must admit
those cases where the upheaval is self-inflicted.
We cannot win over people, or win out, if we try to suggest that Bashir of
Sudan, collaborator with the biggest massacre of Africa's oldest communist
party 30 years ago, or Saddam the thug and betrayer of Arab nationalism who
bloodily ousted a left regime 40 years ago, or Mugabe, manic betrayer of the
liberation movement, are to be sided with, against all Clintons, or every
British peacekeeping force.
We have to confront and defuse the imperialist weaponry, the corporate
assault, where it really targets us, and to refresh and rebuild our own
regional alliances and markets.
I will conclude, for a kind of synthesis, with the words of David Harvey,
who points the way I think we should go, at least as a first step into the
In his book The New Imperialism, 2003, geographer and social theorist David
Harvey makes the case for a "New Deal" brand of imperialism in which the
responsibilities of government are carried out by a "benevolent coalition of
capitalist powers." Against foes of globalisation, he argues that the
effects of global capitalism are undoable, that advocates of social reform
must learn to work with it.
These were his words, from an interview with Nader Youssoughian.
"I share with Marx the view that imperialism, like capitalism, can prepare
the ground for human emancipation from want and need. In arenas like public
health, agricultural productivity, and the application of science and
technology to confront the material problems of existence capitalism and
imperialism have opened up potential paths to a better future.
The problem is that the dominant class relations of capitalism.set in motion
imperialist forms dedicated to the preservation or enhancement of the
conditions of their own reproduction, leading to ever greater levels of
social inequality.The US has no option except to engage in such practices
unless there is a class movement internally that challenges existing class
relations and their associated hegemonic
institutions and political-economic practices.
This leaves the rest of the world with the option of forming, for example,
sub-imperialisms under the umbrella of US power. The danger is that
movements may become purely and wholeheartedly anti-modernist movements
rather than seeking an alternative globalisation and an alternative
modernity that makes full use of the potential that capitalism has spawned.
.I do not believe the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement is
strong enough or even adequately equipped.In my own view, there is only one
way in which capitalism can steady itself temporarily and draw back from a
series of increasingly violent inter-imperialist confrontations, and that is
orchestration of some sort of global "new" New Deal, the abandonment of
neo-liberalism and the reconstruction of some sort of redistributive
Keynesianism as well as a coalition of capitalist powers ready to act in a
more redistributive mode on
the world stage (a Karl Kautsky kind of ultra-imperialism).
Would people on the left be prepared to support such a move (much as
happened in leftist support for social democracy and new deal politics in
earlier times) or to go against it as "mere reformism"? I am inclined to
support it, otherwise the mass consequences of a capitalist collapse would
be far more catastrophic now than in the past simply because of the way so
much of the world's population is now integrated into, and crucially
dependent upon, the functioning of the world market. We need
to think alternatives and to begin building them now in the interstices of
.This question concerns, in very general terms, the issue of alliances that
can be pinned together to realise reformist political goals. All manner of
oppositional forces, including dissident voices (like those of George Soros,
Paul Krugman or Joseph Stieglitz - if they really mean what they say) within
the dominant classes, have a potential role to play.
My own view is that we should have one foot firmly planted within those
conventional political movements that are prepared to take up the cause of
reform and one foot implanted in the radical movements seeking more
This straddling of political positions can sometimes be uncomfortable or
even unbearable. But I think it wise to recognise that reformists and
revolutionaries can often make common cause in a particular conjuncture, the
only discernible differences sometimes being the long-term goals rather than
the short term actions.
Given the political and military violence of neo-conservativism coupled with
the economic violence of neo-liberalism, it seems to me that a powerful
reformist movement deserves every ounce of support we can give it."
Thus spake David Harvey. Let's look at common ground, and try it.
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