Whatever Trump now says, fascists like Bannon and Gorka still hold sway in the White House

August 15, 2017 at 1:47 pm (anti-semitism, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, profiteers, Racism, Trump, wankers)

Anyone foolish enough to be impressed by Trump’s belated condemnation of the far right, should remember that he still employs people who can  accurately be described as fascists: Bannon, Gorka and the slightly less high-profile Miller. Then, of course, there’s his own long record of blatant, crude racism.

This excellent discussion, concentrating on the sinister Gorker, is well worth putting 15 minutes aside to watch:

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Charlottesville is a call to action against fascism

August 14, 2017 at 9:02 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, Racism, solidarity, Trump, United States)

from the US SocialistWorker.org website (nothing to do with the UK SWP):

Katherine Nolde, Richard Capron and Scott McLemee round up on-the-spot reports from the deadly confrontation between the far right and anti-racists in a Virginia city.
August 14, 2017

Above: this is what Trump refused to condemn

THE FAR-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12–probably the largest public gathering of the racist “alt-right” ever–was clear evidence of the murderous forces nurtured and emboldened by Donald Trump over the past two years.

And it had deadly consequences: One anti-fascist protester was killed and more than two dozen injured when a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car at high speed into a counterdemonstration led by left organizations, including the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America and Industrial Workers of the World, among others.

Trump issued a weasel-worded condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” that fooled no one–especially not the far right. “He refused to even mention anything to do with us,” one racist website gloated. “When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.”

So the fascists see Trump as one of their own–and for good reason.

But the hate on display in Charlottesville–and promoted by the hatemonger-in-chief–is galvanizing people across the country.

News of the racist car attack was met by a wave of solidarity–within hours, there were vigils and protests in dozens of cities, followed by many more the next day, and plans for still more in the days to come. By the end of the weekend, people had taken a stand in solidarity with Charlottesville in hundreds of towns and cities.

These people who sent a message of defiance were not only repulsed by the hatred of the fascists and horrified by their violence, but they understand the need to confront this menace before it can inflict more suffering and take more lives.

Charlottesville showed the grave threat we face in the form of an emboldened far right. But it is also revealing the potential to mobilize a mass opposition to the hatemongers, whether they strut in the streets or in the Oval Office.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE THOUSANDS mobilizing against the Trump agenda in recent months are making it impossible for the far right to claim it represents more than a small part of the U.S. population.

When the Klan came to Charlottesville last month to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a city park, they attracted around 50 supporters–and were outnumbered 20 times over by antiracists.

Humiliated by this, far-right groups announced another rally for August. The city granted a permit for this past Saturday in Emancipation Park to “Unite the Right” organizers–a last-minute legal attempt to deny the permit was stayed by a judge based on an appeal by the ACLU. Permits were also granted to counterdemonstrators to assemble a couple blocks away in Justice Park.

The far right came looking for a fight in Charlottesville, and they got started Friday night with a torchlight parade on the University of Virginia campus. Chanting “Heil Trump” and “You will not replace us”–sometimes changed to “Jews will not replace us”–some used their lighted torches to threaten the small numbers of antiracist protesters who confronted them on campus.

If the racists thought they would have the same overwhelming force on their side the next day, they were wrong. The fascists were outnumbered by their opponents, ranging from Antifa contingents and the radical left to more moderate antiracist organizations. But the antifascists’ advantage wasn’t as large as it could have been.

Groups from each side made pass-by marches within sight of one another Saturday morning, and there were isolated clashes, leading to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainly.

When a group of ISO members approached the southwest entrance to Justice Park, the counterdemonstration site, they found a handful of young white men with automatic rifles and red bandanas tied around their necks standing watch. Momentary fear dissipated when the socialists were welcomed with cheers and handshakes–these were members of Redneck Revolt, a newly formed militant Southern self-defense group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville

August 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, solidarity, terror, Trump, United States)

Image result for charlottesville rally
Above: car drives into anti-fascists, killing one and injuring 19 (pic from Tendance Coatesy, which also carries reports and background information)

By Redneck Revolt at the It’s Going Down! website, Aug 13 2017

The situation on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still developing and unstable, but a few of our Redneck Revolt members on the ground took some time to provide the following reportback. We will continue to share updates as they’re available.

For those who are still unaware, this weekend has been the largest convergence of far-right and white nationalist/white supremacist organizations in recent US history. They have descended on Charlottesville, a town of approximately 48,000 people, as a response to the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, self-described White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torchlit march on the statue, with the intention of terrorizing locals who support the statue’s removal, particularly people of color.

This weekend, the stakes were raised at an event called “Unite the Right,” organized to tie together white supremacist groups across the spectrum. Participating groups and white supremacist personalities included Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Baked Alaska, Based Stickman, Augustus Invictus, Mike Enoch, Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan, and Nazi groups.

Locals and members of surrounding communities gathered in Charlottesville to take a stand against the “Unite the Right” rally, and defend their town from white supremacist organizing. Five Redneck Revolt branches from nearby towns have been on the ground in Charlottesville since yesterday, and working closely with the SRA, BLM, and local organizers to develop plans to protect the local community.

Last night, Dr. Cornel West and several local faith leaders called for a prayer meeting at the St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville. Armed Redneck Revolt members were on-hand to assist with security, when word was received that the 300+ white supremacists were marching with torches across the University of Virginia campus towards the church. Across the street from the church, the fascist march encountered several anti-fascist and student counter-protestors, and a skirmish erupted. Redneck Revolt members assisted with escorting folks from the church to their cars, and everyone was evacuated safely.

Today, with hundreds more white supremacists expected to converge on Charlottesville, our Redneck Revolt branches worked together with local organizers to create and secure a staging area at Justice Park, within a short distance of the planned Unite the Right rally location, Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park). Approximately 20 Redneck Revolt members created a security perimeter around the park, most of them open-carrying tactical rifles.

Starting from early in the morning, there were eruptions of violence scattered throughout downtown Charlottesville, and around 11:30am, the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency and ordered the police to cancel and evacuate the “Unite the Right” rally. National Guard and local police forces worked to contain the scattered violence, with little impact.

Throughout the day, the staging area at Justice Park was a safe haven for a wide range of protesters and other community members. Support teams provided food, water, medical support, and sanctuary, and groups such as the Quakers, Black Lives Matter, antifa groups, queer radical orgs, and the IWW moved in and out of Justice Park as needed to regroup and take care of each others’ injuries.

At many points during the day, groups of white supremacists approached Justice Park, but at each instance, Redneck Revolt members formed a unified skirmish line against them, and the white supremacists backed down. Most of the groups were not easily identified, but at separate points, contingents from Identity Europa and the Proud Boys were recognized. The groups that threatened the park yelled racial and homophobic slurs, and many yelled things specifically at the Redneck Revolt fire teams which indicated that they were familiar with our principles. Some of the groups that approached numbered as many as 40 people, but the security of Justice Park was never breached.

The worst moment of an entire weekend of white supremacist violence came when someone rammed their Dodge Charger into a large crowd of anti-racist protesters. A 32 year old woman was killed, and at least 19 others have been reported injured. The crash and screams were heard by the groups staged at Justice Park, and two Redneck Revolt members ran down the street and assisted in direct medical support.

There are ongoing security actions planned throughout the night, to protect groups or locations which are at a higher risk of being attacked by the fascists, and our Redneck Revolt members on the ground will continue to check in as they are able to. They are especially appreciative of the camaraderie of the SRA, and look forward to building stronger defense networks together.

For folks looking for ways to provide support, there are several fundraisers circulating for legal and medical funds for the anti-racist protesters. We have not been able to independently verify these funds yet, so we appreciate any locals who can vouch for them. These fundraisers have been shared on our national Facebook page, and we will add them to this reportback as they’re verified.

If you’re in Charlottesville, please connect with other community members and form plans to keep each other safe. Folks who feel at risk are encouraged to stay together in groups, and check in on community members regularly who may be more isolated. Take precautions if you’re going to be downtown, and be aware that there are still reports of groups of fascists wandering around looking to inflict violence. We recommend being armed if you are able to be. There are many accessible less-than-lethal options which can help out considerably in a self-defense situation, such as mace. Take the time to eat, drink water, and rest. Solidarity!


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The “erratic and chaotic” Trump administration

August 13, 2017 at 7:24 pm (identity politics, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Russia, strange situations, Trump, United States)

 Martin Rowson 05.08.2017 Illustration: Martin Rowson (The Guardian)

Martin Thomas spoke to Andrew Gamble about the character of the Trump government. Andrew Gamble is a Professor in Politics at the University of Sheffield and the author of many books on political economy. [The interview was recorded at the end of July, before the North Korea crisis blew up, and also appears on the Workers Liberty website]

MT: Since the 1940s the world markets have been structured by a series of institutions: the WTO, the IMF, the G20, the G7, NATO. The USA has been central to all of these. Is Trump going to blow them up?

AG: He hasn’t been tested by a major international crisis yet, but almost certainly there’ll be one during his presidency. How he will react is unclear: how much he will be guided by people like Mattis and McMaster and how much he’ll do something unpredictable. There is a risk it could be the latter. While he hasn’t done much that’s very radical yet, he has certainly disoriented the complex web of international alliances that the US has put so much store by over the last 70 years. He has upset Australia and Germany: very long-standing allies. He has given comfort to Russia and some other states which are normally not close to the US at all. This has been very unsettling for lots of other states. The likelihood is that that’s going to continue because of the erratic and chaotic way the Trump administration works.

MT: The Economist (26/1/17) commented that Trump was bringing to political dealing his approach from business bombast and brokering: “he aims high, pushes and pushes, but then settles for less than he originally sought”. But, as the Economist comments, “dealing with countries is a higher-stakes game than bargaining over Manhattan building plots”.

AG: I think it is partly that. He clearly had so little actual political experience. His business background was fairly low-level – real estate – he wasn’t CEO of a major international company or anything like that. Tillerson is a different category of a businessperson from Trump. Trump’s experience was as a reality TV host. That too has coloured how he has approached things. He approaches relations with other leaders with an eye on how it’s going to play with his base and how he can make himself look good. He uses bluff and does outrageous things partly in the belief that this will enhance his ability to do deals. This is in itself a very unsettling way of conducting relations.

In the first six months he sent out more than a thousand tweets. These things are superficial in one way, but they betoken a style which is deeply unsettling: the fact that he is prepared to put things into tweets which normally, in previous presidencies, would have been private communications, the fact that he’s prepared to go public. I had wondered whether his behaviour might start to change as he learnt more about what the US Presidency was like. But it seems at the moment that this doesn’t seem to be happening. Every time his behaviour has become a bit more normal it has been followed by reverting to some of his old techniques and habits. I conclude that he probably isn’t going to learn very much and what we’ve seen in the first six months is likely to carry on.

All US Presidents have had courts. But Trump’s court is particularly fluid and has some very opposed factions within it, which, in policy terms, point in quite different directions. Trump seems to pivot from one of these factions to another, so that no faction is dominant for very long, and he plays the factions off against one another. That makes the policy even more erratic and hard to read for foreign observers. Where this is all going is strange. We should expect some major shocks, and particularly if crises of one kind or another test Trump.

MT: The Russia connection? What’s in it for Trump? And what’s in it for Russia?

AG: It is mysterious how difficult it is for Trump to shake the Russia connection off. That has led me to believe that there is something going on which we don’t understand yet. The likely thing, although there isn’t firm evidence for this yet, is that Trump’s business empire is reliant in some way on Russian money – not government money, but oligarch money. There were stories at one time, of links through Deutsche Bank, which is one of the main funders of the Trump business empire.
The multiple links of people associated with Trump with Russia are extraordinary. There is probably something of substance behind it all. He has also got people, particularly Mattis and McMaster, who represent the American political security establishment and a traditional US policy towards Russia, and that of course chimes with what a lot of Republicans want.

So Trump has been forced to concede on the sanctions. But it doesn’t stop him! The latest revelation, that at the G20 meeting [7-8 July in Hamburg] he had a second 60-minute chat with Putin in which Putin used a Russian translator and Trump wasn’t accompanied by a translator. That in itself was a breach of state department protocol. What is going on? Why would you do that, when there is so much focus on his links with Russia and his associates? Read the rest of this entry »

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Ten days that Mooched the world

August 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm (Asshole, Beyond parody, gloating, parasites, populism, posted by JD, profiteers, Trump, United States)

From the US Socialistworker.org  (nothing to do – these days – with the UK SWP):

Elizabeth Schulte documents the not-so-amazing rise and fall of Donald Trump’s favorite communicator, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci.

Trump's ex-communications director Anthony Scaramucci

IT SEEMED like the perfect match when Donald Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director in July.

Consider the qualifications of the man known as “The Mooch”: Arrogant, wealthy Wall Street financier who made a career out of business failure. Author of how-to books like Hopping over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success and Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul. Avid Tweeter, prone to curse-filled fits of rage. Unflinching in his ignorance of what his job actually was.

No man was better prepared to serve Donald Trump.

But it was not to be. The Mooch was fired after just 10 days on the job–by incoming Chief of Staff and former Gen. John Kelly, who had just replaced Reince Priebus, the man Scaramucci sent his brief tenure chasing out of the White House.

Talk about your fucking ironies, huh?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

TRUMP’S NEW communications director hit the ground running, doing what he does best: communi-fucking-cating.

One of the first orders of business was calling journalist Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker to go on a rant in which he, among other things, called Priebus “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” while accusing Lizza of getting “leaked” information from said “paranoiac.”

Just to make sure everyone knew there was a new sheriff in town, Scaramucci hurled profanity at White House adviser Steve Bannon, too.

By most accounts, Priebus’ days in the Trump White House were already numbered–his conventional right-wing fanaticism had always disturbed the crackpot vibe preferred by alt-right true believers like Bannon.

Scaramucci’s tirade was just the very public push that sent Priebus off the White House plank he had been walking for a while. But it’s some nice poetic justice–the enemy of my enemy is the guy who fired me.

As he cleared out his barely inhabited desk, Scaramucci probably thought back to the early days of his White House career, one week before.

He spent the bright dawn of his West Wing career vowing loyalty to the president–after video of a 2015 Fox Business interview resurfaced, in which Scaramucci, then a supporter of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination, called Trump a “political hack” and “un-American.”

After he got the White House gig, the Mooch was quick to delete past tweets complimenting Hillary Clinton and assure reporters “I love the president.” He then clarified: “But I love the president and I’m very, very loyal to the president. And I love the mission that the president has.” Before repeating: “I love the president.” And then: “But here’s what I will tell you, okay? I love the president.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE MOOCH’S first–and as it turns out, only–mission was declaring a no-tolerance policy on his and the president’s personal obsession: “leakers.” Threatening to “pare down” the communications staff, Scaramucci told CBS’s Face the Nation, “If you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody. It’s just very binary.”

The leaks that the White House communications director was up in arms about weren’t exactly leaks. They were more like…what is it called again?…oh yeah, reporting.

The Mooch went ballistic when Politico reported his financial holdings in the SkyBridge Capital investment firm, accusing Priebus of leaking the information to the press and threatening an FBI investigation.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” tweeted Scaramucci.

Politico reporter Lorraine Wollert explained that her so-called “illegal” method of obtaining the Mooch’s financial information was a public document: a financial disclosure form Scaramucci submitted to the Office of Government Ethics.

In another attempt to go after the White House’s leak problem, the Mooch quickly responded to a Politico article reporting that he planned to fire White House press aide Michael Short. Short resigned after the article came out.

“This is the problem with the leaking,” Scaramucci told reporters in the White House driveway. “This is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.” (Both!)

One problem–if Scaramucci told Politico about the firing, then doesn’t that make him the leaker?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t leaks in the Trump administration–a boss so petulant surely inspires a lot of frustration and acts of “disloyalty” every day. But the Mooch’s definition of a “leak” says a lot about what the Trump administration considers the real threat: facts.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

REPORTING THE news isn’t leaking. And as long as we’re on the subject, leaking information the public ought to know isn’t actually a disservice to democracy, but the exact opposite. In a “democracy” as undemocratic as the U.S., “leakers” are an absolute necessity.

We need more people like Chelsea Manning, who put her career and her freedom on the line to expose the U.S. military’s war crimes. Or military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked “secret documents” during Vietnam War to show how the U.S. government lied to the public to justify imperial crimes.

Likewise, we need more journalists who investigate and seek out the truth.

For the press that has covered the White House for years, the Trump administration has been a big adjustment. For one thing, major policy decisions aren’t always announced in press briefings, but instead tweeted at random at any hour of the day or night.

Wall Streeters like the Mooch are already accustomed to working the press to shape what is reported. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Heidi Moore, who covered Wall Street for 18 years, described the obstacles that the financial industry puts in the way of reporting the facts–employing the friendly approach at times, but also a not-so-friendly one that includes the threat of firing.

Reportedly, one of the reasons that Trump liked the Mooch for the communications director job was the way he forced three CNN reporters out of work in June.

But while Wall Street influence over the media has always been a reality, they’ve had to do it in the shadows. With Scaramucci on board, it looked like all the ugly dealings to get the media to say what Trump wanted was going to be acted out in the light of day.

All of this is new for the corporate media, which have become more accustomed to sitting in White House press briefings, taking notes and then parroting whatever line the administration dictates to them.

Thus, in the lead-up to the Bush administration’s 2003 war on Iraq, the cheerleaders for war concocted a story about Saddam Hussein creating a program to manufacture weapons of mass destruction–and got the corporate media to broadcast their lies, partly through leaks to sympathetic and/or ambitious reporters.

The New York Times loyally ran front-page stories about the false evidence–and amped up the urgency by referencing anonymous administration officials saying, “The first sign of a ‘smoking gun,’ they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.”

Today, there may not be the same friendly and orderly relations between the press corps and the White House, but that doesn’t mean the media won’t snap to attention. With a hawk and former general like John Kelly taking the reins as chief of staff, it seems altogether possible that the disgruntled media will be tamed somewhat.

It’s nice when bad things happen to bad people–especially when there are so many bad people in charge. Everybody deserves some time to celebrate the Mooch’s misfortune.

It’s also true that there are probably more Mooches ahead of us. And underneath all of his gibbering about leaks, loyalty and “un-American” behavior, Scaramucci revealed something serious about the climate of suspicion and intimidation created by the Trump administration.

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Unions challenge Corbyn’s Brexit delusion

July 31, 2017 at 8:38 pm (Conseravative Party, economics, Europe, Jim D, labour party, populism, TUC, unions, Unite the union)

Steve Bell cartoon
Above: Labour shouldn’t back this Tory obsession (cartoon: Steve Bell, The Guardian)

Watching the Tories tear themselves apart over Brexit is excellent spectator sport, but some on our side seem determined to follow them into the right wing, nationalist mire. Unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn has been showing signs of revisiting his anti-EU past, apparently committing Labour to hard Brexit, and capitulating to the anti-immigration camp.  Since then, John McDonnell has softened the position, suggesting that Britain could stay in the single market under some circumstances.

It’s becoming clear that the Labour leadership and PLP are almost as split on this as the Tories, though the rank and file membership (including those who identify as Corbynites) are overwhelmingly anti-Brexit. It may not be an accident that just lately, the delusion of a “left exit” (or “Lexit”) from the EU has been canvassed in left of centre publications (here and here) and expertly demolished here.

But as well as the rank and file of the party, another powerful constituency has been horrified by Corbyn’s apparent capitulation to the ideas of a hard Brexit: the unions. The TUC remains committed to staying in the single market and customs union (even if it uses some dodgy arguments) as does the biggest pro- Corbyn’s union, Unite.

But the most outspoken (and perhaps, surprising) union attack on “Lexit” so far has come from Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, a union that supports both Corbyn and Momentum. In an article on the New Statesman website, Cortes tears into the “Lexit delusion” and concludes by raising the possibility of Labour coming out against any kind of Brixit – soft or hard – and campaigning to stay in the EU:

“We don’t know yet what Brexit will look like. By the time the deal – or no deal – is finalised, almost three years will have passed since the vote to leave was made. That’s a lot longer than the Tory 2015 majority lasted. Let’s treat the voters as grown-ups not ideologues. If what’s on the table damages our livelihoods and/or is a simply a free trade deal in which the EU makes all the rules, why can’t we can’t change our minds?

“Voters want reality and honesty over delusion. That’s why it’s important that Labour keeps all options on the table. If as I suspect, staying within the EU is the best deal on offer in 2019, we should not deny voters the possibility of taking it. Jeremy’s past Euroscepticism, his vote against both the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties, actually makes him the best person to renegotiate a new future for Britain in the EU, not a Brexit deal which will harm the implementation of our manifesto and our vision of a People’s Europe.”

Cortes is to be congratulated for posing the issues so plainly, and for breaking an emerging  taboo within the labour movement: the idea that we might just campaign to overturn the referendum result.

(NB: and before anyone mentions it, none of this changes Shiraz‘s past criticisms of Cortes and the way he runs the TSSA)

  • Acknowledgements and thanks to Peter Ryley for an excellent piece that gave me some ideas for this post.

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Orwell, Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Left and … Skwawkbox

July 24, 2017 at 7:59 am (Andrew Coates, blogging, conspiracy theories, intellectuals, literature, media, men, Orwell, politics, populism, publications, socialism)

Comrade Coatesy has an important piece over at his blog (posted 22 July) and I know he doesn’t mind his stuff being republished here at Shiraz. We should also acknowledge the fact that we’ve used material from Skwawkbox in the past (having checked its accuracy), but like Coatesy and others, have become increasingly disturbed by its apparent preference for sensationalism over fact-checking.

Image result for Orwell essays everyman

Orwell and Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Right.

George Orwell never ceases being cited. These days he more often appears for good reasons than for bad ones.

Recently people have had recourse to Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes in Salvador Dali (1944) in order to defend his ability as a “ good draftsman” while being, “a disgusting human being”. That qualified support highlighted, few share the judgement that the Surrealist’s “Mannequin rooting in a taxicab’ as “diseased and disgusting”. The important idea, one, which Orwell repeats about Dickens as Bechhofer Roberts published an early version of what much later developed in the account of the Other Woman, Ellen Ternan, is the distinction between public work and “private life”. In this instance Dali’s alleged infidelity, and the search for his DNA to prove paternity, is irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of his products.

A more weighty issue is taken up in yesterday’s le Monde (Relire « 1984 » à l’ère de la post-vérité). Stéphane Foucart discusses Orwell as a reference in the era of “post-truth” (post-verité). He quotes Looking Back on the Spanish War (1942), “..for the first, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary life.” Life in Republican Spain was portrayed as “one long massacre” by the pro-Franco British press. Orwell went on to imagine a future in which “the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only he future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event “it never happened” – well it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five.”

English speaking readers are more familiar with this passage, a premonition of the theme of 1984, than French, who, to Foucart, only began to register that dystopia in the 1980s, with intellectuals such as Michael Gauchet dismissing it. More recently there are those who have taken Orwell to their hearts, for his “common decency”. The idea that the over boiled cabbage and Thought Police of Ingsoc, and a planet divided into three rival Party-Oligarchies, has relevance today may seem to stretch a point.

That we know that the past is both so obviously not there, yet is worthy of objective inquiry in ways that other ‘not theres’ are not, is an old metaphysical difficulty. That the standard of objectivity was weakened by what used to be fashionable in the old days of ‘post-modernism’ is well known. But that there are different ‘truths’, a liberal, in the American sense, rather than a conservative principle has become less about controlling history than the present. Was the telly screen a rudimentary form of the Internet asks Foucart? Are Trump’s efforts to purge the Presidential archives of documents challenging his view on climate change? ‘Alternative facts’, reports that bear no relation to truth, have, with the sacking of the White House’s Sean Spicer is now a topic which has made the news.

The Media and State Power.

Orwell was concerned not just with Red Atrocity reports in the Daily Mail. He also wrote of the potential totalitarian effects of government control of the media, in his time the Radio. He defended freedom of expression against all forms of censorship, including the suppression of critical reports about the USSR which he believed was taking place post-war in favour of “uncritical admiration of the Soviet Union” (The freedom of the press – Animal Farm. 1945). As Orwell later wrote, “If you do not like the Communism you are a red-baiter, a believer in Bolshevik atrocities, the nationalism of women, Moscow Gold and so on.” (In Defence of Comrade Zilliacus. 1947. Intended for Tribune, not published…)

The Trump administration has power. But there is nothing resembling an effective state broadcasting monopoly outside of North Korea, despite accusations against the People’s Republic. Trump supporters have their networks, their web sites, the loud media outlets. The British right has the dailies, the internationally influential Mail, the declining Sun, the poor old Telegraph, the ageing Express and the Star, which few get beyond the front page to read. Its media imitations of the American alt-right, languish in obscurity. In Britain if these forces are capable of manufacturing truths, from the endless drip drip against migrant workers and Europe to scare-stories about left-wingers, and have an effect on opinion, they took a jolt at the last election. As the laughable Election Day front page of the Sun demonstrated so well.

The Alt-Left and Alternative Facts. 

Come the arrival of the ‘alt-left’. In Britain this means enthusiastic pro-Jeremy Corbyn people. Sites such as The Canary may not be to everyone’s taste but have a readership. But the debate over alternative facts has spread inside the left. Is it justified for Skwawkbox to engage in its own war of attrition with the arms of sensational, scaremongering, stories. The best known at the moment is their recent ‘scoop’ that claimed that everybody on disability benefit transferred to Universal Credit , who did not find a job in two years would be subject to sanctions? That is that they risk losing a large part (if not all) of their income?

This story has been demolished by Disabled People Against Cuts. (1)

Is their mealy-mouthed justification for running the tale acceptable?

They continue to publish wild stories.

That the Daily Mail has attacked the site with its own falsehoods does not give the author a free-pass when it comes to truth and accuracy. 

The writer of 1984 did not live in the age of click-bait. Nor of self-publishing on an industrial scale. But some things have not changed. It would not be to misuse Orwell to cite this, “the controversy over freedom of speech and of the Press is at bottom the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully. Or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.” (The Prevention of Literature. 1947)

***
(1) The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Disabled People Against Cuts.

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together.

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights, who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

All Orwell references in Essays. George Orwell. Everyman’s Library. 2002.

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Redneck revolt: “Guns are fine – racism is not”

July 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, populism, posted by JD, strange situations, Trump, United States, workers)

The Phoenix John Brown Gun Club sent a ‘community defense contingent’ to a Make America Great Again rally at the Arizona state capitol, image via Redneck Revolt‘s website.

By Rob Brigham at Raw Story

A well-armed organization of anti-racists are using gun culture to organize rural white voters against the administration of President Donald Trump.

“Redneck Revolt is a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives,” the organization’s website states. “In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.”

The name harkens back to the 1921 “Battle of Blair Mountain” when some 10,000 United Mine Workers of America staged the largest labor uprising in US history, with many miners wearing red bandanas around their necks. Over one million rounds of ammunition were fired before President Warren Harding sent in federal troops. Over sixty people died in the battle and almost 1,000 miners were arrested.

Such radical history is now being used to reach out to white working class voters.

“We use gun culture as a way to relate to people,” Redneck Revolt organizer Max Neely told Alternet. “Our basic message is: guns are fine, but racism is not.”

Guns culture provides the group with an organizing avenue.

“Redneck Revolt inserts themselves into overwhelmingly white spaces—NASCAR races, gun shows, flea markets in rural communities, and country music concerts—to offer a meaningful alternative to the white supremacist groups who often also recruit in those spaces,” Jared Ware of Shadowproof explained. “Redneck Revolt’s anti-racist, anti-capitalist message seems to be taking hold in communities across the United States. The organization had just 13 chapters in January but has nearly tripled its chapters nationally in the last 6 months. The group now has 34 different branches, 26 of which are in states that voted for Trump.”

“People need to be able to defend themselves. [We] live in a country in the world where people of color and LGBTQ people are routinely victimized and systematically victimized by the people who claim to be there for their defense,” a Pittsburgh, PA Redneck Revolt organizer named Shaun told Shadowproof. We provide free basic firearms training to pretty much everyone who needs it. We focus on trying to provide [self-defense training] when asked for [by] communities of color and LGBTQ folks.”

“White supremacy is essentially a fight to be the best treated dog in the kennel,” Shaun tells potential recruits. “It’s that way because a vastly small percentage of the population hordes access to resources and they’re able to do this because they’ve managed to get one half of the working class to turn against the other half in exchange for basically preferential treatment.”

Redneck Revolt seeks to change the calculation.

“I grew up playing in the woods, floating coolers of beer down a river, shooting off fireworks, just generally raising hell, all that kind of stuff,” Neely told Alternet. “Things most people would consider a part of redneck culture. We’re trying to acknowledge the ways we’ve made mistakes and bought into white supremacy and capitalism, but also give ourselves an environment in which it’s OK to celebrate redneck culture.”

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SNP fakers and cybernats try to blame Labour for Tory re-election!

June 26, 2017 at 8:34 pm (AWL, conspiract theories, identity politics, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, scotland, SNP)

Steve Bell's If ... 13/11/2014 Copyright Steve Bell 2014

By Dale Street (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Scottish Labour and/or its leader Kezia Dugdale bear the blame for the re-election of a Tory government on 8 June. That’s the line currently being systematically promoted by cybernats. And it’s not confined to the fringe elements of cybernattery.

SNP MP Angus McNeil and SNP MSP and Scottish Government minister Mike Russell have both tweeted about how Scottish Labour supposedly backed a vote for Tory candidates in the general election. The cybernat argument runs as follows: • If the Tories had not won 12 new seats in Scotland, then Tory MPs plus DUP MPs would be a minority in Westminster. • The Tories were able to win 12 new seats in Scotland because Scottish Labour and/or Kezia Dugdale backed Tory candidates. • Scottish Labour and/or Kezia Dugdale are therefore to blame for Theresa May being back in Downing Street.

Scottish Labour’s vote increased by 10,000. The Scottish Tory vote increased by over 300,000. Scottish Labour could therefore persuade only an extra 10,000 voters to vote Labour. But it supposedly managed to convince more than 30 times that number to vote Tory. The only “evidence” that Labour did anything like encouraging Tory votes is a brief televised interview with Kezia Dugdale in which she said that with the exception of a few constituencies in the north east of Scotland, Labour was best placed to beat the SNP. The problem with this statement was not that Dugdale was calling for a vote for the Tories. She wasn’t. She was merely stating a fact. The problem with the statement was that it summed up the weakness of the Scottish Labour election campaign: it identified the SNP as “the enemy” to be beaten, instead of offering a positive alternative (a Corbyn-led Labour government) to win back ex-Labour voters who had switched to the SNP.

The cybernat campaign to blame Scottish Labour for the election of a Tory government signals a further lurch by the SNP activist base into fantasy politics. It also diverts attention away from the helping hand which the SNP has repeatedly given to the Tories (and vice versa).

In 1979, the SNP voted with the Tories in Westminster to bring down a Labour government. Without support from SNP MPs, the Tories would not have succeeded in winning their motion of “no confidence”. Between 2007 and 2011 the SNP minority government in Holyrood relied on support from Tory MSPs to get its annual budget through Holyrood. As the then Scottish Tory leader Annabelle Goldie later explained: “When the chips were down, he (Alex Salmond) had to find support for his budget … he took those Tory votes and was glad to get them. Our position was very clear. In return for supporting their budget, the SNP would include Conservative policies in their budget. It was as simple as that.”

From 2014 onwards the SNP deliberately polarised Scottish politics around national identities. In opposition to the SNP proclaiming itself the champion of Scottish-identity-politics, the Tories were able to rebuild support by playing the same role in relation to British-identity-politics. In the 2015 election campaign the upsurge in support for the SNP was exploited by the Tories – as their election strategists subsequently boasted – as an opportunity to whip up English and British nationalism in opposition to Scottish nationalism, thereby garnering more Tory votes.

In the 2017 election campaign SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Kezia Dugdale had offered – in a private conversation after the EU referendum – to ditch Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence. This revelation — irrespective of whether or not it was true – was a boost to Scottish Tory efforts to portray themselves as the only reliable opponents of Scottish independence. It was a cynical ploy by Sturgeon to undermine support for Scottish Labour, even though it meant boosting the Scottish Tories’ electoral prospects And the Tories certainly made a point of exploiting Sturgeon’s revelation to the hilt.

There is no political party in Britain as fake as the SNP. There is no “social democracy” as fake as that of the SNP. There is no “anti-Toryism” as fake as that of the SNP. And there is no election analysis as fake as the cybernat version which blames Scottish Labour for the Frankenstein monster of a Scottish Tory revival created by the SNP’s own tunnel-vision, flag-waving nationalism

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Even after Grenfell the Tories still lust after a “bonfire of red tape” – and will use Brexit to pursue it

June 24, 2017 at 6:02 pm (Civil liberties, Conseravative Party, Europe, Human rights, Jim D, libertarianism, nationalism, populism, rights, Tory scum)

Above: Cameron’s stunt that backfired

“In our commitment to be the first Government to reduce regulation, we have introduced the one in, two out rule for regulation … Under that rule, when the Government introduce a regulation, we will identify two existing ones to be removed. The Department for Communities and Local Government has gone further and removed an even higher proportion of regulations. In that context, Members will understand why we want to exhaust all non-regulatory options before we introduce any new regulations” – Brandon Lewis, the then housing minister (now the immigration minister), in 2014, rejecting calls to force construction companies to fit sprinklers.

Apart from racism and xenophobia, the other driving force behind all wings of the Leave campaign was deregulation – the idea that EU rules and regulations restrict Britain’s freedom. This idea was central to the Leave campaign, and its implications were spelled out plainly by the influential Conservative Home website.

Boris Johnson has spent years writing and telling lies about EU “red tape”, and his old employer, the Daily Telegraph launched a campaign for a “bonfire of red tape” in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. Post-Grenfell that expression “a bonfire” leaves a nasty taste in the mouth (as Jonanthen Freedland wrote in the Guardian, “well they’ve had their bonfire now”).

But don’t be deceived into thinking that the Tories and their Brexiteer press are having second thoughts post-Grenfell.  That would require a degree of honesty and common decency that is beyond them. The Daily Express, bizarrely, suggested that EU energy-saving regulations were to blame for the use of the cladding that spread the fire (despite the fact that it’s illegal in Germany). But what is known, as George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian, is that in 2014 the government rejected the idea of obliging construction companies to install sprinkler systems in new buildings – as part of its commitment, it explained, to a “one in, two out rule for regulation”. It is surely just a coincidence that, according to Property Week magazine, the Tories received more than £1m in donations from property and construction companies in the year to the 2015 election.

That “one in, two out rule” was part of the tape-burning zeal of the Tories, summed up most crudely in the 2011 Red Tape Challenge dreamt up by former David Cameron adviser and Brexiteer Steve Hilton. He and the rest of the “new Tory right” had wet dreams about transforming Britain into a Singapore-style paradise of minimally regulated offshore swashbuckling. In 2013, Cameron himself stood in front of an exhortation to “Cut EU red tape”, so he could hardly complain when such arguments were deployed mercilessly against him in the referendum.

The Tories’ plan to use Brexit as the opportunity for a “bonfire of red tape” has not gone away, even if, post Grenfell, they’re a little less brazen and gung-ho.

The proposed Great Repeal Bill, transferring EU law into British law so as to avoid a legal vacuum on day one of Brexit, is the means by which the Tories intend to continue their deregulation programme.

Under so-called “Henry VIII powers”, the government will assume unfettered powers to bypass parliamentary scrutiny and rewrite laws originating in European legislation.

It’s a pretty good bet that they have the Agency Workers Regulations, the Working Time Regulations and uncapped compensation in discrimination claims, in their sights.

A briefing from Another Europe is Possible and Global Justice Now warns of the possible consequences of the Great Repeal Bill, arguing that it “has the potential to grant the government an almost unprecedented level of unaccountable power, using a political process that will chill democratic scrutiny”.

The briefing makes the following recommendations:

1. The government must reveal specific details of the content of its Great Repeal Bill, and it must be a clear and detailed bill (not a ‘skeleton bill’)
2. This must happen very soon, with a clear proposed timetable to ensure proper time necessary for the task with a minimum 6 months for consultation and 6 months for debate
3.  The transfer of EU law into UK law must be transparent, clear and accountable:

  • it must include provisions to ensure that delegated power to the government  is clearly and precisely defined in scope and purpose.
  • Henry VIII powers should be avoided, and when used, subject to the super-affirmative procedure.
  • Sunset clauses should be used to ensure that the delegated legislative powers do not last indefinitely.
  • There must be enhanced processes and resources for screening and scrutinising delegated legislation, including through new or existing parliamentary committees.

4. The government must guarantee, on the face of the bill, clear explicit provisions to prevent the bill affecting human rights, equalities, or environmental laws and standards, and to prohibit the use of delegated legislation to change or undermine such laws and standards.

A simpler approach, however, would be to use May’s election humiliation and the present volatility of British and international politics to campaign to stop Brexit altogether. The received wisdom is that it can’t be done and, indeed, that to attempt to do so would be undemocratic. But the definition of democracy is that people are allowed to change their minds. Why should the narrow verdict of 12 months ago be sacrosanct for all time? If we want to stop the Tories’ plans to deregulate society, the obvious way to do so is to stop Brexit. Of course, that will require that Labour comes off the fence and drops its present stance of studied ambiguity on the subject.

  • JD would like to acknowledge this excellent Guardian article by Steven Poole, which he used extensively in the preparation of this post.

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