Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Very British Coup in the making

Those who are familiar with the 1988 mini-series “A Very British Coup” in which a newly elected left-wing Labour British prime minister is brought down by dark forces within the British Establishment, will with some justification see parallels in that same establishment’s reaction to the election as Labour party leader of Jeremy Corbyn.

A sustained campaign across the entire British mainstream media, including in supposedly slightly-leftish newspapers such as the Guardian and the Independent, sought to undermine Corbyn’s candidacy and then his leadership, often involving risible smears, outright lies and distortions regarding his positions on a variety of issues and backed up with partial quotes taken entirely out of context.

A reasonable onlooker to all of this might hope that such an outlandish campaign of vilification as this might be understood by a majority of people in Britain, who can rightly be assumed to be intelligent and fair-minded, might backfire, but there is no evidence of a mass reaction against it.

Recent developments are more worrying to those who believe in the primacy of democracy over tyranny.

Just last weekend, in the Sunday Times, a serving British army General was reported as saying that if Corbyn were elected Prime Minister “the British military would take direct action. There would be mass resignations at all levels. He would face the very real possibility of an event which would in effect be a mutiny.”

That is an extraordinary statement for a serving officer to make. There is precedence for it. In 1914 senior army officers based in Ireland threatened to resign en masse in what became known as the Curragh Mutiny over British Cabinet plans to suppress Unionist paramilitary opposition to Home Rule by moving against the Ulster Volunteer Force.

More recently, hard evidence has emerged to support long-standing claims by Irish nationalists of collusion between the British army and Loyalist paramilitaries to carry out planned assassinations of political opponents and random murders of Catholics presumed to be IRA supporters or as acts of terror – terrorism against a civilian population. The British army has previous form in carrying out extra-judicial activities, as reports from Kenya and other former colonies bears out.

And so, the remarks by that serving British army General have to be taken seriously. As of now, there is no evidence that he has been forced to resign for his direct challenge to democratic institutions, and to democracy itself.

Where does the British Conservative Party stand on this challenge to government, parliament and the will of the British people, who, one can reasonably assume, would not support what would in effect be a military coup to subvert the democratic process?

Within hours of Corbyn’s election as leader of the British Labour Party, prime minister David Cameron had accused him of being a ‘threat to national security’, in effect giving the green light to that army General and his colleagues, including in the secret services.

Three days after the General’s threat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Crispin Blunt MP – Conservative Party, appeared on the BBC’s ‘HardTalk’ programme to be questioned by Stephen Sachur. Here is the exchange between Sachur and Crispin blunt (CB) relating to that threat, and to Corbyn.

Sachur: A serving General said in the Sunday Times that if Corbyn were elected Prime Minister “the British military would take direct action. There would be mass resignations at all levels. He would face the very real possibility of an event which would in effect be a mutiny.”

(CB): He can speak for himself but he certainly is speaking way outside the authority of any serving officer. If Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister under a Labor Government the army, like everybody else will have to turn to their right and carry out the instructions of the elected government.

Sachur: It is confusing for the public because your party – as soon as Corbyn was elected – issued propaganda – if I may call it that – suggesting that he was a fundamental threat to the security of the United Kingdom.

(CB): Well he is. If you believe in a coherent defence strategy of the United Kingdom where you want at least 2% of your GDP spent on defence – if you want the United Kingdom to be properly committed to NATO – then, I think he is a threat to our security. He would un-pick the whole of our defense posture. If he was allowed to revert to the opinions he expressed before he became leader of the Labor Party. There is obviously now a very live debate within the Labor Party with the people he has appointed. …

Sachur: But, there is something different about saying that he is a fundamental risk to the core of the security of the nation. It is a very active debate now about whether Cameron´s government is prepared to share with Jeremy Corbyn the level of military and intelligence information – secret information – that has been shared in the past.

(CB): Yes, but they are under no obligation to share that information.

Sachur: Precendence suggests that they will. It is a part of accountability and transparency in a democracy that the leader of the opposition knows as much as can be safely given to him about is being done in the name of the United Kingdom.

(CB): No, it is not I don´t think. I don´t think it is part of any – it may have become convention but I wouldn´t present it in those terms.

Sachur: You don´t see it as democracy, transparency and accountability?

(CB): No. The leader of the opposition gets privileged access to information on a basis that other members of Parliament don´t have? No, not necessarily. That is a judgement for the Government to take. It is normally taken when the Government is seeking to persuade the leader of the opposition to associate himself with a particular government strategy whilst the Government is seeking consensus. If the Government is not going to get consensus because he holds very strong views opposed to the use of military force in almost any circumstance.

Sachur: And you think that is justification for giving him less access to information than previous leaders of opposition in the recent past.

(CB): What would be the point of giving him the information if it is not an attempt to achieve consensus?

Far from supporting the primacy of Britain’s democratic institutions, Crispin Blunt is explicitly accusing Corbyn of being a threat to national security – echoing the prime minister and the army General, and suggests that even within the newly appointed shadow cabinet there are those who agree with Conservative Party, British Army and security services policy to the extent that they may be seen as undermining Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, and justifies the withholding of crucial information and intelligence from Corbyn that would normally be shared with the Leader of the Opposition.

Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has stated his opposition to war and his support for political solutions in its place. He has stated that he is a republican but will reflect the wishes of the people who support the monarchy. He has promised to work for fairness and justice, and greater equality across British society. He is in favour of reducing dependence on hydrocarbons and in favour of green energy, and in developing modern industries based on technological innovation. He wants more democracy, more involvement by the people in shaping policy, more accountability, less corruption, greater control of the financial sector, more and better public services including health and education, renationalisation of key services including transport, and a changing role for Britain in the world to what has been the norm up to now.

He sounds like a decent, intelligent, ethical individual who is concerned about the lives of the many, not just in Britain but in other parts of the world.

He is, therefore, a dangerous man. He threatens the wealth, privilege and power of the British Establishment. He must go.

These anti-democratic machinations by the British establishment are what we would recall from various Latin American coups in the 1970s and 80s. Some of us might see resonances of that in the undermining of the democratic expressions of the Greek people by the European Union led by Germany, this year.

And those off us who remember that brilliant mini-series from 1988, a piece of fiction, can now see it begin to become fact in the creation today of A Very British Coup.

That is not a flight of fancy. Read the signs.

Ireland, refugees, and the white world’s wars

The inglorious history of the white world – Europe and its North American and Antipodean offshoots – continues to play out before our eyes with the current refugee crisis. It is portrayed as a crisis for Europe, or more specifically for the EU. In reality it is the manifestation of a series of crises for the refugees themselves, a consequence of their absolute desperation. And those crises – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Somalia and other non-white states and regions – must be laid at the door of the white world.

The refugees are being divided into worthy refugees and unworthy migrants.

Worthy refugees come from war-ravaged Syria and, more grudgingly, from war-ravaged Iraq. They flee, seeking refuge from the fear of imminent death by bombing or shooting.

Unworthy migrants come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, North Africa and other war-ravaged areas. They flee, seeking refuge from imminent death from foreign intervention and resulting civil war, or from death by starvation and disease created by those wars.

Seventy years ago, Palestine was a thriving stable modern state in which women as well as men had a stake, and in which Muslim, Christian and Jew lived in harmony. The US and Europe contrived to destroy that through mass plantation of foreigners and the imposition of an invented state, Israel, which would act as a proxy for the US and Europe in destroying that Palestinian state, using military and other oppressive means.

Fifty years ago, Afghanistan was a thriving stable modern state in which women as well as men had a stake. The US, Russia and Europe have since bombed it back to the dark ages.

Twenty years ago, Iraq was a thriving stable modern state with good standards of education, health, employment and housing, with few signs of street-level sectarianism and with women as well as men having a stake. But Saddam Hussein was a despot, the white world told us. The US and Europe have bombed it back to the dark ages.

Ten years ago, Libya was a thriving stable modern state with excellent standards of housing, education, health, employment and trade. But Gadaffi was a despot, the white world told us. The US and Europe, specifically in the case of Libya, Britain and France but with EU support, absolutely destroyed Libya, rendering it a completely unviable and very dangerous, destabilised, entity, bombed back to the dark ages.

Five years ago, Syria was a thriving stable modern state with good standards of housing, education, health and employment in which women as well as men had a stake, and in which sectarianism played little part on the streets. But Assad was a despot, the white world told us. The US and its allies in the area – Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the EU with Britain and France once more taking the lead, seized on internal unrest to destroy Syria. They, and their proxies, bombed it back to the dark ages.

The list of countries destroyed goes on. The list of bad despots is being reduced. The list of good despots remains intact.

And what of the response of Europe to the flow of refugees arising from all of that destruction?

Germany is being lauded for its generosity in taking in excess of 800,000 refugees, mainly from Syria. The German people are a generous people, as most people are, and they should be praised for their individual and collective acts of generosity in the face of such suffering.

But it is not to quibble to point out that the inflow of refugees is of great benefit to the German state and its economy. Very low birth-rates make both the state and economy potentially unviable. The arrival of a large body of well-educated and enterprising workers, well capable of supporting themselves and contributing to the German economy is a lifeline to Germany, where providing for example for future pension demands is a very serious problem without an expanding, younger, productive workforce.

The same is true across many countries of the EU, but some are complicated by a rise in xenophobia and racism whipped up by far-right parties. In the case of Britain, the ruling Conservative Party, responding to the rise of UKIP but a prisoner of its own imperialist past and present, can be lumped in with the far-right. France, led by a pseudo-socialist president, is busy re-establishing its colonial domination of swathes of Africa while the fascist-racist Front National rises closer to power.

And Ireland?

The response of the majority of Irish people has been humane and empathic. Generosity of spirit and offers of help including opening our borders to refugees flow from that.

In contrast with that the reaction, or lack of reaction, from the government is shameful. Addicted to neoliberalism, this government has studiously avoided tackling various national crises, including burgeoning homelessness, continued emigration of our young, the collapse of essential public services, the widening gap between the impoverished 20% and the wealthy, and so on.

Its reponse is to send a warship to provide humanitarian assistance, far from our shores. And that, effectively, is it.

Caught in the headlights of an election juggernaut over which the government parties have little control, and unable to read public opinion from inside the Leinster House bubble, our half-witted ministers flounder around trying to cobble a response, to no effect other than to embarrass the people of Ireland.

Public opinion needs to be expressed in louder terms. This government, representing as it does the desires and wants of the political class and its lower-order hanger-ons over the demands and needs of the mass of people, must be forced to act on behalf of the majority in this instance – the decent and empathic people of Ireland.

Open the borders. Give haven to refugees, and welcome them. Set the numerical bar high and not low – we can accommodate thousands of them. Some will eventually move home, or to other destinations. Hopefully many will stay and be part of us. They will be no burden, but a welcome addition.

And make reparation for allowing Shannon Airport to be used by US warplanes en route to bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and en route to resupplying the Israeli murder machine.

That is the blackest stain on our national character. A proper response to the present crisis will go some way to removing it.

Refusing to ever again take part in the white world’s war on other nations and regions will help with that.

Our own history tells us that is the proper course of action.

We were refugees.

Borrowing From History To Win General Election

In Irish War News, published from the GPO on 25th April 1916 one day after the start of the revolution and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse wrote:

“We have lived to see an Irish Republic proclaimed. May we live to establish it firmly, and may our children and our children’s children enjoy the happiness and prosperity freedom will bring”.

The Proclamation, which most of our people respect and take ownership of, is the template for the progressive republic that would bring happiness and prosperity to the people.

If the left correctly portrays a progressive policy platform for the upcoming election as the natural development of the fundamental ideas in the Proclamation, particularly paragraph four, those progressive policies will be more easily and widely accepted throughout the country, even in traditionally conservative areas.

The reactionary parties on the other side cannot credibly borrow from 1916 and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to bolster their case. The record of their resolute opposition to establishing a true republic over the past 93 years of shared power makes that unbelievable, and their failures masked by their empty rhetoric would have to be high-lighted by the left.

The left also has to reach beyond the language of theoretical socialism to garner sufficient democratic support to defeat neoliberalism and its local proponents of cynical austerity, and to create the conditions for true happiness and sustainable prosperity for all.

That lesson can be learned from the Corbyn campaign across the water. Communicate directly and in straight-forward language. Present the ideas in terms of practical beneficial consequence to the greater number of people of all classes other than the greedy class. Play in a sincere way to the essential decency and fairness and generosity of spirit and intelligence of the great majority of people.

And empower the people. The left must commit to the idea that the progressive republic is owned by the people and must spread that message, and that ownership of the republic will be vested in the people through a constitution which they will have final approval of and the capacity to refine over time as they see fit.

At this moment of ever-increasing engagement by the people with the principles behind the 1916 revolution, it would be foolish in the extreme to spurn the opportunity that brings to the left for potential success and real change in the interest of the common good.

Any election is based on a war of words and ideas. And every election involves the use of propaganda – communication that seeks to influence opinions and attitudes – by all sides.

The forces of reaction – Fine Gael and Labour, and Fianna Fáil – will have the propaganda services of mainstream media at their disposal. The left must resort to alternatives, particularly social media and public rallies and meetings, to counteract that. Again, the Corbyn campaign shows us how effective that can be.

The upcoming battle between progressives of all stripes and the forces of reaction will be hard-fought but winnable, and every intellectual and propaganda weapon on the progressive side must be brought to play. In that, the emotional attachment that so many have to the Proclamation and its progressive vision is, as the centenary looms, a very strong card to play, more than a match for the Joker the other side will try to pull from their sleeve.

The prize is worth fighting for. The revolutionaries knew that, and so must we.

The Irish Republic. The people’s progressive republic.

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