Thursday, 30 June 2011

"Pakistan Now Has Important Choices To Make"

India deserves credit for her commonsensical call to deal with the "Taliban". They have no existence apart from the Pashtun in general, who are old Indian allies.

But as for the ISI's backing of "Islamist militant groups" or what have you, sooner rather than later, and at least arguably already, what else will Pakistan have? What else will remain of her founding dream of a distinct Muslim nation on the Subcontinent, acting as such? Especially if she is to be sandwiched between India and the restored, Indian-backed "Taliban".

No wonder that the "Taliban" are open to this. The scholars at Deoband strongly rejected Jinnah's two nation theory. So did plenty of other people: just as there have always been more Irish Catholics in the remaining United Kingdom than the entire population of the 26 Irish counties that seceded, so there have always been more Muslims in India than the entire population of Pakistan. And they were right.

I am not happy with a nuclear-armed anywhere. Nuclear weapons are immoral in and of themselves. But despite both that and all of the above, I would or do find a nuclear-armed Pakistan, or a nuclear-armed China, or a nuclear-armed North Korea, or the nuclear-armed Iran that does not exist and which no one is trying to bring into existence, at most no more worrying than nuclear weapons in the hands of the BJP and of those who come with it. Or nuclear weapons in the hands of Likud and of its jaw-dropping coalition partners, Shas and in Yisrael Beiteinu, the leader of which latter is the Foreign Minister. Or nuclear weapons in the hands of anyone who is or who venerates Tony Blair, George W Bush, either of the Clintons, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Martyr Hari

There was a question yesterday, asking if, since Johann Hari had made his name "pretending" (not my word) to have seduced a male neo-Nazi at a convention and a male Islamist at Finsbury Park mosque, he had ever also seduced "the pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker and anti-war voice of an economically social democratic, morally and socially conservative patriotism towards the North of England, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and Christendom"?

I was, and am, happy to confirm that he has never seduced this one. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has he ever "pretended" to have done so.

But there is more going on here. Militant atheism is fine. Extreme social liberalism is fine. Highly politicised homosexuality is fine. But to be a repentant and recovered neocon, and an articulate social democratic critic of the Coalition's neo-Blairism, is on much the same level as to be a pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker and anti-war voice of an economically social democratic, morally and socially conservative patriotism towards the North of England, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and Christendom. Which is to be on much the same level as a neo-Nazi or an Islamist.

Isn't it...?

The Promised Land

As September and the United Nations beckon, now is the moment for a Palestinian Declaration of Independence. It must explicitly lay claim to the whole of the viable Palestinian State created on both sides of the Jordan in 1948. Furthermore, it must mirror the Constitution of Lebanon in guaranteeing the Presidency to a Christian even if it guarantees the Premiership to a Muslim (as would have happened electorally anyway), and it must mirror the Constitutions of Lebanon, of Iran, and of Palestine east of the Jordan, the present Hashemite Kingdom, in guaranteeing parliamentary representation to Christians, as well as mirroring Syria is establishing Christian festivals as public holidays.

And it should place the new state – not only the Christians, but the State and everyone in it – under the protection of each and all of the remaining sacral monarchies, there being no other kind, in Christendom. This would also be a wider appeal, an appeal to any and every country that regarded Christianity as fundamental to its identity. Does the American Republic so regard itself? Does the Russian Federation? Do the republics of Europe? Do the republics of Central America, South America and the Caribbean? Do the republics of Africa? Does any other country? In each country’s case, how it responded to this Declaration would be its definitive answer to that question.

At the very least, this needs to appear over the names expressing the full authority of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Latin Patriarchate, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, the Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate, the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate, the Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate, the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate, and the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate. That would have an immediate and a very dramatic impact.

With our without that Declaration, Britain could and should be shamed by a war memorial such as disgracefully does exist in this country, probably could not currently be erected in Jerusalem, and certainly could not currently be erected in Nazareth, but probably could be in Bethlehem. A memorial to those killed by Irgun, Lehi and all the rest of them. Blessed in the sight of the BBC by (among others, of course) the Latin Patriarch and the Anglican Archbishop, both visibly robed as such, and both introduced as such by the reporter for the benefit of the folks back home. Cue a subsequent explanatory piece, complete with interviews with any surviving veterans. Newspaper articles within a three-day radius, we all know the drill.

And a member of the Royal Family in attendance, laying a wreath? If not, why not? After all, two of the most prominent are serving officers. The explicit invitation should be included in the announcement from Ramallah that this memorial was to be erected. After all, Ramallah is already sending its Officer Cadets to Sandhurst. Commonwealth membership beckons.

Most Sure In All His Ways

A comment on the earlier post about the Anglican feminist lobby's being funded by the Panacea Society mentions Blessed John Henry Newman's concept of the Prophetical Office of the Church. His work on that, completed and corrected by and as his subsequent submission to the Magisterium, would indeed be the key to redeeming this sort of thing, as also manifested by such figures as Ellen G White, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Smith. (There are followers of White in Saint Helena, by the way, and proportionately more followers of Russell than in any other country on earth.) But that is not what is happening in this case.

Nor, speaking of Smith, is it what has happened with the unanimous admission to the National Council of Churches in the USA, therefore with the support of the Episcopal Church in which one of the prime movers behind the Panacea-funded course now ministers, of the Community of Christ, formerly and for most of its history called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (no hyphen). Not that that is a lesson to liberals alone in the Anglican camp.

The people who have withdrawn from the RLDS since it became the Community of Christ have not become LDS or anything else. On the contrary, they remain strongly committed to the historic RLDS objections to the Utah Church. Likewise, there are elements in America, England and elsewhere that either have withdrawn or, especially if women became bishops in England, would withdraw from the Anglican Communion but who would never go to Rome or to any federation of independent Conservative Evangelical congregations. On the contrary, they remain strongly committed to the historic Anglican objections both to Rome and to Evangelical sectarianism.

But there really is no historical basis for the traditional RLDS claims that polygamy, plural gods, men becoming gods, Adam-God, Adam as the physical father of Jesus by means of sexual relations with Mary, baptism for the dead, secret temple rituals, the Curse of Cain, and so on were all the work of Brigham Young rather than of Joseph Smith. Nor is there any for the Anglo-Catholic and Conservative Evangelical presentations of the circumstances of the Church of England's creation, and thus for any synthesis of the two such as might be, and is, favoured in the circles in question.

Instead, both the Restoration Branches on the one hand, and the likes of the United Episcopal Church of North America or England's own Third Province Movement on the other, need to recognise their position as a development, proclaim it as a development under God, and seek to present it as superior in those terms to the alternative developments in the direction of liberalism. But the question then arises of whether, in doing the only thing that the historical facts will permit, they would effectively be conceding the liberal point and negating the basis of their own positions.

Far better to follow Newman, one way or another.

Striking Gold

The emphasis should be on how poor private sector pensions must be, if £4,000 per annum is regarded as "gold-plated". Level up, not down.

Dave's Brothers, Not Ed's

None of the unions on strike today is affiliated to the Labour Party. But, as has often been explained here, Britain's most militant union has close ties to the Conservative Party. Readers in London, remember that the next time that there is a Tube strike.

Boxed In

A high-powered, high-profile course to train the Church of England's future women bishops is being funded by the Panacea Society. When there are 24 mitred ladies, will they open Joanna Southcott's Box?

Machinery of Government

Labour's municipal and industrial machines in the North and the Midlands may be shadows of their former selves, but the Conservative Party's are as mighty as ever. Michael Gove's doolally scheme to allow any and everyone to set up a school, and that at public expense, is being fought tooth and nail by Conservative-controlled councils from the East Riding of Yorkshire to Birmingham, where the Council Cabinet member for education cohabits with the General Secretary of the NASUWT.

Hari's Place

Glad to see him get his comeuppance after his treatment of the Holy Father? I suppose so. But there is more going on here. Those on the Left who supported the Iraq War and then recognised the error of their ways are being taken down. As are all articulate critics of the Coalition, the Heirs to Blair.

Simon Heffer, always polite and quite fair about Gordon Brown and then about Ed Miliband, has lost the national platform from which he might have told his readers to vote Labour if only because the alternative was David Cameron.

Peter Hitchens would be harder to silence, since his column is a significant factor contributing the Mail on Sunday's middle market lead. And Norman Tebbit is probably unsackable because he is Norman Tebbit.

But you never know. Each of them has as good as done an Enoch. If and when they actually do it, then they might very well get what Johann Hari has got.

What We Are Fighting, What We Are Fighting For

Kosher and halal meat more than bear comparison with our own meat production practices, although having banned foxhunting, we might as well ban kosher and halal meat. The question is whether we should ever have banned foxhunting. Let us hope that the Dutch kosher and halal ban is as unenforced, because as unenforceable, as our own hunting ban, the latter enacted to persuade disgraceful MPs to vote for the Iraq War.

Do the Middle East's ancient indigenous Christians eat halal meat? If so, then there cannot be anything wrong with it in principle. Israel, meanwhile, is now so desperate that she is importing Russians who refuse on principle to eat kosher meat, and who insist on taking their IDF oaths on the New Testament alone, a purely anti-Semitic position unrelated to Russian Orthodoxy, which keeps Old Testament figures as Saints and which venerates icons of them. Oh, well, at least they are not Arabs, eh...

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which David Cameron was again urged to ban yesterday and which he again undertook to ban at some indefinite point in the future, does not engage in or advocate violence in this country, in stark contrast to certain other outfits that one could name. It is proscribed by Central Asian regimes in whose company we most certainly ought not to wish to be counted.

Meanwhile, what of the sexual exploitation of white girls by men of Pakistani extraction? Assume for the sake of argument that sex with teenage girls is integral to "Islamic" society. I am not convinced that it necessarily is, and at the very least it is certainly not peculiar thereto. But assume that it is. Is a non-Islamic culture really in any position to claim the moral high ground if its girls, even given that, are known to be more readily available due to their sexually saturated culture and their near-total lack of supervision by parents, other older relatives and the wider community?

"What we are fighting" might come out of this very badly. But, at best, "what we are fighting for" does not come out of it any better.

Reach For The Sky

Rupert Murdoch's most undesirable acquisition of the rest of BSkyB should not be the condition for the creation of a separate company for Sky News, with Independent National Directors.

Vince Cable would be ideal as the new Chairman of Sky News, appointed by the Secretary of State with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. The other Independent National Directors should be elected by and from among Sky subscribers, each of whom would vote for one candidate, with the requisite number elected at the end.

And cross-subsidy being what it is (although even if it were not), they could very usefully double up as the, hitherto somewhat ineffective, Independent National Directors of The Times and the Sunday Times.

This should happen regardless of whether or not Murdoch was even so much as still at liberty in this country.


John Lennon was a proto-neocon, all right. What now passes for conservatism in America and in the corners of Fleet Street that seem oblivious to any specifically British political tradition defines everything that he stood for (including those principles' economic entrenchment in the 1980s, which he did not live to see but of which it seems that he would have approved) as "the West", and is determined to "defend" it by using the force of arms to conform the whole world to it. Utopian delirium such as the author of Imagine could never have imagined in his wildest nights.

The Tyranny of "The Good Lie"

Brendan O'Neill writes:

The debate about Johann Hari’s creative interviewing style is now so shot through with sycophancy and schadenfreude, with his media mates defending him on one side and his media critics mocking him on the other, that no one has paused to consider the seriousness of what has happened here. The key problem with Hari’s approach to interviews, and with his justification of it in this morning’s Independent, is that he has deployed the Noble Truth defence – the idea that it is okay to play fast and loose with the facts, and with reality itself, just so long as you end up telling a “greater truth”. The notion that one can reach “the truth” by manipulating reality should be anathema to anyone who calls himself a journalist. The fact that it isn’t, the fact that many hacks have lined up to defend and even cheer Hari, is genuinely shocking.

In his apology in the Independent, which is actually a justification of his behaviour, Hari admits to substituting his interviewees’ written words for their spoken words, quoting from their books and pretending that they actually said those words to him over coffee. But that is okay, he says, because his only aim was to reveal “what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words” and to make sure that the reader “understood the point”. He says he has interviewed people who have “messages we desperately need to hear”, “brave” people with “vital messages”, and therefore it is in everyone’s interests that he present those messages in the clearest manner possible. Even if that means fabricating a conversation, making out that Gideon Levy or someone else said something to him which they categorically did not.

This is an extraordinary thing for a journalist to say. What Hari is really arguing is that the message of his journalism, the “truth” that he and his interview subjects apparently want to tell, is so important that embellishment and glorification are justified. This is not only superbly patronising to the reader – who is assumed to be so in need of hearing some liberal’s “vital messages” that those messages can be spoonfed to him in a deceitful fashion – but it also runs contrary to every journalistic ethic. The nub of Hari’s argument is that reality and truth are two different things, that what happens in the real world – in this case a chat between a journalist and some famous author or activist – can be twisted in the name of handing to people a neat, presumably preordained “truth”. It is a cause for concern that more journalists have not been taken aback by such a casual disassociation of truth from fact.

It is not surprising, however. Because the sad fact is that the BS notion that it is okay to manipulate facts in order to present a Greater Truth is now widespread in the decadent British media. Mark Lawson once wrote a column titled “The government has lied and I am glad”, in which he said it was right for the British authorities and media to exaggerate the threat of AIDS because this “good lie” (his words) helped to improve Britons’ moral conduct. When Piers Morgan was sacked from the Mirror for publishing faked photos of British soldiers urinating on Iraqi prisoners he said it was his “moral duty” to publish the pictures because they spoke to an ugly reality in Iraq. When this month it was discovered that the Syrian lesbian blogger was a fake, some in the media who had fallen for “her” made-up reports said the good thing about the blog is that it helped to “draw attention to a nation’s woes”. And now Hari says it doesn’t matter if he invents a conversation because it helps to express a “vital message” in the “clearest possible words”.

The idea of a “good lie” is a dramatically Orwellian device, designed to deceive and to patronise. A lie is a lie, whether your intention is to convince people that Saddam is evil and must be bombed or that Gideon Levy is a brainy and decent bloke. Lying to communicate a “vital message”, a liberal and profound “truth”, is no better than lying in order to justify a war or a law’n'order crackdown or whatever. That more journalists cannot see this, that many of them have instead allowed their personal friendship with Hari to cloud what they think of this affair, is depressing. Why would anyone take seriously the reporting or commentary of people who believe it is acceptable to massage and refashion the facts in the name of telling “The Truth”?

Patriotic and Progressive

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Ed Miliband has said it's important for the Labour party to listen to the people more if it is to regain power and topple the coalition at the next general election. But there’s one important issue on which the public are expressing their opinions loud and clear - and where Miliband and the Labour hierarchy are clearly not listening: Europe.

Earlier this year, a YouGov poll of 2,436 voters, ahead of the launch of the cross-party People’s Pledge campaign, found that 61 per cent wanted a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU. Another poll, in December 2010, found almost 50 per cent of people in favour of withdrawal. In March, the Daily Express delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street backed by 373,000 of the newspaper's readers calling for Britain to leave the EU. The Daily Mail is another mass circulation paper backing the call for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Yet a constituent who asked Miliband if he supported a referendum received the reply: "Mr Miliband does not believe that a referendum on UK membership of the EU is appropriate at this time." By siding with the government on this issue, Miliband is making a colossal error. Given the widespread and growing opposition to the EU in Britain, there are enormous political gains to be had for the first of the big three parties to break ranks and adopt an unequivocally Euro-sceptic position. And for Miliband, committing to an EU referendum wouldn't just be smart politics - it would also be promoting a progressive agenda.

While the Right claim that the EU is a sinister Soviet-style socialist bureaucracy, in fact it’s a body that no self-respecting socialist or social democrat should have anything to do with. The EU has been imposing, regardless of public opinion, capital-friendly, neo-liberal policies on its member states and, in the name of 'increasing competition', prohibiting state subsidies and other forms of government intervention in the economy. Although the right-wing case against Europe is the one we hear most often, the left-wing case - that the EU is an undemocratic block on socialism - is actually much stronger. These were the arguments that used to be made so eloquently by intelligent Labour Party opponents of the EEC/EU such as Tony Benn and the late Peter Shore, a former minister of trade in the 1970s and a strong supporter of a planned economy.

I corresponded with Shore when I was teaching economics in Switzerland in the early 1990s and he sent me lots of material on why a single European currency - and the moves towards greater economic integration within the EU - would only end in tears.
Shore was a man who knew what he was talking about; as his Times obituary stated, he was "one of the few MPs who had read all of the Rome and Maastricht treaties and could quote from them at will". In a parliamentary debate on economic and monetary union in January 1991, Shore claimed, in relation to a EU Commission paper on monetary union, "Never in my life have I read a document that gave bankers more power over economic, national and Community life".

In a debate on the European Communities Bill in March 1993, the committed Keynesian drew attention to the "deflationary heart" of the Maastricht treaty. "The issues of democracy, prosperity and self-government in the nation states of Europe will not go away", he said in a letter to me in December of that year. Everything that Peter Shore predicted about the impact of the Maastricht Treaty - how its inbuilt monetarist bias would lead to economic decline and mass unemployment throughout the continent - has come to pass.

But Labour, instead of following Shore's sagacious left-wing Euro-scepticism, has instead decided to support an organisation which puts the interests of the global financial and corporate elite above the interests of ordinary working people.
Miliband may be inhibited by a fear that he’ll be labeled a 'little Englander' by the Europhile establishment. But if he's smart he will set out a non-xenophobic, anti-EU case which is both patriotic and progressive, winning support of disillusioned Conservatives, potential UKIP voters and leftists alike. What on earth is he waiting for?

Yes, but...

Not only would the negotiations necessary in order to leave the EU drag on for years and years, but calling the referendum “a device of demagogues and dictators” was Thatcher’s only ever favourable quotation of a Labour Prime Minister. Yet to those who worship at Thatcher’s altar while wholly ignoring her record on this and so much else, the demand for that deeply flawed and wholly foreign device has become a nervous tick. They honestly cannot see how Pythonesque it is to demand a referendum in the cause of defending parliamentary sovereignty. The Lisbon Treaty is self-amending, so there can never be another treaty. What is needed is legislation with five simple clauses.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to
Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the “Supreme Court”) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.

And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac
nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or Dutch ultra-Calvinists who refuse to have women as candidates. Soon to be joined by Turkish Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists.

This calls for a Labour three-line whip in favour, with the public warning that the Whip would be withdrawn from any remaining Blairite ultra who failed to comply. The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy. The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed to the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa. The SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism. (Both the Liberal Party and, on a much smaller scale, the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)

The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the Greens are staunchly anti-EU, so is the DUP, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.

Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called. This is how to do it.

The Last Irony

Isabel Hilton writes:

Staff in the lavish library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences last week were assembling huge display boards to commemorate one of 2011's significant moments: the 90th birthday of the Chinese Communist party, China's only governing party for the last 60 years. Once such displays carried images of workers, peasants and soldiers, united under the party's red banner. Today, they speak of science, technology and modernity.

The party's birthday is being celebrated at what seems a moment of triumph in all these categories: China has never been richer or more engaged in the world; investment in science and technology is sky high; the economy is booming while others splutter. Beijing is crowded with skyscrapers and grandiose cultural monuments, built to show that China's capital wants to be a world-class city. It seems like a happy event.

There is another significant anniversary this year of a milestone on the way to this moment of economic power: the centenary of the 1911 revolution, which brought an end to the Qing dynasty and with it some 2,000 years of imperial tradition. Unlike the birthday of the party, however, it is being oddly underplayed.

Surely the overthrow of what the party still calls the "semi-feudal system" that had delivered a weakened China into the hands of foreign powers is a moment any revolutionary party would celebrate? So why the official reticence?

One easy answer is that the revolution preceded the appearance of the Communist party by a full decade. Since the party's preferred historical narrative casts it as the only begetter of China's liberation and subsequent rise, this awkward complication is hard to overlook. The fact is that the 1911 revolution was a messy and virtually unplanned affair. Nor was it led by the next best thing to the unborn Communist party – Sun Yatsen, a tireless non-Communist revolutionary later adopted by the party as a semi-paternal figure: he happened to be away in the US on a fundraising trip. The revolution happened without him.

The events of 1911 are simply too messy to lend themselves to the heroic narrative of leadership that underpins revolutionary history. There was no masterplan, no clear leader, no single ideology – just a ferment of ideas, as intellectuals, officials and revolutionaries devoured new theories in science, technology, history and politics, arguing about China's decline. Some blamed the Manchu emperors, others the suffocating dominance of a backward-looking Confucianism, with its stress on social hierarchy that had ended in stagnation. A republic with representative democracy was a widely shared aspiration.

A century later the Communist party's rule has begun to resemble the system that 1911's accidental revolutionaries overthrew: a large and privileged bureaucracy, hereditary privileges in the ruling elite, a mass of toiling workers and farmers – and, finally, the embrace of Confucius, the man the revolutionaries rejected 100 years ago, as someone with a lot to say about hierarchical government. In January a 31ft statue of the sage, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the artist Ai Weiwei, was erected outside the National Museum in Tiananmen Square, hitherto the preserve of revolutionary heroes. In April, without explanation, the statue disappeared.

Confucian influence, however, remains. The official doctrine today is not class struggle but harmony. In China's parks and city squares ever larger numbers of people are coming together to sing the stirring songs of the Maoist era – the latest wave of nostalgic cultural revolution kitsch to be reinvented as a social trend. But in the party schools, theorists labour to refashion the Marxist theoretical canon to a task as painful and difficult – and finally pointless – as the legendary Confucian eight-legged essay, the gold standard examination that imperial bureaucrats had to pass.

But if its ideology is hard to define, there is one area in which the party remains true to form: it is still, in its organisation, a Leninist party, dedicated to its own destiny of perpetual rule – though Lenin might have raised an eyebrow at the fact that it is also heavily involved in business: by the time the party is 100 years old, perhaps it will be clearer whether it is a business with a party attached, or a party with a business on the side. Its story is not over yet.

Meanwhile, it continues to select and enforce a single version of its own and the nation's history that for now, in a neatly executed circle, embraces Confucius over both Marx and its former supreme leader, Mao Zedong – now reduced to the empty homage of a photograph on Tiananmen Gate, and, in the last irony, a portrait on every banknote.

Timing and Tone

George Walden writes:

One of the worst mistakes you can make in politics, the wiseacres will tell you, is to start looking at things from the other guy’s point of view. It may have been the wearisome predictability of it all, but as the Chinese prime minister stepped up to the microphone at 10 Downing Street this week to receive his dressing down by head prefect Cameron, and instructions about how better to run his country, for once I felt a moment’s sympathy.

What was going on in Wen Jiabao’s mind as he listened? His replies were a little waspish, but was he tempted to break with convention altogether, throw away his prepared text and come up with a truly heartfelt riposte?

It would be tedious to remind you, he might begin, of the antiquity of my nation, but when I am treated like an errant schoolboy it is something that comes to mind. Let’s just say that by 200 BC, China had a fully functioning state. Rather a heavy-handed one, it’s true – our emperor Qin Shi Huangdi destroyed libraries and those who kept them, something no one would have done in your country. But then, unlike you, we had books to be burned and scholars to be buried alive.

More positively, you may recall that it was the Qin dynasty that produced the extraordinary terracotta army exhibited in Britain not long ago. Please forgive my ignorance of the state of the art of sculpting amongst your tribesmen at the time. By the 11th century, we also had power-assisted spinning, which I understand you achieved virtually simultaneously, give or take half a millennium, and by the 18th century we were the biggest economy in the world.

As I listen to your reproaches about our backwardness on human rights, Prime Minister, I was saddened not to hear any mention of what we have achieved since our chairman passed away. Only 40 years ago – you may not remember, Prime Minister, you were only a child – two million Chinese were being killed. Yet the most august people in Britain, such as The Right Honourable Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn, said the Cultural Revolution was a good thing, and many of your people wore Mao badges. Now you give me hell just because we arrest a few troublemakers. I am puzzled about this.

The Chinese and the British people know each other well. For two centuries, we have worked together. After you grabbed Hong Kong because we declined to import your opium to stupefy our people, we had little option. Today, our choice of who we trade with is greater.

I admit, of course, that your people are better than ours. They are fatter, for example, and more modern, but then as your junk food and junk art and divorce rates penetrate our country, we are catching up. So in the end, we shall all be the same. Except there will be more of us, and we shall make more things than you. Not just shoes or pantyhose or tank-tops, but tanks.

So when we decide whose car industry we shall underpin to avoid unemployment, or who will be first in the queue to import the high-speed trains we have developed, reminiscent of advanced French or Japanese trains but cheaper, we shall take account of how often our official visitors to your shores are given – how do you say? – six of the best in public.

If I may inject a personal note, at the time of the Tiananmen incident, I went into the square to speak to the students, at the risk of my career. So I would not want you to think that we Chinese are all alike. I can assure you that there are worse people than me.

Personally, I am in favour of democracy. Chinese democracy, that is, to be achieved in Chinese time. When it comes, our democracy may not be the same as yours, with few troubling to vote, or people scrutinising legislation in an Upper Chamber simply because they can trace their lineage back to Mencius or Confucius. Nor am I sure about how many political parties will wish to be involved. We shall see…

So it is that, left to himself, Wen Jiabao might have spoken. I am not saying we in Britain should shut up about rights and go for the exports. The arguments about being seen to support the democracy movement are clear enough – the question is how best to do it. The crucial test is whether the aim is to make us feel good, or to help those unjustly harassed or imprisoned.

Given the historical background, anything that smacks of lecturing is going to be counter-productive, especially from Britain. Beijing has its memories of past humiliations, and the more powerful the country becomes, the greater the danger of nationalist resentments growing. Like it or not, for the moment, large numbers of Chinese are indifferent to human rights as we know them. What they do know is that, for them, life has got a lot better.

It is not as if the Chinese government is unaware of what we think: our press exceeds all others in its investigative verve, and we are right to draw attention to alarming trends, such as the creeping rehabilitation of Chairman Mao as the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party approaches. Privately, we must certainly say things, sometimes publicly too. It is a question of timing and tone, and I am not convinced that we have got it right.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Middle Man

Ed Miliband was siding with the squeezed middle against the cuts, and he is siding with the squeezed middle against the strikes.

The Orwell Prize

Orwell is good. He is important. But he is still overrated. Not least, his depiction of Wigan is still resented in the town to this day. His famous remark about the goosestep was just plain wrong, like many of his others. And everyone should read Scott Lucas’s The Betrayal of Dissent, London: Pluto Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7453-2197-6.

However, Orwell’s patriotism, his social conservatism and his anti-Communism are vitally important in reminding the British Left that those are indispensable, and indeed definitive, aspects of our own tradition. All three, though perhaps especially the last, make him a particularly significant figure when set alongside Christopher Hill and E P Thompson in rescuing demotic culture from what Thompson called “the enormous condescension of posterity”, even though Orwell himself was not above condescension.

So any prize in his honour should be awarded for contribution to the patriotic, socially conservative, anti-Communist Left that was the best of him, and also, therefore, to ensuring that demotic culture is taken with high seriousness. Would Johann Hari, who has at least recanted his support for the Iraq War and who wrote a very important denunciation of Dubai, win such a prize? I only ask.


If there must be an IMF at all, then it should be headed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Dreyfus de nos jours, brought low by an alliance between those who will not have a Jew as President of the French Republic and those who will not have such a Jew who feels no civic allegiance to any country but his own. He is one of two protagonists in this story who are being used as foreign proxies in New York's domestic feud between Jews and blacks.

The other may be an African in America, but she is not an African-American in the sense that Jesse Jackson meant when he came up with that term. The demonstrators outside the courthouse were mostly Latina and unable to speak English properly on camera. Why did the Police not demand to see their documentation? More is the pity, neither party takes policing the undisputed border of the United States anything like as seriously as they both take policing the disputed border of the State of Israel.

A Great Variety of Morbid Symptoms

Nick Cohen might at last be starting to get it:

Whoever first came up with the saying, “the left won the culture war, the right won the economic war and the centre won the political war,” deserves some kind of prize for encapsulating the politics of the late 20th century. It is a sign of the extent of the shock the current crisis has brought that none of this trio of truisms now holds true.

The left won the culture war?

So it once appeared. But look at the boomerang that has whirled back through the air and smacked the children of the 1960s in the face. As liberal-leftists they knew that racists, homophobes and misogynists were bad people with terrible ideas and so they built a cultural order that accepted excessive restrictions on free speech to protect marginalised groups. They ought to know better now. Because they decided that they must do more than fight bad ideas with better ideas, and allowed “offence” rather than actual harm to be grounds for censorship, they could not defend liberalism against Islamists, who were indeed a marginalised group but also racists, homophobes and misogynists.

The right won the economic war?

So it seemed until 2008, now the right’s policy of allowing banks to run riot and extremes of wealth to build up at the top of society without compensating pay rises for the middle and working classes has left half-ruined economies awash with debt. I think it is fair to say that conservatives have yet to come to terms with the collapse of their illusions.

The centre won the political war?

Well, that victory turned out to be short-lived, and not only because the centre combined leftish cultural attitudes and conservative economic policies. The crisis in the Eurozone is most emphatically a crisis of the political centre. This why the journalists with the most awkward questions to answer are not my colleagues at the leftish Guardian and Observer, whose number have always included Larry Elliott, William Keegan and other clear-headed Eurosceptics but the reporters of that most centrist of organisations, the BBC, who failed in its duty to question the received wisdom of the European elite. A measure of the failure of the centre can be found in this fine piece from the current issue of Der Spiegel on the disillusion of the young:

"And now those who in the past showed very little interest for the European Commission, the Parliament and the bureaucracy in Brussels -- because they assumed that they weren't expected to be interested in these things -- are reading daily about the strange things European statesmen have done with the European idea: things like circumventing their own regulations, falsifying statistics and breaking promises. They are responsible for an impressive number of rule breaches and untruths. Can anyone blame Europeans who, in the last few months, have learned more about Europe than they ever wanted to know, for being distraught -- to put it mildly -- over what their governments have done in their names and with their money?"

Everyone is searching for a new order but no one seems to know what it will look like. If I may quote the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, in a Tory journal, he said in the 1930s that “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”. Given Europe’s recent history, we can expect the symptoms of its latest crisis to be very morbid indeed.

Political Naiveté Has Been Institutionalised

Brendan O'Neill writes:

Brendan Behan once said there is no situation so bad that it cannot be made worse by the arrival of a policeman. Well today there is no war so bloody that it cannot be made bloodier still by the intervention of the ICC. From the luxurious environs of The Hague, cheered on by liberals who get a cheap political thrill from seeing white lawyers stand up to evil Africans, the ICC has today issued an arrest warrant for Colonel Gaddafi, one of his sons and his security chief. This act of international moral posturing, designed to make the ICC look serious and superior, is likely to intensify the stand-off in Libya.

On one level, the issuing of the arrest warrant just seems barmy. These ICC bigwigs seem so removed from the real and messy world of politics and warfare that they seriously imagine it is possible to bring a war to an end by press-releasing a piece of paper saying: “Wanted for crimes against humanity: Muammar Gaddafi.” They seem to have confused the war in Libya with a nightclub brawl in Camberwell, imagining it is possible to resolve the whole miserable shebang by demanding the arrest of a few of the ringleaders. Once upon a time only spotty sixth-formers in turgid classroom discussions about conflict resolution would say things like “Hey, let’s just arrest the evil dude!” Now such political naiveté has been institutionalised in the ICC.

Yet on another level, the ICC’s game of cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, the Enlightened West against the Dark Continent, can have unpredictable, potentially dangerous repercussions. If earlier instances of ICC interference into African conflicts are anything to by, the impact of the lawyerly intervention into Libya is likely to be twofold. Firstly it will further entrench Gaddafi and his forces, convincing them that it would be better go down with all guns blazing than to end up in The Hague alongside Karadzic and various other hated evil figures. And secondly it will remove the political initiative from the rebel forces in the east of the country, sending them the ultimately debilitating message that they would be better off waiting for outside forces to come and rescue them – in this instance, white, wig-wearing moral crusaders from the ICC – than to realise for themselves the liberation of their country.

When the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, in 2008, its impact was as swift as it was deadly. As the African Union correctly described it, the warrant “poured oil on the fire” of the stand-off between Khartoum and various insurgent groups in Darfur. It immediately undermined peace negotiations between Khartoum and Dafurian representatives. Well, why bother negotiating a settlement when a powerful external force has decreed that one side in the negotiations is an evil, crazily genocidal entity? Not surprisingly the Darfurian group the Justice and Equality Movement, which only weeks earlier had agreed to peace talks, responded to the ICC’s actions by rejecting any further negotiation with Khartoum. Even worse, the ICC’s depiction of Khartoum as a criminal government impacted on the fragile agreement that had only recently brought to an end the decades-long conflict in southern Sudan. Elements in southern Sudan felt emboldened to talk the talk against the government in Khartoum, now that it had been reduced to the level of a common criminal by the ICC.

Such are the potential side-effects of the ICC’s moral bluster and chest-puffing posturing. Its self-serving antics may create a buzz of excitement in cafes in Islington and Paris, but they have real, physical consequences for everyday people in Africa. The ICC’s ill-advised intervention into Libya makes the possibility of a negotiated settlement there, including one that might have led to Gaddafi stepping down, seem that bit harder to imagine. Instead, Gaddafi will feel antagonised and further isolated, likely to lash out more violently still against his opponents; and his opponents will adopt the role of the international community’s favourite pet victims, whose continued struggling and suffering just might, if they are lucky, win them more pity from the egotistical great and the good of The Hague and beyond. This warrant has just made a messy conflict messier, all in the name of making a few Western lawyers and observers feel morally moist. Nice.

Sont Des Mots Qui Vont Très Bien Ensemble?

Much of this is awful, of course. But, with my emphasis added:

#1) Abortion - As a former foster-mother for 23 children, Michele Bachmann understands that each and every child is precious. During her brief tenure in the U.S. Congress, she has been one of the few members to actually try to honestly fight for the rights of the unborn. A lot of Republicans give lip service to the issue of abortion, but once they are in office they do absolutely nothing about it. The truth is that the United States of America is NOT going to survive if we keep killing approximately a million unborn children each year. Michele Bachmann would be the most pro-life president the U.S. has had ever since Roe v. Wade was decided.

#4) Auditing The Federal Reserve - Michele Bachmann has bravely joined Ron Paul's call to audit the Federal Reserve.

#5) Global Currency - Michele Bachmann is fundamentally against the move towards the creation of a global reserve currency. In fact, she has introduced legislation to protect the status of the U.S. dollar. The reality is that globalism has gotten totally out of control, but both Democrat and Republican leaders have been recklessly pushing increased globalism for decades. It is about time that we had a president that is willing to stand up against globalism and willing to stand up against a global currency.

#6) Wall Street Bailouts - Michele Bachmann was one of the most outspoken opponents of the Wall Street bailouts. Why should countless billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars go to Wall Street elitists who made some big mistakes? The Wall Street bankers certainly are not interested in bailing out those who are losing their homes or their jobs. In fact, the Wall Street bankers are hoarding the cash they received in the bailouts and have decreased lending instead of increasing it. The truth is that the bailouts that both John McCain and Barack Obama supported were absolute madness. Michele Bachmann has been fighting these bailouts, and that is one reason why the Tea Party crowd loves her so much.

#9) Gay Marriage - Michele Bachmann supports both a federal and a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and any legal equivalents. This is very refreshing at a time when even many Republican lawmakers are coming out in favor of gay marriage.

Conservatives are inspired by Michele Bachmann. They respond to her leadership. The truth is that the Republicans have not had a true inspirational conservative leader in the White House since Ronald Reagan. It is about time they had another.

So, abortion as the Number One priority, the GOP castigated for having paid nothing more than lip service to it, pride declared in having joined a campaign led by the favourably name-checked Ron Paul, Republicans no less than Democrats decried for their globalism, John McCain bracketed with Barack Obama in being denounced for having supported the bailouts, Republicans rounded on for departing from the traditional definition of marriage, and very short shrift indeed given to every Republican leader since January 1989.

Everyone except Romney is really only running to be Romney's running mate, and even he is really only running because someone has to while the Republican National Committee waits for 2016 and David Petraeus, a member of the Obama Administration. They all understand this. Well, all of them except Bachmann, anyway...

Not Conducive To The Public Good

By all means exclude "foreign-born preachers of hate" from this country. Including Raed Saleh. Among other Islamists. Such as the black-shirted pimp and heroin-trafficker Hashim Thaçi, who is somehow also both a Wahhabi and a Maoist - he really is what the more hysterical Tea Party attendees imagine Obama to be. Such as the terrorist Akhmed Zakayev, whom this country currently harbours. Such as the recently apprehended terrorist Abdulmalik Rigi. And such as the even more recently arrested war criminal Ejup Ganic.

However, also including the signatories to the Project for the New American Century, and the Patrons of the Henry Jackson Society. Also including those American and other ecclesiastics who have expressed racist views about Africans and others who do not share their liberal sexual morality. Also including Hans Küng, whose disparagement of Blessed John Paul the Great's Polishness made and make them the authentic voice of the age-old Teutonic racism against the Slavs; Küng only gets away with it because he is Swiss. Also including Avigdor Lieberman, the members of his party, and those who sit in coalition with them, some of whom believe that Gentiles were created as beasts of burden; would any other country with people like that in government be treated as anything other than a pariah by the West? Also including the EDL-supporting leaders of the Tea Party. And also including a whole host of others. For example, Geert Wilders. Their presence most certainly would not be, and periodically is not, conducive to the public good.

Nor is our subjugation to the legislative will of the sorts of people that turn up in the coalitions represented in the European Parliament and in the EU Council of Ministers. Stalinists and Trotskyists. Neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis. Members of Eastern Europe's kleptomaniac nomenklatura. Neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany. Before long, the ruling Islamists of Turkey. And their opponents, variously extreme secular ultra-nationalists and Marxist Kurdish separatists. When Jörg Haider's party was in government in Austria, the totally unreconstructed Communist Party was in government in France. In the Council of Ministers, we were being legislated for by both of them. In the European Parliament, we still are, because we always are. People who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland may not take their seats at Westminster. But they do at Strasbourg. And so on, and on, and on. That is not conducive to the public good, either.

Nor is the (often desperately ignorant) African-American takeover of our black politics, which is of overwhelmingly Afro-Caribbean or African origin, and barely, if at all, related to African-American culture. If the things being colonised from Harlem and Chicago were being run from the Caribbean or from Africa, as they sometimes have been and are, then that would be bad enough. This, however, is not merely outrageous, although it is certainly that. It is downright bizarre. And it is not conducive to the public good.

Any more than is subjugation of our foreign and defence policy to the United States, or the supremacy of EU over British law, or the above-mentioned fact that we are all subject to the legislative will of the assorted headcases who turn up in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, or the separatist administration in Scotland, or the presence of a borderline separatist and undoubtedly language-fascist party in that of Wales, or the running of Northern Ireland by the alliance between a fringe fundamentalist sect and people who believe the Provisional Army Council to the sovereign body throughout Ireland. All of that is well-known, although none of it is anywhere near as profoundly appreciated as it ought to be.

No, as if all, or even any, of that were not bad enough, we now have all political parties in certain Midland, Yorkshire and North-Western towns and cities run as (by no means always predictable) proxies for rival factions in Pakistan, to the extent that the rally designed to name Asif Ali Zardari's son as sole Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party was held in Birmingham, with a large rival demonstration outside; Glasgow is heading the same way, as both Labour's selection of a candidate for its safe seat of Glasgow Central, and the scramble for the Conservatives' list seat at Holyrood, made abundantly clear. We now have an entire London Borough in which political life is being directed from Bangladesh, even if one does have to laugh at the implicit suggestion that the East End was somehow a model of probity before the Bengalis shipped up. We now have thriving scenes loyal to each of Hindutva and Khalistan, both of which were significant at the Ealing Southall by-election. And so on, and on, and on.

What's that you say? Immigration? Well, it is a contributing factor, of course, although few voters for the SNP, fewer for Plaid Cymru, and none for the DUP or Sinn Féin are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, or the grandchildren of immigrants, or the great-grandchildren of immigrants. But what of the burgeoning white nationalist movement, increasingly centred, not even on the collapsing BNP, but on the EDL, which has deep, deep roots in the "casual" football hooliganism of the 1980s and 1990s? It, too, is foreign-funded and foreign-controlled, by the Tea Party and by the secular Israeli Hard Right, which is currently in government, and whose American branch office was recently addressed by one Rupert Murdoch. Ah, yes, Rupert Murdoch. He, too, is not conducive to the public good.

Spanish Lessons

“It’s a pity that only one of them can lose,” said Henry Kissinger of the Iran-Iraq War. The same was true of the Spanish Civil War. We need to face the fact that we had no dog in that fight, a war between those who entirely predictably went on to back the Axis while officially neutral, and those who wanted to turn Spain into a satellite of, initially, a de facto member of the Axis, as Spain would also have been if the Republicans had won. Indeed, she would have been so even more than she was under Franco, since the Soviet Army actually fought alongside that of Nazi Germany, notably staging a joint victory parade through the streets of Brest-Litovsk. If Hitler had also had such a relationship with a Soviet-dominated Spain, then he would probably never have reneged on the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and therefore might very well have won the War.

The Spanish Civil War has always split Old Labour into its constituent subcultures. It did at the time. The Hard Left is as ardently pro-Republican as ever, because of its myopia, even now, about Stalinism, because of its anti-Catholicism, and because of the overrating of George Orwell. Meanwhile, Catholics, at least if pushed or if they know anything at all about it (as almost no younger Spaniards do, either), will still back the Falangists, whose ostensible Catholicism was a perversion defined by its reaction against other things, although there have been worse such before, at the same time, and since. No one else will have much, if any, view on the matter. But we need to get real. Even if Franco was no Hitler, neither side deserves our historical sympathy. Franco, as much as anything else, maintained, and occasionally tried to press, a territorial claim to staunchly Catholic and staunchly British Gibraltar.

Since Soviet archives were opened up, all sorts of information has come to light. The entire Republican cause was Comintern-directed, and the Soviet intervention was in no sense parasitic as has traditionally been supposed or asserted. For example, far from being commanded by a Canadian volunteer, the International Brigade was in fact commanded by Manfred Stern, a Soviet Commissar. But then, there never was an anti-Soviet Left in Spain in the Thirties; that myth has been astonishingly long-lasting considering its complete and utter baselessness. Take, for example, Francisco Largo Cabellero, Socialist Party Leader and Popular Front Prime Minister. Entirely typically of his party, he defined it as a revolutionary force wholly distinct from British Labour or the French Socialists, and differing “only in words” from the Communists. The Socialist Party's 10-point programme of 1934 was wholly Leninist in form and substance, calling, among other things, for the replacement of the Army and the Civil Guard with a workers’ militia, and for the dissolution of the religious orders and the expropriation of their property. So one could go on, and on, and on.

Stalin only loosened his grip once the Civil War was clearly lost, long after the Republicans themselves had given up what little commitment to democracy that they might ever have had. So the best that can be said about the Spanish Civil War is that the not-quite-so-bad bad guys won. If the even-worse bad guys (the Republicans) had won, then Spain would actually have fought with the Axis just as the Soviet Union did, the Nazi-Soviet Pact would probably never have collapsed, and Hitler might therefore very well have won the War.

"He Wants Advice"

Why are universities under Business rather than under Education? The latest effusion from No Brains Willetts answers that one only too well. You should indeed find the degree course with the highest future earning potential. In order to avoid it like the plague so that you can get yourself an education instead.

Vive L'Empereur?

Well, I was born in Saint Helena. And, as John writes:

A recent Foreign Policy article by Leon Aron is illustrative of the sorry state of modern conservatism. Aron generally supports the legacy of Boris Yeltsin and the devastating neoliberal "shock therapy" that ushered in an era of gangster capitalism, complete with dramatic increases in suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime, and a whole host of other catastrophes, including a demographic disaster. Aron's ideology is a good example of the radical neoliberalism that is usually called “conservatism” in the United States.

Predictably, Aron takes shots at Vladmir Putin, warning of the dangers of “neo-authoritarian Putinism.” I suppose that for today’s Jacobins, Putin is the new Bonaparte. Of course, from a populist perspective, better Bonapartists than neoliberal/neoconservative radicals. At least under Bonapartist political theory, the emperor is supposed to stand above all classes and rule justly in the name of the people, not just for the benefit of a few plutocratic oligarchs.

Indeed, is it just a coincidence that both Trotskyists and neoconservatives have spilled so much ink writing against Bonapartism, and Left Bonapartism in particular? Even though the neocons don’t often use terms like “Bonapartism,” terms such as “neo-authoritarian” and even “fascist” are often used by neoconservatives to describe populist figures who refuse to bow down to the neoliberal consensus on economics and culture. Yes, they might very well be authoritarians (which, emphatically, is not the same thing as being a fascist!), but can we blame people for preferring authoritarian leaders who give them domestic peace and some measure of economic security and justice versus anarchy and gangsterism?

The Slavs in general, and Russia in particular, are the age-old gatekeepers of our Biblical-Classical civilisation, whether against Islam, against Far Eastern domination, or now also against the pseudo-West of the neocons. Something similar is true of la France éternelle, the land of Charles Martel, in which his heirs are valiantly engaged in a demographic war, not only against the rise of a semi-feral underclass which is in any case nothing on that in the “Anglo-Saxon” countries that have ceased to will the means to a properly functioning bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also against the Islamic expansionism that dismembered France as recently as 1962, when she was mutilated by the loss, not of three colonies, but of three départements, integral parts of the French state and nation.

That was the perspective from which, in and through the person of a decorated veteran of the Algerian War, she opposed the greatest catastrophe since 1962 for what was originally Christendom on three continents, covering every inch of the Mediterranean’s shores. For what remained of that, 1962 was the greatest catastrophe since 1948 (itself the greatest since 1923), and 2003 seems set to have been the greatest until a similar intervention in Syria. That will doubtless also be resisted, even if not by Sarkozy, then certainly by of la France éternelle, the conscious, literal rebirth of which will have tremendous consequences in, for example, the United Nations Security Council, where they can expect the support of Russia and will also deserve that of the United Kingdom and the United States.

A post on Friday led to some discussion of René Rémond’s theory of the three French right wings. And of course I quite concur that Orléanism as bourgeois and economically liberal is the Franco-Whiggery against which stand both the populist traditionalism of the Legitimists and the populist authoritarianism of the Bonapartists. But I would not agree that the only continuation of Legitimism is in the more-or-less Lefebvrist wing of the FN and its electorate. Although Gaullism does have obvious Bonapartist roots, just as Boulangism did, yet it strikes me that the popular followings for either and both were and are at least as much Legitimist, especially deep in the countryside.

Especially there, I do not think that the anti-Gaullist Right is entirely Orléanist, either; not for nothing did it most recently rally to a man whose name was not merely Giscard, but Giscard d’Estaing. Not for nothing did Philippe de Villers withdraw from the UDF over Maastricht as surely as Charles Pasqua withdrew first internally and then externally from the RPR. And where does anyone think that the popular constituency for an anti-Marxist Socialist Party first came from, or very largely still does come from? Mitterrand could never decide whether he wanted to be Louis XIV or Napoleon, but he certainly wanted to be one or the other. And deep down, at least, one or the other was what huge numbers of his voters wanted him to be, too. Otherwise, he would never have won. When he did win, he gave a job to Poujade, in whom the Legitimist and Bonapartist populisms of the Right met, who had endorsed him and who did so again.

To End All War

Peter Hitchens writes:

During some recent long train and plane journeys I’ve read three powerful works of modern history. The first is Michael Burleigh’s Moral Combat, often advanced as an answer to the doubts of people like me about the moral purity of World War Two. Then I turned to The Third Reich in Power by Richard Evans, the second volume of his trilogy which examines the Hitler period. This is particularly interesting because most general books on the subject concentrate on Hitler’s coming to power and on the war. This one goes into rather more detail about how National Socialism operated and achieved its ends. Finally, I read To End All War by Adam Hochschild, a revelatory and almost wholly fresh study of opposition (such as it was) to the First World War.

The first thing I’d like to say is that Hochschild actually made me change my mind. I have for many years crabbily resisted attempts to rehabilitate the soldiers shot for desertion during the 1914-18 war. I took the view that the great majority did what they believed to be their duty, and that those who didn’t couldn’t and shouldn’t be accorded the same status. But his account of the treatment of several of these cases completely overturned my view. I now feel that I was quite wrong, and withdraw what I have said in the past. These men most certainly deserve to be honoured. The truth is that I have suspected this for years, and should have shifted long ago, but it took the incidents in this book to push me over the hump.

I would also say that Hochschild more or less demolishes any remaining justification for fighting this war at all. My only disappointment is that he gives far less space than he ought to Viscount Lansdowne’s attempt to call for a negotiated peace, which if heeded might have saved the world from much (there is a moment in Huxley’s Brave New World where Lansdowne’s failure is noted as a turning point of modern history, a vast conservative failure and one of the reasons for the Fordist revolution which wiped out history, privacy, the family and religion). I realised as a small boy in late 1950s Britain that the First World War had destroyed an order that was in many ways admirable. It was obvious, from studying the ancient pre-1914 volumes of Punch in my prep school library, that the world before the battle of Mons was calmer, sweeter, more settled and in many important ways happier than what followed. These books were not trying to give this impression. Like old advertisements and guide books, they gave a disarmingly frank impression of how people actually felt and lived at the time.

People will tell me about slums, the crudities of empire, malnutrition and so forth, and they will be right. But isn’t it false to imagine that the world would have remained exactly the same in all ways? Without the war, we could have made plenty of social progress, perhaps more. Above all, we would not have lost all those men, the flower of their generation, who volunteered for what they thought was a fine cause. Not to mention avoiding the Russian coup d’état - and Hitler, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mussolini remaining obscure and unknown failures till their lives’ ends.

Here I’ll turn briefly to The Third Reich in Power, which seemed to me to show that the National Socialist regime was far more socially radical than its present-day critics like to acknowledge. Its cult of youth was a particular menace to proper education, as it stripped power from teachers – and parents - and gave it to aggressive Hitler Youths. I still feel the lack of a really thorough look at this movement in English (if anyone knows of one, I’d be grateful) as it played a huge part in undermining religion and destroying parental influence, and was also pretty relaxed (as were most of the Nazi hierarchy) about premarital and extramarital sex. Though it is from Michael Burleigh’s book that I learned that Nazi Germany’s 1936 divorce laws accepted ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as a ground for divorce, 33 years ‘ahead’ of Britain’s decision to do the same. The idea that National Socialism was a form of conservatism, or allied to it, really does not stand up to much examination.

It had, in these areas, plenty in common with the Communist regime in Stalin’s USSR. And it could not progress without coming into severe conflict with the churches, a conflict which would have been far more virulent had Hitler and his government survived longer than the 12 years they actually had. It was also deeply hostile to the rule of law, and to the independence of the courts. Likewise the universities, the professions, the newspapers, were all ingested in much the same way that a left-wing totalitarian regime would have used. The mass robbery of the Jews was, as in all revolutionary expropriation, a convenient way of rewarding the revolutionary party’s supporters, with money and jobs. The conduct of political conservatives was often shameful and generally mistaken, though they could not know the horrible future. Many of the clergy were too narrowly concerned with their own interests and never widened their attacks to encompass the regime as a whole. Mind you, nor did anybody else.

But Franz von Papen’s Marburg speech, and the Vatican’s secret distribution of its Mit Brennende Sorge document, were both startlingly bold challenges to the National Socialists, which infuriated Hitler and provoked severe reprisals. The left were also often courageous (I have mentioned here the extraordinary courage of the Social Democrat Otto Wels in the final hours of a free Reichstag) , but the Communists in particular behaved as stupidly (if not more so) than the German conservatives. I think it important to note that conservatives and Christians resisted, and were attacked for their resistance. I still gasp with sheer astonishment at the aristocratic scorn for the Gestapo repeatedly shown by Cardinal Archbishop Graf von Galen, whose story should be better known. He defied Hitler over many subjects, in public, but I would like to note here that one of his fiercest battles was against the National Socialist euthanasia programme.

This brings me to Michael Burleigh’s disappointing book. Far from being a thorough retort to (say) A.C.Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities, which I discussed here last year, it seems to me to miss the point made by most of those who condemn the bombing of German civilians. What we are not saying is that this bombing was the moral equivalent of the massacre of the Jews. It was not, and those in Germany or elsewhere who have attempted to suggest any such thing are not my allies. What we are saying is that war fought in this way, and in alliance with the wholly immoral USSR, cannot continue to be exalted as some sort of holy conflict. This alleged holiness obscures an honest assessment of its rights and wrongs, leads to an emotional rather than a rational analysis of Britain’s part in it, and leads to silly evasion of responsibility for actions which ought never to have been taken. It also leads to the perpetual misuse of the 1939-45 war as the model for modern interventionist diplomacy – a model based on a wholly wrong understanding of why and how we fought the 1939-45 war.

In my attempt (last year) to discuss the timing and purpose of Britain’s entry into the war, so mistimed that it nearly got us subjugated, I ran into an emotional blockage from many readers who simply could not get past the frayed and increasingly insupportable myth of the ‘Finest Hour’. This is always coupled with a standard set of beliefs about the occupation of the Rhineland and the later Munich crisis, in which it is assumed that a serious alternative policy was a) available at the time and b) practicable at the time and c) would have led to a better outcome. Thus they could not properly examine the incompetence of British diplomacy in the late 1930s, and its absolute nadir, the ludicrous and dishonest guarantee to Poland, which allowed Colonel Beck, at his desk in Warsaw, to decide when or if we went to war with Germany (and why).

One of my critics was reduced to inventing non-existent declarations by Hitler and non-existent intelligence documents, in trying to show that Hitler would have attacked Britain in 1940 whatever we had done. Unflattering as it is for our national ego, I don’t think he cared enough. Until we can start looking at 1939 with the dispassionate coolness rightly used to examine the 1914-18 war, we won’t be able to make sense of it and (in my opinion) we will not cure ourselves of the urge to go out and bomb countries such as Libya for their own good.

A few thoughts about the Burleigh book. First some quibbles. He says (on page 489) that German bombers ‘achieved a firestorm’ in Coventry on 14-15 November 1940. I had never heard this before and do not think it true. Coventry was a filthy massacre, but not a firestorm. He also (I am genuinely baffled by this in someone who spends so much time researching German history) states (on page 550) that ‘FDR’ stands for the Federal Republic of Germany. It doesn’t, in English or German. The error is repeated in the paperback. These are minor niggles, but they made me uncomfortable. It is more important when he uses words as he does about those who disagree with him, for example (p.487) ‘Sir Arthur Harris, bête noire of the moral-equivalence claque’. Well, if there is such a claque, Sir Arthur may well be its bête noire. But he is also the bête noire of people who compare the casualty rate among his airmen to that at the Somme in 1916, and to those who, having no belief in moral equivalence, and are not a ‘claque’, even so think that the deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes was wrong in itself (and also that it was ineffectual, though it would have been wrong even if it hadn’t been).

The same rather blustering tone is to be found when he (on page 501) attacks ‘Moralistic arguments that selected some but not all aspects of war fighting’. In a book entitled Moral Combat, it seems a bit odd to be so dismissive. Aren’t such arguments simply ’moral’ rather than moralistic? Isn’t that how they are conducted? Isn’t the existence of a moral rule about just war the whole reason for his book? In another baffling passage he praises Archbishop Cosmo Lang on the grounds that he ‘had the good sense to know that clerics had no special competence to comment in these issues’ (area bombing). He says this was: ‘a humility lost on some of his contemporaries and successors’.(502-3). Surely the ‘competence’ involved was as guardians of the national religion, whose merciful character was presumably one of the reasons why Mr Burleigh thinks it a good thing that we won the war rather than the other side. I am not quite sure what ‘competence’ is needed to judge the morals of a military or other government action.

But he then launches (p.503) an extraordinary assault on George Bell, Bishop of Chichester and the principal opponent of the bombing of civilians. He attacks Bell’s belief that not all Germans were bad as ’an idea that primarily appealed to those who had hobnobbed at All Souls with well-mannered aristocratic Germans rather than with Nazi thugs’. Did it? Bell is also attacked (p. 504) for being ‘more than slightly in love with his self-image as a brave dissenter’. Was he? He is also accused of ‘vanity’. Was he vain? How do we know? Bell’s Church critics, on the other hand, are presented as ‘thoughtful’, possessing ‘common-sense realism’ and ‘tinged with a theologically coherent pessimism about the human condition, denied to such as Bell’. Well, if Bishops aren’t competent to discuss war, then are historians competent to issue judgements on theological coherence? And aren’t historians, especially the sort who write mass—market books about war, ever the teeniest bit vain? There’s a very handsome study of Mr Burleigh on the back cover flap. This is polemic, not history, and it doesn’t really face the arguments made by Grayling, let alone refute them.

Actually, the book is still rather good, and everyone should read it. Its facts, especially on the squalid, savage nature of our Soviet ally, are often powerful. In fact, as long as he sticks to the facts, Mr Burleigh is a great read with much new and interesting research well-assembled . I just don’t think his book really answers Bishop Bell, who for all his alleged vanity, said at the time and at his own considerable cost, what he believed to be right – and what future generations will come in time to believe was right.

Ronald Reagan: Isolationist

Jack Hunter writes:

In his ongoing mission to declare Republicans who dare question America’s foreign policy “isolationist,” Sen. John McCain asked recently concerning Libya: “I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today.” Columnist George Will answered McCain: “Wondering is speculation; we know this: When a terrorist attack that killed 241 Marines and other troops taught Reagan the folly of deploying them at Beirut airport with a vague mission and dangerous rules of engagement, he was strong enough to reverse this intervention in a civil war.” Will added: “Would that he had heeded a freshman congressman from Arizona who opposed the House resolution endorsing the intervention. But, then, the McCain of 1983 was, by the standards of the McCain of 2011, an isolationist.”

McCain’s definition of who’s an “isolationist” seems to be anyone who believes permanent war is not in America’s interest. For McCain, any decision not to intervene militarily overseas is tantamount to erecting a brick wall around the US. The actuality of McCain’s foreign policy continues to demonstrate its absurdity—as now 72% of Americans say the U.S. is “involved in too many foreign conflicts” according to a recent Pulse Opinion Research poll. According to McCain’s definition nearly three quarters of Americans are now isolationist. So was Ronald Reagan.

National Rifle Association President David Keene has noted the major distinction between Reagan’s foreign policy and the neoconservatives’ vision: “Reagan resorted to military force far less often than many of those who came before him or who have since occupied the Oval Office. . . . After the [1983] assault on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, it was questioning the wisdom of U.S. involvement that led Reagan to withdraw our troops rather than dig in. He found no good strategic reason to give our regional enemies inviting U.S. targets. Can one imagine one of today’s neoconservative absolutists backing away from any fight anywhere?” True to neocon form, McCain now chastises his own party for even daring to think about backing away from Libya or Afghanistan.

This is not to say that Reagan was a non-interventionist. He wasn’t. But it is to say that Reagan’s foreign policy represented something far more cautious and restrained than the hyper-interventionism the neoconservatives demand. After the 2010 election, McCain said of Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky: “Rand Paul, he’s already talked about withdrawals, cuts in defense… I worry a lot about rise of… isolationism in the Republican Party.” What sort of “isolationism” does Paul propose? Something similar to Reagan’s foreign policy.

Or as Paul told an audience at John Hopkins University earlier this month: “If for example, we imagine a foreign policy that is everything to everyone, that is everywhere all the time that would be one polar extreme… Likewise, if we imagine a foreign policy that is nowhere any of the time and is completely disengaged from the challenges and dangers to our security that really do exist in the world—well, that would be the other polar extreme… But what about a foreign policy of moderation? A foreign policy that argues that—maybe we could be somewhere some of the time?” Sen. Paul added: “Reagan’s foreign policy was one in which we were somewhere, some of the time, in which the missions were clear and defined, and there was no prolonged military conflict—and this all took place during the Cold War.”

McCain now wonders what “Ronald Reagan would be saying today” because the neoconservatives have long been paraphrasing him while ignoring his actual record. Ask many conventional conservatives what a “Reagan Republican” is and you’ll likely hear something about “Peace through strength”—while they typically forget the peace part. Conservatives who admired George W. Bush’s foreign policy perceived Bush as being Reagan-esque. This is a fiction the neoconservatives have steadily encouraged—but it is still fiction.

Explained former Reagan Senior Adviser Patrick J. Buchanan: “Would Ronald Reagan have invaded Iraq? Would he have declared a doctrine of preventive war to keep any rival nation from rising to where it might challenge us? Would he have crusaded for ‘world democratic revolution’? Was Reagan the first neoconservative? This claim has been entered in the wake of his death. Yet, it seems bogus, a patent forgery, a fabricated claim to the Reagan legacy, worked up in the same shop where they made the documents proving Saddam was buying up all the yellowcake in Niger.” Added Buchanan: “(Reagan) took the world as he inherited it. His mission was simple and clear: Defend the country he loved against the pre-eminent threat of the Soviet Empire, avoid war, for time was on our side, and accept the assistance of any friend who would stand with us. Reagan did not harbor some Wilsonian compulsion to remake the world in the image of Vermont.”

Foreign Policy’s Peter Beinart has noted Reagan’s comparative reluctance to commit troops: “on the ultimate test of hawkdom—the willingness to send U.S. troops into harm’s way—Reagan was no bird of prey. He launched exactly one land war, against Grenada, whose army totaled 600 men. It lasted two days. And his only air war—the 1986 bombing of Libya—was even briefer.” Beinart has also noted Reagan’s opinion of his neoconservative critics: “(W)hen Secretary of State Alexander Haig suggested… bombing Cuba, the suggestion ‘scared the shit out of Ronald Reagan,’ according to White House aide Michael Deaver. Haig was marginalized, then resigned, and Reagan never seriously considered sending U.S. troops south of the border, despite demands from (neo)conservative intellectuals… ‘Those sons of bitches won’t be happy until we have 25,000 troops in Managua,’ Reagan told chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein near the end of his presidency, ‘and I’m not going to do it.”

There is Reagan the myth; crafted by neocon worship and manipulation, and then there is Reagan the man, who helped end the Cold War with far less military intervention than what neoconservatives demand today. Author Michael Schaller noted in his 1992 book Reckoning with Reagan that “When Reagan retired, 72% of Americans voiced strong approval for his handling of foreign policy.” Today, 72% of Americans now believe their country does too much around the world. When John McCain wonders what “Reagan would be saying today” the Senator implies the late president would agree with him. But his actual record suggests that Ronald Reagan would be in sync—as usual—with the bulk of his fellow Americans.

Monday, 27 June 2011

In The Foxhole

Or, indeed, In The Coffey.

And so proceeds the great scheme to merge the Armed Forces into a single Corps with no air capability and as part of a single EU defence "capability" under the day-to-day command of either the French or the Germans, depending on how was in favour at the Imperial Court, but always under the overall control of the United States. The enthusiasm of the likes of Con Coughlin proves this, as if proof were needed.

What To Import From China

The right idea, that's what.

China still makes things, builds things and mines things, putting the jobs, heat and light of her people first. She is emerging from the gangster capitalism that always follows Communism by returning to her own culture, which is firmly centred on the family and the local community, reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, has barely started an external war in five thousand years, and is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. And she takes Africa seriously, even going there to secure the food supply necessary for her to give up the extremely anti-Confucian one child policy.

The correct response to the rise of China is therefore a return to making things, building things and mining things. To prioritising jobs, heat and light. To the family and the local community. To tradition and ritual. To moral rather than physical force. To the Golden Rule. To Agrarianism and Distributism. To a pronounced aversion to war. To the classical Christianity that completes and transcends Confucianism, in no way destroying it. To a very Classical and Patristic openness to, and interest in, Africa. And to the glorious celebration of the fact that the very last thing wrong with the world is that it has people in it.

How Co-operatives Narrow The Gap

Bill Kerry, co-director of The Equality Trust, provides a provocative guest blog for Co-operatives Fortnight on how co-operatives help narrow the gap between rich and poor:

The evidence we provide at The Equality Trust shows that when comparing economically advanced countries, those with greater equality of incomes (a narrower gap between rich and poor) suffer far fewer health and social problems than more unequal countries. They also have higher levels of trust, community participation and social cohesion. Looking across many different issues ranging from mental illness to obesity and from imprisonment to social mobility, we can see that more equal countries such as Japan and the Scandinavian countries have anywhere between two and ten times better outcomes than more unequal countries such as the UK or Portugal. The UK clearly has much to gain from reducing inequality.

High levels of income inequality leads to high levels of health and social problems by increasing social distances and damaging the quality of relations between us. People who live in unequal countries consider their own social position more often because there are greater differences in status. They are more likely to suffer prolonged stress through the processes of social comparison, because the chances of feeling looked down upon and disrespected are much greater. Chronic stress is extremely bad for health and damages personal relationships - and the feeling of being disrespected can often be the trigger for violence.

In attempting to reduce the harm caused by inequality it is important to look at the underlying economic arrangements that exist within a society, since they are largely what determine the distribution of income. There is a great deal of evidence from academic studies, such as The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, that more democratic economic forms such as co-operatives tend to promote narrower spreads of income between highest and lowest paid employees. They do this by virtue of their democratic structure and processes of accountability. As Wilkinson and Pickett point out, vast pay differentials of the sort often found in private shareholder-owned companies can probably only exist because of the lack of such democracy and accountability.

Another key advantage of co-operatives and other forms of economic democracy is that they institutionalise and embed norms of equality within our economy for the long term. Whereas governments come and go and policies on tax and spending are changed, co-operatives and other democratic economic forms comprise an enduring and growing sector of our society that cannot simply be undone by changes in government. Not only do co-operatives have a major part to play in making UK society more equal, they are here for the long haul and they provide a living, breathing example of the alternative economic model that we can look to for inspiration.

Far More Right Than Wrong

Norman Tebbit writes:

There are moments when even my heart goes out to Ed Miliband as he tries to dig the Labour Party out of the wreckage of the Blair/Brown era and back on the road to Government. It was such a moment when I read over the weekend that Mr Jeremyn Corbyn had declared himself in favour of elections for the Shadow Cabinet and that at least half of its members should be women.

Mr Corbyn cannot grasp that the Shadow Cabinet needs Labour’s best brains and that they need to be loyal to their leader. Whether they are male or female (or any other category) is not relevant. Such nonsense merely distracts Mr Miliband from his formidable task. First he must persuade his party that they have become the “unelectable party” and that this was not just the result of one bad campaign in 2010, but a long-term trend of falling support.

Back in 1945 Labour polled 12 million votes. They peaked at 13.9 million in 1951 and fell away to 8.4 million in 1983. There was a recovery to 13.5 million in 1997 at Blair’s first election win, but since then a remorseless slide to 10.7 million, 9.5, and then last year only 8.6 million.

Of course this is a mirror image of Mr Cameron’s problem and the questions that Miliband must ask himself are not greatly different to those which ought to be bothering the Tories. Why, as the electorate has grown by a third since 1945, are we getting fewer people to vote for us?

It is a miracle that Labour has not lost more. The mid 20th century socialist certainties, so clear to Ed Miliband’s father, have melted away. No one now believes in nationalisation. The collectivist view of society with great estates of council house and private ownership in decline has gone. The man in Whitehall is no longer believed to know best. The trades unions are in long-term decline. The bourgeoisie has not been abolished, it has expanded as the working class has moved upwards.

Labour’s one-time supporters, like the Conservative Party’s, have new and different concerns. Concerns to which Labour (like the Conservatives) have been indifferent.

A combination of the increasing power and influence of the EU and the unprecedented levels of immigration have left the white working class traditional Labour voters angry and disenfranchised. To make matters worse for Mr Miliband, those essentially socially conservative electors are bewildered by a welfare system which leaves the feckless, scrounging, workless family next door as well, or better off, than they are. It is their kids who are condemned to sink schools ruled not by teachers (a profession once commanding respect), but by hooligan children and their antisocial parents.

Low-level crime and vandalism and urban street drunkenness are bad enough in the middle class areas, but in the parts where Labour’s core voters live, they are appalling. The police are no longer respected and Mirror readers share the disgust and anger of the readers of The Daily Mail at the way in which the justice system favours the criminal rather than the victim.

In the face of all this where does Ed Miliband take his party? That is quite difficult for him, for he must repudiate the Left-wing intelligentsia into which he was born. He has to rediscover the zeal of the Welsh Valley Christian non-conformist respect for education… the real stuff that is. And he has to look to the self-help ethos of the Rochdale Pioneers. Then he must remember that patriotism and love of one’s country are as strong amongst the poor as the rich, and that political correctness is even less popular in the public bar than in the champagne bar.

Of course he must look to sensible policies on the economy, but he has little leeway there and would be wise not to pretend that he has. Above all, he has a huge advantage in that the Coalition is essentially divided and it, rather than Mr Miliband, has to force the country to submit to unwelcome measures. He has the chance to redefine Labour as a national, patriotic, un-doctrinaire party, of law and order and public decency, intent on widening opportunity and fairness rather than imposing equality.

The Tories have left their clothes on the beach. There is a great opportunity to leave Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg covering their blushes on that muddy centre ground whilst Mr Miliband could identify and stand on the common ground which unites most voters.

If Blue Labour and the tendency of which it is the vanguard really did take hold between now and 2015, which the hysterical reaction of the Blairite rump suggests is already happening, then we might very well have another 1974 moment. In that year, Enoch Powell told his supporters to vote Labour, the swing to which in his own West Midlands was decisive.

Lord Tebbit told people to vote UKIP at the last European Election, so if Cameron and CCHQ tried to come after him for telling those same people to vote Labour, then he could, and doubtless would, turn round and ask, "Why now, but not then?"

These Timeless Truths

Statement of the Bishops of New York State:

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

+Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
+Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany
+Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn
+Edward U. Kmiec, Bishop of Buffalo
+Terry R. LaValley, Bishop of Ogdensburg
+Matthew H. Clark, Bishop of Rochester
+William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre
+Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse

I realise that there is a lot more to New York State than New York City. But the loss of that grand old Irish and Italian stronghold is nevertheless a grievous, grievous wound.

An Alliance To Break The Stranglehold

Kelley B. Vlahos writes:

What do you get when you talk Pat Buchanan in a room in which every liberal peace and civil rights icon—from Gandhi to Rosa Parks to the Dalai Lama—is looking down like the immortals in a sort of benign judgment from a giant mural on the wall?
For one, the lightning doesn’t strike and the tables don’t clear with an angry clatter. In fact, the mostly liberal crowd that came to see the a panel about the prospects of a left-right alliance against war seemed ready to try anything to help the peace movement out of the dustbin of wasted energies in time for another drawn out presidential campaign cycle and the election of a new U.S. Congress in 2012.

The place: Busboys and Poets, in the heart of D.C.’s U Street Corridor and the city’s “cultural and activist” scene, which you can bet is not emblematized by bleeding liberty trees or minute men. Who? Ralph Nader, liberal activist, government watchdog and consummate third party provocateur; Dan McCarthy, editor-in-chief of The American Conservative magazine, a Republican Party insurgency, consummate paleo-conservative meets libertarian voice in the wilderness; Kevin Zeese, longtime liberal activist who began his career as an attorney for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and a former Green Party Senate candidate; and I, who was seated on the “right” of the stage because of my freelance affiliation with

The evening was moderated by Baltimore radio talk show host Marc Steiner, and sponsored by Come Home America, the brainchild of Zeese. He sees a left-right alliance as the natural evolution of a peace movement that’s floundered as the longtime proprietary activity of liberal-Democratic America. Since Obama’s election in 2008, Democrats have conspicuously fallen off the peace train, making the antiwar movement more anemic than ever. According to a recent University of Michigan study, up to 54 percent of antiwar activists had been self-described Democrats during the last presidential election between 2007-2009. Now, less than a quarter of activists call themselves Democrats anymore.

While the lost Democratic activists pretend Libya is not a war and torture is really “enhanced interrogation,” Zeese is enjoining an expanding number of liberal and conservative voices who think grabbing common ground—especially now, when GOP members of Congress and even Republican presidential candidates against the war are rising—might just infuse the flagging movement, and put pressure on politicians to start rethinking the gargantuan defense budget and help bring home the troops from war faster. In other words, uniting against American empire abroad and the expansion of the national security state at home.

“There is no question we disagree on other issues,” Zeese told the audience of a hundred or so people on Sunday night, “but there are a lot of issues where we can find agreement outside of ending empire, too.”

The idea of such an alliance is hardly new, with plenty of debate over whether it is even possible, much less an attractive prospect to either side. Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo has talked about it at length, and even spoke at one of Come Home America’s inaugural events. Late last year, in a speech given for the Boston chapter of the group, Raimondo exclaimed:

Without a united front against war, a union of the left and the right, no effective opposition to the War Party is possible. No party or faction, be it conservative or progressive, liberal or reactionary, has a monopoly on the banner of peace. At one time or another, both right and left have been on different sides of that divide, and if the goal of the peace movement is to be reached it must transcend and stand above this kind of partisanship.

Much has happened since he gave that speech, politics-wise. Most notably has been the continued rise of libertarian influence within the Republican Party as the voice of fiscal restraint, here and abroad. While so far the congress has failed to translate this new tone into cutting or even holding the line on the federal defense budget, there has been a new bipartisan alliance against the war, most notably in the recent showing of Republicans on a pair of (failed) votes to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and a fresh bipartisan lawsuit against military operations in Libya, which the president insists is not war, and therefore not subject to the War Powers Act.

Newcomers to the movement like two-term Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and freshman Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who rode the wings of the Tea Party into the House during the last election cycle, are now inhabiting the same space as longtime antiwar Republicans like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) (who is again running for president) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). Whether the newbies are sincere—in other words, whether they’ll cling to their conviction it’s “unconstitutional” when a Republican is elected president and continues to bomb the hell out of third world countries in the name of the national security—remains unknown, but they are generating welcome headlines for the media-parched antiwar movement in the meantime.

The same goes for the Republican primary candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who have been flirting with what would have been a no-go, pariah-making position in 2008—advocating military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whether we are looking at political expediency or not, the moment seems to be pregnant with possibilities for this nascent left-right experiment. In other words, there might not be a better time than now.

“We must answer the knock of history which is knocking at our door right now,” said Zeese. He is helping to organize what he calls a Tahrir Square-style action in Washington, D.C., on October 6. Billed as “October 2011,” planners hope to bring a diversity of protesters to Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington in a show of non-violent opposition to the “stranglehold of corporatism and militarism” on the country today, underscoring especially the effect of the ongoing wars on the economic landscape at home.

“If on the first day three hundred of us are arrested, we want to come back again the next day and do it all over again,” Zeese exclaimed.

Zeese wants October 2011—which will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan—to be the ultimate coming out of this new left-right alliance. But does this alliance even have what it takes? This is what came out of Sunday night’s discussion:

The left and right have sound, shared instincts on the war, the media, Washington politics and runaway militarism. “We have an unaccountable government,” said Nader, who has been fighting city hall for nearly five decades. The Pentagon budget has been “declared inaudible,” Nader added, and the “military industrial congressional complex” protected not only by a phalanx of reliable leaders in the immovable two-party system, but by mainstream media, think tanks, and corporate America.

This talk is no different than say, the conversation among disenchanted Republicans who have been fighting vigorously within the party and out for an alternative to the neoconservative foreign policy implemented during the Bush Years. Opposition has ranged from The American Conservative’s groundbreaking debut in 2002 of the paleo-conservative position against the War in Iraq, to the “Ron Paul Revolution,” which, although Paul never left his party, has taken place largely outside of the two-party realm.

Sunday night, the discussion was not so much about promoting another third party movement, but using the tools of grassroots organization on both sides to make enough noise that politicians of every stripe have to listen—much like the Tea Party’s use of town hall meetings to affect the debate over health care two summers ago.

Nader suggested that it takes no more than 300 signatures on a letter to a congressional representative to get him or her to address a group of constituents in their district —creating the perfect opportunity for political theater and media attention. In other words, putting members’ feet to the fire at the local level. If enough people in enough districts do it, it might create a stir. And what better time to do this than before a critical election, when bread and butter issues like jobs and deficits are being directly effected by a 10-year war budget that has sent over a trillion dollars and counting down a rabbit hole overseas?

People in the audience Sunday night seemed to get it, that such activism, especially more recently on the right, “really has a pulse,” and the left could learn a thing or two about coherency of message and the use of the media—mainstream and otherwise—to get Americans angry enough to head for the polls. They also understand that as “misfit” factions—the anti-Obama liberals and anti-war right wing—they are delegitimized and discredited by the establishment and the mainstream media. Perhaps this hard road needs to be shared.

“I think we need (the alliance), not just on antiwar but on the environment and other issues. We’re all thinking about the good of humanity, not to mention the good of the country here,” said audience member Nina Sommerfelt, a independent voter from Virginia who leans left. “We need to make an alliance … to break the stranglehold.”

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of suspicion and lingering caricatures that might get in the way of a productive partnership. Looking at the participants’ list of the October 2001 action, there are a few organizations and individuals who might elicit support if not fraternity from the antiwar right, but not many. So far. “A lot of the participants are people from the left, yes,” acknowledged Zeese, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an active effort today to bring the right on board. That’s what Sunday’s event at Busboys and Poets was all about.

One of the biggest obstacles to a left-right alliance has been, not surprisingly, the inability to transcend the deep ideological differences between the two sides. The antiwar right has long complained that today’s peace protests from the beginning have been dominated by a socialist agenda repellent to any potential conservative, libertarian or even mainstream interest. In other words, finding common ground or even transpartisanship, has been sacrificed for tribal activism, which invariably finds the movement on the left hitting a brick wall, with the right and everyone else struggling on the other side.

Of course, the same could be said about the liberty movement on the right and its own rallies, like those organized by the Campaign for Liberty. They’ve been invariably characterized as young and dynamic, but nonetheless devoid of most left-leaning antiwar or “progressive” elements, which are just as suspicious of the rallies’ government smashing, free-market themes as the Ron Paul revolutionaries are of the big-government, Marxist impulses on the other side of the fence.

Will October 2011 turn out to be another ANSWER-dominated protest, which, despite weeks of hard work and earnest energy, typically gets ignored by the press and the right wing interests that Zeese and others have been so assiduously courting?
McCarthy suggests that depends on how the organizers of this new movement talk to their targeted audiences. The first step: know the language. Next, try to keep everyone on the shared script. No one is going to listen for more than five minutes, much less turn out for what could be an act of civil disobedience, if the first thing they see is the caricatured, seemingly monochromatic sea of Che Guevara T-shirts and Free Mumia! signs (much like the liberals’ aversion to the prospect of armed, Gadsden Flag-waving patriots marching lockstep on the other side).

“It’s a matter of talking to them where they are, philosophically, intellectually,” and building trust within the conversation, noted McCarthy. Non-intervention and a healthy fear of the potential for government abuse is enshrined in Jeffersonian tradition and in the founding of the country itself, he added. “This tradition has been completely obliterated” by the current and previous administrations post-9/11. That is what the left and right can agree on—and take it from there.

Zeese agrees. “Everyone is paying a price for this—for the military empire. We need to unite over this issue.”

Normally, “only time will tell.” But there is not much of it. Come September, accelerating this alliance, if at all, becomes a practical matter. At that point, the presidential race will be in full gear, and it will take more than disparate voices from the misfit factions of the two parties to be heard over the political inanities to come.