Monthly Archive for September, 2011

the fast car, with Tracy Chapman

We only work here? True enough, but it lacks flesh and bone, it lacks sweat and tears.

The lyrics to Tracy Chapman’s The Fast Car plays out that sentiment as a real life story with all its problems, hopes and dreams ending in disillusion with the unanswered question: How do we live and die?

It outlines a problem. She belongs to a poor family, a broken family, she has a drunk father and feels some responsibility towards him and so she drops out of school.

The fast car is a romantic symbol for escape and belonging. The studied, descriptive lyrics burst into a life of romantic hope, freedom and the yearning to belong to something worthwhile, in the chorus:

I remember we were driving driving in your car 
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk 
City lights lay out before us 
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder 
And I had a feeling that I belonged 
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

The escape happens but before very long hope fades. She feels let down by her partner:

You got a fast car 
And I got a job that pays all our bills 
You stay out drinking late at the bar 
See more of your friends than you do of your kids

She finishes with the haunting question which she began with. We have come the full circle of social reproduction. There is no solution yet. We still have to think about the original question: How do we live and die?

You gotta make a decision 
You leave tonight or live and die this way

Here’s another version, this one has all the lyrics:



The Hitch is still fighting despite cancer

Christopher Hitchens, witnessing the Portugal 1974 revolution:

It was the last fall of the curtain on the last act of the 1968 style, with its “take your desire for reality” wall posters and its concepts of work as play. For me it was also the end of the line with my old groupuscule. I had developed other disagreements, too, as the old and open-minded “International Socialists” began to mutate into a more party line sect. But Portugal had broken the mainspring for me, because it had caused me to understand that I thought democracy and pluralism were good things in themselves, and ends in themselves at that, rather than means to another end….

… Conor Cruise O’Brien had phrased it better than I could then hope to do:

“Are you a socialist?” asked the African leader. I said, yes.

He looked me in the eye. “People have been telling me,” he said lightly, “that you are a liberal…”

The statement in its context invited a denial. I said nothing.

And yet, as I drove home from my interview with the leader, I had to realise that a liberal, incurably, was what I was. Whatever I might argue, I was more profoundly attached to liberal concepts of freedom – freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom, independent judgment and independent judges – than I was to the idea of a disciplined party mobilising all the forces of society for the creation of a social order guaranteeing more real freedom for all instead of just a few. The revolutionary idea struck me as being more immediately relevant for most of humanity than were the liberal concepts. But it was the liberal concepts and their long term importance – though not the name of liberal – that held my allegiance.

George Galloway during a furious debate about the Iraq war, in 2005, famously called Hitchens “a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay” (link). Drinked soaked, yes by his own admission, but a Trotskyite, not for long. Hitchens flirtation with the IS (International Socialists) may have served to prejudice him against Mao (how uncontrarian for such a contrarian to be against the Cultural Revolution without any analysis whatsover) but his far deeper attachment to freedom enabled him to break from the Trotskyite inclination of sabotaging united fronts. So he ended up supporting the liberation of Iraq (which required a very broad united front) and modernity in general. Hitchens is the iconic modern man. His warts and all bio, Hitch-22, is a mixed bag but contains some wonderful anecdotes and analytical gems.

9/11, ten years on: how the arab spring is rebirthing a genuine left

Old Yobbo said:

‘Come to think of it, yes, the situation isn’t that different from Saddam’s Iraq, just on a more compressed time-frame. Which, if anything, makes me a bit more disposed towards the US invasion of Iraq (Christ, I never thought I would ever think that) …..’

September 11th 2011 ought to focus left-wing minds on what has become of the internationalist left, that ten years ago stood gob-smacked with everyone else, as humanity watched the unimaginable horror of those attacks.

Naturally all the old categories of leftists are still around and plenty of the recognized leaders too, but via the twists and turns of the intervening years those that started as self declared leftists and internationalists have reached a destination that is, as is usual for all political journeys, places that none of us really set out for. The numbers have dramatically changed after all that experience and it’s worth looking at the how, the why and the what of it.

Early in 2011 a small number of leftists joined in the call for the U.S. and the rest to impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) on the Libyan tyranny, with the clear understanding that this meant starting with bombing. Most of these leftists then went quiet when it was blindingly obvious that NATO was not imposing a NFZ on the basis of any doctrine of the responsibility to protect, (R2P) but rather acting as the artillery (that conquers) for the Libyan revolutionaries who would occupy. This is a huge leap forward from a decade ago. These leftists in their silence were advocating war. They were only hiding behind R2P, and the pseudo-left didn’t hesitate to point this out. Those that went silent as the war was fought and won wanted more than just the democratic revolutionaries protected against their heavily armed tyrannical opponent. They wanted results. They wanted victory for the rebels across the entire country.

The previous decade ending at 9/11 was one of obvious collapse for the left and that requires no discussion here. But IMV a significant genuine left is now capable of arising from the fresh shoots now emerging from this last decade.

Going back to late 2002 we said that the US had altered their policy by 180 degrees from supporting dictatorship in the Mjddle East to supporting democracy in the Middle East.

The following six sub-periods provide some structure as to how peoples thinking has changed over those past 10years:

2001-2003: 9/11 atrocity; US invades Afghanistan; Iraq invasion / liberation.
This represented a disaster for the realists who wanted to maintain stability in the Middle East. This was the end of business as usual. The invasion and liberation of Iraq from the fascist minority Sunni based Baathists was an indirect but strategically vital response to the 9/11 attack. This response surprised Al Quaeda.

2003- 2005: US policy has good and bad features but three elections demonstrate their policy of supporting democracy

2005- 2007: The going gets tough.

2007- 2009: Bush initiates The Surge. Iraq proceeds to a normal election cycle

2009- 2010: Elections result in a delayed formation of an Iraqi Proportional Representation government

2011: The glorious Arab Spring breaks out

Incidentally, I also think that nothing potent remains of the former completely dominant political thinking of the U.S. ruling establishment from 2001. Realist policies of maintaining the status quo of autocracies are effectively dead in 2011, and for those that carry on as the zombies of that defeated school of thinking there is essentially nowhere in the ME to deploy their policy prescriptions. Anyway only governments do things and oppositions of all descriptions are free to talk and offer opinions that like assholes are common to all but no future U.S. government can revert to the old policies.

Support for the ending of the Libyan tyranny was widespread across the spectrum of what is known as the left but opposition to any ‘imperialist’ intervention was also almost exclusively to be found in this milieu as well, so a great debate was had this year and the pseudo-left was one issue that received great ventilation. Those who are stuck in the old ‘hard left’ paradigm that imperialism is the main enemy actually stand for all things conservative when it comes to ridding the ME of tyranny. They have been wonderfully exposed as useless dogmatists throughout this year of the Arab Spring and once more on the wrong side of a fire fight with the tyrants. Who is the main enemy then? All those who oppose the democratic revolution in the autocratic regimes.

The forces that had been involved in the anti-war movement in relation to the looming war in Iraq back in 2002 essentially divided in the lead-up to the war that is now concluding in Libya. My view is that at least 2 out of 3 and possibly 3 out of 4 supported action over Libya or went silent and took no stand or are now on reflection glad it happened. This group wanted western governments to do something to save the imperiled democratic revolution rather than allow Gaddafi to crush it with his superior firepower. I guess the figure for Iraq was more like 5%

But the action in the lead-up period was framed in a manner that sounded very different to just taking sides in a civil war. The reality was taking sides in a civil war. The reality was unity with western bourgeois governments who could supply the effective ‘artillery’.

Concerning the western imposition of a NFZ and other measures under the rubric of an international responsibility to protect civilians (R2P), before the actual war was launched, Guy Rundle said:

“All that matters is whether the request comes from legitimate leadership, is strategically viable, and can be limited in scope. Those conditions appear to have been met.”

What a joke. The rebels were being defeated by the tyranny until they united with various western governments and war was declared on the tyranny! There was never only a NFZ and R2P civilians ‘limited scope’ and the appearance of one was created as a deliberate lie to conceal the war fighting scope of the intervention.  Guy Rundle was happy to be lied to.

The Libyan tyranny has now been all but ended with the two last towns hopefully surrendering to the rebels this very weekend. The Rebel leadership is clearly going to hold the elections that it has sought and promised

Well, those same factors have been met in the case of ending the Iraq tyranny! The Coalition Of the Willing (COW) is going home and leaving behind a democratically elected government. Eight years is all it took to smash the reactionary heart of the ME and set the region wide revolution running.