A World Without Politics? By William Bowles

18 September 2004

Is like envisaging a world without sex, an unthinkable idea you’d assume, after all politics like sex makes the world go round and indeed it (they) still do even if buried under a blizzard of reality TV programmes, an endless procession of ‘celebrities’, patriotic parades and other assorted diversions, the latest of which, in the UK anyway, is the government’s ban on foxhunting (the bill passed but delayed from implementation for a couple of years, so that the ‘masses’ will be guaranteed an endless diversion from more pressing issues such as the future of the species).

Foxhunting? I hear you cry, what the fuck is foxhunting (foreign readers only, Anglophiles excluded)? So this week’s newspapers were filled with coverage of the amazing meleé outside (and inside) the home of the ‘mother of democracies’, the Houses of Parliament. Coverage of which was in sharp contrast to even a mildly equivilent Lefty demo with neither the words ‘mob’ or ‘rioters’ to be seen anywhere in print. Instead it was “pro-hunt demonstrators” and “pro-hunt protestors” (Independent 15/9/04) and no screaming headlines calling for the blood of ‘anarchists’.

The police nevertheless, trained like attack dogs found that their Pavlovian reflexes drove them nevertheless to crack a bunch of tweed-jacketed rural heads in a full-frontal assault on the mob. Well it’s only fair when you think about, after all the pro-hunt brigade are not averse to scattering the entrails of small wild canines across England’s (formerly) ‘green and pleasant land’ after chasing the poor things up hill and down dale until it collapses exhausted and quivering awaiting its fate at the fangs of a pack of slavering domesticated relatives whilst their masters (and mistresses) whoop it up after getting well oiled with mulled wine and tots of brandy outside the local ‘ye olde’ public house.

Well enough of England’s quaint traditions, one has to ask the question, what the hell has happened to the Left? Is it purely a question of ‘post counter-revolutionary blues?’

Well over a decade after the end of the post-WWII period of (relative) stability during which time one would have thought that some kind of sense would have been made of events but the best it seems the Left has to offer in the way of an explanation or solution is a plea for a return to some kind of ‘social democratic’ order, as if such a thing is possible, perhaps best summed up with the slogan “the lesser of two evils”.

Is the Left trying to apply an analysis that didn’t work the first time ‘round to an entirely new situation? One gets the sinking feeling that second time around history is repeating itself not as farce but as abject surrender.

I try to apply analysis as well, read like crazy (which I hope you all do) all the various points of view whilst trying to clear my mind of pre-conceptions in an attempt to clarify events, their causes and the possible consequences of actions.

Yet the endless stream of essays many thousands of words long, seem to echo the same depressing ‘analysis’ of the evils of imperialism, unpacking of the historical record, the duplicitous nature of the ruling political classes and so on and so forth but that finally offer little in the way of practical solutions or insights.

We suffer it seems, from a surfeit of academic diarrhoea, produced no doubt in the sublime comfort of a warm and cosy campus toilet.

An essay sent to me and written by Noam Chomsky (I’ve made it available for your edification) is typical of the kind of woolly minded thinking that passes for ‘left’ analysis these days but then I remember that it’s the same Chomsky who in the old Cold War daze, branded the Soviet Empire as the ‘other side’ of the same coin as the US but following its demise immediately whinged that with the passing of the SU, ‘who would curb US imperialism now?’ So it seems the SU was okay as some kind of ‘counterweight’ to US imperialism but not good enough to defend (even if half-heartedly) in spite of all its obvious faults and failings (at least the potential still existed). And we wonder why what passes for the Western Left is not to be trusted after so much cowardly and opportunist behaviour?

Even as it’s obvious that the one crucial change has been the state’s loss of credibility (something that has not been lost on the Bush Gang but dismissed with disdain by Blair) we have not drawn the appropriate conclusions. Instead, we retreat into past ‘paradigms’, settling for a second best solution (the lesser of two evils) a position that the Left supports at best half-heartedly, knowing full well that it sits uncomfortably with the current reality but one that frankly, they are too cowardly to reject, masking it with wild talk of ‘Fascism’, a comparison that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Barbarism perhaps, but we’ve already entered that phase of terminal capitalism perhaps best exemplified by the dismemberment of Yugoslavia that with notable exceptions the Left simply capitulated to, suckered by the same propaganda onslaught that was directed at the general population.

I am reminded of the attempt by the West to dismember Nigeria with the horrendous bloodletting of the Biafra secession as it lusted after the oil and the Left’s confused and woolly-minded thinking about ‘self-determination’ and the Nigerian state’s ‘imperialist’ behaviour (yes, those were the words they used). This in spite of the agreement of all the members of the OAU (the Organisation of African Unity) that recognised that virtually all the borders of Africa’s countries had been arbitrarily determined by the colonial powers, that until such time as all the countries of Africa were fully decolonised and independent, the existing borders should be recognised for the sake of unity in the struggle against colonialism.

It is within this context that upon reflection, I have to restate the argument of my previous essay and argue that notwithstanding the depredations of capitalism of its metropolitan populations, it pales into insignificance in comparison with the sufferings of the poor countries of the planet. That as ever, the Western Left view everything through the distorting lens of our relative privilege.

For central to the issues of today is the fact that imperialism wages its wars not in the developed world but in the poor countries of the world, that as always, it’s ‘the poor wot gets the blame’ let alone pays the ultimate price. Hence our overwhelming objective should one of solidarity with the poor countries; that defeating the predations of the imperium should be our numero uno objective. Screw Kerry, screw Bush, screw Blair! Any programme for change must, at all costs, be centred on defeating the imperium where it operates, in the poor countries of the world. Will electing Kerry achieve this objective? You be the judge on that score.

Viewed in this context then, I am forced to recognise that electing Kerry will not alter the plight of the poor of the planet one iota, that the programme of exploitation and destruction will just be executed with more ‘finesse’ thus salving the conscience of the Left, that it settled for the ‘lesser of two evils’ and it can continue with ‘business as usual’ – until the next time that is.

Let history be our teacher in this regard, and reflect upon the fact that the two really significant events of the post-war period were the Cuban Revolution and the defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam, both of which enraged the imperialists and left them with a terrible thirst for revenge, one that the world has not stopped paying for ever since. Perhaps when we can produce a victory of (and on) our own, we may be in a better position to preach to the rest of the world (let alone our own populations) that we’ve sussed things out.

Until such a time comes to pass perhaps a little humility is in order when we consider making pronouncements about what is the right course to follow? As an avid student of history one thing stands out above else; that in spite of all our alleged learning and access to information, our 19th and early 20th century ancestors who lacked our education were avidly consumed with politics as any perusal of the popular press of those times reveals. Indeed, politics was a consuming passion of ordinary folk who realised that politics made the world go round and had a direct impact on their lives.

So perhaps the lesson to be learned and applied is first and foremost to re-ignite an interest in politics by an honest appraisal of our condition and by dumping the tired jargon of the Left that is more often than not a ‘private’ language that excludes everyone but the Left. Furthermore, we need to ask ourselves the question, what has changed? It’s not enough to talk of apathy as something imposed or encouraged by the ruling political classes.

Whatever one thinks of Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, the one thing it proved is that there is a thirst for understanding, that people are not satisfied with the explanations of their political masters. We have to make up for decades of propaganda and brainwashing, the creation of an entire alternate reality that most in the Western world inhabit. But as I’ve pointed out, the loss of credibility that the state is experiencing is surely an opportunity that we need to exploit.

In part, as the Web becomes a ubiquitous part of our lives, it is possible to envisage a new kind of media landscape that addresses the issue of credibility if we on the Left rise to the challenge and adjust our language and methodologies accordingly.

The terrain has shifted, the major issues for most of us are no longer simply material but centre on dissatisfaction and alienation and loss of purpose as the allure of material possessions wears thin. Is the Left addressing these issues and making the connection with the assault on the world’s resources that is so crucial to our consumer culture?

Currently, the environmental movement and more esoteric philosophies have monopolised these spaces leaving the Left stranded and isolated, but why? I contend that the Left is uncomfortable dealing with the subjective, the tenuous, it’s hard to pin down and quantify. Above all, it means we have to think and be creative rather than operate according to rote. Is that why Moore is successful and follows in the footsteps of the creative propagandists of an earlier age such as Brecht, Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov?

Surely, we should have dozens of Moores if we were creating the right conditions for them to flourish in for such artists arise in response to situations, not the other way around. Perhaps Moore is the kind of wakeup call we need that in spite of all the odds people are responsive to the right kind of message. And when one considers how the corporate media dealt in the most disparaging way with his movie, surely indicates that he touched a raw nerve and likewise that he earned a comparable putdown from the Left, should be a wakeup call. I rest my case (for the time being).


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