16 December 2006
I have this image of Karl Marx living in a squat somewhere, laptop on knees, googling info and pouring out reams of writing on the state of capitalism. It’s anybody’s guess what comrade Karl would have done with tools such as we now possess, but I am sure he would have been leader of the pack if his use of the British Library is anything to go by. Das Kapital for example, has references to over 450 books, indeed someone has compiled a book just of the reference sources he used in just one book!
Yet in an age of exploding communications where we now possess the tools to effectively challenge the dominant culture’s control of information, it is more than a little ironic that we find ourselves bereft of the traditional tools of political action that in days past would have enabled us to more effectively exploit these new conditions.
130 and more, years ago, the Reds of the day truly thought that capitalism’s days were numbered. Then in the months and years that followed the Bolshevik revolution, capitalism’s days looked truly up once more. And yet again, following the Crash of ‘29 many were convinced that the demise of the great god Mammon was just around the corner.
Alas and alack, the power of capital to adapt and survive has given it the allure of immutability made all the more believable with the demise of the Soviet Union and the like, so much so that it has acquired the aura of a force of nature, an illusion very cleverly exploited by its army of propagandists.
But nothing lasts forever, and in the scheme of things, the 400 or so, years the system has been around, is but the blink of an eye. Small comfort for those experiencing the brunt of its brutal reign of course and for those of us who have been around awhile, the current situation looks truly horrendous, even unstoppable.
But in spite of the calamitous state of affairs, it is nothing short of astounding and a tribute to the unquenchable spirit of struggle that ‘la luta continua’ which should tell us something about the nature of humanity that flies in the face of the relentless propaganda to the contrary.
Of course imperial propaganda would have us believe that such optimism is an anomaly, that greed and self interest is the overriding impulse (or ‘human nature’), that given the chance, all of us would stab our grandmothers in the back if it meant advancing our individual interests.
Such pseudo-science stems from a system that does stab its collective grandmothers in the back, and it does of course, want us to believe that we are all of a kind.
The process by which it does this is not a crude one, relying on a carefully constructed edifice composed of a number of linked themes that incorporate especially (pop) genetics and psychologies of various flavours, all geared toward rationalising and ‘explaining’ just how base ‘human nature’ really is.
Thus war is considered to be ‘natural’ to the human species just as violence, although not condoned, is also considered to be ‘natural’ and to reinforce this, the ‘experts’ point toward one of our close relatives, the chimpanzee as an example of our ‘animal’ roots, the implication being that we cannot escape from our ‘genetic programming’.
All of these ideas have their roots in the half-baked hypotheses developed during Victorian times and given the gloss of authenticity through the clever use of current scientific theories which attempt to explain our ‘nature’ used conveniently to justify the status quo.
Those of us who do not accept this interpretation of human actions and motivations are deemed to be ‘deviant’ in some way, how, or for that matter why, is not explained except through more ‘pop’ psychology or reference to a slew of ‘experts’ only too willing push their latest book or to ensure that they continue to receive funding for their ‘research’.
When confronted with such an array of ‘experts’, very few dare challenge them (‘it’s not my field’) and those who do face ridicule or worse, media oblivion.
Journalism, the main vehicle through which this propaganda is disseminated and now characterised as a ‘profession’ in much the same way as one would a biologist, acquires the stamp of authenticity through a degree in ‘journalism’ where he or she is taught that there are a set of ‘rules’ that dictate ‘good’ (that is, acceptable) journalistic practice, rules which predictably conform to the dominant culture’s world view eg, ‘objective’, ‘unbiased’, a view still taught at British universities, which translated means accepting an interpretation of events and their causes that justifies the rule of capital.
Thus we who write on the left for a broad public are characterised (and for the most part, unfortunately characterise ourselves) as ‘alternative’ as if we live in a different universe. This may seem a petty and even inconsequential observation to make but it goes to the very heart of the issue, for it reinforces the illusion that it is US who are out of step with reality.
The same process is also applied to politics, for example, ‘democracy’, itself a vague word open to every and all kinds of description, but within the dominant culture it is inextricably linked to an even vaguer term, ‘parliamentary democracy’, the alleged benchmark against which all political systems are judged. So entrenched is the idea that it is never, ever questioned (except of course by ‘deviants’). All mainstream news and commentary accepts this benchmark and frames coverage within this straightjacket, to deviate is tantamount to heresy.
By pure coincidence, we have an example currently in the news of how ‘democracy’ works, the BAE/Saudi corruption investigation. Ongoing since 2003, it involves allegations of a slushfund for kickbacks to Saudi government officials and businessmen totalling millions of dollars in order to ‘win’ orders for the UK’s antiquated (that is to say, over twenty-year old) fighter aircraft, the Typhoon, allegedly worth £10 billion and a piece of junk if ever there was one. So flawed is the aircraft that it can only fly if stripped of its weapons, else it’s just too heavy to takeoff let alone fly anywhere. With a lump of concrete in its nose instead of weapons it’s:
“[A] machine designed to be the World’s most advanced air superiority aircraft … so late that there are paper aeroplanes that can outfight it”.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was finally closing in on the damning evidence when the government stepped in and halted the investigation (which they deny, but the government’s intervention is so obvious that it’s ludicrous to deny it).
What is important here is the totally undemocratic nature of the relationship between the legal arm of the state—allegedly independent—and the government, for not only is the law’s independence nothing short of a farce but perhaps even more importantly, it reveals the total impotence of parliament to intervene in the process. Thus our so-called representatives are revealed as nothing more than tokens who pay only lip service to ‘democracy’ even the parliamentary version, supposedly a paragon of virtue.
Closer investigation reveals an insidious and incestuous relationship between big business and government where the ‘national interest’, that catchall phrase that masks a multitude of sins gets hauled out whenever the real nature of our ‘democracy’ is exposed for what it is, a fraud.
Of interest is the way the MSM handles the affair as it avoids the central contradiction, the real nature of our ‘democracy’, for to do so would undermine the entire rationale that keeps the entire illusion afloat.
Today’s (16/12/06) London Independent for example devotes two pages to the affair but aside from an MP who is quoted as saying that the investigation has been “nobbled” by the government, there is not a single reference to the totally undemocratic nature of the way the police investigation had been brought to a screeching halt by government intervention. In fact much of the ‘reportage’ is repetitious in nature.
“The Defence Export Services Organisation exists to sell arms for companies and to lobby for arms exports within government. It identifies potential opportunities for arms sales then works with the companies and other elements of government to push for deals. DESO is uninhibited by ongoing conflicts, human rights abuses, or pressing development needs. Nor is it motivated by international security or the ‘defence’ of the UK. It is focused purely on arms company sales and profits. DESO can be characterised as a marketing department for arms companies, but its importance goes far beyond that. Its position and role within government means that the arms industry’s vested interests are relentlessly promoted across government.” — Campaign Against Arms Trade website
There is for example, no reference to the role of DESO (see note 3 below) in the affair, itself a body that is not answerable to Parliament even though it employs 500 public servants paid for by the public and whose sole function is to promote British weapons sales abroad. The Independent ends the report with the thoroughly misleading headline “Why was the investigation halted, and what do critics say?”
Under the sub “What do the critics say” all we get is:
“Critics, led by the Liberal Democrats, have accused the Government of caving in to Saudi pressure to drop the investigation.”
As far as the Independent is concerned, this is the sum total of the criticism!
What the role of DESO reveals is that ‘democracy’ is something confined to the intimate relationship between big business and government, a relationship that is described by the government’s decision to halt the SFO investigation into the BAE/Saudi affair as one where:
“the continuation of this investigation would cause serious damage to UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic co-operation.”
Tony Blair had this to say on the subject:
“My role as Prime Minister is to advise on the best national and strategic interest of our country and I have no doubt at all that the right decision was taken.”
You bet Tony! Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General tells us that “considerable damage to our national security” would be caused if the investigation was allowed to continue. Thus breaking the law is of no consequence, nor is the government’s incestuous relationship with the arms industry. What is revealed is that ‘national interests’ is just another way of saying business interests. As always, the ‘war on terror’ gets hauled out whenever government involvement in corruption and lying gets exposed.
1. See, ‘Eurofighter Typhoon’, and ‘Leaked safety report claims testing reveals Eurofighter to be a crash risk’, and ‘Safety alert over Eurofighter’, Evening Standard 24.05.0
2. ‘Saudi arms deal inquiry closes in on secret papers’, David Leigh, November 20, 2006, The Guardian
3. ‘Call the Shots. DESO Campaign Briefing’ and ‘Web of state corruption dates back 40 years, Shielded by secrecy law – the system of ‘special commissions’ still flourishing today,’ The Guardian, Friday June 13, 2003.