Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Iceland: the European vanguard of democratic resistance

The international Pirate Party movement, which primarily campaigns against outmoded copyright laws and intrusive government surveillance, is generally considered to be a fringe political element by mainstream observers.
But this is not the case in Scandinavia, where the Pirate Party of Iceland is the most popular political party: the opinion polls currently indicate that the Pirates, who are leading in them, will form the next government of this country, one of the most socially and economically developed in Europe and the world.
The Pirate Party’s commitment to freedom of information, and opposition to surveillance statism and warrantless mass retention of internet data, is exemplified in its call to give Edward Snowden political asylum in Iceland. But equally as strong is its belief in political freedom and self-determination, as seen its successful campaign to abolish Iceland’s blasphemy laws. and conditional support for Iceland’s accession to the European Union on the basis that EU-wide economic policies are decided based on the input of elected representatives, as opposed to corporatist technocrats in Brussels.
The Pirate Party of Iceland was only formed in 2012, yet in three years has accelerated to become a nationally leading but anti-establishment political force. It follows the trend of democratic revolution in the country since the financial crisis of 2008; when the financial institutions that caused the economic crisis were broken up and the country’s constitution was rewritten via a people’s constitutional convention. This humanistic approach to governance and economic decision-making contrasts with the sacrifice of the social fabric under austerity to preserve and maintain the vested interests of criminally corrupt financial institutions, enforced by unelected commissioners working on their behalf, as seen in countries such as Greece and Spain.
But the radical, popular political movements in those countries follow the same trend as Iceland’s Pirate Party. Syriza resists usurious austerity imposed the IMF rather than conceding to the vested interests it represents, a previously unheard of stance of any democratically elected government. Podemos, which was formed only two years ago, has harnessed the tradition of mass demonstration into a comprehensive manifesto that includes support for a universal basic income and the decentralization of political power reflected in the protests that it serves as a an organized vessel of.
As these radical, transformational political movements have rapidly gained popular support, the moribund social democratic parties of nominal opposition — which concede to the demands of state capitalist conservatism — have conversely disintegrated in their support and legitimacy.
Elsewhere in Europe, xenophobic and far-right elements have manipulated economic crises and political disillusionment to promote reactionary platforms that scapegoat migrants and other marginalized groups as the cause of social ills.
They are counteracted by the anti-establishment parties — like Syriza— who attack the root causes of inequality and socioeconomic breakdown while compassionately defending immigrants from xenophobic attack. They inverse the support of the fascists and far-right who rely on the scapegoating that mutually deflects attention from the social injustice that perpetuates the vested interests of the ruling economic classes.
These radical democratic parties reflect that the vision of freer and more equal technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable societies — fundamentally based on democratic and humanistic socialist values — are not fringe elements; but a popular current that clearly voices that there is indeed an alternative.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: the majority candidate for Labour

After managing to scrape together enough nominations from the Parliamentary Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn is participating in the Labour leadership contest, resulting from Ed Miliband's resignation, as a representative of "the left". The fact that being a left-wing candidate for the leadership of a party that claims to stand for democratic socialism, social democracy and trade unionism, makes Corbyn perceived to be a minority oddity, exemplifies how far the indecisive and capitulating Labour establishment has deviated the party from the core values it was founded to represent.

Corbyn is an irrelevant ideological relic of the past, say his detractors. He may be popular among grassroots Labour members who actually believe in socialism, who are inspired by Corbyn's passionate advocacy of social justice rather than (like most mainstream Labour candidates, particularly Blairites) pandering to Tory rhetoric, and the deceitful narrative it propagates on the economic crisis caused by Thatcherite policies, which is used to justify ideological austerity. But Corbyn would doom Labour to an even steeper defeat in the failure to appeal to the centrist mainstream, if he were to lead Labour into the 2020 general election, they insist.

But the facts indicate that the democratic socialist principles Corbyn stand for are by any estimation majority opinion, even if the identifying labels of left-wing or socialist are much maligned. UKIP, a hard-right party which advocates neoliberal socioeconomic policies even more extreme than those endorsed by the Tories, have become a viable political force in the Labour's North of England heartlands, winning a sizable number of second places at May's general election and displacing the Liberal Democrats, who used to be the populist anti-establishment party of choice, as the third party in terms of vote share (under a fundamentally undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system). (UKIP has found substantial success in Wales as well, more than the social democratic Plaid Cymru).

An opinion polling of UKIP supporters in 2014 indicated that a majority of them believe in socialist policies in clear contradiction of what that their vote of choice actually represents. UKIP backers support an NHS free from privatisation; public utilities, transportation and rail networks nationalised and run in the public interest rather than for private profit; the banning of exploitative zero hour contracts; increasing the minimum wage to a living wage; and counteracting tax dodging by the rich and multinational corporations as an alternative to cuts to public services as a means of deficit reduction. Owen Jones fervently agrees with the average UKIP voter.

Disillusioned voters in England, who would usually turn to Labour to represent them being met with vapid messages about "aspiration" and an approach to austerity indistinguishable from that of the Tories, protest in the form of a UKIP vote instead, even if that party's cynical and calculated scapegoating of migrants does not appeal to them. Of course, the Tories did well in the South of England, and benefited from the near total collapse of the Lib Dems. But Labour were able to win new seats and actually increased its overall share in the popular vote, including a seven percent increase in London, even though Ed Miliband's "left-wing" platform was apparently electorally untenable. But in its uncritical conceding to Tory austerity being inevitable, it certainly seemed hypocritical.

As Tory and Lib Dem support in Scotland in minimal, it was Labour who faced the most obvious electoral decimation in Scotland at the hands of a Scottish National Party, that takes a firm, compassionate stance against austerity as well as nuclear weapons, in contrast to a Labour leadership in London and Scottish Labour Party that allied to push for austerity in Scotland at Holyrood and rallied behind the maintenance of weapons of Trident mass destruction on the Clyde, which Corbyn rallies against as a vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Again, Labour's essential abandonment of its basic philosophical values ingrained a disillusionment in the electorate, this time in Scotland, that hammered in the final nail in the coffin of its relevancy in that part on the UK.

But as Corbyn, as an unashamed democratic socialist and decades-long campaigner for social justice and anti-war movements, stands on a platform of the anti-austerity policies and principles that UKIP and SNP voters alike evidently believe in, then far from being a fringe candidate of predestined failure, he could be leader of a national movement that would turn the tide of mass disenchantment in the Labour Party; most importantly in effective opposition to the devastating attacks on society and its most vulnerable by the Tories. Which is why I have paid my £3 to become a registered Labour supporter in the hope of voting for him.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Israel and Nazi Germany

Israel is the country that is most similar to Nazi Germany existing in the world today. There are countries like Greece and Hungary, that have insurgent neo-fascist political movements in the form of Golden Dawn and Jobbik that promote discrimination and bigotry towards ethnic minorities, including Jews. But in terms of the actual perpetration of state-sanctioned racist criminality, the situation in Israeli is the most grave. Comparing it to Nazism could be cited an example of Godwin's law; the shallow comparison of political action and ideology to Nazism to portray it in the possible worst terms for purely self-serving purposes. But if we are to say "never again" to what took place in fascism and the Holocaust, then an analysis of the present through the lens of the worst crimes of the 20th century is always justified and relevant. Only those with a vested ideological and political interest to trivialize this would do. Which is why I say that there is no other country where racism, in this case towards the Palestinians as well as African Jews, is more politically normalized. And within this normalized racism is a genocidal dehumanization of the Palestinians that is a mainstream political discourse in Israeli society. It is perhaps more controversial to do so given that Israel was founded as a Jewish state in the aftermath of Holocaust; which only makes the reality of the Israeli brand of genocidal fascism even more tragic, and contemptible given that the legacy of the Holocaust is used as a propaganda tool by Israel and its apologists to justify the crimes against the Palestinians. Could there be a worse abuse of the memory of the victims of the genocide than using it to excuse another genocide?

The rhetoric referred to Haaretz journalist Ms Hauser's tweet is only example of this: the description of the Palestinians, by Israeli government Head of Civil Administration Eli Ben-Dahan, as "beasts" that are "not human"; thus subhumans, or Untermenschen as the Nazis described their victims. Ben-Dahnan's colleague, education minister Naftali Bennett, said he was "proud" of his involvement in the mass murder of Palestinian civilians and UN peacekeepers in 1996, in his own words there being "no problem" with such crimes against humanity if Arabs were those who fell prey. Bennett's colleague in the Jewish Home party, Ayelet Shaked, advocated the outright genocide of the Palestinians in a 2014 Facebook post, decidedly equating the Palestinian race as an enemy combatant group, describing them as "snakes" and their children as "little snakes". It is exactly how Heinrich Himmler justified the mass murder of Jewish children on the basis that they would eventually pose the same liability to Germany as their parents.

In conclusion, we observe a narrative that embodies a bloodthirsty desire to exterminate an ethnic group, compared to animals and seen as subhumans, on the basis that as a collective Other they post an inherent existential threat to the political bodies that are encouraged to perpetrate their ethnic cleansing. What could be more Nazi-like than this, both ideologically and materially? In 2008 defence minister and IDF general Matan Vilani, currently Israeli ambassador to China, indicated the agenda in the most explicit terms: he warned of a "Holocaust" of the Palestinians. In 2007 this Holocaust threat was precipitated by a group of Israeli rabbis who advocated the mass carpet bombing of Gaza in response to rockets fired by Hamas: "if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million." As Professor Hillel Weiss personally informed a Palestinian in 2014: "To annihilate you as a rabble is a mitzvah [a divine commandant from God]", and because "you aren't a people therefore there's no genocide". It is just as Hitler and Himmler promoted the "Final Solution" as a divine mission.

I have indeed, as Ms Hauser suggests, read extensively on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. I am currently reading KLA History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsman. Naturally we historically reflect on the the Holocaust as its worst apex, when the genocide became official policy and when the killing squads and gas chambers began to operate. But in reading Wachsman's book it becomes clear that the Holocaust began as a gradual chain of events long before then: it began from the early 20th century with discrimination and persecution, motivated by rhetoric and propaganda informed by decades of antisemitic stereotypes and scapegoating - promoted by intelligentsia such as academics, journalists and religious leaders - that portrayed the Jews and the Holocaust's other victims as subhumans that were verminous, animalistic and an enemy to society and the nation: ultimately, the extermination became the logical end of this policy when prevalent discourse became an echo chamber of hatred, in which dissenting voices were marginalized and seen as enemies themselves, gradually reaching to the crescendo of the mass shooting and gassing of the "subhuman" pests.

The Israeli blitzkriegs in Gaza could be described as Holocausts within themselves; the systematic obliteration of the innocents by fire, and their homes, schools, hospitals, justified on the most tenuous grounds of military self-defence. No wonder the Netanyahu government, assisted by the United States, has gone to every length to obstruct Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court that would facilitate UN criminal investigation and ICC prosecution of Israeli war crimes; such as the 2014 offensive that was condemned as genocide by 300 Holocaust survivors and their descendants from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

Ironically, to attack the Palestinians as a whole on the basis that they are equatable to a minority of extremists is playing the same extremists at their own game: it deepens their grip on power as well as the sectarianism within both Israeli and Palestinian territory. It stands for a mutually symbiotic acceleration of extremism, which the Israeli extremists have no problem with for propaganda purposes given that their overarching goal is evidently ethnic cleansing. 

So don't take my word for it, Ms Hauser: the perpetrators of the Palestinian Holocaust celebrate their own crimes as genocide, and so do the few survivors who stared into the abyss of Nazi evil. Extensive Israeli crimes against humanity and war crimes motivated by ethnic cleansing have already been perpetrated over the past sixty years. There may be deniers of the Palestinian Holocaust, but the wisdom of history indicates that this death cult will fully accelerate into an outright attempt at extermination if we naively and selfishly choose to turn a blind eye and stay silent. Let's conduct our new Nuremberg Trials at the ICC and root out the cancer of Israeli fascism from the world before this does indeed become reality, as history indicates it will.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The UK crisis of democracy

According to the media, a political and constitutional crisis is to take place at the UK's general election. That is the representative democratic election of a political party to parliament. The Scottish National Party looks to take the majority of Scottish parliamentary seats in a landslide, eradicating the Labour Party and pockets of Tories and Lib Dems that have imposed a neoliberal austerity regime on them with no mandate. During the independence referendum of last year, the 'Yes' to separation from the UK side briefly polled ahead of 'No', but was assuaged when Westminster's main party leaders pledged to ensure further devolution of power to a Scotland within the Union. It's clear that Scots, a body politic with a prevalently social democratic character, are opposed to the dismantling of civil society embodied in austerity being complimented with nuclear missile submarines being maintained on their shores which the three Westminster-based establishment parties are committed to, which is why the massive SNP is a force they must reckon with. But rather engage with Scottish concerns in the very same parameters they set during the referendum, they obstructively and contemptuously see them as a liability. David Cameron has mounted an English-centric campaign in opposition to Scottish influence in parliament while Ed Miliband has indicated that he would rather facilitate a Tory government taking power than cooperate with the SNP in the event of a hung parliament. Labour, supportive of austerity and Trident, are popularly known among Scottish nationalists as the Red Tories. If they were allow to the Tory Party to take power to obstruct the SNP from holding any from Westminster, it would confirm this accusation.

The fundamental problem that this status represents, both the Westminster contempt for the SNP's representation of the Scottish electorate and its failure to confront the reality of hung parliaments resulting the need for multi-party cooperation to govern, is an opposition to democracy itself. When Scotland voted 'No' it assumed that its voice would be heard and respected rather than silenced and ignored by a London-based establishment that begged it to retain its status in the Union beforehand. Like the colonial American revolutionaries, Scotland will respond in kind to its representation being held in contempt in this is perpetuated if a likely second referendum takes place. Russell Brand has rescinded his anti-voting stance, but the blunt reality is that his protest that voting is a pointless endeavor remains true for the majority of voters. As the majority of MPs can complacently rely on being elected in seats with safe majorities under the first-past-the-post electoral system, which has resisted many decades of efforts to reform it under the pretense of providing stability and direct representation. Under FPTP, most voters' votes are worthless under them as a statement of belief; but one that has no practical effect in terms of the democracy this broken, non-proportional electoral system claims to achieve. How can the British public, the majority of whom are non-voters, be blamed for apathy and disinterest in politics when the political system and its politicians are so overwhelmingly dysfunctional and ineffective when it comes to representing them?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

No more Activity or Discover: Twitter's self-destructive user-unfriendly update

On 20 April, Twitter rolled out changes to its interface which it states it hopes to "help you connect more easily – and directly – on Twitter with the people, causes and businesses you care about most." The problem is that they have achieved the complete opposite.

Twitter only refers to this update as a quaint and practical change: a simple, streamlined redesign that makes direct messaging between users easier. It doesn't mention that this update has completely got rid of the 'Activity' and 'Discover' tabs, a bewildering so-called advancement that actually makes Twitter a less interesting and convenient platform to engage on.

Whenever I logged onto Twitter, I would check the 'Activity' and 'Discover' tabs to see content I might have otherwise missed, tweets favourited and retweeted by my followers and those I follow, as well as tweets from accounts that I didn't already follow which were popular among my network. As I follow over 2,300 accounts, this automated curation system was very useful for me to engage with my network and find new content and accounts of interest, as the 'Activity' and 'Discover' names imply. Now all I have is my timeline and a searchbox: I have no immediate means of finding out what interests my network or what it being discussed by them. And this inherently undermines the ease with which I can use and interact with Twitter as a platform. I'm on my own in these respects.

I find it staggering that such decisions are okayed as good ideas by tech higher-ups, and even more staggering that people are paid substantial sums of money to make them. I am ultimately insignificant to Twitter as one user, but I can definitely state that this pointless and counterproductive alteration makes me a lot less interested in using Twitter at all. I assume that there are many thousands of others who feel the same. What harm would restoring these completely useful utilities do? For what purpose were they even done away with?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Katie Hopkins, scapegoats and the rhetoric of genocide

In October 1943, Adolf Hitler's deputy Heinrich Himmler was recorded speaking to senior Nazi generals in the Polish city of Posen about the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question": the ongoing Holocaust, the Nazi Party's mission to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Himmler justified the Holocaust on the basis of the Jewish people being a "bacillus", comparing them to a viral infection which needed to be eradicated. This mentality was indoctrinated into the national consciousness of Nazi Germany by Hitler's chief propagandist Joesph Goebbels, directly leading to the social and institutional conditions in which the Holocaust could be carried out. Fifty years after the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide was perpetrated. The mass murder of the Tutsi minority population, by gangs of Hutu slaughterers, was encouraged and coordinated by shortwave radio propagandists who referred to them as "cockroaches". In both cases, the scapegoated minorities were blamed for economic struggles and the diminishing of national prowess, and the systematic annihilation of the pests was promoted as the solution to these ills.

Seventy and twenty years passing since these atrocities has been a cause for remembrance, which evidently has not affected the popular UK media commentator Katie Hopkins, who used her column in Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper to refer to refugees from North Africa precariously travelling to Europe via the Mediterranean by boat, with hundreds dying in the process, as a "norovirus" and "cockroaches". Shades of Nazism and a direct appropriation of Rwandan Genocide rhetoric. Hopkins advocates the use of gunboats to sink the refugees' boats and - in admiration of the Abbot government's treatment of asylum seekers in Australia, which has been considered for UN investigation on the basis of international human rights law violations - she amuses herself by suggesting that they be killed through a pelting of Fosters beer cans. A Nazi-like fetishism and enthusiasm for the ruthless destruction of dehumanized human beings' lives runs through her piece. She notes that she no sympathy for images of "skinny people looking sad", similarly as apathetic as Himmler when confronted by starved victims of the extermination camps he toured. And of course, she cites migrants as a parasitic burden on public services and the welfare state; a convenient detraction from inequality and austerity resulting from and justified by the financial crisis.

Hopkins has an establishment reputation as a professional controversialist. But she is not a random internet troll: her hate speech is featured in the UK's second bestselling newspaper and she regularly appears on national television and radio shows. Ruthless politicians (see above) will undoubtedly aim to garner support by appealing to her fans with their policies. Human rights abuses against refugees in the UK, as seen in institutions like the Yarl's Wood Detention Centre, exemplify xenophobia and hate-mongering put into political practice. We may be keen to dismiss Hopkins' motives as publicity and financially driven, and refrain from contributing to it with our outrage. But lest we forget that the genesis of the worst crimes in human history have always begun with the dehumanization and scapegoating of a minority group in the collective psyche.

Incitement to racial hatred is illegal under criminal law for good reason.