Notes on the News
By Gwydion M. Williams
While Irish Republicans are being urged to decommission a small stockpile of rifles and high explosives, US Republicans are eager to commission the means to fight and win World War Three.
The US Presidential candidate John McCain, has too much confidence in his own idea of virtue, which isn’t do virtuous. People are impressed by his five and a half years as a prisoner of war, but manage to put out of their minds just what he was doing at the time. He was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi, but I wonder how long the ‘McCain Mutiny’ will last when more liberal minded people we reminded that his undoubted heroism and stoicism arose from a cruel and pointless war that also came close to losing the US the entire Cold War struggle.
McCain is indeed a man of principle, but a man of the wrong principle: dogmatic and inflexible and incapable of sensible compromises. I’d feel much safer if the most powerful man in the world from 2001 were the well-meaning Gore, or even the shallow, un-malicious George Dubbya Bush.
I also can’t help comparing McCain to Gerry Adams, another ‘Republican’ who also had a grand political career after spending some years in prison on account of warlike activities with a dubious legal basis. It seems to me that Adams’ ambitions can be accommodated, whereas those of McCain, and some of his fellow US Republicans, and much more doubtful.
Meanwhile, according to Yahoo News, “the Reform Party voted to depose an ally of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura as its chairman in a loud, raucous meeting that looked more like a street fight than a political gathering. The action came one day after Ventura, who had been the Reform Party’s highest elected official, pulled out of the party, declaring it ‘hopelessly dysfunctional’ and calling its sole presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, an extremist.”
The Reform Party was created by the Texas billionaire businessman Ross Perot and seems to represent nothing very much. A nostalgia for the unworkable America that mired itself in the Depression and had to be rescued by Roosevelt and the New Deal: values that that thrown out again as soon as it seemed safe to do so. Now that this Reform Party has split, maybe one faction will re-name itself the Counter-Reformation Party.
[McCain lost the Republican nomination to Bush Junior. Who started the Iraq War in reaction to 9/11, even though Saddam was the bitter enemy of al-Qaeda. But this may have been down to his Vice-President, Dick Cheney.
[McCain tried again in 2008 and lost of Obama.
[Perot and the Reform Party got 8.4% of the vote in the 1996 election. In 1992 he had got 18.9% and helped Bill Clinton get elected by taking votes from Bush Senior. Perot and his party have indeed lost significance.]
The Russians have atrociously managed to win a war the West was expecting them to Jose, or at least get bogged down in. The measure of this victory is the way Western media attention has shifted from Chechen military prowess to Chechen suffering.
People forget that Russians have always been good soldiers. Usually quite brutal as well, though this is overlooked when British or American politics require a Russian ‘steamroller’ to crush flat the French (say) or the Germans. The USA’s proxy wars in Latin America have been just as bad. Also, they crushed a real left-wing alternative in Latin America, whereas the Chechen ‘governments’ were never more than a bunch of bandits unable to maintain even a decent pretence of law and order.
The killing of Malcolm Caldwell silenced most of dose who might have questioned the Vietnamese conquest of Cambodia. In Chechnya, I rather fear that a bold Russian journalist called Andei Babitski met a similar fate after annoying front-line soldiers.
I don’t doubt terrible things have been done by both sides, and also atrocious lies told about things that didn’t happen. If Pinocchio were spokesman for either side, he’d never have got his nose through the door. But it is clear that Chechen fighters withdrew sooner than they’d planned, and with many more losses. When you retreat and leave dead behind, it is a defeat
According to The Financial Times (7th February), the Chechen fighters paid corrupt Russian soldiers 100,000 dollars for a ‘safe’ route out of Grozny – a route that led them right into a well-prepared minefield. There was also talk of ‘air-dropped mines’, which are presumably something quite different from the cluster bombs that NATO used in Kosovo. Cluster bombs are small explosive devices which blow up when people tread on them. They are definitely not mines; those have been banned. Air dropped mines are superficially similar devices which are, however, profoundly different; they are being used by someone the Wes does not approve of. (Likewise, the U-boat was a fundamentally different device from a submarine; U-boats sunk our ships and submarines sunk the ships of our enemies.)
The unfortunate Chechens are victims of history. They were encouraged to think that Western support was meaningful. It isn’t, and won’t be until the US manages to get a missile shield that would be Russia-proof.
[The Chechens eventually gave up and accepted a deal that they could have negotiated without any need to fight. But others given “good advice” by the West failed to learn. Most notably the pro-Westers elements in Ukraine: see Ukraine – Kiev’s Five Day War Machine for details of events wildly distorted by Western media.]
It is interesting to note that there’s np legal provision stopping schools from advocating adultery, or sex before marriage; or from urging pupils to join a celibate religious order-a course that would equally deprive their parents of the prospect of grandchildren, as would getting married and choosing to remain childless.
The real issue is, of course, should homosexuals have equality with adulterers or unmarried heterosexual couples? Or even equality with heterosexual married couples, as some are demanding?
[Section 28 or Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 said that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”. Labour repealed it in 2000. Under Cameron, the Tories switched round and also accepted Gay Marriage.]
I’ve no personal objection, but it clearly does have social implications. A much larger minority will opt for a bisexual or homosexual life as the social pressures are reduced. Are we going to see Church blessings for heterosexual adultery, polygamy, polyandry or concubinage? There are traditions that accept such things. Not Christian traditions, though.
The original idea of decriminalising homosexuality was perhaps that homosexuals should have a secure, but inferior, status. Again, I’m not proposing it, but it is a more common solution and one which many societies have adopted. All of them hierarchical, of course, with groups of people of different status coexisting.
Political language derived from Liberalism does not allow you to propose this in any coherent fashion, nor to distinguish it from persecution, on the one hand, and full equality on the other. Everyone’s equal and everyone’s supposed to be the same. But now it’s ‘the same’ in the sense of also ‘different’ .
The defenders of Clause 28 are no more coherent. When they say `support marriage’, rather than ‘support children’, it’s clear they are seeking to hang on to the threadbare remnants of religious authority. What is needed is for society as a whole to accept the costs of raising the next generation.
If a third of the population now thinks of itself as middle class, then there must also be lots of middle class Trade Unionists. And if New Labour is supposed to be for the ‘top people’ rather than the working mainstream, then it is leaving itself wide open to a challenge from the Left. Not from the Scargill types, but from people like Ken Livingstone.
One needs a number of new categories to think about modem politics. One such might be Sleazy-Bourgeois: people who want bourgeois standards to apply to others, though not to themselves.
It would be tedious to list those within Thatcherism who have been duly convicted as crooks and proven liars. It seems likely that not all of the guilty were caught, and more are getting caught all the time. Will Teresa Gorman be the last?
Meanwhile, Michael Portillo, after discovering his roots among the Spanish onions, is possibly thinking of reinventing Toryism as a British Christian Democracy-just as soon as Hague loses the next election and gives Portillo a clear run without taint of disloyalty.
But supposing New-if-Ageing Labour makes such a mess that Hague actually wins the next election? Now there’s a frightening thought…
There’s a story about a man who efficiently gets his donkey to work more and feed less. Then, just when he’s got it trained to work all night and day and eat no food at all, it unexpectedly dies. Very tragic.
In the same spirit, some historians have noted that there was an upsurge in world trade that was unexpectedly and tragically interrupted’ by an upsurge in nationalism and the First World War. Do not dare to suggest that if a world war follow an upsurge in world trade it might have been caused by an upsurge in world trade. Are not all the experts certain that trade promotes peace?
The only good Austrian is a dull Austrian. West Germans were allowed to be heroic, inasmuch as the competition between them and the East Germans was one of the keys to the Cold War. West Germans were deemed Good regardless of their past But neutral Austria was required to be dull.
The Austrians have been dutifully dull for many decades. But now they dare to do much the same as Italy and France have already done, without noticing that they are small enough for the rest of Europe to be ready to risk taking a ‘moral’ stand against them.
The Democratic West worked in the past with Franco’s Spain, generally regarded by this same Democratic West as the direct product of the Third Reich’s first military venture. Salazar’s Portugal remained ‘Britain’s oldest ally’. The West also sustained right wing authoritarians and escaped Nazi criminals in Latin America.
Myself, I find the Nazi link much less worrying than the apparent determination of the `Freedom Party’ to mix chauvinism with an abject surrender to Globalisation on all issues of substance.
[This is a comment on the protests at right-wing populist Jorg Haider becoming part of a coalition government.]
First published in Labour & Trade Union Review, 2006