Friday, 13 April 2007

The tossing Green Party

There's an article on the Guardian's commentisfree website from Jenny Jones of the Green Party Jenny, writing about the approaching Live Earth concerts, suggests the "temporarily suspension" of any criticism of the event. Jenny does however provide us with a fairly substantial list of things not to be critical about, including but i'm sure not limited to;

x The wider timing of the event in reference to the 'progression' of the debate surrounding climate change

x The date, in reference to July 7th bombings

x The location

X A "jet-setting collection of rock stars and of B-list celebs playing at being day-trip greenies"

Perhaps paying lip-service to those within and outside of the party who will want at least a tokenistic display of irritation with the event. Jenny continues, noting that we should be encouraged in spite of these facts:

the event will generate a virtual mountain range of cynical texts and emails, .....But .... can we please take a day to celebrate the fact that climate change awareness is (once again) going mainstream?

If only all the arguments raised by Jenny were couched in such amazingly self-defeating terms. Thankfully it seems unlikely that Jenny's demand will be conceded by many on the homogeneous sounding left she makes reference to. For many of those i've talked to about the party (the cited example of the Socialist Party are one among many) for every mention of the latest Derek Wall article there are twice as many references to the role of the Green Party in suggested part-privitization schemes, or varied suggestions that the Green Party depend largely on the altruism of civilized businessmen doing civilized business. At the heart of the debate lies an uncertainty about the Green Party's ideological basis, and of course the fundamental failure to stress the importance of class as a basic party principle. What some Green Party members have suggested to me is a reflection of a democratic 'plurality of views' allowed within the party, is perceived by many as the simple incoherence of a party liable to be tossed hither and thither in the face of mobilizing struggle.

HSBC: "Not everyone in the world is equal"

I realise this is going to be the "topic de jour" for far-left bloggers, but it's rare that the long-suffering foot soldiers are treated to nuggets like these. It's what will be viewed in some quarters as an admission of the unequal and discriminating nature of modern capitalism by one of it's most powerful representatives. It's in this context that a spokesperson for HSBC (the world's 'local bank' we're told) informed a Guardian journalist that, regarding the exclusive use of a branch in Canford Cliffs, Dorset by those with £50,000 or more in savings;
We are trying to treat everyone fairly - not everybody in the world is equal. Some people have higher incomes and need greater services through the bank. These customers demand a better service

How apt! In some sense of course this is a non-story, we didn't need HSBC to tell us the world isn't equal, but the conclusions that have been drawn from this fact - exclusive use by those 'more equal' than others - are why HSBC will quite rightly be the subject of condemnation and perhaps boycott.

With regards to the probable reception of this news item on the left, it does reminds me of those far-leftists I know who always find some of the best company in the free-marketer euro-bashing pro-globalizationists of the Tory right-wing. Both agree that capitalism is by it's nature expansive, revolutionary and ruthless, they just happened to draw different conclusions about the implications of these realities.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Little 'hope' - a lot of contradiction: Searchlight No.382

A few years or so ago “Joined up thinking” seemed to be the buzzphrase that had captivated the imaginations of those in power in the ‘Westminster village’ – I tried to trace the etymology of the phrase but was largely unsuccessful. I raise the point only because there does seem to be a particular absence of 'joined up thinking' surrounding the issue of how best to deal with the far-right.

On the day that Blair is accused of blaming a spate of murders on 'black culture', the abscence of joined up thinking was painfully apparent in the Latest edition of Searchlight magazine. The frontpage editorial (which went to press before the aforementioned story aired, though it's guaranteed limited coverage in the next edition) outlines the campaign being run both within the pages of the Daily Mirror and within the constituencies in which the BNP is standing as one embodied by the slogan which it has adopted for this purpose: “hope not hate”. Below this editorial we find another column outlining the adventurist policies of a government drive to “deny work, benefits and services to illegal immigrants” (No. 382). Little hope here, it seems for those currently under attack by the Home Secretary. What is perhaps interesting here is the complete failure to comprehensively link this aggressive anti-immigration drive to the wider context of a resurgent far-right movement.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Fascism: What it is and how to fight it

In order that we may fight fascism we must first understand and be able to characterize the nature of fascism. It will perhaps not surprise readers to find that precise definitions of Fascism and what may constitute Fascist organizations vary greatly.

Perhaps one of the most widely known contemporary theorists on the topic is that of Roger Griffin, who has attempted to provide a general epistemology of fascism. Griffin is among those who have suggested the ability to detect a 'fascist minimum' by which to judge organizations as Fascistic [2]. Underlining the 'Fascistic minimum' for Griffin is a 'mythical core' at the very heart of Fascism aligning rebirth and regeneration from the destitute of democratic liberalism; the crisis expressed by this system providing the vision or 'birth pangs' of a new order [2]. Needless to say the basis of the 'fascistic minimum' is contested though common 'ideological' and 'practical' themes run through many of the characterization of Fascism I intend to outline. Griffin recognizes, as do many theorists writing on the subject, the context for Germany Nazism as occurring during a period of "national re-birth".

Traverso within the ‘Origins of Nazi Violence’ provides one of the most in-depth descriptions of the historical roots of Nazi violence, outlining a view of Nazism strongly aligned with the history of colonial rule - as treatment which were previously reserved for 'natives' by colonial rulers are utilised for the purposes ofNazi rule. Within this colonial period Traverso argues that an anti-univeralist, hierarchical basis for rule is provided from which future Nazi movements could expand. Such rule was implicitly anti-humanitarian, serving to dehumanize native populations as 'less civilized' (read: 'less human') than their oppressors, the links with the Nazi treatment of 'minority' groups seems clearly self-apparent within this account [5].

The 'origin' of fascistic violence is also a topic touched upon by M. Mann within the comprehensive work 'Fascists'. Mann suggests that the violent nature of Fascism can be in part understood in reference to the attempts by such organizations to court the influence of young male leaders [6]. For Mann young men "set the character of Fascism" - a fascism understandable as dependent upon forms of excessive machismo encourging escalating forms of militarism - and Para militarism. These were the same young men who had experienced the nature of these forms first hand from within the 'small political groupings' which sought to inspire the spirit of the Volk [6:151].

It's perhaps possible here to make a distinction that has been noted elsewhere with regards to the clear context within which Mann locates the ideology of fascistic movements namely the cultural, social and political context of a post first-world-war European setting. We can contrast this approach to the suggested general 'trends' Paxon identifies with fascistic movements [8]. The point has been made elsewhere by our comrades in the SWP, that a fixed context-dependent reading of Fascism can mean an inability to respond to the changing face of Fascism, and the suggested ability to manipulative both Ideology and Practice to serve interests embodied by Fascism [8b]. A tool with which to explore this idea is provided by Paxon. Within 'The anatomy of Fascism' we find a focus upon the practical implications of such movements - Paxon argues that we can't 'essencialise' fascism with narrow unyielding definitions, instead we must look to function of such movements [8]. Such an approach makes sense if we look even briefly at the approach adopted by both Fascist and Nazi organizations after the First World War. Examples from Fascist history are wide-ranging; it is generally acknowledged that Mussolini had to adapt the ideological content of the movement to the role and position of a powerful catholic church with a clear influence among ordinary Italians [9] it has also been noted that Italian fascists could at one point be found in a coalition among other groups, all the while readying themselves with "clubs, knives and pistols" [10:7]. Similarly the incorporation of forms of anti-Semitism originally alien to the nature of Italian fascism suggests the absence to a firm or fixed adherence to unchanging ideology. In contrast to the approach of Griffiths and others Paxon identifies Five “movements" characteristic of fascism, defined not on the basis of ideological content but instead maneuvering tendencies [8].

While Paxon has been criticized by theorists such as Sternhell for the absence of a focus upon ideology, it is perhaps interesting to note that Paxon makes a point which we may find echoes of in the characterization of Neo-Marxist approaches. Paxon in fact suggests that much of the 'revolutionary anti-capitalist' far-right left capitalism untouched, suggesting that the bourgeoisie viewed the movement as initially favorable to its interest [8]. We can of course find echoes of this view within the work of Gramsci, a point we shall now turn to.

Within 'What is fascism and how to fight it' Trotsky outlines what may be described as a Marxist-Leninist theory of fascism. Trotsky was of course writing during a period in which the comintern line expressed via the German Communist Party equated Social Democracy with variant forms of 'Social Fascism' - criminally failing to make the distinction between Social Democracy and Fascism, and thus provide the sufficient analysis of the specific nature of fascism. This is a fact made more poignant by the relatively longer gestation period of the German Communist party - and the hindsight provided by the experiences of the Italian Communist Party [1]. What is perhaps most interesting about Trotsky's writings on the subject of fascism is the clear absence of a viable revolutionary party and the disastrous implications for the proletariat. Trotsky notes the "weakness and strategic importance" of the revolutionary party during a relatively mature revolutionary situation [1]. While it may be clear that we are not in a “mature revolutionary situation” today, the absence of such a revolutionary party - even in the most embryonic of forms - is painfully apparent.

Trotsky notes that Gramsci alone managed to recognize the real threat posed by Fascism within the Italian Communist Party. Of course Gramsci was jailed in 1926 during a period of heightened fear following an alleged attack on the life of Mussolini in Italy and wrote his famous 'Prison Notebooks' whilst captive [4]. Within 'Democracy and fascism' Gramsci suggests, mirroring the argument outlined by Paxon to some extent, the role fascism played in reducing the minimal democratic standard prevailing within Italy during a pre-fascist period in its attacks on the labor movement. Though Gramsci argues that the bourgeoisie was unable to control the fascist movement whose services it originally served.

Perhaps one of the messages Trotsky articulates most clearly is the clear need to utilize a principled Leninist approach to the tactic of the united front in order that we may combat the implicit aims of Fascistic movements: the attempts to destroy “even that minimum to which the democratic system has been reduced.. The purpose for which it was designed[10].

[2] Fascism: Oxford Readers - Edited by R. Griffin
[3] "Vision of the perceived crisis of the nation betokening birth-pangs of a new order" – Fascism
[5] Traverso - Origins of Nazi Violence
[6] Michael Mann - Fascists
[7] Paxon - 'The Anatomy of Fascism'
[8] International Socialism: 112 / Autumn 2006
Jim Wolfreys notes for example that M. Mann characterises Le Pen's 'Front National' as "rightist populist" and not Fascist.
[9] A fact perhaps poignantly illustrated by those pictures that display Mussolini stripped of the military regalia he appeared to wear in most public depictions, swapped for the clothes of a bourgeoisie gentleman upon meeting prominent church leaders.