Volume 11, no 3, Spring 2004
Current Business — Michael Howard, Libya, the Labour Party and TUC Conferences, Respect, A Cooperative Parliament, the Left and the Law Paul Flewers, Iraq: Another Vietnam or Something Worse? The real depth of Bush’s quagmire in Iraq Iain Garioch, A Grisly Tale The murky history of Western intervention in Iraq Emrah Göker, Conscripting Turkey Turkey, the USA and the war in Iraq Paul Flewers, Drawing a Discreet Veil The proposed ban on Muslim veils in France Mike Jones, Alija Izetbegović Assessing the life of the Muslim President of Bosnia-Hercegovina Chris Gray, Civilisation ‘As We Know It’ The ideas of Samuel Huntington Cyril Smith, Marx and the Fourfold Vision of William Blake The curious relationship between the mystic and the materialist Alan Spence, Condition Critical? The middle classes and the National Health Service Arthur Trusscott, Hutton’s Whitewash A quick look at the Hutton Report on the Iraq War Reviews — Revolutionary Strategy, Mediaeval Philosophers, Loyalism Letters — Autonarchy, Yugoslavia 2 10 13 18 25 26 30 34 43 64 65 76
Enter Mr Howard THE swift ejection of Ian Duncan Smith as Conservative Party leader and his replacement by Michael Howard show how unwise it is to write off the Tories as a significant force in British politics. The party may be split all ends up as regards the European Union, deprived of its natural reactionary confidence by the successful appropriation of its policies by ‘New’ Labour, and apparently unable to stop the onward march of the Liberal Party, but when it comes to a snappy change of leadership horses, the Tory parliamentarians certainly showed no lack of skill in not only disposing of Ian Duncan Smith by a 90 to 75 vote of MPs, but also in preventing a damaging free-for-all in the choice of his successor. No doubt this is a bit hard on Tory activists in the constituencies, who had (in theory) been given the right to elect their leader, but in the circumstances they know that it is wise to accept the parliamentary coup, since another round of blood-letting would not go down well with the national electorate. There seems little doubt that Michael Howard will be more effective than Ian Duncan Smith at the House of Commons despatch box. Mr Duncan Smith’s bluster was, on the whole, ineffective. (The outgoing leader’s lack of charisma was captured amusingly on one of Private Eye’s front covers, which showed Ian Duncan Smith saying ‘I’m the Quiet Man’, and Betsy replying ‘Oh, do shut up about it.’) What the Tories need in the Commons is someone who can use the rapier, so to speak, and whose position is not too close to that of the government — which was the case with IDS over Iraq and the notorious dossier, for example. However, as several commentators have observed, it is one thing to score points in debates in Parliament, and quite another to convince constituency electors that you are worth plumping for. Some evidence has come to light that suggests that Michael Howard is aware of this problem. A report in the Evening Standard of 3 November 2003 quotes him as saying: I am aware that I was not a popular Home Secretary. I have thought a lot about that and one of the conclusions I have reached is it is not enough just to win an argument. That does not necessarily mean you have won hearts and minds. You have got to bring people with you. You have got to explain to people what you are doing and try to get them behind you. (The left, especially, should appreciate the value of these perceptive remarks, recognising that not only has it not succeeded in winning hearts and minds, but that it has not even started to win the overall argument.) However, the emergence of a more capable leader will not necessarily prove enough to ensure the return of the Tories as the ‘natural party of government.’ As Ken Coates observed a couple of years ago, the enthusiastic espousal of ‘neo-liberal’ policies by the present administration creates a big problem for the Conservatives (‘No Space for Two Tory Parties’, Socialist Review, May 2001). What can the Tories do to extract themselves from this cul-de-sac? If they move further to the right, they will
start entering into competition with the British National Party — no solution at this stage of the game; if they try to move further left (which, given Labour’s current stance, presents no difficulties on paper), they risk exposure as demagogues. (Here, indeed, the left has a role to play: our job is to oppose pro-capitalist policies, no matter where they emanate from, and publicise credible alternatives.) Also the task in terms of parliamentary seats to be won is quite formidable: Labour’s majority over the Conservatives in 2001 was 247, its overall majority 186. This leaves only the ‘selfdestruct factor’ as possible comfort for Michael Howard & Co — that is, the possibility that the Blair government will collapse under the weight of its own ineptitude. While that might count as poetic justice, it still leaves the Tories with a lot of work to do — though not as much as the left, which really does have its work cut out. Martin Carroll The Rehabilitation of Libya ALMOST unnoticed in the media in the wake of the big splash about the capture of Saddam Hussein was the story that Libya, the original and — until Ba’athist Iraq’s elevation into Public Enemy Number One — the premier Arab ‘terror-sponsoring’ bogey, has been permitted to return into the hallowed portals of the ‘international community’. In accordance with an agreement struck with the USA and Britain in December, Libya is, in exchange for the lifting of US and United Nations sanctions, scrapping its schemes for ‘weapons of mass destruction’, severely limiting its weaponry, and allowing full access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under Colonel Gadaffi’s bizarre personality-cult regime, Libya had long enjoyed a notorious image. Having a policewoman shot from one’s London embassy’s windows was a particularly stupid way to conduct diplomacy, and openly backing and in instances actually arming guerrilla groups, including the IRA, was bound to get the big powers upset. Libyan involvement was alleged in the destruction of a French airliner over Niger in 1988 which caused considerable loss of life. Libya was thus a handy punch-bag for the big powers, and was bombed by the USA in 1986 for an attack upon US servicemen in Berlin with which it almost certainly had no involvement. And so when political expediency required that the responsibility of the destruction of the Pan American Boeing 747 over Lockerbie in 1988 be shifted from Syria (as the main backers of the Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command, that was pretty convincingly reckoned as responsible for the atrocity) when Damascus was inveigled into supporting the USA in the First Gulf War, Libya was the ideal country to take the rap. The case against Libya was weak in the extreme, yet the conviction in a special court of Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbassett Ali Mohammed Al Megrahi went through to the acclaim of the British press and parliament. Last summer, Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion compensation to the Lockerbie victims’ families, on the basis of paying 40 per cent of this sum immediately upon the lifting of UN sanctions, another 40 per cent with the lifting of US sanctions, and the final 20 per cent once Libya was removed from the US list of terror-sponsoring states. Libya also informed the UN Security Council that it accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, and offered its cooperation in international anti-terrorist campaigns. Libya had long been wishing to return to the ‘international community’, and, despite constant US hostility, this process took a serious turn four years back when Britain effectively re-established diplomatic relations with Tripoli. That the USA was
finally ready to accept this was shown last summer when it did not veto the UN motion to withdraw sanctions, but merely abstained. It is clear that publicly taking responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing was the price that Libya had to pay to get any sort of international rehabilitation. This almost certainly explains both the appallingly inept manner in which the defence of Al Megrahi was conducted — a half-way decent defence would have blown the ‘evidence’ out of the water — and the arrogance of the prosecution in pushing such a moth-eaten case. Nonetheless, the compensation, costly as it is, is but a small fraction of the cost of Libya’s continued isolation. This, along with the humiliation involved in having one’s armaments limited and inspectors poking around, is a relatively small price to pay in exchange for the withdrawal of stringent sanctions. Radical nationalist regimes such as Gadaffi’s in Libya could come to power, prosper and even defy the big Western powers during the postwar period because they could take advantage of the Cold War confrontation. Although they were not Soviet puppet states, their relationship with Moscow gave them considerable room to manoeuvre, both in their domestic and foreign policies. The collapse of the Soviet Union put paid to that. Opinions differ as to whether Libya’s rehabilitation was the result of Britain’s subtle diplomatic pressure, as Robin Cook puts it, or was because it did not wish to suffer the same fate as Iraq at the hands of the USA. These are subsidiary factors, and are not the root cause of Gadaffi’s capitulation. Gadaffi’s acceptance of responsibility for Lockerbie and his enthusiastic endorsement of the ‘war against terror’ and extensive privatisation schemes that will open up Libya to international capital are indubitable proof that his career as an eccentric Arab nationalist resisting imperialism and implementing a ‘socialist’ domestic policy — something, let us not forget, which certain left-wingers in Britain took seriously — is over. It is ironic that the rehabilitation of Libya was overshadowed by the capture of Saddam Hussein. Compared to the morass in Iraq, in which the discovery of the dishevelled Ba’ath leader is of little real importance, the taming of Gadaffi is one of the few things in the Middle East that can bring a little cheer to Messrs Bush and Blair. Paul Flewers The TUC and Labour Party Conferences: Debate and Showmanship. THE much-maligned figure of the TUC carthorse has not only arisen from its supposed death-bed, but, following an injection of new blood, in the form of a new generation of union leaders and activists not stricken with the disease of terminal forelock-tugging, is limbering-up and readying itself for new outings. The grave defeats of the 1980s had generated a so-called ‘new realism’, whereby a clear and confident agenda of worthwhile aims that could be attained through strength was replaced by a reliance on rights and benefits being handed down by the European Union and the seeking out of benevolent employers for a supposed partnership. Governments saw no cause for ‘beer and sandwiches’ at No 10 any more with union leaders, as no union was in a position to draw up its ‘tanks on the lawn’, as Hugh Scanlon had done to Harold Wilson when he headed the old engineering union. However, a slow process of recovery has been working its way through the ranks of the unions, resulting in the election of left-wingers, and even people claiming adherence to a Marxist outlook, to the top posts. A series of more combative general secretaries emerged in situations where open supporters of Blair were trounced.
The same trend has manifested itself in elections to the executives of unions recently. A reverse was the failure of Mick Rix to get re-elected in ASLEF. Since then, Jack Dromey was elected as Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU, but this political chameleon presented himself as a left-winger to do so, and the real left was split between two candidates. Association with Blair is now seen as a liability in union elections. The 2002 TUC saw sharp clashes between the right and the left, whereas last year’s was dominated by the left, due to the continuing process of the replacement of the Sir Ken Jacksons and Sir Bill Morrises by the likes of Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley. Motions rejecting foundation hospitals (economic autonomy from the NHS), demanding compulsory contributions to pension funds by employers, for the repeal of all the Tory anti-union laws, and condemning the invasion of Iraq, were adopted unanimously, whereas this was not the case in 2002. The right wing did not feel confident enough to oppose many of the left-wing motions. In 2002, Bob Crow was kept off the General Council, although the RMT, as the rail-workers union, was always given a place, but he succeeded in getting onto it in 2003. So the General Council itself has shifted to the left, too. The motion on Iraq also called for the withdrawal of the occupying troops, power to be handed to the Iraqis, but proposed that UN troops replace those of the coalition during the transition period. This might have been accepted following the fall of the Ba’athist regime, although the UN is not seen as a neutral body owing to the sanctions policy that had helped ruin Iraq and led to many deaths and much suffering, but whether this is still an option, with a sophisticated resistance movement inflicting severe blows upon the occupiers, various radical Islamist organisations gaining in influence, and a heavy-handed approach by US forces with a powerless governing council that lacks credibility in Iraqi eyes, is debatable. The Bush–Blair plan seems to be aiming at setting up a client regime, which is why the war took place, rather than allowing Iraqis, who are quite capable of running their own affairs, to choose for themselves. Regardless, the motion was an important statement, as well as opposing similar adventures that Bush and Blair could be minded to undertake in the region. And it would have been met with huge opposition in 2002. The 2003 Labour Party conference couldn’t have been more different. On the Monday, Gordon Brown, who was received without great enthusiasm at the TUC, noting the opinion polls showing public distrust of Blair, the significant number of MPs indicating that he should resign, the widespread sense that Blair is on the way out, made his bid for the leadership. Brown’s speech pressed all the right buttons by appearing to be a return to ‘Old Labour’, and was received with enthusiasm by delegates, while the press analysed it and saw it for what it was. Brown, of course, helped shape New Labour, but he emits hints that he is not keen on the market in the health and education sectors. The clique he has around him try to promote him as a real Labour person rather than a fly-by-night like Blair. Apparently, the Blairites were fuming at Brown’s sally. On the Tuesday, Blair gave his leader’s speech. He was not his usual confident self but more humble, asking for understanding, trying to reconnect with the party membership. While seeming to present himself as chastened, he nevertheless pointed out that he has ‘no reverse gear’, and in the case of Iraq, he would do the same again. He was treated to long applause upon his entrance and even seemed surprised by the welcome from the audience. With ‘I Love Tony’ stickers being handed out, the conference had all the appearance of a ‘Save Blair’ rally. Large numbers of
constituencies did not send delegates, and so when key speeches took place, a stage army was drafted in to fill the empty places. The party is extremely demoralised and split over Iraq, yet conference was refused any debate over the war. Blair’s tactic is to say that ‘we must move on’ now, it happened, and although many people were opposed and are very angry, he believes that it was ‘the right thing to do’. Brush it under the carpet. It seems that not a lot of party members agree with him. Large numbers have resigned, although the figures are falsified by keeping them on the books. By the middle of the week, such a pressure had built up among union and CLP delegates that Iraq was put on the agenda, but not as a separate issue, only as a part of the foreign policy debate. This ensured that delegates would not overturn the leadership as it would mean rejecting the whole document. The debate followed directly after the speech by the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. This ‘outlined the good done by military intervention in his country by Britain and America to oust the Taliban. Clearly, the hope is that those listening will draw a parallel with the Iraq war…’ (The Times, 29 September 2003) Karzai, the oilman installed by the Bush regime as their client speaking as a ‘fraternal guest’: such a stunt would occur at a Tory conference in the past, that today it can be pulled at Labour’s only points up the distance travelled away from political debate towards a pure media event. The leadership were defeated on the foundation hospital issue, as the unions were united on it, and on the Thursday were again defeated on the pensions issue. But when the government pushed its foundation hospital legislation through, the Commons, after some concessions designed to buy off opposition, enough Labour opponents capitulated to help them win the vote. The Policy Fora have been revealed as a sham, the annual conference is well on its way to being so, and Labour MPs have only got their own selves to blame when cynicism about politicians leads to abstention the more the voters watch their doings. What could turn out to be the antidote to the powerlessness of ordinary members to affect policy is the relaunching of the Labour Representation Committee. The new LRC was set up by left-wing Labour MPs and union leaders during the Labour Party conference. It aims to work towards changing party structures in order to reintroduce internal party democracy. Mick Rix was central to its formation, and Tony Woodley, among others, is involved. If the new generation of union leaders are serious about reclaiming the party, then with the necessary resources there is nothing to stop them. Mike Jones With All Due Respect… SOME 1500 people attended the founding conference of the Respect campaign on 25 January. Standing rather tortuously for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism, it is very much the brainchild of the Socialist Workers Party, and so far has brought together the SWP and some of the smaller fry on the left, George Galloway, Ken Loach, left-wing union leaders like Mark Serwotka, and sundry Muslim organisations. Its programme is very brief, and is altogether less challenging to the status quo than that of the Socialist Alliance. The conference atmosphere was by all accounts peculiarly febrile, being marked by unnecessary standing ovations and vicious demonstrations of disapproval towards ‘off-message’ contributors. Sean Matgamna barely uttered his name before his voice was drowned by cat-calls. True, the Alliance for Workers Liberty’s crit6
icisms of Galloway are excessive, but the treatment he received was well out of order. Amendments beefing up Respect’s meagre programme were barred, and even references to socialism were not made welcome by the conference organisers. What are the prospects for Respect? Galloway is not the ideal figurehead for a new left-wing movement, not least as much of his history presents a gift to the gutter press. It remains to be seen how many labour movement bodies will join up, and how Respect will fit in with existing ones like the Socialist Alliance. It also remains to be seen how the Muslim groups represented on it will coexist with the left should issues arise that pit religious beliefs against a secular outlook, such as the question of religious schools. Relations between religious and ‘community’ groups and the left have customarily been strained and short-lived. Respect’s programme is too vague to attract many working-class voters, and its composition of left-wing groups and individuals and religious bodies makes it very unstable. Paul Flewers For a Cooperative Parliament! That, as soon as practicable, this Society shall proceed to arrange the powers of production, distribution, education and government… (Manifesto of the Rochdale Pioneers, 1844) THIS was written four years before Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. These two authors were sceptical at the time of the cooperative movement. By the time, however, Marx had completed the third volume of Capital many years later, he had come to view the cooperative movement as ‘showing the way in which a new mode of production may naturally grow out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production has reached a certain age’ (Capital, Volume 3, p521). That this stage is now on the agenda for the British working class is clear when we see the present Labour government reversing gains established by the 1945 Labour government in its attempts to fulfil some of the aspirations of the Pioneers, and, unbelievably, following a course set by the Thatcher government in 1979 to abolish the welfare state. This course was continued by the following Conservative governments until 1997, when popular repugnance at their malevolent results brought about the massive election victory of the present Labour government that was intent — so it was said — on ensuring that the country could resume its trajectory of beneficial progress that was initiated so positively by a postwar generation of voters outraged by the failure of capitalism, as witnessed by the economic depression of the 1930s. Crucial to the repair of damage caused by the run-down of industry during the depression years, which was only hastily renovated to cope with the needs of war, was the taking into state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. This measure followed the given socialist policy of the times, and concurred with the leading socialist theoreticians’ remedies for the industrialisation of the economy as the transition arrangement necessary for the construction of a socialist society. Concurrent with this reindustrialisation was the introduction of new or substantially improved services to deal comprehensively with most forms of social adversity, from a national health service that was free to all the UK’s population, benefits for children and for adults during illness and unemployment, improved pensions for all senior citizens, all of which, along with education and other benefits, collectively formed the core of the welfare state.
An additional and equally profound restructuring of capitalism was intended by means of town and country planning. Overcrowding and slum living in urban areas would be redressed through a policy of restructuring towns, cities and rural villages in a comprehensive and balanced manner, with the neighbourhood or village centre as its focus, with schools, shops and recreation and athletic facilities along with various forms of medical and social provisions within walking or easily accessible distances. Included in the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1946 was a policy to provide New Towns that could siphon off excess population from overcrowded areas or act as foci of industrialisation for deprived areas within the UK. When completed, the land of these settlements would be transferred to a trust which would use rent as revenue, and thereby provide municipal funding that would supplement traditional central government funding. Additionally, these towns, by attracting industry to new and better facilities, would reduce rents in ‘old’ towns, making land cheaper, and thereby enabling local authorities to build homes, hospitals, etc. In spite of the enormous difficulties of changing from war to peace, and in contrast to the monetary scandals, inflation and unemployment following the First World War, the Attlee government soon had this majestic programme underway, as evident in the National Exhibition of 1951. During this period, it controlled inflation, demobilised the armed forces and provided ex-servicemen with work, and avoided causing the suffering endured by the working class in the 1920s. Thus, when it stood for re-election to parliament when its five-year term of office expired in 1950-51, Labour received two million more votes than it did in 1945. However, it lost the elections as two million Liberal voters switched to the Conservatives. Organising a massive newspaper campaign which maliciously rubbished every one of Labour’s embryonic proposals before it could be proven, the gutter press lambasted the tight controls held by the Labour government to maintain stability in the economy as a ‘socialist dictatorship’, and contrasted this with the opportunity for middle-class spenders if the war credits that had been placed to employees’ accounts to prevent inflation, and the savings accumulated during the war with its shortage of consumer goods, had been released for a spending binge. Taking the bait, middle-class voters put the Conservatives in power for 13 years (and later on for another 18), and helped capitalist industrialists, retailers and financial speculators to introduce the consumerist culture which today has the average UK household holding £50 000 of debt, and has led to the present débâcle of a gutted manufacturing industry, a transport system short of billions for necessary repair, maintenance and improvement, a health service brought almost to its knees by a minor flu epidemic in 1999-2000, and a town and country planning system which has become nothing more than a mechanism by which property developers transfer increasing land values directly into their bank accounts. If there is one major criticism of the 1945-51 Labour government, it is that they saw the manifesto Let Us Face the Future on which the election had been won as sufficient in and of itself for socialism. Like so many other socialists, they had overlooked the cooperative movement. They did not see that within the nationalised industries, as standard-bearers for the rest of industry, the next stage would be for their workforces to be schooled into cooperative principles, and thus be prepared for the time when a parliamentary decision be made for the nationalised industries to become cooperative enterprises. In short, Labour at that time had no ‘Plan B’. We should now develop such a plan. Given the rapidity with which transna8
tional companies are asset-stripping the UK of its industrial and commercial workplaces, an immediate programme should consist of persuading parliament to support measures to allow for compulsory takeover/purchase of establishments such as Alsthom’s train-building plant. A model for this could be the Tower Colliery in Wales, where its workforce took over and transformed their workplace into a cooperative enterprise. In doing this, and without detracting from the renaissance already taking place in cooperative retail, we shall additionally take on board Marx’s point about the need for ‘cooperative production rather than cooperative stores’: ‘The latter touch but the surface of the present economic system, the former attacks its groundwork.’ (Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association) For this purpose, the labour movement should use the 29 existing Cooperative members of parliament, extend their number until Cooperative MPs form a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and, from this strategic position, proceed with the long overdue implementation of the Rochdale Manifesto, and get rid of the imperialist faction which has taken over the British parliament, which is necessary if the working class and its many supporters are to build a peaceful, sustainable and harmonious socialist society. Alan Spence The Law and the Left BOOKMARKS, the bookshop and publishers associated with the Socialist Workers Party, and Lindsey German, the editor of the SWP’s Socialist Review, have been obliged to pay £1500 each to Quintin Hoare and Branka Magaš, well-known leftwing commentators on the former Yugoslavia, together with their lawyer’s bill estimated at some £10 000. Hoare and Magaš had taken exception to an article in Socialist Review in 1993 and republished in the Bookmarks collection The Balkans, Nationalism and Imperialism of 1999 which they felt had portrayed them as apologists for the former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. It has long been a tradition in the socialist movement that hostile accusations are not dealt with through the courts. Paul Foot explained that ‘as soon as lawyers get involved in these arguments, the expense of the action in almost every case far exceeds both any damage done by the libel and anything a socialist publisher or author can possibly afford’. Considering the number and often vicious style of accusations bandied about on the left, it is noteworthy that recourse to the courts is indeed rare — the last case I can recall before this one was some 20 years back when the forerunners of the Alliance for Workers Liberty were up before the beak for saying some home truths about Gerry Healy’s lunatic asylum that strutted around as the Workers Revolutionary Party. The collapse of Yugoslavia was and remains a very contentious issue on the left both in Britain and elsewhere. Commenting upon the court case in the Weekly Worker on 23 October 2003, Charlie Pottins writes ‘it’s best to avoid libelling people’. Charlie complains of his being dubbed ‘pro-Croatian nationalist’ or ‘pro-imperialist’ because of his standpoint on the Yugoslav collapse. On the other hand, I was, and I remain, a neutralist on the question, not backing any of the contending nationalist forces, and as a result of this, like other neutralists, I have been accused of being an apologist for Serb thuggery, because I did not, and still do not, consider the Serb nationalists as being solely responsible for the break-up of Yugoslavia and for the ensuing misery. But I did not go running for the services of a libel lawyer to deal with this slanderous
accusation, no more than I did when I was recently accused by none other than AWL leader Sean Matgamna of holding an ‘anti-Semitic’ standpoint on Palestine/ Israel — an equally outrageous slander — because of my support for a democratic secular mono-statal solution to this question. In fact, to return to Charlie’s complaint, far from the neutralist standpoint being the predominant outlook on Yugoslavia, the main left/liberal view in Britain, and more so in Continental Europe, was one which blamed the Serbs for practically everything that went wrong, from the rise of nationalism, through the break-up of the country, to the atrocities that accompanied the disintegration. Some people went so far as to ignore or even to support mass expulsions — so long as it happened to Serbs (as it did in Krajina in 1995 and in Kosovo after the war in 1999). To view the Slovene, Croat and Bosnian Muslim nationalists as guilty as the Serb variety in the break-up of the Federation, to declare that atrocities were also committed by nonSerbs, to challenge the received wisdom in respect of some of the events in the wars, and to query the use of the term ‘genocide’ in respect of the deaths in ex-Yugoslavia — in short, to challenge the predominant left/liberal view — remains to this day in certain circles to be tantamount to a modern form of Holocaust denial. The very fact that there were so many different positions adopted amongst leftwingers on the collapse of Yugoslavia — from support to Slobodan Milošević on the basis that he headed a ‘socialist’ state, through my neutralist standpoint, to backing the secessionists on the grounds of supporting the right of nations to selfdetermination — shows that there was great confusion on the left on this issue. Rather than taking fellow socialists to court, if Magaš and Hoare felt that they were being unfairly treated by being described as ‘apologists for Tudjman’, would it not have been better for them to have demonstrated that this were not the case by means of their writings and activities, including challenging the SWP to a debate, rather than getting the law involved, with the possibility of Bookmarks — one of the very few left-wing bookshops remaining in southern England — suffering grave financial losses and possible closure? This could have enabled the subject of the collapse of Yugoslavia and the various attitudes held in Britain and elsewhere towards this catastrophe to be discussed at length and in detail, and that surely would be no bad thing. Branka Magaš and Quintin Hoare should be criticised for bringing in the law on what is a dispute amongst left-wingers, and socialists should support Bookmarks both morally and financially. Paul Flewers
Iraq: Another Vietnam or Something Worse?
THE triumphal press conferences and announcements following the discovery of a vagrant-like Saddam Hussein squirreled away in a crude bunker cannot disguise the fact that the USA is well and truly bogged down in Iraq. Resistance to the occupation
has been steadily mounting, as have the numbers of US casualties, and it will be interesting to see just how long US spokesmen can continue their mantra-like blaming the shootings and bombings purely upon Ba’athist leftovers and foreign infiltrators. Comparisons are being made with Vietnam. There are important differences: US and Iraqi casualties are far lower, the Iraqi resistance is still very much uncoordinated and lacking any unifying organisational or political focus, and the US military has not engaged in massively destructive bombing or similar military measures, and the recent intensification of military action against the resistance is unlikely to approach the level reached in Vietnam. There is, however, another very significant difference. The US involvement in Vietnam was the result of the inability of France to deal effectively with a national liberation movement in one of its colonies. The fact that the leadership of the Vietnamese liberation movement was Stalinist inevitably drew the conflict into the Cold War confrontation, and the Vietnam war, with the concomitant ‘domino theory’ which claimed that the fall of the US-backed regime in Saigon would be followed by Stalinist victories right across Indochina, meant that the war in Vietnam assumed a greater significance in the minds of the US ruling class than it really deserved. Vietnam was not crucial to the US economy, and the victory of the national liberation movement, whilst giving encouragement to anti-imperialist forces in both the vicinity and elsewhere, would not have represented a mortal threat to US interests in the area. It is not unreasonable to consider, at least in the earlier stages, that some sort of compromise could have been lashed up that would have protected US interests in South-East Asia, had the US ruling class been less inclined to believe its hysterical propaganda about the ‘communist threat’. Things are very different with Iraq. Vietnam was a case of decolonisation, Iraq is a case of recolonisation. Vietnam was an attempt of US imperialism to handle and then to extricate itself from a difficult situation in a corner of the dying French Empire. The present imbroglio in Iraq is a result of an amazingly inept attempt by a faction of the US ruling class to accelerate the extension of the influence of the USA in the Middle East and Central Asia in particular and around the world in general, through the replacement of the Ba’athist regime by one loyal to Washington and, hopefully, with some local credibility. The US obsession with Iraq is predicated upon the desire to establish the country as a central factor in the expansion of US power. With Iraq connecting Turkey with the Gulf, bordering the problematic states of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, close to Israel, and also a major oil-producing country with plenty of untapped oil resources as well, the replacing of the Ba’ath regime in Iraq by a reliable, pro-US one would be of great value to Washington. Having used wars in the Balkans to establish military bases in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo, and the war against Afghanistan to establish them in various former Soviet states in Central Asia, the invasion of Iraq was intended to enable the building of four massive military establishments in a country headed by a friendly and secure government, and thus help consolidate and extend US power across the Eurasian landmass. The best laid plans of mice and men can go astray, but the manner in which George W Bush and his neo-conservative pals in the White House went about this crucial stage in the building of the new US Imperium was irrational in the extreme. Bush launched the invasion without any clear plans for a credible replacement for the Ba’ath regime. Although most Iraqi citizens were happy to see the Ba’athist dictatorship fall, the US invasion and its high-handed behaviour since has led to grow11
ing resentment in many parts of the country. The quisling governing council that the US occupiers have installed has no popular support or legitimacy. Under present conditions, a country like Iraq, in which the state effectively acts as a substitute for the under-developed capitalist class, can be ruled by either a military-bureaucratic dictatorship, as under the Ba’ath, or a theocratic dictatorship, like in neighbouring Iran. Or there can be chaos… For all Bush & Co’s talk about sorting out ‘failed states’, what is clear from the invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the destruction of the Ba’athist party–state apparatus has turned a modern and reasonably efficient state into one that is definitely of the failed variety. With a weak indigenous bourgeoisie, the task of economic development, the provision of social welfare and the maintenance of order fell to the Ba’ath party–state apparatus. The occupation authorities’ privatisation schemes will not attract much foreign capital — who will invest in a place like Iraq? — and the little investment that will occur will be effectively asset-stripping, pecking away legally at the debris that has been left behind by the looters. How much of the oil revenues will remain in Iraq, let alone be invested in public works and welfare, remains to be seen. The dissolution of the Ba’ath machine and the collapse of the welfare state and the economy — unemployment stands at around 70 per cent of the workforce — have led to a process of social disaggregation and a political vacuum that, in the absence of any substantial secular political currents, can only be filled by the mosque. Although the neo-conservatives’ methods have proved utterly counterproductive, the demands of US imperialism are such that a US withdrawal from Iraq is extremely difficult, if not actually impossible. It is possible that a post-Bush US government will try to arrange some sort of lash-up though the United Nations, replacing the quisling council by something more representative, but this is by no means free of problems. The USA’s perilous position in Iraq would mean that it might have to pay a heavy price to the big powers that refused to support Bush’s war in order to get UN approval. Furthermore, it is almost certain that any representative elections in Iraq would produce a large majority for anti-US parties and organisations. The national question in Iraq has to be addressed; a government based upon the Shia (absolute) majority is unlikely to be trusted by the Sunni and Kurdish minorities, and any assertion of Kurdish autonomy in Iraq is likely to be fiercely opposed by Turkey. There is talk amongst right-wing US pundits close to the White House that Iraq could be partitioned into a Kurdish north, a Sunni centre and a Shia south. Turkish concerns about a Kurdish state notwithstanding, such a drastic move would lead to great human misery as large numbers of people would flee or be forcibly transferred, and there is no guarantee that these three mini-states would be able to provide a stable base for US operations in the region. Whilst the manner in which Bush & Co launched their Iraq campaign bordered on madness, there is nothing irrational about the US quest to extend its power and influence throughout the Eurasian landmass; indeed, it is very much in the interests of US imperialism to do so. That is why the consequences of Bush’s adventure in Iraq signify a major setback for US imperialism. Whoever wins the next US Presidential election, the victor and his administration will be obliged to clear up a very large mess — and this will not be an easy task. The capture of Saddam Hussein can only be of short-term political value to Bush. Such are the problems caused by the US occupation policies and the collapse of the Ba’athist state that the opposition to the US occupation of Iraq will continue irrespective of the fact that the former dictator has been unearthed. Far from his cap12
ture representing some sort of ‘closure’ for the Iraqi masses — as if the jargon of Western quack counselling means anything in the Middle East — it is likely that most Iraqis considered that the old tyrant was pretty much a back number (consider the way that his bunker wasn’t even guarded), and that his passing into history is of little relevance to their current and future concerns. As for the future of Iraq, Bush made a silly mistake when he stated in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s capture that ‘this brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever’. Where in the Middle East is there a regime that does not have its torture chambers and secret police? The former Conservative Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind sounded a much more pessimistic — and realistic — note when he said: The end result of the Second Gulf War will not be a liberal, capitalist Iraq that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East… New, tough, authoritarian Iraqis will emerge to take over the levers of power. If Iraq is lucky, it will end up like Egypt; if unlucky, it will be like Syria. (Guardian, 15 December) The general level of economic collapse and social disintegration in Iraq is such that any meaningful liberal democracy is an impossibility, and that the present situation is an unstable interregnum between the Ba’athist authoritarian regime and a similarly authoritarian replacement. One likely victim of this fiasco is Tony Blair. Assuming that domestic events do not lead to his being pitched from his position before the US elections, he has tied himself so tightly to the US neo-conservatives that he will find it extremely difficult to detach himself from them. If, as seems possible, their ship founders, he will go down with it, as he has denied himself the luxury of a lifeline. It will also be a pleasure to watch the wriggling of renegade left-wingers, such as Christopher Hitchens and David Aaronovitch, who too have climbed aboard the neo-conservative bandwagon, when the true extent of this disaster becomes apparent even to them.
A Grisly Story
Thoughts on the War in Iraq
SADDAM Hussein’s evil regime has been pulverised, but the causes of its creation remain in existence, threatening to produce the same obnoxious effects in a new form. A full comprehension of the events requires that we understand how and why Iraq was set up as a country in the first place, what its population consists of, and how their sufferings have been brought about. The infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1915 between Britain and France was to carve up the greater part of the Ottoman Empire’s Arab territories: France was to have the western part (Syria), while Britain grabbed Mesopotamia. Out of three former vilayets (or provinces) of the Turkish domain — Mosul, Baghdad and Basra — the British imperialists fashioned a new country — Iraq. Kuwait was part of the vila13
yet of Basra, but it was hived off as a separate sheikhdom: the old story of divide and rule. Divisions within Iraq itself were profound: Kurdish Sunni in the north, Arab Sunni in the centre, Arab Shi’a in the south. There were also several lesser numerical minority peoples — Assyrians, Turkmenians, etc. The frontiers of the new state were determined by the British civil administration established prior to the issuance of a League of Nations mandate in 1920, which authorised them to continue. Prominent among the British colonial administrators was Gertrude Bell, who had an Arab lover called Haji Naji. (Pro-British collaborationist Iraqis have been referred to by the Arab masses as ‘Haji Najis’ ever since.) It must be said that the British administration was, in some respects at least, efficient: by 1920 it had succeeded in collecting three-and-ahalf times the tax revenue received by the Ottomans. (See George Kirk, A Short History of the Middle East, Methuen, 1964). The country was held down by a British garrison of 80 000 troops, who were used to crush a serious rebellion which broke out in central Iraq in 1920. The British, in their struggle with the Ottomans, had received support from the family of Sherif Hussein of Mecca. Hussein’s son Feisal was the principal leader of the Arab revolt in the First World War. In 1920, Feisal was invited by some Syrian bourgeois to become king of Syria, but the French imperialists would not stand for that and threw him out. Gertrude Bell & Co saw he could be usefully made king of Iraq, and he duly was. (The Kurds in the north abstained from voting in the referendum called to approve the setting up of the Iraqi monarchy.) As Kirk noted: The nationalists hoped that the creation of the monarchy meant the end of the mandate and the establishment of full independence sweetened with British financial support. The British, on the other hand, proposed to retain control of Iraq’s foreign relations and ‘such measure of financial control as might be necessary’. (p145) By means of a judicious combination of bombing villages and packing the National Assembly, the British managed to get the treaty defining Anglo-Iraqi relations ratified in March 1924: out of 100 members 37 voted for, 24 against, eight abstained, and 31 were not present. In the circumstances, the only force capable of holding the country together was the Iraqi army (see Said K Aburish, A Brutal Friendship, Indigo, 1988, p54). What was Britain’s interest in carrying out this policy in Iraq? What were the imperialists really trying to control? The answer is, quite simply: the supply of oil. Oil was originally discovered in the Mosul vilayet in 1908. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1915 (updated in 1919) was paralleled by an agreement among the British, French and American oil companies to allot spheres of exploitation, known as the Red Line Agreement of 1928. In order to ensure that the oil flowed freely westwards, therefore, the British were prepared to create a country and provide it with a state machine amenable to their wishes. The trouble was that the state machine kept getting out of control. King Ghazi succeeded his father Feisal as monarch in 1933. He opposed Britain, and gained considerable support in the Iraqi armed forces. British attempts to foment a rebellion of Assyrians and Kurds in the north ended in failure. In 1936, General Bakr Sidqi staged a coup in Ghazi’s favour, but the general played his cards badly and was assassinated by brother officers while on his way to confer with the Nazis in Berlin. Ghazi was murdered, probably with British connivance, in 1939. Britain’s most reliable minister, Nuri es Said, held the reins from then on, only to fall victim to another
anti-British coup in April 1941. The leaders of this coup began another flirtation with the Axis powers, so they had to be got rid of by British troops. This left Nuri in control — from 1953 onwards as Prime Minister for King Feisal II — until 1958, when a significant popular coup led by Abdel Karim Qasim (or Kassem) finally disposed of both him and the monarchy. Qasim’s coup was highly dangerous because he had no Western backing and did not seek Western support. Instead, Qasim tried to build up mass support with the help of the Iraqi Communist Party and the enactment of a number of popular measures: He successfully pressured the British-controlled Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC) into giving Iraq a greater share of the oil income, prevailed on the British to close their military bases in his country, encouraged the trade unions, built new cities for the workers, redistributed land to the peasants, reduced rents, created the People’s Militia and signed arms deals with the USSR. (Aburish, pp135-6) All this was obviously bad news for the Western imperialists. Internally the regime may well have been as illiberal (that is, undemocratic) as any in the Arab world — Kirk, with obvious pro-Western bias, describes it as a ‘nastier, more wayward analogue’ of Nasser’s United Arab Republic (the short-lived Egyptian–Syrian union) — but that was of little consequence. The main thing was that Qasim was not acting on behalf of ‘the interests of the Free World’. Qasim had to be ousted from power, and the instrument that the CIA chose was the Iraqi Ba’ath Party, which included among its members one Saddam Hussein. Initially, however, the plotters were obliged to share power with Colonel Aref, Qasim’s erstwhile associate. But Aref was a Pan-Arabist: pushing aside the Iraqi Ba’athists in another coup in November 1963, he attempted to negotiate a union between Iraq and Egypt. However, Nasser, having failed to see eye-to-eye with the Syrian Ba’athists, was unwilling to try another similar experiment. This let the Western imperialists off the hook in one sense, but the problem remained in another, in that the Aref regime proceeded to try to extract more concessions from the oil companies (see U Zaher’s article in Saddam’s Iraq, Zed Books, 1989). Aref died in a helicopter crash in 1966, to be succeeded by his brother as President. The regime shuffled its political cards, but its days were by now numbered thanks to a combination of rebel Kurds, economic difficulties, peasant risings and pressure from Western multinationals (Saddam’s Iraq, p40). Time for another coup. Once again the best candidates were the Ba’ath, as ‘the principal characteristic of the Ba’ath remained its fierce hostility to any advance towards political democracy’ (Saddam’s Iraq, p42). The Ba’ath returned to power in a military coup on 17 July 1968, aided by certain non-Ba’athist army officers. The next 11 years saw Saddam’s rise to power within the Ba’ath apparatus — a process marked by the execution of a number of his opponents. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became President of Iraq. Space precludes here a blow-by-blow account of Saddam’s years in power from 1979 to 2003. It is impossible, however, to ignore the part played by American and British industry in the arming of Saddam’s Iraq with all sorts of modern weaponry, including ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Aburish informs us that a US company, the Pfaulder Corporation of Rochester, New York, was instrumental in supplying Iraq with a blueprint which enabled Saddam’s men to construct their first chemical war15
fare plant (A Brutal Friendship, p99). That was only the tip of the iceberg: readers should consult the excellent ‘War Weapons and Iraq: The Alternative Dossier’, compiled by Peter Morgan in Socialist Review, October 2002, for a full analysis of this topic. There is a link, of course, with the war against Iran, since the US was not anxious for a victory for the Islamists there, since that would have ‘threatened the stability of the whole region’ (that is, imperialist interests throughout the Middle East). Accordingly, the US covertly supported and armed Saddam against Iran, and Reagan and Thatcher turned a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds at Halabja in 1988. All this time, Saddam was acting the time-honoured role of pro-Western dictator: as a US official reportedly said of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic: ‘He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.’ It was the threat to Kuwait, used as a bargaining weapon in order to try to extract concessions from the West, that force the USA to change its attitude to Saddam. Robert Biel argues in The New Imperialism (pp256-7) that Saddam’s regime was being squeezed economically, along with other Arab oil producing states. Reagan’s economic policies required low oil prices — 44 per cent of oil consumed in the USA was being imported (yes, George, from overseas) in 1989; at the same time the USA was sucking in large quantities of investment from its Arab client states, to the annoyance of the Arab masses who would have liked their rulers to use these funds for national economic development: ‘It is not surprising that the Iraqi leadership hit on the idea of channelling this resentment and threatening military trouble to improve their bargaining position vis-à-vis the North [or, if you prefer, the West].’ (Biel, p257) Hence the 1991 Gulf War and the first crisis of Saddam’s regime. In the aftermath of the Iraqi defeat, the Kurds rose in the north and the Shi’a likewise in the south. It was at this point that the West perpetrated one of its greatest crimes against the people of Iraq — it denied the insurgents arms with which to finish Saddam off. The official excuse offered now is that at that time there was no UN mandate for a change of regime: one can hardly refrain from rejoining that there has been no mandate for the present invasion of Iraq either. Arms and ammunition could easily have been supplied, with or without UN authorisation, but this would not have suited the imperialists, who needed, and still need, a strong hand to keep the Iraqi masses in check. Neil Kinnock was quite candid about the position when in a BBC TV News interview he declared that ‘it would not be appropriate to change the government of Iraq’ now. This brings us to the last 12 years of sanctions, inspections, no-fly zones, bombings and the resulting agonies of the population of Iraq, which could so easily have been avoided (see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq, Verso, 2002, for some coverage of this). Sanctions in particular were a ghastly irrelevance, since Saddam could survive them with the aid of restrictions on consumption, expansion of agriculture and smuggling. It would be correct to say that what the USA was pursuing for possibly the last five years regarding Iraq was not so much ‘regime change’ as leadership change (Rai, p83). This was their search for what Rai calls ‘the Man on the White Horse’. (Ahmed Zogu rode into Tirana on a white horse in December 1924, and proceeded to rule the country as an agent of foreign — mainly Italian — capital until 1939.) There are various candidates for the role in today’s Iraq: Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (apparently favoured by the Pentagon) is one such; another is Nizar al-Khazraji, the general ostensibly responsible for gassing Kurds at Halabja in 1988. There is a possibility that the monarchy may be restored: Feisal’s son Raad, said to be a strong supporter of Israel, is one candidate, or, if that option is too risky, Prince
Hassan of Jordan could step in. Meanwhile, the Americans in Najaf and the British in Basra rapidly installed local bosses whom they thought would be suitable — regardless of who the inhabitants want. The southern Shi’a ulema (clerics) are mobilising for an Islamic republic. It appears that elections are not expected until 2006. That just about says it all. The suspicion is that the next phase will be a re-run of the last 80 years or so, and the Iraqis will be saddled with another unacceptable regime, courtesy of the USA, the Coalition, the UN or whoever. The question arises: why has the West thought it necessary to control Iraq in this fashion? Why, come to that, is democracy on the Western parliamentary model so conspicuously absent from the Arab world? (Aburish reports that ‘except for Lebanon and brief interregnums in Syria, Egypt and Jordan, the Middle East has been run by various forms of dictatorship for most of this [twentieth] century’ — Aburish, p91.) Oil provides a partial answer, but the key to the conundrum lies deeper, since oil is not the only raw material whose supply needs controlling for the imperialists’ benefit. It has been argued that currently the USA, with five per cent of the world’s population, consumes 25 per cent of world resources. The contention is that if the rest of the planet’s people were to attempt to consume resources on the same scale that would soon exhaust the earth’s ‘carrying capacity’. As Robert Biel puts it: Not only are there not enough resources to go round [in such a case], but the South must be kept as a purveyor of these resources. This can be done only by restricting their development, which might lead to their consuming the resources themselves. (The New Imperialism, p67) Throw in a further cocktail of racist notions about ‘lesser breeds without the Law’, and you have a recipe for a situation where the Arabs are allowed to export oil, but are prevented from developing refining facilities, and where the ex-colonial countries are not encouraged to have democratic regimes because that would lead them to demand a standard of living which we in the West take for granted. Let there be no democracy for the Arabs, or, if we allow democracy, let it be on our terms, as in François Rabelais’ Abbey of Thelema, where everyone can do as he likes provided it accords with the will of the Abbot. (It is surely no accident that the only parliamentary democracies worthy of the name in the Middle East — Turkey and Israel — are basically Western-oriented.) If George W Bush can break free of this set of contradictions without changing his policies to accommodate the will of the Arab masses, then we’ll call him Houdini. What sort of measures would benefit the Iraqi people as they try to extricate themselves from this appalling mess? How about the following? A Constituent Assembly, representing all factions, groupings and nationalities — free of imperialist interference — to determine a constitution and an interim government prior to the holding of elections under UN auspices. The maintenance of existing Kurdish autonomy. Civil and religious liberty (including press freedom, free operation of political parties, trade union rights, etc). A democratically-elected government to take office as soon as possible. Recognition of the right of Kuwait’s inhabitants to merge with Iraq if they so wish. Withdrawal of US and UK troops, and the creation of a national Iraqi force able
to guarantee law and order and to protect all citizens. Adequate international assistance in accordance with the popular will of Iraq’s citizens and at their request. This, it would appear, is what is immediately requisite. But what coherent force on the ground will give us this?
Imperial Mercenaries Wanted
The role of Turkey in the Middle East and particularly in the Iraq crisis cannot be ignored. Emrah Göker, a sociology graduate student at Columbia University, has provided New Interventions with a detailed account of the recent debates and tensions within the Turkish political scene. Since the postscript was written, the Turkish government has, as the author said might happen, reversed its decision to send troops into Iraq. Emrah Göker is a member of the NYC-based Peace Initiative/Turkey, website www.peace-initiative-turkey.net, and he can be reached at email@example.com. *** ON 30 December 1900, amidst the heated debates about US military campaigns in Asia and the Philippines and about the ‘burden’ on the shoulders of British gentlemen serving the Empire in her ‘savage’ colonies, Mark Twain bitterly saluted the new century: I bring you the stately matron called Christendom — returning bedraggled, besmirched and dishonored from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippines; with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass. Give her the glass; it may from error free her / When she shall see herself as others see her.1 Twain’s words, unfortunately, reach out to us even after a hundred years. Of course, the contemporary culprit of imperialist agony and bloodletting is not — and was not, a hundred years ago — an abstract theological entity. Those who have been resisting the US army-state continue to inform the world, tirelessly, about the destructive activities of the institutions, financial groups, think-tanks, politicians, etc, that are collectively managing the ‘war without end’. Still, the question remains. Can the Empire, which expands by shaping the ‘savage/rogue/terrorist/unruly’ elements enclosed within the imperium in its own image, be made to see itself as its victims see it? Surely, challenging capitalist imperialism with a ‘mirror’ to expose its orientalist and civilising delusions is only but one step in the political struggle. Nevertheless, it is still a vital step, if we consider the material effects of the imperial ‘civilising will’
1. Mark Twain, ‘A Salutation to the Twentieth Century’, New York Herald, 30 December 1900. 18
on peripheral states like the Turkish one, whose imagination of the ‘Middle East’, of the ‘Arab’, and of its very own Kurdish citizens imitate that will. As the occupation of Iraq unfolds, democracy and social justice are being further undermined in Turkey, the political and (im)moral economy of the expanding imperium is most fitting for the power-hungry agendas of the military and business fractions of the Turkish bourgeoisie, albeit not for the same ends. In this essay, I want to touch upon the most recent debate on sending Turkish troops to Iraq, revived once again since the parliament’s rejection (days before the invasion began) of allowing US troops inside the country. Looking into this continuing episode in Turkey will allow me to reflect upon two related topics — the dangerous erosion of democratic principles in my country, triggered by the ‘war on terrorism’, and the Turkish construction of the ‘Middle East’ as a sickly cross-breed of the Ottoman and Anglo-American colonial projects. ‘Our Strategic Interests…’ Within two weeks following the ‘Sulaymaniyya controversy’ on 4 July, where 11 Turkish Special Forces troops (along with a number of Turkoman civilians) were detained by US soldiers in Sulaymaniyya, news about sending Turkish troops to Iraq began to circulate. During the visit to Ankara on 18 July of General John Abizaid (head of US Central Command) and General James L Jones (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe), ‘cooperation’ between the Turkish and US armies was discussed.2 This visit helped the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the corporate media ease the carefully-staged nationalist uproar following the Sulaymaniyya incident by preaching that sending troops was a ‘wonderful opportunity to repair our damaged relationship with our “strategic ally”’. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gül’s Washington visit on 23-25 July finally officialised the proposal for the hiring of Turkey as an imperial mercenary.3 Ironically, on 25 July 1950, the Turkish parliament voted for sending 4500 troops to the ‘anti-communist’ war in Korea in order to secure membership to NATO. Almost a quarter of those soldiers never returned, sacrificed to ‘our strategic interests’.4 On the very same day some 53 years later, Colin Powell was urging the Turkish parliament to act as quickly as possible on the troops question. ‘We Will Not Be Occupiers’ To prevent a misunderstanding, there was no obvious or covered-up US pressure on the AKP government during the unfolding of the troops proposal. Once we submit that the AKP leadership, corporate media, prominent Istanbul businessmen and the Army General Staff have learned to share and operate in the Pentagon’s current Weltanshaaung, we can understand their spontaneous enthusiasm to jump on the Iraqi bandwagon of ‘liberation’ and ‘normalisation’. The continuing public debate since Gül’s visit is emblematic of the growing trend of militarisation of politics in Turkey. Free-floating (and quite hollow) signifiers like ‘regional strategy’, ‘national interest’, ‘strategic partner’ bounce about in
2. 3. 4. ‘Top US Generals Discuss Iraq with Turkey’, Turkish Daily News, 19 July 2003. ‘US Officially Requests Troops, Urges Quick Decision’, Turkish Daily News, 26 July 2003. The phrase, used in referral to the Korean War, belongs to Taha Akyol, leading right-wing columnist of the widely-circulated daily Milliyet. Akyol is in the forefront of the militarist camp supporting the US war effort and Turkey’s active participation. See his ‘Galitia and Iraq’, Milliyet, 20 August 2003 [in Turkish]. 19
numerous paper columns, strenuous International Relations and Political Science articles, endless TV debates, press releases, and so on. There is today an inflation of ‘realists’ on the opinions market, sermonising that the occupation is there to stay, that the US cannot — and should not — be resisted, and that Turkey will either learn to be a willing and obedient player, or be left out of the ‘game’. Some of these warmongering ‘realists’ also dream that Turkey, as the unique secular-well-but-stillMuslim-and-wow-even-member-of-NATO child of ‘Western civilisation’, will embrace, educate, inspire and liberate the desperate Iraqi masses. Cüneyt Ülsever, for example, who is a right-wing columnist for the best-selling popular-nationalist daily Hürriyet, contends that the Army can be the ‘field sociologist’ for the occupying US forces in Iraq.5 According to his enigmatic proposal, since US cultural and religious differences make it impossible to win a ‘political war’ in Iraq, Turkey might give a helping hand to its ‘strategic ally’ as the knowledgeable neighbour (not to mention ‘ex-colonialist’). According to him, ‘there never was a people or a state’ in Iraq, and unless Turkish troops go in to help finish the US job of liberation, chaos is bound to reign ‘behind our border’, which, of course, is against ‘our national interests’.6 Taha Akyol, a self-acclaimed ‘conservative liberal’ from Milliyet, regurgitates the civilising desire, arguing that since Turkey has ‘a well-established state and legal tradition, a long history of modernisation and an entrepreneurial middle class strong enough to lead’, it was able to transform the political-Islamic movement into a ‘conservative-democratic’ one. It follows that Turkey has a ‘mission’ to present the Arab world a ‘concrete model of success’.7 Since Iraq’s stability will guarantee Turkey’s security, Akyol says in another article, the Army can assume a friendlier (than the ugly military face of the US) role there, pioneering the development/reconstruction of social services and urban infrastructure.8 Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s ‘number one’, agrees with this proposal for ‘good cop, bad cop’ on a national scale, where Turkey plays the humanitarian: We wouldn’t go there to fight against the Iraqi people and armed forces, we’d act to liberate the Iraqi people. We’d help them achieve tranquillity, peace, stability, help them secure their basic needs. We’d contribute to the rebuilding of utilities and the provision of food… None other than that can be expected from Turkey.9 Since the beginning of August (I am writing this at the end of the month), this is the official government position on the troops question — a definitive role for the Turkish Army in ‘problematic parts’ of Iraq10 should be a humanitarian/civilising one, and armed conflict should be avoided to the best ability of the troops. Ankara and Washington officially exchanged questions and answers about some of the specifics, and despite the calls from President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Speaker of the Parlia-
5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
‘We Are Not Any Different From Each Other’, Hürriyet, 24 July 2003 [in Turkish]. ‘Why Should We Send Troops to Iraq?’, Hürriyet, 26 July 2003 [in Turkish]. ‘Turkey’s Mission?’, Milliyet, 30 July 2003 [in Turkish]. ‘Opinions of Erdoğan and Gül’, Milliyet, 2 August 2003 [in Turkish]. Fikret Bila, ‘Gül: “If We Do, We’ll Go There for the Iraqi People”’, Milliyet, 6 August 2003 [in Turkish]. Exact mission locations are not rectified yet. There are signs, though, that Pentagon wants to install Turkish troops in those ‘most sensitive’ regions where guerrilla attacks have been frequent. 20
ment Bülent Arınç,11 the government declared that it need not wait for a UN endorsement to create a multinational task force for Iraq. The current talk is about 10 000 Turkish troops.12 Ankara has already begun a smiling-face PR campaign among Iraqi tribes in order to promote its mercenaries and to learn about the probable reactions against Turkish military presence in Iraq. Pakistan, more reluctant to be subcontracted for the occupation, is sending delegations to Turkey.13 After the latest National Security Council meeting, the Army leadership stated that Turkey cannot afford to be ‘disinterested’ in the fate of its neighbour and left the political decision to the parliament.14 So the clock is ticking for the new resolution, expected to be introduced in mid-September. Swords, once again, are drawn. ‘Yes, we have claims on foreign soil!’ As Iraq was orientalised by the Turkish warmongering minority, the uglier face of the ‘mission to Iraq’ also surfaced. According to this line — no doubt endorsed by some of the same figures celebrating Turkish humanitarianism — helping the US ‘to finish the job’ is a serious matter of ‘national security’, a necessary part of Turkey’s own ‘war against terrorism’. Faruk Loğoğlu, Turkish Ambassador to the USA, has summarised the official position, a year before the invasion of Iraq, in a telling interview with Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum: Turkey and the United States share similar values. Both countries are democracies, respect the rule of law, respect human rights, and embrace the notion of a free market economy. Accordingly, Turkey has been a strategic friend, ally, and partner to the United States throughout the decades… Turkey sympathizes with the US war on terror because it has also suffered at the hands of terrorists over the past 15 years. In fact, Turkey has lost more than 40 000 of its citizens to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other terrorist groups. The leadership in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, understands that the war on terror will require a long and sustained struggle along many fronts in many countries.15 More recently, Fikret Bila from Milliyet argues that a cooperative alliance in Iraq between Turkey and the US depends on the removal of all threats against Turkish unity in Northern Iraq — especially the eradication of the PKK/KADEK is in order. Building a unified Iraq, one army, one police force, is thus in the interest of both Ankara and Washington.16 Ertuğrul Özkök, leading Hürriyet journalist, and by far the most notorious right-winger (almost to a fascistic degree) within the militarist camp, reminds his readers about the ‘martyrs’ sacrificed during the war against Kurdish guerrillas, arguing that the persisting chaos in Iraq will help the PKK grow in power. To prevent this, Turkey has to make the ‘strategic calculation’ of the number of soldiers it must
11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. Arınç is an AKP MP and was the most prominent figure of the anti-war group within the party during the rejection of the resolution last March. He is reported to remain ‘more silent’ as the government prepares the third resolution on Iraq. ‘Ankara to Decide on Troops in Talks with US’, Turkish Daily News, 14 August 2003. ‘Turkey Readies for Iraq Mission’, Turkish Daily News, 15 August 2003. ‘Turkey Defines its Iraq Role’, Turkish Daily News, 23 August 2003. ‘Turkey, A Partner In The War On Terror: A Briefing by Faruk Loğoğlu’, Middle East Forum, 31
‘Turkish-American Relations’, Milliyet, 21 July 2003 [in Turkish]. 21
be ready to lose in a mission to Iraq.17 Özkök, in another article, contends that having a strong economy is not sufficient to be a ‘great state’ — a powerful, mobile army, high on morale and strong in combat capability, is a must. According to him, France and Germany have become ‘weak’ states because their civil society organisations and their intellectuals have run a successful campaign of pacifism which, in turn, ‘rendered their armies useless’.18 Özkök’s exemplary militarist (if not overtly fascist) mindset is not satisfied with this call to arms, he goes on to endorse capitalist expansionism for Turkey. The status quo, he argues, wants to imprison Turkey within its national borders, but Turkish business should break the taboos and expand beyond the borders. ‘We should have claims on foreign soil’, not, ‘of course’, for war-making purposes, but for exporting Turkish capital and buying-out companies in vulnerable countries like Serbia.19 In my opinion, the General Staff leadership, closer to the NATO Central Command and distant from anti-American sentiments of some less powerful elements in the Army, is more at home with the ‘securitisation’ of a Turkish mission to Iraq. ‘Humanitarian’ emphasis appears to better suit the government’s PR campaign. One thing is clear, though. As more and more civilians like the journalists I quote become ‘embedded’ in the expanding capitalist-militarist imperium, any form of democratic, anti-militarist, reintegrationist, libertarian politics to address Turkey’s Kurdish question is efficiently excluded from the political field. Recently, the AKP government was not shy in utilising the anti-terrorist épistémè against the labour campaign of the Confederation of Public Workers Unions, implying that the continuing protests of public-sector workers were a ‘threat to national unity’. Pitfalls of Turkish Anti-Americanism In the absence of a political will which is able to form a progressive coalition of antiwar politics, class politics, gender politics and a Kurdish politics of recognition against capitalist imperialism, an anti-politics of reactionary nationalism is growing in Turkey. The self-acclaimed ‘scientific socialist’ Workers Party (İP) calls for a Turkey which would, in isolation from both European and American influence, become a superpower by allying with/guiding ex-Soviet Turkic republics and secular antiAmerican forces in the Middle East. The İP finds itself allied with orthodox Kemalist intellectuals from other tendencies, the Islamist-nationalist Party of Great Unity (BBP) and the fascist National Action Party (MHP) in endorsing a reactionary antiAmericanism and in supporting ‘an independent Turkish Army’ which can be the only political organisation that can lead to ‘democracy and progress’. It is as yet uncertain whether this irredentist tendency of absent-minded antiAmericanism can attract a significant number of voters in the coming election — I personally think that this version of militarism, reacting against the imperial version, is more likely to endorse a dictatorial military junta than stage an electoral campaign. But if we remember how the German National Socialist Workers Party came to power, who knows? Urgent Need to Fill the Political Gap One thing we can know, though. The overwhelming majority of Turkey’s citizens were against any kind of US military adventure at their doors before the invasion,
17. 18. 19. ‘Japanese Troops Are Going, What About Us?’, Hürriyet, 30 July 2003 [in Turkish]. ‘Words Which Forced Me To End My Resting Period’, Hürriyet, 16 August 2003 [in Turkish]. ‘Yes, We Have Claims on Foreign Soil’, Hürriyet, 19 August 2003 [in Turkish]. 22
their sentiments of discomfort about US ‘surplus imperialism’ 20 have not changed as the occupation continues. Turkish Daily News cites a recent poll conducted by ‘respected’ pollster Verso, where 62.2 per cent of the respondents opposed sending Turkish troops to Iraq, and only 17.4 per cent agreed that an Iraq mission was desirable.21 Today, we need a movement that can articulate such discontents of the citizenry about US imperial schemes and act in unison with the growing global resistance. Otherwise, as I tried to lay out above, the cries of Turkey’s dispossessed can be usurped/silenced by the various political agents at work today, pushing the country down either extreme nationalist or imperial paths. If we return to the question of orientalist delusions in Turkey, one of the contributions (among many) of the urgently needed coalition will be the opening up of the Turkish polity to the diverse forms of grassroots knowledge and opinion coming from the Muslim, Arabic, Kurdish, etc, subaltern upon which the imperium is violently imposed. Tanıl Bora, a socialist publisher and journalist, is right on target when he argues that those who can only know ‘Turkey’ with a statist mindset, framed in the debilitating angst of ‘national security’, do only need ‘geostrategic information’ about the ‘Middle East’.22 Thus they are entirely ignorant about the cultures, peoples, politics, life-worlds of the region. For both the supporters of the Turkish mission to Iraq and their nationalist critics, the ‘Middle East’ is imagined as a battlefield upon which enemy forces clash. A Mediterranean-Middle Eastern coalition of movements, from Spain to Kuwait, can challenge the ‘intelligence-gathering’ establishment of the imperial Realpolitik, share forms of grassroots knowledge across borders and thus try to come up with viable, collective alternatives to supply dignity, justice and security for the peoples threatened by fundamentalisms — including that of the Empire. Contra Samuel Huntington’s Schmittian thesis about the impossibility of reducing fault-lines across populations and territories,23 an ensemble of movements collectively resisting the Empire can boldly face the existing fault-lines and turn them into spaces for the ‘elaboration of common interests and historic compromises’.24 We, activists everywhere, should not delude ourselves — resisting the Empire is not only about ‘human rights’, or about getting rid of Texan cowboys occupying the Dark House, or about exposing oil interests, or about protecting the environment. Resistance is also, necessarily dare I say, about getting rid of capitalism and finding a wiser way to run our households, if that’s what ‘economy’ means. The Empire makes no mistake about its economic interests, neither should we. The Empire is a business concern first and foremost, and, by this standard, it has fully justified itself in whatever parts of the world it has absorbed… Mesopotamia has already absorbed a vast outpouring of British capital, of which an enormous amount has been spent on permanent improvements… Our withdrawal [from Iraq] would almost certainly involve the closing down of the [Basra] port. Basrah [sic] now imports far more than it exports, and a very large proportion of the revenue of the country
20. 21. 22. 23. 24. I borrow the term from Ellen Meiksins Wood, Empire of Capital (Verso, 2003), Chapter Seven. ‘Majority of Turks Oppose Sending Troops to Iraq’, Turkish Daily News, 5 August 2003. ‘Does the Middle East Exist for Turkey?’, Radikal, 3 August 2003 [in Turkish]. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, 1996). Etienne Balibar, Europe: Vanishing Mediator, first George L Mosse Lecture at HumboldtUniversität Berlin for the Academic Year 2002-03, 22 November 2002. 23
is derived from customs duties. But what country of firm would export to a land seething with internal strife and Bolshevism? Where would be the necessary security? … How, then, can we make a paying concern out of a country which the war has thrust into our hands, from which it is impossible to withdraw and in which millions of British capital have been invested? … To secure an equitable return for invested capital within a reasonable time, and to train the people in the art of government, I believe we must make Mesopotamia a British Protectorate. It should so remain, until its peoples have learned sufficient discipline to be assured of some equilibrium and permanent progress. … Let us not hear any more about Arab ‘aspirations’, ‘cultural autonomy’, and such like sentimentalities. They have already done an infinite amount of harm, and may do irretrievable damage. I believe the Arab will learn, in the course of long years, the advantages of self-discipline and cooperation, but at present he is nowhere near the beginning of the alphabet. He has fine qualities, rarely in evidence, which occasionally reveal what he may attain. But until their manifestation becomes a normal state of affairs, it is grossly unfair to bolster him up with ideas of his own importance and greatness.25 Postscript This article was written (in anger and frustration, but still with hope that enough members of the AKP group in the parliament would resist the war resolution) at the end of August. On 7 October, the parliament authorised the government to send Turkish Armed Forces troops to Iraq, within the operational framework to be set between the US and Turkey. The government discourse about ‘humanitarianism’ continued, while the Army chose to emphasise how a Turkish military presence in Iraq will put an end to ‘Kurdish terrorism’. Soon enough, the Turkish imperial wannabes were disappointed by the reactions coming from both pro- and anti-occupation groups within Iraq. For the ‘journalists in khakis’ (some of whom are quoted in the article), learning that Turkish soldiers are very much disliked by Iraqi Kurds and by many other groups is a big surprise, because like the US imperialist mindset, its Turkish replica is unequipped to register the fact that people do not like to be occupied and bossed around by people from other nation-states. At the moment, especially with Paul Bremer’s strong arguments against allowing Turkish troops in Iraq, the White House is having second thoughts. The anti-war groups in Turkey have been tirelessly saying that sending troops is nothing but provoking more violent contention, and that such a militarist act will delay Turkey’s own peace with its Kurdish citizens for at least another 10 years. The AKP government remains pragmatic, showing neither fanatical enthusiasm nor indifference, but is self-confident that Turkey has — for the moment — done its job as an ally. In my opinion, troops will not be sent in the near future. This creates a window of political opportunity for the anti-war movement in Turkey: The state cannot anymore push for a militarist, violent solution for the Kurdish problem. The Army and its lapdogs
25. Quoted from the Allborough Middle East Classics edition (1991, introduction by Paul Rich) of Thomas Lyell’s The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia, first published in 1923. Lyell, a loyal Imperialist of the Queen, served as a civil administrator (Assistant Director of Tapu and District Magistrate, Baghdad) during the British colonisation of Iraq. 24
within the corporate media have to be marginalised, and the government has to be pressured to take the democratic road towards reconciliation between Turkish and Kurdish citizens of the republic.
Drawing a Discreet Veil
THE proposal by the French government to ban all conspicuous symbols of religion in schools has provoked a wide debate amongst left-wingers. Some, including various women from the Middle East, claim that the ban would help to liberate Muslim women from the restrictions imposed upon them by their religion, and is a step towards the establishment of a secular society. Other socialists, including this writer, feel that the ban could have precisely the opposite effect and are opposed to the French state dictating what people should wear and how they express their religious convictions. Socialists should combine the defence of the right of a Muslim woman to wear a veil (or a Jewish man to wear a yarmulke, or a Christian to wear a cross), if that person wishes, with a firm commitment to a secular society, that religion is a private matter, and that education is secular. This involves the abolition of religious schools and their resources being brought into the state educational system. Socialists must also support the right of Muslim women to discard the veil and other repressive aspects of Islam, just as we must support the right of any person to live by the norms of a modern post-Enlightenment society in opposition to the norms of his or her religion and/or ‘community’. Hence we defend, say, gay men and women against the strictures laid down by priests, rabbis, imams and ‘community leaders’ who view their sexual orientation as an abomination. We do not bow to the fashionable ‘multiculturalism’ that excuses reactionary prejudices on the grounds that they are the custom of this or that ‘community’ and are thereby inviolate. We are not neutral in this respect, we defend the gains of the Enlightenment against all backward tendencies. Nonetheless, the situation in France is not a clear-cut case of a modernising, secular society facing an irrational irruption of obscurantism. The Muslims in France are largely at the bottom end of society. They face poverty, unemployment, racism and police harassment. Alienated from mainstream French society, they, like people in similar situations elsewhere, seek solace in the certainties that religions appear to provide. Not surprisingly, they see the anti-veil measures as what they are — an attempt forcibly to deny them of their identity and the consolation of ‘the heart of a heartless world’. The proposed ban is much more a programme of forced assimilation than a campaign of secularisation. Far from liberating Muslim women, the ban will increase the Muslims’ sense of alienation from not only French society but from the ideas of modernity and rationalism. For every Muslim girl and young woman who will be glad to be able to discard her veil at school, there will be many, many more who will view secularism as one more oppressive factor in their lives, or will be forced by their parents into Islamic schools, and thereby be more socially isolated. Religion
thrives on persecution. The ban will reinforce obscurantism and religious fervour; it must be replaced by policies that both guarantee personal tolerance and promote genuine secularisation.
Democrat or Fundamentalist?
One of the features of the Western press during the collapse of Yugoslavia were the glowing portrayals of the President of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Alija Izetbegović. Compared to the manner in which the Serbian President Slobodan Milošević was portrayed as the devil incarnate, and the Croatian President Franjo Tudjman was eventually seen as somewhat dodgy, the saintly image of Izetbegović has continued even after the announcement that he was to be investigated for war crimes. As recently as 24 November we could read Dr Jeremy Henzell-Thomas of Bristol extolling him in the Guardian as ‘a truly great politician and visionary thinker’ and ‘a bridge-builder between civilisations’. Izetbegović died on 19 October, and Mike Jones, our regular writer on Yugoslav affairs, presents an assessment of his life and work. *** ALIJA Izetbegović, who became the first President of post-communist BosniaHerzegovina and led its transition to an independent state, was usually portrayed as heroic, even saintly, in much of the liberal and left-wing press during the civil war that engulfed the new state from its beginnings in 1992 until the Dayton Accord that ended it in 1995. He was eulogised as such upon his death by the likes of Paddy Ashdown, the actual ruler of Bosnia-Herzegovina today. Izetbegović, unlike most of the nationalist politicians who emerged during the break-up of the federal Yugoslav state created by Tito’s Partisan movement, was a life-long anti-communist whose Muslim religion motivated his political deeds, and could thus be judged to be qualitatively on a different plane to not just his fellow nationalist politicians, but, particularly, most of those with whom he collaborated in ruling Bosnia-Herzegovina. Coinciding with the announcement of his death was another that he was about to be charged with war crimes by the Hague Tribunal. Without pretending to arrive at a definitive judgement regarding Izetbegović, it is worthwhile sketching out some pointers that go in that direction. Izetbegović was born in northern Bosnia and moved to Sarajevo as a child. He was gaoled for three years for religious agitation just as Tito’s Yugoslav state was taking shape. He studied to be a lawyer at Sarajevo University. In 1970, he published his Islamic Declaration, a tract that says Islam is incompatible with non-Islamic systems and calls for Islamic religious and political revolution (see Ian Traynor’s obituary, Guardian Weekly, 23 October 2003). In 1982, he was sentenced to 14 years in gaol for his publication Islam Between East and West, his understanding of the status of Bosnia’s Muslim population. The former publication is the root of the Croatian and Serbian nationalist claims that Izetbegović was a fundamentalist. In 1990, he helped
form and became leader of the Democratic Action Party (SDA), a Muslim party, and following the elections later that year he became president. In 1992, once Slovenia and Croatia had seceded from the Federation and were recognised by the European Union, Izetbegović led Bosnia-Herzegovina along the same path, following a plebiscite. As I have pointed out before, internal borders in Yugoslavia were politicaladministrative ones and did not delimit nationalities, the population of BosniaHerzegovina did not feel itself to be a nation, and, as the Serbian leaders rightly insisted, the break-up could not occur unilaterally under the constitution in being at the time, nor according to international law. In his account of his time attempting to resolve the civil war in BosniaHerzegovina, Balkan Odyssey (London, 1995), David Owen mentions that Izetbegović originally opposed the secession of Slovenia and Croatia and their recognition internationally, but once the fact had been established he ‘felt he had to establish Bosnia’s independence from Serbia. Izetbegović knew that this would lead to bloodshed.’ (p40) Owen quotes from his Islamic Declaration, that ‘the Islamic renaissance cannot be imagined without people prepared for enormous personal and material sacrifice’ (p40). In answer to the question whether Izetbegović was an Islamic fundamentalist, Owen says that an ‘answer is difficult to give in terms of “yes” or “no”. He is, I am sure, a deeply religious man; which allows him to take a long view of the war as a struggle for minds as well as territory.’ (p 38) He added: My favourable appraisal of Izetbegović is not shared by others who have also spent long hours negotiating with him. Some feel that he is the most difficult of all the people they had to deal with in the former Yugoslavia, manipulative and untrustworthy, and that his closest advisors are shadowy fundamentalists, who play on his chronic indecisiveness and make him hold out against any compromise.’ (pp38-9) Comparing him with Dobrica Čosić, then the president of rump Yugoslavia, for whom the Serbian Orthodox church was important for national identity, for Izetbegović ‘history did not intrude’ — Owen concluded — ‘his religion was his life’ (p39). One of those not so positive in his regarding of Izetbegović is surely General Sir Michael Rose, whose account of his time as head of Unprofor (the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina) during January 1994–January 1995, Fighting For Peace (London, 1998) is a must for those interested in understanding events in BosniaHerzegovina. Rose saw Izetbegović as an enigma, as seeming to be detached from what was happening around him. Rose had only contempt for most of those surrounding him, but thought that ‘it was likely’ that Izetbegović ‘was fully aware of the policies and actions of his officials’. In the end: ‘I came to believe that his talk of creating a multi-religious, multi-cultural state in Bosnia was a disguise for the extension of his own political power and the furtherance of Islam.’ (p38) Haris Silajdžić, at the time Prime Minister of Bosnia, was the only politician Rose met in Bosnia ‘who had a genuinely European attitude or offered any hope for the future of the country’ (p26). Rose thought him ‘the only leading Bosnian SDA politician who actually believed in a multi-party democracy and the values and freedoms that go with it. He later resigned from the party in protest at its sectarian policies.’ (pp26-7) In his account of the outbreak of fighting that resulted from the Bosnian Army entering the demilitarised zone around Sarajevo in October 1994, Rose explains that a tunnel under the airport runway was used by the Bosnian authorities not only to bring fuel into Sarajevo, but also consumer goods, a source of profit for those in
charge and their political masters. Rose ‘wondered many times about the extent of Izetbegović’s complicity in the profiteering that arose through his army’s control of the tunnel’. At first he gave him the benefit of the doubt, but he later came to ‘believe he knew exactly what was going on in Bosnia’(p188). Shortly afterwards, he had ‘a surprisingly friendly interview with Haris Silajdžić, who, among other things, said that ‘the country was now in the hands of fundamentalists and extremists’ (pp188-9). Yet describing his leavetaking upon the ending of his mission, Rose describes Izetbegović as ‘a courageous man caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and religious extremism within his party, [and] one of many responsible for the unnecessary prolongation of the war’ (p236). In August 1995, Silajdžić resigned his Foreign Minister post, but was reinstated because of public opinion. Owen quotes a journalist on Oslobodjenje, the Sarajevo daily, on the situation: Izetbegović and Silajdžić represent two very different futures for an independent Bosnia: a return to the absolute power of a single-party state under the control of a party that is outdated, increasingly regressive and is taking over the country in the name of a fictitious patriotism; or the Western-looking, democratic country its troops have been fighting for. The hardliners in Izetbegović’s SDA want a population totally subordinate to the state; in return, they promise a genuinely Muslim country, however small, in which the well-off moneymen and sycophants around the ruling party can have a free hand. In the name of their ‘patriotism’, young men have been mobilised for the army while others have found a new prosperity thanks to the parallel economy, the ‘private’ businesses that feed on the misery of the population, and those who have the privilege of access to the funds brought in by a variety of foreign humanitarian organisations. (p338) Silajdžić resigned his Prime Minister post and left the SDA in early 1996, ‘accusing the Muslim-led Government of pursuing nationalist policies intolerant of the multinational ideals for which the war was fought. In April, he established the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which quickly grew into the SDA’s main rival.’ (The Times, 22 June 1996) The article goes on to relate the beating of Silajdžić with a metal bar by SDA thugs, and it adds that ‘international observers said the attack appeared well planned and local police did nothing to protect Mr Silajdžić. As Bosnia’s first postwar elections in September approach, those who oppose the SDA are being increasingly harassed and attacked by those in power.’ Owen, as a politician, evaluated other politicians from an outlook that expected two-facedness, deception, lies, etc, as normal, whereas Rose, as a soldier, expected straight-talking and more nobility than he found. Izetbegović was surrounded by corruption, those around him were not interested in ending the siege of Sarajevo as they not only profited from it, but it played a key role in creating a picture of a ‘victim state’, a tactic relied upon to draw the US/NATO into the war on the side of the Muslim government. Rose saw not only the provocations, such as opening fire on the Serb positions when visitors arrived, in order to create an atmosphere, but a variety of staged atrocities. When Karadžić agreed to the UN reconnecting gas, water, etc, supplies into Sarajevo, Rose found no interest amongst Izetbegović’s cronies, who profited by supplying the missing products. And it was obvious to him that these people were unconcerned about their own citizens, who were paying the price
of this tactic designed to prolong the war until the US/NATO ended it on their terms. Aid money has been going into the pockets of this crew ever since. Izetbegović was reported to have salted away cash in an Istanbul bank account. BosniaHerzegovina is a centre for arms and drug smuggling, human trafficking, etc. Paddy Ashdown is said to be gradually reforming the economy. In her book Fools’ Crusade (London, 2002), Diana Johnstone quotes from and comments upon Izetbegović’s Islamic Declaration. She identifies the political nature of Izetbegović’s Islam by his attack on two other strands within Islam: the conservatives and the modernists. The former only deal with spiritual concerns and thereby coexist with secular regimes, whereas the latter promote secular regimes leaving religious belief as a private matter. He explicitly condemns Turkey, ‘a Muslim country ruined, in his view, by secularism and nationalism’ (p57). Pakistan is singled out as an example and inspiration. ‘Separation of church and state is explicitly rejected as a Christian division totally unacceptable to Muslims’ — she writes — and cites: ‘There is neither peace nor coexistence between the “Islamic religion” and non-Islamic social and political institutions.’ (p58) She gives a number of quotes from Izetbegović’s thoughts, and concludes: ‘If “fundamentalism” can be defined as basing an entire social and political order on religion, then Izetbegović was indeed a “fundamentalist”.’ (p59) Johnstone quotes an interview with Hasan Čengić, imam of the Zagreb mosque, who became a general and deputy defence minister, in which he recounts that, not only had the SDA made plans for the war during a meeting in February 1991, but he was charged with the military part, which ‘involved obtaining money, arms and volunteers from Muslim countries’ (p60). The SDA set up its own armed forces. Johnstone also quotes from the memoirs of Šefer Halilović, commander of the Bosnia-Herzegovina army until ousted by General Delić — of whom Rose had a very poor opinion — who stated that ‘this struggle for multi-ethnic Bosnia was a sham: Izetbegović and the people around him have been working on an ethnic division of Bosnia-Herzegovina ever since they came to power’ (p61). Johnstone writes that the ‘5000 Muslim volunteers who came via Vienna to fight for Izetbegović, many of them veterans of Afghanistan, were certainly not interested in defending “multiculturalism”’ (p53). Others were members of the Algerian GIA, ‘held responsible for massive massacres of Algerian civilians’ (p61). She continues: … some 4000 of these volunteers were assigned to the Bosnian army’s Third Corps with headquarters in Zenica. A special ‘Al Mujahed’ unit was registered in August 1993 under direct command of Izetbegović himself. The best-armed unit in the Third Corps, Al Mujahed was credited with the Muslims’ greatest victories… in the spring of 1995, as well as with the habit of beheading Serbian soldiers. The emir or commander [at the time]… was an Algerian member of the GIA close to Osama Bin Laden. (pp61-2) Thousands of these volunteers received Bosnian citizenship and passports, and many settled in the Zenica area. Johnstone points out that only after the Dayton Accord did the Clinton administration object to the presence of the fighters, because of fear for the safety of US troops. It pressurised Izetbegović to get rid of Čengić and the mujahidin. He resisted. The Čengić clan is one of those sharing power in Bosnia and profiting from criminal activity. By the way, Mohammed Sacirbey, the exBosnian ambassador to the UN — a US citizen whose father headed the SDA’s US
branch — is wanted by the Bosnian authorities for embezzling 610 980 dollars. NATO forces discovered a terrorist centre and bomb factory in February 1996. And since the attacks inside the US itself, the US has taken action against mujahidin suspected of links to al Qaeda. The Times reported on 19 January 2002: American forces in Sarajevo snatched six Algerians suspected of plotting al Qaeda attacks on the US Embassy in the Bosnian capital. Their seizure was in apparent disregard of a local supreme court order to free them… Five were Bosnian nationals before their arrest in October but were subsequently stripped of their citizenship… along with dozens of other suspected al Qaeda members. They were flown to Guantanamo. Whether Izetbegović was basically ‘a decent sort’ surrounded by ‘shadowy fundamentalists’ and assorted rogues time will surely tell. It’s difficult to believe that he didn’t know what was going on around him in the sphere of corruption, and I’ve already noted that he is reported to have salted away a few shillings in Istanbul himself. Now he is dead perhaps knowledge will emerge that can document his role in the corruption. He certainly planned for war, and he aimed to prolong it as long as it took to achieve his aims regardless of the loss of life on all sides. Whether or not he still upheld the views set out in his Islamic Declaration by 1992, his deeds point in that direction. Being a European lawyer, rather than a bearded, dark-skinned, orientalclothed zealot, gave him the appearance of a moderate European liberal-nationalist figure. The cause of his party, the SDA, was aided by excellent public relations, and clothed in all the trendy buzz-words of middle-class liberalism taken up wholesale by bankrupt leftists — these ‘useful idiots’ (a phrase now trendy) were taken for a ride and ended up as auxiliaries of US imperialism in the Yugoslav wars, under the impression that Izetbegović shared their outlook.
Civilisation ‘As We Know It’
The Ideas of Samuel Huntington
Dio dei hepesthai tō xynō… Tou logou d’eontos xynou zōousin hoi polloi hōs idiān ekhontes phronēsin. (Therefore one must follow what is common… But though reason is common the many live as if they have their own private understanding.) — Herakleitos SAMUEL Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations is a strange blend of ideological claptrap and useful insights. The danger is that the claptrap will have a stronger political resonance than the insights. Arguably this has already started to happen, for example in Berlusconi’s Italy (see, on the aggressive anti-Islamic rhetoric of the Lega Nord, Hans-Georg Betz’s article ‘Xenophobia, Identity Politics and Exclusionary Populism in Western Europe’ in The Socialist Register 2003, Merlin Press, pp210-3). Since the book’s notoriety revolves around its remarks about nations whose re30
ligion is Islam, it is only fair to observe that, objectively speaking, Huntington’s theories connect with one of the key concepts of the great Tunisian historian and political scientist Ibn Khaldun — asābiya — which may be translated as ‘group feeling’. Huntington’s thesis is that the chief characteristic of our post-Cold War period is not conflict between the bourgeoisie and the working class on a world scale, but the struggles between various competing civilisations. Huntington identifies seven such groups (possibly eight if Africa is included separately), namely the Sinic (Chinese), Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox Christian, Western and Latin American civilisations. ‘Human history is the history of civilizations’, says Huntington, ‘it is impossible to think of the development of humanity in any other terms.’ (p40). Does Huntington define civilisation? I doubt that he does, unless in the chapter where he rejects the notion that the only civilisation worth talking about is a human universal one. Yet, however one defines civilisation, one is forced to introduce other categories — Marxists, for example, would instantly adduce modes of production, relations between the sexes, relations between classes, exploitation and state power, to name but a few. The contributions of other political, scientific and religious traditions would need to be brought in, in order to produce a rich theory. So there is more than one way of considering civilisations. Huntington’s way has its virtues, but also its limitations: for most of the book, his attitude appears to be that humans are forced to operate on the maxim ‘My civilisation, right or wrong.’ I say ‘for the most part’, because at the end he changes his tune. Huntington notes particular challenges to ‘the West’ coming from Asia and a resurgent Islam. The book was published in 1996, before the Asian economic crisis, so prospects for Asia appear brighter than they might have done had it appeared a few years later. In many ways, the issue for Huntington is ‘the West versus the Rest’, and he sees the chief threat as arising from China and the Islamic World, but he does not entirely place the blame for any conflict upon those challenging Western dominance, since ‘the dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness’ (p182). This acknowledgement that the West is not a paragon of rectitude in international affairs is to be welcomed: the author is aware of some pertinent shortcomings in this area, as can be seen such remarks as ‘what is universalism to the West is imperialism to the rest’ (p184), and further on the same page: Non-Westerners also do not hesitate to point to the gaps between Western principle and Western action. Hypocrisy, double standards and ‘but nots’ are the price of universalist pretensions. Democracy is promoted but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; non-proliferation is preached for Iran and Iraq but not for Israel; free trade is the elixir of economic growth but not for agriculture; human rights are an issue with China but not with Saudi Arabia; aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed but not against non-oil-owning Bosnians. There follows the illuminating but (equally) mystifying comment: ‘Double standards in practice are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principle.’ Why this should be so is not explained: the reader is perhaps being invited to draw the conclusion that a more honest position would be to say, for example: ‘We are against Iranian and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because they are a threat to “our civilisation”’, and that the espousal of any universalisable set of moral stand31
ards is not recommended because it restricts too much our freedom of choice. This raises the issue — one which Huntington does not deal with satisfactorily — of the relation between ‘civilisations’ as outlined and Civilisation overall. Alternatively, Huntington may mean that one cannot effectively refrain from proclaiming universal standards — all politicians do it — while at the same time adopting double standards when our own civilisation is under attack — this is unavoidable. If so, human prospects are bleak: we are locked into a world where ‘unavoidably’ international relations revolve around a ‘war of all against all’ (as Hegel observed), a world which prompts one to recall one of Tom Lehrer’s satirical songs, in which: The Italians hate the Yugoslavs, The South Africans hate the Dutch, And I don’t like anybody very much. One cannot overstress the dangers of Huntington’s emphasis on such impersonal factors as ‘civilisations’ in his accounts of recent areas of international conflict: the procedure reminds me of an exclamation of (I think it was) Harry Secombe in one of the ‘Goon Shows’: ‘I die! — killed by Death!’ Huntington speaks, for example, of an ‘intercivilizational quasi-war’ ostensibly developing between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This ‘quasi-war’ supposedly involved two fundamentalist states (Iran and the Sudan), three other states (Iraq, Libya and Syria) and an array of Islamist organisations. Huntington quotes the Ayatollah Khomeini as saying: ‘Iran is effectively at war with America.’ Furthermore: If Muslims allege that the West wars on Islam and if Westerners allege that Islamic groups war on the West, it seems reasonable to conclude that something very much like a war is on the way. (p217) Yes, but the warring states and groups do not equate with ‘Islam’ and ‘Western Civilisation’. It is like ascribing causes of actions to ‘History’. ‘History’ does nothing, it is people who act, and in the context under discussion the actors are some Muslims and some (but by no means all) Westerners. If Huntington is suggesting that Islam and the West are in conflict, and Osama bin Laden agrees with him on this, such assertions can only have the effect of increasing the incidence of such conflict, with disastrous results all round: right-wing Christian dogmatists will (they hope) go to Heaven and died-in-the-wool Islamists will taste the delights (or so they believe) of Paradise notwithstanding, but all of us will be thrust deeper into Hell on Earth. Huntington says: The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization, whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the US Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization, whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West. (pp217-18) No evidence is offered: the analysis is false to the core and inflammatory. For a con32
trary view, readers should consult Fred Halliday’s Islam and the Myth of Confrontation, Tariq Ali’s The Clash of Fundamentalisms, and the writings of the Tunisian exile politician Rashid Ghannouchi, on which see Azzam S Tamimi, Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism (Oxford University Press, 2001). There is also the economic imperialist dimension — dramatised by the measures now being taken by the US occupying administration to open up the Iraqi economy in the interests of foreign capital. For an analysis of global imperialism see Robert Biel, The New Imperialism (Zed Books, 2000). Antagonistic classes and separate nations all with their own interests are involved. The actual situation we face is more complex than Huntington’s analysis, which confines itself to ideological factors (beliefs and choices in general), would suggest. Huntington lays stress on Muslim belligerency, declaring: ‘Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peacefully with their neighbours.’ (p256) On the next page, we are told: ‘The New York Times identified 48 locations in which some 59 ethnic conflicts were occurring in 1993. In half of these places Muslims were clashing with other Muslims or with non-Muslims.’ (p257) In fact out of 26 such conflicts, 15 are described as ‘inter-civilization’ and 11 as ‘intra-civilization’. So the incidence of conflict ‘within Islam’ was nearly as widespread as that ‘between Islam and its neighbours’. Why? No explanation. Could it be that conflicts in 1993 within the Dar-al-Islam (Islamic World) involved ‘Islamists’ attacking ‘moderates’? If so, such conflicts cast doubt on the universality of conflict between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’. Huntington runs through various explanations for Islamic militancy, of which only two are plausible — the lack of a ‘core state’ which might discipline the militants, and significant population increases in the Islamic World (p103). What advice does Samuel Huntington have for the West in this situation? He thinks that: Western civilization is valuable not because it is universal but because it is unique. The principal responsibility of Western leaders, consequently, is not to attempt to reshape other civilizations in the image of the West, which is beyond their declining power, but to preserve, protect, and renew the unique qualities of Western civilization. (p311) (What if one of these ‘qualities’ is the need precisely to refashion the world in its own image, for economic reasons?) Huntington thinks the United States and European countries should aim: To achieve greater political, economic and military integration and to coordinate their policies so as to preclude states from other civilizations exploiting differences among them. To encourage the ‘Westernization’ of Latin America and, as far as possible, the close alignment of Latin American countries with the West. To restrain the development of the conventional and unconventional power of Islamic and Sinic countries. To slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China. To accept Russia as the core state of Orthodoxy and a major regional power with legitimate interests in the security of its southern borders. To maintain Western technological and military superiority over other civiliza33
tions. And, most important, to recognize that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multi-civilizational world. (pp311-2) (This last is superficially admirable, but could equally be used to connive at injustice; it is also likely to be disregarded given the insatiable demands of contemporary capital.) This is a deeply conservative programme, and, except perhaps for the last point, there is nothing in it that George Bush, Tony Blair and their co-conspirators would baulk at. Forget the depredations caused by the IMF and the World Bank, forget the World Trade Organisation, forget the mountain of debt imposed on the excolonial countries, forget the shifting of production from one country to another by transnational companies, forget the starvation wages imposed by some of them, forget the destruction of the environment, forget greenhouse gases, global warming, exhaustion of fossil fuels, etc, etc. All these problems take second place to the need to strengthen and defend ‘Western civilisation’. (I cannot help thinking, following Mahatma Gandhi, that it would aid matters enormously if the West could actually acquire civilisation in the full sense of the word, instead of obsessively defending its own material advantages.) Messrs Bush and Blair will have taken what they think they need from Huntington, ignoring his warnings about the dangers of interference where it will be resented — which, on the evidence we have, is exactly what they are currently doing. It is curious, this final caveat of Huntington’s. He recognises that the bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all that is international politics, must not be allowed to get too violent. Accordingly he lays down three rules — the ‘abstention rule’, which prohibits core states (such as the USA and Russia) from interfering in conflicts within other civilisations, the ‘joint mediation rule’, requiring core states to negotiate in order to halt violent conflict between civilisations (p316), and lastly the ‘commonalities rule’: ‘peoples in all civilizations should search for and attempt to expand the values, institutions, and practices they have in common with peoples of other civilizations’ (p320). It must be admitted that there is much good in these precepts, especially the last. If we followed it we might discover that all ‘civilisations’ contain people who wish to practice true liberty, equality and fraternity, ideals that the bourgeoisie inscribed on its banners in the great French Revolution, while interpreting them as designed for themselves alone. If we were to extend them to all humans, we might find that we had succeeded in constructing a civilisation worthy of the name, on a socialist foundation.
Marx and the Fourfold Vision of William Blake
IN the book by EO Abbott called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, ‘A Square’
tries to persuade his fellow two-dimensional beings — triangles, hexagons, and so on — that other dimensions are possible. William Blake lived in a four-dimensional moral world, and for that reason he was considered quite mad by ordinary citizens. He did not agree with them and is reported to have told a friend: ‘There are probably men shut up as mad in bedlam who are not so; that possibly the madmen outside have shut up the sane people.’ When he was four years old, God frightened the life out of him by looking in at his window. When he was about nine, walking on Peckham Rye, he saw a tree whose branches were covered in Angels. His father, told of this observation, prudently threatened to thrash him for lying, but it doesn’t seem to have done him any good. Half a century later, he told someone that he knew that Michelangelo was much better at painting angels than Raphael, even though he had never been to Italy to see their pictures. His certainty was based upon the opinion of someone who had visited him recently, and who should certainly have known if the likeness was a good one, for his informant was the subject of the picture: the Archangel Gabriel. All his life, Blake knew that the world of imagination was the true world, while that of industrial revolution London was certainly false. In the world which his imagination saw so clearly, individuals freely created beauty. But the other, ‘fallen’ world was a place where slavery, exploitation, self-interest and hypocrisy were rife. He explained the way he saw things in a letter to the Reverend Dr Trusler, in 1799: I know that This World Is a World of IMAGINATION & Vision. I see Every thing I paint In This World, but Every body does not see alike. To the eyes of a Miser a Guinea is more beautiful than the Sun, & a bag worn with the use of Money has more beautiful proportions than a Vine filled with Grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way… To the eyes of the Man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. As a man is, So he Sees. As the Eye is formed, such are its Powers. That explains his view of the relationship of art and nature. Men think they can Copy Nature as Correctly as I copy Imagination. This they will find Impossible, & all Copiers or Pretended Copiers of Nature, from Rembrandt to Reynolds, Prove that Nature becomes to its Victim nothing but blots and blurs. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), he tried to explain how people generally saw the world falsely: ‘For man has closed himself up and sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’ For Blake, the inability of his fellow Londoners to see those visions which were so clear to him was the consequence of the false, unbalanced way that they lived, the self-imposed blindness which hid reality from them. They lived in a way whose inhumanity hid itself from itself. But this implied that it was possible for them to live in a different world and to see it differently. Marx, of course, did not see visions. But he also believed that the ordinary world and the way it was seen were not truly human. Whatever their huge differences, each of these men saw the entire world — nature, history and social life — as centred on the activity of the human social individual, enslaved but striving for freedom. Marx called the blindness which made it so hard for us to see the modern
world truly, ‘the fetish-character of commodities’. ‘Marxism’, of course, could not abide such a juxtaposition. Its ‘complete, integral world outlook’, as expounded by Plekhanov, Lenin and others, is a clear illustration of that one-dimensional outlook that Blake called ‘single vision’, the enemy of imagination. The hostility to the individual which has been given the name of ‘Marxism’ is totally opposed to the ideas of Marx. Those ideas, on the contrary, took forward Blake’s ‘fourfold vision’, which combined reason and imagination, sense and emotion. Marx both analysed the fracture of this quartet, and showed how its unity could be actualised in revolutionary practice. The visionary artist and poet William Blake (1757-1827) and the revolutionary thinker Karl Marx, born 60 years later, were equally hostile to eighteenth-century individualistic materialism, the predominant way of thinking of their own times, and, in a cruder form, of ours. In an early work, There is no Natural Religion (1788), Blake attacked the outlook promoted by John Locke, whom he often linked with Bacon and Newton: If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic and Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again… He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only. Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is. I believe this is precisely what Marx meant, in the ‘First Thesis on Feuerbach’ — so disliked by ‘Marxists’ — when he also attacked materialism for not conceiving the world as ‘human sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively.’ Blake is unlikely even to have heard of his near contemporary, Hegel, so he did not know of that writer’s assertion that ‘the finite has no veritable being’. The appearance of the actual as limited and fixed could not be the end of the story. But Marx never forgot his ‘great teacher’, and spent his life in continual struggle and agreement with him. For Marx, freedom, the essence of the all-sided human being, involves opening up what is concealed and perverted by the malevolent magic power of capital. But Marx also shows how the path to freedom could be discerned within this power itself. A Religious Writer? But surely, isn’t Blake a ‘religious writer’, always talking about God? How can Marx have anything in common with him? Yes, but what kind of God? Blake’s Jesus is within the human individual. When he was very old, Crabb Robinson asked him about his religious ideas. ‘Jesus Christ is the only God’, said the old man. But he added: ‘And so am I and so are you.’ Jesus, he explains many times, is Imagination. The God of the Old Testament, on the contrary, is the wrathful God. This God who judges Adam, as Milton reported, and who is so gratified at the Crucifixion of His Son, is a cruel tyrant, the source of all cruelty and falsehood. In a notebook, Blake describes this monster with characteristic irreverence: Old Nobodaddy up aloft farted & belchd & coughd And said I love hanging & drawing & quartering Every bit as well as war & slaughtering. This divine personage is linked by Blake with God the Father, with institutional religion and with state power. He is the source of all kinds of moral law, restrictive rules
with which individuals are brutally forced to comply, and which destroy their humanity. William Blake was a Londoner who grew up as the city was taking its modern shape. When he lived in Lambeth, there was a high-tech, steam-driven flour mill, the Albion, at the end of his road. Later he lived in South Molton Street, close to the Tyburn gallows-tree. Apprenticed to an engraver, he tried all his life — with little success — to make his living as an artisan. He also studied drawing and painting, and combined all these accomplishments in his life’s work. (He is also thought to have sung his early poetry, but never learnt to write down the melodies he composed.) In the 1780s and 1790s, he was part of London’s radical circles, including its radical religious life. His relations with the Swedenborgian New Church and the Muggletonian and other sects has been much discussed. One thing is certain: he was fiercely hostile to all state forms and established religion, associating it with oppression and slavery. In the Book of Urizen, he writes of ‘His ancient infinite mansion: One command, one joy, one desire, One curse, one weight, one measure One King, one God, one Law.’ Until the end of the century, he was actively involved with support for the American and French revolutions and the fight to abolish slavery. In the 1780s and 1790s, he believed that the freedom he longed for was actually at hand, but later he was less optimistic. But he never ‘ceased from mental fight’ against the prevailing ideas of his time. Two aspects of seventeenth and eighteenth-century thought are important here: the conception of imagination and the problem of good and evil. And Blake’s approach to these two problems forms the axes of his entire work. Of course, a category like ‘The Enlightenment’ covers a wide variety of ideas, and some of the most important figures who are included in this term had by the end of the eighteenth century begun to point out the contradictions within it, but there was a widespread notion that opposed what was imaginary to what was real. Hobbes had thought the question of imagination important enough to devote the second chapter of Leviathan to showing how imagination is dependent on sensation: ‘After the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it, the Latins call Imagination.’ Locke, for whom all correct knowledge originated in sense impressions, took it for granted that anything imagined was ‘mere idea’. And Hume put it like this: But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty… it is really confined within very narrow limits… All this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding) Blake’s entire outlook was founded upon his hatred for such notions. As he learned from the work of Paracelsus, imagination was an active, creative power. When he saw himself as a prophet, this for him was the same as being an artist. His work as a graphic artist and poet aimed to change the way everybody saw the world so as to open the way for freedom: For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be con37
sumed, and appear infinite, and holy whereas now it appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass through an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) Imagination was not a faculty possessed by a few talented humans. It was the essence of freedom, of the truly human, and potentially available to everybody. That is why poetry was not just a particular literary medium: along with painting, it was the only way the infinite of imagination could find expression. The unity of the imagined, envisioned work of art showed how we all might ‘see infinity in a grain of sand’. Blake and the Enlightenment Enlightenment thinkers opposed the Christian belief in the radical sinfulness of human beings with the optimistic certainty that they were basically good. Even Kant’s summary of the Enlightenment could not evade these conflicting views: he was sure that, at bottom, man was radically evil. Blake was strongly against both views, both orthodox religious belief, and the Deism which sought to rationalise it. He fiercely attacks all the teachings of the State Churches that pain, suffering and conflict are the products of human sin. With institutionalised religion he associates abstract Reason. Like Hegel, Blake studied Jakob Boehme (‘Behmen’, as he was called in the English translation), and through his work linked up with the Hermetic, Gnostic, Cabbalistic, alchemical traditions. He does not accept any one of these predecessors unconditionally, but he learnt from them to see Creation as the same event as the Fall, not a one-off event, but one which continually happens inside the human heart. Blake is an Antinomian, heir to those centuries of persecuted heretics who believed that, when a merciful Jesus redeems us, the Law of the angry God is cancelled. Blake stresses especially the tyrannical nature of all law governing sexuality. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he begins to work out the implications of these notions, taking the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost as his starting point. Satan represents Energy, without which there is no Creation. Revolting against the tyranny of the Wrathful God, Satan opens the way for all freedom. But this is also the revolt against Reason, matter and law: Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. The Marriage ends with a Song of Liberty, an account of the revolutionary victory of Imagination, which had begun in Paris. ‘Look up! Look up! O citizen of London, enlarge thy countenance! … For everything that lives is Holy.’ Blake is not an irrationalist. What he rejects is the abstractly rational, that cold mechanical logic which excludes emotion, forgiveness, loving, sensuality. There has
to be a marriage of the contraries. (For him, contraries are not negations, which are at perpetual war.) The Songs of Innocence and Experience, also dating from the period of the French Revolution, containing some of the best-known poetry in the language, must be taken as a whole. Blake’s ‘innocence’, the uncorrupted outlook of childhood, is not yet a clear vision of the world, and ‘experience’ is certainly not cynical disillusion. It only seems like this in the ‘fallen’ world. These ‘two contrary states of the human soul’ are both required for freedom. Look, for example, at the two ‘Chimney Sweeper’ poems. The innocent one ends: And the Angel told Tom if he’d be a good boy, He’d have God for a father & never want joy. And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark, And got with our bags & our brushes to work, Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm, So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm. But we know perfectly well that Tom had been sold by his parents to a life of climbing up chimneys, so that his childhood has already been destroyed. The corresponding Song of Experience ends: And because I am happy & dance & sing, They think they have done me no injury: And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King, Who make up a heaven of our misery. ‘The Tyger’, a Song of Experience, is coupled with ’The Lamb’, and Blake wants both. That powerful sequence of hammer-blow questions addressed to the Tyger, includes a reference to ‘deadly terrors’, because Blake is thinking especially of the French Revolution, whose wrathful energy is both destructive and liberatory. Each question forces us to the answer ‘God’, culminating in the question: ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’ Creation involved both the angry God Nobodaddy, and the merciful Jesus. Many accounts of Blake stress, with good reason, the social criticism of London at the end of the eighteenth century. But that is not enough. Look, for example at the powerful Song of Experience called ‘London’: I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames doth flow, And mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forg’d manacles I hear. How the Chimney-sweepers cry, Every blackning Church appalls, And the hapless soldiers sigh, Runs in blood down palace walls.
But most at midnight hour I hear, How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new-born Infants tear And blights with plague the marriage hearse. These short lines bring together the misery and fear which dominate those city streets, exploitation, especially of children, the inhumanity of state power and religion and twisted sexuality and its terrible consequences, again, for children, both the new-born and the child prostitute. But notice that the ‘manacles’ which bind all of these together are ‘mind-forg’d’. Blake’s Jerusalem About 1800, Blake began his poem Milton. Its Preface contains a sort of art manifesto: Painters! On you I call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fashionable Fools to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they make of such works. Then follows the best-known and most ridiculously misunderstood of all songs in English: Jerusalem. (We ought to try to forget the patriotic music by Sir Hubert Parry, and the orchestration by Sir Edward Elgar, but it is hard to do so! It was recently chosen in some poll as an alternative National Anthem.) It is true that ‘those dark, Satanic mills’ are undoubtedly smoking factories, exploiting the labour of children and their parents. But they are also much more. The mill is for Blake a machine in which ‘wheel outside wheel, with cogs tyrannic moving by compulsion each other’, express cold, emotionless logic, as well as a religion of unbending rules enforced by the state. So, when the ladies of the Women’s Institute belt out Parry’s melody, they don’t know that they are condemning above all the established Church, and especially its fear and hatred of sexual freedom. What follows is an attempt to ‘justify the ways of God to men’. It takes the form of the return to Albion’s shores of the poet Milton, whose earlier efforts to accomplish this task had dissatisfied him. Now, he has one thing in his favour: Blake. He can show the way To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination. To bathe in the waters of life; to wash off the Not Human I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration To cast off Rational Demonstration by faith in the Saviour. The last three decades of Blake’s life were devoted to the elaboration of ever more complex structures. Vala, or the Four Zoas aimed to be the most comprehensive account, but was never finished. In his complicated story, Blake seeks to represent simultaneously the Cosmos, the social order and the human psyche, all couched in terms of mythical characters called ‘Eternals’. Blake insists that he is not going in for allegory, where abstractions are personified. This is symbolism, a vision of what actually is, what ‘eternally exists’. Eternity is a balanced association of four ‘Zoas’: Reason, Creative Imagination, Emotion and Sensation. Following the Cabbalistic story, there is a Creation–Fall catastrophe, in which each of them becomes a separate and hostile ‘fallen’ being. Thus, for example, Imagination and Reason each persist in our ‘fallen world’, but each of
them is turned against itself as it is set against the other. Blake took a lifetime to tell their story and even then never finished it. Urizen, who is abstract reason, self-righteousness, is exemplified in Newton, Bacon and Locke. Urizen writes in brass-bound books with pens of steel. He is the enemy of Urthona, who is creative imagination, Luvah, emotion and love, and Tharmas, the senses. When Urizen’s pride and jealousy of Man leads him to break out of Eternity, he becomes Satan, the jealous, angry God of this, the Fallen World. He creates a world of geometric regularity, suppressed sex and oppressive law, going under the name of merciless, unforgiving Justice. Urizen’s hypocrisy is an important aspect of his being: And his soul sicken’d! he curs’d Both sons & daughters; for he saw That no flesh nor spirit could keep His iron laws one moment, For he saw that life liv’d upon death The Ox in the slaughter house moans The Dog at the wintry door And he wept and called in Pity And his tears flowed down on the winds. Eventually, in a Last Judgement, he is forced to realise his error and accept the need for all four to unite. He is then regenerated, along with the whole of the universe. After the Fall, each individual element breaks into a female ‘Emanation’ and a male ‘Spectre’, the latter being the rational entity. The Spectre Is the Reasoning Power in Man; & when separated From Imagination, and closing itself as in steel, in a Ratio Of the Things of Memory, It then frames Laws & Moralities To destroy Imagination! Luvah starts as Love and is transformed into Hate and wars against Urizen, causing the Fall. Tharmas, identified with the senses, and especially with sex, is transformed from ‘the mildest son of heaven’. He begets Los, Urthona’s Spectre, the artist, worldly expression of Creative Imagination. It is Los, who is usually Blake himself, who eventually brings about the redemption of humanity and the building of Jerusalem. In this task he is helped by his son Orc, the spirit of Revolution. In Jerusalem, his last great narrative and longest poem, Blake tells of man’s last push for redemption. Jerusalem is defined as liberty. But as in Vala and the Four Zoas, only after she has overcome many adventures does she reveal her ability to give man what he wants. Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time For lo! The Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day Appears upon our hills: Awake Jerusalem and come away. (Albion represents the ordinary man, whose fall and resurrection are the subject of the action.) There is no need to repeat: Marx is not Blake. But while ‘Marxism’ merely sought some changes in economic structure, Marx was concerned with ‘self41
alteration’ [Selbstveränderung], ‘the alteration of men on a mass scale’. This question of self-alteration — the aspect which Marx has in common with Blake — is not an aspect, but is the whole point of Marx. (It is not surprising that Engels, who got this point confused, found it impossible to include it in his edition of Theses on Feuerbach, the only version we had until quite recently.) As Marx says: Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human selfestrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (that is, human) being — a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development… Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be the solution. (Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, pp296-7) And a few pages later: The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities, but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become, subjectively and objectively, human. Thus, achieving the overthrow of relations based upon private property in ‘an association of free producers’ implies the total self-transformation of humanity, the ‘emancipation of the senses’. Blake would have felt at home in such a new moral world, as some of the revolutionaries of 1968 began to see. This conception of an alternative way of life is central to all Marx’s work. In particular, it is the contrast with what exists which is crucial for Marx’s chief work Capital. Marx gives a critique of political economy, of the method of the work of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and always contrasts political economy with mere economics. He expounded his view of the system that they propounded. It is nowhere presented directly. Marx’s method is to give it as the opposite of all methods which do. Marx, in another way that he unconsciously follows Blake, is intent on showing how the false ways of life are inseparable from false ways of thinking. In Capital, he follows Blake’s hero Paracelsus in characterising the labour process, the essential activity of the human species, as beginning with imagination. (See Volume 1, Chapter 7, first Section.) In political economy, everything starts with definition. Marx was about half a century after Blake, half a century which saw the rise of the modern workers’ movement. So whereas the first beginnings of that movement left Blake quite cold, Marx was able to link it with his conception of communism. In the conflict between social relations of production and powers of production, which appears in this, the fallen world, we have to base ourselves on the unity of the two. The very elements which appear to drive them into opposition — and which do indeed so drive them to war between us human beings — have their resolution in the elements of harmony. This is the power of Marx’s thought, and of that of Blake. In the battles which rage, the thinking of these two men, misunderstood by so many of their devoted followers, marks them out as the great prophets of unity. Let me conclude with another ‘song of liberty’, from America: a Prophecy: The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up; The bones of death, the cov’ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry’d. Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening! Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst; Let the slave grinding at the mill, run out into the field; Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air; Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing, Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years; Rise up and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open. And let his wife and children return from the oppressors scourge; They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream, Singing. The Sun has left his blackness and has found a fresher morning And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear and cloudless night; For Empire is no more, and the Lion & Wolf shall cease. Some Books
Aristotle, De Anima, III, 3. Donald D Ault, Visionary Physics: Blake’s Response to Newton. John Beer, Blake’s Visionary Universe, Manchester, 1969. Martin Bidney, Blake and Goethe. Harold Bloom, Blake’s Apocalypse. Stewart Crehan, Blake in Context. S Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary, Shambala, 1979. David V Erdman, Blake: Prophet Against Empire, Princeton, 1969. Northrop Frye (ed), Blake, Prentice-Hall, 1966. Stanley Gardner, Infinity on the Anvil: A Critical Study of Blake’s Poetry, Oxford, 1954. WC Gore, Imagination in Spinoza and Hume. Geoffrey Keynes, The Letters of William Blake, Oxford, 1980. Jack Lindsay, William Blake: His Life and Work, Constable, 1978. AL Morton, The Everlasting Gospel, Lawrence and Wishart, 1958. Harold Pagliaro, Selfhood and Redemption in Blake’s Songs, Pennsylvania, 1987. Stuart Peterfreund, William Blake in a Newtonian World, 1998. Pico della Mirandola, On the Imagination. HW Piper, The Active Universe: Pantheism and the Concept of Imagination in the English Romantic Poets, Athlone Press, 1962. David Punter, Blake, Hegel and Dialectic. Kathleen Raine, Golgonooza, City of Imagination, Golgonooza Press, 1991. Kathleen Raine, William Blake, Thames and Hudson, 1970. Kathleen Raine, Blake and the New Age, George Allen and Unwin, 1979. GR Sabri-Tabrizi, The ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ of William Blake, Lawrence and Wishart, 1973. EP Thompson, Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law, Cambridge, 1993. William Vaughan, William Blake, British Artists–Tate Publishing, 1999.
The Middle Class and the National Health Service
The National Health Service and the idea of free universal health provision that un43
derpins it retain a great deal of support not merely amongst the working class, but also amongst the middle class. The popular opposition to the New Labour government’s plans for market measures in the NHS has been echoed in the Commons revolt against ‘foundation hospitals’ and the campaigns against Private Finance Initiative projects. Alan Spence, who has been very active campaigning against the PFI scheme at University College Hospital in London, demonstrates the need for the NHS to be run on a cooperative basis, and shows that this could draw middle-class people towards the ideas of socialism. *** The Rise of the Middle Class ALTHOUGH the Labour Party won the 1945 election with 393 seats against 213 for the Conservatives and 12 for the Liberals, the number of votes it received, 11 995 000 against the Conservatives’ 9 988 000 and Liberals’ 2 662 000, fell short of winning a majority of votes when Conservatives and Liberals are combined: 12 650 000 to 11 995 000. In the 1951 election, the Conservatives regained power, and it is interesting to note that although Labour increased its votes to 13 949 000, the Conservatives went up to 13 745 000, giving them 321 seats against Labour’s 295 seats. The key to this Conservative victory is due to Liberal voters switching 1 800 000 of their votes to the Conservatives, resulting in the Liberals entering parliament with six seats, as opposed to the 12 they held in 1945. True, Labour had increased its votes between 1945 and 1951 by an extra two million, but the Conservatives, disregarding the 1 800 000 transferred Liberal votes, also increased their core vote by the same amount, two million. Undoubtedly, the massive campaign by the capitalist press against the Labour government’s programme of nationalisation and socially beneficial measures for the working class had alarmed a ruling class taken by surprise at Labour’s victory in the 1945 election, and this activated it to muster its visceral rhetoric against the supposed errors or misfortunes of the Labour government. For the middle class to swing so decisively to the Tories, however, shows that they saw aspects of Labour policies as threatening middle-class values and retarding the betterment of their living standards. This middle class I take to be a variable stratum within the wide range of constituents: self-employed tradesman, the petit-bourgeoisie in general, bureaucrats in the civil service, members of the Royal Medical Colleges, chief executives of major companies, etc, with the latter elements merging into the ruling class of capitalists and land-owning aristocracy. This stratum came from a middle class which had expanded dramatically with the growth of the British Empire in order to provide colonial administrators and managers of the civil and economic infrastructures which developed to rule the colonies. To this number has to be added the managerial, scientific, educational, technical and welfare personnel required to staff the UK’s widening and deepening manufacturing industry and the concomitant servicing and financial apparatus. By the 1930s, this stratum had become a substantial force within politics and the economy. It benefited from the trade depression of that decade. This compelled the government to curb financiers’ traditional export of capital, compelling them to invest in the UK economy, thus providing a stimulus to the newly-developing electrical and light manufacturing industry to produce the consumer products which the
new wealth of this sector found possible to purchase. Land prices were cheap, as agriculture struggled against the cheaper imported food within a preference policy designed to strengthen Britain’s Empire. Houses for the middle class mushroomed as credit, funded from building societies which marshalled savings from numerous small deposits, became readily available to provide mortgages for those with a secure income and pensionable prospects. Massproduced cars at prices within middle-class means facilitated the growth of residences on the outskirts of towns and cities, drawing car production and the building of semi-detached houses in the same direction of middle-class consumerism. Cars, incomes benefiting from cheap food and raw material prices, and with wages reduced by capitalism’s general attack on the working class, led to a growth of leisure facilities for the new middle class, which, with paid holidays, provided new forms of middle-class culture to those already held, and new dimensions of middle-class expectancies. All this was constrained on the consumer side by the need to wage total war during 1939-45. However, with prices remaining stable in relation to earnings, the middle class ended that war with unspent money in savings and governmentinduced war-credit accounts, and with latent wishes to have rationing and spending restrictions quickly lifted. This desire coincided with capitalism’s conduct of an ideological offensive to mobilise opposition to the Labour government’s nationalisation and reform programme, and particularly its welfare aspect. This was successful to the extent that, latching onto other factors which undermined the ideological stance of the political left, such as the invasion of South Korea by the North, it produced the above-noted shift in votes from Liberal to Tory, and enabled the Conservatives to take power from Labour in 1951. The British Medical Profession in a Capitalist Society At the centre of this ideological campaign to undo the strength of labourism was the medical profession. Amongst the sectors of the economy proposed to be nationalised by the Labour government was the network of voluntary, charitable and municipal hospitals and general practices. These latter were, with the small-business format used by local doctors from which they conducted their trade, commodities bought and sold to the highest bidder. A young, newly qualified doctor would scout an area to set up a practice, or, with a loan, buy an existing one. If successful as a business, it could provide a lump sum to sell for expansion into a more lucrative practice, or for a retirement income. However, unlike the nationalisation of railways, the coal industry, etc, where shares held by individual shareholders were bought by the government and, though there were squabbles about the amount of cash received, it was an exchange of equivalents — the cash paper of a company for the cash paper of the government. Under the Workman’s National Insurance system enacted in 1911, a weekly payment was made to this fund by the employee, the employer and the government. Each industrial worker had the freedom to choose any doctor who had agreed to register with the scheme. The doctor then received an annual payment to pay for a patient’s illness. Now it was proposed that the whole of the UK’s population would be registered and paid for and would receive treatment in a similar manner: with the addition that the government would foot the additional money to bring in those millions of people excluded from the 1911 Act.
Doctors traded locally with a residence as an integral part of the business, and to have their practices nationalised and themselves become salaried workers for the state and relocated in group health centres, with the aim of bringing together several GP practices, together with dentists, midwives, care workers and other ancillary staff, provoked outrage within the medical profession. Nowhere within capitalism was individualism so firmly entrenched as in the 18 000 separate GP practices, which were part of the capitalist faction formed of self-employed tradesmen — shopkeepers, publicans, small manufacturers, solicitors, etc — from whose ranks came most GPs. Although the profession’s negotiating arm, the British Medical Association, had recognised the benefits of a national structure before the Second World War, when actually faced with a nation-wide service organised by the state, with a national management structure, a financial arm to control expenditure and doctors being employed persons in receipt of government salaries, it rebelled. The National Health Act of 1948 Given the divisions within the Cabinet of the 1945-50 Labour government and the necessity to see the Health Act on the statute books before the next election in 1950, Aneurin Bevan, the Minister with the responsibility of ensuring it came into being on its proposed date in 1948, eventually agreed to allow GPs to remain as individuals with their own practices and as self-employed contractors to the NHS. Further, to sweeten the pill of this modification, Bevan offered to buy out individual GP practices at a cost of a billion pounds (at today’s prices). Thereafter the buying and selling of practices was forbidden. The residential element of a practice, however, remained with the GP. Thus general practitioners were persuaded to accept entry into the NHS. Before the NHS, hospitals were voluntary, charitable or municipal. In the last, doctors were salaried employees, but in the charitable and voluntary sectors a distinction was made between doctors employed in these hospitals and those providing a general service to the public — the GPs. Except in rural areas and small towns, where doctors treated their patients in cottage hospitals, GPs were not allowed to receive salaries from a hospital whilst they were engaged in private practice. Nor could hospital doctors in receipt of salaries work in the private sector as GPs. This system allowed GPs to point out to wealthy patrons that their high bills for treatment were necessary because of the unpaid work they did in charitable hospitals. This practice became fudged during the war as hospitals were vastly expanded to cope with war casualties. Doctors were mobilised according to the need to service them in their many different areas. During this process, the distinction between GPs and hospital doctors became eroded as the former received payment for hospital work. Thus, when Bevan invited doctors to work in hospitals for the NHS, he found that the ground had already been prepared by their work during 1939-45. What consultants wanted, he discovered, was more money and better working conditions, and, using the uproar and opposition created already by the GPs, they were able to ‘have their mouths stuffed with gold’. Doctors who worked without payment in prewar hospitals were usually specialising in one area of medicine, and they needed work in hospitals to provide them with the expertise to improve their skills. As an enhancement in lieu of cash, hospi46
tals conferred upon them the title of Consultant, and those who became even more prestigious were known as Honorary Consultants. Furthermore, they became involved in management of hospitals — usually the most influential people on its Board of Governors. Nowhere was this latter role more powerful than in teaching hospitals. These, along with the Royal College of Surgeons and other specialist Royal Colleges, also controlled the teaching element in medical establishments. Nor did power end there. Many of the profession were already members of, or marrying into, the classes of capitalist and rural gentry, which formed the ruling classes of the UK. Even if not actual members, given that all people need doctors from the day born until death, the medical profession developed intimate links with the Establishment, and through this the ability to influence matters to the advantage of the medical profession. This power and the threat of non-participation in the proposed NHS were used to ensure that the previous right of Consultants to use hospital beds for private patients was continued in the NHS, along with the existing practice of paying Consultants personally for any treatment of private patients. Consultants — other hospital doctors received crumbs from Consultants’ tables when assisting at operations or consultancies — were now in the happy position of receiving salaries with paid holidays, sick leave and two-thirds annual salary at retirement — in addition to the continuation of private practice. True, consultants on these terms had to forgo oneeleventh of their salary to qualify, whilst those on full-time hours supposedly devoted all their hours solely to the NHS. That the majority of those under the influence of the radicalism of 1945 actually did so in the early days is to their credit, though it did begin to fray with the passage of time and when they saw the large fees received by those undertaking private work. Consultants and hospital doctors now had regular salaries and also the pickings from private practice, and GPs could put behind them the days of charging each patient for attending surgery, or getting a housewife to open her purse for visiting a patient at home. The medical profession settled down to maximise these new conditions, and expressed their satisfaction in a poll conducted amongst them in 1957, which recorded 67 per cent as being satisfied with the NHS. This satisfaction of the professionals within the NHS also coincided with that of the general run of the middle class. Before the Second World War, they had to pay as individuals for GP and hospital treatment and, unlike the working class, could not claim relief from payment in hospitals, but were now assessed for payment by hospital almoners, although all treatment was provided by the state out of general taxation, and this gave a financial gain to the middle class. A Universal or Fragmented Health Structure The size of this gain to the middle class can been seen by comparing the amount this class has to pay in other nations which operate a private/public health service, such as the other 15 nations of the OECD. These countries have a distinctive two-tier system, one private, the other funded by the state. In all these countries, including the USA, governments put significant sums of money into health services. In 1996, the UK government spent 5.9 per cent of GDP on health, the same as the average of OECD governments. However, these same countries spent a total of 10.4 per cent of GDP on overall health matters — the UK spent 7. 1 per cent of its GDP. The private sector in the OECD spent 4.5 per cent on health, whereas in the UK
the private sector spent 1.2 per cent. This difference of 3.3 per cent is the bonus the UK’s middle class obtained and still obtains from having a nationalised service that is available when needed and is free from monetary payment. Annual budgets are prepared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, when the average of other governments’ budgetary amounts on health have been ascertained, he sits back satisfied to have maintained parity in spending with other governments. This overlooks the qualitative difference between the NHS and other countries’ health services, where money has to be paid up-front (though it can in some cases be claimed back), whilst in the UK everyone, from millionaire to pauper, is entitled to and does receive the same treatment without having to make any payment for GP and hospital treatment. Adding together the 3.3 per cent benefit obtained by the UK’s middle class from 1948 to 2002 and converting it into cash, brings us somewhere towards the £184 billion which the Wandless Report estimates as being the underspend suffered by the NHS during its 50 years existence. Hence, the middle class, without having tumbled to the reason why — hard work and prudent spending? — found itself with an annual cash surplus not available to their equivalents in OECD countries. This ‘surplus’ coincided in the 1950s with the economic need to extend civilian production to make good the accumulated shortages of the war years. Over their 13 years, from 1951 to 1964, the Conservative governments removed many of the controls that had been introduced during 193945 and retained by the Labour government, and which had maintained equilibrium in the economy and civil life and brought about significant improvements in the general standard of living of the working class. Pandering to the consumerist tastes of the newly-moneyed middle class, it allowed the economy, infrastructure and direction of society to expand to accommodate the conspicuous consumptive tendencies fostered by their new-found wealth. And these tendencies were further enhanced when in 1959 the government gave tax cuts of £350 million and relaxed existing credit restrictions, replicating these consumerist tendencies by reducing the higher rate of tax from 83 per cent to 60 per cent and the basic rate from 33 per cent to 30 per cent in 1979, followed by the further reduction to 40 and 25 per cent respectively in 1988. This, then, in spite of receiving £200 billion from North Sea Oil and £67 billion from privatisation, and increasing the national debt from £79 billion in 1978 to £419 billion in 1997, is the reason for massive underspend in the NHS and other public services! With basic needs of employment — much in the welfare sector — and with the demand for new houses, holidays in the sun, car ownership, and trendy consumer products appearing in new types of retail outlets now satisfied, the ‘young’ middle class searched for an alternative way of life with more substance than the obvious flimsiness of their life in the 1960s. A solution appeared in the ‘flower-power’ and the revolts of 1968, particularly against the Vietnam War, until the ruling classes decided enough was enough and either compromised with them or suppressed them. Thereafter, as nihilism seeped into the political consciousness of former radical activists, and consumerism turned into hedonism, it became a conformist element with the social order. With more disposal income than OECD counterparts, they stepped up living a life of ‘better-then-the-Joneses’, with bigger houses, more expensive cars, costly holidays in exotic places, to exit into a culture which finds its satisfaction in the opium of regular doses of ‘Retail Therapy’. Thus, private affluence rides supreme over its product — spiritual poverty — resulting in the collapse of a purposeful planning system for its built environment, disintegration of the UK’s transport system, and a malaise or erosion of its general infrastructure.
Postwar France and Germany kept to a format similar to Britain’s National Insurance scheme of 1911, extended, however, to cover all workers and their families, with, in some cases, workers having to make up-front and first-time payments, refunded (sometimes) by claiming from the appropriate authorities. ‘White collar’ and higher-paid workers were excluded and had to make arrangements for their own cover, usually through trade union or insurance funds. This structure resulted in the development of a two-tier system of payment which had two streams of money, each independent of the other, going into hospital and GP practices. This monetary structure is crucially different to the financial allocation system of UK hospitals and GPs, which receive from the NHS Executive an annual sum based upon an agreed Treasury budget. The NHS Executive, in effect, receives an annual lump-sum payment from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the French and German model, the price chases the receiver of medical treatment for immediate payment, whereas in the NHS it is the opposite. In the NHS, the budget chases prices, and, as budgets are fixed for the forthcoming year, increases are disallowed or are achieved by making economies elsewhere in the budget. So the money allocated at the beginning of the year is the same amount as the money spent by the end of the year. Because the medical world is fast changing in its arts and sciences, with doctors and research workers wanting the latest reported ‘lifesaver’, they are able to appeal to a natural instinct for health betterment to money providers, thus, in the freer money provider system of France and Germany, medics were able to plan and get improvements quicker than in the UK system. Thus, medical science, new hospitals and treatment pulled ahead in France and Germany. The price of this superiority in medical services was, however, at a cost to middle-class and working-class families. In France, for example, families spent in 2002 a total of 20 per cent of their income on health, and in Germany family insurance costs approximately £200 per month. Barbara Castle Consolidates and Develops Bevan’s NHS By the mid-1970s, it had become clear that Britain’s ‘envy of the world’ had lost its brightness when compared with hospital treatment in other developed countries. Few new hospitals had been built in the UK since 1948, and most existing ones were Victorian or even earlier in origin. These suffered from severe maintenance problems due to lack of funds for their repair and renewal. Wages of staff trailed significantly behind those in private industry, leading to unrest amongst all ranks, including Consultants, and, to obtain an increase in wages, these Consultants embarked on a campaign to refuse to work overtime. This coincided with militancy amongst working-class members in the service. The introduction of the ‘dual’ system in 1948, which gave Consultants the right to use NHS beds and other facilities as a part of their private practices, was resented by many people, not just socialists within the labour movement, as being an unjust arrangement giving a few mainly surgical doctors use of staff, equipment and operating theatres to make money for themselves. This duality within the NHS showed its most extreme dichotomy in the provision of beds in private wards for the use of the Consultants’ fee-paying patients. The great selling point of these Consultants was the ability to provide a bed at short notice to those accepting them in their private capacity. To do this effectively meant some beds in private wards had to be kept empty to allow for an ‘immediate’ from a
Consultant. This, and the knowledge that to maintain effective demand for private practice led consultants to stretch decisions and ensure queues for treatment thus to persuade the more wealthy in a queue to opt for private treatment, fuelled this militancy. This practice, at a time when NHS patients were being turned away from hospitals because of a shortage of beds, whilst staff knew of empty beds in the private wards, provoked the staff of Charing Cross hospital in London to refuse to service these wards and beds. After a bitter battle which involved a Labour government recently elected in 1974, a compromise was reached which allowed NHS patients to use beds in private wards, whilst private patients used NHS beds until a vacancy occurred in a private ward. The mid-1970s was therefore a period in which the NHS was in crisis. Its underfunding over many years had been exposed by contrast with other national hospital systems. The fall in parity of wages with other sectors of employment had become an explosive matter with NHS staff of all grades. And the distortions between a logical structure being used to best available advantage, and the laissez-faire uncertainties in use arising from the Consultants’ command of facilities and staff for marketing for private profit, indicated the need for fundamental change in the NHS if its aim of remaining the ‘envy of the world’ was to be achieved, returning it to prime position in world health matters. Therefore the Labour Party’s manifesto of 1974 introduced a commitment, among other things, to phase out private practice from the NHS. When it won the election in that year and Barbara Castle became Secretary of State for Health, with David Owen as Minister of Health, they both set to work to bring this to fruition. This manifesto commitment and the determination to see it enacted threatened the Consultants’ lucrative trade. Without the use of beds in NHS hospitals, it could not function. Even using the few private hospitals run by provident insurance organisations such as BUPA, it could not exist without using pathology, X-ray and other facilities hired or ‘borrowed’ from the NHS. BUPA, the leading not-for-profit insurance company, therefore took upon itself the task of organising other provident groups against the manifesto programme: At no time since its inception had it been BUPA’s wish to be in any way involved in the political scene. But with the defeat of Conservatives in March 1974, and the election of a Labour Government under Harold Wilson, politics were thrust upon us. (Douglas Robb and Peter M Brown, BUPA: A Continuing History, London, 1984) In this ‘political scene’, BUPA had the willing support of leading members of the negotiating arms of the medical profession, the British Medical Association, Medical Practitioners Union, Royal Colleges, etc, all under the hegemony of Consultants desperate to retain the commercial benefits that sprang from private practice. BUPA’s campaign centred upon the idea that the government aimed to finish all private medicine and to put an end to the right of the individual’s freedom of choice in respect of medical attention. As David Owen, himself a doctor, said, these charges were illusory and false. However, BUPA and its acolytes had the power of contact with the ‘great and good’, and with strenuous support from the media were able to muddy two proposals devised by Castle and Owen, that is, a Health Services Board to organise the phasing out the 4000 private beds in the NHS in conjunction with the development of private hospitals to replace them, and a Resources Working
Party to examine the distribution of moneys to hospitals, and through an analysis of needs in each area to redistribute cash accordingly. However, Jim Callaghan replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister and soon sacked Barbara Castle, replacing her with a minister lacking Castle’s drive, and, though the momentum she had established had been sufficient to bring private beds in NHS hospitals down to 2500, it did not achieve its mission before it was axed by the Thatcher administration in 1980. The Resources Working Party, with its aim of providing all regions with a level playing field and balanced provision of resources, struggled along in the face of intransigence from entrenched vested interests. It was given the coup de grâce by the Internal Market of the 1990s, thus leaving much of the UK as unevenly serviced as it had been prior to the 1970s — indeed, with some imbalances as much as those existing before the creation of the NHS in 1948. From the confrontation with the 1974 Labour government, the Consultants (and BUPA) emerged triumphant, and even better placed than before the conflict began. Previous restrictions on the use of hospital theatres were confirmed as being lifted, contracts were amended to give greater freedom to practice privately, and, although the use of unused beds in private wards could now be used by NHS patients, the concessionary agreement for Consultants to use general wards if ‘their’ beds were occupied by NHS patients gave them more facilities, for they now could use any empty hospital bed, and therefore had the run of the hospital. Consultants and the Drive to Privatisation With the bit firmly between their teeth, some Consultants began to run amok with the principles of the NHS. They were at the forefront of a Tory government determined to convert the NHS into a private enterprise system, along the lines of BUPA, or similar private insurance schemes, for all UK citizens. Oblivious to report after report exposing deficiencies in US medicine, based very much on the principles they advocated, Consultants pressed on regardless of the potential harm this would bring to the general run of people in the UK, particularly the poor and vulnerable, but also middle-class people who found themselves with a chronically sick member of the family. Even Thatcher’s Tory cabinet baulked at some of these proposals, settling for the Internal Market as a means to curb NHS spending. Established in 1992, this Internal Market distorted NHS spending and led to a widening of the gap between the UK and other developed countries on health spending and provision, until this deficiency reached a crisis in the flu epidemic of the winter of 1999-2000, by which time a Labour government had been office for three years. Labour enjoyed a bigger majority of seats — 419 (13 million votes) against the 393 (12 million votes) of 1945 — and, among the many reasons for the massive discontent with the Tories, there was much popular opposition to the calculated run-down of the NHS, and the loss of local hospitals and their replacement with remoter monoliths. Local and Friendly, or Monolithic and Remote In 1976, Dr David Owen, when Minister of Health, said that specialised treatment should only be provided in selected areas, for general treatment patients should be treated locally. He rightly criticised the concept of large, monolithic hospitals. Yet since then the construction of very large district hospitals has accelerated, and, with the new Private Finance Initiative programme, huge centralised hospitals are the on51
ly ones being constructed. Consultants, along with volume construction and finance companies, are at the forefront in agitating for the continuation of building what in effect will be candidates for listing as Ancient Monuments before they have paid off the 30 or 35 year mortgages the Treasury has taken out with bankers and financiers. These large general hospitals cater for all diseases and mean that every Consultant can have his or her share of the private beds in a hospital. They allow for the canalisation of all patients within a large geographical area into this one hospital, and facilitate the sifting out of customers who are fed up with queuing and therefore likely to become commercial material. Contrary to this, the Castle/Owen policy from the 1974 manifesto was to separate special surgical and medical cases and put them into separate hospitals, with district general hospitals becoming smaller and located nearer to patients. This would allow for sophisticated treatment to be concentrated, and general hospitals could then be used for chronic cases and as recovery hospitals after surgery in the special ones. This would provide a better arrangement for patients, staff and servicing, and, once established, they would be far cheaper than the monoliths. Private hospitals are scattered haphazardly, and Consultants who attend to patients in these hospitals, although gaining financial benefits, also find it is a travelling curse. With patients in several hospitals, a Consultant often feels more like a taxi cab driver than a doctor as he or she scurries from patient to patient across widely separated private hospitals. Hence the constant moan from doctors engaged in private practice of the workload they have to bear. The tendency, therefore, is for private hospitals and NHS hospitals to cluster together. Such is the motivation of Nuffield part of BUPA, which has built a new hospital adjacent to Leeds General Infirmary Trust, and University College London Hospital Trust, now building a new hospital on Euston Road, five minutes’ drive from Harley Street, the locus of private medical practice in the UK. The location of the UCLH Trust is a natural honey-pot for Consultants wishing to participate in the lucrative trade of providing medical treatment for a national and international wealthy clientele. Within easy reach of some of London’s prestigious teaching and treatment hospitals, it is also located within the boundaries of London’s wealthy and exclusive West End. Hence when the Thatcher government abolished the Hospitals Service Board, which had been designed to remove private beds from NHS hospitals, within months of taking office in 1979, UCLH Consultants, with their minds on the lucre to be obtained from developing private practice and private hospitals, moved quickly to take advantage of the government’s known desire to expand this sector at the expense of the tax-funded NHS. They took advantage of this climate to put forward a scheme in 1981 to build a private hospital on NHS land in use as a car park. The Trustees of UCLH decided to let the land to developers for a peppercorn rent, the latter would then build a 112bed private hospital with eight operating theatres, from which the 60 Consultants who do NHS and private medicine from the UCLH would provide a range and quality of services not generally available in private hospitals. However, as a sweetener, UCLH would still be allowed the occasional use of these operating theatres for NHS patients. The opposition to this proposal was instantaneous and furious. Frank Dobson, the MP for the Camden area of London, wherein the hospital was located, raised the matter in Parliament, and received the unequivocal support of the Labour opposition. Clive Jenkins, a prominent trade union leader, took it to the TUC. South Cam52
den Community Health Council organised public meetings, and the local press opened its columns to convey the general outrage of Camden and other concerned citizens. Within weeks the proposal was dropped: part of the reason was that the financial structure of the scheme had not enough inherent safeguards for banks to risk their investment. Defeated in this instance, UCLH waited until the climate of opposition to the traditional NHS began to make headway when Thatcher and the capitalist class became engaged in the wholesale privatisation of public utilities. The cuts in NHS expenditure allowed the UCLH to close several smaller hospitals and to put forward a scheme to concentrate facilities in a new hospital to be built by the NHS, using the car park as a pivot for this development. A five-storey hospital with 770 beds and 70 day-case beds costing £140 million obtained planning permission in 1989. With a Tory government busy devising ways to privatise the NHS from within via the Internal Market, and with the finance structure of the PFI still in its drafting stage, it was not until 1997 that the NHS Executive was ready to give it the go-ahead. By this time, New Labour was in governmental power, and, contrary to all its previous opposition to PFI, it agreed that this would be the mechanism for funding UCLH’s new hospital. In looking at alternatives to the five-storey block, UCLH had considered a 22storey high-rise solution, but ruled this out as adding nothing beneficial to the fivestorey model, and it would be much more expensive to build. However, after discussions with the new regime of PFI financiers, UCLH saw the benefit of having a high-rise, white glossy hospital with a Euston Road frontage — undoubtedly with a financial eye cocked towards nearby Harley Street — and using part of that site to build a new maternity hospital to replace the hospital for women founded by the UK’s first women doctor, Elizabeth Garret Anderson (who treated one of Karl Marx’s daughters), which was to be sold to pay the financiers’ introductory costs. However, because of site restrictions, only 630 beds could be put in this hospital, and its site was not the empty car park, but had been purchased from the private sector for £35 million, with another £10 million to pay for the demolition of offices and retail premises on this site. All in all, the new proposal is to cost £422 million, making it proportionally the most expensive hospital in construction in the UK, costing three times the amount per bed space of other hospitals. This proposal met with extensive criticism from the Royal Society of Arts, the London Planning Committee, and local architects and communities, because of its obsolescence and inadequate internal space arrangements, and for being too large a project for its site. And in a more recent criticism, CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), a government-sponsored body, said in October 2002 that this UCLH trust hospital was already 10 to 15 years out of date. Thus by the time it is completed in 2005 and the PFI paid for by 2035, the building will long since have become one of PFI’s Ancient Monuments. Undeterred by all this criticism, the UCLH used its considerable ‘Establishment’ muscle to override all objections, eventually getting the go-ahead from Camden Council and the NHS Executive. Meanwhile, the dozen hospitals closed or demolished to make way for it leave a legacy of 1400 beds lost, with a replacement of 630 — a shortfall of 770 beds. This saga of the UCLH Trust and its new hospital on Euston Road illustrates with unambiguous clarity the self-centred nature of hospital Consultants, the efforts they will make to initiate and then determinedly to pursue
an opportunity to maximise private practice and incomes, and the overall harm this does the NHS. GPs as Business Practitioners. Nor are GPs any the less self-centred, although few have the opportunity to amass the wealth available to hospital Consultants. As self-employed doctors on contract to the NHS, they have the benefits of being on their own and free of irksome discipline from an external authority. As a body, they have refused consistently to enter into a meaningful discussion towards amalgamating separate practices into integrated teams working from Health Centres. Over the years of the NHS, they have enlarged private practices from being that of a single doctor, often preparing prescriptions, to expand into small businesses with premises improved with NHS grants, receptionists, practice nurses and now business managers, all paid for from NHS funds. Thus, the petit-bourgeois mentality of their origin, with its middle-class entrepreneurial culture, has become more solidly grounded and has strengthened their resolve to resist moving into Health Centres with their tradition and expectancy of working as integrated teams of medical and care workers, serving a distinct geographical area, rather than the scattered mix of patients, as haphazard as the spread of existing GP surgeries. The NHS Plan — July 2000 Inheriting a cornucopia of health policies pulling in different directions from the previous Conservative government, Labour launched in 2000 an investment programme to equal EU spending on health by 2005 and bring UK facilities up to the same level as EU countries. Concurrent with this, a programme was proposed to resolve contradictions and harmonise the conflicting links of the NHS into a seamless system of service provision through regional restructuring. John Ashton, the Regional Director of Public Health in Liverpool, stated at a lecture at John Moores University on 25 October 2000 that ‘by 2002 there will be new single, integrated public health groups across the NHS. Accountable through the regional director of public health jointly with the director of the Government office for the region… they will embrace health as well as environment, transport and inward investment.’ By 2002, however, New Labour had taken on board Mrs Thatcher’s Trust Hospitals, renamed them Foundation Hospitals, and begun the process of giving them statutory backing. Little reflection is needed to show they are opposite in principle to the integrated perspective that Professor Ashton drew from the NHS plan of July 2000, and also to Bevan’s socialistic approach to the NHS. It is self-evident that these autonomous structures are ready made, financially and organisationally, for Chief Executives Officers, with their eyes on the £500 000 salary paid to BUPA’s CEO (compared to an NHS CEO salary of about £125 000), Consultants, financiers and other carpetbaggers to arrange for a management buy-out. Foundation Hospitals, in fact, are the opposite to the Resource Allocation Working Party policy established by Barbara Castle, the aim of which was to restrict to inflation costs the revenue going to the private-patient-led London teaching hospitals, and steadily to elevate hospitals elsewhere to a national and uniform standard, through a weighted distribution of NHS funding. This coincided with and deepened the problem facing Aneurin Bevan in 1948, that of bringing the manysided provisions for hospital service into a coordinated national framework which facilitated their development into a new and unified means of providing for the curing or the alleviation of illness. Another contribution was to unify work-people in
their many different professions and ancillary care elements into the above national structure and through consultative committees arrange for assessment of wages and salaries and working conditions to be equal at grade level for all NHS staff. This was an epochal solution, for alongside the bringing into a new service the 16 million people uncovered for illness, there was the need to resolve the almost feudal wages and conditions of its 362 000 employees (nurses’ wages were increased by 30 per cent, and all other workers increased by 22 per cent). For 50 years, it stood and developed to alleviate the nation’s health problems. However, if it has outgrown its original beneficial structure (though this is questionable when reading Norwich Union’s pamphlet touting for insurance customers which informs of the ‘superb facilities’ available in the 20-odd NHS hospitals it is offering in the London area!) and has to move on to allow a new generation of structures and people to introduce tasks more sophisticated than were possible with the old means and relations of production, then any proposed changes must concur with the fundamental norms of their foundation principles. To this end, it is necessary to see the Health Services Board and Resources Allocation Working Party developed by Barbara Castle and David Owen as part of these norms, but whose work was left uncompleted when they were abolished by Thatcherism and the policies of the internal market. In 1974, when Barbara Castle was formulating the policy for phasing out private beds from the NHS, there were 4900 of them in NHS hospitals. By the time the policy was scrapped by Thatcher, the number was down to 2500, and these have yet to be phased out of NHS service. As, however, the provision to phase out beds was geared to the provision of the same number by the private sector, and, as that number is now exceeded in the private sector — 4000 in 1975, 11 000 in 2003 — this phasing out can be done within months. The Resource Allocation Working Party, which was abolished by the introduction of the internal market programme, should be re-established. This time, however, in addition to assessing the financial needs of each area and distributing funds to achieve a level provision of finances, it should plan for a proper distribution of hospitals and facilities for other illness, hospices, convalescent homes, etc, within a properly and proportionally prepared national plan for building them. This would make good the defeat of the Labour government’s proposals of 1975 for reforming the NHS by a reactionary coalition of Consultants, insurance funders such as BUPA, and their supporters in the Tory establishment. Many Consultants will have seen that in this coalition they acted as their own worst enemies. In defeating Castle and Owen they denied for the next two decades the wholly beneficial transformations that the Castle/Owen proposals would have brought to the NHS. Doctors, being at the ‘coal face’, along with the thousands of other staff, bore the brunt of the following years of disintegration, and contributed to the unremitting work needed to maintain self-respect for the NHS and to allow it to fulfil its role of providing for the sick. However, because of training and regular work practice in ‘hermetic’ hospital institutions, medical people have a working conception that illness is the normal part of the human essence, rather than an aberration. And it is a long time since the profession in the Western world could function as of yore, when ‘the distinction between doctor and gymnastic trainer was sometimes a fine one, and experience in the gymnasium was an important part of training of many of those who practised medicine and surgery in ancient Greece’ (GER Lloyd (ed), Hippocratic Writings, Penguin,
1978). Therefore in the context of the above, the National Health Service is misnamed — it is really a National Sick Service. People don’t use it when they are healthy, but only when ill. This distinction between health and illness, and the way these had grown apart, was recognised in 1948, and progressive people considered that the essential model of a national health and illness service was the Peckham Institute. Peckham Pioneer Health Centres As Charles Webster, the historian of the NHS, wrote: The new, stylish Peckham Health Centre reinforced the view that health was more than freedom from disease… the new health service must aim at creating and maintaining good physique, happiness or resistance to disease, rather than merely work of a salvage nature… patching up illhealth. (The National Health Service, Volume 1, London, 1988) The Peckham Health Centre was established in the mid-1930s by a husband and wife team of doctors, Innes H Pears and G Scott Williamson, who were attempting to locate the reason why in any epidemic a few people remained immune to the disease. They had noticed in researching animals that those separated from family groups expired more quickly than those remaining within the family. This, therefore, led them to the belief that the family as a group was a key to one aspect of solving the problem. With the help of the Donaldson family of wealthy philanthropists, a health centre was built which provided a social, community and athletics service for a membership of 1200 families from within the local neighbourhood. With a swimming pool and other athletic facilities as the fulcrum, it provided a club, crèche and clinics for men, women and children as family units. Its café was supplied with food grown on its own farm. Peckham did not treat people who were ill, but simply monitored their state of health. Any deterioration in this was notified to the family, and a visit to their own doctor was suggested. The success of Peckham — from the perspective of the well-being of its members and supporters — seemed assured when evidence began to accumulate that local doctors with ‘Peckham’ people as patients, were beginning to notice a fall-off in trade. This reduction in business alarmed doctors whose incomes in poor areas of London came from the National Insurance scheme of 1911, where an annual grant was made for each employed person on their panel of patients, and from others who had to pay directly for treatment. Peckham was closed during the Second World War and reopened in 1947. By this time, with evidence circulating of its success, its incorporation into the 1948 NHS seemed assured. This, however, was not to be. Already alarmed at the radical nature of Bevan’s restructuring of the health service on a national basis, GPs, now having a wider market from which to obtain more patients, knew from experience in the freemarket world of prewar GP practice, there would be fierce competition for these patients, as indeed proved to be the case. To add to these fears and uncertainties of the future, the known knowledge that Peckham interfered with ‘trade’ persuaded the profession to blackball this scheme. Failing to qualify for any NHS money, Peckham closed in 1951. Now it is a block of luxury flats. Barbara Castle, as Secretary of State for Health, noted as one of her intentions ‘to establish the health centres to which he [Bevan] attached so much importance in
raising the standards of the medical profession as a whole’ (NHS Revisited, Fabian Tract no 440, January 1976). However, she was removed from office when James Callaghan became Prime Minister and was leant on by the medical profession and its Establishment supporters to replace her with someone less dynamic as Health Secretary. Therefore to carry forward the impetus to improve the NHS, to deal with factors inadvertently left outstanding from 1948 and also from 1975, we have three complementary projects to take on board. These are finally to remove pay beds from the NHS, to reintroduce a more comprehensive Resources Working Party, and to establish a programme for introducing athletic/community centres based on the ‘Peckham’ principles, with these conjoined with health centres which bring together comprehensive athletic, medical and care services at the neighbourhood level. As in the past, Peckham-style health centres will meet opposition from GPs. Individual GPs, each paddling his own canoe, will not readily forsake a individualistic business which has grown in financial attractiveness over the years, nor the culture of the ‘teacher to student’ role picked up in their years passing through the existing medical world. Neighbourhood Clinics However, it is generally recognised that the present GP’s world is well passed its day of imminent change. It can no longer even provide cover for all NHS patients who could register with it: doctors have taken off for the leafier suburbs. Even when covering a town or city area, they still pick the most pleasant areas. Doctors can register patients of choice and more often than not criss-cross each others’ territory when visiting or having patients visit them. In some cases, members of the same family living in the same dwelling have GPs from different practices. Many surgeries of single-handed doctors who did choose to work in the inner cities are Victorian in origin and would be closed immediately by a Health and Safety inspection applying its standards with normal robustness. An immediate problem for a patient suddenly ill or injured is the limited hours of opening practised by GPs. These usually are between nine and five o’clock Monday to Friday, with closure at weekends. True, there is out-of-hours provision, but this can be hours away, particularly in an inner-city context where temporary doctors can spend some time searching maps for a patient’s whereabouts. The consequence is that patients cut corners and go directly to the accident and casualty unit of the nearest hospital, leading to their being overcrowded. Therefore neighbourhood clinics should be established in urban localities to fill the increasing vacuum between patient need and the present lack of provision. With a Nurse Consultant leading a team of paramedics and care and support staff, they could be responsible for all patients within an area, say, 3000 people, and thus provide the detailed care for a seven-day, 24-hour cover impossible with the present GP structure. These clinics would also attend to those 80 per cent of patients who visit a surgery to see a doctor but can be adequately treated by a nursing staff. This would leave GPs to move into a higher form of care — an Infirmary. Grouping together some half-dozen clinics, with a small operations theatre, recovery and observation beds, they would ease the existing strain on district hospitals, and, by reducing the 40 per cent of unnecessary referrals from present GPs to the existing district hospitals, leave them to get on with the task for which they are best fitted. This plan would allow district hospitals to devolve specialist treatment and surgery into free57
standing hospitals with catchment areas appropriate to providing adequate cover and a throughput of patients sufficient to maintain and improve the skills of its medical personnel. With district hospitals caring for acute and chronic cases, they can also end the present practice of emptying beds as soon as possible after operations. Just-in-Time — The Factory Comes to Hospital To empty beds of patients and get them back into the community as soon as possible, a whitewash slogan ‘bed-blocking’ has been invented to cover the massive loss of hospital beds during the Thatcher years — 23 000 of them. Allied to this is the ‘just-in-time’ ideology of transnational factory production creeping into hospital parlance as a suitable method for speeding up bed-usage and speedy re-usage, as if people are component parts of a production line which are immediately available for assembly and then dispatch. Thus, the philosophy goes, costly time is not wasted nor money spent on empty beds — storage — or parking of finished products — ‘bed-blocking’. The result is that patients still recovering after major surgery are sent home to be cared for by caring but untrained family members, to face inadequate local authority services, or simply to fend for themselves. The cruelty involved in this practice is obvious: They turfed an elderly patient out on the day of his hernia operation, even though he lived alone and it was a Saturday. He had a big bleed on the Sunday and I had to send him straight back in. (Dr Phil Hammond and Michael Mosley, Trust Me (I’m a Doctor), London, 1999) Even a Tory former junior health minister recognised the harshness of Britain’s service when compared to the German. He wrote: The Englishman [after heart surgery] was sent home after a week. The German was held in hospital to recuperate for three weeks and was then sent for six weeks of convalescence at a health spa. (Ray Whitney, National Health Crisis, 1988) Therefore, district hospitals should also become recovery hospitals caring for patients from the specialist hospitals once the surgeons are satisfied their surgery has been satisfactorily done. This structural rearrangement of hospital services should be followed by a structural reform of working relationships within the NHS. The oligarchic, feudal culture should be replaced with a Social Cooperative one. The NHS: A Social Cooperative All NHS establishments should become Social Cooperatives in which the workforce self-manages the service on behalf of the public. Internally, these cooperatives could be organised through elected committees in which all workers are equal as cooperators, and have an equal opportunity to engage in the administration of the service. Externally, NHS cooperatives could be part of the local authority structure. London, for example, with its Greater London Authority, could take over responsibility for all NHS bodies within its area, devolving these as appropriate to the London boroughs. To ensure local participation had some meaningful role in this scheme, Neigh58
bourhood Health Forums could be established to ensure that ‘Peckhams’, neighbourhood clinics, infirmaries, etc, properly fulfilled their local responsibilities. Given the integration between athletics, health, illness and care expressed above, the NHS should be broadened and deepened to embrace these other activities within its remit, and should therefore be renamed the National Athletics, Medical and Care Service. This scenario demonstrates a structure of health/illness/care which carries foreword Bevan’s founding principle of providing a comprehensive ‘holistic’ system available to all the UK’s population. Unlike education in a public school with its opportunity to qualify for admission to university and, from a class point of view, to establish links which develop into an old-boy network to facilitate an introduction into capitalism’s business establishment on reaching maturity, the NHS offers nothing but treatment for illness, and, whereas the cost of supporting students at university is expensive, medical treatment takes place at no immediate cost and in an egalitarian setting, and, therefore, in that context is classless. Insurance charges for medical treatment can weigh heavily on the income of working people and the middle class alike, with crippling treatment charges for chronic illness, hence the use of insurance to spread the cost individually and collectively through a taxation system. There is no difference in principle between the state doing the same thing for the population as a whole and what insurance companies such as BUPA do for a small part of the population. Therefore there is no qualitative difference between BUPA and the National Insurance and taxation system, merely one of quantity. BUPA and other such insurance companies do on a small scale and for individual payments of cash what the NHS does on a national scale, in which everyone who is a taxpayer pays his or her mite, and receives equal treatment when needed. Thus, it followed, as reported by Charles Webster: For the first time… men felt secure so far as the medical care of their families is concerned, and women felt freedom in this regard in respect of their children which they had never before experienced. (The National Health Service, Volume 1, 1988) And this experience was as much a middle-class response as that of the working class. Good as this was for patients, it left hospitals as employment structures with a system whereby harmonious relations between working members are thwarted by a structure which allows Consultants to act as feudal boyars and through hegemonic control and the old-boy network which dominates the NHS, including the NHS Executive, to run the service very much as it wishes, given occasional setbacks when bickering amongst Consultants requires occasional intervention from other oligarchs or an NHS Executive member. And this structure is set to become more entrenched with PFI, which is designed to benefit, almost exclusively, the oligarchs, financiers and the Establishment generally. PFI: Takeover, Lock, Stock and Barrel Formerly, the NHS had a clear line of command from the Secretary of State via regional bodies to GPs and hospitals. Under New Labour, this has changed into its opposite with the formation of Trusts and provision on the way to transfer to PFI agents the sole rights to build and own future hospitals. With architecture, construc59
tion, funding and servicing ‘all commodity elements provided’ (as Tim Stone, international chair PPP KPMG Consultants, puts it, Health Service Journal, 20 March 2003), this process will transfer a hospital’s asset base to finance capital, and turn the NHS into a US-style system whereby assets are in the private sector with the government paying for rent and treatment to patients. Prior to PFI, the vertical line of command from Parliament through the Treasury, Secretary of State, NHS Executive, etc, was clearly documented and well understood by all NHS sectors and personnel. Funding for all purposes came via the Treasury to the Secretary of State for Health. Capital spent by the latter was absorbed into the NHS’s asset base as a physical entity, with revenue from the Treasury also received to pay for the running costs of the NHS. Under the new proposals, PFI companies will supersede the Treasury in providing the asset base of the NHS. Finance capital provides the money for the NHS’s physical entity, its asset base, and then leases this back to the NHS for its use. Therefore, the Treasury, as more of the NHS’s physical entity is replaced with PFI buildings, simply pays rent to finance capital for using the latter’s property. The reason for this new slant on Treasury/PFI arrangements is because financiers have recognised that hospitals now in the course of building, or preparation for building, will be obsolete long before the 30-year mortgage between it and the Treasury is paid up. Therefore, by owning the land and the building, when obsolescence takes over, it can negotiate a severance pay with the Treasury to permit the latter to withdraw from the lease, and then arrange another business deal with the land and buildings, or sell it on the open market. PFI has thus evolved from the crude financial instrument designed in the early 1990s. As finance capital has come to understand the structure of the NHS, it has systematically refined its financial mechanism from simply lending money to the Treasury for building new hospitals, etc, to financing land purchase, construction, equipping and running the services once the building is completed. Thus finance capital has total possession of the asset base of the new physical entity, as well as managing day-to-day services. As finance capital in the UK rarely becomes involved in managing the use of its investments but habitually sells them on to companies involved in management, this will almost certainly be the fate of PFI hospitals. We can see, therefore, that whilst the present NHS is a vertical structure with command flowing downwards, under PFI sell-offs the structure will be horizontal as individual entrepreneurs buy the hospitals from finance capital. The New Labour government has neither the desire nor the socialist understanding to rebuff this development. The NHS devised by Bevan was unitary in structure, in that its parts slotted into a descending structure from parliament to the patient. Under New Labour, this is being fragmented into a discordant jumble of organisations with overlapping powers with no clear lines of functional authority — the result of the absence of socialism in New Labour’s thinking — and is a return of health care to what it was prior to the 1948 Act, and foundation hospitals will be their vanguard. PFI was described by Jeremy Coleman, the deputy controller and auditorgeneral of the National Audit Office, in The Times on 6 June 2002 as ‘psuedo-scientific mumbo-jumbo’ in the methods and calculations employed to prove ‘value for money’ using the comparators provided by PFI financiers to test traditional Treasury proposals for funding the building of new hospitals. An example of this method was that used by the UCLH Trust to get PFI approval for its new hospital.
Foundation Hospitals or Cooperative Hospitals? Foundation hospitals, of which the UCLH Trust will be one, replace the present vertical command structure by horizontal formations, as they are to be free from the control of the Secretary of State, can raise finance privately, and can enter into direct arrangements with GPs and with hospitals in the private sector. In other words, they have become entrepreneurs only one step away from total private enterprise and a management buyout. As this transition of the NHS to total private enterprise is working its way through the system, the Treasury will pay rent to finance capital on an everincreasing scale. Formerly the Treasury paid for building NHS structures from taxation and therefore wrote it off in the year it was spent. It could borrow money from banks at about five per cent, but finance capital wants a return of some 15 or 20 per cent. And this is the base from which rent will be extracted from the Treasury year by year. Money supposedly spent to bring UK hospital services up to EU standards will disappear into the finance capital domain, resulting in the NHS costing more each year to run — alongside an ever-declining service. The counter to this finance capital progression is to restructure the NHS in the cooperative manner suggested above. Crucial, however, to its success is the creation of Cooperative Social Enterprises within each hospital or other workplace, and the formation of Neighbourhood Health Forums in each residential area. Neighbourhood Health Forums are horizontal institutions: democratic in structure, participatory in function and supportive or corrective in relation to a balanced provision of athletic, medical and care services for their community, probably about the same size as the catchment area for a neighbourhood clinic. They would support, in the case of London, borough councils in their management of the facilities of the National Athletics, Medical and Care Service (NAMCS) devolved to them from the Greater London Authority. (Councils outside London would follow analogous patterns.) These latter local authorities are also horizontal institutions which act as the base to the vertical element of the government in NAMCS matters. During the above changes it would be appropriate for the GLA to take on the responsibility for managing the research, educational and treating element in the NHS within its area. These should become administratively separate, unlike at present where they are clustered into the single establishment of teaching hospitals, and, because of the different principles which guide their work, confuse the provision of staff, buildings and resources, thereby duplicating work in other teaching hospitals and generally fouling strategic orientations in each of the three bodies. Research is inductively led from particulars to look for general remedies. Teaching is a mixture of the two, but leans more heavily on the known, whilst hospitals work mainly in applying the known solution to problems afflicting patients. In proceeding with the above changes, the present ‘Officer and Other Ranks’ culture of medical schools should be changed to permit entrants from a wider category of qualified applicants. This can be facilitated by having all prospective medics, nurses, doctors, researchers, etc, take a two-year foundation course in work at the ‘coal face’. In this way, future medical staff will absorb the new culture and be integrated into the new cooperative and democratic NHS. Further, as Dr Julian Tudor Hart wrote, if ‘mature people with experience of how medical science is translated into patient care in real situations’, if ‘those willing and able to take fuller responsibility of a qualification in medicine’, and ‘if 20 per cent of the annual intake of medical students were reserved for NHS students… we could begin to tap this valuable
reserve’ (Health Centres, Socialist Medical Association, London). Thus, contrary to the way New Labour proceeds, the institutions described above are part of a continuation of the socialist, democratic and unitary NHS begun by Labour and Bevan in 1948. With three layers of horizontal and elected democracies, and two units of vertical democracies, which are bound to parliament by the vertical structure of parliament and the electorate, they provide a network of grass-root organisations linking communities into democratic units, able with new technology and the information process now being developed in the existing NHS, to exert democratic pressure for meaningful participation in NAMCS programming. Until recently, the NHS lacked finite and meaningful comparative information on key elements of its many-sided clinical activities. This allowed oligarchs to wrap proposals together using the subterfuge of ambiguous and subjective quantitative assessment. This is now changing with dramatic effect, and new initiatives are providing the mechanism for a new objectivity in the affairs of the NHS. By producing tables of comparison for each separate unit and its activities, and comparing items in a tabular form, it allows differences to be identified between factors within a matrix form of adjudication. From these a value judgement can be made for approval or remedial action by the various bodies involved in the discourse. This new, objective mechanism allows a different dimension of democracy to enter the world of NAMCS. Parliament and the other layers of horizontal democracies can now deliberate the options of proposals with determinate information at their disposal. Social cooperatives have the comparative information amongst themselves and similar institutions to assess and judge performances. And from the local democratic scene, that crucial layer of citizenship participation, neighbourhood forums will be able to keep a keen watch on local NAMCS spending and its provision of an agreed balance of activities. This new structure of the NHS could win the support of the middle class. Just as many of its members supported changes introduced by Bevan in 1948, so the changes outlined above will be to their advantage both individually and as a class. The heavy medical charges they had to pay for treatment prior to 1948 was a burden during times of family illness, hence the payment into insurance funds to spread the costs over time. The attacks on the NHS by successive Conservative governments, and the deliberate fixing of the system by some Consultants to obtain private patients, has compelled many to take once again to the path of taking out health insurance. Alain Juppé — The Warning From France The present debate on the role of the NHS can lead to a heightened understanding of the politically injured past of the NHS, and of an enhanced vista for an improved role in its future, which will benefit the middle class as much as the working class. A word of warning, however. The NHS as a mechanism which can be used to reduce health costs has been noted by other OECD governments, and given that, as in France, the bulk of costs fall on industry via the joint insurance policy of employer and employee, and, given that this latter arrangement allowed strong trade unions to exert pressure on employers to upgrade health provision, all these added to unit costs of production, and thus disadvantaging French companies against its competitors. This led capitalist companies and their representatives in government to prepare to replace this system by introducing something similar to that of the UK, in which, given a Thatcher-type
government, the Treasury can hold down budget expenditure to the benefit of both industry and the capitalist class as a whole — including these days, transnational companies and their network of global satraps. Such a threat is already inherent in the action taken by the French Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, who, in 1995, behind the backs of the trade unions, scrapped the existing scheme and went over to a British-style Treasury system. The outrage of trade unionists was immense, and mass demonstrations toppled Juppé from power. But the legislation remained, and, as soon as resistance weakens, the French health service is structured to go downwards, the same way as the UK’s NHS did under Thatcher. I have attempted to show that the middle class and the working class have a joint interest in both preserving the present universal character of the NHS and backing proposals for its improvement. That the NHS substantially benefits both classes is proved by the continuous support it has received over the 50 years of its existence. If it fails, both classes will suffer. Therefore, both classes have a common cause in this instance which overcomes their normal diversity of viewpoint and economic interest. And by uniting to preserve and improve the NHS, they serve simultaneously the interests of each other. That the NHS and some other welfare state programmes benefit the middle class has long been recognised, and ‘they have infiltrated programmes originally designed for the benefit of the poor’ (Robert E Goodin and Julian Le Grand, Not Only The Poor, London, 1987), because the NHS fits in to what these authors say were ‘certain “universalist” programmes’. However, that these ‘universalist’ programmes are under threat and that their demise affects both the middle class and the working class, is clear from the course of the NHS under Thatcher and the attacks by Juppé in France. Hence the need for the middle class to align itself with the working class when the latter heeds the message of Aneurin Bevan as the NHS was launched: It must be clear, however, to everybody in the labour movement that we are not going to obtain from the National Health Service the best results possible except by the utmost vigilance on the part of the whole socialist, cooperative and trade union movement. (Tribune, 5 July 1948) To do this necessitates the rejection of New Labour and the completion of the unfinished business of 1948. In doing this, we shall endorse with unambiguous clarity the description given by David Owen ‘to provide a service for everyone in the community according to their need, and for the service to be financed by everyone according to their means’. A Middle-Class Alignment with the Working Class Such a view captures the essential nature of the NHS as being a service designed to provide ‘the greatest good for the greatest number of people’, and, as such, describes — inadvertently, I take it, as Owen later advocated the internal market which was a death sentence on universal provision — the form and content of socialism as seen by generations of ‘Old Labour’ supporters. This principle of ‘the greatest good’ is a mark of the working class, whose economic life, pitted as individuals against the usually grasping employer, led them to combine as the only effective way to exert pressure for obtaining economic redistribution of generated wealth and political justice as the way to the same end in civic
society. From ‘local universalisms’, this method and doctrine spread to its national form: the TUC in economics and the Labour Party in politics. Because the working class is by far the largest class in society, a benefit embracing all its members had to cover the whole population in order to ensure that its members received their just due. Therefore ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’ in health care, for example, envelops the entire population of the UK. However, the middle class has as its principle of conduct the aim to provide for the individual and his/her family. And this comes out of its role as being not capitalists — for that class obtains its wealth from profit — but as providing the ‘individualist’ workforce for managing the infrastructure of the various components of society, economic, political and civic. Hence Labour policy sometimes wins its support, as with the NHS, and sometimes the Conservatives, as with promises to reduce taxation. That the latter’s policy is inconsistent with providing for ‘the greatest good’ is demonstrated by the history of Britain’s NHS since 1951. Whilst that history is blatantly obvious to all sensible people, it is now being submerged through either amnesia or a new form of Imperial triumphalism by ‘New Labour’. Sensible people now have the task of sorting the wheat of Bevan’s NHS from the chaff of Blair’s opportunistic carpetbaggers. The obvious choice, I would have thought, for both the working class and those of the middle class who can put to one side the pseudo-messages of the spin-doctors, is to hark back to and carry forward the message given by Richard Titmuss when he described the NHS: … the most unsordid act of British social policy in the twentieth century which has allowed and encouraged sentiments of altruism, reciprocity and social duty to express themselves; to be made explicit and identifiable in measurable patterns of behaviour by all social groups and classes. To which all socialists — the pioneers and the present generation; those moving into the struggle and those of all classes who are beginning to see the value in ethics, in economics and in politics of the socialist cause — can and will endorse to say: ‘Welcome to the Cooperative Socialist Commonwealth.’
TONY Blair’s permanent grin was more smug than ever when Lord Hutton’s report on the death of Dr David Kelly exonerated him and his team from any wrong-doing, and blamed the BBC for falsely accusing Alastair Campbell of exaggerating in a government dossier the threat posed by Iraq’s weaponry in order to facilitate the case for war. We should not be surprised at the Hutton Inquiry’s verdict. Any other conclusion would have had difficult consequences for the British political establishment. A broader and more objective inquiry would have been forced to conclude that the government wanted a war with Iraq, and, as part of its propaganda drive, consistently presented an alarmist view of Iraq’s military potential, and deliberately
amended information in intelligence reports to that effect. It would also have looked at the accuracy of the intelligence reports that were handed to the government in the light of what has been found in Iraq since the Ba’ath regime fell. It would have exposed a government that systematically lied to the public in respect of the very serious matter of going to war, and demonstrated that the intelligence agencies were unable to obtain accurate information in respect of key questions in countries abroad. That not inconsiderable numbers of important academics, mandarins and commentators were very dubious of Blair’s Iraq adventure makes it all the more important for the ruling class to pull together despite their differences, as its members must surely realise that a crisis over this crucial issue could lead to a very damaging fraternal blow-up within Britain’s ruling élite, and who knows what that might lead to? What is strange is the blatantly obvious nature of this whitewash. There is no pretence of objectivity or apportioning some blame, however little, to anyone beyond the BBC. This can only exacerbate the growing trends amongst the general public of cynicism towards and alienation from politics and politicians. Perhaps our rulers know this, and feel that they can live with it.
John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, Pluto, 2002
TWO of the chief characteristics of the world of the new millennium directly negate each other. On the one hand, in the wake of the collapse of the Russian Revolution, ‘everybody knows’ that ‘capitalism is here to stay’. No matter how anyone feels about it, the power of capital is part of the furniture of social life. At the same time, everybody feels totally at odds with the way they live. Nothing is as it should be. This is not how we should live. This vitally important book seeks a way forward which sets off from the conflict between these two attitudes. The starting point of theoretical reflection is opposition, negativity, struggle. It is from rage that thought is born, not from the pose of reason, not from the reasoned-sitting-back-and-reflecting-on-the-mysteries-ofexistence that is the conventional image of the thinker. We start from negation, from dissonance. (p1) Holloway goes on to analyse this negativity with some care. I believe such an examination is essential for the movement usually called ‘anti-globalisation’. This tendency’s lively opposition to ‘what is’ expresses what Holloway calls ‘the scream’, instinctive opposition to what exists. But — let’s be frank — the movement has not been very good at explaining itself to itself. Rejecting the formulas of the old ‘leftism’ — and this is its great strength — it has tended to cop out of the tedious chore of thinking through what it is doing. (If there are exceptions to this allegation, I haven’t
encountered them.) What can take the place of the old, worn-out slogans and rigid ‘theories’? Nothing at all, many say. We are better off without any replacement ideas. Change the World… is just what we need: it should force us to take up the tasks of intellectual housekeeping. Holloway restates in new and illuminating ways some of the fundamental ideas of Karl Marx, freed of the falsification known as ‘Marxism’. In his second chapter, ‘Beyond the State?’, he examines and firmly rejects the almost universal way that socialism used to be understood. We were all convinced that the way forward was to ‘take state power’ and then to use this power to do good things for everybody else, getting rid for ever of ‘the evils of capitalism’. Holloway kicks this notion to pieces, and jumps heavily on its companion conception that what is needed is to ‘build a party’. ‘What is at issue’, says Holloway, ‘is not who exercises power, but how to create a world based on the mutual recognition of human dignity, on the formation of social relations which are not power relations.’ (pp17-8) Apparently simple ideas like this are often just uttered as anarchistic, pious hopes for a better world. Holloway, however, takes them seriously, investigating just what we mean by power and why it is at the heart of the way we live. We have to see that power is not something given, not a thing but an activity, something people do. And ‘before the doing comes the scream. It is not materialism that comes first. It is negativity.’ That is precisely what we mean by ‘changing the world’. Next, we have to grasp that ‘doing’ is meaningless without the power to do. When some people have power over others, the victims have been deprived of the ‘capacity to do’. ‘Power-over’, which is the denial of ‘power-to’, ‘is never individual: it is always social’ (p28). But this means that we have uncovered the way that ‘the power-to that exists in the form of power-over, in the form, therefore, of being denied, exists not only as revolt against its denial; it exists also as material substratum of denial’ (p35). Now come three chapters, 4, 5 and 6, in which Holloway elaborates and generalises Marx’s central concept of ‘fetishism’. It was only in the second edition of Capital, in 1873, that Marx set out his account of ‘The Fetish-Character of Commodities’, in the final section of Chapter 1. As Holloway says, this idea, central to Marx’s whole notion of capital, was largely ignored by ‘Marxism’, even by Engels. In Holloway’s language: … the force of the concept lies in that it refers to an unsustainable horror: the self-negation of doing… The sundering of doer from done is inevitably the sundering of the doer himself. The production of an alien object is inevitably an active process of self-estrangement… The rupture of the doer from the done is the negation of the doer’s power-to. The doer is turned into a victim… Alienation is the production of humans who are damaged, maimed, deprived of their humanity. (p74) Holloway is now led to what he calls ‘the tragic dilemma’: ‘the urgent impossibility of revolution’: ‘How can we live in a society based on dehumanisation? But how can we possibly change a society in which people are so dehumanised?’ Rejecting both the hopelessness of post-modernism, and the Leninist party– state–power solution, Holloway is left with a third approach: ‘To try to understand and thereby to participate in the force of all that which exists in antagonism, in the form of being denied.’ (p77) Fetishism and alienation are terms which the so-called ‘social sciences’ have
tried to run off with. Of course, they take them to refer to ‘phenomena’, given, accomplished facts, topics for PhD theses. Holloway emphasises that they are in fact processes, activities, which are continually being imposed on us and against which we struggle. Once capitalism is a going concern, fetishism means that any struggle to get rid of it is futile, say the professors. But, says Holloway: … the movement of fetishisation can only be understood in terms of an anti-movement, a movement of anti-fetishisation. Fetishism is a process of fetishisation, a process of separating subject and object, doing and done, always in antagonism to the opposing movement of anti-fetishisation, the struggle to reunite subject and object, to recompose doing and done. (p89) It is in this context that Holloway takes up the ideas of Lukács. While appreciating some features of History and Class Consciousness, Lukács’ inability to escape from the Party notion is shown to mean that ‘he failed in his attempt to provide a theoretical and political answer to the revolutionary dilemma, to the “urgent impossibility of revolution”’ (p87). Holloway’s short chapter 6 is very important. It deals with the meaning of criticism as ‘the theoretical voice of the scream’. (p114) Marx’s critiques of religion, of philosophy, of the state, of socialism and of political economy are aspects of antifetishism. Above all, Holloway shows that they counter the way that ‘theory’ usually views the world, as if from the outside, with a conception of critique as the realisation that we, the critics, are ourselves being criticised. To criticise is to recognise that we are a divided self. To criticise society is to criticise our own complicity in the reproduction of that society. That realisation does not weaken our scream in any way. On the contrary, it intensifies it, makes it more urgent. (p117) The concept of fetishism implies a negative concept of science. If relations between people exist as relations between things, then the attempt to understand social relations can proceed only negatively, by going against and beyond the form in which social relations appear (and really exist). Science is negative… The truth of science is the negative of the untruth of false appearances. (p118) But in the tradition of ‘scientific Marxism’, science is positive, its ‘objectivity’ excluding all ‘subjectivity’. Holloway takes up some standard texts of Engels, Kautsky and Lenin to show the theoretical and political consequences of this falsification of Marx. He is able to point to its effects even on Rosa Luxemburg’s work, and to show how Marx’s chief work, Capital, came to be read as a piece of economics. It was inevitable that ‘Marxists’ like this almost totally ignored Marx’s account of fetishism. (I would also mention their avoidance of all discussion of Section 3 of Chapter 1, the ‘Forms of Value’, as well.) The great attraction of orthodox Marxism remains its simplicity. It provided an answer to the revolutionary dilemma: a wrong answer, but at least it was an answer. It guided the revolutionary movement to great conquests that, in the end, were not conquests at all, but dreadful defeats. (pp138-9)
Holloway has now set out the way of thinking which allows us to talk about changing the world. His Chapter 8, ‘The Critical-Revolutionary Subject’, asks who is going to change the world? In this context, he examines the problem of class. Class struggle… is the struggle to classify and against being classified at the same time as it is, indistinguishably, the struggle between constituted classes… We do not struggle as being working-class, we struggle against being working-class, against being classified. Our struggle is not the struggle of labour, it is the struggle against labour. (pp143-4) That is the only way that revolution can be understood: as the self-emancipation of the working class. Chapter 9 can then discuss the ‘material reality of anti-power’, a reality which cannot be seen if we look for it with the concepts of positive science, that is, with the concepts of power. Holloway’s criticism of the ‘autonomist’ ideas of Antonio Negri turn on this aspect. (I personally find the form of these criticisms rather too polite for my taste, but this might reflect my own crudity.) In Chapter 10, Holloway looks at the role of the crisis of capital. ‘Marxism’ used to see the problems of the economic system as background music which sets the tone for class relations. Holloway’s approach replaces this mechanical view with one founded on the fundamentally antagonistic nature of the social relation, capital: We are the crisis, we-who-scream, in the streets, in the countryside, in the factories, in the offices, in our houses; we, the insubordinate and nonsubordinate who say No! We who say Enough! Enough of your stupid power games, enough of your stupid exploitation, enough of your idiotic playing at soldiers and bosses; we who do not want to exploit, we who do not have power and do not want to have power, we who still want to have lives that we consider human, we who are without face and without voice: we are the crisis of capitalism. The theory of crisis is not just a theory of fear but also a theory of hope. (p203) That brings us to the final chapter, ‘Revolution?’: ‘If crisis expresses the extreme disarticulation of social relations, then revolution must be understood, in the first place, as the intensification of crisis.’ (p204) We are not talking about a single cataclysmic event, after which humanity can begin. Holloway’s understanding of revolution is as ‘the explicit unification of constitution and existence, the overcoming of the separation of is and is-not, the end of the domination of dead labour over living doing, the dissolution of identity’ (p215). Holloway does not apologise for not giving us cut-and-dried definitions, a programme, a blue-print for a better world, nor does he need to. Such formulae would contradict what he sees as the problem. He ends the book without a conclusion and, engagingly, without a full-stop. A few words of criticism: I feel that he leaves certain other aspects of Marx’s work in the hands of the ‘Marxists’, and this might lose some elements of great value. I think that he avoids setting his conceptions of revolution in a broader historical context. Maybe this is a reaction to the mechanical notions we ‘Marxists’ used to call ‘historical materialism’ (not Marx’s phrase, of course). But Marx does have a concept of human history as a continual struggle, first, in its most primitive shape, then inevitably caught up in the bonds of class struggle, and finally discovering the way to escape, the path to ‘universal human emancipation’. Maybe such notions are implied
in this book, but I couldn’t see them. Anyway, what Holloway has given us represent a huge advance, and I hope that its stimulating lessons will find a response in living struggle. Cyril Smith
GR Evans, Fifty Key Mediaeval Thinkers, Routledge, 2002
THIS is an irritating book. I do not wish to imply that it is not worth consulting, since there are some parts which are well set out and the whole is, as far as it goes, informative. The trouble, however, is that the selection of individuals chosen combines to present an image of the European Middle Ages (covering roughly the period from the end of the Western Roman Empire to the time of Martin Luther) which is misleading and incomplete. The chief reason for this lies in the title chosen and the individuals selected for inclusion. One suspects that the choice of title was largely the publishers’ idea, but, whoever was responsible, it was, I think, a bad one. I am reminded of an egregious compilation which appeared in the 1960s entitled Fifty Unknown Facts About the African (With Complete Proof). Fifty is really too tidy a number. A glance at the contents of the work under review shows that there are indeed 50 individual names each with a section of text appended thereto, but in fact the number of thinkers discussed exceeds that number — Alcuin, for example, does not feature in his own right among the famous 50, but takes up a lot of space in the notice of another contemporary thinker. The real crux of the matter, however, is the word ‘key’. In what sense were these individuals ‘key’? The author tells us in the preface that the book is about mediaeval responses to certain perennial philosophical questions, but that it is also concerned with … the interconnectedness of their work and its place in the heritage of Western thought. For that reason, the focus is mainly upon the ‘Latin West’… Similarly, we shall look at the work of Arabic [sic] and Jewish scholars chiefly as it impinged on that Western world which was to draw it into its own internal debate. (p vii) GR Evans is a teacher of mediaeval theology at Cambridge, and her professional concerns have clearly determined the selection of writers discussed in the book. Indeed, it would be interesting to know just what she understands by the phrase ‘heritage of Western thought’. As far as one can judge, with her it is not a case of ‘philosophia est ancilla theologiae’ (‘Philosophy is the handmaid of theology’), but rather ‘Vera philosophia theologia est’ (‘True philosophy and theology are identical’). The evident theological bias is what accounts for the distorted picture presented, for while it is true that the Middle Ages were an age of Faith with a capital F, they were a lot more besides, and the non-theological components of the story tend to get buried in the exposition of the development of Christian doctrine that the author gives us. ‘Key’ in what sense? I would argue that a number of very important individuals have been left out, and a number of others included whose presence helps to produce a lopsided portrait. I must confess that the notices of Paschasius Radbertus — you may well ask ‘Who?’ — Remigius of Auxerre, Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II), Berengar of Tours, Rupert of Deutz, William of Conches, Anselm of Havelberg and Baldus of Ubaldis do not convince me that these figures should have
been given separate treatment. The same goes for the writer known as PseudoDionysius — for some curious reason this individual is referred to throughout as ‘Ps-Dionysius’, as if he were a postscript to the real original Dionysius the Areopagite. Hildegard of Bingen is included — again apparently on theological grounds — whereas in my opinion Christine de Pisani (an early feminist) would be a better candidate for inclusion. The bias in favour of theology leads to the barring of several figures who should be in the book. For example, the extremely important monk Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII) gets a very brief mention on page 96, whereas we should surely have been treated to at least some discussion of the celebrated Dictatus Papae, a series of propositions found in Gregory’s papers outlining papal claims to ‘plenitudo potestatis’ — the plenitude of power. This document is absolutely crucial for an understanding of the political rôle of the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation (and even subsequently). In it Pope Gregory declared, inter alia: that the Pope may depose emperors; that no synod may be called a general one without his order; that no chapter or book may be regarded as canonical without his authority; that he himself may be judged by no one; that the Roman Church has never erred, nor ever, by the witness of Scripture, shall err to all eternity; that the Roman Pontiff, if canonically ordained, is undoubtedly sanctified by the merits of St Peter… that the pope may absolve subjects of unjust men from their fealty. (See The Papacy by James A Corbett, Van Nostrand, 1956, pp103-4.) These and other papal powers listed in the Dictatus are supposed to derive from Jesus’ words to Peter recorded in Matthew, chapter 16, verses 18-19. But the extent of papal power claimed was unprecedented and a departure from the hitherto accepted theory of the ‘two swords’, under which the temporal and spiritual sovereigns, emperor and pope, were seen as sharing the supreme power. The ecclesiastical centralisation policy embarked on by Gregory stemmed from the demands of the contemporary reform programme within the Church, which called for a ban on simony (sale of clerical office), lay investiture (the right of lay persons to appoint to clerical office) and clerical marriage (which constituted a potential drain on the material resources of the Church, given the possibility that the property of a priest might pass to offspring who were not themselves holders of a religious office). The reform programme in its turn was a response to the corrupting influences on the Church generated by the feudal order under which it operated. The excuse for not including a notice of Hildebrand and his Dictatus would seem to be that Pope Gregory VII himself did not defend his own propositions in writing: instead this task was undertaken by Bernard of Clairvaux, who is included as a key thinker (and rightly). Hildebrand’s dates are 1020–1085, Bernard’s 1090– 1153. Evans writes on page 96: In the end, Bernard developed [in On Consideration] a theory of the plenitude of papal power which was to be of immense importance for the later Middle Ages. His idea was that the Pope stood in the hierarchy of heaven and earth not only above every secular power but also above all others in the Church. That line of thought [was] already present as a result of the reforms of Pope Gregory VII half a century earlier…
This correctly represents the relationship between Hildebrand and Bernard on the issue of the plenitudo potestatis. But Hildebrand deserves the credit (or otherwise) for his original formulation of the papal programme, and should have been given more than a passing reference. The absence of any mention at all of the great mediaeval theorist of democracy, Marsilius of Padua (Marsilio dei Mainardi, 1275/80–1342) is nothing short of scandalous. Marsilius was a more accomplished philosopher than a good many of the individuals listed in the book, but from the point of view of traditional Catholicism (which, one suspects, is Evans’s own viewpoint) his work is suspect because he attacked the above-mentioned theory of papal power head-on. Marsilius supported the Holy Roman Emperor against the Papacy, but he was in reality the ideological representative of the Italian city state merchants and guild masters, the so-called ‘weightier part’ (valentior pars) of the body of citizens, from whom, in his view, laws validly emanated. The emperor’s rôle in Marsilius’ scheme was to act as the defender of the Italian cities against the papacy. In order to set out and defend the project, Marsilius marshalled a whole series of arguments, of which the following is the most striking, based on Matthew, chapter 16, verse 19: … as for the words which were added by Christ: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven’, this utterance gave to Peter no authority over the other apostles, inasmuch as it gave this same judiciary power to the other apostles, according to Jerome and Raban [Hrabanus Maurus], from whose glosses we quoted in Chapter VI of this discourse, paragraph 3. Moreover, it seems that it was not by these words that Christ gave to Peter the power of the keys. For Christ said, ‘I will give’, which denotes the future; he did not say, ‘I give.’ (Marsilius of Padua, Defensor Pacis, translated by Alan Gewirth, University of Toronto Press, 1980, p375) Marsilius follows this up by citing Matthew, chapter 20, verses 24-28, and Luke, chapters 22, verses 24-30. These passages record dissension among the apostles as to who should have the greater authority, but Jesus’ answer is effectively given in Matthew, chapter 23, verse 8, where he says: ‘But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.’ Marsilius concludes that in Jesus’ eyes all his apostles were equal (Defensor, p376). There are yet more omissions. A particularly glaring gap is the total absence of any reference to the considerable body of mediaeval Catholic teaching on what we would nowadays call ‘welfare economics’. This teaching is associated with such writers as Huguccio (Hugh of Pisa), Hostiensis and St Thomas Aquinas. The section on Aquinas carries no information about his contribution in this area. Henry of Langenstein (whom Evans mentions but does not include among the select 50) also contributed to the formation of a theory of ‘the just price’ (iustum pretium) by equating such a price with the customary or market value of goods (see JT Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1957) — an analysis made possible by the lack of variation in mediaeval prices. Mediaeval economists recognised, however, the possibility of an ‘unjust price’ occurring under certain conditions: activities such as forestalling (cornering the supply of goods before they could be sold on the open market), regrating (buying cheap in order to resell at a higher price later) and engrossing (control of the market by big suppliers) were all denounced. Aquinas gave it as his opinion that ‘without reciprocal justice of exchange,
human arts and crafts would be destroyed because they would lack sufficient compensation to maintain themselves’ (Ethicorum, Liber V, Lectio VIII, p268). If Evans finds it possible to include a useful and informative section on the contributions in physics and mathematics of Thomas Bradwardine (c1295–1349), why does she shy away from including any recognition of mediaeval Catholic contributions to the science of political economy? Then there is the question of the ‘work of Arabic and Jewish scholars’. The author includes only two individuals here, namely Moshe Ben Maimon (Maimonides, 1138–1204) and Muhammad Ibn Ahmad, better known as Ibn Rushd, or, in Latin, Averroes (1126–1198). It would indeed be unpardonable if these two had been left out, since they are the principal exponents of an Aristotelian approach in their respective religious traditions — compare Aquinas’s rôle in Catholic Christianity. Fine, but what about other Muslim thinkers such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Hazm, Al Ghazzali and the great Ibn Khaldun of Tunis? And what about the Kabbalah? — a mediaeval phenomenon if ever there was one. Here again I suspect that the publishers are at least partly responsible, as their series of ‘Key Guides’ includes a volume entitled Fifty Eastern Thinkers (that magic number again). There is also a companion volume on Jewish thought, but none of this is mentioned in Evans’ book. Such cross-referencing would have been useful, but evidently ‘the left hand knoweth not what the right hand doeth’. Evans tells us that we shall be concerned chiefly with the way that the writings of Maimonides and Ibn Rushd impinged on the debate within Christendom. OK, but in fact the two sections are not a success. The section on Maimonides situates him well within the traditions of the Mishnah and the Talmud, but ends only with a brief note claiming that he had considerable influence on Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas — we are not told why — whereas the notice of Ibn Rushd is much more condensed, and does not mention his chief work against Al-Ghazzali’s Tahafut alFalasifah (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), which is entitled Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence). Neither thinker is in fact fairly done by — but see the aforementioned Fifty Eastern Thinkers for a more accurate view of Ibn Rushd, at least. Even so, the inclusion of only two non-Christian thinkers in a round total of 50 means that this book is, in fact, Eurocentric. This is deplorable. Worse still, it is too heavily weighted in favour of Western Europe. This was indeed the most dynamic area of the continent over those centuries, but that does not mean to say that complete stagnation prevailed in Central and Eastern Europe. There is a strong case for including in a survey of this kind one Paulus Vladimir (Paweł Włodzimierz or Włodkowic, ?–1435). This man was rector of Cracow University from 1414 to 1415, and was present at the Council of Konstanz in 1415. His brief there was to protest on behalf of the Crown of Poland against invasion by the Teutonic Knights, whose territories lay in what are now the Baltic States. Vladimir’s Treatise on Papal and Imperial Power in Respect of Infidels, which he laid before the Council, urged a ban on warfare between Christian states — a significant demand, given that said states had been fighting among themselves for hundreds of years following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west. The treatise also … dealt with the exercise of Papal and Imperial power over the unfaithful [non-Christians]; the author opposed conversion by the sword and defended the rights of the pagans to their land. These principles as stated by the Poles provoked a controversy and excited a sharp rebuttal from the
defenders of the Teutonic Order. The Poles were supported, among others, by the University of Paris. (Aleksander Gieysztor and others, History of Poland, Polish Scientific Publishers, Warszawa, second edition, 1979, p117) Even in terms of the book’s evident bias towards theology it can be criticised. Evans has (rightly enough) a section on Hugh of St Victor, whose Didascalion was a valuable educational aid for students of the liberal arts and of holy scripture, but there is nothing on Hugh’s pupil Andrew of St Victor, who appears to have studied at that abbey some time between 1125 and 1141. Andrew was not afraid to question the traditional interpretation of certain Biblical passages, for example, Isaiah, chapter 7, verses 14-16, which ostensibly announces Jesus Christ’s virgin birth: Andrew held, on the contrary, that the prophet was foretelling, in a literal sense, deliverance for the Jews in his own lifetime (see Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, 1952). It might be objected that Andrew’s views are unorthodox and therefore unrepresentative, but in that case why include a section each on Berengar of Tours, whose writings were condemned as heretical and burnt (see page 64), and Siger of Brabant, whose ‘Averroist’ views were condemned in the 1270s? (Wyclif, who also gets in, is obviously too important not to be discussed.) What is missing above all from this book is a sense of the dynamism of the European Middle Ages from the so-called ‘Twelfth Century Renaissance’ period onwards. The dominant feudal mode of production in these centuries was obviously not without its problems — especially for the Catholic Church — but its virtue was that it allowed development from a natural–agrarian economy to one in which trade once more flourished. Here the Italian cities led the way. It is readily understandable that, if we look at the last 30 of Evans’s ‘key thinkers’ (that is, those from Maimonides onwards), the greatest number (seven) are Italians. (There are also six Germans and six Englishmen apiece, four Frenchmen, two Netherlanders, one Jew, one Spanish Muslim, one Breton — Abelard — one Catalan — Ramon Llull — and one Scot — John Duns Scotus). By 1200, Western Europe was no longer a backwater: the foundations for the dramatic expansion of European power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were laid down in the preceding 300 years. But the author’s attitude would appear to be: ‘What has commerce to do with Christ?’ I would not advise anyone coming fresh to the study of mediaeval thought to start by reading this volume. It would be better to begin from the relevant chapters of Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, and then perhaps go on to read FC Copleston’s A History of Mediaeval Philosophy. On mediaeval science, there is some very useful material in JD Bernal’s Science in History, plus AC Crombie’s two volumes entitled From Augustine to Galileo. On the rise of universities in Europe, Alasdair Macintyre has written very well in Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry (Duckworth, 1990, pp96-8). On mediaeval political theory, the place to begin is Walter Ullmann, A History of Political Thought: The Middle Ages (Penguin, 1965). On mediaeval heresies, Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium is a must, but see the criticisms in Lambert’s Mediaeval Heresies. Above all, it is necessary to steep oneself in the rich history of the period, which is vast indeed. Before concluding, I must enter a protest against the author’s repetition of a much-repeated misrepresentation of Aristotle, who is supposed to have written in his Politics that ‘man is a political animal’. Aristotle said no such thing. What he did say was something more specific, as the context (Politics, 1252b 27–1253a4) makes
clear: he said that humankind is a species whose characteristic it is to live in a citystate (polis). TA Sinclair’s translation also perpetuates this misconception by rendering the relevant section as ‘man is by nature a political animal; it is his nature to live in a state’ (Penguin, 1962, p28). But Aristotle didn’t just mean any old state: he meant a city-state, as Sinclair recognises in his version of some lines that precede this extract. Aristotle’s view is there stated as follows: The final association, formed of several villages, is the city or state [the Greek has but one word: polis]. For all practical purposes the process is now complete; self-sufficiency has been reached and so, while it started as a means of securing life itself, it is now in a position to secure the good life. Therefore the city-state is a perfectly natural form of association, as the earlier associations from which it sprang were natural. This association is the end of these others and its nature is itself an end; for whatever is the end-product of the perfecting process of any object, that we call its nature, that which man [anthropou], horse, household, or anything else aims at being. (pp27-8) As I said, Evans’s book does deserve to be consulted, given that many of the comments on individual thinkers are balanced and informative — the treatment of Occam’s politics (which remain of interest) is especially good, for example. But overall the approach is too superstructural and hence overly superficial. Our distinguished ancestors deserve better. Chris Gray
Colin Crawford, Inside the UDA, Pluto Press, 2003
WHEN World-in-Action and Tribune journalist David Boulton published his excellent book on the UVF in 1974, he bemoaned a near absence of valuable books and journal articles on Loyalism. In contrast to their Republican counterparts, Loyalists do not have a substantive support base overseas, among (for example) the often deeply reactionary Irish American communities of the Eastern Seaboard, nor have they received much in the way of academic attention. They are not fêted by Dublin, nor Washington, nor London. Their self-perception is that of a community that has systematically lost out, while Republicans hijack the Good Friday Agreement to their own ends — having their cake and eating it as they do so. Nor, in contrast to the IRA, have loyalists duped a section of the left into seeing them as freedom fighters. Historically, even bourgeois and mainstream Unionists have been quite inept at handling the media and at public relations. This has been amplified by the subsequent fragmentation of loyalism that Crawford’s book in part addresses, and by the deepening sense of dis-empowerment and alienation among the loyalist working class from which the paramilitaries are historically derived. Given the reality of the situation created by the Good Friday Agreement, which has institutionalised divisions and excluded working-class politics as a factor, sectarianism has deepened in both of the main communities of Northern Ireland — with depressing results in the recent election. Loyalists in particular just don’t care what the rest of the world thinks about them, any more, nor else, about an a la carte ‘war on terror’, driven by the Bush administration and in which the rewarding of IRA terrorism seems perversely exempt.
At this level, Colin Crawford’s book is certainly to be welcomed, but that welcome has to be qualified, given the nature of the work itself. As a probation officer who works with former Loyalist prisoners, Crawford was almost uniquely placed to produce an ‘ethnography’ on Loyalism, in which sections of the UDA describe themselves and their actions, in their own words. In essence, this is what Crawford’s book is, and it has all the strengths and weaknesses of a certain kind of ‘reflexive sociology’ that, since the ‘cultural turn’ of 1977, has emphasised ‘ethnicity’ and other forms of ‘identity’, at the expense of class analysis — itself almost a blasphemy where most academics are concerned. Not for nothing have most of the best books on Loyalism been investigative pieces by journalists rather than ivory tower post-modernists. At the general level, Crawford’s refusal is to see how the relationship between working-class politics and sectarianism is continually negotiated through the lived experience of the community itself. When class politics are forced into retreat, sectarianism prospers, and vice versa. The historical background to the crisis provided by Crawford in the meantime is not only selective, but is often inaccurate, and the idea that civil rights agitation led logically to IRA terrorism is actually quite offensive. Crawford grasps that in contrast to the highly disciplined command structure of the UVF, the UDA was always an unwieldy coalition of territorially-based groups with their own agendas, yet he seems surprised at the consequences of this in terms of gangsterism and unbridled sectarian thuggery. He refers to the Ulster UDI position developed in the mid-1970s, but does not root this in the contradictions of the Ulster Workers Council Strike of 1974. He notes that the UDP fared more poorly than its PUP counterpart in elections, but does not grasp that this is precisely a consequence of its lack of a radical social agenda. He does grasp that having so fared poorly, those like Johnny Adams and Gary MacMichael, who are at least serious about politics, could be quickly upstaged by drug-dealing fascists and open gangsters like Johnny Adair and some of his former allies who are still involved in squalid, sectarian thuggery in Belfast. In many ways, the biggest weakness of Crawford’s work was his reliance on John White to secure interviews, for example, with Adair, about the Greysteel atrocity. Crawford seems to have liked White and accepted at face value the latter’s claim that he was against gangsterism and drug dealing, and that he supported the aim of the Combined Loyalist Military Command (as initiated by the UVF) in closing down the sectarian murder of Catholic non-combatants and preparing for a unilateral Loyalist cease-fire — something that Ray Smallwood paid for with his life. In fact, White posed as a supporter of the 1994 Fernhill House Declaration purely to get his ally and puppet Johnny Adair released from prison, and to unite the North Belfast and West Belfast Brigades of the UDA against the more politically-minded figures on the Inner Council. Inevitably, general interest in Crawford’s book will centre on its treatment of collusion between the Loyalist paramilitaries and security forces, but as an ethnographer who studies terrorists as ‘ordinary people driven beyond normal boundaries’, Crawford is more concerned with the culture of collusion than with the detail of investigation. Lacking in class perspective, he also lacks the scepticism of a journalist of the calibre, for example of Henry McDonald, in his excellent book (with John Cusack) on the UVF. That sections of the police and army, having seen their comrades murdered by the IRA, having been constrained by the yellow card principle, and with armed Special Branch protection afforded to terrorist leaders like McGuiness and Adams, stepped beyond the law, in terms of indigenous collusion, is under75
standable, if not necessarily something to be condoned. What matters more to historians is how MI5, as an example, intervened in this process to service various agendas, some of which had little to do with fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland. The destabilisation of Harold Wilson’s government in the 1970s is an obvious case in point. Unfortunately, where Crawford points to collusion in a detailed way, he points to what we already know, for example, about Brian Nelson’s role as a UDA intelligence officer, but also in arms procurement for what became the CLMC from South Africa. He interviews Sam Duddy in relation to Andy Tyrie’s removal from the UDA leadership — actually, the most interesting part of the book! — but does not speculate if Roger Cook’s programme Worse Than the Mafia was used by MI5 to deliver a more hard-line UDA leadership, at a time when their MI6 counterparts were talking to the Provos. On the CLMC itself, he doesn’t tell us if an increasingly divided intelligence community was for or against it, nor link the drug dealing activities of the CLMC’s opponents, their links with British fascism and such like, to Billy Wright’s failure to seize control of the UVF’s arms procurement network based in Mid-Ulster. There is no reference to the role of former Ballysillan UVF men, once loyal to Johnny Bingham and the sinister ‘Pastor’, in brokering links between Billy Wright and first Alex Kerr, then John White, Adair and their murderous associates. In fact, there is little in the way of investigation in Crawford’s book, and when it comes to psychotic selfpublicists like Johnny Adair, the world at large probably doesn’t care what he thinks. There is much that is useful in Crawford’s book, from an anthropological point of view, for academics involved in this kind of research and even (and I say this quite cynically!) for the purposes of character development in works of fiction. But it does not offer a comprehensive history of Loyalism, nor a solution to the present impasse in the Northern Ireland Peace Process that has to be based on working class politics, if it is to succeed at all. Roger Cottrell
Not so New Interventions? Dear Comrades Many thanks for New Interventions (Volume 11, no 2) which just arrived by mail. I am a 72-year-old socialist who lived in London from 1964 to 1990. I now live in Israel and am active in Matzpen. From 1968 to 1988, I was an active member of Solidarity in London. CLR James and Cornelius Castoriadis were close friends of mine. I am in constant touch with Ken Weller of Solidarity in London. My website (www.autonarchy.org.il) updates ideas of the traditional left to the twenty-first century. Most traditional socialists will reject my ideas, yet a debate on the issues could energise and stimulate fresh thinking about social and political issues. New Interventions merits congratulations and support (I mean it and want to donate), but actually it consists of old observations rather than of ‘new interventions’
(no insult meant). If you really want to intervene in current political struggles, you must come up with an updated alternative not only to Capitalism, but also to Socialism and Anarchism. Autonarchy is such an alternative. Feel free to copy/publish any material from www.autonarchy.org.il. All copyrights are waived. Fraternally Aki Orr Yugoslavia Dear Editor I will leave it to readers of New Interventions (which I have always found to be a journal devoted to reasoned and courteous debate) to judge the tone and content of Mike Jones’ response to my criticism of his article on the trial of Slobodan Milošević. I was neither drunk nor mentally impaired when I wrote of my dismay at the support Jones offered to the Serbian nationalist autocrat. By the way, I have never been employed by the European Union in any capacity — not that I would be ashamed of it if I was so lucky. All in all, Mike Jones’ polemic seems to be an unfortunate, if nostalgic, attempt to revive the debating style of Grigorii Zinoviev. Mike Jones does not deny the evidence I advanced of a systematic plan by the Milošević regime to purge Kosovo of its Albanian majority — long before NATO paid the slightest attention to what was happening in that unfortunate country, let alone had launched any kind of military action. He insists on seeing the Yugoslav regime as some kind of progressive attempt to unite the nationalities of the region and pursue a ‘non-capitalist’ development. The undemocratic character of the state and its progressive domination by Serb nationalists (in uneasy competition and alliance with their Croat counterparts) — to say nothing of the corruption of the ruling bureaucracy, doomed the whole attempt. Indeed its break-up with in many ways predicted by oppositionists such as Djilas and those around the left opposition journal Praxis 40 years ago. The Tito regime never permitted any historical accounting of what happened during and after the Second World War — including the crimes of both the Croat Ustashe and the Serb partisans (Chetniks and others). Far from plotting the destruction of the Yugoslav state, the main Western capitalist powers ignored the monstrous actions of the Milošević regime for as long as they could (in the case of the British Tories longer than most), while seeking to profit from deals with the Yugoslav state. It was only when the disintegration of the state became unstoppable did any of the Western powers begin to distance themselves from Belgrade. I plead guilty to one charge, however — support for the International Criminal Court. Yes, you can describe this as ‘bourgeois justice’, but I see it as a hard-won struggle by a wide range of progressive social forces (including international labour) against a range of hostile state powers. However, Mike can look to George W Bush and the Chinese state for continued opposition to the ICC. John Palmer