Brexit – successful confusion

That was quick. The EU has avoided any need for another meeting this month by spelling out the full timetable:

1. When current “deal” is not accepted next week, automatic extension till 12 April which provides only a couple of weeks for actual preparations to minimize damage from automatic “no deal” Brexit on that date.

This is calculated to maximize panic at prospects of crashing out unprepared and thus reduce numbers of Labour MPs from “Leave” constituencies who might have voted for May’s deal.

If the Tory Brexiteers were as stupid as people think it would influence them in the opposite direction by lifting their hopes for “no deal”.

However they already know that “no deal” won’t happen and many are still likely to humiliate themselves by voting for BRINO.

More importantly, it sidelines Corbyn’s waffle about alternative forms of BRINO and ensures rapid agreement on a long delay with participation in the EU elections. Anybody voting against that will be voting to crash out with no preparations so the vote will be overwhelming. This will end up with Brexit supporters in both major parties outvoted at elections centered on the issue of Brexit and will pave the way to referendum even if referendum is not adopted immediately.

2. When UK changes course to put forward new proposals (eg referendum) and decides to participate in European elections before 12 April the EU will offer a long extension.

3. In the highly unlikely event that the UK Parliament accepts the only deal available next week there will be an automatic further extension for actual exit on May 22 to finalize necessary legislation (or run around in panic reversing the decision). European Parliament will then be elected without continuing British obstruction.

Of course above is NOT the way they expressed it. Here is the actual text.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-summit-text-idUKKCN1R22MI

Here is the CNN report of that text:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/21/uk/brexit-delay-theresa-may-eu-gbr-intl/index.html

Here is the Financial Times doing its bit to maintain belief in the absurd idea that May might intend to crash out with no deal.

https://www.ft.com/content/c1bb68fa-4bed-11e9-bbc9-6917dce3dc62

Here’s the Guardian insisting that she was just incompetently drifting rather than “exhausting every alternative” to staying in the EU:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/21/mays-appeal-falls-flat-as-eu-seizes-control-of-brexit-date

The only thing unclear is whether there will even be time wasted on a third vote to reject the deal, and preliminary vote to allow considering it yet again, given the urgency with which they will have to decide what to do next. My  guess is there will, just to humiliate the maximum number of Tory Brexiteers.

 

Notes on Trump 43, Nazis and Brexit both sides losing

1   Brexit dramatization is still being scripted despite outcome having been done and dusted during the Ides of March. Current scheduling seems to be a pointless request for a delay till end of June on the basis of hypothetical successful third attempt at getting deal through Parliament that didn’t happen today. That seems to be intended to be postponed by the EU until an emergency meeting around the day before deadline expiry so as to maximize the number of Tory Brexiteers who might humiliate themselves by voting for BRINO in fear of the obvious alternative. That alternative seems to have been scheduled for April Fools day when  the UK gets offered a choice between spending the next two months actually preparing for “no deal” or agreeing to a referendum.

The EU will have been maximally cooperative with the UK Government seeking to get the deal approved. Only the usual suspects will keep claiming failure of Brexit is their fault rather than a British decision. May will have kept her promise to fight till the bitter end and will be able to blame the hard Brexiteers for forcing the long delay followed by no Brexit. Corbyn will have fought against a “Tory Brexit” still valiantly holding open some hypothetical unspecified alternative and only reluctantly accepted the referendum for no Brexit. But there will, as has been obvious for a long time, be no Brexit.

Here is quite a good analysis on the eventual referendum:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/19/brexit-tensions-referendum

Key point is that the parliamentary maneuvering does not include a positive campaign to convince people in favour of European Union.

Opponents have been out-maneuvered but Corbyn would not fight in the first referendum and won’t fight now. It is tactically smart party politicking for him to let things drag out while the Tories discredit themselves without alienating Labour supporters that voted to leave or the large majority of Labour members who want to remain. Likewise Therese May is being denounced as hopelessly incompetent by the people she has been very competently isolating in the Tory party. But both sides are unprincipled. Resentment could still do long term damage even when Remain gets a large majority as a result of their opponents not bothering to vote for BRINO.

2. CNN has acknowledged that Trump’s tactics on the wall have worked out for him:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/19/politics/trump-approval-rating-national-emergency-analysis/index.html

Also they have started paying attention to voters rather than polls counting everyone.

Their polling confirms Trump lost no support and is back to 43% approval among voters (42% including non-voters).

The preference for Democrats among non-voters is actually much more than the 1% they have noticed.

Rasmussen polls voters daily and is still running closer to 50% (today’s 47% approval, 52% disapproval)

3. This is also a good analysis on Democrat tactics against Trump from a right-winger helpfully explaininng Trump voters to CNN:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/19/opinions/what-progressives-should-know-about-trump-voters-hanson/index.html

Fascinating that they are so far gone Trumpists feel no hesitation about telling them how to do better.

They are still rabbiting on about Trump’s imminent doom from the Mueller inquiry but my morbid fascination that led me to read past the headlines of “explosive” new revelations has faded.

4. This book has some useful background on neo-Nazi fringe lunatics in Australia and how they repeatedly promoted and encouraged terrorist acts with exactly the same mealy mouthed denials of doing it and the same liberal defence of their “free speech” right to keep doing it as we are seeing now.

https://nonstateactorblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/everyone-wants-to-be-fuhrer/ (58MB pdf book)

After a series of violent attacks on Vietnam and anti-apartheid protestors, and Communist bookshops – actively encouraged by the Special Branch of the police, and attacks on Jewish businesses permitted for recreation, they were forcibly shutdown in Melbourne in the early 1970s by joint action of the Worker Student Alliance and Jewish ex-servicemen. Their HQ was destroyed and subscription lists captured. Their sponsors were visited personally and advised that “we know where you live”. They left town.

The account in the book above is very garbled, and omits most of the facts about them being shut down. But it accurately quotes the denunciations in favour of “Free Speech” from “The Age” and hostility to the protests from Zionist dominated Jewish Board of Deputies.

Does not mention that the police started committal proceedings for riot. Eventually abandoned when they realized a jury would be unlikely to convict.

The terrorist violence nearly half a century ago did not extend to mass murder. It would have if they had been tolerated and “censured” as similar elements are being tolerated and “censured” today.

Brexit – end game

According to Greg Sheridan in The Weekend Australian”:

“Only one prediction is certain: the Brexit mess, which has already exhausted the patience of the British public, has a long way to run.

Previously he had concluded from his inability to accurately predict anything at all, that “nobody knows” while also saying:

“…no-deal Brexit or the no Brexit at all are about equally likely.”.

Now he is back to being “certain” but certain of something quite different from BOTH his “equally likely” main options.

Once again Sheridan picks the most widely spouted and least plausible prediction.

It is of course still theoretically possible that there could be a “hard Brexit”. It could happen “by accident” if one of the EU 27 vetos an extension or if the EU initially grants only a short extension until offered a credible reason for a longer one and the UK does not provide one in time. But even that would not have “a long way to run”. There would be some immediate emergency response to an “accident”.

Another theoretical possibility is that the UK Parliament could very narrowly adopt the currently proposed deal and reject holding a referendum to “confirm” it. This is being hyped at the moment with some Tory Brexiteers indicating that they might humiliate themselves by voting for the deal that they denounced, correctly, as far worse than remaining in the EU in order to keep on whining during the subsequent transition period. That could qualify as “a long way to run” – if anybody let them just keep exhausting “the patience of the British public” through the long transition period.

But that too could only happen by “accident”. The focus on loud mouthed Tory Brexiteers who keep voting against their party whip ignores the fact that there are far larger numbers of Tory remainers who have been complying with the whip only because they have not had any need to defy it on votes where the “deal” would be rejected by an overwhelming majority anyway. They are anxious to get it over with and have been prevented from doing so only by Corbyn’s tactics of assisting the Tory party to tear itself to pieces by delaying the end game now in progress and by Theresa May’s tactics of minimizing the damage done by lunatic Brexiteers by totally isolating them.

Certainly adopting a humiliating “deal” and refusing to let the people vote on it would keep the “omnishambles” running. But not for long. After such an “accidental” vote and the reaction to it, the necessary legislation would still not get through a Parliament that has a solid majority opposed to Brexit. Again, there would be an emergency reaction to the “accident”.

It is tempting to conclude from Sheridan’s latest prediction that it will be all over within a few days. The Tory party whip is no longer effective even for senior cabinet Ministers so it would be possible that a third motion to adopt the “deal” could still be put tomorrow after Theresa May has extracted the maximum humiliation from her Tory opponents by getting enough of them to publicly commit to voting for it. Then an amendment to make it “subject to confirmation by referendum” could be carried (or even accepted by the Government). The final motion would be overwhelming, would leave it up to the people and would totally isolate the Brexiteers.

But that scenario requires that the third “meaningful vote” is actually held soon, presumably based on enough Tory Brexiteers and some from Labour) having signed on to the “vassal state” deal based on agreeing that the “backstop” is acceptable with an agreement that it will apply to the entire UK rather than establishing separate regulations for Northern Ireland. Granted that they are even more unprincipled and stupid than Greg Sheridan, there are still two reasons to doubt that the vote will actually be held this week.

1. Sheridan said last weekend “May will submit her deal to the House of Commons for a third time next week”. This of course is not conclusive evidence that it won’t happen. Greg Sheridan probably believes the earth is not flat, yet he would be right about that. Still, it would be unusual for anything he expects about Brexit to actually happen.

2. The EU has started making preparations for BOTH a brief extension and a subsequent longer one. This suggests that people who are following events a lot more closely than I can, do think there is a serious possibility it won’t be all over this week. A decision tomorrow for a referendum would automatically result in a longer extension without a preceding short extension. Likewise a convincing decision for the “deal” without a referendum would automatically result in a short extension without a subsequent longer one. Only an “accident” or an ongoing deadlock could need both.

If a deadlocked vote is held this week and the deal is rejected again with no decision for a referendum, the UK will request a long extension to sort itself out. The natural EU response, already announced, would be to offer the extension conditional on a “credible reason”. With Labour plus an insufficient but large number of Tories having already joined the minor parties in proposing a referendum it could become obvious to anyone except Greg Sheridan what is needed for a “credible reason” to expect that a long delay would result in an actual decision.

There could be some back and forth but it would fairly quickly emerge that a referendum will be needed.

If anybody wanted to be fair, and to humiliate the Brexiteers further, the choice between Remain and vassal state BRINO would require a qualified majority to be binding. eg If BRINO wins with a larger majority than “Leave” in the previous referendum it is binding. If Remain wins with a larger majority than in the previous referendum that becomes binding. If either majority is not larger there was no result and the debate would then have “a long way to run” with alternative options during the long delay.

This would be “fair” to the hard Brexiteers who could simply campaign for a boycott as they would anyway.

Likewise it would be “fair” to advocates of other imaginary proposals.

But I doubt that any of the decision makers want to be “fair”. Apart from the hard Brexiteers they just want to get it over with as soon as they can be reasonably certain of the outcome not being anything that idiots like Sheridan would like.

Expel Anning from Senate

It is utterly pathetic that a join censure motion from all major parties will be debated on April 2.

That is the earliest date politicians could act without adding unnecessarily drama. But instead of acting they are merely denouncing.

He is plainly seeking to attract attention as a rallying point for neo-nazis. Denunciation without other measures only helps provide the notoriety.

Doubtful whether he could or should be prosecuted for what he said and that could help him get attention.

Casually expelling him from the Senate without fuss or ceremony is a gesture less likely to assist him.

Not much of a gesture since he will be out very shortly anyway.

But at least as useful as other gestures of solidarity against the mass murder of muslims by neo-nazis.

Requires amendment of Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 which abolished the power of either House to expel a member.

Simply add a section to the effect that notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this or any other legislation he is expelled forthwith.

Both houses meet immediately after April Fools day. Could be done by suspending standing orders etc and rushing it through both Houses without wasting more than a few minutes on voting, with GG standing by to proclaim it a few seconds later. A few seconds extra for him to attempt to say something and get ejected for whatever he says.

No need to worry about setting a precedent or getting overturned for unconstitutionality as he would be out anyway by the time he could get to Court.

Instead they are deliberately choosing to virtue signal while not actually doing anything against open mobilization for neo-nazi terrorism.

This must be taken seriously. It should be qute feasible for public outrage to force politicians to just shutup and act.

The dialectical relationship between ‘I’ and ‘We’ – critical response to Michael D. Yates’ ‘Can the working class change the world?’

In the real world we live in – and never more so than in the modern era – it is not the “I” and the “We” but the I/We balance and how this has changed with economic and social development across the span of history.

Thanks to Tom Griffiths for the following article.

* * * *

Last year Michael D. Yates, the Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press had his new book ‘Can the working Class Change the World?’ published. It was received, in leftist circles at least, to popular acclaim.

I came upon the book by accident as I was looking for something to give my son. Given my concerns about the relationship between the revolutionary left and the individual I consulted the Index and sure enough, an entry “individualism, under capitalism” directed me to pp 140-41. As it turned out the preceding three pages pp 137-39 were relevant contextually to what Yates concluded as the necessity of the working class waging “its own war against the I and for the We.”

The ambiguity contained in this conclusion and the manner in which the preceding pages framed it is highly problematic, exposing  as it does a pseudo Marxist and ahistorical understanding of the I/We balance and a frankly reactionary position of what this balance should look like if the working classes were in the driver’s seat. Beneath this ambiguity is an ambivalence about individuality per se that borders on hostility. Lukes’ ‘Individualism’ (1973) has done us a favor here as has MacPherson’s ‘The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism’ (1962). The latter details the development, based on need, of theories of the individual that justified the development and ascendance of capitalist property relations in the struggle to break free from feudal constraints. The former, riding on the back of modernity’s achievements, illustrated that individuality and individualism comes in a variety of shapes and sizes (well it/they would, wouldn’t they) some consistent with capitalist property relations and others not consistent. It takes a very selective reading of Marx to not get this. My thoughts on this form the substance of this piece and I should thank Yates for motivating me to post them.

But I would like to firstly clarify what are we talking about when we speak of the I/We balance. The contradiction between the “I” and the “We” – the individual and the family group/community/society, is transhistorical, predating the development of classes and going back to the dawn of human existence. Engels had this to say: “Impressive as the people of this epoch may appear to us, they differ in no way from one another, they are still bound, as Marx says, to the umbilical cord of the primordial community.”

What Engels and Marx were drawing attention to was the binding, caused not by choice, but by the harshness of circumstance, circumstance that did not allow the development of difference. This describes a frozen antithesis, any movement in the contradiction being glacial and occuring over centuries or millenia rather than decades. It has only been in the modern era that this frozen dialectic has melted and the relationship between the “I” and the “we” has not only become dynamic, but has been seen to become so.

* * * *

So let me look at the context and justification Yates provides for us, a context that I can most generously describe as a ‘softening up’ process and less generously as manipulative. He begins under a chapter sub heading, “The “I” and the “We”, and takes us on a folksy recount of a holiday spent with his wife at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. En route they passed through an agricultural area where “we choked on the pesticides … the air was so fouled we couldn’t see the mountains not far to the east.” This may be accurate enough of course but we are being led along a path where the destination is ….well, let’s read on. After references to Tom Joad and Francis Drake (he landed at Point Reyes in 1579 for ship repairs) he introduces us to the native population, the Miwok, the descendents of whom still inhabit the area. The Miwok “were gatherers and hunters, living peacefully in a land of great abundance.” James and Graziani’s California Indian Warfare paint a more nuanced picture pointing out, and providing evidence, that the word “peaceful” is an ambiguous term. Yes, the Miwok were generally a peaceful people but inter and intra tribal conflict were, shall we say, not unknown as was the stealing and raping of women. Indeed a rare surviving record of a war song eulogises this feature: “Leaders, let us go out to war! Let us go and capture a pretty girl.” Cherry picking, we need remind ourselves, is not an activity confined to orchardists.

“Once the Europeans came…” the balance was destroyed. “Disease and extreme culture shock killed most of them” while our lust for land and gold took most of the rest. As he points out “The Miwoks’ “we” was no match for the white man’s “I”. One sidedness in any field of human endeavour always distorts and I make no claim of immunity, but Yates’ agenda blindsides him as he embraces (and promotes) a romanticised account of tribal and pre-modern life. Approvingly, he quotes the view of a contemporary Miwok, Kathleen Smith, who holds that her people have lived in “physical and spiritual balance” without feeling the need to go somewhere else for 8,000 years. This “requires restraint, respect, knowledge and assurance of one’s place in the world.” Not to mention a practical inability, borne of the historical constraints they lived under, to be aware, let alone assured, of any alternative.

* * * *

Idealising the past has a long history, of course. We saw it, for example, in the decades preceding the English Revolution and during the revolutionary decades themselves, where it was common for numerous radical voices to look to,  and promote, the Arcadian myth of jolly Olde England before the imposition of the Norman Yoke. As we now know they were marching into the future looking backwards, an understandable reaction given that they were at the dawn of the capitalist and modern era, territory that we have become a lot more familiar with. What was baffling novelty then is no longer baffling. So why, I ask rhetorically, does Yates feel the need to promote a Miwok (or native Indian) Arcadian myth while simultaneously presenting himself as a Marxist and historical materialist?

Once booked into the hostel the reader is subjected to more ‘softening up’. He describes a ‘conversation’ with an east coast law student that degenerated into a lecture, by him, about how California was a monument to waste. In response to her puzzlement he turned his fire onto agriculture, a field of production, she believed, California to be a world leader in. This, the student was to discover, was a view, be it true or not, that would have been best kept to herself.

“This set me off on a lecture about dams, stolen water, subsidized land and water, massive use of pesticides, polluted air and water and exploited farm workers. Measured in terms of energy in and energy out, or in terms of the costs imposed on society by California’s “factories in the fields” the state’s agriculture is not as productive as the Miwok’s gathering and hunting”.

Unsurprisingly she retreats into the next room and, somewhat abashed, Yates follows a few minutes later to “make amends for lecturing her”.

In TV game shows this would be a “but wait, there’s more” moment and Yates does not disappoint. On hearing that she is a law student he seizes the opportunity to tell her (note how the only one doing much listening is her) what a Law Professor tells first years: that lawyers had to learn to be vicious by being treated viciously, a process beginning at law school. After a terse response from her to the effect that at least everyone was on the same playing field, “The woman never spoke to me again.” But Yates is not done. Over the period of his stay he observes her behaviour, concluding that she was oblivious to anyone else’s needs and he and his wife “listened, in amazement as she flirted with a German man” and how “she skillfully led the conversation to her desired outcome” an outcome that enabled her to bask in the glory of the medal she had won at the Beijing Olympics. He paints her, in other words, as a narcissist, an example of the “I” the working class needs to wage war against. Indeed he ends this section with a view of her that is as uncharitable as it is undialectical: Her studies will see her “become firmly and permanently frozen in the “I” and cut off forever from the “we””. Leaving to one side for the moment his view that the “I” is a frozen antithesis, whether she is narcissistic or not is difficult to call because of the way Yates inserts himself in the ‘drama’ and how he needs her to be as he depicts her. In the world of psychotherapy there is a term, projective identification, that describes an unconscious phantasy in which aspects of the self are split off from oneself and attributed to another. In plain language, Yates is telling us a lot more about himself than he realises. In my judgement there is at least as much evidence to suggest that Yates is describing as aspect of himself as there is evidence that the student is a narcissist and doomed to be a frozen “I” cut off permanently from the virtuous “we”.

* * * *

Whether Yates’ hypothesis about his Olympian acquaintance (or mine about him so far as that goes) holds water, his folksy tour has brought us to the kernel of his position, contained in the slightly less than two pages the index had drawn me to. “CAPITALISM IS A SYSTEM of stark individualism” (presumably the high case was to ensure we got the point that capitalism is a system). He goes on to say that “the primary institutions of capitalist society work in concert to inculcate the “I” in everyone, with the corollary that the “we” is detrimental to human welfare…For capitalism to end the “I” must be suppressed and the “we” must come to the fore”.

If he means bourgeois individualism, the kind of individualism that rests upon the individual’s right to own capital – and by extension to exploit the labor of others – and the particular distortions of individualism and individuality that come with this, he should say so. But he doesn’t, opting instead for the more ambiguous I/we dichotomy where, from my viewpoint, he persists in digging a hole for himself. Suppressing the “I” and valorising the “we”, he suggests, “would sound strange to gatherers and hunters who inhabited the earth for almost the entirety of human existence. They had no word for “I” and saw no difference between themselves and the natural world around them. Their lives hinged on cooperation and sharing, and their rituals and institutions helped to ensure that these were maintained. For them the earth was the commons, the property of all. They managed their existence in ways harmonious with nature and kept the earth’s metabolism in balance with their own.” Now what was it that Engels was saying?

This is pretty standard Greenie fare with a touch of Gaia thrown in, the “I” disappearing into a romanticised past and embracing an equally romanticised “we”. But to suggest this is  revolutionary, a representation of Marxism and a synthesising pathway, is not only nonsense, it is reactionary nonsense, for while he is correct to assert that our clan and tribal forebears had no word for “I” and that their lives hinged on cooperation and sharing, the ‘decisions’ he is implying they made, were in no sense free.

It is all very well for him to have a crack at the legal student, hypothesising that she was entering  a frozen “I” zone but what he describes here is an actual frozen antithesis that covered millenia and kept people, the “we’s” and the, at best, nascent “I’s” held fast within rigid and unforgiving constraints. Whether they realised it or not, they were trapped, their relationship with the natural world being precarious at best. What they did realise was that their task was one of survival and that the “we”, the family, clan or tribe, were survival units. As for the individual, the “I”, for millenia the water was simply too close to the gunnels for the individual to emerge, let alone be able to develop, stand up and rock the boat. And we can’t have the boat being rocked by unruly elements now, can we?!

Harmony was imposed by the strictures and violence of Nature, whose ‘metabolism’ by the way, insisted upon obedience. This was backed up by our own use of violence and by the development and ubiquitous use of shame as a social regulator. In this regard Hobbes’ pithy description of the natural state of humankind before the emergence of central governments as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.’ was – and remains – much closer to the mark than Yates. It bears repeating that the first struggle for freedom was freedom from danger, the freedom to survive. For the individual this meant complete identity with the social unit.  The reason for the strength of this tie was simple – these are the groups from which the individual could expect help and protection when in dire need. The catch was also simple. There was no room to cherry pick the aspects of this system that one likes and discard the rest. There was nowhere else to go. The struggle, then, to wrest ourselves free from nature and to sever the umbilical cord, was contingent upon survival. It was upon this basis that the individual was able to emerge and is still in the process of emerging in the underdeveloped world.

* * * *

The antithesis has taken a long time to melt and we should certainly be grateful to our forebears for figuring out how to survive because our being here depended on it. This, however, is not an argument to go back, to refreeze. If we are to genuinely respect and thank our ancestors for the sacrifices they made – and they were innumerable and big – we need to move on, take the opportunities provided and seek new ones. Anything less would, in my view, be patronising and, frankly, insulting.

The embracing of the idea that traditional groups or societies (the more ‘natural’ or undeveloped the better) lived in a harmonious balance with Nature is our contemporary version of Arcadian myth and its emergence is not simply a sign of ideological crisis, although that is certainly a part of it. Strangely, perhaps, it is also a sign of our success, for at no stage in our history have we been as free from the clutches of the natural world than we are now. We have lifted ourselves above, and hence separated ourselves from, abject dependence to a more robust and, dare I say it, equal relationship. The whip that Nature’s metabolism cracks may well compel harmony but our nature has shown itself to be not so compliant. As Goethe’s Faust put it “Once I stand still I shall be a slave.” and it is not in our nature to be slaves. When Faust was weaving his magic it was a moribund feudalism that was being put to the sword. From at least the 20thC, before this in most of the West, we have had, or should have had, other targets in mind. With this Yates would agree; capitalism has got to go. But if he thinks that this involves getting rid of the “I”, the continued development of the individual, he is dreaming.

As mentioned above Yates called this section “The “I” and the “We”, setting them up in lifeless opposition. Given the pages that followed his title accurately reflected content. In the real world we live in – and never more so than in the modern era – it is not the “I” and the “We” but the I/We balance and how this has changed with economic and social development across the span of history. From a historical materialist point of view this is not only developmental, but an unfolding dialectical process. During the Stone Age, for example, the meaning of ‘we’ was single layered and, as Yates correctly points out, there was no word for “I”, although he lets slide by, or fails to realise, that this was so because there was no ‘room’ or capacity for the “I” to exist. If Yates wishes to promote this, or something like it, as a ‘lifestyle’ to aspire to, he is welcome to it, but he will have Buckley’s chance in convincing the rest of us – the modern “I’s” and the modern “we’s” to tag along, either voluntarily or under coercion.  

In modern societies ‘we’ has many layers including, of course, class, as well as many layers within and between classes. This many layered aspect is significant because it is both a reflection of, and in turn an enhancer, of individual expression and development. Our  ‘we-ness’ now extends in a multitude of ways formerly unimaginable. Norbert Elias sums up the significance of the options this development opens up in his The Society of Individuals: “From a certain age the individual can usually withdraw from the family [or group] without forfeiting his or her chances of physical or social survival.” In other words, there is somewhere else to go. But more than this – and this is something that Yates seems not to get at all – not only are there loads of somewhere elses to go to, there are loads of someone elses to go to, or find, as well.

Unlike the “frozen I” that Yates imagines (and needs in order to support his anti “I” distortions) the development of the individual in modern societies is necessarily accompanied by the development of society itself, of, compared to any previous social formation, a multiplicity of choices in how we can be ‘we’ as well as ‘I’. ‘We’ relationships are no longer necessarily permanent and inescapable, no longer confined to family or small community and hence no longer an inescapable impediment to the development of who we choose to relate with and how we choose to do it. Elias adds that “…in combination with a reduction in the power differential (not to be confused with equality of power), the greater variability of relationships forces individuals to take a kind of repeated inventory, a test of relations which is at the same time a test of themselves. They have to ask themselves more often: how do we stand in relation to each other? As the forms of relationship across the whole spectrum, including those between men and women and children and parents, are comparatively variable, or at least not inescapable, their exact form is increasingly the responsibility of the individual partners.” Individuals being increasingly responsible for the type and form of their relationships …? Now we can’t have that, can we? Well, not if the “we” is a Yates “we” in any case.

At least on this reading Yates seems unable to understand that as the “we” develops and becomes more complex, so too does the “I”. Each contains the other and it is important that revolutionary movements, if they are to reemerge, understand this and struggle to overcome a longstanding uncertainty cum ambivalence about the place and role of the individual, be that within groups/parties, the working classes broadly or society as a whole. It is not as if Marxism is a stranger to this aspect – I give examples below – although if one were to confine oneself to much of what passes itself off as the real deal, one could be forgiven for missing this.

* * * *

One of China’s Gang of Four, Wang Hung-wen, commented during the 10th Congress of the CPC that “A true communist must act without any selfish considerations and dare to go against the tide, not fearing either removal from his post, expulsion from the party, imprisonment, divorce nor guillotine.” As a young man at the time I was impressed by the comment but it was not until much later that I came to realise how profoundly radical it was and how relevant to the substance of this post. Yes, he was addressing a Congress, a great big political “we” and through media, broad sections of the Chinese population, an even bigger “we”. But within that context he was aiming his comments at the “I”, at the individual communist or communist sympathiser. In my view, it is only possible to swim against the tide, to be able or prepared to do as Wang suggests, if you are an autonomous individual prepared to put the interests of self aside and stand up, alone if necessary, and take come what may. In fancier jargon we can call this, appropriately, taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and the consequences they invite. It should be noted that part of this responsibility lies in seeking unity in organisational form with others, but is not confined solely to it, as Wang was fully aware.

The Turkish poet and communist Nazim Hikmet spent 18 years of his adult life in gaol for his political activities and the last 13 years of his life in exile. Much of his best poetry was written ‘inside’. A few lines from two of these will suffice: From It’s This Way: “It’s this way/being captured is beside the point/ the point is not to surrender.” And from Galloping Full Tilt from Furthest Asia: “To live free and single like a tree/and in fraternity like a forest/this longing is ours.”

The Czech communist Julius Fucik, captured by the Nazis in 1942 and executed in 1943, wrote on single scraps of paper, smuggled out of prison, what was to become Report from the Gallows. George Lukacs remarked that the ‘New Man’ appears most powerfully and richly in it and it is an extraordinary testament and example of what Wang was getting at. It can still be found on internet bookshops and I would advise readers to find it.

And lastly, going back a little further to the English Revolution (no, not the ‘Glorious’ one, but the real one) there is the example of the Digger Gerrard Winstanley, the most radical voice of the time, as well as being about 200 years ahead of it, who said, circa 1650, “Freedom is the man who turns the world upside down, and he therefore maketh many enemies.” He knew what he was talking about.

There will of course be many other examples and I have only cited these because they were (are) all in my head. What unites them all, what has them singing from the same song sheet, is that they demonstrate the dynamic between the “I” and the “we”, that the development of them as exemplary individuals was enhanced by their engagement in and commitment to the cause of revolution, to the “we”. This was not only where they found themselves, it was where they made themselves. In other words we unite or seek unity on the basis of our pre existing – and valued – individuality, not in spite of, or in opposition to it. Unity (or ‘weness’) of this type, is an expression of our individuality. It does not lose itself in the ‘we’ but finds itself at a higher level of expression. It is a synthesising process of development in other words and it is this feature that is absent from Yates’ understanding of both the “I” and the “we”. His is not a model that speaks of the future.

When asked by a journo where the best place to find comedy was, Australian comedian Barry Humphries, better known, perhaps, as Dame Edna Everage, replied “under one’s nose”. It is good advice and has far broader application than just comedy for this too is where to look for the future, or its seeds, and we would do well to take heed. Looking where Yates is looking will get us nowhere.

 

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Some fighting words for International Women’s Day

 

atlantic

The Russian Revolution began on International Women’s Day of February 23, 1917 (according to the Julian calendar, March 8 in the West). After the revolution and the winning of suffrage by women, Soviet Russia adopted ‘Working Women’s Day’ as an official holiday in 1917. The move was instigated by the world’s first woman to be a minister of state, Alexandra Kollontai, and by Lenin.

In 1920, Kollontai said:

‘The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day, the great February revolution broke out. It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates. And so, working women’s day is a double celebration for us’.

At the turn of the C20th, Lenin, as a Marxist, understood the progressive transformative aspects of developing capitalism, in the context of a largely feudal society:

‘Large-scale machine industry, which concentrates masses of workers who often come from various parts of the country, absolutely refuses to tolerate survivals of patriarchalism and personal dependence, and is marked by a truly contemptuous attitude to the past.

‘It is this break with obsolete tradition that is one of the substantial conditions which have created the possibility and evoked the necessity of regulating production and of public control over it. In particular, speaking of the transformation brought about by the factory in the conditions of life of the population, it must be stated that the drawing of women and juveniles into production is, at bottom, progressive. It is indisputable that the capitalist factory places these categories of the working population in particularly hard conditions, and that for them it is particularly necessary to regulate and shorten the working day, to guarantee hygienic conditions of labour, etc.; but endeavours completely to ban the work of women and juveniles in industry, or to maintain the patriarchal manner of life that ruled out such work, would be reactionary and utopian.

‘By destroying the patriarchal isolation of these categories of the population who formerly never emerged from the narrow circle of domestic, family relationships, by drawing them into direct participation in social production, large-scale machine industry stimulates their development and increases their independence, in other words, creates conditions of life that are incomparably superior to the patriarchal immobility of pre-capitalist relations.” (The Development of Capitalism in Russia – V.I. Lenin)

The earliest (unofficial) observance of the day, known as Working Woman’s Day, occurred in New York in 1909, under the auspices of the Socialist Party of America.

International Women’s Day became a global event in 1975, when it was adopted by the United Nations.

In March 1921, Lenin wrote that,

‘…under capitalism the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed. The working woman and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, but over and above that, even in the most democratic of the bourgeois republics, they remain, firstly, deprived of some rights because the law does not give them equality with men; and secondly—and this is the main thing—they remain in household bondage”, they continue to be “household slaves”, for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family household’.

Much has been achieved by women since then, pretty much everywhere (save for societies that still have feudal and tribalist cultures and property relations), though the ‘survivals of patriarchalism’, as Lenin put it, also are to be found pretty much everywhere and still need to be exposed and defeated.

Helen Reddy’s song, ‘I am Woman’ (1971), became an anthem for the 1970s women’s liberation movement in many countries. It is defiant, stirring and confident – with no hint of victimhood ideology. It remains a great anthem, into the twenty-first century. The Bolsheviks would have approved.

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman
You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am

 

 

Grounds for Suspicion

There is nothing unbelievable about a Prince of the Church being a thoroughly corrupt criminal.

People who claim to be in direct communion with supernatural beings and and make a living from interceding with them on behalf of petitioners are widely regarded as dishonest or delusional. They used to be generally trusted and many still trust them. But many more don’t.

Being a Cardinal is now, in itself, grounds for suspicion. Perhaps also grounds for suspicion of a sense of invulnerability that might explain implausibly brazen attacks rather than the more usual furtiveness of corrupt criminals. Knowing that one is both untrustworthy and trusted could explain a lot.

But grounds for suspicion and grounds for conviction are quite different matters.

It is a crime under s316 of the NSW Crimes Act s where a person “knows or believes” that a serious crime has been committed, and fails, without a reasonable excuse, to inform the police.

An Archbishop convicted by a jury for failing to report child abuse under s316 was quite recently acquitted on appeal. The court held there was a reasonable doubt as to whether he believed the allegation.

There was no widespread dismay or enthusiasm about that Archbishop being charged and found guilty, nor at the subsequent acquittal.

That is because both the prosecution of the Archbishop and the appeal made sense and it is the normal function of courts for some jury convictions to be held unsafe on appeal.

But public reaction to the recent conviction of a Cardinal is much deeper and will not end with either result from the appeal.

What does not make sense is that there has been no regular flow of such cases, with both convictions and acquittals since the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse documented the extent of deliberate concealment of abuse by institutions supposedly caring for children, especially by religious institutions and most notoriously by the Catholic Church.

The Cardinal’s case is viewed quite differently because he was not charged with an offence that actually made sense.

The Royal Commission recommended codification of an offence similar to that now in s49o of the Crimes Act Victoria. This provides 5 years imprisonment for “Failure by a person in authority to protect a child from a sexual offence”.

The offence requires a substantial risk existing, knowing of the risk, being in a position with power and responsibility to reduce or remove the risk and negligently failing to do so, that is, “falling short of the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the circumstances.”

http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ca195882/s49o.html

That seems a pretty good codification of the crimes that George Pell and his colleagues have been accused of but have not been charged with.

Does recent codification of the offence preclude charges based on crimes committed before the codification?

In what barbaric society has it ever not been a crime for people responsiible for taking care of children to neglect protecting them? Has the moral panic about child sexual abuse obliterated memory of the mandatory protection of children from harm in general that predates civilization and has nothing to do with either sex or police? “Little Children are Sacred”.

George Pell was convicted of raping two children because nobody from the Church he leads has been charged with notorious crimes of failing to protect children.

Retribution is an important element of criminal law enforcement quite separate from deterrence and rehabilitation. If you allow impunity for notorious crimes you can expect far worse than unsafe prosecutions on some pretext or other. Sacrifice of scapegoats may or may not catch a guilty scapegoat. But its most likely result is to satisfy the instinct for retribution while letting criminals escape justice.

Historically children complaining of abuse have often not been believed, not only by priests, and especially when the complaints are made decades after the event. That has made it necessary to relax rules of evidence regarding corroboration, tendency evidence and joint trials and to instruct juries that it is not uncommon for an adult to come forward with a complaint decades after the event and to be inconsistent about the details.

There was a history of police collaboration with authorities accused of child abuse, especially catholic police with church authorities. That had to be reversed by training police as well as social workers to side with and believe the accuser.

These changes are intended to increase the proportion of successful convictions and necessarily create a very real danger of wrongful convictions. There are good reasons for the opposite policies to be followed for most serious crimes. We prefer to risk guilty people being acquitted than innocent people being convicted.

The exception that has been made for child sexual abuse puts a heavy onus on prosecution authorities to determine whether a prosecution would be unsafe. They can make that decision more objectively at a distance. Police and social workers can still comfort and side with the victim despite the prosecutor’s decision not to put both accused and accuser through a trial that should, if it results in a conviction, ultimately be overturned as unsafe on appeal.

The alternative of putting every accusation before a jury that police trained to believe accusations find credible, would inevitably result in unsafe convictions.

No prosecution could be more manifestly unsafe than that of a rightly despised and reviled Prince of a Church whose leaders are widely known to have escaped trial for serious crimes of omission and concealment based on a single individual’s accusation about events two decades ago with no supporting evidence whatever.

George Pell could not give evidence himself because his credibility would have been ripped to shreds with questions about his behaviour in protecting the racket he works for instead of the children placed in their care. Putting him in the witness box would have presented the jury with an unsavoury character who deserves some sort of punishment for something.

The police actively solicited complaints against Pell. That is an understandable reaction to the impunity with which the Church he led has obstructed justice instead of rescuing children in their care from predators on their staff. The widespread enthusiasm and relief with which the verdict was greeted clearly reflects the same reaction. It has nothing to do with the specific charges and is openly proclaimed to be therapeutic for victims of the church generally. The coverage screams that it is sacrifice of a scapegoat.

I don’t agree that there was an atmosphere of hysteria that would have made a fair trial impossible.

It was quite possible that a jury could have concluded there was a reasonable doubt. A previous jury failed to agree. Perhaps that was what the prosecutors expected would happen. They just didn’t want to cop the blame for not locking up a creep like Pell themselves and preferred to leave it to a judge and jury who would be less likely to be accused of covering up.

Fear of such accusations would have had a real basis. Just look at the complaints from the Premier of Victoria and the likely next Prime Minister of Australia at the friends of Pell who showed “bad judgment” in standing by him with character references. It doesn’t take much courage for friends to not desert each other and it doesn’t take much courage for prosecutors to put up with accusations. But it takes utter shamelessness to parade one’s good judgment in shunning friends that are in trouble and demanding that others behave the same way.

I am no friend of George Pell, but I do know he should not be made a scapegoat just because the police wanted to look like they were doing something about the impunity and obstruction and the prosecution authorities didn’t want to be suspected of covering up church crimes. So do the shameless opportunists celebrating and denouncing.

So do Pell’s friends and referees. If he is eventually convicted of failing to protect children they may not agree but they won’t be able to convince themselves, let alone anybody else, that he was purely a scapegoat rather than legitmately accused and necessarily tried.

Pell’s conviction for raping children was manifestly unsafe because the prosecution was manifestly unsafe.

It is not enough for the conviction to be overturned and for genuine crimes of failure to protect to be tried. There are grounds for suspicion that there should also be another much more significant trial.

By offering a scapegoat the prosecutors were effectively avoiding difficult trials for real crimes. If that was done intentionally it was a direct attack on the rule of law by the authorities responsible for maintaining the rule of law. Whether it was done intentionally should be impartially investigated by an independent prosecutorial authority from another State, considering prosecution of the Victorian prosecutors for misconduct in public office.

Eventually a lot of people from a lot of institutions will need to be put on trial. For the Catholic church it is a world wide problem. Civil reparations throughout the world will require records from the Vatican and sale of the valuables in the Vatican. That first requires ending the pretence that it is an independent sovereign absolute monarchy as established by a treaty with the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini.

This Royal Commission quote from Pell looks to me like an admission of guilt for proceediings based on “command responsibility” and “criminal failure to take action to prevent foreseeable harm to children”. Many others would be joined in the same proceedings.

“If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Cardinal Pell told the commission via video link from Rome.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said priests got access to children with the parents’ consent, unlike truck drivers.

“The relationship between the priest and a child is quite different to that between the truck driver and the casual passenger, isn’t it?” he asked Cardinal Pell.

“Yes, I would certainly concede that,” Cardinal Pell responded.”

The “ownership, the leadership” of the flock may view their role as shepherds preparing their flock for fleecing the same way other corporate criminals do. But our society is less tolerant of failure to protect children from abuse than of the usual run of corporate crime such as bankers stealing from dead clients.

I am not a prosecutor so it isn’t up to me. But Victoria urgently needs competent prosecutors with integrity.