Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nation: Open Letter to Barack Obama

Nation carries an open letter to Obama. Too soft? But i'm impressed by the credentials of a lot of the signatories.

Change We Can Believe In
An Open Letter to Barack Obama

This article appeared in the August 18, 2008 edition of The Nation.
July 30, 2008

Dear Senator Obama,

Progressive supporters of Barack Obama urge him to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary. Join Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Studs Terkel, Walter Mosely, Gore Vidal, Bill McKibben, Jane Hamsher, Katrina vanden Heuvel and others in signing this open letter.

We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its citizens at home--that has thrilled voters across the political spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.

You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement's energy and passion.

This movement is vital for two reasons: First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the Bush Administration, which a McCain administration would continue, cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the book on the Bush era on election day. Second, having helped bring you the White House, the support of this movement will make possible the changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.

We urge you, then, to listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond.

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance--including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.

Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:

§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.

§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country's collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.

§ Universal healthcare.

§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.

§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.

§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.

§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.

§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.

§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.

§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

These are the changes we can believe in. In other areas--such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty--your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the "friends on the left" you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.

Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.

Here is a list of early signatories to this open letter:

Rocky Anderson
Moustafa Bayoumi
Norman Birnbaum (Professor Emeritus Georgetown University Law Center)
Tim Carpenter (Progressive Democrats of America)
John Cavanaugh, director (Institute for Policy Studies)
Juan Cole
Chuck Collins
Phil Donahue
Barbara Ehrenreich
Tom Engelhardt (
Jodie Evans (co-f0under CODEPINK: Women for Peace)
Thomas Ferguson
Bill Fletcher Jr. ( executive editor,
Eric Foner
Milton Glaser
Robert Greenwald
William Greider
Jane Hamsher
Tom Hayden
Christopher Hayes
Richard Kim
Stuart Klawans
Bill McKibben
Walter Mosley
Richard Parker (president Americans for Democratic Action)
Gary Phillips (Writer and activist)
Jon Pincus ( and member of Get FISA Right)
Chip Pitts
Frances Piven
Elizabeth Pochoda
Katha Pollitt
Marcus Raskin
Betsy Reed
Bob Scheer
Herman Schwartz
Jonathan Schell
Gene Seymour
David Sirota
Norman Solomon (Author and Obama delegate to Democratic National Convention)
Mike Stark
Jean Stein
Matt Stoller
Jonathan Tasini
Zephyr Teachout
Studs Terkel
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Gore Vidal
David Weir
Howard Zinn

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Turbulence #4

They say:

Who can save us from the future?
Today, the very act of thinking about the future has become a problem. What both capitalism and 'really existing socialism' had in common was the belief in a future where infinite happiness would spring from the infinite expansion of production: sacrifices made in the present could always be justified in terms of a brighter future. And now? The socialist future has been dead since the fall of the Berlin wall. After that we seemed to live in a world where only the capitalist future existed (even when it was under attack). But now this future, too, is having its obituaries composed, and impending doom is the talk of the town. The 'crisis of the future' – that is, of our capacity to think about the future – is born out of these twin deaths: today it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

With this in mind we've assembled a collection of articles that, in different ways, speak to us about futures. As much as we didn't want people's ten-point programmes when, in June 2007 we asked 'What would it mean to win?', our interest here has nothing to do with futurology. There are no grand predictions. No imminent victory, because comfort-zone wishful thinking is the last thing anyone needs now; but no apocalyptic doom either. Neither are there any forward-view mirrors where capitalism recuperates everything and always gets the last laugh. We must have the modesty to recognise that the future is unknown, not because today is the end of everything or the beginning of everything else, but because today is where we are. What we do, what is done to us, and what we do with what is done to us, are what decide the way the dice will go. This requires the patient and attentive work of identifying openings, directions, tendencies, potentials, possibilities – all of which are things that amount to nothing if not acted upon – and of finding out new ways in which to think about the future.

PDF available here

Introduction: Present Tense, Future Conditional by Turbulence
Today I See the Future by Turbulence
1968 and Doors to New Worlds by John Holloway
Starvation Politics: From Ancient Egypt to the Present by George Caffentzis
Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast by The Free Association
Global Capitalism: Futures and Options by Christian Frings
The Measure of a Monster: Capital, Class, Competition and Finance by David Harvie
Et tu Bertinotti? by Sandro Mezzadra, with an Introduction by Keir Milburn and Ben Trott
There is No Room for Futurology; History Will Decide by Felix Guattari, with an Introduction by Rodrigo Nunes and Ben Trott [read as a PDF here (recommended)]
This is Not My First Apocalypse by Fabian Frenzel and Octavia Raitt
The Movement is Dead, Long Live the Movement! by Tadzio Mueller
Network Politics for the 21st Century by Harry Halpin and Kay Summer


London Review of Books 30, 15 31st July

Interesting stuff in this London Review of Books (Vol 30, 15, 31st July 2008) includea a lengthy piece by Stefan Collini on Dai Smith's life of Raymond Williams (A Warrior's Tale). Collini's own work on British intellectuals makes him an interesting commentator here. Collini points to the polarized and contested legacy that Williams left after his death in 1988, and draws a contrast with the biography produced by Fred Inglis (drawing attention to a very negative review by Raphael Samuel in the LRB (not available on-line, but see Jim McGuigan's review in New Left Review 215)). A Warrior's Tale takes us to 1961, so includes Culture and Society (which doesn't seem to be in print - unbelievable!) and The Long Revolution (ditto!), but not the later Marxist work, and also emphasises Williams' fictional works, especially Border Country. Interesting article, clearly important book.

Eric Foner writes about Marcus Rediker's clearly essential The Slave Ship: A Human History. He places Rediker's acount of the human costs of the slave trade in the context of the still surviving 'moral capital' of the abolition of the slave trade that Christopher Brown has pointed to in Moral Capital.

Megan Vaughan writes about a history of psychiatry in French North Africa, interesting becuase of the background it provides to the work of Franz Fanon and Albert Memmi.

And in a couple of articles not pegged to books Daniel Finn writes about Irish politics after the 'No' vote and Uri Avnery writes about the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after a year of what he describes as a 'score draw', but although Hamas hasn't achieved its objectives, it sounds like a 'significant military and political victory' for them. And a word for the lead article in which James Meek provides a 'Condition of England' piece via an account of the legacy of the 2007 floods in Tewkesbury.


Weekly Worker July 24th

This Weekly Worker (#731, July 24th) has Christ crucified on its cover, headline 'Church of England; enemy of socialism'. The cover story is three pages of polemic by Jack Conrad against Peter Manson for a tiny difference in the CPGB Draft Programme on religious rights. Good to see Jack Conrad geting another opportunity to write at great length about religion!

Otherwise Mike McNair, also writing about their programme in ''Socialism' or democratic republic'? continues to give the impressioin of much controversy about detailed points by a very small group of people. More interestingly Hillel Ticktin's talk to the Marxism 2008 fringe, 'Who are the Maxists' defends the Trotskists as the only Marxists after the rise of Stalin, and that doesn't just exclude Mao and Marcuse from Marxism, but Gramsci - on the grounds that he supported 'socialism in one country'. There is a polemic about the CPGB's own Stalinist roots.

Ben Lewis continues an analysis of the diplomatic maneouvreing around Iran and th return of a reformist platform in the National Peace Council and relates this to shifts in the British Iranian solidairty scene, with Casmii (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran) seeming to align themselves with these reform tendencies, and the somewhat obscure impact this has on the SWP via Campaign Iran.

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New Statesman July 28th

This New Statesman (July 28th) has a 'Money Rules' cover with an important article by Danny Dorling on 'How cash overturned the class system' (also available from the Fabian Society), arguing that class isn't about background or occpuation, but money and provides a diagram with the Very Poor taking up 10%, Poor 15%, Normal 50%, Wealthy 20% and 5% in varying categories of increasingly Exclusive Wealth. It's a challenge to the Marxist insistence on two classes, even with the addition of an intermediary 'New Middle Class' added in some sophiticated versions.

Martin Bright writes about Paul Ginsborg's new short book on Democracy: Crisis and Renewal, talking about a crisis in democracy marked by declining turnouts and featuring an imaginary discussion between Marx and John Stuart Mill on their differing ideas for democracy. A long time ago (before he became such an important historian of modern Italy) Ginsborg used to be an International Socialist and I remember an excellent pamphlet on The Politics of Lenin from the early 1970s. That Bright describes the book as 'delightfully bonkers' just adds to my anticipation.`

Andrew Stephen provides a demolition of SATs in an article about the failings of ETS in the US.

And at the back of the magazine Ryan Gilbey doesn't quite convince that Gordon Brown is just like Batman in The Dark Knight. And finally a review of Chris Harman's People's History of the World, recently republished by Verso. Reviews of Harman generally just come from inside the SWP and are generally pretty positive, so a certain cynicism sets in early now. He gets ignored elsewhere - a snobbish mistake I think. Sadly this review is by a member of the SWP, most famous for his deservedly successful (but hubristic) Lenin's Tomb web-site. Can't the world produce a good critical review of a good, interesting and useful book not bound by the webs of political loyalty and agreement. There was a review of the first edition of this People's History by Nigel Harris (can't remember the source) which was just too negative, too bitter. But on the upside Richard Seymour does indicate some interesting and useful criticisms ('quibbles' he says) and certainly did me a favour by mentioning the work of Jeffrey Verhey on the myth of mass support for the First World War, so I wouldn't go along with the red-baiting provided by Oliver Kamm. The New Statesman web-site discussion takes up some of these points, with some usual suspects contributing, but the focus quickly shits to rehearsing the arguments about the evils of Nick Cohen (Seymour has got an excellent article demolishing the 'Decent Left' including Cohen here, meanwhile the Kamm disucssion gets sidetracked onto Howard Zinn and 9/11 Conspiracy theorizing). Well I still look forward to Richard Seymour's apparently delayed book on the Liberal Defence of Murder, also published by Verso.

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Socialist Worker July 26th

Socialist Worker (#2111, July 26th) continues its focus on domestic political issues (rather than the international issues that dominated its front pages a short while ago) by taking up knife crime the personal story from a mother who feels her son was failed by the system.

International issues are taken up by Simon Assaf in 'US establishment is split on war strategy', which seeks to contextualise Obama's middle east policy (basically Afghanistan not Iraq and no way Iran) as reprsenting a section of the ruling class that wants to avoid military confrontation with Iran. Condoleeza Rice seems to be on this track, and Robert Gates. But poses question, yet again, whether 'section of the ruling class' actually means anything.

Alex Callinicos deals with the global economic crisis in 'Triple trouble at bursting bubble', which takes up Janet Yellen's Macbeth imagery (hey Ms Yellen's done the hard work here!) in pointing to the housing market, financial markets and commodity prices as driving the crisis in what Callinicos calls a 'postive feedback loop' - shouldn't that be 'negative' feedback loop - resulting in predictions of a W-shaped downturn. And this applies to Britain. Interestingly, on the basis of the lessons of the '30s, Callinicos allows that it sensible of the Treasury to allow more borrowing.

The Argos strike gets attention, and it looks like there could be a big strike on London buses. The People Before Profits Charter is apparently going great guns. Anne Alexander provides good background on the 1958 Uprising in Iraq (coming up to its 50th anniversary). Mike Sambo from the Zimbabwean ISO talks about the situation there.

Tucked away on p15 is an innocuous looking report from anti-fasist activities in Stoke, which has aroused the belated ire of a quality left blogger, posted here and here, with much repetitive and over-lapping blog-quarelling to follow.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

US anti-war movement alive and well?

Anti-War Movement Successfully Pushes Back Against Military Confrontation With Iran
By Mark Weisbrot

This op-ed was published by Alternet on July 22, 2008.

Who says there's no anti-war movement in the United States? In the past two months, the anti-war movement has taken on one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States in an important fight. And so far, the anti-war movement is winning.

Here's the story: On May 22, a bill was introduced into Congress that effectively called for a blockade of Iran, H. Con. Res. 362. Among other expressions of hostility, the bill calls for: "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran…"

This sounded an awful lot like it was calling for a blockade, which is an act of war. A dangerous proposition, especially given all the efforts that the Bush-Cheney administration has taken to move us closer to a military confrontation with Iran, the bluster and the threats, and the refusal to engage in direct talks with the Iranian government. The last thing we need is for the war party to get encouragement from Congress to initiate more illegal and extremely dangerous hostilities in the Persian Gulf. If the bill were to pass, the Bush Administration could take it as a green light for a blockade. It's hard to imagine the Iranians passively watching their economy strangled for lack of gasoline (which they import), without at least firing a few missiles at the blockaders. Whereupon all hell could break loose.

By June 20 this bill was zipping through Congress, with 169 co-sponsors, soon to accumulate more than 200 Representatives. Amazingly, it was projected to appear quickly on the House Suspension Calendar. This is a special procedure that allows the House of Representatives to pass non-controversial legislation by a super-majority. It allows the bill to avoid amendments and other procedural votes, as well as normal debate. An aide to the Democratic leadership said the resolution would pass Congress like a "hot knife through butter."

Groups opposed to military confrontation with Iran sprang into action, including Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, the National Iranian-American Council, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Code Pink, and Just Foreign Policy. They generated tens of thousands of emails, letters, phone calls, and other contacts with members of Congress and their staff. The first co-sponsor to change his position on the bill was Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), an influential member of Congress who chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee. He apologized for "not having read [the bill] more carefully," and pledged that he would not support the bill with the blockade language.

Then Robert Wexler, (D-FL), peeled off, also stating that he would not continue to support the bill if the blockade language were not changed. Most of the major media ignored the controversy, but two newspapers noticed it. The first was Seattle's Post-Intelligencer, whose editorial board denounced the resolution on June 24 and asked, "are supporters of Res. 362 asleep at the wheel, or are they just anxious to drag us into another illegal war?"Then on June 27 the editorial board of Newsday published an editorial calling for a full debate on the bill. Newsday has a large circulation, and perhaps more importantly, it publishes in the New York district of Congressman Gary Ackerman - the lead author of the H. Con. Res. 362.

Then, earlier this month, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) wrote:"[Howard] Berman [Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs] has indicated that he has no intention of moving the bill through his committee unless the language is first altered to ensure that there is no possible way it could be construed as authorizing any type of military action against Iran… I will withdraw my support for the bill if this change is not made."

The result, so far: no Congressional endorsement of a blockade against Iran. A dangerous piece of legislation, primed to pass through the House without debate, stopped in its tracks by an anti-war movement. And some Members of Congress are going to be a bit more careful about doing things that could move the country down the road to another war.

The anti-war movement's victory was all the more impressive given that the main lobby group promoting H. Con. Res. 362 was AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Although AIPAC does not represent the opinion of the majority of American Jews, it is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. To get a flavor of how much influence it has, AIPAC's annual policy meeting in Washington in June was attended by half of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Washington Post. It's tough to think of another Washington lobby group that could pull off something like that - certainly no other organization concerned with foreign policy comes to mind.

Of course, this is just one skirmish in the long battle to end this current, senseless war in Iraq - a war that has needlessly claimed the lives of more than 4000 Americans and, according to the best scientific estimates, more than a million Iraqis; and to prevent our leaders from launching another criminally insane war. But it shows that, even in the rather limited form of democracy as exists in 21st century America, there is an organized anti-war movement and it has real power.

It doesn't look like the anti-war movement of the last century, with street demonstrations, nationally known leaders, and regular expressions of public outrage. (It's not clear that the major media would give much more attention to the movement or its views - that is, the views of the majority of the country -- even if it did pull huge crowds into the streets.) But it is there, it is organized, it is intelligent and strategic. It will continue to grow, no matter what happens in November.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scottish Left Review 47 July-Aug 2008

The latest Scottish Left Review (#47, July-Aug 2008) is themed around the (Scottish) left and sport: 'why doesn't the left talk about sport?' Oh I thought it was always going on about sport. Tedious. Elaine C. Smith (Convenor of the Scottish Independence Convention and beloved actor) goes on about the 'time for change, Leanne Woods of Plaid Cymru and National Assembly member tells us about Wales, Tim Gee reflects on three years after the Edinburgh and Gleneagles demonstrations. Reviews include Gregor Gall on Imagined Communities.

See the use made of the Editorial Comment by Andy Newman at Socialist Unity as part of an argument for supporting Frances Curran of the SSP (and not Margaret Curran of the Labour Party as George Galloway has advocated). Looks like Labour is going to hold onto the seat against the leftish SNP challenge, thus avoiding the disaster of defeat. But I can't imagine either SSP or Solidarity getting anytihng other than a derisory vote.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

London socialist Historians Group Newsletter

I haven't been keeping up with the LSHG, for which I am sorry. Their 30th Newsletter (Spring/Lent 2008) is now quite old. Front cover has a piece by Martin Spence about his book on Penge: The Making of a London Suburb: Capital comes to Penge (Merlin 2007) - engaging, too brief, but enough to make it an attractive prospect. There are reports of LSHG events back in November 2007: Marcus Rediker talking about his very important book on The Slave Ship (paperback promised for September 2008). There are also accounts of the event to launch 1956 and All That highlighting Anne Alexander on Nasser and Suez and Neil Davidson on Alasdair Macintyre (still too expensive). There's a report on an odd-sounding symposium on the 90th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Ian Birchall reviews Marcel van der Linden's Western Marxism and the Soviet Union with typical aplomb and openness. Keith Flett reviews a book about the Tyneside radical Joseph Cowen and convinces me that it is worth-looking at. Gerd-Rainer Horn (hooray, going outside the usual company) positively reviews the LSHG's New Approaches to Socialist History. There's my blog review of as previous Newsletter with a generous and open response by Keith Flett. Oh my, that blog entry has so many typos that I am truly ashamed!

There's a review of a new and important history of the ILP, The Failure of a Dream by Gidon Cohen which make a polemical argument about the disastrous split (or car-crash as some say) in Respect. Good job I'm reading this now - I would have been much crosser when this first appeared. Must admit it's not bland. The author fails to mention the role of the SWP and presents the SWP's distorted version of events in which, here, Galloway appears as a Maxton-style anti-democratic splitter, when the actual wrecking came out of the overbearing arrogance and anti-democratic practices of the SWP. Keith in reply to me drew a line between what this Newsletter is trying to do and what goes on in the Blogosphere (posing the question of why Keith hasn't got his own blog?), but this polemic takes us directly into fractious territories of the blogosphere where the angry cry, 'lies!, it's all lies' awaits.

Overall, still got all the signs of a really worthwhile on-going project.


Socialist Worker

Good on 'em. The regular Socialist Worker is postponed for a day and its place is a special for the public sector strikes today.

The lead is 'United we can beat Brown'. There's a piece with Mark Serwotka of the PCS. There's a message of solidarity from the NUT. There's a claim that private sector workers are fighting too. And there's background about the global food crisis from Esme Choonara.

Hope it sells well. For a sense that there are dificulties in co-ordinating action across so many unions it's worth being aware of the issues posed and debated on the Socialist Unity and Liam MacUaid blogs.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wallerstein: Has the 'Surge' Worked?

Commentary No. 237, July 15, 2008
"Has the 'Surge' in Iraq Worked?"

In 2006, things seemed to be going badly for the U.S. military efforts in Iraq. The Iraq war became a top issue in the 2006 Congressional elections in the United States. It is generally agreed that the Republicans did poorly in those elections, largely because the U.S. electorate had become disillusioned with the viability and therefore the worthwhileness of the U.S. invasion.

On December 11, 2006, a stellar bi-partisan committee of Establishment figures headed by James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton issued a report calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops and direct discussions with Iran and Syria about all outstanding issues in the Middle East.

Despite very wide political support for the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, President Bush decided on a quite different response to the faltering military situation, a response that has come to be called the "surge." Basically, the surge strategy was not to withdraw troops but to increase troops, and to seek in various ways to reduce radically the violence both against U.S. troops and against Iraqis.

Now, some eighteen months later, the Bush regime and Republican candidate John McCain are hailing the success of the surge. It is true that attacks on U.S. military are radically down from where they were eighteen months ago. It is also true that violence against Iraqis is somewhat, and selectively, down. As a result, there has been a change in U.S. public opinion. The polls show that the number of people who think that the war was a "mistake" is about the same, and they still favor a phased withdrawal. What has changed is the degree of anxiety or urgency the U.S. public feels. Iraq is no longer their number one concern. Attention has shifted radically to the poor state of the world-economy and particularly of the U.S. economy. The net result in U.S. electoral politics is that McCain is not attracting undecided voters on the basis of the success of the surge but neither is Obama any longer drawing many undecided voters on the basis of his promise to withdraw troops.

That still leaves the question: Has the surge really worked? I suppose if one looks exclusively at short-run casualty figures in Iraq, one could argue it did. It would work even better if the United States could send in another 200,000 troops. But the United States does not have another 200,000 troops to send in. And its collaborating countries have been withdrawing their troops, not sending more in. Of course, if you bribe a whole lot of Sunni sheiks, they will be on the U.S. side for the time being. And if you institutionalize ethnic expulsions, as in Baghdad, there is less room for some of the kinds of inter-Iraqi violence that had been previously occurring. And if Moktada al-Sadr thinks it is wiser to bide his time, there will be a temporary reduction in the kind of violence that had been occurring before.

But look at what has happened elsewhere in the Middle East because of the surge. In November of 2006, the United States and NATO had been congratulating themselves on the success of their efforts in Afghanistan. But since then, two things have happened. The number of U.S. casualties has soared, passing now those in Iraq. So has violence against Afghans. Suddenly the Taliban are back in a big way. And now, for the first time since 2001, the pundits are talking about the possibility of the U.S. losing the war in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

And look at Pakistan. Since November 2006, the country has had relatively democratic elections, which brought to power a legislature hostile to President Musharraf, still the person on whom the Bush regime is relying to pursue a policy favorable to U.S. interests. Musharraf, as a consequence, has been struggling to keep his head above water. One of the ways in which he has done this is to make a tacit deal with the Islamist forces in the northwest frontier region that favor and harbor both al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Recently, these forces almost occupied the largest urban center in the region. They are in any case very strong, and are actively helping the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Then look at Iran. Iran is huffing and puffing. So is Israel about Iran. So is Dick Cheney. The fact is, however, that Iran is stronger than ever. And they have been strengthening in every way their links with the two groups in Iraq upon which U.S. hopes are based - the al-Maliki government and the Kurds. Iran actually shares many interests with the United States in Afghanistan. But the United States is unable to take advantage of this geopolitical alliance because it insists on seeing Iran as the evil demon in the Middle East.

Now look again at Iraq. The United States had hoped that, with the surge so "successful," they could get Iraq to sign this year a status-of-forces agreement, which would lock in the stationing of U.S. troops and U.S. bases in Iraq for decades to come. Instead, al-Maliki has made it clear that not only won't Iraq sign more than a brief interim agreement but that it won't do even that unless the United States commits to a timetable for withdrawal, something anathema to both Bush and McCain.

I could go on - about Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, the Gulf states. The fact is that the United States is decidedly weaker everywhere in the Middle East in the eighteen months since the surge began. Has it not been in part, maybe in large part, precisely because of the surge? The Middle East today is like a large geopolitical balloon. If you squeeze it at one point, the air will simply displace itself to another point. And the balloon is getting more fragile all the time. It is on the vergen of bursting.

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London Review of Books Vol 30, 13 July 3rd 2008

This issue of the London Review of Books (Vol 30, 13 July 3rd 2008) has much of interest, including Neal Ascherson writing about Misha Glenny's McMafia, J.H.Elliott on the early modern discovery of other people and Clair Willis on R.F.Foster's Luck and the Irish. Stephen Burt catches up with re-issues of Philip K.Dick classics. And more, of course.

Articles that aren't book reviews include Ross McKibbin on Academies (although he takes up the 1997 book Class Act by Adonis and Pollard), Eliot Weinberger on Obama v. Clinton and Uri Avnery on 'Obama on Israel'. Avnery and Weinberger aren't available in full, which is a shame. einberger provides an acute analysis of the pro-Obama state of mind and some of the roots of his success - the role of a post-civil rights generation, the role of 'sincerity' and grassroots internet campaigning. The main weakness is the absence of any sense of Obama's shift right after his victory over Clinton. Some of these issues are taken up by Uri Avnery on the AIPAC conference where Obama pleadged loyalty to Israel. Avnery sees Mearsheimer and Walt's conclusions being confirmed.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tom Engelhardt cautious on Iran attack

July 09, 2008 Tomgram: Why Cheney Won't Take Down Iran
Reality Bites Back

Why the U.S. Won't Attack Iran
By Tom Engelhardt

It's been on the minds of antiwar activists and war critics since 2003. And little wonder. If you don't remember the pre-invasion of Iraq neocon quip, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran..." -- then take notice. Even before American troops entered Iraq, knocking off Iran was already "Regime Change: The Sequel." It was always on the Bush agenda and, for a faction of the administration led by Vice President Cheney, it evidently still is.

Add to that a series of provocative statements by President Bush, the Vice President, and other top U.S. officials and former officials. Take Cheney's daughter Elizabeth, who recently sent this verbal message to the Iranians: "[D]espite what you may be hearing from Congress, despite what you may be hearing from others in the administration who might be saying force isn't on the table... we're serious." Asked about an Israeli strike on Iran, she said: "I certainly don't think that we should do anything but support them." Similarly, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton suggested that the Bush administration might launch an Iranian air assault in its last, post-election weeks in office.

Consider as well the evident relish with which the President and other top administration officials regularly refuse to take "all options" off that proverbial "table" (at which no one bothers to sit down to talk). Throw into the mix semi-official threats, warnings, and hair-raising leaks from Israeli officials and intelligence types about Iran's progress in producing a nuclear weapon and what Israel might do about it. Then there were those recent reports on a "major" Israeli "military exercise" in the Mediterranean that seemed to prefigure a future air assault on Iran. ("Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military's capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program.")

From the other side of the American political aisle comes a language hardly less hair-raising, including Hillary Clinton's infamous comment about how the U.S. could "totally obliterate" Iran (in response to a hypothetical Iranian nuclear attack on Israel). Congressman Ron Paul recently reported that fellow representatives "have openly voiced support for a pre-emptive nuclear strike" on Iran, while the resolution soon to come before the House (H.J. Res. 362), supported by Democrats as well as Republicans, urges the imposition of the kind of sanctions and a naval blockade on Iran that would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

Stir in a string of new military bases the U.S. has been building within miles of the Iranian border, the repeated crescendos of U.S. military charges about Iranian-supplied weapons killing American soldiers in Iraq, and the revelation by Seymour Hersh, our premier investigative reporter, that, late last year, the Bush administration launched -- with the support of the Democratic leadership in Congress -- a $400 million covert program "designed to destabilize [Iran's] religious leadership," including cross-border activities by U.S. Special Operations Forces and a low-level war of terror through surrogates in regions where Baluchi and Ahwazi Arab minorities are strongest. (Precedents for this terror campaign include previous CIA-run campaigns in Afghanistan in the 1980s, using car bombs and even camel bombs against the Russians, and in Iraq in the 1990s, using car bombs and other explosives in an attempt to destabilize Saddam Hussein's regime.)

Add to this combustible mix the unwillingness of the Iranians to suspend their nuclear enrichment activities, even for a matter of weeks, while negotiating with the Europeans over their nuclear program. Throw in as well various threats from Iranian officials in response to the possibility of a U.S. or Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities, and any number of other alarums, semi-official predictions ("A senior defense official told ABC News there is an 'increasing likelihood' that Israel will carry out such an attack…"), reports, rumors, and warnings -- and it's hardly surprising that the political Internet has been filled with alarming (as well as alarmist) pieces claiming that an assault on Iran may be imminent.

Seymour Hersh, who certainly has his ear to the ground in Washington, has publicly suggested that an Obama victory might be the signal for the Bush administration to launch an air campaign against that country. As Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service has pointed out, there have been a number of "public warnings by U.S. hawks close to Cheney's office that either the Israelis or the U.S. would attack Iran between the November elections and the inaugural of a new president in January 2009."

Given the Bush administration's "preventive war" doctrine which has opened the way for the launching of wars without significant notice or obvious provocation, and the penchant of its officials to ignore reality, all of this should frighten anyone. In fact, it's not only war critics who are increasingly edgy. In recent months, jumpy (and greedy) commodity traders, betting on a future war, have boosted these fears. (Every bit of potential bad news relating to Iran only seems to push the price of a barrel of oil further into the stratosphere.) And mainstream pundits and journalists are increasingly joining them.

No wonder. It's a remarkably frightening scenario, and, if there's one lesson this administration has taught us these last years, it's that nothing's "off the table," not for officials who, only a few years ago, believed themselves capable of creating their own reality and imposing it on the planet. An "unnamed Administration official" -- generally assumed to be Karl Rove -- famously put it this way to journalist Ron Suskind back in October 2004:
"[He] said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors.... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

A Future Global Oil Shock
Nonetheless, sometimes -- as in Iraq -- reality has a way of biting back, no matter how mad or how powerful the imperial dreamer. So, let's consider reality for a moment. When it comes to Iran, reality means oil and natural gas. These days, any twitch of trouble, or potential trouble, affecting the petroleum market, no matter how minor -- from Mexico to Nigeria -- forces the price of oil another bump higher.

Possessing the world's second largest reserves of oil and natural gas, Iran is no speed bump on the energy map. The National Security Network, a group of national security experts, estimates that the Bush administration's policy of bluster, threat, and intermittent low-level actions against Iran has already added a premium of $30-$40 to every $140 barrel of oil. Then there was the one-day $11 spike after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggested that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was "unavoidable."

Given that, let's imagine, for a moment, what almost any version of an air assault -- Israeli, American, or a combination of the two -- would be likely to do to the price of oil. When asked recently by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about the effects of an Israeli attack on Iran, correspondent Richard Engel responded: "I asked an oil analyst that very question. He said, 'The price of a barrel of oil? Name your price: $300, $400 a barrel.'" Former CIA official Robert Baer suggested in Time Magazine that such an attack would translate into $12 gas at the pump. ("One oil speculator told me that oil would hit $200 a barrel within minutes.")

Those kinds of price leaps could take place in the panic that preceded any Iranian response. But, of course, the Iranians, no matter how badly hit, would be certain to respond -- by themselves and through proxies in the region in a myriad of possible ways. Iranian officials have regularly been threatening all sorts of hell should they be attacked, including "blitzkrieg tactics" in the region. Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari typically swore that his country would "react fiercely, and nobody can imagine what would be the reaction of Iran." The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohammed Jafari, said: "Iran's response to any military action will make the invaders regret their decision and action." ("Mr. Jafari had already warned that if attacked, Iran would launch a barrage of missiles at Israel and close the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.") Ali Shirazi, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, offered the following: "The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe."
Let's take a moment to imagine just what some of the responses to any air assault might be. The list of possibilities is nearly endless and many of them would be hard even for the planet's preeminent military power to prevent. They might include, as a start, the mining of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant portion of the world's oil passes, as well as other disruptions of shipping in the region. (Don't even think about what would happen to insurance rates for oil tankers!)

In addition, American troops on their mega-bases in Iraq, rather than being a powerful force in any attack -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already cautioned President Bush that Iraqi territory cannot be used to attack Iran -- would instantly become so many hostages to Iranian actions, including the possible targeting of those bases by missiles. Similarly, U.S. supply lines for those troops, running from Kuwait past the southern oil port of Basra might well become hostages of a different sort, given the outrage that, in Shiite regions of Iraq, would surely follow an attack. Those lines would assumedly not be impossible to disrupt.

Imagine, as well, what possible disruptions of the modest Iraqi oil supply might mean in the chaos of the moment, with Iranian oil already off the market. Then consider what the targeting of even small numbers of Iranian missiles on the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields could do to global oil markets. (It might not even matter whether they actually hit anything.) And that, of course, just scratches the surface of the range of retaliatory possibilities available to Iranian leaders.
Looked at another way, Iran is a weak regional power (which hasn't invaded another country in living memory) that nonetheless retains a remarkable capacity to inflict grievous harm locally, regionally, and globally.

Such a scenario would result in a global oil shock of almost inconceivable proportions. For any American who believes that he or she is experiencing "pain at the pump" right now, just wait until you experience what a true global oil shock would involve.

And that's without even taking into consideration what spreading chaos in the oil heartlands of the planet might mean, or what might happen if Hezbollah or Hamas took action of any sort against Israel, and Israel responded. Mohamed ElBaradei, the sober-minded head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, considering the situation, said the following: "A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball..."

This, then, is the baseline for any discussion of an attack on Iran. This is reality, and it has to be daunting for an administration that already finds itself militarily stretched to the limit, unable even to find the reinforcements it wants to send into Afghanistan.

Can Israel Attack Iran?
Let's leave to the experts the question of whether Israel could actually launch an effective air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities on its own -- about which there are grave doubts. And let's instead try to imagine what it would mean for Israel to launch such an assault (egged on by the Vice President's faction in the U.S. government) in the last months, or even weeks, of the second term of an especially lame lame-duck President and an historically unpopular administration.

From Iran's foreign minister, we already know that the Iranians would treat an Israeli attack as if it were an American one, whether or not American planes were involved -- and little wonder. For one thing, Israeli planes heading for Iran would undoubtedly have to cross Iraqi air space, at present controlled by the United States, not the nearly air-force-less Maliki government. (In fact, in Status of Forces Agreement negotiations with the Iraqis, the Bush administration has demanded that the U.S. retain control of that air space, up to 29,000 feet, after December 31, 2008, when the U.N. mandate runs out.)

In other words, on the eve of the arrival of a new American administration, Israel, a small, vulnerable Middle Eastern state deeply reliant on its American alliance, would find itself responsible for starting an American war (associated with a Vice President of unparalleled unpopularity) and for a global oil shock of staggering proportions, if not a global great depression. It would also be the proximate cause for a regional "fireball." (Oil-poor Israel would undoubtedly also be economically wounded by its own strike.)

In addition, the latest American National Intelligence Estimate on Iran concluded that the Iranians stopped weaponizing parts of their nuclear program back in 2003, and American intelligence reputedly doubts recent Israeli warnings that Iran is on the verge of a bomb. Of course, Israel itself has an estimated -- though unannounced -- nuclear force of about 200 such weapons.

Simply put, it is next to inconceivable that the present riven Israeli government would be politically capable of launching such an attack on Iran on its own, or even in combination with only a faction, no matter how important, in the U.S. government. And such a point is more or less taken for granted by many Israelis (and Iranians). Without a full-scale "green light" from the Bush administration, launching such an attack could be tantamount to long-term political suicide.
Only in conjunction with an American attack would an Israeli attack (rash to the point of madness even then) be likely. So let's turn to the Bush administration and consider what might be called the Hersh scenario.

Will the Bush administration Attack Iran If Obama Is Elected?
The first problem is a simple one. Oil, which was at $146 a barrel last week, dropped to $136 (in part because of a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing "the possibility that war with the United States and Israel was imminent"), and, on Wednesday rose a dollar to $137 in reaction to Iranian missile tests. But, whatever its immediate zigs and zags, the overall pattern of the price of oil seems clear enough. Some suggest that, by the time of any Obama victory, a barrel of crude oil will be at $170. The chairman of the giant Russian oil monopoly Gazprom recently predicted that it would hit $250 within 18 months -- and that's without an attack on Iran.

For those eager to launch a reasonably no-pain campaign against Iran, the moment is already long gone. Every leap in the price of oil only emphasizes the pain to come. In turn, that means, with every passing day, it's madder -- and harder -- to launch such an attack. There is already significant opposition within the administration; the American people, feeling pain, are unprepared for and, as polls indicate, massively unwilling to sanction such an attack. There can be no question that the Bush legacy, such as it is, would be secured in infamy forever and a day.
Now, consider recent administration actions on North Korea. Facing a "reality" that first-term Bush officials would have abjured, the President and his advisors not only negotiated with that nuclearized Axis of Evil nation, but are now removing it from the Trading with the Enemy Act list and the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. No matter what steps Kim Jong Il's regime has taken, including blowing up the cooling tower at the Yongbyon reactor, this is nothing short of a stunning reversal for this administration. An angry John Bolton, standing in for the Cheney faction, compared what happened to a "police truce with the Mafia." And Vice President Cheney's anger over the decision -- and the policy -- was visible and widely reported.
It's possible, of course, that Cheney and associates are simply holding their fire for what they care most about, but here's another question that needs to be considered: Does George W. Bush actually support his imperial Vice President in the manner he once did? There's no way to know, but Bush has always been a more important figure in the administration than many critics like to imagine. The North Korean decision indicates that Cheney may not have a free hand from the President on Iran policy either.

The Adults in the Room
And what about the opposition? I'm not talking about those of us out here who would oppose such a strike. I mean within the world of Bush's Washington. Forget the Democrats. They hardly count and, as Hersh has pointed out, their leadership already signed off on that $400 million covert destabilization campaign.

I mean the adults in the room, who have been in short supply indeed these last years in the Bush administration, specifically Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. (Condoleezza Rice evidently falls into this camp as well, although she's proven herself something of a President-enabling nonentity over the years.)

With former Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gates tellingly co-chaired a task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations back in 2004 which called for negotiations with Iran. He arrived at the Pentagon early in 2007 as an envoy from the world of George H.W. Bush and as a man on a mission. He was there to staunch the madness and begin the clean up in the imperial Augean stables.

In his Congressional confirmation hearings, he was absolutely clear: any attack on Iran would be a "very last resort." Sometimes, in the bureaucratic world of Washington, a single "very" can tell you what you need to know. Until then, administration officials had been referring to an attack on Iran simply as a "last resort." He also offered a bloodcurdling scenario for what the aftermath of such an American attack might be like:
"It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real… Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described."

And perhaps more… That puts it in a nutshell.

Hersh, in his most recent piece on the administration's covert program in Iran, reports the following:
"A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preemptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, 'We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.' Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch."

In other words, back in 2007, early and late, our new secretary of defense managed to sound remarkably like one of those Iranian officials issuing warnings. Gates, who has a long history as a skilled Washington in-fighter, has once again proven that skill. So far, he seems to have outmaneuvered the Cheney faction.

The March "resignation" of CENTCOM commander Admiral William J. Fallon, outspokenly against an administration strike on Iran, sent both a shiver of fear through war critics and a new set of attack scenarios coursing through the political Internet, as well as into the world of the mainstream media. As reporter Jim Lobe points out at his invaluable Lobelog blog, however, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Gates's man in the Pentagon, has proven nothing short of adamant when it comes to the inadvisabilty of attacking Iran.
His recent public statements have actually been stronger than Fallon's (and the position he fills is obviously more crucial than CENTCOM commander). Lobe comments that, at a July 2nd press conference at the Pentagon, Mullen "repeatedly made clear that he opposes an attack on Iran -- whether by Israel or his own forces -- and, moreover, favors dialogue with Tehran, without the normal White House nuclear preconditions."

Mullen, being an adult, has noticed the obvious. As columnist Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Constitution put the matter recently: "A U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear installations would create trouble that we aren't equipped to handle easily, not with ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drove that point home in a press conference last week at the Pentagon."

The Weight of Reality
Here's the point: Yes, there is a powerful faction in this administration, headed by the Vice President, which has, it seems, saved its last rounds of ammunition for a strike against Iran. The question, of course, is: Are they still capable of creating "their own reality" and imposing it, however briefly, on the planet? Every tick upwards in the price of oil says no. Every day that passes makes an attack on Iran harder to pull off.

On this subject, panic may be everywhere in the world of the political Internet, and even in the mainstream, but it's important not to make the mistake of overestimating these political actors or underestimating the forces arrayed against them. It's a reasonable proposition today -- as it wasn't perhaps a year ago -- that, whatever their desires, they will not, in the end, be able to launch an attack on Iran; that, even where there's a will, there may not be a way.

They would have to act, after all, against the unfettered opposition of the American people; against leading military commanders who, even if obliged to follow a direct order from the President, have other ways to make their wills known; against key figures in the administration; and, above all, against reality which bears down on them with a weight that is already staggering -- and still growing.

And yet, of course, for the maddest gamblers and dystopian dreamers in our history, never say never.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn't covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years. A brief video in which Engelhardt discusses American mega-bases in Iraq can be viewed by clicking here.
Copyright 2008 Tom Engelhardt

Socialist Worker #2109 July 12th

The post-Marxism 2008 edition of Socialist Worker (July 12th) leads on G8 leaders condemn us to poverty.

Stories of particular interest within include 'Nazi BNP to target Stoke for anti-Muslim rally', which has them targetting Stoke for a 'national rally' on August 9th. Is this a return to more traditional Nazi activities, seeking to physically dominate an area. There is talk of confronting them. As it's SW the focus is naturally on the UAF.

CJ Park has a column on the rather large outbreak of class struggle in South Korea.. Esme Choonara takes on the panic about knife crime. There's an unusually descriptive account of Marxism - normally would expect more testmonies from people who have been enthused, etc. Simon Basketeer has a centre spread on Afghan history, including a splendid picture of the defeat of the British 66th Foot at Maiwand (1880), featuring Bobbie the dog. There's an interview with Graham Turner about his new book on the Credit Crisis - very underconsumptionist. Ken Olende has a page opn Marcus Garvey. There's news of the forthoming public sector worker strikes. Best of all Sabby Sagall has an appreciation of Tony Hancock, who killed himself in Australia in June 1968. There are a couple of odd paragraphs about nobility, but this is splendid - where else on the far left are you going to find memories of 1968 that include Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock. There is imagination at work here!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Respect #5 July 2008

The latest copy of the Respect newspaper (July 2008) has a front page devoted to Education & helath, 'SALE, Everything must go'. George Galloway has a page. Salma Yaqoob has a column. Alan Gerard calls for the nationalisation of the banks. Yvonne ridley has been to Guantanamo. Patrick Reynolds writes about the Irish NO to the Lisbon Treaty (headlined 'Stuff the Irish?) focuses on the manoeuvres of the EU elite. On the quyestion of whether it was a vote from the left or the right the answer is 'a motley coalition'. There's more, but I'm a bit bored by it all.


Socialist Worker #2108 July 5th

This Socialist Worker (July 5th) has a Brown in freefall cover.

Of particular interest: an interview with Alain Krivine focussed on the LCR's plans for an anti-capitalist party, Anindya Bhattacharya on migrant workers and John Molyneux on the myths of overpopulation.

The disastrous defection to Labour of all the Tower Hamlets councillors associated with the SWP (maybe two actually members, plus the rather sweet Oli Rahman) gets a short notice by Chris Bambery on p15.