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<nettime> INFANTILE DISORDER AND THE NEW BOLSHEVIKS
Richard Barbrook on Mon, 30 Aug 2004 18:15:22 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> INFANTILE DISORDER AND THE NEW BOLSHEVIKS


[While watching the TV coverage of Tony Blair
making his speech to the US Congress last summer,
I had this nagging feeling that I'd seen this
performance somewhere else at some other time.
Then, in a moment of ludicrous hyperbole, Blair
claimed that America - the imperialist power
which has imposed dictatorship and oppression
upon the South for over four decades - had been
the champion of democracy and freedom during the
Cold War! Suddenly, I realised where I had seen
this speech before. In the early-1980s, I had
watched a TV news report about a Warsaw Pact
conference in Moscow which included a clip of the
Stalinist dictator of East Germany praising the
Russian empire as the defender of democracy and
socialism in Europe. As would happen 20 years
later in Washington DC, the ruler of a client
state shamelessly demonstrated his servility to
the imperialist master by putting on a display of
double-think language. Yes, I'd now got it. Tony
Blair was Erich Honecker!! In the article below,
John Barker brilliantly explains how the British
admirers of 'really-existing' - or imaginary -
Bolshevism in the 1970s morphed into the Blairite
cheer-leaders of American imperialism in the
2000s. Enjoy!]

  		INFANTILE DISORDER AND THE NEW BOLSHEVIKS

		John  Barker <barker {AT} otenet.gr>

	In a speech made by Peter Mandleson early
in mid February 2004, he talked of criticism from
within the British Labour,  now New Labour Party,
of its leader, as an infantile disorder. Mr
Mandleson, a wooden politician is said to be one
of the architects of this re-branding. His use of
a famous phrase of Lenin, used in a work written
to describe what he defined as Left Wing
Communism, is a dead giveaway of the Bolshevik
character of this new brand. The content is
different, a 'third way' version of fiercely
deregulated free market capitalism along with
what remains of the social democracy made by
those who fought World War II for us, but the
style is the same. It involves an intense dislike
of independent Trade Unions; the smearing and
misrepresentation of critics and criticism; a
reliance on unelected advisors and institutions
under its patronage; a fetish of managerialism;
and a cult of the individual, in this instance,
Mr Blair. Tony.

	This was well understood right at the
start of their taking power by a witty,
non-wooden politician, Ken Livingstone, now mayor
of London when he referred to New Labour's
ideologues as The Millbank Tendency. Explaining
jokes is in most cases, tedium waiting to happen,
but Livingstone's comment was so apposite it's
worth trying. New Labour's first office from
which serious centralized control was exerted was
situated on Millbank, a Thameside office block;
whereas in the 1980s the Labour Party was dealing
with various forms of organized ultra-leftism
including the best-known Trotskyite entrist group
called the Militant Tendency. The Livingstone of
that time well understood all the ironies of the
situation, not just the Bolshevik style of New
Labour, but how many of its proponents were
themselves ex-Trotskyists or Communist Party
members.

	For there is such a thing as
ultra-leftism. An historical example would be
that, under orders from Moscow, the German
Communist Party referred to Social Democrat party
members as social fascists, just as Hitler's rise
to power had gained momentum. Not so dramatic
these days but many Blairites, for that, with no
objections from them, is what they are called,
the cult of the individual writ large, those
especially, were ultra-leftists in the early
eighties when it would have really helped if
there had been none at all. Some were members of
such organizations like Alan Milburn and Stephen
Byers or, in the case of Paul Boateng until
recently a hard line prisons minister, now at the
Treasury, who then talked with all the arrogance
and  vanity of another Tony, Anthony Wedgwood
Benn; people who as Maureen Duffy has it in her
1983 novel, Londoners, "don't care as long as
their point is made, their purity kept." Not an
accusation that could be made at Martov the
Menshevik, standing up in the freezing space of
the Russian Parliament of the first years of the
Revolution, no doubt knowing he could be arrested
at any time, and speaking of the real conditions
of the people who the Bolsheviks claimed a
monopoly of speaking for, and of their betrayal
of their own constitution in the name of the
Cheka. No, these people who have never faced
anything worse than some other squirt winning the
Student Union election, their purity easily found
a new purity, a new set of certainties in New
Labour. These certainties, the virtues of free
market capitalism, allowed the continuation of
their overwhelming confidence in lecturing other
people on what to do, their responsibilities.
That such a turnaround is possible, easy even,
and was frequent in the inter-war period, is well
described in the last chapter of Eric Auerbach's
Mimesis, and is not a wholly dissimilar
political trajectory to that of  those notorious
American "neo-cons"

	The ironies do pile up, Red Ken, as
Livingstone was called,  never spent his early
career persuading the Labour Party that socialism
in one country was realizable, a socialism built
on manoeuvres within smoke-filled rooms - pipe
smoke for comfort - that would make for
conference resolutions demanding what any citizen
knew was not going to happen, that and campaigns
of arcane back-stabbing. This kind of
ultra-leftism in true Bolshevik style did not
build on grass-roots campaigns but leapt on any
it could find and routinely fucked them up, most
spectacularly the Miners Strike when they failed
to push for the vote in the Union that would have
kicked away one leg of the strategy of the
Thatcher state government, and made defeat a lot
less certain.

	The ironies piled on ironies are not
funny. The Bolshevism of New Labour has lived off
the stupidities of that time ever since. The
bitterness felt by Maureen Duffy at the time can
only have grown, at what it has produced. If Tony
Benn did not exist, Mr Blair would have had to
find an equivalent. Describing some kind of
together-in-the-studio scene between a Benn-type
figure and what was then right-wing and is now
"old" Labour she writes:
	That one dipped his finger in the till of
local government thought it can never be proved--
	The other grew up in comfort, was
privately educated, Oxbridged, has never worked a
day in his life except at being politician, would
remake the party in his own image, and bend
people to it. 'The swollen sheep are not fed'--

As things are now one would say of the
finger-dippers, bring them back, they took their
cut but at least they built the social housing
without which London for one, will die on its
feet. They would certainly be welcome back in the
East London borough of Hackney with its
present-day New Bolshevik administration. No
doubt in the 50s and 60s there were rake-offs on
council building contracts but things were built
and did not collapse. Instead what you get now
are nomenklatuta architect and consultant scams.
Their many-times over-cost buildings become
unusable in a short space of time.

  At  best the New Bolsheviks who saw the light
bring with them, in addition to their
meritocratic arrogance, a belief in the prime
importance of the economic, and of targets in
public services. Five year plans, and why not
when private capital has ten or twenty year plans
of its own as R. Panzieri pointed out many years
ago, but it doesn't have targets for social
housing and where they do exist, in the areas of
health and education, they are invariably imposed
from above; involve, especially in the case of
teachers, the ones on the front line, denigration
and divisiveness from people who have never been
on any front line, but who have made a mystique
of 'managerial skills'.  Thomas Frank describing
his book One Market Under God describes the New
Labour think tank Demos as rounding up "various
cliches from popular American management theory,
and, adopting, a tone of extreme historical
righteousness, recast this stuff as political
advice--they initially inspire in the reader the
feeling of awestruck inadequacy. The authors
speak with this authority that seems to arise
from an intimate familiarity with the massive
overwhelming forces that are remaking our world
and determining our fates." The rebranding of
Britain was one of their big ideas. Out of it
came Cool Britannia.

	The one common criticism of New Labour in
the media is that they are "control; freaks". It
is quite possible that this phrase, with none of
the political baggage and acumen of Millbank
Tendency, originated from the party's Propaganda
Department itself. Some ordinary folk admit to
it, that they're a bit of a control freak. Better
that than New Bolsheviks with their Commissars.
For that, according to an outraged Max Hastings
(Guardian 24/5/04), a pro-military but seemingly
honest journalist, is what has happened to the
top brass of the British armed forces, Commissars
there at every moment to see that they don't say
the wrong thing. Or in deference to the Leader's
own rather particular Christianity- the slow to
bless and quick to chide variety-that they all
"sing from the same hymn-sheet."

	Mandleson's attack, his reference to
'infantile disorder', was not directed at the
real phenomena of 'ultra-leftism' at all, quite
the reverse, it was aimed at the remnants of any
critical intelligence in the "Labour movement".
Probably Robin Cook was on his mind. He talked of
them "throwing in their lot with the right in
their attacks, not just on the issue of war but
on the prime minister's personal integrity." This
is Stalinist Bolshevism, the absolutely bog
standard Stalinist tactic of associating any
questioning of its lunacies and especially those
of the Leader with 'the right'. You are with us
or against us. And the war, in which thousands of
people have died and which is costing money in
the billions that might have gone into the public
services they make the targets for (have they
been adjusted to take account?) is just an issue,
one of many 'issues' and not as important as the
prime minister's personal integrity. Besides, the
Leader in responding to the Butler Report has
given us a version of History Will Absolve Me,
and The Ends Justify the Means. Yet one more
reason for him to rubbish the 1960s, given that a
non-Bolshevik left had some success in showing
that the two could not be so divided;  that the
means determined the true nature of the ends.

	Besides, everyone is now sick of Mr
Blair's personal integrity, whether it exists or
not. What matters is how he lead the UK into the
Iraq invasion. Treating the population as
children was the style, and it did not come out
of nowhere. David Marquand with a book out
recently Decline of the Public: the Hollowing out
of Citizenship, has described how it is the very
nature of Blair and his New Labour. "Blair
thought the public was too stupid and irrational
for deliberative democracy to be feasible."
Instead he went for the "easy pickings of
manipulative populism."  They have proved to be
specialist in manipulation, but their attempts at
populism have been naff as only Bolsheviks can
be: Cool Britannia; the Dome. Risible! This in
contrast to the 'dinosaur' Trade Unions which got
the wonderful Respect Festivals up and running.
Manipulation has proved far easier than creating
anything, able to count on the nature of the
media and its predominant attitude to the public.
This is not just a matter of Rupert Murdoch, but
of a whole raft of professional opinionists who
have assumed to themselves the role of popular
democracy. Like Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer
painting a heroic picture of Blair two months
before the war (26/1/03) for standing firm in his
support for George Bush and not "pandering to"
public opinion. As if of course the opinion of
the public at large could only be stupid or
emotional, full of "sentimental evasions" about
Saddam Hussein. Blair himself  had already got
his patronizing in by then; at the time of the
now notorious September dossier of  2002 he also
launched a pre-emptive strike, attacking critics
of a possible war for "not thinking things
through if they believed Britain was too loyal to
the USA."

	That's children for you, just can't think
things through. It's perhaps being an especially
Christian Bolshevik that gives Blair his own
particular style of dealing with criticism that
must necessarily be infantile. It's a mixture of
sorrowful, suffering  irritation: Suffer the
children to come unto me for they know not what
they do. Or is it the shepherd and his flock,
that ghastly analogy Maureen Duffy homed in on.
Some times the nice shepherd, some times stern.
Stern of late, stern only, increasingly
authoritarian and consistent in its unprecedented
attack on civil liberties, which it sneers are
only of concern to Hampstead liberals. These
range from curfews to the wholescale abolition of
the rights of defendents in criminal trials. More
recently with true Bolshevik logic this has
developed into an attack on the legal system
itself, on juries, the real defenders of what
democracy we have, and  now on the independence
of judges, an independence previously seen as a
key  feature of  capitalist  democracies, an
indicator as to how developed or undeveloped is
Russia for instance.

	There are many other versions of the
shepherd and his flock: monarchy; racist
colonial; or modern day autocratic. The monarch
and his or her subjects; the lords of all they
surveyed; the great democrat of the Founding
Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, saying that "to free
negroes was like abandoning children"; King
Leopold and the 'children' of the Congo; fascist
states; nominally Communist states; or, more
often in the modern world, authoritarian  states,
or those with instinctively elitist tendencies.

Reading anything that describes the first period
of Western colonization where so often indigenous
peoples were friendly and trusting one wants to
shout out, Don't, don't trust these bastards,
don't give them an inch: these are people from
back-stabbing, paranoid, greedy societies. In
respect of them, to be trusting is child-like. As
colonialism developed however it would probably
have been preferable to be regarded as the child,
than to be a victim of a murderous eugenics.
Unfortunately, as a reader you simply shout out
in useless protest a hundred years too late as
Leopold lets loose genocide in the Congo and
still talks of them as children to be protected.
These days they are dangerous children who need
protecting for their own good. Thus the US-UK
occupiers of  Iraq push the line through a
compliant media, that without them there would be
civil war, while producing no evidence to back
this claim.

At the beginning of the 1980s when the Polish
Bolshevik regime was turning into a military
dictatorship to deal with the grass-roots
Solidarity movement, the Politburo sent its most
liberal, or at least articulate member, Rakowski
to go into the Gdansk shipyard and take it on
face to face. It was recorded on a documentary
film which needs to be rescued, for it is a
moment when a speech by a sophisticated Bolshevik
is confronted head on by Lech Walensa who says
that they are not children, and will not be
treated as children who "do not understand the
full picture." The disappearance of this moment
of history has suited both the 'left' and the
'right'; the left because they could never cope
with Walensa's Catholicism, and the failures of
the Solidarity government to live-up to its
ideals; the right because it is such a subversive
moment, and one which does not suit their history
of the Cold War and its end which, they would
have us believe began with the fall of the Berlin
Wall and the policies of Ronald Reagan.

  The treatment of citizens as children in modern
authoritarian states, is well described by Jung
and Piccoli in their Turkey at the Crossroads
(Zed Books) describing the situation before the
recent election. They talk of how the paternalist
spirit of Turkish modernization was not exclusive
to the army but that the whole of the Turkish
social establishment showed "the insignia of
inherited elitism. Whether officers, politicians,
bureaucrats, journalists or entrepreneurs, many
representative's of Turkey's elite display
attitudes which developed within the hegemonic
social block of Ottoman social reforms--high
ranking Turkish bureaucrats view the state as a
father figure acting with compassion and justice
towards its children. Although an imitator of
democratic procedures, the bureaucracy perceives
democratic rules in merely juridicial terms .
>From the bureaucratic perspective, it is the
bureaucracy itself that designates democratic
structures as a formal set of rules." It is only
now, with a mass-supported "islamist" party
government that this may change, just as it is
tackling corruption, easing off repression of the
Kurds and being more generally open to civil
rights.

But the Turkish state as described above, no
doubt trying to hold on to its power in the new
circumstances, is rather closer to the Britain of
New Labour and its programme of reactionary
modernization. Bureaucracy in Britain is a
whipping-boy word, producers of nothing but red
tape. What a wheeze that is, red tape, as if it
were all some ridiculous obstacle instead of the
few remaining health and safety regulations of
modern day Britain, the few regulations that
might prevent the grossest types of labour
exploitation. In reality, the civil service
-itself increasingly politicized- is but one part
of the bureaucracy. In the oligopoly of large
financial and media companies and corporations,
they just change the words and call it middle
management, or senior management. Where the state
is concerned, initiatives are dominated by a
bureaucracy of unelected advisors, think tanks
and institutes. All of whom seem agreed in the
present period that rather less of the compassion
is called for in relation to the children.

Speaking in relation to the invasion and
occupation of Iraq in particular, David Marquand
remarks: "Blair gained nothing by treating the
people like children when he could have treated
them like adults." You can only hope he has
gained the contempt of most present day citizens,
this most conceited of elitists, but screw him
and what he did or did not gain, what about the
thousands who have died in Iraq. As the nominal
reasons for the invasions, that immediate-threat
WMD stuff, slowly, very, very slowly fall by the
wayside, a new adult voice is adopted to speak to
the children, the realpolitik speak that is
caught so well by Joan Didion in her novel The
Last Thing He Wanted, published in 1996 and
dealing with the Iran-Contra conspiracy of the
mid 80s.

	This wasn't a situation that lent itself to an MBA analysis.
	This wasn't a zero-sum deal.
	In a perfect world we might have perfect
choices, in the real world we had real choices,
and we made them, and we measured the losses
against what might have been the gains.
	Real world.
	There was no doubt certain things
happened we might have wished hadn't happened.
	There was no doubt we were dealing with
forces that might or might not include
unpredictable elements.
	Elements beyond our control.
	No doubt, no argument at all.
	And yet.
	Still
	Consider the alternatives: trying to
create a context for democracy and maybe getting
your hands a little dirty in the process or just
opting out, letting the other call it up.
	Add it up.

	This 'we' voice, using traditional
rhetorical devices so that somehow it is
different to the ends-justify-the-means ascribed
to the other side in the Cold War, is insidious
in its claim that its view of reality is the only
adult view of reality. What also stands out in
this context is the sheer amount of wishful
thinking involved by the New Bolsheviks and their
Leader. Irony piled upon ironies given that it is
us the children, and especially those who think
the world might be a better place with a lot less
elitism and exploitation, who are accused of it.
How British involvement in the invasion of Iraq
came about, involved wishful thinking allied to
the sheer vanity of the Leader, his delusions of
grandeur, and a cabinet full of yes-men, the
Molotovs. That and sentimental illusions about
the 'special relationship', Worlds War II and the
rest, sentimental and ignorant in the case of the
Leader who appeared to believe that the USA was
already fighting the war at the time of the
London blitz. Childish, dare we say. As the then
President Eisenhower wrote of Churchill in his
diary, that he "had developed an almost childlike
faith that all the answers are to be found merely
in the British-American relationship." 

	Childlike and vain, Mr Blair. Tony. We,
the supposed children, knew at the time that he
would follow US on the matter of Iraq come what
may, something since confirmed, even if the jury
is, as always in such matters, 'still out on that
one.' He obviously believed that he would have
influence on how things worked out, and confident
that he would get that second UN vote when after
all the Security Council of the time was full of
other children, the governments of Angola,
Cameroun, and Guinea for example. We now know,
from the evidence of various senior US
politicians and officials, that the British, now
behaving more like the eager East German
Politburo, had no consequential influence on
American policy, even though polls in the USA
showed that British involvement in the invasion
was important to public support there. Not even
that sop the road-map; that didn't last long, and
in the process revealed that if the US has a
special relationship, it is with Israel. And, as
a consequence, no interests in a democratic
middle east.

	These delusions are however
institutionalized in a mesh of unelected US_UK
think-tanks and foundations, some open, some
secretive, as well as in a range of military
agreements, some open, some secretive, involving
a whole range of American military bases and
facilities in Britain, the East Germany of the
Warsaw Pact. It turns out (and this is well
documented by Billy Clark: Lobster 45: Summer
2003) that some of the elected and even more of
the unelected apparatchiks of New Labour have
been involved in such transatlantic outfits from
Demos to the British American Project. They have
seen real power, and they like it. And if they've
rationalized it, this power fetish, rationalized
it all, it's a belief that the 'inevitable'
global free market will somehow be beneficial to
everyone; as if somehow, more wishful thinking,
neoliberalism could accommodate a previous
orthodoxy, the utopianism of WW Rostow's
universal model of economic growth via stages. As
Thomas Frank says of Demos, "you can't help but
marvel at the grip historical determinism still
holds on this guy" even it has now become a tone
of "historical smugness" with a keenness for
inevitability.

	In all their delusions, the New
Bolsheviks were encouraged   by the most
obsequious of professional opinionists.
Cheerleader Andrew Rawnsley concluded his
Observer piece of 26th January by saying that Mr
Blair was not only heroic in not pandering to
public opinion, he was especially principled too
in that he hadn't asked the US for anything in
return for his support, which meant that when he
did ask, he would get it. A month later in The
Guardian, Michael White, commenting on the first
rebel vote in parliament against the war, argued
that this vote would help Blair's case and make
it easier to keep the US on board and get that
2nd UN resolution, before dismissing the anti-war
movement as middle class whingers. Such displays
of double-speak emboldened the leader and his
Molotovs to say, when the wishful thinking had
collapsed, that France's refusal to consider the
war option made the war option inevitable.
Double-speak?! 

More recently the true scandal - the deceit
involved in making Britain a 'partner' in the
invasion- has been thoroughly treacled in
boxed-off inquiries; pre-leak expert speculation
as to what the inquiries should  do, and what it
might say;  selected leaks;  post-leak expert
speculation as to what it will say and what that
will mean;  publication of the report with news
conference and news deference; post-publication
expert commentary; predictable post-report media
positions taken; analysis of post-media positions
taken, and what this will mean. This is all good
ground for the New Bolsheviks, their fabled
Propaganda Department rising to every challenge.
The most recent of these inquiries- the Butler
Report -  shows that a dossier presented as being
the work of the various spy services by the
Propaganda Department, was in fact doctored by
them to remove all the caveats of possibles and
probables in what the spies said, and presented
what was said as certainties on the basis of
nothing but expediency. Palpable deceit. Not for
John Reid, Health Minister and ex Communist Party
Bolshevik. In a key radio interview he asserted
that the 'maybes' and 'possibles' had been
removed to protect intelligence sources. Secret
stuff therefore we can't prove that it isn't
true. Yes, possibly, but not such credulous
children as to believe such nonsense, stuff that
defies all logic.

"At a stroke, it is truth which has almost
everywhere ceased to exist or, at best, has been
reduced to the status of pure hypothesis.
Unanswerable lies have succeeded in eliminating
public opinion, which first lost the ability to
make itself heard and then very quickly dissolved
altogether." This is Guy Debord in Reflections on
the Society of the Spectacle. (Tr. Malolm Imrie:
Verso). As so often with Debord, his virtue in
frequently getting right to the point (John Reid
could be in there as empirical evidence) is mixed
with that absolutist tone which makes one feel
that no protest is worthwhile. What is so
heart-warming is how many of us ruled by the New
Bolsheviks are not letting our collective, if
diffuse, voice be dissolved. Despite the amazing
power of a media oligopoly, people are not all
sheep whatever old Bolsheviks are inclined to
say. We will not have it, being treated like
children, and then by the worst of parents.

And we owe it, not to be treated like sheep or
children. To all those really, really dead
people, mashed up and dead as a consequence of
the Iraq invasion; and those who are mashed up
and maimed. And then to President Lamine Sidime
of Guinea, one of those with a temporary seat on
the UN Security Council in March 2003, who stood
up to the immense pressure being exerted, and
exerted with confidence for a second Resolution
authorizing an invasion. He had been prepared to
be flexible on how long a deadline to Iraq might
be, might have accepted less than the 45 days he
asked for, but there had to be something
measurable and definable about what constituted
compliance by Iraq. This was anathema both to the
Bush Administration and the New Bolsheviks. They
hate being tied down like this, to facts and
benchmarks, preferring rather to take "Saddam's"
attitude, as defined by themselves as the only
possible benchmark. This Lamine Sidime resisted
when he finally abstained  saying he had been
"affronted by American presumption." It is clear
that the US and the New Bolsheviks assumed that
these Third World children would fall into line.
One hopes the President had popular support for
his action, he may need it because the warmongers
have an instinct for revenge against  all those
who cross them.  

	We owe it also to ourselves. Addressing
the wishful thinking of old-style Bolsheviks, but
without the smug pessimism that often goes with
it, Massimo de Angelis argued, "Real power cannot
be seized--it can only be exercised." We might
also say the same of democracy, for the New
Bolsheviks are -despite devolution- hollowing out
what was already a low-intensity version. Even
with the low-intensity version, the right merely
to vote for one "bunch of public school monkeys
or another", there is a contradiction between it
and capitalism in that each vote carries the same
nominal weight, though the increasing apartheid
of wealth and housing diminishes its actual
weight in elections. Now with the Western
capitalist decision that it has finished paying
off the generation that fought and suffered for
democracy in World War II, and the fast
development of a non-patriotic, and de-regulated
version of capitalist globalization, it looks as
though we are going to have to fight for even a
minimal bourgeois democracy. It's one of the
great attractions for the Old Bolsheviks who've
turned New, that there's a fresh Inevitable March
of History involved, globalized capitalism, one
which allows them to say with a smug shrug,
"that's reality I'm afraid," and a reference to
'inevitability', when jobs are lost or
'outsourced'

	The inspiring thinkers of the late 18th
century Scottish Enlightenment, an era when
voting rights were restricted to gradations of
property owners, were still able to see the
potential dangers of the modern world. With the
increasing specializations of knowledge then
developing, they argued that the critical
intelligence of the population at large, was of
vital importance. At a minimal level, it would be
a preventive intelligence.
One which act as a check on specialists of all
kinds, and the specialists of power most of all,
from making dangerous mistakes from what
Thorstein Veblen called crackpot realism.

	Bolsheviks, both New and Old have never
had any interest in any mass critical
intelligence, never wanted to make the connection
between elitism and exploitation in the case of
the Old, and in the New deleted the words from
their vocabulary. Present education policy has no
interest in its development, something well
evoked in James Kelman's novel A Disaffection. It
is, rather, functional to strengthening of
elitism and inequality, and to their utopian
vision of capitalist development. Old and New and
the Leader most of all,  also share an intense
dislike of "the 1960s and the burst of non-party
political activism of that time. Now they are
united in slagging off the present day non-party
anti-capitalist globalization movement, a
favourite line being as with the "Hampstead
liberal", that they are just the children of the
rich rattling their prams. It is almost entirely
untrue, that is to say, it is a smear which
marginalizes what it has to say, and was most
strongly used by Clare Short, who has veered
wildly between Old and New Bolshevik. In her case
it helped to fend off the far sharper critique of
Third World activists.

  	This mutual dislike of the 1960s is also
shared  with both those famous neo-cons, and with
militarist racists like Samuel Huntington. In his
contribution to a book written at the time The
Crisis of Democracy, he complained of an excess
of democracy and made a plea for cultivating
"discouragement and apathy." He then went on to
say that "Democracy is only one way of
constituting authority, and it is not necessarily
a universally applicable one. In many situations
the claims of expertise, seniority and special
talents may override the claims of democracy as a
way of constituting authority." It was not long
after that Henry Kissinger justified the military
coup in Chile on the grounds that the electorate
had been so irresponsible as to elect a
Communist. Who was not a Communist.

	We do not live, at present, in such
dramatic times, even if the Leader's speech on
the eve of the Iraq invasion had a bogus passion
as if this really was Moscow and the Germans were
getting closer.  And this passion is somehow
meant to fill the void, over  which the New
Bolsheviks shed crocodile tears, political
apathy, voter apathy. True there has been
devolution but at a local level, elected
councils, even New Bolshevik councils lose power
to ad hoc institutions manned by people with
"claims of expertise--and special talents," claims
that are not open to any scrutiny. At a national
level, the flexible British Constitution makes
anti-democratic developments easy. Thus Jonathan
Powell, brother of Margraet Thatcher's foreign
policy adviser Charles Powell, with his claims of
" expertise--and special talents" is now the
Leader's chief of staff with powers over civil
servants, and this position given him through a
"prime ministerial weapon that derives from
monarchical power, an Order in Council." As with
the invasion of Iraq itself, the Leader did it,
as Bill Clinton said of Monica Lewinsky, because
he could.

	We do not live in such dramatic times,
and yet it feels that we are at a moment when the
megalomania of the Leader, combined with the
cocky authoritarianism of the New Bolsheviks has
reached a danger point, one which, needless to
say, will not be alleviated by voting
Conservative. It was reached in July 2004 when,
within days, the Leader, with his monarchical
power so suited to the New Bolsheviks, attacked
the 1960s for having "spawned a group of young
people who were brought up without parental
discipline, without proper role models and
without any sense of responsibility;" and then in
a Parliamentary debate on the Butler Inquiry
which showed quite clearly how the meaning of
intelligence reports had been radically altered
'somewhere in Number Ten', when the Leader did
his usual not-me-guv act while at the same time
taking full responsibility--for the triumph of his
Iraq policy. This not-me-guv attitude, prevalent
right through government and corporations would
be laughable in a criminal court, the sentence
doubled for sheer cheek. Not however in the
Britain of the New Bolsheviks.

	The Leader's supposed throwaway remark
about the 1960s is worth some deconstruction.
Start with 'spawned', why that word, an
immediately dangerous analogical verb that
implies identical frogs. Note again that it is
the 'children' we have to be on the look-out for.
These unruly children who have carried these
undisciplined childish ways into adulthood, For
the leader now is the time to have some proper
role models thrust upon them. Or rather, for
those outside the meritocratic loop, make them
work long hours for low wages. Huntington's
immense dislike of the 1960s was because of its
excess of democracy. Another strand of
reactionary American thought and politics, what
are now called neo-cons, hated it also for
reasons more openly akin to the Leader's, Irving
Kristol writing in almost identical terms though
with a more personal distaste for sexual
liberation. Classic neo-cons, and war-mongering
hangers -on like Richard Perle, are pleased to
define themselves as "liberals mugged by
reality". I suspect this is an attractive notion
to the Leader, but we are entitled to ask, what
reality; whose reality?

As to rights and responsibilities, the history of
this rhetoric is also dangerous. In his history
of 20th century Europe Dark Century, Mark Mazower
describes the discrediting of inter-war
democracies and how this was especially the work
of both technocratic and conservative elites. The
latter, backed by both the Catholic and Orthodox
churches who seemed to find fascism easy to take
up, constantly referred to the emphasis on rights
rather than duties of the extant democracies of
the time. This is not to make a dodgy analogy as
the Leader did with appeasement, but to say that
the rhetoric has a history, and it is a dangerous
one. Our responsibility now is to refuse all the
forces of infantilization and passivity, and
instead take on board a comment of Susan George
at the World Social Forum after September 11th.
"Those who hold the future in their hands are not
serious. They see no further than the noses of
their bombers. Frightening though the prospect
may seem, citizens must accept the risk of being
serious in their place."

	As I write this, Beatrix Campbell writes
of the infantilisation of the Labour Party as a
party. What remains amazing is the persistence of
the outrage of so many citizens at how we were
deceived in the justification for a pre-emptive
strike on Iraq, and this despite the
nomenklatura's strategy of newzak versions of
inquiring into what happened, with the aim of
making us all finally bored ("Blairites hope the
Iraq question is running out of steam"). It is
from this persistence, as well as the continued
existence of independent trade unions, that the
dangerous nature of the New Bolsheviks can be
confronted and one way remains that of voting.
Taking the risk of being serious involves voting
when the opportunity arises. I took part in a
Don't Vote campaign and Festival in 1970; in 1979
I wrote Troops Out of Ireland on my ballot paper.
But this is not some principle set in stone and,
there is a certain smugness to the
If-Voting-Changed-Anything-It-Would-Be-Illegal
when it is such a 'principle'. It is, however
unconsciously, rather patronizing. Most people
are well aware that little will be different, but
that the small differences might matter. It may
well be that the Congress Party will not be so
different in power to the BJP, but the Indian
election result did make a difference, it put a
brake on the dangerous use of Hindu nationalism
to somehow make greater inequalities palatable,
to Hindus at least.

	Closer to home, the Spanish election
result held at the grisliest of times, a
fascistic-style bombing, was clearly not an
appeasement vote, as the Bush Administration
implied in typical smear style, but a revulsion
at the right wing governing party, treating the
electorate as children in the way they tried to
use the bombing for their own ends, the further
militarisation of the conflict with the Basques.
It was heart-warming and the packed streets on
the night before were an expression of people
power. Were Spanish anarchist hanging back and
saying, that it was all nonsense and the people
were being fooled by the electoral process per
se? One hopes not. A similar preventive vote
would be welcome at the next General Election
here because the Leader and his New Bolsheviks
can only become more arrogant. There is less and
less point in the wishful thinking that the
number of people not voting plus spoiled papers
has consequences. We can talk of its significance
but it has no consequences, certainly none
understood by New Labour. Nor is there much point
in voting for the Respect grouping, and that
regardless of the instinctive mistrust one might
feel for its leading lights, because they will
not win. For this one time, faced with an
infantilized Labour Party, why not try the
Liberal Democrats and especially in seats held by
Labour MPs who voted for the invasion and still
go on rationalizing it. Whatever their faults and
contradictions, militarism and authoritarianism
do not seem to be integral to their view of the
world. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

John Barker's analysis of the American invasion
of Iraq - 'Frankenstein and the Chickenhawks' -
can be found at <www.christiebooks.com>.

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