Monday 30 October 2017

On Tory Phantasmagoria

The world is a terrifying place, and even more so if you lack the tools to understand it. Pity the mainstream of politics who eschew even the most basic truisms of sociological thinking. You know, the revolutionary notion human societies are constituted by social relations, and these contain dynamics and flows of different scales and power that can be described, analysed, and explained. Its absence does go some way to understanding why sundry pundits and politicians can't get to grips with the Corbyn phenomenon, lack a handle on why Brexit and Trump happened, and lest we forget are puzzled by the stubborn refusal of Labour's northern heartlands to roll on over for a belly rub from UKIP.

When sociology is missing the world assumes monstrous proportions. For establishment thinking it presents as an elemental force unknown and, worse, unknowable in its capricious natural state. Hence why a hauntology, as coined by Jacques Derrida, of bourgeois and, in particular, Conservative thought might be useful for laying open the silences and contradictions embedded in its structuring principles. In his Spectres of Marx, Derrida plays around with the phantoms, vampires, and sundry undead summoned by the Ouija of Marx's metaphors to fashion a new spirit of radical critique from the bones of official communism. The spooks and the ghoulies, however, play an altogether different role in Tory thinking. In Marx, the other worldly was summoned to hasten the end of capitalism and give power to the gravediggers' elbow. In Conservatism, phantoms have two qualities. There's the hauntism, of the nightmare of capital's mortality that must be exorcised time after time. On the occasion of the dread centennial of the Russian Revolution, Dan Hannan's latest incantation is typical of this trend, and misses the mark with all the characteristic dishonesty he can muster. But there are also the vapours Tories call into the world to do their bidding, and here are a few recent examples conjured from the ether and put in service of Brexit.

Last week, Jacob Rees-Mogg attacked Bank of England governor, Mark Carney as an "enemy of Brexit". Since his appointment, Carney has opposed Brexit and consistently talked Britain and its economy down. And for good measure the BBC were criticised because it "always wants to blame things on Brexit".

Also last week, government whip Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to university vice chancellors asking for lists of academic staff who taught on European affairs generally, and Brexit specifically. Course materials and lecture notes were also requested. Philip Davies, the grotesquerie representing Shipley added in the whip's defence "everybody knows that is what is happening. I speak to lots of students and they all say that what you get is one way traffic of left wing indoctrination with lecturers forcing their opinions on their students."

On the happy occasion of this year's Conservative Party conference, nominal foreign secretary Boris Johnson said we need to stop treating Brexit "like a plague of boils". The Financial Times got some stick for not towing the party line and refusing to radiate official optimism about Britain's prospects outside of the European Union.

And, without wanting to tax the reader's patience further, we finish with Andrea Leadsom who, over the summer, told Emily Maitlis "It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic ... The country took a decision, this Government is determined to deliver on that decision."

The common thread here is the phantasm, a ghostly rhetorical ruse that, thankfully, does not require the services of Derek Acorah to pinpoint. Regardless of what one thinks about Brexit, it is obvious the government are flailing over the negotiations and don't really know what they're aiming at. This is exacerbated by the collapse of Theresa May's authority, the signs of a slowing economy, dire warnings of a no deal scenario and the stubborn (some might say decadent and deluded) belief of the Brexit ultras that these are but preludes to the permanent sunshine of an "independent" Britain. If it looks like a shambles and sounds like a shambles ... and this is a crisis cooked up entirely by the Conservative Party. Dave gambled everything on keeping less than a handful of Tory seats out of UKIP's hands, and lost. Learning nothing and in her overweening arrogance, Theresa May staked her personal authority on an unnecessary election, and failed. Decisions and actions have consequences.

But not if you accept phantasmic thinking. If you follow the logical direction of their arguments, Brexit isn't a mess because of Tory vanity, complacency and incompetence but due to outside influences. For Leadsom and Johnson, it's the disloyal media talking Britain down. For Heaton-Harris and Davies, Brexit would be a beautiful thing were it not for lefty academics poisoning the minds of young people. And the fool Jacob Rees-Mogg is happy to pin economic damage on the commentary offered by the Bank of England. Whether named individuals and institutions are guilty of Brexit bias or not is neither here nor there, the fact is they are apparitions: formless and transparent tropes to hang the blame on if everything goes wrong. It's a convenience, but also represents mental blockage, a studied refusal to see the world as it is, to take responsibility for their actions. And because Tory phantasmagoria pops up time and again, ironically, their ectoplasmic spatterings of the immaterium is a material practice intertwined with the earthly pursuit of power and interest.

Consider the following. Riots are always caused by outside agitators or criminal elements, never the background realities of daily life or precipitating factors like police harassment and violence. Consider Islamist terrorism, it's the strange mystical power of IS videos and memes that recruits young Muslims, as if the heady mix of social atomisation, toxic masculinities and, in some cases, official encouragement does not exist. Have a think about industrial action, if only the workers could be spoken to directly without union militants getting in the way, and so on. Ghosts of arguments are summoned to simplify complex issues and cover for the complicity of authorities, which not only make them material - they come into the world dripping not in ichor, but in bad faith.

It's a tried and tested response to challenges, and one that has an inglorious track record of working. Until now the potency of Tory phantasmagoria rested on the power of the press and broadcast media. Now it has been significantly weakened and grows more threadbare day-by-day, the terrifying spectres of the recent past deployed to attack their enemies look ever so absurd. Their Freddy Kruegers and Pennywises today exude all the menace of a Scooby Doo monster. And now the Tories find themselves bedevilled by two great fears. Of facing a recently resurrected socialism and, yikes, communism too on something of a level playing field, and a dawning realisation the phantoms called up in their defence are seen for what they are: stratagems of self-serving bullshit.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Politicising Sexual Harassment

As we've been talking about sexist abuse in the Labour Party recently, turning our attention to the Tories is the balanced thing to do. The eruption of the Harvey Weinstein scandal appears to have cleared a logjam in public life. Women who've put up with the full spectrum of sexist behaviour, from "banter" and name-calling all the way through to abuse and sexual assault now feel encouraged to come forward and talk about it. It was only a matter of time before the press pack fizzed with similar stories about Westminster.

Three stories hit the papers this morning. Stephen Crabb, former great blue hope for the blue collar Tories and, of course, "committed Christian", has found the old story about smutty texts regurgitated and recycled. A young woman who unsuccessfully applied for a bag carrying vacancy in his office found herself on the receiving end of unsolicited texts from the former rising star. Crabb apologised when the story first broke, and he's done so again for good measure. There is the case of Mark Garnier, who has admitted to sending his former secretary into an adult shop to buy sex toys while he hung around outside. He also occasionally referred to her as sugar tits - all of which was merely "high jinks". Nevertheless rather than sack him, the Prime Minister has placed him under investigation. Seeing as he admitted to doing it, you're left wondering what there is to investigate.

This, however, is small beer. There is worse in the offing, as the Sunday Times notes:

May is given a regular briefing by the Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson on misdemeanours by Tory MPs after the 8.30am planning meeting in No 10. In a sign of the levity with which the issue is treated, one of May’s aides said the briefing was known in Downing Street as “the ins and outs” chat.

Insiders say it covers MPs having affairs, suffering from sex addiction, caught using prostitutes, running up gambling debts and taking class-A drugs. But sources allege that “good, honest fun with other people’s wives” has been treated the same as predatory sexual behaviour in which senior ministers and MPs prey on the vulnerability of younger women and men working in the Commons.

... Two senior cabinet ministers have been named by female MPs, researchers and journalists as serial sex pests. One man who is now a serving cabinet minister placed his hand on the thigh of a senior female journalist at a party conference dinner some years ago and announced "God, I love those tits." A second senior cabinet minister had an affair with a junior female aide who is also an MP. Downing Street is concerned that if either man is forced to resign it will destabilise the government.

Yes, it is revealing how possible criminality is seen on the same plane as extra marital affairs. Revealing, but not surprising. In the zero-sum game of establishment party politics fighting it out in the full glare of the media, all problems present themselves as difficulties to be managed - as the latter passage suggests. All very Francis Urquhart. This, of course, raises big problems for the Prime Minister. By letting these men carry on she's saying there isn't really anything wrong with their behaviour.

Having worked a stint in the outer suburbs of Westminster, I know how the relationships between MPs and their staff can could lead to improper conduct and abuse of position. Unlike the usual employee/boss run of things, the relationship is immediate and arrangements quite informal. MPs are given a budget (the much misunderstood expenses system) and left to get on with it. Despite a recognised union being in place for parliamentary and constituency staff, workers have very little power vis a vis "their" MP, and as it is Unite the limited protections it does offer are significantly less likely to be accessed by Tory staffers. Neither is there a grievance procedure, no avenue for complaints: responsibility starts and stops with the honorable member, and so working for a MP is a place where all kinds of bad practice thrives. Such as arbitrary hours, bullying, incompetence, sycophancy and, as we can see, the possibility of impropriety and wrongdoing.

As the joke of the expenses scandal showed eight years ago, there are a lot of problems with the jerry-rigged character of the back office of British politics, and this underlines it. But ultimately, juggling personnel structures on the Parliamentary Estate does not and cannot go to the heart of the problem. Therefore no apologies should ever be made for politicising this issue. The systematic discrimination and subordination of women and the too powerful grip of toxic masculinities on our culture cannot be legislated away or fixed by better management. Tackling sex discrimination and its attendant evils head on is and remains a key political task, it is a collective priority and one our movement must never compromise on.

Friday 27 October 2017

Local Council By-Elections October 2017

This month saw 51,773 votes cast over 31 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests (please note Loughbrough Hastings in Charnwood BC was a double vacancy). All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. Six council seats changed hands in total. For comparison with September's results, see here.

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- Oct 16


* There was one by-election in Scotland this month
** No by-elections in Wales
*** There was one Independent clash
**** Others this month consisted of Yorkshire Party (153), Putting Hartlepool First (474), Elvis Bus Pass (34), It's Our County (Herefordshire) (156)

Another month goes by and the obvious polarisation that, strangely, next to no pundits and political "science" commentators are talking about, continue to manifest. The long promised melt down in Labour's cores is nowhere to be seen, and last year's LibDem insurgency is but a heady memory for some. If only someone had written an explanation for all this, eh?

Obviously, while I would love Labour to have a 12.5% lead in real life this is an artefact of the distribution of this month's by-election contests, and should not be something to be excited about in and of itself. 16 by-elections were Labour defences, and some of these were in places where you can still weigh the vote. But pinching a councillor each from UKIP and the Tories helps build the momentum surrounding the party. Meanwhile the LibDems are outperforming their national polling figures and are, at least where local contests are concerned, now sloshing around their historic level of 10 per centish. UKIP's woes carry on, albeit they at least out-polled the Greens this week and came close to matching them candidate for candidate. They must surely be praying for a Brexit "betrayal" to lift their fortunes again.

Adur DC Mash Barn: Lab gain from UKIP
Cheshire East UA, Crewe East: Lab hold
Hertsmere BC Borehamwood Kenilworth: Lab gain from Con
Hinckley & Bosworth BC, Burbage, Sketchley and Stretton: Con hold
Redcar and Cleveland UA, St Germains: Lib hold
Salford City MB, Claremont: Lab hold
South Bucks DC, Burnham Lent Rise & Taplow: Con hold
Warwick DC, Stoneleigh & Cubbinton: Con hold

12th October
Aberdeenshire UA Inverurie & District: Con hold
Ashfield DC Hucknall North: Ind gain from Con
Sheffield City MB Beighton: Lab hold
Tamworth BC Bolehal: Lab hold
Three Rivers DC Oxhey Hall & Hayling: Lib gain from Con
Wakefield BC Stanley & Outwood: Lab hold
Warrington BC Chapelford and Old Hall: Lab hold
Wyre BC Rossall: Lab hold

19th October
City of Lincoln Council, Carholme: Lab hold
Epping Forest DC, Lower Sheering: Con hold
Gravesham BC Meopham North: Con hold
Nottingham UA Basford: Lab hold
Nottingham UA Bestwood: Lab hold
Nottingham UA , Bulwell Forest: Lab hold
Hartlepool UA Seaton: Oth gain from Ind
Wigan MB , Astley Moseley Common: Lab hold

26th October
Charnwood BC Loughborough Hastings: Lab hold x2
Derbyshire Dales DC, Ashbourne South: Con hold
Herefordshire UA Kings Acre: Con gain from Oth
Kirklees MB Batley East: Lab hold
Mid Sussex DC East Grinstead Imberhorne: Con hold
Tameside MB, Droylsden East: Lab hold

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Politics and Hypocrisy: A Socialist View

Spare me the faux outrage from the Tories over Jared O'Mara and his recently unearthed comments. Minus a positive programme and staring the uneasy prospect of a long decline in the face, seizing on every bigoted comment and every stupid indiscretion uttered by Labour's new generation of MPs long ago is all they have. This is the divide and rule they're used to. In the past, sexism, racism and homophobia did the job, but after Dave's superficial liberal make over they're quite happy to use the legacy of the left - anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-homophobia - to achieve the same effect. Even if it means ignoring the egregious bigots on their own benches, and the apologists for state terror who support them to achieve their aims.

That O'Mara has been suspended by Labour is the right thing because of alleged comments made prior to his selection earlier this year. However, when do past utterances cease being relevant? Obviously, for anyone whose politics extend beyond point scoring, present records tend to trump what is long passed, no matter how colourful, foolish, or downright backward it might have been. Who but the most odious oaf, for example, would continue holding the young Ricky Tomlinson's membership of the National Front against him after a life time of union militancy, victimisation, and supporting socialist causes? To consider the point from an opposite view, Tory MPs, those leading the charge against O'Mara's sexist idiocy, are ever so squeaky clean in their interpersonal relationships. Some of them might even avoid harassing junior Commons staff as far as I know. And yet their antennae is blunt to the sexist and racist consequences of their policies. Who do they think suffer disproportionately from their Parliamentary votes to cut to social security, their cuts to the NHS, their real terms cuts to public sector wages? Oh yes, the very same people they profess to give a shit about when an idiot gives them a high horse to trot about on (though it is interesting to note no such Tory fuss was forthcoming when the unlamented Simon Danczuk was exposed for harassing a 17-year-old).

We can talk about hypocrisy, we can attack it, but truth be told it's a structural feature of mainstream politics everywhere, especially in the zero-sum game of Westminster and first-past-the-post. Whoever secures an absolute majority of seats can, provided winning is by a healthy margin, more or less do as they please. As Ed Miliband once put it, opposition is crap because there's not a great deal you can do. It is therefore an inherently adversarial system, even when the two main parties are closer in outlook than they are presently. All means are open to undermine the party opposite to sap their morale and cause them disciplinary difficulties. Whatever comes along is more or less useful fodder in the ceaseless struggle, regardless of how petty it might be or whether it makes one look like a ridiculous hypocrite. What matters is the splash made and how that contributes to the narrative you're pushing against the enemy.

Socialists should have a different approach. Attacking sexism, racism and homophobia isn't, or shouldn't be about shaming individuals in the first instance. Doing so accomplishes nothing. We work to defeat these forms of inequality not just because they're morally abhorrent and makes people's lives shit, but because they also imperil our ability to organise, to build the kinds of solidarities capable of challenging the present state of affairs, and of dismantling class and capital and constructing a new society on the foundations of the old. That's the key difference between us and those for whom a sexism/racism revelation is an occasion to burnish one's creds and very little else.

Monday 23 October 2017

Guido Fawkes: Troll and Hypocrite

When do past misdeeds no longer matter? I ask because, well, this.

In the 1980s, we find a Westminster establishment regular trying to forge links with the then openly Neo-Nazi British National Party. As a luminary in the Federation of Conservative Students, he said there was a great deal of common ground between himself and the BNP, particularly with regard to "the elimination of Communism in Britain – the mass media, the trade unions, and the schoolroom."

A year later we see our hero flogging off UNITA solidarity shirts. For younger readers not au fait with this particular acronym, they began life as a Maoist anti-colonial guerrilla outfit in what was then Portuguese-occupied Angola. It then undertook an armed struggle against the pro-Soviet MPLA government and morphed into a right wing, anti-communist outfit as cash flowed in from Uncle Sam and apartheid South Africa. A truly charming organisation that was implicated in brutal atrocities and trade in blood diamonds.

Later reflecting on his youthful scrapes, he recalled "I was a fanatical, zealot anti-communist. I wasn't really a Tory, I was an anarcho-capitalist. I was lobbying at the Council of Europe and at Parliament; I was over in Washington, in Jo'burg, in South America. It was 'let's get guns for the Contras', that sort of stuff. I was enjoying it immensely, I got to go with these guys and fire off AK-47s. I always like to go where the action is, and for that period in the Reagan/Thatcher days, it was great fun, it was all expenses paid and I got to see the world." (Matthew Collin, Altered State, 1997, p.99)

Ah, the indiscretions of the young. Ah, but what do we have here? How about a forthright defence of Augusto Pinochet, replete with pig iron production figures and spin so crude they make North Korean apologetics look sophisticated. Likewise, looking back again at the small part he played in the Cold War, he boasts "I'm still pretty gung-ho. We were on the right side of history. I don't have any problem with having raised money to kill communists." Oh, and to bring matters fully up to date, our pillar of establishment politics shares the hard right's racist and sexist obsession with Diane Abbott.

None of this is news. But we have a very forgiving political class because none of the shilly-shallying with Nazis, excusing brutal dictators, and funnelling cash to and colluding with far right paramilitaries matters a jot. He's part of the scene and everything is dandy, all is forgiven. I mean, it's a good job he was hanging around with murderous thugs at the age of 21 instead of anonymously shit posting sexist and homophobic comments on the internet, otherwise he'd be finished.

Hypocrisy is a sickening thing, especially when people are happy to dog pile a new MP for saying daft things a decade-and-a-half ago, and doing so while caring nothing for the anti-social, beyond-the-pale, unrepentant doings of Paul Staines of Guido fame. It's time some perspective was had.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Oxbridge and the Reproduction of the Ruling Class

It's one of the great ironies of contemporary capitalism. The early 21st century gives off the impression of living in an age of rapid change, and that is true in some aspects. But in others, particularly relating to matters of class and economics, things are a deal more static. Not only is there a strong tendency toward stagnation, but our supposedly dynamic system is seizing up. The standard of living is flatlining and increasingly financed on the never-never, social mobility is down and the upper echelons of society are seeing the privileged and well-heeled pensioned off and replaced by ... the privileged and well-heeled. That's why the news of Oxbridge getting even narrower came as zero surprise.

According to the research, the top two income groups grew their share of successful applicants from 79% to 81%. Shock horror the Home Counties received more offers of a place than the entirety of northern England - some 2,812 vs 2,619, and despite not insignificant sums both universities spend on widening participation. This isn't the result of some crude conspiracy to keep out northerners and people from modest income brackets but a consequence of the relationship between inequality and educational attainment, a subject well studied and a link between the two generally accepted. Of course, in case the hard-of-thinking might be reading this, noting the impact of inequality on formal qualifications isn't to say working class kids don't do well and don't get sent up to Oxbridge, but it does mean the odds are stacked against them and are therefore less likely to.

Attending an Oxbridge college does offer tremendous opportunities. The programme of study is more intensive than that offered at virtually any other institution (Oxford alone is in receipt of £800m from the government alone per year, which helps pay for all those tutors). It requires students to deepen the kinds of analytical and presentation skills as standard that one finds among exceptional and auto-didactic students elsewhere, and allows for the cultivation of unmatched quantities of cultural and social capital. Cultural in that aptitudes acquired endows one with a habitus, or a set of conscious and unconscious dispositions that are advantageous when encountering the mores and expectations of the rarefied and privileged fields that cluster atop our society. And social because of the networks. Not only is an Oxbridge graduate more likely to know and be tied to people from privileged backgrounds, those linkages are passports to useful contacts and powerful jobs. They form part of the stretchy social glue that sees our establishment politics and, in some cases, our radical politics dominated by people who attended the same colleges doing the same degree programmes. This is why Oxbridge supplies almost a third of MPs, an overwhelming number of national journalists, increasing numbers of media personalities, senior civil servants, top lawyers, and, of course, the top managerial staff of British business.

If Oxbridge plays a pivotal role in the social and cultural reproduction of the ruling class and those who support it, then why the panic about thinning participation? Why do the runners and the riders of this story care so long as elites are turned out uninterruptedly? Partly, the huge stress on social mobility rhetoric from Blair onwards represents a set of strategies by the state to substitute its activities for the slowing up of social mobility. Post-war Keynesianism wasn't a golden age, but it did redistribute opportunity (and depress inequality) thanks to the expansion of clerical and managerial work in the state owned industries. The huge growth of further and higher education, as well as an extension of the state bureaucracy worked as transmission belts. The unleashing of the market was met by a seizing up of the mechanism. In an age of dog-eat-dog and privatised self-reliance, those who start out with advantage are always likely to do better. So while, for instance, a working class youngster is more likely to attend university in 2017 than 1997 or 1977 the opportunities beyond that exist in limited numbers except if you went to one of the elite institutions. The end of social mobility is a problem because the more our elites draw from a narrow segment of the population, the less they look like everyone else and that raises problems of legitimacy. You only have to look at our politicians and the general antipathy towards them to know why this matters.

Should the left add its voices to this critique of Oxbridge and the need for them to open up? Absolutely not. The problem isn't that the two universities are too selective, it's their being vectors of ruling class dominance. They are but the apex of a system riddled with class demarcation and snobbery, both in terms of institutional rankings and irrelevant disciplinary hierarchies - something the government's ludicrous market in higher education only reinforces. The answer isn't the abolition of Oxbridge, but in taking on and destroying these circuits of class. A flattening of entry criteria is part of the process, but the real key is massive investment along the lines of Labour's proposed life long education service, one that allows all institutions the resources to provide the intensive experience Oxbridge offers. Not only does this widen opportunity and the availability, and has the added bonus of cutting against the Conservative Party, it disrupts the established strategies of ruling class reproduction. What's not to like?

Friday 20 October 2017

Thursday 19 October 2017

Fisking Mark Wallace Fisking Young Labour

What is the point of fisking? They were all the rage back in the halcyon days of the UK Left Network. The point-by-point rebuttal of another contribution largely fell out of use with the passing of first age of political blogging. Yet nostalgia freaks occasionally enjoy giving the form a dusting down. Mark Wallace of Conservative Home is the latest to wheel one out, taking objection as he does to the anti-imperialism/anti-NATO statement agreed by Young Labour's conference last weekend. He says "Impressively, it is stuffed to the brim with ahistorical nonsense – basing its pitch on what appears at best to be a total misunderstanding of British and world history." Bold claims. Let's see how his fisk goes by subjecting his fisk to a fisk. YoungLab are in bold and Mark is in italics. Seat belts ready?

Since at least the mid-nineteenth century, the relationship between ‘the West’ and the rest of the world has been one defined by imperialism

At least the mid-nineteenth century’? If you’re going to cast yourself as an anti-imperialist, at least appreciate the true length of the history of imperialism.

How very dare Young Labour. Because they haven't condemned the Romans for occupying Gaul nor criticised the Spanish sacking of South America, how can these preposterous people possibly call themselves anti-imperialists? Amateurs.

Mark isn't a stupid man, but like most Tories he can't help but be disingenuous. He knows there's a world of difference between the imperialism of slaver societies, absolutist regimes and the imperialism of 19th century colonialism. In his more honest moments he might recognise the hierarchy of nations that dominate the world (the Tories' desire to crawl up the United States' backside, in spite of its idiot president, shows they do), and acknowledge this dominance is wielded in ways some might find problematic, even if he doesn't. And though he disagrees with their analysis, he might accept there is a collection of scholarly work that traces the lineage of these relationships from the War on Terror back through the Cold War, the World Wars and to the pulse of imperial plunder and annexation that establishes a line of evolutionary continuity between them. What continuity might that be? The forcible integration of peoples and territories into the world market to the benefit of the leading powers.

… the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed, in order to enshrine the dominance of American interests.

Or to protect the free, democratic nations of Western Europe from a very real threat of invasion or destruction by the Soviet Union. The Young Labour version of these events is straight out of Stalin’s lines-to-take – and a huge, shameful misrepresentation of the decision of the Attlee Labour Government to join NATO in the first place.

Is this supposed to be a refutation? The United States weren't persuaded of the necessity of rebuilding Western Europe and guaranteeing its security out of charitable or avuncular concerns, but because it believed it was in its interests to do so. It's why it overthrew the liberal democratic (and anti-communist!) government of Jacobo √Ārbenz in Guatemala and backed the absolutist monarchy of the Shah of Iran until his overthrow. As Henry Kissinger famously observed, "America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests". America's wars and police actions sometimes enforce economic objectives, and at other times are designed to shock and awe would-be opponents and challengers, and as the US favours confronting weak regimes it gives others an impetus to try and match them.

Second, there was never any threat from the USSR in the immediate aftermath of the war. As this analysis by the RAND corporation - a nest of pro-Soviet apology if there ever was one - makes clear, Western intelligence on the Soviet military was poor. While it concedes the American and British armies demobilised very quickly, it also notes many opposing units and divisions in the East had an existence that didn't extend beyond Stalin's filing cabinet. Nor did Western accounts recognise troop quality. It was only in the latter stages of the war after force of numbers had ground Nazi Germany down that the Red Army could be considered better fed and equipped than the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS. After the devastation visited on Eastern Europe and the resources thrown into reconstruction and acquiring a bomb, your average Soviet soldier was still more likely to suffer worse rations, be barracked in worse accommodation and handle dud equipment than Western forces. This matters, as the huge number of Soviet war dead vis a vis that inflicted on Germany brutally demonstrates.

Third, who's talking about Attlee? Seeing as Young Labour don't mention the 1945 government and focuses on America's role in NATO, it's a clumsy and desperate aside to suggest a "shameful misrepresentation" when there is no representation at all.

Between 1945 and 2000, American imperialism bombed at least 27 countries, assassinated or attempted to assassinate thirty world leaders and tried to overthrow forty governments

I’m not sure ‘American imperialism’ is a person or state, but assuming the author means ‘America’, which exact actions are included in this list? To reach ’27 countries’, the list would have to include: the 1995 campaign to prevent Serbian forces in Bosnia, which had just committed the Srebrenica massacre, from carrying out further atrocities; missile strikes against Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in 1998; and bombing Iraqi forces which had invaded Kuwait in 1991. Are Young Labour of the opinion that these actions should not have taken place?

As misdirection and whataboutery goes, this lunge is as clumsy as Mark's use of the semi-colon. He knows there are grisly skeletons knocking about the State Department's closet, like the aforementioned Guatemala. And, thanks to a recent document dump, America's collusion in the murder of 500,000 Indonesians. The one thing that unites these barbarities with the 90s heroism against targets barely able to fire back are interests. If Bush senior and Bill Clinton were in the business of smiting evils, where was the intervention against the sinking of Rwanda into depraved slaughter? That's right, from the State Department's point of view US interests were unaffected, so they stayed away and wrung their hands. I also have no doubt Young Labour would have opposed the actions listed because they have a more advanced understanding of the dynamics and drivers of American military action while Mark's analysis owes more to Autobots vs Decepticons then anything considered and thoughtful.

‘Such episodes include the wars of aggression in Korea in the 1950s …’

Sorry, what? The Korean War was sparked by the North, under Kim Il-Sung, invading the South. It wasn’t a ‘war of aggression’ on the part of the US, or the wider West. Nor was it a NATO action – the defence was mounted by the United Nations. If we hadn’t defended South Korea, then the whole Korean peninsula would now be a hellhole, not just the northern half. Does Young Labour wish that South Korea did not exist as a free and sovereign nation?

And we're off to disingenuous territory again. Young Labour know the Korean War had nothing to do with NATO. Which is why their point three submits that America has bombed "at least 27 countries", to which they follow up "Such episodes [emphasis mine] includes wars of aggression in Korea in the 1950s ...". If you can't argue honestly, it's not worth arguing at all - especially when your half arsed deception is easily exposed. But on the question of Korea itself, while I would accept that describing the American-led UN intervention as an act of aggression is suspect, nevertheless the utter devastation visited upon the north by the US Air Force set the pattern for the shock and awe that was to follow in Vietnam and Iraq. More bombs were dropped on North Korea than the entirety of Europe during the Second World War. The North's claims that only two buildings in Pyongyang made it through the conflict unscathed sound, for once, credible. Also, Mark can chalk up ignorance about the political economy and social development of North Korea as another thing about which he knows little. The country is obviously a hellhole, and a lot of this has to do with its response to abandonment by the USSR and having to maintain its own Cold War frontier itself. The division of Korea has distorted its development. Had the country united under a Stalinist regime it's unlikely to have assumed the absurd proportions of the Kim monarchy and would probably be a lot like contemporary China. Being able to suggest credible scenarios on the basis of analysing social trends and dynamics is a wonderful thing.

The collapse of Communism post-1989 rendered any real logical justification for NATO moot, since the European glacial states no longer needed defence ...

Try telling that to NATO member states in Eastern Europe like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, who feel a very real need for defence against a certain neighbour which has carried out cyber- and real-world attacks against their institutions and citizens.

I knew this would get wheeled out. The West's relations with Russia after the Cold War and fall of the Soviet Union could have been very different. Putin is certainly no friend of leftwing politics. He is a Great Russian chauvinist in the same vein as dear old Uncle Joe, sans the gratuitous brutality but capable of matching him for cynicism and ruthlessness. Yet Putin, like any leader, didn't simply pop out of nowhere. He hasn't stayed atop Russian politics by violence and ballot rigging alone - there is genuine popular support, even if it is fraying and under increasing challenge. Nevertheless, Putin's appeal lies in restoring national pride and prestige to a great power fallen on hard times, and here he has the West - particularly NATO and the State Department - to thank for his aggrieved, Russia-is-hard-done-to narrative. There is a prolonged and running dispute over the assurances given to the USSR during the negotiation over a reunited Germany about whether NATO would expand Westwards. The Russians say the West ruled out an expansion of membership after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and various Western diplomats say no such assurances were given. Alas, the documentary evidence bears the Russians out. From Russia's point of view, running troll farms, buzzing NATO aircraft and piling into the Ukraine conflict are entirely legitimate responses to what they see as aggressive moves by powers that didn't keep to their word. Perhaps if the West had kept to its promises, we might not even have Putin running the show and Russia could have turned out an altogether happier place.

…the European glacial states…

Isn’t that a peculiar phrase? In fact, a Google search reveals this motion is the only time the precise term ‘European glacial states’ has ever been used online. It seems to be an auto-correct of ‘glacis states’, ie the Eastern European states used by the Soviet Union as a defensive rampart or buffer zone. Indeed, it would be more common in English to use the words buffer zone, or Warsaw Pact countries, or former Communist countries – ‘glacis states’ is the preferred name in Trotskyist terminology.

As a former Trot who was variously involved in Trottery for 15 years, I've never encountered this term. Rather it appears to be an academic term used by a small number of scholars discussing the USSR's East European satellites. Why make the claim, then? I can only suppose Mark is trying to discredit YL by implying they're a bunch of Trots. If anything, the politics of the YL statement sounds very official communism-y, but that's for another time.

In order to regain an ideological justification, NATO member-states, including the UK, pursued a policy of wars of aggression against predominantly Muslim countries, first in Afghanistan ...

Yes, that’s why we invaded Afghanistan. Nothing to do with 9/11 at all. Also, why has the author leapt from ‘the collapse of Communism post-1989’ to Afghanistan in 2001? Given the author’s apparent interest in the history of NATO operations, why has he missed off the campaign to protect Bosnian civilians from Serbian war crimes, or the campaign to protect Kosovo from similar atrocities?

Why has Young Labour leaped from discussing Eastern European to Afghanistan? Well, if you read the original statement it's pretty obvious. YL is claiming the end of the Cold War robbed NATO of its justification, and suddenly, post September 11th, it had a raison d'etre again. Either Mark has temporarily misplaced his capacity to follow an argument that builds on preceding claims (YL's paragraphs are numbered for a reason) or bad faith got the better of him. I'll leave it up to the reader to judge.

... then in Iraq.

Which wasn’t a NATO war. Remember Bush putting together the ‘coalition of the willing’ for that precise reason? NATO’s presence in Iraq dated from 2004, as a training mission after the invasion. Is Young Labour of the opinion that once the Iraq War had taken place, there shouldn’t have been an effort to retrain the Iraqi police and military in the hope of stabilising the situation?

Mark's lost the ability to read as well. Young Labour here says NATO member states (italicised for Mark's benefit) were determined to give the alliance a lick of ideological paint. The only way the YL statement is wrong is if the US and Britain weren't NATO members, or the US and Britain didn't attack Iraq.

These wars did nothing to make the citizens of Western countries safer; instead they fuelled Islamophobia at home and intense resentment abroad.

We can argue forever about the security impact of Afghanistan and Iraq – though it seems unlikely that leaving Al Qaeda free to operate in Afghanistan unimpeded even after 9/11 would have made us any safer either. More generally, it is a fallacious argument that the reason for the Islamist threat to the West is foreign policy, when in reality it is grounded in a fundamental opposition to our existence and way of life. Furthermore, if the author is concerned about ‘intense resentment abroad’, what does he think the reaction would have been if the West had sat on its hands and done nothing to defend muslim civilians in Bosnia and Kosovo?

Why is it a fallacious argument? In the 1980s Islamism was variously encouraged by the West, and America in particular. They enabled the creation of an international brotherhood of fundamentalists who, after the collapse of the USSR in Afghanistan, then turned their sights on Western interests. Then with the series of wars in the Middle East, the aiding and abetting of Israel's murderous assaults on Gaza, the blockade and invasion of Iraq, too many drone strikes to count that have killed innocent civilians, and the wave of Islamophobia in the West itself, you might start understanding that the growth of Islamist terrorism is linked to grievances and resides in a dialectical relationship to the policies and actions of Western states. A couple of weeks ago Mark nodded through a piece on how the Spanish state is fuelling and exacerbating nationalist grievances in Catalonia by its stupid heavy handedness. He therefore understands how actions and reactions interplay and can escalate situations. Except, it seems, when the topic of Islamism is to hand.

Today Donald Trump stands astride NATO ...

What does ‘stands astride NATO’ even mean? Trump is famously a sceptic and critic of NATO – placing him closer to Young Labour’s position than to that of the alliance.

If Mark had bothered quoting the rest of the paragraph, he'd know attention is being drawn to the fact an idiot and a narcissist has the world's most powerful military at his fingertips. Rather than be concerned about this situation Mark would presumably like us to cosy on up to Donald Trump in the manner of his dear leader.

Jeremy Corbyn is a long-time opponent of imperialism and aggressive wars.

Unless they’re imperialist or aggressive wars prosecuted by people who dislike the West, of course. This point appears to be the actual purpose of the motion – they’d have done better not to have bothered writing the rest of it.

If there is any such evidence of this "support" we would have heard about it by now. But there is none. Since becoming leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has continued to comment on conflicts around the globe and has consistently argued for negotiated settlements in Syria, in Israel and Palestine, to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims, to the crisis in Venezuela and many more besides. In the same two years what has Mark's party done? While denouncing Corbyn for chumming up with Venezuela, the Tories have sold them actual weapons. As they've attacked Jeremy for giving succour to Islamist radicals, they've been caught apologising for and receiving gifts from the most disgusting fundamentalist regime of them all. And so it goes.

There you have it, a fisking thinking it reflects the historical record but is a stream-of-consciousness mess of misdirection, woolly and wishful positions, whataboutery, bad faith and a demonstrable inability to comprehend basic English. Remember, Mark is supposed to be one of the smart Tories. If this is all their brightest can manage, they're further up shit creek than I thought.