How the Far Right is Closing its Credibility Gap

Alt-right is a euphemism for Nazism, Fascism, nationalist extremism, and White Supremacism. But it is proving to be a successful sleight of hand. Beyond this re-branding, the extreme right are re-booting their nativistic and socialistic approach for a more liberalistic and therefore more acceptable method. This will now be explained.

Traditional far-right politics makes an appeal to blood and soil, either to race or national territory. In an era like the 1930s, this had purchase. Few people travelled outside their home country. A journey to a far-off land meant emigration. And save for concentrations of Jewish people in large cities, there would have been little contact with minorities. The outside world was known via letters from emigrants (who would have generally lived in their own immigrant ‘bubble,’ eyeing other immigrants suspiciously), Hollywood stereotypes, and even more stereotyped depictions of foreigners via news outlets.

We now live in a globalized world, however. Even the most remote villager in the Western world will have encountered people from a vastly different culture. And who hasn’t travelled to a far-flung land? Information on other cultures is obviously more informed than it once was, although it still falls prey to bland stereotypes. Furthermore, non-white figures like Gandhi, Mandela, and Muhammad Ali inspire many Westerners.

‘Blood and soil’ loses its lustre in such a world. How are the far-right to gain political power in this pluralist environment? The solutions of the extremists are three-fold and based on liberal premises. They say they are a colour of diversity, secondly, that they are concerned with ‘health and safety,’ and lastly, they use economic arguments.

The first pluralist component of their re-booting is to draw equivalence between themselves and their rivals. David Duke, the ex-grand wizard of the KKK, began this fightback in the 1980s by claiming that whites want to celebrate their culture like blacks. White power is the same as black power. Another tactic is to use terms like ‘alt-left’ or ‘liberal fascism.’

Secondly, the health and safety arguments (probably their strongest card). Often when immigrants arrive somewhere, they find it hard to integrate and be accepted. They are usually met with hatred. Look at the experiences of the Irish, Italians, and Jews in the US a hundred years ago. So, it’s inevitable that some turn to crime. Then, the contributions of the many are downplayed, while the criminal actions of the few are magnified. The far-right emphasizes more and more its protectionist policies; they are only trying to guard us from the wolves at the door (never mentioning the crimes of their own kind).

Then, there is the economics. This is a weak argument on paper. Study after study shows that immigration has net benefits economically. Notwithstanding this, Brexit has shown that economic good housekeeping can get buried because many want to believe immigrants take jobs, scrounge off welfare, and generally get treated with kid-gloves. People often lose their jobs, fall on hard times, or face pressure financially. Immigrants and non-whites are then scapegoated.

This is how the far-right is now operating. T
hose wanting to pull down the monuments of blood and soil have to zero in on the essentially racist and tribalistic tactics of the far-right. The far-right don’t care if people are killed in a rampage. They don’t care if women are assaulted.  And they don’t care about non-progressive attitudes. They only care what skin-colour the assailants have or whether those with non-progressive attitudes are from their culture or not. The fresh lick of paint must be scraped from the re-branded Fascist livery so their true colours are revealed.

 

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Why Fascists aren’t Always Racists, and Other Thoughts

A disgraceful display of white supremacy, Nazism and Apartheid occurred over the weekend in a sleepy town in Virginia, an incident compounded by the seeming inability by the office-holder of the US executive to categorically denounce the marchers. Such demonstrations are, simply put, sinful. But it’s not the purpose of this blog post to rake over events which all right-thinking men and women denounce. It’s simply to give the facts about certain terms being bandied about, in the hope that such information can help people of conscience fight the insurgency from extreme right-wing forces who are gaining ground and legitimacy across the world.

In particular, persons of conscience should distinguish between Fascism and National Socialism. A key difference is that Fascism is not necessarily racist, as opposed to Nazism. Mussolini, the archetypal Fascist, curried the support of minorities, for example. Franco used Moroccan soldiers to overcome the Republicans. Nazism, on the other hand, is inherently race based. 

So, Fascism … how can we understand it? It is a complete subordination of all the forces in society to a national, as opposed to a racial, ideal (although racists are drawn to both). In one sense, it differs little from Communism because all authority emanates from the State, although the Fascist State is ruled over by a charismatic authority figure as opposed to a workers’ dictatorship. The key distinction between Fascism (and indeed Nazism) and Communism is not the method of rule, but rather the interpretation of the State’s role. This is further based on an interpretation of humans in either natural or historical terms. In Communism, the State is seen as a necessary evil, useful for steering people towards a natural state, where they are liberated from neccesity. Fascism/Nazism views the State as the realization of a people’s historical destiny. But, crucially, Fascism doesn’t limit such destiny within racial parameters. Lastly, myth is critical for extreme right-wingers because it generates heroes and monsters. 

So, if Fascism is not racist (at least not fundamentally), why should we be against it? The reality is that Fascism is mob-rule, which dehumanizes the ‘other.’ However Fascists define their national identity, they believe that the people’s will embodied by ‘the chosen one’ can legitimize any evil. They exalt negative characteristics of people above noble ideals. And they imvariably look for scapegoats and outsiders to beat up on. 

Fascists and Nazis are becoming increasingly bullish and sophisticated. People of conscience have to use their nous, as well as their wits, to defeat this. The representatives of compassionate conservatism and the ‘true right’ should especially stand up and object to those who cloak their sinfulness in the garbs of sacredness and tradition.

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Battle Lines Being Drawn in US

This week in the US, a grand jury was subpoened to inquire into clandestine meetings members of the Trump team had with Russian officials and agents, Trump fired his communications director, a radical immigration bill was published, the Statue of Liberty’s legitimacy was questioned by a Trump spokesman, and the Attorney General of the US announced a plan to end discrimination against whites in universities (i.e. an anti-affirmative action policy). This is why they say a week is a long time in politics! Where to start?

But, out of all the hubbub, perhaps the most significant event of the week was a speech Trump gave in West Virginia on Thursday. After all that has gone on (and has gone wrong), we saw Trump – for one of the few times since becoming President – acting, well, Presidential. Trump gave a nuanced dialogue where (1) he steered away from directly criticizing the investigation into Russian collusion, (2) didn’t dive into any rash statements, and (3) invoked (as he has done many times) the spectre of an out-of-touch Washington elite cheating the ‘people’ out of their crust.

Why was this speech significant? Taken together with the other key events of the week, such as Jeff Sessions anti-affirmative action program, we now have an inkling of how the next few years of US politics is likely to play out. On one side, opponents of Trump are going to do everything by the book. They are going to dig and scour for information, call witnesses, uncover evidence, pine over public statements, and refine every utterance. Trump, on the other hand, is going to play the populist card. He is going to stir up the hard-core racists in the South, the unemployed miners in the rust-belt, the conspiracy theorists in Texas, the do-or-die libertarians in the Great Plains.  Trump’s legal hand is weak; at best he can slow the advances of Robert Mueller and his team by constant appeals and objections. But where there is a will there is a way. Engaging with the base is the optimal method for Trump to overcome the storm that is threatening to wash him away, and this is exactly what he is doing.

Trump’s enemies are hoping he will go quietly (bar a few bizarre tweets) into the night. His more luke-warm hangers-on will hope he sees sense if the war with Mueller looks perilous. I suspect both will be disappointed, Furthermore, Washington is grossly underestimating Trump, confusing his lack of sophistication with a lack of street-smarts. Trump can’t speak English, can’t hold a coherent thought together, is clueless about the intricacies of many political details, and lacks any sense of diplomacy. But he is an outstanding communicator and has used the modern technology of Twitter in an alarmingly successful manner.

The dedication of his base shouldn’t be derided either. Liberals in the US (and much of the world) have largely ignored a sizeable minority, perhaps 25-35% of the country who have licked their wounds after Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. The anti-liberal US has had to make do with scraps from the likes of Nixon or Reagan, and has waited for a leader like Trump, biding their time amidst momentous social change, seismic demographic shifts, and globalization. This anti-liberal US sees the last century as a constant litany of betrayals; the setting up of the Federal Reserve and institution of Income tax, Wilson’s universal approach to foreign relations, the entry into WWII, the Civil Rights movement, the Immigration Act of 1965, the Sixties, NAFTA, the Obama presidency. At this stage, the anti-liberal US sees itself as having its backs to the wall, and at a point where it has nothing to lose.

Stephen Miller’s comments about the Statue of Liberty (he basically said its message was a betrayal) would have only been found on the forums of alt-right groups last year. This year, they are the established wisdom of a US administration. Expect plenty more of these nuggets. Trump is now ready to unleash a whirlwind that is becoming energized and conscious that this opportunity may not come again if they let it slip. The Pat Buchanans and Kevin MacDonalds have their fingers at the ready. Conversations that have been buried in alt-right forums are now going to surface. The anti-liberal US – the ugly side of America, as progressives see it – is either going to have its last hurrah or its El-Alamein victory.

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What Trump Critics Missed About Boy Scout Speech

Irish history is a great teacher. Before I get to the meat and potatoes of this blog, I’ll first cite the example of a famous exponent of Irish national self-determination, Isaac Butt. Butt was notorious for droning on and on in Parliament, so as to obstruct the passage of bills he didn’t like. He was contemporary with heavyweights such as Disraeli and Gladstone, whose words can be quoted verbatim to support arguments of the most delicate discourse. Yet, boring Butt is the one who has his place among Irish nationalists, not the eloquent marksmen of British politics. Why? Because Butt got his message across to his constituents.

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Isaac Butt

 

Now, we get to Trump’s speech at the Boy Scout jamboree. It broke all Washington conventions, was hypocritical (‘I won’t get political’), obnoxious, damaging to the reputation of Boy Scouts, and cringe-worthy. Certain comments verged on the lewd.

Critics railed, saying “YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TALK TO THE BOY SCOUTS LIKE THIS.” To them, its simple; Trump was merely speaking to 45,000 mostly teenage boys and his remarks were inappropriate and unprecedented, there were even accusations of brainwashing youth and distorting their minds.

All of these are valid points. But they miss the fact that Trump wasn’t just speaking to 45,000 Boy Scouts. He was really talking to the whole world, particularly anti-liberals in the US and abroad. Those who support Trump love when he tears up the rule book. They love his controversy. Every time the media or Washington is given a bloody nose by Trump, they whoop and holler.

What Trumps critics don’t get is that Trump is a communicator. Period. It was wrong for him to do what he did. That’s why he did it. It communicated to his base that he is going to drive a horse and coach through the rules. Trump is not going to be stopped, or at least not going to allow himself be hobbled by the rules. In a nutshell, he is different.

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C S Parnell

Isaac Butts seat was occupied two years after his death by an even more famous nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell, who said “No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country – thus far shalt thou go and no further.” Trump would agree with the sentiment that rules are for saps.

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Is UK Election a 1964 Redux?

Undoubtedly, the snap UK election was called by Theresa May with 1983 in mind, when a rejuvenated Thatcher, bouyed by a successful Falklands campaign, trounced the hapless Michael Foot. When she called the election about four weeks ago, opinion polls were showing a similar outcome on June 8th. Now, with less than two weeks to go, the gap has narrowed considerably, and Tory strategists are probably hoping for a slim majority as opposed to a landslide. Rumours of Corbyn’s demise were exxagerated. He has shown himself to have a comfortable, if rather uncharismatic, presence on the hustings. Theresa May, on the other hand, has presided over a disastrous campaign, with her approach drawing unfavourable comparisons with Far Eastern dictators.

So, 1983 is not being bandied about anymore. Will we witness a repeat of another year in the mists of time, 1964 and all that? That election took place against a war of sorts that had been quietly raging for a little less than two decades. The incumbent Tory Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home, had taken power without an election and was PM for only a year. The Tories had been in power for a long period, but the economy had begun to slow and there was uncertainty in the air. A recently elected Labour leader far to the left of the political spectrum with suspected ties to outside enemies had recently taken the reins of the party from a more left of centre individual in Hugh Gaitskell. As for the election itself, the Tories were expected to win, but suffered a narrow defeat.

1964’s shock election of Harold Wilson seems very close to the scenario being played out at the moment. Theresa May will certainly lose if she continues to hide her face. Corbyn took a gamble today when he made a statement on the Manchester bombing. It is unclear whether he will be seen as someone opening a door of hope, or as someone demonstrating gross insensitivity at a time of national mourning. The former seems the more likely as of time of writing.

The election of Harold Wilson heralded years of crisis, but also a vast transformation of British society. With less than two weeks to go before polling day, that would seem to be the outlook if the outsider clinches victory on the home straight.

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Trump in Saudi: Good Performance, Bad Foreign Policy

Donald Trump and wife spent the weekend in Saudi Arabia, a destination which probably wouldn’t be the weekend destination for many couples the world over. For Trump, it was a bold move, given that he has repeatedly bashed Muslims in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. It seemed a bit like a KKK Grand Wizard going into a black church in Chicago. Yet, Trump navigated his first trip abroad as President comfortably. Everything went according to plan, for once, and he didn’t spurt too much on Twitter. Massive deals were signed and he gave a speech in front of an audience of Muslim leaders, which he managed to do without sounding patronizing. Probably the highlight of an awful presidency so far.

Trump gave a maestro performance. However, he is the spokesperson for a short-sighted foreign policy. Trump made abundantly clear that he supported the Saudi-Egypt alliance which is fighting a rearguard action against Islamism. This position was reinforced by castigating Iran in terms which will prick ears in Teheran.

What is the problem with this foreign policy, which differs so greatly from the largely enlightened direction (at least towards Iran) taken by Barack Obama and John Kerry? Trump has hitched his star to two governments in the Middle East which enjoy little credibility. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Saudi deserves credit for the way it has managed itself in the world. Many countries possess a plenitude of material resources like Saudi, but haven’t been able to progress and been prone to rash decision-making. At the same time, are Saudi the future of the Middle East? They seem more like a cat with nine lives.

Someone like Kerry likely understood that – like it or loath it – Iran is going to play a part in Mid-East politics for a longer time than Saudi Arabia or Egypt’s military dictatorship. Like Turkey, Iran is blending the modern with the traditional. It is open to the world, but not at any price. This wins it broad legitimacy. Of the GCC countries, Qatar also follows this path. Unlike Turkey and Iran, Qatar is sparsely populated, and the sheer weight of numbers makes Turkey and Iran the long-term regional players.

By honouring Saudi Arabia in the way he did, Trump has given it a security guarantee which will be difficult to redeem. Nonetheless, Saudi probably doesn’t have a free enough academic and political environment for there to be an Iranian-style revolution. However, the other favourite of Trump’s has the ingredients for such a dramatic change of power. Egypt could easily fall prey to any Shah-like overthrow. Trump’s open support for Sisi will only accelerate this process, and this will have consequences for Saudi.

The reasonable policy of the Obama administration has been ditched. Trump gave it his best over the weekend, but Saudi and the Egyptian military are ill-equipped to deal with changes which inevitably will occur in the Middle East. Another domino of American power is likely to give way. Saudi and Egypt may fit in with Trump’s way of viewing the world, but will the world return the favour in kind? Trump may be seen in years to come as the unwitting mid-wife of the future Middle East.

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Ibn Khaldun and Royal Authority

This is the last part of a serialized discussion on Ibn Khaldun (see the previous post here) which is to support a book I am writing on the interaction between the economic and the political in the thought of Ibn Khaldun, Machiavelli, and Carl Schmitt.

‘Umran is the consequence of the primal drive of ‘asabiyyah. It is, however, an unintended effect. The aim of ‘asabiyyah is that of royal authority, the dominance of one house over all others, along with the legitimation and institution of elitist hegemony. Where there is political organization, there is hierarchy. To bring this hierarchy into being, there must have been ‘asabiyyah. Only if the political will exists, can ‘asabiyyah be of any historical significance. Even pipe-dreams about perfect societies or projects for classes or nations to band together for peace and prosperity remain meaningless if there is no concrete realisation of these through authority and power. With the harvesting of structures of power and authority come the consequent material sophistications, and there is a feedback effect (at least for a time), one strengthening the other.[1]

For Ibn Khaldun, dynastic power/royal authority has the same relation to the evolving civilisation as form has to matter. Culture is formed by the dawlah. Without authority and a state of governance, culture is still-born, only existing as a possibility.[2] This is an important point because there is a tendency to believe that the sophistication of a civilized society somehow exists separately to a group-ethic. In our day, republics have gained vast power in the world, both political and economic, and a certain belief has descended in some quarters that governments can be run in the same manner as economies. Thus, it may be tempting to draw analogies between the acquisition of political power and someone who acquires through commerce, but this is a false comparison. Five and a half centuries after Ibn Khaldun wrote his Prolegomena, Carl Schmitt would state that:

There are certainly analogies between a monarch, the absolute master in the state, and a capitalist, who (naturally in a completely different sense) is the absolute master in his business.

However, while the masters of trade deal in hard finance, and they essentially live to a large degree in the world of numbers (profits and losses), those who master others in a political sense rule according to a different set of values.

There are possibilities on both sides for participation by the subordinates, but the form and content of authority, publicity, and representation are essentially different. Finally, it would also contradict every rule of economic thought to apply by way of analogy political forms which have been created on very different assumptions to modern economic conditions, or, to use a well-known economic image, to transfer the construction of a superstructure onto an essentially different substructure.[3]

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Ibn Khaldun makes an important distinction between leadership and authority. An authority figure is necessary because human beings partake in social organization. Therefore, there must be hierarchies, and given that people are ambitious, rungs on the hierarchy will be contested. Therefore, the authority figure must command loyalty so that he can exercise a restraining influence. When it comes to the leader, however, Ibn Khaldun merely says that he is a chieftain who is obeyed but whose opinions have no force.[4] He seems to mean that the leader is obeyed merely within his own group, but what if there was a conflict between the leader and the ruler? Ibn Khaldun does not explore this point.

Whatever his views on this matter, Ibn Khaldun is clear that military strength, law and order, as well as civilisation in general, is made possible by group-feeling.

Group feeling produces the ability to defend oneself, to offer opposition, to protect oneself, and to press one’s claims. Whoever loses (his group feeling) is too weak to do any of these things.[5]

We could not imagine a position much further away from the Lockean view that the State protects claims of private property that existed before agreement on political form.

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Those who have royal authority have a special monopoly over the use of force. When they are in a position of strength, the very thought of rebellion does not occur to would-be competitors, Ibn Khaldun tells us. Those who own wealth prior to the rise to power of the dynasty have to share their gains and property with the new Crown. Whatever taxes and customs are levied are then distributed amongst the tribes and because of the strength of the dynasty, there is a state of subservience and acceptance of the ‘way things are.’ Members of the lesser tribes can become satisfied with prosperity, luxury, and imitation of the leading house. They pay taxes and imposts, and Ibn Khaldun asserts that no one who is proud will meekly hand over their wealth for peace and security. This satiation is corrosive, and certainly, on Ibn Khaldun’s analysis, never something which inspires a will to fight for political power. At the same time, the leading house can become corrupted by its life of ease and plenty. Consequently, other families can prey opportunistically on its decay.[6] In particular, he says that “luxury is an obstacle on the way toward royal authority”[7] and that holds whether a house is in the driving seat or not.

It is also suggested that goodness and noble character are inimical to a life of wealth and luxury. Man desires royal authority because he is equally desirous of good things. ‘Glory’ requires that a person has corresponding characteristics that make him glorious in the sight of others. Imitation is a heuristic of glory; those who live under the shade of the glorious ruler or house seek to imitate its ways of living, dispositions of thinking, and belief systems. At the pinnacle of glory is that of royal authority. As Enan puts it:

The state comes into existence through tribal force and Asabiyah … and … has peculiar characteristics and forms which vary according to those who control it. Religious doctrine has its effect on strengthening the state, but such doctrine cannot also be upheld without Asabiyah … Sovereignty, like the state, has qualities, characteristics of which are: monopolizing glory, luxury, comfort and tranquillity – characteristics which, when rooted, bring the state to old age and then to downfall.[8]

While group-feeling is necessary for royal authority, prestige is not complete without good qualities being manifested by the ruler. Of course, the most salient characteristic of any holder of office, in any jurisdiction, is that of justice. With the just ruler possessing royal authority comes good laws that are also signs of Divine justice and power.[9]

He who thus obtained group feeling guaranteeing power, and who is known to have good qualities appropriate for the execution of God’s laws concerning His creatures, is ready to act as (God’s) substitute and guarantor among mankind. He has the qualifications for that. This proof is more reliable and solid than the first one.[10]

Ibn Khaldun’s espousal of royal authority was predicated on the natural tendency for humans to dominate and suppress one another. Mahdi characterized Ibn Khaldun’s opinions in this striking manner:

Man is by nature a domineering being; and his desire to overcome … others, and subdue and coerce them, is the source of wars and of trespassing the properties of others. It moves those desiring victories to struggle for political supremacy and for establishing the state in which they intend to be leaders. Those who are conquered and enslaved, on the other hand, wither away, since to be enslaved is contrary to human nature and leads to the loss of hope.[11]

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This does not wholly do justice to Ibn Khaldun’s depiction of history. It doesn’t quite convey to the reader the fact that Ibn Khaldun recognized the limits between power-politics and those realms where rulers must do justice or otherwise perish. Nonetheless, if we remember the idea that justice is an expression of domination – albeit in a velvet glove – the statement becomes closer to the intent of Ibn Khaldun.

Humans not only could not survive without the group in a material sense; they are incapable of living up to standards of Divine justice in the absence of group-feeling and authority. ‘Asabiyyah essentially supplants human ignorance by promoting civil association and the feeling of group solidarity motivates people to cling together. Ibn Khaldun had cynical views of human nature but also felt that organization could help men realise their potential.[12]

In keeping with his view that ‘asabiyyah represents a ‘pure’ mode of living, Ibn Khaldun lists out a number of activities inimical to those who have obtained royal authority. The authority-figure is liberal with wealth, generous to the weak, charitable, respects religion and customary law, supports morality, venerates sacred objects and persons, is fair to all and sundry, displays an open ear, is scrupulous with respect to obligations, and cracks down on all sorts of vice and corruption. The corollary of this is that a dynasty declines when these qualities are turned on their head.[13] The spread of vice and corruption is economic in nature, i.e. the lusting after luxuries, squandering wealth, and poor fiscal policy.

‘Asabiyyah ultimately aims at royal authority or superiority (dawlah) and it drives cultural activities which include propaganda. Religious propaganda requires ‘asabiyyah. So despite the universality of Islam or indeed of Christianity, these religions have to be realized in a particular context. ‘Asabiyyah must have a principle like religious devotion. For example, the Children of Israel lost their ‘asabiyyah because they forsook their covenant with God, the guiding principle of their group. Action is an outcome of true group-ethic. If political power doesn’t result from ‘asabiyyah, then legal activity, cultural activity, and mere survival are unable to flourish. Justice, good governance, and good administration depend on a vibrant group-feeling. Since cultures are complex, royal authority does not always have to be monopolized by one house for the group-feeling to be manifested.[14]

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References

[1] Ibn Khaldun’s Theory of Social Change: A Comparison with Hegel, Durkheim and Marx. The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 15(2), 25–45.

[2] Ibn Khaldun and Hegel on Causality in History: Aristotelian Legacy Reconsidered. Asian Journal of Social Science, 35(1), 47-83; Mahdi, M. (1957). Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History: A Study in the Philosophic Foundation of the Science of Culture. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 235-236.

[3] Schmitt, C., & Kennedy, E. (2000). The crisis of parliamentary democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press; 25.

[4] Ibn Khaldun,  A. A-R. b. M. (Rosenthal, F.; Trans.) (1958). The Muqaddimah [pdf version]. Retrieved from http://scribd.com; 185.

[5] Ibid.; 188-189.

[6] Ibid.; 185-189.

[7] Ibid.; 187.

[8] Enan, M.A. (1941). Ibn Khaldun: His Life and Work. Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore: Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf; 131.

[9] Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah; 190; Ahmed, A. (2002) Ibn Khaldun’s Understanding of Civilizations and the Dilemmas of Islam and the West Today. Middle East Journal, 56(1), 20–45.

[10] Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah; 190.

[11] Katsiaficas, G. (1996). Ibn Khaldun: A Dialectical Philosopher for the New Millennium. In Pan African Conference on Philosophy. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

[12] Ibid.; Ibn-Khaldun as a Modern Thinker. Area Studies Tsukuba24, 129-152.

[13] Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah; 190-192.

[14] Sumer, B. (2012). Ibn Khaldun’s Asabiyya for Social Cohesion. Electronic Journal of Social Sciences,11(41), 253-267.

 

UK Voters Shouldn’t Hand a Blank Cheque to Tories

With less than 3 weeks before D-Day in the UK, the Conservatives are still adamant that only a massive majority is in the national interest. There are two reasons why this is incorrect. Firstly, the UK has had coalition governments when facing massive national crises. The UK had coalitions in both world wars, and also during almost the entire 1930s, there was a national government in place. Ramsay MacDonald, who was as much of an outsider for his time as Jeremy Corbyn is now, was PM during that period. If the Brexit negotiations are that big and that important, then British history would indicate that it shouldn’t matter who is in charge, and a rotating or shared leadership between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn would be perfectly legitimate. Having cross-party participation in dire times won’t weaken Britain. History shows this.

Another reason why UK voters shouldn’t go into blank cheque territory is that the post-Brexit arrangements – whatever they may be – are effectively a new constitutional order. The next three generations will likely be shaped by whatever is decided between Brussels and London. Therefore, a huge Conservative majority in 2017 would set the tone for the next several decades. On the other hand, a broad spectrum of opinion would make the new legal and political order of the UK sustainable and accepted.

And lastly, as a post-script, the idea that Corbyn is ‘radical’ (and therefore shouldn’t be allowed influence in negotiations) simply isn’t true. Corbyn’s proposals about nationalizing public utilities, or about state spending – whatever you may think about them – are shared by many countries in Europe and beyond. His proposals are not even as radical as what is accepted as de rigeur in Sweden or Canada.   Granted, the UK is a different ‘kettle of fish’ to Scandinavia but is it really wise to completely freeze out social democrats? Perhaps, Corbyn should call the bluff of the Tories and propose a government of unity post-Brexit. History would support him.

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World War Two: Myth of a Rescue Mission

Since 1945, the victors of WWII have portrayed their role in the bloodiest conflict known to man in moral terms. WWII, for France, the US and UK, was a war of liberation. It was a moral crusade which freed the world from tyranny. It was a just war. So deep does this narrative run that even Jeremy Corbyn, who refuses to play by ‘their’ rules, said that WWII was the last just war fought by Britain. Essentially, the war is promoted as a particularly sophisticated rescue mission.

We know that this simply isn’t true. WWII was fought by the Allies to maintain the balance of power in Europe. Britain wanted to prevent any great power attaining hegemony on the continent. France wanted to maintain a system in Eastern Europe that would prevent Germany turning its eyes westward. In 1939, Hitler overthrew a Polish dictator with the help of a Russian dictator and the political system which was considered central to Anglo-French security lay in ruins. Less than two years later, England and France allied themselves with the same Russian dictator, Stalin. That is the reality.

Yet the myth of the just war has come to be a founding principle of the world post-1945, copper-fastened by events like the Nuremberg trials. Not only is WWII a founding principle; it is also a technique. If the US, for example, sees a part of the world where its political interests are threatened, it will cite the suffering of people in that area, who in turn need to be rescued. Its invasions are never invasions; they are rescue missions.

The myth of WWII is far from abstract. It is the very bread and butter of the War on Terror. Undoubtedly, the war is to protect American geo-political interests, particularly oil and access to the Suez canal. Yet, soldiers will not go and die for such values. Instead, the myth of the rescue mission has to be invoked. The Shia or the Yazidi or women or Kurds need to be protected. Then we can feel good about cynical politics.

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Conservative Election Campaign a Classic Case of Emperor’s New Clothes

A minority of one person pointed out that the Emperor was not wearing any clothes in Andersen’s classic fairytale. The majority agreed, after some disquiet, that he was indeed fully clothed. Officially, he became clothed. Similarly, the radical ‘Bolshies’ and co. are pointing out that Theresa May’s maiden election campaign as Conservative leader is laying bare her authoritarian credentials because of her unwillingness to engage with the public, but most of the mass media is choosing to hush up the obvious.

The sheer boldness of the May ‘bubble’ has shocked everyone, but should we be surprised? Remember, this is the woman who just last year wanted to use the royal prerogative (defined by celebrated British jurist A.V. Dicey as “discretionary or arbitrary authority … legally left in the hands of the Crown”) to shunt through Brexit without parliament. It’s as if the Emperor has put on this bizarre show before.

As with last year’s lurch towards dictatorship, the spectacle of May touring the country, clearing out any possible dissenters from whatever factory or centre she visits, bussing in a few handfuls of loyalists to get selfies taken, and then answering pre-selected questions from a muzzled media cohort, would seem to any fair-minded person to be autocratic. And while there are grumblings of discontent in the media about such behaviour, it is readily swept under the carpet because ‘at least she’s not Corbyn.’

But hold on a second. Isn’t that what happened in the Emperor’s New Clothes? People realized the Emperor was naked, but refused to listen to the boy because the feelings of the masses wouldn’t tolerate such betrayal? Yes, complaints persist, but it seems as if May will continue to sweep to one of the largest majorities ever in UK election history because of the sychophantic support of large sections of the media and the unwillingness of a fair swathe of the viewing public to break ranks.

The UK has become one rotten borough. The silence is deafening. But only someone with the honesty of a child is able to see through it all.

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