World Gone Mad

Child and Kalashnikov. Brussels, October 2015.

Politics has taken a strange turn lately. Both abroad and here at home in Britain. One could be forgiven for thinking that the world is about to be flipped up onto its head.

It was already getting strange when Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Stranger still when the US government and its allies started echoing what he has been saying for years.

Yet they did just that in October. A collection of imperial nations – Britain, France, America and others – as well as several of the Gulf dictatorships – released a joint statement, channelling almost word for word the rhetoric of the anti-war movement.

Russian bombing, they claimed, constituted “a further escalation” of the Syrian conflict they had been pouring arms into for years and would only “fuel more extremism and radicalization.” Presumably on top the the extremism the allies had been fuelling for decades.

The Russians, who are pursuing their own interests in the region, have carried on bombing despite the West’s swords-to-ploughshares plea.

The aim, naturally, was to stop Russian bombing so that the US and her pals could do their own. Adopting the rallying cry of a social movement that hawks have spent years lamenting smells somewhat of desperation. And that was only the start of it.

As if testifying to their own impotence, the US quickly switched from echoing anti-imperialist slogans to effecting the jealous air of a jilted ex.

“We can’t conduct operations if the Russians were operating in Iraq right now,” General Joseph Dunford , head of the Joint Chief of Staff told the Iraqis. A sobbing demand for exclusivity of ever there was one.

British horror film extras. Brussels, October 2015.
British horror film extras. Brussels, October 2015.

It is not only in far-off lands that events are being are pulled out of their long-established patterns.

The international narrative on Syria has been plucked from US hands by Vladimir Putin. At home a shift away from reaction and neoliberalism looks suddenly possible in British domestic politics.

Those Middle East-tinkering Blairites, in parliament and elsewhere, failed to make Jeremy Corbyn a pariah during his election campaign and now find themselves isolated and paying a price for their attacks.

The names of the twenty one disciples who recently backed the Tory government’s ideologically-charged fiscal charter were published to another chorus – a broad call for the quick de-selection of Labour’s so-called Red Tories – blues-under-the-bed, if you like.

Corbynist chiefs have said from early on that de-selection is not on the cards (4). Though how that position can be maintained long term, or why it would be, if it leaves twenty one or more perfectly good parliamentary seats in the hands what is effectively the Conservative Party remains unclear.

The Blairites, who have expressed their dismay with claims that it is in fact they who are the moderate force in the party, have been unseated by a set of reformist socialists of varying quality and experience.

For them, this horrid reality has been further compounded by the Labour Party’s hiring of Guardian journalist and old-fashioned Marxist Seumas Milne as head strategist.

An anti-imperialist spin doctor, no less. Whoever heard of such a thing? Least of all one who, literally, wrote the book in the use of British internal security forces to crush, derail and spilt working class movements.

Whether or not we place faith in the managed capitalism and gentler foreign policy offered by Corbynista Labour, or in Russia’s own motivations in Syria, what is clear is that the established patterns of the post 9/11 world are shifting both at home and abroad.

Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.