BEGINNERS GUIDE – 4.

On Finance-Capital.

In beginners guide 3 (On Capitalism) the source of the profit on productive capital was traced to the surplus-labour performed by working people during an unpaid part of each working day. This unpaid surplus-labour yields a monetary surplus once the commodities or services are sold. The huge amounts of surplus-value created by millions of workers in thousands of factories, warehouses, docks, mines, engineering firms, shipyards, locomotive and automotive plants, over many years, was indicated.

Once that continuous yearly flow of monetised surplus-value is understood something else becomes obvious. The mounting deposits of unused money in bank accounts, became more than could be profitably invested in the production of more of the same (or similar) commodities or services. Within national markets that would lead (and did) to, unsold products, income/capital losses and bankruptcies. Another form of investment was needed and not in different commodities or in different locations, but in a form not directly involved with production.

Dormant money in many bank accounts was therefore creatively transformed into loan-capital and offered to other capitalists or speculators for a set period at a rate of ‘interest’. The term Finance-Capital replaced ‘loan-capital’ so as to include further complex ways of utilising the accumulating money. The process of money directly producing ‘interest’ can be misleading. In the finance-capital sector, money appears to have an innate property of expanding itself simply by being loaned.

But of course, money cannot directly create anything. The return of the amount loaned and the interest has to come from the financial or productive activities of someone else. In many cases it comes via a complex chain of borrowers and lenders. The links between lenders and borrowers may be obscure, but somewhere along the chain of transactions the value of the loan plus added interest is created by the transformational application of human skills and labour. The only other way is by someone making a gain as a result of someone else making a loss.

The economic foundation of interest is nothing more than a deducted portion of the monetised surplus-value created during capitalist production and passed along a chain of obligations back to the lender. Productive-capital is therefore directly parasitic upon the labour-power of workers, whilst finance-capital is parasitic on productive-capital. The vast amounts of monetary wealth accumulated over decades has made the Finance-Capital sector so rich and powerful that it not only influences industry and commerce but also national governments.

The ability of the finance-capital sector (banking, insurance etc.) to reward favours with grants, lucrative posts and consultancy fees makes it able to promote self-serving changes in government policies. Institutions such as the World Bank, the International Bank of Settlements, and International Monetary Fund are the global pinnacles of this sector. They and their proxies have conduits of influence reaching deep into industry, politics and governance.

Lower down the institutional pyramid of finance there are organisations (stock exchanges, Hedge Funds etc.) whose activity is also global. This includes investment openings, speculative possibilities and asset stripping opportunities. Industries paying high wages can have difficulty obtaining capital, whilst other’s paying low wages may find it easy. Financial institutions (developed from merchant bank organisations) also originate and circulate financial instruments known as Asset Based Securities (ABS’s), Mortgage Based Securities (MBS’s) and Collatoralised Debt Obligations (CDO’s) among others.

Basically these speculative instruments are nothing more than complex, upmarket IOU’S and like loans cannot directly preserve value or create any new surplus-value. Since IOU’S, no matter how sophisticated, are paper promises to pay at a later date, they can circulate like huge denomination bank notes. Buying and selling them at discount and hoping to make money on any difference in purchase and selling price has long been routine in the finance-capital sector. As long as participants can pay when due dates arrive there is no widespread problem.

However, these, and other pass the parcel antics, are part of a system of speculation in which asset bubbles are created. Purchasing power, (real money, credit or even temporary ‘spoofing’ orders) are used to purchase or pump up asset values in order to sell them at a higher cost than bought. This leads to price escalation far beyond any intrinsic asset value. When confidence wanes and the price starts to go down, purchasers hurry to sell before a price collapse occurs (the bubble bursts). This leaves some unable to pay (or unable to borrow to pay) when it becomes due.

The general 2008 financial crisis, triggered as it was by the collapse of the housing mortgage bubble in the USA, revealed the vast international network of financial instruments (ABS’s; MBS’s ; and CDO’S etc.) then circulating around the globe. Some people in the financial sector had long suspected a looming problem, but not even the expert regulators of these, fully understood their complexity, the amount of leverage based upon them, and the magnitude of defaulting when the bubble burst.

This unravelling of financial speculation again demonstrated that financial crises, don’t remain within that sector. The 2008 crash caused bankruptcies in industry and commerce, redundancies in employment, as well as public sector shrinkage and austerity. This is because the ‘finance sector’ is connected to the general commodity and service circulation system, the private productive-capital sector and the public sector. Any sizeable crisis in the finance sector instigates a general economic and social crisis and visa versa.

Despite their culpability, those in the financial sector were bailed out and their losses made good or simply written off. This, as much as anything, demonstrated the power and influence of the finance sector over the economic and political classes. Few in the banking and financial sector thought they had done anything wrong and have continued doing what they did before. Consequently, another financial crisis lies ahead – only it’s timing is uncertain! Meanwhile, the sector carries on, granting itself huge bonuses for selling unstable financial instruments, and naive speculators within ‘the system’ continue to buy them.

Roy Ratcliffe ( September 2019)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE – 3.

On Capitalism.

The mode of production now dominating global economic activity is known as capitalism. This particular mode began to dominate societies when the main means of production passed from the owners of large tracts of land (feudal aristocrats) to the owners of large amounts of money (capitalists). Beginning in the late 16th to 17th and onto the 18th century in Europe and England, capitalism continued to spread internationally throughout the 19th and 20th.

Unlike previous modes of production, from the outset, capitalism was dependent upon money for the circulation of products and services. Consequently those with sufficient financial wealth steadily dominated all aspects of economic and social life. Moreover, due to the growing size and complexity of the means of production, money (as money-capital) or credit (borrowed capital), became necessary in large quantities to purchase and operate them.

Furthermore, the capitalist mode brought with it the profit motive for engaging in production. In previous modes of production the dominant motive was need. In contrast, the primary capitalist motive is to obtain a profit on each element of capital invested. This means that human, social and environmental issues became a secondary consideration, unless profits from them can be extracted.

The process of extracting profits from production is as follows. Capitalists employ workers on a wage or salary, which is payment is for a definite period of working time, usually a day, week or month. However, their contracted working period is always longer than the time necessary to produce a value equivalent to their actual wages (or salaries). The time they work in excess of this necessary-labour period (the surplus-labour) therefore becomes work they do for free.

For example; If in a 40 hour week 100 workers worked 20 hours making enough products or services to equal the value of their weeks wages and then worked a further 20 hours making more products or services and did this for a 45 week year, then 100 x 20 x 45 = 90,000 would be the total of unpaid hours they worked. If they did this for a 40 year working life, then a total of 3,600,000 unpaid hours would be worked. Now if each worker made one product (or service) during each unpaid hour and that product sold for £1 or $1, then the monetary value produced over and above the value of their wages in 40 years would be 3.6 million pounds or dollars.

Bearing in mind that many capitalist industries employ thousand of workers who work for decades making products or services costing hundreds or thousands of pounds (or dollars), then the typical amounts of free labour provided (or surplus-value produced) can reach astronomical proportions. Assuming no tax evasion or creative accounting, the employers will not receive the whole of that monetised surplus – value.

However, what remains – after all the various deductions such as tax and interest – is the balance of the product value that employers have not paid for. Incidentally, those deductions (tax, rent and interest payments) from the astronomical levels of surplus-value produced by millions of productive workers and collected from their employers, become the source of income for the heads of states, bureaucrats, the non-industrial middle classes and public service workers.

This much abbreviated economic analysis of the capitalist mode of production outlined above also explains why capitalists like to employ cheap labour and set it to work for long hours. Indeed, the modern occurrence of child labour and trafficked labour is down to this desire to maximise surplus-labour, monetise the surplus-value created by it and thus realise profits. This monetised exploitation of human labour has always been a feature of the capitalist mode of production.

The desire of capitalists to gain the unpaid surplus – labour and its monetised product value (classed as profits) also explains why capitalists and pro-capitalist elites in general seriously resist the following; a) a radical shortening of working hours; b) increases in wages and salaries not linked to productivity; and, c) adequate health and safety conditions for all at work. All these, if seriously implemented, would reduce the time available for unpaid surplus-value and thus reduce the wealth created for them.

The effects noted above are bad enough, but there are more. The means of production are continuously improved in order to increase production levels and profits. This increase in production, leads in turn to the pressing need to sell products in more and more markets and obtain raw materials from ever wider sources. The ever increasing material and marketing needs by capitalist firms can (and does) lead to competitive trade wars and in extreme cases, nation-based military wars.

Rising production levels also create more waste materials and noxious substances used in manufacturing processes. Therefore pollution, ecological destruction, landfill dumping and health issues also multiply alongside increased production. Every shiny new commodity temptingly featured in brochures or display windows leaves behind it an open (or hidden) trail of poisons, polluting dust, harmful fumes and waste materials.

Such destructive by-products of industrial manufacture are an integral feature of all capitalist production for obvious reasons. The capitalistic desire for private profit consistently outweighs the public need for sustainable, non-polluting, non-exploitative forms of production.

Another serious problem connected to the capitalist mode of production is the fact that when profits cannot be made at levels satisfactory to the investors, then production is reduced, transferred elsewhere or ended altogether. These periodical ‘economic recessions’ leave large numbers of workers jobless and without access to alternative means of production.

Ownership and/or control of the main means of production by the relatively small class of owners/managers of capital means that the vast majority of people in global societies – white collar, blue collar, unemployed workers and non-workers – are subject to profit based, political-economy decisions. This frequently results in increased poverty, pollution, ecological destruction, trade wars or even the two 20th century World Wars, and of course, self-serving pro-capitalist denial.

R. Ratcliffe (August 2019)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE – 2

On Modes of Production.

From the revolutionary-humanist perspective it is important to understand what is meant by a mode of production, and also what is known as the means of production. Both are important. However, clearly understanding the difference between the two is crucial. A study of 20th century radical political movements indicates that most participants (leaders and led) did not fully understand the difference. Therefore, the efforts they made to moderate the negative effects of the capitalist mode of production were easily negated.

The means of production are those discrete elements that once combined allow economic production to take place. These are; raw materials, tools, workplaces, technical processes, human skills and human effort (labour power). They may vary in quality and quantity and how they are combined, but it is from these means that any human form of production takes place.

In contrast, the mode of production refers to how the means of production are distributed among the socio-economic community. Modes such as hunter/gatherer; pastoralist; agricultural; industrial all have their respective means. However, a mode of production based upon slave labour could use the same means of production as a mode of production based upon tied peasant labour or the present capitalist mode of production based upon wage labour.

So the difference between various modes of production is not determined by the means themselves but by who owns or controls those means. Moreover, the distribution of products and value created is largely determined by the structure of this control. Under peasant agricultural modes the main means of production (land, rivers and mineral deposits) was owned and controlled by a land owning class. Within limits these ‘owners’ determined what was produced, how much was produced, how much the peasants could keep and who got the surplus.

Under slave owning modes of production a similar pattern applied. The slave owners controlled the means (land, tools, machines, labour power,etc.) In this case even the actual workers’ bodies were owned. Workers were bought and sold as commodities. Slave owners determined what was produced, how much was produced, where production took place and who got the value created.

Under the capitalist mode of production, its workers are not tied to land and their bodies are not ‘owned’ by their employers. However, the main means of production are overwhelmingly owned/controlled by individual or collective groups of capitalists and pro-capitalists. And, of course, workers under the capitalist mode are ‘controlled’ at work and in effect, ‘tied’ to a wage or salary. When that tie is cut, workers become dependent on public or private charity.

In all modes of production ownership and control of the means of production overwhelmingly determines how they are used.

The modern capitalist classes, together with their various agents, decide how and where production takes place, what materials are used and how the wealth created is distributed. In addition, this class – through its managerial agents – also decide important social issues. They decide how many workers are needed, what level of wages/salaries are suitable and what happens to the wealth and waste materials produced by these means of production.

Indeed, the two paragraphs above are all the reader needs in order to understand what group is ultimately responsible for all the major problems currently facing humanity. If there are sub-standard products; if there are large pockets of unemployment; if there is low-paid precarious employment; too much pollution; too much ecological destruction; too many un-recyclable disused products; then it isn’t difficult to figure out why.

A 20th century effort at controlling capitalisms anti-social tendencies sought to regulate what could be done by its agents. It was thought that parliamentary scrutiny and legal enforcement would curb the worst features of the capitalist system. Others thought that nationalising some means of production would also help. Varieties of such social-democratic reforms were tried in European and North American countries after the Second World War (1939-45).

The current reality of Europe, UK and the West now demonstrate the utter failure of this reformist tinkering with the means whilst retaining the mode. Post-war socio-economic history demonstrates that it is not the physical elements (the means of production) that directly cause problems – it is how these are used! Oversight of the means by politicians and bureaucrats still left the basic mode of production intact – hence the mess much of the world is now in.

An alternative, radical, political tendency viewed the regulation of capitalists as impossible. It’s adherents reasoned that as long as capitalists retained their wealth and power, they would be able to subvert or remove anything which reduced profit making. Classifying themselves as revolutionary anti – capitalists this radical tendency assumed power in 20th century Russia and China. Sharing the mistaken illusion of the reformists – but going further – they nationalised everything.

The Bolsheviks created the former Soviet Union; the Maoists, Communist China. In both these cases, (and a few others) an oligarchy of politicians merely replaced an oligarchy of landowners and capitalists in controlling the main means of production. These new totalitarian state capitalist modes of production continued to exploit workers, create injustice, human rights violations, ecological destruction, serious pollution and distorted forms of production.

Elite ownership and/or control of the means of production, – in all its historical forms – is thus a problem for humanity, not a solution.

Historically, elite interests have always departed from the interests of the rest of humanity. Elite control of the means of production caused serious problems in the past, is doing so existentially in the present and will do so in the future. In the long term, humanity needs a new community controlled mode of production which ensures every human being has a safe and adequate standard of living without the means of production directly or indirectly creating warfare, poverty, pollution and ecological destruction.

R. Ratcliffe (August 2019)

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A BEGINNERS GUIDE – 1

TO REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANIST PERSPECTIVES.

1. Introduction.

Of all the conscious life-forms on the planet, we humans have evolved to be the most influential and dominant species. The essential caretaker role this implies, is the starting point for the humanist part of the Revolutionary-Humanist perspective. Moreover, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the mode of production developed by humanity has accumulated overwhelming damaging results. It is the injurious role of the capitalist system to humanity and the planets resources which is the starting point for the revolutionary part of this perspective.

Two destructive world wars (the 1st and 2nd) fundamentally motivated by national conflicts over access to markets and sources of raw materials, with millions dead, highlighted the capitalist systems innate tendencies. The end of those two devastating 20th century conflicts did nothing to reverse these innate tendencies of the system. Poverty, inequality, pollution, ecological destruction and armed conflict have continued.

It should be self-evident that for any social species, the well-being of the whole community and its supportive environment is essential for the well-being of the individuals within it. No social species can afford to permanently tolerate a situation in which some individual interests threaten the well-being of the whole. These individuals need to conform or be driven out. Long-term survival requires the fundamental interests of the human collective and it’s individuals, coincide.

Such inter-dependence exists in the rest of the natural world as well as in the socio-economic nature of human societies. Beneficial association and symbiosis are the evolutionary basis of all life on this planet. However, what is not often recognised is that under the present capitalist mode of production, the private interests of the dominant economic and political elites do not coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole.

The reason for this disconnect is simple. Production, initiated by private enterprise is undertaken in order to obtain profit. This necessity typically requires large-scale production, distribution, consumption and disposal of unwanted materials. In order to assure profitability, these separate processes, are all processed as inexpensively as possible.

The results of these profit maximising decisions are now visible everywhere. Dangerous levels of air, sea, river and land pollution, species extinction, low-paid, precarious employment, ecological destruction along with competitive wars for control of raw materials and markets. These symptoms are all inevitable results of gearing production to the needs of profit.

The revolutionary-humanist perspective,therefore, is one of the few which recognises that our modern global economic reality contradicts the religious and nationalist ideologies developed and established under previous tribal or aristocratic modes of production. It therefore, challenges those ideas which explain and justify the division of individuals within societies as well as dividing humanity into hostile religions and nations.

Since humanities ideas are influenced by human social reality, the struggle for humane and tolerant attitudes becomes not simply, nor primarily, a battle of ‘politically correct’ (sic) ideas. Instead it becomes primarily a struggle to create a more equal, tolerant and humane reality. In short, if we want to change ideas we need to change reality.

Reliable evidence concerning pollution, ecological destruction, poverty, military conflict and political reaction is everywhere. Such widespread deterioration suggests that new ideas corresponding to this reality should be widespread. However, there is a lag between the experience of global reality and the acceptance of a transformative set of ideas corresponding to it. In the 21st century, there has not been a sustained mainstream criticism of the existing mode of production nor of divisive sectarian religious and nationalist ideologies.

Yet it is common knowledge that religions, for example, are not humane to all those within their own denomination, let alone members of other religions. Nationalist ideologies are no better. National elites are not humane or egalitarian with regard to all members within their boundaries, let alone those of other nations. Adherence to these outmoded ideologies and practices are a recipe for confronting the growing crisis facing our species by mutual hostility and aggression.

Holding on to these outmoded ideologies will merely lead to more fighting among religious or national groups over who will hang onto the shrinking resources which sustain life. Any successful ones in such a divisive struggle would be the last to dysfunctionally survive before it too tore itself apart or became extinct.

However, the elite ‘middle’ classes, who administer the capitalist economic system, are mostly in denial of all this. They receive such benefits from the present system that it and it’s ideologies will not be seriously challenged by them.

For example, there are those in influential positions who are in denial over the seriousness of the negative symptoms briefly noted above. There are others who deny that this evidence results from the normal operations of capitalist production.

There are also those intellectuals who deny that their private interests prevent them from stating the obvious – that the present system needs to be radically changed. Denial in one form or another is an elite default response to criticism of the capitalist mode of production.

Until a new generation arises who are not chained to a sectarian ideological past, a nationalist present, or weak political reformism, but consider humanity as a whole, it is essential that the revolutionary-humanist perspective is kept alive for future generations to consider.

[This is the first in a series of short Beginners Guides to Revolutionary-Humanist perspectives. Others will follow at regular intervals covering contemporary and historical issues.]

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2019)

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TERRORISM (Part 2)

d) The ideological foundations of terrorist activity.

In Terrorism part 1, I reasoned that something more than anger against economic and social oppression, was necessary to motivate the assassination of non-combatant men, women and children as deliberate acts of terror. That something else I identified as adherence to ideological prescriptions and justifications. In this second part I also contend that this type of ‘higher purpose’ sectarian and anti-humanist rationalisation gives rise to a self-serving open or covert concept of virtuous violence. Violence against innocents, in pursuit of an alleged higher purpose, is twisted by ideological propagandists into a virtue. In fact such violence is far from virtuous when examined seriously and without bias.

As argued in part 1, terrorist violence by state or non-state perpetrators against non-combatants, by any credible definition, amount to crimes against humanity. Of course, with regard to ideological motivations we need to recognise, from the outset, that those who promote ideological-based terrorism and who perpetrate terrorist acts, do not have a separate ideology to the rest of the communities within which they reside. To a greater or lesser extent, the superiority of their group ideology is held by non-terrorists and terrorists and alike. It exists as a shared group assumption. The terrorists among these ideological-based communities are merely prepared to go to greater lengths to defend or promote the entire system of ideas than the average believer among their communities.

All that is needed by the non-terrorist believers in the same ideology as the terrorists, is to openly support it and consistently defend its validity and continue to adhere to it. This ‘belonging’ to the group and its shared ideology supports the assertion of authenticity made by its advocates and explains its continuing historical existence as a sectarian form of group identity. The mere existence of the shared ideology then becomes the intellectual foundation and motivational platform from which the terrorists acts are planned and executed by the extremists among them.

For example; The enthusiastic flag waving and anthem singing supporters of nationalism, are the human agency from which and upon which the armed forces and specialist hit squads of each nation-state receive their ideological certainty and funding support. Similarly, the enthusiastic adherents of religions, particularly those who conform, study and follow their own particular scriptures and clerics are the human foundations upon which religious fundamentalists receive their ideological certainty and funding support.

Two further points of interest are worth considering at this juncture. First, that in some cases, the two ideologies (religion and nationalism) can compliment and reinforce each other. A nation state with a state preferred or state reinforced religious (or even political creed) will undoubtedly have two powerful ideologies to justify their actions and two complimentary higher powers to serve. Second, that the ideologies of nationalism, politics and religion also contain within them the shared dualist (and elitist) notion of superior and inferior nations, religions, cultures or political ideologies. Thus a further two more rationalisations are frequently spun from such political and religious sectarian perspectives. First; the innocent others who are killed by terrorist acts are often presented as not being innocent after all. They are in one way or another considered to be implicated in the actions of their own elite by not overthrowing them or by not voting them out. They can even be judged complicit by being at the same wedding or market place as any particular targets.

Such guilt by association, crude rationalisations, conveniently ignore the problem of citizens being unable to seriously influence or control their own entrenched elites. Most, if not all systems of governance, historically and at present, are set up so that revolutions are necessary to seriously alter the actions of an entrenched elite. Anything less, (demonstrations, petitions, votes, for example – even popular uprisings) will be ignored, sidelined, resisted or even, (using the elites police and armed forces) punished by those in power. Anyone who momentarily thinks otherwise should remember the various state elites who ignored the huge global anti-Iraq war demonstrations in 2003, and also ponder the fate of the Arab Spring Uprisings beginning in 2010, in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.

Second, the other are frequently designated as less than human. Often, considerable effort is made by elite and pro-elite intellectuals, to identify negative or inhuman characteristics of some members (past or present) of the target community and apply these to all members. So the characteristics of some abhorrent individuals become the asserted characteristics of all. The actions of the elite are attributed to the entire population. In extreme cases much effort is expended in the consistent dehumanisation of those targeted as the enemies of one side side or the other. [Note, in this regard, the contemporary demonisation of all Russians and all Iranians by the elites in the USA and the UK, when in fact it is the Russian and Iranian elite who decide what the governments in these countries do.]

The sectarian demonising attitude ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian’ of the early US aggressive expansion west can be replicated ad nauseum (watered down or not) and applied by sectarian dualists to Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Gays, Trump supporters, Bernie voters, Brexit supporters and even Euro Remainers. The fact that predominantly good and predominantly bad people exist within every community and even within many families is ignored. Instead, ones own favoured group, nation or religion is asserted to embody more of the good and non-favoured groups to embody more of the bad.

However, outside of the public posturing within the arenas of politics, religion and the media, everybody knows the inaccuracy of this type of bias. We all know our own group has its share of anti-social, disrespectful and aggressive people who will lie and distort reality when its suits their individual interests. We all know there are extremists who will steal, hurt and even kill within our own religious, communal, political or national grouping. Nevertheless, this immediate (and practical) daily understanding too often gets swamped by, or ignored at, the level of ‘officially’ promoted beliefs and ideologies. And acts of terror are never far behind demonisation once ‘official’ ideological propaganda gets ramped up to fever pitch.

e) Accuracy and error in ideologies.

There is an almost irresistible but naive dualist urge among most firm believers to assert that their own beliefs are wholly or predominantly correct whilst others beliefs are wholly or predominantly wrong. However, the contradictions within ideologies are far more complex than that. Successful ideologies, as with all successful propaganda, rely upon containing elements of valid experience, around which are woven a tapestry of opinion, bias and myth. These separate elements become stitched into what amounts to a system of belief. It is important to recognise at this point that ideologies and belief systems are not generally created by ordinary people, they are a socially created product of past and present elites.

Ordinary people who fall victim to elite produced and promoted ideology and propaganda, (and even some who add to it) do so by recognising and latching on to those elements confirmed by their own actual experience. They then accept the additional opinion and bias part of the overall ideological package when it is skilfully interfaced with these elements of shared validity. Once an ideology or item of propaganda has been accepted – in its entirety – further critical thinking is not required. From then on its intellectual permeation/absorption is achieved by reiteration, elaboration and confirmation.

Confirmation bias among believers can then emerge (and invariably does) and evidence which contradicts the propaganda or ideology can be ignored and information which confirms the ideological bias sought out or even invented. People so inclined can choose the media outlet that plays to their particular world view or bias. Competing ideologies and propaganda all have their elements of accuracy along with a mass of elite spun mythology and bias. Perhaps the most vivid and striking example of this process in current politics is provided by the Republican elites versus Democratic elites in their mutual struggle for control of the wealth and power of the United States government. Republican supporters can recognise the accuracy of some of the Republican criticisms of Democratic corruption and economic and political mismanagement and simply accept the entire political package (or sufficient of it) currently articulated by president Trump.

Similarly, the Democratic supporters can recognise the accuracy of Democratic criticism of Republicans, (particularly the easy target of the current loose canon President) and accept all (or sufficient) of the democratic political package. Each side can confirm the existence of their own experiences as ‘truths’ (sic) and marginalise or even deny the so-called experienced ‘truths’ (sic) of the other. The constant manipulation of this manufactured propaganda divide and bias is the special role of the political spin doctors and media outlets that line up behind one elite side or the other. Fake and manipulated news is therefore a product of both (or all) sides of the political divide. Those ordinary citizens who have lined up behind one one side or other of this elite struggle for power and accepted that sides ‘message’ have thus become the victims of the ideological struggle as well as being the victims of the current mode of the production which these elite sides support and competitively seek to control.

A similar ideological production and uncritical acceptance of it is visible with regard to religions, where one religion is considered to be wholly correct and all the other religions wholly (or fatally) false. In the case of religion, the ideas were originally produced by an ancient elite, who were also mainly patriarchal men and verbally wove myth and mystery around of kernels of actual common sense and practical experience. These packages of elite male prejudices were skilfully and convincingly passed on to their communities, most of whom had no ability to read or write let alone skills of critical analysis. The result being that a majority, for any number of reasons, (including threats of punishment), accepted the elite produced ‘message’ and passed it on. The more of them who accepted the ideological patriarchal narrative, the stronger the communal pressure to conform became. Interestingly, all the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, once they became numerous enough and strong enough used material force (including terror) as well as intellectual ‘spin’ to recruit ever more adherents.

The scriptures of each of these religions openly record and celebrate this military stage of their development. This is a fact which is conveniently overlooked or downplayed by many subscribers to these patriarchal ideologies. The interesting fact about these rival religions, however, is that conquest and killing in the name of their imaginary god is not something abandoned in scripture or in ancient tribal antiquity when they were invented. It was still evident in the religious wars of the middle ages (Islamic conquests and Christian crusades included) as well as in the later colonial and imperialist ‘adventures’. During that period soldiers and sailors of Christian Europe were sent to invade the South American, Asian and African countries of Pagans and Muslims alike, steal their resources and crush resistence mercilessly. And of course many 21st century Zionist Jews of Israel still invoke the myths of the Torah/Old Testament to justify the unremitting removal of Palestinians from their ancestral villages and lands.

The recognition of this religious element to terrorism brings us full circle to the formation of Al Quaeda, ISIS etc., and at the time or writing, the latest acts of terror in Sri Lanka. Islamic sponsored terrorist actions accompanied by the cry ‘god is great’ as they strike to kill in country after country among community after community have become a regular occurrence. In one sense all terrorists are victims of the insufficiently challenged dominance of the patriarchal ideologies they have been subjected to and have uncritically accepted. But it needs to be born in mind and repeated in this regard, that the unchallenged dominance of these ideologies exists because even non-terrorists keep these belief systems (whether religious, nationalist or politically sectarian) alive and defended as acceptable guides to modern living. But of course, this particular religious dimension is not the only experience driving the mental analysis and motivations behind the decisions of some religious individuals and groups to plan and execute terrorist crimes against humanity. They are also reacting against certain aspects of modernity.

f) Religious inspired antipathy to modernity.

For some believers, religious fundamentalism and its companion offshoot terrorism are the results of a rejection of some aspects of modernity. That is to say they are a reaction against, and rejection of, secular values, egalitarian concepts, pro-feminist policies and the extension of scientific rationality. Building upon religious tradition, fundamentalism has produced an ideological conduit for a new expression of anger, aggression and terrorist activism against some – but not all – symptoms of global capitalism. Religious fundamentalists select from aspects of modernity, as well as selecting some fundamental principles embedded in their religions original holy texts. They extract those elements which they prefer and that can be utilised in the resistance and fightback against capitalist inspired corruption and exploitation. Fundamentalism is thus directly dependent upon the originating principles and practices of religions as well as upon direct experiences of the negative characteristics of capitalism. These studied selections from tradition and modernity become the foundations upon which fundamentalist tendencies are erected.

So religious fundamentalism is not, and never has been a reaction against capitalism as a whole. It is not based upon opposition to the economic foundations of capitalism, as some naive commentators have suggested. It is merely a reaction to the current political and social forms associated with the capitalist mode of production. Thus religious fundamentalists as varied as Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist are not in any way anti-capitalist, for they are not against the economic exploitation and social oppression at the heart of capitalism. Nor are they opposed to modern technology and the unregulated productive and polluting capacity of modern industry. The economic and technological basis of the capitalist mode of production are acceptable to most – if not all – fundamentalists as the American, Israeli, Iran and Saudi versions of fundamentalism demonstrate. Neither were those Islamic fundamentalists on steroids – Al Quaeda or ISIS – prepared to do without their smart phones, internet connections, polluting vehicles, travel by aircraft, buying and selling commodities (even females bought and sold as commodities) or market trading for the latest weapons technology.

What all fundamentalists have failed to grasp (religious and nationalist) is that on the historic scale, it is the full spectrum of production and productivity that capitalists and capitalism churn out which is the real material threat to humanity – theirs and ours. Indeed, it is the needs of the capitalist mode of production, which has motivated the pro-capitalist western elites to interfere, manipulate and disinherit indigenous communities and create problems everywhere. Yet it is an undeniable fact that the numbers routinely killed and injured in the west by ill health, road and industrial accidents, air and water pollution and numerous localised wars, far exceed what non-state terrorists are able to inflict upon humanity.

Yet the horrific and terrifying fact of sustained, large – scale damage and death of citizens receives no serious or ongoing condemnation from mainstream politicians and media. It is clear that the capitalist elite have managed not only to stifle critical thinking about their favoured and pernicious form of production, but have also managed to institutionalise terror and justify it. And as production is increased in the 21st century, the global number of ‘human casualties’, the disintegration of countries and ecological communities is set to increase rather than decrease. In a very real sense it is the capitalist economic system and its political and state institutions which is also an indirect instigator of the current spiral of revengeful terrorism and a direct instigator of pre-emptive acts of terror.

g) Finally.

The use of terror against innocent people is not hard wired into the biological and social evolution of humanity, so it is not an inevitable product of human relationships. Neither, are widespread ideologies for that matter. They are both relatively recent inventions, dependent upon literacy and a class with enough free time to develop them. Yet even so the desire to commit terrorist acts has never been widespread among communities and nations throughout history. Acts of terror are the peculiar product of a small minority within communities, who are instruments used by other educated elite minorities, to further their own elite ends. Hierarchies in general need ideology to justify social and economic inequality and they need terror (and armaments) to enforce this situation where it is seriously challenged. Ideology and terror serve no other purpose. Humanity, clearly needs to oppose and struggle against terrorism in all its forms, state orchestrated and non-state orchestrated.

Moreover, if we are genuinely opposed to terrorism, we must also expose and oppose all forms of terrorism. That is to say the form of terrorism, perpetrated by those who say they are on our side (sic), as well as those who say they are opposed to us, must be equally condemned. However, humanity also needs to struggle against the capitalist mode of production which has spawned all the terrible economic, financial, social, environmental, ecological, political and military problems we currently face – Including the above noted pre-emptive and revengeful acts of terror. It is this broader picture of capitals threats to present and future standards of living, safety and welfare, which also needs to be broadcast and fully understood.

The increasing numbers of human beings fleeing from routine violence on a daily basis in their own countries and seeking asylum in the relative peaceful countries of Europe and North America, do represent a problem under the present mode of production. This is because the wealth capital produces is intentionally not created to be shared out on the basis of general human need. Instead, it is designed to be accumulated by an elite whose greed knows no physical or moral bounds. Therefore, it should be stressed that immigration, as a threat to good jobs, education, and social welfare, only occurs because most of the wealth produced is appropriated by a relative few. This current unequal state of affairs, leaves the majority to squabble and struggle over the remainder. Yet even so, the amount of austerity and relative poverty caused by immigration pales into insignificance when compared with the threats to basic human needs and resources from capitalisms present and future profitable operations. Advanced technology in the hands of capitalist production will soon render far more well paid jobs obsolete (as it did in the mid to late 20th century) than any number of boat loads of refugees.

The compound crises which capitalism now has matured within our production, transportation, waste disposal and consumption areas of life, threaten far more austerity, disruption, destruction, misery and truncated human life than numerous boatloads of desperate working people fleeing from dysfunctional ex-colonised countries and failed states. In this regard, it also needs to be repeatedly stressed that refugees and economic migrants fleeing to Europe from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Africa etc., are the direct and indirect victims of capitals global reach and interference in their countries economic, political and social affairs. Their situation has been rendered so bad by centuries of external meddling that even paltry benefit payments, precarious, low paid employment and slum housing in Europe appears more attractive than being unemployed and homeless in bombed out towns and villages with the constant threat of further harm. Here in Europe, the UK and North America, the working classes of various skin colours are – through unemployment, low pay and austerity measures – also victims of the same economic, financial and political system now in its neo-liberal crisis period. Working people the world over, in varying degrees, are facing the negative consequences of the capitalist mode of production in its 21st century stage of over – production and social and ecological decay.

Never has there been more relevance than today to the 19th century call; ‘workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains’. The workers in the 21st century are now white-collar as well as blue-collar, they also are of different ethnic backgrounds, skin pigment and educational attainment than when the call was first made. However, despite these superficial surface differences, as human beings they still have far more in common, than they have in difference. We all need economic security, adequate housing, safe communities and unpolluted environments. The capitalist mode of production has consistently failed to deliver these basic elements of human existence to all but a privileged layer. It’s representatives are in complete denial about the connections and responsibility of their system for this failure and also for the planetary mess their system has created. That only leaves us – the general working population – to take up the challenge.

For it is no use hoping the politicians will do what is needed. Politics is daily proving to be part of the problem not part of the solution. Working people, uniting nationally and internationally in the desire to change the present capital based system, is something that we are still waiting to happen. Incidentally, it is not some new political strong man (or woman) such as Hitler, Lenin, Stalin or Mao, Thatcher, Merkel, Macron or Trump that we need. Tough Dictators or Kind Shepherds are not all they are trumped (!) up to be and they need sheep to follow them, not creative thinking citizens. And it is the latter which are really needed to reshape the future.

United, we stand a chance of saving ourselves, our present and future families and the ecology of the planet from further destruction and devastation; but divided we will fail on all counts. If this seems a utopian outlook then compare it with the past one hundred years of failed efforts to save people and the planet via the attempts to reform capitalist production methods and judge which effort ultimately has more potential. Also reflect upon the following. Previous mighty empires have collapsed from their own internal contradictions their people (and particularly their elites) never thinking this would happen. Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Aztec, Inca empires etc., arose, dominated thousands or millions and then declined leaving mostly ruins, buried bones and pottery.

But of course there is a substantial technological as well as historical difference between those past empires and the present global capitalist one. Previous empires had relatively low levels of technology in methods of production and warfare and this meant that people still had a fairly healthy planet to sustain them after these empires finally collapsed. People within the territories of these previous collapsed empires could still find places to farm, fish and survive reasonably well. Ground water was not generally contaminated, soil was not extensively exhausted or chemical contaminated by organo-phosphates, seas were not full of plastic and other toxic substances. Nuclear waste was not stored in limited life containers.

Forests had not been universally decimated to mass produce cheap furniture and paper. The air the survivors breathed did not contain billions of microscopic fibres of plastic shed from polyester clothing and microfibre packaging. In contrast, to past empires, this present global empire of Capitalist domination, if left to its elites devices, could by its mass produced fossil fuels, nuclear waste, chemical contamination, ecological biocide destruction and multiple pollutions make satisfactory human survival after its inevitable collapse, highly unlikely. Is that the heritage we really wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren as well as to any future generations?

R. Ratcliffe (June 2019)

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TERRORISM (Part 1)

The suicide bombings in Sri Lanka two months ago (April 2019) triggered a bout of short lived concern for the innocent victims of these atrocities. The incident has now been relegated to history and superseded by more daily Brexit concerns and weekly Trump-isms. However, terrorism is not history and sadly will visit us and others again and again. We need to remember that over 300 men, women and children had their lives ended by the actions of people unknown to them. Whoever perpetrates such acts, do need to be continually condemned as committing crimes against humanity. However, the narrow extent and momentary fervour of the western media coverage has not served to increase an understanding of the extent of acts of terror or the motives and beliefs of the numerous perpetrators.

Past and present western media coverage whilst expressing momentary horror also simultaneously exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of those promoting the western bourgeois perspective. The general reporting and discussions on terrorism has also demonstrated the hold of dualistic modes of thinking among the liberal intellectual, political and economic elite. The world according to these nationalist and religious type dualistic frameworks is divided into good people and bad people. The good people are those who do what a specific dominant elite want them to say or do (including issuing and following instructions to kill) and the bad people are those who say or do something which opposes that particular dominant elite. Such simplistic bifurcations of humanity and their actions conveniently ignore the essential commonality and alienated humanity of those people who carry out such barbaric acts and importantly – the supportive connections they have with their communities and the bulk of the world’s population.

This article, (and the next, Part 2) therefore, will delve beneath the current superficial surface symptoms, dualist formulations and the confirmation bias which clutters the media coverage of such events. Media partiality and bias prevents an honest and detailed evaluation of the continuous and widespread use of terror and other crimes against humanity. For example: With regard to terrorist acts we need to ask not just a) what do terrorists do – and condemn it, but ask, b) just who are those who carry out such atrocities, c) what do these perpetrators understand about the world, and d) how important are their beliefs in allowing them to perpetrate their crimes. In asking and answering such questions we shall view the world much closer to its complex reality, than it appears through the distorting lens of one or other of the bourgeois nationalist or religious sectarian ideologies.

a) What is it all terrorists do?

It is obvious that terrorists use guns, explosives and other harmful materials (fluids, gasses, powders, poisons) to perpetrate acts calculated not only to kill and maim individuals and groups, but to instil fear and dislocation into the wider communities which have become their targets. Invariably, the targets for acts of terror include, men, women and children of all ages, who are not directly involved in any aggressive actions towards the perpetrators. Furthermore, it is also the case that the human targets of these terrorist acts are also unknown to the perpetrators. There is a revealing contrast. In the case of most murders the victims are usually known personally by the agents of death, whereas most acts of terror deliberately target people who are not individually known to the perpetrators. In short; terrorism is predominantly a violent act of a few, who are usually well known to each other, (eg the murder cell, unit or team) against numbers of a group that are not personally known to them.

If the above is a reasonably accurate summary of what terrorists do and to whom, then it follows that whoever does such acts, should be accurately described as terrorists, no matter how they choose to describe themselves. Similarly, those who aid and abet, order, or otherwise enable such acts, are also implicated in those acts of terror, no matter how they describe or rationalise their direct or indirect participation. This latter point is an important one to recognise and understand in considering terrorist activities. Terrorists are rarely, if ever, isolated individuals who decide for themselves who should be a target, what methods and weapons should be used, the location and the timing of the act. Even those who strap on a suicide vest and go alone into a community to explode it are merely the end product of a chain of events and reasoning which always include interactions with other human beings. These other enablers have motivations, roles and tasks which are a necessary composite element of the eventual pre-planning and subsequent act or multiple acts of terror.

The existence of a chain of command and influence (ie the necessary human agents of terror) which Iinks planning and execution is also true of those acts of terror initiated and perpetrated by the elites within Nation States as well as those perpetrated by other forms of official or unofficial organisation. A direct chain of command or a more amorphous, but crucial, sphere of human influence is always the case; whether the terror is motivated by religious, political considerations or so-called national security measures. The idea of an isolated, unhinged individual acting alone with no connections or links with others, is a facile idea that has no connection with reality. So to further enhance our understanding of this process of motivation, planning and implementation we need to examine the shared reasoning which informs such acts.

b) So who commits acts of terror?

It is also increasingly obvious from the information available that those who engage in terrorist crimes against humanity, are not uneducated, mentally disturbed, or otherwise deficient in the ability to skilfully think and plan. It has already been suggested that those who organised and perpetrated the more recent crimes in Sri Lanka were well educated individuals, some at least with university levels of study. Likewise, those Islamists who flew aircraft into the Twin Towers, were from privileged and educated backgrounds. But the existence of a well educated resume for successful terrorist atrocities also applies to the state sponsored acts of terror by regimes such as those controlled by Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussain as well as those in Iran, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It is also well known that practically all secular based nations (including those in Europe and America) have departments or sections which, along with their military elites, are no strangers to higher education entrance qualifications nor to planning and implementing acts of destructive terror.

So if we are not to be nationalistically biased or dualistically sectarian, in identifying those who perpetrate acts of terror, we must include in this analysis the well educated elites of Western Capitalist countries. These also initiate, support or otherwise sponsor acts of terror. The acts of terror planned and executed by all these actors, religious, political or state sponsored, are the results of a complex process of understanding and reasoning with regard to the world as they experience it. In general the elite state sponsors or enablers of terror are motivated by understandings which are informed by the alleged economic and/or political needs of the country they govern. Generally, they try to remove threats to these economic interests by diplomatic and peaceful means both of which can include bribery or intimidation. However, if these soft power manoeuvres fail, and the threat is considered sufficiently great, then organised terror can become an instrument of overt or covert government policy.

Thus the terror of relentless area and fire bombing of German cities and the Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the Allies (UK and USA) in the Second World War, were well thought out, meticulously planned actions by otherwise rational, well trained and educated actors. They had a definite result in mind and a carefully calculated brutal means to achieve it. Nevertheless these were clearly acts of terror, aimed at killing and terrorising non-combatant, men, women and children in pursuit of national interests – as defined by the governing elites and their military commanders. Similarly, the Japanese and German blitzkriegs in Europe and the east were studiously considered, meticulously planned acts of terror against the citizens of the countries the axis powers wished to conquer, control or eliminate. Practically all these various elites and their supporters considered and defended their actions as rational and justified. They did so by invoking a higher purpose, such as, (in these last cases) the ‘national interest’, which was then used to justify the killing of non-combatants and other innocents as a rational endeavour to serve that purpose.

I shall consider these higher purposes in the next section but merely note here that non-state terrorists also have their own version of higher purpose which by a similar process allows the irrational murder of other human beings to be presented as their own sectarian form of rationality. However, it has become common in the mass media to apply different standards of judgement to the acts of terror perpetrated by states and those by non-state actors. Yet in fact those often considered and described as mindless terrorists, such such as Islamists, Right Wing Nationalists and other non-state terrorists obviously also think things through and more often than not plan their actions meticulously. Their reasons and understandings are often informed by similar or even the direct opposite of those informing other elites. It should be obvious that the national interests pursued by one elite using acts of terror against those who resist their actions, are frequently viewed as unjustified acts of oppression by those in receipt of those acts. Resisting oppression or revenging acts of terror by reciprocal acts of terror is often a downward spiral descending to the depths of depravity.

We should not forget that the understanding reached by many non-state terrorists who experience (directly or indirectly) what they consider to be oppression, exploitation or marginalisation of themselves and others of the same or similar circumstances, invariably promotes a reaction. The experience of the millions of people who have suffered economically, socially and politically as a consequence of the legacy of colonial, imperialist and now neo-liberal phases of global capitalism has created anger and frustration among them and later generations. That anger and frustration felt by millions also produces a small minority whose frustration and anger has reached such a boiling point that they feel it justified and necessary to hit back at the actual direct or indirect (often imagined) sources of this oppression. From among these angry minorities, within their wider communities, are the potential recruits for planning and perpetrating acts of terror. But anger against something is often not enough. As noted above we next need to consider the different higher purposes prescribed and available to those few who go on to plan and commit acts of terrorism.

c) What do terrorists believe?

I suggest it takes considerably more than negative experiences to turn a human being into someone who will kill and maim numerous other human beings. Even the most negative experiences of people under the present capitalist mode of production lead more often than not to depression and even suicide than it leads them to become terrorists. Yet it is this negative experience together the additional reliance on something more which is why acts of terror are the actions of a relative few, but a few who, undeniably share a common ideology with their wider communities. Moreover, as indicated, in contrast to most cases of murder and manslaughter, it takes a lot of cold calculation, together with a belief in a higher purpose for human beings to arrive at a decision to destroy the lives of unknown men women and children. Unfortunately, the history of humanity to date has produced a number of belief systems which serve as a higher purpose which justifies a suspension of the humanist essence of our humanity and serves to excuse or rationalise the destruction of other human beings.

Also as already indicated, the abstract concept nation and the ‘national interest’ is the general default ‘higher purpose’ within the bourgeois nationalist paradigm and this has been the rationale for numerous crimes against humanity. This is so whether this is the humanity of their own citizens or of other countries citizens. Elites, past and present, often consider serious opposition from members of their own people as threatening the national interests, when in fact it may only be the interests of the existing elite which is actually threatened. More often than not the use of a higher purpose rationalisation by politicians and military leaders is just a convenient cover for the much lower purpose of maintaining their own elite privilege. Mass incarceration or massacres of their own citizens by elites is not something missing from the arsenal of terrorist punishments available to aggressive and insecure state elites. So it is belief in a secular higher purpose cover story which is an important element in the mind set of those programmed to execute acts of terror by ‘following orders’ or merely ‘doing their duty’ to the state.

For the religious fundamentalist the higher purpose allowing, or even requiring, the killing of innocent men, women and children is doing their gods will. Perhaps not surprisingly, they and their enablers, assume they understand their imagined gods will which wonderfully expresses what the fundamentalists own will has previously decided upon. Perhaps it should be obvious that it is necessary for those who become terrorists in pursuit of an ideological cause should deeply and firmly believe in the end they imagine they are serving. However, we do know that such beliefs are not a biological product of each generation at birth. In fact these beliefs are a social product processed through education and culture from early childhood through adolescence to adulthood. This no less true of nationalist ideologies as well as religious ideologies. Without a constant reiteration and reinforcement of one or other of the belief systems, from which these higher purposes are derived, the promoters of terrorist acts and their perpetrators would lack the current menu of dubiously convenient rationalisations.

So the well educated pilot of a stealth fighter or bomber tasked to take out a target in the middle of a family wedding or community outing, is helped to reconcile this act by the fact that he or she has been trained by and is merely following, instructions from a political or military leader. Furthermore, he or she will also feel exonerated by being informed that those orders to kill are part of serving the communities (or states) national interests as interpreted by a political or military elite. In the cases of state orchestrated terror, any, and every instance of ‘collateral damage’ (a euphemism for the murder of unknown non-combatants) is acceptable. This is so even though occasional expressions of regret are later offered. With one missing dimension, the same ideological support structure applies to the religiously inspired terrorist. The well educated Islamic perpetrator of a terrorist act, tasked to obliterate the lives of a target community, is also helped by the fact that they are following the ideas, training and instructions of some religiously inspired ‘leader’. Furthermore, he or she will feel exonerated by being informed that they are serving the communities religious interests as outlined in their gods revealed scriptural texts as interpreted by their chosen religious elite.

The missing dimension, in the case of current Islamic inspired terrorists, is the absence of a need to escape their terrorist act unharmed and undetected. This arises from fact that they have been convinced by their belief system that killing themselves along with their targets, will be rewarded by eternal life in an imagined patriarchal paradise. In these cases, there is an imagined higher power reward, which is judged better than their secular analogues who merely receive state issued medals or promotion in rank for successful missions. In most other acts of terror, (state sponsored, nationalist, anarchist, zionist, etc.) the terrorists are invariably not intending to kill themselves. They are planning to escape unharmed and though recognising the possible dangers, they have no intention of being killed.

Even if the latter actually happens it will be the result of an unintended consequence. The only other notable exceptions to this suppression of a survival instinct among terrorists were the Kamikaze Japanese flyers, the Kaiten mariners (and their German plane ramming pilot analogues) during the latter stages of the Second World War. With these exceptions in mind, the ideological attachment to their religious belief gives the promoters and perpetrators of terrorists acts from within the Islamic community an advantage over other forms of secular or nation-state terrorism. This is because, physical escape from the crime scene by the perpetrator is a complex process no longer needed to be planned and implemented.

R. Ratcliffe (June 2019)

[Part 2 will include further comments on the ideological foundations of terrorist acts; confirmation bias in religious and nationalist ideologies; and the terrorist rejection of parts of bourgeois modernity.]

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THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE NONSENSE.

Before going further I wish to make clear that I am not using the term ‘nonsense’ as a substitute for the word ridiculous. By using nonsense I am not suggesting that people’s beliefs should be automatically ridiculed, even if some forms of belief are scarcely credible. I am using the word nonsense throughout this article, in the sense of being applicable to forms of belief for which there is no direct, reliable, sensory evidence. Those beliefs for which there is an absence of direct sensory observations by sight, touch, hearing, smell or taste (aided or not) by reliable instruments designed to enhance these five senses. In other words, beliefs for which there is no such reliable, independently confirmed sources of sensory evidence are therefore quite literally non-sensory or as I suggest, nonsense beliefs.

Since they have no basis in the direct, independent and confirmed reality of the senses, it doesn’t matter how many people subscribe to and accept such beliefs. That fact along with any numbers produced in support of its popular acceptance, does not by itself, make a belief sensible. Actually such statistical evidence only proves that beliefs without appropriate evidence can frequently be widely held. Large majorities once believed the earth was flat, that the moon was a perfect sphere and the sun went around the planet earth. That majority opinion did not make them reliable and sensible beliefs because, in some cases, immediate unaided sensory experience is insufficient and therefore unreliable. However, these particular inaccurate beliefs were at least based upon the senses rather than imagination and therefore could be later revised when further aided sensory evidence contradicted them.

It is different for those forms of belief not dependent at all upon sensory evidence, because, they are based primarily upon imagination. They are therefore established and perpetuated by imagination and generally impervious to sensory evidence. Such nonsensical beliefs start at childhood where adults feed their own and others children myths and falsehoods. Some fright-based falsehoods are allegedly to protect children from harsh realities, that they are supposedly not able to understand or cope with. Other more pleasant falsehoods such as fairy tales and Santa Clause are supposed to enrich their childhood experiences as if there were not many less deceitful ways to do this. Later, some of these falsehoods and myths are openly admitted to the children to be false – but not all. Children are easily duped because they trust that the imaginary information their adult counterparts have fed them was accurate.

Yet these imaginary stories (nonsense beliefs and downright lies) to children are continuing the already historically elite-established right to propagate and believe nonsense. And trust in parent (or surrogate parent type) authority continues well into adulthood for many individuals. God or a cleric becomes the substitute father figure, dispensing their own manufactured nonsense along with borrowed nonsense and naive trust is transferred to these surrogate parents. I am not now or in the future going to suggest depriving people of the right to believe whatever nonsense they find satisfying. However, I am suggesting that there should be the parallel and counterbalancing of that right to believe in nonsense, with another. That counterbalance is the right to refuse to believe in nonsense and the right to criticise that nonsense openly. This is particularly important where that nonsense belief negatively impinges upon the lives of others. For example, children of all cultures who are fed nonsensical beliefs are in fact victims of deception and should be entitled to hear and consider a critical appraisal of those nonsensical beliefs.

Similarly, adults who have continued believing non-sensory (nonsense) information fed to them as children or as adults (by surrogate guru parents) are also victims. This is particularly the case where women and children in patriarchal or patrifocal societies have been led to believe that the human rights granted to men have been correctly (and divinely) curtailed by their god and inherited religious beliefs. I have in mind, those religious beliefs, which insist that female and child sexual and economic oppression is divinely ordained, rather than being the preferred situation of dominating patriarchal men. But a word of caution. Even those males who practice and perpetuate their patriarchal preferences against others are also victims as well as perpetrators, albeit not in equal proportions. The perpetrators in this case are more privileged victims of nonsense than those they oppress. This does not excuse prejudice and discrimination but does explain the twin sources of them; ideology and practical preference. It is this element of contradiction which the political correctness movement, for example, fail to address.

In defending the right to believe nonsense as an act cultural respect for the other and celebrating diversity, political correctness advocates fail to defend the rights of the victims of such non-sensory belief systems. Furthermore, such bourgeois elite inspired political correctness at the same time fails to defend the hard won rights of secular working class struggles to ameliorate or end the worst features of the capitalist mode of production. Some of those features being the ideology of the naturalness of a religious, economic and political elite and their right to determine what people think and say. According to the political correctness movement, there is an unalienable right to believe any kind of nonsense, but not an unalienable right to criticise such beliefs. Furthermore, as if this intellectual and political asymmetry was not bad enough, this right to believe nonsense has been supplemented by the right of believers in nonsense to be offended by criticism of their particular form of nonsense.

Interestingly in the 21st century, criticism of nonsense has been conflated with hate and the thought crimes of the 20th Stalinist and Fascist state-capitalist period have been replaced with the liberal promoted hate crimes of the neo-liberal stage of 21st century global capitalism. Clearly the motives behind the political correctness tendency are most forcibly supported and backed up by the dominant economic and political elites. This cannot be surprising. It should be obvious that if a capitalist firm or business wish to sell their products or services to a buying public – on as wide a basis as possible – then they have no incentive to offend or upset large numbers of the buying public who have internalised their inherited beliefs – no matter how absurd these might be. The same applies to those who capitalist concerns wish to employ. Criticising the ideas of the very workers they wish to encourage to work hard enough to extract surplus-value (profits) from is probably not the best way to exploit them efficiently.

Similarly, it should be obvious that since politicians need the votes of as many voters as possible, they have no incentive to question or contradict the beliefs of those whose votes they seek to attract. Since the power and influence of these two sectors of modern capitalism (employers and politicians) is considerable, then their views inevitably carry considerable weight in the media and elsewhere. In the past decade, the representatives of economic and political elites have thrown their intellectual and financial weight behind combined efforts (of believers and political apologists) to stifle criticism of Islam and Zionism by use of the term phobia, This concept, borrowed from psychology, with its connotations of an irrational mental imbalance, has now been applied to rational criticism of the intellectual connections between these religious belief-based systems and the oppressive and aggressive practices associated with them.

So the the concepts of Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism have been increasingly used to discredit and criminalise any attempt at criticism of the beliefs and practices pursued and perpetuated by Islamic and Jewish fundamentalist ideologues. This attempt to outlaw and discredit criticism of dangerous fundamentalisms includes discrediting any exploration of the intellectual and practical ideas which connect the mainstream religion with those among them who pursue these beliefs and practices with knives, guns and bombs in their hands. In this way the liberal and left advocates of political correctness carry out (unwittingly or not) the policy needs of the economic, financial and political elites of the present mode of production. In addition, they also defend the rights of the religious and political elites of various persuasions to propagate their version of nonsensical belief unchallenged.

Yet it is important that a defence of the right to criticise is taken up by all who can contribute to this defence. This is particularly important with regard to the religion of Islam for it has long been a desire of Muslim intellectuals and scholars to recreate the Caliphate and it is at least some of these intellectuals and religious scholars who feed the ambitions of those fundamentalists prepared to take up arms in pursuit of this ambition. For example, in a 1981 book entitled ‘The future of Muslim Civilisation’, Ziauddin Sardar, borrowing western dialectical terminology, wrote;

“The realisation of the state of Islam is a constant state of becoming…..Each step forward requires readjustment; new problems have to be tackled from epoch to epoch so that the state of Islam can be reached and it’s true dimensions realised. Only in the constant process of becoming and in the continuous state of striving can we implement the dream that comes to us from the depths of our historical consciousness. The dream constitutes an inspiring challenge for future generations of Muslims as we move toward the Medina state with complete trust in Allah.” (‘The future of Muslim Civilisation’, Ziauddin Sardar, page 260. Emphasis added RR)

This is dangerous dream nonsense piled upon fantasy nonsense and like other such nonsense needs seriously countering and exposing, for it will undoubtedly influence some Muslim readers who lack nonsense detecting skills. For of course, in the non-dream world, the choices of governance types offered by Islam are now clear for all to see. At the least extreme end of the Islamic spectrum of governance are those offered by Hamas in Gaza, the revolutionary guard in Iran and the semi-military Islamic form in Egypt (routine beatings and torture). At the most extreme end we have had the recent ISIS Caliphate in Syria. We know the most extreme extreme examples include multiple be-headings, stoning to death, burning to death along with the capture and buying and selling of young women. In between these two examples we have the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Africa and the hierarchical (chop critics up) regime in Saudi Arabia. None of which present attractive alternatives even to the corrupt and incompetent examples currently on offer in the capitalist west.

However, even the least extreme forms of Islamic governance include the practice of honour killings of men and women for transgressions of the patriarchal sexual choices prescribed for them. In addition all of them maintain oppressive, restrictive, exploitative and forced relationships with their female members. All of them support the most extreme, near slavery employment conditions for working people. All of them perpetuate rule by unelected religious, economic, financial and political elites. All of them produce an abundance of individuals who think it OK to kill in the name of their religion and their imagined god. None of them advocate or allow critical free speech. These reasons are why there is much anti-Islam feeing in secular societies and in view of the abundant evidence, this is a rational reaction, not a phobic one.

R. Ratcliffe (May 2019)

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