Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Owen Jones and the Elephant in the Room – Social Imperialism (1)

“The greatest peril of Imperialism lies in the state of mind of a nation which has become habituated to...deception and which has rendered itself incapable of self-criticism.”[1] J.A. Hobson, “Imperialism: A Study.”

Immediately following his successful appearance on BBC’s ‘Question Time’ programme, the author and journalist Owen Jones dedicated his weekly column in the ‘Independent’ to lambast the current UK political spectrum. He rightly noted the almost complete banality of consensus of the three main parties on the major issues of the day. From financial regulation, austerity to foreign policy, it is literally a case of tweedledum and tweedledee when it comes to their respective political positions. Yet, there was something all very déjà vu about the article. It simply read as though it was based on a reading of Peter Oborne’s book, ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’ published several years ago on the conformity of the ruling class. Oborne, who clearly belongs to the moderate (culturally, at least) side of the Conservative Party, bemoaned the decline of traditional British oppositional politics and its supplantation by a technocratic, careerist ‘modernising’ class who rarely substantially disagree or venture outside the Westminster bubble. Owen has every right to partly rehash this argument even if it is executed with a good dose of left-wing spice.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Has Birmingham Stop the War Coalition been brought into disrepute?

One of Birmingham’s local “Stop the War (StW) Coalition” groups held a meeting on the 7th November 2012 to discuss the Libyan situation. Surely a group, which in theory, at least, claims it opposes western intervention and was formed on the basis that it opposed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was going to highlight the extreme shortcomings of the British led intervention in Libya? I should’ve known better.

And who did Stop the War invite to give an assessment of what has been happening in Libya since Gadhaffi’s lynching? Why, none other than the person they invited last year to give a pro-NATO talk on Libya. I presume we live in the era of ‘War is Peace’, so why not?

However, the local StW convener, Stuart Richardson, promoted this talk on the basis that the speaker was offering his own personal perspective. But this misses the point entirely. I always thought that StW existed to oppose western interventions. Isn’t this what it says on the tin? – or on their ‘About Us’ page. Maybe on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Birmingham StW could invite Clare Short or Tony Blair to give their personal perspective on the invasion of Iraq?

In other words, if I want to hear pro-NATO speakers I turn on the BBC/ITV/Sky or I would possibly go to a Conservative/Lib Dem/Labour Party/EDL meeting. I certainly don’t expect to arrive at a StW meeting to listen to pro military interventionists.

Allow me to draw an analogy, if I were to attend a conference on learning more about the benefits of vegetarianism, I simply shouldn’t expect the convener of the conference or the head of the vegetarian group to be eating a chicken or BLT sandwich when I arrive!