Issue 280 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published December 2003 Copyright © Socialist Review

Books

Review

   

Unwon hearts and minds

Bush in Babylon
Tariq Ali
Verso £13
The New Mandarins of American Power
Alex Callinicos
Polity £12.99


Richard Perle, self styled 'Prince of Darkness' and close adviser of George Bush, recently admitted that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. At around the same time news leaked that Saddam Hussein desperately tried to sue for peace just before the war began. Both reinforce the most damning fact of all--that the US and Britain were determined to go to war last March regardless of the circumstances.

Don't attack Iraq

The war had nothing to do with any imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction, with humanitarian intervention, or with combating terrorism. It had everything to do with US and British strategic interests in the region. These books are indispensable in understanding why. Both are written in polemical style by longstanding socialists and anti-war activists and make a devastating case against the war and the occupation.

Tariq Ali's Bush in Babylon draws on poetry, personal reminiscence and history to demonstrate the role of imperialism in the history of Iraq. Unlike many western and Iraqi apologists for the colonial occupation, he shows that there has always been a strong strand of left wing politics in Iraq, and that the choice facing the Iraqi people does not have to be Saddam Hussein's dictatorship or US rule. The Ba'ath Party only consolidated its rule after fighting the Communists and the left. Democracy is not a gift from the US but something Iraqis have always striven for and often been denied, including, as now, by western rulers.

That democracy is very much at the bottom of the west's priorities comes through very strongly in Alex Callinicos's book. He demonstrates that the Bush doctrine is connected with the spread of neoliberalism and global capital. The US has supported many past dictators--including Saddam Hussein--and continues to do so where it wants to protect its economic interests. So the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan was the lucky recipient of $189 million US aid in 2002 despite interning up to 7,000 political prisoners, practising torture and rigging trials. Callinicos also shows the connection between free market 'democracy' and privatisation, and quotes Arundhati Roy as saying, 'Democracy has become Empire's euphemism for neoliberal capitalism.'

In the long and dishonourable history of imperialism, humanitarian arguments have long hidden the real aim of using military might to smooth the path for investment and new markets, both by crushing domestic populations and intimidating potential rivals from snatching their own share of the spoils. The US has this aim, but has been less successful than it might hope in carrying it through. Here both books are confident that it is in trouble.

Its ability to intervene militarily is not matched by an equal ability to intervene economically. And its military intervention will not win over hearts and minds. We have gone from the prospect of jubilant Iraqi liberation to Operation Iron Hammer in a matter of months. Two forces have stood up to the Americans--the Iraqi resistance, which appears to be growing by the day, and the anti-war movement internationally. The millions who marched in February made a political statement and were ignored by their governments. The march against Bush last month represented a hardening of attitudes which have only begun to make themselves felt. With luck both Bush and Blair will fall victim to this growing political opposition.

Alex Callinicos stresses the need to link the huge anti-war movement in the west and especially in Britain with the fight against capitalism. Tariq Ali demonstrates that the Iraqi people have a history of fighting imperialism. It is impossible here to do justice to both books--they are essential reading for those who have fought against war over the past two years and who see it as the defining issue of our age.
Lindsey German


RESTORATION TRAGEDY

Revolution and Counter-Revolution in England, Ireland and Scotland 1658-60
Brian Manning
Bookmarks £8.99


Revolution and Counter-Revolution in England, Ireland and Scotland 1658-60

If the recent BBC series on Charles II left you wondering how the 'merrie monarch' was able to return to the throne just 11 years after the English Revolution cut off his father's head, then look no further than Brian Manning's account of the two years leading up to the Restoration. In a thorough Marxist history of a period of repeated coups and conspiracies, he rejects the conservative conclusion that the Restoration was the inevitable return to 'normality' after the blip of the revolution. But he explains how the radical groups that had threatened to 'turn the world upside down' could be isolated and demoralised, and 'the Good Old Cause' subverted to reimpose social stability.

As well as ridding the country of the monarchy and House of Lords, the revolution created England's first professional standing army, which had a revolutionary spine of volunteer political and religious radicals. Rank and file soldiers elected 'agitators', representatives to put their case to the officers of the army. Oliver Cromwell, the commander of this 'New Model Army', exploited the benefits of the commitment and discipline this encouraged to put down Royalist riots. But he moved against the Levellers and their calls for an extended political franchise when the Royalist threat had been dealt with. Nevertheless, in 1658 the army retained a political consciousness that saw a resurgence in 1659, alongside the brief reappearance of agitators.

The cause was the military coup of April 1659 that deposed Richard Cromwell, the 'Lord Protector' who had inherited the role from his father, Oliver. The 'Rump Parliament' that the elder Cromwell had expelled in 1653 was restored after intense pressure from pamphleteers and petitioners, who told the officers that it was 'the best and safest way to revive and strengthen the Good Old Cause'--usually defined as government without king, Protector or House of Lords. But many petitions, such as one presented by Samuel Moyer, warned 'that care may be taken that the persons entrusted with the legislative power may not be perpetuated, but that all persons within this Commonwealth may taste of subjection as well as rule', and thus regular elections should be held. There were also appeals for liberty of conscience, an end to tithes and imprisonment for debt, as well as opposition to the enclosure of common lands, although these demands were by no means universal among supporters of the Good Old Cause. In fact the class interest of richer farmers (yeomen) and minor gentry in 'improving' and enclosing land was a major hindrance in them mobilising the farmers and labourers they were dispossessing.

Following the imposition of a brief military junta, agitation for a 'free parliament' encompassed genuine libertarian demands, and not just masked calls for a restoration, Manning argues convincingly. But General George Monck, who paved the way for Charles II, was able to neutralise the influence of the radicals by readmitting to parliament 'the secluded members' who had supported a compromise with Charles I, occupying London and reorganising the army to entrench hierarchy and obedience. Apart from a botched mutiny, he faced little resistance from the army rank and file. The strength of the radicals had been disproportionately great in the army, but the army was increasingly alienated from a population who saw it as parasitic. Soldiers were also bemused by the twisting allegiances of officers whose greatest hold on them was the ability to meet their arrears of pay.

The Restoration did not return England, Scotland or Ireland to 1640. The revolution had greatly increased the influence of merchant capital, and laid the foundations of large-scale plantation slavery in the Americas. The changed orientation of government was exemplified in the monarchy's new dependence on parliamentary taxes rather than feudal dues. And the radical legacy of the revolution--of dissent, disobedience and democratic demands--would endure.
Andrew Stone


BACK IN THE USA

Dude, Where's My Country?
Michael Moore
Allen Lane £17.99


Dude, Where's My Country?

After the roaring success of Stupid White Men and Bowling for Columbine last year, you just knew Michael Moore would be back with a vengeance. Moore says that his recent success is 'a gift' that allows him to write the books and make the films he wants. Dude, Where's My Country? is the book he wanted to write. He exposes the myths of Bush's America, dealing with 9/11, the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Patriot Act, climate change, corporate scams and the mess the Republicans are making. There is even a chapter from god, who seems pretty pissed off with Bush's activities in his name.

Each chapter works as a self contained unit. One of the best is a critique of the culture of fear being developed by the government. Many are crammed with useful facts and figures that are vital weapons for those opposing corporate America and its global domination.

Moore begins the book with seven questions for George W Bush. He'll be waiting for the answers for a long time. In posing the questions he reveals the close relationship between the Bin Ladens and the Bush clan. One of the most telling questions--'Were you aware that while you were governor of Texas, the Taliban travelled to Texas to meet with your oil and gas company friends?'--demonstrates the dodgy goings-on around oil and the Middle East.

Moore sets himself up as the voice of America we rarely hear but which he insists is that of the majority. In one chapter he goes through statistics from US opinion polls (from sources such as The Wall Street Journal and Fox News) which show that the US is not as full of right wingers as it is often portrayed to be--83 percent agree with the goals of the environmental movement, 58 percent think labour unions are a good idea.

Unfortunately Moore is weaker on his criticisms of Tony Blair, describing him as an 'intelligent adult man' with a 'smart wife' whom Moore confesses a hankering for (we can only hope this is meant as humour!).

As in Stupid White Men he addresses a letter to Bush. This time he thanks him for the huge tax cuts that have benefited him after his recent success, and pledges this extra money to doing everything in his power to preventing Bush from winning the next election.

This determination, however, does lead to some less appealing conclusions. Moore recognises that there is a less than ideal electoral opposition to Bush, and endeavours to locate a presidential candidate who can beat him. After waxing lyrical about Oprah Winfrey, he comes up with the much more serious suggestion of General Wesley Clark. This is particularly serious as since the publication of Dude, Where's My Country? the general has put his name forward to be the Democrats' candidate.

Moore gives a lot of space to eight quotes from Clark that portray him as anti-war, pro-environment and an all-round good left candidate. But this is a man who gained infamy for being in charge of the Nato war in Kosovo, who is famed for arrogance, and who was seen actively supporting the Republicans only a few years ago. Getting rid of Bush is an obvious priority for the American people, but is General Wesley Clark the man to hold up as saviour?

Nevertheless, this is a book that should enjoy a similar success to Stupid White Men. It is an excellent resource and Moore is virulent throughout. I wouldn't say his writing will make you laugh out loud (though reading the stupid things Bush and his cronies say may well do). It will, however, let those opposing Bush know they are not alone--that, in fact, they are the majority. Where is his country? It is there, waiting for the American people to win it back.
Amy Jowett


PAWN COCKTAIL

Behind the Scenes at the WTO
Fatoumata Jawara and Aileen Kwa
Zed Books £12.99


Behind the Scenes at the WTO

After Seattle the secretive politics of running the world economy would never be the same again. When the fifth ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) brought together delegates from 146 countries in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun in September, the Mexican government provided 5,000 police and 15 miles of steel fencing to protect them and, for good measure, anchored three warships off the coast.

Yet WTO supporters claim that it is the most democratic international organisation that exists. Unlike the IMF and World Bank, where power depends on financial muscle and the US has a de facto veto, in the WTO there is one country one vote. Yet the WTO is still accused of being a pawn of global capital and the US and European Union in particular. It pushes for free trade in the rest of the world while the advanced economies are allowed to hamper imports. The EU dumps wheat on the world market at two thirds its production cost and sugar at a quarter of its production cost. The US subsidises its 25,000 cotton farmers to the tune of $4 billion--more than the value of the output of several African cotton-producing countries. In March 2002 Bush put a 30 percent tariff on steel and then in May 2002 he announced additional farm subsidies of $193 billion over ten years. His message was clear--dumping would go on. 'Let me put it as plainly as I can: we want to be selling our beef and our corn and our beans to people around the world who need to eat.' The WTO also wants the free movement of capital; copyright and patent protection (Trips); and the opening up of services to foreign providers (Gats) when the only forces capable of taking advantage of these things are the most powerful multinationals.

Fatoumata Jawara and Aileen Kwa's Behind the Scenes at the WTO shows how the WTO really works. Power there rests on three pillars. The first is the economic might of the advanced world and their multinational corporations. The second is their missionary ideology of liberalisation. The third, which is the subject of the book itself, is the power to manipulate the procedures and decision-making processes of the WTO. The book uses the fourth Doha meeting to trace how the so called Quad--the US, EU, Canada and Japan--use backstairs intrigue and 'green room meetings' to get their way. The rest of the world is admitted by invitation only and then faces 'arm twisting and bullying' in 'a game with unequal teams, no rules and no referee'.

This obviously raises the question of whether the WTO can be reformed. The authors propose a long series of changes but suggest that there is no hope of their being implemented. Moreover internal change cannot address the deeper inequalities of development and power in which the WTO is rooted. They therefore look forward to a revolt by the poorer countries getting together to challenge the WTO agenda.

This to an extent happened at Cancun. The authors show how India was isolated as a 'troublemaker' at Doha. But at Cancun, in part given confidence by the protests that had put the WTO on the back foot, it combined with Brazil and other countries to resist the top-down agenda. But will such alliances be enough? They cannot touch the real power disparities. Outside of the conference meetings the US, EU and WTO can still play the game of divide and rule that the book well describes. And there are real differences of 'national interest' between Third World governments.

So far from such alliances being a substitute for the anti-capitalist movement, they point to the need to generalise it even more. If another world is possible then it will have to be made both against those who run the advanced world and their counterparts in the poor countries too. This might seem an enormous agenda, but we should not underestimate what has been achieved so far, including the valuable exposés of this book.
Mike Haynes


BLACK GOLD AGAINST THE SOUL

The New Great Game
Lutz Kleveman
Atlantic £16.99


The New Great Game

Lutz Kleveman's book takes us on an epic journey through the latest imperial playground, the oil-rich Caspian Sea and its vast hinterland, which stretches westward across the Caucasus into Europe, south to the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, and east through Central Asia to China. A journalist, Kleveman writes with enough passion and simplicity to shed light on his complicated subject and from enough personal experience to bring it vividly to life. Here you will find the power plays between the US, Russia and China, the arrogance and racism of imperial peoples, whether Americans in Central Asia or Chinese in Xinjiang (East Turkmenistan), the cruelty, greed and megalomania of pro-US dictatorships and warlords, the sacrifice of all loyalties and principles to national and sectional interests, the disappointed expectations of poor populations to whom oil brings pollution and conflict instead of prosperity and peace, and much more.

The close relationship between bombing and big business goes back long before the presidency of George W Bush. Here's President Eisenhower in 1953, laying out part of the ground for subsidising the French in Indo-China and for the US's war in Vietnam which was to follow: 'Let us assume we lose Indo-China... The tin and tungsten we so greatly value from that area would cease coming... So when the United States votes $400 million to help that war, we are not voting a give-away programme.' No sirree! But the stakes of the new great game are much higher, the lands and peoples involved much bigger and more numerous, the risks to the entire planet far greater.

As the world's only superpower, the US has a strong motivation to control the price of the oil it increasingly has to import, hence also those who produce and export it. And those who transport it to the nearest deep-water port--a crucial question when it comes to Caspian oil. The US also wants unrestricted access to as many different sources of oil as possible. The more the oil-exporting countries compete among themselves, the less they are likely to unite against the US and the lower the price it will have to pay. Divide and rule--economically, politically, militarily--on a world scale.

The 'war against terrorism' could not have been more favourable to US oil interests. In postwar Afghanistan, for example, the lack of aid other than for military purposes was crucial in bringing about a deal between that country and the dictatorships of Turkmenistan and Pakistan, authorising a $3.2billion pipeline from the Caspian to the Arabian Sea. However, the US drive to sideline Russia and surround China with bases is also bringing international tension to crisis point. No sooner had the US got a military base in Kyrgyzstan than the Russians had to have one too and the Chinese had to get an option on one. Even dictators who had effortlessly switched from being pro-Moscow Communists to US stooges tasted the fear which swept through Central Asia.

When the USSR collapsed, the US understandably had a lot of credibility in this part of the world. Little more than ten years later, Kleveman describes the change like this: 'The region's impoverished populaces, disgusted with the United States' alliances with their corrupt and despotic rulers, increasingly embrace militant Islam and virulent anti-Americanism.'

Four brief criticisms. First, Britain, which is doing pretty well out of all this in the shape of BP, for example, gets off rather lightly. Second, by concentrating so much on oil, Kleveman tends to give the impression that the name of the game is greed rather than imperialism. Third, there's hardly anything about resistance from below. And fourth, there are a few too many little inaccuracies of fact and of translation from the original German. These are minor criticisms which shouldn't put anyone off buying this book.
Pete Glatter


CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION

The Return of the White Plague
Ed: Matthew Gandy and Alimuddin Zumla
Verso £25


The Return of the White Plague

When I was a medical student in the 1970s, we were taught that tuberculosis (TB)--called the White Plague or consumption, as its victims died thin and an ashen white colour--was on the way out. It would shortly be added to the list of diseases like smallpox that had been eradicated or at least marginalised by progress in medical science. The antibiotics were good, and there was even a vaccine.

But the optimism was misplaced. Currently a third of the world's population carry the bacillus, albeit in a dormant form. There are 8 million new cases of active infectious TB worldwide, and 2 million deaths per year. Increasing world poverty, structural adjustment programmes put in place by the World Bank that destroy countries' health services, the spread of HIV, and the growing resistance of the tuberculosis bacillus to antibiotics, all combine to create the return of the White Plague. This by itself would not worry our rulers so long as these deaths confined themselves to the poor parts of the world, to Africa, to south east Asia and the western Pacific rim.

But disease does not respect borders. TB is striking into the heart of the developed world with major epidemics in New York, London, and the former Eastern Bloc.

This book is an excellent collection of essays covering the global spread of TB. The chapter on New York describes how drug-resistant TB bulldozed its way from working class areas like Harlem into the middle class neighbourhoods of Queens. It describes how in the 1980s New York cut its fire brigade in poor areas and how fire then demolished the social structure of the city, allowing TB to spread in the devastation. The city recovered some control by finally pouring the dollars into TB programmes. These involve directly observed administration of TB drugs for the six months or more necessary to produce a cure, and by paying fortunes to treat drug-resistant TB.

Despite this wake-up call to the so called 'world community' of ruling classes, a window of opportunity is closing. Drug resistance is growing as the bacillus adapts itself to survive the antibiotics. This happens faster when people abandon treatment halfway because they cannot afford the drugs, and they feel a bit better. We see this in Britain, when asylum seekers are denied access to regular services. To defeat TB using the existing strategy of directly observed treatment programmes would cost the World Health Organisation $3 billion just for 2004. But the rich donor countries are not paying. The fund, instead of growing, is shrinking.

But, as this book points out, even a well funded drug treatment strategy would not work long term. With a third of the world carrying the TB germ in a dormant form, it is poverty and overcrowding that needs to be defeated to keep TB at bay. As long as world poverty is on the increase the disease will keep coming back each time in a more virulent, drug-resistant form. And with mainly poor people dying, the drug companies will not invest in new drugs and vaccines. There is little profit in poor people's illnesses. But as the Victorians learned with cholera, epidemics soon jump from the cottages to the palaces. This book is worth reading to remind us how our rulers in their powerful world political and economic institutions are incapable of seeing the crisis they are creating, or of finding the solution. Another class will need to take control to do the job.
Kambiz Boomla


REAL ZARAGOZAN

Goya
Robert Hughes
Harvill £20


Goya

Why is it that, after two centuries of increasingly barbaric conflicts, Goya's work is still a peak of artistic representation of the human cost of warfare? Robert Hughes's beautiful biography of Goya answers this fully. It is a great work of scholarship, but also of love for its subject. Goya's journey from provincial art student, to royal portraitist, to draughtsman of the human condition is told with style and bravura.

Goya's 82-year life was a full one. Born in 1746 outside Zaragoza, he trained to be an artist from age 13, working mainly on religious paintings. Aged 29, he moved to Madrid, where he worked designing scenes of town and country life for the royal tapestry factory. Spain was ruled by an absolute monarch and was dominated by the church, whose Inquisition was still proscribing books and works of art. Goya was made painter to the court in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, although many of his friends were prominent ilustrados, or followers of Enlightenment thinking. In 1792 Goya was struck down by a near-fatal illness which left him stone deaf. It is believed that he also suffered from a deep depression that would affect him for the rest of his life.

The turning point in Goya's career came in 1799 with the publication of his Caprichos, a set of 80 brilliantly conceived and executed etchings, savagely attacking the clergy, superstition, custom and sexual relationships. Probably the most famous of these prints is 'The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters'. Inscribed beneath the figure slumped at his desk, harried by apparitions of owls and bats, is inscribed the legend, 'The author dreaming. His only purpose is to root out harmful ideas, commonly believed, and to perpetuate with this work of the Caprichos the soundly based testimony of truth.' Goya had 300 copies printed, but they were on sale for only two days before he withdrew them--probably after threats from the Inquisition.

Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 and imposed his brother as king. The next six years witnessed the rout of the Spanish army, followed by continual bloody battles with the Spanish people. Goya then produced 'the greatest anti-war manifesto in the history of art', The Disasters of War, which was another set of more than 80 prints. What makes them so strikingly modern is his refusal to depict heroic set-piece battles, and instead show the sheer horror, barbarity, misery and inhumanity to which both sides are reduced by war.

Spain's ultimate victory over the French occupiers saw the restoration of the monarchy under Fernando VII, who was even more reactionary than his predecessors. Any suspected collaborators were subject to the Inquisition. Goya never dared to produce his Disasters of War, and by 1820 he had only printed two sets of proofs, which remained the only copies in existence until 1863.

Goya now produced two of his most famous paintings. They commemorated the events of 2 and 3 May 1808, when the people of Madrid rose spontaneously against the invading French army, and were then subject to terrible reprisals. The second painting, the execution of a Spanish nationalist, demonstrates Goya's profound empathy with victims of war.

Goya's last great cycle of work was meant for no one's viewing but his own. He painted almost the entire inside of his own house in murals depicting the most obscure subjects. 'Saturn Devouring His Children' is the most well known of these 'Black Paintings'. It is an image of almost unbearable cruelty, horror and shame. (Fortunately, in 1874 the plaster was carefully lifted from the walls and remounted to be hung in the Prado museum.) Fearing the Inquisition, Goya now went into exile in Bordeaux, where he remained until he died in 1828.

This is an excellent biography which treats its subject with reverence, but it also provides great insight and historical detail, which bring out the complexities in Goya's life and work. What makes it complete are the many reproductions of the paintings and prints, which enable readers to study the images to which the author refers.
Peter Robinson


ONE LOVE

Solid Foundations
David Katz
Bloomsbury £16.99


Solid Foundations

How has a small, impoverished island had such a massive and enduring influence on popular music across the world? New festivals keep springing up everywhere--this year it was the second Jamaican Sunrise festival in southern France, with 10,000 mostly local people showing that the language barrier made no difference to enjoying the music.

At Jamaican Sunrise we stayed up till dawn dancing to some of the artists interviewed in Solid Foundations. Reggae has always been for dancing, and has its roots in the vibrant sound system culture in working class areas of Jamaica, with different systems and artists competing at dances. This culture was often looked down upon or feared by the respectable middle classes. Reggae has also often been a protest music, an alternative news service--according to Roy Cousins, 'If you listen to reggae music, you don't need to buy the paper. Reggae music tell you everything wha' happen in Jamaica.' Political songs like 'Everything Crash', 'Police and Thieves' and 'Blood and Fire' spoke directly to the Jamaican ghetto poor (and plenty of people in London and other places around the world).

Although riven by often violent feuds between systems and disputes over payments, the sound systems have played a pivotal role in Jamaican life and attracted deep loyalties. They provided employment and education in a country where many were (and are) excluded from formal education and consigned to grinding poverty.

Whether the music has been directly political or not, it is deeply linked to the complex political situation in multicultural Jamaica. The 1950s ska sound was born out of the Jamaican poor's hopes that independence would bring radical change. Rico Rodriguez comments 'People who don't suffer like us can't perform that sound--it's a sufferer's sound. No middle class Jamaicans can play the music we play; it's a ghetto sound that we play out of instruments, real suffering ghetto sound. It sound happy, yes, for it's relief!' A minority of songs in the ska period explored African identities--a radical move given the entrenched racism against darker skinned Jamaicans generally and the Rastafarian community in particular.

The book is primarily an oral history, but necessarily periodises its subject and introduces chapters with historical information. The background information isn't always that enlightening, and it's probably best to read the book after Lloyd Bradley's excellent Bass Culture if you haven't already got a firm grasp of the economic and political context. However, the interviews provide a marvellous insight into the world of reggae and its relationship to Jamaica's turbulent history, and are as interesting and entertaining as you might expect from the musicians involved. The book stops with the digital revolution in the mid-1980s, which might disappoint some readers, but it ends with some truly inspiring words from Cocoa Tea:

'The war that a gwan down a Israel, the shooting and killing that go on a Jamaica, election business whe a gwan in America, the mad cow disease whe a gwan in a Europe, the Aids that kill all the people in Africa, we're going to highlight all of those struggles, because what? It's all of us problem together, mi brethren, so we must all come together and try and tackle it, one by one.'
Rachel Aldred


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