Has anyone checked in with Drake? Is he OK? Did he make it through the shoot intact? I didn’t...
Last week acting Prime Minster Errol McLeod warned Winston Duke, the PSA and wider society that “violating the Industrial Court’s injunction is violating the rule of law and could lead to anarchy.” COP leader Prakash Ramadhar did not use the word anarchy but agreed the strike was an attack on law and order.
“Anarchy” is one of those apparently straightforward words. Most persons understand it as a descent into chaos and disaster. And politicians deploy it because it sparks a dark image of the rule of law giving way to a primordial battle of all against all. Not to mention it’s a popular word many citizens use to lament everyday life.
One of the ironies of this descent into anarchy meme is it never applies to all citizens equally. For example when elites ignore the rule of law, say in corruption or fraud cases, politicians never evoke the moral panic of a society-wide descent into lawlessness.
To cut a long story short, to the acting PM and probably most other incumbent political figures in any government, anywhere in the world, the anarchic are people who threaten the status quo as defined by the powerful and elite.
Now many persons do not agree with Winston Duke and his tactics. It is impossible to deny the backlog and frustrations many citizens have endured. While the failure of the state to provide travel documents to its citizens is clearly a serious breakdown in the social contract.
Yet let us not fool ourselves. As Walter Rodney pointed out in 1972, “the state arose as an instrument to be used by a particular class to control the rest of society in its own interests.” As much as most citizens think it is there to look after their own needs as citizens, the state’s central function is to protect wealth and private property. So if and when the not-so-rich fight and denigrate amongst themselves, as they often do over worker rights, and as they are doing now, the state and its status quo is safest.
This is where the definition of anarchism gets interesting. In the political sociology literature anarchism has a different definition from that generally understood or suggested by the acting PM.
Anarchism most accurately means “without rulers”. It as an umbrella term for a variety of different political ideologies concerned with organising life from a bottom-up perspective, distinct from the top-down system of bourgeoisie democracy and the post-colonial state bureaucracy we currently endure.
What does this mean? How does a society without rulers even work? Actually, the foundations of anarchism aren’t that unfamiliar to what many people intuitively feel are solutions to many social problems. Anarchist ideas and principles include mutual aid, voluntary association, decentralisation, direct democracy, egalitarian decision-making, participatory management, and dismantling the machinery of state rule.
Anarchism is a faith and practice in fundamental human values. Yet such simple ideas are dangerous to the status quo and this is why the real meaning of anarchism is replaced with fear and stigma in popular culture, politics and academia.
The anthropologist David Graeber offers a useful description of anarchy: “On one level it is a kind of faith: a belief that most forms of irresponsibility that seem to make power necessary are in fact the effects of power itself. In practice though it is a constant questioning, an effort to identify every compulsory or hierarchical relation in human life, and challenge them to justify themselves, and if they cannot – which usually turns out to be the case – an effort to limit their power and thus widen the scope of human liberty.”
Which brings us back to the acting PM’s statement. Yes, we all want public service workers to be there for our needs. And yes we all understand for this to happen they must be treated fairly and have a healthy working environment. So why is jail being threatened for persons asking such things? And why is it suggested the whole of society will descent into lawlessness for such demands to be resolved?
In this sense right and left politics become the repressive vs. the anarchic. The former is our post-colonial road that favours wealth and private property, the latter is an alternative way to think about solving problems and politics in the interests of all, especially those with little wealth and private property.
The irony is the acting PM, a once revered trade unionist, now describes solving workers’ rights as a nightmare descent into lawlessness, in need of repression. When anarchy more accurately, as the acting PM probably knows himself, would be an on-going conversation about rebuilding the entire system and providing workers with input into their working conditions.
How might we make sense of the current situation in Gaza? What knowledge and experience can we bring to bear on the situation from Caribbean colonial history?
One place to look is the writings of the late Martiniquan, Aimé Césaire, and his powerful book, Discourse on Colonialism. Born in 1913, Césaire was a gifted thinker who completed his studies in France and was a leading light of the Caribbean diaspora in Europe.
Some described the book as “a declaration of war.” Others spoke of it as a “third world manifesto.” Its central thesis was what is the impact of colonialism, not simply on the colonised and their own societies but on the coloniser themselves?
Written soon after the end of World War II, Discourse on Colonialism spoke to the West from an anti-colonial position and considered reasons for the moral and spiritual collapse of Europe that led to Fascism, Nazism and the holocaust. There are two key observations amongst many in the book that might be most pertinent to current Israeli actions.
The first is Colonialism as a system of “proletarisation”. By this concept Césaire explained how in the construction and later continuation of a system of domination and subordination, colonialism prepared the ground for capitalism. It did this through the creation of “false consciousness” within both the coloniser and colonised.
By this he meant colonisers needed to maintain a system of inequality where they were understood as the superior race. One way colonisation achieved this was with the belief and structure of racial inequality.
Césaire explained how the coloniser needed to create a world where the colonised were dehumanised and seen as uncivilised, in need of salvation through being conquered and developed. This false premise of superiority and the perceived inequality between colonised and coloniser allowed the coloniser to justify their brutal activities and prepared Colonies for class based society.
Of course this notion of development and salvation was always a charade. But as Césaire wrote, it provided many Europeans with a false belief and justification for Colonialism. What was original and precocious about Césaire’s reading is he took the observation further to describe how the dehumanisation of Colonialism poisoned Western morality and humanism.
Césaire noted when we remove the facade of Colonialism as development we begin to see colonialisation as an illness infecting European civilisation. It had consequences. The direst of which was Nazism, Hitler, and the holocaust.
This was a bold link to establish and most Europeans were unable to see this for themselves. Césaire’s argument was simple. Colonisation and Nazism had the same foundations. The same ideas. The same cruel and inhumane logic.
The reason why Colonialism was acceptable to European civilisation Césaire argued was because it was done to non-whites and non-Europeans. The dehumanisation of colonial thinking he said cultivated Nazism within European culture. For Césaire, Hitler emerged from the cultural logic of racial domination over others found in the Colonial encounter.
European philosophers had always justified Colonialism on European superiority and a divine duty to civilise the world and regenerate inferior races. A European majority never refuted such ideas; it was part of their belief system. Only with Nazism and the holocaust was this belief system thrown into doubt.
As Césaire noted, the reason Nazism was viewed differently to Colonialism was not because of the inhumane act itself but that, “it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that [Hitler] applied to Europe colonist procedures which until then had been reversed exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa.”
Césaire described how Colonialism decivilised the coloniser, brutalised him and degraded him. He stressed colonisation “dehumanises even the most civilised man; that colonial activity, colonial enterprise, colonial conquest, which is based on contempt for the native and justified by that contempt, inevitably tends to change him who undertakes it.”
Césaire called this the “boomerang effect of colonisation.” And here we can forewarn the Israeli state and its G7 supporters using Césaire’s own words.
“No one colonises innocently, no one colonises with impunity either; a nation which colonises, a civilisation which justifies colonisation – and therefore force – is already a sick civilisation, a civilisation that is morally diseased, that irresistibly, is progressing from one consequence to another, one repudiation to another, and calls for its Hitler, I mean its punishment.”
Seen through the eyes of Césaire, the Israeli state’s current actions not only have the same cultural logic found in European Colonialism and Hitler’s Nazism. They also illuminate the racism at the heart of the Israeli state.
By putting government and politics into the center of economic analysis, Polanyi makes it clear that today’s vexing economic problems are almost entirely political problems. This can effectively change the terms of modern political debate: Both left and right today focus on “deregulation”—for the right it is a rallying cry against the impediments of government; for the left it is the scourge behind our current economic inequities. While they differ dramatically on its desirability, both positions assume the possibility of a “non-regulated” or “non-political” market. Taking Polanyi seriously means rejecting the illusion of a “deregulated” economy. What happened in the name of “deregulation” has actually been “reregulation,” this time by rules and policies that are radically different from those of the New Deal and Great Society decades. Although compromised by racism, those older regulations laid the groundwork for greater equality and a flourishing middle class. Government continues to regulate, but instead of acting to protect workers, consumers, and citizens, it devised new policies aimed to help giant corporate and financial institutions maximize their returns through revised anti-trust laws, seemingly bottomless bank bailouts, and increased impediments to unionization.
The implications for political discourse are critically important: If regulations are always necessary components of markets, we must not discuss regulation versus deregulation but rather what kinds of regulations we prefer: Those designed to benefit wealth and capital? Or those that benefit the public and common good?
Ramadan kicks off this weekend and that means that Muslims playing the knockout stages of the World Cup will have to decide whether they will fast or not. Algeria manager Vahid Halilhodzic held a meeting with his medical staff last night to determine to what extent it would be possible for his players to play to their maximum if they didn’t eat during daylight hours. His team, remember, will proceed to the next round if they avoid defeat against Russia in their last match. Many other countries will have similar concerns, including perhaps Iran, who will remember than one of their former players, Ali Karimi, was sacked by his Tehran-based club back home when it emerged that he decided against fasting in 2010. The last time the World Cup coincided with Ramadan was in 1986.