Notes from the front – of the week 25/11/2014

Ferguson – the ‘American dream’ is revealed as a nightmare

America’s post-crisis weak recovery has not led to any improvement in living standards particularly in its most impoverished and disenfranchised African American communities. On the contrary inequality has risen and in the most powerful country in the world its inner cities are riven with poverty and its communities criminalised. Facing growing disaffection the police have attempted to maintain control through increased use of violence and repression. After the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Fergusson, Missouri the response of the black community and progressives was that enough is enough. The grand jury decision not to charge the St Louis police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, will unleash another round of protest and struggle as the state is thrown back on violence alone and oppressed communities refuse to accept it and the deep-rooted racism that lies at its core.

Defence Secretary forced out – US imperialism still divided over its Middle East strategy

Chuck Hagel, removed yesterday as US Defence Secretary by Obama, is a casualty of the ongoing differences in the United States military high command over intervention in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon high command strongly believes that US geopolitical goals in the region – to secure the positions of Israel and Saudi Arabia – cannot be achieved without committing troops on the ground to install pro-American regimes in Iraq and Syria. This is the only way to contain Iran and apply unbearable pressure to Hezbollah in Lebanon. But Obama, on the other hand, is more focused on domestic politics and is aware that the polls consistently show the US population is deeply hostile to any further engagement of American troops. Watch this space…

Failure of nuclear talks – so US can further weaken Iran

The failure of the talks on Iran nuclear power programme and the postponement of any settlement to 6 months lies at the door of the US, not Iran.  The US put forward completely unacceptable proposals to Iran that it extensively dismantle its nuclear power programme, while retaining the right to maintain sanctions for an extended period until this was completed. The US was perfectly aware that Tehran – and its supporters in the negotiations particularly Russia and China – would not accept such an unreasonable deal.

The US is caught between a rock and a hard place. It knows that a deal is on the table, but that securing it will mean lifting the sanctions. But the jeopardy for the US is that once the sanctions are lifted it will not be possible to reimpose them. Russia and China – who voted for the current sanctions in the Security Council – have learned the lessons of Libya and Ukraine that the West is not to be trusted to stick by a deal and will not be trapped into supporting sanctions again in medium term.

Meanwhile, Iran has made it clear it wants a nuclear free Middle East – i.e. unlike Israel – and has both signed the NPT treaty and complied with it. The real aim of the US and its allies in the Middle East is to break Iran’s independence from the West, not to disarm a non-existent aggressive threat.

Despite the photo calls the APEC/G20 summits did not play well for Obama

Obama’s tour of Asia, taking in the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation summit in Beijing, an ASEAN meeting in Myanmar and the G20 in Australia were meant to re-launch his Asia-Pacific policy, which had suffered setbacks the previous year with cancelled trips, and the distractions of crisis in the Ukraine and the rise of Isis in Iraq. But rather than a triumph of American diplomacy, the meetings were marked by some quiet victories by the Chinese.

Obama’s aim of persuading South Korea back into discussions with Japan failed. The ASEAN meeting saw no opportunities to foment problems between China and its ASEAN neighbours in the South China Sea, which had been whipped up in the past particularly with Vietnam. And Obama’s diplomatic coup at the G20 was to announce a strengthening of its existing and extremely long-standing alliances with Japan and Australia. While America’s hope for strength in Japan, with hardliner Abe at the helm, was dealt a blow as instead Japan fell back into recession and Abe has been forced to call a snap election

China, on the other hand, signed a new oil and gas deal with Russia, finalised a new free trade agreement with South Korea, calmed its troubled relations with Vietnam, and cemented cordial relations with Modi in India.

Round one of the US’s attempt to contain China through its ‘pivot to the Pacific’ has gone decisively to China.

Scottish politics moves to the left while Labour moves right. Support Neil Findlay and Katy Clark

If anyone doubted that Scottish politics were moving to the left, the meetings in Glasgow on Saturday should have made it clear. 12,000 attended SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow rally calling for an end to austerity, while 3000 attended the left wing Radical Independence conference just nearby. While the SNP in the final analysis is the creature of Scottish capital and will some point divide between its bourgeois and working class components today those rallying to its cause see themselves as choosing an alternative to the left.

Meanwhile, with both the Tories and the Lib Dems eliminated as forces in Scottish politics, Labour struggles with its own crisis. The ballot for a new Leader and Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour closes on Wednesday 10 December. The Labour leadership in Scotland is contested by Blairite Jim Murphy on the one hand and centre-left Neil Findlay and Katy Clark on the other.  Jim Murphy’s pro-Iraqi war, pro-austerity policies will not stop the haemorrhage of Labour support. The new shape of Scottish politics if Jim Murphy wins will be a two-party system in which Labour is the party of the right. While irrespective of its underlying character, the SNP will appear to the left.

Forcing Emily Thornbury to resign was an absurd concession to UKIP by Labour

With Labour polling at its lowest levels since 2010, its leadership would be wise to note the maxim: when in a hole stop digging. Shifting to the right on austerity and immigration has been driving away voters.

In the Rochester and Strood by-election, where ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration and backward UKIP was making the running, it is a fact of politics that whoever sets the agenda wins, if not absolutely then advances most rapidly. That is exactly what UKIP, aided and abetted by the national media, has managed to do for the last six months.

Labour, in simply adapting to this agenda, has undermined its own support and built up that of UKIP – and the Tories. Emily Thornbury’s tweet was simply noting that in an election where the agenda had been set by the ultranationalist right it was not surprising to see expressions of that on the street. Sacking her played to UKIP, allowed the media to ignore the Tories desperate crisis and instead have an anti-Labour field day, while making Miliband himself look ridiculous. Who on earth believes that Miliband’s first thought on seeing a white van is ‘respect’!