Thursday, 26 January 2012

Dave Douglass, Democracy, War & 'the road to hell'

THIS Month's Freedom, the anarchist paper, has a centre-spread devoted to the critical comments of Dave Douglass on Barry Woodling's talk at last November's Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) conference in Newcastle on Libya's rebellion and NATO: or as he calls it 'The Support NATO bombing tendency'. Supporters of the NAN from the North West responded to Dave's diatribe in Freedom by accusing him of 'Orientalism' and 'Cookbook politics'. Dave Douglass particularly questioned the wisdom of anarchists who appealed to what he would call 'bourgeois democracies' to support the rebels, as the republican Spaniards did in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 when fighting Franco's forces, and he concluded by likening this to 'Anarchists end(ing) up so wrong-footed and totally confused and ... (that it was) in its slippery slope ... the road to hell ...,' and claiming 'but I now know the answer how old Kropotkin ended up supporting the first world war.'

Comrade Douglass, who is here also attacking Ian Bone's Blog for expressing the same sympathies as these North West elements of the NAN, claims 'bourgeois democracies' and imperialism don't 'give a monkeys about' massacres and bloodshed in places like Benghazi. For Dave it is just one of those simple Marxist cookbook explanations: 'Gaddafi was another peg in the board game against formally anti-imperialist leaders in the Middle East who proved a threat to Israel and US and Western oil interests.'

Really! I thought in recent years Gaddafi was pals with our former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, America billionaires and had financial links with the London School of Economics. In the fuller version of his critique on the Freedom website, perhaps not surprisingly Dave Douglass quotes from the Morning Star, while his opponent, Barry Woodling, based his NAN analysis on empirical work done among Libyan exiles living in Manchester.

Although America took a back-seat in Libya, Dave Douglass's squib does raise an interesting point about how nation's now pursue wars; last Saturday, Peter W. Singer (author of 'Wired for War: The Robotic Revolution & Conflict in the 21st Century') in an article in the International Herald Tribune entitled 'Drone strikes on democracy', expresses concern about how today the US government is processing its war aims. Mr. Singer writes: 
'In democracies like ours, there have always been deep bonds between the public and its wars', arguing that 'Citizens have historically participated in its decisions to take military action, through their elected representatives, helping to ensure broad support for wars and a willingness to share the costs, both human and economic, of enduring them.' 
Mr. Singer claims that this bond has been broken with the recent US use of drones in Pakistan and that it breaches the intention of the founding fathers to ensure that the pursuit of war is not left 'to the executive ... alone'.

This brought forth a more interesting letter of response from J. Larson in Tokyo:
'Peter W. Singer's concern about the weakening bond between the American public and the wars that the country has involved itself in points to more than a problem of democracy and the Constitution. War has become a business in America, and the military just another corporation that makes its decisions based on money in conjunction with the capital power centers in the United States. This is exactly what James Burnham predicted decades ago in his 1941 book "The Managerial Revolution," where the United States would become more like an oligarchy than a democracy. The "people" now have little say in the wars that are started or their moral justification'

At the time of World War I, the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a column in The Labour Leader entitled 'War: the Cause & the Cure', arguing that Britain was at war 'because it has been decreed by a handful of men: the three Emperors, and the cabinets of London and Paris'. For Russell this posed another question: 'Why do ordinary citizens obey their insane commands, and even obey them with enthusiasm, and with the utmost degree of devotion and heroism?'

Clearly, Dave Douglass's 'Road to Hell', and the public support for wars, is rather more complicated than he or any cookbook recipe could define.

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The next issue of Northern Voices, NV13 out in February, will include an interview between Barry Woodling and a member of the Libyan community in Manchester: this Libyan lad has now returned to Benghazi to participate in the unfolding events there.

Also in the Northern Voices 13 will be an article by the Jim Petty on the militant pacifist Philip Morrell, MP for Burnley 1910-1918, who almost alone in the House of Commons opposed the First World War forcing a debate.

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