Monthly Archives: December 2015

Families Of The First Order

Yesterday I took my on to see the new Star Wars film (I feel obliged to point out that what follows may contain spoilers).


I didn’t feel any great urge of my own to go and see it, but he had been caught up in the excitement. I’m glad I did: it’s a great film. I’m not exactly a Star Wars fan: the last time I watched one of the films from start to finish was when I went to see Return of The Jedi in the cinema. I guess that one of the most striking things for people like me is the original actors reprising the same roles, more than thirty years later, a sort of epic time-lapse cinematography. I think movie characters linger in our imagination as some sort of immortal figures –even when they die on screen- so there was something unsettling for me about the way the normal ageing process had continued after the original films had ended. Usually when I’m sitting in the dark in the cinema with the images up on the big screen I’m not so aware of my own presence, or my own age. Then there was the fact that I was there with my son, who was watching the film at roughly the same age as I was when I went to see Return of The Jedi.

I wouldn’t say the film is a family movie, though, and that’s a good thing. One of the themes of the film is the way the expectations of family life, its established norms and roles, can prove too great a burden for people to bear. Han Solo and General Leia may not have meant to send their son the way of the Dark Side, but they did, and Kylo Ren has found it hard to resist the lure of the old-style hats and coats and patriarchal lineage that his mother appears to have rejected, but which is now promised by the First Order.

Meanwhile, Rey, the main protagonist, is rooted to the site of the disappearance of her parents in the hope that they will return, and is unable to proceed with a life of her own. For her the decisive moment of personal liberation comes when she realises they won’t be coming back. But she has also grown up unburdened by the baggage of family history and expectation that turns Kylo Ren into a monstrosity. Whereas Kylo Ren seeks the imprimatur of patriarchal power, she is self-reliant. As “scavenger scum”, she has lived outside the patriarchal family structures that traverse both the First Order and the Republic. No-one has ever trained her to think that flying a starship is beyond her or not for her. Kylo Ren gets sent to the equivalent of a posh military finishing school (training with his uncle, a Jedi knight) to set him on the straight and narrow, and he worries he will never be as strong as his grandfather Darth Vader.

Rey (incidentally, the word for ‘King’ in Spanish), on the other hand, is effectively an orphan who has lived free of what Simone De Beauvoir calls the ‘mysterious prestige’ of the father, or the ‘demands, rewards and punishments’ administered by a mother in the father’s name. Whatever ‘The Force’ might be, it is no longer something passed from father-figure to adoptive son. At the end of the film I found myself hoping that the sequels do not seek to introduce Rey’s long-lost parents. They would ruin everything.

Maybe these things would not have resonated with me so much if I had not been subjected, along with the rest of the audience, and, I imagine, a great many other audiences in Ireland, to an advertisement that preceded the film. It’s for a private health insurer.

There’s a woman who’s up before dawn. To get the breakfast, to clear and wash and work and tend and play. A woman who works all day and returns home to put in another shift. And then takes the time to read a story, or listen to yours. There’s a woman who will sit up all night with a sick child and will not rest until the fever is broke. Who waits at the school gates, rain, hail or shine. Who feeds the pets, makes the beds, puts the candles on the cake, and makes your wishes for you. There’s a woman who spends all her time, all her money, all her love, on the things and the people that matter. And through every hour, she will always feel that she is not giving, not doing enough. Mothers: you do enough. Now let us do something for you. Mothers – you’re amazing. GloHealth. My cover, my way.

In The Anti-Social Family, Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh and observe that ‘many of the catch-phrases of conservative politics – individual choice in education or in health care ‘…’ mask a defence of paternal as against social responsibility and authority’. This ad, with its gravelly masculine voice, with its implicit suggestion that all these domestic tasks are the sole preserve of women, its suggestion that the “we” who must now do something for you are the men who are in control over everything else in the world and that basic health care in exchange for money is the epitome of generosity, would appear, right after watching the movie instead of before it, like something from a First Order broadcast. That is, if the First Order had such a thing as television stations. It isn’t just in the landscape of the Skellig Islands that The Force Awakens resembles Ireland. Our celluloid dreams might well consist of the abolition of the family, but on Earth we are confronted, still, with an order demanding travail, famille, patrie. 


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The Bright Side

This is a translation of a piece by Olga Rodríguez, originally published in, 23rd December.

The bright side of the force, in politics and life

There is an image that has lived with me for years. It is the memory of a woman in a hospital in Baghdad, in 2003. The war was striking hard and US bombs had left terrible physical and psychological wounds on the population.

Doctors were carrying out surgical operations right in the foyer of the hospital, on the floor, due to the lack of space caused by the avalanche of casualties. The garden had been converted to an improvised cemetery where the doctors themselves dug plots for the dead and placed cardboard notices with details on the deceased:

‘Unidentified girl aged six found in the Adamiya neighbourhood, wearing a blue dress’.


‘Family with three children found in Karrara after a bombing. No details’.

In the corridors of the hospital people wandered around like zombies. No matter where you were you could hear the screams of the wounded, and of the families of the victims. I had been in the country for nearly three months and the war had gone deep inside me.

It was then that I saw her. In the maternity room. In her arms she was holding her baby, prematurely born, and it looked to me as if she was surrounded by a different light. What was there in this woman that caught my attention so much? I quickly realised: she was smiling in a city in which nearly no-one had smiled for many weeks.

Outside, in the street, the war went on. But there, inside, at that instant, this beautiful woman was able to maintain a smile, as if nothing else existed in the world, or perhaps as if this much love could defeat the war that continued on the other side of the windows.

That image still reminds me to this day of the power of love in the face of war, the power of affection in the face of violence, the resoluteness of a smile in the face of aggressiveness. I do not think it by chance that it was a woman who was doing it.

From 15M up to now people speak more and more of the need to feminise politics and life. Wars have traditionally been a man’s thing. Not only wars of guns and missiles, but also the other wars, those fought over money and power in the workplace, in homes, in politics. Patriarchy’s servitude wins out in a range of scenarios and it obliges both men and women to behave with aggressiveness, as if the only meaning of life were to always come out on top.

Against this other ways, other messages, other values are being introduced in our society that prioritise human rights and people’s concrete happiness over the abstraction of victory. Ada Colau, Manuela Carmena and Mónica Oltra are a few of the figures who represent and stand for these more serene, more peaceful, more grounded ways of doing things. “There is another way of doing politics, a different politics, that has to do with agreement, with peace, effectiveness…”, Carmena frequently says.

Ada Colau

Ada Colau

Here is how Ada Colau expressed it recently in an election meeting: “There is an unstoppable transformative power, and it has to do with the feminisation of politics, placing co-operation ahead of competitiveness, with empathy as its highest value, with care, life and people’s dignity as the highest priority, for the happiness of all.

Neither co-operation nor empathy are the sole preserve of women. Obviously there are men who are not at all competitive or aggressive, and there are women who are, and greatly so. But in a patriarchal world masculinity -not in terms of sex, but in terms of a socially constructed position- has incarnated and represented values of domination and competitiveness and it is in this sense that Colau and so many others call for feminisation.

Women who conceive of empathy and co-operation as the highest of priorities have been key in the social movements of recent years, in the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) and now in institutional politics, to the point that Pablo Iglesias says he has learned from Ada Colau and from Carmena to “call for change with a smile, with greater pedagogy, with a less aggressive style”.

Something is changing. It is the irruption of power conceived in a different way, and it is indispensable in order for us to understand each other more and fall out with each other less. No transformation will be enough if it does not improve our human relations, if it does not soften us, if it does not make us happier.

As the scriptwriters of the new Star Wars film might say -whoever has seen it will understand why I mention it-, there is an awakening of the bright side of the force. And this awakening can give vital lessions in the midst of the aggressiveness in which we live day to day. It is only in this way that we can truly win: without competitiveness eating us up, without us getting lost along the way, without us being corrupted in the struggle. There is nothing more revolutionary than a smile in the middle of a war. And there are women who know a great deal about that.

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Hoarding and Corruption in Ireland

Last week and the week before it was all about Hugh McElvaney, the face who curdled a thousand lattés. The RTÉ exposé on councillor misdeeds had given a new wind to the old story of political corruption in Ireland, and McElvaney’s grotesque histrionics provided the perfect opportunity for another round of tedious sermonising about the dreadful wheeler-dealers down the country and the great unwashed and unredeemed who cannot help but vote for them. McElvaney was disowned by Simon Coveney, the thoroughbred blueblood Minister for Agriculture. He denounced the ‘blatant corruption and self-centred greed’ on display. Meanwhile Labour Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, said that ‘we have the occassional rogue politician, and that’s the truth of it, that these people are found out, exposed and run out of public life’. Moreover Howlin was ‘gratified Labour councillors had not been involved’.
Those with a memory that reaches back a couple of years or so may recall that Simon Coveney appointed Fergal Leamy, from Greencore, the agribusiness firm run by his brother Patrick Coveney, to the post of special adviser at the Department of Agriculture. In so doing he lobbied for Leamy to be paid €130,000, well above the established limit for special advisers at the time.
A word on special advisers: why do government ministers need special advisers drawn from outside the civil service? Such advisers indicate that civil servants are not to be trusted and that the relation between a Minister and ordinary public servants is an adversarial one. Special advisers mean that public servants are not to be trusted.
Coveney stressed Leamy’s “patriotism” when seeking an attractive pay-packet. Unfortunately the patriotic call of a private equity firm in England proved even stronger after five months. Of course hiring your brother’s business pal for a fat paycheck at public expense is not corruption, and leaving for a sweeter gig armed with an understanding of how a key government department works is not self-centred greed either.
Meanwhile, maybe one day in advance of the next election, Brendan Howlin will be gripped by his inner Elliot Ness and expose his party colleague sitting across from him in the Cabinet. It is the least one can expect from such a doughty sentinel of probity in public life. I am referring to Alan Kelly. No, I’m not talking about Teneo, and I’m not talking about the tender for alarms involving the company Task. It is more mundane than that, really. This evening I came across this photo via the Tipperary Says No To Water Charges page.
Alan Kelly
You could not find a more daylight case of political corruption if you put it on an advertising hoarding for all to see. No, wait.
Reader, you may have been so drenched to the marrow in corruption yourself that you cannot see what is wrong with this. So I am going to spell it out for you. Alan Kelly is a Government Minister. He is paid over €150k a year, many multiples of what Hugh McElvaney was seeking. If he loses his seat at the next election he will be paid substantially less. Unless a private equity firm in England comes calling, you never know.
The fact that Alan Kelly is a Minister means he is supposed to be a public servant. And being a public servant means you are not supposed to favour any particular constituency or individual over another. To do that would be..well, corruption. But the message Alan Kelly is sending out here -we can take the drive safely message as an afterthought, since neither the name nor the blown up image of Alan Kelly is recognised as an effective measure against drink driving- is that the people of Tipperary have a special place in his Ministerial heart. They have a special interest in keeping a Tipp man in the Cabinet. Of course if this were Michael Lowry there would be people in plush metropolitan eateries inhaling their polenta in disgust at the grubby redneck clientelism of it all.  The problem is that this view of political power is normalised in Ireland. It is expected that people in positions of power will pull irons out of the fire for their own fiefdoms. Witness the hare-brained debate some years back over the potential loss of an EU Commissioner as a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty being passed unamended, even when it would be plainly illegal for an Irish commissioner to act in the special interests of Ireland (and even at that, ‘Ireland’ would mean ‘Ireland’s rich’ anyway) or any other country. Fortunately the people were eventually rewarded years later with Phil Hogan getting his succulent position as Commissioner for Agriculture.
Alan Kelly doesn’t really give a fuck about anyone else except whoever elects him, and even then he thinks the latter are suckers. He is surely not alone on this score in the political world. It is just that not too many would be thick enough to advertise it on a billboard. Certainly not Hugh McElvaney.

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The Gardens of Atocha: Pablo Iglesias Election Night Speech

This is a translation of the speech given by Pablo Iglesias following the election results on Sunday night. I do not have a satisfactory English translation for ‘patria‘ (‘Fatherland’ has other connotations) so I’m leaving as is. There are two words in Spanish that both translate into English as ‘people’. ‘La gente‘ refers to people in a general sense, and is often best translated as ‘ordinary people’ or ‘everyday people’, depending on the context. ‘El pueblo‘ is in the sense of a collective subject in political terms, as in ‘the will of the people’. I have included links to provide background to some of the references made.

Buenas noches. Gabon. Boas noites. Bona nit, Madrid, capital of fraternity. We are still here, knocking on the doors of heaven. 76 years ago, very close to this square, my great-uncle said to his sister: whatever happens, we will always have the gardens of Atocha. He was on the verge of losing a war, and a few months later, my uncle was shot by firing squad in Valencia. That man met a socialist fate, (as) one of the boys of La Motorizada [a socialist youth militia] that always accompanied Don Indalecio Prieto. The sisters of that man raised my mother and me, and they always spoke to us of the gardens of Atocha. They never spoke to us from a place of rancour or vengeance, but from love. It is said that the heroes of the patria are those who die and kill in wars. I do not agree. The heroic feats that make a patria are not acts that go down in history, but the everyday acts. A grandmother who bursts with joy when she sees her grand-daughter, clean and wearing a good pair of shoes, with her schoolbooks in her bag, running towards her when she comes out of a well-equipped public school, is the image of a decent country. That is what makes a patria.

Tonight, I want to pay tribute to the anonymous heroes and heroines who with their small acts, have shown us what it means to change a country. The grandmother who teaches her grandchildren that toys are for sharing, the activist who loses hours of sleep because he is out putting up posters in his neighbourhood, the (female) magistrate who applies the law knowing that it is the only guarantee that the weak have against the strong, the (male) nurse who knows that his tenderness is the dignity of the sick elderly woman. The (female) teacher who strives so that despite the cutbacks, all children learn and are happy learning. The (male) police officer who does not lose his patience and puts up with whatever comes along and does his job without reaching to his belt. The (male) banking employee who refuses to sell preferential shares. The (female) worker on strike who does not lose her smile. The (male) public defender who gives his all for his defendant. The (male) small business owner who treats his employees as comrades. The grandfather who stretches his pension to pay his daughter’s university fees. Behind those everyday acts lie the heroes who change a country. Revolution does not consist of flags. It is in the small things, like in the gardens of Atocha.

Today’s events are historic. A new political time has opened up in our history, one that puts an end to the system of taking turns. 15M marked the beginning of a new transition in our country, led by ordinary people. In moments such as this one, the democratic abundance of our history breaks through. Tonight we can hear the voices of the people of Madrid resisting invasion. We can hear the voice of General Riego, defending the constitution with sword in hand. The voice of Torrijos, disembarking in Málaga. We can hear the voices of the liberals and the democrats of the Glorious Revolution. The voice of Joaquín Costa, and the voices of the Free Educational Institution. The voice of Rosalía de Castro and the ironic laughter of Valle-Inclán. We hear the voice of the working class and of the women struggling for their right to suffrage. We hear the voices of the Republican reformers, the voices of Clara Campoamor, Margarita Nelken, Dolores Ibárruri, Federica Montseny, Victoria Kent. The voices of Miguel Hernández, Federico García Lorca, Machado and Alberti. The voices of the Asturian miners. The voice of Companys, telling Madrid: it is your brother who speaks. The voice of Durruti. Of Largo Caballero. Of Azaña. Of Pepe Díaz and Andreu Nin. The polyglot voices of the International volunteers who by defending our patria, will be Spanish forever. We hear the voices of those who raised the flags of freedom against terror. The voices of the prisoners of the dictatorship. The voices of the working class who won their rights through strikes. We hear voices in Basque, in Catalan, in Galician. We hear the immortal voice of Carlos Cano singing to the emigrants. The voices of Serrat, of Paco Ibañez, of Rosa León, of Imanol, of Lluis Llach and also the voice of Soledad Bravo and of Pep Botifarra. We hear the voices and we read the words of Manolo Vázquez Montalbán, and all those who struggled for a better future, along with the voices of you tonight, who are the leaders of political change in Spain.

I want to thank my family, all my comrades, and all those of you who are here, but above all, the people [las gentes] and the peoples [los pueblos] of Spain. There is a lot of work to do starting tomorrow, and it won’t be easy but something has changed. Never again a Spain without its peoples [pueblos] or its ordinary people [gentes] . Today from here we commit to push towards a new historic settlement that defends social justice and decency. Democracy must reach the economy, so that there can be no more violations of human rights and dignity. Tonight we hear once again the immortal voice of Salvador Allende: history is ours, and it is made by the peoples. ¡Sí se puede!

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Better To Be Mad Than Sensible (Or Sell Vacuum Cleaners)

This is a translation of an article by Nega (a personal friend of Pablo Iglesias), of rap group Los Chikos Del Maíz, originally published in La Marea on Friday 18th of December, on the subject of Ciudadanos and where they come from.
Albert Rivera

Albert Rivera

It was Mark Twain who said that a banker is a man who lends you an umbrella when it is sunny and demands it back when it starts raining. Albert Rivera is a banker, one of those who has never seen the inside of a dole office and who has a private pension plan: it was wonderful to hear him say this with a grimace and gritted teeth: he knows this is something that sets him apart from the people. We have no proof if he was among those who conned people into buying preference shares and got them to sign abusive clauses that caused their entire life savings to disappear, but at the same time, we can’t imagine him disobeying the direct orders of an unscrupulous superior. Rivera is one of those who jump when the boss says jump and who bite when the boss says let’s bite.

Albert Rivera is a conjurer, a con artist. He is the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman from the 1950s, the trader in hair restorers, the trafficker of illusions. He personifies the paradigm of the American dream and the self-made man who is delighted to meet himself: the last soldier of the West who will liberate us from Bolivarian obscurantism, the final frontier between constitutional order and the barbarism of those tatty hordes who clamour for justice and burn with a desire for vengeance. The sensible change, the quiet man who loves his work, the man who sells you a bag of sand in the middle of the desert and who, like God, is omnipresent and wants to be everywhere.

He says he is against animal abuse but he is also into bullfighting. He says he is against Francoism and on the side of the memory of its victims, but there he is alongside those who refrain from condemning the dictatorship. He says he is with the worker and the middle classes, but he moves like a fish in water among the big firms of the IBEX 35 (indeed, he has no problem putting out his hand for them to fund his elections campaign). He says he is with the victims of gender violence, but he wants to eliminate protection for women and positive discrimination. He says he is on the side of the evictee, but he is the seller of preferential shares to whom the Banco Popular lends four million euro so he can put his face on buildings in the purest Kim Jong-un style. Rivera is moderate, well-dressed, well turned-out. He’s the ideal son-in-law dreamed of by the president of Iberdrola. The entrepreneur who advertises self-help books that offer individual solutions to problems that are collective. Smile or die. Be positive, make an effort. Rivera is the coach, the ass-kissing worker who never goes on strike and who worries more about the bosses than about his colleagues. Rivera is an upstanding man on the side of order. Progressive nouveau-riche when it comes to morals, he is one of those who politely says hello to the gay couple next door and who buys furniture in IKEA, but profoundly conservative when it comes to economics: I don’t care who you sleep with but don’t go on strike because a country moves forward on hard work and tightening one’s belt. And complying with the Troika. He is the repellent slicked-back kid who always snitched to the teacher when some rebel would draw an enormous penis on the blackboard. The lieutenant, the right hand man of the class bully. Always on the side of the powerful: the eternal foreman.
But there is more. Then there is Inés Arrimadas.
Inés Arrimadas

Inés Arrimadas

Inés Arrimadas is the clever girl, the Spanish girl next door, the cosmetics advert that promises eternal youth through expensive creams and unguents: the western burka and any roofer’s summer night’s dream. Arrimadas is the posh gal who turned up to college in a gleaming Golf GTI whilst you had to hunt out coins around the house so you could catch the metro. She was the one who every day would eat in the cafeteria, the one who always went to the most exclusive parties, the one who seemed straight out of the 90s -Beverly Hills 90210 to be precise- and looked with contempt at your Nirvana t-shirt and your bleached hair (you’ll upload those photos some day) whilst she backed her folders with photos of Take That and New Kids on the Block. The popular girl who never asked the loan of a euro to have a coffee; the girl who you would never have asked for a euro to make photocopies. The one who when she finished her career did a master’s that cost €8000 whilst you looked down the dark corridors of the private firm or red-in-tooth-and-claw exploitation amid plastic hamburgers, plastic fries and papier-maché payslips.
We know who they are. They are the pop right-wing, the cool conservatives, the reactionaries we all know who traded daily mass and the eagle of St John the Evangelist [a Francoist symbol] for the Benicássim festival and a song by Russian Red. Why is it that when Iglesias goes to El Hormiguero [live Spanish TV variety show] Pablo Motos [the presenter] turns into an incisive journalist who questions everything but by contrast when Rivera goes along he gets the red carpet treatment and they laugh at all his jokes? Basically, because Pablo Motos is paid four million euro a year and he sets about defending his class interests tooth and nail. How does one live on €300,000 a month? Who lives in Alice’s Wonderland, Mr Motos? I have to take my hat off to Pablo Iglesias’s infinite patience. When for the third time Mr Motos were to ask me with the face of a madman “but where do you plan on getting the money for all these proposals?” I would have said to him without a blink: from your goddamn fat current account you fucking ruling class clown. It would have been fantastic. But that’s why I do rap and Pablo does politics. The truth of the matter is that millionaires like Pablo Motos don’t like to pay taxes and that’s why they get all nervous when we remind them that we’ve had enough of the tax burden of this country falling on the workers and not on big businesses and millionaires.
I’m sick of moderate people, of sensible people, of all these dullards who lost their ability to dream, of these soothsayers. They say that hope makes for a good breakfast but a bad supper. Do you know who says that? The same people who always eat out in five-star restaurants. I believe we need madmen. And madwomen. Sanity is utterly boring, predictable and we know where it leads: unemployment, cuts, precarity….
Let us dream. Let us be mad. Let us be Quixotes.

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Bombing Syria, Bombing Britain, Bombing Guernica

Image via Oireachtas Retort

Image via Oireachtas Retort 


The anti-war movement in the UK, rightly, is using the phrase ‘Don’t bomb Syria’ on its placards. From what I can see, just looking at news reports and the like, the phrase is not being used so widely by outlets and political figures calling for bombing. They are more likely to use ‘air strikes on Syria’, or in more specific terms, air strikes on IS in Syria’, though ‘bombing Syria’ frequently crops up on broadcast during less guarded conversation.

Thinking about each of these phrases in turn: an air strike is bombs dropped from the air, or, more likely, launched from the air with great force. But the term invites us to think the operation more precise than generic bombing. Most people know that bombs are not precise.

Granted, bombs receive adjectives that makes their effect seem less harmful: precision bombing, surgical bombing. If one does get to the point of imagining what bomb shrapnel slicing and burning through human flesh might feel like, or what the shrieks of agony and fear might sound like, one may be still inclined to think that these precision bombs, these surgical bombs -our bombs- have this effect only as far as is necessary given the task at hand, and that our bombs manage to pick out only the designated targets.

Such was the understanding contained in the wording of the UK government’s parliamentary motion in proposing ‘airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria’. ‘Exclusively’. As if there were bombs that could negotiate their way through densely populated areas and pick out only those identified as ISIL by infallible information systems. Even if we do get to the point of acknowledging that innocent people will be killed by such ‘moderate’ bombs, our imagination is still limited, and perhaps tranquilised, by this idea that the effects will not be as bad as horror inflicted by more dreadful, ‘extremist’ bombs, which kill even more indiscriminately. After all, if they kill civilians, it is for the greater evil. Whereas if we do it, whatever it is, it is always for the greater good.

To his credit, the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn emphasised in interviews that the bombing of Raqqa and other places will kill ‘people like you and me’. But it takes a lot, more than could be mustered in the House of Commons last night, to overcome the idea that whoever is killed by such bombs are not like you and me at all. The overall picture of the Middle East presented in the UK and other Western countries is informed by all manner of racist stereotype. People living there are amalgamated into a threatening and strange collective under the sway of ‘Islam’. They are presented as being used to getting blown to bits and dying violently in any case. So our bombs, even if they do kill innocents, may not kill as many innocents than if they exploded in London or Birmingham.

If, somehow, people in Britain had access to English-language 24 hour news channels and internet pages bearing headlines speaking of ‘bombing Britain’, or ‘airstrikes on Britain’, or even ‘airstrikes on the evil criminals in Britain’, it would not take people too long to feel that what was hanging in the balance, but discarded as irrelevant, was the lives of ordinary people living in Britain. They would feel the bombs had their name on it. They would see the claims of those proposing to use these bombs for limited, precise and surgical purposes, those who claimed they were dropping them for the noblest of reasons, as murdering psychopaths who held their lives in contempt.

Moreover, if such bombing did happen, do we imagine that those British people who felt under attack, those who witnessed the scenes of destruction and death themselves, those who saw the images of carnage and heard the screams of agony, would show gratitude – for the fact that they were not bombed even more, for the fact that there were intense discussions held over whether it was the right thing to do, for the fact that it was all being done in the name of some honourable tradition?

Do we imagine none of them would be given to retaliation? Yet MP after MP yesterday advocated airstrikes on Syria as a means of keeping the streets of Britain safe. The imperial arrogance of the British establishment is matched only by its stupidity. Or perhaps its callousness.

Last night, Hilary Benn, the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, gave a speech in the Commons, in favour of bombing Syria, that made Guardian journalists cream themselves.’Something special’, purred one. There are fulsome effusions throughout the UK media this morning, Benn held aloft as some kind of worldly statesman, borne by gratitude and relief that someone had finally given something that at least sounded like a good reason to drop bombs that would kill people like you and me. When your military has helped lay waste to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in less than a decade and a half, when your government supplies weapons to the most brutal theocracy on earth,  it’s hard to reach the right mix of bloodlust and high-mindedness to crank up the war machine proper.

Benn’s reference to the Spanish Civil War in this regard was a crafty touch. It was designed to send thousands of bellowing Orwell-worshippers out into the night, bent on hunting out the ‘fascism’ lurking behind the rib cage of anyone who suspects reproducing Guernica-like scenes in Syria may be the wrong thing to do. Against this cod-internationalist warmongering, let’s bear in mind that those in Spain who are most strongly opposed to bombing Syria are precisely the same people who uphold the memory of the Spanish Republic and the fight against Franco’s fascist putschists. On the other hand, those strongest in support of the war are in fact the political heirs of Franco, those who want to see the corpses of Franco’s political enemies kept in their unmarked mass graves and forgotten.


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