vrijdag, mei 20, 2005

The French referendum, Uzbekistan and David Cross on Pitchfork

I am increasingly impressed with Jonathan Steele, the Guardian's senior foreign correspondent and former SNCC activist. Last weekend at this 'Wave of Resistance' meeting in Amsterdam, he saw off a roomful of potentially hostile Slavic Yankophiles and managed, I think, to win over a good number of them. His analysis is consistently acute, with, again, today, a sober, Europhile, deconstruction of the supposed 'catastrophe' that is scheduled to befall Europe should the Frenchies listen to their heart and their brain and vote 'No' to the Banker's Charter that is elsewhere described as the European Constitutional Treaty.

'A cross-section of leftwingers were on display, from dissident Socialist party activists (a majority of members voted yes in an internal party referendum last year) to communists, Trotskyists and Attac, the anti-globalisation youth movement. The National Front is also voting no, but the left is keen to show it has nothing in common with the Front's xenophobic nationalism.'

Given that the almost the entire spectrum of the French establishment, barring the Socialist Party's Laurent Fabius, who has his own leadership ambitions that more reliably explain his opposition to the ECT, it warms the soles of my cockles to see how much influence a few commie rabble-rousers can have when they get their act together.

'"A no vote will be a thunderclap around Europe, provoking a real debate among people instead of discussions among heads of government." Tony Blair was the bogeyman, getting far more mentions than George Bush. "Look what's happened in the UK," said a shop steward [concerned that the ECT will turn Europe into Britain]. "There's a centre, a centre right, an extreme right, and no left at all."'

Ahem. I get your point, mate, but steady on.

Steele concludes: '[A] pause for reflection on how to produce a short, clear and eloquent constitution, not dominated by a particular economic ideology, will do no harm.'

Quite. Perhaps we might even be able to have a crack at the anti-democratic structures (appointed Commission with absolute power; elected Parliament, like a latter-day, be-Blackberried Estates-General, with nowt but a begrudgingly conceded advisory function) at the heart of the E.U.

Ahmed Rashid, whose book on the Taliban was required reading three years ago, has an article in Transitions Online, reprinted from Eurasianet, fleshing out some of the details of what is going on in Uzbekistan. It doesn't make for pleasant reading, as no matter what happens, there are no democrats waiting in the wings to take over, should Karimov fall (or die - according to Rashid, Karimov is seriously ill).

'Western policies have ensured that even if Karimov were toppled in an internal power struggle, his replacement would only be another dictator. The chances of a democratic movement emerging in Uzbekistan are highly unlikely. Armed struggle, even if waged by democrats in the Ferghana Valley, is unlikely to stay democratic very long.'

The extreme repression against democrats and progressives has, in an identical pattern to what happened across the Middle East, resulted in the growth of Islamic resistance - the only viable outlet through which discontent can manifest itself.

Interestingly, Rashid also notes that when Karimov, petrified of a domestic people power revolution on the Georgian model, cracked down on N.G.O.s, in particular George Soros' Open Society Institute, the U.S. and U.K. said nothing. This suggests that, far from being any co-ordinated effort on the part of the American government, its 'democracy promotion' is as haphazard an affair as any other government programme. (Remember, of course, that one of the reasons the U.S.-backed coup against Hugo Chavez fell apart so quickly was that the State Department and C.I.A. were backing two separate groups of coup-plotters, who never thought to call each other ahead of everything kicking off) Furthermore, the Open Society Institute is more of a freelance democracy promotion outfit, with only tenuous links to the U.S. government, whose patron is also engaged in promoting regime change in the U.S. itself, so I'm sure the Spooks-in-chief aren't terribly bothered if George Soros' employees get a couple of fingernails ripped out or electrified alligator clips attached to their gonads.

Elsewhere, Meaders puts all the American Gallowaymania on the Democratic Underground discussion boards, on Air America and elsewhere in perspective, while Ellis, at the Sharp Side, has a great piece on what sounds like a rather dreadful potboiler of a flick set in the occupied territories:

'What would we think of Alfred Hitchcock if he’d gone off to the Third Reich and made a thriller in which the bad guys were Jews, the Gestapo were represented as a neutral law and order organisation and Hitler’s Germany was presented as a pleasant everyday sort of place? Or if Michael Caine had starred in a thriller made in apartheid South Africa, where the bad guys were vicious, evil members of the African National Congress and the good guys were brave white cops?
'Questions like this obviously don’t trouble some members of the acting profession or some professional musicians. The fact that they don’t is perhaps in part a tribute to the effectiveness with which the Israeli state has muffled awareness of its origins and history, its victims, and its fundamental sectarianism.'

And then, over in Indieland, David Cross, everyone's favourite commie comic, has ripped the pretentiously overwrought writers at Pitchforkmedia a new asshole, and K-Punk simultaneously bitch-slaps the Amys and Jemimas of the C86 Forever brigade (or, rather, knitting circle) and homes in on the Bryan-Ferryite anomie at the navel of hip-hop:

'It strikes me that what is wrong with pop culture now is the poverty of its concepts of what success can be. Whereas this lo-fi culture has no concept of failure (middle-class kids who had piano lessons from the age of 4 pretending that they can only just about manage to blow into a kazoo just about covers it, I reckon), hip-hop's Darwinian brutality is conditioned by a model of success that comes ready-made by Kapital. (It occurs to me that what hip-hop needs is an immanent critique of those aspirations, which would function in the same way that punk operated in relation to glam. Mooching about in the existential desolation of their mansions on MTV cribs, who do today's hip-hoppers resemble if not the Ferry of the 70s, trapped by the trappings of a success that, achieved too quickly, became a prison of conspicuous consumption?)'

Um, and A.C. Newman, Patrick Wolf, Dungen and Mattafix are in heavy rotation on the Apostate Windbag stereo.

A tout à l'heure.