Another menu of independent current affairs: US Democrats face choice between VP Joe Biden (right) and Senator Bernie Sanders (left); Why Donald Trump is a moving target; The “scramble for Africa” was repeated around the world; Brixton leader “Red” Ted Knight dies in London, aged 86; plus Quote of the Week and Mark Latham’s love-in with Alan Jones.
Washington, Wall Street and Hollywood want Joe Biden
When the Democratic Party launched its primaries to choose a candidate for the Presidential election in November a Melbourne Cup field of hopefuls began running. Now there are just two – Senator Bernie Sanders on the Left and Vice President Joe Biden on the Right.
Who would have predicted American presidential primaries, and perhaps the presidential election itself, being fought on the “s” word [socialism] versus capitalism? Yet amid the human debris and bodies of the coronavirus pandemic that’s where it is heading.
In the past couple of weeks, all of those who have withdrawn from the race have endorsed Biden although previously they had attacked him as being too old, too white, too conservative and not able to beat Republican Donald Trump. What made them change their minds? Was it money, the promise of a job or did they believe that Bernie and the New York “squad” led by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) were shifting the party too far to the left?
Biden’s sudden emergence as the party’s front-runner is a story that nobody in the US media is covering. There is general agreement that the Clinton-Obama crowd, representing the party’s pro-Wall Street, pro-vested interests in Washington and Hollywood, are financing the Biden surge. But how? What is it costing? How much is being spent? Who are the biggest donors?
Rest assured, there are any amount of dollars available to defeat Sanders and the Left from capturing the Democratic nomination with a “socialist” platform. What will his enemies reach for if dollars can’t stop him?
In the last century the race for the White House was a stupendous carnival of glitz, glamour and arm-twisting politics by union bosses and party heavies. In recent years, however, it has been bought by the corporations; they own and control the event, the candidates, the policies and the outcome.
The National Guard with rifles and shotguns will ring the event; armed police will be out in strength; demonstrators will be kept blocks away; members of the public without credentials will be banned while friendly foreign embassy staff will be allowed in; water cannons, the dog squad and a police cavalry will be on display.
However, if the US is locked down by the coronavirus pandemic and bodies are piling up in mortuaries, churches and assembly halls, the whole Democratic Party extravaganza may be called off. Biden could then be elected candidate by video link and never set foot inside the conference hall. He could make his acceptance speech from home reading from a tele-prompter.
These are the possibilities when the democratic process is sold to the highest bidders.
The trouble with Trump
Hidden among the dangerous bollocks US President Donald Trump spouts during his press conferences and rally speeches, once in a while there is an announcement of blinding importance. It’s generally ignored by the mainstream media which can’t see beyond his rantings.
One such moment came recently when he announced the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. I opposed the invasion and occupation of both countries, and I welcome America’s ignominious withdrawal.
The move signals a new stage in the terminal decline of US global hegemony. No one should mistake it for a progressive shift by Trump’s reactionary White House.
Bruce Page, the London-based Australian journalist, author and editor, cannot resist calling the US President “Trumpkin” and describing him as “a retarded baboon”. Page knows a baboon when he sees one; in 2003 he wrote a stunning biography of media baron Rupert Murdoch entitled The Murdoch Archipelago.
Does the scramble for Africa sound familiar?
“In 1877, merchants in search of ivory, captives and rubber, who operated under the authority of the sultan of Zanzibar (Britain), the king of Belgium (Leopold II) and the government of France, entered the rainforest to strip it of its bounty. Ordinary people were flogged, enslaved, imprisoned and shot; villages were abandoned; fields were left uncultivated; and common intestinal and respiratory diseases became lethal for lack of treatment.”
- Robert Harms, Professor of History and African Studies at Yale University, in his encyclopaedic study of the “scramble for Africa” titled Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa.
“Red Ted”, the Panther and the Lion
Ted Knight, the former Leader of Lambeth Council based in Brixton, was one of my closest and dearest friends. A declared Marxist and Trotskyist all his life, “Red Ted” has died at the age of 86.
He fought for local government democracy in Britain during the 1960s, 70s and 80s when Tory and Labor governments were attempting to smash local boroughs and councils and bring them under Westminster and Whitehall control. When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 she set out to crush local government because of its critical role in supporting working-class communities. Ted Knight stood firm when the confrontation came to a head during the year-long miners’ strike. His leadership was inspirational, and he never regretted his stand despite the heavy price he paid for it.
As reporters on the socialist daily newspaper in Clapham, Workers Press and later News Line, we covered “Red Ted’s” militant opposition to the Thatcher government and nicknamed him the “Pink Panther”. The nickname fitted the speed and agility of his political campaigning – and he never left footprints.
He preferred a quiet behind-the-scenes approach and left the headlines to then GLC leader Ken Livingstone. Although their modus operandi was very different “Red” Ken and “Red” Ted made a formidable team. They had a falling out but never lost political respect for each other’s positions.
Although we nicknamed him the Panther, I see him more as a Lion. And I can’t help recalling the words of Shelley’s great poem, The Masque of Anarchy, written in 1819, to pay tribute to the men, women and children who were killed in Manchester while opposing the London government with a protest of non-violent resistance.
During his election campaign, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn used part of Shelley’s poem as a stirring slogan:
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
Ted Knight gave decades of energy to the British Labour Party fighting racism, fascism, homophobia, capitalism and imperialism. He campaigned doggedly for colonial peoples, especially the Palestinians. In his final battle, Knight was arguing for a fair deal for pensioners while concealing his contempt for all those who thought the British Labour Party had become anti-Semitic.
Big business, Tories, New Labour Blairites, Stalinists and Guardian editors will be cracking open champagne bottles to celebrate Ted Knight’s death. But workers, proletarian and professional, will take a moment to mourn the passing of a passionate champion of revolutionary socialism.
To read the press release compiled by British Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Paul Feldman of the Real Democracy Movement, click here.
Quote of the Week
“If capitalism can’t last two weeks without completely falling apart, maybe it’s time to look for something a bit fucking better.”
- Marlee Jane Ward, a 37-year-old Melbourne writer, interviewed about the Morrison Government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Quote for the record
“I thank all who made it possible: our party leader, Senator Pauline Hanson, a committed patriot who would do anything for her country.
“I also thank Alan Jones who at various times gave me a chance when others would not. I am delighted to see Alan in the President’s gallery, along with two outsiders: Ross Cameron whose dad served here with great distinction, and Rowan Dean. Rowan and Ross, we were supposed to have a long-running [Sky News] television show, but I have come here instead.
“I admire Alan Jones very much, because no one in public life does more research or is more thoroughly across his brief. He is a great broadcaster and, of course, a great fighter for Australia.”
- Mark Latham, former Labor leader, making his inaugural speech in the NSW Upper House on 8 May 2019 as State Leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation