Don’t mention the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

In his latest piece for Labour Hub, Mike Phipps argues that it would be better to have an anti war movement that is not actually against the war aims of our own ruling class. His argument, and attempted intervention into the anti-war movement, rests on two dubious assertions.

  1. That NATO expansion and US militarism have nothing to do with the origins of this phase of the war in Ukraine and therefore the anti war movement should ignore it.
  2. That Ukrainian nationalism is a progressive “anti-colonial” current fighting for liberation from Russia as an imperial oppressor and therefore the anti war movement should support it.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

1 NATO

The NATO summit that has just concluded has agreed to expand its membership, increase its arms expenditure, get 300,000 troops at a permanent state of “readiness” and forward deploy more of them to the frontier with Russia and to sustain a long war in Ukraine.

This is motivated as a way to “defend” members of the alliance from a Russian threat that they are very careful not to quantify. That is because Russian military expenditure is less than Britain’s and one twentieth that of NATO. The projected expansion of the alliance and large increases in expenditure will make NATO’s military dominance even more extreme. So, a reasonable question might be, who is threatening whom?

So, when the new chief of staff for the British armed forces, Sir Patrick Sanders, argues that we have to be ready to fight World War 3 in on land in Europe, its quite clear what that “readiness” is for, and who is on the offensive. His argument that if you want to preserve the peace you have to prepare for war, was exactly what all sides were arguing in 1914. It was an argument that worked very well. Until it didn’t.

Mike doesn’t engage at all with what NATO has been doing in Eastern Europe since 1991, or more particularly in Ukraine since 2014. Simply ignores it and tries to waft it away with an airy “I don’t see this as a central factor at all”. Jens Stoltenburg, NATO Secretary General, however, is very proud of what they have done and quite candid about it. “The reality is that we have been preparing for this since 2014…that is the reason we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, why NATO allies have started to invest more in defence, why we have increased our readiness”. My emphasis. I suspect that Stoltenburg has a better grasp of what he’s doing – and the significance of it – than Mike does, unless there is some conscious disavowal going on; seeing, understanding, but choosing not to acknowledge.

Stoltenburg’s comment is underlined by the remark of Sir Richard Shirreff, former NATO Deputy commander, on Radio 4 recently that “this war started in 2014”.

2014. Not on February 24th 2022. It has been noted widely that while Ukraine has not been in NATO, NATO has certainly been in Ukraine: training, re-equipping, getting the Ukrainian army ready to go beyond the shelling of the Donbass to try to retake it.

It takes a real act of will not to look at NATO, or the USA, and what it is trying to do, and how the war in Ukraine fits into it. Mike draws rage from the horrors of the war – in a determinedly one sided way that implies total barbarity on one side and saintliness on the other (because no lies have been told, butter wouldn’t melt in the Azov battalion’s mouth, issuing a decree to arm civilians en masse doesn’t erase the distinction between them and combatants, and no oppositionists have been “disappeared” or assassinated) – and is averse to looking up at the strategic picture because it is so obvious what’s happening when you do.

He reflects least of all on what NATO is.

NATO is a military alliance of the world’s major predatory imperial powers, under the aegis of the United States, pledged to defend a “rules based” imperial world order in which the rules are written in Washington. The European powers are part of it because they can’t take the US on, and do better being subordinate members of its global gang than trying to act as lone wolves. This maintains domination of the Global South, with $2 trillion flowing from it to the Global North in 2013 alone. NATO is the armed guarantee that that will keep happening. That’s why people like Paul Mason, who thinks that the working class in the rich countries should prosper at the expense of the peoples of the majority world, support it.

That means that taking active steps to join NATO – as US influenced Ukrainian governments have done -is not a neutral act. It is the repudiation of neutrality by definition. It is also a self limitation on national sovereignty. It is ganging up with the USA – essentially taking up a job as a henchman – and will be understood as a threatening act by any country in its sights, especially any nearby.

NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe to pressure Russia serves two purposes – setting up the preconditions for a regime change colour revolution in Russia itself, so a more compliant Yeltsin like leadership can be brought in – and in the immediate term also to decouple Russia from the EU; the better to cement control of the rest of Europe, particularly Germany.

This explains the refusal of the US and NATO to even discuss Russia’s proposal for mutual security guarantees when the Ukraine crisis started brewing up from November last year onward. You’d think we’d all have an interest in that. But mutual security and reduction in tension – which would be good for all of us – would increase Russia’s weight in Europe with the EU, and make it harder for the US to dominate it. No chance to deploy those troops, sell those arms, export that fracked Liquid Natural Gas. So, we can’t have that, can we?

The demonstrative mobilisation of the Russian armed forces throughout the winter in response, was an attempt to show how seriously they took what they saw as an existential threat. It seems to me that what triggered the actual invasion was the NATO summit the week before in Munich, at which those European powers, principally Germany and France, that had been pushing for easing off on confrontation and continued negotiations within the Minsk framework, were very visibly brought to heel by the USA. A partial withdrawal of Russian forces in Belarus that week was taken not as a welcome gesture that could lead to a reciprocal step towards negotiation; but a sign of weakness to be exploited. Watching the news of that, I had a real sinking feeling. It sent a very clear message. Crowing on the news combined with Russian fears that the Ukrainian military build up in the Donbass heralded an imminent intervention to snuff out the Donbass republics with NATO backing. It seemed that war was inevitable. It was just a matter of when, and who struck first.

This war was generated in neither Kyiv nor Moscow, but Washington.

2 Ukrainian Nationalism

Mike’s attempt to ignore the entire geo-political context of the NATO build up and the self subordination to it by the Ukrainian government, means that he simply buys into the narrative of Ukrainian nationalism – effortlessly erasing from historical significance the large Russian population living in what is now part of Ukraine, but was Noviya Rossiya (New Russia) from the eighteenth century onwards – that the whole Ukrainian people have been engaged in a long term struggle to liberate themselves from Russian oppression. Small left currents in Ukraine put this in anti-colonial terms, and Mike quotes one of them. But the mainstream dominant tradition here is not anti colonial, but pro colonial; the far right. These were the hegemonic street forces in the Maidan movement. They have since become entrenched in the Ukrainian military; and wield an influence on the streets far greater than their formal electoral representation.

Again, it requires real disavowal to ignore this, to look and not see. But to give an indication of just how bad this is, here are some headlines from western media from before February 24th, when they weren’t trying to cover this up.

Ukraine celebrates Nazi collaborator; bans book critical of pogroms leader.

Ukraine’s got a real problem with far right violence (and, no, RT did not write this headline).

Hundreds march in Ukraine in annual tribute to Nazi collaborator.

Violent Anti-Semitism is gripping Ukraine – and the government is standing idly by.

Ukraine conflict: “White Power warrior” from Sweden.

Ukraine conflict: child soldiers join the fight.

Far- Right fighters from Europe fight for Ukraine.

Nazi symbols. salutes on display at Ukrainian nationalist march.

Yes. Its (still) OK to call Ukraine’s C14 neo Nazi.

A new Eurasian far right rising.

Far Right extremists in Ukrainian military bragged about Canadian training.

German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine designates national holiday to commemorate Nazi collaborator.

Kiev’s far right groups refuse to disarm.

FBI: Militia trained by US military in Ukraine now training US White Supremacists

Ukrainian Neo Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp

Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict

New “Glory to Ukraine” army chant invokes nationalist past

Britons join neo Nazi militia in Ukraine

Neo-Nazis and the far right are on the march in Ukraine

How the far right took top positions in power vacuum

Ukraine’s far right menace

With axes and hammers far right vigilantes destroy another Romany camp in Kyiv

“Defend the White Race” American extremists being targeted by Ukraine’s far right

Paints a picture that the BBC and others are now trying to consign to the memory hole.

A leader of the C14 far right militia group expressed a core belief of this movement when he said that the problem in Ukraine is that “certain people” had too much power and money. When pressed on who he meant, he said, “you know, Russians and Jews”.

Nationalism takes many forms. When fighting imperial domination, it can be progressive. When allying with a dominant imperialism against others, it is reactionary. Ukrainian nationalism – in its dominant tradition – lionises Stepan Bandera; who was a Nazi collaborator. Since 2014, he has, grotesquely, been celebrated as a hero across the country, had statues put up and the road leading to Babi Yar named after him. This is like, but even more offensive than, renaming the Finchley Road up to Golders Green Sir Oswald Mosley Way. Similarly, the renaming of the Molotov Cocktail as the Bandera Smoothie, is comparable to an Italian movement calling them Mussolini Milkshakes. Ukrainian nationalism, in its conscious subordination to greater imperial powers, Austria Hungary, Nazi Germany and now the USA, is not a progressive movement; and the small left wing currents that tried to take part in the Maidan were smashed out of it as surely as a Lexit contingent would have been on an EDL march.

It was when they took this south and burned down the trade union HQ in Odessa, killing 42 people, that the Donbass rebelled, Russia annexed Crimea with overwhelming local popular support; and the war in the East started.

The debacle of the “broad anti war movement”

In pursuit of the “broad anti war movement” that Mike proposed, a demonstration was called for 9 April with Paul Mason, recently exposed for having connections with the intelligence services, Peter Tatchell and others speaking, and supported by currents like the AWL. This was intended to eclipse Stop the War, so there could be an “anti war” movement at peace with the ruling class. One of the main chants was “Arm! Arm! Arm Ukraine!” – which is exactly what the British state is doing, what the Tory government and Labour front bench want to carry on doing. This is not “anti war”. It is pro war. A comparable position in 1991 would have been to support the 1991 war after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and organise demonstrations with chants of “Arm! Arm! Arm Kuwait!” Despite having the formal support of a number of unions, it was very small. A couple of hundred. This is not a “broad anti war movement”. It is a fig leaf for the ruling class and has no independence from it.

As such, it is comfortably aligned with the Labour front bench which, instead of calling for a ceasefire, a negotiated settlement, and a redirection of “defence” spending to meet the cost of living and climate crises, never misses an opportunity to try to polish its patriotic credentials by calling for guns not butter. John Healey, Shadow Defence Secretary bemoaned a short term cut in army numbers like this.

“Now, this is embarrassing. It’s not responding to the growing threats we face, and it is putting into question Britain’s ability to fulfil our NATO obligations when I want Britain to continue to be the leading European nation within NATO” noting that the 1,000 additional soldiers committed to NATO’s new 300,000 strike force “might not even be based on the border with Russia, but back in Britain”. Forward, he cried, from the rear.

The Left – all of it, whatever its views on this war – should be opposing these increases in military expenditure and the deployments that go with them.

As the NATO war drive ups a gear, with no end in prospect, with the UK an enthusiastic participant, with “war austerity” already with us, and hitting the Global South very hard indeed, the anti war movement here will gain strength from opposing it, and clarity from analysing it. Hopefully we will build up enough strength to divert it from killing us all.

Post Script

I sent this Blog to Mike suggesting that it could go up on Labour Hub as a contribution to debate. This was turned down on the grounds that the views expressed were very much a minority on the Hub WhatsApp: which begs the question; who do you debate if not a minority? We had a thoughtful exchange of emails over whether I had misrepresented Mike’s view. I don’t believe I have. This Blog is open for any comments Mike, or anyone else, wishes to make.

Stats for Socialists: No case for increased military spending.

Boris Johnson has just announced an aim to increase British military spending from 2% of GDP to 2.5% as part of “strengthening NATO defences”, while the new Chief of the armed forces, Sir Patrick Sanders, calls on us to be prepared to fight World War Three on land in Europe.

As this is supposed to counter a threat from Russia, it might make sense to examine what the military balance of forces is and who threatens whom.

British military spending on its own is already larger than Russia’s.

Figures from Stockholm International Peace Institute

NATO military spending, taken together, is 19 times larger than Russia’s.

Figures from Stockholm International Peace Institute

The NATO summit this week has agreed to absorb more countries – at the price of extraditing Kurdish dissidents to Turkey, all in defence of “democracy” of course – increase expenditure still further, deploy more troops to “forward” positions, i.e. close to the Russian border and sustain a long war in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenburg was quite open about what’s going on. “The reality is that we have been preparing for this since 2014…that is the reason we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, why NATO allies have started to invest more in defence, why we have increased our readiness”.

“Readiness” – with 300,000 troops geared up… for what?

Place yourself in either of these pie chart segments and ask yourself which one has more reason to feel threatened.

Stats for Socialists: US priorities on Ukraine

The $4billion in aid to the world’s poorest countries to help them cope with the blowback from US sanctions (with $2.7billion coming from the US) is a desperate attempt to manage a situation that risks running out of control so that the war can be prolonged without two, three, many Columbias.

The US commitment, so far, to nineteen times as much spending on munitions (most of which will make its way to US arms manufacturers) shows what their priorities are.

On the one hand, hunger, primarily produced by their own sanctions. On the other hand, a war they want to pursue into next year if they can keep their own polities and those of the Global South stable enough.

Stats for Socialists: Public support for the Rail Workers

Government attempts to divide the Rail workers from others are falling flat. An independent poll by Opinium shows strong public support for the workers’ case.

On pay, there is overwhelming support for rail workers to get a pay rise that reflects the increase in the cost of living. This is an interest we all have in common and its becoming increasingly plain that the government does not agree. They now explicitly state that wage claims should be BELOW the rate of inflation. This is the death knell for any claim that they want to “level up”, or believe in a “high wage economy”.

Three out of five support the right to go on strike if negotiations fail. Government sabre rattling about restricting the right to strike is not cutting with the grain.

The weakest part of the government’s case is their belief in privatisation and the sacrosanct character of profits and dividends, with overwhelming support for profits from rail services to be reinvested in protecting jobs and improving services. This reflects a growing awareness that the share of the economy being taken by owners of capital is rocketing at a time that the rest of us are being squeezed until our pips squeak.

This takes a specific form in large majorities opposing cuts to jobs on trains and stations.

And even more opposing cuts to staff inspecting and maintaining safety on the tracks.

Given that the government is very evidently intervening to make sure that the rail companies do NOT meet the concerns of the workers, they are doing the opposite of what the public wants them to do.

Labour should take note. We are heading into a summer and autumn in which the rising costs of food and energy are propelling workers to turn to their unions to try to stop themselves being forced under. This affects all of us. Most of of the public support the workers taking action. If Labour front benchers give “a categorical no” to support for that action, as David Lammy did for airline workers in UNITE and GMB on Sunday, the Party will be acting as a human shield for the government (and giving it a lifeline).

See you on a picket line some time soon.

Recent cartoons – Rail and Rwanda

This is becoming a pattern. When Boris Johnson was faced with voting on the third runway for Heathrow, which he had pledged to oppose but his government was pledged to support, he used his position as Foreign Secretary to wangle a trip to Afghanistan. Last week he headed off to Kyiv rather than turn up in Doncaster to let his Northern MPs know that the cupboard is bare; and their careers are likely to be short. This week, on the day of two by elections unlikely to go well for him, he has popped up in Rwanda so he is a long way away when the exit polls drop and there’s some awkward explaining to do. These trips are becoming ever more frequent, so he might not want to come back.

The BEIS has issued a statement that they are introducing legislation to make it easier for agency workers to be used as scabs during industrial disputes – which assumes that there is a load of people out there who are eager to be loathed by their communities. TUC petition against this is here.

Mick Lynch’s demolitions of lying government ministers – like the hapless Under Secretary for Tech, Chris Philp seen here having his bubble burst- and collusive media hacks, like Kay Burley or Richard Madeley, who have shown up their role as propagandists for the established order every time they have opened their mouths – have been a breath of fresh air and struck a nerve with quite a broad layer of people who appreciate a bit of honesty when they see it and don’t like being manipulated. If you have a Labour MP, Momentum have a tool for you to press them to come out in support of the rail workers here. And the Greener Jobs Alliance has a briefing on why climate campaigners should support them too, which is here.

Recent Cartoons

Boris Johnson outdoes Mr Bumble with his refusal to extend Free School Meals to children on universal Credit in the government’s “Food Strategy” announced on Monday. At least Oliver Twist had a first round…

With thanks and apologies to Sir John Tenniel.

The decision to deport refugees to Rwanda – which the government disingenuously portrays as simultaneously quite ok, hinting that anyone who opposes it is being racist towards Rwandans, AND a deterrent to the people who arrive by boat and not through any of the official and legal channels that don’t actually exist – contrasts with the rather mawkish Jubilee film with the Queen sharing marmalade sandwich habits with Paddington Bear. Paddington being a refugee from Peru, who arrived at Paddington station with the label “Please take care of this Bear”. So, people did. Priti Patel would “take care” of him in a different way altogether. Maybe someone should write a spoof book, Paddington gets deported.

“Nothing and No One can stop me now…!” What every villain says just before someone stops them. With 75% of his backbenchers voting no confidence in him last week Johnson reminded me of the last scene in Kurosawa’s transposition of Macbeth to Japan, in which the King dies bristling with arrows like a porcupine.

The DFE Net Zero launch at the Natural History Museum in April combined the usual vainglorious boosterism from the government – Nadhim Zahawi explaining that Britain would “lead the world in the Green Industrial Revolution” because of the “entrepreneurial spirit” (that leads us to have the lowest private sector research and development investment in the G7) and “tech entrepreneurs” – completely at odds with what they are actually doing. Building 4 new net zero schools by 2024 (out of more than 24,000 in the country) was described by the Minister as “upping our ambition”. The student protest movement has been telling the Emperors that they have no clothes since 2018. They are beginning to put on some token garments, but have a long way to go.

Park and Street Life ’22.

On the blasted tree in the middle of Kingsbury Mall roundabout, a grim posse of brooding pigeons stare down, playing at being vultures.

In the Park in the drizzle, a young black woman from the Charismatic Evangelical Church on Princes Avenue is singing into her phone while shimmying along the path by the High School, wearing a striking magenta dress that is a celebration of life; and would therefore be considered suspect in staider denominations. Very gospel. Hands and eyes looking up to heaven, hips swaying, open lunged and full throated. Religious high. Looks more fun than the C of E.

A new Oak sapling has been planted near the kids playground. A plaque identifies it as being part of the Jubilee Green Canopy and to have been donated by the Jewish Refugee Council in memory of the refugees allowed in from Nazi Germany. This is in the same weekend that all the commentators on The World In Westminster on Sunday night congratulated themselves on how comfortably diverse we have become, the Queen took tea with Paddington Bear (a refugee who somehow managed not to be held in a detention centre by “Border Security”) and the flights to Rwanda for refugees from other countries were postponed to the following week. So, we have become symbolically accepting of diversity, while taking ever stronger measures to stop it increasing; our border policy now as enlightened and deserving of a pat on the back as Australia’s. How Priti Patel and her ilk could look at a tree like that without a flicker of conscience is beyond me. No self awareness, some people. And no one should comfort themselves that the UK had a better record in the 1930s; with anti Jewish refugee campaigns in the Daily Mail and such just as virulent as their campaigns today. Many thousands were kept out, and died as a result. The tree, nevertheless, looks hopeful. As trees tend to do. They take root. They grow. They provide peace and shade.

We have very broad pavements in the High Street, and happily the upgrade from TFL money in the last couple of years managed to keep the cars confined to a narrow stream in the middle; though they missed the trick of paving over the entrances to side roads with distinctive surfaces so they force cars to slow down and give pedestrians priority. The saplings put in at the time are beginning to have healthy crowns, so in a few years, if we get through them, the High Street will look positively bosky. Just down from Bombay Spice a temporary open seating arrangement has been put in for the Summer – and just in time for four successive days of heavy rain. Seemingly modelled on the pop up parks that are used to take over parking spaces in low traffic neighbourhoods – clawing back more space for people from the dominance of the motor vehicle – or sometimes outside Shisha bars – it is made of narrow removable wooden flower beds arranged in a rectangle with seating around the inside. It has already been colonised by the old Gujerati guys who previously gathered in circles outside the library to put the world to rights. A few more of these and we’d have a very different vibe along the street. The opposite of the seating in malls that is deliberately made uncomfortable so shoppers get on with their shopping quicker.

The earthwork mounds the Council dug up along the Kingsbury Road side of the Park that looked so ugly last year, like an unfinished building project with no purpose, are now covered in an uplifting rush of poppies and other wild flowers that proclaim life in a wild riot of colour and shapes waving in the breeze as the buses swoosh past.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv, but Washington

The commitment by the US of $40 billion to funnel war fighting material into Ukraine makes it clear that this war is being driven by neither Moscow nor Kyiv, but Washington.

$40 billion is ten times Ukraine’s 2021 military budget.

Figures from Wikipedia

If the aid were a country on its own, it would be the tenth biggest military spender in the world, not far below Japan and Saudi Arabia, well above Italy and Australia, and double the budget of Canada or Israel.

Figures from Institute for International Strategic Studies, using average market exchange rates.

This comparison can be seen even more clearly if we leave off the USA and China, as the two countries with an expenditure in a different league to all the others – the US especially.

It is also noticeable on this graph that the UK spent more on its military in 2021 than Russia did.

It is clear from this that the US is pushing for a long war, that it will sabotage peace negotiations and keep sanctions in place even if a ceasefire is achieved. The knock on effects on the rest of the world are already grim and will get worse unless a peace deal is reached.

The UK’s role as the USAs most bellicose supporter will be discussed at an online meeting – Opposing the New Age of Militarism – on June 15th organised by No Cold War Britain.

To stop a bad guy with a gun – you need to stop him getting the gun.

Warning. Writing this makes me feel simultaneously weepy and nauseous, so this contains material that might make you feel the same.

The rifle used to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde Texas on Tuesday was an AR15. This is a devastatingly lethal semi automatic weapon that anyone over the age of 18 in Texas can just buy privately with no restrictions, or walk into a store and buy, with a minimal “real time” background check, no permit required and no record of sale; thanks partly to the seven relaxations of gun safety rules by Governor Gregg Abbott last year. There is no registry of firearms in Texas. People over 21 can “open carry” hand guns. In fact, gun laws are so lax in Texas that smugglers ship guns from there into Mexico. Texas Governor Abbott described the mass shooting on Tuesday as “inexplicable”. Perhaps he can’t join the dots that the rest of the world seems to be able to manage.

The NRA likes to say that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Which is as asinine as you can get, because its a lot easier to kill people if you have a gun. Especially a gun like an AR15. Oddly enough, no one is allowed to carry a gun – openly or otherwise – at the NRA convention this weekend in Houston. Given that they see themselves as “the good guys with guns”, you might think this would cause protests. After all, if a “bad guy with a gun” gets in, how are they going to defend themselves?

This is how what the AR15 can do is described in a post that is evidently enthralled by it, and paints a sickening picture of why it is that the remains of those killed on Tuesday had to be identified with DNA tests.

A remarkable feature of the AR 15 rifle is its lightning speed when it is being fired, and even if peradventure the bullet fired does not hit its mark, the gun can get reloaded in a very short and fast amount of time. The reloading speed of the AR 15 mimics those seen in the military rifles being used in war situations requiring combat action. A feature that enhances the firing speed of the AR 15 gun is the fact that the rifle possesses a muzzle of very high velocity. This high velocity muzzle contained in the gun when used with a .223 bullet round can successfully guide the bullet fired to hit its mark (possibly an animal) while also producing a powerful rebound action if the bone of the animal is hit.

The firing speed of the AR 15 can leave a devastating and destructive mark on its target and this is hugely because when the gun is fired, the bullets are ejected out of the muzzle at a high speed. If the bullets come in contact with an animal, they are bound to cause great damage to the bones and internal organs of the target. An AR 15 can fire around 2 to 3 bullet rounds per second, this means that in 15 seconds, an AR 15 can fire about 30 to 45 bullet rounds, so in a minute, an AR 15 rifle can fire up to 120 or even 180 bullet rounds (depending on how fast the shooter is to reload the gun with bullet rounds while continuing to squeeze the trigger).

You might want to take a deep breath after reading that. Or go for a walk. Or have a weep. It really should be enough to read that and know that these weapons should not be on sale. No one should feel under threat from them. But, in the US, those who stand for “the right to bear arms” react with self righteous fury when this is even suggested. When Beto O Rourke stood up at Governor Abbott’s Press Conference this week to make the connection between the dead children and the gun that killed them, the cry from the platform that he was a “sick son of a bitch!” was vehement. A similar proportion of Republican voters oppose an assault rifle ban as believe in the Great Replacement Theory (and there will be some overlap). Their notion of “law abiding citizens with guns” is that the “law abiding citizens” are people like them, “protecting themselves” from dangerous others. Its unfortunate for that argument that some of the mass shooters are “Second Amendment People” who have gone the whole hog into white supremacy, like the Buffalo shooter last week.

To get this onto the emotionally safer ground of devastating statistics.

  • Since 2017, firearms have become the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States, and the curve on the graph is continuing to go up.
  • World Population Review stats from 2009 -2018 show the USA had 288 school shooting incidents in that period. The next worst country was Mexico with 8.
  • In 2018, CNN reported that the U.S. had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined.
  • The frequency and deadliness of all kinds of mass shootings in the US has gone up 33% since 2010.
  • After mass shootings, gun sales go up because people are frightened, with 63% of gun owners citing “personal protection” as their motivation for buying one. So, the main reason for owning a gun is that other people have them and might threaten you with them; so mass shootings are good for business. Three times as many guns were manufactured in the United States in 2020 as it 2000. Good for business. The gun stalls at the NRA Convention will do a brisk trade this weekend.
  • Assault rifles – at an average price of $800 each for an AR15 – are their most profitable line.
  • There are 120.5 guns per 100 people in the US, more than double the next most gun saturated country, which is Yemen at 52.8 guns per 100 people.
  • There are 400 million guns in total in the United States. Half of them are owned by just 3% of the population (10 million people with an average 20 guns each).
  • 40% of Americans live in a house with a gun, but 70% do not own one.
  • Gun owners are more likely to be men than women (39% : 22%) White than anyone else (36%) rural than suburban or urban (41% : 29% : 20%) older than young and Republican than Democrat (44% : 20%). Some of these categories overlap.
  • There has been no Federal Gun Safety Legislation since the 1990’s, even though 89% of US citizens support universal background checks and 67% an outright ban on the sale of assault rifles.
  • Senator Ted Cruz has received $176,00 from the NRA, which works out at $37,000 for every child killed on Tuesday. He sells himself cheap. Marco Rubio has had $3,303,000.

The line from the NRA and contemptible figures like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is that, rather than remove, or control, or even register weapons capable of killing whole classrooms full of children – schools should be “hardened”, teachers should be armed so the “bad guy with a gun” can be stopped by a “good guy with a gun”.

The problems with this argument are obvious; which is why no one is allowed to carry a gun into the NRA Convention centre.

There were a lot of “good guys with guns” at Uvalde. There have been “good guys with guns” at other incidents and it hasn’t done a lot of good. A “good guy” with a hand gun has almost no chance at all against a “bad guy” with an AR15, or any other kind of rifle.

This is not new. I remember that in the Buffalo Bill Annual, that I read avidly time and time again when I was 8, an inquest jury in the 1880s brought in a verdict of “suicide” for man who tried to take on an opponent armed with a rifle by drawing a handgun on him.

In the case of the police at Uvalde, there is also a serious question about the motivation of the “good guys with guns”, given that it took them an hour to get in, and they were screaming at, handcuffing and shoving parents who were imploring them to do something in the meantime. The school being overwhelmingly Latino, the Police tending to the Right and seeing them as the sort of people Trump wanted to build a wall to keep out, might be an explanation that won’t be peculiar to that locality. Whose lives matter?

So, are Trump and the NRA proposing to have armed guards in schools with assault rifles to even up the odds? Are the teachers supposed to have an assault rifle propped up by their whiteboard, primed and ready to go, just in case? Are they supposed to devote time to training so they can “safely” take out an armed intruder without hitting anyone else? What are the chances of these weapons being seized and used in a massacre themselves? Nothing like having the tools for the job close to hand. How jumpy would these teachers and schools get? So, what does this do to the school? And the students? Turning a school into an armed camp is a hidden curriculum for Dystopia.

The question for them is actually a simpler one. If it had been illegal to buy a gun in Texas, would those children and their teachers still be alive? That they would is so obvious that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the NRA and its supporters think that their cold, dead hands are a price worth paying for their “Second Amendment Rights”.

To contrast that with what has happened here.

  • After Dunblane, there were two responses. One was to tighten up laws on gun ownership. This was a political consensus. Major and Blair went up to Dunblane in a show of unity. It had overwhelming popular support.
  • The other was to tighten up security at schools. This had been quite relaxed until then. At the school I used to teach at, local people used to use the playground as a short cut between the estate and the shops. You’d be on playground duty and nod to the parents you knew, strolling past with their shopping bags. After Dunblane, the gates were shut and the security buzzers put in. There was an additional control door put in between the reception area and the rest of the school and all other doors were made so they could only be opened from the inside. That was replicated across the country and there have been no mass shootings in schools since; more because the guns are hard to come by than the schools are harder to get into, but both help.

After the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France there was a lot of concern because a school next to the Magazine’s Offices had implemented its emergency procedures, which meant that everyone trooped out into the playground like they would in a fire drill, making them more vulnerable to being shot – had the killers been interested – than if they’d stayed where they were. Local Authority Health and Safety Committees had to draw up Emergency Procedures in the event of such an incident. There had been plenty of school shootings – like Columbine in the US – that did not spark this response, so I think there was an aspect of this that was about fitting schools into their place in the “war on terror” and – had the procedures drawn up become the basis for regular drills like the “duck and cover” exercises that brought the Cold War into every US classroom in the 1950s – they would have had a purpose well beyond safety procedures. In the event, while teachers were given INSETs about what to do – essentially lock the door and get everyone down behind a brick wall – and distinctive alarms set up and tested once a week as a reminder, most schools that I know of did not do drills with the kids. This was for obvious psychological reasons. The chances of such an incident were and are vanishingly low. But the chances of psychological damage from safety drills done often enough were very high.

Parents here feel safe sending their kids to school. As they should. In the US this is no longer the case. The rage, fury and despair on display in US media and podcasts this week shows a society that is tearing itself apart. Its now the long holidays in America. Schools are shut. How is everyone going to feel in late August when its time to go back?

On the far right/QAnon sites, the conspiracy theories are already starting. This was fake. Actors. Staged. Because the Libtards want to take away your guns. The NRA, with its weirdly appropriate symbol that looks like a steer skull with an entry wound in the middle of its head – will pull its usual strings and press its usual buttons, pushing for more guns as the cure to the guns that are already out there – the profits will pile up at Smith and Wesson and Colt and Olin Corp – and the spiral of US self destruction will take another turn – even as it pushes to recover its military mojo in its European front yard -while we wait for the next mass shooting; unless there’s enough of a surge from the majority that don’t own guns and want them under better control; and they vote out every “sick son of a bitch” that takes money from the NRA and pushes their line.

“No one in the West will believe you”.

Evan Davies, of the BBC Radio 4 PM programme, is so deeply bought into ruling class ideology that he sometimes gives the game away without realising it. My all time favourite is when he commented, on the impending French Presidential election in 2007, that the 35 hour week really had to go because although “it is really good for the people, its really bad for the economy. Which begs the question of what, or who, “the economy” is supposed to be good for, if its not for “the people.”

He did it again when interviewing the Russian Ambassador to the EU on 26th May. Having asked what Russia’s aims in Ukraine were, and being told that they are

  • an end to military threats against the Donbass
  • and demilitarisation and denazification in Ukraine

and that a Russian perception of an imminent threat of a Donbass invasion set for March 8th, as far as they could make out, was the trigger for the preemptive invasion on Feb 24th; his response was not to challenge any of the assertions or argue whether they were right or wrong, but simply to state, with a sneer you could almost cut, “no one in the West will believe you”.

Before looking at the validity or otherwise of the Ambassador’s statement, it is significant that Davies said “no one in the West, not “no one in the world. While “the West” tends to mistake itself for “the world”, or at least, as the only part of the world that matters, this does give the game away that the perception of this war in “the West” is not the same as that in the rest of “the world”; which Davies must be at least subconsciously aware of. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The countries imposing sanctions on Russia are the United States and its direct allies: the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand – all of them part of the Global North. The Global South has not joined in.

So, taking “the West” as the aberration that it is, could the tendency to dismiss anything the Russians might say as “just what you’ve been told to say”, as Davies put it, have anything to do with the almost complete lack of dissenting voices on our media?

Taking the points one at a time and examining them…

Militarisation of Ukraine and military threats against the Donbass.

Vyacheslav Tetekin, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (the largest opposition force in the country) details the sharp and sustained increases in military spending by Ukraine after 2014, at a time in which living standards are still below the level they were at the time of the break up of the Soviet Union, the involvement of the US and its allies in training and arms supply, and the huge build up of forces focussed on the Donbas, particularly this year. This is cited in an article by John Ross on the military turn of the US in Monthly Review that is well worth reading. As has been remarked, Ukraine is not in NATO, but NATO has certainly been in Ukraine.

After the 2014, “the country’s finances were redeployed from the tasks of improving the welfare of the nation to strengthening the armed forces. Ukraine’s military budget has grown from $1.7 billion in 2014 to $8.9 billion in 2019 (5.9% of the country’s GDP)… Ukraine… spent three times more [as a percentage of GDP] for military purposes than the developed countries of the West…

Hundreds of instructors from the United States and other NATO countries participated in training of the Army. Ukraine was preparing for war under the supervision of the United States.

Huge funds were spent on the restoration of military hardware. During the war against Donbas in 2014-15, Ukraine has not used air combat support, as all combat aircraft required repair. However, by February 2022, there were already about 150 fighters, bombers and attack aircraft in the Ukrainian Air Force. Such a buildup of the Air Force would make sense only for the capture of Donbas.

At the same time, powerful fortifications were created on the border of Donbas and Ukraine… the salary of soldiers at the end of 2021 tripled, from 170 to 510 dollars. The Government of Ukraine has been dramatically increasing the size of its Armed Forces.

The first stage of Ukraine’s preparation for war was successfully completed by the end of 2021. The combat capability of the Ukrainian army has been restored, military equipment has been repaired and modernized…

the United States has planned two options for using the new, militarized Ukraine… The first one was to capture Donbas and, in case of a successful combination of circumstances, proceed for invasion to the Crimea. The second option was to provoke Russia’s armed intervention…

…Ukraine being under the heel of the United States creates a very real danger. In December 2021, Moscow put forward a demand to the NATO on measures to ensure Russia’s legitimate interests. The West…. ignored these demands, knowing that preparations for the invasion of Donbas are in full swing. The most combat-ready units of the Ukrainian Army numbering up to 150,000 thousand people were concentrated on the border of Donbas. They could break the resistance of the People’s militia of Donbas within 2-3 days, with the complete destruction of Donetsk and spill so much blood of the defenders of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic]…

Ask yourself if this assessment, by the main opposition Party in Russia, is more or less plausible than the explanations in the media here, and why it is that we hear it so little. Is this because the accepted wisdom here, the cod psychology version; that its all down to a belated mid life crisis for President Putin, or the version that plays up timeless fears of an eternal Great Russian chauvinism, always just itching to expand and reconquer the old Russian Empire, are so weak by comparison?

The Freudian slip by President Bush last week did shed a little light on the way adverbs are used. “A brutal and unprovoked attack on Iraq…err.. Ukraine”. Of course, the Iraq invasion was never described in such terms. we were taking part, so how could it possibly be?

We should not forget that, in this country, at the time of the second Iraq war, there was a majority FOR the war when people believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed against the UK within 45 minutes. This was on the say so of our Intelligence Services, who told us what it was useful for us to believe, who we are expected to believe that they and their co workers in politics and the media are now telling us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Ukraine. It was only when it became clear that we had been lied to, that there were no WMD, that majority opinion turned against the war.

In the case of Russia and NATO, there is no doubt that NATO possesses WMD. Were Ukraine to join and they were deployed on its territory, flying time to Moscow would be a few minutes. A small fraction of the 45 that were considered a good enough reason for war in our case.

Denazification.

This is generally dismissed here with a scoffing reference to President Zelensky being Jewish and then the subject changed as quickly as possible. It is seen as absurd hyperbole. Given the tendency for the media here to label any target enemy, from General Galtieri to Saddam Hussein, as the new Hitler, and that we have used that as cover to intervene in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya since 2000 alone, a little self awareness might be in order here too. The airbrushing of the role of the far right in Ukraine goes as far as the BBC and the Guardian rubbishing their own previous reporting (without mentioning it of course, because what is instrumentally useful now must always have been “true”). A glance back at their previous coverage shows how absurd this is.

Here are some headlines from media here before the war started, from the BBC, Politico, Bellingcat, the Guardian and other sources, that have now been consigned to the memory hole because it is now embarrassing to acknowledge reality.

Ukraine celebrates Nazi collaborator; bans book critical of pogroms leader.

Ukraine’s got a real problem with far right violence (and, no, RT did not write this headline).

Hundreds march in Ukraine in annual tribute to Nazi collaborator.

Violent Anti-Semitism is gripping Ukraine – and the government is standing idly by.

Ukraine conflict: “White Power warrior” from Sweden.

Ukraine conflict: child soldiers join the fight.

Far- Right fighters from Europe fight for Ukraine.

Nazi symbols. salutes on display at Ukrainian nationalist march.

Yes. Its (still) OK to call Ukraine’s C14 neo Nazi.

A new Eurasian far right rising.

Far Right extremists in Ukrainian military bragged about Canadian training.

German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine designates national holiday to commemorate Nazi collaborator.

Kiev’s far right groups refuse to disarm.

FBI: Militia trained by US military in Ukraine now training US White Supremacists

Ukrainian Neo Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp

Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict

New “Glory to Ukraine” army chant invokes nationalist past

Britons join neo Nazi militia in Ukraine

Neo-Nazis and the far right are on the march in Ukraine

How the far right took top positions in power vacuum

Ukraine’s far right menace

With axes and hammers far right vigilantes destroy another Romany camp in Kyiv

“Defend the White Race” American extremists being targeted by Ukraine’s far right

When the media here talks about the Azov battalion as though they are heroes, this is who they are talking about.

In the context of climate breakdown, the impasse of neo liberalism and the rise of China, politics in the Global North will increasingly squeeze down the democratic space that exists for the left and the labour movement, and the rehabilitation of the far right will advance in leaps.

This issue is explored in further detail in the No Cold War Britain webinar here.