Roger Waters on the White Helmets

21 Apr
this post also appears in offguardian

A Pink Floyd fan for half a century, and neutral on the band’s acrimonious eighties divorce, I was thrilled by Roger Waters’ denunciations – an unequivocal exception to the rule that celebs are intimidated by the Western world’s most powerful lobby – of an Israel I recently described as:

[the] world’s premier ethnographic crime scene and, alongside the USA, its most serial breacher of international law. Also – a fact insufficiently appreciated by a pro-Palestinian lobby understandably focused on immediate injustices – up there with Saudi Arabia as regional enforcer, covert and overt, for the West.

Alas, many who support the Palestinian cause nevertheless buy the mainstream line on Syria. A vitriolic example is given by this comment from the pro-Palestinian Israeli – yes, there are more of them than Labour Friends of Israel would have us think – Dimi Reider, who took to FB to say:

If you think Assad is somehow an anti-imperialist actor, or if your basic assumption is that he COULDN’T POSSIBLY gas his own people and it MUST BE a western conspiracy (NB: as distinct from supporting calls for UN inspectors to be allowed IMMEDIATE access to sites of suspected attacks), you’re on the same page in my book as neo-Nazis, Stalinists and holocaust deniers. It also says a great deal about your intellectual capacity and about your propensity to readily fall for dubious journalism that adds to victim blaming and atrocity denials. And no, your progressive/radical positions on Palestine or any other issue don’t make up for that, just like pinkwashing doesn’t mitigate the Occupation. Feel free to unfriend me, because any comments to the above effect are unwelcome. There is a time and place for debates, but not while a genocide is being committed and the perpetrators are actively being provided cover under the flimsiest of guises that simply enable further atrocities.

Reider’s fact-free ad hominems are standard fare in my experience, but I mustn’t stray from my brief here. Being pro Palestinian may be cuddly and non controversial for you and me – akin to being anti-Apartheid in the seventies – but is riskier for celebrities who face the real possibility of blacklisting. So let’s hear it for Roger, a man of principle and courage – and at a stage in life and career where he can take the heat and shrug off any commercial repercussions.

(Back in 2015 I heard Keith Richards on Desert Island Discs – recommended listening for one of the best record selections I’ve heard on the programme. The warmth between Keef ‘n Kirsty is palpable, and when she asks him why the Stones still go on tour – “it can’t be that you need the money” – he says: “well we may be deluding ourselves but we actually think we’re getting better”. Priceless, and equally applicable to Mr Waters.)

My other point is that for every ten who’ll defend Palestine, you’ll be lucky to find a single one defending Damascus in the face of Syria’s seven year assault by those false and venal friends of a people that, not four years ago, gave Assad a deafening mandate. By false friends I mean, of course, governments in the West – and their  friends, those elusive ‘moderate Islamists’.

So what does Roger Waters do on receiving, directly and via his agent, emails from doubly ill informed advocates for that trojan horse of Syrian regime change, the bogus, jihadi embedded and generously funded – by your taxes and mine – White Helmets?Here’s what he does …

9 Replies to “Roger Waters on the White Helmets

  1. Thanks for this piece. You’re welcome bevin

    The ‘Assad is bad’ campaign to install him and Putin in the Horrors Hall of Fame, alongside those familiar figures from the anti fascist propaganda campaign which morphed into anti communism, has reached a high pitch since the ludicrous ‘attacks’ in Syrian pharmacies.

    Your FB correspondent is a good example of something quite evident on US websites of the progressive variety. In recent days I have noticed however that well placed stories of this sort in The Intercept and Truthdig have attracted hundreds of comments the great majority of which dismiss the Assad =Hitler line as the nonsense that we, and history will, know it to be. In fact the Mehdi Hasan piece in The Intercept seemed to have disappeared the last time that I looked.

    It’s easy to indulge in wishful thinking, especially given the echo chamber effects of social media algorithms, but my sense is of increasingly ludicrous narratives – most recently on Douma and Salisbury – having overreached themselves to generate pushback from quarters hitherto willing to buy the nonsense. It’s a big deal when a rock star of Waters’ calibre says what he did about an outfit once seen by almost everyone as Goodness Incarnate.

    It really is extraordinary how many people who regard themselves as socialists, marxists, trotskyists have fallen into the ranks of imperialism. It is a long story but I am reaching the conclusion that, in UK intellectual circles at least, the foundation of this faux neutrality “Neither Damascus nor Riyadh, neither NATO nor the Kremlin” which so clearly suits the imperialists – who care nothing about how its supporters rationalise the surrender that marching in the ranks behind the Pentagon signifies – lies in the theory of State Capitalism.

    For most of my political life I have argued that the Soviet regime was a State Capitalism, essentially indistinguishable from the more relaxed liberal versions to be found to the west of the Iron Curtain. I now realise that this analysis is not only wrong but an escape route for socialists from the front line of the class war which is the struggle against imperialism.

    Unhappily State Capitalism became the dominant ideological strand on the left in the UK and far beyond where anglo cultural influence led to an instinctive deference to the latest form taken by a radical tradition stretching back beyond John Ball and Wat Tyler: in the States now, and in Canada, it can be seen in the uncritical acceptance of one imperialist adventure after another, Yugoslavia, Ruanda, Chechnya, Libya, Syria.

    The impact on actual events in the world is infinitesimally small unless one regards the corruption and misdirection of the modern socialist tradition as being of importance. There is what appears to be an irony, but may be something much more significant, in the coincidence that IS, which begins with Tony Cliff a critical zionist disillusioned with Palestine now acts as a line of defence for a Zionism that is unmistakably fascism.

    I agree with you on Cliff’s state capitalism thesis: designed to rid the opportunist IS/SWP of all and any encumbrance to its pretensions to mass party status. It’s significant that Stop the War, with SWP (or former leading lights) a major force, is keen to shed the similar embarrassment of defending Assad and Putin; i.e. to deflect the inevitable heat from the mainstream. But as we know, you get nowhere by pandering to that. That said, my old outfit, Workers Power, rejected the Soviet Union as state capitalist line but, as I realised with sadness recently, is just as keen to distance itself from Moscow and Damascus, and equally credulous in accepting pro-imperialist narratives. In this respect some on the right of the political spectrum put them to shame!

  2. Thanks bevin. Your comment – as usual – is packed with weighty insights. Too packed, in fact, to allow a simple reply. I’ve made specific responses within it, colour coded to distinguish our words.

    BTW, I didn’t see the Mehdi Hasan piece you refer to but, within minutes of replying to your comment, received an email with link to a robust response to it by Stephen Gowans.

    Incidentally, Gowans makes a couple of references to “anti-imperialism”. It’s my view that defence of Assad, and the question of whether he is anti-imperialist, are separate. A similar confusion arises around Putin. Wish I had a fiver for every time I’ve seen on social media the formulation: “how can the left defend rightwing Russia?” Leaving aside whether and to what degree Russia actually is rightwing, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding. Internationalists don’t demand that imperialised states be “anti imperalist”. They stand by them because they are imperialised. Similarly they don’t oppose the demonisation of Putin because they think the sun shines from his backside, but because they recognise the ugly and insane irresponsibility – of the thermonuclear kind – and venality driving said demonisation.

  3. Thanks Philip and although I knew what Waters had done I didn’t know the words he used. I’m really proud of what he did, he was certainly under no obligation to invite the wrath of TPTB on his head or condemnation from the hugely popular Putin and Assad are evil sing-along, so hats off to him!

    Your friend Bevin is another very articulate chap like yourself and the points he raised are really important to understand so I was really glad he made his comments.

    It’s become apparent to me in my observations over the last forty years(although you are free to denounce me) that socialism is attracting the wrong kind of thinking and the wrong kind of support. Our culture in Britain has changed many times but one constant remains. There will always be malcontents whose resentment to any and all who have done better with their lives, their time and opportunities, even though they have bettered themselves by working hard, long hours and done without, will always be despised. These malcontents have often either never worked harder than they needed to, or not worked at all and often spent their money on things that in the short term seemed good at the time(bing drinking and clubbing, buying the most expensive trainers or any and all the newest fashion wear or squandering what they had leaving nothing for later years. Add to this the bigotry and prejudice that has stalked mankind since day one and the the need to find a victim for scapegoating or the need to apportion blame and you have a concoction of unreasoned thinking and a willingness to tag along with whatever popular tendency offers the path of least resistance.

    Plenty to unpick here Susan. I’ll just say that ‘socialism’ means different things to different people. I agree that any society will, for the foreseeable future at least, need incentives and disincentives that engender wealth disparities, though not at our currently dysfunctional scale. But it was always a misrepresentation, sly or naive, to paint socialists as wanting to share out all the wealth. My kind of socialism focuses on the evils of capitalist wealth production, not its distribution. The problem isn’t inequality, obscene though its current levels are. It’s the chaos, war, environmental mayhem and spiritual alienation attendant on the system that keeps a tiny few so indefensibly – on practical as well as moral grounds – rich.

    The socialist party in Britain which found voice with the Labour Party was trounced in the 70’s and 80’s and now referring to oneself as a “socialist” has people backing off as if an aura of lunatic fringe idiocy surrounds you. So many socialists are so desperate to get their foot in the door and have their voice heard, are doing so by appealing to whatever uncritical thinking happens to offer the best opportunity for being recieved favourably in order to gain acceptance. I don’t think I’m imagining it – listening to Owen Jones is more times than not, confirmation of what I believe, but I can’t see how their words reflect what Marx taught us.

    I know that Mister Jones! There’s something happening here and he don’t know what it is …

    The socialist voices currently advance comparisons on other countries leaders supposed failings while utterly pink washing the double standards they are applying with regard the massive failings of the “superior” western failings. I had a brilliant article on this weird hypocritic world view, but can’t remember the chaps name. It was titled along the lines of Syria and Universalism.

    I think I read that piece too, Susan. What a clever chap, I remember thinking on finishing it.

    Where would I be without your good self and Bevin to organise my thoughts in the right direction?

    We do it for love, Susan. Where would we be without getting positive feedback on our less than universally popular views? Thank you.

    I won’t be offended if you tell me my thinking is wrong and offer a more intellectually informed opnion, as long as I can follow it(I’m not well educated)although I don’t promise to be persuaded without reasoned critique.

    On the issues you and I discuss, the stupidest folk I know have degrees and doctorates – and conclude, on the basis of having done well in a system that laid it on a plate for us – we’re too clever to be duped!

    Thanks again for the video.

    De rien. (Just showing off my O level French. I passed second time round.)

  4. Bevin’s commentary on the state capitalist doctrine is spot on. Honestly, the last word on the subject was penned some 50 years ago by Ernest Mandel in his 1969 booklet ‘The Inconsistencies of State Capitalism’. He argued that there is no meaningful theory behind the doctrine of state capitalism. It is merely a patchwork arising from the desire of certain Marxists and socialists of the day to turn a blind eye to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and fail to rise to its defense against the Nazis. They went on to condemn China, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam for creating defensive military and political alliances with the post-World War Two Soviet Union. Mandel’s pamphlet was published under the pseudonym ‘Ernest Germaine’ and can be read here:

    A postscript to this tale is how many of the Trotskyists of the Mandel-led Fourth International have come full circle to adapt their thinking to ‘state capitalist’ doctrine in the cases of the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Unlike Mandel himself, Trotskyists stopped paying serious attention to the post-war Soviet Union. They have largely ignored what became of the Soviet Union after it entered into economic stagnation and political crisis in the late 1980s and a capitalist restoration was carried out. Today, they sit smugly and comfortably in their self-imposed ignorance of all things Russia, falsely labeling it ‘imperialist’ and once again turning a blind eye to aggressive imperialism, this time to NATO’s new cold war against Russia, China and all things related.

  5. Thanks Roger. I agree of course. I use ‘state capitalism’ in a quite different context, without attempt to label it theory. I find it a useful off the peg descriptor of those economies, like the baa’thist states of the middle east, whose state ownership of key sectors gave imperialism cause, among other things, to target them for regime change.

    Thanks too for the link. I read Mandel’s pamphlet well over thirty years ago and haven’t looked at it since. Time for a re-read, methinks.

  6. Thanks for your patient and cohesive reply. particularly liked: ” My kind of socialism focuses on the evils of capitalist wealth production, not its distribution. The problem isn’t inequality, obscene though its current levels are. It’s the chaos, war, environmental mayhem and spiritual alienation attendant on the system that keeps a tiny few so indefensibly – on practical as well as moral grounds – rich.”
    This is exactly the view I believe all socialists should concentrate on and it is this kind of thinking that should be the focus of what socialism means. Too many “socialists” use the ideology as a cop out for their own discontent without ever understanding the many avenues of thought it offers. I’m so glad you wrote this comment – it’s a definitive response to my broad brushing observations.
    I agree also with the notion that just because someone is an intellectual, does not mean that they have any common sense or are clever beyond their own self congratulaory perceptions. There are some really intelligent and well grounded intellectuals like Steven Gowans(What’s Left) and Proff. Tim Anderson who have their feet (and brains) well grounded.
    After I’d commented here I looked for the article on Syria and Universalism – I felt a right twerp when I looked at the authour:
    Hahaha, your comment about the clever chap who wrote it brought a big smile to my face. It really was a very good article and you are quite correct – clever, because it was obvious and insightful and just plain excellent.
    Thanks for taking the time with me, but also your comments section seems to attract “savvy” comments that are always reassuring.
    Roger Annis gave a good link which I will follow but will probably fail to understand.

  7. “…They went on to condemn China, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam for creating defensive military and political alliances with the post-World War Two Soviet Union. ..”
    It is an indication of the opportunism which lay behind the tactics of IS that when, sometime after the Gulf of Tonkin non incident, the war in Vietnam began to loom very large on the left in the UK IS quickly realised that it could not afford to put forward the slogan “Neither Hanoi nor Saigon but…”. It threw itself into the anti-war protests. I recall this because I was involved in one of the crucial provincial organising efforts and, though an IS ‘member’ , was led by CPers into putting forward “Victory to the NLF” (which we later had to change by popular demand to Victory to the Vietcong) line in print and at meetings. This led to some tension in the local meetings between us youngsters and some of the old ideologues.
    Without its involvement in the anti Vietnam war movement, and if it had stuck to its Korean War slogans/convictions, IS would have died before it could transform itself into the SWP (a brazen act of plagiarism), ramp up a mini patronage network and expel anyone caught thinking aloud.

  8. Hi Phil – we were there in front,
    Brilliant concert. Not to be sneered at,
    Still life in him yet 😉
    Smelling the roses.
    love Jim

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