Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 31 October 2023


 The implosion of European society and civilization, let alone civility, is something that we were decrying already fourteen years ago on this Blog. Nietzsche saw right: sooner rather than later, the values of Christianity would lead to a cannibalistic feast of guilt and penitence and further to a lunge for atonement that would enervate and emasculate the European will  to power - with the consequent unstoppable spread of defeatism hiding as pacifism, the meekness of lambs allowing themselves to be enslaved and then slaughtered by the Muslim Beast, that we are fretfully witnessing now.

It seems almost bizarre if not paradoxical for us to concede with apprehension and fear that only the coming to power of extreme right-wing powers in Europe can save it from its frantic suicidal, Christian-induced hankering for the politics of atonement.

Middle East War Becomes a European Crisis


This is the rotten fruit of decades of mismanaged immigration and a mealy-mouthed failure to reckon with the limits of multiculturalism. Most of the perpetrators aren’t white nationalists. Nor, although the useful idiots of the upper-middle-class left clog the streets and the airwaves, are they environmental catastrophists, angry vegans, or adepts of the trans cult. They are Europe’s fastest-growing religious minority, and its largest bloc of social conservatives: Muslims.

Advertisement - Scroll to Continue

Europe’s left sees the postcolonial world as a moral playground, but liberal Europe has become a stage for the Islamic world’s communal conflicts. The canary in this coal mine wasn’t Jewish; he was an Indian-born British Muslim. The riots, death threats and parcel bombs that followed the publication of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” led European governments to adopt a three-pronged approach. They defined Islamism as a security issue. They tried to reduce fundamentalism by integrating Muslim communities. And they tried to reduce friction by stigmatizing and suppressing the concern of the liberal-minded majority as “Islamophobia.”

The partial success of these policies amounts to failure. Immigration, much of it illegal, has topped up Europe’s reservoir of Islamists, and some of them have committed terrorist atrocities. When governments endorse Islamist gatekeepers as communal interlocutors, as the British did with the Muslim Association of Britain in the early 2000s, they make it harder for Muslims to assimilate. Polish and Hungarian nationalists boast that they don’t have migrant or terrorist problems because they defy the EU on accepting immigrants. Western Europeans, moderate Muslims included, face the consequences of their governments’ institutionalized sanctimony and cowardice.

The French state is already in a struggle with the descendants of its North African colonial subjects. The first pro-Palestinian march after Oct. 7 was so alarming that Emmanuel Macron’s government banned further demonstrations. This didn’t prevent thousands from marching in Paris on Saturday, where they were exhorted by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the communist leader of a resurgent left bloc. When people ignore the law and cheer on mass murder, which is what “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea” mean, there is no doubt who controls the streets. Even before last summer’s riots, polls showed that in a 2023 rematch of the 2022 presidential runoff, voters would choose the ex-fascist Marine Le Pen over Mr. Macron.

“If we are able to deport Hamas supporters, we must do this,” Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said Oct. 20. Ms. Faeser sounds like a member of the hard-right Alternative for Germany, which topped German polls for the first time in early October, but she is a Social Democrat running scared of the voters and her own party’s policies.

Advertisement - Scroll to Continue

Ministers in Britain’s floundering Conservative government also talk tough for similar reasons. Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has told Home Office officials to look into revoking the visas of foreigners who commit anti-Semitic acts or praise Hamas. Perhaps the Home Office can also look into why it gave British citizenship to Hamas leader Muhammad Sawalha. Mr. Sawalha, who was named a co-conspirator in a 2004 money-laundering indictment handed up by a Chicago federal grand jury, is an organizer of London rallies where participants call for “intifada from London to Gaza” and chant the Quranic verse about Mohammed’s extirpation of the Jews of Khaybar. U.K. media are especially offended that the British state gave Mr. Sawalha a discount on his mortgage.

Many Western Europeans aren’t personally invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In May, YouGov Eurotrack polling across seven European countries found that the conflict matters “not very much” or “not at all” to 73% of Germans, 56% of Britons and 47% of the French. Europeans are, however, deeply concerned about immigration, terrorism, law and order, and overcrowding in welfare, housing, schools and hospitals. The Tunisian suspect in the Swedish soccer fans’ killing was still in Brussels three years after a Belgian court ordered his deportation.

Support for Europe’s nationalist and anti-immigration parties has risen for three decades. Establishment figures such as the archbishop of Canterbury call this democratic movement the return of fascism. Governments can tighten Europe’s already restrictive speech laws, as the head of London’s police suggested in response to calls for “jihad” in London, but they can’t escape a reckoning, socially or electorally, for their failure to control their borders and assimilate their immigrants.

Mr. Green is a Journal contributor and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


A U.S. Ultimatum for Qatar: Stop Sheltering Hamas


Qatar has long been sympathetic to Hamas. When the group won elections in 2006 and Israel and the U.S. subsequently cut off financial support to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, Qatar vowed to provide aid. In 2009, two years after the group forcibly took over Gaza, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal praised Qatar for its support, which at the time reportedly included millions of dollars a month.

Advertisement - Scroll to Continue

As the Syrian civil war stressed Bashar Al-Assad’s relationship with Hamas, the terror group sought to move its political office—a hub for raising funds and coordinating with sponsors—out of Damascus. Qatar rolled out the red carpet. Doha claims the Obama administration asked it to do so—if true, a misguided policy, and one that should be squarely repudiated in the wake of the Oct. 7 atrocities.

The U.S. designated Hamas a terror group in 1997, effectively cutting direct communication with its leaders. By giving the group real estate in Doha, the Qataris enabled a new indirect channel for talks. Since then, Qatar has reportedly provided hundreds of millions of dollars to help Hamas make payroll, deliver social services and generate additional revenue by selling off imported fuel.

For more than a decade some policy makers in Washington and Jerusalem believed Qatar could help moderate Hamas and facilitate a reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority. The savage killing of more than 1,400 Jews disproved that thesis. Qatar’s support of Hamas hasn’t led to the group’s moderation. It’s past time to stop pretending otherwise.

With America’s apparent blessing, Qatar continues to act as if it’s Oct. 6: It has kept Hamas’s office in Doha open and on Oct. 14 hosted a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Now it’s asserting itself as the only viable interlocutor to negotiate the release of hostages from Gaza. Meantime, the Qatar-funded TV network Al Jazeera serves as the tip of the spear in Hamas’s propaganda campaign, promoting, among other things, the lie that Israel attacked a hospital in Gaza.

Advertisement - Scroll to Continue

Like the arsonist playing firefighter, Doha claims it can be an honest broker in any hostage negotiation, as if the premise of such deliberations doesn’t work to Hamas’s advantage. Recall that Qatar brokered the Biden administration’s recent $6 billion hostage deal with Iran, doubtless a desired model among Hamas’s leaders.

The Qataris’ claim that the West still needs a channel to Hamas should be met with the same hostility that a Swiss banker would meet in 1939 trying to justify continued support to Nazi Germany. Every move Hamas makes today is calculated to win its survival. The operation via Qatar is aimed at pulling on American and Israeli heart strings and undermining Israel’s military operations while creating opportunities to showcase Hamas as humanitarian, not barbaric. This process also buys time for Iran to escalate conflict in other arenas, such as Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Yemen, as the prospect of releasing hostages forces Israel to temper its designs on Gaza.

An alternative strategy could be more successful and less distasteful: Let Qatar know it will be held responsible for the deaths of any additional hostages. The U.S. holds enormous leverage to squeeze Hamas and Qatar to win the release of captives without empowering the terror group or allowing its control of Gaza to endure.

Another tactic: Drop Qatar’s status as a major non-NATO ally and designate the country a state sponsor of terrorism, either by executive order or legislation. Congress could also allow victims of Hamas terrorism to sue Qatar and seize its assets in the U.S. It might go further by mandating that the U.S. Air Force leave the Al Udeid Air Base.

Mr. Biden could also take advantage of the presence of Hamas leaders in Doha by making clear they will be legitimate military targets as long as Hamas holds hostages. Al Udeid has plenty of armed drones that could be brought into action. That threat must be coupled with another understanding: Washington won’t grant any special favors merely for winning the release of hostages. Already, more than 30 Americans are dead.

Israel’s goal is Hamas’s destruction. If the U.S. shares that goal, it can’t tolerate other nations giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Washington must use its leverage to end Doha’s support for Hamas and win the release of every hostage.

Mr. Goldberg, a former National Security Council official and U.S. Senate aide, is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Monday 30 October 2023




 Listen to this abject DICKHEAD:

"Robert Pape, author of the seminal study on air power, Bombing to Win, said they also demonstrated why Israel’s bombing campaign would probably not achieve its objectives. “To separate Hamas from the broader population has to be a political process. History shows that mass bombing campaigns never break the enemy’s will. It does the opposite. Yet it is a mistake made again and again by societies that have been hurt and wounded, and want to hit back.”

Is that Pape for Pope or for the PAP that he ejaculates from his deranged brain and depraved tongue?!

History shows... History shows...





History shows... History shows...




The expropriation of the direct producers was accomplished by means of the most merciless barbarism, and under the stimulus of the most infamous, the most sordid, the most petty and the most odious of passions. Private property which is personally earned, i.e. which is based, as it were, on the fusing together of the isolated, independent working individual with the conditions of his labour, is supplanted by capitalist private property, which tests on the exploitation of alien, but formally free labour.1 As soon as this metamorphosis has sufficiently decomposed the old society throughout its depth and breadth, as soon as the workers have been turned into proletarians, and their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, the further socialization of labour and the further transformation of the soil and other means of production into socially exploited and therefore communal means of production takes on a new form. What is now to be expropriated is not the self-employed worker, but the capitalist who exploits a large number of workers.

The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation 929

This expropriation is accomplished through the action of the immanent laws of capitalist production itself, through the centralization of capitals. One capitalist always strikes down many others. Hand in hand with this centralization, or this expropriation of many capitalists by a few, other developments take place on an ever-increasing scale, such as the growth of the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the planned exploitation of the soil, the transformation of the means of labour into forms in which they can only be used in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and, with this, the growth of the international character of the capitalist regime. Along with the constant decrease in the number of capitalist magnates, who usurp and monopolize the advantages of this process of transformation, the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation and exploitation grows; but with this there also grows the revolt of the working class, a class constantly increasing in numbers, and trained, united and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist process of production. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.


For capitalism to exist as a mode of production, workers must be legally free to work for the highest wages. This legal requirement entails the existence of legally separate capitalist employers competing for the workers’ services. It entails also the legal freedom of workers from one another and from the means of production so that their only means to produce for their own livelihood is by offering their living labour to the competing capitalists individually, worker competing against worker. But the competition between capitalists for the use of the workers’ living labour cannot be such that the entire product of that labour is returned to the workers as wages. There must be a difference between the dead labour produced by workers and the dead labour paid to workers in exchange for the provision of their living labour such that the capitalists are able to command more living labour for the next round of production from the surplus dead labour. (How this “difference” between dead labour paid in wages and surplus dead labour is made effectual in monetary terms, and thence in political terms, is a matter with which we shall deal later.)

It is entirely obvious that such an “exchange” – living labour for dead, objectified labour – is entirely fictitious and can be only the outcome of either fraud or violence or both! Furthermore, the capitalists must be able to decide what is produced and how and when so as to be able to enforce this false and violent “exchange” between dead and living labour politically. Thus, it appears that the productive power of social labour is to be credited entirely to the ability of the capitalist to bring together the fictitious “individual” living labours of workers with the means of production owned by the capitalist in such a way that social labour appears as the sum of individual labours, of labour powers to be rewarded with individual wages.

The essence and purpose of the wage – the “exchange” of dead for living labour – is to secure institutionally the reduction of living labour to labour power, to abstract labour. Only by securing the political, institutional, conventional objectification of living labour to labour power are capitalists able to compare their command over living labour in a manner that is trans-latable or homologated or homogenized across very heterogeneous and incommensurable concrete living labour activities. It is obvious that this homologation cannot occur at a local, circumscribed level but must rather extend throughout all branches of industrial capitalist activity by means of the centralized control and regulation of wages. This constitutes the antagonism of the wage relation and thence the class antagonism between workers and capitalists. The aim of the capitalist is to maximize the difference between the dead labour offered to the worker and the dead labour produced by the worker – between necessary and surplus labour – such that the portion of the working day going to necessary labour is reduced to a minimum and the portion going to surplus labour is maximized. This difference is called surplus value or profit. Surplus value can be maximized relatively through the compression of the working day going to necessary labour by means of new machinery (relative exploitation) or absolutely through the expansion of the mass of workers (absolute exploitation).

The contradiction at the heart of capitalism lies precisely in this: - that at one and the same time capital must seek to minimize necessary labour so as to maximize surplus labour, and yet capital cannot eliminate necessary labour because its very existence and essence is the perpetuation and expansion of necessary labour and of the wage relation!

The ultimate limit or barrier to capital is therefore the length of the working day and consequently the absolute size of the working population compatible with the reproduction of human society. The survival and expansion of capital, of the wage relation, depends entirely on the expansion of the working population and indeed on the presence of an ever-larger reserve army of the unemployed – and thus on overpopulation and overconsumption. As capital reaches the limits of overpopulation, of the absolute extension of the necessary labour day by the multiplication of contiguous labour days, and its simultaneous relative suppression or diminution through the employment of machinery to maximize surplus labour, the rate of profit – the ratio of surplus labour to necessary labour as exhaustive complementary portions of the working day – must fall. This is what Marx calls “the tendential fall of the rate of profit” in capitalism. This is the most fundamental of “the immanent laws of capitalism” to which Marx refers.

The capitalist answer to the tendential fall of the rate of profit is and must be the centralization of capitals, for at least two reasons: the first is that by eliminating excess capitalists, capital can reduce the wage bargaining power of workers dependent on inter-capitalist competition and increase the relative size of the unemployed by reducing the labour force. The other reason is that capitalist centralization cuts back on transactional costs going to non-capitalist disbursements (a kind of “leakage” the avoidance of which is at the core of the bourgeois economic “theory of the firm”): the capitalist firm “internalizes” costs (Marx’s faux frais), as it were, and thereby reduces the impact of non-capitalist costs and transfers.

The temptation might arise to dismiss hastily this particular “immanent law of capitalism” as yet another instance of Marxian eschatology – the inevitable “breakdown” (Zusammenbruch) of capitalism and the teleological advent of communism. This would do Marx a great wrong: the tendential fall of the rate of profit for capitalist industry may not result in its final catastrophic crisis, but it is most certainly a “tendency” that is intrinsic (hence, “immanent”) to its essence and modus operandi, to the wage relation. – Nothing eschatological or teleological in that! It is simply a practical historical tendency or process that results – is a consequence of – the practical historical operating conditions of the capitalist mode of production. Nothing more, nothing less. If eschatology there is in Marx – and we insist that there is -, it lies in the fact that Marx goes beyond the historical “tendencies” of capitalism and travesties them instead as inevitable. What we are arguing is that “tendency” does not mean “inevitability” or “inexorability” (Wittgensteinian or Kafkaesque) or (Leibnitzian) “pre-determination”. Not only is it perfectly legitimate for Marx to theorize the historical tendencies of capitalism from a “scientific” standpoint; it is also a legitimate activity when one considers that all “scientific” activity is and must be simultaneously “political” – and therefore “tendentious” – because all scientific activity, as human activity, is inextricably and ineluctably political!

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Marx’s summation in this crucial chapter of Capital is the clear nexus he draws between the centralization of capitals and the socialization of production – both of which are also for him integral part of “the immanent laws of capital”. For Marx, it is the intensification of the Sozialisierung – of the interconnectedness and vital interdependence of social activities essential for the reproduction of “the society of capital”, that is, of a human society whose very survival is entirely dependent on the reproduction of the capitalist mode of production -, it is this socialization that becomes tendentially inconsistent with the increasingly “private” ownership of the means of production concentrated in fewer and fewer capitalist hands (and heads) as the centralization of capitals proceeds. Here Marx highlights the classic inconsistency or “contradiction” between the division of social labour or “socialization of labour”, which is an ineluctable aspect of all human societies, and the “plan-lessness”, the lack of social planning or “anarchy” of social production dependent on the antagonistic decisions of capitalist owners solely intent on maximising profits and on perpetuating the antagonistic wage relation. Thus, whereas the “socialization of labour” tends toward and indeed necessitates the planned co-ordination of the division of social labour and of production, the increasingly monopolistic centralization of capitals makes the successful reproduction of human society dependent on the “private’, and therefore potentially “un-planned” and indeed “anarchical”, chaotic decisions of a few capitalists intent on preserving their antagonistic self-interest!

Here, in a nutshell, is the apocalyptic and catastrophic Marxian opposition, or “contradiction”, between the Sozialisierung and the Plan-losig-keit (plan-less-ness) of the society of capital, likely to result in catastrophic crises that endanger the very reproduction and viability of human societies that have now been transformed into “societies of capital” – that is to say, societies whose survival is dependent on the reproduction of the antagonism of the wage relation. But whereas Marx is quite justified to refer to “historical tendencies”, his insistence on the “dialectical contradiction” between the Sozialisierung and the Planlosigkeit – both brought about by the intensification of wage-relation class antagonism – is suspect and unwarranted because there is no contradiction, logical or dialectical, between the two historical tendencies. Marx assumes, indeed presumes, that capitalism is intrinsically “anarchical” and therefore “unplanned” and consequently always “crisis-prone” because there is a contradiction between the increasing interdependence, interconnection of productive activities due to the growing centralization of capitals and the inherently “private” character of capitalist ownership and production. The problem with this characterization of capitalism is that it misses what is the very hallmark of this mode of production – not just its tendency to crisis, but indeed its utterly essential dependence on crisis! In other words, bluntly put, Marx forgets that ultimately all social reproduction is based on “social labour” and its division – on the Sozialisierung. Yet, this does not prevent capitalism from institutionalizing crisis as a constituent essential element of its social relations of production! Marx fails to see that “crisis” under capitalism is not necessarily an element of weakness or imminent collapse but rather an intrinsic part and factor of capitalist transformation or trans-crescence that allows capitalist relations of production to survive and endure and indeed even thrive and expand! Crisis is endemic to capitalism: it is part of a process that, provided it does not destroy its society, allows its mode of production to persist. (As Nietzsche put it, “whatever does not kill me, makes me stronger”.) We have invoked the term “trans-crescence” to insist on this meta-morphic function of capitalism – as against the more “linear” notions such as “growth” or “development” or even worse “evolution”, which all denote a linear qualitative progression of capitalism in a positive direction. Aside from the more jejune interpretations of Joseph Schumpeter’s work along the – again, linear and progressive or “evolutionary” - lines of “innovation” or “creative destruction” (but why must capitalist destruction or innovation be “creative”, why can’t it be instead “destructive creation”?), interpreting the import of his work at a deeper level, the Austrian economist was perhaps the first to perceive the crucial role of “crisis” in the reproduction and expansion of capitalist industry. (Indeed, it could be said that the phrase “creative destruction” [schopferische Zerstorung] adopted by Schumpeter was meant to be intentionally ambiguous or ambivalent in terms of assigning a “positive”, “progressive” evolutionary value to capitalist innovation or, as we prefer, trans-crescence.)

Marx did not capture the centrality of “crisis” to capitalist social relations of production for the evident reason that he held a “linear” progressive and evolutionary view of what he called “economic formations”, leading dialectically in Hegelian fashion to the ineluctable triumph of communism:

The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

It is not surprising, then, that he should understand capitalist “crisis” as an essential or “immanent” and yet unmistakeably negative, disruptive, and anarchical characteristic of capitalist development which would prove to be its ultimate undoing because, evidently, once the Sozialisierung reaches an extreme level, then the Planlosigkeit can only be catastrophic. The “incompatibility” of social labour and private ownership is a classic trope of Marx’s use of the dialectic, equivalent to the Hegelian Aufhebung or “supersession” or “negation of the negation”. And although this supersession is dialectical, nevertheless it reaches “a point” at which the contradictions (“incompatibility”) of the capitalist mode pf production “burst asunder this integument”. In this view, Bernstein’s controversial insinuation of the existence of a Zusammenbruchstheorie (general crisis of capitalism) in Marx becomes more justifiable and credible.

It may be also possible to interpret and so to understand Marx’s view of capitalist crises in the opposite direction, that is to say, as not so much falling short because of its “negative” view of crises, but rather because of its “positive” view of capitalist “development” – as leading infallibly toward some kind of communist civilization. As we just suggested, it was the “Nietzschean-Weberian” Joseph Schumpeter who saw better, interpreting capitalist crisis or “disruption” as a necessary and indeed “intrinsic” part of capitalist trans-crescence (Entwicklung – definitely not to be translated as “development” or even less as “evolution”!). What Schumpeter’s theory of capitalism lacks – and this is a lack which Max Weber attempted to supplement – was a theory of the State as a specific political power-machine (the German word Macht, power, cognate with machen, to make, conveys this subtle connection between power and machinery, capitalist machines as embodying capitalist power or better, command). Schumpeter’s insistence on the very subjective “entrepreneurial spirit”, the innovative charge of the captain of industry, almost completely obscures the all-important role of the capitalist State as something far more significant than even Marx’s characterization as a “managerial committee of the bourgeoisie”.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Israel's tragedy should spark rebellion in our woke sick unis.

There is a chance the academic left's deranged response to Hamas's slaughter of innocent Israelis on October 7 may finally have roused the complacent from their torpor.


Has wokeism jumped the shark? In other words, have the radical leftists who for years have exercised increasing power in our universities finally gone too far?

I dare to hope so.

The recent disgraceful responses to the attacks on Israel that we have seen, from US university campuses to the streets of London - not forgetting the streets of Sydney - have dramatically increased awareness that something is rotten in the state of higher education in the English-speaking world. Some of us have been battling against the ideological takeover of academia for close to a decade. Each year, we have been getting better organised. But we have struggled to convince people in the real world just how bad things are. The past three weeks may finally have changed that.

The expression "jump the shark" was coined in 1977 when the scriptwriters of long-running US comedy series Happy Days - now into their fifth season and running short of ideas - had the character of Fonzie jump over a shark while on waterskis. The campus left's response to the attacks of October 7 was equally deranged.

Let's remind ourselves just what happened three weeks ago. Two Gaza-based terrorist groups inspire by Islamist ideology, committed to the destruction the state of Israel and backed by at least one government, staged a trailer for a second Holocaust In their sadism and savagery, they exceeded even th horrors perpetrated by the Russian butchers of Buc in Ukraine. The video evidence of their crimes, much of it recorded by the perpetrators, is almost beyond the human capacity to countenance.

The president of Harvard University, Claudine Gay, misread the room. After more than 30 Harvard student groups published a statement saying they held "the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence", she put out a bromide statement that "no student group ... speaks for Harvard, the University or its leadership". With its bland title and its standard disclaimer that "such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one's individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region", this response was crafted to appeal to Harvard's overwhelmingly liberal student body and faculty.

Gay had forgotten that Harvard's true target market the very small proportion of hugely successful alumni who give her university the largest donations. They soon reminded her. Similar revolts by donors have been erupting at universities from Pennsylvania to Stanford. At Stanford, the university where I work, there have been several pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks, most recently one organised by Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine. Anti-Israel graffiti has been chalked on campus sidewalks.

But the most shocking episode occurred in a classroom just days after the attacks, when according to student testimony in the San Francisco Chronicle - a lecturer blamed the conflict on Zionists, said that Hamas's actions Claudine Gay were "resistance", asked Jewish students to raise their hands and then separated those students from their belongings, saying he was simulating what Jews were doing to Palestinians.

The lecturer, Ameer Hasan Loggins (who is in fact a graduate student in the African-American Studies department at UC Berkeley), then asked how many Jews died in the Holocaust. When students answered with six million, Loggins retorted: "Yes. Only six million", arguing that the number of victims of colonialism was larger. He proceeded to ask every student to say where their ancestors were from, labelling each one a "coloniser" or "colonised" depending on their answers. When one student said they were from Israel, the lecturer responded: "Oh, definitely a coloniser."

If that strikes you as outrageous, you have clearly missed the fact such thinking is rife throughout the Anglosphere academy. None of this should have come as a surprise, for it is the culmination of many years of infiltration of our universities by the radical leftist ideology sometimes known for short as "wokeism". The reason such shorthand is necessary is that the academic left is a much more complex coalition nowadays than it was back in the 1930s, when it is now defined in the dictionaries as "aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)".

Like all cults and sects, the woke have their own idiosyncratic language and rituals. These include explicitly stating one's "preferred pronouns" at every opportunity and acknowledging whenever possible that one is meeting on land expropriated from indigenous peoples. In marked contrast to conventional scientific understanding, race is an essential, unalterable attribute (you're either Black, Indigenous and People of Colour or you're incurably white), but gender is almost infinitely fluid. In each case, there is a hierarchy, determined mainly by the extent to which your assigned minority were "victimised" and "marginalised" by the white, cisgender colonisers.

Saturday 28 October 2023


Where Hamas Is Winning

A laptop with apparent blood stains is at the center of an image of chaos inside a house.
Credit...Ofir Berman for The New York Times
A laptop with apparent blood stains is at the center of an image of chaos inside a house.

Opinion Columnist

Want the latest stories related to Middle East? , and we’ll send them to your inbox.

In 2014, a new state was formed in the heart of the Middle East. It had a capital, a government, an army and almost 12 million subjects — a larger population than Jordan or Israel. It also had a commitment to butchery, savagery and fanatical violence that quickly earned it the enmity of the entire civilized world.

That universal enmity made it hard to imagine how this state of many names — the Islamic State, ISIS, Daesh — could long survive. At the time I offered a speculative analogy to the Bolsheviks in Russia, another ruthless bunch of revolutionary terrorists who faced general opprobrium and foreign interventions, but survived to govern Russia for several generations.

But in the event the more plausible scenario unfolded. By refusing even a sheen of moderation, by shocking the conscience of the world while seeking direct confrontation with Western power, the Islamic State enjoyed a temporary recruitment boom followed by a crushing extirpation. Even a weakened American empire in a more multipolar world was able to draw a circle around its barbarism and drive it back into statelessness by force of arms.

That antecedent hangs over the current crisis in Israel and Palestine. The atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against innocent Israelis, the snuff films, mutilations and delight in simple cruelty, inspired immediate analogies to the Islamic State’s depredations. They also raised a question about Hamas’s strategy. Was this, as some averred, a desperate but calculated leap to barbarism, undertaken on the theory that only true grisliness would yield the kind of Israeli reaction required to scuttle peacemaking between Israel and its Arab neighbors?

Or alternately, was it proof that Hamas had no normal strategic plan at all? Maybe in matching the Islamic State’s cruelties it also matched that regime’s self-destructive folly. Maybe, as The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg wrote, the massacres were “rooted not in strategy, but in sadism.”

I do not think we have to fully choose between these alternatives. Radical movements are often multivalent, with ideologically motivated sadists and strategically minded gamblers converging on the same plan despite somewhat different self-understandings.

But there is another way of thinking about extreme violence as a strategy, one with wider implications than just its potential effects on Israeli policy and Saudi-Israeli rapprochement.

Yes, a movement deliberately going to extremes risks the Islamic State scenario, where you isolate yourself so completely that you end up first morally delegitimized and then cornered and destroyed. Clearly that’s the risk Hamas is running now. It didn’t just hold power in Gaza, it enjoyed a certain kind of legitimacy, a degree of favor with parts of the Western left and the Arab world that the Islamic State never enjoyed or ever sought. And in embracing barbaric violence it showed itself willing to light that legitimacy on fire.

But suppose that you light the match, you cross the line, you leave the civilized world behind, and a lot of your allies just … stay with you? Suppose you turn southern Israel into an abattoir and you don’t end up like the Islamic State thereafter? Suppose that, instead, most of your sympathizers just go to their usual corners, some making excuses and downplaying the violence, others committing fully to the glory of your cause?

Well, then, as Damir Marusic writes in a troubling essay this week, you have achieved a “revolutionary legitimacy” that you didn’t have before. You have embraced a radical immoralism and forced your supporters to rewrite their own morality, to excuse or embrace or (as often happens) to first excuse and then embrace. This process, Marusic notes, effectively “asphyxiates any political program that is less extreme than the revolutionary agenda.” And it closes off exits for your allies in the future: Having followed you this far into darkness, each further step becomes more natural, each step backward more difficult to take.

Has Hamas achieved this generally? No: Within much of the Western political establishment they have clearly lost what modest legitimacy they previously enjoyed, horrifying European leaders as well as the more pro-Israel American center-left, and leaving themselves geopolitically exposed as Israel moves to dismantle them.

But not as exposed as the Islamic State, not even close. Hamas and its terrorists have held or expanded their popular support across the Muslim world, they have brought powerful figures like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan rushing to their defense, they have turned out protesters and inspired a surge of anti-Semitism in Western cities, and they have retained various forms of sympathy within the activist-academic complex.

All this has to count as a provisional victory. Perhaps a win that will be swallowed up by Hamas’s military and political destruction, perhaps a coup not worth the cost.

But you can see, for now, the shape of a dark strategic triumph that only extreme violence could obtain.