Monday, 23 November 2015

Liberal war media let rip over Paris, IS and 'defence of civilization'

Doesn't the heart surge to hear crusading Western liberals warn of the 'existential threat' from Islamic State and the call for 'dutiful military responses'? And all in the name of 'our civilizational values'. 
Some, like arch-neocon Douglas Murray peddle their ultra-zealous message with undisguised hostility for Islam. Others, like Paul Mason, try to dress-up the case for Western militarism in more faux left tones, warning, again, about that looming 'threat to our civilization'.

And there's always Jonathan Freedland's cloying pitch for the war agenda. His latest is an invocation of the "grey zone" (read, liberal comfort zone) of 'civilized coexistence', while lamenting the West's "inaction" and 'lost opportunity' to attack Syria in 2013.
It's all too typical of the Guardian. In the immediate hours after the Paris attacks, reactionary views on the need for civil clampdowns and revenge bombing filled the airwaves. In contrast, we now belatedly learn, the Guardian spiked any critical comment suggesting that the attacks might be causally linked to Western aggressions in the Middle East. 
At least we have the 'resolute impartiality' of the BBC to rely on. Or that, presumably, is how we're expected to understand the monologue rantings of This Week's Andrew Neil, almost quivering with hubris as he invoked the greats of French philosophical thought, in his lambasting of IS as 'Islamist scumbags'.
Missing from Neil's list of French greats and achievements was Frantz Fanon, (born on the French colony of Martinique, 1925). If only that fine voice of resistance to decades of French oppression in Algeria was here today surveying France's ongoing colonialist interventions and the tragic fallout of IS violence. 
In taking apart the myth of BBC leftism, Mehdi Hasan notes how Neil's Thatcherite presence has loomed large over the corporation for decades now. As David Edwards records, Neil also stated on his Daily Politics show in 2005: “We went to Iraq to make it a better place.”
Yet, this warmongering right-winger has been roundly commended for his This Week performance, not only by 'classic liberals' and Tories like Toby Young and Dan Hodges, but by a chorus of  'celebrity liberals', from Richard Dawkins to Stephen Fry to Piers Morgan.

Thankfully, writer Bea Campbell provided some rational objection to Neil's crude invocation of Enlightenment figures. But doesn't it say so much about the poverty of intellectual thought these days that ideological carpetbaggers like Neil can command this kind of applause and adulation for wallowing in such bathos?

And with the default media and political rush to embrace 'France', the reactionary liberal finds even safer platforms to wage more 'civilized war':      
In "How to be a Western liberal in an age of terror", Stephen Daisley, STV's digital political correspondent, pours forth in another such rant:
What we need as keenly as military might is civilisational confidence. [...]It’s time to get a little less dainty and a lot less squeamish. We are already deploying drones and extra-judicial killing; we should be prepared to extend the use of these techniques where necessary. As we eliminate the hard infrastructure of Islamism, we will need to target its softer furnishings: Hate preachers and inciters should face deportation or the loss of British nationality, as applicable. Intelligence gathering and policing will become more intensive and at times intrusive but we must take care to cabin this to counter-terrorism. There will be difficult decisions on how we go about identifying suspects, how long we may detain them, and the conduct of interrogations. None of these are easy questions; some make me very uncomfortable. We are fortunate to be rich and privileged and alive. We don’t get to be innocent too. [Emphasis added.]
Here speaks the voice of the 'liberal hawk'. That's not an oxymoron, just a fair reading of how people like Daisley profess their 'Western civilized values' through a chest-beating desire for 'moral vengeance' and more illegal murder.
One can only presume that STV know Daisley is peddling such virulence on an STV site.
Daisley is also, unsurprisingly, a dedicated apologist for Israel's mass crimes, and a vanguard liberal voice on the 'perilous dangers' of Jeremy Corbyn's 'anti-Semitic associations'.
If nothing else, it all helps dispel the facile notion of the 'objective journalist', as so often peddled by news organisations.
Just don't try saying anything truly challenging of such media or the establishment power structure. Amid all the live correspondence from Paris, which BBC or other 'objective' reporter would dare raise the truths of France's and the West's dark culpabilities in creating the space for IS to emerge?  

In an act of true, independent journalism, Glenn Greenwald has alerted us to the case of reporter Elise Labott, suspended by CNN for sending an innocuous tweet about US refusal to admit refugees fleeing the conflict. As Greenwald documents, many more journalists have met similar career fates for daring to editorialise with words and sentiments decidedly 'off-message' for their corporate employers and political overseers.

One Twitter message summarises it perfectly:          
If you're sympathetic to the weak, it's activist journalism. If you're sympathetic to the powerful, it's objective journalism.
As Greenwald says, "No truer tweet has even been written". 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

France's state violence - 10 key truths behind attacks on Paris

No illumination of France's monumental crimes
There's been widespread sadness and sympathy over the terrible killings in Paris. All very human and commendable. 

But, as Jonathan Cook asks, why the selective coverage, outrage and empathy? Were those innocents blown up a day before in Beirut by the, apparently, same Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) not worthy of the same humanity, the same demonstrations of global support?

Those calling attention to the disparity are reminded that Beirut was 'widely covered', and that, anyway, 'rather than blame the media', we 'more naturally' incline to tragedies 'closer to home', and stories of 'unusuality'. Yet not only did such coverage constitute a tiny fraction of that on Paris, the massive focus on the latter showed how the whole weight of our emotional response gets packaged around reassuring notions of the 'more noble society', and a media-lavished iconography of 'our higher identity'. Is it really believable that we're not deeply influenced and directed by such establishment-serving coverage?      
Grief as solidarity can mean simple human regard. It can convey basic rejection of brutal killers and their inhuman ideology. But it can also blur who and what we stand together with. Shocked Parisians? Of course. Grieving families? Certainly. The French state and François Hollande's government? That's quite a different matter.       
For, as Glenn Greenwald documents, emotional exploitation of the Paris atrocity cannot hide the deep complicity of Western states and their Gulf allies in giving rise to ISIS. And a key part of that disastrous agenda involves France and Hollande.

In embracing the tricolour, La Marseillaise and Eiffel Tower peace avatars, it's worth thinking about what kind of 'France' people may be supporting, the extent of French state killing in foreign lands, and how it has failed to protect its own citizens.   
#1 Key truth  France has played a criminal role in the destabilisation of Syria, Iraq and the wider region. As John Pilger puts it, "ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity." Nafeez Ahmed's penetrating story How the West Created the Islamic State is vital reading here.
#2 Awkward truth  As a consequence of that Frankenstein scenario, France has joined the US in its belated bombing of ISIS. The response we've seen in Paris should come as no surprise. Perversely, while bombing ISIS in Iraq, France consciously refrained from targeting ISIS/al-Nusra in Syria, viewing it as a valued part of the effort to oust Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Now, notes Nafeez Ahmed, France's "reactionary declaration of war [sees it fall] into the ideological trap laid by ISIS." 
#3 Background truth  France's leading part in the Nato assault on Libya, alongside neo-colonial interventions in Mali and West Africa, has created enormous carnage, hostility and other sources of ISIS-style 'blowback'. Nicolas Sarkozy also has much to answer for.   
#4 Dark truth  France is deeply embedded with the dictator kingdom Saudi Arabia, a key creator and sponsor of ISIS. Hollande's recent $12 billion arms deal with Riyadh denotes France's latest muscular presence in the Middle East. While massively profiting from this state-corporate bonanza, France is filling the region with even more armaments, and feeding further instability. Despite criticisms from human rights groups, France also backs the brutal Saudi bombing of Yemen. Is it fine for France to help bomb and murder on these streets, while condemning guns and bombs on the streets of Paris?  
#5 Hushed truth  Turkey, a key French/Nato ally, has been a vital conduit and facilitator of ISIS terror, all part of its strategy to remove Assad and contain Kurdish separatists. Turkey has also been assisting ISIS in black market oil running, providing vital finance for the kind of operations we've seen in Paris. Why hasn't France been condemning Turkey?
#6 Home truth  France's treatment of its Muslim population has been oppressive, discriminatory and racist. This is the real 'égalité' of so many poor and alienated Muslims, allowing a volatile social base for ISIS recruitment and violence. Growing state hostility and suspicion towards Muslims in France, being sold as 'necessary checks on extremism', is making social relations even more precarious.   
 #7 Alarming truth  France has been pushing for more powers, harsher clampdowns on civil liberties, and deeper surveillance of citizens. Some are calling it a descent into authoritarianism, with the seeming approval of many French citizens. The whole 'Je Suis Charlie' hypocrisy should be seen in this light. As Nafeez Ahmed warns, "France’s new state of emergency grants the government extraordinary powers that effectively put an end to democratic accountability, and give law-enforcement and security agencies unaccountable authority to run amok." So much for cherished notions of 'liberté'. 
#8 Shameful truth  France has been drawn deeper into Israel's aggressive positioning over Syria, Iran and its wider geopolitical arc. Backing Saudi Arabia, and lobbied by Israel, France opposed the recent international nuclear deal with Iran, pitching it as even more hawkish than the US. Rather than assist growing efforts for their indictment over war crimes, France has openly welcomed Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. Besides Israel, France is now the only country in the world that bans, prosecutes and jails supporters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

#9 Selective truth  France has denounced Vladimir Putin's intervention in Syria, yet asks us to believe its own "we are at war" bombing of ISIS in Raqqa is legitimate. And, notes Mehdi Hasan, while it's seemingly acceptable to say Russia's bombing in Syria has "incited" extremist retaliation, it's not apparently appropriate to suggest the same about France's bombing of Syria. Nor will you hear much of the French/Western media amplify Putin's claim that ISIS is being funded by 40 countries, including G20 states.  

#10 Moral truth  France's state elite and service media, like Western others, proclaim noble ideals of 'fraternité', yet offer no broader concern or generosity for those bombed and murdered elsewhere. Where's the real 'universalisme'? As Cook asserts, if we really wish to see ourselves as 'civilised', the dead in Beirut, Gaza/West Bank and other suffering places should be "equally deserving of our compassion". True moral concern and solidarity can't just depend on 'Je Suis' sentiment, however sincere, and denouncing ISIS. It also means standing in resolute opposition to dark state actions, questioning propaganda media, and rejecting the exploitative call for more deadly and futile bombing.  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

JK Rowling and friends protecting Israel through fantasy story of 'coexistence' and 'hilltop engagement'

As Israel continues its murderous purges across the West Bank and Jerusalem, alongside its brutal siege of Gaza, there's no shortage of zealots defending such wickedness. Just consider Hillary Clinton's latest right-wing pledge of support, and rant against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, for one.

The core cause of the 'conflict' and reason for Palestinian resistance shouldn't even be up for debate. What part of the words 'illegal occupation', a reasonable person might ask, are so hard to understand?

But if that level of fanatical entrenchment and denial seems inexplicable, what about those seemingly more 'liberal' voices calling for 'engagement' with Israel in the name of 'peace' and 'coexistence?

recent letter at the Guardian from JK Rowling, Simon Schama, Hilary Mantel, Melvyn Bragg and other artist figures rejects the case for BDS, urging, instead, a 'Culture for Coexistence'.

Responding to a 
statement showing more than 600 (now over 1000) artists saying "we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel", Culture for Coexistence insist that, whatever the issues behind the "conflict", the need for "interaction" and "dialogue" must prevail.

It's a typical liberal Zionist pitch. But with particular insidious effect, coming from a popular figure like Rowling, providing another line of respectability for Israel's crimes.

Rowling is deeply mistaken in lending her name to Culture for Coexistence. Others within the group seem even more suspect. One only need look at the Israel-supporting links and backgrounds of some of the signatories to see where their real motives lie. But in opting to take such a public stance, Rowling invites similar critical challenge.

She and her associates are protecting Israel by peddling a fantasy land narrative, a state of make believe, in which, after decades of ethnic cleansing, enforced exile, continued occupation, refugee camps, mass killing, siege containment, settlement expansion and apartheid discrimination, we're still expected to buy the fiction that Israel is remotely interested in discussion, a 'peace process', the idea of basic human justice.

Such people help sustain a mythical world of 'bridge-building' and 'peace tables'. It all seems so noble and well-meaning. Yet it gives enormous cover to the oppressor, legitimising Israel's violent founding, its stolen lands, its 'need for security', while characterising the Palestinians as some enduring 'problem' and 'terror' entity.

In the letter,
Rowling and her co-signatories claim that:
Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace.
It's a facile line. In a passionate and devastating response to Rowling, a young Palestinian, Mia Oudeh, using her own love of the Harry Potter characters as illustration, calls it "a ridiculous sentence". Pointing to the massive divergence of power between Israel and Palestinians, she states:
[Israel] is a settler-colonial state which operates on the apartheid of an indigenous people and has broken international law and UN resolutions every single day since its existence. The practices Israel enforces in its culture and every day functioning are in themselves divisive and discriminatory. No cultural engagement between Palestinians and Israelis will ever build bridges, because...there are no two sides.
Noting how "the fourth largest army in the world, receiving $10.2 million daily in US military aid", is facing Palestinians with paltry rocks, she asks: 
How can we, as Palestinians, sit and conduct peaceful dialogue with Israelis, as equal sides, both to blame for a “conflict” [given such an] uneven distribution of power?...Israel and Palestine are not two sides, but the oppressor and the oppressed.
For Mia:
[Boycott] is the only logical way that this madness will stop. We have spoken until our tongues have dried out – dialogue is a method that has gone stale. We need action and that action is BDS until Israel recognises international law, like every country on this planet should. 
Amongst many other fine responses to the Culture for Coexistence letter, Farhana Sheik also captures the essential point: 
But the effect of their call for dialogue is to create a soothing soundtrack to just such a record of brutality. “Dialogue” and “cooperation” are lovely words, but they are often disingenuously used by propagandists for Israel, to suggest a way forward that Israel’s own actions are responsible for blocking.
In a subsequent response, taking issue with the theme 'talking wouldn't stop the Wizarding War', Rowling acknowledges Palestinian suffering, yet still hopes 'both sides' will "come to the hilltop" and engage:
The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality. Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure. It satisfies the human urge to do something, anything, in the face of horrific human suffering. What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government.
PACBI’s Cultural Boycott Guidelines reject, on principle, boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion, and does not boycott Israeli individuals – cultural workers, academics or otherwise. BDS does not entail, as you say, 'severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community' nor 'refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are…most critical of Israel’s government,' quite the contrary.
As Ben White shows, in a comprehensive rebuttal of wider anti-BDS arguments, PACBI target only those individuals and institutions seen to be openly supporting, endorsing or promoting Israel. White documents how Israel's universities are a particularly entrenched part of the occupation and military repression of Palestinians. For example:
The University of Haifa has “trained hundreds of senior officers in the Israeli Defence Forces” through “a special programme of graduate studies in national security and strategic studies.” Bar Ilan University offers teaching certificate scholarships to “outstanding fighters”, in order to harness their values “for the benefit of Israel's next generation.”Ben-Gurion University offered a special grant for each day of service to students who went on reserve duty during the ‘Operation Cast Lead’ assault on Gaza. Israeli universities similarly offered enthusiastic support for the ‘Operation Protective Edge’ offensive of 2014. Hebrew University, meanwhile, has a joint programme with the Ministry of Defense for students heading to the army’s R&D units, who live in a special base located on campus.
In its relentless efforts to court artists and performers, Brand Israel is also a core part of the state whitewash. Against this, a growing list of artists, from Elvis Costello to Alice Walker to Roger Waters, have refused to perform in, or engage with, Israel. Waters has been particularly assertive in asking other artists to join the boycott. In response to Dionne Warwick's castigation of his stance, Waters wrote:    
I believe you mean well, Ms. Warwick, but you are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947, and I am sorry but you are wrong, art does know boundaries. In fact, it is an absolute responsibility of artists to stand up for human rights – social, political and religious – on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed, whoever and wherever they may be on the surface of this small planet.
It's hard to believe that Rowling could be so ignorant, or unable to see what true empathy and support for suffering Palestinians entails. But there's always room for learning and humble realisation. In a wonderfully compassionate letter, Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, asked singer Alicia Keys to cancel a Tel Aviv concert, saying:
a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel’, Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil.
Why won't Rowling and her friends relate that vital story? Why don't they listen to Palestinian civil society, which is urging the world to boycott Israel
BDS was also given tremendous momentum by Stephen Hawking's refusal to attend Shimon Peres's 'peace' conference. In contrast, PACBI say, public figures like Rowling are effectively assisting normalization:
These projects provide a false symmetry between the oppressor and oppressed, which only serves to empower the oppressor, and contribute to perpetuating and normalizing oppression.  In addition, they have often played into the hands of persistent Israeli official propaganda, especially its well oiled, but so-far futile, 'Brand Israel' campaign which serves to mask Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Citing a story run by media outlet Breitbart UK - an "unadulterated mouthpiece for right-wing ideology" - Rowling talks in emotion-tugging tones about not wanting to boycott Israel's 'vital services' to medical science. Again, one might usefully refer here to one of Ben White's rebuttals:
Did the fact that the first ever human heart transplant took place in 1967 in Apartheid South Africa absolve that country’s regime of its crimes – or invalidate the boycott? Contributions to technological or cultural progress cannot exonerate a persistently criminal state from accountability.    
Like Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian, and other liberal Zionists, Rowling tries to tell us a comforting story of Israel's 'basic decency', that it's somehow 'got lost', and how they are helping to 'save' it by deploring the 'bad guy Netanyahu' and his government. But Netanyahu and Likud are only part of the problem. The central issue is the occupation itself, an oppression maintained by every successive Israeli leader, supported by all the mainstream 'opposition', with the whole weight of the Zionist state.

Many of these same 'peace' figures are keen to portray themselves as 'friends of Palestinians', not just Israel. Yet their positions are every bit as bad, and arguably worse, than more seemingly fanatical Zionists; their mitigations only helping to shroud the wicked actions of the Israeli state even more.

They serve to mystify the issue, confusing what is, in essence, a very simple choice: to support the oppressed or the oppressor, the occupied or the occupier, the bombed or the bombers, the legal or the illegal.

They also help perpetuate a Western/Orientalist view of the imagined 'peace table', with the US sitting at its head as 'benign, neutral arbiter', rather than Israel's direct sponsor, while Israel gets to define what can ever be on the 'peace menu'. For all the 'deep concern' of such two-state liberals, the Palestinians are still treated as some hopeful beggar seeking crumbs from Israel's loaded table.

Implicit here is the appeal for Palestinian 'compromise', the possibility of 'resolution' if only Palestinians would learn to know their place, not to expect an end to their colonisation, to accept that Israel itself can never be subverted, that Israel's 'security' is, somehow, paramount, that Jewish rights to stolen land will always stand above any Palestinian right of return.

As Hanan Ashrawi
the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.
This is the state such 'peace' adherents are defending, the 'two-sides' distortion all part of the welcome hasbara fantasy of Israel's 'fundamental goodness', its 'readiness to engage'. As with those who maintained cultural links with South Africa, they are on the wrong side of history.

Meanwhile, we see the actual facts on the ground, the real story: intensified occupation, the pain of Gaza and Israel on the rampage; a state murdering Palestinians with impunity, a deeply-militarised, vigilante-minded society, its citizens urged on by its political leaders to carry guns, its army and police standing casually aside as settlers shoot down Palestinians in the street. What kind of 'civilized state', a self-proclaimed 'democracy', would demolish an entire family's home because one of the family had carried out an attack?

As with courageous Palestinian resistance on the streets of Nablus, Hebron and Jerusalem, intolerance to citizen action is not confined to Israel. In France, pro-boycott protest is now banned, with convicted BDS activists facing jail. So much for 'Je Suis freedom'. As French BDS say:
For any citizen with a conscience who is mindful of the rights and the dignity of peoples, to promote BDS is not only a right but a moral duty.
All of which confirms the growing need to resist not just reactionary authority but the liberal story-tellers churning out more 'peace-pulp'. Palestinians haven't just read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, they've lived it. Beyond the tall tales of Israel's 'engagement', the faux morality play of liberal 'coexistence' and 'dialogue', Palestinians know the reality of suffering. It's their own 'daily text'. Those of real conscience should know, help spread and show appropriate solidarity with that authentic and continuing story.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Communicating the new: Momentum, Milne, movement politics and the mood in Scotland

With Jeremy Corbyn's inspiring victory as party leader, the launching of Momentum  seems like a promising initiative, building on the grassroots optimism that made his election possible. But any real progress here depends, crucially, on putting movement politics before party politics.

Following the arrival of John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, Corbyn's appointing of Guardian columnist Seumas Milne as director of strategy and communications suggests another real attempt to place genuine leftists in key posts. Despite the retention of many key figures still hostile to Corbyn, it's a bold and courageous move, illustrating just what's actually possible in constructing a serious left politics.

From Blair and Campbell to Corbyn and Milne, we now have people of real progressive mind who reject spin politics. Who, as they say, would have believed it?

As with Corbyn and McDonnell, the smearing of Milne came, of course, with immediate effect, from a virulent diatribe at the Telegraph to poisonous distortions via the New Statesman on Milne's 'terrorist sympathies'. Turned overnight into a 'crazed pro-Stalinist', rather than one of the few journalists of real integrity, the collective vitriol offers another sharp reminder of the savage establishment at work.   

And, again, the Guardian have been part of the sniping assault. Note how 'colleague' Suzanne Moore poured the ugliest scorn on Milne, just as she parodied Corbyn. Chief political correspondent Nicholas Watt also rushed to headline arch-Blairite Lord Mandelson's fears that Milne is "completely unsuited" to the role.  

But the Guardian are walking a tightrope here. While wholly disapproving of Corbyn and those who promote him, they can't just as easily turn on Milne, one of their own 'on leave' staff. Yet their lack of rallying support for him speaks volumes.
Nor can they be seen to be continually negative about Corbyn himself, fearing this will further alienate their core readers. Thus, from outright assault, the Guardian issued some grudging 'praise' for Corbyn following his first party conference speech. Similar qualified sentiments gushed from Jonathan Freedland. Polly Toynbee and Matthew d'Ancona also peddled reserved 'approvals' - a kind of sickly appeal to be 'allowed back in the room'. And there was Roy Greenslade's account of the wider media assault, conveniently omitting the Guardian's own ugly contribution.

As we wait in vain for Guardian editor Kath Viner to come to Milne's defence, one wonders whether Milne will now use this new position to expose his paper's appalling treatment of Corbyn, and the Guardian at large over its protecting of the powerful.

This includes, not least, Tony Blair, which the Guardian has given a homely platform to, despite his war crimes. Consider, in this vein, how the Guardian reported Blair's 'belated contrition' over Iraq as a 'qualified apology', rather than a cynical non-apology, another piece of calculating spin from Blair after the latest damning memo and in anticipation of Chilcot. 

It's likely that Milne will refrain from openly attacking the Guardian. Despite his obvious divergence with much of its output and editorial line, he still has a contractual and, perhaps, more emotional tie to the paper. Yet, even more than the avowedly right-wing press, it's the Guardian that most urgently needs exposing as the organ of the moderating establishment, checking Corbynism and holding back Momentum's proto-movement politics.   

Milne may also take the prudent view that neither Corbyn or himself will ever get a fair hearing from the corporate-establishment media. Corbyn has been consistently impressive, in this regard, in simply carrying on, proclaiming his own message, one that, despite the wall of media vitriol, still resonates with people on the street.

This ability not to be baited by so much ugly invective has proved remarkably effective, allowing Corbyn not only to hold the higher moral ground, but to progress his own narrative. Corbyn's appeal here lies in his genuine effort to cultivate a kinder, compassionate politics, something beyond the corporate media's obsession with consumer party politics. This says much more about the brutalising world that establishment journalists inhabit than about any of Corbyn's 'inadequacies'. That's an important 'presentational' advantage in itself.

So, while there may be a certain rebuking of such media, including the Guardian, Milne is likely to steer around it, concentrating, instead, on pushing Corbyn's positive populist message, communicating a new left programme that isn't continually playing to the power narrative, reacting to brutal copy and incessant jibes.

It's worth remembering, in this regard, that Corbyn is still here and, with Momentum, growing a left project by small, notable instalments, even in the face of mass media hostility. So, political communication can also mean something more assertive: a determination to engage citizen politics without being bogged-down in responding to Mail hate, BBC smearing and Blairite hounding. Hopefully, given the power of social media in lifting Corbyn to where he is, Milne will be pushing for more citizen-based platforms. 

Communicating with the political mood

But Milne's remit here also involves reaching out and listening on key issues. And there's one huge communication problem, in particular, for Corbyn and Milne to deal with: Scotland.

The quiet political revolution that's seen the demise of Scottish Labour, the surge in left pro-independence support and the near-death experience of the UK state won't be simply turned back through a Corbyn leadership, or Milne's new media/strategic guidance. As noted in a sharp analysis from Shannon Ikebe on the stark limitations of Labour parliamentarism:
The situation is even more contradictory in Scotland, where the left is predominantly pro–independence, there exists a growing left party that emerged out of grassroots radicalism of the independence movement, and the electoral system does not punish smaller parties. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, is thoroughly a New Labour figure; she claimed that Corbyn's leadership would leave the party “carping on sidelines.” In Scotland, the left cannot simply organize around Corbyn in the way it can in England; promotion of any Party interests as such is Anglo-centric and harmful to solidarity with the Scottish radicals.
So, even having taken the Labour No stance, why doesn't Corbyn and Momentum now openly acknowledge the case for independence, both as a legitimate progressive aspiration and as a model of support for a progressive politics in the rest of the UK?

The scale of the task here for Corbyn is not lost on Milne's Guardian colleague Owen Jones:
Labour needs to grovel before the people of Scotland, and work to win back its deeply alienated support.
But this still looks like a damage assessment sheet, with Jones surveying where and how to start rebuilding the same old Labour party hegemony. Like Jones, Milne also advocated a No vote at the referendum, presumably holding on to some notion of Labour deliverance. One hopes both might learn from that mistake. For even a revitalised left Labourism won't come close to dealing with the new matrix of left-independence politics. 

Corbyn confirms that he won't stand with Cameron in any second Scottish referendum, deeply aware of the calamity of Labour choosing to be part of Better Together. He also says he will abide by Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale's view - which seems to imply a 'free vote' on independence for Labour party members.

That's a small, encouraging sign from Corbyn, even while Dugdale and her Scottish Labour coterie are now utterly redundant voices, with no actual ideological connection to Corbyn. 

But Corbyn also still shows a disappointing unawareness of the core left mood and motives for independence, as in his aside on the Marr show that "flags don't build houses". This was accompanied by some poorly-informed statements on privatisation matters in Scotland.

While commending Corbyn on most key issues, Lesley Riddoch noted:
In contrast to the rest of Corbyn’s speech this was a lazy and ill-informed diatribe...This old tack is quite out of kilter with the mood of ex-Labour voters in Scotland today.
The danger here is that Corbyn movement politics just get subsumed by Corbyn party politics, the same old 'win Scotland for Labour', rather than win Scotland, and the rest of these islands, for people.

Alongside 'anti-austerity' (another convenient power narrative, focused on the 'cuts issue', rather than the impoverishing hand of neoliberal capitalism itself), the obvious common point between Corbyn and the Yes left is nuclear weapons - particularly with Trident renewal now coming in at a mind-boggling £167 billion

Yet, while commending Corbyn's progressive agenda, and hoping to work with a radical-minded Labour, the SNP's Mhairi Black remains unconvinced about Labour's ability to deliver any real progressive change. Writing at The National (September 26, 2015), she completely rejects the hysteria over the Corbyn "apocalypse":
I, like so many others in Scotland, know that this is not an attitude shared widely among a substantial number of the people in the UK, especially in Scotland. The election of a socialist leader is to be viewed by many as a sign of hope. A sign that Labour in England and Wales may actually begin to work with the SNP and take the hand of friendship that has been outstretched.
Yet, for Black:
What has been questionable is the insinuation that this is evidence that Labour is returning to its roots as the party my grandpa and father used to vote for.
Black praises the Corbyn campaign as something akin to the Yes movement, noting the same media-establishment hostility:
Much of Corbyn’s campaign was incredibly similar in terms of tactics and reception to that of the Yes campaign. It was carried out at a grassroots level with multiple open public meetings for people to speak their minds. It was built on the hope that things could be better if only we could hit some kind of reset button on our political establishment. Even the vilification by the media was similar to that which the Yes campaign faced. Relentless vilification and false portrayal by the media is something I am very familiar with and find as challenging as I do intolerable. It is because of this that I want to make explicitly clear my respect and admiration in the way that Corbyn handled himself, with dignity and class, and it is something that should be noted. His campaign vindicated the viewpoint of many disillusioned voters in rUK, telling them that it was indeed okay to stand up to the political consensus around austerity.
But, for Black, Corbyn still faces the disabling problem of a Blairite, neoliberal party:  
However, even if Corbyn stays true to his beliefs and holds strong in the face of unrelenting criticism, the fact is that he has yet to convince his own party of his beliefs and ideology. The idea that purely because of the leadership result Labour have somehow reverted to a collectivist, Nye Bevan, post-war Labour Party overnight is as ridiculous as it is naive. The shift in the political philosophy of the Labour Party to the right has been long cultivated over more than 20 years by many willing party members and elected members both in Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament. Let’s not forget that despite the current Scottish Labour leader’s convenient claim that she would be “delighted” to work with Jeremy Corbyn after his surge in support, Kezia Dugdale originally stated that Labour would be “left carping on the sidelines” if the left-wing candidate won the leadership. The Cabinet itself is filled with New Labour Blairites, whose voting records often suggest that they will be completely at odds with some of Corbyn’s flagship left-wing views.
More fundamentally, for Black, a movement of people which has worked and voted for a radical independence model of change shouldn't be expected to just sacrifice that politics of self-determination:
Despite this upsurge and momentum that has become apparent through Corbyn’s campaign, the reality is that England still voted Tory. Yes, his election may give us hope that the desire for change exists to an extent in England as well, and the SNP will happily work with Corbyn on many issues to achieve many desired changes, but the point is that Scotland should not have to be reliant on a Jeremy Corbyn character to achieve those changes. Scotland has allowed itself to be totally dependent on whatever England (as the largest country in the UK) chooses to vote. We will only ever get Labour if England chooses Labour. That is not democracy. I am pleased to see a socialist in a position of influence in England just as I would anywhere else in the world, but one in five of our children still lives in poverty due to the policies of this English-elected Conservative government. For all the good causes Jeremy Corbyn appears to believe in, ultimately Scotland should not have to endure horrendous policies for 20-year interludes while we wait and hope that an English electorate may see fit to elect an occasional Corbyn-type character.
Black is surely correct in her overall assessment here. Corbynism can't, and shouldn't try to, communicate itself as a valid alternative to Yes independence, or the only route to a progressive society. It's hoped that Corbyn and Milne will see the extreme folly of that line.

Yet, what a huge waste and disappointment it would be to see such radical energy lost to any kind of default Labour-SNP party positioning. There is vital common ground here, progress to be made, but only if movement ideals can prevail. In order to advance this, two new lines of accommodation would have to be cultivated: 

1. Corbyn and Momentum not only recognise but encourage the case for Scottish independence as a valid and dynamic part of left movement politics.

2. Progressives for independence support Corbyn and Momentum as part of the same movement politics, all serving to break with the old dominant order.

That may seem like a very tall order for a system of deeply-entrenched party politics. One wonders whether even a good radical like Milne can re-think his No views and help communicate this much more complex terrain.

One useful step might be in looking at how voices around Podemos are seeking to advance radical politics in Spain while engaging the radical independence mood in Catalonia. This requires a new political synthesis"a recalibration of strategy...that combines support for self-determination...with a democratic and progressive social agenda."

Only with that kind of rapprochement, that deeper understanding of common aims, can Momentum and Corbynism have any useful effect in Scotland. Corbyn and Milne must embrace the reality of the Yes left, working with it, both as a progressive friend and as a valued support base. 

This is a vital opportunity for communicating a new civil-based alignment, confident in its ability to assert its own progressive message, political relationships and independent media platforms. Otherwise, we're stuck with the same sclerotic party system, the same narrow consensus, rather than the qualitative possibilities of real movement politics.