Butchery in Sri Lanka/Tamil Eelam

It is probably a pity, but as reactions to the G20 protest policing show, images often matter. So for example the analysis of new images may work as an important confirmation of “the persistent verbal testimony…from doctors, aid workers and civilians fleeing the area” – the Sri Lankan government is massacring civilians.

I’m reluctant to set much store by the category of ‘war crimes’, since very few crimes are as serious as the crime of starting a war itself, but for what it’s worth, this government is committing war crimes. That government is of course also, for what it’s worth, an authoritarian and racist one, even by the standards of modern governments.

I don’t have much to add personally, it just felt like something that could do with saying. It is of course interesting how little coverage and how little protest this conflict has prompted in the West, especially compared to the Israel-Palestine conflict, to which it bears many resemblances (apparently the governments involved recognise this, and do a lot of business trading weapons with each other). There has been protest, of course, some of it involving very brave hunger strikes, but it seems to have mainly been carried out by Tamils themselves, with less of the shouty lefty students.

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Will the left Take Over the World now, please?


As this post says: This should be a great time to be a socialist. The same idea was put to me recently by a certain arch-reactionary of my acquaintance, who said, in essence, “well I suppose you must be over the moon at the moment, what with the impending collapse of civilisation and everything”.

But of course crises in capitalism are only half the story; the other half is something that can take advantage of them, and at the moment that’s not very visible anywhere. Without a capable revolutionary movement – a movement which would, let’s bear in mind, be different from and bigger than pretty much anything ever before seen – this crisis will simply result in a period of depression and then a subtly changed form of capitalism – quite possible a worse one.

Dave Osler writes here about the idea that ‘the left blew its big chance’. As he sees it, there should have been, and could have been, a movement of left-wing intellectuals and groups preparing the ground for this moment, building up a rival ‘common-sense’, so that as soon as neoliberalism collapsed, the obvious alternative was before everyone’s mind.

I think there’s perhaps some truth in this, but what it leaves out is that, at least for dirty revolutionaries, the point of socialism is a shift not so much in the ‘what’ but in the ‘who’: a change of agency. Of course this can be caricatured by speaking in cliches of the proletariat rising “up” and over-“throwing” capitalism, but the point is that the sentence begins with a noun phrase like “the proletariat…”, rather than something like “the government…”.

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