News International (sic)

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baboon
News International (sic)
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I opened a thread on libcom on this but it quickly degenerated into an intermidable discussion along the lines of does working for the right-wing press make you not a worker (where do you draw the line, the left-wing press)? A position summed up by that of George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan in "good riddance to the News of the World". The discussion descended further into abuse and incomprehension.

So another spin of the wheel:

There's a lot of theatre and campaigning ideology about this issue of the Murdoch press and there will be much more, but this looks like being important for the ruling class in Britain. The joint vote of all parties is an expression of unification around the defence of national interests. First of all the hypocrisy is breathtaking given that they were all involved in these crimes and corruption; political parties, the whole of the press and the police. And where they (indirectly) weren't there's scores to settle. Democratic Britain, with its free press is shown to be nothing other than an expression of the gangsterism of the whole system.

The entertainments industry has for some time been an important arm of US imperialism both indirectly and directly. Murdoch has been, particularly with his Australian influences which are also very useful for American imperialism, not least in relation to China, one of its highest representatives and completely at home in the bourgeois world of cabals and intrigue. It was Murdoch, acting in some part as a representative for Bush, that directed the Blair clique and the state's secret services, into the Gulf War. He was an enforcer, he delivered the alternatives. The Murdoch "touch" has been hugely influential over the British bourgeoisie for a couple of decades and has largely consisted of the defence of US imperatives.

It is therefore quite possible that the new found integrity of the British ruling class has a significant imperialist slant in that there is something of an assertion of Britain's "independence". The Iranian bourgeoisie very quickly picked up on this. The US and British regimes cooperate greatly at many levels but tensions persist, in line with the distancing from Murdoch, the pro-Arab section of the British bourgeosie - always strong even though downgraded in the last two decades - has been gaining ground. This would be very important for Iran's longer-term strategy.

But already, this tells us much about the machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie

 

 

baboon
Agree with what you say about

Agree with what you say about leftism and the role of the BBC, etc., the latter being the ruling classes mouthpiece during the miners' strike and its news organisations blatent liars therein.

I haven't been back to read it, but I remember a part of WR's analysis on Brown taking over from Blair as PM, was to effect a certain distancing from US foreign policy - this was reflected in changes of personnel and influences in the Foreign Office, the UN, etc. This tendency was also later confirmed by "revelations" here and there. It failed to get anywhere because the enforcer, Murdoch, was straight onto Brown's case, as we saw in the latters' statements, intimidating and threatening in the style of gangsters. It's not by chance that the anti-Murdoch campaign has been pursued and maintained throughout these years by political elements loyal to the Brown faction.

KT
Inter-imperialist or intra-bourgeois?

The previous posts, and this one too, assume a certain knowledge of the details of the ‘scandal’ that has swamped all political and media life in Britain in the last two weeks.  If comrades outside the UK haven’t been subject to the same barrage, or are not well acquainted with the evolution of events, they should say so – in any event, any formal comment on the situation by the ICC (or other communist organisations) will have to make some reference to the actual events. Meanwhile.....

****

I too agree with the majority of Caroline’s post (and obviously, with a great of deal of what Baboon has written).However, the question for me is this: are inter-imperialist tensions the main driving force, in this instance, as Baboon suggests?

The stain of the ‘Murdoch scandal’ has now reached Australia, and crucially, the US.

If the analysis of the Internationalism (US section of the ICC) comrades is correct, then many of the current problems of the US bourgeoisie lie in the problem of decomposition – of a polarisation of the US political machine to a degree which has, in the last two years, been detrimental to the national interest.

Should the present ‘scandal’ weaken Murdoch’s media dominance in the US to anything approaching the degree to which it has now been damaged in GB, then this would represent not a weakening of US interests, but a strengthening of them, because, particularly through the Fox News Network, Murdoch’s empire has been a prime force promoting this dislocation (support for the Tea Party; rabid denunciations of the Obama administration, etc, etc).

Such an evolution (the curbing of Murdoch’s machine in the US) remains to be seen. Back in Britain, who profits from the undermining of Murdoch?

It’s true, that for a short moment, the entire state machine was left exposed as the foul centre of corruption (of politicians, police and the ‘democratic press’); bribery, illegality (flouting of its own laws), cover-ups, hypocrisy, nepotism, etc, that it in truth is. With the unification of all parties, with the ‘clean-up’ act described by Baboon and Caroline already unfolding and through the enforced withdrawal of Murdoch from his bid to buy the entirety of the profitable BSkyB satellite operation, that moment has passed.

Apart from all the general mystification about cleaning out the stable (which is a consequence, not a cause of the scandal) the main beneficiaries of all this are Murdoch’s main UK media rivals – particularly the BBC and the Guardian newspaper (which ‘exposed’ the Murdoch wrong-doing).  In short, I think the origin of this ‘scandal’ was less inter-imperialist tensions and more intra-bourgeois faction fight (in which a certain settling of scores by the Gordon Brown political faction, but by no means all the Labour Party) played a significant role.

Hopefully a continuation of the discussion will clarify things for all of us.

shug
Medialens'
baboon
I think that when a faction

I think that when a faction of the bourgeoisie, in this case an intelligent faction of an extremely intelligent bourgeoisie, defends the national interest, then there can only be imperialist connotations. This seems to be clearer to me when that faction directly takes on a "made man" from a superior, dominating foreign power.

What better time to take on Murdoch than when the right in the US has been blown apart by the consequences of Obama's election in 2008, the effects of the crisis and the eroding results of decomposition (incidentally, while I agree with most of the ICC's US analysis, I don't think that the left in opposition means the Republicans in power). A faction of the US bourgeoisie taking on Murdoch could also strengthen its position though this wouldn't have much direct relationship to imperialist factors in the first instance.

It's a good, and clever, time for the British bourgeoisie to assert its "independence" and stand up for its national interest. This also has consequences for potentially strengthening its position against the working class which is not a position foreign to imperialism. There are settling of scores here and the BBC (the voice of British imperialism) is relishing its moment. Murdoch's news empire wasn't "global" but the voice of US imperialism. The new head of the BBC, Chris Patten, was a long time critic of the closeness of British interests towards the US under Thatcher and was exiled to Hong Kong as Governor for his crimes.

jk1921
Good Discussion

This is a very good discussion about the meaning of the crisis that is subsuming the British bourgeoisie and which has clearly spilled over to the U.S. I think that while there are likely to be certian imperialist connations to the affair, its pretty clear that the strength of the Murdoch empire is both a product of and a factor in the aggravation of the political decomposition of the bourgeoisie. In the U.S., Fox News is a major pruveyor of a kind of far right extremism that significantly complicates the tasks facing the main factions of the U.S. political class. The Wall Street Journal has also served to propagate a fairly consistent libertarian economic religion that only signifies the extent to which certian factions of the U.S. bourgeoise have turned their back on even trying to control and manage the crisis. These things were fine when they were printed in the Murdoch empire's trash rag the New York Post, but the extent to which they now dominate political debate in the U.S. is a clear example of the extent of the rot infecting society.

Perhaps this crisis is an attempt by the British bourgeoisie to regain some control of its internal life from the control of junk journalism? Its not that the the likes of BBC or the Guardian (UK) or NPR (US) don't serve the interests of the bourgeoisie in their respective countries, but certainly it seems like the Murdoch empire has exerted an undue and perhas even harmful influence over the years in a way that the British bourgeoisie is finally realizing is not very helpful in its attempts to manage its economic crisis and control the outcomes of the electoral circus. In this, I don't think its surprising the British bourgeoisie seems to be acting in a more determined and concerted way, while the U.S. bourgeoisie just dithers. Its a reflection of the rather extreme weight of decomposition on the political system in the U.S.

On Baboon's point, I don't think its Internationalism's analysis that the left in opposition tactic requires the Republicans take back the oval office. Clearly, this is the preferred tactic, but the political instability of the Republican Party makes that rather dangerous. Certainly, the "progressive" Democrats' pledge to vote against any debt ceiling compromise that cuts Social Security or Medicare is an attempt by one faction of the bourgeoise--alebit a rather marginalized one--to play a left opposition against the centrist Obama. We will have to see if it works.

KT
Murdoch - Enemy of the (UK) State?

If there’s one ‘narrative’ on which all factions are agreed it is this: that for 30 odd years, the Murdoch empire exercised an undue influence on UK policy, determining to a great extent which party came into (or fell out of) power and dictating policy to the state. This lie is exemplified by the headline in Murdoch’s populist rag The Sun, following the 1992 victory of the Tory John Major over Labour’s Neil Kinnock: “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” (the election). It’s confirmed today by the united clean-up chorus which insists that GB has now been freed from a malign influence against which timorous politicians of all stripes had hitherto been supine. This all-pervasive view fits precisely the leftist notion that it’s “multi-nationals” which dictate to nation states.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Murdoch’s organisation was not an opponent of British imperialism: it has been one of the state’s great pillars. It didn’t determine the orientation or political line-up of the British bourgeoisie but played precisely the role allotted to the ‘democratic’ media – that of transmitting the state’s preferred line-up to the population (continuing with the Tories in 1992; switching to Labour in 1997; support for Cameron in 2010). None of these line-ups were considered ‘mistakes’ by the comrades of World Revolution: they corresponded to the changing needs of British capital at various moments.  

British capital drew on the expertise of Murdoch’s organisation – both major parties used former Murdoch executives as communications spokesmen, while the police hired another ex-Murdoch man to polish its image and the Murdoch empire hired ex-policemen and current politicians to continue its good work. It was largely a harmonious and symbiotic relationship in the national interest.

The Murdoch machine played a major role in promoting in practice the ‘rationalisation’ of British industry, showing how to employ new technology to reduce the workforce and improve productivity whilst presenting an attack on the working class as a necessary assault on ‘backward and restrictive’ trade union practices. Needless to say, it was in the vanguard of the media’s support for British imperialism’s adventures, from the infamous “Gotcha” headline when the Belgrano was sunk during the Falklands War, to the two Gulf Wars and involvement in Afghanistan.

The hypocritical rage currently directed at Murdoch (after years of covering up his true role by a succession of Parliamentary, police and state enquiries and commissions) by all quarters of the British establishment precisely corresponds to the real ‘crime’ committed: that of inadvertently exposing the largely unified nature of the capitalist state and its methods (lying, spying, corruption and bribery) against the population.

Of course, those parts of the state apparatus momentarily eclipsed and diminished by Murdoch’s activities (Kinnock, Brown-Prescott in the Labour Party; the BBC and the Guardian in the media) have tried to reclaim their place in the sun – it’s largely thanks to their efforts that the rest of the state has reluctantly been obliged to ditch the previously equitable arrangement.  The crisis was the result of an inter-bourgeois faction fight. Now, the state has closed ranks and has embarked on a successful damage limitation exercise.  

So how come Murdoch was (previously) part of the solution for British capital, whereas in the US, I have argued that he is part of the problem? While in both countries, newspapers are ‘free’ to promote particularistic interests, there is a major difference in the way the states control the much more powerful propaganda tool of broadcasting. In Britain, ‘balance’ of political opinion is mandated by legislation, in the US there is no such requirement. In the US today, we are beginning to witness a cross-party backlash to the destructive influence of the Fox (Murdoch) brand. How far it progresses remains to be seen.

****

Baboon’s analysis rests on a perfectly correct premise: that Britain is no mere ‘poodle’ of US policy but within limits dictated by the relative strengths of the two national capitals, pursues its own agenda and interests. This has always been the case in capitalism, and one further heightened since the collapse of the blocs and the tendency of ‘every man for himself’. His application of this truth to the ‘hacking scandal’ may be perfectly correct. It’s certainly coherent. I’ll be content if, by attempting to push an alternative analysis with possibly incorrect arguments, a more coherent communist view eventually emerges.

baboon
Much to agree with above.

Much to agree with above. It's an important discussion and a pity that it was reduced to pettiness and secondary issues on libcom.

The question of the break up of the blocs in 1989, the new world order, the overall weakening of the US and the dominance of centrifugal tendencies in imperialist relations is the  main framework for these events. These tendencies have certainly affected US-Israeli relations, witness the article "US Diplomatic Quarrel with Isreal Highlights Weakness of World' Superpower". Not that I think that anyone is arguing against it, but these tendencies will definitely affect Anglo-US relations.

The idea of the left and leftism in Britain was that the "Murdoch Empire" was a multi-national structure (like many others) and thus needed to be controlled. By that they mean controlled by British national interests and that still stands even though this entertainment and publishing business is a US corporation and will thus primarily represent the interests of US capital, ie, US imperialism. It will certainly support other national capitals but only when these correspond to or are not harmful to the main interests of the USA.

I think that given the centrifugal tendencies mentioned above, then there's already been a development in the UK for a more independent line away from the US - one that the Brown faction was meant to implement but has nevertheless been implemented in certain regards: recognition of Hezbollah under the Brown clique, a more independent line on the Middle East, more overt criticism of Israel, the current ambigous position regarding a Palestinian state, etc.

I don't doubt that this is a bourgeois faction fight, that there are scores - personal and political - that are being settled here. But for me a bourgeois faction fight of this intensity (it's being going on for over five years now) can only have, from the overall analysis of the international situation, imperialist connotations. Things are no means black and white or settled, but I think that the standing of British imperialism, and thus its diplomatic strength, from this faction fight has now gone up in the capitals of Europe, possibly Russia and certainly the Middle East.

ernie
Soft power

 Last night there was a very interesting program on Radio 4 about the use of 'soft power' to project national power: Soft power Hard powerwww.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012l0cm. It's main theses is that the news media, is an essential aspect of the defense of the national interest. At a time when national world broadcasting channels are being cut, not only the World Service, but the French States France 24, etc, the 'emerging' power are expanding increasing amounts of money to project its soft power.

baboon
The entertainments,

The entertainments, publishing and the arts industries have all been weapons of US imperialism particularly after World War II (and other imperialisms too - one can look earlier at Stalin's Russia, Nazi Germany, but the US is the leader in the field). In the 1950s the Cold War Warriors of the CIA (the direct forerunners of the neocons) were using publications, literary and cultural events in Britain to infiltrate the Labour left, the intellectual elite and the BBC. While this was quite highbrow and refined compared to the bluster of News International it's essentially of the same order and it was equally conscious and ruthless.

This same faction had its tentacles into Hollywood, the film studios and, to give one example, brought up the rights to Orwell's Animal Farm from his widow (in exchange for a meeting with Hollywood hearthrob Clarke Gable) and made and distributed a film of it with a suitably adapted ending that didn't equate the stalinist pigs with capitalist man (similar for 1984). Read Frances Stoner Saunders, "Who Paid the Piper?" for more on this fascinating story.

 

More generally, this is from WR 334, May 2010: ".... Brown took over his (Conservative Prime Minister, John Major) attempts to return to the independent (from the US) policy of the 1990s through the appointment of advisors who had opposed or been critical of the Iraq war ...". And which two British Prime Ministers were lambasted by the Murdoch press - Major and Brown while the rabid Atlantacist Tony Blair walked on water as far as N.I. was concerned.

The relationship between N.I. and the British police force is also interesting in this respect. The War on Terror is a construct of US imperialism and while it has been more or less bought into by all the major press in Britain, the Murdoch press has sustained it at hysterical and lying levels. That the two senior cops in the country with responsibility for "terrorism" should have what looks like at least a very unhealthy relationship with News International is further cause for imagining a wider agenda.

 

Incidentally Ernie, one of the first moves of new BBC Governor, Chris Patten, who has a long history of at least suspicion towards the US in relation to Britain, was to increase the scope of its World Service.

baboon
A further point in relation

A further point in relation to the position above:

The only major disagreement that Murdoch and News International had with Tony Blair and his clique around the general direction of the Labour government was over the question of Europe. For all its Alantacism, the British bourgeoisie, as represented by the Blair government, was continuing to maintain a line towards Europe independent of the USA. The Murdoch argument prevailed and the British bourgeoisie adopted a line more favourable to US imperialist interests - more or less - in relation to Europe.

We shouldn't be shocked, but the exposure of the gangsterism among these representatives of capitalism, not exactly clipping their opponents but threatening to make their lives a misery, is something of a glimpse into the morality of this putrid class.