Forum topic: NSA Spying Scandal: The Democratic State Shows Its Teeth

22 posts / 0 new
Last post
Forum topic: NSA Spying Scandal: The Democratic State Shows Its Teeth
Printer-friendly version

The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: NSA Spying Scandal: The Democratic State Shows Its Teeth. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

This terrifying article.

This terrifying article.  What do we do? How do we react? Do we take refuge in our various "revolutionary tunes"  or just go out and vote for the bourgeoisie next time an election comes round?  


 Is it the case that we have been living in a full-stop totalitarian system since the entry of capitalism into decadence, and now, with the development of these new technologies, it has become safe for the state to emerge in its full horror, show its teeth and dispense with the illusions of democratic processes and the appearance of respecting civil liberties?


I suppose the answer is "yes" we have been living a long time under a totalitarian system so powerful and so effective we never really noticed.  And didn't the State emerge with its full horror in the 'thirties,  as it had to deal with a defeated proletariat and the Depression? No need for new technology here. The State was fully capable of control  without It.  And then  "Midnight in theCentury".  The 2nd. World Cataclysm. The solution  to the crisis at last. God be praised!   Did not this express a murderous totalitarianism and an ideology so all-powerful that millions went sheepishly  to their deaths in fighting for their exploiters, or were slaughtered in their homes with  bombs, only to perpetuate the world's various bourgeoisies, with hardly a whimper and no awareness at all that  all this  life destruction was all  the product of the Capitalist State. Not much sign of democratic processes here. And the only liberty available was the freedom to die for the bourgeoisie.  So yes. We have been living under a grotesquely effective totalitarian blindness  for some long time now.  That we know today about all the spying and snooping,  and the opportunities that new technologies offer the bourgeoisie in their desperate search to protect themselves against each other and everyone else, could be regarded as an advantage and an improvement over the past. 


For in many ways the spying and the snooping are nothing new.  The ruling class has always been Machiavellian and always snooped and pryed.  A farcical example may do to illustrate the point, though this is in no way to downplay the seriousness of the situation which Henk lays out so well for us in his article.


When Coleridge, William  Wordsworth and  his sister Dorothy  were living in Somerset in the late 1790's, their strange behaviour and nocturnal ramblings with intense and intimate conversation and note-taking - the latter seen as extremely suspicious - caused the  authorities to consider whether they were spies, working for the French,  and doubtless planning  a French invasion up the Bristol Channel,  or some similar Jacobean devilry. Snoopers were sent to investigate.  No need to phone tap. Dorothy's dark complexion was interpreted  as meaning she was French, or at least "foreign". Always a damning indication.  A now famous conversation was over-heard when the poets - don't exclude Dorothy here, for she wrote about The Daffodils in her diary, long before William wrote the poem - came across as discussing "Spy Nozy". You will agree that "Nozy" is an excellent choice of name!  In fact, it turned out that they were discussing Spinoza. Suffice it to say that the trio were more than alarmed by their being investigated as dangerous spies though they were eventually dismissed as "cranks" by one official,  and "just poets" by another.  Which label irritated them the most is not explained.  All this was written down by Coleridge, who may not have revealed all.  Wordsworth lost his revolutionary  fervour in later life. 


Thanks Henk for the exposé. 





In other spying news, it came

In other spying news, it came to light recently through a television programme and book that anarchist organisation DAM in the UK was infiltrated. I haven't read the book by the copper/spy myself just read an extract on another forum. I saw the tv propgram though about the cops who even went to the lengths of having children with women they were spying on (and then disappeared into thin air!), absolutely disgusting stuff. Weren't memebers of DAM close to the origins of the ICC?


Ok, so I couldn't quite remember the history of the origins of the ICC but it turns out (thanks Wikipedia!) that part of the ICC was formed by a split from DAM (Direct Action Movement/Solidarity Federation) called World Revolution. However, the dates don't match. Here is where I read about the spying/infiltration:

The Undercover book claims three SDS spies were sent into anarchist groups in the early 1990s - DAM 1990-1993, and two in Class War. One was the one Shayler has previously described meeting, though Francis/'Black' recounts the scene differently:

One was in place in February 1992 when he had a meeting in a London safe house with David Shayler, the MI5 officer later jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act after leaking details of alleged incompetence in the secret services. Shayler had at that time been assigned to investigate whether Class War posed a threat to British democracy. The SDS officer supplied intelligence to the Security Service, and had become an official MI5informant, designated the code number M2589.

According to Shayler, the ‘peculiar arrangement’ in which the SDS officer lived the life of an anarchist for six days a week, returning only occasionally to his friends and family, had ‘affected the agent psychologically’. Shayler recounts: ‘After around four years of pretending to be an anarchist, he had clearly become one. To use the service jargon, he had gone native. He drank about six cans of Special Brew during the debrief, and regaled us with stories about beating up uniformed officers as part of his “cover”. Partly as a result, he was “terminated” after the 1992 general election. Without his organisational skills, Class War fell apart.’

According to Black, the true story was a little different. He says the SDS officer in question was a ‘top end’ operative who served the unit well. During the encounter with the MI5 officer, he acted the part of a coarse anarchist because he had little time for Shayler, who was perceived to be a ‘desk wanker’ – though Black concedes that ‘some MI5 desk officers who came out to talk to us were superb and we had a very, very good relationship with them’.

There's a short thread about

There's a short thread about the infiltration of the DAM on libcom:

This is significant as it blows away the oft-repeated idea that the state is not interested in infiltrating small groups because they don't see them as a threat.

The question of state infiltration has always been a very real concern for revolutionaries and we need to renew our acquaintance with the traditions of the workers' movement in this respect - a classic text being What every revolutionary should know about state repression:

By the way the ICC section in Britain came from a split not with the DAM/Solidarity Federation but from the libertarian socialist group Solidarity for Workers' Power in 1973. 

So, Snowden has been granted

So, Snowden has been granted temporary assylum in Russia under the promise that he won't engage in any more activity to "harm the United States." Interestingly, just before this, the US had attempted to give Russia assurances that it wouldn't execute or torture Snowden. Of course, its already been demonstrated that the US has committed torture in the recent past. What good is a torturer's word that it won't torture? Of course, this is made all the more ironic by the fact that the Russian state has treaty obligations not to extradict anyone to a place where they may face execution without reasonable assurances to the contrary, even though the Russian state almost certinaly enages in extra-judicial executions even beyond its territorial limits (Litvinenko?) They are all a bunch of hypocrites and snakes playing a game of kabuki theatre for our consumption. If I were Snowden, I'd continue to sleep with one eye open. He might just find himself a very useful pawn in the game of Russo-American relations.

In case anyone's missed it,

In case anyone's missed it, the Wikileaks source Bradley Manning has been given life in prison. A pretty good deterrent and warning to others.


radicalchains wrote:

In case anyone's missed it, the Wikileaks source Bradley Manning has been given life in prison. A pretty good deterrent and warning to others.

I think Manning's sentencing hearing is still ongoing, but yes he could be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life. The guy who held the three young women hostage in Cleveland was sentenced to life plus 1000 years today. However grievous his crime was this just comes off as totally gratuitous--a symbol of just how powerful and perpetual the state thinks it is. Does it really expect to be around 1000 years from now?

It'll be reduced to 500 years

It'll be reduced to 500 years on appeal. You know how soft on criminals they are these days.

decomposition and crisis

It's not hard to find the symptoms of decomposition and crisis in both the Bradley Manning and NSA spying scandals. Manning was apparently an 'unstable' and troubled personality who would never have been accepted in the US military let alone in a sensitive intelligence role if it wasn't for the dire shortage of manpower as a result of Iraq, etc., which meant the military deliberately resorted to recruiting not only 'unfit' individuals like Manning but the predictable crop of psychopaths, gang members and criminals, etc. who then equally predictably went on to commit atrocities on civilians...  Manning himself extraordinarily managed to copy millions of classified documents by the devious and cunning ruse of…er, copying them on cds while pretending to sing along to Lady GaGa…

I also find it illuminating that the key facts in the whole NSA spying scandal together with its GCHQ link appear to have been extracted from…a set of powerpoint slides! The involvement of private contractors like Snowden in the most secret core of the US secret state and the privatisation of its most secret programs surely says something about the growing incapacity of even the most powerful capitalist state to function in a coherent, consistent way without resort to a bunch of contractors. This is not to underestimate the threat such state activity poses, but I think it does raise a questionmark about the ability of the state to make effective use of the mass of data it collects and to act on it - which must inevitably come down to a bunch of workers employed in a huge bureaucracy. The history of intelligence is already littered with huge examples of bureaucratic incompetence, missed clues, catastrophic failures etc.- and that was before the current crisis.

The article wonders whether

The article wonders whether or not the US bourgeoisie has the fortitude to put together another Church Commission in order to investigate these allegations and try to assuage the populace that there are some controls in place. Already there has been a vote in the House that fell only 12 votes short of defunding the NSA programs. There is also some bi-partisan support for establishing more "protections," such as the creation of an advocate's office to challenge the government's legal case in front of the FISA courts. However, as the article points out, even if these things are enacted, how many people are really going to believe they are effective? How do you keep watch over the watchers? How do you trust the word of a snooper that they won't snoop anymore?

Clearly, the myth of American democracy (which is something more than just "majority rules" and includes all kinds of faith in bourgeois legalisms) is crumbling. The question is how does this impact society and ultimately the class struggle? Does it give rise to a questioning of the usefulness of democracy for future movements, or does it fuel the calls for working to bring back "real democracy" and the "rule of law", etc. ?


I used to think, with reference to MH above, that the sheer weight of information available to the intelligence services could never be effectively processed. But whatever incompetencies of the secret services in the past - and they didn't do bad in helping to set up and defeat the miners in Britain in the mid-80's  for a major victory of the bourgeoisie  for example - we are now at another level for the effectiveness of surveillance and the filtration and classification of all and any threats to the ruling class. I don't think that it matters that this is "contracted out". In fact this very contracting out shows the widespread nature of the totalitarian state under its democratic disguise. Armies, fighting forces across the world, particularly of the American and British states have had a large element of contracting out for some time npw. There are more "contracted out" soldiers paid for by the US in Iraq now and I guess it's similar in Afghanistan. Individual soldiers under their democratic leaders have been turned in psychopaths, gangsters and atrocity-committing criminals for many decades now. I think that one could argue that this tendency to brutalisation, which emanates from a system which is itself fundamentally criminal from the perspective of humanity, has, along with its spying activities, been perfected along with programmes, procedures and  technology. The element of decomposition is also shown in the development of these brutal and parasitic elements of the state.

Another Level

...'for the effectiveness of surveillance and the filtration and classification of all and any threats to the ruling class...'

I would agree, considering all things E-Soft become ten times faster/more Micro every 6 months even in public.

The permanent militarisation pervades ever more the whole. Wherever the spread of 'chaotic war' has not reached, there is nonetheless vigorous State 'investment' in the potential of war . In a way the insidious power of these vast Intelligence Networks has normalised the classification of all of us as 'suspects' and 'targets' who may be at any time for no reason be made to prove our innocence: or we are forced - if not into militarisation - at least into policing ourselves in many ways: tax self-assessment = self-policing. Even if your Self-Policement report (and you pay the State for the work you do) is correct to the last penny, if it is a day late : do not pass GO, pay £200 fine.

The opressive effectiveness is surely shown in episodes such as the Boston Bombing: deliberate prioritised, high profile stuff for ideological re-inforcement. In the 'chaotic war zones' however, I am wondering whether translating that 'Intelligence' into effective action is not 'fettered' by the very decomposition that's driving it.

Baboon reports elsewhere that there are upwards of 150 'Rebel Armies' in Libya: ok I accept that the imperialist powers are quite content to leave 'Triple B Carnage' low down the agenda, but the very components of 'War' seem to be 'de-componenting'. 

My first attempt to formulate would be: 

In some cases this 'new level' firms up the grip of control both in action and ideologically: in other cases could it be seen to contain its dialectical negation - own downfall - an astronomically vast brain that cannot control its limbs.










Did the astronomically vast

Did the astronomically vast brain that cannot control its limbs, to quote AS, suddenly get its teeth into the ICC?  In which case the organization may need various vaccinations and the like against infection. Or is there a simpler explanation for the strange disappearance of this web site?   Will we ever find out? Meantime Devrim has been explaining on libcom why he left the ICC though it seems he was never all that keen on joining in the first place.  And somebody else on libcom has challenged the claim  that the ICC has at least "coherence" going for it, and instead suggested "monolithic" as a suitable description; while another poster gave a link to an article by the ICT which explains all that's wrong with the ICC.  This I found disappointing expecting to read a real revelatory shocker.  But the main objection seems to be to the ideas of "the historic course",  "decomposition", and "parasitism", as not being in any way Marxist concepts, but the products of  the ICC's " idealism".  I have of course over-simplified what they say, but not I hope misrepresented it. 


Anyway, in the circumstances of what I hysterically took to be the demise of the ICC - or  at least this website - it struck me that the differences between the various organizations of the communist left, specially those that have survived almost 40 years of troubles, are so minuscule and really irrelevant, in the face of capitalism's gradual demise, that its seriously about time we all put them (or you all put them) behind us and get ready for the rapidly approaching future, when the working class is going to be forced to its international  feet or perish along with the rest of humanity. 


But its good to have the web site back.  It is after all Eid El Fitri and time to celebrate.  

Yes, the ICC is so

Yes, the ICC is so monolithic. I mean just look at the discussions on this forum. Everyone is always on the same page about everything. (Sarcasm off).

here we are again

I think that Alf should have checked with his masters in Paris Central before announcing on libcom that this site was back up and running.

I generally agree with AS's post above. Just a point of clarification though over the 150 militias existing in Libya - it was in fact 150 in the third city of Misrata alone. Still in Libya, more weight is being given to rumours that the attack on US "installations" in Benghazi, September 11 last, was against dozens of CIA agents based there who were involved in transporting weapons from Libyan armouries to Turkey in order to be transported on to Syrian "rebels". There doesn't seem much doubt that Libyan weaponry has been sent to Syria via the CIA.

On Boston: two likeable lads, an ordinary kitchen appliance, ie, a pressure cooker and there's no amount of surveillance that will pick that up (even though the US was explicitly warned by the Russians). On the British undercover cops and the unfortunate women "raped by the state": For the great part, the protests that these women were involved in were totally innocuous, no threat to the state whatsover and, if anything, a boost to the democratic process (that is "we are free to protest"). However, as Serge showed in general, the police forces have to conjure up threats - indeed in some of these cases in Britain it was the police agents themselves that were the most active threats - in order to ingratiate themselves with their masters in the state and justify their own existence and expenditure. All this is siezed upon by a state that is totally paranoid about any threat to it, real or imagined.

So on balance

The spread of war(s) affirms and ever more reveals Capitalism's decadence: its inability to reproduce itself as any kind of 'progressive mode of production': it has nowhere to turn but a 'progressive mode of destruction', in denial of which  - of course - the masters of war 'cry terrorist/activist wolf' ever louder, using "Intelligence" (a sort of hidden Martial Law) to effect cranking up the volume on local, relatively trivial (to them) non-threats in order to pump out the falsehood denied.

Your formulation is compelling. On reflection what could be a better circumstance than the proliferation of low agenda, chaotic war zones where the C.I.A. can establish networks of Ops centres to orchestrate events in and weaponry to zones which are higher up the agenda: pay off several hundred local militias (excuse the misquote) with some ammo and a 'this never happened buddy ....' 

After all, Syria itself was a major link in the chain for Thatcher's massive arms sales to Iraq (I) : first stop Saudi Arabia if I remember correctly.


Has Alf really got "Masters

Has Alf really got "Masters in Paris Central" with whom he needs to check everything?  




my masters

My real masters are of course the 36 Immortals who control the destiny of the world.  

the 36 immortals

Alf wrote:
 My real masters are of course the 36 Immortals who control the destiny of the world.  


That's very odd coz I  always thought it was The Lizards. 


David Icke just made that up, this is the real thing. 

Now we know how many work at

Now we know how many work at the infamous Paris Center. 

But Alf

According to a Radical Anthropology book I'm reading, the 36 Immortals are themselves decadent, or am I just projecting?