All posts by MikeHerron

Why Republican Senators Should Convict Trump

By Doctor Michael Herron
Friday 29th January 2021

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”
Abraham Lincoln

In a little over a week’s time the US Senate will assemble for a second time under the auspices of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to try Donald Trump for impeachment.  The Democrats need 17 Republican Senators to join with them in order to reach the 2/3 majority needed to convict Donald Trump.  As it stands it appears an insufficient number of Republican Senators are prepared to convict Donald Trump.  This article will attempt to persuade them why it is their solemn duty under the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended that they should join Democrats to convict Trump for “inciting insurrection against the United States government.”

Before addressing the charge levelled against Donald Trump and how it corresponds to the US Constitution, it is perhaps necessary to examine the concerns of the Founding Fathers when they were drafting the Constitution.  It is important to acknowledge that the Founding Fathers, especially James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were schooled in a classical education.  The example they drew upon to establish the new republic was Ancient Rome.  They remembered from their studies how the Roman Republic fell to be replaced by first a dictatorship and then an empire and they did not want the same fate to befall the American republic.

Madison and Hamilton learned the lesson of Ancient Rome that the Roman Republic fell because of the rise of a demagogue, Julius Caesar, who whipped up the mob to win election as consul.  Latterly, he led the army in Gaul (France) that had been assigned to him as consul across the Rubicon, the stream that marked the border of the Roman Republic, to march on Rome.  Once in Rome Caesar made himself dictator with the Senate theoretically as rubber stamp to his whims.

It was with the example of Caesar in mind that the Founding Fathers attempted to establish safeguards to prevent a similar demagogue using the office of the presidency to stir up the people to overthrow the legislative institutions of the republic: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Fear of populism is one reason why they also established the electoral college because they were concerned that the populations in the cities were more prone to populism than the farmers and landed gentry of the countryside.  That is one reason why even today the electoral college has a rural bias over cities.

The events of 6th January when Donald Trump allegedly incited a mob to attack Congress to overthrow the result of what the courts have ruled to be a free and fair election is exactly the kind of incident that Madison and Hamilton envisaged as grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

The House of Representatives has charged Donald Trump with committing high crimes and misdemeanours which constitutes grounds for impeachment under Article II Section 4 of the Constitution.  However, Article II Section 4 states that committing treason against the United States government is also grounds for impeachment.  Although the charge against Trump does not specifically accuse Trump of treason, stirring up a mob to attack one of the branches of government is, arguably, a prima facie treasonous act.

There are some apologists for Trump, including some lawyers, who claim that Trump’s words on 6th January to the crowd assembled on the Mall were sufficiently vague that they could not be interpreted as inciting an insurrection, and in any case, Trump was merely asserting his First Amendment right to free speech.  Let us examine what Trump said in his speech to “Stop the Steal” demonstrators on the Mall before they marched on the US Capitol with deadly consequences.

Firstly, he tells the crowd “and to use a favourite term that all of you people really came up with we will stop the steal.”  In this instance, according to Aaron Blake of the Washington Post, Trump goes beyond “raising doubts about the legitimacy” of the election to say that “it has been deliberately stolen.”  He then tells the crowd, “the stolen election will be stopped.”

Trump tells the crowd, “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back.  It’s like a boxer.  And we want to be so nice we want to be respectful of everybody including bad people.  And we’re going to have to fight much harder.”  Here Trump manipulates the crowd by casting Republicans as good people and Democrats as evil “bad people.” According to Blake, he had previously said that Democrats would “fight like hell” if the situation was reversed and that the Republicans need to “fight harder.”  Admittedly, he does not tell the crowd to use violence but in Blake’s words “he tells them that more extreme measures need to be used and they are not being undertaken.”

Trump then refers to a conversation he had with Vice President, Mike Pence.  “I said Mike that doesn’t take courage…..what takes courage is to do nothing.  That takes courage and here we are stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years.  We’re just not going to let that happen.”

This statement by Trump is essentially false saying that Pence could do something to prevent the results from the different states being certified when legal scholars agree that he could not do anything.  Trump then goads the crowd to do something it could not legally do to stop the votes from being certified.

Trump then calls on the crowd to descend on Capitol Hill.  “After this we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you.  We’re going to walk down… we’re going to walk down to Capitol Hill and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering for some of them.  Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness.  You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Here is a clear call for the crowd to intimidate lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He tells them to cheer on Republican lawmakers but leaves it ambiguous what the crowd should do to Democrat lawmakers.  However, he goes on to say, “you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” By Trump’s previous words and by the comments made by his legal counsel Rudy Giuliani who says “we have to have trial by combat” they have whipped the crowd into hysteria.  To a crowd so aroused what should they take from the line “you have to show strength and you have to be strong” other than an incitement to violence.

Once the genie has been let out of the bottle, Donald Trump attempts to distance himself from his words by saying to the crowd, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

Apologists for Trump including Rudy Giuliani argue that this statement proves Trump was not inciting violence.  However, his previous comments to the crowd had whipped the crowd into a frenzy like the owner of a pit-bull waving red meat in front of the face of his dog and then half-heartedly pulling on its lead as it attempts to bite passers-by.  This speech should also be seen in the context of Trump’s constant campaign to overturn the results of the election including trying to pressure the Governor of Georgia to find 11,000 votes to overturn the results of the presidential election in his state.

Apologists for Trump have also claimed that he was merely asserting his First Amendment right of free expression; however, does his speech meet the requirements of the First Amendment as ruled by the Supreme Court in Brandenburg v Ohio?

In this case the Supreme Court ruled that free speech is protected under the First Amendment unless the speech is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Even though Trump did not make an overt call to the crowd to commit acts of violence against Congress his manipulation of the crowd throughout his speech implicitly singling out enemies such as Democrats and Mike Pence to be dealt with and his call to the crowd to march on Capitol Hill to intimidate lawmakers created an atmosphere for “producing imminent lawless action” and given the mood of the crowd after Trump had whipped them into a frenzy his words to them were “likely to incite or produce such action,” i.e. violence.

Trump has also broken his oath of office which is stipulated by Article II Section I of the Constitution to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  By inciting a mob to attack Congress he has clearly and deliberately not protected and defended the Constitution of the United States.

If the Senate fails to convict Donald Trump it will mean the words of America’s sacred document, its Constitution, will not be worth the paper they are written on.  Just as the Constitution has safeguarded American democracy, Congress needs to protect the Constitution to save democracy in the United States.  In 1989, as a Congressional staffer, I swore an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  Republican Senators also swore the same oath.  I am sure many of those Senators would want to honour the promise they made to the American people.  This is their opportunity to redeem that pledge.

History is a harsh but fair judge.  It will judge fairly in the clear light of day those statesmen and women who in the republic’s hour of need, grasped the nettle of justice to protect the Constitution.  It will also judge harshly those who did not.  If Trump’s words and deeds on 6th January are not grounds for impeachment, as the Founding Fathers intended, then nothing would justify impeachment and the American republic is now essentially dead.

Elected office is a heavy burden but it is also an opportunity written in the stars to rise above petty self-interest and secure for oneself a place in the pantheon of noble statesmen and women who put principle before profit and the greater good above all else.

It is only be doing so that we can preserve a liveable union.

There is one more reason why Republican Senators should vote to convict.  It is because this conviction is the only way to deter future despots of whatever party from attempting something similar again.  It is only if justice is done and seen to be done, that we can preserve the republic for future generations.  It is only by voting to convict that Senators from both sides of the aisle will ensure that never again will the floor of the American peoples’ house be stained with blood.  That never again will the home of American democracy be the victim of a tyrant’s whim.



Alistair Cooke             
Alistair Cooke’s America

America’s Founding Documents:
The Constitution of the United States- A Transcript
National Archives

Aaron Blake                
“What Trump said before his supporters stormed the Capitol.”
The Washington Post. January 6, 2021

“The Trump Show-Downfall”

Trevor Timm               
“It’s time to stop using the fire in a crowded theatre quote.”
The Atlantic November 2, 2012


By Doctor Michael Herron

Events over the past few weeks have brought the issue of race to the fore globally.  There is a tendency to view race through the prism of white privilege.  However, it is a certain kind of privilege.  Just as progressives have arrived at the concept of “intersectionality” to find common ground in their different politics of identity one could also identify the structures of society as also having a certain connectedness or their own “intersectionality”.  These structures are connected through race, class, imperialism and capitalism.

Racial structures in America and elsewhere are largely the legacy of one empire, the British Empire and taken up by a successor empire, that of the United States.  Intrinsic to these two empires was and is capitalism where black Africans were originally regarded as commodities to be bought and sold as slaves, vital inputs of free labour, as means of production, in the colonies of the British Empire and then the southern states of the United States of America.

These Africans were integral to the so called first British Empire on the sugar plantations of the West Indies.  They were then brought in to replace white indentured servants on first the tobacco plantations and then cotton plantations of Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina.  These colonies were until 1783 still part of the British Empire.  However, even after they had achieved independence the southern states were vital to the trading system of the British Empire as their cotton shipped to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow provided the raw materials for the British textile industry.

Capitalism also became pivotal in the racial structure of South Africa.  After the Boer War, fought at the turn of the twentieth century, the British imposed a system of racial division that laid the foundations for the stricter system of racial separation known as “apartheid” imposed by a white Afrikaner (Dutch colonist) government.  The British imposed their system of racial division largely to appease the Boers (Afrikaners) who they had just defeated.   The British did this because they needed to consolidate their hold on South Africa which they had occupied in its entirety to exploit its huge mineral wealth.  This might seem to contradict David Cannadine who argues that the British treated members of the empire as individuals rather than collectives. (Ornamentalism p123) Arguably, one could say, the British applied both approaches.  When they needed to exploit populations, they treated them as collectives while simultaneously cultivating elites individually.

Martin Luther King himself began to recognise the link between capitalism and American racial oppression largely because of the disproportionate numbers of African Americans fighting and dying in Vietnam in what Doctor King viewed as a war to sustain the American capitalist system.  Martin Luther King’s speeches decrying America’s war in Vietnam and criticism of its capitalist system resulted in him losing some of his white supporters who had backed his campaign for civil rights.

Incidentally, it was President Eisenhower, former commander of Allied Forces in Western Europe during the Second World War who warned against the creation of a military industrial complex.  As the Cold War intensified and became hot during the Vietnam War this “military industrial complex” grew in power and economic might taking over more and more of the American economy.

After the end of the Cold War this “military industrial complex” began to merge with domestic American law enforcement which became more militarised as it adopted some of the tactics of the US army as well as its surplus weaponry.  At the same time the incarceration of African Americans became a business opportunity for private American prisons through contracts with federal and state government.  Therefore, just as there had been an economic incentive to enslave Africans in their hundreds of thousands, there was a profit motive behind the desire to imprison African Americans on an industrial scale.  This situation increased in intensity under both Republican and Democrat presidents.

A toxic situation had thus developed where American police departments were using increasingly aggressive tactics against an African American population who these forces had great economic incentives to arrest and imprison in large numbers.

The issue of class is also integral to these racial structures both during the British Empire and today.  David Cannadine described the British Empire as “imperialism as ornamentalism….. For ornamentalism was hierarchy made visible, immanent and actual.” (Ornamentalism p122).  In this system according to Cannadine “the British thought of the inhabitants of the empire in individual terms rather then in collective categories they were more likely to be concerned with rank than with race and with the appreciation of status similarities based on perceptions of affinity. (Ornamentalismp123).

Arguably, a similar situation exists in Britain and the US today.  Minorities educated at the same English public schools and Oxbridge as white elites since they share the sameeducational background are accepted into the English elite while minorities educated at the top universities in the United States are similarly accepted into the American elite as long as they endorse and do not challenge the premises of the British and American capitalist system as they have been developed over the last thirty years.

This situation separates these individual minorities accepted into the elite from their brethren outside the elite.  The removal of statues and revision of curricula are all very well.  However, given that racial structures are embedded in class and the unreformed capitalist system it follows that the capitalist system needs to be reformed, not replaced but comprehensively reformed, to meet the needs of both racial minorities and the deprived of all races.


David Cannadine Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (Penguin Books: London, 2001)


English Nationalism and Labour’s Defeat

A number of reasons have been given for Labour’s catastrophic election result. Labour’s position on Brexit, its’ unrealistic manifesto twinned with increasingly ostentatious offers to voters, the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn, have all been mentioned.

It is the last of these factors that this article will focus on.  In the lead up to the general election many canvassers reported a perception that Corbyn was unpatriotic.  This goes beyond loyalty.

Conservatives have long recognised the importance of emotion in politics.  It is not enough to offer attractive policies, a party needs to win over voters’ hearts as well as their minds, even stir their soul.

Ronald Reagan in the 1980s not only promised to cut Americans’ taxes he evoked a 1950s Norman Rockwell vision of small-town America of neighbours chatting over white picket fences, beyond them freshly cut lawns.   It was “Morning Again in America” and Reagan won two landslides.

Arguably, Labour and Corbyn, especially, were on the receiving end of emotions stirred by Brexit.  Brexit has aroused a particular kind of English nationalism that is more defined by what it is against, i.e. the EU, than what it is for.  In theories of nationalism, for Brexiteers, the EU is the external “other” against which English national identity has formed itself.

For my PhD in genocide studies I had to study theories of nationalism.  The concept of the “other” is pivotal to the formation of national identity.  The “other” might be perceived as a threat to the imagined community of the nation and can take the shape of an external “other” and internal “other.”

In the case of the Armenian genocide the Armenians became victims of a change from one form of identity that of the multi-ethnic, multi-faith Ottoman identity to the nationalism of Turkish, Muslim then secular identity.  As a Christian, non-Turkish, ethnicity at the heart of the territory that Turks wanted to claim for themselves, Anatolia, the Armenians could not be incorporated into this new Turkish identity and thus became the internal “other.”  Since they also became allied in Turkish minds with the Turks’ traditional enemy, the Russians, the Young Turk government believed the Armenians had to be eliminated.

In Britain we also seem to be moving from a multi-national inclusive British identity to one where the different national identities within Britain are more clearly defined.

As Scotland and Northern Ireland have enjoyed devolved powers and have expressed their identities as distinct from a British identity, the English town-dwellers may feel they have drawn the short straw.  This has also been compounded by the fact that Scottish and Northern Irish identities, at least among Nationalists, have merged with a pan-European identity rather than a British one. London, itself, has become a special case of a true global multi-cultural city not only pan-European but with a global reach.

Although the economic factor is important, Brexit can be seen not only as a revolt by English towns at being left behind economically by London but also an assertion of English national identity against these trends.
By aligning itself so clearly with Brexit the Boris Johnson led Conservative party tapped into this new assertive English nationalism.

Corbyn’s political world view is, by definition, internationalist not nationalist and found it difficult to relate to this new English nationalism.

It may be difficult for any version of the Labour Party that tends towards socialism rather than a more centrist social democracy to win back its lost voters in English towns.

Many Labour supporters may be in despair at the prospect of years of Tory rule after 10 years of austerity.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel, however.  This is because this new English rather than British national identity is still at its formative stage.  It is not clear what this identity is for beyond support for the monarchy and armed forces twinned with hostility to the EU.

One of the key battlegrounds over the formation of this national identity will be the deployment of myth and history in its creation.  The Brexiteers have so far used the myth of Britain standing alone against Nazi dominated Europe to powerful effect to be on the verge of Brexit.

However, English progressives also have a good story to tell that can help form a progressive English national identity: the Peasant’s Revolt, the Levellers and Diggers, Peterloo, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Jarrow March, all of these culminating in the transformative 1945 election can help form a new English identity.

Labour needs to reinforce the idea that this progressive history is essentially an English one, just as patriotic in its way as support for the monarchy.

Labour, as it seeks to remake itself in a new English context, separate from Scotland, should hark back to its roots when it was inspired by the sermons of the English Methodist preacher, John Wesley.  Methodism rather than Marxism may be the way forward for Labour to reclaim its former English heartlands.


Doctor Michael Herron is a genocide scholar and author of The Unburied Past: Denial of the Armenian Genocide in American and French Politics

What Europe can learn from American History

By Doctor Michael Herron
The fundamental problem facing Europe at the moment and since at least the time of the French Revolution, if not earlier, is the issue of competing nationalisms. This has been most starkly seen since 1870 in competition between France and Germany for hegemony on the European continent.
French and West German diplomats thought they had resolved this problem with the formation of the French and German Coal and Steel Union after the Second World War. When the European community consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, the issue of nationalism could be quietly contained especially since many were all too aware of the potential dangers of allowing nationalism to get out of control. After all Nazism was not just an extreme racist ideology it was also an extreme manifestation of German nationalism.
As the European Union has grown to encompass practically the whole of Europe, European institutions have sought to deal with the issue of nationalism by reserving sovereignty to member states that existed as nation states when the European Union was formed, despite what Brexiteers have argued. The problem arises when there are competing nationalisms within European member states. In this instance the European Union has no mechanism or authority to resolve these disputes as in the case of Catalonia.
Partly the reason for this is that the European Union is a Confederation of States and not a Federal Union with all the problems of a union of states and hardly any of the advantages apart from facilitating trade between member states.
As the European Union has grown the issues of nationalism and populism have become more difficult to manage as in the case of Brexit. On the surface the rise of populism is due to the perception of loss of sovereignty of member states to the EU. However, isn’t the real issue a lack of accountability of the EU institutions to the populace of the EU? Leaders of the member states have not been honest with their electorates since, in reality, these leaders in the conclave of the Council of Ministers make the decisions governing EU policy through majority voting, which the European Commission then enacts while these leaders then, effectively, hide behind the Commission.
These rolling Congresses of Vienna where latter day Metternichs and Talleyrands tinker with the torn fabric of Europe need to be replaced with a more permanent structure. Not least because it would leave less leeway for the current successor to Lord Castlereagh and George Canning to turn the Concert of Europe into a chimps’ tea party with broken crockery strewn across the room.
One fundamental problem with the structure of the EU is that there are virtually no checks and balances between the different European institutions. The real power of decision making lies with the Council of Ministers and the Commission. The European Parliament has been reduced to a virtual talking shop with no real scrutiny over the Commission or the Council of Ministers. This is because sovereignty has been retained by the member states and the job of scrutinising the decisions made by the Council of Ministers is supposed to lie with the parliaments of the various member states. In reality, the parliaments of the various member states do not do a very good job of scrutinising the decisions of the Council of Ministers, so the electorate is left with the perception that there is no accountability whatsoever.
The US Supreme Court has historically performed the task of preserving the checks and balances within the US Constitution by ensuring that laws concerning human rights and the economy are consistent with the Constitution. In Europe there are two separate courts supervising these areas. The European Court of Justice oversees trade and economic affairs and the European Court of Human Rights oversees the protection of human rights of citizens of European member states. There is a problem with this division of responsibility. The European Court of Justice makes rulings on economic and trade issues that are legally binding on member states as long as they wish to be members of the single market. The European Court of Human Rights is not actually an institution of the European Union. Its rulings are merely advisory and are not legally binding on member states. This is also partly because sovereignty is preserved by member states and the rulings of the supreme courts of the member states are the ones that are legally binding upon member states. However, this division of responsibility could be advantageous at some point. If the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions did become legally binding in the future, it would avoid the record of the US Supreme Court that applied laws that were meant to protect the human rights of freed slaves after the American Civil War to, instead, protect the economic rights of corporations.
Concerning this record and on other issues, arguably, Europe could learn lessons from the American experience to address the problems it is facing now. This may appear laughable to some given the turmoil in Trump’s America at the present. However, one could argue quite convincingly that America’s current problems stem from the legacy of slavery and the Civil War, but also the power of money in American politics, which this author will explain in greater detail later.
How Europe can learn lessons from the American experience derives from the establishment of the United States in the first place. After the War of Independence, the American former colonies attempted to maintain their newly won sovereignty as individual states. However, their policies became contradictory as they imposed tariffs against each other hampering trade, refused to accept responsibility for the debt caused by the war and virtually pursued their own relations with foreign states, thus preventing a common foreign policy.
The former colonies drafted the Articles of Confederation to attempt some form of unified approach, however, many of the problems still remained largely because each state wished to preserve its own sovereignty. Eventually, these states found the Articles of Confederation unworkable and decided to produce a more efficient system of government. A number of delegates were sent to a Congress in Philadelphia in the Spring of 1787, ostensibly to reform the Articles but they decided to create a completely new system of government, but a republic rather than a pure democracy. The dilemma facing these delegates was how to persuade the colonies to give up some power and still approve the new Constitution. They arrived at a partial solution by outlining what powers the new federal government would have while reserving other powers not specifically to apply to the federal government to belong to the individual states instead.
One significant failure of the founding fathers of this new constitution was that they fudged the fundamental problem of slavery and this problem grew gradually worse until it split the country resulting in civil war. Once the Civil War resolved the issue of where ultimate sovereignty lay, with the federal government, rather than the individual states, clear lines of responsibility could be marked out. The individual states still retained a great deal of autonomy despite lacking ultimate sovereignty. This was problematic in some instances where after federal troops withdrew from the Southern states when the South “won” the presidential election of 1876, these Southern states imposed “Jim Crow” laws that disenfranchised African Americans. These laws would only be overturned with the advent of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.
The American federal system is underpinned by checks and balances both at the federal level and also between the individual states and the federal government where states maintain a high degree of autonomy. One strong argument against this system of checks and balances is that it leads to gridlock where nothing substantial is achieved. Clearly this has been the case in recent years where partisan Republicans and Democrats have been at daggers drawn rather than seeking practical solutions to American problems. This situation underlines the fact that the American system of government requires a degree of bipartisanship to work where compromise is the order of the day rather than crusaders on either side unwilling to bend their principles.
One reason for this situation is the power of money in American politics. As the cost of campaigns has increased exponentially mainly due to the need to have TV advertising, American politicians have had to raise more and more money from lobbying groups’ political action committees and from private donors. As the restrictions on campaign funding have decreased the power and influence of donors on policy-making has increased. This has had two effects. It has hardened the unwillingness of the two parties in Congress to compromise especially since the rise of the Tea Party and the influence of its backers on the Republican party. It has also encouraged both Republicans and Democrats to listen to their donors and support their interests over those of ordinary voters. Arguably, disenchantment with this state of affairs was a major factor in the election of Donald Trump.
There are a number of measures European politics could take to avoid this situation. There could be strict controls over campaign finance, perhaps through public funding of campaign advertising, strict limits on such funding and greater control on funding by private individuals to political parties.
One advantage the European Union has over the American colonies when they established the United States of America is that it does not have the issue of slavery within its borders to undermine the establishment of a new federal system or the legacy of the Civil War to take into account. However, it does have the legacy of two world wars, the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil War and the Irish Troubles that all afflicted the continent in the last century to manage. Many of these issues have not really been addressed by various member states who have attempted to paper over the cracks. It is not enough to argue to just move on, especially if events force these cracks to re-emerge and to deepen as in Catalonia.
The forces that caused many of these traumatic events still exist albeit in somewhat different form. It is complacent to think they are all behind us since an event such as another economic crash greater than in 2008 could strengthen such forces. A move towards federalism could arguably diffuse many of these old historic antagonisms by refocusing power and attention away from traditional sources of power to a new system based on the rule of law rather than raw power.
Such a system would mean member states having to give up some power to pool sovereignty at the federal level. If the EU followed the American example although sovereignty would be pooled at the federal level, each member state would retain a great deal of autonomy. The powers not specifically defined to the federal government would be reserved by the member states. A bicameral legislature should be created to augment the existing European Parliament in which a Senate comprising two Senators from each member state would balance the representation in the lower house of the European Parliament. The European Parliament would be given real power of scrutinising a reformed executive branch just as the US Congress oversees the Executive branch of the US government.
The two member states that, arguably, would have most to lose from the introduction of such a system would be the two states that have been the engine of the European Union, France and Germany. However, French and German officials need to be aware that events can change the political dynamic drastically. While the primary goal of creating the European Community for French officials was to prevent war with Germany ever again, a secondary goal particularly of French presidents de Gaulle and Mitterand was to use the European Community as a vehicle to project French power and influence. French officials now especially need to be careful not to prioritise the secondary goal at the expense of the first. As French influence has been overtaken by German economic power, the entry of the German Far Right AfD into the Reichstag should concentrate French minds. Another economic crash could open the door to a very different occupant of the German chancellery than Angela Merkel with all that entails.
The key issue is that since member states retain sovereignty there is still no guarantee that disputes between these states will always be resolved politically rather than by other means. A federal system would provide greater guarantees of peaceful resolutions to any disputes. Since the Civil War, the American federal system has provided a forum for disputes between the states to be debated politically rather than to be settled by violent means.
There could be one compensatory factor to France and Germany losing some of their leading positions in the European project. Just as the governors of New York, California and Texas can stand for election for the US presidency there should be a position of president of the European Union that the president of France or the Chancellor of Germany amongst others can stand for election, who would be elected by the voters of all the member states of the European Union.
A federal system could also offer a solution to the border issue in Ireland. Northern Ireland could remain a separate region within the EU with representatives at the federal level while still maintaining a degree of autonomy. This might go some way to allaying the Unionists’ fears of becoming a minority in a Catholic majority united Ireland while all nationalist representatives could take their seats at the federal level.
The main argument that nationalists in all member states make against the creation of such a federal system is that people in Europe’s traditional identification is with the nation state not to an entity called Europe. However, Americans have no such dilemmas by identifying as both, say, Californians as well as Americans. Historical tensions and questions over borders threaten to plague this union of nation states and possibly presage the return of violence to resolve these contradictions. If we try to preserve the status quo without radical change we run the risk of the whole system blowing up in our faces. Don’t forget that the perceived impotence of the League of Nations in the face of aggression in the 1930s was a strong contributing factor to the slide into the Second World War. It is this author’s belief that it is only by moving to a fully federal system with an EU that is truly accountable to its citizens that Europe can ward off internal and external threats to its integrity and way of life. E pluribus unum, “Out of many one” is the slogan on the seal of the United States of America. Let it be Europe’s too.

Natalie Nougayrede “The EU has tied its own hands. That’s why it cannot intervene in Catalonia” The Guardian 4th October 2017
Miguel Poiares Maduro We. The court. The European Court of Justice & the European Economic Constitution (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 1998)
Richard Owen Essential European Community Law (London: Cavendish Publishing Ltd, 1998)
Joel Balkan The Corporation (London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2004)
Alistair Cooke America (BBC, 1973)
JFV Keiger France and the World since 1870 (London: Hodder Headline Group, 2001)
Ismail Soysal “Les Relations Politiques Turco-Francaises (1921-1985)” in Hamit Batu and Jean Louis Bacque-Grammont (eds.) L’Empire Ottoman in Republique de Turquie et la Fance (Istanbul-Paris, 1980)

Why Aung San Suu Kyi’s genocide denial is so important

By Doctor Michael Herron

In response to photographs posted on Twitter by Turkey’s deputy prime minister that were alleged to be of dead Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma) but were actually taken elsewhere, Aung San Suu Kyi referred to these as fake news photographs. She continued “That kind of fake information…..was simply the tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation,” that was aimed to promote the interests of a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that killed twelve members of the Burmese security forces in August.

Given the statements by the UN’s most senior human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein describing what is occurring to the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing and Bangladesh’s foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali defining it as genocide, Aung San Suu Kyi’s statements amount to genocide denial.

This denial makes Aung San Suu Kyi complicit in the atrocities committed by Burmese troops that have included mass killings and burning of villages forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee their homes to Bangladesh. To understand why this is the case it is important to comprehend how integral denial is to the crime of genocide.

Gregory Stanton in particular has argued that genocide denial is the final stage of genocide. However, Stanton has stated that it exists throughout all the stages of genocide. Perpetrators deny they are about to commit genocide, they deny it when the genocide is underway and they deny it when it has been completed.

According to Lawrence Douglas also, “it is an act fully consonant with the methods of the perpetrators.” As Douglas observed even when the perpetrators commit genocide they often attempt to disguise the intent behind euphemisms, for example in the case of the Holocaust, the Nazis described it as “The Final Solution” or “Resettlement in the East.” (In the Armenian case it was characterised as “Relocation” to another part of the Ottoman Empire, namely the Syrian desert)

As George Monbiot amongst others has argued by failing to speak out against those who are perpetrating this ethnic cleansing/ genocide and by describing accounts of such atrocities as ‘misinformation’ Aung San Suu Kyi has in effect facilitated those who are performing such acts in the name of her government. It is in this context that demands for her to have her Nobel Peace Prize revoked are understandable.

It is ironic that it has been the exchange with the Turkish deputy minister that has resulted in Aung San Suu Kyi resorting to genocide denial since Turkey has been one of the greatest proponents of genocide denial with regards to the Armenian genocide.

It is also interesting that the Burmese are using some of the same arguments as those used by Turkish nationalist historians to explain Ottoman actions against the Armenians. The Burmese argue that they are simply trying to suppress an insurgency and that they are targeting militants not civilians. Turkish nationalist historians have argued that the Ottoman government had to deport the Armenians from Eastern Anatolia because the Armenians were collaborating with the invading Russian army and they had rebelled against the Ottoman authorities principally in the city of Van. Armenian historians, conversely, have argued that the genocide was already underway and the Armenians were only trying to protect themselves.

This appears to have parallels with the Burmese case since the Rohingya have been recognised as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority’ for a number of years and the insurgency appears to have been a relatively recent development. In any case the Burmese government has used this insurgency as an excuse to target not only insurgents but the civilian Rohingya population and to expel them from Myanmar (Burma).

Aside from Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese generals, questions need to be asked about the role of the British military in all this. As highlighted in a Guardian editorial the British army have trained the Burmese military. What has been the extent of this training? What exactly has the British army trained the Burmese army to do? What has been the methodology of the British army trainers?

In conclusion, there has been an academic debate about the role of the German army advisers to the Ottoman army during the First World War and their possible participation in the Armenian genocide. Scholars have ultimately resolved that any German role was limited and the German officers were largely involved in military operations against the Entente of Britain, Russia and France as it attacked the Ottoman Empire. There is no similar external threat to Myanmar (Burma) so what is the British army doing in Burma? As with the British government’s complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide as outlined by Geoffrey Robertson, QC, is Britain’s role in Myanmar going to aid Burmese denial of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya? We await the answer to that question.


Michael Safi, Emma Graham-Harrison “Fake news: Suu Kyi decries reports on Rohingya violence” The Guardian 07.09.17

Michael Safi “Rohingya are facing ethnic cleansing says UN” The Guardian 12.09.17

Gregory Stanton “The Eight Stages of Genocide” Yale Genocide Studies, February 1998

Lawrence Douglas “From Trying the Perpetrator to Trying the Denier and Back Again Some Reflections” in Ludovic Hennebel and Thomas Hochmann (eds.) Genocide Denials and the Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

George Monbiot “Take away her Nobel Peace Prize she no longer deserves it” The Guardian 6 September 2017

Doctor Michael Herron The Unburied Past: Denial of the Armenian Genocide in American and French Politics, Blurb, 2105

Editorial: “Mynamar. The Lady has failed the Rohingya. The military does much worse.” The Guardian 8 September 2017

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? Biteback Publishing 2014

Why A Tory Landslide is not a Foregone Conclusion

By Doctor Michael Herron
Most political pundits have already declared the general election in favour of a massive majority for Theresa May. One reason for this assumption is because most people who supported Brexit have allegedly switched from UKIP and even Labour to support the Conservatives according to recent polls.
Another reason is that the Tories have done very well in the local elections and these results are regarded as a good indicator of likely voting intentions especially this close to a general election. Another and more pertinent reason why pundits and pollsters are predicting a massive Tory majority is that older voters in vast numbers prefer the Tories to any of the progressive parties. They generally favour Brexit and they tend to vote in elections while young people tend not to. So any grievances held by young people and support for a progressive political party especially one led by Jeremy Corbyn is quickly discounted by the political and media class since they won’t make any difference to the result.
One could argue not so fast. There are some examples from both British and American politics why this election may not be the foregone conclusion it is presented to be.
The first thing one needs to know is how pollsters and political campaign strategists make their predictions about future elections. Having worked as a Democrat campaign strategist in American elections and as a Labour party press officer in local and parliamentary elections I may be able to offer some insight.
Campaign strategists use the electoral roll of voters registered to vote in an election as the basis for any campaign plan. They have a fair idea of how these voters are likely to vote based on how they voted in previous elections. Although the vote is a secret ballot supporters of various parties are quite willing to tell their own party officials how they are likely to vote in a subsequent election. These voters are defined as the electoral base of the respective parties and political parties tend not to spend too much time during campaigning on them only to remind them to vote close to or on election day, which is known as Get Out the Vote. Elections are generally fought over the undecided voters, registered voters who have made no clear conviction to support any party, and cannot be accounted for by the respective parties as constituting part of their base.
The main point to take from all this is that election results can generally be predicted on the basis of how previously registered voters have voted or if these registered voters have then informed pollsters they have switched their support to another party.
The one major unknown factor for political strategists is how newly registered voters will vote and whether they will vote in sufficient numbers to affect the outcome of the election relative to older previously registered voters.
The reality of newly registered young voters was a major factor in the unexpected victory of Barack Obama in 2008. Obama’s campaign went on a massive voter registration drive and energised young voters in sufficient numbers to overwhelmingly win the White House.
The Clinton campaign in 2008 seriously underestimated the impact of this voter registration drive. Is it possible that pundits, pollsters and strategists could make a similar mistake in this general election?
According to the Independent online, students have registered to vote in large numbers; 93% of those eligible to vote have said they have registered. This is despite changes to voting registration. In surveys conducted by UNiDAY’s and the Education Policy Institute, 78% of students said they planned to vote, which is higher than the turnout for the 2015 election, which was 69%.
Most of these students said they would be voting in their hometowns as the election will occur after they have finished their exams. Conventional wisdom holds that since these votes will be dispersed then their impact will be lessened. However, by co-ordinating through social media with other students as well as other young people who are not students to vote tactically for non-Tory candidates these students can maximise the impact of their votes to the detriment of Tory candidates.
Their impact is further amplified if Tory leaning voters do not turn out to vote, given they believe the election is a foregone conclusion. It is important to note that the Brexit referendum witnessed an unusually high turnout, including voters who tend not to turn out to vote in normal elections. In this way, expectations for a similar turnout in this general election may be optimistic.
According to the Independent, there is strong support for Labour among students with two polls recording support at 55% and 35% respectively. This contrasts with student support for Labour in 2005 at 23%. However, students in these polls have said they plan to vote tactically, which means each student vote will have a more meaningful effect on the result. This may mean the Labour vote may fall in some instances but it will also affect the Conservatives’ chances of gaining a massive majority over all other parties.
Another reason why the election is not a foregone conclusion is that despite the media’s efforts to present this as a presidential election, it is not, it is a parliamentary election which differs greatly from an American presidential election. For example, the President of the United States is elected through the electoral college separate from legislators in his or her party in an election. The Prime Minister assumes that office when he or she can command a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.
Each parliamentary seat then contributes to that majority. During a general election there are virtually hundreds of individually unique elections in each parliamentary constituency. Some of these elections are more closely fought than others. There are safe seats where the incumbent has a massive majority and the opposition party does not think it worth the effort to contest too hard for the seat. Then there are marginal seats where the incumbent has a small majority. These are the seats where the election is generally won or lost and these are known as battleground seats. The party that wins the majority of these seats tends to form the next government.
This is where the tide of newly registered voters can make the difference, along with the ploy of tactical voting. In order for May to win an overwhelming majority she needs to win these marginal seats as well as hang on to her own party’s marginal seats. As noted earlier if newly registered voters vote tactically in each marginal seat to support the candidate with the best chance to prevent the Tories winning that seat then this could tip the balance against the Tories seat by seat and thereby erode May’s majority.
There has been a progressive majority in Britain but it has been split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru. In the 1980s the divisions between the progressive parties: Labour, the Liberals and Social Democrats allowed the Tories to divide and rule thereby causing huge damage to the social fabric of the country. By voting tactically young voters who are not so tied to party allegiances can make the difference by making each vote count more efficiently. The progressive parties need to step up their efforts to promote voter registration and young voters need to remember the deadline to register to vote is Monday 22nd May 2017. If enough young voters are registered in time and organise themselves to vote tactically since the party leaders of the progressive parties have ruled out an electoral pact, the predicted Tory landslide is not a done deal, indeed they may be able to engineer a new deal for the country.
Rob Merrick “Election 2017: Student voter registration rockets with most vowing to back Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour” Independent online 5-5-2017

Why History Matters – How the past can inform present events

By Doctor Michael Herron

History matters on its own terms.  It also matters because policy-makers can use the lessons of the past to help make decisions in the present.  In addition, they can use these lessons to avoid making serious mistakes as long as they compare the present with the past critically and honestly.

This sums up the historian’s task.  When an historian studies a period or an event in history they look for both the different factors influencing the actions of historical actors as well as commonalities.

For example, looking at the Anti-Comintern pact of the 1930s uniting Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, each of these states were different from each other.  Nazi Germany was more influenced by racial ideology than the other two, particularly centred around anti-Semitism, which hardly featured at all in the ideology of Italy and Japan.  Italy and Japan had monarchs as heads of state whereas Hitler was the head of state of Nazi Germany. Japan was essentially a military dictatorship whereas Hitler had the military firmly under his control.

Conversely, it was the commonalities which brought them together. There was the common fear of the Soviet Union, whose Comintern was tasked with co-ordinating the policies of foreign Communist parties with that of the Soviet Union, hence the formation of the Anti-Comintern pact.  There was the mutual desire to overturn the status quo in the world.  By doing so, they would build their own empires: Fascist Italy would establish its own empire in North Africa, Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe and Imperial Japan in Asia.  All these states prioritised the use of force in international relations where diplomacy was a negotiating gambit, which would be quickly replaced by the use or threat of armed force to get their way.

It is true these commonalities did not lead to joint action in the Second World War.  Although Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany combined to fight in North Africa, Imperial Japan did not co-ordinate its actions with the other two Anti-Comintern states.  However, it still stands that one needs to understand the similarities as well as the differences to comprehend this historical period.

Some might say it is different from saying that two historical periods are similar.  It is also true that no two historical periods are exactly the same.  The different characteristics of a particular period in history will mean that it develops in a slightly different way to another.  However, one can draw parallels between two apparently drastically different periods of history, arguably, on the basis that many states operate on broadly similar principles over time because they have the same permanent interests over that same time period. For example, British foreign policy has for many hundreds of years been governed by the principle that it is in Britain’s interest to prevent any one state from gaining dominance in Europe.  It is for this reason that although Britain has had a lukewarm relationship with Europe it has fought many wars on continental Europe to prevent this occurrence.  

It is also why Winston Churchill when researching his biography of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough, was able to draw parallels between the aggressive foreign policy of Louis XIV to gain hegemony in 18th Century Europe and the bullying tactics of Hitler’s diplomacy in the 1930s.  Just as Louis’s aggression had meant that Britain had had to go to war in the 1700s, Churchill believed that the prevailing British policy of appeasement of Hitler would ultimately lead to failure and war when Britain would be unprepared.

While this continuity of foreign policy aims is true of a Constitutional monarchy, like the United Kingdom, it has also been true of a state that has had vastly varied political cultures like Russia whose foreign policy priorities, arguably, have been largely consistent whether the regime has been Tsarist or Communist.  This is mainly due to geography.  The predominantly flat Northern European plain that extends into Russia with few natural defences has meant that Russia has had to involve herself in Central European politics whether it has been to build alliances or to create a buffer zone against attack.  Similarly, the fact that the Baltic Sea has had a tendency to freeze has meant that since the reign of Catherine the Great, Russia’s paramount goal is to seek a warm water port with access to the open seas.  This aim is the primary reason why it has often tried to gain control of the Bosphorus Straits to facilitate access from its Black Sea ports to the seas beyond.  This motive to control the straits at Istanbul has plunged her into the politics of the Balkans in the past and that of the Middle East today in order to maintain access to ports in Syria one of which acts as a military base for Russian forces.

There was a brief period after the Russian Revolution when the Bolsheviks, predominantly Leon Trotsky, advocated global revolution but when Stalin overthrew Trotsky this fervour reverted to the more conservative policy of “socialism in one country”, i.e. the Soviet Union.  The main point to take from this is to establish whether a present policy of a regime is consistent with those of its predecessors that enables foreign governments to predict its likely course of action.  One major mistake Western policymakers made in the 1930s was to perceive the Soviet state as the main threat to global stability at least in Europe whereas it was the Nazi regime that posed the greater threat. Stalin’s government did involve itself in the affairs of other countries during this period, most notably in the Spanish Civil War; however, this was mainly to control foreign Communist parties primarily to purge them of Trotskyite sympathisers.  Nevertheless, it was the Nazi state that was, arguably, the more unpredictable one.

The question then arises is Putin predictable and are his actions consistent with traditional Russian foreign policy?  In some ways, such as the desire to preserve a warm water port and his involvement in Central European politics, they may appear to be. However, Putin is pursuing his goals much more aggressively than even Stalin.  Whereas in the 1930s Western policymakers believed the Comintern, was trying to undermine Western democracy, Putin is actually doing so now by funding Far Right parties and intervening in elections in the West.  Putin did not invent these Far Right movements but he is manipulating them for his own ends.

Ostensibly, Putin is motivated by what he perceives to have been humiliation inflicted on Russia through the break-up of the Soviet Union and the chaos caused by this collapse.  Arguably, he wishes to restore Russia’s great power status and believes NATO and the EU are obstacles to that end so he has endeavoured to challenge and undermine them respectively and to restore Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe.

It is therefore important to distinguish what is a continuity of policy and what is a break with the past that constitutes a real threat even if it means to return to an earlier balance of power situation.  This is because one can learn the wrong lessons from history, which can lead to disaster.  The grouping of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as “the axis of evil” and the comparison of Saddam Hussein with Hitler preceded the invasion of Iraq, which has ultimately led to the breakdown in the Middle East we see today.  That is why it is important to both compare and contrast a historical period with the present, arguably, emphasizing the latter.  Any military has to be wary of fighting the last war, since invariably the next one is nearly always significantly different.

That said, it is important to identify patterns or trends that some might describe as forces influencing states to act in a certain way.  It is important to correctly identify these trends.  In 2003, Iraq did not pose a threat to its neighbours never mind the West. Today there is a constellation of states including Russia, Turkey and China as well as North Korea that are not satisfied with the status quo.  When a group of states especially military powerful ones are willing to challenge the status quo it usually leads to trouble.  One must stress it is not inevitable; however, history has shown that when the western democracies are weak and divided then this is when trouble can quickly escalate.

For that reason, since the two historically most militarily important members of NATO, the United States and Britain, are presently going through their own trials and tribulations, it is incumbent upon France and Germany to take up the slack for Western security.  Although France’s economy is struggling, the converse is true of Germany.  The former can compensate for its economic weakness through its relative military expertise.  By appearing stronger and more united this can act as a deterrent to revisionist powers. Nevertheless, it is understandable that Germany has reservations about strengthening militarily given her history.  

What is different now compared with the past is that France and Germany are bound together in the EU, not at each other’s throats. It is this fact more than any other that makes the EU important, since it was the mutual desire of French and West German diplomats after the Second World War to learn the lessons of history to never wage war against each other again that has led to the formation of the EU.  It is vital then this relationship integral to the EU and the EU itself need to be preserved.  It is this willingness to learn the right lessons from history that demonstrates why history matters.


Why Clinton Lost and what Democrats can do about it

By Doctor Michael Herron

This blog is a departure from my usual blogs in that here I put on my previous hat of a Democrat campaign strategist.  A number of the Clinton campaign strategists may be reluctant to accept that Clinton was a flawed candidate or that their strategy was wrong, given that Clinton won the popular vote and may argue that she only lost because of the quirks of the electoral college system.  However, they knew how the electoral college worked before the campaign started.  They also knew Clinton’s potential weaknesses so they have no excuse.

Normally, the first job of the strategist is to map out the electoral battlefield, identifying what your candidate’s and opponents’ base is.  Your primary focus is then to try to win over the undecideds while leaving the task of getting your base out closer to the election.  The problem for the Democrats was that large elements of their base moved to support Donald Trump long before the election.  The fact that the Clinton campaign up to election day was talking about winning traditionally Republican states in the South while assuming it had won the Midwestern states such as Michigan and Wisconsin in its fabled blue wall meant its strategy was profoundly flawed.  For all its talk of having a superior ground game the fact that it did not have the local knowledge to know that much of its base had moved to Trump or even worse it ignored it, meant its ground game was not superior at all.

Although the result of the election was greeted as a shock, there are reasons why it should not be a complete surprise, which will be explained later.  That said, two key groups of voters voted in an unexpected way: blue collar men and women in the Midwestern states and Latinos that could be said to have swung the election Trump’s way.  There is a precedent for these voters voting the way they did, however.  In the 1980s blue collar families in the Midwest voted for Republican Ronald Reagan earning the name Reagan Democrats.  Cuban Americans in Florida have also traditionally voted Republican.  Arguably, one of the reasons for the surprise voting patterns in this election can be explained by the concept of voters having multiple identities as argued by Gary Younge of The Guardian which he defined in his article on the key constituency of Muncie, Indiana during the election, which amounted to a virtual case study.  This constituency was important because it was a bell-weather constituency for the election since both Obama and George W Bush had won it twice and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won their primaries there.

As Younge defines it the concept of multiple identities should not be seen in the Tammany Hall sense of “vote early, vote often”, but in the sense that voters have different priorities which can change over time and through the prism of their different identities of gender, race, class and other identities they assess their priorities to choose whatever candidate they feel will satisfy their most important priorities at that time.  While it is true emotion and bias may also be factors in this choice, recognition of this more nuanced approach to voting poses a real challenge to campaigners.  Conversely, many will say that Trump hardly led a sophisticated campaign since he appealed to the base sentiments of voters, particularly around race and gender.  However, his clear message on the economy, specifically trade, whenever he did mention it, resonated with many voters who were prepared to downplay their other identities in favour of their working class one and their priority for them or their family members to regain a proper job with prospects, “The American Dream” in other words.  Voters in this election were faced with a number of choices mediated by their priorities, which will be outlined below.

Identity v Class Politics
The election of Donald Trump poses problems for progressive politics.  There has been an argument over how progressives should organise in light of this event and criticism of the identity politics around which progressives have tended to emphasize at the expense of class politics.  Some like Larry Elliott, economics editor for The Guardian have argued that this emphasis on identity politics really took off after the fall of the Berlin Wall when progressives largely accepted that the economic argument had been won in favour of the free market and limited government intervention in the economy.   Another reason for an emphasis on identity politics is the nature of modern political campaigning which breaks the electorate down into segments who can then be targeted with tailored campaign advertising.  However, the problem with this form of campaigning as Gary Younge identified is that voters have multiple identities when they cast their vote so appealing to one of these identities in campaign advertising or the wrong one may not get the job done.

Outsider v Insider
One important reason why the result of this election may not have been the shock that some believe as pointed out by Martin Kettle in The Guardian is that since 1950 only once has the incumbent party held onto the White House after a two-term presidency.  That was the elder Bush who succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1988.  According to Kettle “after eight years of the same party in power, Americans tend to vote for change.”  The elder Bush, arguably succeeded because Americans were largely satisfied with the state of the union and he was the beneficiary of a notoriously negative campaign against his opponent, Michael Dukakis.

In an election when the primaries revealed that Americans wanted change it was always going to be difficult for someone like Clinton, who was seen as the embodiment of the Washington establishment, to get elected.  Her association with the Washington establishment was too strong for her to make the claim that as the first woman president she would represent fundamental change.  Arguably, the only way the Democrats could have won in an election which demanded change is if they had nominated a candidate who would be seen as anti-establishment like either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.  The latter would have been a better female candidate since she had none of Clinton’s baggage and her message would have been similar to Sanders’ who gained substantial support in the Midwestern states won by Trump.  The argument that Sanders lost the primaries fair and square disregards the fact that the Democrat Washington DC establishment strongly backed Clinton during the primary season.

The problem with Clinton’s main strength, her vast experience in Washington DC is that she had acquired massive baggage during that time, as well as many enemies.  Trump exploited that impression in one of the debates when he turned her strength into a weakness by stating that she had “bad experience.”  In the same way he challenged Clinton’s legitimacy by alleging that she was corrupt by alluding to the various scandals the right wing had alleged she was involved in.  This was another consequence of being in the limelight of mainstream politics for such a long time.

Another problem with having the insider tag is that Americans may have grown tired of being governed by the same two political families for the bulk of the last thirty years.  This raises questions of legitimacy not just for any particular candidate but for the system itself.

Isolationism v Global Leadership

Protectionism v Free Trade
Donald Trump’s slogan “America First” suggested two main themes to his campaign, which were really two sides of the same coin.  One was for America to view global affairs through the prism of its own interests rather than to be the world’s policeman.  The other side of the coin was to reject or at least renegotiate many of the free trade deals America had made so that he could protect American jobs.  His policy on trade was clear and unambiguous.  This contrasted with Clinton’s approach on trade where she had previously supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Mexico and Canada but then during the election appeared to oppose it.  Indeed, Trump invoked Bill Clinton’s signing of NAFTA and Hillary Clinton’s later support for it to undermine Hillary Clinton’s credibility on trade.  This garnered support among blue collar workers in the Midwest for Trump who blamed NAFTA for the decline of industry in their area and its relocation to Mexico.  Indeed Gary Younge found that NAFTA was the key issue in Muncie that swung that constituency to Trump.

Race v Class
Trump clearly made race a centrepiece of this campaign primarily around the issue of immigration of notably Mexicans and Muslims.  However, he juxtaposed this issue often in the case of Mexicans of how this would affect jobs and the loss of the latter to NAFTA.  It has been argued that Trump won the white vote and lost the vote of minorities.  While this is undoubtedly true of the general figures: 69% of the electorate is made up of white voters of whom 58% voted for Trump and 37% for Clinton.  Conversely, 31% of the electorate is made up of non-white voters of whom 74% voted for Clinton and 21% for Trump.  However, if one digs deeper, there are important nuances.  Trump’s share of the white vote actually declined in relation to Mitt Romney who got 59% four years earlier.  White blue collar workers in Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania voted for Obama in 2012 but many switched to Trump in 2016.  If race was the primary determining factor these voters would not have voted for Obama the first time he was nominated in 2008, never mind in 2012 as well.

As highlighted by Niall Ferguson in The Sunday Times, there are other anomalies, 29% of Hispanics voted for Trump as did 29% of Asians, 37% of other racial groups and 1 in 12 African Americans.  There is particular surprise at the large numbers of Latino voters, who voted for Trump, apparently against their own interests.  However, an article by Felicity Lawrence in The Guardian may offer a partial explanation.  According to Lawrence, NAFTA allowed American agribusiness to export corn to Mexico at artificially low prices, harming 3 million local farmers.  It also led to 1.3 million Mexicans being forced off the land, who naturally wanted to enter the US.  It may be possible that Latinos in the US are aware of the damage NAFTA has done to them and their families while elites have prospered on both sides of the border.  Since Clinton was the most associated with NAFTA during the election not only Midwestern blue collar workers have blamed her for the consequences but other groups including Latinos may have done as well.

Race v Gender
Another result of the election that has caused controversy is the fact that 53% of white women voted for Trump while 43% for Clinton.  This contrasts with a figure of 94% of black women voting for Clinton whereas 26% of Latino women voters voted for Trump. Since there was a great emphasis on gender issues during the campaign; indeed, arguably, the Clinton campaign made these central to its campaign such results have been interpreted as the consequence of either racism or misogyny.  The first argument disregards the fact that many of these women must have voted for Obama given the latter’s margin of victory four years previously.  The second argument disregards Gary Younge’s argument of multiple identities.  Women in the Midwestern states may have downplayed their gender prioritising the hope of a better economic future for them and their families through greater job prospects which they did not believe Clinton would deliver.  Of course misogyny may have played a part for some but it may not have been the only factor.

A Blueprint for Success?
Both Gary Younge and Anne McElvoy, senior editor of the Economist, identified a lack of clarity by the Clinton campaign.  Younge perceived in Muncie that voters there did not feel the Democrats offered them real change, only incremental change.  McElvoy interviewed a Clinton strategist and she was confused whether Clinton wished to continue Obama’s legacy or offered a complete break with the past and suggested that this lack of clarity was a strong contributing factor to Clinton’s defeat.  Given this conclusion, I will suggest some recommendations on how Democrats may avoid such an outcome in the future.

Democrats need a clear message on what they would do in office, to offer real practical change, not just incremental change.

Democrats should aim to achieve the broadest spectrum of support.  The two transformative presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson campaigned and governed on this basis.

To achieve this result, Democrats should reclaim from Trump and the Republicans Keynesian economics.  They should recast the Conservative diatribe “tax and spend” as “invest to grow.”  This can be used to appeal to white middle class voters as this is a staple of middle class life from buying a house, to spending on a college education to investing in pension funds. For the foreseeable future, this group along with white blue collar families in Midwestern states will be the key demographic in battleground states to win future presidential elections.

They must promise to reinvest in areas that have lost out to globalisation.  This should be smart investment that can create a multiplier effect.  This should be done in partnership with local small and medium sized businesses to create a business cluster similar to that which exists in Germany.

They need to support a broader range of candidates with varied backgrounds not just the same insiders time and again.

Since the electoral college has just delivered the result it was designed to prevent of a populist mobilising support to challenge many of the principles governing the republic one could argue that it is not fit for purpose.  This is in addition to the fact that the winning candidate has lost the popular vote in 2 of the last 5 presidential elections.  Democrats may campaign for a Constitutional amendment for direct election of the president.  However, given the fact that Republicans control both houses of Congress and a majority of the state legislatures, for the foreseeable future, this may be easier said than done.


Gary Younge “How Trump took Middletown” The Guardian 16 November 2016

Martin Kettle “It is easy to hate the man, essential to learn from him” The Guardian 11 November 2016

John Henley and Mona Chalabi “Demographics: Victory built on ‘whitelash’ from wealthy voters” The Guardian 10 November 2016

Niall Ferguson “This was no whitelash, it was a vote to get America working” The Sunday Times 13.11.2016

Felicity Lawrence “Trump is right: Nafta is a disaster.  But US workers aren’t the big losers” The Guardian 18 November 2016

Anne McElvoy “Face the facts: this was Hillary’s race to lose- and she lost it” Evening Standard 9 November 2016


What Cable Street means for Labour Today

By Doctor Michael Herron

Last Sunday marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. This historical event of 4th October 1936 was a watershed moment for the Labour movement in the lead up to the Second World War. It offers important lessons to the Labour Party today at a time when the Labour Party and movement has been rocked by allegations of anti-Semitism. The battle was significant for the fact that the grassroots of the Labour movement joined together with Jewish residents of Stepney in the East End of London to repel Sir Oswald Mosley and his marchers from the British Union of Fascists, forcing them to abandon their march.

The backdrop to the march and battle was fraught. Britain at the time was ruled by the National Government. Although the National Government had originally been formed by the Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald at the time of the battle it was essentially a Conservative administration led by Stanley Baldwin. The Spanish Civil War had also just begun. The Labour Party leadership was torn over officially supporting the Spanish Republican government since it feared this would upset its Catholic voters in the Northwest of England and Glasgow, who may have been concerned about Republican atrocities against Catholic clergy. This did not deter many in the grassroots Labour movement from joining the International Brigades to fight with the Spanish government against Franco. At the same time membership of the British Union of Fascists had peaked at a quarter of a million, which rang alarm bells in government. Nevertheless, according to Graham Macklin, the Conservative Party’s “resistance to ‘dangerous fascism’ however, was perhaps born of the Conservatives’ electoral neurosis than steadfast anti-fascism.”

This hesitancy was most marked in the lead up to the battle. When Mosley announced his intention to march through Jewish neighbourhoods in the East End of London, the Jewish People’s Council set up a petition signed by 100,000 people to ban the march. Local Labour MP, George Lansbury, and the mayors of the four London boroughs affected by the march requested Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, to ban the march. He stated that it would be undemocratic to do so.

A number of points need to be stressed about the battle. Many of those in leading positions such as the Labour leadership and the Jewish Board of Deputies were opposed to any action against the march that could result in violence. The opposition to the march was largely launched by local Jews and rank and file trade unionists, including mainly Irish dockers and what-ever leadership against the march was provided by the Communists. These anti-fascists were inspired by the Spanish Republicans’ struggle against Franco as they declared “no pasaran” (they shall not pass) to the Fascist marchers.

According to the Cable Street Group, Mosley’s original plan for the march on 4th October 1936 was for Fascists to assemble at Tower Bridge then divide into columns “which would march to meetings in Shoreditch, Limehouse and Bow and finally to a rally in Bethnal Green.” As the march progressed there were fights between fascists and anti-fascists but the main battle was between the anti-fascists and the 6,000 police, who were trying to clear a pathway for Mosley’s marchers. According to Nicholas Mosley, eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the Police Commissioner “Sir Philip Game saw the whole occasion as primarily one concerning the police: he seemed determined to show that the streets would be controlled by his men and not by rival gangs.”

There were huge crowds in the area at the time of the march. The local press gave a figure of 310,000 whereas some eyewitnesses said there were half a million people there. The congestion and violence meant that there was only one street that seemed open to the marchers in the Jewish neighbourhood in Stepney, Cable Street. As the marchers and police entered Cable Street they ran into an overturned lorry and other barricades and were hit with “fruit, bottles and the contents of chamber pots emptied by Jewish women” and were forced back by the anti-fascists. Eventually, Sir Philip Game ordered Mosley to give up the march and turn back. Mosley later accused the government of surrendering to “red terror.”

Perhaps one of the best accounts summing up the encounter was made by Charlie Goodman who was 21, living in Mile End at the time and politically non-aligned. “And it was not just a question of Jews being there on 4th October, the most amazing thing was to see a silk-coated Orthodox Jew standing next to an Irish docker with a grappling iron. This was absolutely unbelievable. Because it is not a question of a punch-up between the Jews and fascists, it was a question of the people who understood what fascism was. And in my case it meant the continuation of the struggle in Spain.”

Arguably, the greatest lesson for the Labour Party in the years that followed Cable Street was that the Labour movement needed to be united in the face of fascism particularly when war broke out. In a sense the Labour Party took its cue from the Labour grassroots as it was the rank and file who had defeated the fascists at Cable Street.

The fact that the Labour Party was largely united meant that soon after the British war effort took a turn for the worse, as British troops were evacuated from Norway, it was perfectly placed to engineer a vote of no confidence in the Chamberlain government. As the Conservatives’ majority fell from 200 to 81, it became clear that there had to be a new Prime Minister. Churchill’s unstinting opposition to appeasement, despite his poot reputation in labour relations, made him the obvious choice to the Labour Party. It was therefore the Labour Party that was instrumental in facilitating Churchill’s rise to war leader.

Labour’s role in Churchill’s wartime government with Clement Atlee, Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Stafford Cripps and Arthur Greenwood as key members and its perceived unequivocal opposition to fascism in contrast to perceived Tory weakness in confronting Nazism before the war were strong contributing factors to Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 general election. The lesson then was that a united party with a clear message could overcome even the greatest majority of the governing party.

The lessons of Cable Street for Labour today are that it should be clear what it is opposed to and it should present a united front in opposition to all groups and forces that prey on the vulnerable. The recent position against anti-Semitism in light of the inquiry led by Shami Chakrabarti is a good start. However, witch-hunts against those perceived to have betrayed the leadership and constant infighting distracts from the real struggle to maintain progressive politics and justice for those groups who most need a strong Labour Party in a world moving ever to the right. If it engages in this struggle and with competence when the pendulum of power swings again in its favour just as in 1945, it may be ready to seize the day.

Graham Macklin Very Deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism after 1945 (London: IB Tauris, 2007)
Cable Street Group The Battle of Cable Street 4th October 1936 A People’s History (London, 1995)
Nicholas Mosley Beyond the Pale (London: Secker Warburg, 1983)
Andrew Thorpe A History of the British Labour Party 4thEdition (London: palgrave, 2015)

The Wealth of Adam Smith’s Moral Sentiments

By Doctor Michael Herron

Since the early 1980s free-marketers the world over have recited the mantra that the “invisible hand” of market forces should be the guiding light of the world economy. This phrase is most associated with the work of Adam Smith, the Scottish philosopher and appears in his two most famous works “The Wealth of Nations” and “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” While, undoubtedly, Smith was a champion of the free market, arguably, it is important to view his ideas on the free market both in the context of the time in which they were written and within his wider philosophy. This is especially true for the role he envisaged for morality to play in shaping business affairs. These points are developed in an important work by Arthur Herman entitled “The Scottish Enlightenment.”

According to Herman, it is important to note that Smith wrote his most famous work “The Wealth of Nations” published in 1776 in response to the prevailing orthodox economic theory of the time, mercantilism. This theory stipulated that there was a finite amount of monetary wealth available at any one time. It was vital then for a country to acquire as much wealth as possible while keeping this wealth out of the hands of other states. This underpinned the notion of empire, whereby the British state would enrich itself at the expense of other states, principally its main rival at the time, France.

This theory was also used by British policymakers to justify granting and supporting monopolies to certain British companies such as the East India Company to conduct trade within the British Empire. Smith had seen how such monopolies had caused friction with American merchants in the thirteen colonies who felt shut out of imperial trade. Smith believed that these monopolies, particularly, that of the East India Company were the root causes of the demands by Americans for independence from Britain.
Smith argued against this government interference in the market supporting these monopolies and believed that “every man as long as he does not violate the laws of justice is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way.” Here is the basis for Smith’s reputation as the inspiration for the free market. While it is true, according to Herman, that Smith opposed government interference in the market for either imperial aggrandizement or to promote social justice, he also debunks three common myths about Smith.

The first myth is that Smith believed prosperity in the market was due to the “invisible hand” of the market. According to Herman this was meant to be ironic. He did not believe that the market system was perfect, only better than one driven by politicians. Again, his primary argument was against the mercantile system.

The second myth is that Smith invented the concept of laissez-faire capitalism, which was in fact developed by French thinkers. Smith did believe in a strong government to defend the nation, provide a system of justice and rights to allow commerce to flow freely.

The third myth is that Smith wished to excuse big business and the merchants class from all limits on their power and influence over society. In fact, he stated in “The Wealth of Nations” “the government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatsoever.”

His observations in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” about the real drives of human nature and the need for morality to govern human relations were, perhaps, his most important and surprising legacies to us, given how Smith’s ideas have subsequently been interpreted. Smith did not believe that most people are driven by the need to acquire material wealth and are prepared to make the sacrifices to acquire it. Only that some are and these individuals drive progress. Smith also did not believe that individuals are completely free agents with no sense of responsibility to each other. In “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” Smith argued that people have a “fellow feeling” for each other that governs their behaviour to each other. In other words, people have natural empathy for each other and there is such a thing as society.

This has implications for policymakers today. Smith’s actual ideas contradict the arguments made by free marketers. One common argument made by these free marketers is that we are all rational free agents attempting to maximize our own material welfare and that somehow this will achieve maximum efficiency of the market, in other words, the fabled equilibrium. Arguably, Smith believed that since we are governed by morality and are not completely free agents we have to take others’ interests before acting. Of course our priority is to promote our interests, but this is not taken in isolation of society. When making economic decisions we have to weigh up a number of factors not just one or two.

The most famous proponent of the free marketers’ worldview was Milton Friedman, the American economist and high priest of monetarism, the theory that controlling the money supply is the chief method of stabilizing the economy. In one of his public statements, Friedman stated that “the world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.” While this statement does not contradict Smith, who made the same point, Friedman’s observation in his preface to Frank Knight’s book “The Ethics of Competition”, arguably, does. In this preface Friedman stated “social responsibility is a fundamentally subversive doctrine, there is one and only one social responsibility of business- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Friedman’s economic theories and the aversion to Socialism of the Austrian philosopher Friedrich von Hayek were the key inspirations behind many of Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the 1980s. Friedman’s thinking was certainly in tune with Thatcher’s when she made one of her most famous comments in an interview with “Woman’s Own” magazine in 1987. She stated, “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people and people must look to themselves first.”

Perhaps the biggest contradiction between the arguments made by free marketers today and Smith’s original beliefs is their attitudes to monopoly capitalism. The Adam Smith Institute, the foremost champion of Smith’s ideas in British politics has lauded itself on its website as “one of the key drivers of the privatization revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s.” Much of this privatization has resulted in large companies acquiring monopolies over services in what used to be the public sector and over the railways. This outcome of monopoly capitalism and oligopoly, the concentration of politico/ economic power in few hands is surely the complete opposite of Smith’s thoughts on the matter. It was because of his opposition to monopoly capitalism that he wrote “The Wealth of Nations” in the first place since he believed the British government had encouraged monopolies to develop that excluded many businesses from trading profitably. If one wanted to create a true free market one should try to break up monopolies. Where Smith believed that monopolies were the unnatural results of government intervention and left to its own devices the market would right itself and eliminate monopolies, we know that often of their own accord, big businesses will tend to become monopolies and cartels against the public interest. As was the case in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was left to the federal government to break up these combinations through anti-trust legislation. To create a true free market, there is therefore a role for government to ensure that monopolies do not emerge and to protect the public interest against any harmful consequences of their trading.

In conclusion, despite Adam Smith’s work being written to confront the problems caused by the trading system of the British Empire of the 18th century it has been invoked by ardent free marketers today to support their arguments. The fact that these arguments are so out of kilter with many of Smith’s actual beliefs should give many of these free marketers pause. If their founding principles are built on sand is it any wonder that the world economic system does not work the way they say it should. It, perhaps, explains why it works for the few and not the many.

Arthur Herman The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World (London: Harper Perennial,2006)
Adam Smith The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Strand & Edinburgh, 1761)
Adam Smith An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (London: W Strahan, 1776)
The Concise Oxford Dictionary Ninth Edition (London: BCA, 1996)
Milton Friedman Preface to “The Ethics of Competition” by Frank H Knight (1935)
Margaret Thatcher in an interview with “Woman’s Own” on 23rd September 1987
Adam Smith Institute