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Editorial: Stateless in Seattle: Trump's threats reveal his anxiety

THERE seems no end to the number of things that link our country in a poisonous embrace with the US. Both are led by spectacularly incompetent politicians, both responsible for catastrophic mistakes in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that have led to the deaths of many thousands of people who, if either government had listened to expert scientific and medical opinion, had taken heed of the World Health Organisation and followed the example of China, would still be in the bosom of their families.

We are linked through a military alliance — laughingly named the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation — that assumes the right to intervene anywhere near or far from the ocean that divides us when the interests of the ruling elites of our two states, already co-mingled by marriage, money and mercenary greed, are threatened.

One particularly malign aspect of this relationship is the shared investment in war production in the aerospace, missile and “defence” technology sectors.

It seems that neither country can manufacture or obtain enough respirators to meet any unusual demand; neither can supply its health workers with adequate PPE but both can equip their police forces with the latest riot equipment and provide their armed forces with equipment sophisticated enough to drop a $1.5 million guided missile on a Pashtun wedding party from a continent away.

The Scottish bid to put an end to the export of riot gear to the already heavily militarised police forces of the US shows us that Britain is a world leader in the design and construction of the instruments of repression which find such a ready market in neoliberal capitalist states.

It also shows that no market in repression, however unconnected to the defence of the nation from real threats, is too marginal to escape surplus capital seeking profitable avenues for investment.

The government’s own contingency planning body identified a viral infection as a higher order of threat than any military adversary or even terrorist formation. No matter, no military project or repressive technology is starved of cash.

Boris Johnson’s soulmate across the sea has given notice that he wants to “take back Seattle” from “domestic terrorists,” “anarchists” and “radical-left Democrats” if the city’s mayor and Washington State governor refuse to do so.

Residents in a section of this Pacific -facing city — itself with a long history of radical working-class action going back to the Seattle General Strike of 1919 — have taken control of the streets, negotiated an arrangement with the local cops to shut the police station and established a Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. In addition to a street festival and free food, some subversively vegan in origin, this weekend they plan a local Black Lives Matter general strike.

What is interesting about this highly localised experiment is not that it is the imaginative product of an unusually exotic local political culture and a surprisingly savvy police force — but the intemperate response by Trump to what hardly comprises a full-on assault on the capitalist state’s monopoly of force.

The depth and intensity of the political crisis in the US and the rather differently articulated political situation in Britain is causing real problems for the ruling elites of both states.

Faced with a mobilisation on the scale we are witnessing, repression just compounds the problem. Fail to resolve the issues which underlie the tensions — an almost impossible task for the the people currently in office — and their legitimacy is challenged while their credibility takes a hit.

The question for the labour movement and the left is: who will rise to the challenge of leadership?


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