Episode 3: Brexit—Interview with Chris Gilligan

The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of this month. Are Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strong-arm tactics going to succeed in making Brexit happen now, “deal or no deal”? And would that be good or bad—and for whom? Is Brexit moving UK politics in a more reactionary direction?

These are among main questions we discuss with Chris Gilligan, a UK pro-migration activist and author of Northern Ireland and the Crisis of Anti-racism, in this episode of Radio Free Humanity. We also discuss claims by both the Remain and Leave camps that the other side is anti-democratic, objective forces acting on the Leave camp, and similarities between Johnson and Donald Trump.

The following articles are cited during the interview:

Chris Gilligan, “Defend Democracy. Stop the Coup”: Scottish protest against Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament, Hard Crackers, Aug. 2019.
Marxist-Humanist Initiative, The Extraordinary Dangers of Trump and Trumpism, With Sober Senses, Aug. 2016.

In this episode’s current-events segment, Brendan and Andrew discuss the debate among voices on the left—Matt Taibbi, Adam Serwer, Andrew O’Herir, etc.—over the Ukrainegate whistleblower.


Radio Free Humanity is a podcast covering news, politics and philosophy from a Marxist-Humanist perspective. It is co-hosted by Brendan Cooney and Andrew Kliman. We intend to release new episodes every two weeks. Radio Free Humanity is sponsored by MHI, but the views expressed by the co-hosts and guests of Radio Free Humanity are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MHI.

We welcome and encourage listeners’ comments, posted on this episode’s page.

Please visit MHI’s online print publication, With Sober Senses, for further news, commentary, and analysis.

Click here for more episodes.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve only had a chance to listen to the opening portion of this podcast regarding Taibbi’s essay and responses to his essay. Your point that there is an anti-anti-Trump left is noted, but I think Taibbi’s position is being presented as a strawman. If I remember right, he is not arguing that Trump shouldn’t be impeached, nor is he arguing that the Ukraine scandal doesn’t constitute an impeachment inquiry and/or further investigation. Instead, Taibbi is noting a difference in kind between whistle-blowers, and also establishment responses to these different kinds of whistler-blowers. This observation seems fairly straightforward, needed, and we know for instance certain whistle-blowers can lose or gain ‘friendly’ status based on which party is in power (e.g., Assange was once a hero, now scum, and Snowden was once scum, now tolerable [Taibbi never wavered in his support for either, proving ‘intentions’ of leaking is not his sole evaluative criteria, agreeing with Barstow on this point some years ago)].

    Noting that there are two different kinds of whistleblowers, and that the establishment responds to these different kinds differently, does not entail that Taibbi is against impeachment, or pro Trump, or for the left first. Seeing as the Trump administration is prosecuting its former supposed greatest ally, Assange, Taibbi’s essay seems helpful and clarifying, not shoddy anti-anti-Trump left-first non-sense.

  2. CB,

    Matt Taibi is well-known as an apologist for Trump. See his rampant “nothing-to-see-here” approach to the Mueller investigation.
    His piece is clearly and obviously written to suggest that since this isn’t a “real” whistleblower, then there is also “nothing to see here” as well. Taibit has explicitly argued that “Russiagate” is a distraction from the “real” reason Trump won in 2016, which, in his opinion, is massive voter outrage at “the entire political system”.

    And he is not noting “a difference in kind between whistleblowers”. He is saying that the Ukraine whistleblower is not a whistleblower. It’s in the title of his piece.

  3. Brendan,

    I’m completely taken aback by this response, and find it hard to take seriously. So let me start with compliments to both of you, before registering my alarming chagrin: this is the only time I’ve caught myself explicitly disagreeing with either of you, and outside this one issue, appreciate both your contributions to Marxism, and constantly find myself impressed with both your respective political analyses.

    Compliments over 😉

    We are moving from the nature of the article (which was depicted as a total straw-man, nothing you’ve said has addressed that point), to demonstrably false claims about Taibbi’s character. Taibbi is NOT an apologist for Trump. Again, he supports impeachment, he supports investigation, he supported Sanders in 2016, and still does. His book ‘Insane Clown President’, which is a collection of his articles throughout the 2016 election, constantly criticizes Trump, and his supporters, while also warning both the mainstream news, and regular non-fascist Americans, that Trump’s victory was far more likely than the mainstream news was depicting. Moreover, in a more pessimistic and cynical sort of way, he warned – tantamount to Kliman – that whether or not Trump won – Trump’s rise speaks to a deeper problem in America, that has entrenched historical roots (hence all of his worker on the Garner family). These are just demonstrable facts, and are clear proof he’s not an “apologist for Trump”.

    Moreover, one could think that the Mueller investigation was bullshit, and still not support Trump (me). One could also support Trump, and think the investigation was mandatory. These aren’t mutually exclusive or inclusive positions. Now, Taibbi’s claim regarding the Mueller investigation was focused on the claim that Russia hijacked the election and that’s why HRC lost. Again, I think Taibbi (and others) are right, that that aspect of the investigation was rather absurd, and it’s a narrative Democrats and the mainstream media picked up on to avoid looking themselves in the mirror. Nothing in the investigation found evidence of collusion. Note, Taibbi could be right that the investigation was a way for various powerful elements to avoid looking in the mirror, while being wrong that looking in the mirror would lead them to realize progressive populism is necessary to defeat Trump. That rebuff to Taibbi seems to be Kliman’s point, and Kliman’s selling his point with disturbing excellence. Disturbing because I wish he was wrong, and the leftist were right, but alas, Kliman has better evidence on his side.

    You accuse Taibbi of having a ‘nothing to see here’ approach, but that’s also transparently false. Even though he thought the Mueller investigation was silly, he still ROUTINELY points out myriad ways the Trump administration is criminal, obscene, and detrimental, in ways the standard media does not pick up, and insists ‘there’s quite a lot to see HERE’ <– here being where most people aren't looking! Accusing Taibbi of being a 'nothing to see here' 'Trump apologist' would be as absurd as accusing Kliman of being a ‘nothing to see here’ trump apologist because he insists there's nothing to see here in the standard leftist populism narrative, whereas there is something to see somewhere else (i.e., in voting and polling data showing Trump and Trumpism thrive off bigotry and not economic impoverishment). Indicating that people need to look at alternative bits of data to understand Trump’s rise and subsequently defeat him, are not the tactics of a ‘nothing to see here’ ‘Trump apologist’, even if the data one points to ends up being less than compelling or striking.

    And you're right, Taibbi is saying that the Ukraine whistle-blower is not the standard sort of whistle-blower that risks their life for a principle, instead it's one institution or set of institutions (the deep state), acting against another set of institutions (the executive branch). That difference in kind strikes me as correct, while in no way indicating that there's nothing to see here. Moreover, nor does it indicate that he's a Trump apologist. The reason deep state intrusion worries Taibbi, and others like him, is that they fear those same actors would resist other candidates, such as Sanders, if the state wasn’t willing to work with them. Now you could reply that this is the standard left first approach, over sanity, which Kliman is critiquing. You may be right. But it could also be a critique based on Kliman's own preferred stance, which is that we need free and fair elections. If a candidate does win an election, fairly (whatever the hell that means in 2019), then we wouldn't want the deep state rejecting that candidate, regardless of their political stances. So, I don't know which of these two reasons is the operative reason behind Taibbi's concerns that the deep state is resisting elected candidates, but I'm not prepared to presume the weaker of the two versions, and proceed to criticize Taibbi based off my ill-founded presumptions.

    Okay, critique over, love the both of you, and look forward to episode 4

    Best,
    CB

    p.s. I keep clicking 'notify me of new posts by e-mail', but I'm not receiving those notifications.

    p.p.s. Thank you for publishing my criticisms.

  4. CB,
    I am also completely taken aback by by your response which I also cannot take seriously because it is so deeply disturbing and so wrong on every point.

    I think we mean different things by “apologist for Trump”. For me, saying that there is nothing to see in the Mueller investigation is equivalent to saying that Trump should be allowed to get away with all of the crimes related to conspiring with the Russians to interfere with US elections and obstruct justice. One could be critical of other aspects of Trump and still be an apologist on this matter.

    I don’t know how any sane person, with any grip on reality, could say that the Muller investigation was bullshit. Having read the entire Mueller report myself, it is quite clear that Trump was involved with all sorts criminal activity, including 10 counts of obstruction justice. To argue other-wise is to apologize for and excuse Trump’s criminality (unless you have a point-by-point refutation of all of the detailed information in the Mueller report.) On top of that, the investigation landed many criminal indictments of US and Russian citizens and outlines an audacious Russian campaign to interfere in US elections. There is no way around that. Sure you can also be critical of other aspects of Trump, but if you are saying he should be allowed to conspire with foreign states to hack US elections, or should be allowed to blatantly and openly obstruct justice, then you are excusing some of the worse and most disturbing excesses of this president. The notion that this madman should be above the law is one of the most dangerous dimensions of this presidency.

    And when you write “nothing in the investigation found evidence of collusion” it is clear to me that you haven’t read the Mueller report.

    Your, and Taibi’s, notion that Muller’s investigation, and the current impeachment investigation, are just ways for “various powerful elements of avoid looking in the mirror” is ridiculous. What deep truth do you think “they” were going to see in the mirror? Is it not possible that people who are employed by the US government can be appalled by Trump’s criminality? I don’t see what is so hard to believe about that.

    Quoting You: “Accusing Taibbi of being a ‘nothing to see here’ ‘Trump apologist’ would be as absurd as accusing Kliman of being a ‘nothing to see here’ trump apologist because he insists there’s nothing to see here in the standard leftist populism narrative, whereas there is something to see somewhere else (i.e., in voting and polling data showing Trump and Trumpism thrive off bigotry and not economic impoverishment)”

    This argument makes no sense. Kliman has not said “there is nothing to see here” in reference to Trump’s criminal activity or immoral actions. He has said that Trumpism is not a response to neoliberalism. It is the anti-neoliberal left (Taibi, Greenwald, etc.) who apologize for Trump by saying that the real enemy is neoliberalism, and thereby creating false equivalences between neoliberalism and proto-fascism.

    Again, quoting you: “And you’re right, Taibbi is saying that the Ukraine whistle-blower is not the standard sort of whistle-blower that risks their life for a principle, instead it’s one institution or set of institutions (the deep state), acting against another set of institutions (the executive branch)”

    No, Taibi’s piece, in the title, says that the Ukraine whistleblower is not a real whistleblower. And where is the evidence that the whistleblower, or all of the career diplomats who have testified before Congress thus far are just “deep state” actors acting to protect their institutional status quo against Trump? The complaint, and the testimony pretty clearly outline serious criminal activity that anyone should be alarmed by, no matter where they sit on the ideological spectrum, or what institutions they work for. Furthermore, these diplomats are taking major risks to their careers by testifying. The whistleblower has now been outed by Don Jr and Fox News. Given the history of Trump-supporters, the violence that has been stirred up in the past by Trump when he urges people to go after his enemies, we all know that this was an incitement to harass and target the whistleblower. I wonder, now that the whistleblower has been outed by the Trump/Fox mob, are they now punk enough for Taibi?

    By repeating the Trump-line that the Mueller report was “bullshit” and that the whistleblower is part of a “deep state” conspiracy of liberals who are mad that Trump won in 2016, one just plays right into the hands of team Trump and their “alternative facts.”

  5. Brendan,
    Apologies for the delay, I’ve been busy, and I’m not sure exacerbating a disagreement with my socialist and Marxist allies is worth it.
    Paragraph 2 is a straw man. No one said Trump should get away with anything contained in the Mueller report, ever. The claim was that the investigation did not find evidence of collusion between both camps, not that Trump didn’t obstruct justice and break the law. He obviously did, that’s an empirical fact.
    Paragraph 3 is also a straw man operating on the same false erection. Everyone agrees that Trump is a criminal and ought to be treated as such.
    Paragraph 4: Okay, cite the evidence of actual collusion from the report please. I’m willing to change my mind on this point, but I need evidence, not a claim that your reading skills are superior to mine (they may well be, but cite).
    Paragraph 5: I never said the impeachment investigation was a way to avoid looking in the mirror. I did say that about the Mueller investigation. I expressly DO NOT BELIEVE THAT about impeachment. Please do not straw man my position any further. “What deep truth do you think “they” were going to see in the mirror?” Red herring, but that they lost to Trump, sans collusion, because masses of the population have justified reasons to hate Clinton, Democrats, the state, the establishment, etc. etc. etc. “Is it not possible that people who are employed by the US government can be appalled by Trump’s criminality?” Of course they can be. “I don’t see what is so hard to believe about that.” Nothing is hard to believe about that. You’re conflating two things: Is Trump a gross, incompetent, criminal, who disgusts many, and should be stopped? Yes. Did Trump collude with the Russians in order to become the US president? Not that I can see based off present evidence. Those are two different issues. You’re conflating them, and then charging people who don’t share in your conflation with not being anti trump or being pro trump. That’s a logical mistake. I want him out of office and behind bars too, even if I don’t agree that he colluded with Russians, I still completely agree with you that Trump obstructed justice, should be impeached, and is a criminal, everything else you press is rhetoric and straw men though ☹.

    Paragraph 6-7 you misunderstood my point, and again, beat up a straw man, while actually affirming the point I was making in your refutation. That’s too dizzying to sort through, so fuck it, we can drop the analogy.
    Paragraph 8: “And where is the evidence that the whistleblower, or all of the career diplomats who have testified before Congress thus far are just “deep state” actors acting to protect their institutional status quo against Trump?” Uhm, this sentence literally says “where is the evidence X is X”? I can’t help you see that CAREER DIPLOMATS are part of the DEEP STATE if you don’t want to. “The complaint, and the testimony pretty clearly outline serious criminal activity that anyone should be alarmed by, no matter where they sit on the ideological spectrum, or what institutions they work for.” Agree, and I am alarmed by it; and I see no reason to doubt that other lefties (Greenwald and Taibbi for instance) aren’t either. I’m also alarmed by his overseas ventures, his violation of the emoluments clause, his sexism, racism, stupidity, his supporters, his intellect, his economic policies, the list is of course staggering, everyone is bothered by it, Taibbi included, we just disagree on some of the details. And since Taibbi does agree on all these points, he sure isn’t pro-Trump.
    Now, to bolster your claim, on October 11th Taibbi did write:
    “My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump. Many Americans don’t see this because they’re not used to waking up in a country where you’re not sure who the president will be by nightfall. They don’t understand that this predicament is worse than having a bad president.”
    There I disagree with him. I do think Trump should be impeached (for just about anything at this point – but like Chomsky I’ve thought every president I’ve lived under should be impeached…), and after reviewing Professor Kliman’s analysis about Obama-Trump voters, I categorically disagree with Taibbi’s claim that the people pushing hardest for his removal are worse than Trump. He believes CIA, NSA, or some armed branch of the state will take over.
    Best,

    CB

    p.s. still not notified by e-mail of responses.

  6. “Paragraph 2 is a straw man. No one said Trump should get away with anything contained in the Mueller report, ever. The claim was that the investigation did not find evidence of collusion between both camps, not that Trump didn’t obstruct justice and break the law. He obviously did, that’s an empirical fact.”

    Taibi has devoted most of his time over the past two years to trashing the Muller investigation and the media that covered it. This is because the FACT of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the FACT Trump’s campaign was attempting to collude with Russia, are not comfortable to anti-neoliberal leftists who want to paint a picture of Trump’s win as a blow to neoliberalism. I think what Taibi writes about the Muller investigation and the media coverage of it is despicable. It’s all ridicule and spite with no appreciation for the actual gravity of the crimes being investigated. I don’t see how anyone could read his stuff and not think that his writing on this topic is helpful to Trump.

    “Okay, cite the evidence of actual collusion from the report please”
    I cite Book One of the Mueller report which details extensive contacts between Russia and Trump, full of quid pro quos, offers of assistance by Russia, attempts by team Trump to accept Russian assistance, public statements by Trump calling on Russia to hack emails, meetings between the two sides for the purpose of discussing collusion, etc. I have no doubt that if Barr had allowed Mueller to finish the job, we would have seen much more damning information. After all, just look at what came out of the Roger Stone trial last week. Now it is public record that team Trump considered Stone to be their conduit to Assange.

    And the Muller report was not just about Trump forming a criminal conspiracy with Russia. It was also about the Russian interference campaign more generally, and Trump’s obstruction of justice. These are all very serious things!

    “they lost to Trump, sans collusion, because masses of the population have justified reasons to hate Clinton, Democrats, the state, the establishment, etc. etc. etc”

    This is the anti-neoliberal left narrative. The alternate narrative which MHI has put forward, which is supported by facts (unlike the former narrative) is that Trump tapped into a pre-existing nativist, racist and authoritarian strain in American politics. I see no reason to champion or celebrate this fact, nor do I think that investigating Russian interference in the election keeps people from understanding this fact.

    “I can’t help you see that CAREER DIPLOMATS are part of the DEEP STATE if you don’t want to. “

    Is this what you mean by “Deep State”? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state_in_the_United_States

    If so, I think think there is a real difference between how I characterized state employees who are alarmed by Trump’s dangerous behavior on one hand, and on the other hand a conspiratorial hidden government within the US that controls policy outside of the control of democratic institutions. Gordan Sondland is a political appointee who was appointed by Trump and is now testifying against him. Is he “deep state” too?

  7. Brendan,
    Let me make two apologies. The first is that I only saw this post in the past week, I was not avoiding or ignoring you. Second, when I saw the post, and that I had not replied to you for some time, I made a post saying I would respond asap, but that seems not to have been uploaded. So again, apologies, I’m not dodging your criticisms.

    The Mueller report did not find damning evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. Period. That’s a fact. And Taibbi was right about that. The report did however find tons of evidence for obstruction of justice, which of course Trump should be prosecuted for.

    Let me clarify what’s going on in the minds of Taibbi, and others, including myself, although I of course have disagreements with Taibbi, as expressed in the last post, and also accept Kliman’s critiques of the neo-liberal account of Trump’s rise.

    ANYONE that becomes president in America, barring the rarest of exceptions, is probably a criminal. If you have a billion dollars, you’re also probably a criminal. I have ZERO doubt in my mind that any investigators who lift up a billionaires or president’s rock, and shines a light under it, will be awash in crime. Trump is both executive and (probably I guess) a billionaire. There is NO DOUBT that if you investigate him long enough, FOR ANYTHING, dirt will be found. And Mueller found dirt. Of course he did! Anyone would! No one should ever have doubted this. But he did not find the exact dirt that prompted the investigation: Trump and Putin privately discussing how to win the election. There is no evidence for this primary part of the investigation. And Taibbi and others have been right to point out this disparity.

    I want Trump, and basically all presidents and billionaires, in prison, as much as I suspect you two do. Fine, but let’s get him in there on something other than the Democrats disbelief that they no longer resonate with voters, or the establishments disbelief that a quasi-outsider can now make it into power. Now when I say this, you’re mixing up two points. I said this in the last post, and you responded:
    “This is the anti-neoliberal left narrative. The alternate narrative which MHI has put forward, which is supported by facts (unlike the former narrative) is that Trump tapped into a pre-existing nativist, racist and authoritarian strain in American politics.”
    But both can be true. When over 50%, or approximately 50%, of the populace, which is eligible to vote, but does not, that DEFINITELY indicates that these parties and the establishment are not resonating with voters. In addition to that, Kliman is right – contra JUST this narrative – that Trump won because he did tap into something that resonated with voters: bigotry. Moreover, it can remain true that people really do hate Hillary, really do hate the democratic party, really do hate what Hillary stands for, and ALSO wanted Trump to win for: bigoted reasons.
    I don’t think we have to disagree here, nor do you have to remain to snarky in your responses!

    Responding to your next claim, no Book One of the report DID NOT FIND COMPELLING EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND PUTIN. Can we please put that canard to bed? Saying “I have no doubt that if Barr had allowed Mueller to finish the job, we would have seen much more damning information.” Is just unfalsifiable. “I have no doubt that if we visited just one more psychic, you’ll finely get an accurate reading”. Okay.
    Most of what Stone stated about Assange was public record by Assange’s and Wikileak’s twitter profile.

    “And the Muller report was not just about Trump forming a criminal conspiracy with Russia. It was also about the Russian interference campaign more generally, and Trump’s obstruction of justice. These are all very serious things!”
    Absolutely agree, and unlike Taibbi, I think Trump should be imprisoned for all of them. We agree here.
    I do not like Sondland is deep state, but it’s not clear the initial whistle blower is not deep state. That was Taibbi’s charge.
    Nevertheless, like I said in the previous post, I part ways with Taibbi here: Ukrainegate ought to land this man in prison. Period.
    Best,
    CB

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