Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Going To Greet The WTO â€¦
title("Henry Hyde's Moral Universe: Where â€¦
Dennis bernstein and leslie Kean
Gay and Lesbian Community Notes
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
NY: New Press, 1999, pbk. 424 pp.
Review by Anthony Arnove
John Pilger is perhaps best known in the United States for his documentary Death of a Nation, a stunning expose on the genocide in East Timor. He has written numerous books and articles and is currently working on a documentary for ITV in Britain on the effect of sanctions on the people of Iraq.
Pilgers latest book, Hidden Agendas, is a remarkable collection of his recent journalism and commentary. Hidden Agendas weaves together the struggle of Liverpool dockers sacked for showing solidarity and refusing to cross a picket line; activists in East Timor fighting for independence from Indonesian occupation; forced laborers in Burma; and activists in South Africa whose hope for fundamental change after the end of apartheid has been sacrificed for stable relations with multinational investors and corporations that dominate the South African economy.
On this last point, Pilger writes, "The most important historic compromise [made by the African National Congress] was not with the apartheid regime, but with the forces of Western and South African capital, which changed their allegiance from P.W. Botha to Nelson Mandela on condition that their multinational corporations would not be obstructed as they opened up the South African economy, and that the ANC would drop its foolish promises in its Freedom Charter about equity and the countrys resources, such as minerals, belonging to all the people."
In his vivid accounting, none of these stories seems "dated" or disconnected, as so often happens with compilations of a journalists work. Partly that is because of the lens that Pilger applies to each story: each particular battle is linked to a larger one.
"This book is a tribute to people who, in refusing to attend the funeral [for socialism declared in 1989] have brought to light the hidden agendas of governments, corporations and their bureaucracies," he writes, explaining the books title.
One important theme in Hidden Agendas is the growing connection between British and U.S. militarism under the stewardship of Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton.
In the recent NATO war in the Balkans and in the ongoing war against the people of Iraq through almost daily U.S. and UK bombings and imposition of sanctions that have claimed the lives of more than 500,000 Iraqi childrenBritain has been eager to prove its value to the worlds superpower.
"The Americans have made it clear that Britains traditional role is now best served watching over U.S. interests in Europe.... It also means fulfilling Britains sub-imperial obligations as an American lieutenant in the United Nations and other U.S.-dominated international institutions, as well as in key areas of the world, like the Gulf."
Pilger is at his best discussing the hypocrisy of those who defend war in the language of human rights and democracy. Labor Foreign Minister Robin Cooks stated commitment to usher in a new "ethical" foreign policy, he notes, didnt preclude selling Hawk fighter jets to Indonesia to use against the people of East Timor, something that Cook had protested loudly against when the Tories were the ones closing the deal.
Cooks backtracking, he argues, follows a long Labor Party tradition of promoting dictatorships and arms proliferation, a record in some ways worse than even that of the Tories. "New brand names come and go," Pilger writes. "Preventive diplomacy and humanitarian intervention, the latter a veteran of the Gulf [War] slaughter.... United Nations peacekeeping and peace operations are current favorites."
Pilger also shows the confluence between the ideology of Blair and Clinton, looking to the market for solutions it has caused, emphasizing "personal responsibility," and attacking the remaining shreds of the social safety net, while demobilizing popular opposition by gesturing to the dangerous forces allegedly to their right.
The New Press has done a great service in publishing Pilgers book, but in shortening it from the British edition published by Vintage, it made some regrettable choices. In particular, the decision to leave out Pilgers emotionally devastatingand inspirationalaccount of the Liverpool dockers struggle undermines the force of Hidden Agendas. The chapter on the dockers shows how, despite the betrayal by the officials of their union and the British Trades Union Council and their ultimate defeat, the solidarity they formed with workers worldwide demonstrates the potential to challenge capitalist globalization.
The Vintage edition also includes additional articles on Australia, popular journalism, Ireland, and poverty in Britain. The material on Australia is particularly valuable given its role in recent developments in East Timor.
Regardless of these omissions, the American edition of Hidden Agendas is an inspirational collection of Pilgers work. Z
Anthony Arnove is an editor at South End Press.