Archive for January, 2014

Write to your MP, MEP, prospective MEP, write to the Queen

January 29, 2014

Lallygag has asked me to publicise this draft letter to the authorities protesting about the TTIP international trade agreement, which will lead to the privatisation of more public services and the NHS, in the interests of promoting international free trade. It will also mean that national governments are at the mercy of big business, who can sue them if the legislate against one of their products. Mike’s already blogged on this over at Vox Political. She also recommends that you slightly amend the wording of the letter, if you do write, so it doesn’t look like everyone writing exactly the same letter. This is a wise move. Mike’s had problems with his FOI request, because others had done the same before him. So the Information Commissioner rejected it as ‘vexatious’ and only intended to cause trouble.

tantalusredux

I sadly have to put a disclaimer that this is NOT all my own work. The draft, which I’ve amended and hope have made slightly clearer was provided through a group I attend. I wish it was all mine, but I’m not a plagiarist and there is a bit more detail here than I would have managed to supply from my own research.

Dear

I am extremely concerned about the effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the US and European Commission.

As you will be aware, the TTIP is currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union, with a view to opening up markets for services, investment and public procurement.

There are growing concerns about what this trade agreement will mean, not least that regulatory harmonisation will weaken existing standards and regulations currently aimed at protecting workers and consumers in the…

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The end of free speech and free protest in the UK

January 29, 2014

More attempts to destroy free speech by the Coalition with the passage of the gagging bill. If this continues, it really won’t be very long until Britain ends up exactly like the totalitarian and authoritarian states around the world. All of them claimed to allow free speech, but only when it was responsible, or did not outrage public sentiment, or some other excuse for rigidly clamping down on anything the government didn’t like. The best comment on this, I suggest, is The Dead Kennedys’ ‘Bedtime for Democracy’ and The Boomtown Rats’ ‘Banana Republic’.

Mike Sivier's blog

140129freespeech1

It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.

While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.

You will still be able to have your e-petition on the government’s website – if you win enough signatures to have it debated in Parliament – ignored by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.

The Liberal Democrats and Tories have even managed to rub salt into the wound…

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Twitter parody accounts critical of government closed down on same day gagging law passes

January 29, 2014

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

UPDATETwitter has finally succumbed to the criticism and reinstated @UKJCP – but you can see here the document which proves the UK government was trying to censor on-line criticism

Yesterday the government’s gagging law was passed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – marking yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of speech in Britain.

And as if to celebrate the occasion, a Twitter parody account that was critical of coalition policies was closed down after complaints were made from government officials.

@UKJCP – a satirical account parodying the DWP – was suspended by Twitter yesterday.

Here’s a direct warning from the Department for Work and Pensions to @UKJCP just a week before it was suspended by Twitter:

DWP shuts down satire

“it is not satire”. So now we’ve not just got government departments deciding what forms of public criticism are acceptable, but also…

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Anti-EU Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre secretly trousering EU subsidies

January 29, 2014

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the Daily Mail!)

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre – whose newspaper really likes to rant a lot about how evil all things EU are – is not averse to pocketing a few hundred thousand Euro here and there from the EU in subsidies when it suits him.

Here’s the exact figure he’s pocketed in EU subsidies for his estate in Scotland (from farmsubsidy.org):

Langwell Estate

I suppose Dacre thinks it’s all right just as long as nobody notices.

So best keep it to ourselves then.

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

How Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s father avoided the front-line in WW2

Daily Mail story about sunrises being shown on big screens in Beijing was made up

Photo of Mark Duggan at daughter’s funeral cropped to paint him as a gangster

Daily Mail Apologises To Its Readers After Admitting Publishing Something True

Daily Mail fail –…

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The Not So Hidden Ideology Behind The DWP’s War On Women

January 29, 2014

I also believe extremely strongly in the importance of sound, harmonious marriages or committed relationships both in and of themselves, as an excellent environment for raising happy and healthy children, and as the foundation for a properly functioning society. Mr Void has here made some excellent points, as usual. There are all too many women trapped in abusive relationships. Many welfare claimants at the DWP are women, who’ve left such a relationship and need support while they rebuild their lives. They are not being best served or protected by legislation that deprives them of an income the moment they try to leave a violent partner. Rather than strengthening families, it seeks to promote and prolong an already dysfunctional relation, leading to more violence, physical harm and in some cases, murder as the violence is carried to its ultimate conclusion. And the Void’s also correct in that it is contradictory for a government, which is trying to limit abortion, to place more pregnant women in the position where the termination of their unborn baby may be the only thing that keeps them out of the gutter.

the void

Conservative Party Annual ConferenceThe impact on women of austerity policies has often been assumed to be an unfortunate side-effect driven not by ideology but simple bad luck.  Women are more likely to work in the public sector, and therefore were hit harder by mass job losses.  More women than men are single parents, and as such more women have suffered due to the benefit cuts.

Few in mainstream politics have suggested this was intentional – instead the impression given is that this has represented a lack of thought or care about the needs of women.  Undoubtedly the result of a sexist society, but still pretty much business as usual, particularly for the Tory Party.

The reality, which has gone almost unnoticed even during a much discussed feminist revival, is that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms represent an attack on women’s autonomy which is unprecedented in the UK’s recent history.  And this assault –…

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Take Online Action Against The CRAPITA Conference: Cashing in on Poverty

January 29, 2014

I’m afraid I missed this when it first came out. Although it’s now several days out of date, I’m reblogging it as I think it might still be useful for people, who want to tell Crapita and the rest of those organising and attending the conference exactly what people think of them and their vile policies.

the void

brumconferencebwFrom Boycott Workfare

Take action on Monday 27th January while poverty profiteers gather at Capita’s ‘Welfare reform’ conference

Please share, tweet, spread the word!

While millions of people struggle to eat or heat their homes, and thousands of families face eviction, foodbanks and homelessness due to sanctions, bedroom tax and loss of disability benefits, Capita cashes in with conferences for Lord Freud (Minister for Dismantling Welfare) and his workfare collaborators.

You could pay £350 – £575 (plus VAT) to join all those snouts in the workfare trough at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. Or you can let them know what you think via twitter, email, phone – follow the links below.

We’ll post the conference hash tag as soon as we have it so you can join in the discussions on the day (or you can check out @capitaconf and their inspiring #capitaconf hashtag to see for yourself)…

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Are Tories Planning To Cut Tax Credits Because Iain Duncan Smith Thinks Parents Spend Them On Drugs?

January 29, 2014

the void

Iain-Duncan-Smith-workfareAre the Tories really planning to cut Tax Credits because Iain Duncan Smith thinks struggling families spend them on drugs?

That’s the astonishing claim made by the Daily Telegraph after focussing on a part of Iain Duncan Smith’s speech this week which went unreported elsewhere in the press and was not included in the transcript published by The Spectator.

According to The Telegraph:  “Mr Duncan Smith indicated his party is preparing to review tax credits, which are paid to people on low incomes or with children. The system was introduced by Gordon Brown and has been criticised for subsidising low wages. They will cost £28bn this year, and the cost is forecast to rise £35bn by 2018/19.

He said the cash pushed people above an “arbitrary” poverty line on paper but failed to change their lives, and some “unproductive” people spent the extra money on drink and drugs rather than…

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Workfare and Stalin’s Gulags: More Parallels between the Coalition and Stalinist Russia

January 28, 2014

Stalin

Stalin: Created vast system of forced labour camps to industrialise the USSR

gulag_1

Slave labourers at a Soviet Gulag

Cameron Pic

David Cameron: Presides over workfare, a system of unfree labour to supply cheap workers to Tesco

Another section of Alex De Jonge’s excellent bio of Stalin also struck me as being extremely similar to the Coalition’s policies towards unemployment. I’ve already blogged about the strong similarity between the Reichsarbeitsdienst – the six month’s ‘voluntary work’ the Nazis used to solve their unemployment problem, and the coalition’s use of workfare. Stalin also similarly used forced labour to industrialise the Soviet Union, although there was absolutely nothing voluntary about. During the Terror, many of the victims were denounced and arrested so that they could be incarcerated in the forced labour camps building the heavy industries that would transform Russia into an industrial, as well as military, superpower. These labour camps grew to become the heart of massive industrial cities, with populations in the region of tens or hundreds of thousands, occupied by former inmates, who could not move away from their former prisons. De Jonge discusses this in his chapter on the Terror, and shows how Stalin managed to overturn the economic arguments against the use of slave labour.

Marx believed that slavery was uneconomical, as the slave-owner also had to pay to support the slave. This follows the arguments of Adam Smith in his defence of free trade against mercantilism, The Wealth of Nations. Since then, many historians of Atlantic slavery have taken a similar view to Marx, and argued that it was Smith’s economic arguments, rather than the humanitarian campaigns of abolitionists like William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkeson and Hannah More, that ended slavery in the British Empire by persuading planters and industrialists that it was uneconomical. De Jonge argues that Stalin managed to get around the economic objections to the use of slave labour through the poor conditions in the labour camps and the abundant supply of potential slaves in the general Soviet population. With potential unfree labour so plentiful, there was little need for the state to spend much keeping them alive. Furthermore, the Secret Police and other Soviet industries were actively trying to kidnap workers and recruit them to supply slave labour to the new state industrial combines. De Jonge writes

‘The camps served a further purpose. The mid twenties had been a time of serious unemployment, a problem which Stalin had solved at a stroke. Millions of deported peasants were put to work on labour-intensive enterprises, such as the White Sea Canal. Moreover, the work force was treated in such a way – i.e., badly – that there was a perpetual demand for fresh labour and thus no unemployment. The enterprise undertaken by the gulag might thus be thought of as Stalin’s equivalent of Hitler’s autobahns or Roosevelt’s WPA projects; it was just that Stalin’s version of the New Deal was a little different. By relying upon a large and expendable population of slaves, he was able to deploy his man-power as he pleased.

Although Isaac Deutscher, the biographer of Stalin and Trotsky, has made the wonderous observation that forced labour was ‘a factor marginal to the system’, on the basis that slaves constituted only 10 per cent of the work force, it played a vital part in the calculations of the First Five-Year Plan, and from 1931 the gulag was expected to be self-financing. From a Marxist point of view this was unorthodox. Marx had stated that slavery was uneconomic since slaves had to be fed whether they worked or not and had no incentive to work harder. However, it was not the case that inmates of the gulag had to be fed. The difference in rations was colossal, varying from ten to forty ounces of bread a day. Since the cost of acquiring slaves was comparatively low, and the supply limitless, why spend money on keeping them alive? It has been calculated that the cost of keeping a prisoner in the thirties was about a third of the average working man’s wage. Curiously, the notion that the purpose of the gulag was to provide cheap labour came as a comfort to loyal Communists, especially those in prison. It helped them accept an institution that was obviously necessary.

Slave labour was much used in industry since it replaced expensive machinery that had to be bought with hard currency, although some of the enterprises seem pointless. The White Sea Canal, for example, proved useless, and within a year or so of its completion its only traffic consisted of launches moving from one camp to another, while the canal was already silting up. Slave labour was used successfully in the mining industry and other uncongenial or hazardous areas. The gulag also rented labour to civilian employers:

‘The NKVD agreed to supply two thousand prisoners to begin with, the number to be enlarged in the spring … There was a lot of cold-blooded bargaining on the qualifications of the slaves to be supplied and the price to be paid. An outsider intruding midway … would have assumed that horses or mules, rather than living men and women, were concerned … The NKVD spokesmen explained that there was no dearth of prisoners, including the necessary percentage of skilled workers and foremen. He could provide five thousand, ten thousand, any quantity we wished. The only difficulty was where to put them.’

Pace Isaac Deutscher, an ex-member of the State Planning Commission has maintained that by the end of the decade the gulag was the main construction agency in the land. It supplied 10 per cent of the timber, furniture and kitchenware, 25 per cent of Arctic freight towage, 40 per cent of the chrome and 75 per cent of the nation’s gold. There were also significant numbers of prisoners working under police guard in normal places of employment. Solzhenitsyn has observed that rather than enumerate the ways in which forced labour was employed, it is easier to name the one field in which it was not – the food-processing industry’. (pp. 270-2).

Now let’s look at the similarities between workfare and gulag forced labour.

They were both used to solve the problem of unemployment.

They both involve the inhuman exploitation of cheap labour. In workfare the worker receives only his unemployment benefit. Under Osborne’s plans to expand the system, even this may be removed. An unemployed person subject to sanction and the stoppage of his benefit will still be required to perform workfare for nothing. It thus becomes true, force labour, exactly like the gulags.

Both attempt to overturn Adam Smith’s and Karl Marx’s economic objections to slavery. In chattel slavery and that of the ancient world, plantation owners were expected to maintain their slaves, constructing barracks and providing clothes for them. They were also expected to supply them with rations. In the Caribbean, many plantations also had infirmaries for sick slaves. Moreover, slaves could be expensive, depending on their skills and physical fitness. It was also customary in some parts of America and the Caribbean for new slaves to be ‘seasoned’ before they were set to work on the plantations. The Middle Passage and conditions on the slave ships during the journey from Africa to the New World was horrific, with as many as a quarter to a third of the captive dying during the long voyage. Those that survived were so weakened that many planters customarily let them rest for a period of about six months to recover their strength before putting them to work. One of the Caribbean nations visited in the 1980s by Princess Diana had similarly been used by its major planter in the 19th century as a place to season his slaves. When Lady Di visited the country, the island’s press declared that it was only natural that she, an icon of beauty, should wish to come to their country, as its people were themselves naturally amongst the world’s most beautiful through their descent from the Caribbean’s strongest and very best-looking slaves. Slavery was a truly horrendous institution, but it could also be extremely expensive.

Workfare overcomes these economic objections as the worker is not directly housed or supported by the state. They are in theory still a free person, and so given benefit, but not accommodation, clothing or medical care by their employer. The gulags simply overcame the economic objections by working the slaves to death.

Both workfare and Stalin’s forced labour system are similarly based on the idea of a plentiful supply of unfree labour. In Stalin’s Russia, this was simply the vast numbers of potential workers in the general population. Workfare is based on the Thatcherite dictum that no-one should have a job for life, and the tacit unemployment rate set by the Chicago School. The Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice has stated that the Libertarian economists of the Chicago School believed that there should be a constant unemployment rate of 6 per cent in order to keep labour costs down. Hence, Von Hayek and his followers deliberately create a pool of labour, that can be drawn upon to provide cheap workers for industry. And Von Hayek had the gall to call his book attack Socialism Roads to Serfdom. The title describes Von Hayek’s Libertarianism as accurately as the totalitarian Socialism it attacks.

Nevertheless, both workfare and Stalin’s gulags affect only a relatively small percentage of the population, and so can be dismissed or ignored as a minor aspect of the system. De Jonge points out in the above passage that Isaac Deutscher, who as a Trotskyite was certainly no admirer of Stalin, that because only ten per cent of the population were incarcerated in the gulags, it was therefore only a marginal aspect of Stalin’s industrialisation of the USSR. Similarly, as yet only a comparatively few people are placed on workfare, so that it can be dismissed by the rest of the population as only a minor aspect of Tory policy. This would almost certainly change if the system was expanded to the rest of the population, and more people were conscripted so that it directly impinged on their liberties.

Both workfare and Gulag forced labour are inflicted on their victims on the pretence that they somehow deserve it. The inmates of the gulag were arrested as political prisoners, guilty of treason and somehow plotting to overthrow the USSR or sabotaging its industrial and economic development in collaboration with the forces of Trotsky and international capitalism, apart from ordinary criminals, who were also sentenced to forced labour. Under workfare, the worker is forced to work for his benefits as it is assumed that he is unemployed due to his own inability to find and hold down a job. It is assumed that he is idle, or somehow lacks the proper mental skills and attitudes. Workfare is supposed to correct these and teach him how to work properly for a living. See the blog pieces about this by The Void and Another Angry Voice, amongst others.

Finally, both workfare and the gulags are directly used to support and promote industry, and are carried out in partnership with private industry in Britain, and civilian industrial combines in Stalin’s Russia. Like the NKVD and the civilian industries under Stalin, the Coalition has invited a range of private employers to take part in the project. The Void in particular has blogged extensively about this. The main difference between the two in this respect is that under Stalin, the gulags created and supported the great industrial combines, like the Donbass, which became the pride of the Soviet Union. Under workfare, however, you’ll end up stacking shelves in Tesco’s, rather than working in vast furnaces for the steel industry.

Those on workfare are at the moment at least formally free, and are not subjected to the deportations and brutality of forced labour camps, although Mike and the other bloggers have noted that Osborne’s plans to expand it for the disabled included involuntary detention in special centres. Nevertheless, as systems of unfree labour, workfare and Stalin’s gulags have much in common. Stalin’s Terror and his extensive use of forced labour have presented a problem to Marxists, who have tried to explain how it occurred when Marxist doctrine itself assumes that it was the opposite of what should have happened in a true workers’ state. Some Marxists have described the Soviet Union not as socialism, but as ‘state capitalism’. Similarly, Libertarian Conservatives may attack the idea that workfare has anything in common with Stalin’s Russia, as it is the creation of free-market Conservatives, who respect and defend individual freedoms against the power of the collectivist state. In fact Marxist analysts of Fascism have viewed it as the highest stage of capitalism, where private industry becomes taken over and directed by the state. This is certainly true of Thatcherite capitalism, where the state and its administration have extensive links to private industry and are intended to serve its interests, not those of its wider citizens. The German historian, Joachim C. Fest, in his biography of Hitler comprehensively critiques these claims. Part of his argument was that the Nazi party only developed links with big business after it seized power. Before then its membership was drawn from the lower middle classes – the small businessmen and white collar workers, who felt threatened by organised labour. Nevertheless, capitalism under the Coalition has taken on many aspects of the Fascist corporate state, including, in workfare, the use of unfree labour. The ideology may be free-trade Libertarian, and the goals based on multinational free trade, rather than the Fascists’ policies of autarky and the extension of state power. It’s treatment of the labour force, the poor and disabled, increasingly resemble that of the Fascists and Stalinist Communism, however. In this sense, Cameron and Clegg’s coalition truly resembles the ‘state capitalism’ of Stalin’s USSR, and the Marxist idea that in its ultimate development, capitalism become Fascism.

Say No to Slavery Pic

Stalin, Ian Duncan Smith and Terror as Corporate Management Technique

January 28, 2014

Stalin

Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, aka Stalin: Thuggish Dictator of the Soviet Union

Ian Duncan Smith pic

Ian Duncan Smith: Thuggish Dictator of the Department of Work and Pensions

One of the other books I’ve been reading lately is Alex De Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1986). During his career Stalin is estimated to have killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens – though the real figure may be a high as 45 million or over – through a series of purges and artificial famines as he transformed the Soviet Union into the military and industrial superpower that was to dominate half of Europe and challenge America for world mastery for the next fifty years. From his boyhood Stalin was a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

The son of a drunken, abusive father, who used to challenge his son to knife him when beating him and a hard mother, Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, grew up dirty poor in the village of Gori in Georgia, one of the countries in the Caucasus that had been absorbed into the Russian Empire. The family lived in one room of a two-room house. The other was occupied by their landlord. He was short, only 5’4” tall, with an elbow left permanently stiff through a childhood accident. The second and third toes on one of his feet were conjoined from birth, and his faced had been left pockmarked through smallpox. This and his family’s poverty gave him strong feelings of inferiority. He soon developed a deep hatred of anyone in authority above him, and his need to dominate and utter lack of any feeling for others were commented on by his fellow students at the Orthodox Christian seminary in Tiflis, in which his parents had enrolled him. One of them remarked on how he was never known to cry, and greeted the joys and misfortunes of his fellow students alike with a sarcastic smile. Most of all, the young Stalin already was alien to basic human altruism. He could not understand how anyone could act kindly or generously to another out of the sheer goodness of their heart, without some ulterior motive. At the seminary he joined a secret Marxist discussion circle set up by some of the other students. He managed to split this between his supporters and opponents through his absolute insistence that only his interpretation of Marx’s doctrine could ever be correct.

He was also already an advocate of absolute, ruthless personal government. One of the stories about Stalin’s time at the seminary is about an essay he wrote on the fall of Julius Caesar. The history teacher had set them the question ‘Why did Caesar fall?’ Stalin’s essay looked at the question from the perspective of the organs of state power, identifying weaknesses and filling in the gaps where these could be strengthened. He stated that Rome’s greatest dictator fell, because he had allowed another source of authority and resistance, the Senate, to continue uninterrupted. The provincial governors opposed him, because they feared his power more than that of the Senate. He also made the mistake of relying on the support of friends, rather than managers, who depended on him for power and who could be relied on to do his bidding. As a result, he was assassinated by his two friends, Brutus and Cassius. When he was asked if his essay was recommending absolute monarchy, he responded by saying that it did not. Absolute monarchy was the control of the state by a single personality. In Stalin’s view, his recommendations were the exact opposite: the strengthening of state power through a single personality.

Stalin was eventually thrown out of the seminary for reading forbidden
books, like Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Marx. He demanded that the other members of the Marxist discussion circle should likewise resign, so that they could concentrate on revolutionary activities and propaganda amongst the people. They refused, offering the excuse that they didn’t want to disappoint their parents. So Stalin denounced them all to the seminary authorities, who threw them out anyway. On their expulsion, Djugashvili told them that they were now free to pursue their revolutionary activities amongst the people. After this, the young revolutionary became a kinto, the Georgian term for a semi-criminal street hustler. His revolutionary activities included a series of bank robberies used to fund the Russian Social Democratic Party, the parent Marxist organisation which produced the Bolshevik faction, that later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

So the pattern of Stalin’s personality and rule were present from his childhood: feelings of inferiority, hatred of authority, utter ruthlessness and a need to dominate others, with a predilection for absolute power and the willingness to use violence to obtain it.

I can’t remember if it was De Jonge’s book, but I do remember that in the 1980s the Sunday Express reviewed one of the biographies of the monster. This was done as yet another of the ‘real truth about an icon of the Left’ that the Right-wing press runs every now and again in order to discredit anyone, whose views are to the left of Maggie Thatcher. In fact, Stalin had been discredited long before the 1980s. He had been out of favour in the Soviet Union ever since the ‘Secret Speech’ of 1953, in which Khruschev denounced his ‘cult of personality’. Moreover, the old thug’s fiercest critics included not only non-Communist democrats, but also dissident Marxists like Roy Medvedev, an historian and author of Let History Judge, which exposed not only Stalin and his crimes, but also his henchmen. The book’s Russian title is, if I can remember correctly, B Dvortse Istorii, which literally translated means In History’s Court, which might have a slightly different shade of meaning. Medvedev was a democrat. He presented to Brezhnev a 12-point plan drawn up by himself and other leading Soviet dissidents like Andrei Sakharov. Nevertheless, he was a Marxist, who founded the Socialist Party of Russian Working People in 1991 in opposition to the banning of the Russian Communist party after the coup against Gorbachev.

At first sight, there appears to be very little in common between Ian Duncan Smith and Stalin. Stalin was, after all, essentially a poor street thug, who cleverly manipulated others to make his way to the very top of Soviet hierarchy. IDS is like the rest of the cabinet, a creature of privilege, who owes his position to the British class system. Nevertheless, the two share certain psychological traits in common and their management styles are very similar. In the introduction De Jonge discusses Stalin’s style of government, and rebuts the suggestion that it is somehow strange or unusual in the West. It is in the traditions of democratic government. However, it is much less unusual, and even common, when it is compared with the aggressive and ruthless management style of some company directors. These also rule by fear, though this is simply that of being sacked, rather than being sent to a forced labour camp or shot in the back of the head by the NKVD. Such chairmen are also unwilling to take advice, capricious, and surround themselves with sycophants willing to do and say anything to gain promotion, including stabbing each other in the back. And like Stalin, these company directors can turn their corporations into highly efficient, successful companies. De Jonge states

‘At first sight the country over which he and they ruled strikes Western observers as alien, as indeed it is when judged by the standards and practices of Western political democracy. However, when considered from a different point of view, much that may seem strange at first sight will strike the reader as surprisingly familiar. My interest in Stalin began many years ago, when I was in a position to compare what I knew of him with the atmosphere in a large British corporation, ruled by a chief executive who believed in management by terror. Everyone, fr4om the board of directors to the lift man, existed under the continuing threat of dismissal without warning, while sackings appeared to occur on a virtually random basis. The chairman set ambitious targets based on his intuitions, seldom listened to advice and never admitted he had made a mistake. He was surrounded by an entourage of sycophants who passed his management style down the line, subjecting their own subordinates to the same kind of bullying, with the result that the corporation operated in a terror-laden miasma of politicking, backstabbing, misrepresentation of personal achievement and the sophisticated ‘management’ of company news. Nevertheless, the technique got results, and while the chairman’s intuitive methods produced some spectacular failures, they could also be spectacularly successful. It was a world in which the dangers were colossal, but in which the rewards were commensurate with the risks.

For many years I had supposed this style of management to be unique and that those who had had the misfortune to know it were exceptionally unfortunate. However, I have come to understand that in the world of the nontenured, administration by fear, with the firing squad replaced by instant dismissal, is closer to the rule than the exception. Indeed, it appears to be the norm for any organization in which the administrators are not accountable to those under their authority and in which there is no job security. Academics tend to tr4eat STalin’s Russia as a savage and alien society that requires sophisticated analytic techniques to understand it, because tenure protects them from that perpetual threat of job loss that, with all its attendant office politics, drawn daggers and smoking guns, is part of the fabric of most peoples’ daily lives. They fail to appreciate that Soviet reality ‘begins at home’.

Now this reminds very strongly of IDS’ DWP. Let’s see, run by a bully, who governs by his own intuitions untrammelled by facts? Check. An atmosphere of fear of dismissal, with the subordinates passing this down the line to those under them? Check. Carefully managed news? Definitely check. Backstabbing? Absolutely. Furthermore, like Stalin the ultimate use of terror is the benefit sanction, in which the victim is denied state support. You can compare this to the artificial famines Stalin and his subordinates created during collectivisation, and which devastated the Ukraine in what has become known as the Holodomor. And people are similarly starving in Britain through Smith’s policies, and have died as a result. See the blog entries by Stilloaks, Mike, The Void, DEAP and Jayne Linney for this.

As for the personal psychology of the two, like Stalin IDS also appears to have an inferiority complex. There is, after all, considerable doubt whether he was actually an officer in the British army. IDS also seems to share Stalin’s intellectual vanity. Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party as the other Bolsheviks thought that he was too thick to present much of a threat. They believed that a Napoleonic dictator would arise after the Revolution to rule by fear. Unfortunately, they looked in completely the opposite direction, and thought it was Trotsky. Trotsky was, after all, the head of the Red Army during the Civil War, and was a far more sophisticated thinker than Stalin. And so they were looking in completely the wrong direction, while Stalin was under their noses carefully using his position to throw out anyone, who was not absolutely loyal to him. From being a thicko, who didn’t properly understand the niceties of Marxist doctrine – in the 1930s he was still supposed to be taking lessons in Dialectal Materialism – Stalin suddenly became the greatest genius of all time and all humanity, who not only understood Marx thoroughly, but had also personally solved certain problems in Plato. IDS similarly claims an intellectual ability he doesn’t possess. He has, after all, claimed to have a degree from an Italian institute of higher education, which actually doesn’t issue them.

As for spin and backbiting, it was IDS, who appears to have blamed one of his subordinates for his own mistakes. He regularly refuses to release the figures on how many people have died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, and delayed appearing before the Work and Pensions Committee for as long as possible. Like Iosip Vissarionovich from Georgia, he also believes himself to be above the law.

And like Stalin, IDS personally likes to appear surrounded by armed thugs. When he appeared before the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee, he was surrounded by bodyguards and armed policemen, who kept their guns trained on the public gallery, including disabled visitors and their carers. So IDS also has the old brute’s absolute contempt for the poor and most vulnerable in spades.

There are, however, some differences between the two. So far, Ian Duncan Smith and Cameron are not following Stalin in demanding mass arrests, and deportations to forced labour camps, although there are extremely ominous signs of something like them in Osborne’s plans to expand workfare. But the main difference is in success. Stalin was ruthless, but he turned the Soviet Union into the world’s second superpower. During the 1930s the country had an economic growth rate of something like 30 per cent. Vast industrial combines, such as those in the Donbass, virtually appeared overnight. The Tories, on the other hand, have consistently wrecked Britain’s industrial, manufacturing base. Osborne is claiming that we are well on the way to recovery, but this is only through a very clever manipulation of the statistics.

So IDS and his Tory party comrades have all of Stalin’s defects – the murderous ruthlessness, with absolutely none of the old psychopath’s capacity for turning the country into an industrial giant. And this is the man, who, as head of the Department for Work and Pensions, is in charge of the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Way back in the 19th century liberal Russians cried ‘Who can be happy in Russia?’ Under Cameron, the question can be put this side of the Baltic. ‘Who can be happy in Britain?’

Nigel Farage and Clyde the Orangutan: Who Would Make a Better Job of Sorting Out UKIP?

January 28, 2014

NigelFarage

UKIP Supremo Nigel Farage: Sound Policies for a Happier Britain

UKIP is once more in the news. After a series of scandals by UKIP councillors and politicians, Nigel Farage has responded with a few scathing comments on his party’s membership. In an interview with the Times today (28th January 2014), Farage declared that the ‘wrong kind of people are in UKIP’ and urged the party not to elect Walter Mittys. This follows a series of highly offensive comments by UKIP councillors, such as asking a group of children from care homes how it feels to be ‘takers from society’. If that weren’t enough, another stalwart of the party of Eurosceptics declared that the recent floods in Somerset was God’s punishment for gay marriage. This last comment produced mixed cries of scorn and amusement all over the country. A female friend of mine told me that one of her gay friends had said about this prize piece of Right-wing idiocy, ‘They’re blaming me for the floods! I’ve never had such power before!’

In fact, this particular attitude to the floods is pretty much in line with some of the more ridiculous comments about pro-gay movements and legislation that have come out of the American Right over the past few decades. Way back in the 1990s Private Eye in their ‘Funny Old World’ column printed a piece from one of the local American papers covering Jerry Falwell’s attack on a gay pride march in Orlando, Florida. This most notorious of the Right-wing televangelists attacked the planned march with the statement that if the gay community continued ‘shaking their fists’ at the Almighty, then He would punish them with an earthquake, tsunami or perhaps even wipe the place out with an asteroid. The paper then asked the Bishop of Florida for his comment on Falwell’s diatribe. This man of God put the religious situation in his city into a broader perspective. Overall, he declared, ‘Orlando was a pretty god-fearing place. You’d think if he was going to wipe anywhere out, He’d start with Vegas’.

Yesterday the news revealed that one of UKIP’s MEPs for Somerset had the worst voting record in the European parliament. In a TV interview, the politico acknowledged in response to one of the questions put to him, that the allowance paid to him for attending the sessions were a factor in his turning up at sessions at all, thus adding idleness and venality to the party’s record of bigotry and contempt for the poor and vulnerable.

Hence Farage’s comments about the party having the wrong people in it.

This is a bit rich coming Farage. It reminds me of the proverb ‘A fish rots from the neck down’. Going further back a decade or so ago, Farage himself was also several time in Private Eye himself, after he was spotted having lunch with ‘Nasty’ Nick Griffin of the BNP. Farage has always tried to distance his party from racism and xenophobia, not entirely successfully, so perhaps the two were instead not discussing the politics of race, but the expanding power of the centralist state and the growing threat of Bolshevism in British society.

In fact, Farage’s remarks about his own people strongly reminds me of a comment the Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht made about the East German authorities’ absolute contempt for their own people. There had been a popular uprising, and Honegger, or whoever was in charge at the time, responded by sending in the tanks. The man responsible for such masterpieces of Weimar theatre as Mother Courage, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui drily remarked, ‘The politburo has unanimously decided to dissolve the people and elect another’.

It also parallels another disparaging comment by an exasperated leader on the quality of his on a rather less elevated cultural level: ‘Clint Eastwood’s Any Which Way But Loose. In this flick, Eastwood stars as a trucker, who falls foul of an outlaw biker gang. After a fight in which the motorcycle maniacs are thoroughly done over by the star of Dirty Harry and his orang-utan companion, Clyde, their leader cries in despair ‘Oh, Lord! Other men you made of clay! Why did you make mine of sh*t!’ It’s a question Farage is clearly asking himself today, though with a less earthy vocabulary. Perhaps he should be a bit stricter in who the party recruits, and needs a better PR department. All the party’s now have extensive spin machines and press officers. Maggie, of course, had Bernard Ingham. From the way UKIP’s politicos act, I think Clyde would be a better choice for them. After all, in the film he had an excellent sense of humour, charisma, and never said anything embarrassing, unlike UKIP’s hordes of blunt Right-wingers.

clyde Eastwood

Clyde the orang-utan expressing his penetrating analysis of UKIP’s grasp of EU economics and the question of the Britain’s position within it during filming with Clint Eastwood.