Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Category

Fabian Pamphlet on the Future of Industrial Democracy: Part 2

November 11, 2017

This is the second part of my article on William McCarthy’s Fabian pamphlet, The Future of Industrial Democracy, published in 1988.

The section on Ideas in chapter 3: Composition and Principles of Representation runs as follows

At this stage all one can do is propose a number of suggestions and options for further consideration by the Movement. I therefore advance the following cockshy in an attempt to start a debate. No doubt it fails to grapple with many of the problems and oversimplifies others. It should be regarded as written with the lightest of pencils. Three ideas come to mind.

First, why not retain the Bullock notion of a universal enabling ballot, to test whether workers in a given firm or establishment wish to exercise their statutory rights to participation? As the Bullock Report recognised unions would retain the right to “trigger” such a ballot in the groups they represented. Well-intentioned employers, in association with recognised unions, could agree to recommend the establishment of such statutory councils; but there would be a need to be a ballot of all workers involved.

Where a majority of workers voting favoured the establishment of participative rights the employer would be under a legal obligation to establish statutory joint councils. The composition of the workers’ side would be broadly defined by statute, as would be their powers and right. Management would be free to decide its own representatives who served on the council, but the statute would specify the obligations of the employee.

Second, why not let worker representatives emerge by means of a universal secret ballot-open to both unionists and non-unionists-with recognised unions enjoying certain prescribed rights of nomination? Here there a considerable number of European examples to choose from. In France and Luxembourg as I understand it, only unions can nominate for the “first round” of elections. If less than 50 per cent of the electorate vote there is a second election and any worker can nominate. In Belgium unions have an exclusive right to nominate “lists” of candidates where they have representative rights; non-unionists may make nominations elsewhere. Alternatively, there are systems where a given number of workers can nominate if unions fail to provide sufficient nominations. In the Netherlands, for example, any thirty workers can nominate in the larger enterprises, if unions fail to do so. In Germany any three workers can put up a candidate. For myself I favour certain limited rights of nomination in cases where unions are recognised. This is the area where the spectre of “company unionism” is most easily perceived and rightly resisted.

Third, why not specify that in areas where unions can demonstrate that they have members but no recognition any “appropriate” union has the right to make nominations? This need not prevent a given number of workers from enjoying analogous rights.

The section on Legal Framework also says

The best possible combination of nomination and electoral arrangements needs further thought than I can give it as this point. What I believe is that given suitable arrangements it would be possible both to safeguard the position of established unions and create conditions favourable to trade union growth; yet it would not be necessary to insist on a quasi-monopoly of representative rights confined to recognised unions. I suggest that after further debate within the Movement, Labour should propose an enabling statute which provides for joint participation councils in all private firms employing more than 500. The figure of 500 is itself open to debate. But in this way, I estimate it would be possible to show that the intention was to provide participation opportunities for something like 50 per cent of the private sector labour force. A worthwhile beginning to further advance, based on experience and proven worth. Where it was evident that a company employing more than 500 was divided into more than one “establishment” or was composed of a group of companies under the overall control of a “holding company” or its equivalent, power would exist to demand additional joint councils, with rights related to decisions taken at appropriate management levels.

Consideration would need to be given to the creation of a similar framework of rights in appropriate parts of the public sector of employment. So far as I can see there is no good reason why workers in the nationalised industries, national and local government or the NHS should be deprived of statutory rights to participate in management decisions affecting their working lives. No doubt the representation of “management” will pose different problems, the appropriate levels of joint councils will need to be tailor-made to fit different parts of the public sector and there will be different problems of confidentiality. But I doubt if the needs of workers and the benefits to both employers and the public will be found to be all that different.

It will be said that this cockshy for further consideration is superficial, with several critical problems and difficulties left unresolved. Those who like its general drift, but feel fear that the sceptics may have a case, could not do better than look again at some of the less publicised parts of the Bullock Report. One of the more lasting services performed by the Committee of Inquiry was that it set out to explore and overcome almost all the practical objections that could be raised to any form of statutorily based workers’ participation (see Bullock op. cit. chapters 11 and 12).

For this reason its says wise and relevant things about the need to avoid allowing all kinds of exceptions to a participation law, based on the alleged differences that are said to exist in banks, shipping lines, building firms and other parts of the private sector where employers would like to escape the effect of legislation. It also provides a clear account of the problem of “confidentiality” and how best to deal with it. It makes a convincing case for an Industrial Democracy Commission (IDC) to administer and apply the legislation and monitor its effects in an objective and impartial way. (In our case an additional essential task for the IDC would be to decide when multi-level joint councils were justified in the case of a particular firm or group of firms.) Above all, perhaps, it provides a guide through the complexities of company structure-with its spider’s web of holding boards, subsidiary boards, parent companies, inter-locking “subsidiaries” and “intermediate” organisations. It even follows these labyrinth paths into the upper reaches of British and foreign-based multi-nationals.

Of course the Committee’s primary objective in tracing out the lines of corporate responsibility and influence was to decide how to apply its own benchmark of “2,000 or more employees”. After much consideration they decided that this should apply “…to the ultimate holding company of a group which in toto employs 2,000 or more people in the United Kingdom, as well as to any individual company which employs 2,000 or more people in the United Kingdom, whether or not it is part of a group” (Bullock, op. cit. p. 132).

With appropriate emendation to fit the lower thresholds advanced in this pamphlet the Bullock formula seems to me to provide the essence of the right approach.

It is also important to remember that the legal framework advanced above would its place alongside Labour’s overall programme for extending rights at work-eg the restoration of trade union rights, improved rights of recognition and an expansion of individual rights against employers in cases of unfair dismissal and discrimination. All British workers would gain from such a programme and good employers should have nothing to fear.

The proposals should also be seen against the background of the first report of the Labour Party National Executive Committee’s People at Work Policy Review Group, with its emphasis on the need for a new training initiative and action to raise economic efficiency and the quality of life at work.

A legal framework of the kind envisaged here would provide trade unions and trade unionists with unrivalled opportunities. In areas where unions were recognised union representatives would find it easier to service members and influence the decisions of management. In areas where non-unionism is now the norm there would be greater incentives to organise and recruit; it would be easier to demonstrate what unionisation could do and easier to move to a situation in which recognition became a natural development. Of course, unions and their workplace representatives would need to become experts in explaining and using the rights embodied in the new framework. There would be a need for professional and prompt guidance and support in local and national union offices.

Unions should also find it easier to tackle their media image as negative and reactionary forces-opposed to the narrow “consumerism” peddled by the Government and its allies: engaged in a perpetual battle against management-inspired improvements in productivity and efficiency. In time, and before very long, it should be possible to demonstrate the contribution which can be made by the right kind of alliance between management, workers and unions. Benighted market men and women can be relied upon to misunderstand and misrepresent any teething problems and difficulties that arise; but for trade unionists of all sorts and persuasions there will be very little to lose and a great deal to gain.

This article will conclude in Part 3, which will discuss the pamphlet’s last chapter, Summary and Conclusions.

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Democratic Socialist on the Von Mises Institute’s Lies About the Pinochet Coup

November 5, 2017

I’ve blogged several times about the Von Mises Institute. They take their name from Ludwig Von Mises, one of the founders, along with Von Hayek, of modern libertarianism.

And they’re a deeply, deeply unpleasant lot. They hate the welfare state, demand the complete privatisation of every state enterprise or service, and are thoroughly racist. Von Mises’ himself was a member of Dollfuss’ austrofascist government, before fleeing to America when the Nazis invaded. He was instrumental in setting up the Chicago School, which included Milton Friedman, the father of Monetarism, and which provided the economic doctrines for Pinochet’s disgusting regime in Chile. Von Mises, like Friedman, used to go down there to see how their doctrines were working out under the old dictator.

During the Cold War they used to publish pseudo-scientific racist and eugenicist literature, arguing that Blacks were mentally inferior to Whites, and that there was no point in setting up a welfare state, as you’d just be wasting your money keeping alive the biologically unfit. Which means Blacks, as well as poor Whites. Or indeed, anyone who isn’t rich and White. More recently they’ve been pushing the lie that the American Civil War wasn’t about slavery, but about tariff control and states’ rights. Which is rubbish, because the leaders of the Confederacy said they were going to war to defend slavery.

In this video, Democratic Socialist, who sounds Antipodean to my ears, tears apart the lies in an article about the Pinochet coup by George Reisman in the Institute’s wretched journal.

Reisman claims that Pinochet was absolutely correct to overthrow the government of the Marxist president, Salvador Allende, because Allende was planning to overturn democracy and incarcerate and kill millions in concentration. Pinochet did not do any of this himself. If he had lived in Germany, he would have stopped Hitler coming to power, and would similarly have overthrown the Russian Revolutionaries under Lenin.

This is all hogwash.

Democratic Socialist uses the Pinochet Coup to demonstrate that it seems to bear out Trotsky’s comments that Fascism is the highest stage of capitalism, when it is challenged by the workers. He begins by stating that capitalism is the system under which the means of production are owned privately by a group, which then forms the working class. It needs a state apparatus to defend itself from being attacked and taken over by the exploited workers. This is followed by footage of Hitler’s ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’, Nick Robins-, sorry, Josef Goebbels, ranting about how Hitler had saved Germany from the threat of Bolshevism. Just as Pinochet claimed he had saved Chile from Communism.

In fact, Allende had been democratically elected and his government had been in power for three years when Pinochet overthrew him. Allende himself never imprisoned anyone, did not shut down any opposition radio stations or newspapers, nor set up a single concentration camp.

But Pinochet certainly did. He imprisoned thousands of Chilean left-wingers. If you read the text shown in the video, it gives the number of people imprisoned by the b*stard as 3,000. Reisman claims that these victims were not innocents. They were. One of them was Victor Jara, a popular singer and musician. Apart from imprisoning and torturing members of the Chilean left, he also used football stadiums as the venues for their execution.

As for preventing Hitler from coming to power, Democratic Socialist points out that both Hitler and Pinochet had the backing of the capitalist class, and both claimed they were saving their countries from Marxism. This is accompanied with footage showing troops in coal-scuttle helmets doing a kind of goose-step. They could be Nazi storm-troopers, but they’re not. Democratic Socialist doesn’t point this out, but they’re actually Chilean soldiers. Pinochet was a fan of Adolf Hitler, and deliberately modelled the uniforms of the Chilean army on those of Nazi Germany. And to anyone from the Right, who wants to dismiss this as coming from a tainted left-wing source, I didn’t get it from a left-wing newspaper. It came from an article in the Daily Mail years ago. So definitely not from a left-wing source!

Democratic Socialist also puts Reisman right about the possibility that Pinochet would have saved Russia from Communism. Well, that was what the Russian Civil War was about, when the Whites tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks. They had thousands of little Pinochets, but were defeated as they faced an army of armed revolutionaries, not unarmed, innocent civilians.

He then goes on to demolish the claim that Pinochet stepped down voluntarily in 1988. He didn’t. He was forced out by the other members of his vile junta after he lost a referendum. Pinochet himself was planning to overturn it.

And unsurprisingly, Reisman claims that Pinochet’s economic reforms benefitted ordinary Chileans. They didn’t. They simply plunged them into even worse poverty.

Democratic Socialist also compares Pinochet’s regime with Castro’s revolution in Cuba. Pinochet overthrew a democratically elected government, and imprisoned and tortured innocents. Castro, by contrast, overthrew the Bautista dictatorship, which was also supported by the capitalists, and which had killed thousands of political opponents.

He also takes issue with the claim that capitalism has not killed anyone, or is not responsible for the same number of deaths as global communism. He shows this to be untrue by citing the figures for the famines in China and India created by capitalism, and of the horrific punishments inflicted by capitalist regimes when their workers aren’t productive enough.

He ilustrates the last with pictures of Black Africans with missing limbs. These are from the poor indigenous people of Zaire, formerly the Belgian Congo, when it was the personal possession of King Leopold in the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. These people were forced to cultivate and produce rubber for the king. If they were unable to meet their quotas, they were flogged or had their hands and feet hacked off. If you want to see the photos for yourself, along with some of the other grim depictions of slavery and the slave trade through the ages, try Susan Everett’s Slavery, published by Buffalo Books. It’s a big coffee table book, rather than academic text, but it does cover slavery throughout history, including the ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian and Chinese migrant workers.

This is very much the type of pernicious lies which the Republicans and the Libertarian wing of the Tory party over here have been trying to spread about Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Thatcher was very much part of the Libertarian wing of the Tory party, and she was very much a friend and admirer of the old b*stard, when he came over here for medical treatment. Or to evade arrest after a left-wing government took charge of the country.

And far from Allende destroying democracy and setting up concentration camps, part of what made him so dangerous to the Americans was that he was democratically elected and was not destroying democracy in Chile. This undermined the right-wing attempts to present Communism as a threat.

The Communist regimes have been responsible for massive repression and famine across much of the world, from Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s China. I wouldn’t like to say that capitalism has killed more people than Communism, but it has certainly produced millions of deaths. For example, capitalist ideas about the sanctity of free trade were partly responsible for a horrific famine in India, which carried off millions. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts, which is shown in one of the pictures in the video above.

Counterpunch on Theresa May’s Plans to Celebrate the Balfour Declaration

March 7, 2017

Yesterday Counterpunch published a powerful piece by Robert Fisk, ‘Who Could Ever Feel Pride in the Balfour Declaration?’ attacking Theresa May’s plans to celebrate the centenary of the British Prime Minister’s declaration during the First World War to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Fisk is a journalist with the Independent, where the piece was originally published, and a veteran critic of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous, Arab population. He begins the article

Theresa May told us that Britain will celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration this summer with “pride”. This was predictable. A British prime minister who would fawn to the head-chopping Arab autocrats of the Gulf in the hope of selling them more missiles – and then hold the hand of the insane new anti-Muslim president of the United States – was bound, I suppose, to feel “pride” in the most mendacious, deceitful and hypocritical document in modern British history.

As a woman who has set her heart against immigrants, it was also inevitable that May would display her most venal characteristics to foreigners – to wealthy Arab potentates, and to an American president whose momentary love of Britain might produce a life-saving post-Brexit trade agreement. It was to an audience of British lobbyists for Israel a couple of months ago that she expressed her “pride” in a century-old declaration which created millions of refugees. But to burnish the 1917 document which promised Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine but which would ultimately create that very refugee population – refugees being the target of her own anti-immigration policies – is little short of iniquitous.

The Balfour Declaration’s intrinsic lie – that while Britain supported a Jewish homeland, nothing would be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – is matched today by the equally dishonest response of Balfour’s lamentable successor at the Foreign Office. Boris Johnson wrote quite accurately two years ago that the Balfour Declaration was “bizarre”, a “tragicomically incoherent” document, “an exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. But in a subsequent visit to Israel, the profit-hunting Mayor of London suddenly discovered that the Balfour Declaration was “a great thing” that “reflected a great tide of history”. No doubt we shall hear more of this same nonsense from Boris Johnson later this year.

He states that Balfour issued the Declaration in order to convince American and Russian Jews to continue to press for continuing the war against Germany, after Russia was forced to sue for peace the same year in 1917. He points out that Britain should, by rights, apologise to the millions of Arab refugees created by the Declaration, as Britain has done for the Slave Trade and the Irish Potato Famine. But he predicts that Britain won’t, because Theresa May needs Israel far more than she needs the support of the Arabs. Much of the article is really a discussion of David Cronin’s book Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel. Cronin’s an Irish journalist living Brussels, who very definitely despises anti-Semitism and Holocaust-deniers, and who faces up to the issue of the support of Mufti of Jerusalem for the Nazis and the Holocaust. The book details the British use of violence and repression against the Arabs, including the use of ‘extra-judicial execution’. Fisk also shows in his article how British prime ministers since Balfour, of both the Left and Right, have supported Israel at the expense of its Arab population. PMs who have supported Israel and its ethnic cleansing include Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher and, of course, Tony Blair. Fisk also details British complicity in supplying arms to the Israelis and that they gave no protection to Arab civilians when they were being massacred, such as at Haifa. Fisk states

Cronin’s investigation of Colonial Office files show that the British military lied about the “cleansing” of Haifa, offering no protection to the Arabs, a policy largely followed across Palestine save for the courage of Major Derek Cooper and his soldiers, whose defence of Arab civilians in Jaffa won him the Military Cross (although David Cronin does not mention this). Cooper, whom I got to know when he was caring for wounded Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, never forgave his own government for its dishonesty at the end of the Palestine Mandate.

But Britain’s support for Israel hasn’t always been reciprocated. When the PLO opposed the Falkland’s War, they were told very clearly by the British ambassador that it was no concern of theirs. At the same time the Israelis were selling Skyhawk jets to the Argentinians to shoot down our flyboys.

Fisk concludes the article

From the day that Herbert Samuel, deputy leader of the Liberal Party and former (Jewish) High Commissioner for Palestine, said in the House of Commons in 1930 that Arabs “do migrate easily”, it seems that Britain has faithfully followed Balfour’s policies. More than 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted in their catastrophe, Cronin writes. Generations of dispossessed would grow up in the camps. Today, there are around five million registered Palestinian refugees. Britain was the midwife of that expulsion.

And this summer, we shall again be exhorted by Theresa May to remember the Balfour Declaration with “pride”.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/06/who-could-ever-feel-pride-in-the-balfour-declaration/

7 Earthlike Worlds Discovered Around Star Trappist-1

February 25, 2017

More awesome space news! This week, NASA announced that their Spitzer telescope had discovered a system of seven worlds orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star, Trappist-1. The star takes its name from the Belgian operated observatory, which found it. Astronomers from Liege university discovered two of these worlds. Three of these rocky worlds lie in the planet’s habitable zone, which means they could have life, and all of them have temperatures which would permit liquid water to exist. Because of the star’s small size and extremely cool temperature, they are closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun. This video from the Kepler Telescope Channel also looks forward to the development of spacecraft that will be able to reach something like lightspeed, so that humanity may at some point in the future be able to expand into space. And at just 39 light years away, Trappist-1 and its worlds are a suitable nearby target for exploration. The scientists, who made the discovery, also say that the planets are so close together, that you’d be able to see all of them from the surface of one of the planets. They would loom larger than Earth’s Moon, and it would be possible to see even clouds and geological features on their surface.

Murdoch Wants US To Leave EU, But Why Listen to that Lying Foreigner?

June 14, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that the Scum, owned by foreigner Rupert Murdoch, has told its readers that they should support the ‘Leave’ campaign. Mike points out that this is the same newspaper, whose reputation for truthful reporting has been shown by its claims that the Hillsborough disaster was due to appalling behaviour by the Liverpool fans. There’s also a very interesting quote from Anthony Hilton of the Evening Standard. He asked the Dirty Digger why he hated the EU. The Chunder from Down Under replied that it’s because, when he goes to Downing Street, they all do what he says. When he goes to Brussels, they don’t.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/14/eu-referendum-are-you-stupid-enough-to-do-what-the-sun-tells-you/

This comes from Rupert Murdoch, whose own manifest love for his homeland was such was that his endorsement effectively scuppered the Ozzie campaign to become a republic. The campaign to remove the Queen as the Australian head of state was going well, until Murdoch decided to voice his support. Murdoch is, of course, notorious for loving his country so much, that he renounced the land of his birth to become an American citizen, as otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to own media in the Land of the Free. Patriotic Australians took exception to being told what to do by this foreigner, and so voted to keep Her Maj.

And Dirty Rupe’s reputation for high journalistic integrity and standards is, I think, as high over there as it is over here. Back in the 1970s, the staff of one of the national papers he owned went on strike, complaining that Murdoch’s political bias was so overt and extreme that it was making the paper a laughing stock. And the journos and hacks on one of his papers in New York did the same. The Digger had decided to throw his journalistic weight behind Ed Koch in his campaign against Andrew Cuomo to be mayor of New York. When someone asked Murdoch why, he answered simply, ‘There are 2 1/2 million Jews in New York, and only a million Italians.’ In other words, it was all about who was the biggest demographic he sell newspapers to. It’s an entirely mercenary attitude. And as for Fox News and its claim to represent ‘fair and balanced journalism’, a study found a few years ago that actually, it only told the truth 30 per cent of the time, a much lower proportion than other news outlets. It’s the Pravda of the American capitalists.

And News International is so patriotic over here, that they use offshore bank accounts to dodge paying taxes. But they ‘BeLeave’ in Britain. Yeah, right.

And Murdoch doesn’t believe in the British working class, either. Murdoch’s own politics are consistently extremely right-wing. He’s pro-privatisation, hates the unions, and wants the welfare state, including the NHS, dismantled. Basically, if you’re poor or sick, he has no time for you, except if he thinks he can make money somehow from your poverty, like making you accept any job, no matter how crappy or exploitative, and forcing you to pay for your medical treatment. He has never been on the side of working people, and is laughing at them for buying his cruddy rag and the lies it prints. Of course he wants us to leave Europe. If we go, we’ll lose even more legal protection than have already been lost through the Tories’ assault on the justice system. He despises the Social Charter and the protection it gives European workers and employees. This is about Murdoch supporting the multinational corporations in their quest to find more ways to exploit their workers. He isn’t backing Britain, just supporting yet more ways to grind its people down behind his usual ultra-patriotic mouthings and hypocrisy.

Stephen Hawking on Why British Science Needs the EU

June 1, 2016

One of the many piece Mike put up on his site yesterday reported on Stephen Hawking’s statement that British science would be put at risk if we left the EU. Hawking was speaking as a guest on the show Good Morning Britain, and stated that the EU was good for British science for two reasons. Firstly, it allowed scientists and students from different countries to travel, thus sharing their skills, knowledge and experience. Without this exchange of personnel and ideas, Britain would be come isolated and remote from the centres of scientific endeavour. He also stated that British science benefited from generous funding from the European Union.

Another EU personality clash: Stephen Hawking vs Michael Gove. Who do YOU think should win?

Hawking’s views here are, unsurprisingly, exactly right. In fact, British intellectual culture has benefited from the exchange of staff and ideas from across the continent. Many, perhaps the majority, of unis today have teaching staff and students from elsewhere in the EU and the wider world. In the archaeology department at Bristol University four years ago, when I was studying for my postgraduate degree, there were staff from Greece, Portugal and Germany. There were also speakers at the regular postgraduate seminars from countries such as Austria and Belgium, apart from those from the other parts of the Anglophone world. These archaeologists reported on excavations they had carried out not only in their home countries, but also in places like Turkey, Egypt, Romania and the former USSR. Well some of this is no doubt possible without the umbrella of the EU, it’s made much easier with it.

And Britain does benefit from the international contacts the EU brings at a corporate and financial level. ESA, the European Space Agency, operates a system of a juste retour. Under this system, the countries that contribute the most funding to a European space project get the most contracts for it. And we’ve missed out on the benefits of closer cooperation with the European Space Agency in the past. For example, we could have been much more involved with the Ariane satellite launcher. This was developed by France from the remains of the ESRO project to build a European launch vehicle. We developed our own launcher too, Black Knight, which successfully launched a British satellite in the 1970s, but was cancelled after its first mission. We could have had a place, or many more places for our satellites, aboard Ariane. Instead, some Whitehall mandarin decided that we should instead throw in our lot with the Americans’ space shuttle. Well, we suffered there, not just because of the horrific engineering problems with that space vessel, which resulted in the deaths of the crew of the Challenger and more recent fatalities. We also suffered because the launch of our satellites depended on whether there was space left over after the Americans had filled it with the experiments they wanted for their missions. Meanwhile, Ariane, quietly and successfully, carried other countries’ experiments and satellites into orbit, while we waited for the goodwill of the Americans.

And Ariane itself, the rocket launcher, is excellent value for money. It costs the same as the Space Shuttle to launch a satellite, but that’s only because the Space Shuttle was heavily subsidised by the US government. If you’re looking for something that justifies itself according to free market ideology, then it’s probably Ariane you’d go for.

Much of the cutting-edge, gosh-wow science that science educators love, because it captures young minds, like space, atomic physics and so on, is very expensive. I doubt whether the UK on its own could bear the cost of building a particle accelerator the size of CERN, or its rivals in America. So CERN was the result of collaboration between different European nations. And the importance of international contacts and intellectual mobility between countries is also underscored by the initial post-War success of American atomic physics. The Americans were able to build such huge nuclear reactors and accelerators, not just because they had the vast financial resources to afford them, but also because they benefited from the influx of all the scientists and engineers the Nazis had chased out of Central Europe.

Mike, following one of his esteemed commenters, asks who people should believe about science and Brexit, Stephen Hawking, or Michael Gove? Really, you don’t have to have read A Brief History of Time or understand the intricacies of N-dimensional String Theory to know the answer to that one. It’s definitely going to be Hawking.

Ken Livingstone on How Nazism Discredited Post-War European Conservatives

May 30, 2016

‘Red’ Ken Livingstone in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, also has some very interesting things to say about how the capitalist classes’ deep involvement with Nazism and Fascism so discredited Germany and Italian Conservatism, that they presented themselves in a pseudo-Socialist guise after the War.

As regards the parties of the right, the creation of stable political structures was more complicated than merely rebuilding the economy and creating military alliances. The right-wing parties, and in a number of countries the bulk of capital, was deeply compromised by collaboration with Fascism and Nazi occupation. In the initial post-war period fight-wing parties had to pretend they were on the left – or at least not of the right. The West German Christian Democrats, in their 1947 programme, stated that the ‘capitalist economic system’ had not served the interests of the German people, and called for ‘a new order built right from the ground’ based on ‘an economic system of collective ownership’. Alcide de Gasperi defined the Italian Christian Democrats as ‘a party of the centre moving towards the left’. the Belgian Social Christian Party proclaimed itself as ‘an inter-class party, whose main objective was to achieve social and economic justice in a united, democratic Belgium’. (P. 175).

Both the Italian and German Christian Democrats were partly formed from the remains of the pre-War Roman Catholic parties, such as the Catholic Centre Party in Germany. These had been originally founded to protect Roman Catholics in the new countries which emerged after the campaigns of Bismarck, Garibaldi and Cavour. Wilhelmine Germany was the creation of Protestant Prussia, which fought a political battle with the Church – the Kulturkampf – over control of education, while liberal Italy was secular, often aggressively so. The Catholic Centre party had adopted some of the attitudes of Christian Socialism, while rejecting the class struggle and the abolition of private property. Clerics and activists for the party founded Christian trade unions and co-operatives. It was this, leftward element in these parties’ constitutions that they chose to stress to avoid condemnation as collaborators with Nazism and Fascism after the War.

And just as early post-War Conservatism tried to distance itself from Nazism and Fascism, so British Conservatives are very quiet about the support they also gave Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain. Winston Churchill hailed Mussolini as ‘the Italian lawgiver’ in his History of the Second World War. Orwell in one of his books talks about the British stock exchange cheering General Franco, and ‘Gracchus’, the author of Your MP, lists the various Tory MPs, who voted against the welfare state and actively supported Nazi Germany.

This has nearly all been written out of history. The official hagiographies of Churchill present him as a fierce opponent of Fascism, even though he wasn’t. He merely objected to the Fascist countries threat to British power. And Thatcher’s 1987 party political broadcast for the elections featured images of zooming Spitfires and the rest of what the satirist Alan Coren dubbed ‘the Royal Conservative Air Force’ to hammer home the message of how patriotic and anti-totalitarian the Tories were.

Thatcher’s own assault on the trade unions and the working class, and the continued campaign by her successors, Major and Cameron, show that this is far from true. Cameron in particular is deeply authoritarian, and in favour of a pervasive government secrecy, in which the upper classes rule without restraint and the working class have to obey unquestioningly. And they were deeply concerned with the totalitarian project of controlling the past. Michael Gove, when he was education minister, wanted an official, pro-Tory view taught, and ranted about how misleading Black Adder Goes Forth Was, despite the fact that it was comedy, not fact. The totalitarian desire to control absolutely is still deeply ingrained in modern Conservatism.

Dick Coughlan on the Six Greatest UKIP Excuses

April 30, 2016

This is another funny and informative video, courtesy of the internet. In it, Dick Coughlan takes apart UKIP’s six greatest excuses for their blunders and generally foul behaviour. He starts with a general point about the implausibility of Nigel Farrage’s statement about the party’s decline from its supposed massive rise last year being due to establishment opposition. This is clearly disproven by the fact that Farrage was given every opportunity to speak all over the television news, and was given columns in the Independent and Express. Coughlan states that the real reason must have been because Farrage was permanently drunk, as whenever he appeared, he had a pint in his hand.

And then Coughlan moves on to the other excuses UKIP have had to make. These include trying to explain away Kilroy-Silk’s racist rant against Arabs in the Express. His secretary tried telling everyone she had sent it by mistake. It was an earlier, unedited version of an already-published column. Kilroy hadn’t sent it, because he doesn’t know how to operate emails and electronic messaging.

Then there was the case of the Kipper, who took a photograph of himself in blackface with a funny clown nose, and the tried to explain it as a face mask for acne. Nigel Farrage, again, tried excuse himself arriving late for a meeting in Faversham in Kent by complaining that it was all due to immigrants clogging up the roads. Another Kipper, who was photographed making the Nazi salute, and tried to explain that away by telling the world that he was reaching for his phone, which was held by his girlfriend. He wanted to take it off her, ’cause he didn’t want to look like a pot plant. Right. Another Scots Kipper issued a long rant against gays and immigrants tried to explain his comments away as due to the effects of the medical drugs he was taking. A neuropharmacologist explained that was untrue, because sedative drugs merely make the patient more likely to tell the truth by removing inhibitions. It takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth, and so their real feelings are more likely to come out if people start taking sedative tablets. Coughlan draws the obvious conclusion from this is that Trump must be taking thousands of such drugs to come out with his racist bilge.

And finally, there’s the case of the Kipper, who had the horrendous statement that the three year old boy and his brother, whose bodies were washed up in Turkey after falling out of a migrant boat, were the victims of their families’ greed in trying to get to Europe from Turkey in search of a better life. In fairness to the Kipper, he does unfortunately have a point. The migrants had taken refuge in Turkey for safety, but had then the tried to move on to Europe. The Turks, unfortunately, do have their problems with Islamic radicalism. There have been terrorist attacks there, just like those in Paris, London and Brussels, and Erdogan has been giving covert aid to the jihadis. But it’s much safer than Syria. Nevertheless, the children’s death is horrific, and the Kipper’s use of them to make a general point about economic migration appears cynical and tasteless.

I don’t agree with Coughlan’s atheism, but I’ve decided to reblog this as according to Hope Not Hate, there are over 1,500 extreme Right wing candidates standing at the election on Thursday. Most of them are for UKIP. Hope Not Hate makes the point that they’re not as bad as the hard Right, like the NF, BNP, National Action and the other Nazis. Nevertheless, they are promoting racism. This last point has been reinforced by Farrage appearing in the news yesterday whining that the Brexit campaign didn’t include enough about the threat of immigration. I also oppose them as Farrage and the leading lights of the party are Neo-Libs, who want to get rid of the welfare state and privatise the NHS. That alone should be enough to make people want to keep them out of government.

Republican Ted Cruz Wants Increased Police Patrols in Muslim Areas

March 26, 2016

It’s not just Trump who is promoting a very anti-Muslim line in America. It’s also Ted Cruz, another far-Right Republican. Over on The Young Turks they’ve actually been debating who would be worse for America – Trump or Cruz. While Trump’s been talking about banning Muslims from entering America, for example, Cruz has actually been doing it. He’s behind a law to prevent, or at least limit, further Muslim immigration.

After the terrible attacks in Belgium this week, Cruz got up to recommend that there should be increased police patrols in Muslim areas. The Young Turks naturally took a dim view about that. Cenk Uygur, one of the Turks’ anchors, who is himself of Muslim Turkish heritage, said that while they were at it, why not move Muslim communities somewhere else, and create a ghetto. He was, of course, being bitterly ironic, but his attack does voice fears that what Trump wants is internment camps for Muslims after the Trumpenfuhrer stated that Muslims should be forced to carry identification documents. And now it seems, Cruz holds similar views on policing Muslims.

Such a policy would be both nasty and counterproductive. Nasty, because it criminalises millions of ordinary people, who aren’t terrorists, don’t sympathise with terrorism and have nothing to do with terrorism, simply because of their faith.

It’s counterproductive because such heavy-handed methods will only increase radicalisation, and very definitely not catch the terrorists themselves. Older Brits may remember a series of riots that shook Britain in about 1981/2 against Maggie Thatcher. These broke out in poor communities throughout the country, and particularly in Black and ethnically mixed areas. Among those affected were Toxteth in Liverpool, Brixton in London and St. Paul’s in my hometown of Bristol. The people in those areas have said since that they weren’t race riots, though that was how they were perceived at the time. Racial discrimination, and a lack of jobs and opportunities for Black youngsters, was certainly one of the causes of the rioting, as is stated in the Scarman Report. One of the newspapers has also described the riots as ‘a series of insurrections against the police’. Certainly there was a very heavy police presence in St. Paul’s. It was and is a high crime area, and one resident interviewed in the local media stated that there was a feeling at the time that ‘the police were occupying St. Paul’s’.

This is what will happen in America if Ted Cruz has his way and starts introducing a heavier police presence in Muslim areas. It will turn Muslims away from co-operating with the authorities and the police, and make violence and disaffection more, not less likely. And it won’t stop the real terrorists.

Now it’s true that so far, many of the Islamic terrorists caught have come from a network of organisations and mosques. But police are worried about ‘lone wolf’ attacks, where individuals seeming come out of nowhere to run amok. Several of the terrorists caught have been self-radicalised, through material they’ve read or watched on the interwebs.

When the IRA began their bombing campaign in Britain in the early 1970s, they had a very clear strategy to avoid detection. They deliberately avoided moving in Irish expatriate communities, visiting Irish pubs or community centres. They kept a very low profile in order to merge with the general British population. And this is what ISIS wants to do with their ‘lone wolf’ policies. Mercifully, the police were able to catch some of the terrorists, but over the years the IRA was responsible for a series of horrific attacks in Britain which left hundreds maimed and killed. And the presence of the British army in Northern Ireland, who had originally been called in because the RUC was too sectarian and brutal in its treatment of Roman Catholics, became a symbol of the British occupation of Ulster, as it was seen by Irish Republicans and some of those on the wider British Left. Now I wasn’t a supporter of the ‘Troops Out’ campaign, because before the Good Friday peace agreement was concluded it just seemed to me that without the army, the paramilitaries in Ulster, whether Republican or Loyalist, would just increase the violence exponentially until it became far more of a bloodbath than it already was. But there’s no doubt that the presence of the army was resented by many, possibly most, Ulster Catholics.

Cruz recommendation of increasing police patrols in Muslim areas is likely to repeat all the mistakes Britain made in policing Black areas in Britain. They will become a focus of hatred for American Muslims, just like many Roman Catholics in Ulster resented the presence of the British army. And like the IRA, the real terrorists will find ways of avoiding them. Cruz’s policy is worse than useless. It should be dumped, along with Cruz himself. America’s a great country, which deserves better than these intolerant buffoons.

The Young Turks on ISIS’ Use of Trump in Propaganda Video

March 26, 2016

This is another piece about Donald Trump. Sorry about that. Normally service blogging about the Nazis and clowns in our own government will resume later.:)

In this piece, The Young Turks discuss the latest propaganda video released by ISIS over the internet, and the fears of European students at an American college interviewed by Jordan Cheriton, that Trump will win the American election.

ISIS’ wretched video shows Trump describing how Belgium used to be a beautiful place, and how it has been destroyed by ISIS in their latest attack. The Turk’s anchor, Cenk Uygur, attacks Trump for offering ISIS a ‘twofer’. First of all, he blamed the victim, stating it was the country’s own fault it got attacked, and that it was ‘a mess’. And then he gives ISIS and other Islamist terror groups more free publicity through his statements that he will go in harder in the Middle East, and kill civilians and the families of terrorists, not just the terrorists themselves.

They also show a clip, in which Jordan Cheriton interviewed a group of students at a uni in Ohio. From their names and accents, the students were all Brits. They stated that they, and Europeans like them back home, were afraid of Trump winning the election, and that all the talk was about Trump. They believed that Europe was better in integrating minorities. They also said that at first they didn’t know who Trump was, and as they found out more about it him, it seemed funny that a TV host should be running for president rather than a professional politician. Now it was truly frightening. They were also unimpressed with the level of the campaign rhetoric – the comments and innuendo about the man’s genitals, for example. That was like school politics, they said.

Cheriton and Uygur discuss how this is the complete opposite of Republican rhetoric. They claim that Obama has wrecked America’s image abroad. Instead, this shows that Europeans are far more afraid of Trump, and that after Bush, Obama was a godsend. They’re right. I have right-wing friends, who like Obama but are, like everyone else, deeply concerned about Trump winning the presidency. And the comments about European being better at integrating minorities is also interesting. While I was on an archaeology course about eleven years ago now, the American students claimed that we British were actually worse racists than they were. Now the situation seems to be reversed. The Turks concluded that at one time, the world was sending their young people to America to learn how American democracy functioned. Now foreign kids were learning, as the youngsters interviewed by Cheriton said, how not to do politics from Trump.

Here’s the video.