Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

Owen Jones Talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey: Neoliberalism Has Fallen Apart

October 23, 2017

In this video, Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment, talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the people responsible for the Labour manifesto and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn. He states that she has been pretty central to the whole Corbyn project. And he particularly likes her because she’s a ‘scamp’ from Manchester like him.

He begins by stating that Clement Attlee established the post-War consensus of a strong welfare state, state intervention in industry and labour and trade union rights. This fell apart under Margaret Thatcher. He asks her if Thatcher’s neoliberalism is now falling apart in its turn.

She replies very positively that it definitely is, and that more orthodox economists are stating that we need a Keynsian approach to the economy. She says that when they began promoting Keynsianism, they were attacked as very much out of touch. Now the Financial Times and another major economic journal has come out and supported state interventionism. The FT even said that we need to renationalise water. This left her absolutely speechless with surprise when she read it, as it was a Labour idea.

She was the Shadow Minister in charge of business and industrial strategy. Jones notes that the hostile press would immediately attack Labour’s policies as destructive and compare them to Venezuela. He asks how she responds to that. She replies with a very clear answer: ‘Rubbish’. She points out that, under neoliberalism, Britain has become one of the least productive nations in the developed world. Indeed, productivity is at its lowest for 20 years. And thanks to wage restraint, wages are also lower than they were before the Crash of 2008.

She states we need an investment bank for England to encourage investment, as private industry won’t invest unless government does so. She also states that we need to reform industry so that it represents everyone involved in a firm, including workers and stakeholders. When Jones asks her what she considers socialism to be, she simply responds ‘Fairness’, and talks about giving employees rights at work, protecting their jobs. She also makes it clear that she believes it is very important to show people that voting Labour will make a difference to their lives. She wants to show people in the north that Labour will tackle homelessness, not just by building more homes, but by building more social housing, so that people, who can’t afford a house will get one. It will be a radical transformation of society, just like it was in the 1940s.

She also talks about how difficult it is being an MP. As a Member of Parliament, you just want to talk about your policies and the issues, but you have to be aware that every time you give an interview, the media are trying to lead you into a trap by getting you to say the wrong thing, or criticise a Labour colleague.

Long-Bailey clearly has a deep grasp not only of the abstract economic issues involved, but also of the personal dimension as people are driven in debt, misery and despair through neoliberalism’s destruction of the British economy for the enrichment of the small number of extremely rich and privileged. And she is inspired by the same ideas as those of Clement Attlee and the great labour politicians, who forged the post-War consensus and gave Britain it’s longest period of economic growth, as well as expanding opportunities for ordinary working women and men.

And it can only be brilliant that the FT, that great pillar of financial capitalism, has come on board to support a return to Keynsianism.

As for the pet Thatcherite policies of Monetarism and neoliberalism, Robin Ramsay has spoken of Monetarism that when he studied economics in the late 60s and ’70s, it was considered such as a nutty idea that his professors didn’t bother to argue against it. He has suggested that it’s possible the Tories, who embraced it also knew it to be a load of rubbish. But they adopted it because it provided an ideological justification for what they wanted to do anyway: privatise industry and smash the organised working class.

Now Thatcherite neoliberalism is falling apart very obviously, and the elite are panicking. Hence the non-story about Clive Lewis and his supposed ‘misogyny’, which is a complete non-story. It’s being used by the Tories to try to distract people from their continuing failures over Brexit, the privatisation of the health and education services. And, of course, the sheer mass of seething misogyny and racism in their own party.

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TYT Cover Panel on the End of Neoliberalism at Labour Party Conference

October 22, 2017

This is another video produced by the progressive American news service, The Young Turks, of the Labour conference at Brighton the week before last. The panel was entitled ‘Welcome to the End of the Neoliberalism’. Held in a dingy nightclub, the female host jokes about how her audience can say exactly where they were when neoliberalism ended, and that, as with nearly all revolutions, the women were first and the men came late.

With her on the panel were Paul Mason, a former Channel 4 journo, playwright, documentary film maker, and the author of the book ‘Postcapitalism’; Jo Littler, an academic, who specialises in cultures of consumption, and the author of a book on meritocracy, pointing out that this is precisely what it isn’t, as meritocracy is a system that reinforces minority, elite rule; Valary Alzaga, a labour organiser working with the people at neoliberalism’s sharp end in precarity; and Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich.

Paul Mason begins the discussion by trying to describe what neoliberalism is in reality, rather than neoliberalism as a collection of ideas. In doing so he states that he has annoyed the Adam Smith Institute. And he includes not only the perfect, ideal capitalist states of the West, but also mercantilist states like China, as they are now part of the same global system. He states that you could go back to the German ordoliberals to describe it, and to people like Von Hayek and the Chicago School. But he begins with Peugeot’s definition of its aims at a meeting in Paris in 1938. This described precisely what neoliberalism is not: it is not traditional laissez-faire economics. The early neoliberals realised that if markets and market forces were left on their own, the result would be monopolies that would be nationalised by the state, according to Marxist doctrine and praxis. So they sought to enforce competition at every level. This means not only privatisation, and the introduction of legislation to force companies to compete, but also the creation of competition as a mindset to keep working people isolated and competing against each other.

The result can be seen in the favelas – the deprived slums – of Latin America, where you have poor people living in former factories that have closed down. Then the housing association is dissolved, and the mob moves in, as only through organised crime is there safety. And Mason states very clearly that it isn’t only in Latin America that this process has occurred. It’s also happened in many of the towns in the north of England, where industry has been gutted and forced overseas, and the result has been a massive upsurge in crime.

He goes on to state that at first neoliberalism was devised so the rich West could exploit Latin America. But after the Fall of Communism opened up the 20 per cent of the world market that was the former eastern bloc, it became a global system. However, neoliberalism is now collapsing. It produces a series of crises, and so rightwing politicians like Trump, rather than destroying it, are producing nationalist versions of neoliberalism. That is, they are turning away from it as a system of international trade, but still enforcing it in their own countries as a system of private ownership that excludes and exploits the poor.

Jo Littler says much the same as Mason in a much briefer speech. She refers to it as ‘disembowelling’ the public, meaning the enforced privatisation of public services. She also describes how two of the sources for neoliberalism were the German Ordoliberals, who turned away from the state-managed economy of the Nazis, and von Hayek and the Chicago school. She also mentions how it was first proposed by the Montpelerin meeting in Paris. And she also makes the point that it took a long time for them to have their ideas accepted, as until the Chicago School, Pinochet and Thatcher they were isolated cranks and weirdoes.

Valary Alzaga explains that she is a care worker, who are some of the most poorly paid workers with the most precarious jobs. She describes how, under neoliberal capitalism, care homes have been privatised, bought up by hedge funds and venture capitalists, who have then gone on to sell off whatever was profit-making. As for care workers, neoliberalism means that if they try to form a union, they are immediately sacked. Under socialism and Keynsianism there was a social pact, by which employers and the state recognised the rights of workers to form trade unions and bargain for better pay and conditions. This no longer exists.

Clive Lewis, who to my mind looks like a younger version of Noel Clarke, the actor, who played Rose Tyler’s boyfriend in Dr. Who, is an economics graduate. He describes how, when he was studying it, he and the other students were filled with its doctrines, but no-one ever mentioned the word. He only woke up to what it was and really meant when he happened to go on a summer course about it. He describes this in terms of a religious revelation. He says it was as if he’d been deprogrammed. When he returned, his friends complained that it was as if he’d joined a cult, because all he talked about was neoliberalism, neoliberalism and neoliberalism.

He states that the goal of von Hayek wasn’t to set up an independent party, as he was asked by one of his followers. He wanted instead to permeate the academic institutions, like the universities and take over the whole system. And so this resulted in Blair and Brown accepting it as absolutely true, and introducing it into the Labour party. He refers to the story, which he thinks was apocryphal, about Thatcher being asked what her greatest achievement was. Instead of pointing to one of her wretched privatisations, she said it was Tony Blair and New Labour. Lewis states that their adoption of neoliberalism is unforgivable with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but you have to understand the state of British politics at the time.

This is a fascinating analysis of the rise and destructive effects of neoliberalism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of ‘Lobster’, also studied economics in the late ’60s – early ’70s, and he states that Thatcher’s beloved Monetarism was considered so much rubbish that his lecturers didn’t even bother arguing against it. And before Thatcherism turned to mass privatisation and the idolatrous adulation of the free market after 1981-2, neoliberalism was considered very much an extreme doctrine held only by cranks. Which is what it should return to being.

As for annoying the Adam Smith Institute, they have been pushing for the complete privatisation of all state assets, including the NHS since the 1970s, so annoying them is, in my view, a good and holy occupation. And in amongst their dissection of neoliberalism they also have a gibe at Jacob Rees-Mogg, which is also always a good thing.

The Pro-Israel Billionaires Pushing Trump towards Confrontation with Iran

October 21, 2017

This week, Trump decertified the nuclear deal with Iran, limiting that country’s development of nuclear technology. The orange maniac did so claiming that the country had broken the spirit of the agreement, by continuing to fund anti-American militant groups along with other policies. He did not, however, take any further action against Iran, pushing this back to Congress.

In this piece from RT America, their reporter interviews the investigative journalist Max Blumenthal, who states that Trump made the decision very much against the wishes of his own foreign policy advisors. They’re also very strongly against Iran, but realise that decertifying the agreement will strengthen the hand of the hardliners within the country, which will make negotiations with them much more difficult.

Instead of his own foreign policy people, Trump is listening instead to a group of neocons, some of whom were responsible for the 2003 Iraq invasion. These have the same goals towards Iran. They want to overthrow its government, and those of other nations that defy American policies. Chief amongst these neocons are Nikki ‘Pancake Queen’ Haley, his UN ambassador and John ‘Bombs Away’ Bolton. These neocons are in turn funded by three billionaires – Sheldon Adelson, who runs a chain of casinos, Bernard Markus and Peter Singer, who are not only viciously anti-Iran, but stand very close to Israel’s far right Likud party. Haley was the author, or rather ostensible author, of Trump’s policy paper on Iran. Blumenthal states that it’s a stretch describing her as the author of anything. She has no foreign policy experience, and he calls her the ‘Pancake Queen’ as her knowledge of foreign policy comes from eating at the same pancake restaurant as various diplomats and foreign affairs politicians while she was governor of Georgia. She is so determinedly against Iran that she has openly called for regime change. Blumenthal himself is so underwhelmed by her intellectual powers that he says that neocons have simply taken over her mind and rented space in her head. As for ‘Bombs Away’ Bolton, he was responsible for wrecking Bush’s negotiations with North Korea. he has even gone so far as to call for the country’s bombing.

Adelson himself has given $40 million to Trump’s election campaign. In 2012 Adelson spent $100 million through his super-pacs (political funding organisations) promoting Mitt Romney in order to wreck the nuclear deal then being negotiated by Obama. This was all on behalf of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, whom Adelson has been promoting through his various funding organisations and think tanks for ten years. He is another one so bitterly opposed to Israel, that in a secret meeting he declared that he wanted a nuclear bomb to be dropped on the country.

Bernard Markus is the billionaire behind the American firm, Home Depot. He has funded numerous necon thinktanks, including the Foundation for the Defence of Democracy, which was responsible for crafting Trump’s speech. Markus has denounced Iran as ‘the Devil’.

Blumenthal concludes by stating that these three are not looking at international politics in any rational way. They are putting Israel’s interests above America’s, and the interests of an extreme right-wing party, Likud, above what many Israelis would want. This is an extremely dangerous time.

TYT’s Nomiki Konst Talks to Radical Journos about Rise of Socialist Ideas in Britain and America

October 21, 2017

I’m really delighted that the American progressive news service, The Young Turks, sent their girl Nomiki Konst over here to cover the Labour party conference. In this clip Konst talks to the Guardian journalist, Abi Wilkinson, and Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder and editor of the Jacobin magazine. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn, membership of the Labour part has exploded. In America there’s been a similar rise in people joining the DSA – the Democratic Socialists of America.

The programme explains how the DSA only dates from the 1970s, while the Labour party over here in Britain dates from the beginning of the last century. However, as Wilkinson explains, the party drifted to the right under Tony Blair’s New Labour, which made it much less Socialist, dropping Clause 4, the part of the Constitution which demanded the nationalisation of the means of production. She states that membership of the Labour party started to grow again after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, despite no-one expecting him to win. Corbyn followed ‘Red’ Ed Miliband, who she says was personally more left-wing than his policy platform. But he was told that you couldn’t win on a left-wing platform. In America, Socialist ideas have become far more popular thanks to Bernie Sanders in the Democrat party, just like Corbyn over here has popularised them in Labour.

Konst raises the issue of whether left-wing policies, like the NHS and a welfare safety net, are more acceptable here than in America. She feels they are, but Wilkinson states that if the NHS was set up now, there’d be much more opposition to it, with demands for means testing and debates about whether it was affordable. She states that it was in the 1940s that the great ideas for massive reform and big programmes became acceptable.

Konst then turns to Sunkara. Sunkara states that when he founded Jacobin, after the French revolutionary party, the number of socialists he knew were only about a thousand. Now their readership is up to 40,000. He and his friends founded the magazine, despite the small size of its prospective readership, because they found socialist ideas so powerful. He also says that, as far as the writing style for the magazine went, he wanted it to be written in an accessible style like Conservative mags like the Economist. He states that you can read the Economist without knowing or having read anything by Adam Smith. So he wants ordinary working people to be able to read Jacobin without having read anything by Marx. He feels that this is important, as many left-wing magazines and publications he feels talk down to their less educated readers from the working class.

He states that he is somewhat concerned about whether or not the growth of his readership represents a genuine increase in the number of people turning to socialism in America, or whether it just means that they’re reaching more of that niche, in a market that is heavily personalised.

The three talk briefly about the relationship between left-wing parties and the trade unions. Wilkinson states that the Labour party has always had strong links with the unions, and asks if it isn’t true that the Democrats have also had trade union funding, to get a negative or non-committal answer from Konst. She also states how the Scum and the other right-wing papers have tried to break the power of the unions by working up resentment and jealousy against them through publishing the salaries of trade union officials and commenting on how much larger they are than ordinary salaries.

As for the reasons for the growth in Labour party membership and the turn to the Left, Wilkinson states that it’s because of the poverty generated by the past decades of free market policies. This is not only affecting the working class, but also other parts of the population, so that 75 per cent of young people vote or support Labour.

The three also discuss the problems in magazine publishing caused by the decline of the press. Within three years of the crash in America, 800 newspapers had folded, and even the big national newspapers were feeling the pinch. The result of this has been a press that is aimed at the lowest common reader, and entire news networks have been built on this, like Fox News. Thus, Americans were deprived of news at the local level, which would have informed them how bad the political situation really was. Like the Democrats had lost 1,000 seats, and the Koch brothers were engaged in a massive funding campaign at the local level to push through extreme right-wing policies.

In Britain the majority of the press is right-wing, including the Scum, whose readers regard themselves as working class. Konst asks Sunkara whether he has any politicos reading his magazine. He says they’ve a few local senators, and one or two at a national level. Wilkinson states that the Morning Star, a Socialist paper well to the left of the Guardian or Independent, held a fringe event at the Labour conference. Speakers at this event included Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon and another member of the Shadow Cabinet.

This is a very optimistic interview, and I hope this optimism is born out by a Labour victory over here, and the takeover of the Democrat party by progressives and their victory over the Republicans at the next presidential election.

Go Bernie!
Go Jeremy!
And go the working men and women of America and Britain!

Telesur English on the Chaos Caused by the Death of Gaddafy

October 21, 2017

This is another very short video from the South American broadcaster, Telesur English, about the destruction wreaked on Africa by the murder of Colonel Gaddafy. The video states that under the dictator, the country had free education and healthcare. It was also a racially tolerant society, and Gaddafy did much to help the other countries on the continent. The NATO bombings that assisted the rebels have destroyed much of the country, including the free education and healthcare. Islamist rebels have taken over large regions, and the country is in turmoil. The racial tolerance is gone, and weapons from Libya have travelled south, to be used by Islamist rebels making life miserable in other African nations.

This is all absolutely true, and I’ve said much of it before. But it’s interesting to see it repeated by Telesur. Gaddafy wasn’t perfect. He was a thug and a dictator. He also used Islamist terrorists to kill his political rivals elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. But he gave his country prosperity after decades of bloody Italian colonial rule, secular government, albeit one that mixed Arab socialism with Islam and stability. And there is now a massive racist backlash against the Black Africans, who came to the country seeking a better life, or passage to Europe.

But he defied America and big oil, and so he was on the neocons list of countries to be invaded and leaders to be ousted. His country has been destroyed, Africa as a whole impoverished. And Hillary Clinton, now promoting herself as the great feminist heroine, had a jolly good giggle about his death.

America’s Private Prisons: Capitalism’s Forced Labour Camps?

October 21, 2017

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss the use of convict labour supplied by the American prison system by businesses and the state. Many of the fire fighters now tackling the fires raging in California were female cons. Dore points out that this is skilled, dangerous work. But nevertheless, these women were sent to do it, and some of them have been killed doing so. He goes on to discuss Kamala Harris, who repeatedly refused to release prisoners when their time was up and they were due to go back to civil society. Eventually, she was sued and said in court that the reason she wasn’t releasing them was because they were too useful as workers. Now Steve Prettor, the sheriff of Caddo County in Louisiana, has appeared to tell the American public why he doesn’t like releasing good, Black prisoners either: because they’re too useful as workers for the prison system.

Dore calls this system exactly what it is: slavery. And there is a whole slew of firms using unfree, unpaid convict labour. These include McDonald’s, Walmart and a contractor for Starbuck’s. Dore makes the point that this is what used to happen in Communist countries like North Korea, which we – the West – denounced. Now it’s being done by capitalism in America.

In one of the many interviews with the radical American journalist Chris Hedges on YouTube, Hedges talks about the massive poverty and unemployment created by capitalism and neoliberalism. He states that in American towns which have particularly suffered, the prison population has expanded immensely. This is because the state and capital have no use for these men in normal business. However, they are immensely valuable as a source of contracts for the private prison system.

And Dore is exactly right when he compares unfree convict labour in America with the forced labour systems of the Communist bloc. I’ve blogged about this before. Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union using the forced labour of millions of Soviet citizens. Businesses and enterprises needing particular types of worker would send shopping lists of how many they needed to the KGB, who would then round them up as traitors and enemies of the Soviet state, and then send them to the Gulags. Where they would be put to work building some new industrial plant.

The Nazis also had a similar system using Jewish slave workers in the concentration camps. Skilled Jewish craftsmen were put to work in a company owned and operated by the SS producing luxury products. They even produced a catalogue.

As neoliberalism privatises and takes over more of the functions of the state, so contemporary capitalism increasingly takes on the features of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century.

I don’t think we in Britain have any cause to be complacent about this, as I can see the same system easily taken over by the outsourcing companies like G4S and Serco in Britain’s privately run prisons.

This is not justice, not punishment nor rehabilitation. It is simply capitalism and slavery. And needs to be stopped.

Three Soviet Anti-War Posters

October 21, 2017

I found these three posters in the art book, The Soviet Political Poster 1917-1987 and was struck by their continued relevance to events today. The book is a collection of Soviet political posters from the Bolshevik coup of 1917 to the time the book was published in the mid-1980s, taken from the Lenin library. In many ways it’s an art-historical chronicle of the great events that shaped the Soviet Union, from the Revolution, through the Civil War, collectivisation and industrialisation, the Nazi invasion, nuclear tensions of the Cold War, Gagarin’s epoch-making spaceflight and then on to the years of stagnation under Brezhnev.

Two of the posters below were part of a number produced to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, which the Russians called the ‘Great Patriotic War’. Their message against war is simple and eternal, using the images of a woman and child in one, and a small child in the other, to get the message across.

The Russian behind the little girl reads simply ‘Don’t Need War’.

The slogan in this poster says ‘Not For Wars’.

This last poster is less anti-war, than anti-nuclear testing. Nevertheless, it was painted in 1958 during the Cold War, when the West and the Communist bloc faced each other amid an intense atmosphere of distrust and hostility, and it seemed that nuclear Armageddon could come at any moment. This is the background to the formation of groups in the West like CND. The Russian is a simple cry of ‘No!’

I realise that there’s an element of hypocrisy in these posters, as the Soviet Union was a military superpower, which used its armed forces to dominate its satellites in eastern Europe, and was intent on developing its own nuclear arsenal.

But I wanted to put these images up because of their powerful message now, when our political leaders seem to be intent on driving us towards another useless, dangerous Cold War with Russia, and Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the madman in charge of North Korea, have been threatening each other with their nuclear and conventional weapons over in the Pacific.

In the case of Kim Jong-In, he’s simply the latest scion of a family of brutal ‘Stalinist’ dictators, who hang on to power through terror and mass arrest. In the case of Trump and the western politicians, the new Cold War is another attempt to isolate and weaken Russia on the geopolitical stage, provide a reason for giving more massive government contracts to the arms manufacturers, and in the case of Killary and the corporatist Democrats, divert attention away from their own very corrupt dealings with Putin’s Russia abroad, and Wall Street and big business at home.

America’s wars in the Middle East are killing hundreds of thousands, and have displaced many millions more. They have reduced secular Arab nations to ruins, and created legions of Islamist militants and sectarian death squads, who kill, maim, butcher and enslave in their turn. And now Trump seems intent on forcing some kind of confrontation with Iran.

And so we still need to hear these posters’ vital message, whatever we think of Russia’s Communist past.

During the Cold War of the 1980s, Sting sang ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’ The answer from these posters is clearly ‘Yes’. Just as the Arabs and Iranians do.

No more imperialism.

No more war.

BBC 2 Programme Next Week on British Forces in Ukraine and Estonia

October 20, 2017

On Wednesday, BBC 2 launched a new documentary series looking at the British army as it’s stationed around the world, Army: Behind the New Frontlines. In next weeks edition, subtitled ‘The New Cold War’, to be shown at 9.00 O’clock pm on 25th October 2017, the programme will look at British forces stationed in Estonia and Ukraine. The blurb for the programme on page 94 of the Radio Times runs

Tensions between the West and Russia have been heightened since 2014, when Russia seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea and also began secretly arming pro-Russian separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine. But as Ukraine is not part of Nato, no western troops have been deployed to fight. Instead, British soldiers from the Mercia regiment are sent to train Ukrainian soldiers to defend their country, helping Nato and Britain avoid direct involvement while offering a cost-effective way to learn how the Russians fight. Meanwhile, the Baltic states, which are members of Nato, fear that an attack from Russia is a very real threat, so soldiers from 5 Rifles battalion travel to Estonia as part of a major operation to deter invasion.

There’s a further couple of paragraphs about the programme on page 93 by Jack Seale. These state

Just as the British Army is undergoing an existential crisis due to a slowdown in active operations, so this documentary about soldiers not firing their guns struggles to find an impetus. Not that you’d wish for war as a remedy, of course.

The liveliest threat is in eastern Europe, where Russia has encroached in Ukraine and massed troops on Estonia’s border. This week we follow Brits quietly training Ukrainians and openly allying with Estonians, since the latter is in Nato. The memorable stories are of the awfully young local fighters who hope the wolf next door won’t come in, but say they’re ready to die if it does.

I don’t know, but reading those pieces about the programme makes me strongly suspect that it won’t tell you the whole truth about what’s really going on in those countries, and why we’re really there. And we’ve certainly been fed a pack of lies about the Ukraine already.

If you believe the lamestream media, the present government in Ukraine is an entirely democratic regime, which gained power through a power revolution in Kyiv’s Maidan Square. Tired of the misrule of their government present and his pro-Russian policies, the people of Ukraine spontaneously rose up and toppled him. The ousted president then ran off to Putin for aid to get back into power. Putin then responded by sending Russian troops into the east of the country, where there is a sizable ethnic Russian, and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population.

Comparisons have been made with Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia shortly before World War II. These are completely wrong.

Firstly, Putin is corrupt, is a dictatorial thug, and his regime is acute nationalistic, xenophobic and militaristic. This week his government proposed legislation that would penalise parents and educators taking part in political protests if they took their children with them. And as Simon Reeve showed in his programme about European Russia last week, when he covered the case of a woman campaigning to keep her Khrushchev era flat in Moscow against a Putin-backed development scheme, Russian law means that protests of more than one person have to be registered first with the police. And if there’s only you there, you will be still be carted off to chokey by the stern minions of Putin’s police force. Putin’s party has a youth wing, Nashi, a Russian word which means ‘Ours’, which is ultra-patriotic, picketing and threatening those it regards as insufficiently patriotic. It also serves to encourage young men to do their National Service. This is despite the fact that the Russian army is even more brutal, and bullying more rife and horrific under the ‘rule of the grandfathers’ than in the British army. New squaddies, and especially Pentecostal Christians, are beaten up, sometimes to the point where they need hospital treatment. Comparisons have been made with the Nazis’ Hitler Youth.

As for Putin himself, recent documentaries have shown how he’s supposedly funnel hundreds of thousands of roubles to his own personal account. And his former chums in the judo clubs in which he trained have similarly done very well indeed. They’ve all risen to become heads of companies. A friend of mine told me once that the pop band, Clean Bandit, took their name from a Russian idiom which means a criminal, who doesn’t pretend to be anything other than he is. And it’s very commonly applied to Putin. So you could fairly describe him as an ‘arkhiplut’, a Russian word meaning arch-criminal or scoundrel.

But the impression I have is that Putin is justified in his intervention in Ukraine. The Crimea historically belonged to Russia. It was only given to Ukraine in the 1950s by Khrushchev, who was Ukrainian. As for the Maidan Revolution, it was categorically not a popular revolution. It was a very cleverly crafted piece of American-sponsored regime change by the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as George Soros’ pro-democracy foundation. It was organised by Ukrainian oligarchs with the aid of the US state department, Victoria Nuland and Hillary Clinton.

The composition of the new, entirely democratic government, honest guv’, is deeply suspect. I’ve blogged before about how it contains thugs from the Fascist Pravy Sektor. These are real, unreconstructed Nazis. They dress in the uniform and regalia of the auxiliary SS regiments that invaded the country during Operation Barbarossa in World War II. They are anti-democratic, anti-Semitic and extremely violent. During the Maidan Revolution, they chased a group of trade unionists into one of the buildings, caught and savagely beat them. And just as Putin’s regime has cracked down on journalists, who have published material against the Russian president, so the Ukrainian regime is persecuting and intimidating opposition journalists. I’ve got a feeling several have been murdered, just like they have in Putin’s Russia. The various characters in Trump’s government backing and urging support for the Ukrainian regime all have connections to Ukrainian Fascists, who were recruited after the War to provide anti-Communist propaganda to their homeland. And no surprise there, as Reagan gave expatriate Ukrainian nationalists considerable support under their leader, Vladimir Stetso, during the new Cold War of the 1980s.

I’ve seen Russian programmes on YouTube, which claimed very strongly that Russia intervened and invaded because the Russian and Russian-speaking minority in the east of the country was being persecuted and was being prevented from voting. I know this is all dubious considering that Putin does make sure that the media broadcasts his propaganda, but I think that this is very likely to be true. A government that has seized power through secret deals with the Americans and which contains outright Nazis, is not going to have any qualms about persecuting an ethnic group some of them probably see as their invaders and oppressors.

I know much less about Estonia, but it seems to me that we’re probably not being told the whole truth about what’s going on there. The Baltic states were, at various times, part of the Swedish empires and Germany, before they were conquered by Russia. They had a brief, 20 year period of autonomy from the end of the First World War to the 1930s, when Stalin invaded to reclaim them under the deal made with Nazi Germany in Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact. One third of the population are ethnic Russians. During the Communist era, the Baltic States were determined to gain their independence. This may have been partly because they were the some of the most industrially developed parts of the Soviet Union, and were afraid that Russian immigration would swamp them, so that they would become minorities in their own countries.

Since they gained their independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians have claimed that the Russian minority in those states have been persecuted. I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but even under Communism Russians performed the lowest-paid, dirtiest and most menial jobs. And there are real Nazis goose-stepping about there as well. Colin Thubron in his 1980s travel book, Among the Russians, describes a nationalist demonstration in Lithuania, whose participants screamed ‘Lithuania for the Lithuanians! Russians to Russia! Poles to Poland! And Jews to the cemetery!’ Veterans from the SS auxiliary regiments that fought – and butchered the Jewish population – in the Baltic States have been allowed to take part in the independence day parades in Lithuania or Latvia. Or perhaps both. Possibly the governments of these countries also include their own, very real Nazis, like that of Ukraine. I don’t know.

As for the British army facing an existential threat because of a lack of operations abroad, I thought it faced an existential threat because of serious underfunding by the previous governments, and a crisis in recruitment with young men and women deciding that they want to do something better with their lives than be killed or mutilated just to let the big oil companies plunder nations like Iraq in the Middle East.

When Communism fell, we signed a deal with Russia promising that Nato would not expand up to their borders. The Russians have been paranoid about Western encirclement since before the Communist seizure of power. This was broken when the Baltic States joined NATO. I supported that move, as I thought that there was a real possibility that the Russians would invade, based on Stalin’s invasion shortly before the Nazis invaded Russia.

Now I think that perhaps the better option would have been to let the Baltic states remain neutral. Both NATO and Russia could have been signatories guaranteeing the countries’ neutrality. They could have been given the ‘Finnish option’. Meaning that, like Finland, they were neutral and enjoyed certain privileges, like relatively unrestricted access to Russia. It could have preserved peace and their independence, while not provoking the Russians.

Now we have had an increase in tensions on these countries’ borders. Tensions which Killary seems determined to stoke, not least by claiming that Trump is somehow being blackmailed by Putin. She, the Democrats and the Republicans in America are creating a new Cold War, part of the purpose of which is, in Killary’s case, to distract everyone from her own corruption and very dubious dealings with Russian capital.

We are not being told the truth about the nature of the regimes in Ukraine or the Baltic. And it seems to me very much that our brave women and men are not there to defend their freedom, but simply as part of America’s campaign of global imperialism for its multinational corporations.

Hillary Clinton to Appear on Graham Norton Show Tonight – But Will He Ask Her About Corrupt Uranium Deal?

October 20, 2017

I’ve been posting various articles this week attacking Hillary Clinton and the lies she’s been spinning as she promotes her book, What Happened. This is her account of how she failed to be elected the first female president of the US in 2016, losing to the fake-tanned, bewigged maniac now determined to plunge us all into a new Cold War. Killary was in Australia one week, where one Ozzie journo caught her telling five whoppers when she was interviewed on ABC. She has since come to England, where she’s been speaking at the South Bank Centre and at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

She’s going to appear on the Graham Norton Show tonight, Friday 20th October 2017, at 10.35 pm. The blurb for the programme on page 114 of the Radio Times states

Hillary Clinton talks to Graham about the US presidential campaign, as detailed in her book What Happened. Jeff Goldblum, Gerard Butler and Jack Whitelaw join her on the sofa.

Another piece on the previous page, 113, adds rather more information.

This time last year Hillary Clinton had her heart set on the Oval Office and probably expected to spend her evenings on a White House sofa. How on earth has she ended up on Graham Norton’s couch instead? She’ll tell him “What Happened” while discussing her new book about her annus horribilis.

Here’s hoping Clinton doesn’t try to describe 2016 after a glass or two of Norton’s house reserve, though. He’s never one to resist a red, white and blue gag.

As with so much, you are not going to hear the unvarnished truth from Clinton because, to paraphrase the old Hollywood line, ‘she can’t handle the truth.’ The simple truth is that many ordinary, working Americans were sick and tired of the poverty and massive income inequality the Reaganite neoliberalism championed by her and Bill had created. They were sick and tired about public programmes being cut, while money was poured into the banks and big businesses that were already bloated from public money anyway, and which had profited massively from the economic mess they’d created. They were sick and tired of American imperialism, of seeing their finest young men and women sent off to kill and be killed in countries which, with the exception of Afghanistan, had not attacked America on the orders of a lying president, just as Brits are sick and tired of the same neoliberal policies and the same militarism heavily promoted by the Clinton’s fan and George Dubya’s poodle over here, Tony Blair. These wars are being fought not to defend America or promote democracy, but simply to despoil and loot these other nations for the benefit of western, chiefly American, multinationals.

She lost because Americans were sick of rising medical bills, which a growing number simply can’t afford, even after Obamacare. And far from being the traditional image of the welfare recipient as an unemployed scrounger, the majority of these poor around the developed world are working people, who are now paid so poorly thanks to Thatcherite doctrines of pay restraint, that they have to work two or three jobs simply to keep their heads above water, go on welfare, or, in Britain, subsist using food banks.

And the American public, Blacks and Whites, also remembered how she exaggerated the threat of crime by young Black men, in order to push through highly punitive legislation that now sees something half of the Black American male population go to the slammer. For the profit of the privatised prison system, of course.

American women saw through her faux-feminism, in which she tried to present herself as campaigning for all women, when in fact she was a bog-standard corporate insider, despite her repeated claims that she had to be an outsider, ’cause she was female. Killary represented nobody but herself and the other, rich, entitled women like her. She was perceived as massively corrupt, massively insincere, and profoundly unsympathetic to the plight of ordinary working people.

But Killary can’t handle any of this, and so has been running round blaming everyone but herself. She’s blamed Bernie Sanders, the genuinely left-wing Democrat she and the head of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stitched up and from whom she stole the nomination. She’s also blamed the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who was a stronger feminist figure. Both she and Bernie promised Americans Medicare for all. She’s blamed it on a culture of misogyny. While this does exist, her claim that she was being bullied because of her gender by Sanders’ supporters is another lie.

And she’s also ramped up international tension by blaming the Russians. Because WikiLeaks published internal Democrat party documents showing just how corrupt she was. She’s claimed that Russian hackers were responsible for this, when in fact the former British diplomat, who took custody of them for WikiLeaks, said that they came from a Democrat Party insider.

And Killary has absolutely no business screaming at others and accusing them of corrupt dealings with Putin’s Russia, when this is exactly what she and her husband and the chief himself, Barack Obama, did. A little while ago, the New York Times broke the story that before she signed off on a deal, which saw uranium mines in Kazakhstan and a fifth of the uranium processing industry in America itself taken over by a consortium of Russian companies, the Clinton Foundation received $145 million from individuals connected with these companies. And her husband, Bill, was given $500,000 for a speech he gave to a Russian bank.

One of her aides, Brodnitz, pointed out in an internal document for her campaign that this affair would damage her electoral chances, and put people off voting for her. Now the American paper, the Hill, has also published a piece reporting that the FBI was investigating her and Bill for two years for this, but the Department of Justice only decided to release the details to the public after the deal had gone through. Thus, Obama had actively connived at preventing her and Bill’s possible prosecution for it, until after the deal had been made. And very profitable it was too for her and Bill, though possibly not for the American taxpayer.

In the video below, the American comedian Jimmy Dore and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss this latest revelation of Killary’s corruption and double-dealing.

This is just more evidence that Bernie should have got the nomination. If he had, he would have been the far stronger opponent to Trump. And we just could now have a genuinely progressive, Democratic government. This would, in turn, have been a filip to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party over here, as well as genuine left-wingers and Socialists elsewhere in the world.

But this would have been too much for the corporate hawks running Congress to stomach, so they gave it instead to Killary. Who then lost to an even worse candidate, Trump, but one who was better at articulating popular American hopes and fears than she was.

I like Graham Norton. He’s a genial host, although I’ve long stopped watching his show. I dare say he’ll get Killary to talk at length about her book, and she’ll spin and lie about the reasons she lost, just like she’s been lying to interviewers and the paying public all over America, Australia, Britain and the rest of the civilised world. I dare say that Norton will ask her some awkward-ish questions, but they won’t be so awkward that they’ll embarrass her or stop her making similar appearances in the future.

But I doubt very much he’ll ask her about her very real corruption scandals, like the above relationship with the Russians or the handsome payments she got from Wall Street in return for protecting them from further regulation.

From C. 1989: Pravda International on Launch of Greenpeace Rock Album in Soviet Union

October 18, 2017

Pravda International, with pic of Yeltsyn before he became president. This seems to have been before the drunkenness took hold. It also doesn’t show his uncritical adulation of capitalism, which destroyed the Soviet economy and caused massive unemployment and poverty.

Way back in the 1980s when I was at College, I used to buy Pravda International occasionally. It was, very roughly, an English language version of the Russian Communist party newspaper, but with articles also drawn from the other Russian newspapers and magazines Izvestia, Argumenty I Fakty, Moscow News, as well as by the English editions own staff. Like many magazines over the years, it seems to have folded due to lack of interest. I tried to buy it from my local newsagent, but found out that it was unavailable. The two big magazine distributors had divided Bristol up between them, and one of them wouldn’t carry it. So guess which half of Bristol I was in.

I nevertheless kept hold of some of them, as they were records of an exciting, historic time. This was when Glaznost and Perestroika were in full swing, the Soviet Union was being democratised according to Gorbachev’s belief that democracy and Communism could be combined to produce a new, vigorous, prosperous Soviet Union. The Soviets were opening their borders and allowing western media into the country. The Cold War was thawing rapidly, and right across the Communist bloc censorship was being lifted. The Soviet people were making their voices heard, and books, plays, poetry and art that had previously been banned were now being published and publicly discussed. Stalin and his minions stood, thanks to dissident Marxist historians like Roy and Zhores Medvedev, openly condemned as monstrous mass murderers. And the families, friends and loved ones of his victims organised to demand memorials to the millions he had murdered. And instead of hatred, distrust and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust, for a few years it looked like the peoples of the West and East would live as friends and co-workers. The missiles were being decommissioned, the silos filled in. Across the world it seemed that our peoples would never again have to fear the threat of nuclear attack, or invasion from across the other side of the Iron Curtain.

And I also dug out the old copy of Pravda International out of a sense of mischief. RT UK and America have been under attack recently, accused of spreading Russian propaganda and interfering with our politics. What this means is that the Russian-owned news agency has actually done some good journalism, and uncovered the poverty, misery and despair caused by corporatist late capitalism and the gutting of the British and American welfare state and working class organisations. It’s what our own, domestic news networks should be reporting on, but instead they’ve been turned into part of the same corporate system, publishing nothing but mainstream propaganda for the corporatist elite and their puppets and shills in the political parties. I wanted to dig it out to show that the Russians have always had a media presence in the West, and there was a time when it also really frightened some capitalist interests. Although flicking through that issue of the magazine, many of the stories were about western businesses, including British firms, securing contracts to work with Soviet enterprises, as the economy opened up.

Russia, like everywhere else, is also suffering from environmental damage and climate change. Simon Reeve, in his recent TV journey across Russia from the Far East to St. Petersburg, stopped in Siberia to show the terrifying changes that are occurring in the Russian north. The permafrost is melting causing the remaining rock and soil to subside. This has created vast craters in the tundra. One Russian environmental scientist took Reeve to see one of these. It was staggering, the size of the vast Arizona meterorite crater in the US. It was as if a piece of land the size of a city had been scooped out of the Arctic.

These climatic changes are threatening the stability of many of the cities the Russians built up in the north. They’re also a further threat to all humanity, as they release methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. About 25 times more powerful. This threatens to create runaway global warming beyond the tipping point, to the point where the survival or human civilisation, if not the human species itself, is very much under threat.

Looking through this old issue of Pravda International, it was therefore particularly interesting to find an article by their staffer, Jennie Walsh, reporting the launch of a rock album by Greenpeace, released by the Soviet recording company Melodiya, to raise awareness of environmental issues.
The article, ‘Breakthrough for the Environment’, reads

The ecological pressure group Greenpeace has long highlighted the international potential of the environmental movement. The recent release of their rock compilation album, Breakthrough marks an important step forward for the campaign, and for Western music.

Two years ago Greenpeace chairman David McTaggart approached Ian Flookes of the Wasted Talent Artists Agency with a view to putting on a concert of Western bands in the Soviet Union in order to generate roubles for a Soviet-based Greenpeace campaign. Political problems prevented this at the time, but in the changing climate of perestroika the plans were restarted last year, though a compilation record was considered more appropriate.

‘After what happened at Chernobyl, I think the Soviet authorities have become extremely environment-conscious and their approach to Greenpeace and to the project has been one of great support’, Flookes told Pravda International.

With the full cooperation of the Soviet state record company Melodiya, who were granted independent status last year, Breakthrough is the first major release of contemporary Western rock music in the USSR.

It is the first time that Melodiya has been able to do a ‘normal’ promotion campaign, with many of the artists (who all gave their services free of charge) present at the Moscow launch in March. There was an incredible reception. One record store queue was over 7,000 people, which is quite phenomenal – even by Soviet standards!

The purpose behind Breakthrough, however, must not be forgotten amid such hysteria. Kate Karam of Greenpeace emphasised that in releasing the album, they wanted to educate as much as to entertain. Despite perestroika, it is still difficult to put out independent information in the USSR, and the album provided a vehicle for the distribution of a booklet highlighting the work of Greenpeace and the environmental problems of the USSR.

The profits from the record sales will be shared between Greenpeace and the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, one of the first independent, non-governmental organisations to be founded in the Soviet Union.

The money will be spent only on projects within the USSR. This is a major indication of the political changes that have taken place. Greenpeace is quite a radical organisation by any standards, and to have some of the top soviet scientists and public servants (including Velikov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) support them through the Foundation, has been vital to the project. It is also an important challenge – a challenge to get programmes started in the USSR while maintaining the traditional Greenpeace principle of direct action.

Several environmental projects have now been formally agreed. Greenpeace will use some of the funds from the record to organise an East-West exchange programme in cooperation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for children to study environmental problems. Projects in the pipeline include work with the International Foundation to establish a central clearing house for information on atmospheric pollution problems and trying to involve the Soviet Union in the campaign to stop the industrial pollution of the Baltic Sea.

‘We don’t want to impose our Western standards about the environment on the Soviet Union,’ explains Karam. ‘I think that’s a danger with many of the Western organisations taking advantage of the new political climate there. Greenpeace is going to Russia to learn about their specific problems, because it is wrong to develop homogeneous attitudes about the environment. We need to study and talk to people before we launch into setting up offices and membership drives. Getting educational materials out in Russia is a big enough challenge right now without going straight into direct action projects.’

The popularisation of ‘green politics’ in the West may be little more than rhetoric on the part of its leaders, but it has encouraged the critical eye to fall on eastern Europe with regard to its environmental record. The socialist system may have failed the environment as much as the capitalist, but the big difference is the West has had 10 years lead time with environmentalists pushing legislation through. ‘I think the question is now how bad the USSR’s record is, but what is going to happen over the next 10 years – not in the past 50. I don’t think its fair to criticise.’

Now that the Soviet authorities have made active moves to encourage environmental concern, particularly by creating a Ministry for the Environment, Greenpeace are keen to see whether other east European countries follow suit.

Breakthrough is to be released in all the east European countries as well as in the UK, USA, India, Australia and Japan, emphasising the international aspect of the green movement.

The release of the album worldwide, under the title Rainbow Warriors, will probably be slightly more of a gamble than it has been in the Soviet Union. Compassion fatigue in the West, however, might be overcome by the quality of the record.

There probably hasn’t been an album released yet, which features so many top musicians – U2, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Sting to name a few. There are 26 tracks, all of which have recently been hits. For many, the album will probably have an intrinsic value just for this reason. The fact that it supports Greenpeace will be a bonus.

In the three weeks since the album was released in the USSR over 10,000 copies have been received on the forms that were enclosed in the information booklets.

The worldwide launch is on May 22nd and if it sells for reasons other than its musical content, its educational and mobilising potential could be as effective as the fundraising.

Now, unfortunately, we have had Russian hackers releasing scientific data in an attempt to discredit climate change and global warming, while Trump is also trying to stifle climate science, including the virtual closure of America’s Environmental protection Agency. He and the rest of the Republican party are determined that only the paid propagandists for the Koch brothers will be heard.