Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

Food Banks: Geordie Greig’s Duranty Journalism

April 20, 2014

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One of the most notorious cases of a journalist collaborating with a murderous, tyrannical regime is that of Walter Duranty and the Soviet Stalinist regime of the 1930s. Duranty was a journalist with the New York Times during Stalin’s forced collectivisation of agriculture. This resulted in a famine of truly horrific proportions in which millions died, particularly in the Ukraine. Ukrainians now commemorate it as the Holodomor, an act of genocide against them by the Soviet authorities.

The existence of the famine was denied and very carefully hidden by the Soviet authorities. Foreign observers to the USSR, such as George Bernard Shaw, were shown fake ‘Potemkin’ villages of well-fed, happy and prosperous peasants. All too many were taken in, including Shaw and Duranty. Duranty wrote a series of articles denying the existence of the famine and maintaining the fiction that instead of mass starvation, the USSR was a land of agricultural abundance. He afterwards admitted that the famine had existed, but excused it by saying that ‘they were only Russians’.

American Conservatives have used Duranty’s notorious complicity in hiding the famine and its suffering as proof of the mendacity of the ‘Left-wing media’, and in particular the New York Times. In actual fact, various Left-wing and Liberal commentators in America have noted that the New York largely, and unsurprisingly, has a Right-wing bias.

Now it seems that the Mail on Sunday under its editor, Geordie Greig, has followed Duranty’s example and tried to deny the existence of starvation in this country for purely political reasons. The Mail on Sunday today printed a piece by one of its journos, Ross Slater, demonstrating that it was possible to get food at a food bank without a voucher. All that was necessary, according to Slater, was that the person obtaining the food should give a plausible ‘sob story’. The article then goes on to allege that the rise in food banks is not due to increased poverty and starvation due to the Tories’ austerity programme. No! Following the official Tory line, it claims that people are going there simply because they’re there, offering free food.

Mike over at Vox Political has given a detailed demolition of this claim, which I’ve reblogged here today. It also seems that Greig’s paper has scored an ‘own goal’ according to the Guardian. The article has aroused such indignation that there has been a massive upsurge in donations to the Trussel Trust, amounting to almost £19,000.

As for Slater, there is a petition on Change.org requesting that Slater be sacked. Mike has advised his readers to use their discretion about this, as Slater was only journalist following the orders set for him by his editor. The ultimate responsibility for this disgusting and shameful attack on the only thing that stands between thousands of British citizens and starvation is the editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Greig.

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Geordie Greig, the editor of the Mail on Sunday, who doesn’t want you to believe in mass starvation in Britain.

Greig’s editor-in-chief is Paul Dacre, who, according to Private Eye, has the nickname ‘Mugabe’. This is quite appropriate, as Mugabe has similarly reduced a prosperous people to poverty and starvation while clinging on to power – much like Dacre’s Tory masters.

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Paul Dacre, with appropriate comment on the high standards of British journalism. Image by John Mangan.

Greig and Dacre deserve the strongest possible censure for their lying, poisonous journalism in the service of their corrupt political masters. Thousands are dying of poverty every year due to this government’s austerity programme. You can go to Stilloaks’ blog for the names and cases of only a few. And yet, like Duranty, a man Greig and Dacre would despise because of his Communist beliefs, the two Mail on Sunday editors are quite prepared to the same and deny the existence of such massive suffering.

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Jeremy Browne and the Neo-Liberal Lib Dems

April 13, 2014

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Jeremy Browne: The ‘Orange Book’ Liberal who wishes to privatise the Health Service and give even more tax breaks to the rich.

Jeremy Browne, the Lib Dem MP for the Somerset constituency of Taunton Dean, was interviewed briefly by David Garmston on the local news programme, Points West. Browne was in the papers earlier this week because of the policies he outlined in his book Race Plan: An Authentic Liberal Plan to Get Britain Fit for the Global Race. Amongst the policies he advocates are cutting the top rate of tax from 45 per cent down to 40 per cent, privatising the Health Service and replacing it with private medical insurance, and the introduction of education vouchers. Browne stated that these policies were necessary in order to make Britain competitive with the new emerging economies in the Developing World, countries which were pushing Britain further down the hierarchy of rich nations. Garmston asked him about what this would do for the working class, as there was nothing in the book for them. Not so, declared Browne – they would have greater opportunities. Garmston observed that this broke with the Lib Dems. They were a centre-left party, but these policies were well to the right of the Tory party. No, answered Browne, they were real, liberal policies.

Effect of Education Vouchers in Chile

This last statement shows the true origin of Browne’s view: Neoliberalism. Von Hayek and Mises, its founders, claimed that it represents genuine, 19th century liberalism against the progressive liberalism of the 20th century. Milton Friedman, the economic guru of Monetarism, also recommended education vouchers. Guy Debord’s Cat has posted on the way this system has wrecked Chile’s education system. See The Chilean Equality Protests at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/the-chilean-equality-protests/. And this is only one of the spectacular failure of Neoliberal economics.

Neoliberalism Producing Global Poverty

As for the effects of global competition, Greg Palast in Armed Madhouse shows how increasing hours and poor pay amongst Western workers has had the effect of driving up working hours and lowering pay in the rest of the world, as the other countries also struggle to compete. The workers in these nations don’t win, as conditions become ever more harsh and poverty, even for those in work, increases. The only people to gain from this are the international, wealthy elite.

Browne’s Privileged Background, like Tory and Tory Democrat Cabinet

This is on a par with Browne’s own background. According to Wikipedia, Browne was a son of the diplomat Sir Nicholas Browne, and grew up in a variety of different countries, including Iran, Belgium and Zimbabwe. It also states that he was educated at Bedales, one of the most expensive public schools in the UK with fees of £10,300 per term. He studied politics at Nottingham University. He also worked for the financial consultancy Drew Rogerson, and the PR firms Edelman and Reputationinc. This is pretty much the background of David Cameron and the Tory and Tory Democrat cabinet – extremely rich middle class with careers in banking and the financial sector, and PR. He thus shares the same views regarding destroying state intervention and the welfare state. Just to show how extremely Right-wing he is, he was in the Telegraph yesterday declaring that there was no point to his party, as there was too much conservatism in it supporting the state and the status quo. The book sounds extremely similar to Britannia Unchained, written by a trio of Tory MPs, who declared that British workers must work harder for less in order for Britain to compete globally.

Break with Tradition of Liberal Founders Welfare State

A hundred years ago the Liberals laid the foundations of the modern welfare state with sickness and unemployment insurance based very much on Bismarck’s reforms in Germany. In 1909 Lloyd George gave a speech at Limehouse appealing to the working class and violently denouncing the aristocracy, corrupt landlords and financial magnates. This was all too much for Winston Churchill, who declared it was ‘Socialism by the backdoor’ and stormed off to join the Tories. Now it seems the Orange Book Liberals, one of whom is Browne, have also rejected Lloyd George’s legacy and gone off to join the Neoliberal extreme Right. When asked by Garmston whether he had an eye on the Lib Dem leadership, Browne denied it, saying that the Lib Dems already had a leader. Considering his latest attack on the Lib Dem party, this denial rings very hollow.

Support for Privatisation and Destruction Welfare State in Lib Dems

Unfortunately, it’s not just Browne, who hold these views. Anne Soper, a Social Democrat MP back in the 1980s declared her support for education vouchers. In the 1987 election Davids Steel and Owen declared that it didn’t matter if the Health Service was privatised, so long as it remained free. Well, Browne wants to privatise it, and certainly doesn’t want it to be free. And all in the name of choice, which was used by Thatcher to justify her disastrous campaign of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. The entry for Browne in Wikipedia states that he is a member of the Orange Book section of the Lib Dems. This is the section that fully endorses and supports Neoliberalism and the campaigns of privatisation and cuts to welfare services.

Browne is thus a personal demonstration that if you are working or lower middle class, there is absolutely no point in voting Lib Dem. And especially not in Taunton Deane.

Seumas Milne on Why Thatcher Should Not Be Celebrate

April 4, 2014

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Former PM Margaret Thatcher, whose infernal glamour still captivates the Tory faithful

Mike over at Vox Political suggested that there should be a day celebrating the life of Tony Benn as a response to the suggestion by a Tory MP that there should be a national holiday celebrating former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Guardian Columnist Milne on Streep’s The Iron Lady

The Guardian’s columnist, Seumas Milne, was alarmed by the trend towards the rehabilitation of the dictator of the British bourgeoisie signalled two years ago by the release in 2012 of the Meryl Streep biopic, The Iron Lady. In his column for the fifth of January, he wrote

In opposition David Cameron tried to distance himself from her poisonous ‘nasty party’ legacy. But just as he and George Osborne embark on even deeper cuts and more far-reaching privatisation of public services than Thatcher herself managed, Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady is about to come to the rescue of the 1980s prime minister’s reputation.

As the Hollywood actor’s startling Thatcher recreation looks down from every other bus, commenters have insisted that the film is ‘not political’. True, it doesn’t explicitly take sides in the most conflagrationary decade in postwar British politics. It is made clear that Thatcher’s policies were controversial and strongly opposed. But as director Phyllida Lloyd points out, ‘the whole story is told from her point of view…

Lloyd herself is unashamed about the film’s thrust: this is ‘the story of a great leader who is both tremendous and flawed’. Naturally, some of Thatcher’s supporters and family members have balked at the depiction of her illness.

But her authorised biographer, the High Tory Charles Moore, has no doubt about The Iron Lady’s effective political message. The Oscar-bound movie is, he declares, a ‘most powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism’. And for many people under forty, their view of Thatcher and what she represents will be formed by this film.

Milne notes the narrative strategies the film uses to generate sympathy for Thatcher. Her enemies are shown – angry protestors, and striking miners, but their motives are never explained and the communities she devastated with her policies are also never shown. He notes that the concentration on the onset of her dementia is also calculated to make the audience feel sympathy for a human being struggling with such a terrible disease. The film also presents her, absurdly, as a feminist icon when she strongly rejected feminism. In another depiction of the opposite of the truth, she is presented as battling class prejudice when she launched a naked class war.

You can understand why Maggie’s life would appeal to the film industry, and to an actress of Streep’s stature. It’s a strong female role, in an industry where such roles for mature women are few. Thatcher was a pioneering female figure, the first female prime minister and one of those, who held office the longest in the last century. Crucially for a film, it also has lots of drama, as well as personal tragedy – Alzheimer’s disease, rather than the antics of her stupid, arrogant and wastrel son, ‘Thickie’ Mork. You can also see how it would be presented as a rags to riches story, as she goes from her parent’s shop in Grantham to hold the highest public office in the UK, an angle she herself spun, even though she hated and despised the working class.

Yet the film neglects the horrific harm she did to Britain, the poor and the working class. And Milne himself later points out in the article that the people who were hit hardest by her policies were women. Just as they are now, under her successor, Dave Cameron. As for the lack of context or explanation given for her enemies, Roland Barthes in his book, Mythologies, states that is one of the techniques film uses to establish the villain: you know less about them than the hero.

Milne on the Economic Devastation and Impoverishment Caused by Thatcher’s Policies

Milne was particularly shocked by Gordon Brown’s suggestion that she be given a state funeral, and in the rest of the article presents the argument why this is an iniquitous idea.

Gordon Brown absurdly floated a state funeral in a fruitless attempt to appease the Daily Mail. But the coalition would be even more foolish if it were to press ahead with what is currently planned. A state funeral for Thatcher would not be regarded as any kind of national occasion by millions of people, but as a partisan Conservative event and affront to large parts of the country.

Not only in forming mining communities and industrial areas laid waste by her government, but across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown. Now protests are taking the form of satirical e-petitions to the funeral to be privatised: if it goes ahead, there are likely to be demonstrations on the streets.

This is a politician, after all, who never won the votes of more than a third of the electorate; destroyed communities; created mass unemployment; deindustrialised Britain; redistributed from poor to rich; and, by her deregulation of the City, laid the basis for the crisis that has engulfed us twenty-five years later.

Thatcher was a prime minister who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, defended the Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, ratcheted up the cold war, and unleashed militarised police on trade unionists and black communities alike. She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, like Cameron’s today.

A common British establishment view – and the implicit position of The Iron Lady – is that while Thatcher took harsh measures and ‘went too far’, it was necessary medicine to restore the sick economy of the 1970s to healthy growth.

It did nothing of the sort. Average growth in the Thatcherite ’80s, at 2.4 per cent, was exactly the same as in the sick ’70s – and considerabl6y lower than during the corporatist ’60s. Her government’s savage deflation destroyed a fifth of Britain’s industrial base in two years, hollowed out manufacturing, and delivered a ‘productivity miracle’ that never was, and we’re living with the consequences today.

What she did succeed in doing was to restore class privilege, boosting profitability while slashing employees’ share of national income from 65 per cent to 53 per cent through her assault on the unions. Britain faced a structural crisis in the 1970s, but there were multiple routes out of it. Thatcher imposed a neoliberal model now seen to have failed across the world.

He concludes by suggesting that Thatcher’s rehabilitation is connected to the Coalition’s need to shore up support now that they are implementing the same policies, and experiencing the same opposition.

It’s hardly surprising that some might want to put a benign gloss on Thatcher’s record when another Tory-led government is forcing through Thatcher-like policies – and riots, mounting unemployment and swingeing benefits cuts echo her years in power. The rehabilitation isn’t so much about then as now, which is one reason it can’t go unchallenged. Thatcher wasn’t a ‘great leader’. She was the most socially destructive prime minister of modern times.

‘Thatcher’s Rehabilitation Must Be Resisted to the End’, in Seumas Milne,The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century (London: Verso 2013) 245-8.

Thatcher, Churchill and the Tories View Organised Working Class as Nazi-like Threat

Milne is absolutely right about the destructive effect Thatcher and her policies have had on British society. He also in the above article criticises the attempt to present Thatcher as possessing the same stature as Winston Churchill. This show very strongly the Tory attitude to the working class and organised labour – a mighty force for evil on a par with Nazi Germany, which should be resolutely destroyed no matter what the cost. Not that she didn’t share some of Churchill’s views. He too hated the working class and was fully prepared to use military force against them. He is still bitterly hated in parts of Wales for his use of the army to put down striking workers in Newport. Martin Pugh in his book on Fascism in Britain between the Wars argues that one reason why the 1926 General Strike ended without much bloodshed was because the Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, removed Churchill from any direct responsibility. When the strike broke out, Churchill announced that the army would stand ready to do their duty if called upon by the civilian authorities. A cabinet aide suggested to Baldwin that perhaps a post in the Telegraph office would suit the future minister. ‘Yes’, replied Baldwin, ‘he can do no harm there’.

Left and Liberal Parties Should Not Court Tory Press

It also shows the folly of any Labour or left-wing party expecting support from the Tory press. Any support given by Messrs Dacre, Murdoch and Desmond is contingent on following a series of policies that will punish and harm the poor in support of the rich. Labour, or any other party, such as the Lib Dems, will automatically act against the interests of their own constituencies if they do so. Moreover, the same press barons will automatically move back to their default position of supporting the Tories, as has been shown by Murdoch’s move back to the Conservatives from supporting Blair.

Thatcher and Mugabe: Both Politicians Destroyed their Nations for Sectional Gain

As for Thatcher’s destruction of British manufacturing industry, and the massive growth in poverty, what actually struck me there was not the parallel with Churchill, but with another politician entirely: Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has, after all, comprehensively wrecked what was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. Before Mugabe unleashed his reign of terror, Zimbabwe actually exported food. Now he’s reduced it to absolute poverty, while, like so many dictators around the world, enriching himself and his coterie.

And just in case anyone disputes how divisive Thatcher was, remember the mass celebrations that broke out at the news of her death.

Milne is quite right: Thatcher was not great politician. She was a disastrous one, and her rehabilitation by the political elite needs to be strongly resisted at every turn.