Posts Tagged ‘Big Business’

Nestle, Pinkwashing and the Corporate Enslavement of Black Africans

July 5, 2021

Apart from the mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, another right wing YouTube channel I keep an eye on is The Lotus Eaters, with Sargon of Gasbag, alias Carl Benjamin, and his friends. It annoys me with its calm assumption that capitalism is perfect, more privatisation and deregulation will lift the world’s starving billions out of poverty and their casual sneers against the left. I found their review of Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest book on Fascism, Neither Left Nor Right, absolutely unwatchable because of the massive amount of ignorance about the subject, and just intellectual history generally. Sternhell’s an Israeli who grew up in Poland during the Nazi invasion. He’s a very well respected scholar of Fascism, not surprisingly. But Benjamin and his cronies took the book as proving that Fascism is a form of socialism. This idea is rampant on the right. This ignores the Fascist alliance with big business, their promotion of capitalism, and their recruitment of private sector businessmen to run the vast industrial associations through which the Nazis exercised control of industry and society. Mussolini started out as a radical socialist, but moved right to ally with the industrialists and feudal landlords to break up the socialist trade unions, smash workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives, and destroy other dangerous liberal political parties, like the Populists. The Italian Popular party was founded as a Catholic organisation, and stood for a widening of democracy including the radical step of votes for women and further rights for the workers and peasants. But the papacy at the time allied with the Fascists to smash it because it wasn’t under the control of the bishops. Yes, Mussolini’s ideal of the corporative state, in which industries are run by vast industrial associations which combine the trade unions with the employer’s organisations, sort of if someone combined the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress and then gave them a separate parliamentary chamber, was derived from anarcho-syndicalism. But it also incorporated ideas from Nationalists like Alfredo Rocco, who wanted the state to take over the trade unions from a right-wing, pro-business viewpoint. It also ignores Adolf Hitler’s adulation of the big businessman as biologically superior to the proles, his blanket refusal to nationalise anything and a speech he made to the German version of the CBI stating that business needed dictatorship to protect it. Instead you generally get a lot of waffle about how the Nazis were socialists, because they said so, but it and Fascism were different types of socialism to Communism. In fairness, this analysis of Italian Fascism does have more than an element of truth. In the words of Sargon’s matey Callum, Fascism is socialism after it dumps Communism. Which is almost true, but ignores the fact that Communism is only one form of socialism, and was so even at the time. But it excludes the fact that Mussolini and the rest were generally and fanatically pro-capitalist. The statement that it must somehow be a form of socialism rests on the Fascist’s state control of industry. But this state control is contrasted with an idealised form of free market capitalism that has never existed. And Fascist corporativism looks very much like the Blairite Third Way or modern neoliberalism, in which the heads of big corporations form government policy and and are rewarded with government posts.

It looks like Boris Johnson’s crony capitalism, and is, I fear, what we are moving towards with his continued attack on democracy and the right to protest.

However, I believe very strongly that the Lotus Eaters are absolutely right about the extremist views promoted by the far left, like Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. So do many left-wing intellectuals, who feel that there is still a lot of racism, sexism and bigotry that needs to be tackled, but despise Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory for their rejection of objective truth and fact in favour of feelings, ideological assumptions and subjective interpretations.

It was the end of Pride Month a few days ago, and the Lotus Eaters marked the occasion by sneering at the corporate nonsense various big companies were putting out to show that they indicated Pride and gay and trans rights. I’m blogging about this not because I wish to attack genuine support for gay rights or promote intolerance towards trans people, but because some of this corporate support does seem a mite excessive. And in some cases it might even be hypocritical. The Lotus Eaters’ video included a promo video from one of the banks telling everyone to watch their pronouns around trans people. Ikea went even so far as to launch gay and trans sofas. The gay sofa has various colour straps running across it, presumably to represent the colours of the rainbow gay flag. The trans sofa has various slogans written on it, one of which is ‘No-one will believe you.’ The sofa is also decorated with prints of multicoloured hands. Various trans people appear in the video saying that they can really express their essential selves on this piece of furniture. Which makes it sound like no trans person was ever comfortable on a normal sofa before. Sargon and Callum then giggle about how the hands and slogan make the sofa creepily rape-y, and unfortunately they do have a point.

But they have a rather more serious point when they report that a legal suit brought against Nestle, one of the companies loudly promoting their support of gay and trans right, was thrown out last week by an American court. The suit was against the company’s use of enslaved Black African labour in the production of the cocoa from which their chocolate is made. The case was thrown out because the people enslaved aren’t under American jurisdiction. Sargon and Callum used it to argue that Nestle, and all the other companies, really don’t care about the various left-wing issues they claim to support, like Black Lives Matter. They just want to be seen as nice, liberal and cuddly to avoid being attacked for racism or any other form of bigotry. And in the case of gay rights, it’s called ‘pinkwashing’.

Israel’s particularly guilty of this, using the state’s official tolerance towards gay culture and the Jerusalem Pride parade to present a false liberalism and appeal to western liberals and radicals against Islam. Israel is pro-gay, even though many of its citizens are extremely conservative in their views and hate gays just like they’re hated by other religions and societies. They contrast this with the persecution of gays in contemporary Islam. But traditionally Islam was far more tolerant of homosexuality. Tele Sur’s Abbie Martin reported that when she went to Palestine, she found the situation the complete opposite of what the Israelis were claiming. Gayness was definitely tolerated, and she saw gay couples who were not persecuted at all.

Nestle’s a nasty corporation. I remember the scandal a few years ago when they were pushing their baby milk, a substance that needed to be bought after the baby was started on it, as against healthy breastfeeding in Africa. And all for corporate profit. It doesn’t surprise me that they source their cocoa from plantations using slave labour. It also bears out a comment by one of the great readers of this blog, who pointed me in the direction of an article about how the various big companies all pledging their support for Black Lives Matter were ruthless exploiters of slave, or starvation level labour in the developing world. This is all lies and corporate hypocrisy, done to impress liberal consumers in the West, while the reality is very different.

I’ve also no doubt that the example he makes of Nestle using Black African slave labour also damages his case for unrestrained capitalism. This is what unrestrained private enterprise looks like. The most horrific example of this was the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, when it was the personal fief of the Belgian king, Leopold. Leopold set up his own private police force, the Force Publique, and demanded that all Congolese produced a set amount of rubber. If they didn’t, they were beaten, mutilated and killed. Eight million Congolese died in what can only justly be described as a holocaust. This is what unrestrained global capitalism is doing today – forcing people into real slavery and poverty. We need more regulation, not less.

And I’m dam’ sure that the case against Nestle was brought by lefties outraged at this corporate enslavement for a western multinational.

Don’t be taken in by this type of false advertising, which only really applies to the West. We needed to see beyond the specious support some companies give to liberal issues like anti-racism and gay rights, and look at what is really going on elsewhere in the world.

If you want to have a look at their video, it’s entitled ‘Social Justice Is Going Over the Top’ and it’s at (2) Social Justice is Going Over the Top – YouTube. I’m not going to post it, just link to it, because, well, this is Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and the Lotus Eaters are annoying, even when they make some decent points people on the left can also get behind.

Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

April 14, 2021

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Does Starmer’s ‘Pro-Business’ Mean ‘Anti-Workers?’

February 11, 2021

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here, but I came across a video from the awesome Novara Media. I haven’t watched it, so this might be just me showing my prejudice. I just looked at the video’s title, which seemed to say everything. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was something on the lines of Starmer declaring that Labour would be ‘pro-business’.

This should set alarm bells ringing, because when a politico talks about being ‘pro-business’ he always, but always means the same thing: further tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and privatisation on the grounds that this will set the forces of private enterprise free and provide financial incentives for the rich to invest and expand their businesses and economy. For ordinary people it means low wages, more welfare cuts and the destruction of workers’ rights in order to get people off state support and making the labour market fluid, so employers can hire and fire at will without going through all the pesky business of negotiations with trade unions and industrial tribunals.

That’s what ‘pro-business’ meant under the Tories, and that’s what it was also under New Labour. With the addition that under New Labour, big business was further rewarded through the appointment of leading management to positions in government as part of the corporate capture of the state.

I might be wrong here, but if Starmer has made noises about being ‘pro-business’, it means he’s going back to the Blairite policies of awarding government posts to big business in exchange for corporate donations, and making the rich even richer at the expense of Britain’s working people.

Disaster Predicted for Labour in May Elections – Will They Blame the Left?

January 29, 2021

As if this question needs to be asked. Mike this morning put up a piece commenting on recent forecasts that Labour under Starmer’s leadership will actually lose seats in the local elections in May. Only 4 per cent of Tory voters are predicted to switch to Labour. This will be a disaster for Labour, and should be a catastrophe for Starmer as it shows that his policy of turning Labour into the alternative Tory party isn’t working. Starmer isn’t winning support for Labour because he has violated the first rule of an opposition party: this is to oppose. Instead, Starmer has offered support and ‘cautious criticism’. This has often come after Tory policies have been proven to be failures, so that Johnson ridiculed him from the Dispatch Box as ‘Captain Hindsight’. And his lack of any decisive alternative alternative vision to the wretched Tories also allowed Johnson to sneer at him as ‘General Indecision’.

Worse, Labour is losing its core voters thanks to Starmer’s own war on the left. He has scrapped Corbyn’s manifesto policies, which were genuinely popular despite the media’s and political establishment’s successful vilification of Corbyn himself. Starmer has carried on purging the left under the pretext of cracking down on anti-Semitism. He has alienated Labour’s traditional supporters in the Black and Asian communities by his half-hearted gestures of support for Black Lives Matter and his refusal to punish the real racists in the Labour Party, who bullied Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And it’s fairly obvious why. These racists are all from the right, the section of the party that supports him. He also has not punished the various conspirators who deliberately plotted to sabotage the party’s election campaign in 2017 and 2019. Again, these are all right-wingers, so safe from punishment for their misdeeds. And to make his and his faction’s grip on the party secure, David Evans has suspended members and constituency parties that have dared to criticise the Dear Leader and passed fresh regulations stipulating that electoral candidates must meet with his approval as suitable prospective MPs. Which means, as Mike’s pointed out, that no-one from the left will be accepted, even if they have the full backing of their local parties.

If the predicted electoral disaster does occur – and I’ve no doubt it will – then it should rightly be the end of Starmer and the Blairites. The Blairite tactic of triangulation – finding out what will appeal to Tory voters, donors and the media, and then doing it – isn’t working. The public has seen through the New Labour tactic of copying Tory policies while claiming that, once in power, Labour will be better at them. Tory voters are going to stick with the Tories, because why should they accept a pale imitation under Starmer? Johnson’s defeat should be an open goal. This week the number of people, who’ve died from the Coronavirus hit 100,000. This truly horrendous death toll is a direct result of Johnson’s selfish, inept and half-hearted policies, the corruption that has led him to award vital medical contracts to firms owned by his friends, which then catastrophically can’t fulfil them. And instead of the great, radiant victory for British independence, business and entrepreneurialism, Brexit is rapidly showing itself to be another disaster. It is hitting British business hard with extra bureaucracy and tariffs for trading with the EU. It is expected to decimate our already severely stricken manufacturing industry.

The fact that Starmer is losing to Johnson should mean that Starmer should vacate the Labour leadership following the May elections, assuming that Labour does as poorly as predicted. By I predict that won’t happen. That would leave the leadership open to someone from the real Labour centre. Someone determined to support Corbyn’s policies of a nationalised National Health Service, publicly owned utilities, a proper, functioning welfare state that the gives the support the poor, the unemployed, the long-term sick and disabled they really need, protects working people with proper employment rights and strong trade unions, and ends the wretched pay freezes and exploitative gig economy. These were all genuinely popular. But they frighten big business and the Tory and New Labour media. Hence the determination to bring down Labour by any means possible. Hence the smears of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Jew-haters. And they’ll do it again.

The Blairites have shown through their electoral sabotage and their attempted coups that they mean to hang on to power whatever the cost. Even if it destroys the party. Thus I predict that if Labour does fail miserably in May’s elections, Starmer will stay. He and the media will claim that this was because the stain of anti-Semitism is still hanging over the party. More purges of the Corbynite left will be demanded and follow. And it won’t do a bit of good. The party will remain unpopular, possibly even more so.

But Starmer won’t care how unpopular it is, so long as he and the Blair have a secure grip on it. And at some point he’ll even be rewarded with a peerage just like the turncoats and plotters.

For further information, see: Labour isn’t winning back Tory voters by trying to be Tory. What will Starmer try next? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Trump and the Spectre of Mussolini

January 7, 2021

The big news today has been last night’s attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. They had been fired up to make the assault by Trump’s continued insistence that he is the real winner of the election, but it has been stolen from him by vote-rigging from the Democrats. As Mike himself has pointed out, Trump himself has not been averse to trying to do this himself. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump had tried to persuade Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, to find one more vote for him in the state more than those cast for Joe Biden. And a week or so ago it was also reported that he had also been considering calling in the army in order to defend his presidency. If he had done so, it would have been a coup attempt.

Microsoft News in a piece they published today about the attack state that among the mob were members of various far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club and supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory. This is the bizarre belief that Trump has been secretly fighting a war against an evil covert group determined to take over and subvert America. Last night there had been various messages posted on right-wing websites urging ‘Revolution’ and ‘Civil War’. World leaders have expressed their disgust and condemnation of the attack, though as Mike also points out, there has been no condemnation of Trump himself from Boris or Priti Patel. The attack is ominous, as it shows just how fragile American democracy is.

Indeed. Way back in the 1990s there were fears of a similar attack with the emergence of militia movement. These are right-wing paramilitary organisations founded by people, who really believe that America is in danger of being taken over by the extreme left, or the forces of globalism and the one world Satanic conspiracy or whatever. Many of them were explicitly racist with the connections to the neo-Nazi right. At one point a woman claiming to be a senior officer in the movement appeared online urging the various militias to unite and march on Washington. Her call was ignored, largely, I think, because the other militia leaders didn’t trust her and were extremely suspicious of her motives. I got the distinct impression that they suspected her of being an agent provocateur and that the march was some kind of trap by the federal government. There was no armed paramilitary march, and so America dodged a coup attempt, or whatever it was, that time.

But the attack is also reminiscent of an assault on government even further back, almost one hundred years ago. This was the infamous ‘March on Rome’ of Mussolini’s Fascists. This succeeded in getting him appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Italian king, Emmanuel II, and began the process which saw him overturning Italian democracy to forge the Fascist one-party state and his personal dictatorship. Of course, for such coups to be successful, the armed forces, capital and the civil service must be willing to collaborate with the insurgents. Mussolini had the support of Italian industry and the big landowners, as he offered to protect capitalism from the forces of revolutionary socialism. The Fascists also included a number of ex-servicemen, the squadristi, and they had considerable support within the regular Italian armed forces. However, the head of the Italian police had absolute contempt for the Fascists and offered to defend the Italian government from the Fascists. But the king turned him down, and caved in to the future Duce.

There are similarities to last night’s events. Many right-wing Americans do seem to fear that Communism and anarchy are somehow about to overrun America with the violence of some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in America and the supposed ‘cultural Marxists’ that have allegedly taken over the American educational system. And the fears that there really is a secret conspiracy to overthrow American democracy and enslave its citizens has been around for decades. Bizarre conspiracy theories appeared in the 1970s about the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission, claiming that these groups really ran the world. Then in the 1990s George Bush senior’s statement that he was going to create a ‘new world order’ prompted comparisons with the Nazis, as Hitler had also said the same about his regime. It was also linked to older conspiracy theories about the Freemasons because the Latin version of the phrase, ‘Novo Ordo Seculorum’, supposedly appears on American dollar bills along with various Masonic symbols. These theories claimed that America was being secretly run by a group of Masonic Satanists, who were planning turn America into a totalitarian, Communist state and send Christians to concentration camps. Even the collapse of Communism did not allay these fears. Many of those, who bought into these bizarre theories, thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was all some kind of ruse. One variety of these myths claimed that the Russians had established secret military bases in Canada and Mexico, and at a given signal Soviet tanks would roll over the border into America. The 1990s were arguably the peak of such beliefs, as shown in the popularity of similar stories of covert government pacts with aliens from Zeta Reticuli and TV’s The X-Files. But such fears have certainly not gone away. There was a resurgence during Obama’s presidency, when America’s first Black president was accused by the bonkers elements on the American right of being a secret Muslim. or atheist. Or Communist. Or Nazi. Whatever, Obama was filled with rage against White Christians. One pair of pastors told the listeners of their church radio station that Obama was going to establish a dictatorship and would massacre even more people than Chairman Mao. Alex Jones was repeating and amplifying similar myths over on his internet radio and TV station. He claimed that Obama was going to invoke emergency legislation under the pretext of impending environmental disaster to force ordinary Americans into refugee camps. Militant feminists and gays were part of this conspiracy, in which humanity was to be transformed into a race of genderless cyborgs. Jones lost a considerable part of his audience when he was banned from various social media platforms thanks to his claims that a Boston pizza parlour was really a front for supplying children to be abused by members of the Democratic party and that several high school shootings had really been faked to provoke popular support for gun control laws. This caused real distress to the bereaved parents, who were accused of being ‘crisis actors’. Jones has nearly vanished from the public stage, though he still appears here and there. Even when he had an audience, many people still regarded him as a joke. But it looks like the conspiracy theories Jones promoted, and the underlying distrust of the government, still have a powerful hold on many Americans.

Fortunately, yesterday was different from 1920s Italy. America’s military has so far shown no interest in coming to Trump’s aid and overthrowing democracy. Black Lives Matter is extremely unpopular in certain areas, but the police, security forces and private industry aren’t backing armed paramilitary units to defend capitalism. American democracy is being shaken and tested, but so far it hasn’t cracked. The problem is, it’s not clear how long this will last. By calling for people to storm the capitol, Trump has struck a blow against democracy. He’s been unsuccessful, but this might inspire a future president with the same inclinations to try again. And they might be more successful.

And we’re not safe from such assaults over here. Mike in his article has warned that the Tories appear to be taking notes from Trump, while Zelo Street points out that the same people, who backed Trump also back the Tories and Brexit over here. He concludes with a warning of who the Brexiteers will blame when it all finally goes bad:

Many Brexiteers believe it’ll be someone else’s fault – Remainers, ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, multinational corporations, those of insufficiently patriotic intent – when it all goes bad. It won’t be Bozo, Ms Patel, Gove, or Nigel “Thirsty” Farage they will be going after.

There is a real danger of America becoming, if not a dictatorship, then a very authoritarian, Fascistic state. And Britain following.

See also: Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Trump Insurrection – Next Stop UK (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

December 15, 2020

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

William Blum on the Real Reason for the Invasion of Afghanistan: Oil

November 16, 2020

The late William Blum, an inveterate and bitter critic of American foreign policy and imperialism also attacked the invasion of Afghanistan. In his view, it was, like the Iraq invasion a few years later, absolutely nothing to do with the terrible events of 9/11 but another attempt to assert American control over a country for the benefit of the American-Saudi oil industry. Blum, and other critics of the Iraq invasion, made it very clear that America invaded Iraq in order to gain control of its oil industry and its vast reserves. In the case of Afghanistan, the invasion was carried out because of the country’s strategic location for oil pipelines. These would allow oil to be supplied to south Asian avoiding the two countries currently outside American control, Russian and Iran. The Taliban’s connection to al-Qaeda was really only a cynical pretext for the invasion. Blum lays out his argument on pages 79-81 of his 2014 book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He writes

With the US war in Iraq supposedly having reached a good conclusion (or halfway decent… or better than nothing… or let’s get the hell out of here while some of us are still in one piece and there are some Iraqis we haven’t yet killed), the best and the brightest in our government and media turn their thoughts to what to do about Afghanistan. It appears that no one seems to remember, if they ever knew, that Afghanistan was not really about 9/11 or fighting terrorists (except the many the US has created by its invasion and occupation), but was about pipelines.

President Obama declared in August 2009:

But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9-11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.

Never mind that out of the tens of thousands of people the United States and its NATO front have killed in Afghanistan not one has been identified as having had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001.

Never mind that the ‘plotting to attack America’ in 2001 was carried out in Germany and Spain and the United States more than in Afghanistan. Why hasn’t the United States attacked these countries?

Indeed, what actually was needed to plot to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? A room with some chairs? What does ‘an even larger safe haven’ mean? A larger room with more chairs? Perhaps a blackboard? Terrorists intent upon attacking the United States can meet almost anywhere.

The only ‘necessity’ that drew the United States to Afghanistan was the desire to establish a military presence in this land that is next door to the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia – which reportedly contains the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world – and build oil and gas pipelines from that region running through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is well situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of South Asia, pipelines that can bypass those not-yet Washington clients Iran and Russia. If only the Taliban would not attack the lines. Here’s Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in 2007: ‘One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so taht energy can flow to the south’.

Since the 1980s all kinds of pipelines have been planned for the area, only to be delayed or canceled by one military, financial or political problem or another. For example, the so-called TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) had strong support from Washington, which was eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. TAPI goes back to the 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with the California-based oil company Unocal Corporation. These talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and were undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society. Taliban officials even made trips to the United States for discussions. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on February 12, 1998, Unocal representative John Maresca discussed the importance of the pipeline project and the increasing difficulties in dealing with the Taliban:

The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels… From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, leaders, and our company.

When those talks stalled in July, 2001 the Bush administration threatened the Taliban with military reprisals if the government did not go along with American demands. The talks finally broke down for good the following month, a month before 9/11.

The United States has been serious indeed about the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf oil and gas areas. Through one war of another beginning with the Gulf War of 1990-91, the US has managed to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

The war against the Taliban can’t be ‘won’ short of killing everyone in Afghanistan. The United States may well try again to negotiate some from of pipeline security with the Taliban, then get out, and declare ‘victory’. Barack Obama can surely deliver an eloquent victory speech from his teleprompter. It might include the words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, but certainly not ‘pipeline’.

This was obviously written before the electoral victory of Hamid Karzai and his government, but the point remains the same. The Taliban are still active and fighting against the supposedly democratic government, which also remains, as far as I know, dependent on western aid.

But the heart of the matter is that this wasn’t a war to save humanity from the threat of global terrorism, nor is it about freeing the Afghan people from a bloodthirsty and murderously repressive Islamist regime. The Americans were quite happy to tolerate that and indeed do business with it. It was only when the Taliban started to become awkward that the Americans started threatening them with military action. And this was before 9/11. Which strongly supports Blum’s argument that the terrible attack on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the White House were and are being cynically used as the justification for the invasion. 17 out of the 19 conspirators were Saudis, and the events point to involvement by the Saudi state with responsibility going right to the top of the Saudi regime. But America and NATO never launched an attack on them, despite the fact that the Saudis have been funding global Islamist terrorism, including Daesh. That is before ISIS attacked them.

It was Remembrance Day last Wednesday. The day when Britain honours the squaddies who fell in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. One of those talking about the importance of the day and its ceremonies on Points West, the Beeb’s local news programme for the Bristol area, was a former squaddie. He was a veteran of Afghanistan, and said it was particularly important to him because he had a mate who was killed out there. He felt we had to remember victims of combat, like his friend because if we didn’t ‘what’s the point?’.

Unfortunately, if Blum’s right – and I believe very strongly that he is – then there’s no point. Our governments have wasted the lives, limbs and minds of courageous, patriotic men and women for no good reason. Not to defend our countries from a ruthless ideology which massacres civilians in order to establish its oppressive rule over the globe. Not to defend our freedoms and way of life, nor to extend those freedoms and their benefits to the Afghan people. But simply so that America can gain geopolitical control of that region and maintain its dominance of the oil industry, while enriching the oil companies still further.

Cummings Creates Civil Service to Take Over from Private Consultants, Who Took Over from Civil Service

November 8, 2020

Yesterday Mike put up a piece about Dominic Cummings’ reinvention of the wheel. Presumably he did so after he received an important report from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious. Boris Johnson’s pet polecat, or the distinguished advisor from Epsilon 6, as Spitting Image portrays him, has finally woken up to the fact that the legions of private consultants they brought in to do the work of the civil service, is too expensive and simply isn’t as good as civil servants. So he has created a new official department, called the Crown Consultancy. As an example of the exorbitant cost involved, Mike quotes the figures for the amount the Tories spent between 2016 and this year on just eight private consultancies – which include the usual rip-off merchants like KPMG, Deloitte and McKinsey. It’s £2.6 billion. The work obviously should have been left to the civil service, who, like other state departments, should have been properly funded with an appropriate level of staffing. Instead of being cut to pieces because the Tories don’t trust experts.

The fact that civil servants are far more efficient than private sector consultants should hardly be a revelation, no matter how new it may seem to Tories and other fans of outsourcing. It’s been known for over a decade and a half. William Blum, a long-time opponent of American imperialism and capitalism, has this little snippet in his 2014 book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else (London: Zed Books).

A study of 17,595 federal government jobs by the Office of Management and Budget in 2004 concluded that civil servants could do their work better and more cheaply than private contractors nearly 90 per cent of the time in job competitions. (p. 257).

Privatisation and outsourcing doesn’t work, and the evidence has been staring everyone in the face for decades. But the decrepit, rotting facade of Thatcherism is propped up because it enriches big business, who in turn line the pockets of the Tories and Blairite Labour with corporate donations, as well as giving them seats on their boards.

While giving poor service, poverty and starvation to everyone else.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/11/07/reinventing-the-wheel-after-replacing-civil-servants-with-expensive-private-consultants-cummings-wants-to-replace-them-with-a-civil-service/

Starmer Throwing Out Corbyn’s Policies to Gain Support of Business

November 6, 2020

Mike and many other left-wing bloggers have put up a number of articles showing that, despite his promises at the Labour leadership elections, Starmer is getting rid of Corbyn’s policies which were included in the party’s manifesto. Starmer’s a Blairite, and so it was to be expected that he’d try to remove Corbyn’s policies, just as he is doing his best to purge or push out members of the Labour left from the shadow cabinet and the party generally. He’s taking the party back towards Thatcherism, replacing traditional Labour policies of a strong welfare state and trade unions, workers’ rights, a fully nationalised NHS and mixed economy, with the welfare state’s dismantlement, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the further destruction of employment rights designed to make workers easy and cheap to hire and fire. This is all being done to win over Tory swing voters and the right-wing political and media establishment.

A few weeks ago Starmer showed exactly where his priorities lay when he announced that Labour was now perfectly willing to accept donations and funding from industry. This was a sharp break with Corbyn, who had restored the party’s finances through subscriptions from the party’s membership. A membership that had expanded massively because, after Blair, Brown and Ed Miliband, there was a Labour leader at last who genuinely wished to do something for the working class and represented and promoted traditional Labour values and policies.

Starmer’s turn instead to corporate funding is a return to Blair’s policies, in which the Labour leader sought support from business. Under Blair, the party lost members despite its electoral success. The only reason it won elections was because the Tories were far less popular. And in return for corporate donations, Blair gave the chairmen and senior management of big companies places in government, and passed legislation that would benefit them, but very definitely not Britain’s working people nor the self-employed and small businesspeople.

Further proof that Starmer’s going down this path was provided a few days ago on Tuesday. According to an article in that day’s I by Hugo Gye, ‘Starmer courts business leaders’, for the edition of 3rd November 2020, Starmer announced at a meeting of the CBI that he was going to drop some of Corbyn’s policies to make the party more acceptable to industry. The article runs

Sir Keir Starmer has distanced himself from the Jeremy Corbyn era, suggesting he will drop some of his predecessor’s most radical policies as he positions Labour as the party of business.

Speaking to the annual conference of the CBI business group, Sir Keir said he wanted to lead “an active, pro-business government”. He added: “When a business is failing it is often because the management is failing. The Labour party is now under new management. We recognise that businesses with high standards are the only way to create a good economy.” Asked if he would keep left-wing policies Sir Keir replied: “In 2019 we suffered a devastating loss in the election.

“It’s important you don’t look at the electorate and ask: ‘What on earth were you doing?’ you ask: ‘What on earth were we doing?”‘ He has previously said he would seek to return to the 2017 manifesto rather than the more radical offering at last year’s general election. He also took aim at Rishi Sunak. He said: “The impact on business and jobs will be severe. The Chancellor’s name is all over this.”

This is twaddle. Labour’s policies weren’t unpopular. Indeed, quite the opposite. That’s one of the reasons the Labour right, the Tories and the media spent so many years and so much energy trying to smear Corbyn as a Communist and then anti-Semite. And the pro-business policies Starmer wants to replace Corbyn’s with won’t do anything for the country. It’s been said many times that business actually does better under Labour than under the Tories. And economists like Ha-Joon Chang have pointed out that privatisation hasn’t worked. It hasn’t provided the necessary and expected investment in the utilities. A traditional, social democratic mixed economy would therefore be far better. Thatcherism is, in the words of an Australian economist, Zombie economics. It’s dead, but still stumbling about.

As for asking what Labour did wrong, the answer is that Starmer himself was partly responsible for Labour’s defeat. He and the Labour right demanded that Labour should commit itself to a second referendum on Brexit, when the majority of the public – admittedly a slim majority – were all in favour of it. Corbyn’s initial position of respecting the Brexit vote, and only going back to hold a second referendum if they were unable to get an acceptable deal from Europe, was actually popular. But this popularity began to evaporate when Starmer and his colleagues demanded this should be changed.

Starmer’s leadership of the Labour party so far has been disastrous. He’s been using the anti-Semitism smears to purge the party of left-wingers and supporters of Corbyn, the party is losing Black membership and support thanks to his refusal to take BLM seriously, and many members generally are leaving the party because of return to Blair’s hoary, Tory policies, to paraphrase an old ’80s song.

Starmer isn’t leading the party to victory, but defeat. HIs policies won’t benefit working people, but as they are intended to enrich big business leaders, the British political establishment, of which he’s a part, aren’t going to be worried about that.

BBC Documentary on Artist’s Fightback Against Fascist Appropriation of Pepe the Frog

October 23, 2020

Next Monday, 26th October 2020, BBC’s Storyville documentary follows artist Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, as he tries to wrest his image back from the Alt Right. The programme’s on BBC 4 at 10.00 pm, and is entitled ‘Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man’ The blurb for the programme on page 75 of this coming week’s Radio Times runs

Pepe, a cartoon frog drawn in a deliberately crude and garish style, has become a symbol of the “alt-right”; its use is shorthand for a social media poster proudly announcing themselves to be a troll at best and a full neo-Nazi at worst.

But the little green guy was originally part of a harmless cartoon strip drawn by illustrator Matt Furie and, rather than conceding that sometimes artists lose control of their creations, he’s fought back. We watch as Furie takes on both anonymous troublemakers and the big beasts of the American right-wing media – the big problem being that, arguably, if you engage with them at all, you’ve already lost.

Another blurb on page 77 says

The story of how a cute cartoon character morphed into an international hate symbol after being hijacked by the “alt-right”. This film in the Storyville strand follows Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe, as he fights tooth and nail to wrest back his amiable amphibian from the dark forces that appropriated him.

The Pepe meme as a symbol of the Alt Right must have been around for at least a decade now, and it’s been scrawled by noxious extreme rightists all over the place, from the internet to real objects. It also seems to be connected to the slogan, ‘Free Kekistan’, which is also mouthed by the Alt Right and their supporters. I think one of the issues raised against Sargon of Gasbag, Paul Joseph Watson and Count Dankula when they tried to join UKIP was that a crowd of people, claiming to be their supporters, got drunk and started waving Pepe the Frog flags and shouting ‘Free Kekistan’.

I realise that Furie’s got an uphill battle on his hands to win back ownership of his creation from the trolls, racists and Nazis. There have been countless other creators, writers and artists, who’ve similarly lost control of theirs over the years. The Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta is a case in point. Unfortunately, after the film the rights don’t belong to the strip’s creator, the legendary Alan Moore. Rather they belong to the film company, which is very much the kind of exploitative global corporation Moore despises. It’s because of this and similar issues over creators’ rights that has left Moore very bitter about aspects of the comics industry. However, the meaning of the Guy Fawkes mask as an image has remained the same, and has been very much used as such by protestors demonstrating against forces and ideologies like global capitalism, racism and official persecution and injustice. It isn’t as though it’s meaning has been co-opted and perverted by those forces.

This could be a very interesting programme indeed. And no matter how difficult it is, I wish Furie all the best in his struggle to get Pepe back from the trolls and Fascists.

.