Posts Tagged ‘Birth Rate’

Killary Appearing at Cheltenham Literary Festival Today – But Will They Ask the Really Awkward Questions

October 15, 2017

Hillary Clinton was due to appear at the Cheltenham Literary Festival today, 15th October 2017, undoubtedly as part of her tour promoting her book, What Happened? In it, she tries to examine and explain how she came to lose the American presidential election to the orange maniac, whose now bringing us just that little bit closer to war with Iran, and nuclear Armageddon. Various American progressive and radical news shows, like The Young Turks, the Jimmy Dore Show and Secular Talk have extensively reviewed her book and ripped it to shreds very effectively. Some of the videos are quite long, but the problem with Hillary’s campaign can be summed up very simply: her. Clinton is a horrible person, and a horrible candidate. She is part of the corporate elite, personally corrupt in the sense that she is very much in the pocket of Wall Street and big business, and a warmonger, who was ramping up international tensions with Russia and China unnecessarily even before she lost the election. Now it’s even worse as she and the other corporatist Democrats try to cast the blame on Russian interference, rather than look much closer to home to the weakness of Clinton herself. She is massively out of touch with ordinary, working American people.

A majority of the population now want single-payer healthcare, like the rest of the Developed World. And which the Germans have had since Bismarck’s ‘Socialist Law’ of the 1870s, when the real Iron Chancellor tried to crush the rise of Germany’s Social Democrats by stealing a bit of their thunder. While Bernie Sanders has shown how America could easily afford it, and it would be cheaper both for the state and for ordinary Americans, Killary herself has declared that it’s ‘utopian’. Which is why it been working very well in Germany and the Scandinavian countries for more than a hundred years, and the French and Swiss have similar systems which mix state payment and private insurance. But this is still too far-fetched and difficult for the world’s only superpower.

Her record gets much worse when it comes to Black Americans. Bill Clinton was so popular with America’s Black population, and had the same easy charm that many of their politicians and celebrities have, that he was hailed as ‘the first Black president’. But Bill and his wife were responsible for putting in place the legislation that’s seen a massive proportion of Black men jailed for drug offences. She drew an artificial distinction between crack and ordinary cocaine, to make it appear that the one favoured by Blacks was a greater threat than the other, and so deserved greater punishment. Pushing this legislation, she talked about the threat of ‘superpredators’ at a time when this term was nearly exclusively used to describe young Black men.

On the world stage, she was responsible for arming Islamist rebels in Libya so that they overthrew Colonel Gaddafy. Gaddafy was certainly no saint. He was a dictator, who tortured and locked up his political opponents. But he kept the nation together and made sure that his country was paid a fair price for their oil after it had been run as an Italian colony from the late 19th century onwards. During the decades of his people’s struggle for independence, one third of the population was killed. It was a secular state, albeit one where the official ideology, as laid out in his Green Book, was a mixture of Islam and Arab socialism. There was free education and free healthcare. Libya was the most prosperous African country, and Gaddafy himself stood up for the continents’ rights in global affairs. And while he used the Islamists to assassinate his political rivals elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, they weren’t allowed to terrorise his people.

After Gaddafy was toppled, the country descended into civil war between rival factions, including the Islamists. It is still divided between two completing authorities. Its education and healthcare systems have been destroyed, and the Islamists have seized control of large parts of the country.

And then there’s the issue of the coup in Honduras. Up until 2012 or so, this had a liberal president, who actually wanted to raise the living standards of the peasants and urban working class, who were desperately poor, as well as protect the land and livelihood of the country’s indigenous peoples. And, as usually happens in South and Central America when the establishment is faced with the threat of a liberal regime, he was overthrown by a right-wing coup. This installed a Fascist dictator, who started rounding up, imprisoning, killing and torturing opposition leaders, activists and trade unionists. America has legislation designed to prevent it from supporting foreign coups. Killary decided to get around this by officially declaring that the coup wasn’t military, so that America could continue giving aid to the Fascist government.

And in her own party, Hillary was in cahoots with the head of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, so that Democratic nominations were fiddled to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. Sanders was by far the better candidate, with far greater appeal to working Americans. But he’s a self-declared ‘Democratic Socialist’, who wants single-payer healthcare, a renewed American welfare state, stronger trade unions, and an altogether better deal for America’s poor and working people. And unlike the Clinton’s, Bernie has genuinely taken an interest in promoting the welfare of America’s ethnic minorities. He was one of the first, if not the first, mainstream American politician to go to the reservations of America’s First Peoples to seek their views on improving conditions for them.

But this was all too much for Hillary, whose entire electoral strategy consisted of turning against the party’s core constituency amongst blue-collar workers, Blacks and other minorities, to appeal to Republicans. Just like the Clinton’s mate, Tony Blair, pursued the Tory vote as the expense of the British White working class over here.

But Killary can’t accept any of that, and so blames everyone else in her book except herself, including Jill Stein, the head of the Green Party. Clinton’s tried to present herself as some kind of feminist, whose victory in the election would somehow be a step forward for America’s women, despite the fact that she would do nothing for them. Bernie was much more popular amongst the female population, because he promised women – and men – work and proper healthcare. As did Jill Stein. Stein was a doctor. I put up one of her election broadcasts I found on YouTube, in which Stein talked to a group of women about the necessity for a single-payer healthcare system. She stated unequivocally that it was especially needed for America’s women. And I don’t doubt for a moment that Stein’s absolutely right. From what I’ve seen, the cost of giving birth alone under the American private medical system is tens of thousands of dollars, so much so that American couples have to spend years saving up and then worrying if it’ll bankrupt them before starting a family. It’s a situation that also shows how hollow the Republicans’ concerns about the falling American birthrate is. Their solution is to try to ban abortion. I think Mussolini in Fascist Italy also did that. But he also passed legislation to give Italian women state aid in raising a family. It was part of the Fascists’ reactionary campaign to take women out of the workplace and back in the home and the kitchen, but even then it was far less reactionary in its methods than that of contemporary Conservativism.

The electorate knew that Hillary wasn’t going to do anything for ordinary women, and so voted for the other candidates. And so Killary responded by trying to smear Sanders as a misogynist, just as the Blairites in the Labour party tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn over hear. It hasn’t worked.

And Killary’s still trying to present herself as some kind of feminist ‘everywoman’. When she appeared on America’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon a few days ago, the show’s female writers and a tearful Miley Cyrus also appeared to write ‘thank you’ notes to her praising her for being such an inspiration to them. The Humanist Report produced the video below rightly critiquing not just Hillary, but also the other mainstream comedians, who have politicos on their show, whether the comedians are Fallon, Bill Maher or whoever. He attacks them because they are using their comedy to promote a corporatist agenda regardless of whether the politicians are from the Democrats or Republicans. The Report’s presenter urges his audience to watch intelligently and critically. They can’t and shouldn’t censor, but they should hold presenters and broadcasters, even himself, up to a higher standard.

I am very definitely not a Humanist, but it’s an excellent point that can’t be repeated too much. Here’s the video.

I wonder just how many of the really tough questions have been or will be put to Hillary at the Cheltenham Literary Festival today. My guess is that they’ll ask some awkward questions, but nothing too hard or likely to make her feel uncomfortable.

As for Hillary’s appearance in Britain, I was talking about it to a friend of mine in Cheltenham the last time I was up there a week or so ago. He told me that one of his American friends had wondered what she was doing over here. The obvious answer is that Britain has a special relationship with America, and American politics directly affects this country, and indeed the rest of the world. But his reply was different. He said: ‘Because you owe us an apology’.

When George ‘Dubya’ won the election in 2000, Americans went on social media to apologise to the rest of the world. I think something similar is needed now. But instead of ordinary Americans apologising, it should be Hillary apologising to the ordinary Joes and Josies across the US for being such a transparent corporate shill that she lost to someone as bigoted, stupid and murderous as Trump.

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The Rise of Fascism and the Failure of Neoliberal Capitalism

September 30, 2017

Today Mike put up a very good piece attacking Theresa May’s speech praising capitalism as the greatest force in human history for raising people out of poverty. In fact, as Mike shows, the type of neoliberal crony capitalism May is really in favour of, has done nothing but reduce people to poverty. The force that raised living standards in Britain and gave British people the highest standard of living that they enjoyed in 1977 was the mixed economy of democratic socialism and the welfare state introduced after the War, and which the Tories have been trying to destroy ever since the rise of Thatcher.

This should come as no surprise. The Korean economist, Ha=Joon Chang, makes pretty much the same case in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Chang is also an admirer of capitalism, but his book is a sustained attack on Thatcherite neoliberalism. He shows that every country in the world has begun its rise to economic prosperity through protectionism, and that the countries with the most flexible labour markets and stable, prosperous industries are those with a mixed economy of socialized and private industries and a welfare state. And this includes those countries, where the industries may not be nationalized, but the workers have a share in the management, such as in Germany and Austria.

And the decline of socialism and communism in Europe has had terrible consequences. On Tuesday Counterpunch published a lengthy article by Gregory Barrett commenting on the rise on votes for the Nazi Alternative fuer Deutschland, The German Election: The West’s Nervous Breakdown Continues. He makes the point that this was assisted by the massive poverty and disillusionment caused by the failure of western capitalism to improve the lives of people in eastern Europe. He writes

As Stephen Gowans writes in his recent essay “We Lived Better Then”:

‘Of course, none of the great promises of the counterrevolution were kept. While at the time the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was proclaimed as a great victory for humanity, not least by leftist intellectuals in the United States, two decades later there’s little to celebrate. The dismantling of socialism has, in a word, been a catastrophe, a great swindle that has not only delivered none of what it promised, but has wreaked irreparable harm, not only in the former socialist countries, but throughout the Western world, as well. Countless millions have been plunged deep into poverty, imperialism has been given a free hand, and wages and benefits in the West have bowed under the pressure of intensified competition for jobs and industry unleashed by a flood of jobless from the former socialist countries, where joblessness once, rightly, was considered an obscenity. Numberless voices in Russia, Romania, East Germany and elsewhere lament what has been stolen from them — and from humanity as a whole: “We lived better under communism. We had jobs. We had security.” And with the threat of jobs migrating to low-wage, high unemployment countries of Eastern Europe, workers in Western Europe have been forced to accept a longer working day, lower pay, and degraded benefits. Today, they fight a desperate rearguard action, where the victories are few, the defeats many. They too lived better — once.’

While the often racist and xenophobic manner in which East Germans and Eastern Europeans express their anger at what they see as an influx of foreigners who go to the front of the line for Western largesse — while the 30-year betrayal of the promises and misleading propaganda directed at themselves from 1989 to 1991 continues, although unacknowledged — is ugly and despicable, it is not hard to understand in its historical context. Somehow the assurances of the good life for all, thanks to the benevolent “invisible hand of the free market”, and the forecasts of blooming landscapes of prosperity across Eastern Europe, have failed to materialize. After more than a quarter of a century, prosperous areas exist but are exceedingly rare. In East Germany many small towns and villages are dying, and the population is shrinking as many follow the jobs westward, since few major employers have chosen to come eastward to them. Unemployment is much higher than in West Germany, and the cultural divisions between the citizens of the old DDR and West Germans have proven very stubborn and difficult to overcome. But the damage has not been confined to those in the formerly socialist countries. As Stephen Gowans points out:

‘But that’s only part of the story. For others, for investors and corporations, who’ve found new markets and opportunities for profitable investment, and can reap the benefits of the lower labor costs that attend intensified competition for jobs, the overthrow of socialism has, indeed, been something to celebrate. Equally, it has been welcomed by the landowning and industrial elite of the pre-socialist regimes whose estates and industrial concerns have been recovered and privatized. But they’re a minority. Why should the rest of us celebrate our own mugging?

This poverty hasn’t been confined to eastern Europe. It’s led to us in the west being forced to work harder, for less pay, and fewer welfare benefits. Otherwise capital simply outsources our jobs to one of the eastern European nations.

He then examines the way Merkel and the Christian Democrats, and the other right-wing parties have persuaded their workers to vote for policies which only benefit the rich industrialists. This is by stressing ‘innere sicherheit’, ‘internal security’, and the threat to it posed by crime and immigrants. Just like the Tories, Kippers and other parties of the right over here. She also took credit for many of the welfare reforms initiated by the SDP, the German equivalent of our Labour party. This has led to the SDP being reduced to only 20 per cent of the vote, and they have said that they are no longer available as coalition partners. Barrett is extremely pessimistic, stating it is probably too late, with the exception of Britain, to save Europe’s Social Democratic heritage. Germany now joins the Netherlands as a country, whose political landscape is a mosaic of competing parties. A landscape in which one element is the extreme right, who believe she betrayed Germany by allowing an influx of migrants.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/26/the-german-election-the-wests-nervous-breakdown-continues/

There isn’t much to add to this, except that the SPD could probably save themselves by scrapping the heritage of Gerhard Schroeder and moving leftwards, as Labour has over here. Schroeder was the German equivalent of Tony Blair, and just as Blair tried to remake Labour as a party of the neoliberal right, so did Schroeder try to do something similar with the German Social Democrats.

As for Merkel, I think her mistake was announcing that one million immigrants from Syria and the Middle East could settle in Germany. She meant well, and I think it was a genuinely liberal, generous gesture intended to show how non-Nazi and welcoming modern Germany was. But she failed to take into account some of the simmering racial tensions in Germany. The German birthrate is falling, so that when I was at school in the 1980s, there were headlines in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany’s paper of record, stating that there would be 30 million fewer Germans by the year 2000. Of course, this was before reunification boosted the country’s total population. The Germans have also been worried about Turkish Germans creating a parallel society, in which they needn’t speak German, because they’re surrounded by Turkish businesses and Turkish language broadcasters. And some German Turkish writers have also written about how the authorities in their communities placed pressure on the young in their community not to become friends or associate with ethnic Germans, or to see themselves as Germans, but to remain Turks and isolate themselves from mainstream society.

Of course Germany isn’t the only country facing such issues. Our government has similarly expressed fears about the immigrant, and particularly Muslim communities over here, as have the French across le Manche.

Even so, I think some of the xenophobia that led to the increased voting for the AfD could have been avoided, if Germany had not suffered the 200-odd spate of rapes committed by Syrian or North African immigrants the other Christmas. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that most rapists in Germany are ethnic Germans, just as the majority of child molesters over here are White Brits, and not Pakistanis or other Muslim Asians. But just as resentment over the rapes and abuse committed by the Asian paedophiles in Rotherham, and the failure of the local authorities to act against it, aided UKIP, so did the rape attacks aid the far right in Germany.

And also, it should be said, the rest of the world. They were widely reported to the point where a new word, ‘rapefugee’, was coined by the Islamophobic right.

Across Europe and America, immigrants and decent, ordinary people are facing the threat of renewed Fascism. It will need determined action by anti-Fascists to defeat it and support genuine anti-racist, tolerant and pluralistic societies. At the same time, we also need to recognize the role of neoliberalism in creating the poverty and insecurity, which leads to so many traditional White Europeans fearing for their future, and the way Conservatives and Fascists across Europe and America are exploiting this to keep themselves in power by misdirecting these fears onto immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, Roma and Jews.

Zionist Fearmongering and Israel’s Demographic Crisis

April 27, 2017

Tuesday evening I got the news from Mike, of Vox Political, that he’d been libelled as an anti-Semite by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who wish to have him deselected as his local Labour candidate in the Powys council elections. As I blogged yesterday, Mike is actually one of the least prejudiced people I know. As his record shows, he is not remotely anti-Semitic, or prejudiced against anyone else based on their skin colour, religion or sexual preference. When he was at College, he was asked by one of his Jewish friends to be a reader in her commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. Mike was one of those reading out some of the names of the millions butchered by the Nazis. He was very proud of the fact that the girl was deeply moved by his performance.

Mike’s real crime is to oppose the attempts of the Israel lobby and the Blairites within the Labour party to silence Israel’s critics by smearing them as anti-Semites. It’s standard practise for the Zionist lobby in general. Decent people, who stand together with the Palestinians against their brutalisation, massacre and expulsion, are libelled as racists. The victims includes not only anti-racist gentiles, but also proud Jews, from the secular to the Torah-observant. Indeed, many of the Jewish victims of these smears believe that the Zionist lobby especially singles out Jews for particular vilification. Those so maligned by the Zionists also include Israelis, like Dr Ilan Pappe, who was forced out of his homeland because of his determination to present and publish the truth about Israel’s crimes against humanity. But Dr Pappe is no self-hating Jew, and has defended his people, the Israelis. In one video I put up a few months ago, he spoke about how Israelis were decent people, who just need the facts of their country’s terrorisation of the country’s indigenous people explained to them. Before he was forced out, he was very proud at opening his home, every Thursday evening, to his fellow Israelis so he could do just that. He states that these evenings were very well attended by decent, but confused Israelis, seeking the truth.

While I am certainly not complacent about the threat of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the West, I am very sceptical of some of the grosser claims about it made by apologists for the Israeli regime. These are a gross distortion of what is really happening and are made, not to protect British or European Jews, but to provide further colonists for Israel.

Over the past decade and a half, various individuals have come forward claiming that the situation facing Jews in Europe today is exactly like that which faced their parents and grandparents in the 1930s. This often reaches extremely grotesque and hysterical anticipations of a renewed Holocaust in the very near future. Round about 2004 the Conservative magazine the Spectator, published a review of an American book set in France in the next decade or the 2030s. The remnants of the Socialist parties in the European parliament had joined forces with the burgeoning Islamic parties to begin the process of exterminating the Jews. This farrago was given a glowing review, if memory serves me correctly, by Frederick Raphael, then back in the media eye after his work on the script for Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut. This was part of a standard narrative being sold to the European and American public by the Zionist right after 9/11. There were various books published in America, which claimed that the response of the Left after 9/11 and their attempts to defend innocent Muslims against victimisation, showed that liberals in America and Socialists in Europe where inherently anti-Semitic.

Many of those making these libels offered a simple solution for European Jews: they should emigrate to Israel. This was made by a rabbi in the south of France following attacks on Jews in his country a few years ago. One of the top level bureaucrats at the BBC, Danny Cohen, resigned and emigrated to Israel a few years ago, making the same claims.

As a Brit and a European, I don’t recognise these portrayals of my continent and my country, although I do realise that there is a terrible culture of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe. These claims aren’t made to combat genuine anti-Semitism. They’re made to encourage Jews to move to Israel, because of the profound demographic crisis the country is facing. That crisis is explained in the chapter on modern Israel in the history textbook, The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani.

In the 1990s there was a poll of Jewish young people, which asked them where they would rather live. Would they rather live in America, where their neighbours were Christians, who loved them, or Israel, where their neighbours were Muslims, who hated them? I’ve forgotten the exact figure, but about 75 per cent of the youngsters, who responded said ‘America’.

The country’s leaders are also faced with a demographic crisis caused by Arab immigration, lower Israeli fertility and pressure from the Likud party’s coalition partners, who want to colonise the West Bank. Jewish Israelis are less fertile, in the strict demographic sense of having fewer children, than Arabs. As a result, many Israelis fear that they will be outbred by the Arabs, thus undermining Israel’s character as the Jewish state. Moreover, diaspora Jews are becoming increasingly assimilated into the general population. On May 21, 1986, The New York Times carried this snippet under the headline ‘Concern in Israel over Immigration’.

… Prof. Robert Bacchi, head of the Hebrew University statistics department, told the Cabinet that today’s 9.5 million Jews living outside of Israel would shrink to about 8 million by the year 2000 if current demographic trends in assimilation, intermarriage and low birth rates continues.

Prime Minister Shimon Pere said the answer is that every Jewish family in Israel should have four children. On Sunday the Cabinet approved in principle the allocation of as much as $20 million to help 6,000 infertile Israeli couples have children.

Quoted in Adam Parfrey, ‘Eugenics: The Orphaned Science’, in Adam Parfrey, ed. Apocalypse Culture, expanded and revised edition (Feral House 1990) 227-8.

The Israeli state relies on Arab labour in many sectors of the economy, to perform menial or other low-waged work that Jewish Israelis do not with to perform, like fruit picking. In some areas, such as the Negev, the Jewish population is extremely thinly spread. But Likud’s coalition partners are keen to expand Jewish colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian territories on the West Bank, as part of their programme to create a greater Eretz Israel matching the boundaries of ancient Israel. However, to do so with Israel’s present population would mean withdrawing Jews from areas like the Negev to colonise these areas. As a result, they would become wholly, or almost wholly, Arab.

It seems very clear to me that Likud and their ethno-nationalist partners are trying to solve this problem by encouraging Jewish emigration by the diaspora in which fearmongering and anti-Semitic slurs are a major instrument. Israel’s critics are vilified and the all-too real threat of rising anti-Semitism grotesquely exaggerated and misrepresented, in order to make European and British fear and distrust their gentile compatriots, in the hope that they will move to Israel to bolster that country’s declining share of the population.

It’s a vile policy, that goes back to the 1930s. A little while ago I posted a piece about how some of the Zionist leaders made it quite clear that they were happy for the Nazis to butcher Jewish Europeans, if that encourage the survivors to move to Israel. They really hated those patriotic Jewish organisations, like the League of Jewish Servicemen, the Bund Judischer Frontsoldaten, in Germany, who fought for Jews to continue to live in peace in their historic European homelands.

Fears of a similar holocaust are being played up by the Zionists for exactly the same reasons today. It’s a vile, racist policy designed to make European Jews feel insecure and suspicious of wider, gentile society, in order to provide more colonists for what is a European settler state. Right up to the point of smearing and vilifying Jews and Israelis, who object to this policy, as anti-Semites themselves.

Hence the lies and smears, of which Mike, Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and so many, many others, have been victims. We need to stand together, Jews and gentiles alike, against these lies and attempts to divide us. Just as we need to stand together against the genuine anti-Semites now crawling out of the woodwork, the Islamophobes, and those who would stir up hatred against Blacks, Asians, gays or whoever.

Understanding Trump’s American Fascism

March 21, 2016

Okay, I’ve tried for about a week not writing about Donald Trump. I know some of you feel that I’ve given too much attention to this moron, and that this country has enough on its plate with the thugs who are in power over here. Including the one that left office late Thursday evening, the fall-out of which is still continuing. The problem is, Trump’s too big, too slow moving and the parallels with real Fascism too glaringly overt. You can compile a list of all the elements in Fascism, which are present in Trump’s campaign or the general background of right-wing anxiety and hysteria, which has contributed to it.

And if Trump gains power, he will be a problem over here. Not just personally, in that his decisions on the economy and policies of the world’s only surviving superpower will have direct consequences for Britain and the rest of the world, but also in the malign political influence his election over there will have on domestic politics. Events in America and elsewhere in the world have a legitimising effect on similar developments over here. Blair and the New Labour clique took their queue from Bill Clinton and his New Democrats. These aren’t to be compared to the Canadian New Democrat party, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Labour party. Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’ were a revision of the Democrat party, which took over much of the ideology of Reagan’s Republicans, especially financial deregulation, curbs on welfare spending and workfare. Clinton was almost certainly better than the alternative, but nevertheless he continued Reagan’s squalid political legacy. And over here, Blair copied him, introducing workfare, and pursuing Thatcher’s policies of deregulating the economy, including the financial sector, and cutting down on welfare spending. And then you can go further back, to the 1920s and ’30s, when Fascist parties sprang up all over Europe in imitation of Mussolini’s squadristi and later the Nazis in Germany. The British Union of Fascists was just one of them. They also included such groups and political cults in this country as the British Fascisti – actually extreme Right-wing Tories and Arnold Leese’s The Britons. If, heaven help us, Trump ever gets into power, his occupation of the White House will mean that European politicians will start aping him. Which means more racism, more misogyny, further restrictions on personal freedom, and domestic politics marked and supported by brutality and violence. So, here’s a bit on Trump’s ideological precursors and the similarity of his campaign to Fascist and proto-Fascist movements.

As I said, you can make a list out of the similarities between Trump’s campaign and personal style of politics, and those of real Fascists. Let’s begin with

Violence

Trump’s campaigns have been marked by his supporters striking and beating protestors. Trump himself has stood on his platform fondly looking back on the old days when those who dared to disrupt political campaigns like his would be taken out on stretchers. He’s even offered to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they assault someone. And at the weekend his scheduled rally in Chicago descended into a near riot when Trump cancelled and refused to show up.

One liberal female newsreader commenting on the violence at Trump’s rallies said that when she was growing up in California in the 1980s, you never saw it except on the extreme right-wing fringe, at was barely politics – Skinhead concerts. Marinetti in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, an avant-garde artistic movement that became briefly aligned with Fascism, declared

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure and by riot; we will sing of the multi-coloured polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals.

Georges Sorel, a revolutionary Syndicalist, who later became involved with extreme right-wing French royalist and anti-Semitic movements, proclaimed in his Reflexions sur la Violence that it was only in violent revolution that men were truly free, and were able to make a new man inside themselves. He was published by a French artistic group, the Compagnons de l’Action d’Art, who declared ‘Long live violence against all that makes life ugly’.

Marinetti went on to further declare ‘We today separate the idea of the Fatherland from that of reactionary, clerical Monarchy. We unite the idea of Fatherland with that of daring Progress and of anti-police revolutionary democracy’.

It could almost describe exactly Trump’s ideological background. Much of extreme right-wing politics in America is predicated on a profound opposition to monarchy dating from the Revolution. You can see it in such extremist political movements as Lyndon LaRouche’s ‘Democrats’ back in the late 1980s and 1990s, who believed that the Queen and the Vatican were locked in a deadly covert battle for world domination, with Her Maj running the world’s drug trade from the back of Buck House. Alex Jones’ Infowars internet set has been heavily backing Trump as ‘the only anti-globalist candidate’. He’s also paranoid about the British monarchy. There’s a hilarious segment on his show where he talks about Britain’s secret police picking up anybody who failed to show due respect to Brenda during some royal occasion a few years ago. He roundly declared that ‘they (the British) have no freedom’.

Well, I must have been out when that happened. I don’t doubt that the rozzers did pick up a few troublemakers back then. But that last time I looked, you were still free in this country to say what you liked about the Royal Family. A few years ago the Queen turned up in my home town of Bristol to present the Maundy Money at a ceremony in the city’s cathedral. Apart from those due to receive it, and the crowd of royalists and general rubberneckers, there was a demonstration from MAM – the Movement Against the Monarchy. A lot of the pensioners and other members of the public were annoyed at their demonstration, but I don’t recall there being mass arrests.

Trump also retweeted one of Mussolini’s sayings ‘It is better to live one day as a lion that one hundred years as a sheep.’ Trump said he just liked it because it’s a good quote. And so it is. What makes it suspicious is that it comes from Musso, who advocated a similar cult of violence. When he was still a revolutionary Socialist, the future Duce wrote an essay on Nietzsche, published in the magazine La Voce. He announced

We must envisage a new race of “free spirits”, strengthened in war, in solitude, in great danger … spirits endowed with a kind of sublime perversity, Spirits which liberate us from the love of our neighbour.

Misogyny

Trump has an extremely reactionary attitude towards women. When a female journalist at Fox News dared to ask him a difficult question, he sneering responded that she did so ‘because she was bleeding’. This too, is par for the course for the Fascist Weltanschauung. ‘We advocate scorn for women’, declared the Futurists, who celebrated ‘youth, speed, virility.’ This later became ‘Youth, Speed, Violence’, as women joined the movement. This was coupled to the cult of the charismatic leader. Adolf Hitler said, ‘the masses are like women. They want a strong man to lead them.’ Il Duce in Italy was also opposed to women skiing, riding or cycling, as this was supposed to make them infertile and prevent them from their ‘natural and fundamental mission in life’, of having babies.

On this matter, the general attitude of the Republican party and the American Right is very similar to that of Mussolini’s Italy. Musso was also worried about the declining Italian birth rate. In 1927 he made a speech stating that he aimed to increase the Italian population from 40 million to 60 million over the next 25 years. Contraception and abortion were both banned. In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany women’s role was defined as very traditional and domestic. Instead of going out to work, they were to stay at home and raise families.

The Republican party and the Right today is similarly worried about the fall in the birth rate of the White race, and there are websites and discussions on Right-wing internet sites devoted to the demographic decline of the West. The American religious Right is also strongly opposed to abortion and there is similar opposition to women taking up positions of economic or political leadership. I can remember way back in the 1990s one Republican pastor hysterically declaring that Hillary Clinton was ‘the type of woman who leaves her husband, turns to lesbianism, practices witchcraft and sacrifices her children.’ There, and I thought that she was just a bog-standard, rather boring corporate type. Who could have guessed she led such an exciting, subversive life?

But this leads on to and is part of another feature of the Fascist Weltanschauung, that is also part and parcel of the GOP worldview:

The Decline of the West

Italian Fascism and Nazism also grew out of the 19th century feeling that Europe was threatened by decadence, and racial and cultural degeneration. It was threatened by democracy, organised labour, feminism, all of which were making Europe enfeebled. Hans Nordung described this supposed decline in his book, Degeneration, as did Oswald Spengler in his The Decline of the West. It’s an attitude that similarly pervades the Right today, alarmed by the challenge posed by militant Islam, the rise of China as a world power, and mass immigration from the Developing World. Various Republican and Right-wing leaders today in America scream about the threat of Socialism, by which they mean any kind of collectivism or state intervention, as well as feminism, which is also held to weaken America. Mussolini declared at one time that he supported women’s demands for the vote in England, as one women became politically enfranchised they would spread pacifism, leading to Britain’s decline as an imperial world power.

Exceptionalism

Right-wing American politics still has the belief that America is different from and superior to all other nations. It’s more moral, and hence America demands the absolute right not to be bound by the international treaties and conventions it imposes on others. Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk commented on the outrage that would occur if, say, one of the Muslim countries launched drone attacks on known White supremacists in America. Drone attacks on Muslim terrorists in countries like Yemen, with whom America is not actually at war, is nevertheless perfectly acceptable. And way back under Clinton, the Americans were keen to set up the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, and that the other nations around the world should sign the treaties binding them to it and outlawing such crimes. Except for America. It was felt that America did not need to be so bound, and indeed that this would only be an impediment to the ability of the Land of the Free to export that freedom around the globe.

The Italian nationalist poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose own later excursion to Fiume set up all the political institutions that were taken over into Musso’s Fascist Italy, made the same claim for Italy and her imperialist adventures in Africa. In his ‘Augural Song for the Chosen Nation’ he proclaimed

So you will yet behold the Latin Sea
covered
with massacres in your war … Italy, Italy
sacred to the new dawn
with the plough and the prow.

Racism

Fascism is, for most people, synonymous with racism. In this, Italian Fascism was originally rather different from Nazism. The Italian Fascists, while extremely nationalistic, weren’t originally racists. About 80 per cent of Italy’s Jews managed to survive the War, because many Jews had been extremely patriotic and supported the new Italian state which had been brought into being by Mazzini and the other Italian revolutionaries in the 19th century. A number of them had joined the Fascist movement. One of the leading Italian generals, Ovato, was Jewish, and he was buried with military honours and a headstone ‘For Family, Faith and Fatherland’ at the same time his compatriots elsewhere in Italy were being rounded up and butchered. The Nazis were bitterly anti-Semitic, as is notorious, and took over the scientific racism that originated in the 19th century with Count Gobineau in France, amongst others. Apart from Jews, the Nazis also hated Gypsies and Slavs, as well as non-Whites. Once in power, they organised a campaign to sterilise the mixed-race children of German women and Black American soldiers, who had been part of the army of occupation after the First World War. Mussolini also passed a series of anti-Semitic legislation in imitation of Hitler’s.

Although not initially racist, they also sterilised and butchered the indigenous African peoples in the parts of Africa they conquered. Their nationalism also led them to launch campaigns to force Italian language and culture on the other ethnicities that found themselves within Italy’s borders, like ethnic Germans and Slavs.

Trump’s popular because he has announced that he will build a wall to prevent further immigration from Mexico. At rallies his supporters have also racially abused Black and Muslim protestors. The Young Turks interviewed a group of three young guys protesting against Trump at a rally in West Chester, Ohio. One of them was a substitute teacher. He was worried by White pupils on schools in which he taught coming in, and saying to their Black and Asian classmates that ‘once Trump gets in, you’ll be deported.’ There have also been instances of racist abuse at College sports events. In one instance, the supporters of a basketball team from an all-White area chanted ‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ when playing a mixed-raced team from a much more ethnically diverse part of the same state. Among his supporters Trump has attracted various card-carrying Nazis and White supremacists. He’s even been endorsed by the Klan. There has also been a recent documentary in America by PBS television, which covered the way one southern family had been brought together by Trump. Many of them had not voted for decades, and the family had been divided between Republican and Democrat supporters. But they had all been brought together by Trump. This was fine, until you saw the tattoos on the wife’s arms. These included the type of Celtic cross used by the Neo-Nazi right, and the numbers 88, which in Nazi circles stand for Heil Hitler.

Trump has also announced that he wishes to place a ban on Muslims entering America. Those Muslims permitted to remain will have to carry badges and identity documents. These has naturally alarmed Jewish and civil rights groups, who have noted the obvious parallels with the treatment of Jews in the Third Reich in the years preceding the Holocaust. Mussolini too was an opponent of Islam. In the 1920s he prevented a mosque from opening in Rome.

Militarism

Trump’s actually ambiguous on this. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists had at their core radicalised, extremely nationalistic corps of ex-servicemen from the First World War. These former the Brownshirts of the SA in the Nazi party, and the Blackshirts, the squadristi and arditi, the latter elite Italian soldiers in Mussolini’s Fascists. The American Right has also thrown up in past decades various paramilitary movements. The survivalists stockpiling food and guns for the end of the world in the 1980s were succeeded by the Militia movement, who were similarly arming themselves for an invasion. Amongst the loonier theories was the idea that the Russians had left secret tank battalions in Mexico and Canada, ready to roll into the American heartland. A few days ago after one rally, one group appeared on the Net declaring themselves willing to serve as the ‘Trump militia’, working as bodyguards. They called themselves the Lion Militia, and debated online which uniform to wear. One was a lion costume, the other was that of the Brownshirts. I’m fairly certainly these were jokes, but nevertheless, there is something more seriously Fascistic underneath.

On foreign policy, Trump has been vague, issuing blatantly contradictory statements about his intentions in the war in the Middle East. At times he’s said that America should keep out of it, and leave it to Putin to sort out. At other times he’s announced that he intends to go in much harder than the previous presidents, killing not only the terrorists themselves, but also their families. He has also stated that he’s in favour using torture, ‘even if it doesn’t work’.

Mussolini similarly had a contradictory attitude to war. His regime was always strongly militaristic. He demanded that Italians should live in a permanent state of war. He wanted an army of five million men with a forest of bayonets, an air force so vast it would blot out the sun and a navy that other nations would fear as a threat to their security. And yet he also saw himself as a great peacemaker, and was genuinely affronted that he did not win the Nobel Peace Prize for the Locarno Settlement.

Historians of the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe noted that they generally arose in countries, where the military was accorded a very high respect, and which had been united through military action. This included Germany, which was united through Bismarck’s conquests of the individual German states, and Cavour and Garibaldi, who did the same in Italy. It also applies to America, which was created through violent revolution and expanded westwards through military conquest.

The Activist Style of Politics

Conservative critics of Fascism have suggested that Fascism owes its basis partly to the development of the activist style of politics, which arose with liberalism and democracy. Before the French Revolution, politics had been strictly confined to the governing elites. After the French Revolution, all citizens were required to be politically involved. This expansion of direct political activism also involved the definition of those who were outside the new nations. In the case of the French Revolution, this was the aristocracy. In the case of Fascism, it revised the activist style so that those outside the new national community were the regime’s political opponents and ethnic minorities.

America was one of the world’s first modern democracies. It emerged from a Revolution against British government and perceived tyranny. That liberal tradition of democratic political activism is also revised on the American extreme Right. Trump’s backed by Alex Jones’, the motto of whose Infowars internet programme is ‘1776 Worldwide’. Jones, Trump and the other right-wing demagogues believe that democracy is under threat, and can only be defended through strong and sustained action against powerful internal and external threats.

Conspiracies

The Nazi Right has always been characterised by bizarre conspiracy theories. In the case of the Nazis in Germany and their successors, these were anti-Semitic theories, some derived from the infamous Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazis believed that Germany and the West was under attack from a Jewish conspiracy linking financial capital to the Communists. Germany had not been defeated in the First World War, but had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Jews. These stupid and vile theories have continued on the Nazi fringe. In the 1990s various members of the American Nazi fringe and Militia movement, like Timothy McVeigh, believed that their government was secretly ruled by ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government, dedicated to exterminating the White race through racial mixing. There have also been all manner of bizarre conspiracies about the Bilderberg Group and Trilateral Commission. Jones, Trump’s supporter, is one of those who believes in these, though I think he’s Jewish. Whatever his religious background, he’s very definitely not anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, he is part of the same conspiracy fringe. These have reached bizarre extremes. Jones and his predecessors, for example, believe that the FEMA legislation passed in the 1990s is in preparation for an act of emergency, which will see Christians and other political opponents rounded up by the regime and placed in concentration camps. 20 years ago, back in the 1990s, the coloured dots on road signs in Philadelphia which marked when they were painted so that the highways authorities knew when to give them their next lick of paint were also the subject of a bizarre rumour. Those dots were supposed to show the location of the secret concentration camps which were going to be set up.

Contempt for Parliamentary Democracy

Both Nazism and Fascism were motivated by opposition to liberal, parliamentary documentary. The Nazis overthrew German democracy through a series of emergency decrees following the Reichstag fire. Mussolini led his Fascists on a March on Rome. Trump has similarly said that there will be riots if his opponents in the Republican party conspire to deprive him of the nomination to be the candidate for the presidency in a brokered convention. In the 1990s there was briefly a call for the Militias to march on Washington, though this was turned down as some of their members feared that it was an attempt to provoke them so that they could be banned by the government. More recently there has been a march in Washington held by the militant supporters of gun rights, though they did not attempt to overthrow the government.

Elitism

Both the Nazis and Italian Fascists believed that only elites had the right to rule, taken from writers like Ortega y Gasset and Vilfredo Pareto in the case of the Fascists. For the Nazis, this was based in Social Darwinism. Businessmen, provided they were Aryans, had the right to enjoy their prominent social positions and economic leadership because they had shown their superior talent and genetic worth through competition in the world of business. It’s an attitude that can still be found in the mainstream Right, both in America and Britain. Trump is the most outspoken in his embrace of this attitude. A businessman from an extremely wealthy family, he has made sneering reference to the poor, and how those from poor families should not have the right to rule because their family background shows that they don’t have the necessary biological inheritance to have made their way to the top earlier. And he has absolute contempt for the poor.

Charismatic Leadership

At the heart of Fascism was the cult of the strong, charismatic leader, whose unique qualities made him supremely fitted to govern. They alone possessed the ability to govern according to the popular will, even if the people themselves didn’t know it was. Furthermore, as men of exceptional ability operating in times of crisis, they were not bound by the judicial constraints placed on others. Carl Schmidt, a jurist, who worked briefly for the Nazis before falling out with them, established this principle in his piece, ‘The Fuehrer Protects Justice’, defending Hitler’s action in the mass killing of the SA by the SS in the Night of the Long Knives. Trump has not gone so far as to advocate the mass killing of his political opponents. But he has made it very clear that his supporters will use force if his claim to power is denied, and that he will revise the laws to permit torture. And at the core of his appeal is his claim to be able to provide America with strong leadership. And that’s always been synonymous with authoritarian rule.

Conclusion: Trump’s Political Inheritance of American Fascism

From this it’s clear that Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. He’s the culmination of a growing sense of threat and militaristic political movements that have been growing since the 1980s. Many of these qualities – the xenophobia, anti-Feminism and hatred of organised labour is actually fairly commonplace and characteristic of right-wing politics in America. But with Trump they’ve became particularly extreme. Some of this is a reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency. The presence of a Black man in the White House, whose background is Islamic though he himself isn’t, has created a profound alienation amongst the more hysterical elements in the Republican party. He’s been denounced as a secret Muslim, Nazi and Communist. In the case of the latter, it’s because of Obamacare, which was in origin a Republican idea. But it’s held to be too close to socialised medicine, and thus to Nazism and Communism. Because both are varieties of Socialism. Or at least, they are to right-wing pundits like Jonah Goldberg.

And the result has been the rise of Donald Trump.

Now I don’t think that once in power, Trump will overthrow democracy, force all Americans into uniform and start opening extermination camps. I do think, however, that American will become a much more intolerant place, and that Muslims and illegal immigrants will stand a far greater chance of losing any kind of political rights. And I can certainly see him interning Muslims, or at least some of them, like the Japanese, Germans and Italians were also interned as enemy aliens in the Second World War.

But his presidency will be a nightmare, and it will weaken democracy and genuinely liberal institutions in the Land of the Free. And that will be a disaster in a world where the forces of Right authoritarianism is growing.

Motherboard Report on the Japanese Robot Hotel

November 25, 2015

This is another interesting video I found over on Youtube. It’s a piece by the science news programme, Motherboard, on the Henn-na – Japanese for ‘weird’ Hotel in Tokyo that’s staffed by robots. The presenter states that Japan has legions of industrial robots, and Japanese trends were believed to show what the future would be like. In the case of the hotel industry, a few decades ago this was believed to be the capsule hotels, where tired Sararimen hired what was basically a stacked space about the size of a coffin to sleep in. The presenter tries one of these out, and talks to a traditional Japanese hotelier about how he feels about the rise of hotels where everything is done by robots.

The human hotelier states that he believes that people actually want the human touch, and personal contact with other human beings. So to compete, he believes that ordinary hotels will have to concentrate on being more human, rather than like those run by the machines. The journalist then goes on to sample what a night in one of these robot hotels is like. He states that the Japanese are turning to robots in order to cut down on high labour costs.

Inside the hotel, he is greeted with the hotel reception, which consists of two robots on a desk. One is in the guise of a woman, the other is a dinosaur in a hat. To check in, he has to use a touch-screen, which he describes as like those used at checkouts. Any valuables you have is placed in a locker behind glass by a robot arm, which the journalists says could come from a state of the art factory. Your luggage is taken to your room by another robot, though this is a robot trolley, not any kind of humanoid machine. In the bedroom on the bedside drawers is another, rather diminutive robot, which responds to your voice, greets you, and asks if you want the lights on or off.

Back down stairs, there are no catering staff. All the meals come from vending machines. There is a small human staff of about three guys. When interviewed, they also talk about how these hotels are driven by the need to cut labour costs. The journalist also interviews the managers, who states that he believes these hotels will become more popular and appear around the world. He and his staff also believe that to compete, hotels staffed by humans will also have to offer a more uniquely human experience.

The presenter himself and some of the guests he interviews are, however, in the end less than enthusiastic about the experience. He states that while its exciting to begin with, it’s actually rather lonely. The group of young women he interviews actually state that it’s really rather boring.

Here’s the video:

Now the presenter makes the point that as machines take more of our jobs, businesses like these raise the question of what can be uniquely done by humans. I’d argue that hotel catering and accommodation may not be an industry that can only be done by humans, but at the moment its an industry that can only be done well by humans.

If you look at the type of robots that have been popular in SF, they’re fictional machines that have had real characters and personalities. Think of Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet, C-3PO and R2D2 in the Star Wars films and K-9 in Dr Who. The same with the sentient computers, like Zen, Orac and Slave in Blake’s 7, or the Hal 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Or even Marvin the Paranoid Android in the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These machines became favourite SF characters because they were precisely that: characters. They were essentially artificial people, with human-like intelligence, personality traits and even flaws. Robbie the Robot had all the polite aloofness of a human butler. C-3PO was fussy and rather camp, but a foil for R2D2, who was cheeky and slightly wilful, in the manner of a child determined to have its own way. Orac in Blake’s 7 was arrogant and pedantic, like a rather tetchy university professor. Slave was grovelling and subservient. K-9 was a perky companion, eager to help his master, but also with his own mind and opinions. The Hal-9000 computer was proud of its model’s computing power, accuracy and reliability, stated it enjoyed human companion, even though it went on to kill the crew on the grounds that human unreliability made them a threat to the success of the mission. Finally, it felt fear, when Dave Bowman, the hero of that segment of the film, closed it down. Zen was the most impersonal of all the machines. Except for its dying moment in the last episode of the third series, ‘Terminal’, it did not refer to itself. It was basically a hemisphere in a corner of the Liberator’s flight deck, across which flowed patterns of lights. Yet these lights and the slight inflections in its voice gave the impression of a distinct personality, and again, real human-like intelligence. Peter Tuddenham, the voice actor for Orac and Zen, in an interview with Blake’s 7 magazine in the 1980s, stated that of the two, Zen was his favourite. Orac, he felt, had merely taken on the personality of its creator, Ensor, who was also tetchy, pedantic and professorial. Zen’s personality was a more natural growth of the machine’s basic nature. It could have become human-like, but had deliberately held back and remained as it was.

And back in the 1970s and ’80s, 2000 AD also gave their own very comic version of what form robot accommodation for humans would take in the Robohunter strip. This followed the adventures of Sam Slade, that’s ‘S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’, as he attempted to combat robot crime. In the first story, Slade found himself despatched to the distant planet, Verdus. This had been occupied by robots in preparation for human colonisation. The robots, however, had refused to recognise the colonists as humans on the grounds that humans would obviously be superior to them in the every way. When the human colonists turned up, the robots found that they were instead weaker, and less intelligent. They concluded that they must somehow be ‘sims’, simulated humans, sent to deceive them for some purpose they didn’t understand. As a result, humans were rounded up into concentration camps to be experimented on and culled. Slade managed to break out, find the original robot sent to colonise the planet, who duly recognised and testified that he was indeed human. This convinced some of the robots that the Sims were humans, while others remained unconvinced. A war broke out between the two sides, which was only stopped by Slade destroying every robot on Verdus. This restored peace, but left his employers furious.

All this makes the strip seem grimmer than it actually was. The strip, scripted by long-time 2000 AD writer John Wagner, and drawn by Ian Gibson, was funny and satirical with a distinct cartoonish quality. On Verdus, everything was done by robots. There was a robot parliament, occupied by deranged and moronic MPs, like the Stupid Parties, which existed solely to provide comic amusement to the planet’s true leader, Big Brain. There was a robot archbishop and chief rabbi, demanding rights for Sims as God’s creatures. The robot armies included stereotypical ‘Colonel Blimp’ generals, while members of the robot constabulary in Robopoly, a robot board game, where also corrupt and brutal, following several real police scandals of the time. There were also robot singers and TV stars, like Frankie Droid, and Valve Doonican, a pastiche of the Irish singer, Val Doonican, who had his own show on British television at the time.

In the last couple of decades, a number of computer entrepreneurs and SF writers have predicted that eventually, everything will have computers chips in and so be computer controlled. The Robohunter strip also depicted that possibility, but gave it its own, twisted slant. In the page below, Slade and his diminutive sidekick, Kidd, on the run from the robots break into an apartment. Once inside, they find that everything, from the kettle, to footwear and furniture, is a robot.

Robohunter Pic 1

What makes this interesting, and extremely funny, is that all these machines have their own personalities. They talk and argue. They discuss whether Slade and Kidd are really human, or just Sims, and then decide to put it to the vote whether they should turn them in or not.

This is absolutely unlike the real robot hotel. For all the talk about Artificial Intelligence, the machines there aren’t really sentient. They respond in a very limited way to a set of instructions. These may be verbal or keyed in. Unlike the fictional machines, there is no ‘I’, no sense of self lurking within the chips and circuit boards. And no real understanding of what they’re doing either. It’s just one set of circuits responding to a certain stimulus according to its programme or wiring. They’re moving mannequins, rather than the artificial people of SF.

So instead of the robotic maniacs of Verdus, what is instead presented is something far more like the antiseptic, alienated futures of Stanley Kubrick’s SF films. In 2001 everything is gleaming white, clean, and sterile. People speak, but don’t actually communicate or really say anything much at all. And that was deliberate. Clarke had told Kubrick that he had trouble writing dialogue for the movie. Kubrick told him not to worry. He liked it stilted, as he saw the people in this future as brittle and alienated. They had reached a high stage of technological sophistication but had little human warmth or empathy in their social interactions themselves. Critics have commented that the only real personality in the movie is that of Hal, the murderous computer.

The programme’s presented states that the increasing use of robots in Japan is driven by the need to cut labour costs. I dare say that’s part of it, but not quite what has been said elsewhere. Japan actually has a labour shortage, partly caused by a falling birth rate and strongly traditional attitudes against women in the workplace. As a result, there’s been campaigns not only to introduce robots into Japanese industry, but also to humanise them, to get the other, human members of the workforce to accept them as a fellow being, rather than just a machine.

And for all the country’s immense technological sophistication and ingenuity, it’s actually extremely reluctant to implement mechanisation itself as comprehensively as its competitors in the West have done. Way back in the 1990s I read a book on Japan written by a Times journalist. The author stated that while in the West were used to computer checkouts, if you went into a Japanese shop or the post office, the clerk there would be using old fashioned ledgers. The Japanese had worked out that if they fully automated their industry, it would put half their workers out of a job. And the actual numbers of robots in Japan may well be colossally exaggerated. Geoff Simons in his book Robots: The Question for Living Machines, states that most of the what the Japanese call robots are what in the west are viewed as machine tools. The impression I have is that the Japanese love robots, but want to introduce them as an addition to the human workers, not as a replacement.

The film shows the journalist enjoying the robot actors and dancers at a carnival or nightclub. Alongside some machines, are people dressed as robots, playing at them. This strikes me as what visitors to a robot hotel would really want from the experience – real humans alongside the machines, and the machines themselves to be more like personalities than just simple automatic mechanisms. The danger there is that if you did give robots personalities, you run the risk of creating miserable robots like the eternally depressed Marvin, the Paranoid Android. He was a ‘personality prototype’. ‘You can tell, can’t you?’ as he himself put it.

I’ve no doubt that the ruthless logic of capitalism means that there’ll be more of these hotels in the future. I think there’s already another like it in Los Angeles. But in the meantime I think human-run premises probably offer a better service. At least they have real cooks, rather than vending machines.

Latest Distressing Oath by the Underclass: ‘On My Dead Baby’s Life’

November 15, 2014

I’ve just reblogged a piece from Unemployed on Tyne and Wear about a latest report showing the damage the government’s cuts to maternity benefits and entitlements is having on the health and wellbeing of new families, Benefit Cuts ‘Exacerbating The High Rate Of Poverty Among New Families’. This is very serious indeed. Britain has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in Western Europe. The Tory cuts to maternity benefits and the privatisation of the NHS will only make this worse.

Fall in Child Death Due to NHS

I was told by a friend of mine, who had argued with American supporters of the Republican party online, that if you want to show how necessary the NHS actually is, you could simply reproduce for the fall in infant mortality here in Britain before and after the NHS. There’s a massive drop in the number of children dying. And if Britain has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in Europe, then America has one of the worst rates in the developed world.

Having Children in America Expensive

Going into hospital to have a child, like the rest of medicine in America is not cheap. Americans have to save up for years before they can afford to have children. At one level, it shows the praiseworthy thrift of America’s hardworking people. But it also shows how little the American system cares for one of the basic functions of the human family and society: to produce and nurture children.

American Conservatives and Falling Birth Rate

It also profoundly contradicts much of the Republican rhetoric against the demographic decline of the West. American Conservatives are concerned with the need to have a high birth rate in order to maintain or increase the current level of the population. The current low birth rate throughout the West is regulated trotted out as a supposed result of the evils of European ‘socialism’. It’s also claimed to be the result of women moving out of the home and into the workplace. Hence, under the pretext of the protecting the American family and preserving its demographic vitality, the urge further cuts to state intervention and attacks on any remaining welfare benefits, and demand that women return to their traditional domestic roles in the home.

Women Haven’t Caused Decline in Males Wages; Women Always Worked because Men’s Wage Never Enough for Family

It’s rubbish. Despite the mythology that wages have declined because of women’s movement into the workforce, the opposite has been the case in history. Throughout history, working and lower-middle class women had to work, because the wages paid to the male breadwinner were simply insufficient to support a family.

Decline in Birth Rate Not Due to ‘Socialism’

It is also untrue that it is only the population of ‘socialist’ Europe that is declining. Populations are declining throughout the globe, to the point where some demographers believe that there will be a ‘demographic crash’ in the middle of this century. This includes nations like Japan, where the long rule of the Conservative Liberal-Democratic party has meant that there is little, if anything, in the way of a welfare state.

Far from being the creation of socialist intervention, Mussolini and the Italian Fascists were so worried about the drop in the Italian birth rate, that the viciously anti-socialist Duce introduced a number of welfare benefits to support and provide for pregnant women as part of his ‘battle for births’.

There is a real danger that the Tories cuts and abolition of these welfare payments and their NHS privatisation will result in more infant mortality.

Swearing by Life of Dead Children

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, who said he was worried about an oath he’d heard used by various chavs. He’d overheard different members of the underclass arguing with each other on separate occasions. To vouch for the truth of what they were saying, he’d heard them say

I swear by my dead baby’s life.

Ne found it an odd and distressing oath. Swearing by the life of a dead person is clearly contradictory, and he found it strange that someone should do so.

But he was most worried in case it showed that there really had been a terrible rise in infant mortality amongst the very poorest sections of society.

I don’t think there is. I think it’s just something people have recently taken to saying, in the same way that they used to swear on their mother’s grave. Particularly, it seemed, following the influence of Del Boy on Only Fools and Horses.

But I might be wrong. I hope so.

Tories’ Privatisation and Benefit Cuts Will Kill Children and their Mothers

The latest cuts to the benefits of expectant and new mothers and families, and the Tories’ marketization and piecemeal privatisation of the NHS make that a terrible possibility.

598830_399390316797169_2004284912_n

This meme’s the work of Robert Livingstone over at Kittysjones’ blog. And it’s all too true.

Thatcher, Mussolini and Manipulation of the Economy to Destroy Working Class Opposition

April 18, 2014

Mussolini Pic

Margaret Thatcher destroyed much of Britain’s manufacturing base, and particularly the coal industry, in order to break the power of the trade unions that had brought down Edward Heath’s government. Kittysjones has recently blogged about the academic report into Thatcher’s ‘calculated immiseration’ of the working class for ideological reasons and the profit of the upper and middle classes. See her post ‘ Tory dogma and hypocrisy: the “big state”, bureaucracy, austerity and “freedom”’ at http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/tory-dogma-and-hypocrisy-the-big-state-bureaucracy-austerity-and-freedom/.

Mussolini did something similar in Italy. Apart from taking violent action against the Socialist party and the trade unions, who were attacked and their offices wrecked in a concerted campaign of violent intimidation, the Duce also attempted to alter the demographic and class structure of Italian society to halt the increasing emergence of urban opposition. He pursued a deliberate ‘ruralisation’ policy, intended to stem and reverse immigration to the towns from the countryside. He believed that the ideal societies were those of peasant proprietors. These were more fertile than urban societies, and more docile and supportive of autocratic regimes. Sophisticated urbanites, on the other hand, were too clever and too willing to discuss and criticise. And like Margaret Thatcher, the prosperity of the citizens counted for little. Denis Mack Smith in his biography of Musso states:

Prosperity, as he had to confess, was not very high on his list of priorities except for its propaganda value; national strength was far more important. He was expecting a war at any time after 1934 and wanted the country to become self-sufficient in food before then. This was one reason why he hoped Italy would remain mainly agricultural: urbanization was threatening to endanger the food supply of a rapidly growing community. Another hazard was that as people moved to the towns they began to think and talk too much. Peasants, he asserted, were more necessary to fascism than intellectuals or town artisans, both of which latter categories were, as he had to admit, unenthusiastic about his regime if not strongly hostile.

…. the healthiest nations were those based on a population of small proprietors who worked ‘obediently, and preferably in silence’. On the other hand, urban conditions encouraged not only disobedience but a wish for higher wages and greater comfort which, in turn, would result in smaller families, all of which would be profoundly unfascist. To ‘ruralize Italy’ would, he knew, be immensely costly and might take half a century, but it would have to be effected. Less should be spent on improving conditions in the towns because ‘cities are pernicious and parasitic’; even in the countryside, he thought it necessary to restrict improvements in popular housing because better conditions might result in fewer children being born. Such beliefs became an obsession with him. He order the prefects to stop any move away from the land and to use force if necessary. Rome should not become an industrial city but remain the centre of an agricultural region, and many other important towns should be forcibly reduced in size. But he had chosen a hopelessly unequal battle and the towns went on expanding as before. At first he falsified the census returns to conceal this untoward fact, but eventually went into reverse and decided to spend a great deal of money to make Rome into a great centre of industry.

Thus Thatcher, the Tories and the Italian Fascists were determined to sacrifice their countries’ industrial development in the interests of creating their ideal societies, societies which consisted of the poor obeying their social superiors without question, and where critical, urban working and intellectual classes were highly unwelcome.

There is, however, one major difference between the two: Mussolini abandoned this policy when it could not be achieved, and promoted Rome’s industrial development. Maggie and the Tories were successful, and Britain’s manufacturing base has contracted ever since.

The American Right’s Demographic Argument against the European Welfare State and Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births’

August 7, 2013

One of the other arguments the American Right has used against the socialised medicine and the welfare state in America is the effect they believe it would have on the American birth rate. European birth rates are falling. Right-wing broadcasters and journalists, like Mark Steyn, have declared that this due to these nations’ extensive welfare policy. With the state to care for them in sickness, unemployment and old age, Europeans are no longer bothering to have the children, who would otherwise support them. This contrasts markedly with the competing nations in the Developing World with their large families. As a result, Europe would face the problems of an aging population, with increased state expenditure on their care and tax burden on the contracting younger population that would be required to pay for it.

This argument has a number of major flaws, not least the fact that birth rates are falling throughout the Developed World, regardless of whether they have a welfare state or not. Japan has been governed more or less continually by the Liberal Democratic Party since the Second World War. This is a Conservative party and there has been little state welfare provision in Japan. Despite this, the Japanese birth rate is also falling, to the point where one of the major Japanese newspapers back in the 1990s declared that if this situation was not reversed, in a thousand years’ time the Japanese people would be extinct. In some European countries this demographic decline appears to have begun long before the modern welfare state. The French and German birth rates appeared to have begun to fall some time around the First World War. The German writers Richard Korherr and Oswald Spengler also saw the declining European birth rate as part of its decadence, and these in turn inspired Mussolini to launch the ‘demographic campaign’ to raise the birth rate. Mussolini turned to the Fascist statistician and demographer, Corrado Gini, for information. Gini declared that the problem was symptomatic of the ‘old age of nations’, and due to the dominance of economics over patriotism. It was caused by the ‘calculated egoism’, ‘sedentary character’ and the growth in working class unrest. Mussolini himself went even further. He declared that it had been demographic decline that had caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Italy needed a high birth rate if it was to become a reinvigorated and dynamic nation. He argued that the low birth rate was the result of corrupt modern urban civilisation and its pernicious influences. This was contrasted with the countryside, where the virtues of peasant life resulted in large families. He therefore launched a campaign to depopulate the cities in favour of the countryside, and ban migration from it to the cities.

While Steyn and the rest of the American Right argue that state intervention and welfare policies are the cause of this decline, Mussolini demanded the exact opposite. The state launched a series of legislation to encourage its citizens to marry and have children. It also increased welfare provision to ensure the health of babies and their mothers. In 1925 it established the Opera Nazionale di Maternita ed Infanzia to ensure the health and welfare of women and their children. In 1929 it passed legislation granting maternity leave and birth insurance for working mothers, as well as a tax on unmarried men. From 1933 it passed further legislation providing for extra pay, and special loans, prizes and subsidies for families with a large number of children. Newlyweds were also to receive special loans from the state. The Italian population did rise during the Fascist period from 38,450,000 to 44,900,000. Historians of Fascist Italy, such as Philip V. Cannistraro, consider it very doubtful whether this was due to the government’s policies, except, perhaps, that increased welfare provision may have lowered infant mortality.

Socialised medicine and the welfare state cannot be used to explain falling birth rates in Europe and the Developed World. Far more likely is the simple fact that living standards have risen since the 19th century. The more educated, affluent sections of the population tend to have fewer children than the poorer, less educated. Living standards have improved, and there are greater leisure opportunities than available than in the Victorian era. In the 19th century much of working class social life revolved around the pub, though participation and involvement in sport, music and popular educational facilities like museums and libraries were also growing. Since then a wider range of commercial goods have become available, along with leisure activities and venues from sports facilities to music, theatre and the cinema. Moreover infant mortality has fallen from the horrific levels of the 19th century, so there isn’t the same necessity for parents to have large numbers of children in the hope that one, at least, might survive.

The converse of this is that the American Right, in their campaign against welfare benefits, Obamacare and decent working conditions are aiming to reduce their people to the kind of harsh poverty found in the modern Developing World and in the 19th century Europe and America, whose laissez-faire policies they idolise.

Sources

‘Demographic Policy’,’Fasci Femminili’ and’Gini, Corrado’ in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed., Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood 1982), pp. 162-4, 202-4, and 246.

Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1920, 2nde Edition (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1987.