Posts Tagged ‘Cameron’

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.

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Cameron’s So Tory Supermarket

March 1, 2015

I found this video over at Vox Political. You know the latest ad for Money Supermarket, featuring a man, whose bum and legs suddenly become that of a woman, and who then dances down the street amazing and astonishing passers-by? Huff Post comedy have reworked it as ‘Tory Supermarket’. They’ve superimposed Cameron’s head on the man’s. And as he waves his bottom around, various Tory policies come out of it, like ‘Tax cuts for the rich’, and ‘Backdoor Privatisation of the NHS’. I found it hilariously grotesque and very, very true. Here it is.

Fascism and Elitism

February 21, 2015

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Hitler and Cameron: Both promote the power of elites and the subordination of the masses.

This is another highly relevant quote showing the stark similarities to the current government and Fascism, cited in Robert Brady’s book The Structure of German Fascism (Gollancz 1937). At the heart of Fascism is the doctrine that only an elite should rule. For the Nazis, this was biologically superior German Aryans, comprising members of the Nazi party and German business. American Fascists in the ’30s also argued against democracy, and for the power to rule to be confined only to a small, elite section of the population, as this quote from Brady’s book also shows:

There is great social significance in the fact that the elite of exceptional natural endowment, who, as a matter of course, become the elite of power and influence, actual or potential, are a fairly constant percentage of the total population. From this fact it follows that no social system can long survive, once it tends strongly to declass more and more of the elite … The elite may be defined roughly and arbitrarily as including capitalists deriving most of their income from property, business enterprisers and farmers, the professional classes, and, generally, the employed, whose salaries are considerably above the average, or say, above $3,000 a year for the entire country…
A wise social philosophy, such as that of fascism, strives to make a place for all the members of the
elite

(Dennis, The Coming American Fascism, pp. 229, 231, 237).

This also exactly describes the attitude of the current Coalition, led by the aristocratic Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, which is doing everything it can to reduce everyone else to poverty and despair in the interests of big business.

The Corporate Origins of Fascism and Unemployment

February 21, 2015

Structure Nazism

Yesterday I came across a copy of Robert Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism, published by Victor Gollancz in 1937. Brady was the associate professor of economics at the University of California. His book argued, as the foreword by Harold Laski says

that Fascism is nothing but monopoly-capitalism imposing its will on those masses on those masses whom it has deliberately transformed into its slaves. It is fundamental to its understanding that all the organs of working-class defence are destroyed; it is fundamental to its understanding, also, that society has been merged into a state the outstanding characteristics of which is the imposition of its will by coercion. There is no social revolution: the ownership of the means of production remain in private hands. There has been a political revolution in the sense that those organs through which, prior to 1933, criticism of the social order might be expressed, have been ruthlessly destroyed. What replaces them is essentially a partnership between monopoly-capitalism and the Nazi Party in which that supreme coercive power which is of the state’s essence is used to compel obedience to the new system.

This view of the Nazi state has been rejected by historians, as big business largely only started funding the Nazi party quite late, and always maintained some degree of freedom after they were absorbed into the Nazi system of controls. Despite this, Brady presents an impressive argument on how far the development of monopoly-capitalism – the emergence of vast industrial cartels and industries dominated by only single or at most, two companies paralleled and prepared for the emergence of the Nazi state.

Brady was also alarmed at the prospect of Fascism taking power in other nations, including America. The very last chapter, ‘The Looming Shadow of Fascism’, contained a number of quotations, some from American Fascist ideologues, arguing for certain aspects of Fascism. It includes this quote on using unemployment to control the masses by an economist.

“The next question is, How scarce do jobs have to be? The answer is, just scarce enough so that labourers are not likely to get uppish, make unexpected demands, and get away with them. Just scarce enough, in other words, so that wages are definitely under the control of the employing class, at least so far as abrupt fluctuations are concerned. And under what circumstances can the labouring class be depended upon to sit tight, lick the hand that feeds them, and make no unexpected demands? The answer is when they are all strictly up against it, with just barely enough wages to make ends meet – almost, and distress staring them in the face if they should lose their jobs. And this condition can obtain only when there is a reserve army of unemployed sufficient to keep those who do have jobs in abject fear of losing them” (Finney, “Unemployment, An Essay in Social Control,’ Journal of Social Forces, September 1926.)

As Guy Debord’s Cat has demonstrated on his blog, this is exactly the argument advanced by von Hayek and the Chicago School. They wanted a constant unemployment rate of 6 per cent to keep wages down. Von Hayek was Thatcher’s favourite economist, while Milton Friedman, another member of the school, went down to Pinochet’s Chile to observer for himself how well that Fascist caudillo was putting his theories into practice. And it’s a policy that’s being pursued even today by Thatcher’s successors, Cameron, Clegg and Osborne.

Dorries Shows Off Her Grasp of Maffs

February 18, 2015

Tory MP Nadine Dorries is in this fortnight’s Private Eye . The MP, who famously described Cameron and Clegg as ‘two posh boys’ and went on to describe categorically how out of touch they were, is this time in it for showing off her grasp of advanced statistics on The Daily Politics.

She was claiming that the Tories were doing ‘fantastically well’ at managing and improving British schools. When the interviewer, Jo Coburn, mentioned that 23 per cent, nearly one in four of British schools, were below Ofsted standards.

To which Dorries replied that five years ago the figure was much worse. She thought it was one in seven.

No wonder standards are falling. And to think these morons are in charge of our education system.

RoarMag on the Resistible Rise of the Islamophobic Right in the Netherlands

February 14, 2015

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders: the face of Islamophobia

George Berger in his comment to my post about a Swedish Christian church that was sent threats for holding a service of solidarity with Muslims after a Pegida demonstration sent me this link to an article in RoarMag detailing the rise of the anti-Islam Far Right in the Netherlands: http://roarmag.org/2015/02/wilders-fortuyn-nationalism-netherlands/. George is Dutch but lives in Sweden. In his comment he said

I live in Sweden and am a Dutch citizen. It was a pleasure to read about the first Swedish Pegida demonstration, in Malmö last week. Eight Pegidistas versus more than one thousand anti. Contrast that with the current rise of neo-fascism in the Netherlands. Here is the best short article on that reactionary trend that I have seen. It should dispel a few myths.

It’s great to see that Sweden is still living up to its reputation as a place for sanity and tolerance, despite the attempts of Pegida to wreck it.

What is much more surprising to many foreigners is the rise of a large, anti-Islamic extreme Right in the Netherlands. The Netherlands after all has a reputation for being one of the most tolerant societies in Europe. In the 17th century it was one of the very few countries that did not have an established church. This was not because the Dutch were any less religious than the surrounding nations. Indeed, Alexander Graham-Dixon in one of his programmes on the Art of the Baroque, when covering the Dutch art of the period gave a contemporary saying as an example of the deeply religious divisions in the Netherlands in that period. The saying said that if there were three Dutchmen, two of them would immediately form their own churches, and accuse the third of being a heretic. They did not set up an official, established church, because they did not feel that force should be use to enforce religious belief. If a particular religious denomination or sect was to survive, it should do so through peacefully winning over and retaining believers.

Moreover, the Netherlands itself suffered brutally from the Nazi occupation. During the War, the Nazis attempted to break the Dutch people through withholding food supplies to create a terrible famine. When I was at school in the 1980s our school had an exchange scheme with another school in the Netherlands. Despite the intervening decades, memories of the Nazi atrocities were still strong with some of the older generation, and there were people, who bitterly hated the Germans. With this history of persecution by Fascism, it’s amazing how anything like an organised Fascist movement could ever be popular in the Netherlands.

RoarMag’s article explains just how this has arisen. It’s entitled Pro-gay and anti-Islam: rise of the Dutch far-Right. It begins

In the Netherlands, the right-wing PVV (Freedom Party) has steadily garnered power using a hate-filled discourse directed at Muslims and elites alike.

The Dutch far-right has evolved into one of the most successful national movements in Europe. Its leader Geert Wilders is a major political figure with international support. In many ways Wilders is the heir of Pim Fortuyn, a politician who played a crucial role in shaping a new right-wing current, ‘national-populism’, in Dutch politics, and who was murdered in 2002.

Populism here means the idea that society is separated in two camps; the ‘good people’ versus a ‘corrupt elite’. The ‘people’ are not the whole of society, but the part of the society that is considered pure and whose political will is considered legitimate: it is a partial object that stands in for the whole. Who is part of the ‘people’ is not given, the borders of this category are contested. The selection of those considered part of it and who are not is a political act.

Different kinds of populism use different criteria to select and shape ‘the people’ into political actors. In national-populism, the ‘people’ and the nation tend to overlap: the nation is not equal to the citizenry but to the ‘people’, a term with an historical, ethnic connotation. The national-populism of Fortuyn and Wilders calls for the disappearance of an ‘alien’ minority culture to preserve a mythical, homogeneous ‘Dutchness’.

The article traces the rise of extreme-rightwing, ‘gay-friendly’, anti-Islamic populist movements from Frits Bolkestein of the right-wing Liberal party, the VVD, through Pim Fortuyn and to the Partij Voor Vrijheid (Party For Freedom) of the notorious Islamophobe, Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Bolkestein set the pattern for the development of Islamophobic right in the Netherlands in a speech he made in 1991. In a speech to the Liberal International, Bolkestein contrasted European and Christian civilisation with that of the Islamic world, arguing that democracy and human rights were a product of a single, European culture, rather than emerging from a clash within different cultures.

Pim Fortuyn

Not a Bond Villain: Pim Fortuyn, Pro-Gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Welfare

This was taken up by Pim Fortuyn. A right-wing cultural pessimist lamenting the decline of community cohesion, traditional values and patriarchal authority figures, Fortuyn combined nationalism with neo-Liberal programme of severe cuts to the welfare services. In his 1997 book, Tegen de Islamisering van Onze Cultuur, ‘Against the Islamisation of the Our Culture’, Fortuyn presented Dutch culture as under threat from a homogenous, a-historical Islam. In his view, Islam was not just a religion, but also a worldview and political system. By constructing his attack on Islam as one of culture, not race, he avoided being linked to the racist, neo-Nazi far right. Nevertheless, the article makes clear that Fortuyn also made deeply racist comments, such as his statement to the Dutch paper De Volkskraant that Moroccans never stole from each other.

Fortuyn’s party, the List Pim Fortuyn, disintegrated amidst internal feuding after his assassination in 2002 by the environmental activist Volkert van de Graaf. Fortuyn’s anti-Islam stance was then taken up by Geert Wilders, then a member of the right-liberal VVD. Along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders promoted the idea that the conduct of Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands were determined by their religion, and that it was the cause of the sexism and racism in Dutch Muslim culture. The religion was also the root cause of socio-economic poverty and dictatorships and absolute monarchies in the Islamic world. Wilders left the VVD to form his own party in 2004.

The new party received a massive boost with the murder of the bitterly anti-Islamic Theo van Gogh. In the aftermath, dozens of mosques and hundreds of Muslim immigrants were attacked. In 2010 Wilder’s party attempted to capitalise on fears generated by the recession by throwing out their previous, Neo-Liberal policies. The party had previously stood for a flat tax rate, attacks on trade unions, abolition of the minimum wage and making it easier for firms to dismiss workers. Wilders’ party then pledged to defend the welfare state and workers’ rights, while claiming that they were under attack through immigration. The party then attempted to prevent these same civil rights from being applied to immigrants through linking social security to length of citizenship, language skills, and the adoption of secular dress. Those wearing burqas or niqabs were to be ineligible for benefits.

Wilders’ party entered government as the coalition partner of Mark Rutte’s VVD government. In doing so it gave up many of its left-wing demands and committed itself to Rutte’s austerity programme. The Coalition collapsed in 2012 when the PVV withdrew from negotiations about the implementation of further austerity. The following year Wilders’ began to establish links with other, European Far Right parties, like the French Front National, the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and the Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs in Austria. Wilders also went on tour of Holland collecting anti-austerity signatures, and set up a website offering legal advice for blocking the construction of mosques.

The article points out that Wilders’ success is remarkable, considering that his party doesn’t have members or much of an organisation beyond a website. This has given him absolute freedom to choose which candidate to support. It also points out that the success of Fortuyn and Wilders is partly due to appearances on TV and the net. Fortuyn in particular benefited from the support of the mainstream Conservative media. Wilders so far has eschewed appearing on TV and being interviewed by the papers because he distrusts their supposed ‘left-wing’ bias.

The Dutch anti-Islamic far right has also benefited from selectively including parts of the radicalism of 1968. They have taken on board verbal support for feminism, gay liberation and opposition to anti-Semitism, while rejecting the Green movement and anti-racism. Women’s and gay rights, and acceptance of Jews, are seen as intrinsically Dutch characteristics and their origins in the left-wing and progressive movements is ignored.

The article also considers that Bolkestein, Fortuyn and Wilders have also gained through the Netherlands’ self-image as an open and tolerant society, and the taboo on looking too closely at the endemic racism within it. This is particularly acute because the Dutch Left has largely abandoned anti-racism, and even taken over some aspects of the nationalistic Islamophobia of Wilders et al.

It’s a fascinating, provocative article that needs to be read, not just for the light it shines on this ominous aspect of Dutch politics, but also on the links and similarities to the growth in other anti-Islam groups and organisations throughout Europe, such as Pegida in Germany, and the EDL over here.

Despite the PVV’s massive growth, I’ve met many Dutch people, who were bitterly and outspokenly against Wilders and his bigotry. One young woman I knew at Uni said that she intended to leave the Netherlands if he won an election. I hope she didn’t, as no-one should feel forced out of their homeland by bigots.

ayaan-hirsi-ali-005

Ayaan Hirsi Ali considering the size of her next speaking fee.

As for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she is a highly controversial figure. Her family have denied that any of the maltreatment she describes as being inflicted on her by her family has ever actually occurred. A non-Muslim friend of mine, who has taught university classes in Islam, is spectacularly unimpressed with her. He sees her less as a principled politician, than as a venal opportunist, who has exploited her supposed escape from Islamic oppression to gain money, influence and political power. She’s made money very cynically from telling the Islamophobic Right exactly what they want to hear. All the while using and discarding former allies than when they are of no use to her.

What has come across from this article is the similarity of approach of the anti-Islam activists across the West, from America to this side of the Atlantic. There is the same denial of racism. They don’t object to Muslims because of their ethnic origin, but because of the social, economic and political aspects of their religion. There is the same view that Islam is uniformly anti-feminist and bitterly hostile to gays. The anti-Islam sites over here and in America carried stories about Muslims beating up gays in Amsterdam, for example.

There is also the same claim that, in order to protect the welfare state, measures must be put in place to limit immigration. In the interview I put up this morning between Nigel Farage, the Fuhrer of UKIP, and Evan Davies, Farage stated that in a decade or so’s time, we may have to introduce an insurance system to fund the NHS due to the expansion of the country’s population to 80, 90. or 100 million. Farage was very careful not to single out any particular religion or ethnic group, but his party does contain any number of swivel-eyed loons with a venomous hatred of Muslims and non-Whites. The message, and that of the anti-immigrant Conservatives, is the same: the welfare state is under threat from immigrants, who are placing far too much strain on the available services. This conveniently ignores the fact that the welfare state has been decimated by decades of Conservative rule, and is likely to be destroyed completely if Cameron’s horde of robber barons are returned to power.

And Wilders has more than his fair share of supporters in this country. About ten years ago there was controversy in Britain, when Wilders was invited to speak at the House of Lords. He, and groups like him, aren’t a problem confined to the Netherlands. They’re all over Europe, and threaten all of our societies.

The Young Turks on Voter Suppression by Republicans in North Carolina

February 12, 2015

Screw Cameron Drawing

One of the dodges the Tories have passed in order to try to gain a majority at the next election is changes to the electoral registration law. Despite all their statements to the contrary, that their concerned at voter apathy and the decay of the democracy, these reforms have resulted in 7.5 million people now being left off the electoral registers.

That means that 7.5 million people in our country are disenfranchised in fact, not just in the choice of party to vote for. They can’t vote.

In this, the Conservatives over here seem to be following their Republican counterparts in the US. In this clip, The Young Turks discuss legislation introduced in North Carolina amending voter registration. These laws will – at the time the clip was made, they hadn’t been yet been passed – exclude large numbers of Blacks, the poor and the young from voting. These are the groups that traditionally vote Democrat. At the same time as ordinary voters are being marginalised and discarded, the new voting act appears designed to encourage and strengthen the influence of wealth, corporate donors.

I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of American democracy and their laws of voter registration, which seem from this to be highly complex. What is clear is that there’s a movement by Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic to deny the poor, the young and the underprivileged of their democratic freedoms. Cameron and Clegg ain’t doing this on their own.

We desperately need to challenge this, and take back democracy now.

Jolyon Rubinstein and Politicians’ Failure to Connect with the Young

February 11, 2015

This is a continuation of the comments I posted on my reblog of Tom Pride’s interview with Jolyon Rubinstein. Rubinstein is on a campaign to get the politicos to take the young seriously. He laments that while there are certain politicians across the House in all parties, who want to get more young people interested in politics, the majority don’t. In his interview with Mr Pride, he seems to feel that the established position among the parties is that they don’t trust the young, as engaging them would upset the ‘status quo’.

Patronising with Pop Stars

I think he has point. When politicians have tried to engage the young, it’s been patronising and rather half-hearted. The prime examples of this was when various Tory MPs suddenly started telling the world, who their favourite pop musicians were. Almost as if there’d been a meeting at Central Office, which said, ‘Okay, chaps, next on the agenda: young people. They like pop music, so you’ve all got to have a favourite band or pop star. The PR people have had a look at what’s in the charts, and compiled a list of who you’re going to like.’ It was hardly surprising that the bands selected include the Spice Girls and the Scissor Sisters. They were in the charts and were highly popular. The Scissor Sisters seem to have been deliberately chosen to show that the Tories were now at ease with gays. Of course the bands they chose weren’t anything too challenging or potentially controversial, like Public Enemy, NWA, Megadeath, or the Mission. They were either too obscure, or would have put too many potential voters off, in the case of Public Enemy and NWA, with their angry, racially alienated stance. And the bands definitely did not include PIL.

MPs Younger but Not Interested in Young People’s Problems

The other way the parties have tried to appeal to the young is by having progressively younger Prime Ministers and members of their cabinet. I’ve got a feeling that when he was elected, Blair may have been Britain’s youngest prime minister. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are also young. Well, young-ish. They’re still in the ’40s. As they should be. I want senior politicians old enough to have a proper, lived experience of the world and its trials and problems. Age shouldn’t necessary be a barrier. It shouldn’t matter how old the MP is, provided that they actually have some understanding of what life really is like for most young people. Simply saying that they are concerned with young people’s problems, because they’re parents, or from talking to parents and young people themselves, simply and unostentatiously, and actually showing they have, would overcome a lot of this alienation.

But they don’t. They simply dole out to the under 30s the same patronising flannel they give to the rest of the population. They might state that they understand their problems, but the very next thing they say in their next breath shows that they don’t. They then go back to talking in the abstract about economic predictions, without actually seeming to take on board that this has real consequences for their audience. They seem just interested in the abstract, economic reality without taking on board that to their audience, this means whether they can afford a proper house, decent clothes for the kids, run a car. Or for the unemployed and disabled, getting enough to eat that month.

Distrust of Youthful Radicalism

And I think Rubinstein is right about the parties distrusting the young. Young people have dangerous ideas. They can be dangerously and embarrassingly radical. Bliar deliberately closed down democracy in the NUS, probably because too many of the delegates were too extreme. And the Tories had troubles with their youth wing becoming increasingly racialised and supporting apartheid and racial nationalism.

Possibly going further, they may well be afraid of the spirit of ’68 and the radicalism of the 70s. The ’60s were a revolutionary decade, where youthful rebellion merged with and supported a number of then-radical, liberal causes: feminism, Civil Rights and ant-racism, militant peace movements against imperialism and particularly the Vietnam War. The election of Thatcher and Reagan was partly a reaction against all that, and succeeding administrations have tried to stress how responsible and sober they are, rather than youthful radicalism and revolt. Even as these administrations have taken over some of the liberal causes, like equality for women and ethnic minorities.

Tory Portrayal of Blair as Punk

You can see how much the Conservatives in particular hated youth culture, its fashions and political radicalism, by the cover of one of the books written by one of the Tory journos attacking Blair. Blair at the time was busy reforming the House of Lords, or stuffing it with his own supporters, whichever way you want to look at it. He was also engaged on other constitutional reforms, like suggesting possibly that judges might after all look a bit better if they didn’t have the horsehair wigs stuck on their heads. This was too much for that particular defender of the British Constitution. The cover showed Blair as some kind of punk or rocker, in black leather jacket and combat trousers. The terrible, slovenly, ignorant sprogs of the great unwashed were out there, and about to tear down tradition and decency. Kenny Everett’s thick punk character, Sid Snot, had risen up and somehow got into No. 10. If Middle England didn’t act pronto, he’d be followed by Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry. Quick! Give them proper haircuts and make them do National Service!

All of this has created a political culture in which young people are marginalised and distrusted, no matter how youthful country’s leaders are. Politicos don’t have to adopt their dress or youth culture to engage with them. My guess is that when it comes to conducting business, most people would prefer to see their politicians and public officials dressed conservatively in jacket and trousers. That said, I used to work in the Benefits Agency just before they passed the law requiring everyone to where suitable business clothing to work. You did see some of the younger staff wearing jeans and T-shirts for rock and pop bands. My guess is that while some of the older clients may have found it objectionable, most of the people actually going in probably couldn’t care less what the civil servant opposite them was wearing, so long as they were able to get them some money and properly process their claims.

Mass Politics in Decline from Concentration on Rich Donors

Another contributory factor in the alienation of young people from politics is undoubtedly the fact that the parties have concentrated on getting funding and support from rich, frequently corporate donors, rather than party subscriptions. The result has been that party membership generally has plummeted. The local Conservative Associations in particular have stated that they feel they are ignored and sidelined by the Tory party machine. Rubinstein has identified part of it in his recognition that people feel that the only thing that’s important to politicians is money, not people.

Politicians desperately need to reconnect with the young, along with much of the rest of the population. Indeed, just about everyone, who didn’t got to public school and has an income less that £50k. But as the Tories are doing their level best to stop people from registering to vote, and even taking the franchise away from resident Irish people and Commonwealth citizens, I can’t see Cameron taking any initiative in this direction at all.

Russell Brand Satirised on Brooker’s Weekly Wipe

February 7, 2015

I’ve just reblogged Guy Debord’s Cat’s piece attacking Daniel Hannan’s remarks on Russell Brand. Hannan is an extreme Right-wing Tory MEP for Dorset, who wants Britain to leave the EU and privatise the NHS. He’s basically a Kipper, who hasn’t joined the exodus from the Tories and sworn eternal fealty to Fuhrer Farage. Brand has established himself as something of a radical ideologue with his book Revolution. It’s been attacked for being woolly, with a naively positive attitude towards religion and spirituality. Nick Robinson in particular attacked it in the pages of the Radio Times for encouraging people not to vote. This would be extremely bad for the country, as it would leave politics to be dominated by small, extremist parties.

As opposed to the big extremist party now calling itself the ‘conservatives’, of whose youth wing Robinson was the leader when he was a student in Macclesfield, I suppose.

As the Cat’s piece makes clear, what has really upset Hannan and the other critics is Brand’s attack on politics as the preserve of the rich middle class. Hannan’s ideal, which is also shared by the Kippers, Clegg’s Lib Dems and elements of New Labour, is that politics should be dominated by the right kind of people: middle class and privately educated. They are to be not only the political decision-makers themselves, but also the journalists, media commentators and opinion-formers, who interview, critique and interpret them and their actions for the proles further down the social hierarchy. This anti-democratic mentality is most explicit in the Kippers, one of whose members, for West Hampstead, has gone on record as saying that he sometimes feels the 19th century Reform Acts of 1832 and 1888 that extended the franchise to the middle classes were a mistake. This particular Faragist believes that it should be stripped from certain classes of people, like criminals.

This is quite apart from the party’s extremely misogynist attitude, which would see women disenfranchised socially and economically if they came to power.

Some idea of how powerful, and how much of a threat someone feels Brand’s ideas are was shown on Charley Brooker’s Weekly Wipe Thursday night. This featured a strikingly good satirical impersonation of Brand by a female comedian, suitably made up to look like him. The make-up and prosthetics were extremely good, and the impersonator did capture more than a little of Brand’s androgynous mannerisms and whimsical, sharp, turns of phrase.

Brooker himself is certainly not averse to pouring his blistering scorn on the leaders of all the parties, and he made some suitably scabrous – and highly sexual comments – about Cameron, as well as other remarks on the poor performance and dismal character of Ed Miliband and Clegg. Brand is, of course, certainly not beyond satire. His position as a tribune of the lower orders is somewhat contradictory, considering that he is a highly educated member of the middle classes, from a very good middle class home himself. But the fact that Brooker felt he needed to be included in the programme and sent up shows the extent of Brand’s influence with Brooker’s target demographic. It also suggests that Brand, and his vlogs on Youtube, might just also be viewed by someone in the Beeb’s commentariat as something of a threat to their own hegemony on political comment and discussion.

And from their point of view, as members of the same class as the politicians they scrutinise and interview, this would be a very, very bad thing indeed.

Vox Political: Miliband Challenges Businesses on Tax Havens

February 7, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political also has this story on Ed Miliband stating that a future Labour government will demand greater transparency and social responsibility from tax havens and the governments that operate them. Under the proposed new laws, these havens will be required to provide publicly accessible registers of who owns the companies registered in them. The article’s called Labour’s ultimatum to tax havens and it begins

Ed Miliband has warned the tax havens costing British families and businesses billions of pounds that they will have just six months to put their house in order and open their books – or face being placed on an international blacklist.

He has highlighted figures showing that, despite David Cameron boasting more than 18 months ago that he had forced tax havens to open up, not one of the tax havens linked to Britain as Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies has yet delivered on Cameron’s promise that they would publish a register showing who owns the companies registered there – and some have explicitly refused to do so.

The lack of leadership shown by the UK government has frustrated and slowed the pace of reform on tax avoidance across the world.

In a letter to heads of government, Mr Miliband served notice on them that that under the next Labour government they will have six months to publish publicly-accessible central registers of beneficial ownership.

If they fail to meet this deadline, the next Labour government will withdraw the protection they get from international scrutiny and ask the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to place them on its tax haven blacklist.

Miliband makes the point that his insistence that big business pays its fair share of tax is not an attack on business. It is pro-business, as the money so raised will be spent on the infrastructure Britain needs, including those businesses that do pay their whack. He contrasts this with the government’s programme of further cuts. Miliband says

“Today, we have a government planning real cuts in spending on schools but one that only postures—and does not act over the scandal of tax avoidance.

“Let me say to the Prime Minister: It is not pro-business to defend tax avoidance.

“Britain is losing billions of pounds in lost revenue that could be invested in our future. It is costing everyone who pays their fair share of taxes, including millions of British businesses.

“Businesses and working people who pay their taxes, do the right thing and play by the rules are affronted by tax avoidance – and they are fed up with a government that has failed to act.”

He said: “The current Conservative leadership have become the political wing of offshore hedge funds.

Much of the system of tax avoidance was put in place by Blair and Brown. It’s good that Miliband has re-thought this policy, and is now trying to end at least some of its excesses. It contrasts strongly with that of the Tories, who believe, like that the ancient aristocracy, that as aristos they shouldn’t have to pay tax.