Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’

Jimmy Dore Show: Obama Rejected North Korea Nuclear Peace Deal in 2015

August 13, 2017

Over the past week the major news issue has been about Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, ratcheting up the tension that could easily lead to a nuclear war. The North Koreans have test fired another missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and have threated to hit the island of Guam, on which America has a military base. In return, Trump has vowed to retaliate ‘with fire and fury, such as the world has never seen.’

This is terrifyingly like some of the Cold War rhetoric I grew up under in the 1980s, when the spectre of a global nuclear holocaust was all too real. It was also completely unnecessary, a product of Reagan and Thatcher’s militant posturing and determination to spread capitalism around the globe, no matter what the dangers. All while pretending to be the champions of political freedom.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his guests Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, comment on a very revealing piece on another liberal internet news channel, Democracy Now. They interviewed the respected academic linguist and veteran critic of American militarism and capitalism, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky revealed that two years ago, the North Koreans offered to make a peace deal with Barack Obama. They would freeze their nuclear programme. In return, they wanted the Americans to stop conducting manoeuvres close to their borders, including flights by B52 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear bombs.

Obama refused.

Which, they comment, kind of makes America look like the aggressor. Dore makes the point that during the Korean War, the country was literally flattened by American bombing, so that there were no targets left. A million people were killed. And the North Koreans have very long memories.

Obama’s refusal of the peace offer by the North Koreans, and this latest jingoistic saber-rattling by Trump, also shows that it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, the military-industrial complex gets its way anyway.

They also comment on the complicity of the American media in promoting a possible war. There are no journalists working for MSNBC, or writing for the New York Times or Washington Post, advocating peace. No Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector, who told George Dubya what he really didn’t want to hear: that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. And no Phil Donohue either, who was sacked because he also spoke out against the war in Iraq. And the New York Times also sacked one of its journos for writing a piece arguing against the invasion of Iraq.

Dore makes the point that this piece needs to go viral, and be reblogged, because you aren’t going to read it or hear about it in the mainstream news. Or if you do, it’ll be on page 88, after a long piece demanding America go to war.

There’s no doubt that Kim Jong Un is a psychopathic dictator, a Stalinist autocrat with the taste for murdering his own family of a Roman emperor. This doesn’t change the fact that this episode, and the horrifying possibility of nuclear war, could have been avoided.

Just like tensions are being ratcheted up with Iran on the same issue of nuclear weapons, and for apparently the same reasons: the American military-industrial complex and bought politicians want a war with Iran. A war which would have similar devastating consequences for the country and the wider Middle East as the Iraq War.

And this is another piece of news that tarnishes the gilded reputation of Barack Obama. Obama, remember, won the Nobel Peace Prize when he was elected, despite not having done anything. It was enough that he was America’s first Black president, and that great things were expected of him. Once in power, however, his radical critics on the Left have pointed out that he was as centrist and corporatist as his predecessors. And far from being anti-war, he massively expanded American military adventures into a further five nations. And Hillary Clinton, who served him as America’s foreign minister, was responsible for backing another Fascist military coup in Honduras. This installed a right-wing government that has restored power to American corporations, and conducted a reign of terror against trade unionists, indigenous peoples and activists for their rights, and the left wing opposition. Killary was also close friends with Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s close aide, who has been dubbed the greatest unindicted war criminal because of the murderous regimes and atrocities he backed from Pinochet’s coup in Chile, Pakistan’s attacks on Bangladesh during their war of independence, and the Vietnam War.

This is why so many Americans want change, and flocked to Bernie Sanders when he denounced Clinton for her friendship with Kissinger, and said that America should no longer interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs.

And the silence of the press over this – both in America and over here, in Britain, on similar issues, is why we need to support the internet and left-wing news shows like Dore’s and Democracy Now, as well as independent bloggers like Mike, despite attempts by Google and Facebook to close them down by denying them an audience.

Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.

Reichwing Watch on the Links between Libertarianism and Fascism

July 4, 2017

Reichwing Watch is a YouTuber, who puts extremely interesting and pertinent videos about the racist and Libertarian right in America. In this short clip, he shows the very strong similarities between modern right-wing Libertarian and Fascism, simply by putting extracts from the speeches and comments by Libertarians like Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Alt-Right vlogger Stefan Molyneaux with Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda films.

Both Libertarians and Hitler shared a hatred of the state and a concern for the ‘race’ or ‘volk’, as well as a bitter rejection of parliamentary democracy, majority rule, humanitarianism and Socialism. Instead, they embraced Social Darwinism and the preservation of capitalism and private property.

The clips include Ron Paul stating that the Founding Fathers stood for individual liberty, not democracy, and decrying democracy as dangerous. This is followed by quotes from Hitler about the destructive nature of democracy on the ‘volk’, and how the man is always more important than the majority. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, described as a Libertarian theorist, stated that in a Libertarian state there would be no room for democrats and Socialists, and both would have to be isolated and expelled. There are also quotes from Ron Paul attacking majority rule, Stefan Molyneux stating that most Libertarians are Whites, and therefore peace will is threatened by demographic trends which means that they will be overtaken by Blacks as the most numerous racial group in America. Which is juxtaposed with Hitler stating, ‘We stand only for peace’.

Ayn Rand, her eyes bugging, talks about how humanitarianism is a threat, followed by Adolf saying much the same. There’s a clip from the Nazi propaganda movie, Die Erbe (‘Inheritance’) in which a group of white-coated scientists watch two beetles fighting, in order to demonstrate the ‘survival of the fittest’. Which is followed by another Libertarian arguing in a debate that freedom means that society shouldn’t be required to take care of the weakest.

Interspersed with these clips are comments from Noam Chomsky, observing that the existence of private property, owned and managed by an elite group, is a form of dictatorship.

This is a very effective reply to the argument you hear from the Right, and particularly the American Right, that Socialism, and by extension, state intervention as a whole, is Fascistic, ’cause the Nazis claimed to be ‘National Socialists’. This point of view was stated very firmly a little while ago by Jonah Goldberg in his book, Liberal Fascism.

This shows that the reverse is also true. Libertarianism, which claims to be a right-wing form of anarchism, also shares very strong ideological links to Fascism and Nazism. Which perhaps isn’t surprising, considering that Von Mises, one of the founders of Libertarianism and ‘Austrian Economics’, served as a minister in Engelbert Dolfuss’ ‘astrofascist’ government before the Nazi annexation of Austria, when he fled to America. Both Libertarianism and Fascism are reactions against socialism, and the extension of liberty to minority groups. This meant the organised working class, women and ethnic minorities, who were attacked as the internal enemies of the racial group.

In the 1980s Libertarianism, or Anarcho-Capitalism, was presented very much as a form of anarchism. But now it’s becoming very clear that it’s a form of Fascism in its elitism, racism and anti-Socialism.

Cartoon of Thatcher, General Pinochet, and the Man He Overthrew, Salvador Allende

June 29, 2017

This is another of my cartoons against the Tory party and its vile policies. This one is of the leaderene herself, Margaret Thatcher, and her Fascist friend, General Pinochet. Thatcher was great friends with Chilean dictator. He had, after all, given Britain aid and assistance in the Falklands conflict against Argentina. After the old brute’s regime fell, she offered him a place to stay in London and was outraged when the New Labour government tried to have him arrested and extradited to Spain on a human rights charge. Amongst the tens of thousands the thug’s administration had arrested and murdered over the years was a young man from Spain, and his government naturally wanted the old butcher arrested and tried.

The figure on the right of the picture is Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president Pinochet overthrew in 1975. Allende was a Marxist, and one of his policies was to break up the vast estates and give the land to the impoverished peasants. This was all too much for the Chilean military-industrial elite and the Americans.

Since the beginning of the Cold War, the Americans had been working to overthrew any and all left-wing governments in South and Central America and the Caribbean. These regimes were attacked because they were supposedly Communist or sympathetic to Communism. Many of the governments that the Americans plotted against or overthrew were actually far more moderate. They were either democratic Socialists, like Jacobo Arbenz’s administration in Guatemala, all were liberal. In many cases the accusation that they were Communists was simply an excuse to overthrow a government that was harmful to American corporate interests. Arbenz’s regime was overthrown because he wished to nationalise the banana plantations, which dominated the country’s economy. These kept their workers in a state of desperate poverty little better, if at all, than slavery. Many of these plantations were owned by the American United Fruit corporation. The Americans thus had Arbenz ousted in a CIA-backed coup. They then tried to justify the coup by falsely depicted Arbenz as a Communist. Marxist literature and material was planted in Arbenz’s office and photographed, to appear in American newspapers and news reports back home. The result of the coup was a series of brutal right-wing dictatorships, which held power through torture, mass arrest and genocide until the 1990s.

Allende was a particular problem for the Americans, as he had been democratically elected to his country’s leadership. This challenged the Americans’ propaganda that Communism was always deeply unpopular, anti-democratic, and could only seize power through coups and invasions. So the CIA joined forces with Allende’s extreme right-wing opponents in the military, business and agricultural elites, and fabricated a story that the president was going to remove democracy and establish a dictatorship. Allende was then overthrown, and Pinochet took power as the country’s military dictator.

In the following decades, 30,000 people were arrested by the regime as subversives, to be tortured and killed. Many disappeared. The campaign by their wives and womenfolk to find out what happened to them, which began in the 1980s, still continues. A few years ago, the BBC in once of its documentaries about the Latin America, visited Chile and filmed in the former concentration camp where the regime’s political prisoners were interned. It was situated high up in the Chilean desert. The place was abandoned, decaying and strewn with the desert dust, but still grim. The presenter pointed out the wooden building where the prisoners were tortured. It was called ‘the disco’, because the guards played disco music to cover the screams of the prisoners when they were raped.

As well as supporting its dictator against the threat of a popular Marxist regime, Thatcher and the Americans under Ronald Reagan also had another reason for taking an interest in the country. Thatcher and Reagan were monetarists, followers of the free market ideology of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school. Friedman’s ideas had also been taken up Pinochet, and Friedman himself used to travel regularly to the country to check on how they were being implemented. So much for the right-wing claim that free markets go hand in hand with democracy and personal freedom. All this came to an end in the 1990s, when a series of revolutions and protests throughout Latin America swept the dictators from power.

The links between Thatcher’s and Reagan’s administrations and the brutal dictatorships in South and Central America, as well as their connections to domestic Fascist groups, alarmed many on the Left in Britain. She also supported a ‘strong state’, meaning a strong military and police force, which she used to crack down on her opponents in Britain, such as during the Miner’s Strike. There were real fears amongst some that she would create a dictatorship in Britain. These fears were expressed in the comic strip, V For Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, which first ran in the British comic, Warrior, before being republished by DC in America. This told the story of V, an anonymous escapee prisoner and victim of medical experimentation at one of the concentration camps in a future Fascist Britain, and his campaign to overthrow the regime that had tortured and mutilated him. A film version also came out a few years ago, starring Hugo Weaving as ‘V’, Natalie Portman as the heroine, Evie, John Hurt as the country’s dictator, and Stephen Fry as a gay TV presenter. As is well known, it’s from V For Vendetta that inspired protest and revolutionary groups across the world to wear Guy Fawkes masks, like the strip’s hero.

To symbolise the mass killings committed by Thatcher’s old pal, I’ve drawn a couple of human skulls. Between them is a fallen figure. This comes from a 19th century American anti-slavery poster, showing the corpse of a Black man, who was shot dead when he tried to claim his right as an American citizen to vote. Although it came from a different country and time, the poor fellow’s body nevertheless seemed to symbolise to me the murderous denial of basic civil liberties of the Fascist right, and particularly by local Fascist regimes around the world, installed and kept in power by American imperialism, and its particular oppression of the world’s non-White peoples.

New Labour came to power promising an ethical foreign policy under Robin Cook. Apart from Pinochet’s arrest, this went by the wayside as Tony Blair and his crew were prepared to cosy up to every multimillionaire thug, dictator or corrupt politician, who were ready to give them money. Like Berlusconi, the Italian president, whose Forza Italia party had formed a coalition with the ‘post-Fascists’ of the Alleanza Nazionale and the Liga Nord, another bunch, who looked back with nostalgia to Mussolini’s dictatorship. This crew were so racist, they hated the Italian south, which they nicknamed ‘Egypt’, and campaigned for an independent northern Italian state called ‘Padania’.

Jeremy Corbyn similarly promises to be a genuine force for peace, democracy and freedom around the world. He might be another disappointment once in power. But I doubt it. I think he represents the best chance to attack imperialism and exploitative neoliberal capitalism.

So if you genuinely want to stop Fascism and exploitation here and abroad, and end Thatcher’s legacy of supporting oppressive right-wing regimes, vote Labour.

Cartoon: Cameron, Clegg and the Tories as David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’

June 26, 2017

There isn’t much to say about this cartoon, except that it was based on the film poster for David Lynch’s disturbing flick, Eraserhead. This is about a man with one of the weirdest hairstyles in cinema attempting to look after a weird, mutant baby, whose head resembles an eraser, hence the film’s title. It’s set in a crumbling, dystopian world, whose audio backdrop is in industrial noise. It’s been described as a horror movie, although it’s not quite that, as well as surreal, which it certainly is.

I thought it was a suitable metaphor for the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, as they’ve certainly done their best to make Britain as decadent and dystopian as possible. This is a Britain in which austerity killed 30,000 people in 2015 alone, according to researchers at Oxford University. Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks to stop themselves from starving, where 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where the family members don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. Families where the mothers are starving themselves in order to feed and clothe their children.

And all the while more people are forced into poverty through wage freezes, and cuts to welfare benefits. A country in which the poor, the unemployed and the disabled are vilified simply for being poor.

It’s a Britain where the NHS and the schools and universities are being privatised for the profit of private healthcare companies and school management companies, and in which uni students will graduate owing something like £40,000 worth of student debt.

This is a Britain in which homelessness is on the rise. Except you won’t see it, because local councils are passing laws to clear the homeless off their streets, so the site of them begging doesn’t annoy or upset the richer residents.

It’s a country where public services, like the trains, are being starved of investment so that their share value remains artificially high, and the bosses can award themselves big bonuses.

It’s a country where the private energy companies also keep prices high for the same reason.

It’s a country, whose natural beauty is in danger of being plundered and despoiled, as the government despises clean, renewable energy sources, and removes environmental protection legislation for the benefit of fracking companies.

It’s a country that’s heading rapidly towards dictatorship and authoritarianism, as New Labour, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed legislation setting up secret courts, in which the defendant may be tried behind closed doors, with vital evidence and the identity of his accuser also kept secret, if the government decides this is required for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like the judicial system in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Stalin’s Russia.

But to make sure you don’t realise that this country is becoming a crumbling dystopia, the media do nothing but lie about how evil the left is, and how wonderful everything is under the Tories, including the BBC. A media dominated by a very few newspaper magnates – Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Twins, Richard Desmond, Vere Harmsworth and a pair of Russian oligarchs.

So I drew David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith all in black and white with the same weird hairstyle as the film’s hero, played by Jack Nance, like the film’s poster.

This is the face of the Tory-Lib Dem government as it was a few years ago. But things haven’t changed since under Theresa May, who’s gone full steam ahead with all the old, wretch Tory policies.

Don’t have nightmares! Just vote for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour poverty, to end austerity and the predatory capitalism that sustains it.

Tories’ IRA Smear on Corbyn Shows Even Greater Desperation

May 22, 2017

The Tories must be getting very desperate indeed with this one. After Labour jumped in the polls last week to close the gap between themselves and the Tories down to 9 points, their lapdogs in the media decided that it was time once again to raise the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn’s support for fairer conditions for the Roman Catholic people of Northern Ireland and negotiations with the IRA.

Yesterday, Sophie Ridge of Sky News asked Corbyn about his membership of the editorial board of a magazine, which published an article praising the IRA bombing of the Tory conference in a Brighton hotel in 1984.

If she was hoping to catch him out, she was severely disappointed. Corbyn replied quietly and clearly that he didn’t write the article, and wasn’t on the editorial board. He admitted reading the magazine, and contributing articles. When she tried pressing him on how he could possibly write for such a magazine, he states that he didn’t agree with that article or many others, but there were others, which he did. He then expressed his wholehearted support for the 1994 peace agreement. He also made the point that there were many things on Sky, which he didn’t agree with, and which Ridge herself probably didn’t either. But that doesn’t mean not engaging with these issues. He stated that it’s sometimes good to read articles with which you don’t agree. ‘Sometimes’ he said, ‘you might learn something.’

To watch the video, see Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/21/latest-bid-to-smear-jeremy-corbyn-fails-dismally/

Now today both the Torygraph and the Daily Heil lead with the same accusation that Corbyn supports on the IRA on their front page. That they should do so is not even remotely surprising. Both newspapers have the creeping horrors of the Labour leader. The Torygraph was one of the newspapers that tried to make the most out of the smear that he was a Trotskyite, while the Daily Mail can always be relied on for bug-eyed anti-Labour propaganda, especially if you can squeeze in a mention of the IRA.

Mike in his article also points out the immense hypocrisy in these very feeble smears. He states, quite correctly

For the record, Mr Corbyn had well-publicised talks with members of the IRA over several decades – while successive UK governments were doing the same, but in secret, while publicly claiming they never negotiated with terrorists. Who was more honest?

Maggie Thatcher initiated talks with the IRA soon after the bombing of Canary Wharf, I believe. And Mike’s quite right – the talks were extremely secret. All the while she and her government were talking to the IRA and Sinn Fein, the Leaderene was screaming at the top of her lungs that she wouldn’t negotiate with them.

Which proves the old age: ‘the Conservative party is an organised hypocrisy.’

In fact, Ted Heath had also tried negotiating with the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland back in the early 1970s when the bloodshed was just beginning. These collapsed through the intransigence of the Unionists. Heath was an awful prime minister, who tried to break the unions, and there have been allegations of paedophilia made against him since his death. But it’s a pity here that he didn’t succeed, as this would have prevented nearly three decades of murder and mutilation.

Counterpunch this morning published an article by Jamie Davidson about the allegations, and what they show about the Tory desperation to rubbish Corbyn. Davidson does not agree with Corbyn’s stance towards the IRA in the 1980s. He recognises the terrible injustices which the Roman Catholic population of the Six Counties suffered, and the way the Unionist domination of the province was secured through massive gerrymandering. But he believes Corbyn conceded too much to the IRA through supporting their goal of a united Ireland and his association with Sinn Fein. He also states that Corbyn supported the Provisional IRA’s campaign of violence. I don’t know if the latter’s true.

But he states that these allegations surfaced yesterday when MI5 leaked a report to the Sunday Torygraph showing that they had kept a file on him because of his pro-IRA sympathies. Davidson states that this hardly singles Corbyn out as anything special, as vast numbers of people on the rest were under surveillance and harassment by the secret state and its allies. He makes the point that what has moved the Torygraph and the rest of the right-wing media to start making these accusations is the massive support large number of voters, even Tory voters, have for Labour’s polices, even if they don’t like the party’s leader. He writes

It’s also in this context that I found myself convinced to wholeheartedly back Corbyn as well as Labour today. It’s simply no longer practical to try to stay above the fray. What pushed me over the edge was yesterday’s report in the Daily Telegraph, leaked to them by an MI5 source, that the intelligence agency kept a file on Corbyn in the 1980s due to his IRA links. These links are, as mentioned, a matter of public record. There is no new information, besides the fact that Corbyn was under surveillance, which anybody who knows anything about British left-wing organisations and the scandalous level of harrassment they received from the state in the 1980s would have expected anyway. What is interesting and important here is the fact that an MI5 source felt the need to say this to the press at all. The Labour Party has trailed the Conservatives by double digits in every serious poll conducted since Corbyn became leader. The entire weight of the British media, both conservative and “liberal”, has been thrown behind the campaign to discredit not just Corbyn but the policies he supports, with great success. Though Labour has seen a bounce in the polls since the Prime Minister called a snap general election, as Corbyn has come into his own, campaigning amongst the public, while Theresa May has revealed herself to be by turns awkward, inept, vicious and deceitful, it is still inconceivable that the Conservatives won’t win and increase their majority on election day. So it is worth asking why anyone would consider it necessary to warn the public, again, about Corbyn’s past. The answer, I think, lies in that bounce in the polls.

He also talks about another piece of massive hypocrisy about which you’ll rarely hear the Tories reproached. Also in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher supported the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, to the point of sending the SAS in to aid them.

That this kind of state power is never directed against conservative politicians probably scarcely needs to be said, but let’s explore it anyway. When Corbyn became an MP in 1983, at which point he already supported the IRA’s political aims, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Around this time, Thatcher was sending SAS squads to camps on the Thailand-Cambodia border, where they trained the exiled Khmer Rouge forces in laying mines and booby-traps in civilian areas. She insisted that the Khmer Rouge keep its seat at the UN as the official, internationally recognised government of Cambodia. By this point, the extent of the Khmer Rouge’s actions when they controlled Cambodia was widely known. Around a million people are thought to have been executed by the regime and another million killed by famine. I expect that I could stop 100 British people on the streets of London and tell them about the time that a Conservative Prime Minister supported a supposedly communist regime, thought to have killed two million people, and if I could count the number of people who knew about it on more than one hand I would be astonished. It simply isn’t part of the wider national discourse. Nor is her support for Saddam Hussein. Nor is the fact that the current Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has admitted that “the vast majority of these opposition groups [which Britain supports in Syria] are Islamist”.4

The very real anti-imperialist credentials of the Vietnamese communists constituted a potential disaster for western hegemony. Why Thatcher favoured the Khmer Rouge over the Vietnamese liberators of Cambodia should be obvious to anybody; given a choice between the two, a capitalist will always side with the worse of two “socialists”, in the hope of spreading news of the system’s inherent horrors as widely as possible. Readers must ask themselves why right-wing figures are permitted to take this stance without damage to their reputation, even after the true horrors committed by their chosen ally are known, while left-wing figures who gave the same ally the benefit of the doubt before the truth was known are condemned to eternal criticism. The truth is that the left is never permitted the defence of pragmatism when it comes to working with unsavoury characters towards a particular political end. The right always is. This disparity is accepted more or less wholesale in Britain, for reasons that aren’t necessarily to do gullibility. I think that the British people implicitly recognise that the hypocrisy at the centre of our political life is absurd, it’s simply that they quite reasonably expect better from Labour. The next step is convincing them to expect nothing from the Conservatives. (My emphasis).

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/22/red-terror-anti-corbynism-and-double-standards/

So the Telegraph and Heil are quite outraged at the thought that Corbyn might have supported negotiations with the Republican paramilitaries in Ulster, while quite unconcerned about Maggie’s real, material support of brutal organisation that murdered two million people.

This not only shows their hypocrisy, it also shows their willingness to support regimes responsible for death and suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, if this support is organised by a Tory heroine of free markets and destroying the welfare state.

Mike Smeared as Anti-Semite by Campaigners against Nazism

May 6, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has suffered another smear, this time from Gareth Davies of Anti-Nazis United. His article purports to be a rebuttal of Mike’s own refutation of the original smears and libels published by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Actually, I think their name is somewhat of a misnomer. From what I’ve seen of them, they don’t seem to have any real interest in combatting genuine anti-Semitism, only in using it as a tool to smear decent critics of Israel, and in scaring European Jews to emigrate there. Perhaps a better name would be the Campaign for Anti-Semitic Libel? That would seem to be a far better description of this organisation’s real aims and methods.

I’ve blogged before about how Mike is very definitely anti-racist and most definitely not anti-Semitic. He talks with obvious pride about the invitation by one of his Jewish friends to be one of the readers in a Holocaust memorial event she was staging when he was at college. Mike was one of those, who read out a few of the names of the millions murdered by the Nazis. The young lady told him afterwards that she found his performance deeply moving. He’s had friends of all races, and doesn’t judge people according to their ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Nor, as I said, has he ever denied or tried to falsify the numbers of the Nazis’ victims in the Holocaust. I’ve described in a previous article how he gave me a book on the Nazis’ bureaucracy of terror which accompanied an exhibition about it in Berlin. The exhibition was also put on by the federal government, and gave the facts and figures of the Holocaust and the associated pogroms carried out by the Nazis. It also had a gallery and brief biography of a few of the Nazis’ victims.

Mike has always had a horror of Nazism. It’s part of his strong feelings for justice and deep hatred of other forms racism and prejudice.

Mr Davies has been unable to rebut Mike’s refutation of the smears against himself through anything Mike has written, and so has tried to smear Mike based on some of the comments left by his readers. Mike has written a robust rebuttal of this latest smear in turn, going point by point through Davies’ article, tackling and refuting each in turn.

His article stands by itself, but there are a few more things that could be added to a couple of his points. The only criticism of Mike Davies makes based on Mike’s own writings, is about Mike’s remark about Liam Byrne’s suitability as a Labour politicians, based on his previous employment with Accenture and Rothschild’s. Mike writes

Next complaint: This indicates that Mr Davies has trawled back through my articles, looking for anti-Semitic language he can use against me. It appears he found only one example that comes even remotely close, in 8,705 published pieces. This was in a reference to Liam Byrne’s employment history: “Work for a multinational consulting firm (Accenture) and then the Rothschild merchant bankers(!)” commenting on my “strange use of an exclamation mark”.

Of course the point I was making was that it seemed odd for a Labour politician to be working for a firm as closely associated with capitalism as the Rothschild company, and that I doubted it was what many people would call a “proper job” – contrast with Alan Johnson, for example, who was a postman, or Dennis Skinner, who was a miner. My guess is that the accusation is about the Rothschilds being Jewish but that had nothing to do with the point I was making.

The Rothschilds do loom large in the demonology of the Nazi right. They’re at the centre of various stupid and potentially murderous conspiracy theories about international Jewish bankers that have been around since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, there are very good reasons why genuinely anti-racist Socialists should also be suspicious of this firm and the others in financial sector, regardless of the racial origins of their founders.

The working people of Britain and America have been sacrificed to the interests of the financial sector. One of the tenets of neoliberal policy has been to let manufacturing industry decline as the West was supposed to be moving into a post-industrial society. Furthermore, the Pound was kept high by Maggie Thatcher, who was unable to realise that this made British exports uncompetitive through increasing their prices on the international market. The financial sector also insisted on the loosening of regulations that resulted in the massive crash of 2008, brought about by extremely reckless speculation by Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and others in Wall Street.

In fact, manufacturing industry is still vital for Britain and America’s prosperity, as Ha-Joon Chang shows in his books. And the bankers that caused the crash have rightly earned the contempt and disgust given them by the rest of the public. Even after wrecking the global economy and encouraging right-wing governments to pursue austerity policies that have caused immense suffering to ordinary men and women, these people have insisted on billion dollar bail-outs, and are continuing to award grossly inflated pay increases and bonuses to each other.

The reaction of the Republicans in America was to try to equate criticism of bankers as Nazi anti-Semitic attacks, on the basis that the Nazis ranted about Jewish bankers, and so banker = Jew. But these criticisms weren’t being made on the basis of the bankers’ race or religious beliefs. They were simply about avaricious, destructive bankers, full stop. Race had nothing to do with it. And the banking elite attacked also includes gentiles.

And Rothschilds also has an unpleasant history of collaboration with the Nazis. They were one of the American banks, who gave credit and financial support to the Nazi regime in the 1930s. This when the Nazis were carrying out their horrific persecution of German and then Austrian Jews after the Anschluss. This was reported in the western press at the time. Certainly, this fact has also been incorporated into some of the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to make them seem less racist. I’ve come across books that have distinguished between ‘good’ Jews, the victims of the Nazis, and the ‘Zionist’ Jews, like the Rothschilds and others, who were determined to enslave Whites. Despite these careful revisions, they’re still dangerous, racist nonsense.

But that doesn’t change what the Rothschilds did. And it has understandably a legacy of bitterness. I came across an entirely respectable history book in the 1990s on the shelves of Waterstone’s in Bath about Wall Streets murky dealings with Hitler and his squad of butchers.

And the Rothschilds sadly weren’t the only company to provide material aid and assistance to the Nazi tyranny. So did American companies like IBM, a fact that provided the inspiration for one of the bitterly funny episodes of the anti-superhero comic, Marshal Law, a comic with a clear social conscience that attacked right-wing American politics through very dark, violent satire.

Earlier in his article, Mike rebuts the claim that he’s anti-Semitic, because he liked a Tweet urging him to ‘stay strong against the cabal’. Mike writes

He writes

Look up “cabal” in a dictionary and it is described as “a secret political clique or faction”. Perhaps that does not quite describe the CAA, because its political motive in trying to stop me from being elected to Powys County Council is clear and not secret, but the intention of the person who made that tweet was clearly to support me in resisting the CAA’s lies. Why should I not be grateful?

This criticism might be partly based on one of the etymologies constructed for the word, which is supposedly derived from Qabbala/ cabbala and other versions of the word spelt with a single ‘B’. This is a form of Jewish mysticism, which also became popular amongst Christian occultists in the 17th century as Aristotelian natural philosophy crumbled. There was so much demand for it, that one Italian rabbi complained that he and other savants couldn’t go anywhere without a Christian clutching them by the sleeve and saying, ‘Be my master in this!’

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable mentions this origin of the term, but states that it came to be applied to English politics from the machinations of one of Charles II’s court factions. It says

A JUNTO, a council of intriguers. The famous cabal (1687-1673) of Charles II’s reign, the group of five ministers, the initial letters of whose name (Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, Lauderdale) by coincidence spelt this word, did not give rise to the usage. It was often applied in the 17th century to the king’s inner group of advisers. See CABBALA.

This was the sense in which it was being used by the Tweeter, which doesn’t seem to have mentioned the bizarre conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish occultism.

For the rest of the article, see: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/04/another-week-another-attack-by-the-anti-semitism-smear-campaigners/#comments

Now I don’t know anything about Mr Davies or the group, Anti-Nazis United. There is a need to be vigilant against Nazism, as the real thing has returned in force since Brexit. This Wednesday, the I columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, wrote an op-ed piece about the disastrous effect this was having on the lives of the new immigrants from eastern Europe, as well as the native-born children and grandchildren of earlier migrants to this country. This came after the suicide a week or so ago, of a Polish girl because of the bullying she’d experienced at her school in Cornwall. Browne herself has suffered racist abuse, despite the fact that she’s married to a White British husband, and has been here since her family arrived from Uganda in the 1970s.

And real anti-Semitism has come back, most nakedly in the form of the banned Nazi youth group, National Action, who openly goose-stepped in the streets in cod-Nazi uniforms. Their speeches were vile rants about the supposed international Jewish conspiracy to enslave and destroy the White race through encouraging non-White immigration and racial intermixing. The classic Nazi bilge you can find amongst some of the Alt-Right maniacs infesting Trump’s cabinet.

We do need to combat this. But I see absolutely no desire by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to do that. Rather, they seem determined to exaggerate the real threat of Nazism and racism in this country simply as a way to smear genuinely principled critics of Israel. As I’ve said, time and again, the people Mike’s defended are genuinely anti-racist Jews and gentiles, many of whom have suffered genuine persecution for their ethnicity and anti-racist activism. I have felt myself moved when reading about how they, or close members of their families, have been assaulted, or how their parents or grandparents were driven out of their homelands in Germany or eastern Europe.

It is, quite simply, utterly monstrous that these people should feel afraid once again because of their race, and vilified as the very people, who have persecuted them, because they see the same hate that motivated the Nazis in the Likudniks persecution of the Palestinians.

And I am afraid that Mr Davies and his fellow activists are being manipulated in this, to serve as the useful fools for bigots and racists, who hide behind the Jewish people’s history of terrible persecution in order to smear critics of their own, decades-long campaign of massacre and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Arab people of Palestine.

TYT Nation on Calls for the Deportation of Jews & Immigrants and ‘Liberal Genocide’ at Trump Rally

March 12, 2017

More militant racism and hate from Trump’s Fascistic supporters. In this piece from TYT Nation, Jeff Waldorf, the host, comments on a video produced by Dan Cohen of the Real News of a pro-Trump rally at Maricopa County. This is only part of a much longer report by Cohen, which Waldorf urges his viewers to see. The clip shows some of the attendees, speakers and the emcee, Tim Horn, pouring out their hatred of the above groups. One man states that America is a Christian country, and that if immigrants don’t like it, they should leave. Another man, a Vietnam War veteran, claims that the Communists and ‘sharia law Muslims’ are in cahoots to bring down America, and that when ‘Sharia law Muslims’ enter a classroom, they kill all the children and other people in it. One of those interviewed is the 13 year old boy, who proudly claims to have started the chant ‘Build that wall!’ at one of the Orange Generalissimo’s rallies. As he’s speaking, the lad looks aside for one moment, and casually comments, ‘If she’s really that Jewish, she should go back to her own country’. One man also rants about how gays should go to Gaza. One of the speakers also declares that if they want to take their country back, they should free a few people from prison, and jail some others.

Horn claims that the Democrats are really ‘the Socialist Party of America’, because ‘liberals hate this country’ and have got into the schools and universities to brainwash its children and destroy it. One man even comments that he ‘can’t wait for that Liberal genocide’.

Waldorf makes some highly incisive observations on the way these people have themselves been misinformed and deliberated deceived by their leaders, the rich. The Left doesn’t hate America. They want to introduce free healthcare and better opportunities for the poor and immigrants, because they love their country and its people, and want everyone to benefit, including Republicans. He also points out that there are no plans to murder Republicans, but if we’re talking about Communists and Muslims, well, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans armed the Mujahideen to fight the Russians when they invaded Afghanistan. He goes on to say how these people are terribly afraid, afraid of anyone different from themselves, to the extent that they want to build this wall around America. It’s a fear based on ignorance. And as for that wall, it’s supposed to cost $25 billion, although no-one knows how that money is going to be raised, and it may well cost more far more. And that wall is not going to protect the rest of the country. ‘Good luck with building ‘sky-walls in New York to defend the city from planes’, Waldorf remarks sarcastically.

As for the Jewish girl, who’s supposed to go back to her own country, well, how can she? She’s an American. This is her country.

He also makes the point that the rich are behind this, deliberately creating and stoking this fear in order to keep the poor and middle class divided, so they can pick their pockets.

There are a number of points that leap out looking at this video. The first is the conspiracist thinking that believes that ‘the Left’ hates America, and has a deliberate policy of infiltrating America’s educational institutions. This is the old rubbish about ‘cultural Marxism’ trying to introduce ‘Communism’ by attacking European and American Christian, capitalist White culture. As for the stupid theories of an alliance between Islamists and Communists/ Leftists, the British novelists Anthony Burgess believed in that load of nonsense. Back in the 1980s he wrote a riposte to George Orwell’s great dystopian novel, called 1985. In this wretched book the trade unions ally with radical Muslims to bring about a totalitarian revolution. Burgess was one of the great figures of 20th century British literature, and used to make a great show of his erudition. Thus Private Eye called him, ‘the most pretentious man in English literature’. Well, it doesn’t matter how great a literary giant he was, he was still talking nonsense with that book. More recently, writers like Frederick Raphael have been spouting the same nonsense about how the remains of European Socialism will unite with the Muslims to start another holocaust of the Jews. Raphael gave a glowing review of a book with just this theme, set in the 2020s, about a decade ago in the page of the Spectator.

As for ‘sharia law’ Muslims killing children in American schools, no, they won’t. From what I’ve heard over here, much of the information warning the authorities of possible attacks from the Islamists comes from Muslims, who would like to live under Islamic law. There is clearly a problem here, as implementing such law would be divisive and deprive liberal or secular Muslims of the opportunity and ability to integrate into wider British society. Nevertheless, the point needs to be made that just because a Muslim believes in sharia law does not mean that they automatically support terrorism.

But if we are talking about extremely conservative Muslims, who have killed schoolchildren, then we should mention Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a country governed by an extremely narrow and intolerant version of sharia law. Its armed forces have deliberately killed children, and other civilians in attacks on mosques, hospitals, factories and schools in neighbouring Yemen as part of their campaign against Shi’a Islam. The weapons they have used in these atrocities, including cluster bombs, which are banned under international treaty, have been sold to them by America and Britain.

Waldorf is also correct when he says that these fears are being stoked by the rich to divide America in order to pick the pockets of ordinary people. This is absolutely correct. Since Margaret Thatcher in England and Ronald Reagan in America took power at the dawn of the 1980s, there has been a massive transfer of wealth upwards from the poor and middle class to the rich as welfare programmes have been closed down, and industries privatised and deregulated. Wages have been deliberately kept stagnant. The earnings of the rich 1% have been massively inflated as they have enjoyed generous tax cut after tax cut. Meanwhile, those taxes have been transferred to the poor.

This policy is continuing under Donald Trump. Trump is repealing Obamacare, which will see millions of poor Americans deprived of affordable health insurance. He has done this in order to give even more tax cuts to the rich, while the poor will receive absolutely nothing of the kind. This is because corporations and the rich fund America’s politicians, who respond by doing exactly what their paymasters want. And what they want is a poor, cowed workforce deprived of all but the most minimal rights. It’s also the guiding vision of the British Conservative party.

The way to give prosperity back to ordinary Americans – and Brits – is for the ordinary people to unite, and not let themselves be deceived by lies and fearmongering about ‘liberals’, non-Whites, Jews and Muslims. We need to stand together, whatever our race or religion, to make sure that ordinary people, of whatever religious or non-religious persuasion or colour, have decent jobs, a proper welfare support infrastructure, and proper healthcare. Everything, in fact, which Trump in America and Theresa May in Britain wishes to deprive them.

Archaeology Confronts Neoliberalism

March 5, 2017

I got the latest catalogue of books on archaeology and history from Oxbow Books, an Oxford based bookseller and publisher, which specialises in them, a few days ago. Among the books listed was one critical of neoliberalism, and which explored the possibilities of challenging it from within the profession. The book’s entitled Archaeology and Neoliberalism. It’s edited by Pablo Aparicio Resco, and will be published by JAS Arquelogia. The blurb for it in the catalogue states

The effects of neoliberalism as ideology can be seen in every corner of the planet, worsening inequalities and empowering markets over people. How is this affecting archaeology? Can archaeology transcend it? This volume delves into the context of archaeological practice within the neoliberal world and the opportunities and challenges of activism from the profession.

This isn’t an issue I really know anything about. However, I’m not surprised that many archaeologists are concerned about the damage neoliberalism is doing to archaeology. 15 years ago, when I was doing my Masters at UWE, one of the essay questions set was ‘Why do some Historians see heritage as a dirty word?’ Part of the answer to that question was that some historians strongly criticised the heritage industry for its commodification of the past into something to be bought, sold and consumed. They placed the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Maggie Thatcher and her Tory government. Rather than being an object of value or investigation for its own sake, Thatcherite free market ideology saw it very much in terms of its monetary value. They contrasted this with the old Conservative ethos, which saw culture as something that was above its simple cash value.

Social critics were also concerned about the way Thatcherism was destroying Britain’s real industries, and replacing them with theme parks, in which they were recreated, in a sanitised version that was calculated not to present too many difficult questions and represented the Tory view of history. One example of this was a theme park representing a mining village. It was on the site of a real mining village, whose mine had been closed down. However, other pieces of mining equipment and related buildings and structures, which were never in that particularly village, were put there from other mining towns and villages elsewhere. It thus showed what an imaginary mining village was like, rather than the real mining community that had actually existed. It was also a dead heritage attraction, a museum, instead of a living community based around a still thriving industry.

There were also concerns about the way heritage was being repackaged to present a right-wing, nationalistic view of history. For example, the Colonial Williamsburg museum in America was originally set up to present a view of America as a land of technological progress, as the simple tools and implements used by the early pioneers had been succeeded by ever more elaborate and efficient machines. They also pointed to the way extreme right-wing pressure groups and organisations, like the Heritage Foundation, had also been strongly involved in shaping the official, Reaganite version of American ‘heritage’. And similar movements had occurred elsewhere in the world, including France, Spain and the Caribbean. In Spain the concern to preserve and celebrate the country’s many different autonomous regions, from Catalonia, the Basque country, Castille, Aragon and Granada, meant that the view of the country’s history taught in schools differed greatly according to where you were.

Archaeology’s a different subject than history, and it’s methodology and philosophy is slightly different. History is based on written texts, while archaeology is based on material remains, although it also uses written evidence to some extent. History tends to be about individuals, while archaeology is more about societies. Nevertheless, as they are both about the investigation of the human past, they also overlap in many areas and I would imagine that some of the above issues are still highly relevant in the archaeological context.

There’s also an additional problem in that over the past few decades, the Thatcherite decision to make universities more business orientated has resulted in the formation of several different private archaeological companies, which all compete against each other. I’ve heard from older archaeologists that as a result, the archaeological work being done today is less thorough and of poorer quality than when digs were conducted by local authorities.

I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure that the editor and contributors to this book are right about neoliberalism damaging archaeology and the necessity of archaeologists campaigning against it and its effects on their subject. By its very nature, the past needs to be investigated on its own terms, and there can be multiple viewpoints all legitimately drawn from the same piece of evidence. And especially in the case of historical archaeology, which in the American context means the investigation of the impact of European colonisation from the 15th century onwards, there are strongly emotive and controversial issues of invasion, capitalism, imperialism, the enslavement of Black Africans and the genocide of the indigenous peoples. For historians and archaeologists of slavery, for example, there’s a strong debate about the role this played in the formation of European capitalism and the industrial revolution. Such issues cannot and should not be censored or ignored in order to produce a nice, conservative interpretation of the past that won’t offend the Conservative or Republican parties and their paymasters in multinational industry, or challenge their cosy conception that the free market is always right, even when it falsifies the misery and injustice of the past and creates real poverty today.

Trump and the Republicans’ Attack on Transgender Rights

February 25, 2017

On Thursday Mike also posted a short piece about another minority that is now under by Donald Trump – transgender people. After trying to ban people from seven majority Muslim countries, Trump has decided to revoke Barack Obama’s legislation about the use of toilets by transgender students. Obama ruled that students should be allowed to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, rather than biological sex. This has been too much for Trump and the Republicans. In his article commenting on Trump’s repeal of the ruling, he makes the point that transgender people don’t pose any threat to the people of the US, as far as he could see. But Trump’s discrimination against them does make him a threat to the transgender community.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/transgender-students-are-targeted-for-hate-by-trump/

Milo Yiannopolis, one of the Alt-Right Breitbart squadristi, turned up on the Bill Maher Show on American TV. Yiannopolis is a strange, contradictory figure – a half-Jewish, self-hating gay with a Black boyfriend, who is bitterly anti-feminist and also very racist. Yiannopolis tried to claim that the ruling was quite correct, because there was a dangerous of transvestites entering female toilets to abuse women and girls. He claimed that there was a far greater rate of sex offences amongst transgendered people than amongst ordinary, straight individuals.

Where did he get this statistics? Where do you think! He made it up. And while Maher apparently did little but fawn over Yiannopolis, according to some viewers, one of the guests, Larry Wilmore, solidly refuted Yinnopolis comments again and again. See this video below.

For some reason, the Republicans have had a bee in their collective bonnets about transgender people for some time now. In fairness, not all of this concern is fear-mongering based on prejudice. Right-wing critics of the current medical attitudes towards those, who have problems with their gender identity, have pointed to a paper by a doctor, which has questioned whether many of those undergoing gender realignment surgery really want to be women. According to the paper, those undergoing the transition have a higher rate of suicide than those who remain in their biological gender. Now, there have been instances where people, who have made the transition, have regretted it and taken their own lives. There was a case in the British papers a few years ago about a transwoman, who drowned herself in a river. She left a note stating that she now wished she could return to being a man.

Such cases are tragic, and should be a cause of legitimate concern. But I don’t think this is really what’s driving the issue.

This is really all about cultural decline and the politics of masculinity. The Right has a very traditional attitude towards gender roles. I’ve blogged before about the various right-wing politicians in America, like the highly obnoxious Anne Coulter, who don’t even believe women should vote. The idea that gender roles, and gender identity itself, can be fluid and subject to change is bitterly rejected. Hence this attack on the toilet rights of transgender students.

One of those, who has weighed into this debate is the anti-feminist philosopher, Camille Paglia. Paglia had been a feminist, I gather, before she did a complete reversal some time in the 1990s, and decided that feminism was damaging men and having a generally destructive effect on society as a whole. I think she still considers herself some kind of feminist, but, as Mel Smith’s blokeish character on his and Griff Rhys Jones’ spoof of the BBC talk show, After Dark, she seems to be ‘the kind of feminist, who is not a feminist at all’.

There’s a video on YouTube of her arguing in an interview that transgenderism is responsible for the fall of all civilisations, from ancient Rome to the European empires of the 19th century. This can be seen in the way Greek art moved from depicting muscular hunks to a more androgynous style of masculine figure.

I don’t know enough of Greek art to refute this, but I know enough history to say that it’s twaddle. Despite the comments by Roman moralists, like Tacitus, about the decadence of late Roman society, what actually brought the Empire down were a mixture of severe economic, political and military problems that have precious little to do with gender identity. If at all. The late Roman empire was beset by galloping inflation, massively disproportionate taxation falling on the poor as the senatorial elite sought to evade the tax burden, depopulation caused by plague as well as economic decline, and, of course, the barbarian invasions.

In the east, the late Roman and Persian Empires were overrun by the Muslim Arabs basically because they had fought each other to exhaustion, and simply no longer possessed the military power to fight off the invading Arabs. In the case of Egypt and some of the other eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs offered religious tolerance to Christian denominations persecuted by the official Greek church. The politics of gender identity simply weren’t involved.

As for the European empires, these fell, retreated or transformed themselves due to the rise of nationalist movements in their colonies and the decline of the metropolitan centres. Much of this was hastened by the Second World War. Britain and France emerged exhausted from the conflict, and global power passed to America and the Soviet Union. Again, gender politics weren’t involved.

Paglia, however, draws on the literature of late Victorian writers, including the French Decadents, for her views. These did see the decline of gender identity and roles as a sign of cultural and racial decline. The French Decadents, who saw madness and genius as inextricably linked, celebrated androgyny, while at the same time holding very strong misogynist views. They felt that, like ancient Rome, the fall of the new French empire was also inevitable, and were going to enjoy being Decadent as much as possible during it.

Paglia’s fears about the social damage created by the decline in traditional notions of gender and sexuality are also really a symptom of more general fears of American social and imperial decline. Martin Pugh in his book on the rise of British Fascism between the First and Second World Wars, comments on the role played in its rise by the moral panic created by Pemberton Billing about homosexuality. Billing was a right-wing Tory MP, who believed that the British war effort during World War I was being undermined by gays working for the Germans. He claimed to have a black book with the names of 50,000 ‘devotees of Sodom and Lesbia’. He was sued for libel by at least one of the people he smeared, but the trail collapsed when he accused the judge of being gay.

Pugh also points out that this period also saw the rise in fears about lesbianism for the first time. He states very clearly that the reason why the British government had not legislated against female homosexuality in the 19th century was because they simply didn’t see it as a threat. It was not because that they, or Queen Victoria, depending on the version of the myth you’ve heard, didn’t think it exist, or because Victoria herself didn’t think it was physically possible for two women to have sex. She and they knew it happened, but weren’t bothered about it. It wasn’t considered to be a threat to society like male homosexuality.

This all changed after the First World War. Pugh makes the point that it was widely believed that the War had killed the flower of British manhood – all the really intelligent, brave and capable men. The guys, who were left, were the second raters. As a result, British society was in crisis, a crisis which only aggressively masculine parties like the NSDAP in Germany and the Fascists in Italy could hope to correct.

And something similar has also occurred in America. It’s been argued that the rapid expansion of Communism after the War was a profound shock to America, not just to the self-confidence of capitalism, but also to notions of American masculinity. This can be seen in depictions of Jesus. For a period after WW2 the traditional depictions of Christ with rather soft features disappeared in favour of more ruggedly masculine representations of the Saviour.

America is a very masculine society, and the link between capitalism and masculinity is very strong in the parties and ideologies of the Right, the Republicans and Libertarians. The Left, and its egalitarianism, is seen as anti-masculine and unpatriotic. It is not accident that Richard Spencer in one of his wretched speeches tried to appeal to American women by saying that his movement offered them ‘pregnancy and strong government’. With the involvement of the gun lobby, we are very much back in the realm of Mussolini’s Fascist slogan ‘Fighting is to man what motherhood is to woman.’ The American Right also strongly opposes women entering the workplace, feeling that they should stay at home instead to raise children to counteract White demographic decline.

This is the real ideological background to Trump and the Republicans’ attack on transgender people. The actual number of transgender people, as a percentage of the population, is probably very small. They’re not really a threat to anyone. Instead, this all about the politics of gender as part of the wider issue of racial decay and American imperial decline.