Posts Tagged ‘Civil Liberties’

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.

Vox Political: Snoopers’ Charter Allows State to Lie When Evidence Gather through Spying

December 7, 2016

I’ve also written several pieces over the past few days talking about the slow death of democracy and freedom in America. Obama has taken over and made permanent all the infringements on Americans’ constitutional freedoms set up by George Dubya Bush, the Democrats and corporate media have taken to smearing leading left-wing journos and website as disseminators of Russian propaganda, and a Conservative student group is compiling a black list of left-wing college professors.

But civil liberties and the rule of law are also under attack here as well. Tony Blair also tried to set up secret courts in Britain when he was prime minister. David Cameron and Nick Clegg also passed legislation establishing them, and expanding the powers of the British surveillance state. Theresa May is determined to do the same with her Investigatory Powers Bill.

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on the way the May’s ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ demands that the prosecution lie in court to avoid revealing that the evidence has been gathered through spying. Section 56 of her wretched Act makes it an offence not only to reveal that the evidence was obtained by lying, but also that spying is, was and/or will be going on. This includes a clause meaning that the legislation also acts retrospectively. In other words, you can be charged and convicted of doing this before this pernicious piece of legislation was ever passed.

This means that the state can lie to secure a conviction. And there seems to be little way to defend against it. Mike has suggested that there is a possible way out, if the defence can show that the evidence could not have obtained it in the normal ways, but crucially does not state that it was obtained through spying. But Mike states that this is no more than a suggestion, and asks his readers for their opinions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/if-the-snoopers-charter-allows-the-state-to-lie-in-court-how-can-the-innocent-foil-it/

The whole issue of secret courts is profoundly anti-democratic and a real and present danger to civil liberties. Under the legislation introduced by the Conservatives and their Lib-Dem enablers, Cameron and Clegg, a court case may be held in secret if a public trial is believed to constitute a threat to national security. The accused may not see the evidence against them, nor the identity of their accuser, again, all to safeguard ‘national security’. Now you may not even be told that you have been spied on.

I’ve pointed out before that this is exactly like the judicial system set up by the totalitarian states of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and also Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Iraqi legal system contained a series of secret clauses, whose disclosure to the public was a crime. Thus someone under Saddam’s regime could be charged with a series of offences he was not aware he had committed, and could not legally be made aware.

Franz Kafka, the great Czech writer, described all this in his novels The Trial and The Castle. These are about people hauled through convoluted court proceedings, tried and executed, without being told what crime they have committed or indeed anything much about the supposed offence. These are praised by the connoisseurs of great literature and historians, because they prophesy the gross miscarriages of justice at the heart of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. I think Kafka was probably less serious about his novels’ intentions. If I remember correctly, he had been a clerk for an insurance company, handling sickness claims, and his books are satires on convoluted bureaucracy. I think he even described them as long jokes. But dry, and ironic in style of the Middle European sense of humour.

But there is nothing remotely funny or joking about this piece of legislation. This is the corporate establishment using brutally authoritarian methods to hang on to its power and suppress dissent. All the while telling us that it’s all for our own good, because of the threat of Islamist terrorism. After politicians like Theresa May, Cameron and Clegg have finished, I shall be surprised if we have any freedom left for ISIS or al-Qaeda to destroy.

Despite DAPL, Trump Plans to Steal More Native American Oil

December 7, 2016

A few days ago the water protectors in North Dakota won a victory against big oil when Barack Obama finally did the right thing, and refused to award the oil company the final permit that would allow them to dig. Despite this victory for the First Nations, and the very many Americans of all races and creeds, who came together to support them, it seems big oil and their puppets in Congress still want to take Native Americans’ final natural resources.

In this short piece from The Young Turks, Ana Kasparian and her hosts discuss plans by Donald Trump’s advisors to privatise the oil deposits on the Indian reservations, so that they can be exploited by private industry. Although the reservations comprise only 5 per cent of America’s land, they hold 20 per cent of the country’s oil deposits. And so naturally the oil companies want to get their mitts on them. If this goes through, it would violate the reservations’ status as sovereign nations. Kasparian and The Turks believe that the advisors will try to sell this idea to Native Americans as an opportunity for them to become prosperous through the exploitation of their mineral wealth. However, in reality this is just another episode in the long history of Native Americans having their lands seized by the American government and private industry. They also make the point that the American government actively overthrows governments in the interests of big business, such as Arbenz’s government in Guatemala and the 1953 coup that toppled Mossadeq in Iran. Arbenz was a democratic Socialist -but not a Communist – who nationalised the banana plantations. Most of these were owned by the American company, United Fruit, who had the American government organise a right-wing coup. This set up a brutal military dictatorship, which kept the majority of Guatemalans as virtual slaves to the plantation masters. Mossadeq in Iran was also overthrown, because he nationalised the Iranian oil industry, which again was in foreign hands. As a result, America organised a coup, which overthrew him, thus initiating the brutal rule of the Shah as absolute monarch, a rule which only ended with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Trump’s administration really is one of rapacious capitalism, absolutely determined to crush Americans’ civil liberties, and the rights of minorities for the benefit of big business. Not that Killary’s regime would have been any different. She was gearing up for more war in the Middle East, wars which would have been fought not free its peoples from dictators, but simply so that American multinationals could loot their oil and state industries.

Tribal sovereignty is, quite rightly, a very sensitive issue with Native Americans. Way back in the 1980s there was an armed stand-off between one of the Amerindian people in New York state. The FBI had pursued a Native American man, who was a member of the American Indian Movement, for a series of violent offences. The man drove into the reservation, and the way was blocked by angry indigenous Americans when the FBI tried to follow him. They claimed that the reservation was a sovereign country in its own right, and that any attempt by the authorities to infringe that sovereignty would be met with force. The tribe’s chief stated that if the police and the FBI tried to enter, the matter would then be up to the tribe’s young warriors.

I think the issue must have been legally clarified since then, as I can remember that at the same time there was considerable controversy over the decision by some Amerindian peoples to issue their own passports, as separate, independent nations.

Given how extremely sensitive the matter of sovereignty and land rights are to Native Americans, this latest scheme by Trump’s friends in the oil industry seems to me to have the potential to do immense harm, not just in the potential environmental damage, and the further dispossession and impoverishment of the First Nations, but also in overturning what must have been a series of very delicate negotiations between the Federal law enforcement agencies and the First Nations. This is quite apart from the various other programmes that have been launched over the years to bring Native and non-Native Americans together, and incorporate their point of view into the wider story of American history.

As for trying to convince Native Americans that private ownership of their oil would bring prosperity, that was the line the mining companies were trying to sell to the Aboriginal Australians back in the 1980s. I can remember a piece in the Torygraph of the time moaning that left-wingers were keeping Aboriginal Aussies poor by refusing them to mine the uranium on their lands.

Given the immense environmental damage oil pipelines like DAPL have done, and the rapacity of the oil companies and American government when it comes to exploiting other nations’ oil, Native Americans would likely be very well advised to keep well away from this. One of the instances of massive environmental damage done by the oil corporations show in one of the American left-wing news sites – I can’t remember whether it was The Turks, Majority Report or Secular Talk, was the destruction of hundreds of acres of waterways in Louisiana. The oil company had completely removed all the available oil, which had formed a supporting layer under the fertile rock and soil. As a result, the surface started sinking, with the marshland and waterways degenerating into a toxic, oil-sodden sludge.

The multinational companies in the Middle East also pay very little in royalties to the countries, whose oil deposits they exploit. Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, states that Aramco, the oil conglomerate formed to exploit the oil in Saudi Arabia, actually only gives one per cent of its profits to the Saudis as royalties. It’s a pittance, though enough to support the bloated and corrupt Saudi ruling caste in obscene luxury and absolute power. Similar trivial amounts of money are paid to the other Middle Eastern countries for exploitation rights, including Iraq.

If this goes ahead, the Amerindians can look forward to losing more of their territory, the devastation of the tribal lands, which is at the heart of the culture, and further poverty as the oil companies keep the profits for themselves.

Of course, the oil deposits do offer the possibility of enriching the tribes that posses them. But you can raise the question quite legitimately why a private company is needed, or should be allowed, to extract the oil. I understand that many tribes have set up their own, collectively owned companies to manage and exploit their natural resources for themselves, through tourism, woodland management and agriculture. One of the First Nations in California set up a company to catch, can and market the area’s salmon. If companies are to drill for oil on tribal land, a strong case could be made that the company should be at least part-owned by the tribe as the sovereign people, and very strict provisions put and rigorously enforced to protect the people and their homeland.

David Pakman on the Alt-Right

November 26, 2016

In this video, David Pakman describes the origins, ideology, conduct and influences of the Alt-Right, the Fascist movement which has come into prominence through the election of Donald Trump. Their Nazism was shown quite clearly in a speech by their founder, Richard Spencer, last weekend, when he raised his right arm in the Fascist salute, and screamed ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race! Hail victory’. It’s a short, effective description and demolition of the Alt-Right, its intellectual pretensions and fluidity, which shows that, ultimately, the Alt-Right are a profoundly anti-intellectual group with nothing to say, except insults on the internet.

Pakman begins by explaining that the Alt-Right are an amorphous movement, which nevertheless sees itself as sharing a number of goals. These are to combat feminism, Islam, and ‘political correctness’, and protect the borders of White nations, preserve White and western culture, and empower authoritarian government leaders, who will carry out their goals. They have largely been ignored by the corporate media, although briefly mentioned by Killary, but have been very evident on-line, on internet message boards and YouTube, for a long time.

They are a combination of Conservatism, White nationalism, non-interventionism and the internet. It is the latter that give the movement its pseudointellectual pretensions. It is also characterised by trolling campaigns and the use of news outlets like Breitbart. They also use more extreme sources like the explicitly Nazi websites, the Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff. They hope to be a new revolutionary movement, but are heavily derivative of older movements. Their only novel trait is the internet.

He then lays out the reasons why different political groups despise them. Progressives despise the Alt-Right for the White nationalist xenophobia, their support for ‘White’ values, and their bigotry to women, Muslims and other groups.
Libertarians dislike ’em because of their anti-immigrant stance, their social conservatism, and their populist empowerment of the state and protectionism. And Establishment Conservatives also hate them because they are too blatantly racist and misogynist and their non-interventionist stance on foreign policy. Although the Alt-Right are not always Christian, they are always anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

The Alt-Right coalesced around Donald Trump’s election campaign as Trump freely expressed his own bigotry about Latinos, women and Muslims, and his right-wing policies on labour and social issues, civil liberties and the environment. Trump himself claims to know nothing about the Alt-Right, which means he’s either lying or really is ignorant. Anything is possible with him. Although Trump’s supporters are mostly low education, low information blue-collar workers with no connection to internet culture, Alt-Right trolls have adopted him as their hero.

The membership of the Alt-Right is mostly American, and as a movement it’s difficult to pin down precisely. Some members of the Alt-Right are just racists, some misogynists, while others reject one or all the above attitudes. They do, however, use the same internet memes, gifs, tired catchphrases and insults. Sometimes, however, it seems that they themselves do not know what their movement is or stands for.

Pakman states that they stand for a particular set of values. These are White culture, anti-multiculturalism, nativism, anti-immigration, anti-Semitism, men’s rights, and gamer-gate, which as internet trolls, they regard as being very serious indeed.

The movement began developing during the Bush administration as a reaction against Dubya’s neo-Conservativism and the Conservative political establishment. They draw on Palaeo-Conservativism, Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobrin. They are also influenced by Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the presidency, which degenerated, becoming increasingly socially conservative and bigoted. The Alt-Right also picked up momentum during Obama’s occupation of the White House in opposition to a president, who was Black and left of centre. It finally formed around Richard Spencer, a White supremacist, who founded the blog ‘Alternative Right’ in 2010. This is internet site that gave the Alternative Right its name.

Pakman then discusses the strange case of Milo Yiannopolis, who has single-handedly brought the Alt-Right to media attention. Yiannopolis has stated several times that he does not consider himself to be a member of the Alt-Right. He is also gay and half-Jewish, and the fact that he fronts a homophobic, anti-Semitic movement shows not just how gimmicky Yiannopolis’ own media performance style is, but also the fluidity of the Alt-Right as a movement.

Although the Alt-Right is biased against Muslims and Jews, it’s members are not necessarily Christian. Many are atheists, although they claim to support Christian values, and adhere to social conservatism. Most of them believe in evolution, often distorting and using it to claim the existence of distinct races to justify their racism. They have a distinct hierarchy of races, and see White gentiles as the best.

Pakman, however, believes that they do have one redeeming quality in their opposition to political correctness and identity politics, as the authoritarian left stifles conversation on race, Islam, and feminism. However, he dislikes the way they themselves hypocritically adopt p.c. attitudes and identity politics for White people and men. They attack the way women, and racial and religious minorities try to censor discourse, but do it themselves, including playing the victim card, just like the groups they attack. Some even go so far as to talk about White genocide. Pakman asks whether it is true that Whites and men are victims, either in America or the world. He also makes the point that the Alt-Right are only unified through internet trolling. Are there any other movements that are defined by indecency simply through the sake of indecency? Their only power is the anonymity of the internet, and their use of its memes and repetitive insults. They are simply an unoriginal, failed attempt to rebrand White supremacy, misogyny and anti-feminism with a tech-savvy twist.

They have absolutely nothing to say and no arguments. They are just a cop-out. They are the most anti-intellectual, unimaginative group of drones on the internet.

Review: The Liberal Tradition, ed. by Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock

November 6, 2016

(Oxford: OUP 1967)

liberal-tradition-pic

I picked this up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I am definitely not a Liberal, but so many of the foundations of modern representative democracy, and liberal political institutions, rights and freedoms were laid down by Liberals from the 17th century Whigs onward, that this book is of immense value for the historic light it sheds on the origins of modern political thought. It is also acutely relevant, for many of the issues the great liberal philosophers, thinkers and ideologues argued over, debated and discussed in the pieces collected in it are still being fought over today. These are issues like the freedom, religious liberty and equality, democracy, anti-militarism and opposition to the armaments industry, imperialism versus anti-imperialism, devolution and home rule, laissez-faire and state intervention, and the amelioration of poverty.

Alan Bullock is an historian best known for his biography of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, which remains the classic work on the Nazi dictator. In the 1990s he produced another book which compared Hitler’s life to that of his contemporary Soviet dictator and ultimate nemesis, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The book has an introduction, tracing the development of Liberalism from its origins to the 1930s, when the authors consider that the Liberal party ceased to be an effective force in British politics. This discusses the major issues and events, with which Whig and Liberal politicians and thinkers were forced to grapple, and which in turn shaped the party and its evolving intellectual tradition.

The main part of the book consists of the major historical speeches and writings, which are treated in sections according to theme and period. These comprise

Part. Fox and the Whig Tradition

1. Civil Liberties.

Two speeches by Charles James Fox in parliament, from 1792 and 1794;
Parliamentary speech by R.B. Sheridan, 1810.
Parliamentary speech by Earl Grey, 1819.
Lord John Russell, An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 1821.
Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1828.

2. Opposition to the War against Revolutionary France

Speeches by Charles James Fox, from 1793, 1794 and 1800.

3. Foreign Policy and the Struggle for Freedom Abroad

Earl Grey, parliamentary speech, 1821;
Marquis of Lansdowne, parliamentary speech, 1821.
Extracts from Byron’s poems Sonnet on Chillon, 1816, Childe Harold, Canto IV, 1817, and Marino Faliero, 1821.

4. Parliamentary Reform

Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1822.
Lord Melbourne, parliamentary speech, 1831.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1831.

Part II. The Benthamites and the Political Economists, 1776-1830.

1. Individualism and Laissez-faire

Two extracts from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy, 1798.

2. Natural Laws and the Impossibility of Interference

T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population, 1798.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1819.

3. Free Trade

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations,
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy,
Petition of the London Merchants, 1820.

4. Colonies

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

5. Reform

Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, 1817.
David Ricardo, Observations on Parliamentary Reform, 1824.
Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code, 1830.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.

Part III. The Age of Cobden and Bright.

1. Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Petition of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to the House of Commons, 20 December 1838.
Richard Cobden, two speeches in London, 1844.
Cobden, speech in Manchester, 1846,
Lord John Russell, Letter to the Electors of the City of London (The ‘Edinburgh Letter’) 1845.

2. Laissez-Faire

Richard Cobden, Russia, 1836.
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1846.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1846.
Joseph Hume, parliamentary speech, 1847.
John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848.

Education

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech 1847.
John Bright, parliamentary speech 1847.

4. Religious Liberty

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833.
John Bright, two parliamentary speeches, 1851 and 1853.

5. Foreign Policy

Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1849;
Viscount Palmerston, speech at Tiverton, 1847;
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1850; speech at Birmingham, 1858; speech in Glasgow, 1858;
John Bright, letter to Absalom Watkins, 1854;
W.E. Gladstone, parliamentary speech, 1857;

6. India and Ireland

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833;
John Bright, four speeches in parliament, 1848, 1849,1858, 1859;
Richard Cobden, speech at Rochdale, 1863.

Part IV. The Age of Gladstone

1. The Philosophy of Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859;
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861;
Lord Acton, A Review of Goldwin smith’s ‘Irish History’, 1862;
Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
Lord Acton, A Review of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Democracy in Europe’, 1878.
Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887.
Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 1881;
John Morley, On Compromise, 1874.

2. Parliamentary Reform

Richard Cobden, two speeches at Rochdale, 1859 and 1863;
John Bright, speech at Rochdale, 1863; speech at Birmingham, 1865; speech at Glasgow, 1866; speech at London, 1866;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Chester, 1865; speech at Manchester, 1865; parliamentary speech, 1866;

3. Foreign Policy

W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1877 and 1878; speech at Dalkeith, 1879; speech at Penicuik, 1880, speech at Loanhead, 1880; article in The Nineteenth Century, 1878.

4. Ireland

John Bright, speech at Dublin, 1866 and parliamentary speech, 1868.
W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1886 and 1888.

Part V. The New Liberalism

1. The Philosophy of State Interference

T.H. Green, Liberal Legislation or Freedom of Contract, 1881;
Herbert Spencer, The Coming Slavery, 1884;
D.G. Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, 1891;
J.A. Hobson, The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;

2. The Extension of Democracy

Herbert Samuel, Liberalism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Plymouth, 1907;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Newcastle, 1909;
H.H. Asquith, speech at the Albert Hall, 1909.
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

3. Social Reform

Joseph Chamberlain, speech at Hull, 1885, and Warrington, 1885;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Saltney, 1889;
Lord Rosebery, speech at Chesterfield, 1901;
Winston S. Churchill, speech at Glasgow, 1906;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Swansea, 1908;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 8th July 1912;

4. The Government and the National Economy

H.H. Asquith, speech at Cinderford, 1903;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Bolton, 1903;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Bedford, 1913, and speech at Middlesbrough, 1913;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

5. Imperialism and the Boer War

Sir William Harcourt, speech in West Monmouthshire, 1899;
J.L. Hammond, ‘Colonial and Foreign Policy’ in Liberalism and the Empire, 1900;
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Stirling, 1901.

6. Armaments

Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at London, 1905;
William Byles, parliamentary speech, 1907;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches from 1909 and 1911;
Sir J. Brunner, speech at the 35th Annual Meeting of the National Liberal Federation, 1913.

7. Foreign Policy

House of Commons debate 22nd July 1909, featuring J.M. Robertson and Arthur Ponsonby;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches, 1911 and 1914;
House of Commons debate, 14th December 1911, featuring Josiah Wedgwood and J.G. Swift MacNeill;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 1 August 1914;

Part VI. Liberalism after 1918

1. The End of Laissez-faire

J.M. Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926;
Britain’s Industrial Future, the Report of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, 1928;
J.M. Keynes and H.D. Henderson, Can Lloyd George Do It? 1929,
Sir William Beveridge, Full Employment in a Free Society, 1944.

2. The League and the Peace

Viscount Grey of Fallodon, The League of Nations, 1918;
Gilbert Murray, The League of Nations and the Democratic Idea, 1918;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 24th June 1919;
J.M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919;
D. Lloyd George, speech at London, 1927;
Philip Kerr, The Outlawry of War, paper read to the R.I.I.A., 13 November 1928;
The Liberal Way, A survey of Liberal policy, published by the National Liberal Federation, 1934.

Epilogue

J.M. Keynes, Am I a Liberal? Address to the Liberal summer school at Cambridge, 1925.

In their conclusion, Bullock and Shock state that Liberal ideology is incoherent – a jumble – unless seen as an historical development, and that the Liberal party itself lasted only about seventy years from the time Gladstone joined Palmerstone’s government in 1859 to 1931, after which it was represented only by a handful of members in parliament. The Liberal tradition, by contrast, has been taken over by all political parties, is embodied in the Constitution, and has profoundly affected education – especially in the universities, the law, and the philosophy of government in the civil service. It has also inspired the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth. It has also profoundly affected the British character at the instinctive level, which has been given expression in the notion of ‘fair play’.

They also write about the immense importance in the Liberal tradition of freedom, and principle. They write

In the pages which follow two ideas recur again and again. The first is a belief in the value of freedom, freedom of the individual, freedom of minorities, freedom of peoples. The scope of freedom has required continual and sometimes drastic re-defining, as in the abandonment of laissez-faire or in the extension of self-government to the peoples of Asia and Africa. But each re-definition has represented a deepening and strengthening, not an attenuation, of the original faith in freedom.

The second is the belief that principle ought to count far more than power or expediency, that moral issues cannot be excluded from politics. Liberal attempts to translate moral principles into political action have rarely been successful and neglect of the factor of power is one of the most obvious criticisms of Liberal thinking about politics, especially international relations. But neglect of the factor of conscience, which is a much more likely error, is equally disastrous in the long run. The historical role of Liberalism in British history has been to prevent this, and again and again to modify policies and the exercise of power by protests in the name of conscience. (p. liv).

They finish with

We end it by pointing to the belief in freedom and the belief in conscience as the twin foundations of Liberal philosophy and the element of continuity in its historical development. Politics can never be conducted by the light of these two principles alone, but without them human society is reduced to servitude and the naked rule of force. This is the truth which the Liberal tradition has maintained from Fox to Keynes – and which still needs to be maintained in our own time. (pp. liv-lv).

It should be said that the participation of the Lib Dems was all too clearly a rejection of any enlightened concern for principle and conscience, as this was jettisoned by Clegg in order to join a highly illiberal parliament, which passed, and is still passing under its Conservative successor, Theresa May, legislation which is deliberately aimed at destroying the lives and livelihood of the very poorest in society – the working class, the disabled and the unemployed, and destroying the very foundations of British constitutional freedom in the creation of a network of universal surveillance and secret courts.

These alone are what makes the book’s contents so relevant, if only to remind us of the intense relevance of the very institutions that are under attack from today’s vile and corrupt Tory party.

Vox Political on the Smearing of Shami Chakrabarti

September 6, 2016

Mike a few days ago published a piece criticising the allegations of corruption against civil liberties activist, Shami Chakrabarti, for accepting the nomination of a life peerage by Jeremy Corbyn. Ms Chakrabarti was called in by the Labour leader to investigate the claims of institutional racism and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Chakrabarti did, and found that the party was no more racist or anti-Semitic than the others, and that the allegations were largely unfounded. She did make a few recommendations to prevent racist incidents occurring, and deal better with complaints about them when they arose.

This, however, appears to have been too much for the Conservatives and the Blairites, who seem to be desperate for there to have been anti-Semitism and racism bedevilling the party. And so they’ve started accusing Chakrabarti of corruption. Mike reported how this has been going on for over a month, and that Ms Chakrabarti was forced to deny the allegation against her and Corbyn on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

He also points out, using a meme he found on-line, the double standard involved. One of those David Cameron recommended for a peerage is his wife’s hair-stylist. Several others have been Tory donors. But there’s been hardly a peep about that from the largely supine right-wing press. That’s clear corruption, of the kind Private Eye used to expose twenty or so years ago. And one of the most flagrant abusers of the honours system was Tony Blair. And if we’re on the subject of genuinely morally corrupt lawyers, much could be said about Cherie. She and her law firm, Matrix Chambers, claimed to be human rights lawyers, but she ended up defending some of the nastiest, most brutal tyrants and exploitative companies. The Blairites of Progress have no problem with her, but the spectacle of a genuine and respected human rights lawyer getting a reward has sent them into a fury.

This is really disgusting, and shows how low the right-wing media and the Blairites will stoop in their determination to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters and allies.

Graphic of Angela Eagle’s Right-Wing Voting Record

July 17, 2016

Mike last week posted a graphic from Ian Sinclair of the Open Democracy website on Angela Eagle’s voting record in a post about how the Blairite challenge to Corbyn’s leadership was wrecking Labour’s electoral chances against the Tories. His article’s at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/11/mps-rebellion-could-ruin-labour-as-tories-take-advantage/

The graphic about Eagle is also interesting, as it reveals how right-wing and poisonous her policies really are. She’s another Blairite authoritarian, with a hatred of civil liberties, and a hawkish determination to push Britain further into disastrous, bloody, and counterproductive conflicts in the Middle East. Oh yes, and she wishes to protect her former leader, Blair, from investigation and prosecution for his part in starting these wars, that have destroyed so many lives.

Equally telling are her abstentions. She abstained on the debate about workfare, and again on the question of Tory welfare cuts. There should be absolutely no question about which way to vote on either of these issues. They should have been firmly opposed. Workfare is basically a form of neoliberal forced labour, while the welfare cuts are killing people. But they are popular with the ‘movers and shakers’ – the wealthy elite, and the newspaper barons like Murdoch, Dacre and Desmond, as well as whoever’s now running the Groan and the Absurder. Quite apart from capitalism’s bought and paid for apparatchiks in the Beeb and Channel 4.

Here’s the graphic:

160708-Angela-Eagle

Eagle has been claiming that she is a ‘strong Labour woman’. This is bilge. She is doubtless a strong woman, but her voting record shows that there is nothing ‘Labour’ about her except her membership of the party, a party which she is determined to bully and purge until it is as rightwing as she is.

Trump and the Rounding Up of Arabs and Muslims in America after 9/11

February 21, 2016

I’ve been blogging about Trump’s Fascist demands to prevent Muslims entering the US on the grounds that they represent a terrorist threat, simply through the actions of what is a tiny number of extremists. He also wants Muslims already in America to be registered. Along with his comments about building a wall to keep out Mexicans, his organisation’s suspicion of Black workers, and the violence he has encouraged at his rallies against protestors and journalists, it is fair to call Trump what he is: a Fascist. Jewish Americans have been particularly alarmed at his violent xenophobia, and a little while ago there were demonstrations organised by Jews in 17 American cities.

Trumps demands for the exclusion and state surveillance of Muslims can be traced back to Dubya’s attack on civil liberties in the name of preventing terrorist after 9/11. John Kampfner in his his book Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty describes how the American state began rounding up suspicious persons. 80,000 people were rounded up in police dragnets across America. Most of them were Middle Eastern, mostly illegally immigrants working in corner shops, petrol stations and for trucking companies. The authorities also received over 100,000 phone calls and emails tipping them off to the presence of suspect characters. In the event, none of those arrested were charged with terrorism.

Kampfner states that in these cases

The notions of guilt and innocence were discarded. The overriding priority was to prevent, at all costs, the suspect from getting away. If the wrong people were locked up as a consequence, so be it. The notion of pre-emptive justice had been created without going through any democratic or political checks and balances. (p. 235).

He also describes how he met a radio producer, and the problems she had had getting a documentary she was making on the difficulties Arabs and Palestinians were experiencing in America broadcast. She had found several cases where Arabs had been arrested and held by the authorities without charge, and their families not informed where they were. Her editors at the station were sceptical and incredulous, as they didn’t believe this could happen in America. When she showed that it could and was, she was asked to tone it down. The programme was eventually broadcast, but only locally and non nationally. (p. 235-6).

Kampfner also describes discussing the situation with Eric Foner, a writer on the issue of freedom and the long history of the political persecution of minority groups in America. Foner mentioned the parallels between the mass internment of Arabs and that of Japanese-Americans in the Second World War. Foner pointed out that the majority of Americans were still in favour of such clampdowns on personal liberty in emergencies. He describes going to the International Spy Museum in Washington. On the interactive computers placed around the museum was a quiz, which included the question whether the American government had the right to detail indefinitely the enemies of America. Of the 30,000 or so people, who had taken the quiz, 60% were in favour. (p. 241). It’s an anecdote intended to show that in America, attacks on personal freedoms can be popular with a sizable section of the American public.

Trump’s Fascism is therefore tapping into a vein of paranoid xenophobia that has been present in America since or before the War, and which has only increased with the War on Terror. He’s building on the assaults on liberty led by George Dubya. And if he gets in, you can expect these policies to lead to more disappearances of innocent people, held without charge, simply on the grounds of their ethnicity or religion. It’s the ‘Nacht und Nebel’ of the Nazis, shifted from 20th century Germany, to America in the 21st.

The British Intelligence Service’s Plans for a Coup and the Internment of Radicals in the 1970s

February 17, 2016

Earlier this evening I reblogged a piece from Vox Political, where Mike discussed a piece in the Canary about Cameron’s plans to isolate Islamist radicals in a special prison, rather like Guantanamo Bay. Mike raised the obvious and chilling question of whether this would be a concentration camp, especially with the government’s secret courts providing the legal basis for the Nazi-style Nacht und Nebel round-up and imprisonment of radicals.

I believe Mike’s fears are entirely justified. In the mid-1970s there were sections of the establishment that openly advocated a coup against the-then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. They’re discussed by the journalist and frequent guest on the News Quiz, Francis Wheen in his book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s. They’re also discussed, along with other intrigues and campaigns by MI5 and MI6 against the Labour left in ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour: A Manifesto for the Nineties. He writes

As the economy disintegrated under Wilson’s mismanagement, there began to be talk of the need for a change of government or even a coalition of the great and the good drawn from the British establishment. In the summer of 1967, the CIA, the FBI, MI5, MI6, and the Australian and New Zealand security services met in secret in Melbourne, Australia. They were addressed by Golitsin about his Wilson allegations and Wright presented information which he claimed raised the question of the loyalty of Willi Brandt. This meeting was followed by a visit to MI5 by Angleton who claimed to have confirmation from another source, whom he claimed could not be named, that Wilson was indeed a Soviet agent.

Matters began to hot up when the press baron Cecil King, a long-standing MI5 agent, began to discuss the need for a coup against Wilson. He informed Peter Wright that the Mirror would publish any damaging anti-Wilson leaks that MI5 wanted aired, and at a meeting with Lord Mountbatten and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Solly Zuckerman, King urged Mountbatten to become the leader of a government of National Salvation. Zukerman pointed out that this was treason and left the meeting which came to nothing due to Mountbatten’s reluctance to act. (P. 53).

He also states that one army intelligence officer states that the security services had also convened meetings to determine the location of a possible internment camp for radicals in the Shetland Islands. One of those involved in this process was George Young, who had been the deputy head of MI6. ‘Red’ Ken quotes this passage from Young’s Subversion and the British Riposte, published in 1984:

(A) security counter-action need cover no more than 5,000 persons, including some 40 MPs, not all of them Labour; several hundred journalists and media employees, plus their supporting academics and clerics; the full-time members and main activists of the Communist party and the Socialist Workers Party; and the directing elements of the 30 or 40 bodies affecting concern and compassion for youth, age, civil liberties, social research and minority grievances. The total internment could easily be accommodated in a lesser ‘Gaelic Archipelago’ off the West Highlands.

Livingstone goes on to state that in the end the talks of coups amounted to nothing through a variety of factors. King lost his place at Mirror newspapers because of his increasingly erratic behaviour, which got worse. In 1974 he gave a speech to a group of officers at Sandhurst, urging them to overthrow Wilson in coup. ‘They thought he was made’, says the Bane of Thatcher. (p.54)

He also states that MI5 was also behind smears that Ted Heath was gay. Apparently the Tory MP Captain Henry Kerby was used to spread the rumour that the Tory Prime Minister was gay and had had an affair with a Swedish diplomat. Says Ken ‘I suspect that for some in MI5 being a Swedish diplomat and homosexuality were virtually synonymous anyway.’

Livingstone says that this sound like something from one of Frederick Forsythe’s grotty novels, but it’s all true and deadly serious. I’m sure he’s right. And the same kind of rumour mongering started again in the 1990s about the late former Labour leader, Michael Foot. It was Golitsin again. According to the defector, Foot was a KGB spy codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. Really. And the conduit for the smear, which cost Murdoch a liberal actions, was the Times under its editor David Leppard.

You’d like to think that MI5 and MI6 had changed since the days of Thatcher. David Cameron, however, is despite all his verbiage about ‘One Nation’ Toryism, a Far Right authoritarian. I simply don’t think you can discount the idea that he would start rounding people up as subversives, not just Muslim radicals, but anyone, anyone at all, if he could get away with it. And his decision to start setting up special jails of Islamists seems to confirm it.

Cameron’s is a government of ‘filofascisti’. It’s the terms the Italians used to describe the ’80s generation of Yuppie Fascists. Rather than appear in Blackshirts and jackboots, they all adopted sharp business suits, and posed for the cameras like the models in GQ adverts for suits. The desire to imprison, beat, and attack immigrants, trade unionists, Socialists, Communists and others remained. Just as it is with Cameron and his pack of thugs.

Chris Hedges on Erosion of Civil Liberties, Journalism, the Military-Industrial Complex and the American Empire

January 18, 2016

On Saturday I posted up a piece from The Empire Files about the long history of oppression, exploitation and brutality in Saudi Arabia. This is another video from the Files. Here the presenter, Abby Martin, talks to the veteran journalist Chris Hedges about the Empire and its machine of domination, including his experiences as a reporter in Iraq and El Salvador. Hedges is a Socialist, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the host of Days of Revolt on TeleSur English.

The programme begins with a discussion of how the American state cracked down on anti-War agitators, such as the Socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Berkman and others for their opposition to World War I. This conflict saw the beginnings of the military-corporatist machine and the rise of modern state propaganda, pioneered by the Creel Committee and the use of the Sedition Act to crush dissent and peace protests.

After the War, the object of hatred turned from ‘the Hun’ to Communism and what has been described as ‘the psychosis of war’. This psychosis became institutionalised as total war after World War II. After World War I, the factories, that had turned to munitions production, changed back to their peace-time produces. This did not occur after the Second World War. The factories simply carried on producing arms, supported by a government financial network. This created the modern fusion of military and corporatist power.

Hedges and Martin also explore the way the American Empire differs from other, previous imperia. Hedges states that America, unlike other empires, colonised itself. The US army, for example, acted on behalf of the mining corporations, the loggers and so on during the expansion of the American West and the genocide of the Native Americans. After the colonisation of America was complete, America expanded overseas with the annexation of the Philippines and gun boat diplomacy in the Caribbean. Previous empires, like the British, occupied the countries they conquered. American doesn’t. Instead, America trains willing indigenous elites to act on its behalf. These included dictators like Mobutu in Zaire, Samosa in El Salvador and the Shah of Iran. They also overthrow foreign rulers, who threaten American corporate interests. Allende in Chile was overthrown because he threatened to nationalise the copper industry. Arbenz was ousted in Guatemala, because he was going to nationalise the property of United Fruit. America does not directly occupy these countries, but trains their indigenous rulers troops and supplies them with arms to govern for them.

The 1979 victory of Sandinistas in Nicaragua provoked a strong response from America, as they showed that they were not going to protect American corporate interests. And so Reagan pumped massive resources into the resistance movement and in supporting the dictator in El Salvador. The Salvadorean regime were given a fleet of 70 Huey helicopter gunships. They also recruited ‘black’ armies, that did not officially existed, using troops from outside the country. And CIA operatives were also brought in to aid the operations against the Salvadorean rebels. Half the population of El Salvador were landless peasants, while the land was owned by only ten families. The mass of the population were kept in dire poverty Hedges describes as worse than serfdom. When they tried to protest, or resist by forming labour unions and other organisations, they were gunned down in the street. At one point the death squads were killing a thousand people a month.

When America invaded Iraq, the same people, who organised the death squads in Latin America were brought in and used in the same strategy there. One of the officers, who was part of the American forces in the Iraq, had organised and led the death squads in El Salvador. In Iraq he created the Shi’a death squads to murder and terrorise the Sunni Muslims. The result of this was the creation of ISIS.

Hedges also describes the difficulties journalists faced reporting these facts from Iraq. Those reporters, who did cover these abuses were under constant attack from the American government, and particularly the state department. They were vilified as ‘fifth columnists’ and collaborators with America’s enemies. They also faced opposition from their own Washington bureaux. They could also be targeted for execution. In El Salvador, 22 journalists were killed during the war. He also states that the press themselves were quite willing to be used to support the American state’s propaganda in El Salvador. In the First Gulf War, the press was subject to very harsh restrictions. Dick Cheney wanted to deport Hedges, but was unable to find him. Very few war reporters – only 10 – 15% – actually go anywhere near the war. Instead, they stayed away from the front to listen to Cheney and the generals give lectures. The pool system of trustworthy reporters used to control the press in Iraq was actually administered by the journalists themselves. Hedges refers to these journalists as ‘Judenraten’, the Nazi term for the councils the Nazis set up in Jewish communities to administer them, and which chose the members of the population, who were to be sent to the gas chambers. And those journalists, who did join the troops, received great rewards for producing stories about how heroic the soldiers were. For his efforts in covering the dark side of the Iraq War, Hedges was booed off the stage when he gave a speech at Rockford College. The New York Times, for which he was writing, even accused him of damaging their reputation for impartiality. Its columnists were selected by the establishment to report the war as they wanted it. He states that it destroyed his career, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not spoken out. He stated he knew people, who had been killed, and describes the destruction of the country. 1 million people have been killed, 4 million displaced; and it has been irreparably destroyed as a unified nation state. It had some of the most modern infrastructure in the Middle East. This has also been destroyed.

Hedges makes it clear that the war is about natural resources, despite the verbiage about bringing democracy. He also states that you can’t be a Socialist without being an anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. It’s important to break the back of the Empire, because the methods it uses to control the subject peoples are then brought back into the heartland to use against the American people. The result of this is that Americans are under greater surveillance, the police has been militarised, civil liberties eroded and removed and so on. All of which could be seen from where they talking in Baltimore. It was the classic disease of empire, which the Greek historian Thucydides had documented when he examined the way ancient Athens similarly destroyed its democracy when it began its imperialist expansion.

Hedges and Martin criticise Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Sanders, they state, has not tried to tackle the military-industrial complex. Part of this is that the defence industry and its contractors are able to provide jobs to workers. Hedges quotes one writer as describing the emergence of the military-industrial complex during the Second World War as ‘a coup d’├ętat in slow motion’. At the moment defence officially accounts for 52% of American state expenditure, but this is almost certainly far too low. It doesn’t count veteran affairs, the nuclear arsenal or research and development. The real figure is probably around $1.6 trillion. He states that you can’t really talk about reform when so much is spent on the military. Martin Luther King mentioned this, and that was the moment when, as far as the news was concerned, he was obsolete. It was also the moment Lyndon B. Johnson removed FBI protection, leaving him exposed to assassination. Hedges quotes Engels to the point that it really is a case of ‘barbarism or Socialism’. The world is facing the crisis of climate change, while America is facing the severe problems all empires ultimately face of expanding beyond their ability to maintain themselves. This was the cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Martin and Hedges also discuss the potential for revolution in America. Hedges states that when the system becomes so corrupt, that the elites only rule for themselves, there is always blowback. This can take malign forms, such as the Nazis in Germany. In America, blowback came in the form of FDR. He told the elites that either they gave up some of their power, there would be a revolution. This was when America still had the Communist and Progressive Parties. He states that America is now faced with the problem of challenging the dominant ideology, which has become so deeply ingrained. He describes going through the cemeteries in the American South with a civil rights lawyer. And in all of them there were row upon row of Confederate flags. The lawyer informed him that these had all gone up in the past ten years. Hedges states that what is happening in America is the same that happened in Yugoslavia just before it broke up. When people are made so desperate, they retreat into myth. Hedges finds the current rhetoric against Muslims particularly frightening, as it follows the pattern of violence he found in the wars he covered. Minority groups are first subject to verbal attack, followed by real, physical violence. He describes the American state as hostage to corporate and military power. This has become sacralised in the Christian religion, and part of the American gun cult. It will ignite into Fascism. It’s a symptom of a declining civilisation, the only solution for which is to re-integrate people into the economic system.

It’s a deep discussion, offering profound insights into the emergence of America as the modern imperial power, and the role played in this expansion by the corporate and military interests for whom the American state acts. This military-industrial complex dominates an empire abroad, and is stripping liberties and rights from its own people. The result is violent extremism abroad and at home, as alienated right-wing Americans become even more radicalised.