Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression’

Trump and Putin Revive Nuclear Arms Race

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike put up another piece commenting on statements by the American president-elect and Vladimir Putin that they want to strengthen their countries’ nuclear arsenals. Trump had made a tweet on Thursday saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Trump did so the same day that Putin issued his own statement, declaring that “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”

Mike makes the point that the threat of nuclear Armageddon will not make the world more secure. It will not make rogue states like North Korea abandon their nuclear programmes. Instead, Mike urged us to listen to George Takei, whose family personally experienced the horror of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War II.

Star Trek’s Mr Sulu tweeted “Trump wants to expand our nuclear arsenal. I think of my aunt and baby cousin, found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima. These weapons must go.”

Absolutely. I can remember the very large, and vocal demonstrations against nuclear weapons in Japan during the new Cold War of the 1980s. The Japanese had every good reason to demand the reduction and abandonment of the world’s nuclear arsenals: their country had experienced the terrible carnage produced by these horrific weapons.

Mike also reports that back in May, Trump also stated that he would support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons for their own protection.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/23/why-are-trump-and-putin-suddenly-keen-to-revive-the-cold-war/

Mike’s also reported that Trump has followed up his idiotic tweet by making his intentions clear in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, one of the presenters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme. He said, ‘Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all’.

Mike makes the point that his comments risk needlessly inflaming tensions with Russia, pointing out that what is currently repeated in the western media about eastern Europe and the Middle East is propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion. He also argues that Putin could adopt the opposite approach, and concentrate on saving precious money and resources through the same policy, that has been considered by Labour Jeremy Corbyn. This means killing or otherwise neutralising terrorists’ leaders through surgical strikes, leaving them without effective military direction.

He also points out that technological weapons are also increasingly susceptible to infiltration and sabotage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/24/while-trump-spends-all-his-money-on-nuclear-weapons-what-will-the-russians-do/

Trump’s determination to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal is bizarre, given his previous statements during his presidential campaign in which he deliberately gave the impression that he would be scaling down America’s military intervention around the globe. However, on examination this does seem very much in line with Trump’s determination to go back on every single one of his election promises, with the exception of repealing Obamacare.

Remember the noise he was making about going to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and would stop the corporate domination and corruption of Congress? That’s gone. After attacking Hillary for being a fully paid-up stooge for Wall Street, Trump has himself gone and appointed Wall Street bankers – including one from Goldman Sachs – to his cabinet. In fact, if anything, he’s increased the amount of corporate corruption. He’s allowed his daughter, Ivanka, to stay with him during negotiations with heads of government in either Japan or China, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump is also a businesswoman, who could use the information from these interviews to gain a clear economic advantage. And his sons have been raising money for their father by selling tickets to the extremely and not-quite-so filthy rich for them to attend dinners with him and go on hunting trips. All Trump’s talk about tackling corporate power has been a lie. Instead, it’s very much business as usual.

And it appears to be very much the same here. Counterpunch has published several articles over the past couple of months discussing how Barack Obama has been talking to senior military staff in Washington. He has already started to expand America’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He has also considered the possible use of low-megaton ‘battle field’ nukes in a limited nuclear war in Europe. The American comedian Jimmy Dore has several times ripped into Obama on his internet show, bitterly attacking the false image of the soon to be ex-president as some kind of dove and peacemaker. Far from stopping wars, Obama has carried on George Dubya’s brutal military policies in the Middle East, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Libya and Somalia. And so this new policy, announced by Trump, really isn’t new at all. It is, as Max Headroom used to say, merely ‘more… of the same’. The difference here is that Max was a fictional character with a satirical edge talking about pop music. The pilot for his series, 20 Minutes into the Future, showed a decaying Britain with massive poverty and homelessness, dominated by ruthless and unscrupulous media corporations. It’s a dystopian vision that is still very relevant today, even if the human brain is far too complicated to be successfully mapped and modelled electronically to produce an AI like Max.

As for the reason behind this dangerous policy, Counterpunch also published a piece describing Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s role in the world. She seemed to be intent on expanding America’s military power to the utmost. She and the rest of the hawks talked about ‘full spectrum domination’, which means that America is the superior, dominant military superpower with the ability to bomb everyone else back into submission. At the same time, her domestic policies were aimed at keeping the working class as poor and as desperate as possible, so that she could sell American products cheaply to the emerging east Asian market.

It’s also been argued that America spends so much on the military because it is the only way that the American state can stimulate the country’s economy. Leftwing commenters and political analysts have argued that the experience of the Second World War after the Great Depression taught the American industrial and political class that America needed state intervention to create prosperity. This is, however, the Keynsian economic position, which is vehemently rejected by the Republicans and Libertarians as ‘socialism’ or even ‘Communism’. The only way the American state can effectively intervene in the American economy in a manner that is ideologically acceptable, is by doing what the Nazis and Fascists did in Germany and Italy, and invest massively in a re-armament programme. And like the Fascist states, the state has to use its armed forces to maintain its investments and public support for the rearmament programme. This was part of the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

As for Trump’s statement that he is prepared to allow South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, this is grossly irresponsible. Especially in the case of Saudi Arabia. In the case of Japan, it unacceptable for the same reason that the country has difficulty launching its own spacecraft. In the 1980s Japan developed its own rocket launcher to carry its satellites and probes into space. One of these probes was amongst the small flotilla of spacecraft that met Halley’s Comet in 1986. From what I’ve read, the country has only used its launcher a few times because of fears that it would be taken as a missile attack by the Chinese. The same would be true of South Korea. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts have argued very strongly against threatening China, as they respond by passing on nuclear technology and armaments to other nations, such as Pakistan.

And I cannot imagine anything more stupid, more calculated to result a nuclear holocaust, than giving atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia. This is a militant theocracy that has sponsored horrific terror campaigns throughout the Middle East and against America itself. Elements within the Saudi aristocracy and political elite, including its intelligence minister and possibly, if I remember correctly, the current king, sponsored al-Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorist organisations like them, who use suicide bombers and deliberately target civilians, simply cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is what would happen if Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire them.

Trump’s renewal of the nuclear arms race is therefore simply a continuation of Bush’s, Obama’s and Hillary’s arms policies. And it’s insane. During the Cold War of the last century, there were at least three instances where NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were on the edge of full-scale nuclear war. We escaped some of these by the skin of our teeth. This time, we may not be so lucky.

Two Pieces by American Socialist and Union Leader, Eugene V. Debs

September 10, 2016

Eugene V. Debs was one of the great leaders of the working class movement in America, a radical trade unionist and socialist. I found these two pieces, Why You should Vote for Socialism, and Industrial and Social Democracy, on YouTube. In them, Debs argues that only socialism can save American workers from the grinding poverty, brutality and exploitation of modern capitalist production, and attacking progressives, Democrats and Republicans as providing no solutions for working Americans. The tracts were written in the first years of 20th century, before FDR’s New Deal gave Americans some limited welfare benefits, and his make work policies boosted employment during the Depression. The Democrat party also did much to introduce some welfare provision in America in the late 1960s, with the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid by Lyndon Johnson. His comments nevertheless have renewed significance with Hillary Clinton’s rejection of anything even remotely progressive or ‘left-wing’ in order to pursue the Corporatist Republican vote.

And the speeches also apply over this side of the Atlantic, where the working and lower middle classes are being forced into poverty through zero-hours contracts, benefit cuts and attacks on workers’ rights. Quite apart from a highly unfair tax structure that seeks to reward the very rich and shift the tax burden to the poor.

Why You Should Vote for Socialism

Industrial and Social Democracy

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 3

May 28, 2016

Another audience member asks why it is that so many Palestinians survived in Israel, when the Israeli government was trying to cleans them. Finkelstein replies that in some areas, like Hebron, the Arab population survived because the Israelis needed them as workers. Galilee was mostly Christian, and the Arabs survived there because the Israelis were scared of offending the Vatican. And incidentally, their survival is further evidence that the cleansing of the Palestinians was not accidental, but was planned, as it wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. And some Palestinians survived by accident and sheer good fortune, like the Jews who survived the Holocaust.

Finkelstein also tackles the Holocaust industry, in response to another question from the audience. He is particularly incensed by this, as the descendant of Holocaust survivors himself. His father survived Auschwitz, while his mother survived that horrors of a succession of concentration and force labour camps. He makes the point that what made the systematic Nazi murder of European Jewry most shocking is its sheer efficiency. Of all the millions of Jews in eastern Europe, on 100,000 still survived by the end of the War. They did so only through sheer luck. And now, when the industry started in the 1990s, there must be even less, as many have died from old age. So the figures the Holocaust Industry advances for those, who have survived and need to be compensated are grossly inflated. He describes this distortion as a form of Holocaust denial. If so many people survived the Holocaust, then it means that the Nazis weren’t as good at killing people as was previously believed. He quotes his mother as asking, ‘Who did Adolf kill, if all these people have survived?’ The figures for the numbers of survivors are wrong, as abused by the Holocaust industry.

He is also less than impressed by the claims for vast wealth that the industry makes regarding European Jews murdered by the Nazis. He points out that European Jews were largely poor, living in shtetls – Jewish settlements. He says it’s why Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof sings, ‘If I were a rich man’. Because obviously, he isn’t. Finkelstein also makes the point that there were even fewer rich Jews around because of the Depression, which brought the Nazis to power. In depressions, rich people lose their money. He also makes the point that those Jews, who did have money, got out. The Rothschilds, for example, had branches of their family and money in a number of countries. As the Nazis invaded one country, they moved their money to another, and their relatives followed their familial obligations and bought their brothers and sisters out.

But now, according to the Holocaust industry, not only did many more Jews survive, but they all had Swiss bank accounts and private art collections. He makes the point that Swiss bank accounts are incredibly difficult to come by. He states that his brother’s a millionaire, and he doesn’t have a Swiss bank account. And neither do the people in his audience. And the figures for the numbers of surviving Jews, who had Swiss bank accounts, that the Holocaust industry have presented have been shown to be notoriously inflated.

On the subject of what can be done to support the Palestinians, he makes the point that no matter how deeply you believe in the Bible, it should still shock you that people are losing their homes. Israel is the only country that uses house demolition as a judicial punishment. He gives the example of one of his Palestinian friends, who was denied permission to build his house where he wanted to, and so has built it further away. But nevertheless, his house is illegal and it can be demolished at any time. Finkelstein points out that the Palestinians are poor. They don’t have stocks and bonds, and so everything they have is invested in their houses. He states that it is no good trying to win the settlers over, as ‘they’re like something from a science fiction story.’ He compares trying to do something about them with the question Trotsky was once asked about what to do about Fascists. ‘Acquaint them with the pavement’, was the dissident Marxist’s reply.

Finkelstein goes on to state that winning people over to supporting the Palestinians should be a simple case of vanquishing an enemy. He goes on to quote another writer that everyone should have a place at the table of victory.

There is no doubt that Finkelstein has very controversial views, especially on the Holocaust industry. He describes that as double shakedown. Nations are being blackmailed by the industry for money that they don’t actually owe, while the real survivors of the death camps don’t see a nickel or penny. This isn’t just his own opinion. He quotes another Jewish author, who states that its first time Jews have scammed people like this.

Despite the controversial nature of his views, it’s very clear that he has a very strong case against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and that his revulsion is also shared by very many Jewish Americans, who are likely to be the majority as time goes on. The generous and vociferous support AIPAC gives to Israel belies the fact that for many American Jews, the oppression of the Palestinians is very much a case of ‘Not in my name’.

As for the two Palestinians, who spoke up, I understand that they’re also factually correct. In the 19th century many liberal Jewish historians wrote books pointing out that Jews were treated better under Islam than they were in Christendom. As for Arabs and Jews living peacefully in Palestine, this also is true. In the 1960s the Israeli government expelled tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians as they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs. Moreover, Albert Hourani, in his book The Modern Middle East, in the chapter on Israel points out that during Muslim rule, Christian churches were regarded as mawsin by Muslims – ‘sacred’, ‘inviolable’. If you read the ethnographic literature on the modern Middle East, you do find accounts of friendship between Muslims and Jews, relationships which were disrupted through the great power occupations by France and Britain in the 1920s. Israel’s continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians is one legacy of this.

Here’s the video:

John Steinbeck on the Kindness of the Poor

February 1, 2016

I found this quote from John Steinbeck over on the Tumblr site 1000 Natural Shocks. (Over 18s only, I’m afraid). It’s a great quote, from one of the true titan of modern American literature.

Steinbeck Poor Help

It isn’t invariably true, but traditionally the poor have been more sympathetic to those in need, and had greater self-help networks in the form of friends and neighbours, who were prepared to help out, than the rich. One of my aunts grew up during the Great Depression. Her father was a staunch socialist of very left-wing views, who did take tramps back home to share a meal with himself and his family. I’ve heard of others doing the same as well.

Even now, findings indicate that the poor are more likely to give a greater part of their income to charity than the rich. It’s possibly one of the reasons, although it’s rarely mentioned or discussed, there are many victims of good, bourgeois, upper middle class homes who rebel and try to be working class. And its one of the reasons that the long, Neoliberal campaign to smash working class pride and communities is so despicable.

Tax Credits and Debt Collection Agencies: Peachy’s Comment

May 31, 2014

In my last post, I put up Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of her problems with the authorities claiming that she had been overpaid tax credits on Mike’s piece on this problem over at Vox Political. The Coalition has passed legislation providing for the use of debt collection agencies against those the bureaucrats at Whitehall have deemed to have been overpaid them. The original legislation regarding overpaid tax credits provided for a buffer to give claimants the benefit of the doubt and so allow for the possibility that calculations they had been overpaid may in fact be mistaken. This leeway has been scaled back, according to Mike, to £5,000, making many more people vulnerable to claims and mistakes by the Inland Revenue.

It has seemed to very many of the commenters on Mike’s blog that this was another attempt by the government to exploit the poor, and also to deter them from claiming benefit by creating the fear of the official persecution that would ensue if they did so, and were then pursued by the authorities for debt. As well as Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of persecution by the authorities, another commenter, Peachy, has also posted a comment I feel is worth repeating here. Not only do they give their personal experience, but they also cite history and literature – Frank McCourt’s critically praised Angela’s Ashes– to show how the fear of debt has been used to keep the poor from claiming benefits that would raise them out of poverty. She writes

Creating the fear of claiming a benefit: I remember discussing that problem at college, and how it led to atrocious suffering during the American Depression of the first part of the 20th century, and how resolving that was one of the top things FDR had to address. I also remember reading about it in Angela’s Ashes, and how it encouraged families into extreme deprivation that was harmful to their very life chances.

Increasingly I am suspicious: the people most at risk of falling into this trap are the self employed, whose wages are paid not by annual agreement, but by how many calls they get offering work. I have some experience of this with my husband, and how those already established in a field view the newcomers (even those completely out of their area), as infringing on their basic right to own an entire market and speciality. Given that both Tories and UKIP are the parties of this attitude, it seems logical that there are links in this policy.

Pull up the ladder boys: make the rich secure and the poor poorer.

(It’s also irrefutable proof that there is no intention to promote work in reality, as I well remember having to refuse overtime I would have liked in the fear it would cause a tax credit overpayment).

It’s another example of the Tory and Tory Democrat’s attempts to keep the working and lower middle classes in their place. The time is long overdue that this was stopped, and the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators kicked out.

Britain Becomes South Africa: Primary Teachers Bring Food for Starving Pupils

March 6, 2014

Monica Caro Foodbank

Monica Caro, Campaigner against the government’s benefit cuts, outside the Royal Free Hospital in Camden

A few years ago I used to work with an academic, who was very involved in civil rights work to improve conditions for the Black community. He later moved with his family to the new, post-Apartheid South Africa. Talking to him later, I found that he was appalled at the poverty in his local area, and was trying to find donors, who would provide much-needed equipment for the local school. Apart from the poverty that still afflicts the vast majority of Black South Africans, there area suffered from unemployment. As a result, many of the schoolchildren were coming to school hungry. To combat this, the government had launched the ‘Nelson Mandela Feeding Programme’. This gave schoolchildren a meal when the came to school. My friend told me that it was only a peanut butter sandwich. It’s hardly enough, but it was something. It was often the only meal they would have all day.

South Africa was, of course, notorious for having an immensely wealthy White ruling class, which excluded from power and dignity the Black and ‘Coloured’, or mixed race, population. The townships into which the Black population had been segregated was notorious for poverty and the violence this engenders. It was hoped and expected that with the fall of Apartheid and the ascent of Mandela to the presidency, this would end and Black and White South Africans could finally march together in peace and create a land of prosperity and justice for all.

This has, however, not come about. The ANC has become massively corrupt, so that its members now have enriched themselves and joined the ruling White elite, while conditions for the vast majority of the Black population are as poor than they were previously. They are not, however, alone in their poverty. Since the 1990s there has appeared a class of White poor, similarly trapped in grinding poverty. This was recently shown on British television by a Black British DJ on his programme about South Africa. Ten Years ago this class of poor Whites was the subject of a photographic exhibition, Outlands, put on by a White South African photographer, intended to show an aspect of South Africa, that was unknown in Europe.

Starving Schoolchildren in Britain

Unfortunately, Britain seems to be joining South Africa in the emergence of a corrupt, obscenely wealthy elite, while the mass of its population are depressed into poverty and destitution, a poverty that includes children coming to school hungry.

Yesterday I posted a piece about Monday’s Panorama documentary on the massive expansion of food banks across the UK. One of the commenters to this blog, AmnesiaClinic, remarked that there had been reports in Britain of schoolteachers bringing in food to pupils from homes that had been hit by benefit sanctions. AM-FM has kindly provided the link to one report of this.

It’s an article from the newspaper, Ham&High, published on September 29 2013. Entitled ‘Camden primary teachers bring food into classes to feed hungry pupils hit by benefit cuts’, it reported the finding by Monica Caro, the vice-chair of the Camden Association of Street Properties, that schoolteacher in Camden were bring their own food from home into school to feed primary school pupils aged five to seven, whose parents had been hit by cuts to their benefit. Ms Caro, a volunteer and carer, was working with Petra Dando, a prominent campaigner in the borough against the government’s cuts. She was also shocked that the Royal Free Hospital had also opened a food bank. The hospital had opened a stall asking for residents to donate food.

Ms Caro said: “I thought, ‘Oh my god, if the Royal Free is now making a Comic Relief-style appeal for food then surely the government can hear that things are really desperate.’ I voted for the Conservatives and I wish I never had.

“It’s like living in Robin Hood times, they are taking from the poor to give to the rich.”

The article notes the effect of the government’s benefit cap, which means that no family can earn more than £500 in benefits, as well as the notorious bedroom tax. It stated that hit by the tax could lose between 14 and 25 per cent of their benefits.

The article quoted the comments of local lawyer, Rebekah Carrier, who was working on a number of challenges to the benefit changes in the High Court, who was particularly critical of the benefit cap. She said

“The people most badly affected by the benefit cap are families with three or more children. Often all of their benefits go on paying their rent and they have nothing with which to feed their children.”

Sally Gimson, a local councillor in Highgate, said she had been told by residents that they are skipping meals in order to make ends meet due to the bedroom tax.

It also reported that the Highgate Newtown Community Centre was going to open lunch clubs from the 4th October that year, where people in need could get a cooked meal for £1. The Centre’s director, Andrew Sanalitro, was pessimistic about the effect of the coming winters. He stated “There will be a spike in problems when winter comes because of heating bills. It’s just becoming a lot harder for people to cope.”

The article can be found at: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/camden_primary_teachers_bring_food_into_classes_to_feed_hungry_pupils_hit_by_benefit_cuts_1_2691248.

This is disgusting and shameful. Britain, unlike South Africa, is an immensely wealthy country. I believe it is the seventh biggest economy in the world, but many of its people are facing the return of the grinding poverty our great-grandparents faced in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Malnutrition is also returning, along with diseases like rickets, that were common in the desperation and squalor of Victorian slums. It had been hoped such poverty had been banished through the welfare state, the expanding economy and the increased prosperity of the post-War years. ‘You’ve never had it so good!’, boasted the Conservative Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan. Well, the country as a whole is still immensely wealthy, even if Gideon, sorry, George Osborne has managed to stall the economy with his daft Neo-Liberal policies. Yet poverty is increasing. A quarter of all households have seen a decline in their income and standard of living through inflation and the Coalition’s imposition of wage restraint. And conditions for the very poorest are becoming increasingly desperate. So desperate, that they resemble South Africa, a country struggling to shake off the legacy of Apartheid and afflicted with massive corruption and the emergence of a non-racist, but still brutally exploitative ruling class. Which pretty much describes Britain under the Coalition, although racism still seems prevalent in the Tory party, despite Cameron’s attempts to root it out and protestations to the contrary. Witness the vans the Coalition circulated in Black and Asian areas to encourage illegal immigrants to go home.

Such poverty should have no place in 21st century Britain. It can only get worse, much worse, under the Coalition. If Scotland leaves the UK, taking its North Sea oil with it, then I believe we will see true conditions comparable to the Third World in what’s left of the UK.

The Coalition has to go, and Neo-Liberalism rejected and thrown into the dustbin of daft and exploitative economic policies.