Posts Tagged ‘Imports’

Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Attempts to Reverse Rural Depopulation in Spain

April 23, 2019

According to the new Radio Times for 27th April – 3rd May 2019, Radio 4’s Crossing Continents next Thursday, 2nd May, at 11.00 a.m., looks at a movement to repopulate the Spanish countryside, focusing on a group of single women going to meet single men in a village near Madrid. The paragraph about the programme by David McGillivray on page 128 runs

It’s hard to arrest depopulation once it’s started. But Linda Pressly finds the opposite in Spain. Initiatives to reverse the decline of the Spanish countryside include a movement of young people – they have a name, “neo-rurales” – who have begun to occupy abandoned villages. Pressly also uncovers a charming personal story. Maria Carvajal was one of a bus full of single women who arrived in a village north of Madrid to meet single men unable to find female partners. There was no preview available but I infer that she found love iwth lonely shepherd Antonio Cerrado. A caravan of love indeed.

This could be worth listening to. About a year ago Mike wondered how Labour could win in rural areas, like his part of Wales. It’s a good question, as there’s a real crisis in the countryside with poor locals being priced out of housing by wealthy outsiders, looking for second or retirement homes. Bus services into country areas are being cut, and local shops, like pubs, post offices and general stores, are closing down. There are parts of Europe where the process of depopulation is particularly acute. I was listening to a conversation between male feminist and anti-Fascist Kevin Logan and another anti-Fascist about the rise of the far right. They agreed that one of the stimuli behind the rise of the vile Alternative fuer Deutschland and its horrendous Nazi links was the massive, devastating depopulation of parts of the former East Germany, where whole small towns have been abandoned as their populations have moved west in search of better opportunities.

Rural depopulation also concerned the Nazis, who saw themselves very much as the party of the peasants. They developed a series of policies designed to reverse it, and create a healthy, ideologically and racially pure peasantry, who would feed Germany and provide the basis for its new value system. This involved a banning foreign imports, lowering taxation on agricultural goods and products, loans for people wishing to move to the countryside. They were also concerned to provide them with secure tenure. So secure, in fact, that they wouldn’t be able to escape it, and they and their descendants would be tied to the soil like serfs.

I did think that some of their ideas might be worth discussing, aside from the obviously horrific and unacceptable connections to the Nazi regime itself. However, with all the anti-Semitism smears directed against Corbyn and his supporters, the last thing I wanted to do was give the smear merchants more ammunition. They’d just love it if a left-wing blogger started discussing whether some aspects of Nazi policy was worth implementing, even if it was about farming and absolutely rejected and condemned their horrific, genocidal racism and totalitarianism.

But the Crossing Continents programme may be worth listening to, and provide some ideas on how Britain could also start to regenerate its countryside. Perhaps we need a British version of the neo-rurales?

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Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Financial Support to Farmers

December 16, 2018

A year or so ago Mike over at Vox Political asked what could be done to enable the Labour party to win in the countryside. It’s a good question, as Britain’s rural areas tend to be Tory/Liberal strongholds. The countryside is in crisis. We have seen a number of agricultural crises force small farmers out of business, while at the same time local people are being forced out of their villages because they are unable to afford the house prices there, as housing is bought up by rich outsiders. Local services in these areas are also being cut back. Bus companies have reduced the services to rural areas, post offices, pubs and banks are closing around the country, not only in rural areas but also in towns. This also hits local businesses, and so the small businesses in these areas may also be forced to fold. The danger is that if these trends continue, Britain’s countryside and villages may decline from real, living communities to dormer suburbs consisting of retirement accommodation for the rich.

Brexit may also have an impact on this process. At the moment farmers are, or have been supported by a number of subsidies from central government and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. Any subsidies from the EU may vanish if and when we leave the EU. How then can we save our farmers from bankruptcy?

Some indication of how this may be done could come from Roosevelt’s New Deal, as described by John Strachey in his A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz 1940). In it, Strachey discusses how the Roosevelt administration tried to give help for farmers by reducing the rate of interest on their mortgages and extending credit to them. Strachey writes

It was not, then, mainly by means of transforming the Reconstruction Finance Corporation from being an agency for the relief of big business in distress to a method of providing cheap credit to the American people generally, that the Roosevelt administration began to show it progressive character. It did so rather by a variety of methods of both lending and of spending (distributing money) directly to various sections of the community. Let us pass these methods in review.

The American government began in 1933 to distribute money to two classes of the population-namely the farmers and the unemployed. In the case of the farmers the Government not only spent (i.e. distributed money), but also lent. The farmers were dealt with by the Farm Relief Act which the President signed on May 12th, 1933. This Act was in two parts. The first part set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. The Second part, called “The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933”, was designed to reduce the rate of interest paid by farmers on their mortgages. The principle on which they Agricultural Adjustment Administration, or A.A.A., worked is well known. Substantial payments were made to farmers on condition that they restricted their production of all the basic farm crops and products in accordance with the directions of the Department of Agriculture. The money for these payments did not, however, come out of the Federal Treasury as such, but was raised by a special processing tax, imposed up0on the output of these same farm products as they passed on their way to the consumer.

The second part of the Act established the Farm Credit Administration, to which farmers could apply for loans with which to pay off their existing mortgages. This measure appears to have resulted in a reduction of the interest rates paid by farmers from over 5 per cent to 3 1/2 per cent. Moreover, the average period of these government loans was raised to thirty years, instead of the five years, which was the average period during which the private loans had to be paid off. By September 1934 these government credit agencies held 37 per cent of the farm mortgage debt of the country. This, the less spectacular part of the Act, is often forgotten. But its effect has been of great importance, since it has driven down the whole structure of interest rates on farm mortgages. It affords a model example of the use of government credit to depress interest rates at a particular important point. (pp. 188-9).

I am not saying that this precise policy needs to be introduced, as I understand that at the moment interest rates are low and that, if this country does suffer food shortages due to loss of imports following Brexit, we may need our farmers to increase production rather than reduce it. But it is an example of the general type of policy that may need to be put into practice to regenerate the countryside: aid to farmers and country dwellers to be able to buy their properties and maintain them as proper communities in which people live and work.

Ian Blackford Shreds May’s ‘Strong and Stable’ Slogan

December 5, 2018

Remember when the Tories were trying to fool the public into thinking that May was ‘strong and stable’ repeating this at every opportunity? This was supposed to be in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn. It was a slogan that was particularly applied to the relationship with Europe. Europe, we were told, would prefer to deal with a ‘strong and stable’ Europe under May.

Mike sent up that slogan after it became abundantly clear that May is anything but. He called her ‘weak and wobbly’. Which is what she is. Instead of being a ‘bloody awkward woman’ who would get the best deal she could from the EU, she was reduced to following the EU president around pleading with him to give her something. She could not be told that the EU was under absolutely no obligation to give her any kind of deal or offer of one.

This video from RT, again of just under a minute long, show Ian Blackford standing up in parliament today to shred May’s precious slogan. He says

Mr Speaker, we were promised strong and stable, what we have is a government in crisis. A government that has lost two Brexit Secretaries, a Home Secretary, a Foreign Secretary, a Work and Pensions Secretary. A government that has suffered from three consecutive defeats in just two hours. The first government to do so, Mr Speaker, in 40 years. And now a government found in contempt of Parliament. Is it time that the Prime Minister took responsibility for concealing the facts on her Brexit deal from members of this House and the public. Will she take responsibility?

As you can see, it’s quite a funny video. When Blackford itemizes the various cabinet ministers she’s lost, their faces pop up below him while a tinkling piano plays sad music, like the theme from Love Story. Then the shots of May’s Tories are shown in black and white, as if it’s all in mourning.

But there’s a very serious side to this. The Tories have created a situation that has split England dangerously from the rest of the UK, as well as Gibraltar, never mind about the rest of the EU. Cameron did so solely for his own advantage as leader of the Tory party. It allowed just over half of the British public to be seriously misled by a ‘Leave’ campaign that lied about the scale of migration from the EU and fraudulently claimed that once we left, 350 million pounds a year would be saved and put back into the Health Service. This was plastered all over the sides of buses by Boris Johnson and his crew, who then denied that they had made any such promise at all. And then after issuing the denial, Boris Johnson, the man who would be the next Prime Minister then went back and repeated the original lie.

And with Brexit and the farcical deal May has negotiated, people have been advised to stock up on food and medicines, as these may be in short supply after Brexit. The curbs on migration from the EU will prevent badly needed workers coming to Britain to supply staff for the NHS. Not that the Tories are going to be too worried about that. They are actively running it down ready for privatization.

People are worried about prices going up, which will once again hit those on low wages, which the Tories have insisted on throughout the last eight years in order to keep labour cheap and disposable, and profits high for employers. Businesses worry about finding staff, and being able to export their goods to the continent. Or import from there the raw materials they need.

It’s a mess. And it is solely due to the Tories.

May was never ‘strong and stable’. It wasn’t even an original slogan, as the Australian spin doctor who came up with it had previously used it to garner support for the Country Party – Australia’s Tories – Down Under. And it didn’t work down there either.

May and the Tories have lied, and deceived not only the general public but also parliament. Meanwhile, half her cabinet appear to have jumped ship like rats before May finally goes down.

And that can’t come too soon. May should go down, and the rest of her wretched, deceitful, mendacious, vicious and incompetent party with her.

Telesur English: Venezuela Drops Petrodollars, Threatens US Global Power

September 20, 2017

Venezuela this week officially stopped using the petrodollar. In this short clip from Telesur English’s Breaking the Chains, they explain why this is important, and may result in very aggressive action by the US to force the Venezuelans to return to using it. Forcing the other countries in the world to pay for their oil in dollars allows the US to export its currency around the world. This allows it to refinance its debt, and import other countries goods at very low prices. If the other countries stop using the petrodollar, it becomes a severe blow to US global domination. The report states that America has been accused of using extreme measures, from assassination to war, to force the world’s nations to use their national currency as the international medium for purchasing oil.

Looking through some of the other videos on YouTube on this subject, it seems that Venezuela isn’t alone. Other countries also would like to jettison the petrodollar. These include the BRICS nations and Iran. I got the impression from reading Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, on George Dubya and the Iraq invasion, that this was partly caused by Saddam Hussein threatening to jettison the petrodollar. American couldn’t possibly allow that. If it did, and other nations followed suit, then America’s economic domination of the world would be smashed, and the recession the country’s experiencing would become much, much worse.

I therefore seems to me that the threats Trump made against Iran and Venezuela have nothing to do with the nature of those countries’ regimes. America has propped up numberless Fascist dictators and mass-murderers around the world with no qualms whatsoever, so long as they support America and America’s corporate interests. What frightens America is when other countries don’t accede to its corporate demands. And then it does invade – look at the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s government in Guatemala. This was overthrown in the 1950s because Arbenz, a democratic Socialist who wanted to help the peons working the banana plantations, nationalized them. Many of them were owned by the US United Fruit Company, and so the US invaded, and then justified it through propaganda which claimed, quite falsely, that Arbenz was a Communist. And this is only one example of many, many others. If you want a complete list, read one of William Blum’s pieces on the subject.

Trump would just love to start a war with Iran, to continue the Neocons agenda of destroying and destabilizing the other Middle Eastern states for the benefit of the Israelis and Saudis, and he’s terrified of a socialist Venezuela, or at least one that has no fear about standing up to America.

If he does decide on military action, you can expect the usual pernicious twaddle about liberating their countries from oppressive governments. They will be flat out lies. America wants to invade these nations for the same reason it invaded Iraq – to seize their oil, and whatever state and other industries American big business wants.

An Iraqi Woman Describes the State of her Country before Bush and Blair’s Invasion

August 14, 2016

I found this very telling quotation from the May 7, 2007 edition of the Washington Post over at William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, issue 93.

“I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college,” Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told American peace activist Medea Benjamin in 2010. “I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything — electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein.”

This, and much other fascinating material on the corrupt state of the American Empire and capitalism, can be found at https://williamblum.org/aer/read/93

Saddam Hussein was a horrendous monster. There is absolutely no question about that. But this is what he also did for his country, which we were not told about. Apart from seizing the country’s oil supply, the neocons were also extremely keen to privatise the country’s state-owned enterprises and sell them to American companies. They also removed all the import tariffs, in order to create the kind of absolute free trade utopia they believe in and which everyone else considers sheer lunacy. And guess what? Everyone else was right. Every other nation dumped their cheap goods in Iraq, their businesses couldn’t compete, and the result was bankruptcies and an unemployment rate running at 60 per cent. And this was quite apart from the massive increase in sectarian violence and the occupation of large parts of the country by ISIS.

This is what you’re voting for if you support the Blairites.

A Moroccan Immigrant’s Views on Work and Immigration

March 5, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political put up a couple of pics today from the Brexit campaign, all urging us to leave the EU. They showed the hypocrisy of the ‘Out’ campaign, which had accused their opponents, those who want us to stay, of scaremongering. See Mike’s piece at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/05/the-posters-that-show-how-hypocritical-the-leave-campaign-is/. One of these pictures of a meme about the government supposedly giving all 75 million Turks the right to use the NHS. This follows the standard line that all the immigrants from the Islamic and Developing Worlds are all coming over here to scrounge from European, and particularly the British, welfare states.

Leave Turks

The ‘Out Campaign trying to scare us with the threat of all of Turkey coming to Britain because of the NHS.

They aren’t. They came here to work, and were invited in to supply the labour shortage after the Second World War. Many migrants are acutely aware of this, and consider it hypocritical that Europeans now want to stop immigration. This comes across very strongly in David McMurray’s piece ‘Haddou: A Moroccan Migrant Worker’ in Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East, edited by Edmund Burke III (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. 1993). The books a study of the history of the modern Middle East through the biographies of a few of its people, studied by historians and sociologists. Haddou was a Moroccan migrant worker, who came to work first in France, in Paris, before settling down in Dusseldorf, Germany.

McMurray has a couple of pages giving the reasons why Haddou did not wish to return home. He writes

“Why don’t you just go home?” Haddou thought to himself on many occasions. This is what the racists wanted, too. Haddou’s answer was always the same: “To do what?” Most Moroccan men’s answer to this would be to set up a shop and sell something. But Haddou felt himself to be unsuited to the life of a small merchant. They were not involved in productive activity anyway, just buying and selling what others had made. In any case, he needed contacts to make a good profit. Otherwise no one would buy from him, and the Moroccan bureaucracy would slowly bleed him to death without a patron to protect him. Even if he wanted to make some kind of productive investment, the banks were not safe, laws were not enforced, and, besides, in what kind of manufacturing could he invest in Morocco that could possibly compete with foreign manufactures? the government favoured imported goods by keeping import tariffs low. What was worse, the Moroccan consumer was convinced that quality came only from abroad. The only domestic products worth buying consisted mainly of foods and traditional clothing. If he chose to produce them, who would buy his modern shoes, for example, when they could purchase imported Italian shoes? Or who would buy his Moroccan-made shampoo when they could buy it from France or Spain? Even dinner plates imported from Taiwan were preferable to those produced locally. The Moroccan government made matters worse by throwing their support behind commercial activities producing for export. In the region of Nador that meant growing citrus fruit for Europe. But citrus grew locally only on irrigated land, and most of the good, irrigated land had been bought up long ago by wealthy men with contacts. They had been told of the planned irrigation system before everyone else and had bought the land at a cheaper price in order to take advantage of the development. Today that land was too expensive to buy. Equally vexing was the fact that many of the prices for crops grown on unirrigated land were controlled by middlemen and the government in such a restrictive manner that they barely repaid the farmer’s investments – and then only during good years. No subsidies existed to carry the farmers during the bad years, which in recent times had far outnumbered the good.

Given these conditions back home, Haddou never could understand why so many Europeans expected the migrants just to pick up and leave. They acted as if the migrants had come uninvited. On the contrary, he and the millions of other migrants from around the world were in Europe because the European governments, factories, and shop owners originally asked them to come work. The first time Haddou went back on vacation during the early 1960s, his boss gave him hundreds of work contracts to hand out to people in the Moroccan countryside who might want to join him in Europe, so eager was the boss to expand his migrant labour force. No, migrants did not originally knock down the door; it was opened for them. Unlike the better organised and more demanding European workers, migrants could be made to work harder and longer or to do dirtier and more dangerous jobs, thus producing greater profits for their European employers. As Haddou saw it, the real dilemma was that the Moroccans were dependent on Europe no matter what they did. They could stay home and – if they were lucky enough to find a job at all – produce goods for export to Europe, work on assembling and distributing products legally imported from Europe, illegally smuggle products in from Europe, or like himself, they could just pick up and go to work right in Europe. Directly, or indirectly, in Morocco or abroad, they were all working for the Europeans. (pp. 390-2).

Basically Haddou came to Europe partly because of the hostile business environment in Morocco, in which the small entrepreneur is effectively shut out due to the endemic corruption. He also came simply because work was available, and the European business owners and managers were eager to find a cheap labour source to exploit. Whereas the extreme anti-immigrants see themselves as having come to Europe uninvited, Haddou, and probably millions of migrants and former migrants like him, are very aware that this is not the case.

There is no mention in the chapter of immigrants coming to Europe because of our system of welfare benefits, or to exploit the NHS. Which in any case, has been answered already in the piece I put up by Nye Bevan, in which he states that the numbers of migrants using the British Health Service would be small, and it would be morally incumbent on us to give the same welfare benefits to foreigners who were over here, working.

There are legitimate problems and concerns with mass migration, but allegations that they’re just here to steal or sponge off our benefits shouldn’t be one of them.

Third World Thatcherite Britain and the Grab for North Sea Oil

March 1, 2014

oil_rig

Last week both David Cameron and Alex Salmond held separate meetings in Scotland with the petrochemical companies in order to discuss the vital question of the ownership and future of North Sea oil. This is a vital issue. The Scots Nationalists I’ve talked to in the past have all been of the belief that not only should an independent Scotland have a right to the oil reserves off its coast, but that this would support the newly independent nation’s economy. Although this wasn’t mentioned in the news reports, Britain faces the same question. If Britain does not retain revenues from the North Sea if Scotland leaves the UK, then the British economy will plummet. It’s a question of economic survival.

I was taught at school that Britain has a ‘third-world economy’. This meant that Britain was like the various nations of the Developing World in that its economy was heavily based on primary industry. In the Developing World these industries were either mining – the extraction and production of diamonds, for example, or copper in the African Copper Belt, or the various nations around the world specialising in a particular agricultural product – groundnuts, bananas, coffee and so on. In Britain in the primary industry that fundamentally supports the country’s prosperity was North Sea oil.

The authors of the book Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy (Nottingham: Spokesman 1986), Diana Gilhespy, Ken Jones, Tony Manwaring, Henry Neuberger and Adam Sharples, make exactly the same point:

Third World Britain

Under the Thatcher experiment, Britain’s underlying economic decline has continued and gathered pace. Only North Sea revenues now disguise its true extent. Without them it would be impossible to sustain the living standards which the working population currently enjoys. Britain’s present levels of employment, industrial activity and public services are all being paid for on borrowed time. (p. 20).

They then survey the way the Thatcher government effectively devastated the UK economy, while Labour unfairly got the blame for economic mismanagement.

It is worth emphasising how disastrous Tory economic policies have been for Britain in purely economic terms. The Tory Party has never succeeded in cultivating an image of compassion or concern for social justice: but at least, so the convention goes, it can be relied on to promote ‘sound’ economic policies and generally do the things that are in the interests of business growth. The Labour Party, by contrast, seems to have a acquired a reputation for economic mismanagement. The really remarkable achievement of the Thatcher Governments has been to find a set of policies which, while designed to make ‘economic efficiency’ the overriding objective in almost every sphere or our lives, has actually had the effect of making our economy less efficient – as well as having all the more predictable results such as a huge increase in social deprivation, inequality, injustice and division. As a result we are now in a situation where socialist economic and industrial policies offer the only serious hope not only of healing deep social divisions but also of reconstructing a viable and efficient economy.

Employment levels in manufacturing, construction and the public services plummeted after 1979. The international climate worsened, it is true, following the oil price rises of that year. All the major Western countries have faced increased unemployment during this period. But in Britain’s case, government policies have played an almost uniquely important part in creating a fall in national output and an increase in unemployment. By pursuing exceptionally high interest rates as part of the attempt to reduce money supply growth and inflation, and then letting the market determine the level of the exchange rate, the Tory Government precipitated a massive crisis in the manufacturing sector in the period 1979-81 – especially among companies which were relatively dependent on export markets or which had recently expanded investment or stocks in anticipation of sales growth. Meanwhile attempts to reduce public spending and borrowing resulted in a further deflationary effect: there was a particularly severe impact on employment as capital projects and welfare services were sacrificed to pay for the escalating costs of increasing unemployment – not merely a vicious circle but an insane one.

If we look at another traditional measure of economic success or failure, the balance of payments, we see a similar story. Since 1982, a surplus on manufactured goods has been replaced by large annual deficits – the first such deficits since the Industrial Revolution. Imports and import penetration have risen sharply in virtually every sector of manufacturing. These imports have, of course, been paid for out of oil revenues. But declining oil revenues will no longer be able to offset the growing manufacturing trade deficit in the late 1980s and 1990s.

They then go on to consider some of the contributing causes to British industrial decline, such as the price of British goods, lack of investment in research and development, and the lack of an education workforce, some of which is now extremely dated.

Nevertheless, I think the main point is still valid. Thatcher destroyed the British industrial base, and it is still only North Sea oil revenues, which is propping the economy up, despite the Tory and New Labour attempt to promote the financial sector. If Britain loses these revenues, then the British economy will collapse. My guess is that we would still be in the Developed World, but go from one of the most prosperous to one of the least.

The result of this would a further massive collapse in living standards, accompanied by bitter discontent. In the Developing World, mass poverty traditionally gave rise to extremist political movements – Marxist revolutionary groups, and the various Fascist dictatorships like those of General Pinochet, Manuel Noriega et cetera ad nauseam used to contain and suppress them. The same is likely to arise in Britain. This would effectively discredit all of the main political parties, as all of them have been influenced to a greater or lesser extent by Thatcher’s legacy. But those most effected would be the Tories as Thatcher’s party.

No wonder Cameron was up in Scotland last week trying to keep hold of North Sea oil. If that goes, then so does a large part of British prosperity and the Conservatives/ Thatcher’s image as the party of British prosperity.