Posts Tagged ‘Kropotkin’

Private Eye on the Magistrates’ Partnership with the Private Prisons Companies

April 27, 2016

One of the biggest scandals in America is the relationship between the private prisons companies and legal authorities and local governments. The private prison companies lobby the state legislatures to pass harsher laws, and the judiciary to increase custodial sentencing, all to boost their profits. One of the cases highlighted by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is the case of a troubled teenage girl, who was sent to a private jail by a judge, who was in receipt of monies donated by one of the private prison companies.

According to this last fortnight’s Private Eye, the same has been happening in England. They report that the Magistrate’s Association has been attempting to open a profit-making arm in conjunction with the outsourcing companies that run prisons. After having been criticised for the scheme, the Association is trying to fold it into the Probation Institute, but leaving this corrupt relationship intact.

Here’s the article:

Magistrates

Bendy Beaks

Who is the Magistrates’ Association trying to kid?

Last year it was criticised for getting into bed with the very same private punishment companies which now carry out the sentences imposed by … magistrates. It had set up a commercial wing, the MA Education and Research Network, as part of an “income generation strategy”. Alas, three of its funding partners were the French multinational Sodexo, US import MCT Novo, and Working Links – all of which, thanks to former justice secretary Chris Grayling, now profit from carrying out court punishments.

The move troubled some at the top of the MA as well as its rank and file; and after the Eye highlighted concerns over conflicts of interest, sources told the Eye that there were plans to close the network. But when asked if it would therefore return members’ money used as seed funding, MA communications director Jason Hughes said, on 4 December last year: “There are no plans to close down the network. Your question regarding seed funding is therefore redundant.”

But the Eye has now been leaked minutes from an MA board meeting held two days earlier, on 2nd December, showing a weaselly plan to distance the MA from the scheme. In the minutes, chief executive Chris Brace said the board had decided to dissolve the network and that it would be “incorporated” into the Probation Institute. Among the reasons cited were negative publicity, allegations about compromising justice and judicial independence, and the amount of time spent on “reputational management”.

Troubled members of the MA should know what this means. As Hughes now explains: “The network was incorporated into the Probation Institute; it therefore exists (not closed) with a different ownership and governance structure – however, the objectives are maintained. The legal vehicle by which it was subsidiary of the Magistrates Association has been dissolved, as per the minutes. The [seed] funding … has been allocated to setting up the new initiative and into research about the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.” (Readers may recall that “women in the justice system” were hastily added to its initial research plans after the Eye questioned why its first year was to be focused on “technology” – an obvious commercial interest.)

The Probation Institute website declares that this “new joint Probation and Judicial Matters Professional Network … will include magistrates, probation and … rehabilitation practitioners” – ie, Sodexo et al. The venture is “an evolution of the work that has already taken place within the association’s Education and Research Network”, and aims at “identifying priority areas of research which the two organisations should promote, and to facilitate and encourage contributions from funder”. New name, new legal governance – same old tricks?

If the MA hope this would head off criticism, it hasn’t. Frances Crook, of the Howard league, said: “Taking substantial sums of money from companies delivering sentences calls into question the independence and integrity of the Magistrates Association. Now would be the time to repay the money and be honest with its members about this unfortunate relationship.” (Private Eye, 15th – 28th April, 39).

The relationship between the Magistrates Association and the private prisons industry would have confirmed to anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta not only the basic injustice of the state, but also its links to exploitative capitalism. With a fund-raising network like that, you can understand why the Surrealists, in the first issue of their magazine, demanded that the prisons should be opened and the convicts released. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a recipe for terrible miscarriages of justice and bring the British legal system into severe disrepute.

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The Books Published by Ian Duncan Smith to Support his Culling of the Disabled and Unemployed

February 13, 2016

IDS Bird Crap

An avian critic giving IDS the benefit of its informed reading of his Foundation’s books.

A few weeks ago I found some of the little books published by aIDS think-tank in one of the second hand bookshops in Cheltenham. They were paperbacks, with a plain white cover edged in red. One of them was on welfare reform. The other was on race and race relations. Neither of the books looked as though they were published by the Tory party or one of its ideological satellites. Indeed, the red edging if anything could suggest that it was actually a left-wing publication. The blurb on the back, however, showed its right-wing provenance clearly enough.

The book declared that the welfare system had to be reformed – in other words, made tougher – because the real problem with poverty in this country were multigenerational communities in sink estates across Britain, where nobody worked, and people simply didn’t want a job. The book argued that Britain should import the American welfare system, which in some cases had reduced welfare spending, or the people on it, by 40 per cent!

The booklet wasn’t by aIDS. It claimed, however, to be published by the Social Justice Foundation or some such organisation with a similar name. The Social Justice Foundation or whatever it’s called is the Spurious Major’s pet little think tank. He set it up in order to justify his welfare reforms. It was part of the Tories’ attempts to make them appear left-wing, by dressing up right-wing policies and attitudes in the language of Socialism, in order to appeal to the working class. There are a number of other organisations within the Tory part that have adopted the same tactic. It’s all part of Philip Blond’s ‘Red Toryism’, which was simply Blue Toryism under a guise of left-libertarian references to Kropotkin and 19th century Tory paternalism. It became a dead letter as soon as it served its purpose and Cameron got in. Then it was back to the same old Neoliberalism, mass privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. It was a tactic the Nazis adopted in order to appeal to the radical German working class, right down to using the colour red as the background colour for the Swastika. Just as aIDS’ think tank edged their publications with red to make them look socialist. And the Nazis also forced the people they considered ‘workshy’ into the concentration camps.

The central argument supporting the book and aIDS policies have been disproved again and again, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. The multigenerational families where nobody has worked by and large don’t exist. Not in America, and not over here. You can find the arguments against their existence in Owen Jones’ Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class. They’ve been reblogged by Mike over at Vox Political, and the Angry Yorkshireman. And many, many others. It’s the great lie that supports the Republican and British Conservative assault on the working class. ‘Look, there’s nothing wrong with the economy. It’s just that you’re all too lazy to get a job!’

I didn’t bother looking at the book on race. There’s only so much ignorance, hate and mendacity you can reasonably be expected to take from these people, and especially on a really emotive subject like race and race relations. I thought I’d mention the books here, just in case anyone else runs into them, and to point out where this rubbish is coming from: it’s basically IDS’ pet scriveners, taking their cue from across the Atlantic.

Avoid. Unless you have a strong constitution.

Is ‘Theramenes’ the Ancient Greek for Nick Clegg?

May 21, 2014

Greek Shoes

Shoes from ancient Greece. From Giovanni Caselli, History of Everyday Things (Hemel Hempstead: Beehive Books 1993)

Nick Clegg

Nick “Colthurnus” Clegg?

I found the saying, ‘He wears the sandals of Theramenes’, and its explanation in the 1981 edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It said that this was

Said of a Trimmer, an opportunist. Theramenes (put to death c. 404 B.C.) was one of the Athenian oligarchy, and was nicknamed Cothurnus (i.e. a sandal or boot which might be worn on either foot), because no dependence could be put on him. He “blew hot and col with the same breath.”

Which just about describes Clegg, the man, who broke all his election promises to climb into a coalition with the Tories, and is now frantically trying to convince the electorate that the Lib Dems are still a party of principles who can be depended upon to restrain the excesses of whichever party with which they will form another coalition. There is absolutely no evidence they have actually done this, and indeed have appeared only too eager to support the massively illiberal legislation passed by the Conservatives destroying the health service, state education, what’s left of the welfare state and setting up secret courts from which the accused is barred and may not know the charges against him. For security reasons, of course.

Or it could equally describe Dave Cameron, who spent his period in opposition trying to make the Tories appear slightly left of New Labour by engaging in community activism. His mentor, Philip Blond, published Red Tory, which tried to embrace 19th century working class radicalism and the progressive legislation passed by Conservative reformers like Richard Oastler, as well as name-checking the great anarchist Kropotkin. Now in power, Cameron has turned his back on all that, and has firmly embraced the usual Tory policies of putting the boot into the working class by privatising everything he can get his hand, cutting welfare benefits and forcing the unemployed to work for free for the Tories’ corporate paymasters.

And like Theramenes, Clegg and Cameron belong to the aristocracy, and so thoroughly represent oligarchic rule against any kind of democracy.

140117democracy

Dave “Antique Greek Boot” Cameron?

Tolstoy’s Prediction of the First World War

April 27, 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and already the BBC has put on a season of programmes commemorating the conflict. I’ve blogged on Michael Gove’s criticism of the negative view of the First World War, which he feels denigrates the courage and patriotism of the soldiers. He attacked the Beeb’s comedy series, Black Adder Goes Forth, as an example of this, and compounded his argument with knee-jerk Tory anti-intellectualism by claiming that the view was promoted by ‘Left-wing intellectuals’. A number of bloggers have attacked this diatribe, including Mike over at Vox Political. It has also provoked a response from the creators of graphic novels, who are putting together several albums presenting the horrific reality of the conflict as a response to Gove’s Right-wing patriotic view of the War.

Many people in Europe in the late 19th and first decade of the 20th centuries were very much aware of the looming threat of world conflict. One of those who foresaw it and its mass carnage was the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy. As well as a writer, Tolstoy was a pacifist Anarchist. He hated the horrors of modern, industrial society and the state that oppressed the Russian poor. He saw the solution in the abolition of the state and traditional peasant society, to the point where he gave up much of his life style as a Russian aristocrat to live, dress and work like a peasant. As a young man, he had, like many other noblemen, been a soldier and had fought in the wars to conquer Chechnya and the Caucasus. He had been highly impressed by ideas of a Chechen Sufi leader, who, when his nations’ attempts to resist the Russians through armed force were repeatedly suppressed, rejected violence and advocated instead a policy of non-violent civil disobedience. Tolstoy himself rejected violence, and took up the Sufi leader’s ideas. In turn, Tolstoy’s advocacy of the policy influenced Gandhi in his own campaign against British rule in India.

Tolstoy also campaigned on behalf of the Doukhobors, a heretical Russian Christian sect, that also rejected violence. It was due to Tolstoy’s support and that of British Quakers that the sect emigrated from Russia to settle in Canada.

He promoted his Anarchist and pacifist ideals in a series of books, What Then Must We Do?, The Kingdom of God is Within You and The Restoration of Hell. They also influenced his magnum opus, War and Peace. This was written to show that history was not made by a few great men, but by the actions of millions of ordinary people. Lionel Kochan discusses Tolstoy’s ideas, his criticisms of contemporary society, and prediction of the coming War in his Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970). Tolstoy attacked just about every aspect of contemporary society, including science, the press, religion, state education, and the state as a system of organised crime itself. Kochan writes:

Tolstoy, no doubt, showed little, if any, awareness of the deep-rooted complexity of the evils he stigmatized; no doubt, also, his positive doctrine was thin enough – the gospel of universal love, undogmatic Christianity, sexual abstinence, non-resistance to evil, the renunciation of tobacco and alcohol – for all that his later work constitutes an anarchist programme of profound strength. His unbridled criticism of society and its values, his corrosive and derisive scepticism, made him an anarchist more anarchic, a nihilist more nihilistic and a revolutionary more destructive than any whom Russia had yet brought forth – far more consistent and humanistic than Bakunin, far more hard-headed than Kropotkin.

What is science? He asked. Had it done anything of value to human life in determining the weight of Saturn’s satellites? What was universal suffrage? A means whereby the prisoners elected their own gaolers. Had industrialism raised the standard of living? Then look at the slums and doss-houses of Moscow. Tolstoy derided division of labour as a device for turning men into machines, book-printing as a medium for communicating ‘all the nasty and stupid things that are done and written in the world’, and reform for teaching people ‘that though themselves bad they can reform bad people’. What did the church do but maintain idolatry ‘in the most literal sense of the word – worshipping holy relics and icons, offering sacrifices to them and expecting from them the fulfilment of the worshippers’ wishes’? What did compulsory education do but ‘teach the savage superstition of patriotism and the same pseudo-obligation to obey the state’? What was the press but a means for ‘exciting feelings of mutual hostility between the nations’? What were the governments of the time, despotic and liberal alike, but – and her Tolstoy quotes Herzen’s phrase – ‘Genghis Khans with telegraphs’? The modern state was a mechanism so interlocked and interdependent that it became impossible to discriminate between the guilty and the innocent: ‘Some people demand the perpetration of a crime, others decide that it shall be done, a third set confirm that decision, a fourth propose its execution, a fifth report on it, a sixth finally decree it, and a seventh carry out the decree.’ Tolstoy’s apocalyptic vision of a state given over to destruction culminates in an anticipation of the imminent First World War:

‘The bells will peal and long-haired men will dress themselves in gold-embroidered socks and begin to pray on behalf of murder … The editors of newspapers will set to work to arouse hatred and murder under the guise of patriotism and will be delighted to double their sales. Manufacturers, merchants, and contractors for army stores will hurry about joyfully in expectation of doubled profits … Army commanders will bustle here and there, drawing double pay and rations and hoping to receive trinkets and crosses, stripes and stars, for murdering people. Idle ladies and gentlemen will fuss about, entering their names in advance for the Red Cross and getting ready to bandage those whom their husbands and brothers are setting out to kill – imagining they will be doing a most Christian work thereby.’

Kochan criticises Tolstoy for not understanding how enthusiastic and patriotic Russian servicemen initially were for the War. However, he then goes on to quote the great writer’s prediction of the condition of the soldiers in the War’s later stages, men who

‘will trudge where they may be driven, stifling the despair in their souls by songs, debauchery and vodka. They will march, freeze, suffer from hunger, and fall ill. Some will die of disease, and some will at last come to the place where men will kill them by the thousand. And they too, without knowing why, will murder thousands of others whom they had never before seen, and who had neither done nor could do them any wrong.’

For Tolstoy, the coming world war would ‘devour in a year more victims than all the revolutions of a century’. (pp. 157-8).
I strongly disagree with most of Tolstoy’s criticisms of contemporary society. He was, for example, wrong about science not benefitting humanity. it clearly has and had, most obviously in the improvements in medicine, that appeared in the 19th century. And printing and the press have increased knowledge and much good around the globe, despite the fact that they can often be used for evil. Having said that, he does have a point with the Sun, Daily Mail, and Express.

It will, however, be interesting to see if the BBC or anyone else, in their programmes on the Great War, mention Tolstoy’s prediction.

As a pacifist Anarchist, Tolstoy’s political views were strongly disapproved by Paul Johnson in the Spectator. In one of his articles in that journal he described the great novelists as somehow – I’ve forgotten quite what he wrote – being responsible for the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s tyranny. He never described how this was so. He simply asserted it, and went on. The only thing Tolstoy had in common with Stalin is that they were both radicals, who revolted against the Tsarist state. And possibly that they both had military careers. Apart from that, Tolstoy hated everything that Stalin stood for – militarism, an oppressive, coercive state, brutality and murder. And Tolstoy himself was far from unique in wishing to see a radical reform or overthrow of contemporary society. By 1905 the Tsar’s reluctance to establish any kind of constitutional reforms had pushed most sections of the Russian society in opposition. Even the Union of Unions, made up members of the liberal profession – doctors, lawyers, vets, scientists, engineers, teachers, university professors – not the usual bomb-throwing nutters – were advocating the use of violence if all else failed. There was another writer called, Tolstoy, Alexey, who survived into the Stalin era to write pieces praising the dictator. It looks like Johnson confused the two due to the same surname. But Leo Tolstoy would have been utterly opposed to the old thug.

Are Cameron and Osborne Communists?

March 26, 2014

CAmeron Stalin

David Cameron: Stalin’s successor in the Tory Party?

‘If I was an Englishman, I would be a Conservative.’

– Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during his visit to Britain in the 1950s.

The Coalition’s attack on the poor by forcing down wages and cutting benefits conforms so closely to Marx’s theory of the ‘Iron Law of Wages’ and the programme the Russian Revolutionary, Nechaev, suggested for the way the true revolutionary should undermine capitalism from within that I ended up idly wondering if the Tories really were aware of how similar they were. In fact, so close are they to those parts of revolutionary socialist ideology that I even wondered if they similarities were deliberate, and Cameron, Osborne and Clegg were trying to see how far they could go in showing that Marx and Engels were right before the workers finally revolted and the Chipping Norton Set were ejected from government. In fact, they are following Marx so closely that I wondered if they weren’t actually following Nechaev’s advice and deliberately trying to undermine capitalism from within.

The Iron Law of Wages

The ‘Iron Law of Wages’ is one of the main doctrines of Marxist ideology. According to it, as capitalism develops, the bourgeoisie attempt to maintain higher profits by deliberating forcing down wage to ever lower levels. Eventually wages will become so poor, and the working classes so miserable, that they will revolt and overthrow the government.

Nechaev and the Revolutionary Catechism

The Russian Revolutionary Nechaev believed that this process should be assisted by revolutionary conspirators. The 19th century Russian revolutionaries had repeatedly failed in their attempts to spread Socialism and overthrow the tsar as the Russian people, on whose behalf the Revolutionaries believed they were fighting, remained largely opposed to their efforts. In his Revolutionary Catechism, Nechaev therefore argued that the true revolutionary should become absolutely ruthless, ready to sacrifice and betray anyone and everyone in order to further the revolution, even create chaos and misery in order to harden and radicalise people to the revolutionary cause. He argued that revolutionaries should deliberately enter the government and try to make conditions as worse as possible for the people. Eventually the people would become so miserable and desperate, that they would revolt, overthrow the tsar and create the new, Communist society.

Revisionism and Rejection of Iron Law of Wages

In the later 19th and 20th centuries many Socialists, such as the German revisionist, Eduard Bernstein, criticised and rejected the ‘Iron Law of Wages’ as it did not seem to be born out by contemporary events. Rather than the workers becoming increasingly impoverished, wages were actually rising. Some of this may have been due not just to expansion of the European economies as capitalism developed, but also through the actions of the various Socialist and working class movements, like trade unions, in forcing industrialists to pay better wages. The post-War economic consensus also stressed the need for higher wages and better conditions for the workers, as this would allow them to purchase consumer products and so stimulate the economy and raise profits.

Return of Iron Law under Tories and Tory Democrats

Now, through globalisation and Neo-Liberal economics, the Iron Law of Wages is back with a vengeance. It’s at the very heart of the Coalition’s policies. They are determined to hold down wages below the rate of inflation, so that in real terms the working and lower middle classes are actually taking a cut in wages. At the same time, they are destroying the education system, the NHS and the welfare state in order to maximise the profits of private industry still further, and so creating a level of poverty and misery that has not been seen in decades. We really are heading back to the 19th century world of ruthlessly predatory capitalism at a rate of knots. So closely do their policies conform to Marx’s prediction, that it strongly reminds me of the slogan on one of the T-shirts sold by Red Molotov. This is a company that specialises in selling such shirts with quirky, and often left-wing or radical slogans. One of their shirts has a portrait of Marx, underneath which is the slogan ‘I told you this would happen’.

Quite.

Coalition Conscious of Own Predatory Nature

I don’t, however, seriously believe for one single minute that they are revolutionaries trying to provoke an increasingly impoverished British public into overthrowing capitalism and the state. They are simply ruthless, predatory capitalists doing what Marx believed ruthless capitalists would always do: exploit the poor and drive them to ever increasing depths of despair, insecurity and poverty, all for greater profits.

And they know this. Osborne had the temerity to quote Marx, while Philip Blond, Cameron’s mentor, liked and quoted the Russian anarchist, Kropotkin, in his book, Red Tory. They simply don’t care that they conform to Marx’s description of capitalist ruthlessness. All that matters to them is that the ordinary man or woman in Britain doesn’t, and continues to swallow all that nonsense that ‘we’re all in it together’, and that the cuts and the austerity drive are the result of high-spending by the previous Labour administration, rather than an integral part of their own Neo-Liberal economic policies.

The Way to Stop Them: Voting, Not Revolution

There is an alternative. Unlike the masses of 19th century Europe, who were largely excluded from participation in the electoral process because of property qualifications that excluded the poor, people don’t have to riot or revolt simply to make their voices heard. They can force out iniquitous and unpopular governments by simply voting them out. And we need to do so now, at every opportunity before the Tories and Tory Democrats make the situation very much worse.

Jason Read Capitalist Parasites

Kropotkin on Globalisation

February 14, 2014

Kropotkin Conquest Bread

On Tuesday, Barclays announced that they were shedding 7,000 jobs in Britain. The mobility of capitalism around the world is now a major feature of today’s global economy following the globalisation of capitalism and industry during the 1990s. Critics of international capitalism, such as Lenin in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism noted that this was occurring in their own time, the late 19th and vey early 20th centuries. The German Marxist, Karl Kautsky, also remarked in his writing on the movement of capital from the imperial heartlands to their colonies and what would become the Developing World. The imperialist powers were attempting to develop their possessions and open up markets and sources of labour elsewhere around the world, with the result that the industries in their heartlands would inevitably suffer.

Kropotkin in The Conquest of Bread also remarked on it, and denounced the way it led to factory closures, unemployment and starvation in the imperial countries of Britain, France and so on, and exploitation and the use of military force to quell discontent in the European empires’ subject nations.

‘The result of this state of things is that all our production tends in a wrong direction. Enterprise takes no thought for the needs of the community. Its only aim is to increase the gains of the speculator. Hence the constant fluctuations of trade, the periodical industrial crises, each of which throws scores of thousands of workers on the streets.

The working people cannot purchase with their wages the wealth which they have produced, and industry seeks foreign markets among the monied classes of other nations. In the East, in Africa, everywhere, in Egypt, Tonkin or the Congo, the European is thus bound to promote the growth of serfdom. And so he does. But soon he finds that everywhere there are similar competitors. All the nations evolve on the same lines, and wars, perpetual wars, break out for the right of precedence in the market. Wars for the possession of the East, wars for the empire of the sea, wars to impose duties on imports and to dictate conditions to neighbouring states; wars against those ‘blacks’ who revolt! The roar of the cannon never ceases in the world, whole races are massacred, the states of Europe spend a third of their budgets in armaments, and we know how heavily these taxes fall on the workers.’

The British Empire has formally retreated and turned into the Commonwealth, and Cameron has slashed the armed forces and their funding. In other respects, however, the analysis is pretty as true today as it was in Kropotkin’s day. In many cases, however, the massacres are now committing by the various developing nations for their elites to gain control of the sites of raw materials, so these can be sold to global multinationals. Hence the horrific bloodshed, in which over 4 million people have been killed, in Central Africa for control of diamonds and some of the precious metals used in the IT industries, including mobile phones.