Posts Tagged ‘Multinationals’

Prayer for Peace between America, Iran and the Middle East

June 23, 2019

On Fridays, it seems, Trump did something unexpected and pulled back from starting a war with Iran. The past week or so he’s been blaming the Iranians for a series of explosions that have destroyed tankers in the Persian Gulf. Then the Americans shot down an American drone which they claim had entered their airspace. This is naturally denied by the Americans. Trump was all set to order retaliatory action against several Iranian military positions, but cancelled the order. He states he did so because the bloodshed involved – it’s estimated the action would have killed 150 people – was too high. His security minister, Mike Pompeo, however, is still pushing for some kind of war with Iran, and the Orange Generalissimo has said that he’s still willing to use armed force to stop the Iranians developing a nuclear bomb. There are still real tensions, and the very real danger of war breaking out.

I posted up a couple of pieces last week attacking the American right’s warmongering against Iran. As I said, it is a highly authoritarian theocracy, and I don’t doubt that the hardliners in their administration would welcome a showdown with the Americans. They have also shown themselves willing to mount terror attacks, as in the 1980s when they bombed a Berlin cafe used by Kurdish separatists. But it’s total rubbish what Pompeo was uttering about Iran sponsoring al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda are Sunni militants, who hate Shi’a Muslims with a vengeance. As Iran is a Shi’a nation, there is absolutely no chance of any cooperation between them. Quite the opposite in fact. Just like Saudi Arabia, another militant, intolerant Sunni nation, and ISIS would also like to destroy Iran.

If America does invade Iran, it won’t be to liberate the Iranian people. It’ll be for the same reasons Iraq was invaded: to seize their oil, state industries and set up the kind of extreme free trade tariff system that the Neocons want to impose on America. And the results will be the same: mass carnage, sectarian and ethnic civil war, the destruction of the country’s precious antiquities and cultural heritage, the economy will be utterly destroyed. Ordinary folks’ businesses will go under and there will be mass unemployment. Women will lose whatever rights and freedom they have, Christians, Jews and particularly Baha’is will suffer massive persecution as a reaction to the invasion. The public will lose whatever welfare and health services the state provides. And the chaos and instability will spread throughout the region. The Iraq war forced seven million people out of their homes. How many more will be turned into refugees if America starts a war with Iran?

But this won’t matter, as the American war machine will have conquered another country in the developing world. The Americans and Saudis will have stolen their oil, the multinationals the state industries and bonyads, Islamic charitable foundations, and the Israelis will have the destruction of an hostile state.

But fortunately, despite the forces pushing for war, Trump decided against it. Just as Jeremy Hunt has been calling for a deescalation of tensions in the region. And I hope this continues, and sanity prevails against the warmongers.

I found this prayer in The Methodist Service Book (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House 1999). It’s for the Good Friday service, and calls for peace between the followers of the Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam, where Abraham, known as Ibrahim, is revered as a major prophet. The prayer runs

Eternal God,

bless all who look to Abraham

as the father of faith.

Set us free from prejudice, blindness,

and hardness of heart,

that in accordance with your will and guided by your truth

our life together may be for the glory of your name;

we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Peace/salaam to everyone at this time, regardless of their religious or non-religious views.

 

 

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Hunt Wrong, Corbyn Right Not to Trust Intelligence Services on Iran

June 18, 2019

Yesterday I put up a piece stating that the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was quite right to demand evidence that Iran was responsible for the explosions that have destroyed several tankers in the Persian Gulf. This is against the accusations that Trump and the Tory government have hurled against the Iranians, who protest their innocence.

Iran is a very authoritarian theocracy with an abysmal record of human rights abuses. The Iranian secret services are capable of organising terror attacks. In the 1980s they bombed a cafe in Berlin used by Kurdish separatists. More recently they sent out naval vessels to seize the crew of a British warship in the Gulf, whom they eventually released. And there are hardliners in the Iranian government, theocracy and military who would wish to start a war with the West.

The False Claims about Iraq and 9/11

But against this, there is the long history of the American Neocons manufacturing pretexts for attacks on and invasions of countries for no other reason than that they are obstacles to American and Western geopolitical and commercial imperialism. The Iraq invasion is a case in point. George W. Bush and Blair accused Saddam Hussein of supporting Osama Bin Laden 9/11 attack. The Blair creature, as Peter Hitchens calls him, told us all that we had to go and support the American-led invasion of Iraq, because the Iraqi dictator could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. It was a lie. All of it. Saddam Hussein had zilch to do with 9/11, and there were no weapons of mass destruction. 17 of the 19 attackers in 9/11 were Saudis. None were Iraqis. The American intelligence agencies were aware that the Saudi spy agencies were involved with the attack, and the evidence pointed that involvement in it went all the way to the top, though direct evidence was lacking as the threads petered out. The American intelligence services were also acutely aware that after their invasion of Iraq, Saudi intelligence was supplying arms and collaborating with al-Qaeda and ISIS in their attacks in Iraq and Syria. Since then, records have been discovered that show that the Iraqis were interested in working with bin Laden against the West. But al-Qaeda overwhelmingly hated and despised Hussein and the Ba’athists because they were secular Arab socialists.

Real Reasons for Iraq Invasion

The real reason the Neocons wanted to oust Hussein was entirely down to western imperial ambitions. The Americans and the Saudis wanted the Iraqi oil industry and its reserves, as the latter is the largest outside Saudi Arabia. American multinationals also wanted to take over Iraqi state enterprises. And the Neocons also hoped to turn the country into the low-tax, free trade economy that they’d like to foist on America itself. And they and the Israelis also wanted Hussein overthrown because he supported the Palestinians.

Neocon and Multinationals’ Motives for Possible Invasion of Iran

I have no doubt that similar reasons are behind the latest accusations against Iran by Trump. I don’t think the American right has quite recovered from the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah, one of America’s and Israel’s allies in the region. After the Revolution, the Iranians nationalised the oil industry, taking it out of the hands of private, foreign companies. This was exactly like Mohammed Mossadeq, the country’s democratically elected prime minister, had done in the 1950s. The Iranian oil industry at the time was controlled by Anglo-Persian Oil, the British company that became BP. We joined the Americans in a CIA operation which overthrew Mossadeq, a coup which eventually led to the Shah assuming absolute power as a ruthless autocrat. I don’t doubt that American and British oil interests dearly want to grab the Iranian oil industry back. I also don’t doubt that American and western multinationals would also like to get their corporate mitts on the 51 per cent or so of the Iranian economy dominated by the state enterprises and the bonyads, the Islamic charitable foundations also managed by the state theocracy. The Neocons also want the current theocracy overthrown, not because they are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the average Iranian, but because Iran is a fierce opponent of Israel. The dominant religion of Iran is Twelver Shi’ism, and since the overthrow of Hussein Iran has become increasingly influential amongst Iraqi Shi’a. The Saudis and other Gulf states are Sunni Muslims, who fear and oppress their own Shi’a population. A few years ago one of the leading Saudi clerics declared that the Shi’a were ‘enemies of the faith’ and ‘worthy of death’. They would like to see Iran conquered, I don’t doubt, as part of their religious campaign against Shi’a Islam.

Jeremy Hunt was in the news today as it’s reported he’s trying to calm the situation down and de-escalate tensions before it does come to violence. But he’s still criticising Corbyn for not automatically accepting Iranian responsibility for the attacks. Corbyn has committed the unforgivable sin of demanding evidence. And so he’s been grossly misrepresented as siding with the Iranians against Britain. Hunt has also attacked the Labour leader for not automatically accepting the word of the British intelligence agencies that Iran’s responsible.

But Corbyn’s quite right, and the British spy agencies can’t be trusted. 

There’s ample evidence of this. Let’s go back to the Iraq invasion. Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but Blair insisted that they did so he could have an excuse for joining George Dubya’s invasion. And so, under government pressure, the ‘dodgy dossier’ was concocted by the spy agencies, which purported to show that Hussein did.

And British Intelligence has a very long record of publishing disinformation, propaganda and sheer lies against the British Left.

There’s the case of the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s. This was supposedly a letter written by the Russian head of the Comintern to the Labour party encouraging them to start a revolution and turn Britain into a Communist satellite, and it was published by the British press just before a general election. It’s believed that the letter was a major cause of Labour losing it to the Tories. The letter was an utter fabrication, created by MI 5 to discredit Labour. And British intelligence have kept doing it. In the 1970s MI 5 was behind various rumours and attempts to overthrow the Labour leader and Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, because he was a KGB spy. This was part of a wider campaign of disinformation during the Cold War, designed to combat the spread of Communism. The agency responsible for this, the Information Research Department, and the other agencies also manufactured stories claiming that the IRA were collaborating with the Soviet Union, and that high profile members of the Labour left were also either Communist agents or sympathisers or members of the IRA. This has continued to today. Just a year or so ago, the Institute for Statecraft, a propaganda outfit churning out online pieces attacking politicians and other public figures, whom they thought were too close to Putin, was revealed as being funded by the British government. And although it’s a private organisation, it has links to the British intelligence agencies and the section of the SAS responsible for cyberwarfare. It’s no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn was one of those smeared as a supporter or agent of Putin.

And this is quite apart from the agencies’ grubby record rigging elections and doing other dirty tricks in Britain’s former colonies, in order to make sure that they remained loyal to Britain. This is extensively described in a recent book published by a mainstream historian.

And aside from producing propaganda, disinformation and outright lies, British intelligence at one time was also notorious for its incompetence.

Apparently Margaret Thatcher was the only Prime Minister, so it was claimed in the 1990s, who regularly read their reports. Other Prime Ministers didn’t bother for the simple reason that they were rubbish. Among the failures of the western intelligence agencies was the fact that they didn’t predict the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The only organisation that knew that a revolution was coming were the Tudeh, the Iranian Communist party. And they made the mistake of assuming it would be a Communist uprising. The CIA also thought that the Ayatollah Khomeini would be a leader in the mould of Gandhi, preaching non-violent opposition, instead of the radical firebrand he actually was.

Now British intelligence might be right about Iranian responsibility for these bombings, but they need to offer evidence. Evidence that can be subjected to proper scrutiny and independent analysis. If that is not forthcoming, then the long history of the British intelligence agencies in publishing lies and propaganda, including against the Labour party and other elements of the domestic Left, means that their word cannot be trusted.

Corbyn is quite right not to trust the word of the spy agencies automatically, and demand proper evidence. Until that is produced, it seems clear to me that the British and American right-wing political and media elite, and their secret states, are merely producing more smears to prepare for Iran’s invasion. And this is being driven not by anything the Iranians are doing, but simply for the same geopolitical and corporate imperialism behind the invasion of Iraq.

Tony Greenstein on the Neocon Warmongering of Nick Cohen, Private Eye’s ‘Ratbiter’

March 20, 2019

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye contains yet another piece by ‘Ratbiter’ promoting the fake story that Corbyn’s Labour party is just one seething mass of anti-Semites, and making these allegations against a couple of people in particular. I’ll blog about these latest claims in due course, as they’re very similar to the accusations used against others like Mike, who are very definitely not anti-Semites.

‘Ratbiter’ is the pseudonym used by GuardianObserver journalist Nick Cohen. According to a piece Tony Greenstein put up on his blog in October last year, 2018, Cohen at one time used to be a respectable journalist. He started writing for the Groan / Absurder during Blair’s tenure of No.10, but what actually respectable. He defended immigrants and asylum seekers against Blair’s attempts to demonise them and tighten up the anti-immigration legislation. And then along came 9/11, and he became a determined critic of Islam and a fervent supporter of Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Greenstein described this part of his journalistic career in a piece he put up defending Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum, who seems to believe the anti-Semitism smears. Cohen had attacked him for not doing enough to purge the organisation of Greenstein himself. Here’s how Greenstein described Cohen and his turn to the Right.

But first let me digress. There was a time, at the beginning of the Blair government, when Nick Cohen was a decent journalist. I even looked forward to reading his column in The Observer. No one was a more indefatiguable defender of asylum seekers from the depredations of a racist New Labour government than Cohen. Cohen was a mainstream Tribune style journalist.

Then something happened. As with Christopher Hitchens it was 9/11 and then the war with Iraq.  From being a left-wing journalist Cohen became transformed into an anti-Muslim bigot. No one, not even David Aaronovitch, banged the war drum more assiduously than Cohen. He did it, he said, in support of his anti-Baathist Iraqi friends, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, the murderous rampages of American troops, the torture centres and the deliberate policy of setting Shi’ites against Sunnis with all the devastatingly sectarian consequences that followed. To Cohen Iraq was a holy war and unlike Aaronovitch he never publicly recanted (Aaro promised to eat his hat, although to my knowledge this never happened).

Instead Cohen became one of the authors and founders of the short-lived Euston Manifesto group of neo-cons and imperialists. For him opposition to war meant you were inextricably intertwined with Islamic fundamentalism and inherently anti-Semitic. Naturally when Jeremy Corbyn came along Cohen joined the rest of the chorus at the Guardian/Observer in his ceaseless attacks on Labour’s most radical and left-wing leader ever. Nothing was too dirty or discredited to attack Corbyn with but it is nonetheless worth remembering that once upon a time Nick Cohen was a decent and genuine journalist.

Today Cohen operates under the pseudonym of ratbiter at Private Eye, acting as a conduit for whatever misinformation about the Left that the Right supplies him with. It is an appropriate name as his journalism, if that’s the right word, is certainly verminous. In this capacity he has written a series of attacks on Momentum’s Left in Brighton and in particular on my friend and comrade Greg Hadfield.

Greenstein then turns to taking apart the lies, smears and inaccuracies Cohen has made against the Momentum left in Brighton in that fortnight’s issue of Private Eye in a piece entitled ‘The New Nasty Party’. And he also reveals another magazine Cohen writes for: The Speccie. Greenstein writes

As befits a good socialist, not only does Nick Cohen write in Private Eye but he is a columnist at that well known socialist weekly The Spectator. And there it was that he attacked poor Lansman for not doing enough in the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’. Cohen starts off his column with the brainless comment that ‘being a Jew on the Corbyn left is soul crushing.’

Greenstein also add the remark that he was tempted to ask Cohen how he would know, as Cohen isn’t actually Jewish. He then goes on to attack the inaccuracies in another, previous article Cohen had written, and a piece on his blog. After describing this lies and inaccuracies, Greenstein concludes by stating that he wrote to the Guardian telling them he would be willing to replace both Cohen and Owen Jones for half their salaries. His offer was unsurprisingly rejected.

A picture of the man himself from Greenstein’s article. If you can’t read the caption, it says, ‘The worst thing about all the Fascists, charlatans and liars running the Leave campaign is all the bloody name calling! To which Greenstein adds a caption saying that he lacks a certain self-awareness.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/10/will-nick-cohen-guardians-hapless.html

Private Eye is therefore publishing highly biased pieces, which could well be considered defamatory – Greenstein said that the only reason he isn’t suing him is because he was already suing the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and has the Jewish Chronicle and a certain unnamed councillor in his sights – by someone who fully supported and promoted an unprovoked, illegal war. A war that was really wages solely for the enrichment of predatory western multinationals and the American-Saudi oil industry. A war that has left a million dead and seven million displaced in the Middle East, quite apart from the carnage Greenstein describes in the passage quoted above.

But there, no source is apparently too low and no lie too vile in the media’s determination to oust Corbyn.

Ken Loach Talks about Writer and Poet Kevin Higgins, Suspended for Satirising War Criminal Blair

March 3, 2019

Here’s another excellent piece from Labour Against the Witchhunt, where the respected left-wing film-maker, Ken Loach, talks about the case of Kevin Higgins. Higgins is a writer and poet, an overseas member of the party, living in Ireland. He was suspended in June 2016 for daring to write a poem satirising Tony Blair and the bloody carnage he had caused in Iraq. Loach only reads a part of a poem, as it’s rather too long to repeat in full. Before he does he jokes that as this is what got Higgins suspended, then everyone present is also going to be suspended simply for being there. So anyone who doesn’t want to be suspended should leave.

The poem is a reworking of a piece by Brecht, about a soldier, who gets shot, and his needy widow receives only something insignificant. In the part Loach reads, which I’m paraphrasing, not quoting, Blair’s ‘no longer new’ wife wonders about what she will receive from all the depleted uranium shells he had dropped during the battle of Basra, all the soldiers he had sent to meet Improvised Explosive Devices in far Mesopotamia? She got for all that white night terrors of him on trial for his crimes and the desire never again to look out the window of their fine Connaught Square House at the tree, which people said was once used to hang traitors.

Loach says of  Higgins that he guesses Higgins isn’t the only one who’s disgusted with Blair, with his illegality, the hundreds of thousands he caused to die and the millions he’s made since he left office. ‘If anyone brings the party into disrepute, it’s that mass murderer.’

He goes on then to reveal what happened to Higgins himself. He didn’t hear anything, so in May 2017 he wrote to the Governance and Legal Unit requesting all the documents relating to him to be sent to him within forty according to his right in the laws about data protection. Nine months later, no reply. The video was uploaded on YouTube on 7th February 2018. He was still suspended, as far as Loach knew.

The cineaste concludes

It is incompetent. It is inefficient. It is unprincipled. And those people should not be in charge of that disclipinary procedure.

Loach is absolutely correct. And Higgins’ suspension, simply for satirising Blair, isn’t the mark of a democratic socialist party. It’s the action of a rigidly centralised dictatorship, where the leader was, like Mussolini, always right. It’s like nothing so much as Stalin’s ‘cult of personality’ in the USSR, with the exception that Higgins only got suspended. In Stalin’s USSR, he’d have been tortured and shot, or at the very least sent to a gulag.

And Loach is definitely correct when he says that he probably isn’t the only one disgusted with Blair. Millions of us are. Over a million people marched against the Iraq invasion, including the priests at my local church. It was one of the biggest popular demonstrations in British history, but Blair and his vile cronies ignored it. And people certainly left the party and refused to vote for the grotty profiteer because of his greed, his illegality, his warmongering, his privatisation, his insistence on absolute obedience and micromanagement of party affairs. Private Eye called him the ‘Dear Leader’, satirising the smaltzy, sentimental image he tried to project, as well as his demand to be loved. The Tory party at the time stood in opposition to the War, which got a left-wing friend of mine to buy the Spectator for a time. I think that this was mostly opportunism on the Tories’ party, as there is nothing they love better than a good war. But to be fair to them, Peter Hitchens, the brother of the late atheist polemicist Christopher, genuinely despised him for Iraq and continues to loathe him, describing him as ‘the Blair creature’.

And this monster seems intent on coming back into politics. He has praised the Independent Group, which led Mike, Martin Odoni and others to ask why he should still be allowed to remain in the Labour party. It is against the rules to be a member or support a rival organisation. This was the rule the Blairites used to throw out Moshe Machover, the Israeli academic and anti-Zionist. His crime was that he had a piece published in the Morning Star, as have very many leaders and MPs over the years. Professor Machover was grudgingly readmitted to the party after a massive outcry. But Blair gives them his support, and no-one important seems to raise any objections whatsoever. The left-wing vlogger, Gordon Dimmack, says he has heard speculation that if the wretched group survives, then before long Blair will return to active politics. It’s an idea that he says gave him nightmares.

Unfortunately, I think it’s a distinct possibility. Despite the fact that his time as this country’s leader has been and gone, he was on Andrew Marr’s wretched propaganda show today. I’m glad I missed it, as it would only have infuriated me. But it does seem to bear out these rumours.

One million men, women and children killed. Seven million displaced all across the Middle East. A secular state with free healthcare and education destroyed and looted. A state where women were free to have their own careers and run businesses. Where there were no ‘peace barriers’ between Shi’a and Sunni quarters in cities to stop them murdering each other. A country whose oil reserves have been looted by the American and Saudi oil companies, and whose state industries were plundered by American multinationals.

And this creature appears on TV again, to grin his sickly smile and utter neoliberal platitudes and smooth words. But hey, you can’t criticise him, because he stands for inclusion and diversity. While parents starve themselves to feed their children, students are faced with unaffordable tuition fees and the disabled are thrown off benefits thanks to the wretched assessments and work capable tests he, Mandelson and the others in his coterie introduced.

Higgins’ poem reminds me about one of the great protest poems written back in the ’60s about another unjust war, Vietnam. This was To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam) by Adrian Mitchell, where every stanza ended ‘Tell me lies about Vietnam’. The note about it in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport states that he added stanzas later to include more leaders and more wars.

So perhaps if Blair comes back to politics we should write another: ‘Tell Me Lies About Iraq’. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yay! My Books Have Arrived Ready to Send to Reviewers

February 6, 2019

Yesterday and today I got the packages of multiple copies of the books I’ve published with Lulu, which I ordered last week. The first package, which I got yesterday, was of copies of my political books Privatisation: Killing the NHS, For A Worker’s Chamber and Crimes of Empire.

Privatisation: Killing the NHS is all about the Thatcherite plan to sell off this greatest of British institutions from Thatcher herself through Major, Blair, Cameron and now Tweezer.

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that as parliament is now dominated by millionaires, there should be a chamber solely reserved for working people, elected by working people.

And Crimes of Empire surveys current foreign policy and tries to show that instead of defending democracy in eastern Europe and bringing it to the Middle East through the War on terror, and so on, British and American foreign policy is and always has been about protecting western commercial interests. Which has always meant toppling foreign governments, installing brutal dictators and looting their countries of their resources and industries. Like the way the Americans overthrew the democratic socialist government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in the 1950s, because he nationalized the plantations of the United Fruit Company. Britain and America overthrew the premier of Iran, Mossadeq, at the same time because he dared to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which was firmly in our hands. And the invasion of Iraq nearly two decades ago was all about seizing the country’s oil industry, privatizing their state industries so that they were sold to western multinationals, and then trying to turn the country in the low tax, free trade state the Neocons love. Which wrecked their economy. And more, ad nauseam.

The second package, which I got today, was of copies of my two volume book on slavery in the British Empire, The Global Campaign.

I’d like to get my books out to a wider audience, and so I’ve ordered multiple copies of them to send to various magazines and journals in the hope they’ll review them. I really don’t know if they will. I suspect that they may will be ignored in favour of books from known publishers and authors. But if you don’t try, you don’t know. I’ll let you know how I get on.

All the above books can be ordered from Lulu. Or from me, if you want a signed copy, though that will mean extra postage, as I’ll have to order from Lulu to go to me, then post it to you.

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

January 7, 2019

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.

Pop Against the Tories: Cabinet of Millionaires’ ‘Theresa May’

December 26, 2018

Thanks to everyone, who liked my post wishing them a happy Christmas, and for all the messages of peace and goodwill. Greatly appreciated! I hope you all had a great Christmas Day, and are enjoying the season’s festivities. And now I’m going to ruin it by talking about politics!

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting a pop song he believes should be the real Christmas number one, rather than Ladbaby’s ‘piece of tat’ ‘We Built this City on Sausage Roll’. This was ‘Theresa May’ by Cabinet of Millionaires. While Ladbaby’s song is just a piece of jolly holiday froth, ‘Theresa May’ is a bitter attack on the current Prime Minister for the massive poverty she had caused, her warmongering and the privatization of the NHS. And the band’s name is obviously making a point about the extremely rich background of the members of her cabinet.

Mike’s put their video up on his channel. This shows a homeless man trudging from place to place with a puppet of the Prime Minister. He puts up a card saying simply ‘Theresa May – Private Dancer – Will Dance for Money’, and then jiggles the marionette around. The sign’s clearly a reference to Tina Turner’s classic ‘Private Dancer’, but also to her amoral, mercenary politics. She’s only interested in enriching herself and her followers. The lyrics are simple but angry, attacking her for ‘selling arms for illegal wars’ and ‘selling the NHS’. Both of which are absolutely true.

The video also shows some, but obviously not all, of the hardship faced by the homeless. The character sits against the wall, huddling in his padded coat and blanket with another homeless man, as they’re ignored by the people around them walking pass. Or worse. Another man walks up to a piece of wall next to him and urinates against it, to his obvious discomfort and disgust. The film ends with the character finally giving up trying to get money with the puppet. He throws it in the bin and moves on.

As we should with the real May. Homelessness has increased massively under Tweezer by something like 127% and 459 rough sleepers have died on the streets. One of those was Hungarian fellow, whose patch was just outside parliament. The man had a job, but couldn’t afford accommodation. Which is the reality all too many face, thanks to the Tories refusal to build more homes and their attack on council housing. Building firms have been caught building less than the number of affordable homes that need to be built, and the term ‘affordable’ itself can be misleading. It’s defined as something like 80 per cent of the normal price of houses in an area. This means that the affordable homes in an area of expensive housing may be anything but.

And the Tories really don’t want to build more housing, because house prices have been tied into general economic performance. More homes means that the market forces Maggie worshiped will make house prices fall, and so the economy will take another hit. Quite apart from the fact that it will leave many people in negative equity – in other words, their houses will be worth less than they paid for it – and it could undercut the buy to let industry which the Tories and right-wing rags like the Heil did so much to encourage.

The result of this is that there are 300,000 people, who are technically homeless, living in bed and breakfasts, hostels or on friends’ sofas, as well as whole generation of young students, who will never be able to afford their own home.

This is the way the Thatcherite dream of a home-owning democracy has died.

And then there’s May’s privatization of the health service, which is destroying it for the corporate profit of the private health firms and insurance companies, Which is also killing people.

May’s not quite responsible for illegal wars – Blair and Cameron started that, but she’s continuing them, so that brave men and women are being killed, not for any reasons of national safety, but purely so that multinational corporations can once again loot their countries and particularly their oil.

Cabinet of Millionaires’ song musically is good, tuneful pop. It follows a series of musical attacks on the Tories, such as ‘Liar, Liar’, which was about May’s persistent lying, and ‘Nicky Morgan’s Eyes’. This last was by a group of teachers sending up the former education secretary and her wretched policies towards schools.

Thatcherism died long ago. It is now zombie economics, pushed and supported by an exploitative, profiteering industrial elite and lying media establishment. It’s time it was ended.

Get Tweezer and the Tories out, and Corbyn in!

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/25/should-this-be-the-real-christmas-number-one/

The Operation of Worker-Owned Companies in Martian SF

December 9, 2018

A week or so ago I put up a few passages from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars (London: HarperCollins 1996), a science fiction book about the colonization and terraformation of the Red Planet. In Robinson’s book, on breaking away from terrestrial domination the Martians establish a constitution which makes all the companies not owned by the global Martian state or its constituent cities worker-owned cooperatives, partly modelled on the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. On page 301 Robinson describes how Nadia, the new Martian president in the capital, Sheffield, works to transform the planet’s industries, including those formerly owned by terrestrial metanats – vast multinationals that now dominate the industries of whole countries – into the new system. Robinson writes

Nadia, however, never made it to this conference. She got caught up by affairs in Sheffield instead, mostly instituting the new economic system, which she thought important enough to keep her there. The legislature was passing the law of eco-economics, fleshing out the bones drawn up in the constitution. They directed co-ops that had existed before the revolution to help the newly independent metanat local subsidiaries to transform themselves into similar co-operative organisations. This process, called horizontalization, had very wide support, especially from the young natives, and so it was proceeding fairly smoothly. Every Martian business now had to be owned by its employees only. No co-op could exceed one thousand people; larger enterprises had to be made of co-op associations, working together. For their internal structures most of the firms chose variants of the Bogdanovist models, which themselves were based on the co-operative Basque community of Mondragon, Spain. In these firms all employees were co-owners, and they bought into their positions by paying the equivalent of about a year’s wages to the firms equity fund. This became the starter of their share in the firm, which grew every year they stayed, until it was given back to them as pension or departure payment. Councils elected from the work-force hired management, usually from outside, and this management then had the power to make executive decisions, but was subject to a yearly review by the councils. Credit and capital were obtained from central co-operative banks, or the global government’s start-up fund, or helper organisations such as Praxis and the Swiss. On the next level up, co-ops in the same industries or services wer associating for larger projects, and also sending representatives to industry guilds, which established professional practice boards, arbitration and mediation centres, and trade associations.

I can’t say I’m happy about the idea of worker managers buying their share of management with the equivalent of a year’s pay. This seems far too easy for someone to exploit to me. And I’m also not sure how practical it would be to turn all companies into co-operatives. However, we do need industrial democracy, if only to overturn the massive exploitation of working people that has gone on under Thatcherism. Under the current Thatcherite orthodoxy, wages are frozen, jobs insecure and the welfare system undermined and destroyed. A quarter of a million people have been forced to use foodbanks to save themselves from starvation, and 330,000-odd people are homeless. And the number of people dying on our streets, and the elderly in their homes due to Tory cuts in the cold weather payments, has shot up. And this has all been to give the rich tax cuts and provide employers with a cheap, cowed workforce.

Enough’s enough. We need a proper government with a proper vision that treats working people decently, with proper wages and rights at work, invigorates trade unions, restores a strong and health welfare state, builds properly affordable homes and reverses the privatization of the NHS. Only Corbyn’s Labour promises all that. And part of this promise is to put workers on the boards of all firms with over a certain number of employees.

Corbyn is the person we need to have in No.10. Not Tweezer and her gang of crooks and profiteers. Get them out, and Labour in.

Ex-CIA Head Michael Scheuer States America Should Not Support Israel

November 27, 2018

I found this short clip of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA, speaking at a debate held at Georgetown University. He was answering questions about his view that America should not support Israel.

The panel are incredulous at this, and raise the old canard about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East.

He makes it clear that he believes that America should be indifferent to whether Israel survives, and that democracy is a silly foreign policy goal. This has been proved in Afghanistan. Against the response that democracies are less likely to wage war on democracies, he replies that he spent four years when two of the world’s greatest democracies managed to kill 640,000 of their own people. He states that democracies will fight like other people, but it is not the business of the US to install democracy anywhere. ‘We don’t do it very well. We do it ridiculously badly as a matter of fact.’ He goes on to say that it is a canard that countries have a right to exist. No, they have a right to defend themselves.

He then denies the charge that Israel and its representatives corrupt US politics. No, it’s Israel-supporting Americans who do that. As for his evidence for this, he points to what they did to Ambassador Freeman. The panel states that that was not corruption, it was a lobby doing what a lobby does. The panel then compares the Israel lobby to the tobacco lobby and the gun lobby. And Scheuer replies by saying that none of these lobbies rebound to America’s harm, while the Israel lobby does exactly that. They then ask him about the harm the Israel lobby has done. Scheuer responds by saying that they have convinced Americans that Israeli interests are identical with US national security interests. When the chairman of the panel says that a lot of people would agree with that, Scheuer says bluntly that a lot of people are foolish, and leading America into defeat.

I think Scheuer’s an old school American Conservative of the type who believes that America has no business telling other countries how to run their affairs. It’s classic isolationism. He isn’t alone. One of the American servicewomen voicing this objection was a senior Pentagon officer, who despise the Neocons for dragging America into a series of pointless wars in the Middle East.

And no, America is not good at installing democracies. It has always instead installed Fascist dictatorships. The democracies it has installed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are artificial and very dependent on continued US military support.

As for Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, that’s rubbish. Lebanon is also a democracy, though very carefully limited in a system of consociality, so that the different religions occupy particular posts in a very careful balancing of sectarian power. Iran’s a theocracy, but it’s people also vote in elections, so it has a democratic component. The democracy the Neocons wanted to bring to Iraq was similarly limited, in that they wanted the only parties to gain power to be those standing for complete free trade, low taxes, and so on. The constitution the Americans imposed on Iraq has written into it that the Iraqis’ own oil industry cannot be nationalized. It has remain in private hands. Which means those of the western multinationals. And Israel itself is very dubious as a democracy. The Palestinians are very much second-class citizens and the Israeli state only acts on behalf of the European and American Jewish colonists.

And it should be absolutely axiomatic – a clear, fundamental true political principle – that one major reason why so much of the Arab and Muslim world hates America has absolutely nothing to do with hatred of democracy or western civilization per se, but because America backs Israel, the persecution of that nation’s indigenous Arab and Muslim population, and invades and plunders other Arab and Islamic states.

Scheuer’s a brave man for pointing all this out, and I’m surprise the Israel lobby hasn’t smeared him as an anti-Semite. Perhaps they have. But he’s right. As are all the other decent critics of Israel, that the country and its foreign lobbies have smeared.

AJ+ Video on the Bedouin Village the Israelis Wish to Demolish

November 24, 2018

This is a video that the Blairites, the Israel lobby, the Tories and the lamestream media really don’t want you to see. It’s the kind of video that would have Marlon Solomon, Maggie Cousins and the entire Board of Deputies of British Jews screaming ‘anti-Semitism!’ Not because it is – it isn’t – but simply because it shows the reality of what’s happening in Israel to the indigenous people. They’re having their homes demolished.

The video’s just less than five minutes long, and features host Dena Takruri walking through the Bedouin village of al-Zarnoug in the Negev desert, talking to one of its people, Basma Abo Qwedir. The village has existed since before Israel was founded in 1948, but the Israeli authorities don’t consider that it legitimately exists, and so have attempted to demolish it and forcibly relocate its people many times. And although its people are considered Israeli citizens, Abo Qwedir makes it very clear that she doesn’t believe this is remotely true. If she’s an Israeli, she says, then she’s a second- or third class one. The country doesn’t treat her as other citizens, such as Jews, for example.

The video states that al-Zarnoug is one of 35 unrecognized Arab villages in the desert with a total population of 70,000 people. They’ve been under threat of eviction since the Nakba of Palestine’s destruction through the foundation of Israel in 1948. In 2013 a bill was proposed for the villages’ demolition and the removal of its people to government-built townships. In some cases, the villages would be replaced by Jewish settlements. The Israeli authorities said they would shelve the plan after widespread protests, but the home demolitions have continued, including in al-Zarnoug.

As shown, it appears to be a village of grim, breeze-block and concrete housing. If the residents need to build new buildings, they have to be hidden behind corrugated iron sheeting, because if they go to the authorities for a building permit, it won’t be issued. The roads and thoroughfares are simply the bare soil. And before AJ+ visited the village, the Israelis demolished houses in the nearby village of El Araqid for the 90th time. Abo Qwedir explains that as the village doesn’t officially exist, it means that they don’t have electricity, infracture, playgrounds, sewage and roads as they should. She shows Takruri how the villagers get electricity from solar panels on their houses, which they can move to follow the sun. But in winter and rainy days when there is no sun, they have to rely on batteries.

Takruri states that Israel regards the development of the Negev desert as one of its most important goals, and the ministry of foreign affairs says that the country seeks to integrate villagers into its development plans. But residents like Ab Qwedir read between the lines that the government wishes to replacement them with Jews, because Arabs, Palestinians, ‘are not welcome here’.

The video concludes with Abo Qwedir saying that simply staying there is a form of resistance against the Israeli state. Everyone does it, she says. ‘Sometimes it’s against the wind, other times it’s against the state.’

The demolition of Arab homes has been a major issue for decades now, and many Israelis support the Arabs in the determination to stay in their homes. Jews, including rabbis, have campaigned against the house demolitions. From what I’ve read, the Israeli colonization of the Negev presents the Israeli state with a problem. As it stands at the moment, the desert’s very largely Arab in population, so that some Israelis have said that they feel the territory is ‘lost’. For Israel to settle the region with Jews, it will have to withdraw or abandon some Jewish settlements elsewhere, such as the Occupied Territories. Which will enrage the settlers there, who believe that as part of Eretz Israel, the West Bank should be firmly part of Israel and its indigenous people cleansed.

And this is probably part of the explanation why Israel is so keen to tell western Diaspora Jews that they’re not safe in Europe and America, and exploit every terrorist outrage, like the Pittsburgh shooting two weeks ago, to spread fear and encourage Jewish Americans and Europeans to move to Israel for their own safety. In Britain this led to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism making the absurd and odious claim that Jews were facing the biggest rise in anti-Semitism since the 1930s. Hardly. This statement was so obviously wrong, that even one of the Jewish papers or organisations had to step in to show that it was utterly false.

It’s for sticking up for the people of Palestine against the destruction of their homes and their treatment as second-class citizens, that decent people like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni, Ken Livingstone and Mike, as well as Jeremy Corbyn himself, have been vilified as anti-Semites and worse by the Blairites, the Israel lobby and a corrupt, Tory media.

It’s because they’re afraid of a genuinely socialist Labour party getting into power, which really does support racial equality and dignity. As against the Blairites, the Neocons, and the Tories, who stand for imperialism, colonialism and war without end to promote Israel, western and Saudi oil interests, and the seizure of other nations’ state enterprises and oil reserves, for the benefit of the multinationals.