Posts Tagged ‘oligarchs’

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Have I Got News For You and the Bias in BBC News Satire

December 17, 2016

As I said in the previous blog post, I’ve stopped watching Have I Got News For You, because I’m sick of its bias. This is partly because I’m fed up with the show constantly repeating the anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour line of the mainstream newspapers. I also think its because, after having read some of the alternative news outlets and organisations about various issues, like Counterpunch, Lobster and seen Abby Martin and Amy Goodson on RT and Democracy Now, as well as The Young Turks, Secular Talk, the Jimmy Dore Show and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, I’ve become acutely aware of how far the reporting of the corporate media, including the mendacious BBC, is from the real situation in Britain and other nations around the world.

I was particularly struck by it during an edition of Have I Got News For You a month or so ago. One of the guests that week is the new head of the Conservative part in Scotland. I can’t remember her name. I did, however, find her very smug, self-satisfied and sneering, as you’d expect from a Tory official. She was also introduced as being ‘openly gay’, as if it were part of the changes the Tories had made to make themselves more electable to the guid people north of the Border. The Tories have been fielding many openly gay candidates around the country for several years now, ever since Dave Cameron took over the party and very ostentatiously set about his modernisation policy. This was about trying to make the Conservatives look more left-wing than the Labour party, then under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which wasn’t exactly the most difficult task. Part of this involved them trying to break the image of the ‘nasty party’ by endorsing more female and minority candidates. This is presumably calculated to impress that part of the liberal middle class, who are worried about the lack of representation of women, ethnic minorities and gays in parliament, but only if they come from respectable upper and middle class backgrounds like themselves. If they’re working or lower middle class, then they had better know their place along with the rest of the proles, and not threaten the wonderful Thatcherite utopia the Tories and Blairites have created.

At one point, the Tory went off on a rant about how the Ukraine was under threat from Putin, as part of his campaign to annexe the whole country, beginning with the eastern part of the country and the Crimea, before taking over the Sudetenland and invading Poland. The view pushed very much by her was that the Russians are the aggressor, who need to be stopped at all costs from victimising the innocent Ukrainian regime.

It’s a tissue of lies. The Ukrainian regime is hardly innocent. It is stuffed full of Nazis from the Pravy Sektor, individuals and organisations that have adopted the full regalia and rituals of the SS auxiliaries that fought for the Nazis during the Second World War. These Ukrainians Nazis fully participated in the Holocaust and were responsible for some of the most horrific pogroms against Jews in the occupied Soviet territories during the War. These groups have shot at and savagely beaten left-wingers, including trade unionists. Just as the regime is intent on clamping down on independent journalists, who do not follow Kyiv’s ultranationalist line. This has included compiling and publishing a black list online of several hundred offending journalist, who have subsequently received death threats.

It is also a lie that the current regime is the product of spontaneous democratic demonstrations, like that of the Maidan Revolution. It isn’t. It is essentially the creation of a clique of very corrupt oligarchs, backed by quangos from America and the EU. The orange uniforms the protestors wore were handed out to them at a tent run by these semi-official US organisations.

And instead of being the aggressors, it is the Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are the victims. Simply looking online, you can find reports of these people being beaten and murdered by the Ukrainian army, and of the Ukrainian government sending troops in to prevent them from reaching polling stations. This is to stop them putting in their votes for the opposition. I realise that some of this is going to be Russian propaganda, but not all.

But this is very much not the image presented by the corporate media and the Beeb. Including Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. Hislop cut into the woman’s spiel. However, instead of challenging her about the real situation in Ukraine, he instead decided to ask her questions about whether or not she had contradicted Boris Johnson.

This is an issue, especially if you like to see the Tories tear themselves apart. But it’s not the most important issue here.

Which is that the British people are being fed lies by their media, and the British, American and EU authorities to whip up hatred of the Russians and strengthen ties with a brutally intolerant and persecutory Nazi regime. There’s obviously a very good reason why the Beeb and the corporate media want to silence any mention of Nazism in Ukraine. Despite the vile antics of National Action, the sight of a real Nazi politico, like those in the Ukrainian rada, in full SS gear, giving the Nazi salute would appal the vast majority of people in this country, regardless of whichever side of the political spectrum they came from. Except, perhaps, the Tory right and parts of UKIP.

And so in the interests of furthering this international, corporatist agenda of incorporating the Ukraine into the web of western-orientated, free-trade governed countries, any reporting and discussion of just how murderous and undemocratic the Ukrainian regime is, is rigorously censored.

And this incident also showed how the Beeb’s political bias works, even in a show which proclaims itself as ‘irreverent’. In an interview a while ago at the Edinburgh television festival, the genuinely irreverent – amongst many other things – Scots comedian Frankie Boyle discussed political bias at the Beeb. Boyle, you will remember, had been a regular guest on Mock The Week, another news comedy show. This was more like What’s My Line, in that the guests were given subjects to joke about by the question master, Dara O’Brien. Boyle disappeared as some of his jokes were too extreme and dark for the Beeb, even if the show was broadcast after nine O’clock. Boyle commented that the Beeb’s idea of remaining impartial is simply to lampoon all of the parties. It does not, however, like criticism or jokes about particular issues. And so Boyle’s humour was too edgy for the Corporation.

He was also critical of Have I Got News For You and the cosy relationship the show has with the politicians it lambasts and lampoons. Boyle had been to Romania. While he was there, he watched a Romanian comedian on television, who was making jokes about the country’s government, members of which were in the audience. The comedian pointed them out, and the politicos and comedian exchanged quips and greetings. Boyle found it all far too cosy and complacent, and said so to his Romanian guide. The man defended the show, saying that Boyle had it in his own country. How so, asked the Scots comedian. ‘I’ve seen it. Have I Got News For You‘, replied his Romanian friend, who stated it was just like that.

And Boyle concurs that it is. He stated that if the show rips into a politico one week, the next week they’ll have him on the panel, laughing and joking with them. He gave the example of Boris Johnson, who was a regular guest on the show. He could have mentioned many others. Such as Cecil Parkinson, who father a love child with his secretary, Sarah Keays, and then did his best to prevent the story getting out and imposing legal restrictions on Keays and her disabled daughter that led to great hardship. I have to say, I don’t know many women, who find Parkinson at all attractive. Far from it. I think most women find him smarmy. And my mother and her friends described him as ‘the type of man you would not like to be caught behind the filing cabinet with’. But Parkinson’s charm certainly worked on Hislop. After he appeared on Have I Got News For You, the editor of Private Eye talked about he charmed all of them on the programme. Perhaps you have to meet him in person to feel it.

I’m very much aware that Frankie Boyle is very much a controversial figure. Some of his jokes are too dark and tasteless for most people. But in this case, he’s absolutely right. The BBC has a very pronounced bias, even on ‘satirical’ shows such as Have I Got News For You, where the presenters and guests very definitely keep away from certain topics, and keep their criticisms within the very narrow compass prescribed by the official media.

Catherine Love on Jeremy Corbyn, Palestine, the IRA and Peace Talks

August 13, 2016

This is a very interesting little piece I found on YouTube. It’s a vlog edition by Catherine Love, who very definitely is a supporter of Corbyn. In it, she talks about how she had Muslim friends and made a decision to talk to Muslims and particularly Palestinians in order to understand their point of view over the situation in Palestine. She makes the point that the current hostility to the west in the Middle East is due to the fact that we have invaded and are making war on them. She criticises Israel for its expansionist policies into Palestinian territory, and talks about the terrible things friends of hers, including a White British man, have seen in Israel and its war on the Palestinians. She makes the point that she is not criticising the Jews or even the people of Israel, but the Israeli government. She also makes the good point that everyone should have the right to worship their God according to their religion, and that Palestinian land is sacred to the Palestinians. She also argues that she’s met Muslims, who can hold their own in arguments about their religion, and that very many are not fanatics using the Qu’ran to justify killing, but sincere people opposed to terrorism. She also makes a good point but asking how we Brits would react, if France suddenly moved its frontiers to claim parts of Britain, and started expelling us.

She talks about how Jeremy Corbyn has been attacked as a friend of terrorists, because he went out to hold peace talks with the Palestinians, just as he attempted to do with the IRA. This went on until the Tories told him to leave it alone, as they were also holding peace talks, and his were interfering with theirs. As for the IRA, Corbyn was accused of supporting them as he called them ‘friends’ and was seen mourning the Nationalist dead at their graves. Love makes the point that these gestures have to be made by peacemakers in order to get the other side to talk. She also remarks on the massive criticism Corbyn has got for this because Maggie Thatcher declared that you don’t talk to terrorists. But Corbyn was a part of the peace process that eventually produced peace in Northern Ireland. She also criticises the current attacks on Putin as a thug and tyrant, and says that if you listen to him, you find he is also rational and makes very good points, about how the West is arming his enemies. She therefore urges us to support Corbyn as a genuine peacemaker, who can bring peace to the Middle East.

This is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it’s confirmed what I said in an article earlier this evening about Private Eye smearing Corbyn because it supports the establishment, Blairite position on Israel and its dispossession of the Palestinians. Or at least, Israel as the bastion of American and European imperial power in the Middle East.

I also think she’s right about the attacks on Putin and Corbyn. She’s wrong in her assessment of Putin – he is a thug and an autocrat. He is, however, the wronged party regarding events in the Ukraine. The so-called ‘democratic’ Ukrainian government installed by the Orange Revolution is no such thing. It’s another seizure of power by a rival oligarch, whose coalition partners include Fascist thugs. These are intent on cleansing the ethnic Russian population in the east of the country, and have attacked ethnic Ukrainian democrats, trade unionists and members of the country’s opposition.

But this is another side that you won’t hear in the pages of Private Eye. The magazine in its ‘Letter from…’ column has been running articles consistently favourable to the Ukrainian regime, and against Putin and the Russians. They are presented as Nazis and mafia thugs in their enclaves in the east of the country. This may well be true, but it’s very definitely also true of the forces attacking them from the supposedly free Ukrainians. I’ve also come across footage online from the Russians which purport to show American forces, which have been captured by the Russians. If this is the correct, the Private Eye is giving its support as an outlet for anti-Putin propaganda for a covert war against the Russians. This is a conflict which could, terrifyingly, become an all-out war, as predicted by various NATO generals.

As for Maggie Thatcher criticising Corbyn for talking to the IRA, this is more than a little hypocritical. At the same time that Thatcher was denouncing the Labour party for holding talks with the IRA, Sinn Fein and demanding British troops out of Ulster, Thatcher and the Tories were holding their own, very secret talks with the Republicans. I read this, not in the pages of a fringe magazine devoted to conspiracies, like Lobster, but in the august Financial Times. But I’ve no doubt Corbyn’s willingness to hold talks to the IRA has marked him down in intelligence circles as untrustworthy and treacherous, or words to that effect. Or as Maggie would say, ‘Not one of us.’

Private Eye in its own way has done much to criticise and expose some of the lies and distortions of the British secret state, including the assassination of IRA suspects and members by the armed forces, when they could have been peacefully intercepted and captured. This was done to the IRA unit despatched to Gibraltar, and was exposed by Thames Television in its documentary, Death on the Rock, which angered Maggie so much that it resulted in Thames losing its broadcasting licence. And that incident was described in detail by Private Eye. But that’s long ago, and it now seems that the Eye is at least partly determined to support the British secret state and the imperialist projects of the neocons, by running smears against Jeremy Corbyn.

Aganbegyan on Perestroika and Workers’ Control

June 29, 2016

Earlier this week I put up a translation of an Austrian governmental pamphlet from the 1980s on the system of factory councils and workers’ representation in industry. Over the in Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet Communist president, advocated a system of workers’ control and the transformation of state enterprises into co-operatives, in order to reform and invigorate the moribund Soviet economy and political system. It was also intended as part of a wider series of measures, like free speech and elections, which were to transform the USSR into a Socialist democracy. I’ve posted up pieces from Gorbachev himself in his book, Perestroika, about the new thinking, and from Ken Livingstone, who was deeply impressed with this aspect of the Soviet experiment. Gorbachev’s chief economist, Abel Aganbegyan, also discusses the importance of industrial democracy in his The Challenge: Economics of Perestroika (London: CenturyHutchinson 1988).

Aganbegyan states that the importance of co-operatives in the Soviet economy was recognised by Lenin, and that Gorbachev was returning to this earlier Soviet ideal. He wrote:

The development of cooperatives and self-employment is not a departure from Socialist principles of economic management. In Soviet conditions a cooperative is a socialist form of economic management, foreseen by Lenin in one of his last articles “On Co-operatives”. As is well known, Lenin’s last articles were dictated by him. He was extremely ill and sensed his imminent death; these articles are rightly seen as his last will. It is symbolic that among the various questions to which Lenin wished to draw society’s attention, was the question of cooperatives as an important form of socialist economic management. Lenin fully understood that a socialist society could not be developed solely on enthusiasm and on the application of administrative measures. He wrote about the need to employ the principles of material self-interest, self-financing, financial accountability (Khozraschet) and material responsibility. The cooperative form of economic management is indeed a form which ensures greater material incentive in work, more responsibility and the ability to pay one’s way. At the same time it is a democratic form since it is voluntary. Lenin attached fundamental importance to the voluntary nature of the cooperative. Cooperatives are self-managing organisations, where the collective itself decides everything and things are not fixed from above by an official. Thus the potential advantages of cooperatives within our society are far from exhausted. And we know from economic history, no economic form will disappear if it contains within it potential for self-development. The development of self-employment has also to be approached as a way of strengthening the material interest of individuals in creative labour.

The aim of socialist development in the final analysis lies in meeting the needs of all members of society more fully. Cooperatives and self-employment contribute to this end and therefore reinforce our socialist principles. They completely correspond to Gorbachev’s slogan for prestroika, ‘Give us more socialism!’ (p. 30).

The Cooperatives and Democratisation

Aganbegyan also makes it very clear in the book that the creation of the co-operatives was part of the wider process of democratising the USSR.

Democratisation of the whole of our society including the development of glasnost is an important aspect of perestroika. As it applies to the economy, debate is proceeding on an increased role in workers’ collectives in the resolution of economic questions, and in the transition to self-management. In the Law on Socialist Enterprises, workers’ collectives have been granted extensive rights in framing the plan of economic development for their enterprise, deciding on the way incentives should be offered, on work conditions and salaries, and the social development of their collective.

Of particular significance is the right of workers’ collectives choose their economic leaders, at brigade, enterprise and association level. Earlier, under the administrative system, directives on the conduct of the plan, even the smallest details, were handed down from above. Now, with full economic independence and self-accounting, the welfare of the collective depends above all on work organisation and levels of productivity. Its leader, as head of the working collective, must take the lead in striving for higher efficiency and productivity. (P. 31).

The Workers’ Democracy in Action

Aganbegyan also describes the new system of industrial democracy at work, and how it was introduced by a number of firms, so that managers had to compete for their positions. As a result of this, 8 per cent of the most inefficient were weeded out.

In the new system of economic management the rights of working collectives have been greatly expanded by the Law on Social Enterprises passed in June 1987. The working collective now determines the development policy of the enterprise. It also establishes the plan of development for its enterprise, including the plan for the five-year period. Plans set by the collective are final and are not subject to the approval of any higher authorities. The collective determines the way the enterprise uses the self-accounting income which it has earned. it scrutinises particularly the way the enterprise’s funds are used in the technological research and development fund, the social development fund and the financial incentives fund.

The working collective carries out its f8unctions both directly at meetings of the whole working collective and through democratically elected Councils to represent its interests. The decision to broaden the rights of the working collective was not taken dogmatically, but on the basis of generalisation of the experience accumulated at individual enterprises in the Soviet Union. At the Kaluga Turbine Factory, fore example, a council of brigade leaders, representing the working collective’s interests, has been operating effectively for many years. The fact is that here collective labour brigades were genuinely organised. Each brigade elects its brigade leader, so that the brigade leaders’ council is a democratically elected body. The factory has major productive and social results to its credit and, moreover, the long-term development policy of the enterprise is in the main the responsibility of the brigade leaders’ council.

For the first time working collectives are being given extensive rights such as the right to elect the manager. This affects the election of managers of all ranks: the brigade elects the brigadier, the workers and section foremen the section head, the working collective of the factory elects the director of the factory, and the whole working collective of the association elects the General Director. These elections are planned as a creative process. They must be preceded by public competition for managerial posts, with a preliminary selection made by, say, the working collective council. Each candidate then meets with the workers in the sections, departments and enterprises, attends meetings and meets with representatives of public organisations. Each candidate for the post of manager draws up a programme of actions and presents it to the working collective. Secret elections then take place with votes cast for a specific person, whose particulars and potential are known, and for a definite development programme for the enterprise.

The idea of appointing managers by election has already been taken up by many working collectives. Even before the official acceptance of the Law on Enterprises these elections were being organised independently in many places. Interesting events occurred for example at the Riga Car Factory. This factory produces the RAF microbuses which gained popularity in their day, but had eventually ceased to meet the increasingly sophisticated demands as needs changed and technology developed. The factory was in a deep crisis and stopped fulfilling the plan. A new leader was needed. Under the aegis of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda a nationwide competition was held for the post of director of the factory. A total of four thousand applications was received from all corners of the country and a commission was specially created composed of car construction specialists (from the Ministry of Car Industry), from the factory and from local bodies. About thirty candidates were shortlisted. They studied the factory and made their proposals for it. One the basis of a detailed examination of these more concrete data the list of candidates was further reduced to eight. They came to the factory, familiarized themselves with the work, stated their views on how to improve the situation and finally the working collective in a secret ballot selected its factory director. This turned out to be V.L. Bossert, an energetic young manager, 35 years of age, who up to then was working as the manager of the Omsk Factory, a major producer of gear-boxes for the Moskvich car. The collective supported the candidacy of this new director and gave its views on his programme for the full reconstruction of the factory and the design of a new model of microbus which would be on a par with world standards. Having elected the director, the collective began to work intensively and soon fulfilled the plan. The number of claims for replacement of defective goods was reduced. The financial situation of the enterprise improved, people started to receive prizes and work motivation grew. Parallel to this, work continues on designing a new car and reconstructing the factory.

This experience has proved to be successful and it has caught on. Based on the RAF factory’s example, tens and even hundreds of other enterprises have organised elections for directors. Success is assured wherever this is carried out not as a mere formality, but where competition is guaranteed, where time is given and conditions are created for the preparation of imaginative programmes of development of the working collective, and where people really feel they are participating in the advancement of their enterprise at management level. In discussing the question of appointment of leaders by election, we have studied attentively the experience of other socialist countries, Bulgaria and Hungary. In Hungary in particular, the democratic mechanism has been very effective. In re-election for the post of direct 8% of former directors were voted out, but 92% had their competence at management confirmed by the collective. IN this way the quality of managers has been improved.(Pp. 197-9).

Unfortunately, this experiment was abandoned. The cooperatives throughout the eastern bloc were transformed into bog-standard capitalist enterprises through the voucher system. Yeltsin recklessly privatised everything he could lay his hands on, with the result that the Russian economy went into meltdown. And the end result of this has been the rise of Putin and the oligarchs. It is a great pity, as if this experiment had succeeded, Russia could have been the first and greatest genuinely democratic, socialist country, and undoubtedly the benefits this gave its working people would have been taken up and copied around the world.

Global Research on US and EU Sponsored Fascist Regime in Ukraine

April 10, 2016

Okay, I’m afraid I haven’t done much blogging this week. That’s partly due to my having picked up some kind of germ that was going round. It left you feeling completely drained of energy, and feeling that you were almost going to come down with a bout of diarrhoea and sickness. Mercifully, I didn’t. A lot of people in our area have had it, and all except one or two have managed to have avoid getting diarrhoea. It’s nasty, but it also seems to be over in a couple of days.

This is about something else that’s nasty, but unfortunately hasn’t been over in a couple of days. I’ve been blogging a lot about the resurgence of Fascism in eastern Europe, including Ukraine. One of the pieces I put up was about the Pravy Sektor – the infamous ‘Right Sector’ group of Ukrainian extreme Right-wing groups, including ‘Svoboda’, whose name means ‘Freedom’, but are probably more accurately described by their old monicker, the Social Nationalist Movement. Yep, they’re a bunch of Nazis. And the current Ukrainian regime includes them as one of its coalition partners, and seems very happy indeed with the extreme violence, intimidation and brutality it metes out, especially to ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

This is another video presenting the case that the regime change, the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Maidan Square in 2013, which overthrew President Yanukovych, wasn’t entirely a popular revolution, but a carefully orchestrated piece of geopolitics by the US and EU to install a client regime as the Ukrainian government. Yanukovych had committed the cardinal sin of signing a treaty providing for closer relations, both political and commercial, with Putin’s Russia. This could not be tolerated by the governments in Washington and Brussels, and so Yanukovych was toppled, fleeing to Russia with Putin.

This is at times a very hard video to watch. It’s not short, at about 1 hour 25 minutes long, and shows scenes of very graphic violence. Many of these will be familiar from some of the other videos I’ve posted up, such as the masked, uniformed figures of Svoboda and their Nazi regalia – the Wolfsangel SS Rune on their sleeves for example – marching amongst the crowd. It shows them holding torchlight marches – almost exactly like those staged in the Third Reich by the Nazis – chanting the names of Stepan Bandera and another Nationalist hero, along with cries of ‘Death to the Communists’ and ‘Death to the Russians’. At one point the marchers are shown chanting a slogan about sticking Russian heads on spikes.

There’s also footage of the snipers from Svoboda shooting and killing unarmed demonstrators in Maidan Square, in an atrocity that was falsely ascribed by Obama and the Western media to Yanukovych. It also shows the attack on the trade union headquarters by Svoboda thugs, in which something like 45 people were burned alive, while others were beaten, and thrown out of the building’s windows. As they fell, their attackers joked about how ‘Negroes are falling!’ The documentary also includes an interview from Russian television, RT, with a young woman, who was one of the survivors of the attack. She was part of a peace camp, and she and the others were chased into the building by the storm troopers. Other victims included people in unarmed demonstrations, shot and killed by retreating state security forces.

Some of the victims were dissenting journalists and politicians. There’s a clip of one of the senior journos in one of the Ukrainian papers being roughed up by the minister for looking after the country’s ethnic minorities, at the head of another mob of thugs. He was angry as the newsman had published photos of the stormtroopers beating up civilians. One opposition politician was pelted with eggs, and savagely beaten. His attackers even attacked the ambulance crew that came to help him. There are also scenes from inside the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. An opposition politico takes the chair to voice extremely trenchant criticism of the government and its policies. Immediately, other politicos and officials start running to the lectern to force him.

In many of these attacks, the police either do nothing, or are actively involved. There are scenes showing senior police officers in very chummy conversation with the masked and uniformed Nazis surrounding them about beating and murdering protestors.

This is also a regime, which doesn’t even bother to hide its Nazi sympathies. Another piece of footage shows members of the government at one of the national monuments making speeches praising Bandera, the Nazis and Hitler himself. They’re greeted in their turn by angry shouts and chants from a pro-Soviet crowd just behind the barrier. There’s also a leaked phone conversation from the Ukrainian politicians and Oligarch’s wife, Yulia Timoshenko, to another government official describing what she’d like to do ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians: nuke them, and then kill them all.

So what’s the US and EU’s response to the beatings, mass murder and repression? Active collusion with the regime, and smooth denials to the international press and Congress that there is any kind of ethnic cleansing being done by the regime. Or that if there is, is all the fault of the Russkies under Putin. There’s that notorious phone call between Victoria Nuland and another state department official, effectively fixing who she wants in the Ukrainian cabinet. One of the members she explicitly mentions, Oleh Tiahnybok, is the head of Svoboda. There’s also the phone call between the Estonian minister, Urmas Paet to Baroness Ashcroft about the shooting of unarmed civilians by Svoboda snipers, in which Ashcroft sounds distinctly uncomfortable. This is not stuff she really wanted to hear. And the lies go all the way to the top. It’s not just Nuland in the state department, nor Psaki, a Whitehouse spokeswoman, but also John Kerry and Obama. All of whom tell the press, and some critical US congressmen, that Ukraine is a free, democratic country that’s not oppressing anyone.

This is demonstrably untrue. The video also shows footage of Ukrainian troops entering Russian-speaking towns in the east of the country, firing on and killing unarmed civilians. There are also shown occupying a polling station to prevent the local people voting for independence. Again, when the local people march to claim their right to vote, they open fire. One young lad is horribly shot in the leg. This scene is cut with Kerry telling the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate that no-one was being prevented from voting, the elections were completely fair, and that the reason why turn-out was so low is that nobody turned out to vote. Again, that’s another lie, as the video shows a massive turn out of Russian-Ukrainians of all ages, taking the opportunity to vote for a federal Ukrainian. This is something else that’s anathema to the Ukrainian puppet regime and its masters in Washington. Obama and Kerry stand in front of the microphones and cameras claiming that the polls by the people in the eastern part of the country demanding their own separatist, autonomous enclave, lack democratic support. Of course, the video argues that the opposite is the case. It is the American-installed regime that lacks the democratic mandate.

The Fascist regime and Obama also try to claim that the demands for a separate Russian-speaking enclave in the Donbas region is due to the machinations of Putin. It isn’t. They claim that these were only made after the Ukrainian government sent the troops into the Russian-speaking areas to intimidate them. Obama, Kerry and Nuland also claim that the reason Crimea voted to join with Russia was due to the intimidation of the Russian forces there. In fact, the voting in the Crimea was much fairer and far less rigged, due to the presence of the Russians as observers.

One of the other tactics the Ukrainian regime has also tried to use to smear its enemies is accusations of anti-Semitism. The Donbas separatists were supposed to be going to pass a law demanding Jews register with the authorities. There is, horrifically, much anti-Semitism in Russia, just as there is in the rest of the former eastern bloc. But this was a lie, and soon had to be dropped as too many people knew it was.

As for the Russians, Putin is, it seems, this time the maligned one. Rather than seeking to overthrow a democratic regime or dismember a rival, and disobedient nation, the opposite is true. He’s been forced to act because a democratically elected regime was overthrown at the behest of an outside power – Washington, and the oppression of his own ethnic group by the resulting Fascist regime. And Putin has every right to do so under international law. Putin’s a nasty piece of work himself, but this time, he’s the victim, not the aggressor.

And it’s not just Russians, who are the victims. some of the groups beaten and shot at by the goose-steppers are, it is claimed, just severely normal Ukrainians. And one fact both Washington and Kiev want to cover up is that many of the original Maidan protestors don’t want the ruling president. They wanted to throw out Yanukovych, but they are very definitely not supporters of his successors.

The video lastly claims the reason Washington has set up this puppet regime, and is attempting to demonise Putin, is because Putin has defied America’s attempts to become the only world super-power, and is successfully competing with the Land of the Free in what it sees as a ‘multi-polar’ world – one in which there are various competing powers, not all subject to American domination. And so here there are shots of Putin with other world leaders, including those of Iran.

Here’s the video:

The video is by a group calling itself Global Research, based in Quebec, Canada. It’s an interesting video which presents a compelling case. I think some scepticism is necessary in the way it presents Putin. He’s not ‘whiter-than-white’ innocent. His regime itself is extremely authoritarian, and it has also responded to critics and dissenting journalists with violence and murder. The same for many of the regimes with whom he is shown doing business. But this time, it really does seem that he is not responsible for the current outbreak of ethnic violence and repression. It’s the fault of the governing elites in Washington and Brussels, safe and comfortable thousands of miles away from the horror they’ve unleashed further east.

Private Eye on More Tax Avoiding Press Barons

March 18, 2016

I found this feature on in Private Eye’s issue for the 17th-30th April 2015 on how Yevgeny Lebedev, the former owner of the Independent, the Barclay twins, who own the Telegraph and Lord Rothermere all use their non-dom tax status to avoid paying British tax.

Non-Dom Press Barons
Street of Sham

So consuming was the Tory press’ rage at Ed Miliband’s plan to make Russian oligarchs and gulf petro-billionaires in London liable for the same taxes as British citizens, its hacks forgot to the declare their interest.

“London backlash over Ed’s non-dom attack,” boomed the front-page of the London Evening Standard, as if a mob had descended on Labour HQ to defend London’s much-loved oligarchs and hedge fund managers. “Attacking non-doms could backfire on us,” continued an editorial inside. Sarah Sands, the Standard’s Uriah Heepish editor, did not risk her career by saying who the “us” included – namely her boss, Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian who last year dodged the Eye’s repeated questions of his own domicile.

Silence infected the Telegraph too, where not one of the reporters who warned that Labour’s “cataclysmic” decision would drive away “tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders” mentioned that their owners, the weirdo Barclay twins, reside in Monaco and the Channel Islands to avoid British tax.

Instead they quoted James Hender, head of private wealth at Saffery Champness accountants, who warned that the rich may leave. The Telegraph didn’t tell its reads that Hender boasts of his long experience ensuring that “the most tax efficient strategies are adopted for non-UK, situs assets” for his non-dom clients.

It was the same at the Mail, which failed to declare that its owner, 4th Viscount Rothermere, is treated by the tax authorities as a non-dom. And at Sky, political editor Faisal Islam reported that “Baltic Exchange boss Jeremy Penn slams Labour non-dom plans” without declaring that his owner, Rupert Murdoch, does not pay UK tax and that Penn acts for super-rich shipping owners.

Jolyon Maugham QC, who has advised Labour and the Tories on tax reform, tells the Eye that any reader sill enough to believe the Tory press and tax avoidance industry should look at what they said in 2008, when Labour introduced the first levies on non-doms.

Back then the Mail then said the central London property market would crash as non-doms sold up and moved to Switzerland. In fact, between Labour introducing the levy and 2014, prime central London property prices rose 41 per cent. At the end of 2014, Knightsbridge estate agent W.A. Ellis said 54 per cent of sales were to overseas buyers.

The Mail was equally certain the City would suffer. On 8 February 2008 it cried that the levy “risks the City’s future”. The British Banking Association warned of “a devastating blow”. The Telegraph of 12 February 2008 said that “the country’s wealthiest individuals are being bombarded with leaflets and letters explaining how easy it would be to relocate to Switzerland, Monaco and a host of other countries”. Not to be outdone, Mike Warburton, senior tax partner at accountants Grant Thornton, said the levy was the “final straw”. If a word of this had been true, there would be no non-doms left for Miliband to tax. As it is, there are 115,000 because, as Maugham says, London remains “a very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy. And that won’t change.” Or as the Financial Times put it: “The many advantages of London as a financial centre do not dissolve simply because of a change in a hitherto generous tax treatment of resident non domiciles.”

The pink ‘un has only recently realised the iniquity of the non-dom rule, with an editorial last month calling for its abolition. Editor Lionel Barber modestly claims some credit for Miliband’s stance. But as editor for almost a decade, why was he so late to the party? Surely not because, until 2013, FT owner Pearson was run by US-born Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would certainly have qualified for non-dom status and whose London flat, the Eye revealed, was owned via an offshore company?

So there you are. Fleet Street’s extremely rich proprietors, with the exception of the Financial Times, take the view that, in the words of the ‘Mayflower Madam’, the brothel owner arrested for tax evasion in New York now over a decade ago, paying tax is only for the ‘little people’. And they have no qualms about getting rich, while shifting the tax burden on to the poor and demanding low wages and zero-hours contracts. All the while proudly declaiming their patriotism, like the Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch, resident in America. So much for real patriotism.

Vox Political on the Mail’s ‘Worst Crisis Since Abdication’

April 26, 2015

There’s been talk this week of Labour forming some kind of pact with the SNP. Some of this has come from the SNP themselves, who have been keen to show their voters that a vote for them will still leave Scotland with power in Westminster through a weakened Labour party forced into coalition with them. Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, was heard at one point making a joke that he was already writing Labour’s budget.

Much of this also comes from the Tories, who are trying to scare the electorate with the prospect of a Labour/SNP coalition raising taxes and breaking up the three-hundred year union between England, Wales and Scotland. This reached its most extreme point so far, when the Mail on Sunday quoted Theresa May as declaring that this was Britain’s greatest constitutional crisis since abdication.

Even the guests on Andrew Marr’s show this morning thought that this was going too far, and smacked of desperation by the Tories.

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on it, Mockery of May and the Mail: Worst crisis since when? Mike points out the irony of this headline. A coalition between the SNP and Labour, which Ed Miliband has said will not happen, is deemed by the Mail to be worse than the abdication of Edward VIII, a Nazi supporter. The same Daily Heil was that was run by a Nazi sympathiser with a hatred of Jews at the same time.

The twitterati have also found the Mail’s hysteria immensely funny, and have produced their own list of crises that are as bad or worse as the abdication. Like having to tell Jeremy Clarkson his dinner’s not ready. Or finding out that Button Moon wasn’t real. Even John Prescott cracked a joke at the paper’s expense, tweeting about how he had to eat fish and chips without vinegar.

Mike goes on to quote the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour, who said May was entitled to her opinion, but she was wrong to impugn the legitimacy of a free and fair election.

The cartoonist Gary Baker also stated that it was a good job May didn’t have real issues to deal with, like child abuse, otherwise her comments would seem puerile.

Mike’s article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/04/26/mockery-of-may-and-the-mail-worst-crisis-since-when/. Go there and see some of the things that count as a terrible crisis of the same magnitude as the abdication.

The Mail, of course, has a very long history of making hysterical claims about the effects of a Labour government. Remember how a decade ago there were reports of an asteroid out in space that was poised to smash into Earth, ending life as we know it? Private Eye spoofed the Mail by producing a mock Daily Mail headline declaring that due to the asteroid, house prices would plummet and Labour was to blame. Which pretty much describes the Mail’s fixation with mortgages, house prices and the Labour party.

Behind May’s comment there are some very sinister implications. By declaring a coalition between SNP and Labour a crisis of the same type as the abdication, as Patrick Wintour points out, she seems to imply that the results of an election between the two would be invalid. If that’s the case, then what is she implicitly suggesting? That the election result should be declared null and void? New elections held, until the ‘right’ party won, and the union was safe once again? Or perhaps she thinks that, in the event of such a coalition, Cameron, Farage and Clegg should seize power at the head of the army, and rule as a military junta? Thatcher was a big fan of General Pinochet after all, and Cameron strikes me as a man, who would just love to be Britain’s General Franco. And if the Scots ever voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, would May then recommend that the army should be sent in to stop them seceding?

Now I don’t actually think the Tories believe any of this. It’s just rhetoric to scare the voters, just like all the scare stories in the past about Labour being really a front for the Communist party, ready to turn Britain into a Soviet satellite. Frederick Forsythe, one of Thatcher’s favourite novelists, wrote a book about that way back in the 1990s. Needless to say, Maggie liked it enormously, as it reinforced her own bonkers paranoid suspicions about the British Left.

The Soviet Union, alas for the Tories, has vanished along with the rest of the Communist bloc. And as most of the Russian oligarchs are now funding the Tories, they can’t run another Zinoviev letter scare, like they did with the Sun in 1987. So they’re reduced to running bizarre headlines like this in Daily Fail.

It’s ridiculous, but the superpatriots in the Tory party will believe it. Along with the Kippers. In a recent interview with the Scottish Herald, David Coburn, the controversial UKIP politico declared that living in Scotland was like Communist Czechoslovakia. Somehow, I can’t see anyone who really grew up in Communist Eastern Europe agreeing. Like the Czechs and Slovaks, who have come over here since their countries joined the EU.

Huff Post on Kipper Throwing Strop at Bristol Uni on Any Questions

March 1, 2015

Radio 4’s political debate programme, Any Questions on Friday was at Bristol Uni. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the radio equivalent of BBC 1’s Question Time. A different panel of politicians appear at various locations up and down the country each week, and are asked questions by the audience. On the panel this last week was David Coburn, a UKIP MEP. Coburn’s odd in that he’s openly gay, yet opposes same-sex marriage. He’s accused its supporters as ‘equality Nazis’. Which is weird, considering that the Nazis most certainly did not favour equality, and were very firmly against male homosexuality. During the Third Reich gay men were sent to the concentration camps, and identified with a pink triangle on their camp uniform. It’s quite bizarre, considering that in the bio that was sent to the audience, he described himself as ‘a big, screaming poof’.

The Huffington Post’s article, Ukip MEP David Coburn Got Slow Hand-Clapped So Called BBC Audience Names, reports how the students were definitely not impressed by Coburn’s remarks about immigrants pricing British people out of the housing market. So they started to give him the slow handclap. This enraged Coburn, and he started ranting about how the audience was ‘Green’ and full of ‘Lib Dems’. The article begins

Ukip MEP David Coburn appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions programme on Friday evening. He got slow hand-clapped by members of the audience. So he called them names.

Coburn got into a fight with the audience at Bristol University during a discussion about housing. “How would we know how many houses we need? Because we don’t know how many people are coming into the country,” he said, having dismissed the “wind” from Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds.

Coburn, Ukip’s MEP from Scotland, said Britain should leave the EU in order to be able to properly understand how many houses needed to be built. Members of the audience then started to loudly slow handclap the MEP.

“This is a blatantly Green [Party] audience,” Coburn shot back, as host Jonathan Dimbleby tried to keep things calm. “Many of these people sitting around here, all very nice bourgeois Greens and whatever and so on and so forth, what about the working man? How can he afford a house if he is competing with open door immigration?”

The article’s at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/27/ukip-mep-david-coburn-was-slow-hand-clapped-by-bbc-audience_n_6772468.html. There’s an audio file with it, so you can hear this broadcasting train wreck for yourself.

Now I don’t know how many people in the audience were Green party members or Lib Dems. I’m sure there were a number, but probably far less than Coburn believes. The Lib Dems have lost a lot of student support, and created a great deal of hostility for themselves on campuses up and down the country through raising tuition fees. I’ve been at conferences on medieval history, where speakers have compared Nick Clegg with some of the Middle Ages most notorious liars and slippery customers. It’s one of the reasons why I believe that Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 down to £6,000 should be a vote-winner.

The party political allegiances of the students there probably wasn’t the only reason they showed their disapproval so audibly. There’s now a global market in education, and people come to British universities from all over the world. And increasingly vice-versa. Brits are now also choosing to study in America, and also at continental universities, such as Paris and Brussels. Many members of the academic staff are also foreign. Among the lecturers at the archaeology and anthropology department at Bristol, for example, were academics from across Europe – Greece, Germany and Portugal. There were also visiting speakers, who gave seminars and lectures to the Arch-Anth Soc (Archaeology and Anthropology Society) from across the world. The students were no less diverse, coming from places like Greece, America, Canada, India and Thailand. This is part of what makes going to uni such an enriching experience. Quite apart from the purely academic study, you get to meet and mix with people from different, often vastly different backgrounds and cultures.

And your own understanding of the world, its immense problems and vast opportunities, is broadened.

With so many in the audience either foreign, or the friends and fellow students of people from outside the UK, it really isn’t surprising that the audience disliked Coburn’s comments so strongly. They are simply narrow and xenophobic. And many of the foreign students are going to find them particularly hollow, as the fees for them were much higher than those for domestic students. They were, however, living in the same halls of residence, and the same types of student accommodation. So they probably didn’t feel that they were pushing house prices up.

Quite apart from the experiences of foreign students and their circumstances, Coburn’s attempt to link it to immigration from the EU, or anywhere else, is quite wrong. There have been cases recorded in the right-wing press, like the Daily Mail, where large numbers of immigrants have placed a strain on available stocks of council housing. However, the root cause of the lack of affordable housing is because the incomes of the very rich have increased far beyond those of the working and lower middle class, regardless of ethnicity or immigrant status. Not enough houses have been built, and since Thatcher the government has been trying to get rid of council housing. In fact Thatcher expressly forbade any more from being built. As for affordable housing, for many people this is a grim joke. The rents for affordable homes are pegged at 80 per cent of the market rate, which for many people in London still means that they will be unable to afford them. The rich, through their immense wealth, push up property prices, beyond the ability of the lower income groups to rent or purchase.

And if immigrants from the continent really were pushing us all out of house and home through their sheer numbers and obscene wealth, why is it then that, according to the stats Johnny Void has put on his blog, 34 per cent of rough sleepers in London are foreign?

The only areas of which I can think, where Coburn’s comments about immigrants pushing up property prices might be true, is in the very affluent parts of London, like Kensington and Knightsbridge, where luxury apartment have been built aimed at the global super-rich, such as the Chinese, or bought up by Russian oligarchs. Now the last time I looked, China and Russia were not part of the EU.

Coburn was given the slow hand-clap by Bristol Uni’s students, not just because some of them were left-wing, though that was probably also part of it. But also because they knew from their own experience at Uni that Coburn was talking dangerous, xenophobic nonsense. And they reacted accordingly.

British Shell Companies and the Attacks on Liberal Journalism in the Ukraine

January 16, 2014

ukraine

Private Eye has long been extremely critical of the shell companies and the British tax legislation and accountancy firms that support them. These are companies that largely exist in name only, which are used as an accountancy trick to allow corporations to avoid paying tax in Britain by falsely claiming that they are resident, or owned by companies in foreign tax havens. It dates back to Blair and New Labour, but as with everything corrupt that benefits big business, it’s been taken over by the Coalition. Now, according to the Eye’s Christmas edition, these companies have been used for something even more pernicious and sinister: the attack on liberal journalism itself on the Ukraine. The Eye’s article ‘Tricking Kiev’ reports how a network of shell companies was used by the American-Ukrainian businessman, Alexander Altman, to wrest control of Ukrainian news agency, TVi, from its rightful owner, Konstantin Kagalovsky, a Russian businessman based in Britain.

The Eye says:

‘The battle in the Ukraine between pro-European reformers and the friends of Russia’s Vladimir Putin is partly a fight for control of the media.

Luckily for the oligarchs, they can rely on the acquiescence of TVi. Once a source of investigative journalism, it is now a feeble wreck thanks to a massive fraud perpetrated with the help of Britain’s lax corporate regulations.

As Eye 1344 reported, American-Ukrainian “businessman” Alexander Altman walked into TVi in April, and astonished its journalists by saying that he was now their boss. He locked out its owner, the British-based-based Russian businessman Konstantin Kagalovsky, and ordered reporters to stop causing trouble on pain of dismissal.

In a withering judgment at the High Court in London last week, Mr Justice Turner said there had been a “coup” at TVi, accomplished by “using forged documents comprising fake powers of attorney, board resolutions and board minutes”.

TVi’s baffled owner found that control had passed to a British firm called Balmore he had never heard of. No one could blame him for his ignorance. Balmore was an off-the-shelf firm, which Mr Justice Turner said “was in the precarious position of having beern served with a notice that it was to be struck off the company register for failing to submit an annual return”.

On the day Altman moved against liberal journalists in Kiev, Balmore’s annual return was prepared and filed electronically to Companies House in Britain.

The rightful owners’ lawyers secured an injunction in the summer saying that Altman must disclose information on how TVi had gone from Balmore into a maze of British shell companies. Robert Dougans, Kagolovsky’s solicitor, said Altman had refused to comply and was thus guilty of contempt of court. Even Altman’s London lawyers, Kerman & Co appeared to suspect that something unprofessional and unethical may have been going down. Internal emails, revealed to the court, show Sebastian Devlin, an associate lawyer at the firm, warning partner Carl Robinson that he saw a “real risk” in complying with Altman’s wishes. As the judge drily noted, Robinson was “unable to proffer any clear Explanation” on what Altman had asked Turner that had so worried his colleague.

Throughout the contempt case, Altman said he was the victim of a “set up”. He got out of bed one morning and found that he was associated with mysterious British companies. The judge was having none of it. If Altman were an innocent victim, “he would have made far more strenuous efforts to find out what had happened”. He “knew full well “why the companies had been formed. He was their “controlling mind”, who had retained Kerman & Co and handed them boxes of corporate documents.

The judge found Altman guilty of contempt, and will sentence him next year.

Robert Dougan, the victorious solicitor, told the Eye that despite the judgement there was still no guarantee that the Ukrainian courts would hand TVi back. “One of the reasons why people are on the streets in Kiev is because shady operators in and out of government can commit frauds and no one does anything about it.” As in so many other frauds, the fraudsters turn to “light touch” Britain for help. Dougans explained how he had found out for himself how light that touch was. “I decided to test our controls by registering my cat as a company director,” he said. “No one tried to stop me.”

(Private Eye, 21 December – 9 January 2014, p. 33).

This is a serious attack on the nascent free press in the new, post-Soviet state. The Ukraine is one of the oldest of the Russian states. As the kingdom of Kiev, tt was founded in the early Middle Ages by Varangian Vikings, who intermarried with and adopted the culture of the indigenous Slav population. Under its king, Oleg, in the 9th century it established relations with the Byzantine Empire. Oleg marched to Constantinople at the head of an army and after sacking its suburbs and nailed his shield to the city’s wall. As well as extracting tribute, he also demanded a number of agreements establishing trade between the Empire and Kievan Russia. The Byzantine Emperor acceded to his demands, and Oleg married a Byzantine princess. Later in the century, sometime after 988, the Kievan king, Vladimir the Great, converted to Christianity. This marked the beginning of the Orthodox Church in Russia, as well as the beginning of the Russian view that they are the ‘Third Rome’, after the Eternal City itself, and Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire.

The country takes its name from the Ukrainian word ‘Krai’, which means a border area. During the Middle Ages it was part of the Republic of Poland, before being conquered and incorporated into Russia. The Ukraine has produced some of the greatest Russian authors, including Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bulgakov, the author of the White Guard and the Master and Margarita.

One of my father’s workmates was Ukrainian, who finally moved back his native country to be with his family after the fall of Communism. One of my friends has also lived and worked in the former Eastern Bloc. A few years ago he holidayed in Kiev, and really loved the place. When he came back he proudly showed me the various sights he’d seen. Back in the 1990s there was some pessimism about the new, post-Soviet nation’s future. There has been considerable friction between the western Ukraine, which is largely rural and Roman Catholic, and the industrialised, Orthodox east, which has a large Russian population. Some observers and commenters feared that the country would degenerate into ethnic conflict and possible civil war, along with the emergence of anti-Semitism. While the country is clearly divided over the question of its ties to either the EU or Putin’s Russia, large scale conflict has been avoided. Indeed, the Financial Times was so impressed with the new state that in an article about it, the newspaper described it as almost a magical place, straight from a fairy-tale. The question of whether the country has closer ties to Russia or the EU is, of course, an issue for the Ukrainians themselves to decide. To do so, and to strengthen their democracy, they need a genuinely liberal, free press able investigate corruption and dodgy political dealing. Unfortunately, the extremely lax corporate legislation over here has meant that this is being stifled to serve very powerful, corporate interests.

The use of this legislation to attack Ukrainian free journalism also poses a threat to the free press in the rest of the world, including this country. Globalisation has meant that the world is now interconnected, and once international big business feels it can get away with something in one country, it will try and use the same tactic elsewhere. We cannot afford to see this as merely a problem for a far away country, tucked away in the former USSR. If it is allowed to succeed in the Ukraine, then it will eventually come here.