Posts Tagged ‘Private Enterprise’

Simon Webb Asks ‘What’s Wrong with Fascism?’

September 16, 2022

Well, it looks like Simon Webb of History Debunked has finally gone full Mosley. And you never go full Mosley. He’s put up a piece today asking, ‘what’s wrong with fascism?’ He argues that fascism is viewed negatively because it’s confusion with Nazism. But socialism has also committed horrible atrocities and run death camps. In contrast to this, he points to the Portugal of the dictator Salazar in the 1960s, which was prosperous and had kept out of the Second World War. And fascism, he explains, is neither communist nor capitalist.

No, I’m not going to put the video up here. Because he’s arguing for fascism after all. Now he’s got a point in that some political scientists and historians do make a distinction between Nazism and Fascism. Nazism is at its heart a form of biological racism and has its own origins unique to Germany, while Italian Fascism was a form of militaristic nationalism which included elements of both socialism and capitalism. However, Italian Fascism was also imperialistic, calling Italy a ‘proletarian nation’ that had been unjustly deprived of colonies by the great powers of Britain and France. It invaded Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia, as well as Tripolitania in north Africa and Ethiopia. In nearly all these countries the Fascists committed horrendous atrocities. They also developed racial policies similar, but not as harsh as the Nazis, defining Italians as Aryans as contrasted with the Jews, who were expelled from various professions. Both Nazism and Fascism supported and protected private industry, but the economy was centrally planned by the state. Germany was a complete dictatorship under Hitler, in which the Reichstag was only called once a year to sign the act stating that Germany was still in a state of emergency and so Hitler’s dictatorship could legally continue, In Italy Mussolini let the Italian parliament continue for a few years until he replaced it with a chamber of Fasces and corporations. A corporation in this case was an industrial organisation, one for each industry, that contained both management and the unions. By the 1930s there were 27 of these. They were supposed to run the various industries, but in practice they served just to rubber stamp the decisions Mussolini had already taken.

I’ve read some of the comments that have been left on the video. Some of them are rants against Tony Blair’s period in office and complaints that it was supported by a biased media. Well, one paper stood against him – the Daily Heil. And you can wonder who had the real power in Blair’s relationship with the media, as he was always worrying whether his policies would meet the approval of one Rupert Murdoch. And Blair was a Tory in all but name. Thatcher, remember, regarded him as her greatest achievement. I’ve also notice that several of the commenters can’t spell Nazism. They’ve spelled it ‘Natzim’.

Of course, it hasn’t just been the association with the Nazis that has tarnished Italian Fascism. It’s also the various brutal dictatorships that have appeared across the world that committed horrendous atrocities, like the various military dictatorships in Latin America, the most famous of which is General Pinochet’s in Chile, as well as Greece under the Colonels. You can also attack his argument by pointing out he deliberately confuses socialism with communism. Communism is a form of socialism, but it is not the definitive form. For most British Labour supporters and politicians before Blair and his stupid, Thatcherite ‘Third Way’, socialism meant democratic socialism, which supported and included parliamentary democracy, and a mixed economy. This was the type of socialism practised by the reformist socialist parties of western Europe, like the German Social Democrats. And this form of socialism was keen to support human rights and democracy to a greater or lesser extent, as shown in the various people who joined anti-apartheid and anti-racism movement and gave Khrushchev a hard time when he visited the country about the imprisonment of socialist dissidents in the USSR.

I’ve left this comment on Webb’s video. I wonder if anyone will reply.

‘Salazar is probably best viewed as a reactionary Catholic like General Franco, rather than a pure Fascist. His books apparently are pretty much about Roman Catholic dogma, rather the secular ideas which informed Italian Fascism. And Fascism wasn’t just nationalism or dictatorship. Would your readers want definitive features of fascism like a state-directed economy, even if it is done through private industry and the corporate state, in which parliament is replaced by a chamber representing industries, each corporation including management and unions, which is charged with running the economy?’

We Own It Petition for the Nationalisation of Failed Energy Company Bulb

August 13, 2022

I got this email this morning from pro-nationalisation organisation We Own It:

‘Dear David,

Privatisation has failed.

The Guardian is saying water should be nationalised. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is saying we need to bring energy into public ownership temporarily. Even the Telegraph and the Times are questioning privatisation.

Meanwhile, 100,000 people have pledged to stop paying their energy bills.

YOU can put a solution on the table – sign our new petition for the government to turn Bulb into a new public energy supplier which can cut people’s bills.

Nationalise Bulb

Private energy company Bulb collapsed in November 2021 and the government is planning on spending £2.2 billion to prop it up.

Right now the government is considering giving a further £1 billion to private company Octopus to take over the company.

This makes no sense. Other countries like France, Germany, Italy and the US all have public suppliers of energy. France has used publicly owned EDF to limit energy bill rises to 4% while our bills have gone up by 54% and that increase will go up to 119%!

The government could take Bulb’s 1.7 million customers as the basis of a new publicly owned energy supply company.

Sign the petition now

The situation is desperate and politicians know it. You can highlight this huge opportunity to politicians and the public. You can push for public ownership that can cut everyone’s bills by spreading the word.

Please sign and share now – before the government hands Bulb back to the private sector.

THANK YOU for your support.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Jack and Kate – the We Own It team’

I’ve had absolutely no reservations about signing the petition. It makes sense, far more sense than successive right-wing government spaffing public money against the wall trying to prop up failing private companies from a doctrinaire, inflexible belief in the superiority of private enterprise and in order to shove more public money into their friends’ pockets as management and shareholders. And this is an important first step to the nationalisation of the energy sector as a whole.

When even Gordon Brown, Blair’s right-hand man, the Torygraph and the Times are having second thoughts about the privatisation of the utilities, it’s clear that something is profoundly wrong with privatisation.

Thatcherism has failed.

Nationalisation is the solution.

Tories out!

To go directly to the petition if the above links aren’t work, it’s address is at: https://weownit.org.uk/act-now/nationalise-bulb

The 1959 Labour Pledge for Nationalisation and a Mixed Economy

August 10, 2022

I found this statement in Pauline Gregg’s 1967 book, The Welfare State (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd). It was formulated at the 1959 Labour conference as a response to a move by Hugh Gaitskell, then leader of the Labour party, to drop Clause IV, the commitment to common ownership, from the party’s constitution. The nationalisation had not proved popular, and the results were disappointing. It was felt that the party’s commitment to expanding nationalisation in its 1950 manifesto had contributed to its defeat, and the party had again lost the general election of October 1959. Gaitskell stated that nationalisation was not the be-all and end-all of socialism, but only a means to the ends of full employment, greater equality and high productivity. He also feared that the commitment to common ownership would lead to the party being continually misrepresented as wanting to nationalize everything.

However, Clause IV was not dropped and compromise formula agreed instead, pledging the party to a variety of forms of common ownership and to preserving private enterprise . It stated that the social and political aims of the party could

“be achieved only through an expansion of common ownership substantial enough to give the community power over the commanding heights of the economy. Common ownership takes varying forms, including state-owned industries and firms, producer and consumer cooperation, municipal ownership and public participation in private concerns. Recognising that both public and private enterprise have a place in the economy, it believes that the further extension of common ownership should be decided from time to time in the light of these objectives and according to circumstances, with due regard for the views of the workers and consumers concerned.’ (p.129).

Well, now is such a time. Rising fuel prices are pushing a greater number of hard-working Brits further into poverty, as well as damaging the entire economy. Gas, water and electricity would be cheaper if run as nationalised industries. Thatcherism has been an immense, colossal failure, as has its child in the Labour party, Blairism.

Now it’s time to go back to this formula for a mixed economy.

Question Time Platforms Extreme Right-Wing Anti-NHS Group without Telling Viewers about Them

May 27, 2022

A day or so ago I put up a piece discussing how the right-wing Lotus Eaters on YouTube have decided that healthcare isn’t a right, thus showing their opposition to the basic principle underlying the NHS. But they’re not the only right-wingers, who despise the NHS in the name of absolute free trade and private enterprise. Another of these is the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has been promoting these policies since the 1970s. Northern Irish YouTuber Maximilien Robespierre posted this little video on his channel exposing how Emily Carver, a representative of the IEA, was a guest on Question Time. However, the Beeb did not deign to tell its viewers who the IEA was or what they stood for. And in fact, as the video shows, the IEA are very secretive about both their members and the organisation itself. They’re on a list of political organisations and think tanks ranked according to their transparency. And the IEA are in the red marked ‘highly opaque’.

Carver and her organisation’s secrecy was called out by the panellist representing the SNP. He pointed out that he and the other politicians on the show, from the Lib Dems and Labour, had no need to explain what their parties represented as everyone knew already. But Carver and the IEA were just introduced as ‘a think tank’. Carver blustered some rubbish in her defence about being willing to reveal their members’ identities if necessary, but were really just taking care to protect them. Robespierre also goes on to reveal just what the IEA stands for by showing their entry on Wikipedia. He also shows Carver’s own extreme private enterprise stance with a couple of articles she authored, including one asking if people were finally waking up to how dreadful the NHS was.

In fact the Beeb has form when it comes to platforming right-wing organisations on their news programmes without telling people about their connections. A few years ago a friend of mine pointed out how the right-wing Taxpayers Alliance were frequently invited onto the news to give their opinions on government spending and presented as an independent organisation. This is technically true, but the leadership were all members of the Conservative party, making them effectively a Tory front organisation.

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have an entire chapter in their book, NHS SOS discussing the way the Beeb’s coverage of the health service is biased and supportive of its privatisation. Academics from Glasgow and Edinburgh universities showed a few years ago that the BBC was biased towards the political right, though the Tories and their supporters continue to brand it as left-wing and liberal. The inclusion of the IEA without informing the public of what they stand for is just more proof of the Beeb’s right-wing bias and the supporting someone in the Corporation is giving to the NHS’ privatisation.

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

May 12, 2021

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

Does Starmer’s ‘Pro-Business’ Mean ‘Anti-Workers?’

February 11, 2021

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here, but I came across a video from the awesome Novara Media. I haven’t watched it, so this might be just me showing my prejudice. I just looked at the video’s title, which seemed to say everything. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was something on the lines of Starmer declaring that Labour would be ‘pro-business’.

This should set alarm bells ringing, because when a politico talks about being ‘pro-business’ he always, but always means the same thing: further tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and privatisation on the grounds that this will set the forces of private enterprise free and provide financial incentives for the rich to invest and expand their businesses and economy. For ordinary people it means low wages, more welfare cuts and the destruction of workers’ rights in order to get people off state support and making the labour market fluid, so employers can hire and fire at will without going through all the pesky business of negotiations with trade unions and industrial tribunals.

That’s what ‘pro-business’ meant under the Tories, and that’s what it was also under New Labour. With the addition that under New Labour, big business was further rewarded through the appointment of leading management to positions in government as part of the corporate capture of the state.

I might be wrong here, but if Starmer has made noises about being ‘pro-business’, it means he’s going back to the Blairite policies of awarding government posts to big business in exchange for corporate donations, and making the rich even richer at the expense of Britain’s working people.

‘I’ Newspaper: Wales Getting Ready to Nationalise Railways

October 23, 2020

Today’s I for 23rd October 2020 has an article by Adam Hale, ‘Railways set to be nationalised’, reporting that the Welsh government is about to nationalise the railways in the principality because of falling passenger numbers due to the Coronavirus crisis. The article runs

The Welsh Government has decided to nationalise its railways following a significant drop in passenger numbers because of coronavirus.

The country’s transport minister Ken Skates said bringing day-to-day rail services for its Wales and Borders franchise under public control would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs.

Private firm KeolisAmey has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales.

Mr Skates added that: “The Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.”

It’s excellent that this is being done. The railways should never have been nationalised. Indeed, in Britain, sections of the rail network have had to be handed back to the state to manage almost as regularly as clockwork. Unfortunately, they’ve always then been given to another private operator because of the dogma that private enterprise is always better and more efficient than the state. Even when it glaringly isn’t, as the past four decades of dismal failure by the privatised utilities companies has abundantly shown.

There is a very strong movement for the railways across Britain to be renationalised, as shown by previous press reports about criticisms of private railway companies and the franchising system. So far, however, many of the recommendations for the system’s reform simply demand alterations to the franchising system. It’ high time this was all stopped, and the rail companies renationalised across Britain.

I’ve no doubt that the Welsh renationalisation will be successful, but it will be uncomfortable for the Tories and New Labour because of their insistence on the absolute primacy of private enterprise. If it is successful, then you can expect articles by some Tories across the border here in England recommending their nationalisation. I think Lady Olga Maitland wrote one for the Tory papers the other year. But there will also be attempts by the Tories to rubbish it, and the Welsh ministers responsible in order to put the voting public off it over here.

Because if the railways are successfully nationalised, who knows where it would stop! The state could start taking over electricity, water, gas and even healthcare. Shocking!

They also might consider it better to feed hungry schoolchildren rather than send them to school starving while wasting money on fat contracts for firms run by Tory ministers and their friends.

Shut Up, Boris! Even Fascists Declared They Fulfilled Individual Freedom

September 23, 2020

Boris Johnson was in parliament and on the box yesterday announcing his new plans to tackle the renewed rise of the Coronavirus. This includes drafting the army in to ensure the new regulations regarding social distancing are respected. His response to the question in parliament why cases in Britain were rising, while Germany and Italy were nearly normal, met with a characteristically jingoistic response: ours is a country that respects freedom. So we’re back to the old jibe, that even though Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were defeated and their evil regimes swept away 75 years ago, Germans and Italians are still authoritarians at heart. And Mike and the peeps on Twitter have also pointed out how alarming Johnson’s stated intention to use call in the troops coming before a no deal Brexit that may well result in shortages, including food, unemployment and civil unrest.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/22/u-turn-again-boris-johnson-every-time-you-do-you-lose-more-credibility/

Johnson’s comments about Brits supposedly valuing their freedoms more while simultaneously declaring that he may call in the army will remind some people of the slogan ‘Slavery is freedom’ in Orwell’s 1984. Orwell’s great warning of the danger of totalitarianism came from his experiences with Stalinist Communists while fighting for the Republicans against Franco in Spain. But Mussolini’s Fascists themselves also claimed that their system also granted the individual freedom and fulfilment.

Mussolini himself was very firmly authoritarian, championing the total state and condemning liberalism and individualism for undermining society and the nation. But the Fascist ideologue, Ugo Spirito, argued that Fascism’s corporative state offered the individual instead true freedom against the false promises of liberalism. People realised their full potential in society through collaboration, including in industry, as well as trade unions and society generally. It was these collective institutions that allowed people to follow the trades and occupations they desired, whether it was he thinking in his study, or the town butcher. An absolute stress on individualism led to humans living in a state of nature, and having to do everything themselves and so denied the ability to follow their true callings or rise any higher in civilisation.

He concluded of this

Laissez-faire liberalism proclaims freedom of thought and of action, free competition, private enterprise, and, above all, the sacred and inviolable character of private property. But it ends up realizing, more or less consciously, that these don’t add up to genuine freedom. Freedom is founded upon collaboration, that is, upon a choice of social goals and the social discipline required to achieve them.

From: ‘Corporativism as Absolute Liberalism and Absolute Socialism’, Ugo Spirito, in Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed. A Primer of Italian Fascism (University of Nebraska Press 2000), p. 144.

The Fascists praised and protected private property and declared that private industry was at their heart of their economic system. Spirito himself goes onto attack the idea of an omniscient state as the ultimate destroyer of human freedom.

Let us assume it were possible (through improved organization) for the state to attain true knowledge of even the smallest, most remote events. This knowledge would still not be readily translatable into leadership and discipline of a spiritual sort. It would remain abstract because outside known reality; it would generate laws that correspond only to the knower’s will. The state would still function as a bureaucracy, setting goals for the entire nation and, therefore, reducing the nation to a kind of mechanical instrument. The organism’s life would be that of a machine: to each man an assigned place, to each worker an imposed job, all according to the scheme’s rigid necessity. Each individual would be a cog lost in the overall machinery. Freedom, personality, and individual enterprise would become meaningless terms. The hoped-for social justice would translate into a general levelling, and the individual would vanish in the eyes of the state.

He went on to state

Corporativism replies to liberalism by confirming that every person’s individual freedom is sacred. Corporativism proclaims itself antiliberal only because the individual under liberalism is not a true individual, nor is his will truly free. It points to the fact that liberalism ends up denying individuals the very rights that it purports to defend. Corporativism’s antiliberalism is thus not meant to deny or to curtail freedoms. Rather, it aims to strengthen them as much as possible and to achieve liberalism’s highest aim. (p. 150).

In fact, as any fule no, Mussolini’s Fascists regime was a brutal dictatorship, where the individual was very much subordinated to the state, regardless what Fascism’s supporters and ideologues said to the contrary.

Boris, however, still talks the language of classical liberalism and the Tories are still very much permeated by Thatcher’s attack on society: ‘There is no society. There is only people’. Which very much reveals the atomisation at the heart of classical the classical liberal idea of individualism which the Fascists condemned.

But Boris and the Tories are still moving towards a very authoritarian, totalitarian state. David Cameron passed legislation providing for secret courts, Dominic Cummings has pushed the idea of identity cards and Suella Braverman and Priti Patel have both shown they either don’t understand, or just don’t recognise, the independence of the judiciary and the civil service.

The Tories claim to celebrate individual freedom, but their moving in the same direction as Fascism. And Fascists like Spirito defended their ideology by claiming it protected individual freedom, even if those arguments are directly opposed to those marshalled by Tories like Boris.

Boris has always been an authoritarian, so don’t be taken in by any of his claims that he’s protecting British freedoms. He isn’t. He’s destroying them. And remember: even Soviet Russia had constitutions claiming that individuals and their freedom were respected there.

Lobster Review of Book on the Real Reasons for Trump’s Hostility to China

September 5, 2020

The conspiracy/parapolitics magazine Lobster has put up a fascinating piece by Scott Newton, ‘The USA, China and a New Cold War?’ reviewing Jude Woodward’s The US vs China: Asia’s New Cold War?, published in 2017 by Manchester University Press. Woodward’s book is an examination of how Western attitudes towards China fell from being extremely positive in the first decade of this century to the current state of tension and suspicion. The chief causes for this, according to the pronouncements of our politicos and the media, are concern over massive human rights abuses in Sinjiang, Hong Kong and elsewhere, Chinese territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea, which threaten western strategic interests and the other neighbouring countries, and the threat to national security posed by Chinese companies, particularly in telecommunications and social media. Woodward’s book turns these assumptions upside down. She recognises that there are real concerns about Chinese human rights abuses and the persecution of the Uighurs, but argues that this situation is far more complicated. And the real reason for America’s change of attitude to China is due, not to Chinese authoritarianism, but because China represents an emerging threat to America’s status as the world’s dominant superpower and their attitude towards capitalism is very different from American neoliberalism.

Relations between China and the West were initially positive and very good because the new, capitalist China had helped prop up the global economy after the financial crash of 2008. The development of the country’s infrastructure created a huge demand for raw materials, which benefited other countries around the world, including the west. The introduction of capitalism is also transforming China. It’s gone from a largely agricultural nation to an industrial and commercial superpower. In 2013 it passed America as the world’s largest trading nation. later on this century it is expected to surpass America as the world’s most prosperous nation both as a country and in terms of per capita GDP.

China’s build up of military forces in the South China Sea is seen by Woodward as a defensive posture against the Americans. They’ve assembled a large naval force in the area, which poses a threat to Chinese access to the Straits of Malacca. 80 per cent of the oil imported by China and much of its merchant shipping pass through the Straits, hence Chinese determination to defend them. Woodward believes that China believes in a multipolar world, and has neither the economic power nor the will to establish itself as the world’s ruling nation.

Nor is China pursuing its economic and commercial interests at the expense of everyone else, as has also been alleged. Woodward argues that while western capitalism views trade as a competition between two parties, in which one party must beat and impoverish the other, the Chinese instead really do see it instead as benefiting both parties.

The oppression of the Uighurs and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong by the Chinese government are real and matters of serious concern, but the West is also covertly attempting to interfere in China’s control of these regions. This is through the National Endowment for Democracy, the non-state outfit to which the American state has given the task of regime change after it was taken away from the CIA in Hong Kong, and through sponsorship and funding of various extreme nationalist and Islamist groups in Sinjiang. Newton writes

But the picture is not clear cut. The Chinese government has
complained about unhelpful ‘foreign interference’ in Hong Kong and there
is evidence to support this. Senior US politicians such as Vice-President Mike Pence have met leading members of the opposition in Hong Kong,
and civil society organizations there have received significant financial
support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA spinoff established in 1983 to promote what later became known as ‘regime
change’. This has, of course, always been change to one committed to a
political economy characterised by neoliberalism, in other words by free
market capitalism. In Hong Kong the NED has been financing groups
since 1994. A China Daily article from 2019 stated that the NED has been
financing groups in Hong Kong since 1994 and that the Hong Kong Human
Rights Monitor received $1.9 million between 1995 and 2013. A search
of the NED’s grants database further reveals that, between 2016 and
2019, the (US-based) Solidarity Center received more than $600,000 and
the (US-based) National Democratic Institute $825,000.

As far as Xinjiang is concerned, the real story is complex. This area is
rich in oil, gas and ‘other natural resources and profoundly important to
China’s national security’. The region borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. At times of invasion and civil
war in Chinese history it has tended to fall under foreign influence: for
much of the twentieth century until the mid-1980s the Soviet Union
played a powerful role in the province’s politics, backing separatist
groups. This role has now been taken by the USA, which is funding a set
of far-right and fundamentalist Islamic organisations such as the Victims
of Communism Memorial Foundation in a bid to promote instability in
Xinjiang and perhaps even its detachment from China itself.

The efforts of these shadowy parapolitical outfits have been
supported by another NED-financed group, the World Uyghur
Congress(WUC), which is keen to promote the creation of a separate
Turkic State out of Xinjiang. WUC is linked to the extreme Right in Turkey,
notably to the Fascist Grey Wolves organization. Finally there is the East
Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) whose objective is also the
establishment of an independent state carved from Xinjiang, known as
East Turkestan. The EU, UN Security Council and indeed the US
government have all identified ETIM as a terrorist organization linked to
Al-Qaida. In addition to its activities in the Middle East, during the last
twenty years ETIM has carried out terrorist attacks in China, including in
Xinjiang. Given Xinjiang’s strategic importance to China’s security and
territorial integrity and given the nature of the externally-trained and
funded agencies at work in Xinjiang, the attitude of the Chinese State to
dissidents there cannot be called surprising, even if the taking of a
repressive line has exacerbated problems in the region. It has also
provoked increasing global disquiet and has contributed to international
tension, though it cannot be said to be the root cause of this, which stems
from changing geopolitical conditions.

Woodward also argues that current American hostility to China comes from the conviction that America really is divinely ordained to be the world’s governing nation with a particular mission to promote free market capitalism. America demands trade at the expense of privatisation, the suppression of organised labour, and the free movement of capital. The Chinese have no interest in promoting any of this. They’re solely interested in trade, not in the economic and political transformation of their partners. Newton writes

It may not seem rational for the US to pursue a confrontation here but two quotations explain the reality from Washington’s perspective. The first is the comment of former French Foreign Minister Hugo Vedrine that ‘most great American leaders have never doubted . . . that the United States was chosen by Providence as the “indispensable nation” and that it must remain dominant for the sake of humankind’. The second is a comment by Perry Anderson that the US state acts ‘not primarily as a projection of the concerns of US capital, but as a guardian of the general interest of all capitals, sacrificing – where necessary and for as long as needed – national gain for international advantage in the confidence of the ultimate pay-off’.

In other words, the US both writes and polices the rules of the game
and the rise of China represents a de facto challenge to this hegemony.
On the surface this seems a strange observation. China has engaged very
successfully and indeed supportively (shown by its reaction to the 2008-9
Crash) with global capitalism. But it does so in a qualified way, or, to
paraphrase Xi Jinping, ‘with Chinese characteristics’. Not only does the 33
Chinese economy continue to operate a large state-owned sector but its
financial system is closely regulated, with controls over the currency and
over capital movements. China does not possess the conviction that
private economic activity trumps public enterprise, that government
should be small, organised labour suppressed, trade free and
international capital flows unhindered. Its assistance for developing
nations is not accompanied by requirements that states cut spending,
privatise public industries and services and liberalise the foreign trade
sector. In short China has never, in practice, endorsed the neoliberal
norms of the ‘Washington consensus’ established during the 1980s and
there is a real prospect that, if it does become the world’s largest
economy, it will seek to re-write the rules of the game in a way that is not
compatible with free market capitalism. This is what the US fears and its
strategy is therefore directed to forcing China to accept Washington’s
leadership and ‘enter the world family of nations’ on US terms or it would
face the likelihood of pre-emptive diplomatic, economic and, if necessary,
military action to halt its rise. As Woodward points out, this approach is
designed to ensure not only protection of the interests of global capital
but to secure ‘a longer-term pay-off’ for US domestic industry and finance
‘by preventing China reaching the point of competing at US levels of productivity and technology’.

It’s very doubtful if this new policy towards China will succeed. Many of the surrounding Asian countries have embraced China as a new market for their goods, while much of the American commercial hostility comes from firms and industries threatened by Chinese competition. Newton concludes that other countries may choose not to follow America’s lead but there will be considerable pressure on Britain to do so following Brexit. He writes

There is clearly a strong push within the British establishment, coming mostly from within the Tory Party and its friends in the City and the armed
services, in favour of military deployment in support of US forces in the
Far East, even if few other nations are willing to join. This might make
sense for the complex of defence industries, banks, hedge funds and
private equity firms at the core of modern British Conservatism but it is
hard to see what benefit there is for the rest of us in the UK from
confrontation with a nation which appears to harbour no aggressive
intentions to foreign countries and seems destined to become within a
short time the world’s largest economy.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster80/lob80-usa-china-cold-war.pdf

In short, the new strained relations between China and America are a result, not so much of Chinese aggression, but due to Trump’s America trying to maintain itself as the world’s dominant nation economically and militarily. In this America is determined to promote its own very predatory form of capitalism, which is challenged by the less extreme form embraced by China. And it’s a situation that may benefit the military-industrial complex and financial sector that supports to the Tories, but won’t provide it to anyone else.