Posts Tagged ‘The Economist’

Wartime Conference on Science, Philosophy, Religion and Democracy

March 12, 2017

I found a copy of the 1942 book, Science, Philosophy and Religion: Second Symposium, over a decade ago now in a secondhand bookshop in Totnes in Devon. As the above title page states, this comes from a conference on science, philosophy and religion and their relation to the democratic way of life, held in New York in 1942. The conference was held at Columbia University and was the successor to the first symposium, held a year earlier. The book was a collection of papers by leading members of the above disciplines, edited by Lyman Bryson and Louis Finkelstein. These were intended to show how these areas of research and experience supported democracy against the advance of the totalitarian regimes in Europe.

The volume has the following contents

I Democracy’s Challenge to the Scientist, by Caryl P. Haskins;
II Democracy and the Natural Science, Karl F. Herzfeld;
III Some Comments on Science and Faith, Hudson Hoagland;
IV The Comparative Study of Culture of the Purposive Cultivation of Democratic Values, by Margaret Mead;
V The Basis for Faith in Democracy, Max Schoen.
VI Pragmatism, Religion and Education, John L. Childs;
VII Liberal Education and Democracy;
VIII A Philosophy of Democratic Defense, Charles Hartshorne;
IX The Role of Law in a Democracy, Frank E. Horack, Jr.
X Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy;
XI, Empiricism, Religion and Democracy, Charles W. Morris;
XII Philosophical Implications of the Prevalent Conception of Democracy;
XIII The Spiritual Basis of Democracy, by the Princeton Group;
XIV Thomism and Democracy, by Yves R. Simon.
XV Democracy and the Rights of Man, Paul Weiss.
XVI The Stake of Art in the Present Crisis, George Boas.
XVIII An Approach to the Study of History, William G. Constable;
XIX Literature and the Present Crisis, Joseph Wood Krutch.
XX How Long is the Emergency, Mark Van Doren.
XXI Democratic Culture in the Light of Modern Poetry.
XXII Democratic Aspirations in Talmudic Judaism, Ben Zion Bokser.
XXIII Democracy in the Hebrew-Christian Tradition; Old and New Testaments, Millar Burrows;
XXIV Christianity and Democracy from the Point of View of Systematic Christian Theology, Nels F.S. Ferre;
XXV Philosophical Foundations of Religion and Democracy, Willliam O’Meara;
XXVI The Patristic Christian Ethos and Democracy, Albert C. Outler.

There is also a section of addresses. These are

I The Faith and Philosophy of Democratic Government, A.A. Berle, Jr.
II The Function of Law in a Democratic Society, Charles E. Clark.
III The Artist and the Democratic Way of Life, Walter Pach.
IV Democracy in Our Times, M.L. Wilson.
V The Religious Background of Democratic Ideas, Simon Greenberg, Clarence Mannion, Luther A. Weigle.

I’ve dug it out again as I believe very strongly that this symposium and its wisdom is needed again with the current stagnation of democracy and the rise of Trump in America, UKIP in Britain and the parties of the extreme right in Europe. The basis of democracy in the West has been gradually undermined over the last 30-odd years, ever since the election of Thatcher and Reagan. Successive governments in Britain and America have been determined to work for the benefit of rich, corporate paymasters against the poor and middle class. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth upwards, as welfare services have been slashed and outsourced, industries privatised and closed down, and public utilities sold off. As wages have stagnated, the corporate elite have seen their pay grossly inflated. Their taxes have been cut, while those for the poor have actually been increased.

As a result of this concentration on the demands of corporate political donors, recent studies by Harvard University and the Economist have concluded that America is no longer a full democracy. It is a ‘flawed democracy’, or even oligarchy.

At the same time governments in Britain and America have also supported the massive expansion of the surveillance state under the pretext of countering terrorism. At the same time, the rights of workers to strike, and ordinary people to protest, have been curtailed. David Cameron’s Tory administration tried to introduce a series of reforms to block street demonstrations and protests under the guise of preventing residents for suffering the nuisance caused by them.

We also have Tory and Republican administrations that insist that only their view of history should be taught in schools. Michael Gove a few years ago made a ridiculous speech complaining about the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War taught in schools, while the educational authorities in Arizona withdrew studies of slavery and the civil rights movement from the school syllabus. Instead, pupils in that state were to be taught the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump’s administration is overtly anti-immigration, particularly of Latinos and Muslims. It includes members of the Alt Right, like Steve Bannon and Curtis Ellis, who hold bitterly racist views. Many of Trump’s supporters are White supremacists and Nazis. UKIP and Brexit in Britain have also led to an increase in racism and racist violence against ethnic minorities. At the same time, these movements have also promoted hatred towards gays and the transgendered. And similar movements are attempting to take power or increase their gains across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy, Jobbik in Hungary, and other extreme right-wing parties in Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia.

Democracy, tolerance, pluralism and the rights of the poor are under threat. The threat in America and western Europe isn’t as overt and violent as it was when the Fascists seized power from the 1920s onwards. But it is there, and desperately needs to be resisted.

Economist Declares America ‘Not Full Democracy’

February 3, 2017

In this video, TYT Politic’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which states that America is no longer a ‘full democracy’. The magazine annual scores countries around the world according to a system of five categories. These are electoral pluralism and democracy, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Nations are ranked according to a descending scale from full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy and authoritarian. To be considered a full democracy, a country must have a score of 8.00 and over. America has slipped from 8.05 to 7.98, making it a ‘flawed democracy’ along with France, Italy and Japan for the first time in its history.

Waldorf argues that although it’s tempting to blame this on Donald Trump, he’s only been present for about a week, and the decline in American democracy has been going on for much longer. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He argues that the real cause is the influence of the rich and powerful in politics. He notes that other studies have concluded, in his words, that America ‘is an oligarchy with elections’. He makes the point that not all rich people are necessarily bad, and that many support the same policies he supports, such as LGBT equality. However, the system works so that the rich are able to buy adverts promoting their policies at the expense of those that favour working and middle class people. A study has found that legislation benefiting these groups, rather than the corporate donor elite, is only passed 18 per cent of the time. Pro-LGBT legislation was passed members of the elite as well as the majority of ordinary Americans supported it. However, when the corporate rich are hostile to particular legislation, like the minimum wage, there is far more difficulty getting it passed. Most Americans, including half of the Republican party, believe the minimum wage should be higher. However, the corporate rich are largely opposed to this, as it will damage profits. And so in certain areas, it is actually illegal for the state authorities to pass legislation raising the minimum wage.

Waldorf also mentions the various countries that the report states comprise each particular category of its democratic index. North Korea, unsurprisingly, is an authoritarian regime, along with Syria. Morocco is one of the ‘hybrid’ regimes. The most democratic country, however, is Norway, followed by the other Scandinavian countries and Ireland. Britain is ranked the 16th most democratic country.

Waldorf notes that America is not alone in its slide towards authoritarianism. The report states that half of the 167 countries surveyed have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy. Waldorf states that this is due to neoliberalism. As more services are privatised, it sets up a vicious cycle which sees more right-wing politicians elected, who privatise more services in order to stop government from working.

Waldorf also suggests a number of ways in which American political culture and democracy could be restored. These include getting the money out of politics, more political parties, restoring section 5 of the voting rights act, making registration to vote compulsory and making voting easier. He also recommends ending the corporate nature of the media, where anchors sitting in a studio earn $20 million a year for reading the news, but have absolutely nothing in common with their lower or middle class viewers, and do not represent their interests.

This study and its analysis by the TYT’s man exactly describes the crisis in American democracy and its causes. A study a few years ago by, I think, Harvard political scientists concluded that America was an elected oligarchy, in which both parties served the corporate elite rather than the common man and woman. He’s also right about the way many ordinary people are alienated from political life, because the policies embraced by their elected representatives actively hurt them in favour of the corporate elite. The Harvard study noted that approval ratings of Congress really only polled a maximum of 25 per cent, and very often much less, down to the low teens, because Americans justifiably felt their politicians were ignoring them.

I am, however, surprised at Britain having a relatively high rating, even if we are only the 16th most democratic country according to the survey. Successive governments since Thatcher have followed America in legislating for the benefit of rich corporations. John Major’s administration was notorious for its corporate sleaze, while Blair did everything he could to increase the dominance of leaders of industry over the machinery of government, appointing managing directors like David Sainsbury to important government posts.

I also take issue with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn being described as ‘populists’. Populism usually denotes right-wing demagogues, who offer their followers a false democracy, pretending to represent working class interests while at the same time standing for a range of policies, including racism, which harm their working class followers. The examples are Trump and the Republicans in the US, and the Tories and UKIP over here. Corbyn and Sanders aren’t populists, because they genuinely represent the working and lower middle classes hurt by neoliberalism. They also aren’t at all racist. In fact, both are quite definitely anti-racism and discrimination, despite the smears of the Israel lobby. What they do represent is a threat to the corporate domination of the established left-wing parties, such as the Clintonite Democrats in America and the Blairites in the Labour party over here. And thus Sanders and Corbyn are smeared as ‘populists’ by the neoliberal elite determined to misrepresent itself as occupying the moderate centre ground, when they are as responsible as the right-wing parties for establishing the power of the major corporations at the expense of the electorate.

On both sides of the Atlantic, people need to wake up to the decline in the quality of democracy caused by neoliberalism and corporate power, and fight back. We need to curb corporate donations and the appointment of managing directors to political office, so that our governments represent us, not big business.

UKI Left on Possible Collusion between Dimbleby and Anna Soubry against John McDonnell on Question Time

September 20, 2016

Mike last week posted up a piece stating that John McDonnell, Corbyn’s second-in-command, did an excellent job of defending both himself and the Labour party leader on last Thursday’s Question Time, when all the panelists, including Alistair Campbell, Anna Soubry for the Tories, and someone from the SNP, decided to pile into criticise the Labour leadership. Strangely, the quietest of the panel was Quentin Letts, the parliamentary sketch writer for the Heil, who usually has much to say for himself. Amongst those piling in was Dimbleby himself.

Michelle, one of the great commenters here, posted this observation

The actual clip of Mcdonell on BBCQT is shown in this blog which also points out that there seemed to be a collusion between David Dimbley and Soubry re the Marxist accusation: https://ukileft.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/evidence-of-collusion-in-plain-site-between-bbc-and-anna-soubry/

The above blog came to my attention via the comments on The Canary’s post about the same programme ‘Last nights meltdown on BBC Question Time has provoked abdolute outrage.’

The piece linked to is at UK & International Left, which blogs on issues about a variety of left-wing organisations across the spectrum, from the Labour party to the Greens, to various forms of anarchism. The piece is a detailed analysis, with the relevant clip from the show, of the point where Soubry calls him a Marxist and insults him as ‘a nasty piece of work’ or some such. But she does so reading from a slip of paper, and after Dimbleby has commented on McDonnell being a Marxist. McDonnell states instead he’s a Socialist, but Dimbleby keeps on. And then Soubry joins in.

The piece argues that Dimbleby and Soubry had some kind of meeting beforehand, at which Dimbleby told Soubry he was going to raise the issue of McDonnell’s ‘Marxism’, and Soubry wrote it down, to use later.

Unfortunately, this is all too plausible. The Tory bias at the Beeb is becoming increasingly obvious, despite the bluster and denial by the corporation. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC news’ political editor, is the most blatant regular offender, but Nick Robinson and Andrew Neil have also been responsible for twisted reporting that would have delighted Goebbels. Way back in the debate over the Scottish referendum, for example, the Beeb cut the footage of Robinson asking a question of the former SNP leader, Alex Salmond. Salmond answered the question, but this was gradually cut in subsequent reports, until it vanished completely with Robinson stating that Salmond hadn’t answered his question. As for Andrew Neil, the former editor of the Economist and Sunday Times, Mike has put up a piece commenting on how the spectacular resignation of one of the Labour rebels from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet occurred on his Sunday Politics show, after Brillo had secretly prompted him beforehand.

I’ve already commented on how one Beeb journo wrote a piece in the Radio Times pondering whether the Corporation should try to keep its ratings by copying Fox News, the very blatantly right-wing news network in America. It looks like this is becoming very much their business model, despite their protestations of impartiality. As for Dimbleby, he comes from a line of newspaper proprietors, who, according to Lobster, did not allow unions at their papers. So you can’t really expect impartiality there, then.

Whatever the facts behind this episode of Question Time, the BBC is showing itself increasingly biased, as shown by the documentaries which have appeared, and no doubt are yet to appear, attacking the Labour leader and Momentum. If they think it will let them retain their viewers, they’re wrong. The majority of the audience of Fox News are late 60s +. Younger viewers are increasingly switching off and turning to the net. Just as they are and will with the corporation.

38 Degrees’ Petition against the Beeb’s Bias against Jeremy Corbyn

July 2, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up an article reporting that the internet petitioning organisation, 38 Degrees, has launched a petition to the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, protesting against the Corporation’s grotesque bias against the leader of the Labour party. The petition begins

The BBC needs to be held to account for the spiteful and manipulative coverage of Jeremy Corbyn following the EU referendum and during the leadership coup, which is grossly in breach of Section 5 of the Broadcasting Code – Section 5 covering “Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions”

It further states

The BBC’s news coverage of Jeremy Corbyn has always been overtly biased against him and his leadership of the Labour Party, but following the EU referendum and the subsequent leadership challenge BBC news coverage of Jeremy has degenerated into journalism which is nothing short of bullying, smear, lies and distortion…

The most shocking attacks on Jeremy, however, have arisen as a result of the challenge to his leadership. By giving it a significantly imbalanced proportion of airtime, the BBC is broadcasting a significant imbalance of viewpoints.
By allowing former members of Jeremy’s cabinet to resign LIVE on air BBC news reporting has become nothing more than car-crash journalism and should be saved for reality TV and gossip magazines.

In supporting the leadership challenge by giving it ‘”undue prominence of views and opinions” the BBC is effectively helping to undermine democratic process .
By giving undue attention and airtime to this leadership challenge they are sending a message to the people – that ‘democratic process’ is there to be ignored when it suits the agenda of the establishment.

Mike in his piece over at Vox Political reports that the resignation of Stephen Doughty was planned with the aid of Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil. Kuenssberg is already notorious for her bias, while Brillo Pad has form as the editor, in a previous life, of the Economist and the Sunday Times, and was also the editor the weirdo Barclay Twins installed to run the Scotsman.

Mike’s article, with a link to the petition, can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/02/petition-launched-to-end-bbc-smear-reports-about-jeremy-corbyn/

If you want to sign it, the petition’s at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/hold-the-bbc-to-account-for-it-s-smear-campaign-on-jeremy-corbyn

I’ve done so, as I’m sick and tired of the Beeb’s bias, along with the rest of the media. I am also angered by their smug complacency that the viewing public are mugs, who are too thick to notice just how biased they are.

Murdoch’s Editorial Interference and Right-Wing Bias

June 7, 2016

The phone hacking scandal has been rumbling on for what seems like forever now. For a moment it looked like Murdoch himself was going to end up in court, because of allegations that he personally interferes in editing his newspapers. According to Private Eye, he almost appeared before the beak a few years ago on a libel charge, after Michael Foot sued the Times for claiming that he was a KGB agent, based on the unlikely word of Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a former KGB agent, and self-confessed liar. From what I recall, a number of the Times’ staff were highly sceptical of the allegations, with the exception of the editor, David Leppard. And so the paper printed the story that Foot, a principled democratic socialist, whose loyalty to his country should never have been in doubt, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

Murdoch’s managed to escape these scrapes with the law, and wriggle out of them when he has been forced to appear before public enquiries and parliamentary committees, by claiming that he doesn’t interfere with his papers’ editorial policies. Mark Hollingworth, in his book The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, points out that Murdoch largely doesn’t need to. He appoints editors he knows will follow his political line, like Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, who before he became editor of the Sunset Times was one of the editors on the Economist. Neil told his staff at a meeting of the Gay Hussar pub in London that he fully supported Thatcher’s policies on monetarism and privatisation, although on macroeconomic policy he claimed he was further to the left, and more like David Owen. (p. 18).

The News of the World

But Hollingworth makes clear that the Dirty Digger does interfere with the editor’s running of his newspapers, and certainly did so when he took over the News of the World at the end of the 1960s. Hollingsworth writes

However, when Murdoch was faced with an editor who didn’t share his political views and wanted a semblance of independence, the situation changed dramatically. when he took of the News of the World in 1969, Murdoch told the incumbent editor, Stafford Somerfield: I didn’t come all this way not to interfere.’ According to Somerfield, the new proprietor ‘wanted to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper about and give instructions to the staff’. As the paper’s long-serving editor, Somerfield was used to a fair amount of independence and he tried to resist Murdoch’s interference. In 1970 Somerfield was dismissed by Murdoch.

A similar fate befell another News of the World editor a decade later. Barry Askew had been appointed by Murdoch in April 1981 after a successful career as the crusading editor of the Lancashire Evening Post during which he published a series of stories about corruption among local public officials and institutions. However, when Askew and the News of the World declined, like the Times under Harold Evans during the same period to give the Conservative government unequivocal support, Murdoch took action. ‘He [Murdoch] would come into the office,’ said Askew, ‘and literally rewrite leaders which were not supporting the hard Thatcher monetarist line. That were not, in fact, supporting – slavishly supporting – the Tory government.’

Askew believes the big clash came over an exclusive story about John DeLorean, the car tycoon. A freelance journalist, John Lisners, had persuaded DeLorean’s former secretary, Marian Gibson, to reveal details about her boss’ business practices and alleged irregularities. It was a superb story, backed up by other sources and also cleared by Gibson’s lawyer-Clarence Jones.

However, just after noon on Saturday 3 October 1981, Murdoch telephoned Askew, as he invariably did every week, to discuss the main stories. Askew told him about the DeLorean scoop and Murdoch appeared initially to be enthusiastic. Later that afternoon Murdoch arrived at the office in Bouverie Street and went straight to the ‘back-bench’ to read the DeLorean material. One of the key sources was William Haddad, who had worked for Murdoch on the New York Post. On learning of Haddad’s involvement, Murdoch said: ‘He’s a leftwing troublemaker’, although he later denied saying this. ‘I may have referred to Bill’s love of conspiracy theories.’

Murdoch then consulted his legal advisors and they decided the story was legally unsafe. The story was killed. The next day the Daily Mirror published the same story on its front page and the rest of the media followed it up. Interestingly, according to Ivan Fallon and James Srodes’ book DeLorean, it was Murdoch who arranged for Lord Goodman to act as DeLorean’s lawyer to discourage the rest of Fleet Street from pursuing the story. Within a year DeLorean’s car firm was bankrupt. Within two months, in December 1981, Askew was dismissed and he returned to Lancashire a bitter man. ‘I don’t think Fleet Street gives a damn about ethics, morality or anything else. It gives a damn about attracting a readership that will attract an advertising situation which will make a profit which will make the press barons powerful politically.
(pp.18-20).

The Times

This editorial interference did not stop with the News of the World. It also extended to the Times, when that august paper was under the editorship of the highly respected journalist, Harold Evans. Hollingworth continues

But by far the most revealing example of Murdoch’s desire to set the political line of his papers also came during 1981 when the Conservative government was very unpopular because of high unemployment. when Harold Evans was appointed editor of the Times in March 1981, he was given official guarantees by Murdoch about editorial freedom. On 23 January 1981, the new owner of Times Newspapers had given formal undertakings that ‘In accordance with the traditions of the papers, their editors will not be subject to instruction from either the proprietor of the management on the selection and balance of news and opinion.’

Within a year, however, Evans had been dismissed, claiming he had been forced to resign over constant pressure by Murdoch to move the paper to the Right. Evans’ added: ‘The Times was not notably hostile to the [Conservative] government but it wanted to be independent. But that was not good enough for Rupert Murdoch. He wanted it to be a cheerleader for monetarism and Mrs Thatcher.’ Murdoch denied the charge: ‘Rubbish! Harry used to come and see me and say, “Rupert, it’s wonderful to have you in town. What do you want me to say, what do you want me to do, just let me know.”‘ On this crucial point, Evans told me: ‘Lie plus macho sneer with a useful ambiguity. It is a lie that I ever asked him what to say… It is true that I asked his view from time to time on developments of the paper. The truth is that far from asking Murdoch “what to say”, I followed an editorial policy often in opinion at variance with his own Thatcher-right-or-wrong view.’

The evidence certainly gives credence to Evans’ interpretation of events, although he also fell out with some of the staff. According to leader writer Bernard Donoghue, features editor Anthony Holden and executive editor Brian Macarthur, there was political pressure on Evans because of what Mrs Thatcher called ‘the Times centrist drift’. When unemployment had reached three million in the summer of 1981 Murdoch and Gerald Long, Managing Director of Times Newspapers, wanted the Times to emphasize the number of people in work. Evans declined and Murdoch snapped at him: ‘You’re always getting at her [Mrs Thatcher].’ The Times editor and his proprietor continually argued over economic policy and on one occasion Evans received an extraordinary memorandum from Gerald Long: ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the recession has ended. Why are you have the effrontery in the Times to say that it has not.’

Evans believes the Times was simply taking a more detached, independent editorial position. But by early 1982, Murdoch was clearly losing patience. According to Bernard (now Lord Donoghue, a leader writer and now a stockbroker at Grieveson & Grant, Murdoch had promised Mrs Thatcher that the Times would be back in the Conservative camp by the Easter of that year. But the editor refused to submit to what he later called ‘political intimidation and harassment’. On 12 March 1982, Evans wrote the following editorial: ‘ Unemployment is a social scandal… We favour a more competitive society as against one which is subject to the monopoly power of capital or the trade unions. Three days later Evans was dismissed.

Such lack of sovereignty and independence by the editor has been prevalent throughout the Murdoch empire. ‘I give instructions to me editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London,’ he told Fred Emery, home affairs editor of the Times, on 4 March 1982. However, since 1983 all four of Murdoch’s London papers have taken a consistently pro-Conservative government line and so there has been no need to interfere. According to a report on the Sunday Times’ ‘Insight’ team, this is how the system works: ‘Murdoch appoints people who are sympathetic to him. Thus most of the senior staff like Hugo Young have left or been completely emasculated or replaced… To survive you have to self-censor. You approach a story in a different way than if you’d run it in the way you wanted to.’ (pp. 20-1).

The Sun

Hollingsworth concludes that Murdoch actually rarely interfered with the Sun, as under its editor Larry Lamb, who was knighted by Thatcher in 1980, it had already moved to the Tory right, a policy that was continued by the succeeding editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. (p. 21).

So while Murdoch may not interfere in the day-to-day editorial matters of his newspapers any more, they do reflect his personal political opinions and his own personal style of journalism, as carried out by compliant, sympathetic editors.
There was an outcry when he tried to buy the News of the World in 1969. The paper’s then-management were worried about how he would change the paper. And the same fears were raised again when he went off and bought the Times in the late ’70s or first years of the ’80s. There were indeed plans to refer his proposed purchase to the monopolies and mergers commission, though that might have been when he bought the Daily Herald and turned it into the Scum.

And his critics were right. He is not a fit and proper person to own a paper, and he should never have been allowed to buy them. It says much about Thatcher’s grubby, domineering leadership that he was.

The Miners’ Strike and Andrew Neil’s Connections to the Tories

June 4, 2016

Many of the leading Fleet Street journos and BBC presenters have connections to the Tory party. This has been shown very clearly recently in the public outrage over Laura Kuenssberg’s egregious bias towards the Tory party, but other leading BBC hacks are equally culpable. Nick Robinson was head of his branch of the Federation of Conservative Students at Manchester University, and Evan Davies has also written books in favour of privatisation. Another Conservative on the Beeb’s news and current affairs department is Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times and the Scotsman, and present of the Daily Politics. Mark Hollingworth discusses Neil’s close links to the Tory party in the chapter on the Miner’s Strike in his 1986 book, The Press and Poltical Dissent: A Question of Censorship, in which he notes the personal friendship and collaboration between Neil and Peter Walker, the energy secretary. During the dispute, Neil ran Conservative propaganda in the Sunday Times. However, the relationship between the two goes back further than the strike. Hollingworth writes

The close links between Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil and Walker had a strong bearing on that paper’s coverage of the strike. The two have been close friends since the autumn of 1971 when Neil worker for Walker as his political assistant on the environment desk in the Tory Party research department during the Heath government. They parted ways in November 1972 when Walker was moved to the Trade and Industry Ministry, and the following year Neil joined the rightwing Economist magazine. But they kept in touch. They both share a passion for all things American and Walker would often stay at Neil’s flat in New York between 19779 and 1982 when Neil was the Economist’s US correspondent.

Neil and Walker have similar political views. Liberal on social issues, on economic policy they are both keen advocates of the market economy and the deregulation of business. Although Neil is a firm supporter of privatisation, he says he is ‘left of centre’ on the overall management of the economy. Perhaps this is why he addressed a Tory Reform Group fringe meeting at the 1985 Conservative Party conference. Neil spoke alongside Tory MP Julian Critchley on the theme: ‘Is It Policy or Presentation?’ Walker is, of course, president of the Tory Reform Group.

But when the 1984-5 miner’s strike began Neil and Walker were of one view – the NUM must be beaten. Throughout the dispute, according to former Sunday Times political correspondent Robert Taylor, Walker Telephoned Neil every Saturday morning with his current thoughts and fed him information about the government’s strategy. Another former Sunday Times journalist said that ‘these conversations certainly influenced the way the paper covered the strike.’ Neil declined to comment about his personal links with the Energy Secretary. ‘Any talks with Walker were off the record,’ he said.

And this is one of the right-wing journalists and Tory activists, who are now trying to tell us how impartial the BBC is. It’s a lie, just like most of the crap Neil published about the miner’s.

The Young Turks on Corporate Coup against Brazilian President

May 14, 2016

The leftist Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has been impeached and removed from office on charges of corruption and breaking electoral rules on expenditure. In this piece from The Young Turks, their anchor, Cenk Uygur, argues strongly that the charges are merely a specious pretext for what is essentially a coup against the Left by Brazil’s rich and corporate elite.

Rousseff was in a coalition with a centrist party, led by Michel Temer. After her removal, Temer took over the reins of power. But unlike Rousseff, Temer is massively unpopular. In polls, he has a popularity rating of 1 per cent. Which is probably as low as you can get for someone in government. Even Jeremy Hunt hasn’t reached that nadir yet, though he’s still going. And he’s hardly Mr Clean either. Temer is embroiled in a series of massive corruption scandals, far more than Rousseff. However, he’s been put in place because the elites love him.

Uygur argues that the coup has been arranged by the country’s financial backers. The big corporate media has been running campaigns against Rousseff. Those investing in the country include Goldman Sachs and the IMF, who are now demanding that the Brazilian government embarks on a programme of austerity – meaning more welfare cuts and tax reform, which will no doubt mean that the tax burden is once more transferred away from the rich to the poor. Oh yes, and they also want greater ‘labour fluidity’, which is corporate-speak for cuts to workers’ rights to make it easier to sack people. This was also a big favourite of Bliar and Broon.

As for the substance of the allegations against Rousseff, Uygur states that there may well be something there. But she’s nowhere near as corrupt or as unpopular as Temer. He quotes the very conservative magazine, the Economist, as saying that the allegations are unwarranted. Even Temer himself scoffed at the idea that she should be impeached.

Uygur concludes that this is how the corporate elite and the rich move against left-wingers once they’re in power. As soon as they start doing things for the poor, they find some arrangement to remove them, and replace them with the people, who will do what they want.

It’s not hard to see the reflection of what’s going on in American politics in this as well. Bernie Sanders was massively more popular with ordinary voters than Shrillary, but Bernie was for the blue-collar Joes and Joannas and against the corporate elite that fund the political machine. So the superdelegates, the party heavyweights, whose votes count for many more than the ordinary Democrat voters, back Shrillery instead. Who doesn’t represent anyone except Wall St. You can also see the same machinations in the EU with the Troika and their demands for the austerity regime in Greece and Italy and so on. Or in Honduras, where the Corporate elite, including Shrillary, backed a military coup that overthrew the president, Manuel Zelaya. Why? Zelaya had made terrible attacks on western capitalism by providing the poor with a minimum wage, and free education and electricity, amongst other things. The country’s corporate elite and Shrillary couldn’t permit this, and so once again, America backed a coup. Brazil’s coup is different, because it’s basically a peaceful change of government personnel, rather than a military takeover. But it’s a coup, nonetheless.

It shows the power of the transnational corporate elites, and how much they really despise lower classes, genuine working people, and just how far they will go to keep them from power.

Sam Seder Attacks Economist Review Defending Slavery

February 22, 2016

This is unbelievable. In this segment from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Seder rants about a negative review in the Economist attacking Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. The reviewer criticised Baptist’s book for being one-sided. All the Blacks in the book were victims, he complains, and all the Whites were villains. Seder is understandably and rightly outraged by this statement, and goes off on a long rant about how luck Blacks were to be enslaved, when they could simply have been kept in the slave ships and not landed in America, or been eaten by lions back in Africa, rather than captured and sold. It seems that many others were offended too, as the review was pulled from the Economist’s website.

Now depending on how their masters treated them, slaves could enjoy quite a high standard of living. Archaeologists researching Benjamin Franklin’s slaves’ quarters found remains of violins, pipes, and good quality china, as well as quite a varied diet, which included fish. And the defenders of slavery pointed out that the standard of living of their slaves was better than the miserable industrial workers in the north, the ‘factory slaves’, who were free in name only. You can even find examples of slave owners, who risked punishment under the law for trying to give their slaves some education, teaching them to read, for example.

None of which detracts from how monstrous and horrendous slavery actually was. The slave was legally just a mere chattel, subject to extreme punishment for even minor offences, who by law was banned from mixing with Whites. It was the appalling conditions in which slaves were kept, sold and exploited that motivated so many people in America, Britain, Canada and across the world to protest against slavery and demand its abolition. Just how deeply traumatised slaves were simply by the condition of slavery itself can be seen by the fact that, in general, very few former slaves described what their lives were like to their free children and grandchildren. Years ago there was a piece in the Observer about the reparations movement. One of the leaders of the movement explained that it wasn’t just about getting reparations for slavery, it was also to recover some of the lost history. They were afraid that with their grandparents’ generations dying off, Blacks would lose contact with the last people, who had had contact with the slaves. They complained that their slave forebears had never talked to them about what it was like when they were slaves.
I can’t say I’m surprised. People who go through deeply traumatic experiences tend not to talk about them. They just want to forget and move on. Old soldiers, for example, rarely talked about what they did in combat. It was too shocking, too horrific. Similarly, people, who have been raped or sexually assaulted generally don’t want to talk about the experience. They’re too deeply shamed, even though they were not responsible for their assault. So it seems entirely natural to me that a generation of Black Americans, raised in servitude, should have gone through their lives as free people determined not to speak about the condition of degradation they had been born into.

The Economist is, of course, one of the main upholders of capitalist economic orthodoxy. There seems to be very much a movement on the libertarian Right at the moment to try and play down the importance of slavery as a dark smear on American history. Guy Debord’s Cat has several very interesting pieces on how the intellectual heirs of Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and von Hayek are trying to rewrite the American Civil War to avoid slavery as its major cause. They’re trying to make out it was due to some kind of trade controversy over tariffs. Together with the deeply racist beliefs of Donald Trump’s supports, it shows how frightening reactionary the American Far Right is.

Vox Political: Government Raiding Pensions of Middle Income Groups

January 20, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political posted this piece at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/18/george-osbornes-plans-could-see-savers-lose-a-third-of-their-pension-in-tax-changes/ reporting that the government is closing a tax loophole for middle income savers. This could result in some of them losing as much as a third of the pension savings.

Mike has mixed feelings about this, as on the one hand it is a tax loophole, and so needs to be closed. On the other hand, Osbo certainly isn’t going for the super rich, who owe far more. He raises the question of whether it’s Osbo’s class bias showing.

Of course it is. It’s part of the ongoing destruction of the middle class by the rich in America, Britain and right across the world where the doctrine of free market capitalism and globalisation has been uncritically swallowed. I’ve posted up this very evening a video with the Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist, Chris Hedges. In it he describes how in private the rich have absolute contempt not just for the working class, but also for the middle class. And despite all the rhetoric of ‘meritocracy’ and creating opportunities, the Tories have been kicking away the ladder allowing people from the lower classes to rise socially since the days of Maggie Thatcher.

And let’s have no illusions. This is what free market capitalism is all about. Marx described it in The Communist Manifesto way back in 1848. If you read it, he states clearly that modern capitalism is forcing the lower middle class into the ranks of the workers. It wasn’t quite right. Later on there emerged gradations in the working class, which broke up its uniformity, which identify more with the establishment. Like the ‘aristocracy of labour’. And then opportunities for the working class to find a place within capitalism were provided by Anthony Crossland and his belief that the modern welfare system and subsidies to industry preserved capitalism by giving workers the necessary money to buy companies’ products, and so keep them afloat.

That was all destroyed by the Thatcherite Revolution. And as a result, everyone except the rich is becoming poorer, despite what the Economist and Telegraph yell at people.

This won’t necessarily result in growing support for Labour. The middle classes still, by and large, identify their interests with the rich, and prefer to kick downwards rather than punch upwards. Many of them – though probably not all – will swallow the lie that it’s all necessary to pay off the debt caused by ‘high-spending’ Labour. They’ll support even more right-wing policies, directed against the poor, the disabled and the unemployed, because they have swallowed the lie that they’re responsible for their poverty, as opposed to the virtuous, self-reliant middle class, who must now suffer because of their profligacy.

It’s time this lie was finally dealt a mortal blow, along with the Conservative’s policies, which are destroying the country and people’s lives and livelihoods.

Andrew Neil’s Lies Defending Pinochet’s Coup

January 16, 2014

A week or so ago I posted a few pieces on the BBC’s Right-wing political bias, with a number of commenters giving further information and their experiences of it, and individual journalists and presenters. One of these was Andrew Neil. Robin Ramsay, the editor of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has also commented on Brillo Pad and his connection to the British intelligence agencies. He was moved to write one particular piece about Neil after the former editor of the Sunday Times wrote a piece in 22nd October 1998 issue of the Independent falsely accusing Salvador Allende of trying to turn Chile into a Soviet satellite state. Allende was the democratically elected, Marxist president of Chile, who was overthrown by General Pinochet. In an article entitled ‘Pinochet was a Vile Fascist but Allende was no hero’, Brillo wrote:

‘…within months of Allende taking power, armed gangs of leftist thugs invaded homes and took over factories… a relatively free society was on the brink of Marxist terror as Allende’s tanks took to the streets … we can be sure that if a nasty, torturing, murdering, Chilean Castro had emerged triumphant rather than Pinochet…’.

Ramsay wrote to Neil for further information on these allegations, and did not receive a reply. Neil also wrote in the same article that

‘The Americans did not become involved in Chile until they realised that it was being turned into a Marxist enclave by the Soviet Union’.

This is also refuted by Ramsay, who states that American interference in Chile began in 1964 before Allende took power. Ramsay concludes with the statement that when he was editor of the Sunday Times he printed a considerable amount of disinformation, that was provided to him by the British secret services. Ramsay considered that his piece on Chile was similarly a piece of such disinformation, and suggested that it may even have come from the material disseminated by the British and American intelligence services at the time of the coup itself. Neil at that was working at the Economist, which was also a conduit for official, secret service propaganda.