Posts Tagged ‘Universal Healthcare’

Clinton’s Defeat Has Potential to Harm Blairites

November 9, 2016

Mike yesterday posted a piece about the report in the Huffington Post that documents released by WikiLeaks show that Bill Clinton made a number of slighting remarks about Jeremy Corbyn in a speech to wealthy donors to the Democrat Party last October. Clinton claimed that Corbyn was ‘the maddest person in the room’, and that he was only elected because Labour party members were ‘so mad at Tony Blair that ‘they practically went out and got a guy off the street instead’. He compared Corbyn to the leader of the Greek anti-austerity party, Alexis Tsipras, and claimed that Ed Miliband lost the election against Cameron because he was too leftwing.

Mike in his comments states that Clinton’s remarks need to be put in context. He was speaking at a time when Bernie Sanders was competing with Shrillary for the Democrat presidential nomination. Corbyn had supported Bernie Sanders in the past, and the two had been compared to each other. He also notes that Clinton appeared to be a little confused, as he referred to a conversation he had had with a Northern Ireland secretary, who stated that Shrillary had helped him through a bad period in that part of the UK. Clinton thought it was one of Cameron’s minions, but in fact it was a minister in Gordon Brown’s cabinet.
Mike concluded that Corbyn’s office was right not to pay any attention to Clinton’s comments.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/08/us-presidential-has-been-attacks-future-uk-prime-minister-awkward/

I think that Mike’s been a bit too generous to Bill Clinton. Yes, he was speaking at a time when his wife was competing against Bernie Sanders, the most left-wing member of the Democrat party. Sanders is a self-declared democratic Socialist, just as Corbyn is seen as far left in the Labour party. Actually, this isn’t accurate. Corbyn is centre left old Labour. He isn’t a Trotskyite at all, no matter what the Blairites and their media enablers scream at the public.

But even without Sanders, Corbyn would be well to the Left of the Clintons, and I don’t doubt for a single moment that the former president despises both Corbyn and Ed Miliband, along with Sanders, for the threat they posed to the transatlantic electoral strategy he and Tony Blair had formed for their respective parties. Blair modelled his ‘New Labour’ on the ‘New Democrats’ Clinton formed within the American Democrat Party. After losing to Reagan and then to George Bush senior, Clinton took over many of the Republican’s policies in order to win over their voters. He therefore declared that his party was going to end ‘welfare as we know it’, and put forward the same neoliberal policies Reagan had pursued in the Republicans.

And the same strategy was put into practise over here by Blair. Blair ditched Clause 4, the article in the Labour party constitution which committed it to socialism. He carried on the Tories’ policy of privatising whatever remained of the state sector, including the NHS. And like the Tories, the American Republicans and Clinton’s New Democrats, New Labour was also determined to cut down the welfare state. Hence the introduction of the work capability test, taken from the ideas of an American medical insurance firm, and administered by Atos, in order to satisfy the Conservative desire to see more people thrown off benefits and into poverty.

I’ve said that Blair and New Labour are Thatcherite entryists. They’ve been pursuing right-wing, Tory policies, despite the fact that they belong to an historically left-wing party. Blair’s tactic was all about convincing the establishment – business, the banks and the press – that Labour was now thoroughly neoliberal and economically orthodox, and so would form a responsible government. In other words, one that would do everything the upper classes wanted.

Hillary Clinton in her own way was even more ‘establishment’. She made hundreds of thousands of dollars from giving speeches to Wall Street bankers, and was as corrupt and corporatist as the other American politicians, for all her claim that she was somehow an outsider because she was female. In the 1990s she briefly supported free universal healthcare and education, before she then started receiving donations from the medical insurers and other big corporations. She and the head of the Democrat Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, just as the Blairites in the Labour party tried everything in their power to stop Corbyn being elected as leader. And that includes purging voters from the rolls. Faced with Trump being nominated as their presidential candidate, many leading Republicans threw in their lot with Shrillary. She tried to make a show of supporting organised labour and American working people with a speech to an audience of trade unionists, in which she pledged to support them. But the damage was done. The left-wing Democrat base knew that she had betrayed them, and that her promises counted for nothing. Especially as American jobs were being harmed by the very free trade deals, the TPP, NAFTA and so on that she and Obama supported.

And now that policy has come crashing down. Hillary’s attempt to be as corporate establishment as the Republicans failed to get her into the White House, and she lost to a racist, misogynist braggart and wannabe Fascist.

Now The Young Turks have posted up a piece arguing that the Democrats will probably try and blame their defeat on Bernie Sanders. I think that’s highly likely. They’re absolutely wrong, of course. They lost for a variety of reasons. Sexism was one – many Americans objected to the idea of a woman holding the presidency. Media bias was another – for all Trump’s claims that the media were biased against him, they gave him hours and millions of dollars worth of free airtime. Pervasive racism is another factor. But Hillary’s own political stance was also a major factor. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and other shows made the point that if Bernie Sanders had been elected instead, then he would have beaten Trump easily.

But that was a step too far for the Democrats, who’d clearly rather have a Fascist buffoon in the White House than someone, who genuinely spoke for working Americans.

This should be the end of the line for the New Democrat, and by extension, the New Labour project. It has shown that copying the pro-privatisation, neoliberal line of the Republicans won’t get you into the White House. The Democrats really can’t go any further to the right, without returning to their original stance as the party of the KKK. And as that strategy has failed across the Pond, it’s going to fail over here. The Blairites in the Labour party should be worried. Clinton’s defeat has shown that they can’t and won’t get into power by copying the Tories. That was, after all, also the message of Ed Miliband’s defeat as well, followed by the victory of Jeremy Corbyn. But I doubt Bomber Benn and the other Thatcherite entryists will take any notice. They’re probably too busy concentrating on saving their careers and all the lucrative seats on private health and utility companies they can get after they leave politics.

So, you can expect further screaming that it’s all somehow Bernie Sanders’ fault from Shrillary and her team across the Pond, and violent denunciation of ‘unelectable’ Jeremy Corbyn from the Blairites and their right-wing colleagues in the media over here. Because with Clinton’s defeat, they know only too well that Corbyn is all too electable, and represents the end of their project.

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Secular Talk on the Alabama Textbook Defending Slavery

August 18, 2016

This is another fascinating video from the atheist/secularist news programme, Secular Talk, commenting on an Alabama school history book that taught students in the state for a generation that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved Black population. Clyde Smith was a high school student in 1971, and he posted online pictures of the textbook used in the state schools. It was called History for Schools by Charles Grayson Somersell, and was taught from 1955 to well into the ’70s. The book told its young readers that slaves were given good quality clothes, and were better off than contemporary free labourers, White or Black. They were given the best medical care that the times could offer by their masters. The book didn’t mention the regular whippings, nor the frequent rape of enslaved women by their masters, who then did not take care of the children – a fact that is notorious to Black Americans. Kulinski makes the point that slaves weren’t viewed as people, quite literally, and were forced to work long hours. The textbook also explicitly stated that ‘Slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States’, and states that it was illegal for a master to emancipate a slave after he was too old to work. Kulinski points out that this meant that elderly slaves remained in chains, and slaves were worked until they died.

Kulinski makes the very good point that this shows the basic, unspoken beliefs of Whites in the Southern US, the kind of ideas they express only among themselves in private. It also explains why so many of them were shocked and outraged by demands to remove the Confederate flag. To them, rather than the symbol of evil and oppression, it represented a good and beneficial order, which looked after its enslaved workers and gave them excellent healthcare, in contrast to the poverty of free workers in the North.

Finally, Kulinski explains why he’s talking about this now: because the battle is never over. You have to explain and keep explaining certain basic points about human dignity and freedom, because to people raised on this propaganda, they were the good guys and slavery was not necessarily an evil system.

I put this video up because it boggled my mind how anyone could approve of slavery, or present it as essentially beneficial as late as the 1970s. it explains some of the racism in the Deep South, as well as some of the other weird and bizarre attitudes held by the American Right. I did wonder how far the equation of social security and healthcare with slavery explained the bizarre attitude of the Libertarians that the welfare state is also a form of slavery. There was a prize exchange on American television from Congress when Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were talking about universal state healthcare for Americans. Rand Paul, a Libertarian Republican, started spouting nonsense that state healthcare reduced doctors and other employees to slaves, and that they would be woken up in the middle of the night by people breaking down their front door to get them to treat patients. This was done when the two were taking the testimony of doctors involved in the state medicare programme. Sanders, who wants a universal healthcare like the NHS, dispatched that piece of stupidity by simply asking one of the doctors if she’d ever had this happen to her. Obviously, she hadn’t. In Britain doctors, surgeons, nurses and other employees are paid employees with all the rights of free people. They do have to treat patients, but no-one’s going to break down their doors except in emergencies, and they are perfectly free to leave the profession. Unfortunately, their status, pay and working conditions is declining, thanks to Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, who wish to destroy the state system and replace it with private enterprise.

As for the conditions slaves endured, the Alabama text books is right on some points. Defenders of slavery in both America and Britain pointed out that slaves were frequently treated better, and enjoyed better working conditions, than the ‘factory slaves’, the free workers employed in the factories of the northern US and in Britain. They’re probably right. Factory workers worked long hours in appalling conditions for miserable pay, and in some ways their condition did tremble on the edge of true slavery. Tony Robinson in an episode of Time Team devoted to industrial archaeology pointed out – with justifiable anger – how factory masters purchased children from orphanages to use as young workers. Also, when the British were seeking to improve the conditions of slaves in the Caribbean in the 1820s, they were also forced to pass legislation forbidding masters from freeing slaves who were too old to work as a way of avoid the expense of maintaining them. This was a period when the British government was passing legislation demanding that slaves were properly fed and clad.

This does not, however, make slavery any better. Slaves were worked to death. There was a debate in the 17th and 18th centuries over whether it was more profitable to work a slave to death quickly, and so make a massive profit quickly, but then have to go to the expense of buying a new slave; or whether it was better to give them moderate amounts of work and keep them working steadily so that they lived longer.

They were not given good quality clothing. The slave laws provided that the men should receive yearly a pair of drawers – that is, underpants – and the women a petticoat or shift. But that’s it. Now much did depend on the attitude of the slave masters. Archaeologists examining the material of the slaves on Ben Franklin’s estate found that the slaves there had a very high standard of living. They were well-fed, had fine crockery, and played instruments like the violin. But there were no doubt many more cases where the slaves were given very little. Visitors to the Caribbean remarked on the enslaved workers labouring naked in the fields. And Kulinski is right to talk about the flogging and sexual exploitation, though he passes over some of the other, more extreme and vile forms of punishment that existed, such as mutilation.

It’s a fascinating, grim insight into the mindset that was instilled in a generation of southern US schoolchildren, and which is still being regurgitated by Republicans across the US today.

American Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s Universal Healthcare Advert

August 7, 2016

After Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist candidate to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee was blocked by the Democratic party machine and its head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, many of those on the left wing of the party have increasingly turned to the Greens and their presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Stein also stands for expanding the minimal welfare provision, social justice and universal healthcare as well as protecting the environment. In this short video, Stein pledges her support for universal Medicare. The video notes that 58 per cent of the American people want something like Britain’s NHS. She makes the point that she’s a medical doctor, who’s acutely aware of how poverty affects people’s healthcare. She states that Obamacare has added another layer of bureaucracy to the system, and as it’s in the hands of private insurers, these companies can decided who to keep on their books and who to reject as they can’t afford it. She promises a full healthcare, which will cover opticians and dentistry, as well as mental and reproductive health.

This is exactly what the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Tories since Margaret Thatcher, have been trying to deprive the British public. Thatcher wanted to dismantle the welfare state, including the NHS. Alan Milburn wanted the NHS to become only a kitemark for healthcare services provided by private healthcare companies. And Owen Smith wrote a pro-privatisation puff piece when he was working for Pfizer.

And like Jeremy Corbyn over here, Dr. Stein has similarly been smeared. It’s been claimed that she’s ‘anti-science’, which is rich coming from an American political establishment which denies climate change, using very selective research sponsored by the oil giants. In an interview on Watching the Hawks over at RT, Dr Stein talks about this, and how she authored a book, along with other socially aware medical doctors, discussing the threats to children’s developmental health from pollution and so on. Apparently, her Conservative opponents tried telling everyone that she was against vaccination. She states firmly that when she and her colleagues looked at the list of health threats to children, vaccines ‘weren’t even on the list, so I don’t where they got that from.’

The neoliberal consensus is facing a radical challenge and the supposed ‘left-wing’ establishment, both here and in the US, is running scared. But it’s radical politicians like Sanders, Stein and Corbyn that are injecting new life into politics and justly attacking a corrupt and oppressive system.

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.