Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

William Blum on the Economic Reasons behind the New Cold War

December 8, 2017

William Blum, the veteran and very highly informed critic of American imperialism, has put up a new edition of his Anti-Empire Report. This is, as usual, well worth reading. In it he attacks the new Cold War being fought with Russia, and reminds us of the stupidity and hysteria of the first.

Blum does a great job of critiquing the claim that the Russians interfered in the American election. He points out that the American intelligence services actually know how to disguise the true origins of Tweets, and questions the motives imputed to the Russians. He states that the Russians presumably don’t think that America is a banana republic, which can be easily influenced and its government overthrown by an outside power. He also questions the veracity of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Clapper is one of those claiming that the Russians did influence the election. But as Blum reminds us, Clapper himself is a liar. He lied to Congress when he was asked if the American intelligence apparatus was spying on its citizens. He said ‘No’. The answer, as revealed by Edward Snowden, was very definitely ‘Yes’.

He then gives a long list of instances from the First Cold War where people were unfairly accused of Communism and persecuted. For example, in 1948 the Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses and places of work of 1,000 people, who had signed the form backing the former vice-president, Henry Wallace’s campaign for the presidency, as Wallace was running for the Progressive Party.

Then there’s the case of the member of a local school board, who decided that the tale of Robin Hood should be banned, because he was a ‘Communist’. Which is good going, considering that the tales of Robin Hood date from the 14th/15th centuries and are about a hero who lived in the 13th – six centuries before Karl Marx. However, this woman wasn’t the only one to dislike the tales for political reasons. The compiler of a children’s book of stories about heroes deliberately left him out in favour of Clym of Clough, a similar archer outlaw, but from ‘Bonnie Carlisle’, partly because Hood was too well-known, but also because he thought there was something ‘political’ about the stories.

Blum also covers the way Conservatives claimed that the USSR was responsible for the rise in drug abuse in America, and was deliberately creating it in order to undermine American society. He also states that the Russians were also trying to destroy America through fluoridation of the water. As General Jack D. Ripper says in Dr. Strangelove: ‘We must keep our bodily fluids pure.’

Then there are the pronouncements that American universities were all under Communist influence, and the reason why American sports teams were also failing was because of Communist influence.

The anti-Communist hysteria was also used to denounce and vilify the United Nations. Blum writes

1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.

Oh yes, and rock and roll, pop music and the Beatles were also seen as part of a Communist plot to destroy American moral fibre. A few decades later, in the 1980s, the same right-wing pastors were saying the same thing, though this time the tendency was to blame Satanists rather than Commies.

And the list goes on, including instances from the 1980s when visiting Russians were subjected hostility and abuse because they were perceived as a danger to the US, thanks to films like Rambo and Red Dawn.

The report ends with Blum discussing Al Franken, a Democrat politician and broadcaster, who is now accused of sexual assault. Blum argues that the real issue that should get people angry at Franken is the fact that he backed the Iraq War, and went out there to entertain the troops, showing that he was perfectly happy with the illegal and bloody invasion of another country.

He also reveals that the list of people, who have been on RT, was compiled by a Czech organisation with the name European Values, which produced the report
The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact. Blum states that it’s not exhaustive, as he’s been on it five times, and they haven’t mentioned him.

He also notes the RT’s Facebook page has four million followers and that it claims to be ‘the most watched news network’. It’s YouTube channel has two million likes. And so is this the reason why the American authorities have thrown away freedom of the press and forced it to register as a foreign agent.

He also comments on the way Theresa May has also got in on the act of blaming the Russians for everything, and is accusing them of interfering in Brexit.

But what I found interesting was this piece, where quotes another writer on the real reason the Americans are stoking another Cold War:

Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

https://williamblum.org/aer/read/153

This makes sense of a lot of murky episodes from the Cold War. I think Lobster has also commented several times on the way Conservative have accused the USSR of causing the drug crisis. I distinctly remember one of the columnist for Reader’s Digest, Clare Somebody, running this story in the 1980s. If memory serves me right, she also claimed that the Russians were doing so in cahoots with Iran. The Iranian theocracy are a bunch of thugs, but somehow I don’t think they can be accused of causing mass drug addiction in the West. They’re too busy fighting their own. I can’t remember the woman’s surname, but I do remember that she turned up later as one of the neocons frantically backing George W. Bush.

As for the campaign against the United Nations on the grounds that internationalism is unpatriotic, that’s still very much the stance of the Republicans in America. It’s part and parcel of the culture of American exceptionalism, which angrily denounces and rejects any attempt to hold America accountable to international justice, while upholding America’s right to interfere in everybody else’s affairs and overthrow their governments. ‘Cause America is a ‘shining city on a hill’ etc.

As for wishing to bring down Putin, because he’s shaken off the chains of American economic imperialism, that’s more than plausible. American big business and the state poured tens of millions into Yeltsin’s election campaign back in the 1990s, including his crash privatisation of the Russian economy. Which just about destroyed it. In which case, it shows that Lenin was right all those decades ago, when he described how pre-Revolutionary Russia was enchained by western economic imperialism. And perhaps the world, or at least, anybody who does not want their country to be bought up by American capitalism, should be grateful to the Archiplut for showing that a nation can defy American capitalism.

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Martin Odoni: Lack of Brexit Impact Assessments Means Government Should Go

December 7, 2017

There were calls last week for David Davis to reveal the 60 or so impact assessments on Brexit, that the government had compiled and was supposed to be suppressing. Davis himself was facing accusations of contempt of parliament for refusing to release them. Now he has revealed that, actually, there aren’t any. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a short piece from Martin Odoni over the Critique Archives, who makes the obvious point: the government is seriously negligent, and should go. The members of every opposition party in parliament should unite and demand their resignation. He makes the point that the referendum was conducted so that Cameron could get the Tory right on board, and that in the 2 1/2 years since it is absolutely disgraceful that the Tories simply haven’t bothered to work out how Brexit would affect Britain.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/if-there-are-no-brexit-impact-assessments-the-entire-tory-government-is-grossly-negligent-and-must-go/

I can’t agree more. Every day brings fresh news of how Brexit is damaging Britain’s economy and world status. Today there was a piece on the news reporting that universities are finding it difficult to recruit foreign graduates, thanks to Brexit. We have lost three regulatory bodies to Europe in the past week. Mike has also reported that Britain’s scientists will also losing funding due Brexit, as they will no longer be quite so much a part of the European science infrastructure.

At the same time the Tory right is trying to strip the human rights and workers’ rights legislation out of British law, to make it even easier to fire and exploit British workers. And British businesses are wondering how well they will fare without access to the single market.

Brexit is a mess. And you could tell it was going to be a mess, from the way the Maybot mechanically intoned ‘Brexit means Brexit’ whenever anyone asked her what Brexit meant, all the while staring at the interlocutor as if they, not she, were the stupid one. The Tories have no plan, only slogans and lies. In this case, we’ve seen Michael Gove pop up again and again to give his spiel about how wonderful everything will be after Brexit. As has Young Master Jacob Rees-Mogg. Gove was on the One Show Last Night in an article about the crisis hitting the British fishing industry. And guess what – he said that Britain would once again have the largest, or one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, after Brexit.

As Christine Keeler said all those years ago, well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Many people voted for Brexit because they were genuinely sick and tired of the neoliberal policies forced upon Britain and the other European countries by the EU. This was quite apart from the nationalist and racist fears stoked by UKIP about foreign, and specifically Muslim, immigration.

In fact, Brexit has been promoted by the financial sector and its Tory cheerleaders so that Britain can become another offshore tax haven. It’s part of a very long-standing Tory policy going right back to Maggie Thatcher, that has seen the financial sector given priority over manufacturing. The attitude became official policy under Blair, when it was announced that we shouldn’t try to restore our manufacturing industries, and should concentrate on the financial sector and servicing the American economy.

It’s a profoundly mistaken attitude. Ha-Joon Chang in his books on capitalism states very clearly that manufacturing is still vitally important for the British economy. If it occupies less of the economy, it’s because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. But it’s still the basis of our economy.
But I doubt that will cut much ice with Tory grandees like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who makes his money through investments, rather than actually running a business that actually makes something.

And so the British economy is being wrecked, British businesses are looking at ruin, and British workers looking at precarity and unemployment, because the government in this issue is guided by tax-dodging bankers.

The Tories have been colossally negligent to the point of treating the British public with absolute contempt. Mike and Mr Odoni are absolutely right.

They should resign. Now.

George Galloway Interviews on China and Tax Dodging by the Rich

December 6, 2017

This is a very interesting edition of Sputnik, one of the programmes on RT, hosted by media bete noir George Galloway, and a young Asian lady simply called Gayatri. Sputnik was, of course, the first satellite put into Earth orbit by the Russians. The name means ‘fellow traveller’ in Russian, and has come to mean an artificial satellite ever since.

In the first half of the programme, Galloway and Gayatri interview Jeanne-Marie Gescher, a British sinologist, who has been studying China ever since the notorious Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Gescher has written a book about the country and its transformation, and describes how she was just about the only western person flying into China after the massacre, when all the other westerners were trying to get out. This, however, gave her a head start of a couple of years over the other academics researching China, when she was one of the very few westerners actually in the country. Galloway talks about President Xi’s party congress, and makes the point that most of it was about ‘socialism with a Chinese face’, rather than economics. He and Gescher also discuss the role of a strong central authority in governing and forming China, ever since its foundation all those millennia ago. They make the point that the role of a strong central authority is so much at the core of the country’s character and government, that it has been said that without it China is like sand. Gescher states that ever since the ancient shamans led the earliest ancestors of the Chinese to settle down, there has been a tension between two philosophies towards government and the natural order. One is that the natural world is too complex for people to understand, and so government is best carried out by a single ‘son of Heaven’ – the official title of the Chinese emperor – who governs autocratically. The other recommends instead that the world be subject to a structured investigation. This is not democratic, but it is wider than the concentration of power in a single autocratic figure. Gescher also describes the way China has repeatedly fragmented over the ages, only to come back together as a single, unitary empire again, with a quote from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the great classics of Chinese literature. To people of a certain age, the book is best known as the basis for the Chinese swashbuckling tale broadcast by the Beeb in the ’70s, The Water Margin.

They also discuss Donald Trump’s apparent volte-face last week. Before he went to China, he was full of anger at the Chinese and there was much resentment in the American media about perceived Chinese mistreatment. Trump was going to tear them off a strip about it. After he got there, however, and met the President, he ended up praising the country. Gescher states that this has shown the Chinese that Trump ‘flip-flops’. This will worry them, as there is nothing more dangerous than a leader, who so capriciously changes position.

Next on the show is Professor Steve Keen, who has also written a book demolishing economics. Keen’s a former economics professor at Kingston University, though at the end of the interview he states that he has left academia to go his own way via Patreon. Keen, Gayatri and Galloway discuss the infamous Paradise Papers and the tax dodging by the very rich. Keen himself isn’t shocked by the way the super-rich like Bono, Lewis Hamilton and the Queen have deprived the treasury of their taxes. He seems to accept that it’s just part of the pathology of the very rich. He states that they’re terrified of anyone else getting their hands on their money, and so pay enormous fees to people, who tell them how they can legally avoid paying cash.

Galloway is shocked, however, and makes the ironic point that the Queen, in her case, is actually avoiding paying tax to herself. Which is true. He also wonders about the mentality of the rich, who will spend their money on colossally expensive items like luxury super-yachts. Keen states he knows someone, who has actually bought one. This man had a 120-ft yacht, but turned it in for a 140 foot vessel, complete with space for a grand piano. He states that this comes from the sheer greed and sense of entitlement of the rich.

He then talks about the various fake holding companies and offshore accounts that the rich use in order to avoid paying tax in the country where they really make their money. He’s actually been to the Cayman Islands, and seen the office block, where so many multinational companies legally have their headquarters. He states that he read so many of the brass plaques on the building’s walls before he gave up. But it was all a scam. There was no-one in the building. It was all very much a legal fiction.

Keen himself has recommended his own way to stop this. At the moment, the tax on profits allows the rich to dodge paying tax by allowing them to cast their companies as subsidiaries working for a parent organisation somewhere else in the world. To stop them doing that, Keen recommends that there should be a tax on transactions instead, which would bring money back into the treasury and which couldn’t be avoided by setting up fake parent companies.

He also has a very different view of taxation than other economists. He argues that the point of taxation isn’t to pay for government services. Governments, by their nature, create money. They pump it into the economy. What taxation does is take it out of the economy, so you don’t have runaway inflation.

Talking about his decision to leave academia, Keen states that it was forced on him by the government’s effective privatisation of higher education. This has turned students into ‘informed consumers of higher education’. However, the league tables concentrate on the Russell Group, and so the new universities that were created post 1992 are starved of funding. This has led him to break with the university, and start crowdfunding his work. He states that he has a great bunch of people funding him through Patreon, and that he’s learned a lot from them. He is also critical of university tenure, because it creates a very conformist mindset. It’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to do the opposite, but he states that by the time professors have done all the things needed to gain tenure, they are afraid of stepping out of line.

The programme ends with Galloway and Gayatri reading out some of the Tweets they have received on the shows contents. Several people remark that, whatever Trump says, America very much needs China to avoid collapsing. And others are about the Queen and the rest of the rich dodging tax.

This is interesting, as it shows that Galloway is a very good interviewer. I also find it quite a nostalgic experience, as it reminds me of what quality television on BBC 2 used to be like in the 1970s and 1980s. No fancy graphics, just the programme’s host or hosts in the studio and his or her guests, talking. You can see the same approach used by Tariq Ali on his TV show. And while it is talk, it’s very much informed talk by experts, that isn’t dumbed down and reduced to soundbites by programme editors afraid that too much pop videos have left people with an attention-span no longer than a gnat’s.

Keen’s perspective on the rich and their sheer avarice is interesting, as is his proposed solution. I’m also struck by his innovative attitude to taxation. I’ve read similar things like it on Mike’s blog, where he has reblogged material from the Mainly Macro economist. As has the Angry Yorkshireman, Tom Clarke. This looks like a positive approach to the dismal science that will break the Tory orthodoxy about taxation and paying for the welfare state.

James Dyson: Not a Hero of Science, Just a Greedy Exploiter

November 29, 2017

James Dyson, the inventor of that vacuum cleaner, was ono the news again the other day. At least, he was in the Bristol region. Because of his invention’s success, he’s celebrated in the local news here in this part of the West Country as some kind of great scientific hero, leading Britain forward in technological innovation and business acumen. The local news was all over him when he opened a plant to make his vacuums near Bath. They were all over him again when a special site or facility opened down in the old part of the railway station at Temple Meads in Bristol, which was supposed to help bring businessmen together so that they could make deals. He was one of the businessmen, who was called upon to say how wonderful and good for the city it all was.

And then last night, or the night before, he was on the news again. He has decided to open his own, private university specialising in engineering. Boris Johnson’s brother, who’s as blond as Boris is, but slimmer and possibly not as thick, appeared to tell the world how wonderful this was going to be also.

I’m not impressed. Not by Dyson, and certainly not by his grotty political beliefs and sordid profiteering.

Dyson is not someone I feel anyone should look up to. His support for his home country, and the Bristol-Bath region, merely seems to be one of convenience. After he had set up the factory near Bath, he closed it down and moved it to Indonesia. He then declared that he did so because there wasn’t enough space at the existing site to expand, and the council was deliberately blocking him from doing so.

I find that unconvincing. It might be that the council were stopping him from expanding on that site, but that should not stop him going elsewhere in the region or the country. There are other suitable sites, if not around Bath, then certainly in the rest of England and Britain. There are places in the north of England, for example, which are crying out for entrepreneurs to come there and set up plants.

But Dyson didn’t want that. The simple truth is, he moved his plant to Indonesia because he could pay the workers there much less than those in Britain.

And he doesn’t even bother hiding his contempt for Britain’s workers. Mike put up a piece a little while ago commenting on a speech Dyson made, in which he looked forward to British workers having more of their rights in the workplace stripped away after Brexit. This would be good for British firms, and make us more competitive.

On it’s own, it most certainly won’t. Despite destroying workers’ rights and reducing the mass of employees in Britain to poverty, productivity has very definitely not risen under the Tories, and we’ve just been knocked out of the five richest countries in the world. But Dyson, and the rest of the extremely rich, are going to love those policies anyway, because it gives them more power to intimidate, bully and exploit their workforce.

As for him setting up his wretched engineering university, I fail to see the need. Both Bristol Uni and the University of the West of England have excellent engineering departments. In fact, UWE is a world leader in robotics. One of their great inventions, which was on the news a little while ago, was a new type of artificial hand for use by children. It was superb engineering, which, unlike the driverless car, will actually improve people’s lives.

As for business acumen and entrepreneurial ability, I got the distinct impression that Bath was trying very hard to cover that. Walking through Temple Meads station you go past a number of adverts for the MBA at one of Bath’s unis.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these institutions. It’s just that, like the various businessmen, who decide they’d quite like to run an academy school, Dyson has decided that they’re not running things quite how he thinks they should be run. Hence he’s decided to set up this wretched engineering university.

Not only is it a vanity project on his behalf, it’s also another attack on state education. Ever since Maggie Thatcher, the Tories and then Blair’s New Labour have been privatising education, including the universities. This isn’t the first private centre of higher education. That came a few years ago with a new College of the Humanities, or some such, set up with the aid of the philosopher A.C. Grayling.

I’m also profoundly unimpressed by the underlying attitude to the state held by businessmen like Dyson. They usually appear launching some grand new commercial venture, loudly declaring how very much better private enterprise is over the state. Then, when everything goes wrong, they come crying and whining back to the taxpayer demanding a bail-out. And when they get that, they still don’t shut up, but continue moaning that their great, new business vision failed because the government was insufficiently pro-business. They also hate the welfare state, because it actually helps the poor. Not only do businessmen like Dyson moan that current labour laws and wages make business in Britain uneconomical, they also tend to believe that things should be made harder for the poor, in order to encourage them to find a job and ‘do well’. You used to hear a lot about this from the Tories under Thatcher. It’s still the policy in the DWP. It’s why benefit claimants, who are actually in work, are harassed by the ‘job coaches’ in the Job Centres. This is to motivate them to get another, better paying job. Even though there aren’t any around, and aren’t likely to be, given the government’s policies of freezing pay.

In short, James Dyson is certainly not my idea of a hero, either of science or industry. He’s a bog-standard, exploitative businessman, of the same stripe that gets in the news for paying his workers less than the minimum wage while he makes a colossal profit. And I’m heartily sick and tired of the news in my part of the West Country fawning over him.

I’ve never bought one of his vacuum cleaners, and really don’t intend to. Because I don’t think Britain, including my little bit of it, can afford the cost.

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 3

November 18, 2017

This is the third part and final part of my article on the interview with Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show. She’s a tireless critic of American imperialism, and the presenter of the Empire Files on TeleSur English, and before that, on RT.

Dore and Martin discuss how the Empire and the Deep State loathes Trump because he ain’t good for the Empire’s image. After Bush had nearly pushed Americans towards revolution, Obama managed to placate people, and win them back to the Empire. But Trump is worse for the Empire because he’s such an a**hole and psychopath. There are people, who are just as psychotic. Paul Ryan, another Republican, hates the poor. But Trump is ramping up the Empire to colossal levels. There are now troop surges in Afghanistan, and the formation of Africom to deal with Somalia. Everybody’s heard of a horrific massacre committed by one of the warlords, and blamed on al-Shabaab. But what you aren’t being told is that week before his village was subject to a bombing raid which killed a load of kids. Martin talks about Trump’s hypocrisy and cynicism. He attacked Killary for the way she sold arms to the Saudis, but has been more than willing to sell them arms himself so they can kill civilians in Yemen. Under Trump, there has been a 400 per cent increase in drone strikes, and a 75 per cent increase in civilian deaths. Under Bush and Obama, the US military just killed every military-age male in a given locality. Now they’re carpet-bombing whole villages. Just like the Israelis kill Palestinians. Well, Trump said he would kill not only the terrorists, but also their families, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. Unfortunately, he has not honoured the promises Martin hoped he would, like normalising relations with Russia.

And then they get on to MOAB – the Mother Of All Bombs. This ‘mini-nuke’ – actually a conventional bomb that approached some of the destructive power of a nuclear device – was dropped on a cave system in Afghanistan. They said it only killed terrorists, but there were people in that area, and we won’t know if it only killed terrorists, because nobody’s allowed in there. Martin describes ISIS as a barbaric death cult – which is true – but states that this doesn’t give us the right to kill the people, who live in these countries. She makes the point that the applause which greeted the MOAB attack was a dehumanisation of the Afghan people and the victims of this weapon.

They then discuss whether some of the people on the Right, who supported Trump, may now be disillusioned with the orange buffoon. Many people probably voted for him because they thought he was anti-interventionist. But he hasn’t been. This might be because the military-industrial complex and the warfare state are beyond his control. Martin hoped that this part of the Republican based would speak out, but she was disappointed. The base is just interested in having a more efficient War On Terror. They aren’t speaking out about Venezuela, nor about the push for war with North Korea, they just don’t want us to fund al-Qaeda. As for Trump himself, he was never anti-interventionist. He just appeared so as it was a useful stance against Killary. He doesn’t have to surround himself with generals, who just want war because with every new invasion they launch, they get another star on their jacket. They two then discuss how nobody knows why America was in Niger.

I realise that this is an American programme, discussing American issues. But it also directly and acutely affects us. A number of our politicos have attended Republican conventions, and one of Trump’s British buddies was Nigel Farage. The Tories have been copying and utilising Republican policies since Maggie Thatcher took over as premier in the 1970s. And New Labour did the same with the Clintonite wing of the Democrats, adopting their stance against the welfare state, and introducing neoliberalism, deregulation and privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS, into the Labour Party.

The situation is rather different over here in Blighty, as we are now lucky enough to have a real Socialist as leader in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. But New Labour is desperately trying to hang on in the shape of Progress, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. And they have been using the smearing of decent anti-racists, the majority of whom are Jewish, as anti-Semites and their expulsion from the party as a weapon to purge their left-wing opponents.

As for imperialism, we are still riding on the back of America’s coat-tails, trying to be a world power by exploiting the ‘Special Relationship’. And so we support their wars in the Middle East, and the looting of these countries’ state industries and the brutalisation and impoverishment of their peoples.

Our media isn’t quite as bad as the Americans’ just yet. The news over here does accept that climate change is real at least, and there are still news reports about the poverty caused by austerity and Tory cuts to the welfare state and health service.

But it is heavily biased towards the Tories. The Beeb is full of public school, very middle class White guys, and its news and editorial staff have contained a number of high profile Tories, several of whom have left their posts to work for the party under Cameron and May. ‘Goebbels’ Robinson and ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg are members of the Tory party. Robinson led a whole series of Tory groups, while Kuenssberg spoke at a fringe meeting in the Tory party this year.

The Kushners noted in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, that the Beeb does not allow anyone to question austerity, and it is just assumed, entirely falsely, as true and necessary by the rest of the media. And academics from Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have noted that the Beeb is far more likely to talk to Tory politicians and managing directors about the economy, than Labour politicos and trade unionists.

And the war on alternative media is happening in this country as well. The Tories would love to close down RT. We’ve already seen them join in the baying mob accusing it of being Putin’s propaganda arm interfering with British democracy over here. All the while being very silent about how the Israelis were caught trying to get the people they don’t like removed from May’s cabinet. We’ve seen them criticise Labour MPs for appearing on the network, while ignoring their own people, who also have. And May got on her high horse to write a letter to Alex Salmond telling him not to take up a job as presenter with the Network.

And the bots and algorithms cooked up by Google and Facebook to protect us all from ‘fake news’ are having an effect on ‘controversial’ read: left-wing bloggers and vloggers. They direct potential readers away from the sites the corporations have decided are a threat to democracy. Mike’s suffered an inexplicable fall in the readership of some of his articles, and some of his posts have had to be reposted after mysteriously vanishing from Facebook. Even before then, there was an attempt to censor Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge by claiming that his site was unsuitable for children. The pretext for that was some of the coarse humour he employs in his satire. This is nothing compared to some of the language you will hear on YouTube. It looked very much like his real crime was sending up Dave Cameron and the other walking obscenities taking up space on the Tory benches.

What Abby Martin says about the media and the crimes of Empire describe the situation in America. But it also describes what the neoliberal elites are doing over here.

We have to stop this. We have to take back parliament, and end the warmongering. Now.

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia: Part 1

November 7, 2017

I’ve put up several pieces about workers’ control and industrial democracy, the system in which the workers in a particular firm or industry have their representatives elected on to the board of management. It was particularly highly developed in Communist Yugoslavia, following the ideas of Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj, and formed an integral part of that country’s independent Communist system following the break with Stalin and the Soviet-dominated Comintern in 1948.

In 1963 the Fabian Society published the above pamphlet by Frederick Singleton, a lecturer on Geography and International Affairs in the Department of Industrial Administration at the Bradford Institute of Technology, and Anthony Topham, a staff tutor in Social Studies in the Adult Education department of Hull University.

The pamphlet had the following contents.

Chapter 1 was on Political Structure, and contained sections on the Communist Assumption of Power, the 1946 Constitution, the 1953 Constitution, and the Policy of the League of Communists.

Chapter 2: Economic Planning, had sections on the Legacy of the Past, From Administration to Fiscal Planning, Autonomy for the Enterprise, the Investment System, and Recent Developments.

Chapter: The Working Collective, has sections on the Workers’ Council, the Managing Board, the Director, Departmental Councils, Economic Units, the Disposal of Funds by Economic Units, Allocation of Personal Income, Structure and Role of the Trade Unions, the Right to Strike, Education for Workers’ Self-Management, Workers’ Universities, Worker’s Management in Action: Decision Making, Structure of a Multi-Plant Enterprise, and Incentives or Democracy: the Problem of Motive.

The final chapter, was the Conclusion, which considered the lessons the system had for Britain. It ran:

In considering the lessons which British socialists may draw from the Yugoslav experience, we must not lose sight of the different nature of our two societies and the disparity in levels of industrial development. But it is also relevant to ask how far the ideas of workers’ control could, with the stimulus of the Yugoslav experience, become a truly popular element of British Labour policy. It is true that, with the Yugoslav exception, past experience of this form of Socialism has been inconclusive and fragmentary. Usually, it has been associated with periods of revolutionary fervour such as the Paris Commune of 1871, the Catalan movement during the Spanish Civil War, and the factory Soviets of Russia in 1917-18. The experience of Owenite Utopian communities in this and other countries is misleading, in that they existed as small and vulnerable enclaves in a basically hostile society. On the other hand, there is an authentic tradition within the British Labour movement, represented by the early shop stewards’ movement, the Guild Socialists and Industrial Unionists, upon which we can draw. The Fabian tradition too, is not exclusively centralist or bureaucratic. In the 1888 volume of Fabian essays, Annie Besant raised the question of decentralisation. She did not believe that ‘the direct election of the manager and foreman by the employees would be found to work well’, but she advocated control of industry ‘through communal councils, which will appoint committees to superintend the various branches of industry. These committees will engage the necessary managers and foremen for each shop and factory.’ The importance attached to municipal ownership and control in early Fabian writings is related to the idea of the Commune, in the government of which the workers have a dual representation as consumer-citizens and as producers. This affinity to Yugoslav Commune government is even more marked in the constitutions evolved in Guild Socialist writings.

The history of the progressive abandonment of these aims, and the adoption of the non-representative Public Corporation as the standard form for British Socialised undertakings, is well known. Joint consultation, which was made compulsory in all nationalised industries, became the only instrument of workers’ participation. Yet the problem of democracy in industry is one which should be of great concern to the British socialist. It must surely be apparent that the nationalised industries have failed to create amongst the mass of their workers a feeling of personal and group responsibility. Even in the most ‘trouble-free’ gas and electricity industries, there is little real enthusiasm for the present system of worker-management relations. Nationalisation may have appeared to the Labour government to have solved the problems of the industries concerned. But the experience of the workers in these industries has not confirmed this. They found that joint consultation between managers and unions leaders plus vaguely defined parliamentary control did not create anything resembling industrial democracy. Had it done so, there would have been much stronger popular resistance to the anti-nationalisation propaganda which was so successful in the years preceding the 1959 election.

We therefore feel that the basic aim of the Yugoslavs is one which has validity for our own situation, and we conclude with some observations on the British situation suggested by an acquaintance with the Yugoslav system.

The Problem of Scale

The forms of economic organisation and management which have been evolved by the Yugoslavs are unique, and a study of them provides a valuable stimulus to those who seek ‘a real understanding of a scheme of workers’ control that is sufficiently comprehensive to operate over an entire industry, from top to bottom, and through the whole range of activities’. However, as the scale of production grows, the problem of ensuring that democratic control extends beyond primary groups such as Economic Units through the intermediate levels to the central management of the firm and the industry, becomes more and more difficult. There is a strong body of opinion which believes that schemes of workers’ control must ultimately founder in the context of modern large-scale production. The small, multi-firm industries of the Yugoslav economy make democratic control less difficult than in a highly developed industrial society such as our own.

But questions, which should be asked in relation to our own economy are: how far could the nationalised industries be broken down into the smaller, competing units, without serious loss of efficiency? How far is the growth in the average size of firm (as opposed to scale of production units) the outcome of purely commercial and power considerations, rather than concern for increased efficiency through economies of scale? How far have we been misled by the mystique of managerial skill into accepting the necessity of autocratic control by the managers in both private and public industries? After all, the principle of lay control over salaried experts is the normal and accepted principle in national and local government, and within the Co-operative movement. The decisions in these fields are no less complex and ‘technical’ than in industry. Where lay control in local Councils and Co-operative Management Boards is more apparent than real, how far is this due to the prevailing faith in technology, which makes us reluctant to transform the contribution of the elected representatives by a thorough and enthusiastic education programme of the kind found in the Yugoslav Workers’ Universities?

In the conditions of modern industry, decisions taken by line managers and directors are frequently a matter of choosing between alternative course the consequences of which have been calculated by technical staffs. Such decisions are of a social and political, rather than a technical nature, i.e. they are precisely the sort of decisions which should be undertaken by democratic bodies. These factors should be borne in mind when examining the conclusions of some writers that, whilst the Yugoslav experience is interesting, and may have relevance for countries at a similar stage of industrialisation, it has little bearing on the problems of advanced industries societies.

Continued in Part 2.

The Flippant Jokes about Sexual Harassment – Partly Due to Public School Education?

November 4, 2017

Earlier this week, Mike put up a post commenting on this week’s cover of Private Eye and an off-colour joke about sexual harassment by Michael Gove and a letter Labour’s Dawn Butler had written to Theresa May, condemning not only the culture that turns a blind eye to the sexual harassment of female staff at best, and at worst actively condones it, but also finds the whole subject hilariously funny.

Private Eye’s cover is a joke about the venue for the next meeting of the Tory party: it’s a sex shop. And Gove’s joke was about how an interview on the radio was like entering Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. In both cases you weren’t likely to emerge with your dignity.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/01/why-are-people-turning-the-tory-sexual-harassment-allegations-into-a-joke/

Last night, the BBC news comedy show, Have I Got News For You, made the same joke as the Eye, with the same picture. This week’s host, Jo Brand, got an enthusiastic round of applause, however, when she rightly pointed out that to the women, who had suffered such harassment, it wasn’t a joke but a very unpleasant experience.

So why turn it into a joke? Why dismiss it so flippantly? I’m aware that some of it probably goes back to the old double standard, where men are expected to be sexually active and predatory, while women are condemned as whores if they behave the same way. I’m also aware that attitudes may be better or worse towards it amongst different societies. For example, a book I read on Japan in the 1990s said that the Japanese didn’t take the issue seriously at all. There was even a nightclub in Tokyo called Seku Hara, or something like that, which is the Japanese for ‘sexual harassment’. And in parts of the Islamic world, it’s also regarded with amusement as ‘Eve teasing’.

I’m also very much aware that people will make jokes about all kinds of things, no matter how dark or tasteless, such as sexual abuse, disability, murder, rape, and so on. In these instances sexual abuse is just another subject amongst these to make tasteless jokes about.

I am also very much aware that there is, or there was until very recently, an attitude that those subjected to such abuse should just grow a thick skin and endure it. I can remember reading one piece by a female journo in one of the right-wing papers, possibly the Mail, back in the 1990s. She said that when she started working in journalism, female hacks regularly had to deal with lewd comments and jokes, and wandering hands. Women just had to endure it and get used to it. It was even beneficial in that it spurred them on to become better journalists.

You can see there the ‘macho management’ attitude that was common in the Thatcherite ’80s. I’ve heard tales of how the hacks working in various papers were called into the office every morning by their editors to be insulted and belittled on the grounds that this would make them better journalists. I think it was abandoned long ago in the 1990s. Though the attitude just seems to have shifted to the unemployed, who are insulted and belittled at Jobcentre interviews, while their ‘job coaches’ ring them up at odd hours to insult them further, all on the spurious grounds that they are ‘motivating’ them.

But I also wonder how much of this attitude goes back to the public schools. I’ve blogged before about how bullying, and sexual abuse including rape, was common amongst the feral children of the rich. A number of readers commented on this piece, and wrote about the stories they’d heard from their friends of horrific abuse in the schools for the British elite. You can read some of these tales in Danny Danziger’s book, Eton Voices, reviewed in Private Eye when it came out in the 1980s, and reprinted in Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, edited by Francis Wheen. Punch also reviewed the book shortly before it folded, commenting that the abuse described was so horrific that if Eton had been an ordinary state school, it would have been very loudly denounced by the Tories as part of a failing and brutally neglectful state school system.

The younger boys in public schools were subjected to all manner of physical and sexual abuse by the older boys. But the public school ethos seems to be that they were expected to take it, and not blub. They were to ‘play up, and play the game’. Now this is part of the ‘rules of the schoolyard’, as Homer Simpson put it in an episode of the cartoon comedy back in the 1990s. Bullying goes on, but you don’t break ranks and tell the teacher, or else you’re a sneak. But it is slightly different in British state schools over here. Bullying goes on, but it is not supposed to be tolerated. Whether it is in fact depends very much on the individual head master/mistress/principal. I’ve known headmasters, who were very definitely strongly against it. Others much less so.

Public schools are supposed to be the same, but the attitude revealed in Danzier’s book suggested that Eton, and presumably the others, in fact tolerated it. The reviews almost gave the impression that despite the disgust by many of the interviewees about how they had been mistreated, the dominant attitude was almost that it was just jolly schoolboy japes. Nothing more. Don’t worry, they’ll get over it. One ex-public schoolboy told me that the attitude is that after you’ve been bullied, you go on to bully the younger boys in your turn as you go up the school.

And power is very much involved. I’ve also been told by those, who have gone through the system that the elite send their children to the public schools not because they necessarily give them a better education – and indeed, stats show that actually state school kids do better at Uni than public schoolchildren – but because it gives them access to the same kind of people, who can help their careers.

It’s about the old boy’s club, and the old school tie.

Which, together with the abuse, means that the boys preyed upon are expected to take it, because one day their abuser will be able to do something for them in turn, in politics, finance, business, whatever.

Which sounds exactly like the mindset behind the abuse here. Powerful men, who tell those they’re preying on that they’ll help them out if they just submit to their advances. But if they don’t, they’ll never work again.

Private Eye, in itself, isn’t a radical magazine. it’s founders – Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and co. were all solidly middle class, ex-public schoolboys. As is Ian Hislop. With a few possible exceptions, the Tory cabinet is solidly aristo and upper-middle class, as is the senior management at the Beeb.

Which probably explains why the Eye and Have I Got News For You yesterday night decided to treat the subject of sexual harassment as a joke, even if Jo Brand, as a feminist comedian, made it very clear that to many women it wasn’t funny.

Betsy DeVos Removes Guidance Documents for Disabled Students

October 28, 2017

More from a growing pile of already abundant evidence that Betsy DeVos should not be in charge of education in America. Actually, I wouldn’t trust her to run a pre-school or kindergarten. In this piece from The Young Turks, Jeff Waldorf reports and comments on the move by DeVos to rescind the 72 official documents, which explain to students and their parents, what the rights of disabled people are when they go to Uni. American universities are granted money by the federal government to support the needs of disabled students. DeVos hasn’t revoked these. She’s just making sure that disabled students, their carers and relatives, don’t know what they are.

One of these documents translates the official jargon of the legislation into ordinary plain English, so that regular peeps don’t need a lawyer to interpret it for them. Now it’s gone, things are going to be made difficult so that people will need a lawyer, which only the wealthy will be able to afford.

Waldorf states that not only is this move contradictory, as she hasn’t repealed the legislation itself, but it’s the first step to depriving disable people of the state support they need. He aptly describes it as ‘weaponising ignorance’.

DeVos is coming for the very weakest members of American society. That includes transgender people. She got rid of a whole load of federal directives demanding that the transgendered should be allowed to use the toilet facilities of the sex they identified with, on the grounds that this should be left to state and local government.

And she’s done the same with official legislation detailing how universities should deal with sexual assault on campus. That too, should be left to state and local authorities to decide, as well as the unis themselves.

Waldorf parodies the old Pastor Niemoller poem, ‘First they came for…’, with ‘First they came for the transgender, then the sexual assault victims, then the disabled’. He concludes that DeVos and her government are terrible people.

This is truly disgusting. It’s another attempt by the Republicans to restrict access to higher education, so that only the rich can afford it. And the able-bodied. I thought I’d post it here, as I know that many of the readers of the blog are either disabled, or the carers and relatives of people with disabilities. The people this government despise.

Waldorf is absolutely right about ‘weaponised ignorance’. Since John Major’s day there has been a culture of silence with the DSS/ Benefits Agency/ DWP. People are not being told their rights by DWP staff, and it’s been part of a campaign to make sure that benefits are not taken up. The government can then claim that millions of pounds in benefits are going unclaimed, and so appear generous when announcing this fact, while at the same time planning to cut the amount of benefit. That’s how it’s worked out for several decades. And the delays in the benefits system now and the sanctions system has created a murderous system of ‘checkbook euthanasia’ in which the government is apparently trying to make sure that people die of starvation before they get anything from the state.

As for transgender people, they’ve been vilified as potential sexual predators and a danger to women and children based on a single incident, if that. Some commenters have made the point that Trump and the Republicans are turning on them, because they lost the argument about gay rights and marriage.

They’ve also shown how hypocritical their attitude to sexual violence is by repealing the legislation regulating the way universities should handle real sexual assault. So they’re only worried about rape and sexual assault if it involves the transgender. If it’s carried out by cis-gendered people, then apparently they’re completely indifferent to it.

Despite the recent revelations of the sexual assault and exploitation of women – and men – in the movie business by predatory moguls like Harvey Weinstein.

This is being done in America. But the Republicans over here absolutely love every nasty trick the party of Ronald Reagan has ever played, and it will come over here. No doubt loudly supported by the Heil and the Torygraph.

Scientists for the EU Explains Why the Heaton-Harris Letter Is So Dangerous

October 28, 2017

On Thursday, the news broke that Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory whip, had written to the universities demanding details of the courses they were running on international relations, and particularly those on Brexit, asking for the names of the lecturers taking the course.

In this video lasting six minutes, the speaker takes you through the issues involved and explains the danger of a personal witch-hunt instigated by a Eurosceptic government. It’s clear that the speaker is a British scientist, who teaches at one of our unis. The blurb for the video runs

The letter from Tory Eurosceptic whip Chis Heaton-Harris to University V-Cs demanding “names of professors” that lecture on Brexit is sinister. What could the purpose of his efforts be, if not to make some kind of report to attack universities or individuals? For example, though the tabloid press? This is a classic totalitarian tactic, from Lenin to McCarthy, to politically go after and remove wider societal resistance to a government line. Universities are a common target to both left & right-wing totalitarianism because of their public voice. To drive public opinion against universities for political/power expedience is damaging both to trust across wider society and to the independence of universities. We already saw this during the referendum when Daniel Hannan peddled the notion that British Universities are paid off “sock puppets” of the EU and part of an elite, not part of “the people”.

Apparently, Hannan initially started by claiming that the universities would love it, when they were freed of EU control. When he found out that most were against leaving the EU, he then changed his tune to this populist, anti-intellectual rhetoric.

Hannan himself is a vile specimen. He’s a Dorset Tory MEP, and so, as the speaker here points out, like Nigel Farage is more than willing to get his salary from the EU. But he resents British universities, who only have a little money from the European Community, getting funding from them. The French philosophical feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has also pointed out in frequent posts that Hannan is, or used to be, a columnist for the Torygraph Blogs. Not only is he Eurosceptic, but he also openly wants to privatise the NHS. And he lies so much that Buddy Hell calls him ‘the Lyin’ King’.

The Scientist for the EU also goes on to state that Heaton-Harris’/ Daily Heil’s anger that the overwhelming majority of universities don’t reflect the wider views of British society is wrong by pointing out that other parts of British society also don’t. Like the fishing community. But no-one tells them that 48 per cent of fishing people should now support the Remain campaign. He states that different sectors of British society have different views on the issue, according to the circumstances as it affects them.

The Mail and Public Opinion as a Mask for Totalitarianism

October 27, 2017

I’ve put up several pieces commenting on yesterday’s story, that the Tory Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, a staunch supporter of the ‘Leave’ campaign, attempted to intimidate lecturers across Britain by writing to them demanding details of the courses they were teaching in International Relations and politics, and specifically as it concerned Brexit. David Green, a professor and Vice-Chancellor at Worcester University, stated that this was far from innocent, but the beginning of Orwell’s Thought Police and political censorship. And he’s absolutely right. Heaton-Harris was joined by the Daily Mail, which then encouraged students to contact them giving their stories about how they were being indoctrinated with anti-Brexit propaganda.

Heaton-Harris and the Heil can both be fairly described as ‘the embittered Little Englander wing of the Tory party’, as one wag described the Eurosceptics. I’ve already written at length about how all totalitarian societies have tried to control education, the most notorious of these being Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, in order to indoctrinate their countries’ young people, and purge those teaching alternative views. Those lecturers and intellectuals, whose careers were destroyed in this way, could end up imprisoned in concentration camps and gulags, or murdered, along with the regimes’ other opponents.

But there’s also a further similarity with the demands of the Heil, in that these totalitarian regimes often hid their repression behind a façade of popular support.

The Heil wants students to inform on their lecturers. The Nazis also claimed to represent German youth, proclaiming ‘Mach Platz, Ihr Alter!’ – ‘Make way, you old ones!’ The history curriculum was particularly altered to show the Nazi view of history, in which Germany was gradually dominated and exploited by the Jews until the Nazis took power. The final section of this perverted syllabus, designed to indoctrinate German schoolkids with the notion that absolutely everything was going to get better for them now the Nazis were in charge, was entitled ‘German Youth at the Helm’.

During Mao’s vile Cultural Revolution, in which 60 million Chinese people were murdered, the country’s ancient traditions and learning banned, and its precious artistic and cultural heritage vandalised and smashed, children were encouraged to inform on their parents and lecturers.

These totalitarian regimes claimed to represent the ‘will of the people’. The Nazis used a plebiscite to show spuriously that the German people thoroughly approved of their seizure of power. And when totalitarian regimes like them banned literature that did not follow, or challenged their rule and ideology, they claimed to be doing so at the will of their people.

Mike and I had the great good fortune to be able to learn Russian at our old secondary school. And I can remember our teacher telling us during one less that he would be put up against the wall and shot when they invaded, because of a letter he’d written to the authorities. He’d been annoyed that Soviet newsstands did not carry western magazines or newspapers. He received a reply from the authorities telling him that the reason why ‘bourgeois’ western literature wasn’t on sale in the USSR’s newsstands, was not because of censorship. It was simply that the Soviet people themselves were against it. It was a lie, of course, but it was a practical example of how absolute, dictatorial regimes nevertheless cloak their repression by claiming that they’re just doing what their public wants.

Just as the Heil are claiming to do so, even when using the same methods of intellectual persecution as the Nazis, Soviets and Chairman Mao.

I said in a previous blog post yesterday that Heaton-Harris is a menace to democracy, and should go. So is the Daily Mail. It has tried to start a terrible witch-hunt against genuine free speech and free discussion in our universities. It’s a nasty, dictatorial rag, whose circulation should fall rapidly because of its support for the intimidation and victimisation of those professors, who don’t share its nasty, xenophobic views. This was an unashamedly populist piece of journalism, and it once again shows how hypocritical the Tory press is when they use ‘populist’ as a term to denigrate and smear Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.