Posts Tagged ‘Welfare State’

From C. 1989: Pravda International on Launch of Greenpeace Rock Album in Soviet Union

October 18, 2017

Pravda International, with pic of Yeltsyn before he became president. This seems to have been before the drunkenness took hold. It also doesn’t show his uncritical adulation of capitalism, which destroyed the Soviet economy and caused massive unemployment and poverty.

Way back in the 1980s when I was at College, I used to buy Pravda International occasionally. It was, very roughly, an English language version of the Russian Communist party newspaper, but with articles also drawn from the other Russian newspapers and magazines Izvestia, Argumenty I Fakty, Moscow News, as well as by the English editions own staff. Like many magazines over the years, it seems to have folded due to lack of interest. I tried to buy it from my local newsagent, but found out that it was unavailable. The two big magazine distributors had divided Bristol up between them, and one of them wouldn’t carry it. So guess which half of Bristol I was in.

I nevertheless kept hold of some of them, as they were records of an exciting, historic time. This was when Glaznost and Perestroika were in full swing, the Soviet Union was being democratised according to Gorbachev’s belief that democracy and Communism could be combined to produce a new, vigorous, prosperous Soviet Union. The Soviets were opening their borders and allowing western media into the country. The Cold War was thawing rapidly, and right across the Communist bloc censorship was being lifted. The Soviet people were making their voices heard, and books, plays, poetry and art that had previously been banned were now being published and publicly discussed. Stalin and his minions stood, thanks to dissident Marxist historians like Roy and Zhores Medvedev, openly condemned as monstrous mass murderers. And the families, friends and loved ones of his victims organised to demand memorials to the millions he had murdered. And instead of hatred, distrust and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust, for a few years it looked like the peoples of the West and East would live as friends and co-workers. The missiles were being decommissioned, the silos filled in. Across the world it seemed that our peoples would never again have to fear the threat of nuclear attack, or invasion from across the other side of the Iron Curtain.

And I also dug out the old copy of Pravda International out of a sense of mischief. RT UK and America have been under attack recently, accused of spreading Russian propaganda and interfering with our politics. What this means is that the Russian-owned news agency has actually done some good journalism, and uncovered the poverty, misery and despair caused by corporatist late capitalism and the gutting of the British and American welfare state and working class organisations. It’s what our own, domestic news networks should be reporting on, but instead they’ve been turned into part of the same corporate system, publishing nothing but mainstream propaganda for the corporatist elite and their puppets and shills in the political parties. I wanted to dig it out to show that the Russians have always had a media presence in the West, and there was a time when it also really frightened some capitalist interests. Although flicking through that issue of the magazine, many of the stories were about western businesses, including British firms, securing contracts to work with Soviet enterprises, as the economy opened up.

Russia, like everywhere else, is also suffering from environmental damage and climate change. Simon Reeve, in his recent TV journey across Russia from the Far East to St. Petersburg, stopped in Siberia to show the terrifying changes that are occurring in the Russian north. The permafrost is melting causing the remaining rock and soil to subside. This has created vast craters in the tundra. One Russian environmental scientist took Reeve to see one of these. It was staggering, the size of the vast Arizona meterorite crater in the US. It was as if a piece of land the size of a city had been scooped out of the Arctic.

These climatic changes are threatening the stability of many of the cities the Russians built up in the north. They’re also a further threat to all humanity, as they release methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. About 25 times more powerful. This threatens to create runaway global warming beyond the tipping point, to the point where the survival or human civilisation, if not the human species itself, is very much under threat.

Looking through this old issue of Pravda International, it was therefore particularly interesting to find an article by their staffer, Jennie Walsh, reporting the launch of a rock album by Greenpeace, released by the Soviet recording company Melodiya, to raise awareness of environmental issues.
The article, ‘Breakthrough for the Environment’, reads

The ecological pressure group Greenpeace has long highlighted the international potential of the environmental movement. The recent release of their rock compilation album, Breakthrough marks an important step forward for the campaign, and for Western music.

Two years ago Greenpeace chairman David McTaggart approached Ian Flookes of the Wasted Talent Artists Agency with a view to putting on a concert of Western bands in the Soviet Union in order to generate roubles for a Soviet-based Greenpeace campaign. Political problems prevented this at the time, but in the changing climate of perestroika the plans were restarted last year, though a compilation record was considered more appropriate.

‘After what happened at Chernobyl, I think the Soviet authorities have become extremely environment-conscious and their approach to Greenpeace and to the project has been one of great support’, Flookes told Pravda International.

With the full cooperation of the Soviet state record company Melodiya, who were granted independent status last year, Breakthrough is the first major release of contemporary Western rock music in the USSR.

It is the first time that Melodiya has been able to do a ‘normal’ promotion campaign, with many of the artists (who all gave their services free of charge) present at the Moscow launch in March. There was an incredible reception. One record store queue was over 7,000 people, which is quite phenomenal – even by Soviet standards!

The purpose behind Breakthrough, however, must not be forgotten amid such hysteria. Kate Karam of Greenpeace emphasised that in releasing the album, they wanted to educate as much as to entertain. Despite perestroika, it is still difficult to put out independent information in the USSR, and the album provided a vehicle for the distribution of a booklet highlighting the work of Greenpeace and the environmental problems of the USSR.

The profits from the record sales will be shared between Greenpeace and the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, one of the first independent, non-governmental organisations to be founded in the Soviet Union.

The money will be spent only on projects within the USSR. This is a major indication of the political changes that have taken place. Greenpeace is quite a radical organisation by any standards, and to have some of the top soviet scientists and public servants (including Velikov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) support them through the Foundation, has been vital to the project. It is also an important challenge – a challenge to get programmes started in the USSR while maintaining the traditional Greenpeace principle of direct action.

Several environmental projects have now been formally agreed. Greenpeace will use some of the funds from the record to organise an East-West exchange programme in cooperation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for children to study environmental problems. Projects in the pipeline include work with the International Foundation to establish a central clearing house for information on atmospheric pollution problems and trying to involve the Soviet Union in the campaign to stop the industrial pollution of the Baltic Sea.

‘We don’t want to impose our Western standards about the environment on the Soviet Union,’ explains Karam. ‘I think that’s a danger with many of the Western organisations taking advantage of the new political climate there. Greenpeace is going to Russia to learn about their specific problems, because it is wrong to develop homogeneous attitudes about the environment. We need to study and talk to people before we launch into setting up offices and membership drives. Getting educational materials out in Russia is a big enough challenge right now without going straight into direct action projects.’

The popularisation of ‘green politics’ in the West may be little more than rhetoric on the part of its leaders, but it has encouraged the critical eye to fall on eastern Europe with regard to its environmental record. The socialist system may have failed the environment as much as the capitalist, but the big difference is the West has had 10 years lead time with environmentalists pushing legislation through. ‘I think the question is now how bad the USSR’s record is, but what is going to happen over the next 10 years – not in the past 50. I don’t think its fair to criticise.’

Now that the Soviet authorities have made active moves to encourage environmental concern, particularly by creating a Ministry for the Environment, Greenpeace are keen to see whether other east European countries follow suit.

Breakthrough is to be released in all the east European countries as well as in the UK, USA, India, Australia and Japan, emphasising the international aspect of the green movement.

The release of the album worldwide, under the title Rainbow Warriors, will probably be slightly more of a gamble than it has been in the Soviet Union. Compassion fatigue in the West, however, might be overcome by the quality of the record.

There probably hasn’t been an album released yet, which features so many top musicians – U2, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Sting to name a few. There are 26 tracks, all of which have recently been hits. For many, the album will probably have an intrinsic value just for this reason. The fact that it supports Greenpeace will be a bonus.

In the three weeks since the album was released in the USSR over 10,000 copies have been received on the forms that were enclosed in the information booklets.

The worldwide launch is on May 22nd and if it sells for reasons other than its musical content, its educational and mobilising potential could be as effective as the fundraising.

Now, unfortunately, we have had Russian hackers releasing scientific data in an attempt to discredit climate change and global warming, while Trump is also trying to stifle climate science, including the virtual closure of America’s Environmental protection Agency. He and the rest of the Republican party are determined that only the paid propagandists for the Koch brothers will be heard.

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Does May’s Gibe about ‘Planet Venezuela’ Indicate She Wants Economic Warfare Against Corbyn Government?

October 15, 2017

Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May what planet she was on. Quick as flash, she came out with an answer ten minutes later, as Ian Hislop joked on Friday’s Have I Got News For You. She struck back at Corbyn, claiming he and John McDonnell were on ‘Planet Venezuela’.

Maduro’s socialist government in the South American country is in crisis, as there are severe shortages of food and other goods in the shops, and rising discontent. Protests are breaking out all over the country. In the face of this unrest, the government has become increasingly authoritarian, redrafting the constitution in order to give itself new power to suppress the opposition.

The crisis hitting the country shows very much the attitude of May and her wretched party towards socialism. Creating any kind of welfare state, including state healthcare for the poor, is uneconomic and unsustainable. Only free market capitalism in a low wage economy brings prosperity. Well, it does to the upper 25 per cent of the population. The rest of the country is much worse, but a bit of tinkering with the statistics usually works to give the impression the Tories want us all to believe that everyone’s more prosperous and doing well, even when it’s very obvious they aren’t. And if that fails, you can always demonise the poor themselves as feckless, lazy, wasteful and so on.

In fact, the argument ad Venezuelam isn’t a good one, and there are already videos up on YouTube attacking it. Bad Mouse productions has one up, though I haven’t looked at it.

But there’s another dimension to the Venezuelan crisis. I’ve read elsewhere – possibly on William Blum’s blog, but may be also on Counterpunch – that the Venezuelan government is the target of a concerted campaign by the Americans and the multinationals to overthrow it. The American government has traditionally hated and sought to overthrow every liberal or left-wing government in Central and South America as a threat to American hegemony – the infamous Monroe Doctrine – and the corporate interests of the American big businesses that have dominated the continent’s economy. Two of the most notable instances were the coups against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1958, and the 1975 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. Both were democratically elected socialist politicians, overthrown with American aid and replaced with brutal Fascist dictators.

America has been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government for some time, not least because Venezuela last week came of the petrodollar. If more countries do this, it will make it impossible for America to service its national debt, and the economic crisis hitting the country will get much worse.
And aiding the American government are the multinationals, which are deliberately withholding food and other goods in order to drive prices up.

And Venezuela may not be the only country to suffer such economic warfare by big business. Britain under a Corbyn government may be next. Also last week, at the Tory conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, urged business leaders to do everything they could ‘to resist’ a Labour government. Mike reported this on his blog, and commented that Hammond should be sacked for ‘unparliamentary conduct’. He had urged proprietors and managers to break the fiduciary trust between themselves, their shareholders, and the companies they run. Instead of managing them in the interests of the firms themselves, he was asking them to manage them for the political benefit of the Tories.

I commented on Hammond’s remarks that it also shows the hypocrisy by the Tories towards political activism. When the unions do it, and go on strike against a Tory government, or simply to protect the interests of their members, the Tories and big business start screaming that it’s ‘subversion’. When they do it, it’s all right. It’s simply the captains of industry working to save capitalism. Except in this case, capitalism isn’t under threat. Corbyn is simply advocating a mixed economy and a stronger welfare state. This is very far from the total nationalisation demanded by the Communist and Trotskyist parties. And business would prosper through greater state investment stimulating the economy, and the poor being given higher wages to purchase their goods.

But this isn’t what big business wants. It wants a workforce of crushed, low wage workers kept in something close to debt peonage, which they can exploit and discard at whim. Which is very much the policy of the Tory party under Cameron and May.

Hammond wanted industry to work towards overthrowing a Corbyn government. And big business is very definitely trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist government. May’s comment about Corbyn and McDonnell living on Planet Venezuela might be an innocent reply, or it could indicate that she’s also very aware of the real situation over there. And like her chancellor, she wants it done to Britain if Labour gets in.

Philip Hammond Urges Economic Sabotage to Stop Labour Coming to Power

October 7, 2017

On Thursday Mike put up another article, which also shows the Tories’ massive contempt for British parliamentary democracy. Paul Mason of the Politico website revealed that Hammond had told an assembled audience of CEOs and other industrialists at a £400 a head dinner that they should

“back the Tories. “I know you don’t engage in party political activity but I expect you to face up to when the principles that undermine our economic structure and your business are placed at risk,” Hammond said. “You have to decide to combat this menace or collaborate with it and let it get into power.”

Mr. Mason goes on to state that in private, Hammond’s language is even more extreme, presenting Labour under Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to capitalism. As Mike points out, it isn’t. It’s a Social Democratic party. This means it promotes a mixed economy along with a welfare state and government spending in the economy as a means of stimulating economic growth and development. It has not advocated total nationalization since the Second World War. And in the governments it formed before then, in practice its economic policies were entirely orthodox. This undoubtedly contributed to the party’s defeat as voters were disappointed by its failure to pursue a more radical programme to tackle poverty and unemployment.

Mason makes the point that Hammond risks being sacked for ‘unparliamentary conduct’, as his speech has urged captains of industry to break their bond of fiduciary trust. This is notion that they will act for the benefit of their companies and shareholders, regardless of their own personal politics.

Mike makes the point that it’s moot whether the issue of fiduciary trust has ever carried much weight amongst business management. Certainly sections of industry, particularly the financial sector, have been hostile to Labour and sought to undermine Labour governments.

Mr. Mason and Mike also point out that historically the economy has always benefited under Labour. Mason states that Labour will stabilize and re-invigorate the private sector. And Mike says, quite rightly, that the Labour government of 1945-51 led to over three decades of economic growth and prosperity in the UK. A period that only came to an end when Thatcher became PM in 1979.

And Mason also warns that Hammond may have made even more extreme claims in private to MI5.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/05/now-philip-hammond-is-bidding-to-be-sacked-for-unparliamentary-behaviour/

You therefore start to wonder if Hammond is a serious, democratic politician, or a barking mad Fascist sympathizer, who’s read too much Ayn Rand. He clearly thinks of himself as John Galt, the hero of her novel, Atlas Shrugs, who joins a strike by senior management to bring down a despotic socialist government. By implication, this also shows Hammond’s complete support for the poor and those on welfare. For Ayn Rand, only business leaders, artists and intellectuals matters. Ordinary working people, including and especially those supported by welfare, were just ‘moochers’ and ‘takers’. Which is ironic, because Rand was one of them. She spent some time living on social security.

As for Hammon, he has the same attitude as the industrialists and upper classes of the various South American and other developing nations, who as soon as a vaguely left-wing government came to power immediately yelled ‘Communism!’ as fast and as hard as they could, and then started plotting how they could overthrow it. This included backing military coups, supported by the Americans.

And you can guess the kind of extremism he may have been preaching to MI5 and the security services by reading Ken Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour, and Francis Wheen’s book on the 1970s, Strange Days. During the crisis hit period of the Labour minority government of 1975-6, various businessmen, and even the Times, were urging the army to organize a coup to overthrow the government. Livingstone describes how there were plans in place to intern left-wing activists, including journos, in political camps in places like the Hebrides.

It also shows the Tories’ own immense hypocrisy. They and their lickspittles in the press have been the first to denounce working class unrest as a threat to democracy, including strike action by trade unionists. You can find a video on YouTube by one person, who clearly takes John McDonnell’s demand for coordinated strike action and protests as a literal threat to democracy. McDonnell states that this type of activism has previously been called ‘insurrection’, a term he prefers. Which for that YouTuber makes McDonnell and Corbyn members of the revolutionary left.

McDonnell’s language is extreme, but it isn’t quite the language of revolution. He has not called for people to take up arms against their government. And when you think how this government is treating the poor, the unemployed and the ordinary working people of this country, you can see McDonnell’s point, even if you don’t agree with it.

And right-wing organisations have done their best to stamp out trade unions and bar the members from proper employment as true subversives. Way back in the 1990s there was a documentary uncovering the sordid history and activities of the Economic League. This was an organization that compiled and circulated blacklists of trade union members and those of left-wing organisations to employers. It’s full name was the ‘Economic League against Industrial Subversion’. It was started in the 1930s or so. It suffered a crisis after it was exposed, and found itself fending off awkward questions by people asking if they were on its lists after they were repeatedly turned down for work. In the 1990s it was succeeded by another bunch, Hakluyt, who, along with their predecessor, appeared in Lobster.

This shows very clearly the hypocrisy of the Tories and the businessmen, who support them. When it’s the left and trade unionists planning strikes and protests against them, it’s a horrendous plot to overthrow capitalism and little short of treason. But it’s fine and dandy when they’re planning to subvert democracy by overthrowing an elected social democratic government.

Hammond’s a danger to democracy. His ideal would be for Britain to be a banana republic, in which the peons have no rights, and the government is either dominated by a single party, or at best the political system as a number, none of which represents real hope or radical change for its working people.

He should not be in government. Get him out.

The Death Toll from Italian Colonialism: Why Johnson’s Comments about Libyan Corpses Is Not Funny

October 7, 2017

Mike yesterday and today has put up two pieces, reporting and commenting on condemnations of Boris Johnson’s remarks about British investors turning Sirte in Libya into ‘the next’ Dubai, as soon as they’ve cleared the bodies away’. Mike reported yesterday that a member of the Libyan House of Representatives, Saleh Suhbi, criticized the remark, saying

“It is cruel and unacceptable that the head of British diplomacy speaks and behaves in such a manner.

“Is this is a reflection of the British Government’s current views on Libya? Because this is not the UK that I know.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/06/pm-reporters-litany-of-idiocy-shows-why-boris-johnson-shouldnt-be-in-politics-let-alone-the-cabinet/

Today Mike’s reported that the Libyan House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has demanded a clarification from the government and an apology for Johnson’s remarks, stating that they are a violation of the sovereignty of the Libyan people.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/07/theresa-mays-failure-to-sack-boris-johnson-is-risking-an-international-incident/

Mike makes the point in the title and text of his article that by her refusal to sack Johnson, May is risking an international incident.

Clearly she is. And Mike’s article also has another great Tweet about Johnson’s crass remark from Owen Jones, and Johnson’s audience having a good guffaw at his ‘joke’. Or rather cavalier disregard for mass death.

The Libyans, whose country is still torn apart by civil war six years after Gaddafy was overthrown, don’t think Johnson’s comments about a battle with Islamists in which hundreds of police officers and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire died. I dare say that Johnson probably thinks this is another case of ‘foreign johnnies’ or whatever other disrespectful term he has for citizens of another country being touchy or oversensitive.

They aren’t. And if we had their history, we’d be exactly the same.

From the late 19th century until the 1950s, Libya was ruled by Italy, including the period of Fascist rule from 1921-1942 or so. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the exact dates. During this period, the country lost 1/3 of its people in resisting the Italians. The Italians, especially under Fascism, used the full arsenal of modern warfare on them, including poison gas. They also sterilized some of those they considered particularly dangerous, though Roman Catholic morality prevented them from carrying out this policy to the same extent as the Nazis in Germany.

I was also told at school by a former member of my old school, who had gone to work over there in the oil industry, that while Gaddafy was a brutal dictator, he had given his country independence and prosperity. The oil companies could extract the oil, but they had to pay for it. Thus the country had schools and proper roads, which it had lacked previously, when the country had been exploited by the oil industry, and kept desperately poor. Other things I’ve read recently have said that in Libya, schooling and healthcare were free.

Libya and its people under Gaddafy therefore had self-respect, something like a welfare state and prosperity. They were also a major power in African politics, and while the Mad Dog of the Middle East was quite prepared to use Islamist terror groups to assassinate his African and Arab enemies, they were firmly kept out of the country itself.

Now, with the country still mired in a bloody civil war, the last thing its people need is a return of European imperialism. And the last thing its democratic politicians need is to be seen to be collaborators with another set of European imperialists, who find the deaths of their citizens nothing more than a joke.

Johnson’s comment was never funny. It was crass and insensitive. But when you find out a little about the way the country’s people were maltreated under Italian imperialism, and the colossal death toll this took, it becomes deadly serious.

Johnson isn’t a lovable oaf. He’s a right-wing thug, who cares only for the bloated prosperity of his own class, and is entirely indifferent about the sufferings of the poor and marginalized in Britain, and the feelings of the peoples of foreign nations. His comments in Myanmar show he’s so obsessed with his rosy Kiplingesque view of empire, that he’s incapable of understanding that the peoples of former colonized countries may find them insulting and offensive.

This insensitivity is actively harming British interests abroad. They may have very serious consequences as this country tries to build business and trading relationships after Brexit. May has to sack him. Now.

Corbyn: Labour Is the Real Party of the Centre

October 5, 2017

I didn’t put up an article about this, when Corbyn made the claim last week at the Labour conference. So I’m doing it now. In his speech to the Labour conference last week, Corbyn proclaimed that Labour is the real party of the centre. This should upset and frighten the Blairites, Lib Dems and Tories, who have been busily screaming that Corbyn and Momentum are Trotskyite entryists, and that Labour has moved to the far left.

Blair did this a little while ago, when he turned up from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since he handed power over to Broon, and flew off, having done his best to finish Maggie’s and the Tories’ goal of privatizing the Health Service in Britain, and aiding George Bush and the Likudniks in their demented project to turn the Middle East into a gigantic charnel house for the sake of big business and the American-Saudi oil companies. He’s trying to set up his own Blairite party, which he claims will represent the true centre ground of British politics.

No. It won’t. Blair and the Tories were never the centre ground. They were right-wing. Indeed, following the victory of Maggie Thatcher and her abandonment of the post-War consensus that advocated a mixed economy and state investment in industry, and comprehensive welfare provision, the Tories and their entryists in the Labour party in the form of Blair, New Labour and Progress, the Tories were far right. They stood for absolute privatization and the dismantlement of the welfare state, aims which Blair, as Thatcher’s political golden boy shared.

The press, Tories and Blairites have been whining ever since Corbyn won the leadership election, however, that Labour is now a party of the far left. And indeed there was a letter repeating that lie in the I newspaper today. But it’s untrue. Under Corbyn, Labour party has become once again a party of the centre-left. It advocates a mixed economy, a properly funded and state-run NHS, and proper welfare provision, so that 100,000 of us don’t have to rely on food banks to stop ourselves from starving, and 7 million of us don’t have to worry about whether we can afford to feed ourselves or pay the utilities bills. And where the trains actually run on time. As they did, or did more regularly, before John Major privatized them.

These are not extreme left-wing policies. They way entirely mainstream policies in the thirty-odd years from Labour’s election victory after the end of the Second World War to Thatcher’s election in 1979. This was a period of economic growth and prosperity and where the difference in wealth between rich and poor was at its narrowest.

This has all been wrecked, thanks to Thatcher and her followers in the Tory party and New Labour. And it is excellent that under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is set to reverse nearly forty years of Thatcherite misgovernment and exploitation, and return politics to its true centre ground.

Guy Verhofstadt and Other MEPs Call for Boris To Be Sacked

October 4, 2017

Here’s something a little more positive from the EU, and yes, it’s another video from RT. MEPs, including Guy Verhofstadt and Manfred Weber from the German European People’s Party, have called for Theresa May to sack Boris Johnson. They state that it’s not clear who’s in charge of the Brexit negotiations – her, Boris or David Davis. They want a clear line of authority and know who is really in charge. And so they call on her to sack the blond buffoon.

I couldn’t agree more. And it isn’t just because he’s trying to dictate the terms under which Britain leaves the EU himself, simply to make himself that bit more popular and bring himself just a little closer to 10 Downing Street.

It’s because he’s a clown with a complete lack of tact, who is completely insensitive to the feelings of others and the delicate and nuanced language required for effective diplomacy. On Sunday Channel 4 showed footage of the British ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Jenkins, doing his best to save Anglo-Burmese relations when BoJo started reciting The Road to Mandalay on an official visit to Myanmar’s holiest Buddhist temple, Shwedagog Temple, in Yangon, the country’s capital.

Johnson couldn’t see that reciting a poem from one of the great literary figures of British imperialism, Rudyard Kipling, in their holiest place, might not be welcome to his hosts or the country’s people.

And then he told the Tory conference that Sirte in Libya could be next Dubai, ‘once they’ve cleared the bodies away’. As Mike has pointed out in his blog, Sirte was the site of a battle between the Libyan government and the Islamists, that left over 100 police officers dead and hundreds of innocent bystanders killed or wounded in the crossfire. Again, some might argue that treating the carnage that occurred so casually was again insensitive. And it says much about the mentality of his audience that the Tories there had a jolly guffaw and chuckle at his comments.

Now imagine the outrage if he had shown the same apparent lack of tact over a similar battle, in which a hundred or so British squaddies and members of the general public were killed. Not that I don’t think Boris isn’t capable of that either. He’d be just as likely to say it – but only if the bodies were those of proles – and his wretched gang of sycophants and admirers just as likely to laugh, if this did happen. He’d then try to pass it off as just him being a bit inept again, but look, he’s a lovable clown. Just a bit accident prone. He didn’t mean any harm.

He clearly is someone who doesn’t care what he says, nor what offence he may needlessly cause.

As for Sirte becoming the next Dubai or similar luxury travel destination in the Middle East, I don’t know how much real benefit that will bring the Libyans themselves. Gaddafi was a thug and a dictator. However, under him the Libyan people had free education and healthcare, and something like a welfare state. And while he certainly used the Islamists to assassinate his foreign enemies in Africa and the Middle East, they were very definitely not tolerated on Libyan soil. All that seems to have gone, thanks the Neocons in the American government and Killary, who giggled when announcing the dictator’s death.

She was a war-hungry maniac, who palled up with the unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger, and wanted to expand more chaos and death further around the Middle East, while ramping up tensions with Russia and China. She shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near America’s foreign policy.

And neither should Boris. He’s a liability. He’ll sacrifice this country’s prosperity and the possibility of good relations with the EU and the rest of the Commonwealth simply for the sake of his vain ambition to become PM. It’s time he was shown the door. If not the boot.

The Rise of Fascism and the Failure of Neoliberal Capitalism

September 30, 2017

Today Mike put up a very good piece attacking Theresa May’s speech praising capitalism as the greatest force in human history for raising people out of poverty. In fact, as Mike shows, the type of neoliberal crony capitalism May is really in favour of, has done nothing but reduce people to poverty. The force that raised living standards in Britain and gave British people the highest standard of living that they enjoyed in 1977 was the mixed economy of democratic socialism and the welfare state introduced after the War, and which the Tories have been trying to destroy ever since the rise of Thatcher.

This should come as no surprise. The Korean economist, Ha=Joon Chang, makes pretty much the same case in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Chang is also an admirer of capitalism, but his book is a sustained attack on Thatcherite neoliberalism. He shows that every country in the world has begun its rise to economic prosperity through protectionism, and that the countries with the most flexible labour markets and stable, prosperous industries are those with a mixed economy of socialized and private industries and a welfare state. And this includes those countries, where the industries may not be nationalized, but the workers have a share in the management, such as in Germany and Austria.

And the decline of socialism and communism in Europe has had terrible consequences. On Tuesday Counterpunch published a lengthy article by Gregory Barrett commenting on the rise on votes for the Nazi Alternative fuer Deutschland, The German Election: The West’s Nervous Breakdown Continues. He makes the point that this was assisted by the massive poverty and disillusionment caused by the failure of western capitalism to improve the lives of people in eastern Europe. He writes

As Stephen Gowans writes in his recent essay “We Lived Better Then”:

‘Of course, none of the great promises of the counterrevolution were kept. While at the time the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was proclaimed as a great victory for humanity, not least by leftist intellectuals in the United States, two decades later there’s little to celebrate. The dismantling of socialism has, in a word, been a catastrophe, a great swindle that has not only delivered none of what it promised, but has wreaked irreparable harm, not only in the former socialist countries, but throughout the Western world, as well. Countless millions have been plunged deep into poverty, imperialism has been given a free hand, and wages and benefits in the West have bowed under the pressure of intensified competition for jobs and industry unleashed by a flood of jobless from the former socialist countries, where joblessness once, rightly, was considered an obscenity. Numberless voices in Russia, Romania, East Germany and elsewhere lament what has been stolen from them — and from humanity as a whole: “We lived better under communism. We had jobs. We had security.” And with the threat of jobs migrating to low-wage, high unemployment countries of Eastern Europe, workers in Western Europe have been forced to accept a longer working day, lower pay, and degraded benefits. Today, they fight a desperate rearguard action, where the victories are few, the defeats many. They too lived better — once.’

While the often racist and xenophobic manner in which East Germans and Eastern Europeans express their anger at what they see as an influx of foreigners who go to the front of the line for Western largesse — while the 30-year betrayal of the promises and misleading propaganda directed at themselves from 1989 to 1991 continues, although unacknowledged — is ugly and despicable, it is not hard to understand in its historical context. Somehow the assurances of the good life for all, thanks to the benevolent “invisible hand of the free market”, and the forecasts of blooming landscapes of prosperity across Eastern Europe, have failed to materialize. After more than a quarter of a century, prosperous areas exist but are exceedingly rare. In East Germany many small towns and villages are dying, and the population is shrinking as many follow the jobs westward, since few major employers have chosen to come eastward to them. Unemployment is much higher than in West Germany, and the cultural divisions between the citizens of the old DDR and West Germans have proven very stubborn and difficult to overcome. But the damage has not been confined to those in the formerly socialist countries. As Stephen Gowans points out:

‘But that’s only part of the story. For others, for investors and corporations, who’ve found new markets and opportunities for profitable investment, and can reap the benefits of the lower labor costs that attend intensified competition for jobs, the overthrow of socialism has, indeed, been something to celebrate. Equally, it has been welcomed by the landowning and industrial elite of the pre-socialist regimes whose estates and industrial concerns have been recovered and privatized. But they’re a minority. Why should the rest of us celebrate our own mugging?

This poverty hasn’t been confined to eastern Europe. It’s led to us in the west being forced to work harder, for less pay, and fewer welfare benefits. Otherwise capital simply outsources our jobs to one of the eastern European nations.

He then examines the way Merkel and the Christian Democrats, and the other right-wing parties have persuaded their workers to vote for policies which only benefit the rich industrialists. This is by stressing ‘innere sicherheit’, ‘internal security’, and the threat to it posed by crime and immigrants. Just like the Tories, Kippers and other parties of the right over here. She also took credit for many of the welfare reforms initiated by the SDP, the German equivalent of our Labour party. This has led to the SDP being reduced to only 20 per cent of the vote, and they have said that they are no longer available as coalition partners. Barrett is extremely pessimistic, stating it is probably too late, with the exception of Britain, to save Europe’s Social Democratic heritage. Germany now joins the Netherlands as a country, whose political landscape is a mosaic of competing parties. A landscape in which one element is the extreme right, who believe she betrayed Germany by allowing an influx of migrants.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/26/the-german-election-the-wests-nervous-breakdown-continues/

There isn’t much to add to this, except that the SPD could probably save themselves by scrapping the heritage of Gerhard Schroeder and moving leftwards, as Labour has over here. Schroeder was the German equivalent of Tony Blair, and just as Blair tried to remake Labour as a party of the neoliberal right, so did Schroeder try to do something similar with the German Social Democrats.

As for Merkel, I think her mistake was announcing that one million immigrants from Syria and the Middle East could settle in Germany. She meant well, and I think it was a genuinely liberal, generous gesture intended to show how non-Nazi and welcoming modern Germany was. But she failed to take into account some of the simmering racial tensions in Germany. The German birthrate is falling, so that when I was at school in the 1980s, there were headlines in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany’s paper of record, stating that there would be 30 million fewer Germans by the year 2000. Of course, this was before reunification boosted the country’s total population. The Germans have also been worried about Turkish Germans creating a parallel society, in which they needn’t speak German, because they’re surrounded by Turkish businesses and Turkish language broadcasters. And some German Turkish writers have also written about how the authorities in their communities placed pressure on the young in their community not to become friends or associate with ethnic Germans, or to see themselves as Germans, but to remain Turks and isolate themselves from mainstream society.

Of course Germany isn’t the only country facing such issues. Our government has similarly expressed fears about the immigrant, and particularly Muslim communities over here, as have the French across le Manche.

Even so, I think some of the xenophobia that led to the increased voting for the AfD could have been avoided, if Germany had not suffered the 200-odd spate of rapes committed by Syrian or North African immigrants the other Christmas. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that most rapists in Germany are ethnic Germans, just as the majority of child molesters over here are White Brits, and not Pakistanis or other Muslim Asians. But just as resentment over the rapes and abuse committed by the Asian paedophiles in Rotherham, and the failure of the local authorities to act against it, aided UKIP, so did the rape attacks aid the far right in Germany.

And also, it should be said, the rest of the world. They were widely reported to the point where a new word, ‘rapefugee’, was coined by the Islamophobic right.

Across Europe and America, immigrants and decent, ordinary people are facing the threat of renewed Fascism. It will need determined action by anti-Fascists to defeat it and support genuine anti-racist, tolerant and pluralistic societies. At the same time, we also need to recognize the role of neoliberalism in creating the poverty and insecurity, which leads to so many traditional White Europeans fearing for their future, and the way Conservatives and Fascists across Europe and America are exploiting this to keep themselves in power by misdirecting these fears onto immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, Roma and Jews.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report on the Koch Brothers and Libertarian Holocaust Denial

September 30, 2017

More Nazis and Holocaust deniers again, I’m afraid. But this is very relevant, as it compliments the other information I’ve found showing the profound links between Libertarianism and neo-Nazism.

In this half-hour segment from The Majority Report, Seder’s producer and occasional presenter, Michael Brooks, talks to Mark Ames, the senior editor of Pando Daily, about how he found out that the Koch Brother’s magazine, Reason, published pro-Apartheid and Holocaust Denial pieces in the 1970s. The Koch brothers are oil billionaires. They’re probably America’s richest men, with a net worth of $100 billion. And they’ve been involved in rightwing politics since the 1960s/70s. They were two of the founders of the Libertarian party in the 1970s, which campaigns for the absolute dismantlement of whatever remains of the American welfare state, massive privatization and the paring down of the federal government to the barest minimum. All in the interests of free trade, capitalism and property.

Ames states that he and his colleague, Yashler, started researching the Kochs after they were kicked out of Russia. They had been active there exposing the oligarchs and their murky involvement and connections to politics. This went too far for Putin and the Russian authorities, and they were expelled. Back in the Land of the Free, Ames and Yashler became interested in the Kochs and their political activities because they looked very much like same type of phenomenon: just another pair of oligarchs, meddling and perverting politics. But they found out that the pair were more seriously committed than most oligarchs.

They also found references to Koch’s having published Holocaust denial literature in the Libertarian party’s magazine, Reason. The Libertarians had tried to remove all records of it, and they had trouble hunting it down, but eventually they found it. It was from 1976, when the magazine published an entire edition devoted to denying the Holocaust. Ames mentions the names of some of the people published in that issue, and their connections to extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi movements. One of them was a British member of the National Front. The issue is now online, apparently, and he showed it to Deborah Lipstadt, the expert on Holocaust Denial. She said it was a list of nearly everyone involved in this pernicious attack on history.

He also found that at the same time, Reason was also publishing articles praising Apartheid in South Africa. When Ames published his articles on the promotion of Holocaust Denial and Apartheid, in both cases the magazine’s article came back to make a kind of non-denial that they had done so. They said that they had published the pieces denying the Holocaust as part of their commitment to academic freedom, but weren’t Holocaust deniers. They also claimed that they weren’t in favour of Apartheid, and had also published articles against it. In fact, the article they cited for this merely argued that South Africa, with its minimal labour legislation and regulation of industry, was a country enjoying a high level of freedom according to their Libertarian criteria. They also promoted tourist visits to the country. This was despite the fact that the Black population was very definitely unfree, forced into the Bantustans, where they suffered massive poverty and malnutrition, resulting in an appallingly high death rate.

The magazine’s and party’s attitudes only changed in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. The Koch brothers want to push politics further to the right. They found that their ideas had now entered the mainstream with Reagan, with the exception of the racist and Nazi ideas. So they issued a statement complaining that these ideas were too popular, and dropped them so that they weren’t used to discredit the rest of their squalid programme.

Ames states that the Kochs published the Holocaust material as part of their ideological programme of rolling back Roosevelt’s New Deal. They want to destroy the minimal welfare legislation FDR introduced. However, it’s actually extremely popular because it has helped millions of Americans. To attack the New Deal, they therefore have to try and discredit FDR and present him as a monster. And that means attacking America’s entry in the Second World War. America did not enter the War to defend the Jews, but the Holocaust is clearly one of the strongest justifications for it. And so the Kochs and their collaborators wanted to discredit the Holocaust, just as they spread daft conspiracy theories claiming that FDR was somehow responsible for, or knew in advance, about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

Ames also states that they have an inverted idea of freedom, in which FDR is a Communist monster, as is MLK, who they’ve tried smearing as an agent of Moscow. Brooks and Ames agree, however, that MLK did have extreme views regarding the nationalization of industry. He did, and it’s one of the things, along with his deep criticism of American capitalism and racism, that’s conveniently left out of the modern cult surrounding him. They’re too extreme for right, despite remaining highly pertinent to today’s political situation with the political power of the big corporations and resurgent racism. They’ve also twisted and perverted the idea of who’s elite. They’ve tried to make it mean a public bureaucrat. In fact, it means the rich and propertied. Thus they’ve tried to turn FDR into a monster of statist power, like Adolf Hitler and a determined foe of freedom, even if this is the reverse of what he did by benefiting the American people with his welfare programmes.

Ames states that what made the public of Holocaust denial literature in Reason possible was the disordered and confused state of American politics at the time. Many left-wing ideas were floating around and looked like being accepted. Americans wanted the end of the Cold War, and there was even a feeling that the CIA would be abolished. The Koch brothers caught the mood, and tried to exploit it by introducing Holocaust denial and Libertarianism as two more radical ideas that should now be considered freely along with the other, left-wing ideas. And the Kochs weren’t alone in publishing Holocaust denial material. A whole slew of other right-wing thinktanks also did so, including the Cato Institute.

And he also points out that before the Neo-Cons arose, many of whose members were Jewish, Jews were most often associated with the Left and socialism. One of the founders of the Neo-Con movement actually wrote a piece asking why Jews were so against capitalism. Ames states that this attitude survives today, and that he has been called a ‘cultural Marxist’, which he sees as another anti-Semitic code word for ‘Jew’.

This little bit is important, as it adds to the information I’ve found already showing how Libertarianism is morphing into outright Fascism. Reichwing Watch has put up a series of pieces, including testimony from former Libertarians, showing how the Libertarian organisations are full of real White supremacists and Nazis. This has gone so far that the Black Libertarian YouTuber, ‘That Guy T’, has made enthusiastic videos about the emergence of what he calls ‘Anarcho-Fascism’. In fact, Italian Fascism was an extreme right-wing revision of anarcho-syndicalism. The corporate state is what you get when former Syndicalists decide that they actually like the state and big business, and despise working class trade unions. The Spanish Fascists tried to get the Syndicalists to join them in the Spanish Civil War by stressing their common origins and rejection of parliamentary democracy. The syndicalists remained true to their principles, and told them where they could stick it.

The Libertarians have got inside the Republican Party, and they’re also over here, influencing the Tories and UKIP. And their British counterparts have been as every bit sympathetic to South American Fascists as they have been. Back in the 1990s the Freedom Association, or one of the Libertarian organisations in the Tory party, invited the head of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to their annual dinner as guest of honour. And one of the members of this British Libertarian outfit was the founder of the Guido Fawkes blog, now ranting about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. The accusation that Labour has a particular problem with Jews is a smear by the Blairites and the Israel lobby. In the case of Guido, it’s pure hypocrisy coming from someone, who was part of an organization that admired and lauded Fascist butchers and torturers. Just as the Libertarians and Monetarists in America, as Ames and Brooks comment, proudly embraced Chile and the other Fascists in South America.

The times’ long past when Libertarian ideas should have been expelled from the mainstream. They, and the people that make these claims, should be expelled from decent political debate and activism.

This shows that the Nazi element in Libertarianism isn’t a recent aberration. It’s always been there, as part of the Libertarians’ reactionary programme against welfare legislation, democracy and the state. The Libertarians have always tried to claim that they are just another form of anarchism, but one which rejects communal ownership of property in favour of capitalism. But as this shows, they’ve always had a Fascistic dimension.

As for all the right-wing ideologues, who immediately denounce anything vaguely left or progressive as ‘cultural Marxism’, without having any idea what that really means, Ames’ statement that the term is just another anti-Semitic code word throws it back in their face. Many of those, who use it try to smear socialism and the Left by claiming that Hitler’s Nazis were socialists. They weren’t. But if the term is seen as a form of anti-Semitic abuse, then it means that those, who use it to attack the left are also anti-Semitic, thus reversing the accusation and turning it back on them.

Russell Brand Takes Down Jacob Rees-Mogg

September 25, 2017

I realise that Russell Brand probably isn’t everyone’s favourite comedian ever since that stunt he and Jonathan Ross pulled leaving sneering prank messages about Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter on the old fellow’s answerphone a few years ago. I also don’t agree with his anarchistic stance encouraging people not to vote. However, in his Trew News videos on YouTube he has produces some very incisive critiques and demolitions of contemporary capitalism, right-wing politics and bigotry.

In this video he takes on Jacob Rees-Mogg, now the darling of the Tory party, many of whom would just love him to take over the reins from Theresa May, whose own failings are increasingly obvious. And they definitely prefer him to Boris after BoJo showed his complete lack of scruple and personal loyalty by stabbing Cameron and then Gove in the back over Brexit.

They like Mogg, because he’s soft-spoken and courteous. But as Brand points out here, his opinions are absolutely toxic. Brand shows the clip of Mogg wrong-footing John Snow when Suchet was interviewing him about May’s Brexit speech. Suchet stated that many people thought here speech was a shambles. So Mogg says ‘It seems a bit harsh to compare her speech to a butcher’s slaughterhouse.’ This throws Snow for a moment, who clear wasn’t aware that that was what the word originally meant, and throws it back to Mogg, saying that it seems a harsh thing for him to say. Only for Mogg to tell him that this is what Suchet himself has said, as that’s what the word means. Brand rightly mocks Mogg for this piece of rhetoric.

In fact, the word shambles actually means the stalls butchers occupied in medieval market places. Bridgwater in Somerset had its shambles, and a fish shambles as well, in the Cockenrow, the name of which means ‘Cook’s Row’, and refers to the shops in that part of town selling cooked meat. The medieval shambles at Shepton Mallet has survived, and you can visit it with the benches on which the medieval tradesmen used to display their wares, above which is mounted a small tiled roof.

In discussing the etymology of the word, Mogg is clearly being pedantic, simultaneously using his knowledge to play down just how awful and uninspiring May’s speech was, while also showing off his superior knowledge in the hopes that this will impress everyone with the depth of his aristocratic education. In fact, the word’s etymology is immaterial here. The word is simply used commonly to mean a mess. Of course, if you wanted to make the point in a more elevated and highfalutin manner, Snow could have said ‘I was using the term synchronically’, which is modern philologist’s parlance for what a term means now. I doubt Mogg’s own knowledge of the theory of linguistics goes that far, and it would have thrown his own rhetorical strategy back at him. But unfortunately, thinking about such responses is usually the kind of thing you do on the way home after it’s all over.

Brand then goes on to talk about Mogg’s appearance on Breakfast TV, where he showed himself against gay marriage and abortion, even after rape. Brand is like many others – impressed by Mogg’s honesty, while at the same time horrified by the views he holds.

And then he attacks Mogg’s performance on LBC Radio, where he declared that the growth in food banks was ‘uplifting’, and goes on to talk about how the state couldn’t provide everything. Brand states that what brings this argument down is the fact that most of the people forced to use food banks are actually working. They’re just not paid enough to live on.

He also rebuts Mogg’s claims that his views are based in Christianity. They aren’t. Most of Christ’s message in the Gospels is about being nice and kind. Mogg, however, prefers to see Christ as being harder towards the poor and sick. To support his point about Mogg’s highly selective interpretation of Christian morality, he cites and shows a letter published by one of the papers, that makes this point.

In fact, Mogg’s views on food banks are more or less standard Tory rhetoric. Many Tories will say something about preserving a welfare state to give some provision for the poor, but will then do exactly what Mogg did, and then say that the state can’t provide everything. When challenged about cuts to the welfare state, they’ll probably make some comment about needing to target the support to those who really need it, rather than scroungers.

This is all highly mendacious. The cuts don’t just attack scroungers – they create real poverty amongst those in genuine need. And nobody expects the state to do everything. They just expect them to provide real support for the poor and the disabled. This support is not being provided, and the Tories are intent on destroying the welfare state piecemeal, so that no-one notices. Rees-Mogg’s comments about retaining some kind of welfare state are a sham, whether he believes it or not, are designed to gull people into believing that the Tories really do want to look after ordinary people. They don’t.

As for Mogg being delighted with the charity and generosity shown by people giving to the food banks, this was actually one of the reasons Thatcher wanted to abolish the welfare state. She thought that, with the state unable to provide for the poor there would be a resurgence in private generosity as people rose to the task of giving themselves, rather than relying on state aid. But as Lobster noted in a piece in its editorial, The View from the Bridge, a little while ago, this didn’t happen, And Thatcher realized it. As for the state being unable to provide adequately for the poor, the opposite is true. Conservative, religious Americans do give generously to charity. They’re often more generous than secular liberals, according to polling done a few years ago and cited in the book, The Truth about Evangelical Christians. But this personal generosity is completely inadequate for tackling the deep, widespread and grinding poverty that’s now spreading across America thanks to nearly forty years of Reaganite neoliberalism.

Brand gives Rees-Mogg his professional appreciation as a comedian. He states that Mogg is a comedic character. He makes the point that he seems mostly compounded from Maggie Thatcher. That’s certainly where Mogg got his mistaken and disgusting views about the efficacy of private charity over state aid. Just as Thatcher got it from her mentor, Keith Joseph. And if Mogg was the creation of a comedian sending up the Tories, he would be highly funny. He comes across somewhat as a mix of the Slenderman, the sinister internet meme, and Lord Snooty from the Beano. Or was it the Dandy? Looking at the photo Mike put up, showing Mogg trying to lift his leg over a style reminding me of nothing less than the Monty Python sketch, the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’. Brand goes on to the compare Mogg to Trump. Mogg’s a comedic figure in exactly the same way Trump is. But only from a distance. Brand says that if he lived in America, which has to deal with the problems Trump is creating, he wouldn’t find Trump funny at all. The same with Mogg. Like Trump, he can appreciate Mogg as a comic character, but in reality, as a politician, Trump and Mogg are anything but funny.

William Blum on Socialism vs. Capitalism

September 19, 2017

William Blum, the long-time fierce critic of American and western imperialism, has come back to writing his Anti-Empire Report after a period of illness. He’s an older man of 84, and due to kidney failure has been placed on dialysis for the rest of his life. This has left him, as it does others with the same condition, drained of energy, and he says he finds writing the report difficult. Nevertheless, his mind and his dissection of the ruthless, amoral and predatory nature of western capitalism and corporate greed is as acute as ever.

There’s a section in the Anti-Empire Report, where he discusses the advantages of socialism versus capitalism. He notes that there were two studies carried out under George Dubya to see if private corporations were better than federal agencies. And the federal agencies won by a huge margin every time. He writes

Twice in recent times the federal government in Washington has undertaken major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors. On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the George W. Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. 1 The American people have to be reminded of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

He also states that the juries’ still out on whether socialist countries are more successful than capitalist, as no socialist country has fallen through its own failures. Instead they’ve been subverted and overthrown by the US.

I think he’s wrong about this. The Communist bloc couldn’t provide its people with the same standard of living as the capitalist west, and the state ownership of agriculture was a real obstacle to food production. The bulk of the Soviet Union’s food was produced on private plots. Similarly, Anton Dubcek and the leaders of the Prague Spring, who wanted to reform and democratize Communism, not overthrow it, believed that Czechoslovakia’s industrial development was held back through the rigid structure of Soviet-style central planning.

However, he still has a point, in that very many left and left-leaning regimes have been overthrown by America, particularly in South America, but also across much of the rest of the world, as they were perceived to be a threat to American political and corporate interests. And for the peoples of these nations, it’s questionable how successful capitalism is. For example, in the 1950s the Americans overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz after he dared to nationalize the banana plantations, many of which were own by the American corporation, United Fruit. Benz was a democratic socialist – not a Communist, as was claimed by the American secret state – who nationalized the plantations in order to give some dignity and a decent standard of living to the agricultural workers on them. The government that overthrew Benz was a brutal Fascist dictatorship, which imposed conditions very close to feudal serfdom on the plantation labourers.

Which leads to a more general point about the emergence of capitalism, imperialism and the exploitation of the developing world. Marxists have argued that capitalism had partly arisen due to western imperialism. It was the riches looted from their conquered overseas territories that allowed western capitalism to emerge and develop. Again this is a matter of considerable debate, as some historians have argued that the slave trade and plantation slavery only added an extra 5 per cent to the British economy during the period these existed in the British empire, from the mid-17th century to 1840. More recently, historians have argued that it was the compensation given to the slaveowners at emancipation, that allowed capitalism to develop. In the case of the large slaveholders, this compensation was the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds today. At the time the plantation system was in crisis, and many of the plantation owners were heavily in debt. The slaveholders used the money given to them by the British government – £20 million, a colossal sum then-to invest in British industry, thus boosting its development.

This system has continued today through what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal termed ‘neocolonialism’. This is the international trading system which the former imperial masters imposed on their colonies after the end of imperialism proper following the Second World War. High tariffs and other barriers were imposed to stop these countries developing their own manufacturing industries, which could produced finished goods that would compete with those of Europe and the west. Instead, the former subject nations were forced through a series of trade agreements to limit themselves to primary industries – mining and agriculture – which would provide western and European industry with the raw materials it needed. As a global system, it’s therefore highly debatable how successful capitalism is in providing for people’s needs, when the relative success of the capitalist west has depended on the immiseration and exploitation of countless millions in the developed world.

And in the developed west itself, capitalism is failing. In the 19th century Marx pointed to the repeated crises and economic slumps that the system created, and predicted that one of these would be so severe that it would destroy capitalism completely. He was wrong. Capitalism did not collapse, and there was a long period of prosperity and growth from the late 19th century onwards.

But terrible, grinding poverty still existed in Britain and the rest of the developed world, even if conditions were slowly improving. And the long period of prosperity and growth after the Second World War was partly due to the foundation of the welfare state, Keynsian economic policies in which the government invested in the economy in order to stimulate it, and a system of state economic planning copied from the French.

Now that Thatcherite governments have rolled back the frontiers of the state, we’ve seen the re-emergence of extreme poverty in Britain. An increasing number of Brits are now homeless. 700,000 odd are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, as they can’t afford food. Millions more are faced with the choice between eating and paying the bills. In the school holiday just passed, three million children went hungry. And some historians are predicting that the refusal of the governments that came after the great crash of 2008 to impose controls on the financial sector means that we are heading for the final collapse of capitalism. They argue that the industrial and financial elite in Europe know it’s coming, are just trying to loot as much money as possible before it finally arrives.

The great, free trade capitalism lauded by Thatcher, Reagan and the neoliberal regimes after them has failed to benefit the majority of people in Britain and the rest of the world. But as the rich 1 per cent have benefited immensely, they are still promoting neoliberal, free trade policies and imposing low wages and exploitative working conditions on the rest of the population, all the while telling us that we’re richer and generally more prosperous than ever before.

Back to Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, he also has a few quotes from the American comedian Dick Gregory, who passed away this year. These include the following acute observations

“The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.”

“What we’re doing in Vietnam is using the black man to kill the yellow man so the white man can keep the land he took from the red man.”

For more, see https://williamblum.org/aer/read/150