Posts Tagged ‘World Bank’

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

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Donald Trump Predicted in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 Novel ‘Titan’

July 16, 2017

I’ve been making my way through Stephen Baxter’s SF novel, Titan, these last few weeks. Baxter’s a British SF writer, with degrees in maths and engineering. He applied to be an astronaut on the Anglo-Soviet mission to Mir in the 1980s, which went to Helen Sharman. He’s probably best known for his Xelee-sequence books. These are set in a universe dominated by the extremely advanced, but mysterious Xelee, who are engaged in a war across the entire universe with the Photino Birds, dark matter creatures determined to age and extinguish the universe of ordinary matter. He has also written other novels about a variety of parthenogenic humans, descended from a lost troop of Romans, a catastrophic flood in the Bronze Age, and the books The Long Earth and The Long War, about parallel worlds, with the late, great Terry Pratchett. His novel, Voyage, an alternative history in which NASA launches a final manned expedition to Mars, was adapted for Radio 4 by Audio Movies in the 1990s. He was also the scientific advisor for the 1990s BBC SF series, Invasion Earth, about aliens from the higher physical dimensions invading the planet.

Titan is also about a last, crewed NASA mission. This time its put together by a team of astronauts, space scientists and ground control crew as the Agency’s last, great space expedition before it is closed down following a shuttle disaster. It’s set in what was then the near future – 2004 onwards – in America increasingly falling into right-wing extremism, irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism. The leading politician and subsequent president, is Xavier Maclachlan, a Texan with standing on an aggressively anti-science platform. Here’s the description of the man and his policies on pages 284-5.

Hadamard was in Washington during the inauguration of Xavier Maclachlan, after his wafer-thin win in the 2008 election.

Maclachlan called it a ‘liberation of the capital’.

Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona and Oklahoma and Montana, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan constumes, a sight he though had gone into an unholy past. Come to that, there was a rumour that a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff. And in his speech Maclachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the ‘Israeli occupation of Congress’…

And so on.

As soon as Maclachlan lifted his hand from the Bible, US peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Africa started to board their planes to leave. Foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York, and there was a rumour that Maclachlan was planning some military adventure to take back the canal from Panama.

Army engineers – set in place during the handover from the last Administration – started to build a wall, two thousand miles of it, along the Mexican border, to exclude illegal immigrants. White it was being built, troops brought home from peacekeeping abroad were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

There was chaos in the financial markets. Machlachlan had withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade Treaty, from the World Trade Organisation, from GATT. Reviews of the country’s membership of the World Bank and the IMF had started – arms of an incipient world government, Maclachlan said, designed to let in the Russians. He had raised tariffs – ten per cent against Japan, fifty per cent against the Chinese – and world trade collapsed.

The Chinese, particularly, screamed. And so Maclachlan sent the Seventh Fleet to a new station just off the coast of Taiwan.

Meanwhile all the strategic arms treaties with Russia were torn up, as Maclachlan orderd his technicians to dig out the blueprints for Reagan’s old dream of SDI. In fact, Maclachlan wanted to go further. He was inviting ideas for what he called his ‘da Vinci brains trust’. The press was full of schemes for fantastic new weapons: smart remote sensors; dream mines that could shoot at passing traffic; smart armour that would use explosive tiles to deflect incoming projectiles; maybe even an electrical battlefield in which electricity-propelled shells would be zapped in by low-flying aircraft.

And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefited blacks and other minorities, and any funding that appeared to support abortion, which had been made illegal in any form.

Xavier Maclachlan was a busy man, and he was fulfilling his campaign promises.

Clearly, much of this is an extrapolation from the policies and attitudes of the Republican party and the American extreme Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan had brought right-wing Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party, who had previously stood aloof from politics as part of a corrupt, fallen secular order. He had also begun to wind up government welfare programmes, particularly those aimed at benefiting minorities, such as Black Americans. Fears of an imminent apocalypse, social breakdown and Russian invasion, even after the collapse of Communism, had resulted in the emergence of the survivalist and then Militia movements, armed right-wing paramilitary groups. These had a bitter resentment of the federal government, which culminated in McViegh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. They also tended to be bitterly racist and anti-Semitic. They believed and still believe in stupid Nazi conspiracy theories that claim that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race through racial intermixing and that America is covertly controlled by the Jews through the ‘Zionist Occupation Government’, or ZOG. These groups and right-wing American fundamentalist organisations also believed that there was a secret, Illuminati conspiracy to create a one world Satanic superstate centred on the UN. Phyllis Schlafly, who was actually a Democrat, regularly denounced the UN as well as women’s rights. And one leading figure in the militias – I think it may have been Bo Gritz, who supposedly served as the model for ‘Rambo’ – stated that the way they would clear America’s international debt would be by minting a single coin with the legend ‘1 Trillion Dollars’. As for the Klan, there were a series of scandals in which senior Republican politicos were revealed as having links to or membership in the White racist terrorist group. The most notorious of these was David Duke in Louisiana, who is unfortunately still around and blaming the Jews for everything even today.

And political scientists and economists were predicting the rise of China and the other ‘tiger economies’, which would dominate the ‘Pacific Century’ even then.

Of course, there are things Baxter failed to predict, like 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also takes the conventional view that the various free trade agreements and UN organisations, like the IMF and the World Bank, are nice, liberal, benefificial institutions, rather than the way corporate America imposes its own neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, particularly the developing nations.

Not that the Democrats have been much different. Counterpunch has reported that Obama was considering removing the ‘No first strike’ policy towards a nuclear confrontation, and Killary has been every bit as aggressive in her stance towards Russia and China as the Republicans, perhaps even more so.

As for the White extremist and racist groups supporting the new president, all that’s different is that the Klan has been largely replaced, or subsumed, into the internet-based Alt Right. But the hysterical fear of gun legislation, promoted and lavishly funded by the gun manufacturers and the NRA, against the desires of the majority of Americans, and even the NRA’s own rank and file membership, remains strong.

It shows how long the attitudes held by the American right, and which led to the election of Donald Trump, have been around. Since his election, left-wing news sites such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have reported that Americans have become increasingly dissatisfied with Trump. Sixty per cent of the American public want him impeached. This dissatisfaction even extends to Republican voters.

Trump, however, in his racism, his isolationism, aggressive nationalism and hatred of the welfare state and women’s rights, is very much in line with the general political stance of post-Reaganite right-wing American politicians. Indeed, he’s so much a part of this political trend that, with caveats, his election – or rather, the election of someone like him – was predicted by Baxter over two decades ago.

No wonder an increasing number of young Americans are looking to progressive politicos like Bernie Sanders for leadership and the redemption of their country against a corrupt political elite and the military-industrial complex. And I fervently hope they win, and that humanity will continue to reach out to the cosmos in a spirit of genuine exploration and wonder, and not as another arena for warfare.

America and the Manufactured Revolution in Ukraine

September 8, 2016

I’ve put up several pieces commenting on how undemocratic the new, pro-Western regime in the Ukraine is. This came to power a couple of years or so ago, when the pro-Russian president, Yanukhovych, was ousted after a series of demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Square. Yanukhovych had just a signed a treaty for closer ties to the Russian Federation. So he was deposed, and fled to Russia. A new, pro-European government has been installed, which has signed treaties giving the country greater links with Europe and the US. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, was sceptical from the start about the supposedly ‘democratic’ nature of the revolution. In several of their articles they suggested that Yanukhovych’s overthrow was less a grassroots insurgency, but a carefully orchestrated coup by the US through its various NGOs and associated companies, dedicated to spreading neoliberalism and ensuring the corporate takeover of nations around the world for American capitalism. George Galloway said something similar in one of the videos of his that I put up last week. He stated in one of his speeches that Britain and the Americans had also engineered the overthrow of a number of regimes through giving aid to dissident groups and using their resources to spread opposition to the regime.

The veteran critic of the American Empire, William Blum, has written a piece describing the using of its NGOs and business leaders to spread discontent in the Ukraine and engineering Yanukhovych’s overthrow in issue 16 of his Anti-Empire Report. This goes right down to the Orange clothes the protesters wore, which gave the protests the name the ‘Orange Revolution’. He writes

All the usual suspects were involved: the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Agency for International Development (AID), George Soros, Freedom House, et al.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has undertaken a relentless campaign to bring Moscow’s former republics and satellites into the fold of globalization and American military outposts, and in some cases to be part of highly-prized oil pipelines. In the early 1990s, the governments of Bulgaria and Albania were overthrown for not appearing to be suitable enough candidates for such honors. 2 In 1999, Yugoslavia was bombed for much the same reasons. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Washington has used the weapons of political and economic subversion.

The standard operating procedure in a particular country has been to send in teams of specialists from US government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), American labor unions, or private organizations funded by American corporations and foundations; NED, AID, and the Open Society organizations of George Soros, American citizen and billionaire, are the leading examples. These teams go in with as much financial resources as needed and numerous carrots and sticks to wield; they hold conferences and seminars, hand out tons of material, and fund new NGOs, newspapers and other media, all to educate government employees and other selected portions of the population on the advantages and joys of privatizing and deregulating the economy, teaching them how to run a capitalist society, how to remake the country so that it’s appealing to foreign investors, how to fall happily into the embrace of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The American teams have been creating a new class of managers to manage a new market economy, as well as providing the capital and good ol’ American know-how for winning elections against the non-believers. They undertake to unite the opposition behind a single candidate to optimize the chance of unseating the government; they pass information and experience from one country to another; thus the Soros organization – which has offices throughout the former Soviet domain – had people from Serbia, who had been involved in the successful campaign to oust Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, share their experiences with people in Georgia who were seeking to oust Eduard Shevardnadze in 2003, and were likewise successful. This transfer of techniques, including an acclaimed video shown on Georgian independent television, was cited by participants in Georgia as playing a vital role in their toppling of Shevardnadze. 3 The demonstrations in Ukraine in protest of the flawed election and in favor of Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in, and huge quantities of the orange clothing which has come to symbolize their protest movement; yet we are told that it’s all spontaneous by the Western media, which give the events extensive serious coverage. 4 Compare this to the coverage and treatment in the United States of those questioning the American election of last month.

He also points out that the new, pro-Western president, Yushchenko’s wife, Ekaterina, is an American. Galloway’s right, and I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Orange Revolution, far from being a democratic uprising, was very carefully and deliberately manipulated.

The article, and much other excellent deconstruction of the propaganda supporting the American Empire, can be read at: https://williamblum.org/aer/read/16

Counterpunch on Udo Ulfkotte’s ‘Bought Journalists’

August 2, 2016

Today Counterpunch published a very interesting article by Thomas Harrington, ‘Europe’s “Bought Journalists”‘, on the promotion of pro-American, pro-Israel neoliberal imperialist policies in the European press, even in traditionally left-wing papers like the Groaniad, El Pais, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde and La Reppublica, heavy weight papers with a record of supporting progressive politics. Harrington states that future historians will be amazed how a continent, with a sophisticated and critical intellectual culture, came to be dominated by American elite interests. He notes that America has always been keen to ‘manage the perceptions’ of its various allied countries as part of its Cold War campaign against Communism and the Soviet Union. It is an intrinsic part of what Donald Rumsfeld described as ‘full spectrum dominance’. This has now got to the point where American neoliberal interests now override those of Europe’s own peoples in the minds of their journalists. He compares this absolute belief in American, neoliberal cultural hegemony with religion in that this is uncritical accepted in absolute faith. He also states that when explanations are sought how this situation came about, the standard explanation is that the European population has got older, and so more conservative. But this can’t explain how Moises Naim, who was previously a member of one of South America’s corrupt governments, an arch-Zionist, former director of the World Bank, and also a former editor of Foreign Policy, which Harrington describes as the ‘in-house Bible of American imperialism’, came to be the weekend foreign policy ‘guru’ for Spain’s El Pais, a newspaper which is pro-welfare and anti-interventionist, while Spain is also generally pro-Palestinian. He suggests that it is due to the co-option of European journalists by the American secret state, and urges his readers to watch a linked interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Udo Ulfkotte. The Frankfurter Allgemeine is Germany’s foremost newspaper, with a centre-right bias, rather like the Times over here. Ulfkotte in the interview describes Germany as an American colony and a ‘banana republic’ because of the way its journalists have been deeply compromised through their collaboration with the CIA and the German intelligence agency. Ulfkotte has written a book, Gekaufte Journalisten – ‘Bought Journalists’ – about this corruption. It’s a bestseller over the North Sea in the Bundesrepublik, but for some strange reason an English translation keeps being put off.

The article’s at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/02/europes-bought-journalists/

I’m not surprised at Ulfkotte’s allegations, which seem only too plausible. Lobster has published several pieces over the years about the way the press has been used and manipulated to push the Atlantic alliance against the Soviet Union, and the role of particular journos in publishing disinformation and propaganda on behalf of the British intelligence agencies. Ulfkotte doesn’t mention it in his interview, but leading British journalists were also included in the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite project to train up pro-American future politicians, such as Tony Blair. But you won’t read much about it, because when one journo on one of the papers did – I think it was in the Times – he found the article spiked by the editor because he was another of BAP’s alumni.

As for the problem of getting a translation of Ulfkotte’s book into English, it struck me that what might be needed here is a version of the old ‘samizdat’ underground publication system for the nominally ‘free world’. Samizdat was the underground publishing system in the former Soviet Union, in which literature that had been suppressed by the Communist authorities was illegally copied and circulated. Among the works published and distributed in this way was Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago. The people, who read samizdat literature described how they did so in utter secrecy. A book was often read in a single night, because it was too dangerous to keep hold of such books for very long. If a system like this is what is needed to publish book’s like Ulfkotte’s in Britain – or at least, England, if Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland go their own way after Brexit, then it will show very clearly that Jeremy Corbyn is right, and that David Cameron has created a ‘zombie democracy’. Though the credit mustn’t go just to the Tories. Tony Blair also did much to create the surveillance state and the system of secret courts that Cameron expanded, and which May will probably preserve and extend even more.

Private Eye on the Western Firms Seeking to Grasp the Iraqi Oil Fields

March 3, 2016

Private Eye in their issue of 9th 22nd December 2005 also ran an article on the ‘Production Sharing Agreements’ issued to British and other western firms, which effectively handed control of the Iraqi oil fields to them, taking millions from the Iraqis themselves. All under the pretext that it’s helping to rebuild the economy of the invasion.

Rebuilding Iraq
I’m Oil Right, Jack

Good to see that Britain is doing its bit to “assist” Iraq – and help private western oil companies bolster their already massive profits at the same time.

As is well known, the United States is putting pressure on Iraq’s fragile government to accept “production sharing agreements”, or PSAs, to develop the Iraqi oil fields. These PSAs, previously unknown in the big middle eastern oilfields, will mean vast profits for western oil giants. Indeed, according to a report from the campaign group Platform, War on Want and the New Economics Foundation, western companies could make returns on investment of between 42 percent and 162 percent, while Iraq itself could lose some $100 bn by agreeing to the PSAs.

While the pressure from the US for PSAs is well known, it now emerges that Britain’s own Foreign Office is equally involved in lobbying the Iraqis. It is doing so through a little known but powerful business group called the International Tax and Investment Centre (ITIC). Originally formed to help business get the right laws to “encourage” investment in the former Soviet Union, ITIC is now central to the oil industry’s efforts in Iraq. An Anglo-American outfit jointly chaired by a senior US businessman and the former Tory trade minister Lord Walker, it is funded by the likes of BP, Shell and Exxon.

ITIC began its “Iraq project” in July 2003 and claims it did so “following several requests from advisors from western governments and international organizations for private sector input as they prepare their technical assistance programs for Iraq”. Among those keen to hear ITIC’s advice were the World Bank and the British government.

Iraqi ministers were presented with an ITIC report recommending that their oil industry entre into PSAs with western firms at meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank in Beirut earlier this year. At the same time ITIC reported a “meeting held with UK Treasury and Foreign Office to discuss coordination and cooperation of Full Report presentation”. In other words, two British government departments became agents for ITIC, helping it persuade the Iraqis to accept PSAs.

The Foreign Office denies it has been involved in specific lobbying on Iraqi oil, but documents released to Platform under the Freedom of Information Act show the true extent to which the British government has represented ITIC. The Foreign Office presented Iraqi oil ministers with a ‘code of practice for the Iraqi oil industry” last autumn. This code was supposed to persuade the oil ministers they needed to have open, transparent deals to avoid corruption. However, the FO documents quoted extensively from ITIC’s own Iraq report – before it was published and without acknowledging that the report was itself funded by western oil firms.

The FO document also goes beyond its brief and says that “Iraq would need to engage with the international oil companies to provide appropriate levels of foreign direct investment” to develop its oil. Other solutions that do not hand such profits to western oil firms – like borrowing money and directing its own oil exploitation – are for some reason not discussed.

In addition the British government has, via the Foreign Office, paid £147,700 to fund advisers to the Iraqi oil ministry, including two BP executive, Terry Adams and Bob Morgan.

This adds more evidence to the revelations that the invasion of Iraq was never about protecting us from al-Qaeda or terrorism, but simply a cynical strategy to steal that nation’s oil.

Financial Times Review of Book on Origins of American Financial Imperialism

October 27, 2015

Also looking through the pile of past newspaper clippings I’ve collected, I found this review by David Honigmann of Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy 1900-1930, by Emily S. Rosenberg, published by Harvard, in the FT’s weekend supplement for 11th/12th March 2000.

The Real Costs of an Empire on Loan

At the end of the 19th century, the US was acquiring an empire by default, picking up colonial possessions and exerting a sphere of influence it did not quite know how to handle. When the 1896 selection turned on the question of currency reform and the gold-standard advocates won, the next step to export the gold standard to the scattered territories under US control. It spread from Puerto Rico to the Philippines, then Panama, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Mexico. Eventually, US financial advisers would by plying their trade as far afield as China, Germany and Persia.

Dollar diplomacy was the term coined for an arrangement under which struggling economies would receive loans from US banks in return for accepting “supervision” from American economic advisers. The story of the public-private partnership that tried to bring this about is the subject of Emily Rosenberg’s meticulously researched book.

She traces the three parties involved in pushing dollar diplomacy. Investment banks, anxious for new markets, provided the loans. Academics made, in some cases, small fortunes from providing the advice: Edwin Kemmerer, who became the high priest of dollar diplomacy, made many times his already generous Princeton salary from grateful client governments. (Rosenberg cites personal correspondence to show that Kemmerer was obsessed with the inadequacy of his salary and what this meant for his manliness.

The third party underpinning all this was the US State Department, which played an ambiguous role in approving the loans. Each loan went to the State Department for approval, and when approval was granted there was at least a tacit expectation by lenders that the US government was backing it, protection which could take any form from ambassadorial murmurings to the dispatch of the Marines.

Banking was a contested area at the time. The gold standard, with its tendency to deflation, was inimical to small farmers and small businessmen. Marxists condemned it as materialism in action, and opposition to it also drew on a strain of populist anti-Semitism. (In the 1896 election, the Democrats warned against “crucifying mankind upon a Cross of Gold”.)

Attitudes to dollar diplomacy did not split evenly along political lines, however. When President (Theodore) Roosevelt, in 1905, halted the Dominican Republic’s slide towards bankruptcy by turning it into a US fiscal protectorate, and then built it into a model of dollar diplomacy, there was little anti-imperialist protest. The plan was seen essentially as extending “assistance without annexation”.

It was only as client countries began to rebel against the conditions and policies imposed to accompany loans (the Sandino rebellion in Nicaragua in the late 1920s being the most visible) that progressive domestic opposition and the Comintern rallied to denounce it.

Rosenberg dives deepest into the professional advisers and their search for respectability. this was the foundation of the whole system: the professionalism of the advisers reduced the perceived risk of the loans, lowering their price and making them affordable for the client countries. The advisers presented themselves as impartial third parties, aloof from both US governmental interests and the banks, responsible only to client governments. In fact, they received considerable support behind the scenes from the State Department, and Kemmerer was also kept on a secret annual retainer by Dillon Read, one of the investment banks: not so much Chinese walls as Hall of Mirrors.

Despite the technocratic claims of the advisers, dollar diplomacy was not a clean, value-free exercise. Rosenberg locates its roots in the cultural debates of the early 20th century. The Tarzan books and films were only one example of the ways in which other nations and peoples were framed as “primitive” and in need of western assistance.

Dollar diplomacy even became the subject of poplar entertainment, as in Edison’s 1917 film Billy and the Big Stick, whose hero was an American customs officer in Haiti, denied his salary by the Haitian president until he threatens the dispatch of gunboats. All very explicit, it might seem; in fact, as Rosenberg notes, it was the US financial adviser in Haiti who sopped the wages of Haitian officials until they agreed to his proposals.

The crux of Rosenberg’s argument is that dollar diplomacy cloaked geo-politics in the guise of market contracts, but with the iron first ill-concealed in the velvet glove. She draws a parallel with Victorian marriage contracts: “the dominant (male) party promised monetary support (loans) and supervision in return for obedience and acceptance of regulation. Yet, also like marriage, the status inequalities were embedded in the controlled loan contracts of dollar diplomacy, even as the contracts tended to be culturally presented as freely negotiated and based on mutual attraction.”

Financial Missionaries to the World is not easy reading. It is full enough of fiscal minutiae that even fairly central concepts, such as financing currency conversion through seniorage, go unexplained. There is no argument that is not a discourse, no assumption that is not a paradigm, no subordination that is not a “feminization”.

But it works well in explaining how this policy of arm’s length financial administration arose, how it was sustained by cultural pressures in the teeth of growing opposition from both isolationist Right and anti-colonialist Left, and how it eventually collapsed in the gale of the 1929 Crash and a series of armed rebellions.

Rosenberg does briefly trace the evolution of dollar diplomacy through Bretton Woods and the rise of the IMF, although a less scholarly book might have drawn even more explicit parallels with the financial regimens imposed by today’s multinational institutions. But perhaps the warnings are all too clear.

That last paragraph is important. The IMF and the World Bank certainly do act as instruments of American economic imperialism. When countries go for them for loan, these are given with a set prescribed conditions to rectify those nations’ ailing economies: they are to private the state industries and cut down on state expenditure generally, including removing or cutting back on any welfare support they may provide their citizens. The privatised industries are to be sold to American companies.

And the Americans haven’t just tried this with Developing Nations. They’ve done it to us as well. The British Empire was dismembered partly due to pressure from the Americans for their help during the Second World War, as they wanted to open up the closed imperial trading bloc to American companies. And they’ve continued interfering in our economic affairs afterwards. According to Lobster, one of the chiefs and head executives at the Bank of England under Bliar was Deanne Julius, a high ranking official within the American banking system. She believed that Britain should abandon its role as a manufacturer and concentrate instead on servicing American global financial interests.

NATO and the Economic Exploitation of Eastern Europe

January 31, 2015

I also found this little piece in ‘The View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 45, reproducing statements from elsewhere that NATO was being used to exploit the former eastern bloc countries that have joined it after the fall of Communism. Although over a decade old, it’s relevant now as we are in period of diplomatic tension with Russia over the civil war in Ukraine. This has been presented as a case of pro-Western Ukrainian patriots attempting to free themselves from Russian domination. The reality is somewhat murkier, as the pro-Western side themselves were guilty of considerable corruption. It also includes open Neo-Nazis.

Under Comecon and the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union did indeed exploit its satellite economically, and dominate them militarily through a complex of joint industrial companies, trade treaties and military obligations. If the two pieces cited in the Lobster article are to be believed, then NATO is little better.

NATO and Eastern Europe
Who wrote the following?

‘Nato is now a device to exert control and extract cash. Those who resist, like Belarus, are punished… All eastern European states are required to sell off their national economic assets to foreigners, and close down their agriculture by accepting the dumping of subsidised EU food imports. This creates massive social disruption and unemployment. In addition, they must spend 2% of the GDP on defence, preferably on arms made in the US.

Consequently, a small country like Lithuania, whose economy has collapsed so catastrophically, has just announced the purchase of $34 million worth of Stinger missiles, made by the Raytheon Corporation of Tucson, Arizona. When Tanzania announced it was spending $40 million on a new civilian air traffic control system, there was an outcry; but Lithuania, whose official GDP is not much larger than Tanzania’s, will have to spend $240m on arms every year as the price for Nato membership. And Lithuania is just one of seven new member states, all of which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on arms’.

Someone on the left? Paul Foot? Greg Palast? John Pilger? None of the above. (None of the above would use the term foreigners…) They were written by John Laughland, generally presented and perceived as an anti-EU right-winger. But take out the word foreigners…

Along similar lines the following appeared on John Young’s Cryptome site a month later:

It might interest your readers to understand the aggressive US tactics used to win the Lockheed F-16 deal with Poland last week. Information from an official translator who has first-hand knowledge of various meetings … an aggressive campaign, including electronic surveillance to ensure that Lockheed, rather than Swedish/French rivals, won an order for fighter jets. This campaign included … If Lockheed’s offer was not successful, the US would block or substantially reduce World Bank and International Finance Corporation loan/assistance package worth an estimated $1.4 billion (measured over 2003-2005); US officials warned that the loss of the Lockheed deal would create “substantial setbacks” for Poland’s activities within NATO which could prevent the placement of Polish military officials in special NATO committees and command structures … the US official restated that Poland would not have preferential treatment in the reorganisation of Baltic Sea deployments and planning should Lockheed fail in its bid.’

This makes you really wonder what the reality behind the ousting of President Yanukovych in Ukraine really was, and who was supposed to benefit: the Ukrainian people, or Western multinationals.

Daniel Hannan on Norris McWhirter, Supporter of Fascism

April 6, 2014

McWhirter

Norris McWhirter, Founder of the Freedom Association and probable supporter of the anti-Semitic and racist League of Empire Loyalists

The extreme Right-wing Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, amongst his other attacks on the Left and the NHS, criticised the comedian David Baddiel for his film criticising Norris McWhirter in his online Telegraph column. Baddiel had made the terrible offence of comparing the Freedom Association, which McWhirter founded, to the BNP. Guy Debord’s Cat has also posted a detailed critique of Hannan’s comments, ‘Hannan: McWhirter is a Decent Man (Because I Say So)’ at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/hannan-mcwhirter-was-a-decent-man-because-i-say-so/.

In fact Baddiel’s comment about the Freedom Association being similar to the BNP has more than a little truth in the context of McWhirter’s extreme Right-wing political views. There is evidence that McWhirter was a member of the League of Empire Loyalists, a Fascist, anti-Semitic organisation that formed the National Front along with the BNP, the Greater Britain Movement and Racial Preservation Society. Even if he was not formally a member, McWhirter and his brothers subscribed to Candour, the League’s magazine, which attempted to spread its highly conspiracist view of the decline of British civilisation due to a global Jewish conspiracy. It was the same view as that of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, with the exception that the Nazis obviously focussed on Germany rather than Britain.

McWhirter and the Aldermaston March

The February 1989 issue of the Freedom Association’s newsletter, Freedom Today, printed a photograph of a car containing Norris McWhirter and his elder brother, Kennedy, surrounded by a crowd of angry CND protesters at the first Aldermaston March in 1958. The photograph was supposed to show the violent nature of peace marchers. According to the Times the McWhirters had appeared at the march in a car shouting at the crowd through a loudspeaker. They told the demonstrators that they were each guilty of increasing the threat of war and voting with their feet for ‘Soviet imperialist domination’. They then turned into a field, where they got out and attempted to display their own placards. They then scuffled with some of the marchers, and were forced to get back into the car. The marchers then started to rock it. The police eventually appeared, and managed to get the McWhirters and their car out of the crowd and away from the demonstration.

McWhirter and the LEL

Norris McWhirter stood as the Conservative candidate for Orpington in 1964. However, it looks very much like that if they weren’t formal members of the League of Empire Loyalists, they supported them sufficiently strongly to take part in some of their stunts. George Thayer in his book, The British Political Fringe: A Profile, published in 1965 stated that as the League supported nuclear weapons they ‘made a habit of harassing the Aldermaston marches’. Rosine D’Bouneviallel, a member of the League with custody of their records, confirmed that the incident was one of the LEL stunts. She did not state that the McWhirters were members of the League, but did say that they subscribed to candour.

See ‘Kennedy McWhirter 22/10/23 – 3/11/89’ in Stephen Dorril, ‘Gone but not Forgotten’, in Lobster 19: 10-13 (11).

A.K. Chesterton and the League of Empire Loyalists

The League of Empire Loyalists was founded in October 1954 by Arthur Keith (A.K.) Chesterton, a cousin of the writer G.K. Chesterton, and one of the ideologues of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Its members including the future leaders of the National Front and related Fascist organisations, John Tyndall, Martin Webster, Colin Jordan and John Bean. It Strongly campaigned against any infringement of British sovereignty, including British involvement in a future EU or federated Europe, as well as the UN, NATO, SEATO and CENTO. It also demanded that Britain should not relinquish its Empire, but should continue to maintain and strengthen it. It also demanded that Non-White immigration to the UK should be stopped.

Chesterton, Anti-Semitism and Fascism

Chesterton split from Mosley and the BUF in 1938, and supported the British war effort against Nazi Germany. He was thus, unlike Mosley, never charged with treason. He was, however, extremely anti-Semitic. Apart from the BUF, he was also a member of the Nordic League, whose membership also included Serocold Skeels, a known Nazi agent, and William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw. Like the Nazis, the Nordic League also demanded the extermination of the Jews, and Chesterton fully shared their vile views. Chesterton later wrote a pamphlet attacking the leader of the BUF, complaining that Mosley had been deceived by the leader of one of the other factions within the BUF, which itself had become a parody of German Nazism. The pamphlet was published by the National Socialist League, the similarity of whose name to Hitler’s party was certainly not accidental. After the War Chesterton retreated from the genocidal implications of earlier extreme anti-Semitism, through his opposition to Nazism and friendship with individual Jews like Joseph Leftwich. He denounced the racial anti-Semitism of Houston Steward Chamberlain and the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, and demanded that those responsible for the death camps should be hanged. Like Mosley he also strenuously denied that he was a Fascist after the War.

Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories and the LEL

Chesterton was a professional journalist. He was the deputy editor of the Fascist magazine, Truth, from 1944 to 1953. In 1953 he was also literary adviser to Lord Beaverbrook, and founded the anti-Semitic newspaper, Candour. Chesterton was strongly influenced by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Father Denis Fahey, A.N. Field, Douglas Reed, C.H. Douglas and Nesta Webster. He believed that Jewish financier and bankers, controlled by Bernard Baruch and Paul and Max Warburg, had been responsible for funding all the social unrest around the globe from the Russian Revolution onwards. The Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks agreements, along with the World Bank, Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission and United Nations were part of a plot to establish a global Jewish ‘One World’ superstate and destroy the British Empire. In his 1965 book, The New Unhappy Lords, Chesterton made it clear that he believed that global Communism was merely a subordinate branch of this international conspiracy. Moscow and Peking were, he declared, merely ‘branch offices’, while the headquarters of the conspiracy was in New York. Despite his denial that he was a Fascist, and disapproval of political violence, this is very much the same conspiratorial view as Hitler’s, except that it was updated to include the new, post-War supranational organisations.

Political Stunts

The League attempted to spread its vile ideas not by marches or demonstrations, but through a series of disruptive stunts. Amongst these were the blowing of bugle horns at Conservative party conferences. When Krushchev and Bulganin arrived at Victoria Station as part of their détente peace tours of the West, the League’s members shouted that Anthony Eden had shaken hands with a murderer. They also gatecrashed the 1958 Anglican Lambeth Conference disguised as Greek Orthodox bishops. As racist imperialists, they also disrupted meetings of the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Anti-Slavery Society.

Whatever Hannan says about McWhirter, it is clear that he had some extremely unpleasant Right-wing views, which could fairly be described as Fascistic. If he was indeed a subscriber to Candour, as claimed by the keeper of the LEL’s records, then he was clearly at least one of their fellow travellers. He may not have formally joined the League out of a desire to maintain his membership of the Tories. After their disruptive antics at the 1958 Tory party conference led to fighting between the conference’s stewards and members of the Leagues, the Conservatives took strong measures to throw out League sympathisers. The Freedom Association has also supported brutal and repressive extreme Right-wing dictatorships, so Baddiel actually was right to compare the Freedom Association to the BNP and attack the noxious views of its founder. And by his own support for McWhirter, Hannan has also shown how extreme his own political views are.

For further information on the League of Empire Loyalists, see Kevin Koogan, ‘The League of Empire Loyalists’ in Lobster 46, Winter 2003, pp. 26-9, and Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd 1987).

From 2003: IMF Admits Policies Don’t Work

March 27, 2014

I also found this little piece in Lobster 45 for Summer 2003, reporting on a piece in the Independent for the 20th March that year. According to the Indie, the IMF had just published a report concluding that their policies mostly didn’t work. Instead of helping countries with failing economies, the IMF actually made the situation much worse. The article stated

In a paper that will be seized on by IMF critics across the political spectrum, leading officials reveal they can find little evidence of the their own success. Countries that follow IMF suggestions often suffer a ‘collapse in growth rates and significant financial crises’, with open currency markets merely serving to ‘amplify the effects of various shocks.’ Kenneth Rogoff, the IMF chief economist who is one of the report’s authors, called the findings ‘sobering’.

A recent study by the United Nations reported that the 47 poorest countries in the world – the biggest recipients of loans from the IMF and the World Bank – are poorer now than they were when the IMF was founded in 1944. The report says that ‘financial integration’ has often led to an ‘increased vulnerability in crises’ because foreign speculators pull out as soon as trouble emerges.

‘Mea Maxima Culpa?’, p. 25.

The IMF’s policies generally seem to consist of recommending the countries receiving their loans to privatise their economies, savagely cut back on any welfare expenditure, and rationalise the remaining industry, leading to massive unemployment. They also force the countries to open up to private investors from the rest of the world. In the case of at least one Central American country, this consisted of a stipulation to sell their state industries to American companies. Ramsay thus commented that

On the other hand might we not say that the report demonstrates in spades that the IMF’s policies are working splendidly? For is the American-dominated financial system not intended to enable America in particular and the ‘the West’ in general to bleed the Third World dry?

This piece demonstrates that the free trade policies of international financial capitalism really don’t work, except in the respect that they’re intended to make the lenders of the Developed World richer.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.