A few tweaks here and there

18 Sep

I have been reading The Communist Manifesto recently, which I should have done four decades ago. It is only 48 pages long, so not at all daunting to read. Marx was a journalist and even if his style is a little florid for modern taste it is still thoroughly readable.

The analysis of the situation of a modern industrialised society is uncannily accurate. If you substitute neoliberal for bourgeoisie it is completely modern. Here is one passage:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom–Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

I have a problem with the predictions which follow the analysis. Marx and Engels failed to see the endless reinvention of capitalism and the appeal of consumer durables or the American Dream. In other words, the wannabe society. With fewer and fewer reaping the financial rewards of global capitalism there will come a tipping point. I make no predictions as to when it will happen or what the outcome will be.

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An appeal to authority over reason

14 Aug

In my conversations with Leave voters I have found one theme constantly recurring, that the EU is anti-British, undemocratic, bureaucratic and evil. It is supposed to want to become a United States of Europe, have its own army and to totally dominate our lives in every way.

These views are delusional and paranoid. And yet, if challenged with the facts, the Leavers will refuse to see that they are spouting nonsense. They have a belief that their views are merely common sense and are supported by the majority. It is easy to see why they feel this way. The vast majority of the press have been publishing black propaganda about the EU for decades. Boris Johnson’s reports in The Telegraph opened up a largely untapped resource of misinformation, distortion and lies. There seemed to be unending appetite for anti-EU stories. As Rothermere understood when setting up The Daily Mail, if you raise anger among your audience they will come back for more.

And so the lies have become the established truth for many people. This is from Schopenhauer – in translation.

“There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is generally adopted. Example affects their thought, just as it affects their action. They are like sheep following the bell-wether wherever he leads them. They would sooner die than think.”

In conversations with Leavers they cannot understand that their view of the EU is illogical and untrue. They are simply unable to believe any opinion contrary to that which they hold. And the reaction that I have received when suggesting that the immigration rules need to be relaxed is met with stunned silence, like a true believer being told that there is no god.

Something in the air

28 Jun

There are conjunctions of events which change public perception. There was the Manchester Arena attack, and in its aftermath the video clips where an award winning community based Police Officer from Manchester warning Home Secretary Theresa May of the dangers of cutting this area of policing. His warnings were specific and were concerned with lack of community contact, the loss of intelligence and the dangers of terrorism. May’s answers were not just a flat denial but a direct insult to the professionalism of that officer.

Then came the London Bridge attack, which was dealt with brilliantly and swiftly by an armed response unit. If the terrorist cell had been able to obtain guns rather than use knives the death toll would have been truly horrific. It was a damn close run thing.

The fire at Grenfell Tower showed the penny-pinching policies of Kensington Counsel and the blatant disregard for the most basic of fire safety standards. This happened despite warnings from residents of the borough and the instructions of the manufacturers of the cladding panels. For seven years the very idea of regulation has been anathema to the government. Health and Safety has been cut beyond the bone. Administration of regulation has been handed to private companies whose sole reason to exist is profit, and their bottom line does not count the cost to human life.

Government austerity measures have led to cuts in all areas of health and safety, whether it be the NHS, social care, the Police, the Fire Services, ambulance services, education and regulatory bodies. At the same time the checking that regulations are enforced at local level has been relaxed to a point of ineffectiveness. And now the least empowered reap the whirlwind.

If there can be said to be such a thing as a public mood, then this mood has changed. There may still be an appetite for poverty pornography, like Benefits Street, but the attention has been focussed more on the actions and inaction of the government and connections have been made between austerity and public safety. The mood is angry. This is a deep resentment of the elite, the ruling classes and the mega rich.

I have not known such a deep dislike of a government in my lifetime, not even to Margret Thatcher. The British are slow to develop such resentment, but the fire at Grenfell Tower has set a revolutionary fire in the bellies of many citizens. If there are no major changes there will be a popular uprising against our current rulers. And no distractions by the gutter press or weasel words from government will lessen the deep sense of injustice and the perceived lack of representation.

Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade

6 Jun

Liam Fox, one of three ministers responsible for Brexit is, by public record, the most corrupt politician in Britain. In March 2010 he over claimed for mortgage interest payments of £22,476.

Fox claimed expenses of more than £19,000 for his mobile phone for the four years between 2005 and 2009. Fox claimed the high bill was due to regular trips overseas. He tried to excuse this by saying that he was looking for a cheaper tariff.

In October 2012, the Commons Speaker blocked the release of data showing which MPs were renting their homes to other MPs for financial gain. However, a study of parliamentary records was published in The Daily Telegraph showed that Liam Fox receives rental income from his London home while simultaneously claiming rental income from the taxpayer to live at another residence.

In October 2013, amongst other claims, Fox  claimed 3p for a 100 metre car trip a year earlier. He also made an additional 15 claims of under £1 for car travel approved in 2012–13, two of which were for 24p and 44p. 

Fox has been found guilty of breaking Parliamentary rules, most spectacularly by accepting five paid trips to Sri Lanka paid for by the Sri Lankan government or the Sri Lankan Development Trust. Fox failed to declare his interest when asking ministers how much UK aid had been given to Sri Lanka.

Then there is his relationship with Adam Werrity, a relationship which was exposed in the media and led to Fox’s resignation. Werrity is 17 years younger than Fox and was best man at his wedding. Werrity lived rent-free in Fox’s flat, and been involved with him in business and in the UK/US ultra conservative think-tank The Atlantic Bridge. While Fox was Defence Minister, Werrity was a regular visitor at the Ministry of Defence and accompanied Fox on numerous official trips, including meetings with foreign dignitaries. Werrity used official-looking business cards which said he was an “advisor” to Fox despite having no government post or security clearance. The media is unclear as to  the source of Werrity’s income. Between 20 May 2010 to 8 October 2011 Werrity was present at 40 of Fox’s 70 engagements as Minister of Defense. In 2005–6, Fox used public money, from his expense claims as an MP, to pay Adam Werritty.

Fox is anti abortion, against gay marriage, (strangely), and wants to fully privatise the NHS. Apart from that I am assured that he is quite charming.

The question is, should he be in government at all, let alone be one of the chief architects of Brexit?

if you have any doubts about the veracity of this blog, look up this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liam_Fox

The dog that didn’t bark

19 May

What was interesting about the Conservative manifesto announced yesterday was what it did not say rather than what it said. I was expecting just some tiny thing to make some peoples lives better, some little bribe to vote Conservative, and it wasn’t there. The dog didn’t bark.

  • There is no promise not to raise income tax
  • There is no promise not to raise VAT
  • There is no promise not to raise National Insurance

On the thorny subject of immigration there was an intention to reduce immigration to tens of thousands, but no date to achieve this was given and no costings were made. And a Tory minister was on Today this morning saying that the benefits of immigration had not been measured.

The triple lock on pensions is being unlocked. Pensioners beware.

Cash-strapped councils are to be encouraged to build social housing, but no cash is being provided and these houses have to be sold off after after ten years, thus removing the collateral of the councils if they wish to build more.

Carers will be able to take up to a year off work to take care of sick relatives. Only this is unpaid and the employers don’t have to take them back afterwards AND, they do not appear as unemployed and so cannot obtain any benefits whatsoever.

If you get dementia your house will be old after you die to pay for your care.

The only positive aspects were in the words of the speech. The details seem to be entirely negative.

This is an election manifesto meant to help them win the General Election of June 8th. Was it brave to be so realistic about the prospects for the country? Unfortunately ‘brave’ in politics equates to suicidal. The best that can be said of the package is that it will give us more of the same, and that is not good.

Parliament was informed a month ago by Brexit Minister David Davis that the promise that things would be as good after Brexit as before was not really a promise but an aspiration. This suggests to me that the prospects of a ‘successful’ Brexit are just about zero, and he knows it. That is the direction in which we are headed.

To have a manifesto which leaves out all the promises normally expected shows a certain degree of pragmatism which is welcome in this febrile atmosphere. But it also points out that the costs of leaving the EU will impact the UK very hard. Tax rises are to be expected. Pensions and benefits are in greater doubt. The NHS is decidedly unsafe in Conservative hands. That is only being realistic.

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution

18 May

You can tell who is the Establishment by who the mainstream media publicise and support In this General Election the mainstream media offer support and succour overwhelmingly to the Theresa May and the Conservative Party.

Conversely they demonise or ignore Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

The Conservative Party are the definition of who the establishment is. It was said during the referendum that UKIP were the anti-establishment party. This is a damned bloody lie. The Leave campaign was much better funded than Remain. There was huge investment in profiling on social media and other tactics devised by Cambridge Analytics, who also helped to elect Donald Trump. One of the major donors to both campaigns was Robert Mercer, an American billionaire who used the obscure rules of Northern Ireland political funding to break the rules about how much money can be spent on a campaign. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/us-billionaire-mercer-helped-back-brexit, Brexit was bought by such people.

The Leave campaign was supported very strenuously by  the majority of the popular press, which is owned by billionaire tax-dodgers and a US resident , Australian born global media tycoon. These people have no interest in the welfare of the vast majority of the British population, but only their own heavily protected wealth.

The enemy of these people is Jeremy Corbyn, and that is why he is the anti-establishment candidate in this election. If you want change, you have to vote for him, or vote intelligently in constituencies for the candidate most likely to able to defeat the Conservative candidate. I’m talkin’ ’bout a revolution.

Signs and signals

24 Apr

Last Friday Phillip Hammond, our esteemed Chancellor of the Exchequer, indicated that after June 8th he would be free to raise both income tax and VAT. Theresa May declared that she would be ending the triple lock which secures the value of state pensions. She also said that the foreign aid budget would remain at the current level.

Now the possibility of raising taxes is in marked contrast with the manifesto promises of George Osbourne, and I genuinely salute him for his honesty. We can presume that taxes will be raised because he wouldn’t have said such a potentially damaging thing without making plans.

Theresa May’s statement about pensions could possibly alienate a fair number of Tory voters. The commitment to foreign aid spending is a little more curious. This spending is a favourite target of the right wing press and Mrs May normally pays close attention to their agenda. So the question that needs to be asked is why this is being maintained.

In order to do quick trade deals with countries once we exit the EU we need to offer sweeteners. It seems fairly clear that Mrs May offered access to the NHS for US health insurance companies as just this kind of sweetener. Her problem is that he areas remaining unprivatised are few and far between. The family silver has already been sold off to speculators.

It would not be too difficult to arrange part of the foreign aid budget to be used for developments which would help to sweeten trade deals. Such help is normally of the brown envelope kind. And this is necessary because the reality of doing trade deals is that they are not fair and even, in no way a level playing field.

BrownEnvelope

I was told that I was cynical for thinking this, but will I be proved right?