Friday, April 21, 2017

George Praises Marx

I am unable to accept the invitation of our committee to address the meeting at Cooper Institute, but I desire to express my deep respect for a man whose life was devoted to efforts for the improvement of social conditions.
I never had the good fortune to meet Karl Marx, nor have I been able to read his works, which are untranslated into English. I am consequently incompetent to speak with precision of his views. As I understand them, there are several important points on which I differ from them. But no difference of opinion can lessen the esteem which I feel for the man who so steadfastly, so patiently, and so self-sacrificingly labored for the freedom of the oppressed and the elevation of the downtrodden.
In the life and in the teachings of Karl Marx there were the recognition of two profound truths, for which his memory deserves to be held in special honor.
He was the founder of the International — the first attempt to unite in a “holy alliance of the people” the workingmen of all countries; he taught the solidarity of labor, the brotherhood of man, and wherever his influence has reached it has tended to destroy those prejudices of nation and race which have been in all ages the most efficient means by which tyranny has been established and maintained. For this I honor Karl Marx.
And I honor Karl Marx because he saw and taught that the road to social regeneration lies not through destruction and anarchy, but through the promulgation of ideas and the education of the people. He realized that the enslavement of the masses is everywhere due to their ignorance, and realizing this, he set himself to work to master and to point out the social economic laws without the recognition of which all effort for social improvement is but a blind and fruitless struggle.
Karl Marx has gone, but the work he has done remains; whatever may have been in it of that error inseparable from all human endeavor will in turn be eliminated, but the good will perpetuate itself. And his memory will be cherished as one who saw and struggled for that reign of justice in which armies shall be disbanded and poverty shall be unknown and government shall become co-operation, that golden age of peace and plenty, the possibility of which is beginning even now to be recognized among the masses all over the civilized world.
I join with you in paying to such a man the tribute of brotherly regard.
Sincerely Yours,
Henry George
http://www.georgistjournal.org/2012/09/25/henry-georges-letter-at-the-funeral-of-karl-marx/

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Terrorism


Gibraltar

Gibraltar is not part of the UK, can set its own tax rates and has been using them to aggressively undermine us as much as, if not more than, everyone else. A Gibraltarian growth industry in recent years has been online gambling, with most of the big UK operators – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet365 moving their operations to  Gibraltar. There are now 30 gaming companies in Gibraltar. There are more than 60,000 companies registered in Gibraltar (two for every resident) . According to media reports quoting a confidential EU investigation, the Rock imported 117m packets of cigarettes in 2013, enough for every Gibraltarian to smoke almost 200 a day. The cigarettes didn’t stay there, however; they were passing through. This epic smuggling operation may have cost EU countries €700m in lost tax revenues over four years.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Food Corporations

Only 10 companies control almost every large food and beverage brand in the world.
These companies — Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars, Associated British Foods, and Mondelez — each employ thousands and make billions of dollars in revenue every year.

Here's a further breakdown of the companies that own the brands and products we use every day:
Kellogg's
2016 revenue: $13 billion
Forget Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes — Kellogg's also owns noncereal brands including Eggo, Pringles, and Cheez-It.
Associated British Foods
2016 revenue: $16.8 billion
This British company owns brands such as Dorset Cereals and Twinings tea, as well as the retailer Primark.
General Mills
2016 revenue: $16.6 billion
General Mills is best known for cereals like Cheerios and Chex, but it also owns brands like Yoplait, Hamburger Helper, Haagen-Dazs, and Betty Crocker.
Danone
2016 revenue: $23.7 billion
Best known for yogurts like Activa, Yocrunch, and Oikos, Danone also sells medical nutrition products and bottled water.
Mondelez
2016 revenue: $25.9 billion
This snack-centric company's brands include Oreo, Trident gum, and Sour Patch Kids.
Mars
Mars is best known for its chocolate brands, such as M&M, but it also owns Uncle Ben's rice, Starburst, and Orbit gum.
Coca-Cola
2016 revenue: $41.9 billion
Coca-Cola is moving beyond soda, with beverage brands including Dasani, Fuze, and Honest Tea.
Unilever
2016 revenue: $48.3 billion
Unilever's diverse list of brands includes Axe body spray, Lipton tea, Magnum ice cream, and Hellmann's mayonnaise.
PepsiCo

2016 revenue: $62.8 billion
In addition to Pepsi and other sodas, PepsiCo also owns brands such as Quaker Oatmeal, Cheetos, and Tropicana.
Nestlé
2016 revenue: $90.2 billion
Brands you may not have known that Nestlé owns include Gerber baby food, Perrier, DiGiorno, and Hot Pockets — plus, of course, candy brands including Butterfinger and KitKat.

Citizens Wage

 Old fallacies that were debunked years ago are resurrected and presented as new and profound truths.  One being circulated around as the panacea for poverty and all the accompanying social ills is the Universal Basic Income (UBI) or Citizen's Wage. UBI is an unconditional pay packet for everyone in the country. It replaces all existing benefits and is granted to people no matter their job, wealth or circumstance. It will not make you rich, but provide you with the means to survive. Such schemes were first suggested as far back as the 1930s and the ILP but actually goes as far back as the Speenhamland system in the Middle Ages. The first Muslim caliph, Abu Bakr (573-634 CE), who introduced a guaranteed minimum standard of income, granting each man, woman, and child ten dirhams annually; this was later increased to twenty dirhams. Thomas Paine advocated a citizen's dividend to all US citizens as compensation for "loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property" (Agrarian Justice, 1795). While Napoleon Bonaparte echoed Paine's sentiments and commented that 'man is entitled by birthright to a share of the Earth's produce sufficient to fill the needs of his existence'. Nevertheless, no country has actually implemented such a system nationally.

On the right UBI in some shape or form has now a solid base amongst its neo-liberal advocates (such as Hayek) who hope to use it to abolish the provision of any state provision of social services and just give every citizen a small equal cash handout instead. It is clear why the UBI concept is most popular on the libertarian right - a means to deismantle the Welfare State. universal unlimited welfare provision. 

Many Left proponents assume that if the government gives everybody, working or not, a regular income this is going to have no effect on wage levels? They seem to be assuming that this would be in addition to income from work whereas what is likely to happen is that it would exert a huge downward pressure on wages and that over time real wages would on average fall by the amount of the "basic" income. In other words, that it would be essentially a subsidy to employers. It would be "basic" in the sense of being a mimimum income that employers would top up to the level people needed to be able to reproduce and maintain their particular working skill. Don't they understand how their much-vaunted law of supply and demand works?

These radical supporters of a Universal Basic Income want to end capitalism while presupposing its continued existence. If people are free from any compulsion to work for a capitalist company, this would destroy the capitalist mode of production. This, after all, relies on the workers to produce the products which are turned into profits. It also relies on the exclusion of workers from these products so that they can become profits. However, at the same time, the same supporters also ask the same capitalist firms to produce the profits to pay for freedom from them in the form of a Universal Basic Income. They want both: the continued existence — for now — of the capitalist mode of production where the reproduction of each and everyone is subjugated to profit and the end of this subjugation by providing everyone with what they need. They want companies to make profits, which relies on and produces the poverty of workers, while at the same time ending mass poverty. They want to maintain the exclusion from social wealth through the institution of private property and end this exclusion by giving everyone enough money.


Monday, April 03, 2017

Abolishing money - an old debate

It is quite difficult to envisage a world without money. It requires a considerable imagination to think of life without, pound-notes, coins, banks and financial worries over paying the next bill. From birth to the grave, workers’ lives are conditioned by money. People grow old before their time because of it. Without money we starve; because of it we are poor; to get it we are forced into wage slavery; if we steal it we can be locked away.

in the Chartist journal, The Red Republican, 27 July 1850, a letter, from George Smith of Salford, was published iunder the heading “ABOLITION OF MONEY” He argues that:
. . in order . . . to prepare the way for the absolute supremacy of the working classes, preparatory to the abolition of the system of classes, what should be done? Evidently something more than getting possession of political rights, or even destroying those twin monsters, rent and usury; for had we possession of the one and had successfully destroyed the other, there would yet remain in existence a monster which would reproduce its kind to torment humanity; and that monster is money! Sir, in my opinion, so long as mankind will agree to have a circulating medium — will allow everything in life to be measured by money — so long will they suffer the evil consequences springing therefrom . . .”
By 10 August, Smith’s letter had provoked a response. The writer, who signed himself “A Wage Slave”, opposes the need to abolish money, stating that “What society wants is just social institutions”. He argued that capitalism survives because workers are not paid the full value of their labour power and that the real need is for an equitable distribution of money. (The Left has not advanced beyond such theoretical fallacies.)

The Red Republican of 24 August contains two letters on the money question, taking up three columns. The first is from RPP, who states that the abolition of money “is the most important subject for discussion at the present time”. He goes on to agree that money should be abolished:
I would root out and abolish a system that compels man to give the sweat of his heart’s blood to the great money-mongers, wasting his own time, strength and happiness, as wealth may command. It is the slavery of the many for the sake of the few. Such a state of things must no longer exist, for man was made to enjoy all things equally with his fellow-man”
But — just as the reader is thinking that the correspondent has hit the nail very close to its head — RPP proceeds to argue that “the working classes must return to barter”. The second letter is from George Smith, who initiated the correspondence, and contains some excellent answers to the arguments of “Wage Slave”:
Strange, that in the 19th century, any wage slave should be found to advocate the continuance, in any shape, of that which, whilst it shall last, must perpetuate his vassalage, to its “fortunate possessors”. Does not my friend see both the craft and the hellishness of money? Who produces everything which sustains life, and feeds our desires for luxuries? The workers! Through the instrumentality of their labour, and by no other means can these things be produced. Then by what chicanery do those who “work not, neither do they spin” obtain all they want to superfluity, whilst those who produce are kept almost without? Why, by the crafty invention and use of money, with which they, like true “philanthropists”, come to the producer, and assure him that the food he is taking home is not “the stuff of life” but that which they will give him in return for his food is the real sustainer of existence, and thus he is cheated out of his produce for a shadow.”
Smith rather confuses cause and effect — it is not money which produces class division, but the other way round — but nevertheless he is clearly moving in the direction of the ideas later to be elaborated by Marx. Responding to “Wage Slave’s” advocacy of a “just commercial system”, Smith rightly states that:
For a man to dispose (or sell) of his labour at the “public mart” presupposes a buyer of that labour, and, according to our friend’s just commercial system, I am afraid that no buyers would purchase unless they could live out of such purchases. To live by buying and selling is to live nefariously.
“Wage Slave” replies on 7 September, stating that he can now see the importance of Smith’s idea, but doubts whether everyone else will be intelligent enough to live in a moneyless society. (A familiar argument from modern Leftists.) “Why propose to do that which is impossible at the present time?” asks “Wage Slave”. This question was asked of the SPGB when it was formed in 1904 and it was for this reason that our members were labelled “the impossibilists”. If those who took this view in 1850 and 1904 had spent less time running away from the need to convince people of a good idea, and telling its advocates that they were wasting their time, we would have achieved the seemingly impossible long ago.

On 14 September Alexander Bill contributed a letter to the correspondence, in which he argued (rather confusedly) that he was opposed to “the total and unconditional abolition of money”, although he did agree with Smith “when he says that our present monetary system is the basis of all those social evils under which we labour”. His answer was to introduce a “prohibition of private trading” and “the establishment of public marts”. Effectively, this was an argument for state capitalism.

The final letter on the subject was published on 28 September and came from George Smith. To “Wage Slave’s” claim that workers could not arrive at the point of intelligence which would make a moneyless society possible, Smith responds:
Intelligence! What is it? Walker says intelligence is “perception, understanding”. Now, will my friend say that it is impossible for the intelligent to excite the perception of the, at present, ignorant, and give them understanding?”
No further letter appeared on the subject. Smith’s question remained unanswered. But since 1850, the post-Chartist Left has responded to the question in the negative. While claiming to be fully committed Marxists, they refuse to advocate the case for the abolition of money because they consider the working class too stupified by capitalist conservatism ever to accept or understand it. Instead, they argue in favour of state capitalism. It is because of this that socialists are fundamentally hostile to the left-wing parties and groups.

Genuine socialists stand for a society in which all factories, farms, offices, docks, mines — indeed, the entire means of producing and distributing wealth — will be owned by the entire world community. The resources of the earth will belong to everyone. No laws will exist to preserve the right of one section of society to use things and another section to be denied the use of them. World socialism will be a social order based on free access for all people to all the goods of the earth. In such a society money would by an out-dated relic. Nobody will buy anything or sell anything or pay for anything. Those who cannot easily imagine such an arrangement should remember that people in pre-capitalist societies would have found our present social order equally difficult to comprehend. Those who have made the mental leap from the prison of the money system to the freedom of world socialism are urged to join us now in our struggle to create the society of tomorrow. The objective is urgent; we have waited for too long.

Steve Coleman

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A Principled Stand

The word Revolution, which we Socialists are so often forced to use, has a terrible sound in most people's ears, even when we have explained to them that it does not necessarily mean a change accompanied by riot and all kinds of violence, and cannot mean a change made mechanically and in the teeth of opinion by a group of men who have somehow managed to seize on the executive power for the moment. Even when we explain that we use the word revolution in its etymological sense, and mean by it a change in the basis of society, people are scared at the idea of such a vast change, and beg that you will speak of reform and not revolution. As, however, we Socialists do not at all mean by our word revolution what these worthy people mean by their word reform, I can't help thinking that it would be a mistake to use it, whatever projects we might conceal beneath its harmless envelope. So we will stick to our word, which means a change in the basis of society." William Morris in How We Live and How We Might Live.
The world is crying out for change. Millions of children die each year of starvation while those with millions spare themselves no indulgence. People say that we in the Socialist Party are utopian because we hold to the view that a new society is the only lasting solution to the mess we're in and because we dare to suggest that we could run our lives in a much more rational and harmonious way. Some people on the "Left" decline to define socialism, because they think that any account of a future society is a waste of time and that we should concern ourselves with present-day struggles. But unless you do talk about where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived? 

More and more people today recognise that the present system of production for profit makes our lives needlessly painful and is ruining the planet.  Unless you do have a clear idea of socialism then anyone can claim it, defame it and say it doesn't work. And unless we keep the idea of working directly for a worldwide co-operative community on the agenda people will always be sidetracked. It is essential that the ideal of the new society should always be kept at the fore.

It cannot be stressed enough, that without a widespread and clear idea among workers of what a socialist society entails, it will he unattainable. The reason is simple. The very nature of socialism—a moneyless, wageless world of unrestricted access to the goods and services provided by voluntary cooperative effort—necessitates understanding. There is absolutely no way in which such a sweeping fundamental transformation of social relationships could be thrust upon an unwilling, unknowing majority by some minority, however enlightened or well meaning.


The Socialist Party is not prepared to associate with organisations which carry on propaganda for the reform of capitalism, recruit members on that basis and seek the votes of reformists. Our case is that work for socialism is the essential end and it cannot be combined with reformism. Socialism cannot be achieved without a social revolution, that is a change in the property basis of society, from private ownership to social ownership and democratic control.  Alone, we have stood for a social revolution to overturn capitalist society and replace it with socialism.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Asylum seeker dilemma

Richard Arnold  is a member of the conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU). Since 2009, he has been the mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd, a city in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg with a population of 60,000.

Germany has stepped up the pace of rejected asylum applicant deportations. 

"...At the moment, we have 213,000 asylum seekers who are obligated to leave the country and many of them who came here four years ago are well integrated. And now, the ones that are already integrated are supposed to leave. No difference is being made between the people. It can't go on like this...
The wrong ones are being deported. The ones being deported are the ones people can reach and they are easy to find because they live normal lives. It affects people who went to school here and who have obtained qualifications. Among them are a number of people who are truly integrated and are paying into state health insurance and pension plans. 
After all, when the influx of refugees began, our municipalities and citizens were strongly urged to do everything possible to integrate the people. Now, the people who fit in our society are to be torn out. The decent ones should not be the losers...the sword of Damocles, i.e. deportation, would not be dangling over their heads. Anyone who has built up prospects and contributed to society should be rewarded for their efforts.
http://www.dw.com/en/the-wrong-ones-are-being-deported/a-38192952



Goodbye UBI

Is the universal basic income (or citizens wage) the miracle reform that reduces social inequalities and relieves millions of people from the threat of poverty? Both right-wing and left-wing thinkers have rallied to the idea of an unconditional income.  The universal basic income is based on the principle of equal opportunity, which characterizes liberal capitalist thinking. This idea differs from the principle of equality founded on the socialist assumption that everyone contributes according to his possibilities and benefits according to his needs.

 There are as many types of universal income as there are people promoting them. They differ mainly by their degree of unconditionality, their amounts, their degree of substitution for social security and their method of financing.

The experimentation of a basic income of €560 per month granted to a population of 2000 unemployed people in Finland is currently very discussed. It has been implemented by a right-wing government made up of three parties, Kesk (center), True Finns (extreme right) and Kok (conservative nationalist), as part of an austerity policy aimed at reducing public spending and containing wages. The main motivation for this initiative is that an unemployed person currently receives a large number of benefits (unemployment, housing, child, etc.) and that a job, in order to reach the level of the unemployment benefits collected by an unemployed person, must correspond to a monthly gross income of €2,300. The goal of granting this basic income is therefore to reduce unemployment spending, to contain wage costs and to reduce the current 9% unemployment. We are far from the promise of a universal income.


The paradox consists in either advocating a high-cost universal basic income, the feasibility of which implies questioning social security and public services and thereby accepting a considerable social regression; or being satisfied with a modest allocation which could be conciliated in whole or in part with the social protection system. In the latter case, the modest amount of the allowance would require the use of complementary jobs to live or survive, thus condemning the beneficiaries to accept precarious and low-paid jobs. Instead of letting people choose whether or not to be employed and enabling them to devote themselves to a chosen occupation, the beneficiaries of a universal basic income would be reduced to accepting any part time job. Such a system, therefore, constitutes a powerful incentive to accept a job and leads to the institutionalization of precarious employment. We are actually far from principles that usually constitute unconditional income. Such a system, even if watered down, entails the risk of lower wages and a subsidy to employers.





Tomorrow's People

Modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance.” People have “learned to fly in the air like birds,” but “we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scientific and technological advances have been enormous. Thanks to breakthroughs in communications, millions of people globally routinely conduct live, visual conversations with one another. In medicine, replacing damaged or diseased parts of the human body has become commonplace. In biology, scientists have mapped the human genome and are well on their way to understanding the structure of the brain. When it comes to transport, it is relatively easy to jet around the world, while spacecraft are now being designed to take tourists into orbit. Computers have dramatically improved the acquisition of knowledge, the storage of information, and dissemination of it at incredible high speed.

Yet there is a glaring discrepancy between these kinds of advances and the social institutions that can ensure that they are used for the benefit of humanity. Despite very substantial progress in modern medicine, vast numbers of people receive no medical treatment or, at best, inferior medical care. Television’s ability to transmit knowledge, culture, and understanding around the world is employed primarily to distribute mindless, shallow entertainment and peddle commercial products. The ravages of climate change are ignored and instead, corporations roll out plans to further destroy the environment through additional extraction and use of fossil fuel. Stimulating consumer demand through the latest advertising techniques, capitalist corporations churn out a vast number of quickly-discarded throw-away gadgets whose manufacture fills the air, the water, and the soil with dangerous contaminants.  Drawing upon the science of robotics, business is beginning the displacement of millions of workers, condemning them to unemployment and poverty rather than celebrate leisure and shorter working hours. While governments press into service the latest scientific and technological knowledge to spy on the public, as well as to produce new weapons and other high-tech means of destroying millions of lives in war.


Capitalist greed has stunted social impulses.  The real question is whether people can muster the political will to reshape society to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sustainable eating

The 20 countries that eat the least meat

  1. Bangladesh - 4kg of meat per person per year
  2. India - 4.4kg
  3. Burundi - 5.2kg
  4. Sri Lanka - 6.3kg
  5. Rwanda - 6.5kg
  6. Sierra Leone - 7.3kg
  7. Eritrea - 7.7kg
  8. Mozambique - 7.8kg
  9. Gambia - 8.1kg
  10. Malawi - 8.3kg
  11. Ethiopia - 8.5kg
  12. Guinea - 8.6kg
  13. Nigeria - 8.8kg
  14. Tanzania - 9.6kg
  15. Nepal - 9.9kg
  16. Liberia - 10.4kg
  17. Uganda - 11kg
  18. Indonesia - 11.6kg
  19. Togo - 11.7kg
  20. Solomon Islands - 11.9kg
An average UK resident eats 84.2kg of meat each year, putting it 30th on the list, but it will come as no surprise to discover that the biggest guzzlers of animal flesh are our American cousins. A single US resident consumes, on average, 120.2 kilos - 30 times more than those from Bangladesh.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Brexit Myths

The vote to leave the EU was not driven by Britain’s white working classes, according to a report.

Faiza Shaheen said: ‘Mainstream Brexit analysis tells us that it was the white working class alone that drove the Brexit vote, concluding that this group’s needs are distinct and that they should take precedence over the needs of other groups.
‘Apart from being untrue, with 59% of the middle class voting for Brexit versus 24% of the working class, this analysis and its conclusions are turning the clock back on progress in our multi-racial community.’

The report said that although white voters were likelier to back Leave in the 2016 referendum if they were poor and Remain if they were rich, some 59% of the middle-classes voted to quit the EU compared with 24% of the working class.
It said that 70 of the 107 most racially diverse parliamentary constituencies voted Remain, while 99 out of the 107 least racially diverse voted Leave.
The report said poor white people have more in common with ethnic minority communities than they do with the white middle classes, who are ‘culturally further apart’.
Runnymede Trust director Omar Khan said: ‘The white working class have more in common with poor ethnic minority communities than they do with the white middle and upper classes.
‘Poor white and BME (black and minority ethnic) people are bound by shared experiences of social deprivation, but there is also more social interaction between them than between the richest and poorest thirds of white people.
‘The label “white working class” isn’t helping the white working class because it is all talk and no action.
‘Rather than offer a desperate and empty form of ethno-nationalism, the best way to raise up this section of society is for central and local government to adopt policies to benefit all working class communities.’

The cost of flesh

The environmental costs of raising animals to eat — in particular, poultry, beef, and pork — are immense. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that animal-food production adds 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per year — that’s 14.5% of all greenhouse gases produced by humans. The industry eats up 30% of the earth's land mass, including 80% of what used to be the Amazon rain forest. 70% of the grain grown in the U.S. is consumed by food animals, and runoff from factory farming has created 230 "dead zones" along the east coast of the U.S. Producing one pound of animal protein requires “12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuels, and 15 times as much water as it does to produce one pound of soy protein,” 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nation-building

That European nations have existed for more than 300 years.


For thousands of years, the borders between cultures (traditions, customs, languages) in Europe were much more fluid than today. It was not possible to say e. g. "These are the French", "These are the Germans" and "These are the Italians", because the cultures flowed into each other. People also did not feel French, German, Italian, whatever, because that thought only came up in the 18th century. People felt allegiance to their family and their village, not to larger cultural units. 

There were countries, but the countries did not map onto cultures. They were either small kingdoms or large multi-ethnic empires whose monarchs usually acquired territory through inheritance, conquest or marriage, without thought to the culture or language of the people whose rulers they became. There was no patriotic resistance to this practice until the 18th century. For the most part, it wasn't a problem, because the administration was local, in the hands of feudal lords who did speak the local language and knew the local practices.

What changed?

Several factors led to the creation of distinguishable cultural units:
  • Book-printing. It would have been too expensive to print books in the hundreds of languages / dialects spoken in Europe at the time, so printers supported the standardization of languages and the promotion of a few languages over others. Language is both an indicator and a means of creating different cultures, because different languages give access to different information, a different canon of folk tales and literature and so on.
  • The reformation created new cultural distinctions in Europe, because previously most had had the same beliefs, celebrated the same church holidays, used the same religious rituals and so on. It also encouraged people to think for themselves, starting a wave of secular philosophers.
  • States centralized their administration and weakened the feudal lords. This meant a need for a lot more state officials, i. e. career opportunities for those who felt loyal to the state. The introduction of national languages and national education circuits meant that officials, unlike feudal lords previously, could not hope to keep their position if the territory fell to another country. Officials within one country would network, while there was much less contact across the border, furthering cultural differences.
  • Later (this list is not chronological), with the advent of industrialization, which brought schooling to a much larger share of the population, the above affected everyone. (Even in our united EU, it is not simple to have one country's certificate recognized in another.) This contains people within one country's borders and gives them a certain stake in that country's situation. The exposure to the public school system also creates distinguishable cultures, especially when the state uses schools to spread a national narrative.
  • In the 19th century, all European countries introduced national holidays, museums and monuments telling the story of their nation, uniting people by making them feel part of the same history. In most cases, this history was a relatively new invention, first heard at most 100 years ago, even though it described the nation as having existed much earlier (e. g. in France every student learns: "our ancestors the Gauls...").

The idea of nations

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was the originator of the idea that there are a number of distinguishable cultures in Europe. According to him, just as every human has his own character, formed by his past and his environment, so each people has its own culture and mentality, the Volksgeist, formed by its past, its environment and its livelihood. This was the birth of Cultural Nationalism. (Cultural because Herder did not talk politics at all)

Another German philosopher created Political Nationalism: Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He thought that each nation stands above its individual members and the members have common characteristics because of Volksgeist, distinguishing themselves from members of other nations. According to him, national awareness lay slumbering in the unconsciousness of its members but eventually had to come to the front. After becoming aware, each nation has the ability, through its national will, to decide its destiny by way of political struggle. The highest goal for a nation was the formation of a sovereign nation-state free of foreign influences. Fichte's philosophy created the picture of nationalism as an organic and natural development that each people was entitled to, when the truth is that none of the peoples in Europe's previous thousands of years of history had had a nationalist awakening. His philosophy has been used to justify all later nationalist movements, no matter if they're state nationalist, separatist or integralist in nature.

The aftermath

Fichte's ideas initially had very little traction in Europe, but sooner or later many governments and many people wanting to grab power saw the advantage of promoting the nationalist narrative. 

There's an essay by Stan Verschuuren which really opened my eyes - he narrates not just what I just explained here, but also the further spread of the idea. He winds up telling the entire modern history of Europe, from the 19th century Polish revolts to the German reunification and the Scottish independence movement, through the lens of nationalism, its pre-requirements for success and its motivations. I loved this essay so much that I attempted a translation (originally in Dutch) into English, which you can find at Stan Verschuuren on Nationalism

Welcomed Migrants


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Iran welcomes refugees

Roughly 6 million people were displaced from Afghanistan to neighboring countries amid the Soviet War in 1979. Nearly 40 years later, Tehran still shelters 1 million registered refugees, and another 2 million are thought to be living there, making it the world's fourth-largest refugee population.

Sivanka Dhanapala, head of the office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said, "The leadership demonstrated by the Iranian government has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open" He went on to say, "In a world where you have multiple bad stories about hosting refugees, I think Iran is really a good news story," he said. "It's a story that's not told often enough."

The U.N. also hailed a 2015 directive from Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei that called on education administrators to allow all Afghan children, documented or not, to attend Iranian schools.
"We've also worked with the government on incorporating refugees into a government-sponsored health insurance scheme which is a ground-breaking development not just for Iran but globally for refugees," 

Friday, March 10, 2017

US Wealth

The top 10 percent of Americans makes just over 20 percent of the nation’s income, but owns 76 percent of its wealth.

Today, just four American families own as much wealth as 40 percent of the entire population.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rage Against the Machine

Buyer Beware

Remember the Great Recession of 2007/2008? Maybe you lost a job, got a pay cut, or saw your retirement savings or home value evaporate. Maybe you even lost your home altogether, or saw your small business go under while the banking corporations got bailed-out. Wall Street hopes you have already forgotten all about it for they are poised to repeal all those regulations that were passed to prevent another economic crash.

 Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first independent agency with the sole mandate of protecting consumers against scam artists, predatory lenders, and bad actors in the financial sector, caught Wells Fargo creating millions of bogus accounts without their customers’ permission. Wall St's friends in the Trump camp have pencil it in for removal of powers.

The Dodd-Frank law made rules to keep banks from making risky bets with your money. For instance, it requires banks to keep some skin in the game by maintaining a 5 percent stake in loans they originate, so they have a stake in the success of the borrower and the loan. It also encourages banks to keep some cash on hand in case of emergencies, just like the rest of us try to do at home. Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president — and now a Trump economic adviser — claimed that banks obliged to maintain a healthy reserve of funds are being forced to “hoard capital.” Cohn say abolishing these rules will help “ordinary” consumers. The truth is, cheap credit is already abundant. The commercial and industrial business industries are booming. Credit card and auto lending are at record highs, and mortgage loans are almost back to their pre-2008 crisis high. But Wall Street lenders want to take greater risks in search of greater rewards.