Tuesday, January 31, 2012

some propaganda

Capitalism requires consent. This consent doesn't have to take the form of active support - apathetic or even despairing acquiescence will do. It's the task of supporters of capitalism to sell the system to the mass of people. The mass media are there to tell us what we should think and do. If capitalism solely relied on the support of capitalists to keep it going it wouldn't last too long . It is kept going by the ideas and behaviour of workers. Most of the population passively and sometimes actively participate in their own exploitation. Socialists living in capitalism are, of course exploited but strongly object to being so - and we do all we can to explain to others the nature of this exploitation and the way to end it.

Whenever a story breaks, or significant events are occurring, the media produces “community leaders”, and “representatives” of consumers, or “interest groups” the media claims to function as a forum, representing the views and analysis of “the people”, to represent the divergent views on a particular topic. This claim, however, is undermined by the fact that the media self-selects these “representatives”, and by the fact that more often than not, these representatives are not even vaguely appointed by the people they claim to represent. Given, though, that these “representatives” only exist by and through the virtual world of the media, and only exist through the recognition of power and not through the active involvement of those they claim to represent, they can only present an abstraction of the views they claim to put forward; akin to the abstract “people” of radical bourgeois politics. From the Open University unit, "Science, Technology and Everyday Life, 1870-1950":
"The so-called 'mass media' serve to generate consent in their audiences by representing the real world in ways which confer legitimacy on the social order in which they subsist...Communication is not only about who is talking to whom, and how; it is also about who is not talking to whom and why."

There are today no mainstream media outlets that are not pro-capitalist, is pretty much indisputable. This means that, today, newspapers and news programmes (those read and watched by the working class) are not what they appear and claim to be. Their role is not to enlighten and inform, but to mould public opinion so that it reflects the interests of the capitalist class and the state. "News" is propaganda, not genuine journalism. If you want to know the truth, you cannot rely on the media. We have that on good authority – in fact, on the authority of the more honest newspapers. (The more honest papers are those that are read mainly by capitalists who need reliable information about the world in order to make investment decisions, as opposed to those that are read mainly by workers.)

The media generate a kind of false community, dominated by corporate values and corporate images of the world. To join your fellow humans in this community, all you have to do is surrender your real feelings and values to agree with whatever it is that the media say that other people think. No matter how a person feels about the reality presented by the media, he can still be made to feel that "nobody feels this way but me".

In selecting who can speak, the media exercises power similar to that of the medieval monarch determining who gets to sit in their parliament. Indeed, the modern mass media presents itself as a forum for the people, as the place for representation and for determining legitimacy a third house of parliament, the Fourth Estate. All manner of hangers-on maintain a stranglehold on the state apparatus, while the mass media provides a means of identifying and recognising certain interest groups within society, and constructing the playing field on which political battles are fought out. The media, though, always lies within the hands of the ruling elites, and so ensures that representation remains within the bounds of holding the existing social relations together.

The media are businesses whose job is not just to make profits, but to mould public opinion. But it is intolerable for business in general if any one dictator should come to wield decisive influence. The example of Murdoch’s Fox network in America has “distorted” public opinion so much as to give credence to “right-wing populism” – which threatens to put state power in the hands of ideology rather than true business interests. From a socialist's view, it was equally intolerable that Murdoch should so influence public opinion as to build support for wars, from the Falklands to Afghanistan, and opposition to the class struggle, from the 1980s miners’ strike to the more recent state-workers pensions strikes. In capitalism, propaganda is not carried out by central state institutions but by exclusion from mass media which is monopolised by the owning class:
"Our system differs strikingly from say, Soviet Union, where the propaganda system literally is controlled by the state . . . Our system works much differently and much more effectively. It's a privatised system of propaganda, including the media, the journals of opinion and in general including the broad opinion of the intelligentsia, the educated part of the population"
- Chomsky

"The modern mass media is not, as some...like to remark, controlled by corporations; it is corporations. Businesses do not control the car industry; the car industry is big business. Likewise, the media is made up of large corporations, all in the business of maximising profits . . . This immediately suggests that, at the very least, media corporations might have a tendency to be sympathetic to the status quo, to other corporations, and to the profit-maximising motive of the corporate system . . ." David Edwards. Far from some Orwellian vision of state control ITN, the Guardian, and pals are voluntarily "on message" because this is in the long-term interest of their product.

The newspapers and journals we read don't need screaming headlines urging us to choose capitalism—their "news", features and advertising unite in assuming a capitalist world. The TV programmes, films and videos we watch and the radio programmes we listen to are similarly slanted. We are sometimes entertained by sagas from pre-capitalist times, but never stimulated by scenes depicting a possible socialist future. The books we read, the movies we watch are overwhelmingly non-political, which means they carry the covert message: "Don't even think about changing the system - better still, don't even think there is a system." Our imagination is not invited to venture no further than the bounds of private property society.

The camouflaging of class rule by the media generates endless hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is not one of the more appealing character traits. But, as poet Matthew Arnold remarked, “hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” The prevalence of hypocrisy is a sign that it is no longer possible openly to justify certain evils. Tabloids and ruthless reporters pre-date Murdoch’s era by many decades. In Citizen Kane, Orson Welles plays the role of newspaper owner Charles Foster Kane, who he models on the real-life tycoon William Randolph Hearst. In the movie we see the obscene amount of wealth and power concentrated in the hands of Kane and how he uses his network of newspapers to influence public opinion and politics. In the first part of the twentieth century the American writer and journalist Upton Sinclair drew attention to the corrosive influence of advertising that led newspapers to adapt content to suit powerful sponsors and encourage editorial self-censorship. Sinclair’s book The Brass Check (1919) was a scathing attack on a monopolistic press, in which he said that commercial journalism had become “a class institution serving the rich and spurning the poor,” with the task of “hoodwinking of the public and the plunder of labour”.

Take away Murdoch and another shark swims into his place; topple his empire, and another tycoon rises up. It is foolish to call for a reformed journalism but leave in place the profit motive that drives tabloid excesses. The truth is that the main job of the mass media is not to report the facts to a concerned, democratic citizenry, but to make profits. The working class generally has little interest in state policy decisions because they feel that they have no real say over it anyway. And they feel that not because they’re stupid but because it’s true.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How the plutocrats took power

For many like Ron Paul, a belief in the abstract and nebulous "libertarianism" is closely linked to the myths surrounding the origin of the Constitution and the ideals of the Founding Fathers of America. But far from being a revolutionary event that encouraged a genuine development of democratic values, the War of Independence was a strictly conservative affair. The colonial rebellion was not the work of enraged peasants but of landed "country gentlemen". It is clear that the real beneficiaries of the break with Britain were the landowners and wealthy traders who were able to expand their own wealth without interference. Although Paine’s call to arms, based on abstractions and ideals, appealed to the ordinary person, all the material benefits went to the wealthy.

"The Founding Fathers did lead the war for independence from Britain. But they did not do it for the equal right of all to life, liberty, and equality. Their intention was to set up a new government that would protect the property of slave owners, land speculators, merchants, and bondholders." Howard Zinn

Despite pretensions of being “enlightened” – sweeping aside monarchy, aristocracy and the established church – the new republic was never designed to be anything other than an oligarchic state. The political institutions and Constitution constructed an array of checks and balances motivated by paranoia, suspicion of central government power that laid the foundation for laissez faire economics.

The desire to protect and then extend private property rights led to a type of liberty intended to allow the pursuit of individual aims and wealth unconstrained by government interference. To those who took up the reins of power, government was to be judged not by its ability to promote prosperity but by its capacity to leave people alone to pursue private ends. The principle that personal opportunity should be maximised reflected the Puritanism and the Protestant work-ethic that saw the acquisition of money as the just result of hard work and the Lord’s blessing.

The Founding Fathers substituted the abstract principles that “all men are created equal” and that power is derived from “the will of the people”. They adopted a definition of “the people” which excluded women, non-landowners and slaves. Those architects of the Declaration of Independence – the land and property owners – were quick to build a system of government based on the division of power that would guard against the “excesses of democracy”. The richer property owners were afraid that, as they were not themselves in the majority, the less well-off would vote to take away their property and arrangements (restricted franchise and/or indirect election) were made to keep power out of the hands of the majority. The president was an elected monarch [see http://www.historytoday.com/frank-prochaska/american-monarchy]

By having two different houses of Congress, a Senate and a House of Representatives, places an obvious obstacle to simple majority rule. There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. 51 Senators can block the majority rule. Moreover, Senators are elected for six years instead of the two for which Representatives are elected. The electoral college to elect the president operates intentionally in opposition to majority rule in this same way. In a system of electing the President by mere simple majority, a candidate or party could win by appealing to 51% of the voters. The electoral college serves as a partial safeguard against those who might be able to find and win over a majority. The national popular vote is not the basis for electing a President or Vice President. Since 1944 Gallup Polls have found a majority of Americans have continually expressed support for an official amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would allow for direct election of the president.

Ron Paul like the present White House incumbent and the other aspiring candidates remain indifferent to the concept of majority democracy. He and others are complicit in the camoflage of plutocracy by creating the form and appearance of popular government with only a minimum of substance.

Among the people there grew the feeling that the revolution against the British had been fought for nothing.

Whisky Rebellion.

"Small farmers also protested that Hamilton's excise effectively gave unfair tax breaks to large distillers...Small distillers believed Hamilton deliberately designed the tax to ruin them and promote big business" - Sound familiar?
16,000 armed militiamen that crushed the rebels were led in person by two principal Founding Fathers, President George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the author of both the central bank and the whiskey tax legislation.(After the tax drove small producers out of competition, Washington went into the whiskey-distilling business, becoming by the time of his death the largest whiskey-entrepreneur in Virginia, if not the nation.)

Shays Rebellion

"Daniel Shays was a poor farmhand from Massachusetts when the Revolution broke out joined the Continental Army ... In 1780, he resigned from the army unpaid and went home to find himself in court for the nonpayment of debts. He soon found that he was not alone in being unable to pay his debts, and began organizing for debt relief...Other Central Massachusetts towns also played prominent roles in the rebellion including Shrewsbury, which supported a staging area for a large march of 400 individuals on the Worcester courthouse in 1786 in an attempt to block the foreclosure of mortgages" Sound familiar?

Shays’ Rebellion was put down by a smaller mercenary army, paid for by well-to-do citizens who feared a wholesale attack on property rights.

"... the uprising was the climax of a series of events of the 1780s that convinced a powerful group of Americans that the national government needed to be stronger so that it could create uniform economic policies and protect property owners from infringements on their rights by local majorities...These ideas stemmed from the fear that a private liberty, such as the secure enjoyment of property rights, could be threatened by public liberty - unrestrained power in the hands of the people. James Madison addressed this concept by stating that "Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power."

By 1700, three-fourths of the acreage in New York belonged to fewer than a dozen persons. In the interior of Virginia, seven individuals owned over 1.7 million acres. By 1760, fewer than five hundred men in five colonial cities controlled most of the commerce, shipping, banking, mining, and manufacturing on the eastern seaboard. In Colonial America, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting much poorer. In those same years, the poor--those who owned no property--represented 14% in 1687 and 29% in 1770. In 1687 in Boston, the top 1% owned about 25% of the wealth. By 1770, the top 1% owned 44%. The Founding Fathers were the 1% and the constitution was to protect their self-interest and to stop the 99% gaining any benefit from the American revolution. George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today's dollars. For full figures of individual Founding Father wealth see http://www.rethinkingschools.org/static/publication/roc2/sla2roc2.pdf

Samuel Adams:
"The Utopian schemes of leveling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impractical, as those which vest all property in the Crown, are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government unconstitutional."

"[The Framers of the Constitution]... had no wish to usher in democracy in the United States. They were not making war upon the principle of aristocracy and they had no more intention than had the Tories of destroying the tradition of upper-class leadership in the colonies. Although they hoped to turn the Tories out of office, they did not propose to open these lush pastures to the common herd. They did believe, however, that the common people, if properly bridled and reined, might be made allies in the work of freeing the colonies from British rule and that they - the gentry - might reap the benefits without interference. They expected, in other words, to achieve a 'safe and sane' revolution of gentlemen, by gentlemen, and for gentlemen." John C. Miller Origins of the American Revolution.

Most of the population consisted of poor freeholders, tenants, and indentured hands (the latter trapped in servitude for many years). A typical farm family might have a large plot of land but little else, surviving in a one-room house or log cabin, no barns, sheds, draft animals, or machinery. The farmer and his family pulled the plow. Small farmers were burdened by heavy rents, ruinous taxes, and low incomes. To survive, they frequently had to borrow money at high interest rates. To meet their debts, they mortgaged their future crops and went still deeper into debt, caught in that cycle of rural indebtedness which today is still the common fate of agrarian peoples in this and other countries. It tended to cause a community-oriented culture to arise on farms or in towns. Their concept of independence was associated with inter-dependence and cooperation--all for the common good. Women worked with men, families traded labor and animals. In this culture of mutual concern and mutual obligation, working class people took care of one another. They shared common values and interests, completely different from the values of a market-driven approach to life. The wealthy class--shopkeepers, lawyers, bankers, speculators, commercial farmers--had adopted a completely opposite way of life: every person for himself. The capitalist world view of the wealthy class saw the community as a system of exchange between producers and consumers, the moneyed and workers. The holy of holies for the merchant class was the market. According to the view of the merchant class, the state is to be controlled by elites or "better people" who decide what is best for the "common people." Government's role is to protect private ownership. The state's only role is to assure that the impersonal market system runs smoothly. This requires that the government use violent force when it becomes necessary to protect personal property and the rights of capitalists over workers.

Alexander Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention said, “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, the other the mass of the people. … The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government.”

Those who argue that the Founding Fathers were motivated by high-minded ideals ignore the fact that it was they themselves who repeatedly stated their intention to create a government strong enough to protect the "haves" from the "have-nots". They gave voice to the crassest class prejudices and at no time deny the fact that their concern was to thwart popular control and resist all tendencies toward class "levelling". Their "checks and balances" were chiefly concerned with restraining peoples' power and maintaining their own.

To talk of elitist power today as something new and forget its roots and actually praise the oppressers as spokesmen for liberty and treat their imposed laws under the constitution as admrable achievments is to forget actual real history and fall victim to propaganda and ruling class ideology.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

send in the troops

Further to previous post, Mailstrom reads

"Hundreds of soldiers from 3rd battalion The Parachute Regiment spent last week learning how to contain and arrest "rioters" in a series of exercises mirroring last summers violence. Defence sources have confirmed that if violence were to return to British cities, especially during the Olympic Games, the Paras would be "ideally placed" to provide "short-term" support to police forces"

"As well as 3 Para, the Army has another unit known as the "Public Order Battalion", also trained to deal with rioting, bringing the total number of troops to around 1500."

Crowd control - Derry, 30 January 1972

War crimes by 3rd Para in Falklands

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What is Democracy?

Democracy is one of those carelessly uttered words (like freedom, peace, love, justice.) Democracy is a word that is mis-used, over-used, ill-defined and has been hijacked by governments and elites to deliberately misinterpret their actions and so deceive the electorate. The word "democracy" originates from the Greek and means ‘power of the people’. In the "largest democracy in the world", India, how do the majority of the population on $2 or less a day consider they are being represented? Electorates worldwide haven't had the true experience of involvement, of having had their voices heard, at any significant level to have resulted in a culture of expectation of inclusion in the various processes of so-called democracy. Decisions have long been made for people not by people, electorates distanced from their representatives, decisions made with no consultation process and "leaders" believing they have been selected to take the reins and make all decisions on behalf of the voters. The capitalist system may have nominally democratic institutions, but it relies upon working class compliance, passivity and lack of involvement in the process to carry out its worst and most illiberal functionings. There is the old nationalist lie that we are one country, one people, working together for a common interest. This ideology allows politicians to present us as if we have one common interest. Nationalism allows the politicians to limit democratic choice on the grounds that there is only one national interest. The “national interest” is in fact that the interest of the capitalist class of a country, not of its population. The government is implementing policies for which no one voted, or would vote for. No one voted to cut care services for the old and the disabled. No one voted to close hospital departments or to delay repairing schools or to close libraries and sports facilities or to reduce rubbish collection. People getting what they didn’t vote for also shows that capitalism is incompatible with democracy as an expression of “the people’s will”. This is not because there are no procedures in place for people to decide what they want, but because the way the capitalist economy works prevents some of these decisions being implemented. Capitalism is not geared to doing what people want and no amount of making the decision-making process more formally democratic can alter this. It is the continual boast of modern politicians that we live in a democratic state. When they say “we” they mean, of course, the ruling class. But the so-called democracy conferred on the working class is not a semblance even of the real thing.

When and where, if ever, was a population last asked how they would define democracy? We, the people, in countries large and small, are told that we have democracy. We are told this by leaders who say we should trust them, who keep information from us because that’s in our best interest, who deliberately lie to us, who can have us stopped and searched in the interest of national security, who have us watched night and day in our town centres, who listen in to telephones, tap into e-mails conversations, who have access to more and more of our personal information, bank details etc., who can put blocks on our access to the internet, who have centralised computer records to use as they choose, who can rein us in and let us out with special measures, who decide whether we can show dissent. And they call this democracy. The years of battering and enforced passivity has come to mean that for most of the working class the idea of them being in charge of affairs is inconceivable. The most damaging thing to the cause of true democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is democracy and has created in many people's minds that democracy is not all that great. Our masters, of course, wouldn't want it any other way. "Democracy" as the kind of representative system we have today where, every once in a while, we give the politicians a blank cheque to do what they want, or can get away with is a charade. The party system will be eventually exposed as a fraud, consciously practised by the ruling class in their own interest and future generations wil marvel that a working class, sunk in poverty and anarchy, could forget, even for a moment, their own wretchedness, while they voted this way or that on questions that concerned their masters alone.

“It’s a truism, but one that needs to be constantly stressed, that capitalism and democracy are ultimately quite incompatible.” explained Noam Chomsky. A system so stacked in favour of a few over many can’t be seen as just. How has this crumbling edifice called democracy managed to stand for so long? “Nothing’s perfect,” people say. No, but how long do you wait before you pull a rotten tooth? Chomsky comments elsewhere that "Propaganda is as necessary to bourgeois democracy as repression is to the totalitarian state." The purpose of both to keep control.

Many people imagine that a state run on the lines of the American republic is a democratic state, that the institutions of such a State are democratic institutions, that the spirit of such a state is the democratic spirit, and that the philosophy of such a State – the “Rights of Man” is the democratic philosophy. Many people would argue that Britain (and the USA ) is a democracy and that we all benefit from living in a democratic society. By this they would probably mean the regular holding of elections to parliament and local councils, the freedom to organise political parties, a press which is not beholden to the government, and the rule of law. If people object to the policies of the government or a particular MP, they can vote them out of office. If they oppose a specific action by a local council, they can set up a protest group and hold demonstrations, without the fear of being carted off to prison just for voicing their views. We are told that we live in a "democracy" in which we are free to choose what kind of society we live in. But the most important of all political decisions – what the community produces – is never subjected to any kind of democratic process. Instead the city brokers merely decide which commodities will deliver the greatest or most reliable profits. In other words these decisions are made by a tiny elite minority in the interests of an even smaller minority. In capitalist society the only ‘choice’ voters have is who will decide how taxes are distributed to create and maintain the state infrastructure – armies, police, road, rail, law, health and social security system and, of course, the education system. Even this choice is only ‘given’ to the people once every five years between two political parties with no important differences in ideology. And this is political democracy?

Socialists have no illusions about the democratic credentials of the politicians of the Left, the Right or the Centre. What the capitalist class, and the political parties that serve that class, call democracy is a contrived form of consensus in which the political parties conspire to ensure that the maximum number of people accept a system of law which guarantees a minority class in society the legal right to own and control the means of life of the great majority. To achieve and maintain that system of Law – and the Order that ensures the right of that minority to exploit and impoverish the majority – capitalism must have political control of the state machine. A vital part of the process that maintains the illusion of democratic choice is the power to confine political knowledge – and, thus, political options – to those parties whose policies are firmly rooted in an acceptance of capitalism.

For power to be lodged in the hands of the people does not mean merely that they are to have the widest possible franchise and equal voting power. It implies that the people are to have complete control of all social institutions, the ordering of all social activities, the domination of the whole social life. Such a condition of affairs presupposes at the very outset the ownership by the people of all the means of life, all the social products. There can be no other foundation for democracy than this common ownership of all the means of life, for where these fall into private possession social distinctions at once spring up, the owners become dominators. Real democracy - a social democracy - involves far more. The problem is that under a capitalist system there is a built-in lack of democracy, which cannot be overturned or compensated for by holding elections or permitting protest groups.

It is true that capitalism needs a minimum of democracy since it's the least worst form of government for the system. The alternatives of dictatorship or rule by experts carry the danger that those who control the state might develop sticky fingers and help themselves to too large a share of profits. Better, for the capitalists, to have alternating governments dependent on their ability to retain some degree of popular support. This means that democracy under capitalism is reduced to people voting for competing groups of professional politicians, to giving the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down to the governing or opposition party (or parties). Political analysts call this the "elite theory of democracy" since under it all that the people get to choose is which elite should exercise government power. This contrasts with the original theory of democracy which envisages popular participation in the running of affairs and which political analysts call "participatory democracy". This is the sort of democracy socialists favour but we know it's never going to exist under capitalism. The most we will get under capitalism is the right to vote, under more-or-less fair conditions, for who shall control political power—a minimalist form of democracy but not to be dismissed for that since it at least provides a mechanism whereby a socialist majority could vote in socialist delegates instead of capitalist politicians. The vote they were compelled to give, though they made a virtue out of necessity and said they gave it because they loved the principles of democracy. But no matter how they got them, the workers have far more votes than their masters. With the knowledge of their slave-position and the courage to organise, these votes can be used as the means to their emancipation. The capitalist class cannot abjure what they have established. The vote was given to secure their own domination; if they discard it they lose control and have no sanction to govern. By constitutional methods the workers can win their freedom; they have no need to go outside the constitution until they finally destroy it. So the party system together with the franchise – established because they promised stability – pave the way for working-class victory.

For socialists the rule of government can never be democratic. Though it may include some incidental functions arising from the needs of people the main work of the state is the running of class-divided society; a system of economic exploitation. In the main governments work for a privileged section of society. They make the laws which protect the property rights of a minority who own and control natural resources and industry. These are the means of life on which we all depend but most of us have no say in how they are used. Behind Parliament or Congress, governments operate in secret. They are part of the division of the world into rival capitalist states. With the back-up of their armed forces they pursue national capitalist interests. Though the politicians who run it may be elected, the state is the opposite of democracy. Multinational corporations with massive economic power make the decisions on what should be produced for the markets for sale at a profit. Through corporate authority they decide how goods should be produced and the conditions in which work is done. In fact, though, there is a sense in which the government does not run the system at all - rather, the capitalist system runs the government, by limiting the actions that can be taken. The capitalists and their governments can propose what they like, but it is the capitalist economy that disposes. Raising of interest rates, increased unemployment, devaluation - these may not be what governments want to do, but may well be what they are forced to do because capitalism leaves them no choice. Again, this is the opposite of democracy. This does not mean that socialists equate dictatorship and bourgeois democracy. Within the latter we are free to organise politically and to develop our support to the extent where we can eventually overcome the embargoes and impediments that capitalism’s restricted democratic forms impose on us, whereas in the former any Socialist work is necessarily clandestine and can invoke severe penalties. What we can equate is the hypocrisy of bourgeois politicians, who rightly condemn those capitalist dictatorships where political freedom is denied and yet are willing participants and vociferous defenders of a form of capitalism wherein financial impediments exist that make a mockery of real democracy.

The socialist sympathises with aspirations to political democracy. World socialists applaud those workers around the world who fight ­ at massive risk to themselves ­ for basic civil liberties and trade union rights, for the freedom to hold meetings and participate in free elections. The fight for a measure of democracy world-wide is an essential part of the struggle for world socialism. After all, if workers are not able to fight for something as basic as the vote, they are unlikely to be able to work for the transformation of society from one based on production for profit to one based on production for human need. It is true that the vote, together with other hard-won rights such as the rights of assembly, political organisation and free expression, are most important. But can the act of electing a government result in a democratic society? A genuine, participatory democracy is part of the solution but is not the solution on its own. As socialists, we do not regard political democracy in itself as sufficient to emancipate humanity. But we do recognise that it provides by far the best conditions for the development of the socialist movement. That is why we wish those well to all those struggling for political democracy throughout the world. The concessions and the elbow room that have been won in capitalist democracy are important and of value to working people. Rights to organise politically, express dissension and combine in trade unions, for example, are valuable not only as a defence against capitalism, but from a socialist viewpoint are a platform from which socialist understanding can spread, while the right to vote the means by which socialism will be possibly achieved.
Rosa Luxemburg wrote that democracy is indispensable to the working-class “because it creates the political forms which will serve the proletariat as fulcrums in its task of transforming bourgeois society” But democracy in itself cannot solve a single problem of the working class. Democracy for the working class can only be consolidated and extended to the extent that the working class adopts a socialist standpoint. To renounce socialism so that democracy may be defended, means ultimately the renunciation of both socialism and democracy.

At the same time we must recognise that genuine democracy is more than these freedoms and the right to vote. While "one person one vote" is an essential ingredient of democratic society, democracy implies much more than the simple right to choose between representative of political parties every five years. The Chartist movement, in the 19th century, saw that gaining the right to vote was meaningless unless it could be used to effect "change". But today exercising our democratic right to vote for a conventional political party does not effect change. It amounts to little more than making a selection between rival representatives of power and class interest. If we cannot have democracy under the present social system, at least we may have men and women imbued with the democratic spirit. Indeed, every Socialist must be so imbued. In the light of this spirit he has faith in the capacity of the whole people to control the social system as a democracy. The realisation that genuine democracy cannot exist in capitalist society does not alter the fact that the freedoms already secured by struggle can be turned against our masters. The right to vote, for instance, can become a powerful instrument to end our servitude and to achieve genuine democracy and freedom. Working people with an understanding of socialism can utilise their vote to signify that the overwhelming majority demand change and to bring about social revolution.

At first sight, this suggestion of literally everyone taking part in social decisions may seem as unrealistic. Surely, it is said, these matters have to be left to the experts, and surely modern populations are far too large for active participation by everyone? Political theorists and political philosophers. They think the point so obvious that they state them far more often than actually arguing for them. Yet they are not obvious. In view of the demonstrated failure of legions of experts and government advisers to solve any of the major problems of civilisation, the less said about expertise the better. How can millions of people all have a say in running society?

Marx’s theory of socialist revolution is grounded on the fundamental principle that “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”. Marx held to this view throughout his entire forty years of socialist political activity, and it distinguished his theory of social change from that of both those who appealed to the princes, governments and industrialists to change the world for the benefit of the working class (such as Robert Owen or Saint Simon) and of those who relied on the determined action of some enlightened minority of professional revolutionaries to liberate the working class (such as Blanqui and Weitling). Marx's conception of what a fully democratic system would be like seems to had been influenced by events in France. Here's how he described the Paris Commune of 1871 which he held up as an example of how the working class should exercise political power once they had won control of it:
"The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time..In a rough sketch of national organization, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents."

The democratic organisation of all people as citizens of the world would need to operate through different scales of social co-operation. Locally, in town or country, we would be involved with our parish or neighbourhood. Even now, there are many thousands of men and women throughout the country who work voluntarily on parish and district councils and in town neighbourhoods for the benefit of their communities. But these efforts would be greatly enhanced by the freedoms of a society run entirely through voluntary co-operation. Such local organisation would be in the context of regional co-operation which could operate by adapting the structures of present national governments. Whilst some departments such as Inland Revenue and the Treasury, essential to the capitalist state, would be abolished, others like Agriculture and the Environment could be adapted to the needs of socialist society and could be part of regional councils and would assist in the work of implementing the decisions of regional populations. With the abolition of the market system, communities in socialism will not only be able to make free and democratic decisions about what needs to be done they will also be free to use their resources to achieve those aims. Communities will be free to decide democratically how best to use those resources. Small units could be run by regular meetings of all the workers. In the cases of large organisations these could be run by elected committees accountable to the people working in them. In this way, democratic practice would apply not just to the important policy decisions that would steer the main direction of development, it would extend to the day-to-day activities of the work place.

These days developments are now taking place which relegate phones and TVs to the museums along with the stone-age ax. Even the feeblest imagination should be able to grasp the implication for democracy. This potential boon to humankind has itself called forth instruments which could, in a different framework, be of untold benefit. Such information and communications technology gives the opportunity for the population to keep themselves better informed and to take a more active role in decisions than at any time since the small city-states of ancient Greece. Information must flow freely, so all can have an opportunity of reaching a decision, of judging the performance of delegates and appointees, of deciding to challenge the actions of one body in a higher authority; and in real democracy, the higher authorities are those bodies which contain more members of the community concerned. Everyday life must be the signalling system that lets people know what their fellows want, the way of co-ordinating votes and decisions. A society of common ownership would have no need of constricting decision-making. Democracy would be an everyday process. When we own all the wealth in common we will have structures to ensure that we retain control of all decision-making levels where we feel we have need to involve ourselves and intervene. The more people can exercise a say in those actions, the more democratic the process becomes. Our aim of a democratic society is a practical possibility.

Democracy needs no boastful big leaders with egos to polish, no self-important experts and specialists linked to large corporations. Democracy needs no rallying cries of flag-waving nationalism. Democracy, in essence, is simple and easily understood. Democracy speaks the whole truth, reveals all the evidence, enables informed discussion and decisions and requires inclusion for all in dialogue. Crucial to the question of democracy is not just the ability to make decisions about what to do but also the powers of action to carry out those decisions. Politically for socialists it is the heartbeat of every activity.

There is a view of some of our critics that envisages only a minority-led revolution, with an active minority leading a mass of merely discontented but not socialist-minded workers. Even if such a revolution were to succeed it would not, and could not, lead to socialism . They are not thinking, as we are, in terms of a majoritarian revolution, one involving the active and democratic participation of a majority of the population. Even if such a revolution were to succeed it would not, and could not, lead to socialism. For socialists in the WSM, democracy is not an optional extra or simply a means to an end. It is part of our end. Unless a majority of industrial and white collar workers want socialism and organise themselves without leaders to get it then socialism is impossible. On the other hand, if they do want it, nothing can stop them getting it, not even a hypothetical abolition of political democracy by a recalcitrant capitalist government. No government can continue to govern in the face of active opposition from those they govern. Faced with the hostility of a majority of workers (including, of course, workers in the civil and armed forces, as well as workers in productive and distributive occupations), the capitalist minority would be unable, in the long run, to enforce its commands and the workers would be able to dislocate production and transport. Even if a pro-capitalist minority somewhere were to try to prevent a change of political control via the ballot box, the socialist majority will still be able to impose its will by other means, such as street demonstrations and strikes. But we doubt that it will come to that.

Democracy is not just a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism.It is the struggle for an idea, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves. We want democracy to extend to all spheres of social life. For us that’s what socialism is – the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life by the whole community. But genuine democracy will not be achieved by relying on economists or other supposed experts to design it.

William Morris wrote about democracy in a passage he explains the mechanism of democracy :
“Said I ‘So you settle these differences, great and small, by the will of the majority, I suppose?’
‘Certainly,’ said he; ‘How else could we settle them? You see in matters which are merely personal which do not affect the welfare of the community – how a man shall dress, what he shall eat and drink, what he shall write and read, and so forth – there can be no difference of opinion, and everybody does as he pleases. But when the matter is of interest to the whole community, and the doing or not doing something affects everybody, the majority must have their way . . . in a society of men who are free and equal – the apparent majority is the real majority, and the others, as I have hinted before, know too well to obstruct from mere pigheadedness; especially as they have had plenty of opportunity of putting forward their side of the question.’ ”

Socialism and democracy are complementary; more than complementary – indivisible. In the sense that a democratic society can only result from free, conscious choice, it is a by-product of freedom. But in both a social and a political context freedom can only exist as a by-product of democracy. Whichever way round it is will not matter, when it is thriving in that community yet to be established, where though it still rains, we still quarrel and new problems confront us every day – we have learned to accept that, just occasionally, we may be wrong but rejoice in the fact that tomorrow we retain the incontrovertible right to be wrong again. Democracy can not be left to mature on its own like a good wine but needs to breathe out of the bottle, kept fresh by continual practice. Socialism will involve people making decisions about their own lives and those of families, friends and neighbours. This will not just be the trappings of democracy but the real thing - people deciding about and running their own lives, within a system of equality and fellowship.

The World Socialist Movement does not intend playing into the hands of the global ruling class and their political mouth-pieces. We don't intend making it easy for them to treat world socialism as an "undemocratic" threat. Where it is available to workers we take the viewpoint that capitalist democracy can and should be used. But not in order to chase the ever diminishing returns of reforming capitalism. Instead we see democracy as a critically important instrument available to class-conscious workers for making a genuine social revolution. And in the process of making a revolution the really interesting work can start of course: that of reinventing a democracy fit for society on a orld-wide human scale. A democracy that is free from patronage, power games and the profit motive.

protect the games

Home Secretary Theresa May said disruption from [occupy] protests was one of the biggest threats to the Olympics which begin in July and wants London 2012 organisers (LOCOG) to use "all available" powers to remove equipment and encampments, rapidly backed up by police.

Ground-to-air missiles will be deployed to protect the London Olympics. The MoD has offered 3,000 soldiers, and another 2,000 in reserve

Apart from 21,000 UK security , USA will be deploying a 1000 of their own men.

The security budget currently stands at £600 million but the overall spend could total more than £1.1billion.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Madness of Two Worlds

If you are poor:-

Leandro Andrade is serving a life sentence in California for stealing five videotapes from a K-Mart. He was convicted under the state's three strikes law, after convictions for petty theft, burglary, and possession of marijuana. Justice David Souter noted that Andrade "committed theft of trifling value...with no violent crimes against the person."

-Sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott received double life sentences in 1994 for an $11 armed robbery, the first criminal for either of them. They spent 17 years in jail.

As of 2003 in California there were 344 individuals serving sentences of 25 years or more for shoplifting as a third offense, in many cases after two non-violent offenses.

If you are the rich:-

The Savings and Loan fraud cost the nation between $300 billion and $500 billion, about 100 times more than the total cost of burglaries in 2010. The financial system bailout has already cost the country $3 trillion.

Goldman Sachs packaged bad debt, sold it under a different name, persuaded ratings services to label it AAA, and then bet against it by selling it short. Other firms accused of fraud and insider trading were Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, and Wells Fargo.

New York Times reported in 2008 that the Justice Department had postponed the bribery or fraud prosecutions of over 50 corporations, choosing instead to enter into agreements involving fines and 'monitoring' periods.

"The financial system led us into the crisis and it will lead us out." -- Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein.
"Western-style private enterprise...will lead the world out of the mess it led the world into." -- Chicago Tribune.
"If capitalism is perceived to not be working in America...it's because the system isn't capitalist enough." -- Rachel Marsden

From here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

conspiracy or science

Some people foreswear the genuine wonder of scientific discovery and evidence-based knowledge in favour of fantasies, rumours and conspiracy theories conjured up by charlatans who from time immemorial have always preferred the tall story to the telling fact.Those who believe one conspiracy theory are more likely to believe others. The conspiratorial world-view is not helpful in promoting an understanding of modern society and is itself, in large part, a product of the times we live in. Are people wrong to distrust the scientific community, and therefore believe every maverick or eccentric with a theory that same community has loudly disowned? Generally yes, but when it is well known that science chases the money whereas the money never chases the science it doesn’t like, it is not hard to see how these conspiracy theories get started.

Major events cannot, in the popular mind, have trivial causes, because our world-view cannot allow it. Believing ourselves to be rational creatures in a supposedly ordered and rational universe, we shy away from the hideous tyranny of randomness, that force of Nature which defies our control and thus denies us our sense of meaning and ‘place’. Thus, JFK, who ninety percent of Americans believe could not possibly have been offed by one lone nut with a rifle and some personal issues but rather good eyesight. Princess Diana didn’t die because a driver got drunk, it was all a vast conspiracy involving the top echelons of power. Ditto John Lennon that the blame is again placed upon the "lone nutter" who had been receiving treatment for paranoid schizophrenia for his entire life since childhood but rather Chapman was being used as a "Manchuran Candidate" by Richard Nixon. Ditto 9/11, which clearly couldn’t have been simply the work of a few terrorists who got very, very lucky (but this is not to deny the possibility that Bush may have indeed connived at the attacks by refusing to act on intelligence warnings. But we await the evidence)

However, people don’t fall for conspiracy theories because of some sense of proportionality, but because they know , like the proverbial mushrooms, we are kept in the dark and fed on shit. Put any sentient, self-aware animal in an environment where they can’t trust their senses, and pretty soon they’ll stop functioning ‘rationally’. We do indeed live in strange times. Mass starvation when the world produces abundance. Wars constantly rage across the globe yet everyone says they want peace.

It is no wonder that people look for irrational explanations for seemingly irrational problems. Conspiracy theorists take the view that such a complex organism as modern world society must be controlled from the top – someone, somewhere must be pulling the strings. What is particularly unfortunate about conspiracy theories is not that they foster a view of the world as hopelessly in thrall to some shadowy elite with god-like power, because this is largely true and they are called the capitalist class. What it incorrectly encourages is the much more damaging idea that this elite is actually much cleverer than the rest of us. The central mistake of conspiracy theorists is the notion that anyone is really in control of anything. At the heart of Marxian economics is the concept the capitalist “anarchy of production” where commercial enterprises produce things with just only their own profit in mind oblivious to the needs of other firms or the limits for their particular market – all without an overall external controlling force. Competition is built-in to capitalism. Marx produced the evidence the economy being essentially beyond the control of politicians, bankers and economists. Yet we are presented ith myths of the inter-connectedness of some sections of the capitalists class (the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, perhaps) or the “mystical” power of the banks being able to create money out of thin air, that every event (even contradictory ones) is under political control to the last detail. Most conspiracy theories are really believed not by those who come into closest contact with the assumed conspirators but by those who are typically furthest away from them – the disenfranchised and dispossessed such as the US militiamen polishing their guns in the hills of Montana.

The feeling of helplessness in the face of uncontrollable forces sow the seeds for conspiracy theories to flourish. A socialist understands that we are in the grip of uncontrollable impersonal economic forces, the market, and knows that this grip can be broken only by establishing socialism but non-socialists seek an explanation in the mysterious hand of God, the Stars, Fate or Luck. Some non-socialists cannot accept the view that our lives are controlled by the impersonal forces of the market and find it easier to think that these forces are personal; in other words, they personalise the capitalism and you have some shadowy group – the financiers, the Jews or the Illuminati – controlling the world and manipulating events.

It is easier to grasp: that some group of people are deliberately causing these events rather than their being the result of impersonal forces acting as if they were forces of nature. In religion is called “anthropomorphism”, the attribution of human form to a natural force or thing – as, for instance, in the gods of Ancient Greece and Rome. On reflection, however, attributing economic and historical events to a conspiracy doesn't seem so simple or so reasonable. The conspiracy theory needs to explain how the conspiratorial group bring about these events and how they can keep their existence secret. To control the whole world – plot economic crises, wars and revolutions, let alone spreading AIDS and causing global warming – would require hundreds of thousands of operatives and some of these must be expected to spill the beans at some point. The fact that none ever have – and that therefore there is no verifiable or even unverifiable evidence that the conspiracy exists – is a powerful refutation of it.

David Aaronovitch argues that belief in conspiracy theories is harmful since it “distorts our view of history and therefore of the present” and can lead to disastrous decisions. He detects a pattern in which conspiracy theories are “formulated by the politically defeated and taken up by the socially defeated”. Conspiracies become an excuse to explain away a movement’s own inherent weaknesses or unpopularity by attributing blame to a ruthless enemy.

To be a truly effective liar, it is essential that you come to believe your own bullshit. Capitalism's continued existence does not require a conspiracy or a conspiracy theory. All it requires is the support, or more likely acquiescence, of the overwhelming majority in their own exploitation. Conspiracy theorists can’t offer an adequate explanation of what’s going on it the world. If we are going to change the world successfully we are going to need to understand it properly. And the only way we can do this is on the basis of verified evidence and logical thinking. This is what socialists try to do. Using this method, we can see no evidence of world events being organised by a conspiracy. In fact, we can see that the world is not organised at all. We can see everywhere the "anarchy" of capitalism. It is an impersonal mechanism not a conspiracy. And it is the cause of wars, revolutions and other conflicts in that these are by-products of capitalist competition, not the machinations of some secret conspiratorial group.

"Don't believe everything you read" but really, how was one to tell? Even supposing we read every word properly, how would we know whether it was right or not? Who are we to criticise? We need to be a scientist to criticise. Carl Sagan described it well: "Science is generated by and devoted to free enquiry: the idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge." The "scientific" nature of the case for socialism is rooted in the real world of hard facts and reliable evidence, and so must people be if the world is to see any real progress.

The Ten Common Sense Rules
1. First of all, don't believe a complicated explanation if a simpler one will do.
2. Never believe anyone who will profit by lying.
3. Exceptions don't prove rules, despite the saying, they break them.( "prove" in this expression is related to the Italian "provare" which means "test" or "try out", which explains how this sensible maxim has acquired a modern, nonsensical meaning)
4. Even if the structure is logical, the basic assumptions may not be.
5. Beware of the sleight-of-hand known as special pleading, which is essentially a sales tactic
6. Don't be bamboozled or "blinded by science"
7. An idea is not a valid theory unless a way exists of disproving it (falsification).
8. A test result is not valid until and unless it can be recreated.
9. A theory which cannot predict anything is worthless.
10. The most obvious rule is that if the facts don't fit the theory, change the theory.

For a theory to be valid it should accord well with the facts, and offer one a way to disprove it. Thus religion and creationism are not valid scientific theories, whereas evolution and gravity are. If you think you can disprove all, or part, or a bit of the WSM case, go right ahead. We'll listen. If you find a flaw we'll have to change our ideas, and if, by the same token, we find a flaw in your thinking, you'll have to change yours. That is how the scientific method works. The world is as full of superstition and silly ideas as it was in the Middle Ages, but it is also now far richer in real knowledge. Whether the scientific method prevails in the future is open to question, for it has failed in the past to rescue societies from decline, and the ideology of capitalism is reinforced constantly by a battery of propaganda and mystification that are a perpetual obstacle to clear thinking. Socialists have every sympathy with scientists who find themselves under attack from unscientific prejudice and blatant opportunism, since this is not very dissimilar from our own experience.

cut the working week

The workers' Mayday originated in the fight for the 40 hour week 5 day week and was finally achieved (more often honoured in the breach as in reality) in the US in 1938. Fifty years ago the American Federation of Labor called for a 30-hour work week (the U.S. Senate even passed a 30-hour law, though it was defeated in the House); in 1961 the head of the New York Central Labor Council urged unions to campaign for a 4-hour day. For decades the radical union the Industrial Workers of the World have had the demand for the 20 hour week - "4 hours work for 8 hours pay puts more workers on the job every day" but today the mainstream unions won't campaign even for a 35-hour week.

Now the New Economics Foundation have re-newed the call for a drastic cut in working hours. In a recent paper they argue for a 21-hour work week. The NEF says there is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered a "normal" 40-hour work week today. In its wake, many people are caught in a vicious cycle of work and consumption. They live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume things. Missing from that equation is an important fact that researchers have discovered about most material consumption in wealthy societies: so much of the pleasure and satisfaction we gain from buying is temporary, ephemeral, and mostly just relative to those around us (who strive to consume still more, in a self-perpetuating spiral). The NEF argues we need to achieve truly happy lives, we need to challenge social norms and reset the industrial clock ticking in our heads. It sees the 21-hour week as integral to this for two reasons: it will redistribute paid work, offering the hope of a more equal society (right now too many are overworked, or underemployed). At the same time, it would give us all time for the things we value but rarely have time to do well such as care for our family, travel, read or continue learning (as opposed to feeding consumerism).

To save the world by laying the foundations for a "steady-state" economy -- and to just make our personal lives better -- we will need to work less.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Did You Learn in School Today by Tom Paxton

What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine
Dear little boy of mine
I learned that Washington never told a lie
I learned that soldiers seldom die
I learned that everybody is free
That's what the teacher said to me
And that's what I learned in school today
Today that's what I learned in school
I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes
And that's what I learned in school today
Today that's what I learned in school
I learned that war is not so bad
I learned of the great ones we had had
We fought in Germany and in France
And someday I might get my chance
And that's what I learned in school today
Today that's what I learned in school
I leant our government must be strong
Its always right and never wrong
Our leaders are the finest men
We elect them again and again
And that's what I learned in school today
Today that's what I learned in school

Was it for democracy?

Remember the Falklands/Malvinas war - the fight for democracy.

Before 1982, the biggest landowner, the Falkland Islands Company, owned by Coalite, ran seven farms accounting for 43 per cent of the total acreage.

Assembly member Mike Summers said: "It was feudal and colonialistic..."

Robert Rowlands remembers the days of the sheep-ocracy, when a small elite met in the colony club and "the rest of us owned nothing..."


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Great Men

Is it a coincidence that so many of capitalism's Great Men - its leaders and captains of industry - are so utterly unworthy as human beings? It is surely unsurprising that capitalism's leaders should be such a disreputable crowd of scoundrels. After all, they are elected to run a system which thrives by robbing workers of the fruits of their labour and pursues competition by ruthless dishonesty, culminating in wars in which men, women and children are indiscriminately slaughtered upon the altar of profit. The system requires a certain brand of callousness at its nerve centre. To be elected, leaders need to tell complete lies with a straight face. Either that, or they must be clowns and puppets (Reagan or Bush) or masters of self-deception (Clinton or Obama).

The way they diminish and degrade their supporters is truly loathsome. Yet one of the saddest things about leaders is not how they behave but how their followers are forced to behave. The political follower is a miserable, pathetic specimen. These are people who will go the ends of the earth to defend the Great Man's reputation. The Obama-mania you so rightly say elsewhere preponderates in American politics.

Different views are held about the historical role of Great Men, ranging from the belief that history is made by Great Men, to the other extreme, that great men have no existence at all, that they are pure figureheads, and that they are largely fictitious personalities. One view says that great men make history, the other view says that they only personify movements and events, which develop quite independently of them.

Napoleon is quoted as having said “Mahommed’s case was like mine. I found all the elements to hand to found an empire. Europe was weary of anarchy, they wanted to make an end of it. If I had not come, probably somebody else would have done like me. I repeat, man is only a man, his power is nothing if circumstances and public sentiment do not favour him”

Engels said “That Napoleon, just that particular Corsican, should have been the military dictator whom the French Republic, exhausted by its own war, had rendered necessary, was an accident: but that if Napoleon had been lacking, another would have filled the place.”

The same could have been said of Cromwell and Abraham Lincoln. There is also the example of Lenin.

"Great Men" have had at times an influence in the working out and shaping of historical events. Many thinkers have acquired a greater insight into the workings of social and political events than their fellows and have passed this information on to help bring about a greater understanding of society and its development. This occurred with men such as Aristotle, Copernicus, Darwin, Marx and Einstein. All of them, however, could only work within the conditions and the limits of their particular time. In history, we are lead to believe that “Great Men” and ideas decide the course of events, where in reality, events, combined with their underlying conditions, establish the limitations and opportunities which determine in broad outline who shall be “Great Men” and which ideas will triumph.

Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most important intellectual figures has been described as “common sense raised to genius”

Artists and musicians sometimes make extraordinary imaginative leaps, but genius did not just drop from the sky. Michelangelo may have had sudden inspiration about how to fulfil the commission in the Sistine Chapel, but as a youth he had served a three-year apprenticeship in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio before turning to the study of the great masters of the past, including Greek and Roman sculptors. He had precursors and masters whose thoughts he pursued or revived.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Japan and Iran

Ask most Americans why the United States got into World War II, and they will talk about Pearl Harbor. Ask him why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and many Americans will struggle for an answer, perhaps suggesting that the Japanese people were aggressive militarists who wanted to take over the world. Ask if the United States provoked the Japanese, and they will probably say that the Americans did nothing: we were just minding our own business when those crazy Japanese, completely without justification, mounted a sneak attack , catching us totally by surprise at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. Don’t bother to ask the typical American what U.S. economic warfare had to do with provoking the Japanese to mount their attack, because he won’t know.

Japan as an expanding industrial nation required access to raw materials and energy. In the Great Depression, as trade dried up and unemployment grew, an ultra-nationalist clique within the Japanese military sought to secure the markets and raw materials Japan so desperately wanted. For a time there were two competing strategies to capture oil, the Strike North route to acquire the USSR's and the Strike South route to capture the Dutch East Indies, one being mainly land-based and army dominated , the other mostlly naval. 1938 saw the defeat of an attempted Japanese invasion of the USSR , (which brought General Zhukov to prominence). Therefore Japanese diplomacy became centred upon the views of the naval commanders.

Japan relied heavily upon American oil and metals

In 1939 the United States terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defense materials.” Under this authority, “ exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants were restricted.The US the imposed a total ban on exports of iron and steel scrap, and finally, in July 1941, by a freezing of Japanese assets and a tightening of the licensing requirements that de facto ended all trade with Japan, including oil exports.
Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda had communicated to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31: “Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas."

"Within days of the freeze announcement, PM Konoe set about arranging a meeting with Pres. Rooseveldt in a last ditch attempt to restore trade relations and avoid war in the Pacific. While FDR initially welcomed Konoe's planned visit, his inner circle, as they had for decades, vied Japan as untrustworthy and vulnerable, and steadfastly opposed the idea of a Pacific summit...Hull, Hornbeck, Stimson and others also shared the view of senior military officials that a successful summit could have disastrous consequences for America's strategic position in Asia. A negotiated end to the war in China and the prompt withdrawal of Japanese forces would sine qua non of any agreement and this, military officials argued, America must avoid. In October 1941, Hayes Kroner, chief of the British Empire Section for the War Department General Staff, informed Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, as follows ' At this stage in the execution of our national strategic plan, cessation of hostilities in China...would be highly detrimental to our interests' ...By early November, Tojo and Togo overcame substantial cabinet opposition to continued negotiations and won approval for talks based on two proposal. In Prposal A. Tokyo pledged to immediately withdraw forces from Indochina, remove troops from all of China except Hainan Islans and the far north and respect the Open Door. Japan also agreed to notautomatically support Berlin in the event of a German-American war. Proposal B sought only a limited agreement in which Japan pledged to refrain from furtheroffensive operations in return for normalized trade relations and a US promise 'not to take such actions as may hinder efforts for peace by both Japan and China. http://books.google.co.th/books?id=1mZMjLghgzsC&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=japan+sanctions+second+world+war&source=bl&ots=NKsBNCUamO&sig=MU-T_l0M_Q95K5551A4DfNY5ikI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=i9cYT6XzOsOsrAejscXfDQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Henry L. Stimson, who had been secretary of war confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” After the attack, Stimson confessed that “my first feeling was of relief ... that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.

There are in the above lessons to be learned in regard to Iranian sanctions. A cornered country will bite back and America will sacrifice peace for dominance.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Posts on Paul

Ron Paul - The antebellum tentherist

"Ron Paul's little known bill, the We the People Act...clearly, is an attempt to block national redress of state tyranny. It makes it possible for individual states to create their own little theocracies, while it prevents anyone from taking this to an authority beyond those individual states. Obvious abuses come to mind and strike this reader as a return to pre-Civil War days, when "states rights" was an excuse to continue the practice of slavery. I find it an incredibly dangerous piece of legislation, and indicative of the mindset of Ron Paul. Indicative of the con game he's been playing as well. Champion of civil rights and civil liberties? Not if "states rights" trump them. "

Bruce Wolman blogs "...While Paul's anti-war stances and liberalism can attract adherents, if he were to become President those positions wouldn't necessarily have the consequences many supporters might think. Let's say Paul becomes President and does reduce US militarism, foreign interventionism, eliminate Federal drug laws, etc. His States Rights position would allow states to pick up the slack in all of these areas. From my reading of Paul, the Federal Government would stop supporting Israel, but he would have not hinder New York and California cutting their own deals with the Israelis if the states so chose...While US military aid would end, US defense corporations could sell their wares abroad without government control or intervention. While the Federal Government would restrict its own violations of civil liberties, the states would be able to run their own affairs and corporations would be without regulation or interference of their fundamental right to use their property and capital as they saw fit, including spending on political involvement. One of the reasons Christian extremists are attracted to Paul despite his libertarian positions is that they believe his states rights priority would allow them to regulate private behavior on the state level..."

One comment of the above explains that under the constitution "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation...enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded" Trade such as arms though is something different.

As individul economies California has a similar GDP as France. Texas’ economy compares to that of Canada. Florida is comparable to South Korea. Illinois – Mexico New Jersey – Russia Ohio – Australia New York – Brazil Pennsylvania – Netherlands Georgia – Switzerland North Carolina – Sweden.

The bottom 10 states are Delaware – Romania Utah – Peru New Hampshire – Bangladesh Maine – Morocco Rhode Island – Vietnam South Dakota – Croatia Montana – Tunisia North Dakota – Ecuador – Belarus Vermont – Dominican Republic Wyoming – Uzbekistan

Historically, state governments were some of the biggest supporters of the vilest discrimination in the United States. Federal laws were necessary because racist state politicians and local police were murdering, harassing and oppressing people in a regular and systematic fashion based solely on their race.

Q: But you would decriminalize it [drug laws]?
Ron Paul: I would, at the federal level. I don’t have control over the states.

"So all of you who believe that Ron Paul would release the millions incarcerated for the victimless crime of using drugs should realize that he would only release those held in federal prisons. If you're locked up in the State Penitentiary, he sympathizes, but thinks that States have a perfect right to do it. The total federal prison population in 2010 was around 200,000 people while the state and local prison population was about 1.5 million. Paul says there's nothing he can do about the latter and wouldn't dream of telling those states what they should and shouldn't do. That's his principle, not freeing the victims of the drug war."

"Just because you break up state power into fifty entities instead of one, it doesn't make their infringements on liberty ok, does it? On a philosophical and ideological level, libertarians should be clear that infringements of people's rights should never be subject to the whims of the state --- whether it's Hawaii or the United States of America. So why doesn't Ron Paul say this? He defends states' rights to infringe on individual liberty as being under the Constitution but what he's really defending are the Articles of Confederation. This isn't libertarianism. It's "tentherism" disguised as libertarianism.


i have previously claimed Ron Paul is a propertarian and not a libertarian but this us the first time i have come across an alternative description of him - a tentherist, a constitutional theory that early twentieth century justices wielded to protect monopolies and strip workers of their right to organize


He can also be described as a throw-back.

"Libertarians who believe that "statism" is ok if comes from state of California but not the US government are not only living in the early 19th century, they are basically saying that their only real beef is if the government abridging individual freedom is the federal government. Tyranny on a smaller scale isn't their concern. And that isn't liberal or libertarian. It's just plain old antebellum era American politics -- which is what Ron Paul truly believes when you see his positions on issue after issue. The antebellum south is where his philosophy really comes from --- and where it leads"

Historically, state governments were some of the biggest supporters of the vilest discrimination in the United States.
"Paul's Christian Reconstructionist friends, seek the destruction of the federal government for the opportunity to implement "God's law" on earth. Ron Paul seeks to shrink the federal government to minimal size not because it intrudes in the lives of individuals, but because it stands in the way of allowing the states and localities to enact laws as they see fit -- even laws that govern people's behavior in their bedrooms."

"WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.
PAUL: Technically, they are.…
WALLACE: Congressman, it’s not just a liberal view. It was the decision of the Supreme Court in 1937 when they said that Social Security was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
PAUL: And the Constitution and the courts said slavery was legal to, and we had to reverse that.
That's interesting because Paul's philosophy really says that the constitution doesn't have the authority to declare slavery illegal..."

Many do not endorse all of Ron Paul's views and policies, yet by not saying anything critical of those and preferring to simply ignore them, becoming complicit in a cover-up.

Obama/Paul - Repeating mistakes

The fact that our class enemies fall out amongst themselves over what they consider the better policy in their overall interest does not mean we support them. Genuine libertarian communists are vehemently anti-capitalist, but we do not support the Establishment, or Leninists and Trotskyists, nor the fascist so-called anti-capitalists. We do not employ the same arguments as other Republicans or the pro-Obama parties, nor the MSM against Ron Paul.

A vote for Ron Paul is vote for capitalism and the illusion that capitalism can change its spots. Capitalism is in the end an ideology; everything it does, all of its workings, all of it is a human product, constructed in the minds of humans, and obeyed because it presents itself as the natural law, as the real world, and the realm of the possible. Money itself is the example par excellence of ideology at work; it is a sign, an idea, used to cover up the contradictions in property society. Money presents itself as the natural and only way of dealing with property relations, and as a socially neutral object, and not as a way of controlling poverty and inequality in favour of a small minority, which it really is. To fail to reveal the ideology, to de-mystify and explain it, means to remain within it.

Many “anti-capitalist” personalities have indeed in the past urged people to support one of the two main capitalist parties, the Democrats, on the grounds that they are a “lesser evil” compared with the Republicans. Now they insist the lesser evil is to vote for is Ron Paul. The socialist response is straightforward. If you want to get somewhere, aim for that destination directly, rather than going on detours and trusting that you will eventually, by however roundabout a route, arrive at where you want to be.

I do not deny that in some ways or in some situations it may be better to have Ron Paul rather than Obama in the White House. After all, isn’t it worthwhile just to reduce, even if not eliminate, the probability of an attack on Iran? In that case, helping them into office does ward off a greater evil. But only in the short term. For once in office, Paul would come under irresistible pressure from his capitalist masters to break his “populist” promises, to disappoint, disillusion and betray the people who placed their trust and hope in him. Some capitalist politicians are totally subservient to the oil, gas, and coal corporations and recklessly oblivious to the looming danger. In their hands we are doomed. Other capitalist politicians are a little less subservient, show a limited awareness of the situation, and try to do something to mitigate it. Something, but much less than is absolutely essential. In their hands we are still doomed. Hoping that Ron Pauo will behave differently is a utopian – expectation. Any politician who tries to run capitalism gets his hands grubby, as a matter of course, in what is a very dirty business.

The main difference between them is Paul admits to being a swine, Obama lies about it!!

It is good that so many of Obama’s followers are disillusioned. It seems, though, that many of those who describe themselves as disillusioned are accusing Obama of breaking his promises, rather than blaming themselves for falling prey to a naïve illusion. The idea that Obama has broken his promises can only seem valid to those who – against all the evidence he himself provided – fashioned an image of him as the country’s progressive saviour

Obama made no secret during his election campaign of his “moderate” political outlook. A central theme of his campaign, in fact, was the need for bi-partisanism to counter the trend towards politics becoming too “ideological”. Those who now criticize Obama for being yet another spineless Democrat were not paying adequate attention to the statements he made during the campaign. Obama made no secret of his deeply-held principle of never sticking to any principle. He has never claimed to be anything but a “pragmatist”, which is a nicer way of saying “opportunist”. Obama has not budged from his belief that the solutions to the problems plaguing the United States can be found lying in the middle of the political road, so to speak, just waiting to be picked up. This is the belief he wrote about back in 2006, and his policies in office have been based on it.

There was, of course, that promise Obama made about bringing about some sort of change. Things have changed – just not for the better. He left many Bush Administration policies intact; and even his healthcare reform that leaves the parasitic insurance companies in place and even presents them with opportunities for expansion.

“I believe in the free market, competition, and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don’t work as advertised…I think America has more often been a force for good than for ill in the world; I carry few illusions about our enemies, and revere the courage and competence of our military…"

Yet how can Obama be blamed for all those false expectations? The signs that Obama was more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing were there.

His views on foreign policy, for example, an area where the views of the “anti-war” candidate Obama were thought to differ sharply from the hawkish approach of Hillary Clinton (now his Secretary of State!), not to mention the belligerent policies of Bush and McCain. Obama made it perfectly clear in The Audacity of Hope that he would deploy US troops when necessary, because “like it or not, if we want to make American more secure, we are going to have to help make the world more secure”. Rather than rejecting Bush’s absurd and counter-productive “war on terrorism”, Obama wrote that “the challenge will involve putting boots on the ground in ungoverned hostile regions where terrorists thrive”. And lest the reader imagine that such military force would only be used in retaliation, Obama claims that “we have the right to take unilateral military action to eliminate an imminent threat to our security”. It is something of a mystery how Obama managed to convince so many that he was a foreign policy “dove” while at the same time publishing such views.

Few of his thoughts are in harmony with the views of his leftwing supporters, who worked so hard to get him elected. People went from the naïve view that Bush is the root of all evil to the equally simplistic idea that Obama could uproot that evil. And now we have a sense of disillusionment due to the persistence of deep-rooted problems despite the election of Obama. Yet the idea that Obama has betrayed us is based on the initial illusion that he could rescue us from problems that are deeply rooted in capitalism itself. This notion, in turn, is no different from the superficial idea that those problems arose from Bush’s stupidity or mendacity. It is pointless to transform Obama from a saviour into a new scapegoat.

The Socialist Standard wrote at the time of his election:
"If Obama apologists think President Obama will put a halt to the blood letting they are going to be sorely disappointed. Make no mistake; whilst the left are fond of castigating Republicans as the masters of war, the truth is that historically the Democrats have started far more wars than the GOP. More recently, under the last Democrat to hold office, President Clinton, one million Iraqis are said to have died under US enforced sanctions, 500, 000 of them children. Sorties over Iraq were flown every single day Clinton was in power. Yugoslavia was mercilessly bombed and a much needed pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was bombed on the pretext that it was manufacturing Chemical weapons, and villages in Afghanistan were flattened because Bin-Laden was presumed to be living there. And who could forget the US invasion of Somalia, with troops storming the beaches live on prime time TV!...Not only is Obama incapable of ushering in significant change, bar a few miserly reforms, but neither is there anyone he can bring to his administration capable of bringing the change that was so promised in his election campaign for no other reason that changers do not get confirmed by the Senate. There exist quite influential interest groups – the AIPAC, the military security complex, Wall Street etc to hinder the advancement of such undesirables The hope many have in Obama to implement policies that will benefit the class that matters is misplaced. His political rawness means he will be manipulated by more experienced advisers, little different from the neo-cons, maybe even key figures from the Bush administration, and pressured by a corporate elite who funded his victory to execute policies that fit in with their own agenda.

The outcome of US elections carries one truth: namely that whichever candidate becomes president, he has but one remit once in office – to further the interests of the US corporate elite.It’s just not a feasible option for any newly elected president to entertain any idea other than guaranteeing a safe playing field for the domestic profit machine and doing what’s needed to try to ensure the US maintains its global hegemonic status "

Now it is Paul who is providing illusion that one single politician can transform a rotten social system.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Big Pharma - Big Profits

Tamiflu maker accused of secrecy over trial data. Scientists are set to raise serious questions about the effectiveness of Tamiflu, its side-effects and the opaque way drugs get approved for widespread use on the NHS.

Cochrane, a non-profit group dedicated to analyzing medical evidence, brings together the combined results of the world's best medical research studies, and are recognised as the gold standard in evidence-based health care. But during their two-year study into Tamiflu, researchers claimed they were hampered in their efforts to fully appraise the drug by the refusal of its manufacturer, Roche, to hand over all the raw data used to support their claims.

Professor Sir Iain Chalmers, a founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism: "We have invested millions of pounds on stockpiling Tamiflu on the basis of a paper that presented the results of 12 trials, only two of which have been published. The investigation... shows Roche refused to provide data to evaluate these trials. Investigators got some data through the European Medicines Agency, but this doesn't answer all of the questions they have." He added: "It is a disgrace that Roche have not provided this data."

Tom Jefferson, the lead author of the study, said he was very concerned about the unwillingness of Roche to provide all the raw data. It is understood the European Medicines Agency that approved Tamiflu also only saw a proportion of the drugs trial results. The US Food and Drug Administration is thought not to have reviewed the largest ever trial of Tamiflu when considering it for approval.