2016 09 – Newsnotes

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams

Corbyn and Labour’s ‘Timid Tendency’

“Labour was left trailing 16 points behind the Tories today in a grim new poll.

“The regular ICM survey for the Guardian put Jeremy Corbyn ‘s party on 27% – its lowest ebb for seven years while MPs are consumed by a leadership fight.

“Theresa May’s Conservatives were on a staggering 43% – also a record since October 2009…

“The result lays bare the struggle Labour could face if Mrs May, boosted by her new Brexit Cabinet, called a snap general election before the end of the year.”[A]

Thus speaks the Daily Mirror. Who ought to know that since 2011, Prime Ministers can’t call elections just as they please. It needs a vote of no confidence, or the agreement of two-thirds of MPs.[B]  Labour has enough MPs to block it, unless the Tories went mad and passed a vote of no confidence in themselves.

Tory MPs voting out a Tory government is not quite unthinkable, given the bitterness and delays over Brexit. But it would split and discredit them. Destroy their appearance of competence.

The Mirror doesn’t mention that the Labour Party was matching the Tories in the run-up to Brexit.[C]  Had Labour MPs remained loyal while the Tories squabbled, Labour might have pulled ahead.

But a rebellion had been plotted to happen after a forecast disaster in local government elections. Then Labour did quite well, including electing a new mayor of London. So they waited for the Referendum. Blamed Corbyn, even though he delivered his own constituency for Remain.

Why?

We’ve heard noise about Labour’s the long-extinct Militant Tendency. Who were more a nuisance than a real menace, like all Trotskyists everywhere since their emergence in the 1920s. They were deservedly expelled, having formed a chain of command independent of Labour Party structures. But at least they were willing to fight.

The anti-Corbynists should be labelled the Timid Tendency.  Past experience of losing with radical-left ideas makes them believe they dare not seriously oppose the system. Neo-Liberal ideas are visibly failing and losing popularity, but they remain overawed by the power of the Establishment.

The battlefield will be firstly Labour Party members and then the electorate, so I don’t find Establishment power that impressive. They have messed up massively ever since the Soviet collapse in 1991. Back then, they were given the world on a plate. They knocked the plate over.

Blair was a prime bungler when it mattered, and was rewarded with an enormous fortune. These characters are not smart on larger matters where history is really made.

 

Remember 1935. And 1945.

Being haunted by the spectre of Labour’s 1935 defeat is timid. It shows an ignorance of history. 1935 was a partial recovery from the disaster of 1931, when Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald formed a ‘National Government’ that was actually the Tory Party writ large. He was persuaded that the ‘national interest’ meant looking after the rich. That his own people should suffer for a crisis caused by speculation and lack of regulation.

1935 also paved the way for the gigantic victory of 1945. This was the next election after 1935, the World War having interrupted the normal five-year cycle of elections. 1945 was the most decisive victory ever, with the most achieved. Not the greatest number of MPs, but many long-standing Labour policies were implemented. Labour set the agenda for the next 20 years.

Back in 1931, MacDonald trusted the Tories to know what was best. They cut government spending, which made things worse.

A household in financial trouble should cut spending, certainly. The wider economy will barely notice them. But a society that cuts spending will cause further closures and job losses. It will only multiply its problems.

MacDonald in the economic crisis of 1931 should have chosen the policies later known as Keynesianism. Had the Liberals refused to back his Minority Government in anything so radical, he could have then called a new General Election. He might have won such an election. Or might have lost and insisted that the Tories must now govern and try to fix things. He might even have got enough Liberal support to implement the policies that worked brilliantly after 1945 – Lloyd George in 1931 was Liberal leader and had considered similar notions. Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1932 on a bland program, brilliantly did something similar with his New Deal.

Sadly, MacDonald was part of an older Timid Tendency within Labour. He trusted a Tory Party that was dominated by out-of-date ideas. Which failed to confront Fascism when Fascism was weak – Hitler would have backed down if his re-militarization of the Rhineland had been treated as an act of war. Separately, some Tories had a sensible notion of Dominion Status for India. But opponents led by Winston Churchill took a hard line, paving the way for a total loss of Empire in the post-war world.

MacDonald was a fool who snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. A successful Labour government in the 1930s might have weakened Fascism and avoided World War Two. Hitler succeeded with his own ‘New Deal’, though with much injustice to Jews and others. But his plans included preparations for a war that caused the deaths of at least seven million non-Jewish Germans, as well as all the millions he was targeting for death or enslavement. Yet his early economic measures were sound enough.

The Nazis rose because Classical Liberalism let ordinary people suffer in the defence of abstract economic doctrines. Rejected the Keynesianism that could have fixed the Great Slump. And it took till the 1980s for the Centre-Right to forget this lesson. They remain in denial, failing to see themselves as the main cause of a lot of the malignant politics that has flourished in response to their rule.

(They denounce anyone who gives reason for malignant politics as being sympathetic to that malignant politics. A few left-liberals do suffer from excessive sympathy for evil characters: most of us don’t. But it is common-sense to recognise that people who turn bad might have been better given better influences.)

In our own era, Tony Blair as Prime Minister wasted many opportunities. He encouraged the fatal policy of destroying Saddam Hussein, whose brutal regime was creating a secular and Westernised Iraq. Saddam’s brutality, including gassing Kurds, had never previously bothered Blair or any other British MP outside of the Labour Left. Saddam was a useful Cold War ally. The USA rescued him from likely overthrow after his unprovoked attack on Islamist Iran. But with the Cold War over, Thatcher and Bush Senior had the bright idea of replacing Saddam with someone more docile.

The mysterious failure of the USA’s ambassador to warn Saddam about the consequence of invading Kuwait make perfect sense if Iraq was being lured into a trap. (As does the mysterious failure of the British Foreign Secretary to warn Germany of the consequences of marching through Belgium in the long crisis that led to World War One.)

It wasn’t just Iraq. The Tories under Major had shown signs of returning to One-Nation Toryism. When Major quit, they had a series of weak, bald and unpopular leaders. But Blair chose to believe that Thatcherism was some sort of unavoidable truth, even though most of Western Europe was doing fine without reverting to 19th century values. He introduced market forces to the National Health Service, which Thatcher had never dared do. He won elections but wasted opportunities.

The whole ‘New Labour’ project was a failed experiment. A pointless reversion to the obsolete non-socialist radicalism of the early 20th century Liberal party.

 

More on the ‘Timid Tendency’.

“Owen Smith, who now faces Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership battle, worked as a lobbyist in the pharmaceutical industry for five years before becoming the MP for Pontypridd in 2010.”

“Amgen was ultimately fined $762m for illegally promoting the drug to cancer patients in a way that increased the likelihood of their deaths. Amgen was hit with the fines after it emerged that the California company was ‘pursuing profits at the risk of patient safety’ as it promoted a non-approved use of Aranesp.”[D]

Do the remnants of New Labour now ‘wish they could all be Californian’? And not even the decent side of California? That seems to be the real agenda.

It’s notable that the media promote anti-Corbyn smears and ignore the rest. And not just anti-Corbyn. You may have noticed Owen Smith doing a big number about him being a family man with visible children. So too is Corbyn: but at that time Smith was competing with Angela Eagle to be the main challenger for Labour leadership. It was a clear signal that Angela Eagle’s lesbianism would have been used against her, had she not backed down. But he got none of the condemnation that Andrea Leadsom got when she tried something similar regarding Theresa May’s childlessness.  News nowadays is not about facts, but just objectives.

 

Voters.

The big problem in British politics is demoralised voters who don’t bother to register, never mind cast a vote. Most of them would vote Labour, if they did vote. So I started wondering how they might be persuaded. I thought of a leaflet going something like:

You don’t vote.

You get treated like dirt.

You don’t like being treated like dirt.

So spend a couple of hours a year getting on the register. And then VOTE!

It really is as simple as that.

People who say ‘they’re all the same’ get treated like dirt.

People who vote for whoever looks after them, get treated more nicely.

More old people vote than young people vote.

Old people get looked after better, with state pensions remaining untouchable.

The rich spend enormous amounts of time and money influencing politicians. Often dishonestly, but mostly legally.

Politicians look after the rich.

This could be a neutral Campaign for Voter Registration, aiming just to get people to register, and so not subject to rules about electoral expenses. Obviously it would favour Labour.  But many more would be principled enough to support it anyway, fine.

 

Drugs and Gold at the Olympics.

Drug abuse in sport is a problem. But sometimes treated forgivable, sometimes not.

Russian drug cheating was treated as unforgivable. Similar abuse by Western athletes had very often been forgiven.

Consider also the remarkable way in which the leadership of football governing body FIFA was destroyed and disgraced. Teaching a lesson that it is wise to look after Anglo interests?

It wasn’t just Britain that had an unexpected Olympic success. The USA got 121 medals, more than any games since the 1984 Los Angeles games, which was boycotted by the Soviet Union and its allies.

(I’ve also done a detailed analysis by country and event, available on-line.)

 

Turks and Moderate Islamists

“NBC News triggered a firestorm after initiating a domino effect among media outlets after incorrectly reporting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had fled Turkey and was seeking asylum in Germany in a number of later deleted tweets posted in the thick of the July 15 coup attempt.

“NBC [a large and widely respected US broadcaster] cited an unnamed ‘senior military official’ as the source of the information which immediately went viral on social media.”[E]

Myself, I was scared on the evening of the 15th, when it seemed the coup had succeeded.  I was sure that military men would not do such a thing without a green light from the USA, given all that Turkey might lose if the West turned against them. And I noticed the lukewarm first response from US Secretary of State Kerry. Kerry and Obama neglected to uphold the sanctity of elected governments until it was clear that the coup had failed.

I was scared because I was thinking of several hundred thousand Turks being added to the existing community of violent terrorist Islamists. Erdogan’s party got 23 million votes at the last election – 23,681,926, to be exact. If the coup had succeeded and then just one percent of his supporters turned to terrorism – think about it. 230,000 terrorist Turks would be a lot more formidable than the current movements.

I was relieved the next morning to learn the coup had failed. And I quickly figured that the Turkish plotters must have planned to arrest or kill Erdogan.

Later I got apparent confirmation:

“Erdogan said as the coup unfolded that the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris and had bombed places he had been at shortly after he left. He ‘evaded death by minutes,’ the second official said. Around 25 soldiers in helicopters descended on a hotel in Marmaris on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left in an apparent attempt to seize him, broadcaster CNN Turk said…

“The coup plotters appeared to have launched their attempt prematurely because they realized they were under surveillance.”[F]

At the time of writing (29th August), the USA is being very tolerant of a Turkish invasion of Syria. The main targets are left-wing Kurds who’d been doing a good job fighting Daesh (ISIS).  Despite which, the West could still lose Turkey.

Any notion of Turkey being compatible with the European Union is now ridiculous. When Turkish politics were dominated by secular conservatives and secular socialists, it might have come off. But the West encouraged Islamist politics and then lost control of it. Turkey is no longer compatible.

 

Snippets

Why Blair Destroyed Iraq

The New Labour assault on Corbyn knocked out of the news the implications of the long-delayed Chilcot Report – which may not be an accident. But consider what the man himself has said:

“The decision to go to war in Iraq, and remove Saddam Hussein from power, in a coalition of over 40 nations led by the USA, was the hardest, most momentous and agonising decision I took in my 10 years as British Prime Minister…

“The aftermath turned out more hostile, protracted and bloody than we ever imagined.

“The Coalition planned for one set of ground facts and encountered another.

“A nation whose people we wanted to see free and secure from the evil of Saddam became instead a victim of sectarian terrorism…

“Saddam was himself a wellspring of terror, a continuing threat to peace and to his own people. Had he been left in power in 2003, then I believe, for the detailed reasons I shall give, he would once again have threatened world peace, and when the Arab revolutions of 2011 began, he would have clung to power with the same deadly consequences as we see in the carnage of Syria; whereas at least in Iraq, for all its challenges, we have today a Government, recognised as legitimate, fighting terrorism with the international community in support of it.”[G]

Blair is thinking in sound-bites and using sloppy categories. Saddam’s Iraq used terror, but only to rule Iraq. It turned out that it’s not possible to rule Iraq any other way, as they should have known all along. But in any case, Iraq was seldom involved in International Terrorism.

Blair fancies himself as a great statesman. He did bestride the measured world, like a ridiculous mouse. And we still live with the consequences.

***

Boris the Menace

Boris Johnson suddenly dropped his long-cherished plans to become Prime Minister. It seemed he was destined for a spell in the political wilderness. But also well placed to come back strongly if Theresa May messed up.

Then, of all things, May chose him as Foreign Secretary. There were other big jobs he could have been given, if she wanted him. But Boris had already shown a habit of insulting foreigners. Why choose someone so unsuitable?

Maybe in the hope he would in due course mess up and she could sack him, leaving him much weaker than if he’d stayed in the wilderness.

***

Brexit and Farmers

“Originally established with the intention of supporting small farmers and reducing Europe’s reliance on food imports, the CAP, which accounts for over 40 per cent (€55bn) of the EU budget, has become a slush fund for assorted dukes, earls and princes. Payment is based on acreage alone and takes no account of wealth, making the scheme one of the most regressive – the more you own, the more you get. In addition, since the EU’s definition of ‘farmer’ does not require individuals to produce food or other agricultural products, many recipients are, in effect, paid not to farm.”[H]

An absurd system, where money goes to those who need it least. Brexit means we might possibly reform it. But since small farmers mostly let large farmers dominate, it probably won’t happen

***

South China Sea Dispute

“China is absolutely right to insist that the essence of the South China Sea dispute concerns conflicting sovereign claims over the islands and related maritime delimitations, over which the tribunal clearly has no jurisdiction. This is because territorial sovereignty over maritime features in the South China Sea is beyond the scope of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In addition, on August 25, 2006, pursuant to Article 298 of the convention, Beijing deposited with the UN secretary general a written declaration that made it clear China does not accept any of the compulsory dispute settlement procedures (including compulsory arbitration) provided for under the convention, with respect to disputes concerning maritime delimitation.”[I]

The world does not have a regular and binding system of International Law. It could have been created after the Soviet collapse: but the USA preferred to aim for a New World Order in which the USA could impose its will on anyone and ignore any legal rulings that did not suit the current US President.

***

Websites

Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. And at my own website, https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.

 

References

[A]              http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-sinks-16-points-behind-8496773#rlabs=8%20rt$category%20p$2

[B]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-term_Parliaments_Act_2011

[C]              http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-poll-puts-labour-ahead-of-tories-for-first-time-since-jeremy-corbyn-became-leader-a6937926.html

[D]              http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/19/owen-smith-worked-as-pr-chief-for-biotech-firm-hit-by-762m-fine

[E]              http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160806/1044010194/erdogan-turkey-coup-cia-nbc.html

[F]               http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Jul-18/362602-turkish-plotters-came-close-to-killing-erdogan.ashx

[G]              http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chilcot-report-tony-blair-read-response-statement-in-full-iraq-war-inquiry-a7123251.html

[H]              http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/09/how-we-pay-our-richest-landowners

[I]               http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1985700/un-ruling-against-china-wont-help-resolve-south-china-sea

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